Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A "True" Bedtime Story

I've been a bit blue over the last two days. Maybe it's the summer heat. Maybe I'm ready for school to start. Maybe I'm tired of the constant, never-ending messes! Or maybe I just feel tired, unproductive, and useless. But whatever the reason, suffice it to say, I've felt blue.

As I tucked Meya in bed tonight she asked, "Mommy, can I tell you a story?"
"Once upon a time, there was a Mommy. And she was the best Mommy in the world because she took care of her children. Her name was Holly and she lived happily ever after. The end."

I was too heart-melted weepy to respond.

"Do you know what, Mommy?"
"What?" I managed to blubber.
"It's a true story."

And it was just the story I needed to hear.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Y Mountain

"Why is there a Y on that mountain?" the girls asked as we drove into Provo.

"It stands for "BYU," I explained.

"But why is it on the mountain?" they persisted.

"I guess because it gives the freshmen students somewhere to hike." I couldn't think of a better reason.

"Can we go there?"

The last morning of our Utah trip, the girls and I parked the rental car at the new-to-me Y parking lot (very nice). We ambled our way up the mountain just as the morning sun was squeaking over the top.

We held hands.
The air was thin and cool.
We took frequent water breaks.

I thought of the many times I'd hiked to the Y while I was a student, and marveled at how much time has passed. If only my 19/20 year-old self could have had a glimpse into the future to see my life now. Perhaps I would have hiked, way back then, with a little more lightness of step, a little more gratitude, a little more joy. As I remember it, I often went to Y mountain with the weight of the world on my shoulders.

And here I was, walking with two of my daughters. Laughing. Encouraging each other.

Then just when the girls were out of breath and the water bottles were empty, we arrived. At the Y. Madi scrambled up the white-washed cement like a mountain goat while Leasie and I took the extra switch-back trail so we could sit together on the tippy-top.

Ah the view - the buildings, roads, and expansive lake spread out before us miniaturized from our high perch. The city looked like it was a model under a glass case in a museum, the cars just matchbox toys.

As we sat side by side, the sun rolled over the mountain top until its rays rested on our shoulders and warmed our backs.

All is well.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cousins - Woodland Family Reunion Part 2

I can count the number of cousins I have on one hand. Unlike many Utah families (or non Utah families, for that matter) who have countless numbers of cousins, so numerous they can't even remember all their names, I only have five. Total. My Dad was an only child. My Mom has one brother who had two children and one sister who had three. So with my two sisters, there are only eight Woodland clan cousins.

But pity me not, for my five cousins are awesome.

When I was growing up, we made an annual pilgrimage to Idaho or Utah to visit family. And the best part of those visits was playing with my cousins. The cousin closest to me in age is Nicole. Oh the adventures we had! We jumped on her trampoline, ate Popsicles and added the sticks to her collection in her tree house. We built a fort using old carpet squares behind Grandma's house amongst the grasshoppers and sage brush. We scoured the mall in search of the perfect present for Grandma. Nicole introduced me to swatch watches, Depeche Mode, and tube socks. Hands down, she is the coolest couz on the planet.

One Christmas, in particular, I remember having a grand time with all the cousins. We found a pile of sleeping bags neatly stored in Grandma's basement. Grandma's stairs to the basement were steep and carpeted. We dragged the sleeping bags to the top of those stairs, got in the sleeping bags and slid down. Surprisingly, we escaped with only minor rug burns and no one got seriously injured, but as I remember it, Grandma's basement door did not fair quite as well.

That same Christmas, Santa came to Grandma's house. Literally. Red suit, white beard, big belly. He knocked on the door and to our utter amazement he walked into Grandma's front room, sat down on her formal yellow wingback chair, and allowed each of us to sit on his knee and make any final Christmas requests. I have a picture of this moment. We're surrounding Santa, David is just a baby, some of us are smiling shyly (Wendy, Jen, and Katie) some are wide-eyed and in awe (Luke and I) and some are grinning uncontrollably (Jill and Nicole).

And even now, when I think of my cousins, more often than not, this picture comes to mind.

Now we're all grown up, dare I say, even adults. And it still thrills me to spend time with them. On par with the new family reunion tradition, the cousins planned a night out - just us. No parents allowed.

On the cousin-dinner evening of the reunion, Wendy (my second youngest cousin) and I were not interested in shopping and too tired to even window-shop, so we arrived at the Chez Betty restaurant early, sat in confortable chairs, sipped deliciously cool water, ordered appetizers, and talked. I learned Wendy had taken three creative writing classes as part of her English degree. I learned she loves short stories and is on a Flannery O'Conner kick. We talked about school, career, family and goals. The conversation was easy and the food, seven mushroom risotto and fried green tomatoes, was scrumptuous. It ended up being my favorite part of the night (though the Man-Jill picture is definitely a close second).

So the only thing better than an evening with my cousins, was getting to know one of them even better.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Swoosh! Woodland Family Reunion Part 1

Dad, my sistah and Joe, the girls, and I are waiting in line at Park City for the Alpine Slide!
Can you believe that people actually rode the ski lift without the safety bar?! I was having a heart-attack with the safety bar. I think I'm a bit afraid of heights. But, oh, the view!
The Woodland family at the top of the mountain. Even my Aunt Susan slid down the mountain!
My heart was racing! I started hyperventilating! I was near panic! Was it the slide?
No, it was the realization that I'd dropped my camera case (with rental car key and credit card) at the top of the mountain. Thank goodness my second cousin, Taylor, found it. Let's just say, she is my newest bestest friend.

And after slides, rock climbing with great coaching by cousin David, snowcones, cheers when Uncle Joe invited Madi & Leasie to ride the Alpine Coaster (aka crazy-make-you-swear-ride though Leasie told Aunt Katie she should probably just say "Holy Macaroni"), watching with awe as my Mom rode the zip line, and a rousing round of miniature golf, with my key and credit card tucked safely in my pocket, it was a perfect family reunion day.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Coming Home

The house is still and quiet. Only the fan turns silently above me chasing the evening heat to the far edges of the room. The computer hums softly at my feet, and outside, the cicadas' screeching has been replaced by the song of the crickets.

It is night and I am home. In the days to come I will record the adventures and misadventures of my trip to Utah. But for tonight, I will write about home.

This morning I was greeted by the padding of footed-pajama feet, wobbly but brave and continuous. A new sound.

Baby C gave me kisses all day long. "Mah!" Across the room, from her high chair, and on my cheeks and hands. Her tiny head rested on my shoulder, her fine blond hair tickled my chin. She babbled with purpose, then looked at me expectantly as if to say, "Look what I have learned!" and scolding, "Where have you been?!"

We picked raspberries in the morning haze - all seven of us, lifting thorny branches, searching for the ruby red jewels hiding beneath green prickly leaves. T-man and Meya showed me "how it's done." T-man instructed with his deep little voice, full of authority: "Some need a couple more days. When they fall into your hands, they're ready."

Meya was my shadow, happy to follow me around the house while Dad took the rest of the kids on a bike ride. Who knew unpacking could be so fun?

I marveled at my Hubby's industriousness. A cleaner, rearranged basement. A new white shoe cubby to help contain the shoe chaos. T-man and Meya's completed workbook pages. A stocked fridge. And a fresh trench dug along the side of the house for the gutter drain.

My sunny yellow front room greeted me cheerily each time I walked passed or through.

My Hubby and I bumped elbows in our small kitchen, jockeying for counter space as we made dinner together. We feasted on marinated chicken from the grill, thick slices of tomatoes just picked from the garden, steaming rice, and Indian curry spinach with chickpeas. We finished with gooey chocolate chip cookies bars made by T-man (I merely supervised).

I tucked each child in bed, read "The Penderwicks" (who had waited so patiently for my return), and sang individual lullabies. As I kissed their heads, their hair still damp from tubby time, I breathed in the sweet soap smell.

It is so good to be home.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Something More

Each time one of my children reached the age of about twelve months, I started really disliking being a full time mom. I was no longer satisfied to stay at home, all the time. I felt overwhelmed with the housekeeping tasks and bored with the mothering tasks. (I can only read the same book or build the same puzzle or go on the same walk so many times without going completely batty!) Perhaps the mood swing was some form of delayed postpartum depression.

I was optimistic that with Baby C I'd skip the whole negative vibes. I hoped that now that I'm so much older and wiser (cough cough) and more experienced, I'd be able to control my mood and anchor my thoughts.

I was wrong.

The last three days, I've hit the mothering wall. I struggle with the simplest mothering tasks, from laundry to the night-time routine. And I use any excuse to not mother. Facebook has become an addiction, I hide in my room to read, and I choose to run errands instead of staying put.

Don't get me wrong - I LOVE my kids, but I am longing for something in addition to mothering. In the past, when I battled the anti-mothering funk, I auditioned for a musical theater production and started teaching as an adjunct professor. These two activities got me out of the house doing things I love. While the time juggle was a challenge, I was more balanced and felt whole. Frazzled, yes. But in a good, satisfying way.

With Baby C, I took maternity leave from everything. Maybe this anti-mothering syndrome is a sign that it's time to squeeze a few things back into my life that are just mine. And maybe by reclaiming some of those things that I enjoy, I'll be content with mothering again.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


When I asked my Dad what he wanted to do for his 60th birthday, he said, "Raft the Colorado River!" So for his 60th birthday, we rafted...the Shenandoah River (which was just slightly more reasonable and logistically realistic for us). We drove to Harpers Ferry, WV and boarded a big yellow bus with sixty other rafters. At the drop off point, we got in a blue inflatable raft with our able guide, Ross, and took off paddling down the river.
We hit some class III rapids which got our hearts pounding. I heard some whoops from my Dad over the sound of my own screams.
Madi and Leasie were great riders, though I think their favorite moments were when they got to get out the raft to swim and when they got to pick a treat from the rafting store at the end - they both opted for Doritos and a pushpop.
The water felt wonderfully cool after sitting in the hot afternoon sun.
We returned home, picked up the other three kids (thank you my dear friends who watched my children!), and continued the celebration with a birthday apple pie.

I've been on many adventures with my dad. We hiked to the ocean on the Washington coast for my eighth birthday. We flew on a float plane to a remote cabin on a mountain lake and stayed there for a week. We kayaked in Alaska, went apple picking in Massachusetts, and have run races every place we've lived. It was fitting, then, to celebrate my Dad's birthday with an adventure.

Here's to many more!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

ABC Handwashing

In the public bathrooms in Washington DC, Amelia started singing at the top of her lungs while she washed her hands.

"A B C D E F--"
I interrupted, "Amelia what are you doing?"
"Washing my hands. A B C D--"
Interrupting again, "Can you hurry? We're going to be late for the show." (People had started watching us).
"But Grandma says I should sing my ABCs while I wash my hands. A B C D E F G--"
"I think that's long enough now." (There was now a crowd in line at the sink and I was feeling quite frustrated).
Amelia was now in a huff. "Well, if you'd just let me finish, then we can go! A! B! C! D! E! F! G! H! I! J! K! L! M! N! O! P! Q! R! S! T! U! V! W! X! Y! Z!"

Thank you, Grandma.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Just a few more...

With two days of rest, the smell of the barns has faded and my throat has recovered from yelling "YEE HAW" at the rodeo. The kids have been catching up on sleep, and I've been catching up on house work (my pile of laundry rivals Mt. Everest).

Here are my top ten new fair favorites:
1) Dozen hot mini donuts cooked while you wait, so yummy I burned my tongue because I was too impatient to wait for them to cool. I refuse to confess how many times I indulged in this treat.
2) Tears of joy shed by the two junior showmanship winners - I just love when happiness bubbles over.
3) Playing chess with Madi in the bunny barn - she won.
4) T-man asking "Can I go see the chickens again?"
5) Watching my girls walk out into the showmanship rink with their rabbits tucked under their arms.
6) Congratulatory hugs.
7) Ice cold water after five hours toting around five kids at the fair.
8) Cowboy boots - they make anyone look sexy.
9) Meya's exclamation every morning last week, "We get to go to the fair again! We are so lucky!"
10) Baby C's animal sounds.

County Fair in Pictures

Baby C did a lot of sitting...and eating. Bless her heart, she was a trooper. And for the most part, she was quite entertained by all the animals, lights, and sounds of the fair.
Leasie during the showmanship competition. She's demonstrating Chocolate for the judge.
Madi waits for her next question from the judge during her showmanship competition.
My rodeo cowboy!
5 days of fair food (good only during the first two days)
2 showmanship competitions
1 breed show
9 shiny ribbons
1 medal
1 day of unlimited fair rides
1 rodeo
innumerable smiles and memories