Monday, January 7, 2013

Expressionating with Good Mommy

    Now that Ian is in fourth grade, he's very concerned with doing his homework and making sure I sign his planner (insert Hallelujah Chorus). I will admit that I'm not the best mom when it comes to homework. When Tawni was little I hyper focused on it and made sure that every bit was done and done perfectly. This is probably the cause of her anxiety disorder today. When Beka came along I began to relax. With the arrival of Zackary the relaxation increased and we basically just focused on reading. When Ian joined the family my need for relaxation is what took over and any semblance of routine was eradicated and replaced with pajama pants, chocolate, and Prozac.

    Luckily for Ian, he has inspiring teachers who are unwilling to let me off the hook. If my little boy does not get his planner signed, he has to move his clip down—which is humiliating and devastating for him—and his teacher writes notes to me on his planner reminding me of my parental responsibilities—which is humiliating and devastating for me. So we've been doing homework. But just because Ian worries about getting it done does not mean that he does it happily. Au contraire! When I'm trying to be a good mommy, I give him a small treat—like an M&M—for each problem he finishes. I break up the homework so that we read, he plays for 15 minutes, we do math, he plays for 15 more minutes, and we finish with spelling. Being the good mommy doesn't last very long. I'm tired from my own homework, I'm tired from making Zack and Beka do their homework. I'm tired of the daily struggle while Ian does his homework. Soon the simple reward systems turn into bribery. And Ian can sense the shift. And he takes full advantage of it.

    "If I do my homework can I have a toy?"

    "If you do your homework nicely, without whining, for three days, you can have a toy."

    "Two days?"


    And he grins because he knows he's won that battle and the next time I'll give in faster. And after playing that game for a week or two, I'm done. Good mommy is in Hawaii, snorkeling with Yellow Tangs. Mediocre mommy is eating chocolate and drinking Dr. Pepper while hiding in the closet. So the only thing Ian is left with is bad mommy. Bad mommy is very tired. She doesn't shower, or wear clean socks. She doesn't make dinner. She yells at everyone and doesn't wash their clothes. She hides in her bedroom and types indecent blog entries that she can't post. But she does sign Ian's planner. Because even a bad mommy doesn't want her boy to get in trouble and move his clip down. Eventually good mommy returns from her vacation and the cycle starts all over again.

    Today was a good mommy day. Ian and I did some small negotiating after school while I assessed his mood and determined what he could and could not handle. I gave him the choice of reading first or math first. He chose reading. He picked a book and we went into my room, plopped on our tummies on my bed, and proceeded to read together. In this particular book, there were bank robbers and police officers. Ian wanted to read the parts of the bank robbers and I played the role of police officers. I noticed right away that Ian was using expression in his reading. The bank robbers were sarcastic and harsh, yelling at each other and evilly laughing as they escaped the cops. I watched Ian's face as he read, eyes squinting, mouth stumbling a bit around the words while trying to catch up with his brain. After a few pages he stopped reading and turned to look at me.

    "Can you tell that I'm using expres—that I'm ex—that I'm exrpessionating?" he finally managed.

    "I sure can. It's wonderful!" I praised.

    "I've been working on it with Ms. Webber," he said proudly.

    We finished our story and as agreed upon earlier, Ian went off to play with friends. We can finish the rest of his homework tonight. Because good mommy is here and she can handle it. I'm guessing that around the first of February she'll be in the Bahamas.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Family Unity in the Kitchen: What I Expected and What Actually Happened

    I received a KitchenAid Mixer for Christmas this year. Excited to try it out, I decided it would be nice to whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. I also remembered the gingerbread cookie dough in the extra fridge downstairs. I'd made it with the intent of spreading some holiday cheer to family and friends, but that was a week ago and my charitable feelings had since shrunken to only include the individuals within wooden spoon hitting distance. I brought the soon-to-expire dough up from the basement and set it on the counter to soften while I worked on the chocolate chip cookies. The sounds of the mixer quickly roused the sitting-dead from their television and video game stupors. As the masses swarmed into the kitchen I felt my bosom swell with motherly love and affection. I knew some family bonding was about to take place.

    My Expectation: Everyone taking a turn with the new mixer, patiently.

    What Actually Happened: As they got closer and I saw the demonic gleam in their eyes that only cookie dough can produce, I realized I didn't want them anywhere near my new mixer because in touching it, they would violate its purity with unclean hands and contaminate its machinery to the point of malfunction. So I created a protective bubble around my precious appliance and warned the mob to Back Off!

    My Expectation: I would be generous and allow one spoonful of dough to grace the tongues of my offspring and their sire.

    What Actually Happened: My children pressed around me until there was no room for me to move and I stood bent in half over my mixer. They then attempted to grab handfuls of dough—pushing, shoving, clawing—it was like zombies on a human.

    My Expectation: Surely my husband would behave better than his offspring.

    What Actually Happened: Shielding me from the horde, my husband pushed himself in front of me and spread his arms…subtlety reaching behind me into the mixing bowl. After that it was a free-for-all. I ended up with a scant 23 cookies.

    Attempting to salvage the bonding experience, I turned to the gingerbread dough. My kids knew better than to eat it because it wasn't fresh. I sprinkled the countertop with flour and began to roll out the dough. All was going well. I lovingly invited Ian to cut out some gingerbread babies with my miniature cookie cutter.

    My Expectation: My youngest and I would laugh together and create something cute and memorable.

    What Actually Happened: All of the gingerbread babies ended up headless and my son laughed evilly with each decapitation.

    My Expectation: My sweet Rebeka would take over and engage Ian in the proper way to cut out cookies.

    What Actually Happened: She took over. Like a drill sergeant. She yelled when Ian plopped his cookie cutter in the middle of the dough instead of utilizing the space around the edges first. She yelled when he guillotined. She yelled when he shook too much flour onto the counter. She yelled when he did everything right. She yelled… a lot.

    My Expectation: The gingerbread cookies would taste good.

    What Actually Happened: They were dry and thick with minimal sweetness. I found some post-holiday charity and took most of the cookies to my friend, Julie. Her kids will eat anything.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hell on Earth: Who Knew it Would Be in My Car?

     I took my kids and my sister, Lori, up Little Cottonwood Canyon on Sunday. Fall is my favorite time of year and with the mountains decorated in hues of gold, pink, and copper, I knew that a mountain outing was just what my stressed soul needed. Upon arriving at Tanner's Flat, we were joined by my sisters-in-law and their families. We came prepared with hot dogs, marshmallows, salad, firewood, hatchet, camp chairs, skewers...and as for my children? ATTITUDE.
     Let's start with Ian. He had a rotten day at church and left the building in tears because his teacher was "mean" to him. I tried to help him understand that when he does what his teacher says, she is nice. When he doesn't keep his hands to himself, then there are consequences. He replied with, "But I didn't want to do what she said!" Hence the problem. This unfortunate church experience set the tone for the rest of the day and Ian never recovered.
     Next is Beka. Normally happy and full of sunshine, she wasn't at her best. To be fair, she did have a bit of a cold and a headache. However, she kept harping on Ian about a pair of sunglasses that he broke several months ago. She wouldn't let it go. And because she wouldn't let it go, Ian couldn't either. The bickering lasted clear into my beautiful autumn mountains.
     Tawni. She was tired. She hardly slept the night before and had to be up early for work. She maintained civility and had a good time on our outing, until she decided it was time to leave. I just love it when my kids tell me what to do and when to do it.
     Zack wasn't too bad. He was pleasant, but couldn't help teasing Ian and Beka, especially when doing so resulted in a glorious outpouring of emotional rage that is fodder to a teenage boy.
     And finally Lori. She was the picture of gloom and doom and couldn't stop worrying about the mounds of homework she had. She even brought it all with her, including a laptop so that she could write a report.
     In spite of my cheerful family members, I was determined to have a good time. And I did. And surprisingly, so did they. Except for Ian. His hard day just kept getting harder. He came decked out in navy seal finery; knife, grenades, walkie-talkie. Sadly, none of his cousins wanted to play kill-or-be-killed with him. Being girls that are several years older than he is probably had something to do with that. But Ian's Aunt Jeni took pity on him and they went for a walk, where he tripped and fell end over end. Recovering by the fire, he accidentally got elbowed in the eye by Zack. He fell down another two times before the evening was over and scraped his leg on a branch. Then his hot dog fell in the fire. His response to all this, "I'm having bad luck!"
     When it was time to leave, Tawni decided to ride home with her Aunt Kim. I think she'd had enough of us. The rest of my brood piled in the car and we drove a little farther up the canyon to better appreciate the gorgeous foliage. Beka wasn't happy with this detour and voiced her displeasure with a supreme air.
     "I have homework."
     "Me, too," I said.
     During the drive Ian started whimpering and complaining about his horrible day. I was sympathetic at first, but after listening to the same sob story, I started getting irritated.
     "Okay, Ian. I get it. Let's move on now."
     "I want Dad."
     "I know."
     During this exchange I'd turned down the radio so that I could hear him from the backseat.
     "Turn up the muusiiiiic!" he whined.
     "Ugh! Fine!" My patience was getting thinner.
     "You're mean! Why is everybody mean to me?"
     "Stop complaining and whining and we will be nice. Nobody likes a whiner."
     The complaining never stopped. It just got louder. About this time I noticed something dark in the road. Lori saw it, too. "Stop! Raccoon!"
     "I know. I see it."
     But it wasn't just one raccoon. There were two. However, one was lying on its back, legs spasming in the air because it had just been run over. The other was walking back and forth in the road, agitated and confused because suddenly its world had changed.
     Several things happened simultaneously.
     Lori cried out, "Don't look!" So of course everybody looks.
     I slowed the car to a crawl.
     Beka yelled in my ear, "Mom! There are cars behind you!"
     "Beka, don't tell me how to drive!"
     "I'm not! There are cars that need to get by!"
     "I have to slow down! There are raccoons!"
     Ian was whimpering harder, "That's so sad!"
     And Zack was trying to be the voice of reason and fix it all.
     When we got home Beka's boyfriend was there. Apparently she'd been texting so that his arrival at our house coincided with us getting home. She took solace in his arms because, obviously, she was traumatized by her evil family.
     The first thing Ian did was call his daddy.
     As for me? I couldn't help thinking that I should have traded places with Tawni and gone home with Kim.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Back On Track

     It's been so long since I've written anything and it feels a little uncomfortable to start again. But I've procrastinated far too long and I'm afraid that many Ianisms are forgotten because of my laziness. Sitting in church today and listening to the talks that were given about family and family home evenings reminded me of many humorous moments over the years and inspired me to not only write them down, but to also be more diligent in teaching my children about the gospel.
     According to my kids, we never have family home evening. That is their perspective and it's wrong. For twenty years I have made valiant efforts to hold family home evening. Some efforts have been more successful than others. We do well as a family for several weeks, and then I poop out. After listening to general conference, I get inspired again and we make another effort. My point is that I never quit trying. While we may not hold it religiously each week, the desire is there and sometimes that desire translates into success. When I'm doing really well, we have family prayer too. Which brings to mind one of my many efforts about nine years ago, an effort that solidified my suspicion that God does indeed have a sense of humor.
     Scott was at the fire station so it was just me and my heathens. I'd made a commitment to myself to hold family prayer and just because the dad wasn't home didn't mean we could forget about it. This was our first effort in--well--a really long time. I gathered my children around me and we formed a circle on the floor, kneeling reverently. I asked someone to say it, I think it was Tawni, and we bowed our heads. That's when we all saw that someone else had decided to join our prayer. A large--quarter size--wolf spider was sitting in the middle of our circle. The pandemonium that ensued would have made a rock concert look like sunday school. There was screaming and jumping and running and pushing and furniture climbing. When the dust settled not one person remained on the floor. We all perched precarioulsy on the sofa or coffee table.
     "Did anyone squish it?" I asked.
     There was a lot of head shaking.
     I sighed, "Well it's not there anymore."
     We all inched a little further up on our perches.
     And that's how we had our first family prayer in over a year.
     I've often thought about that experience, trying to figure out which Heavenly Being sent the spider into our midst. My imaginings sound something like this:

     "Hey, Peter. The Bringhurst's are going to have family prayer."
     "No way. John? Get over and look at this."
     "Wow. Hey, you know what would be funny?"
     "Do it, James."

     Or maybe...

     "Sweetheart, look! The Bringhurst family is going to pray together. Get ready. I want you to answer this one right away. It's been so long."
     "Well look at that! HeeHee! Watch this, honey."
     "Don't you dare!"
     "Too late!"

     Tonight I decided to make another valiant effort. Not only were we going to have family prayer, but we would read scriptures too. The scripture reading went better than expected. The only problem was when I read the word "hell" and Ian clamped his hand over his mouth and said, "Mom! Don't swear!" I had to stop and explain that in the scriptures it was talking about a place and was okay and that it was different from when I get angry and yell at him. After our reading we knelt down to pray and Ian asked if he could say it. I told him he could but he had to make sure to be very reverent because he was talking to Heavenly Father. This is the prayer he said:

     "Heavenly Father, Thank you for these wonderful evil children. Bless Dad. Name of Jesus Christ, Amen."


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

     I have neglected this blog for too long. For some reason, I thought that I would have plenty of time for recreational writing while attending school. The fact is, I've done plenty of writing, it's just all been for a grade. One of the essays I wrote for my English class was originally my second entry on this blog. I pulled it off of the blog for my assignment and re-wrote it. That essay is being publish in SLCC's literary magazine this fall. Many of you have asked to read it, so I thought I would post it here. Enjoy.

The Humping, Biting, Pooping Wonders
     I love Black Jack. No, not the game, but my dog. My wonderful, dorky, pubic-haired, Schnoodle. Sunday was his last day with us. About ten-o’clock that night he went to his new home. I’d like to say I handled it well, crying just enough to look beautiful in my sorrow, but I’m a terrible liar. For two hours prior to his departure, I cradled him in my arms while sobbing into his curls. He licked the salty tears and snot off my face, enjoying the treat, not understanding what was about to take place. That made me bawl even harder. He’s so innocent. I don’t care if he bites the kids when he’s excited. So what if he likes to demonstrate his dominance by hugging your leg. He’s a good dog! By the time his new owner arrived, I was a blubbering, red-faced, swollen, snotty mess. I could not pull myself together. It didn’t matter that Black Jack’s new owner was my best friend, who just lived down the street. All I knew was that my feet were going to freeze at night without my fur blanket to keep them warm.
     Black Jack’s leaving was a long time in coming. I knew back in May that he would have to go. On Mother’s Day, my sweet boy, Ian, was hospitalized for a massive asthma attack. Following this trauma, I took Ian to see his asthma doctor.
     “Do you still have the dog?” Dr. Gourley asked.
     “Yes,” I admitted sheepishly. “But this one is hypoallergenic and Ian seems to be fine…”
     Dr. Gourley was shaking his head. “He’s not fine. There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog to an asthmatic.”
     I love dogs. I grew up with them and cannot remember a time when my youthful feet weren’t tripping over metal food dishes on the floor. My first pooch was Penny the Toy Poodle, and then came Kachoock, our Siberian Husky with different colored eyes, and finally Mindy, the stray Collie my mother rescued on a stormy afternoon.
     Having grown up with dogs, it was only fitting that I would want them to be part of my own family. When my oldest daughter was about two, she developed a mild discomfort for all things canine. My husband and I decided the best way to combat this unnaturalness was to welcome a tiny ball of fluff into our home. Tank joined our family and for the next thirteen years, he worshipped my husband and pretty much hated everyone else. At least he cured my daughter of her fear. And while he tolerated four children, I would never recommend a Pomeranian as a good family dog. In spite of his propensity to bite and his inappropriateness with stuffed animals, I loved him and cared for him when age claimed his hearing and bladder control. Three months after his passing, my husband, Scott, surprised me with an American Bulldog.

     Once in a while, an animal comes along who is different from all other animals. There is something special and unique that draws you to this creature. My bow-legged, barrel-chested, Tinkerbell, was such an animal. She had a magnetic soul. Weighing in at fifty pounds, she was the largest puppy I’d ever owned.
     Caring for a dog means that you are willing to make certain sacrifices. You understand that poop will be tracked into the house on the bottom of a sneaker, you learn that library books shouldn’t—but do make good chew toys, and you decide that the short white hairs in your food really aren’t that big of a deal. You make these sacrifices because the rewards of having someone in your life, who loves you unconditionally, are worth it. For me, dogs are the best medication, the best therapy, the best cure-all for whatever ails you. They fill a need in me that I can’t get from anyone or anything else. With a dog in my life, my soul feels complete.
     After two months with Tinkerbell, I knew it wasn’t going to work. Ian’s allergies intensified around her so much, that with one lick of her tongue, he’d break out in hives. After giving her away, I came home and climbed into my bed. I didn’t leave it for three days. And when I did, I refused to wear anything but black. I wasn’t in a good place. Along with my appearance, my thoughts and mood were dark. I admit that during that time I had some very un-motherly feelings toward my son. It wasn’t rational and it wasn’t fair, but part of me thought, If it weren’t for you, I could have a dog. I’m ashamed that those thoughts and feelings once had a place in my mind and heart. Ian couldn’t help his allergies and asthma. He was born with those ailments. What I failed to realize at the time, was that he was losing something special too. Like me, Ian loves dogs and is happier when he’s around them.
     But as with dogs, raising children requires certain sacrifices. We know that sleeping through the night is a rare treat, and the ruins at Mesa Verde will wait, but a kidney infection will not. We understand that a dinosaur diorama is a family project, and we know that teenagers—when unsupervised—will break a brand new La-Z-boy. Our children’s needs always come before our own. Even if we don’t want them too.
     Black Jack was my last attempt to have a dog. Being a Schnoodle, he was considered a hypoallergenic breed. I lived in denial for two years, but eventually came to realize that it was Ian or the dog. The canine season of my life had come to a close and it was time to put my child’s needs before my own. The night Black Jack left I knew I needed to stop looking at my losses and start counting my blessings. I have many of them and the best ones are my children: Tawni, Rebeka, Zackary, and Ian. No pet is better than them. So with eyes that tear up occasionally—but remain clear—I am choosing to look for the good, and I’m finding it. Although my feet are cold.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


     We did a firepit last night in the backyard for family night. It's often nice to break free from having a gospel oriented lesson and just enjoy being outside and being together. We all have camping fever and eagerly await a time when the mountains are no longer covered in snow. I'm not sure that will happen any time soon. I think this might be the year when several new glaciers start to grow. In any case, sitting around the fire, roasting hot dogs and making s'mores was a nice alternative to camping. The smoke stung our eyes and made breathing difficult and Ian had to have an asthma treatment when all was said and done, but we had a grand time.
     I always have a bit of anxiety when Ian is around fire. It can be campfires, fireworks, sparklers, a BBQ... He is such an exuberant boy and he never seems to look where he's going when running, walking, riding a bike, or swinging around a flaming marshmallow.
     From the moment I brought the firepit into the backyard, Ian started to hyper focus. He was extremely helpful at first because he was so excited. He helped set up chairs, gather wood from the woodpile, set up a table for the food, and then ask me for matches. Like I'd give an eight-year-old matches! Psh!
     I gave him the matches--but only because I knew Scott was waiting for them. Ian proudly carried the little box outside to his dad, and together they lit the fire. Once a fire is lit, Ian seems to think that you need to put all the wood on at once. The bigger the better, right? If there's fire, he is constantly throwing sticks on it and and our firepit night was no different. Every tiny twig had to be on the fire. Expect for his fire stick. He saved one piece of wood specifically for stirring the fire. And he spent a good portion of the evening doing just that. He'd stir, then lift up his stick to see if it was burning. If it was burning he'd run to the dirt and jab his stick into the ground. Then he'd come back to the fire and do it again. Sometimes, if his stick was just smoking, he'd wave it around in the air making smoke signals, nearly igniting his siblings.
     As for the food? Ian had to put every hot dog wiener on a stick. It simply was not in his power to let us do that for ourselves. Which drove me crazy. I can't stand to have little kid germs on my food. And he'd roast marshmallows for the sheer pleasure of watching them burn. He didn't eat them. He just caught them on fire and tried to make s'mores, using the cancerous marshmallow, that he'd then serve to the rest of us.
     Now, Ian is a great multi-tasker. He accomplished all of these things I've written about simultaneously. He was zipping back and forth so fast that he reminded me of Forrest Gump's ping pong ball. He'd ping from the food to the firepit and then ricochet back to the food and then ping to his smoldering stick in the dirt. Ping! Ping-Ping! Ping-Ping-Ping! And when he got tired of pinging he decided we should all play Duck-Duck-Goose. Except he changed the words. He started with Beka. "Toilet water," on to Zack, "Toilet water," my turn, "Toilet water," I now knew what was coming, "Toilet water," he hit Tawni on the head, "POOP!" We played several versions of that game including butthead/butthole and chocolate/poop. Interesting how it's all potty humor.
     Around eight o'clock Scott decided we should wrap up our evening and he let Ian put out the fire. Ian held the hose with both hands and assumed his best fireman stance. Then Scott turned on the water. Ian held his finger over the nozzle so that the water would come out in a powerful stream and he bravely and single-handedly saved us all from a hellish inferno.
     Then he had to be rescued by his mother and his asthma inhaler.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Just the Way You Are

     I haven't written anything in over a month. I've thought about it several times, but the thoughts never quite became actions. Ever since CoCo left, I've been a bit unmotivated. I've read an insane amount of literature, slept in most mornings, showered once in a while, and played Farkle on Facebook. Productivity definitely took a back seat. I think after such an intense three months my poor brain and body wanted a break. The month of April did that for me. Now I'm good to go.
     At the end of February, I met with Ian's teachers at school for his annual IEP. Last fall I pushed and pushed for them to do more testing on Ian. I felt that he was falling behind and getting lost in the shuffle of other students. They did the testing and during his IEP we discussed the results. The whole meeting lasted for an hour-and-a-half. Believe me, that's long for an IEP. The results of the testing confirmed my suspicions and fears. The older Ian gets, the wider the developmental gap becomes between him and his peers. He does progress, but it happens so slowly that he just falls further and further behind the norm. His IQ was quite low and his cognitive function was at 1% of the average. The testing determined that Ian's disabilities are something that he will never outgrow. As his mother, I already knew this. But the school didn't. As a result of the testing, Ian now receives one-on-one instruction in the resource room for reading, language,spelling and math. He is in the regular classroom to receive his assignments and participate in centers, but all the other time is spent in resource. And he hates it.
     He hates feeling singled out. He hates having to actually put forth some effort and do his work. He hates not being with his friends. He hates "being stupid."
     Ian is at an age now where he recognizes that he is different in some ways from the other kids. He asks a lot of questions about his birth mother and the drugs she took during her pregnancy. He wants to know, "Why did she do drugs? Didn't she know that was bad for my body?" I'm very truthfull with him and try to explain things in terms that he can understand. I let him know that his birth mother loved him--and she did. I knew her and worked with her before adopting Ian. The decision to give Ian up was difficult for her, but she did it because she loved him and felt that God wanted him to be with us. I've let Ian know that. But someday he's going to understand more fully the extent of the damage the drugs caused to his body and brain. And it's going to hurt him. It will hurt his heart to know that his birth mother wouldn't stop doing drugs in order to protect him. I just pray that as time goes by, I'll know what to say and how to say it so that the hurt might be minimal. I pray that he will feel so loved by all of us, that it might make up for the things he's had to suffer. I never want him to question whether or not he belongs to this family. He does. Without any doubt. We prayed for him to come to us. I knew that Heavenly Father wanted us to adopt a boy, and we waited for him. When the time came, there wasn't a doubt that he was meant to be part of our family.
     I often have to remind myself of those things when he's being especially difficult. Which he has been for the last month. I think the changes at school have affected him, not to mention a slothful mom. He struggles with change and it's shown in his behavior. He's had a lot of meltdowns and tantrums. He's also been very demanding and impatient. More so than usual. Scott and I have had to come up with a little reward system for him. Scott gets paid once a month so Ian knows, if he does his homework and reading, he gets to pick out a toy or videogame each payday. This has helped. He's much more cooperative with reading, even reminding me that we need to do it. He knows that if he misses a night, he misses a toy.
     I hope this next month is better for him. I hope I can help him learn to love and accept himself for who he is. He's an amazing boy and I'm blessed to be his mother.