Makes-Me-Smile Monday Preview: Declare your independence!

picasso-flower-bouquet-logo-copy1.jpgIn honor of the Fourth of July, MMSM this Monday (July 2) will follow the theme “I declare my independence from…” I hope our great founders wouldn’t mind my being inspired to throw off the tyrannies, both superficial and profound, that keep me from being free. Here are some of my favorite lines from the Declaration of Independence. God bless America! 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness … it is the Right of the People … to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; … that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, … And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our fortunes and our sacred Honor.

If you can read the whole declaration (and if you’re American) without getting just a bit teary-eyed, you might want to see someone about that: you could be missing some vital organ.

Are you working?

The other day I was at a playgroup when a mother of three who works as a physical therapist asked me that searching philosophical question: “Are you working?” Okay, okay, I know she probably didn’t mean it as an opening salvo in the mommy wars. She just wanted to know if I get paid for a job I do outside my home. Or maybe a paycheck for a job I do inside my home would count too? Or if my husband and children paid me for what I do? Can I bring myself to quit the field, say “No, I’m not working,” and leave it at that? Apparently not.


Are you working?

No, I’m just…

  • Producing more milk than a Jersey cow

  • Stimulating the minds of extremely brilliant, one-might-even-say-gifted (if one were the bragging sort) children through constant activity and meaningful interaction.

  • Shopping for enough food to stuff the faces of 5 people every 3 hours

  • Changing 11 diapers, 2-3 of them poopy, 1-2 of them toxic

  • Reading Dr. Seuss over and over till I dream of green eggs and ham

  • Driving a (very small but very loud) band of hooligans to the mall, the Y, the park, the beach, the library, the zoo, and Busch Gardens

  • Turning neon Mac & Cheese into a gourmet feast with peas and wieners

  • Smelling one too many pairs of stinky panties while trying to separate the laundry

  • Keeping a smallish house relatively clean (not in-law-drop-in-worthy every day, just enough-to-fool-husband-that-I’ve-been-extremely-busy-all-day)

  • Reading, writing, blogging, thinking (ask Thoreau: this takes a lot of energy).

  • Nodding supportively to husband in appropriate places during extremely thought-provoking conversations

  • Running miles upon miles to retain (regain?) my girlish figure lost through 3 1/2 pregnancies and too many brownies to count

  • IM’ing and emailing people of the highest character about earth-shattering items of national significance (other stay-at-home moms about the (non)progress our toddlers are making in potty-training).

Or, as I tell my husband on those rare days that he badly phrases a question and I answer in kind:


(Dick): Are you doing anything today?

(Me): No. I thought I’d lie on the couch all day and watch some soaps.

How the other half lives

Well, we made it to Zion (Utah) a couple days ago. I realize that Zion: the promised land, the land of milk and honey, Xanadu — the Coleridge fantasy, not the Olivia Newton-John musical — is different for everyone. But for me it continues to be Utah, despite the fact that my eyes are burning and my skin is scaling off and I get lightheaded when jogging thanks to thin air that has dangerously low levels of oxygen and moisture. Perhaps I can convince my family to join the nation-wide exodus to Tennessee (or is it North Carolina this month?).

Our flights were on time and luggage was not lost, permanently. Thanks to my wonderful parenting (or a confluence of good luck and stars in the right alignment), the only way our travels could have been better was if I had not been flying with three hooligans; the hooligan husband who could have been of some help when not falling asleep at the slightest provocation is joining us in a couple weeks).

We’re staying first with my sister Marcy and her family (husband Adam and three kids Livvy, Ali and Zac) in their fancy new house. Sally and I each in our own way confronted the reality that we are experiencing in small part how the other half lives. Sally (wiping her bum for the first time here): “Mom, this toilet paper is so soft.” And mom (drying off after her first shower here): “Wow, these towels are really thick; I wonder if Marcy has upgraded to the luxury line of linens at Target?” Nope — they’re from Pottery Barn. I dream of Pottery Barn towels, but, fortunately for my budgetary well-being, thick towels like that would never work in humid Florida.

Now, if she just stocked premium lip balm for my poor cracked lips…

Makes-Me-Smile Monday: Food

picasso-flower-bouquet-logo-copy.jpgWelcome to the Food edition of Makes-Me-Smile Monday. Favorite foods, strange food experiences, weird food allergies, and anything else related to food are on the menu today. I feel rather conflicted about food because I have so recently come to the conclusion that I must restrict myself if I want to be healthy (also: not-fat); whereas previously I have always assumed that I could eat whatever I wanted as long as I exercised more.

Food and drink appeal to the sense of taste (obviously); I could say the taste of my husband’s skin also appeals, but only if he’s showered recently. For the other senses, various art categories appeal. For hearing: music, sight: paintings/architecture, etc, touch: textiles/sculpture, smell: perfume (I’m probably reaching on this one; it’s very rare that a scent appeals to me, though the price of designer scent certainly makes it seem like Art). Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that food is an art form in some circles.


I loved trying new foods when I backpacked through Europe in college. I ate the best hotdog ever on the grounds of Notre Dame in Paris; the street vendor impaled a baguette and stuck the hotdog in. Divine. France has the best street food anywhere. I remember crepes on the West Bank and custard in Austria, yogurt (the real stuff) in Switzerland and gelato in Italy. Hmmm. None of these foods were “new,” but they were certainly much superior to their American incarnations. If you’re ever in Cairo, on the other hand, prepare to be unimpressed. Big time.

When we lived in New York City, I discovered that there are actually people who honestly like stinky cheese and gourmet olives you buy out of a barrel. Oh, and Dick and I learned that you’re not supposed to chill red wine. Good to know. We walked past an Ethiopean restaurant to get to Columbia everyday, and I couldn’t help thinking about the starving children as I walked past — why would anyone want to eat Ethiopean food, I

In Japan I had an allergic reaction to a plant we encountered on one of our few ventures into the countryside. For a week my face was covered with insanely sensitive, weeping blisters. I can’t ever leave Dick because he is the only person from that time that saw this (not sure why I feel like I need it documented); somehow we managed to not take a picture of Jane looking like the Elephant Man.

I couldn’t leave the house without scaring large men and small children. The Japanese doctors were reluctant to examine me. A few steroid shots later and I was fine. I later discovered that I’m allergic to an oil in certain plants similar to poison ivy. This includes mangos. Now I crave mangos all the time.

Which brings me back to my original thought on food. Why do I crave what I shouldn’t have? You’d think that after a while the obvious health and appearance benefits would outweigh the primeval desire for Publix white cake. But alas, that hasn’t happened yet.

I hope you have a food story or three to share. For details on the blog carnival, see the Makes-Me-Smile Monday link above. Bon Appetit!

Good thing photogenicity is not genetic (or I’d have more to apologize to my kids for)

First, our by-now-almost-regular Sunday church re-hash. I was about 20 minutes late today. And yes, this time it was on purpose; Spot fell asleep right when we should have been leaving, and I didn’t have the heart to wake her up (which only seems like a good reason when you’re already in this habit). Then, as luck (or something else) would have it, the Sunday School lesson was on the sacrament/Last Supper (John 22/Luke 13), and I couldn’t remember clearly the last time I was on time enough to take the sacrament. Probably two or three weeks, anyway. Hmmm. Well, good thing we’re on our way to Zion (Utah) on Tuesday. I think I can count on my family to whip us into shape.

Here are our latest pictures:


Sally thought Spot needed a bandana to be a cowgirl. Spot’s this close to crawling. Unfortunately, close only counts in horseshoes and … (what else?).


My poor Susan sure does have the middle child syndrome. Here she’s wearing Sally’s panties and Spot’s hat. Maybe this conflict is why she’s so hot and cold on the potty-training.


Busch Gardens is great at night! In the summer we go from 4-9 pm. (Don’t worry, that’s ice water in my special cup).


And finally, some pictures from after church again.

The carnival formerly known as Makes-Me-Smile Monday …

… will continue to be known as Makes-Me-Smile Monday for three reasons: 3) The best alternative I came up with was Mull-it-over Monday, which not only sounds like a bad hair choice, but has an even weirder-looking abbreviation (MIOM). 2) As Dick pointed out, people smile for a plethora of different reasons. One can smile in malice or with coyness; in happiness or wryly, with a little twist at the edge of the smile.

My original feeling was that anything in life (almost) can be greeted with some sort of smile as long as one takes the time to think about it in perspective and, even better, create some sort of written (or otherwise artistic) account of whatever it is that one is confronting.

But the number 1 reason to keep Makes-Me-Smile Monday is that Continue reading

Higher IQ’s and Virginity, too

What do higher IQ’s after age 12 and being twice as likely to still be a virgin at age 21 have in common? Apparently, birth order. Being the firstborn, to be precise. The average difference in IQ is 3 points (4.5 between first and third children), and seems to hold when all other factors (parent’s education, income, gender, etc) are accounted for. In cases where the oldest child dies, the next oldest obtains the higher IQ; sounds sort of mess of potage, doesn’t it? Continue reading

MMSM thoughts and a cool survey, or, Why my kids think they’re orphans today

picasso-flower-bouquet-logo-copy.jpgThanks to all those who linked up or commented on MMSM: Father. I hope you enjoy the structure and interaction of the MMSM carnival as much as I do. (and I hope my dad hasn’t commented on my post only because he is modest and shy!). I’m interested in how different topics seem to inspire (or not) people; if everyone who has ever participated were to write on the same Monday, we’d have around 20 posts. And since all of life is a popularity contest … well, let’s just say I’m figuring out who my true friends are. (just kidding — “fun post”).

Dick told me about this cool survey tool a while ago, and now I have an excuse to play around with it. Please answer the questions below — even if you’re against voting on principle, I promise your voice will make a difference in this context at least! If you have any other ideas or suggestions, please leave a comment.

Makes-Me-Smile Monday: Father

picasso-flower-bouquet-logo-copy.jpgWelcome to the Father edition of Makes-Me-Smile Monday. Father is a complicated concept. It can mean as little as the accidental contribution of one of the tiniest cells in the human body and as much as Eternal Father. Mother, on the other hand, means a soft lap and wanting to press my nose in her neck, inhale and sigh deeply, something that would probably irritate her as much as my oldest wanting to snuggle me at inopportune moments does me.

But my father is somewhere between those extremes of sperm donor and god. I wasn’t sure about this when I was younger. I thought God must be like my Grandpa Hyatt (my dad’s dad): rather stern-looking and possessed of an awesome mean voice (when irked), and white-haired. I didn’t think I’d like God much either. Many girls have fond memories of being Daddy’s little princess; this is sometimes a plot device for setting up the heroine for serious relationship issues after the once-doting father abandons the family. I could no more imagine my father or grandfather abandoning their families than I could not loving my own children.

Perhaps this is one reason I like the show Alias; just like Sydney, the longer I know my dad and the more I experience parenting and life for myself, the more I love him and respect him. He has mellowed with age, and I have realized that arguing for argument’s sake is perhaps not — always — best. (Grandpa Hyatt smiles more now too).

When I was a teenager, I complained about having football-player thighs; my dad said I was lucky to have big (maybe he said strong?) thigh muscles: they’d help prevent knee problems later. My dad patiently taught me to use borrowing in subtraction when it seemed like the most unfair, un-intuitive idea ever. Later, when I studied calculus, Dad said it was one of those things that you only understand right when you’re learning it. I was so excited to know something, in that instant, that my dad did not.

At a daddy-daughter church event where fathers were to bring items that symbolized their daughters, Dad compared me to a wasp (stinging tongue) and Marcy (she doesn’t remember why) to a seashell. I don’t know if it was insensitivity or courage or inspiration that had him bring the dead wasp for me. I do know that I’ve tried, since then, to temper my tongue (if this surprises you, just imagine how bad it used to be!).

We had a cat named Bonnie-Jean Monster when I was nine; she had kittens in Marcy’s sock drawer, and we loved to play with them on the trampoline. One night we left the kittens out and the sprinklers got to them. A couple of the kittens were dead by morning. A couple others were halfway there, and my father stood in our garage with a hair dryer on the mewling kittens. I don’t think he even particularly likes cats.

Maybe my dad isn’t as different from my husband as I’ve always supposed. Temperamentally they are, but I think of a tape of music favorites my dad made about ten years ago. It included Rachmaninoff classical piano pieces, Marian Librarian from Music Man, and Joan Osbourne’s What if God was one of us. My dad is honest and candid and trustworthy and humble. I love him!

I hope you have a father story to share (not necessarily about your own father). To participate in the carnival, enter your name and (description) and post address so we can read all about it — and tell your dad (if applicable) to read it too. Or leave it in a comment. If you have any questions, send me an email or a comment. reserve the right to delete any inappropriate links.)

On being the bad cop, or, Happy Father’s Day to the good cop

Today we had a bit of a conflict. A strange but not-serious virus swept through our family last week. Susan had it first, and recovered just as I was about to make a doctor’s appointment. Sally and Dick were sick next. It was a 72-hour bout of low fever (101.5), chills, and aches. Spot got sick at Busch Gardens last night; I had thought that she and I were going to escape being ill thanks to breastfeeding (incidentally, will 1/3 of an adult tablet of Motrin hurt an 8-month-old? I hope not). Dick came home from his early meetings to take Sally and Susan to church. Continue reading