Mr. Bennet is duly impressed, but wishes I would stop farting in bed

sally-and-mom1(Pre.S. 1 There’s a Thanksgiving Point giveaway at the end, so skip to that if you get bored.)

(Pre.S. 2 Mr. Bennet needs to come to terms with the fact that even celebrity mommy bloggers fart.)

Yesterday I took Sally and Susan to a mommy-blogger PR tour at Thanksgiving Point, and the full disclosure is that they spoiled us with yummy food, gorgeous flowers, awesome dinosaurs, and more delicious food, but if you’ve read this site for any length of time (and I like to think that you’ve been reading since before I started writing) you know that my love for Thanksgiving Point is deep and true, and not influenced by bribery or swag.

Of course, the downside of that is — what more can I say? I love Thanksgiving Point, and everyone should go. The End. (And in August they have the Two-Buck Tuesday so it’s a great time to check it out, though Sue is right, it is HOT, so go early or late and if you are sensitive to noise, I’d, uh, reconsider the Dinosaur Museum until all those awful kids are back in school.)susan

It was fun to be with just two of my people (my kids always seem easier one-on-one or when at least one of them is missing), but it was also great to talk with the other bloggers who happen to be mothers.

t-point-020

I hate when people say this, because if I don’t get invited to some event where people meet awesome people and then write about it on their blog, I feel like I’m in seventh grade all over again (because I’m a secure adult), but I met a few fascinating women yesterday and at the risk of sounding like a prepubescent name-dropper, I am going to gush about them for a minute. (And if they were gracious enough to chat me up, then obviously they would LOVE you.)

susan-and-mommy

First, the PR lady for Thanksgiving Point turned out to be a friend from college (Courtney, remember Heather G. from the Ally? She is still so cute and funny). It was one of those awkward things where I remembered her more than she remembered me at first, but hey, I’m sure that had nothing to do with the 40 pounds I’ve gained and the way-flattering haircut. Right?

Then I met Sue, from Navel Gazing at its Finest, who has been one of my blogging heroes for lo these many years. She is … well, I just really like her, and I wish she’d blog more, and she’s a technical writer so I think she and Mr. Bennet should meet some time, and her kids are cute and normal. (I’m sure she’s relieved to hear that.)

I saw a bunch of the bloggers that I’ve been running into here and there: Evonne, Lauren, Joanie, April, Rachel, Allison’s husband (and her kids, including her oldest girl, who told my oldest girl several jokes that we have been hearing over and over ever since, thank you very much), and Kelcey.

Those ladies are all more professional than me, but one thing I have learned about blogging recently is that, while it is beyond wonderful to have readers who live in other hemispheres (and states), it is very valuable to make connections locally. And by “valuable” I don’t mean I’m planning to use them or “network” with them or whatnot, but just that if you are a new or intermediate blogger and want to {insert smarmy business phrase meaning “take it to the next level}, you could do a lot worse than to meet in person with the other bloggers in your area who have similar-ish blogs.

How do you get invited to these things or find out who the other bloggers are? I have a couple suggestions, but first, let me tell you about meeting Lisa yesterday.

Lisa is a smart, pretty, extroverted lady with a 2 1/2 week old baby and a little girl about Susan’s age there. She and I talked a bit throughout the day, over the rose bushes and while the kids rode the ponies (or maybe it was the erosion table and the butterfly garden, but in any case we talked). She told me about herself, including that this was her first-ever blogging event and that she doesn’t Twitter or read many other blogs. (She also graduated from BYU the same year I did and has three daughters, which is very enlightened.)

So I felt like quite the blogging-event veteran. At dinner she asked how I had met so many of the women and how I’d gotten into the loop of getting invited to some of these things, and I spent ten minutes of her life that she’ll never get back tracing my blogging-in-real-life roots to the first time I met Laura Moncur at a geek dinner almost two years ago.

(It is a pretty fancy story.)

She looked suitably impressed, and then I asked her how she’d gotten on the list for Thanksgiving Point, and she said that she goes on Good Things Utah every six weeks and I thought she meant she goes online and checks out what they’re up to or something. And then she had to explain that she actually goes on the TV show every six weeks to share her science/math/music/art/reading activities for parents to do with their kids.

mr-bennet

Then I made Mr. Bennet take another picture of us. Just in case. I mean, I fully expect to dine with Hugh Laurie and Ingrid Michaelson someday, but if not . . . I’ll always have Lisa Bergantz.

I only wish this was a staged photo

I only wish this was a staged photo

(If you have no idea where to find local bloggers of interest, get on Twitter, join the relevant Social Media Club chapter, search for blogs by place, and talk about your blog at every awkward check-out line opportunity — someone you meet is bound to know someone who knows some people.)

Then I talked to Cindi Braby and made funny (original) jokes about how similar her name is to Cindy Brady. (I also met Kalli, Camille, and wish I’d met everyone else, but hopefully next time!)

I can’t say enough about how gracious Thanksgiving Point was to us. I think I understand a little bit now why nutjob celebrities get that awful sense of entitlement. Because I’m feeling a little bit entitled too now. Why, when I asked Sally to set the table for breakfast and she jumped right up, I merely thought, “dang straight, girl.”

****

The Giveaway: Family four packs to each of Thanksgiving Points’ four venues (Gardens, Dinosaur Museum, Farm Country, Children’s Garden). To enter, simply leave a comment telling me which venue you’d like tickets to. You can get extra entries by doing any of those social media things (twittering this:”Thanksgiving Point Giveaway at http://seagullfountain.com” or facebooking it or blogging about it or writing it in the sky — just leave an extra comment for each extra entry). Contest ends August 5th. (This is open to anyone, but you or friends/family have to be in Utah at some point to use the tickets.)

I’m Nobody!

About a century ago (in mommy-years) I wrote my honors thesis at BYU on Emily Dickinson and how she was a Transcendental Trinitarian. (Oh, it was ground-breaking and all kinds of awesome).

Seriously, her poems are terse epics, and it’s been speculated that perhaps she would’ve made a fantastic blogger, what with the letter-writing and the staying in her house a lot.

What kind of blogger would she be, though? I’ve read a bunch of BlogHer recap posts about great times with friends online or already met, greedy swaghags, and men asking in elevators if it was a cosmetics convention. (I should possibly note here that if Chick-fil-A and/or Mountain Dew and/or Baked wanted to sponsor me to BlogHer 2010 in New York City next year I could probably donate some insulin to a diabetic toddler from Myanmar as a PR stunt for brand exposure humanitarian gesture, just to generate some general goodwill.)

But I don’t think Emily would’ve left Amherst for a conference, even if there was a chance of Crocs swag:

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you — Nobody — Too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell!  they’d advertise — you know!

How dreary — to be — Somebody!
How public — like a frog —
To tell one’s name — the livelong June —
To an admiring Bog!

*from the Thomas H. Johnson edited Complete Poems

Anyone who says differently is selling something

My mom got a speeding ticket last week. She was driving up a hill on a lonely stretch of highway between here and New Mexico, and someone was tailgating her, so she pulled into the right-hand lane, but somehow she still ended up in front at the crest of the hill, and she was the one who got the ticket.

But it wasn’t her fault, and it wasn’t fair, of course. She told the cop that, too. She asked what she was supposed to do if someone was tailgating her and he said to pull over (but there was no shoulder) and in that case to call the Highway Patrol (we don’t have cell phone driving laws out here in the Wild West).

Two things about my mom. First: she is the most scrupulously honest person I know, and second: she was completely flabbergasted by the injustice of this $185 ticket. So unfair! Not her fault!

Frankly, it sounded like a case of “you speed, you get a ticket” to me. Whatever else was going on at the time doesn’t really matter in the eyes of the law. But I didn’t tell her that. I made soothing noises and “uh-huh” head bobs as she told me the story. (Twice.)

The last time I got a ticket it wasn’t my fault, either. I fought it in court; I felt one hundred percent in the right, and also almost-debilitatingly intimidated and aware that the cops and judge had all the power.

While I don’t personally know that many people who have been arrested, just about everyone I know who is of driving age has received a ticket of some sort, and I can’t honestly think of one case in which it was actually the fault of the person getting the ticket. It’s never our fault.

Mr. Bennet and I were evicted from our apartment in Harlem when I was eight months pregnant with Sally. It was a sixth-floor, one-bedroom walk-up with an amazing cross-breeze and deafening reggae music from the childrens’ birthday parties that lasted into the dawn in the summer. We were so grateful to have that apartment. Renting in New York City, on a student budget, is a little hard.

We went to the city court building with the gold statue on the top and spoke with some of the smarmiest individuals it has been my pleasure to meet in a cheap suit. Basically it was Kafka in The Trial without Germanic philosophical epiphanies. Turns out we’d been illegally subletting (from that respectable man in the expensive suit who collected our $825 a month but couldn’t be bothered to pay the city-subsidized rent of $250 — for nine years).

It was December in New York City, I was three weeks away from my due date (did I mention that? First baby? No clue? Twenty-three years old? Family over 2000 miles away?), we were beyond poor and the unsympathetic lawyers wanted “help nailing this guy.” I couldn’t take the stress, so we walked away, and Mr. Bennet found us the first floor of a nice little Archie Bunker house in The Bronx.

And then there’s my friend “Annie.” Remember her? The responsible, caring mother who had to appear in court, get lectured by a snooty judge, and pay a fine because she left her kids in a warm, locked car in December for twelve minutes while she ran into a store? She cried, and was terrified, and felt guilty, and didn’t think it was fair. (I didn’t either.)

The system — made up of cops and judges, lawyers and sheriffs with eviction notices is unfair; it’s unsympathetic. Some people get off light, some people get harassed. Some people get parole, others get convictions that DNA will overturn in fourteen years.

Some people get arrested in their own home after what appears to be a break-in.

Professor Gates and President Obama want to say this is all about race, all about black and white, but I’m just not buying it.

Surely there are cases of racial profiling that shame us all. But what about my friend, who would never endanger her children, being made to feel like a criminal? What about my own heavily-pregnant self? Thrown out into the snow by an uncaring city machine?

Either the police are out to get us all and actively try to view us as suspiciously as possible  (and in “us” I include myself and my friend — middle-class, college-educated white girls) or,

OR,

They (police and judges, all cogs in the “system”) are, for the most part, doing the best they can. They strap on a gun if they work a dangerous beat, they go undercover if that’s what’s called for, they work overtime, they put themselves into situations that no sane person would enter, and they try to do right.

Do you want to be a police officer? I sure don’t, though I did take an Auxiliary Police training course in Manhattan.

But I’m still scared of the police, I’m scared of the power they wield.

When I was seven years old my younger sister threw a tantrum about setting the table so she was told to take herself to the backyard while we ate. Several minutes later two cops knocked on our front door. My dad was in the Navy, a family practice doctor doing a medical residency at Camp Pendleton, and the cops made him feel like dirt and insisted on seeing for themselves that my sister was physically unharmed.

(My father is white.)

I bet just about everyone (black, white, and in between) has a tale of judicial injustice. The way our society is set up, where humans are fallible and not everyone knows everyone else, and no cop knows the whole story behind the set of circumstances that brought you here, the system is completely imperfect and probably un-perfectable.

And the problem is, as much as I distrust the system, as much as I fear the imbalance of power between uniformed and un-uniformed, there is no other country on earth that I would rather get arrested in, even if it were for breaking into my own house.

‘No dark sarcasm in the classroom’

The other night at dinner, Susan (who will be five in October) told us that her sister Sally reads with her mouth closed, and so does Mom, unless she’s reading to the little kids. But when Susan looks at books, she said, she only sees the pictures and doesn’t hear anything inside her mind. We stared at her for a few minutes and then exchanged one of those she gets that from my side of the family looks.

When Sally was three or four, I decided it was time she learned to read. We did sight words and phonics and sounding out and pointing at words (it worked for Scout and Atticus) and I read/We read books. Every afternoon or morning she and I sat side by side on the couch and in between “Don’t you want to learn to read?” and “Just a few more pages” and “Sit up straight right now” and “Can’t you pay attention for five minutes?” I realized that story time wasn’t fun anymore.

So I stopped trying to teach her how to read. And instead we just read fun books. All the time. Everywhere. I never again pointed out a word to her or made her sound anything out, and even now, as she enters third grade, I conscientiously object to spelling word memorization and the building of morphological family groups.

I don’t think you can (or should) teach a child to read before they’re ready. Just as you wouldn’t force a crawler to become a walker before her legs can carry her. I also think knowing why we read (for the decadent, spiritual, sensual, illuminating pleasure) is much more important that knowing how to read. Love trumps know-how every time.

sally-reading-pa

Sometime before she turned seven, Sally started reading. Six months later she read all the Harry Potter books in about four months. At eight and a half she reads Percy Jackson and Nancy Drew and Island of the Blue Dolphins and A Wrinkle in Time, and I have to tell her to put the book down long enough to eat her breakfast or get some sleep or flush the toilet all too often.

Now Susan, who I have never said the dirty phrase “sound it out” to, wants to know why she doesn’t hear anything in her mind when she looks at books. I pointed out that when she sees the first letter of her name she hears that sound in her head, right? And that warm feeling she gets when she hears that sound is the Holy Ghost telling her that Heavenly Father wants her to become a great lover of books.

She looked at me funny. Though Susan is always asking if today is the day we get to see Jesus, and Spot thinks our company tomorrow will probably be Jesus, we really don’t discuss the Rapture that much more than phonics around here.

But Susan’s observation made me wonder if I have been denying her one of the most joyous of human gratifications: that of reading oneself to a sticky-eyed, hollow-throated, hazy-minded hash. (Unless you’re the sort of person who sets an unfinished book aside at a reasonable hour of the night, in which case I’m sure your self-discipline only adds to the pleasure once the book is finally finished. (Though I find it hard to believe).)

Which is to say, I think I’m going to pull out some how-to-teach-your-kid-to-read stuff pretty soon. Between my having learned (some) patience and Susan seeming to be the nearest thing to ready, it just might work this time.

And if not, if ever a reading session turns sour in any way, we shall quit the learning part forthwith and go back to the hedonistic thrill of reciting Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy, all together now.

hairymaclary

Thanks to @kirstyt for introducing us to this Australian gem.

sometimes you find / You get what you need

So, I was watching Sex and the City on TBS (I know, but really I just watch because it reminds me of being single and fabulous in New York City, if by single and fabulous you mean married at twenty and secretary of the Economics Department).

And the thing about that show is that none of the four women gets the kind of life she wants. Charlotte wants a baby, desperately, and gets infertility and a weird first husband. Carrie wants to get married (or at least figure out Mr. Big) and gets a swingy single life and a successful column. Miranda wants her attorney career and gets a baby. Samantha is the original cougar, of course, and seems pretty content, but she gets breast cancer (and a constant Smith, which is a pretty nice consolation).

And yet. I think the point of the show is that not getting what you want is okay. Or not getting it the way you thought you wanted — the way you thought it was supposed to be — that might be even better.

It never feels better right then. I can sit in my comfortable (modest) house with my husband who is loyal and my daughters who are of my womb, and say it might be better, but that doesn’t help my sister whose husband was not loyal or my brother who yearns for a child of his own.

I can tell you that I didn’t know that this was what I wanted (of course I wanted a loyal husband if I was going to have any kind of husband, but the kid part, the in-charge-of-bodily-functions-and-tantrums part, I didn’t know that that would be better than what I thought I wanted). And I can assure you that I know how lucky I am, that I pray (when I pray) — grateful for these daughters and this husband.

It’s a hard line to write — not wanting to gloat, I make sure to tell the things that are petty annoyances about them, but that sounds ungrateful so I confess that they are magnificent and that that is to God’s credit but I sound like I’m gloating again, but I know (it must be obvious), that I do not deserve them, and — instead of getting what I wanted or thought I wanted, or — even more — what I deserved,

I got much more.

And all I can say to my sister and to my brother is that if God loves me enough to give me better than what I deserve, then as sure as snot He will give to them even better some time too.

In Sex and the City, Charlotte adopts a baby from China and Miranda balances motherhood with career and Samantha enjoys Smith and Carrie gets Mr. Big.

None of those paths may be right for anyone else. Part of the whole point is that no path (or end desire) is that simple — and I also think God wants us to do all we can to get the life that we want, if what we want is something we know He wants for us (eventually).

So my sister doesn’t give up on dating, and my brother doesn’t give up on having a child. 

Mr. Bennet’s colleague and his wife are trying to adopt. Because they want a child, too, and as Maria quoted the Reverend Mother — When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window. I think adoption is one big window, and I wanted to pass along their information in case you know anyone who knows anyone who wants to give a baby a good home.

I know these people. I know a child given to them will be cherished and loved. I honestly don’t even understand how adoption works, how all the parents involved open their hearts enough to make it work, but one thing I hear over and over is that it always seems meant. The children that are placed with parents always seem, to those parents, to be the children God intended for them to have. I have no idea how that works, but I’m grateful that it does, and I hope that Ben and Michelle find their child soon.

<a href=”https://www.itsaboutlove.org/ial/profiles/22971587/ourMessage.jsf“> <img src=”https://seagullfountainblog.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/52484-adoptionbutton.png”></a>

Reverse Psychology

Lately the liking has come easier. I always love the baby (the almost-3-year-old baby) who clogs my toilet with half a roll of toilet paper and comes to me with questions like “Mom, can you get this out of my ear?”

I always love the middle child (the almost-5-year-old middle child) who, when we dropped her off at my parents last week, stroked my mom’s shin and said, “Grandma has spicy legs like you, Mom.”

I always love the Ally-Sheedy-from-The-Breakfast-Club character (the 8-going-on-13 year-old basket case) whose heart is broken whenever I ask her to empty the dishwasher or to explain where three hundred gumballs disappeared to.

I always love the sweet husband whose pneumonia from last month has resolved into a persistent hacking cough in my ear all night long.

I always love them, but lately, the liking has come easier too. Part of it is not having to change anyone’s diaper (what care I for a plunger that only half-heartedly plunges when it means luscious, unfettered toddler buns?). Part of it is being able to spend the lazy days of summer with them. Part of it is having fun house guests with three small boys and deciding my own loinfruit are not so bad. Part of it is realizing that some of our goals are becoming habitual (some of the time). Part of it is long naps and helpful basil harvesters.

Part of it, a big part of it, is thinking about having another kid. It’s hard to think about having another kid without remembering the older kids as babies and also considering their current (wondrous) incarnations. It’s hard to think about creating another life with Dick without grasping how utterly charmed is the life we have created the past eleven years.

I wonder if we could be finished, complete as we are. Did I enjoy my girls as babies enough? Did I get enough of the weight of their small heads nestled on my chest to last me? Do each of my daughters feel as important as an only child would?

I think they do, at least on the days that the dishwasher (and the chores it entails) only runs once.

But — do I have more of that, enough of that, to give to another child? I don’t feel the intense gush of baby-want that flooded me before, not even when I see bite-able chubby baby thighs. Spot is still happy to say she’s my baby and to cuddle her head in the crook of my arm for a solid four seconds.

And then there is the always-tantalizing imagining of what I could do instead of gestating and lactating and consternating (to echo PW) for the next few years. These kids here are practically ready to leave the house. I dreamt the other night that I applied to Columbia Law School so that we could live in student housing in Manhattan for three years (and so that I could become a Supreme Court judge in due time). I don’t really think I could become a Supreme Court judge, but it tickles me that my subconscious is so deludedly optimistic.

If we do have another baby, I’ll want a serious long babymoon. I’ll want to slow down enough so I’m not yelling more in the grocery checkout line. If I could stop shopping for groceries altogether, or stop shopping when everyone is hungry and tired, even when they began the trip fed and cheerful, I think the Supreme Court would actually be a criminal squandering of my awesome powers.

If I have another baby, I’ll want more patience, and more time to absorb the last infant, the first and last milky bubble burps.

Dick has decided that we will have twin boys this time. I think perhaps he needs to review the fifth grade maturation program, though twin boys would be great.

But what are the chances of that? Probably Dick doesn’t even make boy [insert comical term for sperm]. I asked how he’d feel if we had a fourth daughter and he said that would be great too. Then he can be like that dad on Pride and Prejudice. I pointed out that Mr. Bennet had five girls, and he just smiled.

Think God will hear me calling Dick “Mr. Bennet” and decide to show me that I don’t know everything?

Tattler’s Remorse

Last Saturday I called the Animal Control line, which is the non-emergency number for the county sheriff. I told the competent phone-answerer lady about the attack dog next door that throws his body at us (at the fence) whenever he hears us moving about the yard. He barks as if we are stray little chicks that would make a tasty treat for an otherwise-beautiful golden retriever.

There is a slim gap in the fence at the corner, by my corn, where the dog snarls and menaces and thrusts his snout, sharp teeth protruding at the novice gardener mooning over the silky corn tassels. We spray him with water if we’re watering, and one day I sprayed him with spider spray. That was after he was so vociferous in his attack that he got a splinter in his jaw from the wood fence, which bled red dog blood all over, and stopped him not at all from his mission of denying us peaceful enjoyment of our domain, making us feel as if we are the encroachers, the invaders, the unwelcome.

So I called Animal Control last week, after marching next door for the third time in two months to talk to our neighbors, who never answer the door when I march over to complain. Maybe they are not home, I told the dispatcher, but I was pretty sure they were, since I hear them tapping on the window (which is not, by the way, an effective cease-and-desist command). I explained, repeatedly, that I didn’t want to make trouble for anyone, didn’t want to see them fined or anything, I just want to be able to gloat over my sweet basil in peace.

She asked if I was willing to sign a complaint, and after a swift soul-searching, I said yes. Yes, I am willing to sign my name to a piece of paper that may make the people I plan to live next to for a very long time angry with me. Because I have done enough to feel that a formal declaration is my only recourse. She said in that case she’d send out an officer right away.

As soon as I hung up I felt sick.

We are not perfect neighbors, after all. My girls squeal and laugh and cry and whine in the backyard. They jump on the trampoline and run through the squiggly sprinkler and fight over the swings. Sometimes their mother shouts threats from the kitchen window to them in a not-very-pleasant voice. We didn’t take over  neighbor gifts last Christmas.

But I hate that dog.

One day as I tried to pound in a stake to block the gap in the fence, it scared me into stepping back carelessly, onto one of my tender corn plants in the last row, the corn I planted months after my gorgeous, strong, might plants, baby corn plants that, instead of a serenade of growth-enhancing classical music piped in from a loving master gardener get the mean, angry, martial growl of the belligerent canine.

That was the day I called.

But as the sheriff stepped out of his conspicuously-macho county cheriff blazer and walked to my door in his brown uniform with large gun strapped to his hip, I blubbered. He stepped back cautiously as my voice quavered: I just want them to control their dog and make him stop attacking us, I said. I don’t want to make trouble. He was kind. He didn’t bring out a scary document for me to sign. He said he’d just go over there and have a talk with them, leave a note if they weren’t there, everything was going to be okay, please don’t start crying, Ma’am.

He was over there for a long time, and he came back the next day for awhile. The dog has been quieter this week. He still barks, but his owners seem to be more responsive, more aware. I don’t know if I’ll have to call again or if things will continue to get better.

Today as Susan and I walked to the gas station for a treat and a Mountain Dew, I told her about George Washington on her dollar bill. And I realized that the United States of America wasn’t exactly founded by people who were afraid to make a stink.

Those men and women, faced with a dilemma much more serious than mine, signed a document (okay, only the men signed, because the world ain’t perfect, even in America) that put everything they had and were on the line. I wonder if they felt slightly queasy just after the ink dried. Did they agonize over the outcome? Did they mourn for the dead who would surely follow such a treasonous declaration? I feel certain they did. And I appreciate them even more.

Jane