The Mod Podge Squad

Once again I bring you a tip that I am probably the last person on earth to hear about it. (Last time it was my mother’s revolutionary microwave-cleaning method).

It might (or might not) be watery Elmer's Glue, but Mod Podge sounds so cool. Courtesy of PlaidOnline.com

It might be watery Elmer's Glue, but Mod Podge sounds so cool. Courtesy of PlaidOnline.com

Have you heard of this stuff? It’s great. You smear it on a surface (like wood, glass, metal), then on a flat object (fabric, photographs, stickers, etc) you want to stick onto the surface, and then you smear some more Mod Podge on, and then you smear some more, and suddenly you have a festive advent calendar of sorts.

(It’s a bit more complicated than that, but if you have anything you want to decorate and protect from sticky fingers or spilled hot chocolate, Mod Podge is for you).

This is what I made at my first-ever Super Saturday (Church Lady Craft Day) in Seagull Fountain. Mine is rather plain as I declined to add half of the recommended ribbons, rivets, and other assorted curliques.

Sally is already quite obsessive about changing the numbers before school. Dick keeps asking if we can use it to bake cookies when we’re done with it. I reminded him (very patiently) that Christmas comes every year, so this will be bringing us joy and merriment for decades to come.

I also “made” a nativity scene. I say “made,” because all I had to do was paint the wood and use a drill to screw the metal thingie to the said painted wood. Oh, and I tied one of the bows too.

So, crafty church ladies, Mod Podge (I just love saying that), and counting down to Christmas (wheee!) work for me.

Jane.

Spot Scavenges After Church

I fed Spot and Susan leftover macaroni and cheese after church. I was at the computer (which I rarely am on weekends), suffering from a little post-traumatic stress disorder. Not to belittle those who get PSD from war: sometimes, church IS war. Spot ate most of her noodles and then found some cereal from breakfast. Probably Sally’s bowl, because Bunny is still perched vigilantly.

Wordless Wednesday

Awkward, like Steve Carrell, only not as funny

We went to the zoo today. My dad’s work was having their yearly ‘company picnic,’ complete with catered lunch and crafts for the kids. Dad dotes on his six grandkids. I know this is what grandparents are supposed to do, but he certainly didn’t dote on me (at least, not that I remember from my teen years). My sister was there too, quieter, sadder, and I don’t know when she’ll again enjoy a simple outing without thinking of how things were supposed to be.

At the lunch, we remarked on the nifty plastic tablecloths. They were fitted and had a tiny edging of elastic to kept them from shifting. My dad was so struck by them that I volunteered to go ask the friendly, middle-aged zoo host guy where they got them. He and his helper were very chatty. I said the tablecloths would be great for church activities, and then later in the conversation he asked what I thought of the whole event. I said that the only thing not perfect was that I wasn’t sure that the paints being used for the birdhouse craft would come out of my childrens’ clothes. And he said, “Well, that would be a great topic for a Relief Society night.”

This caught me off guard and I didn’t respond right away. He said, “You know, getting paint out of clothes.” Still a confused look on my face, so he rushed to apologize: “Oh, when you said that about church activities, but, I’m sorry . . . ,” and of course I said, “Oh no, that’s fine, you’re right, it would be a great topic for Relief Society.” (Although it wouldn’t. Who wants to learn about laundry techniques on the rare night out with the church-girls?)

The weird thing is that I’m sure at some point in my life I wouldn’t have been at all surprised by his casual reference to the church I belong to. And at some other point in my life I would have been offended on behalf of every non-Mormon that someone would assume from a simple “church activities” that I was Mormon and not Baptist or Catholic. I’m pretty sure they have activities too. Not to mention his assuming that everyone knows that “Relief Society,” in Mormon terms, refers to the entire women’s group, and not some committee to send aid to lepers in the leper colony (although Relief Society women have been known to knit those funny bandages).

Now I’m at a point in my life where it was just awkward, and I felt bad for him putting me on the spot and for me putting him on the spot. Of course, it was even more awkward when, after he had taken pains to speak to the craft women and to assure me that the birdhouse paint was water-soluble, I spilled an entire coke all over the nifty plastic tablecloth and then had to stand around apologizing and feeling stupid while he cleaned up after me.

Not my finest moment.

Also at the lunch, a woman came over to Dick and me. I did not recognize her at first, though she looks much more similar to her pre-children college self than I do. In other words, she looks great. Turns out that the three of us were in Writing Fellows together, which was the class/club/ finally-I-know-who-I-am-group where Dick and I met at BYU. She is married to my dad’s, well, not boss exactly, but very-respected colleague of some sort. We asked some personal (awkward) questions in an attempt to catch up. Yes, those four kids are hers. No, the older two (including a 14 year-old) are from her husband’s first marriage. Etc.

Dick and I talked too much, in our excitement at seeing her and through her, re-connecting with our idealistic, impressionable selves. I often feel later that I have monopolized a conversation, talking too much about myself, my interests and I never know if it’s because I am a really insufferable person (probably) or if the people I tend to be friends with are just really good at asking questions and seeming to be interested in me.

We asked her if she was writing. And it was as if we had asked if she were curing cancer yet. She was bashful, a bit apologetic, wistful. (I guess if you felt you should be curing cancer you’d be REALLY apologetic). I stumbled to say, “Of course, I know with kids and all, it’s almost impossible to do anything else.”

So, no writing, except for some family history things, stories about her ancestors, that sort of thing. Which, of course, is “writing,” though it was obvious that she didn’t consider it to be the kind of thing that we were talking about. Even after we told her we mostly blog, and everyone knows that isn’t a very respectable form of writing. And Dick is a technical writer, which everyone knows is selling out.

I wondered how I would have felt two years ago or a week ago when I felt like never writing another post, if someone had asked me, “Are you writing?”

Quite likely I would have screamed, “Are you KIDDING me? When should I be writing? Between the mopping of the syrup and the listening to the tantrums? Or the policing of the snack cupboard and the feeling guilty for pulling hair? Or the listening to the whining and the smelling stinky panties? I haven’t even had my Mountain Dew yet, and you think I SHOULD BE WRITING?”

I wanted to apologize, and yet, how could I? I’d apologize for the fact that her kids are taking up so much of her time, only she looks like she’s enjoying it, and her kids look really happy too.

The worst part is that Dick and I actually had cards to give her. I felt like a realtor, or a Mary Kay consultant. At least my cards were free at Vista Print and I only got them for that blogging conference I went to a few weeks ago. And they don’t have my picture on them.

Still, it was awkward, especially since she probably saw the thing later with the spilled coke all over the nifty plastic tablecloths.

The good thing is that, even though I have now stayed up another hour and a half to write this, and I’ll be paying for it tomorrow, I feel so much lighter, so much freer. Like I’ve apologized for real now, in writing, for all the awkward things that happened today. And that, Dear Reader, is why I write.


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I had a farm in Africa

Yesterday I attended church with my parents. Dick is out of town on business, and it’s much easier to take care of the kids at Grandma’s house, even if she does mysteriously disappear at bedtime. She encourages messes in her kitchen, and she has a Xanadu-like backyard complete with swings, treehouse, grass, pool, garden, trampoline, and sand. And a dog and a cat. What else is childhood?

Church was fantastic. Most of the time I’m glad I went to church by the time it’s over. Glad I hauled my sorry self there and taught the seven-year olds that Jesus answers our prayers. Glad that we made it through the main service with only four bags of fruit snacks and no major tantrums. Glad to speak with other believers about how the gospel really did make our lives that much better last week.

Yesterday I thought about the building itself, the chapel I grew up in, went to youth activities in, the building I returned to after a year of dissipation and disenchantment, where I felt once again that God loved me, the building where I proudly brought my fiance for approval, and where the people who knew me as a teenager congratulate me on the cuteness of my children.

My parents are meeting in a new building next week. It’s closer, and fancier. My dad is the reluctant leader of the congregation, and everyone will move to the new chapel with much excitement and a little nostalgia. We talk a lot in our church about how the gospel is “the same” everywhere you go. And I have found this to be true in Harlem and The Bronx, in Hon-Atsugi and Cairo, in Florida and in Utah.

But the gospel at my church really isn’t the same as that taught in other Christian churches, and less similar still to that taught in synagogues and mosques and shrines. Sometimes it can’t really be surprising that man fights wars: we are so different, and most of us only experience one-millionth of what there is in the world. My brother has attended church in that same building for all the seventeen years of his life. In two years, he’ll serve a mission for our church; he might go to Russia or Argentina or Idaho. He will not be ready. No one could be.

Dick and I watched The Kingdom a couple weeks ago. It’s about FBI agents sent to investigate the bombing of an American facility in Saudi Arabia. At the end, Leavitt (Chris Cooper) asks Fleury (Jamie Foxx) what he said to comfort a friend of one of the people who died in the bombing. Fleury says he promised her “that we were gonna kill ‘em all.”

Interspersed with that scene is dialogue between relatives of the bomber. The aunt says: “Tell me, what did your grandfather whisper in your ear before he died?” The 15-year old granddaughter of the terrorist answers that he said, “Don’t fear them, my child. We are going to kill them all.”

In the end, Fleury is a hero not because he finds and executes the bomber. He is a hero because he befriends a Saudi police officer and grieves at his death as he would for his own brother. He regrets wanting to “kill ’em all.”

Fleury sees the father, the husband, the police officer, and the man in the Saudi Arabian. I see that man in scenes of him praying with his family, father and sons in one room, mother and daughters in another. That is at once completely alien to how I worship, and yet familial and familiar. It is hard to envision wanting to wage war against someone who loves their family and prays to God for their safety, just as I pray to God for the safety of the family I love.

Sally was young when we lived in Cairo. She doesn’t remember the mosques and the minarets. I have almost forgotten them myself. In Cairo we attended church on Fridays in a private villa. Here in the States we go on Sundays to one of the cookie-cutter chapels that dot each city block.

I teach the same gospel to my children that was taught to me, and I believe that the God I worship is the same God worshipped by others in their synagogues and mosques and shrines and cathedrals.

I don’t know why I have the specific life I have. The husband, the kids, the crappy shoulder, my own set of teeth, unfairly-graying hair, the angst about being a stay-at-home mom, the inability to imagine doing anything else right now.

In Cairo we had a maid, Nadia, who was a widow with three sons. She lived, literally, for those boys, cleaning my apartment and several others to feed them. As stupid as it is to compare maternal sleep-deprivation to real poverty, my own experience of being a mother made her sacrifice for her sons seem at once more noble and more mundane.

As Nadia is a mother, so am I. I raise three girls, support my husband, love my family, attempt to live my religion. Pretty freakin’ small potatoes. Completely insignificant in the history of the world. Almost as significant as Nadia raising her three boys, mourning her husband, loving her family, living her religion.

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We watched The Kingdom edited by our Clearplay DVD player. So don’t go asking me about all the violence.

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This post is part of the MMSM carnival. To join in, simply write on anything that makes you smile and follow these guidelines for a little extra exposure for your post.

This week Marigold at Sit. Stay. Good Blog. has a cute little post about speakerphones. I’m glad her boss gives her as much to laugh and ponder about as my three little dictators do. Dick is always telling me that he has to change “metaphorical” poopy diapers at work. That never gets him much sympathy around here.