Friday, November 16, 2012

Laughing like a child

I just need to rant a little today (I tricked you with that title, didn't I?).

"The average four-year-old laughs 300 times a day, a 40-year-old, only four."
 Whenever I read that statistic, it makes me stop and think.  And usually I think, "Are you kidding me?"  

It's not that I don't like laughing.  Laughter is fantastic.  I just read this article at Psychology Today and I totally agree with all the reasons that we should laugh more.  It is good for us, and good for those around us.  I love to make others laugh, and am thrilled when the status updates I post and blog entries I write elicit a giggle. 

But, and this is a big "but" (not unlike the one I am currently sitting on), there is a glaring omission in this statistic.  One that I am intimately familiar with in my home.  Therefore, I propose an amendment to the statistic, which goes as follows.

"The average four-year-old laughs 300 times a day, a 40-year-old, only four.  But the average four-year-old also cries at least 300 times a day, so if you've cried less than four times today, you're doing alright."
Also, you gain points if none of the times you've laughed in the day were at someone else's pain, which you directly caused, because I'm pretty sure that accounts for at least one third of the laughter of a four-year-old.

Listen, I may not have a fancy degree in brains, or laughter, but what I do have is field experience, 7 1/2 years of immersion in it.  I have study subjects aged seven, five, three and one.  And between 6:30 and 7:30 this morning, every single one of them cried at least once, most of them more than once.

And I may have laughed at more than one of them, even as they cried, and sometimes I was the cause of their tears. But some things are non-negotiable, like Maggie washing her hands after using the bathroom.  Plus, sometimes I laugh just so I don't cry.

And so, in conclusion, may I just congratulate you on the times you have laughed today, encourage you to laugh more, and if you do need to cry, I hope you can do it in your bedroom, by yourself, with the door shut so you don't have to hear your children laughing at you.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The saga of Addie's teeth

I call this picture Carrots, with carrot
 In June 2008, Addie cut her two top teeth.  She was pretty excited about it.  A year later, she still  had them, though she didn't look quite so excited.

Sadly (humorously?), Addie chose this moment to pretend she'd never seen a camera before.

Eighteen months after that, though, her relationship with her teeth took a turn for the worse.
One of the last pictures of her intact smile.  And yes, we always paint her face to match her clothes.
 On New Years Eve, 2011, my brother and his wife were in town.  We look a little trip to Old Sacramento and visited the schoolhouse museum.  Addie sat down at one of the desks in the back of the room, then leaned forward to look more closely at it.  Unfortunately, the seat wasn't bolted to the floor and rocked forward, smashing her upper lip into the wooden desk in front of her.  She screamed and bled.  I comforted her and cleaned her up.  We went home.

 By the time we got home, her top lip had already doubled in size.

 By the next morning, she looked like a character on the Simpsons.
She wasn't sad because her lip hurt.  She just didn't want to be photographed in curlers, or wear them at all for that matter.
 She had a regular check up at the dentist's office within the next couple weeks, and everything looked fine.  But then, a month or so later, I noticed those two front teeth looked rather grey.  I increased her brushing, checked the toothpaste, and finally figured out she must have killed those two teeth when she hit the desk.  Eventually, one lightened back up, but the right front tooth just got darker.
Addie, after the accident.  Also, incidentally, right after we fixed her first "home" haircut.
Though she never said much about it, I noticed Addie started smiling with her lips closed more and more.  Gradually the right tooth developed a dark line toward the bottom.  Then, in the last couple of weeks she started complaining that her teeth hurt.  I considered taking her to the dentist, but then I checked them, saw that they were wiggly, and assumed she'd just bitten something the wrong way.  The thing is, Addie is prone to histrionics, so I have to take any emotional outbursts with a grain of salt.  This time, though, I feel really badly that I didn't take her more seriously.

Addie this summer, proudly sporting the results of her most recent "home" haircut.
Sunday afternoon, Bracken asked me to come take a look at Addie's mouth.  I looked inside and saw what looked like the swollen gums on a baby who is about to cut her first top tooth.  Except it was squishy.  This time I immediately got in contact with a dentist.

Over the last 21 months since she'd hurt her teeth, I'd had the dentist check them several times.  I'd been told that the nerves were dead, but unless there was an abscess or some other problem, there was no need to pull them or take any other action.  Well, the abscess had finally arrived.  Or abscesses, I should say.  By the time I got her into the dentist the next day, I noticed another blister forming over her other tooth.  She wasn't in any pain, but that was normal since the infection had moved to the front of her mouth.

Addie's last morning in The Dead (teeth) Zone.
  The dentist did an excellent job.  Addie was given nitrous oxide before he started.  I was expecting a spectacular performance from her but apparently her head is already so far in the clouds, it did nothing but calm her down.  The teeth were quickly pulled, with no fanfare whatsoever. 

The tooth fairy came last night, and awarded her three gold coins-- two for teeth and one for bravery.  I am triply thrilled that these teeth are out.  Firstly, because her abscess is looking so much better today, and she feels better, too.  Secondly, because I don't have to look at that lovely smile marred by two grey teeth anymore.  Thirdly, because I won't have to endure the process of her teeth getting wigglier and wigglier and sticking out of her mouth hillbilly style until they finally come out on their own.

And also, I know what she wants for Christmas.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Milking it

 A couple of years ago, I stumbled across this tutorial for making skeletons out of milk cartons.  Since we have a plethora of empty milk jugs around here, I decided I needed to make some. I made a girl and a boy, which used about 3 1/2 milk cartons each.   They have held up very well, and this year I finally made a small modification to the original tutorial.  Glitter!  I took the time to add black glitter to their eyes and mouths and accessories.  I love it.  I also decided that the original 2 were lonely, so during General Conference this year I was super righteous and made a couple more while I listened.

 So now I have two hanging in front of the garage, and two hanging from the trees.

Do you think it worries my neighbors that I have child sized skeletons hanging outside my house?  Do you think they count the number of kids I have with me whenever I leave the house?  Do they find it suspicious that suddenly, after living in this house for over a year, we are parking in the garage and they can't actually see how many children are leaving the house with me?

 After I hung this little boy skeleton this year, I started to think someone was messing with me.  Every time I came outside, his hands were down his "pants."  Then one day I pulled them out, stood outside talking to a friend about this, and in the time it took to tell her about this phenomenon, he managed to get his hands in there again!  Boys!

Hopefully this boy won't get up to similar tricks.
I am really looking forward to this little trick on Halloween, though.  Sticking glow sticks in their heads!  I think this will be the Halloween of glow sticks and glitter for the Mannions.

 I kind of want to make more skeletons.  What else should I put black glitter on?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

First and Last

 Recently the girls finished up their school years.  I can't believe how much they've changed.

Here's Addie on her first day, and her last day.

 Here's the dynamic duo of Addie and Maggie on the first and last days.

And here's  that cute little stinker of a Maggie last fall, just a little bit shorter and a little bit rounder than she is now.  She does still like to wear her shoes on the wrong feet.

And my Chloe girl, bravely heading off to her first day at a new school. 

And now she is just so much more grown up. 

 It really does break my heart a little bit.

 Outside her classroom, first and last.

Leaving class, first and last.

 It really blows my mind how quickly this year has gone. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Why Mom Hands Feel Like Velcro.

Those little fingers are no longer peely.  In fact, they are so soft you can hardly feel them.

I have to make a horrible confession here.  Growing up, I often judged my mother's hands.  Her hands actually looked a lot like mine.  Sturdy, somewhere in the middle of manly and feminine.  Dusted with freckles.  But they were much rougher than mine, the nails short and unpainted.  Her bathroom counter was lined with various lotions and balms she slathered on to smooth them, but it never really worked.  I don't think I ever saw my mom's nails painted.  I remember her saying she gave it up when she and my dad got married, but I never really did the math on what that actually meant.  I just thought she didn't care enough to keep them painted.  I thought that if she just tried a little harder, she could keep her hands smooth.  After all, I was a busy college student, I worked a lot with my hands, and I managed to keep my nails manicured and my hands soft.

But now I'm a mom, and my hands are not so smooth anymore.  And I did the math on the end of my mom's manicured nails.  I was born 13 months after my parents got married.  And 6 more kids were born in the next 11 years.  In that time my mother cooked and cleaned and crafted and gardened and bathed and loved and hugged.  Now that I'm a mother of four, I understand that most of those activities probably were taking place at the same time.

For instance on a typical evening, dinner preparation goes like this:
  • Wash my hands.
  • Take the chicken out of the freezer to defrost.  
  • Wash my hands.
  • While the chicken defrosts, help a child go to the bathroom.  
  • Wash my hands.
  • Pat the chicken dry, place it in the pan.  
  • Wash my hands.
  • Help another child go to the bathroom.  
  • Wash my hands.
  • Cut up the vegetables.  
  • Wash my hands.
  • Help a child with her homework.
  • Wipe a nose.
  • Wash my hands.
  • Work on dinner some more.
  • Wash my hands, and pick up the fussing baby.
  • Return to cooking while holding the baby.  She spits up all over me.
  • Clean off my shirt, but don't change it. Changing it would only invite more spit up.
  • Wash my hands.
  • Someone else is hurt and crying.  Kiss it, put a bandaid on it.
  • Wash my hands.
  • The first child has to go to the bathroom again.  Help her out.
  • Wash my hands.
That's eleven (ELEVEN!) hand washings and I haven't even gotten dinner on the table.  No amount of lotion can keep up with that.  Add in breastfeeding sucking every bit of moisture it can out of my body, and my hands are even drier.  Plus baths and dishes and gardening and laundry and life.

My nails keep getting shorter, too.  For one thing, they are dry.  For another, with everything I have to open, every sticker I have to scratch off of somewhere it doesn't belong, every orange I peel, my nails split a little more.  It's not even worth trying to grow them.  And painting them, hah!  One sink of dishes and my manicure is ruined. 

My nightstand is filled with various potions.  I often sleep with thick ointment and gloves on when my hands start snagging delicate fabrics.  But  most of the time, I'm really okay with having mom hands.  I earned them.  And I have 4 daughters with beautiful hands.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Tale of Two Haircuts

This is what Addie's hair looked like.

This is what Maggie's hair looked like.  Now I admit there wasn't a lot, but I could put it into two little piggies in the back, and it was starting to spring up in the cutest little curls.

Then, last night, after feeling kind of gross all day, I decided to lay down for a few minutes.  Bracken was home, the girls had been entertaining themselves in the back yard.  Suddenly Bracken calls me to the table to take a look at Maggie's hair.

She had been shorn.

I looked to Addie to see what had happened, and discovered her bangs were missing. 

I don't remember anything after that.

Fine, I remember a few things.
  • I remember screaming at my two bald-ish daughters without words.
  • I remember going out to the trampoline and gathering what few wispy curls I could find.  This was, after all, Maggie's first haircut.  (It was the third one Addie had given herself.)
  • I remember removing all of the dresses from their closets to be returned at a later, more obedient date.
  • I remember scooping up all their beloved toys from the playroom, placing them in garbage bags, and setting them in the garage, to be slowly earned back.  To tell you the truth, I wouldn't be sad if all the toys didn't get earned back.  I would be happy to place most of those toys straight into the garbage before Rosie gets a chance to choke on them. 
  • I remember emptying their "Good Behavior" marble jars.

Then, the energy of my rage slightly exhausted, I lay down in my bed and attempted to read.  I heard sirens approaching, and shortly thereafter, the doorbell rang.   I listened, almost certain that it was Child Protective Services at the door, having been called by someone who lives miles away, but still heard my screaming.  Perhaps one of the moms from preschool? Turns out, it was just the Schwan man stopping by to try to sell me his frozen goods.  (Perhaps he thought I needed to chill?)  But all was quiet at that point, the miscreants peacefully sleeping.  I did not sleep so well. 

 In the morning, I got them dressed, then had a little photo shoot. I'm glad they are looking remorseful.  Even Maggie's characteristic cheesy grin has lost some of its sparkle.

This looks appropriately pained.

Those light patches?  Those aren't where hair has been pushed aside and can be smoothed back.  That is where it has been trimmed to the scalp.

 All except for the long pieces behind the ears.


And here's the little master mind, though I did find out she was not the sole participant in the cutting.

 I packed them up and hauled them down to Great Clips.  The poor stylists there didn't even know where to start.  The lady working on Maggie was sure that the girls had gotten hold of a pair of clippers, her hair was cut so close to the head.  Nope, I replied, just a pair of children's safety scissors I had gotten down for their friend to use.  It was so short, though, that all she could do was trim the two curls behind Maggie's ears and even up her neck.  Any attempt to do more would only make the bald spots more obvious.  

And Addie.  Despite many suggestions that I just clip it to the side until it grew out, I  knew it wouldn't work.  She had cut such a thick swath, so far back, plus her hair is so very, very straight and unbendable, I knew it just wouldn't happen.  So her stylist evened it up as best she could, fringing it a bit to make it blend.  She finished and sort of shrugged her shoulders.  And I told her I understood there just wasn't much she could do.  

So here they are, looking as good as they possibly can at this point.
Little Mag-leberry Finn, poor motherless thing.  With snow boots on in 90 degree weather.

No more wispy little curls.

Often throughout the 90's I considered cutting baby doll bangs.  Would I also have ended up looking like I was out of my Vulcan mind?

 Her alternative rock album will be coming out later this year.

I think we're all going to survive.  My boiling blood cooled to a simmer by this morning, and tonight is back to 98.6.  Mostly.  At least I'm able to laugh about it now.

 And my playroom has never looked better.

Why moms wear Mom Jeans, and other fashion dilemmas.

In honor of Mother's Day, I thought I would share a few realizations I've had of late about motherhood.

I have a degree in costume design.  I remember being taught once that women tend to wear the style of clothes they liked in their forties for the rest of their lives.  I am currently passing the hump of my thirties, and I've got to say, I am totally understanding that now.

The other day I was in a shoe store, and there on the counter was a display of scrunchies.  I actually picked one up and examined it, just to make sure it was a new product, and not something they'd pulled out of an old bin in the back.  This is the first time in my life that the fashion trend of revisiting previous styles has brought me face to face with choices I made in the past.  And therein lies the problem for moms.  It is twofold.  On one hand, we are faced with clothing choices we hated in the past, and now hate again, and are therefore unable to embrace.

On the other (and more vicious) hand, we are faced with styles we loved.  Things we wore, and wore and wore, and one day realized we had to give up.  We sadly said goodbye, forced ourselves to walk away and not look back.  We learned to mock them, though we once loved them.  And now here we are, face to face once more.  How can we go through that pain again?  Is the world just playing a really cruel joke on us?

I clearly remember the first day I wore a belt over my shirt.  It was in the fifth grade, and I talked to my friend about it as we walked to our class.  I also remember my mom gradually starting to wear belts over her shirts, hesitant to do so.  Was it because she was unsure about the look, or was it because she had been down this road before and couldn't believe it was acceptable to do it again?   I wonder every time I put on a decorative belt.  I talked to a mom yesterday whose preteen daughter was trying to slip out the door with an off the shoulder shirt with a tank top underneath.  I remember wanting to wear that look so badly in 1988, but my parents would not approve.  Now I'm the disapproving parent.

Here is a brief list of other things I either wore in the late eighties/ early nineties, or was desperate to wear but they didn't work for me then and certainly don't work for me now, that are all back in the stores now:

Leggings with tunic tops
Skinny jeans
Maxi skirts
Acid/Stone wash
Gladiator sandals
Tiered skirts
Denim jackets
Chambray shirts
Braided belts
Crop tops 
and of course, 

Yes, I have already added several of these things to my closet, or my daughters' closet.  I will probably add more after I fast and pray about whether or not they really are acceptable again.

Which brings me to Mom jeans.  They are a comin', mark my words.  It won't be long now before we are all wandering around looking like the cast of Saved By the Bell.  And I, for one, am excited.  I have (mostly) accepted the fact that my Lenten experiment was a failure, and this is the size I have been while nursing each and every one of my children, and that my body does not like to relinquish weight while I am breastfeeding.  But this loose and jiggly area of stretched out skin around my midsection is killing me.  I think the only thing that will save me is the return of high waisted pants that reach above and beyond my lububrious middle, enhancing my (comparatively) slender underbust.  And if I had a sexy vest to wear with them?  Boy, Howdy! (I have to admit, that video is not so funny to me anymore.)

I do have one other request from the nineties.  Can you bring back baby bangs?  For Addie's sake?  (to be continued . . .)

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Yesterday we packed up the kids in the stormy weather and headed to the Children's Discovery Museum in Sausalito. We had a pass that was expiring, and though we felt guilty about not being able to watch General Conference, it actually worked out really well. We listened to conference on the Mormon Channel, and the kids were actually much quieter in the car than they would have been in the living room.

Five umbrellas strong, we marched through the wind and rain into the art area. And then, when the kids were done in there, I looked outside and miraculously, the rain had stopped. We ran out to the playground. And saw this.

There was a new art installation by Patrick Dougherty, and it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

It wrapped and twisted, brown and green branches mixed together. Bare branches, leaves, and fuzzy pussy willows.

I think even Rosie was impressed.

Now I want to gather willows and build in my own yard.