Sunday, September 18, 2005

There's No Place Like Home...

This weekend my husband and I celebrated our 13th anniversary (two months late). We've been doing this yearly for about 7 years now, and it's great. We pawn the boys off to my sister and take off for a couple of days to a hotel where we get to do things we love without the joys of interrupting offspring.

In the past, we've stayed somewhere in Salt Lake City. (We went to Park City one year, but that was the exception.) This year, our Salt Lake plans were thwarted. The hotel didn't have the room we wanted for the price we needed. What to do? Hmmmm. How's this for a novel thought: why not stay somewhere in Provo? (audible gasp of horror) No--seriously. It's cheaper, since gas prices are so high, and we know where all of our favorite restaurants are. Given that we are on a pretty strict budget, the whole "low-cost" thing cinched the deal.

How was our vacation at home, you ask? It was great! Who knew that staying at La Quinta, with a lovely view of the roof of Walmart, could be so relaxing? Maybe it was going without the kids--that's definitely a stress reduction right there alone. But you can't get any better than getting to take a four hour nap without kids bouncing on the bed asking you every 5 minutes if you're done sleeping. I tell you it was heaven--right here in Provo. We read books outside in their gazebo, set artistically in the lovely gardens, with our backs towards Walmart (of course). We went to see a late movie. We went to the Provo College and got full-body massages (for $12 each). We lounged around and chatted. We slept in. Oh--and did I mention the four hour nap?

So if you and your honey are needing a little time away, why not try your own hometown? It's amazing how different it feels to play the tourist in a familiar territory. Who knows... you might actually enjoy yourselves!

Monday, September 05, 2005

"Y" Not?

A couple of weeks ago, in a moment of weakness, I agreed to hike to the Y on Labor Day (today) with my husband and three boys. I'm sure at the time I was thinking of the joy of family togetherness and the spiritual aspects of communing with nature (as much as can be done while hiking Y mountain). I also thought that being outside would curb the incessant arguing that occurs between sons 1 and 2--at least for the duration of the hike. Such delusions had even me--camping/hiking/roughing-it challenged that I am--looking forward to the hike.

WHAT kind of DRUGS was I ON???? Hmmmm....let's go through the list, shall we? Allergy pills, birth control, multi-vitamins, allergy stuff, anti-depressant, asthma inhaler..... None of them could possibly have put me into such a mental state as to cause me to agree to such nonsense, could they?

Let's just say it wasn't the best hike I've ever been on. Yes, once we got up there the view was spectacular. I loved being up that high and trying to figure out where my house is using the landmarks I recognize. I loved seeing that, from a long ways away, Utah lake is blue. I loved looking down on the city I was born and raised in and seeing the many ways it has changed and just how beautiful it is when seen from above. (There is so much to be said about a higher perspective.) I loved seeing the absolute joy on the face of my almost 2-year-old when he saw helicopters and airplanes almost at eye level. Those parts of the hike I loved. It was the rest I could have done without.

Things I hated about hiking the Y:

1. The climb up. I never knew I needed so many breaks to rest! Granted, last time I did this I was probably 9 or 10, but sheesh! I didn't think I was that out of shape!

2. The climb down. Can you say "rubber knees"? 'Nuff said.

3. Son #2 saying "I'm tired of hiking this already" only 10 yards up the trail and repeating this phrase continually all the way up to the top.

4. Son #1 saying, "Well, actually ...." every time son #2 expressed an opinion on anything and then proceeding to make broad generalizations and presenting them as absolute fact. Must we argue about everything????

5. Getting a blister on the tip of my big toe. I've never, ever had a blister there in my entire life.

6. Listening to son #1 (A---) complain that he was getting hot spots on his heels. In his pre-hike talk, Phil had instructed the boys that they were to tell him immediately if they felt any hot spots so that he could put moleskin on them and prevent any blisters. A--- took it to heart and beyond. When Phil asked if the spots were really hot or just warm, the only answer we could get was "I can't tell." When Phil asked A--- to wait till we got to the top to check his heels (since we were almost there), we had to listen to him whine the rest of the way up about how unfair it was that Dad was annoyed with him for doing exactly what he was told to do. (Of course, he totally ignored the fact that Phil had asked him a direct question which he refused to answer.)

7. Having to change a poopy diaper on son #3 in the bushes just above the Y. Where do you have the kid lie down? And then you have to pack the smelly thing with you all the way back down the trail.

8. Sunburn. I actually suggested bringing sunscreen, but my spouse insisted that we wouldn't need it. I should have listened to my inner voice. I got burned to a crisp. Of course, dear hubby and our three sons don't even look pink.

In the spirit of being fair, I must say there were other things I liked about the hike, other than the aforementioned reasons. My favorite part was when husband Phil instituted a 5 minute no-talking rule. We did this twice on the way down, and it was heavenly! I don't think the boys liked it very much, but Phil and I sure did.

I also loved it when son #2 found a "walking stick" to use on the way down. Let's just say that a more accurate term would be a walking log. He loved it, and he looked so cute trying to use it. (He generously offered to let me use it so I wouldn't fall down the mountain.) The thing was as big around (probably bigger) than his arm!

Son #1 demonstrated his joy in bossiness when he told his brother (son #2) that "S---, since I'm your older brother, and no other grown-ups are around, it is my job to keep you safe up here." This was reported to me by a total stranger when Phil and I finally hobbled our way up the face of the Y to the top with son #3 walking between us. The man was impressed by A---'s sense of responsibility. I was impressed that S--- wasn't in tears because his brother was dragging him all over the place in his efforts to "protect" him.

I guess I must say, begrudgingly, that it wasn't that bad of a hike. It's an easier hike than the one to Timpanogas Cave. Maybe I'm just not cut out to be a hiker. I tried really hard, on the way down the mountain, to picture my little family as the Von Trapp Family Singers, hiking bravely into the Alps to escape Nazi rule, but I don't think "The hills are alive....with the sound of fighting" would cut it in the lyric world.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Muck Walking

Yesterday my second son told me that his big brother is always in trouble. So I asked him, "Do you ever get in trouble?" His answer caught me off guard.

"Only when Daddy's home. When Daddy's home, he makes sure that A-- and T-- and I get in trouble."

I'm wondering what this means. Am I a disciplinary weakling or is my husband a tyrant? I'm not sure. Phil comes down pretty hard on the kids sometimes, so maybe I subconsciously try to be more lax to "even things out" just a bit. Maybe I'm just plain lazy.

Parenting is such a unique challenge when you have more than one child. Each child is different and they each respond differently to discipline techniques. Case in point: when A-- gets in trouble (which is a regular occurrence), he responds defiantly and will argue his case till the proverbial cows return to pasture. Most times, we have to physically remove him to his room to cool off. In contrast, when S-- gets in trouble, he bursts into tears and is quite penitent. As a result, all I have to do with S-- is speak sternly and he'll usually toe the line. He rarely needs a time out.

Sometimes I find myself getting angry at the boys for doing something that I know their dad will be upset about just because I don't want them to get in trouble. On those occasions, the offense is usually something that isn't that big of a deal to me. I know I should present more of a unified front, but I hate conflict, and there's nothing worse than getting "the eye" when I try to explain why I didn't punish the boys for something that I didn't think was that serious. In my defense, however, I try very hard not to interfere when Phil disciplines the boys. I figure that the boys are pretty resilient and will bounce back even if they do get their feelings hurt when Dad gets a bit loud.

I realize it may sound like I don't agree with any of the rules that Phil considers most important, but that's not true. On the whole, we agree on almost everything. We're sticklers about regular bedtimes and having the boys sleep in their own beds from an early age; we insist on good behavior (though we don't always get it); personal cleanliness is a biggie; and we're getting better at cracking down on backtalk. To some, I might be considered a bit of an ogre. (Just ask my oldest--he tells me constantly that I don't parent fairly and that I'm a mean mom. He has the whole "victim" thing down pat.) But I realize that I could be a better disciplinarian in other areas.

I find it interesting how much I used to know about discipline before I had kids. We were talking to Phil's nephew, Jeff, and his wife, Shauni, the other night. Shauni is due to have their first child in just a few weeks. Jeff was talking about all the books they had read about sleep schedules and discipline and what they plan to do with their own baby. I had to smile to myself--not in ridicule but in recognition. I was once one of those "parent by the book" people. I still am, to some extent, but I also recognize that kids come preprogrammed, and their program doesn't always match "the book." Books can be helpful, but most of the time you just have to wade through the muck and find your own way. And let me tell you--when you become a parent, you have to deal with plenty of muck (and poop and urine and vomit and attitude and messy rooms and skinned knees and......).

But as Dalene said about Lorien's garden, the secret to a good crop is plenty of crap (see The Lo Down, "Harvest Plenty" blog). If that's true, I'm gonna have an awesome harvest when these boys grow up! Anyone have a spare pair of Wellingtons? Time to go wading....