Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The . . . Oh, I Can't Say It

Yep, that's me in the red lipstick.

Is it?

I hardly recognize myself. You might have that problem as well.

Because the truth is, if you were to knock on my door any given morning I would most likely look something more like this:

Surrounded by kids, no makeup, probably not showered, likely in pajamas - depends on if the clock has struck noon yet.

This, of course, is the naked nitty gritty of it:

There has never been a not-beyond-unflattering photo taken of me on Christmas morning (This being Christmas 2006). I have come to terms with this rendering of me. But I like the first one better. The photo of me with the kids is truth, flanked before and after by extremes that are only marginally representative of Jessica.

Our Stake Youth Presidencies - that would be Matt and Co. hosted an incredible evening on Wednesday last. A 1940's themed dinner and dance with special guests from each ward who came to tell us about their own experiences in the 1940's.

Teenagers and octogenarians fraternizing with some middle aged arbitration. No intimation that there were any disputes between our young and old, merely a means of "settling the differences" between young and old. There are a great many 'differences' stacked up in the 70 years between 84 and 14. And there is a great deal of good in throwing these unlikely dinner companions together.

After the dinner we all convened to the ballroom where a live orchestra and some experienced swingers awaited our frisky feet. A whole lot of 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2. Matt swung me round on my red shoes until my smile hurt like the day I got married and my muscles could barely hold my legs up. Our dear Hilda - A German who escaped to America during the war and is now a RoseParker through and through - held Ewan all evening while Matt and I danced. I tried twice to relieve her of the 12 pound burden but she wouldn't relinquish him.

In honor of dancing with my husband I wanted to look pretty:

This is nearly three hours worth of pretty.
Three hours!?
That's ridiculously self indulgent. As is the posting of so many photos of myself. Justified only by the fact that one must keep a record of the day they curled their hair. Which did not translate into curls for a day. Despite using approximately ALL the gel and hairspray I own, these were curls for . . . maybe two and a half hours.

This is me being Chani:

Matt calls it my poser lips.
Chani is a poser. That's why she always tilts the scale toward 'gorgeous' in her photos. She poses good.
Matt is right - those are poser lips - I do not regularly arrange my face thus. But I have a round face and this lengthens it in a Grace Kelly kind of way.
And I had best not go on in this opening of Pandora's Box of insecurities of the common housewife. As if having a round face were something to be ashamed of.

This is me being Grandma Leavitt:

I can see that this is a photo of my face in some particulars, but I have captured the era of Marba Rose in her youth - the mature kind of youth that comes before the mature kind of old.
If you look closely you can see the wrinkles at the corner of my eye.

Matt pointed them out to me a few days ago and said "We're getting old."
I said "You're getting old, I am the ageless Madonna."
He said "Madonna is fifty and nasty."
I said "The other Madonna."
He said "That's blasphemous."
I said "So is pointing out your wife's wrinkles."

Ok, this was not actually the conversation we had. It went something more like this:
Matt: I can see little wrinkles at the corners of your eyes. We're getting older.
Me: Yep.
Because what else do you say to such an inconvenient truth?

But while Matt and I danced, a fresh bloom of a youth who was once Matt's student asked him what year he was born. He was a bit evasive with her question.
"I have a secret for you," I told her, "I am a year older than him."
"NO WAY!" She exclaimed. "You look way younger than him."
It was kind of dark so I'm guessing she couldn't see my wrinkles.

See what I mean about the round face:

That is my real smile belying my real love for Matt.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Crowd of Small Adventures: BANG BANG

It's no secret that I am not immersed in the world of cool - the world of hip young singles (or pseudo singles as the case may be).
When it comes to music, I live vicariously. I suppose I always have. As a child it was my father's midnight vinyls that commanded my listening ear - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Joni Mitchell et al. As a teenager it was my big sister, my cool cousins bringing me Depeche Mode, Erasure, OMD, The Cure. In adulthood I could very well be hidden in the avalanche of popular-gone-Sesame-Street, e.g. Feist counting 1-2-3-4 monsters, or penguins, or chickens - that is, children could rule my musical ear if I let them. But NO. It cannot be so.

Instead I look to my kid sister as my new proxy. Chani kept singing after high school madrigals. She sings still. First in a group called Rubik's Hotel, and now an up and coming group in Las Vegas called Dusty Sunshine. She's hooked up in the local scene and passes on new gems to me.

Here is one:
A Crowd of Small Adventures

That is my cousin, Jack Wilcox singing and playing guitar, and nearly stepping on the lizard. I remember Jack as a very quiet, very blonde little boy at the family Christmas party every year at my grandparent's house. Who knew he could command so much attention by standing and singing in front of people. He has a unique voice, both lyrically and acoustically.

Chani happens to be in this video for a small moment - one of the onlookers at the boxing ring. Her boyfriend, Scott is one of the Thompson boys who created the video. Mike and Jerry Thompson directed it while Scott was working the camera - or at least one of the cameras. They have done some other videos and even a feature length film called Thor at the Bus Stop, which is the makings of a serious cult classic.

My kids and I love this song - Bang Bang - and the video. We hope you like it too. For your viewing pleasure you can check out a few more videos by the Thompson Brothers at Vimeo.

And you can find more songs by A Crowd of Small Adventures here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I'm Not a Witch, I'm Your Wife

Maren calls it the WITCHING HOUR.
I have heard Susie call it the ARSENIC HOUR.

Whatever it is, it deserves capitals and it deserves attention. The hour before dinner, the hour at the end of many in the house with small children, the hour after naps, the hour before Dad gets home. The hour we want to quit.

I know the pernicious ticking of these minutes mingled with the cries of all who live here making exhaustive demands for ridiculous unrealistics.

Let's paint the picture:

I am at the sink trying to clean up the kitchen so I can cook something to feed this family of children who will likely refuse the food I put in front of them when finally we sit at the table too late for our own good.

Ewan has been fed but is still crying while he reclines in the swing that mostly just spells a.b.a.n.d.o.n.e.d to him.
" I want a cookie, Mom!"
"No, we are eating dinner in an hour."
"I can't wait that long, I'm hungry."
"You just had a bowl of yogurt and a graham cracker. You can wait for dinner."
"Please don't yell, Caroline."

"I want to hold you."
"I can't, Cecily. I need to make dinner."
"I don't want my dinner - it's gross. I want to hold you."
"No Cecily."
"Is that blue fire, Mom?"
"CECILY, get AWAY from the stove."
My yelling is of course only a measure of safety, trying to scare her away from the flame, but it inevitably scares her into whimpering tears and I am forced to hold her while I should be attending to the cooking of whatever is on the stove.

Ewan is screaming by now. Cecily's wounded feelings are unsoothable, Caroline is still begging and accusing me of meanery, while Jonah refuses to clear the table off, stamping back and forth through the kitchen declaring how unfair it is that he cannot go outside to play.

I am crippled, standing in the midst of our mess from breakfast, lunch, lessons, coloring, half hearted attempts at working on Christmas gifts, cutting, paper, glue, dolls, boxes, markers, junk mail, books, candy wrappers, dirty socks, dirty diapers, crackers, cracker crumbs, blankets covered in spit-up, shirts covered in spit-up, damp towels, leaves, math sheets, sticks. I am rendered impotent by the milieu of stuff and the milieu of noise.

And then Matt walks in.

How often he enters this cacophony of trouble when his day at work has ended. How seldom is he met with my smile, dinner, happy children.


We greet him with need . . . thinking little of the needs he brings with him. His daily salutation as he comes through the door, fairly certain of the scene that awaits him, is "I'm here to help." And help he does. My good husband, gallant knight, swooping in to restore some idea that family is good and we can actually enjoy each other.

As yet, this circadian demise of my good self has not driven me to arsenic. But I would do well to remember when my husband walks through the door that like Billy Crystal's little henchwoman in The Princess Bride, "I'm not a witch, I'm your wife." As witching as the hour may be, as tempted as I may be to lash out at the man who fathered my chaos and leaves me to it each day, I am wife - not witch. His 'leaving me to it' is fulfillment of his duty to provide for us in a way that I could not. We live by the bargain of accepting our roles.

I told Matt the other night that I had figured out why we sleep. God knew that mothers and fathers would need desperately to arrive at the quotidian moment when they could lay the little bodies of their children in their beds and find enough quiet for enough hours to reset their tolerance for the work of parenting.

This is not a diatribe against my children, or my luck to be their mother. It is the truth of it; my weakness, their imperfection, our parallel attempt at being a family.

Life with children is hard and hard and hard, punctuated by moments of pure illumination. So let there be light.