Dec 31, 2009

Stuff and Living

Whenever I go back home to visit my parents my own life is thrown in some interesting contrasts. My parents live in Northern California, in a place where I could not even come close to being able to afford to live. But I love it here. Every time I come back here I want to move here. But then I forget that there are good things about where I live, too, and my mom is always thinking about moving out where I live. So really, vacations aren't a good way to judge a place and one's willingness to settle somewhere.

But there is one thing that is so much nicer where I grew up. It's really hard to explain exactly. But it involves materialism and expectations and conformity and things like that. Out here, I would never be questioned if I just wanted to rent the rest of my life, if wallpaper happened to be hanging from my ceiling in spots, if my car has a rusty bumper and a few patches of missing paint. My kids would not be looked at closely because they've got faded jeans and a loved T-shirt on, and hand-me-down tennis shoes instead of being dressed in a spanking-new, radiantly colored outfit complete with cute little clippy bought online to adorn their shining, professionally-cut hair.

There is a difference in expectation in Utah Valley. Let me just say it.

And for the most part I don't mind at all. My kids wear perfectly good clothes that others are done with... and I'll just say for the most part, they're being passed on because people have kids who have grown up, not simply because they're throwing them away. But I also know that there are very few families in what I consider to be my "class" (medium-low level income, but doable, young family) who would accept hand-me-downs unless they looked spanking brand new. ANd there are a lot of those around, too. People in Utah Valley buy a lot (it seems) and end up with too much and so end up throwing or giving a lot of amazing stuff away.

Am I weird because i accept every offer that comes my way? Does that make me somehow less of a mom? Does it throw me into the "needy Family," category? ANd for that matter, is this what people assume about us, because instead of having stretched our budget to buy a house, we're renting, and waiting for the right situation to come along?

I think I am happy about the lifestyle I lead. I have been blessed with so many miracles. And they literally seem to show up on my doorstep just as I need them. Skywalker and I were looking for a place to live three years ago, and our prayers were to the effect that we'd find a place that would serve our family's needs and also allow us to save the money we'd need to pay in cash for our adoption and not go into debt. And then Anna's house became available, for what let's just say is an amazing rate, unbelievable actually. If you knew what we paid in rent, you'd be shocked, even after you saw the wallpaper falling off our walls in places and the 70's era carpet and the 40's era interior decorating and the bathroom tiles falling off our walls and the rotted wall behind our sink.

It's doable. It's comfortable. It's clean. It's warm, it's not dangerous... for my family, it's perfect. And as we continue to live here our new goal is to save up a downpayment on a house, a blessing we're grateful to be able to plan for.

When we added two new kids to our family, we realized our old car would not do anymore. It was perfectly fine (12 years old, a bit of a gas-guzzler but ran just fine, some scratches on the sides from my harrowing parking experiences living in a condo community) except that it had one less seat than we needed.

My father-in-law offered to sell us their old van (14 years old, but in better condition than our old car, even, because he is such a meticulous maintainer of his vehicles.) Sure it's an old van. It's got a rust spot on the back bumper. It's a bit dingy on the inside and outside. But it has seven seats. And we could more than adequately afford the price (300 dollars). It was another blessing from Heavenly Father, and another miraculous answer to prayer-- that he bring us something that is reliable, that can carry our family around and that we could afford without any debt. And He did.

When we brought our girls home, I quickly realized I needed to bascially double the amount of clohes I had. I was thinking in my head, if I do this at DI and other thrift stores, I can keep it under 300, maybe. And then a ward member said she'd been praying about something she could do to help our family in the wake of our adoption and thought of the clothes she had stored in the basement. She asked me what sizes I might have use for, I told her and she said those were the sizes she had. Two days later I had four boxes full of clothes and I had more than enough for my girls. I even went through and put some of them in a box to give away, myself.

Another blessing, to a prayer not even offered, this time.

I sometimes wonder, existing in the pressure and social expectation that is Utah Valley, if people look at me and wonder what I'm doing. I'm renting. I drive what they probably see as a crud car on its last legs (But in reality...we could drive it another 100,000 miles if we take good care of it, at least according to the guy who inspected it when we got home). I dress my kids sometimes in cute but slightly faded clothes, in jeans that are a little worn at the knees, in shoes sometimes just a tad too big and coats that are too large but still warm (they can wear them next year, too!) and I wonder if people think I'm somehow a bad mom because I've accepted all these blessings and the opportunity to stay out of debt, live within my means, and save up for the blessings of the future.
We could easily afford a car payment. Buying a house right now is not outside of our reach if we followed certain options and opportunities. And I could buy all their clothes new... we do have the money.

Does that mean we SHOULD spend the money? It feels sometimes like some people think we should.

That is the thing I dread coming back to.

I feel like so many couples get married and decide that in order to have a kid, they need a 3 bedroom house and an almost new SUV (the new minivan), tons of designer baby clothes and other things like that in order to be a responsible family. And it's odd to be around. It's not the way I grew up. I'm not saying it's an evil phenomenon... it's just not anything like what I value at all, and I feel sometimes like people think I'm wierd or wrong or irresponsible to be the way I am.

And yet... these were all blessings. If Heavenly Father thinks it's good enough for my family, isn't it OK that I think it's good enough?

In the aftermath of Christmas (I handmade most of my girls' gifts, and the rest were hand-me-downs that were almost brand new, and I'm very grateful for the family who thought to offer to us before taking it to DI) I'm thinking about this with an extra measure of poignancy. My kids seem happy. I'm Happy. I feel like Heavenly Father is helping us meet our goals.

So maybe it's OK, after all, that I don't have a single thing to my name that I could sell for any significant amount of money... not a single thing. And that somehow in spite of that, life is good.

Dec 16, 2009


I just went to my first League of Utah Writers' Christmas party, and I have to say...

writers are weird.

that's all I have to say about that.

Dec 15, 2009

OK fine...

So my previous post was kind of a lead-up to this. I've been rebelliously not listing my own sister's blog in my links on the side because I don't think she ever visits mine. But that's silly and internet passive aggressive. So here's her cool blog with lots of thoughtful posts and fun silliness. I realized the other day (after I looked her blog up in my email account for the fifth time) that i really need a link on my sidebar so that I don't have to look it up. That's the way I operate... the links on my sidebar are mostly for me and my own convenience, but if any of you all want to click through cuz you're curious then that's awesome too because I like to read lots of awesome blogs.

And Cait, just so you know... I love reading your posts and really my complaining is more because I want to read more of them, not so much that I need you to come over here and comment.

Still waiting on Care. She's got a blog but I think she's only posted like one thing on it. And that was three years ago. Haha.

Maybe I should start one for her.

That would kind of be beside the pt though, wouldn't it? oh well.

Anyway, if you're interested in reading her blog you'll need an invite (she's all wise like that, keeping the blog private) so email her (I assume you'd know her email if you wanted an invite anyway) and she'll invite you.

Dec 13, 2009

It Buggeth Me...

OK so I have to admit. It really does bug me...

that none of my sisters ever read my blog.

I'm Jealous of Adelle and Camilla.

Sisters, you must read my blog. And comment uponeth it. That means you, Carolee... yes, you have to get internet in your apartment. And you, Cait... well, really you have no excuse except you're not really fond of the internets and you're newly married and wrapped up in honeymoon-type bliss as well as the stress of working a part time job while taking 18 credits.

Still, that's no excuse.

Am I right?


Dec 10, 2009

Fear Tactics

Loli has had a mysterious fever these past several days. It actually gets quite high, about 104 sometimes. The odd thing is, she has NO SYMPTOMS. Literally, NONE. She's just as bouncy and lively all day and her fever is about 101. At night it spikes to around 103-104 and then she starts acting tired and sluggish. None of my other kids have anything! I give her tylenol at night, and I've been doing cranberry pills because it seems to me it must be bacterial, somehow. If she still has it tonight, I'm planning on taking her to the doc tommorrow to see what's up. And perhaps cancel some plans (though I hope that doesn't happen... we have a full, fun weekend planned.)

So Loli's problem is she hates drinking water. She gets dehydrated really fast, though, especially when she's sick. So I've been pushing the emergen-c and water the last couple days. Last night I got a little frustrated.

Me: Loli, if you don't drink water when you're sick you could die.

Loli: (Looks at me suspiciously) No you can't.

Me: Yes, you could.

Loli: Mom, you can NOT die from not drinking water!

Me: It happens all the time.

Loli: Oh. (Thinking over the possibilities.)

Me: But before that happened with you we'd probably take you to a hospital, where they'd stick a needle in your arm and give you water THAT way. So you probably wouldn't die after all.

Loli: (Eyes completely round) Oh.

Next morning...

Loli: Mom, I drank a LOT of water last night.

Me: Good.

Bella: Mom, is Loli Die?

Me: No, she won't die.

Bella: (snickering) Loli Die, no water?

Loli: It's not funny!!!

And that's how you do it, ladies and gentlemen. As my mother before me, I have learned to utilize the tactic of scaring my children completely into submission.

Things they say


"Gloon." (Glue)

"No Weird Me!" (don't call me weird! Usually to loli)

"Mama! Ethiopia, Me, and Bellarina, me sparkles! Coat, blanket, backpack, face, sparkles! And green makeup, and Jaws Green makeup, and Loli green makeup, and Mama and Daddy all buzzo bananas!!!) (Ethiopia has now become a fairtyale place in all our memories)

One thing about May is that she is really, really cute especially when she's really, really mad. Her voice is growly-roary, and her face screws up in a fascinatingly, maddeningly cute manner that makes it really difficult for me to follow through with a declared consequence for not-OK behavior. She reminds me of an angry baby rabbit, ready to claw her way out of the situation, but really in need of lots of cuddling as soon as possible. Thankfully she doesn't get in trouble nearly as much now... they've all learned that hurting is not a way to get things, and obeying is non-negotiable in most circumstances.


"Buzzoo Buzzzzzoooo!" accompanied by emphatic arm waving. (That's the Amharic word for lots or many. She uses it instead of English and I don't blame her because it's a far better word for it.)

"Mama, MayMay no takafahee." (MayMay won't share. I'm trying to figure out a way to encourage good English while not discouraging their use of Amharic.)

Jaws has a cute, high little girl voice and those large, blue eyes and she is suuuch a cuddler. She's been pushing boundaries a little more lately, and when she gets mad, she stares at you out from under her eyebrows in a very stern way that nearly has me doubled up in laughter. It's hard to stick to my point and follow through teaching her about sharing, helping clean up, being nice, etc. She reminds me of my sister Caitlin when she was little, in that she's so very open and happy to play whatever game is going on and gets really, really shriekingly excited about things.


"Mom. Buzzoo Koyee Christmas?" (Lots of waiting until Christmas?)

"Yes. It's in a little while."

"This much koyee?" Lifting her arms out to the sides, then stretching them until they're as far back as they can go, so they're almost touching behind her back.

"This many days." (flashing ten fingers, then two). "Then we'll leave for Grandma's."

Bella (jumping up and down.)

I've been talking to Bella about how babies get born. Loli hasn't been curious yet, and my working method so far has been to wait for the questions. Bella has a plethora of questions, from how long until the baby's "ready come OUT!" To how the doctor "Get the Baby OUT." IT's been quite enlightening, especially considering the fact that, as always when explaining something to either Bella or may, I have to resort to a lot of animated repetitive, simple phrases, as well as dramatic gestures, because she's still working on English. Gestures I would be embarrassed to display in polite company.

So whatever Loli might ever have wanted to know, she now knows, probably in more detail and demonstration than she ever could have wished. Thankfully we haven't gotten to the part about how babies get INTO mommy's tummy yet. Hopefully we'll all know enough English at that point to render gestures unnecessary.

I might take the chicken's road out and check out a book from the library if it comes to that.


"Me? Upstairs? Me boozoo talking and then boozoo fall and Doof! Ouch on my head!!" (Maniacal laughter from Loli and Bella and Jaws and May.)

Yeah. Like I said... how do you encourage good English while at the same time not discouraging the use of another language in your home, which is something I acually love having happen? At least they seem to be getting better. These last two weeks, they have made the switch, I think, to mostly English.

Loli is reading "Mr. Popper's Penguins" right now and thinks it's hilarious. And she loved when I read her essay today so she could see me smile over the "funny" thing that happened in the chapter. It was way cute.


(Playing with one of Jeff's tools.)
Me: Squirt! Don't touch that.
Squirt: (attempts to hide it behind his back, staring at me guilelessly with his blue, blue eyes).
Me: Squirt, put it back.
Squirt. "O-ka-ay." (Makes a move as if to put it into the tool box, then quickly snatches it away and hides it behind his back again.)
Me: Put it back, squirt.
Squirt: Gives me a squinty-eyed, toothy grin. "Hi, Mommy."
Me: Hi, squirt. Please put the screwdriver back. (I wrest the screwdriver from his tiny iron grip.)
Squirt: (Ear piercing shriek, forms his hand into a little fist and holds it threateningly in front of his face.)
Me: No, no, squirt. Don't hit. Want to watch Duck Duck? (Disney cartoon, "the ugly duckling").
Squirt: (Pouting.) "O-ka-ay."

Squirt loves to take a coat hanger and a big stick and pretend to be a pirate. He'll go into a little baby-boy lunge stance and thrust his stick-sword and grin at you and say, "I Cappin Hook!"

I sometimes have to take sticks away when he hits people. We're working on that. He's all boy, that's for sure... Yes, Dave, in spite of all the soy milk. And in spite of the fact that he's surrounded. Who knows? Maybe he feels an obligation to be extra-super boy-like to balance out the household.

We're getting him a toy tool set for Christmas. :)

I just wanted to write down some of these things here because I don't keep a journal and I know, later, I'll be sad I didn't record these things, especially this irretrievable time when my entire brood is speaking pidgin Amahric-English. I'm going to take out my H-2 recorder one of these days and just record, record, record... I know it'll be something we'll enjoy for many decades to come.

Dec 3, 2009

Misplaced Stewardship

My 5-year-old throws a fit at the store parking lot because I won't give her something she wants. She refuses to come with us, standing and yelling outside the store, watching us move away from her. I ignore her, traversing the parking lot (not too far from the entrance) looking for the car. Just about the time I find it, she runs toward me to join the other kids, still yelling at the top of her lungs. We've been thru this before; I know the routine and don't let it bother me. Until grandpa-aged man comes up to me and scolds me for "scaring her so bad."

Ok, now I'm a little ticked. No, more than ticked, I'm mad.

How come I'm not allowed to put random stranger grandpas in their rooms for time outs for being nosy and interfering?

It reminds me of another time. A more difficult time in my life, just after some ridiculous events that left me an emotional wasteland, and my parenting a tired, automatic, draining-me-of-my-lifeblood process for about 6 months.

During that time, Loli became ill with a flu that left her returning violently anything I put in her stomach. It lasted for about a day-and-a-half, and,per pediatrician reccomendation I had her on a liquid diet: pedialyte and water, two tablespoons every half-hour, because it was all she could keep down. She wanted other things; bread, cereal, etc, as most tiny kids do when they're sick and don't understand the association: solid foods=throw up violently, including emptying the system of all fluids that mommy has painstakingly gotten into thier poor, tiny, potentially dehydrated systems.

I took her to a bishop's interview (I had a lot of them at the time, there was a lot of ridiculous aftermath to deal with.) The bishop was tired of me, tired of dealing with my situation... probably as weary and drained as I felt, dealing with it.

Loli reached for a bag of cereal he had on his desk, I told her "no." The bishop gave me a look, handed her the cereal, watched her down the thing frantically, and said I wasn't feeding her enough.

Thanks, bishop. Good thing you don't have to deal with the messy aftermath. Or the emotional wasteland, 24-7. I know there were some people who (maybe rightfully) thought my parenting somewhat lacking during that time. But you know what? I did a pretty good job, considering. I maybe wasn't as present emotionally as a woman in normal circumstances would have been, but I took care of her. I loved her, and held her, and felt fiercely protective of her, and found the very best childcare for her that I could, and worried about her every second I was away from her.

Why can't I put an interfering, nosy bishop on some kind of probation? Just, like, maybe a no-hugging-any-cute-toddlers-or-babies restriction, for like a couple weeks?

Just two examples that have nothing to do with each other, but somehow are emotionally linked to me and my perception of men, (sometimes women, too, I guess) and misplaced stewardship.

I feel like parents are judged much more harshly by people who forget (or simply do not know) what it is like to be in a particular situation, parenting a particular child. The comments I love are, "wow. You're brave, bringing 5 kids to the supermarket." "looks like you've got your hands full! Good job." And the knowing looks from others as they glance at my obviously non-nuclear family, and see one of my adopted kids needing a little quiet talk in the middle of the store.

People who know, don't interfere.

Thanks for letting me vent.

Dec 1, 2009

A discussion of republic Vs democracy

From this website.

"Republic. That form of government in which the powers of sovereignty are vested in the people and are exercised by the people, either directly, or through representatives chosen by the people, to whome those powers are specially delegated.

"Democracy. That form of government in which the sovereign power resides in and is exercised by the whole body of free citizens directly or indirectly through a system of representation, as distinguished from a monarchy, aristocracy, or oligarchy."

From this website:


The chief characteristic and distinguishing feature of a Democracy is: Rule by Omnipotent Majority. In a Democracy, The Individual, and any group of Individuals composing any Minority, have no protection against the unlimited power of The Majority. It is a case of Majority-over-Man.

Direct Democracy:
In the direct type, applicable only to a small number of people as in the little city-states of ancient Greece, or in a New England town-meeting, all of the electorate assemble to debate and decide all government questions, and all decisions are reached by a majority vote (of at least half-plus-one).

In both the Direct type and the Representative type of Democracy, The Majority’s power is absolute and unlimited; its decisions are unappealable under the legal system established to give effect to this form of government. This opens the door to unlimited Tyranny-by-Majority. This was what The Framers of the United States Constitution meant in 1787, in debates in the Federal (framing) Convention, when they condemned the "excesses of democracy" and abuses under any Democracy of the unalienable rights of The Individual by The Majority.


Its purpose is to control The Majority strictly, as well as all others among the people, primarily to protect The Individual’s God-given, unalienable rights and therefore for the protection of the rights of The Minority, of all minorities, and the liberties of people in general. The definition of a Republic is: a constitutionally limited government of the representative type, created by a written Constitution--adopted by the people and changeable (from its original meaning) by them only by its amendment--with its powers divided between three separate Branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Here the term "the people" means, of course, the electorate.

John Adams:
"By conventions of representatives, freely, fairly, and proportionately chosen . . . the convention may send out their project of a constitution, to the people in their several towns, counties, or districts, and the people may make the acceptance of it their own act."

James Madison:

"As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust: So there are other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government (that of a Republic) presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form. Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some among us, faithful likenesses of the human character, the inference would be that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another." (Emphasis added.)

It is noteworthy here that the above discussion, though brief, is sufficient to indicate the reasons why the label "Republic" has been misapplied in other countries to other and different forms of government throughout history. It has been greatly misunderstood and widely misused--for example as long ago as the time of Plato, when he wrote his celebrated volume, The Republic; in which he did not discuss anything governmental even remotely resembling--having essential characteristics of--a genuine Republic.

*OK, now I'm talking again.*

So, I think, in doing my reading (which I did back in my freshman year at BYU as well as in my Constitution class in 8th grade... but back then I think my brain was half-formed and only vaguely understood enough to get good test scores) I realize that I do not want a direct democracy. And never have.

But I think I have also realized that a lot of people misunderstand our government. They talk about it (libertarians in particular)being an "other." "Government taking over." "Government infringing upon our rights." Well, I understand that now, in a sense, because with a republic-form of government we have created something (the constitution) that is supposed to be the golden rule upon which all else hangs (we need to follow laws created by the legislative gov't. We need to abide by the rulings of the Judicial system. We need to obey executive powers, or expect consequences if we don't.)

SO is government really other? Or is it US? I realize nobody is alive now that signed the constitution. So you could effectively say that none of us alive have agreed to this implied agreement upon which our government is based.

What we should realize, though, is that we have slid a bit from the first picture that Madison had of government. The Madison compromise was the first bit. Madison wanted a true representative republic: the actual population represented proportionately in government. But the large, more-sparsely populated southern states were, of course, not OK with this... they felt themselves at a disadvantage if the legislators were chosen in proportion to population, and wouldn't effectively represent all states' rights, and if the state's rights were to be upheld, then there should be a governing body that equally represented each.

So, already, we have a contrived element to our government that has nothing to do with actual people, but instead an entity known as State.

This is not necessarily bad. But it's something to think about.

One of the biggest elements of our constitution was the resolution that the state's legislative bodies would elect our national representatives: senators, specifically, while congressmen were elected by the populous. This changed at the beginning of the 20th century, when the right to elect senators was passed on to the people in the state, to elect through majority. Thus, moving us closer to the idea of democracy as opposed to the Republic. Here's an article on how this happened and why.

Because Congressmen were already elected by the people, this made it so that our entire legislative body was elected by the people.

Our national judicial system is not representative... basically, we elect our president who will select the supreme court judges. So we're still a step removed from a more direct-democracy approach, there.

Our national executive branch is an interesting thing. The people don't directly elect the president. When we vote in the primaries, we directly narrow down the presidential candidates to two, who run against each other. But when it comes to the national election, the nationwide vote translates into electoral votes. These electoral votes are cast by the "electoral college", who are selected either by the state legislature or randomly (each state has its own system). Depending on the state, these electorate may not even have to vote the way the state itself has voted. Though a lot of states have changed that now because the populace gets upset (another example of our our republic system has shifted to a more representative-democratic system.)

The president selects his own cabinet, which makes up the rest of the executive branch. So this is a more republic aspect of our current system: the President, who the people halfway directly and halfway indirectly elect, is a representative who then appoints the rest of the executive branch.

The interesting thing about all of this, is that our government was formed four hundred years ago, when most people were not educated enough to know the information and understand what they would need to, to participate productively in the system. So all these Republican protections, eg, having the populous elect representatives instead of directly deciding who is in our government, may be somewhat unnecessary.

Of course there are lots of people out there who are apathetic, and those who are a tad crazy, and those who would like to promote their own, narrow interests as they decide who to elect. But in the end, aren't all these factions supposed to balance each other out in favor of what the majority would wish (assuming the majority of the population participates?) That's the beauty of democracy.

There is a scripture in the Book Of Mormon that says exactly how I feel about government:

Mosiah 29:

26 Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people.
27 And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.

When you read this chapter of scripture, you realize that Mosiah was also describing a system of electing representatives that then create law. Specifically, he was addressing the issue of Judges. Which, when you think about it, makes sense, because a judicial system governed by only the majority voice is a scary thing. Think what would happen to people like OJ Simpson and Charles Manson if the undefined majority (as opposed to a jury, selected by a judge and panel, who are elected by the people) sentenced them. Justice would not be served... it would be more like vengeance.

Anyway, just some thoughts. Figuring out what the beef I have with our current system is... because i feel like it's not nearly representative enough, but I'm not yet sure in what way. Just a vague but also powerful feeling that I need to put into actual political theory, just for my own benefit.