Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Declarations for 2009

• I will count to 10 in German - using my iPhone translation application - when I see drips on the toilet seat for the third time that day.

• I will not pick up candy off the floor of Wal-Mart and offer it to my Bobby Banjo, even if it means enduring 15 more minutes of hearing-aid inducing screams.

• I will not allow myself to become embarrassed when the youngest Whiffen child flatulates in public, then blames it on me.

• I will no longer try to vacuum oversized items off the floor but rather bend down, pick them up, and throw them in the garbage.

• Next time we go to the automatic car wash and my boys are fighting in the back seat, I will not yell, but instead roll down all the windows.

• I will forgive Judd when he laughs at me when I slip on the ice and fall face first on the sidewalk outside the gym.

• I will be more patient by extending my Whiffen child consequence strikes from three to four, and I will say them while smiling (even if my face still turns red).

• I will not remove the budding dust balls that accumulate around the entertainment center until they reach a size where I can easily recycle them into cotton balls and use them to clean my face.

• I will use the great tip I learned of placing vapo-rub under my nose the next time I have to clean up Whiffen child vomit, so I don’t retch the entire time and lose my appetite for three days after.

• No matter how tempting, I will not go to Costco or Wal-Mart during the entire month of December. I will not.

On a more philosophical note…

• My actions will be guided by my inner voice and not others reactions.

• I will do everything I can possibly do (along with Brittany and all the many parents dedicated to this cause) to get this autism insurance legislation passed. I promise families that are just surviving from day to day that I will never forget.

• I will tell my boys (including the big one) I love them more, and I’ll show them everyday.

• I will live each day as if it were my last blog entry.

I'm anxious to hear at least one of your 2009 Declarations!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Costco Survivor – Roller Derby Style

The double sliding doors at Costco greet me like a celebrity, and after two Excedrin and a Dr. Pepper, I’m feeling the confidence and energy of Angelina Jolie (if I could only fit into a 42DD) as I take on a night in December at the bloated box warehouse. The newfound confidence is not enough to soothe the slight pain growing from the lining of my stomach up and into my throat as I see oversized cart-to-cart traffic and families of 10 scouring the aisles. Babies are screaming at volumes Mariah Carey can't even match. My heart murmur becomes more pronounced until I’m momentarily calmed by the Christmas lights and nodding Santa to my left. That is until a small child darts in front of my cart causing that same vital organ in my body to freeze in mid-beat. I sigh then smile with relief as the bubble above my head shows all three Whiffen children shoveling the driveway with red-cheeked smiles - their dad appointed as lead shoveler.

Soon I find myself wedged between a woman thumping on every cantaloupe in the bin, and a man on his phone in the middle of the aisle who can’t see me or hear me even though it is clear I’m standing in his peripheral vision. “Excuse me.” No response. He’s grinning at the floor and shuffling his feet. He giggles. I try to wedge my way through the narrow spot, but my cart gets hooked on his cart. He doesn’t notice. I clank my way through, crashing his cart as I squeeze by. He’s still oblivious. "Jackass," I mumble.

Next up…frozen food section. “You can do this,” I whisper. But I think the lady groping the cantaloupes hears me because she keeps staring at me and raising her eyebrows over her bifocals. Suddenly, I see someone I think I know, but I’m not sure, and I’m starting to get the shakes, so I make a quick hook to the right and down the next aisle. I avoid two minor collisions, which would have been non-existent if they would start putting blinkers on the end of the carts – a safety feature that even Brittany Spears would be pleased with.

I eye the frozen chicken breasts I’m after, and swing down that aisle, but 20 feet before I reach my destination, I hear a “ding” and I watch the food sample lady with a hairnet carefully place one-inch squares sections of pepperoni Hot Pockets into tiny sample cups and sets them out. Like flies on a hot cow pie, swarms of people seem to come from the ceiling and even the freezers themselves. Soon I’ve lost sight of my chicken breasts, and the food sample lady. Suddenly, people start to clear, the food sample lady comes back into focus, her hair net now sits crooked on her head and she looks dazed. The samples are gone, and papers dot the floor. I quickly grab my chicken breasts and head for the checkout line.

I eye all six lanes that are open strategizing which gives me the greatest chance of speed. I can almost feel the Dr. Pepper pulse through my veins as I eye a line with only two people, carts each only half full. I quickly pull into the line before someone else sees it. One down, one to go. My thoughts of chestnuts roasting on an open fire disappear when I hear the lady in front of me say, “Now, sir, I thought this was on sale. Let me speak to your manager.” I’m tempted to give her the cost difference until I realize I don’t have any cash left. I contemplate asking the Salvation Army bell ringer at the front of the store if I can have it back as I eye the other lines with an averaging six people each. I grip the handle on my cart and watch my knuckles bulge.

Twenty minutes, one hot dog and berry smoothie later and my fingernails bitten to the flesh, I’m on the other side of those sliding glass doors and into the crisp fresh air. I stop to unzip my pit vents, and giggle while jogging to my car behind my cart -because I know this will be my last trip to Costco before Christmas!

Let’s hear those holiday shopping survival stories!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

On three, two, one...

My goggles were worn by request (and for protection because sometimes our flailing arms become deadly weapons). The pirate hat is part of the ensemble (haven't you seen pirates loitering around the ancient pyramids?)

Just in case you want to practice at home, I learned my moves from Dirty Dancing and Napoleon Dynamite (okay, and WWF). It helps me to watch myself on video, though, because now I can see that I need to work on squaring my arms and making the rest of my body as geometric as possible while attempting the Egyptian walk.

I'd love to hear any other tips you might have...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Shake it like an Egyptian

Every night after I tuck Judd into bed, I downplay the growing excitement spurred by pending freedom. It starts subtly in my toes and ends up almost bursting through my chest as I gleefully try to prioritize all 76 items on my to do list - a sort of optimism even Julie Andrews would envy.

I slither out the door and into the den, and just as I open my laptop, I hear, “MOOOOM! You forgot to do the mummy dance!”

I walk like an Egyptian all the way back down the hall and into his room. My neck bobbing much like the roosters on my childhood neighbor's farm. I hear him giggle as I bob my neck and squared arm through the door, then back out. “Mahm, come on!" he begs. I hit play on his stereo and Mary Pope Osborne “Mummies in the Morning” book on CD begins to play. Ancient Egyptian music plunks through the speakers as I frolic my way in front of the lamp so I can make freaky dance shadows for my solo, giggling audience member. I place my hands together pointed toward the ceiling. My neck moves back and forth, my hips move the opposite direction. I shimmy around the room. Judd mimics me - neck and all. His lips pursed together in concentration. His three-year-old body doing Egyptian moves like he’s dancing around the ancient pyramids with the mummies themselves. Soon he’s by my side - his moves too expansive to contain inside his small twin size bed. His shadow crosses mine just as the music runs out. I continue moving around the room, the music continuing in my head. "Mama, that's all. It's over."

As I walk out of his room and down the hall, I think about how good I’m getting at the mummy dance. I start to wonder what I might look like moving my hips this way, and my neck that way. Soon I find myself in my bedroom, door locked, doing the mummy dance in my own bathroom mirror.

After three minutes of this ridiculous fearlessness, I finally realize why my mom took me out of dance class after only the first year.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Supporting and Lifting - Like a 42DD

My friend, Kim Stagliano, the mother of three girls with autism is the managing editor of Age of Autism. Her husband recently lost his job, and they're wondering how they're going to afford to provide for their family including ongoing treatment for their girls - a pretty crappy card to be dealt especially during the holidays. When I'm tempted to wallow in the mud puddles that inevitably appear along my path in life, I think of Kim and all those like her who stealthily maneuver around their puddles despite the seemingly endless spotted road ahead. It gives me strength, fearlessness, and resolve.

The autism community is one like I've never seen before. The support generated among club members is equal to a 42DD Victoria Secret Miracle Bra. So if you need a lift today, don't go buy a new bra, read here instead Age of Autism. It will put some warmth in your Thanksgiving dinner left overs.

Now this is what you can do with your Miracle Bra...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

On Becoming Fearless

I’m a treadmill reader and when the black lines smear into each other and all different prism-like directions, or I start thinking cut the crap, where’s the beef, I either toss the book into the “maybe later in the bubble bath” pile, or the “give to thrift store,” pile. On occasion if the book and I keep pace together and we become running partners, I consider it a stellar read – not because I have cheetah-like strides, but because I’m so lost in this new world, I forget that my thighs are burning, and my cheeks jiggling (both sets).

The latest book that has survived the treadmill test – On Becoming Fearless by Arianna Huffington. It kept me so involved, it rivaled running to the song “Holiday” by Green Day or “Holding out for a Hero” Bonnie Tyler – two goodies that nearly jolt me from fat burning speed to aerobic in less than 15 seconds.

After lapping up On Becoming Fearless over a five day treadmill stint, it became decorated with post-it flag markers in all the Crayola crayon colors, and a few ripped up gum wrappers after I ran out of flags and had to scrounge up whatever I could find within reach.

Fearful by nature, but with a temper that can be ignited by only a mere spark, I was the little girl who trembled if anyone raised their voice. When my fourth grade teacher, a giraffe-necked guy with red hair and a mustache, threw me in front of the class and said, “Leeann, I know you can talk louder than that. Now, pretend your horse is down there and you’re yelling its name. What’s its name? Barron? Okay, come on. Like you mean it now. Yell it. You can do it.” I just stood there in my pink Ricks College sweatshirt that I wore every other day. My cheeks burning as the kids in my class stared at me and laughed.

I couldn’t do it.

So this book was written for me two decades too late. For the one who didn’t try out for the basketball team in high school because I was afraid I wouldn’t make it. Then when the coach who was also my P.E. teacher saw me shooting hoops one day, she screamed, “Holgate!” loud enough I almost jumped out of my shorts. “Why, girl, didn’t you try out for the team!”

“I didn’t think I would make it.” I told her. She punched my shoulder and rolled her eyes. “Geez, Holgate. I didn’t think you were that stupid.”

Where was this book during those hormone inducing acne, mean girls suck days?

Why do we as a collective “body of women” worry so much about what others think? Why are we afraid of having a different opinion? Offending someone? Why do we live our lives wondering if we’re failing to measure up? To what? Is the fear of rejection so great, we can’t even try? Why do we feel we need to acquiesce? In order to be a leader we’re going to piss off; we’re going to have to go against what is generally accepted as “appropriate behavior”; we’re going to have to live our lives like this is the only chance we get – because it is!

Today, our fearless days begin as we stand in the mirror and imagine ourselves in our elasti-girl under-roos with a tiara on our heads, and a make believe sword in our sheaths ready for the draw. We’ll do our hair to The Gladiator soundtrack and worry more about what we’re living for than who we are disappointing – since the most important person not to disappoint is ourselves!

Fear swallows our passion and quiets our inner voice. By overcoming our insecurities and deepest fears, our passion and inner voice align, and it is then we know our true purpose and mission.

It is only then we are truly…fearless.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Stranger's Kind Deed

Four weeks ago over breakfast at Mimi’s, Senator Howard Stephenson fervently agreed to sponsor a bill that would require insurance companies to pay for medically necessary autism treatments. Upon hearing the tear-inducing good news, I went against all natural instincts, and instead of jumping up in my chair and doing air push ups above my head, I clenched my glass of orange juice tightly and graciously thanked him from my deepest well of passion.

Saturday morning, we, along with nine other volunteer legislative district captains from all over Utah, piled into the Original Pancake House in downtown Salt Lake City for a grassroots launch campaign. As we sat down at our table, I handed each of them their nametags complete with the autism awareness ribbon on the side. Though I had corresponded with many of these eager and equally passionate parents, this was my first time meeting them in person. Each of them shared their stories. And though each situation was unique, their pleas were the same.

“How can we afford treatment that our mainstream doctors are prescribing for her?”

“What is going to happen to him if he doesn’t get the intense treatment he needs?”

“Do you think he’ll ever talk to me?”

“I’ve had to go back to work, but I’m barely making enough to pay our regular bills let alone the treatment he needs.”

“I wonder if she’ll ever know who I am?”

As I traveled through time I heard myself echoing those same fears. I looked down at my plate. I couldn’t force another bite.

Our table grew quiet. I could barely hear the otherwise loud bursts of laughter and utensils clanking on dishes permeating from other parts of the large room.

Finally the waiter swung by and handed each of us our checks. Just as we reached for our wallets, a gentleman approached our table.

“Do you work with kids with autism?” he asked.

“Yes, we do. We’re parents trying to get some legislation passed,” someone answered.

“Your check is on me,” the man said. Then he walked around the table and began collecting our checks, which totaled around $100.

We were stunned into more silence. I looked around the table at each of them through my tear-distorted vision - their eyes were also spilling over.

This man will never know how much he buoyed us up that day. He’ll never really know that with that simple, unassuming act, he helped build my resolve to bionic strength. He’ll also never know that because he touched our lives, we in turn want to touch so many others.

And we intend to do it.

Thank you, Sir.

PS: If any of you are reading this and live in Utah (affected by autism or not), please send me an email so you too can get involved and help these kids get the treatment they need and deserve.

LeeannWhiffen at gmail dot com

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tuna Boat

I’m driving to the grocery store and suddenly I see something that makes me gush with overwhelming warmth and nostalgia. There she is – sitting under a large willow tree, the branches framing her in a perfect portrait.

I sigh. A slight hum of satisfaction escapes.

“There she is,” I say to the Whiffen child sitting in the back seat.

“What? Who, Mom?” the Whiffen child asks looking around.

“Tuna boat.” I Pause. “That’s her.” I say as if I’m in some sort of trance.

“Huh? I don’t see anybody. Whoa, Mom, why are you pulling over?” the Whiffen child says getting out of his seatbelt.

“For a photo.” I say with wispiness in my voice that’s almost haunting.

“Of who?”

“Her.” I say pointing to this.

The sun peeks through the shadows causing them to dance over the 1972 Buick LeSabre dressed in metallic Hershey bar paint with a hint of olive green. She is even longer than I remember. But just as homely and Austin Power-like.

I instantly recall the time I was 16 years old Tuna and I were speeding down a country road in Samaria, Idaho to meet my friends at the Dude Ranch. There was no moon and certainly no streetlights, only the faint sound of bellowing cattle in the black of night. I clicked on my bright lights so I didn’t accidentally hit one of those cows, and suddenly all the lights went off! I clicked again. Nothing! By the fourth click and near hyperventilation, all the lights finally came back on.

Like my shabby, but favorite bra, Tuna's always been there for me. Never letting me down. Her front passenger seat was a legend in the small town of Malad, and even smaller town of Samaria. An unsuspecting person riding in the passenger seat may have found it disturbing that the seat slid forward launching them into the windshield whenever we would come to an abrupt stop. But not my high school friends. Kids by the dozens started requesting front seat rides. We would start at the top of the hill and barrel down the rollercoaster back country road. Then, without warning, I would slam on my brakes, and everyone piled into the passenger side of the front seat was thrown with G-strength force into the windshield, their faces pressed against the glass in dramatic expressions. Boisterous laughing filled the car and steamed the windows.

All those tender memories are because of her.

“Mom, that’s a piece of crap!” says the Whiffen child, interrupting my pristine thoughts and even the dramatic music going through my head - Journey's "Wheel in the Sky"

“Get in the car! I need a minute by myself.” I wave him off.

He trudges back to the car. “Geez, Mom. That’s kinda weird.”

“Probably.” I mumble.

I pull out my iPhone and take a picture that I can carry with me always and share with everyone I know.

Because something as special as Tuna should only be remembered - forever.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Last year I was asked to give a presentation at an autism council meeting. I was worried about what I was going to say, how it might be perceived, and whether or not I should have had my bangs cut with the trim and highlight the day before. That morning, as I went to pick out a blouse to wear, I made sure to choose one that wouldn’t show sweat rings under the armpits. Because even when I wear Sean’s deodorant, I get nervous, nervous tells my sweat glands there’s a fire somewhere - usually under the armpits, and, well, it turns on the high pressure water valve.

I’m always obsessively careful to keep my arms close to my body when presenting, but once in awhile, if I need to refer to something on the screen, or if I get excited when I talk, my arms might fly up like they’ve come unhinged. I usually slap them back down to my sides biting my lip as I wonder who may have seen my sweaty pits. Sometimes if I’m really nervous, I might even ask if anyone happened to see.

The morning of the presentation, I finally find the perfect sweat-camouflaging blouse. I grab my materials and dash out the front door. Jammed in early morning traffic on northbound 1-15 into Salt Lake City, I immediately regret spending 15 minutes conceding to Bobby Banjo’s* pleas to help him find “the guy with the sword,” and “the purple crystal” and “two more red pieces that look just like this” in the lego box that contains 100,000 micro pieces.

Suddenly, I’m hit with the thought that I might be late. Nervous tells my sweat glands there’s a fire under my armpits. And once I realize I forgot to put on my deodorant, Nervous tells my sweat glands under my armpits that it’s a THREE ALARM FIRE! Nervous also turns on other sprinklers in other places where I didn’t even realize I had sprinklers.

As I fly into the meeting I absolutely wish I hadn’t gulped down a slim fast chocolate shake for breakfast because it really didn’t taste that good anyway, and now I have to make an emergency restroom visit. I slide into the closest stall, and I fumble with my binder wondering why they refuse to install shelves on the stall walls. I gently balance my binder on the top of the toilet paper holder then fumble with my safety pin that keeps the zipper up on my favorite pants. My elbow flies up and hits my binder knocking two of my papers into the toilet. Before I can say &@#! the automatic flusher does it’s job and whoosh that’s it! Nervous tells my sweat glands forget the three-alarm fire, it’s a FIRE STORM! Send all the trucks and hook ‘em up! Full pressure and sirens!

I manage to make my way out of the restroom and up to the podium just in time. My armpits are stuck to my sides. I’m careful not to get excited, and I deliver my presentation as planned.

On the drive home I can’t help but laugh at a situation I should never have been in. In worrying so much about my sweaty armpits, I forgot the single most helpful thing to prevent it!

How often in life when in pursuit of something, do we worry so much about the end result, we actually forget to take those steps to get there!

I’ve been worrying lately about whether I should or shouldn’t do it. And I can’t tell you what “it” is because you already know silly things like my husband replaced the hubcap on our hooptie when we really should have gotten the neon lights and hydraulics instead. But when a friend quotes Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take," I know what it is I have to do.

I’m now going to go put on my super strength deodorant and go for it.

*If you’re wondering, who is Bobby Banjo, please refer to post “Bobby Banjo Strikes a Chord.”

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Hooptie Dooptie had a great fall

This past week Sean was in Texas and then Tennessee, so we meet for lunch on Thursday at Chili’s to reconnect. At the end of our mid-day tryst we walk out to the car and I say, “Hey, by the way, did you know your car stereo isn’t

Sean says, “Yeah, remember when the boys left the door open the other day, well, the battery ran out and I had to jump it. The stereo is disabled every time jump the car – some sort of anti-theft thing. I’ll get the code to fix it when I go buy the new hubcap.

“Hubcap?” I ask. “What? Do we really need to replace the hubcap, I mean look at it!”

“Look at what?” he says innocently, as if he truly had no idea what I was talking about.

We stood in silence studying the gold 2000 Mitsubishi Galant with 110,000 miles to boast. The paint is peeling off the front bumper and hood like an acute case of automobile leprosy. My eyes scan to the back where there's a dent the size of Hillary Clinton’s head in the trunk.

“You’re really going to buy another hubcap?” I ask.

“Well, yeah, I don’t want to be driving a hooptie around.” He says.


“Sean,” I said ducking into the car. Come closer.

He leans in.

I pull his head toward me and whisper in his ear, “I’m really sorry I have drop this on you. But, it already IS a hooptie.”

He pulls away like I just sucker punched him.

“It IS not!” he insists.

“Sean, just throw a pair of curb feelers on her and you’re driving the hooptie of the year.”

“No way. NO. I can’t believe you’re even saying that!” he says shaking his head while eyeing her longingly like the daughter we’ll never have.

“I know it must be hard for you to say it out loud. But…”

He still looks hurt.

“It’s not!” he shouts as I roll up my window. I mime through the window, can’t hear you, sorry! I kiss the window, then flash him the “I love you” sign and drive off.

Do you buy the hubcap and keep it a half-hooptie, or do you wait until a door falls off and get hydraulics and neon lights installed?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Advance Reader Copies are in!

I just got my ARC copies and have to buckle down and read, read, read. And obsess, obsess, obsess. So I have to take a little break from the silly stories so I can focus on this project. I'll keep posting as often as possible. So please keep reading!

Thanks for all your supportive comments!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Daily dose of chocolate

I'm a huge Tina Fey fan. And It doesn't matter which party you're affiliated with, the barriers come crashing down with gut-wrenching laughter in this SNL skit. It will provoke all kinds of endorphins to get your motor started on an otherwise mundane Monday morning.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Zip Your Lips

Yesterday I said to a certain Whiffen child, “Will you please zip your lips?” and the Whiffen child said, “Okay, but you go first.” So that is why I keep notes like this one, along with his infant photo, taped on my mirror. It helps me remember his goodness so I can avoid that frequent, overwhelming feeling of wanting to hang him up on the towel hook by his underwear.

And yes, we are aware that grammar is a must if he aspires to be my publicist...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Bad Omen?

I’m sitting at my desk glued to my computer trying to do my good citizen duty of keeping The Office fan chain alive on Facebook when overhear what sounds like 10 women at Wal-Mart on Black Friday fighting over the last Wii. When I realize it is not just one or two, but the whole My Big Fat Greek Wedding family of magpies shrieking on my roof, I hop out of my chair and run for the front door. As I fling the door open, the sky overhead turns gray as the dumb turned smart scruffy birds apparently remember my BB gun from a few weeks ago. As I step outside to observe the damage to the white speckled roof, feathers still trickling down, I suck in a quick breath and put my hand to my throat as I almost step on this!

Judd runs to my side, carefully bends down for a closer look and says, “We wouldn’t want to eat that would we Mom.”

As I look closer, I realize it isn’t a magpie wing with a small socket bone lying next to it, it’s an innocent robin whose wing was savagely ripped off by those bunch of unruly pecker heads! It’s not enough that the magpies are ugly, or that they wake me at sacred times in the morning before any other live creature is stirring, or decorate my roof with white splotches, but they are BULLIES! Oh, I loathe the bullies…kid bullies, adult bullies, bird bullies.

As the day grows old, music becomes irritating noise, the sunset hurts my eyes and makes me snarky, and the taco shells I was going to use for dinner expired two years ago. And to top it all off with a dingleberry, I reach for the tape in the cabinet and the pencil sharpener falls down, knocks me in the head with a high pitched “toink” and dumps shavings all over my hair and face as it finally disburses all over the counter below. Then I sneeze, and it snows.

Was that broken bird wing a portent?


Judd woke six times that night whining and crying. By the sixth time, I was actually stomping down the hall babbling in harsh drunkard language. A state of mind in which I could easily spar with Simon Cowell and win. A guttural growl escapes as I pick him up and rock him rather boisterously in the rocking chair. After I calm down and my rocking becomes nicer, he whispers in my ear so close it tickles, “Mom, fank you fer taking care of me.” Then he kisses me on the cheek. I press him closer to me, my heart melting into his, and continue to rock him - long after he has fallen asleep in my arms. And I get that feeling, you know moms, when you know you’ve nailed it – connecting with your kin even briefly on that supernatural level knocking you so hard on your butt you finally realize how lucky you are even if you have to drink five Diet Dr Peppers the next morning just to make it out of bed.

I hear his whisper echo in my head all through that next day despite the glaring fact that he had just told me my tummy was fat while groping my chest. And I tap into that joy that lives inside and drink from it while it lasts.

And suddenly, music is beautiful, the sunrise magnificent, dinner, well…edible, and night wakings are like a shopping trip to Target where everything you want is half price.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Final Countdown

On any given day of the week I wake around 6 a.m. to either a) magpies doing the hula hoop on my roof or b) Judd dancing in mini pirouettes next to the side of my bed while rapidly breathing, “Have to go potty, Mom.” I hear myself grumble something about how some day he’ll be able to lift the lid and pull his pants down all by himself and then adding something about how after I get my shot gun I should be able to sleep until at least 7 a.m. since those magpies will be a pile of feathers. As we finish at the potty I swear I hear “The Final Countdown” playing somewhere in the background. I dash to the kitchen where I Foreman grill some heart stopping sausage. I hear a certain Whiffen child say, “Eew, this smells funny.” I remind them how lucky they are that I'm even offering this part of the pig to eat. Some kids in third world countries have to eat the ears and intestines, hooves, and probably even eyeballs, and that cute curly tail. In fact, that hot dog you ate the other day for lunch…

I shuffle them into the car reminding them that they may want to change out of their “I know someone from Malad, Idaho” t-shirts they wore to bed that night and they absolutely have to wear socks with their shoes because I almost spilled all of my stomach contents on the floor the other day when I walked into a certain Whiffen child’s room and smelled a stench only Bigfoot can replicate.

I speed to the school - the boys slamming into each other on every curve. This time I hear the clock from “60 Minutes” ticking in my head. I screech back into the garage, grab Judd and plunk him on the couch trying to find the latest tivo’d Sponge Bob. I grab a book from my virgin book stack, set the timer on my watch, and head downstairs to the treadmill. I get halfway down the stairs when I hear Judd scream, “Have to go potty!” I jog back up the stairs, help him go potty, jog back down the stairs. I’m ten minutes into my work out when I hear Judd scream, “I need a drink of juice!” I jog back up the stairs and grab him some juice. Jog back down. Fifteen minutes later I hear, "I need my blanket!" I jog up to his room grab his blanket and throw it on his head while I jog in place. He jogs in place while watching me. We jog together for two minutes until the timer beeps. We high five, and I head to the shower. Ten minutes until preschool. I skip the conditioner and tell myself I can shave tomorrow.

As soon as I drop Judd off at preschool, I peel out of the driveway. Two hours. Go. My tires squeal slightly, but the other moms rubberneck as they watch my perfect start to the Indy 500.
I squeeze in two phone calls on the way to Target and nail a top-notch spot right next to the handicapped in front. I jog through the front automatic doors, almost plowing into them because they don’t open fast enough. I think I hear my phone ring, but it’s muffled. I dig around in my purse until I finally find it, and as I yank it out, a tampon torpedoes through the air and skids down the aisle passed two ladies, an elderly man, and a family of four. Horrified, and still running, I snatch it up and continue to jog until I’m in the automotive section. I put on my big sunglasses and wander the store suspiciously eyeing any witnesses.

I compare it to several other moments that might have made me uncomfortable. Like when one of our young innocent sons rode to school with the neighbors one morning. The mother asked him how we were all doing. “Oh, fine.” He replies. "Except for the poop problems we’ve been having. You know...” as he continued to explain in great detail. Then I would compare that to the time a different set of neighbors came by with a piece of opened, doodled-on mail. Sheepishly, she said, “I’ve been meaning to drop this by sooner.” I take out the letter from our physician decorated with smiley faces compliments of their four-year old and it reads, “Your next specimen is due in our office by 10 a.m. October 12, 2007”. It was January 2008. Then there was the time when I was on a date in college, and I accidentally kicked the guy in the nuts with a soccer ball. He couldn’t breathe right for a few minutes, and he finally had to go home early complaining of a stomach ache or something. Then there was the time I accidentally made my blogger profile public (complete with drug of choice and love my husband to pieces) on the front page of my autism council blog for doctors and legislators to see at first glance. That was just last week. Or, like when Judd yelled in the grocery store a few weeks ago, “Hey Mom, is that a crazy grandma?” as he pointed to a lady next to us who was probably only 45, but looked hammered.

As I screech to a stop in front of Miss Cindy's house the timer is still loudly ticking in my head with two minutes left. And it occurs to me that after having three boys, nothing is really that embarrassing anymore, is it?

Monday, September 15, 2008


I can blame it on the dog we don’t have, or my agitating ability to jump from one to ten thoughts within a ten second period forgetting all about the former nine thoughts and finally hyper-focusing on the third thought. But ultimately, the finger points at me (not the middle, just the index). Evidence of my piles are scattered about the house. It never used to be this way. Before my apparent reincarnation, I was described as a tight “a”, cleany meany, spic and spanner, white glove czar, and donkey. So why, when stumbling and knocking over my chest high pile of books I still haven't read yet, would my sweet Edward Sean, compare me to the “hoarder” -- you know that sick, oh-so-sick woman featured on Oprah a few months ago because her house was so packed with so much stuff, they found rat poop, mold, and rotten food hidden under piles of crapola. I reminded Edward Sean it is just a stack of 20 or so "virgin" books, and it has many important household purposes, like a launch pad for leaping into bed after a long day, bookmark organizers, and a quick way to act busy when the boys ask me the same question four times. Besides, I’m at least 10 pages into all of them. Just give me six more months on the treadmill, and it will dwindle, I promise. "Virgin books?" he says. "Let's read them together..."

I’m certain I’ve passed this crazy obsession onto my beloved offspring. Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants can be found lying in the hallway, on top of the washing machine, under the couch next to the hard piece of hotdog from dinner four nights ago, and my favorite -- on the top of the toilets (which by the way I consider dangerous since I read that horrifying news story about the woman’s hiney getting fused to the toilet seat. Folks, when using the toilet, read in moderation).

My little one has not been spared from this sickness. Bobby Banjo came to me the other day and said, “I want Diarrhea of a Wimpy Kid, Mom. Wead it pwease.”

Hey Jeff Kinney, if you’re reading, and don’t be shy please comment, my boys giggle when saying your name. You are a rock star with purple hair in this house. It is not uncommon for Drew and Clay to burst into fits of laughter multiple times, their heads bouncing behind the artwork on both covers. Two weeks ago Clay got in trouble for the very first time ever at school because he organized a rowdy game of “cheese touch,” a scene taken from DOAWK. We cheered him on for getting his first warning, ruffled his hair and said, “Atta boy.”

I want to know what books you have in your pile, even if there are rat droppings attached.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bobby Banjo strikes a chord

Some events are meant for celebrating with the whole world…women’s suffrage, the day Henry David Thoreau was born, the unveiling of the iPhone, religious freedom, Paul Potts's inspirational American Idol opera debut, the day the tooth fairy finally remembered to take the Whiffen child's tooth and leave a crisp $1 bill…and the day a certain someone who is three years old, and who also likes to be called Bobby Banjo, POOPS IN THE POTTY FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME!

I interviewed Bobby Banjo afterward and this is what he had to say about it. “It’s easy to poop in the potty, Mom. See you just push it out and make a snake one.”

Popping the cork on the Martinelli’s and off for a game of mom sucking up Judd with the vacuum hose until he’s laughing so hard he has to go potty again.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


I see the red and blue lights flashing in the rear view mirror on top of the hot, deep blue mustang. I’m sure it’s for the guy in front of me, so I gladly pull over to the shoulder of the road. Angst rushes through me when instead of whizzing by the lights pull over behind me! The officer steps out of his car and yanks his pants up. With his thumbs hooked in his belt loops and as if he just dismounted a large horse, he struts steadily up to my window, peers over his mirrored sunglasses and asks in an unusually deep voice for “the usual.” I frantically search through the glove box tossing old receipts, an ibuprofen bottle, a plastic ninja guy, and an emergency throw up bag to the side only to find it empty. “Sorry officer. Can you look it up? Oh, and do you think I could just, you know…” I start to plead my case for a warning when he cuts me off.

“Stay in the car,” he bellows, as if I’m some hardened criminal. He swaggers back to his squad car. He shows up a few minutes later, just enough time to for me to waive at all the neighbors honking as they pass. He scrawls all over his notepad then rips the paper off the pad with way too much gusto and hands me the ticket. “But," he points out, “see here I wrote you were only going 5 over the speed limit instead of 12 over,” he say as if he’s vying for employee of the month. His crooked teeth peer through his bristly mustache.

“But officer, I really was just following the car in front of me, you know, going the flow. Gosh. I was seriously hoping to just get a warning!" I force a slight shake in my squeaky voice and put my hand over my mouth.

No answer.

Judd yells in the back, “My freakin’ bum hurts, jeez mom let’s go”. The officer pulls down his sunglasses and eyes the backseat.

“Yeah he’s buckled,” I say, feeling rather pissed off. “But my oldest in the way back, he’s been mouthing off a lot today, can you give him a good talking to?”

He stares at me. Then walks away.

I mumble something about a donkey’s butt.

“Mom, you’re a donkey.” I hear Judd say.

I open my mouth to say, yeah, well you’re Aunt Betty. But “shiz” comes out instead.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Weekend Warriors

It’s Friday afternoon. Date night is two hours away, and I’m doing the Mambo #5 with the broom all around the kitchen. Drew and Clay pick up on my euphoric mood taking advantage of me in every way.

“Mom, can I skip doing my homework for the next week?” Drew says.
“Sure honey. I think that’s a good idea.”
“Mom, can I have that Michael Jordan rookie card I’ve been wanting?” Clay adds.
“How much?”
“$500 or something like that.”
“Well, ok. But just this once.”
Judd quicky says, “Mama, I want a twiple scoop of ice cweam wif a mawshmawow on top.”
“Coming right up. Do you want chocolate syrup drizzled over it?” I ask.

Suddenly, everyone is happy and we’re all doing the Mambo #5.

I skip lunch so that I’ll be famished when Sean and I arrive at our favorite local eatery in Park City – The Loco Lizard. After washing down two chipotle chicken mushroom cheese covered enchiladas with two Diet Dr. Peppers, I unbutton the top button on my jeans and heave my Mexican food stuffed self up and out of the booth. Sean and I do a giddy, watered down version of the electric slide to the car as we kick-off our night of kidless fun.

Our first stop – Gap outlet. I spot this and say, "Hmm, this isn’t bad."

Sean spots this and says, “Hmm this isn’t bad.”

We both spot this and say, "Hmm this is wow." Since neither of us have ever seen a grown up onsie, or is it a full body g-string?

Next stop – Zipline at Park City Mountain

I’m flying down the mountain at speeds that I’m certain changes the way my face looks. My nose squishes to the side; my eyeballs become closer to my ears; and my lips are flapping wildly with the wind. I’m fine with the new arrangement since maybe now I can cancel my upcoming cosmetic surgery. I let my limbs catch the air and tip my head back to enjoy the feeling that I’m flying when suddenly the thought occurs to me – I could have a serious head on collision with a bird at any time. And it would probably be one of those freakin’ magpies that have been square dancing on my roof! I jerk my head upright and grasp the cables a little tighter as I envision what might happen. The bird might fly right into head knocking me unconscious and spraying unmentionables all over me. The bird’s beak might stick into my forehead, and it might flap its wings uncontrollably trying to get free. Then I realize a bird probably won’t fly into me. It’s dark and birds usually aren’t out at night. But bats are. BATS!

Suddenly I come to a disturbing stop and fly forward in my seat. My hair is now completely covering my eyes and face. "Shiz," I say to the guy with the orange spiked mohawk operating the zipline. "I about lost my head."

Sean slides to a comfortable stop next to me. I brush my hair out of my eyes and unbuckle my seatbelt. I look over at Sean and say, “Hah. Beatcha.”

He chases me down the rest of mountain, but I don’t get very far because I think a piece of enchilada gets lodged in my ribs. I hop on Sean's back and we wrap up the night of crazy fun by doing the two-step the rest of the way to the car.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Intestines twisting into knots

There are few things in life that make me laugh so hard that I forget that I recently saw a new ding in the side of the car door, or that Judd still isn’t pooping on the potty, or that I’ve spent too much money at Target this week. But this is something special.

So sit back, plug in your headphones (so the boss doesn’t come running, or so your kids don't inadvertently hear) and get ready to shoot that diet coke you’re drinking right out your nose.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Da Vinci? You decide...

Clay drew a picture of me in church yesterday. After about 30 minutes of him staring at my face, sketching, staring at my face, and sketching, he handed me this.

I took the paper from from him and turned it to one side, then the other. Still not right. I rotated it once more. Got it. I turned to the side, gasped, then showered his glowing face with unadulterated praise.

That night I dreamt that I was a giraffe.

This morning I called a cosmetic surgeon in Salt Lake for nostril reduction and botox in my lips. And I pinky swore with myself to wear cucumbers over my eyes for the rest of my homely life.

Next week, I’ll ask him to draw Sean.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Part 2 Dead or Alive

It’s 6 a.m. and I’m woken by scratching of magpie claws on the roof above my irritated head. My eyes pop open when I suddenly realize I’m the only adult in the house. I storm into the garage intent on protecting our family and grab the BB gun from the top rack of the pegboard. I safely hold it pointed upward and make my way to the back yard in my robe and flip flops. I sneakily peek around the corner of the house, and when I see the swarm of black and white feathers dancing on top of the roof leaving annoying white droppings with every step to the hokey pokey, I raise the barrel and spray BB’s in every direction sending the magpies into a fluttering frenzy.

“Try to wake me up tomorrow,” I say in a raspy voice under my breath, eyeing the small, yet potent, shiny barrel. I walk back into the house feeling like a bit of a feminist, or maybe just an industrial-strength woman.
Determined not to let a flock of mangy, skunk-colored birds ruin the Whiffen family week of fun, I make the kids do their daily jobs, throw several towels in the trunk, then take them to the grocery store where we buy three big blocks of ice. We drive to a park with the biggest hill in Utah County. Judd starts quoting Kung Fu Panda lines in the car. I hear him say, “What are you going to do, big guy, sit on me?” I repeat it and we laugh. He starts to call me “Dad” and then he asks jokingly, “Are you Mom or Dad?”

I say, “Who do you think, silly?” 
He says, “Dad”.
I turn to look at him. “Then you’re Aunt Betty.”
“Well, then I think you’re stupid,” he replies.
My self esteem tanks as I remember earlier that day an email I got with the subject line that read, “Leeann you’re a moron.” Lucky it was a spammer.

As we arrive at the park, we carefully place our towels over the shiny, cold sleds and buzz our way down the hill. One bloody elbow, some torn ankle ligaments, and grass stains so deep not even the oxy-est of oxy cleaners seem threatening later, I decide to turn in my frosted bottom cheeks for a seat on the bench at the top of the hill.

As I watch the boys crash into each other, shards of ice flying in every direction, I overhear Judd say “Clay you’re my best friend, and Mom’s my best friend too.” For a minute I forgive him for not pooping in the potty, and for calling me stupid, because at least on this day, at this time, on the steepest sledding hill in Utah County, I’m my three year-old’s best friend.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Part 1 Three men and a lady…

As Sean “does his business” in Singapore for a week, I take my job as man of the house very seriously. I decide not to shave my legs, and I’m not getting near my armpits for quite some time. My bras are sitting in a pile at the bottom of the bed, and it’s a lucky day if I make it in the shower before 5 p.m. Bon Jovi “Dead or Alive” plays on the iPod in the background. I gather the boys around me in our usual football huddle and whisper, “This is going to be the greatest week ever in the history of Whiffen family fun.”

“What? Mom? I can’t understand you, can you talk louder?” Drew says, instantly ruining the inspirational moment. “But Dad’s gone.” says Clay.

Suddenly my resolve grows stronger.

I rush the boys into the car for swim lessons yelling orders for towels, snacks, and “don’t forget your Crocs.” I worry that they’ll sink mid-swim because they didn’t eat the scrambled eggs I made them for breakfast. Clay swore he saw the fly that landed on the yellow mound throw up before flying away. Drew and Judd left the table shortly after.

Over the course of the 30-minute swim lesson, Judd has to go potty (just number one) twice. Since I have to take him into the women’s dressing room, I cover his eyes to avoid seeing any naked parts he shouldn’t see. In those visits, we pass the familiar hairball and used band-aid. Just as we flush, I hear the whistle blow signifying the end of the lessons. The boys, wrapped tightly in their towels, baby step it to the car for our marathon day of jubilee not even The Wiggles could endure.

We head to Classic Fun Center fully equipped with water slides, a bounce house, and a jungle. Forty five minutes after entering the B.O. barn, a worthy name for a wet dog smelling, fly attracting fun box full of kids seemingly on speed, Drew yells, “Mom, Judd pooped in the ball pit!” Suddenly the place falls eerily quiet. Every parent looks in my direction, as if I have the scarlet letter painted directly on my forehead. It’s the same response we had last Sunday when we were in church and Judd yells, “What stinks! Ewww, Mom it’s your breath!” I eye Judd deep in the ball pit, three monkey swings, and a zip line away, his swim trunks sagging in the middle. I travail the American Gladiator-like course to rescue him and take him to the restroom. I duck and dodge kids and swinging objects until I finally zip-line my way across the crocodile pit landing on my monkey cheeks next to Judd. I proudly stand up wondering if I should try out to be a navy seal. Just as I bend down to grab Judd, I get whacked in the chest by a kid falling backwards. As we make our way through to the restroom, I hear a child say, “Mom, what smells like manure?” I walk a little faster. We find an empty stall so tiny, my bum presses against the door when I bend over to help Judd get his swim trunks off – my head so close to the toilet seat I see things that I hope aren’t really there. I’m grateful for the mach 2 (may be hydraulic) flushing toilet that cleaned the trunks nearly perfectly in three flushes. I’m happy to say we were “green” about the whole thing. Now, what to do about the SUV…

Alas, what does it take to train a 3-year old to go number 2 in the potty! Apparently it’s not tootsie pops, hulk hands that make growling and smashing noises, Indiana Jones action figures, a trip to Jump On It, a favorite book read-a-thon by mom who is sitting on the big potty next to the trainee on the little potty, pink, glittery jellies with a small heel, or a pleading, desperate mommy claiming she’ll give up her new 3G iPhone just to hear the coveted plop.

We praise the heavens and all the surrounding angels that our bodies weren’t made to go number 3.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Two days in the Life of a 3-year Old

I’m making tacos for dinner. I just finish grating the cheese and I put the rest of the block on the counter. I start browning the hamburger, and when I turn around I see this…

I walk into the bathroom and Judd is frothing at the mouth. I kick myself for forgetting the number for poison control. Bubbles continue spilling out as he talks. "Mom," he groans, a purple-hued bubble escapes his lips, "I ate this." He shoves the bottle of baby shampoo in my face. "I’m going to frow up. Please fix me.” He burps. Another bubble swims free.

Later that evening I tell Judd to go brush his teeth. I fully intend to help him, but I get distracted which seems to be happening a lot lately. He is gone for fifteen minutes, and when I find him, I see Drew’s eczema prescription cream out on the counter. “Eww, that’s bad Mom. Smell my bref?” What was that poison control number? I write a quick doodle on the back of my hand complete with skull and crossbones… “Add poison control to speed dial.”

The next day I find this

And this

And then I wonder, how can I get mad at this

So instead, that night before bed, we read this

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Summer -- to love, or not to love? That’s the easy question

Judd pries my eyelids open with his spindly fingers at 5:30 a.m. three and a half hours after I went to bed. “Mama, wake up!” He shouts one inch from my ear. I squeeze them shut; he digs them open. Squeeze. Open. Squeeze. Deep, agonizing groan. Back to sleep. He climbs up on the bed and jumps next to me before plunging straight in the air and cannon-balling on my midsection, making it impossible for me to suck in any air (or squeak anything out for that matter). I flop out of bed and trudge to the bathroom with my eyes squeezed shut, just to spite him. I lock the door and sit on the toilet with the side of my head pressed against the wall. I catch two minutes of zzzz’s until I hear Drew pounding on the door. “I really wish it were my birthday today. I can't wait five more days. Will you lend me the money I'm going to get in my birthday cards so I can buy some NBA basketball cards today? I promise I'll pay you back. Please? I'm so so so so bored. Maaahm?” His voice whines in my head like the F chord on Clay’s electric guitar.

I manage to let out a weak grumble. Something about how this is the 15th time he's asked me this question in the last two days.
“Mom, when are you coming out?” Drew presses.

But I don’t hear the last part because I’m busy editing where I left off at 2 a.m. earlier that morning. The following bubbles pop up in my scrambled head…

If Drew's birthday were tomorrow he'd be happy and life would be exciting..
NBA basketball cards are Drew's ticket to a blissful summer..
Did I get hit by something? Because all of a sudden my stomach really hurts…my head too….
Drew's swindling me into thinking if I buy him the cards, he'll stop bugging me for the rest of the summer…

“Mom! I know you’re in there!” Drew’s shouts are like a thousand straight pins being launched at my head. I involuntarily hop up and blast through the door. Drew jumps back three feet bracing himself against the wall. My voice is quivering now, “I…just…need…a…minute…k?”

“Sure…Mom.” Drew says. I see Judd pop out from behind the door, “Mom, are you a donkey?” he says with crooked eyebrows. Most mothers would have immediately said, “no way!” But not me, I had to think about it. Because technically, I was only 14 when my dad first called me a jackass. But don't worry Dad, I haven’t told anyone. Sometimes I feel like one, but I certainly hope I don’t look like one too.

“What?” I say, feeling my ribs, still sore from the sudden 3-year old dead-weight drop earlier. Still in the bathroom, I look in the mirror. My hair is sticking up on both sides…donkey ears.

I turn on Sponge Bob, whom I’ve recently included in my will, and sprint to the shower, knowing I’ll get 30 minutes of uninterrupted lathering, except for the kids occasional side-splitting laughter at Sandy ripping Patrick’s head off. As the warm beads of water splash off my body, I reach for my razor, but it is missing. I finish up and dry off looking around the bathroom for my razor. I spot Sean’s sexy, three-rotating head piece-of-technological-work glistening on the countertop next to the sink. I wonder…

Three hours later, I’m walking around the house with my arms in the air wondering who lit my armpits on fire. Lesson learned.
Later that afternoon, the boys, Martha Stewart and I gather three empty water bottles and make them into sailboats by wrapping them with duct tape and adding makeshift sails. We take them to the park and float them down the ditch. I watch Judd and Clay run along the ditch bank racing their boats before they’re swallowed by the iron grate. I smile and nod my head, secretly awarding myself the coveted self-imposed title, “Mother of the Week”. I haven’t even crowned myself when suddenly from the furthest edge of my eye, I see a sudden surge of water shooting in a fine stream, much like a sprinkler. I follow it to the source; my eyes come to a screeching stop at my proud, 10-year old son standing on a rock, whizzing for the world to see, like some water spurting statue. I immediately strip myself of my title, and try to say something, but nothing comes out except words like, Di…, Uh…, Wha…, Sto..., Aaagh! Drew…why?

And with that I’m back to my regular title.

Leeann W.
"Mother of the Week"
Mother of three boys – in training

Monday, May 19, 2008

Everything I need to know in life, I learned on our trip to Disneyland

Zig-zagging our way through whiplash-like LA traffic prepped us for some of the scarier rides like Space Mountain and Matterhorn. The only difference is on the rides, our fellow riders didn’t cut us off and give us the middle finger.

But it didn’t prep us for the beach. I tried not to stare at all the men in speed-o’s (something a cowgirl from Idaho isn’t usually privy to)—especially the two men in speed-o’s who were having their photo taken with a white bearded man in a multi-colored G-String. For a moment I thought we were on the wrong beach, but then he turned around to face me, and I realized that yes, in fact, we were in Southern California.

Loads of snacks and bottled water were squeezed into even the most obscure of places in the car. The water especially came in handy when Judd kept barking out that he was thirsty. I gladly obliged, congratulating myself for being so prepared. The sound from his lips suctioning off the top of the bottle after he managed to gulp down the entire 16 ounces kept him entertained until we pulled into the Disneyland parking garage. The wide parking area looked equal in size to our 1,000 acre cattle ranch in High Valley, Idaho, except instead of dense forest, there was acres of concrete. I was just about to comment on the large pond I saw in the distance on the concrete, but then I realized it was just a mirage.

I looked back and noticed Judd’s legs kicking back and forth fast enough they could paddle a small boat around Deer Valley Reservoir. “Have to go potty,” he managed to squeeze out in between agonizing groans. His whines quickly morphed into panicked squeals, and I knew we had to do something right away because we were at least one trolley ride and a 100-person line away from the nearest restroom. As I eyed the empty Slim-Jim can I debated. Should we? Is it legal? What if someone sees his naked bum out the window? What kind of mother would take a child out of their car seat with the car in motion? Judd’s screaming in my ear drowned out any other logical question and instead declared exactly what I needed to do. I stood in the backseat carefully holding the empty Slim Jim can in position. Judd looked at me with raised eyebrows. I looked at him and winked. “Go for it.” I started to panic as it looked as if we may need another can. I looked at him, then at the can, then at him again, then at the bottle of water he had sucked dry. Just as I was about to say, “wow,” my face slammed into the back of the headrest. “Sorry,” I hear Sean say. “But I really think this spot is closer.”

After spraying each child with enough sunscreen to burn a hole in the ozone directly above us, we march our way into the place that guarantees our dreams will come true. In one hand, Judd’s tiny fingers, in the other, the Slim Jim can, held six inches from my body. I was positive that everyone around us knew what that Slim Jim can held, their sunglasses really x-ray vision lenses.

As we walked through the pearly gates of fun, we were met on one side by a band with an exuberant tuba player (I still can’t hear middle C in that ear) belting out tunes that made me want to dance like no one could see me. On my other side I discretely watched a lady yell at her 7-year old son, “Are ya gonna cry? Huh? Are ya? Are ya gonna cry?” I wanted to say, “Look lady, it’s Disneyland.” But she wouldn’t have been able to hear me above the band. Besides, I’ve reached that point many times in my motherhood career.

As we muscled our way through the crowd to Space Mountain, a large, curly headed man in front of me sneezes. One second later I feel a mist of wet droplets cling to my face and nearly hyperventilate until I spot a string of misters above my head. A close one for this germ-a-phobe.

We screamed all the way down Space Mountain and for a moment I questioned if I was really seeing stars, or if my head just got jerked in a weird direction and I was “really seeing stars.” As we reached the bottom of the ride and slammed to a stop, Clay and I tripped over each other trying to get out fast enough that we could get in line for another try.

Clay and I shared an interest in the “head jerking, give-me-whatcha-got” rides. And since Sean felt sorry for me that I had never been to Disneyland, he agreed to take Judd and Drew (phobia of heights) on the more delicate rides. Let’s just say, Clay and I danced with death itself. Or at least that’s what Clay thought. Images of Clay and I jerking our way down Thunder Mountain Railroad are indelibly etched into my memories. I looked to my side grinning as I watched him throw his head back. His eyes closed and his mouth wide open in euphoria. The wind ripped through his short, almost white hair as his extended arms flailed in the air above his head. His giggles and shouts of “this is SO awesome!” tickled my emotional funny bone as no longer am I his mom, 24 years his elder, but his partner in daring fun.

At the end of the day, I reflected on our time together. I laughed out loud at the funnies and teared up at the tenders. It was one of the most healing times we’ve ever experienced as a family. Pure fun together. As we walked arm-in-arm back to the car, Judd chased Sean’s shadow, jumping on it as if he were trying to stop it somehow, giggling and squealing after every jump. Laughter that would surely please Walt Disney himself.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Big Princess

I’ve decided that being the only girl in the family isn’t so bad most of the time—like when I told Clay the other night while tucking him into bed that he’s my star. “Mom, you’re my angel,” he replies with a grin magical enough to instantly transform me into the celestial being. I guess it was redemption for the insulting comment he made earlier that day when he boldly stated, “Girls brains are made from toothpicks and their heads are made out of rocks!” Drew quickly agreed then added his thoughts, “Yeah, they’re just so dumb.” I rolled my eyes and said, “Oh, yeah? Well boys are just smelly, and they make gross noises.” They looked at me blankly with their heads cocked to one side. Then one of them belched.

Once in awhile we insult the grandparents, like when we were in Malad a few weeks ago and he asked Mom and Dad “So what do you do when we're not here? Do you just sit around doing nothing?” He redeems himself once again as we’re driving off and he longingly looks out the window at Grandma and Grandpa waiving on the front porch. With his nose pressed to the window, he sighs and in a low whisper says, “I wish we didn’t have to go. I’m really going to miss them.”

I have to admit, there was one day in March I had toothpicks for brains, and most likely a large boulder for a head. It all started one snowy morning after a long night with Judd throwing up every two hours. I forced myself to get up and make breakfast for the boys before school. As I flipped the pancake, I felt something ping me in the back of the head. I turned to see Judd hurling his apple slices at me, one by one until none were left on his plate. I glanced at the calendar on the fridge to see what other damage might come that day, and noticed Sean had written that he was going to be out-of-town the entire next week. This was fine until I noticed he would be gone the day I was in charge of a big meeting that required significant time and preparation. I looked at the apple Judd had thrown at me on the floor next to the counter. Anger burned up my neck and into my toothpick brains, catching them on fire. I cocked my leg back and swung as hard as I could, imagining I was aiming for the corner of the goal in a soccer penalty kick. Apparently it has been over a decade since I’ve played organized soccer as I completely missed and kicked the leg of the island. I immediately heard a pop followed by searing pain through my foot. (I’m sure it was nothing compared to the lightning that exited Blake’s butt). I mumbled something and hopped to my room on one leg.

According to the x-ray, I chipped off a piece of the bone that was still partially connected to the tendon next to the first joint in my right big toe, so I had to have surgery. The podiatrist took out the bone fragment and sewed up the damaged tendon. During the two weeks I had to wear the nursing home resident boot with three wide Velcro straps, my healing toe was only stepped on twice and stubbed three times.

In an effort to sharpen my toothpicks, I enrolled in a couple of courses at the university to hopefully finish up my Bachelor Degree within the next few years.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ode to Potty Training

Potty training. Groan. Whine. Gnashing of the teeth. It stirs even the most deeply buried of animalistic emotions. Somehow your mind optimistically tricks you into thinking it might be different this time--he might only have one accident before completing the potty training course perfectly. The pee-soaked stains emerging from ten different spots in the carpet quickly fade from your memory.

Judd did quite well for the first seven days or so averaging only one or two slippages the entire time. Then, the dam broke, and we have been reaching our hands upward, mouthing the word “why”, in desperation ever since. One accident in particular was a large, camouflage puddle on the wood floor (its size would embarrass Lake Powell) sneakily hidden next to the side of the fireplace. Drew, an innocent bystander apparently unaware of the potty course Judd was taking, careened left, then right, then skidded out of his hydroplane landing softly on the rug, both hands out like an airplane.

Then there’s the supposed magic potty seat, aka donut, covered in Sesame Street characters. It is a vain attempt to somehow coerce the child in training to crave going potty so they can sit on the beloved Elmo. One cold, miserable day, I finally got Judd situated perfectly on the cushy seat. I turned my head in distraction only to feel a fine, wet spray, shrapnel from an errant missile, graze my face and the side of the wall. We can drop to our knees, we can scream, we can shake our fists. Or, we can trick ourselves into thinking some day we might miss these days of intense frustration and infinite elation.

Drew has let only one swear word slip from his tight lips this entire school year, and we believe it is due to his phenomenal teacher, Mr. Moser. So we nominated him for the KSL Teacher Feature Award, and he won! (for a look at the entire letter and the real reason we nominated him, please go here http://www.ksl.com/?nid=428&sid=2495929). So KSL's very own Amanda Dixon and an "Extremely Important Person" from Zion's Bank came to Legacy Elementary and presented Mr. Moser with the prestigious award at a large assembly. The kids hopped to their feet and proudly gave him a standing ovation. Drew wasn't sure about all the hullabaloo, but seemed to survive with a hearty grin that never left his face.

Kristine and I went snowshoeing up American Fork canyon with views so beautiful it would make any super model look ugly, except for maybe Ben Stiller’s “Blue Steel” in Zoolander. Despite talking about avalanches the entire time, how terrible it would be to be buried alive and discussing in scientific detail what it might be like to die in such a way, we made it out refreshed and vowing to do it again before spring.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Seasons Greetings Delayed

We escaped the holidays unscathed—save the broken vase over Thanksgiving and the holes burned into the backsides of our snow pants from skidding down the sledding hill after flying off our saucers. I haven’t felt the thrill of barreling down a hill that fast since I was probably five, six, or seven, and I’m turning red at having to admit I was trembling in my skivvies at the top looking down.

Judd careened down the hill in his green mini toboggan faster than any almost three-year old should probably go, his head bouncing so hard his teeth chattered all the way to the bottom. His red cheeks glowed through the icy snow that stuck to his face as his lips parted into a smile so big it rivaled the moon behind us. I looked up to see Drew, almost in orbit, slam into a young woman who was obliviously standing in the sled path, knocking her off her feet. I was sure she was unconscious since she didn’t get up for what seemed like a really long time. I lean over and mumbled something like this to Sean, “Helmets might be good next time,” wincing as I witnessed near collisions all around me at speeds of 30+ miles per hour. Ahh, though, the sound of plastic slicing through the snow is a good one. Unless, that is, when the plastic happens to be your front bumper…

I was in a big time hurry, and I couldn’t find a parking space. Finally spotting what looked like a winner I wasted no time. I whipped into it going a little too fast and slammed into the snow bank in front of me forcing the car in an upward position. I attempted to back up, self-conscious now strangers were gawking as the engine revved to over 5 RPM’s. Yet the car still wouldn’t budge. Images of the car stuck on the mound of snow with all tires spinning freely in the air sent taser-like currents swimming through my limbs. Then I looked down at the dashboard and realized I was in neutral. I smiled while nodding at the onlookers, then gently slid it into reverse.

On a more serious note, I enjoyed catching up with family on Grandma’s funeral and took comfort knowing that she’s with Grandpa. Brian and Blake get the “Good Guys” award for traveling so far in one day and being there even though it was at a great sacrifice. Mom gets the “I Can Stay Stoic” award for putting up with so much sh** which seems to pile up in suffocating amounts. Kristine and Julie, I don’t know what awards you get. I don’t have enough for everyone.