Sunday, September 28, 2008

Lying Son of a Map

There is a fallacy in the recreational world that a forest service map will always bear some slight resemblance to the area in which you are located. Sooner or later the unsuspecting recreator discovers this truth: Maybe the roads drawn on the map are there. Maybe they aren’t. Friday we ran into the “maybe they aren’t” map.
Wilbur, Jose', and I four-wheeled back into them thar hills. Jose and Wilbur were in search of elk. I was in search of fun. Getting home for dinner in a timely manner was a top priority because Sophia was cooking steak. Around 4:00 we decided we would take roads, shown clearly on the map, which emptied into the main road instead of back tracking. This route was quicker than back tracking. So we went in search of the connecting back roads. Road number one led to a water trough and became a dead end. Another led to a deep draw and became a dead end. The third led to another deep draw and, you guessed it, another dead end. One of the roads actually did lead to some elk and Jose' and Wilbur got out their bows for a few minutes. And then the road vanished into yet another dead end. So we followed the only road left. Surely this must lead us to the main road!

The last road did indeed lead us to a main road. Unfortunately the road was four miles south of Whitehall about 30 miles away from where we were camped.
Truth number two: four-wheelers are a horrible ride on pavement. We had to ride ten miles on pavement before we came to the main dirt road that would lead us to steak, I mean to camp. All the way back, we searched the main road for the legendary roads that connected to it from the hills. Legendary is the correct adjective. There was not one main-road to back-road connection.

Shortly after 7:00 p.m. we pulled into our camp. Luckily, Sophia is used to Jose’s meanderings and did not boycott cooking for a bunch of lost souls that can’t get to dinner at a reasonable time. The moral of this story is: Watch out for people and documents of questionable veracity. You might run into a lying son of a map.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

On Parenting

Someone was asking me some questions about how I did things as a parent. The questions started me thinking about raising children. So, not having any other bright ideas, I decided to post a few things that I believe and a few things that worked for me. The risk with this post is being viewed as a total hypocrite. I did not always behave like I thought a good parent should. I didn’t even approach perfect. I still mess up with my adult kids. My kids did not and do not always think I’m the cat’s meow. If I had a buck for every mistake I made, I would be fabulously wealthy and wouldn’t be worried about my retirement now. Still, here’s what I tried to do, what I believe, and what I learned:

1) Love covers a multitude of sins. If you love your kids, you are their champion and cheerleader, you have their best interests at heart, they will forgive a lot of your mistakes. It really is true that they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

2) You don’t have to be right all the time. When you are wrong, promptly admit it. You will be wrong a lot. Once when I was in the ER when Eglantine dropped a forty pound weight on her toe, the ER doctor said, “You seem to have such a good relationship with your daughter. I had a terrible relationship with my parents. How do you have such a good relationship?” Caught off guard, I didn’t know what to say. I wish I could get a hold of that guy now and say, “Practice these sentences: I am sorry. I have made a mistake. I was wrong. Please forgive me. I will try to do better in the future.” Admit your errors and try to do better. Even small kids can understand that you are not all knowing, all powerful, and all perfect. They also learn how to correct their mistakes by watching you correct yours. They will have a lot more respect for you if you admit it when you are wrong.

3) Forgive them when they mess up. I remember giving Prudence a tongue lashing when she about six years old and messed up. Her mistake was so supremely important I can’t even remember what she did. She turned to me and said, “Can’t a person even make a mistake around here?” Earth to Prairie Smoke: people make mistakes. Six year olds goof up. Two year olds good up. Sixteen year olds goof up. Sixty year olds goof up. When people goof up that doesn’t mean you can never trust them again. That doesn’t mean they are basically flawed. That doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a parent. People make mistakes. It’s part of the plan.

4) Don’t take any more power than you absolutely have to have. Give your children as much use of their agency as you can. Obviously you can’t let your two year old drink the Drano he found in the utility closet. You can’t let your five your old ride her bike on I-15. You have to overrule their agency in a big way sometimes. But letting you six year old be Dracula for Halloween instead of insisting on the Fairy Princess costume you like - why not let her exercise her choice? So maybe your two year old appears at the church social wearing the hoop earrings she found in the play jewelry and ballet slippers. You might feel a little sheepish. But really, what is it going to hurt? You’ll survive. Just tell everyone who looks at her strangely that the earrings and ballet shoes prove she has a future in fashion design. And remember to take a picture.

5) Let them suffer appropriate consequences. You refuse to wear your coat when you go outside. You get cold. Mistake – consequence. You ride your bike in the street after being told you must not ride it there. You lose bicycle privileges for a day. Mistake – consequence. The consequence should be logical to the mistake. You stick your tongue out at your sister. You lose bicycle privileges. So where’s the connection? Kids should always be given one warning, so if you have to punish them, they saw it coming. Never blind side them with something they had no idea would happen if they did or didn’t do something. Your kids will not respect you if you are not fair. They will just think you’re an ornery turd. And, yes, kids do have logic, and they learn logic from you.

6) Give up on being a “look good” kind of family. There was a family in our ward that I admired greatly when I first married. They seemed picture perfect. Mom and Dad were slim and attractive. Dad made a wonderful living as an executive with a prestigious company. The children were very attractive and did well in school. The Dad and Mom had leadership callings at church. Everyone held them up as a model family. While some of the children were outstanding, I later discovered some of the children had serious problems with life threatening addictions. Don't let others elect your family to be a "model" family. Laugh and tell them about some of the crazy things that happen on a typical day at your house. Share some of your struggles. Don't let yourself become so preoccupied with your family's image that you spend all your time and energy maintaining a facade. It’s more important that you are trying to BE good rather than LOOK good. “Try” is the key word here. Being human, you’re not going to be good all the time. Admit it. Don’t even try to look perfect. And know that you are not going to always BE perfect either. Don’t even care what the rest of the ward thinks of your family. Have the courage to be your imperfect self, and own that you are imperfect. Everybody looks good at church. Your children will love and respect your for trying to BE good. Kids will not admire you for trying only to LOOK good. No one like the self righteous. Kids really hate phonies. Christ doesn’t like them much either. Remember the Pharisees?

7) Laugh and have fun. You will be planning wedding receptions before you know it. Take time to enjoy your kids. I wish I had put aside housework more and just enjoyed my kids more. Laugh at the funny things they do. Tell them how weird they were when they were two. Every household disaster has a humorous side. Find it. Keep a journal and read it back to them sometimes. Laugh and tell stories at dinner. Laugh at yourself as you try new things and find out you really stink at doing them. Everything worth doing is NOT worth doing well. Have popcorn when you listen to Mozart. Have traditions. Go fishing. Go skating. Watch movies together. You’re children will never be this age again.

8) Don’t make a checklist. Some people have a “good parent” checklist. Your child must get their primary award, Eagle Scout or YW award, go on a mission, and get married in the temple. All of these checked off? Congratulations, you are a good parent. Some pretty horrendous parents have kids that meet that checklist. Some wonderful parents have kids that don’t do all those things. There are returned missionaries I would never want my son or daughter to marry. There are Eagle Scouts that I thank heaven every day I didn’t marry. Don’t make your kids think that your self worth hinges on whether or not they get a dumb award. They should decide what awards they want and work for them. How much does an award really mean if they only earn it so that you will let them get their driver’s license?

9) Teach them. Many people take their kids to church. Many people teach their kids the basic commandments. But what do those commandments mean to you? What experiences have you had with being dishonest? What consequences did you suffer? How much did it hurt? Tell them why you value working with honest people. Tell them about the dishonest people you’ve dealt with and what you thought of them when you discovered the dishonesty. Tell them of the person who had a baby out of wedlock. Tell them how awful it was for the mother, and especially the baby. Talk about chastity. Talk about selfishness. Talk and do. Turn off the TV when it’s vulgar. Read only the best books. Try to do what you believe. But don't be a fanatic.

10) Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill. A clean room would be lovely, but what is more important a clean room or a decent relationship with your teenager? There are very few things that are important enough to blow up into a big issue.

11) If you say it, mean it. There is some behavior that is not tolerated. I could never stand fighting. ( “If you can’t be happy playing, maybe you’ll be happy working. Grab a scrub brush. There are walls that need washing.”) We couldn’t tolerate children saying and doing mean things to each other, and we meant that in a big way. If the kids wrote on the walls, they plannned on spending quality time with an abrasive and a scrub brush while they repaired the damage. Everyone sat down for dinner. If they said they weren't hungry, they still sit down and kept us company while we ate. Bed time was 9:00 p.m. Children went to bed at bedtime. Period. Of course, there was some latitude. For instance, kids could stay up on Friday and finish watching a movie. If grandma dropped by to return something she borrowed at 8:45, they got to say hello to her. Try to avoid power struggles if you can. You can never win a power struggle that involves potty training, eating, and those types of things. But you can often avoid an eating power struggle by not letting a kid fill up on junk just before dinner. Sometimes I’d ask my kids what they wanted to eat for dinner before I went grocery shopping. We’d have some of those meals. Sometimes a kid will force you into a power struggle about something important like riding his tricycle in the street. Then, you make sure you win that power struggle.

12) Do your best and turn the rest over to the care of God. Relax. Pray. Have faith. God hasn’t let you down so far. You can trust Him.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Romance at York

John Byrd (Jr.) and Ina Kincaid

Nellie Byrd

The following is an account of your great uncle, John Byrd Jr. and his wife Ina Kincaid. Ina's family was of Scottish descent and from Maine. John's father, also named John, fought for the south in the civil war . The Byrds originally came from Virginia. John's father came to Missouri as a boy. The following was written by one of Ina and John's daughters, Nellie Byrd.
"Mother, Ina Louise, was 13 when they [her family] moved there and she and Uncle Ernest went to school in York.

The main entertainment for the young people was dancing, taffy pull, horse back riding, sleigh rides in the winter. Mother was a very attractive girl - 5'7," dark complexion, large brown eyes, bright brown hair - very vivacious, full of energy and she took part in all the fun, but was not dating, although some of the boys would bring her home from dances. Daddy (John Byrd) became very interested in her and although he was somewhat older, began taking her home and claiming most of her dances. Grandfather Kincaid heard about it and said no more. So they met secretly and planned to run away and get married, which they did. Ina asked her parents if she could go by stage to visit Aunt Cora and they let her. John went into Helena by horseback earlier and met her there. They were married May 14, 1889 in Helena and then went to Toston to Aunt Cora's for their honeymoon.

Grandfather's main objection to John Byrd was that they were from the South and, of course, he was a Northerner, and the Civil war hadn't been over long enough for them to forgive and forget. Grandfather Kincaid did not speak to my mother for seven years after she married Dad - but later Daddy became his favorite son-in-law."
Comment: Some things don't change. Probably John was much more attractive to Ina after her father forbade her to see him. Whew. I bet Aunt Cora was in big trouble with the family too.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Nouns and Verbs

The ancient people who created the English language must have had a working knowledge of dogs. As I sit down to write my blog, my lab, who hasn’t had his walk today, keeps bumping my arm and whining. I am being HOUNDED. If tomorrow is a typical day, I will take the dog for a walk first thing. Then, he will want to come inside and follow me, right on my heels, as I go from room to room cleaning. If I go in the bathroom, he will be waiting immediately outside the door. My footsteps will be DOGGED until I get fed up with him and send him out.

(Max picking carrots for himself in the garden. I guess he is getting ready for the millenium???)

Anyone who has ever seen horses romping with each other on a fine spring day will understand why no HORSEPLAY is allowed at the swimming pool. And a person who has heard a donkey braying may see a marked resemblance to the church speaker who is a little full of himself. I would venture to guess that this genre of speakers was where the ancient linguists first noticed similarities between human and donkey behavior. While my sense of delicacy restrains me from mentioning the three letter word for a donkey, I regret to say that I myself have applied that noun to various and sundry acquaintances.

There is one animal name that is completely off-base. That is “deer.” Deer are definitely NOT “dear.” They leave memorabilia of their presence all over my lawn. In the spring they wiped out half of my corn crop. I diligently cultivated, weeded, and watered the remainder in the hopes that we might get a few ears of corn. It looked like we might until Friday. Thursday night one or more of the reprobates came into the corn patch and sauntered down each row taking a bite or two out of every ear. Nope. Deer are NOT “dear.”

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Last night I went out with Wilbur and shot my bow at a target. He purchased this bow for me in the early 1990's, but I rarely got to shoot it. He would come home from work and target shoot. Unfortunately, after running kids to school, home from school, to piano lessons, to basketball, volleyball, to track, to tennis, to drama practice, to ...... you name it, the unreasonable dwebes always wanted to eat dinner. So target shooting was put on the back burner for the last fifteen years.

Once he mentioned selling my bow. I was put out. I WANTED to practice, but my unreasonable family wanted clean clothes and regular meals. The big babies. Besides, who knows what would have happened had I become truly proficient with a bow. Would Child Protective Services frown on shooting a teenager in the rear end who ignores the directive to clean his/her room week after week after week? Clearly, waiting until my teenagers were grown promoted the entire family's health, well being, and clean court record.

At any rate, I never thought I'd have white hair by the time I got back to shooting with it. Now that I have white hair and the time to do lots of the things I want to do, I look WAY too old to be doing them. Well, either Miss Clairol and I will have to become intimately acquainted or Society will have to get used to a white haired lady:

practicing shooting her bow
riding her mountain bike from Cottonwood Lake to Blackfoot Meadows
cross country skiing
mud packing her face in a muddy stream during a hike
riding her four wheeler wherever
and a lot of other things.