Friday, December 23, 2011

Early Christmas with my parents

Some photo highlights from my parent's recent visit:

The past few times my parents have come to visit, they brought a book in their suitcase to read with her. She now expects that when they come, and my parents gladly accommodated.

 Grandma bought Emily her first happy meal.

 We went to see the trains at the Botanical Gardens. They did a really good job, and I hope to come back next year and do it again. Elliot loved pointing at them when they came close.

 We weren't quite ready to go home after seeing the trains, so we stopped by the Museum of the American Indian, which we hadn't been to before. Um, wow. They recently opened an exhibit for kids where you can build a big foam igloo, climb into a large tipi, and read relevant books and do puzzles. It wasn't crowded at all, and the staff was very involved and helpful. The kids LOVED playing here. They will do their full unveiling with all their activities in March, and I'm definitely coming back here. Oh, and Elliot thoroughly enjoyed the ducks in the wetlands outside of the museum.

 We went to a nearby farm to see the animals. Elliot LOVED the goats and the pigs. There aren't any good shots with the kids with the animals, but here's a cute one of Elliot we took there.
 Baking Christmas cookies. Our trees also now boasts a paper chain, some paper ornaments, and some glittery pine cones that Emily helped grandma make (which she collected in her trick-or-treating pumpkin. Hey, it was the perfect size and easy to find).
We did an early Christmas with my parents. As you can see, Elliot is happy to have a dump truck full of ducks. Emily's favorite is a doll that cries when you give it shots (and stops when you give it "medicine"). She loves making that baby cry. For the first few days, she referred to it as "goo-goo-box" (the first time she's picked a name for a toy that isn't purely descriptive), but now it is just "baby."

The other really big highlight: For our anniversary, my parents watched the kids overnight so Rob and I could get a night to ourselves for the first time since having kids. I love my kids and all, but it was SO nice to have some time alone with Rob. We didn't want to spend the whole time commuting, so we spent the night in Old Town Alexandria. We thoroughly enjoyed roaming around the Torpedo Factory Art Gallery, having a nice dinner at Vaso's Kitchen, and the delicious candy cane custard at the Dairy Godmother (it is good we don't live in Alexandria - I have no will power when it comes to that place).

I say it all the time, but I love living somewhere my dad travels for business, and it is doubly nice when my mom joins him on the trip. It was really, really fun to spend time with them.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

This love will change you

I’m kind of obsessed with The Weepies, and I’ve been listening to “Same Changes” a lot while I’ve been cleaning for assorted holiday company. I’m not going to admit how many times in a row. The line “everyone says this love will change you” has been sticking with me, and I’ve been thinking about the impact of love on identity.

A common complaint heard in high school relationship drama is “man, she’s changed since she started dating that guy.” And while I don’t condone the kinds of obsessive teenage relationships that knock priorities out of whack, or pretending to be someone you aren’t to keep a partner interested, I do think that any love worth having will transform you. Love involves sacrifice. It involves changing your plans so you can both move forward together. It involves compromise, which involves analyzing your priorities, plans, and values, and deciding what you need to hold on to and what you can bend for. It involves service, which never leaves you unchanged. I don’t think you can be in a truly loving relationship without shifting somehow (and naturally, the shifting needs to happen on both sides for it to work).

Rob and I recently celebrated our 6th anniversary. I’m very grateful to be married to someone who changes me for the better. I’m calmer, gentler, and more grateful. I’m grounded, but freer to explore and expand. I’m happier – he gives me an atmosphere of service, kindness, and understanding to build myself in. I know I’m better for loving him. Happy anniversary, Rob.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Time

Like many of you, I struggle to find the right balance with the Christmas season. It is so easy to overschedule, and so easy to get caught up in the commercial side of things. Last year, I swung too far in the opposite direction. I tried so hard to simplify that we left the season feeling like we hadn't done anything to make it special at all. So I'm adding a few things this year. I've tried two new things this year that I've really been enjoying, and I thought I'd share.

Walk With Christ. Last year, Jeans at the Beginnings New blog posted a fantastic two-week scriptural "Walk With Christ" with topical scriptures to read and questions to ponder. It didn't happen last year for me, but this year, in the middle of the hustle and bustle, I've been taking time each day to study the scriptures and write down some of my feelings on the topics. I've loved having the chance to focus on the gifts Christ has given me, and how I can use his teachings and the power of the atonement to improve myself and my life. I recommend it!

Christmas Books at Bedtime. I don't have enough to make it all the way through December (we'll eventually repeat), but Emily and I have been reading a new Christmas picture book every night before bed. Emily LOVES it, and it is the easiest time I've ever had putting her down for the night. She wakes up the next morning wanting to read the books again, and she talks about the things that happen in them throughout the day. The funniest is after we read Mr. Willoughby's Christmas Tree, the next morning she asked for some scissors to cut the top off our tree and share it. Love it.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thanksgiving


Rob's dad and new stepmom came up to spend Thanksgiving with us. It was my first time hosting Thanksgiving, which was really fun to do. Check it out - I made a turkey! My feast was ready shortly after noon. Seriously, who am I, and what have I done with the real Erin?


I opted for pumpkin cheesecake instead of a pumpkin pie. I'm never going back.


Elliot's first time eating his grandpa's family recipe for mac and cheese. He proved that he is genetically related by literally trying to climb into my lap and get more after giving him a sample of the extra-sharp cheddar grandpa uses to make it, and eating a very large dinner.


Where we live so far from family, I just soak up moments like these where my kids enjoy their relatives. The kids also had a wonderful time playing ball (and grandma taught Elliot how to bounce the ball to people - very fun).
On Friday, we steered clear of the shopping malls and went downtown insetad. We had a picnic in the Hirshhorn sculpture garden, which is one of my very favorite places on the mall.
We then enjoyed the National Gallery. We also made a trip to the Natural History Museum. When we walked through the "Birds of DC" exhibit, Elliot was mellow, until we got to the two cases of ducks. Oh, man. He was so happy - giggling, pointing, exclaiming "uck! kuh! kuh! uck!" And let me tell you, he threw a royal tantrum when I moved him from the case. What can I say? That boy loves ducks. Emily's favorite was the giraffe, who was sticking out his long tongue (which she happily demonstrated, to the amusement of nearby tourists).

It was a wonderful, wonderful time. I know I say this all the time, but I feel so grateful to have such wonderful in-laws. I know so many people that have so much drama with theirs, but I really genuinely love all mine and get along well with them.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

(Belated) Birthday Boy

When you're pregnant with your second child, everyone tells you not to worry about not having enough love for everyone involved – your capacity to love just increases. And while that is mostly true, the things that don't expand are your time and energy. It is trickier to have the time needed to build relationships with everyone involved. My poor sweet Elliot is so accommodating, but sometimes I mourn the fact I can't give him the full force of my mother love like I could during Emily's first year of life. I think it is better for both of them to be more self reliant, but I still know it is a different bond.

Elliot's birthday has come and gone. I wrote my birthday letter to him in his journal on time, but I don't have a blog post marking this milestone. And with comparisons cropping up again, I also don't have the string of “falling in love with motherhood” kinds of posts with him that I did with Emily. So here's a post in praise of the little man.

Elliot is a patient and good-natured little guy. He forcefully lets me know his needs, but moves on quickly if I can't accommodate them. He puts himself to sleep (score!), and plays very well by himself. His favorite thing in the world is to be included. He loves being a part of family games and activities, even if he doesn't quite understand them. He also loves ducks. I recognized his saying “duck” before I recognized him saying mama (his application of “mama” is a lot more liberal than his use of “duck”). I've seldom seen him more enthralled than when we were walking home from the park a few days ago, and there were a dozen ducks in the pond. He giggled and pointed and reiterated “Uck! Uck! Uck!” We sat by the pond for a good fifteen minutes, and only left because it was getting dark. He eats everything. It is great when I'm trying to feed him dinner, but a problem when Emily moves the couch cushions. He loves to climb. His ability to climb surpasses his sense of what to not flop backwards off of, so it keeps me on my toes (how do babies live to adulthood?). He loves to climb over me and grab my nose. He hates when people close doors, especially if they are keeping him out of something.

Happy belated birthday, little buddy.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Local

I didn't vote yesterday. I blame it on the beans.

I take voting seriously. The feminist in me recognizes that a century ago, I couldn't have voted in my state, and that there are plenty of women now around the world that can't do it. The Mormon in me wants to be an involved citizen. And the idealist in me believes in the political process, despite its weaknesses and frequent ugliness. When I vote, I'm not a party line kind of girl, and I've researched every candidate and initiative on the ballot. Not enough to write books on them, but still. I weigh each candidate individually, measuring their strengths and weaknesses against the problems I feel matter most that particular election cycle.

That said, I've only voted in elections on even years. Up until this year, it hasn't been because I was lazy. I've just been so transient that it hasn't felt right for me to vote in local elections. If I don't have kids, is it really my place to vote for the school board? I may love the state parks in Indiana and support increasing taxes to better maintain them, but I would only be paying that increase for one year until I moved again. Voting on community issues felt unfair because it wasn't my community. So I voted on community issues on even years because I couldn't help myself if I was already in the booth, but stayed away on odd years.

I had the realization that I'm no longer transient about a week ago. I'd noticed all the election signs, but just kind of said to myself, “hmm, odd year,” since that is what I've done for the past decade. After I realized that this is my community and kids' future school district, and that I have every moral right to vote this year, I meant to do my research. But every time I sat at the computer to do my research, something always came up. Kids started screaming. Friends called and wanted to talk. I didn't get very far.

So there I sat at 5pm on election day, frantically trying to research the candidates. I'd also made the mistake of choosing today to be the day I decided to give cooking dried non-lentil beans another try (my previous attempt wasn't great). And to do four pounds worth at one shot. Brilliant, I know. I had two slow cookers going, but they still didn't all fit that morning, so when I got home from the zoo, I'd stuck the remaining beans in a pot to try the boiling method, and headed upstairs to research at the computer. The kids were hysterical from their big day, but I was progressing. However, by the time I realized I hated both my state senate candidates, liked both my state house candidates, and decided on school board candidates, the scent of burning beans wafted up to our office. Turns out I'd forgotten to turn down the burner, and it had majorly boiled over. Beany water had spilled down the side of my pot and all over my burners, and had burnt on quite nicely. And the kids were still screaming.

I gave up the fight. I decided that dedicating one hour to learning about the issues probably didn't make me an informed voter anyways, and set about opening windows to let out the scent and cleaning off a burner so I could cook dinner.

So I officially suck. I'm that apathetic, uninformed American I always mocked. At least I have the consolation that three of the four candidates I'd decided on were elected. Hopefully the fourth didn't lose by one vote.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fun To Do

Yesterday, I played a game with Emily where we sang about what different animals like to do (i.e. "penguins love to swim and slide"). I decided to see what she came up with for what the members of our family like to do. Enjoy:
  • Emily likes to read books.
  • Elliot likes to crawl around and fall down.
  • Daddy likes to turn pages.
  • Mommy likes to sing and sit on the couch.
Can't really argue with that, I guess.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Favorite: MyUtahLife.com’s Weekend Sports Report for Women

As long as I don't get too lazy, I'm starting a new feature on my blog where every Friday, I'll talk about something I recently discovered and liked. I picture it being a mix of articles or books I've read, podcasts I've enjoyed, or a project that kept my kids entertained long enough for me to blog here.

I'm starting this feature off with MyUtahLife.com's Weekend Sports Report for Women. In full disclosure, my brother is the blogger, but nepotism aside, after I read it, I wanted to tell all my friends about it.

I'm not a big sports fan. With the exception of the Olympics (which I watch pretty much constantly while they are on), I don't watch much. I admire athleticism and strategy, but just have no team spirit. I always want the team that played the better game to win, and unless you're rooting for a team, admiring athleticism can only entertain you for so long.

That said, I have plenty of friends who love sports and love talking about them. And I do like talking about the strategy and drama of sports, but don't particularly want to watch them. Enter this sports report. It breaks down who (in Utah) is playing who that weekend, why the game matters, and gives advice on how to impress your date by talking about it (without getting in over your head). Now I know why my Ute-loving friends have been pretty silent this season, and can say something intelligent when my cougar friends get going. Score! Yeah, I get mocked for being clueless in the report, but hey, I'm down with being mocked if it happens in a funny way.

Anyways, if you aren't a sports enthusiast, but have friends/boyfriends/husbands that are, I recommend it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Scripture and Politics

I'm a bit notorious for compartmentalizing my life. I've come a long way from the college girl who roomed with strangers so friend time and homework time wouldn't overlap, and wouldn't move into the same ward boundaries as my fiance because I didn't want my church life and romantic life touching (yeah, I'm neurotic). But I don't think I'll ever be the girl who organizes parties of my friends that haven't met. I feel like they fit in different slots in my life, and it feels uncomfortable to have things bump together.

My compartments I've been thinking about a lot lately are religion and politics. We Mormons are taught to “liken the scriptures unto ourselves” - to dig deeply into the scriptures and see how the principles we learn there can be applied to our own lives. I'm a big fan of this, when it comes to our own lives and decisions. My life benefits profoundly from having those guiding principles at work. But applying scripture to my politics? Nope. I don't want those boxes touching.

I've come to a point where I cringe pretty much every time I hear scriptural examples quoted in defense of a political stance, regardless of if I like the political stance or not. I feel like the vast majority of the time, people aren't likening the scriptures to themselves; instead, they use their bibles as weapons to whack the other side of the aisle with. And when we are likening the scriptures to other people, things get twisted. In my original draft of this post, I cited specific examples of ways some republicans, democrats, and libertarians cite scripture in defense of their positions on a similar issue, and why their applications in that situation were inaccurate readings. But, I'm a big fat chicken, and I don't want to offend any of you if you support those arguments. Sue me. But I'll just say that I think politics and religion are areas we all feel powerfully about, and we are more willing to overlook the flaws in our arguments to have the rhetorical oomph and warm happy feelings of having the scriptures on our side.

My instinct has been to limit my scriptural and political overlap to the passages that directly talk about contemporary involvement in politics - supporting freedom of religion, being law-abiding citizens, and the importance of using the political process to try to improve the world around us. But I won't let my scripture and politics boxes touch any more closely than that because it gets too tempting to twist the scriptures to make them say what I want them to. Instead, I'm just prayerful about my choices, and I go off my own moral compass, which I feel has been shaped by the scriptures. I no longer cite scripture in why I feel the way I do on issues. I hope my years of daily study have shaped my morality more than applying one out of context verse or story would.

So how do you negotiate this territory? What is your relationship between your scripture and your politics? And I know these are areas people have strong feelings about, so please comment with the understanding that people from the full political spectrum read this blog, and I won't take kindly to my friends insulting each other. I want to know how you've found what's right for you, not what you think is wrong with everyone else's process.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy Halloween



The cow and the cowgirl had a great time at Cox Farms and Trick or Treating with Pretty Mahana's family. I was very impressed that my uber-shy girl was so good about going up to strangers and saying "Trick or Treat."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Shenandoah



Yeah, our traffic sucks and our cost of living is obscene, but the east coast knows how to rock autumn. I met up with my fabulous former roommate Sarah, and we bravely took the two kids on a 2.5 mile hike in the Shenandoah. The company was great, and Emily was a champion hiker. When Rob asked her what she did on the hike, Emily told him "I put rocks in my pockets and saw waterfalls." I guess we didn't have to drive so far for that first part, but she loved it at least.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Two!

We're in the process of purchasing our second car (read: it has taken the seller a week to get us a buyer's order with both our names on it and spelled correctly, but that's another story...). Life is very, very good. My evenings are suddenly relaxing because I can take care of errands during the day. I can go to friends' homes to hang out, or leave a playgroup early without inconveniencing my ride. I can schedule appointments more than a few days in advance because they are no longer dependent on my husband's work schedule. I'm actually starting to look at grocery store advertisements because I'll have time to go to more than one store. Bless you, little Camry.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Healthy Food

It shouldn't have taken me that many years to realize my husband and I define “healthy eating” very differently. My idea of healthy eating is putting lots of good foods in. Rob's is keeping bad foods out. You'd think these ideas would mesh, but not so. He, in his kind way, would put in requests for healthy dinners, and I'd oblige. Or so I thought. But the kind requests kept coming, and I'd keep obliging. I didn't get it. I was cooking from scratch and using tons of fresh produce. Finally, I wised up and asked him what some of the meals he considered healthy were, and I was shocked. Spaghetti? The only vegetable in that is canned tomato sauce. What about that pasta I'd made the other night that had five fresh vegetables in it? Turns out, it also had a stick of butter, a cup of cream, and a cup and a half of cheese in the cream sauce (OK, maybe he had a point). Ramen noodles? That's loaded with preservatives and has no fruits or vegetables. But Rob (mistakenly) thought it was low fat. Anyways, I'm not claiming perfect nutrition in our household, but we found common ground. I stopped serving my broccoli in so much cheese its fat content rivaled ice cream's, and he munches frozen blueberries to increase his vitamin intake.

This dichotomy has come up again with our epic battle to get Emily to eat. I'm all about bribing with junk food. I figure it is better for a toddler to eat zucchini and a cookie than to not eat zucchini at all. Rob thinks it wouldn't be healthy for her to eat cookies every day. We both have valid points. Our compromise is rewarding her with a gummy vitamin when she at least tries the dinner the whole family is eating. Not perfect, but we're getting there.

I'd ask how you pull off an approximation of “health” in your dining habits, but I'd probably throw an eggplant at you if you told me your kids beg you to serve more lentils, or that they didn't wake up screaming with hunger multiple times when you tried the “if you don't eat what the family is eating, you'll go to bed hungry” trick (and still refuse to eat dinner the next night). But at least it would be an eggplant coated in Parmesan cheese and deep fried in oil.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bumps

I didn't mean for Nelly* to get pregnant and drop out of high school. You'd think I'd have to be a guy to have something like that on my conscience, but it happened all the same. As an oboe player, she was looking for a way to participate in marching band, so I taught her the marimba. And she shared that marimba for a song with Ian*. How did Ian wind up on that marimba? I got him onto the color guard. Resentful I'd been passed over for captain, when my boyfriend's friend mentioned how he'd love to be on color guard, but didn't think he had a shot because he was male and no boy had ever made it on (it was well known our band director was uncomfortable with the idea), I jumped at the opportunity to spite my director. Ian had tons of natural talent, but I drilled him so aggressively (even on the girly dance segment), turning him down would have been blatant sex discrimination. He was flawless. He made the team. And while he nailed the dance segment, the director couldn't bring himself to let Ian shimmy on the field, and assigned him to share Nelly's marimba for it. They spent many rehearsal hours talking and flirting, and well, the rest is history. Do I blame myself? Of course not. They made their choices, and I had nothing to do with it. But without my little nudges, their paths would probably not have crossed. The direction of their entire lives changed because of me. Last I'd heard, Nelly was pregnant with their third child, and for her birthday, Ian had bought her a three year subscription to a bridal magazine (um, can you say stalling?).

I've been thinking about how the little things we do impact others in ways we can't anticipate. My life is full of them: my randomly assigned roommate that convinced me to apply for study abroad … on the day the application was due for the program Rob was going on; my freshman year bishop that clued me into the fact librarians do more than put books back on shelves, and informed me about the available distance ed programs for schooling in it; the nasty, long-lasting cold my kids caught that prevented me from doing the book chapter proposal I was considering. We bump into each other, in little and big ways, and knock each other on to completely different courses, even when we have no intention of doing so, sometimes for good, sometimes for bad.

It is easy for me to see the good bumps and find God's hand in it, but it is a lot harder for me to find meaning in the bad ones. But I guess the trick is to take the bad bumps we're handed and grow from them, and just do our best to be the kind of person that gives good nudges.

It still doesn't make me feel better about Nelly, though.

* Names changed to protect the, well, not innocent enough.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Humility

It was one of those wards where you could depend on something offensive, socially awkward, or doctrinally unsound to come across the pulpit every testimony meeting. Often all three. This particular week, an older gentleman got up and made some ignorant and somewhat offensive comments about Muslims. I cringed, grateful I didn't see any investigators, and thought that was the end of this adventure in testimony meeting. But the next month, he walked up to the podium the instant the floor opened and said he'd been approached by a ward member who'd explained what was wrong with his previous statements and encouraged him to learn more about the Muslim religion before making further comments about it. He'd taken the counsel to heart and had gone to the local mosque to gain understanding. This Sunday, and the two following testimony meetings, he got up and shared what he had learned during his periodic visits, celebrating what we had in common, gaining empathy for what was different, and recognizing the goodness of the patient spiritual leaders who had taken time to simply teach someone with no interest in converting. While three months of synopses of his time at the mosque was a little out of place for a testimony meeting, I was struck by this man's humility. He could have easily been offended. He could have said “I'm too old to be politically correct.” But no, he was teachable. He took criticism and grew from it.


I see the beauty of humility more and more as I get older. It is hard to suppress that knee-jerk reaction to defend yourself, to paint yourself in the right. But at what cost? I've seen relationships ended, opportunities lost, and bitterness clung to, all for the sake of feeling justified. I want to be the kind of person that is secure in myself and my goodness, but still open to ways to add more goodness to my life.

I want to exemplify this with general conference this weekend. Don't get me wrong. I love general conference. I always come away from it with messages that move me, concrete goals to improve myself, and an affirmation that God is still speaking to us today. But I'm an analytical person. When someone tries to present an argument, my first instinct is to poke holes in that argument. Therefore, I also always leave conference with at least one address that leaves me a little rankled, and I therefore discount everything that speaker had to say. And while I'm ashamed to admit it, I often discount what they have to say the next several times they speak. Were my criticisms valid? Frequently yes. But as I've gone back and approached these talks with a humble heart, I've realized what I've missed. Where I initially said, “if women really are getting equal treatment, you wouldn't have to tell us so all the time,” I saw the varied and many footnotes references (from mommy web forums to scholarly studies) and found a man who had dedicated a considerable amount of time and prayer gaining understanding about what women are experiencing and the good they are doing. Where I saw poorly worded comments about same sex attraction, I missed beautiful passages about the power of the atonement.

I firmly believe God wants us to ask the difficult questions. He doesn't want or need blind followers. But I'm realizing that he wants us to ask the difficult questions while listening for His answers. So I'll continue to see holes – that's what my brain does. But I won't let myself focus on the absences – I will see the good that surrounds them. After all, I hope that's what God does when he judges my spiritual merit.

Monday, September 19, 2011

In praise of quitters


My freshman year of high school, I played on my school's predominately male water polo team. I'd love to claim I wowed everybody with my athletic prowess, but …. um, let's just say I'm not sure why I thought catching balls while treading water would be a more successful enterprise for me than catching them while standing was. I quickly realized that I had no talent for the sport. However, I stuck it out for the whole season, attending every practice and match. I did so, clearly providing no benefit to the team, for one reason: because I wasn't a quitter.

In retrospect, I'm not sure this was the right choice. Sure, I benefited. I learned I could sludge through difficult things without the praise or satisfaction that comes with excelling. I made friends. And let me tell you, that was the most in shape I've been my entire life. But could I also have learned valuable lessons if I'd used that time towards activities I possessed actual talent in? Yes.

I have a mental block about quitting. Once I've committed to do something, I struggle to move on. I've been awed by friends' ease in switching from a job they feel satisfied with to one that has the potential to be better, dropping a graduate program they were halfway through because they weren't sure it was the right fit, or asking to be released from a community responsibility or church calling before their term was up. They were all smart things to do, both for the individual and the organization they were involved with. And I'm sure they had to think and pray very hard to make their decisions, but I always find myself thinking how difficult it would have been for me to do what they did because it is quitting.

There's value in loyalty and dependability. But I'm learning there is also value in using our limited time wisely and recognizing when life has prevented us from giving what we should to an organization. So here's to quitters who quit in the appropriate circumstances.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Looking frumpy?

Please don't answer that question about me - I'm asking about my blog. With the exception of a gadget here or there, my blog's design is identical to the one I had when I created it in 2007. Truth be told, I kind of forget that my blog's template exists. I go to the blogger dashboard to post, and generally am running to manage a screaming child before I have a chance to see if it posted right, or even proofread (you've probably noticed). And I kind of forget those of you with blogs have templates, unless I comment, because I use google reader - everyone's stuff appears on a sleek, white template. But I recently started looking around, and wow, some of you have snazzy looking pages. And mine sure looks like a rookie blogger created it in 2007.

What do you think, should I get a new look? Does the aesthetic part of your brain cringe every time you open my page, or do you access me through an rss feed? At least it isn't as bad as the average myspace page was, right?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Utah

I love my in-laws. Isn't that fantastic? They are thoughtful, fun, hard-working, interesting and adventerous. I had a great time with them these past few weeks.

Some photogenic highlights from our trip:




I loved getting so much time in the mountains. I forgot how much easier it is to exercise when you're living 15 minutes away from great hiking, and how happy I feel when I'm there.


I spent lots of time with my brother. He willingly accompanied me to get all the Provo foods I'd been missing (even going to Jamba twice with me), showed me around the new broadcasting building where he works, and spent lots of time hanging out in the great outdoors with me.



Emily loved helping her grandpa feed the horses and dog, and was a fearless and obedient horse rider.



One of my favorite things was seeing my kids play with their cousins. Note that in this picture, when we put them down for their naps, Emily and Abraham were in different beds.




My fabulous in laws watched the kids so Rob and I could take a tandem bike ride up Provo canyon. This was a common date before we were married, and we even got engaged on one of those bike dates, so it was heavenly to relive those moments.



And because I'm a moron about picture taking, I forgot to take pictures of some other highlights - Emily and Elliot meeting their great-grandparents, attending a family reunion, and having dinner with the Storer/King family. I loved watching Merwyn make Elliot laugh, June take Emily to pick strawberries, and getting to meet more of Rob's extended family. And I've said it before, but the Storer/Kings are the best kind of family - the kind you don't have to be close with because you aren't closely related, but you are because they are amazing people you learn from and have so much fun with.


Sure, there were hitches. Emily barfed on the plane. Elliot went on a nursing strike (hundreds of miles from my pump). And there tantrums over being out of their routine. But I am so grateful I got to spend so much time with amazing people in a beautiful place.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thank you, Irene

Best time to go on vacation: these past two weeks. I missed an earthquake and a hurricane. Because our flight was cancelled, we got two extra days of vacation. We were able to ride horses with grandpa (Emily was fearless), get takeout from my favorite Thai place in Provo, and spend my birthday with my brother and my in-laws. So while Irene irritated millions of people, she at least made me happy! I'll write more when I have time, but it was a great vacation, and I was grateful for the extra two days.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dating for families

Don't get me wrong – I rather enjoyed the dating scene. There was something fun about seeing that name on your caller ID, remembering the just-right thing he said, and not actually paying for any of the fun stuff you wanted to do. Not making any real emotional investment in the boys I dated made me immune to most of the heartbreak drama. But part of me was excited to leave the awkward dating stuff behind – outings where the conversation fell completely flat, and negotiating the territory when there's compatibility but life gets in the way.

Little did I know that when I got married, I wasn't actually losing the awkwardness. I was just relegating it to my friendships.

Before marriage, friendships were simple. You meet someone, you hit it off, you hang out. Done. After marriage, I felt like I was dating as a couple. Sometimes I'd meet someone at enrichment, but when we got together with our spouses, suddenly I was reliving those awful dates where there was nothing to say and you had to gauge how soon you could leave without hurting anyone's feelings. Admittedly, the more frequent case was Rob would say, “hey, I met this great guy shoveling snow and I think we should have them over,” and it turns out I'd already met his wife and had been thinking the same thing, but this didn't always happen.

Parenthood has added a whole different dimension to this. Now my kids' baggage gets included. Emily is a rather shy child. She's tentative about new experiences and large groups, and can be downright clingy. While she loves it when one or two kids come to play, going to a group barbecue with friends is miserable. Rob and I both spend the whole thing with kids in our arms, and in Emily's case, a kid that wants you to sit with them by the toy that is furthest away from any other lifeform (animals included). I'm not sure we could be BFF with a family that has 6 kids. Emily would be hysterical. I even know of people that had to get babysitters if they wanted to hang out with a certain friend because their kids would spend the whole time screaming and roughing each other up. Friendship is a little more complicated than it used to be.

Have you found family dynamics influence your friendships?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Down on the farm










My parents are in town (dad for work, mom for play), so we did a fun outing at Siberia Great Country Farms in Bluemont. We picked blackberries and peaches, and we visited the farm animals. I was nervous Emily would be too shy to get into it, but I forgot that this is my child that loves making animal noises and putting things in containers. She was in paradise. She walked right up to the goats and started petting them, blew kisses at all the other animals, and proudly picked, carried and ate her blackberries. Now I just need to persuade my parents to move out here so we can do this more often...

Monday, July 11, 2011

June

If May was the month for spending time with my family, June (and early July) was the month for Rob's. We drove down to South Carolina for Rob's dad's wedding, time with his siblings, and time at the beach. The ceremony was lovely, my new mother-in-law is really nice, the kids did awesome in the car (thank you to everyone who suggested rolling out new toys gradually - worked like a charm) and the beach was a blast. And I always love how drama-free and fun it is when Rob's siblings get together. Their senses of humor mesh well, and everyone is really conscientious towards each other. Hooray for good in-laws!

After we got back, the fabulous Charles family came and visited us for a few days. We played hard, hitting lots of DC monuments and museums, including some sites I actually hadn't been to before, like Ford's Theater. And for those of you in the DC metro, the Calder exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery was fascinating. We've really missed the Charles since they moved from Baltimore, and it was great to hang out like old times.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What we've been up to

May was the month for having my family in town. My younger brother came to town to visit, and it was wonderful getting to spend extended amounts of time with him for the first time in years. Sadly, the kiddos were sick while he was here, and he was a remarkably good sport about everything - cleaning poop blowouts when I wasn't around, not freaking out when my daughter barfed red powerade all over the couch, not minding cancelling tourist outings, etc. I wasn't the host I wanted to be, but we did get to spend a day at Baltimore's Inner Harbor together, which was a good time. My dad also came out for a few days for a business trip, and although it was sad he had to go to work during the day, we love that the government paid his airfare to get to hang out with us for a few evenings.



The kids are growing and changing all the time. Elliot can roll himself pretty much anywhere he wants to go, and loves exploring. His current favorite thing is trying to eat paper, and his least favorite thing is when we stop him. Or maybe naps. Emily is loving the warmer weather and wants to be outside 24/7. I would not be surprised if she gets really into track when she is older because her favorite activities are running in circles, running races across the church gym, and and being outdoors. She definitely in the midst of the terrible twos, but she is learning new things all the time, and it is fun to see. She loves blowing bubbles, sidewalk chalk, coloring, and of course, Elmo. Speaking of the terrible twos, I have a tantrum to deal with. I'm off.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Random Musings about Life with Sick Kids

Motherhood is caring more that your child barfed on the carpet than all over you. It is a lot faster to take a quick shower than scrub the carpet at 2am.

Every time I call the advice nurse at my pediatrician's office, they tell me I sound really tired and ask if I'm feeling alright. Um, who are these well rested mothers that are calling the advice line? I wouldn't be calling the advice line if my kids were healthy enough to sleep through the night.

Why do my kids get sick within 48 hours EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I decide to stick to my guns on a discipline issue? I can't tell Emily she's just going to be thirsty if she refuses to drink from a cup when she's already dehydrated from all the sweating/barfing.

Sorry about the stream of consciousness. After 3 weeks with sick kids (with a glorious 3 day reprieve in the middle), I'm just happy I can still talk in complete sentences. And all the previous whinyness aside, I'm so grateful to live in a time when I can just give my kid some ibuprofen to bring down her crazy fever, take them to a doctor that can diagnose an ear infection and give them an antibiotic, and turn on Elmo when I'm too tired to function properly and they are bored because they can't go outside. I would never have made it 200 years ago.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Smiley Boy









I've been trying to catch Elliot smiling for the camera for a good long while, and I've recently succeeded. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Parable of the Dandelion

Many of you are familiar with Hugh B. Brown's parable of the currant bush, where the gardener consoles the sad currant bush he is pruning by explaining that hacking off parts of it is necessary to help it blossom and grow fruit. I thought about it when I was de-weeding my backyard yesterday, and in tribute, here is my parable of the dandelion:

As I was digging around the dandelion's roots to pull it up, I thought I heard the dandelion say to me, "How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. I was almost as big as the daffodils I was growing next to. I thought you were the gardener here!"

So I replied, "Look, little dandelion. I'm sure if I left you alone, you would have been quite an impressive dandelion. But there are a lot of prettier flowers that I'd rather look at than you, you're kind of in their way, and besides, my neighbors don't like you and will be mad at me if I leave you where you are. I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be: part of my yard waste."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Boundaries

I’m not a dinosaur. Really. OK, maybe I am, but I am a dinosaur by choice.


When it comes to portable technology’s role in my life, I’m as pared down as it gets. I have a basic talk-plan cell phone. I don’t have a data plan. I don’t even have a text plan. It isn’t because I’m not smart enough to work them, or because I don’t think I’d enjoy using them. It’s because I couldn’t stop, and I worry about the costs of that.


Librarianship is a great career fit for me because I love finding answers. I was notorious at the law school for immediately looking up the answer to every random “I wonder what…” question uttered in my presence. I love living in a world where it is so easy to learn so much about so many things. But I’m addicted. After a several month foray in leaving our computer in the living room, we moved it back upstairs, in part because it was so easy to ignore the mountain of laundry to fold when I could hop on and look up whatever random subject popped into my head – things that grow well in clay-based soil, Napoleon’s military campaigns, the employment background of previous FEMA chiefs, five different news agencies’ takes on a current event, etc. And I definitely think there is value in learning about the world around you. But there is too much of a good thing, and I decided to make a boundary.


An iPhone would be dangerous in my hands. If having the computer in the living room was a distraction, I can’t imagine what having Google in my pocket would do. I’d whip it out every time someone wondered how long of a drive it was to Dayton, Ohio. And while there are definitely circumstances where it would save me time, I’d spend a lot more time looking up stuff I really don’t need to know.


I want to be present in the moment. I want to give my undivided attention to the person I’m with, or the project I’m working on. I already have a toddler and a baby constantly dividing my attention, and focus feels like a luxury. I don’t want people expecting me to quickly reply to their texts, and I don’t want the temptation to whip out the phone when my toddler isn’t being particularly interesting that precise moment. I’m an introvert, and I value the little windows of time between things happening too much to constantly fill them. I want time to think and time to listen.


But then again, I’ll probably drive off a cliff when I take a wrong turn in the backwoods of South Carolina and have no idea how to get back to my relative’s house, and my last words will be, “if only I had an iPhone with GPS, this catastrophe could have been averted!”


So how have you negotiated the boundaries with technology in your life?

Friday, April 15, 2011

(Non-judgmental) advice for new parents

I know several of my readers are due to have their first baby any day now. You’re probably up to your ears in advice, but I’ve just been thinking a lot recently about what I wished I’d known before becoming a parent, so I thought I’d post a few things. And don’t worry – there will be no “I think parents who do _____ are lazy/stupid/overachieving/crazy” comments. Because who really needs that?



  • Learn to listen to your own instincts. No matter what choice you make, it will be wrong in someone’s book. You know your child best, your know yourself best, and you are ultimately the one that lives with the consequences of your choices. Be your own kind of good parent, not someone else’s.

  • Find ways to make your child a part of things you love. Me time is hard to come by, so do things you enjoy while caring for your child. If you sew, have your baby touch different fabrics and talk about their colors while you work. If you’re a musician, play for them. If you’re a bibliophile, read to your child (and read your own books while you feed your baby). I know I felt like I had to put on a constant educational and entertaining act for my child, but truth be told, they often love just being a part of whatever is going on around them.

  • Talk about it. I know it sounds dumb, but I can’t express how much it helped me when I was exhausted and frustrated and discouraged to talk to someone who had been there. It didn’t change my circumstances at all, but it made me feel better to know I’m not the only one who finds life with a newborn challenging.

Good luck, and I’m thinking of you!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Carnival



Recently our congregation held an end-of-winter carnival. I wondered if Emily would be too shy to enjoy it (which was the case with the moon bounce), but Emily was in paradise. The reason: they had a cake walk. Emily's current favorite activity is marching around the island in our kitchen with as many people as are willing while singing songs. Match made in heaven. She literally spent an hour straight walking in circles. I lost track of the number of cupcakes she won. But she also thoroughly enjoyed eating nachos for the first time and getting her face painted.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mood Music

I’ve realized I jump music genres frequently, and my erratic taste often follows my emotional state. I went through my angsty alternative rock phase in my angsty teens, and did an embarrassing white girl bop to rap to relax while I did my statistics homework (my apologies to Camille, who was my roommate at the time). I had a brief foray into country when I was in a crappy relationship and craved music that sang about meaningful love that lasts, and then settled into the calm of folk rock and acoustic rock when I finally settled into and moved forward in the educational and family paths my life would take.

I’ve been thinking about what it means that during this period in my life where I’ve made the transition to two kids, I can’t get enough of the classics. This December, while most people were taking in the calm of “Silent Night,” I was too busy dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” to play any Christmas music. I genuinely hope that Emily’s current fashion obsession with wearing only one glove is a result of that period. I find myself playing the same CD incessantly because I am just in awe, and wondering why I can’t remember a time I didn’t know “Blackbird,” but still feel like I’d never really heard it before.

Maybe I just didn’t know enough about music to appreciate these songs before, but I think I’ve hit a point in my life where I’m taking a step back and seeing things with new eyes. I’m a very different person than I was when I bought my first real CD in 1994 (Brandy, interestingly enough). I also find myself with long periods of time when my body but not necessary my mind are needed – nursing, playing blocks, doing dishes – and I have plenty of time to let my mind wander and think about concepts that are interesting to me. The combination means I have plenty of time to approach old ideas with new eyes. Well, whatever the reason, I’m thoroughly enjoying revisiting the classics.

So, those of you that actually still come here after I’ve taken a month off (but I’m writing over at my other blog, at least!), has your taste in music shifted much as the years have gone by, or have you stuck to similar styles?

Friday, February 18, 2011

What we've been up to...

..starting from youngest to oldest.


Elliot's current favorite activities are being lifted up and down, having someone sing activity songs to him, and helping him wave his arms around in a dance. He's got a charming laugh and a smile that lights up his whole face. He's enormous. OK, upper 75th percentile, but still, how did that come out of Rob and me? He outgrew a size 6 month sleeper the other day - not sure I'm ready for that. He's still a champion sleeper, which makes life beautiful for me.

Emily's vocabulary is growing every day. My favorite addition is her repeating "careful" over and over when she does crazy stunts. She loves to march in circles while I sing or play the radio. She loves her brother. She likes to push him in his swing, pat his head, and excitedly say "oh, hi man!" when I bring him into the room (apparently I call him "little man" more than I call him Elliot). She loves making block towers and then exclaiming that they are big. She loves Elmo more than life itself. She cries when we leave church nursery, and when we drop Rob off at cub scouts and she doesn't get to go to the nursery. She was very excited that we had a few warm days this week and could return to her favorite place on earth - the playground.


Rob and I have been working on getting order in our lives. We're buckling down and working on financial planning goals, organizing closets, and making plans for our personal development. While I still feel like I don't have as strong of a handle on things as I'd like, it is really empowering to make concrete steps in the right direction. And really, what mother of a 3 month old and toddler feels like she has a handle on life?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

His/Hers


My favorite part of parenting is watching the personality and interests of my children develop. Part of that is watching Rob's and my quirks manifesting themselves in these children. This picture demonstrates that Emily has genetically inherited one of her mom's deep-held beliefs: that bell peppers are a beautiful and delicious food that deserve to be eaten like an apple. The best part is she's never actually seen me do that (although I have been known to). She has also inherited my adoration of grapefruits, which poor Rob simply can't understand. But on a less facetious level, I'm very grateful Emily has inherited Rob's willingness to serve and empathy, and my love of books and family.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Two


Some people believe that by the time your child reaches two years of age, their value system is already in place. While I don’t buy this in its entirety, I do think that the first two years have a very large impact on kids' values. Emily is now two. That’s a little scary. It has got me thinking about what I hope she’s learned from her time with us.

I hope I’ve taught her the value of service. I try to encourage her desire to help me with housework (even when it means the job I’m doing takes four times as long), give her jobs to help take care of her brother, and explain to her what I’m doing when I go visiting teaching or drop off her dad at cub scouts. I hope I’ve taught her independence. I know I often err on the side of not setting enough boundaries, but I try to encourage her to make her own choices as much as possible and cope with the consequences. I hope I’ve taught her to love learning and books. I try to surround her with books and read with her, praise her pursuit of new skills and knowledge, and show her that her dad and I love reading and talking about what we read. I hope I’ve taught her God loves her and following His commandments brings happiness. We pray and read scriptures every day, and I try to make bearing my brief testimony of my values a habit as situations arise. I hope I’ve taught her about the goodness of family. I try to show her how much I love and enjoy my family, and how much happiness a good marriage can bring.
I'm so grateful to be able to spend so much time with this incredible girl, and I hope I've been able to teach her the values that have brought me so much joy in life.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Anniversary (belated)


After our wedding, Rob’s sister Kathryn told us that she couldn’t imagine two people better suited for each other than us. I was surprised. I obviously thought we were compatible enough to agree to spend our lives together, but really? I thought about couples I knew that seemed made for each other, and didn’t think we were that well-matched.

About a month ago, Rob and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. As the years have passed, I’ve come to see how absolutely right she was. I think about those nutty exercises they have you do in young women where you describe the kind of man you want to marry when you grow up (what teenager really knows themselves well enough to know what they need in a husband?), and even if I had some superpower where I could create the ideal husband for myself out of clay or a pineapple or whatever a superhero would use, I wouldn’t use it because Rob still continues to surpass everything I could ever imagine for myself.
He encourages me to be my best self and do the things that bring me fulfillment. When I’m struggling, he listens to me, and rather than trying to fix my problems for me, he helps me discover how to solve them myself. He treats me with so much kindness and gentleness, I can’t help but reciprocate. He knows all the quirky things that make me feel loved and does them. We share a love of libraries, a hatred of having to dance to top forty music, and passion about all kinds of nerdy stuff. Even our differences complement each other. His perpetual calmness reins in my impulse to overfill my life, and he eats those nasty cherry Tums in the bottle while I feast on the delicious lime he for some reason finds disgusting.
I know I’m better, happier, and more fulfilled because he’s in my life, and I’m so grateful he married me.
*The picture is us at Warwick Castle when we were on study abroad*

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mimicking


I should really be using the time when Elliot's napping and Emily wants alone time to do something productive like work on our budget or finish assembling my Christmas gifts (in my defense, my parents didn't suggest us doing this one until about the 23rd). But I couldn't resist. Any guesses what Emily recently walked in on me doing? What makes it even better is that when I peeked in at her to take this, she declared "NO!" and promptly closed the door on me. Priceless.