Monday, December 30, 2013

November and December




Wow, this has been my worst year for blogging productivity yet. Here are our updates from the past two months.

We just had another ultrasound, and the verdict is – a girl! They think. There isn't much moving room left for this little one, but that is their best guess. I'm really glad to know. The reality that there will actually be a little person coming out of me in the next few weeks has finally set in. We've finally started assembling the crib, locating the carseat, and all that other good stuff. It is weird to think that I'll technically be full term this Friday. I've forgotten so much about what precisely one does with a newborn.


We've enjoyed a few small snows, and the kids have adored playing in it. I went sledding for the first time with them, and it was a wild success. Our other seasonal fun has been my annual tradition of taking the kids downtown to see the trains at the Botanical Gardens, the lights at the LDS temple, making cookies, and our annual Christmas Eve dance party where the kids make shakers, Rob and I play piano and guitar, and the kids dance around with their shakers while we play Christmas songs. I've really enjoyed making our own family traditions for different holidays.

Christmas was a hit with the kids. You know you and your family hit it out of the park with gift selections when your kids don't even ask to eat their Christmas candy until 3:45 because they are having too much fun with their new stuff. I've always felt like I really suck at gift giving, but I've been working at it, and I think I'm getting a lot better at it.

Rob and I celebrated another anniversary by having an overnight date in Old Town Alexandria (thanks, Pretty Mahana, for watching our kids!). I love that I can be absolutely myself with him, and he loves me all the more for it.

Preschool has been a wild success with Emily. I love her program. It is at an area high school, so she always has a teenager assigned to be with her, and they are graded on how well they do it. She's in paradise. She tells me that some of her friends go to preschool, but she loves her teenagers most of all. Add the mass volume of crafts they do there, and she's a happy, happy kid. And Elliot can't wait for his turn next year. He literally cried the whole way home the first six days we dropped Emily off.

Happy new year, everyone!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Grandma visit!

We had a great time when my mom came out to visit a few weeks ago (even though the government shutdown cancelled my dad's business trip out here for the same time window - boo).
We cooked and ate delicious food (with adorable aprons my mom brought). 

We went to Cox Farms and had a great time on the slides, hayride, rope swing, and corn maze. My kids look forward to this every year (they start asking about it as soon as the leaves turn), and I think it is a great tradition.
 We went to Lake Accotink and enjoyed seeing turtles, snakes, ducks, and a heron out on the water.
We crafted like fiends, which my kids thoroughly enjoy. :) My mom and I are not crafters, so we're still confused how it got in the kids' genetic material, but I think we did a great job providing the kids with good materials and fun projects.

We also took the kids to their first movie in the theater (Planes), went to a carnival, played at the playground, enjoyed the bounties of the dollar store, and my mom and I had our own movie night. We loved having her out here. Hooray for grandma time!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Me, on pinterest

I'm not a huge pinterest user, but I thought it would be interesting to see what my boards say about me. Here's my analysis:

My biggest board is "fun with kids," and I've used lots of its ideas. My smallest board is "my hair sucks - try this." Um, I haven't tried any of its ideas. Yes, my hair still sucks.

My "recipes to try" folder is twice the size of my "I'd make this again" board. 60% of my “recipes to try” folder is dessert/snack – 25% of my “I'd make this again” is dessert/snack. I have separate boards for trifles and CSA veggie recipes. That balances out, right?

My favorite pin is "40 ways to entertain your kids while lying down.” Every mom should have some of those up her sleeves for pregnancy, sickness, or sleepless nights.


I have a board for preschool lesson planning that I've used a ton, and one for “easy wall art” where I've gone to Michael's several times intending to start projects, and then chickened out. I'd love to have artistic skill. Same with my “shade garden” board. I panic once I'm at the nursery.  

I have no exercise or interior design boards. Take that as you will. 

What do your boards say about you?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Life, lately

Well, hello there. I've been spewing periodic photos, updates, and musings on life into cyberspace from time to time, but I haven't talked much about what normal life is like, so here it is.

Work has been keeping us busy. Things have calmed for awhile, but Rob was working lawyer hours for a good long stretch of time there. I managed, but I rather like knowing I'll see him on any given day. I've also been enjoying teaching my classes. My current one is especially meaningful, as I have a lot of low scorers that I think I've pushed into average college admission range, and it feels great to make that kind of impact. I'm planning to start phasing out now and only take on tutoring students until the baby comes, so it feels good to start my break on a good note.

Church has also been keeping us busy. Rob was called as EQ secretary, and I'm a counselor in the primary presidency, which I am loving. It's funny. They released me from my calling as primary pianist, and I was feeling all kinds of anxiety about having to go to grownup church again. Between callings and nursing babies, the last time I went to RS regularly was 2006. I love primary. I love focusing on the core parts of the gospel. I love seeing the way the gospel works in children's lives, and how essential it is. So instead of feeling overwhelmed about cub scout training or panicking about having to keep dozens of kids under control regularly, I was just excited I didn't have to leave. My co-presidency members are awesome women, and we're going to have fun.

We had our ultrasound, and the baby's gender is … unknown. The kid would not uncurl from the fetal position. Honestly, it bummed me out. I'm one of those people that has a hard time making the coming baby a reality, and in the past, knowing the gender was a huge jump – being able to say “her” instead of “it.” Plus, it makes tracking down the clothes I've loaned to three different family members trickier. Emily was also crazy depressed. Like, she cried about it when we got to the car. She's still praying every night that the baby will let us know if its a boy or a girl. :) Elliot is calmly assured that it is a boy, despite our assurances that we don't know. But it is fine. I already have the stuff for both, and I'll get to have the same kind of surprise moment women have had for thousands of years, so I'll call it historical education or something.


Emily starts her new preschool soon, and she's stoked. She gets excited when we drive past the building. She loves her stack of school supplies. She asks me all the time how many days until she can go. She is raring to go. Elliot's current loves are zoos, cooking, and latter-day prophets.

That's all I have time for right now, but that's a quick run down.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

30 Life Lessons

I recently had one of those milestone birthdays, so I decided to indulge in a little navel gazing and think about what I've learned over the years. :) Feel free to skip this one if that sounds too heavy/narcissistic.

30 lessons learned in my first 30 years of life:

1 – Live life with gratitude. Life is more beautiful when you notice what others are doing for you, rather than what they aren't.
2 – The atonement isn't a box you check after you've stopped yourself from screwing up. It is meant to be used from the second you decide you want to change throughout the whole changing process.
3 – Just because someone experiences something differently than I do doesn't mean it isn't valid and doesn't mean I can't learn from it.
4 – Don't storm off when a relationship/organization does something you don't like. If there's still goodness there, stay and be a part of the solution.
5 – I don't need my heroes to be shiny. My heroes are flawed humans. Just because they've done or believed messed up things doesn't mean I can't learn from their lives.
6 – Sleep is amazing. All those fun things I thought I'd rather do than sleep? Not as good as sleep.
7 – If I want something about my life to change, the first thing I have to change is myself.
8 – I'm an introvert. I'm much happier when I acknowledge that and give myself solitude to recharge.
9 – I need books in my life. And book lovers.
10 – Trying to tear down somebody else's opinions rarely works. Respectful, mutual sharing of our own opinions usually shifts both people's opinions.
11 – My family is all kinds of awesome. By blood, by marriage, and by choice, I lucked out big time.
12 – Few things are as attractive as kindness, integrity, and being comfortable in your own skin.
13 – You don't have to love every moment of parenting, but if you're watchful for moments of beauty and grace, you'll see them everywhere.
14 – People will never cease to surprise me with their capacity for goodness, or with their capacity for cruelty. It is important to acknowledge both.
15 – Camping and hiking are a lot more fun in beautiful places. Turns out, when I'm not hiking through corn fields, I love it!
16 - Usually when I feel like God isn't answering my questions, it is because I am asking the wrong ones, or I've limited my range of possible answers to my questions.
17 – You live with the consequences of your choices, so make your choices for your own reasons, not someone else's.
18 – Order your life around what you value most, and give others the freedom to do the same.
19 – Rather than agonizing about creating the perfect learning environment from your kids, pull them into the things you love (without forcing it). Let them see you pursue your passions, and they will find the confidence to discover and pursue their own.
20 – When it comes to parenting, I love Wendy Mogel's philosophy: Moderation, Celebration, Sanctification. In other words, keep a balance, look for the joy, and make what you're already doing holy.
21 - I love to cook, but not to bake. Measuring spoons wear me out, and you're often expected to make it look pretty. No one cares if your soup isn't frosted perfectly.
22 – It's much more productive to see what my skill set can bring to a job/calling instead of dwelling on the skills I don't have.
23 – Spituppy babies + bibs = sanity.
24 – I like teaching. It's fun to build people.
25 – I love hearing people talk about their passions, even if they aren't my passions, because I see the person in a new way when I see their enthusiasm.
26 – Living in new places helps me see new sides of myself and the world I live in.
27 – Reading and writing helps me make sense of the world around me.
28 – Give people the benefit of the doubt, but don't be a doormat.
29 – If you're creative about it, you can squeeze a lot of learning into your life.

30 – Make memories. Even if they turn out disastrous, you can laugh about them together.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Family time, and an announcement






 
I've been blessed with an awesome family. Have I mentioned that before? In July, we spent 10 fabulous days in Utah with family. We went to the rodeo, rode horses, floated on rafts, swam, went to family reunions, visited the zoo, and just strengthened our relationships and watched the kids form new ones. Nothing beats watching your kids being silly with their extended family. Maybe getting to spend time with them yourself.
 
In other news, I know I've mentioned it to many of you via other channels, but since I haven't talked about it here, I'll share that we're expecting baby number 3 in January! I'll find out the gender in early September. It's been interesting to me how different each pregnancy is. With Emily, I was crazy sick for several months and had all kinds of weird food aversions. With Elliot, my stomach was fine, but I slept like a sloth. This time around, I've had intense cravings, which have luckily died down now that I'm in the second trimester. I wanted hamburgers around the clock. I've done the cliché drive to Wendy's at 10pm to get a hamburger because I knew I couldn't sleep without one - I'd just lie in bed for hours thinking about hamburgers. Actually, maybe less cliché because I didn't send Rob to get it, as that would take too long - I'd down those bad boys in the parking lot.
 
It's been fun watching the kids this time around. Emily was way too little to understand when I was pregnant with Elliot, but the kids get it now. They are excited, and Emily tells everyone she meets about it (yeah, we couldn't keep it quiet for long after telling her). Emily loves it when I get out the What to Expect book and tell her how big the baby is now, and Elliot asks me questions about the baby in my tummy.
 
We'll be in over out heads, but we're excited all the same.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Family





Since not blogging in both May and June is too shameful, I'm going to toss a few pictures up from my recent vacation to Omaha and say that time with family is just magical. I really need to invest in a teleporter.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Azaleas





Spring seems to be coming and going so rapidly I can't keep track of which season we're in, but we took advantage of an authentic spring day to enjoy the Azaleas at the National Arboretum. :) The flowers Emily are holding are for me.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pure coincidence


I still maintain that it is a coincidence that...
  • I accomplish my biggest cleaning projects when Rob is working from home and I don't have access to the computer.
  • Elliot comes down with a cold a day or two after we go to the mall play place.
  • Emily often invents arbitrary rules and lectures Elliot about the consequences when he doesn't follow them.
  • I started exercising more after discovering I could easily read on a stationary bike.
  • The cashier at Target handed me my tube of concealer and said, “I assume you want this handy and not in the bag."

Friday, April 12, 2013

Heard


First of all, can I sing the praises of whoever it was that came up with the LDS General Conference Bag idea? We repeated this game from last conference (stick a picture of a prophet/apostle/auxiliary on a bag filled with a craft or snack, and the kids get that bag when that individual speaks), and my kids were in paradise. They remembered it from last year, and they loved it so much that three days later, they were still asking me to put General Conference on for them. And for my part, it was wonderful to hear so much of what was taught.

I'm not ruling out the possibility of being excited to actually hear anything sermon-like at all (sacrament meeting is always a bit of a wrestling match), but there was a lot I loved about this conference. I adored Elder Holland's talk about belief. I could gush quote after quote, but my favorite: “Let me be clear on this point: I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have … Be as candid about your questions as you need to be; life is full of them on one subject or another. But ... don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle.” I loved hearing that affirmation of a truth that has meant a lot to me in my spiritual journey. I've found myself enriched and stretched as I've honestly approached my own ugly, messy questions, but finding my answers always came back to starting at the foundations of my faith and negotiating from there.

I also was delighted about Sister Stephens and Sister Stevens praying. Confession: I thought I didn't care about the “Let Women Pray” movement (sorry, I know some of you wrote letters for it). I thought that because there wasn't any rule against it, and I study the talks and not the prayers at conference, it was kind of a non-issue. But wow, I loved it when Sister Stephens came up. I felt peace and power, but more importantly, I felt heard. Because of a few loud individuals (which I realize more and more don't represent the majority of Mormons), it is easy to feel like asking any gender-related question will get you branded as a heretic or lacking in eternal perspective. But the prayers demonstrated another truth I know: that when we ask questions from a place of faith, honesty, and a desire to do good, people will listen. I don't really care about women praying in conference, but it felt wonderful to know that our leaders cared that other women did. Add sister missionaries being added to the mission leadership ranks, and the recent broadcast by the auxiliary presidents about how they function in counsels and interact with priesthood leaders, and I'm seeing some specific concerns that many faithful women have been bringing forward being thoughtfully considered and addressed. That's a good feeling.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Blossom Kite Festival



Sure, our traffic sucks and our housing prices are ridiculous. But DC knows how to do spring and festivals. We loved joining hundreds of others to make and fly kites beneath the Washington Monument, even if the wind wasn't very strong. The kids loved flying their kites (even if for Elliot, that meant just running while dragging it behind him), and it just felt like spring to sit out on the grass and watch kites fly overhead. I love this city.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Witness


2001
Students queue up at the BYU soapbox, eagerly awaiting the chance to share their two cents with the assembled crowds. A boy in his early 20s takes the microphone, steps up, and declares “I think gay people should be taken back behind the barn and beaten.” Jaws drop. A few students start booing. “Well, you know I’m right,” he declares and walks away. No one claps.
2003
My summer fling and I sit on the grass at a concert, talking between sets and watching the airplanes fly overhead. He screws up his courage and asks, “Erin, have you ever kissed a girl?”  My mind races – where did that come from? I realize it probably came from the conversation we’d had with friends two weeks earlier when I stated my support for civil unions.
Feeling judged and a little indignant, I decide to mess with his head. “Five,” I lie. “Oh,” he says, and he looks away. I watch him try to arrange his face in a way to make it seem like what I said didn’t bother him. My conscience kicks in. He’d been wondering if he'd been dating a bisexual for two weeks; he’d had the courage to ask me instead of assuming; and he didn’t instantly dump me when he thought his suspicions were true. I fess up. “I was joking. I’m 100% heterosexual, and always have been.” Relief washes over his face, and he starts laughing at my ability to pull one over on him.
A few days later, another boy present at the civil union conversation asks me if I am a lesbian. There's nothing malicious or hateful about the question. It's just laid on the table. Asked simply, answered simply - no.
2004
When class starts, my professor asks us to pass back the packet of sample personal responses she'd handed to the group at the end of the previous class. She hadn't read through them all before doing so, and she didn't catch that one student's paper was about his realization that he was attracted to other men. This student had a very public presence on campus. I already knew his name before the class started. He wasn't publicly out, and this could have been shattering for him. My professor owns her mistake in front of the class and apologizes to him. He asks to withdraw because he feels his trust has been betrayed and he can't feel safe there. The teacher agrees. Several students also withdraw in protest.
I stay. There are enough malicious people in this world to punish people that didn't mean harm.
No one that stayed outed him to the campus.
2008
Prop 8 rolls around. Most Mormons I know are fired up in support of it. I hear a lot about it in Relief Society meetings. Others oppose it. They don't speak up in Relief Society meetings, but they talk to the teacher after class to see if there's a way they can keep discussion away from politics at church.
2012
A friend joins Mormons Building Bridges in the DC Pride parade. Her little boys hold a sign that says, “my friend has two awesome mommies.”

-----

I've been thinking a lot about this blog post about a man in Utah that came out, expecting to be hated and shunned by the Mormons around him, and found himself feeling completely loved and accepted by the Mormons in his community. I could write about 45 different blog posts about the different things this article has made me think about. But here's the big one: there's a disconnect between the way Mormons talk about gay marriage and the way we feel about the people in our lives that are gay. And this needs to stop.

I can't claim to have deep personal understanding of the issue. I'm heterosexual. I've never even had a close friend that has come out before I've lost touch with them in a series of moves. But I've been reading everything I can get my hands on about the experience of gay mormons, and it breaks my heart. The depression. The shockingly high suicide rates. The crushing fear of rejection and hatred from those they care about. The homelessness in cases where that rejection occurs.

And here's what breaks my heart most. There are absolutely stories of misunderstanding, rejection, and cruelty. There's no question these actions should not exist. But there are also so many stories of acceptance and love. In my limited experience, most of the cruelty I've seen happens in generalities (and make no mistake – it has been nasty). But when the Mormons I know look someone gay in the face, in all but one case, they have acted with good intentions. Sometimes they take some time to process things, and yes, they make mistakes out of ignorance, but they do not act out of hate. They are willing to give dating a bisexual a try. They march in parades to defend the choices of loved ones. They respect privacy when the individual wants it, and express unconditional love and support when the individual wants to be open. And while I do think the Mormons I know are incredibly good people, I simply don't believe they are the exception to the rule.

But gay Mormon youth can't see this because of our rhetoric. And they are dying because of it.

This post is already reaching Tolstoyian lengths, and my views on gay marriage are far too nuanced to discuss in this post or to fit neatly in a facebook profile photo. But here's what I do want to say.

I want there to be no question to any gay individual in my world that you will experience no hatred from me, a committed Mormon. I do not think you are evil. I do not think you are out to destroy the moral fabric of our society. I do not think God hates you – in fact, I know the opposite is true. I think you have worth, potential, and something of value to give to the world as you are. I don't think you need to change, nor do I want you to try to be something you aren't. And I know I'm not the only Mormon that feels this way.

To any gay mormon that reads this, I want you to know I pray regularly that you will be able to find a place in your religious community where you can be your authentic self; that those around you will be good enough to help you create it; and that they will be smart enough to receive the wonderful things you can contribute to their lives and their faith by being your authentic self. I want you to know that although some people you care about deeply will let you down, I think you'll be surprised how much love you can find in your community if you give us a chance. We'll make mistakes, but if you're patient with us, we'll do better. You don't need to suffer in silence – you are worthy of love exactly as you are. And I know I'm not the only Mormon that feels this way. I've been witnessing it for over a decade.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Coward

There are many reasons I haven't been blogging much lately. Many of them have to do with lack of time. I've been working hard at my new job. I've started exercising. Naptime is gone. I'm sifting through choir selections, planning preschool lessons, and orchestrating more projects for my craft-obsessed kids that I would have thought humanly possible five years ago (bless you, pinterest). I don't have as much leisure time as I used to, which is completely fine, because my life is full of good and fulfilling things. Further, my book review column and women's history month blog satisfy my innate need to write. I have lots of good reasons.

Here the bad one: I'm becoming a coward.

I haven't been writing as much, but I haven't been posting the things I have written. Plus, the things I have been writing and posting (like my mormon women's history blog), I haven't been giving any publicity. I get set to do it, and then I chicken out.

I'm not entirely sure why I'm doing this. If anything, I've become more confident and articulate about my views during in-person conversation than in times past, probably because the DC metro rocks my world with its intelligent and accepting people that know how to differ respectfully. And you readers all rock my world too. I know that many of you on many sides of the ideological spectrum would prefer I move a little more your way, and you still love me and accept me, knowing full well where I stand. It isn't like anything I've been writing would surprise you or make you hate me.

I think it might be because I'm recognizing the transforming power of ideas the more I see of the world, and sometimes I worry about the consequences of the stories I tell.

I believe in the power of true stories. I believe that when we can look at each other with empathy and understanding by truly listening to each other, rather than leaning on the cliches we use to describe “those people,” the world gets nudged in the right direction. But it doesn't mean there aren't casualties along the way.

For example, let's take my women's history blog. I don't sugar coat church history. It is full of stories of real people making real mistakes that hurt those they are responsible for. It is full of stories of real people becoming so much greater than they could become on their own, and lifting others to do the same. It is both, and everything in between, and it speaks to me more than a sterilized version because I love God's capacity to work with what we put on the table and lift us somewhere higher; to reach back to us when we reach out in our imperfection and brokenness.

I was blessed to be eased down the path of the ugly parts of Mormon history by faithful, honest people who taught me that we don't have to be flawless to do God's work, and that we don't have to sweep mistakes and complexity under a rug to make the church true. I thank my lucky stars for them because I love my faith so deeply and I connect to God so meaningfully here, and I'm not sure I would have stayed without that framework. But many people have only heard the glossy and sterilized version, and I worry about what they do when they read my blog. What if they can't stomach it and walk away from a faith that brings me so much joy?

But then again, what if they only hear about it from someone with an ax to grind, and my forthrightness could have made a difference?

I'm resolving to be braver. Silence and speaking can both harm, and if I'm going to do harm, I would rather do it by being authentic and open. So, I may not have much time, but when I do, I'm going to speak.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Life and death, according to my four-year-old

My four year old is obsessed with death. Not in an afraid-of-it kind of way. Not in a future-goth-kid kind of way. She's simply intrigued by it in a very innocent way. It makes it into her creative play. It becomes a part of the stories she “reads” to her dolls. She loves to tell me about how the dinosaurs all died and became bones, and then the elephants and people came after that. It is pretty ubiquitous at times. If there's a way to bring death into a conversation, she does.

It's weird, but I'm rolling with it, answering her questions in as close to a four-year-old level as I can figure out, and enjoying the humorous moments. Two of the funniest:


  • Emily and I were looking at pictures of my dad before he shaved off his mustache. Emily exclaimed, “Grandpa used to have a mustache. Then it died. It lives with Heavenly Father now.
  • The other day during bath time, she had one of her bath letters pretend to walk into too deep water in the pool and die. Then she had another bath letter pretend to be Jesus and bring it back to life. Rinse in still too deep water, repeat death scene. Again and again. At least I know she's been listening to our pool safety and FHE lessons, but I'm just crossing my fingers that she won't play that game in preschool.
Turns out, there nothing like your child resurrecting toys in the bathtub to make you realize just how big a role death plays in your theology.