Sunday, December 30, 2012

12.30.2012 -- Not in love, Blogger!

I am not in love with the changes to Blogger that don't retain the original post composition date/order.  The change has made my effort to get unfinished posts done messy and confusing.

Here's the story. I start lots more posts than I publish.  There are a lot posted today that are now completely out of order.  What a pain!  But!  I have a funny little anecdote to ease our pain:

Lucy came home from school this past week saying that 
a boy had "a major crush" on her.  This made me a little 
uncomfortable... I tried to reroute her storytelling into 
"this boy did something funny," not absolute certainty 
that he was smitten by her irresistable charms...  

"But Mom," she said, "You didn't hear how he said it!"  

"He was combing through my hair with his fingers and he said, 'You're beaaaauuutiful.'"

For the record, this is how irresistably beautiful Lucy's hair was that day.

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time, there was a world where nothing unfair ever happened.

No one ever died young.

No one ever suffered from mental illness.

No one had to go through the pain of being left alone.

Everyone had friends: 31 good friends, 80 casual friends, and 800 likeable and supportive acquaintances.

Whenever someone intended to write or get in touch with friends or family, the thought converted automatically into action.  It never failed.  There was no such thing as "I meant to call you on your birthday."  No.  Meaning to do something was doing it.  Good intentions were immediately realized, around the clock.

This was fortunate.

It would've been so tragic have a loved one fade away under the haze of mental illness, addiction or estrangement.  Just terrible to lose chances to stay connected with a loved one just because some poor soul failed to make good on their intentions.  

09.20.2012 -- Man Down

My cousin died this week.

That sounds so simple.  As if I only had one cousin.  As if it's so clear and neat.  I have more first cousins than I deserve, and I know and love them all.

Oh, Cousin.  It's easy to feel cheated when I think of the boy you were--the young man you were.  And then something in your brain changed...changed you.  Made it seem so hard to communicate with you.  I never asked you how it was to deal with your illness.  I thought I was being respectful, but now I'm just left with questions and regret.

Have you ever googled schizophrenia?  There are videos put together to simulate the experience.
They're scary.  I can't imagine living in a world where voices followed me everywhere.  When I saw those videos, short horror films to me, I felt a little differently.  I don't know a lot about my cousin's experience, but I do know that the "medicine" proscribed to him was no simple solution.  There are as many ways to treat mental illness as there are to deal with an oil spill.  None of them simple.

I wish I knew more.  I never wanted to ask about any of this because I didn't want to pry. I didn't want to call any attention to how different he was--from us and from himself.

I wish I had asked. 
I wish I hadn't tried so hard to pretend that he wasn't sick. 
I wish I'd had the strength to just love him fully and closely and openly and without fear.

Should he have lived much longer?   Maybe.  Maybe it's a selfish thought: What? He should have lived longer so I don't feel guilty about not getting in touch enough?   Maybe he is happy now.  Maybe he has some relief.

I miss you, Cousin.  I've been missing you for years. I miss the boy who I thought was supposed to grow into a happy, healthy man, start a creative career, get married to a sweet, funny, affectionate, beauty and have a couple of towheaded kids.

How can you have slipped away like that?  Weren't we holding you tightly enough? Was there anything we could've done that we didn't do? 

09.21.2012 -- Discomfort.

There are a lot of things that don't typically make me feel uncomfortable.  Running.  Dancing with my kids.  Wrestling with my kids.  Speaking mediocre French.  Cooking without a recipe.  Being seen in less-than-flattering clothing.

And there are things that do make me uncomfortable.  Singing in front of people who don't share half of my DNA.  Buying *cough* condoms.  Wearing leggings.  Showing my stomach.  Participating in gossip.  Discussing co-sleeping with non-co-sleepers.  Discussing politics.

The biggest problem for me in discussing politics is that I don't feel like I know enough.  In fact, I can't imagine EVER feeling like I know enough.  To me, the world of politics is so shady that it would be impossible to ever get to the bottom of it all.  That's a little sad to me. 

To me, someone who takes on the world of politics would have to be a monster or an angel.  Not a literal monster or angel, just either a power-hungry megalomaniac or someone so selfless that they would sacrifice their privacy to the media and the public for the sake of their country.  However, I just said that, to me, the world of politics is far from black and white, so I'm talking about shades of monstrosity and shades of purity.

My point is, I have a hard time putting myself in the place of a politician.  I know from reading the news that the world of politics has got a lot of layers, some of them disquieting, to say the least.  I also know that it's my responsibility as a citizen of a republic to try to navigate the mess to participate in the process.

Many people I know aren't shy about saying who they want to vote for and who they think everyone else should vote for.  I have seen a lot of arguments that equate a vote for Romney as a vote against low-income americans, or a vote against gay americans.

If I vote for Barack Obama, does that mean I'm voting against Capitalism--for Communism?  If I vote for Obama, am I anti-Christian?

I'm not sure why people are so vocal about this.  I can't imagine someone's rant changing my mind or changing my vote.  The way I see it is the way I see it.  I guess that's why I so dislike seeing political postings on the internet that are so extreme.  You know the posts I mean...  Mitt Romney hates poor black people and wants to ship all poor black gay people to Canada, so everyone should hate him.  Or this: Barack Obama has missed all of his defense meetings because he's out partying with his Hollywood peeps or playing basketball with his Muslim brothas.

Come on.  Can we approach this like grown ups?

We have two imperfect candidates, each with a different skill set.  Which skill set would better address the challenges we have as a nation?  I find myself afraid of getting into a political discussion because some people seem unable to get past the surface labels.  I don't want to be labeled, but I have a right and even a responsibility to assess political candidates the best I can.  I'm not sure where posting extreme things on Facebook helps this.

I don't feel like I can say that I will probably vote for Mitt Romney because I have seen people equate votes for Mitt Romney as hate, intolerance, disinterest in the poor, and disregard for the needs of the environment.

I want to vote for Mitt Romney.   I'm not voting against gay people.  I'm not voting because I think we should pave over all the wild places after we suck oil out of them to fill up every HumVee in the US.  

I was in Utah when he turned the 2002 Olympics around.  His leadership took a floundering, disgraced institution and restored its honor.  I don't think I'm overstating that.  Of course, I never worked with Mitt Romney, but I did come into contact with people who did.  Their comments about him were overwhelmingly positive.

As a Mormon, I find people's comments about Romney's disingenuousness to be disturbing and closed minded.  I have come across the same accusation from non-Mormons when they visit Utah and it astonishes me.  What's disingenuous about him?  Is it cheerfulness?  Wholesomeness?  

I am around wholesome, cheerful, positive people every day.  They have a lot to offer the world.  They offer self-mastery, integrity, a good work ethic, a service-oriented mindset and wisdom that you may not be able to get from your favorite fantasy bowling partner.  I personally want a president who is special, someone who has crafted an extraordinary life and can lead our country back to a solid foundation.

To a lot of people, that extraordinary leader is President Barack Obama.  Other people think Mitt Romney could do even more good than Obama in that office.  Do we really need to resort to name calling?

Awesome. The new not awesome

"You're so gorgeous. I want your skin!"  
"Love that color on you.  You have such great taste!"
"You have lovely hands!" 
"You have a uniquely beautiful voice.  You should sing more often!"

If you were to listen to the things I say to friends, you might think I have a thing for them.
This is not the case. I just *don't think I should necessarily not deliver a compliment just because it makes me sound strange.  I just believe in appreciation.

*The double negative is the new awesome.

11.27.2012 -- Underdog

Tuesdays at our house are one of our busiest days.  Gabe doesn't have school, but there is a violin lesson and three gymnastic classes that have to be fit into the end of the day.  Yesterday was no exception.

It began early with a ravenous Charlie requiring yogurt for breakfast.  Mission accomplished, Charlie and I went back to bed.  At a more reasonable hour, I awoke to find Lucy reading.  Lucy's normal morning involves sleeping as late as possible, so when she does wake up early and is productive, it's a relief.  It means she has had enough sleep and that our day will go more smoothly.

After getting Lucy off to school I spent about three hours doing other things.  My mind has conveniently gone hazy, which is a pretty good sign that those three hours aren't exciting enough to record here.  Diaper changes, baths, and arguments about what is an appropriate breakfast, more arguments about Gabe's attire...  That's it in a nutshell.

At about 10:00, our (superlative) friends arrived and we had one of our play/social/exercise hours.  This is something I highly recommend to anyone spending copious amounts of time with (beloved) children.  A little face-to-face adult interaction works wonders and can only be improved by exercise. Talk therapy plus sweat therapy equals happiness.  AND it's free!

I  probably should have showered and changed out of my spandex to go to the store afterwards.  I didn't.  You see, time is short and valuable when kids are due for a nap.  I loaded Charlie and Gabe into the car and headed straight for the store to get chicken and broccoli for dinner.  We also needed to get supplies to make birthday cupcakes for Gabe's preschool class today.  The store outing went about as you might expect with two boys overdue for naps.  Charlie left the store in my arms, screaming, and Gabe left nodding off in the driver's seat of a plastic kid-sized truck/grocery cart.  Fortunately, both of were solidly asleep by the time we got home.

While they slept, I put groceries away, took a relaxing bath, and put dinner together.  Charlie woke up in distress and it took a good hour to calm him down and feed him.  By this time, Gabe had to get up in order to get ready for gymnastics.  He'd had an accident in his sleep, so we plopped him in his own bath.  By the time both boys were dressed and happy, Lucy and Grandma Judy were coming in the front door just in time for Lucy's violin lesson.  Her teacher, Miss Lauren, was right behind them.

The rest of the night includes picking up Gabe from gymnastics, taking Lucy to gymnastics, finishing dinner, eating dinner, putting together dinner for Lucy, Picking up Lucy from gymnastics, and going to a gymnastics class myself.

The extra good part about these Tuesdays is that a lot of times, we are able to squeeze in some time outside.  Between picking up Gabe and dropping off Lucy, we have an hour.  Today, we went to the park where the kids spent most of the time on the swings.  They love swinging, and they love underdogs!  An underdog is a playground move effectuated by the pusher upon the pushee.  Said pusher holds on to the swing and keeps contact with the swing, holding the swing in front then pushing it over the head while running under the swing.  It makes the kid in the swing go really high without having to build up to it.  A courageous and impatient swinger's dream.  This is something that we do a lot.  It's one of those things where it's always the person giving the underdogs who ends it.

While I was running back and forth giving Charlie, Lucy and Gabe underdogs, I remembered my dad pushing me on the swings. 

I don't think he ever stopped giving underdogs.

10.24.2012 -- Skeletons Out of the Closet


Gabe and Charlie awake at 6:30.

Charlie becomes DBE (Dumper Boy Extroaordinaire).

I tried to make pumpkin cookies, but Charlie dumped a bunch of water into the mixing bowl.  I thought maybe I could salvage it... I doubled the batch.  Turned out I just made a double batch of bad cookies while Charlie raided the fridge and spilled leftover chicken, rice and teriyaki sauce.

While I cleaned this up, Charlie and Gabe ran around yelling at each other.  I needed the cookies, though, because a friend was coming over for tea (Mormon tea without caffine, y'all).  The cookies were a total bust, so I rounded up the boys and took them to the store to buy cookies.  (Why didn't I do that in the first place?)

Finally, Charlie got to sleep, just in time for me to breathe before my friend showed up--but not in time for me to clean up the house.

Despite my "baby style*" house, we had a lovely tea where I had to stop myself at least three times from trying to clean up. 

Charlie woke up yelling.

                                                                                           ......I'm blocking the rest out.

I am having a hard time imagining myself with any extra energy let alone brain power right now.  Yesterday wiped me out way before I was in bed.  First of all, the day started about an hour too early.  Lucy and Charlie will sleep in, But Gabe is up at the (butt) crack of dawn, and he enticed his little brother into getting up, too.  It was as recent as last weekend that I thought we had turned a corner with Charlie.  We had gone out to eat and he hadn't required any more effort than Gabe and Lucy did.  No thrown food, no screaming.  It was a golden moment.  In my mind, a backlit glow of peace and happiness was all but there on everyone's shoulders and heads. 

...Memories.  ...A moment of silence to commemorate that evening, please....

Yep.  Yesterday, I realized in the morning that I had agreed to get together with a friend at noon, and I had offered to bring refreshments.  I scrapped a few more complicated ideas then settled on making pumpkin butterscotch cookies.  I had already gotten the ingredients from the store a few weeks earlier, so it would be perfect.  When I bake, I often double the batch just to minimize the mess making, opting instead to have cookies or cookie dough around for a few days or weeks.  So, of course, I would double the batch.

Well, Charlie was determined to help me out yesterday.  He is so adept at getting up on the counter that, aside from dedicating yourself to keeping him off, there is really nothing to be done if he wants to be there.   I was going to make cookies, and I couldn't do that AND keep him off the counter, so we were just going to have to deal with the fallout.  Said fallout usually isn't too bad.  He is usually content to be within arms reach of the mixer and the ingredients.  Yesterday, though... he had different ideas.   His fingers were in every inappropriate place, he was spitting out the ingredients that didn't agree with him, he was standing in only the most dangerous spots and to top it off, he gave me a single moment of respite while he filled a cup with water, then dumped it into the mixing bowl while my back was turned.  I tried to dump out the water, but Charlie had added it at what seemed like the worst time possible, when I was still mixing in the pumpkin,  vanilla, and eggs.

Despite the craziness, we did manage to (finally) get out some Halloween decorations.  Lucy and Gabe really wanted to hang some spooky spiderwebs, and we got out the old ceramic skeletons.  Not impressed?  Well, they were spooky enough to keep our neighbor, Ava, from coming over.

Good times.

12.30.2012 -- Then and Now

Last year's Christmas card and one from this year.  The kids are growing! (See how I get that cheesy goodness in there without even flinching?)

We got back from a family reunion today.  How does a few days withing walking distance of skiing sound with all (or most of) your loved ones sound?  Heavenly?  Yep.

I didn't ski or snowboard this year.  Charlie was acting like we pumped him full of amphetamines most of the time, so I decided to stay around and keep him from destroying things and tackling babies.  I mostly succeeded.

Just before Christmas, I had decided to put together a photo book to cover the past two years of our familial voyage.  I had about 12 hours of work into the project (I know, right?) and Charlie turned off my computer.  I hadn't saved a thing.  So I went to Plan B for gifts for our parents.  It wasn't the end of the world, but reviewing the past couple of years, as always, gave me a broader perspective than usual (tunnel vision).  I don't think that journaling or blogging is anything earth changing, but it's really great to be able to look back and get glimpses into those days that have gone by.

Some things that I've been telling family when we were together these past few days:

Lucy's first adjective: Heavy
Gabe's first adjective: Happy
Charlie's first adjective: Cool!

Charlie also can say, "Awesome!"  When he says "milk," it sounds like, "nog."

Gabe really, really, really wanted a remote control helicopter for Christmas.  He got a fancy four channel helicopter to share with his dad. 

Lucy is actually playing the violin.  Keep in mind that our (my) standards are pretty low.  There are no solos or autograph requests as of yet, but we are getting it done.  ("We" are getting it done, not "Lucy" is getting it done, because she is learning the Suzuki method, which means that every moment she is practicing, I am helping her.)  It's another swing for me at consistency and practice.   When I was young, I convinced my parents to enroll me in piano lessons.  I loved the idea, but lacked the persistence to practice, so I stopped.  We did that at least two times, maybe three: enrolled and quit, enrolled and quit.

The story above about Charlie turning off the computer is typical of our family these days.  There are times when I try to catch up on things like blogging.  Honestly, it's hard sometimes to keep trying when time is lost like that work on the photo book.  Of course I've been saving my new projects as I go.

Gabe and Lucy both spent quite a few hours on skis this past few weeks.  I saw a video that Brian took of Gabe. (He's a solid little skiier!) But it's been about a year since I saw Lucy ski.  She just this week started using poles and moved up into the intermediate class.  Charlie took three runs on Brian's back (in a backpack) yesterday on Millie at Brighton.  He wasn't screaming, there were no tears, and he even smiled, so we count that as a success.

I'm going to try to embrace my limited time and call this good enough, or Charlie will probably make my exit for me.  Happy New Year!