Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Abandoned Christmas Card

I had every intention of sending Christmas Cards this year - we took pictures of the girls in little Santa Suits, and I compiled a few addresses.  I think the problem is that I didn't start doing this until the middle of December, the same time my own mailbox was full of cards from friends and family who had started the same process in July.  I know this because they are wearing t-shirts and shorts, and their pictures have a summery-feel.  My girls are in velvet dresses or red outfits lined with fur, but out of 129 pictures, we didn't have one with both girls smiling.  (Even with the amazing talents of my photographer-friend, Annie.)






















That is only half the story though.  The other half is the actual Christmas letter.  I tried several times during the month of December to sit down and write what had happened during 2011.  It goes without saying that most Christmas letters catalogue the accomplishments of the past year.  This is where I felt stumped.  Our family has accomplished things, but can you really include "rearranged the apartment for the 7th time" in a Christmas letter?  And does the fact that Noel is a bit of a screamer something we should brag about?  Of course, there is the very BIG accomplishment in our lives - we went from a 1-child family to a 2-child family.  But I'm not sure I really want to write about the last few months of being pregnant, the rushed delivery to get Juliet here, or the first 3 months of her life when life was hazy from sleep deprivation.

The year of 2011 has had accomplishments, but they don't tend toward the grand.  It reminds me of my sister's family living in Kansas.  They moved there 3 1/2 years ago, and it took 3 years for them to really love the area and appreciate its own sort of beauty.  They couldn't take visitors to a tourist attraction, point and say:  "There--isn't that amazing?"  The beauty of Kansas is sort of a background beauty - it's always there, but it doesn't jump out at you.  A peaceful sort of beauty.  That's how life has been for us.  I can't say, "Here are five huge things that our family accomplished" - but there were little, daily things that made the background of our lives lovely. 

The background of our life is the tub filled with toys, and two little girls wrapped up in towels.  It's the toy chest that's empty, because Noel and Juliet have to empty it as soon as it is put away.  It's the night I tried to make cheese enchiladas with homemade sauce, and forgot to put the cheese in the tortillas.  The background is when Noel reaches up and wraps her chubby little hand around one of my fingers, or Juliet burrows into my chest as she falls asleep.  The background is the checkered rug we have had since getting married, stained with spilled rootbeer and ground-in animal crackers.  It's holding Scottie's hand while we sit on the covered patio during a rainstorm. 

The background makes our life funny and melancholy, doable and beautiful.  It's not the sort of thing you write about in Christmas Letters, but it is the sort of life we live.  Maybe in 2012, we'll have some big accomplishments that are worthy of a Christmas letter, but until then, we'll keep enjoying the Kansas sort of beauty in our little basement apartment life.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Closer to Christ

It's almost Christmas, and I've been thinking over the past year, wondering if I am closer to Christ today than I was last December.  At the beginning of 2011, I was a Gospel Doctrine teacher in our ward and decided to read "The Kingdom and the Crown" trilogy by Gerald Lund, while I was teaching from the Gospels.  I knew it would help me teach, and be an extension of what I was reading from the Bible.  I considered challenging myself to read "Jesus the Christ" again, but didn't think I could mentally focus on that and our 2 little girls.  Looking back, I can see that was an inspired decision...I'll have to wait for a year without a newborn to really delve into Talmage. 

The trilogy is historical fiction, a genre I've always loved because I get such a feel for the time and place of the events recorded.  Gerald Lund did abundant research for this book, and I loved knowing that the "historical" part was true.  I could always turn to the back of the chapter and read the endnotes to find out all the information I needed and wanted to know. 

What I loved most about the book is how real the time era seemed.  When I had read the New Testament before, the social hierarchy of ancient Israel seemed rather foggy.  I could never tell the exact difference between Pharisses and Sadducees, publicans and scribes.  I understood the parables, but I didn't understand the social context of many of the teachings.  The books by Lund opened up the era to me, and I started to understand how the Roman Rule affected people living at the time of Christ, and how they responded to Christ.  It was amazing - I looked forward to reading whenever I had a chance.  I tried to match up what I was reading from the Gospels with these books, and it made my study of the scriptures so rich and full.  There were a million realizations and awakenings this year, but here are just a few.

I came to know the disciples as just that--disciples.  They were learning just as I am learning, and yet so quick to follow the Savior.  I grew to love and admire the apostle Simon Peter.  I am grateful that the experiences he went through are recorded for me - for I too have "little faith" at times.  I hope my faith will grow as strong as Simon Peter's did.  I grew to love Matthew the publican, and his ability to answer Christ's call to serve.  I grew to loves James and John, and their devotion to the Savior.  Most importantly, I grew to love the Savior more this year.  I have thought often of the Christmas Story throughout the year, and what it truly means to be the Son of God.  I have thought often why many people didn't accept him as the Messiah, and what it means for me to accept the Messiah.  I am learning more deeply how to live the gospel day-to-day, and during the day.  I loved reading about his life this year - he took time to teach and be with people, strengthen them and heal them.  And though I am 2,000 years removed from when he lived on this earth, I hope that I will not be removed from knowing him as my Savior.

And so, this December, I am closer to the Savior than I was last December.  And I hope that I will find another way to know the Savior more deeply before next Christmas.   

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Little Talker

The other day I checked the phone messages, and heard the following:  "You have 19 new messages." 
This statement should have shocked me, but it didn't.  I'm not the best person at checking messages, and I make this perfectly clear on our voicemail.  I tell callers that if they really want to get ahold of me, they should send a text.  Some people must think this is a joke, because they leave a message all the same, and then are surprised when I call them back 2 weeks later.

I have never been very good on the phone.  In high school, I would write down a script of what I wanted to say when calling a friend.  I would make multiple scripts when I had to call a boy - different scripts were used depending on their responses.  In college, I applied for a job as a receptionist.  I had my mom call in and schedule the interview for me, then showed up for the interview and got hired.  My job?  Answering phones.  It was the longest 6 months of my life.

For some reason I can't understand, Noel has taken to phones, or any object that looks like a phone.  She carries on conversations with her imaginary friends, waiting for them to respond, and saying 'bye' at the close.  I don't know where she picked up this habit, because it is very plain it isn't from me.  She obviously won't need to write scripts when calling boys in high school. 


video

Cirque de la Symphony

Birthdays as a kid are magical.  The strawberry cake with sprinkles, 20 friends all showing up in party dresses, and the house decorated in Strawberry Shortcake.  As a kid, I counted down the days to my birthday.  When it arrived, I jumped out of bed early in the morning, taking in every moment of my own special day.  And then, somewhere along the way, birthdays became a day I went to lunch with a friend, and received a card in the mail.  It felt like it should be a special day, but never really lived up to the expectations I had.  Until this year, which was the best birthday I have had since that Strawberry Shortcake party as a 5-year-old. 


I had dropped several non-specific hints of what I was hoping to do, but 6 days before my birthday, nothing was planned yet.  To be fair, Scottie is very good at making my birthday a big deal, but he isn't always good at guessing what I'd like.  One year he planned a surprise party, not knowing I feel horribly awkward being the center of attention.  Nope - I simply wanted to go on a date with Scottie.  And I really  wanted to go to the Symphony.  I made comments about how great it looked, left advertisements on the table, and suggested we might go.  Finally, 6 days before my birthday, I tried the direct approach.  I told Scottie simply, "All I want for my birthday is to see the Cirque du Soleil perform with the Symphony."  Within 20 minutes, he had called and bought tickets.  It's amazing what happens when I simply say what I am thinking, and bypass the subtle messages.

On Saturday, we went out on the town for my birthday-date.  I ate chocolate chip cookies before I had dinner, and we walked through Temple Square to see the lights.  We headed to Abravanel Hall for the Cirque de la Symphony.  I had seen clips of Cirque du Soleil, but this was far and beyond anything I had hoped for.  My eyes were glued to the performers on the stage - except for those moments when I looked at Scottie in disbelief, asking him repeatedly, "How do they do that?!"  Every performer was amazing, and the night took me back to my childhood.  I was a 5-year-old again at the circus, watching the acrobats flying through the air, the juggler catching multiple rings, and the contortionist performing feats I had never imagined.  And all this while the symphony played Christmas music.  It was truly magical - the only thing missing was some cotton candy. 



(Here is a clip of Cirque de la Symphony that is similar - although it's not quite so magical on this little video as it was that night.)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Morning Sickness"

Juliet woke up at 5:00 a.m. this morning, crying and in pain.  She's teething at the moment, a rite of passage all infants must pass through, and which all mothers hate.  She had her bottle, screamed some, and was trying to settle back to sleep.  I thought I'd give her some teething gel, which quickly made matters go from bad to worse.  She threw up all over herself, me, and the couch.  I think I'm pretty good at handling throw-up, but this was a little much for me.  Then, Noel woke up because Juliet was crying.  By now, it was 5:30 in the morning, and I was ready to call it a day.

We had to change clothes for everyone-obvious for Juliet and I, but also a necessity for Noel after she tried helping me clean up the mess on the couch.  She is such a little helper, and was grabbing wipes as fast as she could.  I was doing all of this solo, minus the little munchkin's help, as Scott was already at work.  Some mornings I really detest his 4:00 a.m. shift...make that most mornings.  But actually, in a situation like this, Scott wouldn't be all that much help.  He can't clean up throw-up.  If he so much as smells it, let alone touches it, he begins to puke as well.  This was a great help when I was pregnant and throwing up 24-7...

Well, by 7:00, Juliet had calmed down enough to start over.  She had a little bit of water, a few sips from her bottle, and then fell asleep from sheer exhaustion.  Noel kept going for another hour, until she finally collapsed in her highchair.  She had insisted on eating breakfast, of which she consumed two bites.  And now, it's 9:00 a.m., and I'm exhausted as well.  And for some reason, I'm writing about what happened instead of taking a nap myself.  Until now, as I close my eyes while writing this...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My 32nd Birthday

I'm turning 32 this week, which is a bit scary to me, because this is possibly the last year of my life. Well...according to my mother. When she was turning 32, I distinctly remember her saying, "It's all downhill from here." And I spent the next 12 months worrying that she was dying, and wouldn't reach her next birthday.  Of course what she meant was that the carefree life of being 20 was over, and she now had a full family life. Of course, this is purely speculation, because when I asked my mother what she meant by this comment years later, she couldn't remember having ever said that. I'm not sure if that is because she was just having a "senior moment", or that her earlier statement was true and she couldn't remember the first half of her life.

I'm not too scared of being 32.  It's an odd realization that all my previous accomplishments keep getting shoved off the podium by present pressures. I'm learning how to get the laundry done and keep the kiddos entertained simultaneously. Learning how to stop talking when I've stopped thinking. I'm learning how to cook kid-friendly meals like mac-n-cheese. I spent most of my 20's thinking that academic knowledge was pivotal, and that cooking gourment meals everynight was a requirement for good living. I'm spending my 30's learning that the most helpful knowledge is how to understand a 2-year old that can only say "mommy", "no", and "why". Or that cooking a dinner of fish sticks and peas is okay. And I'm spending my 30's away from the 40-hour week, in exchange for the 24-7 life of raising kids.

I'm glad to be 32, and I think the exchanges in lifestyle are for the best.  Of course, I'm not sure I'll think that when my birthday dinner consists of chicken nuggets and french fries to keep the little one happy. Then again, that's one of the lessons for my 30's - finding more joy in my children's desires than in my own. 


Saturday, December 10, 2011

For Harry Morgan

I have not always watched M*A*S*H—in fact, it’s probably safe to say that had I not married Scott, I would never have watched M*A*S*H.  But as it often happens in marriage, you pick up each other’s habits and interests.  This extends even to entertainment—my husband watched “Pride & Prejudice” and “13 Going on 30” at my request.  And so, it was only a matter of time until I would have to watch M*A*S*H.  Not just one episode, but all 11 seasons that my husband proudly owned.
The journey began simply enough with Season One…and probably would have ended there.  I was easily annoyed by Hawkeye’s over-humor, and didn’t enjoy the storylines.  Luckily, my husband knew the show well enough to know what would hook me.  He skipped to Season Four where Colonel Potter enters.  Something about that fierce little actor tagged me, and I was hooked.  Anyone who loves M*A*S*H has their favorite characters—usually it is Radar, Hawkeye, or Klinger.  But for me—it was Colonel Potter.  He referred to his wife as “mother”, looked after everyone on the base as if they were family, and was sensible.  And of course, he was funny. 
I watched M*A*S*H during the sleepless nights with both girls – something about the drab color scheme of the show was soothing to them.  And I always watch it with subtitles, so that I don’t have to have two kids awake in the middle of the night!  Because of this, I actually get rather annoyed when Scott has M*A*S*H on with sound - I’m  simply too used to the silent version.  But even with the sound off, Colonel Potter still makes me laugh with his dry wit. 

To my favorite Colonel in the U.S. Army, Goodbye, Farewell and Amen.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Treadmill

Today I got on our treadmill, which curiously looks like a clothes hanger much of the time.  This is because most of the time, I'm doing laundry instead of exercising.  But today was different.  Today, I got dressed in my windpants and t-shirt, convinced my husband to watch the kids for 25 minutes, and got on the treadmill.

I had modest goals:  stay on the treadmill for 25 minutes; break a sweat; jog a 13:20 pace mile.  After 5 minutes, I changed my goals:  stay on the treadmill for 13 minutes; break a sweat; jog for 2 consecutive minutes at any pace.  I may be performing poorly in the cardiovascular arena, but I'm obviously quite flexible. :-)

After my run, er, jog, I was planning more workouts and ways to get in shape.  Goals like the following:  5 sit-ups a day, 1 dessert a day, get on the treadmill again tomorrow.  But now, at the close of the day, I haven't done those 5 sit-ups, but I did have dessert.   Obviously, I need to work on my goal-setting.

Monday, December 5, 2011

In Love with our VCR

I noticed the other day that my outfit looked somewhat like it was from the 80's. Not 80's meets 2011...just 80's. I was wearing argoyle knee-highs, a denim skirt, and a red turtleneck. I asked my husband how I looked, and he politely said the only thing he could say: "You look very nice."


He didn't expand, and it got me to thinking about my sense of fashion, or rather my complete lack thereof. I think I've started dressing more and more like '80s vintage because I'm watching more and more videos from the '80s. The reason why? We own a VCR. Yup--an old-fashioned VCR/DVD combo that you can't even buy unless you hit a garage sale. The only downfall to this is that you can't buy new videos; we're stuck with hand-me-downs from friends and relatives who have abandoned their VCRs, and upgraded to DVDs and BluRay. We are officially 2 steps behind the technological world, and it's starting to show in my fashion.

The clothes I wear look oddly like they came from the set of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun". I think curduroy pants are wonderful, and I could wear rugby-polos every day of the week. To add to this, I wear windpants that haven't been in style since 1992. My hair is naturally curly, and lately I haven't had time to style it. I'm sporting a somewhat frizzy look that would have been chic 25 years ago. Imagine the brushed-out perm look that you wore in Elementary School. Not 80's meets 2011, just straight-up 80's. No wonder I'm getting stares!


I suppose my fashion trend will continue as long as the videos last, which comes closer everytime one of the videos dies in the machine - the tape becomes lodged in the VCR, and we say goodbye to another classic from the 80's. Until then, I'll be the one at the grocery store in argoyle socks, a denim skirt, and that red turtleneck. Say hi when you see me.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Small Victories

My dad often uses a term that I love: small victories. He started using this when he was in the hospital to treat his diabetes for several months, and couldn't continue his normal lifestyle. He celebrated the accomplishments he made, like tapping into the hospital's private WiFi system on his laptop. When I spoke to him on the phone, he would tell me of these small victories, and I started using the term myself. I've defined any small victory as this: it may not be important to anyone outside my house, but it makes life easier for me.

It is a small victory when I remember to take the sheets off the bed for laundry before I make the bed, or check all the pockets in my jeans before I start the washer. A small victory is when I remember to pack diapers and wipes in the diaper bag, not to mention a change of clothes for both girls. I count it a small victory when I tell Noel to use her "soft voice" instead of raising mine to match hers, or when I manage to get the kiddos and myself dressed and out the door before 11 a.m.

These are all small victories--nothing that changes the history of the world, but they make me smile. This morning, we enjoyed a small victory. We found a food that Noel and I could bake together and have fun: banana bread. She always wants to help me cook, and this was the perfect food. She squashed the bananas with a potato masher while I mixed the other ingredients. The only potential problem came when I was buttering the pan; I turned for a second and Noel emptied her juicebox into the batter. It was about a half-cup, but I thought I would cook it anyway since we were so close.

An hour later, the bread came out of the oven and I tasted it. And kept tasting and loving every morsel. It turned out to be the best banana bread I have ever made, with a hint of sweet apple juice. I ate 4 pieces of the banana bread, and finally forced myself to stop. Noel enjoyed mixing the batter much more than the finished product--she took one bite and that was enough. Even still, this is my small victory. Or rather--our small victory of apple-banana bread. And that is why--it is ours.