Friday, January 27, 2012

To be noticed

We had a surprise at the end of dinner last night.  We had gone out to eat, an odd occurrence on a Thursday night.  But the week has been a little odd:  Noel got the stomach flu Monday night, and was up until 5:00 a.m. throwing up; I got the stomach flu Wednesday night, and followed suit; by 5:00 p.m. last night, I was exhausted without dinner planned.  So, we loaded the girls into the car and headed to a nice little local restaurant.  We especially like this place because they don't mind if Noel runs laps around the table while she waits for dinner.

When we asked our waitress for the bill, she said it had already been paid.  After much questioning on our part, she confessed that a gentleman sitting a few tables away had paid it.  I'm not sure why he paid for us, but it made my night, my week, even my month.  I've spent today thinking about this gentleman, and why he gave this anonymous gift to our family.

When we were at the restaurant, I barely noticed him.  I overheard the waitress asking him if he was enjoying the fish and chips.  Scottie noticed him working on his iPad.  But we didn't notice anything else, whereas he noticed our family in entirety.  He probably noticed that my hair was in two braids, no makeup, and that my pants were wrinkled.  He noticed our two adorable girls, competing for attention.  He noticed Scottie who was trying to feed our girls, while carrying on a conversation with me.  And somewhere in all this noticing, he thought we needed a little bit of kindness.  So, he paid for our dinner, and left without us noticing.  And left me feeling that I should have noticed him a bit more.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Yesterday, the lesson in Relief Society was on Elder Anderson's talk, "Children" (October General Conference).  I loved it when I heard it the first time, cried when I read it a few weeks ago, and cried again during the lesson.  It is a beautiful talk; here is one of my favorite parts:

"Many voices in the world today marginalize the importance of having children or suggest delaying or limiting children in a family. My daughters recently referred me to a blog written by a Christian mother (not of our faith) with five children. She commented: “[Growing] up in this culture, it is very hard to get a biblical perspective on motherhood. … Children rank way below college. Below world travel for sure. Below the ability to go out at night at your leisure. Below honing your body at the gym. Below any job you may have or hope to get.” She then adds: “Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.”7

Suddenly, it's Monday:  I'm not sitting in Relief Society, and instead of the warm fuzzy stories about having children, I actually have two children that were not as cute as stamps on our outing this morning.  We went to a Children's Museum, and Noel wouldn't share with a little girl we met.  Thinking of it now, I can see the humor; but at the moment I felt like wearing a sign that read:  "Bad Mom: has not yet succeeded in teaching children to share."  Here is the whole story:

Noel had discovered a play schoolhouse, complete with desks, slates, and chalk.  She liked the chalk so much that she collected every piece in a bucket.  When the other kids approached her for one, she screamed "NO!!!", just as loud as she could.  When they persisted, she reached her right hand into the bucket and grabbed every piece of chalk, still clinging onto the bucket with her left hand.  I signed "share", said it repeatedly, but Noel wouldn't budge.  I shifted Juliet to my other hip, signed "share" again, and she finally relented.  She gave the other girl the bucket and kept the chalk to herself.  I suppose in her mind she was "sharing", but I obviously hadn't won any points with the onlooking moms.

Being a mom in these situations makes me sorry for all the times I looked at a similar situation, and thought, "Well, that kid is out of control.  Obviously, the parents need some help with discipline."  I should add that I  had these thoughts before I had children, and was obviously the expert at all child-discipline issues.  I've become less judgmental of a kid that is crying at a restaurant, or the mom that is trying to calm down her kids at the checkout line.  I don't think she needs help with discipline - I think she is probably doing the best she can.  She is probably like me - bewildered at why her children understand certain rules at home, then act just the opposite in public. 

I'm now home, having survived our less-than-perfect outing, and wanting to remember that being a mom really is a wonderful calling.  So, I opened up Elder Anderson's talk to feel those warm fuzzies again.  Here is the link, just in case you need a reminder that having children is a wonderful thing, too.  "Children"

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Competitions We Join

The other day I was looking for a new recipe to make chocolate chip cookies.  I fall rather short in my talent for baked goods, producing flat and wrinkled cookies.  I was scanning through recipe books, and was entertained by the titles of several recipes in a cookbook compiled by a group at BYU:  "Not Just Any Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cokies", "The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever", "The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies (Seriously)", and "Kimber's Dad's Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies".  I love this - each title denotes that the cookie from this person, or even Kimber's Dad, is the best cookie in the world.  I especially like the disclaimer, that this is seriously the best cookie.  I can almost imagine the four women that submitted these recipes all showing up to the social with their best, seriously best, and famous cookies, and awaiting to be proclaimed the winner of the cookie competition.

Competitions are all around us, though they become more unspoken as you age.  Baking is just one such unspoken competition.  My husband competed in a very different sort the other day when he went out to lunch with a friend.  He came home from this lunch, too stuffed to even sit down on the couch and tell me about it.  He just kept saying, "I'm so stuffed..I'm so stuffed."  Later that night, after the food had settled, he told me of their culinary experience, gorging themselves at Chinese Gourmet.  They supposedly set a goal at the beginning of the meal:  they would each eat 4 plates of food.  The first and second plates were easy, but halfway through the third plate, my husband's stomach started closing; however, he was able to eat a bit more than his friend and therefore "won" the competition.  I mentioned that this was a rather inane contest, to which he responded, "It's a guy thing."  And so it is.

And so there are girl competitions, but they tend to the other extreme, and I usually lose them.  Just as my husband and his friend were trying to eat the most amount of food, girls are usually trying to eat the least amount.  I've gone to plenty of lunches where I was the only one eating my entire meal, and the meal is not the standard "salad".  I have often lost the competition to be the girl with the smallest appetite, and I do more than just pick at the bread - I ask for more.  Of course, this is all unspoken - no one ever says to me, "Wow - you ate a lot."  But I can feel the eyes as I order a full meal, eat all of it, and even have room for dessert. 

And so the competitions continue, usually unspoken, but there all the same.  A competition of what you did over summer vacation, where you live, what job you have, how well-behaved your kids are, how clean your car is, and whether or not your kids are winning their soccer competition.  Until suddenly, you meet someone that isn't involved  in any competitions.  They don't care about any of your accomplishments, and they don't brag about their own.  And it is precisely because of that, that they seem to win the competition.  I've known some people like this, and I love being around them.  They want to know about my life - not to compare it to their own, and not to give advice on how to be like them - but just to be my friend.  I love talking with them - whether it is for a few minutes over the backyard fence, or on the phone for hours.  And I love that they are not involved in any competitions - spoken or unspoken.  And if they ever tried my flat, wrinkled cookies, I'm pretty sure they would make me feel that they were "The Best Cookies in the World" (Seriously). 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Light in the Tunnel

Almost a year ago, little Juliet was born.  Moms of other irish twins told me repeatedly, "This will be the hardest year of your life."  I half-way listened, but didn't really know what to expect.  I thought they were being generous with the time frame - would it really be hard for the entire year?  And would it really be harder than anything else I had experienced?  Harder than serving a mission?  Harder than carrying 18 credits in college, while working 3 jobs?  It turns out that the answer is YES - it is harder than anything else I have ever done.  And when they said it was hard for an entire year, they meant the ENTIRE year. 

I've been looking forward to Juliet's birthday as the magical day, the day when life becomes easier.  Scott noticed I was using this date as the light at the end of the tunnel, and cautioned me that perhaps everything wouldn't change in just one day.  I think there is a part in all of us that needs to hold onto hope; hope of things becoming easier - whether that date is a month, a year, or even years away.  I needed it in college - looking forward to the end of the semester; I needed it when teaching - sometimes just looking forward to the end of 3rd period, my most difficult class; I definitely need it now - most days I have changed 6 diapers by 9 in the morning.  And yet, there is also light in the tunnel if I just turn on the switch.  And that's what I've started noticing. 

Little glimpses of light that happen each day - within this tunnel of having Irish Twins.  It's turning on the light when the girls don't need me within 3 feet to stay happy.  The girls can't play together for an hour at a time, but they can play for 5 minutes without my presence in the same room.  I can even go to the bathroom without Noel pounding on the door, pleading, "Mommy?  Mommy?"  Noel doesn't clobber Juliet like she used to, and Juliet doesn't respond to Noel's teasing anymore.  And yesterday, when Noel took a toy away from her kid sister, I asked her to give it back.  The miracle?  No tantrum.  No screaming.  She just gave it back, and went on playing.  I could literally hear the hallelujah chorus!

So my two little ones - munchkin and sugarplum - are now playmates.  I know that when Juliet's birthday comes in a month, it won't be easier every moment of everyday, but it will have some easy moments when I can sit down and breathe.  Not because the light at the end of the tunnel is brighter, or that I've arrived at the land of having two completely independent toddlers (does such a thing exist?), but because I've found that there is light in the tunnel.  I just needed to turn on the switch and see it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Problem with Diets

I made a massive error - I made resolutions on January 1st, and promptly began working on them January 2nd.  There were goals to be better spiritually, be better as a mom, and of course - the obligatory goal of becoming healthier. was only halfway obligatory.  I really do want to be healthier this year.  At least, I want to be healthier than I was in December.  Last month, I was on a quest to eat every yummy holiday treat that our neighbors delivered, plus some that I made myself.  This "quest" quickly turned to a session of self-loathing when I stepped on the scale January 2nd. 

As I berated myself for all the sweets I had consumed over the past few weeks, my husband attempted to understand my dilemna.  Scottie approaches New Year's Goals quite differently - he waits until the third week of January to really hammer out his aspirations for the coming year.  He says that he doesn't want to fight the rush on self-improvement, and so while others are turning a new leaf, he's enjoying all the candy that goes on sale after the holidays and egg-nog that people won't buy because they too, have started their diets. 

I am the opposite - the feeling of self-improvement sweeps over me on the first of January, followed by guilt on the second.    I made several health goals this year:  get on the treatmill 3 times a week, run a 5K, and limit my sweets.  I say limit, because anything less than my prior consumption of fudge and yogurt-covered pretzels would be a step in the right direction.  The problem is that once I stepped on the scale, I was so depressed that all I wanted to do was eat that yogurt-covered pretzel...or two...or twenty.  I'm trying even now to not think about food...

The difficult moment comes in spite of the fact that I am motivated to eat better, or to exercise, or to avoid the hot fudge brownie sundae.  There are moments when I just say, "get out of my way...give me the cookie!"  And my husband does.  (I have to ask my husband, because I have previously begged him to hide the bag of cookies)

The ultimate problem with diets is that you have to be committed to them longer than 3 days.  This becomes difficult when you start salivating at the mention of chocolate cake.  But hopefully, this year, I'll not only have a "New Year's Resolution", but rather be resolute in my "be healthy" goals.  So when tomorrow comes, I'm going to get on the treadmill, and avoid the scale.  And be committed to being healthy for one more day.

                               ...and that is not the number I saw on my scale!