Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Treasure This Time

Handsome Bryce goes to work at an office, I stay home with our three kids. The main difference between our day jobs is the sympathy we get from others. Imagine you were talking to Bryce and he described his workplace like this:

"Wow, today a guy at work just started screaming and crying because 'the milk is too cold.' When I suggested he should calm down he roared at me, like a bear. Later he peed all over the bathroom and clogged the toilet. When I was unclogging the toilet, for him, he laughed at me and told me my bum is big. I said, 'That's not very nice' and he yelled that I hurt his feelings and ran off to get in a slap fight with another coworker."

If Bryce said this you would fall out of your chair in horror. You would say, "Holy Jalapenos! How do you survive working with such crazy people?" You would feel pretty much obligated to give him some kind of baked goods to try and salve the abuse he has to endure daily.

But what do I get?


In the grocery store, in the process of being snarled at for refusing to let my employees lick the mysterious puddle next to the meat counter, someone walks by and lobs this sage advice at me. In the Post Office as I try to mediate between my employees who have physically attacked each other, someone chimes in with these words. When I browse the internet because I am too tired to even take the shower I desperately need, a Greek Chorus of people chant it constantly. Treasure. This. Time.

I hear it so often that I have an ingrained terror that I am not treasuring this time enough. People wouldn't feel the need to lecture me about it if I was doing a great job treasuring things right? So when one of my employees decides to take a marker and draw on my couch, or throws up in my car, or demands I do seven things at once, I get a heaping bowl of guilt. Because guess what? I DON'T treasure barf. I don't treasure getting pooped on. And I don't treasure telling people 500 times a day that WE DO NOT SIT ON THE BABY.

Another thing that I started to unconsciously internalize, is the idea that somehow this time, which I am so inadequately treasuring, is THE BEST time. Once they are teenagers I am just going to be LONGING for someone to get poop on me and scream at me while I try to buy groceries. When they are not little anymore they will be so awful that I will even miss stumbling across Legos at 3am to clean up barf. You better treasure this time, because it is all down-hill from here.

These two ideas, (1. I must treasure everything about small children; and 2. This is the best time, therefore things are only going to become worse) were weighing down on me in ways I didn't even notice until I came across two things.

First, this post: I Wish Someone Would've Warned Me About These BIG Feelings

Second, this radio episode: Keeping Your Sanity In A Home Of Little Ones

It was such a surprising relief to hear that there were people who loved their little ones but were not perpetually pining to return to those early days of little children! I didn't realize how much I was expecting the future to be un-treasurable, and I didn't realize how that dreary outlook was pressing down on me.

I wanted more hope for the future so I decided to ask two amazing moms-of-teens about what mothering older children is like. Verity is a mom of two teenagers, and is over the LDS youth ministry for girls in the city where we live. Tara is my awe-inspiring sister-in-law, with two teenagers, and two younger kids. 

I love the answers they gave. When I asked about what they love about being a mom Verity said,

"I love sitting with my kids at church.  I love listening to their duets on the piano.  I love family game time."

It gives me hope because right now church time consists of me using snacks, toys, and whispered scolding to coerce my kids into sitting quietly. Piano duets are cacophonous, and I am not the most patient piano teacher. Family game time is 50% preemptive role playing, (pretending to lose the game and congratulate the winner,) 20% playing the game, and 30% dealing with someone disregarding their earlier intentions and throwing a huge tantrum about losing.

Tara said, "What I love most about being a mom - is seeing my kids make choices that bring joy, build their self worth and show kindness towards others. I feel like my understanding of Heavenly Father increases with these experiences with our kids. At the same time, I don't know if I can really take credit for those choices either. They have their own personalities and free agency. So when they DO make those choices it's even sweeter. Especially the choices that may have been more difficult."

This made me happy because, even though little kids are often totally selfish hedonists, Tara's answer is also the thing I love most about motherhood. You might even say I treasure it. And it makes me glad to know I don't have to lose this joy as they get older.

I asked them how their relationship with their kids has changed over time:

Tara- "My relationship with my kids feels like parts of it are the same while other parts are constantly in flux. No matter what they do - I will always love them. But one thing that has changed a lot is how they need me. When they were young I was needed allllll day long. Food prep, entertainment, grooming, bathing... you get the idea. I was needed for everything. Now I feel like I am needed in other ways but now I am the one stalking my teenagers hoping they will talk to me or want to run an errand with me so I can actually have some one-on-one time with them. I suspect that as they get older my role will continue to slide further away from caretaker, teacher and provider to counselor."

Verity- "Though it's been in process a long time, my kids' greater independence has changed a lot of things.  Where I used to feel bogged down and overwhelmed taking care of all of their needs, now I'm the one seeking a little bit of their time.  I'm less caretaker and more "office manager" now. I'm grateful for built-in "traditions" like game night and family time and dinners together, because life has definitely increased speed since they were little!  That phrase "the days are long but the years are short" is crazy true."

Their answers resonated with me. With a new baby lots of people told me about how they longed for those precious newborn days, and how they wish they lasted longer. They aren't wrong. It really is such a treasurable time because babies are magical. The thing is, if the newborn period was any longer parents would literally die. Literally.

You need sleep! If you don't sleep you die! I feel similarly about needy little kids. It is kind of magical to be so needed, but it is exhausting and consequently kind of maddening. I know I will miss those chubster baby cheeks, hopefully getting some sanity back will help.

I also asked what made them feel like a good mom:

Verity- "One of the best things I ever did as a young mom was to break out of my comfort zone and join a local Moms Club--we all came from different faiths and backgrounds and views, but we had a huge thing in common.  We were all moms, ha-ha!  We did playgroups, meetings, field trips, and (my favorite) community service projects together. Having an outlet like that, in addition to tremendous support from my husband, extended family, and church family, made it less a burden and more fun and fulfilling to be a mom!  Realizing that I wasn't alone and that everyone else was dealing with illnesses and diapers and tantrums helped so much. Two other things really help me in my "mom journey"-prayer and organization."

Tara- "I wish I could say that I felt like a good mom... mostly because I always feel like there is SO much more I could be doing. Some nights I feel like a really good mom when I have dinner on the table with all the food groups. Seriously. I love a quote I saw the other day from Al Fox Carraway, "Perfect is not a thing." I can and should be more forgiving of myself as a mother. My kids need a mom who is present at the crossroads to show love and to teach and counsel - I don't have to be perfect to do those things. "

I feel like these answers are motherhood in a nutshell. Sometimes you feel pretty good about it, and sometimes you feel pretty crappy about it. I guess that isn't really going to change with time.

They both gave some parting advice:

Verity- "If I'm going to give any advice, it's the phrase I keep having to repeat to myself--zone in and be where your feet are.  Step away from the computer, put your cell phone far away, and be available.  When your 13-year-old son approaches YOU and invites you to play table tennis in the dining room, go do it! In that moment, nothing else matters.  Quality AND quantity time are both important!"
Tara- "Some advice that was given by my husband's aunt on how to effectively communicate (aka have a conversation that is more than one word answers) with teenage boys. It involves being "busy" doing something instead of just sitting there talking. Some examples would be while you are driving - because you have to keep your eyes on the road, folding laundry, washing dishes or wiping down the counters. I have put this to use a few times and I am amazed at the results!"

Hearing from actual moms who love their teens, (as opposed to strangers hectoring me in the grocery store) helps me to be more optimistic about the future, which in-turn helps me to be more content with the present.

I love being a mom, and I love my children. As maddening and painful as this whole motherhood experience is, the good somehow far outweighs the bad. (Just imagine how much good that must be, because sometimes the bad is BAD.) 
I am looking forward to Mother's Day as an opportunity to be grateful for this crazy adventure. It is also a special opportunity to be extra grateful for my mom and Bryce's mom, who loved us and treasured us even when we were slobbering brats, and now love and treasure our family. Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Abandoned at Wal Mart

Our town recently got a shiny new Super Wal Mart, a much bigger, newer version of the dank dystopia that was our old Un-super Wal Mart. One thing you can always count on though, people abandoning random groceries in the check-out line. I think we have all been there. You are standing in the check-out line and you remember that you don't have unlimited money, metabolism, or space, and you can't buy everything. Decisions must be made. Here's how I imagine some of those decisions going down:

Mom: "Where did these frogs come from?"
Mom: "No. Also are you done looking at that book? Because we aren't buying that either."
I've been there. I figure letting my kid peruse a book I have no intention of buying is how the store purchases some peace for the general customer population. (Plus payback for strategically putting all the gum and candy where kids can grab it and I can't stop them.)

"Oh look, they make chips out of potatoes and corn." Hubert mused aloud.
"Interesting," Edna answered absently, still nervous about the tea-tree mask. Bertha said this is how all her wrinkles disappeared, while she was out sick, but Edna wasn't sure it was worth having her eye-brows frozen in place forever.
"I SAID NO TOYS" bellowed a mom one aisle over.

A curious man, Hubert decided to sample a Flamin' Hot Cheeto before committing to giving up the pea-crisps. "Edna!" he gasped. Tears filled his eyes, tears brought on by more than cayenne pepper and citric acid. He earnestly held out the bag to her.
"It's--" She searched the air for words.
"Amazing." They breathed in unison.
"I think it's time we stopped living vicariously and started, really living, don't you?" Edna smiled, dropping the mask. Hubert chucked "The Sims" grinning and taking his wife's arm.
"WE AREN'T GETTING THIS DUCK EITHER!" someone shrieked in the background.

Bernice watched as the couple reverently payed and strolled out of the store, the bag of Cheetos between them. She re-adjusted her date-night sweater-set. Maybe it's time for Herb to see the real me.
"Paper or plastic?" The cashier interrupted her reverie. Bernice took just one more moment to steel herself, and then made the switch.
"No bag thanks. I can carry the jerky." And for the first time, in a long time, she felt the rush of first-date-butterflies in her stomach.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Family Picture Rejects

Some time in college I realized that I was skilled enough at Photoshop that there is no reason for an unflattering picture of me to ever exist. I am a big fan of having family pictures but not a big fan of posing for family pictures. It's painful. I just want one blasted picture with everyone in the family looking as skinny and happy as possible, also PUT YOUR HANDS DOWN AND LOOK AT THE CAMERA RUFFIANS!

Is that so much to ask? Yes. It. Is. The only way I get the picture I want is through Photoshop witchery, including but not limited to:

Lighting adjustments
Color adjustments
Body swapping
Just straight-up painting on people's facial features from scratch

However, over time, and after many perfect family picture prints, I have realized that I am depriving the world of how things really are during our family pictures.

Behold, the family picture rejects:

He's a baby, so even the rejected pictures are actually pretty cute.

Handsome Bryce
He is pretty much always looking dashing in all the pictures, even when he isn't ready.
But even Bryce has to blink sometime:
In pretty much every picture I am talking through my teeth, telling everyone to SMILE OR ELSE.
Bonus! The picture of the whole family that shows how we all really feel about me forcing us to stand out in the cold at the-crack-of-dawn o'clock.

Not pictured: My super kind and patient sister who also stood out in the cold early in the morning while I barked orders at her. I love you and I love the pictures you took, even these ones!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

McBoy to the New McBaby

"Hey little baby, you are in a good family, we are nice.
 Sometimes me and my sister fight, but you don't have to mind that,
 because we will always love you and take care of you."

Thursday, June 02, 2016

You Might Be Reading A Straw Man Argument If:

Tis the season for elections and gorilla assasinations. People are suddenly vocal about feelings, mostly on Facebook and blogs. It is also a time of sharing articles that describe how you feel about issues.

I love that Facebook and blogs let people connect, debate, and share ideas. I don't love that those same tools can alienate and insult your loved ones. So before you click "Share" and type, "YESSS THIS!!!!" or "I'm just going to leave this here..." ask yourself:

Is this a straw man argument?

A simple definition of a straw man comes from Wikipedia:

"A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent's argument, while actually refuting an argument that was not advanced by that opponent."

A simpler definition comes from me:

"A straw man is an argument that attacks ideas that you claim your opponent has, but actually...they don't think those things at all!"

Simplest of all:

"A straw man is lies."

Here are some ways to recognize them:

1. It is too satisfying

Straw men are like the sirens of the internet. They call to you, sometimes with misleading headlines, they suck you in, but instead of giving you new information or a thoughtful perspective on an issue they drown you in scorn and unrighteous indignation. They fill you with bile and harden your heart against the people who do not think exactly like you.

Everyone likes a little ego stroke now and then. Straw man arguments are satisfying to read because it is nice to see that someone else thinks that you are right and anyone who disagrees with you is a stupid loser-face with poo-breath. It's ok to indulge in that now and then. But indulge conscious of the fact that this argument only works by oversimplifying and demonizing a stance that your loved ones came to after the same thoughtful care that you put into your own stance.

2. It is too infuriating
As mentioned above, sometimes the title of a post is misleading. So you might think that you are clicking on an article that you agree with like, "40 Reasons Ecuadorian Mountain Llamas Are Better Than Venezuelan Red Llamas" but when you start reading the article you realize that this article is actually about 40 reasons why you are a brainless sack of puke for thinking that Ecuadorian llamas can even compare to the Venezuelan Reds.

This is often weirdly and deliciously infuriating. I don't know why, but sometimes it is just as satisfying to feel pure rage at the injustice of being attacked by a stranger on the internet as it is to feel validated by one who agrees with you. So you will keep reading, all the while scoffing at how the idiot who wrote this has all of your motivations and reasons for loving mountain llamas completely wrong. Obviously this writer, and all the people who love those moronic Venezuelan butt-bags, do not understand anything about llamas or love or goodness. They are what is wrong with the world!

And there you are, filled with bile, your heart hardened against the people who do not think exactly like you.

3. "An Open Letter To The Moose That Bit My Sister"
Or possibly worse,
"A Response To The Earlier Open Letter To The Moose That Bit My Sister."
It is possible that someone has written an open letter not guilty of this, but I have never seen it. Open letters generally put on a mask of caring or civility, but then viciously oversimplify and attack the letter recipient's shortcomings for the whole internet to witness. If you really care about someone and feel a need to share unsolicited advice with them, you will probably write them a private letter, or make them some muffins. Muffins are better.

So what is the big deal about sharing a straw man argument? The short answer is that it shuts down thoughtful dialogue.
No one has ever felt strongly about an issue, read a straw man argument and then said, "Ding dang! I guess I was wrong all along, time for a 180 degree turn!" No one has held opinions about an issue, then read a straw man argument and said, "Wow, thanks for sharing that, now I totally understand why you feel the way you do!" No one has read a straw man argument and grown as a person.

This type of article distracts you from the humanity of people who disagree with you, and distracts you from the actual motivations and logic that back up the feelings of those people. As a result no one ever gets a good view of how the other person feels because they are too busy being furious over the misrepresentation of their own beliefs.

Writing and sharing articles is important. Sharing perspectives, and learning about what motivates others is worthwhile. Constructing and hurling straw men at friends and strangers is not worthwhile.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Hong Kong

We went to Hong Kong for Trent's wedding! I felt like a little kid there, in the fun sense where everything is new and interesting, but also in the terrifying sense where I couldn't read anything, didn't know how anything worked or where anything was, no one could understand me clearly, and all the food was strange to me. For example, a giant bowl of corn at McDonald's:

Luckily two of Bryce's brothers are very familiar with Hong Kong and they shepherded us around, argued with taxi drivers, and explained how to eat things, like good babysitters do. Here's a chicken foot which (somehow surprisingly) tasted like chicken:

Of course my favorite part was being with family in the temple, and seeing Trent and Britt get married.

But my second favorite part was taking pictures of random funny things:

Surface Air Duct:

So cute! But sometimes...

As if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced:

I'm pretty sure Style No. 228 isn't special made to prevent steaks and cold-cuts from getting too fresh with you, but I  have really been trying to figure out what they meant to say for the last feature and I'm coming up with nothing. Heat? That doesn't really make sense. Leak? This isn't that kind of underwear. Feet? Sweat? Wheat? What does it MEAN?

Thursday, January 07, 2016

DIY Koi Windsock Pattern

This morning I turned on "Curious George" to hypnotize my children, and trick them into forgetting to burn down our house, while I took a shower. That plan was a raging success except for when I emerged from the shower my kids had some kind of mysterious mania for windsocks. We've talked about windsocks before in a passing way, (like a: literally I drove past it at 45 mph while my kids asked about everything they saw out the window and one of those things was a windsock-kind of way.) I don't know what George did in that episode, but their passing interest in windsocks had bloomed into a full-blown obsession in the time it took me to wash my hair.

They begged to make a windsock, and McBoy gleefully explained how he planned to hang his brand new socks, which he loves, on a nail outside...awesome...

To save the footwear in our house, I convinced them we should make a cool fish windsock and I'm actually pretty happy with how easy it was and how cool it turned out.

Step 1:
Cut out some fabric into a fish shape. I made a pattern in case you are not lazy and willing to free-hand it like me:

I think a really thin, light fabric is ideal, but probably anything would work. I used a piece of leftover white nylon I had.

Step 2:
Cover your table with plastic wrap.
Believe me. You will be glad.

Step 3:
Let your kids draw on the fabric with Sharpies.
I drew the eyes so they could sort of see the fish taking shape.

Step 4:
Let them paint rubbing alcohol on top of their Sharpie lines.
You see? You see why we used the plastic wrap???
 The alcohol makes the Sharpie spread out and kind of blend together, it's really fun!
 Step 5:
Cut out a bunch of random pieces from your leftover fabric scraps, and repeat the drawing and painting.

Step 6:
Lay your fish right-side down and sew the fabric pieces to the narrow end of the fish shape. Go over it a bunch of times. I saved a couple scraps for the fins that are... uh arms? Fish arms? Googling... Ah, pectoral fins, yes, that is what they are called.

Step 7:
Make the mouth armature.
Wind two pipe cleaners together so they are just a little longer than the end of the fabric.
 Lay your new giant pipe cleaner on the wrong side of the fabric and fold the end over.
 Sew that edge down.
Step 8:
Close the fish.
Fold your fish, right-side in and sew along the bottom to close its belly. Remember to insert any scraps you are using for pectoral, or pelvic fins!

Now wind the little pipe cleaner ends together to finish off the mouth.
 Ta da! A fish!
Step 9:
Use a needle to sew and tie some fishing line at the mouth opening. Add a length of line to that so you can hang your fish and it will be able to blow around.

Step 10:
Hang it up.
You can hang it up or attach it to a stick to run around with, if your kids can be trusted with sticks...

Have a great day!