Friday, August 18, 2017

It's a Small World After All

A few days ago I was chatting with a friend when her 12-year-old daughter chimed into our conversation with, "Mom, PLEASE have another baby! PLEASE!" And then, for the convincing cherry on top she added, "It's not that hard!"
We snorted. And laughed. And I thought to myself, yeah, it's basically Disneyland. Not hard at all.
But then it occurred to me, what if pregnancy *were* a trip through Disneyland?
You'd start at Snow White's Scary Adventure, where you'd pee on a stick and see those life-altering pink lines appear. This would be followed closely by a 24/7 spin on the teacups at Mad Tea Party (because apparently, the best way to grow an entire human is to regularly empty your stomach of anything nutritious). Then it's off to Splash Mountain where you will deal with a constant waterfall from your bladder for 40 weeks.
Eventually (hopefully) the nausea will abate to the extent that you'll want to devour everything in sight on Heimlich's Chew Chew Train. And then it's time to check out little Ariel's Undersea Adventure via ultrasound (Congratulations! You're having a mermaid!) and you'll feel the first little flutters and kicks that turn you into Alice in Wonderland.
But then -- Jumpin' Jellyfish! -- the baby gets bigger and uses your bladder as a trampoline. Your house turns into Toy Story Mania as you buy books and clothes and rattles and blankies. And Dumbo the "Waddling" Elephant meets Big Thunder Mountain Railroad as you wind your way to closing time.
Guardians of the Galaxy -- Mission BREAKOUT begins, followed closely by California Screamin'. (Epidural version: Soarin' Over California). And then the finale: Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters. And I do mean *Astro* Blasters.
You did it! Your screaming bundle of joy is here! Welcome to Monsters, Inc.! Don't forget to stop by the ever-enjoyable postpartum bodily fluids parade, Grizzly River Rapids, on your way to the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. (Seriously, blowouts, color, consistency. You'll cover it all. And get covered in all of it).
Hey, it turns out, having a baby really *is* like going to Disneyland! And it's just as expensive!
Who knew?

Of Sisters and Shoes

*This post originally appeared on*

I've had a brand new pair of pink baby shoes sitting on my bathroom counter for a week now.  I had decided it was time to go through my girl baby clothes and separate items for saving, donating, or passing on to friends when I came across these shoes.  My daughter never wore them.  They are still in the box.  Not only could I pass them on to someone, I could gift them at a baby shower.  They are just the kind of adorable thing that would be fun to watch an expectant mother unwrap and have the room dissolve into a chorus of "Awwww"s.

But eight days later they are still sitting there.  Every time I inch toward them I find myself thinking, "Am I really ready to give these away?"

I have four beautiful children, but getting them here was a difficult and complex process that our fertility specialist forgot to fully explain.  Oh, he mentioned the needles and the hormones and the surgeries, but he left out the part that it would be like ripping your heart out of your chest Temple of Doom style only to send it speeding along a rickety old track while some bad guy tries to smash it with a shovel.  If it ends well you'll be left hanging off the edge of a cliff by your fingers.  If it doesn't, it's hello crocodiles.

So believe me when I say that I understand what it means to be given the gift of a child.  Any child. And I absolutely adore my sons and would not trade them for anything.

And yet...

With three sisters of my own, I can't help wishing that my daughter could also experience that blessing.  Because there is just something about a sister.  There's the understanding that you share over having been raised by the same mother.  There are the genes that closely correlate to yours so that when your post-childbirth hormones go bananas, you can say, "Did you experience the thing, too?  Please tell me you know what to do about the thing."  There are the inside jokes, the understanding talks, and the all-important pact that if one of you ever falls into a coma, one of your sisters will be there to pluck those pesty black hairs out of your chin.

From the time she could talk -- and even with a twin brother as her constant companion -- my daughter was acutely aware of the absence of sisterhood in her home.  When, at the age of four, she found out I was expecting my fourth baby, she was determined -- this baby was going to be a sister.  My husband and I thought so too.  Even after two ultrasounds showed otherwise, I still went into the delivery room unconvinced that the baby really was another boy.

He was.  And although my daughter loved her baby brother instantly and with everything she had, she still wishes for a sister.  I still wish for her to have a sister.

There will be those who will say that this kind of longing is ungrateful, but they are mistaken.  Sadness over a lost dream doesn't equal ingratitude for your reality.  And for me, part of moving on is accepting that it's possible to love what is and mourn what isn't.  It's possible to fully embrace the children I have been given and accept that there will be an occasional twinge over dreams that never came to pass.

So I'll keep the shoes for now.  Not as a symbol of what I am lacking, but as a reminder of what I have been given.  And someday, when I pass those little pink sneakers on, I'll do so with gratitude for all of my miracle babies.

And gratitude for the lessons I learned from a little pink pair of shoes.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Superior Woman Strikes Again

By now you've seen the viral video of a father being interrupted in the middle of his live spot on BBC news when his children come bouncing into the room, followed closely by their mother skating in on her socks to save the day.  It was adorable, hilarious, and incredibly relatable to anyone who has ever dealt with children on a regular basis.

Of course it also set off the internet judging panel, who immediately began their chorus of boos and hisses for everything from how the professor gently pushed his daughter back to the way his wife grabbed her children "too harshly" and hauled them out of the room.  People also developed a magical, osmotic ability to instantly understand the dynamics of their relationship and analyze the woman's "obvious" fear, which is kind of funny considering half of these omniscients thought she was the nanny.

But I thought we'd been able to move past the criticism.  Until this.

In the parody video, which was produced for a New Zealand comedy show, we see how a woman would have handled this situation.  I'll give you a hint - without missing a beat she helps the child, continues the interview, and then multitasks her way through a series of increasingly ridiculous chores without so much as a single missed word.  Then, in case we have forgotten how truly superior women are, we see her buffoon of a husband interrupt the interview with a question about a lost sock.  Because men are just that dumb.

Ladies, this isn't funny.  It's offensive!

I can tell you how this situation would have gone down if it were me who was live on the air, and it certainly wouldn't have involved calmly setting the child on my lap and continuing the interview as if nothing were amiss.  I would have behaved EXACTLY as Professor Kelly did, only I would have forgotten everything I know about everything and would have been so rattled I would have accidentally clonked the kid in the face and then said a bad word on international television.

Watching a situation unfold on your iphone is entirely different than being in that situation.  If you think you would have handled it seamlessly and not experienced any panic you are lying to yourself.  This man's job and reputation were on the line.  He wasn't just skyping with his mother.  When you are participating in a LIVE international broadcast, you don't say, "Excuse me darling, Daddy's in the middle of something.  Go find your mommy."  You don't set her on your lap and give her the opportunity to smack the keys on the keyboard and disable your webcam or launch into a yelled rendition of the ABC song.  You give her a little nudge and hope like heck that she will get out of the room before she ruins your career.

So forgive me if I can't see the funny in a woman basting a turkey while she's supposed to be live on the air.

It's just that turkeys dripping in female superiority aren't all that appetizing.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Toddler Bingo

Toddlers are basically little bundles of sunshine.  Evil dictator sunshine.

Sure, they laugh and they snuggle and they say adorable things like, "I Lub Oooo!" but THAT'S HOW THEY GET YOU.

First one to Blackout earns 15 minutes in the bathroom by themselves.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

I Stand at the Door and Knock

In the most recent LDS General Conference, Jeffrey R. Holland gave a talk that began with the following story:

Not long ago a single sister, whom I will call Molly, came home from work only to find two inches (5 cm) of water covering her entire basement floor. Immediately she realized that her neighbors, with whom she shared drainage lines, must have done an inordinate amount of laundry and bathing because she got the backed-up water.
After Molly called a friend to come and help, the two began bailing and mopping. Just then the doorbell rang. Her friend cried out, “It’s your home teachers!”
Molly laughed. “It is the last day of the month,” she replied, “but I can assure you it is not my home teachers.”
With bare feet, wet trousers, hair up in a bandana, and a very fashionable pair of latex gloves, Molly made her way to the door. But her stark appearance did not compare with the stark sight standing before her eyes. It was her home teachers!
“You could have knocked me over with a plumber’s friend!” she later told me. “This was a home teaching miracle—the kind the Brethren share in general conference talks!” She went on: “But just as I was trying to decide whether to give them a kiss or hand them a mop, they said, ‘Oh, Molly, we are sorry. We can see you are busy. We don’t want to intrude; we’ll come another time.’ And they were gone.”
“Who was it?” her friend called out from the basement.
“I wanted to say, ‘It certainly wasn’t the Three Nephites,’” Molly admitted, “but I restrained myself and said very calmly, ‘It was my home teachers, but they felt this was not an opportune time to leave their message.’”
Now, I love me some Elder Holland, but I HATE this story.  I hate it so much I kind of want to beat it up with a plunger.
No, it doesn't upset me that Molly's home teachers left without helping her.  What upsets me is that they left because Molly didn't tell them she needed help.
Whatever the reason for their arrival, Molly's home teachers were literally ringing her doorbell right as her basement was turning into a swimming pool.  Imagine if she had opened the door, seen them standing there, and then, before they could say so much as "Hello" she said, "I'm so glad you're here!  My basement is flooding and I really need your help!"  Ten bucks says these men would have gladly dropped everything they were doing for the rest of the evening and helped her with Operation Bail Out.
Yes, you can argue that she would have said something if they had given her an opening, but how often do we have someone standing there available to help us and then we let them leave without saying a word about our predicament?
Not long ago I woke up with the thought that a friend of mine was struggling and needed help.  I admit, I felt rather ridiculous texting, "Are you okay?  Do you need help?" because I didn't know the reason why I was figuratively standing on her doorstep.  She easily could have responded, "I'm fine.  Thanks for asking!" and I would have moved on with my day.  But she didn't.  She was struggling and she told me so, and now I can help her because I'm aware of what is going on.
Peter, when he started sinking, wasn't like, "It's okay, Lord!  I'm good!  I've got this!"  He called out, "Lord, save me!" and Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him. (Matthew 14:30-31) How many people do we have in our lives who are also ready to catch us if we will just speak up when we need help?
To me, that is the lesson of this story.  It's not just that we need to be more aware of the needs of others or that we need to be more prayerful and in tune (though we absolutely do).  It's that when you need help, it's okay to speak up, cry out, and yell down the driveway if you have to.  Help is always available. 
All we need to do is ask.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Year in Review

Another year has passed, and it’s time for the 2016 Overly Family Rundown:

JANUARY: The year started off with a bang known as “The Great Viral Adventure.”  We’d tell you about it, but the records of our experience are in a biohazard bag stowed safely away in the bowels of the CDC.  Let’s just say that Disneyland is a lot less fun with three different illnesses raging through -- and out of -- the family (if you know what I mean). 

FEBRUARY:  With three birthdays within six days of each other, the transition from January to February is basically the Cake Olympics at our house.  Matthew, who turned six on January 29th, was first out of the starting gate with an Oreo ice cream cake, followed closely by his twin sister, Leah, who put in a great performance with a pan of brownies topped by chocolate chip cookie dough frosting.  Coming in last was Jonathan on February 4th, who celebrated his first Cake Olympics with a traditional chocolate cake, earning solid 9.5s from the judges for his forkless eating technique.

MARCH: Jonathan learned how to open doors, splash in toilets, and use the toilet plunger as a sword.  Meanwhile, Bonnie dusted off her straitjacket (well-worn from the twins’ toddler days) and put the toilet plunger under lock and key.  And sprayed disinfectant all over everything.  And everyone.

APRIL:  Matthew lost his two front teeth, Michael tried to harness the powers of the Dark Side to ride to victory at the Pinewood Derby with his Darth Vader car (Lesson: Evil may put in a good showing, but never wins in the end), and soccer season started for the boys.  David finished up his spring busy season at (company), and everyone rejoiced in having their dad back.

MAY:  Matthew presented his mom with a fill-in-the-blank Mother’s Day card which said, “My mother is 921 pounds and 30 feet tall.”  On a related note, Bonnie decided to turn down a job offer to moonlight as King Kong on account of the extensive climbing requirements.  Leah performed flawlessly in her end-of-year dance recital and everyone got incredibly lazy about all things school-related.  Including the kids.

JUNE:  After the previous travel disaster (see January), we decided to try a California do-over and head to Oceanside for a week of family fun and relaxation (because what could be more relaxing than taking a 16-month old sand-eater to the beach and giving him ample opportunities to drown himself?)  We spent a day at SeaWorld, hit a bunch of museums, and enjoyed boogie boarding and building sand castles.  Best of all, not a single person barfed.  We got home just in time to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary by camping at the Overly family reunion.  (As everyone knows, nothing says “romance” more than tenting it with your in-laws, a toddler, and a couple of hole-in-the-ground potties).

JULY:  We deep cleaned the house room by room, hit the pool several times a week, and enjoyed the McConkie family reunion in Brianhead, Utah, except for a little hike we dubbed “Satan’s Slip ‘n Slide.”  Fortunately, no one fell off a cliff.

AUGUST:  After an entire summer of the kids practicing to be lawyers (“I’M not touching her, my SPOON is touching her!”) school finally started again.  With three out of four kids in full-day school (Michael in 4th grade and Matthew and Leah in 1st), Bonnie finally had time to get to her to-do list.  (Sit on the couch in silence while Jonathan naps?  Check.  Eat a brownie without having to share?  Check.)  David’s summer busy season was a little more mild than usual, which was awesome because it meant he could come home for dinner occasionally.

SEPTEMBER:  Everything started again – “forgetting” to set alarm clocks, soccer, dance, scouts, avoiding piano practice, whining about homework…  To get her away from it all, David sent Bonnie to New York City on a surprise getaway with her sisters.  (#McSistersEatManhattan)  While she was gone he not only played Super Dad at home, but, with a little help from Grandpa and his tools, installed bead board on the living room walls.  Best.  Husband.  Ever.

OCTOBER:  On Halloween the kids collected so much candy that we should have emergency-sugar food storage until 2035.  Notice I say “should” have.  In reality, we expect it to last till about next Tuesday.  (We regret nothing).

NOVEMBER:  The long-awaited day arrived and David finally moved to his company’s downtown office.  He is loving the change and grateful for the shorter commute.  Plus it’s just down the block from the new Eccles Theater, so we had to take advantage of his conveniently located parking pass and get season tickets to their Broadway series.  (We wouldn’t want a perfectly usable parking pass to go to waste…)

DECEMBER:  With three kids in the French immersion program we’ve had a lot of Christmas carols being sung en francais around here.  Michael turned 10 at the beginning of the month, and the kids are all counting down the days till Christmas, wishing for more snow, and punching each other in the arm occasionally just to keep things real.

We are so grateful to know you and hope you have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year! 

Love, The Overlys

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Kindness Challenge

The presidential election has been decided, and Donald Trump has been declared the winner.  I never thought I would be typing those words, but there they are.  In actual letters.  On my actual computer screen.  (A friend of mine summed up the situation best when he quoted the immortal words of Clark Griswold: "If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised than I am right now.")

But if this election has taught me anything, it's this:  Words have power.  For good or evil, they have power.  Which means that I have power.  And I'm going to use it for good.

As Thomas S. Monson said, "Life is perfect for none of us.  Rather than being judgmental and critical of each other, may we have the pure love of Christ for our fellow travelers in this journey through life.  May we recognize that each one is doing her best to deal with the challenges which come her way, and may we strive to do our best to help out."

We need to choose kindness over judgment.  Compassion over indifference.  Love over anger and understanding over hate.  We need to recognize that none of us can truly know what's in another's heart, and that we should not speak of their decisions as though we do.

We need to make America kind again.

Want to join me?  Here's the challenge:

For the next two weeks until Thanksgiving, act on the good.  When you have a kind thought about someone, say something to them.   When a friend needs help, do something for them.  When a stranger needs their grocery cart taken back to the stall, take it back for them.  Make a phone call, write a thank you note, and let someone merge in front of you.  In the words of Camilla Kimball, "Never suppress a generous thought."
On the flip side, if you have an uncharitable or unkind thought about someone -- whether it's their political views, their life choices, or their personality quirks that are using your nerves as a banjo -- keep it to yourself.  Don't add to the pile when others are throwing stones; only add to the good.

As Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, "As we extend our hands and hearts toward others in Christlike love, something wonderful happens to us. Our own spirits become healed, more refined, and stronger. We become happier, more peaceful, and more receptive to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit."  If we want healing, this is where we will find it. 

Two weeks of kindness.

Who's in?