Monday, June 29, 2015

Something to Stand For

After a weekend of watching my Facebook feed turn into a battle between Somewhere Over the Rainbow and the We-Think-We're-Righteous Brothers I feel the need to share some simple truths:

* No person has ever had their mind changed by a Facebook avatar.  Not one.  It is simply not possible to change someone's heart by using your profile picture or your status update to say I'M RIGHT AND YOU'RE WRONG.

* If you think that all of your friends share your view of the world, you don't know your friends.  Name-calling and ascribing evil motives to anyone who disagrees with you damages people, and it damages your friends.  It doesn't matter what side of an argument you are on; being right is never more important than being kind.

* It's more important for you to love people than to correct them.  Correcting them is not your job.  Loving them is.

* The world will not end if it is deprived of your opinion on every issue.

* It is usually more important to have open ears than an open mouth.

* And finally, God loves all of His children.  ALL of them.  You should do the same.  

There will never be a time when every person will agree on everything.  We are different people with different backgrounds, different experiences, and different beliefs.  But whether we are pro-life or pro-choice, pro-gay marriage or pro-traditional marriage, all of us can -- and should -- be one thing:

Pro-kindness.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Swearing In

Looking back over my life I can divide it into distinct eras.  There was the cute pinafore era, the perm-that-took-over-New-York era, the everything-that-happens-in-high-school-is-the-end-of-the-world-era... you get the drift.  And then there was that era of self-righteousness that accompanied the BC years (Before Children). You know, the ones where you say things like, "When I have kids I will never let them [fill in the blank]."

Then you actually have kids and you're like, who was that ridiculous woman who said she would never let her children eat cereal for dinner?  See, that's the great thing about parenting, you learn things.  Mostly things about karma and what it means for something to bite you in the rear.

In the BC years of my life I thought I would never yell.  And I definitely thought I would never swear if one of my children managed to disable the entire computer with one smack of a fist to the keyboard while I was trying to print out my notes for a Relief Society meeting.  (Thank heavens for smart phones and google because the solution for that one happened to be holding down control, option, shift, down arrow, and clicking my mouse 3 times while saying "There's no place like the Apple Store," which is about as intuitive as learning Chinese).

When it comes to parenting, there will be a moment -- it may not come on day one, but it will come -- when you will want to swear like a sailor.  And I say this as someone who never said anything worse than "Dang!" for the first 25 years of her life.  (Except for that time when I was about four-years-old and one of my childhood friends graciously taught me how to say the F-word, but THAT WASN'T MY FAULT).

If you haven't had your parental "swearing in" yet, just wait until you're up for the fortieth time in one night and you accidentally bonk your finally-sleeping baby's head on the door frame.  Not even Mormon swear words (Holy fetchin' filibuster!) are good enough for this situation, I'm telling you.

Not that I'm saying you should let the salty language fly (self-control, people!), but if you've ever been so tired that you put one of your twins back in his crib only to discover you just laid him right on top of his (formerly) sleeping sister, well...

Holy fetchin' filibuster, indeed.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Afterbirth

In case you haven't heard by now, The Duchess of Cambridge recently gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, after which she showed the world what all mothers look like ten hours after having their lady bits bulldozed by an eight pound bowling ball.

What, you didn't look like a TRESemme commercial?  What is wrong with you?

Sure, Duchess Catherine had a team of blow dryers and mascara appliers to help her out, but judging by the comments attached to the "First Pictures!" news articles, all it takes to prance out of the hospital looking runway fresh in your size 4 pants is not being a lazy slob for your entire pregnancy.  Seriously, if you would have just gotten off your fat behind and not indulged yourself with foods-with-actual-calories the entire pregnancy, childbirth would be a breeze.

Stitches or no stitches.

This makes me realize two things:

1.  I should not read comments on news articles.  Ever.
2.  I hate women.

Look, Duchess Kate was lovely.  Like, better-than-I-will-ever-look lovely.  And I am so happy that she was able to pull it off (Can you imagine the pressure of appearing before a billion flashbulbs when you feel like a Grizzly Bear attacked the entrance to what is now Niagara Falls?)  But this has nothing to do with me, my life experience, or how I felt after childbirth.  (Hint: less Fashion Week and more Seventh-Circle-of-Hell).  I mean, if I had had to appear in public 10 hours after giving birth, I would have sent a selfie to the AP.  Of the baby.  ("Here she is, yo, peace out!")

But I simply cannot believe how incredibly judgmental women are when it comes to other women.  Did you personally experience my pregnancy or give birth to my baby?  Do you know exactly what it is like to inhabit my body or live my life?  No?  Then kindly zip it.

If you are tempted to make a judgy comment about another woman's body, pregnancy, or health habits, remember, YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE HER.  None.  Your pregnancy may have been as easy as Venus standing on her clam shell.  Your birth experience may have been as strenuous as blinking.  But that is your experience and yours alone.

If being a woman has taught me anything, it's that we all need a lot more support than we let on.  We all need someone to say, "You look beautiful" when we know darn well that we don't.  We need someone to offer encouragement when we want to quit, and to say, "You are amazing!" when we are falling short.  We beat ourselves up enough.  We don't need other women to join in the fray.

Especially after the physical and emotional trauma that is childbirth.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Why You Should Have More Than One Kid

This is Jonathan:


He is two months old and thinks sleep is best accomplished in ten minute stretches, which, coincidentally, is about the amount of time he goes between diaper fillings.  (Seriously, we should buy stock in Huggies).  Before he was born I thought I would have him on a nice schedule right off the bat (after all, he is my fourth kid... this isn't my first rodeo).  But from the beginning he wouldn't sleep in his own bed for more than a few minutes at a time, and then there was the c-section to recover from, I got a cold, he got a cold, I got the stomach flu, he got RSV (it was like playing Hot Potato with diseases straight from the Mouth of Hell), and somewhere in there my resolve went out the window.  I mean, it is one thing to say you'll make your baby sleep in his own bed, and it's another when he is screaming every ten minutes for the 30th night in a row and you're like OH FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY JUST GET IN MY BED AND SLEEP!!

And that is exactly why you should have more than one kid, if it is possible.  Because every parent can benefit from the equal doses of relief and humility that stem from learning it's not you, it's them.

Jonathan's big sister, for example, earned her first angelic halo by sleeping through the night at four months without a single ounce of prodding from me.  (She also didn't scream in the carseat like it was a Venus Fly Trap trying to devour her, which I've got to say is preferable to the current situation).  Some kids are more mellow than others, and some kids are just better sleepers.  It has nothing to do with how good their parents are.

Granted, you can (and should) teach your children to behave in certain ways.  But let's be real here.  For some kids, the teaching is easier.  You can pat yourself on the back all you want when one of your children is doing well at something, but the fact is that some kids will potty-train at the age of two and some will resist all of your efforts until you decide to bag the whole thing and just let their college roommates train them.  If I had one kid I could say "I'm such a great parent!  I potty trained my two-year-old in one week!"  But you have to shut your mouth once you have another kid who can't get past the idea that the world (including the living room carpet and the pantry) is his urinal.

Another example?  My oldest son is very self-motivated and super organized.  He cleans his room daily without my having to say a word.  His younger brother, on the other hand... nothing short of standing at his door with a flame thrower will get him to clean his room.  And by "clean" I mean dilly-dally his way through a process that usually consists of stuffing half his lego bin and seven pairs of dirty underwear under his dresser.

Does their behavior have anything to do with the way I parent?  Not in the least.  Both boys are required to clean their rooms daily, and both rooms are required to pass inspection.  But for one kid it's a five minute process that he undertakes voluntarily.  For the other it involves the above-mentioned flame thrower, a 3:1 ratio of whining to cleaning, and about fourteen inspections before the job is done satisfactorily.

This is also why you shouldn't get down on yourself as a parent.  Each kid is easy in some ways and difficult in others.  If you're trying your best to be a good parent, you're doing fine.  Having more than one child helps you to recognize this fact and be more compassionate when other parents are struggling.

And besides, there is nothing cuter than siblings.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Year in Review

Dear Family and Friends,

It’s time for the 2014 Overly Family rundown!

January:  The family makes goals for the year, which consist mostly of noble pursuits like “Build houses for charity” and “Discover a cure for cancer.”  Just kidding.  They are mostly gross things the kids need to work on like “Stop biting your toenails” and “Stop picking your nose.”  Leah and Matthew turn four years old and Mom and Dad wonder where the time went.

February:  Michael is introduced to the mercurial ways of women when he lovingly gives his little sister a Darth Sidious Valentine and she cries for half an hour.  Leah decorates the new leather couch with glitter nail polish that won’t come off. Bonnie takes her niece, Katie, to the Missionary Training Center and in the process manages to lose her keys, credit card, and the phone SHE HAD JUST BEEN TALKING ON all separately and within 20 minutes of each other.  She quietly rescinds her nomination for Most Organized Person in the Family.

March:  David and Bonnie try a Jillian Michaels workout video, which turns Bonnie into a complete cripple and makes David “a little sore.”  David is down 20 pounds and Bonnie can run for 20 minutes without dying.

April:  Bonnie contemplates going to trade school to learn how to repair washing machines after a Sears repairman spends a total of 2.3 minutes removing a single lego from the bowels of her front-loader and charges her $159.  Everyone gets new bikes and Michael learns to ride without training wheels.

May:  David’s Grandmother passes away at the age of 98.  Her funeral is a celebration of a life well lived.  Matthew barfs in the middle of the grocery store, which necessitates his mother carrying him out to the car in nothing but his underwear and his sister’s flouncy sweater.  The family spends three days preparing for a two-day camping trip to Capitol Reef, where the kids earn their Junior Ranger badges from a redheaded intern with dreadlocks named “Cinimin.”

June:  Michael begins baseball, Matthew and Leah begin swimming lessons, and Bonnie begins a three-month-long routine of spending half the day with her face in her pillow (thanks to baby number 4 who is due to arrive in February!)  David and Bonnie celebrate their 13th wedding anniversary in style:  David gets a speeding ticket racing from his busy job at [Big Company] to make it home in time for their “romantic” dinner with the kids, and Bonnie goes to bed with stomach problems.

July:  The family has a blast at the McConkie Reunion in Oceanside, California playing with cousins, going to Legoland, and boogie boarding in the ocean.  When Leah changes her mind about something, Matthew sagely informs the family that “girls can always change their minds.”  The kids enjoy two rounds of fireworks on the 4th of July and Pioneer Day, and ask to go to the pool every day.

August:  An ultrasound reveals that a little brother is on the way!  Workers begin the project of completing the unfinished portion of the basement.  Bonnie is asked to serve in the Relief Society Presidency and is attacked by a barrage of meetings, the kids start school, soccer, dance, and piano lessons, and Michael gets hooked on the Harry Potter series.

September:  Leah sticks a bead so far down Matthew’s ear that he has to be sedated at Primary Children’s Hospital to remove it.  While Bonnie’s parents watch the kids, David and Bonnie escape to NYC for a few days.  They win the Wicked lottery (front row seats for $30!), stuff their faces, and enjoy all their old haunts in the city.  Meanwhile, the grandparents deal with Michael and Matthew getting the barfs, the water heater leaking, and the car battery dying.   David and Bonnie come home relaxed and refreshed and the grandparents leave with a raging case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

October:  The kids count down the days till Halloween.  The basement is completed, David and Bonnie take on the project of installing chair rail in the bedrooms and painting, and Michael insists on listening to nothing but Harry Potter soundtracks every moment he is home from second grade.  Add in Leah’s round-the-clock requests for songs from Frozen and you’ll understand why Bonnie gets a little twitchy any time someone asks her if she wants to build a snowman.

November: David and Bonnie host Thanksgiving, cook the dickens out of the turkey, and stand in line for two hours at Target only to not get what they came for.  They console themselves with pie.

December:  Michael turns eight and is baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He has a rare birthday party, gets his own set of scriptures, and, to his great delight, starts cub scouts.

We are so grateful for your friendship and love and wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Love, The Overlys -- David, Bonnie, Michael, Matthew, & Leah

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Perfect Balance

When I was in college, my sister-in-law and I took a yoga class together.  While all the ladies around me balanced gracefully with their legs around their ears, I spent most of the time on the floor laughing.  "Down dog" was about the only position I could execute without falling over sideways.  (If I ever get pulled over for suspicion of DUI I know I'm going to fail the sobriety test.  I couldn't walk a straight line if my life depended on it).

Even after several weeks, I never got better at balancing.  One day, the instructor looked around the room of statue-like poses and in a deeply zen manner said, "Wherever you are is perfect."  And then she glared pointedly at me.  (Okay, okay, so yoga isn't my forte.  But you haven't seen me use one hand to balance two crying toddlers on my hips.  Now that's a skill...)

Ever since that day I've wondered why she couldn't stop herself from that glare.  It's not like I was clueless.  Not only was I fully aware of her superior flexibility and balance (and how well the rest of the class was doing), she had made it painfully obvious that she was frustrated by my ineptitude.  Yoga is supposed to be peaceful and meditative and soul-renewing, not punctuated by glares and irritated sighs.  

Welcome to Yoga, where everyone is perfect... except for you.

Cue entry into parenthood, where no matter what you are going through at the moment, someone will say, "You have it easy now.  Just wait until you have [fill in the blank]."  Two kids.  Four kids.  Toddlers.  Tweens.  Teenagers.  Licensed drivers.  Soccer games.  Music lessons.  Dance recitals...

Translation:  I have it harder than you.   You should be handling this more gracefully.  (Yoga translation: Everyone else is perfect.  You, on the other hand... *glare*).

Look, nobody else is perfect, nor are they handling things perfectly.  Wherever you are isn't perfect, it's hard.

One kid?  That's hard.

Two kids?  Still hard.

Screaming toddlers?  Hard.

Hormonal tweens?  Hard.

Rebellious teenagers?  Hard.

So, before you elbow the mother-of-the-crying-child in the check-out line at Target and say, "Just wait until he's a teenager!", think!  When your child was a tantrum-throwing, snot-covered toddler, it was HARD.  Just because you're far enough removed from the experience that all you remember is lollipops and rainbows, does not mean that someone dodging gunfire in the trenches wants to hear, "Enjoy it now!  You'll miss those bullets someday!"

Parenthood is not a contest.  It's not a game where the object is to rack up the most Persecution Points.  (Oh, I see your toddler wiped his used diaper all over the carpet, but my teenager just snuck out in the middle of the night and wrecked my car!  More points for me!)  It's not a matter of blue ribbons or trophies or angel wings or who made the most sacrifices.

It's a matter of raising humans.  Of making mistakes.  Of surviving and becoming better.  And it needs support, because parenting is incredibly, incredibly hard.  

So, next time you see a mother struggling, don't tell her she has it easy now.  Don't say, "Enjoy that little shrieking brat who is trying to hit you!"  Don't turn up your nose and opine, "Teenagers are so much harder" or "Wait until the hormones hit!"  Say, "You're doing just fine."  "This is such a hard age.  It will get better."  "You're a good Mom.  Keep at it!"

Because lifting others, helping others, wherever you are...

Now that's perfect.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pregnancy: A Guide to Asking Questions

Pregnancy:  A condition that causes strangers, casual acquaintances, and even some friends and family members to behave like complete buffoons.

How do I know this?  Hahaha!  Surely you jest.

For some reason, anything related to childbirth tends to short-circuit common courtesy and tact.  So, as a public service, I present to you a guideline for asking questions.  There is just one simple trick:

Would a similar question (or statement) be appropriate when a woman is not pregnant?

For example:

To Pregnant Woman:  "Do you plan to deliver vaginally or by c-section?"

To NotPregnant Woman:  "What are your upcoming plans for your vagina?"

See?  It's easy.

Still unsure?

To PW:  "Was this pregnancy a surprise?"

To NPW:  "Did you intend to have sex with your husband last Tuesday?"

---------------

To PW:  "Are you going to breastfeed?"

To NPW:  "What do you intend to do with your breasts for the next year?"

----------------

To PW:  "Did you do fertility treatments?"

To NPW:  "Are your breasts real?"

-----------------

To PW:  "You look huge!"

To NPW:  "My, you're fat!"

-----------------

To PW:  "Should you be eating that?"
To NPW:  "Should you be eating that?"

-----------------

To PW:  *Pats belly*
To NPW:  *Pats belly*

------------------

To PW:  "Are you pregnant?"

To NPW:  "Are you pregnant?"

I don't care if the woman is "obviously" pregnant.  Believe me, as someone who has been mistaken for being "obviously" pregnant, nothing is more demoralizing than a person checking out the box of Godiva chocolates that settled just south of your belly button and asking, "When are you due?"

As a rule, I would say that most women like to be (very) well-acquainted with someone before discussing their private parts, their sex life, their weight, or any of their plans for the future.  (Of course, knowing what the college bar scene is like these days, maybe that's just me...)  But think, people.  Think before you speak.  Realize that 99% of what is going on with any woman's body is absolutely none of your business, pregnant or not.

And if you simply must ask a question, try one of these:

"Would you like my chair?"

"You look beautiful!"

"May I help you with that?"

Or my favorite:

"Have some chocolate."

And please, please keep your hands to yourself.