Thursday, August 30, 2012

Notes from the Universe

I recently taught Michael how to tie his shoes.  I'm sure there might be mothers out there who enjoy this sort of thing.  After all, it sounds nice --  sit your kid on your lap, sing a few songs about bunnies and holes and going around trees, and voila!  The shoes are tied!

And for Michael and me, the process was exactly like that... except there was no singing and we almost killed each other.  (I suddenly understood why, 20 years ago in the middle of a piano lesson, my mom actually ripped one of my piano books in half).

But, I consider this experience the voice of the universe telling me that I should never home school.  Which has made me wonder, what else is the universe trying to tell me?

Apparently that running is "fun," for starters.  Not only is our upcoming ward (church congregation, similar to a parish) activity a 5K, they keep talking about it like it's supposed to be enjoyable for the whole family.  Hmmm... You know what would be more enjoyable?  Sleeping in and going out to Kneader's for breakfast.

But then yesterday I got an email from Michael's school about a fundraiser involving, you guessed it, a "fun" run!  I think the universe is hoping that if she uses the word "fun" in connection with "running" enough times, I might be duped into re-boarding the exercise wagon.  Unfortunately for the universe, not only did I fall off the wagon, I hacked it into little splinters and enjoyed a tasty smore by the light of the bonfire it kindled.  I'm not even sorry.

The problem is that I am blessed not to have body issues.  I don't look at myself and think I look fat, I look at myself and think I look like me.  Which is not to say I wouldn't like the look of me in size 8 pants, but it's so much trouble to get there...

And I have to laugh at the memory of my newly-engaged self being horrified when my future mother-in-law took a guess at my dress size and came up with "12."  (Tip to all mothers-in-law:  Guess smaller!)  Considering I could have zipped up a size 6 at the time, I was devastated that anyone would think I looked like a 12.  Now I'd be like, "Thank you very much for noticing!  I skipped breakfast this morning!"

Ah, it's funny how things change.  Well, some things, that is.

Running is never going to be "fun."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Cracks Begin to Show

Yesterday was one of those days.  You know, the kind where you get to the end and think, did I really just spend several hours dealing with the fact that my son jammed a marshmallow up his nose?

What is it with boys and holes?

Initially I thought the Lucky Charms crescent would get slimy enough that it would ooze its way down, but then Matthew snorted it up his nose to the point I could no longer see it, at which point I emailed my family to ask for advice and my brother jokingly (?) said I should have Matthew snort milk because milk dissolves those kinds of marshmallows.

I laughed, but I didn't try it.  Not because I didn't think it was a decent idea, but mostly because I figured I would have a hard time explaining it to the doctor, and I didn't want him to put a flag in my file identifying me as one of those moms.

But, it turned out the doctor wasn't any help either - he couldn't see or get anything out, so for now we are assuming the marshmallow made it through Matthew's nose and down his throat.  Or, possibly, it's lodged in his brain, which -- if it doesn't kill him -- could prove to be a convenient excuse when he makes dumb decisions in the future - "Oh," we'll say, "It's just the marshmallow in his brain."

After the doctor we headed to the library, which was a really bad idea seeing as the kids had just spent an hour quietly waiting and had worn out their quota of good behavior for the day.  I returned a library book that Leah had ripped and then we got home and Leah tore a page out of another one.  I'm thinking I will renew this book so I don't have to go back in three weeks and have the Woman in Charge of Page Rippers give me the stink eye because this happened the last time they let us check out books from the library.

Seriously, they should never let us check out books from the library.

As we get further and further into busy season dinners are getting less and less balanced as I throw a few carrots on everyone's plate and figure that magically transforms Ramen Noodles into a nutritious meal.  Michael is spending a significant amount of time each night propping his eyelids open so he can stay awake until his dad gets home, though he has yet to succeed.  Last night he managed to make it till almost 10:30 (two hours after I put him in bed) before he conked out.  Poor kid.  It's hard to have your dad gone so much.

As for me, I may or may not have developed a twitch, I may or may not have have cried when Michael hit me in the forehead with a ball even though it didn't actually hurt, and I may or may not have eaten half a pan of Reese's peanut butter bars for breakfast one time last week.  Okay, that's not exactly true.  It was more than one time.

It was a Costco-sized box and I'm totally buying it again.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Willoughby Syndrome, Part II - The "Hotness" Factor

(If you missed Part I, click here).

A few years ago my cousin asked the following question on her blog (I apologize that there is no link, but the blog no longer exists):  If you could swallow a pill that would make you just a little bit dumber, but would also ensure that for the rest of your life you would have a perfect body, would you take it?

The answers that came from her readers horrified me.  Woman after woman after woman responded that yes, she would take the pill, without hesitation.  Some said they would take several.  Women were lining up by the dozens, willing to hand over a piece of their brains for a smaller pant size. I've never gotten over it.

But it's such a revealing insight into the world we live in.  None of these women were longing to be "kind" or "compassionate", or even to be "beautiful"; they were longing to be "hot."  To look attractive in yoga pants and a tank top and to have bodies free of stretch marks and cellulite.  The focus on "hotness" diminished them as women, just as it diminishes real beauty, because any measure of true beauty must involve soul -- without soul, we are discussing nothing more than flesh.  

And yet, here we are, living in a world where the first commodity of dating is "hotness".  Everyone is searching for their John Willoughby -- someone with whom they can share intense and immediate chemistry and then live their life together in the heat of raw passion.  This is why sexual contact is the first ingredient in nearly all Hollywood romance; it's the ultimate testing of "hotness".  Instant sexual compatibility (complete with fireworks) is expected if a couple is to make a suitable life together.  Everything else, including total incompatibility of values or lifestyle, is overlooked on the road to "Happily Ever After."  (After all, what is more Hollywood than Nice Girl meets Hot Jerk, Hot Jerk changes his ways -- presumably permanently -- for Nice Girl, and then they ride off into the sunset together?)  

This may work in Hollywood, but a dating formula that doesn't require you to disregard physical attractiveness when it is bonded to jerkhood can lead to nowhere but unhappiness.  (If a "hot" guy acts like a pig, you can still think he's hot and still delude yourself into thinking you will be the one to change him.  Hence the thousands of women who date and marry "bad boys" who treat them like dirt, beat them up, and demolish their self-esteem).  But, when there is focus on true beauty, attractiveness is increased by good and kind behavior and diminished by poor behavior.  Thus, a woman who focuses on true beauty protects herself from the inevitable heartache that results from chasing after "hotness".  She may end up with someone who is handsome, she may end up with someone who is plain, but she will always end up with someone who is "beautiful."   

Can hotness without kindness, passion without true beauty, truly be fulfilling?  I say no.  Surely the passion of melded bodies cannot compare with the passion of welded souls (those who are one in heart and purpose and for whom kindness is the first rule of interaction).  And surely hotness cannot compensate for emptiness of soul.

Remember, there is no such thing as a "beautiful" jerk.  And no "hot" jerk who will help you earn your Happily Ever After.

Sorry, Willoughby.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Mother Superior

I love having twins.  I mean, how adorable is this?

And now, two-and-a-half years later, I find myself looking at them and thinking they are still unbearably cute.

They are also a handful.  They collude and conspire and do things that neither of them would ever come up with on their own.  And yet, if I hear one more Mom of Multiples say, "Singleton moms have no idea how easy they have it," I'm going to smack someone.

What is this, a contest?  Yes, it is tricky to make sure two babies are diapered and fed and cared for.  But it's also tricky to make sure one baby is diapered and fed and cared for.

Whatever you are dealing with is difficult.  When you have three children it is difficult to manage the grocery store with those three children. But when you only have one child, it's still difficult to manage the task.  With that one child there still comes a learning curve, a reconfiguring of the way you approach every chore, and the mental exhaustion of changing your entire routine to suit a person who screams at you on a regular basis. So it irks me when people go around thinking their difficulties are so much harder to deal with than those of someone else. 

Twins are exhausting, yes.  But it's not helpful to frazzled mothers of singletons to say, "You have it so easy."  In fact, they don't have it easy.  No one does.  The difficulty of a given situation is not based on how hard it would be for you to handle, it's based on how hard it is for that person to handle.

It's like we want the proper amount of points allotted to us; i.e., I have twins so I deserve more points than you.  (Never mind that your baby cries constantly and doesn't sleep through the night).  Or, I gave birth by c-section and you delivered naturally -- points for you!  I breastfed my babies till they were a year old and my husband works late every night (points for me!), you hold down a full-time job and whip up cookies like you are Martha Stewart (points for you!)... the list goes on.

You can't compare apples to apples when you are dealing with bread and grapefruit.  Yes, from the outside it might look like apples to apples, but appearances can be deceiving.  And telling someone that their struggles aren't struggles is damaging and unkind.

Let's have a little more sympathy, shall we?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Willoughby Syndrome, Part I

When I was in high school, one of the oft-squealed-over movies my friends and I used to watch was "Sense and Sensibility."  (We loved movies where people could be unfailingly polite and devastatingly rude at the the same time.  And the abundance of gentlemanly men with handsome faces and table manners only added to our love of all things Jane Austen.  Not to mention the swoon-worthy British accents).

But, my friend and I had a disagreement:  I thought the ending of "Sense and Sensibility" was perfection.  (Spoiler alert!  But if you haven't seen this movie or read the book by now, what's wrong with you?)  The impetuous Marianne ends up with the kind and decent Colonel Brandon (who deeply cares for her) rather than the dashing John Willoughby, who fathered a child out of wedlock and then abandoned Marianne for an heiress with a large bank account.

My friend hated the fact that Marianne and Willoughby did not end up together, and nothing would convince her that this was the right ending.  She thought Marianne and Willoughby were meant for each other.  They shared a passion for life.  He was handsome.  He read poetry to her.  He understood her.  Colonel Brandon was too old and too boring.

I saw it much differently.  Yes, Willoughby was handsome and exciting, but Colonel Brandon was humble.  He was kind.  He treated everyone with dignity.  He sought to be of service whenever he could.  His actions showed Marianne that he loved her, while Willoughby's actions showed that Willoughby cared about no one but himself.

Love isn't about passion, it's about kindness.  People think passion must exist for a relationship to survive, but without kindness there is nothing for that relationship to stand on.

I think this is why I don't understand the phenomenon that is "Twilight."  Love isn't something that bites you, puts you in danger, or demands that you give in to every hormonal urge.  While compatibility is important, the thought that constant fireworks are a necessary ingredient for a relationship to succeed is misleading at best and damaging at worst -- passion may fade with time, but kindness is the cement that holds everything together.

After my first date with David, I came home and wrote in my journal that the evening was fun but that there weren't any "sparks."  Imagine if I'd thrown away the opportunity to get to know him better because there wasn't instant, sizzling chemistry.  What a tragedy that would have been!

How many women discard a Colonel Brandon in their search for a John Willoughby, only to find that the John Willoughby isn't the White Knight they were hoping for?  And how many toss aside a "best friend" like Jacob in favor of a mysterious and dangerous Edward?  Is this truly a recipe for happiness?

Passion is great, yes (and the importance of chemistry should not be discounted), but it should not be the foundation of a relationship.

When you focus solely on fire, you're bound to get burned.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Today was Michael's first day of kindergarten.  Unofficially.  (I say it's not official until I can put him on the bus and send him off by himself, which happens tomorrow).  He is so excited.  He has been waiting for this moment ever since he used to stand at our 19th floor windows overlooking 23rd Street and ask me how many more days it would be until it was his turn to ride a school bus.

I can't believe he's so grown up.  And I can't believe that "growing up" means I have to fill out so many unnecessary and repetitive forms.  The good news is that Michael's school is going green so he shouldn't be bringing home loads of paperwork for me to sign.  The bad news is that "going green" means "parents need to print out all of said paperwork at home."

So, I've been printing out forms and answering ridiculous questions.  Starting with: "What kind of experience would you like your child to have in school?"

Does the fact that I'm really tempted to write, "I'd like it to be sort of like Hogwarts, with magic and invisibility cloaks and stuff" make me a bad mother?  Because I'll be honest, if Michael could learn how to apparate, that would be really helpful.

Seriously, could there be a more inane question?  Every single parent is going to write, "I'd like my child to have a good experience."  Sure, there might be a slight variation on the phrasing as some parents will say "good" and others might say "great" or "fun", but it's all the same.  Everyone wants their child to like going to school.  Asking for answers to obvious questions does not enlighten anyone.

And there must be something in the air regarding ridiculous questions, since I picked up the phone as I was making dinner and got stuck taking a "short" survey about healthcare in Utah that caused me to burn the rice.  I could have hung up, of course, but I have sympathy for telephone surveyors ever since I was one my freshman year of college.  (The most exciting thing that ever happened to me at that job was quitting).

So, I agreed to do the survey, even when it got tedious because she had to read full questions even if I knew the answer right away, like "Are you Asian, African-American, White, Pacific Islander, Native American, three-fifths Norwegian or part unicorn?" and I was like, "I could have told you I was white 45 minutes ago."

But, I answered her questions, even the one where she made me think back to the first person who ever told me that women of childbearing age should take folic acid, and then asked me what month and year that was.  Then she asked if I knew whether folic acid was supposed to prevent heart attacks or birth defects and I said I was hoping it would prevent all future phone surveys.

By the time I hung up and remade the rice, it was 7:00.  So we had a late dinner and then I sent the kids outside to ride scooters while I did the dishes.  I meant to put them to bed at 8, but with the evening being so beautiful and them being so happy, I put them to bed at 9:00, whereupon Michael had a massive meltdown about Dad still being at work.  "I want my Dad!  Why does he have to work so much?" he wailed through curtains of tears. 

"It could be worse, Michael," I said.  "He could be doing telephone surveys."

Monday, August 13, 2012

When Dad is in Charge of the Saturday Night Bath

The Olympics: What I'll Miss and What I Won't

Well, the Olympics are officially over.  It was a fitting end, really -- after all, what could signify "over" more than a group of five broads in their late thirties dressed like aspiring Barbie dolls and singing "If You Wanna Be My Lover"?

The closing ceremonies were pretty much a who's who of bands-I-never-knew-were-British.  The only staple of British crazy who wasn't around was Elton John, which is too bad.  I've liked him a little bit more ever since he called Madonna a "fairground stripper".  Though, quite honestly, I have to admit the comparison isn't totally fair.  Surely fairground strippers have more dignity than Madonna.

All in all it is sad to see another Olympics come to a close.  But since it also means a merciful end to Ryan Lochte's obsessive oversharing, I will say a prayer of gratitude and remind myself never to swim in the Olympic pool.  Seriously, Ryan, my two-year-olds know how to make it to the bathroom during a swim.

I will also count myself lucky that I no longer have to listen to the Kanye West of running talk about how he is the "greatest athlete to live."  Memo to "legend" Usain Bolt: anyone who likes to talk about how awesome he is is officially not awesome.

Also officially not awesome?  The US men's track uniforms, which had backs full of holes that looked like someone got carried away with a three hole punch.  And, of course, the women's beach volleyball bottoms, but I've already covered (ha!) those.  And speedos, because they should just not be allowed in general.

I will miss the gymnastics, though.  Except for the rings, because it pains me to watch guys with bulging muscles looking like their faces are about to explode, and the balance beam, because it gives me heart palpitations.  Also Makayla Maroney's nasty attitude (or "nastitude," as Leah calls it) after she cheesed it on her last vault and landed herself a silver medal.  Honey, I realize you were disappointed, but now all we will remember about you is that you were a sore loser.

I will also miss Michael's random comments as he watched the games with me.  Especially his question during the men's BMX biking competition:  "Why aren't they riding with training wheels, Mom?"

Seriously.  You'd think safety was more important these days.

True Love

They haven't lived near each other in four years, but apparently absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

Of course they went from these (totally unposed) pictures to Clara sobbing in the kitchen after Michael told her he wouldn't marry her.

"Michael, I think Clara is worried you don't love her now," I said.

"I DO love her.  I'm just not going to MARRY her!"

Ah, spoken like a five-year-old boy.  (Which is good, seeing as he is, you know, a five-year-old boy). 

But keep dreaming the dream, Clara.  A pre-birth betrothal is a strong thing. 

Besides, both of you would have totally awesome in-laws.