Friday, August 17, 2012

On Modesty

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(Fair warning, dear friends, this blog post plagiarizes from various Facebook statuses and comments I’ve posted over the last year or so.)

WARNING WARNING: EPIC MODESTY RANT FOLLOWS.  

A couple of weeks ago, my ten year old daughter came home from Primary with a printed copy of this June 2011 article from The Friend (a LDS magazine for children), in which four year old Hannah learns about the immodesty of sundresses and the importance of covering up her shoulders.  

Her FOUR YEAR OLD SHOULDERS. 

(I still don't understand why her Grandma sent her that sundress.  Doesn't she know four year olds shouldn't dress like harlots?) 

I have been boiling ever since.

Because I do not want my girls learning at church that it is inappropriate for a four year old to show her shoulders.  A four year old’s shoulder is not a sexual object.  And that is precisely what we are teaching our children when we hyper-focus on modesty in this way. We are sexualizing our little girls, in the name of teaching them correct principles.

(I know some people think that Mormon children should abide by Mormon adult modesty standards because someday, as adults, if they choose to wear garments, they will need to cover their shoulders.  This, they believe, avoids any future confusion over changing standards.  I'm personally not on board with that.  I don’t believe changing the standards of what is appropriate to wear at various ages is confusing or difficult for children.  Different ages come with different responsibilities. We don't make five year old girls wear bras because someday they will have breasts and we don't want them to struggle with that. They wear bras when it is appropriate to wear them.  Our children are not simple minded, they can grasp that concept. But I know that's a common feeling, and hey, different strokes. But age appropriateness is not what bothers me the most about all of this.

I am really tired of the way in which we try to make women responsible, through their clothing choices, for the behavior, thoughts, and spirituality of men. 

Last month a friend in my old Highland ward told me that the YW in her ward decided that they should all wear shorts and t-shirts over their swimming suits at girls camp, EVEN WHILE SWIMMING, WHILE ENGAGING IN AN ATHLETIC ACTIVITY, so that they would not "tempt" the adult priesthood men in attendance.  

Read that again.  They are so worried about tempting the fathers of their peers, that they felt uncomfortable, AT GIRLS CAMP, wearing swimsuits while swimming. 

This is what we've taught them, that men are unable to control themselves, that the sight of girlish shoulders and thighs will present such a great temptation that even stalwart men will be tempted beyond all imagination. 

And that this is the responsibility of the young women.

Most of you probably heard about the BYU Idaho testing center skinny jeans debacle and about the incident where a random guy at BYU  walked up to a girl (dressed in a perfectly modest outfit) he didn’t know and handed her a note explaining that he felt she should rethink her outfit because it was basically a spiritual hardship for him to have to see her. We are teaching our young men that it is acceptable for them to police the clothing choices of our young women.

To quote one of my FB friends, "My issue is that there are guys who think it's fine (even a righteous duty) to go up to a woman they don't even know and harass them about their clothing choice." We are teaching them that it is acceptable to blame young women for their own sexual (and normal) thoughts.

Maybe these young men need to be taught not to leer at young women in public. Maybe they need to be taught to mind their own business. Maybe they need to be taught that they actually do have control over themselves and are responsible for their own thoughts and actions. 

Because how on earth are these guys going to function out in the real world? Because, guess what, they WILL encounter attractive, shapely young women out in the world and will have to find some way to deal with it. It reminds me of the recent incident where a group of Orthodox Jewish men in Israel spit on an 8 year old as she was walking to school because they felt her uniform wasn't modest enough. 


I think this is the natural result of spending so many years emphasizing hyper-modesty (instead of actual modesty in thought and action), dress, and appearance. We've now hypersexualized our young women to the point that a young girl wearing a perfectly acceptable and non-sexual outfit gets harassed at a church school. What's next, burkas for everyone? 


Guess what guys, if your son can't control himself when he sees my daughter's SHOULDER, that's on your son, not my daughter.


As my Uncle Alan said, “The irony of this fixation on modesty is that it only heightens sexual tension and desire.  The more of the body you cover in the name of modesty, the more area of the body you sexualize.  Why did Victorian men “swoon” when they happened to see a bit of ankle or wrist?  Only because it was hidden.  I think it was Mark Twain who wrote that nothing was ever made less tempting by forbidding it.”

And you know what?  If my sons are aroused by attractive young women, well – that just means they are NORMAL.  They are biologically SUPPOSED TO BE.  Isn’t almost EVERYTHING arousing to teenage boys at one point or another?  They have to learn to deal with it.  We can’t build up a whole institution of body shaming designed to help boys avoid lustful thoughts and adolescent erections.

All of this modesty fixation makes me want to grab my 9 and 10 year old daughters and run screaming into the wilderness. Because this is not what I want them to learn. 

If we go to church at all (and for this and a wide variety of other reasons I am starting to wonder if we should) I want her to learn about service, and honesty, and loving others, and goodness. I do not want them to learn a cute little head, shoulders, knees and toes activity they can do to ensure they are appropriately dressed.  

(I kid you not, I witnessed this in primary last year - it consisted of “touch your head – is anything showing?  Touch your toes, is anything showing?”  I wanted to blurt out “do a cartwheel IS ANYTHING SHOWING? FOR SHAME FOR SHAME”). 

I do not want them bringing home articles about sundresses.  I do not want them learning that they are walking pornography.

I want our religion to strengthen them, not shame them.

And I do not feel like that is too much to ask.

For now, I preview the primary lessons online. And when the lessons teach them to be ashamed of their shoulders, we go hiking in the mountains, in shorts, and flex our muscles and feel strong. When they come home feeling guilty about tank tops, we talk about how some people have silly ideas about shoulders, but God doesn’t actually care if your shoulders are showing.  He made your shoulders for holding up your arms and there is nothing shameful or sexual about them. 

And then I go in my room and stomp around and shake my head and ponder whether or not I want my kids learning this fundamentalist craziness.

And I wear tank tops around the neighborhood, out of spite.

(I KNOW.  THE DEVIL CLEARLY HAS ME IN HIS HOT FIERY GRIP.  You don’t need to leave a comment clarifying that.)

PS:  Please do not tell me to pray about this.  If you think I haven't done that already, you are crazy.  The fact that my answers don’t match up with the answers you expect me to get doesn’t mean I’m doing it wrong, or that I’m full of sin.  I know that is hard for some of you to wrap your mind around.  You can go ahead and believe that, I don’t mind.  Or you can pray for me, that won’t hurt my feelings either.  You just can’t comment about it here.  Also, please don’t tell me that this isn’t a significant issue.  It is significant to ME.  

(Comments are now closed.)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

LOOKIT WHAT I MADE (The Children, Not The Pics)

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You can pretty much tell by looking at my blog when my summer school term started, can't you?  (Programming classes, database design classes, and English. SO TIRED.)  I'm so predictable.

Today I mostly just want to share the family pictures my sister-in-law Jamie took for us when we were in Las Vegas a couple of months ago.  They are actually the first family pictures we've had taken since Josh was born and I'm really happy about how they turned out.  She is really great at what she does.  

(Jamie lives in the Phoenix area, but she often comes to Las Vegas to do sessions. I keep trying to convince her to come up here to Utah for a few shoots - mainly because I want her darling kids to come stay with us for a while.  (Here is the part where I do my part to help Jamie's SEO - she's a FANTASTIC Las Vegas and Arizona Family Photographer and this is her blog.)  (You should see her newborn pics - so cute!) You could also check out (and like) her Facebook page.)

(Also, I did not get my photos for free, we paid for them although she gave us a steal of a deal - and I was not compensated for writing this post.) (It's so stupid that I even have to write that.) I'm writing about this because I'm a vain narcissist and I WANT YOU TO SEE MY PICTURES and also, she's awesome, and also, she's my sister-in-law and so perhaps you guys can all help make her a fantastically famous and rich photographer so that we can all go live in her mansion someday. OK?)

(My bra is showing in half of the pictures that include me, but that is not Jamie's fault, it is just the reality of me, in a picture.  (She's editing that out for me in the pictures we are printing out, bless her.)  Whatever shirt I am wearing, however modestly positioned it begins, will inevitably turn into a cleavage festival.) 

Here are a few of my favorites.  I especially love the ones where we are all laughing or not perfectly posed.  She's great at capturing those moments.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

OW. FOR REAL.

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So in the spirit of teaching my kids stuff (#111 - 116)  (and also in the spirit of Our Cupboards They are Barren), yesterday we went to Smiths to learn about grocery shopping and using an ATM card.

(I love Smiths Marketplace.  The warm fuzzies some of you have for Target, I reserve for Smiths.)

(If there isn't a Smiths by our new house I am totally cancelling the lease.)

I let the kids (including the two year old) (DANGER DANGER) each take a cart and then we proceeded to v-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-l-y make our way through the store.

VERY SLOWLY.

Leading four kids with four carts (including one kid who continually shouts "I SMASH YOU") through a crowded grocery store = total insanity.

(I am not even kidding when I say that my heels were bloody by the time we got out of there.)

(DO NOT GIVE A TWO YEAR OLD A CART.  It is TOO. MUCH. POWER. for them to handle.)

(Also, WHY IN THE NAME OF HEAVEN don't the mini-grocery carts have bumpers?  WHY? WHY?)

(Other things my children learned yesterday: two new swears.  I'm so proud.)


I gave the three oldest lists.  For Megan (10) and Emma (9), the lists were general (bread, eggs, 2% milk, toilet paper, bananas, generic light canned pears) (which meant that we had to talk about what "generics" were) and I asked them to look at the different prices to see what the best deals were.

We talked about how sometimes an item might look like it's cheaper, but if you look at the size/number of ounces you are actually paying more. I also gave them each a budget and had them try to figure out if they had enough money for the things in their cart.

For Jake (7), we kept things a little simpler.  His list was pretty specific (Powerade Zero, Comet, etc.) in most cases.  When it wasn't specific, say for "cereal", I had him pick out the three cereals he liked best and then we compared what the prices were and picked the least expensive option.

Josh, meanwhile, was randomly throwing every kind of crap on the face of the earth into his cart (Goldfish! Oreos! Fudge Sticks! French Vanilla Cappuccino!) and as soon as he put something in, I went behind him and put it back on the shelf (although he was pretty insistent about the fudge sticks).

For my own sanity I didn't just let them take off, I made them stay on the same general aisle and pick out their stuff as we went along.  The other shoppers were not all that thrilled that we were continually blocking the aisles (other than the grandmas who by and large thought we were all ADORABLE JUST ADORABLE), but we tried to smooth things over with lots of "excuse mes" and by quickly moving out of the way as much as possible.  (Teaching politeness and grocery store etiquette, CHECK.)

When we were (finally) (FINALLY) done (seriously, this took FOREVER, but it was fun - other than, er, the part where MY HEELS WERE BLEEDING) (HAVE I MENTIONED MY HEELS WERE BLEEDING?  NO?), we took over two of the self-check stations so that two kids could check out while I helped them, while the remaining kid could attempt to keep Josh from absconding to Mexico.

They entered our fresh value card id number, checked and bagged their own groceries (including the produce), swiped their coupons, and then I let them use the debit card to pay (their favorite part, bar none).  (SECRET CODE.)  (DRUNK WITH POWER.)  The girls were very impressed by the How Much You Saved Today part of the receipt and kept reminding me How Much We Saved You Today Which Probably Means You Should Buy Us Slurpees.

I am nothing if not totally addicted to slurpees right now (SUGAR FREE mango - 20 calories for 8 ounces ARE YOU KIDDING ME), so that was our next stop.  At the Sev (as we like to call it in the hood) I gave them each some change and had them each take their own drinks to the counter and figure out how much change they needed to give the clerk.

I can't say that the clerk was all that thrilled to be part of our object lesson, but there was nobody else in the store so - SHUT IT grumpy store clerk.

They really loved this.  Megan took her receipt home and put it in her scrapbook, that's how much of an impression the whole thing made on her.  (The children's museum trip they took earlier in the day with their awesome babysitter - apparently not worthy of recording, but GROCERY SHOPPING WITH MOM = A DAY TO REMEMBER.)

We will definitely do this again, and next time I want to talk more about what KINDS of foods to buy - looking at ingredient labels, how to pick out fruit, etc.

And next time I will LEAVE JOSH AT HOME.

(I love you Josh, you little turd.)

Monday, June 11, 2012

State Of Grace

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After 16 years of marriage you don't even have to have the arguments out loud, you can just look at each other and instinctively know exactly what the other person is thinking, what their irritation with you is, what you would say in response, what THEY would say in response, and you can just avoid the argument because you know exactly how it would play out, and any actual argument you might have would be anti-climactic.

This is both a benefit and a curse - a benefit because instead of retreading old ground you just roll your eyes and stomp off feeling a vague sense of self-righteous irritation because REALLY - ARE WE BACK TO THIS AGAIN, but since you didn't actually fight about it, five minutes later you can move on, pretend like it didn't happen, both of you sending out those tentative I'm Over It Are You signs of a mutual desire to just drop it already (a touch on the shoulder that could or could not turn into a hug, depending on the reception of said touch on the shoulder, gifting the other person with the remote even though you know it's going to mean watching an hour of Cops, etc.).  And if those signals are positively received you get to curl up on the couch together, feeling somewhat satisfied with yourselves for being grown-ups, feeling warm toward each other for realizing that neither one of you wanted to fight, that you both gave each other that gift of letting something go, and good for you, yes, YAY FOR US even. 

A curse because sometimes you imbue you partner with irritations and motives they never even had, just because you know they've felt them in the past, when in fact you're fabricating their irritation out of a sense of your own guilt.  

I mean, I'm a terrible co-parent on car trips.  I tend to pick up a book and then just read and read and read for the entire time we're in the car.  I will forget the children exist, forget that my bored husband is sitting there for miles and miles with nobody to talk to - I see a spare couple of hours where everyone is safely strapped into place and (for the most part) distracted by other things, and I mentally check out.  I read What is the What on the way home and you could not have gotten my attention if you were on fire.  Sometimes this really irritates my husband, justifiably so, when the kids need something and they've asked for a drink ten times and I just don't even hear them because I'm lost somewhere between the pages - and sometimes he doesn't really care.  But I almost always assume he's really irritated, because I know I'm in the wrong.  And because I don't really want to stop doing what I'm doing (READING TIME, MY PRECIOUS) I conjure up my own defensive irritation in response - EVEN THOUGH HE HASN'T ACTUALLY SAID OR DONE ANYTHING.  

This is the curse, this sense of knowing what will make your partner angry (or what should make them angry) so that even if they are not, you assume that they are, because they probably have the right to be.

It would be so nice if I granted my husband the grace to have his own feelings, and not to just paint him with the feelings I believe he has.  That would be such a graceful thing to do, wouldn't it?

Wouldn't it?

WHAT.

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On the way home from our trip to Vegas this weekend we stopped at Yuba Lake State Park, about 25 miles south of Nephi, right off I-15.   We pulled into North Beach, not sure what to expect, and were happy to find sandy beaches (no gravel!) and relatively warm (it was only 75 degrees out so we were expecting it to be FREEZING), calm water.

I guess there are a variety of campgrounds and beaches at Yuba - some accessible by car, some only by boat.  Some of the campgrounds have restrooms and shade canopies, some are more primitive.  The Utah State Parks website says they have a concession where you can buy a hamburger or rent boats, jet-skis, and ATVs, although we saw no sign of the concession area (we weren't really looking for it though).

The other feature it offered was a vague smell of poop.

(I know, that's a glowing recommendation right there.  But - I don't know.  Them's the facts.  We went home and showered THOROUGHLY.)

(I don't know if it USUALLY smells like that or if it was just special for us.)

Poop smell aside (I don't know that might be a dealbreaker for some of you pansies), it would make a nice little day trip.

More info here.

Yuba Lake State Park

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Nice Wadies

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On our way down to Vegas we stopped at Cove Fort, a historic pioneer fort about half-way between Fillmore and Beaver (for parents, it's located somewhere between "SHE'S TOUCHING ME MAKE HER STOP" and "MOM - HE'S MAKING THAT NOISE WITH HIS NOSE AGAIN").  We've probably driven past the fort hundreds of times, but we never stopped, partly because from the highway that particular spot looks pretty desolate.  You can't actually see the fort itself until you take the exit.


We kept telling Josh that we were going to Grandma and Grandpa's house, but he didn't really understand, and when we got out at Cove Fort he assumed WELL HEY THIS MUST BE GRANDMA'S HOUSE.  (It's been a while since we visited, obviously.)

Cove Fort is staffed by older couples serving LDS missions, and when we parked he saw an older woman approaching the car.

He said, "Dat gwamma?"

I told him, "No, it's just a nice lady."

I guess he was thinking that maybe he had ANOTHER grandma, one named "nice lady", because as soon as he got out of the car he raced over to her, shouted "Hi WADY!", wrapped his arms around her legs, and gave her a huge hug.

You should've seen the look on that missionary's face.  She was just tickled.  In a cracking voice she kept telling us how nice it was and how much she missed her own grandchildren.  I think he made her month.

She took us on a leisurely tour of the fort, telling the kids about the family who lived there, showing them how they did laundry and cooking, showing them the buffalo hides, the mattresses filled with straw, and the wooden bed with a detachable roller (so you could flatten your own mattress when the straw clumped up).  They investigated the garden and the gun portholes, and went up to the top of the fort to check out the view.

At the end of the tour she gave them an old fashioned pioneer toy to keep (after explaining how it represented that families are forever) (I would share that story with you except that I can't remember it), and then we headed back down the freeway.


It was a fun, free stop.  You can find out more about Cove Fort here.

(Practically speaking, they have a nice grassy area with picnic tables, large trees, a drinking fountain and nice restrooms, so if you need a clean, shady place to stop along the way to or from SLC, I'd definitely recommend it.  It's a great way to stretch your legs for a bit.)


Wednesday, June 06, 2012

For My Daughter

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You may have already seen this if we're Facebook friends, but I was so impressed with this poem recently posted on A Mighty Girl that I had to share it here. It's just wonderful.

Yes, Yes, YES.

(Quick, someone put that in vinyl and I'll plaster it all over their bedroom wall.)

(And then send me a free one, because I'm sure it would cost a zillion dollars. Zoinks.)

For My Daughter
By Sarah McMane

Never play the princess when you can
be the queen:
rule the kingdom, swing a scepter,
wear a crown of gold.
Don’t dance in glass slippers,
crystal carving up your toes --
be a barefoot Amazon instead,
for those shoes will surely shatter on your feet.
Never wear only pink
when you can strut in crimson red,
sweat in heather grey, and
shimmer in sky blue,
claim the golden sun upon your hair.
Colors are for everyone,
boys and girls, men and women --
be a verdant garden, the landscape of Versailles,
not a pale primrose blindly pushed aside.
Chase green dragons and one-eyed zombies,
fierce and fiery toothy monsters,
not merely lazy butterflies,
sweet and slow on summer days.
For you can tame the most brutish beasts
with your wily wits and charm,
and lizard scales feel just as smooth
as gossamer insect wings.
Tramp muddy through the house in
a purple tutu and cowboy boots.
Have a tea party in your overalls.
Build a fort of birch branches,
a zoo of Legos, a rocketship of
Queen Anne chairs and coverlets,
first stop on the moon.
Dream of dinosaurs and baby dolls,
bold brontosaurus and bookish Belle,
not Barbie on the runway or
Disney damsels in distress --
you are much too strong to play
the simpering waif.
Don a baseball cap, dance with Daddy,
paint your toenails, climb a cottonwood.
Learn to speak with both your mind and heart.
For the ground beneath will hold you, dear --
know that you are free.
And never grow a wishbone, daughter,
where your backbone ought to be.

Friday, June 01, 2012

First World Problems

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Right after we lost our house and moved to Woods Cross a few years ago, I wrote a number of really miserable posts. Most of them I never published.  They were too dreary, too angry, too everything.  I kept writing those posts and then deleting them, or putting them back in drafts.  Exhibit A:

I don't want to talk about where we are because I hate it.  I hate where we are, I hate our current situation, I hate that nothing worked out the way we planned and worked for.  I know it does me no good at all to dwell on it.
So I will not sit here and describe Woods Cross to you.  It is like any other place you don't want to be - none of the good things about it can make up for all of the resentment you feel about being where you are. 
People ask how I'm doing, and I always tell them I'm fine. I've been moping, but its been a busy kind of moping.   I'm feeling very Marilla Cuthbertish these days - the picture of grim faced endurance and practicality.  This is a situation that calls for putting one foot in front of the other.  This is a situation that calls for just getting on with it until I can feel cheerful again. This is not a situation that calls for self-indulgent analysis of "how I feel" about things. 
BUT SINCE YOU ASKED. 
How do I feel? 
I feel crappy about it. But sitting around thinking about it does me no good. I can sit and wallow in it or I can move forward.  I think I choose moving forward, even though I'm not all that thrilled about where we're starting from. 

I am trying not to wallow.  Instead I am just a blank.  I feel like a character in a Wallace Stegner novel, grimly living out futile predestined patterns of certain economic doom and personal failure. 
And if anyone tries to tell me to look on the bright side I will punch them in the face.

I felt like we couldn't catch a break. That every time we tried to pick ourselves up, we got knocked back down again.  I felt like the world was an unjust place.

(I will stop and say right here that yes, I understand that these were first world problems. We were not living in a shack, we were all safe, we were still immensely privileged.  But that is not how I felt. It is hard to have perspective when you feel like you are losing everything, even when you continually remind yourself to have a little perspective.  Gratitude journals only take you so far.  That's just human nature, and I was very human.  See how that works?)

The hardest thing I ever had to do was to walk into the Bishop's Storehouse a few weeks before we moved out of our house in Highland.  (If you don't know what that is, see here.  It's like a food bank for Mormons.) We had no food left in the cupboards.  I don't think any of my friends had a clue about that, because I didn't tell anyone.  I took my shopping cart around and picked out free produce and canned food, and cried the whole time - feeling both grateful for the food and ashamed and embarrassed that I was in that situation.

Things were pretty bleak.

At the time I closed myself off from everyone around me and irrationally resented all of the people who didn't have to deal with what we were dealing with. "You think your life is hard?"  That was my super pleasant personal motto.

A lot of people emailed me who were going through the same thing, and by and large I just could not answer those emails.  It was too hard.  I had no advice to give, I could barely advise myself.

But I understood it.  I got the anger, I got the pain.  I got the feelings of "how did we get here" and "how is this my life"?

What it is so hard to see when you are in the middle of it is that this isn't actually your life.  This is a small part of it.  It is something to get through.  It is something you can get through.

Maybe you won't ever be restored to your former financial place in the world, I'm not saying that.  Life really isn't economically fair, that's just a fact.  You do your best to work hard and make smarter choices and sometimes it works out.  Sometimes it doesn't.

I don't think the reward for righteously working through your "trials" is financial "blessings".  I think that's a crock.   I say this because I know plenty of Mormons who think that if they do all of the right things, God will bless them with a financial house of order.  I don't think it works that way.  I don't think God blesses righteous people financially unless everyone in the third world is an unrighteous piece of crap. What does it mean to God if I have to live in a crappy rental instead of a McMansion?  What does it mean to God if we had to shop at thrift stores for a while instead of at the Gap? What does it mean to God if I have to humble myself to bring home a cart full of free groceries instead of whipping out my debit card?

Nothing.  It means nothing.

Frankly, I don't think that God cares about my financial well-being at all, which isn't to say that He doesn't care about me.  He just doesn't value upper middle class financial stability.  The reward for being a good person is not having free reign at Nordstroms.

If He cares about anything, He cares about how I respond to my situation.  He cares about what I learn from it.  He doesn't care about what level of privilege I think I deserve based on how hard I work. He cares about how I let it shape me.

And the thing is, this doesn't define you, unless you let it.  It may not feel like it at the time, but you do have choices. You get to choose how much you let it seep into your soul.  You get to choose what lessons you want to let your actions teach your kids about how much you really value money, Sunday School platitudes aside.  You get to choose whether or not you want to try to gain a little perspective. You get to choose exactly how bitter you are going to be at the end of the day. You get to choose if you are going to hurt yourself by holding on to your ideas about what is fair.

You get to choose.

It doesn't have to destroy your marriage either, although it can.  It can make things really hard for a while.  You may not even realize what toll the constant stress is taking on your marriage. Who else are you going to take it out on, but each other?  Nobody else is there in the trenches with you. The person you should be leaning on the most may be the person you use most of your remaining strength to push away.  It is hard to get through it unscathed.  Be careful.  Be so, so careful.

I guess all I really want to say to all of those people who emailed me is - hang in there.  Life is not a tunnel with no light at the end of it, even if this moment, or this day, or this week, or this month, or this year feels like it.

Life will not always be so grim.  Try not to lose your sense of humor.  Try not to lose your sense of joy.  Try not to lose yourself.

After all, you've lost enough already, haven't you?

PS: You can read more about our financial meltdown and recovery here.  Hope it helps.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Everybody Zumba!

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JUST FOR YOU (yes, YOU), here's some fun and/or free stuff going on here in Utah this weekend:

ALL THE FRUIT
It's starting to be Pick Your Own Produce weather.

My kids have never forgotten that one time, er, two years ago, that I took them to an apple orchard and let them pick their own apples.

(I meant to go again last year but Smiths was way closer.  "LOOK KIDS, YOU CAN HAVE YOUR OWN PLASTIC BAG.  ISN'T THIS FUN?")

(But we're DEFINITELY going to go this year.)

(FOR SURE.)

(I mean, I HAVE REALLY GOOD INTENTIONS.)

That link up there leads to a list of farms and orchards where you can pick your own produce. It takes you to the Utah list, but you can navigate around on their site to access farms and orchards in other states.  They also have a list of farmer's markets around the country.

(Yes, this is a picture of a banana.) (Shut up.  Non-copyrighted Utah fruit stand / orchard related photos are hard to come by.)

EVEN MORE PRODUCE RELATED FUN (WHEE!) 
If you JUST. CAN'T. GET. ENOUGH. vegetables, you can always drive up to Utah's famous (I HEAR IT'S FAMOUS) (EVEN THOUGH I'VE NEVER HEARD OF IT BEFORE)  Fruit Way, a stretch of Highway 89 from Willard to Brigham City that is apparently lined with fruit and vegetable stands.  LINED with them.  DON'T EVEN TRY TO SEE THE SIDEWALK, YOU WILL FAIL.

(They MIGHT'VE used a bit of hyperbole there, I'm thinking.)

Waterfall Hiking For Lazy Folks

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I really love Bridal Veil Falls.  This is another really simple, easy (quarter of a mile) waterfall hike (more like a stroll).  You can play in the shallow water at the base of the falls, or, if you're more adventurous, climb right up the waterfall itself.

From I-15, take Exit 273 for 800 North in Orem, which becomes US Highway 189.  About 4 miles up the canyon past the interchange, just past Canyon Glen Park, take the Nunn's Park exit, and park in the Bridal Veil Falls / Nunns Park parking lot (on the right side of the road).

Have a picnic in the park, then follow the paved path straight up to the falls.

Free.  Info here


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What We Have Here, My Son, Is A Failure To Communicate

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Oh man.  YOU GUYS.

The airshow was a total parental FAIL.

The sun was shining in Bountiful on Saturday morning when we left, so despite knowing that the forecast called for freezing rain and gusty winds, we set off for the air force base in short sleeves, leaving our sweaters behind in a rumpled pile on the couch.  Because - hey - the sun!  Stupid weather people.  Shows what THEY know, smirk smirk.

(Oh Sue.  Sue, Sue, Sue, Sue, Sue.  You moron.)

We got to the base right on time, set off on the mile-and-a-half hike to the tarmac feeling slightly chilly but optimistic that it could only warm up as the day progressed (HA!) (HAHAHAHAHA!), and by the time we got through the security we were walking ice cubes.   We kept seeing cool things we wanted to stop and look at, but we were too cold, and figured it would be better to just keep moving.

When we got to the runway area we sat in the dirt and huddled up together in the grass under the sheet (WE BROUGHT A SHEET) (MORONS) we had planned to use as a picnic blanket.  All of the other parents were totally judging us (almost was I warmed by the heat of a thousand parents giving me laser stink eye) as they held their own parka clad toddlers, but one kind lady (BLESS YOU KIND LADY) took pity on us, or rather, on my children, and insisted that we take one of her thick blankets. Unfortunately one thick blanket for four children and two adults is – still not enough blanket.

Despite parachuters descending from the sky holding American flags, and fighter jets zooming down over our heads, all we could really think about was our rapid onset hypothermia.  It was miserable and we ended up leaving after about an hour. AN HOUR.


I felt pretty bad about it, because they would’ve loved it if we’d been appropriately dressed.

ARG.

The mile-and-a-half hike back to our car in the freezing wind and rain was – well – it was horrible, despite Megan's sweet attempts to make the best of it with her "it’s o.k., because we're on an adventure and sometimes you’re cold when you’re on an adventure” type talk.    Emma, on the other hand, (who is not at ALL like me when she gets upset, not at ALL) rolled her eyes and muttered a bunch of stuff I couldn't quite catch and a number of things I could, including “ridiculous” and “freezing” and “stupid airplanes” but she kept grimly marching forward and I couldn’t really blame her at that point.

When we got home the kids were all irritable and snappish with each other, and after making chocolate chip cookies failed to improve their mood I banned them to the basement Until Further Notice. This, as usual, had the fortunate side effect of transforming them into The Alliance of Unfortunately Oppressed Children Who Must Band Together Against The Enemy and they spent the rest of the day making indoor forts and playing - I don't know - some very involved game that had to do with forts. (I’m a very attentive mother, obviously.) (I was DONE at that point, what can I say.)

Sunday was rainy and cold again.

(May is such a jerk.)

I coped with my weather related disappointment by moping around and letting the kids watch positively unhealthy amounts of Phineas and Ferb.   I kept pacing back and forth and sighing heavily and muttering inconsiderate comments about nature and my husband finally was like WE GET IT, YOU ARE DISAPPOINTED ABOUT THE WEATHER. ENOUGH. 

Harumph.

On Monday we went - - well, actually, before we went anywhere we spent the morning cleaning stuff.

Lest you think it is non-stop fun around here, please know that interspersed with all of our (FAILED) activities, there is always plenty of slave labor going on.  I like to work my children's fingers to the bone using my highly complicated chore system, which consists of me looking around to see what needs to be done and then making them do it, and saying a lot of things like "ZIP IT" and "yes, well life is not fair", and "If you're complaining that just tells me that you need more stuff to do" and a lot of other things I swore I would never say to my own children.  

But LATER, later on Monday we went out to Fairfield for the Camp Floyd Memorial Day celebration, (which you can read about, er, via that link right back there) (before the comma) (what, you need directions?). The older kids had lots of fun.  


Josh, ON THE OTHER HAND. 

Josh is two now. 

Josh is currently very committed to his core values of:

1) "I DO IT MYSELF" and 
2) "I CANNOT BE CONTAINED" along with a smattering of 
3) "YOU NO MAKE ME STAY HERE FOUL OPPRESSOR".   

What this means, practically speaking, is that he is very, very annoying to take anywhere.

He spent a lot of time accosting various puppies, attempting to run out of the park and into the road, trying to sneak onto the stagecoach or under the stagecoach, or basically anywhere he could potentially be kicked to death by the stagecoach horses, and watching a field mouse darting in and out of his hole. 

(OK, so that part was cute.)

He also spent a lot of time demanding non-existent crackers, telling us he WOULDN'T NOT DO IT when we asked him to do ANYTHING, sitting in time-out, and flailing around when we tried to carry him. It was charming. OH SO VERY CHARMING.

(This is what you get for saying, “Oh, he’ll probably just take a nap in the car.”) 

(THE HELL YOU SAY, MAMA.)


We wound up the weekend with a barbecue at my mom's - roasting hot dogs (Josh: "I DIVE IN THE FIRE") and marshmallows ("I SPREAD HOT MELTED SUGAR ON ME TENDER PARTS") over the firepit. 

I have never been so glad to buckle him into his car seat in my life.  (BLESS YOU CAR SEAT LAWS, that allow me to buckle in my child, hand him a book, and then righteously ignore him for at least 50 miles.)  

(And now you know the real reason we go on lots of long day trips - long stretches of time when he is legally strapped in place.)

Come For The Stagecoach, Stay For The Toilet Chair

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On Monday we went out to the Camp Floyd state park in Fairfield, a little town about 10 minutes west of Eagle Mountain. Camp Floyd is pretty sedate now, but back in the 1850s it was a roaring army outpost, established when President Buchanan sent out troops to break up what he thought was an impending Mormon Rebellion (which never materialized).  It was also a stop on the Pony Express trail, and is home to the Stagecoach Inn museum.  

On Memorial Day they held a free Civil War era reenactment that was pretty fun for the kids (they'll hold it again on Labor Day weekend).  The kids got to dress up in uniform, learn how to march in formation, and learn to load muskets.  (No, they didn't actually LOAD them, they just - learned about it.) 

Camp Floyd Memorial Day Civil War Reenactment Celebration

They also learned how to use a spinning wheel, and various other old timey things.  There was an old guy pretending to be a civil war era surgeon who quite graphically demonstrated (with knives and saws and the arm of a semi-willing volunteer) how amputations were performed during the war.  "Now this double-sided knife was much more efficient because you could just slam it in on one side of the bone and yank it down, and then slam it into the other side of the bone and yank it up..."  He also explained how you would use catgut in that scenario, and how to make sure you had a really nice skin flap for covering up your amputated bits.  

Jake's eyes were LIKE THIS. 


I keep waiting for Megan to hit the “this is so stupid” phase of tweendom, but so far so good.  She not only dressed up and learned to march in formation, she told me that was her favorite part.  Oh, that kid.  THAT KID.


You can read more about the day's events in the Daily Herald, here

As for visiting - the demonstrations and things were specific to this weekend, and if you go out to the state park on a normal day, you'll just see a few monuments and plaques, a little park, and the Stagecoach Inn museum, which is small but interesting.   My kids ran through it three times in fifteen minutes, if that gives you a little  perspective. (Jake couldn't get enough of the toilet chair.  "A TOILET CHAIR MOM. That's - that's SO GROSS.") (And yet, apparently, awesome.)  

I don't know if I would make a special trip out there to see it on a normal, non-event day, but if you're ever in Eagle Mountain or Saratoga Springs, it's only about a ten minute drive, and worth the trip.

PS:  Apparently they are holding Camp Floyd History Camps for kids in June, July, and August.  You can read about it on the Utah State Park website, here.



Thursday, May 17, 2012

Before, After

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My email mostly falls into two categories.  Emails asking about my gastric bypass surgery, and emails asking about a post I wrote on another blog - a post I am not going to talk about here. (MYSTERIOUS)  I find it almost impossible to answer any of these emails.  The emails are so heartfelt.  I read them, and I think about them, and I close them.  I feel like I have very little wisdom to share. I can give empathy, but that feels hollow.

I think part of it is that I would hate to think that if I gave someone advice they might take it, and I think that if they did, I would then share some responsibility for their choices.  My thoughts about everything are so muddled.  People want to know if I would do it again, and I think NO.  But also yes, maybe.  They want to know if it has changed my life and again I think NO, but also yes.

When I look at that picture of me from before, I see someone overweight, but mostly I see someone who was in a lot of pain.  A lot of things were broken then, things only tangentially related to my weight - but my weight was a convenient target for my dismay.

If only I was thinner.  If only I wasn't so heavy. Then I would be worthy.  I wish I had asked myself "worthy of what?" because that question was probably the key to fixing a lot of my problems.

My weight was also a convenient mask.  It was easier to think that the only thing really wrong with me was my weight.  That if I were thinner I wouldn't have issues in my marriage, I wouldn't have a hard time getting close to people, and that I would have the self-confidence to do all of the things I've always wanted to do.  I really believed that.  My weight, in my head, was the only thing standing in my way.

I was going through a really rough time.  I felt pretty hopeless about a few significant issues.  I felt so powerless.  Howling into the void, that was me.  So when I found out my insurance would pay for gastric bypass, it seemed like The Answer to all of my problems.  I felt like someone who had just glimpsed an escape hatch, and I reached up, and I grabbed it.

In the hospital, bad things kept happening.  I was getting sicker and sicker and with each subsequent surgery, my condition got worse.  My body was riddled with infection, and they called in an infection specialist doc to work on my team. (I had a TEAM.)  In addition to constantly checking my levels and working to ensure that I was getting the right medication to combat the various infections in my body, the doctor would sit and talk to me.  She believed that stress and despair weakened the body, and that if I could release some of that stress, it would help me to be stronger, and to get better.

She would sit by my bed, hold my hand, and talk to me in the most soothing tones, asking me about why I'd had the surgery, about what I thought it would fix.  In my highly medicated, frail, weakened state, I sobbed out some of my most heart-felt worries and fears.  I said things to her I'd never even said to myself.

And I started to get better.

People ask if I would recommend gastric bypass.  I always say no.  Gastric bypass doesn't fix anything.  It's like a reset button.  It helps you get down to a normal weight (mostly because you are so sick for the first 8 months or so that you can barely keep food down), but after that, you are pretty much on your own.  You start to be able to eat again.  Sugar no longer makes you sick.  You can eat more.  Your appetite returns.  Your old problems that you always fixed by turning to food still exist.  Whether or not you keep off the weight is entirely up to you.  That is the whole trick of the thing, I think.  You have to use the "honeymoon period" to learn new habits and coping mechanisms.  You have to try to figure yourself out.

When one of my friends found out I was having gastric bypass he told me to be careful, that people often went off the rails after losing all of that weight. I can see why.  People react to you in a different way - a way that you are not used to.   Suddenly that barrier to social acceptability is just - gone.  If you had problems in your relationship prior to gastric bypass, gastric bypass isn't going to fix them.  You either have to choose to work at your relationship, or it self destructs. (Conversely, if you had a great marriage before gastric bypass, it usually gets better.) Because you suddenly feel powerful.  You feel like you are not in a space where you want to put up with any crap (even though your spouse is still putting up with YOUR crap - because, as you find out to your dismay, perhaps your weight wasn't your only fault).

People who have had gastric bypass, armed with new found self-confidence, often make huge life changes - getting divorced, getting married, er, going back to school, switching careers, etc.  If you aren't careful, you can easily wreck your life -  I have seen it happen over and over and over again.  But I love my husband, and I love my kids, and I am not interested in wrecking our lives.

Because it does make you more self-confident.  I know that is not what we are supposed to say.  We are supposed to say that losing weight won't change how you feel about yourself. 

But how can it not?  If the number one thing you hated about yourself (whether or not you ever should have hated that about yourself is an entirely different story) suddenly disappeared, wouldn't you feel better?  I have talked about this before, about how that little voice that was always whispering in my ear telling me that I should be embarrassed, that I should be ashamed about my appearance, that I should feel uncomfortable when I walked into a room - it was suddenly just gone.  To be sure, I have other insecurities, but that particular demon doesn't plague me so much anymore.

I still don't feel pretty.  My smaller body is a lot like my larger body.  The same pouchy abdomen, the result of four c-sections, the same chubby legs.  I look at that picture up there and laugh, because I, unconsciously, am dressed almost exactly the same in both pictures.  My hair is the same.  You can't see it, but I think I'm even wearing the same pair of sneakers in both pictures.  I'm the same, just shrunken down.  I still have my natural frown, but now people think I'm conceited instead of merely grumpy.

There was a commenter on the last post where I talked about this.  She was aghast that I'd had gastric bypass surgery, that I'd let myself be cut open, that I'd rearranged my guts - all to be thin.  What was I teaching my daughters?  My reaction was defensive.  I ended up telling her to go preach on her own blog, that she could not use my blog as a pulpit for her agenda.

Mostly because she was right.

My kids don't know that I had gastric bypass.  They know that I had surgery to fix a stomach problem, and that I got very sick, and that I almost died.  They know that they didn't see me for a month. They know that they were terrified that I was going to die.  They know that I lost a lot of weight afterward. They know that I can't eat a lot of things now, and that I have to take vitamins, and that I faint sometimes, and that I am extremely hypoglycemic now.  If we go on a hike, or even a long walk, I have to take a pack of lifesavers with me, in case I get sick.  They know that when I go out walking sometimes Daddy has to come pick me up in the car because I'm too weak to get myself back home.

How do I tell them that I did this voluntarily?  How do I tell them that I did this to be thin?  How do I tell them what I did and still teach them that their appearance is not what makes them valuable?

My daughter Emma tends to be rounder.  She has her mom's body - my rounded tummy, my sturdy legs - and she has her mom's love of food.  I worry about her.  Not because I care if she's heavy, but because I don't want her to go through the things I've gone through.  Society is harder on heavier people.  We learn body image related self-hatred.  We learn destructive behaviors. We learn insecurity.  We learn to accept less than as all that we deserve.

Here at home we don't use the word fat. We talk about foods that make our body healthy or unhealthy, although I think they have already cracked the code and figured out that what we really mean is that if you eat too much you get fat.  We try to be really active as a family - to go hiking, to go biking, to go walking.  We try to teach her that her body is amazing, that she can do so many fun things with it - like ice skating, and horseback riding, and rollerblading.  I don't want her to start to hate her body already.

Lately she has decided that she doesn't want to wear shorts or skirts because, for some mystifying reason, she is self-conscious about her legs.  We let her start shaving (yes, at 9) because she was embarrassed about the hair on her legs and I just didn't think that was a hill to die on.  If it makes her feel better, then hey. Who cares?  It's just leg hair.  But she is still embarrassed.  I have no idea why. Her legs are just fine.  They are normal legs.  She is a normal kid.  And yet.  I know she compares herself to her naturally slender sister. I know she compares herself to the tiny girls that seem to surround her in our current ward. She already has this body shame and it just kills me.

I was talking to her about it, and trying so hard to convey to her that she is amazing.  That her body is wonderful and perfect and strong, and that she shouldn't be ashamed of it.  That her value is not in her appearance.  That none of us will ever have bodies that are exactly the same, and that none of us will ever be "perfect".  I showed her that Dove Beauty thing, so that she could understand that even people who look perfect aren't perfect.  That every little part of her, even the things she didn't like, add up to make her beautiful, and perfect, and Emma.  She nodded and smiled and said all of the right things, but - I don't know if it made any difference.

So how do I tell her how important appearance was to ME?  How do I tell her what I risked, in order to have a more socially acceptable body?  How do I tell her that I was willing to die in order to look more like what I thought I needed to look like? 

I am ashamed of that. I dread the day they find out.

I know that I need to learn to get rid of my own remaining body shame.  That I need to stop looking in the mirror and saying that I'm still fat.  That I need to stop grimacing at my wrinkles and complaining about my hair.

The truth is that I don't really know how to teach a healthy body image.  How to teach her to really see her value, to know that the shape of her body is entirely different from what value she has, or what faults she has - that they are not entwined. My own relationship with my body and my image is so broken - I am such a poor role model for her to have in this regard.

And I know I can't shield her from the messages she gets every day at school.  From the insecurity she learns at church.  From the aspirational beauty messages she gets when she is watching TV. (I mean, HELLO.)

I don't know what messages she will absorb. It scares me.

But maybe we can talk about being strong and powerful and smart instead of about being pretty.  Maybe I can help her to know that no matter what size she is, she is amazing - that she is creative, and imaginative, and brilliant, and beautiful.  That even if she is rounder, she is not less than.  That she is not deserving of self-hatred, or bulimia, or gastric bypass.

That no matter what, she still shines, so very, very brightly.

PS: We got the house!

Every. Single. Day.

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I don't think it's legal to live in Utah with children without coming to the Discovery Gateway Children's Museum at least once, but folks in Utah are lucky enough to have a SECOND children's museum - the Treehouse Children's Museum, in Ogden.

I'd heard of it, but was never really motivated to make the drive (GAS IS EXPENSIVE) until Meg came home from a school field trip raving about it.

And with two free passes.

It was pretty great - full of displays and exhibits that my kids (who range in age from 2 to 10) really enjoyed.   When we were there, they announced optional staff-led activities every half an hour or so, like crafts, storytime, and a "Partici-Play" - where a staffer selected volunteers from the audience to come up on stage. (See the video clip below. Jake's one of the hunters.)

As you'll see in that vid, the volunteers and staff here are really enthusiastic. REALLY enthusiastic. I think sometimes when you work with kids in a place like this, it's easy to become sort of immune to all of the loud-manic-kid-joy going on around you, but these folks seemed to LOVE their jobs and seemed to love kids. I liked that a lot.  I also liked that all of the exhibits worked.

What I don't like is that now, every day, Josh asks to go to the "zeum tweehowse", and then cries a little when I tell him not today.

Every day.

EVERY DAY.

Costs about $6 for kids, but they have a $1 off coupon on their website.  Info here.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Cheap Mom's (That Would Be Me) Guide to Swimming in Utah

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We love the pool. Looooooooooove the pool.  I know people think of Utah as a snowy place but it gets freaking HOT in the summertime.  All of my family in Phoenix and Las Vegas are mocking me right now, I realize. It  does though. Something about the altitude simply melts your face off.

My kids think it's super exciting to explore new pools so we've been to a LOT of them.  (I can't imagine what they would do if we ever went to Seven Peaks or Lagoon-a-beach.  Probably die of joy-induced stroke.  Poor kids.  It's tough to have a really cheap mom.)   Luckily, Utah has some amazing (cheap) pools and pool complexes.  Sometimes I think the various city councils are all staffed by teenagers determined to top each other with the BIGGEST BEST MOST FUNNEST MOST AMAZINGEST pool ever.  And then they try.  Which works out great for me, personally.

Disclaimer:  This is not a list of EVERY swimming pool on the Wasatch Front, it's just a list of some of the pools I think are the most fun.  If I missed any good ones, let me know in the comments because WE WANT TO GO THERE.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Also: Brief, Not Long, And Really Quite Shrimpy

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On Mother's Day afternoon we decided to try hiking to Lisa Falls in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

(We picked this one because it was fairly close, but there are lots of fun waterfall hikes in Utah, including Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon - check out this lady's blog where she describes a bunch of fun waterfall hikes in Utah.)

This is a short (SUPER SHORT) (like four minutes) hike to a waterfall where you can play in the waterfall runoff.  The short hike includes a lot of scrambling over big boulders that my kids thought was pretty fun, but again, the hike is SHORT.

(Did I mention it was short?  Because it's pretty short.)  (After we hiked in and back we ended up crossing the road and hiking down the Little Cottonwood Trail and along the river for a while because the waterfall hike wasn't quite enough to satisfy our exploring urge.)

The water was slow enough that the kids could stand right beneath it and get wet.  The water was freezing - er, as snow melt tends to be.  We probably should've saved this hike for later in the summer.

To get there, go straight up Little Cottonwood Canyon, between mile marker 6 and 7.  There's a little parking area off on the north side of the road, and a trail right next to that.

Lisa Falls Waterfall Hike - Little Cottonwood Canyon Utah


Sunday, May 13, 2012

FIVE MILLION THINGS To Do With Your Kids This Summer. FIVE MILLION.

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Well. I mean, it's not TECHNICALLY five million.  But still.  It's a bunch. 300+.   Probably plenty for you, because let's be honest, are you really going to do five million things with your kids this summer?

(Liar.)

I'm guessing you'll probably do around 20 and then spend the rest of the summer praying for the sweet release of death school. Me? I might last a little longer because I'm borne aloft on the wings of my Working Mom Guilt, but still.  NOT 300.

Some of this stuff is stuff you would need to do with them, but a lot of it is stuff they can do on their own, because I think kids, given a little nudge, should mostly be able to entertain themselves.  (I GAVE YOU SIBLINGS FOR A REASON, MY CHILDREN.)

(None of the stuff in this list is Utah specific.)

(Many thanks to my husband for letting me spend a bunch of time lying around / not spending much time with my children today so that I could write this post about spending time with my children.)

(I LOVE Mother's Day.)

SO. I GIVE YOU:

300+ Things to do with your kids this summer

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Something

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I wake up at 5, and stumble around in the dark as silently as possible in an effort to get ready for work without waking up Josh, who is the lightest freaking sleeper in the world.  I take showers the night before, because the hair dryer is way too loud, and my hair is all crazy when I wake up, but it’s o.k., because the hair straightener and I, we’re LIKETHIS.

By 6 I’m at my desk.   I do my work, or sometimes I covertly study a little, because I’m back in school now, trying to finish my CS degree.  I don’t take a lunch, because if I don’t take a lunch I can leave at 2 instead of at 3, and I really, really need to leave at 2, because the babysitter has another job at 3.

When I leave for the day I rush home as quickly as possible to get Josh.  I spend a little one-on-one time with him, generally legos or little people zoo (kill me now), and try to quickly scarf down a little food, although he sees this whole mom eating thing as a pretty rude infringement on his time.

At 3:15 we pick up the big kids from school.  I listen to them talk about their day, help them with their homework, supervise chores (when I remember about chores) and piano practice (when I remember about piano practice).  I shuttle them to activities and friends’ houses. 

We have dinner, and it’s usually a pretty scattershot affair. On Mondays and Wednesdays their dad has school and study group, and we hang out without him.  I put the kids to bed at 8, in theory, but Josh has a big boy bed now, and he will not stay in it, and he will not go to sleep without intervention.  To get him to sleep I have to sit next to him, holding his hand, for 45 minutes or more.  It is insane, and I feel myself filling with tension thinking “JUST GO TO SLEEP, JUST GO TO SLEEP ALREADY, FOR THE LOVE”.  My husband thinks we should just put up the gate and let him play around until he falls asleep on his own, but he shares a room with his brother and he climbs on the furniture and climbs on Jake and stands at the gate and yells for us and gets tired and hysterical and then I still have to sit with him to get him to sleep.

By 9 he is usually in bed and I crack open my schoolbooks and try to stay awake long enough to study. To get the scholarships I want for next semester I need a 4.0, and although three of my classes are a piece of cake the other two require a lot of study.   I can’t drink caffeine because of my stomach issues and I struggle against my eyelids for a solid hour. 

When my husband gets home he wants to talk and / or connect and I am just too tired, I am just too exhausted to want to be with anything other than my own thoughts.  This is not fair to him but I am not a robot, I’m human, and tired, and I just want to go to sleep.   Things have not been easy between us over the last two years and I know I should be careful – I know I should spend more time on things.  My friend Kristen is a therapist and she says “pay now or pay later”, and I know she is right and it nags at me, but not enough to keep me awake. 

On Tuesday and Friday nights my husband is home but I have accounting and math and I leave the house right after dinner.   As busy as those nights are for me, spending the evening with other adults, filling my brain with new concepts – well, it feels like an evening at the spa. I come home and fall into bed and again I am so tired, SO so tired.

This is not a complaint.  I chose this.  I put myself in this position.  It is just a reality.  I’m tired. 

Taking five classes was probably not the wisest decision.  I am stumbling through my life, trying to make the best decisions I can, with the insight and knowledge I have on hand at the time I make the decision.  At the time it felt really urgent. 

I repeat to myself the same thing I constantly tell my kids – “we can do hard things” and I know it’s true, although probably not always strictly necessary.

My sister wants to know why I’m doing this, why on earth am I taking five classes right now, and the truth is that I just feel driven.  I have to get my degree.  I’m not even sure if what I’m studying is something I will really love, but it is something that will increase my paycheck, and that’s what I want right now.  I want financial security for my family.  I don’t want to worry about money for the rest of my life. 

I turn 40 later this month and it has occurred to me more than once over the last few weeks that I am probably having a mid-life crisis.  It has nothing to do with how I look.  It has to do with who I am.  It has to do with – is this all I ever will be?   Will we be broke and scraping by forever?  Will we be able to help send our kids to school?  Will we be able to retire? 

The truth is that my life is at least half over.  How can that be?  I turn it over in my mind and it feels impossible.  My husband interviews my mom for a presentation on senior citizens for his human development class.  He asks her questions about her life, about aging, about how she has changed.  I watch the video and I cry, because my mom cannot possibly be old enough to qualify for this presentation.  She is still 45, the same as she ever was, and I am still in my early twenties. 

She tells me that she still feels as young as she ever did, that you never feel old, that you never can quite believe how quickly it is all flying past, and this fills me with so much angst and conflict. I do not want her to age, I do not want to continue to age – not because of vanity, but because I am not really all that sure about what happens next.  More and more our ideas about eternal life sound increasingly like a fairy tale. 

I feel like I have to hurry, to hurry up and accomplish everything I want to accomplish.  I know it is a cliché, but I feel like I have not been living up to my potential.

I sometimes read blogs, and I read things that touch me, that make me think GOOD FOR YOU, that make me think YES, that make me laugh, that touch my heart, and I want to comment, and reach out, and connect, but there is just no time.  I feel like I am missing opportunities for important friendships, I think of my friend next door who is moving soon, I think of my friends back in Highland who I love and miss, and I think – those things are important, these people are important to me and they will all drift away as I become this invisible woman, someone so focused on her own life that she has no time for people, and they will soon have no time for her.  I steal some time out of my work day to go to lunch with friends and I think – I want to sit and talk to you for three solid hours, just me and you – but there is no time for it, and I leave happy but wistful.

For now I am focused on my kids, and my work, and my studies.  I am focused on making sure my balls all stay in the air.  It is hard work, but good work, because I am focused on becoming  - becoming something – I don’t know exactly what, but something more. 

My gosh this has been long.  If you made it this far you deserve a badge or a button or a really enthusiastic hand-shake.  It has been long and serious and I am not always comfortable with being publicly serious. I have been silly for most of my life.  I’m sure I still will be.  It is fun to be silly.  I love to laugh, and I love to make other people laugh.  But I am getting to a place where I have little patience for my own antics.

Right now I am serious, I am driven, I am determined, and I am trying very very hard to be smart.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

NO BOAT FOR YOU

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In mid-summer we love going to Pineview Reservoir in Huntsville.  There are camping spots, but we usually just go for the day.  Lots of people boat, but we don't have a freaking boat, NOT THAT I'M BITTER ABOUT THAT OR ANYTHING, NO BOAT FOR US, we just content ourselves with shooting laser beams of jealous rage out toward the More Fortunately Boated amongst us.

Luckily, they have a sandy beach area where no boats are allowed (TAKE THAT) and the water is usually pretty warm and calm.

It's so nice y'all.  It makes me feel all Southern and relaxed.  Everytime we go it makes me want to move to Huntsville.  

Info here: http://www.utah.com/ogden/pineview.htm

PS:  If you have a boat, I am TOTALLY AVAILABLE FOR FRIENDSHIP THIS SUMMER.

Pineview Reservoir Huntsville Utah swimming beach