Thursday, December 27, 2007
In my family, a long-standing Christmas tradition dictates that Christmas Eve be spent sledding. First thing in the morning on Christmas Eve, Dad would faithfully pack us four kids into the Jeep Wagoneer and drive us into the foothills of Idaho Falls; Mom would be left at home to perform any panicked last-minute Christmas tasks that had yet to be completed. We would sled until we'd worked ourselves into a complete state of exhaustion and hypothermia and then return home to feast on pizza and hear the final chapters of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" read aloud by my mother. It was wonderful. It helped Christmas Eve pass quickly and therefore hastened Santa's arrival. In recent years the tradition has petered out some, but seeing as how this year is the first year that I've had a child of my own, I started getting a little excited about the prospect of the Christmas Eve sledding trip again. I imagined my son, who enjoys being spun, twisted, hung upside down, and bounced vigorously on my leg, getting an enormous kick out of the sledding experience. I imagined his uncontrollable giggling as the sled carried the two of us down a hill. I imagined him grunting and groaning with the desire to go down the hill again and again. So Christmas Eve morning rolled around. We'd made arrangements to go sledding on the hill near my sister's home in Shelley at 10:00, so right after breakfast I made a last-minute trip to Wal-Mart to purchase Soren some tot-sized snow boots. The appointed hour drew nearer, and I forced a very sleepy Abraham out of bed, demanding of him, "Would you rather sleep, or would you rather be there for your son's very first sledding trip?" We stuffed Soren into a hooded jumpsuit, a pair of his dad's socks (which doubled as leg warmers), his oversized snow pants, his gigantic coat, and his beanie cap. I put a pair of socks on his hands for mittens and then began attempting to shove his feet into his brand new boots. I couldn't make it work. I'd think that maybe I'd gotten them on, but then he'd pull them off. I tried to get him to stand in them to force his heel down, but he would not stand in (or for) such strange accouterments. So I rubberbanded some baggies to his feet ("I look like a welfare baby!" said Abe, in his best Soren voice), strapped him unwillingly to his car seat, and we were off.
Off to experience the joy and magic and wonder of the Christmas season.
Anyway, this is running on for much longer than I had anticipated, but suffice it to say that it was Soren's naptime, a barrier which I had believed would melt away in the face of such merrymaking as a trip down a hill in a sled, but which did not; it was cold, a thing which was most displeasing to the little prince; and it was not pleasant at all to slide down an icy hill in the midst of a snowstorm, a condition that elicited from my son, not coos of joy, but moans of discomfort.
I sent Abraham after the camera, which was in the car about 50 yards away, and tried to show Soren how fun sledding could be. I took him down the hill again and laughed loudly all the way, so as to cue him into the fact that we were participating in a fun activity that might be enjoyed if one adjusted one's attitude. I tried pulling him around on the flat ground to get him accustomed to the sled. I tried letting the neighbor's dogs lick his face to see if their cheer might rub off on him. Through all of these fruitless efforts, it quickly became apparent to me that Soren was not going to produce the squeals of joy my imagination had so lovingly lavished upon him for this occasion. I admitted defeat and decided it was time to go. But I was not going to go without some sort of photo documentation to help make all our efforts on this occasion seem a little less vain. Where was Abraham with the camera? I looked over at the car to see Abraham, who had been gone for five minutes of uninterrupted Soren misery, to see what in the world could be holding him up. As far as I could tell, he was being needlessly slow. And indeed he was. He was piddling around the car, moseying around it, kicking at some ice chunks hanging from the side here, scraping some ice off a headlight there.
Let's just say that our Christmas Cheer might have dissolved into some Christmas Yelling At Each Other While Photographing Our Extraordinarily Miserable Child. So as soon as the dirty deed was documented, I scooped up my tired, be-baggied son and declared, "I hate Christmas. Let's go home and put this child in bed."
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Soren, Soren, Soren. It must seem to you he's all I ever write about. But what can I say? I'm in love. And as I write this, I feel guilty, because it should be Abraham, Abraham, Abraham for whom my heart beats, and certainly there is a large portion of my heart that does beat for him, that pounds for him even, but that doesn't compensate for the fact that 95% of my posts on this blog are dedicated to my baby, 3% are dedicated to me, and 2% are related to my husband. (This is all in direct proportion, by the way, to the dedication of my time and energy.) In fact, the poor man, he recently said to me, "I knew you would love our children more than me-- my mother loves us more than she loves Dad--but I just didn't expect it to hurt so much." But, upon reflection, I think I have identified two main components of mommy love that are often lacking in wifely love (at least in my brand of wifely love).
The first is an absolute purity of service that defines the mother/child relationship. The time, the energy, the strength, the sleep, the love that I give to Soren is given freely, without expectation of reciprocation or even gratitude on his behalf. He needs me to comfort him when he awakens at night with a stomach ache. He needs me to lift him out of his crib in the morning. He needs me to break his food into bite-sized pieces. He needs me to dress him, to undress him, to make sure that he's covered with blankies while he sleeps, to keep him clean. He needs me to wrestle him to the ground, pin him there with my feet, and, using half a container of baby wipes, properly dispose of the hazardous waste he daily produces in his diapers. I perform these labor and usually do them without resentment. I don't ask for his thanks. I don't expect him to repay him. All I want is for him to be safe and happy. For him to feel loved. For him to grow and develop in the ways that are best for him.
The second is the fleeting nature of childhood. This concept is best captured, not in words of explanation, but in an image:
It's me. I'm holding my son in my arms in his bedroom, rocking in the glider rocker. He is wearing blue-and-white-striped winter pajamas that are too small for him: sleeves that were once long now reach just past his elbows. I am cradling his head in my right arm and his bum is tucked into the crook of my elbow. His head is tilted back just a little, making his neck look stretched and turtle-y. His arms are crossed and his dimpled fingers are relaxed. I kiss his little cheek; it is cool and soft and smooth and elastic, like well-kneaded bread dough that has been left to rise. In the glow of the nightlight I gaze at his face and try to burn its details into my memory; I know that when he awakens in the morning something will be different, and the day after that something else will have changed. My heart breaks to think that, tomorrow, the Soren I hold in my arms will be gone and a new one will have replaced him. And that someday too soon he will be too big to be held and rocked and soothed at night. I will love him then just as much as I do now-- probably more!-- but there is something about this Soren that I don't want to lose. The sweet curve of his eyeballs resting under delicately veined eyelids. The way his bottom lip tucks in slightly when he sleeps. The unadulterated innocence and un-self-consciousness that attend him in sleep and waking. I don't want to forget the way he gives tooth-heavy kisses while pulling my hair. I don't want to forget the shine in his round blue eyes when he gives me a drink from his glass or a bite from his apple. I don't want to forget the way he inevitably smiles when I read to him the first line of his favorite book. I don't want to forget dancing with his little head resting on my shoulder. I don't want to forget the music of his smile and the poetry of his laughter. I don't want to forget. I don't want to forget. I don't want to forget. And so I watch and adore as much as I can, hoping that I can retain at least a small portion of the radiating and filling happiness, the pure, golden, brightly-lit love that mothering Soren has brought to me.
This sort of unadulterated love is very good for the soul. I believe it's the sort of love we need to strive to cultivate in all our encounters with fellow human beings. And I believe it's the sort of love I would like to develop more in my relationship with my sweet husband. I should set aside my expectations for those things I think he should do for me and simply seek for his happiness and well-being. And I should remember that my time with him, too, is fleeting and precious. I think I feel a New Year's resolution coming on...
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Starting at left, and working clockwise: Ressa's almond Roca, Ressa's haystacks, Kristi's white-chocolate-dipped pretzels, Rachel's dark chocolate truffles, Kristi's (chocolate oreo) Balls, and (in the center), Rachel's caramels. They all turned out wonderfully. As novice candy makers, we were truly amazed. Our success was largely due to the advice of a co-worker more advanced in age (she must be over 30!) than ourselves, who told us to throw out the candy thermometers and instead use a cup of cold water to determine the "done-ness" of the candy. The trick is to occasionally blob a small amount of the candy into the cup of cold water. It should quickly coagulate. You can then test the consistency. When the candy reaches a consistency just slightly softer than you want the candy to be when it's completely cooled, the candy is done. Very simple. And so accurate.
Last weekend my best friends from work, Ressa (directly above) and Kristi (pictured at top), and I (looking stoned, center) gathered in Ressa's lovely Ammon home for a most novel and festive purpose. That is, we met in order to embark on the grand and new (to us) adventure of Christmas candy-making. And it was a rousing success! Candies were made! Conversations were had! Laughter was produced! Wine was drunk (by some)! And all in attendance agreed, with great conviviality and energy of spirit, that we shouldn't let so much time pass until we three, and perhaps our respective life companions, should gather again for some merry-making and festivities. (Soren also attended and, while cheerful, was also conscientious in his endeavors to make his presence known, largely through repeatedly running the cruel edge of his Walker into the Achilles tendons of all involved. Ressa's feline companion, whose name I continually forget, was also in attendance, and likewise worked in a somewhat distracting manner, though his methods differed in that he focused less on the humans and more on the confectionery goodies they were creating.)
At this point in my online journal, I had planned to post the recipes we used on this occasion, but a general disinclination to perform any tasks beyond those that are the simplest to complete has motivated me to choose, instead, to suggest that those interested in tasting these fine treats individually petition one of the three candy-makers listed above for such an disclosure.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I must admit, I was initially shocked and humiliated at this unabashed assessment of my blog's literacy level. However, upon further consideration, and also panicked testing of other blog urls, I have come to the conclusion that such a low rating is actually a compliment. Indeed, it is a statement that implies that you have a very clear writing style, and clarity is something for which I strive in all written communication (my friends will tell you that I make little to no effort in the oral realm). Anyway , I also discovered that I'm in good company: one of my favorite bloggers, Laurie of Crazy Aunt Purl fame, was also ranked on the elementary level. And she's a famous published author. So there. Pbpbpbpbpb to all of you so-called "genius" bloggers out there.
Elementary reading level indeed.
(So clearly this is still stinging a little, eh?)
Thursday, December 06, 2007
2. He spends a lot of time smacking his gums together like a senile elderly living life sans dentures.
3. He clicks his tongue as though he were speaking an indigenous African language.
4. This morning, in the course of 2 minutes, he threw a pacifier in the toilet, unraveled the remainder of a roll of toilet paper, emptied a box of EmergenC packets, threw my glasses on the floor, and pulled a basket of toiletries off the bathroom counter, strewing its contents everywhere. All this was accomplished from the safety of his doorway jumper.
5. Speaking of "safe" places, Soren took a dive out of his high chair earlier this week, landing head-first on the hard kitchen floor. While I worry obsessively about possible brain damage that might result from this accident, his father merely chuckles to himself at the thought of Soren casually looking around, arms tucked against his sides, little body catapulting toward the floor.
6. He will go to ANYONE without crying. (But I think he likes me best.)
7. He alternatively practices speaking in a deep manly voice and a high squeaky voice.
8. At 11 months, he can turn on the stereo and change radio stations; he can climb a full flight of stairs without supervision (I thought he was playing in the closet!); he can say "Mama" and mean it; he can single-handedly set off the carbon monoxide detector.
9. While riding in the car, he will spend 20 minutes or more studiously examining, with furrowed brow, the novelette Good-Night, Baby, which is, according to him, a serious contribution to the cardboard literary canon.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, Soren's Uncle Sue (because he is his Pseudo Uncle. Get it? Uncle Pseu? Uncle Sue? Hah! Nick's pseudonym is Uncle Sue. Anyway...) and I and Soren took a brisk early-morning walk across the countryside. While Nicholas and I began to fear lest our limbs turn black and fall off after a mere half-mile, Soren remained toasty warm--if immobile--throughout the journey. Yes, this little snow outfit is a wee bit large for him.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Before you all heave a great sigh of disgust, however, let me say that, while I'm not working on a novel, I am writing 5 double-spaced pages every day. I decided to make the switch because I was absolutely dreading my nightly sessions with the computer, dragging through painful hours of horrible writing in order to complete my nightly goal. Now I look forward to writing time, sit down, blithely type for an hour, and feel much better about the quality of materials produced. A lot of it is just random and gibberish, practice in expressing ideas and describing sensations, emotions, conversations, places, but I've also nearly carved out a short short story from the mess. So I'm producing more, moving toward my goal of become a bona fide writer, and feeling happy while doing it. I think it's a win-win.
Here is a sample of the more freestyle writing that I've been participating in as of late:
Words are the things that are supposed to come out of my fingers when I sit for thirty minutes every day with my eyes closed and write. Today I am thinking about motherhood, and how good it feels, after a long day of cleaning dishes and cuddling with a golden gleam of eyelashed light and doing such ordinary things like browning beef and singing silly songs and going for a walk down the road a little ways and back. I rock my boy at night and think the most cliché things: how glad I am to be a mom, because it is the job that entails doing everything: I am director of creativity, of human resources, of housekeeping, of meal planning and preparation. I am the interior decorator and the laundress and the cook (oh dear, I just remembered the laundry that needs to be done) and I am a lover of a little soul and the giver of baths and the organizer of time and the creator of fun things and the scrubber of toilets and the sweeper of floors and I am a little piece of God in all of her divinest and most beautiful majesty that climbs and climbs and climbs and climbs and takes the old man with the smelly sweatpants and the long gray beard in hand and holds him and rocks him and tells him that it will be okay, it will be okay, it will be okay. I never knew how painful an infant’s cry could be the the human soul, how it would tear into the flesh like a knife that punctures the tender tissues of a lung and takes away your air, the air that you breathed once just for yourself and maybe a little for your parents and your siblings and your sweetheart and your friends but now that you breathe mostly for this little creature that is a part of you and yet so separate, so distinct, so magnificently and radiantly and exquisitely distinct.
Soren's illness really responds to Tylenol: his fever drops and he has energy to play, but I wonder if I'm doing him more harm than good by making him feel better than he really is. Maybe if I let him feel crappy he'd get more rest and let his body heal. The above picture was taken when he hadn't had any fever reducers for about eight hours. It breaks my heart to see him looking so tired and hopeless. He's usually such a little sparkle.
Friday, November 02, 2007
What Car Would You Be?
|You would be a Toyota Prius. You live life with practicality and innovation. You may not be the flashiest kid in town, but your quirkiness and smarts get you noticed.|
|Find Your Character @ BrainFall.com|
Thursday, November 01, 2007
In two hours I have written five anguishing and mediocre pages, the bare minimum for me to keep up with a pace that will help me reach my goal of a 150 pages by the end of the month. I'm experiencing huge quantities of self-doubt. I want to quit already. What was I thinking? I don't really want to be a writer. I can't do it. I can't. It's too hard. I think I'll pick a new dream.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
As part of my recent fit of openness and vulnerability, I've decided to share with my hopes and dreams for myself. This is a document I mainly composed in December of '06 but re-discovered and finished tonight. It was inspired by some darling co-workers of mine (you know who you are!) who discovered "The Secret" and created vision boards for themselves. Being a word-oriented person, my vision board is not visual; it's verbal.
a. This is a complex thing. It’s frightening to commit wholly to a Self, fearing that that Self might be fundamentally flawed. I fear that if I become too self-assured, I’ll cease to progress and improve myself. However, insecurity is a horrible motivation for improvement. Self-love is probably a much greater motivation. A child who is told that she is horrible and no-good is not going to suddenly leap into a frenzy of self-improvement. She will probably become more horrible and no-good. A child who is loved and nurtured and encouraged is more apt to become a happy, well-adjusted, contributing human being. That isn’t to say that she doesn’t need to be directed; the directing just needs to be done in a positive way.
b. Another challenge presented to me by the idea of submitting to self-assurance is the fear that self-assurance will lead to closed-mindedness and pride. But closed-mindedness and pride aren’t usually derived from self-assurance; rather, they arise from insecurity. Someone who is truly self-confident is not afraid to consider different ways of being and thinking.
c. Self-assurance is fundamental to happiness not only because of the above reasons (it gives us the ability to improve ourselves and opens us up to new and different ways of being), but also because it gives us the ability to overcomes fear, helping us to do things we would otherwise not be able to accomplish. Living without fear gives us the ability to love everyone, to give freely, and to take risks, three essential components of what I have deemed to be The Good Life.
2) Limitless love
a. I believe it is possible to cultivate a deep and meaningful love for all human beings and essential to nurture this love for every person with whom we come in contact. Part of developing this love, I believe, is learning to become mindful (in the Buddhist sense) of each person we encounter. It’s learning to forget all of the Tasks That Must Be Performed and turning all of your focus onto the other human being standing before you, making them, their thoughts, their needs, and their very existence the most interesting and most important thing in the world. This is not an easy thing to do, but it is the enlightened thing to do.
b. I love the aspotle Paul’s description of the greatest sort of love: ““Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
3) (Inner) Serenity
a. Internal unrest separates us from happiness. For me, at least, constant fears prevent me from being happy. When I am alone, I wonder if I “should” be with people; when I am with people, I wonder if I “should” be alone. When I am working, I worry that I “should” be still; when I am still, I worry that I “should” be working. I worry, worry, worry, worry constantly that whatever I’m doing, whatever I’m thinking, whatever I’m feeling is the “wrong” thing to be doing, thinking, and feeling. There’s a nagging fear inside that whever I’m going is a place that is not as good as wherever else I might be going, that I’m going to miss out on something essential, that everything I’m not doing is better than what I am doing. To cast this all away, to simply be happy with what I have and feel and think and do, to trust myself enough to know that whever my purest self takes me will be a good place, would be serene indeed.
b. I believe another component of serenity comes with relinquishing any attempts to control other people: what they think of you, how they feel, and what they do are all choices of their own. To center one’s happiness around the thoughts and actions of others is to build upon a sandy foundation indeed.
4) Connection with Divinity
a. The ultimate source of love in the universe—perfectly kind, patience, abundant, and forgiving—sits and watches and waits for its little children to open themselves up to boundless grace. I want to open myself up.
The next few considerations are things I hope for, which do not create happiness, but would certainly enhance it.
1) A happy marriage.
2) Loving friendships.
3) Healthy, happy children.
4) A modest, clean, and tidy home; a modest, clean, and tidy car; money left over for family vacations and charitable donations.
5) Success and happiness in a career as a writer.
a. Success here is defined as actually creating works of literature, not necessary publishing them and/or becoming wealthy, though I certainly wouldn’t object to such perks.
6) Physical health.
7) Lifelong learning.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
My life dream has long been to be a writer (I'm talking since at least the first grade), but fear has always held me back. The notorious Inner Editor often keeps me from even attempting to write, telling me before I even sit down at the keyboard that whatever words and ideas and characters and situations are inside of me are unoriginal, dumb, insipid, embarrassing, and/or poorly put together. So the idea of just sitting down and crapping out a whole bunch of unfiltered and loosely tied together thoughts and ideas with a press-forward-and-don't-look-back attitude appealed to me. So I signed up. And wrote, oh, about 30 double-spaced 1-inch-margin pages before collapsing into a heap of shame and giving up on the whole endeavor.
But a year has passed, and the sweet scent of rotting foliage is making me want to try my hand again at writing a novel in a month. And, for extra motivation, I've decided to go public with the goal. Would you all be my cheerleaders? I'll even buy you dollar-store pom-poms. Please? Pretty please?
To meet my goal I would need to write at least 5 pages a day. This I could do after Soren retires for the evening, though it would mean neglecting other aspects of my life, such as my marriage, housework, reading, documentary night, relationships, and church callings. I'm so scared. I think that there is nothing scarier in this world that pursuing the dreams that mean the most to you, especially when you feel so completely inadequate. My worst fear of all time is not remaining unpublished, but of producing the sort of mindless drivel that abuses adverbs, speaks of "honey-blond" hair, and tops the bestseller list at Deseret Book. I don't fear not writing; I fear bad writing. But fear only restricts and never frees, and so, by way of working to overcome my fear of myself, I have decided to post the first paragraph from my last year's attempt at novel-writing.
Here it is:
"The enormous hostility Sara felt toward the two ladies standing in the check-out line was mostly inexplicable. There was nothing wrong with the women, per se-- they weren’t saying anything even slightly offensive-- but there was something about the way they pursued their lips and lilted of their voices and leaned on their hips that just…irritated her. To the point of raising her blood pressure, even. She examined them, studied their faces and mannerisms for clues that might unlock the mystery of her great distaste. They both wore their hair in the way expected of middle-aged women: short curling-iron sculpted layers, hair-sprayed into place. And they both wore their jeans in the way expected of middle-aged women: pulled up high over slightly pooching bellies made round by years of having babies and eating hot white rolls on Sunday evenings. Their make-up was tastefully applied, obviously there, but not classless in quantity. They wore dressy blouses and matching jewelry and the one with the graying blond hair had to pull out her gold-rimmed reading glasses while she signed the receipt for her credit card purchase. They were cute. Chatty. Personable. But every word that came out of their mouths made her stomach churn and her jaw tighten."
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
PAY IT FORWARD: i will send a handmade gift to the first three (3) people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days! the only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog. (so, you must have a blog to participate.) i can't wait to see who I will be giving to. to join, just cut and paste and comment away. so get posting.
My poor little noodle.
In just a matter of four days, he's managed to contract yet another bad cold, whack his eye against a cement block, and bloody his nose on the side of the bathtub. That child is an accident waiting to happen. He's all exuberance and no forethought.
Yesterday Abe, Soren, and I were driving up town and we looked back to see Soren sitting in his car seat, looking sadly over the cloth of his gray hoody into the cloudy scene passing by. A single tear (I kid you not) streamed across his bruised eye socket; snot trickled into his open mouth. He was staring bleakly out the window as though life no longer held any meaning for him. If anyone had noticed that little face peering though our Honda window, they probably would have called child protective services. Abe and I decided he looked like a hardened street kid who had recently been in a fight. Using a raspy manly voice, Abraham narrated Soren's thoughts: "It hasn't been an easy life, but I've gotten by. Never asked nobody for nothin'. Just made a living for myself with my own two hands, sometimes working, sometimes fighting. But I've done it alone. And I don't need nothing or nobody. I can get by just fine."
(I wish desperately that I'd gotten a picture. Soren's got such an expressive face. For illustration purposes I've taken a non-smiling picture of him and doctored it in an attempt to make him look as sad as he did yesterday. It doesn't even come close to capturing the sheer melancholy.)
Friday, October 12, 2007
The big thing, of course, is that Abe, Soren, and I recently spent 2 whole weeks in sunny New Hampshire (believe it or not, it actually was sunny most of the time) visiting his parents and their dwindling flocks (they're down to only two cats, three dogs, six at-home children, and two chickens. And I'm not kidding. That really is dwindling. Welcome to the land of milk and honey).
All in all, it was a very lovely trip. Every time I visit my in-laws I grow to love them more. I spent most of my time at the Skousen home relishing my lack of responsibilities (no church lessons to plan, no uncles to buy cookies for, no statistics to count for work), drooling over the endless delights to be found in the family library, and pulling Soren away from the drip-catching tray under the fridge. We also visited with friends (the Irwins and the Mailhots) and family (Nana and Aunt Sandra and Uncle Bob), took a little trip to the Maine Coast, and discovered a library in St. Johnsbury, Vermont that sent us spiraling into a fantasy about someday opening a Library Retreat.
Here are some pictures from our back-East adventures:
We started and ended our adventures at the Snuffer household in Aurora, CO, where Abe's sister Lara and her husband, Nate, were kind enough to let us stay. Nate even made us delicious food, including the most fabulous vegan pancakes I have ever have the pleasure of consuming. Soren was intrigued by his newfound cousins, though they were less than enthusiastic about him. Chase, in particular, seemed to find his presence threatening. And Maya? Well, her face in the picture below says it all:
(Notice the enormous amount of snot dripping out of Soren's nose. He took serious issue with my wiping away of such painstakingly produced boogers, so I mostly just let them hang. The entire Snuffer family became sick shortly after our departure. This was mere coincidence.)
Sadly enough, this was about the best picture of the family that was taken on our camera during the duration of our stay. My mother-in-law was constantly snapping lovely shots of every family member and each memorable event on her own camera, lulling me into a false sense of memory-saving security that forced me to procrastinate the day of taking good pictures until it was everlastingly too late. (From left, clockwise, Abe's dad's nose and forehead, Quentin's black-and-white striped shirt, Briar's hand, and Aunt Sandra's pixie haircut.)
Soren LOVED having animals around who would very passively subject themselves to his vigorous maulings. Freddy, pictured above, was a particularly good subject, as moving as little as possible is more important to him that being entirely physically comfortable at all times. Soren, spotting me with the camera, is trying to look innocent. "Who, me? Pulling the dog's ears? Never!"
One of the delightful things about this trip is that Abe's brother Tanner, his wife, Holly, and their son, Ethan, were able to visit at the same time. This meant that all five of the Skousen sons were together in the same place for a brief period of time. There are adorable photos documenting this occasion...on my in-laws' computer.
Soren's favorite thing about the beach in Maine was that it was full of many rocks for him to put in his mouth. I tried keeping him contained in my lap, but the baby hand is quicker than the mommy eye and he still ended up tasting the Atlantic Ocean in many different mineral varieties.
Here are Abe and Soren in Cincinnati, Ohio, catching some Zs during our layover on the way back home. It was a long, long day.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Camping (with my folks and the Smith family at beautiful Meadow Lake).
Driving to Brigham City (to dine with Abe's buddy Daniel).
Hosting houseguests (Holly and Aubrey! -- Pictures pending).
All of these experiences were highly delightful, but beyond posting pictures, I am not going to elaborate, as doing so would eat even more into my precious Soren-is-asleep time.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Things my baby likes:
1. Sweet Potato Puffs.
2. Pulling hair.
3. Electronics: remote controls, telephones, stereos, baby monitors, alarm clocks, power cords, electrical outlets, et al. If it has something to do with electricity, he will spend lengthy periods of time examining and chewing on it.
5. Bathing. (This is how bathing goes with Soren: first he plays with the waterfall coming from the spigot. He'll poke it, run his hand through it, try to drink it. Then I'll lie him on his back and he'll flail his little limbs like a frog. Next he rolls over onto his belly and plays the "crawl forward/slide back" bathtub game until I get bored and take him out. Some soaping is involved.)
6. Being hung upside down by his legs.
7. Peter, Paul, and Mary
9. "The Grumpy Lady Bug" by Eric Carle
11. Music -- especially piano music.
Things he doesn't like:
1. Loud voices, sneezing, coughing, and crying.
2. Being put in bed when he's not sleepy.
3. Having toys taken away.
Miscellaneous items of interest:
1. One night before bed I expressed some breastmilk and, feeling lazy, left it in its little pumping containers until the next night, when I expressed some more into the same container. I did this so I wouldn't explode in the night, not so that Soren wouldn't have to drive formula, which I don't mind him doing at all. So, since I wasn't worried about keeping the milk fresh or anything, I set the pumping containers next to the sink to be washed. Three days later, I went to work, leaving my son at home with his daddy, who discovered the containers still sitting next to the sink. "Hm," he thought. "She must have expressed this right before she left. I will feed it to my son." So he did. And Soren took it without complaint. He drank 8 ounces of very very sour breastmilk. We watched him carefully for the next twenty-four hours, but he didn't seem to have suffered any adverse affects. This child is not a picky eater.
2. Speaking of which, I recently fed Soren some ground-up Jambalaya, which he enjoyed more than a seven-month-old should.
2. Soren had his first real swing experience today at Pillsbury park. He seemed to enjoy it. His Auntie Loriann took pictures. Swinging alongside him was his betrothed darling, little Aubrey Kathleen Keddington, aged eight months. Pictures will soon be posted documenting this event.
3. Soren always sleeps on his left side. I put him in his crib, cover him with the blanket his Auntie Pam crocheted for him, and he immediately turns onto his left side and embraces the blankie like a friend.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
For example, there is a strange little mutt living across the street who bears a striking resemblance to a warthog. I do not know this dog's name, but I refer to him as "Nasty Warthog Dog (NWD)." NWD apparently keeps a vigilant watch on my front door, as he always seems to know when I'm heading out for a stroll. He'll race out into the street when he sees me emerge from my driveway pushing a stroller, then follow along behind me for a while, bumping the back of my legs with his wet snout. He then proceeds to spend the rest of our miles spent together wandering irresponsibly in front of oncoming traffic and nipping irritably at the heels of passing bicyclists. Nasty Dog instills in me a strong desire to acquire one of those three-sided triangular signs they post on the top of driver's ed vehicles, paint on it the words, "THIS RUDE LITTLE WARTHOG DOES NOT BELONG TO ME," and attach it to my head. I recently tried to photograph NWD for the purposes of this blog post, but every single time I pulled out my camera, he would turn tail and run.
Perhaps I should introduce to you to our neighbor's crazy dog, Dakota, an 8-year-old Noundland-Collie mix with the all the neediness and hyperactivity of an 8-month-old Dalmation. I've been babysitting Dakota this week while her owners attend a family reunion. And to be honest, I usually quite like her--when she stays at home. Unfortunately, she's realized that I'm her caretaker for the week and so has followed me to my house and parked herself outside my bedroom window. She curls up in the grass and pretends to sleep, but every time I so much as turn over in bed, she perks up, shoves her big soggy nose against the screen, and whimpers. Leaving the house means that I risk incurring multiple lickings to both myself and my child. A deflated lime-green volleyball has been relocated to front yard. Our visitors (and my dad) are now greeted by vigorous barking. Again, I would really like to acquire a sign absolving myself of responsibility for this uninvited visitor's bad behavior. It could say something like, "THIS DOG DOES NOT BELONG HERE. WE DID NOT ASK HER HERE. PLEASE DO NOT HOLD US RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY BARKING, JUMPING, OR OTHER MISCELLANEOUS ACTS OF WOLFISH ANTAGONISM DIRECTED TOWARD YOU."
And this is not to mention all of my friendly neighborhood dog acquaintances, like Duke and Daisy, the golden lab couple who lives on the corner and are currently "trying" to get pregnant; Shaggy White Dog, who will walk for miles without question; Retired Police Dog, who has a limp that will break your heart; and NWD's little friend, Dumb Dog, who always barks, no matter how often he has accompanied you on a pleasant morning stroll.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Then Soren had a night in which he awakened TEN times. Simply waking would have been OK, but the little guy was also crying his I'm-feeling-whiny-and-mad-not-hungry-or-in-pain cry. And I decided perhaps Dr. Baker was right. Maybe it was time Soren learned he isn't entitled to anything he wants anytime he wants it. I finally decided that it was time to let him cry it out. For reals this time.
And I braced myself for horror.
Thursday night we went through our usual bedtime routine. Then I put Soren in his crib, handed him his stuffed monkey, put a plug in his mouth, kissed him, and left. He cried. After five minutes I went in and patted him, gave him back his binky, readjusted his blanket, told him I loved him, and left. He cried for two more minutes and went to sleep. I fairly danced around the house. That was MUCH better than I'd been expecting. But I braced myself for the nighttime, expecting that perhaps horror would ensue then. And he did wake up a lot. But each time he'd cry for no more than five minutes and go back to sleep. It was a miracle! And that's how it's been ever since. He'll wake up once or twice in the night, cry for a minute or two, and then go right back to sleep. That I can deal with. My only complaint now is that his new morning wake-up time is 5 am.
Well, maybe that's not my only complaint. I do have another one. I actually miss getting up with my wee one at night. He was always so sweet and limp and heavy and warm. He would reach up with his sweet little hand and play with my hair while he nursed and we rocked. When he was done eating, he would cuddle against my shoulder and sigh so sweetly and I would smell his hair. I miss that. A lot. During the day he's just so much more active and playful. He doesn't have time for cuddles.
I guess there's just no making me happy. But, you know, I might get accustomed to this whole eight-hour block of sleep thing.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
First, here is a picture of a manta-ray like pancake that I made when Abe's siblings Quentin and Merritt were here for the 4th. That batch of pancakes was just one disaster after another.
Also, Quentin came up to stay for a few days while the BYU-I people cleaned his carpets or something. He and Abraham were kind enough to take a couple of hours out of their busy schedule of playing Counterstrike to install a brand new air conditioning unit at Uncle Dewey's . Here is a picture of him enjoying the cool breeze. (Actually, this picture was taken at our house, which is still hotter than salsa, but I thought it was cute, so we'll pretend...)
Soren and I have developed a morning routine that consists of waking, nursing, bathing, then coming upstairs to find Grandma, who says she can't function without her morning smile from Soren. On the particular morning documented above, we were lucky enough to find Grandma AND Grandpa, who were more than happy to partake of Soren's morning sunshine.
On Collette's day off this week, Dad and Abe took the Smith kids up to the Blacktail portion of the Ririe Reservoir. Abraham, ever the pied piper, persuaded all the children to play in a gigantic mudhole. A good time was had by all.
In other as-yet-unphotographed news, Soren has been on a wild developmental spree as of late. During the past couple of weeks, he's mastered the art of rolling from his back to his belly (he's been going the other way since he was 9 days old) and started seriously working on crawling. Right now he kind of creeps around, mostly backwards, and rolls to the places he wants to go. Every now and again, though, he'll shift up onto his hands and feet (we call it "the stinkbug position") and lurch forward. So he might end up being a stinkbug crawler. Also, he's developed a mad passion for his doorway jumper, in which he can hop for hours. Really. Hours. I'll load him up in the jumper, lie down on the floor in front of him, and take a good nap.
Monday, July 09, 2007
Soren had his 6 month checkup today. He weighs 20 lbs, 12 ounces (90th percentile); measures 28 inches tall (95th percentile); and has a head so big (18 1/2 inches) it doesn't even have a percentile. He's perfectly healthy, though I did receive a rather stern lecture from the doctor about how I need to let him cry it out at night. (No, I haven't worked up the guts to do this yet, but I will. We've got Girls Camp this week, but after that, by gum, he's going to be sleep trained come heck or high water!)
Other news posts:
The case of the black squiggly diaper: solved.
On Sunday, Soren woke up with a very strange diaper indeed. Swimming in his usual slew of peanut-buttery substance were a herd of black squigglies. It looked like he had a serious worm problem. I saved the diaper. That morning over breakfast I asked Mom about it. She glared suspiciously at Soren's "Bert" doll and said, "Maybe he's been eating Bert's hair." When Abe got up, I made him take a look. "I don't think it's worms," he said. "But I'm not sure what it is." When my sister, Collette, came over for dinner that afternoon, I had her take a look. "Banana diaper," she declared authoritatively. I mentioned it to the doctor today and he agreed with her prognosis.
Many new purchases made by the Skousen family.
We've gone kind of hogwild crazy in the money spending arena lately. It started a few weeks ago when we ordered Soren a doorway jumper and a food grinder from Toys-R-Us. These both proved to be good investments. Soren's happily bouncing and squealing in his doorway jumper as I write this. The food grinder has made it possible for me to share all manner of grown-up food with him at meal times, something he finds most satisfying.
Then Abe and I went shopping on one of his days off and ended up purchasing an umbrella stroller (for occasions when we don't want to haul around the hulking travel system stroller) for Soren, a couple of shirts for Abe, and two pairs of shoes for me.
On Saturday I was connived into a garage sale-ing expedition with my sister, where I ended up acquired a few new toys for the little guy (3 good toys for a total of 45 cents); an 18-volume "Childcraft" set, which I've been wanting for years; a never-worn size 2T snowsuit for $1.00; and a complete potty training set (including unused potty chair and Potty Training Elmo doll) for $5.00. I also bought some shoes for $5.00, a purchase I have come to regret, as $5.00 now seems exorbitant to me for a pair of used shoes. But you know.
So anyway, I've been feeling rich in things and poor in money, so I'm going to try and take a bit of a purchasing sabbatical for a while.
Two women attacked by gigantic horseflies on Sunday stroll.
Collette and I have a weekly Sabbath-day tradition of taking what we refer to as a "Giggawalk," a three mile stroll in which we gossip, vent, chat, and otherwise share some giggles. This week we encountered an enormous herd of mean biting flies that cut our walk short. We must have looked very bizarre to anyone watching from afar: two grown women running several yards, arms flailing wildly around heads and bodies, who would periodically stop and take turns whacking each other's heads, backs, and legs, only to resume running again.
There were other things I was going to write about, namely, our Fourth of July celebration, but it was mostly unmemorable and I'm ready to go zonk out now. After all, it is nearly 7:30 pm.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
When I returned home from work, Abe was hanging out with my 10-year-old niece, Arielle, with whom he shares a mad passion for Sponge Bob Square Pants. The afternoon passed quickly and, about a half an hour before we were supposed to go, Abraham asked me, "So. Are we eating on our date tonight?" I, incredulous, as I had been planning on this event ALL DAY LONG, thinking with longing about the sweet shredded meat, the burn of the jalapenos, the chewiness of the bread, nevertheless answered with patience: "Yes. Yes we are." "OK," replied Abraham.
And then, NOT TWENTY MINUTES LATER, I went downstairs to inform Abraham that it was time to go.
"Go?" he asked, looking up from the television screen.
"Yes," I said. "On our date."
"Oh," he replied, "I forgot." It was then that I noticed that he was snorfling down mass quantities of chocolate chip cookies and milk.
"Are you still going to be hungry for Los Panchos?" I asked.
"Ummm," he said.
And it was then that I realized that all was ruined. That I would not be sharing tortas with my sweetheart on this, the hallowed night of our date. And I began grieving.
At first I thought that perhaps tortas would still work out for us after all. Surely no one could be so full as to not want to eat a torta as well. It had just been cookies and milk, right? We could still go to Los Panchos. All was not lost. So I swallowed my rebukes as we drove Arielle and Soren over to the Smith's.
Then, as we began our drive into Idaho Falls, it came out that Abraham had also eaten two sandwiches and was really, truly, not at all hungry.
"How in the WORLD," I stormed, emphasizing the last word of each phrase, "Could you possibly FORGET, in five MINUTES, no LESS -- right after I TOLD YOU -- that we had PLANS for DINNER?"
"I don't know," said Abe, meekly. "I just did."
"You don't KNOW?" I countered. "You JUST DID?"
"Yeah," he said. Then added, foolishly, "I don't know why you're making such a big deal out of this."
"You don't know WHY I'm making such a big deal out of this? You DON'T KNOW WHY I'M MAKING SUCH A BIG DEAL OUT OF THIS? How could you be so stupid?"
"Don't say that I'm stupid."
"This is all your mother's fault, you know," I continued.
"Leave my mother out of this."
"Well IT IS," I said. "Letting all of you DISRESPECT food, READING while you ate, silently scarfing down mass quantities of bland things like pancakes and pasta, meal after meal after meal. No WONDER you don't understand the significance of a good meal shared with loved ones."**
"I'm sorry that we were poor," snapped Abraham.
"Poverty has nothing to do with this!" I returned. "And really, this has less to do with your upbringing and more to do with the fact that you were just plain DUMB. How could you be so THICK as to FORGET that we were going to have TORTAS tonight?"
"Well, fine!" I finally decided. "I'll just enjoy some delicious Torta goodness while you watch!"
"OK," said Abraham.
But then I contemplated this possibility and it felt very bleak. I imagined us sitting in a corner of the restaurant, the only two gringos, waiting for twenty minutes while the cooks at Los Panchos prepared a lone torta. I imagined eating it while upset and Abraham looked on in silence. I simply couldn't desecrate such a sacred food item with anger.
"Never mind," I said, "I don't want a torta after all."
Instead, I decided to eat a sandwich at Subway. We pulled into the parking lot and Abe, ever kind and patient, asked, "Do you want to go in?"
"No," I told him snottily, "I want to eat it while I'm driving so it's like I'm not even eating anything at all."
Abe sighed. I pulled into the drive through and ordered.
"I'd like a sweet onion teriyaki meal," I told the girl.
"OK," she said, "That'll be $4.15 at the window."
$4.15 was certainly more than the $2.50 torta I had planned on having, but I figured the tall accompanying pink lemonade and bag of baked lays that accompanied my sandwich would somewhat make up for the price difference.
But at the window, I forked over my money and the girl handed me a sandwich, and the window was quickly closed behind it. I waited for a minute. But the "meal" portion of my order never appeared. No lemonade. No baked lays. The girls inside bustled around, ignoring me and my lemonade-less plight outside the window. I thought about pounding on the window and demanding my rights, but I was worried there might be hair pulling and spitting involved, so I finally gave up, drove into a parking spot, put my head on the steering wheel, and silently mourned. Abraham sat nearby, also in silence, though he told me later he was seriously contemplating getting out of the car and running away.
After several minutes of silence, I finally forced myself to take a bite out of the sandwich. Then another. Then another. I pulled back onto the highway and we made our way silently down 17th street while I consumed the sandwich in a very black state of mind.
But my blood sugar levels finally climbed back to a normal place, and I started feeling happy enough to sing along with the radio. We arrived at Wal-Mart and began shopping for a new hair cutting kit for Abraham, where I began to feel somewhat sheepish about all that had transpired. Standing in an aisle in Wal-Mart, I told Abe: "I'm sorry. And I didn't mean what I said about your mother."
It took him a minute. A long minute, while he stared long and hard at a hair-blower display.
Then he hugged me.
As we walked off toward the shoe department, I told him, "OK. It's time for you to say sorry too."
**It should be noted here that I (1) Frequently read while eating and (2) Enjoy mass quantities of plain foods, such as pancakes, pasta, etc. Also, I love my mother-in-law.
Soren and I walked across the street to Dewey's house to set up the new remote, where we discovered there were no batteries to make it run. I told Dewey we would get some from home and return shortly, but Dewey, who recently held Soren for the first time, declared that "Bill" (he can't remember Soren's real name) was "too fat" for me to carry across the street and back. He said, "I'll hold him while you're gone." Soren and I visit frequently, and Soren feels fairly comfortable with this loud, bearded, smelly old man, and I decided it would be all right to leave him there for a minute. I plopped him on Dewey's lap, kissed him multiple times, promised I'd be back soon. I ran home and when I returned was relieved to find Soren happily reclining on Dewey's lap.
"Oh good," I said. "He's looking quite content."
"Bill likes cookies," Dewey replied.
Then I got nervous.
And, upon further inspection, I discovered that, surely enough, Soren was gnawing on a pink sugar wafer.
The cookie was taken away, Soren cried, and Dewey was chastised for irresponsible behavior.
"The cookie felt good on his gums," Dewey countered.
I couldn't really say much about that. He would know: he doesn't have teeth either.
I think Soren won't be spending much more alone time with his Great Uncle.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
"Find out my secrets for looking younger."
"Eliminate unsightly cellulite in JUST 3 DAYS!"
"The Way You Eat Now Is Destroying Your Efforts To Keep Your Body fat In the 'Jaw Dropping' Swimsuit Range!"
The above are actual advertising slogans I've had the misfortune of encountering while innocently going about my own business throughout the past several days. And you all will attest that you've seen similar ones nearly every single day of your lives, that you've read them since you knew how to read, and that you've internalized them, despite your best efforts to resist. They're posted on billboards, they're printed in newspapers, they're flashed across television screens. They're usually accompanied by "before" and "after" pictures that leave you feeling bleak, as your own body almost inevitably more closely resembles "before" than it does "after." And while you may not be persuaded to buy the advertisement's product, you almost certainly have been persuaded to believe in the advertisement's underlying message: "There is something terribly, terribly shameful about the way your body looks."
What has caused Americans to become so afraid of their own bodies? Afraid of things that are NORMAL and NOT AT ALL SHAMEFUL? We pride ourselves on skepticism but often fail to think critically about our more subtly ingrained beliefs. It's easy to say, "I'm not sure I believe in God," because people everywhere are saying, quite explicitly, "You need to believe in God." But, because advertisers very cleverly make implicit the beliefs they peddle, we forget to say, "I'm not sure I believe that the cellulite on my legs is hideous and embarrassing." We just think, "Oh my gosh. I've got cellulite. It's hideous. Where can I find some shorts to wear with my swimsuit?"
So I've got some stretch marks. Is it shameful to have grown? Is it shameful to have borne a baby?
And yes, I've got some body fat that undulates in a lovely rolling fashion across my belly. And do you know what that means? It means I like to eat. Is there anything wrong with that? No. It's actually a really good survival mechanism. You don't eat, you don't live. You stock up, you survive the next famine.
Wrinkles are a result of smiling, of worrying, of spending time in the sun, of laughing, of living a few years and figuring out a couple things. Nothing shameful there.
And one certainly shouldn't be embarrassed of having committed the sin of having a circulatory system that makes one prone to varicose veins.
If your varicose veins are hurting, get 'em fixed. If you can't walk up a flight of stairs without losing your breath, consider dropping some pounds. But don't HATE YOURSELF. Don't writhe in agony every time one of your marks of life makes a public appearance. Don't be embarrassed of having used your face to express yourself over a period of years.
Imagine...wearing your swimsuit with fat rolls, cellulite, stretch marks, and varicose veins protruding every which way...and not even giving it a thought. Imagine feeling ashamed of things actually worth feeling shame over: cruelty, snottiness, pride, gossip, self-centeredness, selfishness, ignorance.
I wish there was some way to reprogram the public consciousness, to tear our focus away from the shallow and plunk it firmly onto the meaningful. But that's an awful lot of reprogramming. And truth be told, even though I KNOW it's wrong, I'm still going to feel somewhat embarrassed when I put on my swimming suit this year. I've purchased one that will cover as much skin as possible (selected not so much out of a sense of modesty as out of a fear of ridicule) but even with a lot of coverage, I'll remain keenly aware of my white, white skin and my untoned thighs, though I'll try as hard as I can to pretend that I'm not.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
"Oh yeah?" challenged she, "Then what is his best picture ever?"
There are several. For example,
Abe striking a pose that would put even Derek Zoolander to shame.
Abe the beach babe.
The beach babe throws a frisbee.
Abe the sexy hick babe.
Abe getting his hair
You'll note that these are all from last summer, when Abe was in his infancy as an Idahoan. I would now like to present to you the New Abe Who is Now Nearly Wholly Idahoan, At Least In Looks:
To the left is my brother-in-law Marty, also a good looking fellow, but a native Idahoan, born and raised. To the right? My sweetheart. Notice the similarities. He is now virtually indistinguishable from any other gun-wieldin', Republican-votin', potato-diggin' true blue Idaho Russet.
And I think he's pretty dang good lookin'.