Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I Hate Christmas

I actually had the above thought at the moment this picture was taken on Christmas Eve. And it's not true. I love Christmas in many ways, but this part of the day symbolized That Which I Hate Most About The Holiday Season. And it is this: Christmas is hyped up to be the hap-happiest season of all, yes? It is supposed to be magical. Glitter is supposed to be mixed in with the snow, reindeer are supposed to fly, laughter and love should thicken the atmosphere. Nothing is ever supposed to go wrong during the Christmas season. When I was a little kid, it was like that for me. Completely magical. The feelings, the smells, the excitement, the magic. But as I've grown older, I've learned that, for me, holiday happiness increases in direct proportion with a decrease in holiday expectations. But I goofed up a little this year and allowed myself to have a Christmas-related fantasy, a fantasy that harsh reality immediately snatched up and smashed to bits over my thick skull.
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."
Abraham concurred.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

On Love

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

The Goodies Themselves

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.

A new Christmas tradition

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


cash advance

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

A List of Soren Things I Don't Want to Forget

1. When he really wants something, he crows like a rooster. One of the things he always wants is someone else's food. It doesn't matter if he's just consumed a belly-stretching 5-course meal; if someone else is eating, he wants in on the action. Now.
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.


I love to see Soren playing with my sister's children. It makes him seem less like a baby and more like a little kid.

All dressed up and only cold places to go.

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.

An embarrassing picture of my husband.

You'll probably have to look closely, but Abe actually has a mullet-esque ponytail in his hair right now. When my mother-in-law sees this, she will freak out. Don't worry, Brenda, we don't usually do it that way...

This is our new house! We close late this month.


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