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

Friday, August 27, 2010

I know I shouldn't, but...

My friend Nick says that sometimes he and his friend Denice will get drunk and make embarrassing confessions to each other. It'll go something like this:

Nick: Denice, I think you should know: I've always loved Wal-Mart.
Denice: Nick! Oh my God! I've always loved Wal-Mart too. But shhhhhh.....don't tell anyone. Also, now that you've shared that with me, I'm going to tell you: I love Jason Mraz.
Nick (almost moaning): I do too! I'm so ashamed!

And then they'll cry and hug.

Well, sadly, I'm not drunk, and we can't hug and cry over the internets, but I do think that I have a reached a level of intimacy with the blogosphere that I am prepared to share with you-all the List of Things I Love That I Know I Shouldn't.

So, without further ado, I shall bare for you my most shameful loves.

1. Nickelback.

I know they're a mass-marketed flash-in-the-pan pop rock group. I've tried to stop loving them, I have. But I just can't. I love Chad Kroeger's voice. I love to sing along with the lyrics. I smile at the obviously intentional irony of "Rockstar." "So Far Away" makes me feel all wistful and swoony.

So stop being haters and remember: if everyone cared, and nobody cried, everyone loved, and nobody lied, everyone shared and swallowed their pride....we'd see a day when nobody died.

2. Spreadsheets

Anyone who has ever spent any time with me at all knows that I have an unnatural passion for spreadsheets.

It's just that they bring order and harmony to the universe.

3. Wallpaper

I love the stuff. Pretty much any pattern, any style. It just makes me feel happy. But nobody else seems to get it.

4. The 70s.

Any decade that produced olive green kitchen appliances has my vote. And seriously, what's not to like about the seventies? Shag carpet, men in paisley, The Brady Bunch, seahorse bathtub decorations, Farrah Fawcett hairstyles, disco, grunge rock, full beards, platform shoes, endless amounts of brown, gold, orange, and yellow.

So much goodness packed into just ten years. Words cannot express to you how sad I am I missed it.

5. Sizzler

I know it's supposed to be for boring old people wearing elastic-waisted khaki pants and hawaiian shirts.

But, again, I can't help it. I love Sizzler. I love the green and gold swirl carpeting. I love the ceiling fans. I love the trays stamped with the Sizzler logo.

And mmm...the salad bar. The grated cheese that tastes a little bit like plastic, the perfectly cylindrical breadsticks, the frozen pizza, the chicken wings. And the soft serve ice cream dessert bar. Who knew there were so many wonderful ways to top your soft serve?

6. Hot dogs.

Yes, yes, I know. They're made of pig intestines, cow's hooves, pencil sharpener leavings, chicken's beaks, and bits of manure. These were mixed together in a dirty factory in a dark part of a crime-ridden city that reeks of putrescence and rot. They are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and preservatives.

And yet, they're so delicious.

7. Lawn Ornaments

If it weren't for my husband, who has an overinflated sense of dignity, my lawn would be decorated with the following:

Garden gnomes, plastic flamingoes, ceramic toads, a Virgin Mary, several colorful pinwheels, and the legs of a lady wearing bloomers bending over to garden.

It's shameful, but true.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sexy Briar

I told Briar that I'd posted a sexy picture of her on my blog when I posted that pic of her haircut. She thought that it was this one and was all disappointed when it wasn't.
So here it is.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Soren Update: August 2010

So the good news is that Soren has been potty-trained for about a week and a half now. HOORAY! Thus far, the process has been shockingly painless. Soren knew how to use the potty, he could use it, and he sometimes used it, so one morning I handed him a pair of underpants and said, "This is it, kiddo. You're a big boy now and big boys don't wear diapers." And he took it like a big boy. Without too much protest, the child took the underwear, put it on, and more or less started putting all of his waste, plus a toothbrush, in the potty. It was like manna sent from heaven. Also, there might have been a lot of candy bribery involved.

But anyway, a few weeks ago, before his miraculous entry into the world of Bigboydom, Abraham and Briar informed Soren that little boys who put poops in diapers were yucky-- and that yucky things needed to go in the garbage. "So I guess we'll have to put you in the garbage and the garbage man will take you away," said Daddy. Soren was panic-stricken. "But Mommy needs her little boy!" he argued.

Mommy and her little boy reading The River Why...

and admiring the sunset.

We keep Soren's Legos and building blocks in his room, so he often wakes up and quietly plays by himself while the rest of us sleep. When he bores of this, he'll start calling for me. "Mommy! Mommy! I awake! Mommy! I AWAKE!" One morning I woke up to the sound of him screaming bloody murder. Certain that a recently hatched nest of poisonous spiders was rapidly decimating the skin on his face, I ran across the hall. I did not, however, find him engaged in a desperate struggle with an army of arachnid assailants; instead, he was hunched over one of his complex Lego creations. "It keeps breaking!" he told me, tears streaming down his cheeks. "It keeps breaking!" So I, still in my underwear, knelt down and helped him resolve the issue. That fixed, he went back to building. After a minute he looked at me as if to say, "You still there?' and remarked, "I didn't call for you." So I left him to build in peace.

Another morning he woke me with the following: "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! I made a fire truck police car! Mommy! Mommmmmmmyyyyy! I made a fire truck police car! Moooommmmmyyyyyy! Mommy! Mom!mee! Mommy! I! Made! A! Fire! Truck! Police! Car! I! Made! A! Fire! Truck! Police! Car!" It took a while, but I was finally convinced that said fire truck police car was an interesting enough inticement to draw me out from under the warmth of my covers.

It was pretty cute.

This is the Fire! Truck! Police! Car! The green thing on the top is a light. He makes all kinds of delightfully creative things like this. And is it just me, or (in this picture) does he kind of resemble the crazy Sicilian guy on The Princess Bride?

A front view. Notice the wad of blankets on the floor behind him. That is where he sleeps, all snuggled up to the crack under the door. I swear to you, people, he does have a bed.

One of Soren's favorite things in all the world is gathering wildflowers. Some might refer to the ones he picks as weeds, but we know better. All summer long my windowsill has been lined with raggedy brown beautiful bouquets. He believes that if someone is picking flowers, they're picking them for Mommy. If I'm picking them, he'll ask, "Are you picking those for you, Mommy?"

Examining some little bit of something he picked out in the garden.

Soren's also begun making attempts at friendly chatter. For example, we recently went for a walk with my friend Amy and her little girl, Charlotte, who is a year younger than Soren. Charlotte, though talking, is not yet entirely conversational, and it was funny to observe Soren trying (in vain) to strike up a conversation with her. "I have a Gramma." And then, when there was no response:"I wike that fing you're holding, Charwotte. It's coo." And then, when there was no response: "My gramma's tree fell down...(pause)....My gramma's tree fell down....(pause)...My gramma's tree fell down.....(pause).....My gramma's tree fell down..."

Soren occasionally puts both his legs down one pant leg and declares, "I'm a merboy!" I should really take a photo for posterity. Or blackmail. (Insert evil laugh here.)

Soren and Grandma were talking about mice a few weeks ago. During their conversation, Grandma noticed that Soren was saying "mouses" when referring to more than one mouse. "Soren," she said, "I know it makes sense for more than one mouse to be 'mouses,' but it's actually 'mice.'"
"No it's not," said Soren. "It's 'mouses.'"
"You know that song about the three blind mice?" asked Grandma.
"Uh huh!" replied Soren, and he proceeded to sing it for her: "Three blind mouses!" he sang. "Three blind mouses!"

Soren's getting to that age where you start to hear yourself coming out in the things he says. Some of it makes me feel a little bad, like when he calls Liam a "nuisance" or tells one of his little friends, "And don't do that ever again!" Some of it is just funny, like when someone asks him how he's doing and he responds, "Very well." Or when something surprises him and he exclaims, "Good heavens!" And some of it is good. He often give me choices: "Mommy? Do you want to walk or run? Which one? Do you want a red block or a green block? Which one?" I was particularly pleased one evening when I was feeling quite sick and Soren pulled his Lightning McQueen folding chair up to the couch where I was lying. He took my hand, saying, "It's okay. I a doctor. I keep you. I sorry you're sick. You want a story?" (He wound up climbing all over me, repeatedly asking questions about why I wasn't feeling well, what kind of bug it was that made my tummy feel sick, why a bug would do that, etc, etc, and generally not assisting in the healing process in any way, shape, or form....but the thought was nice.)

And, of course, Soren continues to offer me heaping plates of Humble Parent Pie. It really is a good thing, because if he was a wonderfully easy child, I would think I was the most fabulously wonderful parent of all time. As it is, I've decided that I'm still a totally awesome mom, I just have a really temperamentally difficult child. This confidence, however, is often dulled by blood-chilling moments in which I am struck by the certainty that all of Soren's flaws are all my fault and that I'm the worst mother ever and that he will be a serial killer someday and it's all because of me and the egregious parenting errors I'm making with him every single day, day after day after day.

But anyway. I won't get into the gory details of his more nefarious antics here, but I will state that at this point in his life, Soren spends probably 80% of his waking hours in timeout because of the pain he inflicts on his baby brother. I will also note that he kicked, shoved, and hit at least four other children in nursery last Sunday, he tackled a two-year-old boy at my work party over the weekend, and fought with a one-year-old baby over her own toys. I might further state that he throws record-breaking, breath-taking tantrums over ridiculous things like having to walk on his own two healthy legs, that he disobeys just for fun, that he has stated a preference to be held down for all teeth-brushings so that he "can thrash and cry," and that he desperately needs naps but instead spends his nap time throwing objects (toys, dirty underwear, clothing, pieces of mattress, bits of bedding, etc) out his bedroom window.

That said, I still maintain an intensity of love for this child that continues to take my breath away.

Crazy kid.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Liam: August Update

On August 13th at 5:00 PM, William James discovered that he had a body.

You should have seen the kid. He was crawling as fast as he could to one couch, pulling up to it, grinning, getting back down, grinning, crawling as fast as he could to the other couch, pulling up to it, grinning, getting back down, grinning, and crawling back to the first couch. When he tired of that, he took to rolling madly back and forth on the rug like a hot pig in cool muck. I think we got more motion out of that kid in a three-hour block than we've had from him in the first 18 months of his life combined. And he was loving every moment of it, you could tell.

Liam has kind of had a sudden burst of development overall during the past month. He switched from belly-crawling to hands-and-knees crawling. He figured out how to pull himself to a stand while holding onto furniture for support. He's even started to cruise a bit.

This is ironic because last month I finally got worried enough about Liam's development to take him to the doctor for an evaluation. The doc said he didn't think there was anything wrong, per se, but that Liam did seem a bit behind on his gross motor skills, so he referred us to the Idaho Infant-Toddler Program. The Infant-Toddler people sent a very nice lady out to our house to do an assessment. The completed evaluation read something like this: "Liam is ridiculously cute and charming. Also, he has a big head. Also, he is behind in all areas of development. Way behind. I recommend him for physical therapy and developmental therapy."

When I mentioned this to a friend of ours from Ecuador, she just snorted. "You Americans. You want all the kids to be exactly the same. Always on the same page at the same moment. Kids are all different! There is a large range of normal!" Which is basically what Abe has been saying all this time. And I also suspect that Liam is simply a take-things-at-your-own-pace kind of a guy and he'll be just fine. I certainly don't want to be one of those pushy parents who are obsessed with their child's academic performance, who follow their toddlers around with flash cards, who won't be satisfied if their kid doesn't read at 2, solve algebraic equations at 3, and compose orchestral scores at 4. I think it's a bad idea to push kids into doing things before they're ready. A very bad idea. But still.

I can't shake the worry that maybe there's some underlying issue that a physical therapist will pick up on while working with him. Some sort of neurological issue. Or cardiovascular problem. Or allergies. Or something. And in the meantime, I don't think it will do him any harm to have some nice person coming to play with him once a week. And while I don't want to be a hyperactive parent, I also don't want to be the parent who's like, "What? My kid's autistic? What? Early intervention would have made a big difference? What? But it's too late now? What?" (And no, in case you were wondering, I don't think that Liam is autistic.)

But anyway.....

Liam got his first haircut this month. This was a shockingly sentimental occasion for me. Soren's first haircut? I callously buzzed the hair off, swept it up, and threw it away. Liam's? Liam's I reluctantly trimmed. And I saved the leavings in a Ziploc baggie. And I labeled and dated the baggie.

I've heard moms say that they hate to give that first haircut because it makes their baby look like a big kid. By the time Soren was ready for a haircut, he already seemed like a big kid to me. He was certainly already getting himself into big kid trouble. Giving him a big kid hair cut just seemed sensible. Having our little perpetual baby reach this milestone, however, was a little more heart-wrenching. How could I possibly be cutting off these wispy soft tendrils of sweet baby tenderness? But I did it. And he looked quite handsome. Briar even styled it into a faux hawk for him.

Abraham tries to read to Liam once a day, just to see the grin that immediately lights up his face when he sees a book coming his way. He also likes to look at stories when he's alone. He'll happily babble out his own made-up words as he turns the pages.

One evening Abe was watching a movie on his computer (earphones on, because the crib is in the computer room) when he happened to glance over at Liam's bed. And there sat our naked-except-for-a-diaper baby, glowing in the dim light of the computer monitor, smiling quietly, looking for all the world, according to Abe, like a "little happy baby Buddha."

And he certainly is our little happy baby Buddha.

I sure love you, Liam.

They do occasionally play together. Nicely, even.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Defense. And a Shout-Out.

A co-worker remarked to me today that growing up he had always found that the kids who made the best friends were those who were--how you say?--a little rough. He said that he had noticed that these people tended to be accepting, straightforward, and loyal-- while, in contrast, the "good" kids were a bunch of hypocritical, shallow, thoughtless snots who had no experience with the "real" world and were therefore incapable of coping with the realities of friendship.
As one of those people who has always (largely) been a "good" kid who ran around with (largely) "good" kids in high school, I must say I took some offense at this. And my offense to this was, in part, because of the three following friends:




I have had a lot of wonderful friends over the years (here's a shout-out to Becky, who's been there as long as my memory, and Jamie, who was there through most of this stuff too), but these three were particularly important to me during the past decade

Holly, Loriann, Nick, and I bonded in high school and are still friends today. Together over the past ten years, the three of us have gone through a lot of crap together. To name some: eight high school newspaper deadlines, three stepfathers, two apostasies, five Standards concerts, several heartbreaks, one nervous breakdown, one hundred and thirty pounds gained, one hundred and thirty pounds lost, three college degrees, Christophori's Dream, hundreds of e-mails, one two-year mission, one coming-out-of-the-closet, several years of unemployment, several years of employment, two weddings, one master's degree, three births, moves to all parts of the country, and more. Loriann wrote to Nick every single week that he was on his mission. Nick sewed Holly a quilt for Christmas. Holly rubbed my back when I woke up sobbing at night during the nutso months following my broken engagement. I was there to hold Nick when he cried after he told his parents he was gay.

And as I write these things, a hundred other memories run through my mind, pictures of times that we've been there for each other, through thick and thin, through ups and downs, for better or for worse. The bonds that we've forged over time run much more deeply than those of a superficial friendship-- they have cut into the layers of soul that create family. We haven't always all liked each other...we haven't always been actively in touch...but we've always loved each other.

The question, of course, is how we were able to scratch enough depth out of our shallow, thoughtless, good-kid selves to be able to sustain our love for each other over all these years.

And the answer, I suppose, is a mystery.

But I sure am glad we did.

Love you guys.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Abraham, Age 32

Abe texted me a few days before his birthday with the following message:

"All I want for my birthday is you."

Then, a few moments later, he added:

"And Angelina."

So I took Friday off work and we went to see Salt, starring Angelina Jolie.

The Birthday Boy with his first birthday wish.

The Birthday Boy with me doing my best to look like Angelina Jolie.

That evening the Rexburg sibs (Quentin, Caleb, and Merritt) joined the rest of us at home for a homemade macaroni-and-cheese extravaganza.

Hillary and Briar gave Abe these lovely matching "Thinker" bookends.
He was (clearly) pleased.

I gave Abe a little statuette of a daddy with a baby.

I think he liked it.

Abe and Soren blew out the candles on his Macaroni and Cheese.
(We had cake on Sunday with my family.)

And then Abe took a moment to show us how it feels to be getting old.

(Photos taken by Quentin.)

(Except for the insane one. I took that one.)

Briar's hair

Quentin dyed Briar's hair a dark red. Isn't it sexy? Also, isn't that a fabulous haircut?

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Book Reviews

I told Abe that I was writing book reviews tonight and he said, "Book reviews? You've only read one book during the past two months!" Which may be true. Since I was reading it in five minute increments, I think it took me about six weeks to read Reliquary. But I checked to see when I last did book reviews, and it was March....so in the past four months I've averaged almost two books a month, which, if I must say so myself, is not so shabby for a working mom. (Abraham has probably read approximately 50 books--not exaggerating--during that time, though, so I suppose he has license to scorn my comparative reading pittance.)

On Fortune's Wheel
by Cynthia Voigt
Set in a medeival-esque fantasy land, On Fortune's Wheel tells the story of a young woman named Birle who, restless in her workaday life as an innkeeper's daughter, chances upon a young lord who is running away from his own responsibilities to the mysterious lands of the south. She swears herself into his service and follows him downriver, into all kinds of adventure. The journey (of course) is also a journey of growth and self-discovery for Birle, who grows from childhood, into a lover, and finally into an independent and strong young woman.

I liked it. Abraham, on the other hand, read it and commented, "There was no plot. Also, why did all the men have 'hungry eyes'?" To each their own, I suppose.

by Maeve Binchy

Quentins is supposed to be centered around a restaurant-- the people who run it, the people who eat there, the life events that happen within its walls.

If Binchy had stuck to that premise, I think I would have enjoyed this book quite a bit. However, she kind of gets off on this tangent about this young single woman having an affair with an older married man, who is perfectly charming but ends up being a crook and having to leave the country with his wife and children. And the there's her suffering, blah, blah, blah. And then she hears that the man kills himself, blah, blah, blah. And then she goes to America, blah, blah, blah, and then I got bored and quit reading.

Good writing, typical quirky Binchy characters, but I just didn't find it that interesting. Could have just been my mood. Or maybe the story redeems itself at the end. But, after 400 pages, I just lost interest.

The River Why
by David James Duncan

I picked this up because it's on my sis-in-law Karen's list of most awesome books ever. And I positively adored the first quarter of this book, found it quite hilarious, and enjoyed the charmingly verbose, over-the-top writing style.

But then I got bored and quit reading.

Perhaps I am easily bored?

by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Reliquary did not bore me. Reliquary, an anthropological/scientific mystery/thriller, was actually quite fascinating, on a couple of different levels.

The book opens in modern-day NewYork, in a mild state of crisis. Several people have been violently murdered and decapitated in a way that is frighteningly reminiscent of a series of murders that had occurred 18 months earlier in the city's Museum of Natural Science (described in the book Relic). The book follows the action as an FBI Agent, a couple of cops, a journalist, and a team of scientists try to figure out who-- or what--is responsible for the murders.

So the plot was interesting and engaging--but the thing I found most intriguing about this book was that the story explored the lives and culture of people who have given up life "above ground" and committed themselves to a different sort of life in darkness, living year-round in the abandoned subway tunnels and shafts in underground New York City.

Overall, an entertaining and interesting read. Plus, you have to love Agent Pendergast.

Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder
by Martha Linehan

I read this one for work (I manage the office at a mental health agency) and found it to be quite interesting. I'm a big fan of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and the hottest new variation in CBT is a treatment approach known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

Martha Linehan is a psychologist who found that the "unrelenting" emphasis on change in CBT was ineffective in treating women with Borderline Personality Disorder, who needed a more balanced approach that emphasized both validation of emotional experience and the development of skills to overcome self-defeating behaviors. She describes her overall therapeutic approach in this book, but largely emphasizes the skill-building portion of the treatment, which describes how to teach the following skills: mindfulness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness. I like her approach because it is very practical, but also very warm.

I'm constantly chasing people around the office with copies of this book in my arms, begging them to read it, so if you're interested in this sort of thing, I'd definitely recommend it.

(Note: I also read Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games and its sequel, Catching Fire. I'll review those when I've read the third one, Mockingjay, which will be coming out at the end of this month!)


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