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

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


It's all gone! And I'm loving it! Makes me feel frisky.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Lately I've been feeling wrung out. Exhausted. Spent. Empty. Dried up. Drained. I look at a sunset and feel tired. I sit down to write and feel tired. I am impatient with other people. Holidays make me cranky. Poetry, art, learning new things, connecting with God...they all take waaaay too much effort. I just don't have energy for such things.

At first I blamed the children. They wake up a lot at night and I just don't get enough sleep. Then I blamed my job. Too much pressure, too little paid time off. Then I blamed church. Two callings, plus three hours of church a week, suck away a lot of my time. Most recently I've blamed Abe. If that man would lift a finger to help out once in a damn while, I've thought, I would have more time to recharge my batteries.

Admittedly, all of these factors contribute to my stress. But the truth is that, at the very core, I am the source of my own stress. I am creating my own problems. And I need to change something in order for things to improve.

One of the big contributing factors is my obsession with productivity. I floss while I pee. I check my email while I talk on the phone. I plan menus and create grocery lists on one side of a computer screen while my children watch Sesame Street videos on the other. I get a little high thinking about all the things I've been able to accomplish in a day. Abe will come home on Tuesday (the day I stay home with the kids) and I'll immediately intercept him on his way down to the computer room: "Do you want to know what I did today? Do you? Do you? Huh? Huh? I cooked whole wheat pancakes for breakfast. I washed and folded (and put away!) four loads of laundry. I went grocery shopping, took the kids to the library, mopped the floors, vacuumed the carpets, cooked two nutritious meals (one for today, one for tomorrow), introduced the children to Beethoven while engaging in imaginative play, visited with both of my stay-at-home mom friends, and cleaned out the fridge! Aren't I amazing? Aren't I? Aren't I? Huh? Huh? Huh?" I despise being behind on things-- I never want to be scrambling at the last minute to do anything--but I've become so hell-bent on being ahead that not being ahead has become like being behind and I find myself scrambling anyway.

The second issue is that I have convinced myself that my children surely couldn't live for a single day without having me-- their sun! their soil! their water!-- there to nourish and guide and direct them. I feel guilty about having to leave them for thirty- six hours a week while I go to work. I feel guilty leaving them on Saturday evenings to go on a date with their father. I want desperately to be able to spend more time with them, teaching them, reading to them, crafting with them, taking them to play dates, creating structure and routine for each of their days. I do what I can, but it's never what I wish I could do. Because I'm gone much more than I would like to be, I feel compelled to spend all my non-working time lavishing the children with attention and nurture. Besides going to work, taking naps, and leaving for a weekly date with Abe, I don't go anywhere without them.

So my life is a series of identical days that go something like this: Wake up sometime between five and six a.m. with my wild little boys, who think this is a godly hour for waking. (They are wrong, of course, but try convincing them of that.) Then, from the moment they persuade me that I am not going to talk them into letting me sleep for another hour 'til the moment my head hits the pillow at 9 pm or so, I am a whirlwind of frantic activity. Cook a hot breakfast, bathe the boys, get ready for work, dress the children, play with the kids, family scriptures, family prayer, drive to work, work-work-work, come home, cook dinner, play with kids, get the kids ready for bed, family prayer, story time, admire the children, appreciate them as they are right now, enjoy them because they grow up too fast, now put them to bed, clean up house, wash dishes, fold laundry, read for ten minutes, and crash into bed. There's just not enough time! I always think. There's so much to do and just not enough time! I run around panicked all the time, terrified that I am not doing enough.

This isn't living-- it's wheel spinning. Something needs to change. I need to change. But the question is, what? And how?

I don't know for sure, but as I've pondered this question, the following thoughts have come to mind:


Seek quiet.



Be mindful.

Let go.

As the New Year approached, I found myself identifying a lot of ways in which I could improve, areas in which I could use a lot of work. I was trying to figure out an efficient way to work through them as quickly and effectively as possible. Then I had a wild, gasping, sobbing breakdown at work last week (so embarrassing), and I realized that I wouldn't be able to do anything to better myself or heal the world if I didn't slow down, remember how to breathe, and reconnect with the simple joys of life.

So that is what I am going to do. Over the next twelve months or so, I'm going to dedicate some time to exploring, writing about, and trying to weave the above concepts into my life. If you find yourself pushing yourself to go, go, go at an unhappy and unsustainable pace, I hope you will join me.

Here's to a calmer, more joyful 2012.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


About a year ago, Soren finally accepted that he really wasn't going to be able to persuade us to return Liam. They still fight a little, of course, but they've also become friends.

No mistletoe needed. Just brotherly love.

Bedtime roughhousing.

I love how in this shot Liam looks like he's twice Soren's size.
Soren will be quick to point out that he weighs two full pounds more than his baby brother.

Every night when I come home to work, this is how I'm greeted. "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!"

Soren made this gingerbread house at preschool.
Here he's sharing some of the candy from the roof with Liam.

Toothbrushing time.

Fabulous idea from pinterest: add a little food coloring to cheap shaving cream and you've got some fabulous bathtub paint. The boys love this.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Liam: January 2012

Tonight Liam picked a piece of wooden railroad track out of the toy box and began "playing" it like a harmonica. As I tucked him in bed, he was happily sawing it back and forth across his lips while singing a tuneless, wordless song. That's a fun change I've observed in my littlest guy over the past couple of months: he has become very imaginative. He'll eat pretend food and make little chewing noises, saying "mmm!"while appreciatively nodding his head; he'll put on his lion mask and follow me around, grinning and gently saying "rawwwr! rawwwr! rawwwwr!"; he'll touch a picture of fire in a book and quickly pull back his finger, exclaiming, "Hot! Ouch!" One of his favorite things to do is stand in front of the couch, wave his arms around like he's losing his balance, say, "Woah...woah...woah!" and fling himself backwards onto the cushions.

The world's most adorable lion.

Liam loves to cook. He especially loves to stir things around in the electric skillet. He'll happily saute onions and garlic, brown beef, or stir together a sauce for me. When we bake bread and cookies, he helps by liberally sampling the dough.

When Liam wants a kiss he'll make smacking noises with his lips, then kind of suck them in and lean forward. It ends up being a lipless kiss, but he always makes a big popping noise and grins broadly afterwards. I love it. I'm sure the girls will too.

The child still can't consistently differentiate between "Mommy" and "Daddy" (I imagine him waving a dismissive hand in his mind, saying, "'Mommy,' 'Daddy,' whatever. They're just those big people who are here to make me happy.") but--as Soren has pointed out--he definitely knows who his brother is. It's so cute to hear him call out, "Sonin!' and have Soren answer, "What, Neeum?" and watch Liam pad off in the direction of his brother's voice. (Incidentally, Liam currently weighs just 2 pounds less than Soren.)

Today while Daddy walked the half block and back to pick up Soren from preschool, Liam (who, just for visualization's sake, was wearing nothing but a diaper) snuck into the kitchen, swiped a hunk of cheese, and took it to the front room, where he climbed up on the couch to savor his illicit treat in comfort. Then Daddy came home. Knowing he was in all kinds of forbidden territory, Liam tried to hide the cheese under his chubby little body where Daddy wouldn't see it.

Recently Soren bumped his head on a doorknob and was screaming loudly about the pain. Liam followed him around, repeating, "Sowwy. Sowwy. Sowwy." Finally Soren turned to Liam and solemnly said, "It wasn't you, Neeum. It was the doorknob."

If is not uncommon for the little Bubba to fall asleep while eating. He's such a Skousen.

He loves books, of course. Here he's reading Kevin Henkes' Birds.

Last month Liam randomly started having some foot/ankle pain in his right foot. We weren't ever sure what happened, but he stopped putting weight on it and crawled everywhere he wanted to go. It would get better, then worse, so it took us a while to take him to the doctor. The doctor sent us to a radiologist, who--while Liam screamed directly into my ear as though we were extracting his toenails without anesthesia--took an x-ray and sent it back to the doctor, who said, "Looks like he might have had a fracture that's healing. But it's hard to say. That might be how his foot always looks. But I don't think we need to do anything about it." A few days later Liam was walking on the foot like nothing had ever happened. Sigh. Another wasted co-pay.

Liam is a creature of comfort. You'll put him in bed and he'll nestle down under the covers, grinning with sparkly Disney eyes. He loves to snuggle under blankets, he loves to cuddle, he loves to be hugged and squeezed and kissed and adored. He is my little cuddlebucket of love and it totally blows my mind that the little pootums is going to be three next month. 'taint natural.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Soren: January 2012

I'm sure it's some sort of developmental phase, but Soren is constantly comparing things: size, height, strength, speed, age, toughness. He talks about it all the time. He can rank everyone in our family according to age or size, and does so frequently. The comparing also comes out in his story-telling. For example, last night Soren told me a lengthy story about a monster whose feet were the size of six houses and whose teeth were each as big as a skyscraper. The monster swalloed him and Liam whole but then pooped them out into a fragile toilet that didn't flush. Tonight he told me a story about a "minivan minivan minivan bus car" that was longer than a train and so tall you couldn't even see a monster truck semi truck from the windows. Soren's stories generally consist of lengthy wide-eyed, spittle-flecked descriptions of objects of incredible size ("Bigger than DADDY! Big enough to hold TRILLIONS of people, Mommy! Bigger than THIRTY SIX ELEPHANTS! Bigger than the WHOLE EARTH!" ) or speed ("Faster than a CHEETAH! Faster than WIGHTNING MCQUEEN! Faster than WIGHTNING!") These descriptions are generally repeated over and over, particularly if I don't give a sufficiently enthusiastic response the first five times. "Mommy! Mommy! Are you wistening? I said it was FASTER THAN WIGHTNING!"

Side note: Possibly the happiest moment of Soren's life occurred when we googled "biggest truck in the world" and he discovered that Monster Truck Semi-Trucks really DO exist.

My daddy was over for dinner one evening when Soren ran over and asked if I wanted to hear something. "Mommy! Do you want to hear blahblahblahblblbah?" What the something was, I didn't really understand, but I enthusiastically replied, "Sure, honey!" Soren then burst into an ear-splitting scream. I could literally feel the pressure on my ears. It was at that moment that my auditory memory processor flashed back to our prior exchange (imagine rewind sequence here) and I realized that he had said "Mommy! Do you want to hear the loudest scream in the world?"

The scream was painful, but look of utter consternation on my father's face was priceless.

(Unfortunately, Soren also utilizes the World's Loudest Scream when he's frustrated or angry or overtired or experiencing any form physical discomfort. At least one of these circumstances arises at least once daily; hence my inability to hear his request in the first place.)

Soren has lately become very interested in adding and subtracting numbers. We were sitting in sacrament meeting one Sunday when he randomly whispered to me, "Mommy, twelve and twelve make twenty-four." He'd figured that out from counting the numbers on the hymn board. One day he told me, "Mommy, Daddy has five more years than you. He's firty free and you're twenty eight. That's five years apart." And he can tell you how old Liam will be when Soren is any age up to twenty.

One evening Soren informed me that mice were poisonous.
"Ummm, no they're not," I said.
"Miss Misty says they are," he countered.
"Welllll," I said. "Sometimes if a mouse is sick its poop can make you sick. That's called Hantavirus. But mice all by themselves aren't poisonous."
"Or," added Daddy, looking up from his book, "Sometimes a mouse can have rabies, and then if it bites you it will make you sick. But mice aren't poisonous."
"But mice are poisonous," insisted Soren.
"No," I said.
"No," Daddy said.
"Wook," said Soren. "I know you beweeve they're not poisonous, but some people know that they are."

(This is a rhetorical technique he's been utilizing in other settings as well: "I know you fink that's true, Briar, but I know you're wrong.")

Soren's been exploring his relationship with Liam, trying on different perspectives to see how they fit. For a while he had it all figured that Liam was a naughty kid and he was the good boy. Liam would commit some minor indiscretion and Soren would be like, "That Liam. He is so naughty. Mommy, you're always mad at Liam, aren't you? It's a good thing I never do naughty things." (Just for the record, I think by the time Soren was Liam's age I had contemplated killing him TRILLIONS of times. I don't think I've considered killing Liam even once. Liam at two is the sweetest cakewalk in the world compared to the holiest of holy terrors that our two-year-old Soren was. Which isn't to say that Soren hasn't bloomed into an extremely sweet if somewhat emotionally volatile and loudly expressive five-year-old, nor is it to say that Liam is perfect. I'm just trying to point out that, while I may have lost double digits worth of IQ points through the sleep-deprivation torture of motherhood, the irony here wasn't lost on me.)

More recently, though, he's been trying out protector/protected roles for himself and his brother. Today the boys woke up from a nap and, instead of finding Daddy, they went into the kitchen where Soren microwaved them some hotdogs for a snack. Tonight he said, "Mommy, I would like to take care of Liam for four days while you and Daddy go somewhere nelse."

One Sunday morning I sat down on the couch and--exhausted-- burst into tears. Soren rubbed my back, got me a pillow and blanket, and had me lie down. While I was napping he very carefully decorated the house with his collection of silk flowers. (It looked like a hurricane had hit the Macy's Day Parade, but Abe, who watched the whole thing, said he was extremely careful about the placement of each flower.) When I woke up I felt much better. "I heawed you, Mommy," he said.

Soren loves his stuffed animals. Bucky (a stuffed rabbit left over from my own childhood) is his favorite. "Bucky is very special to me," Soren will say. Bucky is, according to Soren, six years old. But he's small, according to Soren, like a baby, so sometimes he gets carried around in a bucket baby carrier. Sometimes Bucky comes with us places in the car and has to be buckled in. Sometimes we have to make Bucky paper food. The other stuffed animals get in on the action too, though. Occasionally the stuffed animals will have birthdays and we'll have to have a party. Sometimes they attend a school that Soren teaches. Occasionally they sit around for hours and read a book together, as pictured below.

Soren, like his mommy, has a very active dream life. One night he woke up screaming and Abe went in to comfort him. "Daddy! I dreamed that Briar chopped mommy up into little pieces and I was trying to talk to the pieces but Briar put them in the crockpot and cooked her! Briar cooked Mommy! In the crockpot!" (He later climbed into bed with me ...I think just to make sure I was still alive.)

Here are some delightfully quotable things he's said recently:

"Mommy, I'm nicer than you."
"Oh yeah? What makes you say that?"
"Because you get food on your clothes like a baby without a bib. And I don't."

"Dear Hevnwyfather, Fankyoufrthsday. Fankyoufr Mommy and Daddy and Liam. Please help us to worship our bodies. And fank you for Jesus (that's you, Jesus)!"

"Briar, we're pretty much the same size, except that you have wonger arms and eat more candy."

"Mommy, I was just wying still and finking. And I was finking about how I will eat lots of healthy food and get a lot bigger than Koen so he can't push me anymore."

"Mommy, does Jesus live on a cloud in space?"

"There are three kinds of people: good guys, bad guys, and old people."

And what would a Soren update be without pictures of some of his latest creations?

A Christmas wreath. Materials and patience supplied by our friend Pam.

Snowman complex, complete with visiting Creepy Santa.

A Christmas hat, inspired by the book Christmas with the Mousekins.

A better angle.

A cottonball glitter snowman, made at my sister's house.

A "pillow puppet," also courtesy of Auntie Clee.

This is one of my favorites. It's an airplane.

He wrote and illustrated this book. It's bound with yarn.

And here are a couple of random snapshots:

Friday, January 13, 2012


I've been extremely busy over the past month, and whenever I had a few spare minutes they were usually devoted to reading The Good Earth or watching back episodes of House M.D.


I haven't forgotten about you, dear readers. And I have a million things I've been wanting to blog about.

For example:

-A tribute to my Grandpa Hanson, who passed away last month.
-My car wreck.
-Learning to play the organ.
-Updates on both the boys, who grow (impossibly!) more adorable each day
-Creepy Santa
-Fun stuff we did over the summer (yes, yes, I know that was a while ago, but I have a tendency to blog about the everyday stuff and forget to write about holidays and trips and things. This is weird and oppositey to most Mommy Blogs, but it's how I roll.)
-Family goal setting
-Review of progress on last year's New Year's goals/New New Year's goals
-Cute stuff I've done to the house
-My piano (MY piano!)

I've also been wanting to start a new regular column-type thing on my blog called "Love Stories," featuring the kind of stories that fill one with hope for humanity, joy at the power of love, and a belief in God's goodness.

And I've been contemplating doing a whiny post about how tired and stressed out I am.

So there's a sneak preview, folks. Pray that I will find a way through our brambled labyrinth of scattered toys and piled up dirty dishes to find my laptop and follow through with my blogging desires.


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