Saturday, March 24, 2018

Plight of the Mother

On Friday night, Sam and I had some one-on-one time while Annie was away playing with a friend.  I asked my son what he wanted to do, and he said he wanted to play pretend with me.  I was the doctor, and he was the dad.  He had two babies, Flowers and Forty-One.  I had a doctor kit filled with Legos.  I don’t often have time to sit and play with my kids like this, but I relish in these moments because children's play is a window into their minds, and I get to experience the world from their perspective.  Let me tell you, Daddy Sam was adorable.  He was so tender and loving to Flowers and Forty-One.  Both kids were very sickly and constantly throwing up, but when I (the doctor) tried to help take care of them, Daddy Sam would brush me away and say, “No.  I know how to take care of my sick babies.”  So, I sat on the couch and watched him nurture for the rest of the night, marveling at his perception of what I do day-in and day-out.  What I learned was Sam thinks being a parent is cleaning up a lot of puke and putting drops in all the facial orifices.  And, I mean, he’s not wrong.

This was a tough week for me.  That sweet, nurturing boy has been struggling with some health issues that doctors can’t seem to explain.  Sometimes it means staying up with him all night while he writhes in pain and begs me to make the hurting stop.  Sometimes it’s rubbing lotion all over his entire hive and blister-cover body.  Sometimes it’s cleaning up spontaneous vomit that arrives without other symptoms that might give a clue to the cause.   But this week, after two bad nights in a row, I decided to have Sam tested for allergies, hoping to find what was triggering these episodes.  In a bittersweet turn of events, he tested negative for everything.  It was a relief not to have to take away his favorite foods or drastically change his lifestyle, but it was also frustrating.  These results have left us in the dark, still scrambling for answers as we try to keep this boy healthy.

While these medical issues have been a part of my life as long as Sam has been in it, it felt insurmountably difficult this week because of that poignant moment watching my son clean up pretend vomit off the chin of his “baby.”  I feel incredibly helpless.  I have tried so many things to make Sam’s life more comfortable and had so little success that the constant maintenance of his health has become the cornerstone of Sam’s vision of adulthood.  To cope with my perceived ineptitude, I think I overcompensate by trying to help others.  I try to lift them when they are down, make them laugh, fill their bellies with delicious things, and flood them with hope and positivity.  I lay awake with racing thoughts of Who can I help?  Where can I volunteer?  How can I make someone’s world better?  But I love too deeply sometimes, and I take on other people’s impossible hurts only to realize that I am just as helpless curing their pain as I am curing my son.

Perhaps this is just the plight of the mother.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Please Hire Me

This may sound conceited, but I have a list of jobs I think I could do pretty well.  I bump into scenarios at the grocery store, or the bank, or see things on a show that wakes something inside me—something suppressed by being a stay-at-home mom for the better part of a decade.  And this thing, this astonishingly egocentric thought screams out for validation by declaring myself more capable and superior at a task than a person who has perhaps dropped thousands of dollars and spent years studying the very skill.  Okay, so this sounds extremely conceited.

In my arrogance, I refuse to believe I am the only person with this kind of ego.  Does no one else watch a Hallmark Christmas movie and think, I could do this.  Someone hire me!  Here, I shall write one for you in less than five minutes to prove my point.

Pan into a quaint little town where an unusually pretty shopkeeper sells specialty merchandise or services to a town that loves her questionably too much.  Cut to a conversation with quirky friend/coworker where it is revealed that the shop used to belong to a deceased parent.  Zoom in on shopkeeper’s face as she opens the mail and finds that her failing company is once again behind on mortgage payments and will be evicted on Christmas Eve.  Cue seemingly duchy city-slicker, with impeccably tailored jawline, who is also down on his luck, and reluctantly decides to visit his high school stomping grounds.  He bumps into the shopkeeper and basically annoys her during the most stressful moment of her life while she unexplainably overcomes baggage from a previous relationship and falls for the city-slicker, probably because of a reluctant, but well-timed kiss under the mistletoe.  Together they find a way to save the store, but not before having a huge misunderstanding when she sees him hug his cousin, but instead of saying, “Hey you two. What’s going on here?  You his sister or something?”  She storms away and spends twenty minutes of the movie refusing to explain to him why she’s upset because no one knows how to communicate in these Hallmark movies.  The end.  Someone, please hire me.  I will make you all the moneys.

Another job I feel confident I could do quite well is voice work for children’s shows.  I, too, can over-enthusiastically sound surprised when the mail arrives an hour late or when I need a circle to complete the toy car that will rush to the park where the mayor will honor the only person capable of saving the town: a five-year-old.  I can also make a litany of grunting noises should a fight scene be included in the script.  Just thought I slid that one in there.

Sometimes I stroll through the greeting card section at Dollar Tree and look through the dramatic stock photos beautifully framed with some vague, cheesy message, and I think, I could do that.  I have an English degree, after all.  If I can’t BS some generic greeting card prose, then I should just return my diploma.

Exibit A

Exibit B

Exibit C

A couple of months ago, I was at a junior high play where a young teen apologetically handed me the most hideous program I’ve ever seen.  The words were crooked on the page, all in a basic serif font, and the inside of the program was upside down.  I don’t even want to talk about the misspelled cast names.  No need to verbally murder the woman who threw that thing together.  When my husband saw it, he turned to me and whispered, “They should have asked you to create this program.”  Well, I don’t want to brag, but I do have a little publishing experience I gleaned at the feet of my uber talented mother.  I chuckled and imagined how I would improve the layout and overall look of the horribly folded piece of paper.  Basically, my husband is an enabler.

I know that I am over-simplifying many of these professions, but for the moment, leave me to my dreams.  Allow me the luxury of self-aggrandizing validation whilst I while away my lonely days at home.  And let me know if you have ever come across something and thought, Someone is getting paid for this?  I need to get in on this action.  Hire me!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Halloween: A Day When Moana and Bob Ross Coexsist

In my household growing up, Halloween was not a beloved holiday.  My mother often begged and bribed us not to go trick-or-treating.  She told us she'd buy us a bag of whatever candy we wanted if we would just skip the ritualistic neighborhood scavenge for sweets.  Each year we declined her offer, so each year she reluctantly made our costumes out of sweats or borrowed them from friends and family.  I rarely got to choose what fantasy to live out on All Hallows Eve, so when my children reached trick-or-treating age, I swore I'd let them pick their costumes (within reason) and do my best to make their dreams come true.  This has led to some interesting costumes.

 Exhibit A: Bob Ross
Last winter, Sam discovered Bob Ross on Netflix.  Always the art aficionado, he was immediately mesmerized by the soft-spoken man.  Every morning, he would beg me to pull out his watercolors, and he would lay on floor and paint with Bob Ross.  When he had the flu, he laid on the couch and watched Bob Ross for hours, falling asleep to the gentle scratching of his a paintbrush on a canvas and waking up if I dared turn off the show.  It was during this time that he overheard Annie and I planning her Poppy costume, and he requested to be Bob Ross.

Though Annie changed her mind several times before Halloween, Sam never faulted in his desire to be Bob Ross.  So, I procured a Bob Ross wig from a Halloween store, bought a large paintbrush from dollar tree, and purchased a paint pallet from Wal-Mart for five dollars.  Using puff paint I already owned, I added paint globs that looked glossy and wet, even when they were dry.  To complete the ensemble, I drew on a beard and some eyebrows, and dressed him up in a pair of jeans and a partially unbuttoned collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up.  Keeping the shirt tucked in on that wiggle worm was a challenge, as was keeping his hands away from his "beard," but I suppose it was worth it because he absolutely LOVED his costume.

He won the costume contest at our church party, and strangers stopped us and asked for his picture everywhere we went.  I guess it's pretty rare to see a  happy little four-year-old Bob Ross super fan.

Exhibit B: Albino Moana
I will be honest, I was hoping Annie would stick with Poppy as her costume of choice because I knew about the controversy that surrounded Moana costumes last year.  There are some who believe that unless you are of Polynesian decent, you shouldn't dress up as Moana.  I respect that opinion, and they are welcome to enforce it on their own children, but that doesn't mean it directs my life. I have worked hard not to point out race to my children. Annie attends a diverse school with people that are different colors and religions, but she doesn't care. She sees people with blonde hair and brown hair. Different skin tones are seen in the same way, as diverse physical characteristics. I don't want her to be afraid of celebrating the things that make us all unique. I want her to love and appreciate other cultures and beliefs so she is not bound by the prejudice of her ancestors. I want others to do the same. I love seeing girls with deeper skin tones dressed as Elsa or Belle. If we ever want to get past the racial divide, then we need to stop reinforcing it with hypersensitivity.  Lest I be misunderstood, I don't think we should darken skin for a costume.  Children should be educated about a culture and taught to respect it and celebrate it, not mock it.

With that said, I thought Annie made a pretty adorable Moana.  

The dress and necklace came from a Halloween store.  I added the sleeves using a white knit fabric that I dyed to *almost* match Annie's skin tone.  This helped hold her dress up and keep her a little more warm and modest.

Keeping with tradition, my aunt and I made the wig.  My aunt crocheted a tightly fitting black beanie, and then I looped in this yarn (which looks like wavy hair) using this technique:
 And then I hand stitched the top hairs back so they would lay more like Moana's unparted hair.

I darkened her eyebrows a bit so she wouldn't look so washed out.  My poor kids and their blond eyebrows.  On Halloween morning as I helped Annie into her costume, she said to me, "Mommy, you would make a good Moana because your eyebrows are so black and bushy."  Later that day, Sam told me I had Bob Ross eyebrows.  Gee, thanks, kids.

Annie loved her costume.  She even gave me a "Moana dance of joy."

These two were quite the not-so-spooky pair, but they were a happy pair, and that made all of the Halloween chaos worth it.

For previous Halloween costumes, click here or here or here.

Saturday, October 14, 2017


I just had the most frustrating morning.

It all began two weeks ago.  At the beginning of September, volleyball season started for the Young Women in my ward.  Since I am in the presidency, I made it point to be at the games to cheer on my girls.  At some point, someone asked who I was and added me to a stake sports Facebook page.  Fantastic.  More reminders for me; that’s never a bad thing.  Well, a couple of weeks ago, someone posted that we had been invited to play with another stake Saturday morning at 8 AM.  I announced it to the girls, encouraged them to come, and got up early to cheer them on.  There is no limit to the sacrifices I make for my young women.

This morning, with wet hair, skinny jeans, and some nude flats, I slipped out of the house while my husband snoozed upstairs and my children helped themselves to some cartoons.  When I arrived at the building, I pulled into an empty parking lot, and surrounded by the company of fallen leaves, I questioned my existence.  Who am I?  Why am I here?  Where am I going?  After waiting for a couple of minutes, another car pulled in, and then another.  Strangely, none of these vehicles brought forth young women.  Perhaps this stake underestimated the lure of a good Saturday sleep-in.  I walked in the church with the other leaders, recognizing a few from my stake, and waited anxiously.  Not a single girl showed up, but after the net was set up, the leaders began to take their spots. Wait? Are we playing?  I thought.  I glanced around, this time noticing a disturbing trend.  All of these women were wearing workout clothes and sneakers with their hair pulled back in high ponytails.  I stealthily asked if the Young Women were invited to this event, only to be answered with a resounding “No” from all parties. 

My panic escalated.  Here I had been promoting a game that required waking up early on the weekend that the young women were not actually sanctioned to play in. I imagined the annoyed looks on their faces guaranteed to follow this news.  My prayers that one of them would show up quickly turned to prayers that they would not.  Whilst I stood silently praying and panicking, one of the ladies from my stake pulled me in to play the game.

Listen, I am not an athlete.  I’m confident enough to admit it.  I wear glasses which are ball magnets.  I’m short and chubby which means slow and useless in volleyball.  Heck, I’m the girl who answers “read-a-thon” when I’m asked for my favorite sport.  And here I have found myself front and center in a volleyball game against grown women who practice weekly, three of which were behemoth, towering over my 5’3” frame at six feet tall, and they actually knew how to do that bump-set-spike nonsense you see in Olympic games.  Not good.

For an hour and a half, I slid around the gym in my slippery flats, ducking, rolling, screeching, and flailing every time the ball winked at my vicinity.  My teammates began to gather around me so they could compensate for my obvious ineptitude.  They spoke to me with kind, pity-filled reassurances, but deep down. . . deep down I knew they were secretly wishing a foul serve would knock me unconscious so they could drag me to the side and stand a chance at winning the game.

After rearranging the teams and somehow managing always to be on the losing one, we concluded for the day, and the saintly giraffes invited me to come play more often.  Perhaps experience would help me be more confident in my abilities (or lack thereof).  I smiled, said “absolutely” whilst subconsciously shaking my head no, and then slipped out to my car, secretly vowing to never again play this dreadful sport.

I drove down to Sandy to donate blood and then stopped by Wal-Mart to buy groceries.  My arms were red, black, and blue from the beating they endured, but I bravely pushed the cart onward.  My tired feet and nude flats slipped around the store, pausing momentarily to admire a purple pair of exercise capris and some blue tennis shoes.  I don’t know, maybe I’ll try volleyball one more time. . . 

Friday, August 25, 2017

August Update/Ramble

If you saw me right now, you would see that I'm wearing the same blue yoga pants and long-sleeved red shirt that I've been wearing for 3 days. I know that wearing other outfits means more laundry and, frankly, that's more than I want to do right now. If you looked around my house, you would see that it's a little messy but probably cleaner than it's been all summer. There are little piles here and there that need to be moved to a different room but the floors are swept, and the toilets are clean. So there's that. My lawn is mowed and covered in grass clippings because it was too long for my bagging attachment, lest I have to empty the bag every six feet. I read somewhere that the clippings are actually good for the lawn, so really my laziness it's just a gift to my grass. My counters are riddled with tomatoes. Some big and some small. The small ones are from my garden, which has produced just as poorly this year as it did the last. The large heirloom tomatoes are from a friend, whose green thumb matches the color of my envy. Every morning, I eat a piece of toast with fresh tomato on it. Fresh tomatoes and summer are somehow synonymous in my eyes. That and black bean corn salsa, which I shall be dining on this evening.

Girls camp is over. I've had a few of weeks to recover. When Girls Camp ends, I'm always left with an empty feeling. I love the process of working, shopping, crafting, and praying that goes into planning an outdoor excursion with a group of young women, and I truly have the BEST young women in the world. Together, we climbed mountains while peals of laughter rang out over the vast sky. Eyes were opened, physically and spiritually, to the wonders of God's creations. Friendships were strengthened. Then, after a morning of cleaning and goodbyes, we were thrust back into the valley of reality. And my reality was a messy house, stinky children, and a buttload of laundry.

Annie went back to school on Monday, and I'm excited to have some semblance of a routine in my life again. The hot summer zapped all of my energy, and it was not uncommon to find me laying on the couch sweating and complaining. I wish I did a better job of tapping into my pioneer ancestry and enduring the heat whilst counting my many blessings. Alas, I shall have to try again next summer. Although, I'm hoping I can talk Paul into investing in air conditioning by then.  My body longs for autumn. It craves brisk air and jacket weather. But my stomach dreads the squash soups. I have met very few savory pumpkin dishes I enjoyed, yet everyone seems to want to serve them come October. Memo to me: avoid social gatherings in October.

On August 16th, my baby brother entered the MTC to prepare for a mission in Japan. In the last year, we've formed a great friendship that, previously, our ten-year age gap prevented. I miss him texting me at ten o'clock at night asking me to edit his papers. I miss our philosophical conversations and playing Monopoly.  I think of everyone in the family, his absence at home has impacted me the least because I have not lived with him for over eight years, and because I'm a writer at heart, I genuinely enjoy our email correspondence. But he always gave the best hugs, and I could really use one of those right now.  It's been a long and lonely week.

After a lovely break from college, I have recently applied for a master's program in teaching and am anxiously awaiting an acceptance letter (hopefully). If all goes well, I will be starting my master's program on October 1st. Last Sunday, I confessed to Paul that I was beyond nervous for graduate studies. I have made a lofty goal of completing a year and a half worth of classes in 11 months, and I don't actually know if I am smart enough to accomplish such a task. Some days I feel like I am not very bright at all but a fantastic pretender, and it's only a matter of time before I am exposed. Paul said he knew the feeling but assured me that I was smart and said I'd probably finish all of my classes in 10 months. His faith in me is annoying. In the best possible way.

I can't wait for September to begin. August has always been my least favorite month, and I'm ready to embrace pumpkin spice everything. Farewell, Summer!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Summer madness

Back in May, I turned to Paul and said, "This is going to be the craziest summer I've ever had."  And I meant that too.  Yes, sometimes I'm prone to hyperbolic speeches, but this time, I literally (not in the ironic way teens use this word) meant that my ritual of boring summers was about to come to an abrupt end.

First, the Hatchett's were having a big reunion.  Dozens of relatives were flying and driving in from across the country, and I was part of the planning committee.  Additionally, I was hosting one of my out-of-town cousins and her little family.  Each day was chalked full of activities and adventures, and while it was a dream come true to use my guest room and a pleasure to socialize with relatives, it was exhausting for both families.  Human bodies are apparently not geared for so much excitement.  I had to skip out on a couple of adventures just so I could carve out time to clean and keep my son on his sleeping schedule to reduce night terrors.  During that week, I also celebrated my 28th birthday, which was less traumatic than turning 27, so no complaints.

After my guests flew home, we celebrated Father's Day, Sam's birthday, and I had two weeks to prep for a cross-country drive back to the land of my forefathers: Southern Illinois.  (#Exotic)  Three years ago, this trip was riddled with vomiting, fevers, a seizure, an ambulance ride, emergency room visit, hand-foot-and-mouth disease, rashes, explosive diarrhea in the car, night terrors, sleeplessness, rain, and ended much like it started, with more vomiting.  You can imagine my reservations when my grandmother invited us to a reunion with the Walker family this summer.  See, I was sorta hoping that in the last three years I would have struck oil in my yard or rescued a millionaire's cat from a tree and received a large reward that would pay for plane tickets for my future ventures to the midwest.  Alas. Driving was still our only budget-friendly form of transportation, so I spent two weeks planning, shopping, cleaning, and preparing mentally to hurl myself across the country in a metal prison with screaming inmates.

Surprisingly, the trip went off without a hitch.  There was no vomiting, fevers, seizures, ambulance rides, emergency room visits, hand-foot-and-mouth disease, rashes, explosive diarrhea in the car, night terrors, or sleeplessness.  Instead, there were lightning bugs, ukulele sing-alongs, hot country breakfasts, long naps, ice cream cones, bouncy houses, splash pools, fireworks, Kansas City BBQ, St. Louis Science Center, porch swings, long talks with my grandma, trips down memory lane, family history, and rain when we had nowhere to be but indoors.

We drove home last weekend, and now I am in full camp-director mode because Girls Camp is in just two weeks.  Bring.  It.  On.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Case of the Stolen Bracelet

It was Friday evening, about seven o'clock, when I spotted the bracelet.  I recognized the magenta beads strung together by elastic, for I had seen it that morning at the Dollar Tree.  The problem was, we were not at the Dollar Tree.  We were at Home Depot, and the bracelet was not on a display, but my daughter's wrist.  It appeared as though I had a thief in my midst.  I waited until we reached the parking lot to confront the little criminal.  The best way to coax a confession is to act as casually as possible.

I leaned over the shopping cart. "So, where'd you get that bracelet?" I asked casually.  Annie looked down at her wrist with hesitation so slight, only the most experienced crime-fighting mother could detect it.  When she did not answer, I pressed a little further. "Is that the bracelet you showed me at the Dollar Tree?"  Annie's little lip began to tremble.  "The one I asked you to put back," I reminded.  She hung her head as tears welled in her eyes. "Did you steal it?" I whispered.  Annie tore the bracelet from her wrist and tried to shove it in my hands as if it were made of poison ivy instead of plastic.

"Take it!" She cried.  "I don't want it anymore!"  I insisted she wore it during the drive across the street to the Dollar Tree and told her she needed to give it a cashier and confess what she had done.  Annie held her arm away from her as she wailed and sobbed.  I asked her if she stole it on purpose or if she forgot it was on her wrist.  She insisted she forgot, and as I analyzed the evidence (i.e. her long sleeves which prevented her from feeling the beads sliding up and down her arm), I determined she was telling the truth. So, when we pulled up to the store, I turned around and handed her a dollar.  "How about we go pay for that bracelet?"

She was afraid to walk into the store, convinced the approaching sirens were the police coming to take her to jail.  We waited 'til the ambulance passed so she could feel secure enough to go inside without having a meltdown.  Bravely, she stepped up to the register and handed the cashier the bracelet and the dollar.  I watched the fear and anxiety in her eyes melt away as the bracelet was handed back, this time, paid for and authentically hers.  She slipped it onto her wrist and held it close to her heart.

Back in the car, we talked about how yucky it feels to do the wrong thing and how much better we feel when we repent and make things right.  Annie nodded vigorously while admiring her magenta reminder.  There are so many times in a day when I feel like an inadequate mother. Sometimes I yell when I shouldn't, put my kids in front of the TV too often, feed them treats while the healthy bananas turn brown, and live in my head instead of in the moment.  But as Annie smiled at that bracelet, I did too, because I think I may have just done something right.