Sunday, December 30, 2012


It has been snowing for days.  People are complaining on facebook and at the FedEx store.  But I love it.  The past few winters brought but a little snow and most of the cold months were dry and bitter and brown.  Being outside was depressing; being inside was more so.

This year is different.  White blankets of dusty flakes have descended from the heavens and muffled the typical noise of bustling human life. The cold is wet, energizing, and romantic. The sky is bright and reflective.  Between the glittering crystals covering the ground and the heavy clouds hiding the stars, there is a pool of light that remains illuminated even after the sun has gone down.  When I venture into this world so reminiscent of fairytale lands, Andrea often follows shuffling behind me in her purple boots.  She stops intermittently to search for the source of the snow but struggles to keep her eyes open as winter tickles and kisses her rosy cheeks.  I catch myself staring at her curiosity and unapologetic passion for this white world I brought her into two years ago.

The snow has brought back all of the energy this semester/trimester have drained from me.  I feel like sewing, baking, singing, shoveling, and drinking warm things.  I love bundling in layers of shirts, scarves, wool socks, coats, hats, and gloves so I can enjoy the beauty around me in a cocoon of warmth.  I don't mind the puddles by the front door from wet boots and dripping coats.  When she doesn't protest, I even enjoy dressing Andrea is her sweet Elmo coat and trying to get only one digit into the thumb of her mittens.

How I'll miss the white roads and frosted trees with the sun once again warms the earth to reveal dead grass and empty branches.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The onion

I stared at the onion for a good minute before I sunk the knife deep into the white flesh.  The smell drifted past my nose and settled into my tear ducts.  As I sniffed, I sliced another set of rings, then another, and another, until the onion was in bite-sized pieces.  I slipped the vegetable into my iron skillet to cook while Andrea inquired as to what I was fixing her for lunch.  "Do you want some onions?"  I asked.  She looked at me blankly and then begged for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

After situating her with her a "sammy," I returned to my sweet, sweet onion.  The once burning smell transformed into a nutty, caramely fragrance that sent my senses into overdrive.  I singed the tips of my fingers sneaking bites from the pan.  When the onion was finally done cooking I ate the rest right out of the pan too.  With peanut butter covering the right side of her face, Andrea returned to the kitchen to see what mommy was eating and why I hadn't begged her to try any.  She told me she was very hungry still so I told her to finish her sandwich.  "No!"  She yelled.  "Annie eat onions!"

I slipped an onion into what appeared to be her hand (it was hard to tell beneath all of the pb&j), and she shoved it into her mouth.  Her eyes scrunched uncomfortably as her tongue tried to make sense of the slimy wedge.  She yummed, turned her back to me, and promptly spit the half-masticated onion into her palm.  "All done," she told me as she handed me the contents of that peanut-buttery hand.  I chuckled the first time. The third time I wondered why I kept casing my onion pearls before, well, Andrea.

After consuming most of the onion (my sister showed up and finished it off for me, onion sisters unite!) I was too full to eat anything else, so I had a tall drink of water and went in search of Miss Peanut Butter Hands to see what extra thing I'd been cleaning before noon.

Once she (and her play beads) were whipped down, and Andrea was put down for a nap, I sat in my bedroom wondering how I would explain to Paul that I ate an onion for lunch, especially since there was leek soup in the fridge from the night before.  When he sauntered through the front door around seven o'clock, I presented him with a cheese quesadilla and a bowl of black bean and onion soup.  I hoped the soup would mask the smell of my lunchtime indulgence.  I had eaten with Andrea thirty minutes before but the aroma of onion wafting from Paul's bowl was beginning to overwhelm me.  I reached over and stuck a finger in his soup.  I could tell by the baffled look on his face that I had to come clean.

After my confession Paul gave me half-smile.  "You didn't eat it raw, did you?"

"No, it was cooked." I replied.

"Well, then it sounds like a good lunch."  And with that he scooted his bowl away from me.

Strangest pregnancy craving ever.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Unsung hero of the semester

This semester was pretty crazy for me.  So crazy I'm in shock that it's over and I'm still alive.  Not only did I get called to be first counselor in the Primary Presidency in my ward a week before school started, but, due to some unexplainable bouts of nausea, I discovered I was pregnant just before midterms.  On top of that, Andrea managed to get sick every other week or so for a month, making studying and sleeping difficult.  Had it not been for some divine intervention I don't think I would have survived.  Divine intervention and Paul.

He is the unsung hero of this semester.  Before my first day of class in August, I told him that I would need help around the house and with Andrea if I was to go to school, be a housewife, mother, and fulfill my calling.  He nodded calmly, and I worried he overestimated my abilities and would therefore under-perform where I needed the most compensation.  So, when I came home from Philosophy class to find the living room tidied, the dishwasher loaded, and Andrea sleeping in her bed, I was pleasantly surprised at the service he rendered that night.  As the month wore on, the kitchen got messier, the house got more cluttered, and Andrea wasn't always in bed when I got home, but he kept trying to at least take the edge off some of my household duties.

Then October hit like a Mack truck.  First, Paul became sick.  Then Andrea.  Then me.  Except I seemed to be experiencing some rather different symptoms that weren't going away with rest and time.  On the twentieth of October I told Paul I thought I was pregnant.  Five minutes later, a positive sign proved it.  We anxiously kissed each other and said a prayer asking Heavenly Father (if it was His will) to let us keep this one.  Detailed miscarriage dreams seemed to occur almost weekly, and there were several mornings I ran to the bathroom expecting to see blood.  Sometimes I would wake in tears and lay in bed shaking as Paul held and reassured me that all was well.

After going through the miscarriage, Paul and I wanted to wait until we were out of the first trimester to make any announcements.  The last thing I wanted was a "we're pregnant" facebook announcement only to be followed by a "just kidding" a week later.  However, I was feeling pretty horrible-- so much sicker than I had been with Andrea.  I had to eat hourly to keep from puking (most of the time it worked), but even that could not alleviate the constant nauseous feeling in the back of my throat. Andrea did not understand why mommy was always laying down or hunched over a bowl.  She would poke my face and beg me to get up.  When Paul was home he did his best to distract her.  He'd take her over to her grandparent's house so I could finally rest.  He'd distract her with food, toys, Dora. . . so much Dora, or even his cell phone if he was desperate.

When I  fell behind on my school work because I was too sick in the evening to comprehend opening a text book, Paul would spend his entire Saturday reading an exorbitant amount of board books and playing dress-up, the chasing game, blocks, and coloring so I could slip away in the wee hours of the morn to write papers on Islam and vaccines until evening.

When I couldn't cook, Paul bore the burden of starvation quietly.  One week passed that he ate three meals at his parent's house and survived on crackers at home.  When I realized I was no longer compatible with the smell of food and the look of food and feel of food and, heck, even the thought of food, we packed up and drove to Costco to buy provisions for the rest of the family.  Paul spent the next three weeks eating frozen waffles and Jimmy Dean sandwiches which, I guess, was a step up from crackers.  His coworkers pitied his lack of lunches (that I so lovingly use to pack from leftover homemade goodies) and donated food (a.k.a. granola bars) for his starving belly.  Slowly, but surely, some of my nausea began to subside, and I was able to start cooking again (mostly just soup).  Paul's ribcage and third-world stomach are finally becoming less noticeable.  He still does not complain.

I admit, I've told Paul he was lucky to be a boy.  And one morning while shaking and holding back the urge to vomit I even told him he had it easy.  But he didn't really.  He has been more helpful this pregnancy than he was with Andrea's; he had to do more and give up more.  And I am so so so so grateful.  Thanks for diving in the trenches with me, Paul!

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Before Andrea was born, I was working 30 hours a week, going to school full-time, and anxiously busy at perfecting my homemaking skills.  Four weeks before my due date I quit my job.  Five days after her birth I wrapped up my finals, and when she was just a week old I discovered I had no energy for homemaking.  I was a full-time, milk-making machine.

Because the birth of my daughter marked a dramatic time of change in my life, I struggled to redefine myself.  I was a mom, I suppose, but the gift of taking care of Andrea didn't feel very natural to me.  Hours of second guessing and worry sometimes overshadowed any instincts that could have sprouted through, and I wondered if I was normal.  However, the more time I spent with that sweet little girl, the more comfortable I became, and I stopped caring about that quest to find the real me, and focused on the me Andrea required: I was a nurser.

When Andrea was a year old she stopped nursing, and I was flung into midlife-crisis mode all over again.  That thing with which I'd come to identify myself with for 366 days was gone, and I could no longer hide behind it's title to define who I was.  Once again, I found myself alone in the shower or walking the aisles of the grocery store wondering how to respond to the question: "Who are you?"  After months of pontificating and soul-searching, the conclusion I came to was: It doesn't matter.  Did I need a label to be happy?  Couldn't being myself just be enough?

The problem with my conclusion was I so rarely felt like myself.  When I wasn't being Paul's wife, I was being Andrea's mother.  When I wasn't mothering, I was someone's daughter, or sister, or friend.  And I loved being those things!  But I didn't know how to be alone, and be myself.

A couple months ago I pulled out my old clarinet, the instrument that saved my adolescent years from too much heartache and stagnation, and I carefully polished and assembled it's plastic shafts.  I slipped the mouthpiece between my lips, closed my eyes, and blew a long, vibrating note.  My fingertips tingled with desire for more.  I blew out a memorized hymn, full of crescendos and accents.  The familiarity of the keys, my ambresure, and scales began to slowly manifest themselves in the muscles that controlled them for so long.  I pulled out my old music bag and felt my heart break to find all of my books damaged and moldy from a hidden leak deep in the back of Andrea's closet.  After shuffling through the deformed paper, my eyes caught hold of one book that was still useable.  Christmas carols.  I played through two or three before my lack of stamina got the better of me.  With sore cheeks and a raw thumb, I swabbed the instrument and put it away.  Feeling so fresh and full of joy, I slipped that old clarinet into my room to be played another day.  And I have been playing.

You see, when that triangular mouthpiece is beneath my teeth and those silver keys tickle my fingers. . . . I feel the most like me.