Saturday, December 13, 2014

Commission

Sometimes it's so hard to write. Why do you think that is? One moment I can hear angels singing sonnets and syntax and the next there is silence. I type, I write, and I brainstorm, but you can't force genius. It makes me wonder if Picasso painted his Guernica because he was trying to stay in the painting habit. I seriously doubt it. Then again, some of the most famous works of art were commissioned work like the Sistine Chapel ceiling, which proves it can be done. When I consider that I just have to wonder what is wrong with me. Why can't I be that way? You see, I have a serious problem.

I CANNOT WRITE MY CHRISTMAS CARD/LETTER.

I have tried and rejected three drafts already. The latest attempt featured a poem about Santa using our toilet. I wish I was kidding.

Last January I blogged about being nervous for a boring year, and while the year wasn't boring per say, it was a difficult year for me, so writing a perky piece of tra la la seems a little fake. Yet, recounting the car crashes and emergency room visits throws me into a deep Debby Downer funk that I'm working so hard to positively think my way out of. So I sit at my computer thinking about my beautiful house with no linen closet and wonder how I can make the many adventures we had under this roof interesting to my dear family and friends. I must seek the inspiration Gods for enlightenment.

To do this, I ritualistically remove my pants and drape them on the back of the computer chair. I find inspiration often travels up through my feet, and jeans can sometimes restrict the flow. However, this part of my process leaves me with freezing legs so I must find a blanket to burrow in. Many a neighbor has come to my door to find me in this vulnerable condition, and it never ceases to be mortifying.

Anyway, now perfectly prepped for what I hope is a literary Guernica to distribute as a Christmas letter, I have repeatedly touched the tips of my fingers to the keyboard only to greet the sound of silence like a Simon and Garfunkel nightmare. Come on, Inspiration Gods! I trusted you!

In case you're wondering, this is when I try to force something, anything, that sounds remotely intelligent to transfer onto paper. But forcing myself to write rarely ends successfully. Just last night after an grueling hour of pecking and backspaces I read over that terrible poem about Santa using my bathroom and rubbed my head as I tried to think of a word that rhymed with crapper. Wiped with a wrapper? Kids sat on his lap, er? Couldn't be happier? No matter. At that point I realize it's time to scrap idea number three and step away from the computer until evening when I can again remove my pants and start the process over.

Here I am, sans pants, buried in a blanket, and writing something other than a Christmas card. So, if you have any spare time on your hands, have a moment of silence for the death of my creative abilities. I worry it's gone forever, or at least until after Christmas when it's no longer desperately needed. And if you get bored, feel free to write a card for me. Consider this a commission. Good luck with that.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Why I want to be a teacher

I could hear the excitement in my mother's voice as she told me about a conversation she'd had with the high school band teacher.  "If you go in and play for him, he'll put you in the top band!"  I laughed at the hope in her eyes.  I was never going back to a band room.  Painful memories of junior high mockery flooded my vision with HIS face. So often invisible, he looked past me everyday.  The girl in the second row.  But it was better than when he did see me.  On the occasion that he was forced to acknowledge this chubby student he degraded me, stifling my desire for growth with the disgust behind his icy blue eyes. He weaved my inadequacies into the pads of my instrument and infused the metal keys with a thousand reflections of my ugliness.  No. I would never open the Pandora's box that was my clarinet case lest I unleash a myriad of memories I buried the last day of 9th grade.

Then my mom clarified that I didn't really have a choice.

I can't imagine what thoughts raced through this new teacher's mind as I entered his office. Palms sweaty, clutching the plastic shaft of the old clarinet, and tears welling up in my eyes, I licked the chipped reed and sank my teeth into the mouthpiece. He asked me to play a scale. Dissonant notes swelled in the air as my fingers stumbled over the keys. Do. Re. Me. So, no it's fa. Fa! So. Ti flat. . . ahh! La. La. Ti. Doooooo. He smiled sympathetically and I painfully plunked out another out-of-tune scale.  He handed me a piece to sight read.  It had been over a year since I'd looked at any sheet music and my brain no longer connected my fingers to the little black dots and stripes on the page, not that they ever did very well anyway.  Tears ran down my face and dripped on my t-shirt as I guessed and questioned and squeaked my way through the unrecognizable song.  Some audition. He gave me a hesitant but warm smile and said he'd see me in class.

You've got to be kidding me, I thought.

I barely made it though my first day in Symphonic band.  Warm ups began with the twelve major scales. I only knew seven, so I fumbled and fingered my way through the last five, letting out a gigantic sigh of relief when it was over. The teacher raised his hands again and called out, "Now minors!"  I watched in horror as my classmates played through their twelve minor scales without hesitation. How was I going to play any of the music in this band when I couldn't even play the warm-ups?  Sure enough, he handed out the pep band music which might has well have been Arabian scripture for all I knew. The next class period was chair auditions. I knew I would be last chair.  I knew it more than I knew the sun would rise or that my mom would serve soup on Thursdays, but it stung as the peers I only barely knew watched me take my rightful seat next to the bassoon.

Everyday in that class was  a painful reminder that my junior high instructor was right about me. I had no potential, no skill, and that last place I deserved to be was a top band.

At least, that's what I thought for a little while.

My new band teacher recommended a clarinet teacher he knew from college who was wonderfully patient and could help me catch up.  In her living room I had to relearn most basic of techniques. Reed care, embouchure, fingerings, and scales; I was discovering my instrument for the first time and realizing just how little I'd been taught as I'd sat under the nose of that junior high teacher for three years, unworthy of his tutelage and wisdom.

At the end of the first semester we re-auditioned for chairs and I moved up a seat.  It was a small accomplishment but enough to motivate a little extra effort on my part.  I practiced just a little longer every day.  I tried to sight-read songs, memorize those dang minor scales, and work on intonation so I wasn't always so sharp. When the school year ended I felt sad at the coming summer.  I would miss all the musical friends I'd made and the encouraging nods from my conductor.

Over the summer I practiced.  This may seem like a trivial fact, but it was monumental to me.  My mother wasn't forcing me.  My teachers were grading me on it. I just wanted to be better. When my senior year began we had chair auditions and I was not the last or second to last chair.  I was fourth.  Out of eight. I was average at last.  I celebrated with my clarinet teacher.  My mother cheered when she heard the news.  I wrote about it in my journal. Yet, there was still that little part of me that wondered if it was some sort of fluke.  The clarinetist in the chair just below me had been second chair the year before.  Surely, I didn't play better than her.  She must not have thought so either, because a couple of weeks into the semester she challenged my chair.

I went home and cried.  How could this girl take this accomplishment away from me when I'd worked so unbelievable hard to get it?  I cried to my clarinet teacher.  I bawled at my mom.  When my dad walked through the door I collapsed in despair. My father tenderly, yet firmly scolded me for my behavior.  In my shock I stopped crying and starred at him in disbelief.  He told me if I sat around whining I would lose my chair.  I remember the creases around his hazel eyes as he said, "Get to work."

That week I spent every waking moment glued to my clarinet.  I followed me to dinner, sang out during the commercial breaks, and accompanied me to the bathroom. Good acoustic, you know.  And on the day of the challenge I stood in the office of my band teacher shaking, with memorized music in hand.  He smiled at me and asked me if I was ready.  I could see in his slightly mischievous grin that he not only was confident in my quaking hands, but he was routing for me.  I breathed out slowly and raised my instrument to my lips and listened to my song soar over my head as if it came from another clarinet in the room.  Fast and high, it fluttered about until the final note settled in my chest.  My teacher's eyes were ablaze with excitement.  He handed me the sight-reading piece selected by my opponent and I played through it slowly and carefully.  He opened the door of his office and invited me back into the classroom.  I sat down and avoided eye-contact with everyone as I awaited the verdict.

I heard the teacher step onto his squeaky platform.  "Both of these ladies are talented musicians, but--" Here it comes, I thought.  The end of my two week run of average.  I said a silent good bye to my seat and looked up.  "But I've decided to leave the chairs as they are." I started to tear up, the fifth chair avoided my gaze, and that inspired teacher nodded to me as if to confirm his choice.  I sat up a little taller and practiced a little harder.

Christmas break rolled around.  Everyday I sat in front of the piano and played Christmas songs on the old clarinet.  I could feel the pain of junior high being stripped away as a new-found confidence set in.  The feel if the cool metal keys sent shivers up my spine and a joyful flutter in my heart.  The new semester began after the holidays and chair auditions came knocking.  I felt nervous I'm sure, but also calm.  Music was no longer about accomplishment.  It was about the joy of creation and the beauty that team work and a little elbow grease could produce.  Even still, I was shocked when the results of the auditions were posted and I had landed myself in SECOND chair.


During that semester, my teacher gave me so many opportunities to grow.  From being hand picked to play in the concerto orchestra, to a solo at graduation, I basked the rays of reassuring sunlight that poured over me from this teacher that never gave up, from my clarinet tutor who wouldn't allow me to be held back by excuses, and from my mommy who, obligated by uterine law, and probably prompted from some divine source, believed in me even when I sounded hopelessly horrible. (No really, it was bad for a while.)  All of that unwavering faith washed away the doubt and self-loathing placed there by that junior high monstrosity and helped me see who I could have been all along.  Myself.  And me was good enough.

This is why I've always wanted to be a teacher.  This is why I wanted to be a mother.  If I could show my children and impressionable teenagers how special and incredible they are, then maybe, just maybe, I could pay forward the life-changing lessons I learned with a clarinet.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Pintrickster

The other day as I was butchering some too-good-to-be-true tutorial I found on Pinterest, I began to wonder if there was someone out there laughing at me.  There are so many websites dedicated to Pinterest fails that I'm starting to believe bloggers are making things up for either boosts in website traffic or for their own general amusement.  It's as if they have a bingo machine for ailments and another for household goods.  The first is spun, yellow ping-pong balls flutter and collide like boiling atoms, and out pops a little ball. "Foot fungus," it reads. The next machine spins around and around until it procures a "cure".  Wonderful!  Now they just need a graphic.  Enter stock photo and some bold lettering.

Perrrrfect. Now it's time to write some content.

A Pintrickster likes to give you well-defined steps to make their deception seem legitimate.  These steps often come in odd numbers or in clusters of 6, which is a strong indicator that you are about to embarrass yourself, and Satan will laugh at you.

  1. The first step will always be to wash the afflicted area.  This tricks you, the reader, into thinking the bizarreness that's about to follow is somehow sanctioned medically, herbally, or scientifically.  Sanitizing people are analyzing people, amiright?
  2. Next they will tell you where to put the afflicted area.  Place hand over sink.  Hold nose under faucet. Or in the case of my example: Place foot in large bucket or container.  This manipulates you into thinking the author is your friend because they care about the cleanliness of your abode.  How sweet!
  3. Next they will give you a list of measurements, which is just another way to seem professional.  But when you see '2/3rds', run. 2x3=6 which is the devil's number. Measure out 2/3rds cup of sauce into mixing bowl.
  4. Now they will spring an added ingredient on you.  Mix in 6 tablespoons of cough medicine. This does two things: First, it convinces you of the science behind the tutorial.  The ingredients in the cough medicine activates the anti-fungal properties in the herbs suspended in the anti-oxidant rich tomatoes. Sounds pretty good, no?  Second, it disperses the blame. The more ingredients, the greater the dispersal.  Soon, the Pintrickster is hidden behind a wall of personal doubts. This isn't working; did I purchase the right brand of sauce? Should I have bought the organic? Or the one with the little mushrooms? Fight fungal with fungal.  Pretty sure that's a saying.  Or was it the cough medicine?  I bought the overnight formula.  I knew I should have got Dayquil.  Cherry flavor?  Orange flavor?  Better get both next time to be safe. At this point, is hasn't even occurred to you to question the legitimacy of the author.
  5. This is where some technique comes in.  This is like scam insurance.  When the ridiculous claim they made doesn't work, you will start to wonder if you followed the directions completely.  This may motivate you to repeat the process and even invite a witness to help you perform the procedure perfectly.  Pour sauce mixture over toes in a counterclockwise motion.  Now, use a paint brush to gentle sweep the crimson magic over the entire surface of your foot, concentrating on the toenails and using zigzagging motions.  At this point, even the angels are laughing at you.
  6. This step is for the sole purpose of torturing you.  It is step 6 after all.  Stand with feet apart, pointed at a 66 degree angle, and knees touching. In this position, allow feet to soak in magical sauce tonic until toes are deeply pruney and smell like Italy.
  7. Rinse feet. This step is a mercy step for those would walk around with pizza feet otherwise. (You know who you are.)  This just goes to show you that Pintricksters have a conscience, however small that may be.
  8. This step is to hide that small conscience. Repeat every night until fungus disappears.
  9. In this instance, this final step is mostly a token step just to end the tutorial with an odd number.  It's also subtle mockery.  Enjoy your new, fresh feet!
Take these tips to heart next time you are tempted to dye your hair with soy sauce, remove warts with pie dough, or douse your eye in wheatgrass juice. That's a Pintrickster at work.  You're welcome.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Not so great expectations

Do you ever completely dedicate yourself to something only to be disappointed with the results? I haven't been blogging lately because I've been working on a little project. At the end if June I was struck by the lightning of inspiration and flooded with ideas; unshakable ideas that seemed to come from another world, and they chose me to tell their story. So when I returned home from our eventful trip to Illinois I began to write. Every nap time and bedtime I plugged myself in to my laptop and watched chapter after chapter flow from my fingers until it filled my depleted body with life. I felt fulfilled, happy, and more like myself than I'd been in years. Parenting was more enjoyable, my husband was handsomer, and my house almost seemed to have a linen closet. Almost.

Then there was chapter 20, the climax, the pinnacle of prose, the summit of syntax, and I got stuck. Suddenly, the wave of ideas recessed and the low tide left a sandy graveyard of loop holes, questions and doubts. The more I forced myself to muscle through the feeling the more I began to hate all 55,000+ words I'd written. I stepped away from the project and prayed for perspective.

What followed was a couple months of the worst depression of my life as I realize this whole book thing was a metaphor for my experience with motherhood.

Please be gentle with your judgement.

When I was a little girl there were two things I wanted more than anything: to be a teacher, professionally, and to be a mom.  I looked forward to stroking my diploma from BYU, arranging my classroom, tutoring after school, and grading papers in the evenings while snuggled up in my little cottage with a fluffy dog sleeping on my feet. Then when I was old enough to be considered an old maid (by Utah standards) but not so old that I was infertile, I would marry a perfectly obnoxious salesman and quit my job to dedicate the remainder of my days to rearing children. It was a fantastic plan and I couldn't wait to make it happen.

Then life took an unexpected turn.  I got married young, took a hiatus from school, had some babies, and fast-tracked to the motherhood part of the plan with a significantly less obnoxious husband. It doesn't take much digging through the blog archives to see how painful it was for me to give up school and becoming a teacher.  Once Annie entered my life I knew my only option was to stay home till the day I die, never to write on a white board or attend staff meetings or argue with the lady in the copy room about the tests she forgot to copy. (Dramatic much?) However, a little piece of me was okay with making this sacrifice because I thought motherhood would automatically make me content and fill my whiteboard-marker, red-pen, teaching dreams with something as equally satisfying.

It did not. I definitely had good days, especially when it was just me and Annie, but as soon as Sam entered the picture it was like someone flipped a switch, and motherhood became torturous and stifling. You can imagine how much that bothered me. I began to ruminate and obsess and berate myself for not feeling like dancing on pink and blue pastel rainbows as I listened to hours of crying, got out of bed six times a night, and never really had a moment alone expect for the times I spent locked in my closet weeping. I wanted to be like those "normal" mothers who still felt like motherhood was the hardest and best thing to ever happen to them.  I just felt like it was the hardest.

But wait! This is what I've always wanted! This is what I spent my whole life preparing for! Why did I feel so disappointed?

On Sunday we had a lesson in Relief Society about the ten virgins. Five had oil in their lamps, but the other five didn't not. The ladies with oil couldn't share or they would run out themselves before the bridegroom arrived. While I sat in my cushioned chair, the Lord whispered to me, "You are out of oil."

I don't have date night with my husband. Paul works long hours and isn't home much. There are no Girl's Night Outs on my calendar. My children accompany me almost everywhere I go. Annie and Sam both have medical issues and personality quirks that make them high maintenance and exhausting. And I'm so afraid of being a burden on someone else that I can not ask for help.  So there is no one taking care of me, not even me. I'm completely out of oil. Heck, I can't even find my lamp in this mess.

Anyway, I want to start blogging again because I love to write (but not that stupid book; it makes me homicidal).  And I want to take on a few more little projects around the house to keep me busy.  Hopefully, I can conjure up some courage to take people up on babysitting offers too.  I want to enjoy my children again, like really bad. So if it takes a little more effort to make motherhood feel more effortless, then it's worth it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Annie, Bear, and pixie dust

For Halloween this year Annie requested to be a cat again. When I shot down that idea she decided Tinkerbell would be a better option.  I'm telling you, the child must be inspired.  Beside her matching blond hair and blue eyes, Annie's personality is scarily similar to the hot headed pixie. I purchased a dress from the store, knowing full well I was a little too bogged down for a sewing project. But a green dress does not a Tinkerbell make. Annie needed the quintessential bun. Unfortunately, the three year old has less hair than some newborns. I had to figure out a way to clip one onto her head or something. Then I saw a crocheted hat on Pinterest that looked like cabbage patch kid hair.

(Picture from https://www.etsy.com/listing/104446678/cabbage-patch-kid-inspired-hat-crochet)
Perfect! If they could make hair out of yarn, so could I.  I called up the crochet wizard, Aunt Julie, who sat in my living room on a sunny afternoon and whipped up a little yellow hat. I looped strands of matching yarn into the holes in the front of the hat and tied them together to make bangs.  After I trimmed the excess ends, I cut the toe off a holey sock I found in Paul's dresser and rolled it into a sock bun. I wrapped the bun in more of the yellow yarn and glued it on top of the hat.  I added a couple bells so Annie would jingle as she skipped from house to house gathering cavity candy obesity bombs Halloween goodies from neighbors.

I think it turned out pretty good, but most importantly, Annie LOVED it.  She wanted to wear it constantly. I've had to hide it just to insure it doesn't get ruined before Halloween.

For her shoes we used a pair of silver flats she already owned.  She was pretty upset they weren't green like Tinkerbell's, but when I added the white pom pom glued to a hair elastic she forgave me.

I did have to put a little duct tape to the bottom of her shoes to keep the elastic from slipping off, but once it was firmly adhered we didn't have any problems with the pom poms. Annie even wore them to church.

This little girl is pretty thrilled with the end result. So is Bear.

Now I just need to find where I hid her Halloween bucket. . . Mom of the year.



I hope your Halloween is magical!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Vacation Series - Part 2

What happened next in our series of unfortunate events is actually quite difficult for me to relive, but I've written about as many details as I could while I sobbed here at the computer and Annie stroked my arm and begged me not to cry.  Forgive the particularly sloppy writing.

"Your body temperature is 100.7 degrees fahrenheit," the thermometer said aloud when I scanned Annie's forehead. The slight fever didn't worry me very much, though I did wonder if Sam was ill not from his shots but from something contagious the few days before we left.  I had brought some ibuprofen with me as a precautionary measure but I couldn't give it to my little sicky until Paul came back with the car and the puke bowl inside.  Ibuprofen always makes Annie throw up.  I situated her in bed and put on cartoons while we waited.  I sat on the bed beside her and watched some YouTube videos with my headphones on.  About a minute into my video I saw movement out of the corner of my eye.  I turned to see Annie's hands flailing in the air while the rest of her body seized and shook. I ripped off my headphones and ran to her side, screaming her name and instantly sobbing.  As irrational as it may seem, that pessimistic voice in my head kept repeating, "You're going to lose her. You're going to lose her."  Her eyes starred up at the ceiling, devoid of the spark that usually fills them, and I held her and cried as I grasped for my phone with one hand.  Alone and with no car, I dialed 911 and begged the dispatcher for help.  She sent an ambulance and stayed with me on the line.

The seizure ended and left Annie's body absolutely lifeless.  Her eyes stayed opened, still dead and staring off at nothing. She didn't answer to her name or my insistent cries, nor did she respond to my touch as I stroked her sweaty hair and told her to stay with me.  The dispatcher reassured me that her body was behaving as she would expect after such an episode, but I still checked her breathing every few seconds.

When the paramedics arrived I felt relieved and safe as they carried her out tenderly and placed an IV. Pale and limp, she screamed out at the initial poke but didn't even twitch.  I laid her bear beside her and called Paul who was finally out of church, and shortly after we arrived Paul did too.  Annie began to respond to me again and I felt overwhelming love and relief when I noticed the light return to body. I held her and cried some more as they poked and pricked and examined her over the next nine and a half hours.  She bore it bravely, and milked as many popsicles out of the nurses she could.  Paul and my dad gave her a priesthood blessing then my parents took Sam so we could focus on Annie.  Later, Paul let me leave for dinner so I could regroup.  Late that evening they discharged her without any answers, and we took her back to the hotel to rest.  Sam spent the night at my grandmother's house so Annie didn't have to face another night of pretending to sleep through his cries.  It didn't take her long to pass out from exhaustion.  I, on the other hand, laid in bed, staring at her, terrified she'd disappear like a pixie if I closed my eyes.  But eventually, I fell asleep on my tear soaked pillow.

The next day was quiet and uneventful.  Annie seemed perfectly normal.  Her mood was cheery, her temperature was normal, and if it weren't for the bruises up her arms, you wouldn't have guessed she'd spent the day before in the hospital.  Part of me hoped the rest of the week would go smoothly now, but the other part knew it would not.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Vacation Series - Part 1

I looked at Paul then at the ginormous pile of luggage behind the couch.  Sam cried at my feet because for the third day in a row he sported a fever and refused to eat anything other than breast milk.  Annie began to sob uncontrollably because the Dramamine we gave her finally kicked in and she was instantly sleepy.  "I have a bad feeling, " I said aloud.  "I'm afraid that something bad is coming."  This is a pretty typical emotion for me.  I'm rarely caught off guard with a big trial I wasn't warned about.  Unfortunately, I often dismiss these warnings as the overgrown pessimism that has settled into my life.

We packed the kids into the car anyway because the feeling didn't instruct me to stay home though my self-preservation instinct was screaming run for the hills.  Once crammed like sardines into The Professor (our car's name) we got onto I80 and headed east toward Southern Illinois.  The land of my people.  I often think back on the last time we made this trek.  It was a turning point for me and my little family, and really bonded us in an unimaginable way.  This gave me hope for another great bonding experience because, after the big postpartum depression battle I've fought for the last year, I've been feeling a little disconnected from my children, husband, and about everyone else for that matter.  But the drive overnight was filled with crying-- so much crying-- that only a few hours into this trip I was ready to open the car door fling myself onto the highway at 80 miles an hour.  After surviving the grizzly night by spending a little time in my parents van for a much needed nap, I took a turn at the wheel and nearly knocked out Kansas.  During this time Annie had a bout of car sickness and puked in her little bowl. . . which she promptly spilled all over her lap.  I was prepared for such a moment with a jug of puke-rinsing water.  After the puke clean-up it was difficult to get Annie to eat or drink anything.  She was afraid of a repeat episode although I assured her she just needed a little more Dramamine.  And thanks to the good ol' motion sick meds she did not throw up again.

We arrived in Southern Illinois late in the evening and tried to immediately put our grumpy children and our tired butts to bed.  If you remember I haven't slept in at least four days due to sick Sam and now the all night car ride, so my brain and body were both screaming, "Girl, get me some sleep!"  However, the hotel room was modestly sized and the only spot we could find for the crib was right next to our bed.  I snuggled and nursed my tired baby while Paul read and snuggled the three year old.  Soon Sam was ready to be put down, but being able to reach out and touch his daddy and see his mommy's "sleeping" silhouette beside him angered the small lad.  He did not want to be put down and he would not have it.  He cried off and on all night long, and after a few cat naps and lots of tears I gave up on the whole idea of sleep and just pulled him out of his bed around 5:30.  Annie was awake too, so I got them both a little snack.

I sobbed my way through getting ready and yelled at everything in my path.  My blow dryer got an earful about how tired I was.  My flat iron listened to my rants about going straight home.  And Paul, dear sweet Paul, laid in bed dozing like the sleep wizard he is.  I stood for a long moment at the foot of his bed, staring at the plethora of pillows heaped beside him.  How easy it would have been to hold one over his face while screaming, "SO YOU LIKE SLEEP, DO YA? WELL HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT ETERNAL SLEEP?!?!?!"  I knew right then I was losing my mind and nigh unto delirious.  So I packed up my hysterically exhausted demon spawn in the car and abandoned the sleeping devil at the hotel.  I drove to my grandmothers house and burst through the doors like the wicked witch of the west.  I looked at their smiling, rested faces and began crying again while I demanded to stay there so I had a room to escape to while my son fell asleep.  I could not calm down foreseeing a weeks worth of nights like the previous.  I cried all morning and contemplated going right back home.  Paul keep calling my phone and I ignored him for a couple hours until it was almost time for church.  When that wonderful man heard how delusional I'd become he insisted I take a nap.  Annie, who was equally inconsolable, and I stayed at the hotel together and napped while everyone else went to church.  Three and a half blissful hours later we awoke.  I was feeling a bit better, but Annie was running a fever.
Brochure in the lobby of our hotel.... Pretty much summed up the majority of this vacation.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sleeping together

If you know me very well you may know I have a problem sleeping with my husband.  This was so embarrassing to me as I newlywed I often searched for newlyweds with a similar issue.  Miserly loves company and all that.  I just couldn't accept that I was alone in my suffering.  Several times, however, I was greeted with odd stares and nervous giggles as I tried to explain how little sleep you get when you're married.  My anguish was often attributed to some kind of extended foreplay or infinitely long pillow talks.  Little did they know it was neither of those typical marital perks that were the cause of my insomnia.

I learned within hours of making vows, cutting cake, and stealing a secret first dance in the hall at our reception that I could not sleep with my husband.  On our first night home we cuddled up under the covers, and I listened to Paul drift off within minutes.  I admired his sweet wheezes and smiled at the wedding band on his left ring finger.  I could feel the exhaustion from the excitement and activities of the day weighing down my body, so I took one last glance at my new husband and laid my head against his chest.  I closed my eyes and waited for sleep to take me.  It did not.  Instead of sleep, I was educated by the sandman.

In the next two hours I learned I couldn't not breathe if my head was on his chest because I would subconsciously try to sync my own breath with his asthmatic puffs.  I discovered I had an irrational fear of waking my extremely deep-sleeping husband which made shifting to get comfortable out of the question.  I noticed that my husband was cuddly and came to the unfortunate conclusion that I could not sleep while being touched.  I mean, like, at all.  On the off chance I managed to escape all of these undesirables, I was instead accosted by hot morning breath or the smell of Axe deodorant, which let me know strong smells wake me up.  Fantastic.

For months I struggled, cuddled, and fought my general fatigue until a glorious night in Disneyland brought me some relief.  The giant king size bed was better than any roller coaster or attraction because there, in the expanse of mattress, I escaped my husband's grasps and found some much needed rest.  The dawn brought a perky Kayla and a disgruntled Paul.  When I expressed my infatuation for the bed he muttered about it being too big and not being able to find me.  Before I could stop it, a smile spread across my face.  Perfect.

However, we had to leave the bed behind in sunny Anaheim, and I was back to my sleepless routine.  Rarely a night passed that I was not awakened to an elbow in the eye, an arm around my waste or, heaven forbid, a deep sleep sigh of caustic fumes blown in my direction.  I hoped, prayed, pleaded, and assumed that time would heal me of my nightly torment.  Eventually I just had to start sleeping through it, right?





Fast forward to the present day, five years later:

After my children are tucked in their beds for the night I like to collapse on my squeaky mattress, nestle my face into my cool pillow, and adjust my limbs until I find that sweet, sweet spot of incomparable comfort.  You know what I'm talking about.  The one position of ecstasy that pulls you rapidly into dreamland.  However, it is usually that very moment that my lips remind me they are a gazelle in the Sahara Desert, and just out of my reach is a chapstick waterhole.  I then find myself at a crossroads.  Down one path is greasy, appeased lips and a risk of undoing all the effort put into finding that perfect, perfect spot.  Down the other path is comfort, sleep, and waking up with lips that appear to have gotten in a bat'leth fight with an enraged Klingon.  The path I usually choose is the later because at the end of a long day, full-body comfort is my one true desire.  That and sleep, of course.

Then, after finishing an episode of Sherlock, in shuffles the man in all his nerdy glory.  He now knows I cannot sleep whilst being touched so he gives me a quick peck on the cheek before settling in on the opposite side of the bed.  He is consciously thoughtful but subconsciously deviant.  In a matter of minutes sleep takes him, and he begins his trek across the mattress in search of a warm body.  Soon he finds me in that sweet, sweet melted position, and he rolls over to face me.  The smell of sleeping breath brings me out of a heavenly dream to a dark and stinky reality.  I am at a new crossroads.  Hold down the fort and maintain my position while I lying awake in olfactory torment, or lose that perfect comfort with a possibility of more zzzZZZzzzs.  I die a little inside as I roll away from the man in my bed and my warm outline in the sheets.  Since I've already been forced to move I think, might as well put on that chapstick.

Maybe in ten years we can afford a king size mattress.  Until then, I will remain coverless and sleepless with my pillow on my nightstand.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The beast

There's a beast in my house.  She is angry, mean, unsympathetic, and I think she smells a little bit like tacos, and we all know that's a smell that is only appetizing on food.  She follows me around everywhere I go, perched on my shoulder like a bird.  Only, she not a delicate dove.  This beast is more like an ostrich, invading every inch of my personal space with gangly legs wrapped around my chest, squeezing away my breath.  Her enormous body weighs down my slumping shoulders, and there is not a moment of the day when I'm not acutely aware of the heaviness. My beast of burden. She's only visible to my eyes and a load only I can bear.

Some days this corpulent monster overpowers me, and I open my mouth to scream for help.  However, when my lips part, feathers fill the cavity and I begin to suffocate a little.  I fight for air and a savior to destroy this leech, but I just know somehow that if I was really able to express the thoughts. . . the feelings this beast drills into my mind, I would be misunderstood and judged.  After all, no one can see her but me.  This is a demon I must face alone.

So, trapped in a cage of solitude, I wrestle the beast.  Some days I fight with passion and perseverance in the name of family and motherhood.  But mostly I feel devoid of passion and tired of battle.  This creature has been ignored, conversed with, pushed, screamed at, and probably fallen asleep on because exhaustion dictates my life.  I've even coddled it, afraid of who I might be without the ghastly harpy.  You see, it's been so long since I've seen just myself in the mirror that I've all but forgotten what I look like.  And who I am.  None of these tactics, however, have made the beast any smaller.  She's actually growing.

She's a jealous thing, to add to her list of deplorable qualities, and it affects my relationships.  I struggle to feel joy or compassion and often feel so hallow I can't connect with people like I once did effortlessly.  When my husband comes home from work and all I want is to smother him in love and good food, the beast tightens her grip and almost forces the curtness that comes spewing from my mouth.  Annie and Sam also fall victim to my uncontrollable moods.  Whether it is staring at them blankly or locking myself in my room so I can scream in a pillow while that horrid monster pecks at my skull, they watch with horrified and confused glances.  And for my sweet Sam, this is the only mother he's ever known.  That thought is painful to the point of nauseam. No matter how hard I try to smile at his bright eyes and pretend that I'm enjoying the task of care-giving, deep inside that tiny body is the baby sensor which warns him of my disconnect.  However, in fleeting moments he stares past me, and I think he may actually be able to see this invisible beast.  After all, she was born on the same day as he.

And her name is Postpartum Depression.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Cake hate

My mission was a lemon dessert for the Hatchett Family Easter Dinner.  My dessert of choice was cake.  I envisioned the round contour of the top and the sleek, straight sides plunging toward a etched glass pedestal.  The cake would be moist and light, scented with lemon zest and love.  The filling would be strawberry, tangy and sweet, complimenting the delicate ribbons of lemon cream cheese frosting piped so beautifully around the borders of the cake.  Pastel spotted eggs would line the border to complete the work of art.

At least, that's what I wanted to make.  Instead, I made this:


All was going well until I began to stack the cake and it crumbled in my hands.  I tried to piece it back together and thought my repair attempt was successful, but when I began to dirty ice the sides of the cake the segments of the middle layer began to separate.  It was like watching a plate tectonics horror film.  The more I frosted, the more cake chucks drifted apart while gooey strawberry lava oozed out from the depths of the confection.  In my anger, I picked it up and screamed, "I'm so mad I'm going the throw this on the floor!"  And I was, had Paul not rushed to my side and snatched the cake from my trembling hands.

Cake in the garbage

I think next time I'll stick to cupcakes. . .

Me covered in frosting

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Questions

My little Andrea has always been a talkative girl.  She babbled constantly as a baby, prattled non-stop as a toddler, and now that she's preschool age she's a bundle of chatty energy.  She's never been able to do anything without narrating her actions.  If I'm in the kitchen cooking dinner, this is what I listen to:

"Mommy!  I have to go potty!  Wow, I had to go really bad.  I can wipe all by myself.  Flush, and wash, and be on your way.  Oh!  Soap.  Soapy bubbles.  Turn off the water.  Wasting water is a bad choice.  Dry dry hands.  No, Sammy!  You can't come in here.  Mom!  Sam is trying to crawl in the bathroom.  It's okay I can get him out.  Come here, Sam.  Do you want to play with me?  You can play with my doll if you want.  Just don't slobber on my bear.  Mom!  Sam is standing.  MOM! Sam is sitting now.  Now he's crawling.  Mom!  I'm going to watch a show.  A-N-N-I-E.  That spells Annie.  That's my name, Sam.  Your name is Samuel Paul Rowberry.  Bear's name is Bear Evert Rowberry.  Mom!  I'm going to watch Seasame Street.  Mom!  Look, it's Elmo.  Mommy!  He's coloring.  He's singing a song, Mom.  MOMMY!  He has a fish!  I like that fish.  What's that fish's name?  MOM!  WHAT'S THAT FISHES NAME?"

If ever quiet, which is rare, I definitely know she's getting into trouble.

My older sister once asked me if the constant chatter bothered me, and I honestly answered that it doesn't.  I enjoy her little voice and am entertained by some of the wild things that come out of that mouth.  However, she has recently entered into a new phase.  I call it "the WHY phase."  It's pretty  self-explanatory.

She can no longer watch a movie and narrate.  Now I must watch Frozen with her while being bombarded by questions like I'm a murder suspect.

"Mom, why did their boat disappear?  Why are they in a picture?  Where is her sister?  Why is her hair like that?  Why is she cold?  Why is she singing?  Why is she talking to those duckies?  Why are they opening the gates?  What's a con-er-ation?  Why is she jumping on those couches?  Why is she wearing gloves?  I LOVE THIS MOVIE!  Why are they fighting?  Why is there a snowman?  Why are they running?  Why is it snowing?  Why is she so cold?  Why did she freeze her heart?  Why is she scared?  Why does she need a kiss?  Why is he putting out the fire?  Why is Olaf lighting the fire? Why does he have a sword?  Why is she so sad?  Why does she think her sister is dead?  Why did she punch him off the boat?"

I could go on, but I'm sure you get the picture.

Someone tell me this phase will be over soon.  I'm running out of patience and answers.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Crash

I remember the sneeze and then looking up at a red light.  My right foot jumped to the breaks as my arms gripped the steering wheel and braced for impact.  The thud of my blue car hitting a suburban unforgettably rang through my ears.  I don't recall the air bags deploying because my face was numb from their explosive power, but the smell, burnt and putrid, enveloped my senses.  I could feel wet beneath my nose and I reached up to touch what I expected to be blood and was surprised by what I found.  Snot.  From that distracting sneeze. I could hear my sons cries and my daughter began babbling in shock.  I whipped around to make sure she had kept her seat belt on. She had, thank heavens!  I began panting and panicking, shaking like a chihuahua.  If it weren't for that horrid smell, I might have not believed it was real.  I crashed.  I crashed the car with my babies in the back seat.


I remember crying.  I couldn't stop.  Through violent heaves and desperate sobs I kept repeating, "My babies!  My babies!"  Even though both we safe, unharmed, and quiet once I pulled them out of the car.  I was overwhelmed by guilt and shame, and the tears reflected the inner turmoil causing a great deal of nausea.  The other driver tried to comfort me and told me he wasn't mad or hurt.  But I was hurt and mad.  Hurt with dislocated ribs, bruises, and a busted lip, and mad at myself because, although I didn't crash on purpose, I was to blame.

The following days were difficult.  When my eyes would close the first thing I would see was the side of that tan suburban.  Then there was that thud.  I couldn't stop hearing that thud.  Andrea kept talking about it.  Hourly, I'd hear her telling bear about the sneeze, the crash, and my red teeth.  It pained me to hear, but I let her talk and process and cope.  Through all of her retellings I began to see immense bravery that surrounded my daughter like a protective armor.  She must have got that from her father.

I was not brave.  The thought of driving again sent me into a shaken and panicked state.  Even riding as a passenger was traumatic.  Every bump and flashing light turned me into a white-knuckled cling-on, gripping at the dash like it was my lifeline.  Sometimes I would cry, and Paul would softly reassure me.

Two days after the crash I knelt beside my daughter's bed and asked her to pray.  Unprompted, she began.  She thanked Heavenly Father for the things she loved: Grandma Gragraw, the supermarket, bear, vitamins.  Then she petitioned Him for help; not for herself, but for me.  She asked Him to help me remember Jesus and be calm.  As tears rolled down my cheeks she ended her pray with one final request: Help me take care of my mommy.  My daughter was not only brave, but wonderfully loving.  In that moment I knew I would be okay because I had faith in my Heavenly Father, and I had faith in Annie's faith.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

When they are sleeping

Things I like to do when the children are sleeping:

-Use the bathroom ALONE.  No audience telling me how many squares I'm allowed to use or asking me questions I'd rather not answer.  ("Mommy?! Why are you bleeding?")

-Watch movies and shows that would otherwise scar my daughter. (Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Pirates of the Carribean, etc.) She's easily scared.

-Eat things I don't want to share.  I share food all day long.  If we have sandwiches for lunch, Andrea will eat hers an then come sit uncomfortably close to me and give my sandwich THE STAREDOWN.  Or if I peel an orange guess who eats most of it?  Not me.  If I get out an orange for me and an orange for her she will still beg for mine while her orange sits untouched on her plate. Look, kid.  You eat your food and I'll eat mine, kapeesh?

-Sew.  If I do this while the kids are asleep I avoid needles in the carpet because Andrea can't stand to leave them in the pin cushion.

-Shower, if I have the energy. Who knew showers could be so draining. He he he. See what I did there? Draining?  . . . . Moving on.

-Fold laundry.  Have you ever folded laundry with a little "helper" unfolding it faster than you can fold?  It's not fun.  I don't particularly enjoy folding laundry the first time, but the third time I have to fold the same shirt in one sitting it starts to mess with my head.  I can feel Psycho Mom emerging and hear illogical things spew from my mouth like "If you unfold that one more time I'm going to throw these clothes in the garbage!"  Don't ask me what I think will be accomplished by this idol threat, but to Phsycho Mom it makes perfect sense.

-Make phone calls.  I swear my children have a sixth sense that tells them my phone has turned on, and then all heck breaks loose.  Seriously, do ya'll have to start crying the moment I try to talk to the Netflix tech support people?!  Breathe, Kayla.  Breathe.

-Scoop other peoples dog poop out of my yard.  I wish I didn't have to do this, but I do and having to constantly remind the three year old to watch her step while I hold a bag of poop with the hand wrapped around the 8 month old doesn't exactly sound like a trip to IKEA, if ya catch what I'm throwing down.

Aside from a myriad of other chores that can be accomplished, the thing I desire more than anything in the world is to sleep when my children are sleeping.  Oh sleep.  Oh blessed, beloved sleep.  How I miss thee.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Rejuvenated

With my seven month old perched precariously on my hip, I did my morning rounds.  After a diaper change, it's a walk though the living room to pick up the dirty diaper and relocate the diaper bag.  On my way to the kitchen garbage I step on a small, plastic bear and mutter a made-up curse word.  I shift the baby and bend down to pick up the pokey offender while instructing my three year old to keep little bears out of the carpet.  I turn back toward the kitchen once more only to be distracted by a news story about a murder-suicide.  Sad.  The baby starts to paw and the poopy diaper which acts as a reminder of my mission.  I bounce him through the house until the cool tile floor greets and refreshes my step.  The diaper is discarded and my one free hand makes quick work of gathering breakfast dishes and piling them into the sink.  The three year old reminds me to give her vitamins and, after a one-handed struggle with a child-proof cap, the crunching of chalky tablets indicates the three year old is temporarily appeased.

I take to the stairs because above me laundry awaits.  It's Tuesday, which typically means I wash towels, but I sit the baby on the floor, handing him miscellaneous trinkets from near by, and start stripping the sheets off my bed.  After falling victim to a leaky diaper, the sheets cannot wait till my customary sheet-washing Thursday.  The seven month old sits sturdily and gums on a little penguin bucket until it is apparent by his cries he is bored and wishes to return to his regular perch on my hip.  I pick him up, gather my comforter in my free arm, and stuff it into the washing machine just outside my room.  Worried that it won't fit I contemplate a laundry mat, but the wiggly baby trying to flip himself upside down motivates me to give the blanket an extra shove.  I hear singing below.  Itsy Bitsy Spider.  Classic.  I hum along while I pin the fabric softener between my body the wall so I can remove the lid.  The tiny boy under my arm lurches for the bottle and scolds me for keeping it out of reach.  I laugh at his fit because his tiny puckered lip reminds me so much of his older sister.  We return downstairs and I spend a moment surveying the house, planing my next move in the game that is morning.

As I look out over my world I contemplate my life and feel blessed.  Not because it's perfect or glamorous or even particularly fun, but because it's beautiful, and because it's mine to captain.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Breathe

A new year usually brings new resolutions and new hope.  Hope for more money, less pounds, and increased personal growth.  Last year New Years was exciting.  Paul and I knew that the next few months would bring a new baby and a new house, so we welcomed 2013 with open arms.  Two nights ago Paul and I rang in the new year by toasting at midnight.  "To a year of no pregnancies," I said.

"And no new babies," he said.

"And no moves," I said.

"And no job changes," he said.

Our glasses clinked and we agreed that this year our resolution was to settle in and breathe.  In the four and a half years we've been married we've lived in three different places, worked in five different jobs, attended four different schools, received two degrees, had three pregnancies, and are raising two babies.  More than anything, we would like some time to rest.

How often does that actually happen though?

After downing our glasses of cheep sparkling grape juice, I began to feel sad.  No, not sad.  Dread.  I felt dread blow in like a bad storm and settle right over me, pelting my head with heavy drops of mockery and drudge.  You see, this new year as we celebrated the lack of events, I realized we were celebrating a year of monotony.  I thought back to Saturday when my baby scared me to death by violently throwing up for a few hours.  I recalled the excessive tears my daughter produces during a tantrum.  I thought of the poop-- soooo much poop-- that I smell and clean up everyday.  I felt a pit in my stomach when I remembered how alone I feel up here in Salt Lake City, and how I count down the minutes until Paul comes home so I can talk his ear off recounting the story I told Andrea before her nap and how many times Sam drooled on my toe (five, in case your wondering).  I thought about how hard I am on myself and how I hate being criticized but can't stop picking at my own faults.  Suddenly, 365 days of that sounded rather bleak, and I wanted nothing more than to stuff my head in the couch like an ostrich.

My sweet husband, who is also a superhero, could tell I was not feeling well.  He hugged me tight and asked me what was the matter.  "I'm just having a hard day," I whispered.

"I noticed," he replied.  He kept his arms around me and gently rubbed my back as I absorbed his scent.  Breathe, I thought.  This is a year to breathe.