Wednesday, December 28, 2016

December Favorites

I’m graduating in seven weeks.  SEVEN weeks.  It almost seems unreal.  I have been in and out of school with three different majors and three different universities for nearly ten years just trying to obtain a bachelor’s degree all while popping out babies.  There were several moments where the finish line seemed impossibly far, and I assumed I’d be in my forties or fifties by the time I wore a cap and gown again. Amazingly, in seven weeks, I will finally realize the dream I have worked and sacrificed so much for.  I wish I could say this was the end of my school days, but I still have a master’s degree on the horizon.  However, I will be taking a year off between degrees to rest, recuperate, and give my kids some extra lovin’ to make up for all of the days and nights I impatiently rushed them to bed or shushed them incessantly so I could work on homework.  During this coming year, I want to revive my neglected blog, finish editing my book, and reorganize my house (you should see the guest room. . . yikes).

Part of my blog revival will be weekly posts.  Mostly, there will be the same old stories about my life, cooking disasters, and overly dramatic moments, but I also want to do monthly favorites.  My most beloved blog, Young House Love, used to do monthly superlatives, and I enjoyed reading those posts.  I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite things like activities I’ve done with my kids or recipes that made my taste buds sing.  Maybe even some beauty items will make it in there. Because December was such a busy month, it seems like the perfect time to begin this tradition.

December Favorites
                                                               
My Fireplace
Who knew that a gas fireplace could be so expensive?  Not me.  When we moved into the house last January, I turned the fireplace on almost every night.  But a $170 gas bill seemed like a steep price to pay for a little ambiance.  Paul forbade encouraged me to save the flickering flames for special occasions.  WHAT IS MORE SPECIAL THAN CHRISTMAS?  The excitement of opening presents on Christmas morning was only enhanced by a roaring fire.  I highly recommend it.  If you don’t have a fireplace, maybe open presents by the kitchen stove for a similar effect?

Christmas Attire
Much to my grand dismay, I was not invited to an ugly Christmas sweater party this year.  Okay, I’ve never been invited to an ugly Christmas sweater party, but I imagine they are the most enjoyable thing on this great green earth.  Second to white elephant, of course.  Anyway, because I had no party permitting me to dress like a mom from an 80’s Christmas card, I decided to wear my husband’s sweater and some gaudy earrings on a random weekday.  I secretly hoped someone would notice and think, I bet that eccentric woman would be fun to invite to my ugly sweater party.  I’m still waiting for an invitation, but in the meantime, I found the holiday attire really lifted my spirits.  Washing dishes felt romantically domestic.  Grocery shopping made me feel like Mrs. Krank.  Wiping Sam’s bum after a number two was suddenly like frosting a yule log.  My afternoon nap dreams even consisted of dancing sugar plums.  New life goal: Christmas sweater for every day of December.

Arctic Circle Cookie Butter Shake
Shut. The. Front. Door.  This was one of the most heavenly treats to cross the threshold of my house this month. It’s a vanilla base with Biscoff cookie butter incorporated into the clouds of bliss.  Paul brought one home as a surprise on a particularly stressful day, and as I stared into his beautifully blue, caring, thoughtful eyes while we shared the cup of heaven, I couldn’t help but think, Gee, I wish he would go away so I can have this all to myself.  It was that delicious, people.  Go get one before the holiday flavors are gone.

Telestrations
Photo retrieved from https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/91D9%2BiPsBHL._SX355_.jpg
I’ve had the opportunity to play this game a few times this month, and no matter what group I played with, I laughed till I cried.  There is no strategy required, so when your brain feels like mush after gorging yourself with tasty delights, this game is the perfect solution to distract from the painful digestion occurring deep within your bowels.  Try it.  It will not disappoint.

Our Ward Party Santa

If this Santa is not the big man himself from the actual North Pole, then I’m not detail-oriented.  When we heard the announcement that Santa was coming onto the stage at our ward Christmas party, we were desperate for Sam to meet Santa for the first time for that quintessential photo op.  As we searched for the illusive lad, I notice a woman pointing to the stage.  Santa walked out and waved to the crowd, and our little Sam was trailing behind him, absolutely spellbound.  Apparently, Sam found him in the hall and had been following him ever since.  Santa gave him a hug and pulled him onto his lap.  He spoke so softly that I couldn’t hear their conversation, but as Sam came off the stage from his magical moment, he looked up at me and said, “Mom! Santa loves me!”  My heart melted right there onto the floor, and I had to use my coat to wipe up the mess.  Annie, unlike Sam, was scared to see Santa and came running from the line crying.  I gave her a minute to watch the other children, and she decided she could try again if I came with her.  Once her turn arrived, she seemed pretty calm.  She wouldn’t sit on Santa's lap, but he gave her a hug and asked her about her Christmas wish.  It was such a sweet moment that I suddenly understood why so many moms stand in obscene lines at the mall (though I was also grateful I didn’t have to).

Temple Square
Many Utahans have a December tradition of visiting Temple Square to see the Christmas lights.  It’s been a couple of years since I’ve had the opportunity to do so, and I forgot what an incredible experience it is.  If you’re into crazy crowds of cold, grumpy adults and frostbitten children blocking all of the best views, I highly suggest going the three or four days before Christmas like we did.  I got some of the most beautiful pictures of strangers looking surprised by my flash.  I spent half of the tour shouting, “Hold my hand!” or “Hold Daddy’s hand!” or “Do we have all of our children?” or “Sam?!  Where are you?”  Really, it was a great vocal exercise that properly prepped my voice to belt Christmas songs over the sounds of my kids' over-tired sobs on the drive home.  In all honesty, I’m glad I went.  We got to go went with my in-laws and had a lovely bonding experience.  Annie has already asked when we can go back.  Next year, I’ll try to go earlier in the month.

My New Laptop
This is my ugly cry, courtesy of my mom.
Though I'm usually not keen on publicizing Christmas presents, as I type this blog post on a particular present, I can’t help but think of it as my number one favorite thing.  Nine years ago, I saved up my pennies and bought my first laptop.  His name was Harvey, and he was my baby.  I used to polish his glossy exterior, slip him into my backpack, and carry him with me across campus.  I remember sitting in this little nook in the Jesse Knight Building (JKB) at BYU and being warmed by the laptop as I analyzed African Bushman or Baroque architecture.  Harvey made me feel like I was playing college student similar to the way fun food made me feel like I was playing house.  Unfortunately, like most technology, he started to slow down and freeze up when I tried to perform simple tasks.  When we moved here in January, it took the internet company a month to come out and hook up our router to their network.  In the meantime, I dragged Harvey to the empty townhouse every evening so I could work on homework.  His glitchiness reached an all-time high as every click took at least ten minutes to compute and typing had a 15-second delay.  I was in constant fear that I would lose my work, and once the internet was installed in the new house, I retired poor Harvey to my backpack permanently.  Though I have a computer to do my homework on now, I have missed the freedom my laptop afforded me.  There are Saturdays when I drive 40 minutes to do homework at my parent’s house when a laptop could take me a mile away to the library for some quiet study time. There are also so many nights when the stationary computer is too far from my sick children’s bedrooms or the areas where they play.  During this month alone, there were several nights where my kids coughed and heaved, and I cried on the couch because I felt so torn between them and my grades.  My sweet family noticed my laptopless stress and pooled their money to buy me a beautiful, shiny, new laptop for Christmas.  I still tear up thinking about it.  Harvey 2.0 is going to help me finish out the next seven weeks and then carry me on into the master’s degree.  I feel so loved and blessed by my favorite people who gave me my favorite gift.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

More Christmas


This month is flying by way too fast, and I feel like I haven't had much time to soak in the season. I'm incredibly thankful for Christmas music that can make washing dishes, cleaning toilets, and snuggling sick kids just a little more festive. The next few days will be filled with the best kind of madness and people I love like crazy. For me, being around family and friends is one of the best gifts ever, only second to my Savior.

As I've read a piece of the nativity story with my children each morning, I have been so touched by the simplicity. Sometimes I feel this need for more stuff or more adventures or more talent or more praise. But that is not what Christ wanted us to have more of. He wanted us to have more charity. More love. More compassion. More understanding. More joy. More peace. That is what I want to strive for in the upcoming year. I hope you all have a merry Christmas filled with all of the best and most worthwhile mores.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Numb

Have you ever been sick with severe congestion and lost your sense of taste for so long that you almost forgot what strong flavors were like?  Have you ever been so cold that you lost some feeling in your toes but didn't realize it until you stepped in the shower and your feet couldn't feel the heat of water beating down?  Have you ever been unaware that you've become desensitized to a sound until someone asks you how you are not bothered by the rattle or beeping or incessant sound of screams?  Maybe these aren't relatable questions, but I know I have personally experienced them all.  I have been numb and not even realized it.

I was scrubbing dishes this evening while my children frolicked in the living room.  Annie was being abducted by Miss Hanigan, and Sam was trying to save her with a toy broom.  My iPod sang from across the counter, and I belted out the familiar words.  I could see my reflection in the dark window, face illuminated by the overhead light, and I allowed my shoulders to dance as my hands scraped away at crispy egg residue in my non-stick skillet.  Glancing over at the microwave, I realized it was time for baths, so with a flick of my fingers, I pulled them from the sink, dried them on a Christmas towel, and then swooped up my stinky son.  When both kids were naked and blanketed in bubbles, I stepped back into the kitchen to finish cleaning.  A new song played from the iPod dock, and I recognized it as a waltz.  Embolden by a lack of witnesses, I began to box step in my kitchen, which soon evolved into copious amounts of twirling and general merriment as the sexy trumpet cried and a gritty voice professed his love in a sweeping melody.  I could feel my extremities fill with a radiant, youthful light which seemed to shoot from my fingertips with every extension of my arm.  I closed my eyes and remembered the exhilaration of fanning out and facing the stage lights at my high school ballroom concert.  One, two, three.  One, two, three.  One, two, three.  One, two, three!  I spun out and then spun back in, except it was not into the arms of an imaginary partner but the countertop.  A gasp of pain escaped my lungs which was shortly replaced by embarrassed and amused chortles.  I looked up at the dark window over the sink and studied my carefree smile in awe at the uplifting powers of a simple song.

Two years ago, I rarely listened to music.  It played in my car to drown out the sounds of crying children, but at home, it was a rarity.  If you know me well, you may find this odd.  I have always loved music.  I sang in the choir in elementary school.  I played the clarinet and did musical theater when I was in junior high and high school.  At BYU, I was never without my iPod to set the tone of my campus walks.  However, while I was in the throws of depression, music didn't feel the same.  It didn't feel like much of anything if I'm honest.  It was merely white noise.  At the time, I chalked it up to growing older and sluffing off the last of my childhood, but now that music once again invigorates my soul, I realize I was just numb.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Thanksgiving Dreams

'Twas the night before Thanksgiving, and all through someone else's house,
My children ran around screaming as I smiled at my spouse.
The smell of Sam's poopy diaper wafted through the air.
With black pens, we signed on the dotted line with great care.
We were buying a new house, one with a yard and tire swing.
I could already see myself hosting some day on Thanksgiving.
On Black Friday, I slinked into the Walmart for packing tape,
When there, in a cart, was clearance turkey napkins and plates.
I bought up the lot with my dreams still in mind
And then tucked them away till it was their moment to shine!

And that was this year.  This year I was privileged to host, for the very first time, the Hatchett Family Thanksgiving dinner.  I spent days prepping and rearranging to prepare for the feast.  Everything had to be perfect, or no one would ever want to come back.  On Monday, my mom brought her long folding table and eight chairs.  On Tuesday, I cooked up a practice turkey breast in the crock pot and toasted up the bread for the stuffing.  On Wednesday, I rearranged the kitchen and living room so the long folding table sat beneath the dining room chandelier, and our small kitchen table was nestled warmly by the fireplace.  On Thursday morning, I arose at half past five to butcher and prep my turkeys before lowering them into the crockpot.  I combined the extra bones and bits with some carrots, onions, celery, and garlic, and covered it in water in my deepest stock pot to create a homemade broth for the gravy.  It simmered for three hours as I set and decorated the table.  In my rush, I forgot to snap a picture, but it looked a little something like this:

Retrieved from: http://i693.photobucket.com/albums/vv298/theliebertfamily/blog3/3cd61828.jpg
Except instead of a fine linen tablecloth, imagine a charcoal gray bed sheet folded in half.  Instead of embroidered cushioned chairs, imagine folding chairs.  Instead of heirloom pumpkins and candles, imagine sparkly plastic gourds and leaf garlands from the dollar store.  Instead of a crystal stemware, imagine gold Solo cups, and instead of name cards, imagine names written on those Solo cups with a Sharpie.  Instead of silver cutlery, imagine clear plastic utensils.  Instead of intricate chargers and china, imagine paper plates with pumpkins and turkeys printed on them.  And instead of cloth napkins, imagine paper napkins with a homemade napkin ring made from a plastic leaf hot-glued to a twisty tie. Something like this:


You know, real classy.

One by one, cars pulled into the driveway, and relatives from near and less-near arrived with rolls, salads, potatoes, carrots, pies, and bubbly drinks.  Every item was absolutely scrumptious, and we gorged ourselves until passing out all over the couches was the only option.  After the kitchen was clean and the tables were clear of all the disposable finery, we built a puzzle while telling those same old family stories that never cease to make us laugh.  We nibbled on pies and played games.  A Jimmy Hendrix documentary serenaded the house while the men talked of cars.  Downstairs, a quiet group clicked away on controllers as they battled on an Xbox game.  Annie, Sam, and their favorite second cousin played quietly, moving from one room to the next in an intricate dinosaur game.

When we went under contract for this house just one year ago, I couldn't have imagined of a better day in this beautiful home.  Thanks, Hatchetts!  You made my dreams come true!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Forgotten

My phone buzzed, and I stretched my legs as I glared at the clock.  Eleven.  Who was texting me at this hour?  My arm emerged from the warmth of my blanket and retreated quickly once my phone was in hand.   Squinting from the burning brightness of the screen, I swiped my passcode and read the notification.  It was from Facebook.  I was being invited to my ten-year class reunion.  It's bizarre to think it's been that long since I played in the pep band at the many losing football games or ate lunch in Room 610 with what modern teens call a "squad."  I laid under the light of the supermoon, staring up at his magnified face, as I thought back on my experiences walking the halls of my high school, faces and names washed over me.  I could feel discomfort from sitting beside my tenth-grade crush as he called me a "shaky chihuahua."  I could taste the white roll my best friend donated to my lunchlessness every day.  I could see the acne of another friend's face and feel my skin crawl at the white eyes that watched me from his cheeks.  I recalled the boy from twelfth-grade English who, after teasing me from across the room for the past two years, was assigned to sit directly in front of me and pass his quizzes back for grading.  Suddenly, he was so kind and treated my like we had been pals all along.  I closed my eyes and breathed in that familiar scent of my AP science class where two best friends welcomed me into their circle and helped me feel less alone because my two best friends graduated the year before.  A pit formed in my stomach as I remembered my first date and the first time holding hands.  I was so anxious then but also flattered that someone may actually like me.  The song he dedicated to me rang in my ears, and I could still see his childish grin.  I could vividly recall reading my angsty poetry to the horrified faces of my classmates and the blank faces of Mr. Park's taxidermy collection.  I smiled at the moon (or the tsuki) as I thought about the notes passed in Japanese and the doodle wars in math class.

There was this guy named Ryan and, for reasons unbeknownst to me, my best friend called him Julie when we passed him in the halls.  His long, straw-like hair was always dyed exotic colors ranging from lime green to hot pink, and he wore it confidently while walking with a slouching swagger.

My statistics teacher asked me to be her teacher's assistant during A4.  While grading papers, a student stole my expensive graphing calculator and scratched my name off the back.  He didn't know about the hidden initials inside the battery case.

Once in Ballroom class, I watched a boy drag his tongue grotesquely across his palms repeatedly and slide them through his unwashed hair during roll call.  When it was time to pick a partner, he chose my best friend.  It wasn't until lunch time when she nibbled on her pizza that I remembered to tell her about the hand-licker.  We were careful to avoid dancing with him after that.

On the Vegas/San Diego band tour, a fellow clarinetist formed an unhealthy attachment to me.  He always sat beside me on the bus, wrote me notes in his secret language, and tried to hold my hand whenever he saw an opportunity.  Only sixteen, I didn't know how to navigate the experience.  I tried to be nice without leading him on, but this backfired, and he was convinced I liked him too.  He never knew how uncomfortable he made me or the lengths I went to avoid him.

I thought of all these people and more while the moon watched with wide eyes and mouth agape.  I studied his craters, trying to memorize the marbled pattern.  The longer I peered at the celestial being, the heavier I felt. I remembered so much, but I couldn't help but wonder what people remembered about me.  Would they look back with fondness at some witty joke I made about Harry Potter in Sociology, or would they remember a snappy remark that I spat through my defensive shell?  Would they remember that I was smart and loved learning or that I was a know-it-all who raised my hand too much?  Was there someone laying in bed looking at their Facebook invitation who remembered sitting beside me in band, or will I show up and sit alone because I was too forgettable?

The saddest thing is I don't which bothers me more, being remembered for my weaknesses or not being remembered at all.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

I'll Be Home For Christmas

We signed the papers for this house the day before Thanksgiving.  I remember the intense nerves that plagued the holiday as we planned a weekend of staging the townhouse for sale. Everything was happening so fast.  Just days before, the thought of moving was the last thing on our minds, and then this home found us, like a gift from God, and we knew that we needed to take a leap of faith.  When I toured the house, I imagined stockings hanging above the hearth, and the rag garland I had just tied draped over the mantle.  I remembered all of the chimney-less years I snuck out of my bed on Christmas Eve to unlock the front door for Santa and realized my children would feel some security that Santa could easily find his way in.

On November 7, 2014, I went to a Relief Society activity with my daughter and left my boys at home. After an hour or two away, I walked through front door to find my Christmas tree prematurely built and lit in the corner of my living room.  My husband turned and smile at my stunned look.  I was raised that the Christmas tree doesn't go up 'til the first week of December and especially not before Thanksgiving.  But there it was, mocking me in the corner.

"Paul, why is there a tree in the living room?" I asked through gritted teeth.

He shrugged.  "Sam and I got bored."

By now, Annie's eyes were as lit as the tree, and her mouth hung open in wonder.  I knew I had already lost a war that had not yet begun, so I kept the tree up, and in the morning, I pulled out the rest of the decorations.  While my initial attitude was sour, I soon fell in love with my festive abode and the way it prematurely shifted my focus to the birth of Christ.  Thanksgiving was not forgotten. I found my heart more full of gratitude when I was surrounded by nativities than fat, brown birds.  So, we made decorating the first week of November a new tradition at my house.

This year was more special though because we finally got to hang our stockings on the mantle.  I made these stockings from this pattern when Sam was a baby. They are blue and zebra to match our old living room. Next year I want to make new stockings in more traditional colors.  I won't be in school, so I'm hoping I will have time.  The Christmas plaque and count-down charger were last year's Relief Society Super Saturday crafts.

The garland was inspired by this post. My mom made one for her fireplace a couple of years ago, and I fell in love with it, so much so that I spent an entire year planning my own garland.  I purchased clearance fabric and LED lights the day after Christmas and saved them for the next fall when I could tie the fabric strips onto the sting whilst enjoying a holiday comedy on Netflix.  I had so much left-over fabric that I bought a wire wreath form and tied a wreath too.  They look adorable in the light of day. . .

But magical in the dark of night.

Blue and green might not be the most traditional holiday color scheme, but since I'm not biggest fan of red, I don't mind. Besides, it matches our living room, so I think it all works somehow.

The kids sure love it.

While our Christmas decor is typically limited to our living room, this year, it spilled into the dining room.  The large passway facilitated extra flourishes to maintain flow.  I found Santa hat chair covers at The Dollar Tree.  THE DOLLAR TREE, PEOPLE!  I have been wanting to make these for years but haven't had the means or time, but when I realized I could have jolly chairs for just four bucks, I squealed with delight and shoved these bad boys in my cart.

On our TV-stand-turned-hutch, I made a snowy scene with Dollar Tree tinsel.  It's giving me all the feels, and I am itching to host a holiday friend party.  Can't you just imagine sitting in Santa chairs arguing over Monopoly?  Yes, please.

I know my decorations are cheap and simple, but they make me incredibly happy.  Every day when I'm preparing meals for my family, I look out over the joyful scene and tear up a little.  I'm so incredibly grateful for this beautiful home that is filled with happiness, laughter, and a spirit of peace. After years of temporary lodgings, I finally feel home for Christmas.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Villainous Halloween

Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year.  My mother has never been a big fan this holiday, but she was such a good sport about letting me and my siblings participate.  Almost every year, I hovered behind my mother marveling at her talents and creativity as she sat at the sewing machine piecing together homemade costumes.  Inspired, I swore I would make all of my children's Halloween costumes when I was a perfect little homemaker.  Predictably, that naive dream was shattered on Annie's first Halloween.  Lack of finances and energy led me to dress my first born in some hand-me-down pumpkin jammies and call it a day.  In fact, Annie didn't get a real costume until after her brother was born, and it wasn't homemade either.  She wore kitty ears and a tail from the craft store. Although I had to wade through mothering guilt and fear of disappointing my children with my laziness, I realized that no one else on the planet cared.  The world did not stop turning because I purchased a costume.  Go figure.

Still, I loved the look of homemade costumes, and I realized that adding some homemade aspect to a store-bought costume gave the ensemble that custom appearance my mother's loving hands always infused into her projects.  I have used this method ever since, and this year was no exception. For Halloween 2016, my children wanted to dress as their favorite bad guys: Darth Vader and Wreck-it Ralph.


I considered buying Annie a Darth Vader suit but was stricken with an idea to save money and incorporate that homemade touch I love.

I purchased a three dollar, long-sleeved, plain black t-shirt from Wal-Mart along with eight 8.5"x11" sheets of felt ($.26 each).  I studied pictures of Darth Vader and cut out matching buttons and mechanical boxes which I easily hot-glued into place.  (You'll notice I forgot to mirror the belt boxes. Opps.)  The belt boxes were not glued to the shirt.  I glued more black of felt to the top and bottom of each box to create a loop which I could string a belt through.  The shoulder piece was also only glued to the shoulders and neck, leaving the bottom free to float away from the body and create a 3D effect.


The boots and pants were just black things we already owned.  The gloves were as well, though they had white fingertips that I colored black with a permanent marker.  I sewed the cape from an old bedsheet that my sister, Janell, was no longer using.

The lightsaber came from Janell too (just borrowing), although I did see some faux lightsabers at the Dollar Tree that I could have picked up had I not had access to my sister's.  The obviously manufactured part of the costume was the mask, which Janell was kind enough to buy for Annie. Behind the mask, Annie wore a hat to mimic a helmet.  I had a winter cap from the Dollar Tree that had ear flaps. I had to snip off the tassels and turn it inside out to hide the white snowflakes, but I love the way it turned out.

At school and Trunk-or-Treat, no masks are allowed.  For those events, Annie just wore the hat with a Darth Vader face I cut out of some clearance fleece from JoAnn Fabrics.  I spent maybe a dollar for the fleece.

Overall, I think Annie made one killer looking Darth Vader.  Pun intended.

Duun Duun Duun Dun da Duuun Dun Da Duuun!

My total cost: Less than $10.
You can buy the mask for $8-12 at a party store or Wal-Mart, so if that cost was included, it would be about $20 to replicate this look if you already own the pants, gloves, and boots like we did.

To match her costume, I slipped on my Yoda pajama shirt.  It wasn't very elaborate, but it made her happy.

This year was the first Halloween that Sam expressed an opinion.  Honestly, after seeing me create Annie's costume, he wanted to be Darth Vader as well.  I talked him off that ledge, and we settled on Wreck-It Ralph instead.   Sam loves this movie and equally loved this costume.  The best part was, it was sooooooo easy and cheap.  My kind of costume.

The green undershirt was something he already owned.  The orange shirt and overalls were purchased at the thrift store for $5.  I cut the sleeves on the shirt to make them look torn like Ralphs, and I dyed the once-white overalls a beautiful shade of brown.  The gold medal was $.99 from the party store.

I drew eyebrows and sideburns on that tiny head with my eyebrow pencil, and then I spiked up his hair.  Originally, I bought a "70's" wig to spike up like Ralph's hair, but it was sewn in a way that forced the hair to lay flat, and when Sam wore it, he looked more like Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite than Wreck-It Ralph.  So, I vetoed the wig.

I think he turned out pretty cute anyway, even sleeping in the brick-filled dump.

My Total Cost: Less than $10.
I love that I was able to put together this adorable costume that didn't wreck my bank account.  Get it?  Wreck!  You know, 'cause it's wre-- nevermind.

 Because I'm a dork, I made Paul play along this year as well.  He was Sam's counterpart, Fix-It Felix Jr.  This outfit mostly consisted of clothes Paul already owned with the exception of the hat and the hammer.  Together, they cost about $12.  The dang hat alone was $8.  I'm still a little salty about that.

I did this more for Sam's benefit than anything else.  He is so obsessed with his daddy's costume that he has since insisted that I am incapable of helping him with anything because I do not have a golden hammer.  When the handle of his Halloween bucket broke, Fix-It Felix saved the day.  When his glow stick burst, Fix-It Felix rescued him.  When he got tangled in his car seat buckles, he screamed for Fix-It Felix.  I've created a monster.  A cute monster, but a monster nonetheless.

Overall, I'd say this was a successful All Hallow's Eve.  To celebrate, here are more pictures of my cuties:


Don't tell me this isn't the cutest thing you've ever seen.

My blue-eyed Rowbabies.

Ringing the doorbell with the force.

"Smile for the camera, Vader."

"Don't tell me what to do, Ralph."

If you choke Ralph, he will wreck you.
For previous Halloween costumes, click here or here.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Pity party for one

This last week has been a doozy at my house, and I have kept my chin up and managed to swallow any anxiety I might have felt.  But today, it all came crashing down on me, and I just needed a pity party.  I decided to write down my feelings so I can acknowledge them and move on.  Here it goes.

I remember my elation when I saw the seven-day difference between completing Ethics & Social Responsibility and Literary Theory.  Could it be?  A week off?  I haven’t had one of those since last Christmas.  Brimming with excitement, I sat at the kitchen table and made a list of things to do with all of my free time.

_Finish sewing Halloween costumes for my two children (ages 3 and 5)
_Reorganize the storage room and find Halloween decorations
_Help set up and take down PTA fundraising carnival
_Mow the lawn one last time before the grass goes into hibernation
_Winterize flowerbeds and vegetable garden
_Write one blog entry
_Write short talk for Relief Society meeting
_Plan Relief Society lesson for Sunday
_Wash windows
_Binge-watch Chuck on Netflix
_Take a nap every day to fight off bronchitis and a double ear infection (Eww.)
_Run a steaming hot bath to clear out sinuses
_Cook dinner every night (preferably soup)



Sadly, the weekend before my seven-day sabbatical, my water heater burst and flooded the basement and garage.  Instead of relaxing, healing, and catching up on housework, I spent the week on the phone with the insurance company, home warranty people, plumbers, cleanup guys, and my husband.  I watched my beautiful laundry room and hallway get ripped apart while large fans whirred all day and all night for over a week to salvage as much drywall and flooring as we could.  It felt like I was living in a wind tunnel, and missed the sound of silence.  The industrial dehumidifiers sucked every bit of moisture from our already dry Utah air, which seemed to exacerbate my incessant coughing.  Since we were short a water heater, a steamy bath or shower was not an option for relief.  Dishes piled up in the sink before I caved and boiled pots of water for handwashing in a sacred moment of connection with my pioneer ancestors.  I watched every hamper fill up and spill out onto the floor as I avoided the laundromat.  One by one, I gave up on my to-do list to manage the soggy situation downstairs.  So much for a week off.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Fried

Most days I’m okay with new me and my new life.  No, that’s a lie.  Some days I’m okay with new me and my new life.  I’m proud to wear my mommy card and show pictures of my children to people I barely know because they are just so adorable.  I don’t even flinch if I’m out in public and find mystery crunchies on my shirt.  I buy cream for weird rashes unapologetically, and scrap sticky spots off the floor with my fingernails like my mom did before me.  I’ve grown accustomed to claiming cleaning and mowing the lawn as some of my favorite hobbies.  There is rarely any “me time” unless you count pooping by myself while my son bangs on the bathroom door.  This is all part of what I signed up for when I became a mom.  But there are days when I feel more robotic than human, because those aspects of motherhood are just part of the programming, and sometimes I miss the days when I had a choice in, well, anything.  My children are captaining this ship.  I realize that.

I also feel as though school is sucking my soul away.  Dramatic?  Yes.  Accurate?  Most definitely.  I’m burnt out.  Exhausted doesn’t even begin to describe it.  I am forgotten-lasagna-still-in-the-oven, flat-iron-turned-up-too-high, iron-fell-over-on-favorite-tablecloth, no-I-don’t-need-sunscreen fried.  After being mommy robot for 12+ hours every day, I have to be a college student for 3-5 hours every night. Academic Kayla is constantly obsessing over her teacher’s expectations and how to perfectly fulfill the requirements for each assignment.  For a people-pleaser like me, this can border on unhealthy and has led to some embarrassing breakdowns at my desk.  I’m tired of every waking thought revolving around what someone else wants, needs, or expects.  I’m so mentally exhausted that I can’t shut my brain off to sleep.  But it’s okay.  I knew when I decided to pursue higher education while raising a family it would be hard.  I knew I would have to make sacrifices, so I’m not mad or even complaining.  It is what it is, and I’m willing to do it.

This week, I was reminded that I wasn’t always this fried version of myself.  Once upon a time, I was a zit-faced teenager never seen without a sketchbook in hand.  I drew dorky anime people.  I scanned those doodles and digitally colored them.  I shared them with my friends on art boards.  And it made me really happy.  After I graduated high school, I stopped drawing.  It was just one of the many hobbies a teenager must sacrifice to the adulthood gods in exchange for education and jobs.  At the time, I didn’t miss it.  I satisfied my artistic needs with blogging, making creative cakes, and painting my dining room chairs purple.  Each of those things gave me an outlet to express my Kaylaness.  No one else had a say.  I suppose art is a little selfish that way.

Last week, I felt this familiar twitch in my right hand.  My pointer finger tapped my thumb and yearned for a pencil.  On my knees, I riffled around under my bed until I found an old friend: my sketchbook.  Leafing through the pages, I realized I had not drawn anything since 2009.  I pawed around in the box that housed the sacred book until I found a mechanical pencil and my trusty click-up eraser.  Cross-legged and hunched over, I began to draw.  My pencil moved fluidly, sketching the outline of a jaw and a soft rendering of some cartoonish eyes.  Shoulders, hands, and clothes all followed.  Hair, a mouth, and a nose completed the head, and I turned my attention to those pesky feet.  I’ve always struggled with feet.  I could see what the shoes should look like in my mind, but there was a disconnection between my vision and my hand.  Thank heavens for that eraser which turned a few failed attempts into something I could identify as feet.  With that finishing detail, the picture was done.  I held it out to admire it from a distance.  It was no Van Gogh, but it mine.  The simple sketch was this organic expression of my spirit.  It was a raw exploration of my psyche, and the relief I felt afterward was comparable to the satisfying sheen of a freshly mowed lawn.  I get chills just thinking about it.

I cannot wait for graduation.  I’m making lists of things I want to do in the few months I’ll have off before starting my master’s degree.  It may or may not include copious of drawing, reading whatever I want, writing about whatever I’m thinking, and naps.  Lots of naps. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Prejudice

I should be working on a ten page research paper right now, but my brain is swirling with thoughts and emotions that will leak out my eyes if I don't drain them through my fingertips into the keyboard.  Bear with me.

I am prejudice.  I think it takes a lot of courage to admit that.  Of course, everyone is prejudice in their own way.  Even someone who seems perfectly political correct can show a moment of weakness.  Thankfully, when confronting prejudice, walking a mile in someone's shoes can expose the error of one's ways, and I have recently had the opportunity to do so.

As a teenager, I HATED mowing the lawn.  By hate, I mean loathed with all of the fiery passions of H-E-double toothpicks with a side of manure-coated disdain.  I can remember two occasions when my brother and father were not available for some inconceivable reason (car show probably), and my mother decided I needed to “build character” out in the scorching, dry heat.  If you ever thought your mom didn't love you for taking away your phone, grounding you from the television, or not letting you attend a friend's birthday party so you could visit Aunt Myrtle in a nursing home, you were wrong.  She did those things because she loved you.  But if she made you mow the lawn, there is a pretty good chance that her enduring love was diminishing. So, on those two summer mornings when my teenage sassiness made my mother question giving birth to me, she ordered me outside with some excuse about how I needed to “contribute to the household” and “build character” and yada yada yada.  I stared into her blackening soul, and beneath her look of wisdom was smugness because she knew that as I stomped outside in my capris and flip flops, I was going to be humbled beyond measure.

It never occurred to me that mowing the lawn would be painful until I powered up the machine, and razor blades of grass whipped around my exposed ankles like miniature tornadoes of ninjas.  I sucked up the pain as my uncalloused hands gripped the vibrating handle, pinching my palms with the lever.  I leaned forward and pumped my legs, propelling the mower across the lawn while the deafening sound rattled my ears and dislodged a tooth or two.  The vibrations of the motor weakened the muscles in my arms.  Between getting caught in hidden dips in grass and maneuvering around trees and a swing set without the luxury of backing up, it felt as though two noodles had replaced my once-useful limbs, making it nearly impossible to heft the devil equipment around my obstacle course of a yard. I swore with every foul word I could muster, “Dagnabbit!  Freakin’ grass!  Stupid mower!  How the heck do people do this every week?!  I swear I will never make my dang kids mow the lawn.  I will love my friggen kids. Sweet mother of Jefferson Davis!  Who put a stinkin’ rock in the grass?!  DAGUMMIT!”

I survived the experience and forgave my father for shirking his sheltering duties and my mother for finding teaching opportunities with heavy machinery not appropriate for a delicate flower like myself.  I also formed a deep prejudice for husbands who forced their wives to mow the lawn.  Whenever I drove past a house with a married woman pushing that howling monster, I immediately made an assumption that the man in her life should have a restraining order against him for spousal abuse.  Did they not realize they were crushing the feminine spirit one blade at a time?

Then, I bought a house.

And Paul and I bought a lawn mower.

On a breezy, spring morning, empowered by homeownership and sideways glances from my neighbors, I decided to pull out our shiny mower and tackle our overgrown lawn.  I checked the oil level, poured gasoline into the tank and, with consuming dread, nearly tore my shoulder out of socket pulling that rip cord.  Then, something unexpected happened.  I traipsed across the lawn and looked back at the uniform sheen of the freshly cut greenery and felt a shot of OCD adrenaline flooding through my veins.  I wanted more, so I turned the machine around and cut another row, then another.  With each subsequent row, the thrill of mowing increased.  The pain of the occasional stick or rock that shot out at my exposed ankles was completely obscured by this addictive need for progression.  My arms quivered slightly, not from fatigue but anticipation of another yard behind the house that still needed trimmed.  Music blared in my ears, and I belted Train over the purr of my lawnmower.  The vibrations of the engine massaged my spirit, and I could feel my soul connecting with the earth as we became one entity.  What was happening?

When I rounded the willow tree and the miracle machine devoured the last tuft of overgrowth, I let go of the lever.  The mower hummed into silence, leaving me standing in a level kingdom of emerald carpet, grown graciously from my mother earth.  As I turned off my iPod, the soft twitters of birds singing my praise replaced the brassy voice of Adele.  I lovingly placed the mower back in the garden shed and walked up onto my deck to overlook my kingdom.  I stood there for what felt like seconds and hours morphed into a moment of pure bliss until the shouts of my children from inside the house woke me from my euphoria.

Since that day, I have not let my husband mow my lawn, lest he find it as addicting as I do.  I’ve become possessive of our crimson mower and territorial of my grass.  I confessed my feelings to my mother-in-law last week when she came up to babysit, and she shared a confession of her own:  She felt the same way.

I will never again pass judgment on some poor, unassuming man when I see his wife out mowing the law.  It could be that, like me, she is relishing in mowing meditation as she reconnects with herself for a few child-free moments.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

When the sun is out

I hate being hot.  I dread summer with its sticky, sickly heat. Searing seat belts, sweaty scalp, and the general smell of wilted plants just holding out for nightfall are enough to nauseate me. Even then, I also yearn for the season because I feel dead when I’m cold and alive when I’m warm. Sunlight reaches through my skin and warms the blood.  It grasps my chest and pulls at my heart, filling my being with the great desire to create art, laugh incessantly, and kiss babies like I’m the Pope.    

It’s been rainy this week.  Sporadic showers keep my lawn green and muddy.  It also keeps me trapped inside by this invisible barrier of chill.  I consider a jacket just so I can get my restless children out of the house, but when I look out at the sea of grey that fills the sky, I change my mind.  Before children, rainy days were poetic.  Book in hand, the musty smell of yellowing paper mingled with the steam of hot cider.  On an itchy, worn couch beside a bay window, wrapped in an afghan painstakingly weaved one knot at a time, I could read as the pattering sound of rain lulled me into a literary trance.  I could bake warm treats that weren’t good for me or just write about them to save calories.  I could watch The Princess Bride or Pride and Prejudice without guilt.  And I could reasonably justify these languorous activities because they were laced with philosophical thought that would make Socrates weep with pride.

With children, rainy days are different.  The hum of rain is drowned out by the shrill sounds of whining or screaming.  Fighting erupts over each activity.  Coloring becomes broken crayons and broken dreams.  PlayDoh becomes muddy, mixed colors and cries over the last purely pink pot of dough.  Train tracks become train wrecks.  Puppets become projectiles.  I would send the little tornadoes out into the cold, but I know the two minutes of silence will not be worth the proceeding ten minutes of complaining and runny noses.  I resort to the television and choose my sanity over their melted brains.


I think I need a nap.  Wake me up with the sun is out.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Spring

I did not realize the effect our old house had on my life until I returned the last time for some final cleaning.  When I turned onto the street that led to the neighborhood, I felt this hole forming in my stomach and hot saliva pooling in the back of my throat like my body was forcing down something distasteful.  As I pulled up to the gates, I could feel my hands sweating as I gripped the steering wheel.  The car rounded the first corner, then the second, and come to a stop in front of the house. Every atom in my body was humming and telling me to turn back.  It was as if I sat in front of a grizzly haunted house from a horror movie with an overly dramatic name like “The Blackened” instead of a gray-blue townhouse.  My fingers hesitated at the ignition key, still undecided if they wanted to obey my commands to turn off the car.  I forced them, and with a quick turn, the car was silent.

We moved into the townhouse when my son was three weeks old, and trapped within those walls, I faced my twenty-two month battle with severe postpartum depression.  Because the house and depression entered my life at the same time, the walls became stained and scared from the dark experience that took place there, and when I pulled up for last time, it all came flooding back.  I thought I hated that house for lack of closets, the tiny kitchen, or the dysfunctional HOA.  However, the stark contrast I felt between our new home, which is filled with peace, and this old building, tainted by hate, acted as a potent reminder that every strand of carpet, every squeak in the floor, and every window blind carried with it memories of pain.

This week I wrote about my postpartum depression for my creative writing class.  During this process, I reviewed old blog and journal entries so the experience would be fresh in my mind.  This entry particularly stood out because I had forgotten that it was last spring that brought the first buds of hope back into my life.  Now, one year later, I walk through my yard and observe the tiny, green leaves poking out the ground that will soon sprout into daffodils.  I find green and purple mint leaves hiding under dead winter foliage.  I see the moss-covered willow branches budding around the teal tire swing that Annie sways in every afternoon.  I find so much joy in it all and an immense amount of gratitude to be in this place.  I think this time every year I will remember the hell that held me captive and the heavenly freedom I feel now and be grateful that every winter has a spring.


Thursday, January 7, 2016

That one time when we bought a house

Yes, you read that right, and if you are friends with me on Facebook, you are not even surprised.  For two and a half years, I have endured living in this little townhouse with no linen or coat closet in a neighborhood reminiscent of Privet Drive, but just before Thanksgiving, we had an unbelievable opportunity to buy our dream home.  It didn't seem to make sense, and we didn't feel ready, but everything was pushing us to take a leap of faith, so we did.  Right off a cliff, it seemed.  Since then, everything has fallen into place to cushion our landing.

This dream home is not a mansion.  Not even close, but it feels like one to us.  It has a yard, garage, garden, swing-set, and beautiful white kitchen.  As an added bonus, it has a coat closet and TWO linen closets.  Yes, you read that right. TWO.  I will finally have a home for everything instead of being forced to line the walls of my bedroom with odd, homeless items.  Talk about a mood setter, you know?

My children will also have the rooms of their dreams.  Annie's room was already painted pink, which is all she has ever dreamed of since she was first introduced to the color.  Sam's room has a lock on the outside of the door, which is all I've ever dreamed of since he discovered how to break child locks off doorknobs.  Everybody wins!  The homeowners of the new house have already vacated the premises and gave us a key so we could make any household repairs we deemed necessary before we moved in.  As the gleaming brass object was placed into my hand, a light emerged from the heavens and heavy gust of wind ripped through my hair like a cheesy scene from a bad romance novel.  Except it was my son playing with the light switch and a neighbor opening the front door to carry out a box.  Still, I could feel the temptation of the key whispering to me that I was a domestic goddess.  By the end of the night, the family was gone, and the very next day I was sticking the key into the lock and listening to the satisfying click of the deadbolt.  I began patching nail holes and sanding drywall like it wasn't my first day at the Home Depot rodeo, all the while with full intentions to use the paint in the basement to touch up my glorious work, leaving the house in pristine condition for move-in day.

Then, tragedy struck.  I realized the leftover paint did not include colors for the children's bedrooms, which happened to be where I did most of the repairs.  My stomach shot up into my throat like impending vomit, but then slithered back down where it hummed angrily.  What should I do?  Leave the walls looking patching and awful?  What kind of domestic goddess would I be if I left my new house in such a state?!  I considered using leftover colors from other rooms, but my little daughter was expecting a pink room, so I swallowed my pride down into my humming stomach, and took an unexpected trip to the hardware store to pilot my first major mission as the master of the new house.

During the mission, I discovered there is the process you go through when painting the walls in a color you don't like. Home Depot has a No Return policy on paint, so if the wrong color is chosen, you just threw $25+ out the window, my friend. When you start painting and you feel that familiar tinge of regret, you tell yourself that the color will look better when it dries or covers more of the wall or when the trim has been painted or with a new light fixture or when the sun is in a different position. The longer you tape, roll, and cut in, the more you realize how much work goes into painting a room and the less you ever want to do it again, so you continue to justify and rationalize like a child being told Santa does not exist. He does, and this paint color will get better with age or artwork on the walls or some white curtains, right?  The rationalizing continues to spiral out of control because wasting 25 dollars worth of paint because you are afraid to admit your mistake seems so much less worse than repainting the entire room.

And at end of all that, you are left sitting in the center of your daughter's room that now resembles Miss Piggy, and your son's supposed-to-be gray striped room that now looks quite purple.


That's where I was on Saturday night, siting alone after all of my painting assistants went home, thinking SWEET MOTHER OF JEFFERSON DAVIS. WHAT. HAVE. I. DONE?

Thankfully, after changing the horrific florescent light bulbs and painting the off-white stripes in Sam's room a bright white, the paint blossomed into what I had imagined.


I sure hope my children love this new house and their new rooms, because this domestic goddess is hanging up her paint brush for a while.