Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Four Months Old

August! This little man is four months old. A fact which I failed completely to remember until a sales clerk said, "Oh! How old is your baby?" and I said, "Three months."
False. He has been four months old for a few days now. He is very much like he was as a three month-old, in that he is a cheerful, patient baby that rarely cries, but laughs and smiles almost constantly. He lets his brothers play, pull, and tumble all over him and rarely complains (in fact, he generally loves it.) He loves the boys so much. He watches them constantly and I know he can't wait to be running off with them. Once he figures out how to move, he's going to be unstoppable (and probably drive his brothers crazy, getting into whatever they're doing.)

In the above pictures, I was trying to get August to look at me, but instead he was watching Grey dance and parade around the yard.

August sleeps really well in some aspects, and poorly in others. For example, he goes to sleep on his own with very little trouble. At naptimes, I usually just lie him down swaddled, and leave the room and he goes to sleep on his own. (Although sometimes he likes to be rocked to sleep, or have me lie with him on my bed for a while.) At night he wakes up, eats, and goes immediately back to sleep without any rocking or his pacifier. But at night he's been getting up to eat every two and a half or three hours. Sometimes I don't want to feed him after so little time, so I just reswaddle him and give him a paci. He will go back to sleep for about an hour, but it's often restless and he'll hum and wriggle in his sleep. So I end up sleeping restlessly, too. Also, he hums in his sleep all the time. It's so annoying, and very hard to sleep through. I'm hoping it's just a growth spurt and he needs extra food, and soon he'll start sleeping in 5-6 hour blocks again, because I am tired

He really wants to eat solid foods, and starts hyperventilating, kicking his legs, and gasping with excitement when he sees us eating. I stuck a bit of mushed up banana in his mouth the other day and he was delighted. I'm not really ready for him to eat solids, yet, but I feel it close around the bend. 

August has been chewing on his hands (and anyone else's he can get) like crazy, as well as drooling everywhere all the time. But I seem to recall that the boys were the same way and they didn't get teeth until about 10 months
August is so big, weighing about 16 pounds and already wearing clothes that Grey and Micah fit in when they could walk. WALK. I never really thought Grey and Micah were behind developmentally (they weren't really, despite being preemies.) but looking at their four month old update it's crazy to me how different they were from August. They couldn't lie on their stomachs and hold their heads up so high or for so long. They were nowhere near sitting. They were teeny tiny. But they could roll, something August has no inclination to ever do. He only rolled over once in the last month, and I think it was a complete accident and quite surprised him.

He wants to sit up so badly, and can actually sit up for about 15 seconds at a time on the solid ground (if propped correctly, as above). He can sit up on my lap indefinitely (without leaning back against me), but my legs help to balance him- so it doesn't quite count. It's tricky to get pictures of him sitting though, and most of them ended up looking like this, haha:

We all love this boy so much, and I can hardly remember what our family was like when he wasn't a part of it. Isn't it funny how that happens?

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I feel hesitant admitting that it's important to me to be well-dressed.
Especially since I obviously am not always well dressed, and spend a lot of time (as all mothers do, I think) in a t-shirt and jeans or yoga pants.
But generally I like to look good. And even more, I like my kids to look good. I like to dress them up adorably like fashionable little dolls. Skinny jeans. Kids' Toms. Wittle baby cardigans.
I love it all.
And in contemplating this post, I think there are many reasons for this besides just the vain and shallow reasons. For example, I take pictures all day long, I print them and hang them up, I work them into blog posts and photo albums. And if I am spending the time, effort, and money- I don't want my kids wearing Sponge Bob shirts.
I also kind of dress them in defense of myself. To prove, perhaps, that I am capable of being a mother to three young kids. They may not know their letters, but they're not living in squalor, either. They are cared for and loved, they are dressed semi-well.

But I don't always have the time, energy, or clean-clothing-supply to get my kids into coordinating, layered outfits of supreme adorableness. Plus, in the summer- all a kid needs is a t-shirt and a pair of shorts. So half the time, my kids look really, really cute.
And half the time- they dress themselves.

Once upon a time, I said things like "If you only buy clothes that you like, your kids will have to get dressed in them- so they'll look cute, even if they pick out their own clothes."
But obviously, that didn't take into account the clothes that you accumulate without loving. Hand me downs, gifts, pajamas, sweat pants, clothes from the closet that are too big or too small.
And I didn't take into account the stupid way that my kids insist on dressing themselves. Clothes and shoes on backwards, inside out, on the wrong feet. Pajamas in the day, and backwards suspenders.

I want to foster their independence so they do things themselves, as well as encourage them in things that they like. So unless we are going somewhere, or they are wearing the same clothes for the third day in a row (it's hard to get their favorite shirts off of them), I let them dress themselves and look stupid.
And also, they hate when I brush their hair and I don't care enough to fight them if they're already wearing American flag shirts.

So the point of this story is this: sometimes when I'm out with the boys and they look unkept, I am really embarrassed.
I know it's silly. I know that it's a flaw in myself that appearances are so important. But lately, I've had a few good reminders that it doesn't matter.

One was today, as the boys and I left on a walk. I was cringing as I watched them run up the sidewalk ahead of me. Grey was wearing a too-big shirt that was inside out and backwards and fell to his knees, backwards sweatpants that were too short, and shoes on the wrong feet.
When I said, "Grey, your shirt is on backwards and your shoes are on the wrong feet," he delightedly told me, "I love them all backwards!"
Micah was wearing a very stained shirt (backwards) tucked into soccer shorts (also backwards), and sporting a huge tangled rats' nest in his hair.

We walked by our neighbor's house, where there were several men working outside rebuilding the patio.
"Mom! Who is that? What are they doing?" Micah yelled, stopping to look.
One of the men, Grandfatherly looking, turned to them and said, "Do you want to see what we're doing? Come see this!" He showed them how he used the stud gun, and then pointed out one of the young men scraping paint off a pillar near him. He was muscular, heavily tattooed, and young- probably younger than me- and would have intimidated me if he wasn't beaming at us all.
"These your babies?" he asked. "Congratulations. What a happy blessing children are."
I felt... baffled, really.
Not the least because we walk by people and construction-sites regularly and have never been addressed by anyone (and I would probably be nervous if we were.)
But I was reminded what a blessing my kids are. They were laughing and happy. They were engaged and curious about the world around them. They were dressed in clothes that they picked out and loved, even though they were all so stupid.
But the stupidness of their clothes doesn't matter.
They matter.
And I really, really love them.
Even when they look like ragamuffins.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Conversations with Three Year-Olds

The boys have started listening to conversations that they are not a part of which is a huge pain, since they were previously pretty oblivious to everything not spoken directly to them. We could discuss Christmas presents, secretly-pregnant friends, and possible plans to visit the P-A-R-K.
But no longer. The boys now listen to conversations that aren't about them, and assume that whatever we are saying is about their dad. So if someone in the front seat says, "I'm starving."
Someone in the back seat  will immediately pipe up, "My dad is STARVING? That's why he eats bugs?" (Travis ate some bugs in Ghana. It's a pretty big deal around here.)
They don't always catch what we're talking about either, so I also hear lots of random things like, "My Dad is pooping in a river, Mom?" or "My dad is Grandpa's Dad and he is waiting for us at our home?"
No and No.

Travis: We have to get new tires.
Grey: Oh yeah? Why?
Travis: Because somebody likes to mess with my head and wallet.
Grey: We do, Dad! We do!

Grey: Grandpa Chris is Grandma's daddy?
Me: No, Grandpa is Grandma's husband. They're married. Grandpa Chris is MY daddy.
Grey: Oh I see.
Me: Ah, yes. I see.
Grey: No. You don't see. I see.

Travis: Have you pooped yet?
Micah: No. He likes him home.
Travis: What? Who does? Your poop?
Micah: Yeah. My poop likes him home inside me.

Grey: Why did Grandpa Jim die? I know. His teeth fell out and he had fake ones and then he died.

Micah: You think I can't climb trees because I'm little? Ha! No! I can climb all the little trees!

Micah: Hey. I am alone AGAIN!

**August threw up**
Grey: Excuse me! Babies throw up a lot Katie, so you don't have to say that.

Micah: I need to take my temperature. Ah. It's an 8.

Me: Is it more important to be right or to be nice?
Grey: Right!
Me: Wrong!
Grey: NICE!
Micah: WRONG!
Micah: I changed my mind.
Me: What did you change your mind to?
Micah: I changed my mind, to TRICK YOU!

Micah: Grandma is stupid.
Me: Hey! That is not okay to say, stupid is a really naughty word.
Micah: But, I still love her anyway!

Micah: Mom, this is a flying motorcycle. That's not a flying baby.

Micah: I want to see August!
Grey: You totally can!
Micah: I can NOT!
Grey: Hmm. Are your eyes broken?

Micah: Thanks, Me! Ha! I said Thank you to myself!

Micah: Where's Grandma?
Me: Outside.
Micah: How DARE her go outside?!

Grey: Will Katie and Grandma drink my smoothie?
Me: No. They'll save it for you.
Grey: So no bad guys drink it?
Me: There aren't any bad guys who want to drink your smoothie.
Micah: I could fight them!
Grey: No! You'll die!  You're not a grownup!
Me: Micah can fight pretend bad guys, Grey.
Micah: I can fight pretend bad guys!
Grey: Well, do it then!
Micah: They're not here. They are at Grandma Polly's house, drinking you smoothie.
Grey: NOOO!

Grandma: We can see the temple from up here.
Micah: I love to see the temple!
Me: Me too!
Micah: You do not. And you do not get to see the temple with us. We are dropping you off somewhere else.

Micah: I like kisses from Grandma Polly. I do not like kisses from Grandpa.

Me: You better keep that sassy tongue in your mouth.
Grey: I wasn't sticking my tongue out at you. I was sticking it at the grass.

Grey: Grandpa Chris is not cute. I am cute, and you are cute, Micah. But Grandpa Chris is not cute. 
Katie: Grandpa is cute!
Micah: No, Katie. He is NOT cute. Grandma Polly is cute, and you are cute. Grey is cute and I am cute. 
Grey: But Grandpa is not cute. 

Micah: A shark is going to eat me!
Me: Oh no! Are you alright?
Micah: No. I am NOT. I'm a shark's BELLY!

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Photo a Day: Aug 10 - 16

This week has been very chill, just hanging out at my parents with my Mom and sister Katie all day. I actually didn't get any fabulous pictures, nor did I get any pictures with my parents or brother, despite being around them all day. Instead, I got several pictures of my boys that I love. They are pictures that really tell about my boys and who they are right now. Let me share all the things I see in these pictures:

 Sunday: Reading together. The boys are both obsessed, obsessed with comic books and superheroes. They read and reread these Batman and Spiderman books all day. They look at them every time we're in the car, before bed, during church, and whenever they have a spare minute. Also, notice that Grey is eating a roll. All the boys eat all day long is bread.

 Monday: August has discovered his fingers. He sucks and chews on them all. day. long. He's also really observant and is constantly watching everything happening around him. // Tuesday: My happy Grey boy and his cowlick. That cowlick is there all the time. It's nearly impossible to comb down, and if I do get it down, it's up again as soon as he naps or sleeps.

 Tuesday: Grey and Micah love their little brother. They try to be around August (and are all up in his business) all the time.

 Thursday: Hiking and climbing with Aunt Katie. If you ask the boys what they like to do, the answer is usually, "Climb on rocks and up big mountains, climb trees, and climb up everything." // Friday: My handsome Micah.

 Saturday: Just my blue eyed boys. I really like them.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Mother Boy

All I want is to be the favorite parent of one of my children. Is that so much to ask?  I think, even when the boys were practically newborns- Travis was the favorite. He came bounding home from work in the evenings when I was worn out from the day. He had a deep soothing voice, and strong arms to hold two boys at once.
As they got older, he wrestled with the boys, took them on walks, rode the skateboard with them and was always the favorite parent - a title which he holds today. And, I was (and am) the "naptime enforcer" (in my sister's words). I am the less fun parent. Regular ol' Mom.
I don't mind too terribly. If I was the favorite parent, I'd have to do a lot more work. As it is, the boys don't want me in the middle of the night. They don't want me to read them Batman and Robin comics. And they certainly don't want me to feed them dinner, since I never let them eat while watching the Lego movie and always make them eat more than they want to.

But it's kind of nice being the favorite parent for once. I know it's just a matter of time until August realizes that I am the dreaded naptime enforcer. But for now, he enjoys a good, long nap. I love the way he perks up looks eagerly around the room when he hears my voice. I am in raptures over his hot, sticky breath on my neck when he falls asleep trying to burp. He wants me. 
And I like it.
Although, to be fair, he is so overwhelmingly joyful to be paid attention by anyone, and will happily fall asleep in complete strangers arms. He squeaks, coos, and ha!s in excitement whenever he sees or hears either of his brothers. And, of course, Travis is the baby whisperer and August falls asleep almost as soon as his daddy picks him up.

But Travis is in Ghana eating bugs, so I get this chubby drooler all to myself for a few weeks.
I have been replaced as the favorite parent by my mother, who is the boys' favorite "parent" in Nevada.
And last night at bedtime prayers, when I said, "Please bless Daddy while he's traveling-" Grey interrupted and said, "No, Mom. Say, 'Please Bless Daddy to come home now.'"
So they obviously still really like him. Which I guess isn't surprising.

The truth is, I am a baby Mama.
I love all my children, obviously, and I do not have a favorite child (except, of course, the child that is being least exasperating at any given moment), but I do have a favorite age.
That age might just be three months. I know some parents can't wait for their kids to get a little bigger so they can really play, read stories, run, talk, eat, and laugh.
But I really like babies. I prefer snuggling to wrestling, and co-sleeping with a swaddled baby is much better than co-sleeping with a little boy who kicks you simultaneously in the face and small of the back while sleeping and also might wet the bed.

I don't want my children to stay little forever, because I find so much joy in watching babies discover the world around - whether they're finding their toes, watching the leaves, learning to sit up, roll over, or make that tricky "Ba!" sound. And now I find a new delight as I watch Grey and Micah learn to climb trees, do somersaults, learn letters, and use funny grown-up sounding words like "interesting" and "difficult."
But I supposed my poor husband will never convince me that we have enough children, because I always want to have a baby in the house- or more accurately- on my lap.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

About the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Amos 3:7 - Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. 

 As I suspect you all know by now, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka Mormons.)
This is a church that I love and which follows The Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and it's been getting a lot of bad publicity lately, mostly from people who don't really understand what we believe or why.
So I want to add my voice to the whirlwind of noise, by sharing some of the basic beliefs of the church- to help non-Mormons understand what we believe about a few key things.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a like any Christian religion in many respects. We study and revere the Bible as Holy scripture. We believe that Christ literally died for our sins and was resurrected three days later- making eternal life possible for all.
The primary difference(s) between our church and other religions lies with the prophet.
Mormons believe that just as God gave men prophets throughout history- he gives us one today.
Think of it! Even those of you who know nothing about the Bible can doubtless name a few famous prophets. Adam, Noah, Daniel, Samuel, Job, Isaiah, and on and on down to that last prophet who heralded Christ: John the Baptist.
These men were not perfect or sinless (only Christ could live without sin), their purpose was not to negate or rewrite scriptures - they were men chosen by God to explain and clarify scripture and God's will for the specific time in which people dwelt.
Noah's job was to warn of the flood, Daniel stood up to the King when he tried to change the laws contrary to the commandments, and always- always, these men testified and preached of Christ, urged the people to repentance, and held up the laws of God despite the ebb and tide of society.
Wouldn't it make sense that, in this day and age- with an influx of information, with a million ways to interpret the scriptures, and people struggling to find themselves and God- that God would give us a prophet again? A man and mouthpiece on earth to help guide people to Christ?
If God is the same yesterday, today, and forever- he would not change his method of speaking on earth. Yes, individuals can feel God's love for them, learn his will for themselves and their families, and find personal answers to prayer- but when God has a message for the entire world- he uses his servants the prophets. (A note: We do not worship the prophet. We worship God, but we revere and respect the prophet as the "mouthpiece" of the Lord- someone who can help us better know, follow, and worship the Savior.)
Now, you may argue that a prophet is not all that sets Mormons apart from the rest of the world. But every difference in practice or doctrine was brought about by the prophet.

For example:

1. We believe the Bible to be the word of God, but we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. Like the Bible, the Book of Mormon is a history and record of God and his people, usually as recorded by the prophet of the day. It is a testament of Christ and does not contradict the Bible but is a helpmeet to it. It was recorded by prophets of old and translated by the prophet Joseph Smith in the 1800s.

2. Probably the most obvious and well-known difference between members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is that we (strive to) live up to up to higher (seemingly stricter) standards. Famously, we don't drink alcohol or coffee, we dress with intentional modesty, we try to refrain from swearing, viewing degrading media, sex outside of marriage, or getting tattoos or piercings, etc. None of these things are evil. We don't judge people who drink alcohol or look down on people with tattoos, nor do we believe that we are better people for following these standards. But, we believe in following the prophet, and in setting ourselves apart from the world, and being our best possible selves- so we follow these (sometimes seemingly silly) commandments. We don't follow Old Testament laws like "Don't eat lobster," because the prophet of the day has not asked us to. We do continue to follow other important Biblical laws, however, as the prophets have explained that their observance is still important.

3. We have the priesthood power and authority of God on earth. The "priesthood" is another word for the "authority" of God. Just as the prophets, apostles, and Christ-himself performed miracles, healed the sick, and controlled the elements (think of Moses parting the Red Sea, or Elijah sealing up the heavens so no rain fell)- the righteous members of the church can be given that authority too. It is not a magical power, it is a responsibility to follow the commandments of God, even if the commandments seem impossible. But, I have personally witnessed miracles, I have been blessed and I have been healed. Not by a preacher crying out over me in front of a crowd, but by my father, or husband- lying their hands on my head and quietly calling down God's strength and power.
With that authority also comes the authority to baptize, bless, and ordain. I could be sprinkled with water, go swimming a hundred times, and really promise my heart to Christ - but without the authority (given from God to man), my "baptism" would be nothing more than a dunk under water. It cannot wash away my sins, merely because I want it to. All things must be done in Christ, the right way. The way that he instructed and set up while he was on the earth, and the prophet provides those keys.

4. We worship in meeting houses AND temples. You've probably seen the beautiful temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They are stunning in appearance, flawless in craft, and altogether glorious.
But the temples of the church are not where members meet on Sundays to preach, teach, and worship together. Our chapels and meeting houses are open to everyone- little children, non-Mormons, and anyone who wants to wander in. There we gather for activities and group worship. We sing hymns, we take turns teaching, we gather to uplift each other, learn of Christ, and form a community.
The temples, however, are a place of quiet, individual contemplation and worship. Only adult members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who are living the highest standards of the church are allowed to enter. This is to protect the quiet, sacredness of the temple.
As anyone who has ever sat through church with a toddler on their lap can attest, it's distracting, noisy, and at some point in time- your kid will probably escape and climb under the pews and rows of people, kicking everyone they pass. This is okay for church- lift up your joyful noise! But the temple is place of quiet, not noise.
Likewise, the temple is a place to "escape the world" and come to God, and because of this- the "world" is kept at the gates. Those who might misunderstand, disagree with, or fight our doctrine and the quiet peace of worship are asked not to enter. Those interested in learning about the Mormon church are welcome to join us on Sundays at the church buildings.
The temple is also the place where we make more sacred covenants with God. For example, men and women can be married in the temples. Unlike a traditional marriage, which is a covenant between two adults until "death do you part," marriage in a temple is a covenant between a couple and God, and lasts "for all time and eternity."
We also make other personal covenants with God in the temple. For example, we covenant to obey the commandments of Christ (including those given by the prophets of the day), to be chaste and loyal in our marriages, and to give everything to Lord if called upon. We take these promises very seriously. Because of this, only those members of the church who wish to make and keep such covenants can enter into the temple. Making these covenants are not a requirement for anyone- even many members of the church do not go to the temple to make these promises, nor are they a tourist attraction for non-Mormons to attend. They are an important, personal decision and form of worship- and so, they are kept private (but not secret.)
There is a time before the temple is dedicated and opened for use when it can be toured and viewed by anyone- and I would recommend a visit! The temples are as beautiful and intricate inside as they are out. I know there is currently a temple in Ogden Utah doing tours (throughout the month of August.)
And, as with all things in the church, we believe that Christ set down the ways should be done (from the covenants we make, to the teachings we receive) and those things have been revealed to us through the prophet. (Again, if you're looking for Biblical examples- think Solomon.)

I love this church, and I am so grateful for it. I am grateful for the strength that it affords my family, the peace it lends to my soul, and the safety I find in it. I love the Lord and I love the prophet, Thomas S. Monson. The prophet teaches the word of the Lord. He can't be swayed by public opinion, by picketing, by sarcastic news reporters, or the "disappointment" of the world. But the opinion of the world isn't that important, and I would rather follow a prophet that fears God than a prophet that fears Man.
I love my savior Jesus Christ and am trying (not always successfully) to follow him, obey his words, and learn from his example - especially when my children test my patience to the very limit.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Photo a Day: August 3 - 9

Happy Monday, my friends! I had a hard time getting to the computer this morning, as we are staying with my parents right now and there always seems to be so much going on when we're in someone else's home! Travis is on a plane to Ghana as I type and will spend the next two weeks there and in India (hopefully NOT getting Ebola. Yikes!). And you know me... I hate to be home alone! (Or rather, home with three littles and no other adults.) So we packed up and are in Nevada. 
August is getting a ridiculous amount of attention, which is good- because he's been pretty sad. I suspect nargles are to blame (by which I mean, I think he might be teething already!?) I pretty adamantly denied that possibility earlier this week, but now in addition to a lot of drooling and finger-chewing, he also has a really rotten diaper rash, lots of baby acne, and has been having a hard time nursing and sleeping. If teeth aren't to blame, then I am at a loss! 

 Sunday: Singing in the rain! // Monday: Brothers.

 Tuesday: More rain, but less singing... more shouting and running like maniacs! // Wednesday: We spent some time with Grandma and Grandpa Pitcher before leaving town. (See? August is going to town gnawing on his hand...)

Thursday: Playing in the river with Aunt Noelle.

Friday: Hiking up mountains with their Aunt Katie to stretch after a long car ride. // Saturday: Micah was almost brave enough to dip his face in Lake Tahoe. Almost. 

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Friday, August 8, 2014

On Books

I am book-lender. I love books. The way they reach in your soul, and move around your heart. And I love people. Generally speaking, I am a good friend. I am genuinely interested in the trials and triumphs of the people around me. When loved-ones move, I try to keep in touch. When people are struggling, I want (and try) to lift them up. I never quite took up letter-writing, but I think if I didn't have such an easily accessible cell-phone, that would be my medium.
And since books bring me inexpressible comfort and joy- I want to share them with everyone. (I have an extremely difficult time buying gifts for non-book readers, since the only gifts I know how to give well are books.)
When people come in to my home, and casually say about book on my shelf, "I've been wanting to read that," I am quick to pull it down and press it to them. If someone mentions that they don't like reading, I find my brain tumbling through book-covers, searching for the one's that I know they'll fall for. And when I read books that make me think of certain people, I can barely wait to finish the last page so I can drop it off on someone's step. I want my friends to read what I love.
And sometimes they give books back, and I am jubilant to hear that they loved it like I knew they would. I want to burst into tears when they describe their love for the characters or the way their heart swelled at their triumphs.
But more often, I don't get books back. And I forget who had them.
And I look at my shelves and think, "Wait. I thought I owned a copy of..."
I bet I lose over half a dozen books a year, by forcing people to borrow them. Oh well. I guess that's my own fault.

A couple days ago I told a friend that I didn't like "art for art's sake," and since then I've been dwelling on that statement and feeling like I need to defend it.
Because I love art, but I like it best with a purpose. Art that defends, art that draws the eye to a problem and calls for change. Art that beautifies, that reminds us that there is good in the world and in people. Art that praises and uplifts, Art that is a song to our creator. Art that relieves, that is an outlet and respite from the every day. Art that comforts, that warms the heart with reminders that things aren't so bleak as they may seem.
When I told my friend that I didn't like art for art's sake, I was referring to a book that I didn't like. It is kind of a miserable book, filled with disaffection, unhappiness, drugs, etc. And frankly, I don't want to read that crap. If there is an uplifting ending, a call to arms, perhaps, a character who changes for the better- encouraging the reader to believe that they too can change and that the world isn't so bad after all... then maybe I'm interested.
But if not, why read that book? I don't care that if it shines a mirror on the world, I don't care if it's thrilling.
I've noticed that most of my own creative outlets are very useful. I don't make art for it's own sake. I make quilts, food, and knitted hats. Things that are beautiful, creative, require some small level of skill- and which warm, comfort, and sustain the people I love. Even my photography is like that. I don't care so much for the beauty of the photos as for their use. I want them to document my life and my children.
Looking at other mediums of art, I think I follow suit with this theme. (Although, to clarify, I do think that being beautiful or making you feel are both valid purposes of art.)
I didn't reason this out for very long, though - so I'm sure that someone will immediately and easily poke holes in this theory of mine.

Recently, we had friends over for dinner - someone I hadn't seen in years, since we took a writing class together in college. At one point she asked me, "So, are you writing at all these days [and my stomach dropped], or do you also cringe when people inevitably ask you that question?"
Um. Yes. That one. The cringing and not writing one.
Aaaaauuurrrrrrrggggghhhhh. Bleccch. I should write. I love to write.  I'm even quite good at writing!
An agent at a writing conference once read part of my novel and said, "I'm interested in representing this, send me the whole thing by the end of the summer."
That was three summers ago. Wanna know what happened? A big, fat nothing. I didn't ever email him and say, "Sorry I'm the worst, but I haven't worked on this book in years and won't for several more."
But I have three little people underfoot, so when I have time for a little relaxation and art-therapy- it doesn't get to be sitting in the non-distracting silence at my computer. It gets to be at the sewing machine with two people on my lap and maybe one person asleep or building a lego tower.  They are talking or fighting or making noises like farts, and I don't have to think - I just sew it (relatively) straight lines, and then look! I made something pretty.
But writing? Ain't nobody got time for that.

I am a book rereader. You know this. Sometimes, people like my husband will say "Why are you rereading this book again? You already know what happens!"
And I always think, "Many of my friends live in books."
I don't reread the Lord of the Rings because I can't remember if Frodo ever makes it to the cracks of Mount Doom or not. I read it because it is beautiful. I read it because the joy and grief, the love and friendship, the death and always-enduring life make my heart ache in the best way. I reread for the steady wisdom of Aragorn, the unfailing courage of the hobbits, and the reminder that hard things are not only possible, they're worth it.
I need those reminders, and I love the characters who give them to me. And didn't I mention before that I am a good friend? I am. And once I love someone (even someone fictional), I have a hard time forgetting about them. I want to keep in touch. And if they can't visit me, I guess I have to visit them in their stories.

Children's books are better than books for adults.
You already know that I feel this way, I'm sure. There are many reasons for that, in my opinion. But here are some of the reasons I've been thinking of lately.
1. Children are braver than adults. 
I do not mean to say that children perform more daring feats or face more impressive dangers (although they often do, since children's books also tend to be more fantastical). I guess I mean that they have greater moral courage. They tend to have integrity. Protagonists in children's book fight for what they believe is right, almost always- no matter what. They don't worry about how things will look, how action might affect them negatively, or how difficult things will be. They do what is right and what is hard without a lot of hemming, hawing, and lip-chewing.

2. Children's books can have perfect characters. 
In books for adults there are very, very rarely perfect characters, characters who are brave, kind, and good merely because they want to be. In books for adults, characters who are brave are compensating for something, if they are kind it is out of guilt, and if they are good they are deluded. Everyone has ulterior motives, everyone has an ugly past, and characters are complex and many-faceted. Of course, that is more realistic. In life, people are not merely cardboard cutouts of good people and bad people, but I think it's important for us to remember that some people are good, many people, in fact. There are adults who are always kind to children (and not because they want to lure them into a back room.)
In children's books, the children are flawed, yes. And most of the adults are flawed.
But Harry needed to know that there were mothers like Mrs. Weasley in the world. Anne Shirley needed Mathew Cuthbert. Little Laura Ingalls needed her Pa, and Jo! Jo March needed Marmee.
And we need them, too. To remind us that we can be good, kind, and brave. We can still "grow up" and be better.

3. Children have manageable flaws. 
I read children's books, and the flaws and weakness that kids have are the flaws and weaknesses that I have. They are selfish and unkind, they are lazy or frightened, they are unsure, easily hurt, or lonely. Perhaps they are overly dramatic or fight with their sister. And their challenges make them better.
In books for adults? I mean, maybe I'm living a life of ease (I am. I know this.)
But I'm not addicted to drugs, I'm not struggling under mountains of debt, neither my husband nor I is unfaithful, and I have never been sexually assaulted.
So, even though I have problems like everyone else in the world, and even though I am pretty heavily flawed - I'd like to focus on those persistent little wickednesses I have (like being an accidental bully or speaking thoughtlessly), and apparently the people I have the most in common with are twelve year-olds. But if they can be better - so can I.

I keep trying to get my kids into specific books. At the library, I almost had them convinced that what they wanted to check-out were the non-fiction picture books about cowboys and the Wild West. Picture books that showed photos of saddles, teepees, and long-horn bulls with captions about each.
And then, they saw the posters up over the graphic novel section.
"Look, Mom! BATMAN!" "WOMAN WOMAN, MOM! There's a picture of Woman Woman!" (Wonder Woman, FYI).
They have never even seen a "superhero" show besides the Incredibles, but they know all their superheroes somehow anyway.
So we made our way over to the comics. We left with two comics each, Batman, Spider man, Wonder Woman and Scooby Doo, and not a single book about cowboys. (I was really hoping that going to the recent rodeo in SLC would have made them interested in lassoing bulls and riding bucking broncos.)
Part of me cringes and groans that my kids want to read comic books (and not even good comics, like Calvin and Hobbes!), but mostly I'm accepting it. My kids can be into whatever books they want, as long as they're into books. I love to see them reading, so if the books must be about fighting crime - so be it.

We went to Barnes and Nobel to play with the train set in the Children's Book section. I wandered about the aisles looking for books that I wanted, but shouldn't buy. Then I remembered that I'd been wanting a specific book, and when I'd ordered a copy online - I'd gotten the wrong version. I decided to ask for it, since I wasn't sure where it would be. It was collection of essays, but I didn't see a NonFiction section.
"I'm looking for a collection of essays by E.B. White," I said to a person at a desk, whose name tag said  something like Customer Service. "Would it be under Fiction / Literature, or would is there another section I can try?"
The woman looked slightly panicked at being asked a question.
"Is it... fiction or non-fiction?" she asked.
"Well, it's a collection of essays, so non-fiction. If it was fiction, I think they'd be considered short-stories, right?"
She didn't answer. Instead she went to her computer. She asked for the book title again.
"I think it's just, The Collected Essays of E.B. White," I said.
"We do have one copy," she said, and she took off weaving through aisles with me at her heels.

She pulled from the shelves a copy of The Elements of Style by E.B. White and William Strunk. There was a picture of an old man at a type writer on the cover. She handed the book to me.
"This is not the book I wanted," I said. "I wanted a collection of Essays. This is about writing."
"Well," said the woman, "this is the only book we have by her in the store."
She turned and walked away. And I think I stood rooted to the spot for several long moments.
I felt like Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail, when she's in Fox Books listening to incompetent sales people try to help readers.
I went back to my children in the kid's section. I passed several copies of The Trumpet of the Swan and Stewart Little. And a gigantic cardboard cutout of Wilbur and Fern watching a spider spell out words in her web.

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Conversations with Three Year-Olds

A couple weeks ago, Travis went to New York for work. Now, every morning when he leaves for the office, Grey clarifies. "You are going to your old work or to your New York?"
He might think work and york are the same word.

In preparation for Harry Potter's birthday party, we watched parts of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone with the boys. At one point I said, "Oh, that's Malfoy. He's a bully to Harry."
So the new insult and tattle-tale word at our house is "Mouth-Boy" (which is apparently what they thought I said.) For example, "MOM! Grey is a Mouth-Boy! He won't share that book with me!" or "Don't throw legos, you MOUTH-BOY!"
Yeah man. Mouth-boy.

Grey is pretty into fairies. And he sees them everywhere. He was lying on the couch watching the trees out the window a few days ago, and said (almost bored!), "I see another fairy."
"What?" I asked, coming in from the kitchen.
"I see a fairy right there, out the window."
I came to look, he quickly became exasperated with me as he pointed and said, "Right there, Mom. Right there!" and I couldn't see it.
This has become a reoccurring event. Grey sees fairies everywhere. But he's no longer upset that we can't see them. He's accepted it, I guess.

The boys are obsessed with growing up. They ask every day, "When will August grow up?" and say "I want to grow up." It makes me sad, but I guess that's the circle of life. I wanted to grow up, too. All kids do. (And if they don't, they run away to live with the fairies - so I guess I should be grateful. Grey sees fairies all the time, so it wouldn't be hard for him to end up in Never Land if he wanted to.)

The also are really into favorite colors. Grey's favorite color is pink, and Micah's is blue.
They like to start conversations by saying, "Blue is the best color, pink is a dumb color," or sometimes, "Mom, what color is your favorite? Pink or blue? Is pink the very best?"
It inevitably (and confusingly) leads to shouting, "PINK!" "NO! BLUE!"

Micah: Can I have this gum?
Me: No. That's mine.
Micah: Ahh, it is woman's gum?
Me: No. It's just gum for me.
Micah: You are a woman. So this is woman's gum.

Micah: You are a troll and you hate Harry Potter!
Grey: I am not a troll, you are a troll! I love Harry Potter!

Grey: Did you move that?
Me: Yeah, but only like a foot.
Grey: No. You used your hands.

Travis: Are you done eating?
Micah: Yes. I just ate a few days ago.

Micah: I want to grow up.
Me: You are growing up, just very slowly.
Micah: Why?
Me: So that you can do all the fun things little boys get to do.
Micah: You grew up faster, though.
Me: Nope. I grew up slowly, too. I just started first.
Micah: Hm. Okay, I guess.

**"Teaching" Grey to swim**
Me: Now paddle your arms AND kick your legs at the same time.
Micah: Hmm. That sounds difficult.

Micah: My puppy doesn't eat boys, but he does eat pretend boys.

Grey: Can I have this popsicle?
Me: It's not a popsicle. That's breast milk.
Grey: What?!
Me: It's frozen milk for August.
Grey: And you... Turned it into a popsicle?
Me: No. I just turned it into frozen milk. In a bag.
Grey: Hmmmm. Okay. Will he eat it frozen?

Me: Look at that! Those are canoes, they're little boats you can paddle in the water.
Micah: I want to ride in a canoe!
Grey: I want to ride in a pink canoe. The cutest little pink canoe!

Grey: Mushrooms make me sick. I only like to eat bread.

Grey: I don't want dinner today.
Me: You need dinner every day or you'll starve.
Grey: Tell me about "Starve."
Me: Starving means you don't have enough food, and you stop growing, and you get sick and sleepy, and then you die.
Grey: Maybe I'll only pretend to die.

Grey: Mom, you're a little bit skinny.
Me: Thank you.
Grey: But you're a little bit fat, too.
Me: Um. Thanks.
Grey: Right here on your legs.
Micah: No, Grey. She's a LOT a bit fat.

Grey: Where's your mom?
Josh: She didn't come with me today.
Me: Kelsee isn't Josh's Mom, Grey. She is his wife. They're married.
Grey: Your Mom is married?

Grey (describing a dream): I saw a dragonfly and a spider at the lake house and they were FIGHTING. I said "Grandma Polly, Grandma Polly where are you?" And the spider ATE the dragonfly. But not the potato bug, because I saved the potato bug.

Child at the park: If you share drinks you'll get germs in your mouth!
Grey: I don't have germs in my mouth, I have cavities in my mouth!

Grey: Harry Potter won! He caught the snitch ball!

Grey (to August): Hello, tiny child! Hi, wittle brudder!

Grey: I am nervous about that chicken!
Micah: I am brave about that chicken!
Elanor: You don't have to be scared of chickens, Grey. They're not like... alligators.

Grey: Mom and Dad! Woman Woman is the best fighter of bad guys! I love Woman Woman, and she won't fight us- because we're not bad!
(Woman Woman is Wonder Woman. I don't want to correct him, since it's hilarious.)

**Talking about taking care of animals and the earth**
Me: I will help take care of the earth by watering our plants. What will you do, Daddy?
Travis: I will help by not throwing my trash on the ground.  What will you do Micah?
Micah: I will protect all the animals, except not snakes. I will protect animals from snakes!

Micah: You're a little bit fat, Mom.
Me: You know, Micah, that's not actually a very kind thing to say.
Micah: It is kind to say!
Me: No. People don't want to be fat, so when you say that they are - it makes them feel sad.
Micah: But it is kind to tell the truth?
Me: Okay. Yes. It is kind to tell the truth.
Micah: You are so pretty and a little bit fat.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Happy Birthday, Harry!

I've loved Harry Potter and his friends ever since I was given the first three books in 5th grade.
As each new book came out, I anxiously awaited its arrival, read it through the night, and then again (and again).
As each new movie came out, I went to the theater at midnight in costume - came away disgusted and upset, vowed never to watch it again (because movies about books ruin books), inevitably watched it again and again anyway, and came to love it (except the fourth and second movies, which I can barely stomach.)
At night, I often dream that I am Harry, and I have very stressful dreams (always narrated by Jim Dale) during which I fight Voldemort in Antique Stores or am chased by Death Eaters through the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, or perhaps where I am taking a class by Olivander on how to blow glass into wands. All very strange, but probably to be expected.

But my love for the wizarding world could not be satiated by yearly re-readings of the books or movie marathons. And my freshman year of college, I realized that I was not the only 19 year-old that mourned being a muggle. In fact, apparently most of my generation had read Harry's story - always the same age as Harry was in newest book - and obviously we all loved Harry and knew the incantations for any spell we might need in a pinch.

My bestie Lauren - who threw the first Harry Potter Birthday Party with me- and our husbands. We're the four founders.
 Look us! Best Friends! We made a school!

And looking for an excuse to throw a party, make desserts, wear costumes, and bond nerdily during the summer term- we celebrated Harry Potter's Birthday.
And 6 years later, not a July has passed without our salute to The Boy Who Lived.

You guys, I love it. I love Harry Potter. I love creating ridiculously difficult and lengthy trivia quizzes, I love inventing my own recipes for beloved Wizarding treats, I love forcing my husband into cloaks against his will (evil laugh!) and I love trying to teach my kids the rules of Quidditch and then coming into the living room to see them chasing a bouncy ball and yelling "I caught the snitch ball!" when they get it.

Elizabeth and I holding the trivia contest. As always, Ravenclaw won with Gryfindor somehow coming in second (due to sheer willpower, I think) and Hufflepuff putting in a solid effort and yet falling short. Obviously, there was not a Slytherin team. 

This year (and last), I've co-thrown the party with our neighbor Elizabeth. (I also stole all these pictures from her.) and we have a lot of fun getting ready and making costumes and food.  She even made Harry a giant snitch cake!

She should be dressed as Mrs. Weasley- not Fleur, because that is a culinary masterpiece. 

I love the Harry Potter books, and what they teach about family, friendship, loyalty, integrity, and differences. And I love how many friends I've bonded with over our love for that boy wizard.
Thanks, Harry. And happy 34th birthday.

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