Saturday, December 20, 2008

Reflections on Christ

This is beautiful! How have I not heard of it before?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

On Evolution

I came across a date today, and I don't remember it exactly, but it was in the year 1859.  (Hey, do you remember every date you see?)  So, that's 140 years ago.  Which made me do some thinking.  What was life like in 1859?  Wikipedia says we had a grand total of 33 states.  Right there -- that says a lot.  Abolition was the hot topic; the Civil War would break out two years later.

Now, that might make it sound like a lifetime ago.  Which it was.  But in 140 years, some things haven't changed a bit.  Example: one of the biggest headlines of the year announced U.S. Congressman Daniel Sickles' arrest for shooting a man who had an affair with his wife.  Yup.  That was 1859.  People are people.  Always have been, always will be.  ...Everything else, though -- science, inventions, technology -- has evolved so drastically it would be hard to believe it's only been 140 years.  In fact, most things have evolved and eventually discarded.

Yes, everything has evolved.  Except, ironically, the big hit of 1859: evolution.

It was 1859 when Darwin's The Origin of Species was published.  Immediately, it sold out.  How many ideas from 1859 are (1) even still around, let alone (2) widely, generally discussed, and (3) touted as general fact?  I mean, 1859?  Weren't we still bleeding people using leeches?  Weren't doctors prescribing mercury and lead as medicines, and cocaine for toothaches?  

I'm not saying evolution is wrong.  I'm just saying it has some holes.  Holes that, as time has marched on, tend to be getting larger instead of smaller.  And it sure would be nice if science continued to explore multiple explanations for the wide variety of life on this planet, rather than just trying to patch the same old holes for 150 years.  And I'm not just talking intelligent design.  How about something totally unheard of?*  After all, the very idea of science, its very essence is to question, to probe, to search out.  But science has accepted evolution (for lack of a better explanation) cart blanche and now (1) refuses to consider other explanations brought forth, and (2) ridicules those ideas, (3) just keeps trying to patch those same old holes.  And the idea that every living thing has evolved from a single-celled organism -- well, proving it?  That's a pretty big hole.

*Scientist Michael Ruse suggests crystals.  He is considered one of the great scientists of our day, so I will not laugh out loud.  Or if I do, it's a blog, and you'll never know.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Betsy Tricks

Well, Betsy continues to know no bounds to her tricks. Over Thanksgiving, her greatest joy was clapping. Smiling and clapping. Clapping and smiling. Granted, she's been clapping now for several weeks, but apparently, there's much more to clap about at Memaw and Poppa's than there is in boring old Provo. Pretty dang adorable, I have to say. Actually, she loved crawling, too, but that's been going on now for, gosh, at least four or six weeks. Zipping everywhere!

Also over the break, she began pulling herself up to a standing position. She'd use the mantle in the Shea's living room or the edge of the tub. What glee! You could just feel her excitement when she stood, finally, all the way up on her own. It didn't always last very long, but she'd just doggedly start working at it all over again.

The stranger anxiety most kids go through at her age is really manifesting itself in Betsy -- but not in the usual way. She's more social than ever! Oh, nobody loves to smile and coo at strangers the way Miss Mary Elizabeth Shea does. ...But when it's just her and I, well, nothing will do but holding her. I can't set her down, let alone walk a few feet away!

Our latest advance happened just yesterday. She's started consistently signing more! Technically, I think she started doing it when we were in Washington over the Thanksgiving break. The only catch is that she does it by clapping, of course. So you feed her a bite, she claps. You feed her again, she claps. Then chews. Then claps. It took several episodes before we could really be sure she was truly signing more. She not only signs while eating, but while playing games with Daddy. That's totally the cutest part!

Old standby tricks she's been doing for a long while now include holding her hands up to be held, feeding herself with finger foods, and perfecting the art of a graceful fall.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Jill's tag

Seven Random Memories:

1. The $5 dates with Scott: Every Tuesday, Movies 8 went to $.50 each, and Doc's pizza buffet was 2 for $4. We saw more crummy movies and enjoyed every second of it. He held my hand so tight the whole movie, I was afraid my whole arm would turn purple. Whenever we could, we'd convince the Weeds to come with us.

2. Right after I finished my last day of teaching, Scott and I headed up to Midway for a four-day trip. Vacationing with a baby is different, but we sure loved it! Betsy was born on a Friday, and Scott was back at school and work by Monday. So we'd never had any time to take in the whole "family" thing. (Then, once school was out for him, he watched Betsy while I went back to school full time.) But there, in Midway, the pace of life was slow. What a fantastic way to finally spend days upon days together, uninterrupted, as our little family! And with me as a stay-at-home mom -- for good.

3. In our newlywed days, Scott worked full-time at Jones Paint & Glass in Cedar while I went to school. Five o'clock always seemed an eternity away -- and I would wait, oh so anxiously, for him to get home. That newlywed apartment may have been tiny, but it suited us so well. Once we were together, we played dorky games on our computer (boggle, Life, etc.), edited home movies, and played ping-pong at the Institute building. And I never, ever won.

4. I was up visiting Scott's family while he was working. It was just the beginning of summer, and one night I happened to check the mcbreo website. Lo and behold, a home was for sale on the Teacher Next Door program -- right in Provo! Right where I'd landed a job! I called Scott immediately, and he and the Weeds went to visit the house together and give me the full report. I think a part of me knew we'd land that house. But it was only about 10%, and the other 90% didn't want to be disappointed.

5. I remember Josh and Lolly's little apartment in Provo. Oh, the hours we spent hanging out with those two! The hours of discussion, the delicious food, the way they welcomed me into the world of Shea-dom! I especially remembered how pretense-free I always felt things were in their little house, how easy and accepting they were. (And still are!)

6. I remember the hours I spent with Tera, reading and talking, back in the days of single-Cedar. The times we did Tae-Bo in Kevin's living room, the way we lived off of frozen fries and chicken tenders, and the way she made faces and we talked in monster voices. I especially miss the faces she made whenever we talked about somebody she didn't like. Ha! So fun!

7. I remember the day Scott and Adam tore down two exterior walls of the house so they could re-build them. There's nothing like standing inside your house but having the odd feeling that it's now more of a fort than a house. And, oh, the trips to IKEA to plan our new kitchen together! I thought we'd NEVER see it finished. And how many wives can say they were practically locked in the bedroom for large portions of their last month of pregnancy -- because the oven was stuck in the hallway until the linoleum was laid? Or say that their husband left her alone at the hospital (after Betsy was born) so he could go put the kitchen together so she didn't have a nervous breakdown? (Thanks to Sarah and Adam for helping him out!)

Seven Random Facts:

1. Scott did virtually all the laundry for the first five years of our marriage. I guess I have the next five.

2. Scott is the king of surprises. I think his largest, to date, was probably either the wedding ring or the wonderful five-year anniversary get-away.

3. I have started cooking. Me, the pretzel queen. I cook.

Three thousand christmas lights really doesn't go that far when you want to go for Temple Square-esque intensity. But that's all we have, at least for now.

5. There are only two Diverging Diamond Interchanges in the world. They're both located in France. But Utah is planning on building two more! (Hey, you said random. This is the kind of random you get with a gal who's married to a transportation engineer!)

6. I never could have gone off of sugar without Missy Muldowney. I guess I pretty much (literally) owe her my firstborn child. Luckily, she didn't collect.

7. Having a front porch swing and a piano in the living room are probably the top two things to make me feel like I'm really living in my own space.

Seven Random Things to Look Forward to in the Next Seven Years:

1. Adding more kids to the family!
2. Scott's graduation with his Masters degree
3. Betsy saying Momma and Daddy on purpose. And knowing what they mean.
4. Being out of debt, except the house
5. Choosing a job! (He's already had a few offers. Civil engineers are in decent demand.)
6. Betsy in kindergarten! (I guess I should look forward to that. I will when the time has come. But right now, that's a downright depressing thought. Where will my little girl have gone?)
7. Hopefully owning a few new lenses and maybe even a new body like this one.

BONUS: Running my first 5k

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Manipulation of a New Kind

Breastfeeding is a time for Betsy and me to find each other again through the dinners, the dishes, the playmates, and the toys. But, really, you can only gaze lovingly into her sweet eyes for so long. So, she snuggles and nurses, and ...I get to read. Thus, the re- discovery of the public library some 7 months ago. During my last visit, this book caught my eye.

Books like Born To Buy usually make me want to run out to Wyoming and live in seclusion. The problem is, very few civil engineering jobs are available in the middle of nowhere.

It's no secret kids are being targeted -- manipulated, really -- at a younger and younger ages to become consumers. Who wants to read all about it? Frankly, it sounded depressing. So, there I stood in the Provo City Library, determined to hate a book I had no reason to read, but planned on reading anyway. But ignorance is not bliss, it's the fast route to regret. So, that very same day, I started reading it. Scott and I talked about it that night before bed. I couldn't believe the things I was reading -- not all of them were horrid and satanical; some made perfect sense. But some of the tactics advertisers employ? Not. Good. Quite. Bad. Actually. (And it wasn't just advertisers. Kids' shows -- and adult shows -- were laden with themes designed to destroy the family.)

A for-instance? Let me share three. Oh, and anything in italics has been added by me. In case you want to NOT spend your whole life reading this entry.

Age Compression
One of the hottest trends in youth marketing is age compression -- the practice of taking products and marketing messages originally designed for older kids and targeting them to younger ones. Age compression includes offering teen products and genres, pitching gratuitous violence to the twelve-and-under crowd, cultivating brand preferences for items that were previously unbranded among younger kids, and developing creative alcohol and tobacco advertising that is not officially targeted to them but is widely seen and greatly loved by children. ...It includes the marketing of designer clothes to kindergartners and first graders. It includes the deliberate targeting of R-rated movies to kids as young as age nine, a practice the major movie studios were called on te carpet for by the Clinton administration in 2000.

Nowhere is age compression more evident than among the eight-to-twelve target. Originally a strategy for selling to ten to thirteen year olds, children as young as six are being targeted for tweening. And what is that exactly? Tweens are "in-between" teens and children, and tweening consists mainly of bringing teen products and entertainment to ever-younger audiences. Even the family-friendly Disney Channel is full of sexually suggestive outfits and dancing. A stroll down the 6X-12 aisles of girls' clothing will produce plenty of skimpy and revealing styles. People in advertising are well aware of these developments. Emma Gilding of Ogilvy and Mather recounted an experience she had during an in-home videotaping. The little girl was doing a Britney Spears imitation, with flirting and sexual grinding. Asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, the three year old answered: "A sexy shirt girl." As researcher Mary Prescott (pseudonym) explained to me in the summer of 2001, "We're coming out of a trend now. Girl power turned into sex power. A very sexy, dirty, dark thing. Parents were starting to panic."

Ambercrombie and Fitch came under fire for selling thong underwear with sexually suggestive phrases to seven to fourteen year olds. And child development expert Diane Levin alerted parents to the introduction of World Wrestling Entertainment action figures recommended for age four and above, which included a male character with lipstick on his crotch, another male figure holding the severed head of a woman, and a female character with enormous breasts and a minimal simulated black leather outfit and whip. Four year olds are also targeted with toys tied to movies that carry PG-13 ratings.

Some industry insiders have begun to caution that tweening has gone too far. At the 2002 Kid Power conference, Paul Kurnit spoke out publicly about companies "selling 'tude' to pre-teens and ushering in adolesence a bit sooner than otherwise." Privately, even more critical views were expressed to me. ...Prescott, who is more deeply immersed in the world of tweening, confessed that "I am doing the most horrible thing in the world. We are targeting kids too young with too many inappropriate things. It's not worth the almighty buck."

What else is cool? Based on what's selling in consumer culture, one would have to say that kids are cool and adults are not. Fair enough. Our country has a venerable history of generational conflict and youth rebellion. But marketers have perverted those worthy sentiments to create a sophisticated and powerful "anti-adultism" within the commercial world. ...Nickelodeon's back-to-school campaign featured a teacher who looked like a battle-ax, advice on how "to make the substitute teacher screech," and opportunities to "slime the teacher."

...The world of children's marketing is filled with the us-versus-them message. A prominent example is the soft drink Sprite, one of the most successful youth culture brands. One witty Sprite ad depicted an adolescent boy and his parents on a road trip. The parents are in the front seat singing "Polly wolly doodle all the day," the epitome of unnerving uncool. He's in the back, banging his head on the car window in frustration, the ignominy of being stuck with these two losers too much to bear... A Fruit-on-the-Go online promotion tells kids that "when it comes to fashion class, your principal is a flunkie.

Consider a well-known Starburst classroom commercial. As the nerdy teacher writes on the board, kids open the candy, and the scene erupts into a riotous party. When the teacher faces the class again, all is quiet, controlled, and dull. They dynamic repeats itself, as the commercial makes the point that the kid world, courtesy of the candy, is a blast. The adult world, by contrast, is drab, regimented, BORRRR-inggg.

Pester Power

When all else fails, there's always nagging, or what the British side of the industry calls Pester Power. Thanks to Cheryl Idell's widely influential "nag factor study," and numerous derivative reports, this time-honored technique of kids has become heavy artillery int eh industrial arsenal. A number of research outfits now devote enormous time and energy to figure out how to get kids to get their parents to buy stuff. Child Research Services runs consumer panels called CAPS (child and parent studies), which study child-parent interactions. The Cincinati-based Wondergroup, a prominent nag factor proponent, counsels clients that even pre-verbal babies can be effective naggers. How can companies get kids to make more purchase requests? How can they facilitate requests that will be effective? Once a benign nuisance, nag factor is now a topic of intense scrutiny.

A 2002 poll by the Center for a New American Dream that I collaborated on suggests that kids have embraced pester power in a big way. Eighty-three percent of youth in the twelve-to-thirteen age range report that the've asked their parents to pay for or let them buy something they'd seen advertised. Forty percent report they've done it for an item they thought their parents disapproved of or didn't want them to have. After their parents have denied the request, 71 percent of them kept asking. The average number of asks is eight, but over a quarter of kids ask more than ten times. Eleven percent repeat their request more than fifty times. Half of the twelve to thirteen year olds report that they are usually successful in getting their parents to let them have something they want that they saw advertised even if their parents won't want them to have it. ...[Marketers] promote the idea of kids "training" their parents, even without the parents' realizing it. Reports from focus groups suggest that mothers attempts to limit the number of product requests per shopping trip. Meanwhile, kids report that they have already trained their mothers to buy items previously requested, enabling them to use their requests for new items.

My blog is hardly condensing half of a chapter -- and, frankly, this is some of the lesser-shocking material. The point is: We can't change media. And, really, we can't move to Wyoming. But we can talk to the Lord. He knows our children better than we do. And, oh, how he wants to help.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Six and seven months is a darling age. The world is so exciting -- so full of adventure. The babbling, the smiles, the happily exploring any floor she's left on. I just can't get enough of it.

My favorite thing right now is how social Betsy is. Absolutely social. When I take her on errands with me, she's thrilled to see new things and watch. But the minute she sees someone get very close to her, she starts putting on BetsyShow. It starts with smiles in the person's general direction. Nine times out of ten, she has them in the palm of her hand instantly. But occasionally, her subject will be busy looking through their purse, or reading a magazine, or what have you. Then, she pumps it up to level two: the smiles, the eye contact, plus the baby babbles. No one can resist. At least, I haven't met anyone yet.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

smaller miracles are just as real.

Like most women, I've wanted to form a consistent, regular exercise routine (five days a week) ever since... well, probably high school. The closest I came was the summer in college where Tera and I used to do Tae-bo in Kevin's living room when everyone was gone. That's another story. But every valiant exercise attempt lasted no more than a week or two. If I was lucky.

It was never a question of wanting to work out. The answer to that was simple -- no. I didn't want to. Technically speaking, it was more of a "HECK, NO." I was desperate, however, to become the type of person who actually wanted to. And I didn't know how.

For all I could tell, it seemed to be a gene, and I'd missed it. Really missed it. Like, you know the joke about "not standing in the right line in heaven" to get naturally curly hair, or musical skill, or athletic ability? Yeah. That was me and my bod. We were stuck with each other -- and neither me or my body seemed to be crazy about the arrangement.

Lately -- and I don't know why, or how, but I've grown. I run. I run. I run. It seems to have come from nowhere. One day I started, and just kept going. The struggle to continue diminished. Even after a week-long trip out of state -- I get back into it; I keep on going. Even after an injury. Even when Betsy's ornery. The sustainability factor is astounding.

And all of this rambling about me and my new-found appreciation for exercise? Well, I keep wondering about progress. Learning. Growth. How it happens. For me, I seem to take these magical spurts. Sometimes, I fight and fight and no matter how hard I try, I just don't make the progress I'd like. Then, without any reason at all, the pieces are in place and things work. I don't know what was wrong before, or what has adjusted to make everything right.

And it's always been that way -- with so many things: public speaking, exercise, cooking, teaching, religious studies.

As a teacher, I noticed that same trend with some of my students. With most of them, though, I noticed that as they began a new skill, their first success wasn't consistent. There was a practicing stage - sometimes short, sometimes long - before mastery occurred. I, however, seem to have a delayed (delaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayed) time frame before I even begin showing any sign of progress. Then I leap up quickly -- if not to mastery, at least to significant improvement.

Growth is interesting, isn't it? It's been very faith-promoting for me to suddenly discover that, even with things I didn't think I'd ever be able to change, new skills can be learned. The Lord works miracles of all colors and varieties. If he can raise the dead, he can help me learn to run. And he's loving enough to do just that.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I live in the Bermuda Triangle.

Well, I can't believe I'm posting here again already! Three posts in September and we're only on day #4. Sheesh. I need to back off.

So, a few nights ago I'm in our back bedroom. It's about 9:30 at night; Betsy's in my arms and I'm just getting ready to put her in her crib when all heck breaks loose just outside our window. For those who know our house, it's the little parking area between our house and The Copy Man. It's dark, so I can't see much, but here's some of what I hear:

  • Sirens. About 10 police sirens. They all stop around my house, The Copy Man, and the four-plex behind our house.
  • "That's my wife! That's my pregnant wife in the car!"
  • "Put your hands in the air."
  • "Stop resisting arrest!"
  • Lots of punching
  • A taser gun going off. Twice.
  • A car window being broken
  • Two ambulances showing up

...You get the idea. Total mayhem. Turns out our neighbor in the front of the four-plex had just been driving home from an evening out with her husband. On the drive home, she dropped him off at his car and they drove back in separate cars -- thankfully, with him following just behind her.

As she pulls in to park, a guy (wearing only a pair of ridiculously short shorts) starts running at her. She only has time to lock one door -- her own -- before he's in the car's back seat, shouting for her to get out of the car. Well, she can't. Her door is broken; once it's locked, it's locked for good. So he crawls up to the front of the car and tries to push her out. When he discovers she's not lying, he puts the car in drive and tells her to take off. By then, her husband is banging on the rest of the car doors (which the criminal had locked) and trying to get his poor wife out.

The police, who have been chasing Mr. Bad Guy since he punched two cops and ran from a routine traffic stop, were quick to the scene. Unfortunately, all they see is her husband trying to force his way into the car. Of course, they want to arrest him. Once they figure out what's really going on, they go over to her side of the car and reach through the window to taser the carjacker. Mr. Bad still won't get out... and they end up breaking the car window and pulling him out through the hole. Once out, he proceeds to resist arrest, so they punch on him quite a bit till he starts seeing things their way. Sort of.

Turns out he was drunk and high on PCP, coke, meth, and marajuana. He had plenty of drugs on him at the time of arrest, so hopefully he's going away for a very long time there.

What a story.

What a night.

But it's not over.

When all the drama was mostly over, but all the cops were still around, a hit-and-run occurs about 10 feet from my front yard. We think the vehicle who hit the other car was busy checking out the scene with all the cop cars and just wasn't watching the road. So, he hits the other car, looks a few observers right in the eye, and darts off at 40 mph. Surprise, surprise, the police are conveniently close and get the guy just a few blocks away. But the woman seven months pregnant with twins, who was driving the vehicle that got hit, ends up in an ambulance.

The drama with the hit-and-run was almost over; the cops were finishing their duties and our neighbors were finishing their witness reports. The tow truck had just loaded his second vehicle for the night -- the first being the car from the carjack. All of a sudden, a pick-up (going 15 or 20 mph) crosses four lanes of traffic and rams into a tree just feet away from where the cops, witnesses, and tow truck guy had all been standing. Everyone rushes over, assuming someone in the truck has gone into a seizure or had a heart attack. Doors fly open, and everyone stares.

The vehicle is empty.

And the witness report paperwork begins all over again.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Cast Your Vote

I need a new hairstyle, I think. Not looking for anything drastically different; just something more independent. I want a hairstyle that isn't so needy. This "Curl me, or I'll look like a wet noodle" stuff has got to go. I do not allow hair to give me ultimatums. So, here's the criteria:

  • Hairstyle must be able to look attractive without curls. Some days, 10 minutes is all I have to give.
  • Hairstyle should look good with curls. And be pin-curl accessible. Oh, how I want to be a pin-curling expert.
So, weigh in. Tell me what you think of these five hairstyles. I can't promise to go with the voice of the people, (after all, some of you may find a way around the system and double-vote.) but I really want your thoughts. Here are the choices:

Monday, September 1, 2008

The First Ten Reasons

By way of late anniversary celebration, I wanted to tell you a few things about Scotty that make me swoon.

  • Scott is a man that takes care of his wife. Whenever I ask, and often times even when I don’t, he just save the day by whisking my precious (but noisy) daughter away for an afternoon walk. Or evening walk. Or midnight walk.He writes Marcus a letter every single week. It’s always positive, it’s always encouraging, and it’s always 2-6 pages long.
  • He has unabashed favoritism towards his child.Nobody’s eyes quite match his shade of bright blue.
  • He took delight in Betsy as an infant. Many men prefer older babies and toddlers. I think Scott would understand why, but he was just as enamored with her then as he is now.
  • I have a new kitchen. I have new cupboards. I have windows and linoleum and a sink and carpet and paint. It’s wonderful. And it was all installed by WonderHusband.
  • He encourages my hobbies. He loves to see me stretch myself in any way I choose. I don’t think I could pick a hobby that he wouldn't start purchasing accessories for. (It’s so wonderful to not have to beg for a nice camera, but to have him insist on it. That’s love.)
  • He can clean a kitchen (or any other room) at three times the speed of Mickelle.
  • He wants to live someplace rural. And never have cable TV. And have a big collection of old movies. Who would I find to fit me better?
  • When he comes home, even after a long day of work, he’s wanting to lighten my load. Wow.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Five Years! Really! Five of them!

Five years has always been a big deal to both of us. Somewhere, we'd heard statistics saying that if you make it to your fifth anniversary the chances of divorce decrease by some huge percentage. So we'd looked at each other and said we'd celebrate that one big. (Also the 10 year, because that one dropped it even further.)

It was perfect. I knew it would be. Scott's been working on our anniversary plans now for almost a year. He booked our room at the Anniversary Inn back in November, I think. Or was that when he called to confirm the reservation, only to find out they'd lost it? Oh well. That's another story.

So the night before, Scott leaves to run an errand. And, since he asked me for the car wash certificates, it left little mystery about where he was going. When I queried him, he just said, "Gotta get things ready for my big date tomorrow. ...You need to be ready to leave the house by 8:45." He was up early on Friday, and when he got home to pick me up, I saw he'd bought the car paint and decorated our car: "Just Married" in big, white letters. Underneath in red, it said "five years ago." For the rest of the weekend it was fun to see people point, smile, and honk.

First, he took me to Bridal Veil Falls. He knows I'm obsessed with learning how to take better pictures -- and right now I'm experimenting with the manual mode -- so it was the perfect treat. Here's some of the better shots:

...Yes, we have an independent sitter on our hands. She just keeps growing up. I think she started right at the end of July/first of August and had it mastered before we knew it -- quite literally. I was expecting to need to still support her one day, and she just sat. And sat. And sat.

After taking pictures, we wandered in Riverwoods and South Towne Mall, toured all the Anniversary Inn Suites, dropped off Betsy at my parents' place, changed for dinner at the hotel, and then went to the Melting Pot. Wow! Our first time there. Incredible. We exchanged presents at the restaurant... sort-of. I got mine, anyway. His will get here eventually. After a while, we picked Betsy up and went back to the hotel.

Everything about the weekend was utterly blissful. I think we need these getaways more often. Life just gets too stressful, and it weakens marriage. Nothing is more important than marriage, and nothing is entitled to ruin my relationship with my husband. ...If only we had the money for such extravagant getaways more often. Guess we'll have to tone it down for our next excursion. Here's hoping it isn't in the too-distant future.

Camping with Betsy (takes 1 & 2)

When you get this far behind in blogging, the idea of catching up is positively frightening.

We took two camping trips with Nick this month; both were wonderful. But the better scenery was definitely Zion's and Bryce. And it makes it feel like you're really camping when it's 3 days, two nights. Overnighters are just a tease, don't you think?

The two daredevils hiked Angel's Landing; Betsy and I stayed far away from that cliff and instead tried to get a bit of extra sleep.

But I did join them for a partial hike of the narrows, which quickly became my favorite hiking experience ever. But we were poorly equipped with sandals, and rainclouds were moving in, so we turned around before any of us wanted to. And right after returning to camp, a flash flood began.

Betsy, who is normally a holy terror in the car, actually did pretty well. For her. We had to stop a few times, nurse, get her to sleep. But I was expecting oh, so much worse. And outside, during the day? She was an absolute trooper. Probably more so than her mother, at times. Hiking, playing games, setting up camp, riding the busses -- she did it all with a smile on her face or else while quietly napping. She did get a little frazzled in the evening, when she just wanted to fall asleep in a familiar place and in a familiar way, but who could blame her? And it was the only time she was ever upset all day long, so it was really very nice.

I'm grateful to still be so active when we have little Betsyface. She does slow us down, but we both get such a kick out of seeing her reaction to our adventures. More kids will, undoubtedly, exponentially change things. But what fun!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Seasons without rubrics

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

This scripture calmed and strengthened me when I so desperately wanted to start my family. I knew the Lord could have blessed me with a baby, but he wouldn’t. Something told me that I wasn’t in that season yet. I felt stuck in one season and wishing for another. But then I started praying to gain a testimony of the fact that this is what God wanted for me, and praying to grow and learn in the way Heavenly Father wanted me to during this painful season. And, of course, praying to gain a testimony that the fruitful seasons of joy would follow those of growth and struggle.

I'm not saying that fixed everything, but it did teach me about timing, patience, and Godly parenting. He knows how to succor, and he knows how to teach, and he knows how to give me just the experience that I need.

(As one of my charming side-notes, I’ve really pondered the casting away stones bit, but it still doesn’t make much sense. I like the imagery, though.)

I've been thinking about the new season I've entered. Is it what I expected? Am I doing as well as God wants me to? Is he pleased? Am I growing and learning in the ways I should to be prepared for the next season?

It's not quite the way I imagined it. Some things are harder (i.e. being on duty all day long) and parts are easier (i.e. being in a BYU married ward with rabbit-like reproduction). I want to be the best mom I can be, and it's so hard to do that satisfactorily when no one agrees on just what good parenting looks like. I guess the teacher in me just wants a clear-cut rubric.

This is a season of fruitfulness -- years of waiting finally fulfilled. But it's also a season of planting -- forming habits and having adventures she'll never remember. It's a season of beginnings -- struggling to understand a new life, a new part of myself. But, it almost goes without saying, it's a season of slow goodbyes to my independence.

And I'm loving it. I'm not always sure I'm doing it right, but I'm definitely enjoying it. (especially the naps.)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Definitely, Maybe

Warning: You might not like this entry. I'm sure I'll disagree with a few people. But we can still be friends, right?

So, you know the scripture in 2 Nephi that says that the Devil leadeth us "carefully down to Hell"? I believe that applies to our media. The storylines of modern theater, movies, and music not only reflect our culture but drive it.

So Scott and I rent "Definitely, Maybe." Betsy's asleep, we're snuggled together in bed, and I'm expecting this adorable chick flick that actually does leave you wondering what the end will be. Which is a nice departure from the typical formulaic romance.

Turns out I'd rather have the formula. I should have known I might have misgivings when they first five minutes has an eight year old repeatedly using the word penis. It's just not a sign of most high-class films.

But what really left me thinking (another move atypical of romantic comedies) was the approach to marriage. Here's the premise: Daughter is spending time with her dad. She's upset because he's divorcing her mom. She asks to hear every detail of how they got together, and he tells her a "mystery love story" and changes the names so she won't know which of his three love interests is her mother. And the back of the box alludes to her learning that love can be complicated and him learning that maybe happily ever afters are possible.

Sounds like it has potential, right?

But the script is manipulated to give preference to one woman, and she doesn't end up being the mom. Fine. So the daughter has herself a good 30 second pout, and then -- for our dramatic ending -- encourages her dad to go hook it up with the preferred love interest.

Is it any wonder our values are so polluted? Stories like this one seem to subversively, underhandedly cripple our morals. Here's the gunky lessons from Definitely, Maybe:

  1. Sleeping around is juuuuuust fine. (Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible to find a film indicating otherwise.)
  2. Difficulties in marriage occur because you've married the wrong person.
  3. Divorce is the best answer to problems in marriage.
  4. Divorce isn't easy on kids, but they'll be okay. And probably in a matter of hours.
  5. Besides, kids are way more interested in the so-called happiness of parents than they are in their parents staying together to form a complete family unit.
  6. I hate Hollywood.
It's interesting. Divorce was totally portrayed as just another difficult, but necessary, part of adulthood. Most perturbing was the thought that Hollywood was no longer thrusting these ideas on an unwilling public, but simply reflecting the common outlook.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Fourth That was the Most

Most beautiful moment of the day: Kate painting Betsy's fingernails and toenails a pink that matched her cute "Adore" onesie.

Most awkward moment: That would have to be the mayor of Kaysville trying to get everyone to sing "Happy Birthday to America." It didn't work.

Most anticipated moment: Fireworks finale. And, let me say, it was a bit of a let down.

Most debated moment: How many of the bottled water and glowsticks would Scott and Chase sell? (Answer: they sold out entirely.)

Most serrendipitous moment: Scott and Chase were busy selling glowsticks, Kate was watching the fireworks elsewhere with Tanner, and I had my mom and dad to myself. (Well, with Betsy.)

Most surprising moment: Betsy up and rolled over. For the first time. Totally by herself. In front of the entire extended family.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

the best dang farewell talk

Marcus' farewell talk totally rocked. He was constantly shifting between NT and BOM scriptures and linking them together so well. He is ridiculously ready to go. My favorite part of his talk:
My parents have been living examples of faith. And not just faith in the Lord. They showed incredible faith in me, even when I didn't have much in myself. Back when I was still thinking about whether or not I would serve a mission, one day I was having car trouble. I was talking to my dad about it. "Marcus," he said, "it's time for you to stop worrying about things with four wheels and start worrying about things with two." I took his advice and got a motorcycle.
He may have taken an extra year, but now his time is here. Even if Marcus questioned whether or not he'd go, none of the rest of us did. We knew him too well -- knew who he was past the fog of Amanda.

So, the talk was incredible. Showing off Betsy was great, too -- and so was being off duty while various friends, neighbors, and relatives all took their turns holding her. Kate especially loves Betsy. She can't get enough of her. And Marcus has been soaking in all the time with her he can. It makes me so happy to see him enjoying her -- and so sad to think of how much we'll miss him. Especially that Tanamo.

We'll take him to the Empty Sea tomorrow and say goodbye. I'm glad he's going, but saying goodbye still (always) bites.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Who Let the Dogs Out?

So, it's the weekend before Marcus' farewell. It's a delicious, summery Saturday night, and the Costantino fam decides to go see a flick or two at the drive-in. Dad is grilling hot dogs to take, Marcus is playing with the babe, and Mickelle is whining that both films are totally guy movies that she's not too interested in. (The Hulk?!? Seriously.)

So, Mom looks out the sliding glass doors and mentions someone is having a backyard fire. Actually, it looks a little big. Yeah, that's a bit of smoke. So she calls Dad, Scott, and Chase and sends them over to check it out. Before they've even made it out the door it is totally obvious that something not good is going on. And it's going on just across the street.

Nobody is home at this hot, happening house. Old Bro. Yorgousen has called 9-1-1, so he and Dad and Chase start to man a hose or two. Scott checks out the home's windows and sees two dogs frantically yapping through one of them. So he jams the windows open and the first dog comes sailing out. The second needed a practice jump or two, but he showed marvelous persistence when it came to not dying. And both of them ran far, far away as soon as they were out, not returning for a full hour.

I watched from a short distance, viewing the side of their house opposite to the fire. Scott says the flames were 12 - 14 feet high, but all I saw was the billowing smoke and the fire on the eves of the roof. By the time Betsy and I made it to the front of the house, the fire was mostly put out. And even when I did go, the smoke was bad enough that I took her back home instantly.

It took the firetruck 17 minutes to get there. By the time they did, the outside deck, kitchen and living room were both totally lost along with much of the roof. The rest of the house sustained severe water damage.

Quite an adventurous evening, no?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Whaddaya think, Missy?

I took photos for Missy yesterday and, since photo quality is lost through e-mails, I thought I'd post them here for her to see.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Valuable Lessons from Teaching, pt. I

There remains only one week of school left in my career as a teacher.

I mean, who's to say I won't ever go back to teaching? There were so many students I just fell head-over-heels for. So many lessons I loved teaching. So many books I loved submerging into with my students.

But, you know what gets me -- what really sucked my enthusiasm? Feeling like a failure after the endless hours of hard work. I've had countless cathartic conversations with Jen F. about this. (Oooh, note my beautiful alliteration.)

Some people are total cowards. My principal happens to be one of them. Especially when it comes to sticking up for his teachers. So, when some not-so-bright parent comes in to totally thrash on the teacher, he always sides with the parents.

Now, I know I sound harsh here, but you have to understand something about me: I really, really, really want to get to the truth of the truth of the truth. I want to figure out where I've fallen short, and I always try to fix it and do better. I don't want to be one of those people with glaring flaws everyone but me can see.

However, I have come to the understanding that sometimes -- sometimes -- I am blameless or nearly blameless. And I've only come to that conclusion after weeks/months of sincere pondering.

But Mr. Principal always -- mm-hmm, always -- sides with the parents. Even when the parent is a total nit-wit. And there really are nit-wits out there. (Yes, it's taken me hours of pondering to come to this grand conclusion as well.) For instance, I've come across parents who tell the teacher to spray their child with a water bottle when he misbehaves. Or parents who defend a child who has cheated. Or who wants the child to make up all their missing work from several months ago in the previous term and receive full credit for it. Yes, all these people are right. And I am always wrong.

After putting in countless hours of hard work -- and more importantly, giving the best my heart has to offer -- I am wrong, and Mr. Principal admonishes me to learn a valuable lesson from my failure.

Teaching has taught me endless lessons. But, unfortunately, the two lessons standing out at the end of this year are that (1) some people are cowards, and (2) sometimes, I am right.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Watch out, she's back on her soapbox.

When it comes to parenting -- well, maybe when it comes to more than just that -- I like to see things done naturally. That is to say, the way they've been done for thousands of years in thousands of places up until someone in America decided technology could improve God's design.

For instance, sleepingwith your baby. I was reading the wikipedia article, "Co-sleeping is standard practice in many parts of the world outside of North America, Europe and Australia, although even in these countries children sometimes crawl into bed with their parents. One 2006 study of children age 3-10 in India reported 93% of children co-sleeping.[1] Co-sleeping was widely practiced in all areas up until the 19th century, until the advent of giving the child his or her own room and the crib." (emphasis added.) I especially like the last sentence. The reason everything changed -- after being the same for thousands of years -- was some victorian-era know-it-all.

How fascinating. Now, at this point, I should probably take a moment to make sure you know I'm not a radical on this issue. Really. In fact, I never planned on having Betsy sleep with us. It just happened. I could tell it was what made her the most comfortable. At the time, I was very nervous about it, but the idea has grown on me in a big way.

Motherhood is certainly a job. And it's not the kind with lots of rewards. And, if we're being honest here, it's totally redundant. Every day, people just keep needing clean clothes. And wanting food. And eating on dishes. And, gosh darn it, that baby keeps crying. Every day. Speaking of her, Betsy stops me short in my tracks. It doesn't matter who's over or what game we're playing or what plans I made, when she needs to eat, my world stops. That's just how it is. When she cries, when she needs a diaper change... I stop. My life just really isn't my own.

That's not to say that I don't like motherhood, but I'm making the point here that it is a change. A big one.

So, some days wear you out. Just an ornery hour can wear you out. But that crazy snuggle-at-night time just overwhelms me. Her tiny body, breathing in so lightly, trusting me so completely. Her toes, meeting me at the waist. Her middle-of-the-night hiccups. In the silence of night, I am strengthened. I am renewed. I'm ready to take care of the cries and the diapers and, especially, to sacrifice my own will for hers.

I love feeding her. I love playing with her. But my absolute favorite time is when I contort my body into a "C" to snuggle up next to her. It's my reward. And it's better than any reward any office could offer.

This morning, I spent 20 minutes this morning just snuggling her, watching her drift in and out of sleep. Watching her, I just couldn't wait for her to wake up. So I guess I'll be ready for her cries.

There might be trouble down the road, when we have to wean her from sleeping with us. But for now, we both just love going to bed. (Okay, maybe we've always liked it.)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Playing Mr. Mom

Playing Mr. Mom is about what I expected it to be. It gets a little scary when I am running back and forth from home to Mickelle's school to pick up milk, but so far Betsy has been a good sport about it. Mickelle gets the "Monday Morning Blues" about Sunday night at 5pm. It is a bit of a weird feeling knowing that I do not have a set time to wake up the next day or a huge list of things to do for homework. I feel a bit of a slacker, but when Betsy cries I'm always there to calm, feed, and take care of her. I really like this time I have with her. I feel like I do not have to be one of those Dads whos baby starts to cry and he hands it over to the Mom. I want my baby to feel just as comfortable with me and she does with Mickelle. So, instead of trying to cram a million things into the time I am home with Betsy, I play with her, bounce her, and make her laugh. I can already see the effects and only wish I had more time to spend with my little girl. I want a job I cna work from home, and be there when my kids come through the door telling about their day. I want a job that I don't have to spend 50 hours a week at just to stay on top of things. And then I look at what businesses are requiring and I don't know how I can get one of those jobs. The only way I can think of accomplishing it, is to start my own business and hope it's successful. In the end, does the job matter anyway? It's all about the family.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

pomp & circumstance

Kids grow up so fast these days.

Seeing Scott graduate was quite the cause for celebration. Another cause for celebration is the fact that I think this is the first post-pregnancy photo in which I am finally accepting of how I look. I'm not DONE losing weight, but at least in this photo most of my chin fat is gone.

Of course you're thinking to yourself, "I knew that Mary Elizabeth was a cute girl, but wow, she makes an adorable graduate." And you're right. Getting her all ready for the big day was no small feat. (Although, for the record, hers still are.) I didn't think any quandary truly existed that Google could not cure. Well, it appears infant/baby/child graduation/commencement cap and gowns/graduation clothes is it. After searching every combination of the above, I ended up asking Kinzie to create a pattern. And, I have to say, I stand in awe.

Scott's parents came down for the graduation, of course. My picture of them at the ceremony kind-of bites, but I wanted to include one of them from this special trip, so here goes. It's SOOC and the white balance is totally, totally off. I was experimenting with my WB settings and definitely learned a thing or two about what not to do.

Any questions about who is the center of the (Provo) Shea world?

So, now my sweetheart is working for Dr. Guthrie and starting on his master's thesis in the evenings and playing Mr. Mom during the day. And if I know Scott and his little girl, there's plenty of "play" to it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Taking the stand.

For our entire marriage, we've always had callings together. In Cedar, it was ward missionaries. In our Provo apartment, it was teaching gospel doctrine. In our current ward, it was gospel doctrine and then ward missionaries with Scott as the WML. We had it pretty sweet, and even though we were nearing our "year mark" at which they give you a new calling, I wasn't too worried. That just meant we'd go back to teaching GD. Right?

So a few weeks ago, the Bishop's secretary called and told us Bishop Gough and President Snow wanted to come by. Seeing as we were getting a new counselor in the Bishopric and a new RS president, we weren't really feeling all that chill when the two stopped by.

But we faked it, like good little kids. They didn't breathe one word about callings -- just chatted about the baby, our future plans, the house. You know. The Bishop had helped Scott on putting in a new sub-floor before we laid the linoleum in the kitchen, so they came and saw how the kitchen was coming along.

Well, that same day (before the Bishop arrived, actually) President Garner's secretary called and asked if we could meet with the Stake President before church on Sunday. Yes. Something was definitely afoot.

And, drumroll please, they put Scott in as the second counselor in the Bishopric. (Two weeks ago. Yes, I am already behind when it comes to this blogging thing.) He was sustained in Sacrament Meeting and immediately took the stand.

Looks like it's just me and you, Betsy. Seven minutes later, she was crying in my arms.

He came home the other day and mentioned that Bishopric meeting was probably going to be changed to Sundays at 6 a.m. Six a.m! Looks like no late-night dates on Saturday. And if she cries on a Saturday night, I'm back on duty. This leaves Friday night as my only reprieve. Thank heavens she (usually) sleeps (moderately) well. But I am so happy to support him in his service.

Since we were both released, it means we're released and I'm up for a new calling. I keep reminding Scott I don't want to be in primary. Since there's all of 2 or 3 kids in it, I think I'm safe. (Don't get me wrong. I love kids. But it's so hard to get to know people when you're in a student ward with such a high turnover. You just have to be in RS to get to know everyone.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Graduate

Is there an engineer in the house? A Civil Engineer? (Enough of the rude ones, as Poppa said.)

There's just nothing quite like seeing your husband in those graduation robes. Especially with freshly-cut hair. I wanted to think it was the end of late-night studying, of heinous math teachers with harsh Asian accents, of the endless juggling between homework, tests, marriage, family, work, fixing up the house, and church.

But it's not. Would Scott be happy if he weren't running in too many directions at once?

He met with Dr. Guthrie about his Master's thesis yesterday, and if he weren't helping install countertops and handles on our kitchen cupboards, he'd be back at the Clyde already. Talk about a short-lived celebration.

Oh well. Maybe later this summer.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

the bowling champ

A week ago Scott finished up his beginning bowling class. They spent the last few weeks in a double-elimination tournament, and guess who turned out champ?

That's right. My sexy husband. Betsy and I were both there to cheer him on. I think it made him a little nervous, but his competitor even bowled a turkey in his last few frames and still didn't catch up.

The prize was 100 Grand. Too bad it came in the chocolate form.