Friday, December 18, 2009

What Santa Wishes She Could Bring

There's two things on our Christmas list we just can't afford this year. While that's probably true every year, I seem to have become obsessive lately. I search Craigslist & E-bay daily, hoping for someone out there to cut a girl some slack, but so far it's all been in vain. I'm hopeful we'll get both of these items in good time, but for now we just keep coveting. (And in the mean time, if you come across a good deal on either item, PLEASE let me know!)

1. A Learning Tower. I am convinced owning one would triple my patience -- and Betsy's IQ would probably take a leap, too. Every loaf of bread, every batch of cookies, every time I slice up veggies or saute meat on the stove -- there she is, and I'm practically on top of her as I trip. She's trying to put Momma's shoes on Momma, who often is already wearing a pair; she's getting into the towels drawer or the lazy susan; she's pulling spices from the drawer and wandering off to the bathroom with them. By the time I finished all my pies for this year's pie night, Betsy was moping around, sadly repeating her little "Momma busy" phrase I'd inadvertently taught her. A restoration of my sanity, for a mere $180!

2. I can't make up my mind between blond and brunette, a rather ridiculous quandry, since we're not going to be buying it soon anyway. Here's the thing: I pined away for Samantha, the American Girls doll, from the time I was 8. I'm pretty sure I didn't get her until I was at least 10, quite likely 12. All I know is, by that time Samantha finally came to my world, I was done with dolls and it didn't really matter, anyway. She sat on my "special shelf" largely untouched. But I had totally given my heart to American Girls, reading every single book about not only Samantha, but also Kirsten and Molly. (I'm so old they were the only ones around for most of the time I was that young!) Eventually Felicity came around, and I think I read hers, too, but not as fanatically. Well, Betsy's latest antics have upped our drive to get Betsy her own doll -- and a nice one, not one from the dollar store that is practically decapitated... hypothetically speaking -- led me to Bitty Baby from AG, and I became obsessed. There's no huge reason to have fallen so hard for a doll, particularly one with such a price ($50! My heck!) but AG has such sweet girlhood memories for me I just can't let it go. They're actually the same price/usually more on E-bay, which defies my logic, but I'll keep watching -- betcha prices drop after Christmas.

...And, of course, a job for Scott. But if we managed to grab that one, I'd like to think we could manage the other two items. :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

pucker up!

I planned to give this as a framed print to Kate, my sister, for Christmas. (She's the one planting the kiss on my cutie.) Do you think she'll like it? Or no, because you can't see her face? (If not, I included an alternate photo, but I don't like it quite as much.) I'd really like some frank feedback.

her inner world revealed

Betsy seems to be maturing by leaps and bounds this week -- at least in certain areas. I'm quite certain she'll be carrying her "silky" off to college, but that's not a battle I'm willing to fight quite yet. She's still young enough for one, isn't she?

The main area of growth is her language. She's got a great vocabulary, but many multisyllabic words were just a bit much for her. And there's certain sounds she's always struggled with (something the teacher in me inherently catalogs: z-, l-, and r-; many consonant blends like sn-, cl-, bl-, dr-, etc.) but with her dad's encouragement, she finally mastered "snake" or, more accurately, mastered "ssssss (pause) NAKE!" Lately that tool of pausing between difficult sounds helped her say the word "happiness" right on the first try. I expected a bunch of garbled, incoherent syllables to be repeated (as usual,) and then she just said it, plain as day: "happy (pause) ness." Good enough for me!

She's also finally putting several words together in interesting ways. I've been waiting to hear the single words flesh themselves out into mini-sentences for a long time, and while she's been doing it for a while, it was always the typical command stuff: "Book. Read it," or "Orange, please momma," "Coat, thank you, momma," stuff like that. But gradually, we're getting more insight into Betsyland: "Crayons fun, thank you momma." (She'd gone to hide behind the counter so she could throw all 64 on the floor... then proceeds to thank me?!? Kids are too funny.)

Today she wandered around the house with her rather hideous doll, carefully held up to her chest. The doll was wrapped in a silky and being patted on the back. "Baby napping time," she kept saying, walking around the kitchen island endlessly. (There's no way she remembers how many nights we did this very thing with her, is there?) This was the kind of stuff I knew she thought about on the inside. To finally hear about that interior world, locked up as a secret for so long, well it just tickles me.

As I was singing in the kitchen today, she asked me to sing one song again. This lead to me asking her which songs she liked, and she told me one or two. I told her a few I liked, and got her to name a few more. I know I'm just too in love with encouraging her language skills, but I couldn't help myself! She told me she likes "Daddy Home," (Wheels on the) "Bus," "Happiness," and another one I couldn't quite understand.

Too bad Scott's off in California and missing all of this fun stuff! It's watching this progress first-hand that makes me realize how much I treasure full-time parenthood, even when it comes at a cost. I continually count my blessings for this home and the renters who so graciously pay our mortgage each month. In spite of it, we continually drag ourselves further into debt, bit by bit, but I am happy to put my college degree aside to have these moments captured by a (usually) loving parent. At least, I think I capture most of them. I'm sure for many more she's somewhere else in the house being all insanely cute and I'm blogging, cleaning, or cooking, totally oblivious.

(12/18 edit: She's got a great memory, too! Every night before I put her to bed, we talk about what happened that day: what we ate, where we went, who we saw, etc. I can't believe some of the things she remembers that were very insignificant and happened much earlier in the day. Today while we were singing, she asked for Itsy Bitsy Spider, although the words were so jumbled I thought I'd never understand her. We haven't sang that song in weeks and weeks, but apparently she likes it!)

Oh -- one part of mothering I'd be okay missing out on? Betsy pushing the alarm in the library elevator today. Awesome. And awesomely loud.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mastering The Art of Mothering

Due to an undeniable urge to do anything but clean the kitchen, I blog. Whether anything substantial comes of it is doubtful.

Scott and I spent some time watching Julie and Julia a few nights ago, and I'm pleased to report neither of us fell asleep, which has to be a first for in at least six months' time. I'm sure many of you know the gist of the plot: Modern-day girl (Julie) decides to make all 530-ish recipes from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a single year. Her story is interwoven with Julia Child's, zealously carving her niche as an American In Love With French Food. While her husband is stationed in Paris, Julia cooks passionately and tirelessly, enrolling herself in cooking classes intended for professional European chefs. Her tireless devotion lends way to great success, eventually co-writing her book (intended for other American housewives and cooks like herself,) making endless revisions to it, only to receive numerous rejections before its eventual publication.

Well, the obvious energy of the movie was spent developing these two charming characters and their admirable (shared) obsession. But as the movie ended, I was still muddling through the question of how much one should really admire Julie. The movie makes her restlessness and questions of self-worth/importance of how she spends her time absolutely clear. Frankly, those are questions to which many SAHMs and others can thoroughly relate. And there is no doubt in my mind that she needed something substantial, something unique and defining to do. A mission, a project. (Again, I can sooooo relate. I am queen of projects. Not necessarily finished ones, though.) However, her project became utterly consuming. Rather than adding to her identity, it pushed everything else out. There was no room for anything but her project and its accompanying blog. Her husband spent a large part of the year most unhappy, leaving her due to the obsession but eventually returning.

The thing is, I can all too easily understand this part of the film, too. Some of my projects build such momentum, such steam, that it's tough to keep them in check. Drawing that line between the appropriateness of having interests outside the home (NOT optional, in my book) and letting them consume me is something I think I constantly mismanage. I have reigned in my photography interests these past few months for several reasons, but it seems prudent to mention how frustrating it can be to build up that energy, only to have to slow it to a seeming halt because this week Scott's days off need to be devoted to thesis work and job interviews and household chores; next week we need to be at my parents' place, and maybe I could squeeze in one photo shoot the first part of next month, if I play my cards right.

Seriously?!? It frustrates the life out of me. Some days, I'd rather just pack it all in. Be done. It's easier to not experience the thrill of the hobby. It's not worth the frustration. It was one thing when life was just the two of us. But now, someone has to watch Betsy. I can't always ask that of Scott. And even if I can, lots of times I'm wishing he could simultaneously assist on a shoot and keep Betsy at home. That's not really feasible, is it?

Well, these are rather scattered thoughts. And I'm too frustrated by it all (and the messy kitchen taunting me) to make all these thoughts sound pretty. I know everything has its time and season; I am very content with that. These days are good ones -- how much I love each minute with Betsy! Still, I live in search of obtaining outside interests that don't consume me. But frankly, the problem is my own: I've never been that kind of person. For me, it will always be a struggle. Don't mistake me, though, Scott will always be encouraging, but my first duty will always be mothering -- I'm not going to ever mistake that. After four years of teaching, I've seen what that does to a kid. So, as a result, I will never have the kind of time I crave. That's okay; it's my choice. My choice. But that doesn't mean it's not a sacrifice.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Lazy Man's Missionary Work

I never served a mission. However, Scott and I have been ward missionaries/WMLs in two wards for what comes out to be one-third of our marriage. Throughout that time, I've come to believe most heartily in the power of quietly speaking truth. After all, the truth doesn't need to be shouted. It has its own power, and shouting doesn't really add to it.

So I really loved the article in the Ensign a couple months back about sharing your testimony on-line, particularly through blogs. I'm not always as good at that as I'd like to be, but I know I am regularly uplifted by so many of you, and do strive to do the same for others along the way. When I came across these tags, I thought of many bloggers who demonstrate these missionary strengths so well, and thought you should know about them. You can find them here, and I think it's a subtle but great way to bear testimony. I added a few to my own blog (see: right) to showcase a couple. I will be narrowing it down to one, but wanted to give you an idea of their offerings.

The Month Called November

Well, the house is decorated for Christmas. This year I even let Scott do it before Thanksgiving -- quite a concession, but it came about so easily and naturally you never would have known it. And it happened so quickly! I went out to run some errand and voila! I returned to the most charming little home. ...We are very lucky to have the home we do; it suits our needs so well and is beyond economical. But it's no use pretending: I do complain about its looks more than I should.

But at Christmastime! Oh, there is something so endearing about how it looks at Christmastime, all glowy and cheery, that I fall in love with the place again. That's no small feat, as we continue to accumulate stuff and it has been feeling increasingly cramped of late. (Redoing the bathrooom did nothing to help the congestion, either. Four tubs -- FOUR TUBS -- of toiletry junk littering my bedroom. Betsy spent hours a day exploring the world of my tampons and Scott's contacts. Oh, am I glad the worst of that job is over!)

Thanksgiving was a quiet affair, low-key but still delicious. We all fit around a single table, and while that table was crowded, Kate was right: quite anticlimactic. (Are you allowed to say that about Thanksgiving? It feels so wrong.) I guess having Marcus away on his mission and Tanner with his dad really made the group even more subdued. I'd easily say those are the two most animated of the clan.

This year cream cheese had gone on sale a few weeks prior to the holiday, so each of my three desserts had cream cheese. And it's the sad truth: this was the first time I used my Cuisinart for a dessert. Oh, what heaven. What ease. What taste. I definitely plan on seeing what kind of semi-healthy concoctions I can devise with the use of it. I think by far its best advantage was the incredible taste the fat-free cream cheese still offered. Quite impressive.

I have maintained contact with Penny, even with their move to California. It's been delightful to spend time talking to someone so uplifting, and the best part about such a person is, they see you in your best, kindest light -- somehow see you for who you'd like to be instead of the crummy version you usually imitate instead.

We are simultaneously pursuing two very different career opportunities. While I am highly inclined to believe a certain one of the two will work out, it's been interesting to feel so divided between the two. Not because I have no preference between the two, but because both mean such different things for our family. One would involve a move; the other would involve several. One would mean a four-day work week; the other, more money initially. One would be working in transportation (one of Scott's earliest and most passionate loves), and the other, he would find to be slightly more mundane, though certainly enjoyable and within his chosen profession of civil engineering. I'll be surprised if we know much about whether we've been able to secure either position before January.

Oh -- and a note to those whose Christmas shopping includes kids: I picked up some amazing, amazing, amazing deals at Babies R Us this year. They had 50% off their clearance, and Betsy didn't have any winter Sunday shoes. (Yes, she'd still been running around in her sandals. Pretty embarrassing, but I just didn't have $10 to spend on them, you know?) Anyway, I got her a black pair and a white pair for under $3 a piece. I also scored some sandals for next summer, several pairs of cheap socks, and cute pants for under $3 a pair, too! How all of it added up to $70 I'll never know. They did, however, mention that this 50% off clearance was rare. So if they don't do it next year it might not be worthwhile after all.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

pout-free and loving it.

I have invested far too much time contemplating what I do/don't want this blog to be. Because of it, no entry ever felt just right to me. My mind just never fully wrapped itself around this identity, of who I was and what this blog was to represent. Luckily, something recently helped me make those decisions I can belabor all too much: I just learned that Blurb now has the ability to slurp from blogger, easily building cheap, beautiful books from the text and images of a blog. I've been waiting so long for this feature I'd forgotten all about it! It has renewed my desire to post in our family blog -- and also gave me a beautiful, single purpose: Now my blog can act as the only sort of family journal we'll probably ever have.

So, if you get sick of posts about one abnormally cute little girl, one wonderful husband, and one generally abnormal momma, this might not be the blog for you. In other words, I will be regularly blogging about the wonderful bits of our family life. It doesn't mean we don't have our down days, but the good days do vastly outnumber the bad, and when this is all my children have to understand their childhood, I want it to reflect the joy they bring me. If any entry ever sounds braggish -- which is something I abhor with every fiber I possess -- please understand, it's not written to make others feel slighted or inferior. It's not written for others at all. It's to let my children know, somewhere down the line, of their accomplishments. Those small steps, I feel it urgently important for them to know, were noticed and celebrated.

--- End bizarre informational section ---

Betsy is always cute -- what mother thinks otherwise? -- but dang, she gets cuter and cuter as her vocabulary grows and she can really express herself. In the strain of my friend Catherine, I've decided to start including Betsyisms.

*This morning Betsy was snuggling in bed with me and I heard her sigh. "Are you okay?" I asked, "Are you sad?"
"Yes," she said, quite seriously. I asked her why.
"Want Daddy." she moaned.
"Where is he?" I asked.
"Wook," she replied.

*At night when I put her to bed, we sing songs. Several weeks ago she started asking for her personal favorite, "Daddy Home" (I'm So Glad When Daddy Comes Home.) Well, it didn't take long before "Daddy Home" had turned into "Daddy... Poppy... Home" and a few days after that, it was "Daddy... Poppy... Jesus Home."

*As I was typing this, she opened the drawer where I keep the oven mitts. She put one on her hand and motioned me away, saying "Move back!" just like I tell her when I open the oven.

*She also started asking me to sing her "Jenny" at night. Considering she doesn't know a single Jenny, I had no idea where this came from. Finally, a few nights later, it hit me: She was asking for one of her other favorite songs: Genealogy.

*Several weeks ago she was sitting in the back of the car listing off several of her friends names, followed by "no." (We can only guess why.) "Max? ...No. Bannon? No."
"How about Rhett?" I asked.
"Rhett. Rhett coot (cute.) Honk, honk."

*She likes to count, but often skips four and consistently skips seven. But boy, does she love it!

*I was at the computer the other day and found that Betsy was no longer running around, but had climbed all the way up and was now sitting on the island. I watched her closely, and moments later, she dropped something off of it. "I get it," she declares enthusiastically, and climbed back down to retrieve it. How -- and when -- did she learn that skill?

*The other night as I was putting her to sleep, she was talking to me as she drifted further and further from wakefulness. Her words: "Pretty, pretty..." (as she holds my pearls) "Pretty, pretty, (she moves to my hair) pretty... brown... hair... pretty you... pretty BYU! B U! B U!"" (She knows how to say BYU, but will only say it once before altering it to B U. We have no idea why.)

*And least you think she's nothing but a wonder-babe, let me tell you the most frequent word I've heard from her the past few days: "No, mine!" Oddly, this is usually said when I ask her the most unrelated of questions. This morning, she clutched a copy of the Ensign and a silky as she wandered around the house. I asked her if she wanted Cheerios. "No, MINE," she fumed, holding her items all the closer. This same exchange occurred at least half a dozen times before I finally got her to agree that she wanted breakfast.

Well, there's several more, but I think you get the idea: she's keeping us busy, content, and usually laughing, during days when it would be so easy to pout and whine.