Sunday, July 26, 2009

State holiday

Friday was a state holiday. My university was officially closed. For weeks, I have been secretly smiling, thinking of all the great work I would finally accomplish on that Friday when everything else was canceled. No meetings, no students dropping by, no seminars. Closed. Building locked. Halls dark. And me, in the secret cool of my office, writing papers like mad. I was so looking forward to Friday.

But alas. As it was a state holiday, the daycare decided to close. And as Tim is employed in another state, he had regular meetings all day long, and tasks to accomplish.

So, since my university was officially closed, I swapped the day of writing in the cool dark for a day of trying to work while building with legos on Jonathan's bedroom floor, followed by an afternoon at the local swimming pool with all the hoards of people who also had the day off. After all. I guess it was more fun than writing, but now I have this large dark thing hanging over my head, and its name is guilt.

In the evening, we picked up my giant little brother, and drove 50 miles north to the city where my parents live. After a nice meal, and some birthday cake, we drove further into town and found parking near a baseball field, where they would be shooting fireworks into the sky to celebrate the fact that my university was closed for the day.

We arrived 2.5 hours early, and found nice spots to park our cars and spread our blankets. It was hot, but dry and getting cooler. We played cards on a blanket under a tree. After four games, we had killed 1/2 hour. Two hours still to go.

Then we took the kids to the playground, where they played until the sun had set into gray gloom. One hour still to go.

Then we lit sparklers, until Mark started crying and Jonathan nearly poked a lady in the eye. 30 minutes still to go.

Then I bought glow sticks, three for a dollar, one for each child. The baby tried to poke herself in the eyes and nose and mouth. The 2 year old tried to poke the baby in the eyes and nose and mouth. And Jonathan wanted to trade colors with the 2 year old. Yeah like that was ever going to happen.

And then, before the glow stick game dissolved into complete tears and chaos, some official lit the fireworks just 100 feet away in the ball park. The first few fireworks were noise rather than light, and glow sticks were abandoned in screams of terror and tears, and my sister became a ball of crying children. Jonathan, however, was in happy awe. We hadn't taken him this close to fireworks before.

After 15 minutes, the 2 year old had peeled himself off of my sister's arm, although the baby still whined unhappily. Grandma sat happily on the blanket next to the little ones. Grandpa peered at the sky, putting bets on the color of the next explosion. Jonathan and Tim were comparing favorites ("I like the ones that crackle after they explode"), and the giant little brother must have been sitting quietly enjoying the show, because I don't remember anything from him.

The fireworks ended as all fireworks shows should -- with spots on the backs of my retinas and a ringing in my ears. We gathered blankets and lawnchairs and children. And then walked the few blocks back to the cars. Then drove through post-firework traffic and foot traffic back to Grandma's house. And then screamed through tooth-brushing and jammy-dressing and good-nighting as children and parents tend to do when it's four hours past bedtime.

I then rolled around uncomfortably for much of the night on the foam mattress on the floor. It was very cold. Mom and Dad, you need to turn up the temperature up on your AC. I woke up with a cold head and a stuffy nose.

Saturday dawned early and cranky and a little ill. The plan: fabulous family outing to the temple open house. Everyone dressed up and changed diapers and brushed teeth and drove 50 minutes through the bright heat. We followed the mobs through the building ("we expect over 20,000 visitors today," said a volunteer), earned a cookie, and learned that "Oquirrh" is a native American word. Goodbye to parents and sister and sister's babies and giant little brother. Time to drive further north to Tim's parents' house for more birthday cake.

We then spent one and a half hours in the car in dress clothes, in the hot and the bright. Tim kept turning off the AC. I kept turning it back on -- and cranking up the volume. We were driving in a mobile solar oven. I didn't want to cook.

Tim, on the other hand, said he was cold. Cold? He had spent the night on the mattress in my parents' basement with the AC jacked way up without even a blanket. That was cold. Spending an afternoon inside a solar oven going about 55 miles per hour? Not cold.

We arrived in a hungry, pre-migrainal stupor, and headed to lunch. Happily fed, we returned to the in-law's house for delicious cake and ice cream, followed by activity: we all crashed on the couch and watched a Sponge Bob marathon. Sponge Bob marathon ended when I declared myself physically ill and Tim declared we needed to get home for a reasonable bedtime and Jonathan declared that he wanted more Sponge Bob and Grandma and Grandpa declared we were welcome to stay for dinner, but we all admitted the thought of food made us feel like hurling.

Back into the solar oven. My head hurt and my eyes were heavy. Tim surreptitiously turned off the AC when my eyes were closed. My skin began baking off my bones. I opened my eyes and turned the AC back on. He turned down the blower. I turned it back up. He turned it off again. I thought, I will be the bigger person. I will just go to sleep and the heat will not bother me. The heat began buzzing in my head, boiling in my veins, clenching my muscles in fire irons and shouting in my ear, "Be the bigger person!" until I was sure I would explode. Instead, I turned the AC back on.

Two hours later, after picking up and dropping off my giant little brother again, we pulled into our driveway. After some screaming and teeth brushing and pajamas and even a quick story, we put the boy to bed just one hour late. I did some work. Then pushed aside the guilt for a moment to let you all know about our fabulous state holiday.

I am hot and exhausted.

But it's not about me.


[And thank you grandmas, we did have a very nice time. And if this post sounds a little cranky, it isn't because we didn't enjoy seeing you, but because somehow my husband's internal temperature control is completely screwed up, and because my son needs more sleep, and now I have to go write for a while.]

Friday, July 24, 2009


A few days ago, Jonathan told me in the car that he had decided to become a vegetarian.

"Why?" I asked, honestly curious.

"Because I don't want to hurt any animals."

I am the kind of mother who is impressed by this answer. How sweet is that, to have a little boy who is concerned about hurting animals?

However, I am also the kind of mother who is skeptical. After all, this is the son who catches grasshoppers to put them in a jar to die. (I let them out. When I remember.)

"OK," said I. "That sounds like a good idea. But you realize that sometimes we put meat in things like spagetti sauce?"

"Just make mine without meat."

"And you'll have to stop eating chicken nuggets."


"I'll be a vegetarian, except I'll eat chicken nuggets."

Yup. That's what I thought.

No more comments about going vegetarian.

Some of you are thinking, hey, this would be a good opportunity to switch the whole family to a vegetarian diet! I would be fine with that, except that kids with food restrictions have to take their own lunches to school.

If Jonathan ever gets really serious about being a vegetarian, I'm willing to help him out. But he has to be old enough to pack his own lunch. That's where we draw the line.

Monday, July 20, 2009


I had a very uncomfortable pregnancy. Nearly as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I began suffering pretty severe back pain. At the same time, I began having serious food aversions. I couldn't walk, I couldn't eat. And I was pregnant for 41 weeks.

Childbirth was also very difficult for me, as it is for many women. My story involves 18 hours of frequent contractions with no progress, being turned away from the hospital three times, and severe tearing.

The first few weeks with a newborn were shockingly hard. I became a zombie, acting and reacting only on instinct. If the baby cried, I had to get up and feed him. Instinct. He would not breast feed for two weeks. I had open oozing sores on my nipples. I did not heal. Physically or emotionally.

Six weeks into parenthood, many women were through with their maternity leave and had to go back to work. That meant that six weeks after childbirth, normal women had pulled things back together. Six weeks after my childbirth, Tim and I looked at each other and wondered aloud, "What is wrong with us, that our lives are not normal?" It was hell.

Twenty-two months after childbirth, I was at a conference in Scotland, and a colleague mentioned that in the UK, by law women are given six months of paid maternity leave, and twelve months unpaid leave. I almost started crying there at the table. Six months! "That is so reasonable!" I remember saying. Tim and I would have given ourselves much more credit for struggling to go back to work after just three months. We would have stretched the date for being normal out to the end of another semester. And we might nearly have met that deadline.

When I was in the middle of my postpartum-ness, well-meaning women would tell me that I would forget how hard pregnancy and childbirth were, and soon be ready for another baby. I would shake my head emphatically. How could I ever forget something that had scarred me so deeply?

My youngest sister had a baby about two weeks ago. She called this week, wondering about breast feeding, asking for advice. And of course it all came back. The pain. The panic. The pumping. I attended two conferences in October that year, scouting out the ladies' rooms, trying to find a suitable place to spend 20 minutes pumping every three hours.

I asked her how it was going, and her non-committal answer spoke to me. Did she mention feeling isolated from all humanity, cut off by her inability to plan whether she would be awake or asleep at any given moment? Or was that me, remembering? Did she ask how long until normalcy? I don't know, but I remember answering: Don't give yourself a deadline. But make it at least six months. At least.

This was not going to be a post about childbirth or motherhood. This was going to be a post about remembering.

I spent some time this evening looking through blog posts from this year and last. I have been very pleased with myself and how nicely I wrote. I have also been remembering all the horrible things I had to write about. Starting somewhere in July of last year, I spent at least six months living in a state of near panic. There was the move. The house renovation. The new job and Bob the Enemy. Childcare, including a son who retreated into himself and his thumb sucking.

It's no wonder my writing has been suffering. Look at my life. It's GOOD! My job is going well. My son loves his school, and is excited to start first grade in the fall. My marriage has never been better. My house is beautiful and comfortable. My family is healthy. Our finances and my body weight have stabilized. I feel like crying, I am so overwhelmed by the goodness. Maybe even my stress-induced gum disease will start to go away now. Maybe.

The Mormons have several scriptures that speak to me here. There must be an opposition in all things. Humans "taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the sweet." Or even stronger: "if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet".

Does the remembered pain of childbirth and motherhood cause me to hold my son a little closer? It certainly helps me to hold these days closer, free from pain and soaked in nights of full sleep.

I'm sorry I have nothing to write about.

Let's keep it that way.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Once upon a time

One warm spring day, Mother Fly stretched her wings and flew toward the sun. She was off to see the wide world! Before she left, she needed to find a home for her little egg -- someplace warm and safe, with lots of things to eat so her baby could grow up and be happy and well. She searched and searched, and finally tucked it safely into the perfect home.

"Goodbye little one," she said, and flew off to see the wide world.

Meanwhile, the sun warmed the egg, and the egg hatched and the little baby maggot named Hazel climbed out. Hazel was safe and warm and had lots to eat. So she ate and ate and ate, and slowly grew and grew and grew and was happy and well.

One day, an old lady stood upon a ladder in the warm sunshine, picking cherries. She picked and she picked, and filled bowls and bowls with tart red cherries. As she picked, she dreamed of all the things the cherries could become. Cherry tarts, cherry pies, cherry cobbler, frozen cherries, dried cherries, cherry jam and cherry fruit leather. The sun beat down and the lady's mouth watered as she picked and picked and picked.

Later, after the sun had gone down, the old lady sat at in her air conditioned house, at her kitchen table, opening cherries and taking out pits. Over and over and over she opened cherries, late into the night, dreaming of all the delicious things the cherries could become. Cherry tarts, cherry pies, cherry cobbler, frozen cherries, dried cherries, cherry jam and cherry fruit leather.

And then, just as the bowl of cherries to be pitted was getting low, and just as the bowl of pitted cherries was getting high, the old lady suddenly stopped. She stopped dreaming of delicious things, stopped opening cherries, stopped taking out pits. She adjusted her spectacles, sat up a little straighter, and carefully peered into the cherry in her hands.

There was Hazel, not so safe, not so warm, exposed to the cold conditioned air, wriggling unhappily as her home was pulled apart.

The old lady screamed, and Hazel screamed. Poor Hazel was tossed into the pile of cherry pits. And then tossed into the trash. And then tossed into the landfill.

The landfill was deep and wide. Hazel found herself in a pile of cherry pits and rotten cherries. Depressed, she went to sleep. She slept for a long time.

The air grew cold. Still Hazel slept. Snow fell from the sky. Still Hazel slept. Ice covered the landfill. Still Hazel slept.

And then one warm day, the sun shone down upon the landfill, and Hazel awoke! She was no longer an ugly maggot. She was a beautiful fly! She could fly off to explore the wide world!

But first, there was something Hazel needed to do. She let the sun guide her and the spring winds carry her far from the landfill, over the fields and trees and houses, until she finally landed in a tree of tart cherries, in the back yard of an old lady. There Hazel found a perfect little cherry. She tucked her little egg into the cherry, patted it gently, and said, "Goodbye little one."

And flew off to see the wide world.


A note from the author.

This delicious little story (copyright 2009, all rights reserved) wrote itself yesterday evening as I was trying to deal with our harvest of tart cherries. The old lady in the story was me, and Hazel was a temporary guest in our home, along with maggots Hector and Alice and William and Tina and Bobby and Marylou and. . . . We called the company that supposedly sprayed our cherries for bugs, and they essentially told us that spraying was pretty useless after all, because Hazel would be back in the spring. But please pay us up front for next year. And as I thought about the sprayers' words, I wondered how Hazel felt about that. The rest is history.

PS. And when you visit, you should try some of our delicious tart cherry fruit leather. Don't worry -- I think we cleaned most of the maggots out before grinding them up and drying them out.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cabin photos

Our lake.

July 4, 2009. Chilly night for fireworks.

Technically, the sparklers were July 5th and not July 4th, but I won't tell if you don't tell.

Full moon.


Cousins, July 6.

I know saying this totally ruins the ambiance of this post, but sometimes when I see myself in pictures I think I could really use a boob job.



Yellowstone again.

Back at the cabin.

That's all.


Friday, July 3, 2009. 6:34 am.

6:36 am.

6:41 am.

6:51 am.

6:53 am.

6:55 am.

7:04 am.

7:08 am.

And away!

Monday, July 13, 2009

NYC photos

This is what New York City looked like in June.

Below you find your favorite people in Washington Square on a cloudy cool Sunday. If Jonathan looks grumpy, it's because the weather was really too cold to be sporting swimwear like that green girl. And he was forbidden to get wet and cold that early in the day....

... Because we had to hike him across the Brooklyn Bridge. No, I don't know why he really needed to be dry for that. Can you find me in the picture below?

Here, this one is easier:

We used public transportation and feet to travel. Jonathan really liked the subway.

Can you find me in this photo?

Ha ha. No, you won't, because I was working the day that the boys went to see the Statue of Liberty.


Let's see. Then I know Tim and Jonathan went to the Bronx Zoo, but apparently they didn't take any pictures of that. They also spent some time in Central Park. Oh! Here's a Central Park photo.

And then we all went to the Natural History Museum:

(Even though we all went, you do not see Tim in the picture, or any pictures so far, because he was the Keeper of the Camera.)

Jonathan called this guy "Long Neck." They should let five year olds name dinosaurs.

The next day Tim and Jonathan were looking up at other things.

They went all the way to the top of the Empire State Building.

Tim was so excited about going up high that he finally took a picture of himself looking really excited and high.

Up high, that is.

Times Square:

Talk about excited....
Oh, and we visited the campus of Columbia, to see where I spent my Mondays through Saturdays....

Brooklyn botanical gardens were nice.

As was pizza with Adam. Except Jonathan found the restaurant a little smokey. (Something burning in the brick oven in the corner.)

And that was it.

Or at least, those were the pictures taken. I also met up with an old friend, visited the MoMA (thanks Alyssa), and spent time in the park in the rain.