Saturday, February 28, 2009

You think that was random? You should try this one.

Sorry about the bloggy break, KristinaP. It's nice to know I was missed . . . I was sick for four days, and then had to spend all available waking hours recovering from my family housekeeping department absence. Please don't be too disappointed with this post, because it's nothing special!

First off, I must say that I have outdone myself, so let's get the bragging out of the way. Some of you may remember my Birthday Cake Evolution post. For the twins' birthday, I made them each their own cake, and they were very specific about what they wanted. ConMan wanted "a rockin' kitar" and G-Dog wanted a volcano. Here is what we ended up with:

Here is where I would insert pictures of the actual twins from said birthday celebration, but the only picture I have in which, A. all parties are looking at the camera and B. all parties have their eyes open, is one of me, G-Dog and Sam, one of MommyJ's twins.

For their birthday, we got them Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii. We are in love with this game. For a girl who grew up playing the original Nintendo, Mario has come a long way, baby. It has become our new playtime activity to all work on conquering a level together -- I have been truly impressed by the creativity and applicability of the solutions posited by such video game novices.

And, because I can, and because it makes my heart glad to think that maybe my kids have inherited even a little bit of my musical ability, here is my budding virtuoso:

And some of you will know why this is funny. The rest of you will not. Sorry.

I don't usually post early in the morning, because, let's be honest, I'm never awake. And if I am awake, I'm on the treadmill. Or cleaning up throw-up. I would call those two things equally fun reasons to be out of bed at 6 AM. This morning, G-Dog woke up to use the bathroom at 5 AM. I heard CPod get up, and then I, of course, rolled over and went back to sleep. 15 minutes later, I woke up to an empty spot next to me in bed. I wandered around the house until I found CPod in the garage wearing his Carrhart overalls (did you know you can get overalls in supertall sizes? If I didn't think he'd kill me, I'd publish a photo, because it is seriously something to behold.) working on his new Jeep. New, as in 1998 and a piece of crap. But I digress.

So he couldn't sleep. And I couldn't either. Back upstairs, I noticed a weird flashing light on the wall, and when I discovered it was my netbook (the coolest thing I never knew I needed, but totally did), I could not resist the siren call of internet-based positive reinforcement so here I am, and have been, for the past hour.

As I lay here in my bed, the silence is randomly punctuated by the Tim Allen voice of ConMan's Buzz Lightyear toy, which must be in bed with him, saying, "To infinity. And beyond!" ConMan will be up shortly . . . he's our early riser, and the talking toy won't help matters.

After I published the last random post, MommyJ told me I must have really been on one when I wrote it. What? I said. The title, she said. It was a little over the top. I was incredulous. Didn't you get the allusion? I said. Nooooo . . . what are you talking about? I thought it was pretty clear, but maybe it wasn't. Ten points to anyone who got the early 1990s Saturday Night Live reference. Speaking of SNL . . .

Here is a brief list of things that I don't feel guilty about, but probably should:

1. I frequently use all the hot water. All of it. Do you remember that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer does everything in the shower? That would be me, if I could get away with it. It is one of the singular pleasures of my life to bathe in hot water -- steaming, scalding, invigorating, relaxing hot water. I am definitely a 21st century girl.

2. That first sip of ice cold Coca-Cola. Enough said.

3. American Idol. Not even a little bit.

4. Saturday Night Live. I can't believe MommyJ didn't get the reference. I mean, she was the one who would sneak back downstairs after everyone else was sleeping to watch it with me when we were growing up.

5. Occasional colorful language. I limit myself to epithets that are not considered to be profanity in Australia. CPod served his mission in Sydney, and on his first Sunday, he was seriously disturbed to hear the EQ President say, from the pulpit, "What the hell is up with home teaching?"

So we're off to a family service project today in South Carolina . . . CPod is in the shower, and I'm now sharing my bed with the other members of the Red Headed League. (Another allusion . . . not television. Maybe I'm not as good at this as I thought.) I'll report later!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Random! The Randster! Randarooney! Randomaliscious!

1. Do you think I'm damaging my children for life because we listen to No Doubt all the time? Sometimes I feel the need to increase the amount of estrogen floating around in the ether of our house and No Doubt is girl-power music to the nth degree. I love it all. Except for "Don't Speak" -- that one was ruined by a really bad break-up experienced by one of my college roommates, and I can never hear the song without remembering how unfairly she was treated. Sorry, 'ness!

2. CPod watched American Idol with me last Wednesday. His comment: "This is obviously live because otherwise, it would not be so . . . crappy."

3. Girlfriends are great. And girlfriends who are totally okay with the absolutely unfiltered version of you are especially great. I have a lot of those. It's a good thing because I'm usually pretty unfiltered.

4. Moving is not great. My friend Jen is moving this week. I'm sad. Michigan is far away, and her family's life will improve immensely because of their new situation . . . but still. It stinks, and I will miss her a lot.

5. Speaking of friends, I have some really, really great ones. I have old friends that I've known since junior high, and we don't talk that often but when we do, it's as if no time has passed. I have had college roommates who became like sisters to me. I have one friend in particular that became my entire support system when CPod was in graduate school. Her husband was CPod's study mate. Their new baby (now 10) was the one we loved like our own since we had no babies, and we had dinner together so many times that I can't even count them. She is the gold standard friend, against whom all other friends will be forever measured.

I have had office friends and symphony friends; summer camp friends and neighbor friends; church friends and we're-all-in-the-same-boat graduate school spouse friends; employer friends and employee friends. I have really great sister-in-law friends and, yes, even a mother-in-law friend. I was in a string quartet once that was like being one cell of a multicellular organism. I have new friends that I wouldn't know if it weren't for blogging, and old friends who I might not ever hear from again if it weren't for the blogging world.

Now, I have the best friends I think I've ever had all at one time. Do you ever wonder at which point people become indispensible? I do. I don't know when it happens, but it has with many of my closest friends. I hope I am as necessary to them as they are to me.

And then there's my sister. Don't even get me started. When I was in junior high school (that makes me seem old, doesn't it? I mean, what's middle school?) we didn't text -- we wrote notes. And we would sign our notes with the ubiquitous "LYLAS": Love Ya Like A Sister! Well, I wrote it, but I didn't really mean it. How many of my friends would have been flattered if they had really thought about what it meant? I love you just like I love my 9 year old sister who annoys me to death! Yay! If I were to revert suddenly to seventh grade behavior and write you a note in huge bubble-script, if I wrote LYLAS at the end, you should consider it a compliment of the highest order. And I can't forget my mom. It's a wonderful place to be in when you are grown up enough to realize how great your mother is. I'm there, and she's the best. I am lucky to call her my friend.

(I think maybe number 5 should have been it's own post. Oh, well.)

6. I feel really cruddy. I think I know what asthma feels like now -- like Andre the Giant is sitting on my lungs and keeping them from inflating all the way. And I sound like a foghorn.

7. It strikes mortal fear in my heart when my husband tells me he might need me to come into the office one day when they're short-staffed. Why? Because of the inadequacy of the mommy wardrobe for any occasion that will not include poopy diapers and snot wiped on you at crotch-level. The one day when it was a real possibility that I would have to go to work outside my house, I had a 15 outfit try-on-a-thon and still wasn't satisfied with what I ended up wearing. I mean, I think I have a great wardrobe . . . until I have to do something besides A. play in a symphony, B. attend a funeral (that symphony black does have a dual purpose!), C. clean my house, D. play with my kids, or E. go on a date with my husband. Work clothes? Not so much.

8. My twins think everyone is a twin. Granted, they are surrounded by twins in their little lives: they have twin cousins, twin uncles, and 4 other sets of twins in their preschool class (I know -- it's not a wonder I can never find 2 pair of anything sized 4T at Target). They spend a lot of time figuring out who belongs to whom, twin style: of course, MommyJ and I are twins (we're not -- I'm *GASP* 4 1/2 years older!); our brothers are also twins (also inaccurate -- they're 7 years apart); and they have broken the twin bond of their uncles, and assigned Uncle C as daddy's twin, even though he rightly belongs with his identical brother, Uncle B. Very funny.

9. The crispy green beans at PF Chang's are nigh unto exceedingly AWESOME.

10. My family is notorious for playing the "you-look-just-like" game. CPod is always annoyed by it. So, just to spite him, CPod looks just like the dude from "Life" (NBC, Wednesdays at 9PM): Damian Lewis. (IMDB him. I promise you they could be brothers. And I didn't want to get permission to use any of his photos because I'm lazy, so if you really want to see, that's what you'll have to do.) Name any person (well, not any person -- I have to have actually seen who you're naming) and I will come up with someone they look just like. And if I can't, I guarantee my mother will be able to.

11. Sickness + Travel + Unrealistic Expectations = An Unrealized February Running Goal
Just because I ran 6.2 miles once does not mean I can do it every day between now and Saturday. I'll try to be a bit more . . . honest when setting my goal for March!

I'm done.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Higher Ground

Summertime usually brings rain in our part of the world. Nearly every day, the clouds build on drafts of warm air, tension increasing exponentially with the heat of the day, until the air is so ponderously pregnant with unreleased moisture that the humidity becomes almost unbearable. Finally, the cumulus clouds burst, accompanied by brief but violent claps of thunder and the occasional lightning-struck power outage. Tension is released, damp heat is eased, and active children take a breather from strenuous outside play time.

I've lived here most of my life, with a brief hiatus from southern mountain living to attend college in Utah and to accompany my husband to graduate school in Memphis and it's requisite internships in east Tennessee, South Carolina and Charlotte, NC. These summer storms were an integral part of my experience growing up, and I missed them when I was gone. Now, I'm disappointed when some natural fluke of circumstance keeps our storms at bay. I need that excuse to sit and snuggle on the couch with my kids, to have a contemplative moment, to listen for an instant to the great evidence of God's love that is rain.

We moved into our house on May 14, just before the daily thundershower ritual gets into full swing. Our house was new, and we had to take care of all the new house things: install blinds, get a lawnmower, put in a mailbox.

Shortly after we moved in, I came home just as one of these wonderful summer storms burst forth. As I drove up to the mailbox, I noticed some movement on the ground, but attributed it to the swiftly falling raindrops that were quickly soaking the interior of my car, my left arm, and my hair. I reached out to open the mailbox and immediately recoiled from a sight I could not believe.

Our mailman had placed a small adhesive plastic sleeve on the inside of the mailbox door, into which he inserted a small business-card sized piece of paper inscribed with our last name. The plastic sleeve was bulging with hundreds, maybe thousands, of ant eggs. Tiny sugar ants streamed too and from my mailbox, marching up and down the post in perfectly precise military formation.

I left the mail and slammed the door to the mailbox, racing inside, eerily shaken by a bunch of insects a tiny fraction of my size.

Later, after the sun came out and turned the fallen rain into a steamy mist rising from the pavement of my driveway, I decided the ants could not have my mail. I purposefully strode outside, and when I opened the mailbox I nearly accused myself of having an acid trip right there in my driveway, because no evidence remained of either the ants or their eggs.

It took me a moment to realize what had happened: as soon as the storm dried up, they took their babies home and left my mailbox alone. I suddenly understood what they were doing. When it rains a bunch in a short period of time, their home gets flooded. And so they took their most precious and defenseless family members to the highest, driest place they could find: the little plastic sleeve in my mailbox.

That summer, I avoided my mailbox whenever it rained. I knew it would be in use by some pretty fierce mamas. I admired their tenacity from a distance -- it took an awesome group effort to preserve their progeny, but when faced with adversity, they did what they had to to survive.

We heard on the news last night of a woman who was arrested for trying to trade drugs for food. She took her two small children to a local barbecue restaurant, ordered them some peanut butter sandwiches, and then, since she had no money, tried to bribe the cashier with two Xanax pills. My heart nearly broke. She didn't order multiple racks of ribs and whole cherry pies. She ordered peanut butter sandwiches. I mourn for the lost innocence of her little ones -- but I understand what she was doing. If I can't feed them, I'll do what I have to do to help them.

Can you imagine the circumstances that must exist for her to have access to Xanax pills, but not peanut butter and jelly? Some awful combination of poor choices and bad circumstances are depriving her unaccountable children of the life that every kid deserves. I can't decide whether to be sad or angry. Maybe both.

We are all faced with difficult circumstances, especially in this unfavorable economic climate. We may have to do things we never thought we'd have to to take care of our families. I think of those ants carrying their eggs to my mailbox, and I envision my house surrounded by flood waters -- literal and figurative. I hope that I am strong enough to continually find higher ground to protect my babies from the encroaching tide of drowning, devastating filth that seeks to weaken and infiltrate the insulation from the world I seek to establish in my home. I hope I can always find a dry, cozy spot where the warmth and comfort of the Gospel will get us through the toughest of times. And I hope I never reach the point of desperation required to attempt a drug trade to feed my family.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Am I famous?

Business first: a brief explanation for my radio silence of the past week. My husband's profession requires him to re-educate himself each year in order to renew his license. This gives us the opportunity to travel a little and write it off as a business expense. Yay!

My wonderful baby brother and his terrifically loving and patient new wife kept our kids for the weekend. (My mom says I may have singlehandedly convi
nced them to wait many, many years to have children of their own. Really? I hope not!)

We met our best friends from graduate school, who live in Idaho, in Austin, Texas. What a fabulous weekend! I slept. And slept some more. And ate really great food. Without having to feed it to anyone else, or keep anyone else from throwing it at a tablemate, or clean up what spilled on the floor. CPod went to class, and found a six pack of Henry Weinhard's Root Beer at a grocery store. Seriously, that's all he needed.

(I am willing to trade Cheerwine for Henry Weinhards, all of you who live out west. We can't get it out here, and you've probably never had Cheerwine, but it'
s the drink of the gods. For Christmas about 5 years ago, I actually ordered CPod some Weinhard's root beer from California. The shipping cost more than the root beer. But it's sooooooo good!)

My friend and I shopped and laughed and tried really hard to find our very own sisterhood of the travelling pants, with no luck. She had her youngest child with her, an adorable little 4-month-old angel who looks so much like his oldest brother that I experienced serious deja vu several times while we were together. His big brother, who is now 10, was the first baby I ever loved, and he will forever have a special place in my heart, so it was fun to relive that a little and bond with the smaller version. All in all, it was a wonderfully rejuvenating weekend.

And now . . . on to what this post was supposed to be about in the first place.

Last year, our digital camera died. Or, rather, it became unreliable. It still worked on occasion, but never on the occasions when I needed it. We invested in a newer, smaller, cooler camera and set the old one aside.

Last week, on the twins' birthday, I ran across the old camera. Since I hadn't thought about it in months, I gave it to G-Dog and ConMan. It was their favorite birthday present. (Of course it was. Because I didn't have to pay for it.)

Little did I know what I was getting myself into. Suddenly, I have a great deal of sympathy for Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, because everywhere I go, I am followed by a gaggle of loud, intrusive, demanding photographers. The only things they haven't captured are those that I generally (try to) do by myself in the bathroom. Or any nudity (mine or theirs). But give them time. I'm sure the thought will occur to them eventually.

My little personal papparazzi have documented me making dinner, dusting the living room, sitting on the couch with my kids, doing laundry, playing games, and bludging. They have taken pictures of our carpet and close-up views of our couch and chair upholstery; they have zoomed in on our chef at the Japanese steakhouse we went to on their birthday; they have blinded each other with the flash and gotten up close and personal with nose hair; and they have taken many, many, many pictures of the television. Because those shows NEED to be documented for posterity.

The following is a very select sampling of the photographic prowess of my progeny. Consider yourselves the VIPs invited to the exhibition preview, because I'm certain that high-end galleries and snooty art critics are in our future. A warning: there are some very unattractive pictures of me in this lot. VERY. But I am that willing to sacrifice my dignity so you, dear readers, can have a laugh. Enjoy.

We'll start with a series I like to call Polyptych of Mommy Booty:


Finger Toes
(I know these toes belong to G-Dog. Unlike CPod and G-Dog, MayDay, ConMan and I all have toes like hobbits, not fingers.)

Restaurant of Blinding Lights

WikiSticks on Blankie

Piggy Shine

Brother Behind Glass

She Moves Too Fast

Transformer Family Portrait
(L-R: Optimus Prime, Jazz, BumbleBee)

Wheelbarrow in Mulch
(The genius of this photo is that somehow, the perspective is way off. I mean, that wheelbarrow is only 8 feet away, but it looks like it's two stories down. I'm still not sure how they did it.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tuesday Afternoon Matinee

We really enjoy movies in our family. Before G-Dog and ConMan were born, CPod worked extra Saturdays and saved the cash so that we could afford to install a projector and 108" screen in our basement. We figured once the twins arrived, we might not ever leave the house again, so why not splurge on what could be our only source of entertainment in the future?

Now, we only rarely go out to the movies. When we have a babysitter, we'd rather go someplace we can have an actual conversation. We love to eat good food, and movie theater popcorn, while good, does not quite meet my ridiculously high food-snob standards. (I am absolutely not being sarcastic here. Seriously.)

There's also something to be said for a film operator who is willing to pause the movie for you if you have to use the bathroom. Let's be honest. I leave the bathroom door open and keep watching the movie while I pee. Can you do that at your neighborhood stadium seating multiplex? I think not.

I won't even go into other things you're allowed to do in our theater.

As our children have grown, they have come to enjoy the wonders of the projector as well. Except for the time we rented Charlotte's Web. The first time that 18 inch spider appeared on the screen, my little boys couldn't climb over their daddy and up the stairs fast enough. We only made it 10 minutes in before they'd had enough.

They were much younger then, so today, I decided to try again. We put MayDay down for a nap, and then, upstairs on the normal sized television set we have in our living room, I turned on Charlotte's Web.

First of all, it was my intention to turn on the movie and then go be productive doing other things, like folding laundry or cleaning the bathrooms or cooking dinner for the missionaries. But I was totally sucked in. You see, Charlotte's Web is one of the first books I remember reading. I remember finishing my work quickly in Ms. O'Neill's first grade class so I could get out my book and read. I remember figuring out ways to stay up late so I could read into the night. (I devised all kinds of methods later in life . . . that's a post all its own.) I remember crying when Charlotte died. (Sorry if you haven't read it. But what rock have you been hiding under?) And mostly I remember loving every word.

I sat on the couch snuggled up with my twins for the entire 100 minutes, surreptitiously wiping away my tears, and I loved every minute of it. I loved Julia Roberts' intelligent voice for Charlotte. I loved Oprah Winfrey's mama goose voice. I even loved gross and slimey Steve Buscemi as Templeton the rat. And my boys loved it, too.

But we didn't love it until about 10 minutes in. And it's all G-Dog's fault. Here's how it went:

(Opening credits roll, narrator begins to tell story of the young girl who did something extraordinary . . .)

G-Dog: Mommy, who is that girl?
Mommy: She's Fern.
G: Is that her room?
M: Yes.
G: Why is it raining?
M: Sometimes it does that.
G: Why is she getting up in the middle of the night?
M: I don't know.
G: Where is she going?
M: I don't know.
G: Why is the light on in the barn?
M: I don't know.
G: Who is that man?
M: I don't know.
G: How many baby piggies are there?
M: I don't know.
G: Is that her dad?
M: Yes.
G: What is he going to do to that pig?
M: I don't know. (I really did know, but I didn't have the heart to tell him he was going to kill the runt. Turns out I needn't have been so discreet.)
G: Is he going to kill that baby piggie?
M: Just watch!
G: Why does that girl want the piggie?
M: She didn't want him to get hurt.
G: Why does her daddy need the piggies?
M: He sells them for money.

(30 seconds later)

G: Why is she taking the piggie to school?
M: She wants to make sure he gets taken care of.
G: Why did she get in trouble?
M: Because she shouldn't have taken the pig to school.
G: How many animals are in the barn?
M: I don't know.
G: Is the piggie going to scare that rat?
M: I don't know.
G: Is the rat the bad guy?
M: No. His name is Templeton.
G: Is the mommy pig turned into money?
M: No, she's in another barn and she'll have more babies later.
G: Did the other baby piggies get turned into money?
M: They were sold.
G: Did the mommy piggy get turned into food?
M: No.
G: Is Wilbur the good guy?
M: Yes. Just watch the movie, G-Dog! If you would stop talking long enough to listen to the dialogue, you would learn the answers to most of your questions!

He never stops. Well, almost never. He did finally become absorbed enough in the story to stop his mental bleed-out.

Exhausted, I tell you. I am exhausted!

Friday, February 6, 2009

I am Gulliver . . .

. . . and today, despite Herculean efforts, the Lilliputians did not win. They had me nearly tied to the floor, but thanks to a rescue from CPod, I wrangled my way out and even put them to bed an hour earlier than usual.

The silence is deafening.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

My Twin Tadpoles

Exactly four years ago today, after a grueling 21 hours of labor, G-Dog was born. And exactly one hour and 37 minutes later, ConMan followed.

My twinlets (or how about doublets?) were conceived using in-vitro fertilization, and so I have earlier pictures of them than most mommies: seven cells and eight cells. I'm not sure which is which, but if you look carefully, you can count every single cell. I am awed, humbled, amazed every time I look at these, which CPod affectionately referred to as our Embies:

When I was six weeks along, I was pretty sure I was in the midst of a miscarriage: spotting, cramping, and a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. CPod was working over an hour away, in the town where MommyJ was then living. I called my reproductive endocrinologist, and the nurse practitioner told me to come right in. MommyJ piled her three kids (including tiny twins) into the car, picked CPod up at work, and met me at the office. CPod came back with me for the ultrasound. I was used to seeing these -- during the IVF process, they do ultrasounds nearly every day. I saw on the screen what I thought were several follicles in an ovary. I asked the nurse which side we were seeing and she said, "Honey, that's your uterus." And then it clicked: I knew they had put two blastocysts back in after fertilizing my eggs; and both had implanted.

We still don't know why I had the cramping, but everything turned out just fine.

One of their first twin portraits, with G-Dog in the foreground:

Two days old, significantly less swollen and better colored, just before we came home from the hospital:

I spent the last six weeks of my pregnancy with the twins on bedrest. Those of you who know me well can imagine what a challenge this was. I am not used to sitting still. At all. I go. I do. I work. I get things done. But for six weeks I sat. I learned how to knit. I read a lot of books. And I incubated two babies, so I guess I still got things done.

Finally, my doctor was merciful. I had an ultrasound every week so they could measure the babies and make sure there was enough amniotic fluid in each sac. (Short reproductive genetics lesson: My twins were diamniotic, meaning separate amniotic sacs, and were also dizygotic, meaning they came from separate eggs. Fraternal -- FRAternal as in brotherly, not PAternal as in fatherly -- twins are always both dizygotic and diamniotic. Identical twins are always monozygotic, meaning one egg was fertilized and then split later on. But identical twins may be either diamniotic or monoamniotic depending on how early that split occurs, either before the development of the amniotic sac of after. And since identical twins have exactly the same genetic material, identical twins will always be the same sex. Hence the term "identical".)

At my 37 week ultrasound, the perinatologist measured a slight dip in the amniotic fluid index of Baby A, who turned out to be G-Dog. The perinatologist told me he'd see me at 38 weeks, but when my OB got the results, he had mercy upon me and said he thought we should probably induce because of that low fluid. I cried. And then I hugged him.

We went to the hospital early on Friday morning, February 4th, expecting babies sometime that day. Eavly the next morning, after protracted labor and extensive use of pitosin (I can't even tell you how many bags of fluid were infused into me . . . after all that labor I swear I peed two liters) finally I had progressed enough to deliver Baby A, G-Dog. G-Dog didn't cry. He laid there content on the warming blanket, listening to the sounds of his brother joining him in this life. Finally, when ConMan was born over an hour and a half later, G-Dog drifted off to sleep, but only once they were close enough together to touch. They were healthy and beautiful and fat: G-Dog weighed in at 6 lb. 7 oz. and ConMan was a whopping 7 lb. 1 oz.

I delivered in the operating room because there is such a risk of emergency c-section with twins. Usually, they don't let anyone into the OR who doesn't work for the hospital except for the daddy. But we'd been laboring for so long that they made an exception. My mom, MommyJ, and my sister-in-law Melanie (who is a labor and delivery nurse and came in very handy) attended the births. I will be forever grateful to my drill sergeant nurse because she was the one who told them all to suit up and come in the OR before she changed her mind.

They slept close together in the same bassinet until they were three or four months old. Even then, we kept them in the same crib. They sometimes held hands.

Every day since then has been an adventure. It has been a study in nature versus nurture, because these boys have been apart only a handful of hours in their four years, and they are so completely different, so absolutely individual, that I can't believe how such identical circumstances have yielded such different results.

(This is my most favorite picture . . . ever. Sunbathing, one week old.)

It has been hard -- I won't lie. There were dark, dark days in the beginning when they slept hardly at all and I, even less. When the ratio of little to big is 2:1 there are never enough hands to take care of every need. I'll repeat the advice MommyJ gave me that I pass on to every new mom I can: If your babies are crying, they're not dead. So sometimes, you just have to let one cry while you take care of the other one for a minute.

Every day presents new challenges and new solutions and new joys and new adventures. And it has gotten easier as they have gotten older. I delight in the opportunity to observe them as their personalities develop and their spirits mature.

So, happy birthday to my twin tadpoles. They have brought more joy to my life than I ever thought was possible. My blessings are immeasurable, in large part because I have the privilege of being their mother. G-Dog and ConMan: May you live long and happy lives; may you give me many grandchildren; may you find joy in you special bond as twins; and may you forever know how special you are -- not because you're twins, but because you are you -- individually, uniquely, perfectly YOU.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Personal Challenge

I am currently serving in two callings that I love: first, as stake Relief Society secretary, and second, as a teacher in our ward RS. I love them for different reasons. I relish the opportunity to travel to every unit in our stake and meet all of the extraordinary sisters who share their talents with us, and I feel privileged to serve in a presidency of such accomplished, bright and spiritually mature women (including my mom, who is the president -- yes, it's nepotism). And it doesn't hurt that Julie Beck is doing our women's conference in August, or that I got to spend some pretty good quality time with Virginia Pearce when she came to speak a few years ago.

But the calling I love the most is that of RS teacher. I used to covet this calling, when I was Young Women's president and spent what seemed like every minute that I wasn't nursing newborn twins planning activities, driving girls all over kingdom come, and carrying out those plans. I thought teaching Relief Society would be the ultimate in church service because you only had to do something one Sunday a month.

There is so much more to it than that, though! I learn so much as I prepare these lessons, and I am sure that only a fraction of what I glean as I study is conveyed to the class as I teach. I have learned that although the time I spend preparing for and carrying out my resposibilities for this calling is short, I become more responsible on a personal level for what I am learning as well. So, less face time, you could say, spent in fulfilling my calling, but a lot more personal time.

Stay with me -- I'm getting somewhere here, and I promise it won't just apply to members of our church.

I taught a few weeks ago. My new responsibility is to teach on the 4th Sunday, so now I teach conference talks, and the first one assigned was given by Silvia Allred, a member of the RS General Presidency, at last fall's conference. The topic was temple worship.

A word of explanation for those of you who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: temple worship is the pinnacle of spiritual experience, and is reserved for those actively and worthily living the principles of the Gospel. In the temple, we make covenants with God that, when fulfilled, allow us to live together with our families for eternity in a state we refer to as exaltation. Once we have made those covenants for ourselves, we attend the temple on behalf of those who have already passed on, and symbolically we renew the covenants for ourselves each time we go.

As I prepared this lesson, and read Sister Allred's words, I began to really understand something about the Gospel. We spend a lot of time -- all of us, not just members of the LDS church -- talking about the things that are important to us. We talk about temple worship, and scripture study and prayer and daily discipleship activities. We talk about eating right and getting exercise and spending more time with our families. We talk about spending less money and saving for retirement and getting organized and not yelling at our kids . . . you get the picture.

We talk about all of these things. And then we don't do them. In September, I had a trip planned to the temple in Columbia, SC. As the time for the trip approached, gas prices began to skyrocket and I decided not to attend the temple because I didn't want to spend $4.00 per gallon. I still managed to buy a new pair of shoes that month, though. I still managed to pay the bill for my satellite dish.

Where is the disconnect? If it's not important enough for us to actually do it, why isn't it important enough? This is a question I have been asking myself lately about a lot of things. If it's not important enough for me to practice my viola more than I do, why isn't it? Sometimes the answer is legitimate -- I mean, who wants to get out an instrument worth more than a brand new (really nice) car when there are three little children around, all prone to the destruction of property?

Every action we take has much more far-reaching implications than we realize. Each of us undergoes individual struggles on a daily basis that require us to weigh our choices in the balance of what we know about how we can be. If yelling at your kids and improving your relationship with them is truly important, you will do more than just talk about it. If losing weight and getting regular exercise is truly important, you will do more than just talk about it. If living with your family for eternity in the presence of God is really where you want to be, you will do more than just talk about it.

I know I have some things in my life that need some serious reevaluation. How about you?

Hope I haven't sounded too preachy here. But this was really a pivotal moment for me, and I felt compelled to share.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Holy List

Just imagine angels singing in the background as you read this. Commit it to memory. Recite it seven times daily. It will change your life.

I'm just kidding. The only thing that makes this list work is flexibility. And, seriously, people, you can do this yourselves! I was really, really shocked at your reaction to the Listmakers Anonymous post. Seriously! I thought it was kind of boring. Who knew?

I will say that in the past couple of weeks since I have reinstituted the use of the lists, I have been amazed at my productivity. I have actually had more leisure (HA! Leisure! What I mean is, I've gone to bed before midnight! Although that implies leisure activities in bed . . . I'm really digging a hole here.) because my time spent cleaning has been more focused and organized. I have felt less overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude and enormity of the job. And I have had more time to play with my kids.

A brief word of explanation: CPod and I have each other's backs. We operate (in every aspect of our lives -- not just with regard to housework) on the assumption that we will both have busy lives . . . forever. And if we don't help each other get the things done that need to get done, we'll spend a lot of time being resentful. So, when he has tons of church meetings or work travel or whatever, I pick up the slack, and when I have 5 rehearsals in one week plus enrichment and a presidency meeting, he does the same for me. So nothing is set in stone. It's really just a suggestion.

Also . . . if you decide to formulate your own list, the key is not to decide how frequently you want these things done. What you have to figure out is how infrequently you can live with it being done. That's why I change bed linens every two weeks. I would love to be like Oprah and have my sheets changed every other day -- who doesn't love that first night of clean linens? -- but I can live with two weeks, and so that's my goal. I used to be able to go two weeks without cleaning the toilets, but no more. Not with kids who say things like, "MayDay, can you wipe the pee off my big toe?" to their clueless-about-all-things-potty little brother. (Saddest part: MayDay actually did it.)

So, by popular demand, my lists:

Daily Tasks

  • Unload/reload dishwasher and do hand washing
  • Clear counters and put stuff away
  • Wipe down counters
  • Sweep floor
  • Go through mail
Dining Room/Living Room:
  • Wipe down table
  • Sweep hardwood floor
  • Vacuum rugs
  • Put away toys
  • Make beds
  • Put away toys
  • Wash and fold laundry
  • Take out trash
  • Water outside plants (in summer)
  • Calendar
  • Personal discipleship
  • Exercise
Weekly Tasks

  • Clean tile floor
  • Clean out refrigerator
  • Straighten pantry
  • Update menu and grocery list
  • Scour sink
  • Clean cook top
  • Wipe down cabinets and appliances
Dining Room/Living Room:
  • Clean hardwood floor
  • Dust furniture
  • Wash windows
  • Clear cobwebs
  • Wipe down chairs
Hall Bathroom AND Master Bathroom:
  • Wipe down sink
  • Clear countertops and put stuff away
  • Change towels
  • Clean toilets
  • Empty trash cans
Hall Bathroom OR Master Bathroom:
  • Clean mirror
  • Sweep floor
  • Put clothes and toys away -- really
  • Dust
  • Vacuum
  • Clear off dressers and other surfaces
  • Straighten laundry room
  • Sweep off decks and front porch
  • Pay bills and balance accounts
  • Take trash to curb for pick-up
  • Water inside plants
  • Clip/print coupons
  • Clean trash out of car and van
  • Journal
  • Viola practice -- 3 times
Biweekly Tasks
  • Clean basement bathroom
  • Clean bathroom tile floors
  • Wash bathroom rugs and kitchen rug
  • Straighten sewing area
  • Straighten office and file office paperwork
  • Change bed linens
  • Organize pantry and kitchen cabinets -- storage containers, mixing bowls, etc.
  • Clean out freezer
  • Straighten closets
  • Wash chair pads
  • Return/renew library books
Monthly Tasks
  • Straighten and sweep out garage
  • Pick up toys from the yard (and the neighbors' yards)
  • Wash shower curtain liners (truth: I only wash them once or twice before I replace them. I think they're disposable.)
  • Go through magazines
  • Wipe down baseboards, trim, doors, new marks on walls
  • Wipe down blinds
  • Dust ceiling fans
  • Clean laundry room tile floor
  • Vacuum basement stairs
  • Straighten basement (multipurpose room -- toys, projector & screen, office corner, sewing corner, treadmill)
  • Clean out e-mail box
And if something doesn't get done one week, it's not a big deal. Just means it's more likely to get done the next time around.

And the daily list just stays taped to the cabinet -- I don't check it off every day since that would be a waste of paper and I pretty much know what's on it. The weekly, biweekly and monthly lists are taped to the kitchen cabinet, too, but I check them off . . . mostly because I don't think I'd be able to remember what I'd already done if I didn't.

I also have longterm goals that I set for larger projects, like reorganizing food storage, cleaning out the linen closet, or cleaning out the bathroom cabinets. I try to tackle one of those projects every month or so.

Hope these help you as much as they've helped me!