Monday, September 28, 2009

Sleepiness

On the InkMom Scale of Alertness, one being comatose and ten being caffeinated, I wake up every morning at a solid 2. The twins wake up at an 11. They launch from their beds as though shot from a cannon, their little springloaded bodies that have been tightly coiled in sleep all night long finally releasing all the accumulated potential energy into kinetic, bounding, noisy BEING.

Sigh.

It makes me a little crazy. They wake up MayDay, who needs more sleep than they do, before he really should be up. They crawl up in my bed and have loud conversations about whose turn it is to talk. They run laps down the hallway. They operate with all cylinders firing but no direction, something akin to a bouncy ball in a racquetball court: random, crazy, unpredictable, and a little painful if you accidentally cross paths.

I know I should be grateful that they're that excited to go to school -- I mean, I guess I'd rather have to focus their energies enough to get out the door than have to cajole and convince and bribe them into their carseats. By the time they get to school, they have been sufficiently wiggly to expend surplus energy, and, miracle of miracles, they're both actually able to focus on learning/playing. But my goodness! Some sympathy for the sleepy one over here, please!

If the big boys have a good week at school, they get to go camping with Daddy on Friday night. I am thankfully exempt from attendance at this exciting event due to my extremely gravid state. Pregnant women, according to CPod, especially ones with only five weeks remaining, are precluded from sleeping anywhere but a real bed. Which, keep your fingers crossed, means I will get to sleep . . . until I wake up. All by myself. Oh, my goodness. I don't remember the last time I just got to sleep until my internal timer decided to acknowledge daylight.

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So I've been thinking about what it would take for me to wake up as alert and happy as my children are upon their reentry to consciousness. Twelve hours of sleep every night? A gradual transition from sleep to wakefulness instead of the full throttle launch forced on me by the big boys? How about intentionally waking up an hour before the boys do so I can have a period of quiet time in which I am not required to interact with others? Yeah. That will happen.

I just don't think it's in the cards.

They must get it from CPod.

When I was in high school, attending early morning seminary, I was a monster. My mom would come in my room to wake me up at her own physical and emotional peril, because she never knew if I would be throwing verbal projectiles or real ones. I'm better now, but only just -- no more rudeness, unless you count scowling.

My mom maintains that she wasn't a morning person until she taught early-morning seminary. It is her fervent prayer that each of her children will have the same opportunity. I ask her to please refrain from calling such curses down upon my head, because I could seriously curl up in a fetal position right now just thinking about a 5AM alarm every day.

Oh, well. I'll count my blessings. My kids are obviously getting enough sleep, and they love school, and they wake up happy to start the day. I'll try not to put a damper on their enthusiasm with my lack of morning cheer. Let's just hope they don't grow into an attitude as dismal as mine!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Who We Really Are

Last month, our stake here in western North Carolina hosted an 11-stake women's conference. As a member of the Stake Relief Society Presidency, I was privileged to participate in planning and carrying out this wonderful event. Sisters drove from 5 states, some as much as 6 hours, to join us for our "mountain blessing" and hear from Sister Julie B. Beck, the General Relief Society President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Because of my calling, I had the opportunity to not only attend all four sessions at which she spoke, but also to interact with her and her lovely daughter in a more personal way.

Do I need to say the entire weekend was a fantastic experience? It was also a whirlwind. Her schedule was packed: a fireside for our stake on Friday evening, a training meeting on Saturday morning for Relief Society and Priesthood leadership for all 11 stakes, and two general sessions in the afternoon for the women of all 11 stakes. In all, nearly 2000 people attended at least one session.

I took six pages of notes. I'm not kidding. On graph paper, in very tiny script. She opened the floor up to questions in every session and I recorded every answer. I've been rereading those notes for a month now trying to figure out why I was so affected by her words, and I think I've finally figured it out.

Sister Beck is a normal person.

That sounds really strange. And maybe a little disrespectful. That's not how I mean it to sound. Let me explain. She talked about how many extremely qualified people there are serving in this church today, specifically in Relief Society: heads of corporations, great scholars, political servants, women who have experienced much and made invaluable contributions to society in general and to the church. Her qualification to serve as the General President of Relief Society? She worked on the PTA. She took care of her children and raised them in the Gospel. She served in many capacities in her local ward and stake.

I don't know this for sure, but I bet if we dug up some people who knew Sister Beck before she was the General RS president, they would tell us that she is still the same old Julie. That she laughs at the same things, that she still folds her laundry the same way, that her food storage is maybe a little out of date, that she gets tired and weary and worn out, and that she loves to serve the Lord. Just like she always has. And all of this makes her extraordinary.

So what is the difference? I think the key is in this quote from President Ezra Taft Benson:

“Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], p. 361).

What I saw in Sister Beck was an example of a willing servant: someone who has turned her life over to God, and discovered the very thing President Benson spoke of, that He will magnify us if we will allow Him to do so.

I have since been pondering what keeps me from doing the very same thing, and I just might be lacking in faith. It requires a great leap of faith to give back to God the things that seem to be essentially ours -- the only things that will leave this life with us when we go, our essential characteristics and the knowledge we've gained as a result. But those very things that we will take with us are the direct result of those characteristics that were ours when our spirits were created -- in other words, He gave them to us.

This makes so much sense to me, and yet . . . and yet. I hold onto things that prevent me from being able to serve wholeheartedly. I cling to little pieces of the world while simultaneously trying to figure out why I can't find the time to do the most essential things in my life. I have a suspicion that were I just to hand it all to the Lord, every single piece of my life, the good, the bad, and the ugly, He would magnify me, as well.

I find great irony in the fact that we struggle to give ourselves up to the Lord, when what He would do with us is make us more essentially us, better than we can do alone, happier, stronger, more joyful, comforted, peaceful. Please, God, let me lose myself . . . so that I may become me -- the me that He can see even when I cannot.

And me, magnified? Well, I hope it will be even half as wonderful as Sister Beck.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Soup

Today, my grandmother came to visit me. Not really. But I made her soup, and it was almost as though she was here.

I've been feeling a bit under the weather as of late -- not pregnancy-related, so don't worry. Just some sniffles that have now morphed into an elephant getting comfortable on my lungs, which cough frequently in ill-fated attempts to rid themselves of the heavy beast.

I think of my grandmother often: whenever I laugh; whenever I eat popcorn, pot roast, applesauce, frozen peaches, or anything with her Pennsylvania Dutch salad dressing; whenever I watch a beauty pageant on television; whenever I shop for or fold linens and towels; whenever I look through my cookbooks and find her ambidextrous, spidery hand-scrawled notes in the margins; whenever I hear a joke that makes me blush a little; whenever I catch myself humming.

Today, I wanted her to scratch my back with her crooked, arthritic fingers while I fell asleep in her big guest room bed. I wanted to open her linen closet and inhale the scent of clean sheets that equals comfort way back in my hippocampus, the primitive part of my brain. I wanted her to give me a stick of gum -- Wrigley's white. I wanted her to let me try on all of her peep-toe pumps, slingback heeled sandals and costume jewelry while she made her soup.

Her soup. I don't remember the first time I ate it. I don't remember not eating it. I remember sitting at the table in her kitchen, air redolent with the scent of simmering soup, looking for patterns in the strawberry wallpaper. I remember the same soup cooking in my house as I grew up. My mom served the soup with it's divinely-inspired counterpart: fresh homemade whole wheat bread.

Today, I needed the soup. I didn't have the energy to make bread, but the soup . . . oh, the soup. It was perfect. And delicious. And if I could have taken some to my sick sister, MommyJ, I would have.

Grandma Ayres' Hamburger Vegetable Soup

(I am not strict with these measurements. In fact, I kind of made them up. Because mostly, the soup is a list of ingredients and a big pot. So just go with it.)

1-2 lb. ground beef (lean)
3 medium carrots, diced
2 medium stalks of celery, diced
1 large potato, diced
2 medium onions, diced
1-28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. brown gravy sauce
1-2 bay leaves
1/8-1/4 tsp. basil
Water, to cover

Brown the ground beef, and drain off the fat. (MommyJ rinses hers.) Put it in the pot with everything else. Cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cook until it smells right. Eat it. Then eat it again the next day -- it will be better.

Make it when you don't feel good. It will make you feel better. Make it for other people when they don't feel good. It will make them feel better, too. Make too much, and then give it away. Make way too much and give some of it away, then freeze the rest. No matter how you make it, comfort is sure to follow.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

One thing that makes me happy . . .

. . . is this song: U2's Stuck in a Moment. It came up on my iPod yesterday and I smiled. I still love the regular version, but there's just something about a voice and a guitar that really, really does it for me. Each time I hear it, I remember the first time I heard the acoustic version, which was as the final encore at the U2 concert I attended in Atlanta in 2005. And then I remember how CPod moved heaven and earth to find a recording of it to give me for Christmas. Every time I hear it, I have happy memories. I decided to share, so I searched for it on YouTube and found this:



Imagine my joy to discover that they have also been doing the acoustic version on this concert tour . . . and that I will, hopefully, be listening to it exactly three weeks from right now!

So just press play, and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Really, Really Great (True) Love Story and It Isn't Even Mine. And also some random stuff.

Last week was busy. My calendar is full in September. And October. And then I have this little thing written on November 4, and NOTHING else. 8 more weeks! I can see the light!

Okay. So last week was busy because it was a symphony week . . . rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal, concert, concert. Not terrible, but only because it only happens six times a year.

We begin every season with a pops concert -- last year, all Cole Porter; two years ago, Gershwin; three years ago, I think it was Broadway. Fun stuff, especially if you're old enough to remember who Cole Porter was without watching De-Lovely.

This year, the program was all Irving Berlin. Generally, I don't love playing these concerts because the viola parts are, um, less than challenging, unless you're incapable of feeling off-beats. But we always have great singers, and the songs are familiar, and the audience leaves happy, so I usually come out of it with some degree of satisfaction as well. And a paycheck. Which helps.

Can I just say that I had no idea Irving Berlin wrote so much music? Seriously. We have him to thank for such perennial classics as "White Christmas" and "God Bless America". But there's so, so, so much more! I did some research and I think I have a retroactive crush on a man who died at the ripe old age of 101 -- just as I was entering puberty.

How could you not love a man who, when his sweetheart was disowned by her Catholic telegraph magnate father for marrying a Jewish immigrant upstart with no background, signed over the rights to the song he knew would be a sure hit? Because that's exactly what he did. He wrote "Always" when they fell in love. And all royalties from that song, played in a million different places a million different times, went to her as well. He made sure that even if something happened to him, or their union did not last they way they thought it would, she would not be left without means because she decided to marry him.

He wrote "Blue Skies" (smilin' at me . . . you know this one!) to celebrate the birth of their first child. Read the words. You'll love the song more now that you know why he wrote it. Same goes for "Always". I was the first to fall when CPod and I first met, but if it had been the other way around, he couldn't have missed with lyrics like those.

Irving Berlin died in 1989. He was 101. His wife died the year before. They were married for 63 years -- inseparable until the very end. That, my friends, is a love story.

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In other news, my refrigerator fried my hairdryer tonight. Lately, the water dispenser in our refrigerator keeps freezing up. And the only way to get the water moving again is to open the freezer door and heat the panel up with a hairdryer. It takes a while, so I pulled up a chair. I was talking with CPod while he leaned on the counter and then all of a sudden I was holding a blowtorch. I guess I should count my blessings. I could have been actually drying my hair when the appliance in question decided to melt down. Frizzy, curly hair I'm okay with. Fried? Not so much.

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I'm nesting. Intensely.

Right now, my living room looks like a tornado hit the little girls' section of a children's clothing store and dumped it's entire contents in front of the fireplace. I'm sorting all the clothes given to me by my sister (I mean loaned) and another friend and, of course, the things I've purchased.

I have to say, I've never before bought tights for anyone but myself. It's a brave new world, friends. A brave new world.

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Does anyone know how to get little boys to AIM? Please don't say Cheerios. You'd be surprised how my children define "edible". I think if I have to wipe a puddle of pee off of the floor or the little place on the side of the toilet where urine likes to collect ONE MORE TIME I am going to buy a really huge litter box for the back porch. Yes, CPod does the toilets. But not hourly. Maybe what I need is one of those little sign-in sheets you see in fast food restaurant bathrooms: initial here when you've inspected the toilet. Except the only initials would be mine, scrawled in ever-bolder and angrier strokes as the day wore on.

One day last week I caught ConMan "aiming" with his non-dominant right hand while holding a tootsie pop with his left. Really? I mean, get your priorities in order, son.

I think I'm going to start locking the door to my bathroom (maybe even to CPod) lest the throne in there should be defiled in the same heinous manner.

Indeed, something must remain sacred.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Little Heartbreak

On Sunday after church, we had a potluck lunch. While I staked out a table with MayDay, CPod wrangled the twins, keeping our place in line. G-Dog and ConMan held his hands, but after sitting through three hours of meetings (and truly being on their best behavior), they were more than a little rambunctious. They held on tightly to CPod's hands while swinging to and fro across the front of Daddy, the human jungle gym. They played peek-a-boo behind his back and laughed and carried on while they waited for their spaghetti. None of this behavior was abnormal, and it certainly wasn't inappropriate for the setting.

A couple stood behind them. CPod overheard the wife say to her husband, glancing significantly at my two wonderful boys, "ConMan is the good twin," as though trying to explain away their behavior by casting one child as the bad influence.

We're not sure if the boys heard her, but regardless, CPod turned around and said, "Actually, Sister So-and-so, these are two very good boys." He gave her a very pointed look that made it clear to her that her comparison of the twins, and her subsequent judgment based on limited knowledge, was absolutely inappropriate and could be damaging to the tender psyche of a young and sensitive boy were he to hear her say it.

Here's the thing. G-Dog is an enigma. Though he and ConMan are twins, he takes his 97 minute headstart seriously -- never have I met a more assertive child. He is the oldest. I'm convinced that if it hadn't been for the extraordinary measures required for us to conceive in the first place, G-Dog would have been born not just first, but alone. He is opinionated and headstrong and persistent, extremely logical and inquisitive. But he is also very energetic and BOSSY and is constantly seeking for new ways to control his environment. (Don't say it, Mom. I already know he's just like me.) Add to that a very delicate and sensitive emotional side and a deep and sincere love for all things little and helpless, and you get a kid that to many, is too much work to handle and not worth the required effort.

I'll be honest here -- I have moments with all of my children that require way more effort than I have to give sometimes. Eighteen months ago, the child that required the most effort was almost always G-Dog. Because we have worked hard at developing communication skills with him, and begun a continuous dialogue about his feelings and how they relate to his behavior, his temperament has stabilized immeasurably and life in our house has been a lot easier. We have learned how to take each child's individual characteristics and use them to our advantage when tailoring consequences and rewards. We delight in their differences, even though, sometimes, those unique things that make them tick also make our parenting lives more difficult.

I am afraid that I can almost guarantee that the people G-Dog meets through his life, especially those who teach him in school, will not all be willing to see his "difficult" behaviors from a different perspective. This will be further complicated by his twin-ness: ConMan's unique characteristics are simply easier to take for many, and the comparison is, I fear, inevitable. Inevitable -- and unfair to both kids.

Sigh. I don't know how to protect them from labels, from people who don't realize how much their words can be prophecies. I hope G-Dog and ConMan will be able to hear my voice above all the other ones, reinforcing them, holding them up, helping them know who they really are and how much potential they each have by divine right. I see God in both of them. Please, may He help me help them to see it in themselves.