Sunday, January 31, 2010

Stream of Consciousness

I'm breaking you back in slowly, my friends. It's been so long since I've posted anything on a regular basis that I've got to remind myself a little what this here blog thingy is all about. Without further ado, a list of random crap:

1. You should really be careful about how you pronounce the word "pianist." Do I need to explain why? Last Sunday, as our esteemed Stake President announced from the pulpit that a new person had been called as the stake Priesthood pianist, I had a premonition of what was about to happen as little ConMan turned to me and said, loudly, "Hey! That guy said (insert the word you're all hoping he didn't say)!" Well, at least now I know he was listening. Some of you early InkMom adopters will remember this is not the first time ConMan has spoken of verboten body parts during church. But really. pee-ann-ist. Three syllables. PLEASE!

2. I've been reveling in the soundtrack to Glee. I love it. My kids love it. I think I'm raising a bunch of musical theater nerds, and I'm totally okay with that. I turned it on this week and when the boys heard it for the first time, it's like their feet started dancing of their own accord. GDog's eyes got big, and ConMan made me play their version of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" over and over again. But guess which one GDog decided to sing in public the other day? "I'll bust the windows out your car." Yeah.

They may be monsters, but at least they're cute . . .

. . . and creative with their vast powers of destruction. (Dresser drawers as beds? No, my children have not been watching Seinfeld, thank you very much.)

3. One thing I'm thankful for right now: hot water. I think God gave us natural hot springs so that we would be inspired to want to bathe warmly. I say a little prayer of thanks every single time I step under the scalding stream of my shower, and another one each time I slip into the relaxing, eucalyptus and peppemint scented waters of my tub. (Origins Peace of Mind Vapor Bath, in case you're wondering. It's awesome.)

4. Chocolate is NOT all created equal. Please don't hate me for hating Hershey's Kisses. Chocolate should not be grainy like that. Chocolate should be smooth and intense and complex. It should make you swoon. My preferred delivery methods form a triad: liquid, semi-solid, and encased in pastry. Caotina (imported hot chocolate mix from Switzerland, bought every Christmas and rationed through the cold months. We finally found an importer in the US so now the shipping doesn't cost more than the product.). Chocolate lava cake (if you're lucky, I'll share the recipe one of these days). Williams-Sonoma chocolate croissants (also, our Christmas indulgence). And I have had the hedonistic gall to experience all three this weekend. And a bubble bath. Hold on, I think I'm about to have a reality check headache.

5. While we're talking about food, I think the food guide pyramid needs some revamping. My four basic food groups: Fruit. Bread. Cheese. Chocolate. With periodic supplements of a bacon.

6. While we're talking about bacon, I will share with you my greatest culinary discovery of 2009: bacon baked in the oven. Here's how you do it: Line a big rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Take care to make sure that the parchment paper goes up the sides a little bit of it's kind of pointless. Fill it with a single layer of bacon. It's okay if they overlap, because they shrink a lot when you cook 'em. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until it's as crispy as you like it. It will all be uniformly cooked, and your cooktop will not have grease splatters and, voila! It will be done at the same time as your French toast. Which is what CPod made for breakfast yesterday. On our snow day. Which brings me to . . .

7. Generally, in this neck of the woods, you can hope for one good snow of 6 or 7 inches per winter. You can hope, but you probably won't get it. Our snowfall total so far this year? Nearly 2 feet. I'm serious. And I've discovered something about myself. When I'm an old woman, I will be A. living as a recluse back in the woods with no neighbors, or B. the one with a sign in the yard that says in very large letters, "DON'T PLAY IN MY SNOW." Because I have been totally bugged by the neighbor kids ruining the snow in our yard. I don't care if my kids mess it up, but for some reason, I don't want anyone else to do it. It's strange, because I don't care if the neighbor kids play on the grass. But the snow? It's all I can do to keep myself from yelling at them off the front porch. Luckily, CPod's been around all weekend to restrain me.

(This snow was so old and crusted over that when they were sledding, I was a little worried we might have an incident out of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.)

8. More on the snow. My lovely husband bought an old Jeep Cherokee early last year. He installed a lift kit and new shocks and some other stuff that caused him to put in long hours staring at the undercarriage. He loves that thing. I mean, there are more pictures of the Jeep on his phone than any of the people in his life. (Except for Miscellany. Because he is smitten.) But this fall, he had begun to question the utility of his project, and let me tell you, he is all about "utility". He's the one who told me that quilting was a great hobby because the finished product is so "useful". Well, we've got all kinds of utility going on now because in the snow, that Jeep is UNSTOPPABLE. And the crisis of finding a new project car has been averted. What a man I've got! Photographic evidence:

My baby-holding, vacuum-running, iPod-listening better half. No, that is not a new vacuum. Instead, we had to buy a new washer & dryer.

9. My baby is beautiful. And she sleeps -- get this -- 8 hours a night! At 3 months old! (Don't hate me. I already had twins who, for a very long while, did not sleep at the same time. Ever. I EARNED THIS ONE!) Do you need proof? Here you go:


(I just realized this looks like she's about to pick her cute little turned-up nose. It was bound to happen.)

Blessing day.

She laughs! She smiles! She's a person!

That's all I've got, folks. Bedtime calls, and so does the treadmill.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Crisis Management Mode

So. If you're looking for introspective, intelligent InkMom, head over to MMB. You may have read it before, but it's one of my most favorite pieces, and, I hope, worth rereading!
I am neither introspective nor intelligent today because lately I live in crisis management mode. And also, I'm a total drama queen. (The sun is definitely not the center of this universe, let me tell you.)

In my world, the world which revolves around me, crisis management mode happens when you frantically try to get the biggest, most important thing done so you can then move onto the next biggest, most important thing. And those big, important things are so many that you don't have time to adequately prepare for the next big thing because you're still stuck on getting the last one done. Does this make any sense at all?

Last night, I crossed off the most stressful item on my list: 2009 payroll tax filings for our business. an enormous weight has been lifted off of my shoulders, let me just tell you. I should be back blogging on a more regular basis, so dry your tears -- InkMom is back!

Here's a taste of what's to come:

A few posts, the deep, thinking posts I love to write, that were inspired by a single word

Some pictures of The Most Beautiful Baby in the Whole Entire World. Because she just started laughing and it's ADORABLE!

An InkMom retrospective

Some random items

And some funny stuff. I shouldn't tell you I'm going to write something funny, because then it won't be. But I'm thinking positively. Or I'm positively thinking. (Neither one really works. Oh, well.)


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Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Shameless Plug

I've got a new gig. It's here:

I'll be posting at Mormon Mommy Blogs on a regular basis. I must admit, I feel pretty special. Mormon Mommy Blogs is where all the cool kids hang out. You should hang out there, too. It's a great place to go to find bloggers with whom you share common interests, because all the blogs listed on the site are arranged by category. Looking for some ways to use all that food storage you bought? There's a category for that.

Need some ideas for managing your money? There's a category for that, too.

Dealing with infertility? There's a group for that.

Looking for music, art, or photograpy? There's a category for that.

Are you a man? There's even a category for that.

And you can rest assured that the content of all the blogs listed on MMB will not offend -- unless you're offended by pictures of me (or any other woman out there) looking like a booger woman. Or by stories that involve children and poop. Or by frank, open discussions (every Wednesday) about subjects and issues that affect us all.

This website is run by two of my favorite bloggers:

The Motherboard, of Crazyland


MomBabe, of The Bingham Diaries

You should check them out. They're awesome.

They're awesome for a number of reasons. Of course, they picked me to be a contributor on MMB. That has to count for something, right?

And they work hard to keep us all interested and on our toes.

Best of all? I get to meet them here:

I'm Going to the CBC!

They, these two amazing women, are organizing the Casual Blogger Conference, an event that I wouldn't miss for the world.

And also, they're giving me a microphone and an audience. Dangerous. So . . . come! Meet me in real life! (You may be disappointed. I'm just saying. I mean, I've been known to run off at the mouth. Luckily, my sister will be there, too, just in case I need someone to, um, help me rein it in.)

Will you be there? Tell me, so I can be even MORE excited about going!

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

On being judgmental, from all directions

I have the opposite of writer's block: there are so many things I want to write about that I can't nail one down enough to focus on it. Obviously, the best course of action here is to ignore all of those ideas that have been demanding front row cerebral space for the past three months and go with something brand new. So that's where we are.

Many of you know I have a sister. MommyJ is my dearest friend. In a perfect world, we would live next door to one another, our homes only separated by a gigantic shared walk-in closet. (Except for the blue jeans. Those, we don't share.) We were not close growing up -- I'm 4+ years older, and we were both bratty in very different ways. Our interests were vastly different, as were our approaches to life in general. I think, then, we looked at each other through carnival mirrors, each convinced the other was the one with the skewed perspective of reality. And the cuter figure. (We may have both been right, on both points.) We grew into a friendship that has ended up being the key to my sanity on my worst days, and a great source of joy and delight on all the other ones.

Over the past couple of days, MommyJ has engaged in an exchange of sorts with an acquaintance and MommyJ has been unfairly judged. This woman has made assumptions about MommyJ's life that imply the only reason it's so good is because she hasn't come up against any real trials -- yet. And she seems to watch MommyJ's little family just waiting for life to smack my baby sister in the face. What would you wish for, my friend? Do you actually hope for sickness, disease, disability? Are you waiting for her kids to hit puberty and fall off the deep end? How about job loss, or the death of a loved one? Legal troubles? A secret drug habit, or infidelity?

I do not understand why we all feel so strongly the need to measure our trials against another's. How can we assume that we all must endure exactly the same experiences in order to learn the same lessons? Surely the Lord does not mean for us to live our lives waiting for the other shoe to drop. There is no joy in that!

Here's the thing: we try so hard not to judge people who are going through difficult experiences. Sometimes, those challenging circumstances are the direct result of poor choices made by those involved. But sometimes, bad things just happen. This doctrine of not judging is preached a lot these days. But if it is true, the opposite must also be true: sometimes really great circumstances are the direct result of good choices made by those involved. And sometimes, good things just happen. But the good circumstances are not finite, handed out to others with none left for some at the end of the day. 

Sometimes, we endure trials very publicly. I think of so many of you out there who have children born with serious disabilities. Those trials are hard, in part, because they are out there for the world to see, and how you deal with them becomes a very public thing. Other times, we overcome private, painful trials one on one with the Lord, and these may be the hardest lessons of all.

When MommyJ became pregnant with Jordan, her first, CPod and I were three years into a seven year dose of infertility. I was happy, because she was happy, but her happiness was a little clouded. Every time someone who knew both of us found out she was expecting, they qualified their happiness for her by saying, "This must just be so hard for your sister." Even our mom was a little afraid of how I might react. But MommyJ didn't take a baby away from me. She gave me a nephew! To this day, I thank the Lord that I was able to share in MommyJ's joy and separate it from my own personal heartache. I would have been without a valuable source of support and love through some of my darkest days had I counted her blessings as black marks against my own.

Here's my long-winded point: please don't compare your trials to those of anyone else. The comparison does nothing for you but drive a wedge between you and somebody who might actually be able to help you through it.Please don't try to qualify the spiritual merit of another's experience based on the outward appearance of their current circumstances. You have no way of knowing what private struggles they may face, or what demons may have already been overcome. Do not discredit another person's methods because your experience yielded a different result. Remember that when all is said and done, you will only be judged against your own potential, so to compare yourself to others in the here and now is fruitless and counterproductive -- and a really quick trip down the path of self-condemned inadequacy.

(And please don't hold this post against me. It's not exactly my most organized and thorough composition.)

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Leaf

Last week, I randomly checked my Sitemeter because I wanted to see how low my readership can go. Apparently, I'm barely a presence in Blogdom lately. Maybe you've noticed?

Anyway, I am in turns amused, creeped out, stumped at the Google searches that land random strangers on this blog. But last week, I was . . . I can't even describe it. Haunted. By this search:

"what is the thing that makes a person happy in this life"

Oh, my goodness. I can scarcely begin to imagine what makes a sad soul look for this on the internet. If you're still out there, if you're still searching, you'll end up here now. Please keep searching --  you will find what you're looking for. Try I find great solace in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. His atoning sacrifice gives me hope when all else seems to crumble. Your shoulders may not be broad enough to bear your burdens, but His are.

So. I've been thinking about this little question for a solid week. It has been foremost in my thoughts as I have cleaned up the mess left after the holidays, felt the strain of my body trying desperately to recalibrate "normal" hormone levels and emotional baselines, and dealt with the stress of energetic and rambunctious little boys home from school and confined to the indoors by crazy amounts of snow, wind and a biting, humid, Arctic-worthy and uncharacteristic deep freeze from which I'm worried we may never thaw.

I have felt like a train with one wheel off the track, like my spiritual download was interrupted in transit, like patchwork seams that don't quite line up, like someone half-way erased all my clean lines and hard edges. And I have wondered, really, what is that thing? What makes us happy in this life?

There are so many answers. I know all of them. I have studied them in every Sunday meeting, seminary class, and personal session of scripture reading since I was old enough to comprehend it. My holiday season this year was a contemplative one, as I tried to figure out how, exactly, those answers are supposed to be able to help me bear the weight of this role -- the role that I have chosen to fulfill, the role that I truly and wholly love, but struggle to do well.

Today, we blessed our beautiful baby girl -- our Miscellany. She was held in the circle by her wonderful Daddy, two grandfathers, 5 uncles, and even a great-uncle. Her 10 little boy cousins (and Lucy!) watched as her name became official in church records and listened as she was given a lovely and inspired blessing. After church, the entire group of 27 gathered back at our house for a whole lot of togetherness and delicious soup. It was a choice day: laughing and eating, eating some more, a lot of gratitude, and some more eating. We know how to have a good time in this family, that is for sure, and it always -- ALWAYS -- involves food.

So, one tender mercy was followed by another, and I have slowly, slowly begun to emerge from my funk. I hear my husband make idiotic noises and faces on the off-chance that this time, she will laugh. (She just did!) I hear Lucy, my sister's little girl, call Miscellany her sister. I watch my little rough-and-tumble brood of boys pretend to have a sleepover in the upper tented bunk of MayDay's new big boy bed. I hug a mother-in-law we worried over as she underwent a dual kidney-pancreas transplant. I spend the evening playing cards with my mom and my sister and bask in that great feeling of being completely comfortable in your own skin, unapologetically yourself. I feel the strength of my husband's humble embrace as he tries desperately to hug me through the hardest parts. I feel needed, loved, supported, held up, gently -- or not so gently -- reminded that I am not just part of something bigger than myself, but essential to it. They always work -- those little moments. They always -- eventually -- give me the kick in the pants I need to stop dwelling on the bad stuff that happens in between all the good.

That's my new leaf, friends. I will not get stuck in a rough patch and refuse to remember the happy times that may have happened even 15 minutes before. The irony? Guess where you land if you Google "what is the thing that makes a person happy in this life"? It links you to the YouTube video I posted of U2's acoustic version of "Stuck in a Moment", and as much as I love the song, I didn't really listen to it until now:

You've got to get yourself together
You've got stuck in a moment
And you can't get out of it
Don't say that later will be better
Now you're stuck in a moment
And you can't get out of it

And if the night runs over
And if the day won't last
And if your way should falter
Along this stony pass

It's just a moment
This time will pass

This year, and in all future years, I will not dwell. The end.

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