Unfortunately, I Still Don’t Have the Picture, So You Don’t Get to See It.

The other day, I went to see my grandma. It’s been a while, for some reason; she lives close enough for this to be inexcusable, but I guess I just haven’t gotten around to stopping by. Anyways, this past weekend, I finally got me and my 2yo son up to Bountiful, and hung out with my mom and grandma for a while.

As I was looking around Grandma’s apartment, I started looking over the family pictures hanging up. There were some old pictures of my aunts I’d never seen (looking young and smoking hot, of course.) There were some more recent pictures of some relatives I haven’t seen in a while. I moved to the other side of the bulletin board.

This side had more pictures of people I didn’t recognize; neighbors, friends, and maybe relatives I hadn’t met. I found a really cute picture of an eight-month-old baby named Jonathan, presumably from the other side of the family. I noticed it because the kid was super cute, and also because he shared my son’s name.

Then I looked a little closer, because this kid really looked like mine. I was trying to figure out if he was more closely related than I’d thought. Then I recognized the shirt the baby was wearing. This was my kid. I did not take this picture. This was a posed, studio print. You don’t accidentally snap a shot of your kid at the Target picture studio, leaning out of a wooden crate.

I turned around, looking puzzled, and realized why my mom had gone silent. She was waiting, tensed up, with the “I’m in trouble” face.

“This is John!” I said.

“Yeah…”

“When did you do this?!” Mom fessed up. Apparently, she went and had the portraits taken while she watched Jonathan for a weekend so Ethan and I could spend some time together on our anniversary. She didn’t ask permission, because she didn’t want me to say no.

“Okay—but John’s two! Why didn’t you tell me since then?”

“I didn’t want you to get mad at me.”

We laughed about it. And I forgave her. And then I was embarrassed. And I’m still a little embarrassed about it. I’m embarrassed because I’ve been so uptight that my mom already knew I was going to say no, just because I didn’t personally want any pictures taken. I’ve also been so uptight that she was afraid to tell me after the pictures were taken. And then she was a little worried about giving them to me for a Christmas present.

To be fair, I still don’t like posed pictures. And they were cute, because my son is cute. But I still probably wouldn’t hang them proudly on my fridge—first, because they’re outdated now. Second, because my son doesn’t stand still for that long anymore, and I want a more true-to-life picture. I prefer candid shots. But lately, I’ve been realizing that I’ve been wound pretty tight, and I’ve gotten controlling. And I don’t want to be like that.

This is not a confession, nor is it a blank check for my mom to go spend thousands of dollars on my kid. But it was a pretty good reality check for me, and I need to chill out. I need to let my parents be grandparents. I need to let my neighbors be neighbors. I need to let my husband be my husband—and let him be Dad, too.

So here’s my resolution to calm down and let people show love the way they want to. ♥

Chester

Okay, guys. Bucket list item I didn’t know I had.

I caught a garter snake! With my bare hands! I always figured this was just a rite of passage for kids, but we never got any snakes at all where I lived. This last year, I finally learned what a garter snake looked like, and the other day one of my neighbors saw one scurrying across the yard. And I caught it!

I realize this is no big deal. But I like snakes. And he was super cute. And I finally felt like the prankster kid I always wanted to be.

My neighbor named him Chester. I have been calling him Stinky, though. Because he stunk. I let the kids touch him, then I put him back where we found him. ♥

Cinderfella: A Rant

Okay. So I saw this video on Facebook. And of course, instead of just moving on, I got all worked up about it.

It’s a parody of “Cinderella.” They tell a two-minute story called “Cinderfella,” in which an innocent orphan (boy) is abused by his stepfather and ugly stepbrothers, is granted a new suit and a pair of glass loafers by his fairy godfather, and wins the heart of the fair princess by means of his rare shoe size. It’s absurd, and adequately points out how absurd the original Cinderella story is.

And up to this point, I think it’s fine. It’s actually rather clever. But then it goes on a feminist rant about how we share stupid stories with our girls, about girls doing stupid things that don’t matter, and how we would never read a story like that to our boys. Of course we wouldn’t. We don’t want them to grow up stupid.

But, of course, since we do read stupid stories to our daughters, that means that we expect them to be stupid. It’s sexist. Fairy tales are sexist, the video argues, and our girls deserve better.

First, let’s talk about the idea that we don’t read stupid stories to our boys. Have you ever read a “Caillou” book? If you have, I rest my case.

If you haven’t, count your lucky stars.

I’ll go back to the Cinderella logic. It’ll make the argument more cohesive, anyway. Cinderella is a classic fairy tale, found in the Grimms’ Fairy Tales collection. Now, the brothers Grimm weren’t out to create any great literature. They didn’t write the stories. They collected them—and not even for literary reasons. They just wanted to know how far German culture extended, and asking old grandmothers to tell stories was the easiest way to tell how far the same stories had spread.

I digress. The point is, Cinderella is a Grimm story. And so is “Hans in Luck,” “Hans Married,” “Strong Hans,” “Foolish Hans,” and “Hans Files His Income Taxes With a Late Exception Because He Was Singing Down a Well and Forgot When the Due Date Was.” Hans, as a character, is apparently a German legend. And he was so stupid, bland, and irrelevant to the story that he didn’t even get an interesting name. I mean, at least “Cinderella” is distinguishable from the next-door neighbor.

So no, we don’t just tell stupid stories to our daughters. We tell stupid stories to all of our children, gender aside. And why do we do that?

Ask a child to tell you a story sometime. If they’re old enough to make one up, it’s probably going to be stupid. They’re kids. Their concerns are equally spread around being lost, left behind, unloved, and losing jelly beans. And they’ll probably include all those things in a poorly-constructed fairy tale about a turtle named Bob. (Or Hans, perhaps.)

Now sit down and write your own story. Was it brilliant? Probably not. Was it adequate? … Probably for bedtime. Maybe. These stories were told, spur-of-the-moment, by the fire, usually by an elderly woman trying to entertain small children with short attention spans. No wonder they include shiny objects (like glass slippers,) magical beings, and gaping plot holes.

If you want higher entertainment for your kids, I don’t blame you. But stop complaining about old German folklore, and go write something better. ♦

Parents are Basically Just Tall Children.

Parenting really brings out the immaturity in a person.

My son is 2. He’s learning stuff in leaps and bounds. (Actually, one of the things he’s learning is how to leap and bound.) And I’m trying to keep up. One of the things I’ve noticed over the past few weeks is that me and my husband Ethan are actually pretty good at this. Parenting, for the most part, seems to come naturally to us.

This is probably because neither of us has properly acted our age since we were toddlers ourselves.

For one of our first dates, we went to the Provo library and sat in the children’s section, reading books. We laughed so hard at Dr. De Soto Goes to Africa that I actually peed myself. This was when I realized I liked Ethan.

Last night, we were up late dancing around the kitchen, having a funny-face contest, and making nachos. We had to make the nachos. I had three ripe avocados. I mean, what else were we going to do with an entire pint of guacamole? And of course, we had to do the dance. It’s the nacho dance.

This morning, I keep finding myself lingering as I walk past my dresser. The thing I’m lingering on is a little booklet that Ethan brought home the other day from work. He found it in a used book, being used as a bookmark, I suppose. It’s a few pages of temporary tattoos. Wild animal tattoos. I keep telling myself to save them for when John wakes up—but that rhino just looks so cool.

I usually finish the Dr. Seuss books, even after John has lost interest and wandered off.

We were going to watch a movie last night, but then decided John wasn’t being good enough to sit still for an hour and a half. I’m still a little disappointed I didn’t get to watch Tarzan.

My best form of flirting is to just kick my husband and then say, “Hey, I like you.” So far, he seems alright with this. As long as I don’t kick too hard.

I realized the other day that there’s really nothing stopping me from having hot chocolate for breakfast. I’ve had nearly 2 quarts of Abuelita this week.

Basically, what I’m saying is that if you’re good with children, there’s a decent chance it’s because you’re a child. ♦

A Quick Review

I haven’t blogged in a while. Sometimes that means I forgot. Sometimes it means I was depressed, and just didn’t want to do stuff. Sometimes it means I got overwhelmed with the stuff I wanted to blog about…but didn’t. Sometimes it means I got distracted, and completely forgot I had a blog.

This time, it means all those things! Hooray! So if you’re interested, here’s a review of some things you might have missed (because I didn’t tell anyone about them.)

  • My 2yo loves raisins. LOVES them. The other day, he ate 3 boxes of yogurt-covered raisins (not worth it. They’re disgusting.) Then he ate about 3 bunches of grapes. Then he pooped his diaper all the way up to his neck.
  • Potty-training is getting a little more serious, due to the aforementioned diaper.
  • I’ve been writing poetry. Some of it is fun, some of it is not. The ‘not-fun’ variety is usually how I get out my grieving for my brother. I think it’s pretty good, but I’m pretty biased.
  • Ethan and I took another good look at our TBR (To Be Read) bookcases. Not shelves. Bookcases. And we decided that we’re not allowed to buy any more books until we each read at least one of the shelves. My goal is to clear the bottom shelf, which has now gained about 5 inches of free space. I have not cheated and bought any books. I’m super proud of myself.
  • Ethan has cheated, but only kind of. He’s studying to pass the history praxis exam, so he can get a job as a history teacher. We both agreed that buying study materials does not count as cheating on his TBR pile.
  • John knows his letters. I did not teach him his letters. He learned them from an obnoxious talking train toy that our neighbors graciously gave us. This is the biggest reason I have let him keep the toy. The songs are getting old, but hey—he knows the letter J.
  • I stepped on a duck the other week. Not metaphorically. The ducks at our local pond are really aggressive when they know you have food.
  • John thinks ducks are freaking hilarious.
  • John also thinks his scripture-story characters need mustaches. I’m inclined to agree, really.
  • We went “fishing” (read: trout farm) with my parents for Easter. I was a little worried John would freak out, but he was very interested in the fish, and the fish-cleaning process. And he still happily ate the result.
  • Whoopi Goldberg has no eyebrows. I went 27 years without realizing it.
  • LDS General Conference was great. I only heard half of it, though. I had a panic attack that Saturday night, and missed the Sunday session because I was sleeping all day. Still not entirely sure what caused it, although the grieving process probably didn’t help.
  • I’m slowly making progress on my decision to read a book from every country. (See my above-mentioned problem with the TBR pile.) One interesting thing I noticed this morning was the contrast between global problems and American problems. When I look at people who are struggling to eat or keep a roof overhead, the American news starts to look really whiny. It’s not like I think only Americans have houses, or that all Americans do. But our standard of living is really high, and our bureaucracy actually gives us a lot of stability. We can address our problems and seek help. That’s not available universally.
  • I forgot to renew my prescription for antidepressants. And so far, I keep forgetting. I’m taking this as a good sign, because I’m doing alright without them.
  • At Ethan’s request (ultimatum, actually,) I finally got rid of the mountain of stuff I spring-cleaned out of our lives. Sorry if you wanted one of those dozens of picture frames. You can find them at DI.
  • My neighbor changed my life the other day, by pointing out that all you need for a homemade French dip is some bread, lunch meat, and beef bouillon. And I personally plan to add some of those crispy fried onions.
  • I bought some tomato plants, a bell pepper plant, a rosemary plant, and some pots to plant them in! I haven’t put them outside, though. It got cold right after I bought them. So here’s hoping I can keep them alive. I want tomatoes.

That ought to catch you up to speed. If you’re still reading, I’m impressed. And maybe a little concerned. You should probably turn off the computer and go read a book or something. It’s not that I’m uninteresting, but… I’m not that interesting. And this was long. ♥

Okra is Gross.

So I’m trying to get healthy. And by that, I mean both my counselor and my physician said I should be exercising. Poop. But they’re probably right, because ever since I started working out in the mornings, I’ve been less depressed, less anxious, more self-confident, and much less likely to bite my husband’s head off around certain times of the month.

The really hard part of being healthy, though, is eating well. It’s not that I don’t like healthy food, or anything—it’s that I like all food, and I just can’t stand to think of myself as the type to discriminate. Or limit myself.

I digress. What this blog post is really about is okra. Do you know what okra is? Neither did I, because I didn’t grow up in the South. Okra is some kind of pod vegetable. It looks like a spiky, sliced jalapeño. Okay, it probably doesn’t look like that in the wild. It looked like that in the frozen foods aisle, where it was already sliced and bagged for me.

Anyways. I steamed that stuff up and put it next to my chicken and mashed potatoes and congratulated myself on making a homemade meal with some good, healthy cooked greens in it. And then I tried the okra.

It’s not that it’s terrible. It’s just that it’s not really any good. The smell was the first real turn-off; before I even steamed them, I could tell they were going to taste a little like jalapeños—which wouldn’t be so bad if they had any spice to them at all. It was like eating bland peppers.

And then there’s the texture: slimy. Not slimy like spinach, where I guess you could consider it slimy if you touched it with your finger. No, these things were actually leaving strings of slime behind whenever I separated them. (Shudder…)

I did not force my 2-year-old to eat this stuff. I let my upstairs neighbor taste one, and she gagged on it. Then she took the challenge (and the rest of the uncooked okra) and decided to find a way to cook these things properly. The entire Southern half of the United States can’t be eating this slimy mess; I can only assume I cooked it wrong.

Has anyone had a positive experience with okra? Can this stuff taste good? ♦

A Few Thoughts About Andrew

A few weeks ago, my little brother Andrew died rather unexpectedly.

I shouldn’t say unexpectedly; we’ve kind of been waiting for his body to give out for the past few years. He’s been in and out of hospitals most of his life. Cardiologists have been impressed his flawed heart has made it this long—even half this long.

Still, that almost made it more unexpected for me. I’ve been living my life with the understanding that Andrew was a medical miracle, that he would stay until he died, and that I had no way of knowing when that was. When he was actually dying, I only really had about two days’ notice.

Mom sent out a text from the hospital (where Andrew was staying, again, and nobody seemed to bat an eyelash, because he’s in the hospital all the time.) Anyway, Mom sent out a text talking about how difficult it was to watch her son struggle to breathe, and she felt like he might not have much time left. She hadn’t slept all night, watching by Andrew’s bedside. I assumed she was overreacting and sleep-deprived, and called Dad to find out what was going on. Dad confirmed what Mom had said, though; Andrew didn’t have long to live.

Ethan came home from work early and drove me down to the hospital, then waited with John while I went up to say my goodbyes. Andrew was ornery, mildly sedated, and unamused by my comments about the cute nurses. Eventually, I got a smile, a hug, and an understanding that he wanted me to go back to Provo. Which I did.

The next morning, my parents gave the okay to take out his IVs. I came back the next day, just to see how he was doing, and walked into the room just as he was taking his last breaths. I stayed to hear my dad give him a final father’s blessing, then to watch him die. It wasn’t as fast a process as I thought it would be, but it was also more peaceful than I had expected.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been blessed by friends and family willing to help me clean, talk, cry, and laugh. My cousins’ children learned enough sign language to perform a musical number in ASL at the funeral. My aunt and uncle stayed while Andrew died, and then stayed in town throughout the next week. We’ve received a lot of support as a family.

It’s been an unusual grieving process for me; when my cousin’s wife died last year, I had a harder time accepting it. She was young, healthy, and had a husband and child to take care of. My brother, on the other hand, probably took a step up by leaving his body behind. His health was crap, and has been getting worse for years. As his pain levels went up, his personality clouded, and he got crabbier and crabbier. Besides all this, he had special needs, and looking at the afterlife raises interesting questions there.

I have never doubted that there is life after death, or that we will be the same people there (wherever) as we were here. But leaving behind his physical body means, technically, my brother might not have Down Syndrome anymore. I don’t know whether he’s autistic now—I don’t know enough about it to feel out whether that’s a physical-body-only thing, or whether that’s a personality thing. At any rate, I do have a strong impression that he’s much better able to think, function, and express himself now than he has been for the past twenty-four years. I just wish I was as able to listen.

We had a remarkable opportunity on Saturday to meet with a General Authority from the Church, Elder David Warner, who was in town for a stake conference. Apparently, my parents’ stake president told him what we were going through, and how much our neighborhood had banded together around my parents. The two of them arranged to meet us at my parents’ house.

I was expecting to be intimidated, or at least to feel a little guilty. I’m pretty sure that was anxiety talking, though—he introduced himself as “David,” chatted with my parents about favorite cars, and ate cookies while trying to make friends with my son, who was running circles around the room and chattering like a monkey. He asked about my brother, listened to our funny stories, laughed with us, sympathized, and assured us that Andrew was uniquely equipped now, more than ever, to sympathize with people who had led difficult lives. “You have a missionary in the field,” he told my parents,”and you should expect blessings to come to your family as a result of that. Andrew can now share the gospel with those who’ve already died, and he has experiences to draw upon that few others do.”

I was also struck by the reverence with which he looked at my  parents. “You’re doing this right,” he said. “There’s joy in this room. And that means you appreciate the time you were given with Andrew. Don’t feel guilty for being happy without him—he’s still here.” He then gave each of us a personal blessing before leaving us with a smile and a request to stay in touch. Mom, of course, gave them cookies for the road.

I’ve had my faith and my endurance tried over the past few weeks, but one thing I know for certain: God loves me. He loves my brother. And my brother—who is just the same person he was before he died—loves me, too. It’ll take some time before I see him again, but I have no doubt that I’ll recognize him, and we’ll finally be able to sit down and have a good, long chat. ♦