Fixing Books

Today, my son finally ripped a library book. I’ve been expecting this for the past year or so (as long as I’ve been getting him library books), but he’s been surprisingly respectful so far. Today, however, he got bored waiting for me to read G is for Gzonk (which I was hoping not to have to read at all), and he experimentally ripped a few inches of the page.

So I gave him a time out (which he loves), then considered making him return all the library books without checking any out (which would be torture for me, because I would have to read the same old books we have), and at my husband’s suggestion, settled on making him “pay” for the damages.

And by that, I mean I made him do some extra chores and paid him small change for them. Then we took a little plastic container (filled with his glorious 40 cents) to the librarian.

“Will you tell the librarian what happened?” I asked.

The librarian patiently waited while I prodded a “I ripped a book” out of him.

She started to tell him it was no big deal, but I gave her a look and whispered, “I know, but I’m trying to teach him a lesson.”

She nodded knowingly, then wiped the smile off her face and said thoughtfully to my son, “Well, thank you for telling me. We’ll fix it with some tape.”

“Give her the money,” I said.

She started to protest again, and I whispered, “It’s just 40 cents. Just take it.”

She nodded again and took the money, thanking John for his responsibility. John actually looked really concerned about the book, and I gave him a hug and thanked him for fixing the problem. And then we went about our normal library activities of checking out about a bazillion books. ♦

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This Is Why It’s Called “Fall.”

We went to a fall carnival last night, thinking it would be a great experience for all of us—especially our two-year-old. It was cold and a little rainy, but we came equipped with jackets, and fall is still going to be new and novel for a few weeks until we get used to summer being over. We were excited.

On the way in, we saw the train ride, which looked perfect for Jonathan’s age. It was one of those “trains” made up of a go-kart or tiny tractor or what-have you, followed by a bunch of hollowed-out oil barrels on wheels. The most promising part was seeing that the driver was actually excited about it. Most of the time when you see a train ride at one of these things, they’ve got some old, boring guy driving the thing in slow, loopy ovals. This chick was driving fast, snaky zig-zags. Perfect beginner’s carnival ride.

We bought some tickets and I ushered John away from the ring toss game, thinking we should make sure to start on a fun note. We waited in line, and the attendant asked if I was going to get on the ride with him. I said no, because it was the first answer that came to my mind, and I figured it was a pretty easy ride. He’d be fine. So the lady gladly lifted John into the train just behind an older boy, and they took off.

Halfway down the parking lot (I mean “train track,”) I turned to Ethan and said, “I really hope he doesn’t try to get out.” Up till then, I had only assumed he might scream. It didn’t really occur to me he might stand up or something. The train was nearing the end of the line, and we realized that was exactly what he was doing. Ethan took off running, but the train was too far away. John was standing and very carefully trying to climb out.

To his credit, he was handling it all very calmly. He wasn’t screaming or crying. He had just decided it was too scary, and he wanted to get off. Unfortunately, he decided this while the train was going full-speed, and turning around. So his brilliant idea to step out was disrupted. (Of course, the train was as tall as he was, so it’s not like it was going to go beautifully anyway.) He fell out of the train, landed face-first on the asphalt, and then got run over by the car behind him.

Spoiler alert: he’s fine. My child is alive.

But he wasn’t very happy about it. His head had a bunch of bloody scrapes and one really nasty-looking bruise full of broken blood vessels. As we cleaned him up in the nurse’s office, he slowly stopped screaming and moved more toward just crying and sniffling. The woman cleaning him up was very good with him, and offered him far more band-aids than he could possibly need. (This is when we found the tread-marks on his leg; that’s how we knew he got run over.)

So the kid is fine. He’s got a great story about “that one time when he jumped out of the carnival train and got run over,” but he’s fine. His poor cousin just broke his elbow (same day, I believe) falling on the playground, so now the family is debating whether the injury or the story is the more important bragging point.

I’m starting to forgive myself for letting him ride the train alone. And we’re emphasizing the importance of asking for help instead of jumping out of moving vehicles. And who knows? Maybe this will give him some context next time we emphasize checking for cars before crossing the street, now that he has some idea what it’s like to be run over. Right? This could be good, right?

Poor kid. ♦

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. ♥

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. ♦

If You’re Not Doing What You Love, You’re Probably Just Like Everyone Else.

Can I just talk for a second?

I see a lot of headlines (mostly ad headlines) telling me to stop what I’m doing, drop everything, and start doing what I love! Because if I would just stop for a minute and think about it, I would realize that there’s absolutely nothing between me and my dreams! Just do it! Forget your fears, and leap!

follow_your_dreams____by_cryingsoulgirl-d5cpoep

Here’s the thing. I am 100% in favor of following your passions and pursuing your dreams. And I think everybody should be happy. I also think a lot of us (myself included) need to do some spring cleaning in our lives, and get rid of the stuff, ideas, and obligations that are holding us back from becoming who we want to become.

But you can’t be thrilled all the time. It’s not an option. We’re human beings—we need a wide range of emotions in order to maintain stability, and that includes some negative ones. It even includes the boring ones. You can go pursue your dreams all day if you want, but eventually you’re going to have to find a place to take a dump. Eventually, you’re going to have to wash the dishes. Whether or not you love them, it is illegal to just ignore your taxes.

paperwork

And those are just the “taking care of me” ones. Now plug in the “relationships” part of the equation. My marriage brings me a lot of happiness. But that means that sometimes I have to take care of a sick husband. It means putting up with him when he’s hungry. It means admitting when I’m wrong (which might be more difficult than putting up with him when he’s hungry.) My son brings me a lot of happiness, too—but he’s in diapers. And they don’t change themselves.

I would love to just drop everything and go pursue my crazy dream… except I don’t really have a set-out “crazy dream.” When I envision happiness, it’s usually a motorcycle, a long highway, and a really hot sun overhead. But somehow, I would have to pay for the gas—and the motorcycle—and even motorcycle riding gets boring after 16 waking hours. Most people don’t have one specific passion that surpasses everything else. That’s the advertisers talking. (Hint: the “one passion” they want you to have is the thing they’re selling.)

bike-ride

I literally had a dream like this.

And here’s the thing: even once you find something that makes you happy—even if you’re the sort who can do the same thing for years, and it will still make you happy, and it will never get boring—eventually, somebody’s going to die. Someone you know will die. And it will be sad. And it isn’t healthy to expect to be happy while you’re sad.

Society screams at us that we’re supposed to be happy. I agree (but without the screaming.) There’s a scripture in the Book of Mormon that specifically states, “Men are that they might have joy.” It doesn’t get much more explicit than that: God wants us to be happy. We usually want that for ourselves. But there’s a difference between being a happy person and feeling happy all the time. That’s where the advertisers are lying; no product will make you happy all the time. No job change will solve all your problems. No relationship will make all the bad days disappear.

We aren’t supposed to be manically happy. We’re supposed to find a way to become happy people. That means doing some things that you don’t like (like the dishes I’m avoiding at this very moment.) And a lot of the time, it means working through the hard stuff to get to the good stuff (like the clean kitchen.)

being-miserable

This doesn’t mean that being miserable is a good thing. If something makes you miserable, you need to do something about it. It’s probably not necessary. You can get a new job. You can communicate better with your spouse. You can get a nanny for one or two days a week. Even the most unavoidable of problems can still be addressed; I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (which basically means I find winter really, really depressing.) So every year around February, Ethan takes me down to the Arizona border for a couple days to get some sun. If you’re an unhappy person generally, change something. Start looking for the positive things you have. Start eliminating or changing the negative things.

I was lugging my infant son around shortly after he was born, trying to get into the bookstore to talk to my husband. I walked around the mini-van and pulled out the baby carrier, then the diaper bag, then my purse, then realized I didn’t have enough arms, so I put down a few bags to adjust…

And then it hit me. I was that mom. The mom I had always made fun of. And I nearly cried. But then I realized something else: I’m only going twenty feet into a bookstore. I don’t need the diaper bag. Or my whole purse. Or the infant carrier. In fact, all I really needed was my wallet and the baby. So I got the kid out of the car seat, got my wallet out, and carried him on my hip while I wandered through a bookstore. Then I took him through the Asian market, just for kicks and giggles.

And then he blew out a diaper and peed the floor at the Asian market.

But you know what? The diaper bag was still just around the corner. We survived. And more than that, I started parenting differently, because I had realized I didn’t need all that baggage.

I’ve been out of shape for years, and I finally just started working out. Lo and behold, my depression, anxiety, and PMS have become easier to manage. Oh, and also, I’m in better shape. I’m not thrilled with my body yet. I’m still not a joy to behold during my period. But it’s better, and I’m happier. You can’t expect instant solutions, but you can expect improvements. That’s what I think we should all be working toward.

You shouldn’t be miserable. But you’re going to experience some serious discomfort in life, and you need to be okay with that. Learn from it. Grow from it. And use it to learn about yourself. Don’t drop everything and do something that makes you happy. Do things that shape yourself into a happier person. ♦

Why I Can No Longer Leave My Baby Alone in the Bathtub

Many moms have told me that if I leave my baby in the bathtub for longer than 10 seconds unsupervised, I will return to find a tiny, drowned body and a lifetime of remorse. There are horror stories to accompany this tale. For the first few months of his life, I refused to let him leave my sight when there was water anywhere in the room.

I’m over it. When he was 3 months old, I took every precaution, and he still ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. Now, I chuck him in the wave pool at the water park and he jumps around like some kind of fish on a spring.

So yesterday, I left him alone in the bathtub for a few minutes while I cleaned up his high chair and a few dinner dishes. (The current state of the dishes is a story for another day, when I know the conclusion.) I usually figure as long as I can hear him happily chirping and splashing, I know he’s not drowning.

He chirped. I washed dishes. After a few minutes, he started chirping louder, and then yelling “Mom!” Then the chirping stopped.

I turned off the water, listening to see if he was okay. The chirping did not return. I heard sounds of a struggle, then a soft thud, and a short cry. I dried my hands, told myself not to panic, and hurried to the hallway.

He met me halfway, running naked down the hall. He was thrilled. He had single-handedly pulled down two towels, climbed out of the bathtub without hurting himself, and now he was free, naked, and Mom knew how clever he was! I was legitimately impressed. But now I can’t help feeling a little doomed. I’m just one step closer to that day when he learns how to open doorknobs, and I never get another moment’s peace. ♦

Is This Depression, Or Am I Just Depressed?

Is anybody else having a hard time functioning, or is it just me?

For the past few weeks, I haven’t been eating well. That’s because in order to eat food, I need to actually make food. Like, a sandwich. I look at the bread and the cheese and I think, “Well, I can make it another hour.”

I haven’t been sleeping well, either. I keep staying up late trying to feel like I’ve accomplished something, which is ridiculous, because if you’ve ever seen me try to accomplish something while exhausted, it’s something like watching a drunk woman trying to hula-hoop on one foot.

I skipped book club yesterday. I put the baby in the stroller, walked the two blocks to book club, and discovered I was falling asleep while walking. So I came home, went to bed, got up to eat dinner with Ethan, and went back to bed. Still didn’t end up asleep until after midnight, because my body just isn’t used to it.

I don’t even want to talk about the kitchen right now.

All this has led me to wondering: when did the basic stuff get so hard? I mean, I graduated high school. And college. I served a mission. I have literally climbed mountains. So why is it so hard to make it from breakfast to nap time? Fellow moms: is this normal for a first-child experience? And how do I get myself back up to speed? Like, any speed? ♦