Friday, August 21, 2015

I Need A Hat

I went to the dermatologist this week for an embarrassing issue. Here are some weird things for you to imagine to distract from wondering what my real ailment was:

1. Rash shaped like Russia on my lower back (worst kind of tramp stamp)
2. Long and dark neck hairs reminiscent of a young Genghis Khan
3. Kneecap chafing from always being knee-deep in diapers
4. Earlobe eczema, a psychosomatic condition brought on by wailing children
5. Armpit acne that prohibits shaving (side note: a few months ago I went a long time without shaving my legs, and then one day I went out in shorts and felt the wind on my leg hair and it was a surprisingly transcendent experience)

The dermatologist was young and nice and answered all my questions, both general and specific to my awkward issue. She had perfect skin, but was nice enough to try and relate to me by gesturing to non-existent blemishes on her face.

I don't think I could ever be a dermatologist because it would be too hard to hide my simultaneous interest in and revulsion to gross skin conditions. I would say, "WOAH!" too often.

I asked her what I can do to prevent looking like a piece of chewed up leather in twenty years.


She gave me some samples. Is there anything better than a good sample? This is why I love H-E-B. I love knowing I can count on a piece of Nutella croissant, a chip with guacamole, and a thimbleful of fresh-squeezed orange juice whenever I go there. Death, taxes, and the juice station at H-E-B.

I asked her what else I should be doing to maintain my youthful, dewy glow, and she told me to wear a hat.

I answered, "Are there any hats that aren't completely dorky? Those floppy beach hats are ridiculous." I was already thinking about how I just can't pull off wearing hats. They make me feel presumptuous and silly. But I don't want skin cancer, so I started daydreaming about an Indiana Jones-style hat that would add adventure and intrigue to my errands and playground visits. Could this work?

The nurse laughed at me and the dermatologist said she'd write down a website with good hats.

"At least, I don't think the hats are that bad," she said a little self-consciously, which made me like her more.

She wrote down the website in untidy handwriting, though her penmanship was less the hurried scrawl of doctors who deem their time too important to write legibly, and more reminiscent of a first grader's printing practice. "Coolibar."

I looked up the website in my car after the appointment ended. I'd booked a company-subsidized sitter for the morning, and with a four-hour minimum booking, I was content to sit in my car and bask in the quiet that came after the solitary "click" of the one seatbelt I needed to fasten across just one human body.

Friends, this is what I found:

"I'm a model so I'm paid to smile, but this hat looks like a zebra leather patchwork quilt."

Ten-gallon bucket hat.

This is my nightmare.

Mullet hat.

Imagine me wearing this at the playground. How would the police not get called?

For when the physical pain of a sunburn outweighs the pain of looking like you're wearing a loincloth on your head.

I can only imagine that my dermatologist has entered into some exclusive endorsement contract with Coolibar, because why else would she refer me to the nerd alert hellscape that was Coolibar? Where is my Indiana Jones hat? Where?

I just want to look like this, but the mom version.

Find me a hat that I can wear in public without shame and I will send you ten gummy hamburgers from the box of 60 I got off Amazon last month in a craving-induced haze. I'm serious. Link to a great hat in the comments and I'll announce the winner when I post next.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

On Public Correction: Two Tales

Sometimes your kids just pick their noses and ruin the best shot.
Experience 1:

I was eating lunch today at Chick-fil-A with some friends while our kids played when a woman approached our table and asked, "Is one of your sons the boy with the blue shirt, with the turtle on the back?"

She was describing the t-shirt Graham got at our family reunion last year, so I answered, "Yes, he's mine."

"He's bullying everyone on the playground."

Next to her stood a boy, probably seven or eight years old, in a green shirt. The boy Graham had tearfully described and pointed out five minutes earlier as the one who had kicked him when he tried to enter the same helicopter play pod as the boy. Then Graham had hit him back, then the boy hit him again, then Graham hit him back, then the boy hit Graham, then Graham left, then the boy followed and hit him again ... all this was recounted to me in between little sobs. There's something about my little four year old: he's too young to consistently control his emotions or his need to enforce his own vigilante brand of justice, but he's also too young to lie about his role in heated events when he's upset. I knew he was telling (his version of) the truth. I told him to stop hitting and to avoid the older boy. Tears forgotten, he ran back to play. Apparently it didn't end there, though.

This is Graham's gremlin face. 

When the woman at Chick-fil-A declared Graham a bully, I had a few reactions. First, I was embarrassed because I was with two friends. Next, I resisted the minor urge to correct her usage of the word "bullying" (bullying is not the same as being a stinker! Bullying involves abusive power imbalances and/or persistent and aggressive harassment). I also wanted to bring up her son's behavior, but that's really not my style. Finally, I just stood up, went to the play place, and told Graham to knock it off. Then I returned to my frosted lemonade.

Maybe the other mother wanted me to do something more drastic. Maybe my friends thought I was too lenient. Maybe I was wrong to not haul Graham out for a time out. I'll be honest: half of why I went in there was as a token offering to a society that demands a reaction to every reported injustice. I fully believe Graham was playing a part in a playground conflict. I also know my kid, and know he never independently instigates malicious trouble. The other half of why I went in there is because I genuinely want my kids to be well-behaved and considerate of others. A part of me does appreciate another parent letting me know if my kid is acting out. I would certainly welcome such information from a teacher or friend. Perhaps I was irked because she was neither.

I'm probably 50% libertarian, so I believe more in governing yourself than in governing others. When Graham comes and tells me that some kid did xyz, I almost always tell him to play somewhere else or just ask the other kid to stop. In fact, I can't think of a single instance where I've voluntarily gotten involved in a playground dispute (though I can imagine scenarios where I would, of course). In most cases, kids will resolve the conflict themselves (great practice for adulthood!!), forgive, forget, and move on. I don't like denying my kids those important opportunities to practice social skills. Even in this altercation, Graham eventually happily announced to me that the other boy apologized--with no hovering moms in sight! That's a victory!

I don't like tattling. I wish we spent more time and social energy on teaching self-control than on policing and calling each other out.

Except ...

Experience #2:

A while ago, Nathan was spending some time with a group of people that included an older, long-married couple. The husband is notoriously mean to his wife. During their time together, something happened that made him launch into a protracted episode of criticizing his wife. He wouldn't let it go. Nathan finally said something about how he was surprised they were still talking about the issue fifteen minutes after the fact, but he didn't really say anything to condemn the man's words towards his wife, something he later told me he regretted.

Should he have publicly corrected this older man? Would that be interfering with the sovereignty of a marital relationship? Would it have just made it worse for her later on? Is it anyone's business but theirs? When should you say something? Do you have to wait for him to start hitting her? These are real questions.

I've been thinking about this for a while. When is it okay to demand a change of behavior from others? Only when physical injury is imminent? What about emotional? I'm torn between my belief that you should develop emotional grit to deal with other people's lameness and my belief that other people shouldn't be lame. Maybe it's a delicate balance?

What are your thoughts? When do you call other people out? Other parents? Other people's kids? Older people? Friends? Strangers? Experiences?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Jesus Didn't Make My Son's Body

photo by Tara Butler
After church a while ago, Graham proclaimed, "Jesus made my body! And trees! Did he make our house?"

After trying to explain how it was possible that Jesus was the creator of the whole earth and a carpenter, but not also a suburban construction worker, I realized another discrepancy in my four-year-old's declaration. I tried to clarify:

"Graham, I made your body."

"No, Jesus did!"

"Actually, I did, with the power of God. I grew your body with my body."

Then I can't remember what happened, but it probably involved Graham running away to get a snack (11 o'clock church is rough).

photo by Tara Butler
I don't fault my son's Sunday school teacher for this at all. I learned the same phrase, and I've probably repeated it. Of course, all life comes from His power, and all bodies are formed from matter from the earth He created, but I don't think it's accurate to say, "Jesus made my body." That's oversimplifying the truth and foreclosing an important discussion about the role and power of women.

I make an effort to emphasize the amazing contribution I have made to our children in creating their bodies. I don't do this to brag or impress my children, or usurp the roles of God or our Savior in their lives. I do it because I believe that the creation of bodies, however universal, is a uniquely divine process, a power and privilege given to women. It is one way I contribute to the eternal progression of God's children (there are, of course, other vital ways women participate in God's work). I want my children to understand that women and men have equally important roles to play in God's plan for them. I feel that I am glorifying God in acknowledging a concrete way that He allows me and His other daughters to participate in His work.

Would you ever say that Jesus baptized you? No! Because He didn't! A man, through the power of God, baptizes you. Just like a woman, through the power of God, creates and gives birth to your body.

Ruby on the day of her baby blessing
When we generalize that "Jesus made my body," we are missing an important opportunity to acknowledge the role of women in the Plan of Salvation. I don't think it takes any glory away from Christ when we recognize that women are serving Him and God's children by creating bodies through His power. Just like our reverence for the priesthood and the respect we show to those ordained to offices in that priesthood doesn't diminish our worship for our Savior. Acknowledging that women play a vital, irreplaceable role in His plan actually increases my love and deference for Him because I am humbled that I have been entrusted with such an important part of His work, I can see how He loves and entrusts men and women with His power in equal measure, and my experience with and knowledge of the process of procreation informs my understanding of the atonement.

photo by Andrea Oates
Next time you're discussing the importance, divinity, and origin of our bodies, consider acknowledging that it is women through whom this power and blessing flow (literally!). Instead of teaching your kids that "Jesus made your body," maybe try something like this, "God and Jesus gave me a very important job! I'm in charge of making bodies for the kids in our family. It's a really important job and God gave me a special, sacred power so I can make bodies. Our Heavenly Parents and Jesus all have bodies and they wanted you to have one, too, so you could be like them. With God's power, I make bodies."

photo by Andrea Oates
My husband agrees that this contribution of women shouldn't be minimized, and I love to hear him teach our children about the divine power of my motherhood. I feel supported and honored as a daughter of God and mother of our children when he teaches them that my gift of a physical body is just as important as his subsequent gifts of baptism, confirmation, etc. Our society often discounts the importance and miracles of birth and bodies, or dismisses the process as gross and commonplace. Changing the words we use when we teach important doctrines about bodies and birth, mortality, and the embodied nature of God reclaims the divinity of the procreative process, establishes that women are connected to God's power, and creates an empowering paradigm for our daughters to recognize their procreative powers as an important facet of their identities as servants of Christ.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Ridiculously Easy, No-sew Baby Doll Carrier Tutorial, + Random Life Tips

I'm no Martha Stewart, but sometimes I have good mothering/housekeeping/crafty ideas. Here are a few random ones that have made me particularly delighted:

-When you're on vacation or an outing that you want to Instagram the heck out of to show that you actually get off your couch sometimes ... but you're out of memory on your phone! Curses! You don't want to spend ten minutes going through your photo stream to find and delete the forty pictures that your toddler took of her toes, because the moment is about to pass! The pony ride is about to be over, people! Instead, pick an app to delete. You can easily reload it later when you've had a chance to transfer your pictures to your computer. I usually delete my BBC or CNN apps. News can wait when you're making memories (make sure you read this in a grandfather-from-a-Nicholas-Sparks-novel voice).

-Instead of peeling the safety seal off your vanilla (or other extracts or liquids you usually only need a small amount of), cut a small slit in the seal so you have more control over how fast it comes out. If yours comes in a plastic bottle, you can even give it a little squeeze to fill that teaspoon a quarter-second faster. You'll spill less and will neatly sidestep your phobia of accidentally wasting half the bottle of your expensive Madagascar bourbon vanilla if your hand twitches.

-Here's how to make a super-easy, no-sew baby doll carrier with which your kids can adorably imitate you. Seriously, this project will last as long as Donald Trump's political career.

Lay out  an old t-shirt and mark it for cutting like so:

Note my summer toenails.
Cut through both layers. 

In case you skipped kindergarten and don't know what "cutting" means.
One of your scraps can be used as a chic dickie.

You have to make this face when you're wearing a dickie.

Your project should look like this now. I forgot to take a picture of the next set of cut lines before I cut them, so I added them in digitally. I love technology.

Cut on these lines, but THROUGH ONE LAYER.

Unfolded, it should look like this. I love that down arrow.

It's like a disembodied bunny coming in for a hug.

 More cut lines. Again, THROUGH TOP LAYER ONLY.

All done!!! 

Now to put it on. Tie the waist straps at the back.

Remember to support baby while you're securing the carrier. Just kidding, it's just a stuffed polar bear.

Cross straps across the back and tie in front.

Support the neck!!
 So cute. Make another one. Goodness knows you have BYU t-shirts to spare.

Baby carriers are practically clothes.

Little mama.
 Awesome! If you make one, send me a picture and I will put it on the blog along with an interview where I highlight how amazing you are at being a person.

Gotta go make some lentils. Adios.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

When I Die

I know some intense stuff has been happening around the world lately, so I'm going to write about something more light and fluffy to soothe your frazzled internet nerves: 


Why is a 20-something mother thinking about such morbid things as the passage of time? I'd argue that no one is more acutely aware of the speedy jaws of time than someone who has approximately four minutes to shower in peace until an enraged toddler starts throwing things at the door. Also, I'm a really deep person who thinks about metaphysical stuff all the time. Okay, so I was actually just looking at my arm and noticed a weird configuration of freckles/marks that may come in handy for the public to know about in case I go missing and die in a ditch and need to be identified later by the small town lady cop who finds me and works my puzzling case, all while she's in the midst of working through a divorce from her high school sweetheart, opening an e-bakery to fund her mother's chemo treatments, and managing her micro-farm. It'll be like Fargo meets Eat, Pray, Love, plus The Fault in Our Stars, for the cancer.

Here are the marks, on my right upper arm, FYI:

They needed a little something ...


Now when my missing person poster goes up on the cork board by the bathrooms at Panera, it can include such vital knowledge as "grimacing ghost face birthmark on upper right arm." You could substitute "melancholy" for "grimacing" because he looks a little frowny. Or maybe he's just whiny?

Over-legislation ghost.

Accidentally-transracial ghost.

Ironically-capitalist hipster ghost.

When I die, I'd also like everyone to know the details of my death, especially if it's untimely. Don't be vague about how I died, because that drives morbidly curious people like me crazy! If I choke to death in the pantry because I was pounding a cupcake too quickly in an effort to avoid my children seeing and asking for a bite, put that in my obituary! "She died selfish and happy, with the smallest smudge of chocolate buttercream nonchalantly smeared across her lips, once so warm and slightly-chapped in life, now so cold in death."

Other important details: bury me with a 32 oz bottle of DevaCurl conditioner because I'm worried Amazon Prime doesn't deliver to the spirit world, and I want my hair to be looking hydrated and fabulous forevermore.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Definitive Mother's Day Anti Gift Guide

There are loads of bloggers out there who are more rich and posh than I am who will tell you all the things you could buy for your mama/baby mama for Mother's Day. I will tell you what not to get her, beyond the standard no-no's of shapewear, cleaning products, or a Norelco beard trimmer with your name on it.

1. The Cast Iron Oyster Grill Pan from Sur La Table. No one needs this. Unless your mom summers in the Hamptons. Or is a grill-servant for someone who summers in the Hamptons. Or needs something large and heavy to defend herself with if she finds herself hiding from an intruder in the pantry under the shelf where she keeps cookware she never uses.

The epitome of over-specialization.

2. A side of beef. 320 pounds of it! For only $1329 (plus tax) you can supply your mother with enough meat to feed the panther you got her for Mother's Day last year! Oh wait, you didn't get her a panther? Then don't buy her this much beef.

Watch the video. Too much meat to even be captured by a photo!

3. A fur-covered exercise ball chair. No grown woman should have to subject her office space to something that looks like it was upholstered in Furby-hide. I don't care how swanky PB Teen is (I can only ever think of "Peanut Butter Teen" when I read this), your mom doesn't (shouldn't) want it! The woman wants some back support while she browses Pinterest writes her momoirs. On a different note, wouldn't it be so awesome to have enough disposable income to build a special room in your house that you would fill with these fur balls? In a huge range of sizes? I'm thinking anywhere from small, dodgeball-sizes to maybe a few with 12-foot diameters. You could rent the room out for parties. I would go to a fur ball party. There would also be a make-your-own Italian soda bar.

The aqua one was formerly an extra on Sesame Street.

4. Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers. Only because you should get the entire collection! Don't cheap out on your mom!

5. An all-expenses-paid trip to Cawker City, Kansas to see the biggest ball of twine in the United States. Unless the trip is scheduled for August during the city "Twine-a-thon" when more twine is added to the ball. That could be really intense.

It's not even a ball!
Don't take this the wrong way, but wouldn't that be a great place to hide a dead body? You'd have to do some initial wrapping, of course, but every year during the Twine-a-thon, the other Cawker City citizens would unwittingly do their part to make sure no one every discovered your twine-mummy. Also, if anyone ever suspected that the corpse of grumpy old, ironically-named Mr. Love (the victim, murdered during a botched robbery when you were attempting to steal his prize piece of beef jerky that looks like Ryan Gosling) was within the twine ball, there would be a city-wide outcry at the thought of cutting the ball apart to confirm suspicions. Dibs on this plot idea. I'm going to title the book Love Entwined.

On a sentimental note, happy early Mother's Day to my own dear mother. She's creative, generous, hilarious, and a mean shot with a black powder rifle. Maybe we do have some business in Cawker City ...

Right down the middle!

Best/worst thing you ever received/gave for Mother's Day?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ruby the Fluffy

Growing up, I was never much of a "girly-girl." I had one short-lived foray into dance lessons (tap--insanely boring and lacking the competitive excitement I found in soccer), loathed any clothes with ruffles or bows, and was once mistaken for a boy as I entered the girls' bathroom because my hair was cut pixie-short. I'd probably still be wearing boys' cargo shorts if I hadn't discovered the superior comfort of yoga pants (their gender-normativeness is just a bonus).

But having a little daughter and dressing her up in cute clothes is ridiculously fun. When she's old enough to tell me her preferences, I'll respect them (to a point to be debated on, I'm sure), but until then, RUFFLES. Not the potato chip, people, the fluffy kind.

My friend Olya is one of the most entrepreneurial people I know. One of her several business endeavors is running an online shop selling these gloriously fluffy rompers (love that word! Romp around little baby, romp!!) and tutus for babies. Olya gave Ruby this little peacock outfit to frolic around in right before Christmas (not posting these pics until now because ... three kids=zombie mother emoji).

I dressed her up, got out my professional mother camera, and learned that photographing toddlers is a circus. A circus that is on fire. Metaphorically.

I love Ruby's little side-eye in this one. She kind of looks like a criminal. "If you try to adjust this hair bow I will cut you."

Posing demurely by the Christmas tree.

Channelling the spirit of Cosette in this shot.

Then things got a little hairy. Ruby was tired of modeling and demanded to be naked.

We needed a replacement model ...

"Fertile Elizabethan Pharoah"

Then Graham channelled his inner Zoolander (who else is dying for Zoolander 2?? Fun fact: Nathan told me he loved me for the first time while we were watching Zoolander).

The camera loves Graham.

I'm so excited to have such a goofball to keep me company.
I love having fluffy, fun, costume props around for my kids to play with. Some of my favorite memories as a kid are of dressing up (as detectives, orphans, fortune-tellers, pioneers, etc.). These adorable pettiskirts are fluffy and fun. It's like you are wearing a cupcake. I love them.


Clinging to the edge of high fashion.
Olya's shop can be found on FacebookEtsy, or at Check them out!