Thursday, January 30, 2014


When Graham was just a little burrito in the crook of my arm, his eyes wide with wonder at anything from a lock of my hair to our ceiling fan, I would hear mothers complain about their toddlers' incessant lines of questioning. "Why this? Why that? Why can't I put Cheerios up my nose? Why is my nostril too small?" I would sigh at their exasperation, promising myself that I would never blunt my child's quest for enlightenment, but would rather greet his appetite for discovery with the lush fruits of knowledge from the garden of his mother's wisdom. Once intellectually fed, my cherub would return to his imaginative play, and I would resume lotus pose.

Calm amidst the storm ... call me Mother Earth (as it is depicted on my toddler's train table)
Fast forward two years.


Me: (insert any statement)

Graham: Why?
Me: (insert any statement)

 Graham: Why?

Graham: Why?

In the Costco parking lot today. "Where is the sun?" "Behind the clouds." "Why?" "Because it's a cloudy day." "Why?"

The boy is insatiable, and now I understand the exasperation. Why? Why? Why? Why?

Because Mom needs some ice cream.

Sat Nam.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How to Impress Your Mother-in-Law

Nathan's parents came to town for Christmas, which was great because it saved me two flights with two children, and I also love my in-laws. My mother-in-law, Dana, is kind, funny, and a domestic goddess whose homemaking and motherly wisdom sometimes rubs off on me.

Graham and Ruby look really glum, but I promise they love their grandparents.

I want Dana to like me and think me worthy of raising her grandchildren, so I try to impress her. Here are some things I tried that might work for you:

1. Clean your house, but be sure not to clean it too much. An immaculate home will make it obvious that you're faking it, because no house containing a toddler (with a lazy mother) is ever perfectly clean. Instead, clean it just enough that your mother-in-law will know you respect her, and she might also be fooled that your average day-to-day level of cleanliness is higher than it is.

2. Forget to feed your baby for about seven hours. During that time, go shopping, inhale some Sprinkles cupcakes (carrot cake and dark chocolate) and visit the salon to get your hair cut (while your mother-in-law watches your exhausted, hungry baby). The key here is to share the Sprinkles cupcakes with her. Chocolate covers a multitude of sins. Also, you are showing that you are comfortable with her taking care of your children. Grandchildren can be a source of conflict with mothers-in-law; share your cute grandbabies!

My legs aren't really shaped like that.

3. Welcome basket. This was probably more of a treat for me, because I love putting stuff like this together. I remember being so excited when I heard my older sister was stressed out during finals week her first semester at BYU, because it gave me an excuse to make her a care package.

We only have two bedrooms, so to complement the overwhelming luxury of them sleeping on two twin mattresses on the floor of a room full of toys, I decided to put together a swag box. I tried to cater the contents to their interests (I know my father-in-law, Bryce, loves nuts, and Dana loves chocolate-covered pomegranate seeds). Beyond that, my philosophy in curating the box was basically, "What awesome treats would I love that I always feel guilty buying for myself?" That's where the chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, lip balm, and magazines came in. Because you don't feel guilty when you're buying presents for someone else!

4. Make her finish your craft projects.

Dana makes the most amazing Christmas stockings in existence. She made Nathan's, refurbished mine, and finished the one I started making for Graham. She taught me how to embroider, and I really enjoyed it, but I was having trouble finding the motivation to finish the project ... so she did it for me (including cutting out those awesome letters). Then I realized that by making such an awesome stocking for Graham, I had inadvertently committed to making one FOR EVERY CHILD I EVER HAVE. Seeing as how Graham's took me almost two years to make (and I didn't even finish it on my own, ahem), I was panicked. That's when I sheepishly asked if she would continue making them for all my children. Dana is a benevolent crafting goddess, and she said yes. I don't know how this is supposed to impress her, but maybe my eternal gratitude will make up for my own crafting lameness.

Dana asked for a peacock, and I made her a peacock!

5. Commiserate over the duties that attend the holidays. Let's face it, in most families (okay, all that I know of, but I don't like superlatives), the mom is in charge of the bulk of Christmas. Presents, food, traditions--they all largely fall on mom's Christmas-sweater-adorned shoulders. Even if you feel like you have nothing in common with your mother-in-law, you're both women, so bond over all the work that is foisted onto women during the holidays (this post was written for daughters-in-law; the son-in-law/mother-in-law relationship is an animal I have no experience taming). Dana and I could relate to each other about how hard it is to track down presents and then manage the shipping of said presents, all while staying within the frugal pipe dreams we call Christmas budgets. If you need something to talk about during other times of the year, try these universal woman issues: finding a bra that fits, managing hair in different climates, or the fact that the #1 cause of death in girls 15-19 is childbirth.
I told Dana my secret discovery that showing some leg on even the coldest winter days will get me out of parking tickets. Just kidding; Dana told me that.

Mothers-in-law are great. They birthed your spouse, they love your children, and if you play your cards right, they might even watch your cherubim for a week while you go on a cruise.

In-laws are great. Here's Bryce playing with Graham and Dana feeding Ruby in the background.

Why is your mother-in-law awesome?

*this post shamelessly sponsored by Brownie Points & Co.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

5 Little Monkeys: A Study in Medical Philosophy

While singing the popular children's song Five Little Monkeys (Jumping on the Bed) for the tenth time the other day, I realized that the lyrics illustrate a lot of my opinions about the doctor-parent relationship. Here are my thoughts:

1. The doctor is not in charge of the monkeys health, Mama is! Mama is the one making decisions for her monkeys, not the doctor. I hate when I hear things like, "Get your doctor's permission before [insert activity]." Guess what? Your doctor is not your mom or your boss or God. You don't need his permission to do anything!! If you decide you'd like his input or expertise with an issue, you call him and then make your own decision. (Note: I've chosen to use the masculine pronoun in regards to "the doctor" because women aren't smart enough to be doctors, duh!)

 "Dr. Monkey" by Dan Mills

"Mama" is the one who ultimately decides to let her children continue jumping on the bed. The doctor is a consultant. "Mama" calls the doctor to ask his opinion, he gives it, and then she does what she thinks is right, taking into account several factors, including and not limited to: the doctor's input, her own intuition, and the insight gained from her knowledge and experience with that particular child. In Mama's case, she decides to disregard the doctor's advice in favor of her children having fun and learning from their mistakes. Her monkeys aren't living in a bubble! Keep jumping on that bed while I catch up on Downton Abbey!

This little monkey jumped a little too hard ...

2. Preventative medicine is best. I like the doctor in this song because he doesn't tell Mama to bring her kid in for needless MRIs, physical therapy, and a round of intravenous antibiotics, all potentially for the purpose of covering his monkey bum or padding his wallet. He tells her how to prevent the problem in the first place: stop jumping on the bed, dweebs!

Monkey can't sleep. He'd rather be jumping.

3. The doctor was reachable by phone. I know doctors have lives, but I think the fact that Mama was able to call her doctor--not an answering service or a nurse--shows that they have a good relationship. Do you know how many times my kids have gotten worry-level sick Monday-Thursday (our doctor thinks Fridays are part of the weekend), from 9-5? ZERO. It's always late at night or on the weekends.

Our favorite hypochondriac. This kid moped on the couch with an ice pack for two hours after Nate pulled his arm a little funny while playing.

I would love a doctor who trusts his patients with his cell number. That being said, if you are the type of neurotic crazy mom who would have the doctor on speed dial and call to inform him whenever the texture of your baby's poo changes ... you are ruining it for the rest of us. Also, when did house calls go out of style? That would be awesome. For now, I guess I'll have to be content with the nurse hotline provided by my insurance company, even though I only remember that this resource exists when I get a pamphlet about it once a year in the mail.

4. The doctor respected Mama. Even when she calls him for the fifth time, clearly after disregarding his previous advice, the doctor still offers his professional opinion and help. I don't expect my doctor to agree with me about everything, but I do expect him to be respectful of my role and responsibility as the mother of my monkeys. You should never put up with a doctor who talks down to you, ridicules your choices, or won't listen to your concerns.

I love how it looks like this mama monkey is collabing with her trusted pediatrician. They work side-by-side, not against one another. via

I switched pediatricians a week after Ruby was born because the doctor was unprofessional and disrespectful to the midwives who had attended Ruby's birth (which took place at a birth center I had chosen after thorough research and prayer). When I confronted her about her behavior (a rude phone call made to my midwives, within earshot of me, followed by her continued mocking comments made to her nurses), she started spouting off a bunch of medical jargon meant to intimidate me back into submission. I never went back. A doctor who doesn't respect you and your right to make decisions regarding your family's healthcare does not deserve the money (thousands of dollars if you have a newborn who needs a year + of immunizations) you will bring to their practice.

5. The doctor didn't jump to conclusions and call CPS. Even though Mama's monkeys are getting bumps, the doctor doesn't overreact and accuse Mama of abuse or negligence (letting them jump on the bed isn't the same as letting them jump off a roof, contrary to what the helicopter moms at the playground might think). I know this one is probably a rare occurrence, and I do think physicians should watch out for evidence of child abuse, but this happened to one of my best friends, initiating a huge ordeal for her family that could have been avoided if the doctor had investigated the cause of some mysterious bruising more thoroughly (they were a result of a recent infection).

Managing your family's health can be complicated enough without throwing a crummy doctor into the mix. I hope you have a great pediatrician who is respectful and qualified, and who also stocks interesting magazines in the waiting room, employs nurses who don't wear Skechers Shape-ups, and has a bowl of good candy at the check-out counter.

P.S. I updated my "About" page. I know everyone's been waiting for that like Christmas morning.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Teenage Telepath

Sometimes when I'm being an awful person, I think snotty thoughts about other people. Then I worry that the person I'm mentally being bratty to can read minds. What if they can hear what I'm thinking? Are they just super good at pretending they can't read my mind? How long did it take them to perfect their poker face even while someone nearby is thinking "Wow, I really don't like her capris," or "The name she picked for her baby sounds like something a teenage girl at a new school would choose to call herself because she thought her given name (Beth) was too boring and easy to spell." At least I've learned to only think my name criticisms.

If I'd named her Rubijanedella, you'd think it was dumb. I don't care how nice you are.

Is their power limited by proximity? Or could it be magnified somehow, Cerebro-style? I seriously wonder about these things, because I think it a real (though small) possibility that they could be reading my mind. Why do I entertain such paranoia? Because my mother knew someone who was telepathic when she was in high school.

She was my mom's friend from seminary (daily religion class Mormon kids go to in high school). Let's call her Oda Mae, for the sake of her privacy and because my mom couldn't remember her full name anyway. Oda Mae confided in my mother one day that she could read minds, and my mother believed her. This blog post would be more interesting if my mother could remember exactly how Oda Mae proved her abilities, but my dear mom's memory is about as murky as the contents of the plastic cup Graham likes to backwash into, so all we know is that my mother, who despite her memory actually has a lovely intellect and a keen skepticism (just ask my high school boyfriend!), completely believed Oda Mae.

In seminary they used to play a game called "scripture chase." The teacher would call out a clue that led to one of fifty notable scriptures from the curriculum that year, and the first to know the reference and open to the correct page would win. Oda Mae would always win, because she had the advantage of knowing the reference a few seconds before everyone else, having just plucked it from the seminary teacher's mind.

Me and my non-telepathic, yet gorgeous friends.

My mom remembers asking the teacher one day to let her call out the clues, hoping to level the playing field a bit. Instead of choosing a scripture reference and mulling over it while the class quieted down from the last round and Oda Mae scoped her consciousness, she'd blurt out the clue as fast as she could think of it, giving Oda Mae no advantage. Poor Oda Mae ... not only did she know whenever anyone hated her bell bottoms, now she couldn't even dominate scripture chase!

Oda Mae had another strange ability. If she called someone to mind, she could envision where they were and what they were doing. She recounted to my mom a particularly traumatic incident that occurred when she thought of her boyfriend, the stake president's son, and saw him using the bathroom. Oh, the life of a teenage clairvoyant!

High school is turbulent enough without telepathy. Please note that this was taken in my little sister's room, so I can't be ridiculed for the Beanie Babies, Viggo Mortensen poster, or motivational collage seen in the background.

I always wondered about where my mom's friend ended up. She could have worked for the FBI's missing persons unit, finding people as quickly as she could think of them. Or maybe she became an extremely talented child therapist who could understand even the most troubled kids. Or maybe she couldn't take the collective mental drama of everyone around her, all the time, so she lives quietly in the Ozarks, working the night shift at the Waffle House down the mountain.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Products That Make Me Feel Guilty

Most of the time, the things I own bring me happiness, satisfaction, convenience, etc., and I mean this as un-superficially as I can as an American. But sometimes the things in my life make me feel guilty, not for my consumerism, but for other reasons ...

1. My electric toothbrush. A gift from my in-laws, this lovely gadget leaves my pearly whites pearly white. My mother-in-law was right when she said I'd never want to go back--I love it, and I feel so mature for putting it on my Christmas list. Hopefully she was impressed I asked for it.

It even helps my nose look shiny.

The problem is, though, that it runs on a two-minute timer, beeping every 30 seconds to let me know it's time to move to the next quadrant of my teeth. TWO MINUTES. Oh my heck, TWO MINUTES. I could sign up for Obamacare in less time. Yeah, yeah, that's what the ADA recommends or whatever, but for 23 years I brushed for 25 seconds tops and got only one cavity. If I don't brush until it shuts off on its own, I experience a niggling guilt ... like I don't know the ending to the riveting storyline that is my dental hygiene routine. Thank goodness it doesn't have a special chime that tells me I have to floss.

2. Dove chocolate. The guilt I experience eating these little squares mostly comes from the fact that the bag I currently have, Sea Salt Caramel Dark, is gross. Completely lackluster, they are just not worth it, yet I continue to eat them and would feel wasteful throwing them out (see! I'm not completely a horrible American!). I'm happy to eat a gallon Ziploc full of reheated leftover pancakes smothered in cookie butter without a caloric care, but that's because they are frizneaking delicious. Sea Salt Caramel Dark Dove Chocolate is like watching reality TV--a mild amusement with no real worth, but seductively packaged in shininess.

And then there are the pithy gems of wisdom inside the wrapper, phrases like "Indulge your sense of amusement" (thank you, I will continue eating this Kardashian of chocolates), "Treat yourself today," or the antisocial "Be mischievous. It feels good" (excuse me while I go smear melted chocolate on my husband's work shirts).

Advice columnist might actually be my dream job. Also, please note my chipped Rihanna nails. Glitter.

I want a chocolate with less subterfuge going on, a chocolate that doesn't share a name with a bath product brand with ulterior motives. I want ...

Vulture Chocolates! These chocolates would be honest and un-patronizing. Instead of sycophantic messages inside the wrapper, there would either be the amount of exercise you'd have to do to burn off the calories you're about to consume (ex. 45 pushups, 5 minutes of jogging, etc), or else a picture of an animal whose habitat was destroyed by the expansion of the cacao plantation that supplies the company. And they would be delicious.

I had to move my mate and two babies to a rental on the seedy side of the jungle. Enjoy your chocolate!

3. My American Girl doll, Felicity. The guilt over this possession is so intense, I still feel it even though my mother, disgusted that I never played with the doll, sold it over 15 years ago. Her little gap-toothed smile haunts me. Why didn't you play with me? Felicity asks in her crisp colonial accent. She's holding the reins of her beloved horse, Penny, in her small vinyl hand. Was it because I was so flipping expensive and you were afraid of damaging me? Or maybe you were just obsessed with the beauty that was my blue taffeta "Holiday Gown," and you never intended to actually play with me? Which is it, Kimber, which is it?! Her cloth and vinyl body trembles with rage, and small flames seem to appear in her soulless eyes. I'm sorry, Felicity!

Cue creepy music box melody.

4. The Sing-A-Long Silly Songs album. I bought and downloaded a collection of classic silly kids songs, thinking I would play them constantly at home while I frolicked around with my children, or else in the car like my mom did when I was young. We'd all sing together, laughing at the silly lyrics, bonding over the shared experience, feeling a little weird when we realized all the songs were recorded by adults. But I never play them. Each time I see them in iTunes I feel like a horrible mother because I'd rather listen to the top 40 in the car than kids' music. Is it so bad that Graham sings along to Katy Perry and Lorde? That he doesn't know who Jon Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt is? Maybe if he knew "This Old Man" he wouldn't have screamed "DON'T TOUCH ME!" at the admittedly a little creepy (long fingernails, velvet sport coat), yet friendly elderly gentleman who gave him a pat at the grocery store today. One day I will be that mom, showered and in my mom uniform of GAP skinny jeans and a J.Crew cardigan, dancing in my pristine suburban living room, with a halo of my cherubs leaping hand-in-hand about me, all to the melodic chirping of a 43-year old man armed with a synthesizer and a dream.

Knick knack paddy whack me in the head because I don't want to listen to this.

5. My basil plants. Once upon a time I bought some basil plants, intending to raise them up unto greatness in my backyard. They started out robust and full of promise.

There they are in the lower right square. I called them Mighty, Popeye, and Brawny Man.

Then my poor little basil plants experienced the consequences of being planted in an area that hardly gets any sun.

Basil Memento Mori

The rest of the garden is languishing in similar fashion. Turns out you need sunlight to grow stuff.

I am just a fat, horrible mother with a black thumb and questionable oral hygiene. And somewhere Felicity is sitting stagnant in an attic, cursing my name, her once gleaming auburn hair peppered with asbestos and mice droppings.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The New Year's Resolutions You Should Be Making

Turkey bacon lamb avocado provolone tomato masterpiece.

1. Gain ten pounds. Because losing weight is about as fun as being sweaty and pale on an elliptical next to a Latina cheetah-woman in Lululemon. And it may also mean you hate Susan B. Anthony. So here's how to gain ten pounds, from an expert (I accomplished this in the month of December so I'm a professional, DVD coming soon). My five step process: 1) free yourself of your gym membership (blame it on the sub par babysitting), 2) invest in an apocalypse-level stock of Blue Bell ice cream, 3) eat it, 4) develop an obsession with Brach's Milk Maid Caramels, 5) discover cookie butter pancakes. Let's look at how each of those five steps begin to realize how wonderful they are: free, invest, eat, develop, discover. That's pretty much Eat, Pray, Love, but a little better because the word "invest" makes you feel rich even if it actually means you're blowing your grocery budget on ice cream. Because nothing says "loving your body" like treating it like crap.

How you should feel about your post-baby body. You can't tell, but she's holding a bunch of Lindt truffles in her hand.

2. Write fewer letters. Haven't you heard? The price of stamps is going up, and unless you want to go all Boston Tea Party on the USPS, you should just resolve to contact your loved ones in meaningful ways a little less often. Why send a thank you note when a text will do? No matter that Nana only has a land line; she knows you're grateful for the heirloom table linens you decided to sell on Etsy so you could buy the Ikat tablecloth you really wanted from West Elm.

3. Be less disciplined with your finances. Think of all the money you'll be saving by swearing off postage! Use this financial smugness to your advantage and buy whatever your favorite lifestyle blogess just showed off, sans guilt! Think of how cute your baby will look in clothing from a French boutique (Oh! The adorably ugly Peter Pan collars that are going to enter your life!) instead of worrying about how your student loans are growing interest like a loaf of artisan bread grows mold in a humid Houston kitchen. Luxuriate in the scent of your Diptyque candle while ignoring the pounding of your toddler on the door of your only bathroom while he screams "WHAT ARE YOU DOING, MOM? I HAVE TO GO POOP!" ... instead of putting money towards a down payment on a bigger house. Living in the moment sometimes means ignoring the future.

Start them young!

4. Complicate. "Simplify" is so 2013. Time to accumulate stuff (may I recommend Target?), overschedule yourself into a chaotic heap of anxiety, and take up dumb hobbies/crafts invented by Pinterest that produce more junk you have to store (I'm talking about you, "sensory bins"). How else are you going to use the Container Store gift card you got for Christmas? We live in a world that invented glitter nail polish that turns red when you go outside. Embrace the crazy.

Nathan says it seems a little "pre-accountability" to him. I say, "GLITTER!"
5. Do the friendly wave when someone does you a favor on the road. I just want you to be grateful, okay? Okay? Acknowledge my benevolence, Houston drivers!!

Happy 2014!!

Nothing says celebration like new church shoes and a party hat.

What New Year's Resolution are you excited to break?