Monday, October 31, 2011

Hold Them Closer

It is strange for me to sit down with a blank screen and the intent to write and have no words come.  Especially when last night I could not fall asleep for all the words crowding my head.  Especially when words are what I use to understand myself and what I am feeling.

I guess all I really want to ask is that you do two things for me today.  Pray for my family, especially my brother, Dan and his wife, Rachel, and to hold your babies close.  Hold your loved ones tight for as long as they will let you.

(I am sorry I cannot explain, to understand what I am talking about please see my sister's beautiful post here.)



Friday, October 28, 2011

Mystery

I've been going through our photos looking for good ones to include with this year's Christmas Letter.  I came across this one that I took last winter, and it reminded me of the Mystery I Never Solved.

Every morning I would come downstairs, look out my back windows, and see new paths in the snow.  I realize that that is not strange, and I think they all must have been bunnies.  We have only ever had one squirrel visit our backyard that I've ever seen, and somehow a large dog did get in once, but other than that I think our snowy visitors were pretty much just bunnies.

 Normal animal (bunny) tracks through the snow.

Then one morning I came down to see this. The tracks went straight from our side gate to the play house.  Naturally I just assumed it had been Devin, who had for some reason gone out the front door, then around back through the gate, and into the play house, and then somehow... had come out again and back inside... without... leaving... any second set of tracks...

But I called Devin, and he had not gone into the play house at all that week.

So then I said, well, I guess it was just an extra large bunny.

And then I wondered why a bunny would make a beeline from our gate to our play house, and how it got back out... without... leaving... any... second set of tracks.

The whole thing sort of creeped me out, so I took a few pictures to document the weirdness, and then blissfully forgot about it.  This morning though, this morning of Halloween weekend, I came across it again, and sat staring at it... wondering what had happened in the middle of that night last winter.


Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Boys and Flannel: Two Lessons Learned

I have recently learned two things about myself, about life, about the difference between boys and girls, or perhaps just the difference between any two people, and I learned about my own limitations.

The first lesson involved a quilt that I am making, a baby blanket, out of flannel.  The flannel was an impulse choice, I was walking around sort of aimlessly, looking at the fabrics, when I saw four colors grouped together in a way that made me happy, and so I took a yard of each color, not sure exactly what I would do with them, but knowing it would satisfy something deep inside me to do it.  Ah, it might have satisfied if only it had been any fabric but flannel - not knowing then what I know now and all.

Here are the things I have learned about flannel:
1. It is a stretchy fabric.  It is quite willing to pull and give and wiggle its shape all over the place. You have to be very stern with it, poking and prodding it with pins to show it who is boss.
2. It is also a very sticky fabric. This means that when you place one piece on top of another, you know, to piece the quilt together, and then you have to make some small adjustment, it sticks and sticks and then according to some law of physics, it suddenly jolts apart much farther than the minute amount you wanted it to move.  And so  you start over, it wiggling and stretching and sticking when you least want it to.
3. It garbles up my machine, filling it with lint and essence of flannel until my machine is coughing, choking, spitting, gagging, poor old thing.  Although, actually, my machine kind of does that with a lot of fabrics.


My second lesson is about boys.  A friend of mine has two young boys, one recently three and the other 15 months old.  She had somewhere she had to be most of yesterday and all of today.  I told her I would watch them for her, this long before I knew I was pregnant, and long before the  hernia had started bothering me again.  But the day for them to come dawned bright and I was feeling really good.  They are good boys, and didn't really give me any trouble either day - but sakes alive am I exhausted.  I still would have offered to watch them, I'd watch them again next week if she needed me, but I definitely learned something about boys. (or, again, is it just a difference in personality?)

Here are the things I've learned about boys:
1. They are a force of nature.  They are tornadoes, hurricanes, elephant stampedes, thunder and lightning, they are stone walls.  Which, in all honesty, I think makes their affection that much sweeter, when they lie soft and still, or cuddle their heads into that spot between your neck and shoulder, when they smile at you with their big cheeks covered in chocolate from warm gooey cookies - it warms you inside in a way that I don't get from my girls.
2.  Force of nature, yes. Whining, complaining, high pitched squealers they are not.  I think the phrase I currently use most often with Hallie these days is, "Try saying it again. No whining this time."  I have yet to hear these guys make a single whining sound.
3. All little kids have energy, but it seems to radiate off of boys in a different way.  Like, the energy from girls radiates in transverse waves and boys in longitudinal (I remember a few things from college).

I guess this experience has just really heightened my appreciation that we are having another girl.  Don't get me wrong, little boys are great, and these little boys especially are genuine sweeties, well behaved and good natured.  The thing is that I feel like I've been trained in girldom, and to have a boy suddenly thrust upon me would shatter everything I know about parenting.  Like
if you had spent your time training to run a marathon, only to be told that the test would be whether or not you could shoot 90 out of 100 free throws.
if you had spent years studying 15th century Spanish poetry, only to be told that the final exam was only going  to cover nuclear phsyics.
if all of your sewing experience was with cotton, and suddenly you were trying to make a blanket out of flannel.
if you had spent all your life on Venus and were suddenly told you had to move to Mars.

Now, I realize that millions of parents the world over have both boy and girl children.  I guess those parents are the ones that excel at the triathlon, or get double majors in Psychology and Calculus, but I don't think it's me.  Because apparently, all I can sew on is cotton.

I guess my best hope is that if I do ever have a boy I can also find a crash course in Mars-living.  And in flannel-sewing too, I guess, you know while I'm at it.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Braid

*Note: I  have added pictures of the bunk beds to this post.
In Nebraska we get gale force winds. I guess it is all part of the package deal of living in the prairie with no trees or mountains (and by no trees, obviously I mean as in forests, we have trees in our yard and such.)  The other factor is that Hallie has fairly long hair, for a three year old.  When you combine these two seemingly unrelated items, what you get is a girl who gets very frustrated going outside because the wind whips her hair into a frenzy and she can't see and it gets all tangled and then she cries when I comb it out.  For those of you who are now thinking that I should just be rational and cut all her hair off in a normal three year old cute cut, I just can't. I have only cut her hair once, and I think it will probably take me another two years to get up the courage to do it again.

Hence, we've discovered braids.  I mean, I always knew about braids, but since living here I have learned that you average everyday quick braid, nor your typical French braid are enough.  Her hair will be pulled loose by the wind if I don't do something extra, so to say.  So I've been experimenting with braids and styles and mixing styles (the ponytail braid is our favorite, for swimming, when we went on the airplane, long car rides, nothing holds little girl hair back like the ponytail braid.)  Sometimes when I am sitting around with nothing important to think about, I think about Hallie's hair and different ways I could braid it that might be even tighter, stronger,  better.  Then I try to remember this idea long enough to try it on her hair, and then at times it works and at times it doesn't.  When it does work, you'd think that I would take pictures, or notes, so I can remember it to do it again.  I don't.  So I almost never am able to do the same braid more than once. Which I guess is good for my creativity (necessity is the mother of invention, yes?) but on harried mornings (ha ha, get it?) it would be nice to just have a go-to quick braid, in addition to the ponytail braid, that I could do.

A few weeks ago Hallie let me experiment on her hair and I came up with this one.  AND I DID ACTUALLY TAKE A PICTURE! Now, here's where you come in.  This braid ended up kind of loose, because I was doing it in the basement and didn't have extra hair ties or bobby pins, and I was just playing around. I would love to practice it more and see if it can be a viable option for windy days.  This is where you come in though.  I have studied this picture, and tried to recreate it, but I just can't figure out what I did. Yesterday I tried to duplicate it, and failed.  The resulting braid was pretty, and I did leave it in, AND I TOOK PICTURES OF THAT ONE TOO. (this bits in all caps are your cue to be impressed that I took pictures of something)  So I'd like you to please, please, please compare the two pictures and tell me where I went wrong, or just look at the first one and tell me what I need to do to make it happen again. Surely if my brain came up with it once I should be able to come up with it again, but when you factor in Heather feeding on my brain juices all bets are off.

 Original braid.
My attempt at recreating the braid.


Although now that I examine the two in the pictures, I think I got closer than I thought I did.  One missing link is that I didn't French braid all the way down, I don't remember how I did that and made it look good...And does it look like I merged the two French braids into one braid, and then braided the remaining hair all together in one big one?  Am I making any sense? Please, help. And please remember that the initial picture was just a loose attempt, without a comb or anything so forgive its lopsidedness.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ruffy



I tell Devin everything. That's good in a strong marriage, right?  It occurs to me however, in hindsight, that perhaps he doesn't need to know every single little thing that I hear/read/see/think about.

When I was growing up we always had pets.  Cats, dogs, fish, rabbits, ferret, and usually quite a few at a time. I was also sickly as a child.  Like, all the time sick.  I don't know when it first dawned on me and my family that I was allergic to cats and dogs, but at some point we saw the light.  We kept the pets.  I love cats and dogs, and wouldn't have wanted to get rid of them just because I had a sniffly nose and bad cough.  I had always had those things, I didn't really know what life was like without them, so I didn't see what the big deal was.

Then I moved away to go to college, and lived cat and dog free for four years.  And while I still got sick a normal amount, for the most part I could breathe.  I had no idea how effortless breathing was for most people! It slowly began to sink in that maybe a life without cats and dogs would be the better option for me, but I still clung to some hope of having a non-allergenic pet of some sort.

Devin grew up without pets.  Not a cat, dog, or reptile in sight.  Oh wait, I take that back. They had some hamsters when he was little, but I don't think from the stories he tells that he was altogether fond of them.  As a runner he has developed quite a strong distaste for dogs, and I don't know exactly what his beef is with cats but they definitely rub him the wrong way.

Hallie has gotten it into her mind that someday she will be the proud owner of a dog named Ruffy.  For weeks she was confident that any day her daddy would come home with Ruffy in his arms and hand the fluffy little puppy to her, for her to love and care for all of her days. No matter how much Devin insisted this would never happen, every day she told me it would. Then she learned (somehow) about animal shelters.  Now every day I hear her asking me when we are going to the animal shelter to get her Ruffy.  Hallie is so convincing in all her details about this dog and what he looks like that one of her friends asked me a few weeks ago if she could come over and play with Ruffy.  Whenever Hallie sees a dog like the one above (a lab) she tells me that is what Ruffy looks like. Every single time.

Sometimes Hallie gets so downhearted that she doesn't have her dog yet that it breaks my heart. She never whines, or complains, or throws tantrums.  She just keeps asking me "when" - with the utmost faith of a child that it is not a question of "if" she will ever get this dog, but "when".  It would be easier to say no if she'd holler and be a brat about it.

My sister has two cats.  They are really cute cats, and Hallie and Hanna love them to pieces when we go visit. (I get a little sick, but I love the kitties too.)  My sister wrote this post earlier this week and I told Devin all the gory details.  He said, "We are definitely never getting a cat."  Oops.  What compelled me to tell him that story?

At least it was about cats, and not dogs.  While I would probably prefer to have a cat as a pet than a dog (they seem like less maintenance, what say you?) the dog was what Hallie really wants most, and what I could most likely talk Devin into (it will stay in the backyard all the time, promise!)

So please, don't tell me any dog horror stories because I might not be able to stop myself from telling them to Devin. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

If You Give A Man

Having spent most of his adult life living in apartments, with little to no need for powerful power tools, the extent of Devin's selection of tools was fairly limited.  I had a small collection of tools of my own when we got married, my dad had bought me an electric screwdriver, another some sort of screwdriver, and my mother had bought me a set of small tools including two types of pliers, a wrench, a hammer, and yet another screwdriver.  This set was painted.  With flowers.  Devin mainly tried to avoid using these tools.

When we bought this house and moved in, Devin keenly felt the absence of a drill.  I would hear him saying things like, "If only I had a drill, my life would be complete."  In all honesty, he has absolutely never said anything like that, but if you take out the female sentimental undertones you can get the gist of what he was saying.

Enter Father's Day 2010.  We had a gift card from Sears, courtesy of the nightmare experience of buying our washer and dryer from them (please, don't ask.  The story has the ability to raise my blood pressure to an unhealthy level) and as Devin has solemnly sworn to never make another purchase from Sears as long as he lives, I knew that I could use that card however I wanted, and what I wanted was to buy my man a drill.

And we lived happily for months with our fancy, shiny new drill.  Then I began to hear whisperings of "what I wouldn't give for a saw."  (again, my words)  We had many other items for the house demanding our money (dehumidifier, mulch for the yard, a treadmill, new running shoes, and whatnot.) But, holidays come around every year and soon enough it was Father's Day again.  This time I had a gift card to my local Ace Hardware Store, you know, the friendly place?  In I waltzed and bought my man a saw.

A few months later Devin celebrated his birthday.  I came up with a hundred and fifty brilliant ideas for his birthday present, things that I really wanted to give him that I thought he would really like.  He turned down all of them.  He ended up with a power sander that he picked out himself.

This is when things really started to pick up around here.  I made Devin stay home from work when we got back from Pennsylvania because the girls were in serious need of some daddy time.  But Devin has to have something to do.  So I gave him a list of options for the day, including: going to the park, going to the library, going to the Children's Museum, or going to Home Depot and letting the girls ride in the race car cart.

Devin, of course, chose the Home Depot option.  Which meant that he spent the morning wandering around the house with a tape measure trying to find projects that he could do that day, especially now that he had a drill and a saw.  With a few projects in mind as options for the day we went off to Home Depot.  We wandered around that store, looking and evaluating what we wanted most versus what we wanted soonest versus what we were willing to spend money on, and we came home with 27 pieces of wood, in various sizes, some screws, and some wood stain.

All this, just to tell you that if you give a man a drill, and then you give him a saw, and then you let him pick out a power sander and many pieces of wood in differing sizes, he just might - I say he just might make your daughters bunk beds.  Hanna is still too young to sleep in hers, but Hallie is crazy about her new bed.




Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Look Inside

 If you had knocked on our door at dinner time on Monday evening, and if we welcomed you in (of course we would have welcomed you in, silly) you might have noticed the following things.
The pumpkin pie almost certainly would have caught your attention first, because of the amazing aroma wafting from it.  Hallie's favorite book right now is called "The Little Green Witch" and it is a Halloween version of the Little Red Hen, wherein the little green witch finds pumpkin seeds, goes through the whole thing by herself, and ends up eating the pumpkin pie all by herself.  Well, first she turns the ghost, the gremlin, and the bat into little red hens.  Every time we read it Hallie asks me why she does that.  I tell her that they should have helped.  Anyway, ever since this book became number one on her list she has wanted to go to a pumpkin patch and get her very own pumpkin for pie-making.  We made it out to Martin's Hillside Orchard (an orchard, I know, but they have a very nice patch, and it is my favorite in the area) and she picked out the perfect pie pumpkin.  Well, Sunday night came and I was very sick.  Devin stayed home from work on Monday and as part of his campaign to keep from going stir crazy with "nothing to do" he and Hallie made her pumpkin pie. I'm sad I missed it (I slept all day, literally) but Devin told me that as Hallie slid her pie into the oven she said, "I"m a little green witch!"  Once you manage to divert your attention from the pie, you might have seen:
 Hanna, clearly enjoying her food.  On her plate you will see her fourth serving of mashed potatoes with chicken gravy, and a few remaining green beans, which she did finish.  This girl knows how to eat.
 Once you've moved past her cute little cheeks, you will see my firstborn.  Please note her bib, "I Love My Big Sister".  Clearly we're not too concerned with technicalities around here.  On her plate you will see a huge pile of green beans (which I think she did eventually eat, she does actually like green beans) and a pile of mashed potatoes, and behind her cup you would have seen a pile of the chicken gravy.  I think she had three helpings of the chicken gravy, but she would NOT let us put it on her potatoes. Throughout the meal she kept telling me, "Mommy, I love mashed potatoes.  They are yucky stink.  Throw them in the trash. Don't touch it.  But I just love them mommy."  Huh.  At least she ate the beans and chicken, yes? Oh, and, that is Hallie trying to smile for the camera.  School pictures are going to be AWESOME.
 Here's the man who makes it all possible.  He didn't want me to take his picture.  But you certainly would have seen him had you been looking around our table, so I don't know what he's fussing about.  He was so thoughtful to make a meal that is easily digestible, soft on the throat, and my all time favorite - even though he doesn't like mashed potatoes at all. (Crazy, I know. He has funny taste in food sometimes.)
AND he had even less to complain about  because I let him take a picture of ME: sick, pregnant, and kind of gross looking.  You can barely see that my plate is scraped clean, of every last bean and morsel of potato and gravy.  Thanks Devin.

Oh, and the pie, which we ate after family night, was delicious too.

Thanks for visiting. Come again anytime.

And Sarah J (from high school, not Lincoln) -  I totally had already written this blog post BEFORE we talked last night, isn't that funny? It doesn't get much more "real" or "honest" than a picture like the one of me above, am I right? Wow.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It's Abstract

I know very little about art. Even less about photography.  I know that there is an abstract movement in art, but is there one in photography?

Devin was clearing the table from dinner a few nights ago, and when he picked up Hallie's plate he said, "Honey! Look what Hallie made with her dinner!" and laughing I told him to run and get the picture, because she had created some form of art, so it seemed to us.

 For dinner that night she had carrots dipped in ranch, part of a jam sandwich, and berries that finally ripened in our backyard.  From these elements, can you see what she crafted?  Or are Devin and I losing it?


Hope this brought a SMILE to your face, like it did to ours. Have a great day!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Temporarily Permanent

Sometimes I really panic.  (No surprise to any of you, I'm sure.)  I get stressed, and worried, and anxious and stumble around in a confused state of mind consumed by this thought that has taken over my being and made it impossible for me to focus on anything else.  Right now the disabling concern is that this state of being that I am currently in, physically, not mentally, is permanent.

In one part of my brain I know, of course, that the headaches (I got one every day this week), and the backaches, and the nausea (every morning still, although I do not vomit THANK GOODNESS), and the acid reflux (a new nightly problem), and the sheer, absolute, bone numbing exhaustion are pretty much all neat side effects of making a new person.  That side of my brain knows that in a few short (relatively speaking) months I will feel like myself again, healthy and strong and able to do what I want with my body.

And yet, in another side of my brain, I am terrified.  What if this is who I am now? What if my existence has been reduced to twenty minute bursts of energy, followed by regretting I had ever gotten up to do anything because that brief amount of activity had exacerbated the (fill in the blank with one of the above pregnancy complaints).

Basically, I lay awake at night unable to sleep because running around and around in my brain like a hamster on a wheel is the worry that this pregnancy will never end.  February will never actually come, and/or if it does, the symptoms will not go away and life will continue on like this for me, every day miserable and emotional and overwrought.

Completely irrational, right?  As I write this, it is the other side of my brain that is in control, and that side of my brain is embarrassed that I am even talking about this.  That side of my brain is mainly the one that is in control, but when both girls are fighting over one toy, or when I need to make their lunch but I don't know how to get off the couch, or when Devin is ten minutes late coming home from work, the other side of my brain stages a swift coup d'etat and I am helpless.  I am powerless, lost in the abyss of a tortured mind that confuses something that it knows is temporary by fixating on it as permanent.

AND so, to unite the two parts of my brain, I make a solemn resolution, and I do it here in front of all my friends.  I will take a deep breath, and remind myself that
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die...
...a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance... (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

And as I remind myself I will tell myself that if I need to break down, I will break down.  And then I will build myself back up and get on with my life.  If I need to weep, weep I will.  If I need to laugh and dance, please, come over and laugh and dance with me.  And most of all, I will remind myself that this baby will have its time to be born, and I will feel better once more.
But, I will also remind myself that, in the event that something catastrophic happens and my life is filled with endless days of physical discomfort or pain, that too shall pass in time.  I will remind myself that
My [daughter], peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high... (Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-8)

So my mantra becomes "even this, is temporary."

Monday, October 3, 2011

The H Factor

I never thought I would be one of those families that has some themed system for naming their children.  I don't think there is anything wrong with it, I just never thought that I would be coordinated enough to pull it off.  So imagine my surprise when people keep asking me if we are going to "stick with the H's", because, shocker though this may be, we did not do it on purpose.  It is kind of fun the way it has turned out, though.

My parents did have a system for naming their children. As I understand it, my dad picked the names for the boys, and chose the names of his two best friends. My mother picked the names for the girls, and picked names of friends that she liked (the names, not the friends. Of course she liked her friends.)  She wanted to go with Patricia for either my sister or I, but my dad said no. So, we ended up with Peter, Daniel, Amy, and Michelle.  Then they each gave us a middle name beginning with an H, perhaps because both of my parents have middle names beginning with an H (once my mom moved her maiden name to her middle name, that is). For middles then we were Hurn, Helaman, Heather, and Halley.

Now to my first pregnancy. We found out it was a girl, and Devin wanted to name her Heather.  I was not so keen on the idea.  Not at all. But I have always liked my sister's middle name, and so we agreed on that, and I changed the spelling to reflect my mother's name as well: Vickie.  Thus, we had Hallie.

When we were pregnant with Hanna, we knew that if it was a boy we would name him David Jonathon.  When we found out we were having another girl, we were in serious name trouble. Devin brought Heather up again, and again, I was not so keen.  We struggled.  Then one day I was talking to my friend Hannah on the phone, and after hanging up I asked Devin what he thought of that name.  He liked it.  Yippee! Baby girl had a name.  It never entered my mind that we now had two H's, until other people mentioned it.  As for the spelling on that one, one day Devin was practicing writing it to see how it flowed (he's a funny man) and I noticed that he kept spelling it H-a-n-n-a, with no 'h' on the end.  When I asked him why he was spelling it like that, he informed me that hello, that is how Hanna is spelled.  I asked him what happened to the 'h' on the end.  He said there is no 'h' on the end. I told him that it is MY friend whose name is Hannah, and there is most definitely an 'h' on the end. We ended up looking the name up in a name book, and lo and behold, you can spell it both ways. Go figure.  Thus, Hanna, and our second H, was born.

Along came this pregnancy, and yet again, we knew that if it was a boy we would name him David Jonathon.  (I'm actually sort of beginning to miss this person that has never existed, my little David Jonathon.  Where is he?)  Devin had the temerity to again bring up Heather, if we found out it was a girl.  Now it has been four years that he has been talking about "his Heather".  Four years is a long time to say no to your husband.  I began to think of the baby as Heather, in my head. Then one day I made the mistake of telling Devin that.  That's when I knew the discussion was over, and so, slightly crossing my fingers that it would be a boy - if only for the David Jonathon vs. Heather bit - we went to the ultrasound.

I couldn't stop laughing when they told me we were having another girl.  Heather.

That's how we ended up with three H's, and why, if someday we do have a boy, his name WILL NOT begin with an H.  But, if it satisfies you, he will have the same initials as Devin.  Happy? Well, I am.