Friday, September 28, 2007

Against My Better Judgement

I really get annoyed with inspirational posts and forwards- you know what I am talking about. The kind that are suppose to bring you to tears, build you up, make you want to adopt kittens, reach out to all women as sisters, and pass it on or risk being branded as heartless. Gag me. I am fine with having the heart of a troll.

Having said that, I would like to post one of those such yucky inspirational posts. So I have the heart of a hypocritical troll, sue me. I really liked what the following story is saying, and I really like the way it says it. Sorry if you gag.

I'm Invisible.

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, "Can't you see I'm on the phone?" Obviously not. No one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I'm invisible. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, "What time is it? "
I'm a satellite guide to answer, "What number is the Disney Channel?"
I'm a car to order, "Right around 5:30, please."
I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude - but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going . she's going . she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a banana clip and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, "I brought you this."
It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription: "To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees." In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything. A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, "Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it." And the workman replied, "Because God sees." I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, "I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building agreat cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become." At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride. I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on.The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree. When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, "My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey forthree hours and presses all the linens for the table." That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, "You're gonna love it there." As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Sound of Silence

Silence is never a good thing in our house, because it usually means messes, destruction, and/or dismemberment. A couple of nights ago, I realized Claire had been awfully silent in the kitchen for a long time. This is what I found upon entering:
She was trying to make herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, wasting the extremely valuable homemade jam. It was all over her, the counter, the chair she was standing on, and even inside the bread bag. It was hard to be mad at her, because she was so proud of herself for being grown up. So yet another sticky situation I had to clean up.
In other Claire news, today she was sitting on the potty, going poops, when I asked her if she was all done. She responds, "No, I am just frustrated." It's a new word she has been using a lot as of late. But hey, who hasn't been there before?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Happy Birthday, Cinder. . . I mean Michelle!

Happy Birthday Michelle!

Here are some facts about my sister Michelle that you may find interesting:

Michelle is a true Cinderella Story- I mean the transformation thing, not the whole marrying a guy she had known for only one day in order to escape an indentured existence with two ruthless stepsisters. She wore glasses all growing up- the thick, pink variety. She was, how do we say, a bit nerdy and then in high school she got contacts and BOOM, she was gorgeous! (not that she wasn't gorgeous before, but the two coke bottles she was wearing kinda distracted from the beauty behind them)

Michelle is an incredibly hard worker- another Cinderella comparison. In fact growing up my dad would call her Cinderella, and me and my other sister Anastasia and Drusilla (that's because we would gang up on Michelle!). I shared a room with Michelle for most of growing up and she was a neat freak (and I was absolutely the opposite, sorry shells!) She would also study like a maniac- she would be in her room for hours after school doing her school work. So it's no surprise that she graduated with her Associates Degree when she was 18 and went to College with a full ride scholarship. She's smart, what more can I say.

Um, she was a math education major, yet if you ask her to do basic math or multiplication, she can't. But she can do all sorts of complicated proofs and forms of calculus that I don't even know the correct terms to describe them.

She is a lawyer. She loves school so when she graduated from BYU at the ripe old age of 21 she decided to go to Law School. This threw me for a bit of a loop because growing up, she was afraid to take cookies out of the oven. But that is the thing about Michelle- she is always surprising everyone with her amazing accomplishments, perseverance, and confidence. She worked one year as a lawyer before she moved to CA and entered her favorite job of motherhood.

Michelle is extremely compassionate and feeling. I remember in college stopping by her apartment or her stopping by my apartment to talk about all our ups and our downs. She was a great shoulder to cry on. (that's figuratively, because we aren't really a 'huggy' family!) She is excited about what I am excited about, she is quick to praise and compliment, and she cries with me when I need a good cry. She loves her family and especially her nieces and nephews. She is affectionately known as Aunt No No.

She may strike some people as shy, but she is anything but shy. She has a kooky sense of humor- she thinks nobody gets her sarcasm, so she follows all of her jokes with, "I'm just kidding". She is also not afraid to stand up for her beliefs and she is unafraid to be passionate about what she believes in (don't mention tithing with her). (to clarify that last parenthetical, she believes in paying tithing; just a little inside joke)

Michelle was on the cross country team in high school. She won the ward checkers tournament as a teen. She loves to quilt. She highlighted her hair in college. She rivals me as the queen of putting her foot in her mouth! She loves to laugh. When she was little she made a horrible rrrrrrr throaty sound when she would draw or write. She unabashedly cheats when she plays games. She was my partner in all things pretend. She didn't like it when I borrowed her clothes. She is extremely friendly. She is a great mother and she produces really cute kids! She has smooth, glossy hair. She bites her fingernails. She can't keep a straight face when she plays Balderdash. She knows her Book of Mormon trivia like the back of her hand. She has a scar on her upper lip from when I slammed her face in the door when we were little. She is a great sister and she has always been my best friend!

Happy Birthday, Shells! I love you! (this is where we would hug if you were here and we were a 'huggy' type of family).

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

45 Minutes of Blitheness

I have enrolled Claire in a beginner's dance class. Its a class for three and four year olds where they do 15 minutes of tap, 15 minutes of ballet, and 15 minutes tumbling, all while wearing leotards. How can that not be cute? I have taken Claire twice now and words cannot adequately describe how much I enjoy watching her and the 12 other little girls tapping their toes, shaking their hips, twirling in circles. . . you get the picture. It just makes my heart happy. There is just one caveat that threatens to mar my blithe viewing pleasure.

If there is one thing I know about Claire is that she can be in her own little world from time to time. She loves playing with other kids, but she also is just as content playing on her own, pretending, make-believing, dancing to the rhythm of her own imaginary drum, taking the fast train to downtown la la land, as we say on the east side, yada, yada, yada. I am not oblivious to the fact that her listening skills are somewhat lacking- oh she can hear fine, because you can be calling her name for ten minutes without a response, but as soon as you say the code word 'Popsicle', she is all at attention. But really, she's three- a little distraction is to be expected.

So knowing Claire as well as I do, I was interested/excited/worried to see how well Claire would listen and follow instructions in her first structured dance class. Let's just say Claire didn't fail to entertain.

I wish I could show you the video of her first day at dance, but I can't get it onto my computer. It was hilarious. Claire is standing in line with the the other girls, whom are all actually listening to the teacher, while Claire is hugging the girl next to her, showing her finger that has an ouchie to anyone within an arm's reach, hopping up and down, turning back to wave at me and say cheese from across the room when she sees I have my camera. But the biggest distractor of the day was that darn wall-size mirror in front of her. Sure, the dance teacher is fun and energetic, but she's got nothin' on Claire's reflection. Why would Claire pay attention to the teacher when she can just strike poses and admire her gazelle-like dance moves in the mirror in front of her the whole time?

Now what concerns me about this is that Claire was the only one doing this out of the 12 other little girls- they were all dancing along with the teacher. Of course, some did cry and run back to their moms; some occasionally strayed from the black line they were standing on; some sat down when they were suppose to be standing. But Claire was by far and away the worst listener! I heard "Claire this" and "Claire that" so often from the teacher that I am sure all the parents left that day with at least one child's name memorized.
I wasn't embarrassed. I was highly amused. And maybe the fact that I thought it was horribly cute is the reason why Claire has the worst attention span out of all those girls her age- can you say 'indulgent parent'?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Walk in the Park

Due to the graphic content of this blog, parental discretion is advised.

Last night, the weather in Pittsburgh was just beautiful and Cody and I decided to take our little fam on a nice stroll to the park. We make our way down to the park, which is about a quarter of a mile away, with Morgan bundled in a pack snuggled against Cody's chest, and Claire walking, hopping, skipping, and tripping next to me. Claire plays in the park for a while and then she decides she wants to head over to the soccer fields at the park where there are a bunch of kid-teams practicing. Its starting to get dark so we tell her its time to start walking home. Claire, being the obedient child that she is, takes off running and manages to disrupt three different soccer teams by running directly through their practice. I, of course, was running after her, calling out her name, but it didn't help that she had quite the head start, and I was slowed down by, shall we say, heaving bosoms and a not-so-very-supportive nursing bra (that's not even the graphic stuff, folks). Finally a coach got a hold of her and kindly brought her back to me. Embarrassing? Nah, not really. This kind of stuff happens all the time in our household. And the only reason I bothered to write this part is because it is one of the stars that aligned to create the perfect storm, that nearly robbed us of our lives. . .

Normally when we leave the park we take a little path that leads to a parking lot of a catholic school that leads to a road that leads to our home. But since Claire had decided to run all the way across the field, we were far away from that path. The parking lot, however, was right above us- we just had to climb up a steep wooded slope to the parking lot and theoretically save a lot time and distance. I didn't want to do it, since Cody had Morgan strapped to his chest- the slope was muddy and slick, I didn't want him to fall. But he said we could do it if we walked on the branches and bramble along the side of the mud path. The path wasn't super long- maybe 20 ft, but it was pretty steep. I was also worried about Claire being able to do it. Cody went on ahead while I tried to get Claire to walk up the path. Claire wanted to hold Dad's hand but he had Morgan and was already half way up the path. So I was fighting with her to hold her hand, to make her walk on the side and not on the slick mud, which is where her real desire lay, when I started to slip, so I turned around and brought Claire down. I decided that it wasn't worth fighting Claire all the way up a slippery path, so we would just walk around. Claire was in partial tantrum mode (partial, because she was only screaming her head off, and not limp-fishing it). By this time Cody had made it to the top and we couldn't see him anymore- Claire thought he was leaving us and she didn't understand that we could catch up to him if we walked around a different way. Well, while Claire was trying to break the sound record with her voice, apparently Cody was also screaming something up at the top of the hill, but I couldn't hear him over previously cited tantrum. Claire was looking so sad, so abandoned about not following dad up the hill, I thought I wouldn't fight this battle, that I would just lift Claire up the slope and get to the top with dad. If only I had heard what Cody had been screaming, we would have been safe. . . (if this was a Nancy Drew novel, this would be the end of a chapter).

So I start lugging Claire up this mountain side. It was really starting to get dark, plus the path was completely covered overhead by trees, and Claire was screaming all the way up that she didn't want to be carried, she wanted to walk by herself. But I was too focused on making it up the path to care that she was screaming. I get almost to the top of the hill when all of the sudden I feel sharp, fire, needles, pain on my leg. I didn't know what it was but it was sharp pain all over my ankle and my first thought is, I have fire ants on my leg and they were biting. I start running and shouting, "ouch, ouch" (you can imagine I am sure), carrying a confused and probably scared Claire to the top of the hill where I stop, put Claire down, and start brushing off whatever the heck was attacking my leg. Cody suddenly sees us there screaming, when he runs toward us shouting, "Run, run!!" So I pick up Claire again, and run towards him, in shock, confusion, and anger, yelling, "what the heck is that?"

"Bees!" he shouts.

Wasps, actually. We had apparently walked right through a wasp's nest. Cody had gone through first and was stung several times on the leg- he took off running, yelling back at us not to come up because there were bees. When he got away from the bees he noticed Morgan had a bee in her hair, and he swatted it way, but not before it had stung her in the back of the head. He thought we had heard him and were walking around to the other path, so he stunned when he saw us at the top of the path, screaming. I was stung four times on my legs and once in my armpit (I hope there is a special place in hell for that particular wasp) and it felt like I was on fire. Claire was just frightened and confused, asking me if a bug had bitten me. She, luckily, had not been stung at all. But Morgan, MORGAN! When I found out Morgan had been stung, I started crying- I was mad, I was in pain, and I felt horrible and fearful that Morgan had been stung. A million scenarios rushed through my head (okay not a million, just one)- what if she had a reaction and started to swell- she is only 3 and half weeks old!! When we got home, Cody picked the stinger out of her head, all while she was screaming. It was heartbreaking.

So tonight, 24 hours later, we are all doing fine. The searing pain in my leg and armpit have gone away, though not the annoying itch that inevitably follows stings. Morgan seems to be doing well, she doesn't cry when you touch the spot where she was bit. We feel horribly unlucky that we happened upon that path last night, and we feel lucky that none of us were allergic to wasps (remember that horrible scene from My Girl?). Cody promised me he would make a special trip back to that path and give those wasps a proper greeting, vigilante style.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Pardon Me Boys, is That the. . .

When grandma came to visit, Claire and I took her to the Duquesne Incline to see the city. The Incline is on a top of a huge hill that in the old days the way to get from the top to the bottom was to ride the incline. A wee bit of history about the 'burgh. It is a beautiful view.
Claire saw the trolley (actually an incline) and all she could talk about was riding it. It goes down a steep slope and lets just say Grandma is afraid of heights, so I told Claire we could come back with daddy and take a ride.
So for the next several days, all Claire could talk about was taking her daddy to the trolley for a ride. So finally we decided to head out as a family and ride the trolley up and down the mountain. Claire loved it!
Cody was a bit scared once we got in the trolley, because it is a steep slope down. But it was is a beautiful hillside with wildlife you can spy, and we had a good time. We went down the hill, then got back into the other trolley to go back up. It took about 10 minutes altogether, but to Claire, it was magic!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Ode to Me Mudder

I have been meaning to post this for a while. Of course, the darling baby is Morgan, but the darling quilt upon which she is lounging on was made by my dear mother. It is so darn cute- the colors and print go so perfect together- and I think its so Morgan. But as always, the thing that really makes a quilt is the quilting which my mom did and it is so cute- see how in the white squares there is a flower quilted. Its those little details that make this quilt so charming and perfect. Thank you to my endlessly talented mom-her quilts never cease to amaze and inspire me.

Not only did my mom make Morgan a quilt, she came here to the PA for a week to help me after Morgan was born. I was a little worried about having my mom here, just because of all the inconvenience it would be for her. First off, she isn't a fan of flying- she has never really been east of Salt Lake City! So to fly across the country was a pretty big deal for her. Second, once she got here, she had to share a room with a pretty temperamental three year old! And the final kicker is how hot and humid it was the week she was here- and we have very, very sub-par air conditioning here. So she suffered in the heat, even cooking meals and yummy treats all week in the heat without complaining at all. She was amazing- she helped out with Claire during a difficult time for Claire- and that alone deserves a medal! She kept the house clean, made Claire feel like a princess, made delicious food, and kept me company during the pretty difficult days after having a baby. I love my mom. My whole life she has been making sacrifices for me and I will always, always know without a doubt that she loves being my mom and loves being a grandma!

When we dropped my mom off at the airport to go home, Claire had fallen asleep, so she wasn't able to say goodbye. When Claire woke up on our way home, she asked me where Grandma was and it nearly broke my heart! I told her she was on the airplane going home, and Claire got the saddest face and started to cry that she wanted to go to Grandma's house. It made me cry. We had that much fun with grandma! Again, thank you so much mom!
(We took Grandma up to a view point to look out over the city.)