Saturday, October 27, 2012

When Austin comes to call

Two weekends ago was great. Austin came to visit and we acted like young carefree college students again. But not the kind that get drunk and run around naked when it's freezing outside, Wisconsin-undergrad style. The kind that eat at ethnic restaurants and take public transportation and buy delicious victuals at the Farmer's Market. We also toured the Capitol and went to a lecture on Women and Islam and walked the lakeshore path. Tallulah hung out with us most of the time, nestled in the Ergo on one of our chests. It was fabulous, and even though I had to do a ton of work this week to catch up, it was well worth every minute!

Our sweet downtown

In the Senator's chair

Atop the Capitol

Hellllooooo, Madison!

Inside the Capitol

Hiking the trail by our the rain

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I'm on sabbatical

Everyone (ok, Kayla) keeps asking about my opinion and thoughts on Tim's faith crisis, or if I'm having my own, etc. I would not say that I'm having the same existential crisis as Tim, but I have decided to take a bit of a break. Years of frustration with inequality and inconsistencies of both doctrine and practice have built up until I had a breaking point and could not take it anymore. I clung to the bits and pieces that the feminist Mormon online community could throw me about how the Church is actually progressive and good for women and here's a, b, and c reasons why you should stay LDS, but ultimately it seems like grasping at threads. Elusive spider webs that are almost non-existent.

I'm over the rhetoric that women are sooooo righteous and Mormon women especially are sooooo liberated/powerful/strong/self-confident. But actually, they just do whatever a bunch of white, upper-middle-class, heterosexual white males tell them to do without questioning. They don't hold positions of power and they don't make decisions for the Church (and according to some, they should not make the decisions in their own families as well) -- but they don't want to, right? Why would we want our overly-spiritual and sensitive women to fret over the mundane workings of the Church? Leave the dirty work to the men, right? Why would I as a woman want to take on these masculine qualities of power and betray my feminine qualities of nurturing?

Well, I don't buy it anymore, and part of me feels misled and slightly brainwashed. You've told me my whole life one thing but in reality it does not play out in the least. The Relief Society budget is still allocated by males. Men have to approve women's activities. Young women's budgets are a pittance of the young men's (Boy Scouts does not equal the lame-o YW program). We claim to believe in Heavenly Mother, yet we aren't allowed to talk about her or pray to her. All the answers people give me to my questions feel like dry, empty rhetoric.

Women are invisible. They don't sit on the stand, they don't speak (often) in general conference, and then when they do, their messages have to be approved by men. I'm sick of being relegated to a lesser position, of being a second sex. I will not put my daughter on the back-burner.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Fabulous Tallulah (at 7 months)

Sheesh, has it only been 7 months?? I feel like I've known this girl for a lifetime. She is still unfailingly pleasant and smiles at everyone. She had a few incidents of stranger anxiety, but they have been fewer and farther between. She loves to nurse (still going strong at 10-12 times a day) and pinch and pull your hair and steal Atticus's Arthur game pieces but we love her to bits anyways. She can roll and scoot on her back and even pulled herself from sitting up to her knees. She is a confident unsupported sitter (with the occasional topple) and can go from sitting to her belly with little effort (but then she gets mad that she can't go back to sitting). She rarely poops and sometimes will eat real food but not too often (so far, our biggest hit was chicken tortilla soup after she rejected the lovingly pureed beets and butternut squash from the farmers' market). She loves being in the Moby wrap while Tim does the dishes and going for stroller rides to brother's preschool.

She sits through feminist book clubs meetings without a peep (she's soaking it alllllll in) and sometimes goes to school with mom. She has fuzzy blonde hair and still the longest fingers. She weighed in at her last pediatrician appointment at a whopping 14 lbs, 13 oz. Looks like she's following the exact same growth curve as her brother. She has one bottom tooth and is (thankfully) not a nipple biter, though she does like to gnaw on people's fingers and that sucker is sharp. Despite the teething and recent illness and being cooped up in the house because of bad weather (rainy and 50s, bleh) she is a trooper! She loves her Aunt Austin and they had some serious bonding time last weekend when she was visiting. She is vocal and lets you know what she wants and when she wants it. Like now, she wants me to nurse her to sleep and is batting at my chest and squealing like a baby pig.

What a gal!

This is not edited, her eyes are really that blue!

She loooooves broccoli! Baby-led weaning at its finest.

This one is actually a few months old... and she still doesn't like avocado

Friday, October 19, 2012


Although I am much less inclined to post about political topics than I used to be, and although there is little doubt among our readers who I am voting for, and although I am already tired of election season, I would be remiss if I went the whole season without making a public endorsement, so here is some kids summing up of nearly exactly how I feel.

A couple of notes. I think that it is hilarious the pbs kids does this. Also, I am not sure if Hillary Clinton is among the past presidential figures if you design your own sticker or if it's Thomas Jefferson. Also, I am somewhat tempted to vote for Jill Stein, as my increasingly leftist politics have left me unsatisfied at times with the President's actions, but I'm too much a pragmatist for that. That is all. Hopefully I won't be tempted to make any more directly political statements through the end of the year.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

New acquisitions

Check out some of the new things we've gotten for our new apartment. We moved out here with pretty much nothing, so we've had to buy some things. Here are some of the things that we really like.

Artistic dish drainer

Bins for toys and recycling. We got two.

We actually picked up this little kitchen in South Carolina on the side of the road

We were looking for a chair like this ever since we got here
Things we still need:
A couch
A microwave

Monday, October 15, 2012

South Carolina

I really enjoyed my stay in South Carolina. I know that anyone who was with me might have some doubts about the truth behind that statement. Cait obviously has a lot more emotional ties to the area than I do, but I grew attached to the place in my time there. I found it thoroughly enjoyable how the days seemed to stretch forever, both because we were in the heart of summer as well as because we had very little structure to our days.

While I felt slightly guilty for not having a real job (although I got in quite a few hours doing some paid writing for my mom and a SEO site), it was great just to have some uninterrupted time together as a family and have a lot of other people around to talk with and to play with our kids. In a summer with so little on our plates, there was never a dull moment.

I really appreciate that Cait's parents were willing to host us for so long. We are a very peculiar family and have a particular way of doing things, as do most families, and the Carroll's also have their way of doing things. There were a lot of clashes, but few big deals. They even let me work on my car in their front yard for a few weeks.

The trip to the beach was especially nice. We never really did "full vacation" things like that growing up, we mostly camped. It was fun to all be together with most of the family in a place where nobody had anything really going on and we were all able to relax (as much as the big Carroll clan can relax when they're all together).

I often felt like my personality didn't mesh very well with the family dynamic, but that is to be expected, since Cait and I love each other for being so different form each other in many ways. I learned a lot about people who are really important in our life, and that makes being a little bit uncomfortable worth it.

So thanks to everyone who made it a great summer. I really enjoyed it. Here are some unpublished videos from the season.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bragging about Cait

Listen up everybody, Cait is doing awesome. Of course with any big life change, there is plenty of doubt about whether this is the right course. Should we have just stayed in Provo, gone to Rutgers, been hippy midwives (both of us) in the forests of Tennessee? Well, we're here and we're doing just fine. When Cait had to pick which program to join between Rutgers or Wisconsin, she picked the more difficult one. When she had to pick French or Arabic as her primary language of study, she picked the harder one. When she had to decide whether to do the whole thing with one kid or two (this was more of a joint decision) she picked the harder one. And she's done the whole thing with a stay-at-home dad that is still having a hard time fully transitioning into being at home. He's not great at making dinner, keeping things clean or getting the kids to bed. But she's not just getting it done, she's excelling.

That's pretty much all this post is about. I'm really proud. Just check out these pictures. Cait had a full day of classes, came home and went to a potluck with members of her cohort while taking care of her baby, her son was happily running around and then went shopping with us.

She even gets great grades on her Arabic tests, something I never accomplished.

Hot Chocolate in Here for $.99

I dropped the price of Hot Chocolate in Here to a mere $.99. Pick it up while copies are still available. Also, leave a review, good or bad, when you finish.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Arthur game

Atticus is going through a definite board game phase. We have bought him a number of different games, but he always goes back to the "Arthur game." It's simple, interactive, and full of his favorite characters. It's supposed to be a matching game, but he just plays it in a more simple way, where you spin, find the character and match his card to the book. You don't care how it is played, it is just cute.

I have to say, I'm getting tired of it, but it beats chasing him around the house.

And yes, I realize that Principal Skinner is from the Simpsons. It's Principal Haynie, who is a bear. I know, Gordon, I know.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Faith Crisis: General Conference

Disclaimer: All posts about my faith crisis, going forward, will likely have some parts that are negative about the LDS church. Also, they will be really self-centered, but that's the nature of a faith crisis. If you want to avoid these two things, please feel free to look at other posts that have pictures of our kids.

For whatever reason, mainly timing I suppose, or perhaps divine guidance, it seems like this general conference was destined to act as a big turning point in my faith crisis. I’m not sure if it will end up being so, but it has had a big effect on me in the short term. I’ve always loved conference. It is associated in my mind with being with my family on otherwise carefree weekends at beautiful times of the year. It feels familiar and warm.

It also represents my biggest concern about the church, that concern being that I want to stay in the church not because it represents truth and goodness, but because it represents the familiar and the comfortable. The greatest dilemma that I see towards me gaining a full faith again is that testimony, as it is viewed by the LDS church is so dependent on feeling, and feeling is so prone to outside influence. I feel great listening to conference. The voices and themes are familiar, motivating and substantial. I can feel the love that those speaking have for those who are listening.

The comfort isn’t so overwhelming that I don’t see the sexism inherent in having an almost exclusively male set of speakers (with any female speakers relegated to topics such as “women,” “children” or “charity). I’m also upset by all the blaming of “the world” for the problems inside the church. This “us vs them” mentality is certainly biblical, but not really helpful or uplifting. To blame “the world” for the pornography problem inside the church seems hypocritical when Utah has the highest rate of subscriptions to pornographic websites in the country. All the veiled references to homosexuals destroying marriage aren’t helping either (what other form is “Satan’s attack on marriage” taking, besides pornography?). However, I was mostly able to put those concerns aside and just enjoy the messages of men who obviously cared about making the world a better place.

I just can’t get over the feeling that if I was brainwashed, this is what brainwashing would feel like. Every six months I watch five two-hour sessions with familiar older men telling me familiar and repetitive messages. I disagree on a fundamental moral level with many of the teachings of the church. I’m uncomfortable with the idea that I have to try to depend fully on my “feelings” to know if the church is true or not, when so much of the church system is geared at influencing or manipulating those feelings, depending on how you look at it. How am I supposed to separate feelings about what I’ve been told my whole life is true and good from what I “actually” feel is true and good? For all those concerns, however, as soon as I see the slow panning images of temple square with organ music in the background, I immediately feel happy and comfortable. Of course, rather than having been brainwashed, the other obvious explanation for these feelings is that I’m feeling the Spirit.

That’s pretty much where I’m at right now. I’m vacillating between two paradigms, one of nearly full belief and one of nearly full atheism. Yesterday, I was pretty full on Mormon, today, I'm much more of an Atheist. It would be great to settle somewhere in-between, some kind of compromise, but there's not really room for that in my mind. If God exists, He might very well choose a single man or group of men to receive moral guidance for the rest of the world, because it would teach the world to humbly follow spiritual guidance. If that’s true, then my concerns about gender equality, social equity for homosexuals and all the other things pale in comparison. On the other hand, if a bunch of middle-aged white men wanted, consciously or subconsciously, to secure their elevated status in society that is increasingly questioning that privileged place, claiming divine authority for their leadership along with future godship and decrying the world as a cesspool of evil from which we all need saved and returned to the 1950s would also be a good option. Going along with this power play, donating 1/10th of my income to its cause and trying my best to get everyone else to go along with me is about the most evil thing I could do.

The hardest part is that prayer and spiritual reflection have always been my method of solving such moral dilemmas. However, when one of the sides of my dilemma is the belief that any answers I would receive through prayers are inherently biased and misleading. Sometimes I want to just dismiss it as “not that big a deal,” when of course, it is about the biggest deal there is.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Doves and Serpents guest blogger

Oh, and PS! I was a guest blogger, over at Doves and Serpents.

I've been feeling particularly opinionated lately, now that I'm forced to voice my opinion during seminars, I get the ego boost of feeling smart and then it translates into the online world.

The freedom of frugality

My mom has been making passive-aggressive statements lately about the nature of our lifestyle, and it seems as if she is implying our irresponsibility for our way of life. I don't mean to bring her out, because I'm guessing our unconventional ways are a little bewildering to many of our friends and family, and from the outside, maybe we do seem to be lazy drains on society. But, nonetheless, we think our life is almost perfect, and here's why:

Exhibit A: My mom made her first comment about how maybe since we both college degrees we should just "get a job..." and I'm presuming she's mostly talking about Tim. The reasons I went to grad school are many, but one big reason was due to the fact that we weren't even Tim would get a job right out of college, and rather than being unemployed and hopeless, this was our best bet. Obviously, he would've found something, but did he really want to work at Target full-time? Yeah, no. Besides, the amount of my stipend is probably what we would've been making at any job we would've found, unless by some rare occurrence he landed some sweet deal on a government job but he doesn't really want to do that with his life, he would've been gone a lot, and yeah, it wasn't too likely anyways. People always talk about HOW POOR grad students are, and even though we are grad students with two kids, I'm saying i don't feel that poor. In fact, now that we are finally making a steady paycheck for the first time in like, ever, I feel pretty dang wealthy. That $2084 monthly check feels nice and hefty in our bank account. So, yeah, get a job? Mom, I have a job. It's called "being really smart and getting a fellowship to grad school so I don't have to get a job right now but will one day probably have an even better job." Also, getting paid that much to go school about 20 hours a week ain't bad at all.

Exhibit B: Apparently, Tim and I don't know what it's like to live in the real world, to know how hard it is to pay bills and live paycheck to paycheck. Yes, maybe we don't know exactly, though we've paid plenty of bills in our day. I think my mom is implying here that we are government moochers, which many of you may also believe since we have happily admitted to using WIC, Medicaid, food stamps, etc. And while I used to be ashamed of those things, I'm embracing them because there is no shame, especially if you yourself are a socialist. We have a few Scandinavian friends now, and what we get from the government is meager compared to their benefits. I think my friend Eda said she gets something like $600 a month just for having a kid, plus free (or relatively cheap) childcare, a year maternity leave from her job (also, she's a student midwife, how cool is that?!), etc. Besides wanting to drop everything and move to Sweden immediately, it made me realize just how un-mooching-ness it is to be raising children and furthering my education, doing very hard work that will benefit society.

But I digress because the point I was going to make here was that most people live paycheck to paycheck because a) they are working minimum-wage jobs and have many financial obligations, or b) they are not frugal with their money. My mom (who is a nurse) thinks she and my dad (who is in the military) are "just making ends meet..." with their combined incomes. You are not just making ends meet when you live in a fairly large, newly remodeled home, you own more large screen flat TVs than people live in your home (not to mention 40000 channels), you eat out 5 days a week, and you have more clothes than you could possibly ever wear (plus you buy your granddaughter more clothes than SHE could possibly ever wear). Whatever lifestyle you choose, that's fine, but I don't buy the Ann Romney with your "oh, but we're just so ordinary and not rich at all...."

We are not living paycheck to paycheck, and never really have, not because we have government help, though thank you America for your kind-of wonderful system, which we certainly did not build. We are doing fine because we 1) live in a very tiny, very old apartment 2) everything we own has been used by others before us 3) we cook vegetarian, homemade food from real ingredients and go out to eat 5 times a year (maybe) and can manage a monthly food budget of $300 a month and 4) when we do purchase something that is expensive, we wait until we have the money and have never put anything on credit (yes, we own a double BOB and an iPad). It's liberating to know that you don't have outstanding credit card bills piling up or overdue loan payments or whatever that is that happens to people out there in the "real world." We use credit cards because we get a lot of money back at the end of the year, but we have never once paid interest or fees. We can garage-sale like nobody's business, and our kids still play awesome board games and wear awesome clothes because it's amazing what people will sell for 25 cents when they really don't want it anymore (aka adorable Zutano dress and Arthur game, thank you kind richer people than us).

Ok, so our lifestyle now brings us to the liberation issue. Because we are frugal and don't have any financial obligations that extend beyond our income, we are also able to make radical decisions or do sweet things that others don't have the ability to do with their choice of lifestyle. I had a conversation recently with my sister where she said something to the effect of... "I would love to switch places with my husband and go back to school or work for a while and he says he could handle the full-time parenting, but it doesn't make financial sense for us..." which I get, because her husband works in a lucrative career field and she has been a stay-at-home mom for 10 years with no career training or education past her bachelor's degree. It makes sense for them to continue living in a nice house and continue the lifestyle they are living with her husband's income and her reproductive labor. They have a nicely defined set of tasks and they are both specialized in those tasks, and complete them efficiently and don't want to embark on the messy issues of forging an unknown path. And to be quite frank, if I haven't been already, there are some days I come home from a crap day at school and walk into a messy house with a screaming baby who I've missed terribly and I collapse down to nurse her and look at Tim and say, "freak, will you just find a job because this sucks!"

But... I'd rather live the slightly messy, slightly more complicated life we have chosen fulfilling my dreams and passions while allowing Tim his space to be both a caretaker for our children and (kind of) fulfill his passion for writing (when he gets a spare moment), making waves by shaking things up and being a little bit odd in this overly-socially-constructed world.

Boogs sometimes wonders "why the heck did I choose these parents?" but most of the time she thinks we're awesome

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


I don't particularly enjoy blogging as of late. I'm not sure I've ever really been into it, but I do like having a written and graphic depiction of our life. Looking back on old posts and reading my thoughts on my babies and husband and trips, etc. brings me joy. Also sadness, but mostly joy.

Something that is weird is time. Tim and I watched a NOVA episode on time the other night, and my brain felt like it was going to explode. Because how can we even possibly ever understand the concept of time and the universe? No matter how hard we try and how smart and talented we are, one thing we cannot do is make time stop. It's elusive to everyone on earth, and we are all equally subject to it (unless we can travel the speed of light like Ender and then not age as fast, but then we'd probably explode so it'd be pointless).

It got me thinking about this summer, when we sat around watching old family movies together. Seeing myself as a child wasn't nearly as mind-boggling as seeing my parents in my place, only 20-odd years ago. Young, attractive, balancing family and work, changing diapers, giving baths. My favorite clips were the ones where my parents just set their camera on the tripod during regular activities and let it run for half an hour. The documentation of the trips around the European countryside weren't half bad either, but I loved the mundaneness of the everyday activities, the same activities I'm engaging in daily with my small children. I felt closer to my mom and dad thinking about their lives from where I am now, doing the same day-to-day reproductive labor.

In addition to watching the videos, this summer I also talked a lot to my mom and grandma about their lives. I know Mormons love them some family history and I probably should've recorded everything and written it down, but talking about the past is such a raw and vulnerable experience that having a paper and pen at the ready kind of ruins the process. My mom had a pretty rough childhood, and she didn't talk about it much when we were growing up (do most adults?) and so hearing it from her when I am now an adult really struck me. It struck me in the part of my brain that can't handle the idea of fleeting time.

The idea of eternity used to really freak me out. I mean, it doesn't STOP! Ever! But having babies, I realize now that I don't want this to stop, but it will in this life. My babies will grow up and move out and have families of their own. They will move to Wisconsin and Seattle and Des Moines and I will see them 2.4 times a year, and my heart will ache to hold them again.

Valerie Hudson once told me that her heaven would be eternally rocking her babies. I totally get that now. I love rocking them now, and I can't even imagine how much I will miss it when they grow up and no longer fit in my lap. Atticus is already almost there. And while I love his newfound independence and the four hours he's at preschool and the fact he can go potty by himself, I look back at baby Atticus and I cry every time. Because he's gone, the same but different and morphed into this man-child that I hardly recognize some mornings.

The Book

I'm very happy to announce the self-publishing of my first book. This is by no means a masterpiece, but of the 5 or so books that I've got to a first draft, it was the only one I've liked enough to edit enough for publishing. It was also, incidentally, the first book I ever finished. It's a nice little read, if I do say so myself. I am tempted to launch into a critique of my writing, six or seven years out, but I'll resist. I am actually, secretly, quite proud of it. If you like it, you're welcome, if not, too bad. It was only $3.

Find my first book Here.

Technical notes: I am only publishing my book on kindle for the first 90 days, because Amazon offers some pretty good incentives to do so. Also, if this book has any chance of success (which are slim) it will be on Amazon. So if you really want to get it on the nook or whatever other reader, email me or google+ me and I'll let you know how you would get that. Also, no plans to publish physical copies. The entry price of that is way too high unless you have a publisher, which I don't. Take this as an opportunity to get yourself a kindle. The simplest (and in my opinion, best) kindle is only $69. Or download the free app on any smartphone, pc or mac. If you're reading this post, you've got one of those. Or someone printed out a copy of this post and mailed it to you. I doubt that.

I also plan on dropping the price to $.99 sometime soon, so if you want to wait for that, feel free. I'll let the blog know when that happens. It will probably be free sometime in the distant future, if I get around to making this book a part of a series.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Week in Review: Sep 30

It's been a full week, and a what I feel like will be a pretty typical week here in Madison, except hopefully we don't end every week with everyone in the family getting the flu. Last Sunday was a relatively full Sunday, as we went to the Unitarian church in the morning, had a music class for Atticus in the afternoon and had one of our home teachers come over in the evening (who is also going through his own faith transition).

Cait had a presentation on Monday and lots of school, homework and extra lectures. I ran with the local running group on Monday night. We all came up to campus on Tuesday night as Cait had a long day of school and then extra lectures after. She tried to take Lula while I took Atticus around to different buildings, exploring. But campus just isn’t a good place for kids, so I don’t know if we’ll try that again. Wednesday we went to a local playgroup in the morning, that was quite the bike ride. Thursday Atticus went to the fire station with his school. Friday night there was a kids night out at the Eagle Heights community center, where you can drop the kids off for the night, supposedly so you can go on a date. Cait did homework, and I did shopping.

It was clear, though, after Atticus came back, that he was getting sick. And now we’ve all had the flu for the past few days. Cait did make it to the Relief Society broadcast on Saturday night and I went to the Unitarian Church (henceforward known as FUS) on Sunday morning, but we’ve pretty much been in survival mode ever since, with me being really sick last night and Cait really sick today. I was able to get most of the final touches on my first book done and will be posting it online soon, so at least there is that to be excited about.