Wednesday, January 29, 2014


I originally entitled this post "SADD" thinking the acronym was for Seasonal Affective Depression Disorder, but I found upon googling this stands for "Students against Destructive Decisions" which is not the topic of this post. This winter has been brutal, and accompanying it is a huge old dose of SAD for me. I'm sleepy and grumpy and want to stay in bed all day, plus the idea of giving away my kids is starting to seem more and more palatable. I have always loved our tiny apartment, but it nows feels like a prison, since going anywhere when it "feels like" -20 outside (nightly wind chills of -45!!!) and frostbite can occur in minutes is virtually impossible with two small ones and no car. Sure, I have school and get away, but even that does not seem as fun as it used to when waiting for the bus is cold, cold, cold. Why we moved to Wisconsin is now a mystery to me, and we are contemplating moving to Texas, or California. HECK, I  HAVE EVEN CONSIDERED SOUTH CAROLINA. My devotion to as little screen time as possible for the kids has gone out the window with my sanity. Because when it's below zero outside, I have decided watching TV is not detrimental. I used to be all like "ohhh, we live on a nature preserve and it's the greatest place ever" and now I'm all like "we can't even freaking go outside 90% of the year for the snow during the winter and the mosquitos from the marsh in the summer." Freezing, or eaten alive by mosquitos. We get the worst of both worlds.

Tallulah never seems to mind the cold. If only they made those full-body down suits in larger sizes.

Enjoying some outside play time on a balmy 6-degree day. 

Get back to me in May. I'll be singing Madison's praises [from Tunisia] -- 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

January 20-26: Back to school

I have stayed away from posting these for a while, mainly out of laziness but I like reading Cait's sister Lauren's weekly summary posts so much, and I feel that it really helps me to connect with her family, that I will attempt it once again.

Monday: We had our last day of non-school for everyone for Martin Luther King day. We didn't do anything specific for the holiday, although we did go to a lovely Martin Luther King dinner for the community on the Friday night before. It was nice because it really seemed to represent all aspects of the Madison community, from a high proportion of homeless people, university professors, families and college students. It gave us a great chance to talk to Atticus about a number of different topics, including racial discrimination and wealth inequality. Of course, we had to talk at a very basic level, but I think he learned something. Monday night was supposed to be the night I was to be a guest on the Mormon Sunday School podcast, but it fell through.

One of our only photos from the event. Atticus is doing an interpretation of being oppressed. Or something.

Tuesday: The first day of school for everyone (except me, of course). Atticus had a half day and Tallulah had a full day. Lulah was very happy to be back, but Atticus had and is still having a hard time adjusting to his new school. Hopefully this gets better. We had a lecture night scheduled for that night, which is a community discussion night about random topics of interest that was started by our friends the Stoffers. However, the night was really cold and we didn't have anyone show up. We did end up with a very clean house though, so that is a plus.

Lulah is excited for school

Atticus, not so much

Wednesday: More school for Atticus and Cait. It was a long day of classes for Cait as she still tries to figure out her line-up of classes for this semester. At night I had a meeting with the FUS library committee of which I recently became the Chair. Apart from doing some major re-shelving and cleaning after a long holiday break, we mainly planned for shelving the large donation of children's books we recently received, but we also talked about my plans for sponsoring a reading parents playgroup/bookclub, where the parents would come during regular play-group hours to discuss a book while the kids played in the awesome childcare space. I hope it works out, because it is kind of my ideal playgroup situation.

The library
Thursday: Today I did actually participate in the recording of the podcast. Check it out: part 1 and part 2. Part 1 is designed to be a more traditional Sunday School experience although it still might feel unorthodox for some, while part 2 delves deeper into what might be difficult issues for some Mormons. Just fair warning. I really enjoy the discussions on these podcasts (I've done one in the past) and I find it a helpful space as I attempt to reengage Mormonism after roughly a year of mostly and intentionally stepping away.

Friday: Our University provided free baby-sitter came over today. I went to whole foods to work on grad school applications and do some shopping during my always too-short break.

The local turkey's we saw on the way back from school
Saturday: I went to help clean the Mormon church in the morning. We go to enough Mormon activities and don't pay any tithing that I felt it was a good way to do our part. Also it meant that I got to hang out with the Chambers, who are our good friends in the ward and fellow anti-capitalists. I could tell the missionaries who were there having a meeting were wondering who I was. The Chamber's son M. who is the same age as Atticus came over to play as Cait went to Costco with his mom. We went to FUS at night, joined by our good friend Brad. Atticus participated in the CRE banner parade, where each class makes a banner to present and hang for everyone to see. Atticus really liked walking in the parade. And then we had what was probably our coldest walk home yet.

Sunday: I took the kids with me to teach my CRE class. Atticus had come the last week to help make the banner, because Cait filled in for an absent teacher, so it was nice that he got to march in that banner parade too. Then I took them shopping for a few more essentials. We knew a big cold front was coming, so it was nice that we were able to get so much shopping done this week to stock the shelves.

A lot of this is Mom. But the pig in the jail...all Atticus

And, if you've made it this far, a couple of videos:

Friday, January 24, 2014

How many kids to have

One of the main questions I always want to ask anyone with kids, or who has been married for a while without kids, is "How do you decide how many kids to have?" Almost always I resist because I realize that this is a really sensitive topic for many people. There can be a lot of disappointment and heartache associated with not having the number of kids one would like to have (sometimes too many seems even more tragic for some people than too few).

I can't think of any more complex moral question than whether or not one should bring another fully human little person into the world. We, as a society almost always place the highest value on a person's individual identity and personal experience of being alive. And every time we have a baby, WE MAKE A WHOLE 'NOTHER PERSON! That just blows my mind. Every time I am able to see my children clearly enough to realize that they are an actual person and not a bottomless pit of terror, I stop in amazement. Just kidding on the bottomless pit of terror part (mostly)... I don't often see them this way. But I do think of them much more in terms of how they affect my life than in terms of them being fully human individuals in their own right.

It seems that almost always, the full implications of having a child is just too big for anyone to fathom, and so we default to some very simple decision-making processes in order to help us make the decision. "I had my kids close so they could be playmates" "I kept going because I really wanted a girl" "I wanted to wait until I was done with school before having kids." These are all, of course, very legitimate reasons for making a decision on whether to have kids. I want to be very clear that I am not judging anyone for when they decide to have kids. I've gone so wildly back and forth on the decision, or at least my 50% part in the decision, and use such simplistic reasons for trying to convince myself that I have reached a conclusion, that I don't often find myself trying to make a moral judgement on someone else's decision (although I have to admit that I sometimes do and then feel bad for it). Mainly I am just really fascinated by how people make really complex moral decisions and how often the reasoning becomes remarkably basic or utilitarian.

Is anyone else fascinated by this? Anyone willing to share how they make their decision? I promise to very actively not judge anyone for any reasoning at all. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

I'm fertile

It's true.

You people know I have all the luck, so after being period-free for five years (lactational amenorrhea ftw), I would begin menstruating again the day of my cross-country flight with my toddler. Seeing as how I've been missing out on a period for so long, and hearing from friends about how horrific postpartum periods are, I was dreading this moment (plus, I totally forgot how to insert a tampon). But it was so light, I thought it might even be implantation bleeding and I was pregnant (though I'm still not proved wrong about this, maybe I should take a pregnancy test?) However, considering the state of my libido in the two weeks previous (at first attributed to my relief to not be in school anymore), I'm guessing I'm just back to my old, regular cycling self. Complete with hormonal ebbs and flows, including the massive headaches and the teenage-like acne (the worst part for me. I am really thinking about getting pregnant again to clear up my skin, it's so awful right now).

I have been strangely excited about this new return to fertility and womanhood. It's not like pregnancy and breastfeeding are not part of womanhood, and you may think I'm crazy, but I have always found menstruating weirdly satisfying. Like a special club. Because who doesn't love to eat chocolate and sit around in sweats and whine about cramps? And I love the bit about roommates being on the same cycle and how in the book The Red Tent all the women gather together during that time of the month and share stories and secrets and rituals and are not secluded to be banished and ashamed but are set apart to be celebrated and pampered. I also love the part where I can actually think about and enjoy sex again! It's been a LONG 22 months. Just ask the ever-patient partner of mine. Now to wean that almost 2-yr-old... and maybe convince her that her bed is actually comfier than ours...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Flashback: A night in the Johannesburg police barracks

Our friend Bridget had a series once of Flashback Fridays, and they were some of my favorite posts of hers to read. I probably will not steal the idea and post a flashback every Friday, but I found my old South Africa journal on a flash drive at my in-laws' house and started thinking back to some of my craziest adventures there. Oh, to be young and incredibly stupid again.

One of the craziest events that transpired the summer of 2007 was the time I spent the night in the central Johannesburg police barracks with a couple of guys I had never met. From May-August 2007, I lived in East London, South Africa on a BYU Field Study program. My fellow BYU student and friend Stephanie and I were traveling by bus from East London to Johannesburg to catch a flight to Zimbabwe when our bus got trapped in a "canyon" somewhere around in the Orange Free State due to a freak ice storm. We ended up stuck for long enough to miss our flight that was taking off the next day, so something like 24 hours or so.

When we finally got unstuck and were on our way, we had called the airline and rescheduled our flight for several days later. We made it to Johannesburg, but now had a day and a night to spend there. Rather than spend a small amount of money on a cheap hostel, Stephanie suggested we call her friend Victor (I think). She had met him at the LDS temple in Joburg several weeks prior to this, and thought him a trustworthy enough guy. She called him and of course, in true South African fashion, was glad to pick us up from the bus station, show us around and offer us a bed to sleep in. Him and friend picked us up and we jaunted about in downtown Johannesburg, grabbed some victuals, and headed to his home. When we pulled up to the gate outside the central Joburg police station, I thought it might be a joke. When his friend flashed his ID and the gates opened, I realized it was not.

They parked the car and without really telling us anything, showed us into the barracks and there tiny kitchen. They served us some rooibos tea and showed us to the room we could stay in, clean with two twin beds clean and nicely made up. Steph and I sat down and maybe had a bit of a freak out at the prospect of spending the night there. But then again, it was probably the safest place to spend the night if you must do it in Johannesburg. I'm pretty sure we barely slept that night, and then almost missed our rescheduled flight the next day because "the airport is only like 10 minutes away!" in South African means it is actually 45 minutes.

Nevertheless, we made it to Zimbabwe by the skin of our teeth. AND had an amazing story to tell in the end, in which we were neither raped nor robbed nor murdered.

Landing in Zimbabwe.

Hooray, Vic Falls!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Charity's wedding

Yep, we had two weddings while we were out here in Utah. My two sisters are pretty much best friends, so it seemed natural that they would get married within a week. Apparently they almost got married together, but couldn't come together on whether to have a cake or not. Or maybe that was just a joke.

The night before we went to the church where she was going to be having a reception, and helped set up. That is, unfortunately, where the majority of our photos come from.

Our one other photo that we ended up with (I am thinking there are a lot more on my mom's camera, which we really should have grabbed) is from the luncheon the next morning. After that, we played with our kids and baby listen while everyone else went to the temple. We drove to the temple just in time for a few pictures, and then we hung out at IKEA until it was time for the reception, which was also a blast.

I know, lame post. But trust, this following video pretty much makes up for it.

Congrats Charity and Spencer.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

To the Provs and back again

Our last full week in Utah we spent in Provo, visiting lots and lots of old friends and not taking nearly any pictures, sadly.

On Saturday the 28th after Charity's marathon wedding, we headed down to my best friend Austin's house to spend the night. I can't describe seeing her again as anything but refreshing and soul-satisfying. We stayed up late into the night talking, and then she and I shared her queen bed with Lulah while Tim and Atticus took the floor. I felt a little guilty keeping her up with a nursing babe, but I do not think she minded too much. On Sunday, she packed up to move (we helped a little) and went to our old ward, the Provo Peak 7th Ward. Of course, we got the time wrong and ended up in another ward, which was weirdly enough Jon and Tallia's old ward (the boundaries were changed and now they meet in our building). We saw a few old friends [Bethany (from Cairo)! Kiera (from pizza night)! Marilee (from our first married ward)!] and we ended up just sending the kids to nursery then and not returning later. We helped Austin move some furniture and then we headed over to the Robbins home for dinner and to spend the next few nights since Austin's boyfriend came into town unexpectedly. We had a few play-filled days hanging out with Eliza, Ezra, Elliott, and the Barbie Dream House, going to McDonald's playplace and playing at the park behind their house.

He is really not sad here, just grumpy about having his picture taken.

Atticus says: "my favorite season is slippery ice!"

On Tuesday morning, we met up with Tim's high school friends Mario and Wendy, and their two boys Ethan and Xander, at the traditional meeting spot of Ikea on kids eat free day. After a traditional Swedish meatballs meal, we walked around, grabbed a few things and chatted about life and academia and religion and kids. They are two awesome people, and we can only hope they move to Madison one day. Post-Ikea, we headed back down to meet up with Austin and Trevor to get her keys because while they went to St. George we stayed at her new, hip studio apartment.

Cuddling on the couch watching advertisements.

This is Ikea, not Austin's cool hip studio apartment.

We tried to have a nice New Year's dinner, but Tallulah puked at Rice King so I took her home before our food even came. Atticus and Lu started coughing a few days before and it's persisted until now. Darn polluted air! We ended up having a rough sleeping night, and then went to see a movie at the dollar theater the next day. We saw Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, and while I actually enjoyed it, I think kids' movies nowadays are wayyyyyy too face-paced for a toddler and preschooler though Tallulah mostly slept and Atticus only got scared a few times. I can't stand that slapstick, semi-violent comedy animation stuff, drives me nuts. After the movie, we hung out with our friend Maddie for a few hours then headed over to the home of our old bishop/professor Dan Nielson to visit him, his wife Jenn and their super-cool teenagers. We ate a delicious Indian meal team-prepared by Dan and Jenn, and then sat around and chatted until our kids could not handle being alive any longer. They crashed on the way home and we collapsed soon after.

In Austin's comfy sleeping nook having some down time.
The next day, the Lees were arriving back from Salem where Casey's mom lives. They were "getting ready to leave" at noon, so we packed up and headed over around 1:30 or so. We made a few stops here and there for lunch and other things, arriving around 3, thirty minutes after they were "heading out the door" -- we figured we would play for half an hour or so on their playground until they got back. They pulled in about 4:30 or so, and by that time the kids were luckily worn down and we weren't too cold. We had a nice relaxed dinner of Papa Murphy's and our kids fell asleep really soon after. Atticus was sooooooo excited to see Annabelle Grass, but I think ended up playing with Will more. Annabelle seems way too old compared to the last time we saw them, and Will talks more than Atticus. We had a few really relaxing days with them until it was time to head back to Mountain Green.

My kids were too distracted by the immense number of toys to sit down and read a book.
Annabelle took to Tim right away, and I know Tim loves her. Also, they are both showing a little belly, which is adorable -- 

The second night we were there a couple Casey met on his mission spent the night too. In the morning, Tallulah (who was asleep when they arrived so had never seen them before) walked right out and jumped on top of the man (on the left in the picture) laying on the ground. It was SO FUNNY. She is not intimidated by tall bearded men.

We stopped in Salt Lake on Saturday night to meet up with my Aunt Linda, Uncle Rand, cousin Jeremy and his wife Leslie and their two kids Lucy and Will. We met up at the Discovery Gateway children's museum and Linda used her passes to get us in. It was SO much fun, probably one of the highlights of our trip (as we were getting in the car Atticus said "I want to go to those peoples's house, they are the best"). Our kids played great, they are great people to talk with, and the museum was the perfect location for a meet-up. Lucy was opposed to eating out (she wanted to get over to her cousin's house for a sleepover, I don't blame her!) and since we had two toddlers with us, we opted for a quick dinner at Costa Vida (which I still do not think is nearly as good as Cafe Rio). We chatted for a while but too quickly it was time to get my kids in the car and sleeping. We thought about staying the night at Linda's and going to the UU meeting in Salt Lake, but we were ready to be (somewhat) settled again.

Overall, our kids were pretty decent on the whirlwind visiting trip, but you could tell their patience was thin and they were getting grumpy more quickly than usual. We are here for a few more days and then it's back to Madison, and we are pretty ready to be home again. Three weeks was a long time to be away and not in our own space, though we could not have asked for better hosts and friends. I am glad we came though, if not for anything else than the simple fact I was feeling nostalgic and homesick for Utah and now I remember why we moved to Madison. I will not miss the inversion, or the monolithic cheap stucco houses, or the breast implant ads, or the weird-o made-up kids' names. I will miss all of the above-mentioned people, and I wish I could somehow convince all the awesome people we are friends with to move to Madison. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Devany's wedding

We came out to Utah for the holidays, but also for the wedding of my two sisters. Here are the photos we took. It starts with the temple. Since Cait and I are temple recommend-less, we stayed out to help watch kids, but pretty much watching our own kids was about all we accomplished, and sometimes not even that, as Atticus kept trying to run into the temple.

Devany asked me to go "less Moses" for her wedding. This is what she got.

And then there was a dinner. It was nice. Our kids were predictably crazy, but we still had a good time.

Baby cousin Listen fell asleep on our coats
There was a great camera taking polaroids that Devany's husband Jeremy either fixed up or built or something. We got some great shots.

Overall, a great time. Congrats, Devany and Jeremy.