Monday, December 28, 2009

Candy and Iron: Six Years

Six year ago last week, I stayed up literally all night. I read a dumb kid's book (called, interestingly enough, Esperanza Rising) and I cried and shook and occassionally placed midnight calls seeking comfort from my fiance (who counseled me from the privacy of a hotel bathroom). I got up the next morning and, with a fear and trembling that is not done justice by that phrase, married my husband.

It turns out that he was the one who should have been afraid.

It seems to me that most people I know floated to their wedding day with high bliss and no fear. That used to make me feel bad, like I had missed out on one of life's momentous occassions and that there was something wrong with me--and perhaps even my marriage. I don't think that anymore, which is why I feel fine about placing this information on a public blog for strangers, former boyfriends or, more likely, just my husband and his family to read. I have since that time realized a few things about life decisions like this, the first being that I have never met a crossroads over which I couldn't agonize interminably (where to go to law school, whether to go on a mission, what to order at Rio Grande). The second is that deciding to whom you will tie yourself for the rest of your life and beyond is a scary decision and a leap of faith. I thought my husband and I had dated a long time and that I was a pretty mature and sophisticated woman when I agreed to marry him in 2003. In reality, I had known him a year and I was 26 when I said yes. Looking back on all of this, knowing now what I didn't appreciate then about the lack of wisdom a 26 year old bears, all that one doesn't know about a person one has dated for a mere 12 months, I realize that in the end I just got lucky.

I think I found the one guy who could handle me and love me without reserve or resentment through all the thick that I have slathered onto our relationship over the years. He is perfect for me.

We were looking at photos from a few years ago and were shocked at how much younger we looked and how different our lives were. The photos were only 3 years old, but back then we were really at the beginning of something that we now feel deep into: it was our first year of parenthood, Brigham was about to start his first career job, we were selling our first home. It was all just starting and we were still in our twenties. Just three years later, we are expecting our third boy, Brigham is in charge of his own cases and my oldest would be starting kindergarten next fall if his birthday were just 2 months earlier. Most startlingly, I am using wrinkle cream instead of acne lotion. It has been six years since we started out on this adventure together and like everything else in my life I am simultaneously shocked at how short a time that represents and how long. I cannot imagine my life any other way, and I don't want to. For me, who still receives (with some small stab in my heart) alumni mail from the three law schools at which I enrolled, that is really saying something.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the institution of marriage, now that we have entered the stage where more friends are announcing their divorces rather than their engagements, and maybe I will work up enough energy to spill my thoughts here sometime. But for now I will suffice it to say that I am so grateful to have a partner who is always on my side and there for me and our kids, with humor and competence. Brig, I am glad that we are still only at the very beginning of it all.

PS Brigham, I feel reassured, rather than threatened, by your promise that you will outlive me now that you have explained that the world is too full of complicated driving routes, missing articles of clothing and complicated electronic appliances/gadgets for me to be left on my own. So true. You can deal with getting sent to collection agencies over an unpaid $20 BMG bill by yourself.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Eyes Wide Shut

Will woke up Tuesday morning with his eyes sealed shut with infection. I was volunteering at the polls, so Brigham handled it. Will explained the situation to me, though. "My eyes is shut. We washed them off. We took a shower."
Despite the ($55 prescription) eye drops, Will continued to battle the infection. He was pretty calm about waking up with eyes sealed shut, and as you can see, he looked pretty cute, too. He would simply suggest, blindly, that we take a shower.
Andrew took all these photos post-shower. Will was at least pretty cheerful about the whole thing.

Maybe it is easier to look on the bright side when you are basically blind.

Will's Dream Party

When Andrew turned 2, I threw the best party I have ever thrown (and I include my wedding reception on this list, which actually is not saying much other than that I have some regrets about that reception . . .). We held it in the courtyard of our apartment complex in DC, which caged all the kids perfectly. The fountain with ducks, the moonbounce my sister brought, the pizza, even the weather was perfect.

Of course, when my second child turned two, less than two weeks after my older one turned 4, I was a little bit burned out. I told myself that a family party was all he needed since he was so little, blocking out the memories of how happy 2 yr old Andrew had been to have a real party. On the way to preschool, I decided to put my guilt aside and pose Will a somewhat leading question:

"Will, do you want to have a party with kids," I began, making that idea sound sort of boring, "or should we have a party with your COUSINS?"

"Um, I want my party to be all filled up with kids," he responded definitely. I had no other choice. So two days and one ward listserve email later, Will had the party of his dreams. I even got myself together and made the Dump Truck Cake that seems to be the turning-2 tradition.

The lone birthday boy, expressing his joy in solitude, blowing on his party favor. Had to get a close up.

I wish I had gotten better photos of the rest of the party-goers; they were all so cute. We had cake again that night with Brigham.

Looking at the photos I do have of cute Will during his party, I am struck by two things: first, he really did look happy (which reminds me that Andrew had a very rough time during that party), and second, he really is a big boy now. It happened so fast!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

saying goodbye to very young children, (one more reason to read some john updike when you can)

Andrew, October 2008

Saying Goodbye to Very Young Childrenby John Updike

They will not be the same next time. The sayings
so cute, just slightly off, will be corrected.
Their eyes will be more skeptical, plugged in
the more securely to the worldly buzz
of television, alphabet, and street talk,
culture polluting their gazes' pure blue.
It makes you see at last the value of
those boring aunts and neighbors (their smells
of summer sweat and cigarettes, their faces
like shapes of sky between shade-giving leaves)
who knew you from the start, when you were zero,
cooing their nothings before you could be bored
or knew a name, not even your own, or how
this world brave with hellos turns all goodbye.

Perhaps it would be more fitting to just post photos of them from last year, photos that demonstrate how thoroughly they have changed already. But this is how they are right now (Andrew took the photo of Will himself), and in a few months time, the change will be plain enough for me.

Friday, October 02, 2009


On Marriage
A few weeks ago, Brigham and I had a conversation about remarriage after untimely spousal death (one of my worst fears--being replaced and forgotten by my tiny kids).

Brigham reassured me that he would not remarry. "But you would, I understand that. You are young and the boys are so little; you should remarry. Just don't remarry right away."

"No, Alexandra. I really would not. I mean, I would have girlfriends and everything, but I am not getting married again!"

So the conversation went from sweet to funny, and now, after weeks of thinking back over that it, hurtful. Brigham laughs at me and insists he was kidding. (Ha-ha, as Will now says after confessing to doing something against the rules.)

On Self-Love

We hosted some friends for the long weekend in September. The 6 year old girl had made a valentine for her father, which she left in the kitchen after they departed. Andrew found the paper heart and was immediately curious about it.

"Brinley made that for her daddy," I explained.

"Did she make it for me, too? I think maybe she made it for me, too." Pause, during which I don't answer. "Why does she love me so much?"

On Sleep-DeprivationWill has made a habit of waking up at 4am on the dot. I am sure that our response only reinforces the behavior: one of us (brigham) gets up and brings him, still screaming, out of his crib and into our bed. He immediately rushes for me, hugs me and kisses me and declares repeatedly, "Hi, Mommy. I love you so much." It says something about the state of affairs around here that this actually does get annoying, even the repeated lip-kisses between declarations of affection.

This morning, however, he did not stop screaming once he was in our bed. He thrashed and cried and warned us against rubbing him or singing to him. Our threats to return him to his crib eventually worked and he went back to sleep. When we both woke up at a more reasonable hour, I asked Will about his behavior.

"Why were you so mad last night, Will?"

"Because I just get so grumpy about it," he responded reasonably.

"Yes, but why? Why are you so grumpy?"

"Because I'm bad to daddy. Haha." Smiling. He is so sweet.

Friday, September 18, 2009

just lay down on the floor young missy, and other phrases to keep in my pocket

Talking to Jessica today I was reminded of how often I rely on movie lines to express my feelings and respond to basic pleasantries and interrogatories. It can turn mildly awkward for some of the parties involved if they are not familiar with the movie line, but I don't think I can overcome this communication habit. I just don't want to.

My favorite, I think, has to be the response to a basic question: "Do you know Blippity Bloppity Blue?"

"Know him? I dated him!" (delivered in a NY accent). Anyone, anyone? That one is even funnier if you are responding for someone else, as in "know him? she dated him!" then the "she" has a little explaining to do, making the conversation that much more fun.

I have decided to make a running list of my most-used movie phrases.

Here is one that cost me a friendship. I didn't even say it, but I was guilty of laughing. "I can hear you getting fatter." see, it is funny but not offensive since it is mere movie-quoting.

Please advise me of your favorite movie lines to use in ordinary conversation. Mine might be getting bit out of date.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

To put on my wish list

I want this dress. I would like to wear dresses and skirts instead of jeans. Maybe I should stop watching Mad Men. It is actually a bit boring, anyway.

Friday, September 04, 2009

An Easy Meal: Cheeze it Chicken

My mother-in-law gave us one of their ward cookbooks when we were first married. I tend to really like those types of cookbooks: they are tried and true and typically easy and practical. I have always been tempted by, but afraid to try, Cheeze-It Chicken. Well, we made it a few weeks ago and I am sticking by it forever, particularly since I purchased a ton of Cheeze-its from Costco on an impulse a few months ago.

The boys pound up their baggies full of cheeze-its using toy hammers while I rub sour cream on defrosted, dry chicken breasts. Then we pour the cheeze-it crumbs on top (you can either spread crumbs on both sides or just dump them on top; it is a forgiving recipe--quite a shock, I know.)

Cook on 350 (uncovered) for 30 min. Remove and pour a T or 2 of melted butter on top and replace for another 30. Since I use those bags of Costco frozen chicken, my cooking time is considerably less. Also, you can skip the butter step. It just means that your coating will be a little drier.

The Cheeze-It Chicken was discovered in pursuit of some larger goals I created for myself during our Utah vacation (to make real dinners instead of just warming up hot dogs, macaroni or nuggets--which I will still do, a lot, but not exclusively anymore. Poor Brig needs something real to eat, and cheeze-it chicken qualifies!)

Another goal I made was to take one photo a day. I wouldn't fuss about it being super quality or anything like that. I am proud to report that I have been able to do it, and plan on maintaining it for a year. I have fallen short in posting them every day on my real top-secret online journal to which only I have access, but I will try to at least play catch up.

Here was us today.
Will selected this outfit and was insistant about it. I am grateful, however, that he suddenly decided to remove all of it before we went on our walk to see the men cutting down tree limbs. We saw a neighbor I really like but don't know well and it just feels slightly better to have your kids not look utterly ridiculous and uncared for. I don't like Andrew's outfit, but I no longer attempt to control what he wears minus Sunday attire. If he will put it on his own body willingly, I am satisfied.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

An Important Current Event

Honduras' Struggle to Remain a Democracy, Despite Obama's Pressure to Reinstate Their Constitutionally-Deposed Chavez-like Leader

(that entire title is hyperlinked), for those interested in what I consider to be Obama's most obvious instance of being on the wrong side of an issue (well, aside from voting against providing medical treatment to babies born alive after a failed abortion). Meanwhile, we are off to Mt. Vernon!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Utah 2009

We went back to Utah for the first time since July 2007, immediately after I had taken (and passed!) the Va Bar. Life changes so much in just a couple of years when you are a young family. My 21 one month old Andrew has been replaced by 21 month old Will, and supplanted by this almost 4 year old kid with huge hair who sleeps through the night.

Will and I flew out of Dulles the afternoon before Brig and Andrew took a straight shot flight right into SCL. Will and I, of course, flew first to JFK, where we had a long layover. We ended up in SLC at 2am EST. Will was, of course, a wonderful flier. My kids don't eat until they are 2, don't sleep through the night reliably until they are . . . 2, but they always always always are awesome on flights. By awesome I mean that they don't cry. Andrew remained awake the entire (no exaggeration) flight from NYC to Tel Aviv when he was 11 months old. And though he interrupted many a prayer circle that Jewish men and formed in the aisles, he did it with a smile. Same with Will, though Will gets an even higher mark for his performance on his flight bc he actually did fall asleep at some point. I lay my sweater on the floor and he just plopped down.

It was nice to be back in Utah. Even though I will tell people when asked that I am from Virginia, it would also be true to say that I am part Utahn. I spent my young adult formative years there, and remained for a few thereafter in Salt Lake for the first years of marriage. 11 years in total. Utah in many ways does feel like home to me.

Here are the highlights of our stay:

These were taken on the Alpine ski lift. They are just decor since I have no photos of the race.

1) The 10K
We ran the Deseret News 10K as a sibling group. Brigham, determined to beat his younger brothers, actually trained for it. This is the same man who didn't even try to lose weight for our wedding. I suppose losing a 10K to his brothers would have been more humiliating than looking "like [he] shouldn't be allowed to drive" (his own description) in our wedding photos. I don't know exactly what the connection btwn 15 extra pounds and looking mildly disabled is, but for Brig, there is one.

Brigham won handily. And true to form, he stuck by me until I encouraged him to hurry up and beat his brother's wife (who was pushing a stroller). In our defense, she is also almost 6 feet tall, 26 years old and a former All American athlete. I came in a proud third, beating all the (younger than me) brothers, too. Hey, I have to take my victories where I can find them. They are few on the ground.

Running through our old neighborhood was a bit surreal. The last time I had been down those streets was when I lived there and hung out all day with a baby and my dog. We went back to our very street and saw our house, and the strange thing is that I still felt like it was mine. I got out and looked at the dog footprints on the corner of Emerson Ave and 800 East. Charlie made them the summer before we moved when they repaved the sidewalk on one of our many many walks to the dog park. I regretted not dirtying Andrew's baby hand to leave his impression, too.

I was struck by how small Salt Lake is. In some ways, this appeals to me. It is harder (though by no means impossible) for me to get hopelessly lost, the traffic is nonexistent compared to DC, everything is cheaper, easier, more parking-accessible. Yet that morning, I couldn't help but be struck by the thought: is this all?

2) Abby and Patrick's Wedding
This was the very most fun wedding event I have ever attended. Everything was perfect, and I think a lot of that has to do with Abby just being able to roll with the punches. She was bitten by a dog that morning, the hairdresser failed to show up so her hair was fixed in the car on the way to the Temple--stuff like that. And she didn't miss a beat. That is just Abby, and so that was how the whole day was. My favorite part was when Abby and Patrick sang this song they wrote.

The reception was held in the Cannon's riverfront backyard. The best part about it was the caged playground area where my kids could be safely stowed (and entertained by Patrick's younger brother, Cubby, whom my kids worshipped and continued to ask about for weeks).

Ok, why didn't anyone just tell me that Will looked like Albert Einstein with his hair so long like that? This photo made me realize that the time had come for the cut. Doesn't he look so much cuter? I also realized that my hair needs some help, too. And that Brig was right about that ribbon in my hair--not my best look.

3) Zions Park
We spent a couple of days down in Zions, where we celebrated Brig's dad's 60th birthday. All the siblings went on a nice hike while my poor saintly mother in law babysat all those kids. I feel less guilty bc Will napped the whole time and Andrew is pretty self-sufficient, but my sisters in law sure owe her big time! :)

I realized how totally lame I was in college to have not attached myself to people who actually took advantage of the fun things Utah has to offer. Never date a guy who was no car for more than 6 months, particularly if he has to take Math 97 to graduate. Just saying.
The kids in the Virgin River Walk.
I still have not lived my dream, originating in July 2001, of doing this hike with swimming gear. The other times I came the water was either too cold or I was weighed down by babies.
Andrew putting his cold hands on my bare skin. It gave him such joy.
The type of guy I should have always been dating. No Math 97 here. (It is ok for the wife to take math 97, Jessie!)
At the start of Peekaboo Canyon.
I would like to record here that I did wear a wetsuit on this hike, and I was wise to do so. My sister in law is hiding behind her husband here because she was basically naked. (just kidding, anne!!) Not me; that wetsuit protected me from the freezing water, the filth in the water, and from scraping my body on the canyon walls. The best part about it was that I looked totally hot! Wetsuits are way flattering. That is why I wore one on my honeymoon to Hawaii (the Pacific Ocean is really cold, especially in January--even in Hawaii)! I know I would feel so much more confident if I had one of my own to wear to the pool.

Utah was a lot of fun. I miss the pork salads already.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

sunday morning coming down

This was taken an hour ago. They are now all at the park.

Will loves a piggie-back ride these days.

He also loves to angrily proclaim himself to be Pig WON'T. So that book has been an awesome parenting tool. I am reminded of this because he did it this morning. Will someday nothing short of dying be half as lonely as the sound of no little tiny boy shouting "I am Pig Won't!" at 6 am? It is from that sentiment that I draw my strength: as depressing as being roused so early in such a way is, it will be more depressing when there is no hope of such a wake-up.

Anyway, instead of getting right down to my nursery lesson, the ostensible reason for getting on the internet this morning, I ended up getting sidetracked by my most recent and constant distraction. One would think I was good at math. Don't hate me because I am conservative.

Did you notice that Will's tube is out? That was a Brigham Executive Decision. I think it was only the second in our marriage, but, like the first (coming home from work and removing Will's crib from our room to the spare room), I think it might be the right one. He has already been eating full meals, every time. I can even give him his medicine now. We'll see how it goes.

Happy Sunday. Ours will be; we are having Thai Massuman Curry for dinner and it is good.

ps for some reason my hyperlinks don't appear in a different color, so I have to bold them. Also, missing from my tool bar is a font function. I cannot change font style or size. Quite frustrating.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

of summer baseball games

Andrew just got back from the Nationals game he attended with Brig. It was nearly 11pm and he was bubbly and happy. He went into great detail about all the exciting things he saw, like the "baseball hats and bats" that he now wants for his chart (a bribery strategy long defunct, whose primary usefulness now is simply in referring to it; now I have implemented the Level Four Boy strategy, which I may detail in another post), and a difficult to follow story involving teasing his dad, waving, traffic and operating his power window. He reported that the white team from Washington DC lost, but that they were not disappointed. He certainly didn't seem disappointed.

He might as well have been standing in an airport with little missionary tags on his suit, he seemed that old to me. When did he truly transform into this real person big kid?

I think I am going to be a very weepy lady someday.

He locked us out as we tried to reenter the house after a quick car clean-up. I love that little boy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

An easy laugh

This is my new favorite website. If Brigham is not tired enough to get really weird and make me laugh, I have a new alternative.

And maybe, just maybe, I have a new goal besides having someone I love featured on America's Funniest Home Videos.

Monday, July 13, 2009

If Price Were No Object

This is the house I would live in. It is on my very favorite street in the entire DC metro area. You can't miss the virtual tour.

This is the mascara I would use:

This is the school I would send the boys to. I like a single-sex education, and I like the particular method of this school. Of course, I also love Fairfax Christian, so long as it remains what once was, even if it lacks the uniforms, that is where they would go for K-4. (I am very pro-uniform.)

I know I should have a car of choice, but in reality I don't know much about cars and don't have any real desires beyond a minivan (or maybe Suburban?). Leather interior is as far as I really get.

I told Brigham that if I lived in that house on Newark St that I would never have occassion to be irritable again. He doesn't believe me, but I would like him to call my bluff.

In the market for an alarm clock

Will has been my alarm clock for the past 20 months. He has never slept past 7:30 in his life. Until about 10 days ago, he woke up at least once a night, usually two, sometimes three and occassionally more. I do not say this to martyr myself; on the contrary, I admit it even though it embarrassingly reveals my poor skills at sleep training. I can give you all my excuses some other time.

My life transformed a week and a half or so ago when I had a conversation with Will about his night wakings. I told him that he was not to wake up anymore during the night. We read the two books in the Goodnight Moon (My World is the other book)series every night (and prenap) that week and I emphasized how contented the little bunny was in his bed and crib. Somehow, all of this worked from the first night of it. Will has been sleeping through ever since.

Saturday was a landmark day in our home. Andrew came in our room in bright sunlight and woke us up. I got in the shower, wondering what time it was, as I had my sister's baby shower to attend at 10, and some fruit salad to buy before that. I figured it was around 9, a typical wake up for Andrew, who goes to bed at 9 during the summer (the previous night he didnt go down until 10:30, though, for very important and justifiable reasons which I cannot recall). I marvelled that Will not only slept through the night, but slept in. We don't have a clock in our room. We have never needed one.

"Alexandra, it is 10:30!" Brigham exclaimed, ruining my leisurely shower. 10:30. Needless to say, I was an hour late for my sister's party.

I can tell she is going to be a great mom already. She wasn't even mad at me.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Local History: Sully Plantation

We went to Sully Plantation last month with my sister and her children. It may be dramatic, but not exaggerating, to say that the experience was such that "a more spiritual [wo]man than myself might have achieved levitation." (if you have not already read For Esmee With Love and Squalor, stop reading this and get your hands on the short story right now!)

We learned a lot. The kids learned that if they get too close to the well, a white haired man will come out and terrify them away, telling them that if they fell in there would be no way to get them out again.

My sister and I learned that the plantation was originally owned by Robert E. Lee's grandfather, Henry Lee II and later his uncle, Richard Bland Lee. We also learned that Henry Lee's wife and first lady of the home, Lucy Grymes, was reknowned for her great beauty (she was known as the Lowland Beauty). She received a marriage proposal from George Washington, but she considered him too poor to be suitable. She lived to see him become the nation's hero. Talk about a road not taken experience.

The kids seemed to absorb that the Lees lived with a white squirrel as a household pet. I am certain they at least took notice of the stuffed albino creature.

We saw all the bedrooms.
My favorite was the girls' (neices to the Lees) room; this photo does not capture why. The younger girl had carved her little name in the window, but the pane was later broken during restoration. It was the only pane of glass to break in the entire home. It is the window to the left.
Will loved the cradle in the master bedroom, so I had to get a shot of him showing it to me for the millionth time.

This is the downstairs study. Cordelia, the older niece, was married in this room and the room was set up as it was the day of her wedding. That green sofa was there that day, too. Don't you love it? I loved this room, and the original sofa and the wedding story and set-up made me love it more.

We learned that the schoolhouse was in a large room upstairs. They used the McGuffy Eclectic Readers, the same I used as a 4th grader at Fairfax Christian School.
(I recognized even then what a tremendous education that school was, and if it is still the same now as it was then, I will do whatever it takes to send my kids there.) Why would any school use anything aside from McGuffy's?

The kids got to try out the hornbooks, the slate boards etc.

We learned about making thread and yarn. This was Andrew's favorite room.
Lucy Gryme's wheel from the early 1700s is still there, too.

We talked about the contrast btwn the master house and the slave quarters.

We realized that our tour was way too long for little kids and that we lacked the skills to properly assist our guide in giving us a redacted version. His method of redaction was to go on and on and on about a few rooms and then not show us the kitchen at all
We learned that there is a Costco 5 minutes from the Plantation and it is a perfect place for 5 hungry boys, one other boy and a girl to eat lunch.
We will be back soon. Make that volunteer tour guide earn his money.