12/14/2010

Pre Prego Pants!

This morning I managed to squeeze into my size 9 pre-prego Levi's and button them. Hooooooray!

Very, very good!

12/11/2010

I guess I was wrong when I said no sappy posts about how great my husband is...

Today I thought a lot about how I ended up marrying Danny, the love of my life. Before getting married, I didn't even know that dimensions of love like this could exist. There is no way I could have predicted having feelings like this. I will think I have reached maximum love capacity, but then the next day I find that I love him even more. A blog post cannot do my feelings justice.

And now, the same is true for our kids. Before we had Jane, I was worried that I wouldn't love her enough. Danny always laughed about this. He knew that the love I would have for her would be infinite. Then, when I was pregnant again, I worried that I would love Jane more than baby Dan, because I couldn't possibly imagine loving any child as much as my daughter. But that also turned out to be untrue.

For a long time I felt discouraged about my dating choices while Danny was on his mission. I still have regrets, but I have come to terms with them. I know that marrying Danny was the best thing I ever did. I know that Heavenly Father must have also known this, because the people I dated while he was gone, although great people, were not right for me at all (and vice versa).

In most of my pre-Danny relationships, I felt like there were problems with power. The person with the least amount of commitment has all the power, and I was always, always the Queen of Cling. It's an issue when you're dating because there is doubt. You haven't committed your lives to each other, not to mention eternity! Either one could possibly break things off at any time, and there would be no consequences beyond some temporary pain.

Marriage is a total commitment. Cling is good. We both cling. I think that's what marriage means: each party putting in as much effort as possible to the relationship. Honestly, my marriage means everything to me. Sure, I have other interests, too many to list here, but if you were to strip my life of everything nonessential, what would remain would be my faith, my children, and my husband.

It's hard for me to imagine what it must be like for people who have a sexual relationship with somebody before they are married, before there is an equal promise of commitment by both parties. It was painful enough to be rejected without any physical relationship.

But I really think that things turned out for the best, for everybody involved, including our sweet children. I can't imagine life without them. I can't imagine living without Danny.

Hahaha! This made us laugh!

Another funny face!

Dan has the funniest faces!

12/07/2010

Style Self Consciousness

There have been several times in my life when I went into (and then back out of) fashion/style-consciousness.

Seventh Grade - Eighth Grade - Ninth Grade - a giant whirlwind of crappiness wherein I went from using as many skin/hair products from Seventeen Magazine that I could afford to a realization that I was much happier being a work-a-holic student that "didn't have time" for those things.

Transformation in France (junior year): at the end of the year, they played a video with clips from the whole year. And there was one clip of me from the first few weeks we were there. Everybody in the room gasped in astonishment because I looked nearly nothing like I had just nine months earlier. From long, frizzy, very light strawberry blonde hair, no makeup, a very gawky looking teenager --> I had changed to a super short auburn (the one and only time I have ever dyed my hair was in France) bob, lots of makeup, totally French-ified clothes (scarves, coat, I even had my ears pierced in France...). Everyone turned from the movie and looked at me, many mouths were open. It was a very embarrassing moment. I wanted to hide.

There was the time I left for Jordan and then came home again, much, much, much skinnier. Okay, it was probably only like...15 pounds maximum. But suddenly the guy who I liked before, who had always really ignored me, started to pay more attention to me. This was both exciting and depressing/embarrassing. I wondered how bad he thought I looked before I had left.

Anyway, there are probably other experiences, but I'll get to the point. Every other time in my life when I have made a big change in my looks, usually going from slob to stylish, it's been very hard for me to not be embarrassed by it.

But this time, since it's totally out of my control, I will just suck it up and not be embarrassed. It's not worth wasting my time feeling that way. Every single person who gets pregnant goes through a huge body-changing process. And so who cares if suddenly I look a lot better than I did before. That's normal. I'm just adding some additional things to the mix (like caring about my hair and face) besides the typical wardrobe/body changes that every postpartum woman must endure.

One reason why I love Danny so much is because he loves me no matter how I look. Ha, the first date we ever went on, I looked horrible. My roommate Cindy basically dragged me out of bed where I was wallowing in misery after having my wisdom teeth removed. She forced me to go roller skating with some friends. I remember wearing a huge baggy t-shirt, bandana to cover my unshowered hair, and my glasses and no makeup. And even though it wasn't an official "date" date, Danny spent the whole night paying attention to me, and talking to me.

Not only that, though; Danny always thinks I'm beautiful. And I always feel beautiful around him.

Just because Danny sees me as beautiful no matter how I might actually look does not give me an excuse to look like a slob, though. I'm sure he likes it better when I look pretty. Besides, it's definitely not embarrassing to look pretty around him, and he's the main person that matters, anyway.

12/06/2010

Triple Take

Several wards meet in our church building. I guess the other ward has new missionaries, because there were two I had never seen sitting in the hallway. And I did a double (and then triple) take because one of them looked almost exactly like the last person I dated before Danny. Which would be entirely possible, because he hadn't yet gone on a mission, and I have no idea if he ever did/is.

When I told this to Danny, he thought it was hilarious.

Me: "What would you do if it was him?"
Danny: "You mean, after I stopped laughing?"
Me: "Yeah?"
Danny: "Well, I wouldn't invite him over for dinner."


BTW it wasn't him.

12/04/2010

My Thoughts on the "Utah Poof"

When I was a sophomore at BYU, the trendy hairstyle was big back-combed bobbi-pinned hair. I have heard it called the "Utah Poof", though I'm sure it was and maybe still is popular in other states. Here are a few choice examples.

(Why, Hilary, why!?)

I remember having strong hateful feelings against this hairstyle. I swore to myself, "I will never, ever, ever wear my hair in a Utah Poof!"

That was in 2006.

I asked my sisters in law for their beauty secrets. One of them was, "Don't use a bump it." I had to do a google search to find out what that was. Lo and behold, you can use a little plastic thingy to get this hairstyle. What!? Whoah.

When I was talking about this with my MIL, she said, "Oh yeah, that's like a really old technology." She then told me about how Victorian women used to save the hair from their brushes and make "hair rats" out of them, and put them underneath their hair to form the big, poofy styles of the day. Here is an example:

Whoah. That's pretty insane to think about.

My personal opinion now in 2010 is that a little bit of poof is not necessarily a bad thing. My hair looks horrible if it's parted straight down the middle and just hangs down the sides. Not to mention, it's so annoying because my bangs are always in my way. But if I pin the bangs up in a very, very slight poof, I think it looks great. I never would have thought that four years ago. Maybe I'm wrong. I will run it by my sisters/sisters in law to see what they think. I'm a little shy with asking the blogging world their opinion of my looks.

But yeah, my SIL is right. To be in style, avoid bump its. And hair rats...even though they technically are made of your own hair, somehow it just seems so...gross. Maybe four years from now, that will be the "big thing".

Tomorrow: thoughts about being self-conscious about trying to be in style. (Sorry I didn't post this sooner, the research on hair rats and bump its just got really interesting. Besides, yesterday Danny and I got kinda caught up in an interesting debate on our friend's facebook wall with somebody who ended up being a descendant of Korihor. What a waste).

12/02/2010

Dot's Top 10 Beauty Secrets

Dot is my youngest sister. She is one of the most beautiful people in the world. She looks like Jessica Simpson so much that people have asked her if she is Jessica Simpson. Which she is not.

With her permission, I am posting her Style Secrets.

Dot's Top 10 Beauty Secrets
10. Skincare! If NOTHING else, at least cleanse/moisturise 2x/day and use 30 SPF daily
9. Don't overdo heat on your hair. Master 3-5 hairstyles...repeat weekly
8. Wear what's comfortable, wear what fits. Too big, too tight, NO GOOD.
7. Mineral Makeup rocks. Invest in a light foundation. Even skin complexion is so important.
6. Eyebrows frame the face. Wax 2x/year to get shape. Tweeze between wax jobs. Pencil in brows for extra bonus!
5. Exercise = best investment. Park far away, walk up staris, 30 mins cardio/day. Your skin, body, and mind will thank you.
4. Keep nails clean and filed. Polish not required but I like neutrals for hands. Brights are good with certain outfits.
3. On a daily basis, keep jewellery minimal but classic. A simple watch, pendant necklace, stud earrings never go out of style
2. For soft skin all over, exfoliate in teh shower 2x/week, and moisturise daily!
1. Smile! Brush your teeth 2x/day, floss 1x/day. White strips optional (1x/week).

Thanks, Dot!

Here's how I did today on those things:
10. Well, it's day two for me of moisturising my face. This is literally something I have not done since about 8th grade. I think my skin is pretty good, it's clear and soft and everything, but I think probably the main reason to moisturise has to do with collagen breaking down and causing wrinkles later in life? Maybe? Anybody know the answer to this? I mean, I believe Dot, and I'm taking her advice, but it would be interesting to know more about why it's a good idea. No sunscreen, though. Whoops.
9. No heat, check. Haha, that's easy enough since straightening takes forever.
8. I have ONE pair of jeans that fits the way it should right now, and maybe two or three tops. The past few...errrm....months....I've been wearing Danny's basketball shorts paired with an old t-shirt basically every day unless I'm going out. It felt good to dress up. Haha, except jeans and a casual top didn't used to be "dressing up" before.
7. Dot gave me a ton of her old Mary Kay stuff. I think it's mineral makeup? Well, today is day two of me wearing foundation, and this is not a "since" thing - I didn't ever do this before, not in the 8th grade, never. We found one that works really well for me. And I don't wear a lot, but I think that Dot is totally right about it making a difference. Again, any ideas on why this is?
6. Eyebrows - well, they're not terrible since Dot waxed them not too long ago...but...that's all I'll say for now.
5. Exercise: check.
4. Nails - well, I cleaned them yesterday but living with kids can be kinda more disgusting for my nails than you probably would care to know.
3. No jewellery today. Does that count as minimal?????
2. No...
1. Definitely brushed and flossed and brushed and will brush again. That is one of her style secrets that I have followed forever. I mean, the only people that don't really like to brush their teeth are 8 year olds. Even Jane likes to brush her teeth (i.e. suck the non-fluoride toothpaste off her light-up baby toothbrush).

All in all, not too bad for today! Tomorrow, my opinion on the "Utah Poof" hahaha I can't wait.

12/01/2010

December is Style Month!

You know how they have a month, week, day, etc. for every single possible thing imaginable? National Save the Whales month, National Grow-A-Beard month...well, I'm not sure if those really exist, but I decided that December is my unofficial Be In Style month. It may not be national, but since nobody could possibly know all of the official ones, it doesn't matter at all.

I recently had a baby. Actually, I recently had two babies. This took an enormous toll on my body. Julia Child, my idol, says never to apologize for your cooking because you still have to eat it anyway, and apologies just make it taste worse than it already is. So I won't apologize for my looks these past two years, because you still have memories and pictures to look at. Let's just say, though, that I am totally ready to get back In Style.

Fortunately, I have a lot of things working to my advantage to help me with this goal. First, my sister is a stylist. So that right there is amazing. When she came a few months ago when baby Dan was born, I asked her for her top ten style tips, and she totally surprised me when she had them all written out for me at Thanksgiving. Now they are on my desk in a place where I can see them every day. I will write the list out later.

Second, my sister in law is also a stylist. Maybe I'll ask for her top ten style tips when I see her at Christmas...

Third, I work out every day. This is not a tongue-in-cheek comment about how motherhood is a workout (although carrying a carseat with a child in one hand and another child on my hip is basically like lifting weights!), I really do exercise every day. It's not a super intense workout, but every day Jane begs and begs for a stroller ride. Every day. No exceptions. So I take her, to the park, to the church, to the school, to the library, around the block...we walk. Low impact cardio. This month, I will start to *try* to do more, which I know I should, but if I don't, I won't feel too terrible.

Fourth, nursing burns a lot of calories. It did last time, although I didn't really have a long enough break between pregnancies to know exactly how fast I returned to my prepregnancy weight. I'm pretty sure I didn't, but we don't and never will own a scale. I seem to remember losing a ton of weight very quickly, and then retaining about ten-ish pounds.

Fifth, I have medium-long hair that is pretty much undamaged. Some split ends. But no heat damage or color damage, because I never straighten my hair anymore and Danny has said he would bawl his eyes out if I ever dyed my hair. Plus, I love my hair color. I'm super excited to learn how to do different things with my hair this month. I've mustered up the courage and motivation to move beyond half ponytails and french braids.

There are many factors working against me, but I will only choose to point out one of them: The majority of my clothes don't fit. I'm at that stage where my pants are either way too saggy to even have a belt hold them up effectively, or they're too tight and I can barely squeeze into them. But ::::drumroll::::: squeeze into my pre-prego pants today I did! Don't ask if I could button them, though.

So, here's how I did on day one:
  • I did my hair in a French Twist. It looked awesome. First time in my life that I have ever held my hair up with just bobby pins; they're way more effective than I thought possible!
  • I wore a skirt because it was the absolute only thing that fits me right now. Had to change my top three times because of spit up. Oh well.
  • I did my makeup. I don't usually put on makeup unless I'm going out of the house. I found that I was a lot happier all day. Weird, but not that weird I guess.
  • One of Dot's style secrets is to moisturize and wear SPF 30 every day. She stressed that point to me, so I did it.
  • Walked to the park and played there with Jane.
All in all, a good start to STYLE MONTH.

If you want, you can join me in this journey. I will post Dot's style secrets tomorrow.

11/30/2010

I AM A NANOWRIMO 2010 WINNER


Danny: "Yay! You finished writing your novel! Do you want me to get you a treat to celebrate?"

me: "No." (thinking of the pan of brownies I have basically devoured by myself in the past few days).

Danny: "Do you want to...[looking over my shoulder at what I am doing on my computer] blog about it to celebrate?"

me: "Yes."

Danny: "You're going to celebrate writing 50,000 words...by writing more!"

Here is the Top Ten List of Things I Learned from Nanowrimo 2010
10. Pick a better story
9. It's hard to write when you are the primary caretaker of two babies...
8. ...but it's very possible...
7. ...and sometimes enjoyable. Except why did they choose to put nanowrimo in the month of both my birthday AND Thanksgiving? That was dumb of them.
6. Outlines shmoutlines; the outline usually made the writing more difficult
5. Blogging is a totally different kind of writing from noveling.
4. Writers deserve a lot more respect than I tend to give them. I think I'll go easier on them in my book reviews from now on.
3. My brother is amazing because he has finished not one, not two, but SEVERAL novels. And by finished I mean edited, revised, edited, revised, edited, revised, edited, revised, etc. That is not something I have done.
2. I want to bury this novel in the backyard so I never have to see its ugly face again (and no, you can't read it either)
1. Nanowrimo 2011 here we come! And this next time, I won't start 4 days late and have to write 8,000 words the last day!

me: "Okay, let's watch youtube to celebrate now."
Danny: "You didn't actually say that. You just typed it."
me: "Okay let's watch youtube to celebrate now."
Danny: "Okay."

Conversations with Jane recently

Signs italicized. What Jane probably meant in (parenthesis).

6:30 in the morning.
me: Jane? What's wrong? It's so early. Why are you awake? What do you want? You should be sleeping! sleep
Jane: food (I'm hungry!)
me: Okay, let's go downstairs and get your food. But first I need to go get some clothes on. You need to wait here on your bed because Daddy is sleeping. I will go get my clothes on and get dressed, and come back, and we will go downstairs and eat breakfast. Wait here.

JANE SAT ON HER BED PEACEFULLY AND WAITED FOR ME TO GET DRESSED! Hooray!

Jane: juice?
Me: Oh, sorry, the juice is all gone. But you can have some milk.
Jane: banana?
Me: Sorry, the banana is all gone. But you can have some cereal.
Jane: Banana all gone.
Me: Yes, the banana is all gone. But you can have some cereal.

AND SHE WASN'T UPSET THAT IT WAS ALL GONE! SHE WAS JUST TELLING ME!

Jane: Da-da? (sign for Daddy, asking where he is)
Me: Daddy isn't here right now.
Jane: Daddy work
Me: That's right, Daddy is at work right now.

Okay so maybe I'm rejoicing in very mundane things right now. But the fact is, she is actually able to communicate in more than, "I want this Gimmee this now!" This makes me happy.

11/20/2010

Old Soul, New Soul, Whose Soul, You's Soul!

This one has a little star. This one has a little CAR!
Say, what a lot of souls there are.

Can you tell the kind of literature I've been reading lately?

Somebody was recently talking to me about something super weird and interesting, a thought I have literally never had before: the age of our souls. So, yeah. That's pretty deep doctrine (aka probably false doctrine). We didn't talk much about it, but it was excellent food for thought, so it's going on this blog.

The gist of the idea is: we know how old our bodies are, but who's to say that our souls were born in the same order? As in, maybe my children have older souls than mine, even though they are physically younger than me.

I've been thinking a little about what this means, and whether I am an "old soul" or a "new soul." Obviously, it doesn't matter that much. But it's fun to think about.

Which leads to the next question: why oh why didn't I pick to write my nanowrimo novel about this?????? Then I'd have a lot more time to think and philosophize about it. There's always next November.

11/19/2010

I wish I were older

I have been wanting, longing to be older than 23 (now 24) since we moved to Katy.

We picked our house because it was the nicest house we could afford in the nicest part of town. This means that there are very few others in our ward in the same position as us: newly (2 years) married, young babies, first job post-undergrad degree, early 20's.

I am not complaining that Danny picked such a booming field, got multiple job offers, and it doesn't require a master's degree to receive a good salary. Uh, duh, of course I'm not. These are huge blessings in our lives!

I just wish I were about half a decade older.

So, I don't think I've ever blogged about my quilting group, but here is an example of a time when it felt especially difficult being 24. Every week, I go to a quilting group of some of the ladies in my stake. Most of them are somewhere in their 50's (they were talking about how old they were, I'm not just guessing), the closest in age to me is 36. Please don't think I'm calling them old, because if I had to pick a word to describe these people, that would not be it. Old is tired and boring, and these people are energetic, witty, gabby, and hilarious. I feel like I "fit in" with this group for lots of reasons: love of quilting, experience travelling and living abroad, but mostly we share the same balance of really loving domestic things (cooking, canning, sewing, quilting, children, etc.) whilst really not being submissive, lowly housewives. Which I'm not sure exist, but that's for another blog post.

I would say that going to the quilting group is one of the highlights of my week. Usually I just sit and listen to what everybody else is saying. Yesterday I mentioned that I was an exchange student in France when I was in High School. Somebody asked what year that was, and when I said '02-03, there was a huge reaction. I mean, I'm pretty positive everybody knows that I'm two to three decades younger than them, like it's not some big secret, but announcing what year was my junior year opened the gateway for the verbalization of many of the thoughts I've been having for the past year or so since we've been here: "Oh man, I bet you think we're a bunch of old fogies!" "Well, just remember what you used to think when you were that age; I remember thinking thirty five is SO OLD!" "I'm pretty much old enough to be your mother! And then some!"

It actually felt great that somebody would acknowledge that I am really young. I think it's because of my birth order; I am the oldest daughter in my family. I was the first to leave home, at the age of 15, to spend a year in France. I'm a lot more used to the "oldest" mentality. It took some serious adjusting when I married Danny and became the youngest sister (in-law...whatever, they're like sisters).

It's good for me to be on the young side because it helps me listen better. I'm SO glad I go to my quilting group because I really struggle with having compassion for others, and nearly every week there is some other story about health problems that I had never, ever, ever, ever considered before. I love that there are so many wonderful, capable, strong women in my ward in their late 20's-30's-40's with kids the same age as mine, because I can go to them for really excellent advice and help.

It doesn't feel like I'm quilting with my mom, or my mother in law. I don't think most of the quilting ladies work, and my mom does - Elementary Art. I know this "keeps her young." Also, my mother in law has a nine year old at home. She has several friend groups, including one that is 20ish years younger than her!

She says that age doesn't really matter when you're an adult. I know it shouldn't, and I know it's not other people; I just need to find a way to get over feeling different from everybody because I'm so young. In a few years, it's not going to matter. Why should it matter now, really?

Another reason I love to listen to the quilting ladies: eventually, talking about age, they all unanimously agreed that being an Empty Nester is the best stage of life. I had never thought about that either, and it was really interesting, and actually quite a relief. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed, up to my ears in childcare. Sometimes it's painful to think how time is slipping away, how I will never see my Jane as a tiny baby again. It's so nice to know that there's so much to look forward to. These women are some of the happiest people I know. When I get there, I want to be just like them.

Blogging about this helps me feel a little better about things. I still wish I were older, so I would have a less difficult time fitting in.

11/13/2010

The "R" Word

Yesterday I heard a really interesting story on NPR that criticized former President Bush.

Now, I grew up in a land wrought with Bush-bashers. I guess that happens when you live in Massachusetts and then France, during the outbreak of the Iraq War no less! Honestly, it always made me feel uncomfortable, the name calling, the put-downs, the insulting jeers that had little to nothing to do with focusing on why his policies were bad. And I'm not saying I believe all of them were (I don't). It reminds me a heck of a lot of the Obama-haters down here in Houston, particularly the negativity on the conservative talk radio stations that I can stand for about five minutes before I have to change the station...I just can't find myself agreeing that either of them is a fully evil person who justifies such hatred. Or even that their actions are completely evil, and that I should be terrified of "what they are doing to our country."

Yesterday was honestly the first time that I can recall hearing a negative story about President Bush that I fully agreed with. Basically the story is about how when he was interviewed for his new book, the most emotional he got was when the subject turned to Kanye West calling his reaction to Hurricane Katrina racist.

I agree with the author of the article, Jay Smooth. Instead of discussing how race was an issue during Katrina, the subject was twisted into a discussion of President Bush's feelings.

Danny completely disagreed with me on this. He thinks that trying to argue why somebody is not a racist would validate their accusation in the first place. He thinks if race were an issue during Katrina, it would be that the hurricane was racist, not the President.

I do believe that race was an issue during Katrina. Had the hurricane hit a white urban center instead of a black urban center, the aftermath would have been different. And I think it's unfortunate that instead of being able to discuss these "r word" issues with a level head, people become enraged and over emotional.

Danny thinks the "r" word should either be like a swear word - something you would never, ever call anyone (like Nazi). Or it should be like any other vice: like "lust" or "selfishness." Admitting that everybody suffers from racism to some degree, and that we all have to overcome it just like we all have to overcome selfishness.

I think the main problem is that Danny and I are from the white world. Neither of us grew up with any sizeable amount of non-Caucasian community around us. So to us, the "r" word is pretty easy to discuss. When you're from a place with a one race majority, you can discuss the "r" word easily because it's not an every day issue, it's an intellectual issue.

But I think the "r" word already is like a swear word in places like Mississippi and Louisiana, where people still live with a disgusting and horrible memory of the past.

And I guess the reason I am even saying "the past" is because I've been sheltered from dealing with race issues my whole life. The truth is they are not the past. It still exists today. I just think that becoming inflamed over the "r" word just doesn't do anything productive at all. I wish that President Bush could have done differently during this interview.

11/12/2010

"C'est une POUBELLE!"

I just have to post about this before I do anything else. Dan woke me up for his night nursing, and as I woke up, I was having the most intense argument with the lady under whom I student taught. Except, truthfully, she would never have argued this point because she is a smart person.

I was refusing to teach three chapters from the textbook. What was in these chapters? The scientific words for over a hundred different kinds of dinosaurs.

I argued against it, shouting at her in perfect French. The only real phrase I remember yelling was the one Dan interrupted me on, which was, "C'est une POUBELLE!" (it's a trash can!). This offended Madame to no end. She acted as if it were a swear word.

When I woke up, I was so confused. It took several minutes to realize a. I wasn't yelling, b. I wasn't yelling in French, and c. nobody was going to force me to teach some useless vocab lessons in real life.

The funniest part about the whole thing is that if somebody were to try and force me to teach those chapters, I would probably have a similar reaction.

11/10/2010

"The Help" by Kathryn Stockett


My Aunt Yvonne sent this book to me and I read it in 2 days. Really, in 2 halves of days. My friend Amy had recommended it. Everything my friend Amy has recommended I jump on because she's got excellent taste in books. So I started reading.

You know how there is a certain point in a book where you say, "ah-ha! I am going to finish this book!" Well, at least, that's how I am. Usually it's in the middle somewhere. This book, it was on the first page. Specifically why: I really liked Aibileen's voice. It was fun to read a book written in a southern accent. I could hear her in my mind.

I loved the book. Great read. The epilogue, written by Stockett, made me cry. For about a second, and then I had to tend to my toddler who was whining about me not paying attention to her for half a day. I smell a movie.

She did an excellent job with the tension. I felt really nervous for the characters. I felt their worries. She really showed that well. She also did an excellent job with her setting. It felt like I was there. I could see the silver and feel the heat. Maybe this is because it was in the 80's today here in Houston. But really, she did an outstanding job with her setting.

Except for two things.

One, I was extremely disappointed at her lack of good male characters. There wasn't a single one. Seriously? I mean, I just don't believe that there were zero good men in Jackson, Mississippi at that time. All of her men were either chauvinists, bigots, unhappily married, psycho-naked-homeless, "whores" to their father's political career, oblivious, or wife-abusers. Stockett seems to have something against men in general. Oh yeah, and all of the ones with children were terrible fathers.

Two, I was also discouraged that there were zero happy female housewives. Come to think of it, there were zero happy, normal marriages, white or black! There was only one that came close, Celia and Johnny, and he was too stupid to realize that his wife had four miscarriages? And she was on the brink of leaving him because she didn't fit in with the society ladies? Okay, that's seriously not normal.

I think that those two gaping flaws in the book portray more truth about Stockett's personal biases than reality of life in Mississippi in the 1960's.

To be honest, the main story of trying to get the book published wasn't super exciting to me; The main reason I enjoyed this book was that it explored something I had literally never thought of. That, and Stockett did an excellent job with making you feel like you knew her characters. I really felt like I could see them, like I was there. Well, in a man-hating, marriage-hating version of there.

Anyway, it's a very interesting book with a fascinating theme: the relationships between rich white southern women and their poor black maids in the 1960's. I would highly recommend it!

11/06/2010

Process to get a Tourist Visa to the USA is Unfair

I lived in Jordan for a total of 6 months. The most recent time I lived there I stayed for 4 months with a Muslim family in Irbid. This is what I did to get my visa: I walked off the plane, got my luggage, walked to a desk, showed them my passport, possibly paid them some money but no more than $30 and I don't remember if it even cost me at all, then they stamped my passport and waived me through.

That is it.

My best Jordanian friend, Sanaa, called me yesterday to wish me Happy Birthday...and to ask about getting a visa to come to the United States.

It's not like I haven't had Jordanian friends come to me asking about visas before; but this is different. She's the one who enabled me to learn Arabic. She's the one who spent hours and hours with me, who convinced her family to let me stay with them. She's a Muslim version of me. She is awesome. I really, really love her.

She's getting married in a few months and she wanted to know about what she and her husband will need to do to get a visa to either come to the states as tourists, or to study here, or to work. And probably she would also want to know the details of how to immigrate.

Last night, I looked up the specifics on how to come as a tourist. What I discovered absolutely fascinated me. I always knew it was unfair, as in, I can just flash my American passport and go basically anywhere, while it's nearly impossible for her to enter the neighbouring country of Israel. It's so weird that she lives 30 minutes away from the border but to cross would basically never happen unless there were extreme circumstances.

To get a visa to the USA would be difficult, but not quite as impossible as a visa to Israel (I assume). Basically, a tourist visa requires that the applicant prove they have a reason for coming, and a compelling reason for returning home. The assumption is that all applicants for American visas are potential immigrants. Fair assumption, America is a great place to immigrate.

Here's the process:
This is a general website about getting a visa to come to the USA:
http://travel.state.gov/visa/visa_1750.html

There are 4 different kinds of visas:
1. travel/tourism
2. study
3. work
4. immigration

In order to visit the USA for travel/tourism purposes, 90 days before you leave you need to do these things:
(I found this information at this website: http://jordan.usembassy.gov/niv_how_to_apply_for_a_visa.html)
1. Read the frequently asked questions website
http://jordan.usembassy.gov/niv_frequently_asked_questions.html

2. Fill out the nonimmigrant visa application available at this website:
https://ceac.state.gov/GENNIV/Default.aspx

3. Print the DS-160 confirmation page and bring it to your interview. (you will need a photo of yourself. Here are the requirements: http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/frvi_3877.html)

4. Schedule an appointment for an interview at the American Embassy in Jordan. You can do this here:
https://evisaforms.state.gov/default.asp?postcode=AMM&appcode=3

5. Pay the fee of JOD 99.4 JD ($140) before your interview at a participating branch of the Cairo-Amman Bank. It is non-refundable (you have to pay it even if you don't get the visa)

6. THE INTERVIEW:

Arrive at the Embassy before 09:00 a.m. on your appointment day and bring the following documents:

  • The DS-160 confirmation page.
  • If your photo did not upload to the DS-160, bring one passport photo that meets these photo requirements.
  • Your passport, valid for at least six (6) months after your departure date.
  • All prior passports.
  • The Machine Readable Visa (MRV) receipt from Cairo Amman Bank.
  • All other documentary evidence that demonstrate your ties to an overseas residence (employment letter, bank documents, letters of invitation, property deeds).
  • If you are the spouse of an applicant, please bring your original marriage certificate.
I understand the purpose behind the strictness, especially for issuing tourism visas. Our government has a solemn responsibility to ensure the safety of American citizens. Maybe all of the red tape is even necessary. But that still doesn't make it fair.

(There are some countries, mostly Western European, that do not require advanced application for a passport. Like, if you're from France, you can just get your visa at the border. But Jordan is not one of these countries.)

Now I'm interested in learning what it would take to immigrate from Jordan. Talking about this with Danny, his take was that no wonder there are so many illegal immigrants.

Won't it be great when there is a perfect government across all the countries on the earth and we don't have to worry about making sure people return to their home countries after their visit is done?

10/28/2010

"You look FABULOUS!"


We went to Costco about 2 weeks ago, and the funniest thing happened.

First, Jane's aunt just bought her about half a dozen super gorgeous dresses! Those, combined with the many pretty dresses both her grandmas have gotten her, are hanging in her closet which doesn't have a door. So she sees them. And she LOVES them.

I got up the other morning and said to Jane, as usual: "It's time to put on your clothes!" I went over to the dresser. She stood up and said, "NO!" This took me back, since she can only barely say no! She marched over to her closet and pointed decidedly at her dresses. "Okay then!" I put her in a fancy party dress, with fancy socks and shoes, and bows and pigtails. She was way overdressed for what we were doing that day, but she was so cute.

As a side note, I've found that it's way easier to deal with grumpy toddlers if they are cute (and my cute I mean well-dressed) grumpy toddlers.

Later that day we were at Costco, sitting like in the photo. Me nursing Dan. Jane on the table shoving her face full of $1.50 hotdog.

A man came up to us. At first we were worried that he was an employee of Costco or something, coming to tell us our baby couldn't sit on the table. But then he said:

"Oh. STOP. She looks FABULOUS! And when a gay man stops to tell you you look fabulous, YOU LOOK FABULOUS!"

Then he walked away, and Danny and I looked at each other and burst out laughing.

Does being deaf make you "handicapped"?

This is an interesting question that Danny and I have discussed several times. He always argues that being deaf is a disability, and I always argue that it isn't. The latest discussion we had about it was really, really fascinating, and I want to share the main points from it.

Danny says that to him, the definition of "disabled" is any physical or mental handicap that keeps a person from functioning in a mainstream way, as well as something that will be changed when a person's body is resurrected.

I say that labeling a person as "disabled" just because they are different is not useful because it makes the world see them as people who can't, when the truth is that many so-called disabled people have abilities that the mainstream people lack. I also say that we don't know enough about resurrected bodies for that to be the standard by which we should judge our mortal bodies.

Danny says we do know some key things about resurrected beings: when Christ was resurrected, he could eat, he could talk, he could touch, and he could hear, among other things. He pointed out numerous references in the scriptures. He says that since we are made in God's image, our resurrected beings will be like God's, with the ability to hear.

I say that in my ASL 101 and 102 classes at BYU, the professor said that deaf people do not believe that being deaf is a disability or handicap. They find that label insulting because they can do anything that a hearing person can do, except hear.

Danny says that hearing is a big deal, and just because they accept deafness in their community does not mean that it is not a handicap in the mainstream. For example, to communicate with most people, a deaf person will have to resort to irregular, difficult methods because most people can't sign.

I say that I guess whether or not someone is disabled or handicapped has a lot to do with the community in which they live. We then started discussing blind people. I guess I hadn't realized it before, but I definitely believe that blind people are "disabled". Danny wondered how that differs from deaf people. I'm not so sure that it does, except that there aren't large communities of blind people the way there are of deaf people.

When a deaf child is born to deaf parents, everybody celebrates. This is a pretty rare occurrence. Even though cochlear implants can usually "cure" deafness, people in the deaf community voluntarily choose not to have them put in. I'm not sure about all of the nuances of why this is, or how they view them; I just know that deafness in the deaf community is celebrated, and outside it is labeled a misfortune.

Probably the reason I have a problem labeling deaf people as "handicapped" is because that label implies lost opportunities, inabilities, and yes, misfortune. But the only thing they can't do in life that other people can is hear. And while I understand that not hearing means no music, difficulty communicating with the non-deaf, and constant adjustments while in the hearing world, it does NOT mean that these people should wallow in misery and live hollow, boring lives focused on some label affixed to them by society. My point is: deaf people have just as much of an ability to lead happy, fulfilled lives and be in happy, fulfilling relationships as non deaf people, so what is the point in calling them "handicapped"?

In fact, what really is the point of calling anyone "handicapped"? Doesn't everybody have something wrong with their body or mind that will not be present when we are resurrected? Doesn't everybody have something wrong with their body or mind that separates them from the "mainstream"? Who among us is wholly "mainstream"?

I can see how giving certain people handicapped stickers in their cars is a good thing. I think our society has come a long way; now businesses and schools are required to have ramps for wheelchairs nearly everywhere. That's not even something I used to think about before I had kids to push in a stroller.

Speaking of strollers, I once pushed my kids in their stroller past a man in a wheelchair being pushed by a younger person. I couldn't help but think, "You know, I used to think of people in wheelchairs as being "handicapped", but there's no way I would label my babies that way. Yet they need the same kind of help because neither of them can walk perfectly well yet/anymore."

I guess it's somewhat hypocritical that I consider blind people "handicapped," but not deaf people. I think in the end, both Danny and I agreed that the truth is that everybody is "handicapped" to some extent, but the label carries such a bad stigma that it should be avoided when possible.

Side note: in the book I just read about kids with disabilities, a deaf girl was born to hearing parents, and the parents gave her cochlear implants. Clearly, to them, she had a disability. I'm pretty sure if we have a child born deaf, we will do the same thing. But I can see why a deaf person might not.

10/25/2010

"The Elephant in the Playroom" by Denise Brodey


The rest of the title didn't fit up there so here it is:

"The Elephant in the Playroom: Ordinary Parents Write Intimately and Honestly About the Extraordinary Highs and Heartbreaking Lows of Raising Kids with Special Needs."

I asked my friend Jessica, who is an Early Childhood Education major specializing in Special Education, about if she would prefer to have a child with special needs. I mean, obviously everybody wants perfect children, who are always perfectly healthy, but does part of her want to use her unique talents for relating to and teaching kids with special needs? I don't remember exactly what she said. I'm interested in knowing what others think of this.

This book is written in brief essay form by the parents of kids with a very wide variety of special needs, from ADD to severe autism. Reading the parents' points of views, I started to address the question: "How would I deal with raising a child with special needs?"

My aunt once turned to my mom when she was pregnant with my brother and asked her, "So, what are you going to do if he's born retarded?" My grandma stepped in and said, "Then we're going to take that child, and love that child, and make that child our own." My mom was extremely grateful for this comment, because she herself had never thought much about it. But besides a strong knowledge that I will love all my children regardless of their abilities, I haven't thought much about the mechanics of raising a child with problems.

Like, for example, one major theme that this book addresses is how the parents figured out that their child was different. The pattern for many families seems to be that they have their first child who is a terror, or behaves strangely, or whose milestones are wayyyy off, and they don't even realize anything is wrong until child number two comes along, and they have something to compare with. I think many parents end up in a trap of feeling like they are somehow responsible for their child's disability. It's so weird that this is how our culture is; I mean, it's a bit odd when parents feel guilty about physical disabilities their children have, so why should mental illness be any different?

I never had considered that babies don't come out of the womb with a label on their head saying, "I have autism," or, "I have sensory learning disabilities." I suppose my own babies could have these things. We will have to wait and find out, I guess. (I'm mostly positive neither of them has an extreme case of a mental illness or learning disability because they are either at or above average with all their growth milestones).

Many children in the book had mild cases of asperger's syndrome. Some had ADD. I found them all fascinating to read about. All of the parents had a difficult time.

There was one particular parent with whom I totally disagreed. Her son had a mild form of autism, if I remember right. She was upset when the teacher at the school couldn't get him a one-on-one aid, or pay enough attention to him, or something. I think he was in a classroom of 5 or 6. She was explaining her frustrations to her friend (who was a teacher), and the friend said, "Well, the teacher has to think about the other kids in the class, too; she can't just focus entirely on your son." The mom of the autistic kid got so offended by this comment she almost completely cut off her friendship with the teacher lady. Seriously? I mean maybe I'm just sympathetic because I have had autistic students in my classroom before. She shouldn't have gotten offended; it's the truth! It's certainly too bad that it's that way, and obviously we're missing the tone of the conversation, but if the teacher friend was just making an observation about how the teacher had to pay attention to the other students, I think, "Well, duh!"

There were several other times in the book where I seriously wondered if I would have handled the situation the same way. Truth is, I'm not sure.

One thing I am sure about: parents of kids with special needs have a much harder time of parenting, and my heart goes out to them. It seems like it is a difficult, but extremely rich and rewarding experience. One that I'm not sure I want to have first hand!

"Plain and Simple: A Woman's Journey to the Amish" by Sue Bender


I finished this book a few weeks ago. I read it during Dan's night nursings. Maybe that influenced my opinion of it? All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed all the parts that weren't whiny self-analysis, so like 20% of the book?

I guess it didn't help that it was hard to respect a woman who would leave her husband and kid for weeks and weeks at a time on some strange unexplainable quest to live with Amish people. Even if she gained invaluable understanding about herself, even if the way it influenced her art was immeasurably good, for me at my current stage of life it is SO impossible to relate to even coming close to wanting to be apart from my family for that long. And then, there's the gaping hole in the story where she never, ever discusses that. I mean, she mentions her husband a grand total of once during the whole story? I'm sorry, if the book was supposed to be about your wonderful eye-opening experience, wasn't that part of the experience? And a significant part? Maybe not for her, but it would have been for me, I think.

I knew next to nothing about Amish customs and culture before reading this book. And honestly, although I learned some interesting things about them that parallel Mormonism, I was highly disappointed in the lack of basic information about them. I guess that's not what the book was intended to be, but I would have found it more fascinating than the inner thoughts of an artist living among them.

It's a non-fiction memoir type book, written by a clinical psychologist, so it's not like there really was much "plot" to expect, but here's the basic gist: woman feels drawn to the Amish, drops everything and goes to live with some for a while, experiences multiple epiphanies about life, comes home, repeat.

Maybe I just felt like she was whining when really she wasn't, because most of her "whininess" revolved around things that I must do every day in order for our house to function; things like the dishes and the laundry. I'm pretty sick of women complaining about things like that. Especially because recently I timed unloading the dishes, and it takes less than five minutes people! Quit complaining, it's annoying.

I also found her repetition annoying. I felt like in every chapter she came to some kind of life-altering epiphany about how to relax and enjoy the boring parts of life. But frequent epiphanies lose my interest quickly because they are mundane and hard to believe.

I think this *may* be an interesting book for our Relief Society book club. The other women might have insight on Bender's thoughts that could help me appreciate it better. All in all, this seems like a book which is better when read as a group (and not necessarily all of it!) and then discussed than read by one's self quickly.

Although, my opinion of Bender and her epiphanies increased significantly when, at the end, in the epilogue, she says that her experience with the Amish changed her but didn't make her want to be Amish. It was nice to know that for all of her epiphanies, she is still human and not able to completely change, even if she had a major, life-altering experience.

Mostly, the book left me with an extreme curiosity about Amish Quilts. I wish she had included better photos than the one on the front cover! I'd like to learn more about their quilts, as well as their dolls. Actually, I'd like to learn more about the Amish in general!

10/22/2010

Juan Williams deserved to be fired

He used to be an NPR news analyst, but he was fired yesterday after a nasty comment he made on Fox.

This was the comment he made on the O'Reilly factor: "Look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."

You can't say something like that, Mr. Williams, and expect not to be fired. And to claim it is not bigoted is just ignorant!

Sure, he's allowed to have an opinion. But he is supposed to be a news analyst. I totally agree with Vivian Schiller, NPR CEO, with the idea that as a news analyst you aren't supposed to comment on the news you report.

I don't think it's at ALL a story about censorship, either. He violated NPR's code of ethics. NPR has the right to fire somebody who makes bigoted comments in a news medium. He is still Juan Williams; wherever he speaks he becomes a spokesperson for NPR.

I'm fairly certain this whole thing was prechoreographed, since he is now working for Fox under a $2 million contract.

As for NPR, obviously no news organization is going to be completely objective. Danny and I just plain disagree with how we prefer the news to deal with this: he likes Fox because it doesn't pretend to be objective. NPR annoys him because they pretend to be objective, and it comes across as pretentious and "smooth 'n smarmy." I hate listening to Fox and don't even view it as a legitimate source for news because it is so blatantly tainted with opinions and people shouting "I'm right, you're wrong, I'm right, you're wrong, I'm right..." And this is on their "news" shows, not their opinion shows!! Plus Fox "news" doesn't ever pick stories that are relevant to my life. If I wanted to hear about how so-and-so chopped up his mom into little pieces, or murdered their children in a bathtub, or whatever, I'd listen to it. But frankly, those kinds of stories have no relevance to my life and do nothing but make me wallow in misery about the state of humanity. NPR picks interesting stories. Sure, they are biased, and usually the bias is in varying degrees of left-wing liberalism, but the analysts themselves don't comment on the story. I appreciate that. Fox is great for entertainment, but when I actually want to listen to news that doesn't make my head hurt, or stress me out, I will always pick NPR hands down. I think Fox's goal is to inflame people while NPR's is to inform.

And I don't always agree with NPR's news coverage. I can see that it is biased. I just appreciate that the news analysts themselves, the anchors, the interviewers - whatever - THEY aren't the ones blatantly expressing the opinions. Sure, the questions they ask show their politics, but in my opinion asking questions is totally different from slamming YOU ARE A STUPID LIBERAL WHO IS WRONG WRONG WRONG down one's ears.

I guess the issue is should NPR receive federal funding if they aren't going to allow their news analysts "free speech." Pff. They only get like 2% of their funding from taxpayers, some of whom are Muslims! It's not acceptable for news analysts to say bigoted things and receive public money while doing it. The government is not supposed to have an opinion on what religions are okay and which ones aren't.

10/21/2010

NaNoWriMo

My brother (unbeknownst to him) convinced me to commit my soul to NaNoWriMo next month.

National Novel Writing Month is November, and nanowrimo is basically an online network of people who decide to write a 50,000k word novel in one month. That is pretty short for a novel, but pretty long for a one month ordeal.

How this is going to happen with 2 under 2 I have not yet figured out. What I am going to write about I have not yet figured out. I'm not allowed to start actually writing now, but I CAN use an outline, so I think I'll start working on that.

I've always wanted to write a novel. My brother is doing nanowrimo. Granted, he's like, a serious writer. I just blog. Until this November, I guess!

What have I committed myself to doing??? I wonder if this is even possible. The past few days Dan has nursed nonstop so I've been blogging a ton. But usually it's hard to get an hour of uninterrupted time for myself. And Joe says it takes him about 2 hours to get 1.5-2k words, which is what I will have to average in order to accomplish this crazy goal.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah okay. This is going to be fun!

"Invasive Procedures" by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston

Okay so I have about 10 books I haven't written a review for yet. But I just finished this one, so I am going to review it now.

All in all, it was okay. An entertaining read. Predictable. Slightly boring. He could have taken things to a much more exciting level. But then he didn't. For Orson Scott Card, it was disappointing. Of course, you can't really hold everything up to "Ender's Game" or you'd never appreciate any of his other work. Although, you'd think the editors would have caught the three glaring typos I found. It's a HUGE pet peeve of mine when I find typos in a book. I know there are typos on my blog, so who am I to judge...I guess it's just...sloppy...and if you're making a living at it, instead of a hobby-while-the-baby-is-nursing thing like my blog is to me, well, I think you should be able to avoid 99.9999999% of typos. One is forgiveable. Two is a bad editor. Three? Unacceptable.

Maybe I found this book boring because my husband and I talk a lot about DNA. Maybe if I weren't married to somebody working on the Thousand Genome Project, this stuff would have been more interesting. The whole time I was reading the book, I kept hearing Danny's laughter, "ha. Yeah....right." Basically, it's a crazed-scientist-wants-to-take-over-the-world plot, but involving some facts about DNA mixed with a lot of fiction. And homeless people and a scary, weird religion. And an "obedience drug" which is never explained or elaborated on. And a Mary Sue main character.

I guess what really sums up how I feel about this book is how I read it: I got it out of the library a few months ago, read the first three chapters, renewed it the maximum amount of times but then had to return it. It wasn't in the library the next time I went, or the next, or the next...I always checked. My library lets you request books and they will hold them for you. I didn't get around to doing that. But I always checked. I wanted to finish the story, just not THAT badly. And when it finally was there, I got it out and read the book in a few days.

I think it would make a good, entertaining movie. Kind of the equivalent of "Cellular". That was a fun, successful thriller that was never a huge blockbuster success. It isn't the next "Inception". The book reads like a movie.

Danny will enjoy it, I think.

Making Baby Murray

We just had a baby, and it was expensive.

But if you compare our bills to my sister in law Mary Lynn and her husband Dane's, it's completely dwarfed. That is because in order to even have the possibility of conceiving a child, they have to undergo extensive and invasive infertility treatments.

I think this situation is massively unfair. Mary Lynn and Dane are great people. They would make amazing parents. I don't get how some people who don't want to be parents end up having children, while others who truly deserve them can't.

But what is really frustrating is that on top of the physical difficulties of conceiving, there is a whole other set of financial difficulties for them to manage. And keep in mind, this is before they will know if it will even work out!

I think most of you reading my blog don't have the foggiest clue who these people are. Let me try to describe them:

They are both faithful, temple-going LDS people. They met in High School where they dated for a while. Dane converted to the church while he was at the University of Denver. I don't know all of the details of how they figured out that they wanted to get married, but somehow they did, and were married in 2004 in the Denver Temple. Mary Lynn decided while at BYU that she wanted to become a hair stylist, so she went through all of that training and now owns and manages a successful salon in the Denver area. Dane got his degree in Microbiology and now works in the Denver area as well.

When I was dating Danny, and was soooo nervous about his family accepting me, Mary Lynn always helped me to feel at ease and comfortable. She would always smile and laugh at my attempts at jokes. She has done my hair many times, including for my wedding, after I had stupidly cut it chin-length just a few months earlier! She made me look and feel gorgeous. She is one of the most beautiful people I know, probably because she's always got a smile on her face. She is cheerful in the face of enormous challenges. I admire that so much.

Dane is an adventurous, fun-loving person who has always treated me like a little sister. He's relaxed, funny, and very smart. We have a Massachusetts connection, since his family is from Boston. He loves doing adventurous outdoor things like mountain biking and skiing.

These two would make great parents. They are devoted to each other, as well as to their faith. The children they raise will be very lucky. They have been hoping to have children for years, without success so far. Their only chance to have their own genetic offspring is via expensive reproductive technologies.

I've been wishing for a long time that there were something we could do besides pray for them. Now there is. My other sister in law started a facebook campaign to help raise funds. The goal is to raise $2,000 - and YOU can help! It's not much, but every little bit will help. If every person who reads my blog each month were to contribute just $5, that would be $2,000 to help them achieve their dream. I wish that I were richer and could give them the tens of thousands of dollars it is going to take to pay for their baby. This small campaign is not much, but it is something, and together we can really make a difference in their lives.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE!

I wish that nobody would have to go through infertility. I hope that by raising some funds for them, we can help ease their burden a little.

Why I wish the Brothers Chaps would have spoken at my College Graduation

If I were in charge of lining up speakers for a College graduation, my first choice would be Mike and Matt Chapman aka "the Brothers Chaps."

I don't actually know that much more than what the Homestar Runner Wiki says about them. I wish I did. If they had a published biography, I would buy it.

Why? And who are they?

These are the creators of Homestar Runner, an online web comic. It is hilarious. It is clean. It is also something that Danny and I have watched for hours and hours and hours together, since before we were married. Most nights when we are procrastinating going to sleep, one of us will type "h" in the link bar in the browser (what is that thing called?). Homestar Runner is the first site that pops up. Always.

Side note: WE ARE DYING FOR AN UPDATE!!!!!!

It was just starting to fade in popularity a little when I was in college. That is where I learned about it, when a TA for my Computer Programming 101 class let us watch a clip. I didn't think it was that funny at the time, to be honest. In order to appreciate the humor, you have to really watch many, many episodes.

Literally, Homestar Runner has become a giant inside joke that I share with Danny. Sometimes I will quote it without remembering it is from Homestar Runner, and not something that actaully happened to us.

Back to the Bros Chaps: here is why they are ingenious.

They started the homestarrunner.com website as a hobby, never thinking it would take off like it has. They wanted to share with a few family/friends. It became a smashing, worldwide success. It is a highly trafficked site. And what became of them? They are almost definitely millionaires because of it. How? Their fanstore. Yup, they became millionaires by selling college kids and teenagers trogdor t-shirts.

Figure it this way: If they sold 5 million t-shirts per year, and made a $1 profit on each of those t-shirts, and they put the 5 million in a mutual fund that gives at least 5% interest, that would be $250,000/year. From the interest. Without ever going to work. And that is a mighty conservative estimate since they sell way more than t-shirts in the store, and probably more than 5 million/year. For the record, Danny and I both have at least one Homestar Runner t-shirt each, and Jane has the "Poopsmith" onesie.

So they are rich, and famous, but not really THAT famous. Danny thinks they have attained the perfect level of fame: they have fans, but their own faces aren't that recognizable (they are sometimes featured on the site, but it is rare). Lots of people don't even know what Homestar Runner is. If they were the creators of "the Simpsons" then everybody would know who they are and what they have done. But the Brothers Chaps have become famous without becoming too famous, leaving them true freedom to enjoy their lives uninhibited by screaming, devoted, papparazzi-ish masses.

And they love what they do! "If you came over here and hung out with me and Mike while we're "working" for a couple days you'd just be like, "What are...what do you guys do?", "How do you...you're making money at this?", "What are you doing?" ...So, it's...pretty awesome." said Matt in 2003. They haven't updated their site for a long, long, long time. We know because we check nearly daily.

Rich, famous, and lovin' the job which they do when they want, and they neglect when they want. I'm not sure exactly how old they are, but I'm guessing early to mid thirties at oldest. They are both married and one of them has a kid.

So, they are my and Danny's exact definition of "success." They are also hilarious. Please, please, please, next time I graduate college, can you be the speaker? Then I would probably pay attention!

10/20/2010

Swimming Pools and Young Children: Are they a good or bad thing?

At a playgroup a few weeks ago, the topic of swimming pools came up. Fairly early in the conversation it was established that it is better not to own a swimming pool if you have young children in the house.

What I heard was interesting. Here were the main arguments against owning a swimming pool when you have kids around:
1. They will always find a way to get in
. Lock the door, they'll unlock it. Cover the pool, they will uncover it. Fence it, they will jump the fence. No matter what you do, you can never completely eradicate the hazard of drowning, unless of course, it's never there to begin with.
2. Any and all children always have a high risk of drowning. You can't teach a child to swim well enough to completely eliminate the hazard of them drowning, so why bother?
3. All children break the rules sometimes. Establishing pool rules is not enough to keep children in check all the time.
4. It's a lot of expensive maintenance, potentially involving dangerous chemicals. If you clean the pool yourself, you have to store the chemicals somewhere. Those chemicals are poisonous to curious children, and did I mention they aren't cheap? You can pay extra to have someone else come do it for you. But it will add up quickly.
5. Kids can learn to swim at the local public pool/rec center just as well as they can learn to swim at home. At this point in the conversation, everybody started comparing the pros and cons of the local swim classes and teams.

They made some great points. To be fair, none of them currently owns a pool, and it also seemed none of them had grown up with a pool. So, they are making their judgments with the best information they have, and surely they know better than anyone what is best for their own families.

However, I disagree with the blanket assumption that it is always better not to have a swimming pool when you have young children at home.
1. A good barricade CAN keep out very young children. Jane is a young child. She can't get in the pool when the fence is up. My personal opinion is that by the time she is big enough and smart enough to drag a chair over to open the gate, or jump the fence, she had better know how to swim! My point is, sure, your preschoolers and older aged children will always find creative ways to get in, but the infants and toddlers really can't.
2. Pool owners are better able to teach children about water safety. Fear of the water is a huge cause of drowning. Sometimes children drown in the shallow end because they are afraid of the water, when they have the ability to stand up! Spooking children into believing that a pool is a terrifying, dangerous place increases the likelihood of drowning.
3. Children who can swim well have a low risk of drowning in a pool. Obviously, all young children should always have adult supervision when swimming. But if they happen to break the rules, if they can swim, their risk of drowning is very low. However, their risk of getting the maximum severity in punishment suddenly becomes very high.
4. Children learn to swim MUCH younger when they have a pool at home. Sure, you can eliminate a pool in your own backyard. But what about your neighbor's? If a child goes in the pool every fair weather day of the year since before they turn one, they won't need expensive, troublesome swim lessons when they are three, four, five, sometimes six...Teaching your child to swim when they are little is accident prevention. If you have a pool, your child can easily learn to swim by the age of two, and by three they can swim the length of the pool and back without trouble. We are talking sans floaties. You could throw my sister in law Ella in the pool at the age of two, and she could swim to the side no problem, if she didn't panic. Which she usually didn't because she was accustomed to swimming.
5. You must store all your chemicals/hazardous substances safely regardless of whether or not you are a pool owner. Do you allow your young children free access to the paint, thinner, gas can, fertilizer, etc.? No, you store these safely in the garage. Chlorine is bleach (in a more solid, stable form!), which you know you've got a bottle of somewhere inside the house, where the child has freer access.
*6. Yes, having a pool costs money. Only you can decide if this huge investment is worth it for your family. We believe the learning, fun, and family bonding that can happen in a pool outweighs the cons. Later, when kids are older, having a pool means having your kids and their friends hang out at your house instead of somewhere else. Personally, I see this as a major benefit to pool ownership. But that is for another blog post.

To conclude: I think this goes back to that principle in "Finding Nemo", which is, "If you never let anything happen to him, then nothing will ever happen to him." I think the truth is that there is a wide spectrum of risk tolerance out there for parents. Having a pool with children around requires extreme caution and preparation. But I disagree that it is never a good idea.

10/19/2010

Differences between Jane and Dan

Dan's spit ups are usually not digested milk. I guess he just gets a lot during his feedings, or something. I did some research and it isn't a health problem, it's a laundry problem (since he's gaining weight and happy). But it sure is annoying, and I think he goes through about 4 outfits per day. Jane only ever went through like, 2 max per day!

Dan has almost outgrown SIZE ONE diapers. What!? Granted, Jane was in the Costco size 1-2 forever, so maybe they are bigger. But we got a bunch of size one Huggies and Pampers at his baby showers (yes, two, awesome huh?) and now he is almost too big for them! And he's only a month and a half?

Yesterday he weighed 11 lbs 3 oz. Am I just not remembering Jane at this age? It seems like she grew much, much slower than he is. But maybe I'm having selective memory.

Jane never smiled until 3 months. Dan is a smiley baby.

Jane slept 12 hours after about 2 weeks. Dan's workin' up to it. A few nights ago he slept 7 hours straight! But mostly he just averages one stretch of 3-4 and another of 5-6. This is okay by me; I can function this way. I don't know how people who have babies who only sleep 2 hours at a time get enough rest to even think, let alone do things like clean the house or cook dinner.

When Dan cries and he's hungry, it's a very distinct cry. Jane's...I couldn't really tell. When Dan cries and he's bored, it's also very distinct (and very funny, because it's just so pathetic! "wah. [pause] wah." and then he gives up.

There are some obvious differences, like the fact that he's a boy and she's a girl...but that seemed too obvious!

10/09/2010

Unconnected Hysterically Funny Things

Kate: "Hey, here's the frame I got for your diploma. Do you want me to put it in there, so you can take it and put it up at work?"
Danny: "Well, that would be laughable!"
Kate: "Why?"
Danny: "Because! I'm the only one at work that doesn't have a pHD! It would be like displaying my kindergarten graduation certificate."

Pandora: "And someday we might, produce our own satellite! Let's go swingin' on the moon!"

Kate: "It's not Istanbul, it's Constantinople, not Istanbul, Constantinople where it sits...puttin' on the Ritz!"

Danny: "Pushin' out the..."

Kate: "Peas, Peas, the wonderful veg-GEES, the more you eat, the more you sneeze!"
Danny: "Peas and Veggies don't even rhyme."
Kate: "They aren't Veggies, they're Veg-GEES!"

[After watching 'A Couple of Song and Dance Men' on YouTube]
Danny: "Isn't that like, the EXACT same plot as 'Holiday Inn'? Wait, who are the guys in 'Holiday Inn'?
Kate: "Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire!"
Danny: "What!? The same two guys!? Don't they get tired of acting the same character? The producers must have been like 'Nonono, THIS time, it's NOT at a Hotel!"

9/28/2010

Random

It's kind of ridiculous that I've never blogged about my quilting.

Or the fact that I had my baby (!!!).

Or about all the recent fun we've had with our family coming to visit.

But alas, I do not feel like blogging about those things right now. So you'll have to wait.

Actually, mostly I just feel like blogging about a couple random things:
1. There is almost no time to blog anymore. Checking email, on the other hand, is something I can do as easily as checking a text, from my phone. Writing an email back is another story.
2. I realized through some emailing with one of my awesome cousins that the main reason I was so annoyed about the anti-SAHM rhetoric I've been sensing is because I don't like other people telling me that I can't be happy as a SAHM, or worse, that I'm not. Um, excuse me, who are you to tell me how I feel? But I removed those posts because they didn't adequately express that idea.
3. Just learned about "baby farming" in the mid/late 1800's. Sick, sick, sick. Google it if you dare.
4. On a similar vein, I've been reading the archives of the Berkeley Parent's Network. Not because I have any connection to Berkeley (although I just realized that is the school where my dad has been teaching an online math course for the past little while, so technically I do have a remote connection) - but because the answers the people give are far more mature/satisfying to read than the stuff 12 year olds write on Yahoo! Answers (which is also fun). But anyway, nursing in the middle of the night, I had taken the habit of reading from those archives. I can't read when I nurse during the day because I spend most of my time shielding Baby Dan's head from the monstrous attacks of my enormous 14 month old Jane, whose version of nice pats is pretty violent. But so, I saw a thread on "Terminating a Pregnancy" and was too curious to see what kinds of questions/responses to be sensible enough to ignore it, and after reading it, I came to this conclusion: not everybody will be held to the same standard of accountability when it comes to abortion. That's something I obviously knew, but just hadn't really processed before.
Here is why I came to that conclusion: the kinds of things the other parents said were just so completely clueless/ignorant/deluded that there is no way they can really know exactly what they are doing when they choose to kill their kid. I mean, most of the posts said something like, "I'm so sorry for your loss!" The same kind of language that people use for people who have miscarriages. What?! You can't have it both ways, people! Either the fetus is a person who, when he/she dies should be mourned, and in which case you have to come to grips with the fact that abortion is killing a person! OR a fetus is not a person, and you shouldn't need to mourn or feel guilt for them. I think the guilt felt after an abortion is the first clue that hey, I did the wrong thing.
But Danny says that he thinks people can repent from having an abortion, just like some people can sometimes repent for murder. I think it has to do with the kind of knowledge that people had when they committed the sin. For example, I don't really think there would be any way for me to repent if I were to have an abortion, because of my understanding of the plan of salvation and the worth of a soul.
Suddenly, though, I was filled with compassion for these people who are so lost that they consider an abortion as "the responsible option" for their family! There's no way they can be held as accountable for their actions; Satan has them totally deluded, so much so that their understanding of right and wrong is scewed.
Though it horrifies me to think about how people can believe such obvious lies, I am very comforted with knowing people will be held accountable to the extent of their knowledge, because SO many abortions happen every year, and if people couldn't repent of that, wow it would suck!! But Christ is a merciful judge, and will hold us accountable to our degree of knowledge.
Sometimes this line of thought makes me wonder if it wouldn't be better to just not have any knowledge of the gospel at all, because then I wouldn't be as accountable. But that's for another post...
Anyway, those are my thoughts on that.
And now Jane's breakfast is done and I need to clean up a million cornflakes from the floor. Yay!

9/15/2010

"The Hunger Game" "Catching Fire" and "Mockingjay" by Suzanne Collins

No point in writing a review on just one of these fantastic books; if you read one, you have to read them all. And the back cover of "Mockingjay" is right; the sequels DO make the story better. I think it's because it's not the kind of sequel that is episodic. It just continues the story, sort of like the Harry Potter books. And like the Harry Potter books, I am so sad that I am done reading these.

All though, I will say, the night after I finished "Mockingjay" I had the most terrifying nightmare of my whole life. These books are not for the very young, or the very faint of heart. They are serious, and increasingly more violent as they progress. Nothing sexually explicit. But just when you think that things can't possibly get worse, or more demented, or scarier, they do. And that combined with my postpartum hormones made for very, very scary nightmares. Maybe it wasn't the best choice of books to read right now.

If you like Greek and Roman history, these books will be especially interesting.

If you like dystopian worlds, this will also be interesting. I felt like the book was kind of a cross between "The Uglies" and "The Handmaid's Tale" and even a hint of the last book I read, "Seeing Stars." Well...sort of. It really was its own thing.

I will say that the love story in these books is by far the most moving love story I've ever read! Very believable. And as the books go on, you realize that Collins is very good at showing rather than telling. But be prepared to read every paragraph; it's not one of those books you can skip ahead a few sentences to read the exciting dialog; if you do, you will miss something. Also, you need to pay attention the first time she describes a character; often that half sentence is the only description you will get. There was one character (Darius) who I had totally forgotten about, and when he came up again, I was confused and did not remember who he was.

She does a great job with showing the "panem et cirenses" idea. It's basically the idea that people will exchange their political freedom for cheap/free food and entertainment. If I were a High School English teacher, I would have my students analyze the meaning of hunger in the book. She does a great job with the entertainment part to the point where it's eerily spooky to actually read the book: after all, reading a novel to be entertained is pretty similar to watching the hunger games. I think it would be even more ironic if they end up making "the Hunger Games" a movie. I don't see how they can do it without it being one of the most disturbing rated R films in existence. So far I've resisted the urge to look up reviews of this series online, or anything about it online, so I can write my thoughts about it unbiased-ly (is that a word?).

I am so glad that Collins left out religion from her books. If she hadn't, it would have been so depressing. But because she did, she leaves us an alternative to her scary world which so closely resembles ours. The truth is that death is not the end, and if you have faith, you can hope for a better world. Not a dystopian, scary world. She does kind of leave it open as to whether or not you just witnessed the evolution of mankind, but it seems doubtful.

Interestingly, my husband seems to relate and like Gale more than Peeta, which is just so bizarre to me. Like, how could Gale possibly think that the prep team deserved to be punished the way they were? And how could he set up a death trap in that mountain? So horrible. Danny says he thinks they are totally justified. I have to keep my mouth shut so that I don't ruin the series. I can't wait for him to finally finish, which hopefully he will today!

I keep thinking about one of the things Peeta was supposedly coerced into saying, about how Katniss needs to find out who she is working for. I think he's right. But honestly, I'm not sure if that would actually be possible, given the circumstances.

The scary part is realizing at the end that they are still basically in the "Hunger Games", but the cirenses part, the entertainment part, is the current events. It's so spooky to think about how similar this is to our lives, and our world. Is this how our government controls us, by the "spectacle" of war? By distracting us and feeding us, so that we are willing to sell our political freedom - by becoming complacent?

What a warning. It's taken several weeks of reading scriptures and serious thought to stop being spooked by this book. I'm so glad that she didn't put religion into it; that way, the real world has the opportunity to be better.

I actually felt really sad when I finished this series because I felt like I knew the characters deeply. Collins is an excellent writer, and I think her books will stand the test of time. It would be so fascinating to see how the characters with Roman names relate to their real life versions. Like, is Plutarch really Plutarch? Hmm.

8/19/2010

The Best Husband in the World and why I don't blog about it

I have the best husband in the whole world and I don't remember the last time I blogged about it.

Actually, it's been a conscious decision I have made to NOT blog about this. I read my friends' blogs, and often there is a "I have the best husband in the world" post which I end up skimming whilst thinking to myself, "Sheesh, did they REALLY have to post this?"

You know what, I am glad that people blog about that if it's something that will strengthen their relationship. Yay for relationships, yay for marriage. I'm just saying that an entire blog post about how wonderful my husband is and how much I love him and all the great things he does for me and our family and us - yeah I think that would both nauseate and embarrass my husband to the shade of fire-truck red.

But part of me feels extremely guilty, because I really DO have the best husband in the whole world, who dotes on me and cares for me, gets me endless glasses of water, always is willing to listen to me, changes countless poopy diapers, honors his Priesthood, etc. etc. And let's face it, he is pretty much the center of my life, which is supposedly what this blog is about. Yet I almost never mention him more than in descriptions of conversations or events. I should be blogging about his greatness every single day!

So the other day I apologized to Danny for not praising him on my blog more. He looked at me as if I was insane and then we had a long conversation about how he would really prefer I not do that because it was too embarrassing.

He also mentioned how he thinks writing something on my blog that I can just say to him in person is totally stupid. So I asked him if I could write about how great he is sometimes, and he said sure, just don't write a whole post about it.

(Which, if you will note, I subtly just succeeded in doing, even whilst describing how I wouldn't do it, mwahahahaha)

There was a long pause, and then he said, "But you will probably blog about not blogging about it."

8/15/2010

"The Year Living Biblically" by A. J. Jacobs


The following is something I wrote in an email to my in-laws that I never ended up sending. Sometimes, I dunno, I just sit down to write and I end up with a novel, something way, way, way too long for me to actually send. Plus, I realized that while I was trying to recommend them to read the book, I really ended up saying all the reasons they shouldn't read it. Finally, when I realized how much apologizing I was doing for Jacobs, I decided that there was no way I could honestly recommend it. And so why write a ten page email about a book I can't recommend?

But hey, that's what blogs are for!

"So Danny and I read a book that is really interesting and funny. Well, more accurately, sometimes I read passages of the book out loud to Danny. Also, I only read the first half of the book because I read a bunch of online reviews that criticized the second half. So, it's kind of silly that I'm recommending this book, since I didn't really read the whole thing at all, but honestly while reading it, I kept imagining what your guys' reaction would be. I think you'd think it was very funny.

It's called "The Year of Living Biblically" by A.J. Jacobs. It's not a book I would own, but rather one I would get from the library. And I totally hate the cover because it's just too over the top and slightly sacrilegious. And actually, there were a few parts I skimmed. But if you can get over these things, I can vouch for the first half of the book being quite entertaining.

It's about this agnostic American Jew who tries to spend a year living all the literal commandments in the Bible. The first half of the book focuses on the Old Testament, and the second on the New Testament. I think the reason he does a better job with living the literal commandments of the Old Testament is because they are way, WAY WAYYYYY easier to follow. For example, one thing he has to do is not wear wool and linen at the same time (Deuteronomy 22:11). Apparently there are Jews whose profession is to examine your clothing under a microscope to make sure it's not mixing fibers, because the labels can be wrong! So, this seems totally weird and crazy. But in the end, it's way easier to do than to follow Christ and believe in Him. I read about one chapter into the New Testament section, and he was basically explaining why he didn't think he could ever accept Christ as his Savior. Not very uplifting! Which is why I read the online reviews, and I'm glad, because now I don't have to waste my time reading something that's not going to be uplifting. Danny said, "Well, then he completely fails his goal to live the Bible literally, since accepting Christ as the Savior is like the one main commandment of the New Testament!" Very true. I can see how he would have had an easier time with the Old Testament anyway, seeing as he has his own family's heritage to lean on.

But the first part is hilarious and I learned a whole lot of things about Judaism that I didn't know/hadn't considered. Danny says that mostly it made him even more convinced that Jewish law/customs are totally...pharasee-ical? Like at one point he talks about how it was a commandment to wear tassels, and even though in the OT it mentions that there were several strands of blue thread in these tassels, for centuries Jews didn't put blue strands in because they weren't sure the exact shade of blue. Until recently, when scientists discovered the type of snail that would have made the blue dye used in Israel way back when. So now sometimes the tassels do have blue threads in them. Interesting.

He tries to keep the commandment to "spare not the rod" when his 2 year old son is misbehaving, and so he ends up getting a nerf stick. Which totally doesn't work; he whacks his son, but instead of disciplining him, his son just laughs and whacks him back with something else. That was funny.

But if you do decide to read it, don't have too high of expectations. He doesn't do as comprehensive a job as he possible could have, and the book mostly feels like he's doing a publicity stunt to sell a book. But I really did think parts of it were super, super funny. I think in the end, the main thing he gains from the whole thing is more appreciation for prayer. I mean, he was a totally a-religious guy before; praying several times a day every day for a year will definitely have some effect on you. I wish he had changed more; he says in the beginning that if his post-year-living-Biblically self were to meet his pre-year-living-Biblically self, they would probably thing each other was delusional. But even though it was happy that he gained some faith, of course it's still sad that he's still mostly a lost person. It seems there are way too many people like that."

My favorite experience of all involving this book was laughing out loud while reading one of the Amazon.com reviews. In the book, Jacobs describes how he is constantly reading the reviews for his other book (about his experience reading the whole encyclopedia). In the review for this book, somebody wrote something about how he knows Jacobs would be reading the review personally, so, um, hi? I thought that was hysterical.

If I were a writer, I would obsess over all my Amazon.com reviews, too.