Don’t call us, we’ll call you

June 29, 2012

The Parenting Ref

Filed under: Family, Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , , , , , — llcall @ 7:21 pm

Remember way back when, I asked you to play the “Marriage Ref” and settle one of our little marital disagreements (for the record, I won that round). Well, we’re back . . . this time you be the “Parenting Ref”! Even if you don’t have kids, you were one once, so we want to hear from you!

Here’s the deal: Addison has never been much of a cuddler. Honestly, one of the main reasons we kept her drinking from a bottle as long as we did (nearly a year longer than our pediatrician recommended) is that it offered one of our few opportunities to hold her close. But offeredis the operative word, because that opportunity often proved illusory.

This picture kind of says it all (thanks, Ishkhanoohie). I brought out a bottle almost for the sole purpose of snuggling and positioned her on my lap in the corner of the couch. About two seconds later, she nonchalantly crawled to the opposite end of the couch to lounge in independent comfort. *Mother heart breaking*

Of course, this was just a few weeks before our move to California when all Addison-hell broke loose and this type of rejection could no longer even be defined as rejection in comparison. Although since December she has not been that same screaming, yelling, hitting, kicking child, the mommy rejection has certainly continued in milder form. She routinely yells, “Get out! Get out! Want daddy!” when I enter her room. And true to her non-cuddly nature, she actively fights giving hugs and kisses to her nearest and dearest, though Neal faces this reluctance less often than the rest of us.

Which brings me to our point of disagreement: Neal feels a sense of respect for Addison’s physical boundaries. I’m trying not to inject too much of my own Neal psychoanalysis, but he seems to feel some pride in her independent nature and thinks that we should not force her to give kisses or hugs (feel free to elaborate on your feelings in the comments, Neal).

I, on the other hand, think that she is being a willful two-and-a-half-year-old and we need to keep reminding her that it is appropriate and thoughtful to give goodbye/goodnight hugs and kisses to beloved family members. In my mind, it’s analogous to the way we are training her to say please and thank you even though her natural inclination is to simply demand things. (Of course, we’re in agreement that her tendency to yell “Get out!” at everyone except daddy needs to be curbed.)

So, what do you think? Give it to us straight. Oh, and feel free to psychoanalyze to your heart’s content.

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June 23, 2012

A fond farewell . . . and a new beginning

Remember that one time I said I was going to write more about personal finance on here? Yeah, I didn’t. I’ve often thought about it because it remains a huge passion of mine, but somehow it never quite seems to fit in here with all the talk about pregnancy and adoption and adorable pictures and incarceration (because otherwise there was such a unifying theme, right?).

So I started to think about creating a second blog focused on personal finance, which sounds simple enough but somehow felt like it would completely undercut my life philosophy. (I know, I’m ridiculous.) Back when I was a teenager and going through my first round of therapy, I realized just how fragmented my life was. I was something of a different person with other people and in various settings. And when it all hit the fan, I realized just how unhealthy and draining and horrible that life was. I decided then and there that I wanted to be (1) one person and  (2) totally open about that one person. And I think I have mostly been successful at this remake of myself — and nowhere is that success more clear than on this blog I have come to love. It is an absolute expression of me and that ideal I espoused as a very messed-up 18-year-old, who somehow managed to figure out what would bring me lasting happiness (if 14 years is any indication of that).

As silly as it sounds, I have hated the idea of sending some of my thoughts/ideas/passion to live elsewhere on the internet. Still, I decided to do it. When I started thinking about how to chronicle this “alternative lifestyle” we’re trying to live, it just made sense to keep it in one discrete, focused place.

So if you’re a personal finance geek, or you still haven’t figured out what the heck we’re doing, or you want to know how much money we’re making, or you want to see our budget (you know you wanna), hop over to Chronically ill finances and take a peek. Feel free to ask questions, offer suggestions (though that’s not a promise of heeding them), question our plans, or ask about specific budget items. I don’t have a master plan of how often I’ll post there (besides whenever we bring in income, which hopefully will get more frequent), but I would love for it to be a place where I can dialogue with and be challenged by interested people.

But before I abandon the topic of personal finance altogether, let me leave you with some parting “budgeting tips and tricks” in the form of this screencast I made as a sort of audition for the online adjunct faculty position I was seeking. If you watch it, don’t forget to share your own budgeting tips in the comments, or tell me how you’re going to apply one of mine to improve your financial situation! (Do I sound like a personal finance teacher yet?)

June 14, 2012

Scumdog

Finally finished scanning the pictures for this post, which I originally wrote for my Life Writing class in April.

“I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing anything in your closet,” Rachel said as she slowly thumbed through my clothes.  It was no surprise since our relationship had been rocky from the start.

Rachel and I met our freshman year of college, in the Heritage Halls kitchen that we would share for the next nine months.  She was dressed in a tight-fitting, attention-grabbing top and tight-fitting (attention-grabbing!) pants. There were six, maybe seven young men crowded around her, combing through her long-blonde hair, feeding her grapes, and fanning her with palm fronds.  Clearly, she would have a husband by December and then there might be room to maneuver in the kitchen (as if I was going to make use of the kitchen).

She was at least nice enough to make small talk over the din of men praising her beauty and goodness.

“So are you all moved in already?”

“Yes,” I replied, pushing my glasses further up on my nose.  “I had to get everything set up before Late Summer Honors begins tomorrow — I don’t want anything to disrupt my study of Aristotelian philosophy.”

“Right.  That makes sense,” she said, stifling a chuckle.

“You don’t happen to know where I can buy some new pocket protectors or a TI-85 graphing calculator, do you?” I asked.

“Um, no.”

I heard wild laughter as I walked out of the kitchen.  It was going to be a long year — the nerd and the tramp living side-by-side.*

***

And it was a long year.  Or at least a long two days before Rachel ran into me in the hall, with my head between my knees, ratting my hair and liberally spraying it with AquaNet in preparation for the first freshman dance.

This was not that dance, but it gives you the flavor

I think she started to suspect that there was more to me than graphing calculators and philosophical inquiry.  And I began to realize that her tight-fitting (attention-grabbing!) pants were actually just khakis . . . it must have been the lighting.

A few weeks later, I went down to the basement of our building and found Rachel studying on a blanket covered with scriptures and French books and assorted texts.  I can’t remember our exact conversation but it went something like this:

“Actually, Rachel, I really like you.  You’re fun.  And funny.”

“Really?  Cause I like you too.”

“Sorry I said you were skanky.”

“You never said that.”

“Oh . . . never mind.”

*Hug*

***

Which brings us back to the day that Rach examined my closet and determined that its entire contents were virtually unwearable.

“Dressing up” for my first day of college was corduroy overalls. Seriously?

Of course, I had heard that before.  After years of gently trying to steer me in a more fashionable direction, my Mom seemed to give up by high school and embrace my wardrobe choices, nicknaming me “Scumdog.”  But eventually the protests resurfaced and we routinely had conversations along these lines:

“Are you really going to wear those to school?  They’re pajamas.”

“But they’re comfortable.”

“But they don’t look good.”

“Who cares?”

“Most people do.  Why don’t you at least go put on some jeans?”

“Why do you care so much about what other people think?  It doesn’t matter.”

Although I had heard many times before that I needed a makeover, I had never budged in my opinion that it doesn’t matter.  My plain, almost-pajama clothes; my holey, patched-together shoes; my in-a-ponytail-every-day hair.

Typical outfit, typical expression

It. doesn’t. matter.  I have always believed that, and I always will.

But the genius of Rachel and my roommate co-conspirators was this subtle message: Sure, it doesn’t matter.  We like you no matter what.  But wouldn’t a makeover be SO FUN?!!  Come on; let’s do it!!  It’ll be awesome!!  (Expressed as only college freshmen can express it.)

Which is how I ended up in a chair at Great Clips, waiting as my roommates described to the stylist the haircut they had in mind for me.  Since I love surprises, I didn’t want to hear their plans and I actually managed to keep my eyes closed during the entire cutting process so that all I saw was the final product.  After hair came clothes.  They weren’t about to turn me into a shopper, so we settled for a trip through Rachel and Meghann’s closets.  Finally, make-up.  And posing for pictures.

This is how my roommates sent me home for Thanksgiving break, a look that my family was never expecting.  I think I tried to pretend that I had really changed my whole style, but who can stay in real clothes for a whole day?  Not this Scumdog.

***

Although I was never completely reformed, I did shop out of Rach’s closet intermittently for the next several months, especially if I was going to be seeing Grant, my freshman-year crush.

When the school year ended and we all parted, I had a pile of Rach’s hand-me-downs and a lifelong fashion consultant.

Rach visited me in California the next year (I was too ill by then to go back to school) and brought clothes she was ready to discard.

Us at Elysian Park in L.A.

She had me try on her new Calvin Klein jeans (pictured above), and then took me to the outlet so that I could buy an identical pair.  My Mom was so delighted at a cute, well-fitting pair of jeans that she bought two more for my birthday.  That was in 1999, and I wore those three pair of jeans religiously until July 2011 when the final pair gave up the ghost.

Me and my jeans seeing the country together

 Rest in peace, favorite dark blue, low-rise Calvin Klein jeans; I miss you.

When I finally moved back to Utah for school, Rach was even more attentive to my wardrobe.  She would swing by my house on the way home from classes and say, “I’m done with this sweater.  It will look cute with your jeans.”  (No need to specify which jeans, they were all the same.)  Or she would call after work, “I’m coming to pick you up.  There’s a coat at Old Navy that I know you’ll love.”

I still love it; I refuse to give it up even though it’s seen better days

Not long after I graduated from BYU and moved to D. C., Rachel fortuitously moved east as well.

Us at the Tidal Basin in D.C.

Fortuitous, since I needed a swimming suit for a trip to Puerto Rico with the family I lived with.  I can’t be trusted with a responsibility like picking out a swimming suit.  I’ve been shopping with a few other people in my life, but I’ve never seen a shopper like Rach.  She had such an eye for the best stuff, and an intuitive sense of how I could get through a T. J. Maxx visit without hyperventilating. (I really hate shopping.)

“Just go sit in a changing stall, Lars, and I’ll bring you stuff to try on.”

“Okay.”

I’ve never been so obedient in my life.

***

Rachel dressed me for my brother’s wedding, dates with Neal, and, of course, her own wedding as a bridesmaid.  She picked a silky black skirt, clingy black sweater, chartreuse tank-top/scarfy-thing (she’s going to be so mad that I’m butchering the description of her agonizingly chosen ensemble), black fishnets, and a wedge heel.  I’m not gonna lie; I looked good.

I was sure I had a picture showing the fishnets . . .

Little did Rach know that her carefully constructed outfit would prove useful later.  After a year and a half of dating, Neal and I broke up in October 2006.  Although I was the one doing the breaking up, I was heart-broken.  I wept, sobbed, cried . . . while he sat stoically on the couch as I broke up with him.  Crazy.  Since we were still in the same ward, I knew that come Sunday I wanted to replace the picture of that weepy girl in her pajamas (pajamas Rach gave me, by the way).

Sugar daddy PJs, in lieu of an actual sugar daddy

So I busted out the skirt, sweater, tank-top thingy, fishnets (especially the fishnets), heels, and made sure to exchange pleasantries after Sacrament meeting.  BAM!  Six months later, we were married.  I’m pretty sure that’s not a coincidence.

There are not very many things in my wardrobe now that Rachel wouldn’t get some credit for helping to place there, either literally or indirectly.  Of course, I still spend the vast majority of my time in a worn pair of green scrubs she gave me freshman year.  There are only so many new tricks you can teach an old Scumdog like me.

* Dramatization may not accurately represent either the nerd or the tramp.

June 12, 2012

The one where Neal suddenly sounds middle-aged:

Filed under: Lindsay loves Neal — Tags: , , , , — llcall @ 5:19 pm

It’s interesting to watch Neal begin to navigate the world of web networking and blogging. He’s not much of a “networker” in general (that’s putting it mildly), but gaining blog subscribers/followers/friends/comments is his new crack. He used to try to acquire weaponry in his various computer role-playing games; now he watches his blog stats page. Although he’s still a novice in social media use, I’ve had every confidence that he would eventually figure it out.  Until a few days ago, that is, when he said this:

“It’s good to get in with the college kids because they trade links like hotcakes.”

Really? Tell me more about “the college kids” and their link-trading habits! He insists that he still feels like a 21-year-old most of the time, but he’s sure starting to sound like someone pushing 30, don’t you think?

If you have any tips about getting in with “the college kids,” please pass them along. I think he might need them . . .

June 11, 2012

Hunger

Filed under: Adoption, Motherhood, Personal, Pregnancy — Tags: , , , — llcall @ 3:55 pm

I wrote this last Monday, but promptly forgot about it amidst the busy week.

Yesterday I held a just about two-month-old baby during Relief Society. I could hardly take my eyes off her, observing/remembering all the baby things babies do that Miss Addison most decidedly does not do. I forgot how charmed  I am by the little things: watching them gently suck pacifiers (something Addison never actually did — maybe that’s why I don’t remember how cute it is); seeing their lips break into momentary smiles; listening to them grunt, trying to get comfortable (or poop). My right arm felt dead afterward, but it was worth it.

Despite how much I enjoyed it, I realized this surprising fact: I’m not really baby hungry anymore. I still like them, I still want one, but there’s no ache there now. There’s a few newborns at church and I remember seeing the first one come to church in March, at just a few weeks old. His mom picked him up to shush him and I started crying. I just wanted to shush a baby so badly. And not someone else’s where I wasn’t quite sure how he wanted to be held, whether he wanted my shoulder or the crook of my arm. I wanted to shush a baby and know that I was the very best shush-er for that little one. But unless I’m mistaken, I think that was the last time I cried for a baby. And that aching hunger has been replaced by something calm and peaceful: my time will come again. Someday.

I’m surprised at how quickly and gently that ache went away. I thought it would hang on me, maybe drive me back into therapy (not that we could afford that right now). I credit it to God and Addison. She doesn’t let me hug her often or long, but one-and-a-half seconds turns out to be just enough to remind me that I have already been given an incredible gift. (And shenanigans like Saturday’s remind me that it won’t be the worst thing for Addison to be older when a sibling comes along, lest I have another child to manage while fishing her out of fountains.)

But despite the baby hunger dissipating, I still feel some sorrow about pregnancy and labor and delivery. This just doesn’t compute for Neal. In his mind, my pregnancy was 9 months of absolute hell and complete incapacitation. But when I protest with all the things I was able to do, I can only come up with finishing my stats class and going to church.  Being out of bed 7 hours a week for 7 months (fewer after the appendectomy) is not exactly a ringing endorsement for pregnancy. And don’t even get Neal started on the terror of labor.

I remember it all differently, of course. Not that it seems rosy, but it seems amazing, almost magical and so incredibly worthwhile. I still can’t believe that I, of the strange and never-ending health problems from infancy (when I was a baby my parents came into my room once to find me bleeding out my eyes) to now, carried and delivered a girl so robustly healthy that she is forced to run everywhere and sees the doctor only once per year! That is a miracle worth suffering for.

Even while I can think of many advantages to not having another pregnancy, when my mind starts to wander, I routinely picture myself with a big, round belly again. I don’t miss the rash, but I sure do miss that belly (and the little girl punching me from inside it). And when I think about never being part of another labor/delivery, I feel sad. I still read lots of birth stories, but it’s not the same as being there with a laboring women, or myself, watching the intense highs and lows unfold.

Is it weird that I don’t even think about having another biological child anymore, but I do still dream of being pregnant and (most of) what goes along with it?

June 8, 2012

Neal’s DadCentric guest post

Filed under: Neal's writing, Personal — Tags: , — llcall @ 5:10 pm

If we’re friends on Facebook, or you’re on my family email lists, or I’ve talked to you in the last week, or you read my blog post from yesterday, you already know about Neal’s guest post at DadCentric. But I’m still super excited and shouting it from the rooftops! You would be too if this is all you witnessed during Neal’s “work” (we tell Addison to always put work in quotes) time for nine months:

So if you haven’t already, hop over and read “On holding hands.” (The comic is one of my favorites — but I may end up saying that a lot just as I do about my men in jail.)

June 7, 2012

Busy (of my own making)

Filed under: Family, Lindsay loves Neal, Personal, Teaching — Tags: , , — llcall @ 8:30 pm

Last week seemed really busy. Probably because I was feeling better health-wise than I have since early February (huzzah!) and tried to pack in a lot of fun!

Addison and I visited an old Utah friend that recently moved to Oceanside — toddler fun for all:

I love that Addison has a pacifier in her mouth in the last one; she is surprisingly obsessed with binkys now, considering she wouldn’t touch one as a baby.

Made a brief beach visit:

Some days I love where I live — this was one of those days

And had a fantastic dinner with two cousins  and two aunts in Carlsbad (no pictures, but there was filet mignon and homemade sourdough bread — who knew you could even make sourdough bread at home?!)

And all that was just on Wednesday! [Neal thinks it’s crazy how I pack so many things into one day, but it’s a coping mechanism to get my adrenaline flowing.]

By Friday I still had enough energy left that I wanted to eat something good for dinner. I get ambitious in the kitchen about twice a year (if that), so I had to find something that would really hit the spot and hold me over for another six months. Saucy Cuisine delivered. I took a picture of my creation, but my Aunt Helen’s looks  so much better!

We had our Golden Sweet Pepper sauce with pasta and chunks of fish because, well, we’re cheap like that. But it sure was tasty! I loved finding a new sauce to break up the monotony of spaghetti sauce — Neal would make us eat spaghetti every other day (every day?) if I let him.

So that was last week, and that seemed busy. Not our old kind of busy, but much crazier than our now-typical pace of life. And then this week hit, and last week suddenly seemed leisurely!

We visited Disneyland Monday and Tuesday, trying to cram in our last bits of Disney fun before our passes blackout for the summer. We had a playdate with a friend from the ward (and I got to hold an adorably mellow three-month-old). Tonight Neal and I go to an orientation about the foster care/adoption system in the area, and Saturday is a Primary swim party (though now I know we can turn most outings into a swim party, so it’s no biggie).

Also, Neal got invited to do a guest post at an aggregate daddy blog called Dadcentric (his post goes up tomorrow morning), so there’s been lots of blog-related activities going on. We’re still trying to figure out how much of Neal’s blog administration I take part in, but thus far, it’s definitely taking some time. [Totally unrelated, but can you guess what the #1 Google search term leading people to Neal’s blog is? If you guessed emasculation, you’re both correct and creepy. (I’m just hoping it has to do with this post, otherwise we’re in real trouble.)]

Oh, and then after all that, I also picked up a couple of jobs. One — becoming an online adjunct faculty member at a university — has been in the works for a while. But since I was in the application process for almost 4 months and there were no guarantees, and we hadn’t had any income in more than 9 months, I jumped at the opportunity to tutor a woman in my ward when she asked. I just finished my first session with her and I think it is going to be quite enjoyable; I’ll pass on some of my expertise in essay writing and she’ll teach me about her native Brazil.

If we’re friends on Facebook, you may have already seen Neal’s latest funny:

It proved oddly prescient because while he was writing that post, Addison informed me that she was going to take her first solo trip. “Not mama, not daddy. Addison go.” When I asked where she was headed, she said, “Kirsten’s house.” If she can navigate her way to Santa Monica, then she deserves the vacation! (A vacation doesn’t sound too bad right now, actually.)

June 4, 2012

My Saturday ended with this question:

“Do you think most people would consider a day when their child fell head-first into a fountain, and then walked around the library, soaking wet and in her pajamas, a successful day as a parent?”

Neal and my mom just laughed, which I think meant no, but a 50-something man with long white hair and I disagree. Let me explain.

One of our local libraries has a big fountain out front, and since Addison loves all things water, we have a deal that she gets to touch the water once before we go into the library. There’s a whole routine with it: she hangs over the side, touches the water for a minute, runs around the fountain twice, and then we go in to get our books. Only yesterday, when I got her positioned hanging over the side, she apparently still couldn’t reach the water. Apparently, because the next thing I knew she was trying to catapult herself just a little bit closer to the water . . . but FYI, that’s not exactly how catapults work. In the split second that my attention was drawn away by another child coming up to the fountain, she had completely submerged herself, much to everyone’s surprise (including the man with the long white hair who didn’t realize that his lunch included a water show).

I quickly fished her out and stood her on the side of the fountain, reassuring her over her gasping and crying. I had to think fast to turn this into something less traumatic. So I crouched down at her eye level and said, “You LOVE THE WATER! You’re ALL WET! Can you believe that just happened? That was SO FUNNY!” She loves to be funny, so I could see that get her little wheels turning: Was that secretly awesome? Did everyone think I was funny? Maybe it really is cool to be soaking wet when everyone else is dry . . . . After a long minute of contemplation, she turned to me with a huge grin and yelled, “FUD!”

I knew I had her then! I felt like the best parent ever (unless I had inadvertently taught her to dive into the fountain every time we went to the library, but I tried to banish the thought). The white-haired man was pretty impressed too. After he heard her delighted squeals and saw her huge smiles, he came up to say, “I saw what you did there. You totally turned that around. What a great parenting move. Nice job.” And then he gave me a fist bump on the arm. He might have single-handedly given me the greatest moment of motherhood validation I’ve ever had. I did this cool thing, helping my two-year old reframe the situation and keep it in proper perspective and control her emotions, and someone else TOTALLY NOTICED!

Everything seemed awesome, until I took her down off the fountain and realized that she could barely move. See, whenever Addison has a wet cloth diaper, she walks exactly like a very slow penguin. She moves her legs as little as possible, probably because a really wet Econobum diaper is ridiculously heavy. And since she was wearing just such a cloth diaper, with an ultra-absorbent insert to boot, she was probably carrying an extra five pounds or so right between her legs. This whole hardly-able-to-move thing wouldn’t have been so bad if she had been willing to head (very slowly) to the car, but she was headed straight toward the library entrance. I tried to convince her that the car was a better choice because she was going to get cold, but she knew the big secret now: it is really cool to be soaking wet when everyone else is dry. I had to weigh my options quickly since I knew there was no change of clothes in the car and there would be hell to pay later if we didn’t go home with Knuffle Bunny Too, which I had promised her was the primary purpose of our library outing. She was wearing her beloved Buzz Lightyear pajamas, black patent leather “church shoes” (she insisted on fancying up the PJs), her diaper was sagging down to her knees, and she was dripping wet. But what the hey, let’s go to the library!

I took her to the bathroom first to dump the excess water out her shoes because that seemed like the responsible thing to do, but otherwise I let her wander (very slowly) around the library, walk (very slowly) up and down the stairs, push the elevator buttons, draw on little slips of paper probably reserved for call numbers, play on the kids’ computers, pick out some picture books, and press the self-checkout buttons. Of course, about 200 people looked at her, and looked at me, and looked at her again and thought I was a completely idiotic parent. But it was okay because the white-haired man and I knew that I was, in fact, an awesome parent.

Towards the end of our hour-long journey through every square inch of the library, a mom came up to me while Addison was staring intently at a kids’ game on the computer. “Is that your child?” she asked. “Yes,” I told her, thinking that she was going to inform me that Addison was dripping water on the chair. “Oh, she’s just so cute. Look at how intently she’s watching that program. She is so fascinated with those bubbles. This is just such an age of discovery. You should take a picture if you have your camera because you’ll miss these days when they’re gone.” At first, I was just giving my obligatory thank-you talk, but then it really sunk in. I’ll miss this day when it’s gone. This day especially, because she’s soaking wet in her pajamas in her church shoes in the library. And I thanked the woman a little more sincerely, just as she observed, “Also, you know, she’s pretty wet.”

Yep. That’s the best part.

June 1, 2012

Pictures for the Weekend: Sequences

Filed under: Family, Pictures for the Weekend — llcall @ 1:00 pm

Those first two posts were the ones we selected for editing, but as I mentioned, there were about a bazillion other pictures I loved. Like these sequences:

I’M HAVING FUN

PSYCH; I’M BORED

CAN I GET LIFT, BUDDY?

Those final three would make the perfect Addison flip-book — trust me, I’ve scrolled through them quickly about 30 times.

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