Don’t call us, we’ll call you

November 15, 2013

Update 2.0

Filed under: Books, Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , , , , , — llcall @ 5:54 pm

I almost forgot that in my mommy update I wanted to include a link to a guest post I did on my friend Jen’s wonderful blog, Pale Cetacean.

pale cetacean

Jen and I share an interest in many of the same topics (minimalism, tiny houses, education, women’s issues, personal finance — just kidding, I’m still trying to convert her to that one ;)), but especially reading, so I love the way she documents how her reading intersects with her daily life. But I still want her to explain how she reads so dang many books, among all her other activities!

I particularly wanted to point you to that guest post because (1) it has more pictures of us in one post than I have probably put on this blog in the last year

Addison loves reading

Like this one, in which (I’m not kidding) Addison is thumbing through Your Money or Your Life, a book on mindful spending and financial independence — doesn’t she look like a personal finance lover in the making?! Be still my beating heart.

and (2) I talk a little more about Carol Dweck’s Mindset, something I’ve mentioned I would like to do a whole series of posts on. That day is still far off, so in the meantime, I’m glad I recorded at least a paragraph or two on how Dweck’s work impacts my parenting.

What reminded me about all this was Jen’s most recent post in which she shares that reading Mindset is giving her a new lens to see the world and herself. Yep. That was my experience too, despite the fact that I had been reading her academic studies for years. I’ll say it again, this book is a game-changer. Read it!

P.S. I’d love to see some of you profiled in Jen’s “reading parent” series — let me know if you’re interested and I’ll connect you!


January 27, 2013

The past and the future

Has it really been a month since I blogged? Yes, yes it has. And that month has been kind of insane:

A whirlwind trip to Utah to see Neal’s youngest brother, Skylar, after he returned from Spain (on a mission) and before he headed to Jerusalem (on a study abroad). It was a Call reunion of sorts. Here are a few of my favorite snapshots, including this one of Addison and Skylar getting reacquainted after two years.

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And no trip to Utah would be complete without a visit to Addison’s “nice Grandma.”

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A two-day getaway to check out the place that Neal and I are thinking of calling home in the near future.

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Addison getting as sick as she’s ever been in her life, which, admittedly, is not that sick because she’s got something of an iron immune system, but involved some vomiting (again on my mother — have I mentioned that she has thrown up, or “gived up” as she is now calling it, on me and Neal only once in her life, but my mom about 7 or 8 times?) and diarrhea that made her sob (more out of confusion than anything else; I think she’s just used to pushing for days to get stuff out).

A Relief Society lesson (me). An Elders Quorum lesson (Neal). A couple of Activity Days. Another “viral” comic — Neal keeps telling me the Man-Cold is no joke, but 644 people (mostly women) who shared it on Facebook beg to differ.


Teaching 90 students in my two classes with one of them sending me daily emails about how she is NOT LEARNING and bored and unmotivated (all direct quotes, from the SECOND week of class. Seriously?). Our Larson family Christmas, culminating in a week of having my two nieces stay with us so that we could take them to Disneyland (annual pass officially expired, just in time, since Tuesday’s Disneyland adventure culminated in a migraine and vomiting for me).

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I’m tired.

But not as tired as I thought I might be and I’ve got a one-hour massage to look forward to on Friday.

This week with my nieces was instructive about what the future holds. Ayda is four and gave me the opportunity to hone my parenting skills before Addison gets there. For example, while watching Mulan, in particular the scene where Mushu talks about her “girly habits,” we had this conversation:

Ayda: Tia, what does habits mean?

Me: Habits are acts that you perform regularly.

Ayda: What does perform regularly mean?

Me: To do something continually.

Ayda: What does continually mean?

Me: It’s like . . . something you do every day, like brushing your teeth or combing your hair.

Ayda: Okay, but I’m trying to listen to the movie.

Note to self: Think of examples, not synonyms.

Double note to self: Don’t talk over jokes about biting butts; apparently that’s comedy gold to a 4-year-old.

It feels good to capture that little bit of what we’ve been up to. Although I have no idea what my blogging future holds, I did receive what I wanted from Neal for Christmas (after only 17 reminders!), so there should be at least a few more blog posts coming your way!

Up next: Forgiveness and restorative justice.

December 11, 2012

Two lessons from my mom:

Filed under: Family, Personal, Teaching — Tags: , , , , , , , — llcall @ 10:33 pm


In Relief Society on Sunday, I taught a lesson about raising children (because, um, clearly I’ve got this!). One of the questions the manual posed was, What are some “daily acts” that bear witness of our beliefs to our children? When I read that, my mind immediately went back to a conversation with my mom just a couple of weeks before. She had been sick and missed church on the day that many leadership positions and callings in our ward were changed. (The LDS Church has no professional clergy and instead depends on volunteerism and a system of rotating responsibilities throughout the membership.) She was eager to hear about the changes when I returned home. Our conversation went like this:

Me: RN became Relief Society president.

Mom: Oh, she’ll be great! She’s such a powerful speaker.

Me: Her counselors are SJ and —

Mom: She’ll do a wonderful job. She’s so loving.

Me: JT.

Mom: Oh, she’ll be fabulous. She’s so funny and engaging and makes friends easily.

Me: KL and LP got called to be ward missionaries.

Mom: Wow, they’ll be fantastic in those callings!

Me: So, just so we’re clear, do you think they’re going to be great or just kinda mediocre?

In some ways this conversation was such a small thing, but as I reflected on it I thought about how it encapsulates one of the most important lessons of my life: acknowledging and appreciating someone else’s strengths does not diminish yours. What a difference it makes in life to look for and embrace the good in others!


My mom is the quintessential “go-getter.” She never met a certification, degree, or job opportunity she wasn’t willing to assertively pursue. I have that in me too, but as a more introverted person, I think I feel less comfortable drawing attention to myself and my qualifications. I have always felt that the quality of my work would (eventually) speak for itself, so I did not need to spend much time networking. Many opportunities have come my way very naturally, but at the same time, I know I have left some things on the table because I was not willing to make contact with people if it felt even a little like self-promotion.

Last week I attended an online meeting with the university I teach for in which 30+ instructors eagerly discussed potential opportunities to add to their teaching load. Part of the master plan is to add another online class or two to get us to the income level we are hoping for, but I was beginning to doubt whether there would be more opportunities at this particular university as they have repeatedly said that their priority is to have each instructor teach one online course. When I logged out of the virtual meeting, I felt a bit deflated because although we were all on “the list,” the list to be used if the need ever arose, there were obviously a lot of instructors equally anxious to add another class. Still, the thought crossed my mind: I bet my mom would email the Online Scheduling Coordinator right now just to let him know she was ready and willing, with a little plug for how capable she was. So I did it. I sent a short email, something like I’m so glad my winter section carried — I look forward to teaching again! If you ever need another class filled, even at the last minute, I am very flexible and could step in. I have worked with non-traditional students in the past, so that would not be a problem. Also, I’ll DO ANYTHING! PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE! DON’T MAKE MY HUSBAND GET A REAL JOB!

Well, what do you know? Today, just 2 days later, I got a call from said Online Scheduling Coordinator asking if I would teach a second section of my course in the winter. Um, yes. No real jobs for us! (This is probably not exactly the outcome my mom thought she was promoting. Teaching lessons to kids: it’s a double-edged sword.)


I always thought of myself as being more like my dad: we share similar work habits and sleep tendencies (though Neal beat those night-owl tendencies right out of me). We both loathe shopping and raisins and celery. We both love finances and solitude. But the older I get the more I appreciate the lessons from my mother and how profoundly they have shaped me.

November 2, 2012

Mommy update: 33 years

I have typically only written a “mommy update” in conjunction with a “baby update” chronicling her stats and latest tricks. But we’re at that age now where there aren’t a lot of new, easy-to-track physical skills (unless you count flicking, which we just discovered she could do this morning). And we only go to the doctor for measurements once a year so I’ve got nothing on that since February. I have been recording changes in her language, but it’s too scattered to form a legit update. Still, I have been noticing some changes in my experience as a mother over the last couple of months and I wanted to record that. My birthday seemed like a good occasion since, you know, I’m growing up!

The last time I reflected on motherhood, just after Addison turned two, I talked about some breakthroughs, about things getting easier, about enjoying Addison’s company more, and deciding to be “all-in” as a stay-at-home mom. Soon after I wrote that post a couple of friends pointed out that my definition of stay-at-home parenting does not necessarily conform to the commonly accepted definition. This is a fair response, so I had always planned to clarify what stay-at-home parenting looked like for us. Our care-taking schedule looked like this last winter:

  • Wake-up to 1:00 pm — Neal
  • 1:00 to 7:00 pm — Me
  •  7:00 pm — Bedtime routine all together
  • Night wakings — Neal

I know six hours of primary responsibility for my daughter is a far cry from what most stay-at-home mothers do, but for me, that’s the big time! Even so, I was mostly describing an internal shift I was experiencing. Although I’m not one to pass graphic quote displays around the internet, the last couple of sentences of this one really sums up that internal shift:

Thank you, Pinterest, for helping me find this quote.

Points off for misattribution of the quote — actually written by Rachel Jankovic — and misspelling Neil L. Andersen’s name TWICE.

(You guys, I know I shouldn’t even be saying this, but I kinda hate Pinterest — like total, only slightly rational HATRED. I dream of writing whole blog posts about this hate but I probably shouldn’t since I’m pretty sure I would lose some friends. And I love you guys (!), even if you love Pinterest. That includes Neal who joined Pinterest despite my persuasion, but apparently wrote on his bio that he’s married to a “great woman” to placate me.)

But I digress (you see what Pinterest does to me). That internal shift I experienced was all about deciding that right now motherhood is “what God gave me time for.” I still think about getting a PhD and writing a book about the economic socialization of incarcerated people (I’ve even written an outline, peeps), and I believe that later I will feel that those are also the things that God gave me time for. But right now it is this mothering thing, this thing that is simultaneously so difficult and so joyful. Motherhood is the greatest paradox in my life.

Nine months later, this shift in perspective is still intact. Despite the fact that every few weeks I think about applying to PhD programs, volunteering with a literacy program in the local jail, or working with a prisoner letter-writing group, I remind myself that now is not the time. Keeping my focus almost solely on my family is what God gave me this time for.

Though that perspective has stayed the same since February, other things have changed. I got a part-time job teaching online. My neck stopped working for a couple of weeks. Addison and I spent a week in Utah without Neal and she almost pushed me right over the edge — that whole enjoying Addison’s company was in serious jeopardy for a time this summer. The combination of these things and their residual effects necessitated a change in our care-taking schedule:

  • Wake-up to 4:00 pm — Neal
  • 4:00 to 7:30 pm — Me
  •  7:30 pm — Bedtime routine all together
  • Night wakings — Neal

Three-and-a-half hours a day as the primary caretaker. That’s not much. But seriously, most days it is all I am physically capable of. Yesterday Neal had some writing projects to finish and so we switched blocks and I was on until 4:00. Things were going swimmingly — we ate breakfast (I made it! well, I mixed a couple of things in with yogurt anyway), read books, went for a walk (outside the house!), stopped in at the neighborhood library, bought a 99-cent pumpkin, painted said pumpkin, took a bath — until about 2:00 pm when I was DONE. My joints were aching, my head, neck, and back were throbbing. I needed to lay down in the worst way, and I craved absolute silence while I did so. (Silence is hard to come by in Addison’s presence.)

In most areas of my life, I have long since accepted my physical limitations, but this parenting thing is hard. I can’t ask a two-year-old like her to sit still or quietly lay next to me for any lengthy period of time (well, that’s not true I ask her all the time; she just seems physically and temperamentally incapable of it). I know kids learn by play and she desperately wants me to play with her; as much as she loves Dora the Explorer, she would choose me any day of the week. But I just can’t half the time. And the other half the time, I can only do it in short bursts. Over lengthier periods of time, my physical pain wears down my emotional reserves and I lose patience. We had one of those moments yesterday. I snapped at her harshly because she was not cooperating. She looked up at me immediately, a cross between wounded and curious. In that moment, I was not the mother she recognized, one who is usually calm and focused even when I’m disciplining her. My nerves were frayed in a very physical way, creating emotional consequences that I knew were not caused by any egregious behavior on her part.

Does this sound depressing? It’s meandered into that territory more than I was expecting. See, the changes I was planning to write about are these:

  1. I honestly do love my time with Addison more than ever.
  2. I’m beginning to see the future wherein some of my most stimulating conversations happen with her, instead of in the hours I can get away from her.

A connection between the two, you think?

In early October, October 6th to be exact, Addison asked us, “What does dead mean?” (In fact, you can watch her asking it on film and clarifying what she means if you’re so inclined.) I fumbled around a little for a kid-friendly definition, trying to explain the differences between the body and the spirit, and where the spirit goes after death. (Spirit prison may have come up briefly — I just can’t help myself!) I have never known very much about when kids start to do certain things, understand certain concepts, etc. but this death question seemed like a fluke to me. I really didn’t think she was actually pondering the concept of death at two-and-a-half. But every couple of days, she would ask again. There would be follow-up questions. “How do you get dead when you get hurt?” “Get sad when you get dead?” It was all very disarming both because of the timing  and because I previously thought that kids don’t really know or do anything that interesting until at least 5 or 6. In these conversations, we covered injury, incapacitation, old age, and various conceptions of the afterlife. I might also have referenced an NPR story in which a woman who was thought to have experienced total and profound brain death turned out to be primarily deaf, blind, and dumb, but still very much alive and coherent. (Just so you know, if you face a similar conversation, it’s probably too soon for brain death and life support decision-making. Lesson learned.)

Just a few days before that particular conversation, I was having another one with my old roommate Em as we drove from the funeral to the airport. We were discussing our questions about what comes after this life, what it all means, and how it all works. The conversation with Em was different than with Addison, but I could sense how much closer I am to these genuinely thought-provoking conversations with Addison than I realized. Soon she will have her own ideas to share about the afterlife and why people get sad when they get dead. I can see that the process of trying to explain what I know in terms a child can understand will be a continual challenge, but one of the most effective routes for my own personal growth that I can think of. I have a feeling too that as Addison begins to explain things to me, I’ll experience moments of clarity about topics that I have long pondered. Thus far her temperament, personality, and ways of interacting with the world are so different from mine that I cannot help but see with new eyes.

A while back, my good friend Nikki posted an update on Facebook, talking about how when people talk about how hard parenting is, it scares her off before she can hear their eventual “but”s and qualifications. I’m certain I’m one of these friends that has scared her. Oops. Some of the replies to her post were along the lines of, it’s not as hard as people say. Well, it is for me. It’s very hard. It challenges me far, far more than a PhD program ever could. I know this. I’m constantly torn, trying to distinguish between the things I just can’t provide for her and the things I can but would rather not (like having conversation #50 about why Gaston is so mean to the Beast when I would much rather be lost in my own more interesting thoughts). I don’t think that’s ever going to change completely — being torn is part of who I am as a person, so it was bound to be part of who I am as a parent. But it is getting easier. And more interesting. And more fun. And, of course, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I feel almost too privileged that this is what God gave me this time for.

My favorite lunch date

My favorite library date

October 28, 2012

Luxury items: Neal

Filed under: Chronic illness, Family, Lindsay loves Neal, Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , , , , — llcall @ 12:52 pm

It’s 3:00 am and I’ve woken up sick. There were some little inklings that I might be headed this direction, like when I laid down and couldn’t get up for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon. Or when I thought I might vomit just before I got in bed. But otherwise, I have a lot of things planned this week and had no intention of spending half the night awake and green and trying very hard not to lose everything I ate yesterday.

But while I do those things, I’ve been thinking of Neal. How lucky am I to know that tomorrow morning when Addison wakes up ready to grab another day by the horns and beat it into submission — or at least make it clap for her constantly —  I can still stay in bed and nurse this sickly body? I won’t have to explain to Neal what to do with her, what to feed her, how to dress her for church, or what to pack in the diaper bag. I learned what a luxury all that is two summers ago at a book group where more than a few women were bemoaning the fact that they could not leave their husbands alone with the kids without returning to dirty, naked children, piles of food on the floor, and kitchen cupboards left open (Neal sometimes does that one). It’s both a luxury and a choice, but today I’m focused on the luxury.

I cannot imagine a better father than Neal. He’s so mild and calm and sensitive. I’ve had to encourage him to develop a stern-parent voice (cause you’ve gotta have one of those with a kid like Addison on the loose), but I’m grateful that in the now 8 years I’ve known him I’ve heard only two harsh things escape his mouth (neither of which were directed at me or Addison). His ability to stay calm under pressure has been no small feat over the last week as Addison inexplicably forgot how to fall asleep and STAY asleep (because, really, the mere falling asleep is USELESS to us!). I don’t think I could have stayed as good-natured while Addison pitifully explained to me over and over again, “But I don’t know how to sleep” at 1:00 am.

Of course, sometimes Neal and I have our differences in terms of parenting practices. Like last week when I heard Addison banging something against her gate in protest of quiet time. It turned out to be the thermometer. The thermometer we bought just the day before to see how high her temperature had gone. When I took it away, she was inconsolable, sobbing, “But daddy gave it to me. Daddy GAVE IT TO ME,” which I knew could not possibly be true. Except that it was. He dutifully explained to her that he had made a mistake in giving a two-year-old a brand new, expensive (defined as anything over $10 in our house) thermometer to attempt to crush against walls and various other surfaces. But what I loved most was when he came back into our room and said, “Did you see how I didn’t throw you under the bus there? ‘Cause I could have.” I love that we share an underlying vision of how we want to raise our daughter and rule number 1 is don’t throw each other under the bus. Rule number 2 involves bringing Jawas into the conversation as often as possible.

From Raised by my daughter, of course

In short, I adore my Neal. The way I can depend on him, every moment of every day. The way he’s gotten a teeny-tiny bit more flexible about our schedule changing at a moment’s notice, even though he is almost certainly hard-wired against said flexibility. The way he reflects on parenting by drawing stick figures in his spare time. Life is just so much better with him by my side.

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.

May 21, 2012

“The hurt child”

I’m on my third adoption book now. And, WHOA, it’s a doozy (I definitely need that fiction break!). I certainly don’t consider myself squeamish (I actually enjoy reading about the complexities of incarceration), but this is one of the hardest books I have ever read. Ever. It’s called Adopting the Hurt Child: Hope for Families with Special-Needs Kids. You just don’t ever want to think about the kinds of things that they’re describing happening to children. Having to face the reality, on page after page, that these things do happen to hundreds of thousands of kids is difficult (understatement of the year). Perhaps I just haven’t arrived at the hope part yet . . .

It’s probably as telling as anything that about 30 pages in I actually wanted to stop reading it. And I never want to stop reading anything I’ve started. I was just coming off You Can Adopt: An Adoptive Families Guide, which even though it does address all aspects of adoption, including “hurt children,” is a bit rah-rah-rah. You can adopt! It will work out! Here’s how to do it! Ready, go! (Don’t get me wrong, I think it is a great resource, I just think maybe I should have read it after Adopting the Hurt Child).

But I am pressing on and realizing some important things. For one, there is a certain comfort in working with adults in the criminal justice system. Even though many, if not most, have experienced the trauma the book is describing, I’m seeing them as full-grown men, strong for having lived through various kinds of hell; strong for being willing to talk about it and to seek help and to just keep surviving. It’s much harder to envision the children in this book, almost frozen in these devastating circumstances.

The other thing that’s been growing in my mind is that in some ways my background is ideally suited for adopting through the foster-care system. Considering a “special needs” adoption forces you to really think about what you expect from your children, and how you would cope if your children veered from those expectations. A couple of weeks ago my friend Emily, my resident child development expert, asked if I do a certain child development activity with Addison, and I responded something like: Not really. I’m not very intentional about it anyway. It’s more intuitive for my mom . . . but when Addison goes to jail, I’ll know just what to do! Of course, I don’t want Addison to go to jail or prison, but it’s definitely something I think I could deal with. I’ve played out that possibility in my head, considering what I would do in various scenarios (does that sound weird? When I’m sick I end up with a lot of time on my hands!), and I certainly don’t assume that Addison is immune to those kinds of problems simply because she is my child and has been blessed with many advantages in this life.

I guess the point is that when you think your child being incarcerated would be tough, but workable, and you’ve already considered strategies for getting through it, perhaps you are precisely the kind of parent that some “hurt child” could really use. Perhaps.

November 8, 2011

“Vacation is the worst part.”

Filed under: Family, Motherhood, Personal, Therapy — Tags: , , , , , , , — llcall @ 8:08 pm

Of life, he means.  That’s what Neal just told me in response to my somewhat-whiny statement, “I just want to go back on vacation.”

It may seem strange that we didn’t completely figure out that some of my FAVORITE things — travel and vacations — are some of Neal’s LEAST favorite things until year six together.  But actually, it’s not strange at all because what was formerly Neal’s mildly-expressed preference for staying home, which I share a lot of the time, has turned into a deep-seated aversion to getting out of a two-mile radius of home since the bambina came along.  In some ways that I am only beginning to understand, Neal is filled with complete and utter dread when we 1) veer from a rigid schedule or 2) take Addison anywhere.  Which often seems strange to me since truly Addison is one of the best travelers around.  She never tires of seeing new places and interacting with new people, and handled five days of house-hopping with ease.

I suppose I didn’t mention it on here before (I meant to), but we just returned from a crazy, whirlwind vacation.  It didn’t involve knocking off any of my final states (trust me, I tried to talk Neal into a day trip to Mississippi so I could get to 44 states but he was certain either our marriage or his sanity wouldn’t survive the trip), but it was great fun nonetheless.  I started with a flight to Durham, North Carolina for a day and a half of eating with Ms. Kaila and her many entertaining friends.  Kaila spoiled me like crazy; I’m pretty sure I’ll have to make another NC appearance someday!  Then she drove me through the gorgeous fall leaves to Christiansburg, VA to meet up with Victoria, who graciously packed up her pregnant self and two-year-old to drive me to D.C. — but only after making me and Kaila homemade pizza.  Wonder woman, no?  It was great fun showing Victoria and Katie around D.C. for a day . . . I wished it could have been a week!  But something about the timing was meant to be since our other grad school friend Emily was also in D.C. that same day.  I can’t tell you how strange it was to be discussing toddler behavior and pregnancy issues (not mine, obviously), while having lunch in Adams Morgan with my two friends from Provo.  After a truly superb dinner at Le Pain Quotidien (their pesto = pure heaven), Victoria drove me to Dulles to rendezvous with Neal and Addison (yes, Neal braved a five-hour solo flight with a toddler; he still has the heart of a champion.).  Our few days in D.C. together were far too short.  I have some niggling regrets about people I didn’t get to see, not being able to go to church in my beloved old ward, and missing out on my favorite restaurant.  But really, there could never be enough time in a place I love and miss so much.

Our next stop was Nashville, TN, complete with a trip to the farmer’s market and an interesting hour at Occupy Nashville, which I may blog more about later.  Although Tennessee wasn’t a new state, I did manage to make better memories there, which was also on my states to-do list.  Finally, we made our way down to Huntsville, AL to visit Neal’s parents for a fun fall week.  Addison benefited from a thoughtful grandmother who picked out a Halloween costume and insisted on trick-or-treating, something that Neal and I no doubt would have overlooked if left to our own devices.  Ladybug pictures to come . . .

But back to the general topic of vacations . . . sort of.  I have spent much of 2011 trying to answer a couple of questions:  Why has the transition to parenthood been so dang hard for me and Neal?  And why has our relationship taken such a hit even though we had a strong foundation of communication before Miss A came along?  I’ve known some answers to these questions for awhile, and just before this vacation I had a couple of huge epiphanies (topics for another day).  But this vacation certainly solidified some additional reasons.  I actually feel and do better as a parent when we’re out and about, either for a day or two weeks.  That process of getting out gives me a needed adrenaline rush that allows me to more closely match the huge energy reserves Addison was blessed with.  That, and I kind of hate routine.  I hate doing the same thing everyday, sticking to the same schedule and the same activities.  Blech.  (Addison’s novelty and thrill-seeking streak certainly appears to come from me, though I hope she continues to have the energy to match her desires.)  And for Neal, a rigid and highly-specific schedule is like a favorite blankie you never want to let out of your sight.  I’m not even joking when I say that for the entire six months of our marriage counseling* we had the same conversation every single week:

Me: What do you want to discuss at counseling tomorrow?

Neal: Our schedule.

It’s a tribute to him that he kept coming even though every week I rolled my eyes and we discussed emotions and abstractions and existential crises instead.

So, to sum up.  Couple getaways, awesome.  Whole family vacations, tolerable (for him) only once every few years.  Separate vacations, good.  I guess I’ll have to take Addison to Disneyworld without him . . . maybe next week!

* I keep mentioning therapy in bits and pieces, but I’ve decided to add a new category about it because soon I’m going to start a series of retrospective posts about our experience in counseling.

April 22, 2011

My baby’s (still) a bully

Filed under: Family, Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , , — llcall @ 8:00 pm

I realized when I was looking back through the baby’s nine-month update (in preparation for a one-year update, which is still coming despite being months late) that I promised to tell her latest bullying story and never delivered!  Well, now it is entirely too late to be her “latest,” but two incidents still bear recording.

Last November, when Addison was about nine months old, we got together for dinner with the Dyers.  They have two adorably precocious girls and a new little “man cub” in the house, who was about seven months old at the time.  Anyway, we left the two babies on the floor to get acquainted while we had dinner.  They seemed to be enjoying each other’s company until about midway through the meal when we looked over to see Addison doing this to the poor little guy:

I’m not. even. kidding.  I don’t think I moved right away because I was so stunned.  But he was certainly a good-natured little man cub; didn’t even scream out in anger.

Of course, it created one of my ongoing parental quandaries: do you try to snap a quick picture of your child doing something unfortunate, but incredibly funny before rescuing the poor victim?  Perhaps only parents of bullies have to deal with such questions.

Since I generally opt not to whip out the camera, I just have to rely on Google Images — I’m still not sure what to think about the fact that the only way to find pictures resembling some of the things my daughter does to other children is on martial arts websites (but what should I expect from a baby who was doing this at six months?).

The second event, which was just about a week later, falls more in the relational aggression category.  My niece Ayda, who was almost three at the time, was making a wall with wooden blocks.  She most definitely had a vision of what her wall was going to look like and was quite disturbed by Addison continually trying to take a block out of the wall.  Marisha was continually encouraging Ayda to share the blocks with Addison, but she wanted to share other blocks — not the ones on her wall.  I’m not even sure I can do justice to what transpired as Marisha and I looked on, but Addison, sensing the attachment to those particular blocks, began to quickly put her hand on a wall block and then quickly pull it away, pretending to take the block.  This happened multiple times as Ayda’s agitation rose.  Until finally Addison did grab a single block from the wall and held it behind her back.  Of course, what happened next was the truly disturbing part . . . she then pretended to hand the block back to Ayda before quickly putting it behind her back again.  Oh, the mind games!  Marisha and I couldn’t stop laughing through the whole thing, which probably seemed rather rude to Ayda whose blood pressure was about through the roof by this time!

Those experiences are just two more reasons why Neal and I thank our lucky stars that Addison is such a shrimp — imagine if she was a bully AND bigger than kids her age!

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