Monday, November 30, 2009

Traveling the Precipice with the Birds and the Bees

Just to be clear:  I did not take my daughter out for frozen yogurt to discuss the birds and the bees.  In fact, the trip for frozen yogurt was supposed to be Mr. Wicke's job since I was taking her out for lunch on her birthday the following day.  However, Mr. Wicke was ill.  Very ill.  And since Griffin was already getting ice cream with a friend, Logan was devestated not to be going for a sweet treat herself.  So, the job fell to me.  A tough one at that.  I mean, cake batter and heathbar frozen yogurt?  C'mon.  Twist my arm.

And so there we sat.  Outside Golden Spoon, enjoying one of life's happy little gifts when it happened.  I didn't intend to start a thing when I asked, "So, how's your life going so far?"  But somehow that morphed into, "Why did you and Daddy adopt?  And how come you could have baby Lincoln in your tummy and not me?"

Granted, I knew these questions would come up at some point, and I was prepared to answer, just not outside Golden Spoon on the eve of her eighth birthday.  And, by the way, it's pretty hard to talk about infertility with an eight year old. 

"What's that called?" she wanted to know.

"You want to know the specific name?" Mothering has taught me that clarifying questions are good.

"Yeah."  And that's how she heard words like sperm, which she immediately started including in her speech as if she were discussing knees, elbows, and ankles.  I suddenly had visions of every innappropriate context in which words like sperm could be used.

"Yeah.  Those are the words, but we probably shouldn't use them with just anybody.  These things are personal and private.  Things we talk about with Mommy and Daddy, but not with just anybody."

"Why?"  Mothering has also taught me that clarifying questions can be annoying when they come from the other side.  And difficult.  And endless.  They just kept coming.  Why this, and why that, and finally, "Why aren't you really answering my questions?"

She wasn't buying the sidestepping and dancing around important topics.  I took a deep breath.  "Do you want to know how babies are made?"

Her eyes lit up.  I don't think it was what she was specifically getting at, but now that it was on the table she was definitely interested.  "Yeah!"

"Umm...o...kay."  You see, I knew this was coming, too.  People say eight years old is a good time to open up the dialogue about sex with your child.  Before they are introduced to it by some random girl on the monkey bars at recess like I was.  That unfortunate conversation was burned onto my emotional psyche.  I wanted better for my little girl, but it's tricky, that delicate balance of childhood innocence and education.  How much is too much?  When is the right time? 

Apparently, the right time for Logan was 6:45 pm the night before she turned eight years old.  In the time it took to take a couple of deep breaths and a glance at the moon, I threw a prayer into the stars and gave myself a pep talk.  "Okay, Mommy.  Be fearless."  I had no text to follow.  No experience of my own to draw upon.  My talk with my mother--my ONE talk with my mother--included her drawing something that looked like the head of a long-horned cow on my blackboard.  Something traveled from the end of one horn to it's nose but what it was exactly or how it got there or what it did there, I had no idea.  I love my mother, but she must admit that that was not the gold standard of sexual education. Ahem.

"Okay, Mommy.  Be fearless.  Be clear.  And be casual."  I want her to understand that sex is sacred but not something to be embarrassed or ashamed of.  I want her to understand that is joyful in the right context.  And yet, outside of the right context it can bring unhappiness and heavy consequences.  I don't want her to be afraid.  I want her to be informed.

That is a mighty precipice to be standing on.  Not that I expected her to get it all in one fell swoop.  It's not that.  It's just that I know enough about teaching to realize that this first introduction would set the stage for every conversation hereafter.  A mighty precipice down which I began, carefully at first, building upon what she already knew.

"You know how we've talked about how it takes a man and a woman, both, to make a baby?  Well, there's a reason for that.  There is something from the man, sperm, and something from a woman, an egg, that when they come together is the very beginning of a baby."  And then the best clarifying question I have ever heard.  One that my wisest friends have used with success:  "Do you want to know more?"

She did.  I won't go into specific details, because those are private between the two of us, but I will tell you that when we got to the main idea--the actual "how to" of the instruction manual-- she said,  "Can we go somewhere else?" and suddenly stood up.

"Sure."  I replied calmly.  She began walking, clearly looking for something.  "Where would you like to go?"

"Some place I can scream."

I stifled even the trace of a smile.  " about the car?"

"Okay."  And after closing the door she let out a loud, "Arrrrrrrggggh!  You and Daddy did that?"

"Honey, Daddy and I do that.  I know that it probably seems strange and weird to you right now, just like kissing does, but I want you to know that it is a wonderful thing.  A happy thing. 

"Okay..." she hesitated.  After a moment she said, "Is it okay if I don't do that?"

"Sure.  It's okay."

"Good.  I think I'll just adopt."

"Well, that's a fine idea, but I have to tell you that a long time from now, when you love somebody, it's going to be the most natural thing in the world. You'll want to be that close to someone and that's the way Heavenly Father made it."

After the initial shock she seemed to take it well.  She was even comfortable enough to ask a couple of questions that knocked the wind out of me.  How would you answer the question, "How does that feel?"  Oh, mercy!  But I think I succeeded in being fearless, clear, and casual, even though on the inside I felt none of those things.  My first trip down that precipice made me feel awkward, and grasping, and cowardly; I couldn't stop thinking about it all night, although when we returned home she seemed unfazed.  She jumped right in pretending with her brother and reading bedtime stories all the while I was replaying the whole scenario in my head, questioning my every phrase.

The next day, when I took her to lunch, I couldn't contain myself.  "Well?" I questioned.  "How do you feel after our little talk yesterday?"

"Good.  Well...I mean so-so."

"Oh, really?" I worried.

"Well, I mean I still want to get my ears pierced, but I'm a little nervous."

(Insert chirping crickets here.)

"No!  Not that talk.  I mean the talk about the big secret of life that we had last night."

"Oh, that," she replied nonchalantly.  "Well, I guess if it's such a "big secret" (this accompanied by the use of air quotes) I should know about it.  Hey, look at this mirror.  It makes my head look funny."

And that was it. 

The thing that I'm coming to understand is that these giant precipes are ever so much easier for the child than for us as the parents.  But I think that's because they get to hold our hand.  And we get to keep them steady.  That's our job.  That's our responsiblity.  That is our joy.  Even when we aren't necessarily sure how to begin.  Even when it just starts out as a trip for yogurt.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gratitude List 2009

I've been far away from blogging for a couple of weeks.  Things I've done instead:  cleaned my closet, cleaned out the garage, worked on holiday shopping, cards, and sewing projects, and hung out with my mom.   There is still so much to do.  I'm not sure how much blogging I will be able to accomplish between now and Christmas, but I couldn't let Thanksgiving pass without a post.

For the last two years, I've posted at least a little bit about my gratitude list for the year.  It's been a good tradition for me.  A count your blessings sort of moment, if you will, to remember just how blessed my life is.  I can't break with tradition.  So here goes.

This year I am grateful for:

1.  Big spirits in little bodies.
2.  Revelation.
3.  An unselfish spouse.
4.  Inspired leaders.
5.  Living in the USA.  It is the best place to be a woman anywhere in the world.
6.  Health.
7.  Humor.
8.  The internet.
9.  My DVR.
10.  Good sleep.  No more insomnia!!!
11.  My new Bosch mixer.  Now I can make huge batches of rolls and bread.
12.  Babies.  Particularly mine.
13.  The Gift of the Holy Ghost.
14.  Good teachers.
15.  Living across the street from the park.
16.  Beautiful sunshine almost every day of the year.  It does wonders for my spirits.
17.  Experiencing the miracle of birth.
18.  Being a mother.
19.  Rare moments of quiet.
20.  Sunday dinners.
21.  Amazingly supportive parents.
22.  Great uncles for my kiddos.
23.  The desire to know more and to do better.
24.  The knowledge that God loves me and has a vision for me.
25.  Answered prayers and unanswered prayers.
26.  Washing machines, dishwashers, if only someone could invent a bed maker...
27.  Small victories.
28.  Good friends.
29.  Reminders of what is really important.
30.  Eyes that see and ears that hear.

Happy Thanksgiving, and may we all remember to truly give thanks.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

From the Archives on a Busy Day

Between birthday parties, baptisms, and family visits there is no time for extras this week.  Let's be frank:  There is no time for some necessities, and the dust is here to prove it.  So while I'm attacking that this morning before I pick my mom up at the airport, I thought maybe I'd dig through my archives and post an oldie but a goodie.  It might be worth reading twice.  If not, just come back next week to hear all about my sex talk with my daughter.  YIKES!!!  That's right.  The birds and the bees.  I'll tell you all about it later, when the dust settles again.  Until then, feel free to read my...

Thoughts on Mr. Right

"So why do you want to marry him?" I've asked a few girls in my time.

Inevitably they say with a dewy look in their eye, "Because I love him."

I nod and smile...and then respond with "So?"

Honestly, I can't think of a worse reason to get married. I know they say that love is strong, but I find the emotion a little harder to pin down. Love can be strong. Certainly it's strong enough to provide some initial heat and make us a little crazy, but after that, love can be very fragile indeed. It can wither, and thin, and sometimes disappear altogether. I don't think you can really count on love alone.

Don't misunderstand. I love Mr. Wicke. But that funny little fluttering feeling that I had 16 years ago when we first met? It's long gone. It's been replaced by something better. Something safe, and peaceful, and solid, and deep. Really, really deep. Sometimes so deep that it nearly turns my stomach inside out. But it's taken a lot of work, patience, effort, forgiveness, compromise, and understanding to get there. Oh, and some love, too.

They also say that love is blind, and how true that seems to be, especially at the beginning of a relationship. That's why relying on love alone to make the most important decision of your life is just too dangerous. After all, you can be absolutely besotted with someone who is very bad for you.

Twenty-something women seem particularly prone to such poor judgement. In my early twenties, my friends and I were inexorably drawn to the charismatic charmer, the life of the party, the guy whom everyone wanted so he was ever so much harder to get. Whereas the good, solid, stable guy just seemed so boring. The problem with the life of the party, though, is that when life is no longer a party, he usually turns out to be far less charming. How sad it is to come out of that initial love haze to find that your partner is one you can not respect. I'll tell you what, now that my friends and I are in our thirties with a baby or three on our hip and our shoulders heavy with responsibilities, that boring, stable, rock-solid, noble man is absolutely dripping with sex appeal.

When I ask, "Why do you want to marry him," what I really want to hear is: "Because I love him, AND..." because I think you should marry for love. Just do yourself a favor and choose someone to love who is good and kind. Kindness can heal a lot of wounds the world will inflict. Choose someone who is loyal, faithful, and trustworthy--for your own good and your own peace of mind. Choose someone who brings out the best in you because no one will influence you more, for good or ill. Choose someone to love who shares your vision for life, unless, of course, you are looking to get far offtrack. Choose someone you would want to raise your children because he will. Choose someone you can live with just as they are; odds are he won't change that much. Choose someone who, in those moments when love is fragile, will be your friend and safe harbour.

Oh, yes. Marry for love. Just be smart about it. Life is full of twists and turns. Like I said, I wouldn't count on love alone.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sweet, Sweet, Sweet

As I was cleaning today, I came across this.  What more could a momma ask for?  (Two points of clarification:  Bubba is Logan's nickname for Baby Lincoln, and no that is not a beard.)

Halloween Progressions

No time for words today. Well, except these: I've learned that it is going to take more than one day to get my act together. I'm still working on it, though. So until then, some pictures.

I love this progression of baby Lincoln.  It really captures the rise and fall of baby energy, doesn't it?

And here is the craft that broke the camel's back.  Because of it, I am still in the weeds today.

Okay, that's it.  Back to work for me.  And no more Halloween pictures, I promise.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cracked but not Broken

Did you ever play Crack-the-Whip growing up?  It was a dangerous little game; one that, I'm sure, is not allowed on playgrounds today.  The game calls for a group of kids to join arms forming one long line.  The leader at the front initiates turns and twists eventually popping the kid at the end of the line off.  And that's about it.  I said it was dangerous.  I didn't say it was complicated.

I've been thinking a lot about that game lately because I feel like I'm playing it again.  Except this time, life is at the head of the line and I'm at the end getting whipped about in a mad frenzy.  As the world spins in a frantic blur, my only focus is hanging on.  That's how I'm feeling lately.

It has become so bad that the ringing phone puts me into an anxiety attack, because I'm sure I've forgotten something.  Maybe now is a good time to mention that yesterday I forgot a lunch date with, Lauren, a friend from home.  Which maybe wouldn't be so bad, except I forgot last week, too.  And the week before that I thought I forgot.  But I didn't because I was a week ahead.  You don't want to be my friend.

Or my children's teacher, either.  I showed up a week early to help plan Mrs. King's Halloween party, and then I didn't show at all the next Monday when the meeting actually took place.

I am tempted to mention all of the things I have accomplished and tended to so that I won't look like a complete mess, but the truth is, I feel like a complete mess.  Just like after a game of Crack-the-Whip I am dissheveled, out of breath, and even a little scraped and bruised.

I need a moment.

To think.
To breathe.
To get myself together.
To put my house and my mind in order.

So, today, I'm moving to the front of the line.  Today, I have cleared the schedule, and I'm going to take life by the collar and shake it for a change.  Then maybe, on Monday, I could meet you for lunch and actually show up.

p.s. A couple of you asked how I did the picture collage on my last post. Here's the answer:  I made the collage in photoshop, saved it and uploaded it as one picture.  I'm not great at photoshop, but I'm learning.

Sunday, November 1, 2009