Humanity Over Viability, Love Over Logic

On October 28, 2007, our first child was born.  A girl.  She came unexpectedly 9 days before my due date.  I’d known we would have a girl first.  Call it Mother’s intuition (or that I had a 50/50 chance of being right), but I did have dreams about a daughter.  That she would have a full head of dark hair?  That was a surprise.  She was born with a furrowed brow.  She was predestined to be headstrong and passionate from the womb.

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We worried we wouldn’t be able to give our little girl a brother or sister after a year of failed attempts.  But our twins were born January 6, 2011 at 34 weeks gestation.  I had my theories about which of my two little boys would be the leader based on which one moved the most for those 34 weeks!  For the most part my thoughts have proven true, although I think the “little one” has more than caught up to “big brother” in both size and personality.

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Baby brother was slightly unexpected so soon, but welcomed completely nonetheless.  Our little Lochstar was born on November 25, 2012…two and a half weeks early (per the norm).  Coming home to a 5 year old drama queen and two 2 year old monsters all competing for attention, he was sort of thrown into the lion’s den.  But he held his own from day one and has absolutely never let anyone walk all over him (as you can see from the gesture in picture 2).

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I . LOVE . THESE . CHILDREN.  I could use the cliche that I’ve loved them “from the moment I laid eyes on them”.  But that’s not entirely true.

I loved Lochlan when, at 20 weeks, I found out I was having a 3rd boy instead of the sister for Jade I’d been hoping for.

I loved Calder when I realized the poor kid was getting pushed out of the way by his brother.  And when the doctor told me the reason for his smaller size may be because “Baby A is stealing all the food”.

I loved Everest when I felt his constant kicking against the same spot on my ribs for months as if he was slowly digging a tunnel out of prison.  He couldn’t wait to get out of there and take on the world.

I loved Jade the second the ultrasound confirmed that I was going to be a mother.  And even more when the next ultrasound confirmed I was right: I was having a daughter.

I loved them more each time I heard their heart beats, felt their hiccups, saw a picture of them sucking their thumb (and realized that it would still be a comfort to them in the “real world”), laid in bed with my husband’s hand on my belly waiting for the wave of a back flip or the press of a tiny foot.

I loved them when I finally got to look into each of their eyes, to kiss their foreheads, to feel their grip on my finger.  To tell them I LOVE YOU in person.

I knew my children — I LOVED my children — before they came into this world.  As soon as I saw and felt their first movements, I knew they were perfect and miraculous creations with immeasurable potential.  I love them more every day as they grow into the people they were sent to Earth to become.

It has been a privilege and a blessing to be able to give them that chance.

While it is an overly ambitious and probably futile dream, I hope that one day we will all — the human race in its entirety — realize how much value each human soul has; that every child that is conceived, planned or not, wanted or not, deserves a chance at life; that an unborn child absolutely does not deserve the pain and torture that is inflicted on them by a woman who chooses not to have the title of Mother; and finally, that we are accountable for our actions, whatever the consequence may be.

“Every single adult now was once 20 weeks old in the womb and we can look at each other and understand that the difference between a child in the womb and any of us now…is time. That’s a human being we’re talking about, and that human being has value.”   -Senator James Lanford (watch his incredibly powerful speech below)

The results of the decision to give a child a chance at life are beautiful and miraculous.

These are my miracles.

Jade Ondrea – 7 years old – Loves dancing, singing, reading, creating, learning, and making friends, dreams of being a Popstar, thinks all meat tastes better if you call it chicken, feels all things passionately, lives in the moment.

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Aaron Everest and Calder Reed – 4 years old – Love robots, planes, rockets, superheroes, swimming, jumping, falling, make believe, playing dressup, getting attention, birthdays, and each other.

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Lochlan Bradley – 2 years old – Loves bikes, baths, running, throwing, cousins, swings, slides, and most of all, his family.

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Becometh as a child…at least until you turn eighteen.

A favorite childhood pastime of mine (and one I would never let my kids do now, along with most of my other “pastimes”) was exploring the woods in my neighborhood with my friends.  One friend in particular had a home in a prime exploring spot that ran along a stream.  We spent a lot of time back there, and apparently so did her older brother.  While it was our favorite place to explore, it was his favorite place to hide his porn.  We came across it one day and I brought it home with me and stashed it in my nightstand.

I was 8.

Another unfortunate pastime of mine was seeking popularity with the wrong crowd.  One night a group of us got bored and decided to go rent a movie (remember video stores?).  While we were there, someone suggested that we sneak into the “back room”.  It’s not really sneaking if there isn’t someone guarding the door and checking your ID, but it was obviously a bad choice if we were being sneaky.  We returned home with an inappropriate movie, I probably called my mom to tell her I’d be late for my curfew because I was doing something really important (definitely not watching porn), and I sat there for an hour laughing uncomfortably with everyone else and thinking about whether it would be worth the embarrassment to tell them to turn it off.  I knew it was wrong, I had been taught better than that.

As a child I thought pornography was something that only adults could look at.  Something to “look forward to”, like driving, or voting.  Why was this stuff even on my radar as a child??  As a teen I learned that it was something that was not really appropriate at any age, but still acceptable in most circles.  I realize now, as an adult, that it is not only inappropriate and unhealthy, but leads to other more serious damaging and unhealthy behaviors (which I’ve seen firsthand with a close family member).

With the unveiling this weekend of the worldwide, morality-crushing phenomenon that I don’t even need to name, I feel the need to be yet another strong oppositional voice in defense of a return to virtue.  This week alone, I have seen far too may phrases used to justify a need for this kind of entertainment:

“It wasn’t abuse; he was upfront about what he wanted and she consented to it.”

“It may have started out dark but in the end it is a love story.”

“You shouldn’t judge BDSM if you’ve never tried it.  Some people really enjoy it.”

“It’s not hurting anyone.  Just don’t see it if you don’t agree with it.”

“It’s not real life, it’s just fantasy.  Stop making such a big deal out of it.”

“We’re sexual beings designed perfectly by God.  We can choose to express our sexuality in whatever way we want.”

What??  Don’t blame God for this.  And as if that last one wasn’t bad enough, an even more terrifying card is being played:

“I won’t let my kids won’t see this.  Certain things are made for certain ages and this is an adult novel.”

I’ve been going over this and over this in my mind.  Why does it matter what age you are?  Is there an age that morality and decency stop being important, and if so how do we decide what that age is?  Once you’re 18 are you not emotionally affected by things like violence, profanity, and indecency?  One person admitted that she and her husband planned to see the movie together this weekend without their kids (obviously) but it’s okay because “we have a rule that our kids can’t date until they’re 16.”  Yes, that’s a start.  But what happens once they turn 16 and suddenly they decide to “express their sexuality in whatever way they want”, because Heaven forbid they be accused of inexperienced judgment?

I have to admit, I am not completely void of guilt in this respect.  When Aaron and I watch TV at night we turn the sound way down, and if our kids come into the living room at anytime we pause the show quickly to avoid the scarring that may occur when they see someone getting beaten up or shot or naked pushed up against a wall, or to avoid the embarrassment at the grocery store when one of them repeats a word they heard, or when they call someone that word at school (which did happen last week when my daughter told me a boy called her 6-year-old friend “sexy” on the playground).  The conversation that would follow would go something like, “Honey, we don’t use words like that,” “But they were saying it on TV,” “Yes, you’re right, but only adults can use words like that, and only when they’re really angry, or trying to be funny, and only when no one is listening, and only if they’re not Christians.”

Why the double standard?  If its not right for kids, why is it all right for us?

A scripture passage from the bible keeps popping up in my head:

…Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?  And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4).

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We could all stand to learn from children.  Children come to Earth with “believing hearts. They are full of faith…They exemplify humility, obedience, and love. They are often the first to love and the first to forgive (Jean A. Stevens of the LDS Primary General Presidency).  With all the time we spend trying to move on and forget the past, maybe there is more to be gained from remembering it than we realize.

Drive-through candy stores

As my boys and I were driving home from dropping Jade off at school, Calder says, “A candy store!  Look mom, its the sucker store!”  I looked to see where he was pointing.  It didn’t take me long to realize he thought the bank was the sucker store.

“Oh.  No, Calder, that’s the bank.  It’s where we keep our money.”

“Bunny?!”  He exclaimed.

“Noooo.  No.  Money.  Like dollar bills.  Do you know what a dollar bill is?”

“Buildings?!”  Everest chimed in (“bill is” to “buildings” — sort of a stretch, I know).  “I looove buildings!  I wish I had a…I wish I was…a…I wish I had a construction hat!”  Calder nodded and giggled in agreement and they spent the rest of the drive home singing songs about building things.

I can’t stop laughing as I share this.  Of course he thought the place where we drive up to a window, stop and wait, and are given a sucker, was the “sucker store”.  Recently we went through a drive-through pharmacy and the kids chorused, “Suckers!”  Apparently drive-through=sucker.

Being the overanalyzer that I am, when I got home I started thinking about how this early childhood development theory, sometimes called schema, applies to life as an adult.  Don’t we all organize and interpret information into a conception based on our reality?  And isn’t it really difficult, and sometimes frustrating, when people have beliefs or fears that we can’t comprehend?

Calder also has a lot of fears (the dark, monsters, ghosts…digital clocks…the usual).  We’re really careful to sensor the things that he takes in from the media but you just never know how things are being processed.  And explaining to Calder that the clock isn’t scary when his hysterical “the car is counting down!  It’s gonna explode!” clearly says otherwise, doesn’t cut it.  Since digital clocks are everywhere, sometimes this can be infuriating.

But all I can do for him is assure him that things are going to be okay and be patient while he figures things out for himself.  Sometimes we have to tape a piece of paper over the clock numbers which isn’t so hard.  And sometimes, at the bank, they’ll give us an extra sucker just for me.

The Insomniac Child

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Ever since my little Calder was an infant it has been a real struggle to get him to bed at night.  The twins have always shared a room, but when we first put them in separate beds Calder began his nightly ritual of screaming himself hoarse.  Luckily, at the time our closest neighbors were about a half a mile away so no one reported us.

Despite the lack of sleep, I do have fond memories of cuddling with my little boy as he stared at me, refusing to close his eyes.  I remember one night when he was about 18 months old that I sat in the rocker with him sprawled across my lap, gazing wide-eyed into my face, my arms falling asleep, and thought he’s so big, I’m not going to be able to do this for much longer. 

Eventually his terrified howls turned into hysterical laughter.  After an hour-long bedtime routine, the lights are turned off and we slowly exit the room.  Seconds later, the laughter starts.  I peek in his room and whisper “Quiet, Calder,” and the giggles instantly halt.  Before I’ve taken 2 steps out of the door frame, it starts right back up.

After a few minutes the room is quiet.  But then we hear a soft creak in the door and look to see two little eyes peeping through the crack.  As I start towards his room, he turns to run and I hear a fast pitter-patter as he jumps back into bed.  When I enter the room, I approach the bed and kneel beside it.  I whisper, “Calder, everyone is sleeping.  Can you go to sleep too?”  “Yes,” he says.  “You promise?”  “Promise,” he replies.  “Okay…I love you.  Goodnight”.

You can guess how this goes on for the next hour or so.  Promises mean nothing to a three-year-old.  Sometimes it results in a firm pat on the bottom and a few tears shed.  Many nights the same thing happens in the middle of the night.  Aaron and I take turns going to his room and trying to coax him into falling asleep.  Once he (and we) have exhausted all our tricks, there’s nothing left to do but just wait it out.

Several days ago, this happened.  At about 3 AM, I laid in bed looking up at the ceiling with my eyes wide opened, thinking about what I needed to do the next day and if any of it required a well-rested body and mind.

Suddenly I remembered that the previous evening, as we tried “the usual” to get Calder to bed, Jade burst into a song that went something like “Go to sleep, go to sleep, you need to get your re-e-est…”, to the tune of — what else? — Let it Go.  Aaron and I laughed and tried to continue with the song.

And that night, at 3 AM, I did continue the song.  And this is what transpired:

The light still shines through my window tonight.
Jammies on and teeth are brushed,
lullabies of twinkling stars, ABC’s and babies hushed.
The sun is setting but I’m still awake inside.
Couldn’t close my eyes even if I tried.

I need a drink, my diaper’s wet,
there’s a monster underneath my bed.
One more light on so I can see, Mom, please.

Stay awake, stay awake, don’t wanna sleep anymore.
Stay awake, stay awake, don’t know what this beds for.
Parents still watching TV.
Maybe Oso’s on…
I don’t think sleeping is for me.

Funny how the darkness makes everything more fun,
but despite my curiosity I can’t play with anyone.

Brother, wake up and play with me.
It’s more fun than your bed, you’ll see.
We’ll play dress up with our dirty laundry.

Stay awake, stay awake, I’m having so much fun.
Stay awake, stay awake, can’t be the only one.
Mom thinks its necessary,
but I’m not tired.

My bed is soaring through the air to outer space.
I’m strapped into my bright blue car and I’m ready to race.
My yellow submarine’s submerged beneath the sea.
Fire truck’s on it’s way with help to those in need.

Stay awake, stay awake, I’ll miss something if I blink.
Stay awake, stay awake, I’ll never sleep a wink.
There’s so much to do and see!
When will the sun rise?
I don’t think sleeping is for me…

I would like to take credit, but if it weren’t for my clever daughter and my insomniac son, none of this would have taken place.  Oh, how I love them!

In the days that followed, I got it in my head that this was going to be something big.  So I pondered and worked and sang and edited and three short days later…

 

 

 

Easy Street, where the rich folks play.

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The first house Aaron and I lived in on our own as a married couple was actually on a street with this name.  I remember noting the irony of the situation as this was also where we brought our first child home and coincidentally where I began my quite long stint as a stay-at-home mom.  It seemed unlikely that the location of our home would live up to its name any time soon.

I pass Easy Street on a regular basis now, and when I do I think about just how easy life seemed in 2007 looking back from 2014.  In fact, I think about how easy life seemed in 2011 when I had 3 kids instead of 4, and 2 of them couldn’t walk or talk.  But definitely in the moment it did not feel that way.

The truth is, things have never felt easy to me at any time along the timeline of my life.  At some point, there have always been goodbyes, mean babysitters, unfair politics, moves, change, breakups, illness, loneliness, crushed expectations, sleepless nights, difficulty—

The opposite of ease.

But it really is all about perspective.  Of course now the idea of moving to a new house as a 10 year old who has absolutely no part in the moving process seems like a piece of cake.  No signing closing papers or writing a giant check or packing up decades worth of memories.  Just get in the car.

Of course now the thought of deciding between this boy or that boy seems like such a joke, when obviously I wasn’t going to end up with either one.  Plus one of them is fat and also bald now.

Of course now that goodbye moment with my dad at the airport (while still always a tearjerker) is not the end of my entire life.  A year passes a lot quicker now than it did when I was 7.  Or 12.  Or 18.

Of course that 15 hours I spent at the audition for So You Think You Can Dance that got me nowhere would not have gotten me anywhere even if I HAD made it to the final cut.  Where are the winners now?

Of course that night when I stayed up all night wanting to scream and cry and throw stuff while trying to get a crying infant to go back to sleep ultimately didn’t effect my future sleep habits.  She sleeps for 11 hours a night now.

But think about all the memories I have now because of those trying times.  And all the LOVE!  Sure, I could have decided not to have 4 children.  I’m pretty sure no one ever told me it was going to be easy and somehow people are still having kids.  No 75 year old woman ever says, “I wish I didn’t have all these *%!# kids”, but  a LOT of people have told me, “Raising young kids is going to be one of the hardest times of your life, but when its over you will have a big, loving family!”

And somehow I think that, even without the kids, difficulty would have found a way into my life in some other form.

That’s a wrap!

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Jade has now finished her first musical.  Last weekend they had a 3-show run and the music director has already approached me about whether Jade will be joining him for her elementary school play in the spring.  More to come on that when we get the details.  But be assured that she’ll be first in line to get back on that stage.

Visit my dropbox album for more pictures!

The way it should have ended

I have this terrible habit of expecting the worst out of a situation.  No matter what “they” say about happiness being a choice, I think pessimism is an incurable, chronic disease.

Specifically what I’m referring to at the moment is the way I envision a day alone with my children will be.

When I agreed to let Aaron take Jade and go away for the weekend to visit his brother and meet his brother’s new baby, I had a vision of a trio of gremlin-type, disobedient little hellions attacking me,  resulting in tears, me curled up in fetal position in the corner, a sleepless night and possibly a bald spot on my head from pulling my own hair out.  As determined as I am to be supportive of my husband’s hopes and dreams, the thought of being alone with my children always terrifies me.

So tonight when he called me to say he wouldn’t be leaving until early evening for his 4 hour drive home, I automatically went into panic mode.  This meant I’d have to entertain, feed, clean up, and put down (figuratively speaking) all 3 babies by myself for the 2nd day in a row.  I responded harshly in hopes that he’d get the picture and pack up the car.

What transpired immediately after hanging up the phone was the following:

Everest and Calder had just woken up from their nap.  Lochlan was still asleep.  The twins came downstairs together asking to play with trains, which I got out and placed on the table.  My 3-year-olds sat opposite each other at the kitchen table putting together their own strings of train track – one occasionally passing a piece to the other, saying, “Here you go.” – and sometimes quietly humming to themselves.  Eventually Lochlan woke up, I brought him downstairs and sat him in his highchair, and he contently watched his brothers play.

When dinner time came around, I said, “Boys, why don’t we go upstairs and watch a show for a little while so mommy can make dinner.”  They excitedly jumped up from their trains, shouting, “The hungry caterpillar show!” in unison.  I followed behind them holding the baby, turned on their favorite show of the day, and quietly slipped back downstairs without any objection from them.

I made dinner seamlessly, put it on the table, and called them down.  All 3 ate every bite that I put in front of them; even Lochlan who, lately, has been my pickiest eater.  Somehow they ate without spilling on the floor, the table, or themselves (it was taco soup so this was not only surprising but miraculous).

Yes, all this ACTUALLY happened.  Long story short, it is now 7:45, I have 3 children in their beds asleep (or at least in their beds and quiet).

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I’m not sure why I was so worked up today anyway, because this was what happened yesterday on DAY ONE of what I expected to be an Armageddon-type disaster:

-Everest and Calder played together throughout the day, occasionally including Lochlan and watching very little television.  I think I even played with them a little, and maybe even laughed a few times.

-We ate dinner quietly and cleanly (pasta without sauce) and retired upstairs where I turned on Despicable Me for the thousandth time this week.  Everest quoted most of it, complete with hand gestures and voice inflections.

-I gave all 3 boys a bath (I don’t know how clean they are because Lochlan stood up and peed in the water as soon as I set him down).

-The kids were all in bed by 7.  I came downstairs and worked on my online Transcription class.  I took a quiz at the end of the lesson and got 100%.

-After a thoroughly productive day, I took a shower, dried my hair, and then painted my toenails a beautiful shade of sparkly Valentine red as I watched Breaking Bad, season 1, episodes 1-3 (I’m a first timer who felt left out because my husband, mom, and sister are all obsessed with this show).

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I’m honestly and truly jealous of how my own weekend went.

So in conclusion, I want to apologize to Aaron for over-dramatizing a situation that was so clearly NOT the end of the world and surprisingly so enjoyable that I’m actually hoping he’ll go away more often.  Okay, that’s not true.  But seriously, I CAN handle it.  I’m actually a very efficient and pleasant mom, and person in general, when I’m on my own.

Not to mention, watching the life of Walter White sure puts things in perspective.