Voting, As Understood By a Six-Year-Old

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R: We’re going to have a new president soon.

Me: That’s right.

R: Is it President Lincoln?

Me: No, he was president a long time ago and he died a long time ago.

R: Is it President Obama?

Me: Yes, President Obama is our president right now, but his turn is almost over and then we will need a new president.

R: President Obama will die.

Me: No, no, it’s just that his turn as president is over and someone else will take a turn.

R: And then he will die.

Me: No, no! He will just get another job.

R: He will be a worker?

Me: Um, yes.

R: And then President Lincoln will be the president?

Me: No! He died a long time ago. But he was a great president.

R: And Jesus was a great president too.

Me: Hey, who wants a snack?!

 

***

Not much has changed in the two years since “Voting, as Understood by a Four-Year-Old

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My First-World Problems

1) My kids won’t eat the quinoa kale patties I made for them.
2) My dryer broke.
3) My kids got sick from the gym.
4) My twins were fighting during nap, so I put one of them in the guest room.
5) My husband has to travel again for business.
6) I don’t want to unload the dishwasher.
7) We can’t afford the two new AC systems we need.
8) My jetted tub is old and made my warm bath water rusty.
9) Our house needed a second Wi-Fi router.
10) Someone left the bread bag open and now the bread is stale.
11) My Birkenstocks cracked.
12) I can’t schedule that particular doctor appointment online.
13) We didn’t finish those leftovers before they went bad and I had to throw them away.
14) I can’t decide which Pinterest chore chart to make for my kids.
15) My husband parked too close to me in the garage.
16) This water is taking forever to heat up from the faucet.
17) My headphones keep getting tangled at the gym.
18) These disposable diapers are giving my twins diaper rash.
19) Those people taking selfies at the gym are so annoying.
20) This 36-pack of waters from Costco is so heavy! Sheesh.
21) _______Your snark here_________  (insert your best First-World Problem in the comments below)

Life is so annoying! Dang! Some people call these “white people problems”, but, alas, let’s stick to “first-world problems”. However you slice it, I’m a spoiled jerk!

Stuff That Shouldn’t Be in My Purse This Week (First Edition)

You know you could make an entire blog about what you (purposefully OR accidentally) keep in your purses. Below are the items I removed from my purse this week that didn’t belong in there.

Note: I have excluded necessities (such as diapers/snacks) as well as trash (which is plentiful), and I still have all this to show!

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Matchbox cars, of course.

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Unused crayons even though my kids never color. Good thing I found these before summer.

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The sticker that they ripped off their Cozy Coupe ride-on car… because, you know, I might glue it back on one day?

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The spine to a beloved board book… because, you know, I might glue it back on one day?

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This tiny arm. I have no idea from what body it detached. As long as none of my kids aren’t missing arms, we’re good.

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This tiny T-shirt, which I found inexplicably acting as a tourniquet for one son’s leg.

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And, ta-da, a swiped PVC pipe fitting!

I can’t imagine how much more I would find if we ever actually left the house.

***

And what have you found in your purse this week, dear readers?

It Took Me 32 minutes to Dress All My Toddlers in Snow Gear

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It took me 32 minutes to dress all my toddlers in snow gear – for HALF AN INCH of snow. Half an inch of snow made me sweat like the mom in “A Christmas Story” – but she only had one kid to wrestle into a fluffy snowsuit.

7:00 AM

Oldest son bursts into my room, saying, “It snowed!” Commence begging to play outside.

7:15 AM

“Yes, I told you we would play outside but we have to wait until the sun is up!”

7:30 AM

“Yes, the sun is up, but we have to have breakfast first!”

8:30 AM

“Yes, we’ve had breakfast, but we have to wait for it to get a little warmer.”

9:00 AM

I mentally berate myself for promising him I would take him out. How am I going to get all these kids into snow gear? I know it’s only half an inch, but it’s so cold that they really need snow gear. Where is all of our snow gear? I kinked my neck again last week by hoisting a huge twin over a baby gate and how am I going to have the strength to wrestle their fat bodies into snow gear? Maybe he’ll forget.

9:30 AM

He does.not.forget. Anything. Ever. I mentally walk myself through the whole house, mentally searching for boots, hats, waterproof mittens, and snowpants that actually fit – all while changing poops and cleaning up the kitchen. (Don’t worry: I don’t change poops in the kitchen.)

10:00 AM

It is warmer outside, the sun is up, the twins are going stir-crazy, breakfast is finished and cleaned up, and I have no right to stall any longer. I give myself a mental pep talk. I can do this. I can do this. I’m like a football player coming out of a huddle. I’m a bull snorting and about to charge. I’m a soldier. Hoo-ah!

10:01 AM

Commence Operation Search for Snow Gear.

10:02AM

I empty the hall closet of everything we might need. I find three winter coats in semi-appropriate sizes, and two pairs of boots. Miraculously, I find last year’s waterproof mittens in the bin labeled “mittens”. I whisper, “Good girl” to myself (even though it was probably my husband who put them there).

10:04 AM

I leave some twin fighting to run upstairs to find more gear. I can hear my oldest son begging for me to find the sled. I shout down that there isn’t enough snow for a sled. He shouts that there is enough snow. I shout down that I can’t reach the sled because it is high up in the garage. He shouts back that I can “just use Daddy’s ladder”. My brain feels like a ping pong ball.

10:05 AM

I frantically search the kids’ closets for snowpants. I find a thrift-store pair two sizes too large for my oldest (Size 7), and congratulate myself on my forethought. In the twins’ closet, I find two pairs of much-too-small snowpants (18 months). I realize that I have to either box them up or donate them or sell them, and a wave of sadness washes over me.

10:06 AM

I pity myself for just one minute because my babies are growing up so fast! They will never wear these cute little snowpants again. Were they ever this small? Woe is me.

10:07 AM

Pity party over. Back to my oldest son’s closet. In the way way back, I find two pairs of snow pants that are too small for him, but perfect for the babies (sizes 3T and 4T). I mentally congratulate myself for never cleaning out his closet. “Good girl,” I whisper to myself.

10:08 AM

I head downstairs again and am greeted by three crying children. I show them snowpants. The oldest stops crying and begs for me to put them on him. The younger two seem irrationally but unsurprisingly scared of snowpants and run away screaming, “NO!”

10:09 AM

I run back upstairs for three pairs of socks. I wonder if it’s worth keeping a sock bin downstairs beside the shoe bin. I mean, seriously, why are our socks upstairs in dressers, but our shoes are downstairs in bins? In fact, why don’t we keep all our clothes downstairs, like the “19 Kids and Counting” family on TLC? Screw dressers.

wpid-wp-1424879000565.jpeg10:10 AM

I survey the enormous pile of gear on the floor. It looks like the back of a Goodwill truck. I feel overwhelmed and want to quit. I know it will make me sweaty to do this. I know I will hurt my neck again. Sadly, I note that there are only two pairs of boots. I mentally thank my mother-in-law for giving those boots to the twins for Christmas, but mentally scan the house for one more pair. I futilely ask my oldest son to go find his snowboots.

10:11 AM

My oldest son wanders the house and cries because he can’t find his snowboots. I look in the closet again. I run upstairs to his closet. We can’t find them. I start to panic. Half an inch of snow doesn’t really need snowboots, but he was just so excited about those used junky snowboots that he can’t accept wearing boring old shoes. No amount of convincing will help.

10:12 AM

I send him into the garage for one last look, and he finds the boots! I thank him profusely. I try to bury my incredible surprise that he actually found something by himself, and I whisper a silent prayer of thanks that he finally learned how to open the baby gate to the kitchen/garage. (Hey, moms pray over some odd things, okay?)

10:13 AM

Commence Operation Put Snow Gear On.

I start with my oldest. He is the most excited, and thus, the most vocal. The sooner we get him in his gear, the sooner he can go outside and give me some peace. I pour him into his too-big snowpants, making sure the twins are watching and understanding just how awesome snowpants are. Mittens on. Why are you a limp noodle?! Make your arm straight and push! No, don’t punch me! Just push! Coat on… Nevermind. Mittens too big. Must take mittens off and put coat on first. Now mittens again. No, don’t punch me! Just push! Socks on. Boots on. Here, sit in my lap, maybe that will be easier. Push your feet! Maybe we should stand up. Stand up and push! No, don’t stomp on me. Just push. Why are there so many straps? This Velcro is all worn out. Maybe I should have sprung for new boots for him. Hat on. I silently thank my best friend, who, despite living in California, knitted them the most adorable and soft and warm hats ever. Oh, it’s backwards. Here, now you can see. Is that better? Okay, please go out on the deck! And take the dog! For the love of all that is holy, please get the dog out of here!

10:18 AM

Phew. I am sweating. But our numbers have been reduced by 50%, and thus, so has our noise and chaos level. The twins are dancing around me and starting their slow keening wail of jealousy that they can’t be outside yet. Twin B opens the door and defiantly follows my oldest outside in the snow. He is surprised by the cold! Thank goodness he’s in bare feet so I don’t have to get new socks. I haul him back in.

10:19 AM

I start with my Hurricane Twin B. I sit him in my lap and pull his snowpants on. He freaks out and acts like I am dressing him in tin foil. He does one amazing ninja move off my lap and out of his snowpants. He kind of acts like a snake shedding his skin in fast-forward. How did he do that?

Okay, fine, you don’t like snowpants? This is where having twins comes in handy. I will simply dress your brother and make you jealous.

10:20 AM

I sit agreeable Twin A in my lap and proceed to pull on snowpants. He doesn’t like it, but he lets me do it. I make sure Twin B is watching so he can see just how cool snowpants are.

Mittens on. Kind of. Where is your thumb? Do you have a thumb? Good thing your hands are the size of a college sophomore, because I actually get your mittens on. Coat on…. Wait. Mittens too big. Coat off, mittens off, coat on, mittens on. Hat. Twin B is crying out of jealousy or regret or irrational fear of snowpants– I can’t tell. Okay, new snowboots. Twin A looks at them warily. Stand and push. Is your foot in there? Oh, well, when you start walking, your foot will probably settle down in there, right? You can’t walk? Okay, then, push!!! Push! For heaven’s sake, push!

Okay. Done. Can you walk? Okay, just go on the deck. You certainly won’t get very far in that poofy outfit. I am sorry I will miss your adorable reaction to the snow, but I have to deal with your twin.

wpid-wp-1424793852241.jpeg10:25 AM

I turn to crying, angry Twin B. It’s snowpants time. Yes. Yes. You’ll be fine. These are special pants to wear in the snow. Aren’t they great? See, brother is wearing them! And other brother is wearing them! Don’t you want to wear them? I berate myself for encouraging herd mentality. Am I setting him up for a life of peer pressure and drugs?

He finally lets me put the snowpants on when he realizes there is a zipper – his new favorite thing – and that I will let him zip them. It takes about five minutes for him to work on that “zap zap”. That’s cool. I needed to stop sweating for a minute anyway. I look out the back door to check on my slow-moving meatballs out there.

Mittens on. Kind of. Where is your thumb? Do you have a thumb? Seriously, there is no way that tiny thumb is ever going to be found. Oh well. Coat on… wait. Mittens too big. Coat off, mittens off, coat on, mittens on. Where the heck is your thumb? Hat on. He hates it. Hat off. Oh, no you don’t! Hat on. He takes it off. I win by putting it back on and tying it in a knot under his chin. I briefly wonder if it will choke him if he pulls his hat off. Boots on. Thankfully, Twin B gets super excited by any and all new shoes, so these are a breeze. They even have zippers for him to play with, although he can’t really bend over to try it. He gets frustrated. Hurry, let’s get outside!

10: 32 AM

I usher him out the door to join his brothers. I have no shoes on. I have no coat or hat. It is 25 degrees. I go back in to throw a coat on over my bathrobe, a hat over my unwashed ponytail, and unlaced boots over my slipper socks. I look like Cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation. I wish someone was here to laugh at that. I’m so witty.

I can breathe now. I can sit down and rest on this snowy patio chair and watch my beautiful children enjoy their first snow of the year. It will be so peaceful and joyful.

Okay, who pooped?!

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Don’t worry: He got to use the sled during the next snowfall.

All My Friends Are Writing Post-Apocalyptic Books!

Two of my friends have just released good novels! Even though these two friends don’t know each other, they both wrote post-apocalyptic fiction. All the cool kids are doing it.

By some miracle, this here lifelong book nerd and overworked momma of “triplets” managed to read both of my friends’ books – and they were excellent! Phew. (If they had sucked, I would have quietly avoided my friends and not written this blog post, obviously.)

Who wants to check out some new authors?

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Ellisa Barr, a dear friend from church (we Mormons make great “preppers”), has written two young adult books in a series. Not gonna lie: I cried at the end of each – because I was mad that they were over.

The first book in the series is “Outage (Powerless Nation) (Volume 1)”. The dust jacket says: “When fifteen-year-old Dee is left at her grandpa’s farm in rural Washington, she thinks life is over. She may be right. A high-tech Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) attack destroys the country’s power and communication grids, and sends the U.S. hurtling back to the Dark Ages. Can Dee learn to survive without the basics: electricity, clean water… even her cell phone? Written for all fans who love apocalypse stories, Outage is a Young Adult survival novel that mixes useful prepping tips with an action-packed story.”

The second book in the series is considered “a companion novel” to the first. It is called “Voyage (Powerless Nation) (Volume 2)”. It’s just as good as the first. I’m just going to say that both books now have my heart forever.

On a personal note, Ellisa is the kind of friend who doesn’t say, “Let me know if I can do anything” when you have a new baby. She’s the type of friend who comes to your house with a swaddler when you have a sickly newborn who doesn’t sleep. She didn’t just say, “You should swaddle him.” She didn’t just name the brand of swaddler she liked best. She brought the swaddler to my house, showed me how to wrap him so little arms couldn’t break free, and made me practice in front of her. Then she told me to keep the swaddler. From then on, I swaddled that sickly baby for every single nap and every single bedtime for six months. She is the reason I got my first couple hours of sleep as a new mom. Now, don’t you want to read the book of a person like that?!

Devon Porter, a friend from high school, has written about his own personal passion: the end of the (modern) world. He wrote “After the Crumble”, which is most definitely labeled regular adult, not young adult. (Just warning you that the post-apocalyptic future looks a little more brutal than the young adult novels can say…)  The back of the book sums it up: “Our future has crumbled. In the late 2020s, the grid finally flickered out for the last time, succumbing to attacks from a newly formed Resistance, fuel scarcity, and general entropy. It is now the year 2037 and many have died, with the few that managed to escape death solely concerned with their daily survival. Gavin Collier is one of those lucky few, but survival alone isn’t enough for him anymore.”

This book is a beautiful and fast-paced story. My favorite review of “After the Crumble” expresses it best: “It’s refreshing to read a novel that finds in the collapse of modern life an opportunity for the resurrection of the best parts of us.” Plus, this book made me think about a few angles of my personal prepping that could use work.

Just FYI, the first time I met Devon was in Latin class for juvenile delinquents older boys. Devon went to the same tiny private school where I met Mr. Okayest (and also several of my best good friends featured throughout this blog). The private school pushed a classical education, so students began studying Latin at a young age. Since I entered the school in eighth grade, I was not in Latin 3 or 4 or 200 with my peers. Instead, 13-year-old skinny me was learning “veni vidi vici” with five senior men. Let’s just say they made me like Latin forever.

Now Devon raises pigs and blueberries and is definitely not a juvenile delinquent, although I’m pretty sure he is still older than me.

You can find Ellisa’s website at ellisabarr.com

You can find Devon’s website at afterthecrumble.com

(Ellisa and Devon, I’m so proud of you guys! You have inspired me!)

***

jack5.500x8.500.inddNeed more books? It turns out one of my long-lost but recently found cousins, Michelle D. Argyle, is also a published author! While she hasn’t written any post-apocalyptic fiction (yet?), she has written some great books. (She’s a little more experienced than my  ^ newbie friends, ha!) I’d like to give her a shout-out here as well. Her most recent novel is “If I Forget You”. You can see her other work at michelledargyle.com. Enjoy!

 

 

Christmas Fail? But Charity Never Faileth

Christmas is four days away. I feel like a failure in each and every way, and yet I am so grateful for all the acts of love and service that others have given to us.

The Okayest Family has been quite ill for quite some time, and my to-do lists have been ashamed of themselves.

My Christmas tree has looked like this for over a week now:

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My Christmas decorations are still in their boxes in the basement:

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My presents are still not wrapped:

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And my dresser looks like this:

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(Okay, let’s be honest: my dresser always looks like that. It has nothing to do with sickness or Christmas, but we can just pretend, mmkay?)

I feel frustrated. I feel sad. I feel like I’m failing. I promised my oldest that he would sit on Santa’s lap at the church Christmas party, but we couldn’t go when my husband was still too ill to assist me in child-wrangling. My kids didn’t perform in the church Christmas program this Sunday for the same reason.

Things aren’t going smoothly, and I’m so tired, and I want to cry all the time. However, most every mother probably feels this way around this time of year. Besides, I’m just okayest; I know how to take things down a notch, right? (I’m no Pinterest mom, but I do want my kids to have a Christmas.)

I force myself to pick myself up and remind myself to count my blessings. It slowly is starting to work. I am so thankful that my husband has a secure job with paid sick leave. I am so grateful that we got to cut down the Christmas tree together (even if it is still outside), that we can afford presents (even if they aren’t wrapped), that we have a warm home with room for storage of luxuries like Christmas decorations (even if they aren’t hung up).

christmas cookies (2)So many people have shown me love and service lately, and it humbles me. Every time I feel like I am drowning in illness and exhaustion and undone to-do lists, someone else shows me love and service. My in-laws come to care for the children when we can’t, even if they subject themselves to heinous viruses. My mother comes to have a “Christmas craft day” with my kids, and brings her cookies to decorate and makes sure we at least get out the only decoration that matters: my great-grandma’s nativity.

imageFriends check up on me via text. Church sisters offer to put up my tree, substitute teach my Sunday School class of six-year-olds, bring dinner, and even haul my twins into the beige minivan when I can’t physically maneuver them. One friend even makes my kids some “shake it” sensory bottles when I go to her for advice about some specific behavioral problems.

My church sisters’ love makes my heart full. My Mormon friends each have more children than I do, and yet they always help. Mormon women seem extra good at serving in specific ways. They never say, “Let me know if you need anything.” Instead, they say, “I’m bringing dinner,” and, “I’m teaching your class.” Sometimes they don’t say anything, but just pick up that runaway twin. They will do things like this for people they hardly know. They have always done it for other sisters; they will continue to do it in the next town they move to. It’s not just for me. They are a great example to me. I will pay it forward someday … when the kids are in school? I know heaven smiles on these women.

A friend reminds me to think of the one thing I can do each time I get overwhelmed. Maybe today I can play some Christmas music to bring peace, and maybe tomorrow I can read to the children about the birth of Jesus. They won’t care if the door has no wreath and the presents are “wrapped” in a brown cardboard Amazon box.

Most of all, I can remember to be ever grateful for my miraculous little family that was created against all odds. We are together, and of course, that is all that really matters.

***

Dear readers: I wish you and your family peace at this time of year. I hope you find it quicker than I have! I know Christmas can be hard for many of us for so many different reasons, but I hope that you have love in your life and peace in your homes. Much love to you all!

I Don’t Want My Kids to Be Happy

happiness sunlight Yeah, sorry, I did the ever-popular “Shocking Title to Get Your Attention” trick. (Aren’t I so trendy?) And now that you’re reading, hear me out.

Of course I want my kids to be happy, but that is not my most important goal for them. Happiness is not my aim, but it can be a welcome by-product of a life well-lived. I feel that if I teach them how to be good people, then they will naturally be happy. I am not raising them to make themselves happy. I want to raise them to make others happy first – to lose themselves in service to other people (and hopefully, to God). If they do these things, then I hope their own happiness will follow.

What is happiness anyway? As Bob Dylan sings, “I’m halfway content most of the time.” That’s good enough for Bob, and it’s good enough for me.

During my infertile years, I used to torture myself by watching “A Baby Story” on TLC. Remember that show? Kinda cheesy, makes you choke up, and every episode is the same? Yeah, that one. Each episode followed a woman through the last few weeks of pregnancy, then the birth, and then a bit of the newborn phase. At the end of each episode, the producers must have asked each set of new parents the same question: “What do you hope for your child for the future?” Invariably, each mother would respond, “I just want him to be happy.”

“I just want him to be happy.”

happiness car repairThe phrase just always rubbed me the wrong way. It would make me bristle. I felt like shouting at the TV (but that was probably because I was infertile and secretly hated that show but couldn’t look away). I would think, “If I were on this show, and if I were blessed with a baby, I would answer, ‘I want to raise him to be a good person. I want to raise him to be selfless and caring and a productive member of society.’”

I have always felt that if we raise our children with their own happiness as a goal, then we are setting them up for a lifetime of selfishness. I believe that true happiness is found from losing oneself, from thinking outwardly, and from service.

happiness work editOne of my best friends, a mother of five young children, says that whenever she gets stressed or overwhelmed or depressed, she immediately turns her thoughts outward. “Who can I serve? Who needs my help today?” She has no free time to give, and yet she is constantly looking out for others in her neighborhood and our church. She babysits when a mother has to go to the doctor; she brings meals to the sick; she gives rides. She manages to put her own family’s needs first, but they still get to see her service to others. She is a great example to me.

Ralph Waldo Emerson can, of course, say all of this better (i.e., more succinctly) than I can. He wrote, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

happiness handsI agree. My purpose is not to make them happy; their purpose is not to be happy. I hope my children understand: If you are useful, honorable, compassionate, and make a difference, then you will give yourself the best shot at happiness. (Or at least at being “halfway content most of the time.”)

And now two of them are crying. They are not happy.