Setting the Record Straight

Sometimes people misunderstand my snarky tone. I hope I can write well enough that everyone understands my intentions. My intentions are to convey the absurd in my daily life. I want to be truthful. The truth is:

1) I love my kids. This is indisputable. Everyone loves his or her kids. Every parent wants to do his or her best for  the children. If I wrote a blog about that, it would be really boring.

2) What I do is really hard: There are only 2 people on the whole planet, besides myself, who have done this job alone all day (my husband and a friend from church). Usually it takes 2-3 grandparents to replace me for a day. Having three children under three, or three children in diapers, does not occur often in nature. Number 2 does NOT NEGATE number 1.

3) What I do is really ridiculous: My daily life is absurd. It’s weird. It’s crazy. Normal people do not live this way. If I didn’t find humor in what is happening here, I would crack. I might literally crack in half from being tense. Number 3 does NOT NEGATE number 1.

My blog is trying to tell the truth about numbers 2 and 3. I have mothers all over the world messaging me about how grateful they are that I am telling the truth. I have infertile women all over the world telling me that they are sobbing while reading my story because someone finally understands them. I have friends telling me they are crying with laughter or crying with tears at something funny or sad that I wrote. How are we supposed to help others if we don’t tell the truth? How can we relate to others if we don’t show our weaknesses?

If you have read my “about me” page, you know all this already. I have overcome trials as we struggled to build our family- some of which include infertility, miscarriage, adoption, IVF, carrying twins, and almost dying. I want to tell my children what it was really like to “acquire” them.  It was hard, sad, funny, ridiculous, embarrassing, and wonderful. I also want to record what these early days were like for us. Soon enough, they will be in school, and none of us will really remember these painfully beautiful and painfully hard days. I have a bad memory, and I am seriously sleep-deprived –  both of which indicate that I will not remember the majority of what is happening here.

A friend of mine has a sign on her wall that says, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

This blog is written for my children. A question I answered in my “What Happens When You Start Blogging” post was, “Why are you writing in a public forum if the information is really for your children?” The answer is that I have discovered that I am incapable of keeping a private journal for them – I just don’t make the time. However, when I am blogging, I know I have followers who are waiting for my new posts. I currently have just shy of 1500 followers. People tell me that they eagerly anticipate the email notification that I have posted something new. That knowledge is excellent motivation to keep writing. So, yes, this information is recorded for my children, but you readers are the motivation. And I thank you for that!

With all that cemented, let me set the record straight by doing something I never do: brag about my children. Here are some amazing things about them… just so you know they are loved. wink wink.

My oldest son (R, age 4):

  • Has a very long attention span
  • is obedient, despite tantrums
  • has excellent motor skills, both fine and gross
  • can recite some scripture stories and knows how to pray
  • can talk about Jesus and Heavenly Father
  • is very thoughtful
  • has favorite foods that include salmon, blueberries, falafel, quinoa, and veggie juices
  • doesn’t know what a “Happy Meal” is (even though he loves french fries, I admit)
  • does not watch TV (but does watch a limited selection of DVDs)
  • does not know how to manipulate any sort of smart phone, computer, or device (this is my choice)
  • protects his babies from all sorts of dangers
  • has an above-average vocabulary (according to a speech therapist) and even understands a bit of Farsi

My middle son/oldest twin (E, age 16 months):

  • looks exactly like my husband’s baby photos, but with lighter eyes and hair
  • is a hugger. He will even pause to hug the stairs, the wall, or a boot
  • has a lower lip that slays me
  • rubs two fingers together when he is nervous
  • is much larger than almost all singletons his age
  • is already learning to share and take turns, because he has no choice
  • has favorite foods that include avocado (he can eat a whole one every day), eggs (he can eat 3), salmon, falafel, and plain yogurt
  • does not watch TV
  • knows a small amount of sign language and says many words

My youngest son/youngest twin (G, age 16 months):

  • looks exactly like my baby pictures, but with darker hair and eyes
  • is quick and sneaky, like a ninja – or a chess player.
  • has the most kissable head… His oldest brother calls him “baby doll head” (he made that up)
  • was in charge in the womb and is in charge now
  • is much larger than most singletons his age, but is way smaller than his twin
  • has favorite foods that include all the same healthy foods that his brothers like
  • does not watch TV
  • knows a small amount of sign language and says some words

I love my kids (duh, boring), and what I do is really hard and really ridiculous. There you have it. The record is straight.

My Sister Wife (I mean, My Sister Mom)

My all-time-favorite photo of my sister-in-law and me. It was her wedding day to my brother, and R was super excited about the portraits. Photo courtesy of Mr. Okayest.

My all-time-favorite photo of my sister-in-law and me. It was her wedding day to my brother, and R was super excited about the portraits. Photo courtesy of Mr. Okayest.

Since I’m LDS, I shouldn’t promote the idea of sister wives. But, dang it, having a sister wife would be AMAZING! Except, of course, for the sharing-my-husband thing. I am not condoning polygamy, but um, what stay-at-home mom couldn’t use the extra help?! My sister-in-law is currently living with us – along with my one-year-old niece – and she kind of feels like a sister wife. However, since she is married to my brother, that thought is just extra gross. So, my brother has coined a new phrase: sister mom. She is my sister mom.

Some fine print: The LDS (Mormon) church does not practice polygamy and anyone who actually did would be excommunicated. Members of the church did practice polygamy in the 1800s, but it was renounced as a practice in 1890 in order for Utah to gain statehood. Our church believes in following “the laws of the land” and we don’t do anything illegal. Any forms of multiple-wife marriages you see on TV (“Sister Wives”, “Breaking the Faith”, “Big Love”…) are NOT my church. Those families are from a variety of offshoots of our church , and NONE are affiliated with the “mainstream” LDS church.* Some of them separated from the mainstream LDS church due to the issue of revoking the practice of polygamy.

Some more fine print: Our prophet has denounced the use of the word “fundamentalist” when describing offshoots of our church, because we believe we stick to our fundamentals just fine. President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “There is no such thing as a ‘Mormon Fundamentalist.’ It is a contradiction to use the two words together.”

Now, having said all that, I am now free to tell you that I can kinda see why those sister wives like their lifestyle. I am a descendent of Brigham Young, the second president of the LDS church, and possibly the most famous polygamist of all time. The number of wives and children he had is staggering.  I guess I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for polygamy. His wives worked together and many lived in the same houses. Do you think one woman would have been capable of cooking from scratch all day and hand-washing all the clothes and caring for children and running the farm (and, ok, fending off American Indians, according to my ancestors’ journals) out in the middle of Nowhere, Utah?

On the TLC show “Sister Wives”, one man is married to four women. The Brown family members belong to the offshoot known as the Apostolic United Brethren (AUB). Even as a lifelong member of the LDS church, I had never heard of the AUB. ** The Brown wives have said that they support each other by playing to their own strengths. One wife does the cooking, one wife cares for the small children, and one wife works outside the home. Many hands make light work. I guess it comes at a cost: each sister wife only shares a bed with her husband every fourth night. (Many hands make light work in the bedroom too? Ha, sorry.)

Since my sister mom moved in with me, we have four children under the age of four living here. That is far too much chaos for one person, but, with four adult hands, the ratio seems to work in our favor. Like the Brown family, we also divide the work in a way that benefits us. For example, fixing dinner with four toddlers underfoot is not only mind-bendingly challenging, it’s also quite dangerous. (Just think: splattering oil, boiling water splashing, hot stove burners, opening the 450 degree oven….I had resorted to throwing a ball away from the oven to make the kids go chase the ball like a dog before I opened the oven door.) So, we take turns: one of us cares for all four children in the basement playroom, while the other sister mom cooks dinner in perfect silent safe aloneness. It is blissful.

With a sister mom in the house, I am able to run to the store during naptime. I have an adult to converse with during the day, and, thus, I get to use more complex sentences that don’t always have the word “poop” in them. I have a second set of eyes and hands to catch the baby who climbs on top of the picnic table on the deck. (Those of you who personally know my children will undoubtedly know which child did that.) My sister mom does the chores that I detest – such as unloading the dishwasher – just because she is a kind person who takes pity on me. She watches the babies while I spend hours in the bathroom with a potty-training oldest child. And, best of all, *I* get to go to the bathroom alone- with the door closed and everything! Oh, wait, no, the best of all is that Mr. Okayest and I can slip out to a movie after the kids go to bed!

However, downsides to having a sister mom include: 25% more food on the floor during mealtimes, a naughtier dog, and a higher-than-average playtime decibel level. So worth it. I know I could close this blog post with a joke about “as long as she stays away from my man”, but it’s just so gross and weird that I’m not going to even suggest that kind of joke. Except maybe I just did. Anyway, having a sister mom is worth it. I’m not so sure about having a sister wife.

 ***

 *The most infamous of those groups is the FLDS, which is still run by a jailed Warren Jeffs. (In my opinion, he is one of the most evil men on the planet.)

**For comparison’s sake, the AUB has about 10,000 members, the FLDS has less than 10,000 members, and my LDS “mainstream” church has nearly 15 million members.

For further reading about polygamy and our church history:
https://www.lds.org/topics/plural-marriage-and-families-in-early-utah?lang=eng

Furlough and Food Storage

I swear my walker isn't part of my long-term food storage.

I swear my walker isn’t part of my long-term food storage.

With two mortgages, three kids in diapers, two kids in formula, and six mouths to feed (if you count the 100 pound dog), we now have zero income. No matter what political views you hold, we can all agree that this is a scary time. My husband is a pawn in this political chess game, and that means I am too. And so are my children. While I just felt angry and scared at first, my husband made me fall in love with him all over again when he came home that first unpaid day. He said something so kind and sweet about the situation, but  I can’t type it here because it’s too polarizing. (This blog is my story, so I’m not about to throw Mr. Okayest under the political-view-bus.) Just pretend to swoon and feel better like I did.

Having him home is wonderful. We can stay up late. He can actually finish his homework for once. I have two extra hands’ worth of help in a very hectic day. My day-to-day life is actually much better. There have been times when I have thought that having him home would be invaluable to me… and now is the time to put my money where my mouth is. Except I don’t have any money. How much is his help worth? How long will it be worth that much? The truth is, I just love to have his beautiful face around during the day.

But how do you pay the bills during this time? How do you buy food? I heard that some establishments offered free food to furloughed federal workers (alliteration much?). Jackpot! However, when I looked it up, I realized a few ironic things:

1) Most of the free “food” is alcoholic drinks. Dang.

2) Most of the “free” food is just 10% off with a government ID. How exactly do they expect people to pay for the other 90% with absolutely zero income? Seriously, people!

3) Here is the best one yet:  “Thirty percent off spa packages to furloughed employees.” Umm, if you are going to a spa while unemployed, you have some major problems.

I did find a few that said, “Free food to federal workers. Congressmen will not be served.”

So, really, how will this work? What will become of this one-income family if Mr. Okayest is out of work for weeks? I have no idea. The kids keep us too busy and too tired to have “scheduled” a good sit-down. But immediately I knew two things:

1)      I am so thankful for my food storage.

2)      I can’t believe I just sold my cloth diapers LAST WEEK. Idiot!

I swear I tidied this short-term pantry for the photo.

I swear I tidied this short-term pantry for the photo.

Anyway, as for the food storage, our LDS church has always encouraged every member to be self-sufficient. We are taught to keep as much food storage as is reasonable for our home and family. Ideally, we are to have three months’ worth of regular food in the house, which I call “pantry food” – just  large quantities of what we usually buy and eat. It’s part of the rotation. We’re talking about pasta, tuna, canned veggies. (Ok, ok, and also boxes of Kraft and cans of potted meat… I’m southern, remember?)

In addition to a three months’ supply of short-term food storage, we are also taught to aim for up to a year of what we call “long-term food storage”. This includes survival basics. I call it “under-siege food”. We are talking rice, wheat, beans, oatmeal, dry milk. Stuff that your kids would probably cry about if they had to eat.

Our church does not promote doomsday scenarios or wild schemes you see on NatGeo about building a fortress with spikes and “keeping a box with crushed glass by the door for security” (that’s a Doomsday Prepper quote, folks!).  Instead, we are simply taught to keep food storage for personal emergencies. If the husband were to lose his job or become ill, then at least that family wouldn’t have to buy groceries. What savings they do have could go toward the mortgage. We need to be self-sufficient in an emergency. How would you ever help “thy neighbor” if you can’t even help yourself?

Our church also promotes having three months of your salary in savings, as well as two weeks’ worth of water storage. We follow these guidelines. We always have. I built our food storage over years, proudly canning much of it myself into large #10 cans with oxygen absorbers inside. I have a 72- hour kit packed and ready for each member of my family (including that dang dog), if we were to have to leave the home during any of the natural disasters that have occurred here, including earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, or trees falling. Political chess games require more of a shelter-in-place plan.

I hope someday I can help our family be even more self-sufficient. I hope to grow food. I hope to have chickens and goats. (Hey, a girl can dream, ok? I owned a dog-walking business  in a rural area, which meant that I mostly fed chickens, goats, and horses. I was good at it. I liked it.) It’s hard to do these things with three babies, but someday I will have three sons who can help. The trick will be to start when they are young enough to want to help, but old enough to walk and not put everything in their mouths. I want to tap into that “industry” phase of childhood before it’s too late.

We will be fine. I know how to make emergency flat-bread out of a paste of flour and water and salt. (Although that does sound eerily similar to the recipe for homemade play-doh, now that I think about it.)  I know how to cook without power. I know how to make my family poop in a bucket. I know how to … wait, those last two had nothing to do with furlough, did they?

We will be fine. We don’t have any car payments because my husband is freakin’ MacGyver and can make anything work right. We don’t have any debt other than mortgages and student loans. We have savings. If things get bad, we know how to sell things. And how to market my MacGruber’s skills.

We will be fine. We will not be buying the salmon, avocado, and blueberries on which my sons gorge. We will not be spending any gas money to visit the grandparents on the weekends. We will not be buying balloons or presents for the babies’ first birthday this week. However, we will be relying on our precious food storage and being thankful that we followed the advice of our church.

Now if only I hadn’t sold those cloth diapers. Argh.

***

Notes: I’ve had some inquiries about where to find more information on building your own 72-hour kits. Information on the web is plentiful, but start here: http://www.ready.gov/document/family-supply-list

Here’s a handout I made for a lesson I taught at church: How to make a 72-hr kit

Here is the LDS church’s preparedness page: http://providentliving.org/self-reliance?lang=eng

By the way, I’m not claiming to be any kind of expert on 72-hour kits or anything else. I just really like to try.