Sunday, December 28, 2008

Santa and those BVDs

In my humble opinion, Santa was uber-generous this year. He gave the girls too much stuff. I think he went a little overboard, because in Santa's opinion, these are the prime Christmas-magic years, where the kids still believe with all their hearts.

But he messed up with one gift: he gave the girls, in Lilia's words, "freakin' underwear" in their stockings. It's really weirding Lilia out.

Lilia: "I like all my gifts, but that freakin' underwear."

Mom: "You didn't like the underwear?"

Lilia: "I like the designs and stuff, but it's freakin' underwear from Santa."

I don't think Santa thought it would be such a big deal. I personally always got socks in my stocking, sometimes mittens. But now that I think about it, I don't think I ever got underwear. An old man giving young girls underwear? Not Santa's finest moment perhaps. Why don't they write a manual for this sort of thing? I guess people just assume parents know better. You know what they say about assuming: it makes an "ass" out of "u" and "me." Give Santa a freakin' break. It's not like he stuffed the sock with a bra.

Why so SAD?

I suffer from what professionals call Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. The family I grew up in called it "the wackies," although we called a lot of things "the wackies:" that feeling of dread you get on Sunday nights before facing a long work week, post-partum depression, and the crazy lady in the ward who likes to bear her testimony about her cat.

People who suffer from SAD don't always recognize it, but everyone around them does. Kulani knows to walk carefully, as if on egg shells. He watches me carefully and calls home often to make sure his girls and me are okay. Even the little girls sense a change in me: they scurry pretty fast when I get tense and my voice rises a notch or two. I'm not dangerous when SAD sets in, but I do get grumpy faster than normal.

My symptoms include not wanting to go outside or anywhere. Not caring about much of anything, including taking a shower or brushing my teeth. If I could build a cacoon of blankets around me and stay in one spot until spring, I would. But not doing anything makes it worse, and I start to feel like a caged bird needing to get out. I don't really want to talk to anyone or see anyone except my little family.

I hate it. Like people who suffer from depression, you learn to trudge through it. I know it will go away when the sun comes out. How do people live in places like Minnesota, North Dakota, Sweden, or Seattle? If it gets really bad, I may invest in one of those special lamps you sit in front of that are supposed to help. I've developed other coping skills as well. I force myself to do those things I don't want to do. Exercise really helps. And I let little things fall by the wayside. And thankfully I have a loving, understanding husband who knows when to step in and take the girls and me for a night out.

I have so many things I have wanted to blog about: the fantastic Fisher Christmas party hosted by Kuhia and Susan; the lessons learned from this year's Christmas gifts; and my New Year's goals for weight loss. But I'm feeling too blah-zay to write anything, well, except for this. Don't expect any pictures with this post.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Birthday to Marester!

My younger sister Mary was born this day 29 years ago. BYU was in yet another Holiday Bowl, and my dad was excited that my mom went into labor the same time as the Holiday Bowl, because he could watch the game in the lobby while my mom delivered the baby. These were the old days, folks. My mom says dads weren't expected to be in the delivery room. My dad saw one of his children, the oldest, be born, but he almost passed out. And even though he spawned nine more children, the delivery room was a stranger to him.

Growing up, Mary was my closest confidant. We shared the same room for about four years, me on the top bunk and she on the bottom bunk. We'd read stories together every now and again. And we'd laugh a lot together. And we cried a lot together. We both had the same sense of humor, the same sense of dread, the same sense of justice and injustice in the world; even the same affinity for boys. One of our favorite games was to lie next to each other on mom and dad's bed and pretend we were laughing until we really did start laughing.

Mary was my wing-man. She was always a good sport to tag along with me along all my adventures. I'd even bring her along with me on dates. When I was dating Kulani, I asked Mary to create a mix CD full of awesome love songs for me to give to Kulani. She delivered in fine form. She was the ultimate secretary, always helping me with special requests and tasks.

When Mary was young, she was known for her big brain. She loved to study medical books my grandma gave her and share her knowledge with us pea-sized brains. Her goal was to become a doctor. But somewhere between freshman year of pre-med at BYU and taking the film appreciation class, she switched majors to that super-lucrative film studies program. She later earned her master's degree in library sciences while mothering her first child.

Now she's married with two kids of her own and lives far away in a land named after Indiana Jones. If I could, I would be her secretary for a week; fetching glasses of water, changing diapers, or changing out DVDs of her all-time favorite movies: It's a Hard Day's Night, Pretty in Pink, and Reality Bites (at least, those were her favorite movies when we used to spend Saturdays watching movies). But instead, she's getting this blog post. Happy birthday, Marester! I hope you know how much I dig you; to your very core.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tears for Fears

I come from a long line of weepers. My family's weeping is notoriously bad. I think it's family legend that claims it was the Christenson's tears that started the river Vida in Denmark. My mom is as bad as the Christenson's, but she didn't get that from her mom, so I think the influence of my dad's family must have rubbed off on her.

My Aunt Norma probably single-handedly held the weeping award for 45 years straight. She was the primary song leader the entire time I was growing up, and I think the only song she made it through without crying was "Once there was a Snowman."

But I'm afraid I might be the reigning queen. It's pathetic how weepy I am. It started getting really bad after I left for college and found myself the loneliest I had ever been in my life. That first summer away from home, my mom's family held a family reunion, and to end the festivities, they called on me to give the closing prayer. Surrounded by cousins, siblings, parents: I couldn't take it. I barely choked out the prayer through my tears. I don't think a single person understood a word I said. They haven't called on me since.

Yesterday I was asked to give the opening prayer in sacrament meeting. The entire time leading up to the prayer, I tried thinking awful, terrible thoughts to push back the tears. I tried not to think of the Christmas carol we were singing. I tried not to think of the purpose of church, of partaking the sacrament. I gave a silent prayer to ask Heavenly Father to help me through this prayer.

The time arrived for me to pray. As I started to pray, those same overwhelming feelings I've felt so many times rose up in my throat. A huge feeling of gratitude and awe mixed in with nervousness and fear. I think I got out about five years before the crying started. I tried to turn my prayer to the mundane to help calm my heart: "Please bless the speakers; bless the bishop and his counselors." But then I blew it by thinking about those in the congregation who may have come to church with a purpose: to feel some kind of love and care from Heavenly Father. I thought of those who were lonely this time of year, or who were struggling with an overwhelming house payment and no income to pay it with.

It was all too much. I ended the prayer as quickly as I could. As I sat down, my huband gave me the look that bespeaks sweetness and mockingness, kind of the way we look at old people with Alzheimer's when they say something totally inappropriate. He lovingly whispered to me, "What is wrong with you?" I laughed and wiped away my tears, even though they kept falling for a good half hour into the meeting. What is wrong with me is right. It's enough, woman. Could someone get me a boat? There's no signs of this flood letting up.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Take my parenting quiz!

After reading my first quiz in Seventeen magazine when I was around 13 years old, I knew the coolest job in the world would be thinking up the quizzes that made millions of young girls more self aware of their behavior and aura on the world. Little did I know way back then--when paper notes were still passed, a phone call to a guy you liked still risked running the chance of having to talk to his mom first, and the closest thing we had to e-mails was being in the same computer class with Apple IIe's that had a version of instant messenger--that blogs would give me the chance to be the editor-in-chief of my own little "magazine."

Please be part of my dream come true and take my parenting quiz. All of these questions are based on actual stories from actual friends (not the imaginary ones who visit me nightly). Answer the questions as best you can, then find out what kind of parent you are based on the Cindy scale of parenting (very scientific).

1. You're child's nursery/primary/synagogue/church teacher for ages 5 and under doesn't seem to be doing a very good job, in your opinion, because every time you ask your child about what they learned in church, you get a blank stare. You:

a) confront the bishop/pastor/rabbi and ask that the teacher be spoken to about more appropriate Sunday lessons where something of a spiritual nature is actually taught. (5 points)
b) ask the teacher directly if you can somehow help out to make things better. (3 points)
c) let things be. Perhaps it's your child who just didn't listen. (1 point)

2. Some new neighbors move in next door, and they own a big pitbull dog. You:

a) go over to the neighbor's house, introduce yourselves for the first time, and procede to ask what type of dog that is and demand that the neighbor buy a huge fence to keep the dog in, or the first sight of that dog on your lawn and you're calling the cops. (5 points)
b) take a plate of cookies over to the family and suggest they go halfsies on a new fence separating your lawns. (3 points)
c) let things be. If you start to see problems, you'll deal with it then. (1 point)

3. You take your child to McDonald's and while playing on the equipment, you notice one child with a diaper that appears to have leaked through her pants. You:

a) approach the parent of the child and tell her that you are uncomfortable with her child playing on the equipment with a leaky diaper, because your daughter/son plays on that same equipment. (5 points)
b) fetch the McDonald's manager to have her/him talk to the parent. If he/she won't, take your child and leave. (3 points)
c) let things be. Germs are a part of life. What doesn't kill your child makes him/her stronger. (1 point)

4. At the park, a biggish child is throwing dirt at all the other kids. The child's parent seems to be nowhere in site, or is busily attending to other things such as a book. You:

a) find the parent and tell him/her to pay attention to his/her child. (5 points)
b) tell the dirt-throwing child to please stop. (3 points)
c) ignore the child and tell your kids to avoid the dirt thrower as best they can. (1 point)

5. A Sunday/Saturday/Friday School teacher disciplines your child by sticking him/her in the corner. You:

a) get upset with the teacher because all the parenting books you've read say sitting the child in a corner ruins the child's self-esteem. (5 points)
b) call the teacher and listen to her side of the story; apologize, then suggest the teacher come get you the next time your child acts up. (3 points)
c) don't think twice about it. Knowing this child, you know time-out will be a constant companion for the next few years. (1 point)

6. Your child starts wanting to dress herself/himself, even though they might not have the whole color coordination thing down yet. You:

a) never relenquish control. You have a reputation to uphold, and your children are a reflection of that reputation. (5 points)
b) You let your child choose to dress himself/herself on days when you aren't going anywhere; and you get to dress her/him on days when you are going somewhere. (3 points)
c) Shorts in the winter? Whatever. Just put it on and let's go. We're in a hurry today, as always. (1 point)

7. Your child's bedtime is:

a) at 7:30 p.m. strictly every night, even when on vacation.
b) at 8:30 p.m., except vacations.
c) before 10 p.m., except vacations, summertime, weekends, winter breaks, and summer breaks, and for the kids not in school yet, they can stay up past 10 p.m.


35-25: You're somewhere between Mussolini and Marth Stewart. You're okay with other people living their own lives, as long as their lives are in strict observance to the same lifestyle as yours. You plan to have exactly two children, spacing them out exactly five years apart because that's what all the best parenting books suggest gives children the best chance of eliminating sibling rivalry. You carry disinfecting wet wipes everywhere you go, and before anyone holds your newborn, you make them rub hand sanitizer on their hands. And if other parents aren't being as responsible as you, you take it upon yourself to set the parent straight. Your child will leave your home as soon as he/she turns 18, and they will likely spend the next 20 years in therapy. They will begrudge all you did for him/her, and you'll be lucky if he/she remembers to send a birthday card on your birthday. But of course, that will likely never happen as you will guilt her/him into sending you one by reminding her/him about your upcoming birthday every other day the month preceding your birthday.

24-12: You're a responsible parent: a veritable Carol Brady. You care enough for your children to help them become able, competent adults, but not so much that you alienate yourself from others by your wicked over-protectiveness. Your children will most likely live safely until the age of 18, when they'll finally sprout their wings and fly. And they will most likely leave as soon as they can, because although you tried to show a balanced life of discipline and love, your child is ready for his/her independance. Your child will visit appropriately every holiday and birthday, and he/she will have fond memories of her/his upbringing. But that doesn't mean he/she will ever want to move back home; no thank you. A little bit of a good thing is sufficient...for both of you.

11-7: You're a hippi at heart if not in reality. You love your children and believe that the best place for a parent is to stand back and let your children be the people that God most intended them to be. If your body will let you, you'll have as many children as God blesses you with; naming each one of them with the same letter of the alphabet or names from the Bible. You're uncomfortable with public education and would rather home school your children or place them in a private school that grades according to how the child thinks he or she did. Or alternatively, you like public education if for nothing else the free bus ride to school. Yours is the house everyone wants to be at. You lean more toward a friend than a parent. Your children will likely never leave your home, opting instead to stay in the bosom of your love. Or... you have three or more children under the age of 6.


Writer's Note: This was originally written some time in December, but I've been preoccupied with my other blogs to post here, so I'm finishing this and posting it.

Today Kulani and I experienced our first legitimate parenting discussion with our oldest. It was one of those experiences I remember from my past where Mom and Dad would want to speak with Brian or Doug (never Amy or Kathy) alone in their bedroom with the door shut, and we weren't allowed to snoop outside (though Mary knew how to conceal herself under the parent's bed when she could sense a good talkin'-to was about to go down).

Lilia received birthday money from her grandparent's and was saving her money for something special. She decided suddenly this week that now would be a good time to spend her money at Build-a-Bear Workshop. All total she had $18, $12 in birthday money and $6 in money she earned from doing chores. I told her that might be enough to buy a bear, but to not get her hopes up. She may have to settle for just clothes for her bear. I like to avoid Build-a-Bear at all costs, but last year, her kind uncles took the girls on an excursion there while we were at a Christmas party, and spoiled them with new bears and new outfits.

When we arrived at B-a-B, I was surprised to see they'd lowered their prices. She really wanted a Christmas moose, and it was on sale for $12. She'd have enough money to spare for an accessory, I told her. So she picked out a Christmas collar and two bows, as well as the moose.

Those people at Build-A-Bear are geniuses. They make it all so special for the child, allowing the child to pick out the stuffed animal's heart and warming it up by blowing on it. Even if you wanted to return a bear, there's no way you could. They take off the tags; they personalize it so well, that the child may think they're returning a loved family pet. Who would do such a thing?

Because I had other items to also purchase, I told Lilia that I would pay for it and she could pay me back. Mistake number 1. After I purchased the items, I turned to Lilia and asked her to give me her money. Her face displayed sadness. I asked her what was wrong. She told me that she didn't want the moose if it would cost her all her money.

I would've taken the moose back right then if Build-a-Bear doesn't do everything possible to make you think you can't return it. I decided to consult with Kulani about how to best handle this situation. He suggested a meeting when we got home.

Upon arriving home, we shooed the other girls into the other room, and Kulani proceeded to explain to Lilia about money, work, and choices. How did she get to age 6 without us explaining Adam Smith and the invisible hand, voodoo or trickle-down economics, and the intricacies of supply verses demand? Kulani was FBLA president during high school, afterall. Whatever it was we were trying to teach Lilia, it didn't look as though it was sticking. She finally got it when Kulani said, "You can choose your moose, or you can choose the money, but if you choose the money, we are taking the moose to a little girl who will appreciate it, and you'll only be left with your money."

And I added: "Lilia, money means nothing if we can't enjoy it. We should save for things we want, as you did with your money."

Lilia looked at the money, and she looked at the moose. You could see that she had an emotional attachment to the actual money. She'd been saving it for some time. But something clicked and she chose the moose.

I wish she would have chose the money, and then we could have taken the moose to a little girl who didn't have as much as us. That would have been two lessons for the price of one.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Little Secret

Come closer. Closer. Closer! Just stick your eyes real close to the screen, as I'm going to tell you a secret. Are you seeing? Okay, I love shopping the D.I. Yes, the D.I. Every self-respecting Utah County resident knows all proper nouns begin with the introductory phrase of "the": The BYU, The Store, The D.I.

My latest find was three barstools I desperately needed. We broke two of ours that we'd bought from the Wal-Mart. It was the cheapest barstools Wal-Mart sold, and as such, they didn't last long. What's worse, they were made with this horrible material that would suck the dropped food from my kids' sloppy eating right into the chair, and no amount of cleaning would make them look better.

As it's the holidays, and we have a few parties to host, I needed new barstools. Also being the holidays, I didn't want to spend much money on needs when we have so many wants we need to buy. So I stopped in to the D.I., and like magic, they had four black, leather-bound barstools selling for a mere $12 a piece, half the price of the Wal-Mart stool I bought a few years ago.
New but old

The D.I. is pretty magical. My angel neighbor Martha's sister says the key to the D.I. is praying before you go. She says it works every time. Whenever she needs something, she prays about it, goes to the D.I., and there it is. Interesting hypothesis.
Reminds me of this couple Kulani and I knew when we were first married. The wife wanted to give her husband a special gift in celebration of his finishing school. So every night she prayed that she'd win the Regis and Kathie Lee morning giveaway. She sent in a postcard, and sure enough, one day she got a call from the show. She answered the question correctly and they got a cruise and a new huge television set.
I'm thinking...Vegas anyone? Let's pray about it!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Speeching of Lilia ...

I love the school Lilia attends. It's the local public elementary school, and it is absolutely terrific. Every school night they send home a book for me and Lilia to read together. Lilia is showing signs of being a perfectionist, and she gets easily frustrated when she doesn't know a word we're trying to read. It's frustrating for both of us, because rather than trying to sound it out, she starts to whine and cry. The teacher sent home a very helpful flyer to help me during those frustrating times when she doesn't know a word. The flyer suggested that rather than continually saying "sound it out," try using the following phrases:
  • Did you have enough words?
  • Can you find the word _________?
  • Does that look right?
  • What sound/letter does it start with?
  • Can you find the tricky part?
  • Could it be __________?
  • Why did you stop?
  • Look at the pictures.
  • Try that again.

This has helped immensely. When I think about it, I'm really quite amazed that the system is set up to educate, and care, that every child has a quality education. I'm sure it falls short sometimes too, but I've been very appreciative of the help Lilia has received.

Lilia only spoke two words at her 2nd birthday. Being a first-time parent, I assumed that was normal. I found out otherwise after her 2-year-old doctor visit. We signed her up for speech therapy with Kids on the Move, a non-profit group. When she turned 3, she qualified for early intervention preschool at the local elementary school, as well as a weekly visit with a speech therapist. Her improvement seemed gradual at first, but last week she graduated from needing any speech therapy at all. She now tests on a level appropriate for her age.

Along the way, Lilia also found her voice. She used to be timid of speaking, afraid that people wouldn't understand her. Now she barrels into discussions of all sorts. I think that's due in part to a good friend she made while in preschool.

I know it's not my talents that have helped her improve her speech. When I tried to help her, I made her feel worse about her speech. However, Mr. Clyde, the speech therapist at the school, had a gentle re-assuring manner that encouraged Lilia's development. On Lilia's behalf, I'm thankful to the Alpine School Board for employing a caring speech therapist and providing early intervention assistance.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

How detailed must one get when describing Santa's magic to kids?

My girls have started asking questions about Santa. They're good, appropriate questions, and I find myself woefully unprepared to answer. To be honest, I feel guilty about lying to my girls about Santa all together. I have a good friend who grew up with parents who told them the truth about Santa from the start. Their reasoning was sound, because they figured lieing to young children, especially during the Christmas season when we're supposed to be celebrating Christ''s birth, makes liers of us all and could possibly taint a child from believing in Christ as they get older. I used to think that was silly, but now that I'm a parent, I really respect that logic.

But still ... it's Christmas! I love Santa and the Santa-visit tradition. I just don't know how to answer their questions. And it's not like you're telling one lie; you find yourself making up a whole bunch of stories to explain Santa. And I am perhaps the world's worst lier. It's pretty easy to tell when I lie, because my face turns red, my lips curl up into a smile, and I break down with the truth. Nevertheless, I am persevering the best I can.

Lilia: "How does Santa know when we're naughty or nice?"
Me: "He's got a naughty-or-nice meter for all the kids in the world, and when you do good things, it tips to good, and when you do bad, it tips to bad."

Lissy: "Is Santa magic, and so he can make the reindeer fly?"
Me: "Oh yes."

Lissy: "How will Santa come to our house? We don't have a chimney."
Me: "I just keep the door unlocked that night."

And then you have competing renditions of Santa in television and movies. Lilia has asked me which one is the true-true story. Honey, you have to pray to find out for yourself which one is true.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cindy's night out; Kulani's night in

I had dinner with my old-time friend LG tonight. LG has the type of life I love to observe from afar but am glad I don't actually have to live in it. I think she feels similarly about me. LG always has a huge amount of drama going on in her life, and listening to it all is highly entertaining. In this last year alone she lost a business, lost a lot of weight, lost two homes, and lost two loves.

You see, LG is mormon and single and 33. The three don't always mesh well together. It's easy to be single and 33. It's easy to be single and mormon. It's easy to be 33 and mormon. It's hard to be all three. For one, the pickings are slim at that age in mormondom. Your choices can be as varied as 52-year-old men who still have a problem "committing," divorced men with four to five children, and effeminate men who may switch teams at any moment. Another problem is morality--I don't think I need to explain that one. I admire LG greatly for hanging in there, even if at times it's by the tippity-top of her fingernails.

The great thing about LG is her encouraging and faithful love of the gospel in a world where faith is dwindling in high numbers. With the death of Elder Joseph Wirthlin, a member of the 12 apostles in the LDS church, I have enjoyed reading about his life. I was surprised to find he played football for Satan's school, the University of Utah. And even near his death, he was rooting for the Red and Black over the Lord's University that wears Blue and White (not Yale). (If you can't pick up on my sarcasm, I'm ashamed of you.) We were discussing what manner of man makes an apostle and whether you'd know a potential apostle if you met one. In typical LG fashion, she said, "I don't think he'd spend hours on Facebook, I'll tell you that much."

While I was enjoying my dinner with LG at Johnny Carino's, Kulani had the task of watching the girls. Near the end of my meal, I get a call from Kulani with Nohea crying in the background. Nohea had a rough night without her mama, and she cried nearly the whole time I was gone. All mothers everywhere understand both the sweetness and sadness of that. It's sweet that your child misses you that much and wants only her mommy; it's sad because your baby is sad, causing everyone else to be going mad.

I was grateful to return to my home where I was greeted with an enthusiastic, "Mommy!" when I arrived through the door. I'm sure LG was grateful to return to quietness and her own bed. I'm sharing my bed tonight with Kulani, Nohea, and Lissy, because Lissy is having bad dreams and Nohea is sick. Nohea and Lissy tend to sleep sideways, kicking my face and causing me to sleep at the other end of the bed. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Crafty Lilia

Lilia, my oldest, is crafty. Seriously. Today she told me her favorite subject in school was "Centers" because then she can do crafts.

I asked, "You like Centers better than P.E.?"
"Yes," she told me.

Must get it from Kulani's side. I have yet to finish a craft project. Every year I sign up for Super Saturday, pay my $20 or so, and then never do I finish a single project. Not a one. The only artsy parts of my side of the family include a penchant for finding all things ridiculous at a garage sale. For example, my mother recently found a set of stuffed monkeys that sing Harry Belafonte's "Day-O." Now that's a talent!

Lilia, however, will write on every scrap of paper we have in the house. Today's drawings were especially good, so I thought I would post them on the blog.

She told me that this was a drawing of a French girl. I think she got the beret just right, don't you? How she knew the French all wear berets, I don't know. (Yes they do, Chrystel, every last frog-lovin' one of you.)
I guess this is a picture of a French boy. He's thinking, "Dad heart" which translates into "I love my dad more than my mom because my mom tends to throw my drawings away," in French.

And this French girl is saying, "Ew like Dad," which is French for "Sheep like Dad."