Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Magic Tricks

I have always been fascinated by the idea of magic. Even the cheesy card tricks where the magician somehow pulls your card from the top of the deck after it has been cut and shuffled repeatedly intrigue me. I know it is all just slight of hand, but I still love to watch something without knowing exactly how it is being done. I've never been a big answer person. I tend to like more abstract things that lend themselves to interpretation. This is why I hate math and love things like philosophy, art and literature. That is, until it comes to parenting. When raising children, it would be nice to have a few concrete answers, some fail-proof solutions, but alas, I have discovered that there are none. Especially when you have more than one child. Even if you think you have mastered the art of parenting with your first, your second is bound to be the polar opposite in every regard. When Morgan was a baby, I tried every trick in the book (literally- you should see my copy of "What to Expect the First Year") to get her to stop crying and go to sleep. When Hyrum was born, I was trying everything in the book to get him to wake up enough to eat! Children, unfortunately, do not come with instruction manuals, or mute buttons (this may sound harsh, but if you have ever had a baby who cried for nine months straight, you understand the overwhelming desire to occasionally "mute" them). This is where trial and error come in, and sometimes, even a little bit of magic. To curb Morgan's screaming, we tried everything from gas drops to prune juice to catnip drops. Turns out the only thing that would stop the crying was a ride in the car. Luckily, when she was born, gas did not cost $5.00 a gallon, because I spent a good part of most days driving up in the foothills. After months of sleep deprivation, pulling out of hair, and wondering why my newborn seemed to be the only one who did not peacefully sleep in her car seat wherever we went, the ability to calm her with a little drive and some tunes seemed like a magic trick.
Babies are excellent magicians. The bodily functions they can produce alone are astounding. That came out of a seven pound baby?....... I have also known my babies' bodily functions to completely defy gravity on several occasions. The most intriguing magical power that babies possess, however, is the power of hypnosis. They can scream for five hours straight, until you are ready to go on an extended vacation and come back when they are past the crying phase, and then........they look at you. They don't even have to smile. Those tiny, bright eyes just pull you in until everything else around you fades into utter insignificance. Magic. All babies can also instinctively produce an obliviate spell (if you have never read/ seen Harry Potter- first of all- why on earth are you sitting here reading this blog, instead of that?- secondly- the obliviate spell is a spell conjured to completely erase a person's memory). The first time a baby smiles, you suddenly forget the fact that you have ever seen anyone else smile before. Same with first laughs, steps, etc. With one smile, the memory of every sleepless ,crying-filled (the crying coming from the baby and yourself), pacing the floor night is completely erased as well. There is only this tiny miracle, smiling the first smile on earth. I suppose that's the real magic babies possess. They take jaded, worn, skeptical, haggard adults in the palm of their tiny hands and make everything new. I heard a quote once. I don't remember who said it, but it was something like, "A new baby is God's opinion that the world should go on." Really, is there any sound in the world filled with more hope than a baby's first tiny cry? Magic.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What's In a Name?

A few weeks ago, my good friend (and cousin-in-law), Lisa, introduced me to a wonderfully sarcastic book about what not to name your baby. I wish I could remember the exact title, but alas, the pregnancy brain still plagues me. What I do remember is that the introduction to the book was written by a man with the most unfortunate given name I have ever heard (hence his interest in working on such a book). Having since legally changed his first name to Joe, this poor soul's actual given name was Tucker. Not such a bad name, right?..........unless your last name happens to be Fudpucker. Yes. Tucker Fudpucker. I kid you not. I couldn't make that up if I tried. I'm no Dr. Suess. What ever possessed his parents to name him this, I am not sure. Neither was Tucker. But, after enduring a lifetime of humiliation, Tucker made the decision to become Joe.
I have noticed that from the second a woman becomes visibly pregnant, the question on everyone's mind seems to be......"What are you going to name your baby?" And it's usually not even because they actually want to know what she thinks her baby's name should be, but because they have very definite opinions of what an appropriate name would be. And thus the process begins. Should you use a family name, an historical name, a literary name, a biblical name?.........none of the above? Now, I personally feel that what someone else chooses to name their child is none of my business. However, I think there are a few rules of thumb that should probably be followed: 1. Don't give your child a rhyming name, ie. Tucker Fudpucker ( I just have to get that name in as many times as possible). 2. If you are giving your child a middle name, be careful of what the initials might spell when put together, ie. Ashley Sue Simmons, or Sean Orson Bradley (I'll let you figure them out- leave the periods in the second set of initials). 3. Do not decide on a name for your baby during an intense pregnancy craving, ie. Apple or Cocoa. If I had done this, I would most likely now have a Twizzler and a Pickles, with a Nacho on the way. Since it does seem to be a celebrity trend, I think the Pitt family should get on board. Why not add a Peach and a Cherry to their growing brood? 4. When naming a girl, think about possible last names that she may eventually take, ie. my grandmother assures me that if you name your daughter Harley, she will most definitely end up falling for a guy with the last name of Davidson. I do worry slightly about this with Morgan, only because Morgan is also a fairly common last name. I suppose if this situation ever arises, I would understand her not following the convention of taking her husband's name.
Unless they have some underlying desire for their children to be relentlessly mocked, I think most parents generally adhere to these rules of thumb. But how do you ultimately decide on a name, especially when for every name you come up with, someone has a horror story about someone else with that name? Morgan was named such simply because I think Morgan is a beautiful name. We had considered other names for months, and mid-pregnancy this name popped into my head and wouldn't leave. It just fit. I did not think about possible nicknames people might call her at the time, but she has been called "Morg" more times than I can count. ( a little on the morbid side perhaps). Hyrum is a family name, so that one was pretty easy. Given the names of my first two children, however, my brother-in-law, Mitch, now thinks I am a closet alcoholic. Not being a drinker, I didn't even know there was a brand of rum called Captain Morgan. And the word rum is actually the second half of my son's name. My husband has always liked the name Stuart. It's not my favorite, although I think it's a perfectly respectable name. I just know, that according to Murphy's law, if we named our son Stuart Stanger, he would inevitably be cursed with a horrible stutter.
I wonder to what extent our name actually determines who we become.......What if Martin Luther King Jr. had been named Tucker Fudpucker? Would Tucker still have had a dream that changed the world? Shakespeare's Juliet ( a beautiful name.....if you want your daughter to turn into a lovesick teenager who commits suicide) conjectured that "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet"........ I would hope to think I would still love my little Morgan and Hyrum just as much if they were Helga and Beaumont. And I would like to think that they would still possess the same qualities and personality traits as they do now. At some point in time, we all have to make our own way in the world, whether we do so with a name that we have to overcome, or a name that we have to live up to. I think we make our names what they are, and not the other way around. Before Mrs. Hitler named her bouncing baby boy, there was nothing particularly infamous about the name Adolf. There was probably nothing particularly outstanding about the name Albert until Mr. and Mrs. Einstein's son grew to be a man and escaped the evil clutches of the afore-mentioned Adolf. I think sometimes we just have to choose a name, and realize that whatever name we choose, there will be people who love it, people who hate it, people who relentlessly mock it........but to us and to others who love us, it may just become the most wonderful name in the world. Soon it will be time for little Ryan Daniel Stanger to make his mark on the world. Don't decide what you think of the name just yet. In time, he'll let you know.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Car Keys

"Where are the keys?"....It's one of life's daily mysteries, at least at my house. It falls right in line with a few other puzzlers, like where on earth the one missing sock from every load of laundry ends up, or how hangers grow legs at night and form a mass exodus out of the closet. The sock thing is especially perplexing. If one sock is lost from each load of laundry washed, then shouldn't there, in theory, at some point in time, be an even number of socks? I stink at math, but this makes sense to me. Yet, somehow, there, at the top of the basket or drawer, is the perpetual lone sock. (Is there a Seinfeld episode about this? If not, there should be.) And the hangers.....I used to think they only escaped at night, but this is not the case. I can take my jacket off the hanger to put it on when I leave the house in the morning, without having removed the hanger from the closet, and when I return that same afternoon and attempt to rehang my hanger.........I really need to find the Twilight Zone theme song online and cue it to play at certain spots in my posts. So, where do all the vanished socks and hangers go? Are they all together somewhere, in some sort of domestic Bermuda Triangle? I would really like to know, because I think that must be where my car keys are right now. Over the years, I have locked my keys in the car. I have locked them in the house. I have scoured the entire house for three hours, before finally finding them in the bottom of the purse I originally looked in. But never, until today, have my car keys completely vanished. All I can figure is that they have journeyed to the land of socks and hangers. Although, while the disappearances of the socks and hangers remain a complete mystery, I do have suspicions about what may have happened to the car keys: pregnancy brain. That's right. There have been studies conducted that have proven that women actually loose brain cells while pregnant. And the part of our brain that normally remembers things gets all scrambled up. This is what causes us to put the full carton of milk in the cupboard instead of the fridge, or the trash in the laundry hamper, or the car keys in the....... trash? Yes. Due to pregnancy brain, I think I may have inadvertently thrown my car keys in the garbage. Yesterday was a particularly hectic day. I came home with a trunk full of groceries. I am currently driving the "blue beast" (Dirk's car), because our van is in the shop being fixed. (we don't want a litter of mini Dodge Caravans running around after all- okay- maybe repaired would have been a better word, but I will not backspace!- the real story is long, and you don't want to hear it, trust me- so now that I have officially created the longest run-on sentence inside of a set of parenthesis, I will continue) The garage door opener happens to still be in the van, which is in the shop. So, when I came home with a trunk full of groceries, it was pouring rain, as it had been all day (we apparently now live in Seattle) and I was unable to park in the garage. So, I was running (or waddling quickly) back and forth from trunk to house with armfuls of groceries while trying not to get soaked. This morning, as I was frantically searching every corner, drawer, nook, and cranny of our house in attempt to find the elusive keys and get to my doctor's appointment on time, I retraced my steps from yesterday, and realized the only other place they could possibly be was in the trunk of the blue beast. So, I called my dear husband in a pregnant panic ( which, believe me when I tell you, is much worse than a regular panic) and told him my predicament. Within minutes, he was in the rental car on his way from Blackfoot to unlock the trunk. When my knight in shining armor arrived and laid bare the belly of the beast....... no keys (Twilight Zone). He took his key off the ring and I raced to my appointment, which I ended up being only ten minutes late for. The only other place that the keys could have possibly ended up is in the trash. I think I must have placed them in the top of one of the grocery bags to free up my hands after opening the trunk, and somehow left them in there when I threw the bags away. I would be digging through our trashcan at this very moment, but as Murphy would have it, today is trash day, and about two minutes after the trashcan possibility occurred to me, the dump truck showed up at our curb.
Given the recent natural disasters around the world, it wasn't too hard to find a little perspective about losing my keys. They are, after all, just a set of keys. I can have them recut. At least my entire home is not covered in water, or dashed into a million pieces by a tornado's fury. I'm not saying it wasn't frustrating/aggravating/perplexing....... but it is certainly not life-altering. We all have our "lost car key" days, whether we have literally lost our car keys, or just our marbles....... It's these days when we often receive the rare gift of seeing first hand who is really there for us, whether it's a husband who leaves work and drives 30 minutes home to unlock the trunk, or a grandma who offers to pick you up and take you to your appointment, or a mom who takes you to a nice lunch and makes you laugh until you forget what you were ever frazzled about. I can name several other people who had no idea of my predicament who would have been there in a heartbeat if I needed their help. It is comforting and humbling to know that there are so many people in my life who would drop everything important in their day for such a little thing. There is no doubt in my mind that they would do the same if something truly terrible happened. So, in a strange way, I'm glad I lost my keys. Sometimes it takes losing a little something to realize how much you truly have. A day that began with a minor misfortune is ending with a profound sense of gratitude. I was also reminded today of God's sense of humor (and trust me, He does have one). After turning my house upside down while waiting for Dirk this morning, I went out and searched for the keys in the back seat of the beast. I thought perhaps they had fallen back there somewhere while I was getting Hyrum out of the car after shopping. I reached my hand back behind the seat and picked up something that jingled and felt strangely like a set of keys. It was indeed a set of keys....bright red, yellow and blue plastic ones. They must have been there from Hyrum's baby days, when I still drove the blue beast. Yes, God definitely has a sense of humor. But, just maybe, it was also a subtle reminder of what I really need to be focusing on right now. The world around me may be spinning out of control, but soon I will have a tiny person completely depending on me who will have no idea what's going on in the outside world. So, maybe a lost set of keys and a dose of pregnancy brain is exactly what I needed today!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


A few summers ago, I waged war on the dandelions in my yard. Looking back now, I can clearly see how outnumbered I was. But at the time, I wasn't exactly seeing red...... I was seeing yellow..... everywhere, and I was bound and determined to get rid of it. The first casualty of war was my long-handled dandelion picker. A particularly feisty weed which refused to be uprooted made quick work of snapping the wooden handle in half. This left me with a much lesser weapon; it was a short-handled plastic picker. This one did not break, but my back felt just about like it had. Hunching over like an eighty-year-old woman day after day was making it increasingly difficult to stand up straight. On top of that, my hands had become two giant blisters. I was spent. The dandelions had won. So why, oh why, one may ask, after all of the trouble I went through trying to get rid of them, do I have a small vase of the conquering weeds adorning my counter at this very moment? Well, you know what they say, "If you can't beat em', put em' in a vase." No. Any mother reading this knows the real answer. It is because I was greeted at my front door by two wide-eyed, gleeful children clutching my "Mother's Day flowers." In came two out of breath bloom collectors and out of tiny yellow-stained sweaty palms tumbled their offering. So, out came my Beleek china vase from Ireland, and in went my Mother's Day bouquet. I can see it now, still sitting on my counter. Since dandelions begin to wilt the second they are picked, they are looking pretty sad by day two. But, I can't bring myself to get rid of them just yet. These weeds, which to me can be a constant annoyance when they crop up in my yard, are to my two precious children the first miracle of Spring, and they wanted to share that miracle with me. And just as swiftly as plucked dandelions loose their luster, so swiftly in the scheme of things does childhood pass away. All too soon the sweaty dandelion-yellow palm will give way to the slender corsaged wrist resting on the arm of some tuxedo wearing young man. And the corsaged wrist will make way for the diamond-adorned hand clutching a bridal bouquet. All too soon, my baby boy will want me to help him pick out a bouquet made of something more elegant than dandelions for some other girl. All too soon, I will look back and wonder where the dandelion days have gone.
There have been other, more elegant displays of flowers in my life. The first flower Dirk ever gave me was a single long-stemmed red rose. We were dating, and he had driven up from Utah for a surprise weekend visit. He showed up at my bedroom door with his single-dimpled smile and handed me the rose. Not too long after this, Mr. Dimple had won me over, and it was time for a bridal bouquet; sterling roses, white lilies and ivy. My mother and grandmother had it preserved for me as a wedding gift and it is beautifully framed and hanging on my wall. In the past eight years of marriage, I have recieved gorgeous arrangements for anniversaries, Valentine's Days, Mother's Days, as well as a few used as peace offerings after a tiff. I don't remember what all of them looked like. A few I have dried and stuffed in a little memory box containing letters and other special things from Dirk. I do vividly remember the peach and white striped roses that he brought home the day of my miscarriage. Not many words were exchanged. He just handed me the roses and held me until the tears stopped streaming. Flowers appear in some form at just about every major event in our lives, at times of celebration, as well as times of sorrow. I love to have fresh flowers in my house because they remind me that any day can be extraordinary.
When I try to imagine myself in the stage of life where I will be approaching that final bouquet, I see myself surrounded by my children, and hopefully some grandchildren too. As I look back over my life and remember the roses and lilies, and all of the flowers that have marked special occasions in my life, I think one memory may just stand out above the rest. Two tiny sets of hands clutching a bouquet of Spring's first miracle........ "Is there anything I can get for you mom?", says Morgan. "Maybe some of those dandelions you used to bring me. Yes, just some dandelions."