Wacky Wednesday: Italian Anyone?

Working out in the yard was something we always did as a family. At least, we all went outside together, and some of us kids would mosey around while the others worked, but you get the idea. My older brother, Travis, was just getting used to being a big brother, and he was good at it. He could tickle us until we cried, knuckle our foreheads until we named 18 fruits (kiwi, apple, papaya, tomato, apricot, peach, mango, nectarine, pear, kumquat, avocado, banana, pineapple, strawberry, star fruit, lemon, lime, watermelon, cantaloupe– see, I still got it!), and farting in a room and holding the door shut so we couldn’t escape. He was particularly fond of making us believe stories, such as the one about keeping his “other sister” in the attic and feeding her once a month.

On this particular day, my parents were the ones working in the yard while the rest of us tried to look busy enough not to be assigned to a task. Travis and Ryan (my other brother) had found a tennis racket, and were bouncing various things off of it back and forth, when Travis found the worm. It was a long, pink worm, freshly dug up and it was not happy to be uprooted. As Travis lightly bounced it on the racket, he got that look in his eye that alerted us mischief would follow. He spied our two-year-old sister across the yard, and strode over to her with the air of a salesman. “Hey Lindsey!” He said greeted her like he was about to tell her the best news of her life, “Do you like spaghetti?” She bobbled happily, and stumbled up to him with an excited look45976_1411210794625_7821743_n in her eye.

“Well, it’s your lucky day!” he pitched, “because I have some spaghetti right here for you!” She eyed the worm suspiciously and then cautiously picked up the dangling worm.

“Don’t worry,” Travis assured her, “it’s spaghetti! You like spaghetti, remember?” She bounced her head slower this time, and cautiously put the worm in her mouth, moving it slowly around with her tongue. I don’t know who told her first, the memory becomes blurred at this point. All I know is I heard, “Lindsey, spit that out! It’s a worm!” And saw a flying worm arching toward the grass. My parents ran over, and water from the hose was immediately used to rinse out her mouth. There was the sound of Travis laughing and making excuses as my parents scolded him. Lindsey, through her wails, was eying Travis with a look of loathing. I don’t really know if she has ever quite trusted him since.

Chicken Nuggets and Naps: The Reality of Growing Up

I never quite figured out when I grew up. I am still not sure that I did. There are milestones placed throughout your lifetime that measure how “up” you are grown, and I have really not passed through them all yet. For example: I have yet to finish school, buy a house with a white picket fence, and magically obtain the crafty gene that every mother gets with the birth of their fKillianJirst child.  I have not written a book, opened my own restaurant, or even caught a fish worth bragging about. So I have decided that I have not grown up.

Growing up is hypothetically easy. When I was little, I used to make lists in my head of what I would do when I was “grown up.” I used to put on as much make-up as I could, pad my bra, take off my glasses, and wear my tallest heels in front of the bathroom mirror to get a glimpse of what I would look like. I was sure that growing up would fix all my problems, but strangely they are still here.

I mean sure, growing up is great, and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but it comes with so much laundry. And dishes. And laundry! I never quite developed a dislike for folding clothes and towels until it seemed like every washable item in the house made it’s way into my washer time after time (you’re welcome for getting that song stuck in your head now). But despite the stress of searching for the lone baby sock that ran away and planning meals, all things that seem to come with “growing up,” it still feels like I am that 18 year old girl who left home to become a nanny exactly five years ago. Despite the bills, responsibilities, and life experiences, I still find myself Googling if and when I should sleep train my baby, the best way to clean ovens, and how to fold those silly sheets.

Who knows, maybe the world is full of grown ups who never really grew up. Maybe I am not alone in my loss of information that seems to come naturally to other adults. Maybe they are all really just as clueless as I– simply doing what they think is best. For me, though, growing up can wait. I still have many more chalk drawings to complete, more games of war to attend, and definitely more swings to swing on. And you can bet that I am not doing them alone. To all you other pretend grown-ups out there, you are welcome to join me and the rest of the neighborhood kids. Just make sure you bring your flashlight.

Wacky Wednesday: Manhandling A Goat

10067982293_3e31bd5e5e_qI was always fascinated with farm life. My older brother sometimes took care of our neighbor’s farm while they were out of town, and milking goats was included in the list of chores. When I was eight he took me with him for company, and gave me a demonstration of how to properly milk a goat– squeezing with your thumb and index finger, and thrumming the rest of  your fingers in a rhythm. He even let me try once or twice, though I could never quite get it down. I was amazed that you could actually milk a goat, and the milk was ok for humans! With that new tidbit of information, and summer already underway, my new agenda for living off the land was to milk a goat.

My friends and I were constantly climbing the fence of our neighboring field to steal walnuts, eat strange berries, and gather wood for the tree house that we never built. With me as their leader, we plotted how we would store food to live off of when the day would come that we would have to. Well, in this particular field, there was a mean she-goat. I knew she was a lady goat because she had what my brother, Jarom, called “milkers.” After discovering the new trick of milking goats, I set out to milk her. I climbed the fence to get into her pen once or twice, but she didn’t like that much, and would chase me scrambling back over into the hay. I attempted a couple of times to reach through the bars of the fence while she was eating or relaxing, but she was on to me. I got a couple of good squeezes in, though, and decided she was broken cause nothing came out.

I had all but given up on my mission to milk a goat when a new one arrived in her pen. This goat seemed nicer than the other one, and her “milkers” were much bigger, and differently shaped. I assumed she was just a different species of goat, and was determined to milk this one.

I had a couple of friends with me that day. I wanted them to witness the momentous demonstration that I was about to give. I strode over to the fence after carefully eyeing the house to make sure we weren’t being watched, and emptied out the grain bucket used to scoop pellets into the pen. I set the bucket under the new goat, who ignored me. I wanted to make sure every drop was caught. I didn’t have much faith in my ability, but I just knew that a few drops was all it would take for me to be a master outdoorsman. I scrutinized the goat, working up the nerve to attack. “That’s odd,” I thought, confused, “there’s only one nipple, and it’s more like a belly button on this goat!” But the milk sacks looked full, and I was ready to take the plunge. I reached my arm through the fence until my shoulder was nearly through, took a deep breath, and grabbed hold of the nipple, squeezing tight. The goat bolted, scaring me half to death, and I fell backward, my arm twisting painfully as I fell. Not to be outdone by a stupid goat, I blinked the tears from my eyes, grabbed the tipped over bucket, dusted off the bits of hay and droppings, and climbed in the pen, determined to start again.

“Hey! Get out of there!” I stood up, startled by the voice. It was one of the people who owned the farm, running out to the pen. I lurched awkwardly back over the fence, my face red with rage, disappointment, and embarrassment. They had ruined my moment!

“What are you doing?!” the owner said angrily as I began a hasty retreat.

“Just looking at your new goat,” I mumbled apologetically.

“He’s not ours, he’s a loan to breed with our other goat,” he said sternly, “and I don’t want you going in there! You could get hurt!”

I wasn’t listening anymore. “He? Psh, he needed to get his genders straight if he wanted kids to be born this winter,” I scoffed in my head. My friends looked at me with mild disgust written on their faces. “Leisl,” one of them said slowly, “if that’s a boy goat then what did you milk?”

I never tried to milk a goat again after that.

Wacky Wednesday: What Are the Odds?

Am I the only one who looks for pieces of home almost everywhere I go? The favorite worn children’s book in a new doctors office, the same song you sing in the shower blaring from the speakers of a car on the highway as you drive the U-Haul across the state to your new home. The comforting smell of rain on pavement on your first day at a new school. And once the familiar is found, you internally sigh because you know –you can just feel it deep down– everything will be alright.

As an introvert, I nearly always felt out of place in the unfamiliar. My mom has the uncanny ability to find someone she knows wherever we go– a friend of a friend in Wyoming, a second cousin seen in a restaurant of California. We really can’t go anywhere without her finding someone who knows her some way. Not me, though. I have lived in Washington state for almost five years now, and I have only found two connections to my childhood home. And yet, I still look for them. Little reminders that I belong there because a piece of home is waiting for me.

I have looked to find the pieces on vacations, as my family took several every summer. We mostly stayed around our home state of Utah, but occasionally traveled across state lines. There was one vacation that I expected to be unfamiliar in, and even mentally prepared for it, yet it was that one place that I found a small piece of home.

We traveled to the East Coast in the summer of 2004 to pick up my brother from his mission. The plan was to go to sightseeing in Washington D.C. first, and make our way up to Pennsylvania where he was. It was steamy that summer, with temperatures in the high 80’s, with about an 80% humidity. And there was so many people! Crowds in elevators, clogging the highways, blocking the view of the Constitution and sweating side by side in the museums. Everywhere we went, there were pictures being taken and tantrums being thrown. Finally, on the Lincoln Memorial steps, I was able to take a breath. While there were still crowds of people, the nearest gathering was at least ten feet away from us. I started to feel a bit more comfortable with my surroundings, and started to unconsciously people watch, looking for bits of home but not expecting any.

That’s when I saw him. Curly black hair and freckles standing not ten feet from us. “Hey Ryan!” I shouted to my brother, “Isn’t that Derek from school?” Ryan’s eyes widened as he realized with me that home wasn’t too far off. As he rushed to say hi, I breathed a sigh of relief, feeling at last in this busy city like I had a place, I belonged. I was feeling pretty proud of myself for spotting such an odd coincidence, and that pride helped me through the jostling of lines and sore feet plodding back to the car to drive the couple of hours back to our hotel.

When we arrived, the excitement of the day just barely starting to wear off, we decided to go for a swim. Lindsey, Ryan, and I ran ahead of our little brothers and parents, racing past the exercise room to the pool. I happened to glance up at the treadmill as we passed, noticing a dark haired freckle faced boy that looked familiar bouncing up and down as he ran. This time, I just stopped and pointed as Ryan passed me. He banged on the glass, and Derek grinned hugely for the second time that day.

Such a small memory, such a strange way to feel like I belonged. But really, what are the odds? It’s so surreal to me still that it seems like a dream, and yet it really happened. Home definitely has a funny way of popping up when you least expect it.

The Marriage Manual: What You Don’t Learn While Dating

There’s just some things that you have to learn from experience. Like riding a bike: you can explain to someone until you’re blue in the face how to ride it, but until they get on and totter a bit, they won’t know how. Marriage is pretty much the same way. The things I had to learn I was aware of before I learned, but I had to be immersed to know.

1. How not to discuss arguments with other people

I know many of us girls love analyzing conversations in general with our girlfriends. We like having people on “our side” on things, and may discuss it with our friends, sisters, and mothers until we have properly scrutinized every twitch of his mouth and gleaned every meaning possible from the phrase “I don’t know.” But when you are married, that cannot happen. For the sake of your happy marriage, or of having happiness after a fight, do not post them on any social media nor discuss them with anyone. Except in the case of abuse, no one needs to know the details, and it will just drag the argument on longer. Beyond that, you are more forgiving of your significant other’s unpleasantries than your mother or best friend is, and she may hang on to it to use later in life.

2. How to both be in charge of your budget.

You may be great at budgeting for yourself or a family of ten, but when two cowboys are in charge of a rodeo, it turns into a circus. Learning to prioritize and manage a budget together takes work and compromising. No matter the techniques you end up using, make sure that you both are in it together. Don’t make him handle all the money and then blame him for late payments. It is both your responsibility according to the law, so divide and conquer it together.

3. How to cook for two

As for cooking, understand that he may not like your mother’s meatloaf, and she may hate raw steak. That doesn’t make you a bad cook, it just makes you both different. It is ok! Learn to embrace it. Learn new likes together and incorporate them into your weekly schedule, along with a few days for you both to enjoy your own likes. It’s good to be unique!

4. How to be ok with new (or no) routines

I am a routine person. I wake up at basically the same time every day, eat my breakfast at basically the same time, and the rest of the day goes similarly. I grew up that way, and in my parent’s house, both of my parents were early risers. So, naturally, when I got married, I expected my husband to wake up around the same time I did and follow a schedule I could kind of wrap my brain around. It turns out, however, that I married a night owl who hates schedules. Go figure. I had to quickly learn that there is more than one way to skin a cat, and cope with it. I made a routine for myself, and let Sean figure out himself. and when I relinquished my control on him having a routine, it worked out great for both of us. He since has even learned to develop a (sort) of routine!

5. How to be ok with uncomfortable/embarrassing things

People toot in their sleep- really, it just happens. When it first happened to me, I was mortified. I did not want to let Sean know I could even pass gas, because he wasn’t going to figure out that one sooner or later….But really. You both are going to have to get used to things that used to be private–that’s what happens when you get married. So expect it, and write it down when it happens! I know a couple of hilarious stories that turned out of embarrassing moments.

6. How to own your quirks

We all have them, so own them! Your spouse might look at you a little strange, but after a while, he may be singing into spatulas in the kitchen with you. Quirks are what makes a marriage fun. So whether it’s racing up flights of stairs, alphabetizing the DVDs, singing in the shower, or wearing socks to bed, be proud of those things that make you you.

Obviously, there is going to be more that you just have to go through in marriage to learn. I would tell them all to you, but that would spoil the surprise. If I could give you one piece of advice that would help you through it all, it would be to keep working at it, because you never learned to ride a two-wheeler by keeping the bike in the garage. 

Wacky Wednesday: The Price of a Used Yogurt Cup

11057367_10153254210893217_6370370152226188281_nMy mom died when I was four, but I have never felt like she was far away. Two years ago, we unearthed her journals that she had started when she was 13 years old. Through them, I have gotten to know her in a way that I never could otherwise. This is her Wacky Wednesday story. Although it’s not an exact excerpt from her journal, and I may leave some parts out due to error of memory, it is otherwise a true story.

It was a warm Saturday in Italy, the perfect day to do exactly what I had come to Italy to do: paint. The morning was beautiful, and my host family was out  of the house visiting some relatives for the day, so I had it all to myself. I sighed contently as I pulled out my paint and brushes, and set up my easel facing the window that overlooked a small garden. I knew exactly what I would paint today.

As I practiced swirling the colors in my mind, I realized that I didn’t have anything to rinse out my brushes in. I searched around the small room that I shared with my host sister, and finding nothing, I sat on my bed to think. As I stared out the window, racking my brain for a container that could hold murky water without worry of it getting ruined, I noticed a gelato stand out on the sidewalk. Figuring the man running the stand would have some sort of disposable container, I happily flew down the stairs to ask. I approached the older gentlemen with a smile on my face, and asked him in Italian if he had the sort of container that I was looking for. He held up an empty yogurt container with raised eyebrows, and I nodded excitedly. I was thrilled. So far, it was turning out to be the perfect painting day. I was about to grab the cup and dash upstairs again, when habit had me pulling out my purse and asking the man how much I owed him for the empty yogurt cup.

With a twinkle in his eye, he said that there would be no charge if I spent the night with him. As in slept with him. I was stunned, and he laughed at my shock. I expected it from a younger man, but this one was going on fifty! In frustration, I tore the cup away from him, which made him snicker louder, and stomped up the stairs, slamming the door behind me. I buried my head deep into my pillow and screamed so loud that I am pretty sure the pillow did little to muffle the noise. I didn’t care. I was sick of this country and their sex jokes. I was sick of being shocked by men because of my innocence. The nerve of that guy, joking about something like that!! I no longer had any desire to paint. As I was shoving my brushes in the yogurt cup, it occurred that I had probably one of the most expensive used yogurt cups in the world, worth a price that I would never pay.

Killian Jack’s Natural Homebirth Part 2

IMG_2103I slept in the recliner that night. Sean fluffed it up with just about every spare pillow and blanket in the house, and by the time he was done with it, I needed help getting out to go to the bathroom every half hour. The contractions became more intense, and I was drifting off for about four minutes in between them. Going to the bathroom helped the intensity of the contractions, and the toilet seat felt strangely comfortable.

I was just drifting off after another bout of strong contractions, when a heard a sound like a water balloon popping. I gasped and attempted to leap up as my lower half was doused in water. “Sean!! Sean!!” I yelled, startling him out of the restless sleep that I had forced upon him, “My water broke!!”

“What?” He groggily lifted his head, “Are you sure?” I looked at him like he was ridiculous, and muttered some sarcastic remark about me really pouring water on myself as I stumbled out of the chair. He was not amused, but threw himself out of bed to help me to the bathroom, and to survey the damage. Luckily the blankets had caught most of it. I had heard that warm baths felt awesome during labor, so I started filling the bathtub, eager to get the show on the road while Sean called Lisa.

As I moaned on all fours in the bathtub, I begin to question how any woman could stay in that infernal hard pit and give birth to a child. It was SO not helping me, which made me worry about my decision to have a water birth. Sean helped me out of the tub and into the nightgown that I had planned to give birth in. I tried multiple laboring positions, but found the best one to be leaning forward on the toilet. Sean sat next to me on the edge of the tub, looking worried, telling me to breathe, and wishing he could take the pain. When Sean wasn’t around, I forgot how to breathe. Literally. It was like my body couldn’t push out a baby and inhale at the same time.

Lisa arrived excitedly and went to work checking me. She said I was making great progress, and in just a bit they would start setting up the tub. Time was nonexistent to me on that toilet. I would have a contraction and time would stop, accenting each clench of my abdomen, and then speed up again once the clenching stopped. All the relaxation techniques and methods that I had practiced fled my mind. Lisa and Sean tried to rub my back, hold my hand, or offer me  a pillow on my porcelain throne, and it was all I could do to keep from growling at them. “Please don’t touch me,” I managed out politely as another contraction gripped my body. So they just watched me, Sean’s face racked with pain and worry, and Lisa cheering me on. Secretly, I was planning my escape to an epidural. I imagined the cushy beds, warm towels, and no pain. Except I knew in the recesses of my consciousness that this is exactly why I chose a home birth, so I couldn’t get an epidural. In the end, it was the thought of riding in a car and filling out paperwork while having contractions that kept me on my toilet.

I don’t know how long I sat there. I couldn’t talk except in short gasps, and all I could say is “it hurts!!” and “I’m sorry!” as my husband’s eyes poured tears of pain for me. Finally, Lisa came and checked me. “Oooo! We are almost ready to push!! The pool is ready.” Nowhere have I heard a more beautiful set of words. Sean guided me to a steaming pool of heaven. The pool had soft bubble cushions on the bottom and the water was so warm I was sure it had been boiling seconds before. And man didIMG_1410 it feel good! I basked in its comfort until the next contraction. Eventually, the contractions changed. I felt the change, but didn’t feel the urge to push as many women said I would. “I think I need to push,” I gasped.

“Ok!” Lisa said, offering me homeopathy to help me keep going. She had been giving it to me periodically to speed things up. Sean kept giving me yummy warm green jello.

As I pushed, a voice in my head said it wasn’t going to work. I screamed. I panicked and couldn’t breathe. Lisa, Ann (the other midwife), and the birthing assistant all assured me they I was doing great. Sean was giving me a lesson in breathing while I clung to his collar for dear life. I held on to his shirt the whole hour and a half that I pushed. Once he went to the bathroom and Lisa, noticing my distress, moved closer and told me that he would be right back.

My pushing didn’t seem to be getting me anywhere. My body was so exhausted that my contractions were getting farther apart with shorter pushing time. My shrieking had turned into a productive alien sound, and I was so ready to be done. The midwives gave me oxygen, and checked my blood pressure more frequently, urging me that everything was all right.  The birthing assistant was my biggest cheerleader as the other midwives went to work on me, telling me how good I was doing, and reassuring me that I wasn’t a wimp.        IMG_1511

“I see his head, Leisl!!” Sean exclaimed rushing back and forth between looking at the head and being pinned down, he has tons of hair!!!”

“Do you want to see?” Ann asked, holding up a mirror.

I looked away. “No!” I exclaimed partially because I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t have contacts in to see, and partially because I couldn’t understand how he wasn’t out yet. “Pull him out if you see him!” I yelled as another pushing contraction came. I was ready to give up. Sean couldn’t find my birthing playlist on my phone, so he put on the next best thing: The Les Miserables soundtrack. To the sounds of “Look Down,” I continued my struggle until I was sure I couldn’t any longer. I moaned, and tried to sleep between contractions, dozing a couple of times before pushing for 30 seconds. My body had nearly had enough. Sean asked me if I could do one more push for the baby. That gave me the courage I needed. We took it one push at a time, pushing hard enough to pop out every hemorrhoid I owned until Lisa said “One big push!!” She reached in and helped our dark haired boy into the world. As she set him on my chest, his cord still pumping, I loIMG_1419oked up at Sean and said, “I can’t see his face,  what do you think we should name him?” His eyes pooling with tears, he said “Killian Jack for sure. Leisl, we have a baby boy!!!!”

The pain stopped. Time seemed to flow forward again, as I realized what that meant. The tiny being that I had kept safe inside me for so long was now in my arms. He didn’t cry for a bit, just looked around. I asked why he wasn’t crying like in the movies, and Ann said, “Cause no one has hurt him yet!”IMG_1417

He started crying a few moments later, and I started singing the first song that I could think of, one that my Grandma would rock me to sleep to when I was little, “I am a child of God, and He has sent me here…” I sang in a hoarse voice as I rocked back and forth in the water. Another voice joined me. It was the birthing assistant. At first, it shocked me, but then it comforted me to know that she wanted to sing that sweet message to my baby with me. “Has given me an earthly home, with parents kind and dear…” we continued, together, sharing the spirit of the moment and holding on to it.

I held him as Sean clamped and cut the cord, and then I birthed the placenta (which was shaped like a heart). I can’t remember there being much blood, although Sean said that there was a fair amount, and my midwife gaIMG_2102ve me a pitocin shot to help me from hemorrhaging.

Sean took Killian while the midwives took my blood pressure and helped me out of my gown. They led me down the hall where the bed was made up with puppy pads and soft sheets. I nursed my beautiful baby boy while the midwives filled out the remaining paperwork. Then I watched from my bed as they weighed him, measured him, and counted his fingers and toes. Sean was able to dress him for the first time, and I was encouraged to eat. The birthing assistant cleaned up the pool and tIMG_2123owels, leaving nothing behind to indicate the occasion that had happened minutes before.

Eventually, the midwives left, leaving me with instructions to eat and sleep. Sean and I cuddled up to our newborn, the silence of our home was strange, yet comforting. I wasn’t prepared for the new burst of love that I had for Sean. I had expected it for the baby, but going through that raw experience with my husband helped me to see him in a whole new light. We had done it, together. I was convinced in that moment that I could do anything, so long as he was there. That’s what birth does to you. It makes you believe in miracles and love in a way that you can’t imagine. It truly is miraculous.

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