Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Stories from the Bathroom Drawer

This story isn't mine to tell.

If it was, you'd be sorely disappointed to read about a life you've no doubt experienced.  Maybe not firsthand, but if I'm not just like you, I'm probably just like your sister, or your neighbor, or your best friend from 3rd grade.

My story is too typical for setting to matter and too bland to invite figurative language.  Were even the greatest of authors to try, you'd read nothing but cliche'.

For all it's predictability, however, my story could be told by anyone.  It belongs to the world - to all the people who've lived it before and to those who don't know they're living it now.  And it could be told, I could never say, "Wait.  That was mine alone to tell."

But this story?  It happened only once.  To her.  And it is hers to tell.  Or it is hers to keep.  Or so it should have been.

This story isn't mine to tell.

-- CHAPTER 1  --

Even though the houses sit too close together, elbows touching at the neighborhood table, each house is its own universe.  Everyone was given the same set of building blocks but no plans, and so every universe is unique.

Some universes have both father and mother.  And together or apart they built with jobs and kids, pets and hobbies, religion and culture and mistakes.  Truths and lies and a whole lot of in between.  It all came from that same construction set, but no two are alike.

In her universe, she is the mother.  The wife.  And they built their universe around her.  She connects the father to the children.  She connects the children to the religion.  And more literally, she connects the dog to his leash, the lunch to its box, five sets of teeth biannually to the dentist.  She connects the money to the creditors, the children to their beds.  It is overwhelming, but she built it this way.

Before she came here, she was the daughter.  In that universe were two islands: the father with his work and his money and his friends, and the mother with her purses and her society and her depression.  On a tenuous tightrope between the two stood the daughter.  To walk toward one was always to walk away from the other, and so she stayed.  Switzerland.  She sat in the middle with her homework and her boyfriends and her insecurities, and she rarely got so much as a sideways glance from either island.

So she built her universe carefully, like a web that flowed outward from her.  And she never left it.  When she moved, her universe stretched and bent and moved with her.  And when she stayed, she wrapped a protective arm around it to make sure it could not grow beyond her reach.

Three times a day, the universe stretched.  At 7:45, she drove the 15 minutes to drop the boy off at his charter school.  Again at 9:50, she headed out, this time to drive the preschool carpool with the girl and her two best friends.  At 3, she picked up the boy, and she felt secure knowing most of her universe was safe.  At 5:00 pm sharp, the husband returned, and the universe felt whole.

And one evening a month, she ventured out to book club.  But the universe followed her there in the form of texts, "Should the boy know the sight word, 'do'?" and "Come home soon.  The baby will not sleep for me."

And while the other wives complained, "I can't believe he can't just take care of it," she was glad.  She was the center of her universe.

Hm... kind of wish I'd finished that, since now I'm dying to know the story!

Also kind of glad I left it in a notebook in my bathroom drawer (which probably means I wrote it in the bathtub one day) so I could rediscover it years later.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Collecting Sentiment

I don't know when I started collecting porcelain dolls, but I know that once I'd received one, Christmas and birthdays required little thought on my parents' part.  My dad built me shelves, and my mom picked out dolls to fill them.  I named them.  I counted them.  I had favorites.  One of which, interestingly enough, was Michael: a toddler dressed in baseball pinstripes sitting on a red and white rocking horse.  Maybe some part of me knew I'd better learn to love baseball and red.

As I got older, my mom's choices seemed more purposeful.  She chose dolls to expand my Christmas collection, dolls she thought looked like me, or dolls for special occasions.  I have a doll from my high school graduation and my last doll - the one from my wedding day.

When I got married, I carefully packed my dolls and moved them to our tiny 620 square foot condo.  There really was no space there for 20 dolls, and in my mind they were just waiting to be displayed in my daughter's room.  Aside from the few that sat atop my piano, the rest collected dust and matted hair in a box.  So when we moved to our home nine years ago, I decided to keep only a small collection.  Michael and his horse, five Christmas dolls, and two tall dolls in beautiful golden dresses for my living room.

And then I had three boys.  Obviously, my remaining dolls will never be displayed in my daughter's room.  And if I was sentimental enough to keep them for a granddaughter, I am fairly certain my future daughter-in-law would keep them merely out of obligation.

And there is the issue that a stray ball in the living room broke the foot of one my remaining dolls...

Not only that, but I have grown up.  My decorating style is a bit more contemporary than gold-clad porcelain, and the dolls have never even fit in here.  Once a friend of mine confessed that she thought it was creepy that my huge dolls were staring at her in my living room.

While I once loved my dolls, now I love my dolls for what they represent.  I could easily give away the porcelain and curls.  But it is hard for me to give up these gifts from my mother.  It is hard for me to give up a last remnant of childhood.  It is especially hard to let go of the doll from my high school graduation.

But if I put her in a box for the next six months, she's going to get ruined anyway.  So I feel like now is the time to make the decision.  Do the dolls come with me to the next house?

I'll keep my Christmas dolls for sure.  No one has ever called them creepy in that context.  And I will keep Michael forever.  My first little boy, and the perfect representation of my childhood and motherhood combined.  But is it time to gift the other two to a little girl somewhere who would name them and display them proudly in her bedroom?

I'm not generally a sentimental person, so it surprises me when my daily path past the dolls in question has me reflecting daily.  Are those dolls a part of my next journey?

If you have any thoughts on items from your childhood or any suggestions of beneficiaries of a potential gift, please share.  Even better, if you have a way I can somehow collect the sentiment without keeping the actual dolls, that would be amazing.  But I can't seem to make this decision on my own.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Morning with Dylan

Dylan woke up before all the others today, which meant I got to enjoy some one-on-one conversations with him while I mixed up the morning's muffins.

Conversations with my other going-on-four year olds never seemed particularly notable.  But as I considered that at this time last year I was still very concerned about whether Dylan would ever really talk, I always find myself grateful for every word.

Words like "Spongebob," "Patrick," "Gary," and definitely for cute words like "Squidward."

Complete sentences like, "You stir it fast, and I stir it slowly?"

Logical thought progressions such as, "My brothers are sleeping?  We really should wake them up."

Especially for proclamations like the one just shouted at me in passing: "I'M GOING PEE, MOM!" as he heads independently to use the toilet.

His vocabulary is huge, considering he's only spoken for a year.  My favorite is observing as he adds a new word to the pile.  He heard the word "nervous" in context when a friend asked her small son if the fireworks made him nervous.  It was almost like you see him turning the word over on his palette before trying it out himself.  It wasn't long before he proclaimed himself to be nervous as the biggest of the fireworks flew into the sky.

Another of his/my favorites is "frustrated."  I am frequently accused of having a negative influence on his mood.  "That makes me sad," he'll say when I tell him not to do something.  That one drives me crazy.  But I think he saves, "That makes me frustrated," for the times when he knows a bit of cuteness will go a long way.

He's still not one to speak in a crowd or to answer a direct question (example: "How old are you?"), and his diction is still catching up to his vocabulary.  But if there's a lazy moment of silence - such as a muffin-mixing morning - his soft spoken voice will fill it.  And in a house where most of the time I just want people to stop talking, I love it every time he starts.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Oath and Covenant

If they covered it in Young Women's, I was probably talking to Emilee Anderson.

If they covered it in Sunday School, I was probably passing notes with Brant Frank.  (Wish I could have texted back then!)

If they covered in Seminary, there's a good chance I was in the practice rooms helping Topher Affleck throw together a last minute solo and ensemble piece.

Institute?  Yeah... dropped out of college.

Or just as realistically, it could just be that I learned it and forgot it.

But according to Carlos E. Asay of the Seventy, “Of all the holy agreements pertaining to the gospel of Jesus Christ, few, if any, would transcend in importance the oath and covenant of the priesthood. It is certainly one of the most sacred agreements, for it involves the sharing of heavenly powers and man’s upward reaching toward eternal goals.”

And somehow, I didn't really know about it.

I'm betting its because I'm a girl.  While I was busy studying faith, divine nature, etc., the boys were being instructed in how to use and honor their priesthood.  And whenever that token priesthood lesson came up, I swear it always about how to support the boys in their priesthood and how to sustain church leaders.  I really can't quite say I ever grasped this idea:

“The blessings of the priesthood are not confined to men alone. These blessings are also poured out … upon all the faithful women of the Church. … The Lord offers to his daughters every spiritual gift and blessing that can be obtained by his sons, for neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man in the Lord.” -- Joseph Fielding Smith, President   Conference Report, Apr. 1970, 59

Though I didn't say so in my Gospel Doctrine lesson today, I think it's kind of like how the women do all the work of growing and birthing a baby, but the men still get to have all the blessings that come with being a father.  I don't get/have to do the work that goes along with exercising the power of the priesthood.  But I still get to have all the blessings that come along with being a daughter of God.

In other words, I get my own fair shot at promises outlined in Doctrine and Covenants section 84.  Guess I have some studying to do!

Aside from my new-found understanding of my role in the priesthood, my unique, BoyTrapped life makes me listen closely when Spencer W. Kimball says, "This priesthood is... about the most important thing in all the world."  I thought about the picture of the Salt Lake temple and my family proclamation that have hung proudly in my home for almost 12 years.  But nowhere in my home do I have something to specifically represent that the priesthood really is the big deal.

So I decided to change that.


I purposely designed it to mimic the family proclamation, and I included the great truths I've learned in the past weeks of study for my future reference.  My four guys willingly donned suits (at least from the waist up) for a quick photo shoot yesterday, and I framed it all up.  Cost me $12.  

I'm hoping the visual reminder will help keep the principles and promises a bit more in the forefront of my life.  I'm hoping the framed scripture may spark missionary moments in my home.  But more than that, I'm hoping that I can start to live up to the full potential of what Heavenly Father has in store for me.  

I had provided class members with their own printed copy of the quotes and scriptures but promised to make them available online if anyone wanted to share with friends or family.  So if you're interested in printing your own Oath and Covenant for family home evening, for a church lesson, or maybe to display in your home, feel free to download and print as many as you like.

Oh, and did I mention teaching Gospel Doctrine is awesome?  I don't get all splotchy from nerves anymore, and I seem to be getting better at controlling my run-away-train pacing.  I even finished everything I had prepared today at just 3 minutes past the ending time.  

But mostly, I am loving getting to relearn the gospel as an adult.  I'm sure many of you are shaking your head at my lack of spiritual maturity, but as long as I keep uncovering amazing "Hey, I never realized that!" moments in each lesson, I know I am right where I need to be.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Ahead of the Rumors

Last Saturday night, everything in the Fife house was status quo.  Until I suddenly had an idea.  It took several conversations with friends, family, and professionals to turn last Saturday's idea into this Saturday's reality.  It all moved far too quickly for me, but as Kirk reminded me, sometimes that's the way the right decisions go.

This Saturday night, our couches are in the garage.  And though I'm trying much harder to keep it closed these days, someone is bound to notice.

Plus, if I answer my front door, the guests will immediately see this:

Most of our main floor wall hangings

So I figured before we head to church tomorrow, I might as well just say it...

We're moving.

Well, sorta.

We're going to be building.  In the meantime, we're turning our home over to its new residents (Skye, Michelle, and Tyler) and moving ourselves in as guests in their basement.

Moving Adam into Alex's room (We'll be sleeping in Adam's room)
The optimistic projections indicate six months of blissful cohabitation.  The realistic projections indicate peacefully crowded living spaces.  The pessimistic projections are very concerned about Andrea sharing a bathroom with four boys.

I don't have a ton of information to share about the new house yet.  We've selected a pretty-sure floor plan and a few prospective lots, and we've gotten ourselves a killer agent (seriously, she scares me a bit).  But don't schedule the good-riddance party yet, Hunter 4th Ward.  We're only considering the 14 available lots within the ward boundaries.  You'll never get rid of us!  (Mwa-ha-ha-ha...)

What may be a small step in actual steps is going to be a HUGE leap for our little family.  A larger floor plan.  A starting over.  Another unfinished basement.  Another unfinished yard.  But we're excited to put all we've learned in the last 9 years of home ownership to use as we try to at least make new mistakes the second time around.

I'll try not to let the blog become a new-house-a-thon, though building one or two streets over from our current house is going to make us the most annoying home buyers ever.  I foresee plenty of walks as we take the boys to go check out what has already been dubbed "our big house" by the littles.

I am also excited to see the home we've loved for so long be the home to Princess Ty and her soon-to-be little brother.  I hope they'll love it here as much as we have!

Aack!  Now that I've announced it on the blog, it's really real.  Who knows what next Saturday will hold!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Thoughts on Perfection

I made a new friend recently, and at the risk of sounding pathetic, I'm announcing so here on the blog. I always feel grateful to be frequently surrounded by lots of fun acquaintances, but friends have always been a bit hard for me to come by.

I'm pretty certain its my own fault.  At the risk of publicly embarrassing my sisters, I'll start with their accidental defenses against friendship.  Lisa has a bubble.  Basically an impenetrable physical line that had Kirk looking forward to her wedding day because she had promised him he'd be allowed to give her a hug when she got married.  Michelle needs no physical line; she keeps a careful distance using her natural expression of indifference.  Many people are unwilling to find out that she's actually really funny and very friendly - if you dare to come close enough.

My wall of choice is a carefully crafted facade.  People come close, but I have a really hard time letting them see anything beyond the smiles and sunshine.  To be fair, a lot of my life really is smiles and sunshine.  The happy, smiley Andrea is no fake.  But nobody can smile all the time; I certainly don't.  I just do my best to do the vast majority of my frowning in the privacy of my own home.

I once had a discussion with a friend about the expression "the other side" of someone's personality.  He claimed it was impossible for people to have "sides" to their personality.  He described the personality more as ever-present traits that come and go in their intensity.  According to him, it would be impossible to see a "new" side of someone, because that trait had been there all along.

But I disagree.  I think of the personality as a polyhedron.  While looking directly at one face of a simple six-sided dice, you can truly only see that face; the other five remain obscured.  But I don't think the personality is so precise as that.  Picture instead a thirty-sided dice.  While seeing "30" most directly, it is still possible to observe 17, 19-21, 24-29.  Not only that, but you can almost make out 18, 22 and 23.  You know they are there, even if they are not in plain sight.

But what of 1 through 16?  A change in perspective one way or the another and you'll surely reveal several more readily accessibly numbers.   But I would argue that certain personality traits are diametrically opposed.  While prominently presenting "30," it becomes entirely impossible to see "1."

This theory becomes even more complex when considering the sheer number of traits one could wish to show or hide.  Consider, instead, a zocchihedron (found it on Wikipedia, people - this is not just a word I know).  Look at all the faces/traits you can see simultaneously.  Look at that huge band of almost plain traits along the center band.  Consider the long row ready to be exposed with the slightest disruption of balance.

And then consider a dice with movable faces.  What if 30 didn't have to oppose 1.  What if 1 could stay hidden at all times regardless of the other numbers displayed.

Well, that is my facade.  I don't speak when I feel at risk of sounding stupid (notice that I never join discussions about politics?).  I tell my share of self-depreciating stories, but only when I know the offenses are easily forgivable and likely to get a laugh.   I don't often share my failures unless I know I can quickly follow up with a success.

I think friendship happens when you stop controlling the roll.  When you hand someone the whole dice and let the numbers fall where they may.  Or maybe when you put away the dice altogether and operate on more of the continuum theory.

At a recent party, a neighbor I have long respected asked how we had never before discussed that we'd been at Utah State together.  I found myself explaining that my time at Utah State just really isn't the number I choose to lead with.

If you've seen me cry, I've handed you the dice.

If you can list a major mistake I've made in my life, I've handed you the dice.

If you have heard me yell, seen me scared, or heard an impromptu testimony, I've handed you the dice.

If you have heard me complain about Kirk, I've handed you the dice.

I was just blog hopping and ended up at a site called Controlling My Chaos.  In a blog post, the author described a particularly perfectly put together mother as Malibu Barbie.  She cited specific evidence including her appearance at an early morning school event.  I was thrilled to see the actual "Malibu Barbie" mom had add to the comments section:

Okay--it is time for "Malibu Barbie" (and I use that term loosely) to set the record straight. First, the only way I could be called Barbie (I have never even owned a Barbie in my life until now)is to reverse the dimensions. Not nearly as attractive that way. And I have never been a blonde! I have a few lighter streaks now in an unsuccessful attempt to cover the gray. As for the early morning flags. I didn't shower when I got up and I was too tired to take my makeup off from the night before. My 50% off JC Penney "ensemble" was covering my dirty tshirt that I wore to bed. (Isn't my husband lucky?) In our school you "get" to be PTO pres. because you weren't smart enough to get out of it. (I guess that is kind of "Barbieish.) Cleaning is my hobby--but who doesn't need a little instant gratification? Ask my kids. They would like me to come up with a better way of channeling my psychotic hyperactivity. And just for the record. I don't scrapbook, blog, fix daily nutritious meals for my family, create recipes and crafts for the whole blogging community,keep my finances and the PTO's finances in perfectly graphed order, make more money through Box Tops than ever in the history of Box Tops,take my kids to the library...WOw! I think I need to make a Barbie for you, Chaos Lady--Jill. Instead--due to my hyperdrive, I fall into window wells, slip on the ice and dump pans full of hot vegetable soup all over me and my white coat, back into my brother's parked vehicle, back into the mail car...oh the truth hurts sooooo! So now you all know the real truth. 

This is not to say that I think the visible half of my zocchihedron resembles perfection.  Rather, I share this only to illustrate that the visible half only tells half of the story.  If I want to continue to make friends, I may need to be a little more willing to share the other half.

And sadly, as much as I would like to consider writing "vulnerable" posts a means to this end, blogging still allows me to carefully spin the dice.

Here's to taking a few more risks and maybe making a few more friends along the way.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Lost Easter Reflections

I'm not sure how this ended up unpublished in my drafts folder, but since I still found it interesting, I figured it was worth posting - even late.

I read a pretty great re-post awhile ago about the reasons why Facebook and other social media can be pretty destructive for women.  According to the article, whether we are the crafty, homemade mom or the above-and-beyond fancy trimmings mom, or the quality time with the kids mom (or any mom between), we tend to feel insecure when we wee the brightly colored evidence of the other moms, laid out Instagram style.  And if we're lucky enough to escape self-doubt, we probably aren't managing to escape passing judgement on the moms who do it differently than we do.

I think the "big deal" days are probably worse for us as mothers.  Day after Easter for example.  I have definitely compared my family to the ones with matching outfits, to the ones who skipped Easter eggs in favor of a Christ-centered day, to the ones with full-on Easter loot.  I'm even comparing this year's holiday with favorites from my own past. 

For all the inspiration on Pinterest, for all the joy brought seeing pictures of friends and family, for all the ease of communicating with the masses, social media really is a danger zone.  And it's because we choose what others get to see.  Even when we post our failures, we get to tie them up with pretty little hindsight bows. 

The danger of the social internet is in the collective experience.  We end up feeling like part of a big, homogeneous mass, when what we should really feel like is a unique component of a whole.  We're all a big salad.  I can be bacon bits, and you can be croutons, and it can still all exist happily together.
My own Easter included plenty of ups and a few downs (picture a pre-Sacrament meeting breakdown in the clerk's office complete with solitary tears and an abandoned bottle of green nail polish).  Overall, it was awesome.  Everything a bacon-bit Easter should be.  I hope yours was just as unique and just as memorable!  And I hope nobody is worried about perfect.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Not the Boy Who...

Adam's always been a bit self conscious.  Not self loathing in any way, which is totally different.  But self conscious simply as in aware of self.  He knows who he is and feels no particular pressure to be someone else.  In fact, he's not a big fan of any sort of pressure that would suggest otherwise.

I like this about him.  As of right now, Adam is not particularly likely to succumb to peer pressure, because Adam only does what Adam is comfortable with.

This self awareness has developed into a new set of words that Adam uses frequently:

"Mom, I'm not the boy who..."

I heard it first when I contemplated purple shirts for the Empress Youth Theatre program I run.  Curious how the younger boys would feel about the color, I asked Adam his opinion.  "Mom, I'm just not the boy who wears purple."

I loved so much about the statement.  In one sentence he acknowledged:

A) Some boys wear purple
B) It is fine for boys to wear purple
C) But I am not that boy

I've heard it a lot since.  For example, he's also not the kid who wears plaid shorts (though I discovered a loophole: apparently grey and white is conservative enough for his tastes).

Interestingly, he's willing to be a different kid based on the group.  For example, he had the opportunity to hang out with the EYT teenagers on the 4th of July, and he saw many of the boys getting their nails painted purple and green.  He decided that in that particular company, he was okay being the boy who gets his nails painted by cute teenage girls.  But he asked me for the darkest purple I had and clearly set the expectation that he would not approve of anything with sparkles.

But only a few hours later as we prepared to go to a neighborhood party, he approached me, distressed.  "Mom, do you have any nail polish remover?"  He explained that he really didn't want to go to the party with nail polish on.  I took a moment to talk to him about the long-term effects of the choices we make.  If he wasn't comfortable painting his nails, he shouldn't have done it in the first place.  I was considering making him wear the polish to the party as an opportunity to feel the effects of his decision when he rationally explained, "Mom, I forgot about the party when I made that choice.  I knew the people in EYT would understand, but I don't think my friends at the party tonight will get it."

I'm not sure if that's something I am as proud of, though I know I do it.  I make different choices with certain groups of friends than I would feel comfortable making with others (or with my family).  But I suppose as long as they are choices of comfort - not choices of ethics or choices of right and wrong - there is no harm in being something a bit different depending on the group.

Still, one of my favorite things about Adam is that - for now at least - he's got it figured out.  As long as he can confidently say to me, "Mom, I'm not the boy who..." I think he's going to do just fine.

Friday, July 5, 2013

I am not a Robot

I promise, I really am not a robot.

But for those of you who have these on your blogs, I might as well be.


You have no idea how many comments I have typed only to fail miserably at proving I'm not a robot.  Today, I failed so miserably I actually followed up on my desire to try the aural version instead.  I clicked the little speaker symbol, and I listened.  Really carefully.

I'm telling you - these were not letters or numbers I was hearing!  I had been instructed to type each character I heard, but I just sat at my computer, confused and annoyed that despite my protestations otherwise, I might actually be a robot.

Here's my real question, though:

I've been blogging for six years now (holy cow!) and I have zero security set up here.  I don't comment moderate.  I don't ask for robot verification.  And not once have I received the comments of an actual robot.

Even if I did, I'm pretty sure I'd just feel flattered.  I'd be thrilled to add "robots" to my list of readers.

So if you've actually gotten robot comments, I'd love to hear them!  I am curious what robots are saying on the mom blogs these days!

And for those of you who insist on making me prove my humanity each time I want to comment - don't stop for me.  I really do admire those who take internet safety more seriously than I do, and though I jest, I really do understand why.  Just understand that there's often stuff I want to say.  But apparently...

... I may be a robot.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Splish Splash

Lest it be lost forever, only memorialized in Instagram-land, I have to start out with a "Casdorph" picture.  If "Casdorph" was a verb, I think it would mean something like:

To use whatever resources are readily available in manners not originally intended to overcome a current obstacle.

As my mom pointed out, however, there are two variations on the word.  In Arizona, it means to temporarily use the resources in a manner not intended until a more permanent solution can be arranged.  In Utah, the non-standard usage becomes permanent.


In this case, Great Grandpa Casdorph was particularly worried about my little redhead getting burnt to a crisp.  I knew that the special sunscreen we buy for his sensitive skin is practically invincible, but G.Gpa was still worried.  They have a nifty three-cornered shade that covers the midsection of the pool, but a still-tentative Dylan was spending 95% of his time in the well-lit shallow end.  So Grandpa set to work, attempting to Casdorph the situation.  He rotated one of the three corners so the shade landed squarely on Dylan's pasty white shoulders, but there was no where to anchor the rope.  Undeterred, he rolled over his recycling can.  I expressed my concern that it would just roll into the water, and he responded with the omnipotent smirk that seems to be a part of male Casdorph DNA.  Then he added his green garbage can with the wheels turned in a perpendicular direction.  Even though it seemed to hold securely, he overturned the wheelbarrow in front of the large cans for good measure.  And I just had to get a picture.

Sadly, all that work went pretty much to waste, however, as Dylan got braver each day and ventured further and further from the shaded steps.  Between his truly effective sunscreen and his increased mobility, there was no need for Grandpa to reprise the adjustment or to make it more permanent.

And as Dylan got braver each day, he eventually worked up the guts to jump in without me catching him.  Once that happened, our vacation truly began: