Thursday, December 31, 2009


I only have a few minutes to post today, but wanted to get one last word in before the year ends.

This year has been one of trial and hardship for many people I know, including myself. Financial, health and marital issues seem to have been a common theme. This year has been, without a doubt, the most difficult year of my life. But, all things considered, it has also been one of the most wonderful.

My goal for 2010 is to PRESS FORWARD. To continue working through the problems I've been faced with, to maintain a positive attitude, to take the bad with the good, to take better care of myself, to enjoy every day I am given with my family, to learn to slow down, to appreciate the small things, to go to church more often, to take too many pictures, to say "I love you" as much as I can, to dance in the kitchen, to sleep in, to eat that extra piece of cheesecake, to laugh often, and to be less critical of myself.

Wishing the best to you and yours,

Monday, December 21, 2009

The annoyed eye roll

So, this morning I took Morgan in for her 4 month checkup and was surprised to find out that she has an ear infection in both ears. She's had a bit of a head cold: runny nose, a sneeze here and there. But she certainly hasn't acted like a sick baby.

I haven't decided if this makes me a good parent, that I have such a happy baby even when she isn't feeling well, or if it makes me a bad parent for not seeing the signs that she was getting sick. Either way, she starts a course of antibiotics today that should clear things up pretty well.

Near the end of the appointment I'd grabbed a tissue and started to wipe away some of the snot that had started to pool under Morgan's nose when the doctor laughed and said "She just rolled her eyes at you! I've never seen a baby roll their eyes like that!"

And then, as she turned to leave she mutters: "She certainly is her mother's daughter, isn't she?"

I'm still trying to pretend like I don't know what she was talking about.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Our tax dollars at work

Today I had my first "WIC Education Appointment"-a mandatory class for all women who recieve WIC benefits. I put that in parentheses because that's technically what it's called, but I find it rather laughable. If I were the one to choose the name of the class I would have called it Morons Anonymous. The "literature" (again, their words, not mine) they gave me to read along with the class was a green paper with a picture of a cartoon bear that read: Scrubby Bear says "Good hand washing means using soap and warm water, scrubbing for 20 seconds and rising well". Just in case I didn't learn that when I was 4.

Some other things I learned today:
- Some people don't realize that it's not okay to give your 4 month old an entire carrot to snack on.
- Some people think it's completely acceptable to take your infant outside in just a onesie when it's three degrees below zero.
- Some people don't know that an infant with a fever of 104 is cause for concern.

Please understand that I don't for one second think that I am any better than these women, but I do think I may be more capable of making better decisions. All four of the other mothers still had their pajamas on. I wish I was kidding. It was apparent that at least one woman had recently showered because her hair was still wet. And it's the MIDDLE OF WINTER. And she had to go OUTSIDE in the COLD to get there. Does anyone else see something wrong with this picture? Coincedentally enough, she was the same mother whose baby was dressed in a onesie-just a onesie-no pants, no jacket, no socks. Two of the women stepped outside at one point, leaving their babies alone inside, to take a smoke break. They're here to recieve assistance getting groceries for their families, but somehow they have no problem affording cigarettes. I was really struggling not to judge these women, but as I looked around I realized that I was the one being judged.

Apparently I don't LOOK like I need government assistance. Apparently for people to believe that I'm poor I have to wear my pajamas in public and dress my child like an orphan. As these other women openly stared at me I could feel them wondering why I was there. I kept fighting the urge to stand up and say "I'm sorry my husband and I both work full time and we STILL qualify for WIC! I'm sorry that buying warm clothing for my baby is more important to me than buying cigarettes! I'm sorry that I showered and got dressed before I came here this morning! And I'm sorry that I can't bake cookies on Taylor Lautner's perfectly sculpted chest!"

Okay, so I wasn't actually going to say that last part, but I do think it's rather tragic.

I'm grateful that programs like WIC exist. The benefits they have provided our family have really been a help. I mean, have you priced baby formula recently? Ounce for ounce, I'm pretty sure it's more valuable than gold. Although I think it's a great program, it makes me sad to think of how many people out there may be taking advantage of it, and what that's costing us as taxpaying citizens. And it makes me even more sad that there may actually be some people who, before today, didn't know they needed to wash their hands after they used the bathroom. Thank God for Scrubby Bear!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Our dysfunctional family

When I was younger, as all little girls do, I used to dream about how life would be when I grew up. I never really bought into the whole Prince Charming delusion--dirty pirates and outlaw cowboys have always been more my thing. But oh how I loved to make believe! Sometimes I'd imagine living on a tropical island in a giant tree house. Sometimes I was a rock star's wife, lounging by the pool sipping a colorful drink from a tall glass as the maid asked "Is there anything else I can get for you Mrs. Bon Jovi?" And I'm pretty sure that once or twice I even imagined myself in a black leotard and red high heels dancing around on carnival rides singing to my leather jacket wearing, greasy haired, bad-boy-about-to-reform-his-ways boyfriend. But never, not even once, did I imagine that I'd be married and have a stepchild before I was 20.

Because the very nature of a stepmother/stepchild relationship is such a delicate thing, I've been hesitant to post about my stepdaughter, Shylee. But I think it's time to break the silence.

Confession: Being a stepmom is undoubtedly the most difficult challenge I've ever willingly accepted. It's also been one of the greatest and most rewarding experiences I've ever had. Shylee is, at the same time, one of the most wonderful and most frustrating people in my life. It's hard to explain the indignation I feel when she looks me in the eye and says "You aren't my mom so I don't have to listen to you". But it's also hard to explain the way my heart swells when she wraps her arms around my neck, kisses me and says "I love you Jenny-mom".

Shylee never knew her parents together. They were never married so I don't think she'll feel like I "stole" her daddy, which I believe is a significant source of resentment between children and stepparents. I have been in the picture as long as she can remember. I will be a part of her earliest memories. Even so, I can't help but expect things to get worse as she gets older. In the back of my mind looms this terrible image of Shylee at sixteen: the rebellious teenager from a broken home, always in trouble, always resentful. And of course this will be my fault because I'm the stepmom and all stepmothers are evil, don't you know?

"Dysfunctional families breed dysfunctional families". I don't even remember where or when I heard that saying, but it's tattooed into my memory. I come from what many would call a"dysfunctional family". But the dysfunction in our family tends to be a little different than the normal dysfunction, if such a thing even exists.  We don't harbor the hateful feelings that are so common in families of divorce. There has never been the fighting and backbiting that most people expect from a broken family. There are a lot of steps and exes in my family, but there's also a lot of love and quite frankly, people think that's odd. For example: my divorced parents lived three blocks away from each other for several years. My mom was right there in the sealing room of the temple when my dad and stepmom got married. My grandparents still consider my dad, their ex son-in-law, a part of the family.

The introductions at my baby shower went something like this:"This is my mom and my Grandma. That's my mom's half sister, Carrie and her daughter, Whitney. Over there is my stepmom, Candy and my stepsister, Mandy. My sister in law, Megan and my step sister in law, Ashley are in the kitchen with my sister, Teresa. Now here's where it get's tricky: This is Christy, my stepsister's stepsister-the stepdaughter of my stepmom's ex husband. And my stepmom's sister's daughters are pulling into the driveway as we speak."

And there we were, all the exes and the steps and the step-steps (or whatever), sitting in a room laughing and chatting over refreshments with absolutely no tension, resentment or discomfort. Um...yeah. People pretty much think we're either insane or high.

If the saying holds true and it's inevitable that we pass our issues onto the next generation, then THIS is the type of "dysfunction" I hope to breed into Shylee. I want her to know it's okay to love her mom AND her dad. To feel comfortable coming to me if she has a problem, knowing that I love her and want to help her but also knowing that I'll never try to replace her mother. I want her to feel that she doesn't come from a broken family-she just comes from a big family.

Although this life isn't what I planned or imagined, I love it and I feel that we try to make the best of our situation. I hope that, with enough effort and love, Shylee won't turn into that troubled teenager. I hope that we will always be able to maintain the civil and often times friendly relationship that we currently have with Jessica (Shylee's mom). I hope that Shylee will always feel secure knowing that she is loved by so many people and that she will never be asked to choose one family over the other.

I'll admit that after Shylee stayed with us last week and the time came to take her back to her mom's, I was more than a little relieved. I was completely exhausted after three days of hearing "I want a corndog. Can I hold the baby? How about now? Is my corndog ready? I'm really hungry. Will you get me a drink? Can I hold the baby yet? Can I have another corndog? I need more juice. Can I hold the baby now?". I was really looking forward to returning to a somewhat orderly house. One without a four year old jumping off the back of the couch or trying to feed the baby beef jerky.

But after Adam took her inside and we pulled away from Jessica's house, I found myself thinking...Come back to us soon baby girl, I love you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

December 2009 Newsletter: 4 months

Dear Morgan,

You're four months old. FOUR MONTHS! Can you believe it, because I sure can't. Due largely in part to that dreadful two week hospitalization, the past month has been an enormous blur. Much to my surprise, when I was in the hospital a strange thing happened... LIFE WENT ON. It seemed to me like everything should have paused until I was home and functioning normally again, but it didn't. And the most incredible part of it all is how much you grew in just two weeks! I came home to a baby who not only was a bit older, but one who sprouted a few more hairs on that bald head, who no longer fit into her 0-3 month old clothes and who somehow acquired at least two more chins.

Last week you were playing on the floor, arching your back struggling to see the TV as you so often do, when all of a sudden and completely by accident you flipped onto your stomach. You glanced around for a second, confused, then looked up at me and your dad like ‘What THE HECK just happened?' Over the next few days this became your favorite thing to do. I'd lay you down on your back and two seconds later you'd be on your tummy, propped up on your elbows with this giant, proud grin on your face.

Another new thing that you really enjoyed was your first bath in the ‘real' bathtub. I've been bathing you in a small plastic tub in the kitchen sink, but you're suddenly too big to fit in it. I thought you might be a bit nervous being surrounded by so much water for the first time, but I was wrong. Not only were you naked AND in water- two of your favorite things!- but there was just SO MUCH room to kick and splash around! I think that just for a moment the veil was lifted and you caught a glimpse of heaven again. The only way you knew how to adequately express your excitement was by shoving all of your fingers into your mouth and squealing for five minutes straight.

I was very concerned about how you would cope while I was in the hospital. Two things that worried me in particular were you having to quit nursing cold-turkey (even if it was just temporarily) and having to sleep by yourself. I never planned on co-sleeping, but I discovered very early on that you slept surprisingly well when you were next to me. So since the first week you were home you've been sleeping in our bed with us. Most nights you would only wake up once to eat, and since we were literally right next to each other you would pretty much feed yourself. I can't count the times we both fell asleep mid-feeding and I woke up with my boob out and you still attached, sound asleep.

When you were about three weeks old I started giving you a bottle once a day. Not because you needed it, but because I knew I would be going back to work and wasn't sure I'd always be able to pump enough milk to send with you to the babysitters. I wanted to be sure your tummy was used to the formula in case it ever became necessary. And thank goodness I did! Because while I was away it suddenly became necessary, and you took the bottle without hesitation. By the time I was able to come home you were even sleeping through the night- all by yourself! All that time I spent worrying about you was just time wasted. Morgan, you are so young and so small, but already I admire your strength. You handled those two weeks with much more grace and composure than I did.

So, not only are you sleeping in your crib, you're sleeping in your own room. My heart broke a little when I realized that you no longer needed to be next to me through the night. But, I have a sneaking suspicion that you'll be breaking my heart quite regularly from now on. Often after you've drifted off to sleep I'll stand in your doorway and watch you. I've known religion most of my life, but I've never experienced a moment as reverent as when I quietly stand there in the dark just listening to you breathe, hearing your life in the air. And that, Morgan, is all the proof I'll ever need that a loving God exists. More than anything I've known before, YOU have made me a believer.