Friday, March 27, 2009

2 thumbs up.

In the Land of Lollipops

A couple of weeks ago, Robbie and I were sitting on the couch eating pudding and watching "The Biggest Loser" (that show always makes me hungry). Suddenly, the pudding triggered a memory and I burst into a fit of giggles. Robbie of course wanted to know what was so funny, so in between my microbursts of laughter, I attempted to tell the story.

"When I was little, my mom once let me take a bath in pudding."

"WHAT?! No she didn't!"

"Yes she did! It wasn't a full bathtub, but she made several packets and put it in a big pile on one end of the tub."

"That does not sound like your mom at all."

"I know, that's part of why it was so awesome!!! A friend of mine got to do it, so I asked my mom if I could do it too and I was really surprised when she agreed."

"Your mom would never let you do something that messy."

"It wasn't that messy - all she did was turn the water on and rinse it all down the drain afterward."

Robbie gave me a look that clearly said he wasn't buying this.

"Why would I make this up? I will call my mom tomorrow and prove it to you!"

He shook his head and made some derogatory comment about my memory.

"Oh, and when has my memory failed me before. Name one example."

I was getting downright indignant now.

"Um, how about the time you tried to convince me that you once caught a fish with nothing but marshmallows tied to the end of a string on a stick?"

I pursed my lips together tightly in an attempt to look strong while fighting back laughter. He had dealt a damaging blow on that one - when we first got together I made the mistake of relating this fishing story and he enjoyed recounting it to everyone we met for months afterward. I quickly realized that pulling a fish out of the water with nothing but a marshmallow defied the laws of nature, but out of spite, I refused to back down.

Finally, we went on a fishing trip with a friend and Robbie challenged me to reenact my angling feat. I stared so hard at that limp fishing line, willing a fish to prove me right, but it didn't budge. In my defense, we didn't have any marshmallows.

Also in my defense, I was defying a man who - along with his father - spent months trying to convince me that his grandpa trained monkeys to drive trucks. The piece de resistance was when his dad found a photo of a monkey standing on a tractor with its hands on the steering wheel. "They have to start their training somewhere," Robbie insisted.

But back to the pudding.

The next day, I called my mom, anxious to be vindicated. After recounting the story, there was a pause on the other end of the line.

"No, I never let you take a bath in pudding!"

I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

"I let you finger paint in it while you were in your highchair, but I would never spend that much money to let you bathe in it!"

"But it wasn't a full bathtub - I remember being slightly disappointed about that. If I was going to make up a memory, wouldn't I imagine an entire bathtub full?!"

We argued for a few more minutes and then I gave up. "I'm going to call my sister - she will remember."

I knew she was at work, so I sent her a text message. Several hours later, I got a message back saying, "Yes, I remember the time mom let you take a chocolate pudding bath." I gave out a triumphant yelp and did a victory dance as I read the message out loud to Robbie.

After I calmed down, I sent her a message thanking her for giving me proof. I gloated for the rest of the day, but the next morning, I woke up to find this message:

"Proof of what? That you're delusional?"

Now I was confused. I went back to the original message and quickly realized I hadn't scrolled all the way down. This was the full message:

"Yes, I remember the time mom let you take a chocolate pudding bath, that was the day after we ran through the candy cane forest and climbed gum drop mountain."


A few days later, Robbie recounted this whole story with glee to a friend of ours who's getting her Ph.D. in psychology. When she stopped laughing, she told us about a study on memory where researchers got parents to share stories about their children's early years. Then the researchers would tell the stories back to the adult children, mixing real memories with fake ones. At first, the adult children wouldn't remember the fake memories, but a few days later, they brought them in and questioned them again. By this time, they had fabricated the details of the fake memories - completely convinced that they had actually happened.

I saw her point, but I can't let go of the fact that I wouldn't fabricate a memory about a bathtub with a big pile of pudding when I could have fabricated a memory about an entire bathtub FULL of pudding!

I don't care what my family thinks - maybe I didn't climb gum drop mountain or lure a fish out of the water with a marshmallow. But I DID take a bath in pudding.

And it was awesome.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Get Down with Your Bad Self

Home sweet home. We had a lot of fun this weekend, but it's nice to be home again. Emerson's long days of partying finally caught up to him, so he's been passed out cold since we left the airport. There's a lot to write about, but my tired brain can't form coherent thoughts. Instead, here's some video of Emerson's first dance party at the wedding.

The moment the music started, he and his cousins were out on the dance floor. (I'll let Robbie take credit for those moves):

By the end of the night, he didn't have much energy, but his 3-yr-old cousin JoJo certainly did. And he actually has rhythm:

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Everything's Bigger in Texas

Right now I am sandwiched between two exhausted little boys in a hotel room in Dallas. This past week has been a blur preparing for this trip and traveling for the first time with all four of us, but so far we're holding up extremely well. Although it is frustrating because we've got a lot of family in town right now for a wedding and family adventures make great blog fodder. Unfortunately, many of the main players would eventually hear about it if I sent these stories into the blogosphere, and I'd rather not make future family reunions...tense.

Suffice it to say that between Robbie's six brothers and sisters, 5 nephews and nieces and our two kids (and all the adults that go with all those kids), we are every wait staff's worst nightmare. Despite the astonishing noise level, it has been a blast to watch Emerson interact with all his cousins and aunts and uncles. He's close in age to three of them, so they run in a pack like tiny wolves. And when they're not running around, his sweet aunts and uncles are always right there to entertain him or lend a hand. At one point, as my 15-year-old sister in law retrieved an escaping child for the 100th time, she sighed and said, "I'm never having kids." Good lord - I don't blame her.

One high point in our trip so far was our momentary brush with fame. We ate at some sort of seafood place tonight and a crew from ESPN came in to film people watching March Madness. Never mind the fact that no one was really watching it (it was karaoke night - and nothing is more entertaining than a 50-year-old overweight man in a Hooters t-shirt crooning "That's Amore.") The crew had our giant table turn to the tv behind us and pretend like we were watching the game that was on. We were instructed to cheer for whoever made the next basket while they filmed and we performed perfectly. It wasn't until after the shot was over that I realized it was Arizona vs. my alma mater University of Utah and I had just cheered on national television for Arizona. I guess it's a good thing that I don't have much school pride - when I was in college, we never won at any sport and yet we spent all this money on new sports equipment while those of us in the journalism program had to bring our own computer paper from home to print our work. Not to mention our fight song is a uninspiring ditty called "I Am Utah Man" that actually involves the word "muss."

But I digress. Tomorrow is the big wedding and the following day we take family pictures. Robbie made us do this during our last visit two years ago and by the end of the session, the poor photographer was on her last nerve. She went from polite requests at the beginning to shouting "You, shut up. You, sit down. You, SMILE!!!" Needless to say, we made a beeline for the closest restaurant afterward and started ordering drinks. This year, Robbie actually planned where we would go drinking ahead of time.

Well, I should force myself to get some sleep now. When you're in Texas, you never know what tomorrow will bring...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Scenes from Daily Life II

Robbie: Is that a rutabaga in our backyard?

Cassi:(sheepishly) uh.....yes.

Robbie:How did it get there?

Cassi: uh.....I sort of rolled it out the dog door a few weeks ago.

Robbie pauses for a moment to take this in.

Robbie: Why?

Cassi: Well, that extra one you bought a while back ended up going bad and I felt guilty for wasting it. Since we don't have a compost pile yet, I thought I would roll it out into the snow and it would eventually decompose.

Robbie: Do you know how long it will take a rutabaga that big to decompose, especially in the snow?

Cassi: No.

Robbie: A long time.

Cassi: Well, Janet said she throws her food waste straight into her yard during the winter.

Robbie: But at least Janet has a private backyard - not a backyard with a chainlink fence and only a few feet away from the neighbor's door!

Cassi: Point taken.

This conversation occurred a few weeks ago and every time I think about it now, it makes me giggle. Mainly because it contains the word rutabaga, which is inherently funny. I did eventually remove the offending rutabaga from the yard when the snow melted (along with a huge amount of dog poop of various bright colors and textures, depending on what object Kenya had eaten that day. Our poor, poor neighbors.)

Sure rolling a large vegetable out a dog door seems silly, but in my defense 1) Pregnancy and breastfeeding remove brain cells 2) I'm sleep deprived and 3) Just yesterday I read an article in Sierra Club magazine about a guy who made a compost bin, but it got infested by rats - so he tried vermicomposting (worms) and it got infested with fruit flies. As a last resort, he started packaging food waste in newspapers and putting them in the freezer without telling his wife.

So could be worse.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Dulce de Leche League

As I've mentioned in previous posts, Ann Arbor is bursting with babies these days (perhaps it's the liberal response to the Duggars?). I had the extreme pleasure of sharing my last pregnancy with two of my close friends and neighbors. Per was born in September, six weeks later Fionn was born, then 5 weeks later Jane was born. Together we - along with another neighbor who have a daughter Emerson's age - formed what we called the "Dulce de Leche League" because we spent this past year eating a lot of caramel ice cream and talking about babies and breastfeeding. If I had more energy and creativity I would come up with a drawing of us as superhero moms - breastfeeding with one hand and eating ice cream with another, but pictures will have to do.

Oh, Matt....that baby is going to hurt when it comes out. I should know.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Boys Will Be Boys

Excuse me for a moment while I get on my high horse. *HUFT* Ok, I'm up.

So for the past couple of months, I've been going to a speech class for Emerson on Friday mornings in addition to his Early Intervention 2x a week. Emerson goes into a room with the other toddlers (interestingly, all boys) to play while the parents sit in an adjoining room and take a class on how to encourage our children to speak more. So far it has been less than revolutionary, but at this point I'll try anything.

A few sessions ago, the teacher was stressing the importance of pretend play and she gave the example of giving your child a baby doll so they could pretend to take care of it. Suddenly, this woman started bellowing, "Whoa! My child is a BOY and his father will NOT allow him to play with dolls!"

The teacher gave her a pinched smile and said, "Could he have a teddy bear or other stuffed animal?" The woman looked doubtful. "He pretends to feed and take care of his trains - does that work?"

The teacher thought about this for a moment and then said, "No, I think it needs to be something a little more....lifelike. Something they would actually feed and take care of."

At this point, another woman chimed in: "My husband won't let my boys play with dolls either, so we use those plastic Little People instead. It's hard because they're so small, but you can make it work."

The teacher nodded in agreement and moved on to the next subject, but I was left biting my feminist tongue until it bled. The lesser side of me wanted to scream out, "First of all, YOU are the stay-at-home parents, so get a spine, buy a baby doll and tell your husband to stuff it if he complains. Second of all, heaven forbid we should let our sons learn how to be good parents and nurture their babies! We should ban all dolls from our house - at least until they come out with 'Beer Gut Bob' or a life-size 'Chauvinist Charley.'"

I mean, the poor kid is pretending to feed trains for pity sake, it's not going to suck all the testosterone out of him the moment he picks up a fake baby. Every toddler I know is in or has been through a stage where they want to take care of a baby doll. The girls tend (key word being tend) to continue playing with dolls long after, while the boys tend to lose interest after a few months and move on to something else. Those who don't move on on their own are usually forced to by the men in their lives and by the messages they receive from our culture.

In some ways I'm frustrated with these women because they're the same ones I hear complaining about how little their husbands help around the house and with parenting, yet here they are perpetuating the cycle with their own sons. However, I am sympathetic with how hard it is to buck the general culture when all you want is for your child to fit in and make things "easy" for them.

I had big plans during pregnancy for all the avant garde things I was going to do with my future children - all the ways I was going to parent that gave the middle finger to restrictive social norms. When the boys were born with such a physically apparent genetic condition, though, I found myself tempering my own agenda with a need to help them fit in. Maybe it goes back to some animal nature when blending in with the pack kept our children from being eaten by the lion, but I do recognize it's a normal parent instinct.

That being said, we're not being chased by lions anymore and some norms are just plain damaging in this femi-nazi's opinion.

Few days go by that I don't think about how much I miss the fantasy daughter that never was - the little girl I dreamed of having since I was a little girl. I mourn that I will never show her all the different definitions of femininity and help her feel empowered by who she is. I mourn that I will never teach her about Amelia Earhart or Queen Elizabeth or Alice Paul. I mourn that I will never help her through her first period, go with her to pick out prom dresses (or pant suits if she leans that way), and I will never be able to help her through her own pregnancies and births.

But sitting in that class listening to a discussion on baby dolls did remind me of all that I can do with my sons. I can't wait to teach them how to cook (well, maybe Robbie will take that one), clean the house thoroughly, write thank you notes, pick out thoughtful gifts, talk about their emotions, cry when they need to cry, change a baby's diaper, say "excuse me" after emitting bodily noises (I've given up on trying to prevent the bodily noises in the first place), dance all the basic ballroom steps, make romantic gestures for their future spouses, appreciate (or at least tolerate) the arts, and fight against social injustices of all kinds.

I'm sure I'll fail in some areas, but I have to at least try. And I'm lucky to have a husband who is secure enough in his own masculinity to help me. He's the kind of man who can rebuild a car engine and then play "peek a boo" - the kind of guy who can barbecue large amounts of meat and then go antique shopping.

Between the two of us, with all our faults and strengths, hopefully we can produce two secure, well-rounded men who don't feel like they have to fit some hyper-masculine ideal to fit in. If their future spouses never utter the words, "Didn't your mother ever teach you..." my life's mission will be fulfilled.

For now, I love that Emerson will occasionally pick up his baby doll and carry it around the house patting its back like he sees us doing with Fionn 23 hours a day. I love that he is fascinated with cooking and frequently feeds me his latest pretend creation. And I love that when his brother cries, he puts his pacifier in his mouth, plays peek-a-boo with him, or even gives him a kiss. And so far, his man parts have yet to fall off as a result.

Ok, I'm done ranting now and will dismount my horse. *THWUMP* I'm down.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Baby Belly

So the other day I was having a "bad body day." You know, the kind of day when you catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror or store window and you realize that you're wearing unflattering pants or your hair has been sticking up for hours. Well, I caught a glimpse of something every mother dreads - muffin top.

Don't get me wrong, I'm EXTREMELY grateful that I've been able to lose most of the weight from both pregnancies. But a number on a scale does not reflect the amount of damage done during pregnancy. To add to my insecurity, Emerson has decided that playing with my belly is a fun new activity. He randomly walks up behind me, pulls up my shirt and starts to poke, squish, pinch and even pull my skin out several inches (to my amazement and horror). The other day he kissed it as if it still had a baby inside. Between that and the stretch marks that decency won't allow me to show, it's a daily reminder that things just aint what they used to be.

Just when I was feeling at the peak of my muffin-top despair, I got online and saw this post from Her Bad Mother: Truthiness in Muffin-Top Portraiture

AHH, honesty. Inspired, I decided it was time to accept my own flab fate and add to her collection of bellies (admittedly, I chose muffin-top restricting pants for these pictures. The poor lighting is a result of a crappy camera.)

Before Emerson was born, I realized that of all the joys and woes of pregnancy, what I thought about most was the loss of sexiness. Sure, my husband still thought I was sexy at my biggest, and I suppose I was in a certain "fertility goddess" sort of way. But I realized that in recent years, the importance of being sexy and turning heads had sunk somewhere deep into my psyche. During both pregnancies, I dreamed about living the life of a Victoria's Secret model - strutting around my mansion in expensive lingerie and randomly posing with mid-orgasmic expressions on my face. Unfortunately, even postpartum, high heels and teddies are not conducive to changing diapers or running to the grocery store.

After Emerson was born, I was able to at least wear feminine clothes and make-up again after a few weeks. And with the help of lots of walking and Stroller Strides classes twice a week, I was back to my old shape by the end of the year. This time around, however, wearing makeup has become the exception rather than the rule and exercise? Well, let's just say that's not going to happen until I come out of winter hibernation.

Some mommy friends and I were talking the other day about bodies and we agreed that the best way to feel good about your body is to get pregnant. Once you get huge, you realize you never should have complained about how you looked before! Even more than that, though, motherhood is a physical act. It causes sagging, pooching, aching muscles, sore nipples, pinched back nerves and the occasional noise-induced headache.

But it also causes the kind of love that literally makes your heart ache. It's a head full of baby hair nestled into your neck. It's a toddler who wraps his arms and legs tight around your body and won't let go. It's spinning till you're both dizzy, baby drool running down your arm, or hearing a squeaky "ma ma."

So for that I guess I can forget about my illogical desire to please men and instead focus on making good memories for two little boys. And someday - when I catch a rare moment of alone time - I'll strut around in lingerie...just for me.

How my belly spends most of its days - and these are NOT muffin-top restricting pants obviously.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

If you're wondering if I've heard of the Winter Brothers....

So here's a conversation that occurs nearly every time we go out in public as a family:

John Doe: Wow, they've got some really white hair!

Me: Yep. It makes them very easy to spot in a crowd.

PAUSE - they wait for me to explain more, but depending on my mood and energy level, I may or may not give in right away. If I don't,

John Doe: Where did they get that hair from?

At this point I give in and explain.

John Doe: Two brothers, huh? Have you ever heard of the Winter Brothers?

Me: Yep.

PAUSE. If they knew someone once with albinism, they insert that story here. If not, we sit in awkward silence for a few moments.

Me: Yep, we're going to teach our boys how to sing and get their act on the road soon.

I laugh at my own joke and then search for a quick exit.

A few weeks ago this situation played out with a microwave salesman in Sears. He started out saying he recognized us although we had no idea who he was. (Since we spend most of our time walking around our small city with two white-haired boys in tow, this is pretty common. I imagine it must be what celebrities feel like - slightly flattered and violated all at the same time.)

This salesman followed me around the store while talking and finally backed me into a corner so I had little hope of escape. After the Winter Brothers comment, he explained that he knew their music well because he frequently sang their songs as a professional karaoke singer.

Me: Is that like the person who sings a few songs and gets people participating at karaoke bars?

Salesman: No, it's just me singing. People pay me to come to their parties and sing karaoke for a few hours.

Me: So it's just you and a karaoke machine?

Salesman: Yes.

I smile and listen with interest as he recounts his latest gigs, but secretly I wonder how a "professional karaoke singer" is any different than a regular singer who doesn't bother to memorize the words? The whole concept of paying someone to sing karaoke boggles my mind - like eating deep fried Twinkies or buying a Snuggie (seriously, if you turn it around, it's called a robe)

The salesman eventually asked me what I do professionally, so I told him about mothering and ministry. Many a wise minister has told me to make up a fake profession because telling people you are going into/are in the ministry opens up a whole can of worms. Unfortunately, I have yet to come up with a good alias (any suggestions?) and so I told the truth.

Since I am not ordained yet, I'm usually spared from people asking for advice or unburdening their life story on me. But even as a student, people hear ministry and almost always assume you belong to the same religion as them. This man wasn't any different, so I listened to several minutes of his "being saved" story and his journey to finding a Pentecostal church in the area. While I loved hearing his story, I could tell he wanted me to divulge a similar tale - but Pentecostal is about the furthest thing there is from Unitarian Universalism. We have "saved" stories of our own, but not in any form he would recognize.

Instead, I made some general remarks about religion that made him happy, then was relieved when the lights started turning off and a man came over the intercom to say they were closing.

I chose to go into ministry because I want to interact with a wide variety of people and be there to help them during the most vulnerable moments of their lives. I suppose as frustrating and draining as it can be to have the constant attention albinism brings, I've also met some interesting people along the way.

In seminary, we have a habit of labeling even the most mundane things as "our ministry" to make it easier to swallow. Don't like scrubbing the toilet? Think of it as your "cleaning ministry." So I suppose I should work harder at setting aside the internal eye-rolling and make my experiences with albinism part of my daily opportunity to gently teach others, set a good example for my sons, and practice patience.

If nothing else, it's a great networking tool to meet people. Need entertainment for your next Bar Mitzvah or birthday party? Have I got a karaoke singer for you....

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


So last night, in a rare fit of motivation and energy, I decided to start painting the dining room while Robbie and the boys went to bed. Since the specialty paint stores were all closed by 5pm, we went to Lowe's and got some Valspar color-changing ceiling paint. I mean, who cares if you put cheap paint on a ceiling, right?

Oh how the gods punished me for that one.

Six back-breaking, neck-wrenching hours later, I "finished." It took that long because I had to constantly move the dining room table and chairs around the room (there's no where else in the house to stash them), I took breaks to nurse the baby several times, and I kept going over the same areas again and again to get good coverage. I feared the worst, but I decided to wait and see what it looked like the next morning. Unfortunately, the light of day only revealed a streaky mess that didn't even conceal the beige paint underneath!

I cheated on my faithful men - Mr. Sherwin Williams and Mr. Benjamin Moore - and now I'm going to beg their forgiveness in the hopes that they can cover this mess. Preferably in one coat.

So here's my question to all you DIY out there: should the ceiling be white, a shade lighter than the trim, or a few shades lighter than the wall?

There seems to be widespread debate about this on the internet and I figured I would revisit the question since I have to revisit the painting anyway.

Don't Drink the Water...

Our neighborhood is experiencing a population explosion, and this is only a sampling:

Of course as parents we have to torture them with staged photos (we used a ceiling fan as bait to keep them still). I know it's hard to tell which ones are ours, but I'll give you a hint....they're both wearing button down shirts.

I am so hilarious.

Also pictured, clockwise from the top are Jane, Per, and Keagan.