Monday, April 4, 2016

Spring Break

I have tufts of purple frizz sticking out from the bottom of my messy bun—evidence of the hair-dying escapade I embarked on with my daring older sister, Danni, when I visited home last month.  I actually liked the purple surprise peeking out from the underside of my ponytail, because it made me feel like the My Little Pony toys I played with as a kid.  Since I like to shower at night and I am too impatient to blow dry my hair, however, I wound up with violet stains marring my pillowcase and marking the backs of many a T-shirt collar.  (Lucky for me, I only wear my husband, Ryan's shirts to bed.  Haha.)

In the end, I decided I wasn't up for the upkeep involved in channeling my inner punk, so I tried to dye the hair over with a warm brown to make it match the rest of my head, but apparently, electric purple is more stubborn than I’d anticipated.

Maybe purple should be the color associated with stubbornness, just like yellow goes with cowardice, green with greed, red with anger, blue with sadness, and so forth and so on.

If that’s the case, this ear infection I’ve had for three weeks is totally purple.  After taking four different types of antibiotics, I’ve started to get the hearing back in my left ear, though the infection has been simultaneously muffling and amplifying my breathing, making it sound like Darth Vader has set up camp inside my head.

I suppose that would be fitting, because I’ve felt a little Darth Vadery lately—all moody and mad, like I’ve got a bone to pick with the tone life has taken as of late.

Don’t get me wrong—all in all, things are going pretty smoothly and I’m grateful for that.

There are just a few key things that aren’t operating in the most turnkey fashion, I guess you could say, and it has me feeling frustrated.

My three-year-old daughter, Alice, was watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood on PBS this week, and on the episode she was watching, I overheard Daniel’s mother describe being frustrated as feeling like you can’t do what you want to do.

That totally describes me right now.  Daniel Tiger-son, wisdom flows fiercely in your family's tiger blood.

My camera lens is busted and my beloved laptop, a beautiful, black Toshiba my husband surprised me with several years ago to show his support for my foray into the world of creative freelance writing, is also broken.

And this all has me feeling a little broken and busted up myself.

Maybe the spring’s to blame.  I actually love springtime, but one thing about it is that it makes winter melt, and hiding beneath that pure, snow-white blanket of concealment that once covered the ground is, quite frankly, a load of crap.  Yes, crap—thawing dog droppings to be exact, along with garbage gone undetected for months, pot holes…

That’s how I feel.  I feel like I’ve hit a giant pot hole and someone (or should I say “Someone?”) has pressed the pause button on every project I had planned to complete with the aid of my computer and camera.

My plan to hurry up and finish that online photography class?  Cue the whining trombone.  (Wah, Wah, wahhh...)

My personal project of compiling and printing off all of our family photos from the past year?  Sidelined.

The personalized baby board book I’d wanted to organize and order before my son, Rowen’s, first birthday?  Postponed.

All of the notes I'd compiled for the blog posts I intended to write as soon as the timing was right?  Temporarily lost, and I so hope and pray their loss is only temporary.

I felt similarly stuck last spring after giving birth to Rowen, except it involved the breaking down of my physical appearance.  Though I'd taken the time to set up our home and get all of our baby gear ready before he was born, I'd neglected to assemble some supplies of my own—ones that would keep me from feeling like a total frump following the delivery.

All at once, I was out of contact lenses and eye make-up—both of which were expensive and a pain to obtain.  My hair was a mass of split ends, overdue for another dose of dye.  Most of my clothes were either ill-fitting or worn-out.  And, as could only be expected for any post-expectant mama, I felt completely out of shape.

It truly is frustrating to feel like you've been prevented from carrying on with life as usual.  In my present situation, however, I'm starting to wonder if maybe...just maybe, God has allowed two of my most precious possessions to break in order to take the pressure off of pastimes He'd originally intended for my pleasure—to remove the stress from things He'd meant to bless me with.  It's like He has me on a forced vacation—a spring break, if you will.

Speaking of breaks, a funny thing has happened since I started writing this—my phone has suddenly gone on the fritz—chiming incessantly and saying it's charged when it's not.  And the touch screen has gotten really touchy—responding to my poking and swiping in some cases and going numb to my forefinger and thumb in others. 

So basically, it's broken. 

You know what they say—when it rains, it pours, and we've just entered into the month of April showers.  But it’s OK, because I’m trusting the One who gently gives and takes away, who works all things together for my good even when it doesn’t feel so good, and who teaches me to dance in the rain.  Through letting a few little things in my world go to pieces, I believe He's giving me peace.

As I said earlier, springtime may be messy, turning up debris and dead leaves and doggy doo-doo, but it’s also a season of beauty and of new beginnings, of refreshed perspectives and of positivity. 

A little over a week ago, Alice and I dyed Easter eggs, and while I taught Alice about colors, God taught me about having a better attitude. Together, we dipped the eggs in dyes of yellow, blue, red, and green—colors that spoke of cheerfulness instead of  cowardice, serenity instead of sadness, romance instead of rage, and growth instead of greed. 

And, ironically enough, the prettiest, most vibrant egg of all turned out to be purple—stubborn old purple.  Stubbornness isn't always such a bad thing, though. 

For example, I will choose to stubbornly move forward through this season of disappointment and disrepair not with a limp but with a spring in my step that comes from believing in the God who makes all things new and beautiful in their time, including cranky little me. 

I don't know what you think, but I'm pretty sure God's not gonna let that spring break.

"I will send showers, showers of blessings, which will come just when they are needed" (Ezekiel 34:26b, NLT).

Sunday, February 7, 2016

On My Hands

Rowen had a blow-out diaper this morning.  When I went to change it, I announced to Ryan (my husband), “I’ve got poop on my hands,” not actually meaning that I had poop on my hands, but that I simply had a messy diaper to deal with.  But then I looked down at my fingers, and sure enough, I actually did have poop...on my hands.  Oh, the joys of mommyhood.  ;)

Friday, February 5, 2016

Naughty Pants

Most people have heard about crabby pants, and they’ve heard about big girl pants.  Many have even heard about traveling pants, as in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but did you now there is such a thing as naughty pants?  Yep.  Mmhmm.  They are a thing. 

I know because my daughter, Alice, has a pair.  I bought them off of the clearance rack at Old Navy last spring.  I didn’t even like them all that much at the time because they were skinny jeans overalls (just plain old awkward) and they had thin shoulder straps that formed a weird “Y” shape in middle of her the back instead of the traditional set of parallel straps.

In spite of my better judgment, I purchased them.  I guess I thought that, like the homely-at-first-glance Little Mermaid jumper someone gave her for her baby shower, they might transform into something completely adorable the moment I slipped them onto her.  Plus, they had a delicate white flower print all over them.  Who can resist a pretty flower print?  And especially at the low, low price of five measly smackeroos?

Well, I’d sure love to “smackeroo” the person that sold them to me.  Not really, but I now know why they were on the clearance rack, reduced in price for quick sale—it’s because Old Navy wanted to get rid of them.  They knew what those pants were capable of and they wanted them off their dirty, no-good, hustlin’ hands.  I guess I can’t blame them.  (On a positive note, I did find a very cute, very harmless-looking thermal shirt for Alice at Old Navy yesterday that only cost a dollar.)

I’m starting to suspect that the “Y” in the back was designed to stand for “naughty,” as in “naughtY.”  OK, so that’s probably a stretch, but seriously, as soon as Alice puts those pants on, it’s like this unruly aura overtakes her and she’s completely defenseless against the pants’ corrupting powers.

It starts with a mischievous twinkle in her eye, and then it spreads to her mouth, forming “The Grin.”  Maybe you’ve seen other kids do it.  With her, it looks like this:  she juts her chin out, squints her eyes, crinkles her nose, and grits her tiny, white corn kernel teeth together.  The fact that she has fairly wide spaces between her pearly whites makes her look like a shark, giving “The Grin” an even freakier effect.

Here’s an example:  she was sitting on the potty a couple of days ago, with the overalls pushed down to her ankles.  After she’d done her business and I’d wiped her, she suddenly pulled up her underwear and sprinted out of the bathroom with a wild shriek, the buckles clanging against the linoleum like shackles and chains. 

“Alice!”  I whisper-yelled as I pushed myself up off the ground.  I took off after her into the living room, trying to decide which behavior to address first.  “Rowen’s sleeping!  Be quiet and get over here!”  (Rowen’s bedroom, the bathroom, and the living room are all very close in proximity.)

I got a hold of her and started pulling the overalls back up over her pale little legs, but then she purposely began buckling her knees, slumping down onto the ground like a wet noodle, and laughing wickedly all the while.  “Alice!”  I hissed, still whispering.  “Knock it off!”  I wish I could say that we succeeded in getting the overalls fastened without discipline being administered, but we did not.

After I dumped my wild little pill off in her room for a much-needed nap (much-needed for both of us), I heard her chirp, “No!  I not goin-a-bee good!”  Her happily-defiant declaration was followed by a sinister horror movie giggle.  I shook my head and staggered over to the living room, where I plopped down onto the couch and waited for her to fall asleep, which she eventually did.  Thankfully, after giving me a good kick in the pants, the overalls took it pretty easy on me for the rest of the day. 

Now, if you can believe this, I had her wear them again today, but it was only because I knew I’d be writing this post and I wanted some pictures of the infamous Naughty Pants in action. 

The ironic thing was that Alice was actually behaving quite sweetly until I directed her to start jumping on the cushions and climbing over the arms of the couch to stage misbehavior for a picture.  She’s normally not allowed to do those things, so you’d think she’d jump (literally!) at the chance to engage in the forbidden with my permission, but nope!  She gave me a few half-hearted bunny hops and then refused to climb up the side.  She was misbehaving by not misbehaving, if you can believe that. 

“Alice!  Please!” I begged, pulling the camera away from my face and turning up the enthusiasm.  “Jump right over here!  C’mon!  It’ll be fun!” 

It was then that the power of The Pants officially kicked in.  “No!” she giggled, dashing into the kitchen, the ugly denim “Y” bobbing in full view.

“Alice!” I scolded.  “Get back here!” I couldn’t believe I was getting after her for not jumping on the couch.

The charade continued for a few more frustrating minutes until I finally realized how ridiculous (and undoubtedly confusing for her) the whole thing actually was.

A little bit later on, Alice, Rowen, and I were sitting together in the living room.  Because her birthday’s in a few days, I asked her, “What do you think you’ll get for your birthday, honey?”

Kee-oh!” she replied, flashing me The Grin. 

“Kill?” I repeated, trying not to sound too shocked. 

“Yeah!” she answered, bounding off the couch.  “Kee-oh!” 

I chose to ignore this random act of rebellion and changed the subject.  After all, only The Pants could’ve inspired such an off-the-wall and inappropriate response as that. 

…So why don’t I just get rid of those wicked pants, you may ask, by giving them away? (C’mon, that would be cruel!) And why don’t I just toss them?  The answer is simple:  Because I paid five dollars for them.  I realize I said earlier that they were cheap, but on the same token, five dollars is five dollars.

Maybe I sound a little crazy, but no biggie.  I blame my pants.  (They’re the Devoid of Reason sort.)  ;)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Properly Exposed

I officially found out today that I indeed do look as tired as I feel.  And not only tired, but old. I remember a comment my mom once made about how presidents tend to age a lot from the beginning of their terms to the end because of all of the stress they endure while in office.  Well, I’m not exactly President of the United States, but next Monday, I will have been Mom of the Swensen Household for three years (yeah, yeah, I know I’m a dork), and I think the same rule applies to my position. 

I’d begun to suspect that perhaps I was starting to look older when I observed the broadening crow’s feet curving out from the corners of my eyes like spare smiles.  But I brushed off any negativity that accompanied the observation, reminding myself that I’d always hoped to have crow’s feet when I got older, since they seemed to be signs of a joyful, friendly person.  One girl in my high school youth group even used to say that she pictured Jesus with crow’s feet.  That and red, red lips.  She would grin and hiss when she said "lipsss", like she was really relishing the image.  The red lips part secretly scared me, but I always loved the idea of Him having crow’s feet.  People with crow’s feet are just so approachable.

I noticed the bags, too.  You know, the puffy, dark under-eye circles that serve as indicators of actual, physical baggage in one’s life.  Not to say that my children are “baggage,” but they are most certainly a responsibility.  My almost-three-year-old, Alice, sure gives me a run for my money.  She runs.  Everywhere.  And she talks.  Non-stop.  And she’s learning to use the potty (‘nuff said).  And my increasingly-active nine-month-old, Rowen, is shaping up to be a real mover and a shaker, too, what with all of his rockin’ and rollin’ and what not around the house.  (Literally.  He has yet to crawl, but he rocks on his hands and knees like a madman and he rolls across the carpet like his onesie’s caught fire.)

I visited one of my good friends, who is also a mom to two young children, this past fall with Alice and Rowen.  One day, while sitting on her living room floor with our tiny tots, we were talking about make-up, and how, though we each struggled with getting it on our faces before lunchtime each day, wearing it was important—even when we planned to stay in—because it helped us feel more engaged with the day. 

“There is one part of my face that I purposely leave make-up free,” my friend admitted, her hazel eyes twinkling with self-satisfied rebellion.  “I don’t cover up the dark circles under my eyes because they’re sort of like a badge of honor…for being a mom to young children.”   
I’d known what she was talking about.  We’d snapped a lot of pictures of each other during my stay.  One of my favorites was an image I’d captured of her standing on her porch, smiling down at me as she cradled her brand-new baby in a pink swaddle blanket.  The morning sun shone radiantly upon her head, creating a sort-of halo effect atop her famously-frizzy brown hair.  I told her I loved the image because I felt like it captured a certain kind of glory that accompanies the exhaustion of a woman postpartum. 

I’d totally meant it at the time that I said it, but today I say…

Ga-lory Scha-mory.

...Not about her.  About me.

I know I’m not a mom to a newborn anymore, but I’ve still got the under-eye baggage, which is currently making me feel like one giant bag—an old one!  I have yet to research ways to conceal my two little “badges of honor” (ha!), but as soon as I find the time, I will!  Unlike my pooped-out-and-proud-of-it friend, it was never on purpose that I left my under-eye bags unchecked—I guess I’d just been in serious denial of how pronounced they actually were!  Maybe that’s why she’d brought up the whole leaving-the-dark-circles-uncovered thing in the first place—because she’d assumed I was doing the same thing!

Nope.  I was just clueless.

I thank my DSLR camera for helping me finally see the light a couple of days ago.  Well, I sort of thank it.  I’m also sort of mad at it.  While I’m loving the clarity and crispness it brings to the photos I take of my rosy-cheeked, porcelain-skinned children, I’m finding the camera does a little bit too good of a job of capturing the complexities of my rapidly wrinkling complexion. 

I’d been taking some “selfies” (I hate that word, by the way) of myself and Rowen below our long line of living room bow windows while Alice napped.  All of the pictures were going to be close-ups since my camera had no “zoom in/out” function and propping the camera on a chair and setting the timer wasn’t giving me the same quality of exposure that I got from pushing the button myself.

Yeah, the camera did a great job of providing exposure.  Too good of a job, because when I stopped all of my snapping to check out the images, I felt completely exposed.  Pretty much naked.  The pictures were so clear, I could even make out the outline of my contact lenses against the whites of my eyes.  Cheek wrinkles, forehead wrinkles, crow’s feet, under-eye circles…every blemish and scar and freckle was laid bare before my eyes as I gasped and pulled my baby’s grabby little paws away from the appalling screen.

I used to watch What Not to Wear like the show was going out of styleOne of the hosts, Stacie London once said that if you put on an outfit and look in the mirror and think that something looks a little funky, it’s probably true.   As much as you’d like it to be the case, the mirror isn’t just playing tricks on you and you aren’t imagining things.  I guess the same goes for dark circles and wrinkles.

I have three sisters.  Two are older and one is younger.  Throughout the years, I’ve been asked repeatedly whether I’m the eldest.  I used to wonder if it was perhaps because I came across as a little more mature than the rest.  (Anyone who knows me very well is probably laughing right now.  My sisters are undoubtedly rolling their eyes.)  Well, roll no further, bag-free and beautiful eyes of my sneering sisters, because I’ve finally figured out the reason behind their erred assumption:  I look old.