Friday, February 27, 2009


I have limits. I may be a patient person, but even patient people have their limits.

"Mommy, I'm hunnnggggggrrryyy!"
"We'll have a snack with Joseph when he gets home."
"But I'm hunnnnnggggrrrrryyyyyyyyy..."

{repeat infinitely for several minutes}

"Elijah, Joseph is home. Snack time!"
"Elijah! Come downstairs!"
"Elijah! Snack time!"

"Elijah, do you want some cake?" {Yes, we believe in healthy snacks at our house. But we're also eating up leftover birthday cake... five of them..."}
"No, don't like carrot cake."
"Do you want some of your chocolate cake?"
"Okay, do you want some of your ice cream?"


"WWWaaaaaah!!! Don't want cake and ice cream!!"
"But you just said..."
"Waaaaahh! Don't want cake and ice cream in that bowl! I want a big bowl!"


"Here you go. A big bowl."
"Waaaaah!!! Don't want cake and ice cream touching."
"You want them not touching each other?"
"Don't want cake!!"
"Okay, there you go. No more cake. Eat your ice cream."
"Waaaaaah!! Don't want ice cream!"
"Okay, Thomas can eat your ice cream. Here, Tommy."
"Waaaaah!!! I want ICE CREAM!!!"
"But... but...."
"Don't want the dirty bowl!! NEW BOWL!"
"But you already have TWO bowls... I'll clean one of them for you, so it doesn't have any cake crumbs, okay? Which one do you want me to clean for your ice cream?"
"Small one."
"This one?"


"Here you go. New clean bowl."
"Waaaaah!! I want a big bowl!"
"No. You said you wanted this bowl. Do you want ice cream now?"
"Okay, here is some ice cream."
"Waaaaaahhh! I don't want ice cream!"
"Waaaah! I want CAKE!!"
"Don't talk with food in your mouth! WAAAAAHHHH!"
"Okay, I swallowed. What do you..."
"WAAAAHHHH! Don't say that!"
"Don't say what?"
"Umm... Yes, Elijah?"
"Don't say YES!!!"
"What do you want, Elijah?"

sigh. start blogging.


Conquering rising feelings of frustration.

"Yes, Elijah?"

sigh. Time to wrap this blog entry up.

All of you parents know what I'm talking about. I think I'm going to go lock myself in my room.

I didn't lock the door. The crying followed. I turned the computer around. This is what I saw:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Book Talk :: The Wayward Bus

I've finished the first of my library books. 250 pages down. One bazillion to go! I present to you my first selection:

The Wayward Bus
by John Steinbeck

I loved this book. Around midnight last night, I was torn between reading the last few chapters despite my 6 a.m. alarm that was set or saving a treat for myself in the morning. I ended up saving the book as a treat, but I had trouble falling asleep with the characters still dancing in my head.

The book starts slowly and builds as the characters are more fully drawn out. The plot of the story is simple on the outside, but infinetely complex as you look inside each character. I was glad that I had read the first few pages of the introduction to this book (a practice I almost universally avoid due to plot spoilers) because John Steinbeck's enthusiasm for this novel, as quoted in the introduction, carried me through the first slow-moving chapters.

When the novel finished, I found myself with a hundred questions about what would happen to each character as the bus ride (and book) concluded. In that sense, the ending was frustrating and unfulfilling. However, it is proof positive to me that the book is the best sort: it pulled me into its universe and made me actually care what was happening.

The introduction to the book discussed the allegorical nature of the characters and storyline. While some of that seemed a bit forced to me, I did recognize the importance of what Steinbeck was really saying. The book is about human nature. It is about people and interactions and the way our lives are intertwined.

What I particularly loved about this novel was the way in which an unlikely group of people came together first with distaste and distrust and learned to work together, be curious about each other and even love each other. The circumstances of the bus ride forced them each out of their comfort zone and into a foreign world.

One would like to say they each became more tolerant because of the journey, but that didn't seem to be true. However, shared experiences and forced discomfort left an impression on each of them and gave them the great gift of teaching them all a little about themselves.

Monday, February 23, 2009

My Dirty Little Secret

I can't resist the temptation when I think of a provoking title for a blog entry. Or a blog. I love to imagine people's brains waking up as they contemplate what my dirty little secret might be. Or what I might be confessing.

This one, believe it or not, is actually a secret that I think I may regret sharing. The reason is not that I'm embarrassed to share it, but because it is the kind of secret which, by its nature, provides me an advantage if it is not well-known. Specifically regarding my husband ... who subscribes to this blog in Google Reader. However, it's been on my mind a lot lately so it's time to spill the beans.

Are you ready to be shocked?



Here it is: I have a lot of free time on my hands. I manage quality time with my kids, helping Joseph with his homework, playing with the twins, doing the laundry, cleaning the kitchen 3+ times daily, vacuuming regularly and cleaning bathrooms with time to spare. And when I say "time to spare" I mean hours every day.

The reason this secret is appalling is twofold. First, naturally, is that my husband will be a bit more critical of the housework that gets overlooked if he knows I had time to get the work done but simply chose not to. 

Secondly, there are women out there who, unlike me, don't have twins that play with each other for hours every day, leaving their mother to eat chocolates and read novels downstairs. Those women will not look favorably on me giving the impression that Stay-at-Home-Motherdom is anything but grinding physical labor from dawn to dusk.

Allow me to clarify before I go on. Stay-at-home-motherhood **IS** absolutely grinding physical labor from dawn to dusk for a number of years. I just grew out of that phase in the last two months. It happened when my twins decided they actually like each other, and that they really, really love playing with Geotrax. So we have a new daily routine:

7:00 a.m. Kids drowsily choose between wreaking havoc or being cute and cuddly until breakfast time.

7:30 Finish up breakfast, get Joseph dressed and kicked out the door to walk to school.

8:00 Say to the twins, "Okay, mommy needs to clean. Go upstairs and play." The twins obediently toddle up the stairs and start playin together. On M/W I then clear the table, wipe the table and countertop, unload the dishwasher and then load in the breakfast dishes. On T/Th/F I race upstairs quickly to get in  30 minutes of exercise before it's time to take the twins to preschool.
9:00 until 11:30 Preschool some days. Other days, the twins play quietly upstairs (except when they bite and scratch each other and Mommy needs to intervene) until close to lunch time. In the mornings, I also do my singing practice (while cleaning the kitchen) and start one load of laundry. The entire housecleaning bit takes under an hour and the house generally looks pretty acceptable. Then I have time to feed the old internet addiction for a while, reply to emails and check out everyone's status updates on Facebook.

Lunchtime -- self explanatory, then I tidy up the kitchen again and go through a mini-routine of cleaning countertops and tables again.

Then comes the time of day which makes me feel terribly guilty. The twins usually go back upstairs to play (sometimes with a little bit of gentle nudging from their mom, who doesn't want the morning cleaning to be undone) and I look around me. The house is generally tidy. I've done my singing practice. And I'm tired. So I lay down on the couch and read. I often fall asleep for a brief nap. Then I wake up, more energized than ever, and fold and put away laundry. Of course I'll spend some time upstairs with the kids, playing and talking to them throughout the day. But I don't do that for hours, so I still have a lot of free time.

If I want to make cards, I can do that. If I want to update the budget spreadsheet, I can do that. If I want to send an email to an old friend, I can do that. I really have a lot of freedom to choose. The only thing I can't do is leave the house, because (1) the twins will fall asleep in the car and (2) I need to be home when Joseph gets home from school.

I'm not used to this new freedom. So far, I haven't used my afternoon time very well. I don't make particularly good dinners ever. I feel rather uninspired in that arena, unfortunately. I spend a lot of time reading, checking websites that I forget I've checked three minutes earlier and feeling guilty that I'm not using my time better.

Then I realize it's almost time for my husband to get home. I start looking around at the messes accumulated from the family during the course of the day like coats that have spilled out of the closet, homework sitting on tables and toys that have migrated down to the main floor. I tidy up the main rooms and wrack my brains for dinnertime inspiration. Once he arrives, life is a whirlwind of children screaming demands at me, making a dinner that nobody wants to eat, cleaning up a kitchen that has somehow gone from clean to "impossibly filthy" in about 60 minutes, nagging Joseph to finish his homework, putting kids in bath times, taking kids out of bath times, brushing teeth, reading stories, choosing pajamas, giving goodnight kisses, getting cups of water, threatening children with unspeakable horror if they don't stay in bed, and then cleaning the kitchen more. 

Then 8:00 rolls around and things quiet down again. I can read. I can take a bath. I can go visit family while Josh stays with the kids. I can go shopping. I can watch American Idol. Or spend some quality time with my husband.

When you think about it, my life is completely decadent. And I am completely lazy. It's my dirty little secret. If I was sure I didn't want any more kids, it would be about time to start thinking about a part-time job or starting the great American novel or finding some community venture to get involved with. I'm not ready to commit to that stage of life yet, though. I still haven't decided if my family is complete or not. I need to figure that out soon. In the meantime, I need to get myself a hobby other than reading, because reading always leads to sleeping and consequently staying up way too late to finish my novel. It's a vicious cycle. 

As I stop to think why in the world I am rambling about this as if it really were a dirty little secret, I can't help but feel grateful for the wonderful life I have right now. I don't take it for granted. So many things could happen to put me back at square one. Josh could lose his job. I could have another baby. I could get really sick. Or Josh could. Or the kids could. Someone in my family could really need me for something that takes up a lot of time. I could get a new church responsibility that keeps me busier than my current one. So much of it is uncontrollable and impossible to predict. So for now, I bask in the guilty pleasure of living the good life. And I pray and thank God for the life I have. And I wonder what the future will bring, knowing that whatever it is, I'll be up to the challenge because I am strong.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Empty Places in my Head

It's the empty places in my head that always cause trouble. This morning as I drowsily shifted from my back to my left side, I felt a slow, sludgy shift happening. Some viscous liquid was slowly settling from the back of my head to the left side. I hate congestion. Congestion is just one step away from a sinus infection. And all because there are holes inside my head, waiting to fill with crud.

Earlier this week, I became aware of a different kind of empty place in my head. To wit, my brain seemed to be made of swiss cheese as I found my memory of even recent events paper thin. People would ask me questions and I'd look at them and say, "Wait. What were we talking about?" This is a very disconcerting feeling, to feel like my brain may have taken a vacation.

It may have been this sickening feeling of mental slowdown (shutdown?) that inspired my trip to the library yesterday. I looked up my GoodReads "to read" list and wrote down almost every one of the novels that I've been looking forward to. Then I searched the library catalogs to see what was available. I also wrote down some author's names that generally prove rewarding. And so it was that I came home from the library with two arms full of:

* War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
* The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
* Middlemarch by George Eliot
* My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
* The Gift of Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
* The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
* Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
* Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
* The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck

...and... since every meal of hearty protein and fiber deserves a bit of sticky-sweet dessert....

* Beauty: A Retelling of Beauty & the Beast by Robin McKinley

I haven't totaled up the pages here yet, but it appears to be about 5000 at first glance. I know it's impossible to read all of this before the library demands I remember the "borrow" policy that they so forcefully insist on. It's impossible with my current responsibilities.

Impossible doesn't daunt me, though.

I left the library with a huge grin smothering my face. If I'm lucky, those empty places in my head will start to fill up with cerebral goodness instead of a winter cold. I'll remember what I was talking about two minutes before.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I'm getting dumber, one microblurb at a time

There was a time when I blogged about interesting things. I think.

There was a time when I tried to make sense of the world around me with not-so-original-or-clever-but-at-least-slightly-meaningful connections between different aspects of my life.

Then I met Facebook. The first invite, I ignored. The second invite, I reluctantly clicked and peeked. When one of my friends told me they hardly ever checked their Facebook profile, I said coolly, "Yeah. Me too. I usually forget all about it." It was a badge of courage that I wasn't sucked into the whole Facebook phenomenon.

And then.... what happened? My blog is forgotten and I am micro-blogging twice a day on Facebook and compulsively checking to see which of my peeps are online. I know about Mark's eye surgery and Tennille's feelings about school holidays and Greg's trip to Disneyland and Gail's considered trip to Disneyland and the controvery about whether or not UEA is a good time to go and all about Danielle's family's health. One microblurb at a time.

Funny they call that a "social" site when it makes "socializing" so simple that I don't even need to talk to anybody to get my 411. On one hand, I'm more in the loop than ever before.... and on the other hand (was a glove?) I am pushed toward an anti-social laziness that exceeds the likes of my '96 IRC cravings. At least with that, we'd have get-togethers to watch General Conference and figure out what Raven9936 looked like in real life. (We all know that even really ugly people can make themselves look hot with a good camera angle. See my profile for details.)

So that is my life as a Facebooker. I have summarized my previously-semi-deep ramblings into one line summaries. I no longer have to pick up a phone to find out what's new in the neighborhood. It's all there ready to click. Two minutes to check the updates, 10 seconds to update my profile blurb, and a few minutes to "talk" to someone who's online.

Now what? Now comes the guilt of neglecting my blog that I used to enjoy. And the exhilaration of discovering that long lost friend from high school that I think I had a really meaningful conversation with once and that means we're totally BFFs now that we've reconnected in the Facebooksphere. And the wondering if my entire life is becoming a microblurb or if my brain cells are still in there, somewhere deep, wondering why they aren't getting used.

I'll let you decide. In the meantime, I bring you my last month in a nutshell, according to Facebook:

Juliana is feeling super energetic and excited about life.10:03am

Juliana is looking forward to two days in sunny California next week! Seriously, nobody wants to watch my kids? Have you seen how CUTE my kids are? ;). 6:38pm

Juliana is in pain and hoping it goes away quickly.8:03am

Juliana is recovering from the joys of a CT scan.2:26pm

Juliana discovered the cause of her pain ... an ovarian cyst ... no worries for now :). 3:51pm

Juliana is feelin' happy again. 5:13pm

Juliana needs to get a grip. 10:07am

Juliana is updating her Facebook status. 8:35pm

Juliana is waiting patiently for the time when I drive to the airport. 2:08pm

Juliana is enjoying semi-sunny California. 9:45pm

Juliana has been awake for hours ... while her sister and nephew are still sound asleep... aww the curse of being a morning person! 10:10am

Juliana has less than 24 hours until she returns to frigid Utah.10:49pm

Juliana is home again and has Portos pastries for those who want to come try 'em out! 10:11pm

Juliana is tidying the effects of an afternoon with three little boys. 4:25pm

Juliana has a long name. 6:26pm

Juliana just discovered an awesome party going on at the No.Orem Maceys ... my kids had a blast! 12:55pm

Juliana is going to strangle Facebook's chat feature.8:07pm

Juliana has a cold. 7:54am

Juliana has finished four books in four days. This is an ominous sign for the housework. 2:58pm

Juliana used to think that rainy weather made my children sleep in. This morning's pre-6 a.m. awakening by two of the three is evidence that my theory was flawed. 6:27pm

Juliana is planning the twins' preschool for next year. Who wants to carpool to the UVU preschool (held at Orem Elementary)? It's THE BEST! 9:43am

Juliana is adapting her chocolate ice cream recipe to make it a toasted hazelnut Nutella chocolate ice cream... It's can't turn out badly, can it? 3:12pm

Juliana is finishing up "The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday."4:32pm

Juliana is yawning ... Preschoolers who wake me up five times in the middle of the night are very disruptive. 10:57am

Juliana has been awake with sick kids since 3:30 a.m. This should be interesting. 7:46am

Juliana met her husband 14 years ago this evening.3:19pm

Juliana totally forgot the Valentine's for preschool until the last second. Oops... 12:30pm

Juliana likes the flair. 4:14pm

Juliana is feeling the sleep deprivation slowing her down.2:26pm

Juliana might be getting a cooking lesson from the chef of Costa Vida! 4:08pm

Juliana is enjoying a peaceful Saturday and Valentine's Day sugar cookies :). 11:59am

Juliana is stressed with three screaming, arguing boys.9:57am

Juliana is finally back to a happy schedule with the kids in school. 9:14am

Juliana is impressed that Facebook is so willing to listen to the users. 7:22am

Juliana is singin' the blues ... off key. 6:58pm

Juliana wants to know what you would ask the head chef of Costa Vida to teach you if you were going to get a private cooking lesson? 2:48pm

Juliana is feeling guilty about using a cake mix for her son's birthday cake instead of going homemade. The homemade chocolate-mint-Oreo ice cream will make up for it.12:09pm

Juliana is blogging about micro-blogging. 9:14pm

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Book Talk :: North and South

North and South
by Elizabeth Gaskell

Q: What do you get if you mix together one part Jane Austen, one part Charles Dickens and one part Stephenie Meyers?

A: Elizabeth
Gaskell's "North and South."

It would be hard not to compare this book with Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," since they are both Victorian novels, written by women, about unlikely lovers who seem to hate each other all the way until ... they don't hate each other anymore.

While Jane Austen's work are, in my rather sentimental mind, perfection itself, this book left me irritated and unsatisfied, the way Stephenie Meyers' books do. The irritation arises from the fact that the book could have been so much more than it is. I feel the same irritation when I read the Meyers' books, which really do have interesting plots and concepts, but really fall short in execution.

So a quick disclaimer: I really enjoyed reading this novel and, my apologies to Ms. Meyers, this book was infinitely better than most modern novels. And now, forgive me as I tear it to shreds. First off, let's start at the end. The entire book seems to build toward the ultimate Happily Ever After, which would, of course, be the wedded bliss of our heroine, Margaret. Yet when that climatic event occurs, it is anticlimactic to say the least. It is hurried. It is illogical. There is nothing in the scene to dictate that this is a logical moment for our hero to speak. Yet he does. And what does he say? "Margaret... Margaret... Margaret..." How does she reply? She puts her head down on the table. Then he puts his arms around her.

And that is our climatic love scene?!? Weak! I felt cheated. Then the book just abruptly ends. This was the worst sort of "a woman's only joy is to find marriage" drivel I could imagine. At least "Pride & Prejudice" gives us a humorous and witty account of what happens after they are married.

Secondly, the amount of melodrama amazed me. Not one, not two, not three, but four main characters die in quick succession. The first two have been hinted at so long that I was rather bored with the fact that it took them so long to kick the bucket. The last two were senseless, sudden and melodramatic. Yes, poor Margaret is living a sad life. Okay, you've made your point. And then some.

Lastly, the characters themselves were overly weak, melodramatic and illogical. The amount of swooning and fainting in this novel was amazing[
ly pathetic]. Seriously, how can I take a main character seriously when she is constantly swooning? How many times did she hit the floor or lay on the couch unconscious?

While I'm on a roll, the constant sickness and death was far too mysterious for me. Things were constantly referred to in oblique terms and not explained to the reader. Are we supposed to guess what the disease is when the only hints given are pain, tiredness and the knowledge that the person can never get better? I'm sorry, but that is a bit too obscure for my untrained mind. And it irritated me, because so much of the story revolved around these mystery illnesses.

Now that I've got that out of my system, I'll state again that I did enjoy reading this novel. The story was complex, which is to my taste, and had a bit of historical context, which is somewhat like fiber: it's good for me, whether I like it or not. Unfortunately, I can see why this classic is not a true classic like "Pride & Prejudice." It dragged in places, was overly dramatic and left a lot wanting in many areas.

One of the reasons I put this book on my "To Read" list was the note that the author, Elizabeth
Gaskell, had been mentored by none other than the great Charles Dickens. I'm afraid that my opinion of Dickens, who edited this novel, actually went down after finishing this book.

Monday, February 02, 2009

O.P.E.R.ation: Internet

Imagine it's Christmas morning. You have a cold. It's not going to ruin your festivities, but you feel just a bit mellowed out as your body fights off infection. The zest and fire has gone out of your eyes. As you open presents, you mutter a quiet, "Thank you very much" as people watch on, hoping they chose the perfect gift.

Your mother-in-law is annoyed. She has been planning this perfect gift for months. She special-ordered it from Sweden. And now you hardly seem excited at all. She thinks you don't like it. In your heart, you are touched and overwhelmed, but that cursed cold just makes an enthusiastic response impossible.

You've fallen victim to what I call: Obligation to Provide an Emotional Response (O.P.E.R.) Most people gauge your feelings by what they view as your emotional response to what is being said or done. You seem happy: they assume you're happy. You seem sad: they assume you're sad. This is fairly straightforward, but can cause problems because our emotions are not always straightforward.

I hate opening gifts in front of other people because of the O.P.E.R. I don't perform well under pressure. In fact, when I feel that a specific emotional response is expected, I generally have performance anxiety and the performance comes out flat. Then I feel like I've let down the gift giver and given them the impression that I'm not overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the new pot holder they gave me. (Errr ... okay, so sometimes my lack of Emotional Response is rather genuine, I admit.)

I also hate to put others under an Obligation to Provide an Emotional Response. It's just this weird thing about me. I'd prefer that others open my presents when I'm not there, unless it's something I'm really jazzed about. (Sorry, Alyson, I had to give you THAT gift in person! I was way too excited about it!)

Which brings me to the point of all this: the internet. I think this is the reason why people so frequently choose email or Facebook or Instant Messaging over face-to-face (or phone-to-phone) communication. There is no O.P.E.R. attached. Or if there is, there is a delayed obligation and the second party has plenty of time to word their feelings appropriately--even delete, revise, adjust, get feedback about, sleep on and reword those feelings until they are expressed with just the right amount of oomph.

When I email someone and ask a favor, I know they have time to think it over, look at their calendar and talk to their spouse before agreeing to the favor. Calling them on the phone feels like I'm putting them on the spot. I hate doing that. When my Dad emails me to ask what my kids would like for Christmas, I have time to look over the wishlist I made for them, decide which items I'll be investing in personally and then send him a well-thought-out reply with good suggestions.

Facebook is even vaguer. I can communicate outward to whoever is connected to me, not knowing who will read my message or when it will be read. Therefore, there is almost no O.P.E.R. When people do reply, it is a surprise and a gift. When people do not reply, there is no problem because there was no obligation involved. The same holds true with blogging. You are under no obligation to read this insanely periphrastic rambling. (That was a great Word of the Day a few weeks ago... describes me, unfortunately, too well.)

If you do read it, I have no way of knowing you read it, so I will never know what your Emotional Response was (nausea? embarrassment? a knowing shake of the head side to side?) unless you choose to leave a comment and put it in words (which you can revise, edit and even choose to delete if you prefer.)

Despite all that, I'm not a person to sit here and feel content with my laptop and a bowl of chocolates. I need people ... not just in the safety of the low expectations of the cyber world. I need to laugh with you, talk with you and cry with you. So let's get together. Email me and we'll figure out when.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Executive Decision

I'm the boss of my life, and I've made an executive decision:

Life is good.