Friday, October 2, 2015

WWPP: The Beginning

I guess it will be obvious even if I don't spell it out that this idea was inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert, both for the obvious reason (to follow) and because her ideas on creativity have convinced me that I have an obligation to my creative impulses to act on them. I've been pondering and pondering what to do next, and this was one (of several) answer(s).

I liked Eat, Pray, Love. I was late to the game (because I'm grumpy like that), but I think that Gilbert had some lovely things to say about belief and self care. When I brought it up to some mom-friends, though, I got an almost unanimous "Hated it." Because not everyone has an editor to pay for lovely vacationy rehab. Because she's probably very lovely, but Gilbert comes off as a little saccharine. Because of the insinuation that you have to travel the world, leave your relationships, etc etc to find enlightenment.

I'm interested by the Early Christian/pre-Christian ascetics--those who left civilization behind to see for Truth in the desert. I'm a desert/mountain girl and so the stark landscapes appeal to me. But I'm also a Mormon. Community is important in Mormonism, family in particular is important. We don't take Paul's lead and marry only because it's better to marry than to burn, we think family is a central piece of the plan. So often it appears that family obligations get in the way of the reflective time necessary to draw close to God.

But I wonder if there's another way to see this. Can we find God in nitty-gritty of every day? In my case, the knee deep nits and grit and sometimes mindnumbing routine of motherhood? I'm in this routine anyway, is there a way that I can make this time feel more holy?

For the next 4 months (unless longer maybe) I want to wrestle with four topics, in turn, that I think are things the motherhood and Godhood have in common: Prayer, Play, Work, Witnessing. I'm going to take these topics in turn and study how God views and uses them, how they play into my mothering, how I might improve my mothering and my relationship to God through them.

For those of you following: it's going to get super Mormony around here, so play nice, huh?


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Dear College-bound Nieces: 10 Pieces of Unsolicited Advice

There are plenty of things I'm not an expert on. College is not one of those things. As my cute nieces are jumping into their last summers at home, I've been going over the things I learned from my nearly-a-decade at school, and here I offer some of those things, unsolicited:

1. Find a tribe. It may be a club, it may be your freshman roommates, it may be an on campus job, hopefully some combo of all of these things, but having friendly faces and a place on campus where you feel comfortable will mean the difference between disoriented lonesome wandering and starting to feel at home. This can also mean going out of your way to meet people. Be nice, be outgoing, even if you don't feel like it.
2. Get an on campus job. It may be that you don't need to work to support yourself. It may be that you're taking 21 credit hours (this is a bad idea), it doesn't matter: get a job, on campus. It may be somewhere random like the lost and found or somewhere that really applies to your field, like a TA. Both have benefits, both are a good idea. It doesn't have to get in the way of school (don't let it) or in the way of your social life (if done right, it will help more than hurt). You have the time. Some benefits:
  • A) a tribe, one that you're forced into proximity with, for good or bad, where you can learn more about yourself and others.
  • B) a home away from your apartment. Apartments are great places, don't get me wrong, but it's nice to have a place to go to where you don't have to worry about chore charts or that third roommate you're not so sure about.
  • C) a letter. One day you're going to apply for grad school or a job and someone's going to ask for a letter of recommendation. You will certainly have professors who you've grown close to, but if you can find a job as a TA or RA, you'll have someone who really knows you and your work and who can really open doors for you.
  • D) A line on your resume. Show grad schools or your employer that you can take care of business.
  • E) Spending money. Jobs on campus don't pay nothing, but you're not going to get rich. It's nice, though, to have a little extra cash on hand for marginally responsible road trips or hair dye.
  • F) Something to worry about that isn't school. It's hard to write papers, it's hard to TA a class, but they're different kinds of hard so are good breaks from each other.
3. Travel! Study abroad, go on marginally responsible road trips, save up for a trip to Italy. You can make the time and you'll never have as much freedom again.
4. Don't take 8:00 classes. You think you can handle it (early morning seminary!), but two months into the semester you will hate yourself. I promise.
5. Don't skip class, much. So I'll be honest. I had a Health/PE class I stopped going to after the second test. I had great physiology in high school, attendance wasn't mandatory, and I pulled a B+. Not my best grade, but I'm not losing sleep. On the other hand, I had students that just stopped coming class midsemester. Or didn't come on the day a paper was due, or didn't turn in a paper before they left for Christmas break. These students got worse grades than I did and also were dumb. The point: there will be times when skipping class is totally worth it, but don't get carried away!
6. Take a fun class (or two). Russian Literature! The History of Jazz! Every once in a while take something you're not required to take--it's fun and good for your brain. It also makes you look like an interesting person to grad schools. (I did take a lot longer than I needed to to get through my undergrad, but I know plenty of people who graduated in 4 years who also wandered a little.)
7.  Take honors classes. They're easier (less busy work), they're smaller, they're usually geared to align with the professor's interests, all winners.
8. Don't be afraid to shop around for classes. You can add/drop classes for the first two weeks of the semester. I didn't get to be a real pro at this until maybe my junior year, but: if a class/professor seems boring or uninspired, find a new one! If you didn't get into a class you really wanted, email the professor beforehand and then show up. You won't always get in, but you often will. A professor will really make or break the subject matter so particularly for classes that matter, find someone you love!
9. Study groups! They're fun, they're (generally) waay better than they were in high school and you get to hang out with people you like outside of class. And you can bring cookies. Don't be afraid to initiate 'em.
10. Take classes one Spring/Summer semester. This is mostly for Provo kids: it's magical.
11. Get off of campus once in a while. The college town you live in expands beyond the bounds of campus, and so should you. Wander off a little to find the great pupusas, the quirky thrift stores, the adorable neighborhoods and great hiking trails that college kids don't always get to appreciate.

Have fun! Be nice! Draw closer to Heavenly Father!
The End.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Best of the Week
James: Valentine's Day Date (2 latest episodes of Sherlock)
Kjerstin: We went to a marriage seminar and part of it was saying nice things to each other. It was really nice to reconnect. (Also: successful paella!)
Isaac: Walked! Loves being outside (and the weather lets him!)

You read right: we have a walker! He won't do it while we're filming, and almost won't if we're watching. The first big jag was out by the pool carrying a fire poker from the fire pit. Like 8 steps! He's been so close for so long I'm not surprised that he's pretty comfortable. But our little guy! Sherry and I both dreamed that he started running as soon as he started walking, and we're halfway there.

This week has been *gorgeous.* I went on a hike Wednesday in the sun. And today was lovely and lakey and beautiful. I am all for sudden springs--it was 30 on Monday and 70+ today and I love it.

Also, Valentines Day was a big success: I got out of Costco with 1 item (miracle) and out of Central Market (which is wonderful--Whole Foods with better produce and less pretension somehow) under $20 and paella, though complicated, is wonderful and forgiving and delicious. We had a super low-key night: Paella, grapefruit smoothies, Sherlock on Scott and Sherry's bed, hazelnut gelato. Mellow, lovely.

I also had big plans to give these lovelies to my in-laws for V-day:

 They didn't turn out quite as beautifully as I'd hoped, but were super tastey, and the orange-gorgonzola cream cheese that accompanied them is otherworldly. My friend Amy at Club Narwhal wrote about them and man that girl know how to pair flavors.

James worked a *ton* this week. He spent a big chunk of time painting one of the offices, but also is really upping clinical hours. Busy and awesome. He learned about this couple's seminar that we did Saturday. It focused on communication--lots of active listening stuff--and was full of good reminders. It was nice to spend the day together and was a nice entree into talking about all sorts of stuff.

Finally, James' mom turned *75* today. We're sending her to Chichin Itza (and it's the end of winter) so we did big tissue paper flowers and streamers, Brazilian lemonade, salmon, asparagus. Lynette made tiramisu (thank you very much). And the Ballards, of course, know how to have a good time. There was singing and lots of laughing and so much delicious food.

We're all entirely exhausted and excited for a new week.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Feb 2.

Best of the Week
Isaac: Getting a huge cheer every time he stands up from sitting.
Kjerstin: Friday I worked on my thesis for a couple of hours. Successfully!
James: Miter saw!

Cold this week. Texas isn't alone of course, but has been such a ridiculous winter. For the grownups, of course, the cold doesn't count for much (except bad attitudes maybe), and Isaac actually seems unfazed. He wears his adorable hoodies and sits contentedly when I walk him across parking lots and mostly contentedly when I buckle him into his carseat (which has recently become his least favorite place in the universe).

Also, Isaac started sleeping in his own bed again! It's actually appropriately timed--those teething and sleeping problems from my last post pushed him into our bed in the first place. We didn't want to just pop him in his crib and let him cry it out, so we're gradually getting less involved--sitting farther away from his crib, giving him more time to work things out, etc. Last night was much much better than last Sunday night which I spent in large part on the floor and Isaac spent screaming his guts out and pointing at our bedroom door (poor kiddo) but we're all still a little grouchier than we'd like.

We're on walk alert. Isaac has taken a couple of shuffly steps, but seems pretty determined to keep crawling for the moment. We try and stand him up away from furniture, but he's a pretty savvy and also stubborn little guy. I'm a little worried (we're coming up on 14 months here), but, also, he walks when he walks. Other adorable things: he's more and more vocal. These last couple of days he's been exploring the shriekier registers. Mostly charming. He's discovered our bathroom drawers--loves lotion. When we raised our right hands to sustain the newly called folks at church today, he raised his right hand too. And this morning when we were cuddling he starting running his fingers through my hair (I do this all the time lately because he has the best hair). Melt.

Karen (James' mom) took me to Rusalka at the movie theater on Saturday. It's a Dvorak opera that reads like The Little Mermaid. Except sad. Renee Fleming was the lead and gorgeous. And the costumes were weird and beautiful. It was lovely to get out of the house and a lovely opera.

James has been working like crazy. He's getting new clients all the time and also doing some housekeeping stuff around the office (painting, organizing) which he loves. He made a bad-a trebuchet with/for our cute nephew yesterday with the miter saw he bought himself with Christmas money.

No pics this week (but next for sure).

Saturday, November 2, 2013

And we're out...

This last couple of weeks has been *exhausting.* Great, and fun, and productive, but: I started a new job--Target for the holidays, I'm usually in a 6 which means up at 5, Isaac has stopped sleeping through the night by himself (grm), James has been waiting anxiously for his license to go through so he can get to work for real, and the Texas Ballards threw an enormous, elaborate Halloween party to which I've dedicated (delightedly) most of my free time.

The upsides (and there are a lot): Target has been really nice to me. It's nice, for a moment, to be overqualified and entirely prepared for a job. They've been great about working with our schedule and have me working good positions (not so much with customers which is nice), and it's nice to have somewhere to be every day.
Isaac has cute new teeth, and is working on a couple more, it looks like. He only had is two bottom ones for so long, and these top 4 have come in w/in a month of each other.
James is licensed! It's a **huge** weight off our shoulders--he can start taking on clients for real (he's done cotherapy up to now), getting a pay check, etc. Plus he's been calling the state licensing office twice a week following up with paper work. Done. Done and done. He's bona fide!
And Halloween was brilliant. We ended up with a Harry potter theme--James hung 150 candles from the ceiling, Danny (brother) and kids put together spooky stuff outside (including a dementor on a zipline and corpse in the pool, it was so brilliant), and I worked on food. In case you were wondering, a good butterbeer uses cream soda and homemade butterscotch syrup. It was silly. We had 100-ish people show up; a good time was had by all. [I dressed Isaac up as the snitch. I just couldn't be more pleased with myself--he was so so adorable.]

Speaking of the baby: he's doing great. He loves crawling, trying new food, and cuddles. He's into all cabinets (with a penchant for forbidden things), can pull things off low tables and counters, is still calling everything/one Da! but I think really says Dad! and Hi! Today he was nodding at me so enthusiastically (what he does when he's delighted) that he fell over backwards. He was also great considering some weird hours and late nights. I just love this kid.

Ok, speak of the devil, someone needs some loves. :)


Sunday, October 6, 2013

October 6

All of the cliches are true: it's like I have a new boy every week. Highlights include:
1. His first kiss that wasn't drippy-slobbery or bitey. Maybe he just caught my cheek with an open mouth? I'll take it.
2. His face is getting long. He's getting handsomer and I didn't think that was possible.
3. He loooved Conference. All the faces and voices and oh the Mo-Tab! He was surprisingly amendable to the entire thing.
4. His top teeth *finally* poked through. Poor kid, he's been sleeping terribly (for him) (for us), but they're out!
5. He's still our little vacuum, keeps me on my toes and our kitchen floor clean.
6. A highlight for me: I was getting him ready for bed and hadn't put his diaper on and he was soo cute, I tossed naked Isaac into the air and he giggled and giggled. This is the best thing I've ever done in my life ever.
7. He's off of fishlips (how did he learn how to do that!?) and onto blowing raspberries all the time. And ducklips. He also will bobble his head at you if you make a game of it. 
He's still scooting and faking us out with words that aren't. We spend a lot of time in his baby backpack which he is super patient with--I think he likes seeing what's going on. We hike a couple mornings a week in a park down the street and he usually falls asleep for an hour or so. It's lovely.

Other news: I got to visit with a college pal who lives on the other side of Dallas and her two girls. It was so great, one of those things where the 10 years that passed since a long conversation are just more fun things to chat about. And her girls are old enough to love the baby, it was just fun.

We're trucking. James is working 3-4 nights a week, he's getting his client base filled up. We're still waiting for his test scores so we can get his license through, but it looks like there's movement there too. And Conference was wonderful--so much good, no-nonsense practical advice. A lot of things to think about and to work on. Though there were some hard things, I haven't felt this touched by Conference for a long time.

Onward and upward, hurrah!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sept. 8

This week flew!

James' work is picking up a little. He's working Tuesday evenings, and is helping out with a similar program on Saturdays. He was called on to translate this week and it was rough--new vocab, a touchy situation, etc etc. I'm sure he did great, but on Saturday night it was all we could do to get our teeth brushed and fall into bed. He's working on getting up to date on the program his boss uses, so is doing a bunch of research for them.

I had a sort of floppy week. We've all been a little sick (I think the baby caught something from his cousins who've just started school again), and I'm trying to work on my thesis but a) I'm letting it get to me and b) we need to pay tuition so all this week was this battle of should we/shouldn't we. We will, and it will be fine, but the ambiguity made working seem sort of useless...anyway. I found some really interested recent articles that set the stage really beautifully; I just need to write the thing.
Highlights: I did a dry run of pumpkin pasties for our Halloween party. I did curry and lime/garlic Mexican-y, and a traditional one. My favorite, though, was bacon and collared greens with a little molasses. Nom. Also this week: peach and watermelon salad w/key lime, mint, basil, sriracha, and queso fresco. Winner. I'm excited for fall, but it's cooled down enough to feel like proper summer, and I'm in the mood for stone fruit al fresco.

And the baby is doing his thing. He loves babbling dadada, and he hasn't quite realized that he's talking about his dad, but we're working on that. He's still scooting--not quite off his belly yet, and he has no sign of any other teeth. I'm almost convinced he won't get any more. He also got a haircut this week but, alas, it was my first cut and I was going of an only semi-helpful YouTube looks fine with a little mousse? But like a little monk w/out it. I think I get credit for not cutting his ear off by accident. We're also trying to get him to use a stuffed animal instead of us/a bottle to comfort himself. He's taken to waking up screaming once or so a night and we hope that a little something will help him calm down. Right now we have a little longhorn (we're terrible Cougs) that he's starting to cuddle up to. It's adorable mostly.

And a story from the annals: James was loading Isaac into the CRV. It was just before we left Wisconsin, so Isaac was maybe 7 months. Anyway, Isaac was hanging out in the front seat for a sec while James was adjusting his car seat. James picked him up, strapped him into his seat and noticed that he had something in his mouth. J pulled on his chin, and out fell an inch-long socket, clunk, on the floor of the CRV. Of all the things to fall out of a baby's mouth...