I promise this isn’t becoming a dream journal. Stay with me, this one actually makes sense

I went to bed at 8 p.m. last night, and fell asleep immediately. I woke up a couple times to pee, and the second time, I reminded myself that I need to wake up early to prepare my little thing about sacrifice to share in Sunday School (we’re on Abraham and Isaac this week).

And then I started to dream. I dreamt I was in a car, driving to church in Maine (thanks, Charlotte ;p). It was a small car; Tom was with me, and we were younger, like in our college days. In the front seat was another college-age type guy and driving was a person from my past, someone I think less and less about every day, week, month, year, but an important person who belongs in the past. We were speeding, going way to fast. It was dark, even at close to nine a.m. in the winter. There were two little girls in the back with Tom and I; I think they were our daughters, but not really our daughters yet.

We were stopped by a cop because the person from my past was (typically) going way to fast. I did the talking and got us off with a warning, because we looked presentable and were on our way to church. We went through a dark tunnel, and now the other college-age guy was driving, and he wasn’t using his lights. We asked why he wouldn’t turn the headlights on and he said something that was probably symbolic blah-blah-blah about how the light at the end of the tunnel told him the right way even with the curves, and somehow the headlights would actually be more confusing.

We got to the church in Maine, which turned out to be a gorgeous old Victorian that a church family offered for services every week. The congregation was small, and it turned out my parents and the aunt and uncle I stayed with in Germany were there. The person from my past pulled out an iPhone and tried to show me pictures of our time together. I brushed them aside, saying I thought I hadn’t kept any pictures at all, but those pictures on the iPhone were so crisp, so clear, we were so young, and, in the pictures, having such a good time.

Then my aunt came up to me and asked if I could talk to her youngest daughter who had just had a preemie baby (but somehow it was also adopted) and she was trying to stimulate milk production so she could breastfeed this tiny new daughter, but it wasn’t going very well. I said sure, gratefully, and escaped to where my cousin was. I told her my breasts had felt full the past few days, since I’m four months pregnant, and I thought I might have some colostrum, so could I try to feed the baby? She passed the perfect, tiny baby over to me and I showed her how to latch (and there was some other stuff about aereolas and nipple stimulation, etc, but I’ll spare you that), and suddenly I was my current-day self (obviously, because I’ve nursed babies and I’m currently pregnant). And that baby went after my milk like  a sailor on shore leave and now I’m crying because I can’t wait to hold my own baby like that. I’m as excited and eager for this fourth child as I was for my first, and my second and my third, and that surprises me.

Then I woke up and realized this really puts a kink in what I was going to say in Sunday School (after I told Tom that, no, I wasn’t going to bring up anything about how the Muslims believe it was Ishmael who was sacrificed, or what I have been thinking during our family scripture study — that though the whole earth is supposed to be blessed through Abraham’s seed, it actually seems that almost every war ever fought can be traced back to Abraham through the rivalry between Christians, Jews, and Muslims).

No, I was going to say, before this little dream, that the only real thing I’ve ever sacrificed was my own ambitions, in order to be a mother, and to be a mother the way I have chosen to be. I was going to say that, of course, what I have learned in ten years of this “sacrifice” is that when I am happier in sacrificing, I think it is both a more acceptable offering to the Lord and an easier sacrifice for me to make. So the moral was that God liked Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac because there was no whining from Abraham about all the poopy diapers he and Sarah changed and all the hours they spent raising him into a kid who could actually pull his weight around the farm.

Instead I have to admit: I have sacrificed nothing.

I could say I have sacrificed this sin or that sin, and in some cases, that took a lot of work.

I could say I have sacrificed a night of sleep here or there (though much less it seems than most mothers).

I could say I have sacrificed my desire to do what I want when I want and in as much quiet as I want.

I could say I have sacrificed the life I might have had for the life I have now, but that sounds like a lie.

Now I have confused myself and have to look up sacrifice. “the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.”

Turns out I have sacrificed a lot, and hope to be able to sacrifice much more, because so far, what I’ve gotten in return is much higher and pressing.

(And yes, it is easy to say that when the kids are all still asleep and I can make pancakes and stuff my face in the blessed early-morning quiet.)

Innocent

Last Sunday we waited in the foyer after church. Spot danced around me, describing the people from the next congregation, who were leaving the chapel in ones and twos for the bathroom, a drink, a tithing envelope. “That’s a man with a mustache” she chanted (quietly). “That’s a boy with a vest.” “That’s a big lady with a big bum.” (It was.)

Yesterday Susan or Spot or Sally, somebody spilled something and didn’t clean it up. Made a mess and wouldn’t take responsibility. I couldn’t get a confession. I resorted to, “I don’t care who did it, I just want you to be honest.” They are too young and trusting (and short-memoried) to know that I do care, and that once I’ve lavished the child who was honest with praise, I’ll still make them clean it up. Susan finally relented. “Mom, can I tell you the real, real truth now?” Of course, I said, pleased. “It was Spot,” she said.

Several weeks ago at lunch, Carina said she’d read somewhere that if your kid hasn’t asked you about sex, or where babies come from by the age of seven or eight, they already know, from someone who is not you. I started to panic. Sally was turning nine the next week, and she had never asked, or when we talked about the baby, she was satisfied with answers like, “people can have a baby once they’re married and you love your husband.”

But I thought, I know my child, my girl-child who would rather gallop like a horse than strut like a Bratz doll, who reads boy books and girl books without knowing that some people think there is a difference. Who wears her holey jeans to school with the same air of indifference that she dons her church dress and says she’d prefer to get her hair cut again because she likes it just below her ears.

Who, even though I offered first when she turned eight, and again before she turned nine, doesn’t want to get her ears pierced, not yet, not now. She is wholly, completely, gloriously, still a child, my child. Who doesn’t have a cell phone, doesn’t know how to work a computer without my help, who has never seen a video game, for whom a half hour of TV watching (Fetch with Ruff Ruffman on PBS) is a treat, one that doesn’t happen every day.

Some days she watches more TV, if I am done, for whatever reason. Sometimes she will only eat one of each vegetable in the salad, and makes gagging noises when we make her try the tilapia, despite warnings to set a good example for her sisters. Sometimes she wails when I ask her to unload the dishwasher, even though I’ve been expecting it of her for what seems like a decade. Sometimes I think she must be starting her period four years early as she screams, “You hate me,” and barricades herself in her room.

But I go up to her room later and see the twenty-seven horse posters on the wall and the picture of Jesus torn out from The Friend, and, in the front and center of her dresser, the picture of a three-year old Sally in her father’s arms, kissing his cheek, in front of the great pyramid. She knows I don’t hate her.

I came home from my lunch and asked her, casually, if she knew what sex was, and how babies are made. She shrugged and said no. I breathed in relief and went to find Tom to let him know we’d be having The Talk with Sally that Sunday.

On Sunday, after my nap, I sat Sally on the couch and told Tom that, yes, he needed to actually be there, to sit and listen, and maybe say a few things. I was surprised how apprehensive I was. I’m not shy about sex, or uncomfortable with my children, but The Talk is a delicate thing to balance.

I wanted Sally to a) feel how much we love her and want her to be happy, b) believe two seemingly contradictory things: that 1) sex is good and fun and special and 2) it’s only like that after you’re married (I want her to both look forward to sex as a wonderful, natural, normal part of life, and to resolve within herself to wait for it), and c) to comprehend some good, accurate information (I spent the years eight to thirteen thoroughly confused about one part of the male anatomy).

I started out talking about how dad and I got married, but resorted to the same thing that calmed me on my wedding day. I asked her about Adam and Eve, and what God told them, and what they did. I don’t believe the only purpose of sex is procreation, but it’s a big part, and it helps to think of it in those terms, biologically, especially as my own tummy gets rounder and rounder. I explained that sex also helps married people love each other more.

She had some questions. “Have you and dad, you know, done it?” I said, well, we do have three kids. “When do you do it?” And I told her, if our door is locked, like on a Saturday morning or a Sunday afternoon, you probably don’t want to come in anyway.

And then she asked, “How does it feel?” I looked at Tom. He didn’t want to answer that one. I said, you know how you feel when you’re really, really hungry and then you finally eat something? Or when you have to sneeze and then it finally comes, and it’s a relief? Something like that, but better. “But how does it feel?” (That was the only question I deferred until she’s older, like thirty-five and engaged. I promised to tell her everything when she is engaged.)

It was easy to explain keeping our bodies clean and pure to Sally, and why we do things differently even when the rest of the world takes sex lightly, because she’s used to choosing modest clothing from racks of stuff “we don’t wear,” and she knows that there are kid movies and mommy movies, for example, and that some good things are only good when you are older, like riding in the front seat of the car (even Spot can tell you that you have to be twelve for that). (There have been exceptions, of course, but only when mom said so.)

I remembered how, when I first went through the temple, I thought, this is all stuff we learned in Primary. Be obedient, serve the Lord, keep your covenants. The Talk is a little different, just like the temple the first time is a little different. It’s a big milestone, a moment in time that separates you a bit from childhood and pushes you toward adulthood. But I realized, instead of being disjointed, instead of being some big thing outside everything else we’ve ever taught her, it was just another step in what we’ve always been teaching her. (Forget for a moment how I teach them to yell and swear, when I forget that everything I do that they see is teaching them something.)

Tom finally made a contribution, at the end. He told Sally that she could ask us anything, anytime. In fact, we want her to talk to us about this stuff and not her friends, because we know there is a difference between sacred and secret. Of course when she’s older she’ll talk to her friends, her roommates, and that’s okay. As long as she remembers where she heard it first.

And then she asked one last question. At the beginning of The Talk, she was curled on the couch, knees to her chest, eyes half-hidden, giggles issuing from her circled arms. Slowly she unfolded, turned towards us, as her interest overcame her embarrassment.

So despite all my faults, my tantrums, my discontents, the days I shout for no reason and use the mean voice instead of the patient voice that is smart enough to know these kids are only children, only young, only innocent, Sally asked, finally, “Can I have a hug?”

And I wondered if Susan, at five, is really too young for The Talk.

The deep pink hat society

A week ago, I was walking to Chrysanthemum’s house for our morning constitutional, and I waved to another friend driving by in her pristine black minivan. She is the kind of lady (Barbie) who I would normally not bother to make friends with because she is too-perfect looking (I am a reverse-appearance snob), but I met her at church lady aerobics, and she’s funny and interesting.

I looked down at myself after waving to her. I was all dressed up for my morning walk, yoga pants stretched over my pregnant bum (yes, I get a pregnant bum) and my old red fleece sweatshirt that was a hand-me-down from Mimi’s husband ten years and nine moves ago. It has holes in it from flying ashes while camping, but it is still my favorite sweatshirt.

The pockets on both sides were weighed down below the hem, sticking out, bouncing on my legs, with a small water bottle and an apple. I had my ugly beanie and funny old-lady mittens on. My face was not as clear as my pregnancy skin often is. Oh, and I was wearing my (again favorite) prescription sunglasses, also ten years old, that are quite unfashionably-shaped, but they are polarized so they give everything a soft rose tint.

And I thought, I can’t wait until I’m 50 and I can wear whatever I want, and do whatever I want, and no one will think anything of the eccentric old lady down the street. (Apologies to my young 50-year old readers.)

Then I realized two things: I already do wear and do what ever I want (obviously, mostly).

And: I am becoming my mother. (hurray!)

This post started out as a much-too-long comment on Charlotte’s blog.

HELLO Second Trimester

Two words: Sex dreams. Discuss.

(not your husband) (Pierce Brosnan — younger, like in The Thomas Crown Affair or James Bond) (HOT, oh my) (okay, if I were conscious and choosing these things it’d be Russell Crowe (the Gladiator one, not the puffy Insider one) or Taylor Lautner’s abs — he could wear a paper bag* and not talk, right?) (but it was Pierce Brosnan, a Pierce Brosnan who was also every crush you ever had in your hormone-fueled teenage imaginings) (HOT)

I would probably feel guilty if a) I had not suffered through several abandonment dreams and b) I had not been rudely awakened about three-fourths of the way in. Instead, I feel just a little bit . . .  frustrated.

(also: HOT)

*The paper bag is so you don’t have to think about how young he is. Once he cut his hair in that one movie, he was quite presentable.

Going to bed angry

You know how they say the number one thing married people fight about is money?

I hate that it is the number one thing that Tom and I fight about too, because we don’t have one of those marriages. We have a happy marriage.

But bring out the budget talk, or, worse, the Freelance Eviscerator Taxes, and . . .  Let’s face it, it’s mostly me. (Because I always do the taxes.) (And because I am a shrew the likes that would make milquetoast Bianca look good.)

Do you fight about money the most? (If you never fight, and by fight of course I mean “discuss rationally and lovingly but from understandably different points of view” then try to make something up, because I already feel bad enough.)

Breasts and Burqas

*This post is not about whether you breast or bottle feed; as long as you make a thoughtful and informed decision, who cares? — unless your thoughts or information are wrong, of course, but really — This is about cultural norms of modesty(?), and why in the heck is Utah so weird?

My mom is a sort of den mother for a mommy group over at the BYU, because my dad is on the High Council (church thing that sounds more highfalutin’ than it is) over at the BYU, and because my mom has lots of mother/homemaking-type skills to share. (And now she’s read the Aeneid, too, which I never finished (or possibly even started) when I took History of Civilization in college, so, good job, Mom!)

We were talking about breastfeeding on Sunday night, which we talk about an awful lot for people who are not currently breastfeeding, and she said that the women in her mommy group do not breastfeed in front of each other, even in each other’s homes. One woman will say to the other woman (no men present), “The baby’s hungry, I better get home to feed him.” Not even with a hooter hider or a blanket.

This confounds me.

When we were in Cairo, it was pointed out to us by a native-type lady that there was a strange phenomenon occurring, where the older women, the professional women, the secretaries and workers and mature ladies in public wore no headcovering, or a very simple, not-concealing, high-fashion material-type scarf headcovering, and that it was the younger generation of women who were, some of them, adopting plain, concealing hijabs, and in some cases, burqas (although I think they had a different name for them in Cairo, and unlike in Saudi Arabia they aren’t blue, but black, which is even hotter).

This was confounding, even to the native-type lady.

In Cairo, there are womens-only subway cars, and at first this sounds sexist and ghetto-izing, but the women (including me) like it. The women’s cars always smelled better, for one thing. And in those women’s cars, among the women in burqas, the women in hijabs, the women in clothes much modester than most Westerners would ever wear, they breastfeed. Openly. In front of complete strangers!

Is this just a Utah/Mormon thing/why is it/what the tarnation is going on?

And . . . will I be completely ostracized in September? I’m tempted to vow that if I get so much as one comment, I’m moving back to the Middle East, where people understand women!

The thing I love best about Tom

Today at church I entertained some (quite probably blasphemous) thoughts. I was bursting to share them, but I restrained myself throughout the beautiful, music playing softly in the background lesson on Jesus Christ, our chosen Leader and Savior.

As soon was we walked in the door afterwards, rushing to change into comfortable clothes (pajamas) and to make lunch for the family before we just stuffed our faces out of the refrigerator, I told Tom my thoughts and he listened, nodded and then we started talking about something else.

He was in a grumpy mood today, but he was still the only person I could tell what I was thinking, and really, the only person I wanted to.

And even though he was grumpy, he made us read scriptures as a family tonight, which is a new program, finally successful, in which he or I (usually he, because he is the Mary to my Martha in this household, how can you think of reading scriptures when this house is such a mess?) read the chapter ahead and then tell it as a story to the girls, who now know more about the early Old Testament than I did until college. We have Sally read pertinent passages, and they have to answer three questions at the end (Susan’s idea). I think  family scriptures at the end of a long Sunday and three hours of church is an abomination but I still love Tom, and I hope he keeps making us do it.

p.s. I’m glad our first date, twelve years ago today went well, and that you weren’t scared when I told you two days later that we should get married, even if you think now that you were the one who proposed. Whatever.