29 June, 2008

I *heart* the Law of Chastity

No lie, I really do. The other day one of the dearest people in my life called me to ask the name of a talk he was looking for and couldn't find. It was originally given as a BYU devotional, which is why it wasn't originally available on lds.org, but after an easy google search we found the entire text of Jeffrey R. Holland's talk "Of Souls, Symbols and Sacraments." Coincidentally, today in church we had the big annual Chastity Talk with a member of the bishopric and his wife. They passed out copies of this talk initially, and the lesson was one of the most mature, frank, funny, and uplifting discussions on chastity I have ever experienced.

Some fabulous quotes from both Elder Holland and Brother and Sister Magleby:

"Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire." Robert Frost

"May I suggest that human intimacy, that sacred, physical union ordained of God for a married couple, deals with a symbol that demands special sanctity. ... [S]uch a total, virtually unbreakable union, such an unyielding commitment between a man and a woman, can only come with the proximity and permanence afforded in a marriage covenant, with the union of all that they possess--their very hearts and minds, all their days and all their dreams. They work together, they cry together, they enjoy Brahms and Beethoven and breakfast together, they sacrifice and save and live together for all the abundance that such a totally intimate life provides such a couple. And the external symbol of that union, the physical manifestation of what is a far deeper spiritual and metaphysical bonding, is the physical blending that is part of--indeed, a most beautiful and gratifying expression of--that larger, more complete union of eternal purpose and promise.

As delicate as it is to mention in such a setting, I nevertheless trust your maturity to understand that physiologically we are created as men and women to fit together in such a union. In this ultimate physical expression of one man and one woman they are as nearly and as literally "one" as two separate physical bodies can ever be. It is in that act of ultimate physical intimacy we most nearly fulfill the commandment of the Lord given to Adam and Eve, living symbols for all married couples, when he invited them to cleave unto one another only, and thus become "one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). ...

That commandment cannot be fulfilled, and that symbolism of "one flesh" cannot be preserved, if we hastily and guiltily and surreptitiously share intimacy in a darkened corner of a darkened hour, then just as hastily and guiltily and surreptitiously retreat to our separate worlds--not to eat or live or cry or laugh together, not to do the laundry and the dishes and the homework, not to manage a budget and pay the bills and tend the children and plan together for the future. No, we cannot do that until we are truly one--united, bound, linked, tied, welded, sealed, married." Elder Holland

"If we relate to each other in fragments, at best we miss full relationships. At worst, we manipulate and exploit others for our gratification. Sexual fragmentation can be particularly harmful because it gives powerful physiological rewards which, though illusory, can temporarily persuade us to overlook the serious deficits in the overall relationship. Two people may marry for physical gratification and then discover that the illusion of union collapses under the weight of intellectual, social, and spiritual incompatibilities. . . .

Sexual fragmentation is particularly harmful because it is particularly deceptive. The intense human intimacy that should be enjoyed in and symbolized by sexual union is counterfeited by sensual episodes which suggest--but cannot deliver--acceptance, understanding, and love. Such encounters mistake the end for the means as lonely, desperate people seek a common denominator which will permit the easiest, quickest gratification."
Dr. Victor L. Brown, Jr.

"Sex is symbolic of intimacy. It is not intimacy itself." Brother Magleby

"You don't need experience to have success as a married couple. It's something the two of you build together." Sister Magleby

I was really impressed with everything I learned this week, both from reading the talk at my dear friend's suggestion and listening to my Priesthood leaders in church today. Just wanted to share ...

28 June, 2008

The ongoing dilemma

I lead a very interesting life. Especially since February second, when I began my current job as a nanny. I have had a lot of jobs considering I am a 23 year-old woman with as of yet no college degree.

My first job was a day care worker at Crown Hill Child Care, which happens to be owned and operated by my aunt and her lesbian partner. I love my aunts, and I loved that job. The pay was great, my co-workers were (obviously) fantastic, and I loved being with the kids all day. I was so sad when I had to quit to return to high school. Who wouldn't be? I have never liked teenagers, and this was especially true when I was one.

My second job was at Eric Gorbman catering, based at the Beth Shalom synagogue. Very good high school job: once again good pay, evenings and weekends (since our clients were all Jewish I lost a lot of gigs that were on Sunday ... but no big deal), and all my closest friends worked there too. Not to mention that we got to take home extra hummus and roast vegetables. Don't even get me started on the pita bread. Eric, our boss, was tough but fair. He was funny and dramatic ... a lot like the Jewish deli owners you see on TV shows like Seinfeld. But he was respectful and professional, and paid us under the table. Bonus: I learned how to tie a tie.

The summer between graduation and moving to Utah I worked at the law firm of a stake leader I had worked with for several years, who liked me and knew I needed money for college. He paid me much more than I deserved to organize files in the basement, type and man the phones while the "real" secretaries were away. I enjoyed it, and it looks good on resume to say I worked at a law firm as long as I don't go into too much detail about what I did.

My sophomore year I got a job for the Education in Zion Exhibit Project at BYU. I was hired by the AV department (by a guy named Ben, who loved my writing and is still a hero of mine ... I would probably have a crush on him if he weren't married with three kids) initially to write scripts, but the research for said scripts was so time-consuming that research was pretty much all I did. I also did odd jobs for Ben like tracking down ancestors of a certain person we'd like to interview, go to museums to set up interviews with eccentrics who are really into the history of the printing press ... stuff like that. Although looking back, I wish I had taken better advantage of that opportunity to network and get published, it was in every way a great job.

My freshman year I didn't work at all. But the one summer when I went home, I got a job at a UPS Store , which was in fact the worst job of my life to date. The work wasn't that bad. I don't mind retail; although plenty of people are obnoxious and demanding, I would say far more are civil and reasonable. I didn't mind wearing a dorky brown apron, and my co-workers were nice. My problem was I could never seem to satisfy my boss no matter how hard I tried. Everything I did was sub-par. Every day I did something that made her yell at me. When there was nothing to do after I had cleaned everything and checked the inventory twice, I was lazy. When someone had a question about the postal system and I didn't know the answer off the top of my head, I was stupid. When I had trouble with any of the complicated math for calculating packaging (which they now have a computer program for, darn it) I was grossly incompetent. Every little mistake was a reflection on me as a person. I came home every day close to tears. It was miserable. The really interesting thing was I worked great under pressure--as long as there were lots of customers and lots to do, I was fine. That's why I worked there during Christmas break once or twice. But as a summer job it was hell. My self-esteem took a terrible beating--I honestly thought that I was such a terrible worker, I might never be able to find a job again. And let's face it, working for UPS ... beggars ought not to be choosers. I was smart and I tried hard and had half a college degree. Some people are just never satisfied with what they have. To be fair, my boss is normally pretty likable. I stopped in to ship some stuff when I moved back to Utah after my mission and she was ecstatic to see me. She even told my dad I had been one of her favorites. Well, pray for the employees she doesn't like.

My junior year, the year before my mission, I had two jobs.

One: research assistant for the Mormon Studies Department in the BYU library. We read diaries written by Mormon pioneers, wrote summaries of them, organized and edited them, and supposedly they were to be published someday. There were two problems with this job, and both were my fault. The first was I had so much other stuff going on I put that job very low on the priority list, and it showed. The second was that my laptop kept crashing and I kept losing the little work I had done. I don't know why I never bothered saving that stuff on a jump drive. Truth be told, I wasn't very good at writing those darn summaries. I cringe to think of what Mike, my boss, thought of me at the time. That is one job I wish I could do over.

My other job was a model for the art department. I loved that job. See the entry below for details.

So now I have my first full-time job, and from my limited understanding of the US employment hierarchy, nannies rate above the food service industry, but below garbage collectors in terms of pay and benefits.

I love the kids, but of course, I love all kids. The pay is OK for Provo but still not that great. I save lots of money on groceries since I eat with the kids, and most weekends off. But the stress of this job is unbelievable.

It's not the kids, so much. The youngest two are two and one, and they can drive me crazy sometimes, but most of the time they are cute. They love me and by now know how I operate, so we are in good together, I would say. The older boys treat me like a big sister, except they do what I say. I try not to order them around, just ask them to do normal things like clean up after themselves, do their chores, call when they are going to by late, etc. Good kids all. A little spoiled, but not terminally so. Once they move out of the house and have brief reality check, they will be good men.

The real interesting thing is my boss. I love her, let me say that first. But my opinion of her is in constant flux. I just never know what to think. She hired me because she is bi-polar, first of all. I have a lot of experience with mentally ill people in my family and personal life, so I thought I knew what to expect when I took the job. But the thing about mentally ill people is that the only thing you can really expect is to be thrown for a loop. All the time.

Raising kids is stressful, let us all agree. But until recently I was in serious doubt about whether she wanted to be with her kids at all. While I watch the kids and spend time with them, she goes out to eat, goes to movies, goes shopping, gets her hair done, drives kids to various sports practices, runs various errands ... all the running the household stuff, and then some. I have never been rich, so I don't know what it's like to feel that kind of pressure. Compounding the rich people pressure is the Utah pressure to be a perfect Mormon wife and mother who always looks perfect and has it all together. I have never been a real Utahn, for which I am immensely grateful. I have never been a mother either, although I technically spend more waking time with her children than she does. Nevertheless, I could never quite get my mind around my employer's priorities.

These kids love you, lady. I thought to myself. They want to be with you. How long does that last? I started not wanting to be around my mom when I was eleven. Every kid is different, but eventually parents start chasing after their children instead of the other way around. And it made me sad how she always seemed to be avoiding her kids.

However, about a month ago I hit a huge low. I was so stressed with the kids I literally had to just put them in their cribs and leave the room, because I was afraid I was going to do something I might regret. I called my mom and asked: am I a terrible person? This two year-old kid defies me and I am filled with rage? Is this normal?

My mom said: yes. It happens to everybody. Sometimes you get so mad you want to hurt the kids. It happens. But what you have to do is take yourself out of the situation and try to remember that a baby's brain works differently than yours. You cannot put adult expectations on a baby because it won't work. Try not to freak out at them, and if you get too mad put yourself in a time out. If your kids are still alive and unharmed at the end of the day, you are a good parent.

Grown-up time outs saved my sanity. Also, I started praying for patience with the kids every day. It worked. My ability to pick my battles was honed, and now very little fazes me.

Anyway, so this little exercise taught me several things.

1. Parenting is frustrating for even the most sane of us.
2. Divine help really ... helps.
3. If parenting is hard for me, a young adult in good mental health with a ton of energy and a reputation for being slightly more patient than the average person, then how hard must it be for a mentally ill middle-aged woman with an overall high-strung personality?

I thank the Lord every day of my life that I am not high-strung by nature, incidentally. I could never marry someone like that, either. The only thing that makes me high strung is high strung people. Which is why the MTC kicked my emotional butt.

A companion of mine said that one day my husband will come home from a night with his buddies, listening to them rant about their crazy wives and their insane emotions, and he will say to me, "Baby, I don't know what I did to deserve you." Ha. We'll see.

I have strayed so far from my original topic, which is that I have finally developed compassion for my employer and am hoping against hope that she really is doing that best she can with the mental resources she has right now.

Proof: yesterday she was having a really rough day and asked me to stay until six instead of five. I had no plans for the evening and she was clearly in a fragile state, so I agreed. Then she said something on the phone that startled me.

"I know this might be a lot to ask ... and you probably do this anyway ... but could you please hold my babies for me a little extra today ... I haven't paid them very much attention lately ..."

And then she dissolved into tears. Sheesh. Poor woman. How can I criticize someone who lives with that every day? I'm going to do as the Temple Presidency always suggests and assume she is doing the very best that she can. I need to be better about that, in general. My habit of expecting the worst from everyone means I have very minimal faith in people. I'm pretty sure that Christ has faith in people even when they have done nothing to deserve it.

Why I love Lemony Snicket

"There are many things in this world I do not know. I do not know how butterflies get out of their cocoons without damaging their wings. I do not know why anyone would boil vegetables when roasting them is much tastier. I do not know how to make olive oil, and I do not know why dogs bark before an earthquake, and I do not know why some people voluntarily choose to climb mountains where it is freezing and difficult to breathe, or live in the suburbs, where the coffee is watery and all of the houses look alike."

20 June, 2008

A Super Day

Today was so much fun. Vilja, my girlfriend from freshman year, got married to Jordan in the Bountiful Temple, and so much good times were had all the livelong day. All of our girls were there. There is a group of eleven of us that have been friends since we were 18. We could not be more different, and our lives have all gone in drastically different directions, but we are seriously like sisters.

Vilja is a Finnish-American from Boston who loves Batman and hates all things girly. And yet today, her wedding day, she couldn't stop giggling. She was my rock and my lifesaver when we were in the MTC together. She also plays a mean game of Lacrosse.

Marilyn is a dentist in Baltimore. When you first meet her, you assume she is your typical blond cutie from Georgia: adorable, feminine, and more adorable. But she actually kicked ass in a rigorous science program at BYU, lorded over hundreds of boys older than her in the pre-dental club, and now rules the University of Maryland dental school. And her purse always matches her shoes.

Rachel is a Mexican-American engineer. You think she wants to kill you but actually that's just her acidic wit. She doesn't like to talk about feelings. But she tells amazing stories.

Chelsea was the most popular girl in the ward our freshman year, earning her the nickname "man-eater." But deep down she's a return missionary who owned four businesses before she was 21 and was totally pissed when she caught the bouquet tonight. Classic.

Hediyeh is an Iranian-American medical student. She is brilliant, gorgeous, funny, and about 100 pounds. No man is good enough for her. She would hike the world alone before settling down and leading a boring life.

Courtney is a mild-mannered middle school math teacher from Connecticut. She loves pop punk music, field hockey, and ... math. Which is so weird to me. But she is one of the kindest people you will ever meet.

Becca is cute, from Texas, pregnant, and more cute. Her dream is to be a suburban housewife, and she will do it. She lived in Japan while her dad was a mission president. She's also an amazing artist.

Thelma is passionate about everything, out to save the world, and has sometimes questionable taste in men. She works for the Burma Campaign in Washington DC, lived in Thailand, and is one of the greatest dancers to ever live.

Lori is an extremely talented advertising major who also happens to be hilarious and good at everything. She is confident, but never, ever cocky in the least. She and I were roommates in 704 all those years ago.

Celeste is Lori's best friend from high school. Check it out: she's a lifeguard, on the BYU ballroom dance team, and probably turns gay guys straight. She's hot. And so funny and cool you can't hate her for being beautiful. She works for an anti-porn advocacy group.

And then there's me.

See? We probably wouldn't have introduced ourselves to each other if we hadn't all been living on the Honors floor in Deseret Towers five years ago. Yet thrown together we were, and we are always there for each other and our famously varied lifestyle choices. Did I mention that all of my friends are dang pretty? When we go out together we get attention.

And when we hit the dance floor tonight at the reception, all of us shaking it and laughing and watching Vilja swish around in her wedding dress ... well I don't think I have ever been more happy.

17 June, 2008

I love this poem and wish I had written it.

Hate Poem

Julie Sheehan

I hate you truly. Truly I do.
Everything about me hates everything about you.
The flick of my wrist hates you.
The way I hold my pencil hates you.
The sound made by my tiniest bones were they trapped
in the jaws of a moray eel hates you.
Each corpuscle singing in its capillary hates you.

Look out! Fore! I hate you.

The blue-green jewel of sock lint I’m digging
from under by third toenail, left foot, hates you.
The history of this keychain hates you.
My sigh in the background as you explain relational databases
hates you.
The goldfish of my genius hates you.
My aorta hates you. Also my ancestors.

A closed window is both a closed window and an obvious
symbol of how I hate you.

My voice curt as a hairshirt: hate.
My hesitation when you invite me for a drive: hate.
My pleasant “good morning”: hate.
You know how when I’m sleepy I nuzzle my head
under your arm? Hate.
The whites of my target-eyes articulate hate. My wit
practices it.
My breasts relaxing in their holster from morning
to night hate you.
Layers of hate, a parfait.
Hours after our latest row, brandishing the sharp glee of hate,
I dissect you cell by cell, so that I might hate each one
individually and at leisure.
My lungs, duplicitous twins, expand with the utter validity
of my hate, which can never have enough of you,
Breathlessly, like two idealists in a broken submarine.

14 June, 2008

an old essay i wrote about modeling...

As a child, my passion was art. I loved the filthiness of paint, the physicality of sculpture, the irony of collage and the vibrancy of crayons and pastels. I dreamed of my future Victorian house with a solarium to use as an art studio, where I could work on paintings while my children slept. I don’t remember when my love of art began to recede and my love of other, more cerebral pursuits set in. Maybe it was when I realized I have no talent for art. I think that was in the eighth grade.

Fast forward six years. I had just been laid off from my cushy job as a research assistant when the program I had worked for lost funding. School started in less than a week, and there were groceries to buy and books to sell my soul for. That day, my roommate came home and told me that she had found the perfect employment.

“I’m a model for the Art Department!” She squealed. Sizing her up objectively, I conceded she was perfect for such a job. Blond, pert, thin, with big blue eyes, she is gorgeous, and she craves attention like I crave caffeine-free diet coke. I listened with one ear as she sang her new employment’s praises. Good money, flexible hours, nice people, and so on. As I was about to excuse myself to work on my Burger Supreme application, she shocked me by saying:

“You know, the woman that interviewed me told me that they’re looking for people who are darker and more, you know … athletically built.” She handed me a slip of paper with the Model Coordinator’s number.

Athletically built is one of the kinder euphemisms for “not skinny.” The thought of donning a bathing suit for any amount of money made me wince. But desperation being the mother of most of my decisions, I was at her office the next day.

After a brief interview and a Polaroid, I was hired. Praise Providence for BYU’s comparative lack of diversity, I thought to myself. Even a dark-haired passer can make it in this town. I celebrated my good luck by bikini shopping.

Don’t tell others about this job, the packet for new models read. Don’t forget to eat before class, don’t walk around barefoot, don’t talk to the students and for heaven’s sake, don’t fraternize with the boys! Armed with my instructions and my “uniform” (a black string two-piece, courtesy of Target), I nervously logged in for my first appointment: VASTU 348. Figure sculpting

Sweet mercy, I’m nervous. My nervousness compounded when I couldn’t find the room I was assigned to. Upon asking directions, I learned that I was in fact inside the room at the time. There just wasn’t a room number posted. Nice.

“Are you in this class?” A young man asked.

“No. Not exactly.”

“Oh, are you hoping to add?” Asked his identical twin brother. Don’t talk to the students. But what was I supposed to do? There went rule number four, never to be heard of again.

“No, I’m the model.” My troubles multiplied with each student that entered the room. Each wanted to know my name, my major, how long I had been modeling. When I told them it was first time, one girl asked if I was nervous.

“Nope.” It’s a good thing Don’t lie to the students wasn’t on there.

My first day of modeling went off without a hitch, and a few weeks later I returned. I took the shift over for my aforementioned roommate, and when I arrived the professor informed me that this gig would be for the rest of the semester, if I didn’t mind. Heck no.

We chose a simple standing pose, and I tenuously balanced myself on the wheeled platform. I fainted about five minutes later.

Don’t forget to eat before class. Whoops.

And I had broken every rule, except for Don’t tell anyone about this job. That one I have down. I …


12 June, 2008

Better Bitch than Sorry

I feel guilty for not writing in this thing as much as I should. As if I needed even one more thing to feel guilty about.

Anyway, I realized today that I have been back from my mission for six months, which lines up nicely with the fact that 2008 is approximately halfway over. Which made me think some sort of commemorative blog post was in order.

Let me just say, so far its been a banner effin year. I'm not dwelling on the negative here, I just stating the hard bloody facts. Quite a few positive things have happened: I found a job that I'm good at, I bought a car that runs year-round, I magically fell into a cheap apartment, I met and reunited with numerous dear friends, I reconciled with Vegetarianism, and I became a Temple Worker. Happy happy happy. The Lord is good to me. I'm not being sarcastic here, I know that if He has supported me this far there isn't much else he can do to faze me. And there is nothing He can do that will destroy my faith. Not to say the Forces on the Other Side (should I even capitalize that?) haven't tried. But I digress.

Conversely, my parents divorced after 27 years of misery. I was diagnosed with tuberculosis. David lost his job. Aaron died. Carlos' hepatitis treatments are starting to lose their momentum. My dad is unemployed and homeless and lives with his best friend. My heart got broken. Twice. By roommates in the same house. Cori almost lost her son. I spent my first few months in Utah shell-shocked, more often than not sitting in my room in my underwear, sometimes crying, sometimes near-catatonic. Lucky for me my roommate wasn't home much or she would have had me committed. I never imagined that coming home from a mission would have been like that.

Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done, behold the handmaid of the Lord, and all that jazz. My family has fallen apart, but I've learned a truckload about marriage from the gradual realization the the only marriage I have an insider view of is trash. You can learn a lot from the screw-ups of others. Which brings me to Friend X.

I won't use her name because 1. that's too personal even for the internet, and 2. she reads this blog with more regularity than bran muffins. However, I am immensely grateful for X, not only because she is my nearest friend at the moment (Cori will always be my Best Friend but she's a little caught up with raising a son and dealing with a terminal illness ... we all understand) but because of what I have learned from her. She lived through an experience that would have been mine, and possibly should have been; partially, I believe, so I could see the consequences.

Fresh off my mission, I fell madly in love with a guy who mentally ill, unstable, mean, unpredictable, and yet sadly, hypnotic. We were close friends, and that led to us opening up to each other, and trying to help one another deal with mounting personal problems (see the list above). I really don't know how I get myself into these predicaments. I talked to X about this boy often, and she warned me that the wisest course of action would be to withhold a relationship until he was Temple Worthy and had his life in order. Although I tried to help him with his laundry list of problems, because of my affection for him I was more of an enabler than anything else.

X warned me. And for once in my life, I listened. I can't remember if this was before or after I found out that he was messing around with another girl, but the point remains, I stopped contacting him. He was lazy and self-centered enough to not care much, and thus ended that aspect of our relationship. Remarkably, I still consider him a friend. Although no amount of begging would make me try again. Ever.

Around this same time, X got involved with a boy who was unsuitable in a similar way, although much, much worse. He also had another girl that he slept with and lied to, not to mention he was manipulative, perverted, and in every manner a sucky, abusive boyfriend. A horrible relationship ensued. Personal standards were sacrificed. Church discipline, an ugly break-up, and at least three broken hearts resulted. An all-around miserable experience, and I had season tickets to the carnage.

As I talked X through her complex and varied emotions, it hit me, time and time again, that I was watching my life play out as it would have if I had stayed with that boy as long as she had stayed with hers. My heartbreak lasted only a few months. Hers was drawn out over a year. Women all over the world do things they would never in a thousand lifetimes do normally, to keep a man around. And when the men that would take advantage of an opportunity like that meet up with women who "see the good" in them and make excuses for their rotten choices, tragedy is born. I don't normally use melodramatic language like this, but to say anything less would be disrespectful to my friend's experience. And mine.

I blame society, on a small level. I blame the culture--not just in the Church, but everywhere I've ever been--that tells women they need to be one hundred percent nice, one hundred percent of the time. That our role as nurturers equals lying down for orders, even ones we don't feel good about. That men are deep-down sex-crazed passion addicts, and to give them anything less than what they ask of our bodies is unfair. As if sex were something like oxygen, or insulin. And finally, that politeness is so inseparably connected with femininity that to be rude is to be somehow masculine. Even though rudeness can save lives.

I wish someone had sat me down when I was a young girl and told me that if I ever felt afraid with a man, no matter how unfounded or unrealistic my fear seemed, even if I had no evidence, the best thing to do is listen to my instinct and GET THE HELL OUT. Not after six months of intertwining our lives. On the first date. I wish someone had told me to be as rude as I needed to be to get out of that situation the first time something went wrong. That even if he called me a bitch, I had a right to demand whatever would make me feel safe. Better bitch than sorry.

You had better bet that my daughters and sons are going to be hearing that from me. A thousand times over. With feeling. If I can save my anyone from what X went through, I will do it.

03 June, 2008

Proof that I'm doing something right ...

Maybe I'm a still a bit starry-eyed about parenting, but I don't understand how someone could not find raising kids fulfilling. OK, granted, I don't come home each day thinking to myself, "my goodness, what a pleasant and fulfilling day I just had." There are plenty of days where I feel guilty that we watched too much TV in a given day, or that I only fed them processed food (because it's the only food my employer buys ... but that's another story), or irritated that the baby wouldn't stop crying or wouldn't take a nap. But one of my favorite things, aside from raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, is progress! Tracking the progress of children is infinitely more interesting and cool (not to mention much cuter) than tracking the progress of say, a science project. Although I suppose children are a science project in their own right.

I have been at this job four months now. That might not sound like very long--probably because it isn't--but in my time with my employer, I have noticed a difference in the babies. Of course, they are still spoiled when I'm not around, so they thrown tantrums sometimes when they don't get what they want, but this happens a lot less than it used to. After a week of being strict about time-outs when Grady doesn't listen, he has pretty much learned to listen. At least as well as a two year-old can be expected to listen.

I talk to the kids all the time. Using regular words in a regular voice. I think partially because of that, Jake has gone from almost completely non-verbal to a real little talker. He can tell me when he wants to go outside, eat, go to the park, get out of his crib or high chair; he says please and thank you; he says "help me" when he needs something (which is adorable, incidentally). He can identify all sorts of animals and knows the names of everybody in his family, including the dog. Grady, on the other hand, has learned to count to three (when I arrived he couldn't count at all) and expanded his vocabulary quite impressively. He repeats what I say with often hilarious results.

A few examples: the other day the cleaners were mopping the hardwood floor in the kitchen, so I decided to take the babies upstairs to get out of their way. As we were walking up the stairs, Grady was dawdling. So I said, "Hey, Grady, pick up the pace." He looked up at me with an eager-to -please expression, said questioningly, "Pace?" and then squatted on the floor and started picking up lint from the carpet. Having never heard that idiom, of course he assumed that pace was a concrete object, and I wanted him to pick it up. I almost died laughing.

Second example: the other day the babies were crying after a brief audience with Mother. She had stopped by and then left quickly, which always upsets them. Jake stopped crying first and was sitting in my lap while were watching Grady cry by the door. So I said to Jake (keep in mind that he is only one), "Jake, Grady is sad. What can we do to make him feel better?"
Jake (very distinctly): Cookie.
Me: Should we give Grady a cookie?
Jake nods.
So we went to the cookie jar and got one cookie out. I gave it to Jake, and instead of eating it (which let's face it, even a lot of adults would do), he took it over and gave it to his brother. Who immediately stopped crying.

I would have signed up for fifty years of motherhood that day if anyone had given me the option.

Guess I still need someone to father my children, though. Bummer.