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Instagram: To join or not to join?

9 Nov

The other night I went out to dinner with my friend Sydney and some of her friends I hadn’t met before. As we introduced each other and I mentioned I had a one-year-old, several people commented, “Oh, is that the baby I keep seeing on Sydney’s Instagram?”

Yes, my one-year-old is all over Instagram. Yet I am not.

I’ve held out for awhile now, mostly because I only recently got a smartphone. But I’m starting to cave to the temptation; the call of novelty beckons. Duty calls, too–as a communications professional I feel obligated to at least give a major social network a try. And Grandma (my mom) calls–she’s all about more baby pics in any medium.

Naturally, a silly, first-world problem such as this demands a silly, first-world solution. So… I Photoshopped a Venn diagram to analyze the pros and cons of joining Instagram.

Instagram Venn diagram{You can click the image to view a larger version.}

What say ye, readers? Stick with the status quo, or join my mom, my baby, and the rest of the world on Instagram? What experience have you had on Instagram? Do you constantly debate with yourself whether to stay on Facebook, etc.?

P.S. I’m also intrigued by the new network Ello and its manifesto about privacy, and got on the waiting list–anyone out there using that?


The injurious Cheerio

28 Jul

This is the story of my first broken bone.

Little Lars was sitting on the kitchen floor, and I was about three feet away in the dining room, perhaps picking up after lunch. Dave was in the other room. Usually I’m fine with Lars hanging out in the kitchen–he likes to bang the cupboard doors, empty said cupboards, and play with the colanders and Tupperware.

Then the following transpired:

1. Lars picks up a rogue Cheerio from the floor.

2. My brain screams GERMSGERMSGERMS.

nooooooo_elf3. I dive toward him in the most agile and graceful fashion.

soccerdive 4. In my effort to avoid hitting the high chair that blocks my path, I ram my foot into the side of the dishwasher.

5. I frantically fish the Cheerio out of Lars’s mouth because I’ll be darned if I didn’t dive for nothing.

6. I start howling from pain in my pinky toe.

7. Lars, startled by his diving, howling mother, starts crying too.

8. I yell to Dave “We’re fine!” so he doesn’t think we are dying but he nonetheless rushes into the room.

9. I whine and limp for a week and a half, and even fly cross-country, before getting my act together and going to the doctor. The pinky toe is broken. I get gauze to tape together my pinky toe with the next toe, a boot, and instructions to walk as little as possible.

On the bright side, we went to Disneyland last week and I got to be pushed around instead of trudging through the Anaheim heat. It also got us toward the front of the line for a few rides, though Disneyland’s wheelchair policy isn’t as liberal as it used to be (probably due to not-so-injured people abusing it).

Over the past few weeks, I have recounted the story many times, and each time I have to acknowledge that yes I know I overreacted and I’m sure he would have been fine eating the Cheerio off the floor and it’s not the first time he would have eaten something off the floor anyway. Although it is pretty typical for me to overreact to something like this.

Now I guess I’ll try to use non-diving methods to clean my kitchen floor. I’ll do it for the children. And for my pinky toe.


{GIFs from here and here}

On the (mostly) bright side on a sick day

11 Jul

A few nights ago, I woke up at 3 a.m. and puked my guts out.

Oddly, my first thought in my mostly-thoughtless state was Well, I’m kind of glad I had morning sickness back when I was pregnant.

Prior to being pregnant, on the few occasions when I had food poisoning or something like that, I managed to resist throwing up. Even though it tends to make you feel better, I just wouldn’t do it. Then when I was pregnant and felt nauseated* for a good portion of nine months, I lost the battle. Vomiting became routine.

So when I got sick the other night, my body shot back out that bad slice of pizza (or whatever it was?) like it ain’t no thang. And I actually felt a little better afterward.

Now that I’m feeling a bit better, my 3 a.m. optimism sounds a bit odd: I’m grateful that persistent puking made it possible for me to puke some more! Yay! But I’m sticking to it.

I’m also sticking to being grateful about other things, such as:

  • Even though baby got a fever (probably from a recent vaccine, as the doctor warned), it meant he didn’t have a big appetite and thus didn’t eat the evil pizza that made Dave and I sick, so he was spared the pukey variety of illness.
  • I didn’t get sick until baby had recovered, so I wasn’t a sick mama trying to take care of a sick baby.
  • As I curled up on the living room floor in the fetal position for most of the day, Lars kept himself entertained (in mostly not-playing-with-the-trashcan ways).

Also, I happened to be reading The Fault in Our Stars (I know, finally) so I became a bit of a hypochondriac (I could have cancer and not know it!), but also thought, you know, it could be worse. I’m really grateful I don’t have a chronic illness–the closest thing I’ve come to that was pregnancy, and it was pretty awful. Then again, I don’t think that thinking “could be worse” is the best form of gratitude, because sometimes your circumstance is the worst (see: cancer), but you still have to get through it as best you can (see: this talk). Which is hard. But that’s life.

You’re welcome for being so inspiring. If you want to cheer up, go read The Fault in Our Stars. (Kidding! But not kidding, because it is worth reading.)

Also, on the subject of TFiOS relating to our brief illness: If you can handle discussing your excrement with your significant other, you probably have a pretty solid relationship.


* Editor’s note: This is an actual editor’s note, because I wouldn’t note this if I weren’t an editor. Because I am an editor, the word nauseous is ruined for me. I learned in my English Usage class that when we say nauseous, what we technically mean nauseated. So every time I complained of morning sickness, I would painstakingly say “I feel nauseated.” Spreading the knowledge, from the “nauseous, nauseated” entry in Ebbitt & Ebbitt’s Index to English, 8th Edition:

Traditionally, nauseated means “sickened, disgusted” (I felt nauseated at the sight) and nauseous means “causing sickness or disgust” (The smell was nauseous). But the use of “feeling nauseous” and “getting nauseous” has become so common that dictionaries now record “nauseated” as a second meaning of nauseous. Those who grew up observing the distinction find this usage ambiguous. (Was he sick, or was he sickening?)

The 7 steps toward Pinterest nirvana

24 Jun

This month I’ve been planning a first birthday party for my firstborn. As with most first-child experiences, I’m probably way overthinking it, so of course I turned to Pinterest for inspiration. Which can sometimes be dangerous if you’re even slightly type A or insecure. But I made it out alive, and through the endless scrolling, I dare say I have made peace with Pinterest. This is a lengthy (yet slightly Buzzfeedy) look at the thought process that has led me to Pinterest nirvana*:

1. Ain’t nobody got time (or money) for that.

The 7 steps toward Pinterest nirvana | Spifftacular.

“Her oral report was phenomenal, but it was the embers of burning francs billowing through the air that earned Quinoa an A+++ on Famous Consumers Day.” Via
My Imaginary Well-Dressed Daughter

When I first scrolled through Pinterest for ideas on my chosen theme, I felt overwhelmed. I found articles featuring parties of the same theme that were beyond elaborately decorated. They had transformed the entire space: an alternate universe completely reigned by The Birthday Party Theme. How could I ever compare? I still use two Rubbermaids for living room side tables. No amount of chevron is going to make up for that. Le sigh.

2. But don’t hate the crafty people.

The 7 steps toward Pinterest nirvana | Spifftacular. That said, I’m no Pinterest hater. I recently saw this article bashing Pinterest-worthy parties and this one criticizing the obsession over capturing perfectly staged memories, and although they have some good points, I don’t like the us-vs.-them approach. I’m sorry that some parents feel guilty or judged for not meeting a certain ideal of craftiness, but that doesn’t mean people who genuinely enjoy crafty endeavors should feel guilty either. And although I agree that we shouldn’t prioritize how things look over authentic experiences (more on that in a minute), that doesn’t mean that memories that happen to involve adorable crafts aren’t authentic.

I thought of my mom, who threw tons of creative, festive parties before the age of Pinterest. I have fond memories of the crafty aspects of those parties: my friends bedecked in chef’s hats and aprons for my cooking birthday party, the cake decorated with a popsicle-stick picket fence for my garden birthday party, and the sweet Lego-brick cake for my brother’s Lego birthday party.

My mom had a knack for creativity and cuteness, and she masterminded cool kid parties not because she was trying to impress anyone, but because she enjoyed doing it. And she always made sure to involve me, so it was an opportunity to create something together, and today I’m grateful she passed that joy of creativity on to me.

I don’t throw extravagant parties, but I consider myself pretty crafty. I was the kid that would rather spend time creating, say, a dollhouse out of recycled materials than playing outside. I was also the kid who toted a glue gun just about everywhere I went (how did I have friends??). If it wasn’t for obsessive-compulsive late-night crafting, I wouldn’t have met my husband (but that’s a story for another day). So, I am a firm defender of earnest, ambitious crafting endeavors.

3. Repeat after me: It’s curated.

The 7 steps toward Pinterest nirvana | Spifftacular.

Photo illustration by me. Original image via

The key to not getting depressed by Pinterest and other social media is to remember that everything is highly curated. I know my online self is decidedly more together than my face-to-face, 24/7 self. We are viewing only a small, carefully presented piece of someone’s life. Sometimes those pieces paint a picture of an unattainably beautiful life. But we all have problems. Those problems don’t need to play a starring role on social media, although I do appreciate it when people are candid (especially like this). It’s just helpful to keep in mind that behind every “perfect” pin is a real person with her own mix of triumphs and talents, challenges and anxieties.

4. Photograph less, experience more.

The 7 steps toward Pinterest nirvana | Spifftacular. One point I agreed with in the second article mentioned above is that we can become so preoccupied with capturing a memory (and then sharing it on social media) that we fail to actually enjoy the moment. In a fascinating series from NPR about photography and memory, one story cited research showing that we actually remember fewer details about the things we photograph. As a source in the article says, photos can be “rich retrieval clues,” but photographs are not memories. So although I hope to catch a video of my little guy demolishing his first cupcake, I’ll try to spend more time enjoying the day than trying to catalog every moment to post on Facebook. (There’s also this NPR story about how parents absorbed with their smartphones have a heartbreaking effect on their kids–seriously, put down the smartphone, people!)

5. To thine own self be true.

After spending awhile on Pinterest, I start to get irritated by the stream of images cluttered with my pet peeves: superfluously outfitted “tablescapes”, sloppily typeset posters, and any variation of keep-calm-and-carry-on. Pass.

Everything about this makes me want to cringe. Image via  Turn Up Gear

NOOOOO. So many things wrong here. Image via
Turn Up Gear

Just because it’s on Pinterest doesn’t mean it’s awesome or that it’s right for you. I know my style and my strengths and weaknesses, so I say yes to some crazy craft projects, no to elaborate or labor-intensive recipes. For our upcoming party, there will be several frozen foods on the menu. And that’s OK.

6. Reminisce about pre-Pinterest pinning.

The 7 steps toward Pinterest nirvana | Spifftacular.

Image via
Sarah London

As I said, my mom was crafty and cool before there was Pinterest. I remember we would both scour issues of Family Fun magazine for project ideas, and sometimes we would even go on model-home tours just to get some home-decorating ideas (like hot-gluing silk flowers all over a lampshade!). She had a drawer full of file folders with categorized ideas for holidays, parties, gifts, and other projects. I asked my mom about how she felt about the old-school files compared to Pinterest, and she reassured me she is definitely a Pinterest fan–she loves the ready access to ideas and inspiration. She said it does seem like moms today feel more pressure to have “Pinterest-worthy” homes and lives, but that we should remember it’s just a tool.

My mom also told me about her grandma’s version of Pinterest: “She had a scrapbook which was filled with clippings of various things, but a lot of them were poems that she liked. I think that was a popular thing of the day. I feel like there’s something inherently satisfying about preserving things, whether it’s ideas or pictures or whatever, and maybe it’s just part of our DNA.”

7. Stop pinning, start doing.

I recalled this talk from a few years ago; I love President Uchtdorf’s insights on creativity:

Once I stepped away from the screen and started working on my own projects, I stopped worrying about what some stranger on the Internet had accomplished and learned to love what I was accomplishing–I felt the thrill, the satisfaction, of creation.


* I’m using the term “nirvana” generically here–I really hope this isn’t offensive to those of the Buddhist persuasion.

The 7 steps toward Pinterest nirvana | Spifftacular.

Lost mommy status updates

6 Jun

like-button-babyFacebook is an awful temptation for time-wasting and triviality, but when you’re a stay-at-home parent, it’s a nice way to share your ups and downs and feel solidarity with other parents and support from friends and acquaintances. For the sake of everyone, I try not to flood my newsfeed with baby-related posts. Here’s a random smattering of posts that I have spared the Internet from over the past year (until now). You’re welcome/I’m sorry.

1. Motherhood is hard.

2. I completely understand how sleep deprivation is used for torture.

3. I was trying to nurse Lars to sleep (desperate times…). Once he was mostly asleep, I gently pulled him off, then slipped in the pacifier. “Sucker!” I grinned to myself—satisfied with both the sneaky move and the clever pun.

4. “Super Baby” is all fun and games until someone gets puked on in the face.

5. We need to have an “It Gets Better” campaign for parenthood.

6. Baby cuddles are the best.

7. Sometimes, in lieu of meaningful adult interactions, I try to work in snarky references to pop culture and current events into my conversation with baby. I am always very impressed with myself.

8. WHY are parents so fascinated with their kids’ poop? Is it because they’re so infatuated with their baby that they love anything about them? Is it a lack of other stimulating topics of concern? Is it ingrained by society? By biology? I don’t understand it, but Dave and I find ourselves discussing it more frequently than we would like to admit.

9. When we were at the National Museum of American History, I had to find a quite spot to nurse. The best bet seemed to be the Star-Spangled Banner exhibit, since it’s really dark and has a bench. It turned out to be perfect—no one noticed us. Plus, a family with two young kids came to sit next to me, and they all quietly sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” together. It was so tenderly patriotic, and I was grateful to be in that place at that moment.

10. I remember reading once that asbestos is generally only dangerous when ingested or inhaled. Well, good thing kids don’t lick or try to eat walls, right? WRONG. THAT IS TOTALLY A THING THEY DO. (Thank goodness we don’t have asbestos in our current abode.)

11. To the designers at DK who slacked off on Photoshopping around the fur of that panda bear and the shadow of those ducklings: I am judging you.

12. Your life isn’t over when your baby starts crawling/walking. It’s over when you can no longer eat a chocolate chip cookie in front of said baby without him understanding that it is something he wants to eat too (and yet he still doesn’t understand after several attempts that bark is not food).

13. Motherhood is the best.

The ’90s kid equivalent of Facebook

1 Jun

On a visit home recently I sorted through boxes upon boxes of old, sentimental clutter, and found this:


They’re called friendship cards, kids. You could pick up a pack at the Hello Kitty store at the mall, fill them out with the details of your likes and dislikes, add a sticker or two, and trade them with your friends.

For example, in the card that I saved, I had revealed the following personal information:

Food I like: cheez-its

Food I hate: spinach

Color I like: magenta

Color I hate: baby poop brown

Famous people I like: Douglas Adams, Jesse Bradford

Things I collect: rulers, socks, stuff

My future dreams: be an interior decorator

It’s a wonderful reminder of what a silly adolescent I once was (as I often wonder, how did I have friends??) and of a simpler time. No newsfeed to troll through, just delightfully analog pieces of paper. They were a fleeting fad, but they sure were fun.

Anyone else remember these (or have some around)?

Sugar is the Mormon alcohol

6 Apr

icecreamLet’s talk about sugar. Sugarsugarsugarsugar: that thrilling chemical compound that is pulsing through my veins RIGHT NOW because I just made, and consumed embarrassing amounts of, cinnamon roll cake.

Why did I make cinnamon roll cake on this particular Saturday, you may ask? Well, this weekend is the 184th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s a weekend when we get to listen to the prophet, apostles, and general officers of the Church provide divinely inspired guidance for each of our lives, which I consider a great blessing and privilege. It’s also a weekend where we get to watch church from home and stay in jammies as long as we please (the VW clan calls it “jammie church”). And it invariably involves cinnamon rolls and other sweet treats.

This close connection between conference and cinnamon rolls is yet another dollop to add to the overflowing mixing bowl of evidence supporting a conclusion I have reached: Sugar is the Mormon alcohol.*

I’ve never felt like I’m missing anything by not drinking alcohol. I was fortunate to have friends in high school who didn’t drink; I went to stone-cold sober BYU as an undergrad; and as an adult I’ve been fortunate to have friends who are gracious party guests and hosts who don’t mind that Dave and I simply drink water and only serve the likes of milk and root beer.

Now, allow me to explain the sugar = alcohol equation:

1. We use sugar to meet new people.

gatsby-toastMy husband and I recently introduced ourselves to one of our neighbors. He threw out, “We’ll have to have you guys over for drinks sometime!”

We thanked him for his kind offer and continued chatting, but didn’t bother to bring up yet that we don’t drink. We simply mentioned that we were also planning to invite a couple neighbors over. What we didn’t mention was that our idea of a rockin’ party was an ice cream social.

Fortunately, I don’t think anyone is going to be disappointed by an ice cream social. When my family moved to a new town when I was in high school, my parents invited the new neighbors over for an ice cream social and it was a hit, even with the too-cool-for-school teen demographic.

2. We use sugar to woo.

lizlemon-datingAny LDS young single adult knows that fro-yo is a staple of the dating diet. The authors of this recent New York Times article about Mormon women astutely picked up on this:

Goofy icebreakers are customary even for cosmopolitan Mormons like Ms. Sagers, 23, who was then applying to a bioscience doctoral program at Harvard. It was a Saturday “date night” in her singles ward, the church’s answer to bars and nightclubs. At the age of 18, Mormons typically join a ward, or singles congregation, where those of marrying age gather for worship and social events. Without alcohol or coffee to lubricate the socializing (both are prohibited by the church’s Word of Wisdom), there are bowling outings, pie-eating contests, ballroom dancing lessons and, in traditional Mormon fashion, lots and lots of sweets.

And if a NYT citation isn’t secular enough proof for you, Jezebel pinpointed “sugary desserts” as the “intoxicant of choice” for the so-called “Provo Bro.”

3. We use sugar to celebrate.

troy gifObviously, everyone does this (birthday cakes! wedding cakes!), but Mormons tend to find a way to commemorate the most mundane occasions with sweet treats (like those cinnamon rolls and jammie church). Rare is the flier promoting a church event that does not advertise, “Light refreshments will be served.” Read: Come! We will have brownies and/or chocolate chip cookies!

4. We use sugar to drown our sorrows–and to help others’ sorrows.

wine-under-deskOK, this is universal, particularly among those who have recently been dumped/fired/otherwise disappointed by life. Life gets you down, you get a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, am I right?

But I like to think we also use sugar to reach out. In the LDS Church (and for many other kindhearted people) it is important to follow Christ’s example to leave the ninety and nine and reach out to the one who is lost. Sometimes it’s clear what kind of physical, spiritual, or emotional help someone needs, but when you’ve exhausted all your options for serving someone, the go-to solution is delivering a plate of cookies, baked with love.

5. We use sugar to unwind.

giphy-wineThis revelation came to me after my husband and I had a hard day tending to a fussier-than-usual baby. When the magical hour of bedtime rolled around, our first move was to grab some ice cream (to enjoy along with some Parks & Rec, of course). As Dave grabbed the spoons and the pint of cookie dough, he stopped. “Wait… Is ice cream our wine?”

And in that moment, I understood all of my wine-sipping friends.

P.S.–Wondering why?

The heightened appeal of sugar for Mormons is clear: It functions as a social lubricant without lowering inhibitions (and thus spiritual fortitude). It doesn’t violate the Word of Wisdom, which is the Lord’s law of health that prohibits strong drinks (alcohol, coffee, and tea) and tobacco. Plus, there is no such thing as an ice cream hangover (I would be doomed). There also happens to be a historical connection between early Mormons and sugar production–perhaps the root of the Mormon sweet tooth.

Anyway, research suggests that sugar can have toxic effects on our health. And although the Word of Wisdom doesn’t mention sugar, it does counsel us to eat healthfully, so we would be wise to approach sugar with moderation.

In that spirit, I will try very, very hard to have only moderate amounts of decadent cinnamon roll cake as I sit in my pajamas watching General Conference. Bon appétit.


We also use sugar to teach moral lessons:

mormonad-great-except-forImages via here, this crazy article about Leo’s toasts, here, here, here, here, and here. Post updated 8/28/14 to  add #5 and a few images and shorten the intro.

* Here I refer primarily to Mormons living in the U.S., because although doctrine is consistent throughout this worldwide church, culture and diets certainly vary.

Why yes, I did flush a toilet with an avocado slicer.

6 Oct

This afternoon while I was home alone, the toilet stopped working. When I pressed down the toilet handle, it just wiggled around and made faint clicking noises. Here is how I proceeded to address the problem:

Step 1: Remove toilet lid and investigate. A chain, which is probably supposed to be attached to something, has broken in half and isn’t attached to anything.

Step 2: Frantically google phrases like “toilet won’t flush!” and “toilet chain broke!” Learn that the thing the chain is supposed to be attached to is the “flapper valve” (the circular, yellowish thing in the center of the tank, as shown above).

Step 3: Call landlord to plea for plumber (Plea for Plumber: great potential band name). I confess that I felt really cool being able to say “Why yes, it appears that the chain has broken off of the flapper valve, and I’m afraid we’ll need to replace it…”

Step 4: While waiting for plumber, learn from an online tutorial that I could actually flush the toilet without fixing the chain. You simply plunge your hand into the toilet tank and lift up the rubber flapper valve by hand. However, I took issue with the whole hand-in-toilet-tank-water thing. In defense of the toilet tank, this tutorial claims that “the tank contains clean, uncontaminated water” and assures readers, “Don’t worry about the brown sediment on the bottom of the tank, it’s minerals that have precipitated out of the water over the years.” As credible as that may sound, there was no way I was going to plunge my hand into that tank, sediment or not. I am kind of a germophobe like that. I needed a tool. But what could I use? Anything used in toilet-tank-plunging would be rendered somewhat unusable, so it would have to be something that wasn’t terribly important. I searched the kitchen, and in desperation I even considered using a spatula. But then I saw it: the avocado slicer. We got it as a wedding gift, and gracious a gift as it was, Dave and I simply haven’t used it–neither of us are big avocado fans.

Step 5: Use avocado slicer to lift up flapper valve and successfully flush toilet. As a result, the avocado slicer’s life was filled with purpose (though perhaps not dignity), and I didn’t have to get my hands in toilet water. Victory.

Step 6: Let plumber fix toilet.

It’s times like this that I really, really love Google, and the Internet, and eHow, and random strangers who are willing to address totally random but everyday crises like a broken toilet chain. I am also really, really grateful for a certain avocado slicer that now resides next to our plunger and toilet scrubber.