Over the last few months, I have been struggling mentally and emotionally. It wasn't until Eddie's behavior began to mirror my own (and not in a good way), that I realized I might have a problem. I saw my doctor and was diagnosed with postpartum depression. My first counseling session helped me realize the damage that this illness was doing. I started taking anti-depressants, which lifted the fog I'd been slogging through and allowed me to start making positive strides again.

As I began learning about depression, I stumbled upon a great book entitled The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. She wrote about a year she spent trying to make her life happier. She wasn't looking to escape from her life, but to be happy while living her life. I found her book inspiring, and it has helped give me some structure as I find areas where I can improve myself. I came up with my own "personal commandments" to help me achieve my goals (in no particular order):

1. Be Kristen.
When my therapist asked "what do you do to get out of the house by yourself?" the only thing I could think of was grocery shopping. I feel like I've lost myself and forgotten who I used to be. So one of my big goals is to discover what I enjoy and find ways to make those things a priority in my life.

2. If you can't make it better, at least don't make it worse.
This comes from the book After the Stork by Sara Rosenquist. Instead of reacting to something in the heat of the moment, I am teaching myself to stop and think before I respond.

3. Don't keep score.
I noticed that in some ways, I was over-estimating my contributions and under-estimating Dave's. But things like housework, childcare, Dave's job can't really be fairly divided and I am learning to stop keeping track.

4. Be present.
I have noticed that if I get down and play with Eddie for 5 minutes, he behaves better all day long. Dave doesn't come home to an angry wife and an attention-starved Eddie every day. Violet is a true joy in my life and I love to just sit and watch her. I don't want to miss anything.

5. If you can't get out of it, get into it.
This applies to teaching Sunbeams and other things that I feel like I should be doing but don't really want to do.

6. Do it now.
The idea here is that if something can be done in one minute or less, you do it immediately instead of putting it off. It is amazing how much more productive this makes me feel.

7. Take time for myself every day.
One thing that counseling has helped me understand is that I need time away from my children, even if it's just a little bit of time. Now that Violet is getting into a nap schedule, I get some free time when Eddie is at preschool twice a week. And Dave is great about giving me time whenever I want it.

8. My body is a temple, not a tent.
Thanks to my new medication, I suddenly have tons of energy, and I am trying to use that energy to exercise more regularly. The past weeks have taught me that if I'm not taking care of myself, I can't really take care of anyone else.

9. Stop seeking validation.
I am trying to do things because I want to, not because I need approval from anyone else. This applies to things I enjoy doing and things that I think need to be done. I used to proudly announce my accomplishments to Dave as soon as he got home from work, but now I realize that I don't need a pat on the back for doing laundry or cleaning the toilet. It's something I want done, so I do it for myself.

10. Remember who is watching.
I am always unpleasantly surprised when I hear Eddie repeat something that I say without thinking. I am trying to be more careful about what I do and say since he sees and hears everything. I want to be a positive influence for my kids and hope that I can show them the right way to live, as well as how to admit when they are wrong.

I plan to work on these goals as much as possible so that I establish some good habits. It is truly amazing how asking for help and setting positive (and reachable) goals has helped me feel like my old self again. Of course, I don't think I could've done it without the medication and without the support and empathy of friends who have gone through similar experiences.


Interview With the Architect

Today I celebrate my one year anniversary working at Stampin' Up. In this time of arbitrary reflection, I am reminded that I spent the better part of last year job hunting. Actually that is inaccurate—it was the worst part of last year—job hunting stinks. At least the passing of time allows me to look back and laugh about experiences like this one.

By the middle of last summer, I had applied with all sorts of companies to no avail. But when I found an open graphic designer position at a downtown architecture firm, I felt a renewed excitement. I'm no George Costanza, but I like to think I have an eye for architecture. I sent off my resumé with an extra spring in my click. A week or so later, I was helping supervise a pack of cub scouts at Camp Tracy when my phone rang. They wanted an interview.

Their office was a repurposed industrial warehouse—contemporary and functional while preserving the character that made the old building special. (Would you expect anything less? They're architects.) As the interview progressed through the usual talking points, I played up my architectural appreciation by making repeated mentions of how impressive I thought their facility was.

Things seemed to go pretty well, and at the end of the interview, they offered to give me a tour of the building. That was my sign that I would surely be invited back—if they didn't like me, why bother giving me a tour? As they handed me business cards, I was encouraged to call with any questions. They also promised I would be hearing back about a second interview by a specific day.

But as it often happens, the promised day came and went with no phone call. I pulled out the business cards. I made several call attempts. I left messages. Of course, I'm pretty sure no one actually stays at their desk when they are hiring.

A few days later I eventually got a hold of one of the ladies from the interview. I had already come to terms with the likely rejection, but I went ahead and asked about the status of the position. She sounded slightly uncomfortable as she confirmed my assumption that I didn't make it past the initial group of candidates. There was an awkward pause as she searched for a positive way to end the brief conversation.

She finally blurted out, "But you are welcome to come back for another tour of our building anytime!"


She Crawls

Kristen and I often lament that we haven't given Violet the same sort of blog coverage that Eddie received as a baby. But such is the plight of the second child. There just isn't as much attention to go around. Of course keeping things in perspective, I have roughly two dozen photos total of the first three years of my life, while Violet already has a few thousand in the bank as she approaches eight months old. To quote comedian Jim Gaffigan, "I have more pictures of my kids than my Dad even looked at me."

Still, by the time Eddie was Violet's age, he had already starred in several blog videos, but Violet has yet to appear in one. Well, that changes today. She has been threatening to crawl for a few weeks now—getting up on her hands and knees, crouching, bouncing up and down like a frog, primed to take off before falling on her face. Earlier this week she finally made her move. Her struggle and eventual success is depicted in this, her belated video debut. The featured song is "Sleeping Lessons" by The Shins.


Ten Things…

…We Have Learned From Potty Training

Eddie has been officially potty trained for a few months now. All those jerks who bragged about how their kid just magically got it one day? Turns out they were right. Of course, the dirty little secret is that it doesn't really end when you stop buying diapers. Here are some "nuggets" of wisdom that Kristen and I have picked up along the way

10. The time it takes to potty train is akin to dog years. It "only" took two months, but it felt about seven times longer than that.

9. The theory that positive reinforcement outweighs negative is bogus. We bought a lot of toy cars for Eddie before threatening to put him in the shower. He magically stopped pooping in his pants after that.

8. Just getting your pants down (and back up again) is half the battle.

7. The greatest perk for boys: getting to pee in the bushes.

6. Instead of taking the potty seat off the toilet every time I need to go to the bathroom, I've decided to work on honing my aim.

5. We get to see the inside of more gas station bathrooms than I ever cared to.

4. It's pretty much always an emergency when Eddie finally admits he needs to go.

3. New house rules must be established sometimes. For example: (1) Underwear is a requirement for sitting on the furniture. (2) Pants are a requirement if you want to hold your sister.

2. It's been a rough transition from reminding Eddie to go potty every 15 minutes to convincing him that he shouldn't tell the entire restaurant when he needs to go. Or tell the entire swimming pool that he just went.

1. It's all worth it when Eddie struts out of a public bathroom with his shirt partially tucked into his shorts, proudly carrying his portable potty seat.


Where Were You?

It's hard to believe that it has been a decade since September 11, 2001. My own experience of the day certainly isn't earth-shattering, but as tributes and remembrances are currently in abundance, my personal memories are fresh on my mind.

It was my first semester back at Utah State after my mission. I was living in Rich Hall. I got ready for the day like any other, then walked over to the computer lab at the Lundstrom Center to print out a paper for my English 2010 class. As I walked up to the front desk to pay for my printouts, I noticed a group of students congregating around the big screen TV in the commons area. I asked the girl at the desk if she knew what was going on. She told me that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.

I am somewhat ashamed to admit that this seemingly ridiculous announcement initially elicited a brief chuckle. Of course, as I began to process what she had said, confusion and concern immediately followed. I watched the news reports for a few minutes before heading to an institute class. It was there I learned that the twin towers had now collapsed.

July 1986

My later classes were canceled, and I spent the rest of the morning getting caught up on the day's tragic events. Watching the reports, the imagery of New York brought many thoughts of growing up on the east coast, particularly a field trip to the big city with my fifth grade class. Our day-long visit included a marathon elevator ride to the top of one of the twin towers. The elevator moved so fast that when it started to slow down as it neared the top, it felt like you were falling.

Later in the fall of 2001 when the baseball playoffs arrived, the usually hated Yankees unofficially became America's team. The initials NYPD and FDNY were everywhere. A tattered flag that was exhumed from Ground Zero was proudly flown at Yankee Stadium during the World Series. Although the Yankees eventually fell to the Diamondbacks, games 3-4-5 in the Bronx still stand as some of the most amazing baseball I have ever witnessed.


Cinematic Utah: Journey to Ancient Egypt

Previously: Rejuvinated vs. Dilapidated

Let us turn back the sands of time to… the 1920s? During this decade a brief revival of Egyptian architecture swept America. Two Utah movie houses from the era still stand today. They managed to avoid the wrecking ball long enough to see extensive renovation and even resurgence in recent years. Being located in prominent cities like Ogden and Park City must have surely helped their cause. Either that or they have secured the protection of Seshat, the Egyptian goddess of architecture.

Peery's Egyptian Theatre #1 // Ogden // 5.20.11

Peery's Egyptian Theatre #2 // Ogden // 5.20.11

Egyptian Theatre #1 // Park City // 9.2.11

Egyptian Theatre #2 // Park City // 9.2.11