Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Stories of Introverts

Yesterday while Benjamin was napping, Miriam and I made tahini in order to make hummus for dinner. When Andrew came home he fried up falafel (from a mix) cut up some pita bread (from the store) and boiled some water for couscous (which was not a brand we were familiar with and ended up being rather gross). I cut up some cucumbers and tomatoes and opened a can of olives and we were ready to go.

The girls were quite excited about this meal. They have a thing for Middle Eastern cuisine.

"Is this Egyptian food?" Rachel asked. "I remember eating stuff like this..."

We explained that it's similar to Egyptian food, though not quite the same. In the Levant, both hummus and falafel are traditionally made of chickpeas. In Egypt, we found that ful and tamiya were more popular than hummus and falafel (or at least were easier to find). They're basically the same food but are made of fava beans rather than chickpeas.

"Where did we eat this stuff then?" Rachel asked.

"Mom and I ate this in Jordan," Andrew said, telling her about the little cafe he'd go to for lunch everyday. "But you never did because you've never been to Jordan."

"Why haven't I?" she asked. "I went to Israel. That's close to Jordan. Didn't we go to Jordan? I thought we went to Jordan when we went to Israel."

"You didn't go to Jordan because when we went to Israel I was 33 weeks pregnant with Miriam and didn't feel like hiking around Petra with a two-year-old so we stayed in Eilat and looked at dolphins while Dad and Uncle Patrick went to Jordan without us," I explained.

"I don't understand. Why didn't I just go to Jordan with Dad. I like hiking!" she objected.

"You know how attached Benjamin is to Mom?" Andrew asked her. She nodded. "You were like that when you were two," Andrew told her. "You'd scream and kick and throw huge fits whenever you couldn't have Mommy."

"Benjamin's not that bad," Rachel said.

"Well, I didn't take you to Petra with me," Andrew said. "You stayed behind in Israel with Mom, and that's that."

We continued tellings stories about the Middle East throughout dinner. Our girls always want to hear more stories.

"What else about Israel?"

"What else about Otlob?"

"What else about fruit stands?"

At the end of dinner I stood up and said, "I'm going to the bathroom."

(We often announce this in our house as an example to potty training children. I would really love it if Benjamin would catch on to this. Just tell me you have to go potty before you go and I will help you. Seriously.)

Upon hearing this words, Benjamin cried out, "NO!"

He threw his plate. He thrashed around in his chair. He kicked his legs.

"Want Momma! Want Momma! Want Momma! Want Momma!" he wailed while I was in the bathroom.

When I came back to the table Benjamin reached for me, shaking with relief, and sighed, "Momma!"

"This is why you didn't go to Jordan," I said to Rachel, picking Benjamin up.

"This is why you didn't go to Jordan," Andrew echoed.

That is why she didn't go to Jordan. She was a high-reactive baby, that's for sure—crying about everything, always overstimulated—so I thought she'd turn out to be an extrovert but I was so wrong. I was quite surprised to have a shy, introverted kindergartener on my hands last year. She's kept it up this year, too, making friends with some other quiet children in her class and rarely volunteering to answer questions. She's always on task and always well-behaved at school.

I wasn't expecting this at all because she was such a difficult baby.

Guys, I still have nightmares about Rachel as a baby.

It was that bad. Like, it was not pretty.

It was like the sun moving in the sky (or, ya know, the earth rotating on its axis as it makes its way around the sun (because we got over the whole geocentric model years ago, don'tcha know?)) was enough to set off her nerves.

Like, "Oh, no! Why is the sky turning pink? Where did that burning ball go? Does it look darker to you? It looks darker to me. What are all those pin points in the sky? Did that streetlight just turn on? Why can't things just always be the same? Changes! It's too much! Life is too much!"

Only instead of saying that she'd just scream and scream and scream and...scream. And then when I got her quiet she'd feel the need to stay awake the entire night just to make sure the sun would come up again. And then she'd be like, "Do I hear birds? Why do they sing so much? Doorbell! Package drop! Run for your life!" Only, she'd just scream. And then she learned to walk at 10 months and,

Anyway, I'm reading the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking and it's totally explained to me why Rachel is the way she is. She's just an introvert. She was an introvert as a baby—who couldn't control her reactiveness—and she's an introvert as a child—who is much better at controlling her reactiveness—and she'll probably be an introvert as an adult as well. (Not that all introverts are difficult babies; just that a lot of high-reactive babies turn out being introverts).

Quiet has been a fascinating, helpful read (and I really need to finish it because I'm reviewing it at book club this month (and I'm super nervous about that because introvert (book club alone is a little bit much for me so having to review a book is like torture) and I still have 90 pages left).

Andrew made dinner for us tonight while we were doing swimming lessons (for two hours) at the pool. Over dinner we discussed some of the stories we'd heard at lunch today, specifically the one about not knowing there was a river 200 yards away from the family barn because the rule was to not go past the barn.

This poor girl—who is now a PhD student, mind you—went back home (for a funeral, I think Andrew said) and her uncle suggested they take a walk down to the river so she went and put on her hiking boots thinking it was going to take awhile to get there. But no. It was right there. For her entire life. And she never knew about it because she never broke the rule of going past the barn.

Her sister was all, "Really?! You never went to the river because I..."

Yeah. Her sister totally knew all about the river. So funny.

"We're all just a bunch of super-nerds," Andrew said. "We just read books and follow rules. We can't even help ourselves."

"What else about following rules?" Rachel wanted to know. You should hopefully have figured out by now that that's code for "Tell me another story!" So I told her another story.

Andrew is certainly also a rule-follower. When he was younger his family went on a hike (to Mt. Timpanogos Caves, I think) and at the trailhead Andrew saw a sign that said, "No drinking water on trail." He tucked that nugget of information away in his brain and whipped it back out when he caught Aunt Becky taking a swig of water right there on the trail!

"What are you doing?!" Andrew asked, flabbergasted that his Aunt would flaunt the rules in such a casual manner.

"I'm taking a drink," Aunt Becky said. "Because I'm thirsty."

"But that's against the rules!" Andrew protested. "I read it on a sign!"

"What did this sign say?" everyone wanted to know.

"No drinking water on trail!" Andrew repeated.

He calmed down a bit when it was explained that the sign meant there was no drinking water available on the trail so you should bring your own—not that one shouldn't drink water on the trail.

"What else about following rules?" Rachel pressed again.

Well, when Andrew was in high school his Uncle Rod gave him his old truck, but it had a flat tire. Andrew's parents saw this as a learning opportunity, handed him the manual, and told him to figure it out. So, with the truck parked in the garage, Andrew got to work.

Step 1: Turn on emergency flashers? Check.

That's about as far as he got before Sister Gillespie came wandering up the street from her house (probably to fetch some of her children back) and asked Reid and Karen why the truck had its emergency flashers on in the garage.

Andrew's been made fun of for that story for over a decade because obviously you don't need emergency flashers in your own garage. He was only following instructions!


  1. I love hearing your stories. Those Andrew ones are GREAT!

    I read Quiet awhile back, and liked it pretty well. It helped me understand myself better, to maybe excuse myself more for not wanting to hang out at my neighbor's parties and why I don't really even care much for church. I'm glad it has helped you understand your highly-reactive daughter. I often find it fascinating to hear more about baby Rachel. I find her so funny now, but hearing about her babyhood nearly gives *me* nightmares.

    I'm curious how you will review the book for book club.

  2. Such a good read. I could have a lot to say, but I won't. I am just glad you write!