Wednesday, December 24, 2014

You think you love her...

“You think you love her but you don’t.”

My grandpa was never one to sugar coat things, but I was still surprised by his bluntness. I had called him to chat during a break from working in the computer lab at school, and we had ended up talking about my upcoming marriage.

“You may think you love her, but you don’t really know what love is.”

I never viewed my grandpa as a hopeless romantic, but when my granny passed away, he was heartbroken. He had fallen in love with her when she was only 16 and she had been his sweetheart ever since. She was the only one for him and their love had grown over the years through all they experienced together.

“Someday you’ll wake up, maybe 10 years from now, and you’ll look over at her and understand what love is. And when you have kids, then you’ll really know what love is.”

Grandpa never really explained what he meant, but I thought I understood what he was getting at. Given his life experience, I appreciated where he was coming from and what it meant for the road ahead.

A few months after our conversation, Sarita and I got married in Salt Lake City on August 17, 2005. I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to spend the rest of my life with her. I thought I loved her too. But looking back now almost 10 years later, I think I’m beginning to understand what my grandpa meant. Sarita and I have been through a lot together and continue to grow closer with each of life’s journeys.

Our most recent journey began with the birth of our daughter Stella. Have you heard the cliché about the daughter who steals her father’s heart the moment she was born? Well, as corny as it sounds, it actually happens. In fact, most cheesy sayings that I would never repeat out loud are true.

Stella Marie Rich was born on Sunday, October 12, 2014 (an easy date to remember, according to the nurse—10, 12, 14). What an experience. It all started late at night on Saturday. Sarita had just wrapped up a couple of art shows and was busy typing up notes about what to do at the hospital. We promised to go over them in the morning. When we finally got to bed around 1:30 AM, I noticed that Sarita was shaking uncontrollably, which was when I knew something was definitely up.

Sarita still wasn’t willing to admit that she was in labor, but we both got up and decided to get ready just in case. I got my stuff together and was hurriedly reading the notes she had just printed. I had attended some birthing classes with Sarita and they constantly talked about how long the process is, so I was hunkering down for the long haul. I even started to do some laundry. That turned out to be a mistake.

As soon as I got the first load of clothes in the dryer, I knew we’d have to leave immediately just to make it to the hospital on time. Luckily, it was late at night and I didn’t have to contend with the usual traffic clogging up the labyrinth of one-way streets around the hospital. I had been warned that the night valet was at a different hospital entrance, but I still got hopelessly turned around.

We finally made it through check in and headed up to triage where the nurse started prepping for the doctor’s assessment. As we talked with the nurse, she asked Sarita how bad the pain was on a scale of 1 to 10. Sarita’s response: “About a 3.” Growing up in Alaska really toughened her up.

When the doctor finally checked on Sarita, he told us we’d have to get to the delivery room quick. I knew why as soon as I looked down and could see the baby’s head. It only took another 15 minutes for Stella to be born once we got to the delivery room, and I watched the whole thing. Well, most of it. While Sarita opted for a natural birth, she did at one point receive some local anesthetic. After about the tenth time the doctor stuck Sarita with the needle, I about passed out so I sat down for a while. Good thing Sarita didn’t have her glasses on and didn’t know what was happening.

It didn’t seem real. When the doctor first held up Stella, she didn’t seem like an actual person. She was covered in white vernix and looked more like a porcelain doll. It felt like the nurse rubbed life into her as she wrapped her in a towel and scrubbed. She took her first breath and that’s when it hit me. I was a dad! What a strange and wonderful feeling.

The rest of the day was a bit of a blur. By the evening, I was out cold on the cot next to the bed and slept right through the crying all night. Our time in the hospital was a bit peculiar. Finals were coming up later in the week and I was scrambling to turn in last minute assignments and get excused absences for class. The school and faculty were all incredibly accommodating and supportive. They even got Stella a stuffed Handsome Dan.

When we finally left the hospital, I thought “How can they let me just leave with a baby? Don’t they know how unprepared I am? I haven’t even put in the carseat.” Thank goodness for YouTube.

Two and a half months later I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time, but I’m learning. I’ve always enjoyed seeking out new things and having adventures. Raising Stella has been the greatest adventure so far.

A few years ago, my friend Fallon had her first child, a sweet baby girl. Talking with her a couple months afterwards she told me, “I don’t know what I was so worried about.” I guess I understand what she meant. While I still know so little, things are working out just fine.

So do I finally know what love is? I’m getting there.

Sunday, December 7, 2014


On February 14th I finally had a reason to get a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I bookmarked the nutrition chapter so I could find the recipes for virgin sangria and cookies made of figs and ground flaxseed in case I got hungry. I meant to finish the book (and read all other baby books that tell you how to be a parent) before the baby was born, buy clothes and nursery furniture and make customized baby art to decorate said nursery, and sew blankets, and learn how to crochet hats and booties. But then I realized, amidst distractions of prepping for RISD graduation, the Philippines, and moving to New Haven, that ain’t nobody got time for that! During this time of not preparing for baby’s birth, I remembered that my parents didn’t read a single book, my mom didn’t have maternity clothes, and I slept in my parents’ bed until I was three. So what was I worrying about?

After moving to Connecticut, I thought I might spend every waking moment creating a nursery, but then realized that I was too tired to paint the walls and that anything I hung on the walls would probably fall off and break because the walls are plastery, and anyway the baby could care less if her crib sheets and burp cloths were color coordinated.

But also, I just found other things to do. I entered two local art shows and researched how not to fail at Etsy. Preparing work to display in an art show is incredibly time consuming, I discovered. I had to paint a new piece, then find a printer who could make reproductions of my paintings, pay someone to frame the prints, and then deliver them to the exhibits. Doesn’t sound time intensive, but it’s hard work when you’re new in town and have no connections and when every local printer you try messes up your prints…But anyway, I figured it out and it all turned out ok. The other project I started was an “audition” piece for a publisher who contacted me to see if I might be interested in illustrating a picture book manuscript but they’d need to see a full color sample spread to determine if I was the chosen one. Of course, all these projects were due around the same time. The spread was due to the publisher on Oct 10th and the art shows were scheduled for the 11th and 18th. On October 6th, 7th, and 8th, I was hurrying to finish the spread so I could make the deadline and telling myself, “If baby comes before this is due, I’ll know it wasn’t meant to be and that’s that.” I managed to finish and sent the file to the publisher on the 9th.

This is a good time to mention that I was hoping for as natural a delivery as possible, mainly because I was curious as to whether or not I could tolerate the pain. Actually giving it serious consideration happened because of five lovely ladies. Julie is my super awesome Rhode Island friend who learned the Bradley method and was determined from the start to have a natural delivery. Jessica lives down the street in our East Rock neighborhood and delivered in a birthing center in Geneva. After we met at an orientation event for spouses of Yale students, she taught me about prenatal yoga and how to sing the Guyatri Mantra (in case I needed to calm myself during contractions) and gave me a copy of her birth plan in French (with the English translation). Rachel is in our ward and invited us over for crepes on our first Sunday at church. Her baby, Cora, was born at home. Rachel introduced me to Ina May Gaskin. Then Barbara, Jesse’s mom, had six natural deliveries. And my mom. So I thought I might as well try too. I bought the birthing ball, a heating pad, popsicles, lavender massage oil—all to get me through the long hours of labor at home and the hospital. I did the Kegels and the squats and got to the point where I could hold a wall sit for 5 minutes. But even as my due date approached, I wasn’t sure if I could do it, especially since I had to quit watching Call the Midwife after only one episode because it made me queasy.

On the 11th, I went to the art show, sold some prints, and then went to IKEA to do some last minute shopping for storage containers so that baby’s stuff could be placed somewhere other than in random piles on the floor.
I spent the rest of the 11th organizing those piles and clearing space in her room so you could see the floor. Late that night, I told Jesse that maybe it would be a good idea if, on Sunday after church, we reviewed our birth plan and the list of things he was supposed to know how to do to help me through each stage of the natural delivery I was hoping to have. Since he missed a lot of the childbirth class I attended, I typed a summary of all his responsibilities and said, “Here, just memorize this and we’ll be in good shape!” It was 6 pages long. I finished typing around midnight on the 12th and was ready for bed around 1:00. About this time, I felt crampy and thought it was Braxton Hicks so I ignored it. Shortly afterward, I started shaking with chills. The uncontrollable shaking didn’t stop half an hour later and I thought, “This is weird. Is this labor? If it is, then we’ll be here for hours.” Because early labor takes forever (so they say in childbirth class), Jesse distracted himself by starting a load of laundry and packing his hospital bag. Apparently my water broke right before the chills, but I didn’t realize that’s what was happening because water usually breaks late in labor and I had only started a half hour earlier. By the time he came back upstairs, the contractions were forceful enough to make be throw up. And then I needed a bath.

We decided to start timing contractions—there’s an app for that. While Jesse was downloading it, the contractions grew in intensity. They were maybe 30 seconds long only a few minutes apart. The hot water cooled off in about half an hour, and it was hard to sit still in the tub anyway, so I decided to get out and rock on the exercise ball. The ball helped for about two minutes and then I spent the rest of the home labor on my hands and knees while Jesse applied pressure to my back during each contraction. The pain came in short bursts intense enough to make me forget about visual imagery. I couldn’t imagine my happy place. The only thing that helped was moaning and heavy breathing like Ina May said, which I thought I would never do. Moan and grunt like a cow? Right. But that’s all I could manage to do, wondering the whole time how long this would last and if this was only early labor, how much more intense could the pain get, and how horrible would it be to get to the hospital and only be dilated a few centimeters?

I didn’t call the hospital right away because: a) the average birth for a first baby is 12-17 hours and I’d only been at home about two hours; b) doctors recommended we stay at home as long as possible to avoid getting to the hospital only to be told to go home and come back later; c) I bought 128 oz of watermelon Gatorade specifically for this purpose and hadn’t even opened one of the bottles (I left them in the car so I wouldn’t have to carry them down again on the way to the hospital). I finally called the hospital at 3:11 because minutes before I felt a strong urge to push and that’s when I got worried. The nurse casually mentioned in childbirth class that pushing before full dilation can cause serious problems. The doctor called 20 minutes later. I remember how hard it was to get dressed. I grabbed the one article of clothing that seemed most fitting to wear and which didn’t have buttons or leg holes or zippers—it was one of the few dresses my mom wore when she was pregnant, which she had sent to my sister during her pregnancy, and which Merella had passed on to me in a Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants kind of way.

We live on a second floor apartment and getting down the stairs took minutes instead of seconds. I had to stop a few times and resist the urge to push. I was bearing down all the way to the hospital, consoling myself with thoughts of how fortunate I was to be in New Haven instead of Alaska, laboring while strapped in the seat of a Cessna airplane with turbulence in a windstorm, or riding to the hospital on the back seat of a clunky ATV over a bumpy snow covered gravel road in sub zero temperatures.

Jesse texted his mom at 4:09 and told her were in the hospital. We waited, with me being monitored for maybe fifteen minutes before the doctor arrived and said, “You’re 10 centimeters, let’s get you a room!”

The bao bao (Chinese for precious) was born at 4:43. Fifteen minutes and three pushes later, we held our baby. Jesse says that at first, she was vernixy and purple with a weird shaped head. I didn’t really see her because I still wasn’t wearing my glasses, which I had put away once contractions started, but it was such a relief to hold her and hear her cry. 

After the nurses cleaned her up and put on her birthday hat, she looked like a tiny person:

6 lbs, 13 oz, 20 1/8 in long
I was born on the day the first snow of the year fell in Kotzebue, AK, and so was she, 30 years later.
We'll see how long we can keep the tradition going.

We named her Stella. Not after the beer, or the cookie, or the flower, or the love interest of Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, or the song “Stella by Starlight,” or the star in Philip Sidney’s English sonnet sequence, or the children’s book Stellas (Stella Star of the Sea and On Linden Square and Bella and Stella Come Home). She just felt like a Stella.

Once we got home from the hospital, I thought, “Now what?” I decided to eat a popsicle and then figure out the rest one hour at a time. 

Week 2 glamour shots

6 words

The last 10 months can kind of be summed up as follows: good news, sad news, hello, goodbye
Good news

My last semester at RISD was spent prepping for the first weekend in May—the Spring Conference for the New England Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators. This is a huge networking event in which writers and illustrators wander the halls of a huge hotel and trade business cards with everyone they meet. So I had to design a business card. But I needed information to put on the card, and the only information anyone cares about on said card is a website. So I had to make a website. So I made the website and it turned out to be as good as it gets when you learn the basics of writing html and css code in a 6-week crash course on web design for dummies. 

And then I made a promotional postcard, which is like a business card, but you mail it to art directors, hope they hang it on their wall, and that maybe they offer you a job in 5 minutes or 5 years.  

Just for fun, I decided to send samples of artwork for the Ann Barrow Illustrator Award, because if you win, your name is announced at the NESCBWI Conference and for two seconds, 500+ people know who you are and possibly make a mental note to check out your website. The judges claim to have sifted through a lot of applicants and that it was a hard decision, but it’s a small recognition, and I kind of wonder if I was the only one who entered…

I also redesigned my book dummy so agents could read it without wondering whether a one-armed, blind 2nd grader drew it. Making a book dummy is a multi-week project that includes taking breaks to sleep and eat, OR, an all-night project if you wait until 12 hours before the conference starts to stay up all night finishing the drawings, scanning them into PhotoShop for touchups, and sending the digital file at 6:00 am to be printed so you can pick it up on your way to the conference a few hours later. Which is what I did. Because there was no other way to do it.

Overall, the conference was really fabulous. I got to hear Jane Yolen say things like, “To do this job, you have to have fire in your belly, passion in your heart, and always, your butt in your chair.” And I heard Peter Reynolds tell the story of how The Dot started by accident when he fell asleep one night with a Sharpie resting on a piece of paper on his chest.

Sad news

All my project deadlines made me antisocial.

I designed an awesome promotional postcard, ordered 100, and when I opened the box, I realized there was a typo on the back. If anyone would like to wallpaper their child’s room with purple rhinos, let me know.

Good news

I graduated from RISD. 

Sad news

Our trip to the Philippines began with Uncle Frank’s funeral. He was one of my mom’s closest brothers and died without giving anyone advance notice.

Good news

Death is a venture to such “unpathed waters, undreamed shores” as noted in The Winter’s Tale. Uncle Frank is on a magnificent journey. I just know it.

In Cebu we reconnected with cousins I hadn’t seen in over 20 years. We stayed in Alex Tan’s house, where my cousin Ariel has been the caretaker since my uncle died in 2006. It’s a lovely house of which I have no memory, likely because I don’t think Alex didn’t lived there in 1992 when I was last in Cebu. The house has a garden with trees that shed pink petals every morning, and it was strange to look out the upstairs windows and watch my mom doing yard work at 6:00 am, sweeping up piles of petals in shorts and a tank top. So far removed from Kotzebue where our yard is a plot of lifeless gravel and a labyrinthine maze of drab scrap wood piles, old snow machines, and rusted oil drums—my dad’s domain where only he does the outside chores.

It’s hard to sleep in Cebu. Mainly because of the heat. When you finally do fall asleep, it’s only a few hours later that all of this happens: roosters start crowing at 3 or 4 am instead of at dawn like they’re supposed to in the movies; motorcycles zip up and down the streets all night, trailed by the occasional SUV blaring last century’s hip hop music; dogs bark, and neighbors shout back and forth. All this peripheral noise, plus a completely screwed up circadian rhythm prompted Ariel and my mom to go to the market at the bottom of the hill every day at 5 am to buy lapu-lapu, danggit, squid, octopus, and shrimp to cook for breakfast. And “breakfast” in Cebu was bowls heaped with steamed rice, a chicken or seafood dish (sometimes both), eggs, and plates piled with mangos, pineapple, or avocadoes. We could eat several platefuls each without feeling disgusting and bloated because the food is lighter and fresher, and we went for hours before eating again in the late afternoon. Dinner was usually breakfast leftovers. For about five minutes, I thought how life changing it could be to cook dinner for breakfast. The grocery store was right across the street. How hard could it be? Stop & Shop with its overpriced produce and aisles of processed food was totally uninspiring after perusing stalls filled with tubs of chicken heads and dried fish in the market at Consolacion. In Rhode Island, we just went back to eating cereal every day. Besides having personal chefs make me dinner for breakfast, I miss only one other thing about the Philippines: the bakeries. Pregnancy cravings drove me to consume excessive quantities of pan de coco, a roll filled with brow sugar and coconut, and ensayamada, the ubiquitous Filipino sweet bread that you can buy in miniature, or in rolls the size of hubcaps. 

And snorkeling. I miss that too, which is weird because I don’t like swimming and generally don’t get in the water unless I have to. But for half an hour, I don’t mind strapping on a life vest and sporting those hideous goggles that moosh your face into grotesque proportions. I think I like snorkeling because all I have to do is lie face down and stare at the fish and no matter what I do, I won’t drown. At Boracay, we forgot to bring crackers on our snorkeling excursion so someone on a neighboring boat loaned us a hotdog bun. Jesse simply held it in front of his face and the fish darted straight toward it. The excitement of being swarmed by tropical fish underwater is enough to make you forget about what processed white bread might possibly do to their digestive systems, but oh well.

I should also note that Filipinos love to sing. Karaoke is probably their favorite modern invention of all time. Ariel cleans the house every day after breakfast and sings to the sound of Kenny G blasted at full volume. This was good practice for the musical number he would be performing at his sister, Lovella’s wedding reception, which was scheduled for the day after our departure. When Lovella happened to turn 38 while we were there, birthday celebrations were in order, and where did we go to celebrate? An open-air seafood restaurant with a karaoke bar upstairs. While we ate, we were regaled by teenagers singing off-key renditions of Taylor Swift’s Love Story. I knew we would be next but felt strangely at ease, knowing that there would be no audience because the restaurant was pretty empty. But when we got up to leave, I realized we weren’t going upstairs, but to another karaoke bar an hour away because they didn’t have subpar microphones. It was already hours after I would have gone to bed so I could hardly form coherent sentences, I had eaten too much and couldn’t zip my pants, and I just wanted to go home and eat part of the cake Ariel brought home for Lovella. But how do you tell your cousins that you hate karaoke and just want to go home and eat their cake?

Neither Jesse nor I can sing on key. We cursed ourselves for joking about being willing to sing karaoke at breakfast when Ariel first suggested it would be a good way to spend the evening. We really just wanted to listen to him sing. We warned Ariel that if we did karaoke, it would be bad. This didn’t curb his enthusiasm. He probably thought we just being modest.

We sat there poring over the song catalog and hoping a typhoon would sweep away the foundation of the karaoke bar before it was our turn to “sing.” Everyone else in the bar was drunk, and even so, they each could have been fierce contenders on American Idol as they belted out the high notes of Mariah Carey or Dionne Warwick’s greatest hits. So Jesse and I thought we’d pick something easy and different to mix it up. I was hoping they’d have anything by Ke$ha because she can’t sing so all we’d have to do is sing talk in our best valley girl voices as quickly as possible for 3 minutes. No such luck.

We chose “Poker Face.” It was a bad idea. We were already a few beats behind by the time they handed us the microphones and we figured out how to turn them on and make sense of the lyrics as they bounced along on the screen in front of a montage of Victoria’s Secret swim suit models (these images played on a continuous loop no matter who was singing). I thought I knew the song “Poker Face.” But the lyrics mention glue guns and muffins and Texas and I don’t even know what it all means. I got all the words in the chorus right though. Jesse kind of saved the whole song and carried us through, even though he was sick. That’s true love, I tell you. The Filipinos in the bar undoubtedly thought we were idiots. Luckily, they ignored us after they realized we were idiots.

We sang first. Then Ariel. He got a standing ovation when he ad libbed in falsetto to Luther Vandross’s “Dance With My Father.”

I was too pregnant and it was too hot to enjoy doing much of anything else in Cebu, except sitting in air-conditioned spaces like the mall—which is the least interesting thing to do in the Philippines. But whatever made me less irritable was good enough for everyone else.

Hello, Goodbye

On July 6th, we got one step closer to saying hello to New Haven. I was released from my church calling as Primary President. Sunday morning before the alarm clock went off, I woke up and thought of the kids. I cried quietly so I wouldn’t wake Jesse. It was fast Sunday and I was holding it together until J—, the new Primary President, got up to bear her testimony. She was already in tears before she stepped up to the podium, and that’s all it took to get me started. I soaked a few Kleenexes before she was done saying, “Nobody is more upset about this than my boys. When they heard I was the new Primary President they turned to me and said, ‘Mom! Why did you say yes?’…” JM claimed that her kids thought Primary had been fun for the last year and a half and that I had done well, etc. The whole time I was thinking about how much I had complained about how hard it was and all the things I might have done had there been more, if I’d had more patience, more love…But the real reason my tear ducts went haywire was because JM reminded me that the one thing I would always miss about Rhode Island would be our friends.

These are all the things I thought about when JM stood there bearing her testimony:

I’ve never had many friends because I never needed more than one or two truly reliable people—I had one childhood friend, one person I trusted in high school, and in college, I had four stellar roommates. When I got married, Jesse was my friend. Before moving to New England, Jesse and I went to school and we went to work and minded our own business because nobody needed us. I suppose we were partly to blame for not having friends because of our insanely busy schedules and because we’re introverts.  Because it takes much more effort to get to know an introvert (in my opinion) and because a curious phenomenon of life in many places in Utah is that your-family-probably-lives-next-door-so-why-go-out-of-your-way-to-make-friends, we sort of blended into the walls. When we moved to Rhode Island, we were still insanely busy. But here, we found people who lived thousands of miles from their nearest relatives and who didn’t think we were completely weird; if they thought we were weird, they didn’t care. And for some reason, without even trying, we were suddenly interesting.

For the first time in my married life, I met people who: invited me to go bowling at 9pm on a Tuesday night; wanted me to go see the late night showing of The Great Gatsby at the mall (and who later called after midnight to make sure I wasn’t still driving around in circles trying to get out of the parking garage because that happened once); talked about you-know-what for miles while training for the half marathon; celebrated my birthday by making Italian food and poking around on Pinterest to find ideas for DIY décor in my favorite colors. 

When we arrived in 2011, I would never have expected to be missed. Or that I’d miss anyone when it was time to go. Without moving to Rhode Island, I’m not sure we when we would have realized that we’re not boring, we’re just quiet.


Lots of people came to help load up the moving truck. JM was last to leave because she insisted that since I was 7 months pregnant, I should not be cleaning baseboards. In the morning, the Rehons came to see us one last time, and the Taylors almost made it, but baby Max needed his mom, so we postponed our goodbyes.

Jesse had to drive the moving truck. I had to do some last minute errands so I drove away first. Twenty minutes into the drive to New Haven, I received a text message from JM: Sorry I missed you! Tell Jesse to save one for you! She had driven all the way to Allie’s Donuts—half an hour away—to get us breakfast and see us one more time.

It made me cry. Had it not been raining and had I not needed to watch the road, I would have cried all the way to New Haven.   

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Babe with the power

"Auntie, guess what? 
Last night I slept for 10 whole minutes every 5 minutes. It was so great."
Bonus point if you know the title reference without having to Google it ;)

The highlight of Christmas break was observing baby's bodily functions. Every bowel movement was met with robust applause. Listening to someone fart has never provided an evening's worth of entertainment. He even peed in artful trajectories so sometimes it took a few people to change his diaper, a task I lovingly performed on various occasions. 

I feel sorry for babies who aren't aesthetically pleasing to look at. I also feel sorry for people who looked great as babies but turned into weird-looking adults. Fortunately, Dario didn't have the former problem. The Chinese-Filipino-Mexican combo is working out so far. He'll most likely be a good looking full-sized human being as well.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The year 2013 in fewer than 2013 words

On New Year's Eve,
Jesse said: "Did you know your eyebrows are uneven?" 
I said: "What are you talking about?"

Jesse said: "Go look in the mirror."
So I did, and what do you know, I made it through the whole year without noticing I had indeed over plucked my left eyebrow. Here's a list of other noteworthy events of 2013:

January: I made babies. At RISD, in a class called “Drawing Children.” Even though one (or more) of my babies looked like a Russian mafia midget with a mild to severe case of blepharospasm (eye twitching), I still got an A.    

February: Storm Nemo dumped a few feet of snow on Rhode Island. Power was lost. School was cancelled. I made a snowman with Nemo leftovers. 

March: I turned into the primary president at church. It happened like this: the bishop of our congregation called Jesse and I into his office, said he wanted me to be primary president, I said “Oh no,” and then he said that everybody loves me, and that I have "a way" with children. The end.

It was not the job I wanted, mainly because my heart isn't a bottomless pit of patience for other people's kids, and because primary is the largest organization to be in charge of every Sunday. Each week, I have to make sure all 10 children’s classes (ages 18 months to 11 years old) have teachers who will show up and provide a spiritually enlightening lesson; that I (or some other responsible, spiritual adult) provide a spiritually enlightening lesson to all 33 children age 3-11 in the same room; that there’s a reliable adult present to teach them how to sing hymns from the children’s songbook so the kids can stand up in sacrament meeting and not be embarrassing because they don’t know any of the words to the songs in the annual primary program; that no child gets punched in the face, poked in the eye, or runs while holding scissors. 

Jesse also received a new calling. He's the ward clerk, which means he attends church meetings from 7:30 am until 2:30pm.
April: Nothing noteworthy happened this month.

May: I made my debut as a medical illustrator.

June: June was boring. Except for when Jesse became the finance director for Project Hope Art and was selected to be an analyst for the Clinton Health Access Initiative.    

July: We went to Haiti

August: We had our 8-year anniversary in Vermont at Shelburne Farms. On our honeymoon in 2005, we walked around all day at the San Diego Zoo. So on August 17, 2013, we walked around all day, traversing various portions of the farm’s more than 10 miles of walking trails and playing “Name that Poop” near the sheep/pig/goat/llama pens. Apparently I’m more adept at identifying animal feces than Jesse. 
I was awarded a new title, according to one family we know from church, the matriarch of which informed me that her children had this conversation in the car:

Child 2:  I wish Sarita was our president, she would be so much fun.
Child 4: Well, you can't have her because she is OUR primary president.
Child 3:  She is the best Primary President. She is so fun, now that she is our president we play a lot more games.
Child 2: She would be good at any thing.
Child 4: Yeah, like Ward President!

September: We ran the Wicked Half Marathon in Salem, MA. I had always wanted to see Salem, until we got stuck in 3 hours of traffic on the one-lane road that leads into the city.

Jesse’s parents came to visit. 

More volunteer work: we started working our 2nd and 4th Saturday shifts at the Boston Temple as ordinance workers. Our shift is 11:00 am-5:00pm but add at least two and a half hours for commuting time to and from Boston.

October: Jesse received a fabulous promotion at work.

I realized that I signed up for the two classes that should never be taken in the same semester at RISD: Book Dummy and Illustration III. The latter is a class focused on character development. For 12 weeks, you try to make characters look the same from different angles in different scenes. Each project had multiple parts—hours of preliminary sketches, rough drafts of final sketches, final sketches, then color comps, then finals in full color, etc.

The goal of Book Dummy was to produce a complete version of a book you might send to a publisher or agent—a complete 32-page layout (so that the pages turn) with text and illustrations in place and at least one finished spread in full color. This class would have been less problematic had I not changed my story every week.

So I crawled into my cave and didn’t come out, except to teach WRT 104 at URI, use the bathroom, and attend my 29th birthday party. Thank you wonderful friends!

November: We had Thanksgiving in New Hampshire. 

December: Jesse received another fabulous promotion at work. 
There was so much to do in Book Dummy class and I was so far behind that I was 2 hours late to the last class with a sloppy final project—when do I ever do that? Never. It was a traumatic day and I cried. And then I had one day to completely redo my book dummy before leaving for a Very Important Writer's Workshop in Big Sur, California. So in the end, it all worked out.

AND, the day I flew to California on December 5th, Merella’s baby, little Dario Levi Espinoza, was born. He wasn’t due until December 19th, but must have heard I was coming, and wanted to say hi. I went straight to the hospital after landing in San Francisco.

A big envelope arrived in the mail. 
We spent Christmas in California.
And now we're going to live despicably ever after.