That's a Good Day Thursday

What a perfectly normal, perfectly imperfect, perfectly wonderful day.

I snuck in a quick treadmill run this morning. Second one for the week! And that's saying something since I'm just now easing my way back into running since being a lazy bum since Thanksgiving. (Did I just drop three "sinces" in one sentence? Oh yes I did. Oh the shame! The over abundance of "since" AND the no running.) It's quite a relief to see that although my mileage and athleticism are suffering that the ability to run comfortably is still there. There is much work to be done. Sigh.

Speaking of running, I drove into downtown Salt Lake for a lunch date with some of my favorite people, my running group ladies. I almost didn't go. I'm so glad I did.

One migraine later...one handful of ibuprofen and one coke later...

The new home phone is set up. I'm trying to teach the kids about the sounds on the phone, how to use the phone, and phone etiquette. It all seems funny and backwards and exciting. And now my son has decided calling my cell phone is better than walking across the room to ask a question about homework.

Homework is done.

Second quarter report cards have come home. Everyone is doing pretty awesome in an average sort of way. Even Dee who can't seem to stay on task, stop talking in class, or remember to turn in assignments. (Are all third grade boys like this or just my kid?)

Dee finds out he will be getting his Wolf badge in time! (Note to self: We work on Bear more consistently and earlier.)

And in a last ditch effort to get some help with daily chores I dangle the new Lego movie coming out February 7th as bait.

"Complete your chore charts for two weeks straight and I'll take you to see the Lego movie. Popcorn, pop, the whole nine yards."

I want to see it just as bad as they do, but I want my house clean too. It's just too overwhelming for me to keep up with. And for goodness sake, they are old enough to help! Besides they make the messes! I've been trying to step back and hand over more responsibilities and have more expectations of my children. I know it's overdue. It's just easier said than done.

I remember my mom saying over and over when we were kids and doing chores: "A lazy mother does all the work." It didn't make much sense to me. I just figured she was in her room laughing it up behind our backs, eating chocolates, and congratulating herself for raising herself a bunch of free labor, but I believe "slaves" was my word of choice back then. Now I can appreciate the work she put into teaching us to work. And how she was doing the lion's share beyond my limited vision.

So far I have been a "lazy mother". It's just so much easier to do everything and do it the way I like. I have tried so many different methods to get my children to help clean the house. Most of the "methods" were just half-hearted efforts that fizzled into nothing more than yelling. Yelling seems to be my favorite method. Sigh.

Today I dug deep and found the patience to not yell but to teach and guide. It took everything I had not to grab the rags out of my son's hands and just wash the toilets myself *twitch, twitch* but I stood back and talked him through it. And he actually did an excellent job! And he even said it was--GASP!--"fun"!

Jeigh was in charge of dishes. Not only did she unload the dishwasher and put the dishes away, but she also loaded it without being asked and did so while singing her little heart out.

Elle took some coaxing. Every few feet she needed to be reminded to turn the vacuum back on, but she eventually made her way through it. I've found several missed spots *twitch, twitch* but I'm really trying to spotlight effort and attitude versus perfection.

Oh this is hard.

And Cee...well...

And me! Well!

In an effort to reinforce all the positive warm fuzzy feelings of accomplished chores and stellar report cards I suggested we go out and celebrate! (AKA: Mom didn't want to make dinner.)

The cherry on top: My 7 year old daughter breaking out into The Robot while riding home.

Playing "Justin Bieber" with my son:

And Elle and Cee wanting to say their own personal prayers.

Oh and Cee dubbing her big bear as "Daddy" and asking me to put him in her bed so she can snuggle "Daddy" as she falls asleep. (Joe, you are missed as always.)

Good day. Good life. Good nite.


Cee Turns Three

My, what a difference three years makes...

My baby turned three today. I'm getting used to the idea. She, however, is not. All day she has been saying, "I hate birthdays. I don't want my birthday." Aren't you supposed to wait until you're 30 to do that? Guess we're on the same page. NO MORE BIRTHDAYS!

Since I interrogated Dee last week, I figured I better give equal treatment to his littlest sis.

At three years old here are some of Cee's "favorites" (some in her words, some observed by me):

Food: "cake, broccoli, mashed potatoes", chocolate, milk, chocolate milk, anything sweet, anything on Mom or Dad's plate, soup, fruit strips
Drink: "chocolate, water", lemonade, Mommy's Shakeology shakes
Color: "blue, green", all colors
Animal: "cow", all animals
Person: "princess", Mommy, Daddy, Jeigh, (fights like crazy with Elle, but there's love there...I hope.)
Movie: "princess movie" (?)
To Sleep With: baby dolls
Wear: everything; she changes clothes ALL. DAY. LONG. Skirts, sisters' clothes, pajamas, swim suit, nothing but her underwear and maybe a pair of shoes or boots
To Do: change clothes, play with dolls, help Mommy (especially in the kitchen), cuddle, dance, take baths, be with the big kids
Song: "princess like a ballerina", "I'm Like a Star Shining 'Broccoliiiiii'", "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star", lots of primary songs and Top 40 songs. She loves music and loves to be sung to every night.
Book: "Lalaloopsy book" (?)
TV show: "Lalaloopsy", Peg and Cat, Dinosaur Train, Curious George, anything on PBS
Candy: "Five candies!", Mommy's gum out of her purse, any candy
Toy: babies, clothes
Place to Eat: "Chick Fil A"
Place to Go: "Chicken nuggets!"
Best Friend: "A green girl and a yellow girl.", Bria Hospodarsky
Thing about Lucy: "Baby dolly."
Way to help Mommy: "Dirt and flowers."
Saying: "I love you!"

What do you want to be when you grow up?: "Green. A dolly and a yellow dolly. Nothing." She's so tender and diligent with her dolls. I can only imagine she will be a wonderful mother.
What's your favorite thing about the world?: "I like the moon."
Where do you see yourself in 5 years: "In the dark."
Where do you see yourself in 10 years: "11. And then 12, 14, 16, and 17, 20!"

Cee is such a funny little thing. She's rather bipolar. She is giving you a tight squeeze around the neck one second and screaming at you the next. She wants her blanket on and immediately wants it off. Or vise versa. She wants cheese on her sandwich and then she doesn't.

She gets so upset about the littlest things, starts throwing a fit, and gets sent to her room or even just goes there on her own. She throws her tantrum in her room for a few seconds and then comes strolling out with a big grin on her face like nothing happened. "I be a happy girl now." She talks very well and has for quite a while. Sometimes I just stand and marvel at this miniature adult that walks around our house.

She's bossy and demanding, but so loving too. She loves to cuddle and be held and with her being my little "caboose" I'm grateful for that tender mercy from heaven. She says "I love you!" more than any child I've ever heard and she is just so easy to love back.

We celebrated her birthday a little early on Sunday since Daddy had to leave for work on Monday, her true birthday. She asked for mashed potatoes and broccoli for her birthday dinner. Well, she actually asked for cake, but I convinced her we needed to eat something more substantial before the cake. (Mashed potatoes! A girl after my own heart!) So I made Chicken Cordon Bleu, mashed potatoes and gravy, and broccoli...which she didn't eat a bite of. Guess I should have just given her the cake. Pink cake of course.

The Kuglers came to help celebrate and we even had a surprise drop in from Colin and Massi and Rico (who cornered her in Dee's room, scared her to tears, and bit her.) :( She got a few dolls, a dress up dress, shoes, and bag, a puzzle, and an activity center travel case (from Kuglers).

The next day we were busy getting Joe ready to go for his business trip but we made time for a birthday lunch out. She requested Chick-Fil-A which was packed thanks to Martin Luther King, Jr.

That night was pretty anti-climatic with the departure of Daddy; we all tend to get a little forlorn when he leaves. This is when that whole "I hate birthdays!" business came up. I asked her what she wanted me to make for her real birthday dinner.


Done and done.

Happy Birthday, my little one.


Growing Pains

There's something rather malicious about January for me. My oldest and youngest were both born in January, only a week apart. Well, they weren't born a week apart. Their birthdays are a week apart. Six years and a week apart. So every January I get to celebrate my "big baby" and my "forever baby", BAM! BAM!! Just like that.

Which is wonderful but really hard too. It just kills me how time keeps rushing on and these children keep growing. There's no stopping it. My oldest keeps forging into new big kid territory and my youngest leaves all that territory behind never to be tread again. With every milestone Dee makes we joyfully realize all those firsts. With every milestone Cee meets we realize with a painful twinge it will be for the last time.

I don't mean to sound like such a sob. I really do get rather excited, if not a tad giddy, seeing the new stage of life we are in. It's liberating and fun and exciting. But I can't help but mourn the death of our baby stage. No more positive pregnancy tests. No more flutterings in my baby bump. No more birth stories. No more new baby smell. No more first sit-up, first crawl, first steps. No more first birthdays No more second birthdays.

As the mom it's hard not to have an identity crisis. For the past ten years I have been 100% committed to baby-making, -growing, and -nurturing. Now what do I do? What is my new position, responsibilities, frame of mind?

I thought I had been handling the transition fairly gracefully until the other day. Now that my oldest two are getting old enough to be at home by themselves for small amounts of time we are getting a home phone line. We've only had cell phones for most of our marriage and since I believe that children having their own personal cell phones is outlandishly ridiculous we will be providing them with a land line to get in touch with us if we are not at home when they are.

The other day my oldest two came home from school and sat at the table where I was working on a project. Seeing this as an opportunity to present the new home phone as an exciting big kid privilege I opened my mouth to relate the good news.

I only made it through "Now that you guys are getting older..." before crumpling into tears. As I listened to myself it just hit me: They really are getting older! After nine plus years of spending nearly every waking (and sometimes not so "waking") moment with my children they are getting old enough to be left alone. They don't need me for every little thing. They are growing up. How did this happen?

My children just looked at me with confusion. I tried to laugh it off, recompose myself, and launch into my little speech again. "Now that you guys are getting older..." Now I was just laughing and crying at the same time. My son giggled awkwardly while my daughter, in her typical loving fashion, rushed to comfort me, patting my back and brushing my hair away from my face. Which only made me sob harder. Like shaking body sobs. (I'm not proud.)

In an effort to get it all out and move on already I just ended up blurting/yelling, "WHY DO YOU GUYS HAVE TO GET OLDER?! JUST STOP GROWING, OKAY?!" And then I laughed a lot, probably more maniacally than intended, just to lighten up the situation and help my kids understand they weren't truly in trouble for doing something so horrible as growing up.

Poor kids. I wonder at which therapy session they'll bring this scene up...

Finally I was able to compose myself enough to tell them about the new phone and boy are they excited! And yes, for all my psycho-ness, I'm just as excited as they are. Excited at their excitement, excited at meeting yet another "first", and yes, even excited at my own new found freedom.

Ugh. "They" warned me about the contractions and the sleepless nights and the soreness from breastfeeding and the Terrible Twos and all the pain and trials and terrible-ness. But no one ever told me how much it would hurt when all that was over and it was time to move on.


Nine is Fine

Today is Dee's ninth birthday! My baby boy is nine years old! Time just keeps marching on...

I interrogated him about his "Favorites" this morning so I could record just what life is like for a nine year old boy these days.

Let's get his favorite of favorites out of the way first: FOOD. (This kid is a bottomless pit.)

Food: tamales, chocolate chip pancakes (every Saturday morning), Oreos, baked potatoes, hamburgers
Drink: cream soda
Place to eat: Tepenyaki, Wendy's (no more kids meals for this guy! He likes to order off the adult menu now. "Plain hamburger, fries, and root beer with lots of ketchup on the side"
Veggie: "COOKED carrots. NOT raw."
Fruit: Green apples
Candy: Airheads

On to other more "trivial" things...

Color: black and red
Toy: Skylanders, Legos
Thing to wear: pajamas (particularly Skylander jammies)
To do: play video games (currently obsessed with Skylander Swap Force)
Thing about school: "Nothing, I don't like school."
Movie: Turbo, Monsters University, Despicable Me 2
Person: "You, Mom!" but I think he would say Dad if I wasn't around. ;)
Place to go: Pocatello
Thing to do outside: "Shoot bows and arrows", ride bike
Thing to do with family: Go out to dinner
Holiday: birthday and Christmas
Song: "Weapon of Choice" by Fatboy Slim (only because it's the music for a Skylander commercial). We also have recently discovered that he harbors a secret love for anything by ABBA. (But really...who doesn't love ABBA??). He also likes music that has a lot of electric sounds in it (ie. Tron soundtrack)
Church song: "I am a Child of God"
Thing about the world: "That it invented TV."
TV show: Family Feud
Thing to sleep with: one regular pillow and two pillow pets all propped on top of each other. Coverings in THIS specific order: sheets, bed spread, army blanket, Mario blanket, Pooh Bear blanket (has to have the soft side UP and Pooh Bear head up), and to top it all off, an electric blanket on HIGH.
Thing about self: "That I have Skylanders. That I'm alive. That I have allergies."
Thing about being 8: "Playing with my friends."

Best friend: Gage G.
Other friends: Jack, Stephen, Xavier, Damien

What do you want to be when you grow up: A hunter or a salesman (of everything)
What would you do with a million dollars?: "Buy everything. Buy all the Skylanders. And if I have money left over...an iPad."
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?: "College"
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?: "A graveyard. Or Hawaii."
What about a mission or marriage?: "Never."

(Someone please tell me this kid's priorities will change before he's thirty and still playing Skylanders in our basement.)

This kid cracks me up. He really is so very good at heart. He has a very obsessive nature where he hyper focuses on one thing for a long time (Ahem...just like his mother). Right now that obsession revolves around Skylanders and where his next meal is coming from, but I hope that one day it will come in handy.

Dee has such a gentle heart and is very tender with his sisters. (Unless he is need of a good wrestling session and Dad's not available.) Dee has gotten very good at cleaning his room. He loves to help in the kitchen. Dee also loves playing team sports and is discovering a "like" for reading. He's usually up for trying new things and I love his adventurous spirit.

Dee asks me constantly if we can have tamales for dinner, but they take so darn long to make I always tell him no. I just couldn't turn him down on his special day so ALL DAY Saturday was spent making 100 plus tamales. We had tamales for his birthday dinner on Sunday and now we have several packages frozen to be enjoyed throughout the next several months. A win for all of us!

For his birthday cake he asked if I could make the "Undead" Skylander symbol. I gave it my best shot; this was my first time making and using fondant. We'll call this decent.

Since Dee is allergic to milk and I was all out of his special "butter" I used coconut oil to make the frosting for the first time. My mixer is not working so well so there were lots of little chunks of coconut oil in the frosting. Oh well. It sure smelled amazing.

He sure seemed pleased so that's all that really matters.

I forgot to buy candles too, but I think the matches go well with the "Undead" thing we have going on here.

Now if only Amazon would deliver his gifts that I ordered a couple of weeks ago...

Nine is fine. Hopefully ten will be even better! Happy Birthday Dee! We sure love you!!


If I sent Christmas cards, you'd totally be on my list!

With a young, growing family we're always looking for ways to simplify and keep costs down, whether it's Christmas Day or just another ordinary weekday. Unfortunately, Christmas cards are one of those "expendable" expenses. And quite frankly, this bums me out! 

I LOVE Christmas cards. Every year I look forward to seeing pictures of family and friends and pouring over the details of their lives if they are doubly ambitious and including a letter. (I guess I'm kind of nosy like that.) In return, I want to share my own life. (I know I'm an oversharer like that.) Never mind that we do this daily through social media. Isn't it fun seeing it all summed up and packaged up in pretty paper and beautiful photos?

So to all those who were thoughtful enough to include us on their mailing list this year: thank you! It means a lot to me. (And Clayton too though he probably wouldn't gush about it like I do.) And in response, may I send out a virtual Christmas card/end of the year summary to you in the form of a blog post? Tacky? Probably. But tacky with all the best wishes stuck to it.

While every year seems bigger and crazier than the preceding, 2013 really was a rather monumental year for us. After ten years of marriage, our little family is moving on to the next exciting and busy (in a different way) stage of life. We're trading in diapers, strollers, and baby blessings for pierced ears, family hikes, and baptisms.

While we're not trying to rush the youngest member of the family, Lucy (2), we are pretty thrilled to see her developing and changing from a baby to a big girl. It's so bittersweet knowing she is the last little one, but we are relishing each moment and every milestone. This year she graduated from diapers, cribs, sippy cups, and strollers. Now she loves to be the mommy and diapers, feeds, and swaddles anything that will hold still long enough for her to do so.

She will be turning three in January and wants so badly to join the big girls in school and dance. I imagine we'll blink and she'll be doing those things in no time. NO MORE BLINKING! Our "baby" still loves to cuddle as often as she can, sing lullabies at bedtime, and says "I love you!" more than any child I've ever met. Now if she could just learn how to stick with one outfit a day...

Lydia (5) graduated from preschool in May and headed to kindergarten in the fall. I was particularly nervous about sending my little blondie to the "big school", but there was no holding her back. She loves walking with Deacon and Eliza to school every morning. While she plays it pretty cool, she enjoys just about everything about school, even the homework!

It's been especially amazing to watch the non-physical changes in Lydia this year. She is getting braver and more confident in herself. We were so proud of her for dancing on stage this year at her Spring dance recital and December Nutcracker performance.  I marvel (sometimes with fear and surprise, but mostly with awe and amazement) at how this child looks at the world. She is unpredictable and spontaneous and hilarious and artistic. We continue to make progress with her gluten-free diet trying new foods and recipes and I'm thankful she goes along with it so willingly.

Eliza (7) finished 1st grade in a puddle of bittersweet tears, but met 2nd with an eager, happy grin. She loves music, art, helping, chocolate, lip gloss, and playing with cousins and friends. In fact she loves EVERYTHING...except cleaning her room. She embraces life with so much enthusiasm and emotion. It's simultaneously gratifying and terrifying to see your child developing into a mini-version of yourself.

Eliza has grown musically this year. She decided to give dance another go and performed in her dance studio's performance of The Nutcracker. She and I sang our first mommy/daughter duet in our ward talent show. She had zero fear and ate up the limelight while I was, literally, shaking in my boots. Since then we have been asked to sing together a couple of times. Eliza even sang her first public solo in our ward primary program. (We are treated to solos daily here at home.) She has a beautiful voice and it's so fun seeing her love of music in action. She also lost several teeth, got her ears pierced for her birthday, and had to get glasses (which she can never seem to remember to wear). It's fun watching her start these growing pain years and we already admire the beautiful girl she already is.

2013 was especially big for our oldest, Deacon. When he turned eight in January he had the opportunity to be baptized. We enjoyed sharing this very special event with our family and friends. Deacon was excited about joining scouts this year...until he realized it wasn't all camp outs and treats and vowed to not go back until it was. We've "convinced" him to return and he quickly earned his Bobcat badge and will be earning his Wolf in a few weeks (if his mother has anything to do with it).

This year he played soccer again and is also giving basketball a go. While he isn't exactly athletic or aggressive, he has a true love for team sports. He's just happy to be out there, running around with his buddies. And no bird poop on the shoulder or ball to the face (TWO bloody noses in one game!) is going to keep him away. At least not when there are treats at the end. While we question his obsession with Skylanders we see that our son is growing into a fantastic, responsible, little man. He has learned how to clean his room the first time mom asks, that reading is for fun and not just for homework, and that helping others makes him feel good inside. He's just a good kid through and through and we sure appreciate and love him.

While Clayton would prefer I not even mention him in this letter, we would never be complete without him. "Incomplete" is how we often feel since he continues to travel often for work. He has been with Komatsu Equipment Company as an instructor for three years. While he doesn't seem to get to go anywhere too exciting (mostly tiny mining towns in Nevada and other sites in Arizona, Wyoming, Georgia, and Michigan), he continues to impress his coworkers with his knowledge of power generation and electric trucks. He even had the opportunity to help in some training classes with Spanish translation for some Peruvian classmates.

He's actually had the opportunity to use his Spanish a lot this year as we have gained a new Chilean sister-in-law (my brother Colin married Massiel in June this year). He used it again when we traveled to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico where he served his mission to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. With all that work traveling Clayton has done he was able to accrue enough air and hotel points to cover our trip!

Our little "honeymoon" was incredible! We visited several ancient Mayan ruins, sweated our brains out, drove all over the peninsula, swam in both the Gulf of Mexico and the Carribean Sea, missed our kids too much, went snorkeling for the first time, ate lots of local food, drank lots of Mexican Coke, unsuccessfully tried to avoid the pushy peddlers, and reunited with several wonderful people he had known on the mission. It was an amazing experience that helped us to appreciate even more all the little and big things we are blessed with. And what a way to celebrate ten years of wedded bliss!

Returning to his mission has been a dream of Clayton's for years. Actually we've seen several of our dreams come true this year. When our minivan's slow decline began to look fatal, we had to go shopping for a new family vehicle. Now Clayton finally has that pickup truck he has been fantasizing about for who knows how long. We're still a one-car family, but now we have somewhere to load all these kids and their stuff and four-wheel drive to get us there.

Singing in a "real" performance with my children has always been a dream of mine. I'm grateful Eliza was up for it. Running with my kids was another. This fall, Deacon and Eliza joined me for their very first 5K race! We had a blast running through the Color Me Rad course and the kids were still smiling by the end. I was very proud of both of them!

Seeing my children and their talents, personalities, and senses of responsibility growing is a dream come true too. I find myself almost daily saying aloud how awesome it is to be starting this stage of life. It was really hard to let that baby stage go, but it's a huge relief as well. It's liberating to have everyone walking, talking, dressing, pottying, and feeding themselves. While they may not do it well sometimes I'm just happy we're making progress. The future is looking pretty bright!

I've made a bit of progress this year too. Lo and behold, I've actually stuck with this little running hobby of mine. This year I celebrated my 32nd birthday by running from my doorstep to my sister Erin's doorstep, a total of 24 miles. A friend joined me for the second half and we were met with a banner and balloons at the "finish line" of Erin's driveway. A month later I completed my first full marathon, a harrowing experience as I had been so ill the week of and the freezing spring rain poured through the entire race. By the time I reached the finish line it was with incredible pride, pain, and relief that it was over. I vowed to never do that again. Unfortunately I had already registered and paid for two more races. So in August I ran a second (terrible, terrible) marathon and in October a third (slower, but so much more pleasant!) marathon, making three full marathons in five months' time. I've since sworn off full marathons, but am already signed up for my first triathlon, my first Ragnar relay race, and a half marathon next year. Stupid or ambitious, even I'm not sure some days.

As painful and lonely as long distance running is, it doesn't really compare to having to be a "single married" all the time. In fact I run to deal with being "on duty" all the time. It's gotten a lot easier to have Clayton gone so much, but we sure do miss him when he is. I continue to serve in the primary presidency in our ward and Clayton is the assistant pack leader. And when we're together we try to squeeze in a few family adventures whether it be going for mountain drives and hikes or trying new recipes in the kitchen. This year we made some traditional Yucatacan food, homemade corn dogs, canned applesauce, and homemade vanilla.

Right now our life is homework, Tooth Fairy visits, Saturday ball games, being lucky to get through only ten verses of scripture a night, coloring books, hanging up coats for the hundredth time, hotel rooms, phone calls goodnight, sticky fingers, and animated movies. But we love it. It's funny how one second it feels like everything is broken and a mess when the next second I find myself thinking "Life is good" and meaning it.

Life IS good. And we appreciate the friends and family that help make it that way. Along with our Heavenly Father and Savior who bless us more than we deserve. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours from us! Much love and well wishes!


My New Favorite Christmas Tradition: Tell Me the Stories of Jesus

Ever since I became a mother and realized that the duty of ushering in the (true) Spirit of Christmas had fallen upon my shoulders I have struggled to do anything that really made an impact. I tried to implement many old and new traditions, many of them fairly elaborate or expensive, all with little or no impact.

Maybe it was my delivery. Maybe it was the young age of my children. But all my efforts were met with great frustration and perceived failure.

Back in November of this year I decided to try something a little different and follow the mantra of "Let there be peace on earth at home and let it begin with me" by acting upon a Facebook challenge of reading The Book of Mormon in forty days. I figured what better way to bring the Spirit into my own heart and my home than by drawing close to my Savior through His words. This would be my gift to the Christ Child.

For almost two weeks I followed the reading schedule strictly and marched my way through over 250 pages of scripture. But did I feel an overwhelming closeness to my Savior? Not really. Instead I felt stressed and guilty as I cruised by passages I wanted to study more closely all in the sake of completing the daily reading assignment on time. Enter more stress and guilt for devoting so much time to rushed reading when my children were watching TV, mindlessly, or inciting my anger and frustration with unattended messes and sibling arguments. Once Thanksgiving week hit, I began to fall behind and just never could seem to get caught up.

I felt terrible on top of all that stress and guilt. I had failed at even this.

I beat myself up about it for a few days, feeling like once again my efforts to make Christmas mean something for my family was a flop. I toyed with the idea of just giving up. (But c'mon. We moms never truly give up, right?)

Over Thanksgiving we had traveled to Idaho to visit my family and while there attended church at my parents' ward. It seems to be common practice in the LDS religion to send home lots of little papers with their primary children. I confess, I recycle most of these with hardly a glance. While meaningful, they're often scribbled, wrinkled, and quickly forgotten.

But for some reason, one paper that came home that post-Thanksgiving Sunday caught my eye. It even made it all the way from that church building in Home Town, Idaho to Current Town, Utah, (a veritable miracle in a car packed to the brim with four young children and loads of other stuff).

This paper somehow escaped the car clean-out after our trip and the recycling bin. It just kept resurfacing in my house and eventually I found myself studying it and realizing that this simple little activity might be worth a try.

Each night, through the month of December, I pulled out the corresponding picture from our Gospel Art Kit and we read the related scriptures. This replaced our nightly scripture study. We fell behind a few times, but were able to quickly catch up by reading a couple of stories at a time. Sometimes if we were crunched on time we would simply read the summary on the back of the picture instead of diving into all of the scripture verses. After each reading we would say our family prayers. Then after putting everyone to bed I would tape the picture on the dining room wall so we could look at it throughout the month.

It all took very little time and even less effort.

But "by small and simple things are great things brought to pass" (Alma 37:6).

Let me be totally honest here. There were several nights where I was practically yelling by the end and our prayers were said with more than one child goofing off or sulkily saying "Amen". But there were also several nights when the Spirit poured into our home. As we learned about Jesus from the foretelling of his birth, to his childhood, to the miracles he performed, to his suffering in Gethsemane and his Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and his visitation to the Nephites, He became very real to all of us. Even I learned a few things I didn't know or remember. We were no longer celebrating the birth of a strange and distant God, but our beloved brother and Savior. The kids would ask questions and we were able to have several conversations, some kind of silly, but some very sincere and spiritual in nature. It gave me the natural opportunity to bear my testimony to my family and share my love of Jesus Christ and the gospel with them.

Every year I feel kind of sad and melancholy when I take the tree and decorations down, but it will be these pictures that will be the most difficult to see go this year. Maybe we will just leave them up...

This is such a small, simple Christmas activity, definitely easier and less time consuming than that monumental 40 day challenge I totally bonked out on. Instead of feeling stressed and guilty, I felt peace and comfort that I was spending time and energy doing what Jesus would have me do. While reading the Book of Mormon in forty days is not a bad thing, it wasn't the best thing I personally could have done at this season of my life. I officially declare this as our new family Christmas tradition and I can't wait to do it again next year. Hopefully, I can stay out of my own way and not complicate it and just let the Spirit guide.

A couple of notes: I'm not exactly sure where this activity originated from; I just saw the paper that came home with my daughter. But from what little research I've done it's possible it came from the December 2008 issue of the LDS monthly publication, The Friend.

Also, while I am of the LDS faith and appreciate that these stories include the Savior's visitation to the Nephites on the American continent, this could very easily be tweaked for someone of a different faith. Most of the scriptures are in the New Testament and Gospel Art Books are very easy to order online (and only $3.50!), no matter what faith you are.


Thoughts of a Mother as Time Marches On

Oh my sad little blog. I just don't have the time to devote to it anymore. There are just SO MANY THINGS that demand my attention and time. I feel like my life is just speeding up and most days I'm hanging on, doing the bare essentials, hoping for the best, and still expecting it to slow down somehow, sometime.

Will that happen when I'm 70???

I've been doing a lot of soul searching lately. I'm wondering...Is it okay to be just hanging on and doing the bare essentials and hoping for the best? Is that what everyone else my age and in my situation (stay at home mom of multiple young children) is doing? Should I even care what anyone else is doing or not doing?

As painful as it is to realize, I am entering a new phase of my life. I'm closing the chapter on babies. Off and on for the past several months my arms have been absolutely aching for another baby. And not just a baby, but one that looks like my other babies, that grew in my own belly. I long for that flutter in my stomach; that wonderful, terrible, life changing experience of child birth; for just one more shot to finally do a natural child birth on MY time schedule and no one else's.

I have been praying to see if another baby is the answer to my aching.

It's not.

My answer came quite clearly in a moment. I had been thinking about what I would name my next baby, when suddenly my thoughts switched to the seasons and how sad I was that summer was ending and fall was beginning. Sad that I hadn't squeezed in everything I wanted to. Sad for missed opportunities. Sad, but happy for the many memories that were made. Hopeful for the joys of a new season.

And the thought came to me that no matter how hard we try to do everything we want to do in a season, we just won't get it all done. That doesn't meant that fall is any less fun than summer. It's just time to move on, ready or not.

And then I realized that was my answer.

We had a wonderful time bringing babies into this world, but that season is ending and it's time to move on to the next season: raising those babies. It's painful and sad to see this season end, but there is much hope and excitement as a new season begins. No use fighting it. Time marches on and a new season comes, ready or not.

So here we are in this new season and I'm left floundering a bit. What do I do now? Where do I go from here? What does Heavenly Father have in store for me?

I know I want to help others, but is that to help others in my own little environment, in my home and family? Do I focus all my energy on being the best mother I can be and giving my four children everything I possibly can?

Or am I meant to inspire and motivate and help others through health and fitness? Or writing??

Or do I go back to school and pursue the nursing degree I left unfinished to nurture my babies?

Or is there something else that I can't see that I'm supposed to be doing?

I keep thinking of this quote: "The greatest work we will ever do will be within the walls of our home.” (David O. McKay) And I know, that for me, being a present and engaged nurturer is my number one priority. All else is moot. It doesn't matter how great a writer I am or how many pounds I lose or how many degrees, awards, prizes, checks I earn. If I fail as a mother, I fail completely. I can promise you I won't parent perfectly, but I'll sure give it my best shot.

But I realize that I am more than a mother. Or a wife. Someday my little baby birds are going to fly and leave this nest and this mama bird will enter a new season. And I need something to carry me into the next season.

I'm still not sure what my purpose is at this time. I'll continue my soul searching. But I do think it was NO coincidence that I stumbled upon this this morning while pondering these things and that it touched my heart in a way that only music can.

It was the perfect reminder that no matter what I do I want to stay close to my Father in Heaven and His plan and will for me. For I know that if I do, that is when I will be the most happy and fulfilled.

Sigh. Such are the rather intimate thoughts of my heart these days... And yes they are intimate and maybe best left to my own heart and head, but maybe I just want to know that I'm not the only one feeling this way in this stage of life.


Making the Most of Mothers' Day

I've been missing from my blog for the last couple of weeks. That being said...I've been missing from a lot of things these days. I'm not exactly depressed, but I find myself feeling tired. Feeling useless. Feeling hopeless. Feeling lost in the monotony of housework and homework. Wondering what good am I for besides cleaning up messes and making sure my children are doing what they need to be doing. Wishing that my life was not one of single-married-hood. Wanting things that I simply cannot have.

It came to a head yesterday when I found myself snapping at my children and melting into tears of frustration. Frustration with my life. With the size of my bum and belly. With stupid, expensive mistakes. With goals that aren't coming to fruition. With mountains of laundry. With the thought of my husband leaving me alone again for weeks on end. With the never ending demands of motherhood.

I grappled to understand why it was so hard for me to be content right now. Typically, I find a great deal of joy in taking care of my home and family. What had changed? Why was I feeling so gloomy about everything?

Right before bed, it dawned on me. Mothers' Day is right around the corner.

Ahh Mothers' Day. The day I feel like the most worthless piece of humanity.

That would be greatly thanks to the traditional few weeks of failed parenting leading up to this day of maternal tribute. Yep, it's an annual thing. The days before that second Sunday in May, I find myself wading through heightened chaos with a decreased amount of patience.

The spilled milk. The bedtime balking. The fights over toys. The complaints about what's for dinner. The incessant demands to be fed. The sleepless nights. The seat belt struggle.

Molehills become mountains. Happy Mommy mutates into Grouchy Mommy. There is not much "love at home".

And by Mothers' Day I can hardly bear the cards and gifts and church service with all the sappy mother stories. Why? Because I sit there feeling like one big hypocrite.

Mothers are supposed to be sweet and kind and gentle and patient and whisper loving, confidence-building things into their children's eagerly listening ears. Regardless of how wonderful a mother I was the other eleven months of the year, it's those few prior weeks of particular bad behavior that stands so starkly in my mind on Sunday. And the spirit of Mothers' Day is destroyed.

Hmm...Now who do you think would love to sabotage such a beautiful occasion that celebrates one of the most important parts of a happy family??? Hmm.

Here's to ignoring The Adversary, to looking past faults, to letting go, to always trying to find happiness in the smallest things, to indulging in a cupcake in your closet, to turning a blind eye to the sticky finger prints on the walls, to being patient and kind and gentle, to enjoying Mothers' Day guilt-free every year!

Wish me luck.


Vlog Vednesday: How to Dry Pack Easter Candy

Last year I wrote a blog post on what to do to preserve all that naughty leftover Easter candy. This year, I thought I would make a video about it for Vlog Vednesday.

Same information as the blog post. This one goes out to all those "visual learners".


Of Fossils and Family Pictures

Spring Break rolls on...

Today we took a little trip to the local dinosaur museum at Thanksgiving Point. The kids and I have been here before, but Daddy was a first-timer. It's been a little while since we've all been, so it was fun seeing all the displays and skeletons again.

Cee has been doing really well with potty training. Only...she refuses to go on any toilet seat but her own little seat than can be placed inside larger toilet seats. I imagine it can be pretty scary for a little bum to be dangling in such a precarious situation. So...I did the only thing a mom who doesn't want to lose any of the precious potty training progress she's made could do.

I carried a tiny toilet seat around in a plastic bag inside of a back pack.

I'm a mom. That's how I roll.

Don't laugh. It worked. Twice.

By the end of the trip we posed for a family picture. And I realized, for the millionth time, that there is no such thing as a perfect family picture. With a family of six, it is inevitable that someone will be crying or picking their nose or asking for something to eat or staring off into the distance or yelling at someone else to smile or blinking or imitating Bart Simpson or missing the dinosaur in the picture.

We just take multiples and hope for the best.


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