Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Better Day

Yesterday was one of those days that I live for as a stay-at-home mom, one of the days that reminds me why I have made the choices I've made.  Monday was a long day, and the last month or so has been long.  Monday evening, I got a fair amount done, so that my house is mostly tidy, the laundry is pretty much caught up, and almost all the kids are mostly healthy.  In life, you don't really ever get perfect--you just strive for getting as close as you can.

And yesterday was almost perfect.  The little girls were back to normal temperatures, their fevers having disappeared sometime during the night, and they both slept in quite a while that morning and were happy when they woke up.

After everybody was up and dressed and fed, we were outside for a few hours in the sunshine.  It was sixty degrees and bright and beautiful and I could enjoy it, and let the kids enjoy it, for however long it suited us--I had nowhere else in the world I had to be.  There are always things that need to be done, but nothing that had to get done that minute.  I could take the time to indulge the kids' curiosity about everything and nothing:  inspecting the little crocus flowers, throwing rocks and sticks into the creek, playing ring-around-the-rosies on the grass, taking turns riding the tricycle down the driveway, checking out trees and plants for blossoms or any other signs of spring.  We focused on these things, and only these things, because I had the time (and the attention) to give.  Last week, when two of my kids missed two days of school because they were miserably sick, it wasn't a problem--with no hassle at all, I was there to care for them.

There are a lot of sacrifices--financially, emotionally, and otherwise--involved in being a stay at home mom (and for many women, just keeping their family fed and clothed, its not a realistic option), but the blessings and benefits to myself, my husband, and especially my kids, are well worth it to me.

I've thought a lot the last few years about the Lord's admonition that we be "anxiously engaged in a good cause".  Its quite easy to get caught up in everything that's going on around us, and we live in a time where there are so many amazing opportunities for both self-enrichment and service, that sometimes it can be difficult to choose, to narrow down what we will spend our time on and how much of it.

Sometimes I listen to moms talk about all the things they're doing or trying to do every day, and I start to wonder if I'm limiting myself too much, if I'm not as "anxiously engaged" as I should be.  And then days like yesterday come along at exactly the right moment to remind me that I am not only anxiously engaged in a good cause, I'm joyfully engaged in the greatest cause: raising children.  A time will come when that does not demand so much of my time, energy and focus, but right now, at this stage, I love being able to focus on teaching Kylie the names of flowers and helping Keira ride a tricycle and be fully, completely in that moment, because I have no other immediate tasks pressing down on me or distracting me.  There are some moms who are better than I am about being able to accomplish a great deal while still giving amazing amounts of time and focus to their kids, and there are some moms who maybe don't do well at focusing on the kids and still getting the house clean--whatever.  I don't pass much judgment generally, because I know we're all trying to find that balance, and each family has different needs and different challenges, and so does each mom, for that matter.

Post-modern feminists are good at selling the lie that motherhood is a soul destroying trap, because they latch on to the kernel of truth that it is hard, long, occasionally infuriating or depressing, and it requires putting a lot of other interests on the back burner if you're really going to focus on the kids.  But what they miss, and what no one who isn't a parent can truly understand, is that even the worst days usually have a least a moment or two of magic, the kind of magic that makes your heart soar.  And very occasionally, you'll get whole days like that--those are the days that we catch a glimpse of that eternal, supernal joy we're promised if we do our very best at this family thing.  There will come a time when I can focus more on all those little things I'd like to do, or learn, that I can't quite find the time for right now, and I'm OK with waiting.  As I snuggled my one-year-old last night before putting her to sleep, I felt her warm little cheek against mine and thought, "Geez, didn't I just have her?"  As we get ready for our oldest's 8th (!) birthday, I realize all over again that while the days seems long, the years are short and they just keep slipping by faster all the time.  If I never live with more money than month, I won't regret staying home.  But if I miss too many of those magic moments because I was too busy, I will regret it my whole life.

One of my heros was Marjorie Pay Hinckley, who passed away several years ago.  Among many other wonderfully insightful things, she once said, "We women have a lot to learn about simplifying our lives.  We have to decide what is important and then move along at a a pace that is comfortable for us.  We have to develop the maturity to stop trying to prove something.  We have to learn to be content with what we are."

We are daughters of God, made in His image, crafted with a bit of his Divine Nature.  That should always be enough.  It is His children we teach and cuddle and nurture.  That is a big enough task to  worry about without loading ourselves down with a lot of extraneous "stuff".  Some days, when the only thing I have accomplished is pushing my kids on a backyard swing and teaching them the names of flowers, that's enough.

Monday, March 26, 2012

I try not to complain much here. . .

but I am sick, sick, sick of everyone at my house being sick!  We've had someone sick with something pretty much every other week since we moved here (stuck inside a lot of the time in close quarters, constantly surrounded by lots of people under 12, it happens), but the last six weeks, its been constant.  The second to last week of February, Keira had a miserable cold/cough, which she shared with Dylan, and then my sisters three little girls stayed with us the next week, and two of them and Keilana and Kylie all had some sort of stomach bug--there was vomiting and diarrhea and multiple loads of laundry every day just to keep the house from smelling horrendous.

I got the bug in a minor way (stomach and body ached, but no major stomach issues for me, thankfully) halfway through the week, but still had 7 little people to cook for, clean up after and get to school and appointments and what not.  The next week, just as I was finally starting to feel better from the stomach thing, I got Keira's nasty cold and was sick with that for a week--coughing, completely stuffed up and with an achy, congested cough.  Dylan got it as soon as I started to get better, and then Kylie caught it while he was still sick.  The next week, Doug got it, and has spent the better part of every day for the last three weeks sleeping or laying around because he hurts and coughs constantly, so he doesn't really sleep much/well at night.

Last Tuesday, Dylan came home early from school with a headache and a fever--I knew he had a few cousins that had the true flu, so I figured that was probably what we were in for.  The next morning, Keilana woke up the same way.  So Wednesday and Thursday, they both spent all day on the couch with fevers, chills, body aches, nausea and head aches.  Friday morning (they had no school on Friday) Keilana seemed to be better and her cousin Maysa had asked if Keilana could go to her house, so I let her go, looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.  I sat at home Friday and most of Saturday with Dylan and Kylie, both a bit better, but still very tired and achy.  I finally just had to get out of the house Saturday so I didn't got bat-guano insane, and Doug (still sick) decided he wanted to go, too, so we put our three littles in the van and started driving. Within 15 minutes, they were all out. We ran to Walmart and picked up a few things, and just that wore everyone out, so we headed home.

Keilana had been dropped off at home while we were gone, and she excitedly told us about her weekend picking out baby chicks to be raised at Aunt Gwen's house, and going swimming at Hot Springs. 20 minutes later, she crashed.  Doug, Keilana and Keira all stayed home from church yesterday.

I saw a little glimmer of hope yesterday afternoon.  It was 60* and sunny, so after church my sister pulled her baseball stuff out of the car and the kids played a little softball out in the field, and played on the rope swing.  After most of the cousins went home, my munchkins played outside in the sunshine for hours, climbing trees, helping Yaya make a leaf pile for burning, cutting fresh chives, riding tricycles. Good stuff.  Keira gleefully enjoyed the independence of wandering around outside on her own two feet, but it was becoming apparent that her fever and runny nose were getting worse. And everyone was getting pretty grumpy by the time I got them bathed and PJed up.

So when Keilana woke me up at 5:30 this morning with that terrible, grating whiny tone and told me that her head hurt and her tummy felt funny, I grimaced.  When her whining woke the baby, who immediately started to cough and try to breath through her terribly runny/stuffy nose, which frustrated her and made her cry, I nearly cried, too.

I was literally on my feet nearly constantly from 8am to 9pm almost every day last week, and somehow there are still mountains of laundry to do and beds to be made and carpets to be vacuumed and dishes to be washed. I had finally started to actually lose weight, but this week all the fatigue and stress and whining got to me, and I've been using food as my drug of choice and gained back every ounce I'd lost, despite working out pretty hard every day last week, which just adds to my frustration.

So, sitting her at 7am debating whether or not to send my coughing children to school, I'm thinking I'd rather just go stay in a hotel someplace pretty with no children and eat delicious food that someone else prepares, go to a good movie and get a massage.  Spring sunshine needs to come and stay awhile.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Our little lady had a birthday party after church this afternoon. . .

She rather enjoyed the cake.
And as I watched her open her presents,
and play happily,
surrounded by cousins
and aunts and uncles,
and grandparents (and great-grandparent)
it struck me how many wonderful,
reliable, generous people there are in her life
who love her very much.
And as I looked through photos,
I realized, quite gratefully,
how surrounded by love she has been,
at day one:

And every day since:

Happy birthday, Keira Belle.
Mommy loves you lots and lots.
And so do a lot of other really wonderful people.

Thank you to all of you,
for your support,

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy birthday, Baby Belle

Somebody's turning one today. . .
She was born on St. Patrick's Day
but is the only one without red hair.
She's easy-going and content, 
calm and happy and playfully bright.
She has a bit of an Irish temper,
but we don't see it very often.
In a very cloudy year,
she has been soft spring sunshine.
She's going to be spoiled
because she's so much fun to please
and its so easy.
We love you, Keira Belle.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Thoughts on Gratitude

Yesterday, I spent all day cleaning a house with my sister-in-law and my brother, which means a little bit of money for us (yay!).  And since we have been totally inundated with children, my older sister, very awesomely, took all four of our kids home with her after school, including the baby, and kept them overnight.

So last night, Doug and I went out to a nice dinner and the only person I had to feed was myself.  The food was delicious, and I ate too much and didn't regret it.  Then we wandered around a store without chasing, carrying or reprimanding anyone and picked up a couple (very small) things that we didn't "need", and then got some ice cream from Coldstone before heading home and sleeping all night without interruption until whenever we decided to wake up.  Yesterday was a beautiful day (sunny, low 60s--seriously, gorgeous) and last night was sort of glorious--as we drove home well after dark, the Missions were bathed in subtle-yet-somehow-brilliant light from the mostly-full moon.

For a few hours, I felt neither overwhelmed with children nor poor, and I really needed that.  Its been a very long year and a half, hasn't it?

As we drove home, we were talking about leaving the baby for the first time, the fact that she's old enough to do that because she's practically weaned. There's no place in our family for another baby right now, so that leaves me thinking about the reality that I find nearly every form of birth control very, very annoying for different reasons.  Its so terribly inconvenient.  But as I thought about the various couples I know who are thinking about adopting, trying to adopt or have adopted, I remembered how grateful I am that every time I have wanted a baby, all I had to do was decide that I wanted one--I'm quite healthy, and its usually easy for me to get pregnant, and my pregnancies and deliveries were relatively easy and problem-free.  More all the time, I appreciate what a marvelous blessing that is, and one I would gladly put up with the inconveniences of birth control to have.

You see, for my own sake, I always knew I wanted a child.  But growing up in a large family, where I always had many people around me who loved me and helped take care of me (a blessing that I appreciate even more now that I'm an adult), I knew that for the sake of that child, I wanted children--plural.  And even though by the end of this past week, part of me was occasionally tempted to smother my children (I jest-but really-but no-but yes-but no), I am so glad that we have, what it by today's standards, a large family.  I'm grateful for all the joy and richness my children give to my life, and to each other's.  I'm glad that was easy and entirely up to us to decide how many to have and when to have them. Its so heartbreaking and patience-testing to have it up to other people and systems to decide when you can bring your next child home, and a few families have been in my prayers as they try to find that little baby that needs them.

As for myself, I should probably go pick up my kids.  But maybe I should build a fire and do the dishes first.  Surely Gwen wants a little more time with my little *blessings*

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Baseball Weather?

We've been getting sunshine and 40 and 50 degree weather this week.  Maybe spring will come early.  The tulips are just starting to poke above the soil--maybe they'll make it in time for Easter this year.
Gwen brought baseball stuff with her yesterday, so Nana and Kylie practiced hitting off the tee,
and playing catch with her.
Not bad for a couple of three-year-olds
(OK, so Nana's still a month shy of the "3" mark, but she's getting close)
 Keira is a very, very confident barefoot walker, but she's still getting used to shoes.
She didn't venture very far in her Crocs.
But she was quite pleased to be outside AND on the ground.

 Kylie tosses "Uncle Gwen" the ball.  She's got a pretty good arm.

 In addition to throwing, Nana practiced fielding some grounders.
She's aggressive.  And who wouldn't be intimidated by those purple jeggings?

They were both masterful at hitting the tee.

The older kids got in on the action
after they got home from school.
But by then I was acting as pitcher--
so no free hand for the camera.

But Dylan got a little piece of a couple of pitches
and Keilana got real hits on the first half-dozen I lobbed to her.
Pretty good for first timers.
Time to sign up for baseball, now that wrestling's over.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Quick Update

So, it occurs to me that we've been here for four months now, and I really haven't said much about what's going on.  I also haven't had a phone, so I haven't told anyone much about what's going on.  I've been great at communication, haven't I?

The kids have been loving school.  I imagine its quite a bit easier, since they only have to learn one language at a time.  That being said, the high school Spanish teacher, Marlene Lodge, has graciously been giving Keilana gratis Spanish lessons after school once a week.  Keilana picks a book to read, writes down any words she doesn't know or anything she doesn't understand and then they talk about the book together.  Mostly, it gives her someone to practice her Spanish with so that she doesn't "lose" too much of it.  I really appreciate Marlene taking the time, and I think its been fun for her--Montana high school students aren't usually real gifted at conversing in Spanish, so its good practice for both of them.

Dylan is in the same Kindergarten class as his cousin Paisley, which is fun, and he seems to have been completely unphased by the move:  his teacher told me a few weeks ago that she was starting him on 2nd grade readers and first grade math because she thought he needed more of a challenge.  And socially things seem to be going well.  Last month, we asked him who he played with at school and he replied, quite cheerily, "I don't know".  And he probably doesn't.  He probably just joins in with whichever wild pack of boys is in closest proximity to him and is quite content.  That's how he rolls. He loves the greater degree of independence he's got to enjoy since coming here--walking home from school with no adult escort thrills him to pieces, and he loves roaming the yard, field and up and down the creek without a parent.  Its been fun to see him so enjoy all the things I loved best about being a child here.

He also is enjoying having so much "boy time".  We signed him up for Little Guy wrestling and, despite not winning a single match, he loves it.  He loves going to practice every day and tussling with all the other boys and being part of the team.  He has very little aggressiveness (we'll see if that changes as he gets older), so the first couple weeks he treated it more like intense play acting than actual wrestling, but he's starting to get the hang of it now and has been having a blast.

Kylie has loved it, too.  She loves being just downstairs from Yaya, and is constantly trying to come up with excuses to go upstairs so she can hang out with her.  Probably her favorite thing has been getting to spend so much time with "Uncle Gwen"--for some reason my sister became "uncle" and no one can convince Kylie otherwise.  Gwen is usually here all day at least once a week doing ambulance coverage, and she's been really fantastic about just taking one or all of our kids now and then, and Kylie loves her and her house.  She's Kylie's sub for auntie Manda, I guess you could say.  She always wants to go to Unlce Gwen's house, or go with her any time she stops by.  Kylie has also become quite the singer lately.  She often will take the kid-size rocking chair and put it smack dab in the middle of the livingroom and then put Doug's mike stand in front of it and sing all kinds of amazing things, regularly declaring that she's a rock star.  Her verbosity knows no bounds, it seems.  This morning, when one of her cousins was being a bit bossy to her, she came to me and said, "Nana won't let me watch the movie with her! She's ruining my life!"  Ah, to be 3 going on 13!

And Keilana.  Oh, Keilana.  The adjustment has been a mixed bag for her.  She's doing very well in school, and has really enjoyed all the art projects, music time, PE and computer lab fun that was missing in California.  She's in the same class with one of her little girl cousins, and since there are only 2 second grades, she sees the other one her age quite a bit during the day, too.  She's made quite a few new friends besides cousins (I still need to have them over to play--we've been pretty much constantly sick at our house all winter, so I haven't been good about that sort of thing), but that being said, she is either at one of her cousins' houses or has a cousin or two over here nearly every weekend.  My little social butterfly loves that.  On the other hand, she's also had the hardest time with the transition--she's mentioned several times missing Mimi and Papa, or Payton, or the street fair or McDermont (and Sister Ashcraft and Sister Hunter and Sister Vega, and the list goes on and on).  We've dealt with a lot of tantrums and hissy fits and arguing and general fussing the last few months.  We're trying to breathe deep and get through it and get it under control.  *sigh*  But she loves being able to get outside and roam around and run--this kids has always loved the outdoors and cold air.

Did I mention that Keilana and Dylan love sledding tremendously?

So soon its on to baseball season and geo cacheing weather, and hopefully no more runny noses, sick tummies and achy bodies.  We've really had quite enough of that.

And Doug and I are doing alright.  I think we're at long last starting to find some footing of some sort, and this last week, we've had a few glimmers of hope on the job front--here's praying that they turn into something more substantial.  Wish us luck.

So that wasn't so quick.