Friday, April 27, 2012

Cutting Edge

So I'm hanging out here with iTunes DJ on,
dancing with my little girls, 
and I start thinking about concerts,
about the concerts Doug and I have been to
since we got married.

U2.  Ok.
The Kingston Trio
Sons of the San Joaquin
Merle Haggard
Willie Nelson/Bob Dylan
The Kingston Trio (yes, we saw them twice)

We're so hardcore.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Recent Quotables

There was some leftover Easter candy on top of the refrigerator, prompting Kylie to demand, "Mommy! Give me some Reese's Pieces right now!"  When I said sternly, "Kylie, you don't tell me what to do," she responded (with terrible aggravation, I might add), "Yes I do! I tell people what to do!"  (Hey, at least she owns it. . .)

Dylan, who is prone to brain freezes, was sitting at the kitchen table sipping some juice while I made dinner and asked, "So wait, the food goes into our tummies, but the drinks go into our brains?"

Overheard Kylie telling her baby doll, "You can't have my boobies right now! You're getting too big."

(On a related note, Keira is definitely proving to be the most difficult child to wean. . .

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Perfect Age

This one is at my favorite stage right now. 

The years between the first and third birthdays are my favorite.

Little toddler bellies and confident-but-still-tiny little feet.

Barely-there pigtails.

And mostly, everything in the world, everything in life,
is still new enough to be so wonderfully exciting,
with exactly zero sense of self-consciousness 
getting in the way of enjoying it all with wild abandon.

We went for a short drive down back roads 
with the windows down today.
When we hit Airport Rd,
and got up to about 45 mph,
the wind from my window was hitting her right in the face.
She giggled with glee 
and made hilarious squinty-eyed, mouth contorting faces
as her tufts of longish hair blew about.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Keilana just threw up.


She was feeling sort of funny ("It feels like I'm getting poked all over") last Monday.

By 2am last Wednesday, she was vomiting.  Repeatedly.

By Wednesday night, she felt OKish.  Definitely not "all better", but better than she had been.

Thursday she went to school, and baseball practice.  By bedtime she was saying her tummy hurt again.  I advised her to get some water, and try to sleep.

Friday she spent the night with a cousin.  By Saturday afternoon, she was feeling icky again and having major diarrhea issues.  Sunday morning after a dose of medicine, she thought she felt well enough to go to Church and made it through all three hours OK.  We went out to Nana's birthday party, where she played, but ate very little and told me that she was feeling a little weird.

This morning she woke me up telling me that her tummy hurt again.  She looked awful.  I told her to lay down on the couch down.  She spent most of the day there, a good chunk of it sleeping.  Around dinner time, I dosed her with two different types of medicine, and she seemed to be doing pretty well.  By 9, she was heading down to tell me that her tummy was worse again.  Sometime between then and 10:15, she puked all over the bathroom floor and then, mercifully, fell asleep.

She's pale and greenish with sunken, dark eyes.  She hasn't had enough food, water, or sleep for a week.  I'm not sure what to do at this point.  Normally, I'd have Doug give her a blessing.

I grew up without the Priesthood in my home, and it was very important to me, in making choices to form my own family, that that authority be present in my home.  Now, I've gotten so used to it that I sometimes take it for granted.  No Daddy here right now to give her a blessing.

One of the most wonderful blessings about living in Lindsay was that there were a half dozen men who I trusted and were comfortable with, whose cell phone numbers were all in my phone.  Any time any one in our home needed a blessing, I'd just send out a quick group text to all of them asking if any one was around/available to lend a hand.  Usually in 15-20 minutes, tops, at least one of them was at our house.

I miss them all.  Kindon, Clint, Jim, Tim, Nathan, Scot, Mark, and all the rest.

LIttle Reminders

Doug's off for the week.  He will be living in Anaconda during the week and coming home on weekends thru most of the summer.  To say that its a relief that he has a decent, career-oriented job would be gross understatement.  After more than a year of no kind of steady (or even much unsteady) employment at all, we're darn near elated.  That being said, we will be a part-time family for several months, we will be making significantly less than we were in Lindsay (where we were already on a budget), we will be moving, doing someplace completely new for us and our kids with no family immediately near, and all the challenges that presents.  There are still hurdles to leap, but we are very optimistic.

This weekend, I've had a lot of sweet reminders that I'm loved.  The lesson that I taught this week was "Eternally Indebted to Your Heavenly Father", and focused primarily on the Atonement.  When President Tree, our stake President, entered Sacrament Meeting a few minutes after it started this morning and took his place on the stand, I smiled.  How strangely coincidental that our Stake President in Montana is the older brother of my two closest friends in California.  It was a reminder that though I am obviously deeply indebted to the Lord for his grace, he has scattered thousands of other blessings, large and small, throughout my life as well.

In Relief Society, the lesson was on Elder Scott's October 2011 talk, "The Power of Scripture", and we were asked if we'd like to share a favorite scripture.  I have lots of "favorites" (depending on what's going on in life at the moment), but one I come back to often is D&C 6:21, 34, 36: "Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  I am the same that came unto mine own, and mine own received me not. I am the light which shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not. . .Therefore, fear not, little flock, do good;  let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail. . . Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not."

When I reread that, it nearly always helps me to instantly be cheerful.  There is someone who knows more than I do, who understands better than I do, who is happy to lead and guide, if I am willing to listen and seek inspiration.  It reminds me over and over again that the hard things never last forever, but all the very best things absolutely do last forever.

Just before he left, Doug gave the kids and I each a blessing.  I don't care to share much publicly, but suffice it to say that it was good for my heart to hear things I intellectually knew, but perhaps hadn't spiritually absorbed--that my Father is even more mindful and appreciative of me and what I am trying to do than perhaps I wanted to give him credit for.  It validated a lot of what I thought was happening around me recently.  I've come to understand and appreciate Paul's words more and more the older I get, about what it really means that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers.

Here's the bottom line: the adversary is real.  He is actively trying to destroy good things, with every tool available to him.  He despises few things more than a happy, content family steadily working together toward eternal goals.  Perhaps one of the only things he hates more than that is when many good, faithful, diligent families continually edify one another with love, forgiveness, patience and charity, joyfully helping each other further along on a celestial road.  Such unity, such mutual love and support, enrages him, and he will try to break it up, destroy it, any way he can.

Some of his most common tools are discouragement and contention.  We all get frustrated sometimes, we all get discouraged, and the Lord understands that.  But we give the adversary a little victory if we give into those things and start reacting to our family from a place of stress and aggravation, or start making decisions from a place of fear or anxiety.  One of the adversaries most cherished weapons is making people believe that he is more powerful than he truly is--the Lord told Satan that he would put enmity between Satan and the seed of Adam and Eve, that Satan would have the power to bruise man's heel--but that man would have the power to crush his head.  He is a formidable foe, but he in an eminently beatable one.  When commanded to depart by the proper authority, he must leave.  He cannot linger in the light.

The more we live our lives in the light, the less power he has to influence us.  Don't be discouraged.  Don't quit.  It is important to remember that while Jesus did indeed save the whole world, he healed and uplifted people one by one, and that is how he still works.  The Atonement covers all sins, all hurts, all sorrows, which means it covers every single one--including yours.  The Lord knows and loves each one of us personally.  In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer: he has overcome the world.  If we stop and pay attention, we will find loving little reminders of that fact shining little hints of light all over our lives.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Easter thoughts

We were able to spend Easter Sunday with Doug's mom and step-dad and several of his sisters, which made me realize just how much I've missed them.  Much of our conversation made me realize how homesick I've been.  As we were leaving town on Saturday, I called Clint to let him know that Chuck would be picking up our washer and dryer (which Clint had generously been storing at his shop for us), and just hearing his voice during that 5-minute phone call made me miss all my California friends and family terribly--I suddenly realized that all the interaction I've had with anyone from back home since we moved up has been over email, Facebook, or text message.   It was the first time in nearly six months I'd heard any of those wonderfully familiar voices.

As we sat around Jen and Paul's house in the evenings, visiting and catching up after putting the noisy monsters to bed, I realized all over again just how little we had said/explained about the events of the last year and half to anyone other than those directly involved--it was just too much to explain, and then even if we did explain all the events, it wouldn't mean much without also being able to explain all the people/personalities/relationships/responsibilities involved and all the different ways all those things intersect--its just too involved.  And realizing that made me so very grateful all over again for the friends that we've been blessed with.  If we had to go through such trials, I could not have asked for better people to go through them with.

Being in Church on Easter Sunday, I started thinking about last Easter.  Doug's grandmother had passed away the previous Thursday, and his sisters had arrived from Utah on Friday.  Sunday morning, we got up, got the kids ready in an unusually patient manner, had quiet personal prayers, and then a reverent family prayer together before leaving for church, where we sat in a happy mass with Doug's whole family, save for one brother-in-law who hadn't been able to make it from Utah yet.  I watched in joyful contentment as my husband blessed our baby daughter with his brother, brothers-in-law, father, step-father, and several close friends standing in.

Then, since life seems to have a habit of swinging from tremendous highs to frustrating lows, the first talk really threw me off kilter.  I sat there, earnestly trying to listen, but struggling--I kept reminding myself over and over again that there was nothing wrong with what the speaker was saying, that in fact it was all doctrinally accurate and lessons we all need to remember.  But I had to consciously keep repeating that mantra to myself, because the tone of delivery and the individual from which the message was coming made it gut-wrenchingly difficult to hear, to even sit through--I kept having to fight the urge to bolt out a side door in hurt and anger.  When the first speaker sat, I wasn't even angry, though I was tempted to be.  I was exhausted.  I sat there, holding my baby and silently crying and thinking to myself, "I am just so tired of all of this.  I just want to run away and hide and be done with it.  I just don't want to do this anymore. I just want some rest. I'm so. . .tired."

Then the second speaker stood.  Tim began his talk, in that quiet-but-crystal-clear manner he has at the pulpit.  He started by saying that a lot is expected of us as Latter-day Saints, in what we do and who we are.  And then he said, "Do you ever get tired?  Do you ever think, I just can't do this anymore, not one more thing?  I just want to be done?"  It was nearly word-for-word what had been in my mind moments before.  I started crying harder, and as he continued his talk, reminding us on that Easter morning of what the Savior has given us through the Atonement, I found the even keel that just a few minutes earlier I had been certain would escape me for weeks.

As I relived that experience in my mind, I felt silly for being so worn-out, so ready for escape--but I remembered that in the intensity of that moment, I didn't bolt.  I did keep trying.  I remembered that the Savior had a moment of painful exhaustion where he longed for escape, too:  "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me. . ."  A hurt, tired child pleading for some other way, some sort of relief.  But the important thing to remember is that no matter how tired, no matter how hurt, he didn't give up and run away--he pressed on.  In the face of exquisite anguish and unfathomable exhaustion, he pushed forward with the humbly courageous words, "Not my will, but thine."  My little burden in that moment seems so laughably miniscule when trying to comprehend the Atonement, but the principle of patterning our behavior after the Savior's remains.  When we find ourselves overcome with pain and fatigue that we did not bring upon ourselves, we need to turn to our Father, as He did, and ask in His name for the strength to press on, not in prideful determination, but in willful obedience, and trust that on the other side of that pain are greater blessings than we have yet known;  trust that we will not only be OK, but might indeed have the opportunity to serve even those who have caused us that pain, and serve them in some small measure in the way that He has served us.

Forgiveness can be difficult.  Especially when it feels as though someone has made a decision, taken some action, specifically to wound us.  But the Savior has taken upon Himself their sins as well as ours.  It is he who decides what price they will pay for them, not us.  He asks us to let it go, to place that burden on him, and be at peace.  Some transgressions can't be erased from our minds, but the anger can  be washed from our hearts, if we have faith enough to trust that, through his justice and mercy and the power of his atoning sacrifice, the Lord will make us whole, will restore all that we lack (and deal perfectly with all other individuals, as well).

And it is important to remember that, though the Lord had to travel his stony path alone, we never do.  For that I am so very, very grateful.  Through his power, I am sealed to my husband and children, and I am always mindful of the fact that the Lord has provided me with a companion I trust and love to weather all life's storms with.  But in addition to that, we have both been so fortunate in the many other wonderful people who have walked our path with us: parents, siblings, grandparents, and so many friends.  Through this specific storm, we have felt safely steadied by the warm spirits and willing hands of the Meiks, Ashcrafts, Cregors, and Hunters particularly.  We may have been tired at times, but we have continually felt loved, and never, never alone.

During the last 18 months (was that October City Council meeting really a year and half ago? Oh my. . . . .), my mind has wandered often to the lyrics of "Be Still My Soul":

Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, friend
Thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end

As I think fondly of our many wonderful friends whom we are now separated from by geography, the last verse often comes to me:

Be still, my soul, when change and tears are past
All safe and blessed, we shall meet at last.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Falling into place. . .

A few weeks ago, Doug went and hand-delivered an application for a Planner II position with the City of Anaconda/Deer Lodge County (its a combined government).  It was the only option, really, since it was the day the application was due and there was no way available for him to submit it online.  He got a call back almost immediately, asking him if he could come in and interview on the following Wednesday.  We both laughed a bit, about the fact that for more than a year he has submitted application after application after application and gotten no response at all (even the applications that he submitted just out of a we've-got-to-find-a-job desperation at retail outlets and the like),  and then the first open planning position we've come across in the state of Montana, he gets an interview.

I drove over to Anaconda with him for the interview and wandered around town on foot while he was in his meeting.  At first, I was having sort of this ugh type reaction--it looks pretty rough.  Its a small, old company town whose primary economic resource has been gone for years.  Kept thinking to myself, "Do I really wanna live here?"  And then I thought about what Mission and Laie and Lindsay must look like to outsiders, and those are all places that are very close to my heart, places where I very much felt at home.  And then I remembered San Luis Obispo.  It was beautiful, in so many ways.  There were lots of things I liked about living in the area, and I was mostly happy there.  But I was glad to leave, and haven't missed it much, because I never really felt at home there.  After that, I started seeing all kinds of fascinating things in my surroundings as I wandered town, and I actually started to feel really good about the possibility of it being our new home, at least for a while.

On the way home, Doug said that he felt really good about how the interview went, and he'd felt really good about it when he'd dropped the application off, too--that maybe it was a good fit for us, and we started thinking differently about how the next 5-10 years might go than what we had had in mind recently.  Friday morning, Katy called and told Doug that she and Chuck and Rachel were going to be leaving for Utah the next day and might be able to bring the rest of our stuff if we could get the UHaul arranged and all (a lot of our belongings were left in storage in California because of the circumstances in which we moved).  So Doug got the truck rented, and things set up with Chuck to get it loaded, and Saturday morning Chuck and Rachel loaded up our stuff in California, and we loaded up our kids and we all drove to Jen's house in Pleasant Grove.  We dyed eggs with the Tanner cousins and got to spend some time visiting with the grown ups, and we all did the Easter thing together on Sunday.

Monday morning, Doug got a call from Anaconda, offering him the job, as well as a some possible perks we hadn't expected (more on that as it develops).  He accepted the job, and after spending a couple more days enjoying the company of our extended Clark/Winter family, we headed home, me driving the van and Doug driving the UHaul.  Since Anaconda is actually on the way home, we got a hotel and stayed the night there, so Wednesday morning the kids and I got to meet Doug's new boss and all the folks who work in the office (seems like a really nice group of people--everybody was super friendly), and found a storage unit to unload our UHaul at and dropped off the truck (saving us both the hassle of driving it another 2 1/2 hours home, and the gas money of taking it that far).  We drove the kids all over town to help them get a feel for the new place we'll be, and after all that, we were passing the LDS church on the way out of town and saw that there were a few cars in the parking lot--it was Wednesday evening.  So we popped in and met the entire Bishopric (yes, they were all there on Wednesday night--I'm already impressed! LOL) and it turns out that the ward clerk has one of the big old Victorian houses in town, and he rents out the top floor (2 bedrooms and a kitchenette).  So Doug will be staying there during the week and coming home on the weekends through the summer, while the kids and I stay here so that they can finish the school year and enjoy the summer with their cousins and grandparents.

After a year and a half of feeling stressed and semi-rudderless, in a week we got a job interview, a job offer, found Doug a place to live, and got the rest of our belongings up from California.  All with, really, very minimal effort on our part.  Its almost been too easy. . .

There have been so many things that have happened the last couple weeks (besides all the big things mentioned above) that have reminded me that I have a Father who loves me, who loves my family and is mindful of each of us.  And I've remembered again that while the Lord sometimes asks us to push our limits, he doesn't ask us to push beyond them.  We feel quite blessed.

Monday, April 2, 2012

On Priorities

My parents raised five kids (plus a couple of handfuls of foster kids, friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, and cousins who always seemed to be hanging about--when I was a child, we had dinner together at the table nearly every evening, and it was not uncommon to be spilling over onto nearby counters, with 9 or 10 or so people eating), which meant that the house was often a mess, that furniture was frequently abused, that children literally climbed the walls, that there were finger and nose prints on every window, etc, etc.  That being said, I think my mom did a remarkable job of keeping the house relatively tidy and training all of us to do the same.  For as long as I can remember, we all had daily chores and usually had extras on weekends, and all of us helped on family chores like laundry and the vegetable garden.  I have very clear memories of my mom teaching me, directly and thoroughly, how to make a bed, how to iron a shirt, how to wash and dry different types of dishes, how to clean mirrors, how to scrub toilets, and how to sort laundry.  There were a hundred other things that I picked up through observation and practice.  Though I never was very conscious of it as a child, looking back I now realize that my parents did the majority of this family-raising on a budget so tight it must've squeaked and groaned.

The result of all this diligent child-raising?  My mother's home is still constantly filled with children.  And I do mean constantly.  All five of those children live within a 10-mile radius of her house (nearly all of them less than a mile) and almost every day, there is some combination of grandchildren playing at her house.  My parents are far enough along in their careers now, and not having to raise kids anymore, that they are able to live fairly comfortably.  But their furniture still takes lots of abuse, there are still people spilling juice or dripping popsicles on their floors, and there are still often little finger and nose prints all over their windows.  We try to be good about cleaning up after our kids, or, if they're old enough, making sure that they clean up after themselves, but its a reality nonetheless.  As much as I'm sure my very hard-working mother would love to have a perfectly-appointed and spotless home (and she does have a nice home that she keeps up on pretty well) I'm so very, very grateful to have parents that would much rather have the mess and the noise than not have the kids around.

Sometimes I look at photos of particular design features or furniture or art pieces that I really like and think to myself, "I'd like to have something that, but I couldn't do it til the kids are out of the house."  And my very next thought is usually, "But I have four kids, so I'll probably always have kids in the house."  It would be very easy to yield to the temptation to be frustrated about that--about never being able to have the house I want without making concessions for other people--but a particular design or furniture set or artwork or what have you would never, ever matter to me as much as the people I love being in my home, and, just as importantly, feeling free and welcome to play there.

I am affected, sometimes quite severely, by the state of my house.  I find it very stressful when there are piles of stuff about, or dirty floors or unfinished laundry piles, and so I try very hard to budget my time and focus to ensure that my house stays relatively tidy and orderly.  But that being said, I also try really hard to grasp those moments when Kylie brings me a book and asks me to read it to her, or Keira grabs a pillow and initiates a game of peek-a-boo, or Keilana asks me why babies think peek-a-boo is so funny.  That laundry pile will always be there (seriously--always) and the floors will need to be scrubbed again tomorrow.

In short, I'm grateful to have been raised by people who sincerely believe the old poem:

"The cleaning and scrubbing
 will wait til tomorrow
For children grow up
as I've learned to my sorrow
So quiet down, cobwebs,
Dust go to sleep,
I'm rocking my baby 
and babies don't keep."

I cherish the time I've spent rocking each little baby of mine, and I find great joy and hope in having watched my mother, my grandmothers, and my mother-in-law all rock babies of mine--a sweet reminder that if I show enough love and attention to the babies I've been blessed with, there might just always be a baby to rock.  I certainly hope so.