Sunday, December 29, 2013

Closing the door. . .

Its been a long couple of weeks, and by this morning I was not in a very good mood.  Actually, I was a downright grump this morning.

But yesterday, on a bit of a whim, we did some rearranging.  At the top of the stairs in this house is a large common area of sorts--bigger than most bedrooms, smaller than most living rooms--that, since we moved in, has served as our "bedroom", because we were pretty sure that it was the only place our big king-sized bed would fit.  There were two bedrooms off to one side, and one "bedroom" (which was awkwardly designed, had pipes and hook ups all over, and was attached to the main bathroom, so it serves as our laundry room/communal closet) off to the other side, and so there were constantly kids in or moving through our "bedroom".  So, we dismantled one set of bunk beds and moved the girls into the big open space (giving everyone much more room to play upstairs), and moved our bed into their bedroom.  There's not much room around the bed in any direction, but it fits.  And we can close the door.

So this afternoon after church, we did.  We closed the door, and talked for nearly 4 hours with (almost) no interruption.  The kids played happily on the other side of the door, or downstairs, but we actually could shut the door and have some time to ourselves.

I think I may have found the key to feeling sane in this house.  I just wish we'd done it sooner.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


It seems like I was anxious for Christmas so much earlier than usual this year, and then somehow never got to it.  I'm usually pretty good about limiting our external commitments so that we have plenty of time to enjoy the Christmas season together at home--small crafts, little activities, treat-making days.  We didn't have a lot of that this year.  Almost none.  We were reasonably consistent with our regular, nightly scripture-reading, but even that was a little more anemic than usual.

I just let other things build up on me, and let it demotivate me too much.  The house we live in is admittedly frustrating to me, and I allow it to be more frustrating than it should.  And we have a few petty irritations that seem to keep popping up every time we think we've dealt with them and put them behind us--such is life. But for whatever reason, it all affected my mood far too much.  And I knew it, which made me irritated at myself.

By the time we got home this afternoon, Doug and I were both exhausted, and it showed.  We both sounded agitated, and I knew it, and it really was just fatigue--car troubles aside, we've had a great week.  The kids were all exhausted, and it showed--crying, whining, fighting.  Just a long, long week for everyone.  When I was on about the very last fiber of my very last nerve, Keilana and Kylie (who were supposed to be in bed) had something of a meltdown (in my fatigue, I hadn't gone upstairs to sing them a song, which I do nearly every night when I put them to bed).  So, after talking to them, firmly but calmly, about what was out of line with the behavior, Doug and I each cuddled one of them while we sang them one verse of "Away in a Manger".  I needed that moment.

We are too impatient too often.  Voices get raised or anger comes out too often.  But there was absolutely nothing unusual about that moment at all.  For all our slip-ups and impatient moments, those quiet, calm, I-still-love-you-I-always-love-you moments are just as, if not more, common in our house.  I needed to remember that.

I needed a moment at the end of this busy Christmas season to remember, while holding one of my babies, that little baby who came to save us--to save me.  I needed to remember for a moment before Christmas ended that my babies are what make my life so wonderful, and that it was that small baby so long ago that made those blessings eternal.

I needed that moment, holding one of my precious babies while singing about the birth of that most precious of all babies, to remember that the petty problems are petty and they're not my problem.  Things I've tried to let go before, I can let go again.  Because of that little baby boy, and who he was and what he became, all that is required of me is to forgive others, forgive myself, and move on.  The Lord bears the rest of that burden--I don't have to fix it.  I just have to move forward with as much kindness and patience as I can, and leave the rest to him.  Every opportunity I have to remember that makes it relatively easy to let go.  I know the Lord loves me, I know that he knows I am trying, and that he will forgive me when I fall short.  As long as I am willing to forgive others, he will happily extend mercy to me.

Fatigue is not forever, and in mercy, forgiveness, and love, we can indeed sleep in Heavenly peace, finding ourselves renewed, and ready to face with cheerfulness and gratitude whatever challenges may come our way.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Keeping Tradition

There's been a Christmas Eve party at my parents' house nearly every year for four decades now.  I missed quite a few while living in Hawaii and California, but the party went on.  It morphed over the years from my grandparents, some aunts and uncles and cousins, to now just my brothers and sisters and their families, with the occasional in-law visitors or extended family (just the kids, spouses and grandkids, plus one great-grandma, makes dinner nearly 40 people).  There weren't a lot of absolute traditions--some years, there would be a nativity, in recent years a Chinese auction-type gift exchange has been had amongst the adults--but it was a given that there would be turkey, large quantities of sugar in various forms, and Christmas Eve packages containing new PJs.

We were headed this way for that party when our trip came to an abrupt halt.  Mom suggested that maybe we could move the cousin get-together to another day.  My sister I think put it best when she said that even if we did the party another day, she'd still head to my parents' on Christmas Eve, even if it was just her and the kids eating pizza with mom and dad, because she was pretty sure that if she told her kids that they weren't going to Yaya and Papa's on Christmas Eve, they'd think she cancelled Christmas.

I completely know what she means.  Thankfully, my big sister came and picked us up today, and my parents offered to take us home sometime later.  So, despite the car trouble this week, the tradition will continue as it has.  I'm glad for that.  We'll spend Christmas Eve with the extended family, exchange presents with cousins, eat too much, open pajamas, probably laugh a lot, and then, when everyone else heads home, I will spend Christmas Eve night and Christmas morning in my parents house for the first time since I was 18.  That seems like a pretty good way to spent Christmas this year.

I'm up way too late, but the presents are all wrapped, we've got everything we need, and Santa knows where to find us. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013


So, we got the van mostly packed Friday night after the ward Christmas party.  We got up Saturday morning, packed the last few things, and hit the road just before 9:30.  Before 10am, this is where we were:

Didn't even make it to Deer Lodge.  We hit a patch of ice, started to skid sideways, and then started to spin.  We spun in a complete circle twice, then slammed into the side rail, which threw us the other direction. I think.  It was all so adrenaline-soaked that my memory is already getting really hazy.

The kids were all screaming like crazy and were pretty rattled (spinning in circles on the interstate at 70 mph is pretty scary), but as we were spinning I was actually pretty calm, and just kept thinking, "Please no one hit us.  If no one hits us, we'll be fine), and as the impact with the side started, I just thought, "Please stop." As in, don't flip or roll.  Fortunately, no one did hit us and we didn't flip or roll.  The kids were completely terrified for a few minutes, and a couple of them did bonk heads or arms on seats or things, but everyone was buckled and even Ginger, just sitting in between the kids, was just fine.  Thank goodness.  

Later in the day, I had to run to the store, and at first Keira said, "No! Mommy, don't go in the car! It will get ice!"  When I explained that most of the roads in town were pretty dry, I'd be going slow and it was perfectly safe, she seemed satisfied and wanted to come with me.  But every 30 seconds she would scold, "Don't go fast like Daddy!" (When we came to a stop, he kept saying, "I shouldn't have been going so fast" and that apparently stuck with her).  Anytime I got above 15mph, she started to whimper.  Kylie was having a hard time with it, too, and the rest of the day if she thought/talked about it, she'd get teary-eyed again.  We didn't seem to have any nightmares last night, and everybody seems to be fine today.

Initially, I was just tremendously grateful that it wasn't worse and that everyone was OK.  Growing up here, I've seen my share of wrecks that started out similarly, but ended much, much worse.  Being raised by two EMTs has, if nothing else, made me a generally cautious driver, especially when the roads are wet, icy or snowy.  I'm a great big wimp about all three.  We said a prayer for safety before leaving home, and the Lord delivered.  We're fine.  And I am well-aware just how fortunate we are.

I'm trying really hard to focus on that. Because now that the adrenaline and the overwhelming relief have worn off, the true costs are starting to hit me.  When we first go married, we were college students--poor, and in fact accumulating a fair amount of student loan debt.  Doug got the job in Lindsay, and we moved there.  In the first year, we bought a new house, several major appliances, took in another family for a while, had an unexpected week-long stay in the hospital away from home, had several out-of-state weddings to attend, and then over the course of the next few years, had a couple more babies and several more unexpected expenses.  When we had finally gotten to a point where we felt like we had started to get ahead of the financial challenges those circumstances had created, Doug got laid off.  And, though there were odd jobs and consulting gigs here and there, there was no steady work, no job, for nearly 16 months.  We were finally feeling like we were sort of back on top of things after a year and a half of steady employment, our credit rating inching back up, pretty much all debt but student loans gone, and bam! car wreck.  Figures.  At the very least, it will cost us a little over $300 now and then whatever our insurance decides to bump up to for our monthly rate (with no tickets or wrecks on either of our records, we've had pretty great insurance).  At most, it will total out our van, and we will get the somewhere near the trade-in value of our van, a pittance when you're talking buying-a-famiy-vehicle money.  We haven't had a car payment in over 3 years.  I'm not really anxious to add one now.

To be honest, I think as much as anything else, I'm just annoyed at the fact that its seriously messing up our holiday travel plans.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Finally getting to Christmas

It would be impossible to overstate
how much these two delight me.
Playful, sweet, just enough sass
to keep things fun.
I had my last final (my final final?)
early this morning.
Kylie had her last day of school
(this was on the way to her "concert"--
3,4, and 5-year-olds
dressed up and singing Christmas songs.
I picked the older two up early
to get some treat supplies
and make yummies with me
while watching Christmas movies.
We don't have a lot of treat plates 
to deliver this year,
but we're gonna enjoy a baking-and-movie afternoon,
and then we're gonna have more concerts
and make deliveries tomorrow.
Maybe look for Christmas lights
on the way home.

Then present wrapping, 
still more sewing
(here's hoping I finish everything on time)
and then head to grandma's
for Christmas Eve with the cousins.
Its starting to feel a little magical.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Kylie is FIVE!!

Kylie Bear turns 5 today.
She's a lucky little girl,
she started out life
surrounded by lots of love

Meeting big brother and sister for the first time,
she was calm and quiet and happy.
She entered the world,
as all babies do,
still firmly attached to her momma.
Doug likes to joke
that the umbilical cord wasn't really cut
until she was about 6 months old.
In the delivery room,
after about an hour of being held by me,
her dad,
and her yaya,
they finally took her to get cleaned up,
weighed and measured,
and she started to cry a bit.
If I started to talk,
she'd stop crying.
If I stopped, 
she'd start crying again.
For the first 6 months,
it was rarely OK with her if anyone else held her.
Though she'd sometimes make exceptions
for special people
I decided early on that she's a good judge of character,
when it became apparent that,
though she'd cry at most people,
she was perfectly happy to be held by Yaya,
great-Grandma Elda,
and her aunties Christina and Jennifer.

It almost weirded me out 
how well she was focusing her eyes in the delivery room,
it was clear she was really looking at me,
and it soon became apparent that she was the staring contest queen.
 She is observant and attentive,
she studies people,
and notices a lot of things kids her age miss.
Her sensitivity goes both ways--
she's tender-hearted,
and so she is attentive to the needs and feelings
of others.

We discovered this early on,
that she loves to share and to love.
She was hanging out in the Snugli
(where she spent about 90% of her time),
silently sucking her little purple pacifier,
when Daddy stopped to talk to her.
He popped the pacifier out for a second,
and she seemed confused.
So he popped it back in.
She stared up at him,
silently suckling.
So he popped it out again, and put it in his mouth.
She looked at him.
Her eyes got big.
Then they welled up.
Then her famous, pouty bottom lip popped out,
and she let out the saddest,
most pathetic little cry ever.
Daddy felt bad, so he picked her up to comfort her.
Once she was sure he didn't mean to hurt her,
she took the pacifier out of her mouth,

 and put it in his.
Just sort of saying, 
"I get the joke now, Daddy.
I'll share."
That little moment with our 4-month-old
is such an accurate snapshot
of the person we now know her to be.
She's affectionate, kind, and generous,
clever and quick,
and just loves to love and be loved
by the people in her life.

 For all her attachment early on,
she is in many ways such an independent girl.
She is agile and coordinated,
smart and curious, 
and loves having the freedom to explore the world
on her own terms,
and as long as she knows we're not too far away,
and that we'll be waiting for her,
she's confident in venturing out.

She's always been so expressive,
so playful and silly.

Her creative nature is apparent
whenever she sits down with a pile of blocks,
or some scissors and paper,
her wonderful comprehension of the world around
apparent in the things she says,
and the questions she asks.
And her generosity and kindness is always apparent,
in the ways she plays and shares and helps
with virtually everyone around here.
She can be easily hurt,
but she forgives
and bucks up
just as easily.
She's not a dweller.
She's a smiler,
a sharer,
a hugger,
a builder,
an artist,
a sister,
a friend,
and a doll.

We love our beautiful blue-eyed girl 
a whole awful lot.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


The following conversation just took place in our van:

Dylan (pouting): I wish I could roll down the window.

Me: I know its not nearly as cold as last week, but it isn't exactly warm either.

Dylan: Its not that cold, Mom.

Me: Dylan, its still only 20 degrees outside.

Dylan (quite condescendingly): Its twenty-ONE degrees, Mom.

All last week, and most of the before that, our daily "highs" were still sub-zero.  One day, it never got warmer than -12, and the days it got up to 0 seemed positively balmy.  It has apparently messed with my son's ability to determine what windows-down-weather is.

Faith and Validation

Since I was a very small child (so small that I can't remember a time I didn't "know" it), far too small to articulate the idea, much less the reasons behind it, I have intuitively understood something: people love happy people, and people love people who love them.  If there was one thing I was certain of as a child, it was that I wanted to be loved.  I instinctively tried to receive that love by showing only happiness to others, and by finding ways to show others that I loved them.

By the time I reached my teenage years, I consciously understood and could articulate this very simple idea that had intuitively been a part of my nature for virtually all of my life.  What's more, by then I was old enough to realize that while loving people could be a source of great pain and frustration, I was also experienced enough to know that there was no greater remedy for that heart ache or frustration or just a grumpy mood than to find ways to serve the people around me.  I always knew that, no matter how down or anxious or frustrated I felt, if I could just find a way to make someone else feel better, I would feel better.  (This is a large part of why the idea f nursing--even with all its bureaucratic nonsense and technical demands--appeals to me.  The one thing that has consistently made me happy in life has been finding ways to help other people feel better).

Without fail (and with the benefit of hindsight), the times in my life that have been the most miserable have been the times that I have been the most focused on myself.  When I have worried what others thought of me, I behaved in a self-conscious manner that made it hard to love me.  When I forgot about me and just focused on showing people the good things I saw and felt about them, I loved them more, they loved me more, and I was so much happier.  The bottom line is that validation is hardest to get when we are actively seeking it, and easiest to obtain when we no longer need it.

Too often, we behave or speak to people in a manner that (implicitly or explicitly) demands, "Understand me, love me, validate me."  The behaviors that tend to accompany such an attitude (conscious or not) generally make one harder to love, and so focused is on one oneself that, ironically, we fail to see just how much of our misery we are causing ourselves, or at least exacerbating.  If we forget ourselves, and seek ways to better understand those we love (or should love), if we stop trying to make everything about showing them who we are and getting them to accept that person, and instead focus on trying to show them that we know who they are and we love them, the love and validation that we desire will come naturally.  Those who feel loved and appreciated by us will easily love and appreciate us--people love people who love them.  Just as importantly, the happiness that comes to us as we make that effort will make us easier to love.  As long as we are trying to "fix" people (even if all we are trying to "fix" is how they see or treat us), all we will see (or, at the very least, what we will most prominently see) are their failures and flaws (as we define them).  When you stop trying to fix someone, and instead start making an effort to love them unconditionally, warts and all, and to feel and express appreciation for the good things that they do and are, we will find that the good stuff gets easier to see, we love it more, and the unconditional love gets easier to feel and act on.  In fact, we often come to see that things we thought were warts aren't warts at all, but simply a different way of seeing or doing things, and we are the ones who lacked understanding.

There is a very natural tendency to hold others hostage to our self-esteem.  Of course, spouses should be kind to each other, children should treat parents with respect, parents should treat children with respect, etc, but ultimately, and please hear this, your parents are not responsible for your self-esteem.  Your children are not responsible for your self-esteem.  Even your spouse, as precious and important as that relationship is, is not responsible for your self-esteem.  Ultimately, your feelings of self-worth are between you and the Lord.  In my experience, times when we struggle with our self-worth the most are times when we are either not in good standing with the Lord, or we are struggling with our faith in his love, in the reality that he is enough.

If you are struggling with faith, please, please hang in there, keeping praying and seeking the Lord--he's never as far away as we sometimes think he is in our faltering moments, and that flood of love and warmth may come much sooner than you expect.  Please trust that he is there, that he loves you, and that he believes in your infinite worth.  You are precious to him.

If you don't have much relationship with the Savior at any given moment because you're afraid that if you ask what you can do to change, he'll actually answer you, you have no right to project that guilt or failure or fear of failure onto others, or to treat them poorly because you don't feel happy.  They may indeed have a moral obligation to be kind to you, but your esteem is not theirs to build, and if you don't have the relationship you should with the Lord, nothing they do will solve the problem anyway.

If you want to be happy--truly, thoroughly content and at peace--you must seek your primary validation from the Savior, and you have to be willing to humbly say, "Lord, I trust you love me, even with my flaws, but I know I must do better--what would Thou have me do?" and then have the faith and courage to hear the answer and sincerely act on it.  If you can't be content with the Savior's love and validation, no one else's will ever be enough.  Once his is enough, you'll never need anyone else's.

And in that moment, when you feel that reassuring peace that Lord loves you, and that you are enough for him, when you stop needing anyone else's validation or reassurance, you will find that you are a better spouse, a better parent, a better missionary and a better friend.  When you really, truly feel the love of the Lord for you in your heart, you will radiate that love out to others, and they will love you.  Naturally.  Build your faith, and the Lord will build you up.