Tuesday, April 14, 2015

It's okay cuz I have pretty face

I am so grateful for the times I had in my single-young-adult-life to travel and be spontaneous. Sometimes I get feeling a little tied down with children and animals and a mortgage that I want to burst out of my current self, run hard,  and jump on an airplane to Indonesia. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change my parenting-adult-life for the universe-- I just miss spontaneity. It's hard to be spontaneous as a parent. Sometimes I really just want to throw all my kids in the car and go on a spontaneous-adventure-of-a-lifetime, then I remember it's going to take just as long to pack diapers, wipes, snacks, lunches, extra food, water, bandaids, and other provisions I might need. Add on more time for poo breaks, for tantrum management, and for breaking up arguments, and the trip might end before we get there.
It kinda sucks the spontaneity out of it all. These days things are more planned out and prepared, and that's okay too.
(It's important to have sanity as a parent, as well, which might beat-out spontaneity in the end.)
So when I'm feeling stifled, It's good for me to remember that once-upon-a-time I did burst and run and jump onto a plane to Indonesia... Twice, in fact.
The first time I was 17 and flew with a girly-friend to the tiny island of Bali. We wanted to go on a surfing-hitchhiking-adventure with the money we'd saved up from our little-teenager-jobs.  It was probably one of craziest, most spontaneous things I've ever done! I'm so glad we went (but no, I will not let my teenage child fly to a far-off island in Indonesia when they are 17, with no responsible adult supervision!)
Second time around I was 21, and found myself on a backpacking trip with 2 other girly-friends. We flew into Thailand, caught buses down through Malaysia, and then a ferry across the Indian sea to Indonesia.

Wait!! This post was supposed to be short because I don't have a lot of time to write these days, so let me cut to the chase:
Skip the travelogue to get there, we are now staying on this teensy weensy island at the northern end of Sumatra, just a couple hour's boat ride across from the Banda Aceh Province. It is an island dominated by the Muslim religion, so we had to stay covered most of the time to respect the religious culture of the island. However, at the farthest tip of the island there is a small village for tourists to stay at. In this village you can walk around in your swimsuit all day  if you want, and sleep in small bungalows. We stayed there for an entire week, swimming, snorkeling, sailing, and eating huge amounts of fruit and fish. There was also a brothel in the village, but we stayed clear of that business. Gross.
One night there was an earthquake from the seismic activity happening there. I awoke in the night all freaked out because pigs were outside my window squealing and some witch doctor lady in the next bungalow over was chanting to the earthquake Gods. Our bungalow was built up on stilts at the edge of a rocky slope, and I was pretty sure we were going to go sliding into the sea and never be heard from again.
So anyways, we survived the quake, and then the day before the last day we were staying on he island we decided to wash our clothes near the village well. Not the Muslim village, but the tourist village, where you could wash your clothes in a swimsuit because the entire process involved getting really wet.
First we had to bring up a bucket-load of water from the well to wet our clothes. Then we had to scrub them by hand with soap and a scrubby brush. Then we had to get more water up from the well to rinse them. I had maybe 3 or 4 shirts and a couple pairs of shorts to wash, plus my under-things, so not too much laundry, yet we were terrible at working the well, so it took us longer than we'd thought because spinning the rope to get the bucket up and down the shaft was more work than we'd anticipated!
At one point I was bending over my pile of clothes, clad in nothing but my bikini and my tan behind, scrubbing furiously and concentrating seriously, when I felt a hand slap my bottom. Real hard. "Ouch!" I shouted. I looked up to see which one of my friends was trying to be funny, when I saw that it wasn't one of my friends at all. It was an older Indonesian woman balancing a huge basket of laundry on her head. Just like in the movies.
I smiled because I really didn't know what else to do.
The she smiled back and said to me in her broken English,"You have big butt. But it's okay, cuz you have pretty face."

Sometimes I think about that moment when I'm feeling the need to get away; It was a humorous, only-in-a-foreign-country-moment that made my traveling  experience to Banda Acheh Province so memorable, yet,  I don't need to go all the way to Indonesia when I have 3 little boys that tell me that almost every week!
Okay maybe not the part about having a pretty face, but at least once a week someone tells me I have a big butt! And at least once a week someone slaps me really hard! And I can put on my swimsuit and pretend that my washing machine is a deep, dark well.
It's just like back on that tiny island in the Indian Sea.
It's so spontaneous, so surreal, so within my grasp.

I'm kidding, of course. But it's fun to reminisce. Fun to think back to the days when all the world was mine to explore, with my big butt.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Beautiful Utah...with Grandpa

Bryce Canyon National Park

Thanks so much for coming to play with us, Grandpa Stokes!
**Bryce Canyon 2015
**Don't forget-Capotol Reef 2016 here we come!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

You Can't do it all, fool

"You can't do it all." Is the thought that keeps running through my mind since I became a mother of four. The world might tell you that it's possible. Hell, even Satan might tell you that it's possible, but you'd be fooling yourself because it's one of the biggest lies on the planet! A mother cannot do it all, and if she tries, something is gonna suffer. And the fact is, the thing that suffers the most ends up being her own children. And the fact of the fact is, that letting your children suffer on account of things that don't even reach the scale of importance as them, is a bloody shame.
So, I made a decision shortly after this last baby was born, that I would pray with all my heart and let God guide me towards the things that I CAN do, and please please let the things I want to do but can't do, simply fade away. Please let me enjoy my baby, please help me put my children and husband first, and let me be happy.
And HE did.
God answered all those prayers and has been showing me what to do, how to do it, and most importantly He's not letting that big fat lie creep into my mind that I can do it all. Because I know I can't. And If I tried, I'd be a terrible mess.
The happy news is, at nearly 8 months post-partum, I am not a terrible mess! I am happy. Truly. Deeply. Purely. Simply, happy to be a mother of four wonderful, amazing, creative, funny, intelligent little boys who fill my heart to the brim with joy; Happy to be married to the most honorable, outstanding, loyal, honest, righteous, handsome, loving man I know; Happy to be where I am in this stage of my existence; Happy to be ME.

I went to my doctor the other day and told him how happy I was. I talked with my midwife the other day and told her how happy I was. I wanted them to know that I no longer need medication or therapy, and that I wouldn't call them freaking out, because I am happy now. (The worry of course being that I'd fall into a postpartum depression again after this baby was born, like last time. That the stresses and challenges of life would hold too much for me and I'd find myself huddled in a dark corner crying every day, like last time.) I.am.healed. Hallelujah.

You can't do it all, but you can do the things that bring the most joy. The trick to life is finding those things, hanging onto them, and putting them highest on the priority chart.
Here's the things that I CAN'T do:

*I can't homeschool my children right now. As much as I believe in the beautiful values and principles of homeschooling, and still love the idea behind homeschooling my own family--it was literally steering me down a dark path to insanity.
I'm proud to say that I put in my best effort for the past 5 years! I read all the great homeschooling books, I  ordered awesome activities, projects, and curriculum, and I tried my hardest to implement the "un-schooling" concept in my household, where we provided an environment of learning, and watched as our children thrived in their interests and excitement for education. I loved waking up to the easy, relaxing mornings where we ate a leisurely breakfast, went exploring at parks, enjoyed our family's company......Yet I still found myself feeling more suffocated, defeated, and lost, than happy. I love my children so much, yet having them here with me all day, with no help and no support, and no social network, was killing me. When the time was right, Heavenly Father helped me to put my children in school. We waited til they were ready, we waited til I was ready, and then we went for it!! (And they LOVE it!! Which makes things 100x easier and do-able.)
I just have to say that because of this decision I am a much, much happier person. I can breathe during the day. I can smile without worrying. I can think thoughts in my brain without forgetting.

I am a much better, healthier, and happier mother now that I don't homeschool. (This may change as my babies get older-- Who knows, maybe we'll jump back on the homeschool ship in several years!)

**I can't keep pretending that I can write a book. Because, I can't write a book, at least not right now. First off, I don't have time right now. Second of all, I don't even know where to start, or how to finish, or how to make it a priority in my life. And lastly, every time I sit down to write, I remember something else that I need to do that takes priority over writing (hence the disappearance of this blog these past months.) So, Heavenly Father has also helped me fade those thoughts away for now: to put them on the back-burner for a time that is better than in the bustling throws of motherhood, babies, childhood illness, toddler tantrums, nighttime nursings, and diaper-changing. (I might even sign up for a creative writing class this Fall to help me figure out what I want to do in the future.)

**I can't get a job. I don't even want a job! Though, the thought crosses my mind every once in a while that I should go out there, do something more, and work for money! But, the truth is that money does not determine value. There are so many valuable things I am doing right now that are worth far more than any job could pay. Getting a real job would be a waste of my awesomeness. I am grateful for a husband that works and makes money sufficient for our needs. (So I can keep being awesome.)

What I CAN do right now:

**I can love this baby like there's no tomorrow!
I love this baby boy so much that I literally want to squeeze and cuddle him all day long. I can't stand the thought of missing a second of his growing up, that I probably hold him way more than he wants me to! (You've been playing too long by yourself--it's my turn!!) Everyday that I am with my baby Malachi is a blessing! He is the light of my life right now and I thank God everyday that I was able to get pregnant again and have this baby. The best thing about Mally is that he is a smile-er! He smiles so much, and his smiles make everyone else smile! He smiles at his mom n' dad, he smiles at his brothers, he smiles at strangers walking by, he smiles when I say his name, he smiles when I walk past and look at him, he smiles when I get the camera out. He is chubby and squishy, and happy, and I can enjoy him as much as I want!

**I can enjoy my children! I can drive them to school everyday and pick them up. I can be involved in all their school projects. I can help them to develop positive morals and values in their lives. I can teach them the gospel and help them apply it daily. I can be an example to them. I can play with them, laugh with them, and let them know that I will always be here for them. I love my 3 older boys so much! They are each so unique and wonderful in their own ways. I spend time keeping journals of all the wonderful things they do and say. They amaze me each day with their intelligence and understanding of the world. I am one blessed and lucky mama! (Lil' Jonah is still home with me until he starts Kindergarten in the Fall)

**I can read novels. I joined a book club through our ward (church). I love reading and this has inspired me to choose good books that I wouldn't have known to pick for myself. I've really enjoyed reading each of these books and then discussing them with other book-lovers.
So far we have read:
The Forgotten Garden 
Orphan Train
The Rent Collector
The Heart Mender
The Help

**I can be a Cub Master: My husband and I were asked to be the Cub Masters for our church's Cub Scout group. We oversee and organize the program, help train new Leaders, put on monthly awards and activities, attend scout camps and jamborees, and try to invite and reach out to families in our area. I love it! It keeps me busy, as I love being involved with meaningful projects and activities for children. Our eldest son is a Cub Scout, so I have a special interest in making this a successful, and meaningful experience for him.

**I can run a successful non-profit organization in my community. I am a La Leche League Leader! I provide education, support, and information to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers! I run monthly meetings and enrichment's for moms who want to connect with other like-minded mothers. I take phone calls and emails from mothers who have breastfeeding questions. Next month I am holding a huge yard-sale fundraiser here at our house. I have been filling our back room with everyone's donations, and will sell them to raise money for the group.

**I can make exercising and eating healthy a priority in my life. I am running or walking every single day. I am training for a 10k, (which is next week.) I am eating green smoothies everyday, and focusing on eating mostly whole grains and whole foods, which means lots of vegetables, fruits, and brown rice. I have lost (almost) all the pregnancy weight (65pounds!), only ten more lbs to go, and feel better than ever!

**I can hold Family Home Evenings and daily scripture studies with my family. With the help of my husband we can provide a home for learning the gospel and developing faith in Jesus Christ. This is one of those priorities that doesn't have the option to suffer. This General Conference talks sums it all  up for me, inspires me, and reminds me what to put FIRST:  Parents: The Prime Gospel Teachers of Their Children.

Okay, my sick baby is awake, and I have things to do before the rest of my family comes home from church. It's been really fun, but I must bid adieu!

This blogging episode was brought to you by an intense need to tap into my creative-side, writer's guilt, sleep deprivation, and the first time I've been home in a quiet house by myself in 3 months. I can't do it all, but the things I can do, I am doing with gusto.

Monday, February 9, 2015

What Co-sleeping looks like.

Happy, smiling baby, rolling playfully between mommy and daddy.
Grabbing sheets with chubby fingers, pulling mommy's shirt into gnawing gums.
Pouncing onto daddy's chest, gurgling and giggling along.
Grabbing daddy's face with tiny fingers, resting his head on daddy's cheeks.
Cuddling under blankets, slobbering on pillows.
Chewing on his fingers, making mommy laugh.
Smiling for no reason. Smiling REALLY BIG!
Smiling because there's three of us in a bed enjoying who we are together.
Chubby baby cheeks filled with happiness and love.

Chubby baby cheeks getting tired and sad.
Mommy turns the lights off, signaling it's time for bed.
Baby snuggles up and nurses close to mommy's side.
Daddy says I love you and kisses baby's head.
We yawn goodnight and scrunch up tight, til wee morning snack-time.

Baby whimpers quietly, next to mommy's face.
Mommy lifts her shirt up, then goes back to sleep.

Eyes pop open, the sun is shining, a brand new day awaits!
Happy, smiling baby wakes up to find his milk.
He nurses and he gulps until he's satisfied and full.
He giggles and he grabs at whatever he can reach.
He makes his mommy laugh and smile.
Such a wonderful way to start the day!
His mommy holds him tight and kisses those chubby cheeks.
Daddy gets up and gets ready for work, leaving the two of them alone.
We lay in bed a few more minutes and enjoy the warmth and sweetness of each other.
Til nighttime comes and we start all over again.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

My Home is a Refuge

I was nursing at the computer as I sometimes do, using one arm to hold up my baby's head, and using the other arm to reach for my mouse. Before too long I had nursed the baby to sleep and then found myself jumping from website to website, browsing, clicking, and reading loads of material since I was still sitting there with my sleeping baby on me.

It's so easy to get caught up in the Internet. I'll start by reading someones blog post, then see something else that catches my eye and click on that, then see something else and click on that, then click back onto facebook, then click over to Pinterest, then over to NPR, then back to a blog, then back to facebook, until my hand and eyes are completely exhausted from all that clicking! One could do this for hours if they're not careful...... Because
the excitement and suspense of the Internet is always enticing, pulling us into it's never ending matrix of websites, new products, stories, cutting edge-news events, important causes, and the random hysterical video of someone waking up from a sleeping drug. I might start off meaning well by catching up on some reading  but then find myself wasting an hour or so watching youtube videos of some surfer chick traveling Indonesia while advertising for Eco-friendly bikinis. (I don't have time for that!)

So the other day as I was nursing my baby to sleep I got caught up reading some controversial posts on facebook about the measles outbreaks and what not. (Basically people arguing over who's right and who's wrong and who should mind their own business.) Then I clicked over and read the latest on the wars going on in Syria, and the hostage crisis in Jordan, and then the local news which is chock full of crime and killing here in America. By the end my heart was feeling heavy and sad. I didn't want to get up out of my chair. I just wanted to sit there and feel depressed and ruminate over all the bad things happening in the world. When I finally turned off the computer and left the room, carrying my sleeping baby in my arms, I felt awful. But, I followed the voices of my family down the hallway until I entered the room that they were in. They were gathered around on one of the beds playing games. I stood in the doorway for a second and soaked in this happy scene before me: all 3 of my older boys and my husband smiling and chatting together.  Suddenly this feeling of total peace and happiness came over me. I felt safe, optimistic, and full of hope again. I smiled real big and sighed a sigh of relief. I felt grateful that I had these amazing people in my life to fill me back up with joy after experiencing such sadness.
I want our home to always be a refuge from the world: a safe and happy place to turn off the noise and come together again. A place where we can sit on the bed, laugh, talk, and play with one another without the influences of the negative things around us. 

I just love my family so much and am feeling overwhelmingly blessed that I have them. They are my refuge from the world. They are the little pieces of joy that fill me up each day. 
They are the most important thing I've ever done with my life, and probably ever will.
Next time I find myself nursing at the computer, I'm going to remind myself to stay focused on what matters most right now, to leave the controversies and wars alone, to only click on the good stuff (for now), and to fill myself up with never-ending love and light from my family.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday is Bathrooms

I'm becoming really organized in my old age: like a really, really organized person that keeps track of everything and knows where everything is!! I'm pretty proud of myself, especially because this is a skill I've been trying to develop over the past decade. So let me just brag about myself for a moment here:
My digital pictures are organized into years, categorized by months, and individually labeled. All 8,000 of them. For instance, if I want to find a photo of our second child Odin holding a frog in Zions National Park in 2009, all I'd have to do is type in a few search words like "Odin","frog", or  "Zions" and my photo would pop up. Or, If I wanted to find that one picture of Micah swimming at Meadow Hot Ponds all I'd have to do is type in "Micah", "Meadow" and voila! This is something I've been working on for years and I'm finally caught up. Yay me!
Secondly, my journals are organized. Everything I've saved since I was zero years old is tucked neatly into a folder categorized by school and age groups. (Birth to 4, K-5, 6-8, 9-12, the 20's, and the 30's.) My posterity will thank me!

I've also found that sticking to a somewhat flexible and organized schedule during my week keeps me saner than I ever imagined. I think that the more children I have, the more organized I want to be.
To keep on top of house-cleaning I've come up with a daily cleaning schedule that seems to be working so far:
Monday is bathrooms.
Tuesday is floors. (sweep and mop)
Wednesday is laundry.
Thursday is vacuuming.
Friday is cleaning and tidying up bedrooms.
Saturday is front yard, backyard and both cars.

This schedule works great for me because it calms me down from freaking out. If I start to stress about the gross bathrooms on Saturday, I relax knowing that by Monday they will both be squeaky clean again. Or, If I look down at my horrendously dirty kitchen floors on Thursday, I can let the negative feelings go, knowing that on Tuesday they'll be shiny again. 
If I tried to keep everything clean and shiny every day of the week I would run myself into the ground and dig an early grave for myself! It's just not possible to have a clean house 24/7. And I don't even think I want one. Some messes are there because we were having fun and part of being in a family is having fun and making messes.

The 2 oldest boy's daily chore schedules coincide with this list, also. So on Mondays they each get a bathroom where they are assigned to take out the garbages, scrub the toilets and sinks, wash the mirrors, and scrub the bathtub ring-of-scum if needs be. On Tuesdays one of them mops while the other sweeps, on Wednesday they sort laundry and put it away, on Thursday one of them vacuums upstairs while the other vacuums downstairs, on Friday they clean their bedrooms, etc... Then on Saturday our entire family heads outside to pick up trash, pick up dog poop, and do any yard maintenance needed. They also help their dad with wood chopping, pulling weeds, checking for chicken eggs, and all that fun outside stuff. My sweet n' stubborn four year old Jonah is very resistant to doing anything to help out right now, so I am waiting patiently for him to turn a more reasonable five. 

Having a weekly meal plan has also saved my sanity:
Monday is a Meat Dish.
Tuesday is tacos. (or any Mexican dish)
Wednesday is breakfast for dinner.
Thursday is noodles. (or any Italian dish)
Friday is PIZZA.
Saturday is leftovers or eat out.
Sunday is scrounge for food day or crockpot. 

This schedule works for me because I no longer have to freak out on Thursday afternoon wondering what the heck I'm going to make for dinner that night! I already know it's something with noodles. And noodles are easy. Fridays are actually my favorite. (Thank you Little Ceasars. Okay sometimes we make our own pizza). And I always look forward to Tuesdays because it's either burritos, tacos, enchiladas, or nachos.  Yum!
We've actually saved a lot of money by following this plan. I type out our menu, then one of us goes to the store and gets the food, then we don't have to go shopping again for a week! (un;less we need fresh produce) It's saved us from last-minute-runs to the store to get last-minute items for dinner, and buying last-minute-things that aren't on sale.

I asked around on facebook to see what my friend's thought of this weekly meal-themes-planning-schedule and found that most of them follow a similar one, too. I think the idea originated from the Food Nanny, but maybe our ancient cave-ancestors followed it, too.
Monday: Meat on a stick
Tuesday: Berries and grass
Wednesday: Meat on a stick
Thursday: Grass and berries
Friday: Meat, grass, and berries
Saturday: leftovers
Sunday: Barbecued meat-grass-berries

Wait, did neanderthal cave-dwellers even  have fire?

Well, it's Monday, and I'm off to clean my bathrooms! (Just in time for them to be dirty again by next Monday. :)

Friday, January 16, 2015

No More Licking Rocks

Poison Control: Hello this is Mary at Poison Control, and  how can I help you?

Me (panicking): Well, my baby was sucking on a blue rock crystal and got the chemicals in his mouth and all over his face and hands.

Poison Control: What type of rock crystals are we talking about?

Me: It was from a "grow your own rock crystal set" that my older son had. He put the rock on the floor and the baby got it and starting sucking the crystals off, and now I'm really worried because when we were doing the project we had to wear goggles and gloves to keep the chemicals off of us , and now my baby has been sucking on it!

Poison Control: And how old is your baby?

Me: 6 months old

Poison Control: And his name?

Me: Malachi

Poison Control: Is he in general good health?

Me: Yes, he's very healthy in general.

Poison Control: Is he showing any signs of irritation or redness around his mouth? Has he been vomiting?

Me: No, he's actually happily playing right now and doesn't show any signs of irritation. No vomiting.

Poison Control: Has he been given anything to drink?

Me: No, I just washed the outsides of his face and hands to get the blue off. Should I?

Poison Control: Yes, it doesn't sound like he ingested very much of it, but it sounds like he may have received a small amount of chemicals in his mouth and throat so giving him a sip of water may help to relieve any irritation. It sounds like he's doing okay, but lets keep an eye on him for the next hour to make sure. I'll call back in an hour to check on him, okay? He's going to be allright, okay?

Me (calming down some): Okay, thank you so much. I'll look forward to your call in an hour. I mean, he seems like he's not bothered by it, and he's happy right now, so I suppose he'll probably be okay. 
But gosh, it must've been disgusting! I licked the rock to see what it tasted like and ewww! It was SO gross!

Poison Control: Ummm, you licked the rock ma'am?

Me: Yes, I licked it to see what it tasted like.

Poison Control: And how old are you ma'am?

Me: Thirty-five.....

Poison Control: And your name?

Me: Sally....

Poison Control: Are you in general good health?

Me: Ummm yes, but I"m fine. I was just seeing what it tasted like. I'm not calling for me. I'm fine. I am calling for the baby...

Poison Control: Are you showing any signs of irritation or redness around your mouth? Have you been vomiting?

Me (awkwardly): Um, no, I am fine. I swear I'm fine. I was just licking it to see what it tasted like.

Poison Control: Okay well, you may have received a small amount of trace chemicals in your mouth and throat so take a sip of water to help relieve any irritation. I'll call back in an hour to check on both of you, okay?

Me: Okay...

One hour Later: Ring-ring.

Me: Hello?

Poison Control: Hello this is Mary from Poison Control. I am calling to check on you and Malachi to make sure you're doing allright.

Me: The baby is doing fine. He hasn't shown any signs of irritation or illness.

Poison Control: Were you both able to take some sips of water?

Me: Yes, he took some sips of water and he's doing fine. We're both doing fine.

Poison Control: Okay great! Now keep in mind next time that if you suspect a possible poisoning, take caution not to ingest the same thing as your child. It wouldn't do either of you any good to both be sick at the same time. You need to stay healthy to take care of your child, allright? Let's not go licking any more rocks, allright?

Me (rather sheepishly): Yes, maa'm. Thank you. Goodbye.

Poison Control: Goodbye!

**And that was my lesson for the day.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My True Accomplishments

True accomplishments:

I am a daughter of God.
I am married to a loyal, dedicated, hardworking, and honest man.
I am sealed for time and eternity in a beautiful Temple
I am at peace with who I am: (I don't lie, or cheat, or steal, or look for drama or trouble.)
I have close relationships with my four children who adore me.
I love my children and love being their mother.
I have a close relationship with my Savior Jesus Christ.
I love my Heavenly Father and trust Him with my life.
I serve Him in whatever capacity He asks me to.
I have committed my life to keeping His commandments and in following His eternal plan.
I have overcome challenges in my life that I never thought possible.
I have moved forward from some very hard, hurtful circumstances and discovered happiness within myself.
I have seen immeasurable growth in myself as I've become a wife and mother.
I am a good person.
I am a dedicated member of my church.
I have a deep and real understanding of my church membership and what it means to be a Mormon. 
I love this church with all my heart.
I volunteer in my community and try to help people around me.
I am healthy, active, and strong in my physical body.
I don't struggle with addiction.
I love nature and marvel at God's beautiful creations.
I love breastfeeding.
I love cuddling and kissing my 5 month old baby.
I am a loving person.
I am a giving person.
I find satisfaction and joy in serving in my church callings.
I love planning parties.
I love my friends.

I may not succeed in many of the temporal goals I have for myself: I may never write that best-selling-book, or run a successful etsy business, or look how I want to look right now, or have enough money to fly to Hawaii for vacation, or be as fit as I want, or finish my bachelors degree, or have an awesome wardrobe with fantastic knee-high boots, but I have accomplished things in my life that have made my life more meaningful than I ever imagined. I need to recognize these things more frequently and remember how far I've come on this journey, despite my unfinished business.

Today was a really hard day. I kept trying to count my blessings and be grateful for all I've accomplished and all that I have, but nothing was working. It was a sad, depressing, grumpy sort of day, but I think it's okay to accept defeat some days and hope for a better day tomorrow.
Tomorrow will hopefully be a better day!
Tomorrow I will feel happier, be more in tune with the blessings in my life, and look to the future with hope.
Tomorrow I will look over this list of true accomplishments and remember that I am way more valuable than the worldly accomplishments I desire. I may not have the time or energy to do all the things I want to do, yet gosh, look how far I've already come.

Looking forward to a 2015 filled with love and acceptance for myself, even on the hard days.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Flashback Friday- In Hawaii we say "TOWN"

We used to call the other side of the island "town”. Everyone who lived out in the country did. Traveling over to town was a big deal for most families, as it was clear on the other side of the island, and such a bustling change from the quiet and solitude of the country. When my siblings and I were little kids in the 1980's my mom would herd us all onto the The Bus, our local circle-island transit system, where we'd sit for a winding, bumpy, 45 minutes, until we reached town Kaneohe mall on the east side of the island. This was the closest city from where we lived in the small village of Laie. 
While riding The Bus I liked to sit by the window, so I could see the ocean scenery on the way there. The waves were always choppy on the eastern shore, with onshore winds blowing hard upon the sands. I could see the ocean colors change from light green, to turquoise, to deep dark blue as I followed the changing shades further and further towards the horizon. There were always fishermen lining the shores, listening for their lines to ring, waiting patiently for a big catch.
The Ko'olau Mountains towered overhead on the right. I always marveled at how lush and green they were, and how they never stopped glimmering, even under the dark, looming, rain clouds. I would practice saying the names of the towns as we passed each one of them by, starting with Laie, then Hauula, then Punalu'u, and then Ka'a'awa, with all it's seemingly thousands of a's.  Then finally we'd pass by Chinaman's Hat at Kualoa Park, then Kaneohe Bay, until we reached the small city of Kaneohe itself. 
My mom would get us off at the mall where we’d walk around for hours, mostly window shopping. The fast-moving escalators fascinated me, along with the pet store with aisles of brightly colored fish and parakeets. I always made a point to stop into the Sears department store for a catalog to take home with me. One year there was this white, faux fur coat which I desperately wanted. I could picture myself strutting down the streets of Laie wrapped in my snow-white fur, perhaps to the envy of all the kids at Laie Elementary School. I circled it in big, bold, black marker so my mother would see it and buy it for me for Christmas. (She never did, thank goodness, and I can see why that would have been a bad choice.)
Before we left Kaneohe mall, my mom would buy us each a plate lunch at Patti's Chinese Kitchen. We'd pile our plates high with Chow Mein noodles, cabbage egg rolls, and sweet rice cakes for dessert. 
Minutes later, feeling stuffed and fulfilled, we'd get back onto The Bus to our next destination. Sometimes we'd get off at the Goodwill Thrift Store for a new pair of shoes or jams (local lingo for shorts), or sometimes we'd get off at Chinaman's Hat where we’d play on the seashore and dip our toes into the ocean. No matter what we did, it was always an exciting adventure to travel into town.

It wasn’t until years later that I was introduced to another type of town called Waikiki, on the south shore. Waikiki is still the second biggest city on Oahu, today, with Honolulu being the first. But where Honolulu is the government and business center of the island, Waikiki is the bustling center of tourist attractions for people visiting from all over the world. Most people that have been a tourist in Hawaii have stayed in Waikiki at some point on their vacation.
Waikiki is packed full of hotels, resorts, swimming pools, shopping centers, shuttle buses, and sun-burnt tourists. Restaurants and bars line the beaches. The sand is lined with rented beach umbrellas. Tourists lounge in beach chairs by the hundreds.  People gather from all corners of the planet to float carelessly on beach rafts under the Waikiki sunshine or surf the gentle waves.
Our family rarely went there when I was a little girl. 
By the early 1990's we had moved to a small house near Pupukea Foodland across from Three Tables beach on the North Shore.  As a 12-year-old girl, I could walk over to Three Tables almost any time of day and have the beach to myself. 
I remember many carefree summer days spent running up and down the sand with my brothers and sister, and my Pomeranian puppy, Pog. We’d collect  seashells, swim with sea turtles, and watch the most glorious sunsets together. I felt much more comfortable on this side of the island, away from the crowds of the city.

 In the summer of 1992, however, this would all change for me. It was this year that some good friends from California invited me to stay with them in their hotel suite while they visited Waikiki.  I had hardly spent any time in Waikiki at all, and now I would be staying in a hotel, right in the center of the city. I was intrigued to experience a different side of Hawaii, and experience it, I did! Because every summer for the next 8 years this wonderful family invited me to come stay with them in their hotel! 
They had never-ending lists of fun things to do, and invited me to join along with them.  We often spent the evenings people watching on the busy Kalakaua strip. It was easy to point out the prostitutes, as we  watched them pick up on rich Japanese men in designer suits. It was so much fun hanging out with my friend Ashley, as we made up silly things to do like butt walk down the boulevard, or laugh at tiny women in giant platform shoes. 
Many hot, summer days were spent sun-tanning on the beach, or surfing on long boards rented from the local Beach Boys. Sometimes we’d pay for a ride in a canoe, or sail on catamarans in the bouncing surf.  When the waves got really big we’d bodysurf the shore break and then spend the rest of the day picking tiny specks of sand out of our hair.

When we grew tired of the ocean we’d go shopping at the International Market Place, or grab some french fries and Mud Pie at Duke’s. On the weekends we'd sit and watch live bands play and laugh at all the drunk and sun burnt tourists, dancing in hazy circles on the beach.
There was also a pool at the Outrigger Hotel on the beach, where we would go to escape the salt water for a cool, chlorinated, dip. There was a large, glass window underneath the pool’s surface that peeked into a workout room where people jogged on treadmills. I thought it was the coolest thing ever to look in the under-water-window with blurry eyes, and watch people run.

Those sunny, happy, lackadaisical  Summers in Waikiki are something I have looked back on, cherished, and smiled at over and over again. I feel so blessed to have had those experiences in my life, along with these amazing friends that are still my friends to this day. I also have fond and wonderful memories of hanging out with my Dad when he moved to town in my teenage years.

I loved growing up North Shore, yet I also look back with warm nostalgia, of my happy memories of "town." 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Happiness is our goal

I'm still in shock over our big, recent changes! My child: my 8 year old who was once shy-as-can-be, anxious and nervous, introverted, wants-to-be-home-with-mom-child, decided he wanted to start attending third grade public school last week!
It was just several weeks ago when I started getting these feelings like he needed something more than what we were doing at home. Those little whisperings of change on the wind started to appear in my head, and I knew something would happen real soon- I just didn't know what.
It was a Sunday afternoon in the nursing lounge at church, talking to another mom, that it all came together. She was telling me that her 10 year old son with high functioning autism started out his school experience really slowly on an ILP (Individual Learning Plan). This situation worked really well for him as he could pick and choose what and when he attended school. This mom told me that the school worked with him and catered to his needs as was fit. I was amazed that a public school would be so accommodating! I started to wonder if I could squeeze Zadok into some classes here and there at Odin's school. Maybe a computer class, or a science class, or some PE, just to get some more growing experiences in. I figured he wouldn't like the idea at first, but might warm up to it if I went with him the first couple of times. Plus he would see his best buddy and little brother at school and maybe they could even be in the same science group. I went in and talked to the principle about it and he was wonderful. He said that, absolutely, Zadok could start attending whatever classes he wanted to, whenever was good for us. He was very respectful and considerate of Zadok's social anxiety and willing to do whatever we needed. He assigned him a teacher, his own desk, and basically said,"See ya when we see ya!" I didn't even have to sign any paperwork!
We started him off on a Tuesday afternoon after lunch just to attend a 3 hour section of school. *Just to get his toes wet and see how he liked it. *Just to meet some new friends. *Just to learn some new things.
Zadok wasn't thrilled with the idea, but he was willing to go along with it. Meanwhile, It felt so right in my heart to push him forward with these new experiences.
What I didn't expect was when I picked him up three hours later he would tell me he that he loved every second of it, and he wanted to start attending school full time, right away.
What?? Really?? 
I wasn't expecting this.
"Are you sure?" I asked, "Because you don't have to go full time. You can just take the classes you want," I said.
"Nope", I love school and I want to go full time," he replied.
"Okay then! We want you to be happy and if this is what you want to do...let's do it!" I said back.
 Funny, while I thought he was just dipping his toes into something new, he was actually ready to dive right in!

The next day I went in and filled out all the necessary paperwork. I watched as my once shy, anxious child ran around a soccer field kicking a ball around with other children. I watched as he walked off to his science group with nothing more than a quick wave goodbye to mom. I cried as I pulled out of the parking lot because I knew that God had led us to this moment. I knew that Zadok was ready to do something new on his life's path of progression, and that it all happened at the right time, at the right place, and according to God's plans for Zadok.

The following week was his first full week of school:
On Monday I picked up a happy, excited, and smiling 8 year old boy.
On Tuesday I picked up a happy, excited, and smiling 8 year old boy.
On Wednesday I picked up a happy, excited, and smiling 8 year old boy.
On Thursday I picked up a happy, excited, and smiling 8 year old boy.
On Friday I picked up a happy, excited, and smiling 8 year old boy, and I knew that he was exactly where he needed to be.

Two months ago if someone asked me if we would ever put Zadok in school I wouldv'e said No way. He's just not that kind of kid and he'll probably homeschool forever! But changes happen. Life happens. And you just never know when the winds of change will blow your direction and change the life's course.
Of course, If I wanted to, I could keep all my boys home and make homeschooling my ultimate goal: But I've been realizing more and more that it was never about homeschooling vs. brick and mortar schooling for our family; It's always been about happiness. Happiness has always been our ultimate goal. And if my kids are thriving and happier attending a wonderful, educational school with a supportive and positive environment, then I'm all for it!

I'm excited for my boy's futures here!  I have been impressed so far with the caliber of people we are associating with through this public school experience, and look forward to many years ahead as we actively involve ourselves in their schooly social lives and educations. I also feel like we've finally found a dedicated community of people we can depend on and build relationships with, as we are all on this path together.
I am very happy right now and thank God for this awesome  turn of events.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sometimes I eat bugs for lunch

I try to have a big pot of something yummy in the fridge to eat all through the week, such as chili, or lentil soup, or potato soup, or Micah's delicious stir-fry. I get really busy during the week and often don't have time to cook something nice for myself. When I don't get enough food I get cranky, shaky, and irritable with my kids. Having a big pot of healthy soup on hand is the perfect thing to help keep me balanced.

Several weeks ago I was having a really hard time getting enough food in. It seemed that every-time I had a chance to prep some veggies or cut some meat, my baby would wake up and need me to hold him or feed him. Or my toddler would climb on me and need some attention. I was living on fishy crackers and apples and it wasn't doing the job. I finally asked my husband to make me a pot of veggie stir fry so I'd have some actual food to eat when life got crazy.
The broccoli harvest from our summer garden was huge this year! In fact, up until three weeks ago we still had a big bag of broccoli in our fridge on the verge of going rotten. I was so grateful when he used up that entire bag of broccoli to whip up the biggest, fullest, pot of veggie stir fry I'd ever seen! Yum! The fishy cracker famine was over!
I scooped up a bowl and immediately started shoving big spoonfuls of stir fry into my mouth. Each bite was something warm, wonderful, and satisfying to my taste-buds! I could feel the bountiful nutrients penetrating my soul and bringing life back into my deprived system. 
Then I stopped. 
Because right then I noticed that along with my freshly cooked broccoli florets, were infestations of freshly cooked broccoli bugs. And not just one or two, but 15-20 little aphids per bite, floating amongst the other vegetable and stir-fry particles.
I don't know how many little bugs I had already eaten, but It was too late-I couldn't take it back: I was a bug-eater.  
It immediately reminded me of the time when I was a little girl in Hawaii and my mom made me a bowl of hot ramen for breakfast. Halfway through the bowl I realized I had been eating boiled, dead maggots with every bite. I was so grossed out that I threw the rest in the trash. However, I didn't dare say anything to my mom because we were very poor and that was all the food my family had that day. I went to school grateful for a maggot-free school lunch. 

I suppose I should have thrown out my husband's veggie stir fry, too. I suppose I should've been thoroughly grossed out, wondering why he didn't wash the broccoli first. I could've yelled at him for feeding me bugs and stomped my feet around the house demanding a re-do! However,  I knew that it wasn't intentional and that he was just busy. When people are busy, they sometimes overlook small details like washing the small bugs off of the broccoli before serving it to their starving spouses. 
So, I didn't throw it out. And although we are not poor, and gratefully we have enough money to buy food for our family, I ate that entire pot of bug-infested stir fry during the week anyways. 

I did it because I am grateful for a husband that will take the time to make me food.
I did it because I love veggie stir-fry and didn't want to see it go to waste.
I did it because it was really delicious, and before I noticed all the critters, I had been thoroughly enjoying it.
I did it because if I closed my eyes and imagined the bugs were all gone, it still tasted the same.
I did it because I've eaten bugs before, when I worked in wilderness therapy, and they didn't taste all that bad.
I did it because I have a good imagination and could easily pretend I was a wild-bush-woman from the Australian outback who eats bugs on a regular basis.
Finally, I did it because I didn't want to be hungry all week while I ran around taking care of my kids.

So yes, I confess that I am a bug eater. 
But not this week because this week I am making chili with beans and corn, from a can.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Kids Welcome Here.

Each week we have my kid's friends over to play at our house! I think it's really fun to watch them interact, be silly, and fight over the huge plate of nachos on the table along with my own children. They all get along so well, these kids! (neighbor kids, church kids, school kids)

I like feeding all the kids! I like it when they all come running into the kitchen after a long, exhausting session on the trampoline looking for food. I cook up big pots of pasta and cover it in cheese sauce. I cut up apple slices and dish out bowls of peanut butter to dip them in. I pour large cups of milk and sometimes throw in a cookie or two. I like keeping my pantry stocked with enough food to feed my kids and their little friends. They don't eat a whole lot and I'm always impressed with the kids that say Thank You. I get after the ones that don't and remind them of their manners. Especially my own kids.

I like having a house-full of laughter and jokes and booby traps! I like looking out my back window to see kids in the trees, kids on the swings, kids in the sand pit, and kids playing with the dogs. I've always wanted a backyard filled with fun things to do for kids! 

I like seeing kids riding their bikes up and down the sidewalks and round and round the cul-de-sac, too. I also like it when the kids come in the house and engage in long games of chess, or dominoes, or marble run. Last week they had a pretty entertaining game of hide and go seek happening here. "Bounce the balls up and down the stairs" and "wizards" are other fun games they play.

I always ask the kids to clean up after themselves when they're done. It's nice to see the kids respect this wish and be mindful of our family's space. I don't allow messes to clutter up our lives, although I'm not too strict! I like the slogan I saw once on someone' family wall:
"Clean enough to be sanitary, messy enough to be happy."

I've always wanted a house where my kid's friends feel right at home. I love having a house-full of children and look forward to having a house-full of teenagers! I want my home to be a place where kids feel welcomed, safe, respected, comfortable, and loved. 

How to pay your water bill before and after kids

Before Kids:
Monday: Receive bill. Open envelope. Decide to pay it early. Write check. Lick stamp. Place in mailbox. Relax. Go on a long bike ride and think about where to eat out for dinner. Vietnamese Pho or Thai Curry will do!

After Kids:
Monday: Think about the bill. Think about it sitting on the kitchen counter in the envelope, with all the other bills, waiting for you to open it.

Tuesday: Open the envelope and stare at the $$$ amount. Did someone leave the hose on again? Was it me? Try to remember where you left your check book last.

Wednesday: Write the check, sign it, and place it in the envelope. Look in your wallet for stamps. Discover that there are none left.

Thursday: Remember that you need more stamps because you actually used the last one to pay the mortgage bill. Drive through at the ATM after school drop-off and before grocery store, and purchase more stamps.

Friday: Lick stamp and place it on the envelope which is still on the kitchen counter. Don't forget to write a return address. Put envelope next to the front door so you won't forget to drop it in the mail box.

Saturday: Before breakfast ask your 8 year old to run the envelope out to the mailbox. Remind him, "Don't forget to raise the flag so the mailman will pick it up."

Sunday: Relax knowing your water bill is payed and there are no more bills due til next month.

Monday: Check the mailbox after lunch and find that the envelope is still in there. Your child forgot to raise the flag on Saturday and the mailman hadn't stopped. Quickly get kids in the car  and rush to the post office and drop the envelope in the blue drop box. Worry that it won't get there on time and you might be charged a late fee. Run to the store to buy stuff for dinner. Dinosaur chicken nuggets will do.

*And that is how it's done!
I sure love this family of mine. Life is definitely different with four kids, but I wouldn't have it any other way. This is the season of my life where I cast aside all of my perfectionism, my high expectations, my lofty ideals, and even sometimes my common sense, and follow my heart completely. It might take me an entire week to pay a bill (or insert any other adult responsibility), but in between all those days and hours is a mom spending time with my kids.
**And  no, I didn't get a late fee. Phew!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Forget yourself and Serve (Combating the Winter Blues with Service)

I got to thinking yesterday,"How can I be happier this winter? It just won't work for me to be moping around like a turd, letting this cold weather take the best from me! I am a strong, positive person with a lot of good to share with the world, so why should I let Old Man Winter beat me down?"
My best inspiration came after I forced myself to church. I wanted to stay home all cozied up in my bed next to the wood burning stove, but I knew I had to go. And while I was sitting in sacrament meeting the thought came to me to make goals of service, even f I didn't feel like it, even if looking outside my pitiful self was the last thing I felt like doing.

Here's 5 ways I felt instantly happier, which I also think will improve my overall mood this coming week:

1. I made a goal to bring a new mom a meal. 
I saw a mom at church with a 4 week old baby. She looked tired and overwhelmed. Along with her 4 week old baby she also has two small children and two foster teenagers. She could definitely use a meal this week, I thought. So I scheduled to bring her family dinner the next day. I instantly felt happier.

2. I made a goal to beautify our nursing lounge.
I went into the mother's nursing lounge at church to feed my baby (because It's quiet in there and easier to feed a baby that squirms and squirts milk everywhere like mine.) It's a small, plain, drab-feeling room with one comfy rocking chair, one broken rocking chair, no changing pad, and many mothers who all want to feed their babies at the same time. So I made a goal to give it a face lift. I put an order in to the Bishop for a new rocker. This week I'm going to find a changing pad, a vase of flowers, a beautiful quote, and a pretty basket for all the extra diapers.  Voila! I felt even happier.

3. I organized a playdate at my house.
Winter can be lonely, so let's all get together! One of my friends on facebook had a great idea to start a winter soup group. Once a week they'll meet at a different persons house to eat warm soup and let their children play. I loved it! So, I planned my first  "Soups, Snacks, and Socializing" play-date at my house this week. I invited my LLL breastfeeding group, and am excited to open my home to others who get just as lonely as me. I feel happy already!

4. I am catching up on thank you's. 
I have so many people do great things for me! I hope I don't take that for granted. Just last week I had a friend give me bags of cute, gently used hand-me-downs for our baby. Another friend ordered me a brand new coffee grinder from Amazon for grinding up all my seeds, when she heard I didn't have one. Another friend watched my kids at a moments notice. Another friend brought me dinner when I was having a rough day. Another friend sent me a real letter in the mail with pictures from Hawaii. My goal this week is to remember to send thank yous, to say thank yous, and to express thank yous however I can. Pay it forward!

5. I made a goal to do my Visiting Teaching. Our church has a wonderful system set in place of ministering to those in need. Each lady in our women's organization is assigned to look after several other ladies each month. Those ladies we're assigned to are women that we pray for, visit regularly, keep up on the latest happenings in their lives, help in times of emergency, sickness, or urgent need, plus we also share a spiritual message each time we visit them. It's a way to make sure that everyone is taken care of, watched over, and loved. My goal this week is to visit my sisters and offer sincere love and service to each of them. I feel happy when I do this each month. 
Learn more about Visiting teaching here. 

I hope I can remember that whenever I get feeling bluesy and sorry for myself, the best way to combat those feelings is to forget myself and help other people. (It works, it really does!) Furthermore, I've worked really hard to overcome real depression-- to lift myself up from the dark places of my soul that couldn't be fixed before no matter what methods I tried. The winter blues are different  to me because, unlike real depression, I can find ways to rise above them and bring light back into my life. I'm sure there will be days when all I want to do is cry and curse the sky, but for the most part I'm going to give this winter my best effort.

I was also reminded of a story I read about our former Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley:
"As a new missionary serving in Preston, England, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley was facing a major trial in his life. He was sick when he arrived in the mission field, and he quickly became discouraged because of the opposition to the missionary work. At a time of deep frustration, Elder Hinckley wrote in a letter to his father that he felt he was wasting his time and his father’s money. A little while later, Elder Hinckley received a reply from his dad. It said, “Dear Gordon, I have your recent letter. I have only one suggestion: forget yourself and go to work.”
Earlier that morning during scripture study, Elder Hinckley had read in the Bible, “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:35).
“With my father’s letter in hand, I went into our bedroom in the house at 15 Wadham Road, where we lived, and got on my knees and made a pledge with the Lord. I covenanted that I would try to forget myself and lose myself in His service” (Ensign, July 1987, p. 7).
What a wonderful message to remind ourselves to be happier through service. When we covenant with the Lord to serve others, I believe it invites His spirit into our hearts and allows the light to penetrate more deeply, even on the darkest, wintry days.