Saturday, August 29, 2015

Giving birth brings immense personal growth

I attended the most beautiful Mother's Blessingway this past weekend to honor two beautiful mothers and friends, Jillian and BreAnn. (Read here to find out what Blessingways are and here to read about mine.) The event was held at the nearby Sage Hills Yoga and Healing Center, the perfect atmosphere to relax, breathe in the positive energy of other supportive, surrounding mothers, and enjoy a mouth-watering buffet of homemade deliciousness! I was in heaven! I love Blessingways so much, I think every mother should have one before she becomes a mother for the first time, or tenth time!
 Each mother that night came with a unique bead and blessing to give to the two mothers who would soon be going into labor and giving birth; for them, one of the most honorable and trans-formative events of their entire lives. We went around the room and shared a blessing or positive thought for the mothers and strung their beads onto a "labor necklace" which would be worn or looked at during labor to encourage and support the mom. Coincidentally, Jillian's water broke right at the time the Blessingway was to begin. so for the first part of the evening she was actually in early labor, having mild contractions, before she decided it would be best to go home to have her baby and not at the yoga center or in the car. Four hours later a beautiful, little girl came into the world! Talk about a wonderful ending to a Blessingway!
We finished the rest of the evening without her, however, going around our circle sharing positive birth stories and laughter with BreAnn, who would be going into labor early September.
As we sat around in this circle as friends, mothers, and earth-sisters, sharing in the glory and joy that is motherhood in celebrating these two mothers, I couldn't help but feel extremely grateful for my children and the birth experiences I've had to bring them here. Each one of my birth experiences was different and brought with it immense personal growth. I feel like I got what I needed from each birth as part of my individual growth was concerned. 
With my first hospital birth I learned strength and endurance. It was long and hard and required perseverance that I didn't know I had in me! I also learned how to be more of an advocate for myself not only as a parent but a person who needed to see outside the box and make choices that weren't always popular. Having a natural, hospital birth at Kaiser Los Angeles put me right in the path of negative naysayers and doubting discouragers whom I needed to be prepared to fight against to get the  birth I wanted. I learned that the best and most educated choices were also made out of love, and I needed to always follow my gut in the things I believed. Not just in birth but this transfers to everything in life.
My second birth was at home. It was calm and relaxing and perfect. I prayed harder than I've ever prayed in my life that God would lead me the right way in having this baby at home. Everything about this homebirth felt right, and it turned out exactly how I wanted and needed. Through my second birth I learned faith in God and trust in my own body.
My third birth was painful. It was a long, difficult, miserable pregnancy, with a painful birth at the end. I was a  tired worn out mommy. I already had two busy, active children at home that I was caring for and this birth seemed like a burden to me. I didn't want to go through with it, but it was too late: the birth tub was set up in the living room, the midwives were paid for, and I was already nine months pregnant. At the end of it all I got another beautiful baby boy whom I fell in love with immediately. My third birth I learned immense sacrifice, and unconditional love.
My fourth birth came four years later. I didn't want to give birth again, but my baby had to get here somehow! I prepared myself for another homebirth. I listened to Hypnobabies, I practiced yoga and meditation, I surrounded myself with supportive, loving people. I was going to be a birthing rock star....until my baby hit a nerve in the side of my uterus 8 hours into labor that sent me reeling into an alternate universe of pain. I was transferred to the hospital where I had an epidural to relieve myself from my awful state of misery. I finally pushed out (I think..... I couldn't really feel anything but I saw the pictures later) a perfect, healthy, ten pound baby boy! I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and sad about the whole turn of events. It took me weeks to get over it and feel okay with myself again. This birth taught me humility and acceptance for the things of which I cannot control. And gratitude for those who could help me.
Looking back I have learned and grown as a person more than I ever imagined from giving birth: Strength, endurance, faith, trust, sacrifice, unconditional love, humility, acceptance, and gratitude are all qualities that I've needed to have as a mother. Each birth I was given these gifts to apply to my life more fully as I raise my children.
I hope that every mother can see her birth experiences as uniquely hers, as a time to grow, and be okay with the outcome of it all. We do all we can do to educate ourselves, trust in God, follow our instincts, and be the brave women that we want to be, and in the end if we can see the immense personal growth we've attained, then we have achieved awesomeness! (And a baby!)

At the Blessingway I had noticed that many of the moms had said things I've said before, like,"I hope your birth turns out exactly how you want," or "I hope you have the beautiful birth you deserve," however I felt different inside at this Blessingway. Maybe it's because of my growing experiences, or maybe it's because of my last birth that taught me that things don't always turn out how you "want or deserve," so my messages conveyed more of these types of thoughts:,"You will do amazing in your birth, and you will find immense happiness and joy in motherhood. Thank you for being a true example of a woman who loves being a mother."

Because no matter how or when or what way your baby comes into the world, becoming a mother is the best part of all.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Baby M turned ONE

My baby turned one last month! My how time flies!

This has been one of the best years of my life raising a baby. It really has. It has been purely joyful! Not only because M. is such a wonderful, happy, joyful baby, but because our family is in a really good place right now. 
It's been so nice to be not in the middle of moving, thinking about moving, or relocating for a job. It's been really nice to have older, more responsible  children who can help out, and a neighborhood of really nice, supportive friends. It's been really nice to be in a church full of babies and mothers who love and cherish their family's, to encourage me and uplift me in my motherhood journey. It's been really nice to have such a strong, supportive husband who happy in his own life, and who loves children. 

All these things make such a big difference in the level of stress that can go into raising a baby. Because raising babies is hard work! And when I've been under stress and all these things have not been aligned in my life so nicely as they are right now, It makes caring for babies that much harder. (But still do-able, of course!) I'm just really grateful right now that, although it's taken ten years to get here, we are in a very peaceful, happy place for raising baby!

Baby Malachi is an absolute joy. He is full of light and happiness, and shines that light to everyone around him. He has the biggest smile, and chubbiest cheeks. His first words were dog and cat, but more like "Dah" and "Cah." He has learned how to wave hi and bye. He has learned how to sign "more" when he wants more food (and it's adorable!). He has learned how to sign for milkies when he wants to nurse (and it's even more adorable!). He has learned how to walk! He reminds me of a little penguin waddling all over the house. He has also learned how to climb up everything! The fireplace, the kitchen chairs, the beds, the computer chair, and anything he finds outside to climb on. He is a master climber! Whenever he does something tricky or new he gets this huge smile on his face to show how proud he is of himself.
He is a big eater, too. In addition to his favorite milkies,  he loves fruits of all kinds--strawberries, peaches, pears, bananas, mango, blueberries and apple! He also loves little pieces of cut up toast, scrambled eggs, lasagna, shredded chicken, broccoli, carrots, and peas! He'll eat pretty much anything that we're eating, which makes my life easier!
Malachi loves it when I sing to him. Eensy Weensy Spider, Baby Beluga, and Twinkle Stars are his favorites. He tries to sing along and waves his little hands and arms all over the place,  and it sounds like "Gah gah gah goo gah gah gang gang!!" Micah taught him the "This Little Piggy" rhyme on his toes, and he loves doing that, too.
He wakes up around 8am, and is taking two naps a day, and then falls asleep by 10pm. Everyday with Malachi is busy, busy, busy! I am often very exhausted at the end of each day. He loves to play outside best right now and can spend hours out there. Yesterday he spent four hours straight playing at the lake by our house: Rolling in the sand, digging holes, waddling around the beach, splashing in the water, playing with toys, and just having a grand old time! He stopped to nurse twice and I thought he might fall asleep, but then he got right back up to play again!!

On Malachi's first birthday we were traveling in the van through California on a road trip. We had packed up our camp sight at Sequoia National Park and were headed to Leo Carillo State Beach park in Malibu. It was a four hour drive! It was hot and suffocating in the car and we were all sick of driving, so we stopped at a little park in Castaic, CA to play. The playground was tiny and we were all hot and hungry. I kept thinking guiltily to myself, "I'm sorry my little baby, this isn't much of a birthday, is it?" 
Then to add some irony to the situation, there was a family having a huge first birthday party for their baby at the park there! They had  a bouncy house, a full buffet, a dessert bar, streamers and balloons strewn everywhere, presents piled high to the sky, and over a hundred guests. It was a big celebration for their baby!
Then I looked at us, with our meager bag of bread and cheese, and our worn-out-from-camping-little family, with not even a birthday present for our baby! haha! 
Yet watching baby M climb up the slide over and over and over again, while his brothers followed him and watched over him, giggling at his bravery and his toddler clumsiness, was absolutely priceless. There was a lot of love being shown for the well-being of our waddling baby boy, as he tripped and fell all over that playground. We may not have had a big party or birthday presents for him, but what we had was all that he needed.
Later that night when we got camp set up in Malibu, we blew up some glowing balloons and set them free in the tent. It was dark by then and the balloons shined bright and happy in our family tent as we all laid there and punched them in the air. 
Malachi's eyes lit up. He giggled and laughed, and followed the glowing balloons around in circles. It was pure one-year-old joy!
We went around and told one thing that we love about baby Malachi. 
"His smile," someone said. "When he head-butts me," said another. "When he climbs all over me and rubs his face in my face," said another brother. "His beautiful curls and contagious smile" I said.
Happy Birthday baby Malachi! This was one of the best years of MY life!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Good Habit Jar

The Good Habit Jar gets filled with a bead every time someone in our family does the good habit we are currently working on! We decide ahead of time as a family what good habit our family needs to work on so we're all working towards the same goal, then once the jar is filled to the top, we go out for ice-cream! This idea came from a podcast I was listening to on Power of Moms Radio.   It is genius!
Several months ago I really felt like we needed to say "I love you" more. It just wasn't being said enough in our home! To me, those 3 simple words convey such a powerful message that we are a family that is not afraid to show love and affection for each other, and that we are a family that shares how we feel frequently by saying I love you! 
I knew that we all loved each other, but we needed to get into a better habit of actually saying it.     
Enter the Good Habit Jar!
It started out slow, but pretty soon I was hearing I love you's every hour of the day!
(However, when I noticed the jar filling up too fast, we had to make a few rules such as : No standing by the jar and saying I love you over and over and over again, while throwing beads in. And no saying I love you to animals. And lastly, mom doesn't get to put beads in because she's already really good at this habit. I tell my kids I love them all day everyday)
So, their I love you's had to be genuine, and directed to a certain person in the family. 
It took us about a month to fill it to the top. After a month my heart was filled with happy as I could hear more I love you's being shared between family members. My favorite thing was right after family prayer and right before getting into bed, each one of my kids would say I love you to each family member, then they'd go count out the beads with a huge grin on their faces.

The next good habit we did was to work on saying Thank You more often. By the end of the month my kids were saying Thank You left and right, and probably more than they needed to (Zadok discovered that he could say thank you for mundane things like me turning on the car or one of his brothers flushing the toilet...i.e. "Thank you for flushing the toilet, Odin, and now I get to put a bead in the jar.") 
We filled up the jar pretty quickly and had a delicious night of blizzards at Dairy Queen to prove it! But the best part is that our family is saying thank you more often. It makes me really happy when I cook a meal and then I hear a bunch of little voices say,"Thank you, Mom!"

I wonder what we should do next? We'll never run out of  good habits to work on!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Freedom Van for Pauline

This is Pauline!!  One the warmest, friendliest, most down-to-earth people I've ever met!

We met her and her family while living in Hilo from 2011 to 2013. #freedomvan
How did we meet? She had called me on the phone and asked me on a blind-park-date after finding my phone# in an ad about starting a local homeschool group. She was homeschooling her child, and I was homeschooling my children, so she wanted to meet at a playground and become acquainted! Yes! I thought immediately. I love blind dates!
When the day came for us to meet at the park I realized I had no idea what she looked like, so was hoping we'd find each other easily. I remember driving up, parking my car, and then seeing that there was only one other adult person at the park: a woman I've often seen around town with no arms or legs, but the most beautiful smile and warmest eyes. Yes! I thought immediately. I love meeting interesting new friends! 
(I wondered for a second why she didn't mention it on the phone the fact that she didn't have all her limbs. Probably because it wouldn't have been a proper blind date if I knew what she looked like, but most likely because her disability was the furthest thing from her mind!)

As I got to know Pauline more and more I got to learn about her incredible life and the amazing person she is.  She was born to nurturing, loving parents who taught her that she could do whatever she wanted to do, despite her disability: that she could accomplish great things in her life, and make a positive impact on the world around her.
And she has! Pauline has not only pushed forward and accomplished her own goals in life, but through her accomplishments, has reached out and helped so many people around her. 
Furthermore, she has an insurmountable faith in God, an optimistic and positive outlook on life, and an ability to make people (like me) feel comfortable and at home in her presence.  I had never met anyone like Pauline before in my entire life, and soon felt like she was not only a wonderful friend, but a spiritual giant in my life. Her example to me as a faithful woman and mother, has touched me to the core. 
There was one experience in particular that Pauline shared with me about when her son was born, that I will never forget:
She shared that right after her baby boy was born, It was especially difficult for her watch as other people in her family took turns taking care of his basic needs: as her husband changed the baby's diapers, and as her step-kids fed her baby bottles, and as her loving family did all those things that are naturally instinctual for a mother to do, she had to let go of her very strong desires to take control of those motherly things and accept her situation for what it was. It was the most difficult  thing for her to do as a new mother, and taught her a great deal about letting go of control and finding joy in the journey. #freedomvan
Now when I experience difficult challenges in my life that feel out of my control, I think about Pauline. Her first mothering experience gives me the strength to push through the hard stuff in life, and have faith that everything will work out for the good- That sometimes even though we may not have control over a situation, we still know that God is always helping us, that God will work through the wonderful people around us, and that if we trust it and accept it, we can find joy in everything else.

I hope that as Pauline is raising money for her new van that she can remember this same lesson she taught me! I know it isn't easy for her to ask for help, and it's going to require a lot of trust in other people and acceptance of the things she can't control, but I also know that wonderful people will step in to help her, and God will increase her joy on this crazy journey of life!

Please take a few minutes to watch this video and donate to Pauline's Dream van! #freedomvan
Even a $1 donation will make her one step closer to her goal! Love you Pauline! Thanks for being you!

Click here to donate!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Natural Remedies for Curing the Common Cold

My family has been really sick with a nasty cold virus for the past 3 weeks. The virus has been circulating through each member of the household, debilitating them completely, and then forcing them into groggy-sleep-like comas for days at a time. 
I did not want this to happen to me! I'm the mama and have no time to lie around and be sick! So, as the last healthy family member standing, I've been determined to stay well! To make sure I covered all my bases, I  asked my facebook friends what remedies they used to help prevent or cure the common cold. This is the list I compiled from their answers:

*Elderberry, sleep, hot water with lemon, Herbal teas, warm salt water gargle if a sore throat, lots of washing hands and cleaning surfaces with an essential oil anti bacterial spray. fresh garlic, onion and ginger in anything you eat. no junk food, limited caffeine & limited sugar except a bit of chocolate. 
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*Honey, vinegar, hot water. Some add lemon. Ginger.

*Lemon echinacia with pelegrino and olena.

*My grandma swears by warm whiskey and honey. We use a different version with honey and lemon.

*I swallow cloves of garlic like pills, after a meal. I may not smell that nice, but it beats getting sick!

*Apple cider vinegar shots in the morning. (I dilute with organic apple juice.) And sleep. 
Reduces severity and length compared with the family members who do not partake. I call it the breakfast of champions.

*Apple cider vinegar. I also keep a bottle if fire cider on hand (fire cider: apple cider vinegar, onions, garlic horse radish, turmeric, lots if nasty potent stuff. But it will cure what ails ya. I make it by the gallon.) Wish you lived closer, I'd share.

*Getting lots of sleep, reading fluffy library books, fanatical hand-washing, wiping off doorknobs/ light switches /keyboards/phones and making garlicky recipes for dinner.

*Old Chinese recipe: 
1. Slice 2-3 thick slice of ginger, cook it in 1-2 cups of boiling water, if you can, drink the hot ginger tea without adding brown sugar. You body will feel hot within 5-10 mins. 
2. Prepare yourself clean clothes in the bathroom 
(for later use). lay down washable blanket on your bed. 
3. Now wrap yourself in blankets on the bed, nothing poking out and exposed but your head and neck. 
4. Let yourself sweat, in about 20 - 30 mins, you should feel like your body is dripping with sweat (which is what you want). That's when all the virus and germs in the body will come out through sweating. 
5. Now jump out of the blanket and take a hot shower, wash all the sweat and germs off, and you should feel better that night. smile emoticon

*I do most of these things and can usually "catch" it before it's a full blown cold. If I don't or get lazy=cold. I also like cold snap (herbal blend you can buy), and I make a tea with various herbs depending on what's going on. Usually horse tail and marshmallow and Mullein and of course elderberry. I will add rose hips for vit c and take more as well. Cut out dairy if snotty. No white flour, sugar etc. lots and lots of fluids. Gargle and rinse sinuses with alcohol.

*Stay in complete denial til it goes away. (This was one of my favorites, and one I use often)

*Speedwell by Lily Zerkle  (an herbal blend made by a local midwife/herbalist).

*Good old home made chicken noodle soup.

*Get cotton tube socks. Soak them in ice water. Ring out slightly . Put on your feet. Cover with thick wool (best) or cotton socks and go to bed. I used essential oils and even the garlic menthol rub on the bottom of the feet as well. This draws the congestion away from the head and chest. It works so well!

*Drink water until you feel like you're drowning, then drink more water.

Conclusion: I ended up getting the cold from my family, but it only lasted 3-4 days! I didn't end up doing all of these things, but will be saving this list for future reference in case illness strikes again. 
 Each day I took a morning shot of 2 Tbsp. Apple-Cider vinegar, then I took Elderberry Lozenges, extra Vitamin C, garlic, and loads of water. I washed my hands a ton, slept and took naps, and no junk food but a little chocolate because chocolate makes me happy. If my illness got any worse I wanted to try the Chinese recipe and the Speedwell. Maybe the wet sock treatment.

Stay well my friends! Summer is too much fun to get sick!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

You pick, Cherry Picking

As we were driving the 25 minutes south to pick cherries at a local cherry farm, I realized just how happy I was in that moment! I had a perma-grin on my face, and a carload full of my favorite people- my children!  
If someone asked me what makes me happiest in life, that would be it: Going on fun outside adventures with my kids. Nothing else makes me smile like the prospect of being out in nature, exploring, and watching my children thrive in the beauty of mother nature.

Several days ago we sat down and made lists of all the fun things we want to do this summer. Everything was included from hiking Zion National Park (which we just did on Mothers Day but will do again and again), finding frogs in Kolob Canyon, climbing rocks at Three Peaks, swimming in the lake on the hill, going camping, going hiking, visiting animals at Red Acre Farm, hiking in Snow Canyon, splashing at a water park, going to the St. George Children's Museum, looking for caterpillars, collecting more bugs, building sandcastles, going fishing, picking cherries, and resting in between (that was Odin's idea). 

Today we decided to check cherry picking off our list. I feel so lucky that we have farms like this so close by. I realize that this is an opportunity that not every family can experience, because of where they live. We felt very blessed today to be able to take from this local farmer's bountiful harvest. 


Saturday, May 16, 2015

My Hill

This is my hill looking down from the top. 

I run up it several times a week. It gives me something to work for. It challenges me on days when I feel overrun by mindless, repetitive tasks like laundry and dishes. My hill never feels repetitive because each time I run up it, I strive to get better at it.  I try to run faster, push harder, and get to the top without swearing. 
The challenge inspires me. It makes me want to work harder at being a good mother and a happier wife, and even better at doing the mindless, tedious tasks that need to be done on the days I don't want to do them (Does anyone out there love doing dishes? I do not.) 
Because  I know that if I can conquer my hill, then I can accomplish anything that comes my way that day.

Everywhere we've lived, I've look for a hill to run up. When we were first married it was Griffith Park in the Los Angeles hills. I could see massive buildings and freeways for miles and miles from the top! When we moved to Idaho it was the hill in Rexburg going up to the new LDS Temple. Each day I went up that hill I got to see the latest progress on the temple grounds. In Cedar City it was Leigh Hill. Oh how I loved the view from the top, looking out over the red rock mountains! In Hilo Hawaii it was West Kawailani Street. I'll never forget the giant rainbow I saw waiting for me at the top of that hill one day. I wished I could've touched it! 
Now back in Cedar City, I've found my newest hill near the golf course. It beckons to me daily: "Come run up me! Come push your big ol' stroller full of children up my cement incline. Come forget all your troubles as you drive your sweat and tears up my sidewalks. I'll make you feel like a rockstar. I'll give you endorphins and adrenaline and make you feel like a million bucks. You'll go home a happier person once you're done with me!"

So I go. And I push. And all of it comes true.
I've even found a special friend who will run up my hill with me. Her name is Lacy and she's awesome. Although, on those days together we don't so much as run, but instead walk really fast and talk about life, and our children, and happy endings. I love running with Lacy.

I am so grateful for my hill. And the beautiful view that comes with it. 
I often wonder if other people have hills, or any sort of self-fulfilling challenges that motivates them throughout the day. I suppose a hill could be anything that lights your fire.
This might look like boring sage brush and desert, but it's my home. There is hidden beauty in these hills.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Good morning smelly smells

It often surprises me how the smell of my children's elementary school brings back so many happy memories for me. The smell I think is a combination of everything that I loved about school when I was a kid, all compacted into one: pencils, pencil sharpeners, lined paper, paints, construction paper, scissors, recess equipment, computers, toys, library books, science experiments, drama costumes, musical instruments, and the occasional teacher's perfume.
I had to run some stuff into the school this morning and right when I opened the door the smell entered my brain and triggered the happy memories of times past. 
I felt really happy to be there this morning, and really grateful that my children love it so much. My third grader adores his teacher. It is his first real teacher since he had been home-schooling up until several months ago. But gosh, the way he looks up to her and cares about her is the most assuring and joyful thing ever. 
Back when I felt like I was drowning and needed someone else to help me enrich and inspire the live's of my children, I never dreamt that these teachers would be the answer. Both of them! Because my first grader's teacher is amazing, too. They love, they care, they teach, they challenge, they inspire, and they light the fire of curiosity within my children to always want to learn new things.

As I was driving home I saw the crossing guard who keeps large pockets full of candy to hand out to the kids. He's worked that cross-walk for years and everyone knows him. The kids were laughing and smiling. The principal was waving hello as children arrived. I also saw parents I know from church, from La Leche League, from my neighborhood, all walking their eager children into the building. I smiled to myself because this is my community. My home. The place I get to raise my kids.
 I felt so grateful, once again, to my Heavenly Father for leading us back here to this small town of ours. 
There isn't a lot of crime here. Children still walk to and from school unassisted. Parents still smile and wave at one another and make chit chat. People are helpful and caring, in general. 
I like it here because it's also expanding, which brings in more diversity. However, I feel a sense of territorialism, because often with expansion comes more riff-raff. I hate riff-raff.  I hope we can maintain a safe and happy community here for many years to come, even as the city expands. (no riff-raff)

Right now I am sitting at the keyboard nursing my 9 month old. He is getting his first tooth this week and needs lots of lovies. 
My mom is visiting and she's in the other room playing with my 4 year old. 
Life is good. 
I might even go for a jog today and plant some more flowers in my yard.

That is all.

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.

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.