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.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Right here, right now. The school update!

      Two weeks ago our four year old decided he was done with pre-school.  It was only 2 1/2 hours a day, but it seemed to fill a little void for the both of us. For him he got to engage in fun activities and get loads of attention from the over-staffed classroom of University students working on their childhood education degrees. For me, I got to have some space to help my eight year old with his homeschooling, plus get some exercise and mental peace time in. My 4 year old talks NON-stop, and has a challenging personality for me, so having just two hours of quiet time was doing wonders for my sanity.
       Then one day after a month and 1/2, he just didn't want to go anymore. He started saying things like,"School makes me too sick." or "When I go to school I run out of too much energy."  Pretty soon I was having to bribe him to go, offering special treats when I picked him up like mango smoothies and suckers. But that wasn't working either. It was beginning to stress me out until I realized that it didn't matter anymore if he went or not. He was only four years old. If he wanted to be home with is mother, so be it.

I admit I was upset at first. This arrangement was something I had really hoped would work out.  One day while he was at pre-school I remember running down the bike path with the baby jogger, wind in my hair, and feeling a joyous freedom come over me! I felt so blessed to have this time to myself!
But, it's all done now so I have to move on. Instead of wallowing in my disappointment, I had to shift my paradigm a bit, re-do my daily routine, buy a double jogging stroller, and find the positive in this new arrangement. (It's been three weeks now and I've found the positive.) 
First of all I had been constantly rushed. I had been hurrying to get Odin and Jonah out the door at 9am to drop them off at their schools, then rushing back home to quickly nurse the baby, read scriptures, go jogging, work on stuff with Zadok, then try to squeeze in some extra "me-time" before I had to go pick Jonah up again at 11:30am. I was married to my watch, which is someone I never like to be.

Secondly, I realized that Jonah and I needed more time together, not less time. I had thought that daily pre-school would be a good way for him to get some extra attention while I was preoccupied with the new baby, but I was wrong because he just needed me: To sit on the floor with him. To play with him. To build marble runs and set up the train set with him. To make lunch together and dance in the kitchen with him. To color pictures, cuddle, read books, and watch Dinosaur Train together. To give him as much attention as I gave my older two children when they were his age. 
I realized that just because he was willing to go to pre-school, didn't mean it was the right thing for him to do. So once he decided he was completely done going, I knew it was because he needed more attention from me, more than he needed attention from pre-school. And I needed him, too. We've been bonding more, and through our time spent together I am learning to be more patient, more understanding, and more receptive to his needs. He is a headstrong, contradictory, and often honoree child, but the more we hang out together, the more I can see the positive sides of his tough personality. He needed his Mama to see him in a better light. Don't we all?

We also had to ditch the third grade K12 home school program for Zadok. It was waaaaaay too demanding, overly structured, and stressful on all of us. The daily schedule didn't match our family's learning style, and was giving us all an unhealthy dose of anxiety. Fortunately I was able to send all the curriculum and computer equipment back without any trouble, which was nice. 
Now were back to un-schooling! Zadok is a natural learner and self-directs his own. Right now he's reading like crazy. He's finished the Percy Jackson series, is working on Harry Potter, and reads anything he can find on Dragons and Wizards. His Dad has him working on math everyday. I work on grammar and writing with him. Our daily exercise is hiking the dogs up the hills, or jogging our favorite bike path. Zadok likes being home. He likes to curl up on the couch and read a good book and hang out with his Mama. Nothing wrong with that. I feel really close with my Zadok boy and love spending this time with him.

Lastly, Odin the first grader still loves going to school! He's been using the word "mighty" a lot to describe things. Like, "I need to read this mighty book for my homework!" or "This dinner is mighty good!" I love his fun vocabulary and I also love that he loves going to school so much. He reminds me a lot of myself at this age. I couldn't wait to get out the door in the mornings  to see all my friends and do my mighty school work.
Sometimes I wake up and realize that I don't know what the heck I'm doing raising these four boys. I mean right now I feel like everything is good in the moment, and each child has his needs met, but then I find that I'm terrified of the future! I can't seem to see anything past five years ahead, let alone next month.
*How long can I keep getting up every morning and driving Odin to school before I burn myself out? Will keeping Zadok home-schooled only exacerbate his shyness and anxiety or keep healing him from it? Will Jonah always be so contradictory? Will I kiss the ground on his first day of Kindergarten or miss him like crazy? Do I want to make goals to have them all home-schooled by next year or keep my mind open to sending them all to school? Will baby Malachi be my last baby? Do we want to try for a girl or have I reached my capacity?
Do I want to start thinking about making an extra income to pay off our debts? Can I handle the stress of work and family?

I honestly don't know what I/we/they want. I don't know what's best for everyone. I only seem to know what's best right now. I've been praying for some clarity but the only answer I get is:
Right now is working so just flow with it. Don't worry about what the future will bring because it will take care of itself.
So that's what I'm trying to do--be happy in the moment. Go with the flow. 
I'm happy that I have a wonderful family that I love so much, happy that we have everything we need, and happy that each one of them is thriving in their current situation, right here, right now. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Waikiki Moon

One night we went surfing under the bright, full moon. The blaring lights from the beach hotels helped illuminate the night sky. The sea stayed dark and calm, with gentle 2-3 foot sets rolling in. It was just us and the ocean out there; deep, sparkling, and beautiful. I waited a long time for the perfect wave. When it finally came I couldn't tell when the crest would break, as dark clouds covered the sky, casting a shadow over the water. The gray night sky and the gray ocean suddenly blended into one, a sudden movement of synchronistic perfection. I rose to my feet at just the right moment, gliding across the face of the wave, high on adrenaline and glory, just me and the Waikiki moon.