Friday, January 19, 2018

January

We're half-way through January and I just sat down a day ago to think about my goals for this year. I always make a list in my journal of highlights from the past year, what I'm looking forward to in the new year and then I tend to make a few goals. This year I felt tired of making the same goals I've been making for years and decided to focus on things that I felt needed to happen now, not goals that are in actuality habits I'll be developing and perfecting over a life time.

One of those goals is to do more writing so every Friday I am going to publish a blog post. I have not written with such regularity since I was a junior in college and writing three stories a week for the college newspaper. I am excited for the challenge and hope that my four loyal readers appreciate the increase in content and hopefully quality.

January can be a tough month; a letdown after all of the Christmas fun and family time. Some Januarys I have felt the blah and impatient with the winter and cold but my attitude is starting to change as I age. Twenty years ago today I held hands with my husband for the first time (though we were 17 and I had no idea I was going to marry him!) and I gave birth to my last child three years ago in January. There is a national holiday to celebrate and the hope of snow days.

I have come to appreciate how the excess and expense of December can turn into the economy and efficiency of January. All of the indulging and planning and celebrating and shopping and even serving can leave a mom feeling pretty depleted, a feeling I especially had this year after a challenging December. Lately the magic of Christmas has been more elusive and so I tell myself to do more to serve my friends and family and church and yet even then, the pressure to have special feelings around that time of year and to do, do, do can be exhausting.

Which has led me to appreciate the simplicity of January where everyone is taking a big, deep breath after the holidays. Very few events are planned because of the cold weather and I've had days with no commitments to anyone outside of my family, which is such a relief. My gym classes are annoyingly packed but that will get back to normal by February. There is no story time, no soccer, no play dates at the park, no recitals and no school parties. After giving my heart and soul away to everyone around me for a month it feels nice to sit alone by the fire and feel the peace, calm and quiet of a snowy night.

I have decided I like the idea of getting our finances back on track after splurging on Christmas fun and having the house all clean after putting the decor away. I love breaking out a brand new calendar and appreciate it being uncluttered and full of possibility. It is a time to make goals, look ahead to the year with wide-open potential and decide what adventures await your family. I'm looking forward to my three-year-old being potty-trained, my almost five-year-old starting school, my almost eight-year-old getting baptized and my eldest hitting double digits. I'm excited for our annual beach vacation, celebrating my 15th wedding anniversary, getting more financially sound, reading 35 new books and having more time with my husband because of a job change. 

So thank you, January, for being relatively unscheduled and non-demanding. Thank you for being cold so I have an excuse to stay home and watch movies with my kids and drink hot chocolate while not letting the huge fort in the basement bother me because no one is coming over either.  I am grateful for beginning this new year and it all starts with January.


Monday, January 8, 2018

New Friend

Today I had a true "dancing with the daffodils" moment that I want to remember forever. I had an upsetting experience at church this afternoon and when I got home alone with four tired and hungry children who all seemed to be pestering me for something, I could barely hold my emotions together. I grabbed a tissue and ran upstairs and locked my door so I could cry alone. My eldest saw that I was upset and I could hear her immediately engage her younger siblings who were following me up the stairs. She played with them and I remained almost entirely uninterrupted in the 45 minutes or so it took me to compose myself.

When I did come down and start making dinner, she immediately came over and offered to help me. Once it was in the oven, I gave her a hug and thanked her for keeping her siblings busy and told her how much I appreciated her kindness. She asked if I was just stressed earlier and I told her that someone had really hurt my feelings and I was feeling badly about myself so that I had just needed time to pray for comfort and the ability to forgive. Now that she has gotten older and can understand more complex feelings and relationships I found it so comforting that I could talk to her as a friend and not just a little person who always needs something from me; that I could be honest and vulnerable with her. She responded with another tight squeeze.

Later we were waiting for the other kids to get ready for bed and had some rare alone time to just sit and talk about books and school and it was amazing. It was like talking to a friend and suddenly my daughter just seemed so grown up and I got a glimpse of all she has to offer me as a person. She is witty and thoughtful and incredibly aware of how other people are feeling, as well as being kind and silly and sweet. I was overwhelmed with love for her and her beautiful soul. I later went into my room and found this:

While I wish today had been a better day, I'm grateful to have gotten to know my daughter in this new light. Sometimes I look at my kids and think of how much work I have to do as a parent, with so many things to do for them, teach and fix (will they ever actually hurry when I say it is time to leave?). But today I had the feeling that they are pretty amazing all on their own and I just hope that I, with all my faults and insecurities, won't get in their way. 

Monday, December 25, 2017

Books of 2017

I had a goal to read 30 books this year and thanks to a great website that helped me keep track, I did it! Some were long and emotionally intense, some were okay, some were fun, some were so depressing, but each one was a journey and I'm grateful for books and the joy I find in reading.

Here is my list!

1. Ms. Bixby's Last Day--I loved this book. So sweet and meaningful.
2. The Midnight Rose--Reminded me of The Forgotten Garden except in India. It was good.
3. House of Robots--I read this to my kids and loved it. It was positive and smart.
4. The Orphan Keeper--Sad but interesting read and I suppose it had a happy ending
5. The Emperors of Chocolate--Fascinating but outdated (it was published in the 90s and a lot has changed since then). I loved learning more about Mars and Hershey and now I look at the candy in line at the grocery store with a more educated eye.
6. The Family Romanov--Interesting, kind of slow, but I learned more about them and that was the idea
7. Cinder--The first of the Lunar Chronicles. It doesn't end and that is annoying but it was an interesting enough premise that i kept reading.
8. Scarlet--probably my least favorite of the series
9. Cress--This one was the best. Lots of good action and plot development.
10. Winter--A good concluding book to the series. I liked this one.
11. Fairest--A side story for the villan that was interesting
12. Stars Above--A collection of short stories that give background for some of the characters. I felt it was interesting but unnecessary because it didn't really add much depth to the stories; they were sufficient without it. That concludes the Lunar Chronicles.
13. The Chemist--I am not a Stephanie Myers fan but this book was riveting and I couldn't put it down. It was more like a movie and I enjoyed it for the suspense.
14. America's First Daughter--I haven't read much about this time period and found it interesting but also depressing at what I learned about Thomas Jefferson. Definitely lost some respect for him.
15. The Zookeepers Wife--This book wasn't what I wanted it to be. Too much on the animals and not enough on the drama of hiding people from the Nazis.
16. Daughters of Fortune--About a woman in California during the gold rush. Interesting story but a lot of prostitution and it just made me sad what women had to go through to survive at the time.
17. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child--Again, not what I wanted it to be. I was disappointed.
18. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon--My daughters loves this book so I decided to read it and it was a charming Chinese folk tale.
19. Talking as Fast as I Can--I LOVE Gilmore Girls and really wanted to love this book but it needed more substance. It was a taste of what could have been an awesome book.
20. Me Before You--Sad, sad, sad. I liked it but the ending just was too much.
21. A Duty to the Dead--Kind of creepy but a decent murder mystery
22. The Poisonwood Bible--This took me forever. I kept falling asleep and forgetting who the characters were and it was a mess. I finally just plowed through it and it was okay. It was thought-provoking but I didn't like any of the characters and found nothing super redeeming about it.
23. A Bridge Across the Ocean--I liked this one. It has a slightly strange element to it but good story and characters, even if a bit depressing, and interesting how it all weaved together.
24. The Rosie Project--A good, easy read but bad language
25. The Best of Me--This was my first Nicholas Sparks book and it was predictable and annoying and I hated the ending.
26. Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker--This is a good story. I love historical fiction and this was an interesting story on a couple of different levels.
27. The Underground Railroad--One of the most depressingly awful books I have ever read. It literally made me feel ill when I read it.
28. American Heiress--My kind of story and it was pretty well told. I liked it but had been hoping to love it.
29. The Dressmaker--I loved this one. It delved into what happened after the Titanic sunk and I was really into it.
30. The Mistletoe Inn--I decided to end on something simple and Christmassy and this was perfect. It was predictable but I still liked it.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Disappointment

I learned two very important lessons yesterday. First, I am not a performer. Second, practice does not make perfect, unless you can practice in the very environment in which you need to perform.

I was having a fantastic day yesterday. We had some wonderful and seriously quality family time, I found a $20 bill hiding in a Christmas mug, and there was the most perfect and magical Christmas snow falling.

I was even excited to be participating in my church's community Christmas concert. I have a friend who is an amazing singer and she asked me last year for this same annual concert to accompany her while she sang O Holy Night. I got the music and it has six flats (this means it is challenging) but I spent hours practicing it last year and performed it well enough. I made a few mistakes but felt it didn't distract too much from her performance. When she asked me again this year I was excited because I already knew the piece and therefore could focus on nailing it. I started practicing in early November and in the last six weeks I've played it every chance I got. I was so sure that this year I was going to sit down and know it so well that I would do the song justice and not disappoint my friend.

I was warmed up and excited and then I sat down to play. I messed up in the first measure. I thought it was just my nerves and that it would be okay but while I never messed up badly enough to interfere with the singing, I definitely made enough mistakes that it was noticeable and embarrassing. There were so many fine performers there and people used to a high quality of music and performance and I left there feeling so disappointed with myself that I didn't keep up with them. I really felt I had done all I could to be ready and that was what was so disappointing. Unless I had practiced more in front of other people, I don't know how I could have done any better and that just made me feel so badly about myself. I like doing things well and while I am not the most amazing pianist (I often make mistakes when I play in front of other people and am a terrible sight reader) I had worked hard and felt my performance didn't match the effort I put into being prepared for it.

I tried all day not to let it bother me but I'll admit I've been a grump today still just feeling disappointed and like I'm not good enough to contribute when there are others that do it better. I don't like feeling mediocre. I know that I have a lot of weaknesses but when I put my all into something, it usually turns out better. Perhaps this is all childish and slightly dramatic but these feelings are real and I hope I am not alone in feeling them. I suppose the life lesson is learning how to deal with these kind of situations so now that I've told you how I feel it is time to get over it and move on. I'm playing again on Christmas Eve so I had better get practicing.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Goodbye Mickey

Ten years ago we lived in southern California and had season passes to Disneyland. It was a tough year because I struggled getting a job and also getting pregnant, but it was a super fun year going to Disneyland at least twice a month and exploring all that the greater LA area offers. I was also working with some amazing teenage girls at church and I loved them dearly.

After two years of trying to get pregnant, I finally succeeded and spent the last month of our annual pass to Disneyland just walking around but not riding rides. The sad part was that then I miscarried and by then our passes had expired. It was too tight financially for us to go back just for a day but right before we moved, one of the girls from church (also a fellow Disney enthusiast) took me to Disneyland for the day. She knew how sad I was over the miscarriage and how I felt like my Disney experience was incomplete and she took me and gave me such a magical day. It is one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me and I still can't think of that day without being overwhelmed by her thoughtfulness and love. We rode everything and had so much fun together and it was the perfect way to end our time in California.

It was my birthday just a week or so following and as we were packing and getting ready to move to Ohio, this wonderful girl came over and gave me a Mickey head to go on the antenna of our silver Corolla. I loved it and immediately put it on our car where it has remained since. I loved that when silver Corollas were plentiful and it could be difficult to find my car, I just had to look for Mickey. Our kids even started calling it the Mickey Mouse car and such it has been called for the past eight years.

Then last Sunday we were leaving for church and noticed that Mickey was not on the car anymore. We're not sure what happened to it but it wasn't in our yard or anywhere around so we had to say goodbye to Mickey. It made me sad to lose that small memento from such a happy experience and we're not quite sure what to call the car now.   That little spongy head had become a fun part of our family culture and I'm going to miss him.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Weight

Sorry for the 4-month hiatus. I've had lots of thoughts floating around my head and haven't taken the time to sit down and develop them. I've decided that I just need to write them down so I'm anticipating a few shorter, perhaps less refined posts over the next few days.

Starting off with one on weight. I put on a decent amount of weight with my first two pregnancies but nothing obscene and after the first two kids I used Weight Watchers and managed to lose the extra weight. That got me back to normal (thought not to my ideal) and I was feeling pretty good, especially because I knew I would be pregnant again. After kid number four, I was heavier than normal and then due to some hormonal changes with my body I put on 10 pounds in what felt like over night. At this point I was almost back to my pregnancy weight, which was way more than I really should weigh and I'll admit I was feeling pretty low about it.

I started exercising two or three times a week at a gym with a friend and was feeling really good about how I was taking care of my body. I didn't starve myself (which is how I feel when I am trying to cut back my eating) but I eat pretty healthy and while I could certainly cut back, I have only been successful monitoring my eating once and it was really difficult with minimal results.  The exercising, however, had absolutely no affect on my weight and while I felt more muscular and fit, I was still chubby and it really bothered me.

Every morning I would get dressed and just think about how terrible I looked in everything and my goal was always to hide the belly fat. More than half my wardrobe was too tight or unwearable and I just tried not to think about how frustrated I really felt. I hadn't even realized how much it kept me down until just recently when I was finally able to let it go. I am still exercising and pretty much eating how I would like, but because I started on a medicine that corrects for a metabolic disorder I have, in a matter of the last six months I have lost all that hormonal and baby weight and I'm back to normal (still not ideal but I've been fighting that battle since I was 22). I feel emotionally lighter than I have in years and it is a wonderful thing.

I actually went shopping and bought new clothes for the first time in years; yes, literally years. I have cute new pants that actually fit me and shirts that I can wear without feeling like I have to suck it in all day. In one day last week three people in different situations told me that I looked thin or cute and I seriously can't remember the last time anyone told me either of those things. Part of me is trying to not feel too good with the positive attention because it really isn't about the way I look, but I will be honest and say that it feels good to finally feel normal and healthy and not hate getting dressed every day.

If I were a profound thinker then perhaps I would turn this into an essay on loving ourselves no matter what but since I didn't feel like myself, I don't think I have to love that version of me. Instead I am choosing to love being back to normal and in cute pants!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Summer

It has been too long since I've written. I'd get a good idea and then go off to the pool with the kids and promptly forget about it. Summer is the season that I enjoy my kids most. I'm not busy trying to get them certain places at certain times and I'm completely in charge of our schedule, which I love. They have time to be more helpful around the house (which is good since they have more time to make messes) and we get to play together. I love swimming with them and watching them play at the park and reading together and going on adventures together. I like being able to say yes more often because it is okay to stay up a bit later when we can sleep in the next day and no summer is complete without at least one ice-cream-for-lunch day. I love watching fireworks with them and going to the beach together and doing things that help me feel happy and have fun too. I feel more relaxed and generally like a better mom during the summer.

As a kid I spent my summers riding my bike, taking road trips across the country, going to the beach and hoping my friend down the street would invite me to come swimming in her pool. As a teenager I was going to Girls Camp and participating in the Hill Cumorah Pageant and traveling to see extended family. As a young adult I visited with my older sisters, went to amusement parks and went out with friends I hadn't seen in a long time. The summer after my freshman year at college I went out to eat ice cream with a different friend three times in one day, although once it was custard and once it was frozen yogurt and so only one time was it actually ice cream. It was a good day.

As a missionary my summer was pretty much the same as the winter except instead of bundling up in boots and heavy coats we were sweating so much we'd take a quick shower at lunch time to cool off. Although people were more willing to talk to us on the street which was nice and that is when I met Marina, with whom I had the most amazing experience of my mission. Once I got home and got married, the reality of not having the summer off was a tough lesson to learn. I didn't like having to work inside on beautiful days and to ask permission to travel on vacation.  So I was grateful when my husband finished school and we moved to California where I worked freelance and could spend a day sitting by the pool reading Harry Potter 6 from beginning to end if I wanted to do so, which I did.

It was that summer that I got really sick because of some fertility treatments I was doing and had to be hospitalized for two days, only to miscarry a month later and have a D and C procedure.  I remember going to see John Williams conduct an orchestra playing all of his movie themes at the Hollywood Bowl the following night and feeling very grateful that I had something so fun to distract me from the emptiness I felt. Then it was the very next summer I gave birth to a baby girl, the fulfillment of much prayer and effort and hope and love.

Now summer is when my kids are all home and we can play together as a family. It is a strengthening time for us all to be together so much and create special memories, like my son learning to surf while we were in Florida and my daughter saying that me driving down an unpaved road is "the wildest ride in the willlllderrrneeees" and watching fireworks at baseball games and sitting in front of the Washington Monument playing games on July 4th and learning to dive in the pool and watching our little tomato plants grow and eating juicy watermelon and just being together, relaxed and enjoying so much of the goodness and beauty and fun this world has to offer. Maybe it is because I was born in the summer but while I am grateful for all the seasons and their goodness, nothing compares to a sun-filled, sand-filled, water-fun, family-fun, good-eatin', summer kind of day. Happy Summer!