Friday, May 15, 2009


I've had so many wonderful, lifting experiences lately, despite it being "one of those years." Or perhaps it's because it's been one of those years. I often forget that with our greatest challenges also come the greatest opportunities for growth and the greatest opportunities to really feel and know of God's love for His children. I was reminded of this talk tonight as I talked with a friend about the roller coaster of emotions being a mother brings.

Here are a few of the nourishing blessings I've had this week:

* And then there was one. Tonight DH took six little kids camping with our ward, leaving me with just Harmony to care for. Some men give flowers and jewelry; but that's not for me. Give me a night with just one child to care for, $5.38 for a Subway sandwich (I tried the sweet onion dressing tonight for the first time -- so good), and a library card. I'm satisfied.

* Thee lift me, and I lift thee, and we'll ascend together. I've had several opportunities to be lifted and also to lift this week. This morning, I had a great visit with a wonderful mother who loves her children. Her three girls and my four played together happily while she and I talked about finding a path through so many competing priorities. Tonight, I went walking with one of my best friends. I'm always lifted by our conversations because she has such a loving, pure heart.

* "As we lift others, we rise a little higher ourselves" I was able to bring dinner to another family stretched by life's challenges on Tuesday, and my week has been so much better for it.

* For the Beauty of the Earth. Not only did I watch the sunset on Tuesday night, I had a front-row seat for it on Wednesday night as my daughter performed in an outdoor concert. The sky couldn't have been lovelier. And maybe it's silly, but I really love the flowers in my garden. My bulbs have been blooming continuously in the front yard for over a month. In the last few days, my alliums have burst forth, bringing color to my flower garden just as the last of my tulips is losing its petals. We also have a huge pile of strawberries overflowing with white blossoms destined to become juicy berries.

* How does your garden grow? Mine's doing well so far. Most of last Saturday was spent turning the soil and planting. Lillian and Joey both were so thrilled to have their very own plots this year, and I took them to the store to choose the seeds and starts they would plant in them. Our landscaper actually came and fixed the sprinklers that never worked, so now the garden is automatically watered for whatever time I set the sprinklers to be on for. As for how the garden grows, well, it does its best given the trying circumstances -- two to four good hours of sun is not quite ideal conditions for most vegetables, but last year, we still harvested a lot of tomatoes.

* Happy Smothers Day. That's what Allison and Sarah call it anyway, and don't you think it fits? I didn't get a nap on Mother's Day, but the kids gave me cute artwork and cards, and DH made a huge breakfast and gave me a gift card to spend however I want -- this week, I picked out some piano/guitar/voice folk song books on Amazon. After Church, we headed up the canyon for a picnic DH prepared, with pineapple, chicken sandwiches, and homemade lemonade. I even made DH get a picture of me with all of my kids. In the late afternoon, some of the kids helped me make homemade cookies and Lillian helped prepare homemade cards to take to some of our favorite grandmothers in our neighborhood. We've been so blessed with adopted grandmothers. It's wonderful when other people love your kids, isn't it?

* Step by step. Harmony has been taking more and more steps this week, often taking three or four before she falls. She's cautious, but amazing. She brings me so much joy.

* The Primary Colors. My husband and I teach the 4 and 5 year old Primary class on Sundays. Our little class can sure be interesting. Last Sunday was particularly, um, interesting. At one point the song leader invited all those with blue eyes to come to the front of the room. "I've got blue on!" shouted one of my charges, pulling down his pants to show his blue and red superhero underwear. Later on, Sarah gave the longest prayer of her life to close the meeting, leaving every adult in the room silently laughing as she prayed, ". . . and thank you we have moms and dads, and thank you we listen to our mom and dad and obey Heavenly Father and thank you we get to go out in the woods if we ask our moms and dads and they say it's okay and thank you we get to help with the dishes when we are tall enough to reach the sink and thank you . . ." Hey, at least it was sincere!

*How now, brown cow. Yesterday, for the last day of our neighborhood preschool, we went to Thanksgiving Point and enjoyed the animal farm. We had a great time. Right off, we met a very friendly cow who let us pet him and tried to eat Harmony's blanket. We fed him corn feed from our hands, and as Allison leaned over to pick up some fallen grains, he took a big bite of her hair. He spit it out after a moment, deciding it wasn't quite the same as grass, and she thought it was the funniest thing!

* My Little Pony. We also got our own pony rides. Eliza was a bit scared, but Allison and Sarah gave their ponies huge hugs afterwards, and Sarah kept trying to feed her pony even after the ride operator timidly tried to herd her towards the exit, "um, we need you to go over there now, okay?" "okay, are you done now?" I would have given him more help, except it was a little comical how he expected her to listen to his soft voice when she had a real live pony in front of her. ( On a related note, I was able to return the My Little Pony movie to the library tonight. With four little girls in the house, I think I know all the words to the theme song, and it's running in my head right now. . . "My little pony, my little pony, what will today's adventure be, My little pony, my little pony . . . " Those of you with girls can now sing along. If you have just boys, trust me, you're not missing much.)

I am so blessed.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Renewal (nearly Wordless Wednesday)

I've been getting my exercise every evening around sunset. There are two paths I take. One takes me a short distance along a busy road, across a bridge and onto a beautiful walking path that follows the river. During the day, I take that path.

(picture from fall)

The other path takes me up a hill and through a neighborhood. In the evening, I take that route.

Last night, the sunset was spectacular.

Monday, May 11, 2009

One of those years

A friend was talking to me about a tough time in her life. "It was one of those years," she said. I enjoyed that description and found it liberating. It seems like I've had a lot of days lately that have tried me to the limit; days where I begin the day tired and end it even more so. Often, I've sighed and thought, "it's one of those days," but then felt guilty because I've been having way too many of those days, when my perfect plans for getting ahead on the housework and spend extra time nurturing my children are thwarted by circumstance.

Today, for example, I began the day with a huge mess in the kitchen to tackle. I should have cleaned it last night, but I thought, "hey, it's mother's day; there will be plenty of time tomorrow." (DH HAD cleaned the kitchen thoroughly after breakfast as well as cooked all the meals and planned a picnic up the canyon, so it's not like he hadn't done more than his share already) But there wasn't plenty of time. Harmony, who's getting over an ear infection, had been up during the night and now refused to be put down. I muddled through getting everyone breakfast one-handed and was able to get started on the mess when other things interrupted. Eliza was trying to help me clean out the dishwasher when Allison jerked the dishes from her hands and yelled at her, earning her the first time-out of the day. A bit later, Sarah was rude and defiant and earned her first time-out, causing her to tell me, "Fine, then you're not my friend anymore ever ever again." Before she could leave time-out, I made her tell me three things she liked about me.

Sarah read with me but Allison would not, then when they went outside to play, I had to keep a constant watch on them. After a few minutes, Allison threw a huge rock that hit Sarah on the knee, so I gave her a scolding and sent her to time out, where she vented her frustration by chanting, "I hate mommy, I hate my mommy!" (she had to come up with three nice things a bit later on, too) Then I refused to let her go outside again that morning, even after she said, "But I'll NEVER do it again," (which I actually believe, since she's never done it before, but I still think she needed to understand the seriousness of her offense). In response, she refused to come out of time out. She took off her shirt and threw it across the room. She sat there pouting for a good forty minutes while I rocked and sang and tried to comfort poor Harmony, who by now had taken a twenty-minute nap in place of her normal ninety minute one. She was crabby and irritable, like her mom, and we both needed some soothing.

It was a lift to peek out the window every minute or so and see Eliza and Sarah playing together happily. Eliza so rarely gets the treat of having just one of the twins to herself, and she was loving it, staying right next to Sarah as they turned over rocks and filled up their cups with roly-polies.

I finally got the kitchen clean at nearly noon, just before lunch, and Allison cheered up and joined us at the table to eat apples and sandwiches, with homemade cookies for dessert.

The rest of the day went much better, but still, life lately has been extra tough. To be honest, it makes me smile because it's not really the seven kids that's challenging. In fact, I think my transition to Harmony joining our family was one of the smoothest I've had; a few months after I had her, I even composed a blog post that I never published entitled, "Hitting my stride," where I wrote about how natural and surprisingly easy it was to add her to our family. I wrote that I'd been blessed most of all to get consistent naps since she was born, something that I'd not had since my first, and how that's made all the difference.

But the last few months have just been hard. Most of it's exhaustion, I know, as the night-feedings continue and my body feels sluggish all the time, even with a short nap some days. When I'm tired, all the world seems against me, but give me those same circumstances after a good night's rest or a nourishing nap, and I sail through, enjoying the challenge.

A lot of the rest is my own perfectionism and frustration with myself for not doing everything I want so badly to do. I set a lot of important goals for myself at the beginning of the year, and even though I'm meeting many of them, the ones I'm not are eating at me. I lost 8 lbs at the first of the year, but I've now gained back 6 of them. I am pleased that I've been exercising consistently four days a week, but I haven't been as careful with my eating as I want to be.

I've got a pile of great parenting books filled with wonderful ideas due back at the library this week, and I hate that I'm returning them without finishing them. It seems like the metaphor for my life right now. I get started on an important project the way I start those books, excited that I've found time to get it done, but then I have to leave it unfinished to handle the regular, more urgent tasks. Every time I walk by those books, I feel a bit more defeated, because time is running out and I haven't finished them yet. It's the same with my house. I wrote a few weeks ago how I felt behind, and while I've amazingly, with the help of my Heavenly Father, been able to accomplish many of the things on the list, many more remain to be done. And daily I find more work that piles up. Some of it I can shrug off and do a little at a time, like the piles in my office that are gradually getting smaller, but others just make me feel like a failure, like when I walk downstairs and feel that the banister is sticky or when I step into the boys room and see that despite having them clean it thoroughly on Saturday, it looks once again like a tornado hit it.

Things like the banister make me feel frustrated because usually when I notice it, it's on the way to deal with other things that are higher priority, so I add it to the top of my mental list, reminding me of the length of said list. The boys room is discouraging because I know how important it is to teach my children to work and be responsible, but I also know the long and frustrating battle I have ahead of me before the boys get it clean again. It would be easier to just clean it myself.

When I'm rested and when I'm counting my blessings (instead of whining to my blog), I automatically focus on what I have done and the things I have to be proud of, like Sarah taking Eliza under her wing outside, or the way Allison and Sarah perked up this afternoon and explored outside together happily, how I was firm but loving in my discipline today, or that I found time to go through the enormous pile of papers that have piled up in the mudroom and kitchen over the last few months. When I'm am not well-rested, I focus instead on that never-ending mental list, on the goals that I've not met, the sticky banisters and the smudgy windows, the defiant children who would surely obey if I were just a better mother.

After talking with my friend, though, I think I'll give myself permission to say it: I'm having one of those years.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Stepping Out

Harmony will be nine months old tomorrow. In honor of her birthday, I thought I'd show you one of her firsts:

Yep, last week, she had her first swing ride. She was a little ambivalent about it at first, but once we smiled at her, she smiled back and enjoyed it.

And while we're on the subject of firsts, last week, she took her first step! She's still far from "putting one foot in front of the other, and walking out the door," but it's a start, and the earliest any of my kids has done it.

Isn't she cute?

We all adore her.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Planning the Summer?

If you're in Utah County, I just finished updating my yearly list of things to do and places to go; it helps me to plan our summer activities. It's pretty comprehensive, with prices, hours, and websites. It also includes many Salt Lake attractions. If you know of something that should be added to the list, please leave a comment and let me know!

You can download it by clicking here.

Please share this with your friends!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Rearranging Blogger

It took me a few tries with various tutorials, some of which were complete failures, to find a way to hide the snake pictures after a "Read more" link below (I didn't want people TOO grossed out by my blog). For those who are interested in trying to install a hack like this on your blog, here's the tutorial I used.

And a while back, I went from a two-column blogger to a three-column layout using this tutorial. I also tried several other tutorials with no success.

Neither fix is particularly easy, but there you go.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

You don't want to see these pictures.

So don't look. Especially if you're squeamish.

Trust me, you don't want to know about the three snakes Allison caught and shared with her sisters, the way they slithered in and out and around their hands, the way they captured them when they squirmed away, and the absolute delight with which they handled them. You certainly wouldn't want to hear the story about how they captured three snakes in the front yard and convinced their mom to let them keep them, if only for the afternoon.

And you REALLY don't want to see these videos, even if they are hilarious.
(Disclosure: No snakes or children were harmed in the making of these videos.)

Perhaps this would be a good time to mention I hate snakes. I can't stand the way they move, the way they wriggle, the way their faces are so . . . snakelike. I have absolutely no desire to see, touch, or hear about them. If you posted pictures like these on YOUR blog, I'd probably skip it.

But I do love my kids and I'm glad they enjoy the world around them. Ah, yes, the sacrifices of motherhood.

And while we're on the subject of things you don't want to see, did you know we had bees that swarmed near our house?

My own kids wouldn't get very close, but we called a friend who's recently taken on beekeeping with her three kids, and they happily and excitedly came over to capture them. "Free bees!" they exulted. "They're FREE bees."


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