Tuesday, May 23, 2017


The joy/frustration of working in the medical field means that weekends don't mean the same thing for you that they mean for many other people.

Because of this, I often spend Sundays on my own, and try to include Steve in them as best I can through texts and videos.

Thankfully, my ward is generous and gentle with this frazzled mom of four, and my bishop's wife often sits by us without me even asking her to.

This week, the sacrament talk was on faith, and it stuck out to me quite a lot.  Because Sister Frei was holding Calvin, the older kids and I all doodled and took notes on the same picture, and I snapped a shot and sent it to Steve.
After church is usually when things get more difficult for me.  Trying to keep the kids entertained and happy for hours while still doing Sabbath-appropriate things when I'm usually feeling pretty exhausted and fried from getting ready for/sitting through church can be stressful.  This week, I tried to be proactive about it and play in the back yard with the kids for a little while:

I know.  Our back yard is rough, but once summer starts and school is out, we'll have more time for it.  That's what I keep telling myself, anyway.

The thing about being a mom is that your kids LOVE you.  Which is nice.  But if you're not actively doing an activity with them, don't count on them sticking with it very long.  We played for about half an hour before I got tired and went in to take a nap, and within three minutes, all of my bored, delightful children had followed me inside and were asking me for things to do.

Thank goodness for Bible Videos and Mormon Messages.  Those are lifesavers to this tired momma, and hopefully my children will remember less of the mom-sacked-out-on-the-sofa moments and more of the mom-actively-playing-with-them moments.

I'm just grateful for those tender times when the Spirit whispers to me to be gentle with myself.  It's harder to do than it sounds, believe it or not.


I posted about this on Facebook, but for those of you who don't know, I had a couple of major dreams come true last week.

First off, my incredibly talented friend, Sarah M. Eden, has come out with a new book, and because I was lucky enough to get to be a beta reader on it, she sent me an advance copy.
I opened to the dedicatory page, and nearly died from the excitement.

I'm so lucky to have such generous and kind friends.

In other news, I got to be a helper for Maggie's preschool class:
and then attend her graduation.  She's attending Kindergarten next year, and while I'm excited, I'm sure gonna miss the sweet teachers she's been lucky to work with through the preschool program the district has.

That night, the boys went out to Father's and Son's campout with my dad and brothers, and because Steve was working, we had a girl's night!  (Not counting Calvin.  We decided that babies were okay to have around)

Maggie was thrilled about a girl's night, and after planning it meticulously for weeks, she presented me her list of things to do on Friday.

Pedicures and manicures were absolutely a must.

We also got to have Maggie do our hair and makeup (she went for the veeeery natural look on me):

I love how focused she is:

We also did facials, hair styling, jumped on the trampoline, and made a blanket fort in her room that she got to sleep in after watching a movie on her tablet.

It was the stuff dreams are made of, at least, if you're a 5-year-old girl.

The boys also had fun, and although my dad said that the night was a little chilly, they apparently slept well and enjoyed shooting wrist rockets, air soft guns, and having water fights the next morning.

I'm grateful for a dad who lives nearby and who can take the kids to these kinds of activities even when Steve is working.  Steve felt bad about having to miss it (along with some of the other end-of-school activities), but such is the price you pay when working in the medical field.  If he didn't love it, it might be difficult, but we are blessed enough that he has a great passion for his career, and because of that, I actually feel that it's a privilege that he gets to spend these special days caring for others and helping them through.

As I've been writing this post, I've been trying to think of a theme to tie it all together, but since my end-of-school-year brain is a little bit fried, I'll just have to leave it as is and be grateful that at least it's all written now, at least!

Older Brothers

Growing up, I always wanted an older brother.  I had an older sister (whom I love), but I was always jealous of my friends who had older brothers to tease them, joke with them, be protective of them, and best of all, have cute friends whom they could have crushes on.

Needless to say, while my parents gave me several younger brothers (thanks, Mom and Dad!), I never once got that older brother, until I married into Steve's family, and inherited his older brother, Jason!

He came up to visit this last week, and it was fantastic.

I love when he comes, and obviously, the kids do, too:
It's a good thing he's a patient man.
He had fun getting to hang out with his niece and nephews, and they in turn had fun playing with him.  Calvin was especially a big fan.
Especially since Jason let him play with his hat.  I may or may not have mentioned this before, but Calvin absolutely loves hats.
Jason also brought up some of his video game systems (he knows that my boys absolutely LOVE video games, and because they have a mean mom, they don't get to play them nearly as often as they would like to), including a virtual reality set.

We all had a lot of fun with it!
Technology is so advanced, it amazes me.  It's crazy to see things in reality that I remember watching in sci-fi movies and thinking that they were never going to happen.
Although he'd originally planned to stay two nights, an emergency came up at work which meant that Jason had to leave on Tuesday afternoon, but even with the visit cut short, it was still really great to see him--we even took a quick trip to go enjoy dinner in Joe City with Andrew and Julieann, and because I'm lame, I didn't get a single picture of it! 

Pouty face.

Family time is the best.  I'm sure glad we either live close enough to see other often or have technology available to make up for the distance!

Baby Brothers

Growing older is such an odd thing.  I see the years pass and I see my age growing as steadily as the laugh lines around my eyes and padding around the areas I carry my babies in and on, and while I acknowledge that time is affecting me in those ways, it still startles me that other people are allowed to be affected by it, as well.

Case in point: my youngest brother, McKay, is graduating from high school this week.
It was fun to see him at Baccalaureate, and I was so proud to see yet another handsome brother of mine don that same blue robe and hat.  One brother to go, and then that robe will be turned into another relic in my parents' costume closet.

We're so silly.

As part of the graduation tradition for my family, my mom and dad always give the graduating senior three things: luggage (so they can move out), a quilt, and a DVD slide show with pictures of them from the time they were little babies until their graduation happens.

Because I live in town, I'm often a part of the process of making two of these gifts (luggage doesn't take a lot of work, thank goodness, but the other two are pretty time/effort-intensive).  It was bizarre to sit down and work on McKay's DVDs and realize how much of his life was spent with me being an adult.  He was born when I was 14 years old, after all, only four short years before I moved on to college, and so seeing his pictures of him growing up were nostalgic for me, as I had very clear memories of him at the ages and stages my own children are now hitting.

I don't mind what time is doing to me, but it's absolutely unforgivable what it's doing to everyone else.

In a similar vein, the day before Baccalaureate, McKay received a call to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Because so many young men are receiving these life-changing calls while still in high school, it's become quite the social event to attend their call openings--McKay probably had a good 60 people there, not counting the ones who attending through FaceTime, Facebook, or, in my phone's case, Marco Polo:

He's going to Charlotte, North Carolina, in case you were wondering, and to my mom's relief and gratitude, he isn't leaving until October.

Thankfully, I still have one brother to enjoy as a senior, as Abe is set to graduate next year, but it doesn't mean I'm not feeling a little bit nostalgic that things are definitely going to change.

Congrats, McKay!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Fasting and Frustration

Last Sunday was Fast Sunday.

For those of you who don't know what that is, it is a day that we in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints dedicate every month to fasting.  We skip two consecutive meals without eating or drinking, and donate the money we would have spent on that food to help the poor.  We are encouraged to fast with a purpose in mind, and to begin and end our fast with a special prayer for that specific purpose. 

It's a beautiful principle that requires some sacrifice, and after "practice-fasting" for a year (skipping one meal at a time), Jack is now fully fasting.

He's inherited my ability to fast, which means he's not great at it.

I'm kind of a baby when it comes to going hungry.

This last Fast Sunday was rather stressful for our family--Steve was feeling pretty sick, I was hungry, tired, and grumpy, and Calvin was getting four molars and was a BEAR.

(Not literally.  That would be weird).

So after a church meeting of me wrestling with a very loud and cranky toddler in the hallway (I can't wait until he's old enough for Nursery), and then an hour of me sitting in Relief Society, trying not to feel guilty when other women were giving advice on how to teach children to avoid contention in the home, I was ready to go home and hopefully sneak in a nap before dinner.

Sometimes I don't have the best attitude about things, and today was one of those days.

On the way home, Jack started really complaining about fasting and how hard it was, and with the recent Relief Society lesson in mind, I bit down my frustration and instead bore my testimony about how the sacrifice of fasting can help others, sharing an experience where we had all fasted for a seriously ill family member who had gotten better.

Clark responded beautifully, asking thoughtful questions and commenting on the story where appropriate.

Jack waited until the split second I was done and immediately started whining again.

By this time, we'd gotten home, so I snapped (Relief Society lesson be darned!), told Jack that he was fasting no matter what, and if he wanted to have a horrible attitude about it, he could go take a NAP, for ALL I CARE.

Writing it out makes me seem a lot more logical and cool-headed than I was, I assure you.

After huffing around to get lunch ready for the other kids (Steve was very helpful during this time, even though he still wasn't feeling well at all), I had the thought persistently come into my mind that we needed help in how to teach this principle to our son, because this most definitely wasn't what you could call teaching in the Savior's way.

As soon as the other kids got settled with lunch, Steve and I went into our room with the door closed and prayed for help.  I said the prayer, and I let Heavenly Father know that I was sorry for my horrible attitude, and that we understood the importance of the principle of fasting, but didn't know how to teach it to our son in a way where we honored his agency while also teaching him habits that would help him later on.

A few thoughts came into our minds, my heart calmed down, and we invited a bawling Jack into our room to have a more gentle conversation with him.

This time, the Spirit led me to teach him about where his focus was.  I asked him how he felt right now, and he answered, "Angry, sad, mad."

I asked him who he was thinking about, and he responded quietly, "Me."

I pointed out that I, also, was thinking of myself, and so I had been acting cranky all day, as well.  I then drew a larger circle around the first circle, and labeled it, "Others."

"How do we feel when we focus on others?"  I asked.

Giving the Sunday School answers, Jack answered, "Happy..."

I disagreed.  I said, "We don't know how we're going to feel if our focus is on other people, because we put them in control of how we feel and they don't always act in ways that make us feel happy.  If we are serving them, then yes, sometimes we feel happy, but if they don't do what we want them to or appreciate us, then we can still feel angry or sad or ignored."

I then drew an even larger circle around the other two, and labeled it, "Christ."

"When we focus on Christ, we can know that we will ALWAYS feel peaceful and happy.  Other people will let us down, and we will let ourselves down, but He never will, and when we try to do what He will have us do, He can guide us how to serve others and ourselves in ways that will bring us true joy."

I drew a happy face in the largest circle.

"I know that fasting is HARD.  I don't really like it either, if I'm being honest.  But it's like exercise--it helps our spirits to learn how to become stronger than our bodies, and when we keep our focus out here in these other circles, remembering why we are fasting, then we can have peace and joy even when we feel hungry."

Steve leaned in at this point and added, "Jack, it's like your Pokemon cards."

Jack perked up, and Steve chuckled, "Yeah, NOW I've got your attention.  You know how you have some cards that have a value of 50, but then you can add other cards that takes their value to 100?"

Jack nodded.  

Steve went on: "When we pray, Heavenly Father listens to and answers our prayers.  But when we fast with our prayers, it takes the power of our normal prayers from 50 to 100, and makes them even more powerful in behalf of what we need.  Today, you're fasting for other people, and every time you feel hungry or thirsty, if you think about those other people that you're fasting for, and say a prayer for them, it's powerful and can help them more than you could otherwise.

"When you fast for other people, you are sacrificing a part of yourself for them, and Heavenly Father honors that.  He blesses you and he blesses them."

The conversation went on, with Jack asking some questions and us sharing our testimonies, but the entire feeling of our home changed at this point, and as Jack left our room with a smile on his face, I was filled with gratitude for a gift of guidance that helps me to navigate this thing called parenthood with a wisdom and insight far greater than my own limited resources allow me to have.

The thing about parenthood is that it's never-ending--the demands on your emotional, physical, and mental resources is greater than any one person really can ever live up to perfectly.  And when I try to do it on my own, I fail miserably, which happens at least 18.3 trillion times a day.  But when I remember that I wasn't asked to do it on my own, that I have a Power greater than myself upon whom I can call, well, that is an encouraging thought to remember, now, isn't it?

Kindergarten Luau

Every year for Mother's Day, towards the end of the school year, the kindergarten students (namely, their teachers) put on a big luau for all of their moms.  

Because Jack's luau happened to be at literally the exact same time that Steve was graduating from Nursing School, we didn't get to attend his, but we did do a special Mother-Son date instead; of course, he doesn't remember the date at all but remembers perfectly that I missed his luau.

Sometimes you just can't win, huh?

Last night was Clark's luau, and although it got a little rough sitting on the hard tile floor for an hour and a half, it was more than worth it because of the entertainment:
Look at that adorable guy!  Because my family tends towards the tall side, I'm used to having to look for my kids in the back row.  It's par for the course.

There were dances, songs, a limbo, and pineapple-coconut cake, served by my own lovely son.

He was so proud, and every so often would come up and put his arm around my side and give me a little squeeze.  I absolutely love this age.

Afterwards, we went and took a picture with his teachers, Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Sipes:

I love these women.  They work so hard for so little, and make such a difference in these kids' lives because they genuinely love them.  It's nice to know when your child feels loved by their teacher.

I was also impressed with how much work went into this whole thing--the entire room was decorated and set up in the most adorable manner, and the kids really had learned their dances ever so well, something that I know is no mean feat at that age!!  We are so lucky to have such a great school in this community.

Afterwards, we took pictures near one of the adorable backdrops:

And of course, a silly one:

Hahaha.  Clark is hilarious.

He was a little disappointed that he didn't win the limbo, but I reassured him that limbos aren't really slanted in the direction where the taller kids are likely to win, and that helped (he's actually been practicing his balance and flexibility lately, and it's cute how seriously he took that contest).

I'm so proud of this boy.  He is smart and funny and sweet, and I love when I get alone time with him.  It brings me so much joy.


Hooray For Five!

My daughter is five years old!

I can't believe it--all of my kids just seem to be growing up far too fast for my comfort; the other day, we went to Maverick to take advantage of their F'Reals deal (milkshakes for a dollar each), and even though the line was ridiculously long, I didn't have to corral them--the siren call of frozen sweetness was enough to keep them in line.
It's interesting to be to this stage in parenthood, and yet also to be hitting the toddler stage yet again with Calvin.  But this post isn't about him.

For Maggie's actual birthday, we didn't do much; I decorated the kitchen and her bedroom door with streamers, and then invited my in-town family over for cake and ice cream.

And to sing Happy Birthday, of course:

Maggie had requested a Barbie cake, and when I was figuring out how to form it, I jokingly suggested that we make it out of Rice Krispie Treats instead--

Maggie was a fan, so it made the entire process significantly simpler!

Not too shabby for my very first time!

...even if she does look like she's expecting.  Or maybe I'm just making a political statement and designing her to look like an actually realistic woman's figure is supposed to look.

Yeah.  That's it.

I'm so happy that my sweet, strong, happy girl is five.  She brings such joy and kindness to our family, and I'm glad to be her mom!

Happy Birthday, Mags!