Saturday, August 12, 2017

First Day of School

Yet again, it's time for me to share the same silly old cliches about how I can't believe the summer went by so quickly, and how it amazes me that my kids are old enough to be going to the grades they're going to, and how time passes too swiftly....

You know the drill.

But it really DOES pass too swiftly.

Take these pictures as proof.
 Clark was ready for First Grade, and ADORES his teacher, Mrs. Junk.
Because she's new to our school district, I was a little nervous (the unknown always makes us a little nervous, doesn't it?), but the moment we walked into her adorable classroom for Meet the Teacher night, I knew Clark would love her.  Dr. Seuss-themed decorations, a genuinely warm, happy smile, and gerbils cinched the deal. He's had a blast this week! 
 My 8-year-old Jack, heading into 3rd Grade.  I can't believe how ridiculously tall he's getting, and judging from the amount of food he's been eating lately, I can tell he's heading into another growth spurt.  Hence the jeans that are still just a liiiiitle too big for him.
 He's thrilled to have Mr. Smith for his teacher, and from everything I've heard about Mr. Smith (who has been teaching here since my brothers were in third grade), he will be a fantastic match for Jack.  He really understands kids that age, and it's fun to hear how excited Jack is about his class time.

 We had a dinnertime conversation last night about how Jack and Clark are best friends (this conversation was only slightly prompted by me, by the way), and it made my heart so very happy to hear these boys express their love to each other.  I think some of that may have been inspired by us watching the "Two Brothers Two" series on the Mormon Channel--if you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend it. It's definitely changed the way Jack feels about Clark, and vice versa.

Maggie headed into kindergarten, and she has the same teacher that Jack had when he was in kindergarten!
 She was nervous, but because we got back-to-school blessings from Dad the night before, she said that she could feel Heavenly Father helping her be less nervous and more excited.
This is her "silly" pose--she's sticking her tongue out.  Lol
 Also, in case you were wondering, yes, everything she is wearing has sparkles on it.  Sparkly shoes, sparkly pants, sparkly shirt, sparkly backpack, and sparkly fingernails.
 Calvin wanted to photobomb:
 And yes, I did get a little teary dropping her off on her first real day of school.  I'm coming to appreciate more and more just how fleeting these lovely stages really are.

But do not be fooled--even though I have three children in school, I'm not bored.  For one thing, my brother, Noah, is visiting before he heads off to China to teach English for several months:
 (He is SO good with my kids.  They just idolize him).

And yes, I'm jealous that he'll be over close to my neck of the woods, speaking Mandarin.

As for me, Calvin does plenty to make sure that I'm not bored during the day.  Why, just yesterday, while I was playing through the "Dear Evan Hansen" sheet music I just got (EEEEEK!), he decided that both he and my bathroom needed a make-over.
 I'd wondered why he was being so uncharacteristically quiet....
I'd forgotten how busy toddlers can be, but do not worry, Calvin is doing his very best to remind me.  He keeps me on my toes, that's for sure!

Hooray for back-to-school!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Finding the Joy

A while back, after some recurring disappointments, I asked my husband for a blessing of comfort.  Along with other inspired words and promises, one phrase that stood out to me was that I would be able to "find the joy" in my life, as it currently was, rather than waiting for my prayers to be answered before finding joy.

This phrase has rung true ever since, as I have been amazed and humbly grateful for the simple beauty that has been consistently making itself manifest to me.  Things on the outside haven't changed a whit; but I have felt my heart change, and that has made all the difference.

I'm now more easily able to do things like notice and appreciate the simple beauty of a rainy Sunday afternoon:

 With the people (and animals) I love most in this entire world surrounding me.
My life is beautiful and imperfect and lovely, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.
Side note--Jack is literally yelling at Clark in this picture because he keeps hitting him with the lightsaber, and Calvin is fussing because he wants to go out on the lawn but doesn't want to get rained on.  Lest you think this scenario is too idyllic.

How grateful I am for truth that reminds me that I don't have to wait for some ambiguous future milestone in order to be happy, but that I can choose to be happy during the sweet moments that occur in my life as it is now.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Uncle Dean

Because my Grandpa Flake died before my children were born (just two short months after Steve and I were married), I always felt a little sad that my children have no memories of him.

A few months ago, I felt prompted that my Uncle Dean (Grandpa's older brother) and his wife could use a visit.  It became a tradition to go over for a couple of hours every Wednesday, and once in a while, Calvin would come along with me; I felt close to Grandpa when I was visiting with someone who had so many of his same mannerisms, so it was a privilege to get to spend some time with him.

Uncle Dean suffered from pretty severe Alzheimer's, so while he was usually rather confused, he always lit up when Calvin was around.  Never mind the fact that he referred to my very boyish little toddler as "a pretty little girl..." I'm sure Calvin wasn't bothered by it, hahaha.

I enjoyed the sweet feeling of this couple and their lovely home; invisible but powerful evidence to me of two righteous lives well-lived.  The love they have for each other--even through illness and the forgetting that sometimes comes with old age--was such a joy for me to observe, as well.  One morning, as Aunt Nerita had been out running errands, Uncle Dean repeatedly asked about her.  I mentioned this fact to her, and her face lit up.

"He remembered me???"  She brightly asked, and then went to where he was sitting on the couch and snuggled up under his arm, which he tightened around her while we finished our visit.

He passed away just a couple of months after this picture was given, and when I went to his funeral, I was genuinely touched by the feelings there.  The teachings, the stories, the testimonies, and the tears were a perfect tribute to a man whose life touched many lives.  

How grateful I am for a heritage that includes people like these.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Happy

Last night I had the opportunity to visit with an old roommate from college who I hadn't seen in a few years, and who has been going through some difficult things lately and is up here in our tiny little town getting away from it all for a while.

I was being empathetic with some of the things she is going through, and acknowledging my testimony of the fact that Heavenly Father has a plan for each of us to be happy, even if that plan includes things we don't want in the moment.

At this point, she interrupted me, and asked simply, "Yeah, but you're happy, right?"

A little taken aback, I answered, "Well, yes, but..."

I struggled with filling in the rest.  How do you answer that question without giving the misleading impression that your life is a bed of roses while still acknowledging that you have been blessed beyond any right you have to claim?

"Well, yes, but my husband and I are so busy that the only time we really have to talk is at 11:30 at night when he has to leave at work at 5:00 the next morning."

"Yes, but my toddler has had a horrible heat rash over the past week and has cried for a large part of each day because of how miserable he is."

"Yes, but we've been trying for another baby for a while now (measurable in months and not years, but still longer than ever before), and still aren't pregnant."

"Yes, but I have four kids and two dogs and six chickens and a yard and a garden and a trashed house and no idea how to muster up the energy to keep up with all that I'm expected to do."

"Yes, but I often, almost constantly, feel overwhelmed and incapable of what is asked of me on a daily basis."

"Yes, but--"

The thing is, the "buts" don't matter.  When I look back on time after we've passed through it, the difficulties are incidental, but the joy and the progress and the learning that comes because of them are eternal.

Yes, I am happy.

"Yes, my husband and I are serving and busy and productive and constantly trying to improve ourselves and our community through his work, his schooling, the stake show we are helping to put on, and our children."

"Yes, my toddler has a heat rash right now, but he is normally healthy, cheerful, positive, and a joy to those around him."

"Yes, we've been trying unsuccessfully for another baby, but we have hope that we will eventually get pregnant.  And if not, we have four joyful children who we adore and opportunities to add others to our lives through means other than pregnancy."

"Yes, I have 4 children and 2 dogs and 6 chickens and a yard and a garden and a home that are loved and lived in and maybe not as efficiently cared for as they could be, but I am happy and blessed."

"Yes, I feel overwhelmed and inadequate on a daily basis, but those feelings remind me to turn to my Savior and rely on His Atoning Grace to make me what and who I need to be in order to fulfill my duties."

Yes, I am happy.

No "buts."

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sundays

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.

Tidbits

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!