Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Thoughts

I love the month of December.  It is magical, warm, sacred and full of joy and giving.  But I especially love the Sunday before Christmas.  Church is always filled with special music and words to remind us the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

This morning I had the opportunity to view the photos of a friend and her family as they greeted their new baby girl.  She was born to a young girl in Hawaii who chose them to be the adoptive family.  They have an open adoption and it brought tears to my eyes to see the incredible love that both families have for each other and for this little baby girl.  It reminded me of the Savior and how our Heavenly Father sent his son to earth to be raised by another father.  What incredible love he must have had for Joseph to entrust his earthly care to another because he could not be here.  What a sacred moment it must have been for him and Mary to meet their newborn son knowing that he was the Son of God.

I love the work of Simon Dewey.  I have met him before and he signed two of his prints for me.  I think that he catches the emotion of his subjects in such a beautiful way.  I wanted to share a few of my favorite nativity prints.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Are you Thriving or Surviving?

Before I became a mother I was certain about what kind of mother I wanted to be and had total confidence that I would be successful in being that kind of mother because I had thought about it so much and envisioned what it would be like.  Boy was I naive.  The problem was that I somehow thought I would have much more "control" over how things went than I actually do.  I'm sure that doesn't come as a big surprise to most of you reading this but I somehow neglected to consider the fact that my children would have agency, personalities, trials, strengths and weaknesses just like I do. And as you may well know sometimes those things can cause some major friction and roadblocks causing it to be much more difficult to be the mother you were certain you would be.

I am constantly left at a loss for words or ideas when responding to situations with my girls, especially my 3 year old.  Sometimes my best efforts to be patient, calm and empathetic are sabotaged by my own weaknesses and as well as hers and what started out with the potential to be a teaching moment ends with one or both of us angry or in tears.  I end up feeling guilty and sad for allowing my emotions and weaknesses get the better of me and she ends up feeling angry, sad or scared.  I went through a period of time where I would internally criticize myself for what a horrible mother I was and told myself that my girls deserved so much better than I could offer.  But this did nothing to help me fix the problem, it just left me feeling defeated, angry and depressed and worthless making every day seem harder than the one before it.  I've come a long way from that in the last year but I still have difficult days and today was one of them.

After I finally got the girls in bed and asleep I was reminded of a conversation that I had with my little sister the last time I was having a "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad" day.  I remember telling her how I felt completely defeated and that it seemed like no matter what I did I felt completely out of control and it seemed like my girls were the ones who had all the control.  I told her I would try so hard to remain calm and patient but no matter how hard I tried I would eventually blow up.  I told her that I was trying be as patient as [insert the name of a friend or family member], never yell like [insert the name of a friend or family member], be creative like [insert the name of a friend or family member], decorate like [insert the name of a friend or family member], go on fun outings like [insert the name of a friend or family member] and that I was exhausted trying so hard to be like someone else.  And of course she replied, "Well stop trying to be like someone else and just be you!".  My response was to tell her I knew that but I just didn't know how to stop comparing myself even though it made me feel rotten.  And this was her response, "Here's the thing I have come to realize in the 8 years that I've been a mother.  No two moms are alike in talents, wants, needs, desires, weaknesses and strengths and we need to stop beating ourselves up for not measuring up to someone else's "perceived perfection" because the fact is that no one is perfect and everyone is just trying the best they can."  She then went on to give me an example.  She said that she has friends who require very little time away from their kids (if any) to recharge and can just go, go, go all the time.  And then she has friends who need to have a regular girl's night once a week or every other week to feel energized and ready to take on the tasks that are required of her.  She said it would be easy to look at the second friend from the outside and say that she doesn't care as much about her family as the first mother and that she is being selfish when in reality she is just has different needs.  One might be able to recharge reading a good book at home in the evening while another needs to get out and go running.  One might be able to feel rested taking a quick cat nap while the baby sleeps and another needs to go to bed the same time as her kids do to feel rested.  And different is OK!

This conversation reminded me of a wonderful article or podcast (I can't remember which) from the website Power of Moms.  April Perry, one of the ladies who runs the website talked about a time in her life when she felt completely strung out and out of control and one night when her husband asked her about what was wrong she said she was barely surviving every day.  And he said, "April, I don't want you just be surviving.  You should be thriving.".  Do you ever feel like you are just barely surviving?  Ever since I had Charlotte I have felt that way.  Don't get me wrong, we have had some great days but adjusting to having two kids, being blindsided by postpartum depression, living in a small apartment on the third floor and being far away from my own family have made these last 18 months very difficult at times.  I know that I am not the only one out here who has felt like this and that is why I felt compelled to sit down and write tonight.  I have decided that I need to make a list of things that I need in my life in order to THRIVE and I wanted to share at least some of them with you.

What I need to THRIVE each day:
  1. At least 7 hours of sleep
  2. Time to exercise (at least 4 days a week)
  3. A shower (without children)
  4. Time to pray in the morning (at night too, I definitely NEED the strength morning prayers give)
  5. Time to read my scriptures
  6. Time to do something that I enjoy (even if it's just for 15-30 min)
  7. At least 2 meals sitting down without someone asking for a bite
  8. Healthy, whole foods, cooked in my own kitchen (It makes me feel SO much better)
  9. Quiet time without my kids to clear my head & recharge (even 15 min is a great help!)
  10. Hugs and kisses from my girls
  11. Time to snuggle & talk with each of them individually (even if for 5-10 min)
  12. Hugs and kisses from my hubby
What I need to THRIVE each week:
  1. An opportunity to sing
  2. Time to write in my journal
  3. Time to call or FaceTime my parents and sister & brothers
  4. A technology free day (working on this one)
  5. Attending church and taking the sacrament
  6. A date night in or out with my hubby
  7. Time to read a good book
  8. Time to clean my house
  9. Time to grocery shop by myself
What I need to THRIVE each month:
  1. One or two opportunities to hang out with other ladies
  2. Fasting
  3. Attend the temple (at least once)
  4. Buy something for myself
  5. Opportunities to serve others
What I need to THRIVE each year:
  1. At least one trip home to see my family
I'm sure there are a few things I could add to these lists but these are the basic things that I have decided I need to do to feel like I'm thriving and not just surviving.  My husband is very supportive of my daily needs and he told me that it is so much easier for him to know how to serve me when he knows what things he can help with so that I can feel at my best.  I think the reverse is also true.  Men and women have different needs so wouldn't it be nice to know what your partner needs to feel their thriving each day.  Most things you won't even need to help with but some things like watching the kids for 15-30 min while your partner recharges or takes a short nap can make all the difference not only to your kids but also in your relationship.  

What kinds of things do you need to THRIVE?  Remember everyone is different and there are no wrong answers.  Some people need a pedicure every week and some people need a wrestle session with their kids.  Whatever it takes for you to feel at your best so that you can be the person you are striving to be.  

Remember that you are not alone.  There are millions of mothers out there struggling with the same things.  And more importantly Heavenly Father knows you best and knows how to comfort and help you be your best.  Don't be afraid to ask for help.  It could make all the difference.

Have a fantastic week!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

San Elijo Hills Ward Trunk or Treat

The Ward Trunk or Treat was kind of a whirl wind this year because the primary presidency was in charge and I'm the first counselor.  The day was full of errands, no naps, set-up and clean up and not much picture taking.  But I did get at least one of each of the girls.  Hopefully tomorrow I can get them dressed early enough to take a few really cute ones.  Enjoy!

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Abigail Joyce

About a year ago my sister gave me her old DSLR camera.  I haven't used it much since I take a lot of pictures with my phone but I was looking at it today and found some "practice" pictures I took a few months ago of Abby and I thought I'd share.  She is growing up so fast and I love seeing her personality grow and change every day.  She makes a laugh and emits Joy wherever she goes.

I sure love this little curly haired girl.  I'm so grateful for technology and that I will have these pictures so I can always remember her like this.

You Are More Than Enough

I came across an article on Facebook today that struck a chord with me.  It wasn't incredibly long or profound, just simple and to the point.  The title is: My Choice to Parent Differently Does Not Imply Your Way Is Wrong.  The title pretty much sums it up.  In my three years of parenting I'll admit that I've been on both sides of the argument.  There have been many times that I have allowed myself to feel judged (key word here being "allowed" because I have no proof anyone was actually judging me) because someone doesn't feel comfortable doing something that I do with my kids, therefore I automatically assume that I must be a horrible mother if I'm doing it and they are not.  And I am certain I have also been silently accused of "judging" because I choose not to something that someone else chooses does.  The fact is that all mothers are just trying to do the best they know how based on their current circumstances, life experiences and million other factors that play into who we are and how and why we do things.  So how do we break this cycle and end what some like to call the "Mommy Wars"?  I believe that the only way to do it is to stop looking outside of yourself and start looking within.  It is this very thing that I have been working on this year.  I finally decided that I was tired of feeling "guilty" all the time for doing or not doing things.  I was wasting so much time and energy measuring my worth as a mother based upon how "other mothers" were with their kids and what they were doing or not doing instead of focusing on who I was and who I wanted to become and doing the things that felt right in my heart.  So the past six months I decided I needed to have a change of focus and instead of measuring my worth by looking at others I have been trying to focus inward and determine what truly makes me happy.  Here are a few things that I have been trying to do (trying being the key word since let's be honest NOBODY is perfect.  And thank goodness for that!).

Personal Prayer

  • There is still some room for improvement in this area but I have been making an effort to make sure I pray both in the morning and at night to check in with my Heavenly Father.  He is the father of my spirit and he knows me better than anyone.  He knows my strengths and my weaknesses and loves me in spite of them.  Not only that he is the spiritual father of my beautiful little girls and he knows them better than I do. Only he can truly help me to know what is best for them.  We are all unique individuals (isn't that wonderful?) with talents, gifts, weaknesses and personalities that belong only to us.  The combination of mother and child in one family can never be duplicated in another family because of those things.  No book, blog, social media site, article or advice can rival that of divine revelation from our Father in Heaven.  How blessed we are to know that he is there, that we are his daughters and that he loves us beyond anything we can possibly imagine and that we can communicate with him on a personal level.
Decreased Use of Social Media
  • I have known for some time that much of my "guilt" comes from comparing myself to the strengths of my close friends and family.  But I have struggled to let go because of the things that I love about staying connected.  I have lived all over the country and because of that I have friends and family that are spread throughout the nation.  I feel that it is an incredible blessing to be able to stay in contact and connect with them so easily.  I love to watch their families grow and be able to support them in their successes and trials.  I love that it is so easy to reach out for help when you need help with a question or problem and receive the help and support of others.  I have wrestled with it for a while and decided that what worked best for me to was to take the Facebook application off of my phone.  Not only was I not constantly connected to the lives of others instead of enjoying my own life I also found I wasted less time "looking down" and more time "looking up", looking up towards my Heavenly Father, looking around at the beautiful world around me, the blessings he has given me and more time looking in the eyes of my children.  Let me be clear, I do not think Facebook or other social media sites are bad.  I just found that by having that specific app on my phone I was more distracted, less happy, less engaged, less aware of my surroundings and more unsatisfied with myself and my life.  For some people this is not a problem.  For me it was.  You have to do what works for you!
Sensitive Use of Social Media
  • About a month ago I felt a strong prompting that I needed to be much more aware of what I post on social media sites and how I post them.  Sometimes I get so excited about an article I read, or something new I tried or learned that I want to share it with everyone I know and love, especially if someone else shared it with me.  However I have become aware of the fact that what I post and how I post it can be perceived very differently than the way that I intended it to be received.  Two things that I have become very passionate about in my life are healthy living/eating and parenting.  I have been on a personal mission the last year to learn more and improve those areas of my life, and in my exuberance I have posted lots of things that I have found to be interesting, that maybe I never knew about or that have worked for me.  But the prompting I received was that I needed to be very careful because these are topics that are very close to people's hearts and can be very sensitive subjects depending on situations and circumstances.  I was reminded of my own struggles and how certain topics are difficult for me to read or hear about at times without becoming defensive or upset.  I would normally try to avoid them in other aspects of my life but it seems at times that they are everywhere on social media and hard to ignore.  I'm not saying that we shouldn't post or share things but that it is wise to think about how it might be received.  Sometimes a slight adjustment in wording can make all the difference and sometimes after thinking about it we might feel prompted to not post it at all.  People can become offended or upset at a million different things and we can't avoid that completely but I think that the rule of "think before you speak" can be applied here and we can "think before we post".  The majority of us would never intend to injure a friend or family member but at the same time it has become a little too easy to "hide behind our computers" and speak our minds when we would never say the same things to people in person.   Again only you can know what is the right thing for you to do or if this is an area where you might proceed with more caution.  For some it may not be an issue and for others of us we could afford to make some changes.
Asking Myself More Questions
  • I cannot remember the specific experience that caused me to start doing this but something that has helped me immensely is to ask myself more questions.  I'm not talking about doubting yourself but having a conversation with yourself.  Each time I encounter something that is new to me or I see or hear about someone doing something differently than I am doing I stop and ask myself these questions:
    • Does what I'm seeing, hearing or reading make sense to me or speak to my heart?
    • Does it seem like something that might help me?
    • If I feel guilty about doing or not doing something I ask myself: Do I feel guilty because I know in my heart I should be doing something differently or do I feel guilty just because someone else is doing or not doing something and I'm afraid of what they might think if I don't agree with them or do it the same way? Change is hard and sometimes I resist doing something I know I should do because it will be uncomfortable at first and other times I'm just comparing myself.
    • If I decide to trying something new or make a change after a little while I ask myself: Is this change making me happy?  Am I doing it for the right reasons?  Do I feel peace and assurance that it is right despite that it might be different than what others might be doing?
  • If I do all of those things and I still feel peace then it is much easier for me to be confident in my decisions even when someone might question me or not agree.  
There are a few other things I have been doing but I feel that by far these three have been to most helpful to me.  In just six short moths I feel more confident as a mother than I have ever felt before.  I am not perfect and there are still times I feel the "guilt" creep in or I start to question myself but now that I am more aware of what makes me happy and what works for my family it is much easier for me to center myself again and be at peace with who I am and what I am doing.

In conclusion doing what works for you and for your family does not mean that another family is doing it all wrong.  On the flip side just because someone else is doing something that works for them and their family doesn't mean that you have it all wrong either.  Change is good.  There is not one person on this earth that has areas of his or her life that could not be improved.  But this life is a journey, a journey of learning, self-discovery and self-mastery and we are all just doing the best we can.  We are each progressing on an individual path and at an individual pace.  Our personal progression is between us and the Lord.  Only he can speak peace to your mind and heart about who you are and how you are progressing.  Only he can assure you that you are enough just the way you are and that he can help you to become all that you want to be and all that he needs you to be.

May God bless you and help you in your endeavor to be the Mother and person that you want to be and that He needs you to be. Your children are blessed to have you.  Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Miss Charlotte Rose

My little miss is almost 17 months.  I can't believe she is a month away from nursery.  She is incredibly independent and gets super mad if I try to help her do anything.  She is determined as of late to use the potty because she sees the rest of us do it.  Often I'll just sit her on there with her clothes on just so she doesn't get mad.  She always asks for some toilet paper and pushes it into the toilet between her legs.  It's so cute and funny.  She is finally sleeping through the night, for the most part.  Every once in a while she wakes up and then Bud will go in and pat her back for a minute and she'll go right back to sleep.  She weaned completely about three weeks ago and I think this has contributed to her sleeping through the night.  She is growing up so fast even though she is still a little peanut.  Her weight and height has pretty much stayed the same these past few months but her personality has grown leaps and bounds and her vocabulary has exploded.  Here are a few of the things she says now:

  • Ee-go Mommy (Here you go Mommy)
  • Ee-elcome (You're welcome)
  • Abby
  • Sean (Abby's friend who we carpool with to preschool)
  • Daddy
  • Bye
  • Hi
  • All done
  • Thank you
  • Help
  • Ball
  • Baby
  • Milk
  • Outside
  • Cheese
  • Tickle-tickle
I know there are a few more but I can't remember right now.  She loves to try to sing along when Abby and I are singing in the car.  She is a snuggle bug and a major mommy's girl.  She is a fantastic eater. loves to go outside, insists on going down the stairs on her own, climbs on EVERYTHING, has falled off the kitchen table twice (about gave me a heart attack both times.).  Says cheese whenever she sees me holding my phone because she thinks I'm going to take a picture, still loves her binki (I need to cut it down to bed time and nap time.),  Tries to dress her self, loves babies, balls and dogs, has literally no fear, loves to pretend to sleep in Abby's bed,  can throw a wicked temper tantrum (she rivals Abby and that's saying something), is determined, happy, silly and loves to laugh.

We sure love this little girl and are so grateful that she is a part of our family.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Motherly Instinct

From the time that I was a little girl I adored children, a love that was instilled in my by my own mother.  Ask anyone with a baby who knows my mom and they will agree that she is a "baby whisperer" and can work her magic on even the fussiest of babies.  I spent hours babysitting as a teenager, working in daycares as a young adult and planned to major in elementary education in college (that didn't end up happening but that is a story for another time).  Being around children was always easy for me.  People would tell me all the time that I was a "natural" that I would be a wonderful mother some day and I developed deep confidence in my ability to teach, play with and love children.  I was certain that I would marry young and planned to have a large family.  But as often happens in life Heavenly Father had other plans for me.  I served a mission in Ecuador and then spend the next 7 years in college majoring in majoring in music, which I never planned to do, before meeting my husband.  We were married three weeks before my 30th birthday and had our first baby two weeks before I turned 32.  It wasn't exactly how I planned for things to go but those 7 years were full of wonderful growth both spiritually and intellectually and I wouldn't trade them for the world.

I was so excited to finally be a mother and was confident that it would come easily and naturally to me because of the experiences I had growing up.  But once again I was broadsided by challenges, trials and emotions that were out of my control and my confidence was severely shaken.  I had an incredibly difficult recovery with Abigail due to some severe tearing during delivery,  Nursing was a very painful and difficult process at first which was compounded with the pain of recovery as well as major lack of sleep.  During the first six week after she was born she slept hard during the day and wouldn't sleep from about 8:00 pm until 3:00 am in the morning.  I was exhausted, in pain, emotionally drained and disappointed.  This was supposed to be easy for me.  I was supposed to know what to do.  

Confidence shaken and mentally and emotionally strung out I started reading every book I could get my hands on about parenting, sleep, nursing, etc.  While I did take away some very good information in the end I just ended up making myself more crazy and more frustrated because every book I read contradicted the book I read before it not to mention the fact that they all made me feel like a horrible mother no matter what I did.  So Bud,  being the good husband he is, forbid me from reading any more books and told me that I had to trust my God given motherly instinct.  I sobbed and I told him I didn't even know what that was or if I had one.  I was so confused.  I was supposed to be a "natural, wonderful" mother.  But the truth is no amount of baby-sitting could have prepared me to be a mother.  Sure I knew how to change diapers, rock a baby, and feed them a bottle.  But sleepless nights, nursing, no time for yourself?  I wasn't prepared for that.  Becoming a mother had brought all of the insecurities I knew I had and even more that I didn't know I had to the surface.  I questioned everything I did, compared myself to the "other mothers", tried to educated myself and asked a lot of questions.  And it left me feeling numb.  The first three months of Abby's life are a blur.  I feel like I didn't get to enjoy her because of everything that was going on.  Some days I loved her so much I couldn't squeeze her hard enough and other days I was terrified I was doing everything wrong and let anxiety rule instead of just enjoying and being with my baby.  Abby was just a happy, easy going baby (once we got passed the first six weeks anyway).  She could light up a room with her great big smile and cheesy grin.  She loved people and people loved her.  She taught me what is was to be a mother.  She helped me to realize that the only way to tap into my God given maternal instinct was to "tap in" to God himself by getting on my knees every day and asking for help.  I still feel like I am not very good at listening to my own motherly instinct.  I have to remind myself constantly not to compare my weaknesses to the strengths of other.  But I am working on it and that is all that Heavenly Father asks and I pray that it is enough.  

Here is part of an email that I wrote to my cousin before she had her first baby.  I wish I could go back in time and have my pre-mommy self read this.  But maybe I had to go through that for a reason.  Maybe it might help my children and grandchildren.

The best advice I could give you is to trust your God given motherly instinct.  It is really hard sometimes when everyone is throwing ideas and advice at you.  Read, learn, ask questions but then pray and then do what feels right for you and for your family.  There is no one right way to raise a child because every parent and child are different.  I got so overwhelmed by everything being thrown at me that I felt like I didn't even get to enjoy Abby at first.  Granted I had a super hard recovery with her but still.  Our weaknesses are our weaknesses and while we can improve every day we have to embrace who we are.  Motherhood brings every insecurity you know you have to the surface along with ones you didn't know you had.  I don't say that to scare you but so that you are aware of the fact that it will be hard some days, ok most days and wonderful some days.  But remember to lean on your husband and on Heavenly Father.  Being a mom pushes you to be better than you've ever been before.  BUT DON'T TRY TO BE PERFECT!  It has been the hardest lesson I have had to learn.  Start each day saying "Come what may and love it".  Remember to not "Sweat the small stuff, because it is all small stuff."  Some days will seem picture perfect and other days you will wonder why you ever agreed to do this.  And lastly, DO NOT COMPARE!  You are not your sister or sister-in-law or your Mom so don't try to be and don't try to live up to any expectation YOU think they might have for you.  They all have their strengths and so do you, so own it girl!  You are going to be an incredible mom.  I love you!

I have been struggling quite a bit lately with this and it was wonderful for me to read my own advice again.  So I am committing again today to not try to be perfect, to trust my God given instinct, to pray and ask for help more often and to do what I want to do and what I think is right and not because I think someone else will have a negative or positive opinion of me. Join me!  I think we'll all be a little happier if we do.

Happy Monday everyone!

My Charlotte being a little mommy to her cousin.  If she can follow her instinct so can I. ;-)

Abigail Starts Preschool

I just realized that I never posted these pictures on the blog.  My big girl is three and started preschool in September.  She absolutely loves it and is thriving and learning so much.  She is in a reverse mainstream program in the public school system.  The classes are for children with any physical, mental or educational delays and then they accept some mainstream children to be peer models.  Right now Abby and her friend Sean are the peer models and they have one little girl with some delays and handicaps named Maddie.  There will be more students who will come in throughout the year bur right now there are only these three kids and three teachers.  So lots of one on one attention which Abby needs right now since Charlotte keeps me pretty busy.  Here are some fun things about her that I want to remember at this age:

School Name: La Costa Meadows Elementry
Teacher: Miss Sara
Assistants: Miss Beth & Miss Annette
Classmates: Sean & Maddie
Favorite Colors: Pink & Blue
Favorite TV Show: Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood 
Favorite thing to do at school: Paint
Favorite Song to Sing: I Am a Child of God
Favorite Song to Dance to: Apache- Sugarhill Gang

Skills she has accomplished: 

Reads on a K-1 level
Can write all the letters of her nickname (Abby)
Can count to 30
Can write about 10 letters of the alphabet and learning more each day.
Experimenting with drawing faces.
Can recognize a penny, dime, nickel and quarter.
Can hop on one foot
Can catch a ball with two hands
Loves to sing and has lots of songs memorized

I love this independent, sassy, strong-willed little girl.  She can make me laugh and cry faster than any kid I now.  She has a natural zest for life and learning that I hope she never loses and is full of energy.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Abigail Turns 3!

Yesterday was Abigail's 3rd birthday.  She's been asking me for months if she is three yet and even though we had a big family/friends birthday party for her on the 17th she somehow knew that she still wasn't three yet and continued to ask me the following week.  She has been so excited to be three because all of her cousins and friends are already three and she said she needs to be "bigger" like them. Even though we had a big party for her I still wanted her actual birthday to be a special day.  So I hung up the happy birthday sign I made for the party in her room when she was sleeping so she'd see it when she woke up.  Charlotte had had a rough night and I had spent a lot of it on the couch with her.  But around five I was finally able to put her back in bed.  By that time I was wide awake and knew it wouldn't be long before Abby was up so I just stayed up and read my scriptures.  About 6:00 am she came out of her room and we snuggled on the couch together for a while.  She asked for cereal for breakfast and then I asked her if she wanted to go on a little hike with me since Dad and Charlotte were still sleeping.  So we quietly got ready and hit one of the local trails near our home together.  I knew her little legs wouldn't last long but it was still fun to let her walk instead of being in the stroller like she normally is when I take a walk and see her explore and observe her surroundings.

Earlier that week when I asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday she said that she wanted to go to the "jumping place" (Kidsville Playgym) with her cousin and one of her best friends Tyler.  So I made arrangements with my sister-in-law to take the two of them together.  For over two hours they ran, jumped, slid, swung, pretended and had a blast.  We practically had the place to ourselves.

Afterward I told them we were going to go to Barnes & Noble to pick out a cupcake because Abby had a free birthday coupon.  Unfortunately the one we chose didn't have a cafe so we opted for a cake pop at the adjoining Starbucks and it was just the right size treat.

That evening we celebrated with our family by making a chocolate pudding, Oreos and gummy worms (Bud thought it would be fun) "dirt" dessert and added a few candles.  She said she had a really fun day and was happy she is three now like all of her friends. 

I love her so much and can't believe how big she is getting.  We are constantly having hilarious conversations together.  Last night while we were eating dessert she said, "Mommy, how many are you going to be?" (my birthday is about a week after hers.) and I told her I was going to be 35 to which she responded.  "Wow Mommy!  That's amazing!" and then kept on eating.  Bud and I laughed so hard.  She has started taking dance once a week and loves it.  She is also starting preschool this year and her first day is September 3rd.  She will be part of what is called a reverse mainstream program.  It is a preschool which is a combination of kids who have some delays (speech, hearing, learning, social, etc.) and kids who are their same age who can be role models of those skills through play and interaction.  We were going to pay for her to go to school close by but when I found out about the program and that it would be free I submitted an application right away.  We have an evaluation this Friday and if there are no major issues she will get to start attending on a trial basis for a few weeks.  They need to make sure the blend of kids and personalities works well for the kids will delays so they have a positive learning experience.  Given her advanced verbal and reading skills I don't think there will be any issues.  However she will pretty much be the youngest in the class so we'll see how things go.  She'll attend Mon, Tues, Thurs and Fri from 12:10-3:10 pm.  I think she's going to love it!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I've had a million post ideas running through my head the last few days.  But something happened today that has stuck with me.  We just returned Sunday morning from a week long vacation to Utah to visit my family for the fourth of July holiday.  I knew that getting back into the swing of things might be a little rough since naps and any semblance of schedule were thrown out the window during vacation and because I knew my husband would be leaving early and working late to make up for missed time but whew!  These last two days have been challenging.

There has been more fighting, biting, pushing, pulling, hitting, crying and screaming from both my girls than ever before.  A forced trip to the grocery store with both kids on Tuesday to restock the kitchen was almost worse than a root canal and I feel like I have gotten absolutely nothing done the last three days except break up fights, change diapers, comfort bumps and bruises and clean up tornado type messes.

I'll probably say it a hundred times on this blog but motherhood is HARD.  Some days I smack my forehead and think, "What in the world have I done?  This is a nightmare!".  And other days my heart is so full of joy I feel like I'm going to burst.  It's incredible how two (or one, or five or six) small children can make you feel completely defeated and as if you have no idea what you are doing one day, and then the next they make you feel like you are mother of the year with their hugs and kisses, I love yous, and exclamations that you are their best friend.  What I was reminded of today is that it all comes down to perspective.

Where we live in CA (and in other parts of the country too I believe) one of the local cinemas has $1 movies during the sumer on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  Yesterday I decided I would be brave and take the kids today and figured if it was a complete fail that I could leave and not feel bad since I would only be spending $3.  Before the movie I decided that we would stop by Sprouts to grab a few healthy snacks to have during the movie, partly because I knew it would be getting close to lunch and partly to have something to use as a distraction in the event of a melt down.  We were meeting a friend at the theater so I told Abby that we needed to hustle inside to pick our snacks so we wouldn't be late.  But of course as is true to her personality she needed to walk on every ledge of the flower beds and investigate every crack in the sidewalk.  But I hustled her along, we picked our snacks and hurried to the checkout line.  Just as we were approaching a sweet lady (grandma type) stopped and said hello to the girls.  Then she looked at me and said, "I saw your youngest when you first walked in and thought she was just precious.  And then I saw your oldest and thought (putting her hand over her heart) what beautiful, sweet little girls.  You don't get to see that every morning."  I thanked her for her sweet comment and she talked with Abby for a moment and then we rushed on our way.  But her comment left an impression upon me.  It was a sweet reminder of how blessed I truly am. I DO get to see them every day.  They are one of the greatest joys in my life and give me purpose each day.  But it is often so hard for me to remember this when I am in the "trenches" of life each day dealing with potty accidents, food being thrown on the ground, tantrums of epic proportions, biting, hair pulling, screaming and whining.  It was a reminder that when I'm in the "thick" of things that I need to step back a little so that I can see the full picture, the eternal perspective if you will and not just the small moments of frustration.

Over this last year I have discovered that every moment that I have with my children both beautiful and difficult has the potential to bring us closer together and allow us to make lasting connections or drive us apart causing us to become slowly disconnected.  Each of these encounters also give us opportunities  to become aware of our weaknesses and insecurities so that we can either strengthen them or give in to them making them weaker.  It's been a long year but one of incredible growth for me personally.  It has taken a lot of talking (with the hubs), crying, praying, yelling (hate that), reading, pondering, searching, practicing and sleepless nights to get to where I am today. I wish I could say that finally everything has fallen into place but the truth is I'm still in the thick of it and have a long way to go.  But I have come a long way.  My weaknesses are stronger, my insecurities are slowly fading away, my tendency toward perfectionism doesn't have nearly the hold on me that it did a year ago and I have had more "special" moments with my girls than I ever have before.  Somedays I still want to pull my hair out, have to count to ten or walk away when I feel everything coming to the surface but the difference is that instead of "stuffing" how I feel and then lashing out later I am able to give myself permission to feel frustrated, angry, sad, etc which helps the emotion to wash over me and be gone like a wave and then deal with the situation more calmly and with more empathy.

There are a lot of resources that have helped me get to this point.  However nothing has helped me more than working on my relationship with my Heavenly Father and my Savior Jesus Christ.  I am far from perfect in this area as well but when it comes to parenting Heavenly Father knows it all.  Not only that he knows me and my children individually.  He is the only one who can helped me to know how best to teach, comfort, guide and help my little girl reach their full potential.  And he is the only one who can truly help me to become the best mother I can be.  He knows me.  He knows my weaknesses, insecurities and struggles.  He loves me and my children more than I could ever comprehend.  He gave me a Savior who sacrificed his life so that I didn't have to be perfect.  All I have to do is try my very best every day and then come to him to ask for help and forgiveness.  My best is going to be different every day depending on the curve balls life throws me and that's ok.  One of the greatest things that Heavenly Father has reminded me of this last year is that even though they are small and under my care and protection my children are not mine, they are his.  They are individuals with personalities, gifts, talents and most importantly agency.  Just as Heavenly Father does not take away our freedom to choose and make mistakes by controlling us I cannot control my children.  I can only control myself, my emotions, my responses and my attitude.  If I can master myself and not give in to the natural man then I will be able to allow my children to do the same as I guide them, teach them, love them and help them to become who Heavenly Father needs them to be and what they want to be.

Eternal Perspective.  It is absolutely crucial to being successful in this life.  If we get so caught up in the moment that we lose sight of the goal then we have no purpose to drive us forward, to push us to become what we have the potential to be.  That's not to say we shouldn't "live in the moment", make memories or enjoy and be satisfied with what we have now but we can't allow the darkness to overcome the light.  Especially spiritual darkness.

My challenge to myself and to you if you are struggling is to step back when you feel like you are losing hold of the eternal perspective or the bigger picture.  Take a deep breath, count to ten, and say a silent prayer to ask Heavenly Father to see your children as he sees them.  Ask him to help you feel love, charity and empathy for who they are and what they are going through no matter how big or small it may seem to you.  My hope is that this will help me remain more peaceful inside so that I can be more peaceful outside.

To all mothers, no matter what stage of motherhood you are in, bless you.  Bless you for being who you are, for taking on the enormous task of motherhood.  It is truly a sacred calling in this life and in the next.  Nothing will bring you more joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain or sweetness and bitterness than this elect role in your life.  May the Lord bless you for your daily efforts to push through the mundane and see the joy in the simple things.  You are noble and great and no one can replace who you are and what you individually can do.  Go forth with faith and with a prayer in your heart and you will not fail.

Monday, July 1, 2013

"Nice Knees!"

Kind of an odd title I know but one that has been resonating in my head for the better part of a week.  Two Sundays ago at church I was sitting in the back of the primary room while the Stake Primary Presidency was giving sharing time because it was ward conference.  I was conducting that day and was waiting for her to finish so that I could turn the time over to our chorister for singing time.  Our second counselor was sitting just in front and to the right of me and at one point she turned around to tell me something and then proceeded to look down at my knees and said, "Nice Knees" in a sort of teasing tone of voice.  At first I wasn't sure what she was talking about.  But once I realized that she was talking about my knees I immediately became self-conscious covered them with my hands. I chuckled and then mumbled some excuse about how as hard as I try I can't seem to make them look better.  I put lotion on them every day, scrub them, etc. but nothing seems to work.

Exhibit A: My Knees

Now first off you have to know that this person is a dear friend, very kind and is the sweet mother of 4 energetic boys.  There is no malice in what she said, and I knew that, but being a woman I couldn't help but feel a little bit embarrassed.  My first thought was, "Doesn't every mother have knees like mine?".  A quick look around the room confirmed that no, they did not. But I told myself it didn't matter and just brushed it off, or so I thought.  For some reason that comment has stuck with me all week.  After thinking about it for a few days I have finally come to the conclusion that I am supposed to learn something from her comment.   I am incredibly hard on myself, I always have been.  Like many women I compare myself to the "other mothers" out there.  Some are crafty, some are bakers, some are chefs, some are beautifully organized, some are successful business women and mothers, some are leaders, some are patient, some are musical, some are fashion forward, some are lean, mean, exercise machines, some live green, some are quietly strong and influential and some have nice knees.  ;-) Too often in my life I have compared my weaknesses to the strengths of others collectively.  I don't think that there is anything wrong with wanting to develop new talents or strengthen one you already posses.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a better mother and work on weaknesses that you have.  And there is nothing wrong with wanting to have nice knees.  But there is something wrong with not accepting and celebrating what you are at this moment.  I think the lesson that I am suppose to learn from this is that when I feel insecure about something I should look for the good inside of that insecurity.  So this week I have thought about my knees and how they got the way that they are and why that's a good thing and not bad.

A Pair of Worn Knees
  • I kneel each morning to pray for strength and guidance and a wife and mother
  • I kneel with my children as we pick out clothes and I get them dressed
  • I kneel as I play games with them, crawl around like a horse and chase them while they giggle.
  • I kneel as I speak to them eye to eye when they need correction and direction in an effort to connect with them and understand what they need.
  • I kneel to give and receive hugs from my children
  • I kneel to pick up toys
  • I kneel to change diapers
  • I kneel as I mop my floor, clean my bathtub and toilet and as I dust my home
  • I kneel next to the crib when my babies can't sleep and pat their backs
  • I kneel next to my toddler's bed when she can't sleep or she doesn't feel well and stroke her hair or pat her back
  • I kneel to say my prayers before bed
  • I drop to my knees sometimes in prayer throughout the day to pray for the strength to go on when I am exhausted, frustrated and unsure of what to do.
  • I kneel at the temple to participate in sacred ordinances 
  • I kneel to ask for forgiveness of my children when I have yelled and lost my temper
  • I kneel to ask for forgiveness from my Heavenly Father
  • I kneel to pray with my family each night
  • I kneel to pray with my husband morning and night
Maybe I don't have to kneel as I do all those things but I do.  My knees serve me as I walk, run, bend, kneel and sit.  I am grateful for all the things that have made my knees look a little rough because I know those things have blessed my life more than I could imagine. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on a blessing and learn a lesson from something that could have been seen in a negative light.

Is there something about you that is less than what others would deem as ideal but that has blessed your life in ways that others might not be able to see?  I would love to hear your stories and the things you have learned from your rough spots, scars, bumps and bruises.

Sunday, June 30, 2013


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Monday, June 17, 2013

Happy Father's Day

I couldn't let Father's Day go by without acknowledging all of the the father figures in my life.  So men have  played such an such an important roll in my life in helping me become the person and mother that I want to be.

I first want to acknowledge my own father.  He is one of the most honest, hard working, dedicated, determined, loving and stubborn (love you Dad!) people I know.  He taught me what it means to work hard, to make sacrifices to achieve your goals, to always keep moving forward in faith even when things seem difficult or impossible, to be organized, to be goal oriented, to never give up just because something is hard, to seek for knowledge and to love music.  He was always making us laugh at the dinner table when we were kids by telling us the most ridiculous jokes.  He would play the accordion and the guitar while we sang and danced.  He can play the piano by ear and loves to sing with his children and grandchildren.  He is the greatest Papa any grandchild could ask for and loves his grandchildren fiercely.  He taught me to walk by faith, love and respect my Heavenly Father, love the temple and be obedient to the commandments.  We may not have seen eye to eye on everything when I was younger but the truth is I am a lot like him in many ways and I am grateful for that.  I hope to emulate his best qualities and pass them on to my own children.  I love you Dad.  Thank you for loving me and teaching me to be a good mother and wife.  Thank you for always providing for and protecting us both temporally and spiritually.  And thank you for loving my baby girls.  They love their papa!  Happy Father's day.

Next I want to acknowledge my husband.  He is one of the most patient, kind, loving, supportive, committed people I know and without him I wouldn't have my two beautiful little girls.  Thank you for loving me despite all of my weaknesses, putting up with my intense desire to be the best mother I can be even when that desire makes me a little crazy and moody at times and thank you for loving me more than I feel like I deserve at times.  I love you.  Happy Father's day.

Next I want to recognize my kind, gracious and loving Heavenly Father who has blessed me with all that I have.  Without him I would be nothing and have nothing.  He gave my spirit life, he sacrificed his son so that I would be able to return to live with him despite my mortal weaknesses, he sent me to a loving family who taught me the gospel of Jesus Christ, he has given me the gift of the Holy Ghost to guide me and direct me here upon the earth.  He led me to find my eternal companion who took me to the temple to be sealed to him forever.  He has given me friends, role models, teachers and leaders who have inspired me, directed me, loved me and who taught me how to love, live and laugh.  He has given me weaknesses and trials to make me strong and has given me more blessings and joy than I could ever hope to have.  I love him and know that I am his daughter and will live with him again one day.

And lastly, happy Father's Day to my father-in-law Chris.  Who raised such a wonderful son and who is a wonderful grandpa to my girls.  To my Grandpa George Badger who taught me to love to read and thirst for knowledge.  To my Uncle Jack who loves me like his own daughter and has been an example to me in more ways than he knows.  To my brother Mike who loves with his whole heart.  And to my brother Jeff who will be an amazing father one day because he is wonderful uncle.  I love you all and hope that you had a wonderful Father's Day.  I'm blessed to have you all as part of my family and wish I could have rounded up pictures of all of you.



Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Progress Update

How are you doing with your new goals?  Things are going pretty well here, with a few minor setbacks of course.  It wouldn't be motherhood and we wouldn't be human if we didn't have those right?

For the most part I have been pretty good about saying my prayers in the morning.  The first week I did really well and noticed a huge difference in my attitude and the way I responded in difficult situations.  It's almost as if I was more consciously aware that I wasn't alone on this journey.  The more calm and connected I was with Heavenly Father the more calm and connected the kids seemed to be to me.  I know, it's not rocket science right?  But the truth is that even though you "know" that's how it works you just don't "get it" or "remember"until you do it.  But it's not always easy.  The weekend was particularly rough for me.  I have had a lot of other things on my mind and since we don't have our typical weekday routine I forgot my morning prayers both Saturday and Sunday.  But it wasn't until Sunday night that I recognized that missing those opportunities to pray likely greatly contributed to my somewhat foul mood.  So I decided to set an alarm on my phone to go off every day just as a reminder in case I forget.  Truth be told, it didn't work.  I think I set it for too late in the morning because every time it went off I was in the middle of a store or appointment.  I still think it's a great idea so I'm going to try setting it earlier and see how that goes.

Scripture study has been going pretty well.  I've been making my way through all of the conference talks from April and have been loving every minute.  Don't get me wrong, the standard works are great but modern revelation is so easy to relate to.  But as soon as I'm done with conference it's back to scriptures for another round of the Book of Mormon.  What hasn't gone as planned is getting up early to study.  Late nights, a teething baby and kids getting up earlier than usual have foiled my plan.  So I've been reading either during nap time, if they both sleep or before bed.  I still think I will get more out of it in the morning myself but I need to get my sleep habits under control first.  Sleep will be a whole blog post in and of itself but the long and short of it is that I don't hate mornings, I actually really like them, but I really like staying up late too.  It's not a great combination because then I don't really love mornings and this contributes to a whole host of problems like being grumpy when the kids get up before 7:00 am, feeling tired all day, eating food that I probably shouldn't, having no energy, etc.  I'm working on it but it's taking some serious discipline!  

I am hoping to post Finding Balance in Life: Part II soon.  But since it's 10:30 and I'm working on that discipline thing I better sign off for now.

Have a great night!?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Finding Balance in Life: Part I

One of the greatest challenges for me as a mother, and frankly as a person, has been trying to find balance in my life.  There are so many things in our lives that demand our attention that it is often difficult to know how to achieve a healthy balance so that you can accomplish all of the things that you want and need to do.  About seven years ago I was struggling with this very problem.

I was a single adult in my late twenties living in Arizona working on my masters degree in music.  I had spent the last six years in school in some very intense programs studying, performing, working and teaching.  They were some of the happiest and most difficult years of my life.  But as I was nearing the end of the first year of my masters I started to realize that despite being happy and busy I was feeling a out of sorts as I was trying to juggle all of the things I needed and wanted to do.  I had been so focused on my education that I had let other important things fall to the wayside.  It was with this on my mind and a prayer in my heart that I attended a stake young adult fireside.  I was feeling quite emotional and alone since my roommates couldn't attend and because I had been so focused on school I didn't know that many people in my ward and stake.  But I knew I needed to go so I went, and I'm so glad I did.  The first speaker spoke on the very topic I had on my mind.  She said, and I'm paraphrasing, most of us struggle every day to find a healthy balance in the midst of all of our responsibilities and desires. But I am going to suggest to you that life is not about finding balance it is about being focused, focused on the right thing or things.  She then gave the example of a ballerina learning to do piroettes.  She said that unless a dancer learned to have a single constant focus point to return to when spinning that even though she might maintain balance at first she would eventually become dizzy and fall.  She then went on to say that this is exactly the same for our lives.  If we have one main focus in our lives, gaining a deep, personal relationship with our Heavenly Father  through prayer, scripture study and temple attendance that everything else would fall into place.  The truth of this statement resonated in my heart and mind and I knew that what she was saying was true.  But just because we know where our focus point is and that it will help us maintain balance in our lives sometimes we look away or lose focus and have to regroup.  This is where I am right now.

My Little Ballerina 

The last two years have been very tough for me.  We have struggled financially as a result of the recession, we had to walk away from our home in AZ, we moved to CA and lived with family for seven months, we had no job for five of those months, we moved again to our own place and welcomed a new baby to our family.  Change, change, change!  Some of it was exciting and some of it has just been plain hard and frustrating.  I'll admit that I was not my best self during many of those months and at times took my frustrations out on those I love most.  I am a recovering perfectionist and so feeling out of control of so many things in my life was almost more than I could handle some days.  The transition from one to two children has been harder for me than I could have ever imagined.  I went through some pretty intense post-partum depression and felt feelings of anger, anxiety and sadness that I had never felt before.  It was scary and lonely and just plain hard.  It seemed that no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't seem to maintain balance long enough for it to have a lasting effect in my life.  But it has been through all of these experiences that my mind has once again been turned to those truths that I learned so many years ago.  I have lost focus.  I have dropped my gaze to see only the temporal instead of looking up for help to be able to see things from Heavenly Father's perspective. "My son [daughter], peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; though shalt triumph over all thy foes [trials] (Doctrine & Covenants 121: 7-8).  I have allowed the "business" of life to overtake that which is most important, "the things that matter most". So it is with these things in mind today that I begin a challenge to myself, and to you, to recenter and refocus on the things that matter most.  I plan to focus on one thing each month to really solidify and create good habits again in my life.  


The challenge must start here first.  It has been proven time and time again that if we put eternal things first that everything else will fall into place.  Here are the things I plan to focus on this month:

  • Meaningful personal prayer both morning and night
    • When: The morning is where I struggle.  I wake up when the kids get up usually and then one thing leads to another an I forget. My recommendation is to decide on a consistent time each day to pray in the morning (while the kids are eating breakfast, during the baby's morning nap, while the kids are playing, etc.)
    • Focus: It's easy to fall into a rut when you pray, always expressing gratitude or asking for the same things.  Don't be in a hurry if you can help it.  Think about the things that you are grateful for that day as well as the things that you struggling with right now.  While we are instructed to address Heavenly Father respectfully the only way to gain a personal relationship with him is to be honest with him about your feelings and struggles.  He is our God but he is also our loving Heavenly Father.  He already knows our joys and our struggles but he wants us to come to him just as our earthly parents do and share our joys and our struggles so that he can know how he can help and support us.
    • My Plan: Sneak away while the kids are eating breakfast
  • Personal scripture/gospel study
    • How/When: Once again consistency is the key here.  Find a time each day that works for you.  I have tried at night but either I'm too tired or I want to do something else instead so it looks like I'll be getting up early.
    • Ideas for study: Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, Conference talks, Teaching No Greater Call (excellent resource for teachers and parents), Preach My Gospel.
    • My Plan: Wake up 30 minutes before the kids normally do and read then.
There are several other areas under this category that could use some improvement from me.  However I feel that these two are the most important and are where I am lacking the most so that is where I am going to start.  If you feel that you already have a good handle on these two challenge yourself in other areas such as temple attendance, fasting, visiting teaching, service, paying a full tithing and any other area where you feel prompted to make changes.  Pray, ask for guidance.  The Holy Ghost will guide to and you will feel a tugging towards those areas that most need your attention at this time.  I think one of the most difficult things is admitting that a change needs to be made.  It requires you be humble, to admit that you are weak and imperfect and that you need help.  This has always been a challenge for me.  But being humble means that you are teachable.  "Be thou humble and the Lord shall give thee answer to thy prayers." (Doctrine & Covenants 112:10).  "The Spirit is sent forth to enlighten the humble (Doctrine & Covenants 136:33).  Answers to my prayers and enlightenment are things that I desperately need as a mother and I know that even though I have not completely abandoned prayer or scripture study in my life that my communication with Heavenly Father has suffered therefore causing me to not be in the right frame of mind to be able to hear the whisperings of the Holy Ghost.

So are you with me?  What are the things you plan to work on?  Feel free to share your triumphs and your struggles.  We are here to support each other in raising the rising generations and it takes a village to do it!

Have a beautiful Sabbath day!

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