Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Blessings

I have a lot of great stories in my life "history" that have to do with the blessings that come from paying tithing. Seriously, it's been true for me that when I pay it money literally shows up from nowhere.

And it's happening again, although this time is less obvious than many of the other times. Every Christmas we are in something of a financial crunch. We live off of student loans, you see, and it is a little difficult to make the money stretch over the whole semester. We do our best, but it isn't always easy, and this year has been harder than last because Joel didn't receive one of the grants he has received in the past. So we don't have much money in our account and are only expecting the very last bit of his stipend to be paid to us tomorrow. After that, we're on our own completely until the middle of January when school starts again and student loans are disbursed for that semester.

Anyway, I've been freaking out a little bit because I'm really not seeing how we can possibly make ends meet with the pile of bills I have sitting in front of me, the vacation we are taking next week and then just plain old living expenses for the next month. But the Lord always comes through for us. On Monday, a friend called me to take her kids for her while she went to a mandatory work meeting. She told me she'd pay me, which is why I did it even though I'm starting to deal with morning sickness. And she paid me much better than I would have expected. Then yesterday, another friend needed me to take her little boy while her husband went into surgery. I knew she was desperate, and being the "girl who cain't say no," I said yes, not expecting anything. When she picked him up, she also had a totally unexpected check for me.

And that's not all...I got a phone call from my insurance the other day notifying me that Chloe's immunizations are not up to date. I was surprised because I am generally pretty good about that, but they were right...she is missing a shot. They told me they will give me a 50 dollar gift card to WalMart if I get the shot by tomorrow (Thursday) and immediately fax the shot records to them. You can bet I made an appointment as soon as I could. I'm assuming they'll send it out pretty quick, and that will help buy groceries. I also received my payment from Simple Scrapbooks this week...I wasn't expecting that layout to be paid for until late January. I'm not sure where I got that date, but the money was a pleasant, and needed, surprise. We also found a receipt that Joel had forgotten to turn in for a while to be reimbursed (he's the ward choir director and had purchased a good amount of music), so the reimbursement check definitely helped pad our account just a little bit more.

Last year, our tithing blessings were a bit more dramatic, coming in the form of a 2,000 dollar check from the scholarship Joel received. They just had a bit of extra money and thought we could use it. Other windfalls include the opportunity to participate in a health study for which we were paid almost 1,000 dollars, a 100 dollar mistake the bank made in our favor (which I spoke to them about but they couldn't locate any record of it so they just said Merry Christmas), a 2,500 retirement fund that Joel had and didn't know about which we were required to cash out at a time when we desperately needed money, and the list goes on.

I am so thankful for these blessings. I know it isn't always so obvious, and I don't really expect it to be so when we find ourselves out of the student world and in a little better situation financially. But it is nice to know that when we make the sacrifice of paying our tithing the Lord really will take care of us, and it will all work out somehow. I know that tithing is a funny commandment that way....it is pretty difficult to keep when you look at it and see how much you could do with that 10% of your income. It is also one of the only commandments that can easily be kept perfectly. In fact, I think that I can't afford NOT to pay my tithing, because when I do, the Lord never fails to take care of the rest.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

This is a test...

This is an actual pregnancy test that I took this morning. It is actually positive. This blog is a test to see who sees it first...to see if anybody out there who loves me actually reads my blog. :)

Just a reminder, family and friends....this blog DOES accept anonymous comments.

I'm due August 12, and we're excited as can be!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Keeping my joy



This is my Christmas Tree. I love it, not only because I think it's beautiful, but because it reminds me to keep my joy.

Let me explain: The Day after Thanksgiving is quite possibly my favorite day of the entire year. I love to get up early and go get all the good deals for my husband and kids. I love that when I come home, Joel has dragged all the Christmas decorations out of storage for me and they are ready to set up, I love that I eat leftover turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie and then turn on the Christmas music and get to work. I am always so happy on this day. It is so much fun to set up the tree and get the house ready for Christmas. I love how excited the girls are as we put up the tree. I love that when the tree was done this year, Chloe said: "It's my Christmas! I made it!"--she was so proud because she helped with it. I love how much Bria's eyes light up as she got to hang most of the ornaments all by herself. I love spending uninterrupted time with Joel and the girls, and most of all, I love how joyful I feel.

This was all particularly meaningful to me this year because just the week before we'd had an Enrichment activity about keeping your joy. We had a wonderful speaker, and I can honestly say that many of the things she said totally changed my perspective. I want nothing more than to keep my joy. Who likes to be without it? I don't know a single person who enjoys being miserable, sad and lonely. And yet, we all find ourselves in that funk sometimes--some of us more than others. But men are that they might have joy...so what can be done, or should be done, about those blue times that we all have?

Now, I can honestly say that generally, I am a very optimistic person. I try very hard to be nice to everyone and to be understanding and non-complaining. And I am usually pretty happy. Sometimes, though, I just lose all of that happy optimism and complain my little heart away, feel sorry for myself and become quite critical of those around me. While sitting in Enrichment listeining to this gal speak to us, I had a little lightbulb moment. She was talking about how keeping our joy all starts in our thoughts and that we need to keep our thoughts optimistic and positive in order to have real joy in our lives. Something about our thoughts become our feelings which become our actions which become our habits which become our character which become our lives. If somewhere along the line we are finding negativity in any of those things, we need to go all the way back to our thoughts to turn it around. In my mind I was thinking, "yeah, yeah. Everybody knows that..." and that's when she said the thing that really changed my own thinking.

"Not all of our thoughts are our own."

Voila! And there it was. I can honestly say that when I am having my most down moments it is because I start listening to those thoughts that are not mine....the ones that say. "you're fat." "you're ugly" "you're not good enough" "you can't do that....you'll never succeed" and so on and so forth, ad nauseum. And because I've been in one of these funks lately, I realized what was happening to me as she talked about it. I am letting the adversary convince me that I am worthless, that nobody likes me and everybody hates me and so I should go eat worms.

Since that day I've been happier. Just realizing who is putting those thoughts into my head has gone a long way towards learning not to listen to them. To tell myself that I really am a pretty great person. I do like myself, and when I can remember all my good traits, and stop worrying so much about how I might not measure up in this area or to that person, I can keep my joy. I can also keep my joy by just being thankful for the here and now that is offered me...there is always an upside to every situation, and I am trying to be more conscious of what they are.

More on that later...for now, I am trying to keep the joy of the Christmas season with me always, and I think I'm doing a pretty good job!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

This blog is brought to you by Hilary

I know, I know....it's sad. Rest assured that while I am not blogging, I am doing many other fruitful projects...I promise I'm not just laying around watching old "Everybody Loves Raymond" episodes or anything like that.

So, I wouldn't even be doing this if Hilary hadn't named me in her blog like 3 days ago. So thanks, Hilary, and I'm sure my VAST readership thanks you as well. (ha!)

Here goes: Two Things

*2 names you go by
1. Mommymommymommymommymommy
2. Lala
*2 parts of your heritage
1. English
2.German and that's seriously it. I'm practically half and half although it leans to the English side a bit.
*2 things that scare you
1. Bugs
2. Losing ANY member of my family, especially husband or kids
*2 of your everyday essentials
1. Lipstick: Currently in love with the Estee Lauder Electric Live wire. Scrumptious
2. Prayer (I probably should change the order of those...)
*2 things you are wearing right now
1. White tee shirt
2. Brown peasant skirt that is more comfy than any pair of PJ's in the world
*2 of your favorite bands or musical artists (at the moment)
1. Il Divo
2. Amici (The opera band)
*2 favorite songs (at the moment)
1. Never good at picking favorite songs...ummm...Oh Holy Night
2. Unchained Melody....it's on both the Il Divo and Amici CDs and is gorgeous sung classically like that
*2 things you want in a relationship (other than real love)
1. Humor
2. Trust
*2 truths
1. My children bring me more joy than I can possibly explain
2. My children bring me more frustration than I can possibly explain (and they aren't even teenagers yet!)
*2 physical things that appeal to you (in the opposite sex)
1. Hair. It MUST be curly. Thank heaven Joel has curly hair or I wouldn't have given him a second look
2. Smile
*2 of your favorite hobbies
1. Scrapbooking
2. Reading
*2 things you want really badly
1. A 50 mm lens.... (copying Hilary here, but it's definitely the only thing on my Christmas list...)
2. A house of my very own. (I'll share with Joel and the kids)
*2 places you want to go on vacation
1. Italy
2. Anywhere else in Europe
*2 things you want to do before you die
1. See my grandkids (Copying Hilary again, but it's true)
2. Get back to the size I was when I got married...or at least a lot closer to it.
*2 ways that you are stereotypically a dude/chick
1. The aforementioned lipstick obsession.
2. I cry at all kinds of movies/commercials/stories
*2 things you are thinking about now
1. That I need to transcribe Joel's dissertation interviews
2. What I'm gonna do on my next scrapbook page (It's about lipstick)
*2 stores you shop at
1. Target
2. Costco
*2 people i would like to see take this quiz
1. Ashley my SIL
2. Anyone who reads this blog who hasn't taken it yet. I think I'm the last person to take it of any blogs I read....so it's a free for all.

Coming soon: A blog about keeping your joy. I've been thinking about it a lot and I promise to do it ASAP. For now, feel the joy of having gotten to know me a tiny bit better.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Lara needs...

Okay...so I rarely ever participate in these blogging games...but this one was too good to pass up. (Not sure why I thought so, but hey!) I was reading Nisa's Blog and saw this and got a much needed laugh.

The idea is to Google your name and the word needs and see what comes up. So, I googled "Lara needs" and these are the top ten things I need. Pretty humorous (especially since many of them seem to be things to do with the game Lara Croft and the tombraider).

Lara needs to make the running water around a small barn stop. (THIS is my number one need?)

Lara needs to use stealth just as much as she does combat maneuvers and jumps. (I should try it, who knows? It may help with the kids' discipline to be less combative.)

Lara needs to briefly let go. (Of what?)

Lara needs to quit cricket. (Maybe I need to just never start.)

Lara needs A Haircut. (This is true.)

Lara needs to get to Shanghai. (If you say so....)

Lara needs to let her hair down and dance to Donna Summer’s disco hits. (You know, I probably do need to do this.)

LARA needs an interactive way to teach kids about different foods,animals, and common household items. (huh?)

Lara NEEDS a change. (I love how needs was capitalized in this one....I must really need it.)

Lara needs to be stronger. (Yes. Yes I do. What a way to end it.)


And there you have it folks....a comprehensive list of my needs....all found just by googling. Who knew?



Sunday, November 13, 2005

Terrible Twos?

I know I've totally neglected this poor little blog as of late....really it's just because my husband is totally neglecting me. Of course, I don't hold it against him...he's got obligations that are important to my future as the wife of a conductor, but I miss him. And I admit, he picks up enough of my slack usually that I stay sane, so lately I'm just a little insane and the blog has suffered. No worries though...Joel's people have assured me I will have my husband back in just two weeks!

But on to the real subject of today's entry....Chloe.

She's two and a half, and I think up until recently we've avoided the "terrible twos." The thing is, I've always said that two is one of my favorite ages. With both my girls I have loved seeing how much they learn, the emerging personalities as they are better able to express themselves and just the perfect cuteness that only a two year old has.

But Chloe...she is one stubborn little girl. She's also a determined, strong-willed, unwavering, fiercely sure of herself little girl who needs her space. You have to know how to deal with Chloe. Once you can get through the brick wall that is her determination she is like clay in your hands and will do whatever it is you ask of her. But, oh, that wall is getting stronger and stronger by the minute and sometimes I think it'll be the death of me.

Tonight Chloe woke up from her 4 hour nap at 9:00 pm. Now, I hate it when she does these late naps...but I have learned that she is much nicer if she gets the sleep her body is telling her she needs. So, she was hungry and she wanted chicken. Lucky we had crock potted chicken with rice for dinner tonight, you say? Problem is, that wasn't the chicken little Miss Chloe had in mind...she wanted chicken nuggets. So when I set her dish of yummy chicken and rice down in front of her she freaked out.

Now, I knew that if I could just get her to eat one bite she would happily eat the rest. The problem is getting her to do it. Here's how it went down: I brought a spoonful of the dish to where she was sitting and she ran away screaming, "Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! I don't want some! Yuck Mommy!" Then I managed to get her in my lap and I calmly told her that she just needed to eat one bite and if she didn't like it she didn't have to eat the rest. Back arches, body stiffens, "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I don't like it! Gwoss! Gwoss! Yuck!" (Gross? She's two! I have never heard her use this word until tonight...and yet she said it multiple times...gross.) Finally, I told her she had to go back to bed if she didn't at least try and stood up to take her. "No! Don't take me to bed! No! Okay I'll eat a bite!" So, after getting her in her perfect configuration for taking this bite (it couldn't be on my lap or at the table...had to be sitting on the couch), she ate it, and *gasp* she LIKED it. She happily sat down at the table in the kitchen and ate the entire bowl.

Score one for Mommy.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Halloween fun




Well, even as a single mother I managed to have fun with the kids on Halloween. On Friday we went to the campus "Fall Festival" after going to a friend's for a Halloween BBQ (Yes, in Arizona you can do that). Joel was able to come to the BBQ with us and at least see the girls in their costumes for a little bit. I was really hoping he could attend the trunk or treat part too, but they changed the time and he had to leave. We had fun anyway.

So, here's a bit of costume history for each of the kiddos.

Bria went as "Draculita" this year. It all started when she saw some vampire teeth at the store in September. She really wanted those teeth. I couldn't understand why, but she asked if we could go to the store and get them almost every day. So finally I asked her what she wanted to be for Halloween and she said she wanted to be Dracula. Sigh. I was really not ready for her to have such a definite opinion about what she wanted to be. I've been able to carefully guide her up till now in her costume choices. But, she was relentless, even after I told her that only boys can be Dracula (terrible of me). So one day I told her she could go as Dracula's daughter and we would go buy a costume and her teeth.
She wanted to know what Dracula's daughter was named, so I told her she was called "Draculita." Well, when we went shopping for the teeth and the costume, she chose out the witches dress and hat (remember, the child has definite opinions and ideas and she's five), she decided that she hated the teeth and wanted to have beautiful eyelashes instead. And so Draculita the witch was born!

Chloe was supposed to go as Snow White this year. Her cousins had given her a Snow White costume last time we were up in Utah and she has worn it a lot since and that's all she wanted to be for Halloween. Well, on the morning of Fall Festival, we had a playgroup and the kids were to wear their costumes and come to the park for a little Halloween party. Do you think she wanted to wear the Snow White costume? (Where did I get such stubborn children! They know what they want and nothing else will do!) So, Joel brought out two of Bria's old Halloween costumes that he thought might fit: Raggedy Ann and the Jack-o-Lantern. I would have hoped she'd choose Raggedy Ann, but there was no such luck for me. She wanted to be a "punkin."
We had fun at the park with the kids, and going down the "Electric Slide" as I call it. Then we went Visiting Teaching and over to ASU campus to eat lunch with Daddy. Everyone just thought she was such a cutie! One lady came up to her and said, "Are you a pumpkin?" and Chloe answered matter of factly, "I am." Such a cutie! She actually went as Snow White on Monday, but I don't have a picture. (I know...what kind of a scrapbooker am I anyway!)


On the actual day of Halloween we went Trick or Treating with some friends, and without Joel yet again. It was a fun neighborhood to Trick or Treat in....everybody was in their driveways in full costume and with fun games for the kids. So I'll leave you with one last funny anecdote, courtesy of the scary haunted house one guy had set up in his garage. Bria went in with Mason and his Dad, and came out a little traumatized. She was crying a little...and when I hugged her and asked her if she was all right, she said, "That was not a good place, Mommy...there were evil things in there!" The funny thing was that both she and Mason couldn't stop talking about it (Mason even went through a second time...but he's a typical boy!), they jabbered incessantly to anyone who would listen to their scary tale--especially the people giving out candy!

And that was our Halloween!

Monday, October 31, 2005

Hindsight is always 20/20

Yesterday we had stake conference, and it was wonderful as it always is. Bria woke up with a horrible kink in her neck, and it was really interesting convincing her to get in the car and go, so naturally we were late. I had a hard time listening because we were in the Primary room watching it on a small television with loud kids all around us. Bria refused to sit up and seriously put my legs to sleep because she laid on my lap the entire 2 hours. Yet, somehow, I managed to glean a little something to take home with me and hopefully use to improve myself.

A couple of the things that were said made me start thinking about my life the last few months. Here I was, Relief Society President, plugging along, feeling like I'd finally figured out how to balance my life, then Bishop told me that I was to be released in August. This wasn't really a surprise necessarily--we'd talked about it because Joel and I have been trying to get pregnant and my pregnancies are no picnic in the park and I knew there was no way I could serve as RS President then. But I wasn't pregnant in August, and although one of my counselors needed to be released, I didn't feel I needed to. (Not that I wasn't thankful for the break...don't get me wrong there!) So many people asked me if I was pregnant or if I was moving or just plain, "why did you get released?" that I started to feel weird about the whole situation....kind of embarrassed, like I'd somehow shirked my duty or something. I honestly wasn't sure why Bishop decided on August, but I trusted him and that was fine with me.

So anyway, now it's been a little more than two months since my release, and I was thinking yesterday how much my life has changed. And how much Joel's schedule suddenly changed this semester. He is completely slammed with school responisibilites and is basically never home. He is conducting Sinfonietta, choir, and the opera, he is taking a difficult course load, trying to work on his dissertation and also working in his assistantship. He is constantly running, and opera rehearsal keeps him most nights until 11:00 pm. He is even gone to rehearsals and concerts most Sundays now, which is something he has managed to avoid until this semester. The madness probably won't really stop until he graduates, although it will (hopefully) let up for next semester.

So, does anyone out there honestly think I could have been Relief Society President, and a wife and mother (especially since Bria started Kindergarten) with this crazy schedule of his? I realized yesterday that there is absolutely no way...our family would have fallen apart. I am basically a single mom lately. Joel did so much to support me in my duties as RS President...he was always here to take the kids when I needed to go to meetings or out on visits, he was understanding when I had to leave to do food orders or help in a crisis, he was supportive of all of the paperwork I had to keep track of on the computer, and even bought us a new one to make it easier on me, he was always there to lend a listening ear as I incessantly talked about Relief Society problems and solutions. There is no way I could have done it without him around.

Which brings me to my point. Heavenly Father knows everything...he knows exactly what we need, even if we don't. He knew August was when I needed to be released, even if I didn't know it yet. I think He was happy with the work that I had done and the growth that I experienced as a person and He knew it was time for me to be allowed to focus on my children and husband because they would need me more than ever at this point.

I am so thankful to realize that. I always know it, I just don't always realize it. And it happens a lot....we don't always know why certain things happen to us, or why we are impressed to make particular decisions, or just why we are where we are. But you can bet, if we are trying to live the commandments and do what's right, after a period of time passes, we will be able to look back and understand His reasons. His ways are not our ways, and hindsight is always 20/20.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Self control

Life has been a bit crazier than usual lately, and even though that is what this blog is supposed to be about I think I'll spare all the exciting details.

What I did want to share was our Family Home Evening the other night. Let me first give a little bit of background: Bria has been awful lately. Not just a little hard to deal with...downright impossible. The nursery rhyme fits her perfectly: "When she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid." Mainly she has had a difficult time controlling her actions when she is angry, and instead resorting to kicking, biting, pinching and the like. (I, her mother who brought her into this world, am usually the recepient of the aforementioned.)

Chloe hasn't been such a little angel either when she is angry, so we decided to have FHE about self-control. There was a great little lesson in the manual and I prepared it. We started with the scripture: "Bridle all your passions that ye may be filled with love." Then we talked about how it is okay to be angry, but it isn't okay to scream, hit, growl or anything like unto it. After that we discussed ways we could calm ourselves down so that we wouldn't act on our emotions.

While we were discussing this, Bria leaned over to me and whispered: "This isn't a very good Family Home Evening, Mommy. Talking about self-control is not fun."

Suffice it to say, we're still working on it...and I am the one counting to ten and taking deep breaths while Bria learns the necessity of self-control.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The best laid plans....

Today was one of those days where I set out with a huge list of tasks to accomplish, determined to be productive in every way. And yet, as the saying goes..."the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry." It might have been better if I had stayed home and watched TV all day today. I would have accomplished almost the same amount and I wouldn't have wasted so much gas.

This was my to do list for the day:

  • Pick up dry cleaning
  • Buy diapers
  • Buy stuff to make Bria's birthday cupcakes for her Kindergarten class.
  • Scrapbook store for specific cardstock colors
  • World Market: See if they have necessary spices for luau food
  • Buy football stickers for Visiting Teaching Conference invitations
  • Buy something to make the missionaries for dinner (signed up at the last minute yesterday, didn't really have anything suitable)
  • Go to the copy center to copy invitations for Visiting Teaching Conference
  • Also work on Young Women invitation project at copy center
  • Do 2 loads of laundry
  • Mop floors
  • Vacuum
  • Do dishes

So, I mapped it all out and came up with what I thought was a clever plan to get me where I needed to go starting at one end of Power road and ending on the other. (You really have to plan carefully with the outrageous prices of gas these days.) Here is what actually happened, in the order it happened:

  • Go to small scrapbook store, knowing they might not have everything I needed. Find all but the red cardstock, so I decide to just donate a whole piece I have to the cause rather than drive 12 miles to the other store. They also don't have the right color for the other part of my project, but I figure Michael's would have it and they are on my "planned route" for the day.
  • Go to pick up dry cleaning, only to find out that when she said it would be ready on Monday, she really meant it would be ready on Monday after 5:00 pm. Leave empty-handed.
  • Stop into Michael's to see if they have the right cardstock for my project. They don't. I buy some clearance ribbon instead. (At least it's pretty cute.)
  • Go into World Market and peruse their food aisles. I can't find anything that I need for the luau. Ask for help and she does find sea salt for me, but there isn't any Hawaiian sea salt. I don't know if it really matters, but I figure it does, since there was French sea salt, Greek sea salt, Mediterranean sea salt, Italian sea salt and Asian sea salt. Since they also don't have Aloha Shoyu Sauce, I call Joel and he recommends to just hold off on sea salt since whoever carrys the "Aloha" stuff will likely carry the "Hawaiian" stuff as well.
  • Get back into the car and drive further north on Power...arrive at Kinko's. Chloe has fallen completely asleep by now and is a dead weight on me, making it rather difficult to cut and tape my YW project. After making four or five copies, I realize it's going to look better to just print them on the computer (even though I only have 5 pieces of the right color cardstock...), and I move on to copying the Visiting Teaching Conference invitations.
  • Stand in line forever to get the cardstock for the invitations, only to discover that Kinko's is out of the right color of blue. I decide that it won't do any good to worry about it and just go with a different blue. I am not in love with the color, but I decide that it's better to cross this project off my list for the day.
  • Once the copies are made on the cardstock, I decide to use the Kinko's paper cutter to save wear and tear on my personal paper trimmer. After three cuts, it completely stops working. I fiddle with it, and then end up waiting in line to use the other one. When it is my turn, I work on cutting 60 pieces of paper while trying to keep an eye on Chloe (she has now woken up) as she curiously roams around the copy center. When I have only about 10 left, the blade on that paper cutter stops working. The employee tells me, "the guys know how to fix it, but they are too busy to bother with it." She fiddles with it, though, and amazingly, gets it to work. I finish my stack and pack up to leave.
  • Last stop: WalMart. By this time I feel like I am just too tired to actually make dinner for the missionaries, so I opt for the easy (but more expensive) road: A Stouffer's lasagna, a baguette and a Sara Lee cheesecake. I will assign Joel to make a salad. I remember to buy cake mix, frosting, food coloring and marshmallows for Bria's "creepcakes." (She saw these in Martha Stewart Kids and insists that we make them as her birthday treat for her Kindergarten class.) I forget to buy the chocolate chips and licorice that are also needed. I decide to check the craft aisle to see if perchance WalMart has the right color cardstock for the YW project. They don't. I checkout in the world's slowest line and go load my car. Only when I'm driving home do I realize that not only did I forget the other "creepcake" ingredients, I also forgot diapers (kind of important) and the football stickers.
  • I don't have time to go back in, nor do I have time to stop at any other store. So I head home.
  • Arrive home just minutes before Bria gets home from school (I told you I didn't have time to go back in).
  • I put the Stouffer's lasagna in the oven and try to start my household chores. Most of these should have been started before I left, but weren't because today was just one of those phone call days.
  • I watered my garden (not on list, but needed to be done).
  • I did mop the floors and do the dishes, but I did not vacuum or get my laundry done.

Anyway, just one of those days, where NOTHING works how it is planned. And tomorrow I will have to start all over again on the majority of my list, and hope that I can at least cross off a few more things.

It does make me think, though, that in the grand scheme of things, what we plan isn't usually what happens (no matter HOW well laid out our plans are) and that we just need to roll with the punches, while somehow trying to still meet our goals. So many times life seems to be like this...it can be frustrating, but we sure do learn a lot in the process...such as, no one in the world seems to carry flesh-colored cardstock (I know it exists, though, I have 5 pieces of it, and Paperkins are made out of it), and a few other important lessons, like patience and long-suffering.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Cast not away therefore your confidence.

More than ten years ago, when I was 19 years old, I saw a flyer hanging in the HFAC (Harris Fine Arts Center...my home on BYU campus). It was announcing auditions for a "music mission" in Nauvoo...participants needed to be proficient in singing, acting and dancing. As a vocal performance major, I had the singing down, and since I had at one time been accepted into the Music/Dance/Theater program, I thought the other two I could handle. Problem was, the auditions were done.

But I couldn't stop thinking about it for the entire next year, and as soon as that notice went up the next year, I called and set up my audition. Audition day came, and I drove up to Salt Lake where the auditions were being held. They were happening in the Church Office Building and we had to have some special parking permit. Once I got there, I wasn't really sure where to park, and I was so nervous that I was beginning to have second thoughts. I seriously considered turning around and driving back down to Provo and just forgetting the entire thing...and blaming it on not being able to find a parking place. Somewhere in my mind, I tried to hold on to the fact that I really wanted this and had wanted it for a year now. So I steeled myself against my fears, figured out where to park and went into the audition.

Once inside, again I seriously thought I should just leave when I saw how many people were there. There were over 200 girls, and maybe 50 guys. I knew there were roles for 6 women and 6 men, so I didn't feel that my odds were very good at this point. But again, I had to tell myself that I was already there and I might as well try. If nothing else, I could chalk it up to experience....audition experience is always helpful.

I was there all day. I did my initial audition and sat around waiting for callbacks. I made the first cut, and the second cut. Things were looking up....but looking at all the talent that was there, I still didn't have much confidence in it. After all was said and done, we were sent home to wait for a letter in the mail.

A few weeks later I received that letter...and I had been chosen to go! I was thrilled, of course, but couldn't stop thinking about the fact that I had almost thrown the whole entire opportunity right out the window. As it turns out, that summer in the show at Nauvoo was a major turning experience in my life. I really redefined who I was and when I came home, I had an entirely different set of goals than I had had before.

So....here we are today, 10 years after I returned home from Nauvoo. I haven't forgotten that lesson, and I have tried hard not to let my fears of failure get in the way of opportunity. Yet still, every day I fight with the little demons in my mind that tell me that I'm not good enough, or smart enough, or creative enough, or organized enough or whatever enough to attain my goals, aspirations and dreams.

Maybe 8 years ago, Elder Holland gave a wonderful devotional at BYU and based it on the scripture in Hebrews 10:3-


Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.

He reminded us that fear is our greatest enemy. I know he was focusing mainly on receiving an answer to prayer, and then "casting away" the confidence of that answer as we let fears of various sorts come in. I came away from that devotional knowing that it applied to my perpetual fear of failure and the many opportunities I did not allow myself because I was afraid.

So today I am thinking that after 3 years of thinking I can't do it, I am going to finally enter the Scrapbook Hall of Fame contest. All of the old familiar feelings that I'm not good enough, or creative enough or talented enough are beginning to paralyze me right now. But I want to do this...I want to say, just like I said at an audition ten years ago, that if nothing else I can chalk it up to experience. If I don't win, I will still have pushed the limits of my creativity and made myself better, I will still have pages that I love in my books and I will have the dignity of knowing that I didn't give in to my fears....I didn't cast away my confidence. I won't cast away my confidence. I will not turn around and drive back home, because there is always a chance that it just might be the thing that I was meant to do.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Better than I think?

So, our General RS Broadcast was on Saturday night. I love going...it is always just what I need to hear. It has never once failed me. Sometimes I am positive that everyone else has to just sit through talks that I am sure were meant for me and me only. But then I find comfort in the fact that the rest of the women in the Church obviously struggle with the same things I do...I am not alone.

The thing that seemed to be said quite a bit and that really hit home for me was that we are doing better than we think we are, and we need to stop being so hard on ourselves. As someone who is notorious for beating myself up for not getting the vacuuming done or the laundry folded, I thought I'd try an experiment. I had a friend in Provo who told me once that she writes her to do list for the day, but at the end of the day, she throws it away and writes a new list. This list is what she actually accomplished, and helps her keeps her "to dos" and "dones" in better perspective.

So, this is my "done" list for today so far:
  • Got out of bed before 7:00 (This is a major daily accomplishment for me).
  • Got Bria out of bed.
  • Got Bria dressed, hair done, and breakfasted.
  • Made Bria her school lunch.
  • Prayed with Bria.
  • Took Bria to school.
  • Read 2 chapters in the Book of Mormon with Joel.
  • Prayed with Joel.
  • Made breakfast for myself.
  • Answered several emails.
  • Loaded and ran the dishwasher.
  • Paid bills.
  • Chatted with Hilary online.
  • Talked to my mom on the phone.
  • Cleaned up after Chloe when she got sick all over the floor.
  • Did a load of laundry, including Chloe's blankie and clothes worn at the above mentioned.
  • Cuddled with Chloe.
  • Got myself ready.
  • Tidied the living room.
  • Posted a layout on 2Peas.
  • Went to the post office to mail my layout to Memory Makers Magazine and send a couple other packages off.
  • Bought stamps.
  • Ate lunch with Chloe.
  • Bought baby gifts at Target.
  • Looked at the garden center and decided what I will plant in my flower bed next week now that I think it might actually be cool enough to remove the eyesore of my dead plants from the summer.
  • Delivered one of the two baby gifts.
  • Picked up the mail
  • Sorted the mail (threw most of it away).
  • Answered a few more emails.
  • Cleaned the girls' room from the explosion of stuffed animals and books it experienced yesterday.
  • Made my bed.
  • Put new toilet paper in the bathroom.
  • Changed the sheets in Chloe's crib.
  • Finally got rid of the pile of cool brochures Joel brought me back from London that was hanging out by the side of my bed.
  • Killed two crickets that were in my house. (I try to avoid this activity at all costs.)
  • Did an art project with Chloe.
  • Put Chloe down for a nap.
  • Cleaned up after art project.
  • Filled bag for Katrina food drive with canned/boxed foods.
  • Sent 5 layouts in for publication consideration.
  • Read CNN.
  • Read a few blogs.
  • Posted a bit on 2Peas.
  • Cleaned my kitchen for the second time.
  • Called sisters to get visiting teaching stats for the month.
  • Sent a few emails concerning visiting teaching.
  • Cleaned up the playroom.
  • Mopped.
  • Finished reading Harry Potter 6 for the second time. (much more enlightening this time).
  • Made after school snacks for the girls.
  • Practiced violin with Bria.
  • Did an art project with Bria.
  • Talked on the phone with Joel...I think twice.
  • Cleaned up after art project.
  • Answered a few more emails.
  • Put all the books away.
  • Made dinner.
  • Had Family Home Evening.
  • Put the girls to bed...with scriptures and prayers.
  • Put all the videos & DVDs away that Chloe dragged out earlier.
  • Threw all of the stray toys from the day into the playroom.
  • Wrote this blog entry.

Yeah...so you'll notice that I didn't vacuum and I didn't fold the laundry that has been waiting for folding for a couple days. (These are the two most common symptoms of my "I'm failing as a wife and mother" syndrome.) But I think I still accomplished a lot! And I'm not sure I remembered everything, either. I'll try to get to the vacuuming and laundry tomorrow, but today....I am NOT going to beat myself up about it. It'll get done.

Friday, September 23, 2005

What I need


This picture is symbolic of how much I really need my husband. He flies around the country, and in this case, the world, fairly often for a student. And every time he flies I kind of freak out. I obsessively check the flight status (above pic) until I know he has safely landed. And then I worry even more if he doesn't immediately call me when he arrives at the gate. He didn't call me when he arrived in London. It was like 11:00 pm when he landed and I forced myself to stay awake until 1:00 am hoping he would call. I finally gave up and took my phone to bed with me. I found out later that his cellphone didn't work in England (even though we'd arranged for international coverage) and he did call when he finally could. I've never been happier to hear his voice.

When I was pregnant with Bria we were asked to house sit for Joel's brother, Dave. During that same week, Sean (another brother) needed Joel to help him with the computer graphics for the cover of the CD he was about to release. They left in the early evening, sometime after dinner, and as I was quite great with child and very exhausted, I went to bed.

At some point during the night, as all pregnant ladies do, I got up to use the bathroom. I noticed Joel wasn't back yet, but I wasn't too alarmed...it was probably 11:00 pm. I went back to sleep, only to wake up needing to use the bathroom again. This time it was 1:00 am and Joel still wasn't back. I was starting to feel anxious about that, but I realized he was with his brother and maybe they had gone out to eat after they finished or something. I couldn't really go back to sleep very easily this time...instead, I sat up, watching the clock and listening for every car that passed to see if they pulled up. By 3:00 am I was really freaked out (I can't even remember how many prayers I had said by then...but it was a lot) and I wanted to get in the car and go find them. The problem was, Joel & Sean had taken our car and only Sean's car was at the house. Since hotwiring cars isn't one of my skills, I was left to sit up and worry even more. Of course, by 4:00 am, I was sure they were dead in a ditch somewhere and I started concocting all sorts of horrible scenarios. I contemplated calling the police, but figured they would have called me first. And then I realized..."I am not at my home...they won't know where to reach me." So I started obsessively calling the voice mail at our apartment to see if anyone had called. Minutes continued ticking by and still they did not come. Finally, at 5:30 am, I couldn't handle it anymore and I called my dad because I knew he'd be up. He said he'd come get me (my parents lived just around the corner from my brother-in-law) and I could use one of their cars to go looking for them.

Feeling a little better, or at least like I could do something about the situation, I stood out on the front porch to wait for my dad. Guess who drove up? Joel and Sean. In my relief that they were alive and well, I started yelling at them for putting me through such an ordeal. They both felt horrible and admitted the project had taken much longer (obviously) than they had planned, and they assumed I would have been asleep, so they didn't call.

So that was the first time in my marriage that I had been truly afraid I might lose Joel. And it scared the heck out of me. I know I was pregnant, but that isn't the only reason I spent several of the hours he was missing bawling. Since then, I have had many more opportunities to worry about his safety during his travels away from me. And I never really rest easy until he has arrived back home all in one piece. **And for those who wonder, he arrived home from London a few weeks ago safe and sound.**

Joel thinks I am too independent and is under some weird impression that I don't really need him. I assure you that he couldn't be more wrong. I think I need him more than I have ever needed another person in my life...at least my adult life, that is. I'm sure my mother would say I needed her quite a bit during my early years. And to clarify further, I don't just need him to help me with the kids or make dinner for me; I need him to help me be a better person, I need him to be my best friend and I need him to be my anchor of peace in the sea of craziness that is my life.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Overstuffed

How I've been feeling today:

Overwhelmed I need to understand why, when I get up in the morning and think of all that needs to be done, I sometimes get so overwhelmed that I am almost frozen. I don't accomplish much of what I set out to do...because every time I think of it I get alarmed. And then I just sit down and read or something.

Overindulgent I bought mellowcreme pumpkins yesterday. I ate half the bag today. I also ate some cookies and some pudding and even a few M&Ms. Not really sure of the healthy stuff I ate...but a good-for-me dinner is cooking as I write this.

Overdramatic Let's just say I've been making mountains out of molehills lately. Whether or not it is because my kids just took every single toy in the playroom out of the bins, or because Chloe drew all over herself, or because Bria would only play "Lightly Row" once, or because I just can't seem to handle life today, I don't know.

Overanxious Basically, see "overwhelmed"...I have so much to accomplish, that I feel like I can't, and then I don't, and then I worry that it won't get done, and then it doesn't and then I beat myself up and then I start over again.

Oversensitive I'm taking things very personally today. From everyone. So, please, if you don't have anything 100% nice to say to me, wait until tomorrow to say it.

Overstimulated I think if Chloe turns on the Baby Monet DVD one more time and just lets it play and play and play the selection menu I will scream. Curse the day she learned how to work the tech stuff...I keep turning it off, but I think the battle of wills is currently being won by the two year old.

Overweight See "overindulgent"...I'm even wearing overalls today (no pun intended) and I feel like they are too tight. Not a good sign...

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Why Daddys were never meant to be Mommys

So, I went to a scrapbook convention with a couple friends over the weekend. I was freaking out a little bit about leaving, but Joel assured me he had everything under control even though it was one of his busiest weekends of the school year. True to his word, he managed to set up babysitting (a very elaborate schedule, I must add) and I didn't need to worry about a thing.

I met him on campus on Saturday night a little after 7:00. He was going to drop the kids off to me so I could take them out to dinner while he went to observe opera auditions. I was really excited to see my girls (and Joel, too) and have some fun together eating at Wendy's.

Bria ran out of the car to give me a hug and this is what she was wearing...a swimsuit with black stretch pants pulled over it, a purple jingle bell necklace, 2 baby headbands in her hair (you know, the lacy kind...), another beaded necklace functioning as a hairband, and lavendar flip-flops. Chloe was a little better, wearing her favorite Dora t-shirt coupled with pink courderoy pants that are size 12-18 months, so they looked more like capris, and the Elmo shoes that her cousin Timothy gave her, which aren't so bad except they are way too big. I could see that Joel had made a noble effort to put her hair in a hair band, which is important because her hair was not made to be worn without anything keeping it in check.

I was duly impressed (really!) at all Joel was able to accomplish this weekend....but there is at least one thing children need their mother for, and that is dressing them. I wasn't sure how I could still keep my pride and take them out in public, but I did it anyway. Joel can consider it my thanks for allowing me to leave for the weekend.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Yeah, what about ME?

Several months ago Bria asked me "Mommy? Who do you love?" I answered the obvious: I loved her, and Daddy and Chloe. She said, "But who else?" So, I listed off a few more family members, like my parents and siblings, Joel's parents, etc. She thought for a moment, and then she said, "Mommy? But don't you love yourself?"

Woah. Talk about making me really think. At that point in my life I couldn't honestly say that I did love myself, which is probably why her question stopped me in my tracks. I had been putting myself dead last for a long time. All of my energies had been devoted to my husband's happiness, my children's welfare, and trying to lift and motivate and love the sisters in Relief Society as I also dealt with many of their personal problems. I've always been somewhat low maintenance, but at that time, I was really low maintenance...I was not wearing make-up much, I was hanging out in my PJs if I didn't have to go into public, I was putting my hair in a pony tail every day, even barely remembering to take a shower as the needs of others pushed aside my own basic needs. And I realized, I haven't been treating myself very kindly...and I definitely don't love myself enough to do it.

The first thing I figured I'd better start doing was to pamper myself just a bit more. Actually take a shower before I did anything else. Put on my make up. Dress nicely so that I felt good about the way I looked. Do my hair. This was all good, but I couldn't say that I actually loved myself yet. I was taking better care of my physical body, yes, but I couldn't say that I loved who Lara was.

So, I figured I'd start with the example my children had set. Every time Chloe says a prayer she says, "Thank you for me"...and she used to say, "Thank you for Cwoe." I always thought that was so cute, but now I was thinking that perhaps I should start with that. By being grateful for me, for who I am, for what I have to offer the world. So I began to try to remember to be thankful for myself when I prayed. And not just when I prayed, but when I was comparing myself to the wonderful people around me and feeling like I just didn't measure up. I needed to stop that comparing, because essentially, I was comparing my weakest points with the strengths of others. Not fair to myself at all...because I have strengths too. I just wasn't recognizing them.

Slowly, by learning to love myself, I started to pull myself out of the rut that I had created. I still fall into that rut occasionally, and when life gets a bit too overstuffed and overwhelming it is not yet second nature for me to say "I'm an okay person. I can do this." I don't think yet that everything I do is absolutely fabulous and never have self doubt. I still don't always put in my contacts and wear lipstick every day. I still get carried away in helping everyone else and putting myself off to the side. Yet, if Bria asked me today if I loved myself, I can honestly say I do.

The lesson I have learned is that I cannot truly love others and serve them until I am also doing the same for myself. I won't have it in me...I'll resent it all. But when I am allowing myself time for me, when I am trying to recognize my strengths and not just my weaknesses, and even when I am just spending a little extra time on my appearance it is so much easier to go out in the world and love others. "Love thy neighbor as thyself"....the key is you actually have to love yourself.

Thanks, Bria, for helping me to learn a very important lesson.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Remembering 9-11

Today in Church we talked about self-reliance and food storage and emergency preparedness. It was really good for me, because for the last several months, and especially after Katrina, I have been wanting to do better at having my family be prepared. So last Sunday I ordered some food from the Cannery...used my scrap budget. A small sacrifice for something I know is extremely important. Besides, if I was as prepared for emergencies as I am for scrapping then we'd have more than enough.

Kind of fitting that we focused on that today, as it is the fourth anniversary of 9-11. Sometimes I think of it and it seems so long ago...it isn't really something I think about much anymore. It has been pushed aside due to life. My life. But today I wanted to remember that day a bit more, and try to recapture how I felt, and some of what I learned. At the very least, I wanted to blog about my experience on September 11, 2001.

We lived in Provo...right on 9th East. Joel worked at BYU, just down the street. Bria wasn't quite a year old yet. We were having Joel's best friend, Matt, and his latest girlfriend over for dinner that night and I needed to go shopping for a couple last minute things for the salad. So, I took Joel to work and I stopped at the Creamery on 9th (used to be Kent's market) to get those last few items and then planned on heading home to clean the house and babysit my baby nephew, Brayden.

When I walked into the little grocery store, I found it a little odd that they were listening to talk radio. I decided that probably nobody really comes shopping at 8:00 in the morning, and they really liked that particular talk show or something. But as I walked through the store, putting things into my cart, I started realizing what I was hearing. People jumping out of the World Trade Center? Planes crashing into buildings? Fire at the Pentagon? What????? I couldn't make any sense of what they were saying, and I honestly thought it was something like Orson Welles' War of the Worlds. I really wasn't too alarmed, because everything I was hearing was just too improbable....it all had to be somebody's idea of a joke.

But then one of the stock boys came up to me. He had tears in his eyes, and he asked me, "Can you believe what is happening?" I clearly remember answering, "What is happening? I can't understand what I'm hearing." He then explained to me, quite emotionally, his understanding of the situation. Which, of course, at 8:00 am was still laden with unfounded rumors, like the White House had been bombed and the President was missing. Shocked, I hurriedly paid for my groceries and drove home, listening to talk radio all the way.

We didn't have TV back then...we couldn't afford to pay for cable, and our TV had terrible reception as far as local channels were concerned, so I just continued to listen to the Doug Wright show on KSL 1160. Of course, Joel called me to find out if I knew what was happening. He didn't really work much that day...they all just sat in the breakroom and watched the television, only getting up if the phone rang. I think all of America was on hold that day. My sister-in-law brought Brayden to me and stayed and listened for a while. When she left, I just sat on the couch holding him while Bria sat next to me...not moving, just listening. Listening to the horrible thing that was happening to our country.

After Brayden left, Bria and I drove to my mom's house and watched the news there. I watched the twin towers collapse over and over and over again. I was horrified...glued to the television....needing to watch it just one more time in order to believe that it had actually taken place.

I also remember being deeply touched by the many nations around the world who played our national anthem and flew our flag that day. Because this was not just an attack on America, it was an attack on the world. I will never forget a woman in France who declared on the news, "Today, we are all Americans."

Now, it is just "something that happened a few years ago." Something terrifying, certainly, but the horror has been covered by time. And life. And now our country is dealing with something else that is just as horrible in its own right. It makes me think of how the scriptures say that God always sends "something" to make the people remember Him. And if we don't even remember what happened, how will we remember Him? And if we aren't even following the commandment to be prepared, how can we say we are remembering Him? We can't. We need to remember, to not get so caught up in life that we forget the repercussions of 9-11, or Katrina, or whatever reminders we are sent...because if we forget those, we are essentially forgetting God.

Friday, September 09, 2005

"satisfactory"

So Bria came home with her very first "report card" the other day. It was her monthly, mid-term progress report. I was surprised by its arrival, but I am just as new to having a child in school as she is new to being there. I was also surprised by its contents: "Satisfactory" in everything. "Satisfactory" in reading. "Satisfactory" in math. "Satisfactory" in science. "Satisfactory" in effort. "Satisfactory" in working independently. "Satisfactory" in getting along with others. "Satisfactory" in everything else.

Most of all, though, I was surprised by my reaction. Just SATISFACTORY!!!???!! My child is excellent! And then it really bugged me that in the comments section, the only thing her teacher wrote was, "Bria is doing a great job!!" Basically, I was feeling very disappointed in my Kindergartener's report card that isn't really even a report card.

So now, a few days later, I've had time to think about it. What is wrong with satisfactory? Nothing, that's what...satisfactory is not a bad thing! She could have gotten "Needs work" or "Unsatisfactory." Then I might have had cause to worry that she'll never learn to read and freak out about her ability to get into a decent University. But "satisfactory" is just that: satisfactory. And she is, after all, just in Kindergarten. I need to let her have time to be a Kindergartener and not stress about grades...at this point I want her to actually enjoy being in school and learn to love learning. Of course I want her to strive for excellence, but I also don't want to turn into one of those Nazi parents who freaks out over a 98%. "Satisfactory" is really quite wonderful! What a smart little cookie I have!

As for the teacher's comments, again, that is not a bad thing at all that Bria is doing a great job. (At least she didn't say "Bria is doing a 'satisfactory' job!!"--then I would have been really upset). I am still ever so slightly annoyed that the teacher didn't give more specific feedback, but I'll get over that. I will go to parent teacher conference next week and I will find out what "satisfactory" really means in Kindergarten.

(And now I will spell check this blog because I am fairly positive that "satisfactory" isn't even a word...it's looking mighty strange.)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

My piece on Katrina

A couple days after Katrina hit, we had a pretty big Monsoon here. (Actually, it didn't seem overly large to me, but it made national news, and in the wake of Katrina it had to be big news to make national news...maybe everyone was just going a little crazy over weather stories...who knows?) Anyway, when our little monsoon hit, we happened to be driving home from violin lessons. At first it was just a little windy, and then the sky quickly became overcast and the wind picked up strength. Then the rain started to pelt down. I really hate being caught on the road when a monsoon hits...apparently the girls didn't like it too well either. Bria was noticing that some of the cars were having a hard time driving straight, including us. She also noticed that it was really hard to see with all of the dust and the rain. She kept saying "Oh no...we're gonna get died...we're gonna get died." I assured her that we weren't going to die, but that even though it was a little scary, we would make it home just fine. I had her say a prayer while we were driving. The scariest part for both Bria and Chloe was once we got home and we had to run into the house. Just that few feet that we ran screaming from the carport to the front door drenched us all pretty good!

I took the opportunity to talk to Bria a little more about the hurricane. I felt like the monsoon was a good thing to relate Katrina to for her. Since she was so frightened by our weather, I explained to her more fully than I had done before about the damage that the hurricane had done in New Orleans and in Mississippi. She listened intently, then watched the news with me again.

She has since diligently tried to remember the hurricane victims in her prayers...she says "bless the "hunicane" people that they can get new houses." I am proud of her.

And that brings me to the point of this whole blog: Today. Today she came home from school so excited to bring money tomorrow to "feed the pig" for the "hunicane" people. The note she brought home said they were having a fund raiser to donate to the Red Cross. Before I had another chance to talk to her about it, the phone rang and I left her alone for a second. Right as I finished up my phone call I heard a loud crash and the sound of glass breaking. I came out of the den to see my crystal candy dish in smithereens and loose change everywhere. Bria was immediately upset, as she understands that breaking the crystal is not a good thing. Remarkably, I stayed totally calm and I didn't even feel the need to raise my voice or be impatient. Part of it was because I knew how excited she had been to bring money to school for the Katrina victims. I talked to her about the rule of getting into that dish (I also know it is probably not the smartest place to store loose change...but hey, I rarely have candy sitting around) and the consequences of her disobedience. She told me it was okay...we can just get another one. I told her I got it for my wedding and it was special, and I didn't think I could get another one so easily. I had to snicker at her reply, "It's okay Mommy...when you get married again, you can get another bowl!" And then, when I told her that I didn't think I was going to get married again because I wanted to stay married to Daddy she really lost it..."Am I in trouble??" she wailed.

In the end, she learned that she is far more important to me than a silly candy dish. And I remembered that the hurricane's devastation took far more from people than their silly candy dishes....not only did it take their heirlooms, it also took their cars, their homes, and in some cases even their lives and the lives of those they loved. I can certainly sacrifice a piece of not-quite-heirloom-status crystal to the cause of teaching my child to help others in their needs.

And that is my piece on Katrina.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Getting to know Chloe

I know, I know....I should already know her quite well. It's just that since Bria has always been around, I have rarely had one on one time with Chloe. Now that Bria is in school, I have a lot of that, and I am finally learning who she is!!
  1. Chloe actually likes it when I sing. She asks me to sing songs to her and smiles when I do it. If she is singing and I join in, she doesn't get upset, she is happy to sing with me. (As opposed to Bria, who hates it when I sing. She never wants me to sing and gets angry when I do "Stop singing Mommy!" And when she is singing I am not allowed to join in under any circumstances. Ever. But SHE can sing whenever she wants, as illustrated by the beautiful rendition of 5th Dimension's "Age of Aquarius" interspersed with Beethoven's "Fur Elise" all the way to school this morning.)
  2. Chloe likes to eat fruit and vegetables. Amazingly enough, if given a choice of grapes and brownies, she would choose the grapes. She loves squash, broccoli, cauliflower, peas and carrots...and even eats her salad at dinner. (As opposed to Bria, who kicks and screams at the prospect of eating veggies. Oh, she likes fruit okay, but if there are brownies involved, the brownies will most definitely be devoured before those grapes are even given a second thought. And salad? Don't make me laugh.
  3. Chloe holds a grudge. Don't make her mad, because she just might not speak to you for a couple hours, or at the very least, give you dirty looks every time you look at her. (As opposed to Bria who easily forgives, and will often give me a hug if I am upset with her.)
  4. Chloe likes to be alone sometimes. She doesn't need me to play with her every waking moment of the day. She doesn't like me to be there to help her do everything. She tells me when she needs me, by coming and taking me by the hand quite forcefully to whatever it is she wants. She also tells me when she has had enough of me, by saying, "Leave me alone, Mommy." (As opposed to Bria, who would love it if I played with her every waking hour. She demands my full attention at all times and if I even look away when she is talking to me, I get in trouble.)
  5. Chloe is determined and focused. If she is doing something, she sees it through to the end of it. If she wants something, there is no distracting her determination. Sometimes this leads to temper tantrums and many time-out trips. Sometimes it leads to a happier Mommy as she can be quite involved in her projects and is not even really aware of other things going on.. (As opposed to Bria, who, like her mother, is easily distracted, unfocused and aware of everything to a fault.)
So, these are just a few things that make my children so different from each other. So glad I can see their differences. Now I just hope I know how to use those traits to my advantage!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Adventures in single motherhood

I am a single mom this week. And I was two weeks ago. I really hope that Joel doesn't ever get a job where he HAS to travel a lot, because I will go CRAZY!!!!

Now that I have that out of my system...I have to say, that I stick a feather in the hat of every single woman who has to raise her children alone. I don't know why, but I don't seem to have the constitution for it. Joel has class every Tuesday night, and he has since the beginning of his degree down here. I loathe Tuesdays...it means I have to feed, bathe and put the kids to bed all by myself. I admit that I often just skip bath time on Tuesdays.

Why is bedtime so hard with just me? I'll never know. I think if bedtime didn't exist I would do okay if I was single...but it does, and I only have to do it alone for two more nights.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Literally adorable

Bria takes after her Daddy. She takes everything 100% literally. I am sure that Joel was just like this at her age...even now, at age 31, he tends to take many things very literally. He has learned obvious nuance by now, but if something new comes along he might misunderstand and be very literal.

Bria really cracks me up with her literalness (is that even a word?). I remember when she was 2 1/2 and we were at a family reunion everyone figured this out. People were "taking off her nose and eating it" left and right...poor child! She was so upset by the whole thing. I finally had to insist everyone stop...yes it's funny and cute, but you are tormenting this poor girl!! She has finally learned the nose trick at age 4 (unlike Chloe who figured it out right away--before she was even 2--and thinks it's hilarious), yet she continues to take life pretty darn literally. Here are just a few recent examples:

I was talking on the phone with my mom and mentioned that I had a ton of laundry to do. What I actually said was, "I have laundry coming out my ears." Pretty soon, Bria was hovering around me, trying to look in my ears. When I asked her what she was doing, she said, "I'm trying to see all the laundry that's in your ears!"

The other day at dinner Joel had a glob of something on his face, so I reached over to wipe it off. Bria asked me what I was doing and I said, "I'm wiping Daddy's face off." Her reply? "Mommy, you didn't wipe his face off...his face is still there!"

And the kicker: She called her Mamah after her first day of Kindergarten. When Mamah asked her if she made any new friends, this was her reply:

"Mamah, you're silly! I didn't make any friends....I don't know how!! Their moms and dads just brought them there! I can't make them!!"

Cutest thing I've heard in years....it's definite though, Bria is literally adorable!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Released of control

Well, I have been the official "former" Relief Society President for almost two weeks now. It is a strange experience. I haven't quite known what to do with myself since Bria started Kindergarten the day after I was released. That left two huge holes in my normal daily routine.

So...I've gotten a lot of things done that I didn't have time for before. It's kind of nice, but a little empty. I don't really feel useful. I feel out of the loop. And my closest friend in the ward is also pretty close with the new RS President....and she tells me things. And it really has been like handing my baby over to someone else to take care of...even if it is a competent person it is always a little difficult. Because I see and hear things and I think "NO" "You can't do it that way!" But I know I have to let her learn for herself. I have to let go!! Besides, she is not me...she brings other skills and talents to the table. She will never do things exactly how I might have done them, but that doesn't mean she is wrong.

I did get a new calling last night..Visiting Teaching Coordinator. So at least I still have some control over that. It's hard for me to not be in charge after so long getting to call the shots. But I don't really want to be in that position right now. I've really enjoyed the time to really focus on my family and other things I'd like to do. So I have to let the control go. It's okay. Every Relief Society in the world has survived the change of guard and this one will too. The new Pres is awesome...I had lunch with her and my other friend today. She'll be fine. I'll be fine. We'll all be fine.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

How much do I love you?

Just a sweet conversation I had with Bria the other day:

Me: I love you so much, Bria.
B: {holding her arms out wide} Do you love me this much?
Me: Even more than that.
B: Do you love me as much as a house?
Me: Even more than that.
B: Do you love me as much as a swimming pool?
Me: Even more than that.
B: As much as the beach?
Me: Even more than that.
B: As much as the sky?
Me: Even more than that.
B: {Eyes totally incredulous now} Mommy, do you love me as much as a giraffe's neck?
Me: {laughing} Yes, Bria. I love you as much as a giraffe's neck.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Unexpected teaching moments

So Bria was very into watching The Incredibles for a while. We checked it out from the library and she watched it daily for the entire two weeks.

Being the girl who loves to play make-believe that she is, she decided that she was Violet...the one that can turn invisible and make force fields. I am Elastigirl, Joel is Mr. Incredible and Chloe is Jack-Jack. (We don't have a Dash in our family, so Bria keeps asking when we will...). Anyway, sometimes her make believe becomes a little too real, and that is what happened with the super hero scenario. I wasn't allowed to call her Bria...she had to be called Violet. She consistently called the rest of the family by their appointed character names and made up lots of little stories and things that we were required to act out. (Is this kid going to be good in drama, or what?)

Well, Bria has had a little obedience problem lately. Perfectly normal, I am sure, for a kid her age. One day recently I asked her to do something for me and I made the mistake of calling her Bria. Following is a bit of our conversation:

Me: Bria, will you please go put your shoes away?
Bria: I'm not Bria, I'm Violet!
Me: Okay. Violet, will you please go put your shoes away?
Bria: {Looking incredulous} Violet obeys?
Me: Of course she does.
Bria: But she's a superhero! She doesn't have to!

How often does your child give you such a perfect lead in to a great conversation? I was able to use the moment to explain to her about obedience, and that super heroes were good because they were obedient to laws and rules. I even could use the bad guy on Incredibles to illustrate what happens when "superheroes" aren't obedient.

She isn't suddenly magically perfect at obeying, but it has been fun to see what that conversation alone did for her obedience. Made me realize how much you really have to teach whenever the opportunity presents itself, and those unexpected moments are often the very best teaching moments you'll ever have.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Lost in translation


So Chloe has decided she wants to be potty trained. One morning a couple of weeks ago I had let her run around without a diaper for a while because she had a rash. When I tried to put a diaper back on she wouldn't let me and said she wants to wear panties and be "potty twained."

Sounds good to me! I have no problems with that. For the rest of that day she wore panties and went potty on the potty....not one accident! I was so excited every time she went to the bathroom, and she was just so cute with her little shy smile when she was trying to go. She loved that I was making a big deal out of everything.

Well, after a few days, she was still doing really well--very few accidents, telling me when she needed to go, staying dry even in public--could it be any easier? Wow!

Well, one day I was in the bathroom with her and she went. I said, "Yay! Chloe" and she said, "Cwap." I said "What did you say?" and she repeated, "Cwap. Cwap, mommy!" I couldn't figure out why she was saying a naughty word (although I was thinking she probably learned it from me) and told her we don't say that word and not to say it anymore. Well, every time she went potty she kept saying it, and I kept telling her that we don't say that and to please not say it. She just looked at me really funny and kept saying it.

Until the other day. I realized what she was really saying and I realized why she always looked so confused when I told her not to say that word. She was saying "Clap." Yep. All she wanted was for Mommy to clap for her because she went potty. Can you imagine how low I felt? Here I was telling her I couldn't clap for her because that wasn't a nice word? Once I got it and I clapped my heart out for her, you should have seen her face beam. So proud of herself....and Mommy so proud of her, too.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Hard day.

The last couple days have been really hard. Sometimes I just really hate my calling...it is a little more than I can handle and I don't feel equipped. Don't get me wrong, though. I always feel the help of the Lord and I know I would have already given up a long time ago if it weren't for that help.

In this capacity, I see sides of people's lives that nobody else has the opportunity to see. I know things about people's marriages that I would rather not know. My eyes have been opened to the poverty, both temporal and spiritual, that people experience. I see many people at their very lowest moments. I am here to help them and in so doing it is just a natural byproduct to see their lives in such detail.

Last night I saw something that I hope I will never have to see again. I can't stop thinking about it. It has probably been the biggest challenge I have faced yet as RS President. I have had 2 sisters tell me they were going to commit suicide, I have seen more divorces and separations than I ever thought possible, I have dealt with a sister who cuts herself, I have seen medical issues and trials of health, I have had people yell at me over the phone to tell me I should be released because I am not "doing what my Heavenly Father wants me to do, " I have had a sister be arrested....but until yesterday I have never had to deal with death.

While I was at swimming lessons I got a phone call from Bishop to call him immediately because a family in the ward had lost their daughter. I called him back and found out that the police had called Bishop and needed him to come with them to notify the parents of their daughter's death. Apparently she had been staying with her grandparents and the grandmother left her in the car. We live in Arizona and that poor little girl had no chance. Bishop said he would go with the police and then would call me over.

When I arrived, this sister had known for less than an hour that she would never again see her daughter on this earth. Devastated is an understatement. The paramedics were treating her for hyperventilation and she was throwing up. She is 33 weeks pregnant now and there are deep concerns that this emotional trauma will cause that baby to come early. I honestly did not know what I could do, or even what I should do. What do you do in this situation? I finally just went and held her for a good fifteen minutes and just cried with her. I can't imagine....how do you deal with this? How do you find it in your heart to forgive the person you trusted with your child? How could this happen?

It is just hard for me to have the responsibility to be the one to see this poor mommy right then. We all hear of people who are affected by death somehow...sometimes it even happens to our friends or neighbors. But to be there while the police were still there monitoring the situation...to see the raw emotion....that is something I don't think I will ever be able to forget. We usually see these people when they are a bit more put together and have had time to process the situation. Not that it is easier, but they are ready to face the world.

Man...we just never know when something is going to happen. I came home and just hugged my girls and I didn't want to let them go. Ever.

Today I have felt guilty for being happy and having so much. I am truly blessed. But how can I be so happy when others are suffering so much? I know the answer, so you don't have to tell me...but I have felt a little humbled that my problems are relatively small when I consider what other people have to deal with. In fact...they are miniscule.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Parenting is a comedy show...

Do you ever just want to laugh in your children's faces when they are actually needing discipline instead? I have been blessed with two beautiful little girls who need to spend quite a bit of time in "time-out" and who also crack me up when they are mad or out of control. It is often all I can do to keep a straight face while I put them in time-out....then I have to go in the other room and burst out laughing!

Some recent gems from Neves comedy central:

Bria: Can I have another cookie?
Mom: No. You have already had too many sweets today and you have to eat something good for you.
Bria: {Bursts into dramatic tears and runs from the room}
Mom: {Already laughing at this reaction}
Bria: {Comes back into room a few minutes later, not much calmer than she was when she left. Gives me the dirtiest look can muster, and says} Mommy! You RUINED my feelings!
Mom: {Laughs in her face...couldn't control myself this time.}

Bria: Mom! Chloe hit me!
Mom: Chloe, did you hit Bria? {fully expecting a denial based on past experiences}
Chloe: {Gives me a very stinky face} Two times!
Mom: {Puts Chloe in time out and goes to bedroom to laugh.}

Some background on this next one....I often use the toilet as the time-out chair...it's pretty boring in there so it's hard to be distracted from thinking about the actions that landed them there in the first place.

Mom: Bria, do you need to go potty?
Bria: NO! {dancing and holding herself} I don't have to!!
Mom: I think you do....please go potty.
Bria: No, I'm NOT going to go potty! I don't want to!
Mom: I'll give you a choice then...you can go sit on the toilet and go potty or you can go sit on the toilet in time-out.
Bria: {Bursts into her signature drama queen tears} That's not a choice! That's a MATCH!
Mom: {Puts Bria on the toilet and leaves the bathroom laughing}

I know, these are really mostly "you had to be there" and "you have to know them" kind of moments. But I never thought that parenting could be so funny. Sometimes I feel bad laughing at what is apparently the most distressing moment of my child's life, but they are just too funny! And laughing at them is probably better than yelling....right?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Vacuuming woes

I would like to vacuum my house every day. It certainly needs it! But for some reason this is a virtual impossiblity. I can do my dishes daily, I can do a load of laundry daily, I can make beds daily and everything else that needs to get done on a daily basis. But not vacuuming.

Here's why....by the time I have one room picked up and ready to vacuum the kids have messed up another room, or worse, the phone rings. Then, while I am on the phone dealing with something *usually Relief Society related* the girls mess up the previously cleaned room. This process has been known to happen at my house several times a day. And the vacuuming never gets done. Seriously, I'm down to twice a week if I'm lucky...and that's only if I send Joel out of the house with the kids or lock them in the bathroom.

I've tried to have it all cleaned up and ready to vacuum at night after the girls are in bed, so I can vacuum first thing in the morning. But it never works. In the morning, there are just too many other demands and vacuuming falls by the wayside.

So, if you come to my house and notice crumbs and who knows what else all over my carpet, I apologize in advance. I'm trying. Maybe getting the vacuuming done each day will be my goal for next week...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A little at a time

I am often frustrated at my lack of perfection. I have so many goals and dreams and ideas of what I want to be and how to do it. Because of this, I often get really discouraged, because I am not Superwoman! (Or ElastiGirl...which is what Bria has taken to calling me lately.) I just can't do it all, and sometimes I am more concerned about the things I didn't do than I am the things I did do.

I have a friend who writes her to do list for the day, and at the end of the day writes a completely different list of what she actually did. Maybe I should start doing that, because even if I don't do everything on my daily list, I do some of it. And a lot of other stuff that never even makes it to the list....stuff that is way more important, like kissing owies and changing diapers and cuddling and reading with the kids.

I also have decided to make just one small goal each week....something that's easy for me to do. The hope is that I will have made it into a habit by the end of the week and so when I'm focusing on another small goal, the first will still be in place. I also hope this will help me to feel more productive and less disorganized.

My goal for this week is to read to the kids every single day. So far, I've done it four days in a row. It makes me feel a little better about myself as a mom. Besides, I love reading to them, I just haven't made the time necessary for it recently.

A little at a time, one small goal each week, perfection attained by next year! (At least I'll be closer, right?)

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Just one more thought

I'll make this short. I'm sick of thinking about this subject, but I have one more thing to say...

It is much easier just to serve than it is to actually teach self-reliance. It's much easier to hand someone five dollars than it is to sit down with them and teach them how to budget. It is much easier to clean someone's house for them than it is to teach them how to keep up and how to do it. It is much easier to give a man a fish than it is to take the time to teach him how to fish for himself.

Here's how I know: I can make Bria's bed in less than a minute. Getting her to do it herself, and showing her how to do it correctly takes almost a full half hour every day. And that's not even including all of the complaining and whining I have to listen to before we get down to the task at hand. And then there's all of the dilly-dallying and getting sidetracked involved. I'd much rather take the minute and be done with it, but I don't feel like I can do that with a clear conscience.

Yet another example that the right things are often the hard things. Gotta do those darn hard things in order to experience growth.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

More service and self reliance

Yes, I am going to beat this subject into the ground...

Actually, I first want to say that when I wrote that the other day I was very tired and feeling rather UN-Christlike. I have now repented, and while I still struggle a bit with where to draw the line, I do know that erring on the side of service is the way to go. I try my best to just go and serve without judgment or bad attitude.

But all of my thoughts have led me to thinking of this topic as it relates to parenthood. Maybe what I was trying to say before will be more clear, and maybe I'll understand myself better after putting these thoughts to "computer screen" as well.

Okay, so as a parent, I am here to serve my child in many ways. I cook them dinner (sometimes, I realize Joel does this more often than I do), I do their laundry, I buy them clothes to wear and toys to play with, I concern myself with their educations, I teach them lots of important stuff, and the list could go on and on. But isn't another part of my parenthood to teach my children to function on their own? To develop self reliance? Isn't that the greatest service I can give them? To raise them so that when they leave the nest they are able to make a life for themselves and not need to come running to Mommy because they can't cook their own dinner or balance a checkbook?

In order to help my girls develop self reliance I give them chores. They both have set chores they are to do every day. Now I am the first person to admit that I do not always enforce the doing of said chores, but I honestly try. Because they have these chores, my 2 year old is already capable of loading a dishwasher and my 4 year old can make her bed pretty decently. They can both fold towels, match socks and put their own clothes away. They are both able to pick up the playroom and put toys where they are supposed to go, even though they cheat at this a lot and just put them wherever.

So, what if I were a parent who felt that children shouldn't do chores, because, after all, I am the parent and my sole purpose on this earth is to serve my children? So what if I made the beds every day until the kids are out of the house? Wouldn't I have actually done them a huge disservice when they leave home and discover that they don't know how to make a bed? Or at least they aren't in the habit of doing so, and as a consequence they drive their roommates bonkers because of their messiness? What if I decide I will never make my children help with the laundry? Would they even know to wash the whites, lights, darks and towels seperately? Would they know which temperature to use? Will they ruin all their clothes by putting things in the dryer or turning a favorite white shirt pink because they put it in with something red?

To this I do know the answer! It is a huge disservice to children to do everything for them...they won't learn and will be moochers for the rest of their lives. I don't want my children to be like that, so I make them do what I know they can do for themselves. That will continue to change as they get older, obviously. And every parent will have a slightly different idea of what is important for their own children to know and be able to do. That's okay, as long as we are teaching them to do for themselves.

So, the answers to the questions posed in my last entry are still somewhat ambiguous, but I do think we shouldn't do everything for people. We need to teach them to be self reliant. If they are having financial difficulties, we need to teach them to budget and live within their means while we are giving them the food they need and possibly helping them to pay their rent. We need to teach them how to be successful at finding and keeping employment. Those that expect the Church to clean their house for them need to be taught to do it themselves when possible. And then we serve as best as we can, because we don't have ultimate judgment. But I do think we might be judged if we don't teach self reliance while we are serving.

"Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime." This is the answer. It is just such a fine line, and like I said before, it is always better to just err on the side of service.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Service and Self Reliance

This post is really going to be more of a rant than anything, so I apologize in advance.

I am the Relief Society President in my ward. We are an extremely poor ward, as we are living in the cheapest housing that exists in Arizona, most of us are students and living off of government money and those that aren't are barely on their feet enough to rub two nickels together. When I went to a Stake Leadership meeting they were talking about the correct way to write food orders from the Bishop's Storehouse and I was the only one who had written very many and was pretty competent at it. I do at least 6 in an average month, sometimes more, sometimes less.

So I've been thinking quite a bit about self reliance. I mean, Joel and I are just as poor as everyone else in the ward. Yet we have never had to ask the ward for financial assistance, and I don't even think we are the best example of self reliance, either. But we get by. And I'm not saying that the people who ask don't need the assistance they are receiving or that they shouldn't have it. I'm just wondering what really put them in such a situation in the first place? Was it circumstances beyond their control, or could they have prevented it by making better choices?

I just want to give a couple of examples:

Example #1: Right now there are several families in our ward who are moving for one reason or the other. One family is having to move to another house that is wheelchair accesible (still within the ward boundaries) due to a series of unfortunate events. It is such a long story I don't think I will even attempt it here, but basically the husband is in a rehab center with two broken legs and can't come home until the house is wheelchair ready. He is expected to be in bed/wheelchair for at least six months because of the nature of his injuries. There were other events more than six months ago that started a downward spiral, so that the wife is stretched beyond her limits and can barely function with what is on her plate (an autistic child and another with bipolar disorder, among other things). Having to move came as a big surprise to everyone and the ward really jumped in and helped. There is still much to do, but I feel we have lifted a great burden off of this family's shoulders. I also feel that there is no way in the world they could have done it without our help. I also feel that it was completely appropriate to help, and that our lives were blessed for doing so.

Example #2: Another family who was planning on moving a month ago found that the wife would need to go in for emergency back surgery during the time when she would normally be packing up and moving. She ended up being in a rehab center as well for several weeks and once out could only walk with the aid of a walker. While she was in the hospital, we asked the family multiple times how we could help, but got no response. We brought in a few meals, but that was it. We found that there was a lot of extended family there to pack up the house and move everything. I found out yesterday that they are expecting our Relief Society to clean the house they moved out of almost a month ago. Nobody asked me, these are people who weren't especially active, and yet they expect us to just go and do it for them. Their family has helped enough, they say. After discussing this with my Bishop, we have decided it isn't appropriate at all to help this family and they need to find a way to do it themselves. She does have a perfectly healthy husband and five children. Two of which are teenagers and perfectly capable of cleaning a bathroom. Also, I would have been more willing to help out when they were actually moving and I was calling to find out what we could do. Yet nobody bothered to return my calls, so I was left to assume that they needed no help.

Why do some people take so much advantage of the Church and the willingness of its members to serve? There is even another lady we deal with who is not a member, but thinks the Mormons are just there to serve her. When the missionaries talk to her she is very definitely not interested. Why are the same people the ones who show up to every service project time and time again? Why?

It is such a fine line and a difficult decision to make. When is it appropriate to serve and when are we enabling people by doing so? When is it more appropriate to leave it to them to figure things out for themselves? Sometimes, they really made the mess because of bad decisions, so why should others have to clean it up for them? I got another phone call tonight from a single sister who is being evicted. She has to be packed and out by noon tomorrow. I went and helped her for a little while tonight. Yet, this is her own problem really. Why did she let it get this bad? Why did she ignore notices? Was it appropriate for me to help her tonight? I don't know. I try to think what Christ would do, and sometimes I just don't know. I guess it is best to err on the side of service, but I wonder if I am really doing them a disservice by doing so.

I guess I'll never know the answer. The other thing I'll never know is where all the people are to clean my house this week since I've been cleaning everyone else's but my own. Do you think I could arrange something?