Overstuffed: 2006 Overstuffed

Sunday, December 31, 2006

My neurosis
(because everyone is allowed at least one)

When I was about 7 or 8 years old, my grandmother gave me a beautiful porcelain doll for Christmas. She was old-fashioned looking, with a brown straw hat, a tan and brown calico pinafore, silver blond hair and the daintiest features painted on her face.

I loved her so much I insisted on taking her everywhere with me for a while. One day, while at the mall with my mom, I realized her hat was missing. I was incredibly upset. I cried and cried as we retraced our steps through the mall. I was flooded with relief when I saw that someone had hung the hat on a sales sign.

Another time, when I was in 4th grade, I had a beautiful bracelet I had gotten from a vendor on the side of the road while driving through Arizona. It was purple rocks with sliver links and it was gorgeous. I treated it as if it were worth thousands of dollars, never wearing it to school and storing it in my locked jewelry box at all times.

Well, one day, I decided to take it to school for show and tell. I must have dropped it while walking to school, because I realized it wasn't there at lunchtime. I became quite hysterical and walked back home, carefully looking in every nook and cranny, and not finding it. Finally I ran screaming into my house (did I mention I was hysterical?) only to find that my mom wasn't home. But, a neighbor that had seen and heard me called and offered to help me. Unfortunately, that bracelet was never found and in all my drives through Arizona since I have been tempted to stop and buy one, but Joel never lets me.

I have lost many, many things since the hat and the bracelet. Some of them I have found, some remain missing to this day. One thing has never changed, though. I freak out whenever something is gone. It has taken me years to come to the realization that things can always be replaced (most of the time anyway) and when something goes missing it is never the life altering event I make it out to be. At least, I understand that it is never a big deal...but I still act like it's the worst thing that ever happened to me.

We just returned from spending a lovely Christmas in Seattle with my brother and his family. My parents and another brother and us all went up and had a wonderful time together. On Christmas morning we discovered that the girls' suitcase was gone. I was freaking out inside, but trying not to show it as airports and neighbors back home were called to see if it could be found. Well it was. It had been left at the Seattle airport because we all had so much luggage we just missed that one. All was right with the world, and the only real disaster that came from that was Chloe's moment of screaming because she had to wear her cousin's hot wheel underwear.

The trip home was interesting, to say the least. We were originally scheduled to fly through Denver, but were diverted in the end through LA because of the storms there. They got us on the LA flight at the very last second, and when I put Sophia's car seat by the door to be loaded on the plane, apparently nobody put it on.

We discovered it was missing in LA when it never came off the plane. I freaked out, as usual. I mean, we could lose anything, but the whole reason I don't check carseats is because I don't want to lose them. They are the most important baggage in my mind (besides the baby herself, that is). We made phone calls and never really got anywhere. When we arrived in Salt Lake we put a claim for it, but I am skeptical they will ever find it. If they do, they'll ship it to us, if they don't they'll buy us a new one. They loaned us one that must be about 10 years old to use in the mean time. I said to heck with that and we are using my nephew's seat that he just grew out of.

In the end, it all works out. But still, I was so upset (and still am) that I can't even think rationally. But, life goes on. At least, I hope it will go on without the adorable car seat I bought for Sophia. Please tell me it does.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Set your Tivos now folks!

My mom is gonna be famous!

If you have BYU television and you want to start an exercise regimen, you are in luck! My mother, aerobicizer and yogi extraordinaire, is the star of BYU TV's new show, "Total Body Workout." It will debut January 22, 2007.

When you workout with her, you will not believe that she is the 50 something mother of four and grandmother of seven. She will literally kick your butt. I wish I had this channel. For fellow Utahans it is supposed to be aired on KBYU, but so far has not shown up in their line up. We will see.

My buff, former BYU football player brother, Nate, will also be featured in several of the workout episodes. Look for the cute (but huge) redhead who has to make a run for his money to keep up with his mom.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Blessings: Version 2006

Every year at Christmas time, as I am trying to "balance the budget," I begin to reflect on the many blessings we have received in the past year. It never fails that I can see that the windows of heaven have truly been pouring down upon us due to our commitment to paying tithing.

In my 2005 version of this post, I named the many unexpected little windfalls we received during lean times. This year, it hasn't quite worked out like that, but we have been very blessed nonetheless.

The first blessing came in the form of a job for Joel. It wasn't the job we thought it would be, and financially it was not the job we really needed. Yet, we knew it was the right one. It has been wonderful living here in Cedar City, and we have felt peace in knowing we did what the Lord planned for us to do. It takes a great amount of faith to take a job you know won't cover all of your living expenses. We had to buy a new minvan, and while we got an incredible deal on it (second blessing) and help financing it (third blessing), we knew it would be difficult to cover the payment.

We decided if I could get enough voice students to pay the car payment that we'd be okay. What happened instead is a true miracle, if you ask me. As you know, Joel came a few weeks before I did and moved into our place. I followed with the kids. I had been in town only about 4 days when I was contacted by Southern Utah University about teaching voice lessons there as adjunct faculty. When I got everything squared away and signed my contract, I was making enough to cover the car payment, with just a little to spare. Guess what that little to spare was? Tithing.

Joel was also given an adjunct position at SUU, and while we didn't realize it at the time, we also desperately needed that money and it helped us to make ends meet.

The blessings don't stop there. Of course, neither do the financial obligations. All of the wonderful student loans we racked up while in school came due this month. The payment is almost as much as our car payment. We were able to find the money for our December payment (due to a bonus Joel was given from the school district. Yet another blessing) but I was worried about subsequent months. We fasted and prayed that we would be able to find the financial means to do it.

And guess what? We did. Two days after that fast Sunday I went to a party at my Sister in Law's home. One of her friends that came is the vice principal of a high school for performing arts that is located in St. George (about 45 minutes away). It came up that I sing and teach lessons. She asked me if I would be interested in driving down there once a week to teach at her school because she had several students who desperately needed lessons and she had not been able to find them a teacher. We worked out some details, and after speaking with her last night, I know I have at least 6 students down there. I have also found a few local students due to a presentation I was able to do in the drama class at the high school where Joel teaches. These will more than pay our student loan, and make up for the students that won't be continuing at SUU. As much as I don't like the time spent away from my children, I realize that the Lord is blessing us greatly.

On top of all of this, I feel like I am being a better steward of the money we have been given. I have been forced to learn how to be as frugal as possible in feeding my family, decorating my home and entertaining ourselves. I have learned a lot and am happier than I have been in a long time. It's almost as if I have released myself from "needing" things that I see others have. Things that really don't matter in the long run. Things that don't really make you happy.

Blessings aren't always material. My husband, my three beautiful children, the Gospel, the Savior and all the love that they bring to my life...those are the best blessings.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Holiday Reminiscing


A few months ago I was trying to search for one of my own blog entries. I knew that it was about Romania, I knew I (Lara) had written it and it seems like there was one other search term I entered. Well, a blog that is titled "Lara's Welt" (That's Lara's World in German, FYI) came up.

I was intrigued, so I clicked on the link and began looking at a photoblog of Romania. Lara, the blog's author, lives in Ploieşti. Ploieşti is very dear to my heart as that is where I spent the bulk of my time in Romania as an LDS missionary. It has been so fun to check her blog every day and see how much Romania in general, and Ploieşti specifically, has changed in ten years.

Because of this blog, I've been thinking quite a bit about the one Christmas I spent in Romania. Christmas 1996 in Ploieşti. (Pronounced Ploy-esht.)

To be honest, this year I haven't felt much in the Christmas Spirit. I'm not really sure why. It could be because we are very lacking on fundage and it is hard to find things for the kids that we can afford. But I know that is probably not it...after all, they're still getting a wonderful Christmas and I've learned how to stretch a dollar further than I ever have before. It could be because it's our first Christmas season here in Cedar City and I don't really have many friends yet. I actually think the biggest reason is the stress I've found myself under...a newborn baby, two other children, trying to make ends meet, Joel working 3 jobs and not being around much, having to work myself (which I enjoy, it's just the time spent doing it that gets me) and so on and so forth. No matter the reason, the Christmas Spirit has just plain been elusive for me this year.

And so my thoughts have turned to the times I have felt the Spirit of Christmas. And one of those times was my Christmas as a missionary. This was definitely one year that I didn't worry about what I would receive at all, and Christmas was all about what I could give. One day we were at a member's home...Sora Clucerescu. She insisted on giving us a ton of holiday baked goods she had made. Much more than we could ever eat. The next house we visited was an invetigator, Elena, and she not only gave us more baked goods, but several pounds of meat and a huge bag of flour. We tried to explain that we couldn't possibly take all of her food and that as missionaries we are well taken care of, but she wouldn't hear it. So, we were loaded down with food that we knew we wouldn't be able to use. So we decided to give it away. We gave cookies and cakes to people waiting at the bus stops. Dreary faces turned to surprised smiles and merry Christmas wishes. We gave the flour and some of the meat to another family we knew who didn't have much. More meat went to another friend. Finally we were left with a cake and we were tired and it was time to go home. We hailed a cab, driven by Romania's grumpiest taxi driver. He was not happy that he had to take us all the way across town, but did anyway. As good missionaries, we tried hard to strike up interesting conversation with him, but he wasn't having any of it. Finally, when he dropped us off at home, we handed him the cake and wished him a Merry Christmas. His whole demeanor changed and we knew that he was genuinely grateful and his day had been brightened by our gift.

Another thing we enjoyed doing was giving away gloves. My companion, Sora Osborn, had written home earlier and expressed her sadness at the many children we met who did not even have gloves in the cold winter. About a month later, she received a package from her mother containing ten pair of gloves. I really don't remember who we gave them all to, but it was a magical experience for us to see that something so simple as gloves could make people so happy.

Finally, on Christmas morning, Sora Osborn, I and the Elders went to a family who was very dear to us. They lived in a tiny house with dirt floors way on the edge of town. They had nothing. We had bought each of the two children a small gift and brought some breakfast. The little girl, Elena, received a Barbie doll which she promptly named "Sora Preston" (that's me), and her brother Ştefan received a toy airplane. After breakfast we went sledding down their long, snow filled, deserted street. It just brought me so much more joy to help make the Christmas of these children wonderful than it would have to receive some great gift myself.

There are so many more, the caroling with the Church youth (pictured), learning the Romanian Christmas traditions like the whip and the goat dancing in the streets. Eating sarmale three different times on Christmas day because of all the many dinner invitations we received. It was truly a joyous Christmas.

And so, I hope that I can find that gift within myself again this year. We already chose a needy 3 year old girl off of the angel tree and spent Family Home Evening this week picking out her gifts. And it did awaken a little spark of Christmas Cheer within me. Now I just need to fan that flame.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

New look

Well, after having blogged for more than a year and a half, I finally decided to be hip. In the "blogosphere" that means having my own header, and my own look. Of course, I can't do these things by myself, which is why I never bothered before. Hilary is always willing to help me, however, and so I thank her for my blog makeover. Ain't it purty?

I think so.

You'll also notice that the sidebars are much more hip. I have now labeled all of my posts and you can see those labels on the side. So if you wanted to read all my posts about Bria, you just click on that particular link. You'll also notice over the next weeks that I will update my links more often so you won't think that I have been reading Harry Potter 6 for over a year. Especially since that particular book I finished in a day. A year and a half ago.

Enjoy the fresh look, and visit more often!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Paranoid

So, it snowed today. We weren't home when it finally started to stick and the girls were so excited to go out and play in it a little bit before we went home. They weren't wearing gloves though, so their hands got pretty cold.

When we got into the car Chloe started getting upset about how cold her hands were. She was worried that they were going to turn into ice cubes. But when I say worried, what I really mean is freaked out paranoid crazy screaming worried. When she first said it I sort of brushed her off and told her her hands would warm up just fine because we had the heat on, and that next time she played in the snow we'd remember to put her gloves on.

Yet, she seriously had a conniption fit.

BUT I DIDN'T BRING MY GLOVES AND MY HANDS ARE GOING TO TURN INTO ICE CUBES NOW! THEY REALLY ARE MOMMY! THEY ARE NOT GOING TO BE WARM IN THE CAR!

Okay. How about you just sit on your hands. You know, put them under your bottom and they can warm up that way.

OKAAAAAAY. (Tries to sit on her hands.) MOOOOOOMMMMMMMEEEEEE! I CAN'T DO IT! MY SEAT BELT IS IN THE WAY!!! OH, NEVER MIND, I CAAAAAAAAAAAN.

So, we were saved from the curse of ice cube hands. Until we got home. Then she refused to get out of the car because her hands weren't warm enough yet and it was going to take a really long time so she needed to stay in the car for a while. I explained to her that it was going to get too cold in the car now and why didn't she just come in the house and sit by the fire. Luckily she thought that was a great idea.

She ran into the house clutching her bottom. Hurried and sat in her Barney chair, hands firmly under her seat, while I turned on the fire.

She wouldn't even come eat a cookie in the kitchen since it would require her to move from her very important position. She asked Bria to feed it to her.

And when it was time to go to bed, she made Joel carry her, never moving her hands from her derriere. Climbed into bed that way, prayed that way, gave good night kisses that way. The last thing she said to me was, "I will put gloves on as soon as I wake up, Mommy. Then my hands won't be ice cubes anymore."

And the best part? She never got out of bed once tonight.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Relax, Baby!

When I'm walking the floor, trying to get Sophia to go to sleep, I often feel like taking back everything I've ever said about her being a good, easy baby. And, since she is only 4 months old, I find myself in this position several times a day.

The more aware she has become of her surroundings, the harder it has been for her to just relax when she is tired. And so she fusses. And fusses. And rubs her eyes, takes out her binkie, smiles, and then fusses some more.

I have had to be incredibly creative to get her to go to sleep and to save my sanity. Sometimes walking the floor, holding her upright and facing outward, and singing primary songs works like a charm. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes sticking her binkie in her mouth and bouncing her on my knee works really well. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes I can nurse her to sleep, but usually she just gets mad if I try to feed her when she's tired. Her swing doesn't work at all. Not anymore, anyway. She just gets really stiff and turns bright red before she screams to be taken out.

Last week she started getting tired-fussy while I was on the computer reading blogs. I was reading a blog that had some rock music on it and she calmed right down. When the song was over, she started getting worked up again, so I played it again. Calm. I thought to myself, maybe I have found the magic trick to get this child to sleep! Sure enough, after about 4 or 5 playings she was sound asleep. This tactic worked for me about six times in a row (so for about a day and a half) before she got smart and started fussing even more when she heard that song. I guess it's a good thing...I'm not sure how I felt about having a song that was on the harder-rock side be a lullaby for her. But, it sent me back to the drawing board anyway.

Sometimes I am so tired when she does this I cannot stand up anymore. So the other night I piled 5 or 6 pillows on my bed and so I could sit comfortably upright. I stood Sophia up against my chest and patted her back and wearily sang to her. She fussed and fussed and I sang and sang. After about 45 minutes that seemed like 5 hours she finally let herself go to sleep.

Today I had to take a shower. And I only had a small window of time that I could fit it in. Just so happened that she was fussy and wanting to sleep during that time. I tried walking with her and bouncing and singing and all the old tricks and it wasn't working quickly enough for me. So, I finally put her in her carseat (since I knew we'd be leaving soon), buckled her in and snuggled her in her blankie. I set her in the doorway of the bathroom, screaming at me for daring to put her down. I turned on the bathroom fan and got into the shower. Guess who was fast asleep when I got out? I won't overuse this trick though...I'll save it only for the dire times.

I don't remember my other girls being this difficult to get to sleep. I guess Bria was a little bit...but if I could just get her to close her eyes I was home free. So I would take her for walks in the bright sun. Worked fabulously every single time. Sophia just plain doesn't let herself relax, eyes closed or not. I'll feel her start to calm down and then she remembers: No! I can't miss a single thing that goes on! I cannot fall asleep. Then she gets mad.

But sometimes, in the midst of all of this she'll look at me and give me the biggest grin she can muster. You can't be frustrated with me, Mommy. I'm just too cute and you love me too much.

And she's right. I guess I won't take back everything I said about her being a good, easy baby.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sneak Peek


I've had to sit on my hands all day to keep from posting my Christmas Card. You're all going to get it in the mail soon enough and I don't want to spoil the surprise.

But I AM IN LOVE WITH IT.

I had a vision in my brain. Took the pictures. They rock, if I do say so myself. But then I needed my fabulous friend Hilary to help me with the rest since I am but a poor church mouse who can't afford Photoshop. And she just made my original vision rock that much more.

So, if you're on my mailing list, keep an eye out for it. Of course, I still need to tie Joel to the computer to write this year's letter. But it will be all sent soon enough. And I know you'll love it as much as I do.

For now, here is my second favorite picture. The one that didn't quite make the cut. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Something to remember when she's a teenager who hates me

Chloe never talks to me more than when we are driving to and from preschool. I think it is because Bria isn't there and she can actually say what she thinks without being constantly interrupted or corrected by her older sister. And, I'm a captive audience. Can't be too busy cleaning or feeding the baby while I'm just driving.

The other day on the way home from preschool, she melted my heart:

Mommy, I sink* I love you. Yep. I do. I love you on Tuesday. And I love you on Fursday*. And I love you on Saturday. And I love you at school time. And I love you last week. And I love you at church time. I just sink* I love you a lot!!

*Chloe can't pronounce her th sounds. It's so adorable.

Friday, November 17, 2006

On task

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

At group violin lessons on Wednesday, the teacher asked all of the kids when they practiced. Nobody seemed to know, including my kids. She emphasized the importance of practice, said that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something and practicing ten minutes a day sometimes just isn't going to cut it. She told us that we all needed to have a time set aside for practicing each day. The same time each day, that is.

In the car on the way home I talked to Bria about practicing. It is often an issue at our house, as I am sure it is in many other houses. After hearing the teacher talk about it I realized it is my fault. A set time every day is wonderful, because you just know that is when you are going to play violin and there isn't any dragging away from other activities or (more likely) forgetting. The tantrums should subside and practicing should become a much more pleasant experience. We decided that waiting till after school or after dinner wasn't really working for us. We weren't practicing daily, and when we did practice, it wasn't nearly long enough.

So we are now practicing before school. That actually sounded really good to Bria because she likes to have fun when she comes home and I am usually really preoccupied with a million other things such as getting dinner ready, feeding the baby and keeping the peace. Luckilly, school doesn't start for her until 8:55 am and we live so close to the school that we don't really have to leave very early, especially if we drive.

Yesterday morning everything went quite smoothly, we practiced for 45 minutes, learned most of her new Christmas songs and got to school in time, even though I had to take her in my pajamas. And she did it happily. So happily that she even got her violin right out and played on her own volition when she came home from school. Added another half hour probably to her practice for the day.

But all that's just background for what I really wanted to talk about. This morning. Today Bria got up a little after 6:oo am. She got herself dressed...just came in to my room to ask if her outfit matched. She did her own hair in a ponytail. Just asked me to fix it a little bit. She got herself breakfast, and even got a bowl of cereal ready for Chloe. It was mushy by the time Chloe woke up to eat it, but still. The kid cut out box tops for education off the cereal boxes and got them all ready to take with her to school. She brushed her teeth, got her shoes and socks on and even put her glasses on, all three of which I usually have to remind her to do. Then, still before 7:00 she got out her violin and started practicing. I came out to help her a little later, played the piano for her until around 8:00 and then I had to get ready since I worked this morning. She played and played until it was time to go. That's almost two hours of violin practice, folks. She only got annoyed (mad) at me once for correcting her fingering, and as it turns out, her fingering was actually correct. I realized it wasn't sounding right because her E string had gone way flat. Probably from practicing so much. After I re-tuned for her, all was well...she played every song she knows more than once and worked on learning her new Christmas ones.

All I have to say is WOW. I hope this lasts.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Just a jumble of thoughts

On Wednesday afternoon, while I was teaching my voice lessons at SUU, I found out that one of my students had taken her own life and was discovered the night before. Of course, this shocked and saddened me greatly and I have not been able to get it out of my mind since. I've heard of people committing suicide, but I have never had it happen to someone with whom I interacted on a regular basis.

My first thoughts were about how incredibly selfish it is to kill one's self. What about the roommate that discovers the body? What about parents, friends and loved ones? What about all of the many things that can be done for others instead of being so concerned about personal well-being?

But then I started to think about how that might not necessarily be the case. I have no idea what a horrible, dark place a person would have to be in to disregard the feelings of those that love them in such a way. I cannot imagine what kinds of emotions and experiences would lead to such an act of desperation. I can't fathom a single event that would make a person decide that the only solution is to end it all. And while I'm glad I don't know, I am upset to know that someone somewhat close to me did understand and feel these things. We just can't judge.

Which leads me to wonder if anything I did or didn't do as her teacher may have contributed. Logically, I know it probably didn't. I was her teacher, and my assignment was to teach her to sing well, and that's what I did. I try not to get involved in the personal lives of my students, as that is inappropriate. I know I did my job well with her...she had improved much in just the 2 months I'd been working with her. She seemed happy and excited about her progress. Although I was aware of some of her self image issues because I require my students to look in the mirror a lot, I didn't focus on them or feel it was my place to help her. I hope I made the right decision. I did care about her well-being and I hope she knew that. I thought she was a wonderful person and I truly enjoyed working with her.

And now every time I look at one of my own children I think of her poor parents. The questions they must be asking themselves. Or maybe they were more aware of things and it didn't come as a surprise. I just don't know. But I look at my baby and think of how my student was once a tiny, helpless baby. One that her parents loved and cared for. They had dreams for her, just as I do for all my children.

I want to do all I can to make sure my children are happy, well-adjusted people. To cultivate a self-worth within them that no outside influences can shatter. I want them to know that they are special...that they have so much to offer and that their small actions can go far to change the world. I wonder if I'm doing a very good job of it. I wonder how much I really can do and what I just have to leave up to them to do. I love them so much and really, my main goals in this life are to see them be happy and successful individuals. To help them to reach any goal they might have.

I apologize for the somewhat dreary post today...this experience has affected me quite a bit. I haven't yet been able to go about my life normally, not thinking of her and many of the details of the situation. Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

All Hallow's Eve

First we carved our pumpkins in the half hour of time Joel had between Bria getting home from school and running to teach the Jazz Band at SUU.

Chloe didn't want hers carved...she just wanted to draw a face on it and leave it at that. Good thing, since her pumpkin was moldy anyway. She got it at the pumpkin patch 3 weeks earlier during her preschool field trip.

Then we got costumes on and headed to the trunk or treat/Church Halloween carnival.

Sophia was a baby pumpkin. An adorable one at that.

Bria was a freckled fairy. She said she was the tooth fairy since she has no teeth. :)

And Chloe was a witch...a very cranky one. This is one of the few pictures in which she looks pleasant...oh well...that's what witches do. They scowl.

Hope you all had a Happy Halloween!!!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Artist in training



So, as I mentioned in my last entry (which seems like a year ago...sorry for the blog neglect!), Chloe loves to draw. It isn't just a small daily activity that she grows quickly tired of doing, either. The child draws all day long. All. Day. Long.

There is paper with her artwork strewn all over the living room, her "art" table, her bedroom and the car at all times. I am fairly sure she is doing her part in contributing to the extinction of the tropical rain forests. She mostly likes to use computer paper, even though I try to steer her to the 8 packages of leftover notebook paper I have from college (Joel wouldn't use it...now Chloe won't). Not only does she insist on blank paper with no "stripes," she usually has to fold it up in quarters and staple (she says stapple) it together. Along with the paper mess everywhere there are markers, pens and crayons all over the place, too.

The picture you see up there is one she drew today of a butterfly and a cat(erpillar). Yep, she thought of that all on her own. And I promise that she's only three and a half. I also promise that she did all this work on her own...no help from me at all. You can see that she also wrote her name. The thing with her name, is that she refuses to write the letters in the correct order. In fact, she likes variety, so some days she is CHLEO, other times she is OLCHE, and she has even been HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit). Sometimes she actually does put them in the right order, and other times she chooses to leave out some letters...as in above, she didn't want to draw the L. I guess it has to remain artistic...can't be the same old boring name all the time.

I've realized that she has immense talent...realized that a long time ago when she was barely 18 months old and drawing tiny little circles everywhere (including her legs and arms) all the time. (You can see an example/scrapbook layout of this by clicking here) So I've started to help her along with this gift she has, to train her, you could say. I noticed that she would occasionally ask me to draw things for her, like a cat or a house. Then, she would go on a cat kick, or a house kick...and her pictures would be a pretty good version of mine, eventually. So I started to just draw more difficult pictures for her and watch what happens. I only started this in the last few days, but she is already drawing some of those things, and quite well.

Bria still draws a few things better than Chloe, but Chloe is actually a much better artist. Especially if you compare Bria's 3 year old work to Chloe's. That's okay though, Bria has her own gifts and talents...like music. They had a violin concert the other night and Bria did an amazing job playing (it was a group concert...kind of like an orchestra). Chloe, on the other hand, stood there picking her nose, scratching her behind and watching everyone else play. She didn't even bring her violin out of rest position. Bria may be the musician, but Chloe's the Artista around the Neves home.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The cleaning fairy

As a little girl, whenever I had a friend sleepover, I used to do something very odd. At least, I think it's odd...you'll have to tell me if you ever did this yourself. At some point during the middle of the night we would sneak downstairs to the kitchen. That, in itself, is not the least bit odd, as I'm sure many little girls and their friends snuck a midnight snack during a slumber party. But we weren't sneaking down for food...we were sneaking down to do crazy things like clean out the cupboards and the refrigerator, mop the floors, do the dishes, and scrub the sink.

We would always leave a little note for my mom from "the cleaning fairies" and we thought she would never know it was us. I'm rather sure my mom looked forward to my slumber parties since she knew she'd be getting a sparkly clean kitchen out of the deal. I have no idea why we thought that was so fun. Perhaps it was because we didn't have to clean kitchens on a regular basis (believe me, I don't get such a kick out of it nowadays), or maybe we were just high on the joy of service. Whatever it was, we did it every single time I had a slumber party. I have to believe that I was somehow the instigator of this midnight cleaning ritual because I did it when Emily slept over, whenever Laura Lee spent the night, and Janel, and Kristin, and probably Bonnie too.

This week has been a bit crazy due to Bria's illness. I haven't gotten much cleaning done, and it doesn't help that she got sick while we were out of town, so I had all the unpacking and such that arriving home from a weekend trip entails. I also have a hard time functioning properly in chaos....when I'm pregnant I don't function anyway, so chaos is to be expected. But normally, if the house is in disarray, I don't do well.

So, I resurrected the cleaning fairy. The girls' room looked a bit like a tornado went through there and every time I asked them to clean it up they didn't get very far. I know they get overwhelmed when we don't keep up (I mean, who doesn't? I certainly do.) so I thought I'd do them a big favor and clean it up while they were asleep. So, around midnight, I crept in and sorted toys, put away books, threw away a ream of artwork done by Chloe (must blog about this child and her art obsession), folded clothes, straightened the dresser and made sure the room was ready to be vacuumed the next morning.

The girls woke up earlier than I did and within a half hour they totally ruined the cleaning fairy's work. So much for that. I guess I can only hope that someday when they have a friend spend the night the cleaning fairy will take root in their hearts and they will surprise me with a magically cleaned kitchen in the morning. The only problem is that I have a "no sleepover" policy...makes me wonder if I should rethink that.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

When it rains....it snows.

Joel woke me up at 6:00 this morning to tell me it was snowing. When I finally woke up and looked outside there was probably a good 6-7 inches on the ground. Pretty crazy stuff in the middle of October...even for Utah! Joel says he felt the "feeling of snow" in the air a couple days ago...he's pretty proud of the fact that he predicted it would snow and wasn't surprised at all to see it this morning.

Speaking of a couple days ago...the last several days have been difficult. We were in Orem over the weekend where Bria celebrated her 6th birthday on Friday (Happy Birthday Baby Girl!!) and then she started a high fever/loss of appetite on Saturday night. She's been totally lethargic ever since. It is now Tuesday night (well...actually Wednesday morning) and she has still not eaten a thing. She has existed on water and juice for the past several days. Her fever has not gone away, and she just lays there and doesn't talk much. If you know Bria, you know that this is rather alarming.

I took her to the pediatrician both yesterday morning and this morning. They ruled out strep, bronchitis and pneumonia and thought it might be appendicitis, but weren't confident enough to take any action. Just told me to watch her for another 24 hours. Well...this afternoon her fever climbed again to over 103 degrees and she was literally screaming about the pain in her abdomen.

It was a real struggle to me to decide to take her to the ER...mainly because the pediatrician really didn't think this was anything serious, and I didn't want to overreact. I didn't want to show up at the ER and have it be nothing really. But...I felt strongly that something was definitely not right. I knew we wouldn't get to the bottom of it unless we took her into the ER. Joel agreed. So tonight we went in. (And, as a sidenote to all my Arizona buddies: we were taken back to triage less than FIVE minutes after walking into emergency.)

Turns out the poor child actually does have pneumonia. Something the pediatrician had earlier ruled out. The abdominal pain was actually originating in her lower lung and causing some distress to her diaphragm. So, we're set now with antibiotics, a nebulizer and instructions. Hopefully we will see some improvement soon.

Just goes to show, trust your instincts. As a mother I knew something was really wrong with Bria and I feel bad that I didn't push it harder with the doctor this morning. I will next time, that's for sure. I have learned my lesson: Mother knows best. And I am just as proud of that fact as Joel is about the fact that he knew it would snow today.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Home Decorating 101

It's been really fun for me to have home decorating projects again. I think after the first year in Arizona I just gave up on the place. I made it look as good as I could and decided I wasn't going to waste resources on it anymore. (I am sure that those of you who lived on base with me will agree there's not much to be done in those old houses!) So, here are a few of the things I've done lately, although I only have pictures of one project.

Furniture: I inherited my grandmother's old dinette set and hutch. The first line of business was to give them a makeover. It is pretty old and the paint was chipping a bit, and some of the chairs were discolored (I assume because of where they were in relationship to windows) and most of the seats were stained.

Project: It took me several weeks, but I found the perfect fabric to recover the chairs in. I also added the plastic stuff so they are easy to keep clean. I spray painted everything black. The hutch was a huge annoyance to do...I'm thinking I'm never painting a hutch again. Ever. But, I do love the end result. These are the before and after pictures of my chairs. Today I plan to use the extra fabric from covering them to make a valance for the dining area window.

I bought a great rooster tureen off of eBay that is the perfect centerpiece for my "new" black table. (I collect roosters, and most of them live in the kitchen. That is the reason the fabric colors go so beautifully...they match all the rooster feathers!) Got a picture of it off the eBay website so y'all can see that, too:


Furniture: Entertainment Center. I finally got rid of my rundown entertainment center in Arizona. Here, I found a great piece of furniture at DI for 25 dollars. It's a tall shelf (perfect since we have vaulted ceilings in the living room and I needed the height) and I thought that our TV would fit perfectly in it. Wasn't sure, so I went home and measured and came back the next day with my measuring tape. Perfect was right...seriously, there is barely space on each side and it fits exactly front to back. And, to top it off, DI had lowered the price to 15 dollars!

Project: I will admit, it didn't look like that great of a shelf. It was filthy and scratched. But, with a little cleaning up and shellacking it looks like I might have purchased it at Pier 1. Now I just need to buy some more IKEA DVD basket holder thingies (I had one already). But, alas, IKEA does not sell this particular item online, only in the stores. Hopefully my mom can pick up some for me while she's in Seattle in a couple weeks. Then it will be perfect and all our DVD/Videos will be nice and hidden. I am also going to paint our CD holder things a darker color to match the wood. One stands on either side of the shelf to make it look more substantial.

Furniture: Dresser for our room. I finally found a good one at DI...25 dollars this time. Gave Sophia the one Joel had been using (it's a dresser bought at a garage sale when I was pregnant with Bria. It was fixed up for her arrival in the first place, and is perfect for a baby's room).

Project: Haven't started yet. This will be something I do this month though, slowly but surely. The dresser is UGLY. Someone painted the drawers the ugliest tan color imaginable, and the rest of it is painted dark brown. The pulls are hideous. But, it's sturdy, in great condition and made of solid wood. I'm going to strip it and stain (not paint) it black. Get some fancy pulls that I like and I think it will turn out beautifully. Going to have to do this one drawer at a time, and then get the whole dresser after that.

Fun stuff. It's kept me busy, but my creative juices are being all used up here and I haven't done much scrapping. Ah well, I'll have a much nicer looking house to scrap in soon enough.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

They should all be models...

I haven't gotten my camera out much lately...really sad. For Sophia especially. Her first two months are woefully undocumented. But the other day, I decided to do a full blown photo shoot of all three girls (together and separate). These are my best shots of the day:



This is my favorite of Sophia...isn't she gorgeous??? (Just ignore the big black spot on her arm...my scanner is filthy.)


Also love this one. She really liked the camera. Everytime I brought it up to my face she'd start smiling and cooing at it. (Now the black spot is on her shirt. I really should clean the thing.)


Here's Beautiful Bria. She kind of looks like a vampire since she's missing her two front teeth, but she's still adorable.


And Chloe....the scan doesn't really do this picture justice. Got some great catchlights here that you can't see.


And this one...again the scan isn't doing it justice. Aren't they the cutest girls you ever did see?

I am so blessed to have them.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

It's like Christmastime in Arizona
(and I think I might die from the cold...)

Fall has officially arrived here in Cedar City. I love fall. It is my very favorite season. I love the crisp chill in the air, the vivid blue of the sky, the turning of the leaves, the smells...everything. It was something I sorely missed while living in Arizona. Fall never really came there...the crisp chill would sort of arrive by mid-December and possibly stay till the end of February, but that's it. In September it's still 100 degrees there! I'm still getting the playgroup emails from my AZ crowd and I can't believe they're doing things like playing in the sprinklers at the zoo! I can't comprehend anymore, because I'M FREEZING TO DEATH!

It was colder here yesterday than it ever gets in Arizona, except on very rare occasions. (It did snow in Phoenix in March, so I shouldn't say never...) Anyway, it's only going to get colder, and I DON'T HAVE ANY APPROPRIATE CLOTHING! I've lived in capris and tee shirts for the past 3 years. To make matters worse, I don't quite fit into the jeans and long pants I do have yet. So I have two choices: Go on a major crash diet or spend a fortune on warm clothing.

But for now I am just going to go get in my flannel PJ's and snuggle with Sophia in my nice warm bed...I can always make that decision tomorrow.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Just trying not to get hit

Sometimes I feel like my life is a game of dodgeball, and I am the one standing in the middle of the circle. The problem is, there are so many balls constantly coming at me that it is often difficult to stay in the game. I'm lucky if I can catch a couple of the balls, and even luckier if I make it through a day without getting hit.

So many things to be thinking about and doing. Eat right. Exercise. Read scriptures. Feed 3 kids. Clothe 3 kids. Keep 3 kids clean, happy, and obedient. Referee arguments. Make dinner. Make lunch. Make breakfast. Wake up in the morning (a super difficult task when a newborn is thrown into the mix). Take kids to doctor and dentist. Scrapbook. Paint furniture. Clean toilets. Make beds. Drink enough water. Pick up toys. Supervise chores. Take shower. Brush teeth. Make sure children brush teeth. Mop floor. Unpack last boxes. Plan voice lessons. Take vitamins. Teach voice lessons. Help Bria with homework. Read to kids. Play with baby. Vacuum. Fold laundry. Grocery shopping. Feed Baby Sophia at 2 a.m. Take DVD's back so we don't get a fine. Spend time with hubby. Plan Family Home Evening. Be ready for all those unexpected balls that are thrown at me (like getting a phone call from Bria's teacher while at the Doctor's office with the baby who has thrush. Her shoe had broken and I needed to bring her a different pair). Take Chloe to preschool. Pick her up. Clip coupons. Practice violin with girls. Balance checkbook. Pay bills. Have a social life. Are you tired yet? I am, and I still haven't even been given a church calling!

Oh. And Blog...

On my blog that is titled "overstuffed."

There's a reason for that.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

But thanks for the memories

I admit it, I am something of a packrat. I don't like being this way, but it is incredibly hard for me to get rid of things. I prefer to think of it as sentimentality. Yet, the longer I live, the more I see how important it is to rid ourselves of clutter--mental as well as physical. In fact, I have found that I function much better mentally and spiritually when my physical surroundings are free of chaos.

But still, the clutter has a way of building up. If you don't do Flylady's "27 fling boogie" daily (which I don't), then stuff just multiplies until it takes over your life. While packing to move from Arizona to Utah in the last two months I really tried to get rid of unneeded things. I must have driven 4 or 5 fairly large loads of books, clothes, toys and other things to DI before I moved. Yet I still must apologize to the men who loaded the truck for me: I've continued to get rid of things as I unpack them. I could have saved them from having to load at least 5 boxes worth of stuff if I'd only gotten rid of it when I was still in Arizona.

Last week I dropped a huge load off at the DI here in Cedar City. A few days after that we went to DI to look for a dresser. (We are desperately in need of a new one as the baby's clothes are currently sitting in a box in her room). We didn't find a dresser, but we did see many of the things I had donated beforehand. Mostly stuffed animals. Now, I honestly tried to cut down the stuffed animal population in our house before I moved, but only to great wailing and gnashing of teeth by two little girls. So, we gave four (yes, I typed that right) stuffed animals to DI and boxed the other three hundred (an exaggeration, yes, but not by much) up to bring to Utah. Well guess what happened? I didn't unpack most of them. And nobody cared. Nobody cried for their green stuffed frog or their talking Nala. So, I quietly went through them and kept only a few and took the rest to DI.

I was surprised that the girls only recognized one of their former toys, while I recognized all of them. And I was further surprised my reaction: I wanted to buy them all and take them back home with me. Not because of the toys themselves, but because of the particular memories attached to them. There was the stuffed Gund puppy that Joel bought me for Valentine's Day when we were first married because I had just found out I was pregnant with Bria. There was the huge stuffed Teddy Bear that we got Bria for Christmas when she was a year old. She loved that bear...you should have seen her hug and kiss and cuddle with it when she first saw it. There was the little stuffed Teddy Bear that I got for Christmas from Elder and Sister Dudley while on my mission in Romania. They were the CES missionaries and I was called to be their helper. I named the bear "Dudley" after them. There was the frog purse we got on our trip to Hawaii. Chloe loved it and constantly put her little treasures inside. And I could go on...but I'll spare you.

With much restraint, I left the store without buying the animals (and, alas, I didn't buy any dresser either). I kept telling myself that I still have those memories. And, being the avid scrapbooker that I am, most of them are well documented in albums. I really don't miss the animals, and I am much happier without them. Heaven knows that it's hard enough to keep the twenty stuffed animals we kept off the floor without adding twenty more.

Friday, September 08, 2006

From one desert to another

Even though Utah is technically considered "the desert," after living in Arizona for several years I personally consider Utah a lush, green oasis. The girls do, too. I mean, we actually have a backyard that they can *gasp* PLAY in! It's quite the novelty right now, and our particular backyard is actually the topic of a whole 'nother blog.

We do have a desert in our neighborhood though. Bria's elementary school is brand new this year and hasn't quite been finished. There's no grass, so of COURSE it is a desert. Every morning and afternoon while walking to school Chloe gets extremely excited and yells to the whole neighborhood, "There's the desert!!! I can SEE the DESERT!!!" And then, while we traipse across the dirt (aka "sand") she very carefully looks for scorpions. That's my Arizona girl.

Friday, September 01, 2006

We are alive!!!

After a long two weeks or so, the Neves family FINALLY has the internet. We still don't have TV (and probably won't get it), so I have felt mercilessly detached from the world. I've just lived in my own little bubble...which really isn't so bad. It's nice actually.

But here I am...connected again. Obviously, the girls and I successfully made it to Utah and joined Joel. Life has continued to be crazy ever since and so I thought I'd quickly (ha!) update you on all of our comings and goings, because I know every last one of you has been waiting on pins and needles for this blog to be updated!

Joel: He has settled into a pretty good rhythm where the high school and middle school orchestras are concerned. The 8th graders are difficult, but of course that is to be expected...they're 13 year olds. His adjunct position is only 3 hours a week directing the Jazz band at SUU, which is good, because he still spends a crazy amount of time prepping for the high school and middle schools. Hopefully that will calm down soon enough and we'll see him more often. He won't start working with the Orchestra of Southern Utah until September (wait...it IS September!) so he's not completely crazy yet.

Lara: I have been spending most of my time unpacking and putting the house together. I have to admit the last few days I've lost some of my steam, though. (Could it be that I just had a baby and have put superhuman energy into the whole packing, moving, unpacking scenario before she is even 6 weeks old? Yeah...that's it.) I love our house. It is the first brand new house I've lived in since I was 5 years old. I think most of the places Joel and I have lived in our married life have been older than we are. Of course, I've completely immersed myself in my first decorating project and have many more cooking up in my brain. I got rid of my old dinette set before I moved up here because I was getting my Grandma's old set. It is a beautiful set, but old and definitely in need of a pick-me-up. I've been recovering and painting chairs every morning this week. When those are finished I'll paint the table and the hutch. This is my September project. The living room is on the docket for October...I have grand ideas for my old tired furniture. Finally, I got a job (totally unexpected) at SUU teaching adjunct voice. Apparently they are overflowing with vocal students and were desperate, so I went and sang for the vocal faculty yesterday and they called me back a few hours later. I have at least 5 students, and probably more. They're paying me the same I would charge if I were teaching at home, so basically, I have an instant studio and don't have to stress about finding students too much. The only thing is the kids can't come with me, but my sister-in-law has already offered to help out, so I'm sure all will be well.

Bria: She started first grade the day after (yes, the day after) we arrived in town. She loves her teacher because she has "a beautiful face and beautiful hair." She's not wrong, either--her teacher could be Miss America. I'm sure she's also a great teacher. I've been impressed with Bria. She normally doesn't deal well with change at all, but she has done fabulously with the whole new school, new house, new baby, new everything scenario we've forced her into. She occasionally has a difficult time going into her classroom in the morning, but she is happy when she comes home and has a new best friend named Shelby. I love that the school is about a block away and so we walk every morning and every afternoon. Hopefully it will help me get some of this darn baby weight off.

Chloe: She has been spending the days with me and the baby, but I just found a preschool for her. We went and met her teacher today, in fact. She will be attending 2 days a week for 2 1/2 hours and she is so excited. I'm excited for her to have this experience. Chloe ADORES her baby sister (maybe a little too much) and is constantly loving, hugging and kissing her. She shows her off to everyone she sees (this is my baby, her name is Baby Sophia, do you love her?). She and Bria are both thrilled to be near some of their favorite cousins who are just their ages.

Sophia: We blessed her in Orem the week we got here. She is such an easy baby, for which I am extremely grateful. She sleeps for 5 to 6 hours at a time, sometimes more, and when she is awake she is mellow and calm. She only fusses if I eat chocolate (dang it! But yet another thing that might just help me lose this weight.) or if she's been in the car too long without being fed, which has only happened a few times. She is beautiful, even with the horrible case of infant acne she's broken out with, and people are constantly stopping me in public to look at her.

So that's the Neves rundown for now....more later, I'm sure.

Monday, August 14, 2006

So I guess I'm an oldie but goodie now...

Today is my birthday. I am now 32. I don't feel old at all, but as I was driving the other day and listening to the oldies station I was shocked to hear some songs from "my day." Am I really old enough that songs that were popular when I was in high school are played on that station? Wow.

In other news, we're packing up the truck and heading off to Cedar City tomorrow. Joel's been there for 2 weeks already and is anxiously awaiting our arrival. Thank goodness for my mom and all her help. Moving with a newborn is already a difficult situation, but moving with a newborn, 2 other kids and NO husband is an entirely different story altogether. Glad we've just about survived it. I'm going to miss Arizona and the wonderful friends I've made here. It really hit me today at Church. But, I am also excited to open a new chapter in life and leave student housing once and for all!

My internet will be going dark tomorrow and I'm not really sure when I'll be back up and running....so farewell for now!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

More pictures of Sophia...

Just minutes old, under the warmer.

All cleaned up and back with Mommy.


Daddy is in love.


One day old. You can see how jaundiced she is. She had to spend an extra day at the hospital under the lights.


Finally home with big sister Bria. (Chloe won't hold her long enough to get a picture.)

Friday, July 28, 2006

Welcome Baby Sophia!!

Sophia Blake Na'auali'i
July 25, 2006
6 lb, 11 oz
20 inches long


The Story of Sophia's birthday:

8:30 am:
I woke up feeling a little damp, like I'd slept in a wet bedding. It's been so hot lately that I thought at first I probably was really sweaty. I started to suspect that my water had broken after changing into dry underwear and feeling damp again several minutes later. I couldn't really tell if there was any fluid leaking, and it was definitely not the huge gush I'd experienced with my other two babies, so I wasn't at all sure what was going on.

9:50 am:
I had a Dr. appointment, so I decided I'd ask while I was there. When she checked me she also did a swab for amniotic fluid. After looking at the microscope slide for several minutes, she determined that there was a small amount of amniotic fluid present, that my bag of waters had indeed been "broken," even though it was just a very slow leak, and sent me to the hospital to have my baby. I was dilated to a 3+ and 70% effaced.

10:30 am:
I called Joel while leaving the Doctor's office to tell him the exciting news. We were both incredibly relieved because he has to be in Cedar City by Monday, July 31st and it didn't look like there was any way he could be present for Sophia's birth if she didn't come before he left, and since my due date isn't until August 10th it seemed unlikely. I also called my parents to let them know we would have a baby later that day. My mom was particularly excited since she's been saying for more than a month that the baby would come on Tuesday, July 25th. What an amazing prediction--perhaps she should start a "when will your baby be born?" website!


11:45 am:
Finally arrive at the hospital after getting the kids taken care of, gassing up the car, and taking care of a few other minor last minute details. I was not in labor in any way, shape or form, but was directly admitted to labor and delivery. Dr. Mourad, one of my favorite doctors from the group I go to, was there to admit me.

12:30 pm:
Dressed in hospital gown and situated in my room. The nurse starts the IV for my antibiotic. This pregnancy I tested positive for Group B Strep. This was very disconcerting to me because it means I have to have IV antibiotics for at least 4 hours of labor. With my previous labor and delivery experiences, I was terrified I wouldn't even make it to the hospital once I was in labor, much less have 4 whole hours there to make sure I received the antibiotics. So it was a huge blessing to have my water break the way it did so that I wasn't actually in labor when I got to the hospital and they could get the antibiotics started. So...the doctor ordered the antibiotics be started right away and then if I wasn't yet in labor to start pitocin 2 hours later.

2:30 pm:
I only had one contraction in the past 2 hours. A new nurse came and started me on pitocin. I was still very comfortable and not having noticable contractions. The pitocin was turned up every 15 or 20 minutes or so.

4:30 pm:
I was finally having a few contractions, but nothing "to brag about" as the nurse liked to put it. She checked me anyway, but I had made no progress...still dilated to a 3, slightly more effaced, but no progress. I asked her how often they would be checking me as labor progressed and she said, "Oh, I won't check you again until you either ask for pain medication or you have to push." This seemed like an absurd policy to me, so I told her that I was hoping not to ask for pain medication (which she already knew, but apparently forgot) and she still said that she probably wouldn't check again unless I felt like I needed to push. Then she left the room. I thought about it for a while, and I realized that if I am going to do this naturally like I want to, I am going to need some sort of gauge of the progress I was making.

6:00 pm:
Shift changes and I get another new nurse. The contractions are still not coming very hard or fast and Joel and I are still calmly watching TV.

7:00 pm:
Finally the contractions are becoming difficult to deal with and we turn off the TV and I start to do my hypnobirthing techniques.

7:45 pm:
I ask the nurse if she will please check me. She doesn't want to. I explain to her that I need to know where I am occasionally so I can decide if I am going to need any sort of pain medication. She finally agrees to check me and I am at a 5+. I decide to continue with hypnobirthing since I am making progress.

8:00 pm:
Dr. Mourad comes in and decides to break the rest of my water. It is obvious to me when he breaks it that I had indeed been leaking because it wasn't nearly the huge amount that it's been with my other two babies. Once it is broken my labor goes up several notches in intensity.

8:15 pm:
I feel like I need to push. Nurse checks me and I am at an 8. She says, "We'll have a baby by midnight, but if you're feeling like pushing now you might want to consider an epidural." I am still not sure why I believed that she knew what on earth she was talking about when I have had such incredibly fast labors in the past once I am in transition (which I clearly was). So she brings the paperwork and has Joel start reading it to me. Meanwhile, I REALLY need to push. I tell Joel to get the nurse now. (Did I mention that this nurse was always kind of slow in everything...didn't seem to have a sense of urgency at all and it really bugged me.) She finally saunters in and asks if I'm ready to sign the papers. I sign them. I NEED to push!!! It's about 8:20 now and she sloooooooooooooooooowly gets on her gloves and checks me.

8:21 pm
I am completely dilated. She doesn't seem to believe me how badly I need to push. I am trying to tell her the baby is coming and coming NOW! She asks how long I pushed with my other babies. I had to wait between contractions and told her I pushed about 3 minutes with my last one and only 15 with my first. AND I NEED TO PUSH NOW!!! She leaves the room to get the doctor at a snail's pace.

8:25 pm
She finally gets the doctor to come in. He walks in, sees that the baby is crowning and calmly says to his colleague who is gowning up..."You're gonna miss this if you don't hurry." The nurse is still dilly-dallying around getting the table ready, and although Dr. Mourad is nice as can be he was obviously annoyed at her. At least he was a very calming influence on me and the whole situation. He only had time to get his gloves on and the baby was there.

8:26 pm
Sophia is officially born. They put her on my belly and Joel cut the cord. I am exhausted, but so happy.


(The picture above is the official hospital pic. I will post more later tonight.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

We interrupt this blog to bring you some very important news...

There are so many things I've been wanting to write about lately: I could write about how Bria decided that my Willow Tree figurines were missing faces and took it upon herself to draw them some...with a permanent marker!! When I discovered their new faces, it was one of those moments where I wasn't sure if I should laugh or cry. Thank goodness for the Mr. Clean magic eraser. It took off a bit of the original paint and left them slightly discolored, but at least it's better than the cartoon faces!

I've also been wanting to blog about the way Chloe somehow finds her way into our bed every morning between 3 and 6 a.m. We rarely notice her come in, and I usually only realize she's there when I am trying to shift my very pregnant self into a more comfortable (ha!) position. And then I discover I have a 3 year old between my legs or burrowed under my pillow. She's great about going to sleep in her own bed, but it never fails that she wakes up in ours. I'm wondering if the new baby coming is maybe the root of it.

And speaking of the new baby, I could also write about the fact that she really is coming any day now...and I'm not really sure if I'm ready. I mean, I'm more than ready to not be pregnant, but I honestly haven't prepared very well for her actual arrival what with all the current upheaval in our lives. Case in point: The last time I went grocery shopping I walked past the baby aisle and realized I don't even have things like diapers and wipes!

But, you see, I can't blog extensively about any of that because WE HAVE NEWS!!!! We've actually had it for a week now, but I haven't had a chance to sit down and update. It's quite a long story, so I'll start from the very beginning (a very good place to start)...

Several weeks ago we drove up to Utah to 1) get out of the heat, 2) attend our mission reunion, and 3) spend the 4th of July with family in a state that actually seems to celebrate it. Our second day there, Joel was golfing with his dad and received a phone call from a community college in Alabama. They wanted to interview him the day after we planned on being back in Arizona. So, we purchased a plane ticket for him to leave the morning after we got home. Then, while we were also in Utah, he was invited to interview for a job in Cedar City, Utah to be the orchestra teacher at the high school and middle school there.

Joel's brother and his family live in Cedar City, so we went down there and spent a couple days. Joel interviewed, and then also contacted the Dean of the Department of Fine Arts at the University there. He mentioned he was being considered for this job and asked if there were any adjunct positions open in trumpet, theory or music history...all of which he is qualified to teach. Amazingly, they needed adjunct faculty in all 3 areas, so that also became a possiblity. Finally, he got a hold of Sara, a woman who is very involved with the Orchestra of Southern Utah, also located in Cedar City. Joel guest conducted for them before several years ago and they really liked him. We knew that their assistant conductor had just quit to go get his doctorate so we thought maybe they would offer the position to Joel if we were to live there. Sara was thrilled to see him and not only offered him that job, but said she would pay him to write grants for the orchestra.

Doors were opening left and right in Cedar City, although we didn't know for sure if he would get the high school job, which was important since that would be the main source of income and benefits for us. We left Cedar feeling good about that and drove off to Arizona.

Joel flew to Alabama the next day to find the Community College located in a super tiny town of about 6,000 people. The college campus consisted of 2 buildings on a lot about as big as our Church building here in Arizona. (They did have a WalMart though, so that's something.) His interview was kind of a comedy of errors...they expected him at 11:00 and his flight left to bring him home at 4:00, but it was a 2 hour drive to the airport. They put him in the library while they were interviewing someone else and totally forgot about him. Finally, they realized what they had done and got to him around 12:30!!! (Luckily, he did make it back to the airport in time for his flight.) The interview itself went really well and he knew they were impressed by his resume and credentials. The worry for him was that he would only be teaching music history and theory, conducting a small choir and the musical theater program which is their main focus. He really wouldn't be doing much with orchestra.

Fast forward to Tuesday, one week ago today. It was the day after his interview in Alabama, and they called him first thing in the morning to offer him the job. The offer was more than we could have hoped for: 66,000 dollars. And they wanted to know by the end of the day. A half an hour later, we got a call from Cedar City offering him the high school job, again at a much higher salary than we thought possible for the job, but it was considerably less than what Alabama was offering us.

To make a long story short (or probably longer, since I tend to do that), we stewed and thought and talked and prayed and called family for advice. We finally decided on Cedar City because of the many Orchestra opportunities. We know that we will not be in the most desirable spot financially, but we had to think of Joel's long term career and what was best for our family. Something about Alabama just didn't feel right, and we couldn't feel good about taking that job no matter how hard we tried.

We are excited and will be moving pretty much as soon as the baby comes. Joel will probably move before I do because of that slight complication, but my mom will be here to help me. And now that the stress of actually finding a job is gone, all the stresses that come with it are here...finding a place to live, moving, dealing with school for Bria, leaving friends, packing...lots of stuff going on. But the important thing is we have a future, and we feel at peace about our decision.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I'm getting fatter and fatter and could drop at any time



This is my "ticker" on a message board I post at. Every week it changes to say something new about the baby..."I weigh 2 pounds now and suck my thumb!" or "I'm growing fingernails and toenails!"

I really had to laugh at this week's description: "I'm getting fatter and fatter and I could drop at any time!"

Are they talking about the baby or me? Because that's definitely how I feel, too!!! Especially since Chloe said to me last month, "Mommy! You're getting to be a big fat girl!"

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A lesson in modesty


The other day, Joel was cleaning out the car in preparation for our upcoming road trip. He came in and showed me this little slip of paper he found under Bria's booster seat. Once I read it, I had to laugh: "I don't want to be modist. I want to be unmodist." Too funny...but of some concern. I remembered a few days ago in the car she was telling me she wished she could have an immodest dress like Princess Mia of the Princess Diaries. When I told her we needed to be modest because that's what Heavenly Father has taught us, she just sighed. And then, I suppose, she wrote down how she really felt.

Well, back to finding the paper. Joel and I thought we should talk to her about it, and so we sat her down and asked her why she wrote it. She was clearly a little embarrassed, but basically told us she really, really wanted a dress like Princess Mia's (it's strapless) and that it wasn't fair that she had to be modest because so many people she sees aren't. This is all very true. And she's very influenced by the people she sees around us...I've noticed her watching older girls when we're out and about. She really wants to be beautiful, and unfortunately, the world often associates beauty with immodest dress.

While I was listening to her, my mind was racing. How can I teach her the importance of modesty, but at the same time assure her that she can still wear beautiful (yet modest) clothing? Our Relief Society lesson just the day before had had some discussion of modesty and teaching our daughters. I think I've done a pretty good job of teaching Bria we need to be modest (after all, if I hadn't, it's doubtful she would have even been worried about the issue in the first place, right?), but I was beginning to think the whys were somewhat lost on her. She's only five years old, so many of the reasons would be too much for her to understand.

I finally had the bright idea to get my scrapbooks out from high school and college and show her all the dresses I wore to dances, recitals and in operas. They are beautiful and modest. I think it helped her and she asked me if I still had any of them so that she could wear them when she gets big enough. I have a few performance dresses in my closet, so we went and got them out so she could look at them in real life. Then Joel got my temple dress out and showed that to her (my wedding dress is unfortunately at my parents' house), and explained a little about going to the temple and how modesty fits in that way.

Ever since, Bria has had a new understanding of the entire issue, I think. On our roadtrip she got a new Bratz coloring book. She was drawing in more modest clothing for them when they were not so modest, and she would get very excited when she found one that was dressed modestly.

I still think it's hilarious to find such a note written by my five year old. But I am so glad that we were able to turn it into a learning situation for her. And maybe by the time she's sixteen she'll be okay with wearing a modest dress to the prom.

Friday, June 16, 2006

"No news yet...we'll keep you informed"

This is what is written on the marquis of the Elementary School by my house. I'm not really sure what they're talking about, but I'm sure I'll find out sooner or later, when they actually have news. Hopefully, they'll post it on the marquis so that we can all know what's going on!

I'm thinking maybe Joel and I should use the school's idea, and start posting that message in prominent places:

On our email signature lines:
Dr. Joel "no news yet" Neves
"I'll keep you informed"
On our answering machine:
"Hello. You've reached the Neves household. Sorry to inform you, we have no news. Check back later and we'll be sure to keep you posted."
On our rear windshield:
"Yes, we're still driving this tiny car. We'll let you know as soon as we have news that will allow us to buy a bigger one."
On our front door:
"Welcome to our home! Before entering, please be aware: WE HAVE NO NEWS. We promise to keep you informed."

It might be a little overboard, but I'm thinking it's completely necessary that we get a few "no news yet" T-shirts. Maybe even a hat for Joel.

So....no, in case you have NO idea what I'm talking about, Joel has not found a job yet. Last night I kind of hit a wall about it. (Okay. So I had something of an emotional breakdown.) I've been feeling really calm and have had a lot of faith that something will happen for us. But every day that it doesn't happen I get more and more discouraged. And I freak out a little bit. Mostly because I'm having a baby in a matter of weeks and I am really needing to know what the future holds for us. Also because I look at my sweet daughters and want what's best for them. I want them to have stability in their lives. And finally, I want Joel to be happy. I want him to have a job that he loves after all the hard work he put into graduate school. I'm having a hard time watching other people's lives just come together perfectly. I know that it isn't really fair to say, because I don't know what kind of trials it took for them to be where they are. It's just becoming harder and harder for me to swallow, that's all.

So, for now, we have faith, but no news yet. We will keep you informed.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The parable of Bria's glasses

So, Bria had an eye appointment last week and it turns out she really needed glasses. Her eyes are almost as bad as Joel's already, and well...she has blind me for a mother. She wasn't so excited about the prospect of getting glasses until she saw the box of children's frames that she could choose from. She immediately picked up the frames that looked just like mine. (You know, the uber cool black rectangular ones.) We persuaded her to try on all of them, just in case she might like another pair better, but she ended up sticking with her first decision. When we couldn't go home with the glasses that day she was sad, and looked forward to finally getting them.

Well, we picked them up a couple days ago and she has been getting used to wearing them. I have to say she looks absolutely adorable, but older and smarter. Funny how glasses do that to a person. She's been fine about wearing them, even in public to the store, so I was a little surprised at her reaction this morning when I told her to put them on so we could go to church. She started bawling. Didn't want to wear them to church, and if she did, she didn't want to go to Primary, didn't want to sit in our regular pew in the chapel because her friends sit around us, and she didn't want anyone to see her. She was terrified that they would make fun of her...and besides Mommy doesn't ever wear her glasses to church, so why should she? (I usually wear my contacts.)

(I must mention here that I totally relate. I wasn't much older than her when I got my first pair of glasses. I'll never forget being a little late to school on the first day wearing them, most likely because I was causing a similar scene. I got there during the Pledge of Allegiance, and so I had to stand by the door until everyone was finished. As soon as the class sat down, a boy named Carson remarked about my glasses. Something not very nice. I was crushed. But then, another little boy named Kimo said, "I think she looks nice in them." and saved the day. It's hard to watch my little girl go through the same sort of feelings and not be able to promise her that nobody will ever make fun of her for having glasses.)

I made a deal with her that I would also wear my glasses to church today...and that helped a bit. I also had to promise her ice cream tomorrow, and then I just prayed that it would be okay and that the kids would be nice about it. She was pretty much an emotional WRECK on the way to church in the car, and when we got to the chapel and sat down, she immediately put her coloring book in front of her face and stayed that way for a good ten minutes. I think she finally realized nobody was really looking at her and decided to actually color in her book. I had her count all the people wearing glasses in the congregation and that seemed to help, too. Joel told the Bishop to compliment her, and I asked her Primary teachers to make a big deal over how cute she looks...and it all seemed to go well. At the end of the day she said that nobody made fun and everybody thought she looked adorable. (Whew!)

I was just thinking about her experience today, and the lesson I had in Sunday School about trusting the Lord. Bria wanted glasses just like mine. And I think it's safe to say that most of us want to become like our Heavenly Father one day--after all, that's what we are commanded to do. Also, the glasses are something that will help her. She can't see well without them and they are relatively simple to wear in order to correct poor vision. The Lord gives us commandments to help us become more like Him. Most of those commandments are pretty simple to keep. Like Bria, we are usually pretty okay with wearing our glasses/keeping the commandments when nobody is watching, but as soon as we think someone might judge us, it is a little bit harder. Suddenly, we see that not everyone wears glasses. A lot of people go around doing things that are against what we've been taught, and suddenly the commandments we've been given don't seem so simple anymore. It's good to have a support system...to look around and realize that a lot more people wear glasses than you'd previously noticed. Good to have good associates who are as committed to keeping the commandments as you are. And most of all...you have to trust the Lord. That what He is telling us to do is for our best good. Just like wearing glasses is the best thing to do when you don't see well and the optometrist says you need them.

Anyway, I don't know if I have that total trust in the Lord yet. Of course, I'm not perfect yet, but I am trying. And sometimes it's difficult. Just like it takes a lot of courage for a 5 year old to see her peers in her new eyewear, it can be very hard for me to be brave enough to do all I know I should when I live in the world that I do.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

More proof positive...

Here is a conversation I had with Joel the other night. Just more proof that my brain cells are completely gone...

Me: Hey...you still have a whole week to apply for Cabrillo (a conducting workshop).

Joel: I do not.

Me: Yes, you do. I'm sitting here looking at the website right now....you have about a week.

Joel: I do? Are you sure? When is it due?

Me: The 10th.

Joel: Really? Read to me what it says.

Me: (Why won't he believe me?) It says, "applications are due Monday, April 10th."

Joel: That's passed.

Me: No it hasn't! It's only the 4th today!

Joel: April?? Lara, that was two months ago...this is JUNE.

Me: (checks website, checks calendar, feels sheepish) Oh. Well, why didn't you apply for it?

Joel: Maybe because you'll be having a baby during the week of the workshop...or did you not notice that either?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

How I know I'm really pregnant (besides the growing belly and the throwing up...)

My husband tells me I'm a very organized, on the ball type of person. He also tells me that whenever I'm pregnant it's like I'm a different person because I become the ultimate scatterbrain. I don't know how much I really believe him, because I think I'm not all that organized in the first place and I don't want to really admit to myself just how spacy I am while I'm carrying a baby.

But, alas, he is right. Following are just a few examples of that prove I am very much pregnant:

  • I used shower gel to wash my hair the other day. I didn't even notice until I went to get the conditioner and realized the shampoo was not where I thought it was. I had wondered why it didn't lather very well. (To my credit they are in the same color bottle and I am blind without glasses or contacts.)
  • I totally forgot that Bria was assigned a talk in Primary this past Sunday. (I really am usually quite on top of things like that.)
  • On average, I forget to call my nurse a couple times a week (I'm supposed to call her daily so you'd think I'd have it written into my schedule quite nicely.)
  • I'm just hanging around the house in my underwear (or, I'm just plain still in bed) when the doorbell rings. I look at my clock and realize that it's my visiting teachers or someone else I had a planned meeting with.
  • Yesterday I thought I lost the car keys in the grocery store. I had dumped out my purse and they were not there. Just as I was asking at the information counter I realized they were in my pocket. (But I can't see my pocket when I look down anymore...belly's in the way!)
  • I wasn't really planning on going to Bria's Kindergarten end of the year program that day. I had totally forgotten about it and Joel had to ask me why I wasn't getting ready to go.

These are just a few examples, but little things are piling up daily. I read somewhere that baby girl fetuses make you lose your mind more than boys do. So, maybe it's just yet another proof positive that I am having another girl. But yeah, I'm most definitely having a baby...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Why Arizona needs to get with the program

Arizona doesn't have Daylight Savings Time. This means that half of the year we share the same time zone as Utah, and the other half of the year (now) we share with California. I always wondered why Arizona didn't participate, but after living here a few years I think I have it figured out. The entire point of DST is to save energy, and making the daylight last longer here in Arizona would actually waste energy. We'd all be running our air conditioners more.

But I think that the waste of air conditioning is not a good enough reason anymore. Arizona needs to get with the program and join the rest of the country if only to save sanity. My sanity...and possibly that of many other parents.

I'm pregnant. I'm severely anemic. Still sick. Totally exhausted. I really, really need as much sleep as I can get. My children are getting up with the sun (read: 5:20 am), and I can't take it anymore!!! Please, write your local legislators and let's get the ball rolling so I can at least get another hour of sleep during the summer! Thank you.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Thoughts on Talents

I went to Stake Enrichment (a church meeting for the women in our area) last week, and they focused a lot on talents. Developing and using our talents--mainly to build up our families, others around us, and the Church. Loved it...and it got me thinking a lot about talents.

I don't deny that I have been blessed with many talents that are readily apparent. I have always participated and been good in the performing arts and visual arts. Singing, most notably. Yes, I sing very well (and I'm not trying to be prideful here at all), I have a degree in vocal performance, I teach others to sing, and I love to sing. I love to share this talent with others.

It has bothered me in my life, though, that many times people just equate that talent with the whole me. I'm not sure how to explain it, but in trying to be complimentary, many people actually make me feel worse because I am made to feel like my entire self-worth should be wrapped up in how well I sing. It often bugs me that that is the first thing people notice about me when I move into a new ward. It drives me nuts when I am introduced as "Lara the singer" or "This is Lara, you should hear her sing, she has such a beautiful voice." Now, again, don't get me wrong, because I understand that people are being kind and complimentary. I do realize I am very blessed to have this talent and I have worked very hard in my life to develop it...which actually brings me to my next point.

I also don't like when people say "I wish I were as talented as you are. I wish I could sing like you (or play the piano, or whatever)." There are two reasons why this rubs me the wrong way a little bit:

1) You are as talented as I am. Just because I have talents that are "obvious" does not make you any less talented. You have many talents that I don't have and often wish I do. You are talented, too.

2) If you really want to sing like I do, you can. It will take a lot of commitment and work. You will have to practice a lot. You will have to put a lot of time into developing this talent in yourself. But if you really want to do it, you can. I wanted it, and I did put in thousands of hours of practice and study to develop this talent I have. Maybe some of us have a bit more "raw" talent than others, but we can all work to develop it. Talent is not cultivated by "wishing," only by hard work and determination.

I think too many people equate "talent" with things that are obvious: Dancing, singing, playing an instrument, painting, knitting, quilting, etc. But there are many more talents that aren't so obvious, and are probably a little bit more essential to our eternal salvation than being able to sing beautifully is. (Again, don't get me wrong. I feel I can use my talents in music to help others feel the Spirit, but I also don't feel like if I weren't a singer I would be less of a person.) One of the talks at Stake Enrichment kind of addressed this issue. The sister speaking said she felt like she had failed in developing talents most of her life. She never had an opportunity to take piano lessons, and her children quit after not much effort. But then she taught a Primary lesson on the parable of the talents, and the manual said to write out strips of paper with different talents on them. The talents the manual mentioned were things like the talent for leadership, a talent for making others happy, a talent for hard work. These are the talents that we need to seek out and develop. These are the talents that are essential for our eternal salvation.

Her talk reminded me of an experience I had while on my mission. It was actually my last night in the mission home before I was to go home. All of the missionaries who were leaving met together for a testimony meeting with the mission President, his wife and the APs. At some point during the meeting, President Orton asked the APs to talk about each of us who were completing our missions.

I will never forget what Elder Jones said about me. He was a month ahead of me in the MTC, and he said he remembered my first day there. He stood next to me as we sang a hymn. He said he thought, "Wow. This is a very talented sister." But, as he served his mission and had opportunity to be in districts with me out in the field, and to be my zone leader and finally the AP, he learned that my talent wasn't in music at all. He listed several other talents that he had noticed in me, and then concluded by saying he had been right that first day--I was a very talented sister, but not just in the way he first thought.

That meant more to me than I can even say. After years of being "Lara the singer," someone besides my mom had noticed other talents in me. And you know what? It made me want to develop them further, because I don't know that--until that moment--I even realized I had other talents.

Bottom line? If you think you aren't talented, you are wrong. Look deeper. Find something--anything--that you are good at and focus on it. Develop that. Use it to bless the lives of those around you. Then find a new talent to work on. You are more talented than you know.