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


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.


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


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.