June 18, 2016

A Walk in the Woods

2.6 miles from my door and back.
This is a beautiful land that we live in.
I have known, since my body endured near-death experiences, that I needed to walk outside each day to help heal my mind and body.
It has taken me three years to really do it.

It also make me smile how much I love my silly dog.  He's perfect.  I thought I was buying him for Jakob, but I think I got him for me.  I would never be brave enough to traipse around without him.

Have a great day!

June 13, 2016

Little Things I Love About My Big Family

The Professor has been in Norway at a conference all week.  When he's gone, my big kids feel like my partners.  There are small moments of tension or silly arguments, but for the most part my kids are helpful and easy.

I watched them this morning and I wanted to freeze a snapshot of this time.

While I was showering Jakob knocked at my door and then said, "Nevermind, I'll tell you when you're out."  Later he described how he touched Lily's hand and then said "Lily, time to wake up."  When he said her name she jumped and they both laughed about this all morning.

Eve has Kindergarten round-up today.  She has been anxiously awaiting this day.  I said she was taking a test to see if she's ready for school.  Leah and Lily both corrected me sweetly explaining to Eve that this was just a time to talk to a teacher to see what class she'll be in.  Nothing to be nervous about at all.

When they got out of the car to go to school, they yelled back, "Eve, you'll do so good today!"  Eve yelled to them, "Thanks, I hope you do very well at your school work today too!"  Heart melting, sweet girls.

Jakob fixed Ben a bowl of steel-cut oats and was helping him sit in his highchair.  Ben was pointing to a chair at the little table where Eve was sitting and doing his best to explain that he did not want to sit in the highchair.  While he was fussing, he slipped and almost fell off the highchair.  Jakob was right next to him, so was Drew.  They both grabbed him.  He didn't get hurt, but began to cry because he was startled.  Watching my two 16 and 17 year old boys, hug and comfort their three year old brother, melted my heart.  They really are darling!  Drew said, "Ben, it's ok.  You just did a Ninja.  Ninja's are fast and strong."  Jakob convinced Ben to sit and be safe, promising he could eat lunch at the little table.

Anna called to Ellie asking her to come help her zip up her dress.  Ellie ran right upstairs.  (Rollerblading together at night IS bonding them.) 

Lily asked Jakob to make her a sandwich and Jakob said, "You can do it Lil!  I already packed the rest of your lunch and got out all the sandwich stuff for you."

Drew read a scripture and explained how it applied to our lives today.  We are usually happy, but running late when the Proffesor is out of town.  Scripture time is a bit more casual.

Yesterday for church, I fixed 3 sets of pigtails.  We are squished on our church pew, sitting by friends.  I had YEARS of struggling through church.  It isn't hard anymore.  My big kids are so helpful and only sometimes annoying.  We are not perfectly reverent.  But, we're always together on Sunday and we're happy.  
I remember being a little girl and seeing large families at church.  I always wanted a family that took up a whole pew.  Now I have one.  It's the best.

Eve just brought me a brown box and announced that we got another package.  I asked her what was in it and she slyly smiled that she thinks it's another kitten.  Poor kitty was in the box!  

Sweet Princess will be glad when Eve goes to Kindergarten.  

Yesterday, Eve and Ben had the kitten outside.  They said they were "Teaching her how to climb trees."  I couldn't find the cat one morning and asked Ben and Eve where she was.  Ben took my hand and led me to a cupboard where a sweet little kitten sat patiently, wrapped in Ben's blankie, waiting for someone to open the door.  Sweet, sweet Princess Cinderpaws.

The other day, Ben had cat food in his hand and he said, pointing to the empty food dish, "B eed da itty at? Peez, B eed da itty at?  See?  Not!"  (He was asking if he could feed the kitty cat, telling me there was no food in her bowl.  He's talks like a real-life tweety bird.) He is so cute and talking more lately even though he still leaves off those first sounds.  

I helped at our local blood drive again this year.  It is so fun to see all the good people in Tully who donate blood.  I love working with my friend Lori Snow and spending the afternoon talking to her.  There are so many good people in the world.  Drew donated for the first time and he did great.  He said he felt best about it afterwards when he asked to see his blood.
All the kids helped.  Lily was so cute at the recovery table offering drinks and explaining to everyone how they can donate books for refugees. 
After the blood drive, I headed up to speak at a friend's baptism.  I spoke about the Holy Ghost and said that he is gentle like a dove, but powerful like the Incredible Hulk.  I'm pretty sure nobody will forget that talk, they are already teasing me about it.  Ha.
We are getting more active as a family.  I am fatter than I've ever been and so is Todd.  I got a Fitbit and have loved recording my motion.  I especially love that the more I move, the more my kids move.  They have been playing outside and rollerblading together most nights.  My favorite thing is that there is always a crowd of chicken and our little bunny hopping near them while they play.  I'm so grateful for this season of life.
Life is good!!
Happy Monday Friends!
Todd comes home today!

June 09, 2016

Not Finished Yet... Life as the mother of a Junior

I sat down yesterday listening to my scriptures as I cross-stitched a few lines on a sampler I've been working on for over three years.  Like so many things in my life, this is a reminder to me that my life changed a bit when I was diagnosed with a high-risk pregnancy, put on bed rest, and learned the miracles of health and healing.  I feel ready to finally FINISH this stage of life and just put it behind me.  But, there is always one more row and never enough quiet time to sit and stitch.  I'm getting close though!!  

NY schools don't end for the summer until June 23, so I am currently in the midst of choir, band, drama, sports, and academic end of the year award assemblies.  For some reason, these assembles have hit me hard.  (It could be the fact that Todd is in Norway and I am flying solo.)

My oldest son, Jakob, is a Junior. (Drew is a Sophomore.). I have ONE MORE YEAR of life as I know it now.

How I will cherish this year.
Our last summer together, our last Thanksgiving, our last Christmas, his last birthday.  The last time 4 of my older kids will sing in choir and play in band together.  

I get teary-eyed noticing an unloaded dishwasher.  Will my girls ever be as disciplined as their brothers are?  Oh, I will miss my boys.

It's actually funny.  As reluctant as I am to send Jakob off, I am quite eager to send Eve and Ben to school.  My mind craves time without toddlers.  For 17 years I have been constantly wondering if they were safe, fed, smart enough, kind enough, loved enough, disciplined enough, or happy enough.  I just know I'm going to love having school hours to accomplish tasks so that I can stop multi-tasking and really connect when they are home.  

It is quite ironic that wishing time to speed up (Eve goes to Kindergarten this fall, Ben doesn't go until 2018) is actually pushing not only Jakob, but also Drew out the door faster.  You can't slow down the older years and speed up the younger ones at the same time.  And really, I love these younger years.  

When I think about my older children, my heart aches for what I did not give them. I feel bad for the track meets I didn't watch.  I hate that we stopped piano lessons when I got sick.  I wish we had more money for exotic family vacations and I hope with my whole soul that they remember me laughing and loving (not just yelling at them to turn off the tv and get their chores done.)  I hope they didn't have too many rules or too much responsibility.  I hope they know I love them and I hope they feel that I delight in who they are.

Jakob spoke at an award assembly last night.  He was humble, well-spoken, kind, funny, confidant, and adorable.

I was so proud of him and I just knew in my soul that in the midst of the hundred things we didn't do right as parents, we did some things right.  He is good.  Really, I have always felt blessed to be his mother, to be their mother.

I have great plans for this last year and the many last year's that follow.

My personal goal is to DELIGHT in my family.  I want them to feel that I love them more than I need them to know I expect them to clean their room (although I'm glad they know how to keep their rooms clean).  I'm really focusing on my physical and mental health.  I'm exercising every day (just walking outside) and I'm giving myself permission to take time for health and strength.  This is the year I return to myself.  I feel it.

I want my kids to really love each other.  Not just love, but like each other.  I want them to have fun together.  We're planning more sibling dates-- where we take just the older kids out and hire a sitter for the little ones.  It really is fun hanging out with older kids.  I've turned off video games and really restricted TV and movies.  (I told jakob after next year he can play Civilization for as long as he wants-- but this is my last year to choose.)  I want them to learn to unwind DOING things not just numbing out.  We've actually played more family games in the last few weeks than we have in a long time.  The kids are walking with me.  I want to get more use out of our basketball hoop.  I want to hike more and laugh over ice cream.

I'm going to beg Jakob to take one more year of piano lessons and sign him up for voice.  These are skills I just want him to have.  And, I'm going to plan a trip to take the place of Christmas.  Anyone have any ideas?  

I ran upstairs last night to grab my shoes and remind my girls to hurry up.  Anna was in the hall bathroom and Ellie was in my bathroom. They were both putting on a little make-up and they were both beautiful.  All three of us wear the same size shoes these days.  I LOVE THESE KIDS.  My eyes brimmed with tears as I encouraged them to hurry up.  Man, being a mom is the hardest most amazing job.  

Ellie grabbed a pair of my high-heal wedges to wear to her assembly.  When we got to the school she realized she really couldn't walk in them.  She was literally crying in the parking lot. I was laughing.  As I hugged her I just whispered-- "I'm SO glad you're still little."  I'm SO glad I have her, so glad she has 4 or 5 year until she needs to know how to wear heels for prom.  I'm so glad I have eight.  My heart couldn't handle a drastic end to highschool.  From the first day he entered nursery, confidently waving for me to leave him at the door (I was teary then and he was excited), Jakob has always paved the way through these transition times.

I'm still stitching, but I'm almost done with this stage.  There are a lot of mistakes in my Sampler, but it's beautiful.

These years of parenting have been hard every single day.  There is so much I'm still learning and there is a whole list of things I admire in other families that we will never be.  But, my soul sings with gratitude that I got to live this dream of mine.  I know I will miss this.  I miss it already and I'm still living it.  I have loved every stage of parenting.  I know it gets better and I'm ready for these next stages.

I think I'm just going to spend these next few months finishing up and looking for the perfect frame.  I wonder what my next project will be?

Granny squares?!  

June 01, 2016

Top 10 in May

1. Jakob went to his first prom.  It was surprisingly low-key.  Thank goodness my oldest was a boy because we were pretty funny trying to figure out how to order a corsage, I'll be a pro by the time my girls are old enough.  

Jakob doesn't date a lot (dating is pretty unheard of here in NY), but I am always impressed at the girls he chooses.  Sofia is a Senior (Jakob's a Junior) and she's wonderful.  Everywhere I went people would tell me how much they liked her and how glad they were that Jakob had asked.  

Jakob's promposal was pretty unique, we don't know of anyone else in the school who asked in a creative way.  He got a box of pink helium balloons that he drew pigs on, Hershey Kisses, Butterfingers, and peach rings.  He said, "Now that I've made pigs fly, kissed the ground you walk on, and buttered you up, would you be a peach and go with me to prom?"  He did it at school and the video circulated around town.  One teacher was crying she thought it was so sweet.

There are not a lot of Mormon LDS youth where we live and that does have some disadvantages.  But, our family has found that the world is FULL of good people of every religion.  Although we have high standards of modesty, I will say that I felt Jakob's date and so many of the girls I saw that night were beautiful and modestly dressed.  

The best group of mothers and students planned a prom night free of alcohol and where everyone ate together a nice, catered meal and went to a big trampoline park after the dance.  I love this little town I live in.  I didn't feel nervous at all while he was gone.

2.  We adopted a sweet little kitten "Princess Cinder-Paws".  She was named before we got her and Lily (who is the proud new owner), thought this was a purrrrfect name.  Princess had a rough start in life.  She was crushed and thought to be dead.  Her leg was broken when we got her and doctors had told the previous owner that the fact that she lived was a miracle.  We believe in miracles and this little kitty has nestled snugly into our abundant life.  She really is so sweet.  She has an M on her face- for Moss.
3. Todd had a work trip to Germany and London.  He was able to visit my aunt and uncle who live in Ware.  I was extremely jealous of every picture he sent home, but was so happy that he had that opportunity.  We will not discuss Todd's beard.  He is growing it for the Palmyra Pagaent.  I believe I have a few sensory issues (I hate to clap and silky fabric freaks me out).  I also have a VERY hard time kissing beards, even beards attached to men I really LOVE to kiss.

4.  My dad came to visit and he painted my basement!!  Honestly, new paint CHANGED MY LIFE.  My basement felt like a new house.  It is so bright and clean.  There were so many holes leftover from the previous owners.  He is going to work his way through my whole house.  New paint and new carpet will be so refreshing.

His painting inspired me to organize!  I really sorted out my toys and my whole storage room.  It is never finished, but it's getting there.

5. My mom and brother came to visit, from Florida.  It is always nice to visit with family and my brother Matt is one of my favorites.  They were only here for a couple days. It was too short.

6. I went as a chaperone with my middle-school girls to Darian Lake Six Flags.  
Honestly, I love roller coasters but they TERRIFY me.  I scream the whole time.  It was so fun to be terrified. 

7. Ben is out of diapers!!! 
17 years of my life I found joy in cleaning, loving, and bonding while I changed diapers.  I lived that stage fully and I will not miss it.

We have rediscovered PlayDoh.  Every day.  Homemade is best.  They play for HOURS.  I love PlayDoh.

8.  I was SO blessed to meet sweet Sister Linda Reeves, Sister Jones, and Sister McConkie when they came to visit Central New York.  These women serve in the General Presidencies of our   Church.  They are good, holy, humble women.  I felt God's love for me through their touch and heard Him in their words. 
9. We had a fairly quiet Spring.  My kids are involved but not excessively involved in sports, lessons, clubs, etc.  This has been a quieter stage of life and I just want to remember it.  We play outside a lot.  Our farm animals are dreamy.  Our yard is dreamy.  We play games, we sneak out for Icecream.  We have friends over.  We have a no tv, no video game, try to do something besides movies rule. We're focusing on DOING more together and it is really fun.
10.  How am I feeling?  I feel good.  Spring is in my soul!  My lung, swelling, weird autoimmune issues have cleared up.  I'm fat (from steroids) and out of shape.  Todd and I both are.  We need to get moving!

I LOVE this beautiful weather.  Although I never made it very far with Whole 30 (way too extreme for me), I am eating healthier.  I'm walking everyday, outside.  I'm going to bed early (by 9 or 10) and waking up early (by 5 or 6).  My food focus is little meat, whole grains, fruits and veggies, nothing ridiculously expensive or extreme.  I'm trying herbs to heal.

I still have a large, complex cyst on my ovary and they want to do surgery to remove it.  The thought of more surgery is really not attractive to me.  I just spent too much money on some highly recommended Chinese herbs that are supposed to help calm and then nourish my insides.  Hopefully, after a few months on these herbs my cyst will shrink naturally (although it is not the shrinking type of cyst).  I've never tried anything like this before, but I have a lot of respect for Eastern medicine.  Todd and I figured it was worth a try.  Hope with me!

I hear people talking all the time about finding themselves, caring for themselves, loving themselves more.  All I have to say about that is that my life is very rarely about myself and I am having so much fun!  

Yes, there are many days when I'm drowning and overwhelmed.  I'm never as good as I wish I were and I'm certain I'm not as physically attractive or stress-free as I would be if I focused on myself for the past 20 years.  I don't get pedicures, I wash laundry while my husband eats lamb and mint pie in England, I haven't gotten a tan in four years.  My life is full and overwhelmingly wonderful.  I can't imagine a life without prom, roller coasters and PlayDoh.  Loose yourself and ye shall find yourself.  

I'm tired and happy and I wake up each day filled with purpose and power.
My family is my treasure.
My life is real and eternal.
I'm so grateful to be alive, to be a mother, to be a member of this New York community and to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Life is beautiful and so good.

May 19, 2016

6 Daily Inspirations on Motherhood

I was asked to write a short, spiritual, column about motherhood to be published in the Syracuse paper during the week of Mother's Day.  (Writing a thought in only 100 words is very difficult, especially for one as verbose as I am.)  Saturday is my favorite, so if you don't read all of them, just skip to Saturday.
If you click on the day of the week you can read it in the actual online paper.

Monday-- They Did All Eat and Were Filled.
Feeding the hungry is one of the holy acts of mothering. As we nourish others, we bond them to us. Perhaps this is why our bodies are designed to need food regularly. Sister Julie Beck said, "To nurture and feed our children physically is as much an honor as to nurture and feed them spiritually." In one New Testament miracle, five loaves and two fishes were shared by thousands: "And they did all eat, and were filled." (Matthew 14:20) We feel this miracle in our lives as we expand our tables to feed our families and our neighbors.

Tuesday--  I Wash Thee
Cleansing is a monotonous, unavoidable, and holy act of mothering. Mothers wipe faces, dry tears, blow noses, mop floors, wash laundry, and bandage scraped knees. Like the Good Samaritan, our first response when we see someone in need is to clean and bind their wounds. Jesus also washed his disciple's feet. He said to Peter, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. And Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. (John 13:8) Washing is a daily sacrament for as we wash physically we unite spiritually.

Wednesday-- Drop By Drop
The great acts of mothering are small, daily, repetitive tasks. Wise mothers know that character cannot be taught in a single sitting. Self-discipline is carved gently through days, weeks, and years of practicing at home. "Be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great." (Doctrine and Covenants 64:33) Mothering is not an event; it is a process of creation. As we serve daily, our children become our Grand Canyons. Lucretius taught, "The water hollows out the stone, not by force but drop by drop."

Thursday--  Tools of Creation
Our miraculous, mother bodies are tools of creation. Pregnant mothers partner with God and man to form lungs, ears, sweet baby toes, and a beating heart. No modern-day technology can compare with the magnificent and inherent ability of a woman's womb to grow human life. If your mother has done nothing more for you in life than create your body, she has still done a great work. "Greater love hath no [woman] than this, to lay down [her] life for her [child]." (John 15:13) Women create life, but they also create lives for those they love.

Friday--Continue In My Love
Mothers quickly learn to love messy, naughty, difficult, completely adorable children. We learn to love past the snotty noses and sticky fingers. We learn to SEE who our children really are and who they can become. We don't love our children less as we watch them learning the lessons of life. I hope that as we have learned to love our children, we have also learned that we are loved and cherished in our own imperfections. So, like Jesus we can say, "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love." (John 15:9)

Saturday-- Motherhood is Worship
Motherhood is true worship. A home does not need a spire or steeple to be a holy place. When we serve with love, we transform the mundane to the sublime. A scripture from the Book of Mormon reminds us that "When you are in the service of your fellow beings you are only in the service of your God." (Mosiah 2:17) Glorifying God in our homes will help us nourish as we feed, cleanse as we clean, heal as we comfort, and find eternal joy in the ordinary. May our children be our cathedrals and their eyes our stained glass windows.

Behold, Thy Mother

This is something I was asked to write for a religious column in our local newspaper.  You can find the link to the published article here.

"Motherhood, eternally linked with womanhood, is a characteristic of our heart as well as our womb. Before Eve bore a child, she was named the mother of all living." (Pearl of Great Price; Moses 4:26) As we celebrate mothers on this beautiful day, let us celebrate the holiness and power of mothering. Thomas S. Monson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says, "One cannot remember mother and forget God. Why? Because, these two sacred persons, God and mother, partners in creation, in love, in sacrifice, in service, are one." Our female bodies were designed to create life, to nourish life, to nurture life. When a nursing mother hears a baby cry, even a stranger's baby, her breasts swell with milk.
Our mother hearts also swell when we feel need and suffering in others. Our physical bodies and our souls are designed to nourish and nurture. Isn't that beautiful? On the cross, moments before his death, Christ saw his mother and a disciple whom he loved. He said to his mother, "Woman, behold thy son." And to his disciple, "Behold thy mother." (John 19:26-27) Perhaps we also hear these words whispered to our hearts when we see suffering around us. When we see a homeless man on the street or a hungry child on television, we might feel the whisper "woman, behold thy son." When we respond to this call with loving action we answer back, "behold thy mother." J. Edgar Hoover said the cure for crime is not the electric chair, it is the high chair. Oh women, we are mighty mothers, we can mother more! What power is greater than the unified love of mothers to heal our families, our communities, and our nations? Let us feel God in us as we expand our mothering hearts together to mother all life.
Jenifer Moss was named 2016 New York Mother of the Year by the American Mothers Association. Jenifer and Todd Moss are parents of eight and are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

May 09, 2016

What Comes Next?

My heart is full this morning, the day after Mother's Day, one week after I attended the National American Mothers convention in Washington, DC with my mothers, daughters, and sisters.  (I only have 11% battery on my phone as I type quickly, and more importantly, my toddlers are alone downstairs possibly wrecking havoc unsupervised when Wild Kratz looses it's appeal.)

I have spent the past few months, even the past 39 years, analyzing motherhood.  And, I'm overwhelmed.  

I feel the great power and influence of mothers.  I feel my own ability to do great things.  

Motherhood, womanhood, strength, grace, charity, power-- these concepts pulse through my soul!  

Oh, women!  What a great work we have to do.  And yet, I'm here, in my bed, with 9% battery unsure what comes next.

I have been so touched lately by Mary in the first and last moments of Christ's mortal life.

When the angel Gabriel appeared to the young virgin girl announcing to her that she was going to have a holy baby, he said to her, "With God, nothing shall be impossible."

Mary responded "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." (Luke 1:38)

As Mary watched her son take his last suffering breaths in his mortal body, He spoke to her.  He cared for her.  She was His last act of mercy.

26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! 
27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! (John 19:26-27)

I feel this call to act deep in my soul.  With so many opportunities to serve I often pray to know where God wants me to serve today. w

What comes next for willing hands to do?

I received an email from my friend Delphine.  A beautiful, immigrant, New York mother who read my profile and came to DC because she "wanted to be on my team."  I love her.  I'm still not sure what our team is going to do.

Here I am this morning.  I am a mother.  Perhaps today, more than any other moment of my life, I feel my power and potential, while at the same time absolutely recognizing my limitations and weakness.  

God has tried and tested me over the past 39 years.  He knows me, and because of life's trials, I know me.  We both know that I am brave, optimistic, funny, and genuinely kind.  We know that my faith is stronger than my fear.  We know that I am completely devoted to following the voice that speaks to my heart.  I will do what I feel is right, even if it kills me.  My mind and body are strong and fragile.  I have choosen my priorities and carved those priorities on every surface of my body and my soul.  He knows my strengths and understands when I'm not strong. 
I believe mothering is noble and holy.  But, I also believe time is sacred.

I believe in mothers.  I am not afraid to do big things, and yet I find greatness in small things.  I know that this world is full of good, good people.  I know that only God knows how to move His army forward to build His kingdom.  

I trust Him.  I know Him.  

I know He can cure me in an instant, or take me.  He can fill my words with power.  He can clear my mind.  He can touch my children and bring peace to our home.  I also know that His Plan, the great plan of happiness promises that growth comes from hard work and joy comes from pain.  The one who loves us most, simply will not remove from our path the hurdles that He knows can bless and mold us.  

I know He loves me.  
I know He loves you.  
I know He is the conductor.  
I'm just not sure what comes next.

13 And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean? 
(Old Testament, 2 Kings, 2 Kings 5)

I would do some great thing.
And I will gratefully wash.

I choose to be here.
I choose to be quiet.
I choose to spend my days weeding, organizing, feeding, and mothering my own flock.

But, my ears are open, my eyes are watching, my hands are willing and I am waiting on Him.

I know His voice.  
I know His call.  
I trust His plan.

Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord.
Behold, thy mother.

March 30, 2016

Because I Believe in MOTHERS

I was choosen as 2016 New York Mother of the Year.  

I'm not someone who seeks after recognition, in fact it makes me quite uncomfortable.  But, I accepted the nomination because I felt in my soul that this would be an honor that would allow me to use my story to inspire others.

I believe in mothering!  I believe mothers have a sacred work to do, and I believe we will not know our power until we learn to mother our offspring and mother our nation.  

Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.

Oprah Winfrey

Mothers nurture, heal, nourish, create, comfort, organize, inspire, and love.  This mothering begins at home but if mothering ends at home our nation will perish.  

I truly believe the only way we will ever have peace in the world, heal sickness, banish poverty, or unify our communities is if good mothers expand their nurturing.  A mother's love heals scraped knees and  aching communities.  What power is greater than the unified love of mothers to heal our nation?

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle Rules The World
    Blessings on the hand of women!
    Angels guard its strength and grace,
    In the palace, cottage, hovel,
    Oh, no matter where the place;
    Would that never storms assailed it,
    Rainbows ever gently curled;
    For the hand that rocks the cradle
    Is the hand that rules the world.

    Infancy's the tender fountain,
    Power may with beauty flow,
    Mother's first to guide the streamlets,
    From them souls unresting grow--
    Grow on for the good or evil,
    Sunshine streamed or evil hurled;
    For the hand that rocks the cradle
    Is the hand that rules the world.

    Woman, how divine your mission
    Here upon our natal sod!
    Keep, oh, keep the young heart open
    Always to the breath of God!
    All true trophies of the ages
    Are from mother-love impearled;
    For the hand that rocks the cradle
    Is the hand that rules the world.

    Blessings on the hand of women!
    Fathers, sons, and daughters cry,
    And the sacred song is mingled
    With the worship in the sky--
    Mingles where no tempest darkens,
    Rainbows evermore are hurled;
    For the hand that rocks the cradle
    Is the hand that rules the world.

    William Ross Wallace
Mothers create and sustain life.

A mother's body literally creates the cells of her child.  A mother's breast nourishes her child.  A mother's mouth preaches the first sermons her child will hear.  A mother's love warms her child's soul.  A mother's neglect is foundationally damaging for a child, and a mother's nurturing is foundationally stabilizing.

"When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses?"

Elder Neal A. Maxwell

Mothers are our best national resource.

As we have moved across the country and lived in the East, West, North, and South, we have found strong families, loving communities, and devoted mothers.  

When I feel my own inadequacies as a mother, I thank God for neighbors, teachers, coaches, bus drivers, authors, musicians, preachers, and friends who help to guide and nurture my children and me.  

Mothers give life and save lives.

Two years ago, I almost died giving birth to my grand finale little boy.  Being diagnosed with Placenta Percreta, I knew that choosing to carry my son meant risking my life and that was a risk I chose.  

During weeks of hospital bed rest, I would scoot my wheelchair to the rooms around me getting to know other mothers who were carrying high-risk pregnancies.  I have never walked the halls of a veterans' hospital, but I saw that type of bravery on that mother-baby floor.  I felt that bravery in the NICU and saw hero mothers and soldier children on the pediatric floor.  Hospitals are brimming with brave, enduring soldiers who nurture and endure to save lives.

I was not the only mother in the operating room when Ben was born.  Brave nurses, doctors, and surgeons literally held my life in their hands and fought for over twelve hours to keep me alive.  There were complications and one of my main arteries was accidentally cut.  A surgeon later told me.  "It was one of the worst days of my life, you were dying in our hands and we loved you."

My heart kept beating as the blood from over 200 strangers was pumped through 5 different ports into my body.  That day my life was literally saved by 200 strangers and hundreds of hospital workers, community and family members, and strangers who read my blog and offered a prayer for me.  

Perhaps this experience made my heart grow two sizes, because today it explodes with love and gratitude for good, good people who bless the lives of others.  This was just one traumatic and beautiful day in my life, but this is their everyday.  

My life was saved by a community and I feel compelled to pay that forward.  My story is the story of our nation.  We are a nation of caring families, friends and strangers.

Mothers triumph over difficulty.

The Statue of Liberty boasts her grand proclamation in the immortal words of Emma Lazerus, 

Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, 
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. 
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: 
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Ground Zero stands as a monument to good rising from evil, where etched in stone is the promise, "Terrorist attacks can shape the foundations of our tallest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America.  We will not tire.  We will not falter.  We will not fail."  G. W. Bush

Both monuments represent the power of goodness to triumph over difficulty through community.  Mothers, not governments, are best suited to welcome  these huddled masses and mothers lay America's indomitable foundation.  The spirit of America is the spirit of motherhood.

Mothers unite to do good.

I have come to know and love many powerful organizations nationally and locally.  PTA, The Red Cross, Hope for Accreta foundation, InterFaith Works, Women Transcending Boundaries, the Relief Society, and even my local book group has made a difference in who I am today.  These organizations have expanded my home and improved our community.  I feel that a nationwide organization of American Mothers has the possibility to do great things.

Mothers need more children and bigger kitchen tables.

This past year, I participated on a committee to develop community-wide sessions focusing on interfaith dialogue.  While at one meeting a friend said, "It is easy to say you are not racist, but when was the last time you had someone of a different race or religion over for dinner in your home."  This statement changed me.

Mothers can expand their influence. 

Over the past year, opportunities were presented to me where I would serve outside of my comfort zone.  Initially, I was surprised and embarrassed by my feelings.

I felt fear driving to dialogue sessions in small churches in downtown Syracuse at night.  I felt nervous entering a gated Muslim Mosque.  I felt inadequate representing Mormonism on TV and Radio programs focused on African American family history and discussing religion on a panel at a Catholic school.  I felt unsure coordinating a booth of very white Mormons in the NAACP PanAfrican Village of the NY State Fair.  

My heart broke as I loved a young teenage girl who wouldn't smile because she was embarassed by her teeth.  It broke again when a dear friend told of spending hours online with a missionary who was helping her with family history.  She was so grateful for this service  provided by my church, but then said, "I didn't tell that woman that I was a married lesbian, because I still wanted her to help me."  

Maybe these opportunities would have been easier for others, but for me, they were stretching and life changing.

Mothers know healing hurts sometimes.

With intense health challenges I learned not to fear pain, because often feeling pain means you are healing.  I feel this healing as I intentionally diversify my community.  Temporary discomfort is followed by growth and expansion.  

My fear was transformed into love as stereotypes faded behind real people with real stories.  As I have purposefully sought to enlarge the boundaries of my community, I have felt my heart swell, and my already large family has grown more colorful and more diverse.

My young friend who wouldn't smile was introduced to a community who worked to get her the dental care she needed.  She told me she wants to be a dental hygienist someday.

My daughters wrapped their heads in silk scarves and knelt beside me to pray with our Muslim sisters in their mosque.

My husband and I helped to drive, feed, and house refugee families arriving off the plane for their first night in America.  No matter what politically charged headlines say, I will never forget the moment those tired mothers first learned to fill a bathtub with warm water to bathe their children. Looking into their grateful eyes, I knew our hearts spoke the same language.  We were different colors, different religions, different nationalities, but we were both mothers. 

My seven year old performed at one event with a theatre club holding signs that said, All Lives Matter. As the only white child in the group, Lily said, "First I was afraid because I felt alone.  And then I realized they were all my friends, so it was really fun."

And really, that is what I have learned as a mother to my own children and as I expand my mothering to include those in my community.  We are alone until we look outside ourselves to see friends.  

We mother our children best when we help them to know that our family extends beyond our home into our communities.

I am a mother.  My life centers on eight of the most precious, smart, beautiful, sassy little spirits on Earth.  But I would not be here if it weren't for the love of strangers, the power in community, one dear mother who literally gave of herself to create my life, and many surrogate mothers who nurtured me along the way.

Yes, I am the NY Mother of the Year and I believe in New York mothers.  I believe in American mothers.  I believe in the mothers of the world.  I know that a mothers love can heal our homes, our communities, and our world.  

I have held eight of my own, perfect, precious newborns and in their eyes I have seen greatness.  I've prayed that God would expand my heart to love more, my mind to know more, and strengthen my hands to serve more for them.  I've seen greatness in your children also.  I've offered that same prayer that God would help us to love them.  God answers those prayers, because God believes in mothers.

Every woman is mother of the year to those she nurtures.  Let us all mother more, mother further, and mother greatly.

March 26, 2016

Run Like a Horse

"You know, you can take a good mule up in the mountains, and the mule will do a lot of work for you.  But when a mule gets tired, it will stop.  You can push it, you can pull it, and you can motivate it with a stick, but until it has recovered it will go nowhere.  But, if you have a good horse, you can run with that horse until it drops over, completely exhausted or dead.  Today you ran like a horse." Coach James as quoted in BYU Magazine, "Run Like a Horse". Winter 2016

I was so inspired as I read this article written by a great BYU track coach, Edward Eyestone.

This was a parable told to Ed after he dropped of heat exhaustion in a race, failing to qualify as All American something he has spent a year training for.

Coach Eyestone went on to say, "That made me feel better-- the fact that he thought I had given it that kind of effort.  I think what my good mentor Coach James taught me at that time was that life is structured such that many times we are going to do everything possible to accomplish our goals, but the nature of life is that sometimes, despite doing all the right things, we are going to come up a little short.  But if we have done everything in our power- if we have run like a horse- then that is all that is required.  We can hold our heads high.  We're going to accomplish a lot in the process."

"I made All-American 10 times after my mission, but the fact is, I don't cherish or remember those 10 times I had success nearly as much as the one time I came close and Coach James said I ran like a horse.  We often learn more from our so-called failures than from our successes."

I'm not sure why this story healed a part of my soul this morning.  But I found in this example a sense of pride in weakness and fatigue that has helped to heal the guilt all good mothers feel as we notice our capacity is not as great as our desire to serve.  

We are mothers.

We run like horses.

We love, we serve, we train.

We win some and we loose some.

We try again.

And, I'm proud of that.

I just know that our coach is smiling even on days we fall short of All American.

Happy Easter friends.

Life is good.

March 03, 2016

My Story

My story was published today on Design Mom- you can read it here.  Last year I sent her my story in an effort to raise awareness for hopeforaccreta.org when I was running for the Face of Accreta.

Gaby told me my story was too long and I never sent her a revised draft.  A few weeks ago she sent me a note saying her editor had cut it down and that it was in queue. 

I flipped over to her blog tonight after watching the Republican debate and was surprised at the amount of comments that has been deleted or edited to remove rudeness.  It seems that my birth story has turned into a bit of a pro-life/pro-choice debate.  

I felt myself defending my choice to keep Ben to a group of strangers.  As I was typing, I KNEW that all I would need to do was invite these women to my house for one afternoon to feel how alive and beautiful and beloved this child is in our home.  Not one person who has met Ben would think I should have aborted him.  

Having eight children is not for everyone. Choosing not to abort a life-threatening pregnancy is not for everyone.  Being a stay-at-home mother is not for everyone. Having cows, chickens, and a horse is not for everyone.  Not everyone feels the same passion for speaking out, blogging, or being involved in the community that I do.

We waste too much time in life trying to live like other people.  

This is MY life.  This is our story.  Todd and I made many choices in life that brought us to the decision to bring Ben into this world.  And we feel BLESSED to have him.  We feel BLESSED to have all of our eight children.  (God grant us the patience to deal with our blessings- ha!)

Yes, physically Ben's birth was VERY hard.  It was hard mentally.  It impacted me, my husband, and our children.  My extended family and friends suffered as I suffered.  Ben is almost three and his difficult birth still affects my life daily.  We moved across the country months after Ben's birth and that is still hard.

It is hard to have a large family.

Sometimes I would give anything to have my health and strength back, anything except my little boy.  He is worth the sacrifices I have made to give him life.

I believe you can't give God a crust without getting a loaf.  I've given God my crusts and He has given me eight of the happiest, kindest, smartest, most helpful, sassy little kids ever.  And, I'm ridiculously in love with my Mary Poppins practically perfect husband.  


I'm not sure I would choose health trials, but they have taught me so much.

No, I'm not a perfect mother.  I'm sure my kids will need therapy later because I'm weird.  They might grow up to have eight kids or they might grow up not wanting children at all.  

They will have to choose.  
You will have to choose.  
And, I chose.

I'm choosing every single day.

Today, I had two little girls home sick, one with the flu and the other with strep.  I had a potty training little boy who agreed with me that it was time for new carpet in the family room.  I had two middle school daughters who were in the High School Musical and two sons who cooked dinner, cleaned up, and carried on a lively dialogue as we watched the Republican debate.  My husband worked late teaching a night class and made me laugh as he barely choked down one sip of the black pepper tea a friend of mine told me to drink.  

I spent too much time and money online and too little time mopping my kitchen floor.

Tomorrow a carpet cleaner is coming and I'm ridiculously excited.  I also agreed to dog sit my friend's giant Doberman puppy (she's up to my waist).  I'm a little nervous.  I feel 80% physically healthy and 80% mentally healthy, and I'm ok with that.  I have great friends and a great family.  

Honestly, if I could change anything about my life, I would be healthier, have a little more money and hire a housekeeper (just until Ben hits kindergarten).  But, I wouldn't wish away one of my children.  I wouldn't wish away the trials of my life.  Because, my greatest gifts came well packaged.  

Thank you for reading my story even as you are writing yours.

Here is a poem I love that I read again tonight...
My life is but a weaving

Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;

And I in foolish pride

Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent

And the shuttles cease to fly

Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful

In the weaver’s skillful hand

As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.
(Corrie ten Boom)

Here is the comment that my sweet and eloquent Aunt Sandra wrote on the article.  I'm just copying it here because I want to remember it.

One of the great joys of my life is to be Jenifer’s aunt. The openness with which she has used her experiences to educate others on this condition has touched tens of thousands of lives on continents around the world. She has shared her story through her writing and on tv. She and Ben have led blood drives to celebrate this birthday to ‘pay back’ & honor the hundreds of people who saved her life that day. She has done more than our society could ask to help others learn about the risks and the need for early detection of this condition. No one enjoys putting their lives out there in this sort of public forum, least of all a mother who is herself still dealing with intense medical issues while raising 8 ‘sassy’ kids (as she describes them). I am a lefty-liberal pro-choice feminist (whatever any of that means). And I can tell you this vibrant, loving woman embodies the very best of our human instincts for survival. I have had the privilege of hugging young Ben and seeing the sparkle in his eyes. Whatever some of your readers think they might know about Jen and her faith, they can’t come close to understanding how down-to-earth, grounded, and loving an act bringing Ben into this world was, decisions that had to be made and reinforced time and again over months and months. Even as we in her extended family watched her body struggle to regain blood flow and oxygen, we were comforted in the knowledge that she was fighting for her family with every ounce of strength she had. And on those days, I envied her faith, because lacking a religious background myself, I was struggling to find the hope she relied upon. Even if the worst had happened, I would never have second guessed her. Jen’s choice was as legitimate as any other option out there, and she put her life literally on the line for it. Her story tests us so-called feminists. Are you really ‘pro-choice’ or just ‘pro-your-choice’?
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