May 30, 2019

Scarcity vs Sufficiency

Come, sit by me for a minute and let's talk about feeling peace and joy when you look around you and see a gap between where you are and where you wish you were.

If you know me at all, you know that I am a STRIVER. I have this inner drive that is half mental and half amazing. I always wish I could do more and if I'm honest, this desire makes me amazing and annoying at the same time. 

Today on the way home from work I was listening to a book on tape- The Gift of Imperfection by Brene Brown, and I was so touched by her discussions on the scarcity mentality vs feeling of sufficiency. I recognize within myself a feeling of scarcity-- my house is never clean enough, my yard is never weeded enough, my kids are never well-behaved, modest, or helpful enough. I don't have enough time to serve. I don't have enough energy. I don't have enough self-discipline. 

I wrote a comment on Facebook and I said "my life is not picture-perfect". 
I am finishing up teaching early morning seminary and I told a student in an email, "there are so many goals that I had for this class that we didn't accomplish..."

And then, I began to scroll through my instagram account @mossmoments

Do you know what I found? 

I found a picture-perfect life. 

I found a mom who loves her children.
I found happy, smiling kids.
I found a house that looks lived in and lovely.
I found a yard that is green and beautiful.
I found goals that were accomplished.
I found a family that is thriving, serving, and trying. 

The thing that makes me sad when I look at those pictures is not that my house is too messy or my yard has weeds. I don't even feel sad that I didn't serve another person in my church or that I'm very lazy about kneeling for prayer time. The thing that made me sad when I looked at those pictures is that I know, I KNOW, that even on the days when I posted the cutest pictures I went to bed feeling like I was failing.

And, the truth was, I WAS failing... at some things. 

But, the truth also is, I am succeeding at many things. 

I don't know. I'm only 42 and I'm still trying to figure out this thing called life. 

I remember I learned a lesson when I was in the hospital with Ben. 
I learned that people don't' just have FAITH. Meaning, when I was laying in my hospital bed very ill, I did not just FEEL certain that God was blessing me and helping me and that everything would be okay. I felt a lot of DOUBT. I felt scared. I felt forsaken. I felt sick and tired and grumpy and angry at God. AND I felt loved and blessed and so very lucky, and so close to the Lord. I felt BOTH at the same time.  

I learned in the hospital that FAITH is not a feeling. It is a CHOICE. I really had to choose what feeling I focused on because if I focused on my doubt and self-pity I would quickly drown in misery and pain. If I focused on my blessings, my belief, my gratitude-- my faith would also grow and I would SEE more miracles in my life. I physically felt better when I chose to focus on the positive. Pollyanna understood this truth. 


I think the truth is, we all are amazing at some things and we suck at others. I think our kids are good at some things and awful at others. I don't think it is "fake" to focus on the positive. I think focusing on the positive is actually the secret to success. 

I don't think that I need to improve one whit to be good enough. I think, I just need to be able to SEE where I fall short and CHOOSE not to focus on that. I think my SCARCITY mentality will always be there, sitting on my shoulder. I will always see areas that I can improve. I just think I need to learn to SEE the mess and not focus on it. 

What do you think? 
Maybe some people are just naturally faithful and they really never doubt. Yay them. This isn't me. 

Maybe some people aren't bothered if they have a messy bathroom sink or baskets of unfolded laundry hiding in their bedroom. This isn't me. I'm bothered by everything I wish I had figured out and I don't. I think I've spent too much time trying to not be bothered by this stuff or trying to be good enough to never have things that bother me. But, maybe I have had it all wrong. Maybe I can just accept that I have things that bother me... and not focus on them. 

I have sufficient for my needs. I have sufficient for my family. I have sufficient time. I have sufficient skills. I have a sufficient home and sufficient order. 

I'm not a superstar or a loser. I'm sufficient. I'm enough. 

I have a confession to make to you. I think I already admitted this...

I taught an early morning scripture class this year and I had a few goals for our class.
1. I wanted to feel the Spirit in our lessons each day.
2. I wanted the kids to really gel, to have inspiring gospel conversations, and to build each other up.
3. I wanted to use our actual books of scripture, to mark them up, study them, and love them. 

I can say, we felt the Spirit each day. I felt the Spirit. I learned. Our lessons were good. Okay.

But, I talked WAY too much. Honestly. I lectured. The kids didn't really discuss. They were quiet and tired and when they did talk it was about out-of-class stuff, not the lesson. They would answer questions and talk a little. But, we didn't achieve the classroom interaction that I wish we could have. 

I blame myself. I didn't prepare enough for my lessons. I spent too much time on social media avoiding lesson prep and too little time prepping. I was insecure (teaching my own teenagers is tough). I didn't trust them to chat- I directed the lessons too much. I was nervous that I wasn't teaching well and I tried to get through each lesson instead of helping them discover the lessons.  I could go on and on in my evaluation. This first year of teaching was rough. I have 100 things I wish I would have done differently. And, I'm right. These are real observations. 

And, we didn't use our scriptures. WE USED OUR PHONES. bleh. I REALLY wanted the kids to mark and search paper scriptures. But, we just didn't do it. I don't think any of us REALLY loved our scriptures this year the way I loved my scriptures when I was in high school. It isn't just that we used our phones, it's that we never got INTO the scriptures like I know we could have if I were a better teacher. I taught the lessons but I didn't feel the feast that was there... I've been better before. This scarcity is real- I simply wasn't a great teacher. 

I had these darling teenagers EVERY MORNING for a whole school year and I didn't achieve my goals. In a way, I feel like I let myself down, the kids down, their parents down, and God down. I really feel that way. And, I think I'm right. 

BUT... I also know that I'm loved. My Father in Heaven loves me fiercely. He called me to teach this class even though He knew I would fail to get the class to completely open up and expound deeply on gospel principles in class. He knew I would fail to help them mark and love their scriptures. And, it was OKAY.  It was sufficient for Him, for them, and for me. My effort was enough.  He took my offering EVEN THOUGH IT WAS ONLY ONE FISH AND ONE LOAF (not enough) and He made it sufficient. My failure is enough for His feast. 

I think I'm in the habit of seeing my faults and using that as a springboard to self-improvement. 

This lesson is different. It is more about pacing than perfection. 

Can you see something in yourself that you know you could improve but feel okay that you haven't improved it yet? Can you give yourself grace BEFORE you have improved? 

I'm working on that. 

I need to go to bed now. I'm certain I'm rambling. 

I have one more example of what I'm talking about that I have learned from work.

I used to get in trouble at work because I worked too many hours and I always forget to take lunch. 

You see, in my mind, I had a job to do and it was EXTRA GOOD of me to forgo my lunch or work late to try to accomplish the task that I am supposed to accomplish. 

In my mind, a "good enough" employee finished assignments, helped all her tenants/landlords to be happy, returned every email promptly, and answered every phone message ASAP. If this meant I didn't get lunch or had to work late (without getting paid more), I was willing to do that to be a "good employee".

Turns out, my boss had a different idea of what makes an employee great. In her mind, the list of tasks in my job would NEVER be finished. So, to her, a good employee practiced self-care and time-management. She wanted to see me take at least a 30-minute lunch every day and leave EXACTLY at the end of my day. To her, it was the ability to LIMIT my work that made me effective NOT the ability to devote myself to my job. 

Understanding this paradigm difference, actually helped me to shift my way of thinking and to become a more responsible employee. My boss asked me one day, "Why can't you leave work on time?" I realized that to me, staying late to finish more was being a good employee. She explained that in her mind a good employee understood the boundaries of what they could accomplish in one day and was responsible enough to leave at the scheduled time. I was changed. 

How does this relate to scarcity/sufficiency? 

The Scarcity Mentality is me constantly trying to FINISH my job... working long hours and feeling great stress when I finally left because even though I worked an extra two hours without extra pay, I am still not DONE.

The Sufficient Mentality is me agreeing to work every day from 8:30 am to 4 pm with a 30-minute lunch break from 12 to 12:30. Sufficiency is understanding that I will give my best between those hours even though I KNOW that I will not be able to help all the people I am hired to help or return all the emails or finish all the reports. I do not have enough time or money or skills to actually help the people I work with the way I wish I could help them. It really isn't possible. But, my boss wants me to TRY. To work hard- for 7 hours, and then go home. She wants me to prioritize and to be calm and professional not stressed and over-achieving. 

Stopping my day, every day at 3:30 pm has been an interesting life skill to learn. It is almost impossible for me. But, I try. I try to wind down my day at 3:30, to clean up my desk, to shut down my computer and to tell myself... the problems you see will still be here tomorrow. WELL DONE FOR TODAY. 

Guess what? 
I do have a picture-perfect life.
I have two loads of unfolded laundry in my bedroom and 10 loads of laundry that I washed/dried/folded and helped my kids put away. 
We had a house full of friends all weekend long. 
I help people.
I love my children.
My kids are normal/good kids. 
My kids are healthy and happy and imperfect but full of joy. 
My house is safe and sanitary and lovely and a little messy. 

 There is a gap between where I am and where I wish I was... but I'm headed in the right direction. 

I don't think anyone expects me to FINISH today. 
I think it's okay with God if I have two little manilla folders labeled "Talk Less/Get Your Class to Talk More" and "OPEN YOUR SCRIPTURES MORE" that I place in my active file cabinet drawer of "THINGS TO DO..." or projects I'm still working on. 

I can have a successful day even when I still have things I know I need to improve on... I can rest.  I can take a lunch break. I can tidy my desk and feel sufficiently successful even when there is a pile of things I COULD NOT DO. I can rest even with two laundry baskets of unfolded laundry at the foot of my bed. When I spend my hours doing good... I am enough, even when I still see so much I could be doing...  Isn't that an interesting paradigm shift? 

Oh God, help me to feel this peace. 
Help me to be gentle with myself and gentle with others. 
Help me not to shrink. 
Help me not to puff myself up. 
Help me to stand right here, before you, in my holy, naked, unfinished state. 
Take my loaves and fishes and feed your sheep. 
Take my 7 hours and help me to do thy work. 
Remove from my soul a feeling of scarcity 
OR shout loudly to my mind that You can make scarce things useful. 

Bless my seminary class to learn to love thy word. 
Bless me to become a better teacher/facilitator. 
Help me to feast. Forgive me for numbing. Bless me with thy grace, thy mercy, thy rest, thy peace. 
Forgive me. 
Heal me. 
Love me. 
Help me feel thy peace and joy.

This life is good. 

May 06, 2019

My Anna- Junior Prom 101

Love the one most who needs you the most. I heard this advice from a mom of a large family who was interviewed by Oprah. Another mom I admire gave the advice that it’s okay to work more the kids who work more. I think of both these statements often as a mother. Perhaps because they are practical statements but somewhat counterintuitive.

As prom was approaching, I just felt in my heart that my Anna needed a little extra TLC. This Junior year time of transition is such an exciting and life-defining time. It is also a time when mothers and daughters/ parents and teens, are learning the dance of letting go and reeling in. 

As parents, we have so many questions and the answers are very individualized. How much do they still need you in their life? How much do you spend? How much do you dictate? What standards do you enforce and where do you let your children choose for themselves? 

I will tell you that finding that sweet spot of mothering is difficult. I continually volley between too much and too little. And, I’m a big, gooey sap for the times when my teenagers come to me asking for more Mom in their lives. 🙋🏻‍♀️ Yes, I am a Helicopter 🚁 Mom wannabe.

So- here is my Junior Prom 101.

Dances are not always a big deal for us. I buy one expensive dress per year, per teenager. The other dresses are thrifted, borrowed, or re-used.

Kids who want more, usually get more. I don’t push fancy on kids who are okay with casual. Their desire for fancy comes with time. (Ex. I didn’t rent a tux for boys who were fine wearing a suit. I also didn’t pay to get professional hair for girls who were okay styling hair themselves.)

This year, Junior Prom was a big deal for Anna. I could feel it. She wanted to feel pretty. It didn’t look like she would have a boy to take her to prom, from her small school or even smaller church group. This broke my heart more than hers. I was so glad she has the best group of girlfriends to go with! I really wanted Anna to see herself the way I see her. And honestly, Anna is really, really the most genuine, caring, graceful, beautiful, lovely lady. I couldn’t love or respect her more. 

We tried on so many dresses! Anna did not want black or navy. She wanted gold or white to go along with a Greek themed prom. We have tried ordering dresses online before and have ended up wasting hundreds of dollars on non-returnable dresses that my girls don’t like and can’t wear. So, we are stuck trying to find a modest dress in upstate New York.
She found her dress in Macy’s (Todd, Anna, and I had a prom-dress date night in February). She loved it but posted an Instagram post AFTER she bought the dress showing ten different options asking what dress she should buy and nobody (or few) picked the dress she had already bought. 🤦🏻‍♀️

Anna had been wanting “ombré” hair andhad it dyed for her birthday right before prom.
We paid for her hair, make-up, spray tan (level one not bronze) and nails to be professionally done. I know. That’s a lot. To put it in perspective this is Anna’s tenth dance and first where we have done more than one of these. I think she has gotten her nails done once and hair professionally styled once. My favorite part was that she really wanted me to take her places and help her decide what to do. So, I had a lot of fun driving around with her friends to primp. 

I was unsure about paying for makeup but it really made a huge difference.
 The day before prom she told me that everyone was coming to our house for pictures. So, we moved furniture to give them a blue wall background and I bought snacks for a buffet so the parents would stay after prom to chat and eat.
The BEST thing we did for prom was that my friend, a photographer, came over and took pictures of all the kids! I will forever cherish these beautiful pictures.

Yes, Junior Prom was a success. I was so tired from chaperoning the after prom party until 3am... but, I saw my little girl transform into a young woman in one afternoon. SHE saw her own beauty and that, in my opinion, was so important. 

From this...

To this...

Man, I love this lady. Watching my children grow is a sweet joy and a gift I will never take lightly. 

Life is good! 

May 05, 2019

Finding Peace

For almost 10 months now I have been trying to do a job that it difficult to do. My job is challenging and learning to work full-time, teach a daily scripture class in my home, and mother effectively has been a stretching/growing opportunity for me.

Because of confidentiality agreements, I am not able to discuss the details of my work. But, I do feel a need to have a place to write and process the personal lessons I am learning. I'm not sure that this blog is that place, but it is a comfortable place for me. A place I return when I feel that I am missing old friends. I'm tempted to write and turn off the comments because the truth is that I am too sensitive to the judgments and feelings of others. But, I appreciate feedback and I think the comments on a blog make the blog alive and interactive. I'm honestly not sure anyone will read these words. But, I feel compelled to take the time to write, if only for my own mental processing and accountability.

Confession 1: I am a lovely mess these days. I gained 20 lbs since starting work. 20. I weigh the same weight that I weighed when I GAVE BIRTH to each of my five children. I'm not a large person, so I am still feeling comfortable in my skin. I'm just not feeling healthy. I have tried whole-30 (lasted about whole-6), bright line eating (turns out I hate bright lines), Arbonne shakes, Clean Eats 30-day meal plan (their shakes/supplements made me sick), intermittent fasting, 30-days with no sugar/gluten/dairy, etc. The truth is that I just don't have enough energy to commit to any meal plan. I try to make healthy choices and that lasts only until I am tired and overwhelmed with care and hungry, and then my self-control is lost and I buy take-out or sneak bite-sized candy bars that everyone in my office has sitting in a jar on their desk. Curse the kitchen at work where people bring in donuts daily and the Mexican Restaurant next door. I really don't plan my meals well and then I'm starving and I eat junk. Every week I promise myself I will do better and... then I just buy larger size pants. I am normally a 4/6 and yesterday I tried on a pair of size 10 pants and they were tight. Sigh. I know there are many women who will roll their eyes at my weight issue. It really isn't an issue, just a nagging concern that sits in the back of my mind nagging me to take better care of myself. It is one thing on a long list of things that I know I should do but I'm not quite doing it.

Confession 2: I am not sure how to find time to exercise. I try to walk two miles during lunch each day with a friend of mine at work, but we are probably 3 out of 5 days. There is a gym at the high school I can use but I went there ONCE and I felt like an idiot. I really don't know what I'm doing and I'm very out of shape. I'm insecure about exercising by myself. I need a partner that will keep me motivated. I've tried yoga online and fitness blenders and other youtube videos. When I have the choice to get up and exercise or sleep/scroll through Instagram. I choose the lazy alternative. I know exercise helps my mental state and this is another one of my nagging goals. 

Confession 3: My kids are watching too much television. I need to come home from work and be PRESENT in my home. Most days we are at softball or track practices or games and so we are just running from place to place. But, when I am home I want to feel energized and not exhausted. I want to be able to turn off work and turn on home as well as my husband does. He has had 20 years of practice doing this.

Confession 4: I'm a lousy ministering sister/bishop's wife. My husband is currently serving as a leader in our church. There are so many families in our congregation that could use some love and support and I feel like I am always falling short. I need to serve the families at church better. I need to support our missionaries better. The problem is that I don't have anything left to give.

Confession 5: I am currently teaching a scripture class to 10 teenagers every morning from 6:05 to 6:50am at my house each morning. I am an okay teacher. I give what I have, we feel the Spirit teaching us, I have a strong testimony of this gospel and a deep love for my Savior. But, a few of my students have stopped coming. And, even though I have been teaching all year, I still don't feel like I have a deep LOVE for the scriptures. I want to hunger and thirst after the word of God. I want to feel like my time with these youth and my time with the Lord is filling my soul. It still feels like an assignment. It still feels like one more thing to do. I am doing it. But, I am not being filled. I am planning my lessons, but not FEASTING on the word.

I knew when I was called to this position that I would be successful IF I sacrificed the time I spent on social media for time in the scriptures. And, I have not done that. I feel my rebellious spirit holding on to "me time" and not trusting that if I drink the water that He has to give I will never thirst. I need His water.

Confession 6: The work that I do, allows me to see hearts, homes, and families that break my heart. I see first hand the devastation caused by broken families, mental health, poverty, disabilities, and drug abuse. My excessively loving heart bonds quickly with those that I serve and it also rips as I feel their pain and my inability to fix things for them.  I have to learn how to trust in the Lord. I have to learn how to feel His peace. I have to figure out how to sleep at night. How can I just come home and not see their faces floating in my brain? Right now, my mind is constantly racing, trying to solve these problems that I cannot solve. The babies, they stay with me. But, even the big/bad men. I look into their eyes and I see babies. I see good souls who are stuck and sick and aching and my soul loves them and wants to help them.

My boss said to me last week that maybe my background in "mission work" makes it difficult for me to do this job because I want to help everyone and I don't accept the boundaries of my job. She is right. My background as a Christian who loves deeply does make it difficult for me not to care and fight for these people.  Is this something that I can fix? Is this something that I want to fix?

Confession 7: I need to learn to trust in the Lord and not lean unto my own understanding. I know that to be an effective wife/mother/teacher/community servant I need to yoke my burden with His and just walk in my sphere. To be effective I need to know His voice and trust His revelation. I'm not there yet. I'm trying too much on my own. THIS is my goal. How can I draw nearer to Him to find His peace, His healing, His strength, His health. 

I'm going to start by immersing myself in the scriptures, by replacing this blog writing with time spent scrolling through social media.

I'm going to try to eat healthier in moderation.

I'm going to choose that next right choice, one minute of each day, starting today.

I'm pretty excited about today and I need to go to finish my cake for after church!

It is Cinco De Mayo. We are having two missionary couples over for dinner.

I'm making DIY Chipotle Bowls, Green Rice, Virgin Margaritas, and Tres Leche Cake.

I'm a striver. It is in my DNA. I feel like I can do all that is required of me IF I keep my life centered on the Savior. I need Him to fill me so that my meager loaves and fishes will be ENOUGH.

God bless all of you. God bless those in my family who I love and those in your family who you love. God bless those who are fighting each day to overcome addiction, to save their homes and their families and their lives. God bless those in social services who work each day to help others. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to understand how we can help. Bless us who are daily caregivers that we will feel plentiful and abundant. Help us to always have more to share. Bless that today will be a truly restful Sabbath Day.

Life is good.

October 14, 2018

When Half My Heart is in Antofagasta Chile

A Working Mom of Eight

This summer I accepted a position working at Onondaga County Department of Social Services- Economic Security. Onondaga County just became the grant administrators for a HUD Public Supportive Housing- Rental Assistance Program, formerly Shelter Plus Care. This grant provides housing subsidy and supportive services to those in our community who are chronically homeless and permanently disabled. I work 35 hours per week (8 am to 3:30 am or 8:30 to 4, depending on how my morning goes) and I hold one of six management confidential positions in the county. (Which means I am salaried, not hourly, I did not have to take a test to get my position, and I work with some very amazing people.)

My younger two children (Eve and Ben) go to the home of a friend of mine for one to two hours after school. They don't really need to do this, because I have older kids who could watch them. But, I didn't like the fact that they were not really being watched at home. My teenagers were busy with homework or staying after school. And, my middle-aged kids were not quite mature enough to watch the youngest (more creative) children. Having Eve and Ben at my friend's house has been SUCH a gift to me. She is a sweet mother (with older children) and she gives these little ones a mother's touch after school. Also, have them at a sitter allows my other children the freedom to participate in after-school activities. Most days, Eve and Ben go to my friend's house, Leah and Lily stay after for art club or drama and then they walk to the library, and Anna and Ellie stay after for sports or international club or choir. So, I get home anywhere from 4 to 5 pm and usually pick all the kids up on my way home. It really works. And, it's fun for them. 

While I was considering this fulltime position, I was called as an Early Morning Seminary teacher. We have twelve high school students (and their parents) who come to our house from 6 to 7 a.m. each morning. I teach seminary in our basement and my husband fixes everyone breakfast. We do this five days a week. Most of my students travel 30 minutes each way to attend seminary. We have the BEST group of kids and I honestly could not think of a better way to spend my mornings. When I was first called, I felt like I was being asked to do the IMPOSSIBLE. As I have served, I have realized that the opportunity to teach seminary during these transition months where I am heading to work, has been such a gift. When you have less time, you are more discerning of your time. Teaching seminary keeps me grounded in the scriptures and teaching my two teenage daughters (and their friends) keeps me connected to them at a time when it would be easy for them to drift away.

This opportunity has been a great learning experience for me. It is the first time (in over 20 years) that I am earning a salary for the work that I do and it is the first time that I am required to account to another person how I spend my daily hours. It has been an adjustment for both me and my family. Figuring out how to do laundry was my first hurtle. Now, I put one load in most nights, switch it to the drier in the morning and fold/put it away when I gather the next load the next night. I have yet to figure out how to serve my family healthy dinners. The quality of our dinners has been significantly decreased since I started work. I miss family dinner time (where we sit together at a set table to eat). This is my next goal.  

My home is tidy. My children are happy. My kids are still very involved in extracurricular activities. They are still straight-A students. They don't watch tv (most days) unless it is the weekend. They love to read. We have family scripture study and prayer most days. And, we are happy. I say this, not to brag, but to testify that it IS possible. I really did not know that it was. 

I have enjoyed the routine that accompanies employment. I love wearing dressy clothes. I am learning to do my small part and to stay balanced. I'm used to working hard to finish a task, but I am learning to work from 8 to 3:30 and then to come home. Work never ends. So, I can just do my part while I am there and it will wait for me to return the next day. I love having a desk and an office with a window. I love interacting with people all day. I really like the fact that I am not home and I cannot clean up after everyone else. So, my kids are learning to keep things clean on their own. I love driving to and from work with my husband (most of the time, he is an impatient driver and this makes me crazy some days- ha). I LOVE learning new things every day. 

Work is not always easy. I don't always do things right. I once offended a coworker by calling her "honey" and she spoke to me about that. I felt sick. But, I am learning. There really are so many good people in this world. I feel honored to work with them. I feel grateful for the privilege of working. I'm able to pay for my sons' missions with my salary and I feel like that is an honor. (Yes, they saved enough to pay for their own missions, but I want them to have that money when they get home.) I'm also adding to our savings and helping to pay off some student loans that we still have. It feels good to earn money. 

Working isn't all fun. I really don't have a lot of free time. But, it is good. I'm writing this blog again to share a little about what I am learning.

Lessons I Learned as a Mother in Graduate School

I want to share with you some of the lessons that I learned as a mother in graduate school. 

Practical Tips-
- Buy a laptop (i loved my Lenovo)
- Buy a messenger bag (I loved my Timbuk2)
- Look professional and you will feel capable
- I took notes in 5x7 moleskin books, paperback, one per class
- I scheduled my classes for M W and did homework T Th
- Watch your extra things. My one regret was that I stayed involved in outside/community things while I was in school. (Good for a resume, not good for sanity.)
- Exercise!  Yoga for 30 min in the mornings saved my life.
- Just do it. School is harder than work, on your family. Because you always have homework. I'm glad I got my degree in one year instead of dragging out the process.
- Apply for grants! There are a lot of scholarships for moms returning to school.
- Budget! I regret being lax on finances while I was in school (just because we were busy).
- Don't feel guilty about the time you aren't home, just make the time you are home POSITIVE
- Remember- school life is not real life. As a mom, you KNOW that nobody cares if you got a B- in Statistics, so try hard but don't worry too much about stuff that doesn't matter.
- There is a time and a season for PTA and your kids don't care if you send store-bought cupcakes to school on their birthday
- I brought my kids to class with me a few times and they loved it (just ask your teacher before you try it and be sure your kids are super well-behaved because everyone will be watching you)
- At the beginning, tell your groups that you are willing to work hard in the early morning and late night hours, but that you will not attend group meetings between 5 and 8 pm.
- Make friends! Don't pull away because you are different. I cherish the friendships I made with so many young, amazing students, teachers, and staff. I just didn't let myself feel dumb eating lunch with a professor or a student that was half my age. 
- Talk about your life, but not too much. 
- LEARN. I wish I had read even more and learned deeply the lessons I was paying to learn. You will never again have time to study and absorb at such a concentrated rate.

1. Women are very capable.

I am surprised that it was possible for me to do well in school AND care for my family. Granted, things were never picture perfect. But, things were not picture perfect even when I was home all day. I have spent a lot of time pondering what we spend our time on. When I was home full-time, I wish I would have cleaned less and accomplished more. I'm not sure why I allowed myself to spend so much time on temporal things. I wish I would have continued to learn. I wish I had taken a language course, gave myself permission to read more, or spent more time out of my house and in my community with my children.  Not all work is valuable. But also, not all time spent at home is valuable. Just because I didn't work, did not mean that I was spending my time effectively. Sometimes, when you have more time to waste, you waste more time. Having less time helped me to become more discerning and I think that is a good thing for capable women to become. You can do more with your days than you think you can.

2. Showing your children that you can do hard things is a valuable lesson.

For twenty years, I showed my children that they were my most important work. I would never trade those years. Additionally, I would not trade this year of my life. The lessons they learned watching me learn, study, and try hard to do something hard, that was a great life lesson for them also. I don't think that watching me go back to school encouraged all of them to want to work when they get older. They definitely missed having me in the home. So, in some ways, my year of graduate school may have reinforced, in their minds, that when they raise a family they will want a mom who stays at home. I am grateful for the seasons of life. I felt like this was another, very good season.

3. How your house FEELS is more important than how your house LOOKS.

My mother was home with my children during the summer months while I was in school full-time in an intense, condensed program of study. When I came home from school, she would tell me she had spent the whole day cleaning (and mopping). The honest truth is, I could NOT tell. I didn't notice when my floors were dirty and I couldn't tell when my house was clean. I just felt that my kids were happy and that is all that I cared about. Do you know HOW MANY YEARS I spent feeling stress about the cleanliness of my kitchen floor? I was somewhat offended when I spent my day cleaning and my husband didn't even notice. You know what, it is very hard to tell whether your floor is recently mopped or not if you aren't focused on floors. This seems obvious but was quite shocking to me.

4.  It is HARD to transition from work/school to a home mentality.

Right away, I noticed something surprising. My husband, who has spent YEARS balancing between work/school and family, had this amazing ability to just come home and jump right into family life. I trained him to do this after years of telling him, "When you are home, BE HOME." He is AMAZING at leaving work at work. I would drive with him to school and drive home with him. He could just walk right in the door to seven busy, needy kids and just be the dad.  And, I could not. I had a harder time transitioning. My brain was still at school, thinking about upcoming tests, homework assignments, statistics. My kids were a bit overwhelming for me. It took me time to unwind and connect. I could see myself as the husband that wants a Lazy-boy chair and ten minutes to read the news before any children can come to talk to me. This made me laugh. As a stay-at-home mother, I was not sensitive to the idea that my husband had a lot on his mind. I didn't appreciate what a great asset a one-track mind is until I saw his ability to instantly switch lives and I was very impressed.

5. Learning is healing.

Sitting in a classroom, learning, with a class full of young, energetic, beautifully diverse classmates is absolutely inspiring. My soul was filled as I learned. It did not matter what I was learning, the act of learning made me feel young and capable.

6.  Mom-head is not always a good thing.

When I was participating in group work, I recognized that I was somewhat offended when everyone didn't agree with me and do what I said we should do. I thought that my life experience and natural wisdom gave me some pretty good insight that the group should pay attention to, and much of the time they did. But, I wasn't always the leader and I certainly was not the smartest cookie in the jar. It took me some time to understand the emotional conflict this caused me. I had spent the past twenty years in a world where I was the queen and everyone needed to listen to me. I taught, and expected, that everyone in my group would obey me (not instantly, but eventually). It was very healthy for my brain to realize that I might be the queen of my castle, but I am not the queen of the world. Ha!

7. It feels good to get dressed, use office supplies, and learn from people who are learned.

School is just plain fun. I am a social person. Staying at home, in the country, was boring to my brain. I had become lethargic. It felt SO GOOD to get dressed in cute clothes, buy pens and notebooks and folders, and learn from knowledgeable people. Honestly, every class was just fun and fascinating. Being older (the oldest in my cohort) I just didn't stress that much about the fact that I really do not naturally understand economics. I tried my best and it was just fine. I didn't get straight A's, but I have a degree and I learned a lot. Learning is really fun. Graduate school was energizing to my soul.

8. Balancing school and home is hard.

I had nights that I cried because I couldn't do all that I needed to do. My house was sometimes a mess and I hate that. I didn't always balance well. I spent too much time up in my bedroom studying while my kids watched Netflix. I got out of the habit of cooking dinner. My husband took up the cooking and he is not as healthy as I am. Laundry was a bit out of control. My gardens were weedy. My refrigerator didn't get cleaned out. We had fewer people over for dinner. My kids did not have any fancy birthday parties. I did not watch every cross country meet or volleyball game. I didn't get much sleep. My mom-friends stopped calling me. I was in a limbo-life. Not a stay-at-home mom, not a working mom, and not a student. I just had to be confident in who I am. My brain is not as smart at some things as I used to be. Graduate school was hard, but it was the best hard.

9. People are good.

By far, the best part of graduate school is the exposure that I had to new people and new ideas. I was blown away by the goodness of those that I learned to love as we spent our days together. People are so good. I loved being in a setting where we could discuss topics from our unique perspectives and learn from one another. I am a better person because of the students/professors I came to know and love while in graduate school.

10. Kids need their mother.

When I am engaged in mothering, my children are happier, healthier, and more kind to one another. I can be engaged in mothering even when I am in school full-time. Similarly, I can be disengaged in mothering even when I am a stay-at-home mother. The transition hours are so important. Before school, after school, and bedtime. Hold those times sacred. Tell your kids what you are learning. Study with them. Take them to class with you. Remember, you don't need to read everything they tell you to read. You do need to listen and interact in class, take good notes, and find a group of smart people to study with.

Going to graduate school was one of the best decisions I ever made. I cherish the memories I have from this year.  My life is changed because of this experience and graduate school did not just bless my life. It was a blessing to my whole family.

Note: I have never felt that my life is the "right" life or that my choices are for everyone. I don't believe that everyone should have eight kids and I certainly don't believe that everyone who has eight children should return to graduate school when their youngest goes to school.

I do believe that, if you are listening, you will hear God nudge you closer to your unique and beautiful life's mission. I felt him nudge me. (He literally had to shove me.) I followed Him and oh, how my life has been blessed.

I stopped writing a blog while I was going through school. I did this for a few reasons. First, because I didn't have the extra time to spend writing. Second, because I knew that young mothers read my blog and I just didn't want them to feel like I felt that being a mother was not enough. It is. Third, because I honestly didn't KNOW for sure how things would turn out. I was prepared to quit school at any moment if I felt that it was harmful to my family.  Fourth, I didn't know why I was in school. I never imagined that I would actually work after I graduated. I just knew that school was a good thing for my family at this time.

My mother came and lived with us for a lot of the time I was in school. She cared for my kids during the summer months and the first Fall. And, my husband is a professor with a very flexible schedule, so he was able to be a part stay-at-home mom while I was studying.

I graduated from Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in June 2018 with a Masters of Public Administration. I LOVED my time at Maxwell. This was a decision I did not make lightly and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

A Missionary Mom Birth Story: When Sending Your Son on a Mission Hurts

Being a mother means that we are willing to HURT and WORRY and STRETCH and GROW to facilitate life and we do this to add one more bright, glorious soul to this world. Being a mother means that you choose to open your heart to love another human and to hurt for another human. It really is incredible.

 I am a mother who weeps at Hallmark commercials and always wants to adopt another dog from the animal shelter. I am a tiger mother who has taught my children to be independent and I am a helicopter mother that almost always brings them the homework they have forgotten on the counter in our morning rush out the door. I’m a good mom with a big heart who tries and fails and tries again.

And, I really have been SHOCKED how hard it has been to say goodbye to my oldest son who left six months ago on a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
This pain is not just mine. It is a universal pain. It is a BEAUTIFUL pain. A pain that comes only because we allow ourselves to love. Mothers feel this pain when their children die. Mothers feel this pain when they can’t get pregnant. Mothers feel this pain when their children hurt or make difficult choices. Mothers feel this pain when their children leave for college, leave for kindergarten, and maybe even the first time they wave and walk down the street without holding on to our finger. Some aches last longer and some aches sink deeper, but moms universally celebrate and mourn.

Loving brings both pleasure and pain. Feeling love can hurt and feel amazing at the same time. Isn’t that awesome to think about?

There is so much guilt that comes with aching. We sometimes feel selfish for hurting. We feel that if we had enough faith or if we really cared about them more, that our joy would somehow erase the pain that we feel. Because we want our children to grow, because we do trust that they are God’s first and ours second, we feel that our pain is somehow doubting and faithless. This hurts.

When preparing for the natural childbirth of my seventh child, I read a book that suggested that our pain during delivery is made greater by fear. That we have two conflicting sets of muscles. One set of muscles that are contracting to push the baby out and another set that is triggered by fear, designed to hold the baby in so we can run and escape. This book suggested that if we can labor without fear, our pain would be less. I thought this was an interesting and helpful perspective. I feel like our heart also has two sets of muscles. A set that contracts when we are saying goodbye and a set that is holding on because we feel guilty. Guilt for all that we haven’t done right, guilt for feeling sad that they are gone, guilt for wanting them to fly and stay at the same time. Don’t you think the guilt muscles make life transitions more painful?

I’ve read that people used to believe that pain during childbirth was a sign of SIN. They said that women who were pure and righteous hurt less during childbirth. As a mother who gave birth to eight children, I can tell you that some childbirths hurt more than others. Some transitions are more difficult because of complications, some are easier because of numbing medication, some women have child-bearing hips and some women have a much more difficult time delivering babies anatomically. Some childbirths are bonding and some are heartbreakingly lonely. Some babies come too early, and some come late. Some babies struggle and some mothers die in childbirth. We appreciate a mother’s role in childbearing these days. We celebrate their efforts and we do not diminish their pain.

Today I want to celebrate the natural and beautiful pain that a mother feels as she delivers her child out into the universe. Cutting the umbilical cord once is difficult. But, cutting that cord again, after you have already learned to know and love and mold your whole life around this tiny human- well that takes a great amount of courage, sacrifice, and love. The contractions of your heart equal in strength to the contractions of your womb. Feel that cleansing, ripping, transition and PUSH through it. Because the birth of a man or a woman is just as miraculous and holy as the birth of your baby so many years ago. Holding your baby to your chest for the first time years ago was a life-altering moment. And mom, letting your baby walk into the world on his own is a similarly transforming and refining transition.

Trust the process.

Know that you are not alone.

Know that the amount of pain you do or do not feel is not tied to your goodness, your faith, or your strength. Feeling pain is not a sign of sin or doubt. Faith and aching CAN exist in the same mother at the same time.

I am a 40-year-old mother of eight who has been laboring for (eighteen years and) six months to let go of my oldest son, to trust him to live a life he was destined to live. I may have had a little post-partum depression that started to hit me at the awards assemble his Junior year of high school. Motherhood should have prepared me for the fact that PAIN and JOY can exist simultaneously. Loving someone makes us vulnerable and that vulnerability is holy.

“When Jesus, therefore, saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, and … Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!” John 11:33-36

I LOVE being a mother. I LOVE giving birth. Part of what makes birth-days SO very amazing is that it is the first day that I get to really SEE the sweet, amazing, unique baby that God has so graciously trusted into my care. Getting to know a new baby with an old soul is truly one of the most magnificent experiences of my life.

I am still raw in the letting go part of life. But, I feel its crowning. I know that as I am letting go, God is expanding Jakob to help him truly become a man. Watching your child become a man has got to be one of the most magnificent experiences of life.

So now, excuse me while I cry, and scream, and ache, and trust this dumb, holy process.

I know growing pains are holy.

I feel so honored to ache.

Can we pause for a birth story?

I was a little embarrassing as I was giving birth to Jakob.

I was “envisioning my flower opening” having been well-trained in Lamaze, but my flower was stuck at 4 cm forever and my doctor told me that the baby was in distress and I would need a C-section if they couldn’t get the baby out quickly. He wanted me to get an epidural and I think I cussed at the anesthesiologist who gave me my epidural. Twenty minutes after I was fully medicated and relaxed, I had gone from a 4 to a 10, and two pushes later I was looking at the most perfect, adorable, happy baby that had ever been born.  

When Jakob went to kindergarten I spent the afternoon talking to the principal about the mean lunch ladies who yelled at him for not standing in line, when Jakob told me he didn’t even know what a “single-smile line” was. And, I have been a little (or a lot) too worried about Jakob getting robbed or not having warm shoes or not getting enough food (he tells me he has gained 15 pounds since he left on his mission).

Have I told you that Jakob is on a mission in UTAH? I know. I’m a little much.

But, that big soul of mine does learn to calm down with experience and I can do hard things.

God gave me Jakob first because Jakob can handle my love. He holds my hand and walks confidently forward, not only helping me to let go but showing me that HE IS OKAY.

How I love that boy. Oh, I love him. I miss his joy in my home. I miss his face. I miss his friendship. I miss the comfort I felt having him looking after his younger siblings. I miss the inside jokes we have and how he would get so frustrated that I knew every single time he lied in BS. I miss the energy that surrounded him and I miss his friends who somehow became my friends. I miss knowing what to do, or how to help, or feeling like he needed me. Saying goodbye at the airport was so painful I couldn’t breathe. It is a real pain in my chest that creeps up instantly and floods my eyes with tears and hurts so deeply and so physically. It is also a constant feeling like something, or someone is missing. Family dinners feel empty. The car feels empty. The home feels eerily unbalanced. My soul is screaming to me that someone is MISSING. I’m counting and searching instinctively for my chick that is usually right here under my wing, only he is not. He’s gone and then next year his brother will leave. In the next three years, I will send out four of my eight kids. There is a hole with Jakob’s departure that will never, ever be filled again.  That stage of life where my babies were all within an arm’s length from me, that stage is gone. I can’t hold on to it. And oh, how I LOVED those babies. My family remains but my life is changed. That long, exhausting, joyful time with all my young children at home is gone, and it will be gone forever.  I should have taken more videos.

I mourn for the boy that he was even as I look with admiration on the man that he is becoming.
His letters home hurt me because I get a taste of the kid I love so much and can’t have. And, his letters home make me swell with joy because he is learning and growing and becoming and that really is all that I want for him.

I want him to grow up. I want him to be strong. I want him to face the world without me.
I WANT him to have his bag stolen. I want him to be hungry and learn to budget. I want him to feel lonely and turn to God. I want him to know God like I know Him and so, like Hannah, I will let him walk out of my arms into God’s arms.

I am pushing. He is catching. Praise ye the Lord.

I can’t end without sharing the thought that perhaps somewhere in the Heavenly realms I have a mother who knows my mother-pain oh too well. Maybe she is my doula who is whispering through the sunshine to my soul that everything is going to be okay. I feel her soft touch on my cheek reassuring me that I can exhale and trust this process. Did you ever feel that universal place of sisterhood when you were in labor? That moment where you just let go of your pain and joined the millions, billions, even trillions of women who had gone before you in the process of labor. There is something so incredibly unifying about knowing that we are not alone and just trusting our body to do what it was designed to do. It is an honor to be a mother. As my children become 18, 20, 60, 80, 400 years old, my motherhood just continues to expand and grow. Just as tearing a muscle makes it stronger, so the stretching and aching and expanding of my mother heart just adds to my strength and power as a mother.

Birth is a sacred sacrament. So is this time of transition from home and childhood. Thanks for sharing this process with me. 

A Mormon Mom of 8 Turns 41, Goes to Grad School Full-Time, and Finds JOY in Life

Today, as I sit anticipating General Conference, my home is filled with the mess and beauty of Easter morning and songs of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir fill my home. The Professor just cracked a raw egg (because we didn't boil enough eggs on Friday and so I let the kids dye non-boiled eggs). Haha.

I used to do Easter big. We celebrated the life of Christ all week long with inspiring devotionals. I loved to host Christian Passover and have a Jesus Meal on Easter Sunday. We always did Easter Bunny on Saturday and only Christ's Resurrection on Sunday. I admire that young, energetic mother I was. I miss her. I ache to be what she was. And, I am not really that anymore. I'm older, I'm not willing to stay up late doing small, creative things that I used to care so much about.

We had intended that the Easter Bunny would come on Saturday. But, we took Eve, Anna, and Drew to the mall for a birthday dinner and shopping trip on Friday night. We got home late to a house that was a mess (Ellie was babysitting- she is fun, but not especially tidy). And, the Easter Bunny was TIRED. Honestly, Saturday was exhausting. We cleaned the basement/toyroom/bedroom to our four youngest kids and it was tough. While we tried to watch conference, Eve and Ben were playing chase and gymnastics and we spent a few hours trying to get them to play Legos in the basement so we could concentrate. By the end of the day, the Easter Bunny was tired again.

Lily said, "I bet the Easter Bunny won't even come this year just like the Leprechauns never came."
[insert breaking-mom-heart and laughing-mom-heart all at once]
 Just FYI- The Leprechaun was in NewYork attending the United Nations Summit on the Status of Women on St. Patrick's Day and the Easter Bunny is just tired.

My teenage girls (who are incredibly helpful when I need them to be even after an afternoon of being incredibly frustrating) straightened up the whole house sprinkling Easter cheer and flowers. Anna made pancakes for dinner and I gave the young kids baths/showers. I'm not sure when the last time they showered was. (Wednesday?)

I often say that I love teenagers. And, I do!! I love them so much. I think it is because they are equally as wonderful as they are frustrating. Yes- my girls are sassy (because I am sassy). But, they are really WONDERFUL kids and I feel SO grateful to be their mother. The best part of being a mother of a large family is that in these later years (when I am tired) my older kids pick up the slack and the traditions that I established when they were younger seem to propel our family forward.

This morning, my little kids gathered on our bed and I turned on Easter videos from They loved them and learned from them that He is Risen!! I felt the Spirit. It looked different (not as picturesque) as years past but, it was still a morning where God filled my home.

I will graduate with my MPA in June and I am currently applying for jobs. Yes, I hope to work full-time next year. I NEVER imagined I would do this. I thought I would be a stay-at-home mother my whole life. But, I feel peace and inspiration as I head into this new stage of life. This past year, as I have been in graduate school full-time, my family is doing well. Things are not always perfect but they are so good. My family is strong. My kids are happy. I feel the Spirit guiding and directing my life now and I'm amazed at the opportunities that I have been given.

I want to end with two funny stories about my little ones (I'll add pictures later).

Ben has been studying nursery rhymes all week in full-time pre-K. He went to school last Friday wearing his church pants (trousers) and one of Eve's knee-socks. He had a sign around his neck that said he was Diddle Diddle Dumpling My Son John who went to bed with his trousers on. He thought it was SOO funny. I also sent him with a stuffed pig and the back of his sign said he was Tom, Tom the Piper's son who stole the pig and away did run.  Ben skipped all the way into school!

Yesterday we were getting ready to go deliver Easter treats to a few neighbors. (I made the kids sing "If the Savior Stood Beside Me" as we dropped off the treats-- Easter Caroling.)  Drew was slow getting his shoes on and Ben said, "Drew be nimble, Drew be quick."  Then, he laughed and said, "Drew be nimble, Drew be FAT, Drew jumped over the big, fat cat."  Ben thought this was hilarious. He just kept giggling and repeating his new rhyme the whole time we were traveling. I love him and his cute sense of humor.

I took Eve to Claires and let her pick out her own birthday gifts. They were having a sale, buy three get three free. Eve chose a ballet choker, a sea turtle necklace, sea turtle clip-on earrings, a cell phone (with make-up in it), and fake glasses.  Anna chose to get her nails done for her birthday. Eve and I joined her at the nail salon after Claire's. Eve put on her new glasses and skipped around the store. She felt SO cute. Everyone was smiling as she said, "Mom!! Don't you think that I look like such a READER?!"  "I definitely look like a reader in these glasses, don't I Mom?" She is adorable. All day yesterday, she let Lily wear her new glasses and necklaces, and make-up. Eve is adorable. She is a gift to our family.

Eve lost one of her top teeth and her adult tooth has quickly filled the cute gap in her mouth. That adult tooth just aches my heart. She is growing up. My baby girl, is just growing up. How I love her and how I will miss the adorable baby girl that she was.

Being a mother is just the best thing I have ever done. I love my family so much it physically hurts me to watch them growing older and moving on. At the same time, I feel God preparing me to continue my own personal progression and to feel at peace as my parenting changes from being a stay-at-home mother to being a mom that works outside of the home.

It feels like the transition that I had when I went from being a mom of one to being a mom of two. This was a difficult transition as I had to learn to be a manager instead of a constant companion. Instead of playing with Jakob all-day long, I had to set up centers for Jakob and Drew to play together while I cooked dinner or straightened up or showered. The transition was difficult at times, but it was growth. I kept feeling that what I was giving Jakob (a brother) was more than what I was taking from him (my constant attention). I feel that now.

We are learning to be more organized and structured. My kids have watched me bravely try new things and increase in learning. They have watched my husband take over the cooking/planning of meals. They have stepped up and helped with little kids after school. They have started doing their own laundry. Watching my family adapt to this new stage of life has been really beautiful.

Right now, Ellie is making chicken salad for lunch and Leah is making egg-salad sandwiches. They are confident in helping out because I am not doing it all. My school has been an education for all of us. It has been a gift for all of us.

Life is beautiful.
He is Risen.
Today, I feel SO Grateful to be alive and SO privileged to be alive to turn 41!

November 19, 2017

Lily Turns 9. A Simple Lego Party.

Birthdays are simple at my house. We don't spend a lot of money on extravagant gifts. My kids are happy with a small stuffed animal and a wall full of why we love them. 

Lily felt like it had been too long since she had a friend party. So, her sisters and I put our heads together and helped her plan a little party. 
Simple and sweet as a 9-year-old birthday party should be.

Lily has the sweetest friends.
She is a joy. 

Drew's Treasures

Drew saves things.
He will leave on his mission next summer and I will miss finding his treasures around my house. 

Drew especially likes to hide things on my bookshelves.
He makes cool things, like paper airplanes, and he brings home free books. I find old books hiding on my shelves and in random cupboards. He makes me smile. 

Sometimes I want to go through and throw away all his junk. Sometimes I do. He kept an old TV in his closet for years because he wanted to take it apart and fix it.

Today, my book shelves aren't styled like a magazine, but they are full of treasure. I KNOW I will miss his treasures when he leaves home next year.  

I love this kid.

Building With Grapop

This is the cutest story that Eve wrote about building a barn with her "Grapop".
Love these memories.

My Dad Builds Us A Small Barn In Our Pasture

We have a few cows that my kids raise and sell for beef.  

My dad called a couple weeks ago and offered to come and help us build a small barn for them out in our pasture. We are still waiting for it to warm up so we can paint it to match our house and big barn.

It has been so fun watching him work with my husband and my kids. Drew stayed home from school and helped with walls and shingles.
Thanks Daddy! 
It is perfect.
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