August 18, 2014

The day before "vacation"

This is me
This is my garden
These are my girls playing as I type this blog (they just finished swimming)
Today I...
-took seven kids to four orthodontist appointments
-went grocery shopping
-tried to get a copy of current physicals from our pediatrician 
-found out it takes a WEEK to get a copy of physicals from a dr
-learned that without physicals my boys can't start school soccer today and won't be able to play in their first game
-argued with Todd and the coach about the fact that I have physicals scheduled for next week and felt that last years physicals (from September- less than one year ago) should still be valid until next week
-got a (well-deserved but still utterly devastating and expensive) ticket for talking on the phone in a work zone.  Ugh.
-stopped by the library for a school required summer reading book
-stopped by the local Ag store for molasses cow feed
-stopped at the nurse's office to pick up an OK to play form (yay! They're letting my kids play and have their physicals next week.)
-made lunch
-had a PT appointment for Ben
-scraped my van mirror off backing up in my driveway-- darn branch Todd's going to be thrilled-- a ticket and broken mirror all in one day.  Oh my.  

Todd called while I was typing this blog so I told him about the broken van mirror- my 2nd blunder of the day.  He laughed at me after asking "Seriously?" ten times.  He reminded me this is the SECOND car mirror I've broken off.  He said we need to hurry up and get me on that airplane and encouraged me not to drive for the rest of the day.  Haha.  I love him.

Ben's Physical Therapist is a sweet, young mother.  She said, "After I came here the last couple of times I went home and told my husband how amazing your house is.  I have two kids and someone is always fighting or crying and my house is a mess, you have eight and your house is immaculate and your kids are so calm and well-behaved.  They even answer the phone so respectfully."

Haha.  What a sweetie.  My house is NOT immaculate.  She is absolutely seeing only a tiny snap shot of my life (we obviously straighten up and threaten the children to behave properly while she's here).  But, it's nice to see my crazy life through someone else's eyes every now and then.

Can I tell you something?
I just know we have a Father in Heaven who blesses us profusely.

Weeks ago I prayed for a little time away to be taught, to be quiet, and to get ready for a new year.  This trip I'm about to take is an absolute, miraculous gift.
I almost forget that sometimes in the day to day stress of getting things ready to go.

I sometimes forget how absolutely blessed I am to have the beautiful, large family I have.  I forget how lucky I am to be perfectly in love and married to my best friend.  I forget that to be able to work and to serve is a gift.
This is the life that I created.  I love it.

Today, once again, I remember and I am grateful.
Life is good!
(Ben likes peanut butter and has his mother's eyes.)

August 05, 2014

A Happy Family

We are visiting the beach with all of Todd's siblings- 11 adults (Todd is still at a conference) and 28 kids.  We have two separate houses.

I could gush for hours about this trip, but I am going to turn off my phone and savor my morning hours.

I wanted to say one thing.
Good, close families are beautiful.
How I love my brothers and sisters in-law.  I feel safe here with them.

We drove yesterday to one beautiful, local attraction.  I was sandwiched in the middle of the caravan with a van full of kids.  As I followed, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of safety, love, and peace.  My brother in laws take good care of me.  My sister in laws are good, good people. I love them.  

Family is the best.
These are good parents who are all trying to raise good children.
We love each other, we help each other, we laugh together, we cherish quirks, we parent differently and similarly.  It is so fun to be together.
In this there is safety and peace.

Being with family (and being at the beach) makes me want to be with my own family more.
I hope all of you have fond memories of being with family in your childhood.
I am a friend person-- I love people easily.  But, there is just something special about family.
Oh, I'm so grateful to be alive, to be at the beach, and to be with FAMILY.
This is good.

August 01, 2014

Ellie is Eleven

This girl!!
Oh sweet Ellie, how I love you.

I wish every one of you could know this child.
Ellie is bright, shining and sharp.
She is social and very aware of social nuances.

Ellie is a great fashionista.  Her nails are always painted with funky designs and evidence of her kind heart shows through on the nails of all who live in or visit our home.  

Ellie is creative.  She is always making something.  

She's funny and feisty and inspiring.

Honestly- Ellie is so much like me.  She has had to learn to control her emotional soul.  She loves easily.  She is so much fun to be around.  

Ellie writes me notes all the time.
Ellie helps me pick out accessories.
Ellie feels the Spirit.
Ellie is quick to pitch in when I need a hand.
Ellie is GREAT with little kids.
Ellie keeps friends, writes letters, calls people, and gives good gifts.
I feel so blessed to be her mother.
I have loved this beautiful little girl from the days I carried her in my womb.
She is an angel.

Happy Birthday Lady!!
You are really growing up.
I hear that eleven is the year young ladies begin to do their dish jobs happily!!
;)
It's going to be a great year!!!
Mwah!!

Ps-- eleven is still WAY too young for makeup and stiletto heals...

July 29, 2014

Just so you don't worry...



We have a full line-up of fun that is beginning to push us through these summer weeks.  

I will try to post off and on, but don't be surprised if I'm more off than on.

My world is blooming and beautiful. 
My children and my calves are growing before my eyes.
My feathered ladies have begun to lay the most adorable eggs.
We have vacuumed and cleaned out our van in preparation for fun trips ahead.
I'm re-visiting my "morning routine" which I have missed for... Oh, about a year and a half!

I am dabbling with the idea of resuming an exercise regimen (gasp).
I am listening to glorious audible books as I putter around the house.

Yesterday, I sorted and purged the girls' clothes (again).  Leah (who gets the most hand me downs and usually has an armoire that is quite full) said, "Mom!! This is so good!!  I can see all my clothes!!"
(Too much is harder to deal with than too little!)

I miss our long philosophical chats, but I am remembering my niche as a mother.

I absolutely love to sing songs, read Mother Goose Rhymes, and play ring around the rosy.

My children are my friends- and I'm just getting to know and like them again.  (Is that bad to admit?)  I grew away from them a bit as I focuses on my own personal recovery.

My oldest boys are growing up before my eyes.  Jakob looks down on me now and I feel that I have always looked up to him.  Oh-- the JOY of teenagers.  Yes, there is heartache.  But- wow!  I love these kids.  

We have become a team.  They are so fun and helpful (when they are not being not fun and unhelpful- ha!).
I am still the coach-- but, I am not the high-scorer these days.

My children love to quote my sigh of exasperation as we played Memory one afternoon.  They think I was absolutely serious when I sighed "I don't even care if you guys beat me because I beat Eve ever single day."  Ha!  It's true.  But, I'm sure I won't be able to beat Eve much longer.  Isn't it amazing how smart these little whiper-snappers are?!

Summer is beautiful.
I hope you swim.
I hope you feel sand beneath your toes.
I hope your toy bins get all mixed up, your kitchen floors are sticky, you find wet swimsuits on your carpet, and your windows are forever fingerprinted!
I hope you laugh, LOVE, and take a nap.

Today- we are alive and blessed.
I am grateful for family.
I'm grateful for summer. 
Life is SO good.

July 24, 2014

Surrendering to Summer

I surrender.

I'm waving my white flag of defeat.
I don't care one whit that my garden is growing weeds and it is!
(Lettuce in the grass.)

Weed ground cover is my contribution to organic gardening.

I believe the grass is growing better inside our garden than outside.
 I think it's funny.
(Peppers in the grass.)

We still have tomatoes and peppers and kale and corn and onions (I have no idea what to do with the onions) and an artichoke... but, this is not the year of the garden.

Who cares?!
Yellow squash grow in weeds!

I'm almost ready to surrender my whole life.  My house, my kids, my job... I just don't know.

This-- right here-- this is the summer that I can NOT do it all.  I can't keep my house from looking like I have 8 (messy) children.  (I can't even surrender without offending someone.  My house is OK it's just not my ok.)

Honestly, my van was stinky and I found a bag of sausage next to Ben's car seat.  Sausage?!  It was beyond gross.
(Me, taking pictures in my garden with a lap full of junk I grabbed to throw away on my way out of my van.  This morning I went to a funeral for my dear friend's wife, and then I had two physicals, and now I'm home.)

Yesterday, I noticed a loaf of bread under the benches in the van.  I was laying outside talking on the phone to a friend when Eve came out of the house with a butter knife and a jar of jelly.  Seriously?  I grabbed the loaf of bread (from my van) and let her make sandwiches for herself and Ben.  I surrender.

I'm always ten minutes late and I'm battling with the mountains of laundry.  I'm doing it, but I'm not DOING it.  I'm enduring and it takes endurance.  This summer is almost as hard as last summer was.  Last summer I was clinging to life, this summer I'm clinging to normal.  Will I always feel like I've talked my way into an honors class that is a bit over my head?  

I'm the little girl who is doggy paddling in the deep end.  I'm certain life guards are watching close to see if I'm swimming or drowning.  I'm smiling, so I think I'm swimming, but if the waves turn on again, I'm sure I'll drown.

My To Do lists feel stagnant.  Both Todd and I are tired.  I'm so sick of pushing forward, climbing, trying, that I'm about to surrender.
(My kitchen today, I was gone and nobody cleaned up breakfast.)
(The boys folded laundry while I was gone.)

Have I arrived at my midlife crisis?  Am I halfway through my marathon and just hitting my wall?  Am I screaming for an epidural when I'm just 2cm away from a beautiful new birth?  I think I already delivered the baby and I'm still trying to push out that dang placenta.  Yes- I cuss about placentas sometimes.  :)

Is this surrender something that I should lean into?  (I imagine on the other end of  surrender might be the land of grace.)  Or, are these the days that I need to tell myself to just keep swimming?  Am I almost there?  (Perhaps my surrender needs to be a grit-filled,"I'm going to climb this mountain even if it kills me", head down, feet moving surrender.) Are these the days I keep planting, pruning, and pushing forward because the harvest years are coming?  Or am I stupid for even planting a garden?

If I didn't plant a garden I wouldn't see my weeds, but I wouldn't have any cute peppers either.

Last week I went with my favorite husband to a dinner for his work.  It was fancy, almost black tie (the chancellor of SU spoke). I, um, didn't quite get the fancy message.  I changed quickly after returning from a birthday party and fixing a quick dinner for my kids.  I wore white linen and sandles.  Todd told me I was beautiful and shining, but I knew I was unmanicured and under dressed.  

I felt honored to be there.  My heart swells just rembering the good people I met who are doing great things in this world.  I had a chance to talk for sometime with the chancellor and his sweet wife, Ruth.  They are such good, inspiring people.  I'm not sure they even noticed my sandles.

Right now, I'm typing away on my phone while my kids play around me.
My gardens have weeds and my pool has leaves.  My house needs me and my kids need me.  And, I surrender.

I'm done with this blog.  I'm putting on my swim suit and I'm going to play!
Drew is my pool cleaner and he asks-- "Mom, why on earth would anyone ever plant a garden around a pool?"
Haha.
Can you see the fuzzy purple tree that is just about to dump it's fuzz into the pool?
Haha
I surrender.
Gardens around pools are beautiful.
We choose to embrace the leaves in our pool.  :)
It's summer.
I'm just hanging on.
Fall will come, my children will grow, my van will be clean, and my gardens will be weeded.
Right?
Just say yes.

Today, I am SO glad I planted a dumb garden.  I have squash!
I'm not always pretty- but I'm there.
I'm here.  I'm living.  I'm smiling.
And sometimes, the only difference between drowning and swimming IS the smile on your face.

I surrendor many battles but I'm still in the war.
I'm winning.
I'm swimming.
And my squash doesn't mind weeds.
Life is good!!!!

(My baby is jumping into the pool and I don't have one more moment to read over this silly blog-- I have leaves in my pool, weeds in my garden and typos in my blog.  And, I'm ok with that!)
Happy summer!!!

July 22, 2014

Life.

Boy howdy!  I have a lot of kids.

Life is good!

July 21, 2014

Feels Like Family

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints call one another Brother and Sister.  Even if you are not LDS, the closer my children feel to you, the more they will call you Sister Ball or Sister Post.  I'm certain their teachers at school are used to hearing this.
We joined 5-6,000 people to view the Hill Cumorah Pagaent in Palmyra this Friday.
The Pagaent itself was beautiful to watch.  With close to 700 volunteer actors, families who participate together, it was inspiring.  I was amazed at the special effects.  It was more fun to watch than 4th of July fireworks.  There were storms, waterfalls, explosion, destruction, and Christ coming down from Heaven.
My phone was over full so I didn't get any good pictures.

I was disturbed at the protestors, but love the sense of community they inspired in my children.  It's almost like we could feel the evil and unkindness pouring out of those (paid for by other churches) to shout obscenities and religious slurs at us through megaphones.  The stark contrast between their anger and our calm, gentle, peace was palpable.  We felt proud to stand with the Mormons and our friends of every religion.  

We met family and friends from all over the country.  There are so many good people around the world.  It was fun to start talking to families we haven't seen in years, and pick up right where we left off.

We met the son of some of our best friends who is a missionary in the Rochester area.  I hugged him tight (grown women really aren't supposed to hug those missionaries) from his mother, and got all teary feeling his kindness and glow.  He felt like family.

I just know that's what Heaven will feel like.  

Well, minus the crazy guy who stormed the stage yelling and howling.  My friend, a volunteer who was asked to do security, was the one who had to tackle him to the ground and help escort him off the stage.  Oh my!  What a night.
Next year, our family is going to apply to be in the Pagaent.  So, you should all plan a trip to Central New York to come visit us.

It's beautiful here.
We'll call you Brother and Sister and have a fun family reunion.
Because really- we are all family.
We should love each other more.
Life is good.

July 18, 2014

Crumbs.

Yesterday was a crumby day.
I felt tired and crabby.  I spent the whole day avoiding a desperately overdue trip to the grocery store.
My kids played indoors- creative play that brought little pieces of my house to create a new house for their animals who were living on my bookshelves.  The books are piled all over my living room.  This will be a hard clean.
Sigh.

The only redeeming part of yesterday was tasting every Wegman's free sample and finding two of the most delicious salami rolls (bricks?) ever.  Oh my.  Soo good.  I think I might always have to buy cool salami.  

We had a thrown together dinner- but it was perfect.  Fresh ciabatta from a local bakery, salami, caprese salad with basil from our garden, dragon fruit, yummy olives, tiny roasted Brussels sprouts, fresh lemonade, mushrooms and baby carrots with dip.  Mmm.

Even crumby days can end well.

I'm searching out some energy-- I've contacted my healthiest friends to get their opinion.  Do you have vitamins or supplements you love?  I currently take nothing and feel the need to pour some vitamins and minerals into my cells.  (Also wanting to start my kids on something.)

I'm certain today will be a beautiful, rainbow day!!  It's Friday! Wish me luck!!
  I think I may just have some salami with my breakfast.  ;)

July 17, 2014

Sisters

I take my kids in small bites.
Because we are always together in a large group, times to have them one on one or one on two are essential.

Todd and I both take a kid or two wherever we go.  We combine fun things with errands.  Whenever I spend time with my kids outside of the pack, I always come home thinking how much I like them.  I really like the children I'm raising. 

(They both sat on my lap to get their shots.  It made me laugh.  They were joking, even though I knew they were a little bit nervous.  They're growing up, but they'll always be my little girls.)
Since we haven't been watching TV or playing video games, there is a lot more creative play happening.
This was a rendition of Frozen.  
It was adorable.
(Cute Olaf)
My girls like to coordinate their outfits.  
They make me laugh.
Goof balls.

Today, I'm grateful to be a mom.
Grateful for an afternoon of physicals, haircuts, and bathing suit shopping.
I love these girls.  
I thought I loved them as babies, and I did.
But, big kids are SO fun.  
They really are becoming my friends.  
I love it.

Life is good.

July 16, 2014

Becoming Latter-day Saints


Moms- sometimes, I think we miss it!
I think we miss the joy, we miss the "well-done Thou good and faithful servant", we miss His rest, because we crash minutes before the finish line.  (At least I know I do.)

We can have a beautiful day of service, a lovely vacation, a hard but good day at church and then (usually when we're tired or hungry, or when those we're serving are tired or hungry) we loose it.  We slip into our martyr mother mode. We allow enmity to enter as we gripe about our hard day, act snotty to snotty children, or spew "you think YOUR day was hard- you don't know what hard is" to our husbands.  We complain about the very real flaws in others and as we do so our own natural man is exposed.  Coming home from a beautiful summer day everything can unravel 5 minutes before bedtime when we are just "done".

I've thought about this often.  Satan works hard to get us to slip and fall at the end. Do you know why?  Because that slimy fellow is trying to steal that amazing feeling we will get if we hold out until the end.  He LOVES when we intensely try to do good all day and than go to bed with a big lump of guilt. He loves when we trade intense peace and satisfaction for a few words of empathy from a friend who agrees our martyr life is ridiculous hard.

I know God gets it.  He loves us cranky and imperfect.  We feel forgiven in our weakness-- BUT moms, we can be better than constantly feeling "forgiven" we can be "endowed with power from on high".  We have the power to overcome not just to hang on.  We have the power to surf not just to allow ourselves day after day to get dragged through the waves.

There are two parts to Christ's grace- both the cleansing and enabling power.  Do we feel both?  Are we settling for feeling forgiven and cleansed when He wants us to feel empowered and strengthened?

I'm so sick of going to bed with regrets.  I'm ready to go to bed with great power and knowledge of small and large victories.  

I just don't think God wants me to feel exhausted and defeated every day-- He has made it so I can see miracles, feel heavenly help, create a heavenly home and be a successful wife and mother.  My home can be a place of peace and order- like the temple.  I have been given His grace to accomplish greatness.

Every time I choose love and charity, I am becoming a Saint.  I teach my children BEST when I SHOW them my humble willingness to return peace for drama, to serve happily in my home without a measuring stick of "I'm doing more".  

Charity NEVER faileth unless YOU faileth to serve selflessly.

I think we are missing those top of the mountain "It is good" moments.  We're trading these moments for a few moments of whining, complaining, and martyrdom.

Let's stop that.

How?  How do we hold out to the end?
Don't worry if you can't do it now, because God will give you day after day after day to learn this skill.  Haha!

I asked myself and my friends what was the word I would use to describe this idea I'm aiming for?  It was similar to a martyr-- but not a complaining "martyr" a righteous, enduring martyr.  I want to learn to suffer and serve with grace.

I still love my friends exclamatory-- "I know just what you're talking about!! I call it my Zombie!  We need to learn to go to Zombie mode."  Haha!  Yes-- Zombie mothers sound so holy.  Haha!

We settled on the word "Saint".  As mothers, especially mothers who love and serve and don't complain and endure to the end, we ARE becoming Saints.  Trust me, it takes a Saint to remain calm and shepherding with a houseful of emotional girls.  (Did you feel me switching to that martyr mode?)

I remembered this scripture and it screamed all that I'm trying to become--

Mosiah 3:19
 19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

Submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things [which her children] seeth fit to inflict upon her.

It has taken me 8 children and 36 years to finally understand and desire to be a Saintly child.  Perhaps I am unable to raise Saintly children myself-- but I believe my Father in Heaven doesn't really need me to raise my children, He is using them to raise me.  Someday, they will learn these lessons as they strive to get their own children to bed happily. 

I can absolutely do this.  When I'm aware of what I loose by complaining, I can hold my tongue.  When I remember the feeling of peace and victory that comes the third time I kindly walk Eve back to bed and she actually stays in her bed, I endure to the end.  I wash more dishes happily when my kids gripe, I serve my husband more, I "suffer" with purpose.  

I feel myself modeling "Saintly" behavior and it feels like I'm holy and noble not one who is being taken advantage of in my hard life.

I remember Matthew 6:16 all day long.

 16 ¶Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

"THEY HAVE THEIR REWARD." !!!!  
No- we don't want that reward!

We don't want the reward from a sympathetic husband who night after night has to hear us whining about our hard life.  We don't want the soothing empathy of our girlfriends as we complain about our husbands, our snotty kids, our messy house, our Church callings, our health issues... We don't want that reward.  

Matthew 6

 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

I really think this is the part we're missing.  We are choosing the better part- but we are so "validated" by man that we miss God's reward.  His reward is better.  We rely too much on the arm of flesh.  

When we do slip up and complain, when we receive that sisterly pat on the back-- it's not wrong.  It's not bad to cry to our husbands sometime.  I just think it's not BEST.  I think we're missing the blessing God is waiting to shower upon our heads.

The times I have endured best, have been times when I didn't even feel like I was enduring.  I honestly felt abundantly blessed.  (Again notice that internal switch from a feeling of scarcity to abundance.)  

When I endured well, I didn't have to tell everyone how hard my life was- they already knew.  I wasn't missing out on empathy by not complaining, I was actually gaining even more respect for enduring with grace.  My husband STILL hugged me at the end of the day and told me how wonderful I was- but, I heard awe and admiration in his voice not pity and frustration.

Oh friends-- let's become Saints.  Latter-day Saints!!  We might not achieve Sainthood all at once but let's try it for one day.  Let's just be more aware of our tendency to "disfigure our faces" and "sound a trumpet before" men.  

Let's look for God to reward us openly.  Because He will.  I know He will!  We need that feeling at the end of our days-- let's not numb out before we feel it!!

This life is a Saint Training Center.

We are becoming Saintly whether we like it or not.  Heaven KNOWS that nothing refines us more than learning to forget ourselves and go to work.  What ere thou art act {Saintly} thy part.

Zombie-Saintly mothers unite!

Life is good.  You are a Saint-in-Training!!

Happy Wedesday!!


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