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!!


July 14, 2014

My Love.

The professor is home.  I love him so.

My girls have been reading my old journals.  This morning we read back over the months Todd and I dated and fell in love.  

Isn't it amazing that we have come from young BYU students to parents of 8 living on a mini-farm in NY?

Yesterday during lunch I told him that I loved him and he asked me why-- jokingly I said, "because you make homemade bread and beef stroganoff."  He said, "Well, I love you too."  I asked why?  After thinking for a long time he said, "You are the most beautiful woman I know.  And, beauty is all encompassing inside and out."  Sweet!  I love him and thank the Lord for this time...(excerpts from my journal 1996)

Life is good.
Happy Monday!

PS-
Ellie's hair looked like this--
It was so ratted underneath I was sure we would have to chop it off.
My cute friend conditioned and brushed, and brushed, and brushed...
And she got out every knot!!
Ellie said she prayed that it wouldn't hurt.
Cute girl.
I'm not sure Ellie's hair is going to make it through a summer of constant pool and lake swimming. 
She wanted to make sure I documented her hair miracle on the blog.
I love this knotty haired kid.

July 11, 2014

Grace at Home.

  • Malachi 3:10

    10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

    There are just days in my life where I need to know that God is real and that He knows me.  There are days when I say to Heaven, "Show me your hand in my life.  Help me feel your power.  Help me remember.  Make my burdens feel light."

    There was nothing special about yesterday, I wasn't particularly sick or depressed.  I just have my hands full and as I prayed the night before for a specific way I could see God in my life, I laughed to myself.  I prayed, "Help me get things done around the house.  Help me want to get things done.  Help me know, beyond a doubt, that I am being helped."

    We won't analyze here if it was silly for me to pray this prayer-- but I did pray it.  I prayed at night, I prayed in the morning, and then I started my day.

    We had planned for a friend to come over, I had a mountain of laundry, we were in the middle of painting the girls' room.  I have a baby who loves to be right in my arms or quickly crawling to his death.  I haven't mopped my kitchen floor in forever.  Todd is out of town with my two oldest and best helpers.  My house felt a bit overwhelming and history had shown me that just enjoying a normal, not very productive summer day was difficult.

    Honestly-- I didn't try too hard.  I was slow and present in the lives of my children.  I spent TWO early morning HOURS working on family history (it's been YEARS since I've done that).  

    Leah, Ben and I did the morning barn chores.  Leah is adorable with the cows.

    I made French toast for breakfast.  We had family prayer and read scriptures while we ate.  I did the girls' hair cute.  I showered!  

    I swept and mopped the kitchen floor and vacuumed the downstairs.  I took 30 minutes to visit with a friend when she dropped her daughter off to play.  I cleaned out, swept and mopped my garage!  Hallelujah!  You don't know the miracle that is.

    I invited a bunch of friends over for a swim party tomorrow.

    I made fun watermelon slushies with lunch.  I cleaned the pool.  I cuddled with Eve when I laid her down for a nap.  I talked with friends on the phone.  I bandaged scraped knees.  I had Ben with me all day, he was happy and adorable.

    Ben and I mowed the front and back lawn.  We swept out the barn, free ranged the chickens and spent time with our cows.

    We visited with friends again when they came to pick up their daughter.  My friend brought her other daughter and grandson-- they got to help with our farm chores.  There is nothing cuter than three year olds chasing chickens from the field back into the coop.

    I skimmed the pool and picked up Popsicle wrappers from around the pool. We cleaned bird droppings from under our nest.  

    We had leftovers for dinner and the kids were in bed by 8.  

    Eve insisted on her white pjs with pink hearts.  Only the bottoms were in the drawer.  She was determined to go sort through the mountain of clean laundry to find it.  I did my best coaxing, tried to convince her to wear a different shirt ("dats clothes not jammies"), tried to get her to sleep in her tshirt- all to no avail. Just as she was about to melt down, I looked one more time in her drawer and I laughed to find her matching top laying right there!  She put it on and smoothed her outfit with her hands.  She proclaimed proudly, "See!  I'm adowable. I'm so pweety.  I wuv dees jammies."  Oh how I love her.

    (Can you see the cute gold finch eating? We have the sweetest, bright yellow birds that visit daily.  I love them even if they fly away when I try to take a picture.)

    There was almost NO fighting ALL day.  There were a few melt-downs at dinner time.  Although I still used my normal sorry seat, I found my responses somewhat softer.  I held and hugged more and offered more alternatives.  My "this is how things need to be" voice was softer and my "everything's fine as it gently unfolds" voice was louder.  
  • Even though I felt like my fridge was empty (I usually go grocery shopping on Thursday), we ended up with an abundance of yummy food.  (Someday we'll talk about scarcity-abundance mentalities- it's amazing how a different view can transform you from scarcity to abundance.  I see this ALL the time!). Anna cut fresh kale from our garden.  Garden kale is SO good!!

    Anna and Ellie sang as they cleared and loaded the dishes together.  They went to take Rocco for a walk, and I finished up the by-hand dishes.  When Ellie came back inside she was disappointed, "I actually wanted to do the by-hands" she said.  (What??!!!!)  Hallelujah!  

    Ellie did a great job magic erasing all the marks off my stove top instead.  Isn't it nice to have a beautifully clean stove?!

    The big girls went to bed and Eve heard them giggling, she snuck in their room.

    I heard Anna sweetly putting Eve back into bed.  Eve said in a sassy, Frozen voice, "You aw SO mean Anna."  Then she said happily, "Hey!  I didn't even call you a poopoo-diaweeah-head!"

    My house was clean and quiet, so I typed a long text to my mountain man hubster, and brought baskets of laundry to the family room to fold.  I watched a silly documentary on Diana- and folded every last stitch of clothing.

    It was a miracle day.

    I went to bed tired and aware of my blessings.

    I've been asking myself how God actually  helped me yesterday?  Was it just me having a super productive day?

    The answer is unmistakably-- NO WAY.

    I have not been able to mop my kitchen floor.  One thing-- mop.  No matter how hard I tried, my life really is that busy. 

    My life has felt like exercise and stretching.  Yesterday, felt easy and light. Yesterday was a day of GRACE.

    Because I was listening, I took more time to connect with my kids when they came to me.  Surprisingly, they came to me less.  

    My family history morning left me thinking about one of my great-great-great-great grandmother's Maria Jane Muir who immigrated to Scotland from Orgh, Tyrone, Ireland.  She was 12 when the famine hit Ireland.  She lived through religious persecution.  She married a Scottsman.  As I mowed and swept and cared for my "mansion" of a home, I saw it through her eyes and just felt her love and pride at how far her family had come.  Thinking of the family angels who were near, made my life feel so much more blessed and less heavy.  What beautiful perspective we gain as we turn our hearts to our fathers.

    Instead of fixing lunch right at noon, I took advantage of swimming kids and a napping baby and I mopped my kitchen and cleaned my garage.  I heard Ben wake up from his nap, but I left him playing happily in his crib while I quickly finished the garage.  I let the rest of the kids eat popsicles first and lunch later.  

    (Have you guys seen the Welch's 100% juice ice pops?  I love them.  They come in those long plastic sleeves that seem to define summer, but they are juice.)

    I took time for relationships-- AND got more done.  Usually I tell myself, get your stuff done first and then focus on relationships.

    I was absolutely deliberate and let myself be a perfectionist.  Usually I tell myself, just let it go Jen, you shouldn't care if the garage is messy.  Yesterday, I allowed myself to DO what I always see and wish I could do.  It probably took just as much time to pick up the silly wrappers as it usually takes me looking at them telling myself "I really need to clean up around the pool." 

    Sometimes I feel silly telling you my little life victories.  It probably sounds lame and you're probably thinking we're the crazy family with eight kids who has popsicle wrappers in their bushes...

    But- I hope you know that I know God hears and answers our prayers.  I know it again and again and again.  He is in the little things.  He cares about what we care about- especially as we serve His children.

    "The grace of God helps us every day. It strengthens us to do good works we could not do on our own. The Lord promised that if we humble ourselves before Him and have faith in Him, His grace will help us overcome all our personal weaknesses." Bible Dictionary definition of grace

    President Boyd K. Packer said, "Perhaps the greatest discovery of my life, without question the greatest commitment, came when finally I had the confidence in God that I would loan or yield my agency to him... To take one's agency, that precious gift which the scriptures make plain is essential to life itself, and say 'I will do as you direct', is afterward to learn that in so doing you possess it all the more" (Obedience, BYU Speeches of the year [Dec. 7, 1981], 4).

    Wow- so true!  Yesterday- I yielded and I was more ME than I ever am trying to be me.  Is this possible to feel everyday?

    Today is going to be another good day, I know it.

    I believe we live far below our privilege.  Yesterday, I felt Heaven near.  I believe Heaven didn't move any closer-- I just felt it more.

    How grateful I am for His gentle reminders.

    I love my country life.  I feel refined and holy as I serve within my home.

    I just know God loves us all and that He cares about the little things in life that we care about.  God helped me clean my garage- and He is helping you too.  I know it.

    (It's a miracle.)

    Life is good because God is good.

    Happy Friday!!

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