February 27, 2014

A beautiful woman is...

A small service for a great cause!! :)

Please complete this sentence- "A beautiful woman is..."

My oldest daughter Anna is turning 12, which in the Mormon culture is somewhat of a coming of age.  I'm compiling a book for her on womanhood and would LOVE to include your ideas.  Just leave a comment here- feel free to email/message me any lessons your mother taught you or any women you feel are exemplary.

In return- I'll share with you a link to the book I compile. 

Really- don't think too hard or you won't do anything!!

A beautiful woman is...

Thank you!!!!

February 26, 2014

choosing the good life.

It's late, actually 2 am early.
I've spent the last few hours tinkering around on my blog and I got stuck reading old blogs I've written.

This has been a tough year for our family.
Bed rest, near-death experience, a move across the country, a new baby, continuing health problems, a new job for the professor, new schools for the kids, new neighbors, new church friends, an all around new normal.

It has been a trek.
I am amazed at the power my husband has been blessed with as he truly does my job and his.
I am amazed at how resilient kids are.
I am amazed at how kind people are.
I am amazed at life and the "great plan of happiness" that this life is an essential part of.

We are still in the midst of our trial and it is stretching.  I struggle to describe my real life to you without dwelling on the hard parts myself.
Really- my life is still very, very different from what it was.
My health is compromised and that affects everything.  We aren't back to normal yet... but, normal is coming.
I don't even want to focus on the hard stuff, because right now I am overwhelmed with the good stuff.

Can I just THANK YOU?!!
Thank you for reading this silly blog of mine.
I actually take pride in my awful grammar and blurry pictures.  
Sorry about that.
I always try to be real, so that you know that real is GOOD and BEAUTIFUL.

Honestly, I lay here tonight and my soul is overflowing with gratitude for the years we were in school and didn't have much money.
Because I KNOW that money isn't everything.  In fact, money isn't much of anything.
Family is everything.

I'm grateful for my health issues-- because I learned that our mental attitude is completely separate from our circumstances.
We CAN be happy and find joy in crummy circumstances.
Do you know why?  Because people are good.   We are surrounded by so many good people that we can always find something to laugh at or be grateful for.
Thank you for being my good during my hard.

I learned that FAITH is a CHOICE.
If I looked for miracles, I could always see miracles.
If I wanted to SEE God blessing me, I could see Him.
If I wanted to feel sorry for myself, blame God and feel alone, I could do that too.
Gratitude changed my reality.  

Faith is a literal choice I make daily.
I choose to believe in God.
I choose to be grateful.
I choose to SEE or focus on the good in my life in the midst of hard.
And, I have been blessed.
So, so blessed.

As I read my older posts, I felt the love I had for my little ones oozing through my poor punctuation.
When you don't feel good, kids are harder, more draining, work instead of play.

A mother's soul is a choice also.
We choose to love, even when we are tired, cranky and overwhelmed.
We mother because we love and we we love because we mother.
I know that you CAN choose to see the sweetness in a crying baby, even as you feel the weight of your constant responsibility.  
You can let yourself LOVE in the midst of the stretching.
Being a good mother is not instinctual-- it can be chosen.

Falling in love, true happiness in marriage, that is also a choice.
Years ago I learned the power in cleaving unto my spouse.
Why does the natural ebb and flow of life drag two partners apart?
I don't know.  
But, I do know that deliberate, purposeful, effort is required to seal two souls together.
LOVE is a choice.  Feelings follow actions. 

I am head over heels, blushingly, completely in love with a man that is just as imperfect as I am.
I am in love with him because I choose him, I pray to love him and to see him like God sees him.

I am loved by him because I LET HIM LOVE ME- even when I don't love myself.
He loves me when I'm hurting, he loves me when I'm scared, he loves me when I'm ugly... and I let him love me.

Loving is a choice, an investment.
Loving is physical and emotional and spiritual and mental.  It takes TIME.  It takes EFFORT.  It is so important.
We should love more.

Tonight, I am humbly grateful for the choices I have made.
Grateful I chose to keep this baby who was hard to get here.
I'm grateful I chose to SEE God in my life.
Because I am loved and blessed, we all are.  
Faith preceded so many miracles in my life.
I'm grateful that I loved my children.
I'm grateful for a marriage that is beautiful and strong and eternal.
I had NO IDEA how hard a really beautiful, blessed life could be.

In society today we focus SO MUCH on who we are.  We spend years analyzing our past, our DNA, diagnosing our problems, searching for a magic pill that can make us happy or smart or sexual.
We think bigger boobs, smaller thighs, better clothes, new furniture, more "me-time",a green smoothie, another self-help book is going to make life easy.
I just don't think so.

I think EFFORT is part of the equation.  Thorns, wrinkles, tired mothers, laundry, to do lists, health problems, money limitations, headaches these are ALL part of the plan.

We have to CHOOSE faith, choose to love, choose to cleave together in our nakedness...

We have the power to choose our destiny despite our journey.
Choice is a beautiful gift.
I am pro choosing.  Can I tell you how good it feels to SEE that I chose LIFE and it was a beautiful, good, VERY HARD, worthwhile choice?
Choose wisely my friends.
You are not alone.
(I've given you an iPhone picture glimpse into my real life.  Precious moments mixed with mountains of laundry, a messy counter top, spilled green smoothie and a garage awaiting order.  I'm not embarrassed to show you my real- because I believe life is a beautiful reality.)

I'm OFF the computer and ready to finish my laundry and clean my messy counter.
(Honestly, I already cleaned my counter yesterday after this picture was taken... my garage is still a mess.)
Life really is good, if we CHOOSE to see the good.

PS- If you have any desire to hear Eve "making music" as she discovers how to blow bubbles in her green smoothie, or hear her counting seven finger on her left hand, FRIEND me on FACEBOOK.
I posted a couple cute videos there and one of my long-time cyber friends said it was the first time she had never heard my voice before.  Go ahead, friend me.  I let you see my cut up stomach and my messy counter.  So, we really are friends anyway.

February 25, 2014

Living Within Your Means.

(This is what our pup did on Sunday morning-- destroyed my one and only house plant.)
(The professor left him out, unsupervised.)
(Sweet Jakob cleaned the mess without complaint-- can you see Rocco laying beside him??)
(See Jakob's gloves- he's a bit OCD.  And that is why he is amazing at cleaning up after his dog.  Yes, we officially have a mess of a puppy.)

As a mother of eight who just spent the past year on bed rest anticipating and recovering from a major surgery, I have learned one principle.
We can DO LESS.

There are two extremes in this modern-day world.  The extremely lazy and the extremely busy.  Both are dangerous and unproductive.  I believe that Satan uses both extremes to keep us less effective.

We live in a day and age, even a country, where we are bombarded with information, money, opportunity, THINGS.  We really can do anything, be anything, and have anything we want.  We have time saving devices that have revolutionized daily living.  We have been given an extra arm, we have been given ten more hours in our day.  It is not enough.  {Insert Ariel singing in her best mermaid voice, "I have gadgets and gizmos of plenty, I've got whozits and whatzits galore... no big deal, I WANT MORE!!"}

What do we do with all of our extra time?  We do more, we buy more, we NEED more.  We are cows on hormones.  We are trees whose branches are growing bigger than our roots.  Our intentions are good, but we are unwise.  Doesn't it feel like we are always busy and never getting anything done?  Everything is expensive and urgent while not much is important.

"More" is a slippery slope. As we spend more, we want more.  Our homes and our dressers become cluttered with stuff.  We try to do more than is humanly possible.  We cannot do it all, so we seek escape.  We numb with so many things.  We blame.  We complain.  We medicate.  We try harder.  We seek for short cuts.  We are constantly thinking that if we were just a little better, more organized, had more money, a bigger house, better furniture, better clothes, a cool vacation, if we could find a better doctor, or if we were more skilled THEN we could do it all.

Our children are rushed from lesson to practice.  They spend way too much time numbing out on computer games or television.  We say things like "They don't have time to keep their room clean or read a book."  Really?

Let me tell you a secret...


There is great wisdom in learning to LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS.

Living within our means financially is so important- but it is only part of the equation.
How much money do you need to feel that you have sufficient for your needs?  Contentment is not something you get with a raise.  It is a quality you can develop no matter your income.

Living within our physical means is essential.
We have 100% of the the health that we need to do what God want us to do.  We need to care for our physical bodies and respect the limits that our health places on us.  Rest is essential.

Time is a boundary that helps keep us grounded.

My goal is to find just the right balance.
Peace comes as we live within our means.

We can do less, spend less, want less- so that we can do more of the really important things, spend purposefully, and want realistically.

We must find the balance in life between striving and being content.
Contentment is a skill we can cultivate.
It begins with gratitude.

Today, I'm grateful for the natural borders that time, money, and health place on my ambitions.  I want to feel that I have sufficient for my needs.  Because, I do.  We all do.

Love this-- (read the whole beautiful talk here- Mothers who Know)

Mothers Who Know Do Less

Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all. 

Life is good!
We have sufficient for our needs!

February 24, 2014

Monday, Monday.

(Just an old, silly iPhone picture- I don't know why I'm not more embarrassed to post these things.)
What a weekend!
Sometimes, in the midst of my life, I laugh at my reality.

I did not spend my weekend rubbing shoulders with celebrities, taking gap ad pictures of my children or visiting Iceland.

Seriously friends, don't you laugh at your reality sometimes?

This weekend was a doozie.  I won't even take the time to tell you half of the story... Here are a few highlights-

Our sump pump stopped working (yes, some had to poop in a bucket in the garage.)  Gross.  It was just clogged from too much TP.  I think we need to keep the unplugger guy on our speed dial.

I was writhing in pain (blunt trauma to an infected kidney).  Pain hurts.  Luckily I got some relief and was still able to teach at church (barely).

We were supposed to bring dessert and rolls to a friend's house for dinner, which turned into Todd buying two loaves of bread and donut holes from our local gas station late Saturday night.  

The boys were able to help serve dinner and wash dishes at a local soup kitchen.

In addition to teaching, the Stake President of our church here in Syracuse, set me apart as the Stake Social Media Specialist.  Ha!  Let's just say I think I just got asked to do a job that I really have no idea how to do.  I'm excited to learn a few things...

Todd was able to visit with some families in the area that needed a bit of visiting.

We popped real popcorn and watched some funny church videos together as a family last night (Saturday's Warrior and The Phonecall).

I wish you could hear some of the silly kid meltdowns we have, or really feel the thick, darling chub of a boy baby Ben is growing up to be.

My life, your lives, they are full of hard, beautiful things.
Just one day at a time, one moment at a time... We keep on hiking!
It is worth it.

My mother in law is an example to me.  She is one of the mentally healthiest women I know.  She has raised five pretty confidant, mentally healthy children.  I love to analyze how they think and how their lives are different from my own upbringing.

In the past few years my mother in law has had breast cancer, chemo, carpel tunnel surgery, surgery on her shoulder, c-diff, etc..  She has helped us and her other children through some pretty major ordeals.  She has been a constant in my life for the past 16 years.

I asked her once if she ever just stayed in bed for a few days without getting up and dressed and fixing her hair.  She honestly didn't think so, maybe once or twice.  

She is a woman who eminates a balanced, ordered life.  She eats elephants one bite at a time.  She thrives on routine.  She takes a nap every afternoon, never leaves a dirty dish in her sink, and schedules opportunities to serve gently into her week.  

Todd's Idaho family has taught me how to continually press forward.  They have a gentle forward stride.  

I tend to travel in bursts and then need time for recovery.  I've realized that someone who gives more than she has is not really helpful.  First, we all must learn to guard and care for our own health and our families, so that we can truly serve others.   

Someone who makes a simple meal for a public activity while maintaining a calm order in her own home is perhaps healthier than one who creates elaborate spreads for public activities while leaving her own family hungry and in disarray.

I have always felt I was strong for enduring headaches without medication or selfless for never placing importance on my own hair or doctor appointments.  I'm changing.  I'm realizing that one of the most important lessons I can teach my children is how to care for themselves so they can truly serve others.  Balance and order are so important.

I'm learning to walk on, even when it's hard.  To rest when I need rest, to go to the doctors and take medicine when I need medicine, and to do a little good each day.  The greatest lessons in life are taught gently, line upon line.  Not in showy, loud, huge, hand-clapping events.  

Self-mastery is a little bit each day.  Kindness when we're cranky.  Order when we're lazy.  Routine so we keep moving forward on the days we want to shrink.  I'm so grateful for a life that continues to rub my rough edges smooth.

Today I am a rough stone rolling, and my bruises feel good.
Life is good.

February 21, 2014


Yes, I did get stuck in my driveway.
My husband is cute and cheery.  Without any questions he just started plowing me out.
He loves me for my adventures...
Neighbors came to the rescue.
They plowed and pushed, I pushed the gas and steered with great skill and we were unstuck.
I love snow.

We've had visitors all week!  
Look at all these kids!  
It is so fun living close to cousins.
My sister in law brought her cute sister in law, Angie.  Angie is waiting to adopt a baby.  How my heart goes out to those who struggle with infertility- that's a tough one.  The waiting, anticipation, disappointment.  Wow!  I thought we'd help her out a bit by completely overwhelming her with children.  I offered to give her one of mine... Or, three.
She will be the sweetest mom.

I have learned not to clean before company comes.  My normal house is clean enough.  I just plan on a big clean afterwards.  Then, I don't feel cranky as my house gets more lived in.

When I used to spend a week cleaning beforehand, then a week entertaining, I would feel exhausted once everyone left.
Now, I just spend the week anticipating my big clean after everyone leaves and I don't mind the mess.
It works for me.

Life is good!
Happy winter! 

February 18, 2014

First Ski.

We have winter break here in Central New York.  My sister in law brought her kids and her sister in law to visit.
Yesterday, we took the six oldest up to the ski resort about five minutes from my house for their first attempt at skiing.

It was so funny to watch them in their lesson.
They rocked the bunny hill.  :)
The girls didn't pick it up as well as the boys did, but they all had fun.

I love this sweet ski slope.  It's big, but not posh.  Honestly, it is 5 minutes from my house.  So fun!

My favorite was hearing how Jakob was standing near the ski lift when he saw his 6'1", 140 lb. cousin heading straight for him.  (Eli said it was after lunch and he had forgotten how to stop.)  Jakob says Eli just smashed into this pretty blond girl, (their age) who was talking to her friend.  They rolled together over the rope fence. Eli was so embarrassed and apologetic he said he didn't even know what the girl looked like.  Haha.  

When I was younger, my grandma would save all year (she was not wealthy) to rent a townhouse in Camelback, PA for all of us cousins to ski for a week.  I have so many great memories from those trips.  It's so fun watching my kids learn with their cousins.

(Ellie is certain she broke her collarbone and Anna things she sprained her thigh.  Anna cried- "I fall every time and everyone else was perfect!"  Day one!)

I met with a surgeon today from Rochester (about an hour and a half from my house).  He is a wise, experienced surgeon.  He said he has never seen a case like mine, although he has a lot of experience with difficult cases.  Sigh.  I'm pretty sure he will do my surgery on March 20.  

He gave me a very real long-term prognosis that scares me.  Having babies has always been something hard that I did and then healed from.  
This time, I will never be the same.  

It is easy to see my life like Anna, "It's not fair, I keep falling and everyone else is perfect." But, I am older and wiser.  ;)  I know everyone has bumps and bruises.  Either we're falling on the bunny hill, or we're wiping out on black diamonds.  Life is school and we are all learning.

I'm grateful for my health trials.  Grateful for the lessons I'm learning about enduring and pain and hope.
I can do this.  I will spend this afternoon erasing my "just one more surgery" mindset.  

Weeks ago I was afraid and overwhelmed, I felt like my whole life was on hold until I could figure out how to heal.  I had the distinct impression come to my mind a few times saying, "Jen, you are not that sick.  You're not that sick."
Loving words of hope from an omnipotent Father.

These surgeries and procedures, they're just speed bumps.  They are gifts- because I am alive to need them!!  My baby boy is alive!!  I'm not well- but I'm not dead either.  

Yesterday, I was there at the ski slope watching my big kids trip over themselves and slowly glide backwards down the hill.  Next year, I'll be able to ski with them.  Because I am alive!!  
I can handle another damn cystoscopy.
Bring it on doc- I've got this.
I am a mother.  ;).  Just sayin.

I used to be afraid of IVs.
Today, IVs aren't so bad.

Life is good, even with a few bumps and bruises.
Life is worth the hard.

February 15, 2014

My IPhone Valentine's Day.

A huge storm Thursday night covered us.
I was supposed to be at the hospital by 10 a.m.  My kind friend couldn't make the hour long trip to our house to babysit- so we brought the littlest with us.
They were really good.
Yes, we were finishing Valentine assembly the morning of Valentine's day.  Don't judge... :)
(See the plate of eggs in that picture?  Todd made me eggs, toast and juice.  And I did eat.)

My neighbor was in the waiting room of same day surgery.  Her husband was actually the patient right before me.  My other neighbor, and friend from church, was (rather, he would have been) my anesthetist.  Isn't that funny?  It is a small, urology world.  I try to be friends with every man who sees me naked.  Sigh.
My stent really needed to be changed (it has been painful and infected) and because protein is the worst thing to eat on surgery morning they couldn't drug me until 6pm that night. (Non-negotiable hospital policy- blah.)
We decided to go ahead with my procedure at the scheduled time, WITHOUT ANESTHESIA.  
Yes we did.  It was lovely. 
Bad, but not unbearable.
(Peeing afterwards was worse.)
I'm pretty tough and I love pain. :)

Without general anesthesia, I was awake and could feel how my surgeon operates.  (They did use local, cold, numbing stuff.)  
By feel, I mean physically and emotionally.  
The room felt good.  
He was calm and confident and gentle.  He didn't get flustered when my old stent was a bit stuck and he showed me around my bladder like a man giving me a tour of his garage.  :)

I really think my surgeon is great.  He knows my bladder/kidney well and gets a bit animated talking about my ureter.  
It was kinda cool to see inside myself by camera and X-ray- again. 
Human bodies are beautiful and amazingly resilient.  

(There was a box with wires above my kidney in the X-ray, I couldn't figure out what I had inside me.  When I asked, my Dr explained that was my finger, with the pulse/ox sensor thing on it.  My hand was resting on my chest and showed up in the X-ray.  Ha!  Nice to know.)

My dr is impressed by how well I've healed in just 8 months.  Although I'm still getting a 2nd opinion (from a surgeon at a more prestigious hospital) I could tell that this surgeon really wants to do my big surgery.  He feels confident that it will go well.  How I needed to feel his confidence!
(My friend is the duck dynasty guy, my surgeon is the cute Korean in the back.)
My old Oregon hospital felt like family.  This hospital actually felt the same way!! The nurses were sweet, kind motherly souls.  I felt like everyone was happy and that they knew me.  
I really needed this experience (sans medication) as a prelude to my big surgery.  It was a blessing in disguise... 
I just noticed my Dr spelled loBster wrong.  Lol
Surgery done we had to stop at BJs and Wegman's to get a few things.  
It is lovely to pee blood in a public bathroom... 
(Tip- if you're sore as you potty, pee right into a wad of toilet paper.  Then, wash your hands.  It really helps.  And use disinfectant spray before you sit on a public potty- love that stuff. Thank you for reading my TMI blog.)
Just FYI- this little man is worth every pain in my bottom!!  (They all are.)
Home to nap!!
Guess what???  
While we were shopping my kids got home from school.  
Before we left, I put Rocco (our 12 week old puppy) in his crate, in his pen.  
Somehow, he got out of his crate, jumped his pen and wrecked havoc in our house.  He chewed through a lamp chord, knocked over and ravaged the trash.  Chewed through two Bibles- just feasting on the word, holy pup.  
He pooped and peed behind my couch!!  
Grrr.  Dumb doggy. 
(We were gone a long time-- I wish I would have thought to put him in the bathroom.)
Gratefully, Jakob and Anna had it all cleaned (even shampooing carpets) before we got home.  Love those kids.
While I was napping Todd cooked dinner, straightened up the explosion of Valentines, got everyone in jammies, popped popcorn and set them in-front of a movie.  We had plans to go dancing, but opted for a nice Scotch and Steak (minus the scotch) Valentine's dinner.
I was wary... But actually had a nice time.  Lobster was in fact what my doctor ordered.  Plus- how many people get to double date with their anesthetist the day of their surgery?  Ha!
(I had a Shirley Temple in memory...)
Lily's kindergarten teacher was at the same restaurant- 45 minutes from our house.  
My kids called about 10 times.  I gently talked them through their "She told me I can't have another bedtime story...", I am over-tired and ate way too much candy- drama.
We had a really nice night.  Isn't it fun to chat with friends?!  I should have snapped a few pictures of our meal.
I had lobster, baked potato, salad, hot chocolate (with nutmeg sprinkled on the whipped cream- yum) and pecan pie.

Of course, my evening was (not really) full of romance.  Wink. Wink.
How I love that manly roll.  ;)

And that my friends, was a Valentine's to remember.
I love normal life.
(If my life is normal?)
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