December 21, 2016

Some Thoughts on Sunday

I taught Sunday School to 8 pre-mission young men from very varied backgrounds.  It was a Christmas lesson.  As we were talking about the Savior, we began talking about repentance and I told them that when I was younger, I thought the goal was to live in such a way that you didn't have to repent.  That the more righteous you were the less you would need to repent.  Then, I heard myself compare repentance to showering.  I asked this group of teenage boys what it would be like if we really tried hard every day not to get dirty?  If we only showered once a week, or once a month, or when we fell in a mud hole?  They laughed.  We have to shower daily because we are natural man and we are designed to stink a bit.  Repentance, like personal hygiene, is a gift.  Thankfully!!

The Spirit was so strong as we talked about the Savior.  I learned and I know they felt the Savior's love.  Just a small example at the grace that so fully he proffers me.  Not only does He forgive me when I sin or doubt or cuss, but he still stands with me filling me with his love and so many witnesses that He is near.  

I'm somewhat bothered when people say things like the Holy Ghost goes to bed at midnight or even that we can't have the Spirit when we're sinning.  I just don't agree.  I think the Holy Ghost is standing guard on high alert when it's midnight.  I think His still small voice becomes a little louder and a little more assuring, warning, and encouraging when we're sinning.  He never leaves us and we can not leave Him.   

My Sunday was busy, and humorously full as you can imagine.  My heart is way bigger than my ability to serve.  

The Messiah sing-along was lovely.  Sitting with my 5 youngest, it was somewhat like a silent but very physical exercise session.  Exerting all my kindness, wisdom, patience, and creativity we made it through to the Hallelujah chorus.  Hallelujah!  My 3 year old found the perfect pauses in the music to blow raspberries, clap, shout hallelujah, and ask "Now is it time for snacks?"  My younger self would have been embarrassed, but I wasn't.  I could feel the loving glances of the sweet people around me.  They really love our family and at least most of them were more happy to see children at an event like this than they were bothered by our realness.  At least I hope so.  

When I was in the hospital, I was surprised that I didn't just know God was blessing me.  I felt abandoned and alone.  I felt scared.  I felt angry.  I felt like my life was harder than everyone else's.  I felt all those things and could have cursed God and died.  But, I also knew that I could CHOOSE faith.  I could choose to testify of God's love, choose to look for his miracles, choose to see the stories around me of many who struggled right beside me.  As I chose what I focused on, I felt Heaven pouring out miracles.  

Choosing to be faithful in the normal day to day of my life is just as difficult and just as rewarding.  I'm again surprised that faith isn't just something I have-- I have both faith and doubt.  Faith is something I choose.  I know Joseph Smith said faith and doubt cannot exist in the same person at the same time.  Christ said you can't serve both God and mammon.  I just think they are talking about choices not feelings.  Because you (or at least I) CAN feel both forces pulling, we just can't walk both directions at the same time.  I used to think faith and doubt were so far apart, but they don't feel that far apart the older I get.  

I never doubt God.  I do doubt my own ability to serve and endure.  I love CS Lewis--

"We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be."

Letters of C. S. Lewis (29 April 1959), para. 1, p. 285 — as reported in The Quotable Lewis (1989), p. 469

I also loved this quote by Thomas Jefferson, "Do you not think an Angel rides in the whirlwind and directs this Storm?"

Three quotes stood out to me from our family scripture time this morning-- the Garden of Gethsemane.

Christ says to his Father, "All things are possible unto thee.  Nevertheless if thou be willing let this cup pass from my lips."  Faith and pleading.  I need to do that more.  

I might not be able to watch one hour.  I might cut off an ear.  And, He loves me still.

And oh, those words to feisty Peter-- "That cup that my father hath given me to drink- shall I not drink it?"

I can drink my cup.

I know my early morning thoughts are a bit long and a bit odd.  I think my soul just gets jumbled up if I don't take the time to pour it out sometimes.  

Thank you for listening.

I see my own weakness and it makes his miracles in my life even more miraculous.

Last CS Lewis quote~
"The miracles in fact are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see."
God in the Dock, "Miracles" (1942)

Merry Christmas!

December 14, 2016

A Tough Pill to Swallow

For Leah, it was Ibuprofen.
For me, gift wrapping and laundry.

We were brave.  
We just kept trying.  
And, no big deal at all!  
I think we both laughed afterwards that we dreaded doing something that really wasn't hard at all.
Laundry can be fun.  
(I actually love laundry- when I'm organized.  These bins in the cupboard make it so easy-- I just fold them right out of the drier into these bins.)

Swallowing pills can be easy.
Lily got it first try!  She swallowed a noodle first and then a pill.
Leah took a little more time-- but she did it!!
And wrapping-- I just spent an hour wrapping.  It was nice to just get a little done.

Life is good!

Cutest Board Books Ever

Need a cute, last minute Christmas gift?

Try Pinhole Press.

Honestly, this little board book is one of my favorite things ever.
It was easy to make and is darling.
I made a simple word book for Ben with words from just our home and family and I made a book for my niece, to help her learn our names.  I called it Everybody Loves Emma and each page I put a picture of her with someone in our family.
I wrote "Aunt Jen Loves Emma", "Rocco loves Emma", etc.  it's adorable.

I had a 15% off code and my total with shipping was around $34.  That's pricey for me, but it is SO worth it.

I want to make a feelings book using pictures of my babies "sad", "happy", "silly", etc.

I also want to make Ben a favorite words book, "blankie", "bed", "cheese", "puzzles", eat.

For Ben, I used the names of the animals we call by name.  But, I wish I had just said Horse.  It would have been more timeless.  I also like the fun pictures better than the normal, smiling pictures.

I love these books.
Be sure you add pages.  There is no additional cost if you have the most you can (I think you can have 20-35 or something like that).

You could also do a book with all pictures and no words.  That would be cute if you used another program to add words right onto the picture.

Also, regular IPhone pictures work just fine.  There was one picture (of our home) that they told me was too small resolution and it was downloaded off the internet.  It is fuzzy.  But, normal Instagram pictures look great.  I used professional pics and IPhone pics interchangeably and I love the results.

Cute, cute, cute!

December 11, 2016


My oldest child graduates this year.  He has already received one college acceptance letter and is hoping to be accepted at BYU-Provo soon.  He is graduating 3rd in his class (two girls are ahead of him).  He has taken as many AP or college credit courses as our little school offers- maybe 7?  He played Varsity Soccer, got his Eagle, sang in select choir, designs robots, serves at school, church, and home.  Jakob is showered with awards and is well-loved.  He hugs me at least once a day and is adorable with Ben. 

This little boy diagnosed years ago with dyslexia has grown into quite a young man.  I have no doubt that he will continue to succeed.  I will miss him dearly.

Last week I noticed one of Jakob's soccer jackets hanging on the chair in my dining room.  I had recently placed two other hoodies or jackets in a pile for him to hang up or take to his room.  As I was huffing to myself, wondering when he would ever learn to put his coats away, tears came to my eyes.  This time next year I will miss his presence.  Yes.  I'm getting misty eyed just writing about this. I will miss him.

It's not just Jakob, everyone is growing up and they are all doing well.  Our life is smooth.  

My youngest child goes to kindergarten Fall 2018.  This is also the year my husband applies for tenure.  Drew is only a year behind Jakob, so in Fall 2018 we should have two missionaries serving somewhere in the world, and kids in 11th, 10th, 6th, 5th, 2nd, and K. 

I really think I will begin a full-time masters program that year.  The thought makes me almost giddy with excitement and I wonder why I am not more scared. 

For nearly 20 years I've been a stay at home mother.  I've struggled through and cherished my time at home.  For 20 years I've learned patience and organization and kindness and love.  Oh the education I've received here.  I have actually never spent all my time focused on my own family.  I think children are blessed as they see us learn, create, and serve others outside of our home.  Children learn independence and altruism when they are supported but not smothered.  I have no regrets about how I've spent my years from age 20 to 40.  I believe I did my greatest work.

If I felt called to remain in my home for the next 20 years I would do it.  But I feel something compelling me onward.  

This comes after a few years of seriously feeling finished with my life's mission.  It's almost like a girl might feel on her wedding day who spent years hoping and trying to marry.  Bringing Ben into this world was something that compelled me forward.  I have felt my family calling to me since I was a very young girl.  My children are here.  My uterus and ovaries are removed.  My baby is going to kindergarten and my kids are starting to leave the house... Yes, I realize I still have years of child raising and nurturing left in me.  There is so much good to do in the world without a job or paycheck.  Trust me-- I know that.  

What I never fully imagined is that I could or ever would choose to work.  Can a mother of eight really go to work without negative consequences on her home and family?

I sent a desperate note to a dear friend of mine who is the mother of a similarly large family.  Her oldest is just leaving on a mission and her youngest is in kindergarten.  It was a plea for help in my midlife crisis.  This was her refreshing but surprising response to me...

Hey, you're talking to the wrong person!  I spent the summer studying to be a financial planner and I am now licensed in securities and life insurance!  I work from 9-3 every day. I absolutely love it and feel completely energized every day.  It has made a huge difference for me and for our family.  So of course I say GO FOR IT! Times and seasons, baby! Your time to be pregnant is over. Your brain is craving a bit of a stretch!

Times and seasons, baby!

I have placed a GRE Study Guide on my Christmas Wish List.

I have started to write a list of things I want to do if I only have one more year as a stay at home mother.

I've been talking to friends and family about possible jobs and have been researching graduate programs.  I feel drawn towards Psychology, perhaps School Psychology.

Honestly, I started this week feeling bored, tired, and finished.  I felt I had finished my life mission.  Today, I feel like I've barely started.  I feel how I've been led and prepared for this next season.  And, I'm excited.

Today, I am still home, full time.
I LOVE being home.
What would you do if you felt you might only have one more year at home full time?  

I should add that my situation is pretty unique.  I have a husband who, as a professor, has a very flexible schedule.  He has always wanted me to go back to school.  He thinks I'd be a great professor someday.  When I asked him what scares him about me going back to school or working someday he said, "Honestly, nothing."  

My kids all think it would be fun to study with me.  Anna said, "You always tell us you were smart in school but you can't even help us with our math.  It would be fun to see how you do."  When I laughed she said, "Don't worry Mom, Drew can help you study math for your GRE."  

I never, ever imagined when I was a mom at home with kids age 4, 3, 1, and newborn that I would LOVE the teenage years as much as I do.
I never, ever really believed that I would have a career someday.  I'm not sure that I believe it now.

Life is pretty great!
Maybe I'm like Upstate NY-- fully immersed in each season.
As snow falls around me I feel seasons changing again, and I love it.

December 10, 2016

Finished Cross-Stitch Sampler

My family Sampler is finished!  

I still need to order an updated picture of my family to hang beside it, but what a sense of completion I feel every time I catch a glimpse of this hanging in my foyer on top of the time-out bench all of my sweet children have counted to 10 on.

I picked this pattern while on hospital bedrest pregnant with Ben.  I really had no idea how much work this project involved and similarly I never imagined I would still be in surgery for repair work three years after Ben's traumatic birth.  

I do remember vividly my brave, determined decision to stitch Ben there under that tree.  Light brown hair, blue eyes, and ALIVE- even when I didn't know for certain what our future held.
Yes, Ben has light brown hair and bright blue eyes.

This project sat on my lap through hours of waiting in appropriately named waiting rooms.  It sat scrunched on my nightstand while I spent way too many hours in bed.  I have oft admired birthstone rings, and other various symbols of family-- but until this Sampler I could never say, "This is my family."  I knew my family wasn't complete.  Stitching Ben in was so symbolic to me.  He is here.  I am finished.  THREE YEARS OF STITCHING.
This project came with me to Germany, France, and Switzerland.  I stitched as we drove up the Romantic Road.  It moved with me from Oregon to New York.  

I remember stitching those first four leaves.  It took me all day and was so daunting.  (I'll come back and add the link- here.)  I endured little stitch by stitch.  I'm surprised I finished it.  Perhaps I did it more out of spite than enjoyment, although I really do enjoy cross-stitching.

I messed up often, sometimes small sometimes big.  I ended up stitching at the bottom the years I stitched and I'm afraid that really takes away from the overall design.  But-- I'm finished!!  Looking back, three years really isn't that long!  

The end of an era.
I'm done getting pregnant.
I'm done having babies.
This is my greatest work and my family will continue to expand in new ways.

Today I added a GRE study guide to my Amazon shopping cart.  Interestingly, the Master's program I'm considering is a three year program.

I'm excited to see what my future holds.
I'm excited for the future, and so grateful for my past.

Life is good.

December 09, 2016

Hope Returned

Isn't it so good that bad days are followed by better days?

All behind-the-scenes issues were resolved and Ben did so well at his Speech Therapy today.  

Todd and I went out to lunch at a MEXICAN restaurant.  The first Mexican food we've eaten since moving to the North East.  We've missed it.  

While we were talking after the session, I mentioned that Jakob was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child.  Ben's therapist wondered if I felt there were any similarities between Ben and Jakob, and there are.  Many similarities!  I took a very deep breath.  DYSLEXIA-- I can do dyslexia.  Mind-mouth connections.  Yes.  Really smart, just learns differently.  Yes.  Early intervention is super helpful and a sign that I'm a good mother not a sign that I've failed.  Yes.  

Did you feel ten pounds of weight just lift off my shoulders?  Yes.  My baby is going to be fine. 

I had the most interesting conversation with the Superintendent about the county wide need for School Psychologists.  School Psychologists perform the tests and create plans for children requiring Special  Education.  They work with teachers to develop strategies to help students.  

This conversation peaked my interest and Todd and I spent the rest of the day researching and discussing the possibility of my returning to get my Masters in School Psychology when Ben goes to Kindergarten.  

Could I really have 8 children and work outside the home and do both jobs well?

Todd thinks I can.  He has always wanted me to go back to school and he knows how much I would love a job like this.  My family and home life really does run pretty smoothly.  Anna said she would love to see me in school and that we could do homework together.  Todd has a very flexible schedule.  We really might be able to do this.  Am I selling my birthright for a bowl of porridge?

Anyway-- I have some time to think and pray about this.  It's fun to have a few things to think about.  

My kids are doing an online Seminary class and last night they were supposed to wear Santa hats for Skype.  Drew was so creative and used a scarf and a face mask to create--
I love him.
Life is good.
Hope you had a great day also.

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