Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Being Beautiful--My Many Faces

 It's funny to think about now, but when I was a little girl I always hoped to grow up and become this beautiful woman that just stopped people in their tracks. I think that's probably what most little girls hope for. I mean, I don't know many little girls who dream of growing up and becoming someone homely or anything, but for me, it was something I thought about a lot. Probably more than I should have. I never felt like I was a very cute little girl, so I think I sort of envisioned myself as a caterpillar in a cocoon that would someday blossom into a beautiful butterfly somehow. And I thought a lot about the word "beautiful." I didn't want to be cute or adorable or even gorgeous, as great as all those words sound. No, I was really hung over on that word beautiful. It just sounded so . . . well. . . beautiful! To me, it meant flawlessness, exquisiteness, poise and unmistakable appeal. It was pretty much the whole enchilada!

Now, being beautiful physically was something I hoped for, but I also was determined to be beautiful inside as well. That's right--I was going to be the whole package! Not only was I going to stun everyone with my ravishing looks, even more importantly, I was going to impress them with my humility and goodness and deep inner strength and integrity. Sounds like a brilliant life plan, doesn't it?

There are a few hitches in a plan such as this, however, one being that a person cannot really control what physical characteristics or natural beauty she is born with. Now, I am not complaining in any way--it's just that it didn't take me long to realize as I started getting older and a bit more mature that beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder and that working on that second part of my life plan was the part I really needed to focus on--and focus hard. But, even despite what life naturally deals you, there's still so much you can't control, like the aging process, for instance--ugh! My children remind me regularly that I am looking older and more wrinkled all the time. And why is it that every year on my birthday they keep assuming I am older than I really am???:)

Anyway. . .there are other factors out of our control as well. For instance, this is what my face looked like two-and-a-half years ago. It was only a week before I was to go into the dermatologist for a routine procedure to have a very small lump removed from beneath my nose. I decided we should get family pictures taken before I went in, just in case I had to get a stitch or two. That turned out to be a very good idea.

This is what I looked like a week later when I walked out of the dermatologist's office from that "routine" procedure (Sorry about the graphic picture. And I know I shared some of the following photos and a bit about this in a post a couple of years ago, but since I just finished the last of many procedures, I decided to post this again and show some of the different faces I've worn the past couple of years).

 Little did I know that the small little lump of cancer (basal-cell carcinoma) had spread clear to the corner of my eye and was to-the-bone deep. Nor did I know it had spread so far up my face and down my nose. I was supposed to walk right over to the next office over and have the plastic surgeon stitch me right up. He studied my face for a long while, then told me he would have to take pictures of my nose, study it that night and meet me at the surgery center the next day with a possible solution of how to fix the hole I now had in the middle of my face.

All hopes of being a beauty pageant contestant were now dashed. Ha! I'm telling you though, the little flaws I used to complain about seemed to inconsequential and stupid in that moment when I looked in the mirror and saw a good portion of my nose missing. It was definitely humbling.

I left the surgery center the next day looking like a prize fighter who had definitely not won the prize.

This was right after surgery. My eye was so swollen I could hardly see out of it. The worst part is that I had to teach my preschool class and I was so worried they would be scared of me.

A few days after surgery. I look like a ran into a barbed-wire fence.

I don't know why my eyes always look cross-eyes when I take these pictures, but thankfully they aren't in real-life:)

This is after the bandages had come off. I had that huge red square on my face for a long time where they grafted skin from my collar bone. 

A few months of healing had passed.

This is where they took a skin graft from. 

 Over the process of the next two years I went through a number of procedures to repair that nose. It was not fun. At times I looked like I had a run-in with a barbed-wire fence; other times I looked like I had been beaten in a dark alley. Each time it would take weeks to heal and everywhere I went people stared. I was pretty sure the stares were not from my ravishing beauty:). I remember one day when Regyn told me if she were me she wouldn't leave the house because she would be too embarrassed. I understood what she meant but was so glad I was over that stage of my life where being beautiful was so important to me because the truth is, even though I looked absolutely awful time and time again, it never phased me. My dreams of being beautiful had long since passed, and I was content simply being me. I had no idea what my nose would look like when it was all said and done, but I knew it didn't really matter. I was thankful to have caught the cancer before it had spread any further and very thankful that my day job wasn't modeling. Ha!

Don't you love that pocket of scar tissue that had built up on the bridge of my nose? There's also another pocket toward the bottom of my nose but this view doesn't show it well. Oh yes, I went around with my nose like this for months before they could inject something in there to fix it. 

This one was one of the worst ones. Half way through they decided to do a rhinoplasty (where they break your nose with a hammer and chisel) while I was awake! It was awful! So glad my nose isn't still that swollen.

After yet another surgery. The only thing that changes as often as my nose jobs are my hair styles. Ha!

I look like a battered wife here. I'm glad no one questioned my husband or anything--it does look pretty suspicious:)

In the end, here is what my nose looks like now:

That is one goofy picture, and here is a goofier one, but let's take a closer look:

It's pretty amazing when you consider the hole that used to be there, right? Well, I certainly can't take credit for it. I have had some great doctors who have worked to help make it look more like a nose again and then worked to get rid of that horrible-looking skin graft (their idea, btw, not mine, but I'm sure glad they had it).

The best part about the whole ordeal is that I realized something I think I already knew about being beautiful--it has nothing to do with my face. And boy, am I glad! Being beautiful is about loving and learning and teaching and laughing and enjoying and really living. It's about being the best that's within you. And it's not possible to be the best all the time, but it's about trying all the time, because you know it's worth it, and you know there's a whole lot of important people looking to you--hoping, watching, needing--you to be your kind of beautiful to them. Because you are so beautiful to them. And that's what really matters.

And so, although you will never see this mug on the front of a magazine or sweeping across a movie screen or entering any beauty contests, hopefully I'm working at being the right kind of beautiful to this family that depends on me so much.

And besides, I've decided that this face below--the one that laughs at my husband because he is so, so amazingly wonderful--the one that smiles from deep inside when my children surround me because I love them with every piece of my heart--that is my most beautiful face!

Monday, March 10, 2014


One of the best things about the weather warming up is the opportunity to get outside and work in the yard. I absolutely love spring! It is definitely my favorite time of year. Although I love the change of seasons we get here in Utah, I think I love spring best because I am so ready for sunshine again after a long, cold winter. I love the blooming of tulips and spring bulbs and the grass that starts to green and the hope that I feel as I watch the earth begin to change from grays and dingy whites to yellows and bright blues and greens. And I love breathing in the fresh air! After being cooped in all winter long, it feels so good to get outside again and walk and play and work.

Saturday was a beautiful day, so we prepped the kids for a day of yard work. We told them how great it was going to be to work together as a family. We had a huge pile of compost delivered the day before and had plans to beautify our flower beds and get our yard in tip-top shape by the end of the day. We were soooo enthusiastic, we could hardly contain ourselves, let me tell you! Ha! We got our work clothes, cranked up our favorite tunes and got busy.

That cute little girl in the background is a neighbor who couldn't resist stepping in to help.

Can't you just feel Hallee's enthusiasm as she smooths over the compost? Ha!
We worked and worked, and after about two hours, that huge compost pile was down to this:

Hallee assured me it was not getting smaller! I assured her right back that it was, but I must admit, it didn't seem like it.

We had another little neighbor who stopped by to help. This little guy was sure he needed sunglasses like the rest of us so the dirt wouldn't get into his eyes. Regyn accommodated him with the funniest sunglasses ever. They had eyes painted on the front of them. I am so sad I didn't get a picture of him in those sunglasses!

Boston only lasted about 10 minutes before I realized he had run off to play. Regyn worked for about an hour. She recruited one of her friends to help trim our day lilies (a job that should have been done last fall). They pretended they were barbers giving the plants haircuts, and they did a mighty fine job, I must say. When they were finished they jumped on the trampoline for at least an hour. I loved listening to the two of them play! They were so full of life! They laughed and laughed as they made up routines and cheers and little plays. It made my heart soar just listening to it all. I love being privy to the imaginations of youth. They are truly so creative and lively.

Hallee was the only one who lasted nearly the entire afternoon. It might have helped that she rested between loads.:)

Either way, she was quite the trooper. She worked hard and long, and I was grateful for her (mostly) positive attitude, especially as the afternoon wore on and we were more than ready to be finished with the project. I kept thinking how I sure wished we had chosen a weekend when our 12-year-old son wasn't out of town playing baseball in Arizona! We definitely could have used Nate's help, but I assure you he had a huge grin on his face when he arrived home late last night and learned we had done the entire yard without him. I just smiled inside, thinking, there's always next year, son!

I personally felt I earned the "Hardest Worker of the Day" award (that's if you don't count Dan, of course:). I told myself I would only help for a short while since I have a really bad back and technically shouldn't do yard work at all, but I have to say, there is just something contagious about the sunshine and working together as a family and seeing a yard begin to take shape, and once I started, I just couldn't stop.

No, I don't usually dress this fancy to do yard work. I only planned to really supervise the whole affair, but then I worked like a dog all day and never stopped to even go change my clothes. It's the best I've ever looked while raking leaves and spreading compost--too bad I didn't smell as good as I looked!
The best part about work is that it gives you lots of time to think. Breathing in all that beautiful fresh air and sunshine cleared my head and my thoughts, and my mind just ran from one thing to another. It was like therapy. One thing I couldn't help but think was how grateful I was for two arms and hands. I wondered how I would possibly be able to do the work I was doing without both of my limbs, and I couldn't help but offer a silent prayer of thanks for all my working body parts. I thought how grateful I am for a strong, healthy body that can work. Yes, my back ached like crazy by the end of the day, but I was strong and able to spend the day working alongside my husband and children (while they lasted), and that was so fulfilling.

The other thought I couldn't help but muse over was how much I wish my children were better workers. Work is such an important aspect of life, and although I have tried very hard to teach this skill to my children and even to help them understand how to value and enjoy work, I don't think I'm succeeding. My children really love to play--and that is good. But man alive, helping them understand that play and satisfaction come after the work is done is not an easy thing to do. Teaching them how to work hard is not an easy thing to do. Teaching them how to stick to something until it is done is not an easy thing to do. And apparently, I am not so great at teaching these principles because I don't think my children are so great at doing them. And it saddens me. It's definitely something we are going to be working on in our household.

At the end of the day, I looked at some of our flower beds and smiled with joy. They looked so great! This rock bed was one of my favorites.

To me, there is just something beautiful about rich, brown earth dripping over rocks and piled over flower beds. Anyway, it was a great day. Not one I care to repeat any time soon since my back is still trying to recover, but one I am happy to have experienced.

I am definitely thankful for the principle of work. I never end a day full of work and feel like the day was wasted or unfulfilled. And if I could spend every workday right beside my husband, well, life really couldn't get any better than that!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Power of Goals

For as long as I can remember, I've been a goal-setter. I'm not sure if it started back in Primary when we used to have these little books we would set goals in we would try to meet, or if my parents taught me about goal-setting, or if it didn't really become a huge part of my life until jr. high and high school when sports became really important to me. Whatever the case, I have a long history of setting goals and working really hard to meet them.

I was blessed to have been tutored over and over about how to set goals; between my parents and my coaches and other inspirational people I met along my path, I learned how to effectively set goals that were difficult but attainable, that were specific, written out and measurable and that would stretch me and help me become closer to the person I hoped to be. I didn't always reach my goals, but I sure accomplished a lot more because of them. Therefore, I became a huge believer in them.

Now that I am a mother I have the desire to pass on this valuable tool to my own children, to help them learn the amazing potential effective goal-setting can have in their lives, and to help them be motivated to set their own goals and work hard to achieve them. This, I have found, is not that easy.

I've started by setting an example throughout the years, showing my children some of my own goals and explaining how important it is to me to constantly be striving towards something so I can keep improving myself in different facets of my life. I think that might have seemed somewhat interesting to them, but I realized not long ago that they were getting old enough that something more needed to be done.

So, last year, I decided to expand things just a little. I bought white 2" binders for each child (except Berkley, since she was only a year old) and printed out a cover for each of my children to decorate.

Then, I got really excited about motivating my children and I printed out quotes on goal-setting and stuck them in everyone's binders, just sure they were going to read these fabulous quotes over and over and over again:). Here are just a few examples.

This is my absolute favorite one of all. I put it in the front of each binder so my children would see it every time they opened their books, which I envisioned would be, like, every other day or so (NOT!:).

Not sure why this is sideways. I totally took the picture normal, but I can't seem to fix it. Sorry.
Then I put tabs in each binder: current goals, 5-year goals, 10-year goals, and 20-year goals. Oh yes, baby, I was very serious about this goal-setting business. Now, I did have a talk with myself before I presented these binders to my children. I told myself that my children might not share my enthusiasm about all of this, and also that it might take them time to grasp the entire concept of goal-setting, especially my younger children. I've had talks like this before with myself. They usually aren't super effective. The practical, realistic side of my brain understands the concept, but the irrational, emotional, excited part of my brain usually takes over anyway. I'm afraid that might have happened once again in this situation. Anyway, here are the tabs. Aren't they quite beautiful?

Not sure why they are upside down. What is the deal here? Anyway, you get the picture.
The next step was having a big family goal session. The idea was to sit my children down, explain to them the ins and outs of proper goal setting, get them excited to set their own goals, get them dreaming and motivated, present them with their amazing goal binders, and . . . Bam! The children grab the binders with the gusto of a child at Christmas and pencils start shaking.

That's not exactly how it all went down. It was more like children rolling their eyes, taking a lot of deep breaths and asking when the meeting was going to end. Finally, I gave them each their binders and coached them through the steps of setting some goals for the year. "Now you may want to take a few minutes to really think this through," I said. "You want to set some goals that are very important to you, not just write any old thing down. And keep it simple for now." I encouraged them all to set goals in different areas, such as spiritual, emotional, academic, family or sports--whatever they felt was most important to their personal development right now in their lives.

I challenged Boston and Regyn to think of three things to work on. Regyn completely ignored that little piece of advice. She said her favorite number was eight and she was going to have eight goals, and that was that. This is what she came up with:

She basically did not follow any of the proper steps of goal-setting since none of her goals are measurable or specific and they are written out in paragraph form, but that is simply Regyn for you. I had to laugh right out loud at goals # 3 and 7. Number three says, "Convince my mom to sleep on the couch." And number seven: "Try not to be a couch potato." This girl is the funniest ever!!! What do you do when your goals contradict each other? That's one I didn't cover! Ha!

Her 10-year goal also surprised me, as she tells me adamantly all the time that she is not going to play volleyball like Hallee!

I loved Boston's goals though. His little 6-year-old mind seemed to grasp the concept quite well. The best part is, when we got these binders out this year to review our last-year's goals, he realized he had come a long way. He hadn't scored two goals in soccer, but he had stopped talking like a baby and had started being very kind to Berkley. Now that's progress!

And I'm very excited about the goals he set this year. The best part is--he is already making his bed all by himself, which he has been sure he couldn't do all these years. The power of goals!! I'm telling you, it's amazing what can happen when a boy decides he can do something. (My favorite goal happens to be goal number one, however.)

Now, here we are a year later. Unfortunately, we didn't get the binders out monthly last year like I hoped we would and my children haven't memorized the amazing quotes I have stuck all over in them. But, those goals were written down, and I have to believe they were written in their hearts somewhat as well, because these darn kids did make progress in all of their goals last year. I'm sure it helped that they typed them up and printed their goals out and stuck them to their bedroom doors where they could see them often. There's nothing like a constant reminder of something staring at you daily to keep you a little focused.

We sat down for a new goal session last month. It was fun to see the kids talk about what they had improved on and what they hadn't. It was even better to see them realize that they did want to set goals and that they did believe these goals could help them. So, they got to it. They opened up to a new page and wrote down some new aspirations for 2014. They truly bring tears to my eyes.

Here are Regyn's goals this year. She decided to slim down her goals and focus on just a few. I absolutely love goal #1!:) It says, "Stop telling my mom she's mean." Ha! Maybe if I stopped being mean, she could stop telling me that. At least, that's what she told me.:)

Here are Nate's goals this year. I probably shouldn't share something so personal, but I have to tell you, I didn't know he had set these goals until I sat down to write this post and I decided to glance at their books. I only know, the first Sunday of this month, which happens to be Fast Sunday in our church (meaning members of the ward can go up during Sacrament meeting and share their personal feelings and testimonies), Nate hopped right up after the sacrament and was the first to share his testimony. I couldn't believe it! This is not a normal practice for him. It was wonderful hearing his simple, yet personal feelings about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I couldn't help but look at him and wonder what was up. Now I know--he had set a goal to share his testimony every Fast Sunday this year. We will see if it keeps up, but he's off to a great start! Again--the power of goals!

This is really a neck exercise, first to the right, then to the left. Ha! So sorry about the pictures this time. I have no idea why they keep posting all different directions.

Hallee's goals always make me stop in my tracks. Now that she is getting old enough to really have dreams and aspirations, she is beginning to understand how goals can help her get there. And that is an amazing thing to see. I'm sure she will have failures along the way, and I'm sure she won't reach every goal, but I have seen how setting high standards and working hard to attain them have made her so much better. She is becoming a great volleyball player. Nearly two years ago, she started on the ninth grade team as a seventh grader (not very easy to do, and not very common). That was her goal and she worked hard to make it happen. Now she has a goal to make the Davis High School volleyball team as a ninth grader this Fall. It won't be easy, and she knows it. But she also knows that with a lot of hard work and dedication, it is possible. And the best news is, even if she doesn't make it, she will be a lot better for all the effort in trying. That's the miracle and the power of goals.

Right now she plays on a 16 Power Club team, although she is only 14 years old. She knew playing with this older team was an important step in reaching the goal of making the high school team. She is learning so much and improving every week. And that's what it's all about. I am so proud of her for that. It's not the easy way. In fact, her school counselor told her to stay in the jr. high and enjoy being a super star because that would be a lot easier than taking summer classes and trying to make her schedule work so she could play high school volleyball next year. Hallee and I just looked at each other, and then kindly told her advisor, "Thanks anyway, but that just won't work with her long-term goals." I thought to myself how great it is to have long-term goals so you know what to do in the short-term.

Here is Hallee working on her setting before practice.

Love her intensity during matches. She's the one with the lime green headband, btw.

Here is a blurry picture of her team after one of the tournaments. They won the Silver bracket. They are pretty awesome.
 In the end of life, when everything is said and done, there is really so little that matters. Volleyball championships and such won't be what makes up the most important part of the journey. But, I do believe that what we learn from setting goals and trying to use our gifts and abilities to become something more is of immense value and something that will stay with us always. I don't think I could possibly measure the tremendous effect goal-setting has had in my personal life, but I do know my life would be very different without the consistent guidance and direction goals has given me. And so, I believe in the power of goals.

I know my biggest goal of all was to become a mother, and not just a mother, but a very good mother. And so I set a lot of little goals along the way when I was younger to help me prepare. I knew I had to marry a good man to help me parent the children we would have together so I tried hard to become the kind of young woman that man would want to marry. And when I got off course a little, my goal would remind me to make the necessary corrections to get back on. Man alive, was that ever worth it! Keeping focused on that goal kept me from making some big mistakes along the way, and I can't be thankful enough for that.

So, I just have to say, I definitely agree with Zig Ziglar:

"What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals."

I truly hope to pass that on to my children . . . and to get our binders out a little more often this year.

Friday, February 21, 2014


This year our family decided (OK, I decided) we were going to focus on learning a lot more about Jesus Christ and trying to become more like Him. Since the Young Women theme for the year is "Come Unto Christ," we decided to make it our family theme as well.

We started by talking about some of the Savior's attributes. Here is a list we came up with:

Then we decided to each take turns teaching a Family Home Evening lesson on one of the attributes, our goal being to try to develop these very attributes ourselves. Not long ago, when I was feeling (as I often do) weighed down by some of the struggles my children were having and by the fact that I felt our home was not the peaceful, loving place it should be, I was desperately seeking answers. In my mind, I was constantly reviewing what I had read in parenting books and what past experience had taught me. But I was coming up with nothing that really seemed to help, and I was quickly becoming frustrated. That's when I did the smart thing--I turned to God and really listened for answers. I expected some great parenting technique to come to my mind or to be inspired to start some revolutionary family system that would fix everything, but that is not what happened. Instead, the answer came and completely caught me off guard.

It was simple but so profound and it humbled me immediately. It was this: Bring them to Christ. Bring your children to Christ. 

That's it. No fancy schmancy parenting hoopla with charts and systems and rewards and consequences. Just plain and simply: Teach your children about the Savior--bring them to Him even (which implies I must take the journey as well), and they will become like Him and your home will become full of love and peace, because that is what He is full of.

It was a great teaching moment for me. And one I vowed to never forget. But my next question was this: How? I still don't really have the answer to that, but as I pondered it over and over, I decided to just start somewhere. So we made our list of attributes and we've started our lessons, each taking a turn.

This past week was Nate's turn. He wasn't sure which attribute to choose, but I did. Humility. It's not like I was trying to hint that he needed it or anything:) but with a kid like Nate, who tends to be good at everything he tries, I worry that humility will be something he struggles to have and maintain, and I know how absolutely vital it is if he is to be close to the Lord and serve Him. So, I strongly suggested he choose that attribute and then I hoped and prayed he would really learn something from giving a lesson on it.

And boy, oh boy, were my prayers answered! This kid gave the best lesson ever! Dan and I sat in the living room with our jaws wide open, trying not to look as shocked as we felt. He researched the topic and shared scriptures and quotes from modern-day prophets. He even had a hymn for us to sing that went along with it! Then, we sat and watched a talk Elder Uchtdorf gave in a priesthood session of General Conference last year about pride, and it was amazing! I was reminded of so many things I needed to hear. As I listened to my 12-year-old son share his final thoughts and testimony, I realized how grateful I was for the inspiration from God to study the life of Jesus and work to bring my children to Christ.

The air was truly thick with the spirit and with love, and I have learned to really soak up moments like that because they do not happen all the time. They must be appreciated and locked in the memory and in the heart. I also realized how much I needed the lesson on humility for myself. I had hoped Nate would learn a lot from it, but as I sat there, I realized how easily I forget my dependence on God as a mother. I so often try to battle everything on my own. I work hard to teach and guide and discipline my children and to constantly try to solve problems that arise, and sometimes I rely way too much on my own wisdom, which is so inadequate, and my own strength, which is so small. But when I finally humble myself and turn to God for answers and really rely on His wisdom, then I become the parent I truly want to become. Then I become wise. Then I am able to find solutions and parent my children with love.

I remember before I ever became a parent, I thought about it often, and I so naively thought I would be such a good mother. There have been so many humbling moments--so many humbling days and weeks--since then, when I have realized how terribly inadequate I am in every way, and yet God allows me this sacred privilege, and He is oh, so patient with me. I'm ever grateful for that patience. And grateful for that word humility and that it reminds me that I will never have all the answers or be able to solve every problem on my own, but that if I trust in God and turn to Him, He can truly help me as a mother to know the needs of my children and how to best help them.

Anyway, it's Regyn's turn next week for our Family Home Evening Lesson, and I simply can't wait to see what she comes up with!

Monday, February 17, 2014


Warning: the first part of this post is about how much I hate Valentine's parties, so if you're not interested in hearing that, simply skip to paragraph 10:)

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate parties?

Oh right, I think I may have said something about that little fact in the post just before the last one when I was talking about Nate's birthday. Well, it just so happens that I not only dread birthday parties, but I also deplore school holiday parties. I know. I know. I sound like a total lame-o, but I simply can't help it. Let me tell you why.

Think. Think. Think. Ok, I've got nothing good. But let me tell you about what happened this year for Valentine's Day, and maybe then you will understand just a little.

Thursday I had a Valentine's Party for my preschool class. It's not my favorite thing to do as I am no party girl, but of course I do it for my darling preschoolers because I know they love it and I love them. A mom came to host the little party, and she was fabulous, but I must admit when her idea was to paint all of their feet red for the craft, I realized it might be a long party:).

Ok, I must admit these turned out pretty cute. Thankfully, some of the kids insisted on painting their hands, rather than their feet. Are these kids the cutest or what?
The next day I found myself at the elementary school for two hours doing activities for Regyn's and Nate's classes. Now, for many moms, this would be super fun. Many moms are very good at coming up with fabulous ideas for activities and crafts for such parties, but this mom happens to not be good at that kind of thing at all, and even though I spent hours on Google and Pinterest trying to figure out what in the world to do for a craft that 12-year-olds wouldn't find absolutely juvenile and ridiculous, I still had nothing great by party time on Friday.

By this time, however, I was tired from a long week and frustrated that I had spent so much time (not to mention money for the supplies and treats--and let's not forget the Valentine's all of my children insisted they needed) on activities and crafts for these darn school parties. Still, I put on my happy face and ran up to the school to try to make everything as fun as I could. That's when the kids, one after one, scoffed at my game, then at the treat I offered for winning the game, then at the craft I had them do, and so on and so on. By the time I left the school, I couldn't help thinking, "Why on earth did I spend so much time, effort and money on kids that had no appreciation for it?"

Nate's class. They are cute kids, I just have to say. 

 The worst part about it all was that in doing all of that to fulfill my responsibility to the school, I had no time left over to do anything for the people that really matter in my life--my own children and husband. I realized how absolutely unacceptable the whole scenario was, and although Regyn was as happy as a peach in a pie that I had helped in her class party (and I do love to make that girl happy), I felt pretty sick inside that I had done so little for these people in my home that I love so very much. And I decided right then and there that the school is not going to control my holidays any more (now don't get me wrong--I love our school and I do love holidays--I just don't like the social pressure of doing everything the way everyone expects us to).

I already go rogue when it comes to Halloween, and I think I might do the same thing for Valentine's Day. Doesn't that sound kind of exciting? I mean, can you imagine NOT buying valentines and giving them out? What if you did something completely off-the-wall and you took your kids out of school and had your very own family-date day instead, doing all kinds of simple but wonderful things to show your children and husband how much you really love them? To me, that sounds so much more wonderful than designing boxes (hoping to have the best one in the class--which we don't even do anymore, btw), filling out silly little valentine papers, and exchanging candy notes. I know that's what society tells us we must do for Valentine's Day, but seriously, WHY?

If Valentine's Day is really about love, then by golly, I'm going to start really spending that day with the people I love doing the things we love--and that does not include school parties. Not for me. Now, I realize many of you may read this and think I am one crazy lady because you love school parties and Valentine boxes and cards, and that is fabulous. That's what makes the world so great. I just feel like for too long I have conformed to doing things just because. Next year I want to do things my way.

I did happen to get up early and pull off an amazing Valentine breakfast for my kids, which I was pretty happy about I must say. I was exhausted all day from such a busy, busy week and from getting up early, but it was worth it.

Berkley was very happy about the candy on the breakfast plate.

Kinda a goofy picture of Dan, but I sure love this guy

Ok, so now that I've talked way too long about school parties, let me get to the real meat of what I want to say. I've been thinking a lot about this word LOVE. I always thought it would be the easy part of parenthood. I mean, love comes so naturally and loving children is an especially instinctive and simple thing to do. From the first time I felt life inside of me, I felt love for that life. It was amazing! And then she was born, and I knew I would never be the same. I had never understood love on that level before.

Now here I am, four more children later, and I find myself sometimes wondering if I am loving enough--wondering if I am loving more than I am nagging, reminding, scolding, and so on. In this fast-paced life we have come to live, it is easy to become hyper-focused on getting things done and getting people where they need to be on time. It's about schedules and routines and to-do lists. And sometimes at the end of the day, I lie in bed and wonder if I loved everybody enough. I wonder, Did each one of my children feel love from me today? Did my husband feel love from me today? In the midst of the chaos and the scheduling, did I take time to simply make them feel loved? Because at the end of the day, what else really matters?

Sometimes our children go through difficult stages and our love gets tested a little bit. Actually, I think our love for them doesn't change--it's our "like"for them that may waiver a bit:). Depending on a child's particular attitude, I find I still love him tons, I just don't particularly like him at the moment! Truthfully, it's just his behavior I don't care for, not him personally, but it definitely can become difficult to distinguish the two at times.:) Anyway, I have found my children--all five of them--go through painful growing stages at times and they test their boundaries all over again, and they become belligerent and difficult to manage. It is easy to want to withhold love during these moments out of frustration and hurt and anger. But the truth is, love is what they need most (along with consistency and boundaries and many other things, of course).

I read something recently that said this: "When the going gets tough, love harder" (That is from the Power of Moms book called Peace, Order, Purpose and Joy--awesome book!). I love that thought. Love harder. When your child is consistently naughty, love harder. When your teenager is grumpy all the time and not talking, love harder. When your husband is stressed out and irritable, love harder.

That is what I am going to do--Love harder. Love longer. Love more. 

Because this family of mine deserves all the love I have. They are everything to me. They are the reason I get up every morning and smile (and then take a deep breath:). They make me feel loved on so many different levels. They have taught me what it truly means to LOVE.

Here are my children in the car ride home from Wyoming this past weekend. Not even sure why I snapped the picture, but I turned around and looked at them and just thought of how much I loved them, and then I snapped a picture of the moment. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Nate the Great Conger

This is the time of year my blog gets filled up with simply posting about birthdays because that is all that goes on around here for about eight straight weeks (with Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years sneaking in in between). I'm not sure that was good planning on our part (if there was any planning at all) because I have to be honest and say, it wears me completely out. Birthdays are not my forte.

I am not a good party mom. I have finally gotten to the point where I can say that without feeling guilty. I am not a good party mom, and that's ok (I've had to repeat that little sentence over and over to myself over the years to remind myself it really is ok). I know there are a lot of mothers who go all out for their children's birthdays, and I am just not one of them. I used to feel quite worthless about this little fact, but not anymore. Thankfully, I've grown up just a little bit (I think--I hope). I've explained to my children that they did not luck out in the "Birthday Party Mom" department, but not to worry because their dear old mom has other amazing qualities that made up for that. When they rolled their eyes and looked at me with doubt, asking just what those qualities might be, I must admit it's taken me years to come up with anything substantial. But the point is . . . I do have skills--they just don't include great birthday parties.

Now, back to Nate's birthday (because I realized I skipped right over it and blogged about Regyn's first). Nate turned 12 on January 8th. This was a very big deal. Twelve is a very important birthday in our home because we are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which for a boy means he will get the Aaronic Priesthood. This is something we had worked to prepare Nate for diligently over the years, and especially this past year. Dan and I felt it was important for him to understand what the priesthood really is and what it would mean to be ordained to it and have the opportunity to serve. This being our oldest son, we weren't very good at it, let me tell you. And as Nate went to get interviewed by our bishop, I felt we had pretty much failed him. The most amazing thing about the Gospel of Jesus Christ though is that we are all just learning. Of course no 12-year-old understand thoroughly everything there is to know about the holy responsibility he holds in being a bearer of the priesthood of God. That is what I love about God's plan for His children--He provides them with opportunities to learn and hold callings and responsibility when they are young and eager to learn and pure so they can be tutored by His spirit along the way, rather than waiting until they are older and more influenced by the ways of the world and harder to instruct.

Anyway, the highlight of Nate's 12th birthday for me was definitely watching him pass the sacrament for the first time, hearing him share his testimony in sacrament meeting and seeing him immediately rise up as a young man and take on the responsibility of a priesthood holder. It's absolutely amazing to me how quickly this influences these young people. I literally see a transformation in him every Sunday when he walks into church and sits with the rest of the young men, preparing to do that service each week. I'm so grateful for that. I pray it will help to humble him.

Does he look handsome in this new suit or what? Believe me, he needed it! He grew 4 inches in the past 10 months and his past church pants were definitely getting short. 

Too bad the sun is in his eyes and you can't se them, but his eyelashes look pretty dreamy. 
 Nate opened presents early on the morning of his birthday. This is the part the kids love the most. I was most excited about his new suit. He was most excited about the fact he got money and could buy a used iPod from one of his friends. Since he can now text me (the one thing I do like about the device), I put him in my contacts as "Nate the Great Conger." I had to come up with something original since Hallee was in there as "Sweet Hallee." All of my children want to be known as something besides just their names; thus he is now Nate the Great, and to me, he is definitely great--not perfect by any means--but absolutely great!

Berkley loved being part of the gift-giving process.

Is it just me or does this kid look an awful lot like his dad?

That is a fake hug if I'v ever seen one.

Dan and I wanted to make the day special by taking him out to a nice dinner, so we took him to the Olive Garden. We told him how very much we loved him, how proud we are of him and the young man he is turning into, and we brought out that technology contract we had just used with Hallee (this time with a slight variation that included time limits each day--something we had to revise with Hallee's very quickly). I had also written a letter to Nate that he opened at the restaurant. It was really nice to be there with just the three of us. I hope it's a memory he will keep forever.

Here he is reading his letter over his salad and breadsticks.

Ok, now to the part about his birthday I didn't love so much. The party. Yep. I promise my children when they turn 5, 8, 12 and 16 they get a party. Thus, it was Nate's year for a party, and boy was he wanting to make it big. When Hallee turned 12, she invited about 5 friends to go bowling. Nate invited 14! And he would have invited more, but I told him the list was capped. Thankfully, he was willing to hold the party at our church so I didn't have to pay a lot for a venue. Unbelievably all 14 boys were available that afternoon and came to the party. It was 2 1/2 full hours of complete noise and yelling. I had a headache after 15 minutes. I'd never seen anything like it. These boys were intense and were not afraid to speak their minds. They played basketball, dodgeball, lightning and more basketball. I tried to intervene at times to avoid fist fights (just kidding) or hurt feelings and to make things more fair, but it wasn't easy to get their attention, that's for sure.

Opening presents

Thanks heavens Hallee was there with me to at least provide me some solace:)

I just kept watching the clock and telling myself I could make it until the end of the party. But that's when the unexpected happened. . .

They all came home with us!!!!


That's right! Before I knew it, they had all piled in cars and were driving to our home to play longer. This was not a good idea, and I knew it but had no idea how to stop it. Let me remind you that we live in a basement that is very crowded so playing inside is out of the question, and that it's winter (January) so playing outside is out of the question, so what was I supposed to do with the 12 boys who came home with us?????

This is exactly why I don't do birthdays!!

The good news is that I did survive. It took at least an extra 6 months off of my life, and I told Nate it will probably take me at least four more years to recover, but I love that kid so much, he was worth it anyway. And I do think those boys had fun. And they are darn cute 12-year-old boys, I just have to say.

But boy, am I glad it's over!