Saturday, November 29, 2008

Legacy Toys

Which are your family's legacy toys?

You know, the ones your kids really love. The ones you really love. The toys that you hope to save for your grandkids.

During this season of shopping, I am looking for quality not quantity. Gifts that are worth the investment because they will bring hours of enjoyment and creativity. I would love to hear your suggestions, and, in turn, I'll share our family faves.

#1--TRAINS--The train table Jake got eight years ago is still in use. Almost daily. Boys love it, girls love it. Dads get creative with it. It's a good thing.

A friend introduced us to GeoTrax last year and they are perfect for the two four-year-olds in my life. They play with this for hours. I like the sturdiness of the track which means I don't have to fix it every five minutes.

#2--AMERICAN GIRL DOLLS--An investment, to be sure. Still, I think every girl needs at least one really special doll. Em is not a big dolly girl, but she does love Emily and Molly. The books are well-written and make history fun.

#3--WII--I know. I know. I don't like video games either. But when it gets dark at 4:15 pm and your kids are stuck inside during the long, cold winter, options are limited. I like the Wii because it is somewhat active (unlike TV) and I choose the content (unlike online games).

#4--DRESS-UPS--Hands down the messiest area in our basement. Two trunkfuls of old Halloween costumes, random accessories, and a big square mirror hung at kid-level. A hippie, a soldier, a dragon or a superhero. You just never know who'll show up for dinner.

#5--BUILDING TOYS--My sister introduced us to Wedgits and they are wildly popular. Bristle blocks, Legos, Magnetix, Lincoln Logs and good old-fashioned wood blocks. The kids have so much fun with them, they don't even realize they're actually problem-solving and improving fine motor and visual-spacial skills. Good toys are sneaky like that.

#6--TOYS WITH WHEELS--Bikes, scooters, roller-blades. This year Jake's even getting a unicycle for his birthday! What can I say? This gang needs to move.

#7--TRAMPOLINE--If our family could have only one toy for the rest of our lives, this would be my pick. Rain, shine, snow or heat. Someone is on it just about every day.

Jumping in the rain
I know it can be dangerous...but, let's face it. I have three boys. They make Jell-o dangerous. Besides, you hear a lot more about childhood obesity than trampoline injuries these days. Like my grandma once said, "Better a broken leg than a broken spirit."

Please share your legacy picks. Mrs. Claus needs some inspiration...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Silver Polishing. Diet Abolishing.

Table's shining, turkey's brining.
Pies are cooling, kids are drooling.
Lotsa tasting, elastic waist-ing.
Friends are coming, kitchen's humming.
Here's my greeting: HAPPY EATING!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Day in DC

Sometimes you don't need a week-long vacation.

Sometimes all you need is a day away from the daily grind, spent with someone who makes you happy.

Thursday, I drove down to Washington to spend the day with my little sister.

No husbands, no kids, no parents or siblings.

Just Amy, me and the Obamas...

...they were everywhere!

Lunch at Old Ebbitt Grill, shopping, walking, talking and enjoying the architecture.

Amy is getting very skinny. But I still love her.

We felt very urban.

A former art major and designer, Amy helps me see the beauty in all kinds of spaces and places.

Thanks, Sis! You were the perfect companion for a perfect day.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Seven Questions...Waiting for a Wish to Come True

I wish I had known Jill 15 years ago. Back then, I thought I was the only one in the world with an empty nursery and an aching heart. I suffered alone.

Jill blogs honestly and openly about the pain of infertility. Yet her faith is strong and her humor is delightful. Her posts about her successful adoption and her love for her son are uplifting.

I boldly asked Jill if she would answer a few questions about her struggles and she not only agreed, but brought her husband, Landon, along as well. Here are their thoughts on facing this trial together...

#1--Please tell us a little about yourself and your husband. How long have you been married? What were original plans for babies and children when you first started out?

Jill: I grew up in a wonderful family of seven. I had a great childhood and great life! I have always LOVED babies and children. I was the "baby hungry" child in our family. All I knew for sure was that, when I grew up, I wanted to be a mom.

After encouragement to get a college degree as back-up plan, I went to college and got my nursing degree. I couldn't wait for the day I'd get married and start a family of my own.

I met the man of my dreams the Summer of 1999 while we were both EFY counselors. We quickly fell in love and married shortly after in the Salt Lake temple.

Our plans were to have a baby, a few years later--pop out another and so forth. Do the math,after nine years of marriage, we should have approximately 4 kids!

I will never forget, being in my grandma's basement apartment, where we lived at the time. I was sitting on the LaZBoy rocker and my husband on the couch, while we talked with two representatives from AFLAC. We were poor college students and wanted to get a supplemental insurance to help cover the costs of our babies' deliveries...

The men told us we needed at least 10 months' coverage for payout on our policy. BUT WAIT, we were ready to start trying THIS MONTH and we were SURELY GOING TO GET PREGNANT. We asked if we could backpay last month so when we had our baby in 9 months time, we would have 10 months sufficient coverage! They agreed and we bought into AFLAC.

As you already know, the ending of that story is a sad one! Nine months came and went, and now almost nine years later, still no pregnancies for us. And, yes, we have dropped our AFLAC coverage!

#2--When did you realize that having babies 'the old-fashioned way' wasn't going to work? How did you react to this reality?

Jill: I laughed as I initially read this question! Yes, the old fashioned way has not been proven faithful, and we've tried every other route as well.

After the first few disappointments, the doctors told us to wait for one year, and then if we still were not pregnant we would be considered infertile and could do more testing.

My husband felt after the first month of trying unsuccessfully, the thoughts occurred to him, "Hmmm…that didn't work. I wonder how often it doesn't work for folks. Are we doing something wrong? What if it never works? Nah, it will work." It was not until the third month or so that he began to get real concerned about it.

That heartbreaking year ended and we went for evaluations with different doctors and did numerous tests with a new "infertile" label. Every result along the way was positive...nothing could be determined for our infertility.

We continued to try the "old fashioned way" having hope that it was surely bound to happen soon! In-vitro never felt right (until this last summer)as people probed into why we hadn't tried that route. We just kept HOPING and put that hope into the hands of our doctors, praying their knowledge would give us an answer (which they finally did this Summer, 2008). It WAS and STILL IS hard to grasp the reality of it all. I'll never give up hope though!!

#3--Infertility is obviously a huge trial for women, but it is a real loss for men too. How has this trial affected your husband? How has it strengthened your relationship?

Landon: This is too difficult to summarize in a few words, but I will offer some thoughts. I do think the husbands are often forgotten.

For two and a half years, I worked at an adoption agency and saw many men who were forgotten while their wives were the easier targets for support and empathy. It should be this way and I honestly was happy Jill was targeted for most of the support from others. However, there certainly were times that I felt misunderstood, questioned my role in life, privately cried and grieved, and wondered if I would be the father of many kids like I had dreamed.

I have definitely grieved this experience and continue to grieve this experience.

On top of my own emotional struggles, I felt like I needed to be available emotionally to my wife, knew I was helpless to 'fix it', and did not have adequate words to soothe and give her hope. It was and is unpleasant to say the least.

Every month Jill is not pregnant we both have to feel the slug in the gut of our reality, 'we are not going to be parents again.' I have to walk the line of trying to support, be the stable force, and grieve my own emotions as well. I have not figured out how to do either very well. The longer time goes by, my grief shifts slightly more and more from longing to having children to grieving the children I dreamed of but never, and may never, come to be.

What is this experience like? What thoughts are stirred? For starters, 'What would we have named them?' 'Were they to be boys or girls?' 'How old would they be right now?' 'What would they be for Halloween this year?' 'Would they like football like me?' 'Would they be sweet and cute like Jill?' I bet most reading this would never even think of such things. The loss is real yet invisible. Grieving the loss of children we never had the chance to know as opposed to losing children to death.

The biggest trial has been to see Jill filling the role of mother to one instead of mother to many.

With what I have written about husbands, I do think infertility is easier on husbands because we can focus on work, compartmentalize easier than women, etc. I also wish that I could bear all of the guilt and responsibility or 'fault.' Although I have never intentionally made Jill feel bad about it, I am sure it has hurt her to have our diagnosis. I wish so much that I could bear that burden from her.

Another big struggle is seeing Tanner get older and older and not have a sibling to experience life with and depend on mom and dad for total entertainment.

There have been positives in all this as well—we give Tanner incredible attention and love and have less stress than a household with many children. Jill and I also find it easier to cope by joking and focusing on the good in life and the blessings we do have; particularly being proud parents of Tanner.

Jill: Landon has been such a rock through all of this. He has ached just as much as I, and even more at times. I've seen his tears, and hurt for him as well. He has never once made me feel the weight of this trial, or that it is "my" fault. Our hearts are united as one, and thus we have each been broken.

He wants to be a father as much as I long to be a mother. Luckily we have been given the opportunity, because Landon is the best father ever!

Landon: For the first few years my struggle was, 'PLEASE grant us a child' but it has since become, 'If it is Thy will to have us raise Thy children, please let us do so as we are willing.' This probably sounds pompous and self-righteous, but it is one area I have grown in. I also think Jill and I have been able to focus on each other more—trips, time, more peace.

Jill: I, too, think this has strengthened our relationship, because when being put to the test, you either crumble or stand taller. A few years ago while living a nightmare of a trial we endured, we promised each other we would not let it rip us apart. We had seen it happen to other couples...placing blame on the other spouse, allowing their anger to divide them, choosing to deal with their trials separately instead of turning to each other. We would sit in our bed and cry together, hugging each other, supporting each other, and loving each other. Our marriage is eternal, "in good times and bad" and WE knew WE had to work together through the good times, and bad.

#4--When I was dealing with infertility, I often felt that people were uncomfortable around me. That they didn't know what to say, or what questions to ask. What are the things you LEAST like to hear from well-meaning friends? What words bring you comfort?

Jill: Landon and I often talk about this. It's a tough one, because I'm just as uncomfortable at times as I know other people can be and I try not to make others feel awkward around me. It's hard to put on a fake smile while all of your friends are sitting around talking about their birthing experiences! But I don't want to make it awkward for all of them because I know they have NO IDEA how I am feeling or how to relate, so I try to roll with the punches.

Landon: I know it IS hard for people to know what to say, and for the most part I just have to remember people have goodness in their hearts and really aren't trying to say stupid or insincere things to me!! I don't like to hear 'I just know you will have lots of kids.' Hmmm, since when did you profess to get inspiration for me? Gee thanks for the vote of confidence.

It is also annoying to hear, 'Let's just pray more' or 'Let's fast and have more faith.' My thoughts are, do you really think this is not the number one topic on our minds and in our hearts? Don't you know we have fasted every month for 8 years and have prayed hundreds and thousands of times? I am pretty sure the Lord knows of our hopes, faith and position on the matter. It is not about faith for me anymore, but about accepting and following the Lord's will.

In the end, I rarely get offended--usually just annoyed by comments. However, I would not know what to say if I had not been through this myself so I soften quickly.

My best friend knows what to do the best, sincerely express, 'I am so sorry' and gives me a hug. That is all I need. I don't need anyone to fix it or try to give me false hope. Just be there. Don't pretend to know the future.

Jill: I think my least favorite comment is 'You'll have children in the next life' or 'You'll look back on this life and it will be like the blink of an eye!' DO NOT say that! Yeah, it's all good and true, but not comforting to me right now, to say the least. I am living HERE and NOW. Day to day life is long and can be overwhelming...the time is NOT going by fast and so while I'm in the moment of trying to cope, that statement does nothing for me!

I echo Landon as well...just giving a hug, offering to be there to listen, saying sorry. Those are the most genuine things that are heartfelt, rather than trying to fix the situation or offer unrealistic hopes sometimes hurt more because we are trying to deal with the reality of this and we know that it might not ever be!!

#5--How did you know it was time to look into adoption? What were your initial fears and frustrations? How long did it take? Tell us about your darling little boy!

Jill: Another testament that the Lord knows all and is in control. Ironically, Landon worked at LDS Family Services as an adoption worker/therapist. That was his first job out of college. (He is a licensed clinical social worker.)

Landon: Before we even knew of our infertility issues, adopting was interesting to me. Most people choose this route, by, what I call, 'adoption by default.' Most couples cannot conceive biologically so they adopt. For us it was not necessarily because we could not conceive but because it felt right and we were open to it. We did not do much infertility treatment prior.

J: I believe Landon's job was a preparation for us to adopt. It was part of the plan, we just didn't know it! I totally remember as a teenager hearing about a couple we knew in the community that couldn't have kids who recently adopted a baby, and my thoughts were 'How sad, they had to adopt!' I honestly thought it was second best...and I know a lot of people still feel that way.

I knew NOTHING about adoption. Luckily, the Lord prepared Landon who in return prepared me. It took some time for me to know this was what the Lord had planned for us. After 3.5 years, the doctors still had no answers for us and told us our options were to: keep trying on our own, do in-vitro, or adopt. We knew at that point we were supposed to adopt!

Adoption is absolutely anything but second best. Adoption is amazing, and when you KNOW that is how your family is supposed to come together, there is nothing more spiritual or beautiful. To know that the Lord can work miracles through so many people to get your child to you is incomprehendable!

Like I mentioned above, I knew nothing about adoption and I was VERY scared and hesitant. I needed an answer from the Lord to know with a surety this was what we were to do. I didn't know how I could handle sharing a child with another mother. I didn't know how I could love a child that "wasn't mine." What if no one picked us? How long could I wait until (I felt) someone "deemed us worthy" to have their child? I had to be vulnerable and put myself out there hoping someone would think I was good enough to be a mom!!?? I didn't know if I could give up my dreams and accept something completely foreign and new.I was hurting enough dealing with lost dreams, let alone having to now put MY dreams into some teenage girl's decision?

I prayed long and hard about it. I went to several birth-mother panels at Landon's work and my heart was quickly softened and, along with other experiences and answers to my prayers, I knew it was right! All of my concerns, fears, and ignorant thoughts vanished.

January of 2004, Landon and I sent in our applications to LDSFS. We started telling family and friends to spread the word that we were hoping to adopt. Landon had warned me that there were couples in the books of applicants who had been there for years and still weren't chosen. So I was prepared to wait at least 2 years (HOPING it wouldn't be much longer than that)!

We had to take parenting classes which started in March, and to make a long (AMAZING) story short, on our last class in May, we were told we'd been chosen to be the parents of a baby boy!!!! The birthmotherwas a friend of a friend.

We never had to enter the books, but by word of mouth, and through the Lord's guidance, a way was prepared for us to meet Randi, our birthmother, and bring our baby to our family. We were SO lucky to have it happen so quickly! Aside from my wedding, it was the most spiritual experience of my life.

The whole process was amazing. Meeting our birthmother was both intimidating and exciting. I loooooooooove and will always cherish these memories. I love Randi and would do ANYTHING in this world for her. The minute we walked into the hospital room to meet our new son, my heart was overwhelmed with love and everything was confirmed that it was right. Again, all of my fears were dispelled and although my heart ached for the pain that Randi endured, we all knew it was right!

When we left the hospital and took Tanner back to our hotel for an in-depth inspection, I felt INSTANT love for our little angel! He didn't come from my body, but it didn't matter to me. We all come from our Heavenly Father, and our son just came a different route. But he was now mine to have to raise, teach, love and adore. I fell in love with him without any hesitation!

I thought I was past the point of talking about this without having my throat close up, tears flood, and my breath cut short...but I don't think I ever will. Tanner is my dream! Tanner healed our hearts. Tanner is our world! At random times, when he calls out to me, and I hear him say 'MOM...' my heart starts to race and tears well in my eyes, because it's real. I finally am a mother.

Landon: There is not a sweeter spirit, a more loveable personality, and overall precious boy in the whole world. He keeps us going and happy no matter what is going on. He is truly an angel to us and I am amazed at how much I love him. I knew being a father would be life changing and great, but I am pleasantly surprised how great it is.

#6-- Do you ever have 'why me?' days? How do you get over the pity party and move on?

Honestly, yeah. But in a righteous way, like Landon says, Not 'why me days' , but 'help me know why days.' It's hard at times when you feel like you are doing EVERYTHING in your power to do what's right and still not getting what you think you deserve.

That is when I realize I am being selfish and that the Lord must have something more in store for me.

It's hard to wrestle with 'why' when I feel I don't deserve the outward judgements people place on me. It's very difficult because it's an inward trial. I quietly suffer, and from the outside people don't see the pain. Not like a physical trial which people can see and thus be more sympathetic. "In the quiet heart is hidden, sorrow that the eye can't see."

Sometimes I wish I could walk around with a sign saying 'I'm infertile, please be gentle with me!' People see me and make assumptions. Why don't you have more kids, you must be selfish, you have a perfect life, your child NEEDS a sibling.

The day after I found out our fifth insemination didn't work, I had to attend a church excursion, put on a happy face and act like the world was perfect! When another procedure failed, I had to teach a craft for 25 people the next day and try to be excited about it. None of them (except a few close friends) had any idea how I battled with myself the entire night before, trying to buoy myself up and have courage to face the next day with a smile, when I would've much rather dug a hole to hibernate in for the winter. While my outward appearance dared to gleam a smile, my heart was broken and aching inside. Honestly, yeah. But asking in a righteous way, or like Landon says, not really "why me" days but "help me know why" days. It's hard to be left open to your own thoughts and interpretations of why, when you don't get clear answers. Am I learning what I'm supposed to? Am I not fit to be a mother?

Infertility has taught me to never unrighteously judge another, and to give people the benefit of doubt. We have no idea what others are living and they might really be fighting to even wear a smile.. We shall not dare to be so self-righteous in making an unrighteous judgment on someone when we do not know their plight.

It IS very easy to have pity parties. I will NEVER get over the fact that I might not ever give life. That cuts to the very core of who I am. That is why I was created, a woman of God to create life. That is my divine nature. That sting will never go away, and just because I already have one child doesn't mean I won't quit longing for more. I think that is one thing people misinterpret those of us who suffer from infertility. We will forever live with silent heartache and when we voice it, others might think we are not satisfied with what we do have. It's just not true. I am SO grateful for what I've been given, but I also have the right to ache for the loss of what I could/would/should have.

People have the mistaken idea that, just because I have one child, I shouldn't feel pain from failed attempts to grow my family. That is ridiculous. Yes, there will always be someone "worse off," but to suggest that means my pain is any less real, unimportant, or self-indulgent is ignorant. Our hearts don't work that way. It is possible to be thankful and still long for more. After all, it's a righteous desire and we are commanded to replenish the earth!

However, we all have our own struggles, and when I do have especially hard days with mine, I simply think of the millions of others with similar or greater trials than mine and know that I'm not alone in this world. I choose to look at the cup half full and focus on what I do have. I've heard people say they hate that comment, but for me that is what it's all about. If I'm not focusing on the positive, then the pity party overwhelms my world and nothing good can come from that.

I'm not saying we can't be sad, we have every right to mourn and feel heartache, but focusing on that will get us nowhere. Some things are completely out of our hands and that is where to must be grateful for what we do have and make the most out of the good and enjoy the MANY other blessings in our lives...because I do have those! It's amazing how when we refocus energy on our blessings we realize the tender mercies the Lord provides for us.

#7--Jill, I am always impressed with your faith, even when it seems like your prayers are not being answered the way you want. How have you drawn closer to God through this trial instead of becoming bitter and turning away?

It's been quite a process to get to that point, and I am continually striving to stay close to my Heavenly Father. However, I think I was born with a believing heart and have always tried to do what's right. As a child, I remember making a conscious decision to never serve Satan or bring him any sort of satisfaction. I am in no way perfect and definitely have my faults and weaknesses, but on a daily basis I choose to serve the Lord. Because of that He has blessed me and gives me strength.

Several years ago watching another couple in our same situation early on and struggling to get pregnant, had a huge impact on me. They became bitter, angry, and stopped going to church. It really hit me, and I thought how unfortunate it was. They were blaming God and turning their backs on the One who could help them the most. I thought to myself I will never blame God for my trials.

We are given what we can endure, and the pain and burdens won't necessarily be taken away, but lifted, as we turn to Him! I've felt that in my own life and I know it to be true. Through each heartache of life, we decide how we want to deal with it--blame others, and God, or accept the lessons in life and learn from them by drawing nearer to God and strengthening our relationship with Him. What is the point of faith if we are never tested to exercise it? Faith preceeds the miracle.

When I have bad days, or just need someone to talk to (besides my husband), my parents are the first people I call. They give me strength, comfort and encouragement. But we must never forget, first and foremost, our Heavenly parents. Our Heavenly Father longs for us to talk to Him and come to Him. He loves us so much that He sacrificed his only begotten son so that He may succor us in our pains. We can, and should, give it all to Him once we've done all we can. How overwhelming that is to think of!

Once we realize this, and feel both our Heavenly Father's and Savior's love, we are given power unimaginable. Through this trial I am becoming refined. Each day I feel my rough edges smoothing out. I have such a deeper, meaningful relationship with my Heavenly Father and for that I will forever be grateful. I don't know if I would have developed this relationship on my own, or if my testimony would have blossomed as it has.

I've always said I'm not grateful for my trials, but I'm grateful for what I've learned from them and the tender mercies God has shown me. Landon and I have done all we can physically do to have a child. It's out of my hands, so I'm giving it to Him and trusting He will make more of my life than I ever thought I could!

My faith IS what carries me through. The only thing that keeps me standing is falling on my knees! I trust completely and the words of this song describe exactly how I feel:'You give me sight, when I can't see. You give me breath, when I can't breathe. You give me love, and You give me peace. You always seem to give just what I need.You take my doubt and replace it with truth. You take my fear so all I see is You. You take me as I am, and You take me by the hand. You see to my soul and You take just what I need.You give and take away, and refine me day by day. As You lead me through the bitter and sweet, I am trusting You to make me complete. Though You see the heartache, Your sending Your sweet grace, as You give, and You take.'You bless me to see, the give and take, is just what I need.'

We are not alone. Once we realize that we ARE children of God and seek for an intimate relationship with both Him and our Savior Jesus Christ, we will be wrapped in their love and be lifted! He will guide us, bless us and teach us who He wants us to become. Their love is undeniable! That love propels us beyond any fear, doubt or pain.

Amen. Thank you so much, Jill and Landon. Your words will be a great strength to many.

Jill and Landon can be found here.

This post is my favorite.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Whole Lotta Gobble-gobble

Pre K Pilgrim's Feast...cutest turkeys ever!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Direct Quote

Me, trying to praise positive behavior : Thanks for the hug, sweetie! You are good at making people happy...
Twinkie, with a shrug and in most matter-of-fact tone : That's just because I'm a love machine.
p.s. Note the packing peanuts "snowstorm." Sometimes, my kids are very fortunate that a camera is the only thing I have to aim and shoot around here...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Lift Up Thy Voice With Strength"

Church choir today. We started practicing the Messiah for Christmas. "Wow," said my fellow alto. "Have you done this before? You know the part so well."

I laughed and told her that for years I sang soprano, with my mother singing alto in my ear. While I slid around on the high notes, I could hear Mom hitting her part with confidence and strength.

Although I always loved to sing, sight-reading did not come easily. In a college choir, when asked to switch teams and sing alto, I often struggled to find my part in the unfamiliar music. However, once we started singing the well-known hymns of my youth, I found I could sing even the most complicated measures with ease. All I had to do was imagine my mother sitting beside me, listen to her strong voice and follow her lead.

Mom never set out to teach me to sing alto. In fact, she always encouraged me to sing my own song and smiled when our individual melodies joined in balanced harmony. But now that I'm singing many years later and many miles away, I find myself straining to hear her voice.

And hoping my song echoes hers.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dot Com Mom

I would like to thank my sweet husband and all the kind people at Dell Support for bringing my li'l turbo sidekick back from the brink.  It was touch and go for awhile, but I am happy to report that all docs, tunes and pix are safe.  A few snarls still to work out.  I'm learning to be patient.

Living a few days without my kitchen counter cutie opened my eyes to the fact that I am completely computer-dependent.

What did moms do before the Internet?

Just today I looked up pink eye at WebMD,  found a cool mnemonic to help Jake with long division here, and made a delicious fruit salad thanks to

Not too long ago, I thought computers were just for geeks.  Now I can't imagine a day without the world at my fingertips.  A few years ago, I didn't know a thing about the worldwide web.  These days I have to be careful not to get all tangled up in it.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

If Life Were A Country Music Album...

My theme song would be, "My Man's Outta State and My Kid's Are Outta School." No kidding.

This month alone my kids have NINE days without school! (OK, some are half-days...but every mom knows it doesn't really count if they are home before lunch.) And the days they are in school, parents seem required to show up for bake sales, conferences, Thanksgiving feasts or bookfairs. Four kids. Three schools. Having elementary age children is not as relaxing as I had pictured back when I had a houseful of babies and toddlers. That's all I'm sayin'...

Anyway, I am choosing joy and enjoying some quality time with the little munchkins this week.

Today, we spent the morning at the township police station with some Cub Scout friends. They loved it and I learned that all you really need to keep a buncha kids in line is a pair of handcuffs, a badge, a gun and a K9 attack dog.

This was Jake's last requirement to fulfill in order to earn his Bear. Scouting is the highlight of his life. The kid has earned so many beltloops, he's going to need another belt! I love it. His leaders are amazing and it is a great way for Jake to be with other kids in a non-competitive, friendly environment.

Em spent the day working on her second-grade book report diorama. Oma, she chose The Surprise Doll. Your favorite and now hers, too.

Isn't it darling? The curtains really open and close! I want her to go to bed so I can play with it!!

Finally, the B-side on my honky-tonk record is "Last Night My Computer Kicked the Bucket". The Gabtop is in critical condition, friends. Please send good karma our way.

Because, right now, I am typing away in Brad's office. It is approximately 19 degrees Fahrenheit and wanly lit with one pathetic little lightbulb, which still somehow manages to highlight some very disturbing carpet stains.
What's your country music theme song today?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Seven Questions...Finding the Balance

Meet a very busy lady...

Wendi is a mother of three, a dentist's wife, owner of her own dance studio, busy church volunteer and always going out with friends to do something fun! I have enjoyed getting to know her through her heartfelt blog entries and have secretly wondered how she manages to fit it all in. So...I finally decided to ask!

Here are Wendi's thoughts on keeping your balance in a rapidly spinning world...

1. Why do think it is so easy for women to become "unbalanced" in this day and age? What common distractions do you and your friends face?
You're right, becoming unbalanced is the easy part, it's the "becoming balanced" that is hard. I think the reason it's so hard is that it is something that is never completed. It's an ongoing process. Life is always changing and giving us new challenges, so we are forced to re-evaluate our options and get re-balanced frequently. Even if we get "balanced", something will come along and knock us off balance. Then we'll have to re-evaluate again.

Albert Einstein said, "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you have to keep moving."

Some of the distractions that I and others face are probably just the little things in life that make us lose focus of what's really important. These distractions are not bad things, unless they inhibit us from getting the really important things done. Some examples: girls night out, TV, movies, books, blogging, shopping, teaching dance, daydreaming--those are some of my distractions, and I think they are all good things, unless it gets to the point where those things replace the essentials. If I place more value on those things than God, family, scripture and prayer, then I become out of balance.

2. There are so many GOOD ways to spend our time and energy. How do you set your priorities? How do you safeguard your resources for the things that matter most?
I think that there is not just one answer as to what is the right thing to choose in life. There are lots of "right paths," and what is right for one person isn't necessarily right for another.

I've found the most success when I involve the Lord in my priority setting. I ask Him in the morning what he would have me do that day. And when I make major decisions that affect my family, I spend serious time in prayer.

For example, running a dance studio is such a joy to me, and it brings me such satisfaction. But I often evaluate this use of my time. Is it taking me away from the important things? I've gotten on my knees several times and asked if it's still the right thing for me to do, letting Him know I would stop if it wasn't, but I've always gotten the answer that it's right for me.

The other thing I've found is that when I'm getting overtired, cranky at others, or judgemental--it's because I don't have the Lord's spirit with me. And that's because my priorities have gotten off.

I'm a HUGE fan of girls-night-out and movies with my girlfriends. But if I stay out so late that I'm ornery with my family the next day, then I know I made a bad decision, and I try to learn from it and be smarter the next time. It doesn't mean that I don't go out anymore, but I only go if I have the energy, and I've accomplished what I needed to get done with my family. They come first in my book. And luckily I have friends who agree with that philosophy--so it works for us. We all respect each other's family decisions. And I'll only spend my time on things and people that help me feel uplifted.

On that same note--if an activity away from the family buoys you up, recharges your batteries, and enables you to return home rejuvinated to be a better mom and wife--then I think that shows value.

3. How do you organize your schedule? Your home? Your studio? Your free time? Are you a "detail" person...or do you have a laid-back approach?
I have to have everything written down. I have so much going on, that if I don't have a place to keep track I'll get lost. I keep a thorough calendar, and I have notebooks and binders for everything. I always have paper and a pen with me.

If I'm out and about and I think of something I need to do or remember, I call home from my cell phone and leave a message on my answering machine for myself. I know it sounds silly, but I don't have much storage space in my brain!

With my studio, I have deadlines for myself for when I need to have things done. For example: I'll write on my calendar Have costumes ordered by today, Schedule building for spring recital by today, Call photographer and schedule pictures by today. That way I know everything will get done, but I am not overwhelmed with a long list of things to do in one day.

4. What "shortcuts" help you make the best use of your time...Frozen pizza? A cleaning lady? An iPhone? What are your top multi-tasking tips?
Some of my best time savers in the kitchen are crockpot recipes and freezer meals. Whenever I make a casserole/lasagna/pie, I always make two. Then I have one to put in the freezer; or take to a neighbor. It's not much more work to make multiples once you get everything out.

I do have cleaning ladies I call when I am in over my head. I wish I had the money to afford them every week--wouldn't that be wonderful? Sometimes it is really worth my money to get me back on track. Cheaper than therapy! And back to priorities: when my house gets really bad (shamed to admit it, but let's be real, it does), sometimes my priority is that I would rather have someone come clean my house than get a haircut.

Don't have an iphone--do I need one? Maybe I'll look into that!

5. Who are some of your female role-models? What life-balance lessons have they taught you? Truthfully, I look up to anyone who makes it through this crazy world and is able to keep their wits about them. Life is hard--we all have a lot to do--and it's a test in the process.

You never know the whole story about another person. You never know exactly what's in their heart, their sorrows, their joys, their struggles, etc.

But when I know a little bit of someone's struggles, what they've overcome, it makes me really admire their accomplishments.

I look up to the women who support men who serve in the military, in their church work, at their jobs, while the women keep things together on the homefront.

A lot of times, the men get the recognition for their great accomplishments, when it's really the women keeping things together and making it possible for men to accomplish great things. They do it quietly, without needing the acclaim of the world. I really respect that. Because in effect, they are balancing their own lives, their childrens' activities, and their husbands as well. It takes some good balancing to manage all that craziness!

6. Some people would say that you are far too busy to serve in your church and community. How do you fit that piece into the puzzle of your life? How do you feel serving others helps you find balance?
Well if you're going to use "being too busy" as an excuse, no one would serve. Tell me who isn't busy? I decided --when I got my current assignment in our church women's organization--that I was going to make it a priority. I cut way back on the number of dance classes that I taught, as well as the number of dance students I accepted.

I know it's temporary, and I'm willing to take my turn at it. I've enjoyed going to church activities for years, without having to be in charge of anything. I was able to just show up and enjoy a beautiful evening thanks to women who put in many hours of service to organize and execute the activities. I'm glad that I get the chance to take my turn. Without people willing to serve, these functions wouldn't happen.

"Balance, peace, and joy are the fruit of a successful life. It starts with recognizing your talents and finding ways to serve others by using them." Thomas Kinkade

7. In 25 years, when you look back on your life...what do you hope you will see? What are you doing now to make it happen?
Well, since I feel like I lose more of my mind and my sanity everyday, I'm hoping that I have at least some brains left in 25 years!

I hope that down the road, I am surrounded by my kids and grandkids and we're all happy and healthy. I hope my kids are making good choices and that they forgive me for everything I'm doing wrong now--but I'm trying my best, by golly!

In 25 years, I know that many of the current distractions in my life aren't going to matter. The only thing that will really matter to me is family. So we're working on that: teaching our children, loving them, and sharing special moments together, and with extended family. It is work--but it's the best kind of work!

Thanks, Wendi! You are so right.

Check out her dance studio, too!

Saturday, November 8, 2008


I guess if YOU guys didn't notice... maybe the 30 women at the school bake sale, the 16 parents at Visit Second Grade Day, the 22 moms at nursery school drop-off, and the 5 people behind me in line at the grocery store didn't either.
Or else they just think I'm some crazy Mormon shoplifter.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Can You See What Is Wrong With This Outfit?

Aside from the scratch in the mirror and the fuzzy photography. Also, don't tell me it's the wrong color or style for my body type. Did you read my last post? I'm fragile right now. Prize goes to the first one to spot the flaw. Look close.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

No Offense, Norway...

"November always seemed to me the Norway of the year."- Emily Dickinson
There has to be a lull somewhere between the Halloween high and the Christmas climax. And, right now, I'm living in the lull. If October's the peak of the season, November is the bleak of the season.
Where we live, November proves to be the darkest and dreariest page on the calendar. The days are short, dark and cold. The sky is opaque and drizzly. The leaves blow away and the pumpkins turn soggy. Kids start sniffling. Everything in my closet is grey, black, brown.
Just as I had convinced myself to put on the Nikes and drag the twins to the gym this morning, the school nurse called. My fourth-grader got sick all over the schoolbus and would I come get him right away, please?
Which explains why I'm sitting in unsweaty gym clothes, listening to the Cartoon Network, tapping on my laptop and looking dejectedly out my window.
This is my 39th November. I know it won't last forever. But today it feels like it might.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Gettin' the Vote Out

Me and my "booth buddy" at the polls

Whose idea was it to make Election Day a school holiday? It's a lot harder to GetOutTheVote when you first have to GetOutTheHouse...with eight extra shoes to find and four little jackets to zip. Not to mention snacks and potty breaks.

I was optimistic about taking the children with me to the polls. A little civics field trip. Hands-on and memorable. (And, hopefully, a super cute patriotic pic for the blog!)

Then, we drove by the elementary school and saw the lines circling the playground...

And, did I mention, it was drizzling?
So, here are my Election Day Expenditures:

$7.40--Library (late fees)
$32.00--Laser Tag
$2.50--Vending Machine Snacks
$21.20--Two Medium Pizzas
$10.00--One Hour Babysitting (so Mom could getoutthevote)

All things considered, I think the whole day was a bargain.

The kids had fun with their friends and I got to chat with the moms. Lunch was yummy and we have a big stack of fresh reading material. I got one-on-one time with my voting buddy and the other three were a lot happier bouncing on the trampoline in the rain.

Here's how the kids voted in their school mock elections:





(The nursery school is in the 100 Acre Wood District)

As you can see, we have a diversity of opinions in our household. Here's to unity at home and across the USA...

Let Freedom Ring!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween: The Wrap-up

World Series? Check.

Halloween? Check.

And, if I can just make it through two more days of robo-calls and TV ads, the Election will be over and I will be an official survivor of this fall's most torturous trifecta. It has all been exciting, exhausting and more than a little nauseating.

(I am ready for peace, serenity, calm and ....Christmas shopping?! Oy vey.)

Halloween 08 did not disappoint.

In my humble opinion, this holiday should always be held on a Friday and it should always be followed up with turning the clocks back. An extra hour of sleep is a beautiful thing.

Unless, of course, you live with a couple of clowns who did not get the sleeping-in memo.
(My latest inspiration: early morning Seminary for preschoolers! Why not? They're up.)

Direct quote from Em this morning: "Sam, come in here. You can beat me up."

Direct quote, 6.5 seconds later: "Waahhhh! Mom! Sam's hurting me!"

The week has been filled with our family traditions--the dinner in a pumpkin, cockroach jello, ghost cake, jack-o-lantern carving, school parades, neighborhood pre-trick-or-treating party, Mom eating all the Snickers she can find, Dad getting everybody all sugared up and then leaving town to stay in a JW Mariott somewhere far away.

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