Friday, November 14, 2014

good grief

As I sat nursing Emily this morning, I saw my phone sitting on the ottoman at my feet. I thought of a funny text I could send to Sam, but I knew if I picked up my phone I’d end up fiddling around on it till Emily was done eating. Knowing this was one of my rare moments of peace during the day with Levi at preschool, I resisted and instead shut my eyes and tried to focus on the weight of Emily’s body against mine, her hand brushing my skin, her contented little mmm’s as she ate.

I've been much more aware of savoring this baby. When I tell that to people, they say things like, “Well, now you know how fast it goes,” which is true, I do know better now than I used to, but it’s not the real reason. The real reason is that in all areas of my life I’m trying to be present.

Turning 30 has been an interesting experience for me. I never expected it to make much of a difference. After all, I’m not that much different two months into my thirties than I was in the last two months of my twenties, but perhaps it’s just that extra impetus for reflection on the whole of one’s life rather than on just the last year that’s different at big birthdays. Either way, I found myself thinking about my life so far and my life to come nearly every day.

This happened to coincide with a particularly difficult stage with Levi. We always seemed to be battling one another and we were both exhausted by it. And though I was trying not to wrestle with his formidable will, the other ways I tried to connect with and motivate him weren't working, so we almost always resorted to threats to get things done. Thankfully, I heard of a book called, “Parenting Without Power Struggles” and ordered it at my library.

The author, Susan Stiffelman, suggests that at times when your child won’t be getting his way, you should approach them as if they were grieving. After all, they’re experience a loss of something important to them. As she detailed the stages of grief-denial, anger, bargaining, depression or sadness, and acceptance- I realized these were exactly the emotions and actions Levi was experiencing several times a day. And so, Stiffelman says, it’s our job to walk our children through those emotions before they come to acceptance of the situation on their own, without our forcing it on them.

Of course I’m still working on it, but so far, I've seen a huge improvement in our relationship and when I apply the process, our interactions are much smoother. It’s also helping me realize how to be more supportive to Anna, how to be her ally, as she matures out of these kind of tantrumy behaviors.

So this was at the back of my mind today in this quiet nursing moment as I was thinking again of where my life has come. In the past several years I've dealt with anger, depression, and a whole lot of change. I thought maybe moving too often was the source of pain, but I've actually really loved it. I've seriously considered going back to school or work, but when it came down to it, I knew I would regret not staying home when the kids were small and we had the resources to make it possible. I've struggled with medications and injuries. But in the last year and a half, all that has gone away and I still get flashes of deep sadness or feeling adrift or feeling like something is missing.

So today, I put my life in the context of grief. I asked myself, “Is there something you’re grieving or mourning?” and it was like a weight was removed from my heart. It’s not that I don’t love my life or my family. It’s not that I regret the choices I've made because when I look back they really are indicative of my true desires. It’s that as a young woman I had expectations for my life and myself that have not been realized, and I am mourning them.

As I realized this, tears came to my eyes as I was filled with compassion for myself. I sometimes feel so torn inside and feeling like there’s no reason for it just adds to the pain and shame of it. But stepping back and seeing myself in grief and mourning lets me be kinder and gentler.

In the same way that it was hard to say goodbye to my grandmother and grandfather who I loved and admired deeply and who gave me hope, it is hard to say goodbye to a woman who is strong and smart and fit and happy and kind and friendly and admirable and capable and seems to be all of those things all of the time. I mourn the loss of her possibility. Especially when I meet her in the faces of friends, for who could resist friendship with a woman like that?

It is kind, understanding women who have carried me through periods of mourning. In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Alma explains what we covenant to do when we are baptized into Christ’s church. He says, “as ye are… willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort”

We are all mourning, aren’t we? Life never happens the way we expect, so we need comfort. Alma lists these directives first, before standing as a witness of God and before keeping the commandments. Through the comfort and support of friends and the Spirit of God, we get to experience the rebirth of our visions of ourselves and those around us. I am free to wonder at the joyous renewal I feel when my heart bursts with love for my children. I get to experience becoming a new creature. Yes, it’s one who is smaller and weaker and less influential, but it is real.

Monday, November 10, 2014

april 2014

April was the month we went to Germany, so I've thrown in a few teaser photos from that trip, but I'll blog about it another time. 

We had a last minute invitation to a fundraising dinner for Junior Achievement since Sam has done some volunteering with them. My go-to babysitter was blessedly free and my friend Jessica lent me this gorgeous formal maternity dress. I was slightly on the over-dressed side (most women were in nice suits/cocktail dresses, but a few were in floor length gowns) but it was fun to get all dressed up for a night and wonderful to be able to give back when we've been so fortunate. 

Also, the dress was a little too-low cut, but all my black tank tops were faded. So I cut the bottom off of Levi's Lightening McQueen jumpsuit leg (which was too long anyway) and pinned it inside the dress. It matched perfectly :)

We also got the BEST VISIT EVER in April when Anna Jo, Jeff, and Jackson flew to Texas for our friend Jessica's wedding. It was indescribably comforting to see Anna Jo and we spent a delightfully relaxed weekend talking and eating and playing with the kids. She and Jeff are such good parents and Jackson is the cutest little boy. 
Levi loved to play peek-a-boo with Jackson. Also, he latched on to Jeff who played basketball and soccer and anything else Levi asked him to. Anna Jo brought some art supplies for the kids and we spent some time drawing and gluing and playing with play-doh.

This is the blanket I made for him!

Then, Anna Jo's brother, Jeff drove up from Houston and brought the most darling little cowboy boots for Jackson's first trip to Texas (and, you know, his first birthday the next week). He stayed the night with Jackson, changed his first diaper, and let Jackson have his first babysitting experience ever. My kids went up to Ruth and Van's house while Anna Jo, Jeff, Sam, and I went to Jessica's wedding in the beautiful middle of nowhere Texas. It was at this cute old barn and everything was decorated with bluebonnets and flowers and vintage lace from Jessica and Nathan's families. They had brisket and barbeque for dinner and the most delicious cake and cupcakes for dessert. 

Also, their officiant and band had been the band playing when they met and when they got engaged. Everything at the wedding had meaning and significance and we were so lucky to be a part of it.

Anna had a birthday party for one of her best kindergarten friends, Karla. It was a swimming princess party. This was the card she made.


It was amazing, and we got to come home to this:

The kids were so happy to play with their Dad again.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

march 2014

Grandma Ruth and Papa Van to Anna, Levi, and Caleb to an indoor bounce house place for Levi's birthday one night while Sam and I went to dinner. Part way through dinner I got this text that showed Anna's front two teeth missing! Apparently she had knocked them out while going down a slide when she hit her face with her knee. Blood was everywhere and Grandma frantically cleaned her up while Papa found the missing teeth for the tooth fairy. Anna was SO excited to be the first kindergartener with both front missing. One had already been very wiggly but the other was just starting to move. As of now (November), both have started growing back in. It makes me so sad to see those big grown up teeth in my little girl's mouth. Can't she stay little for a while more?

A picture Anna made with our magnet tiles

A dress she made for herself out of paper


Anna wanted to make a tennis outfit for her American Girl doll out of an old mylar balloon from Valentine's day. I helped her trace a pattern on to the balloon and we stuck it together with tape and staples. She made a headband, wrist band, tennis racket, and tennis ball all pictured below. She was so happy.  

The inspiration piece.

For spring break we got a campsite on Grapevine Lake. We set up a tent and played at the playground and had a picnic lunch. Later, Jacob, Katrina and Gordon and family, and Van and Ruth came out. We had hot dogs, chips, and smores. Papa took Levi and Anna "fishing" and the kids loved running around and playing in the tent. We had the best time and this is the only picture I've got. It was supposed to rain the next morning, so we decided to go home to sleep rather than stay the night. It ended up not raining, but we were all so exhausted from the day that it was still the best decision to go home. I can't wait till we can really go camping!

Levi turned 4 on March 25 and couldn't decide between a rocket cake and a moon cake, so I made both. He learned to read a few months earlier and was reading easy readers on his own by this time. He's mostly taught himself and can read pretty much anything he wants to by now. He's got great expression, too. I love to listen to him, though he's recently figured out silent reading, so he's sometimes silently occupied for up to an hour. At four he also loves legos and is expanding his curiosity to space and animals. He still loves cars, but they are not his entire world anymore.

I think he likes it.

Cousin fun!

Levi wanted macaroni and cheese, broccoli, and strawberries for dinner and we ate the rocket cake with our family.

Levi had been to Legoland (the mini one at GV Mills) once before, but was too young to ride the cars there, so we planned on coming for his 4th birthday because then he'd be old enough to ride. I made the mistake of noting we were going on Monday, one DAY before his birthday, and he latched on to that idea and absolutely refused to ride the cars once we got there. Or any other ride for that matter. 
So many other things went wrong that day, too. We'd planned on leaving to get Chick-fil-A for dinner, but found out there was no re-entry (what?! who does that?!) so when I saw pizza and hot dogs on the menu at the concession stand, I figured we'd eat there. At dinner time, I went to order and found out that no, they were just kidding, there was no hot food. So we sent Grandma, an annual pass holder who is allowed re-entry, to go get dinner and sneak it in in the bottom of a stroller for us because, no, you couldn't bring in outside food (I assume you're supposed to survive your whole day at Legoland, since you can't leave, on granola bars, muffins, and juice boxes). But when she left, her mom desperately wanted to go home, so she drove her home before bringing in dinner. The kids were fine, but my pregnant self was starving and hangry. I think the whole place had a terrible set-up with different music for each zone but no barriers for each zone so the race music, adventure music, and princess music all overlapped all the time in one unbearable, repetitive, cacophony. 

Needless to say, Levi had the time of his life. He raced cars down the track for at least an hour. He built to his heart's content, and watched every single 4-D short film, laughing hysterically every time he got sprayed in the face with water. I'm glad we did it because he loved it, but I have vowed never to go back, and have stuck to it. Thankfully, Grandma had an annual pass and takes him every few months, on which occasions he's happily driven the cars.

With his race car he sent down the track approximately one thousand times.

I invited all Levi's preschool buddies over for a play date for his birthday. We ate his moon cake at this party.

Yes, Levi's huge. He was in the 99th%ile at his birthday well check. All these kids have birthdays within a few months of each other.

The usual scene in the playroom.

february 2014

Anna was the star of the week in her class and this was the poster she made. We had lots of fun working on it together and choosing pictures she liked.

Riding the turtle train

I had the kids for preschool on valentines day and took pictures of each of them in front of a heart they made at the park to print out for their parents.

Anna made this adorable picture for Sam out of post-its and oil pastels. The pig says, "Happy Valentine's Day! OWNK"

I helped "coach" the YW basketball team in February. This was our final game and only win. The girls were super excited about it, but had been good sports through the whole (short) season.

Van and Ruth gave us their old couches, so we finally had something to put in this room. I love them.

Levi's turn with the camera

Anna's ready for Rodeo Day! This was easily the cutest thing that happened in Kindergarten. In the morning they paraded through the whole school and all the older kids lined the halls to watch and give high fives. In the afternoon, the kids performed a few songs, including Deep in the Heart of Texas. Then they had "barrel racing" and "bronco riding" on their stick horses and the entire class did the Virginia Reel until everyone had a turn. Check back later and I might have some videos posted.

Her cowgirl

On her horse, Princess.

Mrs. Poda's class

Levi enjoying his chocolate shake at In N Out.