Monday, November 30, 2015

December Starts Tomorrow and Other Obvious Truths

I'm still here. Somewhat.

Life goes on... Brandon is working in Kansas and D.C. 4 days a week, we had Thanksgiving here with friends (which was great!), the world is still in turmoil, the kids still don't do chores willingly, I'm still having good days and bad days, and Christmas is coming! The last one makes me happy.

I hate terrorists and the fact people are seriously considering Donald Trump as a viable (or even desirable) candidate. I've lost confidence in all the Republican candidates and I can't stand any of the Democratic ones.

Let's see... good news... good news...

I've signed up to be on my friend's Portland to Coast walk relay team! Remember when I did it back in 2011? I'm doing it again in 2016! I'm excited and terrified all at once because I haven't consistently exercised in two solid years. Why? The why's don't matter. All that matters is now I need to get myself going! Weight loss will finally not be the motivating factor.

In fact, weight loss is not really on my mind, anymore, and hasn't been since before I got pregnant. When I conceived #7, I weighed a whopping 252 pounds (more or less). I was a size 20. I had never been that large before and it was a direct result from my mental problems at the time. And I was very aware about my weight, and I was very aware about how I felt. However, and miraculously --a tender mercy, maybe? --I ended up losing 10 pounds before I gave birth. Isn't that crazy? People ask how I did it (as if I followed some regimen whilst incubating my daughter), and the truth is I didn't do anything. What happened was that I got sick. I felt weak and nauseated a lot, I couldn't eat much, I didn't crave sugar (much), and then I had horrendous gall stones that put me in the hospital 4 weeks before her due date. I then ate an almost strictly fat-free diet for 6 weeks so I wouldn't have another attack, and that's how I lost those 10 pounds. I don't recommend it to anyone! Ever! It was awful! Then I gave birth to a 9 pound baby... and by the time she was 6 weeks old, I weighed 220 pounds. I now weigh 214. I'm a size 16. I'm sure I'll continue to lose weight. Why? I'm not sure. I don't track what I eat, but I do eat according to how I feel. Some days I forget to eat altogether, and others I eat more than I should. I'm way more flabby than I should be, though --I need to build up my muscle and I need to do it soon. Not so I can lose weight, though, or look better, but so I can have the capacity to do the PTC relay and so my bones don't start breaking before I'm 50! I need to build muscle so I can have a better quality of life.

Irony: Even with my flabby, semi-big, bore-7-children body, I'm happier with how I look now than I ever have been in my life. I love my body, my face, my hair, and who I am!

I remember when I weighed 215 pounds back in 2007 and I thought I was morbidly obese. I worked my tail off to get down to 168 pounds and was at my peak physically (running 4 miles a day). All I thought about was how I looked compared to other people. I worried constantly I would get fat again. And I was miserable and didn't enjoy my amazing new-found health. That self-fulfilling prophecy came true and I gained all that weight and more back (also gained three more kids!), but it was good for me to experience this. I imagine I'll lose more weight eventually, but it's not the focus of my life. I'm working on other more important things -- like how to schedule in the exercise and keep the house in better order.

Other good news...

#1 has some of her art displayed at a local mall (it's the school district's temporary gallery). Isn't she amazing?:

#2 has the part of Scuttle in the middle school's play, "Little Mermaid, Jr." and she's so excited

#3 is getting pretty good grades and is building a fort outside.

#4 started cello lessons (how long ago did I write? did you know this?) and has an expander in his mouth to get him ready for braces

#5 can read books!

#6 is still adorable and lispy

#7 is crawling, pulling herself up to stand, and has 7 teeth.

Brandon shaves his mustache tomorrow! I loved him in a beard, and his long stache for "Movember" was actually kind of fun, but it'll be nice to get his face back. Although, I don't know... I totally understand the appeal of the beard, now... ;)

Christmas will be here at home with just us (so nice) and I'm close to finishing shopping and getting newsletters sent out. I'm hoping we'll get snow eventually. Not power-outage snow... maybe school cancelling snow... December is a nice time for snow and I'm glad it's been really mild this last month!

I have two book reviews coming up for the blog, dear reader. Isn't that crazy? I haven't done a review for such a long time and I'm really looking forward to it. One is about mental illness and another is a regency romance. Huzzah! Two subjects I feel quite in interest in (not to mention a tad obsessed with one).

I hope you have a glorious week, dear reader. Stay positive and remember to think of positive things. God loves you!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Moments of Choice by CSS

Moments of Choice

These moments are ones I cherish. Without irony or 
Abuse of the word;
The ones where the house smells of apple 
And is vacuumed.

All of the children are home and I am in the 
Kitchen, cooking dinner, hearing: 
Laughter from outside, 
Tutoring math problems upstairs,
Baby giggles,

The separation between Depression and Light
Is only found in these tiny moments of 
Choice -- 
Decision --
The power of Agency, which seem so simple and 
Those dark weights blur the lines until I am only capable
To wonder:

Do I care about this; do I want to? 

I can't move, I can't decide, I can't wonder, I can't decide. I can't, I can't... I can't...

But here, today, in this kitchen, with the scent of apples, the sight of roses, the laughter of children, the dishes washed, the meal cooking, 

I want it. I chose it. 

I choose it. 

And the darkness lingers, but it has no power, because the 
Power of My Agency 
Has a fire-light, and it is burning brightly! 
Taller and stronger than those weights, 
Those fingers, 
Those arms of oppression and slavery. 

Each time I add fuel (medical, inspirational, Grace, 
And oh! How Great is His Grace!), I feel the 
Heat grow. 
One blade of grass here... another blade there... 
Blades of moments gathered as harvest from the 
Spirit of my soul -- dried out from pain, dried out from 
Desperate hope.

The drying hurts, 
But the drying fuels. 

This darkness, this pain, this exhausting weight is 
Because every time it dries me out, every time it pulls away my 
Choices, it doesn't realize -- 
Just as serpents in Gardens where arrogance cannot understand (and did 
They not realize?) --
Each dried blade brings me to 


And fuels the very Fire that will set me 

~Cheryl S. Savage 
(October 15, 2015) 

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Personality, Kansas, Tires, Chastity, General Conference

One thing I've noticed about my progress (all the way around) is I have learned the following: 
*It's none of my business if people don't like me. It doesn't affect me nearly as much as it used to. 
*I love my role and my choice. I'm done being told that my idea of motherhood and marriage (ideas I get from God, ironically) lacks intelligence, is self-damaging, wasteful, or (and I just don't get this) anti-woman. It boggles my mind! In fact, I spend a lot less time reading anything that would tell me otherwise. I've already read it all (the ideas are never different), anyway. 
*This has made me a better mother. I don't resent my children, I don't resent the work it takes to run my household. For years I was annoyed with what I was "having" to do in my home. Feminism told me I should cut loose and run because obviously, I wasn't fulfilled. Well, I'm glad to say that I stayed and I figured out that what my problem boiled down to was my own misunderstanding about who I am, what I'm capable of, and how I'm going to see my life in 20 years. That, and satan telling me a bunch of crap. Now, I'm incredibly fulfilled! Ask me why, sometime. 
*I'm loud, I'm messy, I make a lot of mistakes, I over-share, I'm brutally honest, I adore the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I love myself for who I am. Sure, I'm on my way to becoming a better version of me (thanks to the Atonement), but that doesn't mean my unique personality is wrong. I don't apologize for being me, anymore. Not to others, not to myself. I apologize when I've hurt someone (because I rarely mean to on purpose), I apologize when I've sinned, but I don't apologize for my personality. I don't apologize for my faith. I don't apologize for my hope.  


Today marks the third (fourth??) week Brandon has to be out of town for work. His client is in Kansas, and so it means a much longer commute time (ha!). It hasn't been too bad, but this past weekend was rough. I picked him up at the airport on Saturday afternoon, and then I drove him to the airport on Sunday afternoon. We did manage to pack in a lot of family time (thank you, General Conference!) and a short date, though. And this client is fantastic, and he's working, so, honestly? No complaining from me! 


Yesterday evening, I ran over a large screw (bolt? Gigantic nail?) and it's stuck in the right front tire of the Prius. Luckily, I made it home without the thing going flat or exploding on me, and this morning I'm praying it will continue to be okay until I can drive into Costco to get it fixed. I'm not very excited about waiting for the tire to get fixed with two small kids, (or moving car seats from the van to the Prius so I can take them with me) but it IS Costco, and there will be plenty to distract us from the wait. Ooh! Maybe I'll time it with free samples time... 


I'm also working on a 3 Part Series on Chastity for the website Mormon Women Stand. It's going pretty well --it's hard to write about something the world thinks is ridiculous. Even the most conservative and religious people find the idea outdated and unrealistic; how does one explain why it's one of the most crucial commandments of all time? And that if people actually obeyed it (and understood it), we'd not only save billions (trillions!) of dollars in health care, but it could eradicate almost every social problem we have in our country? In our world? It's taking me a long time to write it out so that the explanations are found in truth/scripture/prophetic warnings, as well as realistically  applicable to teenagers and young adults who are wading through the mud of immorality everywhere they go. 


General Conference weekend was, as always, superb. Our family has chosen to watch all four sessions together every single time, and it's awesome! Sure, by the time Sunday afternoon rolls around, the little boys are just completely finished, but it's been so good for them to experience what General Conference is all about. I want them to see this weekend as a GOOD thing! As a chance to hear from living Prophets of God (how cool is that?!) and not as a weekend to take "time off" from Gospel Living --if anything, it's a time to renew our resolve to live the gospel more fully. So, I make it fun: Packets to color, special treats we only make during General Conference, lots of blankets and forts and usually I do our General Conference Wall (idea, here). The Wall didn't get done this year, but that's okay. We also had a rough Sunday morning at first (too much fighting), but we weren't going for perfection! It was just so wonderful to be together as a family (as much as we could), listening to God's servants teaching us how to come closer to Jesus Christ. 

I shared loads of memes on Instagram and FB (simply because I think those messages are so important to read and hear), but here are a few of my favorites: 

Which talks were your favorites? 

Happy Tuesday, dear reader! I hope you have a fabulous day. 

Monday, October 05, 2015

From the Archives: June 2006 or Learning From My Past Mistakes

I wrote the post below the line (down there... just keep reading...) on June 10, 2006 --just 6 months after I started blogging.

See the sidebar over there on the right of my first three kids? It's cliche, it's over-used, it's true: Where does the time go??

I love my children so much. They have been so brave (not their choice) while being raised by a mother who can't control her temper, whose rage may have emotionally damaged them forever... maybe? Maybe not? Maybe I'm being too selfish? Maybe they won't be damaged forever? Perhaps their ability to forgive me for my short-comings (yelling) and mental illness (depression and anxiety) means they will be better off than I give them credit for?

I know I've improved drastically since these three kiddos were small. I just wish I could have been a better, calmer, kinder mom for them when they were little. My heart aches (and aches and aches) for those years, the ones I will never get back, if only so I could take those moments and choose kindness first, before I allowed anger a place to reside. I try not to dwell there (the past cannot be rewritten), but remembering helps me to be better in the present. It helps me mother them (and their younger siblings) so much wisely, now.

Love your kids, dear reader! Choose kindness as much as you can. It really does go by so fast! If you have to choose between being right, a clean room, more time to yourself, etc. or the relationship with your child, please choose the relationship. You can still teach responsibility, hard work, repentance, and determination through kindness and calm. Consistency (kind consistency) is actually a better teacher than shouting, any day. Learn from my mistakes!

I thank God every day that my kids are so good and still love me --Heaven knows they have reasons to be disappointed in (and fearful of) me. Aren't children amazing? Their ability to forgive is something I want to emulate. Christ knew what He was talking about when He spoke about children...

Love, Kindness, Calm. Calm and Kind. Calm and Kind. Calm and Kind... (Calm is a funny word when you type it out a lot... ;) )


"#1, #2, #3" 


#1 before her dance recital --the kids got to pick their own outfits and she chose a great skirt and shirt her aunt bought her for her birthday.
#2 doing what she does best...laughing! This was on her birthday several months ago....
#3 --"Oooh! Gasp! Oooh!"
Those would be #3's favorite words in the whole world. :) This face is frequently displayed during the day as he reacts to everything as something exciting, or as new. It's not a bad idea, really....
I sure love those kids...I wish I could show it more....

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Update on My Mind Amongst Other Things

This last weekend, we went to Michigan as a family. We drove (only 8 hours without stops!), and it was actually a very uneventful and semi-easy (as much as kids cooped up in a car can be) drive. Granted, our children are now used to driving for days on end, 12 hours a day, traversing the country at untold speeds (okay, usually 70mph). But, it being Autumn, and as most of the drive was through Pennsylvania and Ohio, it was quite pleasant!

We stayed with our good friends, the Fishers, and proceeded to fill in the weekend with the BYU football team fireside (very nice), the BYU football game (amazing stadium, great experience, horrible, horrible, horrible game and agonizing loss), the General Women's Meeting (just what I needed), and a stop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, for a lovely picnic lunch. The entire trip was exactly three days.

I have a million things on my mind. I'm not sure how to sift through them all and break it down into coherent thought. There is just so much going on in the world, in my schedule, in my brain, in my relationships with other people... I need to write it out, though, so I can make sense of it all. 

First, with the whole End of the World preppers movement, the Blood Moon (of which we saw a lot of, Sunday night, before the clouds covered most of it and we decided to call it quits and head for bed), the Pope's visit to Philadelphia (which we missed, unfortunately), three apostles dying and three more being called this weekend during General Conference (I assume), the General Women's Meeting, and the laws of the land shifting to the morals of society --I have been pondering a lot on Prophets, religion, chastity, morality, and where to find truth, safety, and peace. 

Second of all, I feel a great desire to change or shift the culture of my immediate family. It stems from the realization of my responsibility to oversee it and how I can mold it when I am able to discipline myself enough to represent it without hypocrisy. Up until now, I don't think I was capable of having that discipline. It may still take a while. But the desire is deep and I feel an urgency to have it up and running before my older children are grown and gone. 

Thirdly, I've been thinking a lot about relationships. Mostly friendships and what part I may play in the creation and demise of them. It's been difficult for me, as I've gotten older, to look back at my behavior in the past and realize that I've caused pain. Pain I can never rectify, pain that might not even exist anymore, but pain none-the-less. I've also been thinking about the future and the relationship my kids will have, specifically marriage. What can I do now, to ensure that 1. they will have the confidence to find someone worthy of their love, and 2. I will be the type of mother-in-law that their spouses will love and respect? I know I can't control a lot of it, but what can I control, and how will I implement it? This goes back to the family culture thing. 

Lastly and fourthly or whatever, I have been thinking about mental illness and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I promised an update on my mind, and here it is! In list form. Of course: 

1. I've been consistently taking medication and going to therapy for over 18 months. Medication has changed here and there based on situations (pregnancy, postpartum). Therapy continues to be necessary for my ability to sort things out and have an objective point of view to show me why I may feel how I feel, where I can change my thought processes, and what I may really desire. 
2. The medication and therapy have given me more energy (although I'm not exercising like I should, yet) and more motivation to be the kind of homemaker, mother, wife, friend, and overall person that I want to be. 
3. I do not feel outside pressure to be more than who I am. What I desire comes from within myself and from a truly, humble hope to be whom God wants me to be. I'm tripping and falling all over the place as I stumble on the path to God's Will, but I'm trying. I'm learning how to heed the Holy Ghost again. I had to start over because the Depression clouded everything... but it's becoming clearer to me. 
4. I am very aware that I can slip at any time. I still have trouble, occasionally, and I need to be gentle with myself. I give myself days off when the stress or exhaustion is too much. 
5. Life is REALLY hard. It will never be perfect, and I will never be perfect (in mortality). But my faith is strong because I have a testimony of Jesus Christ and I have a testimony of the work He is doing through His church. Every happiness in my life is because of Him, the covenants I've made, and doing my best to follow His doctrine. The older I get, the deeper this testimony has become. Experience is a great teacher (the best?) and I've learned that there is NOTHING more important than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is everything. Everything. By it, every truth and goodness is illuminated, through it, every evil is exposed, and because of it, every pain, sin, and loss will be rectified.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Prodigal Blog Daughter (or something?)

Well, howdy, world. This is me not discussing how it's been nearly 6 months since I've written, and how that is just bizarre, since I've written 1-10 times a week since January of 2006.

I'd rather just jump right back into my blogging without explaining why I wasn't writing. I may discuss that at a later date. Sufficeth to say, I've been busy! Since March the following has happened (more or less):

*Brandon's job running his own consulting company took off (The CXPro).
*The school year ended.
*We took a six week trip out West. We left on June 27th and got home on August 7th. Where did we go? Ha! The question is more like, where did we not go? The highlights are thusly:

  • Traveled through Ohio, Michigan (stopped to see friends), Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin (stopped to see friends), Minnesota, South Dakota (Mt. Rushmore!), Wyoming, and Montana so we could get to Alberta! 
  • Alberta: my grandmother's funeral (my last grandparent to die. She very conveniently died three weeks before our big reunion. Knowing how much she loved reunions, we're guessing she timed it so none of us would have to choose between her funeral and the reunion --we could all just come for both) and our family reunion in Waterton. Typical awesome Alberta experience. 
  • Brandon's father got married in the Payson, UT temple. 
  • We spent a week in Utah; the girls went to girl's camp with their bestie. 
  • Spent a week in Idaho at my parent's house with my sister and her kids. 
  • Spent a week near Oakley, UT at our BFF's cabin. They have 7 kids, we have 7 kids, we've been friends since college... you see how this is. 
  • Spent a few days with my sister
  • Spent four days with Brandon's mom and step-dad camping in southern UT
  • Went home via Arizona (Grand Canyon!), New Mexico (family and Carlsbad Caverns), Texas (the Alamo and friends), Louisiana (New Orleans and friends), Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee (friends), Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and finally HOME. 
It was long, it was epic. Brandon was able to work in Utah and be with us the whole time! We saw so many friends, so much family, and we fit in an impossible (yet, now possible!) amount of fun. We stayed at KOA campsites along the way and at every state boundary we took photos of us standing in front of the state signs. Instagram was my scrapbook of the adventure! We truly had a wonderful time. Here's a quick glimpse (such a small glimpse, really) of some of the highlights (not in any kind of order!): 



August was unpacking (luckily we had a very clean house when we got home due to friends who had stayed at our house and neighbors who had watched over it. Funny story: the friends who stayed at our house live in Provo, UT. We were in the same ward together for 12 years, but the husband grew up here in PA --in the ward right next to ours. Actually, back when he was growing up, the boundaries were different and he actually grew up in the ward we are in right now. Anyway, he has family still here and so they all came out to visit --right when we would be in Utah! So we did a house swap thing. We stayed at their house for a few days and they stayed here at our house for almost 2 weeks. It was perfect! We were even able to see them briefly when they returned to Utah and that was awesome. And they had cleaned the house before they left so we arrived to perfection. Such great people!). 

August was also the month of school preparation. The kids started earlier this year (August 31) and so we had lots to do. Dentist, doctors, orthodontists, school supplies, clothes, shoes, a day at the shore (Ocean City, NJ!), and coming to grips with the fact that I now have a high schooler! 

Speaking of the high schooler, here's a run-down of the kids and what's going on in their lives right now. And a whole bunch of shameless bragging:

#1: She's 14 and a Freshman in high school! Holy Cow! She started early morning seminary (starts at 6:05AM), joined the Art club, Conspiracy Theories Club (they bust myths), DuPont kids (they raise funds to help kids at the DuPont Children's Hospital) and was just elected as Freshman Student Body Officer! Well, she's one of four (apparently their high school doesn't believe in President and VP and such; it's more communal, I guess). For the year she's taking Honors Geometry, Spanish, Art, Health, Seminar English, Seminar Biology,  and Seminar African/Asian Studies (Honors is advanced; Seminar is almost AP). She received her Patriarchal Blessing last week, and she's just a good, good person. I'm really proud of who she is becoming! 

#2: 12 years old and 7th grade! She's still in the gifted program and is also taking Geometry. She's doing Lateral Thinking and Shakespearean Theater as her modules this year. She's also hoping to add Mytopia in the Spring (a board game that she and other students invented last year and are hoping to perfect this year). She's looking forward to Drama Club and I have her learning hymns on the piano and voice lessons will start soon (just from me. Ha!). She's also started taking Spanish, and I'm hoping the girls will start conversing in Spanish soon. I may have to tell them it could be their secret language since I don't know Spanish... hmmm... She is the only Beehive at church and has taken to YW really well. She continues to read voraciously and argue her points with wit and logic! I don't think a day ever passes that I'm not amazed at how different she is from me and how much I love it. Her confidence is infectious. 

#3: I am so proud of this boy. His Misphonia makes things really difficult sometimes, and he does not like change. However, I'm happy to say that being 11 and going to middle school has --so far --been really good for him! 6th grade has made him organized. He has to keep track of all his homework and different classes, and so he's staying on top of it. We even had a miracle --he started and finished an English project almost entirely on his own! He loves school and his friends; and he's hoping to try out for the football team this next summer. For the month of August, he went running every day in the morning, and even convinced his sisters to join him a few times, even though it was initially their idea. Ha! He dotes on the baby and continues to be really helpful around the house. 

#4: 3rd grade! This kid is growing up too fast. He is becoming a very good reader and he starts cello lessons next week. He's so excited to play the cello, and I'm excited the school has a free lesson program so it's more affordable! He's anticipating the start of Mileage Club at the school again (they run during recess and every time they hit a mile, they get another foot charm for a necklace). His behavior has greatly improved. I largely think, though, that I have improved my behavior towards him, and that has helped the most. The very most. He adores the baby like #3 and begs to hold her whenever he can. One thing that has been good for him is that he is in charge of #5 when it comes to school --the bus stop, needing help, finding things, etc. --and he is being a great big brother! 

#5: 1st grade --and it's just surreal. This kid! I swear, he's just too cute for words. And although we've entered a new phase of frustration (sassy-ness and tantrums), he's improving. He's reading a bit on his own, now, and he just loves math. He loves recess the most because he can climb the monkey bars and do, as he told me, his "exercises." I imagine he might be an athlete because of how much he loves the outdoors and playing all kinds of sports. I am going to try and start teaching him piano lessons next week (wish me luck!). The only bummer is that there are no kids his age close to us. He pals around with #3 and #4 and their friends, but it doesn't always work. Breaks my heart to see him sad. 

#6: He's 3! He's potty-trained! He's home all day with me! Because he doesn't turn 4 years old until March, I've decided to keep him home with me this year. It's been nice having him to distract the baby when I need to get a few things accomplished, and his favorite things thus far are: cars, trains, Strawberry Shortcake, books, snacking, and then running around with his brothers. He adores them and tries to join in with all their fun whenever he can. One thing I adore about him is when we're driving around in the van, and I will hear him singing so sweetly and softly to the baby to help her be happy. 

#7: She's pure joy personified. I'm not joking. Not only has she been a healing influence for me, but she has been so good for the older kids, too. She'll be 7 months tomorrow and she's just about crawling. I noticed a tooth starting to make it's way up, too (yay?), and she enjoys crackers and bananas. I'm still nursing and mostly co-sleeping with her, but it's all good. I'm too tired to move her to another room where I'll actually have to stand up and walk down the hallway. I mean, who has time for that?? ;) I know this time will pass very, very, very quickly, and so I'm trying to enjoy all the present moments she gives us. I think her favorite person in the world (besides her daddy and his new beard --I'll show photos!) is #1. It's only natural, seeing how she's my go-to babysitter and looks like me a little bit. Ha! 

So, there you go. My days usually look like this: 

MOTHER ALL THE KIDS! (they take up the majority of my time)
HOMEMAKE ALL THE HOUSE! (I gotta teach these kids to work, don't I?)
LOVE THE HUSBAND! (he's pretty awesome)
READ ALL THE BOOKS! (while also on social media)
FULFILL ALL THE CALLINGS! (I play the piano and teach Cubscouts stuff)

Life is good. It's really hard sometimes, and I still have my bad days, but I am...what do you call it? ... I'm... happy. Truly. Which reminds me! I'll update you on my mental illness next time, but here's a teaser: I'm doing really well. Like, REALLY well. (Knock on wood!)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Life Marches On (or, Finally Blogging Again. Maybe.)

Well, dear reader, it's been nearly three months since I wrote. There have been reasons, I'm sure, but I can't really remember. I have a new baby, so I'm positive that's part of it. Perhaps because the laptop cord broke and it's hard to share one with my husband? It doesn't really matter. I just haven't felt the need to write anything, until today.

A lot has happened during the last several months. Sweet baby girl was born, of course. We had family come in for her blessing and #4's baptism a few weeks after she was born (my parents, my brother, Brandon's dad, Brandon's sister, my cousin and his family). I had a lactation consultant come in to help me because for the first time since my first baby, nursing proved to be a real struggle (she has an overbite, high palate, and my milk dried up, and I got mastitis, and I was bleeding, and...). We were able to get those things resolved just in time for me to have gall bladder removal surgery! That was kind of crazy, but blessedly I was able to keep nursing. A few weeks after surgery (which went really well), we got thrush. That was not fun! We are finally at a place where I can nurse without pain and she's growing steadily (about 12 pounds now, I think!). She's good, I'm good. Well, at least with nursing, although she won't take a binky or suck her fingers... she's kind of needy. But not in a bad way, since she can be easily soothed with the breast or just being held (while standing up. Of course. Ha!). But that means I am tired and can't get a whole lot done around the house without help.

Ah, the house. Well, almost everything I had done to get ready for the baby has been undone. Surface things stay clean, but deep cleaning and organization will have to happen again, soon. I don't really hate it that much, since, you know, I JUST HAD A BABY, but still, it grates on me a bit.

Our days are the same as they've always been --up at 6:30AM for scriptures/prayers, get the kids out the door on time for school, spend mornings with #6 and baby girl, pick up #5 from Kindergarten, maybe attempt some kind of errands and chores throughout the day, and then the witching hour starts around 3:30PM and lasts until 10PM. Or 11PM. Or whenever I can crawl into bed and latch the baby on, and some nights, it's 9PM! Huzzah!

#1 went to Mormon Prom (stag), we had Spring Break, #2 attended a Shakespearean Festival at a local university, #5 lost a few teeth, I've had to pull off about 12 ticks this season already, #3 was in a track meet, Brandon's consulting work is going well (although he travels a lot, again), my only calling at church is RS pianist (easy peasy) although I accompany the ward choir a lot since our accompanist moved, I accompanied another violin recital for a friend, Brandon and I still try to have date night every week and FHE with the family every Monday, I've been attending book club with the greatest women, the Philly mission took our Elders and Senior Couple, so we only have Sisters in the ward (I try to feed them twice a month), I still haven't been able to get to the temple since baby was born (but Brandon is in charge of the monthly ward temple trip, so he gets to go a lot and the girls have gone, as well), Brandon is still in the Bishopric, #3 starts middle school next year and gets to go to Washington D.C. next week with his class, #1 starts high school next year and is all registered, #4 (all baptized and getting too old) is doing really well in school, #5 is reading!!!, #1 turned 14, #2 turned 12, #4 turned 8, and #6 turned 3. #1 continues to be a great babysitter, #2 is starting to get asked by others to babysit, as well, and we performed our Mormon Daddy Style lip-sync routine for the ward talent show.

The house is usually filled with origami, sticks and rocks, ball tag, Star Trek, books, markers, board games, shoes, unfolded laundry, dirty dishes, laughter, scuffles, yelling, cat throwup, dirty diapers, piano playing, paperwork, string cheese wrappers, Clash of Clans, Minecraft, painting, pocket knives, dirty socks, the smell of tick repellent, band-aids, kisses, and making baby noises at baby girl.

My Depression is doing well. Wait, scratch that --I am doing well. My depression is stupid. I've been consistently seeing my therapist every 2 weeks for a year, now. I've been seeing my psychiatrist for the same amount of time. This week she upped my meds due to some slippage --most likely PPD. It's fine. I have really good days and my bad days are short. The sleep deprivation is probably the biggest cause of my impatience or anger, so I'm being careful about how I communicate with people. At least I'm trying. My family still gets the brunt of my frustration, but since they're usually the cause... ;)

The boys are with Brandon right now at the annual Fathers/Sons camp out. The girls and I went to dinner last night and watched movies back at home. The best part was sleeping in this morning. Well, sort of. Baby girl doesn't let me sleep too much, but it was still more than normal. The rest of the day will probably be filled with me trying to get the kids to do chores.

This summer we're heading west! We'll be gone for about 5-6 weeks. We're going to Canada, Utah, Idaho, and maybe California (still up in the air). I'm really looking forward to it! The drive will be epic, as will the amount of people we see.

The kids don't get out of school until mid-June. I'm jealous of all the Utah and Idaho people whose children are out next week! Luckily, it's mostly filled with field trips, events, and performances, rather than homework and testing. I am glad, because I'm so done, and so are the children!

When I think each day about the tasks before me and the things I face, I have to remind myself of my blessings. I have to remind myself of how incredibly miraculous and wonderful my life really is, because it's easy to forget in the face of my challenges. Sure, on paper, it probably looks like I have a perfect life (husband, kids, SAHM, nice house, good schools, etc). But it is not. I have a big family. I have physical and mental limitations. I am strung very thin and stressed a lot (I won't even start on the emotional toll of needing/wanting to nurture my children the best that I can every single day). It's very hard work. Very hard. Sometimes, I honestly question why I made the choices I have made to give me this hard life. And then I remember that I chose it because I wanted to make the right choice. I asked Heavenly Father if this is what He wanted of me, and He told me that it was. That it is. And I have a firm and solid testimony that if God brings me to it, He will see me through it. He would never ask me to do something that He wasn't going to help me accomplish. My days may tax me physically, mentally, and emotionally, but they are also filled with a lot of joy. This tough work I do? It's the most important work I will every do in my life. And I feel my Savior and my Heavenly Father with me. I feel angels surrounding me at times, cheering me on, lifting me quietly, telling me I can do this hard work.

And with that, dear reader, I leave you. Hopefully, I will feel another urge to share with you several photos of the last few months!

Friday, February 27, 2015

And Seven Makes Nine!

Our sweet baby girl arrived Monday evening (February 23, 2015) at 6:44PM! She came at 41 weeks and 2 days. It was an elective induction, and although I was hoping I wouldn't need to be induced, I'm glad I did it.

Sweet Sensational Number Seven! She weighed in at 9lbs 4oz, and was 22 inches long. She's super sweet and adorable, and other than some latching issues (ouch!) we're doing fantastic. The kids just love her! I'm incredibly grateful my mom is here to help with the kids, too.

All details and more photos to come soon! I need to write about the birth and also catch up on the last few months. Right now, I'm just giddy for this little face:

(He was upset because she started crying while he was holding her. He's actually been quite taken with her!)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

January Brain Dump

I'm feeling a lot better. I changed my diet drastically to low/non fat and it's amazing how much better I feel in the gall bladder area. I haven't had anything for dessert (I did have a tsp of brownie (literally a tsp) and some non-fat sorbet with pretzels and blueberries/strawberries, though) and only some chicken and eggs. I've been eating a LOT of fruits and veggies. So basically, I'm eating the way I probably should be eating, minus the no fats. Because let's be honest --I need some healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, nuts, beans). But it's still good that I'm eating better.

I saw my doctor yesterday and it was good. Really good. Well, except for the 7 pound weight loss (yes, dear reader, extreme weight loss, especially 7 pounds in one week, even when not pregnant, is not a good thing, m'kay? Think about it. Seriously). But the doctor knew it was a result of the diet change and the antibiotics and the hospital stay. So, he's not too worried. He and the resident who was shadowing him (super nice woman) told me I could slowly start introducing those good fats back into my diet (nuts and beans) slowly... very slowly... and gauge how my gall bladder feels. So, I need to be really careful, but I'm glad I can start using good fats again in small amounts. In fact, after the appointment, I had some scrambled eggs (not just egg whites) and I was relieved that it was just fine.

Baby is doing great! She's head down and her heartbeat is strong. She doesn't move as much as I would like, but she's running out of room, so it's normal for it to feel like less movement. Still doesn't stop my panic when it's been too long. I've been praying a LOT this week.

The doctor told me that if I could keep the pain under control (i.e. keep up with my diet), then there's no reason to even think about induction. I'm so relieved! I have lost out on so many things this pregnancy/birth, and so when I am able to have things the way I'd like them, it makes me feel calmer. My hope is that she will come on her own (probably around 41 weeks or so), I'll be able to deliver her the way I'd like to, and all will be well.

Which reminds me: Nesting is in full swing! I have to be careful, though, because when I push myself too hard, I end up having to rest for a few hours before doing anything else. I'm not like I was when pregnant at 22! Or even 33. But so far, I've been able to check the following off of my list:

*Switching rooms --all four boys are in the bigger room, now. The room that had the older boys in it is now a guest room/baby room.
*Going through all the boys' clothes and purging, saving, organizing.
*Re-organizing (and purging/cleaning) the toy closet (we have a medium-sized, shelved walk-in closet in the hallway upstairs next to the boys' room)
*Going through all the baby girl clothes, washing everything, putting them away
*Finishing ordering things like binkies, diapers, boppy-pillow covers, essential oils, etc.
*Organizing, diluting, and putting together all of my essential oils
*Streamlining my laundry system (the dryer is fixed, now!!! HUZZAH!!!)
*Organizing/cleaning out the hall linen/medicine closet upstairs
*Cleaning out and organizing my personal closet
*Get the boys on a better cleaning system
*Get basement rid of mice and keep food storage in bins (well, this is on-going and Brandon is doing it. And he's doing a great job!)

All that's left:
*Help my brilliant, beautiful, well-intentioned girls clean out their cess-pool of a room (sigh...) and go through all of their clothes (purge!).
*Clean out my kitchen (re-organize cupboards and clean behind fridge and stove)
*Clean/organize office/guest room again
*Keep the house continuously clean (reasonably, of course) to maintain.

And it's working.

Why it's working: Brandon. Honestly, that's why. He's home every day, now, and although he's working, he's able to help me stay on top of things. When he's consciously keeping our room clean (which is also his office right now), working on small things around the house as needed, and helping me keep the kids in line after school, it makes a WORLD of difference for me. I feel like I can meet him half-way (or beyond) and keep up the house and stay on top of the kids' chores/homework.

Why is he home, you ask? Long story short: Brandon no longer works for the company that moved us out here. He now has his own consulting business. Short story longer? Well, we've known since October that he wouldn't be working there past December. (It's both an interesting and frustrating and very faith-filled story that I'll share one day.) Brandon has opportunities to work in a lot of places, but for now, we feel really good about his consulting business (which is already building). The kids are happy that we're staying here (for now), and I'm happy because my husband is really happy, too. His stress-levels are so much better than they were during the Summer/Fall. When daddy's happy, mommy's happy, and when mommy's happy, everyone is happy! Well, mommy is happier than normal, but man, these hormones... and I'm hungry! Sigh...

In the next month, we will have four birthdays in our family (#4 turns 8 on Feb 8th, #2 turns 12 on Feb 11th, I turn 36 on Feb 26th, and #6 turns 3 on March 2nd) and one more (Baby Girl will probably be born anytime between Feb 14th and Feb 28th). Did you see that two of those birthdays are pretty big ones? I can't believe I will have two Young Women! And another baptism! We're planning on making March 8th our big family weekend --Baptism and Baby Blessing (assuming Baby Girl comes at a reasonable time). And I guess I'm possibly having surgery sometime in March, too... Maybe... and Yay...

We've only had 2 half-day school closings due to weather this year (so far). Last year, by the time March rolled around, we had accumulated 14 full snow days. It was awful! So, I'm grateful this winter is more similar to the past winters of the region. We get some nice snow occasionally, it rains, but it's very mild in comparison to what it could be. Knock on wood...

Pet Peeves, lately:
*Open letter rebuttals on the Internet (to things people have said, tweeted, or wrote) that are filled with arrogant strings of insults, bad language, and overall rudeness. I don't care if their opinion is justified or even aligned with mine --if you're a jerk about it, I won't support it or share it.
*My sweet 2 year old now wants to help with everything. And thinks he can do everything. And freaks out when he can't or is not allowed. So fun!
*Medical bills. Which will increase very, very soon.
*When Baby Girl kicks me in the gall bladder.
*Leaking ceilings (that we hope are now fixed)
*Teachers/administrators demanding that I micromanage every part of my child's educational process in ways that don't seem to even work
*Constant, normal exhaustion
*Tantrums. From me.

Happy things, lately:
*Feeling baby girl move
*Not feeling any pain in my gall bladder area (except an achy feeling when it's touched or kicked)
*My sweet 2 year old wanting to help with everything (seriously, even though it's also annoying, it's kind of awesome)
*Fuzzy socks
*Seeing Brandon more
*Planning our big, epic Out-West trip for this July! (We're coming to Canada, Idaho, Utah, and possibly California for about 5 weeks!)
*Feeling on top of laundry for the first time in nearly a decade
*Forgiveness from my family when I keep losing it and throwing tantrums due to my hunger, uncomfortableness, exhaustion, hormones, and impatience.

This made me feel very hopeful the other day. And peaceful. Calm:

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Gall Bladders, Pregnancy, and Sixteen Years of Marriage

Well, that was a quick four weeks or so.

Christmas came and went, New Year's, too. It was a good holiday and I'll share details and photos later.

School is in full swing and the kids are finally back on schedule.

Right now, I'm recovering on the couch. Recovering, you ask? From what, you ask? Well, dear reader, I had a gall bladder attack (never had one before) and was in the hospital for two full days.

The baby is fine, she's alive (most important) and kicking (also important) and I'll be 36 weeks in two days. The gall bladder, however, is not fine. It has stones and is full of infection.

Sunday night, around 8:30PM, I started to feel some incredible pain just below my ribs, but above the uterus. I wasn't sure what it was, so I stretched, drank water, went to the bathroom, noticed it was not the uterus contracting, walked around, changed into my nightgown out of restrictive clothing, lay down on the bed, moved around, tried different positions, and the pain would not stop. It kept getting worse. By the time Brandon came upstairs with the kids (to put them to bed), I was a sobbing mess. He called the doctor and she told him to bring me in right away. We drove to our hospital (25 minutes away) and about half-way there, I threw up everything I had consumed that day. The pain was so severe, and I just kept throwing up (luckily, I had something to throw-up into!). When we got there, they put me in a room, checked vitals, monitored the baby, ordered an ultrasound, asked questions, and then, FINALLY, but me on some pretty powerful narcotics. And then I threw up again. I think. It's all blurry.

Ultrasound showed inflamed and infected gall bladder.

The next 12 hours I only remember being given drugs (awesome!) that made me throw up (not awesome) and made me loopy (medium awesome). I struggled to sleep, to focus --but the pain was gone. Every 2-3 hours, it would come back... finally, it started to subside. Maybe because I was empty of all nutrition? Maybe because all the fluids they kept pumping into my arm helped? Maybe because of how I was sitting? They moved me to another room and started antibiotics. I ended up staying at the hospital for four rounds of IV antibiotics, and luckily I didn't need the pain killers about 16 hours after they had started giving them to me.

I came home yesterday afternoon. Although I'm still really tired, really sore, and really worried, I'm much better. Baby Girl was a champ, and although she keeps kicking me in the gall bladder/liver (thanks a lot, baby!), she's good. I worry about her, though.

And honestly, dear reader, when they put me in the bed Sunday night, I was convinced that the only way to get rid of the pain was to have a C-section RIGHT then and there, and have them rip that thing out of me. If they had suggested it, I would have said, "yes!" no questions, asked. And I don't regret feeling that way. It's ironic coming from a home birth advocate, is it not? It's incredible what real pain will do to you! But I'm glad she's still growing inside of me; she needs more time. Honestly, though, I have never felt more excruciating pain in my life. Steady and growing and bitterly painful. I haven't thrown-up anything in... years. Years and years! I don't get sick. I threw up more at the hospital than I have in my entire life, I swear. The pain was intolerable.

Labor and childbirth is a walk in the park compared to that. Hands down. Like, it doesn't even compare on the pain scale. I would say the gall bladder thing was a 10 and labor is... a 6. Or 5. Seriously! And yes, I give birth unmedicated, and yes, I'm some kind of "expert" and yes, I have a pretty high tolerance to pain, but holy cow, I would deliver 10 babies in 10 days rather than go through that hell again!

Anyway, so I'm home, unable to nest, unable to bend over, unable to... well, do too much. I'm going to take it easy for a few days, and hopefully I can get my energy back before baby does decide to come. I'm also looking into all kinds of options --diet changes (which I've already made, even if just to get through this pregnancy without any more attacks), surgery postpartum, inducing baby early, just waiting like the original plan, etc. My list of things to get done before baby comes won't be fulfilled, I've decided, and that's okay. I just have to prioritize (again) and make what I can do work.

And, now, with all of this said, I have to talk about one more thing: My husband.

Brandon was incredible. He held my hair while I puked all over, he held my hand while the pain was so hard. He asked questions for me, got the nurses for me, and then went home at 4AM to make sure the kids were taken care of (we are so lucky #1 is old enough and responsible enough to watch the kids during times like these!).

He texted my mom to update them on how I was doing, he found people to help with the kids so he could get to meetings or come visit me in the hospital. He got my prescriptions for me and brought me roses as a welcome home gift. While I was absent, he found my CTR ring I had lost (he bought it for me in August of 1998) and fixed the iMessage problems I was having on my laptop. And this morning, he got up with the kids to read scriptures and get them off to school so I could sleep.

That is love, dear reader. Real and true.

On Friday (the 16th), we are celebrating our 16th wedding anniversary (double anniversary!). Which kind of blows my mind! Time keeps speeding up... Now, I would be lying if I said our marriage was perfect, or if I said marriage was a cake walk. We've had our share of some really hard times, including some rough stuff in 2014. Life is hard, and when health issues arise, it gets harder. When you have a lot of kids, it can be hard, too (although not always in the ways people think). Marriage is a choice, and marriage is a chance for personal growth, as well as an opportunity to exercise real charity. Now, I've been blessed with a good marriage. I don't give credit to fate. The credit I give is to God. He has taught us what will bring true happiness to marriage, and I know that the reason we are as happy as we are is because we're both trying to follow what He has taught. Brandon is a good man with a good heart and he's married a good woman with the same. But we're also both incredibly selfish beings (that's the mortal part) who have a hard time communicating when we're vulnerable. Basically, we're normal.

But despite all of the rough times we've had, we are still loyal. We still care for one another and the love we share is built on these 16 years of commitment. When I think back on our marriage, it's amazing how much the good outweighs the bad. The pettiness or willful misunderstandings pale in comparison to the wonderful times we have with each other, to the miracles we've encountered, and to our gratitude to God for a good life.

There is so much time left, too, to get it all right, to work on perfecting our many imperfections. We are in the trenches of life, right now. We are bogged down with the gamut of child-rearing, from pregnancy to diapers. losing teeth to teenagers. This period of our life will last for a bit longer, that's for sure. And we've both been hit with incredibly humbling experiences in our years together, but each time we get beat down, we've always figured a way back to the top. We don't allow each other to drown. In fact, as my therapist told me recently, "a marriage works when they follow this rule: only one person gets to be crazy at a time." Ha! It's true, though. Take turns being crazy --don't be crazy at the same time. Because our hardest times have been when we are both crazy at the same time!

Anyway, I just want to say that I dearly love my husband. I'm glad I chose him; I'm glad he chose me.   I would choose him again if I had the choice. Our love hasn't been built upon romance and butterflies and passion. Our love has been built upon friendship, loyalty, and forgiveness (with some of that romance and passion still hanging around in the background, of course!).

Isn't that the love that lasts, anyway?

So, to my husband, I thank you for all you are. I love you so much.

To my sweet baby girl, I say, "come soon, sweetie!"

To my gall bladder, I say, "you have failed me! I may need to rip you out of my body. Sorry, dude. But not that sorry."