Thursday, September 18, 2014

This mid-September

Road construction is a must, I know, but it's frustrating when it's on your small, country-ish road that has no sidewalks. It's also frustrating because you never know if you'll have access to your Kindergartner's bus-stop (blessedly, he's the only one who gets off at our stop, so the bus driver looks for me and is more than willing to go down about 30 yards before stopping). But it's a small price to pay for smoothly paved roads come wintertime! Which has me looking at our own driveway with much trepidation...

(at the bus stop)

I'm patiently awaiting the arrival of a spectacular PA Autumn. Last year, we arrived just after it was ending (we had a lot of leaves to rake!) and so my anticipation is not being satiated by all of this green!

I see some yellow here and there, but I'm anxious for some reds and oranges, dear reader. I can't bust out the pumpkin desserts and the scented candles until I see something! I did decorate for Autumn, though. It couldn't be helped. I may bake pumpkin cookies this weekend just for the sheer joy of it! (Although, if I'm being honest, pumpkin everything is welcome all year for me. Especially if it has pumpkin and chocolate!)



All back-to-school events, open houses, teacher meetings, etc. and so forth are complete! I am once again grateful for the wonderful education my kids are receiving, here. I'm impressed with the culture that permeates the district with teacher/parent communication and the desire/expectation for all students to reach their potential. Yes, this means a lot of work on my part, but an hour or so of homework supervision each school night doesn't bother me because A. my older two are completely independent and I just answer questions or lead them to solutions and B. what I do with my younger three is mostly sign things and read to/with them.

 Here's an update on the kiddos:

#1: She is rocking 8th grade, plans on joining student council and art club, and seems to be finding her niche. I love watching her interact with her sister now that they are at the same school again! And, as always, she is amazing when it comes to looking out for her brothers.

#2: She has transitioned to middle school rather well (6th grade), but she's decided against extra-curriculars. She might participate in 6th grade intramurals in the Spring, but until then, she's focusing on school because of the Gifted Program (I'll call it GP). Aside from the big module project for GP and missing other classes for GP (while still having to make up the work), she is also in Algebra (only 3 or 4 6th graders have been allowed to take it). But she's finding her groove and will do well!

(silly selfie)

#3: He is loving being at the "top" of elementary school (5th grade). His Misophonia is not stopping his progress, and the school has been great at accommodating any needs he has in that area (headphones, testing alone, leaving the classroom, etc.). He and I had a pretty big war over homework the first day, but we quickly settled into a groove and he's off to a wonderful start! I really hope that he'll continue to improve and do well. He has confidence, and it really helps.

#4: Ah, sweet 2nd grade! It's a good place for him and he doesn't worry me too much. He's more than happy to finish his homework and the truth is, he's always been that way --he's anxious to learn and to do a good job. Like his sisters, he's very independent when it comes to his homework. His spelling and handwriting are impeccable! I'm proud of him.

#5: Kindergarten! I was worried he might be in over his head, because he wasn't very prepared (my fault), but you know what? Neither was #4 and he's doing well. #5 had a rough start (not wanting to go to school, not willing to get ready, etc.) but he's doing wonderful, now. He's made some good friends in class, already, and he's happy to tell me about what he's done at school each day. Even his behavior at home has improved over the last few weeks, and I realize it had more to do with his anxiety of starting school than anything else!

#6: We hang out at home. He's my errand buddy, my chore buddy, and my schnuggle buddy. He currently loves trains, Dora, books, and sticks. I really should cut his hair, but it's so cute!

(My baby bump)

#7: She's growing! I'm 19 weeks on Saturday, so I'm almost half-way there. I'm still exhausted, but my appetite has come back a bit more, as well as energy.

How is your September going, dear reader?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Exhausted Deliberate Christian Mothering

Truth: attempting to be a deliberate Christian mother and wife is exhausting.

Lie: It's not worth it.

Truth: I mess up a lot.

Lie: So, it must not be worth it. 

Sometimes, I do not hear a "thank you" for days, and if I didn't truly believe in what I was doing, I could let myself be overcome with despair. My brain likes despair, and whenever an opportunity to dwell in dark places of sadness occur, the temptation is very great.

[Example: For a few weeks during a really hard 1st trimester, I harbored thoughts that having another child was a mistake because of my mental illness, my marriage struggles, lack of supportive understanding, and my many mistakes. I have since been grateful to eradicate those dark feelings from my being and I am so grateful God is sending us this daughter!] 

A few days ago, I had a cold. The virus came home from school with a few of my children and had been making the rounds. I spent the day trying to rest, but the 2 year old was also sick and as it goes, my opportunities for sleep were limited. The children came home, I tried to help with homework, I attempted to help with chores and I hit a wall. For the first time in one week, I couldn't muster up the strength to be calm AND be a deliberate mother. And so I yelled, I complained, I had a personal pity party, complete with guilt-inducing words directed towards my children. I felt like a complete failure. I had only gotten through one week! 

As I rested on the couch, my daughter came to me to ask how to make part of the dinner we were going to have. I saw her sincere expression and the Spirit reminded me that my children were not the enemy. 

I got up and made dinner for everyone; the children helped willingly. The evening progressed and my rotten mood left. I resigned myself to the fact that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was correct when he said: 

" misfortune is so bad that whining about it won’t make it worse." (The Tongue of Angels, April 2007)

In fact, his entire talk reminded me that my words, my tone, my actions have a defining affect upon my children, my marriage, my household... It is something I am constantly aware of and have constantly prayed to improve upon. That night, after I apologized for my harsh words, my daughter said to me, "I have noticed you've been better lately about speaking kindly. I'm sorry you're not feeling well." Knowing that they have noticed and appreciated my kinder and more involved mothering was all the gratitude I needed to do much better the next day.

And I did so much better.

What I am finding in my deliberate attempts to keep up with my responsibilities is that I am feeling better enough to try! This is how:
*My medication is working: even though I'm on the lowest dosage of Wellbutrin and had to go off the Lexapro, it has settled into a comfortable routine that takes away the edge and gives me the ability to make a choice of how I want to respond/react to the stress around me. Therapy is also helping --having a third party listen to my concerns and help me sort out everything...
*I'm in the 2nd trimester and my energy has returned, along with a desire to establish good habits before the baby comes this winter.
*I am making choices based on logic and my love for my family, not on how I selfishly feel. A lot of this has to do with the decision to follow The Love Dare and what I've learned about what real, true, unadulterated love is and looks like (but I'll save that for another post).
*Daily prayer --asking God to help me make the choices that will help my family the most, and thereby, will end up helping me the most.
*Reading the words of Christ (scriptures, General Conference talks) and the words of dear righteous women who keep their covenants and strive to share the gospel with their families and the world.

Yes, I'm exhausted. But each night as I lay down to sleep, I am happy with the choices I've been making. I'm attempting the positive, the service, the charity that I have covenanted to share! Even if I don't always make the right choices, I'm still headed in the right direction.

P.S. I want to point out that my "deliberate mothering" is not something I have taken from any kind of book or seminar or blog. I like the wording and the definition of what the word deliberate means, and so I've adopted it. I'm not advocating for anything but for women to keep their covenants with God, and to keep Christ at the center of their existence, their mothering, their marriage, and their fight against worldly influences that can rob our families of eternal joy. That is all. 

Monday, September 08, 2014

Gratitude for Jared

Thank you, dear reader(s), for all of the kind words and uplifting thoughts about September! (Both here and on Facebook.) I really appreciated the reminders as to why September and I might be friends again. If anything, I realized, it makes me take the time to stop and think about those I love who have left mortality. Even if it's hard, it's good to remember them in a more formal way, you know?

Today marks three years since Jared died. 

I wanted to write something about suicide and how much it hurts, how blasted awful it is to the people who are left behind to answer unanswerable questions, how being suicidal in my own life has been a result of my mental illness --but instead, I want to do something else. Jared was always a really positive guy, and he was always looking out for everyone. He was kind, thoughtful, grateful, and optimistic (which can make his death and the cause of it hurt even more, but I'm trying not to dwell on it). Because of this, I've decided to write down the things that I am really grateful for today. I want to focus on the positive, and so I shall!

This is for you, Jared.

From the moment I woke up this morning, I was immersed in blessings and beauty. I was awakened by an alarm on my nice phone that does amazing things. I woke my six incredible children so we could read scriptures together. My worthy and wonderful husband led our family scripture study and I was reminded as we read that we have the scriptures. We have the words of Christ in our hands! We then prayed together and my capable children were off to get ready for school.

We have food in the house. Plenty of food. We have clothing to wear, clean and new. Shoes, book bags, public education and school buses.

I turned on Classical music. I could hear renditions of Chopin, Vivaldi, Beethoven, Shostakovich, Haydn, Handel, Rachmaninoff, Mozart, Schumann, and Tchaikovsky --all from a small device through my television speakers.

I used a machine to wash our clothing and read the Ensign while I ate breakfast. I drank pregnancy herbal tea and chatted with my youngest son. I put dishes in the sink to be washed and fed the cat. I kissed my husband as he left for work, and felt grateful that because of his hard work, I can stay home with the children.

I also started thinking about the other things I have that have made me so grateful, like the experiences I had in church yesterday, the conversations with my oldest daughter, the hugs I got this morning from my 10 year old son, for medical care and loyal, caring friends.

I have the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life --a testimony of truth and faith that sustains me in my darkest times. I have a body that has given me everything I have ever wanted --a family! I have an education, a home, memories of traveling to all parts of the worlds, everything I could ever dream of, everything I take for granted on a daily basis! I have it all. And I realize that it could be taken in a second. Storms and disease, accidents and agency, they all have the capacity to take from me what I hold dear. But even then, dear reader, I will still have my agency. I will still have God. The lessons we learn from Job are important.

I am blissfully grateful.

I'm grateful I knew Jared. We didn't get to see him all that often (1-2 times a year), but he never let that change the fact that I was his "sister from another mister" and he was my "brother from another mother." I'm glad he was (and is) a part of our family. I'll never forget the positive impact he had on my life, or the lives of my older children.

Small, very bittersweet memory: Hiking with him, Brandon, and Tamra to the place where Roo had ended her own life (his niece --another tragic event). We watered the flowers that had been planted in her memory. We were solemn, but also laughed. It was a grueling hike, but beautiful! We had taken the baby (#5) and I remembering falling and hurting myself badly (my leg). Jared had remained behind to make sure I was taken care of while Brandon and Tamra went on ahead with the baby (hiking back down). He was always genuinely concerned for other people.

Take the time to be grateful today, dear reader. Jared loved good music, good vegetarian food, beautiful sunsets, and family/friends --will you be grateful for those things with me, too?

"Be excellent to each other." 
~Jared Parker Preston Ray Jones

[National Suicide Prevention Hotline: In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255

Friday, September 05, 2014

Bitter September

September is not a very good friend. Every year, now, as September nears, I get nervous. I wrote about it here, but I'll probably end up repeating some of it, although not the happy ending.

In the past, September meant the start of school, the beginning of Autumn, the smell of harvest, the Eastern Idaho State Fair, new college roommates, BYU college football, soccer season, watching my children grow up... The memories are good! Many of those things have stayed the same, but they feel tainted. The memories are tainted.

Tainted by change. By death.

9/11. Jared's suicide. Grandma's funeral.

October has become my favorite friend, because October means Autumn (my absolute favorite season) is in full swing, pumpkin everything is being smelled and consumed, school is in it's groove, and September is over.

Green Day knew what they were talking about, dear reader. They knew.

Monday is the anniversary of Jared's death --three years. You can read about it here and here.

My Grandma died last year. And on the anniversary of her death (August 30th, a Sunday, this year), I was having one of the worst Sabbath days I've ever had. Church was really hard for me that day, and it wasn't because I had even remembered it was the day she had died. In fact, I didn't realize it until yesterday.

9/11 is just a given that we pause as a nation and are somber. I will always remember where I was --don't you?

Everything in my life always seems to change for the worst in September. Why couldn't there have been positive changes? No babies born, no pregnancies beginning, no wedding, no engagement (Brandon and I almost broke up in a September; a month before we were engaged). Just death, job searching, stress, worry, and the shifting of life.

I don't completely hate it. I don't want to wallow in misery over it, either. But life is really hard right now, and it feels like a very bitter irony that it's September. Sure, I'm trying to stay positive (previous post) and sure, I'm not superstitious (I'm really not), but holy cow, I had a rough night last night (of my own making --my stupid brain!!) and I just feel a bit bitter towards September, today.

If you love September, can you share some of it with me?

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Random Happiness

Things that are making me happy: 

*First, the Kindergartner started!

*And then #6 and I had an appointment with my OBGYN and he was cute and silly. This is his "Say cheese pose!" I have no idea where he learned to do the hands, but it's adorable! 

*My OBGYN might be a good alternative to the homebirth I had actually wanted. He answered my questions and aside from having to have an IV, the rest make me very comfortable and happy. It's tough going back to the hospital after a homebirth! I never wanted to do it again. I still have conflicting feelings about it, but it is what it is, and I'm grateful he's so understanding and accommodating.

*Routine. Up at 6:30AM for scriptures/family prayers. All kids out the door before 8:05AM. #6 and me running errands and cleaning up until noon-ish (and can I just say that my house has not had a really good deep-cleaning all summer? And that it needs it desperately? But I have no idea when to do it?!). Pick up #5 at bust stop around noon-ish. Lunch, naps, cleaning, I finally sit-down-for-a-minute-or-sixty, big kids all home before 4:15PM. Homework, papers, questions, chaos, chores, friends, and then dinner around 6:30PM. Rest of everything until bedtime at 8:30/9PM. Wash, rinse, repeat. I'm exhausted, but I feel good.

*I have not gained weight with this pregnancy. Normally, this would be incredibly dangerous and a BIG concern. But I am 75 pounds overweight. The doctor is happy with my situation. So am I!

*I am putting together a big Relief Society/Young Women Super Saturday in a few weeks, the first one this ward has had in years and years (a decade?). I'm excited about it! But incredibly overwhelmed and stressed at getting it taken care of. I think it would be easier if I didn't have children. But that just goes without saying about everything in my life (easier, but not better!). 

*I have been listening to Classical music again on the radio when I drive. I found a great station out of Philadelphia and it's almost as good as the BYU classical station in Utah --almost, but not quite. I miss hearing my Uncle Bruce's voice! (He's a D.J. for Classical 89, the BYU classical station!)

*I finally bought slipcovers for our old couches. They are not fancy, but they are soft and the color is fantastic. Chocolate brown! 

*We have had four families move into our ward during the summer! Huzzah! There are 13 children altogether and they pretty much doubled our Primary. 

*I have experienced more drama and heartache and stressful situations in the last two weeks than I have the entire summer --maybe the entire year. Mostly, this was because things just kept happening one after the other, stacking and stacking and stacking... Normally, this would send me into a tail-spin, down-day, deep darkness, what-have-you, but it did not. I faced each situation with patience and did the best that I could with what I had been given. I prayed a lot to know what to do, and that was probably the biggest source of my ability to face everything. Some of the situations are still not resolved, but I've decided that I can't let things like this rule and ruin my life --I just have to keep going. This is HUGE, dear reader. It's also familiar, because I've been able to do this before, but more importantly, it's another sign that I'm moving in the right direction. 

*I found a place that will do placenta encapsulation and provides doulas! 

*Bedtime is hard again; no more letting them stay up and have sleep overs in the hallway or wherever. I'm back to putting the younger two in their own beds and telling them stories until they fall asleep. Most nights it takes 30-45 minutes. Ridiculous? Absolutely. But I let them develop bad habits, and so I'm paying for it. Frankly, I don't care. What else would I be doing? I don't watch TV, anymore. Who has time for that!? And then they mostly stay in their beds all night. Mostly... 

*#6 likes to read books and I've enjoyed reading to him a lot. 

*I can smell Autumn. It's still a few weeks away, but I know it's coming. While running errands today, I bought myself some Milano pumpkin spice chocolate cookies... yum! Everything pumpkin is coming! The colors, the sights, the sounds, the smells! I AM SO EXCITED. We moved here in November last year and missed pretty much the height of Autumn, so to say that I'm thrilled to experience my first real Pennsylvania Fall would be quite the understatement!! Hmmm... maybe I should break out the decorations this week! 

What's making you happy, dear reader? 

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

August 2014 Catch-Up

I can't believe I forgot to mention this in the July post, but my SIL had a baby on #5's birthday. Huzzah! A new baby makes four for my brother and his wife. So sad they live all the way in California:

August 2014 highlights included:

*Random fun
*Back to the shore
*A visit from our friends!
*A trip to Connecticut for the BYU vs UConn football game!

First, just shortly after we announced our pregnancy, I awoke early one morning with bleeding. Brandon was in Seattle and so I called him, talked with him, woke up #1 so she could watch the kids, and drove myself to the hospital. I'd like to say I had a good experience, but it was awful. It took three hours for me to be admitted, seen, have the ultrasound done, and then for them to tell me that I was actually still pregnant --that my baby was still alive. I was an emotional wreck and the ER doctor treated me like I was irrational for having feelings about it. Sigh. The good news is that it was something simple and easy to explain (it was placental bleeding, something they think occurred at attachment, and therefore was not dangerous. The bleeding stopped within a few days), and it forced me to finally choose a good doctor (homebirth is off the table, and although I'm devastated about it, I'll be okay). Anyway... all is well! Oh! One more thing (kind of fun) --I had an early blood test and ultrasound due to my age (*cue eye roll here*) but one of the tests determined gender. We're having a girl!! We're so excited! This was how I announced it on FB and such:

And here she is (laying down, looking up, profile, head on the right of the photo): 


#3 had his 10th birthday --we went back to Ocean City for the big day! 

 A visit from our Rexburg friends, the Lemon Family!

BYU vs UConn football trip! Cougars won 35 to 10. We stayed at a friend's lake cottage and also went to the local county fair. It was a great weekend! 

(#1's BFF came with us!) 

(We tailgated with Brandon's colleague (the owner of the lake cottage) and so we were in Huskie territory!)

(#6 was hilarious --he never smiled on any of the rides, although he was so insistent on riding them!)

I know this is technically September, but since it marks the end of summer, I'm going to share it, anyway. Yesterday was a Ward BBQ and swim party (so fun!) and last night Brandon gave the kids father's blessings for the start of the new school year.  Today was the first day of school for the older four. #5 starts Kindergarten tomorrow! 

(Shucking corn before the BBQ; photo courtesy of our Bishop!)

(Chair for the blessings...) 

(8th, 6th, 5th, and 2nd!)