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."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

All Things Christmas!

Hello, dear neglected blog.

We had Thanksgiving. Christmas celebrations are in full swing. I'm 32 weeks pregnant tomorrow. Life keeps marching on...

All the Highlights: 

Thanksgiving: We had two families in our ward join us for dinner and the afternoon. It was so fun! Lots of great food, laughter, and conversation. The Sister Missionaries stopped by, too. I have to admit that hosting was a lot of fun. I was stressed out (I'm always stressed, though... it's genetic), but the family was awesome to help clean the house the night before to get things ready and Brandon helped me make most of the dinner the next morning. Our guests also brought food and their personalities are just so laid back that it made everything work. We used paper products, too! And all the kids had fun playing in the snow and running all over the house.

The weekend after was incredibly low-key --no black Friday shopping, no trips, no errands, no visiting, no... anything. Just eating lots of leftovers, watching movies, reading books, decorating for Christmas, and sleeping. Just what we all needed!

(It snowed the day before Thanksgiving!)

(Building snowmen in the dark)

(I've been collecting Nativities for a while, and although my collection is small, I love it a lot. In order, starting with the top photo, L to R: Nesting from Deseret Book (DB), Olive wood from Israel, small one from DB, ceramic one that used to be in Brandon's home (his mom gave it to me!!), small one from my paternal Grandmother's collection, another small one from DB, a small olive wood one from Israel, another one from DB, and another nesting one from DB. The bottom photo, L to R: Beautiful picture I love and framed (it had been in a calendar), little pot ones #1 made, the next two are ones I made at different RS activities, and then the first one I ever purchased (the white ceramic ones).)

(The pre-lit tree decided to stop working in the middle. It works now. Because I just put on another string where it wasn't working. Ha!)

(We started our Advent tradition on the first Sunday in December)

Christmas Parties: We went to a Wharton party in downtown Philadelphia (just Brandon and I) and we were late due to protesters blocking downtown traffic (Ferguson protesters). Luckily, there was no violence that we knew of! The views were great and the building is really close to the construction site of the new Philadelphia LDS Temple. It was fun to meet new people and eat fancy finger foods at the top of one of the highest buildings in the city.

Then a few days later, we went to another party for grown-ups at our friend's house. We played hilarious games, had a white elephant exchange, and ate amazing food. It reminded me of our time in CA when several couples would get together quite often for all kinds of fun (good, clean fun, too)!

(The Philadelphia LDS Temple!)

(All dressed up for the Wharton party in Philly!)

(#1 made this for me!)

Violin Recital: I was asked by my friend to accompany her students for their Winter recital (I had helped at their Spring recital. I think I blogged about it here). Although I played most of the songs without ever having rehearsed with the kids (some of the more difficult pieces we rehearsed just before the recital), it turned out awesome. I was accompanying Christmas music for cute kids who are beginning and intermediate violin students --how could I not be in my element? It was so fun!

(The church at night. We didn't use the church for the recital because the boiler wasn't working (i.e. it was cold!) and so we used the building right across the parking lot where the church holds activities and has it's offices and such. The church is called Christ Church Ithan --it's Episcopal.)

Ward Party: The Relief Society plans our ward party each year, and since I'm the RS activity leader, it means there was a lot to do! But it turned out so awesome. We had a Mexican Feast (tamales, enchiladas, rice, beans, and a taco bar), a piñata for the kids, musical numbers by the Bishopric, Christmas carol singing with the youth, a storybook reading, Santa Claus, and the Primary put on the most perfect, short, adorable Nativity Play. It was a fantastic night! Lots of people came; lots of people helped clean up.

(Our music chairperson, Brandon, Bro M, and Bishop!)

(#5 is over there with all the other little Shepherds! #4 was a Wiseman, but I didn't get a photo because I was taking a video at that part. In fact, most of it was in video. Maybe I'll upload them in the next blog post!)

(#2 is on the bottom right --she was one of the narrators. #3 is on the top right! The angels sang a lot)

(#4 isn't sure what he wants...)

(#5 was soooo cute with Santa! When he walked in, he went and stood near the children before going to the chair and #5 was standing right next to him. His face was lit up with complete awe and joy as he stared up at Santa (who was Brother M. Shhhh!! Don't tell!!). It was the most wonderful expression and made everyone who saw it so... happy! Yes, happy. Kind of giggly, you know?)

(#6 doesn't speak very clearly so we weren't sure what he wanted, but I was impressed he wasn't afraid of Santa this year!)

(#5 going at it!)

(#6 was pretty good! When the thing finally broke open, the kids were like feral baboons and went crazy. I've never seen such greed. Kids ended up crying and some of us adults had to break up the chaos. We also FIRMLY (okay, I was a total mom at this point) suggested the kids share with the little kids to make sure everyone was happy. Luckily, there was plenty to go around. It reminded me why I actually don't really like piñatas. Ah, well!)

Messiah Sing-along: Brandon and I participated in our Stake's yearly Messiah concert. He sang bass and I sang alto in the choir, and we've been attending rehearsals for about a month. It was held the day after the ward party, and it was wonderful. The power of Handel's music is simply other-worldly! I'm so glad we participated this year. One lady asked me (when she found out I was having my 7th baby and was getting Christmas ready for our family): "How do you have time to come sing in this?" and I said, simply, "Oh, this is my break!" And it's true. Music is my lifeblood!

(Our paper snowflakes made it snow!)

(Rare clean house with a roaring fire! Brandon is getting pretty spectacular at creating long-lasting, very hot fires for our home.)

Sixers vs. Celtics: For FHE this past week, we went to the Philadelphia 76ers game. We took a friend who loves the Celtics and we had a great time! Kind of nice that the Sixers aren't very good, simply because that means the seats aren't all full and traffic isn't super crazy. ;)

(#4, #1, our friend, #3)

(Can't see the guys on the court, but oh, well. #5, #2, and #4 jumped in again)

(#6 fell asleep on the way to the game so he wasn't very happy for a while. It was "too loud!" Brandon just copied him for the photo!)

(I rarely take photos of myself, anymore, but I made sure to document that I was at the game, too!)

Kindergarten Gingerbread Making:
#5 got to invite a special guest to come to his class to make a gingerbread house (you know, with graham crackers). He was excited that his dad got to go! Brandon sent me this photo when they were finished:


Christmas Music Evening: Our dear friends do a music evening each year where all we do is sing and play glorious Christmas music and eat food they refuse to let us bring. It has been wonderful and this will be the 2nd time we get to go! I'm grateful for this because my Aunt/Uncle have done a similar FHE every December for forever... and it's like I've never missed it. Oh, the people have changed (I miss my family), but it's wonderful to be able to participate in a similar tradition!

Sacrament Meeting Christmas Program: I was asked to write this year's program. I have to admit I loved every minute of it. I wrote the script and put together all the musical numbers. All the narration comes directly from the scriptures, and on the agenda we have:
4 Congregational hymns (while I play a piano/organ duet with the organist on one of them)
2 Ward Choir numbers
1 female trio singing "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"
1 male quartet singing "Guard Him, Joseph" with a flute obbligato (I accompany this one)
1 cello/piano duet playing "Away in a Manger"
3 sisters performing, "O Holy Night" with harp and violin accompaniment

I'm really excited and looking forward to it!

BYU Bowl Game: Brandon is taking the girls. The lucky kids are missing the last two days of school next week so they can fly down to Florida with him and their Grandpa. I'm staying with the boys and I have to admit I'm glad. I have too much to do!

Christmas Eve/Day: I already have most of the gifts already wrapped (and everything bought! Finally! All relative gifts are sent, too! And since I'm not sending Christmas cards this year (waiting for baby to be born), that made things a bit easier. I just have to deliver the neighbor/friend gifts, and finish wrapping.

[And I have to admit: I love having Christmas with just my small little family. I'm not against visitors or family in general (trust me!! Come visit us!!), but there is just something truly intimate and magical about spending Christmas with just our little family, no stress for me with guests coming, no anxiety for me about keeping them entertained or feeling obligated to take care of them as well as the children. Yes, it is all about me, dear reader! Didn't you know!? Is that wrong? Oh, well, then I don't wanna be right!] 

The plan for Christmas Eve will be thusly:
*If we haven't done it, yet, make gingerbread houses (i.e. graham cracker houses)
*Watch White Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life, The Christmas Story, Elf, and any others I've forgotten (or maybe we'll start watching them the day before!)
*Eat dinner (ham, funeral potatoes, beans, rolls, sparkling cider, shortbread cookies, pie)
*Sing everyone's favorite Christmas Carols
*Act out the Nativity
*Fill the Jesus stocking
*Open one gift (very specific gift I've chosen... hint... it's probably what everyone opens on Christmas Eve!)
*Do Advent! (scripture, song, story, and probably a video on the Nativity, too)

Christmas Day:
*Wake up after 7AM (seriously. SERIOUSLY)
*Cinnamon roll breakfast
*Eat and sleep, etc.

PHEW! (And I didn't even mention all the small things and tithing settlement and crazy scheduling and visiting teaching!)

I still have to think about all the household chores and day-to-day living (and dr appointments and homework and, and, and...), but I am LOVING this time of year. I know it's been very hard and stressful (especially since I'm slower and have to take care of baby more, and that means the house feels like constant chaos), but it's taught me a few things:
1. I love music so much. Everything I've had to do that has to do with music, I have loved. Adored. It is not stressful to me --even when I'm earnestly practicing difficult parts, it is a joy to me.
2. I love Jesus Christ, and any chance I have to teach my kids about how important and wonderful He is, and how wonderful it was that He was born is worth it to me.
3. I love giving gifts to my children. And my in-laws and siblings and parents and neighbors.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, DEAR READER! I hope your holidays are full of joy and love and peace! Here are some videos that will bring you happiness. Or lots of sobbing. They made me cry a lot, but then again, I'm incredibly pregnant right now... xoxoxo

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Not-So-Parable of the Stuck Van

It's way too soon to laugh about this (although the rest of the family already has, and Brandon has been laughing about it within an hour after it had happened), but I learned some hard lessons last night about my ridiculous reactions to things.

Yesterday was a half-day of school for the older boys. When they came home, they ate lunch, and then asked if they could play with some friends. I knew the friends they were going to play with, although I didn't know (by memory) the house they would be playing. I didn't tell them when to be home, but we have a family rule: when it gets dark, get your butt home.

The girls came home from school, I cleaned the kitchen, it was getting darker. No sign of the boys. I waited. I waited. I called the house where they were supposed to be --no answer. I called another friend who had gone with them --he was already home and said the boys had stayed at this other house.


I called that other house again. This time, the friend answered and said the boys had already left for home. So, I waited. And waited. And started looking out the windows and pacing. By now, it's pitch black outside, it's almost 6PM (sunset is around 4:45PM), and I'm really worried. Not only were they coming home in the dark, but our streets are not safe for pedestrians even in the light, let alone the dark! #3 had taken his bike, too...

Finally, exasperated, frustrated, I told the girls I'm going to look for them. I went in my stocking feet, got in the van (our Bison. Our 12 passenger van. Because Brandon wasn't quite home from work, although I knew he was on his way home), and pulled out of the driveway. I went down to the edge of our property and that's when my headlights saw the boys, so I pulled over to the left. Brandon, who happened to be driving down our street, had seen me pull out of the driveway and go down the street, and in his confusion as to what I was doing, had followed me. He also pulled over. I rolled down the window, told the boys they are in SO MUCH TROUBLE!!! (and I probably yelled other things, too. I don't remember...) and told them to go inside.

I was so angry. I had been so worried, I was frustrated that Brandon followed me, upset that I hadn't had more patience (seriously, 2 minutes and they would have been home), and I took it out on the van. I started a 5 gazillion point turn (our street is narrow), and in my flustered emotions, I backed one wheel over the edge of the road and onto the grass (we have no sidewalks). Well, dear reader, it was 68 degrees last night. And we have a lot of water in our ground, here. Wanna take a guess at what happened?

I was totally stuck.

I figured I could maneuver it out, but it kept getting worse. Then, in panic, I reversed again, and both back wheels went over the edge. Lovely. I was so stuck, and upset, and crying, and angry, and Brandon, watching me do all of this, just walked over to the van. I jumped out and went to his car and drove it into the garage, while he tried to grapple with the van.

It stayed on the front lawn all night long.

During dinner (making dinner, too), I was so upset. Upset with the boys, upset with the situation, but mostly upset with myself. I was snippy, and cried a bit, and yelled, and pouted (I could blame pregnant hormones, and my mental illness, but it's all of that combined with my weakness of a generally short fuse). FHE made things a bit less tense in the family, and we all felt the tension (i.e. MY tension) release. The boys had felt horrible. Just horrible. #4 had lost a football at their friend's house and they had been looking for it; #3 knew I was worried and he could sense my frustration from three blocks away! They knew they were going to be in trouble. And I made them feel worse.

This morning, Brandon tried to get the van out again (using boards under the wheels, etc.) and had no luck (it's only 55 degrees, now). Since I had to have the van today (I have three parent-teacher conferences and an eye appointment for #1), he called AAA. The tow truck had the van out in seconds.

How I wish last night had gone down:

*I waited for the boys.
*I calmly grounded the boys from playing with friends tomorrow for breaking the rule (I did, in fact, ground them, but the operative word of how I wish I had done it is "calmly.")
*The End.

But that's not what happened, so I just have to admit that I was wrong. I was justified in my worry and the punishment. But the anger? No justification there. My embarrassment, my pride, my impatience? It was so awesome to see all my weaknesses on display for the whole neighborhood and all of my family. And by awesome, I mean, "horrifyingly humiliating."

Thank goodness for repentance. And forgiveness.

And I'll laugh about it later.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Grateful for Brandon

Today, my husband turns 38 years old! I know it's not a significant type of birthday; we're still pretty young, but I find that each year we spend together means something significant --each year we get older is rather miraculous. Not because we're dying (although I guess we could get into the philosophical discussion that we all begin to die once we are born, but who wants to dwell on that!?), but because life is so fragile and we're blessed to have so much of it!

Last year, I wrote about 37 reasons why I love him. The year before that, I wrote 36 random facts about him. This year, I've decided to just share a few photos and anecdotes about his awesomeness. 

He is a handsome man! 

And can be a bit nerdy, too. Cute nerdy! 

See!? Look at that face?! Handsomest guy in the world!

He's a great public speaker and presenter.

And he loves to travel and see new things (like me!):
The Great Wall of China near Beijing, 2010

Island of St. John, 2014

Buckingham Palace in London, 2009

Being goofy by the Shrimp Shack on the highway from Honolulu to Laie, Hawaii, 2011

Waterton National Park in Alberta, Canada, 2008

Catching Fish in the Bay of Banderas in Puerto Vallarta, 2004 

He's a wonderful date!

And he has a brilliant mind:
Wharton Graduation (Executive MBA) 2011

He loves his kids a lot:
Nearby Arboretum 

Fishing in Connecticut

Hiking Battle Creek Falls 

Niagara Falls

Playing a game at FHE

Arches National Park

Avila Beach, California

The "Y" trailhead

Hiking to Stewart Falls

Raymond Parade (Canada)

Riding horses in 2004

Playing catch at the park in September 2014

All in all, Brandon is a very good man. He works hard to provide for our family, and he is always more than willing to serve the Lord. He's a complicated and talented and beautiful soul, and I'm so grateful for our life together. I dearly love him.

Happy Birthday, Brandon. Here's to many more!