Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas--The Most Wonderful Time of the Year???

I absolutely love Christmas music! Truthfully, it's one of my favorite things about the Holiday season. This year, I started listening to it regularly as soon as FM 100 started playing it nonstop. I just had it going on a little radio in my house all day long, and I'm telling you, it brightened my spirits every day. My favorite songs of all are the traditional ones, like "White Christmas," "Sleigh Ride," "I'll Be Home for Christmas," and of course, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." If you visited me during the month of December, chances are you found me turning up the volume and belting out some of these fabulous tunes. My kids constantly shook their heads in dismay, but I noticed it brightened their spirits as well. There's nothing like an optimistic lyric, such as "It's the most wonderful time of the year" running through your mind all day. That is, until things start falling apart.

Then, it's just annoying.

Let me explain.

Here I was, all full of joyful, uplifting Christmas spirit, a long list of activities planned to do with my children during Christmas break. I was higher than a kite as I thought of each carefully planned activity and how much fun we were going to have together. It was going to be our best Christmas break ever!

Oh, how wonderful! Oh, how positive! Oh, how naive!

My children came home from school early the first day of the break to a smiling, warm mother. An hour later, that mother (me, I hate to say) was ready to ship them all to Siberia and pick them up when they had resolved all their issues and were ready to cooperate. That's when the baby started throwing up. The rest of the day I sat on the couch with a terribly sick 7-month-old and tried to help her through one gagging episode after another.

Day 1 of Christmas Vacation: Failure

The next morning I woke up rejuvenated and  ready to face a new day. That's when my 12-year-old started heaving. She slept on the bathroom floor that night while I lay in bed, listening to her heave her guts out, wishing there was something I could do.

Day 2 of Christmas Vacation: Failure

My six-year-old caught the bug by the following morning, and as much as we tried to pretend we all felt well enough to go to the movies, at last we faced reality and stayed home. No one cared to eat the delicious  treats I had prepared or the dinner I had planned. In fact, no one cared to do much at all, except lie around. When my nine-year-old (the last of my kids to get the flu as my five-year-old had already suffered through it the week before) threw up all over my bedspread and bedroom carpet, I began to come a little unglued. This was not the Christmas break I had dreamed about, prepared for, and looked forward to. The song, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year " came on the radio, and I immediately switched it off. There was nothing wonderful so far.

Day 3 of Christmas Vacation: Failure

I spent that night waiting to throw up. I was sure after cleaning up as much bodily fluid as I had all week, I was sure to be next. I woke up Christmas Eve morning exhausted and a little downhearted. We managed to make it through the day without a single person losing their stomachs. Does that mean it was a success? Maybe.

Day 4 of Christmas Vacation: Semi-successful

 After quickly laying out Christmas that evening I fell into bed, exhausted. To ensure I actually slept, I decided to take a sleeping pill. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the next morning when my children were out in the living room raving about what Santa had brought them, I couldn't arouse myself from my pill-induced sleep. I tried unsuccessfully a few times to drag myself out of bed, but to no avail. I finally got up in time to take a quick shower, put my hair in a bun and slump into the car to drive to church. Not exactly the Christmas morning I had envisioned. The amazing breakfast I had planned for the day didn't actually happen until noon. All of the spiritual activities I had planned to help us remember the true significance of the day . . . well . . . they just didn't happen. I was too tired to put it all together. I crashed on the  couch and fell into a deep sleep. When I  awoke from my nap, I finally felt like a real person again. Too bad it was a little late to make a fabulous Christmas day.

Or not.

Although nothing had gone as planned, I decided to make the most of what was left of our Christmas. I whipped out the strobe light my little girl had gotten from Santa and her Party Mix CD and turned out the lights. Not exactly a Sabbath Day activity, I know, but since we had blown it all day, I decided we would start fresh the next week. We danced and sang and danced some more. It was on the second stanza of the all-famous "YMCA" song that I realized I may have gotten into the activity a little too much. I jumped up to form a "Y" with my arms and when I came down, I realized I had had a little accident. In other words, I had peed my pants a little (sorry if that's tmi--I don't know a nicer way to say it. After giving birth four times, my bladder is just not what it used to be). Running to the bathroom, I thought to myself, Oh great--I've blown it again. How lame can I be? But my kids actually thought it was hilarious, and I dare say it made their whole night. I mean, what can be better than Mom dancing so hard she peed her pants, right?

So, all in all, we ended up spending some quality time together. As we nesteld together to watch a movie after the dancing, I looked around at my husband and children and realized life just didn't get any better. The infamous Christmas tune returned to my mind once more . . .

"It's the most wonderful time of the year!"

And I couldn't help but agree.

Day 5 of Christmas Vacation: Success at last!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Officially a Conger

Nearly a year ago my husband and I took one of the biggest leaps of faith ever in our married lives and turned in adoption papers. We had four wonderful children of our own--two boys, two girls--and felt life was pretty much perfect. Our youngest was four years old, growing more independent every day, and so it seemed we were entering a more comfortable stage of life. That's when it happened. You know, that nagging inside that tells you something is missing. My husband told me he kept walking into the room and feeling like someone wasn't there, but then he'd look around and notice we were all accounted for. He thought it was kind of strange; I knew it had to be something more.

And so, we prayed about it and decided to take the plunge one more time and get pregnant. Three months later, when it seemed everything was working against us, we reevaluated our decision. It just didn't feel right, and when my back flared up, making it difficult to function, we realized sadly that my body just wasn't up to another pregnancy. We were reminded of other health concerns and sadly accepted the fact that we would not be welcoming another child into our home. It was a poignant time in our lives. On one hand, we were so grateful for the four healthy children we had been blessed with. And it wasn't that they weren't enough. They were. But, when you feel in your soul that there's more out there for you, it's hard to ignore the prompting.

That's when I began to seriously think about adoption. We had discussed it a couple of times in our married lives, but since we had been blessed to have our own children, it never became a matter of serious contemplation. Now it was. What started as a tiny idea began to grow in my heart and mind until I could hardly think of anything else. There was just one problem. Money.

Adoption is a very expensive endeavor. We were barely making ends meet as it was. It seemed impossible. That's when I ended up in a Wal-Mart check-out line one evening behind a woman with two heaping shopping carts. As I helped her unload her groceries, I couldn't help but ask if she had a large family. She proceeded to tell me about her seven children--four biological, three adopted from three different venues. I told her we had considered adoption and she said, "Then it must be right for you. Not everyone feels that way. Don't be afraid to really pursue it. It's such a wonderful thing." I've never seen this woman again; I don't even know her name. But I do believe we were meant to meet. You just never know what can happen at Wal-Mart!

I went home and told my husband my experience and we began to pray sincerely for answers. It took a lot of faith to even ask, because if the answer was affirmative, we had no idea how we would make it actually work. As the provider for our family, my husband was especially hesitant. I, on the other hand, was ready to move forward full throttle. I knew if God had told us to do it, He would then provide a way to make it work. That's all the answer I needed.

Two months later, we handed in adoption papers. I was ecstatic! Dan was petrified (kind of like when I found out we were expecting our first child:). Six weeks later we were offered an unexpected situation. It was Monday. Two little girls, one three months old, the other 17 months old, would arrive on Friday. Did we want them? Wow! We certainly hadn't expected two. We had only one afternoon decide. It would mean a new vehicle since we didn't have one that would fit us all. It would mean two in diapers. It would mean a major change! We thought about all of this--and said yes.

Four days later we anxiously awaited the opportunity of meeting the birth mom and taking home our two new little girls. They never came. Days went by and we never heard from them again. It was excruciating. We were heartbroken. It was hard to keep moving and going on with life as normal when inside I felt a part of me was gone. I fell to my knees time and time again, seeking strength and understanding from a Source who knew the bigger picture. Peace always came. I decided to simply trust.

Less than a week later, we were offered a new opportunity. A birth mom was here from South Carolina. Her baby was due in 10 weeks. A girl. Did we want to be matched with her? It was a difficult decision. On the one hand, I was more than eager to get ready for another baby; on the other hand, I was still mourning what we never even had and scared we might have our hearts broken once again. That's the risk you take any time a baby is coming into the world; it seems like an even bigger risk with adoption. It's tough when the final decision isn't resting in your own hands. We prayed, we pondered, we discussed, and we prayed some more. Then we committed.

Our beautiful baby girl was born May 5, five weeks early. Weighing only 4 lbs, 13 oz. at birth, she was the tiniest package I'd ever brought home from the hospital. She was a miracle to us. My heart was so full of gratitude. Our other children welcomed her with open arms and loved her immediately.

Berkley Maya Fern Conger

Life changed forever. Not only did we now have a tiny baby to care for, but we had to make some pretty big sacrifices to meet the financial obligations we now had from the adoption. We felt prompted to move our family of seven to our basement and rent out the main floor of our home. It seemed a little crazy, but we did it and found that we are just as happy downstairs as we were upstairs! We have all sacrificed time, sleep, energy, and more for this little girl to be part of our family. The crazy thing about sacrifice is that, if it's for the right reason, it ends up feeling like it's not a sacrifice at all.

This past month it all came together. We woke up one morning, got dressed up and went to the courthouse to have the adoption finalized. It was a short, simple, yet wonderful experience. Our children were as excited as we were to finally have Berkley an official member of our family. But it was what happened 11 days later that made everything especially worth it.
Inside the courthouse--with the judge

On Saturday, November 26th, we went as a family to the Bountiful, Utah temple, where Berkley was sealed to us for eternity. Words cannot describe the joy that filled my heart. I felt it would surely burst in gratitude and pure, complete happiness. When our children were brought into the room, all dressed in white, I caught a glimpse of eternity and felt a fullness of joy like I've never felt before. It was one of the most beautiful, sacred experiences of my life. Berkley smiled sweetly the entire time, like she knew exactly what was happening. I realized in that moment that surely we had been missing something. Now we felt complete and whole and oh, so happy.
Outside Bountiful Temple

I think there are few times in our lives when we really grasp what life is truly about, when we see things from God's perspective, rather than our own limited and flawed point of view. When those moments come, you wish to bottle them up, to hold on as tightly as you can so that you won't ever forget them. But life moves on--all too quickly--and time, energy, and resources are in constant demand. Then, before you know it, special feelings, events and memories have been pushed too far back to recall them at a moment's notice. That's why I forced my heart and mind to take a picture--not just a picture, but a 4-D memory--so that I will never forget the way my children looked, arrayed all in white, bright smiles gleaming on their faces--like angels; the way my husband gazed at me--like he loved me more than anything else in the world; the way our families and friends gathered around us to share this special event--like it meant the world to them, too; the way I felt inside my heart--like I was the most blessed of any woman.

How grateful I am for those gnawing little feelings that tell you something is missing and that just won't go away until you carefully consider what they are trying to say. How grateful I am for answered prayers, to know that we never have to make decisions on our own with our limited knowledge, experience and expertise. God will always direct us if we ask, and I know I can trust Him implicitly. After all, He's a parent, too, and only wants what is best for us, just like we do for our own children. And how grateful I am for a beautiful brown baby girl who is now "officially a Conger" as my nine-year-old son wrote in his journal. She's the greatest gift in our lives since . . . well, our last child! Five amazing, challenging, wonderful children. All unique and different in their own way. All sent to teach me.

I must have a lot to learn!

Friday, November 18, 2011

You're Gonna Miss This

Maybe it's because we brought a new baby into our home just six months ago. Maybe it's because we rented the upstairs of our home to help pay for the new baby (adoption is so not cheap) and moved our family of seven to our basement. I'm sure it's in part due to the obvious fact that I, as the mother of these five children, have been, shall we say, less than highly functional due to the many procedures I've had the past couple of months. Maybe it's the weather! Whatever the reason(s), my children have been pretty much out of control.

Usually, when things are a little rough it's because one of my kids are acting out and struggling a bit. That's when I realize this child may need extra attention or intervention for a while until he/she gets it together again. It's not fun when a child is struggling, but I've always been grateful it wasn't all of them at once. That is, until about two weeks ago.

That's when my children--all of them--started acting out. Constant fighting, constant tattling, constant beating each other up. I just kept thinking, "What is going on here?" I mean, my children are far from perfect, but we've never hit such rock bottom before all at once. I was beginning to think my children had made a pact with the devil or something, and I just wanted my real kids back again. I fell into bed exhausted every night from the never-ending effort to make and maintain peace in our home.

This past Sunday, after a grueling day of consistent contention, my husband and I looked at each other and just said "thank you" that we had each other to rely on and weren't trying to deal with it all by ourselves. I was so grateful to have a tag-team partner so that when I felt myself losing it, I could give him "the look" and he could jump in. Then, when I saw his patience wearing thin (which seldom happens), I could come to his rescue. Finally, a few nights later, I told him I wasn't sure I was up to it anymore. I was scared for him to go to work the next day and leave me all alone. That's when he reminded me of the miracle of the seven-hour school day, and I realized I'd never been so grateful to have three of my four older children in school all day! I just might survive after all.

I went to bed that night quite discouraged. Trying to give my children the benefit of the doubt, I reminded myself of all my kids had been through lately.Then I groaned as I faced the fact that I was heading in for another surgery. I wasn't sure our family could handle it. I found myself wishing for the time to pass quickly so we could get this all over with and life could be simpler, easier. I couldn't help but think that if my kids were older . . . if the baby wasn't so dependent . . .  if Dan's job wasn't so demanding . . .and so on, this trial wouldn't be so difficult.

That's when I turned on the radio to a song that has always touched me. It's by Montgomery Gentry, and it's called, "You're Gonna Miss This." The lyrics explain how we have to enjoy the stage we are in with our kids--even if it's a difficult one--because they grow up fast, and one day we will realize we miss what we had. I love the chorus, which says, "You're gonna miss this. You're gonna want this back. You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast. These are some good times. So take a good look around. You may not know it now . . . but you're gonna miss this."

Those words struck me like a lightning bolt. My first reaction was, "Oh no, I'm not! I am not going to miss this! " But then, that darn song kept racing through my mind the rest of the day, and by night time, I began to really listen to the lyrics and apply them to my life, and I realized how true they were. No, I probably won't miss the the fighting, tattling, hitting, name calling, finger pointing, etc., but I will miss this time of my life. Even now, when things have been a little tough lately. Why? Because I know we are learning and growing as a family, and as difficult as growth can be, it feels good in the end. We are getting through some rough things--together--and I wouldn't have it any other way. I truly believe we will all be more humble, more tolerant, more understanding, more willing to serve others like we have been served because of these tough times. And besides that, there's a whole lot more about life right now I'm gonna miss some day.

Like watching my nine-year-old son play football--a sport he loves--and win the Mini-Bowl this year. Asking him if he feels it would be wise to cut his football-watching hours down on Sunday to make it more of a special day, and hearing his thoughtful answer, "Yea, I think I should. How about I only watch five hours?" Like hearing him tell me he loves me and giving me hugs and kisses every day before leaving for school.

Like smiling as my six-year-old tries on five different pairs of sweats before school each morning as she agonizes over which pair to wear (after all, you have to be comfortable at school). Watching her pretend to teach preschool, just like her mother, every spare minute she has. Like feeling her wonderful little arms around my neck, squeezing me in the best hugs ever.

Like watching my almost 12-year-old daughter set a goal to make a 14-under Power Volleyball club team, and make it! Hearing her show extreme patience with her five-year-old little brother and help him through problems when no one else can. Seeing her grow more beautiful every day and not even know it. Like seeing her smile when she notices she's now just slightly taller than I am.

Like watching my little five-year-old scrunch his eyebrows together as he tries to figure something out. Hearing him beg me to teach him to read and constantly saying, "I know how to spell_____" and then spelling it sort-of right. Listening to him bump his head and then saying, "You broke my smolder" because he loves movies and can quote them all day. Like hearing his insatiable laugh and seeing the sparkle in his eyes.

Like soaking up the beautiful smile of my baby! Seeing her learn and grow right before my eyes. Recognizing the miracle she is in our family. Like looking at her and knowing all is right in the world somehow.

Like watching my husband walk through the door at the end of the day and automatically thinking of how much I love this man. Being amazed at his unbelievable patience. Watching him lead and guide our family through example and meekness. Feeling his arms embrace me at the end of a very long day, knowing we can get through anything together.

Yes, I am gonna miss this. And so I'm determined--even on very rough days--to simply take it all in, see the good, and not be in such a hurry to enter a new phase of life. Because one day I'm sure I'm gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast . . .

 . . .At least most days, that is!:)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

LIFE--Oh, So Good!

Okay, I just have to say from the start that my blog is having issues. It won't allow me to publish as normal, so if the layout isn't great, and the words are all scrunched together, I'm so sorry.

It seems like when life is harder than normal (not that normal isn't hard enough), and I'm groping to figure things out, I find myself drawn to the keyboard. I recently heard on a Dr. Phil show that writing feelings down can be a good way to find answers, resolve issues and move forward. That's my hope, I guess. And if I get to the end of the page and still have nothing figured out . . . well, at least I'll have a journal entry.
Three weeks ago I went to the dermatologist for what I thought would be a simple routine procedure to remove a small bump on my nose that was possible basal cell carcinoma. Four and a half hours later, I left with a huge hole in my face where my nose used to be. Apparently, the skin cancer had been growing deep beneath the surface of my skin for many years, spreading throughout my nose and to the corner of my eye. The plan was for me to walk next door to the plastic surgeon to get sewn up, but after staring at every angle of my face for what seemed like a lot of minutes, the plastic surgeon sighed, and told me there really weren't great options. The cancer had been in the crease of my nose, a very hard place to repair. It had also spread to the corner of my right eye. He would need thick skin for one part of my nose and very thin skin for another part. After taking pictures of me, he said he would study my nose that night and present us with options in the morning at the surgery center. I made the mistake of looking in the mirror before we left. Pictures don't really do justice. I gasped as I saw the deep, red gap in my face and wondered how it could ever be fixed.
(A little graphic--I should have warned you. Worse in real life. Almost to the bone. The tear rolling down my face is because I just looked in the mirror).
It was only three weeks previous that I had checked into the very same surgery center to have a laperoscopy. An ovarian cyst had ruptured and I had a lot of scar tissue built up from a surgery years ago that was pressing against my ovaries, causing pain and discomfort. I felt I was just getting back on my feet and feeling good when I found myself going under anesthesia once again. This time when I awoke I had a huge bandage sewn to my face and the pain had moved from my abdomen to my nose. It was necessary for the doctor to take a skin graft from my collar bone, and then also to make a cut up my forehead to take some thicker skin from there. Of course I looked pretty . . . what's the word . . .scary? But, determined not to let it discourage me or affect my attitude or self-perception, I took a couple of days to recover and then went about life as normal.
(three days after surgery--my collarbone shows where they took one of the grafts)
As I went out in public I experienced a little bit of what I'm sure many people with varying disabilities have gone through in their lives: pointing, staring, whispering, and more. My biggest fear was that my little four-year-old preschoolers would be afraid of me. I warned their parents that I looked a little abnormal, but these darling little children seemed more concerned that I was in pain than that I looked funny. That's the miracle of children. But in reality, I knew every time I left the house that I did look like I had gotten in a fight with a barbed wire fence and lost, and when people stared at me or children pointed, I was so grateful it didn't bother me. Of course I wished they were staring because of my astounding beauty, rather than my lighting bolt scar and blotchy skin graft, but I understood, and it was okay.
My six-year-old daughter, who happens to think appearance matters way more than it should, asked me one day if I was embarrassed to leave the house. When I told her I wasn't, she commented that she sure would be if it was her! My husband flashed the famous scolding look, but I only smiled, unoffended. It was a valid question. I was just thankful that, although I certainly don't look the way I'd like to, that my looks have nearly nothing to do with my life or my happiness. I'm just as happy--just as ornery, just as tired, just as emotional, just as everything--as before this happened. I guess it helps that I've never considered myself beautiful. Either way, life is still so good.
(what I look like now)
I returned to the dermatologist two weeks later to have some skin cancer removed from my back. The darn doctor told me it wouldn't be painful, but he lied. For two days, I bit my lip all day, trying to endure the pain from the incision and wondered if I was simply turning into a wimp. Even now, nine days later, my back is extremely sore. I've decided maybe my pain tolerance has decreased to the point of being intolerant altogether. Either way, I found out last week that I have a torn meniscus in my left knee and will be going in for a knee scope at the end of this week. Even as I write about it, I know how insane it sounds and I've considered cancelling it, but the throbbing in my knee insists I take care of it (and my husband reminding me our deductible has been met is a little hard to ignore as well:).
So, I'm feeling a bit beaten down. Sometimes I go to bed and don't know which pain to complain about--the one in my nose, my back or my knee (so usually, I go with all three, just to be consistent:). But, despite the pain and discomfort I have felt, which is so small compared to what I know zillions of other people have gone through, the part that has been the hardest is the toll it's taken on my family. My kids are sick to death of my problems and my inability to be at the top of my game. And I can just imagine them one day, when everyone is talking about all the great things their moms did, things like, "My mom always had freshly baked cookies waiting on the counter when we got home from school," or "My mom always woke up with a smile, whistling happy tunes all day long," my kids will only have this to say: "My mom always had surgery." Not exactly the legacy or the memory I'm hoping to leave behind.

I've thought a lot about Stephanie Nelson these past few weeks(not that my trials can even compare to what she's gone through). You know, the amazing woman who was burned on most of her body from a plane crash? I remember watching a small video clip about her as she talked about getting back into life again, and how difficult simple things were to do now. I can only imagine the pain she suffered and still does suffer from her injuries. But the part I will never forget is when she said this: "Life is good. It is oh, so good." I would think that would be pretty hard to say under her circumstances. And yet, I know what she means.
Life IS good. It IS oh, so good. Even when it's beating me up. Why? How? Because of what I know. And this is what I know. That I am never alone. That God hears my prayers and answers them in countless ways. That I am his child, his daughter, which means that it doesn't matter what my nose looks like. That He prepared a way for families to be together forever through sacred promises made in holy temples. That very little of what the world deems important matters at all. That I'm so grateful to be a wife and mother, especially now that being a supermodel is definitely out! That I have the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life; I have a family who loves me despite every reason I give them not to; and that it is enough.

So, here I am at the end of the page, and although I'm just as clueless as when I switched the computer on, I know things are going to be okay. I will get through one last surgery; my nose will eventually heal; scars will fade; and I will get to the top of my game once more. It just may be that the top isn't as high as it used to be!

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Wisdom of Four-Year-Olds (and Six-Year-Olds)

What do I love about motherhood? The unique insight and wisdom of small children who seem to have life all figured out. Here's what I mean.
A couple of mornings ago I fled to my van in an instant rush when I noticed my nine-year-old son had once again left for school without making his bed or cleaning up his dirty clothes. Heaving a frustrated sigh, I decided I must follow through with my previous warning to pull him out of school to come home and clean up his mess, and I grabbed my keys. Thinking if I hurried I could catch him before he even got to school, thus maintaining some sort of dignity for the both of us, I threw my younger children in the van and took off. As I rounded the first corner, the thought occurred to me that if I didn't actually catch him before he got there, I was in a bit of a predicament as I had left home without a thought to put shoes on, or a bra either, for that matter. Thinking out loud, I mentioned my concern to my children. That's when my little four-year-old son, in a worried tone, said, "Oh no. I didn't put a bra on either!" Then, reassuring himself, he said, "Oh yea, I probably don't need one, huh, Mom?" Chuckling to myself, I told him I thought he'd probably be okay without one. Despite the stress of the whole event, I smiled all morning long.
Only a couple days later, another incident with my young son again made me laugh. He had come home from Chuck E Cheeses with some little washable tattoos he was thrilled to try out. Now, I'm not really too concerned about washable mouse tattoos at this point, but realizing we had been discussing in church the past few weeks the topic of our bodies being temples, I thought it would be a good opportunity to relate what we had learned to the situation at hand. So, I reminded my little guy about what we had learned in Primary, to which he kept saying, "Yes, I remember--so can I put the tattoo on?" Finally, I said, "Son, it's your choice. I think it would be better not to put a tattoo on, even if it is washable, but you are old enough to choose for yourself. So, I think you shouldn't do it, but it's your choice." He jumped off the bed, squealed with delight, then ran into the kitchen, yelling, "Mom said 'Yes!'" I shook my head and laughed. Apparently, I'll have to be more blunt next time.
Later that day, we were in the car and stopped to pick up a little friend. Boston had drug along a helium-filled star balloon (also from Chuck E. Cheese's--darn place) that he couldn't leave home without. Not thinking about the balloon, I opened the back hatch of my van to put in a bicycle, and out flew the star balloon. In moments it was soaring high above us with no way to retrieve it. My son was so distraught as he watched his precious balloon fly away. I knelt down to comfort him, telling him we could get another balloon. I felt terrible it had been my fault we had lost it. That's when Boston said, "Do you think that balloon will go all the way to heaven?" I answered, "Probably." He then said, "Then Jesus can get it." That's positive thinking, I thought. But then he really caught me off guard when he said, "And when I die and go to Heaven, I can ask Him to give it back to me, huh, Mom?" Well, how do you answer that question? I wasn't about to plunge into a scientific explanation on how long helium really keeps balloons in the air, so instead I just said, "That sounds like a great idea, son." And then smiled inside the rest of the way home. He never asked about the balloon again.
Just yesterday he did bring up Jesus again, however. Right out of the blue he said, "Mom, is there more than one Jesus?" Now, I have been caught off guard a few times by deep spiritual questions from my small children, but still, they never cease to amaze me. "Yes, honey, there is only one Jesus," I answered. "So, does that mean there is only one world?" he probed further. Oh boy, how do I answer this question, I thought. I always want to answer honestly, but sometimes these questions are more than difficult to answer exactly. "That's all I know of," I said, hoping that would satisfy him. But, as the day wore on and I thought about this young child's deep desire to know of spiritual things, and I was humbled. How is it that my four-year-old is asking questions I've never given much thought to? How is it that he seems to understand the simple beauty of Heaven and how it works more than his mother? Well, that's just the absolute wonder of children!
I've decided my children will say or do at least 20 hilarious or meaningful or heart-warming things every week. I just have to listen. For instance, last night, while in the car with my six-year-old, I laughed right out loud when she told me she must be "left-toothed" because every time she puts gum in her mouth she wants to chew with her left teeth! A couple of months ago she assured me she was "left-shouldered" because she always wanted to hang her purse on her left shoulder, but being "left-toothed" was adding a whole new dimension to this "left-" stuff, and I giggled about it all evening long.
As a mother there is always plenty to laugh (and yes, cry) about. Spending time with my children reminds me I still have a sense of humor and a thousand other different emotions I sometimes forget about. My favorite is simple joy at knowing these amazing little people are mine, that I am their mother and always will be. What could be better?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Golden Moments

Where to begin. . .
Life keeps ticking by, day by day, and amidst laundry and diaper changes and house cleaning, plus much, much more, I consistently find myself recognizing "golden" moments. You know, those times when your children say something simple yet profound, or when they tell you something and you just marvel at their uniqueness and clever way of thinking; those precious moments when you smile from deep within at the simple beauty of raising children because, although you're exhausted and stressed out and a little crazy, the joy and wonder of it all hits you for just a few brief minutes--sometimes even seconds--and you realize once again what a miracle parenthood is. Well, I've had a lot of those moments this summer, and I've thought over and over, I should write about this. I must remember this.
The best thing about these moments is, they're almost imperceptible. In fact, to just anyone, they're not "golden" at all. But to a mother, a person these amazing little creatures spend most of their time with, a person they talk to about anything and everything--the person who has the opportunity of seeing the best and the worst that's within them--well, these moments are priceless because mothers see and feel so much more. Mothers understand that something as simple as a facial expression can feel "golden" when it's just the right expression at just the right time and in just the right way.
Relating these moments to others often leaves the teller feeling disappointed because the person you share it with seldom understands the significance of the moment or why it made your heart smile like it did. Hence, I've learned to simply revel in the moment myself, understanding it has just as much meaning when it's just me that saw or heard or felt it, as it would if many others did.
As the mother of five children ranging in ages from almost twelve to almost four months, experience is teaching me just how significant these moments are, and to never let them go by unnoticed. They can make even the most dismal, grinding day a little brighter, even if only briefly.
Over the past twelve years since I first became a mother, I have learned an incredible amount--about myself, about others, about my husband, about the sacred role I have. My children have taught me everything from how to multi-task and accomplish four roles at once, all while keeping my whits about me, to what it means to really be sorry and sincerely ask for forgiveness. Different seasons of our lives have produced various learning curves, each one meant to sanctify and teach me things I'm certain I could learn in no other way. Through the perspective of each unique child, I have learned to see the world differently. I've learned to laugh at myself and stressful situations; I've learned to bask in the complete reverence and beauty of a sleeping child; I've learned that housework really can wait, but children can't.
Right now I'm learning to take notice of "golden" moments and bask in them. They are one of the perks of motherhood, and I'm so grateful for them. Holding a small hand while we walk down the sidewalk, kissing the warm cheeks of a sleeping child--then kissing them again, listening to the delightful giggle of a four-year-old, looking into my baby's eyes and feeling she somehow knows me and understands how much I love her, spontaneously laughing when something blows up in your face, listening to the spiritual insight of a small child who seems to know more about Heaven than you do. All of these experiences, and many more, are the thread--the "golden" thread--that make up the fabric of a mother's life. And I'm so grateful for them.
So, how do you do it? How do you sort through the chaos enough to take note of these precious gifts of time? I don't have the magic bullet, but I know for me it simply takes listening. Something I'm honestly not that good at. But when I take the time and energy to really listen, I learn that my children are absolutely amazing! Their insight is priceless, the senses of humor delightful, their unique perspectives worth paying attention to. In short, I find myself thinking over and over again what a miracle these children are in my life and being in utter awe that they are mine.
Golden moments. Just more evidence that true happiness comes from family life. God is so smart!

Friday, July 15, 2011

I Just Want You to Love Me

I can hardly believe it's been two months since I've last written. Pretty obvious I have a newborn, right? Now that I've had five of them, I can attest to the fact that the first two to three months after you add a baby to your life are pretty much a blur. Between the lack of sleep and the new demands placed on the family (especially the Mom), I've found myself just trying to keep my head above water; hence, many tasks have simply not gotten done, such as recording our lives. The fact I'm writing this at 1:00 a.m. only further proves how out-of-sorts life has been since Berkley was born, but what never ceases to amaze me is that even though I'm exhausted most of the time and am uncomfortable with the feeling that life is controlling me rather than the other way around, I think about or look at the cause of all the upheaval and just thank God again for the blessing she is in our lives. It's truly a miracle of motherhood and family life.

Due to the fact that I've been getting only about half the sleep I was accustomed to, coupled with the adjustment of a little eight-pound beauty completely controlling my time, and the craziness summer brings with all of my children home all day piled on top, needless to say, I've been a little . . . well, how do I put this nicely? Beastly. Not all the time, of course, but I've found it much easier to simply lose all self control and holler at my children when their lack of obedience and complete acquiescence to everything I ask them to do presents itself. I just haven't seemed to have it in me to exhibit an overabundance of patience or understanding. Hence, I've found my children at times looking at me like they don't know who I am anymore, and honestly, it's quite frightening, especially when I wonder the same thing at times!

I keep telling myself it will get better, that the baby will start sleeping more and then I will return to the loving, profoundly patient and happy mother I used to be. But then that inner voice seems to always pipe up and remind me of the person I should be, regardless of my circumstances. I sure hate that inner voice sometimes. But then again, if it's not my conscience reminding me of how to be, it's my children. And how is it that the wisest of us all is often the youngest and least experienced?

My four-year-old has surely had his life turned upside down since Berkley arrived in our family, especially since he was the youngest for four-and-a-half years and then all of a sudden is expected to be completely independent and "big." It was a concern I had as we prepared for this baby, but then as children do, he has surprised me by loving this little girl so much, he has a hard time not smothering her constantly with kisses as he professes his never ending love and adoration. But even the most tolerant and understanding hearts have their limits. And tonight I realized he had hit his.

As bedtime approaches every evening, I have one goal in mind: get the children to bed as quickly and painlessly as possible. I'm not one for long, drawn-out bedtime routines, but rather prefer gathering up each child, helping brush teeth and say prayers, then snuggling him/her in bed with smothers of kisses and a simple, "Goodnight. I love you." It's a routine I've pretty much perfected and on flawless nights can perform for two children in less than eight minutes. Not very impressive, I know, but by 8:00 at night, I've pretty much given the day all I've got and I'm more than ready for peace and relaxation, rather than a long ritual.

Tonight as I gathered my little guy up and hustled him into the bathroom to go potty one last time in an effort to get him to bed in record-breaking time, I found myself frustrated as he explained to me after going potty that he hadn't been paying very good attention and hadn't stood quite close enough to the toilet. Hence, his jammies were wet, as was the floor. Not what I was hoping to hear. Now, not only would this delay getting him in bed by at least four minutes, but it would expend more of my already-spent energy bank for the day. Heaving a huge sigh, I knelt to help him remove his wet clothes and grabbed some supplies to clean up the floor, all the while saying things like this: "Oh buddy, what in the world? How did this happen? You've been going potty for a long time. Why didn't you pay better attention?" and so on. I didn't yell or get mad; I simply expressed my frustration and disappointment in my little whiny, tired voice. That is, until he said something that stopped me dead in my tracks. In fact, I haven't been able to get it out of my head since, until it has driven me to my computer in the middle of the night to write about it, because I never want to forget the important lesson he taught me tonight as he put one hand on my shoulder and said. . .

"Mommy, I just want you to love me."

I immediately stopped scrubbing the floor and looked into his deep blue eyes. "What?" I asked.

"I just want you to love me."

So simple. So profound. So something I needed to be reminded of.

I took that little boy in my arms, and with tears in my eyes, I said, "Oh honey, I do love you. I love you so much! I love you with all my heart." But I knew I hadn't been living to show that love. And it felt almost like a cheap lie because words are so empty without the actions that prove them. And I knew I had been so caught up in trying to survive each day and accomplish everything that seemed important, that I had been missing the entire point of life, which is this: simply loving.

I swept my sweet little boy up in my arms and held him so tight, and as I tucked him into bed I could hardly let go of him. I just kept thinking, How have I been so selfish and so blind? How is it that I could have something so wonderful--who somehow loves me unconditionally--and take him for granted? How could I get so caught up in "life" that I completely forget what it's really all about?

Mommy, I just want you to love me. How grateful I am tonight for those eight words that put everything back into perspective. And how grateful I am for four other children as well, who remind me constantly of the kind of person I want to be. I love them more than they could imagine. They are my greatest source of joy and love and complete contentment. And all they want of me is to love them--to stop getting so caught up in the daily demands of life that I'm too busy or preoccupied or selfish to show them. I read recently that love is spelled T-I-M-E. I think that's what I've been missing. Motherhood itself is so demanding, but add other current stresses and pressures of life and it's pretty easy to be too busy being a mother and homemaker that you don't take time to really BE a mother. But as I sit and weep at my computer at 2 a.m. at my foolishness, I just keep thinking that I can't wait until morning so I can just love my husband and children and give them my attention, my understanding and patience, and yes--my time.

My sweet little guy--how could I not love this amazing little person?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Little Piece of Heaven

There are few things that bring the feeling of heaven into a home--children sharing and looking out for one another, meaningful family prayers, expressions of sincere affection and appreciation--are a few. But from my experience, newborn babies top the list. With their arrival comes a distinct peace, love and fulfillment that is unsurpassed. I've never completely understood how it happens; I only know that miracles often come in very small packages, and our latest came two weeks ago, weighing less than five pounds. Here is our latest piece of heaven--Berkley Maya Fern Conger.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

An Unforgettable Mother's Day Gift

I will never forget the anticipation I felt when my husband and I found out we were expecting our first child. I was elated; he was terrified. But it was an incredible moment. To know we were going to be parents, a mother and a father. It was unlike any feeling I had ever experienced. And when that child was born and we welcomed that beautiful baby girl into our home and our lives, I knew we would never be the same.

I was right. And so it was with each additional child. The thrill of the anticipation, the utter joy at the birth, the overwhelming peace and love at bringing each child home and caring for him/her--those are some of the best moments of my life. And now, as I watch each child grow and become their own individuals, it is so fulfilling.

This past year as my husband and I made a somewhat difficult decision to adopt a baby, I couldn't help but wonder what the experience would be like. There's such a natural bond between a mother and the growing child within her womb, I wondered how quickly or easily I would be able to bond with a child I had not personally carried for nine months. I was thrilled and elated at the prospects, however, and have looked forward to the day we would welcome this new child into our home with joyful anticipation.

After experiencing disappointment from one failed adoption, it was difficult to allow my heart to let go of fear and not hold back, and it was a struggle to allow my mind to even consider and hope for this to work out. It's taken a tremendous amount of faith, more than has ever been required before as we've prepared to add a child to our family. But knowing that the risk would definitely be worth the outcome, we plodded onward, putting our faith and trust in God that this adoption would in fact work out.

Last Thursday morning, May 5th, we received an unexpected text from the adoption agency. The birth mother was in labor and the baby would be born that day! We were not expecting the baby for nearly three more weeks, so to say we were surprised and excited would be an understatement. Less than 30 minutes later we were given the news that our baby girl was born, 4 lbs, 13 oz, 17 " long. Tiny, but beautiful.

I desperately wanted to shout for joy and thrill in the excitement of this anticipated event. But . . . I couldn't. Not yet. It would be at least 24 hours before we would know if the baby's mother would in fact sign the adoption papers and this baby would be ours. It was a long day and an even longer night. It was after 3:00 a.m. when I finally fell into a short and restless sleep. But eight hours later we received the news that the papers were signed and the baby would be ours! A thousand different emotions enveloped me: relief, joy, gratitude--especially gratitude.

Because this was a closed adoption we were not allowed to see the baby until the birth mom had left the hospital and the baby was more than two days old. I looked at this tiny bundle and could hardly believe she was ours! She was so beautiful! I felt an immediate love for her and desire to be the best mother to her I could possibly be. I held her in my arms and felt immense joy and humility and love. But I felt something else also that I didn't anticipate. I felt a deep love for her mother, who made a difficult and painful decision to give this child up to a family she knew could offer her baby a life she couldn't. I longed to know more about this courageous woman and I wanted desperately to thank her in person. But it was not to be. I could only express some feelings in a card and hope she somehow understood what an incredible gift she had given our family.

And so, this Mother's Day, not only am I profoundly grateful for the now five children God has so mercifully blessed me with, but I am grateful to another mother, an unsung hero, who on this Mother's Day, just three days after giving birth to a beautiful baby girl, said goodbye to her only a couple of days later, allowing me the opportunity of being a mother once again. Mothers, no matter who they are or where they come from, truly are the most remarkable people in all the world. I'm so honored to be one, and so honored to the one who so recently blessed our family this weekend.

It has been the most unforgettable Mother's Day gift I've ever received!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

My Private Date

After receiving the news we planned to adopt, many people gave me the advice to use the time waiting for the baby to be born to really connect with the children I already have, to soak up the time spent with them and focus on them because adoptions and new babies take up so much time and energy. That sounded like great advice, so over the past two months I've gone on field trips with my nine-year-old, stolen my 11-year-old out of school for a special lunch date, dropped daily tasks to snuggle on the couch with my four-year-old and watch his favorite movie, and I took my six-year-old on a private date. Each experience was wonderful! There's absolutely nothing like spending one-on-one time with a child, and I loved every minute of it. The date with my sweet little daughter was a bit unforgettable. I was smiling clear to my toes as I visited with her. It was only one hour, but oh how much I learned--about her, her personality, her goals and her outlook on life. This is how part of our conversation went.

"So Regyn, what do you want to be when you grow up?"

Long pause as she pondered the question. "A mother," she finally answered resolutely.

Loving this answer, I continued on, "A mother? That's a really great thing to be. What a fabulous choice!"

"Oh, and a vet," she interrupted.

"A vet? Do you know what a vet is?" I asked, just to be sure.

"Yeah," she said as if to say, of course! "Like, if you have a sick dog or something, you take him to the vet and he makes him better."

"Right. I didn't know you were so interested in animals," I said.

"Oh yeah, I love animals, so I'm going to be a mother and a vet."

Then, realizing it might be hard to manage both occupations all the time, she quickly added, Well, I'm going to be a vet on Thursdays."

"On Thursdays?" I asked, trying to peer into her mind.

"Yes. Because I want to spend as much time with my kids as possible so I don't want to be a vet every day, but then sometimes I'll need a break from my kids, so that's why I'm going to be a vet on Thursdays."

What great thinking! She seemed to have it all figured out. Except for one thing.

"So, who's going to take care of your children on Thursdays while you work as a vet?" I asked, thinking I was sure to catch her in a dilemma. Not so.

"Hmm," she pondered momentarily, then came up with the perfect solution. "My husband!"

I couldn't help but let out a chuckle. "So, let me get this straight. You are going to take care of your children every day except Thursdays, when you will work as a vet? Your husband will work every day but Thursdays, so he can watch the children while you work?"


"Just one more question," I said. "When will you spend time with your husband?"

At this point she must have realized I was trying to catch her off guard. We both smiled a knowing smile at each other and continued enjoying our fabulous ice cream cookie dessert. But as we sat there together and I thought about her answers, I was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude over this child of mine. I watched her from across the table and tears came to my eyes as I realized once again how much I love her and how wonderfully unique and amazing she is. I forced my mind and heart to take a picture and never forget the moment, for it's all these little moments as a mother that add up to a wonderful life.

Just days later, I laughed once again at this precocious little child. She happens to be left-handed and very left-footed as well, we've noticed as she's played soccer this year and struggles to kick the ball with her right foot. She had a new little bag she was pretending to be a purse, and she asked me what shoulder I usually hang my purse from. I said, "I don't know, my right one?" to which she replied. "Not me. I use my left. I think it's because I'm left-shouldered."

I love it! I've never heard of someone being right- or left-shouldered, but I couldn't help but smile at her thinking process. I'm truly grateful for the ability to recognize these small moments that could easily pass as mundane and inconsequential. They make me smile from deep within and remind me that truly there is not a more wonderful job in the world than simply being a mother!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Driving home from Wyoming recently with only a sleeping four-year-old in the back seat, I turned off the radio and just enjoyed the peace and beauty of the drive. The sun was shining (kind of rare this year) and the snow-capped mountains caught my attention. They were beautiful. I thought to myself, I sure love peaceful drives and the amazing mountains that surround us. That's when my mind began reviewing all the things I love. And for the next few days I began paying attention to things that make me smile and bring me moments of joy and satisfaction. Here are a few of my favorite things:

-When my four-year-old wraps his arms around my neck and says, "I just love you so much." My favorite words from a child.

-When that same child says funny things, like, "What if my shirt was blue instead of red?" (How do you answer that question? Idk. "Then your shirt would be blue instead of red.")
OR when he's trying to prove himself right to his older sister so he asks my opinion. When I say, "I think it does this," and his sister says, "See?" to which he replies, "Think means it's a possibility, Regyn--not for sure." I love that kind of thinking!! It makes me smile all day.
OR when this same little boy asks, "Is it fast Sunday today?" and I answer, "No," he says, "So, it's slow Sunday?" How can you not smile?

-When my nine-year-old son tells me he'll race me home from a house down the street. He's on his bike and I'm running. Although running is totally something I shouldn't ever do due to major back problems, I shrug and think, what the heck as I set off on a dead sprint. I beat him home. This now super-competitive child tells me how amazingly fast I am and that I should be in the Olympics. Does it get better than that?

-When my six-year-old daughter gets a small package of cotton candy at the store and after tasting how good it is tells me she's going to save the rest to share with her older brother and sister after school. I remind her that a number of children walk home together and that she will have to share with lots of kids, to which she says she already knows that and she's happy to share one small pinchful with each child. I wish I was that unselfish. It warms my heart.

-When my 11-year-old asks me why anyone would want to interview me for the newspaper, to which I facetiously reply, "because I'm kind of awesome." Instead of rolling her eyes at me, she says, "Yeah, you are." There's nothing like the feeling your children think you are great--even if it is only momentary.

-When my husband comes home for lunch. Such a simple thing, but it reminds me that I am so happy he works so close to home and that he actually wants to see me in small spurts in the middle of the day. And that I want to see him. I get excited for lunch, even though we are only eating grilled cheese sandwiches. Spending time with my husband is definitely one of my favorite things.

-Family balloon volleyball in the living room
-Holding hands with my husband in church
-Watching one of my children do something hard and feel good about it
-Hearing "Thanks for dinner, Mom" on the rare occasion I fix it.
-Watching The Biggest Loser with my children and rooting for everyone on the show.
-Private dates with my children
-Seeing the sun shine
-Reading the Book of Mormon and knowing it is true all over again
-Hearing my children pray
-Laughing with my siblings and parents
-Watching my children grow up right before my eyes

I could go on and on . . .

Such simple things. So simple, in fact, that if I'm not paying attention, I could easily pass by the moment and miss out on everything that makes life worth living. Family.

Sitting at the ball park the other day on a freezing cold night, waiting for my son's baseball game to begin, I noticed a mother, baby on hip, playing soccer with a group of small children. It brought tears to my eyes. Mothers are so remarkable. Then I noticed a father pushing his two boys in swings for over a half hour. A half hour! That's a long time. I personally avoid swings at all costs because once you start pushing, your children never want you to stop. The boys were giggling and enjoying each push . When the father finally pulled his two small boys from the swing, one had wet his pants. I couldn't help but smile. It was a sure sign the small child had had so much fun, he couldn't contain it.

Everywhere I look and everywhere I go, I seem to find signs of all the things that make life so fulfilling and worthwhile, and they all begin and end with my family. From the family I come from and still love to pieces to the family I now have, my life is rich and full due to these relationships.

And so, even though life has its share of challenges and there are many unknowns ahead, I don't need to look far to find--not just a few--but many of my favorite things!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Breaking My Own Rules

When I was a little girl, I had a perfect plan for how my life would be. Everything lined up in perfect little rows in my head, and I was certain that even though there might be bumps in the road, all my dreams would evolve as planned. For example, I would have six children--three boys and three girls. At the latest, I would be finished having babies by the time I was 35. There would be two-year gaps between each child. A bit idealistic, I'll admit, but if you're going to dream, you might as well make it good. Today, my plan has changed a little bit. It goes something like this:

Don't plan. Simply enjoy today and follow the promptings of the spirit because the Lord's plan, although more difficult, is far more enriching and eternally rewarding.

My husband and I have been blessed with four great kids (even have two girls and two boys--sounds almost perfect). We love them to death. They are so amazing, and we feel so darn grateful for them. But here's the thing. About a year and a half ago we started to wonder if our family was complete. Prayer led us to deciding it wasn't. My health then led us to think it had to be. More prayer led us to considering something amazing but seemingly impossible. Adoption. Even more prayer led us to filling out papers and embarking on a journey that would forever change us. Already this path has been incredibly difficult. The thing about adoption is that the highs are really high and the lows are really low. Until you get to a point that when a high is offered, you hardly dare hope it will really happen. When it doesn't, you find out what low really is.

Two weeks ago we received a much-anticipated phone call. It was like nothing we ever expected. The adoption agency called and asked us if we would consider a sibling group--two girls, one 3 months old, the other 17 months old. We hardly knew what to think. TWO was not in our plans, and yet as we seriously considered it, we soon became thrilled. How could we be so blessed? We had only one night to make a decision, and the next morning we called the agency and said, "Yes." That's when we reviewed our week and realized we had one of the busiest weeks ever. It didn't matter. We would make it work. This was Tuesday morning. The mother was supposed to bring her babies to Utah Friday morning. We would meet with her that evening, and then as soon as she signed papers, the babies would be ours.

All week long, I pushed myself to the point of exhaustion, trying to get through all my responsibilities so we could be ready by the weekend. My mother came to offer help, thankfully, but it seemed there was really little she could do. All I kept thinking was, "I hope the birth mom gets on that plane." We signed papers late Thursday night and were comforted by the agency's reassurance that they had just spoken to the mother and she was planning to come the next morning.

She didn't come.

It may be unbelievable to think a person can love children she's never even seen, but I loved those little girls already. We were devastated. That's when we prayed even harder--for this birth mother, for the little girls, and for ourselves, that we could move on. Peace came, and with it an even stronger desire to welcome a child into our home.

We are now planning to adopt a baby girl the end of May. Am I terrified? Yes. Does it seem like two months is an eternity to wonder if this too will fall through? Yes. Am I scared to allow myself to even get excited and plan for this little girl? Yes. But, even stronger than my fears is my faith. And the truth is, it simply isn't in our hands. I can't make anything happen in and of myself. But thankfully, I don't have to trust in myself.

And so, I'm going to get excited for this baby. And I'm going to prepare for her to come, just like I have all my other babies. And I'm going to trust that everything will work out, because it sure beats thinking it won't.

I'm breaking all my previous rules. I will be 36 years old when this baby is born. This little girl will ruin my even-gendered family, making three girls and two boys. There will be a four-and-a-half year gap between this baby and my youngest child now. And one other thing I never saw in my "life plan" but am so excited about: this baby is half African American, half Hispanic. What a wonderful way to add diversity to our family!

I've thrown my perfect little plan out the window. And honestly, although this journey is tougher, I've never been happier. God has been so good to me personally and to our family. His plan for me has always had surprises and unexpected turns, but it has always led me right to where I want to be in the end.

Besides, I've always heard rules are made to be broken!:)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I've been thinking quite a bit about the concept of love lately, it being almost Valentine's Day and all, and I've decided love encompasses a whole lot more than I usually give it credit for. When I was a little girl and my mom told me she loved me, I knew that meant she was glad to be my mom, that she would clean up my scraped knee and bandage it, and that she would hold me and comfort me if I had a nightmare. Pretty simplistic. But important just the same.

Then I grew up and fell in love. Although the romance and excitement was just as wonderful as I expected it to be, I couldn't imagine what real love would do to my life, how it would sanctify me and fulfill me and strengthen me until I married my husband.

Now I am a mother with four children I deeply love. And yes, that means I'm glad to be their mom. And yes, it means I wipe away their tears and bandage their owies. And yes, it means I'm always there in the night if they have a bad dream. But more than all that, it means I'm willing to give up fame, fortune (not that I'd have either of those things anyway), comfort, ease, and so much more to simply be their mom. It means putting up with tantrums, fighting, whining, teasing, name calling, mess making, and so on. It involves potty training, carpooling, teacher conferencing, soccer coaching, chore training; the list goes on and on. It's taxing, exhausting, overwhelming, frustrating, irritating, mind boggling, nerve racking, etc., etc.

But more important than all of that is this: It is love. It fills me with the most fulfilling, deep-in-the-core kind of love that changes my life forever because it changes me forever. I go to bed at night wondering how I'll ever get up in the morning and start the whole routine over again, but then my mind starts to review every exhausting aspect of my day, and I can't help but smile clear to my toes. That's when I realize that although I've never been so tired, I've also never been so happy.

A couple of days ago I left the house in a rush. I hollered goodbyes as I hurried out the door and got into the van. Just as I was shutting the door, I heard some little voices tell me to stop. I looked up to see my two youngest children waving at me from the porch in the garage. It was obvious they wanted me to come back. With an exasperated sigh, I exited the van and trudged back up the stairs in the garage so they could each give me a hug and kiss. My little four-year-old wrapped his arms around my neck and attempted to smother my cheek with a raspberry jam kiss. I immediately jerked back. After all, I had made great efforts to look good, and I was pretty sure a sticky, red face wouldn't help my appearance. But then I saw his excited grin as it lit up his whole face and I felt how much that little piece of wonderful loved me, and I couldn't help myself. I wrapped my arms just as tightly around him and allowed the sticky smooch. As I got back into the car I realized I hadn't been that happy all day long. I realized it was worth being a few minutes late. I realized how much I love raspberry jam kisses.

Two days later while subbing at the elementary school, I opened my lunch bag to find a note stuck there from my 11-year-old daughter, telling me she loved me and to have a great day. It meant so much, I found myself wiping away tears. And I realized how much her love means to me. I smiled as I thought of what a wonderful concept love notes are, and I decided to leave more of them.

On the phone later that day, my nine-year-old son called home to update me on his plans with his friends. As the conversation came to an end, he said, "Thanks, Mom. I sure love you." Words I've heard many times before, but what struck me this time was that I could hear his friends standing near in the background and knew they could hear his conversation. I forced my mind and heart to remember the moment, realizing (and hoping against it at the same time) that he's getting to the age where I may not hear those sincere words of gratitude and love from my son in that situation for very much longer. I wanted to be sure I appreciated them to the fullest at that moment in time.

My biggest fear as a mother is that I will go through all the motions of being a mom, my kids will grow up and move out, and I will realize I never appreciated each moment enough. The hard, frustrating, nitty-gritty moments and especially the sweet, delicious, fill my soul with inexpressible joy moments. What a waste that would be. What a waste to not appreciate the love in my life enough.

And so, this Valentine's Day, I just want to say how grateful I am for love--every kind and every aspect of it. Especially the love that can only be found within the family unit. That is the love that really matters, that makes life meaningful, that endures forever. That is the love that gets me through every day and that makes me want to be so much better. That is the love that can never be replaced.

Oh, how blessed I am to know such love!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Read-A-Thon Turned Fight-A-Thon

There are few days in my life as a mother that I can really say I'm pretty much "The Bomb," but when such a day occurs, it's definitely something to write about. At least that's what I was thinking while I was busy patting myself on the back after sitting my children down on the couch and explaining to them my brilliant idea of holding a Read-A-Thon one dismal day during Christmas Break.

Yes, my children were losing their holiday jovialness (is that jovialness a word? I don't think so. But since it so perfectly describes what I'm trying to portray, I'm hoping you'll forgive it this time), the anticipation of Christmas having long faded, the joy of new treasures having lost their novelty already. And yes, I was losing my Holiday Smile as well, the incessant whining, tattling, begging and overall negativity affecting my usual upbeat, infectious aura (okay, so I might be exaggerating slightly, but since I'm the writer I deserve taking such liberties:). And yes, it seemed World War III was just around the corner unless a brilliant plan was put into effect--immediately.

That's when I got an idea from a neighbor to encourage my children to do some reading. I came up with an absolutely fabulous idea that would not only make up for all the days my children hadn't read during the holiday break BUT it would also keep them from fighting, too--two birds killed with one stone! I was amazing! I was clever! I was . . . naive.

It's not that my battle plan wasn't good; and it's not that I didn't allow for enough time to accomplish the said plan; it's not even that my children weren't more than mildly excited about the day's prospects; it's just that even good plans lose their effectiveness after a while, and I found that after two and a half hours of reading, my children had definitely forgotten we had a plan at all!

Here's how it went down.

1-Mother excitedly calls her children together to lay out amazingly brilliant plan and enraptures each child with her bright smile and infectious positivism (again, may not be a word. Work with me here).

2- Mother loads up children in van and off they go to the local library to explore the wonderful world of books and choose an unlimited number to spend the day reading.

3- Mother already runs into unexpected barrier when oldest child can't find the one book she is determined to read for the day and leaves library pouting and protesting the plan before it's even really began.

4- Mother thinks quickly, and determined to not be affected by this negative turn of events, happily explains that she is willing to drive to yet another library to pick up said item.

5- Mother drives to two different places to buy rewards for whomever decided to follow said plan. She leaves each store as if walking on air, sure she is bound to be up for Mother of the Year after she pulls off this amazing day.

6- Mother walks into living room to find children have set up "camp" in the one place in the house Mother wishes to remain clean. Each child has laboriously claimed every pillow, blanket, unused mattress and stuffed pet to accompany them during their reading times. Mother wants to shake her head and demand an immediate clean-up of the area. Her face turns red. She takes a deep breath. Then, unwilling yet to give into the urge to abandon her brilliant plan, simply smiles and verbally praises each child for their ingenious and dedicated effort to make themselves comfortable while reading. Mother sets the timer for 20 minutes.

7- Mother praises herself inwardly for how well The Plan is being executed. Even her four-year-old is reading a chapter book, skimming and turning each page right on cue with his older siblings who actually know how to read. Mother rewards all four children with a new coloring/activity book she purchased for only 25 cents each on an after-Christmas clearance. Mother is smiling clear to her toes. Not only are her children reading but she was able to bribe all four of them for only $1.

8- After an hour break, Mother calls children into their "places" once again for the second round of the Read-A-Thon. She sets the timer for 30 minutes this time and relaxes on the couch for some much-needed reading time herself. Mother has to remind children off and on to actually read their books. Mother again rewards all four children with a piece of candy--again bought for 25 cents each on an after-Christmas sale (never mind the candy was so hard the children wouldn't eat it). Mother's smile still reaches from ear to ear.

9- After another break, Mother and children settle in for Round Three--45 minutes of reading. After the tenth time of answering the question, "How much longer do we have to do this?" Mother's smile is fading a bit. The fun is slipping away as the whining begins to take over. Still, there's one more round to go, and Mother is determined to conquer. Four children get a reward that only two children deserve since Mother is not feeling up to a tantrum and is losing her confidence that she is a brilliant, strong, amazing mother.

10- After one final break that wasn't nearly long enough, Mother gathers children for the final round--60 straight minutes of reading (or at least pretending to). The four-year-old has abandoned his chapter book for play time at the neighbors, so there are only three children left to accomplish the daunting task.

That's when the nit-picking, teasing, taunting, pestering, fighting begins . . . and never stops. Never mind the best reward of the day is hanging over their heads (is it possible they think Mother will give it to them anyway since she faltered after Round III?)--a bottle of blue, liquid sugar that makes their eyes pop just thinking of it. Never mind that Mother never buys such drinks due to the fact that, well, they're about the worst thing you can buy your kids to drink. And never mind that Mother is quickly losing her perma-grim and is beginning to come unglued one piece at a time.

The Read-A-Thon officially turned into a Fight-A-Thon, and when the buzzer beeped signalling the end of Round IV, not only was Mother sure she was the stupidest, most ridiculous mother around, but she was also could care less about how many minutes her children read over the holidays.

So, the next time said Mother comes up with a brilliant plan that she's sure will win her accolades on every level . . .

She's handing it over to Father to carry it out!!

(The kids BEFORE the fights broke out. The four-year-old has jumped ship by this time. Yes, this is my living room/entrance way. Don't you think the plant adds a nice, homey effect to their cozy, individually designed reading coves?)