Monday, April 30, 2012

One Fish, Two Fish, Dead Fish, Blue Fish

I went to bed at midnight Friday night. Not what I hoped. After all, I had an important speech on motherhood to give the very next day at Little America in Salt Lake City to an audience of over 100 people. I needed my beauty sleep. I needed a clear head. I needed everything to run smoothly the next morning so I could feel at ease and be focused on the task at hand.

Didn't exactly happen that way.

While lying in bed Friday night (at midnight), I mulled and mulled over how to spend my time the next morning. I needed to leave Kaysville by 10:45 to make it on time to the luncheon where I would be speaking. My son had a baseball game at 9:30, and although he plays 100 or more baseball games this season, this happened to be the only local one, so it was hard to pass up a simple opportunity to see him play. BUT, on the other hand, I knew I would be leaving my other children for a good portion of the day, and I had already left them quite a bit the day before, running errands. What to do. . . What to do. . .

I finally fell asleep, deciding I would see what the morning brought. The next day I woke up early and began my attempt at looking beautiful (after all, if the speech failed, I needed to at least look good, right?). Since I was so "on the ball," I was ready early and decided to go to the game. I knew it meant a lot to my son, and since I had been coming down a little hard on his behavior lately, I felt I needed to reinforce to him how much I loved him. I was a little concerned about smelling like a little puppy when I got to the luncheon from spending my morning outside, but decided my son was definitely worth it! Off I went.

After maybe 10 minutes, the phone rang. It was home. I thought to myself, What could possibly have gone wrong already? I barely left the house. I was tempted for a brief moment to not answer, but I have to admit I have set up a pretty catchy ring tone from home that makes it hard to ignore. It's the song from Lady Antebellum called, "I Need You Now," and the phrase that always plays goes like this: "I said I wouldn't call, but I've lost all control, and I need you now." So fitting. They always promise they won't call. They always do anyway.

I slid the green button on the screen and answered. It was my seven-year-old. She sounded a little panicked. Pretty soon I found out why.

It appeared our baby had eaten our pet fish!

Situated right next to Berkley's crib is a dresser (living in the basement, every room is jammed with furniture, making it impossible to situate her bedroom without a dresser adjacent to her crib). On the dresser is (was) the fish bowl. The blue beta fish is actually my five-year-old son's that he got for Christmas. It's been a very resilient fish. I mean, it's lasted a whole four months already, even though there have been times we've forgotten to feed it, or times when we've fed it too much, or times it's gone a little too long in between bowl cleanings. It seems it survived everything--except Berkley, that is.

I put Berkley down for a nap right before I left. She's kind of going through that in-between stage where it's almost time to bag the morning nap altogether, but some days she just has to have it. She acted tired, so I put her down. I guess she wasn't as tired as I thought. I guess Boston forgot to slide the fish bowl back into the opposite corner of the dresser when he fed it that morning. I guess Berkley thought it looked like a fun toy. I guess she was able to reach the fish bowl by standing up in her crib and pulling it over towards her. I guess she dumped it in her crib. Then my only guess is that our poor fish floundered around until it slipped away to fish heaven, and then Berkley, who puts absolutely everything in her mouth, ate it!

This is what our fish used to look like--pretty beautiful fish, don't you think?

I can only say "guess" at these events because, in reality, only Berkley knows what really happened. All that the rest of us know is that where there was once a beautiful blue fish swimming in a tank by her crib, there is now only an empty bowl. And since the only thing we could find of our pet fish was a few blue bits and pieces here and here on her crib sheet, well, the conclusion seems kind of obvious. Berkley ate it!

Does this look like the face of a little blue beta-eater?

So, although I hoped for a disaster-free, stress-free morning to help me feel confident and carefree as I left to give a speech on none other than motherhood, well . . . it just didn't happen. And all I can say is, "That's motherhood!"

At the luncheon that honors amazing women. More on this to come. It was an incredible experience. Those are just a few of the remarkable women who were there. It was hard to believe that I was speaking to them.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Kids . . . and More

I love my kids so darn much.

I mean, they (of course) can be difficult at times, and they definitely make life more challenging, but they also make it so worthwhile. They make me smile clear to my toes just thinking of each of them. I've sort of made up nicknames for each of them. For instance . . .

Hallee I lovingly termed "Hallelujah" (so clever, don't ya think?). It's because she makes my heart sing that very word. I'm so grateful for her! She's delightful and smart and clever and good to the bones. This is a picture of her playing volleyball, which by the way, I'm so proud of her for. She's a 12-year-old playing on a 14-U Power team, and although the year has held its share of challenges, she's done great.

Getting ready to pass the ball--see that intensity? I love it!

Jump serving. Wow--she's got hops!:)

The pose she always strikes in between plays

Isn't she just a doll? She's so grown-up for a sixth grader. Since she's so tall (now taller than I am), we share pretty much everything: shoes, clothes, accessories, but mostly a closeness that I am so grateful for.

Then there's Nate. I call him "Nate the Great" (not very original, I know). Why? Because he truly is great. He's one of those kids who can do anything well (ya know, the kind you want to smack?). He's especially good at sports and loves playing any type. Right now he's in baseball season. Here are a few pics.

But, Nate is also the tender-hearted type. He is so cute with our baby (see below) and he really cares about people. He has the best sense of humor of any kid I've ever known. He's one of those kids who can laugh at himself, and it's so refreshing. This morning he accidentally dumped a bowl of pineapple all over the kitchen floor. He did a pretty slip-slap clean-up job and then left a paper on the tile that said, "Wet Floor." Not exactly the kind of clean-up job a mother appreciates, but I have to admit it made me smile. Man, I love this kid!

Then there's Regyn, who I have lovingly renamed my "Ray of Sunshine" (we used to call her Ray, Ray, so Ray of Sunshine is so fitting). I call her this because she is such a bright little spot in my life. She is happy and helpful and just plain adorable in her own little way. Regyn definitely has a style and personality all her own, and I seriously don't know what our family would do without her. The other day she was working on homework and asked for help. She needed to know what number plus nine equaled nine (okay, don't think too hard); in other words 9+_=9. She simple could not figure it out. She was way over thinking it. Finally, she said, "My teacher just doesn't like me. She's always giving me hard homework like this!" Lol! That's Regyn!

Who can resist that beautiful smile?

Regyn with the American Girl doll she just had to have (but seldom plays with)

Boston is next. My nickname for him isn't very clever. It's "Bostonian." I call him this because it sounds cool:) And because he's a smart little boy (Smithsonian/Bostonian--not sure if it makes sense to anyone besides me). He's very serious. My favorite thing is when he wrinkles his eyes and forehead as he thinks about something. He is my little buddy. I seriously will miss him like crazy next year when he goes to kindergarten. He's so easy to have around, and boy does he love babies (as you can see below).

Is this kid handsome or what (Actually, that's my other nickname for him--Handsome)

He kisses our baby at least 100 times a day
Last, but not least, is Berkley, whom I lovingly call "Berklilicious." The reason is simple--she's absolutely delicious! She is the kind of baby that makes you want to have a dozen. I sometimes think she's too good to be true. She is delightful and beautiful and content. She has brought so much love and joy into our home, I've thought we would burst at times! What a blessing! We could never have imagined when we turned in adoption papers that we would get something (someone) so amazing in return, but I'm here to tell you, she's worth every penny and more. She's worth living in the basement for. She's worth starting over for. She is oh, so wonderful!

Seriously--Is that adorable or what?

This is what happens when she sneaks away for a minute without me watching--got into the Easter candy (malted eggs)

This is what happens when I'm blogging and not paying attention for a minute--got into the preschool cubbies.
So, these kids are definitely not perfect. But they are mine. And I love them with every piece of me. They are the reason I get up in the morning (and the reason I go to bed exhausted by 9:00 p.m. every night). They are the reason I try to be better, the reason I have hope, the reason life is good.

One of my favorite times of the day--first thing in the morning--when we all snuggle in my bed for scripture reading (good thing I have a king-sized bed!)

And then, of course, there is my husband--the father to all these kids. He's pretty much amazing. He's patient and good and everything I really hope to be some day. How my life is blessed!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!

Yesterday was my birthday. It's not something I usually announce because, well, the older I get the more I tend to feel a bit disgruntled about the date appearing so quickly again. But, over the past few years I have learned to really love my birthday. Not because of my increasing age and gray hairs, of course, but because I realize all over again every year how blessed my life is for the many people who are in it. From phone calls to Facebook messages, to texts and e-mails, I can't help but feel loved. And who doesn't love that feeling??!!

This year was no exception. I was showered with birthday wishes from a bundle of different sources, each making me appreciate how good my life is. My favorites, however, came from my very own home. Here are a few of the notes I received from my children.

My 12-year-old daughter (original punctuation--apparently, she loves exclamation points):

"Happy Birthday!! I love you! I hope you like my present! I drew it last night! (She had drawn a beautiful picture of a mother holding a baby's tiny hand--only wish it was bigger so I could frame it--it's really good). I thought it would be perfect since you are always there to hold my hand! Did you know that if I was a person walking in the mall just looking around and I looked at you I would think you were 31?! (I was hoping for 20 something, but I'll take it--I just turned 37, btw). I know you think you are a 98 year old big, fat lady, but NO! (Have I ever mentioned how much I love children's honesty and bluntness? It's priceless). Well, love you!"

Okay, seriously, who could read that note without smiling? It still makes me chuckle. And I have to add that I am totally grateful to know I don't look like a 98-year-old big, fat lady! lol.

Here's one from my seven-year-old daughter (original spelling, of course):

"I was gowing to give you a new phone but it was too much money so I am gowing to give you a card instead."

So simple, yet so smile-provoking. I mean, a card is the next best thing if you can't get a phone, right?

Lastly, from my husband. I have to explain the gift so it doesn't sound too quirky. I have had back problems our whole married life, and as time goes on, my back simply gets worse, of course. I have degenerative discs, plus other problems, so my back hurts pretty much all the time. By the end of each day, I am exhausted from the constant discomfort, and the muscles in my back are usually in huge knots from working to compensate for the weakness in my lower back. Anyway, my husband over the years has perfected rubbing the knots out of my back. He puts his elbows into just the right spots and rubs, working out the knots. It's my favorite thing ever as it releases some of the tension in my back and feels so good. Okay, now to the gift and the note.

I woke up yesterday morning and stumbled to the living room to turn the fireplace on (it's a little cold in the basement in the mornings still) and gasped as I nearly ran into a huge table in the middle of the living room. When I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, I noticed it was a massage table!
Me, trying out the massage table--looks pretty official, don't you think?

Wow! What a birthday present--definitely not something I was expecting (I mean, who gives their wife a massage table for her birthday?). Attached to the table was a note that read:

"Happy Birthday. I love you. Lifetimes massages for free."

So simple but so profoundly thoughtful. At first I felt like laughing at the uniqueness of the gift, but then I felt like crying at my husband's selfless, thoughtful gift to me. It  truly was a gift of constant service. I'm sure he would rather not spend his evenings with his elbow in my back while I moan, but he is the kind of man who doesn't think about what he wants or what conveniences him; he thinks constantly about what makes others happy.

Oh, how blessed I am!

So I gave each of my children 5-minute massages after Sunday lunch. We closed the blinds, turned off the lights, put in a relaxing CD of piano music, lit a candle, and wa la! A makeshift spa--right in our living room! Of course most spas don't allow constant giggling and talking during the experience, but this happens to be a family spa, so it's okay.
Giving my 7-yr-old a massage. No, my hair doesn't really look like that--I think it's the effect of the plant behind me!

I know most families don't own massage tables, and I'm certainly not suggesting they get one, but I just have to say that for me, it was a perfect gift! More evidence that my life is extremely blessed.

And one more perk? The table folds up to the size of a suitcase. Whew! I had no idea where we were going to store it!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Happy Spaces

Dropping one of my son's baseball teammates off last night at his home, I noticed something that made me stare in awe. It was his garage. It was amazing! I mean, it was just a regular garage, but it was immaculately organized and free of debris. I couldn't take my eyes off it. It was so beautiful!

As we drove away, my neck craning in an effort to take it all in, I thought to myself, "Wow! How does one maintain such a clean, organized garage?" I have never been inside the house, but I can only imagine how immaculate it probably is. I mean, if the garage looks like you could eat off the floor, I'm guessing the house reflects the same neatness and organization. It was incredible to me. I found myself being in awe at this family and how well they took care of their home and belongings, and my mind couldn't help but do a quick review of my own garage, and then my own home and I'm sorry to say I could come up with very little that left me with the same feeling of order as this family's garage. It was a little disheartening, to say the least!

Before I sunk into utter despair over comparing my unkempt garage with that of another family's, I quickly got a hold of myself. Get a grip! I thought. You're beating yourself up over someone's garage, for goodness sake! That's when I took a breath and thought very hard about what spaces in my home/yard make me feel happy because they are almost always in order. I'll admit I had to think pretty hard. But finally, I came up with something!

Yes, it's my laundry room. And yes, it's pea-sized due to the fact that we live in the basement and this was only supposed to be a second laundry room for my children to use until we decided to move our entire family down here and rent our upstairs. BUT the reason I love this space is that:

 1-It's so much better than it used to be. Before I got the stackable washer/dryer, I had a regular ones that faced the wall, leaving only about two feet of space between the units and the wall--just barely enough for the dryer door to open. Thus, I had to shimmy along the wall to get to the washer, then bend in an awkward position to get the clothes from the washer to the dryer before shimmying back along the wall to get out. When retrieving clothes from the dryer, I had to practically stand on my head at the side of the dryer. It was an interesting challenge, to say the least. Then, luck of all luck, our washer started acting up and we had to get new units. This is what we came up with, and although my laundry room is still tiny, it's oh so functional. I simply fold the clothes and pile them in the bins to the left and my children put their laundry away every evening--just like magic!

OK, so it doesn't quite work that way; usually, they get around to emptying their clean laundry bins only once a week, but at least they do it, right? And they also sort their own laundry in a sorting bin that's right outside the laundry door (in the furnace room--where everyone keeps their laundry sorters, right?), which I forgot to take a picture of, but you get the idea.

Then, I bought some fabulous (not beautiful but extremely functional) cabinets off KSL and felt like prize pig at the fair when my husband finally got it installed in the corner of my laundry space. It's perfect!(see above picture). The best part is that this space is so small and simple, it actually stays quite orderly. So whenever the rest of the house is in chaos, I can simply go to my little laundry room and breathe in the scent of dryer sheets and Downy and feel rejuvenated again at this clean little spot in our home:)

This is the other space I love.

Again, just a simple space in my home, but I love it. It makes me smile every time I walk by it because it's colorful and cheerful, and if I ignore all the dust, it's usually orderly and fresh. I also love the picture in the frame, the one you can't see due to my camera flash. It's of my husband and my 10-year-old son when he was only a year old. It's all kinds of wonderful--I love it!

Anyway, the moral of this post is simply to say, if you think you don't have the most amazing, organized, beautiful home and garage--the kind that makes people stare in awe--don't fret. Instead, take a minute to find the spaces in your home and life that bring you happiness, spaces that do stay organized, spaces that hold great memories or at least pictures of some.

Everyone has such spaces, even if they are simply a 4x4 foot laundry room!

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Parable of the Popcorn

Something funny.

That's what I was going to write about today. Over the past week, at various times, I have found myself laughing out loud and thinking, "I'm going to write about this."

But you'll have to forgive me. Because now that I am here in front of my computer, I can't remember one funny moment. Instead, my heart feels heavy once again and I just . . . well, I am driven to write whatever flows from my heart to my fingertips, and I'm afraid it's probably not going to be comical.

The truth is, I've cried a lot lately. Not because I'm sad, because I'm not. Not because I am going through a difficult trial, because I'm not. And not because life isn't good, because it is. But it is an uphill climb with tons of constant pressure, and sometimes along the way, I find myself wondering if I'm moving in the right direction.


That's the dream I'm always chasing. How to balance all my roles and still take time to smell the roses along the way. It's kinda like popcorn. You know what I mean. When you're microwaving popcorn, you have to be completely dedicated to the task because if you're not paying attention, you'll burn it. All good microwave popcorn makers know it's vital to stop the microwave as soon as three seconds pass without a "pop." Sometimes you're tempted to keep it in a little longer so you don't end up with a pile of unpopped kernels at the end of the treat, but if you do let it keep popping, you end up opening the bag to the smell of burning rather than warm butter, and that's worse than a few unpopped kernels. It's all about timing and balance. Being patient enough to let it cook as long as possible without letting it go too long. Wow! Who knew there was so much to popping popcorn, right?

Life is the same way. It's a delicate line we walk. How much time to spend serving others, cleaning, volunteering at the school, doing church work, exercising, keeping up friendships, shopping, working, and on and on versus how much time to spend on family. All of the first list is important. It deserves and demands consistent time and energy. But what about my family? Shouldn't they get the best of me? And why, when I feel I am giving my best to my family, does it seem I am probably letting others down? I guess the question is, Is it really possible to have perfectly popped microwave popcorn, with no unpopped kernels and no burned pieces either?

I don't think so.

Instead, it comes down to the choice of which one you can live with more--unpopped kernels or burned ones. Because the truth is, it's not possible to have both, at least not with any bag of popcorn I've ever popped. Now, of course, I'm not really talking about popcorn. I'm talking about life. But today, when I was debating whether to drop everything and plop down with my kids to watch a show together or keep working on a long list of to-do's I've managed to create since I've been out of town for a week, it hit me. As I waited by the microwave to pounce on the "stop" button as soon as the popping stopped for the allotted time, it all became clear to me. Just like there's no perfectly popped bag of popcorn, there is no perfect balance either.

I just have to choose which needs more of me at the given time. Obviously, my family always deserves my attention and time and energy, but sometimes even they have to be patient and willing to share a little bit. They have to become more independent and more supportive. They have to learn to appreciate cold cereal for dinner sometimes and short bedtime rituals. Unpopped kernels.

In return, I have to be careful to not schedule my time so tightly that I'm spending more energy on outside responsibilities than is best for my family. I have to be able to say "no" sometimes and to even let a few things slip if need be so my children and husband know they matter most and always will. Otherwise, I run the risk of burned popcorn, and that's something I personally can't stomach.

I guess what I'm trying to say in the midst of this popcorn parable is that for me, I need to stop chasing the perfect balance, because it's not something I will probably ever really attain. And if I do, it's fleeting. Life is demanding and challenging, and it always will be. There will always be more required than I will ever be able to accomplish fully, so instead of being frustrated at what I lack, I just have to enjoy what I manage to get right. In other words, instead of feeling cheated when I see unpopped kernels in the bottom of my popcorn bag, I need to enjoy the warm buttery taste of the puffy, sweet treat that melts in my mouth and throw the rest away, hoping the next bag will have fewer unpopped kernels.

Now that we will never be able to look at another bag of microwave popcorn without wondering if our lives are in balance, let me just say one more thing:

For every uncooked kernel, there's at least a dozen puffy pieces that cook to perfection. And those pieces make the whole bag worth eating. In other words, although we may not perform everything in our lives to perfection every day, the tasks we do complete, especially the ones that contribute to our families' success and happiness, are totally worth it.

So we just have to keep on popping!