Monday, June 24, 2013

Back to the Basics for Summer

I have found myself ignoring my blog every year when summer comes around. It's not that I have nothing to record; quite the opposite is true (I have tons to record!), which is why I feel such angst about not getting to the computer to write. I desperately want to note activities, events, moments and feelings about our lives during the summer; but, on the other hand, I also crave the freedom to do nothing but spend time with my kids, being a slave to no other responsibilities, people or objects, including the computer. I'm never quite sure how to handle this contradictory pull on my time and heart. If only my thoughts could automatically appear as words on a screen, without the effort to boot up the computer and type it all. . .

Anyway, I have spent the past month deep in thought about my role as a mother in my home. Truthfully, I've regularly fought feelings of discouragement and self-loathing about the kind of mother I have been the past few months. Two surgeries in six weeks time definitely took a toll on my energy level and ability to function at high rates, but even so, I have just felt that somehow my focus was not lazer-like in any sense of the word and that I was not giving my best to my family.

If there is one thing I have learned over the past 13 years, it's that it's nearly impossible for me to stay at the top of my game all the time; after all, I am human and full of all sorts of weaknesses. And then there is simply that thing we call "life" that throws curve balls and makes life more difficult at times. So, I try to use wisdom in assessing myself in regards to motherhood, taking everything into consideration, realizing that my best looks different at varying times, depending on life situations. Still, it never feels good to me when I am not connecting with my husband and children in meaningful ways, when I am simply going through the motions and not really focusing my energy on the meat of what matters. And so, I have decided to get back to the basics. To simply let everything else go and focus on the small, significant things like hugs, sincere praise, time with each one, listening with my eyes, ears and heart, expressing love over and over, expressing patience constantly, etc.

And I've blocked out all the sounds around me to simply be in the moment with Dan and my kids, and it has awakened me to a sense of what a joy it is to be a mother to my kids, a wife to my amazing husband; at what a blessed life I have; of what a huge, amazing responsibility lies on my shoulders to lead and nurture and love these kids of mine into becoming all the Lord intended them to be. It's been overwhelming, humbling and motivating all at once. I know it won't happen this week or this month or even this year, but it is the consistent, daily effort of a lifetime. And lately, that has seemed too short a time as I see my children growing up right before my eyes and I fear they will be gone before I've taught them everything that seems important, experienced everything with them my heart desires, and shared my love and admiration of them in enough times and ways to know they are certain of it and will never doubt or forget it. It is overwhelming to think of all that lies ahead and how quickly it will pass, so instead, I choose to love today and to live it the fullest way I know how.

Three weeks ago I found myself in the backseat of our car, driving home from an AAU West Coast Championship volleyball tournament with Hallee and Dan. I opted to sit in the back since my knee was throbbing from being cramped in the front seat. I closed my eyes in an effort to rest, but instead I found myself eavesdropping on the conversation taking place in front of me. It all started when Dan asked Hallee, "Do you know what HOV stands for?" I had to laugh to myself at this futile attempt to make conversation with our 13-year-old. Is that the best he could come up with, I sneered inside. But, as usual, Dan would prove me to be a fool, because Hallee actually took the bait, and thus ensued a fascinating, enlightening conversation between father and daughter, and I felt privileged to be listening in.

(Pictures of the tournament. Our team ended up 5th overall. It was such a great end to a very successful club season.)

Hallee's first attempts at accurately stating what the acronym means were quite hilarious, if only I could remember them all. I expected Dan to simply tell her the answer, but he is so much more patient than I am. He finally led her to figuring it out on her own, and then the conversation turned to other seemingly meaningless questions they tried to find the answers to. My favorite was when Hallee asked why certain things had to be so expensive. Her idea was that everything should cost $10. Dan pointed out the error in her thinking by asking, "What if you owned a car dealership? How would you stay in business if you sold cars for only $10?" I chuckled when Hallee's reply was, "Then you better sell candybars, too!" It's such a rare and priceless thing to enter the thought processes of children!

As I sat in the back seat and just listened--really listened--to my husband bond with our teenage daughter, my heart was full. Tears spilled down my cheeks as I realized for the bazillionth time how much I love these two amazing people in my life. Dan, with his wisdom and patience and utter goodness; and Hallee with her innocence and optimism and sweetness. I soaked it up for hours until we pulled into the driveway at home, and I made it to my room to fall on my knees and thank God for such priceless gifts in my life.

This led to the next week in Bear Lake at the Nate Family Reunion. I was in charge this year, a responsibility I am glad to say will not be mine again for five more years. My whole family got together at a cabin in Garden City and had a wonderful time. I never ceased to be amazed at the love the cousins have for each other. They are best friends, and it warms my heart completely. Then, to be with my siblings and their spouses and with my parents for a few days, away from all other responsibilities, was definitely a treat. The highlight for me, though, was gathering everyone around to read through some "Get to Know You Better" questionnaires I had asked everyone (5 years old and up) to answer and hand in before the reunion. I would read through the questions and answers and everyone would try to guess who it was. Although we are a close-knit family, we learned some valuable and fun information about each other, and it bonded us in valuable ways. My heart felt so full.

Boston climbing up the log pillars. This cabin was rustic and fun.

Kaybree, Martin and Mireya all ready to tie-dye their shirts.

We tie-dyed t-shirts. Had no idea what we were doing, but it was fun.
 I got this idea to take some picture frames up there and let people use them to take some fun pictures. They turned out great!

Regyn and Mylee

Kyson, Olivia, Mireya and Boston. Are these cute little cousins or what?

Michael, Hallee, Kaybree. Gotta love Michael's silly face!

Berkley really got into it.

My five kids. Man alive, I love these crazy kids!!

Dan and I tried it, too. Not as cute as the kids, but just let me say, I love this man!

Regyn doing handsprings into the pool.

Berkley did everything I did. It was so funny.

Nate, Hallee and Jasmine. 

These three 2-year-olds are only weeks apart in age. They are so adorable together!  (Brylee, Makyla and Berkley)

These two are especially good friends. 

Brylee was loving this, as you can see:)

These darling girls got all tuckered out (Mylee, Regyn, Kaybree and Kamille)

I even got these two girls being silly (Halle and Jasmine). Isn't the lake beautiful in the background?

These smiles are priceless!

We rented these bikes and had the best time! It was great exercise.

Makyla and Berkley on the front of the bikes. Berkley was all about that ice cream cone!

From there Hallee and Regyn and I traveled to Green River, Wyoming to coach and participate in a volleyball camp there. How I loved the time with my girls! Regyn is only eight, but she is spunky and competitive and all kinds of fun. I enjoyed watching her try to do the difficult skills we were teaching and trying to win the drills. Hallee actually helped coach the camp this year, and it was incredibly rewarding for me to see her pass on her volleyball knowledge and skills to younger girls. It seems like just a blink ago she was one of those little 8-year-olds, just learning to play.

After four days there, I was so homesick for our family to be all together again. I longed to hold all my children in my arms and tell them how much I love them. I longed to hug Dan and tell him how much I appreciate all he does for our family. I guess it's true that "distance makes the heart grow fonder." I must say I prefer to grow a fonder heart right at home, however, and realized again how much I appreciate being a mother who is home. I truly love home!

I wish I could remember each meaningful moment over the past few weeks, for there have been many. I wish I could recall every funny, clever thing my children have said, because there has been a lot. But darn it, they fade so easily and my mind loses words so quickly that I cannot write them now. All I know is that when I take a step back from all the demands of life to listen and see and feel all that is mine, I feel blessed beyond belief.

Now back to my agenda for the day: building a fort with my kids, watching Hallee participate in a volleyball camp, dropping Nate off at baseball practice, taking two sick kids to the doctor, going on a bike ride with Boston, Regyn and Berkley, exercising with Dan, listening to two of our children teach us an important gospel principle in Family Home Evening, snuggling in bed with my kids for a while to read a chapter  in our family read this summer, dropping into bed happy and grateful for the simple pleasures of family life.

Nothing fancy, but incredibly fulfilling. It's the life I always dreamed of, and I don't want to take it for granted. I may not always be the type of mother I think I should be, but I feel hopeful that if I can just do the basic, most important things every day--loving, laughing, listening, building, appreciating the moment--there will be fewer regrets. And that, to me, seems awfully good.