a bit of reality

I know I must make the idea of motherhood seem dreamy, and it is--it really is, especially lately. My kids often seem to be full of pure goodness and joy, but there are days, like today, when I am jarred back to reality with cranky babies and boogie noses.

Oh man--today was a doozy. 

Timmy cried 80% of the time he was awake. At one point I just laid him in his crib just to get away from him because I couldn't hold him a second longer, but I also couldn't listen to him scream like crazy. He eventually fell asleep. 

Birdie is in the particularly frustrating 2-year-old phase where she wants me to do everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, with her. "Read 2 more books mama. Up mama. Make tookie with you mama. Nack mama. Pweas mama. Tassle (castle) mama." And so on and so on. And as I explained to Tim, nearly out of breath from frustration, it's not that I don't love to play with the kids because I do--I really do, but I also have to get things done.

My house is a constant mess. The Texas me would be going crazy every waking minute of the day. I had a great routine in Texas. But things are different here. The house is bigger. School hours are different. The kids are playing outside more (read: I am outside more), and it's just different. Plus, all 5 of my kids are mobile but still need me for one thing or another so I'm not actually detached at all. It's wonderful, and it's unnerving all at the same time. 

So there's a bit of reality right now. I want to remember the lovely moments and my personal pep talks when I'm older, but I also want to remember that I too went bonkers a lot. I struggled with the daily juggle of kids, chores, meals, school pickups, etc. It can be a lot. And I don't see it ending any time soon, but at least summer is coming, which gives me a little more flexibility in my schedule. 

a little bit of honesty

Gosh it's good to be writing a little more frequently. I've made it a priority again, and it feels so good to have my own space. So little of what is mine is actually mine, but this space is mine, and I cherish it, regardless of what any one else thinks. Even though I very much appreciate all your thoughtful comments. I really do. 

Just a few things. I'm reading The Scarlet Letter. Nathaniel Hawthorne is a literary genius. His wit and humor bleed onto every page. Unlike every other 16 year old in America, I missed my opportunity at reading this incredible classic because my gray-haired, overweight, bell-bottom wearing, Cadillac-driving American Lit teacher decided to literally "bark" at all the classroom norms and never asked us to read the classics. Instead, he gave us a list of texts we could choose from to read and write papers on every 4 weeks. So what did we all do? We chose the shortest, easiest novels on the planet and avoided anything with real depth and meaning. Let's just say that I got an A in that class, and I did it without thinking. So thanks for nothing Mr. Worley. I'm discovering all the great American classics on my own and in my thirties. I'm the coolest. 

Timmy turns a year in less than 2 weeks. I'm pretty sure I've noted this in several of my recent posts. Obviously I'm traumatized by it. But his birthday has me thinking about my postpartum. I'm still nursing and plan to do so until he quits, unless he's older than 2 because I have my limits. But I assume he'll quit sooner because the boy eats like a king, and I'm more of a midnight snack, really. Anyway, I've been taking zoloft for postpartum depression since October. I feel that it has greatly improved my quality of life, so much so that I truly feel happier as a mother and a person. And I've been worried about Timmy turning 1 because I keep thinking, well crap, does that mean that my postpartum depression disappears after he's 1? I'm pretty sure I heard somewhere (and I know cannot actually be true but I got it in my brain so I can't get it out) that postpartum generally subsides around the child's 1st birthday. Is this true? I'm not sure. 

As I said, I really feel happier. I don't get so wound up as I used to. I don't yell nearly as much as I used to; in fact, I don't really yell at all unless it's after 8pm and the kids refuse to go to bed (you have to give me that one). I feel calm when Mya yells at me each morning, even though I know a part of me wants to yell back that no Mya, I don't know where your damn pants are. I clean them every other day, and I am not in charge of them after you wear them. But I don't yell. In fact, I don't even get agitated. I just take it in, and I sternly reply that I refuse to be spoken to in such a tone and she can find her own pants because I will only help kind people. And so on and so on. 

I'm not going to lie to you and tell you that I am a perfect mom now. I'm not. I still get frustrated and grumpy. I'm still human. I'm still a woman with raging hormones. But I feel different. And so I am left wondering, is it all the medication? Is any of it actually me growing up? Or growing as a mother? Or is it happening because I know there are no more babies in my future so I don't have to stress about pregnancy or infancy or sleepless nights? There are a million unknowns. And all those unknowns freak me out. 

I don't really want to go back to the old me that yelled a lot. I hated seeing the girls wince when I raised my tone. My house is so calm and quiet 70% of the day because the 3 kids I have at home with me really don't push my buttons too much (except for Birdie at the moment...oh man...I could've killed her today when she refused her nap...but I digress) and so I don't want to mess with our current dynamic. 

So what do I do? Who am I anyway? These are real thoughts. They are hard questions with few answers. But for now I still have 2 weeks so I am just going to mull over these things and try and schedule a doctor's appointment so I can talk to a medical professional who most likely won't have the answers either but will manage to assuage my fears with some fancy medical jargon, and all will be right again. 

Well, it's late, and Hawthorne is waiting for me. Goodnight.

playing favorites

Is it possible to not play favorites? Especially when it comes to your final child? And that child is the only boy? And that boy has the goofiest gap-tooth smile? And that gap-tooth smile immediately appears on his face every single time you walk in a room?

My immediate answer is no. No, it is not possible to not play favorites. Obviously if my girls were reading this they would squeal in that obnoxious high-pitched voice, "Mmmmmoooooooommmmmm! How can you say that? I thought I was your favorite. You always say that I am." And the whining would continue for hours (because that's just how girls are you know.)

And I would smily coyly and say, "Oh sweeties, you know you are all my favorites." But inside my little mama heart would be screaming, "But that boy over there has just captured my heart in ways I can't explain."

I am the worst mom ever. EVER! I can't believe I am admitting this out loud. Hopefully by the time any of the girls read this blog of mine, none of it will matter because they will all realize how much they mean to me, and I don't actually play favorites.

But for now, I am going to play a bit of favorites with this son of mine. Oh my goodness he is just the best--even when he's the worst--he's the best. Just now he was screaming like crazy, begging to go to bed in that way only babies can beg, and as I nursed him before bed he just looked up at me with those big, baby blue eyes and smiled out of the corner of his mouth while making sure the rest of his mouth never left his food source. ;)

He can be absolutely ridiculous with his tantrums. Sometimes when he throws tantrums I just giggle because I think, oh honey, you're going to have to do a lot better than that. I've seen it all. And that is just scratching the surface. Sometimes he even does the backwards worm crawl in disgust, and it's reminiscent of Mya, but I don't get annoyed in the slightest because I know it's just a phase--a frustrating one--but one that will end. Thank you Mya for teaching me that.

But aside from his behavior close to bedtime, he is an absolute delight in my life. Quite literally, he fills my life with sunshine and love, and I am forever grateful that he is mine. I love how he rests his head on my shoulder without coaxing; he just does it, and every time he does, it forces me to slow down and breath him in. He almost always smells of damp clothing because he is always drooling. I love how he bangs his dimpled hands on his high chair tray, demanding more food, even though he has already out eaten his sisters. I love how he crawls. His hands and feet are calloused from moving so quickly over the carpet. He's always trying to get away from me, knowing that I'll chase him. And when I catch him, he throws his head back in laughter just like his daddy.

Timmy is simply the best. He is the current favorite in the house, but not just by me--by everyone. Everyone is enamored by his sweet face and silly grin.

Please allow me to be not cool for a moment

I realize it's not really cool to be a believer anymore. I get it. I really do.

Perhaps it's the fact that there are a million religions preaching about love, kindness, tolerance, understanding, etc. that confuse non-believers. Perhaps it's because even though millions of people preach great things, we, as a collective society, often fail to put them in daily practice. Perhaps it's science--with all its hypotheses, theories and facts, which I actually agree with most of the time that trip up the non-believers. Or perhaps it's the general feeling of apathy plaguing the world when it comes to doing anything.

I can't really pinpoint the reason people are choosing not to believe, but so many people I know and continue to meet tell me their reasons for leaving faith behind them, and while I understand it and respect their different paths, let me admit something that is evidently not cool at the moment--I am a believer.

I believe in a higher power. I believe very much that that higher power is a loving Father in heaven. I believe He knows me. I believe He listens to my daily running ramblings and quiet afternoon pleadings. I believe He loves me. No...I know He loves me.

This week I taught the girls from the Bible. We studied the final week of Christ's life, reading from different sections of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Today we discussed the final hours of Christ's life leading up to his resurrection, and a verse we read has stood out to me all afternoon: "He is not here, he is risen."

I think the older I get and the more experiences I gain, the more I realize how great an act it was for our Father in heaven to send His son to earth for us. It is an act of pure love. I felt very close to Heavenly Father today. I felt very connected to Him through Jesus Christ. You cannot know how much I want to improve who I am just to become a little more like Him. It is on my mind every single day.

I know it's not cool, but I don't really care about "cool" things. I care about real things. Real people. Real stories. Real improvements. Real change. I care about how much light I feel in my life as I learn about Jesus Christ. I have said it before, and I believe I will continue to say it my whole life, everything we do should be because of Him.

So many of my friends are struggling with organized religion, and I totally get it. I've been there. Sometimes I'm still there. But the thought that gets me through those confusing days is that He is more than religion. He is truth. He is the way. He is the vine. Everything else we learn is an appendage to that. I choose daily to follow Him and be like Him.

And I am grateful for a beautiful warm day like today that reminded me that no matter how dark and cold and confusing the winter may feel, spring will always come.

My Mya

Do you know is really difficult? Parenting the oldest child. I mean...it's a total crap shoot. I can't tell you how many times Timmy/Birdie/Elle will do something that would've just driven me crazy a few years ago if Mya would've done it, but it doesn't affect me the same way now. I think I sigh most when I think about the steps I've taken and continue to take with Mya. Like really deep, heavy sighs.

I want to be the best mom for her. I can't tell you how truly beautiful she is. She is so smart, wise, responsible, funny, witty, and unbelievably thoughtful. But she is also so incredibly stubborn, mean, and emotional, and sometimes I let the negative qualities get in the way of letting me see the sun that is always shining in her heart, even if there are a few clouds in its way.

Again, I want so badly to be who she needs me to be, and for the most part, I am. But I know I can be and do more. I give so much time to the babies, mostly because they still want to be on top of me in some fashion so it seems I am always attached to them. Like me, Mya loves to be cuddled and snuggled, but only when she's ready, and sometimes I miss those opportunities because I am tending to someone else. And because I notice the missed opportunity, I wonder, does she as well? And is she keeping a running tally of all those moments? Gosh, I hope not.

Because I am not always able to physically be with her when she needs me, I try and do things to show her my love everyday. I make it a point to stop working out when she wakes up in the morning, and I run to her on the couch and snuggle her body and kiss her ever-present chipmunk cheeks (I hope they never go away). I run my fingers through her hair as she eats her cereal. I place my hand on her back as she reads the scriptures in the morning, even if it's just for a second. I define hard words for her on demand because she, like me, has a love for language and is eager to grow her vocabulary. I laugh at her made-up jokes, even the bad ones. I encourage her to make more jokes. I make a big deal about every test, homework assignment and worksheet she brings home, and I help her understand her mistakes if she lets me. If she doesn't, I offer to help, but leave the offer on the table for when she's ready. There's no reason to make her upset about an 89% if she doesn't want to understand why she missed 1 or 2 points. I buy her an endless supply of books. She's always telling me how little she gets, but I remind her how much she gets because she's the first. She is the first to get all new books, new gadgets and new foods. Then she helps introduce those things to her sisters; she does it in that fantastic sibling kind of way that manipulates the younger children that they have to read this book or try this game or eat this vegetable. I listen to her rattle on and on about the kids at school, the crushes the boys have on the girls, the way so and so chews her food, etc., and I never correct her on how many times she uses the word "like" in a sentence, even though I always keep a running total. I hug Mr. Bear with her almost every night. I read an extra chapter with her that I would never do with her sisters. I secretly tell her she can stay up to read, even if dad tells her she has to go to bed. I hug her patiently a few times a week when she comes downstairs after bedtime claiming she's had a bad dream, even though Tim and I both know she never fell asleep. I pray that Heavenly Father will help her have good thoughts and good feelings and will push those bad dreams away.

And more than anything else I do during the day for her, I am constantly thinking about her (and all the kids) and asking God to help me know her better. I'm a middle child, and supposedly I am very much a middle child. ;) I guess it's true. I don't want Mya to feel like the guinea pig, even though she is and always will be. I know I've messed up. Every time she freaks out about nothing, I think about all the times I snapped at her for spilling something or dropping something or walking too loudly when I had just put a baby down. But even though there have been some missteps, I believe I've done a good job too.

I think she knows I think about her. Gosh, I hope she does. I do. I really do. I know she knows I pray for her. I think she knows how proud I am of her. I try and compliment her when I see she's done a grown-up thing. I try and give her some space. I let her do things that are hard for me. I let her leave my line of sight and trust she isn't talking to strangers on her path. It scares me every minute she is away from me, but you know what, out of all my kids, she is the one who checks in. She makes sure to let me know where she is.

I love my Mya. I love that she loves Katy Perry. I love that she likes to wear fake glasses, scarves and bold lipstick. I love that she thinks she has a specific style. She's been wearing 2 pairs of pants all winter because she wants to wear jeans with holes at the knees but doesn't want her knees exposed because it's "weird," and it drives me and Tim crazy, but I kinda love that she doesn't care. She knows what she wants. I love that she reads until 10:15pm at night, even though she's a total cranky pants in the morning. I love that she loves Eggo waffles; I used to love them too before school and considered it a real treat when mom bought them. I love that when I'm running late she gets the other girls their bowls of cereal. I love that she has a Fitbit watch and is diligent about getting her steps in.

I wish you could know her. I want the whole world to know her. She is a gem of a first child, and for as long as I live, I am going to all I can to make that sun shine brightly out of her heart because she is destined to do great things.

work among the children

I received a unique spiritual blessing--a rough sketch of a potential life I might have, if you will--when I was 13 years young. Truth be told, I was too young to receive such a blessing. I had never met the man who gave me the blessing, and I believe we only crossed paths a couple of times after. We briefly spoke before I received it, and although I don't remember most of what we talked about, I do remember one thing. After talking about what I hoped to be when I grew up (I gave answers like a model, newscaster, doctor), he looked at me and said, "Well, I know you'll know what you need to do with time, but I think you will find your work is among the children." He went on to reiterate a similar sentiment during the blessing. It has stuck with me all my life.

I used to think it's why I eventually became a teacher. But then I went on a mission, and then I decided it was why I served a mission. But then I became a mother, and then I decided he said those words because he knew my greatest work would go largely unnoticed and without applause--it would happen within the walls of my own home.

As I get older, I'm coming to learn that that phrase wasn't really meant for one time or one role or one experience. It is meant for my whole life--for the apathetic teenagers I may one day introduce to Shakespeare, for those bright-eyed kids who clawed at my wool skirt as I taught spiritual lessons in Argentina, and for these beautiful souls I helped create.

And perhaps I could be satisfied with that, but I'm not. Today as I walked Blue and said my morning prayer, I had the weight of several women on my shoulders. I pleaded for them. I talked to God about them. And I prayed that I might know how I could better serve them. And it hit me. "Your work is among the children" is meant for so much more than just a few groups of people, it is meant for every person that crosses my path.

I may not know a lot, and I can attest that I do not, but I do know that there is a loving God of us all. We are His children. Me. You. Her. Him.

Perhaps that is why I have been given so many opportunities to listen to people as they open their hearts with me--perhaps it's because God knows I am willing to be with them and work with them, without judgment or bias. Whatever the reason, I am grateful. Each person who opens their heart with me changes mine in the process, and I believe my heart is much stronger because of them than I ever could've made it.

In love after 10 years of marriage

I'm going to give it to you straight because well...it's just the type of girl that I am, but to this day I don't know how the hell I landed Tim as a husband. Seriously. I think that a handful of times each week. Without being lame or cheesy, I declare that I am the luckiest woman I know.

I have been loved, wanted, adored, needed, cherished, and desired for 9 1/2 years. Tim has become the man of my dreams. I believe I have always been the woman of his (well, at least after he fell in love with me). On paper, it would seem that we wouldn't be a good match. He's obedient; I'm a rebel. He's conservative; I'm a liberal. He's logical; I'm emotional. He's drawn toward math; I'm drawn towards language. He's always kind; I can give a nasty cold shoulder. He is almost always patient; I almost always have to be reminded to be patient. He's really good at everything (irritatingly so); I work really hard to become good at things and still fall short most of the time. He willingly does the dishes but forgets to wipe down the counters; I'm quite the chore nut and never miss a crumb. He loves to relax; I'm not sure I've ever relaxed a day in my life. He is a man of few words; I am a woman of too many words.

I could go on and on. I mean it. I could fill up pages. But I won't. You get the picture. Most days I feel like I fail in comparison of this great man, and I don't use the adjective "great" lightly. He truly is a great man. But you know what, he has never--not for one second--ever made me feel like I'm a step, or even a half step, behind him. I am his equal in every way. Some days, I bet he'd say I was a few steps ahead of him, even though I always disagree because it's just the girl that I am.

I've said it a lot recently in posts, but to be loved as much as I am loved by our children and especially by him is the greatest honor and gift of my life. I have worked very hard to develop a deeper love and appreciation for him over the past year, and I feel that I am starting to chip away at this amazing relationship still waiting for us, and I already feel we have a near-perfect relationship. But I have been praying so intently to know how to love him better, and I do. I really do. I feel the love spreading into my veins, so much so that I beg him to come home from work so I can just be with him.

I am in love with the man I married--so deeply in love. Please excuse me while I join him upstairs and fall into him the way only I am allowed to. ;)