they're my excuse

The other day I found myself curling like a cat and bending upside down like a dog in the middle of the children's section of Barnes & Noble. Birdie was entranced by a yoga book and begged me to do every single stretch and bend with her. So I did. And it was the most fun I have ever had in a book store, especially when we did the superman stretch.

Yesterday I let the girls smash ice cream on my nose because they thought I'd look like a clown, and I did. I drove a mile home with vanilla ice cream dripping down my face, and today I have a zit to prove it, but it was really funny.

And today, like everyday, I raced the girls back to the car after picking them up out of a sea of young and pre-pubescent kids. I made large windmills with my arms as I ran, knowing it would get a giggle out of Genevieve, and it did. And when we got back to the car, Beyonce was belting out, "I'm a single lady" loudly so I grabbed Mya by the hand and twirled her in the car. Embarrassed, she squeezed out a smile and whined for me to get in the car quickly. We danced with our hands in the air and bums twisting in the leather seats of the van as we listened to the rest of the song. When the song ended, Mya smiled, and I knew she had forgotten I had embarrassed her moments before.

My children are my excuse to be crazy and dumb. I get to do the silliest things with them everyday. I can act like a total idiot and blame it on them. It's the best excuse card in the world. Without asking most of the time, they force me to step outside of my comfort zone and have fun. They help me see the sun on a gray day, and they always remind me how great this job really is, even when it totally sucks because the great moments really outweigh the bad moments years after the fact. I often look back at Mya's toddlerhood and see her chipmunk cheeks and I hear her funny phrases, but I don't think of her tantrums--and man, that girl could (and still does) throw some epic tantrums. Thank goodness our memory has the ability to block out the bad stuff if we let it.

I love being a mom. I love that my kids told me I'm the "crazy old lady of our village" (from Moana). I am crazy, but it's worth it.

I'm still here.

It's been over a month since I last posted anything, and to be quite honest, it feels weird to be writing now, but a month of silence of silence is long enough.

I'm not sure what to say about this past month. So much has happened, and yet so much is the same as it always is. Timmy started crawling and walking around furniture. He also has a mouth full of big, goofy teeth that grins at me all day long. Daily I mourn the loss of his babyhood but am trying to be ever present as he sheds his baby skin and molds into a young boy. Birdie has finally started talking more, which has been so helpful. You know how much I love words--they basically bounce around in my brain all day long--so having a nonverbal child has been a real challenge for me. Elle is starting to read and memorize sight words, and sitting with her each day makes me so grateful for my college education because although BYU didn't really warn me about all the diapers I'd have to change and tantrums I'd have to coax kids out of, BYU did educate me on the art of teaching, and I have successfully taught my older kids to read and write before they started elementary school. So thanks BYU--thanks for that. Genevieve turned 6, and I didn't even write on her birthday because well, I'm sure I was painting that night and never found time to write anything on this space about her, but let me tell you--she is one special girl. I believe she is the best big sister in the world, and I also believe I couldn't do half of what I do as a mom without her. I know she isn't the easiest kid in the world for everyone, but somehow, I won her love and affection, and she showers me with service every single day. Mya struggled to find her footing at her new school but has since been moved up to an advanced class and finally started making friends. Just today she brought home 2 phone numbers with the hope that I will be brave enough to call her friends' moms and schedule a play date. Moving has made me braver in some ways and weaker in others, but I am currently trying to find the courage to call 2 strangers and invite their kids to our house. Wish me luck.

I think that pretty much catches you up on our life. Tim and I have been painting the trim of our house white every night for over a month so that our painter can paint the walls (we couldn't afford for her to do both). I think both of us will be so happy when we never have to touch another paint brush again. Last night as we painted the baseboards and windows in the master bath, Tim's hand started to cramp, and he laughed, "I think I'm starting to get carpal tunnel syndrome from all this painting." He might be right. Our hands, backs, bums and heads are so tired of staying up late, stretching our bodies in weird ways to reach tricky corners or high ceilings, and we are ever so grateful for the men and women who actually enjoy painting as a trade. Thank goodness for them because we could never do this for a living. We are nearly done with the main and upper levels of the house, and the house is really starting to feel like ours. I am so grateful I hired the painter I did because she's been so meticulous to detail and has helped my dream home ideas come to fruition.

As much as I'm tired of painting and organizing the house (even though we are far from being finished with organizing everything), I am grateful for the task because it has distracted me from feeling lonely. Loneliness has a way of eating away at me, or at least it has in the past, and so I am grateful to for distractions--my kids being the biggest distraction.

I have focused on being present and still with my kids, listening to them as they speak, sing, cry, yell--you name it...I hear it. There is something so profound about being still. I know I've written about it before, but I believe that if we would all just take a few minutes and separate ourselves from the world and just be whoever it is we are in our own space, we can feel truly happy. We can begin to understand who we are. Who God is. Who the people are around us. And we can let go of the things we're not or the things God isn't or the things that drive us crazy about the people who surround us.

The constant stillness I have felt since we moved into our house has really given me the opportunity to focus on my faith--not the faith that I have in my religion (although I feel that is obviously inherent in certain ways), but the faith that I am trying to cultivate daily in myself, in God and in others. I have felt God's presence so closely since we moved. I know I am not alone, even though I am very much alone. I know someone hears the words inside my head, even if I don't have time to write them out in a blog post. I know that someone forgives my humble attempt at being a parent at which I fail at all too frequently. He reminds me he too is a parent. He too listens to tantrums (but from 30, 40, 50 year olds). He too reaches his arms downward to his children who reach upward. He is there. I know it.

And so, I am sorry I have been absent. I will try to be more present here, but only if it doesn't get in the way of me being present in the lives of the people that need me most. I am so lucky to be needed as much as I am needed. I am also the richest girl in the world because I am loved beyond measure, and that is something to be treasured.

long days, short months

We're quickly inching closer to the 2-month mark of leaving Texas. Oddly, I don't miss Texas--the place that is. I don't even miss my house. I generally have some strange sentimental feelings toward the homes we live in, and even though I loved that house and I loved that I brought 2 babies home to that house, I don't feel anything for it anymore. It's like it served its purpose, and it served it well, but now I don't need it. I can't really explain it.

Although I may not miss much about Texas, I do miss my people there. I miss knowing my neighbors and visiting my friends. I miss having people need me. Sometimes I feel useless here, like no one really knows I'm here. My kids do, and believe me, they need me enough for 100 people, but there's something about serving people outside my home that feeds my soul, and I miss that. I miss my dear friends, and I wish it didn't feel awkward to dial their numbers. Why is placing a call so difficult these days?! Too many people text, not enough call.

The days feel long here in this house that I cannot seem to organize. I don't have enough hands or time. But I know it will all shake out in time. I already love this house; I feel like it was meant for us. I love hearing my girls giggle at the ducks and geese in the lake outside, and I enjoy washing dishes with the warm sun (when it decides to peek out from the clouds) on my skin. So even though the days seem long, and I often feel invisible to everyone outside my house, the months are quickly passing by and helping me adjust to a new normal.

The 5am feeding

We've been trying to sleep train Timmy lately. Usually our babies (with the exception of Genevieve who never slept through the night until 17 months) already sleep through the night by now, but not Timmy. He has really bad nights where he cries 3-4 times a night and sorta good nights where he only cries 1-2 a night. I live for the nights he only wakes up 1 or 2 times, obviously. I'm basically a walking zombie.

But it's strange because even in my zombie-like state, I still don't get frustrated with him at night. I live for the quiet 5am feedings where we lie on the bed, and I trace the outline of his face with my fingers while he nurses and clutches my pajamas with his hands. When he finishes nursing, he rolls onto his back and nuzzles his way into my armpit cavity where he softly repeats, "da-da-da-da-da," over and over again. Sometimes he stays cuddled into my body, and I am paralyzed by our tender bond that has been forged over all these long nights, but sometimes he rolls off my body and pulls himself to a sitting position where he reaches and grabs for my face, particularly my nose, and I quietly laugh. I usually don't let him do that too long because I fear he won't go back down so I quickly stand up and wrap him like a tasty burrito and place him back in his bed as he whispers, "da-da-da-da" again.

I'm not sure why I wished my girls' babyhood away so quickly--probably because by the time they were 9 months old, I was already pregnant with another one or talking about getting pregnant, but man, I love Timmy as a baby. I really do. And I live for our 5am feedings.

Pajama days

Sometimes pajama days are my favorite days. I tend to move a little slower around the house, and I tend to overlook the small piles collecting in corners of the room, and I find myself sitting on the floor playing with bright-colored musical toys with my babies. One baby is almost always planted in my lap while the other is grabbing at my leg with a dimpled hand. Today Elle joined us, and we laughed so much my stomach hurt.

I'm trying to steal more of these moments lately. Moving to Michigan--and soon-to-be Indiana--has made me distant from social scenes, mostly because life has been quiet around here for the past few weeks. I haven't taken a lot of pictures on my phone or even looked at my phone much during the day, and I've experienced more still moments with my kids. It's been really nice. I know things will change as we adjust again to a new house, new schedule, new set of friends, new school, etc., but I am trying to find peace in the storm, and today's pajama day offered quite a bit of peace.

I just rocked Timmy before placing him in his crib, and before I put him down, I brought him close to my face and enjoyed a smaller scale version of skin to skin where our cheeks were pressed next to each other and all we could hear was the sound of our own breathing. My baby is 9 months old. Geez. His cheek is almost the size of my cheek (hahaha), and being that close to him as he grows is so important to me. I love him so much--probably too much; he's going to get away with murder. But I am grateful for the still moments that help me be close to my growing babies because I keep catching glances of them all looking much too old for their own good, and it scares me to death.

Let them be little forever.

Things are looking bright, even though the sky is gray

It's after 11, and I can't sleep. It's been awhile since I haven't been able to fall asleep immediately after hitting the pillow. The days have been long and gray here; there's only been 1 sunny day since we moved here at the end of December, and the bleakness of it all makes me constantly tired. I open the blinds every morning and try to sit under the dim light that streams through the cracks as often as I can, but I can't seem to get enough sun. Last Saturday was the only sunny day as I mentioned. I happened to be driving to South Bend alone, and I opened the windows and let the cool breeze hit my cheeks and the warm sun rest gently on my thighs. It felt so good. Too good. I wanted to freeze that moment and live in it all day. I came home, threw on my running gear and headed outside to soak up the last few minutes of sun before it faded away for the week. Tonight, as I sit here typing in the dark, I am grateful for the sun.

Perhaps this should be a gratitude rambling. I feel like whenever life seems down, which I wouldn't actually consider mine at the moment--I'd say my life feels flat--neither up or down--just there, just existing. And whenever life feels like that I think it really helps me to focus on gratitude. So just as I am ever grateful for the sun tonight, I am also thankful for modern medicine. I have been on antidepressants for close to three months now (zoloft, if you were wondering). And although there are serious downsides to taking it (the biggest being an uneasy stomach and crazy night sweats--think changing clothing multiple times a night), it has really improved my quality of life. I don't feel crazy anymore. Before I swallowed my pride and decided to ask my doctor for a prescription, I was really struggling to find solid ground. I'd have a good day every other week or so, but for the most part, I'd just look at Tim and want to cry. I wanted to hide. There were days I didn't want to get out of bed. I ached, but I couldn't explain the ache. My heart just felt broken, and my head felt foggy all the time. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. There were a couple of days I even had real suicidal thoughts; it's embarrassing to just admit that, but it's the truth. I am grateful for good friends who patiently listened to me and urged me to be more proactive about my life. So tonight I am grateful for medicine, especially zoloft, and for it's ability to help me watch my kids play and not feel irritated and it's ability to help soften my hardening heart to my sweet babies that I was honestly starting to resent.

I am grateful for the relationships I have with my kids. I feel so loved all of the time. Even when I am my worst self, I feel loved. I wish you could see the way my kids look at me. It's like their eyes are wide open and hopeful when they look at me and tell me their stories and ask me their questions. I had never noticed how bright their eyes are when they'd speak to me, and perhaps it's because the zoloft is really calming my high-strung spirit or perhaps I'm just growing as a mother, but I am really slowing down and enjoying their childhood. I'm not wishing it away. I can't tell you how many times I've caught myself smiling at the way Birdie hops around the house on her tip toes or the way Timmy tugs at my shirt and smiles out of the corner of his mouth while he nurses or how Elle always speaks with a candid certainty that forces you to stop and listen (and she almost always has her hand on her hip while speaking) or how V lights up when she wakes Birdie from her afternoon nap and reads her books in bed or how Mya's eyes dance when tells me about how the boys at school chase her because they "like" her but she's "not old enough for that kind of thing." I also love to catch glimpses of Mya chasing Blue outside, throwing him his ball or a random stick in the yard. I watch Blue's tail swish back and forth. I'm happy when I see my dog happy; isn't that silly? I am so grateful I'm in a place where I can grow my relationship with my kids.

My relationship with my kids isn't the only one flourishing in our temporary living situation. My relationship with Tim has also been sweeter over the past few weeks. Truth be told, I received some much needed advice in regards to intimacy before leaving Texas, and Tim and I have been testing new waters in our intimate life, and I think just the fact that we are constantly aware of each other on that deep of a level makes the other areas of our relationship seem so much sweeter. I have literally felt my heart swollen with love for the man I married. He amazes me everyday. I could never have known what a treasure I found all those years ago. We hardly knew each other, but we've worked very hard for each other everyday for the last 9+ years, and it's changed who we are, personally and as a couple. I am not who I was back then, but neither is he. We've grown together, even when our thoughts and opinions differ. It's amazing. I feel completely loved by him. And I am grateful for that.

I'm grateful for time. Time expands our view and opens our hearts so they can grow and heal. I often think back on who I was and what I thought or believed 20, 10, or 5 years ago, and I'm astounded by how much I've changed--for better and for worse. But time gives me perspective, and it gives me hope that I'm still becoming whoever it is I am supposed to be.

I am thankful for forgiveness. I have the ability to hold grudges. I can play a mean game of the silent treatment. I've been known to go hours, days, weeks and even months without uttering a word to someone if they've crossed me. But somehow, the idea of forgiveness always seems to seep into the fibers of my heart and without much effort of my own, my heart starts to be receptive to people again. I have learned so much about forgiveness in my adult years. It's never to late to say "I'm sorry." And it's never to late to build relationships. I'm constantly reminded of that scripture that reads, "And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there..." And shouldn't that sociality be one of love, respect, kindness and forgiveness? I sure hope so.

It's after midnight now; I should probably go to bed. But before I go, I am so thankful for this small temporary house that provides us with walls and heat and beds and water and all the other necessities one should need. I'm grateful for Tim's new job; he is so very happy with the change, and his happiness is very important to me. I am so grateful for my best friends in Utah, Texas, Oregon, Illinois, Colorado, Wisconsin, and Maryland who constantly think of me. I am grateful for my parents. Hearing my parents' voices makes me feel steady, even when the world feels very much out of control. I'm also thankful for my siblings. I feel 2016 was a good year for our relationships, and I'm anxious to continue strengthening the bond we already have. And just a quick, and perhaps silly-to-you-list of other things that make me happy at the moment: the piano, bandaids, hot water, good pillows, swings, french fries, my exercise routine, hot chocolate, all chocolate (hahaha), a dishwasher, old country music, white noise, and warm jackets.

If, like me, your life feels just a bit flat, I dare you to write about the things that make you happy, and I'd guess it won't feel nearly as flat as it did before you started. At least, that's how it feels for me. Things are looking bright, even if the sky is still as gray as ever.

Mom, you should be a teacher

I desperately need a quick 15-minute cat nap so I'm hoping to sneak that in before waking up the babies and picking up the older girls from school. But I needed to write. Like I really NEEDED to write.

This morning while teaching the girls a couple of life lessons from the scriptures and drawing some quick sketches to help them understand said lessons, Mya looked up at me with a wide smile and exclaimed, "Mom, you should be a teacher. I get what you are saying."

She gets what I am saying!! Hooray! I may fail a million times a day, but my daughter gets me (most of the time). This was a huge moment for me. Just last week after dropping the girls off at school after a disastrous morning routine, I banged my head on the steering wheel, moaning that the girls would never understand me. Elle tapped my shoulder and whispered, "Mom, it's just Mya. She doesn't understand anyone." We laughed hard because the wisdom of my 4 year old always amazes me. But she was wrong; Mya does understand me--she just chooses not to listen all the time.

Isn't this the same with all of us from time to time. We have the ability to understand another person but lack the sensibility to listen to them--like really listen to them. I'm seeing it all over social media with regards to the women's march, which in my opinion was one of the most beautiful demonstrations of love I have ever seen in my lifetime. So many people think they understand why people marched or didn't march, but they don't actual listen to their reasons.

We would do well to talk less and listen more. I continue to remind myself of this piece of sound advice given to me so long ago. And for today, I am going to gloat a little knowing that one of my children gets me. It means the world to me. I honestly try to teach to their understanding because I feel God has always done so with me. He speaks to me in my language and to my heart. I do the same for my babies. And apparently, it's working.