Sunday, December 7, 2014

Ramble, Christmas Edition!

 These past few months have been interesting. I was finally released from my intense church assignment, but I still feel as busy as ever. The nice part of that new busy-ness is that is doing things that I need to get done in my own home with my own kids and their schooling etc. And, something that sort of rubbed me the wrong way about being in a leadership in the Church is that every time I did something nice, I felt like people assumed I was doing it just because I was "supposed to," and that felt very forced and unnatural to me. Probably no one actually thought that. I have an active imagination. But now, I can do nice things for people, have parties, ask people over, just because I actually am a nice person. No strings attached! It's been very freeing for me. (Please tell me that's not crazy??)
 Other happenings: I've been adjusting to having my best friend in town live across town. It sort of stinks. We have to drive a lot more, and we both have kids in the same charter school (plus I have G in preschool) so we are already driving quite a bit. It has put a damper on things and we're trying to figure out our new rhythm. We used to hang out all of the time, drop of the hat. Neither of us like it.
 We've done our best to compensate. We went over to their house for Thanksgiving (best thanksgiving ever. I appreciate other people cooking the main courses SO MUCH now that I've had a year to only do side dishes!) Then she invited my kids over for a Christmas party and let John and I go out on a date. Of course we're broke this time of year, so we went out and shared an ice cream, walked around a used book store and Goodwill (best date ever!) What a great friend and a great gift. A drive across town won't keep us down.
 I've been busy this year making Christmas presents and Christmas decorations by hand. I've never made Christmas gifts before, so I'm not sure how they will be received. I'm only brave enough to make gifts for the people who will love me no matter what I give them this year ha!

That canvas is one thing I've wanted to make for a long time. It took months to find a huge canvas at goodwill big enough. It had a painting of an old lady and was pretty hideous, thus they priced it $3. I swooped on that price and painted over the top. The original version of that canvas is $200, so I am very happy for my cheap-o version. I posted that on instagram and had two people ask me completely serious if they could buy one from me. Usually I am pretty mercenary and would have made it happen, but holy cow, it took a TON of work. My hand was pretty cramped afterwards.

 So we march forward in the month of December, hoping that there will not be any further monetary travesties (John's brakes went kaput, Grant's ER bill came, plus Christmas obviously).
 This time of year can get stressful, but I am trying hard to kick back against that. I'm painting my little projects, trying to get creative, trying to remember that the most important things about this time of year are not things. (easier said than done some days. Especially days you are forced to go into a shopping mall, which I try to avoid like the plague during Christmas, but thus far have had to venture into TWICE.) thank goodness it was during the week, and no major crowds. whew.

 Man my kids are cute, but they always seem to look a little ragamuffinish. The perpetually brown tennis shoes, the not-quite-matching pinks, the boots without socks. Anyone else ever feel like they are fighting a losing battle against entropy? My van and my floors are victims to this losing battle. Everything in my life looks just a little disheveled. It's sort of irritating. I want to be one of those clean van/floors/baseboards people. But then I don't want to spend my life cleaning. Are those things mutually exclusive? I think they might be, until we have harry potter magic in real life.

 This picture makes me laugh. He was wearing that old equestrian helmet while we were putting up Christmas stuff. That kid is so funny.
 This picture MELTS ME.

 Ta-da!! I felt sort of sad that we didn't do some amazing trip to the field of Christmas splendor for our tree. We went to Lowe's and got the cheapest trees and picked one. But the kids were JAZZED. They could have cared less. Bless their hearts. Seriously.
 In our quest to save some money this season, we're really really trying to cook everything from scratch. In order to not go crazy, I make people help me cook as much as possible. We made vegetarian lasagna and it was really good. We also made a bunch of these lunch burritos for John to grab and take to work. It makes me feel all sorts of accomplished. I'm usually not this organized. It makes me feel like a good wife to open that freezer and see them all lined up.
And my last minute thoughts are these (in no order, because I'm feeling disorganized and lazy tonight if you couldn't tell): 1. the podcast Serial has me hooked like most people in America. Are you listening? I've never listened to podcasts, and I'm a fan. Any other podcasts you can recommend? Don't say Stuff You Missed in History Class (John already had me listen).

2. I tried La Croix drinks because my friend always has one and she made them sound so delicious. They are NOT.  My beverages of choice are still: ice water (always a huge glass at night before bed funnily enough), orange juice, orange pellegrino, and cold root beer with pizza.

3. I hosted a party (NOT at my house) with two other new ward friends this past week, we did the whole favorite things party. It was a blast. We had so much fun, and people loved it. We had people come in their pajamas, which at first I thought might be awkward, but actually made it much nicer. People were just comfy and chatted more easily.

4. I'm singing a solo in church for the first time in a reeeeallly long time. Maybe since my older brother left on his mission? I've been nervous about singing solos ever since I lost my voice in high school after going to an amusement park and I lost my voice screaming and now my voice will randomly crack. I feel your pain Julie Andrews. Anyhow, I'm singing one of my favorite Christmas songs, I Wonder as I Wander, that old Appalachian carol.

5. My cats haven't knocked down our tree yet, but it's just a matter of time, am I right? Last year we lost like four ornaments (only my favorite ones luckily). I'm going to try and love my cats and not wring their scrawny necks when it happens. But...we'll have to see. If they take out my disney honeymoon ornament they are dead to me.

6. Speaking of Disney, John's parents are taking us and his brothers on a mega trip to Walt Disney World. My kids have NO IDEA. We're going to tell them on Christmas. They know we are going on a trip and so far they have guessed we are: going mini-golfing, going to Atlantis. We had to explain that Atlantis is still technically a missing city, so no one is going there. Thanks for raising my kid's hopes, Netflix original animation movie.

7. Do people budget for Christmas cards or just find amazing deals? Because holy cow, the expense! I love to get them, but I have Christmas stockings to fill (and wooden shoes, because I was sort of dumb and started that tradition).

8. One of my grants was rejected. It completely ruined about three of my days this week. Rejection is totally normal for writers, this I know. But this isn't for me, it's for my daughter's school. I felt like a huge failure. I'm still not 100% ok about it, but in my head I know it is time to suck it up. So I will. I'm about 97% over it. Maybe 72%.

9. My kids are still sad that we are the only people in America that don't do Elf on the Shelf. I wonder if we should start our own version with a barbie doll or something else we already own. I asked John what we should call our poor man's version, and we came up with: Hotty on the Potty, or Fool on the Stool. Trademarks are no doubt forthcoming.

Ok, that's enough of that. It's obviously a little too late for me to be writing stream of consciousness. :)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

i love a good list (within a list)

Warning: the pictures have absolutely nothing to do with the post. Just things from the weekend. You know how I love random.

Some thoughts for the night/weekend:

Exhibit A

 I recently (and bravely I might add) revealed to my friends on instagram (and sort of indirectly on facebook) that I am writing a book. Please don't go analyzing my grammar and terrible sentence structure now ha!
admitting that was a major step for me for several reasons (you know I have to list them, right?): 1. saying it out loud means you can never take it back 2. people might think you're a totally delusional, self-aggrandizing, narcissistic idiot 3. they start analyzing your grammar (I told you, don't look!) 4. it's sort of like a diet--if you admit you're on one, you're sure to fall off the wagon two days later. Oh wait, that diet thing is just me?? But let's be frank here. I don't know if I'm good enough to write a book. It's fiction, it's still in the beginning stages. It's a love story of sorts that involves...wait for it...magic! ha. It could be so good or it could be SO VERY BAD. I don't even care. I know some people will think it's ridiculous. But those people don't have to live with the voice in my head that says that I will only be a failure if I never try. Also, I waited until I had ten chapters to tell anyone (except my mom and sister and husband), so basically that means I waited until I felt pretty dang sure that--here's another list-- 1. I was in too deep and too in love with the characters to give up in shame after admitting I was writing and 2. pretty sure it was good. People, it needs so much re-writing (especially the beginning), but I think it's actually good! Hope I didn't just jinx myself. I'm really superstitious.

Exhibit B

This weekend was what I call Superbowl Sunday for Mormons. We had our twice yearly General Conference. If you're a mormon that has lots of facebook friends that are mormon, you get sort of annoyed by the end of this amazing weekend of how many pictures and statuses you had to read about people making cinnamon rolls and quoting from the amazing addresses that our leaders give. I'm pretty much a punk for admitting to my annoyance. It's probably just sour grapes because I only made Blueberry cobbler stuff from a Krusteaz package....grumble....grumble.

Exhibit C

I went garage sale-ing this weekend. I didn't really get anything amazing, but it was fun because I went with my friends and the weather was the most beautiful weather I think I have experienced in my whole life. It was sunny, cool, with a gentle breeze. I gave into the youthful euphoria it was producing and even smiled at strangers. I'd have to see it to believe it.

Exhibit D

Having a dream and working towards it has enriched my life so much. I have never been as busy in my life as I have been this past year. My kids, my church responsibilities, school, preschool, health issues, moving, renovating a kitchen, the list goes on and on. I could have just told myself that I was too busy to try and write. For years I did tell myself that very thing. And then one day, I just sat down and decided to try. I can't tell you how satisfying it is to my soul. I won't say that it doesn't even matter if it doesn't get published, because that is super lame, um of course I care about that, but the process has been so enjoyable and added so much to my sense of well-being. So...even if it doesn't get published--I'll be disappointed, but I will never REGRET it. Regret is a much bigger pill to swallow than disappointment ever is.

So, if you have something you've always wanted to try, and if you're the only thing standing in your own way--move! Starting is the hardest part. It has made me really happy. I even have my own room for writing. It makes me feel like Jo March to admit that.

Exhibit E (last one I promise)

I let my new friend who has never been formally trained as a hairdresser (she's a nurse actually), cut my hair back into a pixie. She even used electric clippers. Something has happened to my bravery levels lately. I don't even flipping care anymore. It's awesome. (and my hair looks great btw). hair always grows back. better yet, we had a great time chatting and we even shared some hard things we've been going through. God works in mysterious ways, sometimes it even involves hair cuts.

That's all I've got for tonight.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Slow Learner

So I am still walking on this path of regaining some balance. It's been a bit up and down this past week. I have had some absolutely amazing break-throughs, and some folks that have surprised me with their apparent inability to accept that I'm a human and thus entitled to occasionally utilize the word "no."

It becomes apparent to me as I go back and forth with attempting to make these big changes in my life that I am a slow learner. This is not the first time I've had so-called friends who have turned a bit shady the moment I can't be the person they want me to be. This usually is connected to what I can do for those people. It always catches me by surprise that people are actually like that in real life. The good news lately is that my slow learning is equating a greater acceptance and ability to move on when folks disappoint me. It's really pretty nice--letting go that is.

Another thing that happened this week: I chatted with someone I've only met once in real life and they gave me some of the best, most encouragingly warm advice. A few years ago I would have been too nervous to reach out and ask for that help. I'm a slow learner, but once I learn something, it settles in there deep. I got over my nerves, made the call, and had the great realization that there are SO many people that are good, that are accepting, that are rooting us on, hoping for the best for us, for those all around them. How grateful I am that the good in the world always outweighs the bad.

There will always be the poor souls out there that will become disenchanted with us. If our changes are for the proper reasons then I think there's no need to overly mourn the loss of those relationships. I know with absolute surety that my cutting back is to help my family. My little boy needs me. He simply does. If they could see what I see in the eyes of that little boy they would fight with me instead of fighting against me. They would see how a focused, less-stressed mother has changed the tenor of his days. They would see him sitting on my lap, giving me kisses again (and still occasionally wiping them off, he is three after all), and learning he has his mommy back.

There isn't much that I wouldn't do to grow my childrens' confidence. It seems to flicker and burn low so easily if I don't give it my careful attention. If I don't take the time to fan it and nurture it now, I 100% believe I can lose the chance forever.

I can't afford that. That is a price that is too dear.

So there you go, the deep lessons of a slow learner on a Wednesday night.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

the meltdown that may end up saving me

Holy toledo, I'm back.


Do you want the usual explanations for being absent? Life got crazy, I ran into someone's mailbox with the back of my minivan, I was in charge of a bunch of church gatherings, I drove all over kingdom come for carpool, Dr. Who wasn't going to watch himself, I'm writing a book (maybe), I put my kids into the same bedroom. Boring. SO So boring.

The fact of the matter is that all of those things did happen, and I was barely keeping my head above water. And today, when I was getting my kids ready for church and Grant yelled at me to leave him alone for the tenth time that day (because he only loves John on the weekends and he's trying to break my heart into five million little tiny pieces), I pushed everyone out of my room (because obviously they were all watching youtube videos on my computer) and had a good long cry. I cried and I prayed, and I realized that my life needs some balance. I need the time to sit back and process what is going on. I need the white space and the room the breathe. Things were going too fast, too hard, too long. And once I had finally had the melt-down that has been coming (on and off, with mini-crying sessions in between) for over a year, I finally quieted my mind enough to realize that no one could do the re-arranging and changing for me. Church and life and mothering would run me into the ground without a squeak if I didn't do it for myself.

So I made some changes, talked to some people, and I am already starting to the feel the weight lift off of me. It feels bad and guilt-inducing and failure-ish to say no.

 but it also feels to the moon and back again GOOD.

I can't promise that I'll be back all that often. But I sort of hope that I do. Because when I'm blogging, that also usually means that I'm thinking and processing. Which also means that I am in a very healthy place. A place where I trust the wide world enough to send out my silly little missives about mothering and wifeing and eating bagels. And if the world needs more of anything, it's of chubby mothers eating bagels loud and proud.

are you still with me, my dear, patient friends?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I Regress

Can I just go back to my old tell-too-much self for a minute here? For some reason, this morning I have sat here feeling pretty neurotic about facebook. That usually (definitely) means that I need to stop checking it for a while. But there's the truth, so let's chat about it. I have never been one to care about who likes or doesn't like my posts on facebook. I share things that I think are funny, interesting, cute and I know that sometimes that will catch people's fancy and sometimes not. Nothing personal.

But. Then I started noticing that a family member was liking everyone else's posts except for mine. And at first I thought it was just a little thing that I noticed just once, and then it grew and I noticed it was for a slew of other family members, and almost never for me.

That's the part where I became neurotic. Of course I will never know why this person doesn't "like" my stuff. And this is once again one of those moments that I have to learn not to let other people's dislike of me not bother me. But in this case, when it is a family member and I don't know what happened, it hurts.

So in typical Jennifer fashion, my mind starts trying to come up with theories. Was it something I said? Did? Do they just not like me because of how I am? Someone recently mentioned to me that they could tell we were doing better because my posts on facebook have become more positive. I was a bit taken aback. Had I been posting really negative things to facebook? Maybe that was it?

I stopped posting to my blog for a while because there is a new trend out there to not share too much--ok, it's probably not a trend but a life lesson ha. Don't be too real. Don't show people your struggles and feelings because it makes you look reeeeally crazy. The phrase TMI (too much info) was coined during my lifetime, and I'm certain it's because of the advent of the internet, which has facilitated the ease of over-sharing. Suddenly, I realized that I often laid myself out on my blog and felt ashamed, like you feel when you're having a dream and suddenly realize that all during the dream you've been walking around naked. Suddenly you realize that people may have just been reading because you were embarrassingly transparent in what was going on in your life and it made for good reading like reality television makes for scintillating but not necessarily classy television.

So I retreated. I felt ashamed and exposed. I started to realize that the price of getting older is sometimes learning not only how much people disapprove of you, but that things you had been doing most of your life were considered gauche and naive.

And somewhere deep down, I began feeling like people might look at our family and think, well the young fun phase of their life is over. After finding out that we cannot have any other kids, I felt like the story was over, and the surprises were done.  Every year our christmas card would be the same cast of characters just getting older. There would never be another exciting announcement about due dates or gender. The crib was sold, the clothes that are grown out of are passed along. Somehow I am slowly coming to terms with it. But, I guess I never realized that with the end to my child-bearing era, I was also passing into a place where people may lose interest in you because you are also passing into older kids territory. And maybe that makes our family less exciting. Less facebook-likable?

Of course there is nothing we can do about other people's perceptions of us. Of course I know that the surprises in life are not done until you're dead. I still find immense fulfillment and joy in our family as it is. But I also realize that we are reaching milestones as a family much sooner than I had ever imagined we would. I find myself feeling older and drifting further away from that seemingly idyllic time of being a young mother with babies all around. It is the most bitter and most sweetly confusing thing. And all of this compounds into insecurity as I see one relative, that probably just doesn't like me, seem to lavish attention and praise on my younger relatives that are all going through these very phases of life.

So it seems like I've got more work to do on myself. Nothing new there. But it is a sad sweet moment for me to feel that an era that I wasn't ready to move past is doing so nonetheless.  And not only this, but to feel repressed in talking about my life. It's been a bit lonely, this transition to middle adulthood.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Where the Positives Always Beat out the Negatives

 My oh my, how the days are running by me. I look back at the pictures and feel like we have been so busy, and yet during many of the days it felt like they were dragging. I think that's the great paradox of being a stay at home mother.
 This weekend we were excited because Maddy finally got to go see the school she'll be attending next year. They had their screenings for second graders and the parents got to ask questions and play with their other kids/chase the school chickens while the second graders were inside. Afterwards there was plenty of time for Maddy to play too--and they all had a blast playing on the zipline and tire swings and running around.
 Apparently this chicken is "Lacewing." Later Maddy said there was a chicken named Burnt Toast too. I like the names. They have a very Harry Potter feel to them. She said there is one chicken that doesn't have a name yet. I'm thinking it needs to be Flitwick or Honeyduke.
 Some people are curious why I am switching Maddy's school. We actually quite like her current school. But the story of how she got into her new school is pretty miraculous (in my mind) and it feels SO right. I hate switching her again. I had serious misgivings about it. But she is SO excited and I get chills every time we have been there--I just know it's the right place for her. She knows it's the right fit for herself too, and having a zipline and chickens definitely helps. :)
 Even Granty got in on the fun. Man alive that kid is cute. He has been wearing Maddy's old cowboy boots around the past few weeks even though they are too big for him. Thank goodness she got the brown ones and not some pink bedazzled ones. :) He looks like a kid from the fifties. All he needs is a capgun and a button up plaid shirt.
 So we had an awkward exchange with a neighbor that came to our door with his son still in pajamas (seriously, what the heck?) to ask if our lawnmower was broken because our lawn was so tall. It was Friday, and John already was going to mow the lawn again on Saturday (like most men that work for a living), and I was just confused what the guy wanted. I tried to figure out if he was looking for us to pay him to do it or if he was complaining? I'm still not sure, it was weird. I felt embarrassed, but John had mown it the week before and not realized that the blades were on the highest setting, so it looked better after he cut it, but I knew it would grow out fast (and it did). Made me feel weird, especially since our other neighbors have been mad at us because we let our cats go outside sometimes (they're mad because they don't think cats should ever go outside, not because my cats do anything bad). It's sort of left a bad taste in my mouth as to what our neighbors are thinking of us. We are quiet and keep to ourselves a bit, and I wonder if that has made us seem like bad people? Anyway, the lawn was mowed again, this time on the lowest setting, and the cats are kept inside a bit more. So...maybe people will just let us live in a bit of peace. (I want to be a recluse in the country so bad).
 Good news is that we got to go on a date this weekend. We went to a place my friend recommended called Tupelo Honey. That is fried okra and oh boy was it tasty. It was so nice to be together alone. I had a REALLY rough week with our cowboy boot wearing fellow.
 This past week I have been thinking a lot about my mothering, and with today being Mother's day it has made it even more of an acute practice. As I have struggled this month with Grant and his three year old ways, I have found myself in tears many times. I have questioned whether I am a good mother. Wondering whether God was thinking straight when he sent me a little boy. Asking whether it should be this hard while he's still so young. Wondered if this is normal three year old boy antics or perhaps something more. I've found my heart drawn out in a near constant conversation with my Heavenly Father. Sometimes I feel bad that the prayers are sort of casual, as I am moving and working and have no time to stop--not the bent head and on my knees sort--and yet emotionally I have never been more on my knees. Somehow I feel that he knows. I often think of this scripture:

"Humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him. Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks. Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening. But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness. Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you."

 I know some people don't like Mother's day. They feel like it is another day to shine a light on their failures. Their misgivings. They think mothers are hyped up to some impossible standard that they will never achieve. I feel sad for these mothers and women. I can empathize with their sorrow and their concerns. I can see how those that wish to be a mother can be hurt by a day that celebrates what they long for but are denied. However, I am glad there is a Mother's day, because it reminds me not only to appreciate the mother that I have, but to look to myself and try and appreciate the mothering moments that I am in the process of creating.

 I guess I sort of think it's sad that people let the idea of a day take away from their happiness. They give their ideals of what the day should mean power over their lives when they could take ownership of it to mean something uplifting. On teacher appreciation day I don't take it as a chance to belittle myself that I am not a teacher, or that I am not living up to some sort of ideal. I take it as a chance to celebrate the good that comes from the people who choose to dedicate their lives to making the world a nicer place to live. And when people choose to denigrate Mother's day, it hurts me because I think it's okay for me to be proud to be a mother.

I feel that even with all of my five million blunders, for my losing my cool with my son this past week, for my forgetting something for Maddy's school, for all of my imperfections that make me feel like I am messing these adorable kids of mine up for good...well, for all of that, there is also the times I hold them when they are feverish, push them on their scooters, let them try and fail and then try and succeed, discipline them because I care about their characters, wash the sticks out of their hair with strawberry shampoo, and try to encourage them to find their talents and work hard. Every single day of this stay at home mom thing has challenged me. Every single day has been difficult in some way--even the really awesome days. I am in charge of two little people (just two! think of those with 5 and 6 and more!) and all I can do is try my best.

I want to say that again. All that I can do is try my best. My best will never be awesome. But it's my best. And my best also happens to include the most love for my kids that anyone in this world can have for those two souls. So my best is their best for now too.

How can I disparage myself for a work that is the most important thing I will ever do in my lifetime? The work to love even when it is hard. The work to teach them even when it is uncomfortable and inconvenient. The work to push beyond my native selfishness and grow my soul larger. They are working on me as hard as I am working on them. And I love them and motherhood and myself for it.

And if you're a mother, you should too.

 So for every time you see a picture of my kids doing something awesome, like free lego builds. Remember there were five tantrums on the way out.

 For every pretty picture of a made over kitchen, there are sad moments when you are sitting outside the door of your child crying as hard as they are on the other side.

 For every victory, there is a load of laundry.
 For every good thing you might do, there is going to be something you do wrong and have to apologize for. There will be kids fighting, counters that are sticky (again! whyyyy??), and t.v. that is too loud.

 It's okay. I just tell myself over and over; It's OK.

 Sometimes the ball will hit the frame and break the glass.
 Some days your hairdo's will be masterpieces.
 Some days only the carbs will save you.
 But most days
 if I really try my best
 and tell all the negative nellies in my head (and the negative neighbors that are all too real) to hush
 I am able to be present in the moment and realize

 the bad hard moments don't wipe away any good that I've done. The good stands alone for what it is.

 The great news in life is that life is not a giant math equation. The negatives don't detract from the positives. Each moment that we lift and guide
 and wash
 and dig, and explore--those moments add to our lives. And if you haven't read this post, then do me and you and your whole life a favor and go read it. She says it better than I ever could. So happy dang mother's day. You're doing it. So am I. Hope you have a really awesome day. I know I will...that sunshine yellow cardigan I got for my present today isn't going to wear itself! :)