Sunday, April 26, 2015


The most challenging time in my life so far was when I first became a mother and had to care for a newborn. I was far, far, far from being prepared for what I needed to be. I had spent my teenage years mostly focused on having fun. When I got married and suddenly had responsibilities of my own - I struggled to learn how to do them (I had to read labels on cleaners to know how to use them, labels on food to know how to prepare it). I called my mom often to ask her simple questions like, "How do I brown ground beef?" I remember taking 3 hours to prepare a lasagna once since I had to learn everything as I did it (how to boil noodles, cook beef, measure and mix ingredients - it was all new to me). When I found out I was pregnant (3 months after I got married), I came to the realization that I knew nothing of raising babies (I couldn't even remember ever holding one!) so I quit my job (though I was still going to school full time) and tried to cram for this upcoming event. I learned how to crochet to make blankets and tiny sweaters (I thought maybe that is what good mothers did), read a lot of books, and felt sick a lot.

But this cramming of skills and knowledge did in no way prepare me for what I needed to be! I was still selfish and used to getting my way. I loved holding that new baby in my arms and feeling the wonder of having a little soul to care for, but was I in for a shock! I remember hearing her wake up again while I was still in the hospital bed and thinking to myself, "You have got to be kidding. How do women do this? I don't think I can do this." I cried. I really liked my sleep.

Then I went home. First was the pain. Episiotomies are painful, after-pains were awful, and nursing was excruciating. I shed tears when I realized that the baby was hungry (and she was hungry a lot!) Looking back, I nursed her too often - but I had read that if they "rooted" when you brushed their cheek it meant that they were hungry, and that was pretty much all of the time. I had also read about how you should teach them to go to sleep on their own, so I always put her down before she was fully asleep, but that would often stir her to wakefulness and she became overtired and cranky. She cried a lot. My mom stayed with me for a couple of weeks and offered to hold her while I got some rest, but I was too worried about my baby learning to sleep in people's arms that I wouldn't let her help me that way.

The nights were awful. I felt like just when I would start to doze after she had finally gotten to sleep, she would be awake again. For some reason, I had placed her changing table on the other side of the room from where I slept. I would feed her a little. She would poop. I would walk to the other side of the room, change her and feed her some more. She would poop again. I would get up again... over and over throughout the night (I have learned much better ways to care for babies at night since then, but I was exhausted and I couldn't think too rationally at the time).

Bill was going to school full time and working as a waiter a lot of hours, and often late into the night. I was lonely and he was often too tired to try to have a conversation with me. I think Sundays were the only thing that saved our marriage at the time. He chose not to do homework or to work on Sundays so we actually talked and felt like a family that day. But the rest of the week was really hard. I remember getting up to do the dishes at one point when the baby was actually calm (I had thought that babies would sometimes be calm when they were awake, but I couldn't figure out any way to get  mine to be calm for more than 5-10 minutes unless I was holding her. I did a lot of things one-handed). I looked at the pile of dishes and felt such despair. This was the life I had chosen. There would always be dishes and laundry in my future. How could I stand it? What happened to "happily ever after" once you found your "prince"?

Gratefully, there were good moments too, when I managed to be aware of them - my baby would gaze into my eyes when I would nurse her (I was often watching TV or reading a baby book when I would nurse her so I missed a lot of these precious gazes), or I would be rocking her in my arms on the rocking chair and was suddenly filled with overwhelming love for this tiny bundle. New friends, hikes, missionary work, feeling the Spirit at church or finding peace in unexpected moments also brought in some sunshine.

But for the most part, I remember feeling like I was drowning. Especially at nights.

Baby #2 was also hard, but not as despairingly hard. You would think that having a baby AND a toddler would be too much for me after what I experienced with just having a baby. The task was no less difficult, but my capacities had grown. I was a better, less selfish person and therefore I was happier. I did still struggle with post-partum depression (just when I would nurse, but I hadn't discovered that pattern at the time - I just remember a deep gloom coming over me sometimes), but I no longer felt like I could not do it. I was learning I had strength that I was unaware of before.

Fast-forward 6 years to when I decided to try to homeschool. The kids were ages 9, 7, 5, and 2. The first day was terrible. No one could focus on the printouts I had worked so hard on cutting out so they could learn the scientific classification system. I got through about 2 things on the list of 10 things I meant to teach them that day. And the house was a mess when Rock got home. I cried that night too. What in the world was I doing? I reached out to the online homeschooling community (the only homeschoolers I knew at the time since I had moved away to my dear friend who introduced me to it). Someone said, "Relax and go look at your children while they are asleep. It will remind you why you decided to take this on." That was great advice. It took 2 more weeks of torture before I realized that homeschooling needed to be different than trying to do public school at home. That led me into a path of learning and growth (and sometimes a little more torture) that I had not imagined. (I advocate homeschooling not just for what it does for the children, but also what it does for their mother!)


Why am I bringing this up? Because it hit me the other day, when I was having a "drowning" moment (I was feeling overwhelmed), that I was now a mother of seven children, that I homeschooled them all, that I managed to cook for all of them (though Spice has taken over one of the meals each day), do laundry for all of them, and that together we manage to keep the house relatively in order.  I even have responsibilities outside the home (scouts, classes, etc) that I have taken on. How in the world did that happen? How did I go from a despairing mom of one baby to a happy homeschooling mom of seven?
This is our laundry pile after a typical weekend (not having done laundry Saturday or Sunday)
I realized, as I was having this drowning moment the other day, that it was the enabling power of the atonement that had taken me this far. I had turned to Him in my weakness and His power had given me the strength I needed - with just the right amount of struggle to start to grow into my divine potential. I know that seed of divinity is in each one of us. It reaches towards Him. It is at peace, basking in sunshine and air, when we allow Him in.

Hike on Monday
When I block Him out, I feel overwhelmed. But this is good because it reminds me to open myself up to His light and love again. I know and have witnessed that with God nothing is impossible. We have more ability within us then we comprehend. He wants us to become aware of it and tap into that Power that makes it grow!

I hope this post doesn't sound like I think I am all that special. I really don't. I know that the room I am in has stacks of paper I need to organize, a box of things I need to return to their rightful owners, stuff on the floor that needs to be put away (obviously, I didn't use my Saturday to prepare for Sunday as well as I should have), an email inbox that is long overdue for clearing out, and I won't even mention the things there are to do when I step out of the room. I still make wrong choices with my time on occasion, and I still eat more treats than I should on a regular basis. I am very aware of some of my weakness (I'm glad I am not yet aware of all of it). But I KNOW where I can find strength. He is always there for me. He is pleased with my efforts. He can help me be so much more than I am, as I remember to keep turning to Him. He waits patiently for me to remember (I have moments of forgetfulness daily). Faith is what I need in order to tap into His power. Faith to keep my covenants and to listen for and heed His promptings. I know He won't ever ask me to do more than I can handle. He just wants my happiness and He knows how to get me there. He knows me well!

Well, the family is waking up and this post is plenty long! Here are some more highlights of the week:
Ladybug trying to make bracelets like her sister.

Ladybug singing
Ladybug LOVES these squeaky shoes :-) 

Ladybug still singing, but can't decide if she is holding a hat or a purse


The park on Bazink's birthday

Bazinks blowing out candles

Hike to Big Springs

This was as far as we made it - not quite to the spring - it took us 1 1/2 hours to hike 1 1/2 miles, we were out of time and Gem had had enough!

Park Day while I discussed an ebook on habits with some friends

Our kids had a great time making a huge sand pit

Different Park on the way home from dropping older kids off at theater

Hike with the youth I mentor (or who mentor me) in our Great Books class.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Taking Time to Breathe
You know how sometimes a visual can sometimes help you see life in a new way? Ever since I wrote about "Learning How to Breathe," I have found the following visual keeps entering my mind and helping me remember the important principle of taking time to breathe:

I imagine my "Priority List" (my to-do list that I write and prioritize everyday) as a view of my day's journey.  Then I get started on my way. Knowing that this entire life is a journey with grand vistas, new discoveries, and challenging obstacles; and that I will reach my destination regardless of how "far" I get - as long as I learn to love in the process; I realize that I must take time to take it in: love, laugh, see, smell and feel. I picture myself stopping often to enjoy all I see because this is how I learn to love.

I have a tendency, when I have a "to do" list, to get so caught up on what I have to do that I forget to enjoy. That is why I usually give up on lists. I don't like to live feeling worried about all there is to do that day. That is why this "breathing" visual has been so nice for me. It reminds me to put the list aside and just breathe-in the breath of life.

So that is what I have been working on. When I see a bonding opportunity or a chance to enjoy a moment before me - I realize this is an oppotunity to "breathe", to take in the adventure and feel gratitude for being. I tell myself, "It is time to breathe." I know in my heart that this means that it is time to connect and feel His love. God has given us so many ways to connect to Him: admiring beauty, laughing with people we love, hugs, inspiring words of truth, prayer, service, temples, the process of discovery, stillness, His whisperings to our soul, connecting to others... the list goes on. He wants us to reach out to Him and to stay close. So I remind myself, "it is time to connect."

For example, we had a random snow day last week. The kids wanted to play in the snow so Little Miss got them all geared up to go outside. As I watched them get ready to go, I thought, "I could go play out there with them." Then, of course, I remembered the big pile of laundry waiting on the couch, the meal preparations still to be done, the messes still needing to be cleaned, and the hassle of finding snow clothes to put on. Then I thought, "Don't let this opportunity to breathe pass you by." So I got ready (thankfully Little Miss had done the hard work of getting the boys ready or I may not have talked myself into it) and played outside. We made forts and snowmen and threw snow at each other. I taught Gem how to make a snow angel. We later cleaned indoors and still had a nice meal.  Even if the evening was a little more busy with laundry and meal prep than it would otherwise have been, I felt peaceful through it all. It was another witness to me that when I put first things first, I feel right and I find joy, even in the mundane.

Here are some breathing moments from the last two weeks (I didn't have time to write last week because I was preparing for a Passover meal that I was in charge of putting together with 3 other families. We all enjoyed it and I learned a lot and gained an appreciation for that symbolic ritual - I forgot to take pictures though).

Some park pictures, I had like 80 pictures of Ladybug on a swing. So these are just a few samples :-)

 Random snow day: It was here and gone in one day!

Bazinks turned 9 this week. We took him presents and cards in bed, ate sugary cereal; had a picnic at the park (sandwiches with white bread); watched a movie with friends; and ate pizza, cake and ice cream. We all had stomach aches by the end of his fun day :-) His favorite presents were some young Venus Fly Traps).

Getting ready for a 5K (Rock, Spice, Bud and me) and 1 mile run (for the kids) with friends yesterday.
 Happy Sunday everyone! I hope you find lots of ways to "take life in" on this day of rest!