Monday, April 16, 2018

So my first class of the day canceled, so I have 30 minutes to myself this morning. I could be productive and go make kids lunches or clean something, but I've been trying to write here more often and this seemed like the perfect time. 

We go back to court for Matthew soon. His dad is doing really well. It makes you feel like a crummy person to find yourself wishing he would mess up. We just love this little guy so much and he feels so much like part of our family, it will be hard for everyone when he's not with us anymore. Eliza got him out of his pack n play and carried him to her bed, where her and Nora proceeded to cover him in kisses, making him giggle his little head off. It was adorable.  

Life with these kids is simultaneously overwhelmingly wonderful and at times just overwhelming. Moments when I'm carrying Nora on my hip, and Matthew in the infant carrier, or times when they both of their bowels decide today's the day to act like they're preparing for their first colonoscopy. (I think my maximum was 7 poopie diapers in one day.) These are times I wonder how the heck I'm doing this. Like what even is my life? But then moments like above just make it all worth it. "Picture the Thanksgiving table in 20 years" has become a bit of my mantra when times get hard. 

And now I have to give a whole little section to this hilarious face. This girl. My Eliza Jane. She is so funny. 99% of my daily laughter comes from her. I wish I could think of some examples off the top of my head, but about everything that comes out of her mouth is some level of ridiculous. She knows and loves it too. Like her mama, she absolutely loves making people laugh. She's as smart as they come, but my favorite thing about Eliza is her blunt honesty. She is a kid so she might try to do something sneaky here and there, but she always tells on herself. She's always quick to apologize and take full responsibility for it. It's not uncommon to hear her say, "I'm sorry I did that. It's my fault! I'll clean it up (or insert whatever action to make it right)." I am not sure where she gets this from, as none of my other kids seem to have this ability, but I sure hope she keeps it forever.
Aaron and I are taking the church's self reliance class together. I am pretty sure I wrote about when I took alone almost a year ago. I am so excited to be taking it with Aaron, even if it means a few late nights for the kids. It was really life changing the first time around, so I'm super excited to see where we end up 12 weeks from now.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday Thoughts

My kids are loud.

My back hurts.

Aaron is working a lot this week.

And all I want is a moment of peace to reflect on the meaning of easter and my relationship with Jesus Christ.

So I'm locked in my room while the littlest two are napping, and the other 4 are playing a game (very loudly of course).

My testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ waxes and wanes like the moon. Some moments I swear I know He lived, and He lives as sure I know anything else. These are my full moon moments. I am just full of spine tingling reassurance that this is REAL. He is real. The Atonement happened for me. I can use the Atonement in my life to help me deal with everything from grief to keeping my patience when my kids are being their loud selves. Sometimes I remember that, and know that. Other times, my testimony is like that little sliver of a moon hanging in the sky. I try teach my kids about the importance of Jesus Christ but my words feel hollow. I try to pray but my mind wanders. How could someone who lived over 2,000 years ago really know me? How does it even work? And as these thoughts spiral to darkness about everything in life, I cling to that little sliver of my testimony. I remind myself of times where I knew. And I wait because I know as long as I keep doing the right things my testimony will grow again. Sometimes I feel guilty that this is how I am. That I am always questioning everything. The one part of my testimony that never goes away, that is always there is my knowledge that Heavenly Father loves me. In fact sometimes I even think he loves me the most. It is easy for me to never question this because I have evidence of it everywhere I look.
       This moon analogy has been playing around in my brain for years. But this is the first time I'm putting words on paper (so to speak) about it. And as I write I realize something deeper. The moon never changes in its size. A full moon only appears so because of our position when we're looking at it. Perhaps the times my testimony feels like sliver is because of my position of where I'm looking at it. A position of annoyance and anger at my children, or a slothful scripture study habit, or not doing all the other things I know are important to the Heavenly Father of whose love I am so certain.
        This weekend is also general conference. It is so hard to listen between the shushing of children and trying so hard to listen and feel but oh my heck can't they just be quiet for ONE talk?! Aaron is working all weekend so I'm watching alone. Some of the thoughts I had while watching this morning was that I want to be like President Eyering's wife. He shared how she was always acting on the promptings she received to serve others. And that skill was developed in her along with charity, the pure love of Christ. As one attribute grows, so does the other. I am okay in this area, but there is a lot of room for improvement.
           I am going to try to remember my position as I ponder my testimony. I desire to be a pillar of spiritual strength for my children. I want my life to be lived as a testimony that Christ lived. I want to feel his grace for my children. I want them to know He loves them, because of the way I love them. I want them to know as certain as I do that Heavenly Father loves them so much.
       I also want my kids to be quiet for like an hour. Maybe two. And for my back to stop hurting. But one thing at a time.

Friday, March 30, 2018

13 years ago today

Thirteen years ago today I had a date with a boy from institute. I was 20 years old, far from home, and just trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I had my eye on this guy who sat behind me. He was funny and smart and insightful. There was just something about him that drew me to him. The few minutes we had to talk before we had to run off to our next class never seemed like enough time.

Then he finally did it. He told me he wanted to ask me to go out with him to see the Easter pageant but I had been running off so fast lately that he didn't have a chance. So stumbling awkwardly over my words I told him well, we should definitely still go out and do something. We exchanged numbers and went on our way. I ended up calling him 2 hours later and asking him to go out the very next day. I was so worried about how desperate this must have made me seem. I felt like I wasn't playing the game correctly.

But 13 years ago was that very first date. We went out with my roommate and her boyfriend. Dinner, then a movie. But we had a couple of hours to kill before the movie started so we walked around and got to know each other better. The conversation flowing just as easily as I had always imagined it would. And then when the movie was over and Aaron was bringing me home, it still didn't seem like enough time. I made a comment about how many stars there were out here in Arizona. He told me that sometime we should go to Sauguaro Lake and then I'd really see some stars. It was probably close to 11 at this point but I wasn't tired. "Lets go!"   "Now?" "Yes!" I grabbed his hand and started towards his truck with him looking at me like I was crazy. That absolutely has not changed in 13 years. And off we went, to look at the stars and continue talking. I remember it just felt so comfortable.  That also hasn't changed.

Now here we are, 5 biological kids, 3 foster kids, 6 moves (twice across the country) one career change, and countless other happy and occassional sad, frequently overwhelmed moments later. Thirteen years sounds like a long time, but also not. I remember the summer before my 13th birthday, I was walking with my best friend Cathy. We were talking about how weird it was that we were both about to become teenagers. We dramatically talked about how we felt like we were leaving our childhoods behind. I mean, we knew we weren't grown ups, but we definitely the change. The shift from being a kid, to the beginning of womanhood. We would laugh at this conversation for years later. When we were 18, laughing as we again said, "Well now we really are leaving our childhood behind." But as I've gotten even older I feel more impressed than embarrassed at our young 12 year old selves. Yes 13 is still a child, but we were right. Things were changing. The changes didn't seem to happen so fast when we were 18, but looking back now, it really was all in a blink of an eye.
        So as my relationship with my husband becomes a teenager, I wonder what lies ahead for us. We are done having babies, so we really are entering a new stage of life together. The kids are growing up, and before long it will no longer be diaper changes and story times, but curfews and college applications. On one hand that is scary as heck, but on the other I can not wait. I long for the days that it's just Aaron and I again. I know I'll miss this, and I don't want to rush it, but I am also so grateful for the effort Aaron and I make to stay connected. So that when we do reach that stage we don't look at each other one day and ask, "Who are you?" 
       Well I am not sure how to end this. I'm trying to write more just for the sake of writing. Do you listen to the podcast, A Way With Words? I was inspired by last week's episode to just write. And an anniversary post seemed fitting.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Our first set of stitches and Mexico

So I really used to be so good at keeping track and writing stuff here. And then I've added more and more and kids and this has become less and less of a priority. But I LOVE being able to win an argument with Aaron about when or how something happened. So I need catch up because who knows when we'll be arguing about how old Abigail was when she busted her lip. Or whatever. 

So 5 minutes into our first softball practice of the season, Abigail got hit in the face with a ball. They were just playing catch! The girl must have rifled it at her. I didn't see, because I was still filling out the contact information for the coach. We had literally just started. Abigail comes running to me, blood just absolutely everywhere and it is split just right in half. The coach confirmed what I already knew, stitches. So I call urgent care and they tell me because of her age and the location I needed to go to the hospital. So I try to think clearly. Of course Aaron is at work. I have 6 kids, the oldest is 10, the youngest is 7 months, and one of them is bleeding profusely from the mouth. Not exactly my happy place. And of course my bestie is out of town. So I start wracking my brain of people I can call. And I am so grateful for a wonderful ward and amazing people who will literally drop everything and come to my rescue. A good friend Rachel came with her family and watched my littles while Abigail and I ran off to get stitched up. By this point Abigail isn't crying anymore, she's just begging me to not take her the hospital. She's terrified of the emergency room. We call uncle Douger to help calm her down and talk her through what to expect. She was feeling a bit better as we entered the ER. In triage she told the nurse her pain was a 4, on a scale of 1-10. A 4! She is tough as nails, this kid. Then the nurse told us it would be upwards to 4-5 hours to wait. FOUR TO FIVE HOURS in the ER during flu season, with my child bleeding. Needless to say, I was not all too thrilled with this situation. So I started wracking my brain about who I knew who could possibly help us. I decided to text our dentist. I felt bad because I know he's really busy, and another dentist friend had told me it was probably best to stay at the ER, but I am SO SO SO grateful I texted him. He met me at the office 30 minutes later, and Abigail was so excited because she loves her dentist. She got to play on the Nintendo Switch, and watch a movie, and Dr. Kempton is so skilled with that novacaine that she really thought he was just putting a "bubble" in her mouth. He had done about 5 stitches when she asked, "When are you going to start the stitches?" He laughed and told her he was almost done.  He was so impressed with her injury that he recorded it with his personal cell phone. Her lip tore right in half, so you could see her labial artery. He said it was nothing shy of a miracle that that artery was still intact. It was split all around it, but somehow it stayed put. So he sewed us up and sent us on our way. He is seriously amazing. And Abigail was not scarred for life by some scary PA at the hospital stitching her up. 

Then the very next day, not even 24 hours later we were in the car for Mexico. And the picture of me and Nora pretty much sum up how the trip was for me. Thought I did get a few moments of solitude here and there. I feel so alive and connected at the beach. It is good for my soul to return often. However, maybe not with so many kids. But I do love my in-laws beach house and how secluded it is. It's just a haven for kids to run and play. They were able to spend hours each morning hunting for sea creatures, and we only saw one other family on the entire beach. It is amazing. Even if it was absolutely exhausting for me.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Nathan is 6 and Eliza is 4!

We are in the birthday half of the year (a birthday a month from October to March, pretty much) and my kids are growing so fast.

Nathan is doing really well in school. He is so smart and learning to read and loves math. He's bored in school and I know this because his teacher asked me if he has a medical problem because he asks to use the bathroom 4 times an hour during class. He loved when I substitute at his school and get to pop in and see him in class. He likes to ride his bike and scooter and if he's not doing that he's playing on his DS. He loves to do good and be good. He lives to follow the rules and I just love that about him. I really do have such good kids.

That said, Eliza is my wild card. She is also good, but man is she something else. She will tell you like it is, no matter what. Her vocabulary far exceeds her four years. She loves baby Matthew more than anything and loves to carry him around and hold him. She is still obsessed with unicorns and her "night nights". She gets her feelings hurt easily, but forgives just as easily. She is trying so hard to learn to read and I'm trying so hard to teach her. With 6 kids it's easy to get lost in the shuffle. But there is something very rewarding about being her preschool teacher. She has learned to write her name and I love seeing her proudly writing her name and knowing I taught her that! She wrote her aunt a letter today and she was able to sound out some of the words herself. She is so smart and we just love having her in our family.

I am wanting to get the kids involved in some extracurricular activities but I hate having places to be. I feel guilty about this and keep saying tomorrow I'll look into it, but honestly it never happens because mostly I hate trying to find shoes for everyone to leave the house.

So we mostly go to school, hang out, and play.

We rented a cotton candy machine and invited Eliza's friends over for her birthday party. On her actual birthday I took all my kids to the mall in El Centro to ride the train and carasoul. This is small town living at its worst... driving an hour for that thrill! Still makes me laugh. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Foster Care is really hard.

So just wanted to write some of my thoughts and get them out of my head and out into the internet. We have been foster parents for two years now. It is crazy how much has happened in the last two years.  Both of our other kids who were with us for a short time are doing wonderfully with their families. I wish I could fast forward two years from now and see what happens with our little man.
      Here's some things that really suck about being a foster parent:
          My voice feeling like the least important, even though I feel like this baby is a literal part of me. I have fed him every 4 hours, around the clock, for the last 4.5  months. I have bathed him every night, soothed every cry, changed every diaper, and kissed his little cheeks more times than necessary. But when we sit in court I am not even part of either team. I sit in the back. All of these people who have done their obligatory monthly visits, and many who have never even met the baby, tell the judge their case. And in an apparent afterthought when everyone else has spoken their part, I am asked, "Does placement have anything to add?" "Placement"... not even foster mother or mom. And I just feel like I'm not an important voice in the process, when I feel like I should be one of the most important voices.
      There are also super annoying things that have to be done, like he's outgrowing the bassinet and so it's time to move him to the crib. Only, in the back of my head I really don't want to set up the crib, because there are 2 ICPC's in process (family out of state) that can take him any time, and I think it will just be so hard to take that crib back down. So we put him the pack and play and he's been doing great in it. And then I was informed today that he can't sleep in a pack and play and needs to be in an actual crib. And I don't know why, I guess it's just knowing we can lose him anytime that makes me really not want to set it all up. And I know you go into foster care knowing this is the goal. Reunification is always the plan, always the goal, and if things happen to stop that, then it is not really a "good" thing. Someone is losing their child, even if we're gaining one. The whole thing is lose/lose and that just sucks. So yeah, the fact that it's against the rules for him to be in a pack and play is annoying. And then there's a million other little things, like staking down the swing set, and having a fire extinguisher on each floor and stuff that we should probably have/do anyway, but just annoying to be held to such a ridiculously high standard.
          I also hate how long this process can be dragged out. Technically his parents should only have 6 months since he's under 3. But his parents are doing just enough that I'm sure the judge will give them more time. Because they're not doing enough to get him back yet, but maybe they'll get there? I honestly don't know, which is terrifying. I sincerely do hope the best for his parents, but I can't fight the feeling that this baby is meant to be with our family. So it's an emotionally tricky place to be in. And all we can do is take it one day at a time and hold on for the ride.
         In the meantime, he is the cutest, sweetest, best baby in the world. He's been sleeping really long stretches at night, taking good naps, eating more, and when he is awake he's generally content and peaceful. He falls asleep without being rocked or patted. He is just a dream. He is also extremely loved all the time. Eliza and Nora are always hovering around him, "helping" me hold him/feed him. Nathan has loved having him in his room. And all of this just melts my heart, but also wracks it with guilt thinking about how they will feel when he goes somewhere else.

Friday, December 29, 2017

December Recap

We started off December with our Stake's Night In Bethlehem. It was such a peaceful, beautiful night.We had fun dressing up and playing the part of a "Bethlehemite" family. Matthew is in this picture, just hidden behind Nora.  And I just have to say that Aaron is the best husband ever. I really try not to post too publicly and often about how amazing he is, because who wants to hear all that? But really, he is such a good sport. He not exactly thrilled with the idea of being a Roman soldier, but his exact words, "Honey, if you want me to do it, I'll do it with a smile on my face." and here is proof of that. Gosh I love that man. It was also just a crazy hectic day so he ended up setting up the entire booth that I signed up for, and also going back and taking it all down and putting it all away. I just look at this picture and feel so much love for this man of mine and family of ours.
This was my view for 5 glorious, freezing days. We rented a cabin in Pine, AZ and just enjoyed the cold, and time together with nothing to do and nowhere to go. It was just perfect. Exactly what I needed. We also drove a little further north and went through a magic portal to the North Pole, so that was pretty cool too. We had so much.
         My quick review of the North Pole Experience in Flagstaff... it was magical and fantastic, but I'd probably give it B instead of an A+. I think there is definitely room for improvement, but the kids had a great time. And in Eliza's 3 year old mind, there is no doubt that Santa is real and we absolutely went to the north pole. My other kids weren't quite so convinced, but said it was super fun anyway. Here's my criticisms ... To start off, you "go through" this portal which they make a big deal out of, driving the car back and forth and lights going crazy and chanting magic phrases, etc. But then you pull up, and it's kind of underwhelming. There's nothing outside, besides some icicle lights and a few lights on the trees, but if you go during the day, it looks like you've pulled up to an old military compound (surprise, because you have!). However, there's then a beautiful ornate door and once you knock and enter it is absolutely stunningly amazing inside. I just wish they had some decorations on the outside. And places to take pictures and stuff. So once you're inside you're brought through several rooms. All of which are decorated so awesomely. I'd upload some pictures, but that brings me to my next complaint. There was not much time for pictures inside. You are rushed from room to room without any time to really linger and look and take pictures. Aaron said this is good for the kids benefit. They'd probably lose interest if it was any longer, but I think 15 minutes per room would have been better. Especially the room with Mrs. Claus and the hot chocolate. They only give you a tiny, tiny amount of hot chocolate, but even still my youngest did not have time to finish her hot chocolate before we were ushered to the next room. Try explaining to a 3 year old she has to throw away her hot chocolate before going to the next room. Yeah that wasn't my favorite part. I felt like we had plenty of time with Santa though, so that was good. And he was the best santa ever. He was so kind and took plenty of time to talk to the kids and they all got a bear. Then you leave and you're back outside, where there is nothing to look or do but wait for the bus. This is where I really wish there was another little decorated place to just hang out and look around, or even some nice christmas trees outside to take pictures near or something. There was a bonfire we were all huddled around. And then probably the biggest problem we dealt with the whole time was that the exit and getting back on the bus was not very well organized. I just assumed there would be room on the bus for everyone since we had all stayed as a group from the beginning. So I wasn't stressing about getting a good place in the line forming, and kept my babies warm by the fire. But then people from the next group came out and cut the line and got on the bus. No one said anything to them and we were left in the cold to wait for the next bus. So that was pretty irritating. I wish that was handled better. But there was also a moment when my 1 year old hugged her bear sooo incredibly happily and cutely I couldn't hold back the tears and just felt so fortunate to be in such an awesome place. I asked my kids what they would rate it on a scale of 1-10. Eliza said 9, Nathan said 10, Olivia said 5 or 6 and Abigail said 7 or 8. So the bigger kids were not very impressed. Olivia said that the activities in the rooms weren't very fun, she wished she had more time to do other stuff in the rooms, and she was disappointed in the amount of hot chocolate she got. Abigail said it was fun but she also felt like she was too big for it. She said it's more for little kids. So there ya have it... my two oldest girls aren't so little anymore. I would highly recommend this place for the under 5 crowd. But I really think any age can enjoy it. And even though Olivia and Abigail both rated it lower, they were all smiles the entire time.
          Then we spent a couple of days in Mesa. We did a birthday party for Nathan at Urban Jungle which was a huge hit. We went to the temple with Emily. We had a yummy dinner a family nativity at Grandpa Opie's.

I wish she had her super cute Christmas outfit on for this picture, but it is still adorable. I love her smile and am slightly embarrassed that she did this but it makes me laugh.

Then we came home for Christmas. It was so nice to just have a very relaxing, laid back Christmas, after all the craziness that led up to December 25th. Spending the day with no where to go, and no obligations is a wonderful feeling. We missed family and I always cry when we're not in NJ on Christmas because I just miss everyone so much. And that longing is heavier when we're alone, but it is still a nice way to spend the day. Especially for the kids who got to spend all day just playing with their new toys and riding their new bikes/scooters.

Now we have one last trip for the month. We are heading up to Mesa for New Years. We'll leave tomorrow and come home Monday. I'm tired already but I'm excited.