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.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Capturing moments

I hung some mistletoe in the archway leading to the kitchen. I explained the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe to the kids. A few days later Nathan was standing under the mistletoe. Just kind of standing there. I was pretty distracted, cooking dinner, cleaning, crying babies, etc. Then he kind of quietly says, "Mommy... I'm under the mistletoe." And I realized he wanted me to come kiss him. I ran over and covered him in kisses and he laughed then ran off. This sweet boy of mine is turning 6 soon. How quickly these moments are going to be gone forever.

Another cute kissing story... Since Nora has been old enough to hold on my hip (6 months??) I constantly cover her cheeks in kisses while holding her. And whenever Daddy is leaving for work and she happens to be in my arms we both kiss her cheeks at the same time. It is clear she just adores this. And now it's progressed into her puckering her little lips to get a kiss from Aaron, then turns to me for a kiss, then back to Aaron, and on and on it goes.

Life can be hectic and busy. But I find if I stop and appreciate these seemingly small moments, it all feels so happy and wonderful. It's easy to miss, through all the screaming and messes, but they are there. And appreciating them is really the only way I stay sane.

Also this girl is such a gift. Just a bit about her personality. She is 1.5 so she has her moments of toddler-ness, but overall she is really just such a gift. For example, I have this garland you can kind of see behind her head. It has these little red berries she desperately wanted to pick off when we first put it up. I took her hands and told her no. She tried again so I held her on my lap and explained, kind of sternly do not touch. She screamed and cried and threw a big old fit for about 3 minutes. Then she got distracted by a sibling trying to comfort her. And ever since, she will walk up to the berries, point at them and say, "No!". If only my children could all be this obedient! It is a sad state of affairs when the 1 year old is setting the example. She is also always the first to fold her arms for prayer. She does beg for fruit snacks multiple times a day, and today she got into a bag of rice and dumped almost the entire thing all over the pantry floor... but she is a gift! I am trying so hard not to screw her up. She just has the sweetest personality and I absolutely adore her.Though it was just a few days ago she smacked Eliza in the head with a See and Say and gave her a black eye. But just look at that face! She is definitely entering the phase of testing boundaries and seeing what she can get away with. But she seems to be a fast learner so I'm not too worried.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Abigail's Baptism

First of all I'm happy to report that I have gotten more sleep the last few nights. Thanks to a great husband and an increasingly healthy baby. I am feeling much better than I did for my last post!

Now onto Abigail's baptism. We went up to Mesa for Abigail to be baptized with her cousin Brandon. It was such an awesome day. We had such a great time with family and the spirit was just amazing all day. It really was a beautiful day. Abigail told me, "Mom getting baptized is really excited and I was so excited the whole time and just felt really excited, but then when I actually got baptized it was just so calm. That's how I know I felt the Holy Ghost. I just felt peace." She is a wise 8 year old and I absolutely adore her. She is funny and spunky and desires nothing more than to please those she loves. She is our peacemaker and I'm so grateful for her in our lives. She loves to make people laugh and she loves to help. She is beautiful inside and out. I am so grateful to be her mom.

I bore my testimony about repentance and how each time we take the sacrament it is like the chance to be baptized again. That night when putting the kids to bed Nathan told me that today he learned when he grows up and gets baptized he's not worried about making mistakes because when he takes the sacrament it is just like getting baptized. I was so grateful that he was paying attention.

I'll add some pictures later hopefully. But it was just great.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Bordering on dangerous levels of exhaustion

The baby has been sick since Thanksgiving. We went to the doctor yesterday and were told he has a cold. To just do all the stuff a mom of 6 kids already knows to do (humidifier, baby vicks, saline, booger sucker etc). I was really hoping for some medication to make this stop. I haven't slept more than 2 hours at a time since Wednesday night. I am writing this to document for my future self. To see how long I can truly go without sleep. I am exhausted, but happy and fulfilled. But what I wouldn't give for a full night of uninterrupted sleep.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

I love these girls

For Thanksgiving we went up to Mesa to visit Aaron's family. I found matching outfits at Old Navy and went a little nuts. But I love it. With 6 kids it's almost impossible to get a good picture of everyone. So I'm posting this awesome picture I got of my oldest and youngest girls. It just makes my heart swell looking at it. 
       Olivia is such an awesome, smart, beautiful person. She loves to be helpful. Watching her enter this stage of adolescence kind of breaks my heart a little, and every time she wants to do something little "kiddish" it just makes me happy. She still hates the feeling of anything slightly uncomfortable, and cried for 20 minutes over me making her wear this outfit. And another fit was thrown over that cute little clip in her hair, because it wouldn't stay exactly where she wanted. Hopefully as she grows she'll continue to learn to control those emotions.
       Nora is officially 18 months old! She is a joy. She loves her binky, and to read books, and to play with her older siblings. When she's unhappy she has this awful squawk that makes at you. Just the other day Olivia was laughing at her dancing and every time Olivia laughed, Nora would stop dancing and yell at her. Ridiculous child. But for the most part she is very easy going and easy to please. She has about 10-15 words that I understand and maybe 5-10 that most people would understand. She also loves shoes. She played so well with her cousin Summer this weekend. It was fun to watch them together.

A new tradition?

So I've always dreamed of going to cut down our own Christmas tree and this year it was finally fulfilled! We had a great time but there are few things we'd do differently if we do this again next year:
1- First eat the food, then do the things. This is my general rule for life but we somehow broke it and thought getting lunch after we get the tree would be a good idea. We ended up kind of settling on this tree because kids were hungry and getting grumpy.

2. We'd probably go a little further north. We didn't really want to drive too much further so we stopped as soon as we could. Most trees had been logged or burned, leaving us with very few options.

I think that's all. It was fun running around the woods. The weather was beautiful. And I just love our little Charlie Brown tree.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Just a quick life update

So since my last post we've gotten a new person! We have a foster placement right now, I'll just write "M" because I'm not sure legality with names and whatnot and I just need to unload a lot of information from my brain.
      M is a newborn and we picked him up from the hospital. He's now 3 months old. Man it's been challenging. All you foster moms out there who do this over and over, my hat is off to you because this just might be the one that breaks me. We'll see what happens...
        So right now I have 6 kids under the age of 10. I do a preschool on Tuesdays and Thursdays and teach for VIPKID from 4:00 - 7:00 am most mornings and some weekend nights. I also sub at my kids school every once in a while. I don't even know what my life is right now. Or why I'm choosing to do so much. But really I'm loving all of it. Preschool is probably the most stressful of all the plates I have spinning. But I keep it pretty low key. Montessori is my style... and by montessori  I mean they pretty much dig a whole in my backyard for 2 hours. But for 30 minutes we have some very high quality letter learning and name spelling practicing. The kids have fun and the parents all seem satisfied, I just always feel like I need to be doing more in this area. Like these parents (my friends!) are paying me money to educate their little ones and I feel that responsibility heavily. That is why it's stressful to me. But I do think I'm putting this on myself because all of them are just grateful for the break from their 3 years old for a while. Or grateful for the friendships that they're making. So it's fine. But I'm hoping to my up my game a bit in the new year.
         So a bit more about M. One day I was chatting with my sister in law on the phone and we were talking about more children and I told her I wanted one more but I don't really want to be pregnant again. I told her how we've been back on the open bed list for a while now but still hadn't gotten a call and I really just wanted someone to call me up and say, "Hey do you want a baby boy?" Fast forward 24 hours and I'm pulling into my driveway and my phone rings. "Hey - do you still want a baby boy?" Uhm, excuse me, who's this? "Oh sorry, this is [so and so] from DCS and we have a newborn baby boy being discharged from the hospital. Are you interested in taking him?" "Oh my gosh yes!"  Of course my conversation with Ruth came back to my mind and I immediately felt like this was just meant to be. I called Aaron and he was like, "Okay don't get too excited. Remember last time?" A few weeks prior we had gotten a call about 2 little boys needing placement and I got all excited, we started to get the bunk beds ready, and a few hours later DCS called back and said they found another home closer to where the boys were. But they were an hour away so I knew they were looking for other placements. With M, no one mentioned anything about any other families. So I ignored Aaron's advice and got very excited. Broke out the baby clothes boxes and pulled out the bassinet. I was so excited and checking my phone every 5 seconds. And a few hours later DCS did call back. "Hi, so they are giving the baby to another foster family."  What? Okay. I was kind of crushed. I try to have faith that everything works out, and I do know that, but this was disappointing. And I could not get this baby out of my mind. I prayed that entire night that something would happen and that this baby would end up with us, if that was Heavenly Father's will. But I couldn't stop thinking about him the whole next day. And then at 10:45 the next morning, I was subbing at the kids' school and I saw the familiar DCS number. I was actually on a little a break so I was able to answer. "Hi, so that other family backed out. Are you still willing to take the baby?" My heart almost lept from my chest. Again I immediately agree. I hardly knew the teachers I was working with but I gushed all that day to anyone who would listen. I was supposed to get a phone call from the hospital social worker but no one ever called. So I just got a babysitter and drove straight to the hospital. I introduced myself and explained no one had called except DCS but I was here for a baby boy, I didn't even know his name. The receptionist looked at me quite suspiciously but then once she spoke to the social worker she looked obviously relieved and they sent me back.
           M had been in the NICU because that is the only place at YRMC that has a nursery. He was 1 week old. The nurses immediately let me know he was really fussy and was the loudest baby there. They used lots of tricks but he almost never stopped crying. He had just settled down and was in his little hospital bassinet when they walked me over. He was the tiniest baby I had ever seen. Barely 5 lbs. The other foster parents had never left the hospital. They couldn't calm him down and the nurses just got a bad feeling about the connection. The parents seemed really stressed and it seemed to make M worse. I scooped him up and loved on him immediately. He looked up at me and just smiled. The one nurse just cried. The social worker was like, "Oh my gosh. This is night and day from the other foster parents." Protocol would have been for me to spend the night at the hospital and have them assess me and my ability to care for this needy newborn properly. But after an hour of watching me with him the nurses were all like, "Lets get you out of here. You obviously got this."
       During that hour I was holding him and he was looking up at me and I just felt like I could talk to him. I prayed that his spirit could hear me. I told him how much I already loved him. That he was safe. That I would keep him safe as long as I could. That I was going to bring him to a home bursting with love for him. I told him I was going to be here for him and I wasn't going anywhere. And he literally sighed, what seemed like relief, and slept peacefully the rest of our time in the hospital. And not once since he's been in our home has he been the inconsolable baby described by the nurses. He's definitely a challenging guy at times, needy, but never inconsolable. He likes to be held, and as long as he's touching me he's usually fine.
      However, he has paternal grandparents in CA that would like to be placement. He also has a maternal aunt in TX who wants to be placement. Paternity is in question, so there might be a different dad and whatever other doors that opens up. So the chances of us adopting him are slim. But, I honestly feel like he is my baby. Even just the other day in the car, Eliza said, "Mom, I don't know why but I just know we are going to adopt M." And I keep telling her that is probably not going to happen. She says she understands, but she also says, "Look just go to the adoption store and tell them, I am adopting this one." And I told her the adoption store might say, "But he has to go live with his family." To which she quickly replied, "WE ARE HIS FAMILY!" And then she covered him in kisses telling him that we are his family.
        We go back to court in January and nothing will likely change between now and then. The families interested in being placement have to do a lot of paperwork and jump through a lot of hoops and it takes a long time. Like up to 6 months. So maybe we'll have him 3 more months at least. It is very crazy to not know at all what will happen. I think that has been the most challenging part. I have literally no idea if I'll have this baby forever, or 3 more months. We could even possibly have him for another year, and then lose him. I have heard of crazier.
         Another challenge with foster care is all the appointments. DCS worker visits. Licensing worker visits. CASA visits. Easter Seals visits. Doctors appointments. And bio parent visits.  Almost every day there is something. Most of this isn't a big deal. His bio parent visits are supervised so someone picks him up and drops him off. The home visits are usually short and sweet. But sometimes I miss my days of not having anything to worry about.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Science please!

Eliza was taking a bath while I was doing my hair and make up.  I was chatting with her, in what I thought was a pleasant conversation.  But she said, "Mom can you be science please?"

"Um be science?  No I don't think I can be science. " I replied, confused.

"Yes you can! Be science!"

"Eliza, I don't think I know what you mean."

"Yes mom.  Be science! You know, like when you don't make any sounds. You don't say anything at all. That is being science!"

At this point I started laughing out loud. "Silence? you mean you want silence? "

"Yes! Silence. ... wait then what is science?"

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Funny Eliza

Eliza said two things today that made me think I should write that down before I forget. And I already forgot what the first one was. But the second one...

I was putting her to bed and she was getting all tucked in when she said, "Mom, I am never going to get married."

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because whenever I see a boy, he just walks right past me! And I just walk right past him! We don't go on a date... we don't kiss... we just walk right past each other!"

At this point all I could do is laugh. Definitely 3, going on 30.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Okay so I've always heard not to try to better yourself in every category all at once. Just focus on small changes, yadda yadda yadda. I know you have all heard it too. Well the last couple of weeks (week?) I have been in self improvement overload. I'm trying this new diet/cleanse. I'm doing pilates again. I'm Konmari-ing my entire house, and I just got hired to teach at VIPKID. (If you haven't heard of it, it's a company in China that hires native English speakers to teach kids in China English, through video chatting. They have a fun platform, and it's really interactive, and you get all silly and channel your inner YoGabbaGabba personality. At least that's my take on it. I passed the first couple of interviews, now I just need to make my introduction video and I'm all set. I'm seriously so excited about this. If you're interested there is referral bonus program and I would get a little bonus if anyone used my referral link. You do need to have a bachelors, and be willing to work during China's peek time, which is really, really early here. I've heard you don't have to do that early anymore, but if you want a consistent schedule that is the best time. Anyway, if you're interested, here my link: I'm also doing this personal finance class through my church. Oh and my prayers and scripture study have been on point lately too.
        So I guess what I'm saying is, this just diving right in thing has been working really well for me. Maybe I'm going to get burned out super fast, and gain back some weight. Or my house might cluttered again more quickly (she promises no rebound!) And maybe I won't stick to my budget forever. But right now I just feel awesome and so I think it's worth it. And maybe at least one of these areas the improvement will stick. Either way I took an entire van load full of clothes to Goodwill today. And there's no undoing that! All of my kids rooms are sparkling clean today. So if anyone wants to come visit, within the next 72 hours 48 hours 24 hours would be a great time. I vacuumed every nook and cranny. I dusted ceiling fans. I mopped the floor on my hands and knees. The kids all asked if we were moving.
        Another thing, I really love this heatwave. I know everyone is complaining about it. But I love crazy weather forcing me to stay indoors. It doesn't have to be a hurricane or a blizzard. 122 degrees will force me to stay inside just as much. But also leaving me with the option to run and grab pizza for dinner. We've been making the most of our time inside with my cleaning frenzy, and watching lots of Netflix, and making slime, and baking cookies on our dashboard. Eliza cries every time we need to walk from the car to anywhere, but hopefully she gets used to it. We have a few more trips planned to get a break from the heat this summer, and before we know it, it will be Christmas and we'll be enjoying 70 degrees again!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

My house is a mess. I am horrible at sticking to routines. Cleaning, exercising, diet... all those good habits that make you a successful adult, I fail miserably at those.

But today I was sitting on my dirty kitchen floor trying to get Nora to walk to me and Eliza came and sat on my lap. And she looked me in the eyes and kissed my cheek and said, "You are the best mommy ever." She tells me this almost daily, and for some reason I usually brush it off. Probably because she also tells me I'm mean, and she doesn't love me anymore almost daily as well. So I just let it all slide off. But for some reason today I heard her. I let it sink in. I realized that to the little person whose opinion matters most (on this particular subject) I am the best. She doesn't care that our floor is dirty, that laundry hardly ever gets put away, and the toys are only in their designated bins 3/365 days a year. It didn't effect my "best mommy ever" standing when I lost my temper, or brushed her hair. She doesn't mind that I waste too much time on Facebook. She sees me, in all my flawed glory, and she loves me relentlessly. Almost suffocatingly. And that's beautiful.

Even Olivia will occasionally declare what a great mom I am. I don't know why I'm writing about this. Maybe because the messy house really is bothering me, and for some reason whenever my kids tell me that I'm "the best" I usually ignore it. Or immediately think that they just want something. But man, I just feel so lucky to be their mom lately.

I realized the other night, when I should have been sleeping but my mind was all over the place, that whenever I'm walking all I do is reach my hand out to my side and almost instantly there is a tiny hand intertwined with mine. More often than not there's a fight for the coveted spot of holding my hand. And more often than not I end up with this weird thing where two kids hold each hand, each getting a couple of fingers to grip onto with their tiny hands. Though I guess it has been a while since Olivia fought to hold my hand. But sometimes I just feel so overwhelmed by all this, I don't stop to appreciate it. So I am now. I'm writing it down so that when they're all grown up and I reach out my hand and there's no one there to hold it, I will have these precious memories. Memories of times when there was almost not enough of me to go around. Memories of being needed (for every.little.thing.). Memories or being snuggled, kissed (elbowed, squished). Memories of being fought over to sit next to on the couch, and making room for everyone. 

 I know this time is fleeting. Olivia is 9. We just repeat her entire life, and she's 18! I started this blog when I was pregnant with her. It really doesn't seem that long ago at all. And time really is speeding up. So I'm making an effort to stop beating myself up about the disorganized messy house, and try to live in the moment with these lovely little people while they're still all so obsessed with me.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Last weekend we went to Tombstone, AZ with Aaron's parents and saw a gun show. A "hilarious gun show" to be exact. And that's not just a joke about my biceps. Honestly the whole experience of Tombstone was definitely a big notch up from what I was expecting. It was a really cute town, and I really adore touristy things. Like if Aaron would let us, I would stop at every tourist trap I see every time we are on the road. So this whole place was really just a giant tourist trap, but definitely worth the trip. Especially after spending a half hour of the drive reading about the history of the town, it made it so much more interesting. Did you know Tombstone was once the largest city west of the Mississippi (aside from San Fransisco)? It's one of the last boomtowns. The whole story is really interesting, and I recommend you read their wikipedia page on your way there, if you ever find yourself traveling in southern Arizona.

These are the only pictures that are on my phone. Aaron took a bunch more. This trip happened only a few days after we got back from the Redwoods. Oh my goodness, it was magical. Heaven on earth, amazing. I loved every second. We went with our good friends, who have NINE kids, and our kids just had a blast. We camped in Humbolt County, and drove up to this touristy thing called Trees of Mystery. It was all so much fun. I documented most of that on facebook, between Aaron and I. Camping is so good for family bonding. Also, we drove the whole way home in one shot. 900 miles. In one day. 5 kids. A minivan. It took almost 14 hours. It was crazy and exhausting, and the last thing I wanted to do 5 days later was drive 250 miles to Tombstone... but we love Grandpa! 

And that's about it. Life is just good lately. I feel incredibly lucky to be living this life. A day doesn't go by that I'm not told that I'm "the best mommy ever", or that I'm not cuddled, kissed, and loved beyond my capacity to comprehend. Not to say there isn't a lot of overwhelming chaos happening all the time as well, but there really is so much good. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

    So my first home school year is winding down and I wanted to record my thoughts. Like my honest, raw, real thoughts. Because I'll be perfectly honest, I'm not sure what they are, so I'm hoping by writing this out maybe I can figure out what I'm feeling.
        First of all, I feel like I've half-assed this whole thing. And I absolutely HATE that. And I wish there was a better word, but I don't think there's an another phrase that so describes how I feel my entire life is right now. I'm half assed at keeping the house clean. But my kid's education shouldn't be half assed. But right now, it honestly is. Or I feel like it is. I mean to plan out their lessons more, but then stuff happens. And sometimes that stuff is Emoji Blitz. Sometimes it's a legit reason, like sick kids or messes or whatever. But too often it's Facebook. Every day I beat myself up, that we just barely made it through the assigned tasks from Connections Academy, sometimes not even that much. We didn't do half of the stuff it told us to do, we only did the "assessment" portion, which they were able to pass, so do they reeeaallly need to do all the lesson stuff if they can pass the test? Is how I justify my behavior. But I want this to end. I want to do more enriching activities. And now with the school year winding down I have a sense of urgency to do these things before the year is over. Because who knows if I'll do this again?
         Last night I found myself wondering if I had a full time job, if it would help me whole-ass my life better. Sometimes I find that when I know I have limited time, I use that time more wisely. So maybe giving myself more to do would somehow help this problem I have. But in reality would I just be half assing another thing? Would I be quarter assing life? And made even worse by screwing up other people's kids in the process? (The jobs I'm looking at are full time teaching jobs.)
          I also thought about starting a preschool. Or a cookie business. I don't know. What do you think, universe? I'm going to get fingerprinted tomorrow to start the process and then decide. I can at least sub once a week. Because I also just need something to do besides mom. I love being a mom and it's literally all I've ever wanted, but I worry I'm not my best self. I don't know. I really don't know. I do find a lot of joy and fulfillment in caring for my children.
           Anyway back to thoughts on homeschooling and my half assedness. I'm going to be better this week. I really am. I have it all planned out. And I love how much time we have together because of homeschooling. I love that we don't have rush out the door in the mornings. I love that Olivia is old enough to be left to babysit for short periods of time, so I can leave my sleeping baby and run to the store up the street real quick, or pick up from preschool. I love that days when Aaron is off we can have time together to do what we want, and that wouldn't happen if they were in traditional school. I love the opportunities we have had to learn things we wouldn't have otherwise. And I absolutely LOVE the other families we have met. Our co-op is amazing. The kids have had made awesome friends, learned so much from some amazing moms who whole ass life a lot better than I do. I think in a lot of ways our relationships have improved. There are still times Olivia and I are yelling at each other over undone schoolwork, and those times I want nothing more than to send her to the nearest public school. I also think as siblings they get along better.
             I worry that they're missing out on "normal" school stuff though. And I worry that  my relaxed attitude about their lessons is going to be detrimental to their overall education. And I worry that Abigail hasn't learned how to spell very well. And that Olivia doesn't really "get" fractions, or have her multiplication facts memorized well enough. We didn't do very many science projects. I let them skip handwriting practice often. I don't have enough of a routine for our day.
          So that's what our first year looks like. And yes I'm literally vacillating between putting my kids in public school and daycare and working at public school... or continuing to homeschool and obviously that means staying home. Total opposite ends of the spectrum. Glad I have time to figure it out.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Just an update

A blog post came up in my facebook memories and it made me sad that I haven't been writing here as much.

Life right now is like the calm before the storm, but it's definitely still raining. We're just starting softball, and swim team is a few weeks away. We're going back on the open bed list for foster care in May  (because I can't quiet the voice in my heading calling me to do this). In the thick of homeschooling and working on a few big end of year projects for that. Signing myself up for some sort of race so that I can have more motivation to workout. Planning a few big summer vacations (Redwoods! New Jersey!) and maybe a few small ones (cabin trip? Weekend getaway with my husband?).

Nora had her check up today.  At 10 months old she's just the right size for a 1 year old. And she's only a couple months away so we're not too ahead of the curve. She's 32 inches and 22lbs. Everything is on track and she's really a sweet baby.

Eliza is exhausting as ever. She loves to make people laugh. She draws a watch on her arm almost every day, if it hasn't washed off. I decided to ask her what time it was on that watch of hers and she replied without missing a beat, "Its showtime!" *jazz hands*

Nathan loves preschool and has made a really good friend with another little boy who only has sisters. They're super cute together and it's fun to see him making new friends.

Abigail and Olivia are loving being homeschooled. If you ask them if they miss anything about public school they'll tell you absolutely not. Which makes my decision about what to do next year harder. But I'm thinking we're done. It's good to know I can do it and maybe we'll do it again in the future but I am not sure I'm cut out for it. I'm so disorganized one of our biggest hurdles every day is finding a freaking pencil!! It makes me feel like I'm losing my mind. Plus it takes almost all my time and so we've had to hire someone to help with housework and I'm always worried they're not learning enough or I'm not doing the right thing. I need to improve my self discipline and organizational skills. Maybe if I get my crap together by the end of the year we'll continue. We've made great friends and are loving it, but this ish is so hard!

And that's about all that's going on lately. 12 years ago today was mine and Aaron's first date and I am honestly more in love with that man today than I was back then. Who would have thought that one date would turn into a family living in Yuma, AZ with our 5 kids?!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

When did my life become full of so many people?? Sometimes I just take a step back and it really blows my mind. 12 years ago I kind of, sort of had my eye on this guy at Institute (okay it was a pretty big crush) and I was getting ready to go back to NJ to surprise my mom for spring break. That was a lot of fun. Then pretty much as soon as spring break was over, Aaron and I started dating, and before long here we are! 5 babies later! It makes me realize how fast time goes, and that in 12 years my kids will be 20, 19, 17, 15, and 12. We'll be in a whole different world. One full of mission preparations,  college, and my baby will be about to be a teenager. Sometimes it feels like I'm in this never ending loop of babyhood, perpetuated by me getting pregnant pretty much every other year since 2007. It can feel so draining, and at times I feel almost like my entire identity is wrapped up in these little people and I crave to have something just for me. Something to remind of who I am, aside from "Mom! Mama! Moooo-ooommm! MOM!"
         Funnily enough, Mom is the only identity I ever wanted. I spent my whole life waiting for this. Literally it is all I ever wanted. I walked the baby clothes aisles long before I was even married. I have a very clear memory of when I worked in a K-Mart, walking to the baby needs aisle and putting Johnson & Johnson lotion on my hands, and inhaling that sweet baby smell and just longing for this life. And here I am! I remind myself of this every so often, because it's really easy to just get frustrated. But I mean look at this face! 
 And before I know it, she'll be looking more like this!

We're homeschooling this year and I'm most likely not going to repeat this, but it has given us so much time together (which is both the reason I'm so done, and sad to see this year end). We've had some awesome experiences and I feel like we've just all gotten a lot closer and are really growing and stretching as people. However, sometimes that growing and stretching is really ugly and I'm not so sure it's worth it. I worry constantly that I'm not doing enough to help them learn as much as they would at public school. I fear my weakness in organization is setting a horrible example for them to follow in their own lives. And so many times I've completely lost my patience and end up just yelling at everyone. So I'm looking forward to spring break next week! And then we just have a few weeks left before summer vacation. We need to have some kind of huge party to celebrate a whole year of homeschooling in the books.

Today we had stake conference and there were so many great talks. Talks that have inspired me to want to study my scriptures more regularly. To have a closer relationship with my Savior. To do more to invite the Spirit into my home. To have opportunities to share the Gospel with those I know and love. To do more to help the needy. The beautiful thing is, this desire to be better isn't being felt along with its usually accompanying hearty side of guilt that I'm not already perfect at these things. The Atonement is real! It's a done deal, guys. Jesus Christ was a real person, who did this real thing, and it truly has power to transform our lives. And little by little our lives can improve as we come to Him. And that's it! In meekness and humility, come to Him, and let Him work in your heart. Let Him bring about the changes you desire. He will show your weakness, not to hurt you or bring you down, but so that you can truly change. And the amazing thing is, He takes these weaknesses and turns them into strengths, if we let Him. I am so grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am grateful for my living testimony of its truthfulness. My testimony goes through these periods of doubt and then it swells again with so much surety I can't believe I could ever doubt. But I take heart in knowing that this is how we grow. Periods of doubt are a natural part of being human, and as long as I use them to come closer to Him, it's nothing to be ashamed of. Anyway, this is way more personal than I usually get, but I wanted to write this all out and I was going to write in my journal, but I just started blogging and now I'm on a roll so there's no stopping it.

I'm excited for this week. My first baby girl will be turning 9! Aaron took the day off and we're going to have a super fun family day, and she's going to have some friends come over at night. It has been so incredible to watch her grow. And watch her transition into a full blown BIG kid... we're definitely not pre-teen yet, right? That's at least 10, right? I feel like we're knocking on that door really soon though. And while it's scary, it's also so exciting. She's such a bright, strong willed person, I can't wait to see what she does.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

I feel like we've been sick forever

It seems like it's been months of sickness after sickness. We've experienced back to back stomach bugs, colds and hand-foot-mouth disease all within weeks of each other. We had a pretty long stretch of health and then it seemed to all hit at once. I guess that's the way it goes. But I'm done now. I've managed to also catch every single one of them. It's funny, but in my marriage I am the stereotypical "man" in so many ways. Like when it comes to being sick. Aaron will never admit when he's feeling ill, and he'll power through. Meanwhile my temp is 99.5 and I'm moaning and laying in bed planning my funeral. Yes, I get mancolds. And I'm so so grateful to have Aaron pull the weight when I'm "dying". And today we were taken care of by great friends. I feel so blessed, while feeling so horrible. I have spent a majority of the past two days in bed, and my kids have been taken care of and the house is relatively clean. If I wasn't in so much pain it would be a wonderful thing. But I'm really hoping I can get back to it tomorrow. The ironic thing is, right before this stomach bug hit I did all my meal prep for the first time in forever. I cooked, and chopped veggies, and portioned out food... and haven't been able to eat in two days. At least I still lost some weight!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Just a post about my sweetest boy

For Christmas this year we tried something new and got the kids calendars with little experiences sprinkled throughout the year. Included in those were monthly dates for the kids and one parent. Tonight was my turn for a date with Nathan. He wanted to go buy a stuffed animal.. go figure. But with Valentine's clearance I guess I could allow one more. I love one on one time with my kids. It really reminds me how much I love them. Nathan was so sweet on our date. Opened my door, held my hand and when someone honked their horn in the parking lot he said, "Were they honking at you? If they were I'm going to kill them!" Maybe a bit much, but still melted my heart with his mommy protection. So he got his stuffed animal (which is one of those giant ones that is bigger than he is) and on the way home he was talking about how good he was going to sleep tonight because he could cuddle his new fox. But tonight at bedtime he told Abigail she could cuddle his giant fox tonight. And tomorrow Olivia could. And then the third night he'd finally get to cuddle his new fox. There are times he whines so much I feel like I need ear plugs just to get through the day. Or he melts down and cries at being told to do something that he really doesn't want to do... but he is a great kid. I am the luckiest mom. Also just for memory's sake... he's been really sick with a stomach bug the last two days. I never knew puke cleaner upper was a quality I wanted in a husband, but man I am so glad I found it. Aaron in the champion puke cleaner in my house, and I will never ever take that for granted.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Just comparing




I was trying to make some kind of side by side comparison  of all my kids around the same age, but I was having trouble formatting so this is the best I can do. I think Nora and Eliza look so much alike, but looking at the pictures I think I definitely see more of Abigail.

Going back through old pictures made me realize how fast time goes. Which is actually a good thing right now, these kids are really wearing me out. It just all feels neverending. The laundry. The dishes. The making and cleaning up of meals. Knowing I need to do a better job of making the kids help me with these things, but never actually doing it. I just keep reminding myself, I love this life. I really do. It's all I ever wanted... I just never knew it would involve this much work! :D

Monday, January 23, 2017

Getting back on top of things...

So much craziness going on in the world lately. And I'm just here trying to make my home a refuge from all that craziness. We moved in July to our new house. Still in Yuma, just a few miles from where we used to live. But now we own it, so that means that everything has to break the first 3 months. Right? I mean, pretty much is how it's gone down. Here are some recent pictures of what life looks like around here lately.
Nora learning to stand. She's almost 8 months and she's in too much of a hurry to grow up.
She also just got her first two teeth.

When you're so happy your face swallows your eyes.

This snaggle tooth finally got pulled a few hours after taking this picture.
She pulled it out in primary. Apparently she just needed an audience.

My mom came to visit. Convinced her to try a burrito for the first time. We may have spoiled her by forcing her to have Chili Pepper for her first burrito. 

Our foster son went back to his family, so Nathan got his bed back. He had been sleeping in the top bunk of the girls room, which is a house type bed and I can't really see in there that well. He had ALL these fluffy things crammed in there. It took 3 trips across the hall to unload all his fluffy things.

Olivia learned to fry eggs. She is very proud of herself, and I'm so grateful for the helpful girl she's becoming.

This kid. Eating an onion. She turned 3 on the 20th so here's to hoping all the terribleness is behind us.

Finally drinking a bottle!