Thursday, February 28, 2013

February 2013 Recap (In Pictures...mostly)

Valentine's Day
The night before Valentine's I sent Matt to the dollar store to get something for each of the girls from us. They each got chocolates and a window paint set.
  While he was there he spotted a plastic cake holder tupperware (for a dollar!) & remembered that I have been really wanting one.  He surprised me with it Valentine's morning (he left @ 5:30am for the OR, so he just left stuff out for me to find), along with a small adjustable easel for the artwork I have been attempting since we moved.  They were absolutely the PERFECT gifts for me.  I literally started crying when I saw them, they were things that I have selfishly wanted for a long time, but I wouldn't have spent the $ (even though they were both inexpensive) at this point on myself.  And they were things that encourage my artistic hobbies.  What a blessing to have a husband who knows me so well! 
He also is wise and prudent enough to know that we can't afford to spend $ on something like flowers right now, so he stayed up SUPER late (after I went to bed at 11pm) watching videos on youtube learning how to make origami flowers for me (remember he had to be up at 4:30am).  My mom used to make origami flowers for me as a kid, so not only was this so sweet and thoughtful of him, it also hit a sweet sentimental note.  In our 9 Valentine's Day together, this is by far the best he's ever done.  In fact I think it ranks #2 of all time gift giving events on his part!  GOOD JOB BABY!!

The girls and I painted homemade cards for him
Lily got a pretty big haul from school
That night we made pink heart shaped pancakes, pink eggs, and had pink berries for dinner.  I even cooked sausage links for Matt.  If you know me you know that this is a BIG deal.  'Cause sausage is the worst.


We got quite a bit of snow in February, and I got quite a few shoveling workouts, I eventually had to start carrying shovelfuls  several feet down so that the mailbox (which is about chest high) wouldn't be covered.  Yes.  I do miss the sunshine!
But we are doing our best to enjoy the Snow

 We love to do 'Family Movie Night' at our house, Matt's brother Barry and his wife Janeal sent us a homemade popcorn maker and it is a huge hit!  The girls love to watch it POP!
 Lily's 6th Birthday
Lily requested a strawberry, hello kitty, ballerina cake.  I have no idea where my kids get such specific opinions on cake flavors/styles, but it's fun to create their visions!
 I made a fresh strawberry, cream cheese, whipped cream mousse for the filling and it was pretty yummy!
I think that Lily is such a wonderful and special person.  In my laziness I will copy my Facebook status from her birthday to express how I feel about her. 6 years ago today I became a mommy. That in itself would've been my greatest blessing, but to be gifted a child so sweet, kind, thoughtful, curious, and SMART is more than I will ever deserve!! Happy Birthday to my sweet Lily-Bug!
 One of my favorite things about Lily is what a great example and big sister she is!  She has such a desire to always be kind and to do the right thing.  Here she is with her sisters before church.
 She told her Sunday School teacher that her favorite candy was lollipops and her teacher gifted her this for her b-day, how sweet!!
 Checking out her presents, special thanks to GG, BlaBla, Nana, and Charlie!!
 Her Birthday was on a Sunday and we had a nice quiet family day.

Overall February was a great month!  On the non-picture side it was super busy with things like paperwork (for school*Izzie and Matt*,  health insurance*such drama there*), doctors appointments, car insurance 6 month renewal due (we've been here for over 6 months!), filing taxes, etc.  I've been a busy mommy and that's (mostly) been a good thing!  We've got LOTS of things happening in March and I am excited for all the things it will bring. (keeping my fingers crossed that warmer weather and sunshine is on that list!!)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

No Fair!

In case you were wondering how Kate feels about the possibility of having a little brother or sister:

During Lily's Birthday celebration, Izzie randomly brought up that she would like to have a little brother.  Soon.  It shouldn't come as much of a shock that Matt and I would like to have another baby, hopefully sooner rather than later, so when she announced this, we were interested.  We asked Lily what she thought about the idea, and she surprised us by declaring that she'd rather have a baby sister than a brother.  After Lily said this Kate yelled, "NO! NO MORE SISTER!!" Very vehemently.  Which surprised Matt and I.  About 6 months ago Kate became obsessed with babies.  Baby dolls, babies at church or the store, pictures of babies.  She really wanted one, and I told Matt, "This is our window.  In the past this is how old the girls have been when I was about ready to deliver the next baby.  It's been such a great transition each time, because we hit the sweet spot when they are really interested in babies, but not quite old enough to be jealous."  Well, we have now moved out of that sweet spot!  Kate continued to say, "No Baby!  No fair!  NO MORE SISTER!"  I had never heard her say ANY of those things before and Matt and I cracked up laughing.  We decided to get the camera out since she was expressing her opinion so well, I tried to get her to say "no more sister" again, because the way she was yelling it was cracking me up, she didn't comply, but her response is still something we wanted to document.  Heaven help us when we're able to give her another sibling!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Confessions of Motherhood

Here lies the longest post I've ever written.  And there's no pictures.  I'm sorry, or you're welcome, whichever way you feel about it. :)
As I sit down to write this, I am not sure what exactly I am going to say, or why I finally feel the need to say it out loud, but I feel like there is a lot bottled up inside of me and the past few months it’s building.  I’m ready to purge, to put it all out there and say, I’m not perfect.  I’m so very, very far from being the person I want to be, and half the time I feel like I am crawling in the wrong direction.  I feel like often times “secrets” or things that we are insecure (or even ashamed) about get pushed down, sent away to a dark corner, hoping to be over-looked or forgotten about.  The problem is that this is the environment in which they thrive.  Hiding your hurt only intensifies it. Insecurities grow in the dark and only become bigger and bigger, but when exposed to the light of truth, they shrink. You are only as unhappy as your secrets let you be.
Now at this point, after a lead in like that, I am sure that you are all expecting me to say something devastating or dramatic like, “I’m a natural blonde”.  But there is no big revelation here. (Sorry, I know it would be really juicy to be hiding a secret family somewhere or to admit I was once a man)  But my secrets are mundane.  Common, typical, and too uninteresting to shed any light on.  Or at least that’s how I feel.  Part of me feels like there HAS to be lots of other moms out there who feel just like me, but for some reason it seems like those of us who are stay at home moms are either talking about how much they LOVE their life as a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom), or else they aren’t talking. 
I want to be completely honest here, a lot of the time I feel like a big part of me is not fulfilled.  “Now let me be clear” (said in my serious Obama voice), I choose to stay at home with my young children.  I would make that choice again and again.  That is a very personal choice for me.  My mom didn’t have that choice, as a single mom, and when I pause to think about the blessing it is to be so involved with my children I am overwhelmingly grateful for the opportunities I have.
I also understand that no matter how great your life is, there will always be times and seasons during which you feel unfulfilled on at least some level.  We don’t get all our blessings at once, and I don’t expect it to be any different.  I am often told (as I am sure all of you are) that to everything there is a season, and that life passes too quickly.  In fact I tell myself these things.  Often.  I tell myself to enjoy the season, and a lot of the time, I do.
But a lot of the time, it is hard. 
I know in my heart that the work I am doing with my children in my home will have lasting effects, possibly for generations.  I am building my kid’s foundation that they will draw on the rest of their lives.  I am helping shape their view of themselves, the world, manners, kindness, justice, spirituality, and doing my best to help them develop a good work ethic, sense of humor, and desire to be kind and charitable.  But when the floor you just spent 20 minutes mopping, while holding a crying baby in one arm and trying to manipulate the mop with the other gets peed all over, by your child who has been potty trained for a year and a half, it feels like everything you spend your time/energy on is only temporary.  Last weekend I did 9 loads of laundry, including washing everyone’s bedding (for no reason! Just to keep them clean…I will admit that more often than not, sheets in our house are washed because they are dirty, not because we are making sure they never get dirty), I put clean sheets, and blankets on all the beds, I worked hard to fold and put away laundry.  That night we had 2 of our 3 kids pee the bed.  It seems like so much of the time when I put a lot of effort into something, it must go bad.  Immediately.  Oh, you planned a fun day trip and told the kids about it the night before?  Someone will wake up puking.  You actually washed the baseboards and walls?  The 2 year old will throw her spaghetti.  You spent hours making a princess dress?  It will be ripped and thrown under the bed.  You made a nutritious meal from scratch? At least one child will cry that they want a hot dog or cereal instead. 
This is just life.  It’s normal, and I accept it.  But sometimes it gets me down.  When your weekly “to-do” lists stay the same and are filled with things like wash towels, vacuum & mop, grocery shop, and your days revolve around 3 meals + 2 snacks, dishes, never-ending-cycle of toy pickup, reminding kids to use the bathroom, brush their teeth, and say “thank you”, the monotony of life can become overwhelming.  I remember life before becoming a SAHM, waking up each day curious.  The day was filled with possibilities.  How would rehearsal or practice go?  What would your friends or coworkers talk about?  Would something new or exciting happen?
Now, I am in complete control.  Nothing happens that I don’t schedule.  And not much that I am in charge of could be labeled new or exciting.  I pay bills, schedule Dr. appointments and play dates, decide whether or not to go to the store or procrastinate.  Don’t get me wrong, I do get a sense of satisfaction when my house is clean, and functioning at its peak.  I do get a sense of accomplishment when a day is spent with no TV, but with a couch fort, cookies, and lots of giggles.  My heart warms when I see my children sleeping peacefully, and a lot of the time I love to read them books and singing them to sleep.
But, in keeping with honesty, a lot of the time when they bring me a book my first thought isn’t, “I’m so glad that my children want me to read to them”.  It’s a wave of impatience.  Of course much of the time it’s because a book is being shoved under my nose while I am sitting on the toilet, or on the phone with the gas company, or in the middle of typing this blog.  When my kids burst into my room at 6am I most often feel, in the place of what was once curiosity and anticipation for the day, a sense of exhaustion and a deep, deep desire to sleep a little longer. 
Some days are dreadful, and some days are picture perfect.  We do fun things, not because I feel pressured to do fun things, or because I am going through the motions of what a fun, involved mom should do, but because I am just having fun with my children.  I am enjoying being around them.  They make me laugh and surprise me and make me proud to be their mother.  Those days are wonderful, but most days are a mixture of good and bad, a mixture of beautiful moments and struggles of will.  Much of the time the fun project we are doing is not being done because I am so excited to do it, but because I know the kids have already watched too much TV today, and I should provide them with something creative and stimulating.
I am a selfish person.  I have always known that about myself, and since I was about 18 or so I have been earnestly trying to be less so.  It’s in my nature to be self-centered and to want to have fun.  That’s part of who I am and I think that most people who know me have accepted that and even, dare I say, enjoy it.  I have learned though, over the last decade, how to see the needs of others.  Being self-centered by nature doesn’t mean that you don’t care about other people, it just means that it is hard to see outside of yourself.  I feel like I have grown immeasurably in this regard since getting married 8 ½ years ago.  But I am still growing.  I am still struggling to find fulfillment and consistent joy in making my children happy. 
Maybe it’s hard for me because I grew up on the stage.  In the world of theatre your actions are noticed, your hard work and talents are praised and recognized.  I was spoiled enough to find something that I was deeply passionate about at a young age and I was able to spend almost 2 decades doing something I loved and something that I was “known” for.  It was challenging and exciting and immediately gratifying.  It was (and is) a huge part of who I am.  And as everyone knows motherhood is underappreciated, I have worked much, much harder as a SAHM than I ever did as an employee or student, and with much, much less encouragement, incentive, and recognition.
But maybe it’s not harder for me than anyone else.  Maybe it’s hard for everyone and I just don’t know it.
At times I have felt like maybe it’s just not in my nature to be a good mother.  Maybe I’m too selfish.  Maybe I’d be happier doing something that stimulated me creatively.  Maybe I am not cut out for this.  In the darkest moments I have questioned to what benefit I am doing all this work that seems to be futile.
But deep down, I don’t believe that.  Deep down I believe that all of us (male or female) have the ability to be good, selfless, mothers.  Parts of motherhood may be easier for some than others, but I believe that we all have a deep, deep reservoir of beautiful, charitable, kind, gentle, humble, genuine, motherly love inside us.  We just aren’t used to using it, and some of the time, we might not even be sure how to access it.  It’s like trying to just wiggle your ring finger, while all of your other fingers are balled into a fist.  It feels strange and difficult and it’s hard to do it for a length of time.  But as unnatural as it might feel, that finger is part of your body.  Those muscles belong to you.  They might not be used to being isolated and thrust into use, but if you decided to make them agile and strong, they would eventually become such.
The struggle for me is learning how to make my motherhood muscle strong and agile without exhausting it.  And even beyond that, sometimes it’s a struggle to even want to exercise it, to find the motivation to shed my pride and vanity and laziness and selfishness that hold me back. 
 I know it’s there, inside me, but I get in my own way. 
That’s my secret.
I am afraid to completely lose myself to motherhood.  I want to hold onto myself, my passions, my interests, my connection to other adults, things that I feel make me as an individual-outside of my family-who I am, and I also want to be a devoted, enthusiastic mother, but I don’t know how to find the perfect balance. 
I sometimes put so much enthusiasm into a burst of “motherhood energy”, that at the end of the day if the kids are grouchy and unappreciative it leaves me feeling even more depleted, finding less joy in the journey of motherhood instead of more.  I’m sure we’ve all been in that situation, where something is built up and expectations are unrealistic, if not for the over-expectation, the pressure to enjoy; the experience probably would have been more enjoyable.  I want my kids to have fond memories of their childhood, but often times the “memory makers” are so much stress/work.  Do all moms secretly harbor apathy toward big fun memories that kids enjoyed, because it was so much work to coordinate, or is it simply me not taking the time to stop and enjoy it?
This is why I am not on Pintrest.  I feel like I don’t need to see all the extra work on display, don’t need any extra pressure to make over-the-top memories.  I struggle to do all the wonderful, positive things I already know I should be doing, I don’t need a million other things I’ve never even thought of rolling around in my head!  I know for a lot of people it's a great way for them to explore their creativity, and if I gave it a try I am sure there would be lots of things to benefit.  But I also know people who have turned it into a competition of parenting one-upman-ship.  And that's something that just seems exhausting and awful.  It seems like the internet is flooded with the highlights of parenting always, which is great to see and a good pick me up, motivation to do better.  But when my girls become mothers and eventually look back on this blog with new perspective, I want them to see the truth of motherhood, the struggles as well as the highlights.  I want them to know that it wasn't easy to learn to be a good mother, and that that is OK.  It's OK that it's not fun all the time, or that you feel like you are drowning and losing yourself.  It's OK.  You can make it through and learn and grow in ways you never would be able to otherwise.  That's part of the plan.
So I guess I am saying that being a good mom is hard.  For reasons that I didn’t expect.  
After 6 years of parenting, I am still learning how to use my motherhood muscle, and I’m trying to figure out how to exercise my motherhood muscle without completely neglecting all my other muscles that I’ve spent the non-motherhood portion of my life defining & strengthening.  Some days we don’t make it out of our PJ’s and bedtime can’t come quickly enough.  Some days I sit and spend sweet moments with my children and am completely filled with pure joy.
I’m trying to figure out a way to experience more of the joy, and less of the stress, selfishness, and exhaustion.  Sometimes I feel like the more I try the less patience I have and I end up worse off, but I’m not going to stop trying. 
The past few weeks I’ve been waking up each morning dedicated to doing one service for each of my family members.  One kind thing, with no expectation of recognition or thanks, just something that I know will make them happy.  Something for Matt (which usually ends up being having dinner ready for him, or a clean kitchen, or something similar, nothing major going on, just something I know will make his day seem better), and something for each of the girls.  Doing this, and knowing that I am doing it with no motivation other than to improve the lives of the people I love has helped me find joy on my journey.
What has helped you find joy in your journey? (Seriously. I’m looking for suggestions.)

Monday, February 4, 2013

My little Sunbeam!

Izzie is a Sunbeam this year!  She got to participate in her first ever opening exercises, she was assigned the scripture, so I let her choose one of the Articles of Faith that she has memorized. 

January 2013

Here is what we were up to this January!

For Izzie's birthday she requested a chocolate-peanut butter pink and rainbow my little pony cake.  Not very demanding at all right...?  I did my best.  And I must say it tasted awesome.
 Traditional $2 bill from GG
 Opening the fish tank from Nana!  This is our first ever family pet!  BIG DEAL!  Unfortunetly we went through several fish dying before we got a couple of healthy ones (read: bought cheap fish from Walmart, they kept dying, Walmart kept replacing them for free, until we gave up and went to an actual petstore and bought some healthy ones!).  Isabel is my fun, creative, energetic, ball of emotion.  You can really see her personality in the names she has picked out for the fish, here are a few of the names: Linda(said with a spanish accent like "beautiful" in spanish), Ingo (like Bingo with no B), Unger, Xenda (like the warrior princess with a D in there), Magic, Cinniya, and Sarah.  And by that list you can tell how many died beore we got 2 that would stay alive!
Grandma Hoeft sent lots of fun little things!
Telling Uncle Charlie that she loves him and the activity book he sent!

I also want to note that somewhere in here we got an awesome surprise package from Aunt Janeal and family that was packed full of treats and dollar store goodies.  It was SO much fun!!  However, I failed to get a picture.
I won a giveaway!  It was awesome!  I got this great dress from JUNIEblake!  It arrived during a week that I was having a miscarriage and just feeling pretty awful.  It was a great silverlining, and it was nice to be able to put it on for church and feel pretty on the outside when I was feeling so crummy inside.
 I discovered the beauty of letting the kids watch netflix on the kindle.
The first few weeks of January we were all actually healthy!!  It was MARVELOUS!  But short lived.  Lily, who has been the only healthy one all winter finally got it, and boy did she get it bad.  She of course ended up spreading it to the other girls as well and eventually to me.  She got so sick that we decided to have Daddy give her a blessing, and since Iz was also sick she got a blessing as well, her first one ever!  It was a sweet and wonderful experience.

 We tried to find activities that we could do while sitting around, couped up, feeling crummy.  We spent one afternoon painting, and lot of afternoons watching movies.
 One afternoon I took nighttime cold meds because we were out of daytime and fell asleep on the couch.  Kate promptly rewarded me by trying share her toys with the fish.  She dumped in a half dozen bobby pins, a big flower clip, some toy food, and a my little pony.  Gotta love that kid.
 Matt started spending 2 days a week in the O.R. which he loves.  He has also had a pretty tough testing/study/homework schedule over the past 2 weeks, which of course has coincided with the rest of us being sick.  Here is his class in their white coats after being in the O.R.
 We've had crazy weather from sleet to sunshine, freezing rain, snow, our temps have ranged from upper 30's on a couple of days to -30's (with windchill, negative upper teens for temp).  We even got sent home halfway through church one Sunday due to bad weather.  Here is a picture collage from the backyard after our freezing rain.  We are now back to being completely covered in snow.