Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I Don't Feel Guilty For Being Happy My Kids Are Going Back To School

The kids start school next week. We're pretty much ready, after buying five million dollars worth of clothes and supplies (sigh), but we still have a few things to do. I'm going to have kids in 8th, 6th, 5th, 2nd, and Kindergarten! Holy cow! Only #6 will be home with me for four hours every morning. First of all, how did this happen?! And second, I don't feel one ounce of guilt for rejoicing in this. No tears (well, when I send #5 off to K, then I might be a little sad --but not yet).

Some mothers have recently come under great scrutiny and judgement because they are thrilled their children are going back to school. Of course, these women are celebrating with photos and publicly shaming their children --not something I condone. But at the same time, I might be one of these mothers. I am THRILLED my kids are going back to school. Why? Two reasons: my sanity and theirs.

We need a routine again. We schedule, stability, mental engagement. We need time apart. They need structure and friends and homework and other adults instructing them (ones they will listen to). I need peace and quiet for some hours of the day. I need to regain some control over the household again. I always have these great expectations for summers, I plan these wonderful schedules, and then... I seriously completely fall apart. Every year. Every summer. Sometimes it's because of travel. Sometimes it's because of pregnancy. This year it was because of pregnancy and mental crap. Whatever the case, it's frustrating and I always feel like a failure (in this instance). Who am I, who cannot muster up enough energy, motivation, and resolve to give my kids some great structure that will make them better people!? Stupid brain.

I thought, once, that I could homeschool my kids. Why not? I'm capable and smart and... this summer has taught me that I am beyond grateful I don't have to because I really don't think I could. Or can (and for more reasons than the ridiculous PA homeschooling laws). I am so grateful for public schools! I'm grateful my husband works so hard in his career so we can live in an area that has amazing public schools. I'm grateful they are "free" (when compared to private schools), and I'm grateful my kids are doing well. I've been shown my deepest weaknesses this year and it was eye-opening to see that I simply cannot do everything for my children --not even close. They need school, they need church, they need others to help teach them.

My 11 year old is gifted and has been given tremendous gifted education where she has thrived (both in UT and PA). My 10 year old has an auditory disorder and the schools have been incredibly helpful and accommodating with his 504 plan to help him succeed. I understand that not everybody has been as lucky/blessed as we have been with public education, but I'm not going to be looking a gift horse in the mouth, you know? I understand all the fears of Common Core and the frustrations with miscommunication or bad teachers or lack of funds or, or, or... but I do not have the need to be upset with my school district. And that's a good thing, because the option of teaching them at home does not exist. I simply cannot do it. I do not have the mental or emotional capability to do it. Not at this point. But luckily, I don't have to! Their schools are great!

Anyway, this is why I don't feel guilty for sending them back to school (and for liking it). I'm not quite giddy --but I'm happy. Our routine will begin again: scriptures, prayer, breakfast, getting ready, out the door... and then I'll be able to squeeze in appointments and grocery shopping during those four hours it's just #6 and me (until the baby comes in February and then we'll just start all over). He and I can read books and go on walks and watch TV and clean up the house.

Sure, come May, I'll be anxious for summer again, but I think that's what is awesome about this --it's just like the seasons, you know? In March, we're praying for July. In August, we're praying for December. One season ends just as we are ready to start the next.

P.S. I love my children fiercely. Just in case that wasn't apparent in this post.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Eradicating Shame on a Down Day

Warning: 
If mental illness make you uncomfortable or triggers something in you, please do not read. No, this is not about a recent suicide. Or suicide at all! Also, if reading about my personal battle with depression annoys you, you may also skip this (no offense from me). I know I'm pretty public with my demons and it makes people uncomfortable. But I share because I know it will help someone, and even if it's just one person, it's worth baring my soul. 

I was taken off one of my medications this last month, due to the pregnancy. It's simply not safe for the baby, especially come third trimester. I am still on one of them, though, and although I can feel the effects of losing the other one, it's not nearly as bad as when I had neither. My psychiatrist bumped therapy up to once a week in order to try and compensate for the loss and it's been helping.

Even when I'm medicated and healthy, I've noticed a pattern in my depression. Every 4-8 weeks, I will have what I call a Down Day. I'm sure I've written about it before. When I'm not on medication, Down Days occur at least 4 times a week. Sometimes every day. The beautiful part of medication and health is they are few and far between --but they still happen. It's as if the Depression in my brain/body is saying, "I know you are working hard to eradicate me, but I need to remind you that I still exist, here, and so here you go. Have fun!"

What is a Down Day? Well, it's different from my Lazy Days or my Who Cares!? Days or my Man Alive, I'm Just So Tired! Days. Down Days create the inability to move, to care, to function, to... well, everything.

In the past, I would spend my Down Days wracked with the torment of immeasurable guilt. Shame would leak from every pore and I would wallow in the cesspool of incredible self-pity. I would lament the shame of a woman incapable of taking care of her family, incapable of doing her share in a marriage partnership, incapable of stopping herself from  feeling depressed. This would make my Down Days worse --sometimes turn them into many days...

Yesterday, I decided I was tired of analyzing everything, I was tired of feeling shame for being this way, tired of the guilt associated with the shame and turning each thought into a philosophical and religious debate (with myself. Who else would I be debating with? Well, I guess sometimes it's God...). I was tired of trying to find blame ("well, Murphy's Law and all that, you've just seen the psychiatrist and told her you were doing pretty good, and you did just write a blog post on how you are managing, and you did just tell your therapist how much better you've felt lately, so of course this would happen, blah, blah, blah") and so you know what? I just let it be.

I just let my brain be.

I sat in my room from 11AM until after 7PM. I left the door open so my kids could come in and out to ask questions. I gave out assignments for chores, but I didn't follow up on any of them. I watched three movies (2?) on my phone and read about half of Jane Eyre again (say what you will about the creepiness factor, it has some of the most beautiful prose ever written in it, and when you read the book and don't just go with the movies, you find the love story is not so crazy, after all... I mean, when compared to Wuthering Heights?!), I tried to nap, I cleaned out some jewelry boxes (i.e. I looked through old things very slowly), and I was surprised and grateful my oldest brought me some lunch at 3PM. I knew I was at an impasse with my brain by 2PM, and so I asked my husband to grab dinner on the way home. Not only did he agree to do it, he also went grocery shopping.

At 7PM, when he got home, he came into our room. Without fanfare, disappointment, ridicule, or frustration, he held out his hand and invited me to eat with the family. I told him I didn't want to, but he said I needed to. Then he made a funny quip that made me laugh, and I took his hand. I joined the family for dinner, he helped me put the groceries away, he got the kids to clean up, and then we watched a movie as a family ("Flight of the Navigator" --we're slowly introducing awesome movies from our youth to our kids).

When we went to bed, I shared a photo on Instagram that I had taken shortly after dinner. A storm had quickly passed through (just a little rain) and the sun was setting. The kids were on the trampoline and romping around in the backyard. I took the photo from the kitchen, but then I went and sat in our screened porch for a few minutes and watched the sky fade to dark (our backyard faces East). And all I could think was that it was going to be okay. I wasn't alone.


"Courage doesn't always roar. 
Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day 
that says I'll try again tomorrow."
 ~Mary Anne Radmacher


What I learned from this particular Down Day:

*Shame and guilt about my mental illness makes it worse. And it's probably the stupidest thing in the world to feel guilty about, and yet the easiest. I had the thought: what if this was a fibromyalgia or Multiple Sclerosis flare-up? What if this was a diabetic problem? What if I had to take the day off because of anything physical? There would be no shame. This is MY flare-up. This is MY problem. It has as much validity as things that are physical and tangible, does it not?

*My husband has learned how to care for me and my disease in a gentle way. It's been a learning curve for us both, but he truly personified this scripture last night and my love for him deepened significantly: (Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-42)
41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; 
42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
*Letting my older children understand that my brain is sick was the wisest thing I have ever done. They've known about it for a few years (my oldest, probably longer). Instead of letting them question why mom is acting this way, instead of letting them assume they have done something wrong, instead of letting them wonder why I might not love them based on my actions, they simply understand that mom has a sick brain. Mom sometimes needs a day of rest. Mom takes medication for her brain; mom still loves us and tries hard. She makes mistakes because she is broken, but everyone is broken, and it's okay.

*Heavenly Father answers our prayers through means other than what we usually hope. I prayed most of the day that I could climb out of my Well. But His answer was sending my husband to help me out. And give me all of these insights. And reaffirm He loves me.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I Would Still Be Me

Ah, sweet neglected blog. Two of my children have had birthdays (#5 is 5 and #3 is 10), we've celebrated the 4th of July, a trip to Palmyra, NY and Niagara Falls, NY, we have had many visitors and missionary experiences, we've been to the shore (New Jersey) twice, the humidity is becoming bearable, the fireflies have petered out, school clothes are being bought, Kindergarten registration has been fulfilled, school supply lists have been printed off, medications have been changed, and we have one more trip on the horizon before school starts (the BYU football game in Connecticut over Labor Day weekend).

And what am I doing, in the meantime, as I neglect to write down the adventures of our summer?

(Warning: I get a bit lyrical. Poetic. Lost in the prose of melodious demarcation...)

I spend a lot of my days attempting to accomplish the mundane and find joy in doing it. Each morning, I stare out of my bathroom window into our backyard and the field behind it, watching the morning mist dissipate in the rising sun and I wonder --how can I bottle up this peace and carry it with me throughout the day? When will I rise early enough to walk in it?

(Photo by #1)

I feed and wash my children, uninhibited by my glaring weakness for self-doubt as I lose my temper again (always again) in the face of disobedience, chaos, struggle, and fault. Constantly interrupted, my writing is limited to snippets on Facebook and attempts at clever comments. Writing an essay takes hours, sometimes days, and the dream of books continue to slip further and further from the sloping edges of silent dreams unrealized, unmade... unseen... Forgotten, perhaps, except in the moments between sleeping and waking, when dreams are remembered and tangible --even possible.

I find time many days to stretch my fingers upon the piano and sing beautiful lyrical pieces of long ago times, when music was my lifeblood and filled me with confidence and meaning, and I laugh inwardly at the irony of how rich my voice has turned, how quickly I would pass through long-ago auditions if only I had then what I do now... But the laughter is not bitter, nor is it real, considering my audience is a chaotic household of laughing and shouting and arguing and squealing children. What do they know of musical ability and lost chances and dreams-I-never-really-had? Regret in my music what-could-have-beens does not exist --it was replaced by contentment and gratitude for the ability to access the gift. It brings me joy daily. How can I begrudge what was never to be when I am filled with a bold knowledge of what is right now? Chopin does not judge me for missing this note, Brahms does not criticize the lack of control. They only feed me continuously with ethereal existence and remind me I am capable of being who I am, regardless of who I was or who I will be...


I shop with my children for food we afford, for food that will feed our masses and last longer than the day in which it is purchased. I plan for meals to last more than one feeding, and when I occasionally venture out into the realm of food-I-would-buy-if-only-it-was-prudent, I imagine a life with only two. How easy it could be! I see my husband, I see me, back at the table in the smallest apartment, cooking, over the tiniest of stoves, and praying over two plates, two cups, two forks, and dreaming of the time when I would have many plates, many cups, many forks. There will be nine plates by Spring. Is this not what I prayed for? Longed for? Exercised Hannah-like faith for? What is expensive organic food compared to the answers of prayers? "Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven" and who will atone for my ingratitude of food...?

Trapped in a mind warped by assumed expectations that do not exist and cowering from the pain of this disease, I imagine my life in novels and stories, laid out with words and ink and paper. I watch the scenes of far-off seclusion and places in which I long to live out my days. If I had been... If I was... If I did... If, if, if... If does not exist and the logical part is still just strong enough to reach in and tell me that if it had been, I would not have known. If I was or if I did, I would still be wondering "if"... I would still be me.

I smell the blond curls on my two year old son's head and ground myself in the purpose of my calling, knowing that continuing through these mundane, angry, frustrated, impatient, moments brings an undercurrent of pure peace. It pulsates next to the leaping moments of blissful joy and continues, steadily, through the wakes of pain. The laundry is never finished and put away, the floor is always needing cleaned. The grass is too long, the fingerprints on the windows remain. I judge and I am hurt, I ignore and I indulge. I am never enough and in those rare times when I am left to my thoughts, I succeed in hearing the whispers from whence I came: "You are doing wonderfully. Keep trying, keep going, keep working... You are loved. You are known. You are needed... Success has already come; there is more to follow..."

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Full Disclosure

Things I need to get off my chest (with pregnant brain, so maybe I've already written about these things, but I don't really care) :

*For my own sanity, I no longer engage in conversations/debates with people who claim to believe in their covenants while their actions/words refute it through public discussion. I'm not talking about disagreeing with people of different religions --I'm talking about people in my own religion. And I'm not talking about discussing whether or not Activity Day Girls should get just as much instruction time as the Cub Scouts do; I'm talking about core doctrines of my religion that are being argued as "opinion." Apostasy. I've even gone so far as to unfriend several friends/family members on FB over it the last few months, allowing myself to be seen as a judgy-judge-Mcjudgerson --but I don't have any regrets.
Let me tell you why:
I have just spent the last several months helping the missionaries teach people about the gospel of Jesus Christ and I have just helped a man come back to church although he is suffering from severe substance addictions. I've watched people fight for years to get to the Temple to make sacred covenants. I have seen, just yesterday, the light of Christ enter a young woman's heart as she prayed to God for the very first time in her life! When I see the time and effort people put into fighting FOR THEIR VERY SOULS to get into this church, I have no patience for those who no longer respect it. It's not about love or lack of love, it's about keeping myself sane. Selfish? Perhaps. But I'm going to focus on me, my husband, and my kids. I'm going to support my ward members/friends/family who keep coming even when it's hard. I'm going to pray for them and everyone else --including those I won't discuss things with, anymore. But my days of tolerating apostasy? Over.

*With that said, I have to admit that I am a hypocrite. I paint my life as spectacular and share photos of my cute kids and bear my testimony --but you don't see the whole truth. Full disclosure: I yell and scream at my kids. My kids fight a lot. My house is a mess all the time. My husband and I argue. I judge people I believe should know better (usually out of a deep fear that they will lose their eternal salvation --because I've seen it happen). I am lazy. I am usually very annoyed with my kids and impatient with them. I don't volunteer in my kids' schools because I don't want to. I'm not as healthy as I should be and rarely exercise. I have a list five miles long with goals/dreams I keep being told through stupid Internet memes I'm supposed to do right now or I will be an old lady tomorrow and regret my entire existence --and haven't done any of them. I swear more than I should. I don't read my scriptures every day. I cry in the shower (well, not every time...).

*But let me tell you what is awesome about me: I try every day to be a little better, and I try every day to do something good. Even if I have to course correct, apologize, or start over, I try. I am not afraid to listen to God. I am not afraid of apologizing. I am not afraid to love. I am not afraid of my mistakes, anymore. For years they owned me because I felt I had to be perfect to receive love. Now I realize how incredibly stupid that thinking is/was/will be. Satan sucks, and I'm punching him in the face more often in order to hold onto my happiness --mental illness or not! My mistakes bring me to Christ, and Christ is where I want to be. I saw this the other day and it was exactly what I needed to read. Because it's true. It's not supposed to be easy and it's not supposed to be impossible. It's simply supposed to be effort:


*I support Israel. I don't think war and killing is ever easy or right. But I know that Israel has the God-given and UN sanctioned right to their land and their freedom, and as a covenant-understanding Mormon woman, I know the history of God's chosen people --and they are part of it. I see it with such clarity that it's laughable. And to see the anti-Semitism in our country?! It makes me just sick! What is going on?!

*I am so overwhelmed by the love and support everyone has given us about this new baby! I was terrified --just terrified --about announcing it, even though I wanted to do it weeks ago. I told my therapist that I was afraid of all of the backlash and rude comments, but I was even more afraid of the silence --of the stone-cold nothing. Because let me tell you something: going to God and asking Him what He wants you to do can be a really scary thing. Especially when your extended circle of family/friends think you might be a tad insane. My friend talked about it in our gospel doctrine class this morning at church. Basically, she said this: "People don't want to ask God for the answers, because then they will have to do it. And usually, it's not easy!" I can't even begin to describe to you, dear reader, how this is with choosing to expand one's family. To include Heavenly Father is the decision means you choose to follow His will. Sometimes, that means the answer is "No." Sometimes, it's "Not now." And sometimes, it's "Yes!"

Our answer was: "Yes!" But in hindsight, it was actually: "Yes! You need to have another baby. But it's going to take a long time, this time. It's going to be hard. Because you're going to question whether or not you received the right answer as you keep trying and waiting and wondering. You're going to face some other really tough decisions, and you are going to be struggling with different things as you strive to obey this 'yes.' But keep trusting Me and have some faith. I'm with you, and I love you, and you will be blessed for your faithfulness and sacrifice."

I'm still waiting for some of those blessings. My heart tells me that this child is one of them --if not all of them.

So thank you, thank you, thank you, dear reader, for supporting us and our answered prayer. It isn't easy to do illogical anti-worldly things in our society, anymore. It's harder if there's no support! I'm grateful we have loads of it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sensational Number Seven!

It took about 18 months, but it was worth it. Praying it continues to go well!

(#6 was asleep, but I was anxious to take the photo, so I didn't care!)

Guess date is Valentine's Day, 2015!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Privacy Doesn't Give Permission to Assume

Once, I was visiting some new dear friends and the wife was showing me their basement with all of their new baby furniture. She was not pregnant, and they didn't have kids. I was confused and asked, "Why would you have this stuff?" Later I learned they were traveling 400 miles away for infertility treatments. I was horrified at my behavior. Still am.

Once (okay, multiple times) I was angry with my husband because I assumed he had forgotten things I had asked him to do. Instead of asking, I accused him, only to find out he'd already done it.

Once, I assumed some online behavior of mine was justifiable, until it started to hurt people --and my own soul.

Once, I thought not very nice things about a woman in my ward, only to find out she was suffering from mental illness.

Once, I assumed a friendship was solid, until a new calling (in the ward) caused all kinds of horrific treatment (of me).

Once, I was really sick. Brandon was out of town (China, maybe? England?) and I was pregnant with our fifth child. I was in the midst of the February birthday week and my daughter (#2) was expecting her birthday party to be held as planned. I was literally on the couch, feeling like I was going to die. It was the flu of some kind, and in desperation, I called my sister who, at the time, lived 30 minutes north in SLC. I begged her to come and help me.

She said, "No." She didn't give much of a reason, either. She just couldn't, wouldn't, etc.

I was so hurt. I assumed she was being selfish. But luckily, my dear friend came over and helped out. It all worked; everything was fine. The party was a success, and, of course, I got better.

Two months later, I found out why my sister refused to help: She was also pregnant! But at the very precarious beginning, afraid of getting sick, herself, and had absolutely no energy to take care of her other two boys, let alone me and my kids! She's also a very private person and didn't want to share the news, yet, not even with me. And that's okay.

All of these stories (and more) have taught me a great lesson, one I'm still trying to learn/implement. One I hope others learn, too, as I face my own private experiences:




Sunday, July 06, 2014

More Observations on PA Living

I lived in Idaho for 18.5 years. Then I lived in Provo for 10 years. We moved to Concord, CA for approximately 1 year, and then proceeded to live in Provo (again) for another 5.5 years.

We have lived in Pennsylvania for 8 months, which means, of course, that I am not an expert. East coast living is different than the West coast (how could it not be?), but it's nothing drastic.

Things I've noticed lately (Oh! And if these are repeats, I'm sorry. I'm just thinking out loud. Also! If I'm totally off my rocker about these observations, then you can let me know. I can take it!):

*The nice driving is sincere. People are polite, use their blinkers, and quite often are happy to let people in. I've never been honked at, cut off, or been sworn at (including rude hand gestures).

*The "God Bless you!" I receive when they hear I have six kids is not as polite as I thought it was. I've begun to realize that it is a thickly veiled way of saying, "You are completely insane, and you definitely God's blessings to help you through all of that crazy!" It's thickly veiled (not thinly) because they're so good at making you think they admire you!

*Beach trips are not day-trips. They are for at least 3-7 days, and it's up in the air as to whether Jersey, Delaware, or even Maryland is the best destination. Everyone has their favorite place!

*The bugs are out of control! Holy BUGS! Everywhere! All kinds! The fireflies are my favorite, and they almost make up for the rest.

*Humidity is of the devil. I don't mind a little bit of humidity --like, Hawaii-type humidity, but this is ridiculous, people! It truly feels like you are walking into the hot shower. Fully clothed.

*Church is the same, but not the same. Diversity? Much more. Languages, races, cultures --you name it, we probably have it. Off the top of my head, just today, I talked with people from Paraguay, Haiti, Korea, and England. Many did not grow up in the church; several are converts as adults. Living the gospel here takes work because nobody in your neighborhood would ever notice if you didn't go. It takes nearly 30 minutes (one way) to get to church, and our youth/primary is small (30 Primary kids, 15 youth). Most kids are the only Mormons in their schools (like my elementary kids), and every choice to participate is a conscious one. My daughter said, "I'm glad we moved, if only so I got this chance to really find out if the church is true. It has been so good for my testimony because now I have to be so strong!"

*It's impossible not to grow plants. Plants grow on plants! The struggle is cutting the growth back --no worries in keeping things alive! There are no sprinklers. Very few hoses. Nobody has to water their grass, because of the rain. For example, the other day I had left the little kiddie pool on the grass for a few days. It killed the grass. Bummer! So we moved it, and within 48 hours, the grass is almost completely grown back. Fireworks for 4th of July? We did some of them right in the grass. This is just so strange to me, coming from a desert!

*Education. They take it very seriously, here. There's a reason the school districts around here (the greater southeastern PA area) are so incredible --competition. And why? Is it Ivy League country? Tradition of excellence? East coast competitive attitude? Probably all three. But this means my kids are getting a pretty good education, and I like it.

*There's a lack of excellent Mexican food, Thai food, and Chinese food. Not that there aren't some good choices! Just... very few. Now, if you want excellent Italian, American, or Indian? There you go!

*Pronunciations are so funny. I love hearing the "Joisey" accent! "Water" is "wooder" and "Lancaster" is "Lane-custer." But when they say "Ne-vahda" and "Colorah-do," I totally freak out a little.

*Water ice is awesome. We know it as "slushees" in the West, but it's still not quite the same as it is here. Just as a snow cone could never be as awesome as shave ice!

*You cannot escape any form of Revolutionary War History. Nor do you want to! But it is seeped into everything here, and how could it not be? The birth of our nation happened 40 minutes east of my house, and the war took place right where my house stands. Some of these homes and churches have been here since then, and you can't throw a stone without hitting something registered in the historical society! It's just how it is and I love it.

And that is all. It's been an exhausting few weeks, and I will report on it and provide photos later. For now, enjoy your beautiful Sabbath! Happy July and all that jazz!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Doing the Best I Can

Nothing but a lot of long-winded navel-gazing to follow. You've been warned. 

I sometimes look at my life and wonder just how the heck I got here. Time has sped up and when my 13 year old (13 year old?!!?) asks me questions about politics or religion, I think to myself, "wasn't I just teaching her how to tie her shoes?" and then I am grateful she is inquisitive and willing to hash things out.

This morning I was facing a stressful few days because first of all, Brandon is out of town, #1 is out of town, and #2 came down with a raging fever. That left four boys for me to mother (mother my own children? Wha??) and to top it off, my FIL is coming this weekend and that means guest-mode. We're also hoping to take the kids to the beach on Saturday (because driving to the beach on a Saturday with all the rest of PA makes sense) and tomorrow I have to go pick up girls from Girl's Camp (nice big van of ours is helpful). I'm willing and happy about all of these things --but it does make my life that much harder.

The laundry has multiplied this week, the boys are stir-crazy (because it's so hot), and #6 has figured out how to destroy pretty much everything. I mean, I cannot leave him alone for even 5 seconds! When I think about it, I realize all of my boys have been like this. My girls were not nearly as curious, and I'm not sure why. But man alive, my boys are destructive! I truly don't believe they do it on purpose; they are just trying to learn about the world around them.

I'm exhausted this summer; it's been rough. But I'm determined to be a better mother this summer than I was this past winter, when the demons of darkness had pulled me into their clutches and spent most of it in a self-hatred haze and my children learned how to just survive on their own. I'm pushing myself to be more consistent with discipline, and I'm trying to be more firm with rules and consequences. Let's be honest: the therapy and medication have been life-savers and is making this possible.

It's not easy. I have a lot to recover from and a lot to re-teach. I've been humiliated by some words well-meaning family members said to me about my mothering, and I wish they could understand that I am just doing the best I can. My job isn't to create perfect children and to be perfect at everything. My job is just to improve a little each day --and I am. I'm getting better, my kids are getting better, and we're doing just fine. The house always gets clean, the kids are learning responsibility, and they are learning how the world works. It may take a while, I may fail a lot, but we're all trying. That is the point, eh?

Sometimes I look at my kids and I feel nothing but frustration and impatience. It's so hard to teach them to work and to get along with others! But then other days, even in the midst of disobedience or tantrums, I am able to see my children the way God sees them, I can see their enormous and beautiful spirits trying to dwell in such tiny tabernacles. There are times, honestly, when I look into my children's eyes, and I see such eternal beauty. I see all of their potential, I see everything they are, were, and will be. And it takes my breath away! Why was I chosen to be the one to help guide these incredible souls towards God, towards happiness, towards there own futures? The weight of that responsibility is something I feel every single day of my life. For 13+ years, I have been acutely aware of my role and how I can have such an integral influence upon these tiny lives.

It's overwhelming sometimes. Other times, it's just plain awesome.

For example, we've struggled with #3 a lot because of his auditory disorder (misophonia). Lately, however, I have seen a maturing in him that has turned my prayers from pleading to thanking. He has learned to work hard, and he's learning to not shun it like he used to. Yesterday, we had a great experience about this. It kind of went like this:

I was teaching him a piano lesson. I asked him to play a piece, just to see if his level was still where it was (we haven't had a lesson for about 6 months). He couldn't play it perfectly, and so he got really upset (another thing he struggles with), began to cry and yell. I wouldn't let him leave and I didn't back down. He said he didn't want to learn piano (a lie, because he told me many times he wanted to) and I called his bluff. He calmed down and I finally said, "Look, I know you want to learn to play the piano. I know you can learn this piece. It's okay that you don't know it right now! This week, when nobody is in the room, when you have time to figure out the notes on your own, you will be able to learn it. That's what practicing is for! You will figure it out, and next week you will play it perfectly for me." He finally agreed and we ended the lesson.

This morning, he sat down without complaint and practiced it.

He's also mowing our lawn (1 acre) with a push mower (#2 splits the lawn with him). He takes care of his younger brothers. He cleans toilets, does dishes, changes laundry, and takes responsibility of taking the garbage and recycling out to the curb each week. He can change diapers, and he often comes up with fun things to do with his siblings. He loves to explore and learn new things about science and nature. He has friends, he asks questions (we had the "sex" talk once because he felt comfortable coming to me to ask questions), and he's the one we call when bugs and spiders are in the house. He may have anger issues, he may struggle a lot with his auditory disorder, but he is a wonderful son. I get so emotional when I think about how grateful I am that God sent him to us!

And days like this, when I'm behind on the housework, when the kids are sluggish and would rather just sit and be as lethargic as I'd like to be, I remind myself that not all things are as important as other things. At this moment, we are listening to beautiful piano music, #2 is reading (always), #3 and #5 are watching old cartoons on my phone, #6 is watching learning videos on the iPad, #4 is rummaging around in the kitchen, and I'm typing up this blog post. The thunderstorm last night has cooled things down outside just a bit, and I'm still smiling about positive conversations I've had recently, about new friends, about old friends, and making a decision about what beach to go to this weekend. Life could certainly be more productive at this moment, but it could also be much worse. I'm feeling peace right now. I'm not going to disturb it for a while.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Links to People Who Explain It Better Than I Do: Ordain Women, Excommunication, and Prophets

I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The Mormons (nickname). I love my Church and I'm proud to be a member --more than that, I'm proud to be a woman in the Church. I truly believe that the true Gospel of Jesus Christ is found in the organization of my church, that the doctrines of salvation are provided through the ordinances the Church provides. The gospel of Christ means everything to me!

For eight years, I've been following blogs and discussions online about feminism and Mormon women; At times (mostly at first) I've been right in the fray and most recently (since 2010?) I've just hid out on the fringes. I'm part of an LDS women's faith forum online that encourages us to share the gospel through social media, I used to edit (and helped create) a website purely discussing Mormon women, and I find myself constantly aware of all that is going on in Mormon feminist circles (although not as thoroughly as I once did).

There's been a lot of media attention upon some members of my church and especially upon a new organization called Ordain Women. This is a group of women (and men) who desire for all worthy females to be ordained to offices of the Priesthood. Only worthy male members may be ordained to the offices of the Priesthood in my Church. (I don't know if I've written about this? I've been avoiding it on purpose and have left my comments to Facebook). I saw this coming back in 2007. It did not surprise me at all, although I was surprised at how quickly they gained a following. I guess it shouldn't have, since they've been building this following since the '90's. Perhaps the '70's, if we were to go back further...? But I digress.

One of their most prominent leaders was recently excommunicated from our church. She claims she is devastated (I don't doubt it), and I'm not here to question her pain. I know why the Church did it (she's provided all the letters from her local leaders to the media) and I understand why they did. There is no mystery or secret, here. It's written plainly in those letters, church letters to OW, and many news releases from the church.

The gist is this (I'm simplifying for time): Members of our religion are absolutely allowed to question things, to ask questions, to seek counsel, to seek personal revelation, to seek answers, to work through hard things, to repent, to apply the Atonement of Christ to better their lives and rid themselves of sin. Christ restored His church through a 14 year old boy who took the time to ask a question! We love questions! However, we are not allowed to create organizations to protest the Church, to refuse the answers given by prophets with more protests, and to tell prophets they are wrong about the revelation they have received for the whole church. OW has done this, though. They have received the answers from the prophets/apostles and were asked to stop protesting. They didn't stop. Instead, they vamped up their media coverage, staged more protests, and began proselyting to gain more members.

For a better understanding about how this works (or should work), please read the following blog posts. They do a much, much better job than I do at explaining all of the nuances and details and frustrations of OW, excommunication in general, and why Prophets and Apostles are the only ones who make the decisions for the whole church.

At the end is a link to a video from one of our women leaders requesting kindness in the wake of this. Trust me, dear reader, I'm not gloating over the excommunication. I've seen excommunication in my life, and even though it can be a very merciful thing (releasing one from the responsibilities and consequences of breaking covenants), it is devastating and overwhelmingly hard --for the one excommunicated and for their loved-ones. I do not wish this on people who love the gospel. I don't want people to leave the Church. I've been accused of it in the past, and I need to set the record straight: I want people to stay and to do exactly what the rest of us are doing: learning, growing, and trying. Not one of us is perfect, not one of us is without questions or pain.

Mormonism, Feminism, and Being Snarky 

The Mormon Controversy and Why It's Hurting More Than Feminists 

Why I Love Church Disciplinary Councils

Finding Simple Truths Amid Chaos

What Next? How to Move Forward From Excommunication

Sister Oscarson video (it's short, about a minute)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Let the Summer Begin!

Nana came to visit! It was a last-minute trip and I am the worst because I forgot to take pictures! I think it's because we didn't go do anything "big," but preferred to just hang out and spend time together. Nana brought games/puzzles for all the kids and they got to spend one-on-one time with her. We went to the park, out to dinner, did chores at home, went to church, and one night Brandon and the boys took her on a walk by the creek. She was only here for a few days, but we were so glad she came to visit!

(where we had dinner one night)

Oh, wait... here's one picture! She got to go with Brandon to the 7th grade awards assembly and see #1 receive 3 awards. Whoever took the photo didn't do a very good job. :(


Father's Day! No pictures, but it wasn't super epic or anything. Brandon has Bishopric meetings that morning, so we celebrated after church. The kids make him cards and gave him the first 6 original Star Trek movies, and then we had a Mexican Nacho Bar. Okay, I just made that up --it was just nachos/tacos, whatever. A favorite! We love Brandon and he's a great dad! My friend gave this card to her husband for Father's Day and now I wish I had gotten for Brandon --because it's true! (The only thing I would add is "and raise them!"):


#2 "graduated" from 5th grade! It was a fun and simple ceremony. When #1 had her awards assembly, I stayed with the little boys so he could go; this time he stayed with the little boys so I could go to this. It was a lot of fun!











The kids found a turtle in our grass. Since he had quite a ways to go, they helped him out and took him to where he was headed (the trees and water).




We got a badminton set! Now the kids cannot complain about boredom, ever. Ev. Er. We have the trampoline, a soccer net, badminton, friends, trees, a little playhouse for #6, and we even bought a hose (there wasn't one with the house) so we can do slip n' slides down the hill --real ones, unlike the make-shift one #1 and her BFF did for the kiddos on their last day of school (which was so nice!):






Saturday (June 21) was a crazy day. The kids were NOT being cooperative with chores, and I was so exhausted from having to deal with their moody Summer attitudes (I think this is a thing? End of school attitudes that are just tired of working at all? Summer Solstice?), so I sent Brandon a text while he was getting the oil changed on the van:


But they rallied, I rallied, Brandon was super supportive and led the kids well, and so by 3PM, we were able to go do something fun: swim in Ridley Creek! This was where Brandon had brought his mom and the boys last week, and since they had had so much fun, Brandon wanted us all to go. This time, they brought goggles and instead of just wading around, they decided to go for a swim! Clothes and all! We went to two different spots on the trail loop and the kids had the time of their lives! And the weather was perfect for it; it was truly a beautiful place to be. So, of course, I took loads of photos:


































Our Sensational Spectacular Super Summer (I always forget what I call it) is underway! We started this morning and it went well. There was essay writing and Pennsylvania history learning and it only took about 1 1/2 hours. Tomorrow #1 goes to girl's camp and Brandon is in Nashville for the week, so things will be a bit different, but I'm determined to see this all through! For example, we are supposed to be up reading scriptures at 7:30AM and when I woke up at 8:06AM, I didn't panic --just got the kids up and we read. Easy peasy!

And that is all! For now!