Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bigger Enough

Dear Baby B,

Yes, I know that you are technically no longer a baby.  I don't care.  I will call you baby until my dying breath, like it or not.  It doesn't matter how old or how tall or how smart you get, you will always be my baby.

And baby, I've been thinking a lot lately about how desperately you want to be "bigger enough" to do so many of the things you see the rest of us doing.  These tasks are irresistible to you.  They tantalize you with their apparent ease and make you feel ready to jump in with both feet.

But I know you, my wild child.  Well enough to recognize what you're ready for and where you need to be held back.  I remember how much you wanted to climb onto that school bus with J & R because you could sense their excitement.  I remember how earnestly you pleaded with me and tried to convince me that you would be bigger enough "morrow" to go with them.  But I also knew that you would've only made it two steps onto that bus.  And then you would have looked back at me and realized in a panic that I wasn't coming with you, and you would have scrambled back into my arms with tears streaming down your face.

I remember the day we were out exploring the woods with J &R.  We were having such fun, and then the neighbor kids came running over and stole your siblings away to go play at their house.  You were heartbroken as you watched them walk away and leave you behind.  I remember how hard you were to console and how you didn't understand why you couldn't tag along.

But, baby, you are not bigger enough to go roam the woods and the neighbor's house without supervision.  Or to go to school.  Or to do all the big kid things that you yearn to do.  You're not ready for the freedom that comes with good judgement, because baby, your judgement isn't all that great quite yet.  You still fall off furniture that is too high for you to be climbing.  You still pull all of Daddy's floss out of the container and leave it strewn all over the bathroom.  You still try to touch hot things just to see if it really hurts as much as I say it will.  And you still always go for the knives even after Daddy nearly sliced your finger off while you were helping him make apple pie.
You have a ways to go, my dear.  You have some growing and some learning and some calming to do before you're bigger enough for all the things you want to do each day.  You'll have to trust me to teach you and keep you safe and be wise enough to know when you're ready for new things.

But baby, there are so very many things that you can do just perfectly right now.  It's ok to sit back and enjoy all the wonders that life holds for you right at this moment, without longing for those things that will come in due time.

You're bigger enough to climb onto my lap, invited or not, and curl up with your warm head leaning on my chest.  You can run pell-mell all over with the pitter patter of your bare feet on the wood floors echoing through the house.  You can confidently climb up and down both sets of stairs with only a rare tumble.  You're bigger enough to climb in and out of your crib even though you're not supposed to.  You are big and fierce enough to insist that you help with each and every food prep endeavor.  Which seems to be providing you with just the right training if you plan to grow up and become an angry chef.
You're bigger enough to recognize when you've hurt someone and you say sorry and give them lingering hugs and kisses without being prompted to do so.  You can sense it in my voice when you've crossed the line and hurriedly pretend that you were really complying, rather than defying, all along.  You're big enough to stand your ground when someone bigger and stronger tries to take something that you are playing with, whether it belongs to you or not. 

You're bigger enough to demand autonomy and independence and often insist, "No!  Me do it!"  You are big enough to style my hair, even when I have just finished doing the same thing myself.  You love to be my little shadow and insist in participating in everything I am doing.  Yes, everything.  You're big enough to find technology irresistible and to "fix" things in ways that we find difficult to un fix.

You're bigger enough to say things in the most endearing ways.  Like, "Me almost love you!"  You're big enough to pick yourself up and brush yourself off when you fall.  Sometimes.  And you recognize when your hurt extends beyond your ability to shrug off and you come to me with outstretched arms and eyes brimming with tears.  And then you're bigger enough to wrap your arms tightly around my neck and bury your head in my shoulder.  And that is the very best thing about how big you are right at this moment.

You're bigger enough to have grown out of your extremely non-cuddly baby days and into being the most cuddly, affectionate child we have.  Whose very favorite thing in all the world is to snuggle under a blanket with her Mama.
And I am loving that.

Because in the future, when you are off doing and being, I will still linger in these moments when your arms were exactly bigger enough to wrap around me.  I will still feel your fingers running through my hair, making it "so pretty."  And I will still hear your sweet voice in my ear telling me that you almost love me.
Because baby, I almost love you, too.  And I always will.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

My Girls

Life just never seems to go the direction you think it's going to go.  Just when you start patting yourself on the back for making it through some tough stuff and are settling in to enjoy some well earned tranquility, life throws you a curve ball.

For those of you who are not Mormon, you may need some vocabulary clarifications in order to follow this post.

Bishop = the leader of a specific LDS ward
Ward = congregation that covers a specific geographic location
Calling = a certain responsibility within the ward, done on a volunteer basis
Young Women's = girls youth program
President = the leader of an organization within the ward
*I bet you'll never guess what the rest of this post will be about*

For me, that curve ball came back in November when the Bishop called Shaggy & I into his office to talk.  Every Mormon in the world knows enough to feel a little unnerved by those invitations.  Especially when they ask to meet with both husband and wife.  But I was naive, I figured the Bishop was going to give Shaggy a calling.

So I was floored when he looked at me and told me that he'd been feeling prompted to ask me to be the Young Women's President.  I was completely shocked.  I'd only been in the ward for 3 months.  I was currently serving as a teacher for 9-year-olds so I never went to the meetings with adults and hardly knew any of them.

Once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I looked at Shaggy and muttered, "I knew my life was too peaceful."

Under the watchful gaze of the Bishop, I desperately tried to wrap my mind around this information.  I didn't particularly feel like Young Women's President material.  I am just regular old me, who feels overwhelmed enough by my responsibilities to my family.  I didn't know how I would fit such a time intensive calling into my life.

I proceeded to ask the Bishop a million and one questions about the Young Women's organization.  He patiently answered them all, even while fixing me with his nonjudgmental, but calculating gaze.  Once I finally ran out of questions and we felt that our ravenous children would mutiny if we left them in the hall unattended for another minute, the Bishop sent us home with the admonition to think about it and let him know.

We drove home in a daze.  Shaggy and I couldn't even talk about the potential new calling in front of the kids.  These callings are supposed to remain confidential until it's announced to the ward and all the members sustain (agree to help and support) you.  K was in Young Women's--we couldn't have her spilling the beans to her friends.

I spent most of that week trying to figure out how the logistical aspects of meetings and activities would impact my family.  And I stressed out.  In a major way.

Of course, I could have turned the calling down.  If it weren't for the whole revelation thing.  Revelation, the rock our church is built upon.  Revelation, the power by which people in our church fulfill their callings.  Revelation, the source of our leaders' inspiration.   Revelation, the personal and powerful way I can know the will of God.

Within a few minutes of talking with the Bishop that November Sunday, I knew that the Lord had indeed prompted him to consider me for this new calling.  I still felt overwhelmed.  I still felt inadequate.  But I also felt that it was what the Lord wanted me to do.

And an interesting thing happened during that week of contemplation, before I told the Bishop yes.  Whenever I thought about the time requirements or the logistics or how I would manage everything, I felt nothing but stress.

But one day, I turned my thoughts to the girls in my ward, with their fancy braids and ready smiles and easy comaraderie.  And a little tendril of love crept into my heart and expanded until it filled it up.  It brought tears to my eyes, it was such an overpowering feeling.

And that's when I realized that this calling isn't about me.  It's about them.  Those beautiful girls who are loved so very much by their Savior that He is willing to let me borrow some of that love until I have a chance to get to know them and call them mine.  Because I know enough about how this program works to know that they will become my girls.  Every hour we spend together--feeling the Spirit, talking, laughing, commiserating, teaching, learning, planning--will serve to build and strengthen our relationship.  I will learn to love them.  My heart will ache at their misfortune and sing at their triumphs.  I will do everything in my power to help them find the well of strength hidden deep within them; to know and love their Savior as intimately as He knows and loves them.  Wherever they go in life, they will take a part of me with them.

Just as I still cherish the memories and lessons learned from my amazing Young Women leaders.  If it's time for me to step up, step into that circle and give back, so be it.

I may not know how to fulfill this calling just yet.  I may not know how to make it fit into my life.  But I'm going to embrace it, nevertheless.  She whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.  I plan to hold Him to that.  Because my girls deserve the very best I can offer them.  And the best I can offer will require a whole lot of the Lord's help.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


 Name that movie.

It was the basis for our New Year's Eve party.  We were sad that we couldn't share it with the cousins.  S did a great job creating the label.

But for the record, junk food is a whole lot more enjoyable when everyone is well.  Maybe next year.  Enough is just never enough.

Christmas Leftovers

 The worst of our Christmas leftovers involved more flu.  Or maybe it was all the same thing and was just a monster virus.  Doesn't really matter, because it knocked us flat regardless.  The stomach flu swept through a couple days before we had out of town family come stay with us.  They drove 8 hours or so to hang out, play games, and get infected.  Then they left early.  Can't blame them one bit.
The day after we weren't able to keep any food down, we scrambled to disinfect our whole house with the vain hope that they wouldn't get infected.  *Sigh*  Right, did you count how many children are in that photo?  Too many to not share germs.

Which was really too bad.  These cousins haven't seen each other for a very long time.  And while they did manage to have fun, the visit wasn't quite the rousing success we were hoping for.  Or maybe it was just me.  I had some serious stress coming at me from multiple sides.  I felt entirely overwhelmed by my sick family and my illness and my new calling as the Young Women's President at church.  (Yep, you read that right.  More on that later.)  I sort of felt like I was ten steps behind the entire weekend trying to play hostess and gear up for meetings and lessons and leading.

Once I finally finished typing up a few thoughts for my first lesson, the social hour was over.  Another time, the kids wanted to go outside and play in the snow.  By the time I got my youngest two dressed for the cold, and talked R through her meltdown about snow boots, everybody else was coming in.  By the time I finished up various house duties and took care of the needs of the little ones, the game I was going to join in was over.  By the time I realized I hadn't taken a single photo, they had caught the stomach flu and decided to head home a day early.  I was able to remedy that last one, at least, before they drove away.

I felt bad for not being a very fun hostess and was faced with loads more laundry and disinfecting so that my newly sick girls could return to their own beds.  Because, by then, the second round of the flu had taken us down.  Fever, aches, chills, congestion, sinus pressure, sore throat, sore eyes (oh, man did my eyes ache!), terrible headaches--you know, regular flu stuff.  Except worse.  All I wanted to do was curl up under my covers.  But with 5 kiddos to take care of, a long-commuting husband, and some heavy duty church responsibilities, that was not in the realm of possibility.  So, I sucked it up and soldiered on, half expecting my head to explode at any moment.

The only good thing about times like this is the hope and deep sense of appreciation for healthier days.  It was such a relief when I could finally breathe again, I wanted to cry for joy.  But I couldn't cry because that would ruin all the clear breathing.  And I was soooo grateful when R & B finally felt better.  Caring for clingy, whiny, feverish, malcontents is no picnic.

But we survived, and even managed to make some great memories in between all the not-so-great stuff.  Our kids got to play with their cousins, some of whom they had never met.  We went to a great church Christmas dinner where they had an adorable photo op set up.
(And then J got angry about something or other and started falling apart so we had to leave before the program even started.)  But we'll try to forget that part and just enjoy the photo.
 We tried to take some nice family Christmas photos.  (Can you tell who was grumpy enough that we decided to call it quits?)
 We handed out marshmallows and put away the tripod.  It worked for one shot.
 And then Mr. Grumpy was back.
 I think it must be hard to be J.

 Luckily for me, there was a day before Christmas and before all the crazy viruses descended that I got my camera out.  I figured since I had gone through the trouble of making some Christmas pillow cases, I might as well have a little fun with them as photo props.
I'm so glad my girls have sisters.  I always wished I had at least one.  This picture just makes my heart happy, knowing that they all have three sisters.
Ok, so most of the photos were fun.  But, naturally, there was a little bickering thrown in.
But then we were back to having fun.
I sure love these kids.  Even through the flu and the vomit and the bickering and the stress.  They drive me crazy and give me purpose.  They demand that I be better than I am, that I learn to be more.  We don't always have a picture perfect Christmas.  Behind every beautiful photo are twenty frustrating moments.  Sometimes more.  A lot more.  But, amidst all the hard stuff, I choose to focus on the joy.  And I will try my darndest to continue choosing it every day.  

Besides, our heater broke down.  Looks like we might need a whole new system.  Even though our homeowners insurance is trying their hardest to deny everything.  So, I'm going to need these kids to cuddle with so we can stay warm.  We're not in California anymore.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


I never want to forget just how much excitement was in my home on Christmas Eve when we first realized that it was snowing right outside our windows.  Everyone was yelling delightedly and hopping up and down in front of the windows.  Except for B who was a little bewildered by it all.
But she was right there demanding to go outside with the rest of us.
Of course I had to grab my camera.  I actually had people hollering at me to hurry up and get it.
I even had the presence of mind to actually be in a photo.  That's impressive.
We spun and ran.
And simply reveled in the miracle that is snow.
It was pure joy.
Some of the kids decided that it even tasted delicious.
After a while, I insisted that pajamas be swapped out for clothes and coats.
And we went back outside to enjoy it some more.
A few days later, there was even enough to stick for a bit until the rain ruined it all.
But the rain didn't stop my elemental boy who was out playing in it every spare moment.
Making mischief of one sort and another.
What started out as one trail of rolling snowballs soon became a maze of trails.
And when the rain turned everything to ice, it was beautiful.
Maybe winter will get old for us one day.  But for now, we'll try to enjoy all its wonders.