Monday, January 31, 2011

Weekend Ski Trip

A few weeks ago, while driving home from Dennis' parent's house, he was telling me about some upcoming hunting trips he wanted to plan for the spring. I wanted to be the supportive wifey but the Latin side in me kicked in and I told him to hold his horses and that before he planned anymore time away from me and the kids, I needed some time for me to get away to do something fun. And no, time away at the grocery store doesn't count. Being Dennis, of course he was more than supportive and encouraged me to to do so.

I felt terrible that I was only able to invite 4 of my friends but where this was the first time planning a weekend getaway like this, I wanted to start with a small group. Since I'm pregnant, we had to stick with cross-country skiing which was still a blast. We headed up to the ski resort on Friday evening and came home Sunday evening.

We stayed in a beautiful condo at Tamarack. I got a great deal on the price and the cross-country ski trails were right outside our window.



There was LOTS of falling as we were trying to get the hang of cross-country skiing. It's not as easy at it looks!

Stopping for lunch

Gretchen and me

Gretchen, me, Holli, Stephanie and Becky


Afterwards, the girls went and soaked in the hot tub. I had to sit it out of course. Bummer.


On Sunday went to the McCall winter Carnival. Payette Lake was completely frozen over so there were a lot of kids and adults sliding around on it and having a grand old time.


There were some pretty impressive ice sculptures. I took this picture for my boys since I knew this probably the only one that would impress them.


It was a great weekend. We couldn't have asked for more perfect weather. Thanks to my wonderful friends for coming with me!

It's a girl!

Well, as many of my friends and family guessed, the little bun inside my oven is a girl! We are excited for Lauren to have a little sister. Poor thing, I'm sure life isn't very easy trying to keep up with two older brothers that love her but usually don't want her around. It will be nice for her to have a little side kick. The other plus is that the preparation will be much easier. But most of all, there's something so special about a little girl!
I was feeling so great and excited that my energy was coming back and that I was feeling back to normal when I got hit with one of the nastiest colds I've ever had. Unfortunately I reverted back to my wussy, whiney pregnant self much sooner than Dennis was expecting, I'm sure. He probably thought he had until I was at least 35 weeks along before the complaining about the discomfort started again. The worst thing about pregnancy and colds coming at the same time is that aside from already being tired and not feeling well due to the pregnancy, the medications you can take for symptom relief are much more limited. I do feel like I'm very slowly coming out of it so that's a good thing.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Afterthought to the Afterthought

Yesterday I wrote a post entitled "Afterthought" with additional thoughts to my post, "Losing Sight." As I wrote it, I did so light-heartedly and with the intent to poke innocent fun at some of the things I found funny in the LDS culture. But after re-reading it the this morning, I realized it came across as confrontational and downright obnoxious. I apologize, realizing how abrasive it probably came across. Sometimes things that I find funny in my head don't translate very well into words, much less on paper. I removed the post when I realized my buttheadedness. So sorry if it caused offense to anyone.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Losing Sight

Here's another soap box post, so beware and do not read if you are feeling weary.


Some of my posts are intended to update family and friends on our recent events, some are reflective, intended for my children's future reading, and a few are intended for my own benefit. I find that the best way for me to make sense of my thoughts is write them down and see them as a whole, similar to the way a painting is a gathering place for an array of colors and strokes.

A dear friend of mine confided in me recently that she felt she was slowly losing control of her life. She felt that bit by bit, her agency and freedom to act were slipping out of her grasp. She felt she was losing herself in playing out the expectations that her family, society, the gospel, and church, in particular, held for her. Her life had not played out as she had ever thought or imagined it would and at times scarcley recognized herself within it. She didn't know how to regain a feeling of self-control without being seen as an infidel or how to maintain the freedom to think for herself without apostasizing. As she ellaborated on details and examples, I admitted that at times I also shared some of her feelings. We spent many hours and conversations discussing the issue. In talking to her, I was able to piece together my own thoughts and impressions, pearls of wisdom gained from conversations I've had with others, things I've read, and things I've always believed to be true- and make sense as to why I do what I do and believe what I believe despite the seemingly restrictive nature of it all.

After my friend and I talked, I listened carefully to the next General Conference and realized that there wasn't anything spoken from the pulpit that I disagreed with. It all rang true to me and I felt warmth and confirmation as I listened to the principles and doctrine being taught. I wondered then, if I know what the church teaches is true, why do I at times feel resentment or hostility as to how I think those principles should be practiced in my every-day life? As I tried to think honestly and introspectively about when and why those times of resentment had been felt, I had a lightbulb moment. The things I felt the most frustration about where not surrounding the actual principles of the gospel, rather the culture that surrounds the church.

A wise friend of mine once pointed out to me that the church and the gospel are two different things. The gospel is the "good news," the knowledge about our Savior and our Heavenly Father, the plan of salvation, and so on. The church is the means, or the vehicle, by which we are able to live that gospel to the fullest. That is why we so often see people outside the church that seem to live the gospel so well, at times even better than people within the church. I never fully understood it until she pointed that simple fact out to me. That clarification put together a lot of pieces of my puzzle.

I realized that I felt frustrated and pressured when someone at church in a lesson, talk, or comment in Sunday school expressed their opinion or "knowledge" as to how was the best way to live the gospel. I wasn't distinguishing that what they said was often coming from their own perception of church culture or their own family culture rather than true, undefiled gospel principles.

I found myself thinking, "But what if I don't want to learn how to integrate pinto beans and evaporated milk into my every-day cooking? Does that make me a bad disciple of Christ?"

"What if I don't want to have 6 kids? " (I was once asked by a friend not of our faith if Mormons believe that the more kids we have, the higher our status will be in heaven. I was going to say "no" right away but then thought about it and said, "Well, I can see how some Mormons may believe that, but no, it's not a part of our doctrine.")

"What if I'd rather say hell than heck? When you say heck, aren't you saying the exact same thing, just changing out that last two letters? Does that make it so much more better?"

"Is it bad that I want to stop couponing for the sole purpose that it's 'the thing to do' and so many other Mormon moms do it?"

"I hate nylons- don't ever ask, or try to guilt me into wearing them, even if you claim that by doing so I will be living the higher law." (No joke on that one- I really was told that once.)

"I mostly like Obama, and don't always agree with Glenn Beck, may God have mercy on my soul."

"What if in prioritizing good, better, and best, as we are encouraged to do, not all church activities and programs fall within the "best" category for me and my family? What if at times those are the things I find need to have fall off my conveyor belt of activities, permanently or for the time being?"

I found that the beauty and the beast of the applications of the gospel is that one size doesn't fit all. I would love it if they did. It would be so much easier and we could all live like chickens, mindlessly pecking at what was in front of us, never giving thought as to whether what we were eating were a worm or a kernel of corn. But if they always did, then what would be the purpose of personal revelation and stewardship?

We have been taught time and time again that a mother's ideal place is in the home, raising her children. In my heart I agree with this and I know this to be true. But my older sister mentioned that just as one mother might receive the prompting to quit her job and focus on her family, another might feel prompted to rejoin the work force to get her family out of debt. Both promptings, even though seemingly conflicting, can come from the same godly source.

I told my friend that I believe she has more agency than she thinks she has. Restriction and enslavement to anything, even to good, was Satan's original plan, not Christ's. The true gospel, and Christ's plan, was one of freedom, choices, and most importantly, accountability. It's the fluff and excess surrounding those pearls of truth, imposed by well-meaning members of the church, that leave us feeling hog-tied and make us want to run towards the exit screaming. My friend is not a pecking chicken and never will be, that's why I love her so much.

So when my friend in exasperation said, "I believe the church is true, but that doesn't mean I always like it," I would probably say for myself, "I believe the church is true, with all my heart, but that doesn't mean I buy into church culture."

Sometimes telling the two apart is hard- almost impossible, like trying to tell the difference between a donkey and an ass (no pun intended, really). The truth is there though and when we catch glimpses or whole panoramas of it, it's liberating, exhilarating, and leads us to the greatest happiness we know.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Laurenisms



When I found out I was pregnant with a girl, before having Lauren, everyone kept telling me how different little girls are from boys. They kept telling me how little girls are so much sweeter and calmer and how it would be such a nice break from rowdy, rambunctious boys.

Well, apparently they never became acquainted with Lauren when we were all still little angels flying around before we were born. I love that little girl to pieces, but quieter and calmer? No way.

She's 18 months old, and if I remember correctly, that's when my two boys were at their height of mischief and constantly into garbages and toilets. Things seemed to settle down at around age two, so hopefully that will be the same in this case.

But at the same time, there are so many cute little things that she does, both naughty and nice, that I will miss when she starts to settle down.

I know I've written about this before, but one of my favorite things about her is her love for dancing. Every morning she comes in, grunting and pointing at the radio in my room for me to turn it on. She immediately starts bobbing, shaking, and clapping with a huge smile on her face. Even when we're in the car, if there is a song with a good rhythm on the radio, I can see her little pig-tails bobbing to the beat in the rear view mirror.

This past Sunday morning, I thought some calm, peaceful gospel music would be nice to listen to as we got ready for church. When she heard me turning the radio on, she came running into my room with her head already bobbing and her hands in clapping position. When the soft, fluid music came on, she shook her booty once or twice, stopped, looked at me with a confused look, shook it again, stopped, and now looked at me with an irritated look. This went on for about 20 seconds before she got fed up and stomped out of the room.

Another funny thing she loves to do is to go into her brother's room while they are playing, and being as stealthy as an 18 month old can be, steals their underwear from their closet and runs out of the room, waving it in the air, screeching triumphantly. Then she waits in the hallway corner, squealing, waiting for them to rescue their whitey-tighty hostages.

Her brothers are pretty pesky with her, and at times down-right obnoxious, yet despite all the beatings and doors slammed in her face, they are surprisingly patient with her at times. My favorite is when they're laying on the living room floor watching TV and she'll come and body slam them as hard as she can. Suprisingly, they seem not mind this so she continues rolling around on them, occassionally punching them in the heads with her little fists. They usually ignore it and just move their heads around so they can keep watching TV while she beats on them. At times she'll replace the punching with open-mouthed drool baths, right on their faces. They just laugh, wipe the drool away, and keep watching TV.

I realize that if you talk to just about any mother of an 18-month old, they will comment on their abundance of energy. But having had two other kids, I think I can safely make the comparison that she has more energy than either of them ever had. The woman is constantly running, climbing, dancing, stacking, digging, splashing, pestering, you name it. Almost daily, I get a sympathetic comment from a stranger or friend on Lauren's remarkably high level of energy and activity.

I can't go without mentioning her middle-of-the-night scream. When my boys woke up at night or after their naps, they would first whimper, then slowly work up to a cry. My little Lauren goes from zero to supersonic in about 3 seconds. It like a 10cc shot of straight adrenaline when you have that wake you up from a deep sleep at 2am.

To top off her lady-like behavior, she has quite the little menacing growl. When there's something she doesn't like, she growls, just like a pre-pubescent little lion. I love it. She only says a couple of words and mostly does the little cavewoman grunt and point. It's impressive how many things she can communicate to us just be fluctuating the pitch and volume of the letter A. She can communicate most phrases in the English language just by how she pronounces and grunts this letter, combined with the appropriate hand gestures. Her newest hand gesture, when she's frustrated with something (usually me), is to ball up her little fist and hit herself in the head with it while giving us a dirty look and growling in a low voice.

Being the third child, the poor little miss has gotten the least amount of one-on-one time with me but she sure can hold her own. I love women with spunk and personality so in a very strange way, I hope this feistiness continues, just hopefully not directed at her parents. It would also be nice if she could be tidy and spunky at the same time too. Here's for hoping.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Back to Normal

I think this is the first week in a long, long time that I have felt somewhat back to normal. I decided to make some New Year's Resolutions, put them on my bathroom mirror (I saw Cristina and Stanton did that). On my list, at the very top, was to establish my own personal routine as part of my daily priorities. They are the things that over the past few months with my fatigue, nausea, and three kids, seem to have dropped off on the list of must-dos. If I'm lucky, I can get some of them in occasionally, but it has been rare for these things to get done every day, much less all on the same day. I was finding that I was putting myself very last on my list of priorities and I felt I was losing myself and slowly starting to slide down that slippery slope of motherhood blahs.

This is my list of daily personal priorities. How sad that I had to write them out and put them as New Year's Resolutions. I decided to put them on my blog as well to increase the personal accountability since it's a matter of public record now:

1-Pray twice daily.
2-Study my scriptures
3-Exercise
4-Get dressed, showered, and ready for the day, each day.

With the first two, I felt I was slowly losing my line of communication with my Heavenly Father. Sure, I did the rushed token offerings of 30-second prayers and distracted scripture reading, but I felt He was beginning to feel like a distant friend that I hadn't talked to in months. It is unsettling and something I definitely can't afford to do when I'm raising 4 of His children. I need His help now more than I've ever needed it in my life since the stakes have never been higher.

I've also hit the gym hard again this week and it has made all the difference. I forget how much this bolsters my self-esteem and feeling of self-mastery. The track and swimming pool have never felt better. Being pregnant, I'm only at about 50% of where I was before I was pregnant in terms of strength and stamina, but either way, it felt great. I also find that I have a strong tendency towards winter-time blues and exercise is the best thing I have found to keep it away.

The last one, I thought I'd add to my list of resolutions after a conversation with Cristina when she and her family were visiting last week. Over dinner at the Olive Garden, I asked her, "Come on now, tell me honestly, since you've had Maxton, do you always get to shower every single day?"

Without missing a beat, she said, "Yes, I need to do it for me." And suddenly I felt all dingy and dirty and found myself trying to explain away all of my excuses.

Later that day I thought, really, there's no good reason to always put myself last all the time. My kids are old enough that I can lock the door for 10 minutes, take a quick shower and throw on some clothes that aren't always sweats.

I was playing myself as the martyr. I know that I'm a better mother when I've met all of my personal priorites each day, so why wasn't I doing it?

So 2011 is off to a good start, now let's just see if I can keep it that way.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Kid Funnies

Once again, my kids are napping and I should really be napping with them since I had an awful night's sleep last night but I really wanted to write down some of the recent funnies from my kids.

About a month ago, Camden came home from school saying that for school lunch that day, they had chicken and that his piece had the wish bone in it. He said he had made a wish with it and allowed some of his friends sitting near by to make wishes with it as well. About 3 weeks later, as he was taking off his coat, he reached inside his pocket and said, "Oh look! Here's that wishbone!" He held up the bone from a chicken thigh, beaming with pride. It was all nice and crusty with pocket lint and other unknowns covering it. Dennis and I just laughed until later on that day, we saw Lauren walking around, gnawing and drooling on the bone she had so conveniently found lying around. It disappeared real quick after that but I made sure to take a picture of his treasure before disposing of it.


Camden and Luke each got one of these plasma cars for Christmas. Dennis thought it was so funny that I was riding them just as much as the kids were. The kids thought it was much more fun for me to take them for a ride on it than to ride it themselves.


Grandpa Merrick came over on Friday and brought Lauren a brand-new Christmas dress. I was so excited to get her all dolled up in it on Sunday. She seemed pretty excited to be wearing it and kept admiring the lace and ruffles but as soon as I pulled out the camera to take a picture, she burst into tears and ran away. Oh geez, and so the drama begins.


I painted Lauren's fingernails and toenails for the first time today. She has spent most of the morning holding her hands out in front of her admiring them and pretending to paint her nails with anything even slightly resembling a bottle of nail polish.
Of course Luke didn't want to miss out on the fun so he brought me the nail polish and asked me to paint them like I had Lauren's.


Anyone who has little boys knows that their obsessions change from month to month. This month's obsession is Legos. He spends hours upon hours building all sorts of cars with nitrox, guns, knives and anything else he can think of. The hard part is that he doesn't like to disassemble them after he's done with them so they pile up, one by one, on his dresser. The other day, after I saw that there wasn't a square inch of dresser space visible, I told him he needed to clean them off and spent about an hour disassembling the cars with him. The collection is slowly building back up. Here's about half of the dresser's holding capacity.
My poor Luke has had pink eye and has been on antibiotic drops to clear it up. As with most kids, he hates it and screams bloody murder any time I put them in. Yesterday, I told him it was time for his morning eye drops. As I expected, he turned around and ran as fast as his chubby little legs could carry him into his room where he slammed the door behind him. A few seconds later he emerged wearing these orange vampire teeth he had gotten at Halloween. He looked at me with the meanest face he could muster and growled, "Are you still going to put those drops in, Mom?"

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Giants


It's late and I should really be in bed taking advantage of the rare commodity of good sleep, but my mind has been spinning with thoughts and I know if I don't get them written down, they'll continue to swirl around in my head keeping me awake anyway.

I find that the older I get and the more people I come to meet and know, the less different I think we are from each other. I think we have more commonalities than differences. Contrary to what a lot of people think, I think the percentage of jerks, insensitive, and hateful people is actually quite small. Most people, once you get to know them, are quite remarkable in their own right, regardless of their outer packaging. Once you get the chance to hear of people's life's stories and the obstacles they have had to overcome, you become in awe of their strength and resilience. That's one of the things I miss most about working at the hospital- meeting and talking to patients. Everyone has a story... everyone.

Many of these people, I would describe as remarkable, amazing, incredible, etc. Then there are those people who no matter how many adjectives you string together, words like this just don't cut it and I struggle to find the word that can do justice and adequately wrap itself around the person's character. Lately I have found myself using the word "giant" to describe these people.

A giant is someone who's inner spirit seems so much bigger than themselves, as though their little bodies can scarcely contain their potential, talents, and gifts. I think of them in the pre-existence and imagine them as having been generals and commanders in the Lord's army in the fight against Satan. They are people who are constantly teaching and inspiring those around them.

Yet these giants are often disguised in ordinary places and behind ordinary faces. Sometimes the giant within is apparent throughout their lives, possibly since childhood. But for some, the giant is revealed with age or in the face of adversity.

Giants, however, also seem to be given trials in their lives that match their inner stature. But it would be useless and unfair to give a world champion heavyweight lifter a 15 pound dumbbell to curl, wouldn't it? This is often the hardest part about knowing giants- seeing their struggles because they are so great.

Although there are many, many people that I hold my complete respect and admiration, there is only a small handful that I would refer to as giants.

The first person that I ever used the word giant to describe was my dad. Tonight I had over an hour long conversation with him on Skype, and as usual, came away feeling uplifted and with a determination to follow his example in being more Christ-like and loving. A very large giant dwells in a small-town, Idaho farmboy who has done remarkable things in his life.

Another person I can call a giant is my husband, Dennis. This is one person who I've always thought of as one of the Lord's right-hand men in the war against Satan, not only as as spiritual leader but as a skillful and tactical leader as well. Anyone who knows him well knows what I'm talking about and I don't need to explain any further.

Perhaps that explains why "The BFG" (The Big Friendly Giant) by Roald Dahl was one of my favorite books as a kid. Everyone needs a giant (or two, or three) in their life.