Sunday, April 29, 2012


This month marks 6 years that we've been living in our house.  I remember once saying to Dennis that the thought of staying in one house for the rest of my life was about as unfathomable as comprehending the size of the universe... I just couldn't wrap my mind around it.  For as restless as I get living in such a quiet town, I realize that in all reality there is no where else I'd rather raise my children.  The area can seem pretty dull at times, but truth be told, I've never known better, kinder people than the people of southwest Idaho.  I'm amazed at the kindness of strangers as they see me with my four little ones and try to help me in anyway they can.  Motorists are uncommonly courteous and traffic is often held up as they wave each other on through stop signs and slow down for each other to merge.  There doesn't seem to be what I call the "Us and Them" feeling that is often present in communities where there are large numbers of LDS people.  People of all faiths come together, not seeming to care whose side of the fence you're on.

Today as I taught my Sunday school class of 15 and 16 year olds, I was reminded again how blessed I am to be among such remarkable people.  This week got pretty busy and I since I wasn't able to prepare the lesson, I asked them to each take a few minutes and talk to us about their favorite scripture.  I asked that they not just read it, but talk a little about why it was special to them and how it was that Spirit testified to them that it was true.

As they went around the circle, I was amazed and humbled at the depth of their testimonies.  The things they shared were surprisingly insightful and far deeper than anything I was capable of at their age.  Their expressions were heartfelt and at times tearful as they talked about how the scriptures encouraged them to keep moving and to become better.  I wanted to hug each of them and tell them how moved and inspired I am by their strength.  I told them that they could possibly be my children's church leaders someday and that if so, I knew my children would be in good hands.

...One more reminder how remarkably blessed I am.

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Onto some other exciting news for us, my Calista is finally crawling at almost 11 months!  Last Wednesday she timidly coordinated the movement of her hands and knees moving together in sync.  I say timidly because of all of my kids, she gets embarrassed the easiest.  As Dennis and I clapped and cheered her on as she tried out her newly acquired skill, she would turn her head away and tuck her chin into her shoulder in a bashful smile.  Since then she has been off, crawling anywhere her pudgy little knees will take her.  I love to see her shyly smile and hide her face when she gets attention from others.  It's just about the cutest thing I've ever seen.  Her next milestone will probably be the transition to vampire baby.  Just as with Lauren, Calista's canines are breaking through before her front teeth making her the cutest little roly-poly vampire baby you've ever seen.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Disclaimer:  With self-disclosure come feelings of vulnerability.  I realize some of the things I share on my blog are personal, but then my first goal is to stay real... and sometimes staying real can feel like one of those dreams where you forgot to wear clothes on your first day of school.  

As I decide what I want to blog about, I usually just try to write about what's on my mind.  Some weeks my thoughts are swimming and some weeks they're wonderfully empty.  This week was a refreshingly empty week in my head for a change, but I have had a couple things on my mind most of the day today.

During a conversation I was having with my counselor a couple days ago (yes, I've started seeing a need for alarm :) ), I mentioned something that had irked me the day before.  Without missing a beat, she said, "And what does that remind you of?"

"What do you mean?"  I asked.

"Usually when something triggers someone to be irritated, sad, angry, or uncomfortable without cause- it's because it reminds them of something in their past that has led that to become a trigger point in them."

Huh...  Immediately I knew what that was.  It wasn't the situation that had irked me, but it was it's similarity to something I wanted to forget.

That little chat with my counselor also reminded me of a conversation I had with my brother Jimmy while we were in Chile this past February.  We were on our way to meet up with a friend in Santiago.  Due to a series of events that were out of our control, we were running behind and my friend had been waiting for us at the subway station for 45 minutes.  I was a frazzled and stressed thinking about her standing there searching the crowds for us for 45 minutes!  After probably the 3rd time of muttering how much it stresses me out to be late, he turned to me, and without missing a beat said, "That's probably because you really hate it when people are late to meet you."

Huh...  What a simple concept, and in 30 years I had never put it together.

My wonderful counselor said that we often set up triggers to react to certain situations initially as coping mechanisms, often when we are children, at times as adults.   They can serve their purpose initially, but as things change those reactions are no longer necessary because we are out of the situation that necessitated the reaction.  Not only are they no longer necessary, but can become hindrances, trapping us in a downward spiral of negative thought processes.  By identifying what it was in our past that led us up to being triggered, she said, our reaction holds less power over us and we are able to regain control.

It got me thinking how much easier I could make my life if I knew more of those little pearls of wisdom that are so simple but so liberating.

Later in that evening I decided to take Lauren to the church orchards for some mother-daughter time in hopes of photographing some of the blossoms on the trees.  Unfortunately most of them were gone but we were still able to get some cute pictures of her.  She did pretty well but after a few dozen pictures she stomped off muttering under her breath, "This is stupid..."  Fun times with the little lady.

Next on my list of upcoming purchases is a new lens.  This darn lens is about as temperamental as a premenstrual 13 year old girl.  It either knocks my socks off or it's a total flop and I miss the perfect image because it decided it didn't feel like focusing.  I think it's time for it to go. I took well over a hundred pictures this evening and had to delete over half of them because they were randomly too soft and out of focus.  How frustrating that I had researched this particular lens for hours and finally decided it was exactly what I wanted.  Back to the drawing boards, I guess.
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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Terrible Awful

A few days ago I had a wake up call that reminded me that motherhood will not always be as I know it now.  One of our children did something that in our house will probably always be remembered as "the Terrible Awful" (name taken from the book "The Help").  I was shocked, disappointed, angry, and just about every other emotion that comes along when your child does something that it is far beneath them.

After a severe reprimand and taking away some privileges, I stood at the kitchen sink fuming as I washed the dinner dishes.  Where had I failed as a mother to make him think that would ever be okay?  Is this how it feels to be truly disappointed in someone?  Because if it is, this is a first for me.  So this is what mothers with older children mean when they look at me with my four little ducklings and tell me to enjoy these days- it's because after the diapers, sleepless nights, and car seats comes this.

After simmering down a bit I went up to his room and found him huddled in a corner with his head in his knees, sobbing.  I sat down next to him and asked him, "Why are you crying?  Are you sad that you were grounded?"

He looked up with red, swollen, watery eyes and sobbed, "No... I just can't believe I did that!"  He reached up, wrapped his little arms around my neck and continued to sob.  As we talked more about it, he never mentioned the privileges lost, only heart-wrenching remorse for his actions.

After the kids were tucked into bed with hugs and reassurances that "mom and dad still love you very much" and that "it's in the past," I couldn't help but breath a sigh of relief.  It was there- the pricking of the heart when wrong is done and a desire to make things right again.

And so that night a sliver of light was shed on some of the obstacles that lay ahead... and it terrifies me.  I realize that as a mother I will never be able to squeeze them into a little mold of who I think they should be no matter how noble my motives might be.  The decisions they make and who they choose to be are wild cards and in a way it leaves me feeling terribly helpless.  But even as I sense the unchartered mine fields that lay ahead, there come moments of sweetness as I see them into growing loving little people.  Little people with a sincere desire to be good and kind despite my own poor example at times.  I realize there will be many times when all I can do is hold on tight and provide a soft place to fall after the tumble.  It's this realization that makes me savor these times of formula, potty-training, and high chairs, and brace myself for the ride ahead.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Enjoying the gift of mediocrity

I remember once in college talking with some roommates about what each other's strengths were.  One was a phenomenal athlete, one had a magnetic energy and attracted everyone within 100 feet around her, another had never gotten lower than an A in school.  As I got to thinking about what my strengths were I was devastated to realize I couldn't think of anything that I really shined in.  I had always been a student who got B's and C's with the occasional A, I often observed social scenes feeling like the awkward wallflower, and I was never the star of any sports team.  But the more we talked, the more I realized that I did have a strength.  At the time I called it the "gift of mediocrity."  While there is nothing I do exceptionally well, there are many things that I do moderately well and I have learned to love the variety of things I am able to enjoy.

I realize I'll never win any photography competitions (or probably any competitions for that matter) but contrary to what reality TV shows and websites like Pinterest tell us, it's okay to fly under the radar of excellence and still enjoy the ride.

After buying my first DSLR camera I decided that if I had spent that much money on something, by golly I was going to learn to take it off auto and actually learn how to use it.  I devoured several books and read a number of photography websites and blogs.  Somewhere along the way I got in my noggin that if I really wanted to get good, I had to be a photographer like so many others I saw and admired.  They did it all and pulled it off flawlessly: families, babies, pregnant women, toddlers.  It wasn't until I read one book in particular that I realized I was setting myself up for burnout and disappointment.  The author, an accomplished photographer, admitted that she really didn't care for taking pictures of families.  She had done family pictures for years out of a feeling of obligation but as she began to teeter on the verge of burnout she realized that what she was doing just wasn't her thing.  So, she found what she did love and went with it- and that was photographing whatever the heck she wanted, however she wanted.  She admitted there were plenty of naysayers who claimed she wasn't a real photographer because she didn't fall into a conventional category, but this was her art form she said, not theirs.  

Downtown Nampa 120-1One night the instructor for a photography class I was taking had us meet in the middle of town and we were given certain assignments and a time limit on when to be back.  I partnered up with a dear, sweet older lady who turned out to be such a good sport.  As we worked on our assignments which mainly involved using different shutter speeds and apertures, I started feeling a little bored.  I turned to her and asked, "What would you think if we found a bar?"  

With eyes as round as saucers she spun around, "What?!"

I quickly explained that I don't drink, nor was I interested in picking it up, but that interesting characters have a way of finding their way into bars and could provide some interesting subjects. I pointed out that the lighting in a bar is tricky since you're dealing with low-light, florescent lighting, and incandescent lighting often simultaneously, so technically there was a lot we could learn.

She was hesitant but said she would come along if our instructor, who was a man, would come with us for protection.  

He laughed when I told him my plan but agreed and texted his son to find out the safest bar in downtown and the bar.

As we walked toward the designated "safe" bar I found myself getting side tracked by anything interesting or quirky that caught my eye: the glow of a cigarette held by the old man with the fur coat, the quilter's club showing off their creations at their weekly meeting, the pottery students throwing pots.  

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This guy insisted that if I was going to take a
picture of him it needed to be by his pink fire
hydrant that he proudly painted last fall.  He was
my favorite find of the evening.
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After I had stopped for the tenth time to talk to a random stranger to ask them for their picture, my partner grabbed me by the arm and said, "Okay, honey... Let's pretend I'm your mother for tonight.  And your mother says, 'Stop talking to so many strangers!'"

By the time I got home, I was elated.  I had had more fun walking around with a camera for 2 hours in our small downtown than I had in years.  Even the bar, which turned out to be void of any customers, had two friendly bartenders that were more than happy to pose as our subjects.

I couldn't believe what people will tell you about their lives when you walk up to them with a camera, ask a couple questions and ask to take their picture.    
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A friend of mine saw the collage of pictures I did of my kids and asked if I would create a similar one of her kids.  Oh my... I've been having so much fun.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Celebrating Milestones

In my Child Development class that I took in college, I remember learning about the milestones that different cultures celebrate in their child's development.  Americans tend to celebrate the milestones- crawling, walking, and potty-training- that reflect the value they hold in the highest regard which is independence.  Some African cultures, on the other hand, celebrate more a child's first attempt at sharing, which is reflective of the value they place on interdependence and developing a sense of community.

Last night as we were eating dinner, I was handing Calista bits of food off the dinner table.  It caught me by surprise when she held out her chubby little fist for the first time, offering me a soggy, squished piece of a regurgitated french fry.  Oh, the things that make a mother's heart melt!  My little Calista has yet to reach many of the milestones other children her age are reaching.  While the other 10 month olds are learning to crawl and jabber, she is content to sit quietly, smiling with her pot-belly poking out from beneath her shirt, wiggling her toes, and watching everyone around her.  How I love this little girl!

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The other day I was watching a segment on the Today Show where they talked about a trend among some women who purchase absurdly expensive, life-like baby dolls and treat them as they would a living child with a nursery at home, car seats, feedings, and so on as a sort of "baby therapy."  While several bystanders who were interviewed found this trend creepy and disturbing, I felt sad for these women.  With Calista, more than any of my other babies, I have felt the deep, calming and soothing effect a baby can have on a person.  How I wish every person could experience the sweet spirit a baby like her can bring into one's life!  I can understand why people would search desperately for a substitution of such a blessing, even if it comes in the form of a doll.

While we celebrate each milestone she reaches, whether it be one of independence or of interdependence, I can't help but feel a bit of sadness knowing that with each passing day, this phase comes closer to being over.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Spring Break

For Spring Break this year, we decided we definitely wanted to go somewhere warm.  After doing some price comparison, we realized that the most economical option would be a cruise which is amazing considering all that is included in the price.  Although the weather wasn't quite as warm as we had hoped it would be, it was still a needed change of scenery and we had a great time.

Here are a few of the funny incidents that we encountered on our trip.

The kids did exceptionally well on the drive out to California, other than the incessant babbling from Lauren from the back seat that was driving us all a little crazy.  When we were finally on the verge of losing our minds, Dennis told her to hush.  She looked at him and said, "Yeah, well you're crazy."  Given the fact that she rarely strings together more than two or three words at a time and that her speech can be difficult to understand, this well formulated and perfectly articulated sentence was quite an accomplishment for her.  Dennis and I looked at each other and said, "And so it begins...

When we arrived to California, we were hungry and looking for somewhere to eat lunch before boarding the ship.  In our search for a restaurant, Camden spotted a restaurant that looked super  cool with owl eyes coincidentally forming the two O's in the name of the restaurant.  "Let's go eat at Hooters!" he called out.  Dennis leaned down and whispered to him, "I don't think mom would be too happy with us if we went to eat there."  Darn right she wouldn't be.

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Luke was greatly disappointed when we boarded the ship and immediately noted that there were no carnival rides on board.  "But this is called a 'Carnival Cruise'!  Where are all the rides?!"  He was quite disgusted at what he believed was deceiving and false advertising.  He had been duped and he was not very happy about it.

2012-03-31 Cruise 2012As for me, I had naively assumed that while being on a cruise ship, people would lounge around, relaxing in their grubbies.  That's what I planned on doing, so that's what I packed for.  Boy was I wrong.  Dinner time was quite an embarrassment as we sat in our shorts and t-shirts with deliriously sleep-deprived children next to men in suits and women in cocktail dresses.  Note to self for future reference: people dress up extra fancy when they're on cruises and they send their kids to daycare for dinner.

There were many highlights: the 24-hr free soft-serve ice cream that we ate at least 4 times per day; the free day care and activities for the kids; and the amazing kindness of the crew.  One of the smartest business moves that Carnival Cruise lines made was to employ so many Indonesian crew members.  They were by far the friendliest employees, going well out of their way to remember our names and interact with our children.  Dennis and I fell in love with the Indonesian people when we visited my parents in Jakarta two years ago so we were delighted to be able to interact with so many of them again.  They seemed quite amused by our trying to practice the few Indonesian words and phrases that we remembered.

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When we arrived to Catalina Island, Dennis and I went snorkeling.  Dennis loved it, despite the FREEZING water, and determined that we definitely need to go snorkeling again.  Coming from my farm boy who has a bit of a shark-phobia, this was a big deal.

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In Ensenada, Mexico we went to see La Bufadora which is a naturally formed blow-hole.  The kids loved to see the water spraying so far into the air with each wave and enjoyed shopping for souvenirs in the local market. We had a tour guide that unfortunately gave very little information about what we were going to see, but instead took the time to have 20+ Americans trapped on a bus for two hours to deliver his anti-American platform, pointing out every way in which he believed the United States was inferior to Mexico.  Wow...

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It's funny how going into public settings makes you see some of the things your children do with different eyes and hear them with different ears.  I knew before that we needed to work on Lauren's enunciation, but it wasn't until she would holler out "Thank you!" to the employees that I realized that there may be a bit of an urgency to our task.  She replaces the th with an f, drops the n, and there you have a very startled waitress when she calls out her expression of gratitude.

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That being said, our children did amazingly with the 15 hours of travel each way to and from California and within the confines of our mean room.  They also dealt very well with the disappointment that the weather was too cold for swimming or to enjoy the amazing water slides on deck.

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This picture cracks me up.  It was so cold that the swimming pools lay empty but the hot tubs were always jammed packed with noisy, rambunctious kids.  The adults weren't too happy about it when they tried to squeeze in and enjoy a little romantic bubbly.  Check out the faces of the adults.

We had a great time and the kids are already looking forward to their next cruise.