12/19/2011

This Christmas...

...my heart is full. There are so many unrelated thoughts and feelings that keep tumbling around in my heart and mind.

I am so excited to be having a girl! But, more importantly- this baby has brought a feeling of completeness and understanding. I've never heard of a child, in modern times, more foretold than this baby. Numerous people, at numerous times, in numerous ways, have foretold the coming of this little girl to our family. After years of searching and looking and pondering, I feel the completeness that she will bring to our family. The feeling that someone is missing, is gone, and I can focus on the family that I have. I know that she is in no way like the Christ child, but I can't help wonder how Mary felt, knowing that the child she was carrying held such a destiny. Knowing that it was her job to teach Him everything she could to help Him complete His destiny. He came as a baby, to a mother, just like all of our children, and I am grateful to her, and all mothers, for helping their children complete their destiny.

I am grateful for our modern day Saviors, who give their hearts and souls and reach the forgotten ones. My brother in law, whom I love, was born to a drug addicted mother, as was each one of his 4 brothers, all with different fathers. I don't know why some of our children our brought home to warm, loving and guided homes and others are left at the mercy of others to save, but I am grateful for those who step up and out of their comfort zones to find the forgotten ones. One sweet couple, with one son of their own, adopted all 5 of those forgotten little boys. A couple weeks ago, one of those little boys, now a man, lost his battle in mortality, but I believe that he has another chance, on the other side, to overcome the difficulties of his childhood and find the happiness he deserves. I pray that his family finds the peace and comfort that they deserve while he is pursuing his next journey and bless them, for having the courage to try.

I am grateful for the health my family enjoys and the joy they bring to me. I know that there are many families who struggle to find a balance in this crazy life and live a joyous existence. I LOVE my life. I LOVE my family and I LOVE my husband. I am grateful for the peace and joy they bring me. I know that there are others, who love their families just as much, and struggle to maintain the easy and carefree lifestyle with which I live. One of those families is an old family friend. I grew up with the Fish Family. A family with 8 kids who all have red hair is not one easy to forget. The fact that they were a huge part of our life through the death of my mother and the remarriage of my father, has cemented them into the endeared list in my life. Tyler was my age. We went to each others' birthday parties. I worked with his wife, Elisabeth, and her sister while I was in college, long before they were married. Two great people, from two great families, who have been dealt a hard life blow. They have 5 beautiful children together and 2 of those children (and possibly a 3rd) have an extremely rare immune disease. Leaky SCID, it is called. Essentially it means they have no immune system and the immune system they do have attacks their healthy body. Every little sniffle and cough, that our bodies easily fight off, brings them to the edge of death. It affects 2 children a year in the US, and this family has 2. The children will undergo bone marrow transplants (one of the donors is one of their other children and the other is an anonymous out of state donor) and hopefully after 2 years of seclusion to heal and mend, they can live normal lives. In the meantime, Tyler has quit his job to help in the healing and care of his children. Another family who cherishes each other and just wants joy for their family.

This Christmas, I am grateful for random, unrelated things. (or are they?) I am grateful for my unborn child. I am grateful for the Modern Day Angels that surround us. I am grateful for the health my family has and the joy they bring me.

If you are too, then be a Modern Day Angel in the Fish's life. As the children are being treated, the bills are mounting. You can read more about them here and show your gratitude and love by dropping into your nearest Wells Fargo and donating to the Fish Children Donation Fund.

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Merry Christmas and may your heart this year be as happy and full as mine.

Whaddya think?

12/05/2011

Feel the Magic...

Do you remember last Christmas?

When you came home from school to find that your house had been transformed into a beautiful Christmas wonderland with the exception of the ornaments and the star, which your mother saved for you and your siblings to help decorate the tree with.

The next day, the house would smell so delicious and you would get to assemble the plates of goodies and help deliver them to your friends neighbors.

Gifts for your teachers would be wrapped and placed in your back pack, but you had to remember to pull them out and give them to your teacher!

You saved your dollars and pennies for weeks so that you could buy some gifts for your family and best friends. You would hide in your room and meticulously wrap them and deliver them or place them under the tree.

And speaking of the tree, that magic tree, where beautiful wrapped presents, for you, would magically appear overnight!

Christmas Eve was filled with stories and family togetherness and Christmas dinner was beautiful and Divine! Sometimes you'd have to peel the potatoes or set the table, but most of it just magically appeared.

The weeks of Christmas were filled with joy, laughter and excitement! It was all you could do to wait for it to come again next year!

And then, you grew up, and became the mother, and realized where the magic of Christmas actually came from. Your mother.

And now, that you are the mother, it dawns on you that she had spent hours and hours shopping for the perfect present (and turkey and decorations...) Then the presents were hid until they could be wrapped (and re-hid because she suspected you of snooping). Teacher gifts were bought and assembled after the children were long ago in bed. After she'd bought the decorations, she'd spent days transforming the house and simmering the potpourri on the stove. Hours were spent baking and baking and baking some more. The Christmas Eve program had been planned and gathered and organized. Christmas day was spent in the kitchen, cooking the perfect meal, while you had played in the other room with your new toys.

And all this (and more) was done in addition to the dinners, basketball practices, laundry and cleaning that came with the regular day to day.

And as you try and replicate the magic for your own family, somewhere along the way, you realize that Christmas has become less magical for you, and much more stressful.


Sound familiar?

I've been amazed lately at the number of family and friends who spend every December, completely stressed. Last night, I was telling my Sidekick this and he said,"Well, it doesn't have to be, they just need to start early." and my jaw just dropped as I stared at him.

Seriously? You started 2 days ago. And your job, your only job, is to buy my presents. PERIOD.

I decorated the house. I bought ALL the other presents. I ordered and addressed all 100 Christmas cards (and had the picture taken and gathered all the updated addresses). I assembled teachers' gifts and made Christmas goodies. Me. The mom.

(My gift better be awesome.)

To be fair, I'm not at all upset with my Sidekick (I'd rather do it all my way anyway) and I'm not stressed out.

My secret- my Christmas is done by Thanksgiving. (this year, I was a little behind, since I was laid up during my normal prep time, but I'm almost caught up). My Christmas card pics are taken in August. (the sky is brighter= better light, and you have more time.) My Christmas cards are ordered and addressed and stamped in early November. Teachers presents, friends gifts, and 90% of Christmas is bought and hidden (and sometimes wrapped) before I buy my November turkey.

I LOVE Christmas and I refuse to spend the month stressed. I'm not big on stressing anyway- what does it really solve- but I want a magic Christmas, for me too.

My December is filled with magic elves, wrapping presents and making goodies. The month is calendared out at the beginning so everything I want to enjoy gets done. The house smells good, the carols play, and every night is a Christmas movie (well- most nights).

My Christmas is still magical. Even as a mom.

And when I do get behind, or a ball gets dropped, I don't fret it. Every day is filled with enough laughter, enough song, enough magic, enough giving, that I figure people will remember what I have done and never notice what I missed.

You have 3 weeks left. Make sure you take some time this month to remember what Christmas is really about and and relish in the magic.

The stressing, can wait until next month.


Whaddya think?

10/19/2011

Today is The Day

Today I am 34 years and 50 days old. My mother was 34 years and 49 days old when she drew her last breath.

I've been anticipating this day for the better part of the year. I've been wondering what emotions it would invoke in me and how I would want to spend the day. Would I be sad, empowered or depressed? Do I plan a fun family trip or spend it like any other normal day?

As I approached this day I guessed I would be kind of sad and I wavered between elaborate plans of fancy family vacations or a day filled with symbolic events: carousels, Wendy's hamburgers (with lettuce and mayonnaise only) and krispy kreme donuts. But, now that this day is here and I look back at the miracles that have taken place in my life over the last few months, I feel very different than I anticipated I would.

I feel so grateful.

I have spent the last two months on my couch with hyperemesis. When I decided to have another baby, I knew I would be sick and I prepared as much as possible, but nothing can completely prepare you for the debilitating illness to come. I laid on my couch (sometimes in my bed, too sick to make it to the couch) and watched life happen around me. Rides were offered for my children, meals were brought in, a party was thrown for Rascal when he turned 4, sitters were provided when my Sidekick needed a break, pizza gift cards anonymously showed up in the mail, my children were watched and cared for and my house was cleaned; all while I laid on the couch, sometimes too sick to speak. Most of the time, I didn't even ask for it, things just happened.

At night, I would lay in my bed and cry. I just wanted to be a mom again; make dinner, drive carpool, snuggle with my kids. And for some reason (probably because this pregnancy happened this year), I missed my mother more than ever.

As I look back over the last few months, I am in awe of the parallel of our lives. These past couple of months, in her life, were spent much the same way. Children were cared for, meals were brought in and her house was cleaned. My ninth birthday party was thrown by one of her friends. She laid on the couch, day after , miserable, and watched her life happen around her.

In the most healthy way possible, because of living these parallel lives, I've been able to get a taste of how she lived the last months of her life. Only her suffering marked the end of a life and my suffering marked the beginning of one.

A few months before my mother found out she had cancer, she had a miscarriage. Her plan was always to try again once the cancer was under control, but she never got that chance.

But, I do. I get to have the baby she never got to have.

In many ways, this baby is my compensation. The child I get because my mother was taken away so early. The life I am entrusted with, that she wanted so badly and never got. This baby, is my sweet justice.

And now that I'm here, it doesn't much matter how I spend today, but rather how I spend every day here after. All the days she never got to have. I know that she is there, watching over us and comforting us in every way possible, quite often through the guided acts of others. I didn't plan for things to line up the way they did but I am so grateful for the healing this timing has brought. Healing that I didn't know that I needed.

I am grateful for the dozens of people that have served my family, these last few months and 25 years ago. I am grateful for the love and comfort that I have felt through it all. I am grateful that this life will bring joy and comfort, healing and justice to my family and I am grateful for the lessons I have learned through the timing of these events. But, mostly I am grateful that I have been entrusted with these four amazing children. I am grateful I get to teach them and love them and I am so grateful to have love and guidance and protection from up above.

On this day, I am 34 years and 50 days old. And I am so grateful.

Whaddya think?

10/14/2011

Bringing the Fallen Home

Last year, as we approached Veteran's Day, I wrote a post about my love for my Grandfather, Brother-in-Law, Uncle, cousin, friends and all the other veterans in my life. I have an enormous soft spot on my heart for our nation's military and the sacrifices they make every day, so I can live the life I live.

This year, as Veteran's Day approaches, I want to bring your attention to a project that is dear to my heart. The visionary of this project is my uncle, Les Carroll, and the fallen veterans mentioned in this film pitch, Carlos Aragon and Nigel Olsen were good friends and fellow marines who served in Afghanistan with my brother in law. I encourage you to watch the following video and, if it moves you, make a donation to it's cause. There is a story behind every statistic we hear on the news and those stories deserve to be told.

I would consider it a personal favor if you could pass this along. Blog about it, post it on your facebook page, tweet it; anything that could help spread the word. The more people who know, the better the chance we have of learning the stories behind the numbers.

Watch the video and learn more about the project here.

Whaddya think?

10/09/2011

Heroes

It's amazing how experiencing a trial in your life can bring out the stories of the trials in others' lives. The stories of mothers who delivered full-term stillborn babies that were strangled by their umbilical cord the night before they were to be induced. The mother who incurred thousands of dollars in dental bills because she vomited so much during her pregnancy that it ate away the enamel on all of her teeth. And then, did it all again because she loved being a mother that much. And there's the mother who, after years and years of trying, finally got pregnant with triplets, only to miscarry them one at a time early in her second trimester. She caught those precious babies in her hands while sitting on the toilet.

Of course, these are the stories I hear now, but there are countless others. The parent who has to become both mother and father, due to the illness, passing or desertion of their spouse. The mother, who during a life threatening accident, has to make the split second decision about which child to save, and then will live forever second guessing her decision. Or the child, who is so severely abused as a child, but is determined to learn a different way and break the cycle so his children will grow up loved and secure.

I think quite often we live our lives and see the happy faces around us and believe that their lives have always left a smile on their face; their lives look so perfect. But, I'm learning that if you sat them down, one by one, and interviewed them, you would find that it was the hardships and trials of their lives that have left them with the smiles on their faces. The lessons they have learned and the experiences they have had that have turned them into the person they are today. That have turned them into the Hero they are today.

I am learning that we are all heroes. That we have all have trials and experiences that, although we feared that they would at the time, have NOT broken us. Instead they strengthen us and made us into the hero that we are. And amidst the turmoil, evil and moral decay that we live in today, I am so grateful to be living and raising my children among so many heroes.

Thank you for being my hero.

Whaddya think?

9/24/2011

The Sweetest Blessings

After my 2nd, I said I'd never do it again.

After my 3rd, I swore I'd never do it again.

So, it came as a shock to many that here I am, doing it again, for a 4th time.

I love the babies, but I am desperately afraid of the pregnancies. I knew exactly what would be asked of me. At the worst, my life. At best, 2 months of my life where I would wish every day I could cease to exist. I knew the price I would be asked to pay. I knew the price my family would have to pay. I knew the debilitating illness that would follow the 2 lined stick, the array of prescription bottles that would only keep me stable, not well. So, when the inspiration came to give it one more try, I wrestled with it- for days. I cried, I pleaded, I begged. Please, can't there be any other way? But, ultimately I knew, it was a price I was willing to pay. Two months for a life. A life that would be mine to mold and love and cherish. Because, you see, it is from our most challenging and courageous sacrifices that we receive our sweetest blessings. I'm sure you have your own sacrifices. The decisions you are too afraid to make. The road that seems so scary. But, the blessing, that sweetest of all blessings, is worth the hard things that we are asked to endure. Mine, will be a baby. What will yours be?


Whaddya think?

8/04/2011

The Importance of This Age

Today, I pulled slivers out of little feet.

Yesterday, I put on 3 band aids.

The day before, I tamed a temper tantrum so severe, I ended up buckling him in his car seat in the car, for his own safety.

I've called poison control 3 times, read a million stories, been through hundreds of boxes of band aids and sat in the corner on the floor in the museum, for a time out. Diapers and potties and tantrums and night time routines.

It. Is. Exhausting.

But, this is the time to lay our frame work. The lessons we teach and the decisions we make with our children right now, will build our foundation for the lessons and experiences that are yet to come.

Dr. Glenn Doman, a renowned scholar and scientist did extensive research on 18 month to 4 year olds. He has said that “a newborn child is almost an exact duplicate of [a] computer, although superior to one in almost every way.

“What is placed in the child’s brain during the first eight years of life is probably there to stay. If you put misinformation into his brain during this period, it is extremely difficult to erase it.” He believed that the most receptive age in human life is that of two or three years old.

He discovered that the hyperactive busyness of our toddlers is actually their insatiable desire to learn. So, today is was slivers and sippy cups, but it was also books (reading) and blocks (self confidence and problem solving). It was fighting with brothers (lots) and apologies and sharing. I'll probably crash into bed tonight from shear exhaustion (again). But, today mattered. A lot.

And tomorrow will to.




Whaddya think?

7/06/2011

When We Don't Listen...

I learned a valuable lesson this weekend...

My brother and his wife flew in for a visit so we packed up the car and headed for the coast. We love the beach! We love to jump in the waves, dig in the sand and soak up some sun. We rented this cute little farm house with goats and llamas and fields and dropped our stuff off at our oasis getaway before heading to the ocean.

It was a beautiful 1/2 mile hike through the forest down to the beach and we marvelled at the trees and giant slugs along the way. The tide was beginning to come in, but we still had a good 25 feet or so of sandy beach before it ended at the edge of the cliff wall. There were great, large logs that had been washed up against the cliff wall where we could set up a safe, home base and have plenty of sand behind us for the kids to dig in. The waves were in true form. The were large and awe-inspiring and provided plenty of fun to run and jump in. We played for about an hour and had a great time.

But, from the moment we stepped off the trail, Buster, who's 9, was not impressed. He LOVES the beach, but he refused to get near the water. The only explanation that he could provide us was, "I don't feel right about this, those waves aren't safe." No amount of consoling or coercing could get him near that water, so we finally told him that if he didn't feel comfortable to stay back and play in the sand. But, for the entire hour, he never fully relaxed; he remained fixated on watching the waves.

After an hour or so, my Sidekick and I began to gather the children and to discuss our hike home: who was wet, where the shoes were, what we needed to do before dinner. As we were discussing the plan, out of no where came this huge, rogue wave. Our "safe" log which had previously allowed the largest of waves to only wet our toes, was no match for this wave. In a stunning second, we were all immersed up to our waists. Our bags and shoes were thrown behind us from our "safe" log and left in slow draining pool behind it. They would have washed out to sea if the log hadn't stopped them. By the grace of God, my Sister-in-Law saw the wave as it approached and had the foresight to grab Rascal, who was sitting next to her on our "safe" log, by the shoulders and hold on to him as the wave enveloped him. Luckily, Dodger had come in the dry off and stood behind us beside Buster, who stared, wide eyed in fear, as the wave hit.

After the initial shock wore off, we looked around to survey our damage. We were all drenched, our shoes and towels were drenched, but still there, and miraculously none of the children had been dragged out to sea. It was then that we realized that my brother, who had been standing 10 feet in front of us, where Dodger had been seconds before the wave hit, had been knocked down by the wave and was pinned under a massive log. The log, that moments before had been buoyant and weightless in the water, now trapped him against the sand. A moment of panic, screams for help and many good Samaritans later, he was freed. It took 9 people to lift the log off his leg. He had some scrapes and major bruises, but walked away.

The ocean, that had been our playground, had turned dangerous and deadly in an instance. Buster had been right. Buster had listened. In those few intense minutes, I learned that sometimes, our children listen better than we do. Next time one of my children says, "I don't feel good about this, it doesn't feel right", I will listen. And I pray that the day that I say to them, "I don't feel good about you going tonight, but I don't know why", that they will listen to me because I had trusted them. Because, sometimes, those feelings, save lives.

Whaddya think?

Dodger sitting on the log that pinned my brother

6/21/2011

On the First Day of Summer Vacation

Yesterday was our first, official, scheduled day of summer vacation. (The boys got out of school last week, but I gave them a couple of free days). So, by 9 am, when I rolled out of bed (I LOVE my sleep), the big boys were dressed, had eaten and fed their younger brother, they'd cleaned their mess in the kitchen, wiped down the bathrooms, cleaned their rooms, made their beds, brushed their teeth and hair and were enjoying some screen time. Which meant that by the time I got up, I had very little to do before we could get on with the fun of the day. Last summer I was determined to have some structured, fun filled, summer days, so I made a big schedule on a piece of poster board and taped it up in the kitchen. That way, the boys could easily check and see what was going on that day or what to expect next. It worked so well, and with one day down, I have great hopes of another fabulous summer. So, just in case your summer days are filled with tv, chaos and getting nothing done, I thought I'd share our schedule with you.


7:00- 9:00 (as in they are up at 7 and me at 9) -wake up-
get dressed/hair/teeth
eat breakfast
jobs

-screen time-

12:00 -Lunch time-
-Learning time- (reading, work books, letter writing)

-Play time-
(no screens)
(sometimes we'll have scheduled activities here. today we made shrinky dinks. but I also have science projects, forts to paint and build, etc. But, most of the time, it's unstructured play time)

6:00 -Dinner time-
(evening jobs)


One day every week, we go on an outing. They are all planned out and include: local hikes, zoo, the movies, Children's museum, Aquarium, Reptile Zoo, Bounce house, parks, etc)

And one day a week, I hire a babysitter. Because I deserve to get a pedicure once in a while, but mostly because 3 kids + the grocery store= no fun. We are all happier that way.

They all have jobs, because we are a family and we all work together. To see how the job rewards work, you can read The Value of a Gem. Here are the jobs:

Buster:
Make Bed
Clean room
Unload dishwashes
Wipe down upstairs bathroom
Practice piano
Sweep kitchen (evening job)

Dodger:
Make Bed
Clean room
Unload silverware
wipe down downstairs bathroom
practice piano
clear dinner table (evening job)

Rascal:
Make bed (with mom's help)
Clean up toys
wipe off dinner table (evening job)


When their is structure, work and fun, summer is better. The fun happens and the house still stands. We hope your summer is as great as ours.

Whaddya think?

6/13/2011

A New Normal

For my friends...

Sometimes in life, an event so catastrophic occurs that it is life changing. You will never look at things the same way; life will never again be "normal". For many of us, 9/11 was like this. Those of us who lived through 9/11 will never again have that feeling of invincibility that we had before. Those of us deeply affected, will always have a greater sense of country and a desire to support those who fight for our freedom. We will never fly on an airplane without remembering those who gave their life to save thousands of others.

It is in the aftermath of these life changing events that we begin to realize who we really are, what we truly believe in and who we can ultimately rely on. From the ashes of the aftermath, we gather the fibers of what is left and we begin to build our new normal. With the passing of time and with the love and support and comfort of those who love us most, we begin to repair the damage that has been done and re piece together our lives. The cracks will always show and the damage will never be forgotten, but eventually, we will be happy again. We will find a way to live with the sorrow the event has caused and do good with our lives again.

It is like open heart surgery. Our chest has been ripped open and our heart has been taken out. But, we are given a new heart, or a repaired heart, that can beat and supply us with the life sustaining force we need. Our chest is repaired and stitched and we have weeks of intense recovery. Which is followed by months and sometimes years of therapies and support. But, eventually, we do recover. Our chest will never look the same again and we will always be reminded of the journey we have traveled, but we will be able to love and laugh and live again.

I am sorry if you are among the numbered that has been through such an event. It changes us in ways that can't be seen by the natural eye. But, in the end, if we just keep swimming, we become stronger. I was taught to swim when I was a little girl, and there have been many times in life when I can only tread water. Sometimes, I even need a life vest. But, I am determined to stay afloat. There is no logical reason to have a contact in my phone for my mother, but even after 25 years, I need that number there, even if it is a number to no where. Because having a contact to her, is sometimes my way of staying afloat.

And remember through it all, that it is after the darkest of storms that we are blessed with the most brilliant rainbows.

If you have been through such an event, and are having a hard time treading water, I would be happy to listen and love you through it. Email me.

Whaddya think?

5/22/2011

Sometimes, It's a Rainbow...

Sometimes, Life is Hard.

It is full of hard choices, hard circumstances and hard experiences. Sometimes, it is because your days are filled with fear and sadness as you help an ailing parent. Sometimes it is because of the loved one who is determined to live a difficult life, and you are forced to sit and watch. Sometimes life is full of anxiety as your life circumstances change and spiral out of control. And sometimes, it is simply hard because you are terrified at the choices placed before you.

I have experienced hard things in my life. But, I have found along the way, that it was when my life seemed the hardest, the saddest or I was at my loneliest or most afraid, that that is when we are lifted the highest.

I believe that no matter the circumstances of our life that the Lord is always looking over us and it is during our darkest moments that he sends us the sweetness of his Tender Mercies. Lately, for me, these Tender Mercies have been manifested in a heart felt card from a friend and an unexpected gift in the mail, with a book that was sent just for me. This sweet children's book said exactly what I needed to hear, on that exact right day. And most prominently, the sweetest Tender Mercy was shown to me in the form of a rainbow, displayed brightly across the sparsely clouded sky, amidst the brightest sunshine.

It is when we feel that we are at the end of our rope that we should look around, for the simply and sweet ways He finds to manifest Himself.

I am grateful for Tender Mercies in my life and I am grateful that when I need them most they encompass and surround me.

Whaddya Think?

4/29/2011

I Expect More

The other day, my Sidekick did something that made me upset. This happens from time to time, I mean, I'm a girl and he's a boy. So, I did what I normally do when this happens: I tell him what he did that made me upset and why. Writing it like this makes me sound all level headed about it and really calm, but don't let me fool you, I wasn't completely level headed or amazingly calm, so when he said, "I don't think I acted differently than any normal husband would", I quickly lost whatever cool I was maintaining. At that point, I was lashed out at him through my tears, "Of course it was the normal response of a husband, but I expect more."

And although I was a bit worked up, the truth is, I do expect more. From everyone. In this day where selfish, lazy people are the trend, we should all expect more. We should expect honesty and fairness, trust and kindness. We should expect for those around us to follow through with their commitments. We should expect our friends and loved ones to care more about those around them than they do of themselves. We should expect for people to be accepting and welcoming. We should expect that people think enough of themselves to live an honorable life. Honor in dress, speech and actions.

There will be times that we fall short and those around us who love us most need to uplift and encourage us to be all that we can be. Sometimes expecting more is being patient while others realize that they can be more. Sometimes expecting more is accepting them for who they are. But, to some degree, if we aren't constantly stretching for a bar that is above us, our muscles will become weak and tired and the bar will continue to be lowered. So, set it high and stretch!

Yes, I do expect more, and when I told him that, I got more. And I hope people expect more of me too.

Whaddya think?

4/20/2011

Write it down...

A few days ago, I was cleaning out behind the hedges in front of my house, and I uncovered a bird's nest. It was nestled on the ground up against the house and it held four tiny, candy-like eggs. It was perfect. And beautiful. I was so careful when I showed the boys and made sure they knew not to get near it or touch it. I had the perfect vantage point from my stairwell window so each time I went up or down the stairs, I could check on my little bird's nest. I was so excited to watch the eggs hatch and the babies grow and learn to fly. I was thrilled when I saw the mother bird return that night to her nest.

However, a couple of mornings later, as I was coming downstairs to start my day, I peeked out the stairwell window and noticed something was awry with my little nest. I ran outside and to my horror saw that overnight, something had found the nest and overturned it, spilling the eggs across the ground. The mama bird lay there, lifeless, next to her shattered dream of tomorrow.

As my mother neared the end of her life, she hurried to organize and complete the things she felt were the most important to leave for us. She busied her time updating the family scrapbooks and making baby blankets for the grandchildren she would never get to hold. She spent time with us, making memories and enjoying the things that we loved most. She ensured that our childhood keepsakes; our report cards, baby books and baptismal clothing, were protected and preserved. But, just like my mama bird, her time ran out sooner than she expected, and her bucket list was left incomplete. Among the items left undone, were the letters that she meant to write to me and my brothers. I long for the letter that was never written. Although I cherish being able to wrap my baby up in the blanket that was made with love, just for them, long before they were imagined, and I guard the family photo albums that were carefully assembled and labeled in her beautiful pen, I mourn for the words that were meant only for me. The hopes and dreams that she had for me and the pride she felt as I accomplished milestones in my life. And although I know that just like my mama bird, she had every intention on seeing it accomplished, I find myself angry that the task was never completed.

So, today, when I sent my kids off to school, I told them I loved them and that they are amazing. And tonight after they are in bed, I will write in my journal and record the hopes, dreams and love I have for those who mean the most to me. Because although it is still vitally important to say it out loud and say it frequently, as time goes by, sometimes we forget the feelings of yesterday and the lessons learned. All we have left are the records that we keep, so in addition to saying it out loud, we need to take a moment here and there, and write it down. People move on to the next life, bird's nests get destroyed, but records keep forever. And today, I wish I knew the dreams of yesterday.


Whaddya think?

4/08/2011

The Price of a Free Society

It seems that my comment of Planned Parenthood in my last post has sparked some debate.

As much as I would love it if every woman could get free mammograms, prenatal care, birth control, etc, I'm just not sure that it is the government's responsibility and frankly, they just can't afford it anymore. I remember being in college, we were poor, and my health insurance did not cover my birth control. The $34 a month just about killed us, but it came out of our monthly budget. I remember my prescription being changed to a different brand and when I saw it cost $38 a month, I almost cried. The $4 a month made that much of a difference. But, we paid it, because that was the cost of living and we had a responsibility.

I think that somewhere along the way, these government programs that were made to "help" us, have enabled the American people and encouraged them to feel entitled. Entitled to free health care. Entitled to free cell phones and Internet. Entitled to free little league. Maybe little league and health care aren't on the same page, but where is the line? If everyone expected a free life, there would be no one left to pay for it.

I struggle with this daily with my own kids. They live in a world where everyone has everything and they think they deserve it too. I work hard to teach them patience and gratitude, hard work and responsibility. I am responsible for teaching this to them. We are all responsible for our own actions and the consequences that follow.

At some point, we need to expect America to be responsible for themselves, and then maybe the rest of America would be more willing to help those who were truly in need.

Whaddya think?

4/07/2011

Tomorrow, When the Government Shuts Down...

President Obama and our Congressional Leaders have been bantering back and forth for quite some time now about how to effectively and efficiently cut our national budget. The deadline for decision making is fast approaching; if they have not come to an agreement by tomorrow night, our nation will experience a partial government shutdown. This means that all non-essential government spending will cease. So, you will still have emergency personnel, including national security personnel, and air traffic control and earthquake monitoring, but non-contracted national parks and museums would close. You will get your mail, but government offices will close and the employees will go on furlough. Social Security checks will be paid, but many government websites will darken. If you have yet to receive your tax refund, buckle down, it could take a while. The military is in the middle of their 2 week pay cycle, so they will get paid for the first week, but there could be a significant pay for the second week (and every week thereafter if the lawmakers don't get their butts in gear).

Bravo to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., who has promised to fore go his salary of $174,000 a year if the government does shut down. And even bigger cheers to him for writing letters to his his fellow senators encouraging them to do the same.

Did you catch that?

Yes- my brother in law who is stationed in Japan right now, amidst tsunamis, earthquakes and nuclear scares will not get his full pay even though he has to stay and do his job, but the lawmakers who are NOT getting their job done, will get their full pay. Just saying...


So, what's the hang up?
It is things like how much to cut. One party wants to cut one amount and the other party says, "oh my, but that's too much". They can't decide on whether or not to make a permanent budget adjustment or just a temporary one. They are fighting over whether to cut programs like Planned Parenthood (which really gets my goat to begin with- I am fundamentally opposed to abortion, so why do I have to pay for yours because you couldn't be responsible??? Keep your pants on.) And they can't decide how much to cut of from other programs like health care and social security.

Really, they are fighting and pouting too much and not looking at the better good of the whole enough. And that is going to fall back on us.

On one hand, I say great, fight it out, I think there is way too much government spending, so don't back down! On the other hand, I think enough is enough. So, I propose to cut the pay of the Budget Makers. They should be forced to work without pay (maybe we should send their paychecks to active military or police officers...) Because maybe then, if they are faced with no longer being paid, they'll grow up and get it done.

You want to read more? Here's where I got my info:

Federal Workers Brace for the Worst

Sticking Points

What a Shutdown Means

Shutdown Talks

Whaddya think?

3/28/2011

Are ya ready???

It seems like the news is always full of the latest global and local tragedies. There are floods and earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes, tsunamis and blizzards, just to name a few. This latest major tragedy, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, really affected me. One day there was a high tech, civilized life and within moments, all of that was gone. It didn't matter how nice their computer was, how fancy of a phone they had or the brand of shoes they were wearing. Suddenly, literally suddenly, their lives were focused on survival: basic food, clean water, basic shelter and clean air. I've always considered my family pretty prepared for emergencies, but I began to wonder, how ready are we? We have cash reserves, money saved, food storage and 72 hour kits, but our 72 hour kits are now outdated and our food storage could use some revamping. What would we do if something happened while my Sidekick was at work and the kids were at school. How would we find each other? What if we had to flee from our home in the middle of the night? Would we be ready? What if we had to buckle down and stay in our home for weeks on end without electricity? Could we stay warm? Could we eat? Could our neighbors?

Do we have good emergency plans in place?

Well, now we do. Our 72 hour kits have been completely updated.



and we are in the process of updating our food storage and organizing a neighborhood preparedness plan. The government has organized a plan 3 Days, 3 Ways where they give tips and advice to help us be prepared. One program they have developed is Map Your Neighborhood, because there is a decent chance that it could be your neighbors that you depend on to help you through the crisis. So, I have requested the materials (they have everything all ready for you) and will offer to plan a neighborhood meeting to map my neighborhood. It may have taken a major tsunami and earthquake, but my family is step by step, becoming more prepared.

The more prepared we are, the less we have to fear. So, how ready is your family?

Whaddya think?

3/24/2011

What Do You See in Your Rear View Mirror?

A few days ago, MSN published an article stating that children should be in rear facing car seats until they are two years old. Based on the feedback I read on this article, it seems to be a hard rule to follow. I think we all look forward to the day that we can turn that baby around and see their smiling face in the rearview mirror. But, when it comes to our baby's safety, it is less about seeing those big blue (green/hazel/brown) eyes in the mirror and more about keeping them safe. Which means that, yes, you will have to put them in a regular car seat, rear facing, after they have outgrown their infant carrier. And yes, it may be a bit of a financial burden, but how much did you spend on your cell phone/tv/computer? Do any of those things save your life??? Just sayin...

I wrote about this exact topic over a year ago, so I am thrilled to see some big name editors encouraging parents to make safe choices. Especially after reading articles from parents who are too stuck in a rut (or lazy) to make good choices for their kids. Our babies are 500 times safer in a rear facing car seat than a forward facing car seat. Their head are unproportionally large for their bodies and their necks are cartilage; still firming and growing so when you slam on the breaks or are rear ended, their adorably large noggins are thrust forward at an amazing speed. It's whiplash for us but it is internal decapitation for them (which means that the cartilage and spinal cord inside their neck snap and they die instantly).

Here are some life saving rules to remember when buckling in your kids:

Rule #1: Make Sure Shoulder Straps Are in Proper Position
When baby is rear-facing, the top of the shoulder straps have to be at or below the baby's shoulders. When forward-facing (which your baby shouldn't be), they need to be at or above. This is measured perpendicular (at a right angle) from the recline of the back of the seat, not from the ground. When in doubt, put a popsicle stick into the slot with your baby in the seat to check -- sometimes the fabric of the seat can make it hard to tell where the strap really is.


Rule #2: Rear-Facing Is the Responsible Choice
Unless your child has serious medical problems, they should rear-face until they literally cannot anymore. With all the new, cheaper seats with 40-pound or higher rear-facing limits, it's possible for anyone to have a seat that will keep their child rear-facing until the bare minimum of 2 years old and 30 pounds, as per the AAP's improved guidelines. But as they state, 2 years is the bare minimum -- your child is still significantly safer rear-facing until you cannot fit them that way any longer. After all, it is 500 percent safer.


Rule #3: No Gaps Allowed Between Baby's Crotch/Groin Area and Harness
This is really only an issue with newborns, but an important one. If there is a gap between crotch and harness buckle, roll up a washcloth or receiving blanket and put it in a upside-down U shape, with the middle between baby's crotch and the harness and the rest lying flat between the legs. This is one of the only "add-ons" allowed. When in doubt, call the manufacturer.


Rule #4: Be Sure the Chest Clip Is Positioned Properly on the Chest
The chest clip belongs between the nipples and armpits. This positions the straps so your child doesn't fly out of the seat -- and can cause damage when placed anywhere else.


Rule #5: Know the Proper Guidelines for Outgrowing a Seat
Outgrowing a seat has nothing to do with legs touching the seat. There has never been a case of legs breaking from touching the seat and even if there were -- would you choose for your child to break their legs or their neck? Only one of those can be fixed. Your child has outgrown a seat in weight when they reach the max limit for that position. Your child has outgrown their seat in height, rear facing, when there is less than an inch of the hard shell left at the top of the seat above your child's head. This is measured perpendicular to the seat's recline. However, there is a new seat that has different guidelines -- so be sure to read the manual for your seat! My children seem to outgrow their seats in height before they ever reach the weight limit, so know the height and weight limits of your seat.


See how the strap can be pinched?
That means it's too loose.Rule #6: Straps Need to Pass "The Pinch Test"
The old rule of "two fingers under the chest clip" is outdated and resulted in straps that were way too loose. When straps are too loose, the child can fly out of the seat, or get stuck halfway and break heaven-knows-what.

The new rule is to first pull any slack tight from the lap-portion, and then pinch the straps at the collar bone (your fingers are pinching top-to-bottom). If you're able to pinch the strap, it's too loose.


Rule #7: Coats Are Not Allowed
A cop reports seeing a coat strapped into a seat, even after the child who had been wearing it flew out of it. Coats are not safe in car seats and almost all manufacturers have this rule in their manual as well. To understand why, place your child in a coat and put them in their seat and tighten the straps properly. Without loosening the straps, remove your child and remove their coat. Now place them back in the seat. That is how much room your child would have once the coat compressed under pressure, much like how you can squish a pillow if you sit on it. If there is more than a tiny bit of extra slack (like the difference between sweatpants and stretch pants), the coat is too bulky. Instead, try taking your child's coat off right before putting them in the seat, buckling them in quickly, and then putting their coat back on them backward.

Rule #8: RTFM (Read the Freaking Manual)
Most car seats have a specific location for the manual on the seat so that it's kept with it at all times. That's because almost every single question you could have is listed in that little booklet, and the manufacturer's number is there for anything else. Use it. Even car seat pros utilize this booklet. Every single car seat is different with different rules, and this booklet (or the PDF of it online if you lost yours) is your golden ticket to proper car seat usage.


Rule #9: When in Doubt, Get Help
Skip the fire stations and police department -- they mean well, but often are no more trained than you are. Contact SafeKids at their website or at 1-866-SEAT-CHECK.

There is no shame in asking for help, but there is shame in letting your ego or embarrassment stop you from making your baby as safe as they possibly can be. I had read all the manuals and paid attention to details, yet when I had my car seat checked by Safekids, I found out my latch straps were installed backwards (as were my friends). Asking for help, is a good thing.


Rule #10: Always Buy New
I am a huge fan of recycling and consignment shops, but when it comes to my car seats, I always buy new and I always buy the best I can afford. And the "best" does not mean the cutest colors or the most popular buys; it means the safest. Before I buy a car seat, I read the safety ratings and determine which seat to buy on safety ratings and use of ease features (the harder the seat is to install, that harder it will be to install it safely).


These are our babies and we've worked so hard to teach them make good choices and be happy, so let's make these good choices for them, and help keep them safe.

For more information, you can read:

AAPs improved guidelines

7 rules for buying and installing

7 Car seat safety rules, you may have missed

Whaddya think?

2/15/2011

I May Not Be Their Friend, But I'll Always Be Their Mom

There is an epidemic today of parents who have forgotten that being their child’s friend is not their primary goal. Of course I want my children to like me. Nothing stings worst than hearing “I hate you” from the life you helped create. However, my goal is not to be their friend when they are teenagers, but to be their friend when they are adults.

I just read an article interviewing Billy Ray Cyrus. My heart ached for him as he blamed the Disney Channel’s show “Hannah Montana” for ruining his life. (Click on the link to read the article). He says the “show destroyed my family. I'd take it back in a second. For my family to be here and just everybody be okay, safe and sound and happy and normal would have been fantastic. Heck, yeah. I'd erase it all in a second if I could." He claims that “Hannah Montana” (a wholesome family show about a normal teenager by day who is a singing star by night), in which he costars with his daughter, launched his daughter as a teen idol and sent her spiraling out of control. He admits that he wished he’d disciplined more and worried less about being her friend.

My job as a parent is not to be the coolest parent. It’s not to be the hippest mom. My job is to build a life where my children feel safe and secure. My job is to teach them the skills they need to succeed. Kindness. Honesty. Integrity. Hard Work. Self Worth. My job is to teach them how to live a happy life without me. And sometimes, that means I may not be their friend. But, that’s ok, because I am their mother.

Someone told me recently that the most influential time for children is between the ages of 8 and 12 years old. These are the years where they comprehend the most before the worldly ways creep in and try to corrupt them. It is our best chance at building a solid, firm foundation under our children before they are tested with the trials of life. Once they turn 12, they are well on their way to be a teenager, when they believe that life is eternal and bad stuff always happens to the other guy; the way to have fun is live in today. So, I look for every opportunity I can to teach them, mold them, guide them and let them make decisions now and sometimes even suffer the consequences of their choices. They need to know that life has consequences; good ones and bad ones. My kids are still little, so I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I try hard to look at those around me. I pay attention to what works and what hasn’t worked. I listen to what they say, whether I agree or not and then I put my main focus on my family. I want to take advantage of every opportunity I have today to prepare them for tomorrow. I live life with my eyes WIDE open because I don’t want to look back one day and realize I’d lost control way back there and there’s nothing I can do about it now. I know that much of it is completely out of my control, so today I will give it my all.


Whaddya think?

2/02/2011

For My Girls...

I am a Youth Leader at my church where I am responsible for the 12/13 year old girls. Tonight for our activity, we are having a talent show. I had a momentary stike of panic, a few days ago, when they asked me what talent I would be sharing. And then, I sat down and wrote this for them. This is for my girls...


Beautiful Blue Eyes
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess, who was loved by all who knew her. She lived in an amazing castle with a family who adored her and spent her days roaming the countryside and exploring the town. As time went by and she grew older, the day soon came for her to choose a prince. She had prepared for this day her whole life. She had been taught from the time that she was a small child that the prince she chose, would someday rule with her as King and Queen of over all her land. This was not an easy task nor one to be taken lightly. As she stood at her chamber windows and watched the princes that were lining at the castle gate, she suddenly felt the thrill of what she was about to do. Somewhere out there in that line of young men, was her handsome prince.

She spent the day dancing and chatting and mingling with these princes. She met handsome ones, ugly ones and ok- looking ones. She met rich princes, poor princes and many in between. She met nice princes, cocky princes, boring princes and shy princes. She had a delightful time and as the evening came to a close, she knew that the next day she would have to make her choice. She spent all night thinking about all of the wonderful, handsome and amazing men she had met. She pondered and sighed and giggled all through the night and by the first morning light she had made her choice.

She dressed in her finest gown and spent hours perfecting her make-up and finding the perfect placement of her crown amidst her fountain of curls. As she stood before her anxious suitors she surveyed them all once more before she walked through the crowd and grabbed the hand of the young man with the most beautiful and mesmerizing blue eyes she had ever seen. He was not the kindest (or even really kind at all) nor the most handsome and he was quite possibly the poorest of them all, but she was sure that he would give her the babies with the most beautiful blue eyes and that would be worth all she had given up.

They had a fabulous wedding and went on to have lots of babies and eventually became King and Queen of all the land. As time went on and she grew older she found herself old, like Grandma old. She began to look around and survey this life she had carved for herself. She realized that she had an ugly husband, with beautiful blue eyes, who had never been a friend to her. In fact they hardly spoke or spent any time together at all. They lived in a tiny run down castle because he was lazy and never did much to support his family. She had grown old and haggardly from her years of running the house and the kingdom alone. Her life had not turned out in any way like she had imagined it. In fact, her one precious treasure was her six amazing, but average looking children, none of which had beautiful blue eyes.

Too often in life we settle. We settle for the mean friends because they are so much more popular than the kind kids. We settle for the mediocre job because we don’t want to put the time, effort and sacrifice into going to school to better our education. We settle for and marry the Cute Boy because he was just oh so cute or said the right words even though he was very superficial and selfish. Life is long and the road that we choose will have lasting impacts on our eventual destination, so as you choose your prince (or career or friends or make any other important decisions) don’t ever forget, that it is never worth it in the long run, to settle.


Whaddya think?

1/29/2011

New Blog

I am cancelling my Seasoned Parents website and putting all the information on a blog instead. If you have posted my Seasoned Parents button on your blog (thank you, you are awesome), the old button will not work. Please copy the new button on the left and post that instead.

Thank you for supporting me!

1/26/2011

This is The Year

Recently over the years, as my birthdays have come and gone and I have grown older, I've found myself counting down to this year. It won't be a society recognized milestone birthday or a birthday that people would naturally assume as a transition point in my life. For many, this year will come and go as every other year does. But, for me, this will definitely be a turning point, or maybe a better way of saying it is a "passing point" in my life. This year, I will turn 34 and at some point later in this year, I will become and then surpass, the age my mother was when she died.

As this date has become closer and closer as the years have gone by, I couldn't help but notice the similarities between our life paths. At this point in our lives, we have both been married for about the same amount of time. We both have 3 children that did not come to us easily. Our child bearing years were marred with miscarriages and near death experiences. We both chose to be Stay at Home Moms as we lived the American Dream with homes and good friends and family to support our daily lives. We were both very involved in our churches with a deep love and gratitude for our Heavenly Father, His Son Jesus Christ and their brilliant and guiding Plan.

This year, with its upcoming date, has stirred many emotions in me as it has neared. Gratitude. Fear. Excitement. Trepidation. Accomplishment. Sadness. Eagerness. Loneliness. It has always been about me. The accomplishment of making it further than she did. The sadness of not being able to share my motherhood stories with my own mother. The fear that there is always the chance that I may not make it either. And the gratitude that, chances are, I will have more time that she did.

But, last night as I sat in my most sacred of places, wearing the dress that she had once worn, I pondered this milestone that only I will have this year. As I ran my fingers along the lace of my dress, Her dress, I wondered when the last time was that she had done that same thing, and suddenly this year became much less about me, and all about her. For her, this year, was a year of Lasts. At this point in the year, she would have just concluded her Last Christmas. Her last plate of milk and cookies, her last Christmas morning filled with fun, excitement and Santa's Loot. She would be heading into the year that would provide her Last Easter, her Last Birthday, her Last Family Gathering. She would experience her Last Carpool, her Last Closet Monster Check, her Last Parent Teacher Conference, and her Last Kiss Goodnight. I imagine that often times the last time would come and go and she never got the chance to realize she'd never get that chance again. I wondered how many things she would have done different if she'd known it would be the last time.

I thought about this year I was beginning, filled with birthday parties, family vacations, basketball games, piano lessons, family game nights and good night kisses and I ached for her. My year will be full of her lasts and then I will awaken and get to do it all again next year. So, this year, I am having a plaque made to hang above my door that reads, "This Year, I will Cherish Today." So, that every day when I roll out of bed and begin my day with my family, I will remember that this day, for her, held a last time. And when my special day comes and goes and my life has surpassed my mothers, I will keep my sign to remind me that that day, was a day she didn't have. And I will cherish every one.

If you knew her and have a story you'd like to share, I'd love to hear it.




Whaddya think?

1/14/2011

Top Ten Things You'd Never Have To Say To Little Girls

10. Your cast is not a weapon.

9. Don't wash your cars in the toilet.
8. Stop that. I don't have time to take you in for stitches today.
7. No, I won't spell "fart".
6. Why are there rocks in your bed?

5. You don't need a 'medkit', you're just fine.

4. Don't spit on your brother.

3. No, the frog cannot take a bath in my washing machine.

2. There is no bad guy that needs to be killed with a sword on your baby's head. There is NEVER a bad guy there.

and the #1 (that I've personally had to say way too often),

1. DON'T PEE THERE!!!

Come on, you know you've said it (if you have boys). What else have you said?
What do you say to girls?
Whaddya think?

1/08/2011

Because You're 12 Today....

If all girls began their teenage years with this kind of encouragement, how different our world would be....


This is such an exciting time for you!! You have left the little girl behind and begun the exciting journey through womanhood. Over these next few years you will be given the opportunity to decide who you are and what kind of person you want to be. Choose wisely. Who you decide to become will shape your future.

As you prepare for this journey, I’d like to give you with a word of advice. I’ve heard before that most of life’s important lessons were taught to us in preschool (being honest, sharing, taking turns, being kind, etc.) and the lesson I have is from preschool as well. As you live your life, I encourage you to
Stop, Look and Listen. Quite often, things are not what they seem and it’s important for us to Stop and take a Look around. Listen to the spirit as it guides you and directs you along the right path. The road may seem clear of cars and danger, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t lurking just around the corner speeding towards you. A moment could have effects that last a lifetime.

We, the women of your life, stand behind you. We support you and encourage you. We think that you are incredible. You are poised and graceful. You are beautiful, smart and kind. You will make a beautiful, amazing lady. You have now entered into this exciting part of your life and it will be filled with beauty and love, heartache and sadness, and joy beyond anything you ever imagined. And you will do great.



...As the New Year begins, pick a child, a youth, or maybe even a struggling friend and support them. Stand behind them. Show them love. Take a moment to listen. Change the outlook of the world, one treasured person at a time.


Whaddya think?