Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I've changed how I feel about my mothering

Levi is cute, smart, funny, so good for my big kids, the best little caboose ever.  But if you want to ask me, personally, the biggest blessing that has come from having this 6th child, I'd tell you: Levi has changed how I feel about myself as a mother.

I've spent my whole mothering career feeling pretty mediocre.  I had some ideas about what a "good" mother would be and I didn't think I was those things (selfless, nurturing, liked tucking her kids in at night, in control of her temper...) I knew I wasn't awful, but I sure wished the kids I loved most in the world could have someone with better parenting skills hanging out with them all day.

I tried really hard.  I made lots of goals and asked for lots of help and forgiveness from Heavenly Father.  It's just really discouraging and sad to feel like you're not that good at your MAIN job.

When we realized that Heavenly Father wanted us to have another baby, I was really scared.  I felt super overwhelmed and sub-par at the job I was doing with the 5 kids I had.  I remember praying and listing the many other women who had less kids than I did and who I felt were WAY more skilled at motherhood than I was.  BUT...I have a deep testimony that Heavenly Father knows what we can do and what will bless us and that He gives us commandments only because they will make us (and our families) better in the end.

I clung to that belief, HARD.  I remember being 6 months pregnant and going to Emma's high school orientation and literally sobbing as I drove home.  I had no idea how I was going to manage high school (all new to our family) and middle school and elementary school and preschool and a newborn.  Complete craziness.

Levi was born and I began taking care of those 6 kids.  He was my worst sleeper AND I'd lost my milk. I researched those problems and trouble-shot and tried new things that I'd never done with other kids.  I kept waking up and loving him and the rest of them and giving my ALL to those kids.  Eventually, I got my milk back and I taught that baby to sleep and Ryan kept telling how impressed he was with the way I'd worked so hard to do the things that were necessary to nurturing a child.  I took that baby to concerts and track meets and carpools.  I taught Faith to read, encouraged Gabe in his running, read scriptures each morning with Jane and Seth, made decently healthy dinners most nights.  It was really hard.  It blew my mind at how much I was asked to do each day.

A defining moment happened at the end of the school year (2014).  I had felt promptings at the beginning of the school year that Seth was dealing with Inattentive ADD.  I made a few calls to people that might help, got a little reading material but, honestly, I couldn't follow up on it.  It was just not possible.  I talked to his teacher (who had taught him in 2nd grade and moved up with the whole class to 3rd grade) and she said "oh yes, he for sure has it, but he's smart and he's managing school just fine.  I have a grown son who has ADD and I know how to help and I'll let you know when I think Seth needs more." At the end of the year, she called me in so that I could help pick his 4th grade teacher (something that the teachers are NOT technically supposed to do) and we talked and decided who we thought would be best for him.  I could feel her love for him and felt so grateful for her.  As I walked down that hall thinking of how lucky we were to have Mrs. Gothmann in our lives, I felt the Spirit clearly say to me "I knew that you couldn't give Seth what he needed this year, and so I made sure he had a teacher that could." I began to cry as it really sunk in that I am not doing this huge, important job alone.  I KNEW that Heavenly Father was my total partner in all my efforts and I felt this huge weight lifted.  I can be a good mother BECAUSE I have Him.

There are two other things I've realized during these last 18 months.

1.  I am able to do the really hard, selfless things that being a mother requires.  I saw myself sleep less, read less, be with friends less, exercise less so that I could be the mother my kids needed.  I think I've always been afraid that I wouldn't be able or willing to do that stuff.  But I did and I am.  I am selfless enough and nurturing enough and better-at-not-yelling enough.  I am!  (I still don't tuck my kids in bed though...) It was almost a relief to realize I had it in me.

2. My kids don't deserve a perfect mom.  They don't! None of us do.  We deserve a mom that tries, and gives us a lot of her best stuff, but we also deserve a mom who fails and messes us up. Seriously! We are all made better as we learn from our mother's successes and failures.  I have, for the most part, stopped feeling horrible for all of the times I fall short.  It doesn't make me try less, at all!  I just don't berate and hate myself.  I simply remember that 1) I have shown that I will do that hard mom stuff and 2)Heavenly Father is making up the difference and I keep striving and loving those children.

Isn't that so so great?  Isn't that so lucky that I got to learn those lessons at 39? How grateful I am that we have this soul-stretching calling and that Emma, Gabe, Jane, Seth, Faith and Levi are mine forever.




Thursday, June 18, 2015

Funny GIRL!!! (by Emma)

Central Valley High School is well known for their phenomenal theater program, and last November through March I was able to see why. I got to preform in the winter musical Funny Girl, the story of Fanny Brice and her experiences in the theater, and I had a blast. It was a lot of hard work (even though I was just a chorus member) and it took a lot of time, especially during the last month. Our directors (including singing, dancing and acting) all had a lot of experience and did a great job dealing with the 40-something teens we all called a cast.

Mrs. Fanny Brice doing her famous "Baby Snooks" show

From beginning to end there was a lot of work and effort expected of us, but, as I begrudgingly came to understand, that's what made us and our program stand out. After try outs were finished we quickly understood our life outside of the school had almost disappeared. Practices were every day after school and lasted to about 6-6:30. We were also given home work from Mike (the director, who has been in countless Broadway shows himself), he had each and every cast member regardless of their part (stage hand, to Mr. Ziegfeld, to Fanny Brice) write a 5 page paper about their characters life, hopes, dreams, family, etc. on top of learning lines, lyrics, dance moves, blocking, or (in my case) how to walk down stairs in heals with 2 text books on your head. But it was still fun. I had friends with me all the time and got to meet a bunch of new and amazing people. As the show progressed we began to add time-period, authentic costumes, make up, hairdos, and props.

For one of my parts I was a show girl, a Ziegfeld Folly. Florence Ziegfeld was the biggest producer in the 1920's and 1930's, he was very rich and spent TONS of money on his shows, his girls (the Follys) were known for balancing insane head dresses on their heads, and mike wanted us to be as accurate as possible (hence the balanced books). The biggest head piece in our show was about 6 feet across and 4 feet high (thankfully that one wasn't entrusted to me). We got to build our own head dresses and the costumes that went with them (with supervision and direction from our costumer). 

Ziegfeld Folly (fairly small head dress)
Biggest head piece (i helped make it :) )
This is my costume the red lace was over my shoulders.
The week before opening was named by the very first CV cast Hell Week. This week consists of early mornings, normal school, show practice that starts 15 min after school and lasts until between 9 and 11 at night. When you get home you have to do any homework from your classes that day and hopefully getting to bed around midnight. We were also surprised with the LATE Saturday practices. 

The show it self was crazy and scary and exciting and educational. We all really had to learn how to roll with the punches as lighting, sets, props, ques, and lines all got messed up. There were quick changes, falls on stage, and messed up choreography, but performance nights were my favorite part of the whole thing. Being on stage was nerve-wracking but also different from anything I've ever done before, and the hours prior opening were the best. We'd get there 3 hours preceding curtain and everyone did their hair, costuming, and makeup together. There were pounds of make up (we all said we weren't wearing our faces, we were wearing someone else's face painted on to ours, because of all the makeup) and gallons of hairspray (we might as well have been wearing plastic helmets for the solidity of our hair). We got a lot of time to bond and sing and eat and laugh together, and before the show started we had the coolest pre-show ritual.

This is my dinner after our first show at 12:47 a.m.
(notice the ridiculous amount of make up)
An hour before curtain all the cast and crew who wanted to were invited to join our big prayer circle, we had an average of 45-50 kids a night who all held hands in a circle and took turns praying to our respective God or just the universe. It was so awesome getting to hear all the different kids from different backgrounds with different faiths and beliefs thank God for this experience and asking his help so we could preform our very best. You could totally feel the spirit and love that we all had for each other and that our Heavenly Father had for all of us. I totally know this made a difference on stage and off for all of us, cast, crew, orchestra, and directors a like.

The show itself had some good nights and some not so good nights, but over all it went really well. Everyone was very mature when dealing with the hiccups and we had a lot of fun.

Some of the best people in the cast, loved working with them
But with all the late nights, and the short tempers, and the hours of practicing and building and tear down (after the show) it was an amazing opportunity and I'm so glad we could I could be a part of it, and cant wait to do it again.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Birthdays in the last year

Is this really something that needs to be blogged?  I mean, I know it's totally boring for any readers out there, but is it interesting for posterity?  I don't know.  How about I just make it brief?

(I don't even know where to start, it's been so long...)

Gabe:

Turned 14.  Happily joined the teachers quorum at church. (He's the youngest of his friend group so he is READY to hang out with all of them again).  He really cares about food and so we tried to get it right for him on his birthday:  peach french toast for breakfast, appetizers for lunch, Subway for dinner and fruit pizza for birthday cake.  He also really loves sports and his buddies, so they had a soccer game with sports drinks and costco cake for his party.  


Seth:
Turned 9.  According to my pictures, he had clam chowder and smoothies (with ice cream not spinach) for his birthday dessert.  We got him huge Lego sets that he built once and then never played with again.  It wasn't his party year and my calendar and instagram have no other information for me, so um, I'm done.





Faith:
Oh!  I remember hers!  She turned 6 this year.  Her birthday was on a Saturday that included a huge cross country meet and a soccer game, both (luckily, actually) 2.5 hours away.  We wanted it to be a fun day for her still, so we rented movies she liked for the ride down and let her pick the lunch spot.  We found this hot dog restaurant that had crazy gourmet dogs and the owner made her a special birthday plate.  So nice.  When we got home, we did a late birthday dinner with pumpkin dessert for her cake.  She got a new bike which she was SUPER excited about because the old one was so little and so slow for her.  




Levi:
The big one year birthday!  (Honestly how nice is it that you have no pressure to do anything for the birthday kid because they have no idea it's their birthday?)  I made him a smoothie and a pancake, took him to a bouncy house indoor playground thing and we did a Hungry Caterpillar cupcake cake with a very few presents and decorations...totally just for his siblings.  It was a good day.  We feel lucky all the time that we have that cute smart kid.







Emma:
Another big one!  16!  Without going into detail, it was a little weird.  There's all this anticipation for Mormons turning 16 and dating and it didn't quite work out with the guy Emma was expecting to be her first date.  Boooo.  It was a boring school day with a dessert I could tell she wasn't too excited about. BUT! I pulled off a fun surprise party the next day.  The kids had Friday off, and so I did a breakfast party.  I arranged for her to go babysit a friend's kids early in the morning while everyone showed up and when she got there, I think she was pretty surprised.  We had a crepe bar and the kids just hung out and talked.  ( I debated games, but you really have to convince teenagers that games are fun and I was too scared to try).  Anyway, it was one of those birthdays where you really are shocked that time has passed and wish you'd cherished it all a little more. 
 

Ryan:
We arranged to use the Grandma's Christmas money to spend a weekend at a local ski resort over Ryan's birthday weekend.  We stayed at a friend's condo and watched movies, ate out, skiied a little (hardly any snow this winter!) and used the resort's indoor waterpark.  Poor guy was exhausted but it was a fun day.  He turned 40...a big numbers year for the Romneys.  (But who really cares about 40 in the end, right?)


Jane:
She turned 12...so excited for Young Women's!  We had omelettes and orange julius for breakfast, I arranged a swim date at the Daines and they invited us to stay for a BBQ after. Everyone loves the Daines, so I was glad we could do something special on her birthday.  I made a KILLER macaroni a cheese dish with an amazing Strawberry lime cake for dessert and she got most of the presents that she had listed out months in advance.  




And we are done...in case anybody doubted we got older and that I didn't forget any of my family's birthday or didn't show my love for them with mounds of homemade fattening food:  here's the evidence!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Update May 2015

I used to do weekly, then monthly updates.  I loved how it caught all the little things they had done that week or that month that aren't necessarily post or instagram worthy.  One of those things I feel guilty about and just let go.  I looked at my 9 blurb books a minute ago and felt happy that there's so much documentation of our lives and it's still happening even a little bit.  Anyway... I thought I'd do a update of the last month.

Family events:



We took everyone canoeing on Memorial Day.  Last summer Ryan took his scouts on this river, then we did it for a date and have been wanting to take the kids.  It was so much work.  Borrowing a trailer, renting canoes, dropping off canoes, dropping off cars, etc. etc. but it was the most fun day.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE when I can tell even my teenagers are enjoying the family outing.  Levi was awesome (except for when we put his life jacket on) and loved hanging out outside (his favorite) while we paddled down the river.  Jane and Gabe were hilarious together...in the weeds, getting stuck in trees, having to get out of the canoe and push, racing everyone.  I loved chatting with Emma and Faith.  It was beautiful and calming and a little bit hard and after 2 hours we were done and everyone got rewarded with a jamba juice.  Great memory.

Ryan:


He has a beard. I'm in love with it.  He loves soccer and lives for the outdoor games he and his friends play 3 times a week. Work is for once super chill and he's home a little earlier these days because of it.  He is taking advantage of his work's Bike To Work month incentives and bikes almost every day.  He reads boring computer books in his spare time and also has enjoyed audiobooks during workouts and commutes.  He's still the best scoutmaster ever.  Seriously.

Jessica:

I'm running a half marathon tomorrow.  I can't tell you how happy it makes me that my knee can do 8-12 mile runs for 6-8 weeks in a row.  I still keep my mileage per week under 18 (It's supposed to be under 15 but I fudge during training).  I'm simultaneously dreading and getting excited for summer.  Levi is hard and loves his dad WAY more than me and it honestly hurts my feelings but I try to be a big girl about it.  I'm playing piano in primary but switch one Sunday a month with the chorister and do singing time.  It's kind of perfect.

Emma:

FINALLY got her license.  It makes her seem so old and independent which makes me sad.  Except when I forget tomatoes for Sunday dinner and she is happy to run to the store at 11:00 on Saturday night for me!  She's easy going and fun and has the cutest friends.  She's trying to get a house cleaning business started...she has two women she cleans for and is hoping to get a few more clients for the summer.  It's hard to go on family vacations and girls camp in the summer and not work Sundays and want to be in theater during the school year and still find a job!

Gabe:









Finished track season as the 8th fastest two miler in the Eastern half of Washington.  He was 3 seconds away from being the fastest freshman his high school has ever had and when he missed that time at regionals, he was really bummed.  It's hard to have such high goals and such a fast rise to the top of your sport because really really good is still a little disappointing.  He's had a busy busy year and was happy to take his AP World history test because it has given him a lot more time.  He also has good friends and wants to be with them all the time but he'll talk to his mom and contribute to the family when he's home.

Jane:


Turned 12 on Saturday.  We had a countdown, a birthday list, meals planned for 2 months before the big day. It was pretty fun and exciting.  She finished soccer and made her select team again next year.  She LOVES it.  She also did track this season and is REALLY good at long jump (thank you hypertonisity).  She has a 50s dance tonight and dressed up so cute in her 50s costume today for school.

Seth:


Continues to work so hard on his ADD issues at school and at neurotherapy.  I'm so impressed with his determination and interest in improving.  He enjoys piano and did some art and running and a computer class the last few months, and I'd like to get him into swimming (team sports aren't really his thing..) He's had a great, tough teacher this year.

Faith:

Is the funnest sidekick.  I will miss her so much next year during 1st grade.  Faith loves school and is always excited to go.  Last week Faith asked Ryan why he brushed his teeth while showering.  He told her "because it kills 2 birds with 1 stone".  He then asked if she knew what that meant.  She simply said, "it sounds disgusting".  She doesn't really talk like a kindergartner.  Jessica has started to get her beginner "chapter books" at the library.  She read 2 of them in the last 24 hours.  She is the only kid left who still wants a parent to say prayers with her before bed at night. Faith and Seth took a cooking class for kids this month and have been DYING to use their new found skills & cookbooks.

Levi:

Is hard to describe.  He is a strong willed little guy who loves to explore the outdoors and play with any sort of ball.  He is always trying to sneak outside (whether or not a parent is watching).  When inside he gets bored pretty quickly and cries to be held and carried around.  However, once he is outside he will wander around for an hour happy as a clam.  He is used to being the center of attention and demands to be kept there no matter what else may need to be done.  He is only just beginning to verbalize words.  He has started mimicking his siblings and parents sounds.  He responds appropriately to us when  we talk to him so we know he understands quite a bit but he has been slow to use any words himself.  He still thinks that he is a state champion wrestler anytime a diaper or clothing needs to be changed.  He does NOT like to be put onto his back.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Why Christmas 2014 was just a little bit better:

I'm a tradition girl.  I kind of feel like I need to do all of the same things every year and so, mostly, the Christmases look the same:

Decorating happened (referring to pictures, so I'd know where to put everything the same as last year):



Advent calendars and letters to Santa and Christmas cookies and work parties and ward parties and school parties and gingerbread houses and fancy Sunday clothes:

















We did the usual lunch (at a burger place) and a movie, Bethlehem dinner and pajamas with the Daines.




It was a great Christmas morning/day, where we just opened and watched and slept and ate and jogged.  And Levi carried around this 2 pack of starburst for about 4 hours.  

But it was also just a little bit better and this is why:

Reason #1:
The day after Thanksgiving, we were driving home from the Christmas light parade in Coeur d'Alene and I started to feel dread about the upcoming month.  I hadn't started shopping for presents and I know how much work the season is for the mother of a family of 8.  I hated that I was dreading it and I started to think it through.  

I realized that I was dreading it simply because I thought I was supposed to.  Like all of the other things I listed, it was a tradition for me to get stressed and worried about all the stuff. But as I actually thought about it, I couldn't figure out why I was so sick about it.  Here is a list of some of my favorite things to do in my life in general:

1. Cook and bake and put together meals
2. Shop with a good excuse
3. Go on outings with my kids
4. Faith filled, Christ-centered thinking
5.  Hand out with friends and family

Um...that's pretty much my entire Christmas To-Do list.  I truly enjoy those things and December is filled with them.  I decided to re-frame my way of looking at the month...I was doing the things I loved!  I wanted to be busy with the things I loved!  I love doing Christmas!  

It worked.  I had such a better attitude (or re-adjusted it when the old attitude crept in) and it was so much more fun.  It really is kind of amazing what your mind and your outlook can do!

Reason #2:
In order to complete my Young Women's Personal Progress Faith Project, I made a goal to memorize the Living Christ by Christmas Eve.  I spent the entire month muttering to myself over and over about the life and mission of the Savior.  It reminded me who He was, what He did, why He did it and made me want to celebrate Him and emulate Him just a little bit more.  It brought a whole spiritual dimension that enriched the season immeasurably.  I asked the Daines if I could recite it at our dinner (so I'd have a clear check-off point) and I did it and was very weepy throughout.  I know those words are true.  I know the Son of God was born in Bethlehem, performed miracles, atoned for our sins, was resurrected and has since restored his Gospel and Priesthood to this earth.  I am never happier than when I am remembering and acting like Him.



And that's why doing things a little bit differently, made Christmas a whole lot better.