Thursday, February 28, 2013

Joy for the Little Things

(Megan, Luke and Tiffany-Feb 2013)
One of my strengths as a mother is my ability to notice and enjoy the Little Things. I notice them and more often than not, I bask in them for the moment. Too often I quickly forget them, and it seems lately, by the end of the day I remember all the irritating things about the day and not the Little Things that gave me joy.

Lately, I feel like I'm allowing myself to become too irritated by my children. When Drew wakes up first, earlier than the others, I feel irritated that he either interrupts my quiet time, or wakes me up. I get irritated when Ellie and Luke want a home lunch every day. Even though they fix the majority of it, I'm irritated sandwiches are being made in the mix of scrambling eggs or pouring milk. I get irritated by toys that are scattered in my bedroom and in other places toys shouldn't be. I get irritated by unmade beds, half-done chores and hungry stomachs. I'm irritated when there are 43 things to be done, and someone is slowing me down.

I don't want to spend my days irritated more than feeling joyful. I don't want my children to remember me only ever irritated by them and not filled with joy because of them too.

A couple of days ago I was at the school for a meeting. It was in the room next to Ellie's classroom, and so I poked my head into her room and waved at her. She looked up and without even cracking a smile, went back to her art project. I got her attention again and gave her an extra big cheesy grin and then with a serious, yet friendly term mouthed, "Smile at me." It wasn't exactly one of those joyful motherhood moments. (After school, she insisted she did smile and wave. I beg to differ.)

An hour or so after that exchange with Ellie, I found myself quickly rushing through the parking lot to get home to the two little boys who were due at school in a couple of minutes. As I climbed into the car, I heard an out of breath voice say, "Mom, I just scored the best touchdown EVER." I turned, and there was Luke having chased me across the parking lot to tell me his exciting news. I looked at him and praised him for his touchdown and then...

Instead of basking in the moment, or telling him how touched I was that he chased his mother across a  parking lot in front of all his peers, or stopping and taking a photo of his ear-to-ear touchdown pride grin, or giving him more attention than the 30 seconds of praise I did give, I said, "I've gotta go. Joshua needs to be at kindergarten in 10 minutes."

As I drove home, my heart dropped. Would spending a few more minutes with Luke, basking in his excitement to see me and share his good news, not have been a perfectly fine excuse for Joshua and Drew to be a few minutes late for kindergarten and pre-school?

My goal for March is to change that. I want to bask in the joyful moments more. I want to be irritated and rushed less, and joyful more.

At the end of each day in March, I'm going to try my hardest to only remember the Little Things. I'm going to forget the irritating and focus on what I want to remember in 5, 10 and 30 years from now; things like Luke running across a parking lot to see me. In order not to forget, I'm going to make a list. And I"m going to share them with you! (Every other day I'll post my daily lists.)

Not because these Little Things will be anything fancy or great, but I'm holding myself accountable that I'll be able to list them. I know myself well enough to know there may be a day or two that I'll really have to stretch to find something I want to remember, but that will all be part of the challenge.

It's my personal challenge to be a less irritable and more joyful person.
Here goes.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My New Love

I'm considering packing in my full-time job as a mother. Perhaps I'll even quit publicly speaking about motherhood. I am leaning heavily towards becoming a spokesperson for the UTA (Utah Transit Authority), or more simply put, the public transportation system of Utah.
I am a fan.
I LOVE public transportation.
My love affair with it began on Saturday.
(Not exactly sure what is up with my "pursed" lips. I think I was probably trying to tell Ellie to quit taking photos of me. Or I was telling Megan to quit being so irritated about Ellie using our public transportation venture as a photo op.)

It's quite likely I won't be able to become a spokesperson for UTA at this point in time, so instead I am looking for ways to regularly incorporate public transportation into my life.

Perhaps I am recalling the memories of myself as a teenager riding the 213 bus to school on occasion, or riding the 151 bus to Sutton. (I didn't grow up in England using public transportation as much as my peers; my mother drove, the majority of my peers' mothers did not.)

Maybe I am only remembering the positive experiences of my UTA bus riding days in college when Melanie and I felt gas prices were getting far too high to drive to school everyday and so we spent our junior year of college riding the bus to the University of Utah. (Yes, we thought back in the day, $1.40/gallon was HIGH!!)

Regardless, riding the train and then trax to the granddaughter party on Saturday was so much less stress than driving in a car on snowy or wet roads. It was very relaxing to kick back and watch the streets and cars pass me by, all the while doing a Sudoku puzzle or listening to my teenager lament the slowness of our journey.
Okay, so my girls weren't quite as enamored with the whole public transportation thing as I was. Especially the part where we had to wait at the first station for 38 minutes in the 28 degree temps because the online weekEND schedule was wrong. Unfortunately Mike had already dropped us off and gone home, but fortunately a nice UTA worker getting ready to travel to his work shift gave me all sorts of pertinent information for our days travel. I mean, how else would I have known about the UTA phone app? I was chatting away with him about all sorts of UTA stuff, while Megan stood at a distance rolling her eyes, and Ellie stood close by complaining about her cold feet.

I'll tell you like I told Megan though, that UTA phone app saved us having to wait any longer than necessary at our other stops throughout the day. And yes, I will be leaving it on my phone. Thank you Ogden UTA bus supervisor.

Back to the highlights of our day of public transportation.

Megan was absolutely delighted and thrilled to see a real, live, working payphone! She picked up the handset showing all sorts of excitement about her first time seeing a real payphone, until the germophobe in her quickly placed it down and began wishing desperately she hadn't touched it.
(Megan refused to pick up the handset again for a picture.)

The people we saw. Oh the people! The highlight was probably the guy singing out loud listening to his headphones while dancing with his bike. It was eerily similar to Kip, from the movie Napoleon Dynamite, singing the technology song to his wife at the end of the movie.

Forget the "other people", we became those people when we realized that we had MILK JUGS full of cookies to transport onto the train with us! Not only that, we realized Ellie was still (proudly) wearing her apron from the sugar cookie decorating. Megan was mortified! She begged and pleaded for Ellie to remove her apron. Ellie refused to remove her apron, but she did oblige Megan and carry Megan's sugar cookie filled milk jug.
Yes, maybe I should have encouraged Ellie to remove her apron from under her coat, but really, when you're carrying a milk jug full of cookies, does an apron under your coat really make a difference?

Not sure what happened to the photos I took of Megan sitting about 10 rows away from us when we first stepped on the train with aforementioned milk jugs and apron. I think Miss Megan must have deleted them in hopes of there being no proof that she did indeed travel with us on Saturday.

Fortunately, I had a large bag (I had to transport the frosting supplies in the first place THERE), and the milk jugs found a home nestled into the bag at some point on our journey home, alongside the over-sized Christmas gift that I need to deliver to my mother-in-law from her sister.

Of course there is no photo of the three of us together. I chose to honor Megan's request not to ask somebody to take a photo of us together posing in front of a UTA sign.

In addition to not allowing us any group photo shoots, Megan asked me to please stop my lesson on "enjoying the journey rather than the destination" metaphor pretty much as soon as I started. Regardless of whether she'd listen to my metaphor or not, it was still very nice to slow down and not be in a rush and to take the time to enjoy what was outside our window, along roadways we'd otherwise not travel. All reasons as to WHY I'm planning to begin incorporating public transportation into my life.

I already have our next trip scheduled. No worrying about the weather, the parking, or the traffic. Just me, my family and the UTA phone app.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Generations Later

Saturday afternoon, as my girls mingled with some extended cousins of the Williams side (Mike's mother's side of the family), I found myself feeling sentimental and nostalgic about events I was never a part of.  I never knew Mike's Grandma and Grandpa Williams as the fun, energetic, and active grandparents that he (and everyone else) describes. Yet Saturday afternoon, I felt like they really must have been some pretty great people to have their grandchildren duplicating an activity done a generation ago.

(Drew wondered why he was wearing an apron in the above photo. (lower-left 1975 photo, right hand side) Funny Drew didn't even consider why he was in a photo dated 1975, but instead why was he wearing an apron?? I love that Drew looks so much like Mike did.)

As the top right photo tells, and as the story goes, the grandparents used to have a Valentines Party and the children would decorate milk jugs and then fill with frosted and decorated sugar cookies to transport home.

I've attended a fair number of these granddaughter parties over the years, and though there is usually always some kind of craft or activity, this year it felt different watching the girls duplicate an activity from yesteryear. Maybe it was just me that seemed to sense a certain nostalgic feeling in the room as a generation of young girls decorated cut off milk jugs.

I couldn't help but wonder about traditions and what makes them really happen. I can't imagine that back in 1981, Mike's grandparents even gave a thought about whether or not their posterity would decorate milk jugs 32 years later! Yet here they were.
I absolutely believe Grandma and Grandpa Williams were looking down on the traditional Granddaughter Party and smiling. How could they have not?

Now to the sugar cookie part. The sugar cookies were made using the same sugar cookie recipe that their Grandma Williams used to use. Of course, being the self-proclaimed sugar cookie snob that I am, I was VERY, VERY skeptical as I frosted my cookie, and took my first bite.

Put it this way, at the end of the party, my cousin and I found ourselves at the bowl of frosting at the same time. Cindy said, "I'll frost one to take to my little guy at home." I said, "I'm frosting a few for me to enjoy on the way home."

How have I never known about this recipe before? 

Enough about the cookies.
The party really was a swell afternoon. It was the perfect combination of good food, great company, love, memories and genuine interest in each other.

All but one of the "original" five granddaughters were there. Next time we need to take a photo of just them to put next to the 1981 milk jug photo up above.

I feel so blessed that my daughters (and I guess me?) belong to such a group. I love that my girls belong to something and can identify with something bigger than just themselves and even our little family. I love that even though Mike's grandmother has been gone from these parties for over a decade, they continue on. I hope that the younger generation feels the sense of belonging and tradition enough to keep these things going for generations to come.

What a tribute to two people.

P.S. The party happened to fall on a snowy Saturday afternoon about 35 miles from my house. Remember, I don't drive in the snow. More on how we got there tomorrow. Believe me, it's worth a blog post to itself.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Celebrating the Patriotic Way

The morning of President's Day (a holiday that marks the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln), somebody asked Megan and me what we were doing for the day "off." When we told him we were going to a party/dinner with a patriotic program, he kind of laughed and replied, "I didn't know anyone actually celebrated President's Day!"

It's funny, because even though it was my mother-in-law's idea to have this little party, it is TOTALLY something I would have thought of doing, and I loved everything about it. (Well except the fact that the other cousins didn't come.)

Everyone was instructed to come ready to perform something patriotic on their new stage. (The children LOVE the stage--I would have too as a child. I'm actually working up the nerve to perform something on it one of these days.)
Joshua couldn't stop smiling while he recited the pledge.

Megan eventually stopped laughing long enough to perform Yankee Doodle Dandy on the recorder.
Ellie told us the history of the song, America, The Beautiful and then sang it for us kneeling down. Not quite sure about the kneeling down part.
Luke read us his report on Thomas Jefferson that was coincidentally due at school this week, and displayed his Thomas Jefferson model made out of a soda bottle.
Let's pause for a moment and look at that cool bi-fold backdrop. Isn't that awesome? I LOVE my mother-in-laws love of America. (As long as she isn't asking me what I know about it.)

Drew got stage fright at the last minute, which so isn't like him and was thus excused from performing.
After the performances we commenced with a game of Pictionary-America Themed and then a What You Know About America, Jeopardy style.This is where I REALLY regretted the other family members not showing up. The teams consisted of my family with the questions administered by Laurie and Steve. I tell you, my in-laws KNOW America. I was hoping for questions like, "What color is the US flag?" or "What is the capital of the United States?" Neither of which were asked.

Perhaps my knowledge (or lack of) demonstrated throughout the game were part of the reason I left their house on Monday night with stacks of books to read up on before my trip to Boston this spring. (With my mother-in-law no less!)

And yes, in case you hadn't noticed, we were all wearing red, white and blue.

What a way to celebrate President's Day!
I think it should become a tradition.

Except for the What You Know About America game.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Fabulous Exchange--Laces for Love

I read about and hear about a lot of things. Some tug at my heart more than others. This is one of them, I'll tell you why...

I have a soft spot in my mother heart for a particular mother who lost a precious child. Two years ago, through mutual friends and acquaintances, I heard about her child's passing in the days following his death. It tugged at my heart a little more deeply than usual, as Drew was the same age. Just a few weeks later, I met the mother, Amanda at a Power of Moms retreat when she shared her poignant, heartfelt story of losing her baby Bennett.

I don't know Amanda well, other than what I gleaned from my brief time with her at the retreat, and from Facebook. But last fall, I had an "accidental" experience with my little Drew, that is perhaps what has drawn me to want to help with this particular project.

Last fall, Drew and I went on an errand with Mike to pick up a machine. To keep Drew occupied and away from the backing machine and trailer, I took him on a little walk. Right next door to the driveway we were at, was a city cemetery.

It was dusk. Drew and I walked quietly through the cemetery trying to pass time when I saw a headstone that caught my eye. I knew immediately it was the precious son of Amanda. I walked over to look closer, and Drew noticed the picture of "a baby on there." I tried to explain a little to Drew about what a cemetery was, and why there was a picture on there. In a hushed yet anxious voice, Drew asked, "Mom, can we help push him out?"

I was touched by Drew's insistence and innocence that we "get him out of the ground". At the same time, I felt my heart ache as I tearfully held my little Drew close and kissed him on his head while looking at the picture of the little boy's face, knowing his heart broken mother for now, can't hold him close. All the while, I was explaining to Drew that no, we could not help the baby. It was a heartbreaking, poignant and spiritual experience all rolled into one spontaneous exploration of a local cemetery.

Maybe it is this little experience I had last fall, that has made me not be able to get a particular service opportunity off of my mind.

I know there are a TON of service opportunities out there. I know everyone wants our dollars or our time. If you're like me, you pick and choose. I'm often one to turn down the "Want to add a $1 and donate to ...." at the store, but I donate generously to food drives.

Anyway, my point here isn't to tell you what I do and don't donate to, but to tell you about this donation opportunity that I can't stop thinking about. I don't want you to forget about it either!!

It's about donating SHOES!!

And no, I don't think it is just because I LOVE shoes that I haven't  been able to stop thinking about this project. (Not sure how parting with some will help towards my 365 pair goal, but that's okay....)

I think it is because I want to do whatever part I can to help complete this particular family. (You can read more about their decision to adopt HERE.) I sit back and watch a lot of good things go on around me. This time, I don't want to just watch, I want to DO.

Please help. All you need to do, is donate shoes! You all know you have some lying around the house that are either too small, too faded, too out of style, or too seldom worn. (For the record, I don't think I'll ever be able to part with a couple of pairs that Megan prays NEVER come back in style). The donated shoes can be all sizes and shapes.

If you aren't local, no worries! Check out the pick-up locations in the Phoenix area, Las Vegas, California, several places in Utah, Idaho, Texas, Georgia, etc. etc. (If you are local, you can leave them on my doorstep.) They are collecting until the end of March. So if you know you're going to see me between now and then, BRING SOME SHOES!!

For more detailed information, you can click HERE. But in case you aren't a "Link Clicker", here's a blurb from their Laces for Love blog:

Please join us as we gather 40,000 shoes to raise money for the adoption of two children.

We are collecting gently used but still wearable shoes. We can take ANY type of shoe - boots (we LOVE boots, since we are paid per pound), flip flops, high heels, tennis shoes, dressy shoes, sports shoes, cleats, anything. As long as there aren't holes . . .  and they match . . . we'll take them! For every pound of shoes we collect, we earn $.70 towards our adoption. Amazing right? You declutter, we earn much needed adoption money AND the shoes go to third world countries. WIN, WIN and WIN!!!

Help us complete our family. Sole by sole.

Start rummaging through those closets and shoe baskets TODAY.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Successful Pig

I don't do Pinterest. Not that I have anything against it, but I feel like I spend enough time on the computer for various tasks, that I've chosen not to add one more thing to my computer time.

Don't be too fooled by that noble explanation. The more accurate reason I avoid Pinterest is because the few times Megan has showed me something on it, my blood pressure rises as she scrolls through pages and pages of stuff until she finds the recipe or craft that is soooo important that I see at that exact moment.

With or without any Pinterest interests of my own, Megan and I laughed out loud when we watched this video together recently: 16 Hilarious Pinterest FAILS.

I think I laughed just as hard, actually maybe even harder as Joshua walked into school on Valentine's Day last week proudly carrying his Valentine's box.

First of all, let me clarify that I was NOT happy when I realized that for the first time in my parenting of school aged children, somebody needed MORE than just Valentines for their class.

Second of all, I'm not a fan of Valentine's Day being celebrated in school.

Third of all, I'm not a fan of having had to help prepare (or buy) 101 Valentine's (NO EXAGGERATION) for 4 of my children.

Back to Joshua's Valentine's box.

He wanted a goat shaped box. I informed him that wasn't going to happen. So after a little bit of research (with Pinterest I may add), we came up with this cute idea that Joshua deemed a suitable substitute for a goat.
(I'm not sure how to give credit for the photo. We found it HERE.)

Fortunately I had a vinegar bottle on hand that was almost empty.

Unfortunately, Megan was sick with a migraine that day and had no interest in helping.

Fortunately, Joshua was very eager to do most of the work himself.

Unfortunately, I am not a big Valentine's Day fan nor am I very crafty, therefore I had no interest in the pig being too fancy.

Fortunately, Joshua was pleased as punch and as proud as ever of his finished project.

Unfortunately, as Joshua was walking proudly into school carrying The Pig, he walked alongside children with definite Pinterest-type-Valentine-boxes, of which I'm sure not a single Kindergartener helped with.

Fortunately, Joshua didn't ever seem to notice that his Pig actually could have been a part of the aforementioned video, 16 Hilarious Pinterest FAILS.

Unfortunately, The Pig is still sitting on my desk and I don't have the heart to throw it away yet.

Fortunately, The Pig will be a favorite family Valentine's memory for years to come.

Unfortunately, I think The Pig's days on my desk are numbered, and he may meet the garbage can any day now.

Fortunately, though The Pig would certainly be considered a Pinterest FAIL, The Pig was a definite success as far as highlighting the individuality, confidence and pride of a certain little 5 year old.

Unfortunately, my other children are going to be mortified that I publicly posted photos of The Pig. They were already quite mortified that I even let Joshua take The Pig to school.

Maybe they could learn a thing or two from Joshua and The Pig.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love, Our Way

Valentine's Day isn't really anything grand around here. Each year it's a bunch of construction paper cut-out hearts with messages for the children on them, a simple treat on everyone's breakfast plate, and a mandatory (Mike and Megan had to be reminded of that) family breakfast in the dining room.

There are never big bouquets of flowers (Mike knows I'd much prefer flowers on "just because" days not on "expected days"), expensive chocolates (although I do love the Cadbury Creme Eggs and Snickers bar I got today), or fancy jewelry (which will likely NEVER happen any day of my life).

There is however our happy (?) little family sitting around the breakfast table each Valentine's Day morning telling
1. what we love about being in our family and
2. what we love about the person to our right/left (I should have chosen 'to your left' this year!)

Immediately upon my instructions of professing our love, the teenager rolled her eyes and snidely said, "Gotta love Valentine's Day at our house."

And then,

It was Luke's turn to state something he loved about the person to his right, which this year happened to be Mike. Avoiding eye-contact with me, while glancing towards Mike, Luke announced, "I love that you don't get mad about all the little stuff Mom gets mad at."

Just as I was recovering from my subtle Valentine's Day insult, and may I add, carrying dirty dishes into the sink while everyone else scattered to get ready for school/work, Joshua following close behind me questioned, "Why does everyone have to pretend they love each other on Valentine's Day?"

So here I am, on Valentine's Day morning,
~ Having woken before anyone else to cook a warm breakfast to be ready before Mike and Megan need to leave.
~ Having lovingly written on umpteen million construction paper hearts and taped throughout the pathway to the kitchen.
~ Having placed a small little surprise on everybody's breakfast plate (including my own).
~Having given a good shot at helping my children feel love and give love on the day supposedly set apart for LOVE.

And then Mike gets one upped by me because he isn't quite as volatile as yours truly, and then Joshua thinks all our expressions of love are a giant facade?

Guess Megan's earlier comment, "Gotta love Valentine's Day at our house" really does apply.

Oh but Luke, believe it or not, Luke (who was previously skating on thin ice with me due to his perception of my short fuse), saved the day and exclaimed,

"I think Joshua means "pretending to love everyone" meaning because we have to give everyone in our classes at school Valentines not pretending to love our family."

I won't even read into it the fact that Joshua thinks he is "pretending" to love everyone rather than the hope that he truly does love everyone in his school class unconditionally.

And that's what Valentine's Day is around here.
Loving your family (some more than others because they aren't as prone to madness), and pretending to love  the kids in your school class.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Crooked Guilt

I try so hard to not feel "guilt" in my life. For the most part, I do a good job of letting things go. Yet, like Mike said last week, "It's funny the things you let get to you, and the people you allow to make you feel guilty."

He was referring to the dental hygienist at Joshua's most recent check-up.

Joshua had 9 cavities.
Yes. You read that right.
Out of 20 teeth in his little five year old mouth, almost 50% of them have a cavity.

I'm sure I've mentioned before that I feel like a crummy mother every time I take my children to the dentist and I'm reminded that we don't floss our teeth everyday. This last visit took the cake though. The hygienist, who I know is much further behind me in mothering years, proceeded to tell me that children shouldn't snack. And if they do, they should brush and floss after each one.

Yes! I let her make me feel guilty over the fact that if my 5 year old eats some scrambled eggs at 7:30am, I let him have a snack before his peanut butter sandwich lunch at 12:15pm!!!!!!

And gasp! We don't brush our teeth after that peanut butter sandwich. And maybe not even after the snack he'll then have 4 hours later when he comes home from school before dinner 2 hours later.

And some nights, we don't even get our teeth brushed before bed! Some nights it is just too much between getting pajamas on, attempting to have a family prayer, making sure children do required reading minutes, and making sure the frequent bedwetter has gone potty more than once.

Incidentally, I felt much better when sharing my guilt and my ashamedness over a 9 cavity child to a few of my friends. One of which is a dental hygienist and one, the wife of a dentist. And guess what??? The dentist's wife said their children never floss their teeth. Even my dental hygienist friend with her perfectly straight and white teeth says she doesn't floss that often.

After that, I tried to let go of the guilt and instead focused on the positive.

The time alone in a waiting room for three visits of an hour plus each that I sat and read a book or magazine of my choice uninterrupted.

The fact when the dentist brought Joshua out to me, Joshua wobbled and tripped over his own legs like a drunk man from the effects of being under laughing gas for a while.

The laughter I heard from all of the children, especially Joshua when he tried so hard to do his trademark ear-to-ear smile, with a numb mouth.
I won't be telling the hygienist that upon Joshua's return home from one of the three appointments, his little tummy was hungry since his breakfast 31/2 hour previously. I promptly dished him up some applesauce (sugar free I may add), and watched him suck that stuff right down. Then we sat on the tile floor and worked on a John Deere puzzle together.

I didn't even think about asking him to brush (or floss) his teeth.
And I don't feel guilty about it either.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Opening my Heart

Paul's horse 'Ranch', who faithfully carried Mike (with a broken foot) on Pioneer Trek, and who has given my children hours of enjoyment.

Although it is safe to say I am still not an animal lover, I will admit that there is a part of my heart opening up for the creatures that bring some humans so much joy.

Wednesday night while our dear friend Paul served at the nearby LDS temple, unknown to him his neighbors and two of his grandsons were attempting to save one of his horse's life. Mike called me to make me aware of the situation 10 minutes before he and Luke were due at the church to go swimming with the Scouts. As I pulled up on the road, to the side of the horse field, my mother heart felt a pang as I saw Luke's face.

I knew his little mind and heart were going to give their all to help Ranch get better. Mike called our friend Jim who came and administered some medicine, and then Austin, Brandon, Mike and Luke went to work keeping the horse moving (as per instruction).

(My service must not be discounted! I, yes you read that right, I accompanied the Scouts as "the other leader" to the swimming pool for a merit badge excursion.)

As I drove home from the pool, it was very foggy. The fog was quietly releasing some precipitation onto the ground. It was a cold evening. I arrived home to find Megan holding down the fort with the three younger ones, seeing to their dinner, baths and homework.

Across the road, was a touching scene. Mike, Luke, Austin and Brandon were taking turns walking Ranch around the self-made snowy, turning to mud tracked, circular path. While one of them walked, the others took a turn inside warming up. I sat inside Vickie's kitchen with others rotating in and out, talking about animals, their lives, and their impacts on us as individuals. I heard heart-warming stories of other animals loved and lost by these dear friends, and of course the recent experience with Lily, Luke's beloved goat was not forgotten either.

Paul arrived home, and a shift change took place. Paul took over the care of Ranch, releasing Mike and Luke, and the grandsons to go home to bed.

My mother heart prayed Ranch would live. I wanted Luke, still feeling the effects of losing Lily, this time around to feel the satisfaction of his diligent, heartfelt efforts of care and devotion, turn Ranch from a sick horse, into a well horse again.

Before Mike left for work early Thursday morning, he walked over to the quiet horse field, returning home to report it appeared Ranch was doing better. An hour or so later Luke too checked on Ranch before leaving for school. Luke was encouraged by Ranch standing alone, wearing a warm horse-coat. Luke mentioned the horse prints and Paul's footprints he could see in the fallen fog, obviously efforts to keep Ranch walking through the night.

Paul and Ranch walking the streets at 4am. Love and devotion of animal to human that I've never concerned myself with in years past, settled into my heart next to the place reserved for Luke and Lily.

A few hours later, I "coincidentally" decided to leave my little boys playing on the family room floor and go check on Ranch myself.

Within minutes of arriving over there, I was standing next to our dear friends, Vickie and Shanan as Ranch died. Despite everyone's best efforts, Ranch's long life was over.

If anyone would have told me I would cry over goats and horses dying I could never have believed it. I shocked myself as I said aloud to Vickie, I can't imagine there won't be animals in heaven. If they bring people such joy and companionship in this life, surely they'll be part of the eternities.

I'm not sure if I was hallucinating, had gone crazy, or simply now have a more capacious mother heart, but I stood outside in the cold February sun, imagining Lily and Ranch running together in some type of animal heaven.

And then I thought about Luke. My dear son Luke, having left for school optimistic that all the nursing and care from the previous night were not going to be for naught. And I shed the kind of tears only a mother would know.

I know these experiences are "just animals." We are grateful it is not human life that Luke is learning to mourn at a young age. But they are still big lessons for a little boy and they tug at my heart.

Luke is learning at a young age that grief is a natural consequence of love.
One of the highest, noblest and God-like qualities we can develop. Despite it being horses and goats that are teaching him, what a blessing Luke is learning, developing, and internalizing LOVE as a young boy.

"When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
~ Kahlil Gibran

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Envious Dreams

Starting from a very young age, each night as I fell asleep I imagined myself as a mother. It started when I was young and the big thing I'd imagine was what type of pram/stroller I would push. Then as I got older, it moved onto what cute boy would be my husband. Even as a college student, on nights I had trouble falling asleep I would picture myself as a mother. By then I was imagining themed picnics on a family room floor, and homemade pinatas and other imaginations of myself as a near perfect mother.

Just last week, I had trouble falling asleep and went to my tried and true imaginations to carry me into slumber. Although now, I no longer picture a particular stroller, or guess about a cute boy, and of course dreams of themed picnics and homemade pinatas are long gone. Now I lay there imagining at least a few minutes with no-ones voice being raised, or a clean house for longer than 30 minutes and other such dream-like imaginations.

Times have certainly changed.

A couple of weeks ago, I sat in a meeting next to Megan. I didn't think I had been having a bad day, but I must have been when I found myself thinking of a lady I know. Not only was I thinking about her, I found myself envious of her. This lady has a much simpler life than mine. She is not too much younger than me, lives with her parents, has a fairly undemanding job, and in talking to her now and then, a fairly slow paced life.

I found myself wanting her life.
I found myself wishing I had her life, even though I knew in a heartbeat she would trade in her simpleness for a life as a wife and mother, no matter how crazy it turned her life.

I tried to gain a better perspective. I tried hard to internalize and remember my feelings when I wrote this article from a few years ago, but to no avail. Pretty much the next morning, I woke up feeling the same way.

I felt irritated when I had five children asking me to help them with their breakfast. All the while one of them was running late enough that she was requesting a ride to the bus stop, one was asking if I could please help him defrost the rabbit's water bottle, one was telling me I had forgotten to put a note in her lunch for a few days, one of the little boys was selfishly demanding his 'breff-fast' NOW, and one of them was refusing to change out of dried-pee smelling pajamas.

Instead of feeling grateful to be a mother, knowing the lady I had thought of the night before desperately wanted that, I continued the day begrudging my life. I wanted her life, with all the loneliness and quietness she likely experiences all too often. Especially the quiet and lonely part.

It was funny that I had a Power of Moms obligation to attend that night in SLC. I wanted desperately to stay home and sulk in my own misery, but I had commitments I couldn't get out of, and so I went.
I've attended a lot of Power of Moms events over the last few years, but this was a little different than most. This one focused mostly on our own personal dreams, those dreams both big and small that we'd like to see come to fruition. Yours truly, in the midst of all sorts of 'bad attitudes about motherhood week' was asked to lead one of the discussion groups. I took me a while to commit to the task based on my aforementioned struggling attitude. (It really was one of those weeks!)

I'm glad I didn't stay home that night.

Perhaps it was sitting in several small groups with some pretty amazing fabulously ordinary women that changed my perspective. Maybe it was hearing from a handful of extraordinary women that changed my perspective. Either way, that night I thought again about the lady I'd been thinking about just 24 hours before. And I was reminded that my life right now is my dream. Sure, there are plenty of things I'd change about it, and plenty of things that aren't quite panning out to be as dreamy as I'd once envisioned when I fell asleep at night as a child, teenager or young adult. But here I am.

Living my dream as a mother. In all of its everydayness and non-gloriousness.

Sometimes I feel completely unqualified to be part of an organization whose mission it is to gather together mothers. I wonder during mornings like this morning, when I was begrudging the fact that I had to be helping children pack lunches and fix breakfast, what business I have to help other mothers feel encouraged and content in their roles, when I was getting irritated somebody was asking me for a straw with their milk.

But then I remember these fabulous women I work with (a few of the 40+ members on the Power of Moms Board), and I know that each one of them feels the same way once in a while too.
And maybe that is what keeps me writing and speaking about motherhood--the fact I know it isn't always dreamy and pleasant, yet it continues to be one of my greatest passions.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Some of My Favorites

I went to California for a variety of reasons last week, but really, the number one reason I actually went to the Power of Moms LA Retreat was because it was about 10 minutes from my brother and sister-in-law's house!! As much as I would have loved to have spent more time with my Power of Mom pals, April and Allyson having slumber parties and good times, I really couldn't turn down the opportunity to be with Casey, Cindy and Lucy. I love them!!

Especially Lucy.
A lot of times I wished some (or all) of my family were  with me, but there is something to be said to be around my niece Lucy without my children hogging her.

Lucy loved me!!
Well most of the time.

She greeted me with "It's Ellie's friend!" which I wasn't too offended about, I mean she's 2. Surely she knows I am her favorite aunt, and she knows I have a name of my own. Which if she didn't before, she should now. I mean, how many aunts sit and eat their dinner on the toilet next to the bathtub because the 2 year old insisted on it.
I still keep laughing when I think about me doing that. First of all because that's just kind of gross to eat a meal on a toilet in a bathroom. Second of all, I was pretty tired from a full day at the retreat and had it been my children asking for my attention at that point, I may have shooed them away and given all sorts of excuses of being tired and exhausted, etc. But look at that face in the tub!! Who could refuse that? Not that it is any cuter than my children's faces, but it's that whole "We treat others better than our own family type reasoning..."

I hope Lucy remembers my niceness.

Of course I had to visit my dear friends in Chinatown. Wait? I didn't get any photos there?? Oh no. But I did get something I have wanted since my first visit to a Chinatown in San Francisco in 1995. I've eyed them in New York Chinatown, and Pasadena Chinatown last year. This year. I got it!! It will be a blog post in itself. Watch for it.

We visited Olivera Street which I LOVED. I couldn't wait to tell Mike all about it, and how awesome I thought it was,etc. etc. His response? "I tried to get you to go there last year when we were there, but all you cared about was getting to Chinatown." Well. This time I made time for BOTH. As I will next time too.
I treated everybody to a Churro. I know, very generous of me.
Although next time I visit I hope it is lunchtime and we can have some of the delicious Mexican fare offered there.

I requested a visit to the beach before going to the airport. There's just something about the expansiveness of the ocean I love, even though really, I have a horrible fear of water and I would rather not be in it, over it, or too close to it.

Lucy was convinced she would catch a seagull. And I was convinced one of us would get pooped on, because Mike did at the exact spot last year.
We also visited a cool place with amazing views of the LA area. Loved it. Oh, and of course I had to pose for an obligatory photo of the Hollywood sign for my children to ooh and aahh over.

I don't have photos of the late night chats on the couch or the walk in the rain through downtown Pasadena, or the great Mexican restaurant we ate at, or the U-turn on 14th street (Long story, but man is my brother a pain in the butt sometimes. The u-turn incident is the point I told him I could NEVER be married to him, to which he rudely said it's a good thing I'm his sister, because otherwise we'd likely not even be friends! Rude.)

I do think my brother (and Cindy for that matter) were sad to see me leave, but I don't have proof of it like I do Lucy's disappointment at my impending departure. This is was what happened when I said, "Tiffany's going bye-bye soon."
Sure do love these people.


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