Thursday, January 23, 2014

My Mental Health and the Caribbean

Mike and I have been blessed with the opportunity to go on a Western Caribbean cruise, courtesy of a supplier we have purchased (a lot) from this year. As the day of our departure nears, I have been filled with lots of varying thoughts and feelings. We've only ever left our children for 3-4 days at a time before, so a 9 day trip takes a little bit more mental and physical preparedness than others in our past.

The other night, Mike and I went to dinner with our super-hero cousins who will be staying at our house watching our children. Although I know they are very capable, and need little instruction, my up-tightedness pretty much told them every secret, detail and going-on in our house on a daily basis. It was no wonder everyone else was finished with their meal, and mine wasn't even half done--I obviously did too much talking. My cousin wrapped it up nicely(?) when he asked/stated, "I have no question that your children are going to do just fine. My question is, "Are you going to be OK?"

Whattt??? I was just talking about who might fight with whom, what child might miss me the most, how to get two nights out of a wet bed-sheet, what child will never eat school lunch, what child may ignore their alarm, what time school starts, and who needs to be where, when.

No one said anything about me not "going to be OK."

Who was I fooling? Obviously some people know me well...

Despite the fact I didn't mention any of these things during our "instructional dinner", these things have been weighing on my mind as I prepare for my trip...

I wonder if there are ice bergs in the Caribbean Sea and then embarrassingly remind myself there are not and our ship will not suffer the same fate as the Titantic. But then I start thinking about sand bars and wonder if running into one of those could cause the same result.

I question whether or not I should either heavily drug myself during the lifeboat drill at the beginning of the cruise or fake sick and have to stay in a bathroom. After all, this is the gal, whose parents had to prematurely call an end to the family meeting on fire safety because of my distress.

It may or may not have crossed my mind about whether it is possible in a week for a child to shrivel up and die because they haven't had their parents home giving them hugs, kisses and "I love yous."

Mike, the water person, once scuba-diver, and "natural fish" has spent a lot of time poring over the 36 page document of shore excursions. After hours of deliberation, he said, "I really think the tour of the Bahamas sewer district looks very interesting." Yes. You read that right. I love my father-in-law, but that is something HE would do. I didn't know whether to feel more anxiety that my husband as he ages may possibly turn into his dad, or anxiety about him participating in the deep sea snorkel adventure he was weighing against the sewer tour.

Speaking of shore excursions, I worry about whether the "tour guides" and "bus drivers" could be bandits in disguise and will hold up a bus full of foreign tourists for ransom. I then start to mentally count up how much money I think our families could rally together should a ransom occur. I then realize, I really should be focusing on making sure I leave my fridge stocked and have my bags packed more than foreign bandits holding me hostage.

I had my heart set on a swim with the dolphins during one of the excursions. Swim, meaning the description says, "waist-deep water." I couldn't understand why Mike kept questioning my choice when I kept reminding him I wouldn't be in deep water and wouldn't get scared.(I don't like water.) It took me a couple of days, but finally I voiced out loud, what I think Mike was thinking... I haven't touched an animal since the days of having a dog as a child. I mean that. I don't touch goats, horses, dogs, chickens, rabbits or even dying goats. Why exactly do I think I would touch a dolphin? I'll stick with my bucket list item of a pair of shoes for every day of the year instead of adding "swim with dolphins" to it.

I keep expecting a phone call begging us not to go, from the family member who in case of a "permanent emergency" will take on legal guardianship of our 5 children. I feel a sense of relief that they haven't called. It tells me a. they aren't concerned about us going on this trip at all, or b. they love our children so much that the thought of tripling their family size doesn't faze them, or c. my brother, an attorney, has already figured out ways to get out of what he once assured me was a legal document.

Joshua and Drew excitedly asked me if I would see any pirates. My heart skipped a beat and up until that point I hadn't even thought about pirates. I plastered a big fake smile on my face and said, "Oh, no. I won't see any pirates! They live far away from where I will be." Since then, I have had to stop myself from googling "exact whereabouts of Pirates in the Caribbean Sea and the likelihood of a cruise ship having an encounter with them."

I keep a bottle of an over-the-counter natural anxiety supplement and use it when I travel. (Driving or flying.) My flying has become so much better lately, I think due to the frequency over the past couple of  years. My last two flights I didn't take any of my medicine and I'm happy to report I did marvelously well. I mentioned this little known fact to Mike the other day, when I was questioning whether or not I should purchase another bottle before this trip. I hadn't even finished my question, when Mike interrupted me and said firmly, "GO BUY IT."

Unfortunately, I could keep going. But if you remember, I actually started out this list attempting to dispute my cousins question of, "Are YOU going to be OK?"  and instead, I've found myself writing a list of facts supporting his concern for my mental health.

Really, I am very mentally sane. I have full faith the pirates, the icebergs and the foreign bandits will be kept at bay.

Bon Voyage!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Reputations Lead to Horses

Up until early last summer, Luke rode horses weekly at a local riding arena for over two years. He traded work in exchange for his riding lessons, but his love for the style of riding he was doing waned. I'm not sure Luke has the patience for the slower "reigning" type riding, and he decided he no longer wanted to ride weekly. Luke's two instructors, Jim and Tiffany were sad to lose him. Luke made a way into their hearts and their love for Luke was obvious in their repeated phone calls asking and offering him to come ride anytime.

Two weeks ago, while in the recesses of my closet in the middle of an organization project, his instructor, Tiffany called me. Not only was I shocked she was calling, but by the end of the call, I was quite speechless. (That's rare.)

A person that Jim and Tiffany know is "retiring" from riding horses and has an older, well-trained horse he wants to give away to someone who would love and care for it. Jim and Tiffany immediately thought of Luke, and thus the phone call.

Mike and I spent a couple of days in secret deliberation. We weighed the costs of responsibility, finances, time and effort that adding a horse to our crew would bring. Cryptically, one afternoon, Mike took Luke to "meet the horse." Despite the fact our friend, and great horseman, Spence "went along for the ride", Luke was pretty clueless about the whole thing and believed that Tiffany simply wanted Luke to "test out a horse for them." Spence quietly observed and gave Mike the opinion and advice Mike needed. (The horse was very well trained and looked very well taken care of.)

That evening, Mike and I told Luke and Joshua the truth... We told them the story of the guy wanting the horse to have a loving home, and that we were considering letting Luke, Joshua and Drew become horse owners. We helped Luke understand that he had earned himself a good reputation, and these people recommended him to be a responsible, loving person for someone to trust giving away the horse they have loved for years. We told the boys we needed a couple of days to make a decision, and for them too, to be thinking of the choice.

Mike and I ultimately turned the decision over to the boys. We wanted them to "own" the choice, and therefore feel more ownership in the whole decision. Especially considering they would need to contribute a fair amount financially to the horse's upkeep, and nearly all of the effort into the daily care.

Mike wasn't home when the deadline for our decision came and I sat the boys down to ask them to give us their decision. I was careful to explain to them, that getting a horse opens up our hearts to heartache and sadness when the animal comes time to leave us. We have been very careful to explain to the children that this is an older horse and could live for one year, or five. There are no guarantees.

Of course, there was really no decision to make. Joshua and Luke wholeheartedly and enthusiastically agreed that they would take on the responsibility of a horse.

Drew on the other hand didn't share the same enthusiasm. He had no smile on his face, and his lips were in a slightly pouty position. Disappointed he sighed, "I really wanted a cow."

His disappointment about not getting a cow only lasted about a week, until he decided instead, "I want to buy a polar bear to live with Hank. I really want to have two white things live outside."

Later that day, Champ arrived in our cul-de sac.

Maybe Drew wasn't too excited on Friday afternoon when a truck and horse trailer arrived in our cul-de-sac, and a horse exited instead of a polar bear.
But Joshua and Luke were thrilled.

Meet Champ.
The Sowby Family's newest addition.

Luke introducing Champ to his room-mate, Rocko.

Two happy boys.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

On Second Thought...

LOVED running into my own son early in the morning at Dicks Market while grocery shopping. While I was perusing the fresh produce, I glanced up to see my own son getting a donut before leaving on a hunting trip. After going over and talking to them, I watched from a distance and smiled.
But on second thought...
As I saw him turning to leave, he grabbed one too many donut hole samples as he left.

Loved the funny selfie I did when Megan asked me to text a photo of a particular fabric to show her friend.
But on second thought...
When I asked later when she arrived home what her friend thought of the fabric, Megan replied, "I need to take a photo without you in it and show it to her tomorrow instead." What??

Coming home one evening and hearing Drew talk about how he was scared that monsters were going to come. I immediately interrupted him to firmly state there are no such thing as monsters...
But on second thought...
Drew interrupted back and said very matter-of-factly, "I said a prayer because I was scared." To which Joshua piped in, "I told him to do that when he said he was scared."

Love that Drew the first time he is asked, goes and gets his pajamas on.
But on second thought...
The reason he is so prompt and quick and always the first one back in the family room? He goes to the stairs, takes off his clothes and puts them by the stairs and returns in his underwear stating, "I will just sleep in my underwear tonight."
(I wish I could say that he then carries the dirty clothes up to the laundry room and puts them in the dirty clothes basket when on his way upstairs to bed.)

Love that I wrote a funny tongue-in-cheek note in Megan's lunch recently. She loved it so much she took a photo of it and had it as a screen saver on her phone for several days.
But on second thought...
She replaced my funny note with a photo of.... a cat????? A cat? What? Whose child is she? We don't do cats around here. Especially in place of mom's humor.
(You may not get any of these acronyms or slang terms if you either a. aren't a teenager or b. don't have a teenager.)

Love Drew's trademark fake smile in this photo.
But on second thought...
There's a darn Christmas tree photo in the background so I can't pretend it is really recent, and I don't take selfies very often and still need to figure out exactly where to look on the phone camera.

Love that I signed up Joshua for a little instructional basketball league back in November (for January) that he was so excited about. Last week, when I reminded him that the basketball league was starting today, he announced grumpily, "I didn't want to do it." (Little last minute nerves?)
But on second thought...
Today, after the second week, he skipped to the car alongside me while holding my hand with one of his and proudly carrying his basketball with the other.
And on second, second thought...
Why haven't I taken a photo of him running up and down a basketball court for 45 minutes with a permanent smile stuck to his face.

Love that Ellie takes a million selfies on whatever recording device she gets her hands on.
But on second thought...
When she sees me deleting them a few days later to free up space on whatever device is full of her selfies, she questions in all seriousness, "Why are you deleting it?" and I feel mild guilt.

Love that Drew has loved to be outside in the snow. Either riding his bike (?), shoveling, sledding, etc. Mostly shoveling though. One day, while shoveling he claimed, "Does it look like a snow plow did it? Well I am a snow plow."
But on second thought...
Except he recruits me to help and after our driveway and him insisting I help him do two neighbor's driveways, I was tired.
And on second, second thought...
It doesn't matter how long ago the most recent snowstorm was, there is always something for Drew to shovel.

I don't have hardly any new photos on my phone or camera lately. I must take more photos.
But on second thought...
If you count all of Ellie's selfies, or the blurry photos of toy dirt bikes, there are plenty.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

My Name is...

(Completely unrelated to my post, but this is Ellie--the QUEEN of selfies on my phone, the camera, the ipad, etc.)

Like most families, we have some pretty unique nick-names for each other. I've caught myself a few times, calling particular children by their pet-names, "booger nose", "cheese" or "poo" in public places. Some of our other pet names, "magstar", "smasher" or "bubba" don't ever cause quite the looks that "booger nose" sometimes does.

You'd think these names for my children would have me relaxing on some of the things I've been called lately. Actually, it isn't that I'm even "being called" names, it is how I'm being addressed and/or summoned. It's been making me crazy.

Instead of the traditional, mom, mother, mama, or mommy, I am being summoned with names like.

Hey Mom
Oh Mom
and my least favorite?
But Mom.

I've quit responding to such titles, and facetiously suggested they use a more preferable term such as, "Mother Dear..."

It has worked for months with Joshua and Drew, and I've heard them several times catching themselves mid-sentence and changing their wording to include, "Mother Dear...

"Mother Dear, please can I have some candy."


"Mother Dear, please could you tie my shoe."

(for some reason when Mother Dear is used, their normal voice goes about 5 octaves higher.)

As for the older three?
Perhaps it's true, you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

"But Mom", it usually is.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Toothpaste Tubes and Kind Words

One of the things I love about my association with the Power of Moms, is how many wonderful women I get introduced to, and meet. One of my favorites from last spring's Las Vegas retreat is Shannon. I love to check in with her blog every once in a while--there is always something inspirational to find there. She's an amazing lady. I copied the following idea from her recently for a Family Home Evening lesson.

My children were definitely intrigued during the opening prayer and song with the paper plates and tube of toothpastes set at each spot around the table. Even Mike was giving me questioning glances as to what exactly I was going to do.

Much to Drew's dismay (he thinks he has the corner on the market when it comes to picking FHE songs), I requested, "Kindness Begins with Me" for the opening song. One of my absolute favorites! Even though it is sung almost every morning before we leave for school, the simple words are always worth repeating.

After the prayer, the children were invited to take their places at the kitchen table and draw any design they wished on their paper plate with the tube of toothpaste.
They would have spent forever had I let them, but fortunately their toothpaste tubes ran out and we could move on.
After they each displayed their design, the object lesson came in...

Each child was given straws, spoons, toothpicks, etc. and asked to put all the toothpaste they used back into the tubes.

Some of my children are quite confident in their abilities and Luke was convinced it'd be quite easy and he immediately began attempting the task.
I let them give it a good honest effort,
Until the frustration became too much for me to tolerate.

The object lesson was complete, and it was time for the explanation.

The Words We Speak...

Once they've been spoken, they can't be taken back. I mean, not that we'd ever have to encourage our children to use kind words around here. Not that we ever have issues of meanness, unkindness and rudeness, but I thought it would be a nice idea to give the lesson nonetheless. 

Disclaimer: Those last two sentences are a JOKE. We need the lesson just as much, if not more, than anyone else does.

We read the story The Power of Kind Words from the March 2011 Friend Magazine and Speaking Kind Words from the January 1997 Friend Magazine. We then came up with possible scenarios that we could choose nice, kind words in, rather than unkind and mean ones.

I'd like to say our Family Home Evening lesson sunk in immediately and we've heard no unkind words since. Unfortunately, that isn't the case... but as Mike and I often say, "Hopefully one day, some of these things will sink in."

And so we keep on trying.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Being Still

Last year on January 1st, 2013 Mike and I had made grand plans for our year. Not necessarily a big long list of goals and resolutions, but a few changes we hoped to implement with our children. We sat them down the evening of January 1st and talked them all through with them. It didn't quite go as planned, and 5 children tired and ornery from staying up too late the previous evening didn't quite co-operate as we had hoped.

I went into my bedroom feeling discouraged, while Mike wrestled the children into bed at the other end of the hall. As I laid down on my bed, I heard in my mind, clear as day the scripture passage from Psalms 46:10 which reads, "Be still and know that I am God." I have no doubt in my mind that it was a personal message sent to me from a loving God who knew my heart and desires.

I decided to make that simple phrase my personal mantra for 2013. One of the ways I incorporated being still more into my life was making sure I spent 15 minutes DAILY sitting on the couch doing nothing more than being still. I didn't nap, read, or do anything other than sit quietly alone with no distractions. (Which was what I had been talking about on my KSL radio interview last spring, but it got edited to say, "I make sure and sit on the couch every day.")

I did it faithfully for several months, but then the days muddled together and even the necklace I had made and wore frequently around my neck, didn't help remind me, or rather didn't help me prioritize making the time to "be still."

This year, (yesterday) on January 1st, Mike and I didn't sit down with our children to discuss any grandiose plans. Guess our non-communicated decision to not do it was two-fold...

1. We didn't quite master all our suggestions from last year, so we figured we could keep trying on those ones.
2. Having 4 children stay up until midnight the previous night, and 1 child get woken up at midnight made for some pretty tired and ornery children come New Years Day. Mike and I didn't have it in us to do much more than referee the occasional argument. (The others we left for the children to figure out on their own.)

I didn't receive any personal inspiration January 1st, 2014 as I did the previous year. Not that I was seeking for it, or even desired it. I believe that some of the best inspiration comes when we least expect it, which was why last year's "Be still" experience touched me so deeply. I decided to approach my own personal 2014 mantra, much the same way Mike and I have approached our family's "goals."

I didn't master being still quite like I wanted to in 2013, so I'll give it a try again for 2014. I need to remember in the chaos that so often reigns supreme in my life, that God is God and it is in the quiet, still moments I feel his guiding hand the most.

Happy New Year!


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