Sunday, March 24, 2013

Achieving Balance

 I gave a talk in church today on the topic "Achieving balance in our lives." It was a really good topic for me to spend some time on.  A friend asked me to share my talk on my blog, and since I actually did type the whole thing out, here you go.  Beware, this one is long.  Also, I am aware that there are formatting errors, but, in the name of balance, I am letting them go. 

I was asked to speak today on achieving balance in our lives.  When I read the topic I immediately thought, Yes, I know why they asked me to speak on this subject.  I think it’s because every morning I get up early, read the scriptures for about an hour, have extensive prayers, then wake my 4 children and dress them in perfectly coordinated clothing which I made myself, then feed them a perfectly wholesome and nutritious breakfast while quizzing them on their spelling and vocabulary, at the end of which we sing a morning hymn in perfect four part harmony.  (Rosie will join in the harmony soon, for now she just sings the descant).  While they are at school, I clean my house top to bottom everyday, while my younger children happily help, never  pausing to fight or make a mess.  When my other girls return home from school, we cheerfully work on their homework, and I never once lose my temper or raise my voice.  Our evening continues in the same manner, and at the end of the day, before I lay down for my 8 hours of sleep, I stop and reflect on how I was able to accomplish every single thing I wanted to in my day.


 I’m trying to think if any part of that is actually true.  In actuality, most days I get up, get dressed, get my children dressed in something.  I usually get at least 3 sets of teeth brushed and at least 2 heads of hair.  I know they all eat something every morning, but it has varying degrees of healthiness.  I know I have managed to get them to school on time every day this year, but I also know that by saying that out loud, I have just doomed myself.  My house is sometimes perfectly clean, but more often than not your shoes will crunch when you walk through my kitchen.  I spend a good portion of my day cleaning up the same 3 messes over and over, and if I actually take the time to do my hair and makeup in the morning, Rosie will destroy both my bathroom and my bedroom.  Most days I get into bed and wonder where the time went, feeling like I barely made a dent in my to do list.  And let’s not even talk about all the things accumulating on my want to do list.  

On my sister’s bathroom cupboard, on an unadorned slip of paper, is a quote from Sister Majorie Hinckley.  She said, “We have a lot to learn about simplifying our lives.  We have to decide what is important and then move along at a pace that is comfortable for us.  We have to develop the maturity to stop trying to prove something.  We have to learn to be content with what we are.”

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf explained the same sentiment in a slightly different way.  He said, “It’s remarkable how much we can learn about life by studying nature. For example, scientists can look at the rings of trees and make educated guesses about climate and growing conditions hundreds and even thousands of years ago. One of the things we learn from studying the growth of trees is that during seasons when conditions are ideal, trees grow at a normal rate. However, during seasons when growing conditions are not ideal, trees slow down their growth and devote their energy to the basic elements necessary for survival. This is a simple but critical lesson to learn. It may seem logical when put in terms of trees . . . but it’s surprising how easy it is to ignore this lesson when it comes to applying these principles in our own daily lives. When stress levels rise, when distress appears, when tragedy strikes, too often we attempt to keep up the same frantic pace or even accelerate, thinking somehow that the more rushed our pace, the better off we will be.”

I love that analogy.  It made me think of the quote, “Be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”  Some days are harder than others.  We must be kind, especially to ourselves.

Elder Uchtdorf continued, “One of the characteristics of modern life seems to be that we are moving at an ever-increasing rate, regardless of turbulence or obstacles.
Let’s be honest; it’s rather easy to be busy. We all can think up a list of tasks that will overwhelm our schedules. Some might even think that their self-worth depends on the length of their to-do list. They flood the open spaces in their time with lists of meetings and minutia—even during times of stress and fatigue. Because they unnecessarily complicate their lives, they often feel increased frustration, diminished joy, and too little sense of meaning in their lives.  It is said that any virtue when taken to an extreme can become a vice. Overscheduling our days would certainly qualify for this. There comes a point where milestones can become millstones and ambitions, albatrosses around our necks.”

I feel that way so very often, brothers and sisters.  There are so many things to do in our every day lives, and most of them good and important things.  And yes, I am including taking an afternoon nap whenever possible in the good and important list.  The biggest decisions in most of our lives are not between good and bad but between good and better.  And I know too often I equate having a balanced life with being perfect in everything, all the time.  In reality, we obtain balance in our lives by learning what to keep and learning what to let go.  Elder Oaks said, “We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families.”  Elder Uchtdorf followed that quote with, “There is a beauty and clarity that comes from simplicity that we sometimes do not appreciate in our thirst for intricate solutions. My dear brothers and sisters, we would do well to slow down a little, proceed at the optimum speed for our circumstances, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes, and truly see the things that matter most. Let us be mindful of the foundational precepts our Heavenly Father has given to His children that will establish the basis of a rich and fruitful mortal life with promises of eternal happiness.”

He then shared Mosiah 4:27, one of my favorite verses.   
And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order. 

This verse also reminds me of another favorite scripture in Ecclesiastes, chapter 3
1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
 2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
 3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
 4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
 5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
 6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
 8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

As I struggle to achieve balance in my own life, it helps me to remember that not everything has to be done today, nor should we even try.  There are seasons in our lives, and in each we do different things.  There were times in my life when I was in complete control of my schedule, and could dictate every moment of every day.  Those times are not now.  These days I am more at the mercy of other people’s schedules, and am so much less able to do all the things I want to.  There was a season when my house stayed clean.  That is definitely not the season I am in right now, and I have to remind myself that that is okay.  It is okay to let some things go.

There are certain basics, though, which we should keep close.  Elder Uchtdorf describes four relationships which we must cultivate.  First, our relationship with our Heavenly Father.   “To strengthen our relationship with God, we need some meaningful time alone with Him.  Quietly focusing on daily personal prayer and scripture study, always aiming to be worthy of a current temple recommend—these will be some wise investments of our time and efforts to draw closer to our Heavenly Father.”  Secondly, we cultivate our relationships with our family.  Thirdly, we build relationships with our fellow man.  And the fourth key relationship is with ourselves.  He states,
"It may seem odd to think of having a relationship with ourselves, but we do. Some people can’t get along with themselves. They criticize and belittle themselves all day long until they begin to hate themselves. May I suggest that you reduce the rush and take a little extra time to get to know yourself better. Walk in nature, watch a sunrise, enjoy God’s creations, ponder the truths of the restored gospel, and find out what they mean for you personally. Learn to see yourself as Heavenly Father sees you—as His precious daughter or son with divine potential."

I often feel this is the very hardest one.  It is so easy to see only our flaws and become blind to our strengths. 

When I was pregnant with my third daughter, Maggie, I developed severe carpal tunnel syndrome in both of my hands and up my arms.  I spent the better part of that pregnancy attempting to sleep sitting upright on the couch because when I laid down the pain was unbearable.  I had hoped that after she was born the pain would go away, but unfortunately it did not.  When she was 3 months old I had surgery on my left hand, a month later they fixed my right.  I felt so much better immediately, but it still took months and months to full regain the use of my hands.  There were still months of pain, months of weakness, months of learning and relearning my new limitations, and then testing them.

One day, about a year after my surgery, I was working in my garden, pulling weeds and enjoying the sunshine.  I marveled at how easily I was able to grasp and pull even the most stubborn weed from the ground.  I was filled with gratitude and thought, “I am so happy.  I think I’ve got about 90% percent of the use of my hands back!”  But in that very moment, I started thinking of the buts.  But I still can’t do this.  But I still can’t do that.  But I still have this pain.  Before I knew it I had talked myself from 90% satisfaction, to about 50%, and suddenly the day was not so sunny.

For me, the biggest obstacle to achieving balance in my life is my tendency to dwell more on what I am unable to get done instead of rejoicing in what I do accomplish.  It is not necessary to do everything.  Quoting Elder Uchtdorf again, “Strength comes not from frantic activity but from being settled on a firm foundation of truth and light. It comes from placing our attention and efforts on the basics of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It comes from paying attention to the divine things that matter most.
Let us simplify our lives a little. Let us make the changes necessary to refocus our lives on the sublime beauty of the simple, humble path of Christian discipleship—the path that leads always toward a life of meaning, gladness, and peace.”

Somewhere that's green

Two years ago this month Bracken started his new job in Walnut Creek.  We spent the next few months hunting for a place to live.  I would sit on our couch in Citrus Heights and look at ads on craigslist, then look up the school, see how it was rated, and if everything met our criteria, I would forward the information on to Bracken.  He would then spend his lunch breaks looking at these houses, trying to find the right one for us.  We quickly discovered that if we wanted a house with two bathrooms in our price range, it wasn't going to have much of a yard.  If it had a yard and two bathrooms, it didn't have a school we wanted.  And with three girls, and one on the way, we knew we couldn't settle for one bathroom. 

We finally found a house in Martinez and put a holding deposit down on it, but I really just wasn't feeling it.  I kept looking and found a house in Concord that looked promising.  It had a good school, two bathrooms, was in a great neighborhood.  It even had a covered porch like our old house did.  But the yard, the yard was pitiful. (So was the kitchen, but that's a whole other post.)  Still, it was bigger than the one in Martinez, and I just had a good feeling about it.  So, we forfeited our holding deposit and signed a lease on the new place. 

I'm so glad we did.  We love our ward.  Our school is great.  We have made wonderful friends and really feel like we are in the right place for our family right now.  But the yard (and the kitchen) has been a struggle for me.  We went from 1/3 acre of green grass and garden--
To this.  11 feet of dirt with a rock border. 

Sure, it's a little green in that picture, but by midsummer, all those weeds are dead and gone.  The landlord likes to keep the yard "low maintenance," so putting in grass was out of the question.  I tried planting some baby tears groundcover, but no matter what I did, it just kept dying.  The ground here is terrible.  I planted a zucchini last summer, and though I watered it and fertilized it, the plant never got bigger than my hand.  A zucchini!  How is that even possible?
 What made the dirt patch even worse was that with the addition of the slightest amount of water, it turns into the slickest, gooiest mud patch.  Shortly after we moved in I made the mistake of putting the girls' pool down in the dirt.  The above picture was taken about 30 seconds after I filled it with water.

And so, we have made do.  Our community has a green belt and parks and lots of grass to play in, but it's not the same thing as having it in your own yard.  We brought our trampoline with us when we moved, and that has provided hours of entertainment.  I've put all my vegetable garden into self watering planters with great success (I ate my last tomato from my vines in February!).  But I have still longed for something green in my backyard.

A couple months ago, we went to Children's Fairyland in Oakland where my kids had a delightful time sledding down a hill on pieces of cardboard, a hill covered in artificial turf.  Brilliant!  I realized that was the solution to my problem.  I ordered 150 square feet of grass from Costco last week and eagerly awaited its arrival.

Of course, no great plan can go off without a hitch.  Thursday morning I got a call from the delivery man, informing me that he was about 10 minutes from my house.  In Citrus Heights!  Though I had changed my address on the Costco website, they only updated my billing address, not my shipping address!  In a panic I explained my situation to the driver as my mind frantically raced through the possible scenarios of how I was going to get my grass.  He calmly asked where I lived now, then told me he had several deliveries in Concord later in the day and it wouldn't be a problem.  Amazing!

I spent the next morning clearing the weeds from my yard and preparing the ground for the turf.  I didn't go through all the proper steps for its installation since it definitely won't be a permanent addition to the yard.  But at soon as I unrolled that grass, the magic happened. 

Behold, Rosie's rejoicing at playing on grass in her own yard for the first time in her life.
She was just delighted. As was Maggie, even if it doesn't show.
 And Chloe and Addie were just as excited.  They all spent the whole afternoon playing out there.  Every time I'd look out the window my heart would swell, overjoyed that this patch of green in my yard was just as magical as I'd hoped it would be. 

 Most of their weekend has been spent outside.  Meals have been eaten on the grass, homework has been done on the grass.  I just couldn't be happier, and neither could my children.  Even Bracken, who was unsure about this crazy venture, is now convinced.
Here's to a wonderful summer in my new backyard!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


My friend Laura is doing my crazy diet with me.  We have also been exercising together to complement the diet, and our lives in general.  Mondays and Thursdays we go to our exercise class.  We've been trying to add in a walk on Tuesdays. 

Last week we headed out.  All of our children were in school except for our babies, so we decided to just load the two of them in the same stroller.  We walked around the park, enjoying the fact that we could walk side by side since we weren't trying to maneuver two strollers.  And when we got back to my house, this is what we had in our stroller.  Two sleeping buddies, all snuggled up. 

This Tuesday we headed out again.  Autumn got loaded in first, and excitedly motioned for Rosie to come sit next to her.  Oh, how sweet!  It looked like we were going to have a repeat of the previous week.  So we started off.  And so did the fighting.

Snacks were stolen, toys were snatched away.  They achieved a level of chaos in that stroller that I didn't think such little people were capable of.  There was so much screaming and tears.    The stroller had become the Thunderdome. I was starting to become really afraid that two toddlers had entered, and only one toddler would leave.  Laura and I each ended up carrying our children part of the way home because otherwise, it was not going to end well.  As it was, it left us reconsidering our decision to exercise, and more understanding of why we don't.

Later we blamed it on at least one child being tangry (tired and angry) or is it tingry?  I know I've spent a lot of time lately being hangry (hungry and angry), and quite often tihangry.  Hopefully I'll be over it by the time we head out on our Spring Break RV trip.  I don't want to be the cause of an RV Thunderdome.


I weaned my Rosie girl last week.  She was 16 months and three weeks old.  That's almost three months longer than I nursed Maggie.  I'd only been feeding her in the morning and at night, and then really only at night since the time change.  Poor girl has to be woken up and loaded straight in the car every morning when we head out for carpool.

I've known it was coming.  She's been growing out of babyhood for some time now, right under my nose.  We were looking at old pictures of her on my phone and realized that she has lost her baby chub.  The creases on her wrists, creating the "screw on hands" I love so much, disappeared without even saying goodbye!  She's all but given up her morning naps.  But though we often are so busy that it almost got forgotten, she showed no signs of wanting to give up the breast.  And I, knowing that this is my last little baby, wasn't in a hurry either.

Since she has given up those morning naps, I have had to accept the fact that most days I will have company in the shower.  As soon as I take off my clothes, she starts trying to strip out of hers.  I use the toilet, she indicates that she wants a turn.  She sits on the toilet,does nothing, then immediately pees in the shower afterward. And then, at some point in the shower, she notices my equipment, and insists on a snack.  I sat there last Thursday morning on the floor of the shower, nursing my little girl and realizing it would probably be the last time I held her slippery little naked body against mine like that.

I really have enjoyed nursing this little girl.  What I have not enjoyed  is the struggle I've had with my body for the last year.  I finally, in that moment, connected that if I'm going to work as hard as I have been to reclaim my body, I need to reclaim all of it, and that includes my breasts.  And so I decided we should be done.

I nursed her one final time that night, for as long as she wanted.  I thought about the friend of mine who told me the last time she breastfed her youngest, she filmed it, feeding him for an hour and a half just to treasure those final moments.  I didn't record it, and I didn't last that long, but I did take several "selfies" just to remember the moment (no, I won't post them).  That sweet little hand on my chest, the "special K" lips, the feeling of my baby falling asleep at my chest. 

And then we were done.  That phase of my life is over.  A couple days later, we got ready for our shower again.  I took off my clothes, and Rosie made eye contact with my chest.  Her eyes brightened, she waved her arms, and squealed in delight.  And I said no, hard as it was.  It's time.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Brain Food

I mentioned my new diet a few posts back (I know, I actually only wrote it a few minutes ago.  Four posts today.  Four!  It's almost like I didn't fail in my resolution to blog every day by not doing it for an entire week.)  On this diet I am currently eating a lot of lean protein, tons of veggies, 2 servings of fruit and 2 servings of probiotics, as well as a couple tablespoons of healthy fat every day.  Thanks to this diet, I have consumed 500% more fish in the last week than I had in the last couple of months.  And fish is brain food, right?  This is a healthy diet designed to make me healthier, wealthier (please?) and wiser.  Right?


While I generally am feeling good, and I think I actually do have more energy without all the garbage coursing through my body, I feel like my brain has taken itself on a little vacation.  Maybe it decided to leave to spare me the agony of really thinking about a month of my life with no sugar, no chocolate and no white flour, but I am really starting to miss my mind!

Here are a few of the stupid things I have done in the last few days.  I hope I can remember them all.  Most of them, of course, are related to food.
  • Every morning I microwave a cup of water, which I then squeeze a lemon in and drink before I eat anything else.  The other day I went to remove my cup from the microwave and discovered the handle was burning hot!  That was because I hadn't put any water in the cup before I put it in the microwave.  
  • That same morning I baked muffins for my family.  As I said on facebook, "Today is my 8th day without sugar of any kind. I got up early this morning and made chocolate banana muffins for my family, and didn't taste any part of them. I'm pretty sure that kind of strength and self sacrifice means I'm a super hero now."  A really stupid superhero who accidentally turns the oven off halfway through baking the muffins, and then wonders why they are taking so long to cook.
  • Later in the day, I opened the oven to see what I was cooking.  Oh yeah, nothing.  Empty oven.  Wishful thinking.
  • Yesterday I kept listening to my stomach growl as I waited for my super delicious Basil Pesto Tilapia (freezer section at Costco, you won't regret it) to finish cooking.  And then I looked in the kitchen and saw that I had forgotten to put it in the oven.  
  • I was making eggs for breakfast and was, again, super hungry.  I decided to make two eggs, plus two egg whites.  I started separating the eggs, cracking them first, then letting the whites down the drain.  Doh!
  • And then today, finally, a non-food related brain fart.  As I walked back from the mailbox, I noticed water pouring from our neighbor's yard into the street.  I walked closer and noticed it was actually coming from our yard.  I bent down, moved some mulch and saw water pouring from a little hole by the sidewalk.  Everything else seemed to be dry.  I immediately called the landlord, as I walked into the backyard with my kids.  As I explained the crisis to her, and heard the panic in her voice, I noticed that my backyard was flooded!  I panicked even more for a minute before I connected that Maggie had been the last one in the back yard last night, and had been playing with a Barbie pool.  Yep, unbeknownst to me, she'd turned on the hose and left it running.  I quickly turned it off, and tried to put our landlord's mind at ease.  Thankfully, everything is fine now, but man, I wish I'd looked around a bit more before picking up the phone. I'm just glad she laughed when I explained the situation. 
  • Also, full disclosure, I may have taken a really long, hard sniff of a Malted Milk Chocolate Chip Cookie before I handed it off to Rosie at lunch today.  But really, I'm doing fine!

Just look at the camera, Addie

Last Sunday my facebook feed was filled with pictures of cute families at the Oakland Temple that my friends had posted.  We had had a special stake conference with Elder Cook, and the meeting was held at the Interstake Center next to the temple.  Afterward we walked on the grounds. There were DSLR cameras galore, snapping pictures of darling children doing darling things in a beautiful setting.

I do not have a good camera, but a friend offered to snap a couple of our "cute family."  Let me narrate the experience for you.

Okay, everyone.  Look at the camera so we can take a quick picture!

 What's going on Maggie?  Are you smiling or screaming?  Addie, why so serious?  Let's try again.
That's okay, Addie, everyone has to sneeze sometimes.  I can see why it distracted you, Maggie.  Rosie, I know you're sad because you someone sneezed somewhere near you, which means you will inevitably be sick in a few days, but could you please just smile?


Fine.  I give up.  Let's see if we can do better in front of the temple itself. 

No really, I'm not mad, just look at the camera and smile.  Chloe's doing it.  Look, I will try and smile as big as I can and lift my head like I'm enjoying this a lot!

Hey!  You all looked at the camera at the same time!  Awesome.  Could we try it one more time with smiles?

No, I didn't think so.

(We had a similar experience with Addie during our family pictures this summer.  When she looked at the images later she asked, "Why does my face look like that?"  I don't know, Addie.  I just don't know."

Spring flowers

 This last weekend I had the opportunity to do flowers for a special church meeting we had with Elder Quintin L. Cook, one of our church's 12 Apostles.  I felt honored and nervous to be asked, but also very excited.  I love flowers, and I love spring.  It was the week before St. Patrick's Day, so I immediately thought of Bells of Ireland, and calla lilies, and then decided to throw some pink in with the white and green.  I visited the San Francisco Flower Market for the very first time to get the flowers.

I was so excited when I arrived there to find they had flowering quince.  It is my very favorite spring flower!  I discovered it when we were living in Citrus Heights.  It is the very first thing to bloom in spring. Bright coral, pink or white flowers on long dark stems fill in with green leaves as the blossoms drop.  The rest of the year it masquerades as an ordinary shrub.  But in the final cold days of winter it fills my heart with joy.  I actually did a lot of research, visiting nurseries and websites, trying to figure out what plant it was because I needed it to be part of my life. 

 I was also quite enamored of the fresh curly willow for these arrangements as well. 

This big arrangement for the main pulpit gave me a lot of trouble.  I just could not find the right container for it.  I spent half of Saturday running around trying to find something.  I finally settled for a cute trash can!
 Bells and quince and willows and callas and asters and tulips and hydrangeas.

I spent most of the meeting thinking, "I should have made that thing bigger.  It seemed so huge at home."  And then I brought it home and put it on the table in my entry and every time I walk past it I think, "That thing is enormous!"
Finally, I found these lovely hydrangeas I had never seen before.  They are called Angel's Parasol and have layers of delicate little blossoms.  Lovely. 


Maggie picked out a shirt to wear the other day, put it on, then announced, with tears, "Mom, I don't want to weow dis.  I look fat in dis."

She's three.  And breaking my heart.  Granted, it was a bulky t-shirt, and not at all feminine, but still.  How can my perfect little girl say such things?

I try so hard to keep my body issues to myself.  On the whole, I feel okay about myself.  Between every baby I've been able to get back down to my pre-baby weight, actually lighter than I was before I got pregnant with Chloe.  Before I had Rosie, though, I joked to allay my fears that child number four was going to ruin me.  I was not wrong.  I was doing okay, but last April, out of nowhere, I suddenly put on 10 pounds in the month, and I have spent the last year trying to get it, and the last of the baby weight, off. 

It has been a rough year.

In January I started attending an exercise class two mornings a week that a fantastic lady teaches for free at the church.  Two days a week I drag myself out of bed at 5:30 and spend an hour doing things that hurt.  A lot.  I have only missed one class this year. I definitely feel healthier and stronger, and when I wave, my arm doesn't wave back nearly as much as it used to.  I can see muscles in my thighs now.  But the scale hasn't budged at all.  I've thought back several times to the first few months after my mission.  I felt like I was so heavy when I got home (Though looking back I would kill to be that heavy again!) and started an aerobics class two days a week.  Within 2 months I had dropped all the weight I had gained on my mission.  What a difference 14 years and 4 kids makes!

I started a new diet 10 days ago, one that will hopefully give my metabolism the jump start it needs.  As part of this diet, I'm not eating any sugar (besides 2 servings of fruit a day) and no grains/starches for the next week.  I'm actually feeling pretty good while on it, and definitely recognizing the good changes I need to make long term for both my weight and my general health. 

At the moment, though, the restrictions of the diet are hard to explain to my children, especially without using the words "fat" or "diet" or "sometimes when I exercise certain parts of my body jiggle so much it hurts."

We were at dinner the other night.  I served a lot of veggies, oven baked fries for them, and turkey sloppy joes on fresh baked multigrain bread.  I just ate the meat, with no bread.

"Mom, why aren't you eating any bread?"
"Oh, I'm eating different food right now."
"Because I'm trying to be healthier."
"Isn't bread healthy?"
"Well yes, this bread is very healthy.  I'm just taking a break from eating bread right now."
"But why?"

It went around and around, and I couldn't answer their questions to their satisfaction, no matter now I tried.  I have always tried to emphasize being healthy over being thin with them, but they are still picking up on the "fat" thing.  I only hope that by continuing to make healthy choices for myself I can set the example they need. I need to be able to be louder than the world.

It might be starting to work.  Maggie just prayed that she would be able to eat all her dinner, even if she doesn't like it. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

So that's how it is in your family

 Maggie drew this picture at preschool today.  Initially, I was just concerned that half of us don't have heads.
Then I flipped it over and saw the caption she had dictated to the teacher.
What must they be thinking of us?  I guess Bracken's big secret is out.

I've been poisoned!

When I was in the fourth grade, I loved to play four square during recess at school.  Next to the cement squares we played on was a fence covered in honeysuckle.  When the honeysuckle bloomed we would abandon our game and gather by the flowers, pulling their stamens out the bottom and licking the nectar that came out with them.  Flower after flower, we ate those tiny sweet droplets.

What I didn't notice was the poison ivy growing amidst the honeysuckle.  But, since I had been touching it and licking my uroshiol covered fingers, I quickly discovered my mistake.  I was soon covered in oozy blisters and my entire body swelled, poisoned no doubt from the inside as well as the outside.  Even my earlobes swelled--the left one was over half an inch thick. 

Eventually the swelling subsided, and the rash cleared up.  I was left with white spots all over my arms, places that just would not tan any more.  I was very careful after that, and never snacked on honeysuckle again, at least not while we lived in Mississippi.

6 years later, my family was poised to move from our next home in San Luis Obispo.  We were headed to Utah, and I spent every moment I could at the beach until we left.  A few days before the move, some friends and I went out to Hazard Reef to play on the dunes and explore the tide pools.  It wasn't until we were on our way home that we noticed the entire trail was covered with poison oak, poison ivy's almost as itchy cousin.

But I wasn't itchy yet, and I was not going to put my farewell plans on hold.  I thought maybe I'd even escaped the danger since I couldn't see any signs of contact.  I had a goodbye party at a different beach, and spent the day at Avila soaking up as much of the California sun as I could hold.  That night, after a bonfire, several of us jumped off the Avila Pier.  For a moment I felt like I was flying, until I finally smacked into the water below. 

A couple days later, my family loaded into our big brown van, filled with kids and birds and fish and hot vinyl seats.  By this point, the poison oak rash had fully erupted, though I never swelled like I had with my first experience.  I was also sunburned completely crispy, and had bruised my bottom when I hit the water after jumping off the pier.  And I was 16, and very unhappy about the move, and not afraid to show it.  It was a miserable drive that culminated in an extended stay at the Travelodge in Provo while my parents looked for a house to rent.  I spent most of it on the pull out couch in our suite, teaching my baby brother to laugh like Beavis and Butthead, or in the tub, soaking in baking soda, trying not to claw my skin off. 

We then moved from the Travelodge to my grandparent's basement for the next week or so.  By this point, the rash had erupted on my hands.  You could see the blisters, bulging under tough skin of my palms, and I would press my fingernails into them, feeling them crunch as they popped under the surface.  I definitely didn't feel, or look, much like making new friends.

But eventually I healed, both from the poison oak, and the move.  I made new friends, had many adventures, and always managed to avoid those nasty leaves of three.

Until last weekend, that is.

We went for a hike with some friends, and as soon as we got to the trailhead, Miss Maggie needed to go to the bathroom.  Of course.  And there was no bathroom.  Of course.  So I took her on a little nature pee, looking for a little privacy, not even considering thinking of poison oak once.  And then at some point I wiped my nose (because of my stupid cold.  Number three this winter.  THREE!), and rubbed my eye, and touched my arm.  The next day I got up and took a quick, hot shower before church. 

Monday morning I woke up late for my exercise class, jumped out of bed in a panic, threw my clothes on and raced out the door (Seriously, who am I?).  While working out, I noticed a rash on the inside of my right arm.  And a puffy left eye.  By that night there were patchy blisters all over my right arm, and part of my left, and on my nose and by my eye.  Stupid poison oak!

I've learned a few things about it in the last few days that I didn't know before. 
  • People usually don't develop a rash until their second contact with urishiol.  Which explains why Maggie isn't currently screaming about a rash on her bum.
  • The rash typically doesn't develop until 1-5 days after exposure, by which point most people have showered and spread the plant oils all over their bodies.  Poison oak=jerk.
  • The liquid in the blisters is not contagious.  It does not contain urishiol, and will not spread the rash to other parts of your body.
  • The urishiol oils remain potent up to five years after the plant has died. Jerk!
  • There are several websites dedicated to the crazy things people will do to eliminate the oils/rash.  Most of those remedies make me wonder if having no skin at all is better than having the itch.
  • Regardless of what ridiculous solutions you try, the rash usually lasts 7-10 days.
I'm now on day 4.  I'm starting to see signs of improvement, but the next time Maggie needs to go while we are hiking, I am throwing her privacy to the wind!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Maggie the Boring

Out of Maggie's mouth today came the words, "But Mom, I don't have an imagination!"

Right.  Here are a few other tidbits of delightfulness, straight out of that unimaginative mouth

  • Mom, can we get a poodle for a pet one day and dye it all different colors?
  • "My favorite color is black.  I like maybe black," she says.  I ask, "Is that like navy blue?"  "No, maybe black.  Like maybe blue.
  • I picked up her plasma car off the back porch and a whole bunch of water poured out.  I asked, "Where did all this water come from?"  She replied, "I don't know Mom, maybe squirrel pee?"
  • Mom, can I put sugar on my Lucky Charms?
  • Mom, can you bend down so I can whispoh in yo eaw? I love the woyold Heavenwy Faddow made foh me.
  • I was cleaning yesterday and she pulled me down to whisper in my ear again (whispering is her favorite), "Mom, when you vacuum, I can't hear my show."
  •  Maggie's morning prayer was dedicated to math one day, "Please bless that one and one make two, and three and three will always make two threes and bless all the numbers."
  •  Another Maggie prayer: Please bless that I can have chocolate milk, because I really don't want this strawberry soda."
  •  More Maggie math, "Mom, what does tree plus tree make?" "Um, a forest?" I cautiously reply. "Yes! And one house plus one house is a village!"
  • And finally, not a quote, but imaginative nonetheless.  The kids were pretending to be doggies, so Maggie peed on the floor.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Longest Times

  1.  The time between when your husband says he will be home, and when he actually gets home.
  2. The ten minutes before your kids' bedtime.
  3. Any minutes after your kid's bedtime.
  4. After the speaker says, "In conclusion . . .", "Finally . . .",  or "One last thing . . ."
  5. Any time after the meeting is supposed to be over and the speaker is still talking.


Second day of my renewed commitment to blogging and I totally missed it.  I am amazing.  I my defense, I had reached the end of a very productive day, accomplished with only part of my health, and I was so exhausted I just completely forgot. 

We started our Saturday with many chores, laundry folded and granola bars made.  We headed out the door by 10, stopped at the library to pick up a book I am very excited about, then drove to Fairfield to meet our friends, the Edwards, for a lovely day at Rockville Regional Park.  There were gorgeous views, wildflowers, trees to climb and play hide and seek with, a nature pee, a bathroom pee, and surprisingly little complaining from Addie.

Addie was just so excited to be spending the day with the love of her life, Preston.  She has known him since she was an infant, and talks about him constantly.  In fact, she brought up having a play date with him earlier in the week, and then his mom messaged me about getting together this weekend.  Serendipity!  Also serendipitious?  The fact that three of my daughters have professed their intention to marry boys with redheaded parents.  Gingers unite!

After our healthy hike, we made a decidedly unhealthy visit to the Jelly Belly Factory.  We took the tour, we sampled such special flavors as moldy cheese and pencil shavings, and purchased muchas Belly Flops.  Oh, Belly Flops, how we love thee.  We gorged on beans and visited with our friends, then said goodbye before our children broke the mechanical car they were abusing.  We made a couple more stops for errands on our way home, then got Bracken the burger he'd been craving all day.  Baths and an early bedtime for all, and our productive day was complete.  Except for pictures, because I didn't manage to take any. 

It was largely made possible by me feeling somewhat healthy for the first time in almost a week.  This has been a ridiculous winter for me and my immune system.  I have had a cold every month, and the last two have been particularly nasty.  The January cold firmly planted itself in my chest, causing me to cough and hack through every exercise class I attended.  I finally managed to make it through a class without alarming those around me, and three days later, started to get the sniffles again.  This particular cold took about 4 days to really settle in, and since has been blessing me with a completely crusted over face every morning.  I am so over this whole being sick thing!  The most frustrating part is that since the new year, I have been eating healthier and exercising more, even while sick.  Grrr.

Friday, March 1, 2013


I need to get back in the blogging saddle again.  Our lives are moving so quickly, and my memory just can't hold everything that happens.  So, my goal is to blog every day in March.  I know it's traditional to take that project on in November, but I'm non traditional like that.  And I'm not even going to try to make these posts good.  I'm just going to write them.

I'm sitting on the couch with Maggie, who is playing games on my phone.  Rosie is currently demolishing everything she can reach, which is a lot.  Finally, at 16 months, this little girl is really walking.  Thanks to my third nasty cold in three months, I've been spending a lot of time on the couch the last few days.  I'll look over and see her cute little head bobbing behind the couch, or hear the deliberate slap of her footsteps on the tile.  And she is just so excited and proud of herself with every step.

This Rosie girl is a charmer.  She generally has a smile and a wave and a, "Hi-ah!" for everyone she sees.  She goes out of her way to greet people, racing towards the door as soon as it opens, pausing to wave as she moves.  Just last night she mastered actually puckering her lips for a kiss.  And her kisses tend to last a really long time, and often include a hug with pats on the back.  I tell her all the time that she is a love.  She tells me I love you regularly, her words clear in the inflection if not the articulation.  She enthusiastically nods yes when you ask her a question, or when she wants you to do something.

And Rosie is busy.  Oh, so busy.  I think regularly that I am just too old for this.  But being sick over and over sure doesn't help my perception.  She makes laps through the house, emptying the drawers and cupboards in the bathroom, rummaging through my nightstand for cough drops, crying when I take them away, unshelving all the books, throwing all the clean sippy cups on the floor, wiping her nose with my discarded tissues, shredding tissues into miniscule bits and dropping them all over the house, bringing me packages of dry pasta from the cupboard, every once in a blue moon stopping to actually play with a toy.  There are not enough child locks in the world to slow this one down. 

Though she is generally a ray of sunshine, beware the mad Rosie.  She can yell and writhe with the best of them when she doesn't get her way.  And she is stubborn, very confident in her own decisions and wants.  She furrows her little brow and glares at you.

When Rosie is tired, she pops her left thumb in her mouth.  Her cute little teeth (8 on top, 6 on bottom) are starting to show the pull of that thumb on them, but it seems to early to try to make her stop.  But maybe I'm too attached to keeping this final baby a baby.  We still nurse, morning and night, and she screams if I attempt to change her or take her out of the room before sitting down to nurse.  Though I'm not entirely it's the milk she's most interested in.  Because it's in those quiet moments that she has very serious conversations with me.  She drinks for a moment, then makes eye contact with me and tells me very important things, nodding all the while, then drinks some more. 

Rosie is flexible.  Because of her position as number four child in the family, her naps get interrupted more than any of the other girls' did.  And yet, most of the time, when I pick her up from where she is soundly sleeping, bum high in the air, hoping against hope that she will stay asleep, she immediately awakes with a smile, and a "Hi-ah!" and points the direction to our next adventure.