Monday, November 24, 2014

Counting Blessings

There is turmoil swirling all around me. It is difficult to feel peace amidst so many competing emotions. Just when I think I may have caught it by the coattails. . .

It's a difficult time for me. I know a lot is riding on my decisions.

Each of my children is struggling in a very personal way with their own issues and I cannot help them. I mean, I'm trying to. I'm praying so hard to know how, but agency is real. As a mother I can love tightly, and release faithfully. I'm am trying to perfect, "Let go, and let God."

My life is the long-term plan, for sure.

Today was especially trying. I'm holding back tears of worry and fear over one of my children in particular. I had the thought today as I drove to the grocery store, "I think I may be going crazy." And it wasn't even all that alarming. Crazy gives you permission to do a lot of things, you know. Crazy could be a load off.

But this week is Thanksgiving. There is no Complaintsgiving. Worriesgiving. Fearsgiving.

And so, after a simple dinner of comfort carbs (grilled cheese, tomato soup, chips and dips), I called the boys back to the table for an even simpler Family Home Evening (which most weeks I fail at lately, by the way.)

I happened to see this link today with free downloads of "Gratitude Pie Charts". Fourteen different little visuals to organize and count your blessings. I picked one and printed it off for us. It was amazing how easy the boxes were to fill up.

And as the boxes filled up, so did my hope, and my faith.

I told the boys tonight that no matter the trials we are experiencing, no matter how hard life seems to be, we always have more blessings and things to be grateful for. I guess I needed the reminder as well.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Breaking Point

Are there little signs in life?

A few weeks ago, I was down in the kitchen when I heard a tremendous crash. Conor was upstairs, and I thought maybe he'd fallen off of something, but I held my breath for a moment and never heard crying. Then he appeared in the kitchen and said, "What was that noise?" Oh. So, it wasn't Conor. He went in search of the probable calamity, and found it in my closet. He came down animated, arms and hands flying dramatically, his eyes wide and his voice streaming words a mile a minute, emphasizing the horribleness of the situation. "Okay," I said. I had piano lessons to teach. I couldn't even muster the desire to go see one more "situation".

Eventually, I went upstairs to face reality. When he said the shelf had fallen, I thought it was the other one, the small one that holds wrapping supplies, sewing supplies, and extra purses. That one has fallen before.  I did not expect it to be the one that held my entire rack of clothing and boxes of memorabilia. I was strangely unmoved. It felt so typical of my life right at that moment.

Everything had looked so tidy and organized. Slacks, blouses, cardigans, long-sleeved shirts, short-sleeved shirts, skirts, dresses hung in order. Jeans and pants folded on top next to sweaters and nursing scrubs. Then boxes of keepsakes, the kids' favorite childhood toys, memories of people and places of my past. All carefully placed and easily accessible, before the weight of it all bent the supports that held it up and sent it crashing to the floor in a heap. But it had looked fine and had been seemingly sturdy for over nine years. No sign of impending surrender.

I often look put together and organized too. Strong, even.

I had no energy to deal with this disaster. I didn't even know where to begin, truthfully. It seemed so daunting and I knew it would involve power tools at some point. Instead, I closed the door and chose to not freak out or panic. I didn't cry. I might have even laughed a bit at the irony. Fortunately, I had just done a load of laundry and hadn't put it away yet, so I just lived out of that hamper. It was fine.

Then, late one night, about a week later, when I was up anyway (thanks to my night shift sleep schedule), I thought maybe it was time for a purge. At the time, I didn't know how I would build a new closet, but I knew I could at least clean out and sort.

One by one, I took each item out. Amazing how much clothing I was holding on to for when I lose weight. Depressing! Skinny clothes that haven't fit in years! All they do is taunt me and make me feel horrible about myself. It was time for them to go. After all, when I lose weight, I should buy something new!

This is only the beginning of that purged pile. I ended up donating three trash bags full of perfectly good-for-someone-else clothing.

I folded the shirts and pants and sweaters and placed them in the closet unit that Adam hasn't taken yet. All of the dresses and skirts and shirts on hangers got draped over Lyndsay's bed for the time being.

This has kind of been a sign to me of the breaking point I'm at in my life. I've held on to things that just don't fit for way too long. I've carried the weight of the past unnecessarily. It's time to sort through mindfully and decide what should stay, and what is no longer beneficial to my mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Hoping and longing for what used to be, what I wish still was, is not propelling me forward; it's holding me back. And I don't have all the answers as to how to fix what is broken inside of me, but I can begin by taking inventory and making some hard decisions.

I don't have a functional closet yet. I've been taking from Lyndsay's bed, a laundry hamper, and the portable closet unit. It's fine for now. A friend came over and took measurements and is going to put up new rods and shelves.

The things that will hang there fit me now. And only the most important keepsakes get to stay.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Deep End

Here I go, jumping in.

I've decided to end my marriage.

That decision is in the very same instance both heavy and light.

Heavy, because who wants a divorce? Heck, who wants two of them under her belt? Heavy because of the failure, the broken hearts, the casualties that always befall the smallest, most innocent ones. Heavy because I've already been down this road and I'm familiar with the ruts. Heavy because I hate those ruts. Frankly, they suck.

Light, because the ruts in that road are more appealing than the ones in the road that continues on in the same direction. Light because I want to be out from under the dark secrets of this marriage. Light because there is peace at home again. Light because without all of the surviving, maybe I can work more on thriving. I know how deeply I believe in marriage, even though it's with kind of a shocking sadness that I realize I have no personal experience to justify that belief. I know how hard I will fight for a marriage and for a family. I know that I can forgive the unforgivable. I know that I will put my needs and feelings very, very last.

And I know I have.

When we separated almost two years ago, I didn't rush to the courthouse. I knew we needed a break and I really believed that break would be permanent, but I was open to every last chance. I was shocked when I felt we might explore our relationship again eight months later and even more shocked that it led to him moving back in this past May. But very soon it was apparent that as much as I love him (and I do!) and as much as I care for him, our marriage is destructive to not only the two of us, but to our children, and there just doesn't seem to be a point in putting off what has been the inevitable for any longer. After a very brief "honeymoon" period, all of the old patterns were firmly back in place. There's so much negative history that just keeps repeating itself, and it feels impossible that trust can ever be restored. The children are begging for relief and I was startled and ashamed at how my attempts to keep things together were breaking them.

Marriages are deeply personal. I don't want to betray the sacredness of our experience, even if it's ending. He is hurting and so am I. I don't need to reveal details of our downward spiral. It is enough to say that I feel like I tried my best. He probably did too.

I am choosing to not hate. I am angry sometimes, but I'm actively working on forgiveness and compassion. For him, for me. I am sick of ugly. I just don't want it in my life. I am craving peace, and am hopeful that this terrible, sad process will bring that to both of us.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Ready, Set, . . .

I've been thinking that I should start writing again.

I have all sorts of things bubbling over inside of my spirit and mind. Life is happening to me, with me, around me, inside of me, because of me, in spite of me.

I am having such exquisite, enlightening, painful, lonely, tumultuous, enlivening, joyful, dreadful experiences. The commodity I'm shortest on is time. Definitely time. But I feel this drive to carve some out, even the tiniest bit, to write.

For me, it's therapeutic, and who couldn't use some therapy, am I right?


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Boy is Baptized

We've been preparing for this event for years. At eight years old, the age of accountability, children can choose to be baptized, the first step to return to their Heavenly Father one day. Conor and I have talked about this decision many times, discussing the promises he would be making and the blessings that would be available to him for choosing to follow the example of Jesus Christ. With each of my other children, I read the Book of Mormon with them before they were baptized. With Conor, we started (years ago!) but didn't quite finish yet. We'd read it together as a family, however, and he believes the Book of Mormon is true. (We'll keep pressing on until we finish, just the two of us.) He wanted to be a member of the true Church of Jesus Christ, he always says.

A month or so before the big day, his dad took some pictures for me to use for invitations:

We scheduled the baptism for Saturday, August 30th. It was helpful that it was over Labor Day weekend so that we could have family come from out of state. Lyndsay drove down from BYU, and my dad drove in from Arizona. He was going to be bringing Dylan with him, but Dylan backed out at 2am the night before they were to leave. That is a whole other story that burdens my heart.

I worked so hard to arrange all the details from getting the building opened and the font filled, to the programs, displays, and refreshments. This is my youngest child! My last baptism. Hard to believe.

His father baptized him, and his Grandpa Holiday confirmed him.

Oh, he is so dear to me. And his willingness to follow the Lord thrills my heart.

Cupcakes. I spent most of the day Friday baking and frosting them. Ten dozen!

Everyone participated in some way. Aiden, the best kind of good example and big brother, gave the opening prayer.

(Missing Caitlin, who is up in Santa Barbara at school, and Dylan.)

One of my favorite pictures of the day. Lyndsay gave the cutest talk on baptism. She also pulled out that tooth two nights before!

My dear friend Beverly came to play the piano for us. She and I have worked together in Primary since I was pregnant with Conor!

I had some of the pictures that Adam took enlarged and framed for the display table. The framed subway art was a free printable that I found on a blog. This was my gift to Conor and will hang in his bedroom.

I chose sunflowers because they always turn to face the sun, which lights the earth, and Conor's choice to be baptized was a choice to turn and face the Savior, the Light of the World.

It was such a sweet day. Little Conor is thrilled to be a baptized member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I hope he will always choose to follow the Savior.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back to School Again

Another school year is upon us. The summer went by so quickly, I almost feel like it was a trick. A summer slight-of-hand. It was here, and now it's gone! 

I'm not a huge fan of the kids going back to school. It's so lonely and I love having them around and not being a slave to a school district. I am, however, a fan of education, so that's the angle I take with the boys. Learning! Growth! Progress! Let's do this! 

Since Aiden is attending a charter school this year, the schedules for the boys are not the same, even for the first day. So we had an extended back-to-school moment, sort of easing into things. 

Conor started 3rd grade this year. I'm not sure how that is even possible. He started kindergarten the same time I started nursing school and now this has happened? 

On the bright side, we're getting a 4th year out of that backpack!

When I asked him what he wanted for his first day of school breakfast, he said strawberry-orange smoothies. I've never made those, so I'm not sure where that came from, and later he said he just made it up. Well, it worked out fine (except that Trop 50 stuff is weird. Not even 100% juice. Lesson learned there.) I used a ton of frozen strawberries, some Greek yogurt, a banana, and some orange juice.

Aiden was sweet enough to want to walk with us to school, the school he also attended beginning in 3rd grade. In fact, Conor has the same teacher that Aiden had in 3rd grade.

I got him to the right place on the playground, where he was first in line for his class. We waited for a few friends, and then I had to leave to take Aiden to work. Conor was fine though, so brave. What a difference from all those tearful partings in kindergarten!

Aiden said he felt like everything was miniature at this school. Strange how perspective changes as we grow up! He was once a little guy standing in this same line!

Aiden started early morning Seminary (a scripture study class held at 6am for high school students in our church) last week because most of the kids started school last week. Since he didn't, our routine was Seminary (which he gets himself up for and rides his bike to and from), Conor to school, and then Aiden out to the ranch where he's been working all summer. Then I would pick him back up around lunch time, he'd come home and rest for a bit, and then it was off to football until late in the evening.

Today, however, he started school. 9th grade. High school. I can't even believe it, except that I've been driving out there every day the whole summer.

He's going to a really great school, the largest charter school in the nation, actually. It's a bit of a drive, which has been hard, but most of his friends are going there since his middle school was out in that area too.

His back to school breakfast was a bit heartier: Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancakes. And a tall glass of milk and a banana. The boy can eat.

All morning I've been thinking about how strange the passing of time is. I'm sitting in the same house, with the same furniture, arranged in exactly the same way as when we moved in back in 2005. That was just a few weeks before school started that year, and Aiden started kindergarten.

We had five kids going back to school! Same house (with painted walls now), but so much has happened and changed.

Here was my little guy on his first day of kindergarten. And today he started high school!

Here is a picture of the end of that school year. Lyndsay was being homeschooled, but the other four all attended the same school. It's so strange to look at that picture, which I remember taking, and realize that three of those kids are in college now and the other two in high school!

And here I am with my little Aiden, and Conor growing in my tummy. These are the only two I have left in my nest. Life is a trip, man.

So much has changed. We've been through so much. Each of these kids has experienced so many things since these older pictures were taken. I miss those days of innocence and relative ease. Life, ironically, seemed simpler then. We keep plodding along, doing the best that we can. Now I'm a working mother, which adds its own degree of complication to life. The race I run at this stage feels more strenuous then it did back then, but I'm grateful for the learning, the growth, and the progress.

Here's to an excellent school year!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Conor's Plants vs. Zombies Party

It's been zombies in my head for the last several weeks. I decided to let Conor have his first "friends" party for his birthday this year and he asked for a Plants vs. Zombies theme (which, if you don't know, is a wildly popular video game.)

Once I started searching for ideas, I got a little crazy in the details. I wanted everything to be memorable for him and I wanted his friends to have a great time.

I had some zombie images blown up and printed for decoration.

And I found this perfect sign for the front door.

Thanks to Etsy, I was able to get ready-made digital images that I had printed at Kinko's. Then I just had to spend several hours cutting and glueing.

I struggled with the cake. I had a different vision initially, but things just weren't working out, so I had to revamp and go with a simpler idea. I made the figures from gum paste a few days before, did the fondant work the night before the party, and then assembled everything that morning. There was just no way I could make a fondant zombie, so to get around it and yet still have the zombie touch on the cake, I just went for a hand reaching out of the ground. Much easier.

For decorations I bought a set of small traffic cones.

Our first game as guests arrived was Zombie Bingo. The kids loved it.

Then we played Musical Zombie Chairs. We had downloaded the Plants vs. Zombies theme song onto a CD and we played that while the kids had to walk around the chairs zombie-style.

Then we played Zombie Bowling.

Everyone thinks it's going to be so easy, but it's not! We gave each child three tennis balls to try and knock all the cans down. Only one child got them all down with the first ball, and only two were able to get them all down with three balls. They loved this game!

Next up was Pin the Eye on the Zombie.

(I got this guy a little too dizzy!)

I ordered five of these zombie stuffed toys from China (cheap!) to use as first prizes for each of the games. The kids loved that!

Then I had a terra cotta pot filled with smaller action figure type zombies that served as second and third prizes.

The last game was a Zombie Shooting game. I printed out images of zombie heads and laminated them and hung bells from the bottoms. Aiden built the frame for me and spray painted it.

He also built me all the marshmallow shooters. (Love that boy!)

This was an outside game. The kids got ten marshmallows chances to hit the zombies.

Then it was inside for food. I had the party from 2-4pm, so I didn't need to serve lunch. But I had snacks, which the kids actually munched on throughout the whole party. We had a little "brain snack" after a few of the games and the little zombies ate their jello brain.

Plants for the little zombies!

And then it was cake time!

I can't believe this boy is turning 8!

I made one of the traffic cones into a party hat for Conor (and clipped a tie on him like a zombie too, which you can't see here).

And then they demolished my hard work!

Cards and gifts at the end.

And before they went home, they each got a party favor. I wrapped candy bars with these cute wrappers (Etsy again!)

and put them inside flower pots along with a pack of trading cards, bubbles, and a pack of sunflower seeds to grow in their pots. There were supposed to be eyeball gum balls too, but something happened to my order. Oh well, nobody knew. And hopefully parents were happy that the kids didn't come home laden with sugar.

Conor was incredibly thrilled with the way his party turned out. Parents have been telling me how much fun all the kids had. All of the games were a success. The kids would always ask to play them again when we finished. It was a ton of work getting everything ready, but all worth it!