Friday, July 31, 2009

Oh, Mommy, Can We Keep Him?

Oh, so tempting! I'm a sucker for cute little furry things. And I'm one of those odd people that think that even grown up possums are adorable.

This little one, oh, I'm so worried about him! As I was backing out of the driveway for speech therapy this morning, I saw him scuttle up the sidewalk. He's so new his eyes aren't even opened all the way yet, and when he opens his mouth, no sound comes out. Where is his mama? Probably sleeping. Like all babies, this one has his days and nights mixed up, apparently. Poor little guy. I didn't know what to do to help him.

Lyndsay so wanted to bring him home and care for him, and I was torn, but ultimately decided to let nature take its course. Darn it. I hope his mama wakes up and finds him soon! The poor baby's got to be starving!

God bless all the little (motherless) creatures!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Walking Points

To take care of me, to pass the time without all of my children needing my care, and to help me sort out things in life, I've been walking. Extra. I really need to drop some pounds, and I also really like the thinking that happens while I walk. Finding the time, and staying motivated are, of course, the ever-present complicators, but I've found something that will work for at least the next month until school starts again.

I set my alarm for 6:10am, to be out the door by 6:30am. The sun isn't above the mountains yet at that time, so I can huff the mile uphill to the high school track without its rays beating down on me. I take Conor with me in the stroller, and now that Lyndsay is home, she comes too.

I walk for one hour.

Four miles.

Pushing the stroller. Uphill one mile. Around the track for two miles. Downhill one mile.

It's hard.

(I'm not as young or as fit as I once was!)

But, I decided that to reach my goals, a 20 or 30 minute walk just wasn't going to cut it. I needed to sweat more. Incidentally, pushing a stroller when you walk helps you burn 20% more calories, did you know? That little thought helps get me through as I'm pushing my three year old with all of my might.

Setting just a weight loss goal is too abstract for me. I don't even own a scale, so keeping track is difficult, but also, I don't want to be so tied down to a number, or discouraged when the losing is slow. So, I decided instead to reward myself for time spent exercising. A point system.

My minimum goal is 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. For each 30 minutes, I get a point. So, for my hour-long walks I get 2 points. Then I needed something to work towards.

I need walking shoes! Badly. Mine are about seven years old, and bless their torn soles, they have carried me over thousands and thousands of miles. But you know how it is (or do you?) when you just can't bring yourself to spend money on you. But if I earn them. . .

So, that's my first reward. I decided on 40 points getting me a new pair of walking shoes. That would be 20 days of walking one hour. Almost three weeks, which is long enough that I will have come a long way towards establishing a habit, I should feel stronger, and I might even have some noticeable weight loss by then, at least to me. After my shoes, I'll set a point goal to earn other fun things, like a new dress, or a pair of jeans that make my (newly firmed up) butt look great.

Today was 22 points. That means I'm more than halfway to my new shoes! (I'd better have some money when I get to 40!)

So far, I haven't missed a day, except that I take Sundays off to rest. And I feel so, so good. I feel my lungs and my heart and my legs all getting stronger. I come home sweaty every day. And I feel happy that I'm honoring myself.

I noticed that when I began, pushing the stroller up that hill to the track was made more difficult because the whole time I was thinking things like, "Oh my gosh it is so hot already. I hate this. This is so hard. I am so out of shape." I'm trying to banish negative or defeating self-talk.

Now, I walk up that hill saying, "I am so strong! Look at me go! Fitter every day!"

I watched Louise Hay's You Can Heal Your Life, all about the power of affirmations and positive thinking. As I push Conor around the track I say to myself (and sometimes out loud, which Conor loves) "I am beautiful! I am healthy! I am strong! I can do anything! I love my life! I love my body! I am happy!"

And it works! It makes me walk taller and faster. It makes me smile.

And I'm getting there.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Love Languages

I recently read the book The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman, and its theory has been pressing on my mind ever since. I think it's true! I learned what my love language is (actually, I'm bilingual, speaking and understanding two love languages equally), and I learned what my husband's love language is--and that was a bit of a surprise!

The premise is this: We give and receive love differently. What feels like love to one person, does not to another. If you feel love in one way, and give it in the same, but to a person who receives love differently, it's as if you are literally speaking a different language. It can lead to many misunderstandings in a marriage relationship, where you have one spouse saying, "I just don't feel loved!" while the other spouse sits aghast, saying, "How can you not feel loved when I do (fill in the blank here)?" Simple. Different love language. Learning to speak your partner's love language can be as tricky as learning another spoken language. It might even feel unnatural at first, requiring conscious effort. But when you see the results of your partner's emotional love tank filling up, the rewards can be immeasurable, and returned to you ten-fold.

The five languages are these:

Words of Affirmation: you know, like praise, verbal encouragement, notes of adoration, love letters.

Physical Touch: this would be signs of physical affection, hugs, kisses, sex, massages, foot rubs.

Acts of Service: From a woman's perspective, a man helping around the house, pitching in without being asked, lightening a load. From a man's point of view, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. A woman who serves him.

Receiving Gifts: this is the person who loves a present. Small or large, wrapped or unwrapped, surprise or planned, give them a gift and they feel loved.

Quality Time: they just want a piece of you. A moment alone, just for them. A vacation, a walk after dinner, date night, just time to talk.

Now, we all like all of these, of course, but one (and sometimes two) are understood the loudest as our primary love language. (There are tests in the book for you and your spouse to take to determine what languages you each speak.) It's very interesting, actually. And while it revealed much to me about my relationship with my husband, as well as how I best feel loved and why, lately I've been transferring this theory to my relationships with my children as well.

I know the author has written a Love Language book for kids (and teens, in another volume), but I think I can pretty well figure out my children just from what I learned in the original book. And here's the funny thing:

They each speak different love languages!

Of course they do. Who said parenting was ever easy, right? But knowing this gives me a great advantage. Parents usually love their children in their (the parent's) love language because it is most familiar to them. I have one child who speaks my love language, so that child has a very full emotional "love tank". But with my other kids, I needed to listen more to their cues, and that, the author suggests, is a big, loud, screaming hint into the love language of others. Listen to what they ask for and what they complain about. (Same thing in marriage: if there is one theme that you usually are complaining about, odds are it has something to do with a love language that is not being spoken.)

I have one child whose love language is Quality Time. You know how I know? This child always wants to go on dates with me. I mean, this is something I do with all of my children, but this one child regularly reminds me, and is always looking forward to the next date. This child also is always the one who asks if I will play a game, read a story, or go on a walk. It doesn't matter where I'm going, this child wants to come with me.

I have another child, who I used to think was just a selfish, money-hungry, greedy child (kidding), but now I realize that this child's love language is Receiving Gifts. It can be a pack of gum or a video game or a bike. It almost doesn't matter what the gift costs, as long as it's a gift. This one is harder for me because Receiving Gifts is not my love language. In fact out of the five languages, it ranked last when I took the test. I love getting gifts, of course, and especially thoughtful gifts, but it is not how I feel loved.

I have another child, who, like me, speaks a primary love language of Words of Encouragement. The little love notes I stick in the kids' lunches every single day (easy for me, since it's my love language, so it feels natural to express love this way) mean the most to this child. The emails/letters/cards I send whenever the kids are away at their dad's are most appreciated by this child. Another tipoff here was that this is how this child most often expresses love to me, and we of course, do what feels natural to us.

Even the baby, though he's still young, has expressed signs of what his love language will be. I believe he's another Quality Time. He most often requests, "Snuggle me, Mom", and his second request is "Play with me, Mom?" Board games, Legos, Play-Doh, or coloring, he just wants me doing it with him.

Because three of my children speak love languages other than my own, it takes a bit of coordinating, and conscious effort to be sure that I learn to be fluent in the way that they will most feel love from me. I can plan little gifts and surprises for one, and outings and dates with another, while still expressing love in other ways too. And that's what I'm working out, while half of my kids are still gone. What can I do to make them feel so incredibly loved when they get home? It can be so frustrating to feel like nobody speaks your love language, that you need love in a way that you are not getting it. When that happens, we go looking for our love in different places.

So for my Quality Time child: I plan to bring this child with me on errands whenever possible. This child likes to go on my walks with me too. I also plan to have a dinner date before school starts to set new goals and talk about the upcoming year. Another idea I had was to keep this child up a bit later than bedtime to sit downstairs with me and have a bowl of cereal, just to talk.

For my Receiving Gifts child: I will reward more with tokens of love, rather than just words. A few bucks for extra jobs around the house, a pack of gum or a bag of chips just because, a little treat wrapped and left on the pillow with a note of love. His own pint of Ben and Jerry's when I go to the store.

For my Words of Encouragement child: Regular emails just because, expressing my love and appreciation and admiration. Periodic cards that I picked out especially with this child in mind, with a loving message written inside. Public praise of good works and a job well done, a note left in a backpack or on a pillow.

It takes some effort, but the best investment of my time as a parent is learning to speak the languages of my children's hearts. I believe that when their love tanks are empty, nothing I say matters, but when love tanks are full, everything I say does. I want them, especially now during these teen and preteen years, to feel the love that I have for them so that they will not go looking for love and acceptance in unhealthy or dangerous ways. If they know that I am willing to love them in the way that they understand and need, then they are more likely to trust me in other areas as well.

And of course, the loving is always good for the one giving the love too.

(p.s.--In case you were wondering, my second primary love language after Words of Affirmation, is Acts of Service, with Physical Touch being my secondary language.)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Something Smells

I like to smell right.

Of course clean, but I mean beyond that. I'm talkin' perfume. Sometimes a good lotion or body spray. I've gone through my phases over the years. In high school it was Anais Anais--well, I never had my own, but sometimes my friend would give me a spritz. Oh yeah, and Debbie Gibson's Electric Youth. Yum. Fruity and delicious. That's really how I like to smell. Fruity and Delicious. Then I switched to Bath and Body Works Warm Vanilla Sugar, and then to Creamy Coconut. Which is one of the yummiest smells ever, but was tragically discontinued, so I bought about 5 years' worth. And then they brought it back. Whew. Those lotions were good because they smelled wonderful when you put them on, but then throughout the day, the smell just got better and better. And even in the shower the next morning the steam would release that long-lasting fragrance and I would just smile and inhale deeply. Feeling delicious.

I've had a few other phases. Tried out whatever was hip and trendy at the time. But they never fit for long. I was always smelling myself saying, "Is this the way I want to smell?" Too conscious, though not bad, if that makes any sense.

I'm butchering this.

Then when I started selling Mary Kay, I tried out Elige for a bit. It smells so divine on my best friend. It made me happy to smell like her, when she was in another state. But then I tried Tribute, and I was a goner. I wanted to drink it. I love the smell of Tribute. Which is probably an old lady perfume, for all I know, but that little pink bottle? I love it.

And now I'm all out of it.

Actually, I can see a few drops in the bottom of the frosted glass, but I can't get them to line up with the little tube at the exact nanosecond that I push the spritzer. Believe me, I've tried. I've been very, very sad. I miss smelling delicious. Tribute would keep me happy all day. One spritz on the neck, one on my wrist, and all day long I was happy. Whenever I'd start to slip into sadness, I'd just take a quick sniff of my wrist, and ahhhhhhh. Yum. I'd catch a whiff as I rolled over in bed, and ahhhhhhhh, sweet dreams, Mary. Now my whole world is out of alignment.

So. I dragged out the old bottles to see if one of them could make an encore appearance. Yesterday I tried Clinique's Happy. Not so happy. Today I'm Tommy's Girl. Or not. And it isn't that they smell bad, they just don't smell like me, and all day long I keep smelling this fragrance that just won't quit, and all I want is my Tribute!

(Amber, quick, can't you save me?)

Do NOT tell me it's been discontinued.

This is very distracting.

Monday, July 20, 2009

(Not So) Cool

One of the best quirky things about our house is that for some reason the air conditioning is most generous to the master bedroom. I'm not sure why; we have the same number of vents that the other bedrooms have, and all the vents in every room are opened, but I'll admit I don't want to do too much searching. I like feeling refrigerated. I love that though the thermostat is set to 78, my room feels more like 70. It's heaven.

I was enjoying the coolness yesterday afternoon while taking a nap after Church. Cold sheets, cold pillow--sheer bliss. In the evening we went to the home of a man in our ward who is a retired astrophysicist for JPL and who has written several books on planets and planetary rings and whose library walls are covered with framed awards and honors from NASA. He had an incredible Powerpoint presentation to show us, and he taught us all kinds of blow-your-mind type of stuff about the immensity of space, but the point of me telling you this is to get to the fact that when we got home, around 10pm, it was hotter upstairs than when we left, even though the A/C was running. The air coming out was not cold, and I was not happy.

Me no like hot.

We turned off the unit and I tried to swelter to sleep, but I just couldn't do it. All I could think about was how it was 109 degrees today and it's supposed to be hot all week long, and how grouchy I get when it's hot with no relief. I was having flashbacks of four years ago when we moved into this house in August, having been told that it had air conditioning, when in fact it did not. I remembered how that happened to be the summer of record-breaking heat, and how we sat there, newly married, having only just met 10 weeks earlier, staring at each other and our 5 red-faced, sweaty kids, nearly dying of heat stroke while everything we owned was stacked in boxes all around us. I remembered how our cat almost died. He wouldn't eat, he wouldn't drink, he just layed there. We'd have to put him in a tub of cold water every day just to keep him from slipping into a heat-induced coma.

It was awful. We didn't get the promised air conditioning until March of the next year.

I cannot do that again. For real.

At 1:30am, I took a pillow and went downstairs to sleep on the couch where, thankfully, it was cooler. At 3:30am, I had just barely dozed off to sleep when the lights were flung on in the livingroom and I about scared Adam to death as he came down for a middle-of-the-night snack. He hadn't even come to bed yet, as he was working, so he didn't know I'd come downstairs to sleep. You should have seen how much air he caught in his terror of hearing a voice yell, "Hey!" at 3:30 in the morning when he turned on the light. I'm still laughing about it. Fear reactions (after the fact, of course) have got to be one of the funniest things ever.

Anyway, not much sleep last night. At 7am it was already 84 degrees upstairs. It's going to be a long day. I put in a call to our landlord and begged him to save us.

Now we wait. And sweat. I'm so, so tired. But I'm afraid that if I fall asleep I may never wake up again.

Death might be better.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


This was the card I gave to Adam this morning. It may not be the most romantic of notions, on this our 4th anniversary, but some things are worth acknowledging, rather than glossing over.

Namely, we're still in the game.

Last night I stayed up until the wee hours of the night putting together a slideshow of pictures and music of our first four years together. I saw something wonderful. While the years have been filled with challenges, another thing has been happening in the background: we have been building a life, and a new family together. And that ain't easy, especially when the odds are stacked against us.

Sometimes it's easy to think that it's all been hard, but what I saw before my eyes were birthdays, and Christmases, Halloweens, and Easters. First days of school, graduations, soccer seasons, baseball seasons, Tae Kwon Do tournaments, and dance recitals. Family dinners and company dinners, game nights, and karaoke jams. A baby blessing, baptisms, ordinations, advancements in scouting, and pinewood derby trophies (lots of them!). Temple trips, beach trips, road trips, and zoo trips.

And kids growing up right before my eyes. Teens emerging out of thin air, and more on their heels. A baby born right here at home. Firsts of everything, then a toddler, now almost a preschooler. Girls camp, Scout camp, day camp. Homeschooling, public schooling.

A whirlwind of activity in the background of a new life being forged from two broken ones. No, make that seven broken ones. And one new little addition to bind us all together. So, with all of those blessings and triumphs, smiles, and memories, how could I put more focus on the trials and opposition than on all the goodness that has been developing right under my nose?

And the truth is, that while I've baked a lot of cakes and cooked a lot of dinners, created holidays, and scrubbed a lot of floorsfacestoiletstableshandssinkswallsbottomsnosescounterscarpets, I haven't done it just for me, and I haven't done it all by myself. I do have a husband who is trying to love me and serve me too, and who, when it's all said and done is still here too. Fighting. And I gotta say, that I love him for that.

We really are building a life. And so, we've had some setbacks. The important thing is that we're still trying and it was heartwarming to see what has happened in four years worth of pictures, set to Rascal Flatts singing "God bless the broken road that led me straight to you."

Four years. I believe in miracles.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Guardian Angels

My husband and I bought our first little home right around the time that I turned 21. It was a cute little brick rambler, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a sprawling backyard situated in a cul-de-sac in Mesa, Arizona. I was only two months away from giving birth to our first baby, Adam was a full-time student, and I felt like we'd joined the ranks of adult responsibility.

We found out where our new ward would meet, and walking in that first Sunday was different. This was a real ward, it seemed. All of our previous wards were transient wards, filled with college students and young couples biding their time in apartments until moving on to the next phase of life. People came and went so frequently that we never really felt like we knew anyone at all, with a few exceptions. But this ward, this ward was comprised of families young and old, big and small, all living in houses. There was a permanence, and a feeling of settling in and making a home here.

I remember one Sunday, walking the hallways with my white-tighted, thunder-thighed baby Lyndsay who didn't want to just sit quietly and allow her parents to listen. A woman with a bright smile and the kindest eyes approached me. I knew who she was, as she and her husband held leadership positions in the ward, but I had never had the chance to really talk to her. Her name was Marianne. She oodled my baby. She had five of her own, but they were past the delicious baby stage, and apparently, she wasn't. She loved my little Lyndsay, and Lyndsay loved her too. Lyndsay reminded her of her oldest daughter, Mary Jo. Marianne could always elicit the biggest, gummiest smiles from her. That was it. That was how we bonded. Over my chubby, cute-as-can-be baby girl. And I was drawn to her.

Marianne was full of life and light and wisdom. We chatted for long periods of time on the phone, about her missionary son, her about-to-be married daughter, and her three younger kids to whom she was completely devoted. She had twinkling eyes, filled with so much love, and she had a way of making me feel validated and understood. I looked to her as a model of wifehood, motherhood, and homemaker extraordinaire. Marianne's home was warm and inviting. She literally always had cookies fresh from the oven, and she was famous for her homemade rolls, which she would bake by the hundred for ward and family parties.

Marianne was called as the Relief Society President (the women's organization), and she called me as her first counselor. I was completely overwhelmed. I was not even 22. But Marianne believed in me, and under her wise leadership and mentoring I learned so much about how to love and serve.

Marianne was very attuned to the Spirit. She was one of those women who would literally call you up one day, out of the blue, and say, "What's going on? I cannot get you off my mind." And you would burst into tears because at that very moment you were on your knees pleading for help from God, for some kind of divine intervention in your life. She was an angel like that for me on more than one difficult occasion. She sat on my couch and cried with me when I learned that my parents were splitting up, and she'd never even met my parents. She was that kind of friend.

One day, she knocked on my door and handed me a gift. Inside was a framed quote on beautiful ivory embossed paper, which read, "For thou art an elect lady. Keep my commandments continually and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive." It came at a point in my life where I was having serious doubts about my worth. She knew, and she wanted to be sure that I had a reminder that no matter what was going on in my earthly relationships, I had a heavenly relationship that would never falter.

I loved Marianne. We ended up selling our little house, after Adam's college graduation, another baby and a decision to move up to Show Low so Adam could start a real estate business with his father. Marianne and her family moved away shortly after that, and I lost touch with her. She started a kindergarten-ready program and continued to serve in the Church. Her children started getting married and having families of their own. At each stage of my life, she has never been far from my mind. My heart reached out to her so many times, but I could never find where she was to reconnect. I know she would have been devastated upon learning that my marriage had ended. I know she would have prayed with me and held me and cried with me. I know she would have loved to hear the juicy details of every boyfriend that came and went during those in-between years, and I'm sure she would have been thrilled to know that I had married again. She would have loved my next squishy baby for sure.

I really missed her. I Googled her, but with no luck. I asked around, from time to time, but everyone knew someone who knew how to get in touch with her, and then I didn't follow through. But just a few days ago, another friend from that ward way back in the early days of my grown-up life, found me on Facebook. A new last name and everything! Amazing! It was a thrill. Her kids are grown now too, two married, one on a mission, one in college, her little one that was born when Lyndsay was is entering high school. We caught up on all of that, and then I asked her if she knew how I could find Marianne. "I have missed her," I said. "I would just love to reconnect with her. She had such a profound influence on my life." And then my friend told me that Marianne had passed away, just a few months ago, after a short battle with cancer. I sat there in complete shock.

Gone? She's gone? How can that be possible? How did I not notice that the world is a little less bright? Memories came flooding through my mind of things that she'd said to me, things we'd talked about as she mothered me along. I could picture her dresses on Sunday, her cookies, her rolls, the smell of her house at Christmastime, her kissing on my baby Lyndsay and giggling.

Not fair. I needed to talk to her. I should have tried harder.

I looked up her obituary online, just to be sure. It doesn't even seem possible, but there she was. I guess she finished what she was sent here to do. A job well done, that's for sure. How grateful I am that my path was carved parallel to hers for a time, and that we could reach across and hold hands. She is a woman that I aspire to be like, and will never forget.

I wonder if heaven takes requests for Guardian Angels? Because I'd pick Marianne.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Good Wives

No, this isn't a post about my marriage. You can relax. Nobody needs to shift uncomfortably in his/her seat, or call my husband to tattle. For the sake of everyone's feelings, I'm going to try to steer clear of that arena, mostly. At least on this blog.

This is a post about the women who lived in Northern New England during the years 1650-1750. I'm reading about them, again, in Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's historical account, Good Wives. That is what they were called. If you've read Puritan or Colonial-era novels and ever wondered why every woman's name seemed to be 'Goody', well, that's why. It was used like "Mrs." is today, a term of respect, and even admiration for a woman who took her job as a wife and keeper seriously. For some reason, every now and again when I need a kick in the pants about housework and other duties, reading about the colonial women and their lives is both comforting and inspiring to me.

Whenever I think that my domestic burdens might overtake me, a reminder that I don't have to keep a fire going, milk a cow or butcher a pig, bottle peaches, bake bread (after my husband grows the wheat and mills it in town), spin, weave, or mend, sweep, cook, and scrub laundry, all by hand, and all without any convenience (the least of which would be air conditioning! whew!), I begin to feel a whole lot better. And then, oddly, reading about the industriousness and efficiency, and productivity of my colonial sisters prods me to get up and do something in my sphere of homemaking and housekeeping. And not only to do it, but to do it with joy and thanksgiving that I have a house and home to keep, a family to care for, the strength of body to fulfill my duties, and all the modern conveniences of the year 2009!

I worked on a flower bed in the front yard last week, needing something living and green to care for. I toiled in the hot sun, digging down and turning over the soil, and then planting and watering. Every evening Conor and I go out to water, and I can't help but feel like singing to see them all still alive and thriving!

My yard, oh my sad yard!, deadened patches of grass, overtaken with the vilest of weeds, I've turned my attention to its resurrection. Digging weeds, spraying weeds, pulling weeds. Watering grass, watering dirt, raking and aerating. Lots of praying and faith, surely. It would seem to even the most hopeful eye to be a lost cause. We'll see. There are lessons there for me, of that I am acutely aware and humbled by.

It's criminal, isn't it? And after sweeping it up, it will look like this again in three days.

Sweeping the patio and driveway free of the millions of pieces of walnut shells, dropped there by the snickering, infernal squirrels that help themselves to the black walnuts in the backyard tree. I have a very difficult time thinking charitable squirrel thoughts during the summer.

More raking. More sweeping. A few impatiens plants under the walnut tree. A red geranium on the front porch. Nothing really even noticeable to anyone but me, but these things take time. And more and more it has been pressing on my mind to plant a garden. So much work would need to be done, but I am fixed and determined to find a way. One hundred square feet in the backyard and then some herb and strawberry beds along the side yard. A little at a time, it will get there. I need it. My soul needs it. Growth and life and fruitfulness.

Then I bake. With love. I baked a cake for a friend's husband's birthday this weekend. I don't even know why I volunteered, but I did, and it gave me joy. Tonight, a picnic with the ward, and I will bring something nourishing.

I feel like sewing. (But not mending, sorry, Laurel. Didn't get me there yet.) I feel like maybe some light housework--no scouring, necessarily. But still, I feel a kinship with these women who came before me, these women among whom I have ancestors and have done temple work for. These women who maybe passed down to me through ancient DNA a love of house and hearth, a happy family, and a hard day's work.

It does a woman good.

Friday, July 10, 2009

For the Girls

I used to think that a bra was a bra.

Bras were embarrassing when I was a teen, being the oldest daughter and having to break in the budding breast territory for my younger sisters. A bra was a necessity, but one that should be kept on the down-low. Just buy it, wear it, and forget it.

My bras were standard and practical as a teen. Once my friend handed down to me her eyelet lace bra with a little pink flower in the middle, after she'd grown out of it, and I felt like a total princess. But it was a long time before I ever bought a pretty bra. One whose looks surpassed its functionality. And then it was around that time that I learned how drastically a good functional bra can change one's looks. And now, as they say in bra-lingo, I'm hooked.

I love that Everybody Loves Raymond episode where Deborah complains about Ray wanting her to have breast implants. She points to her chest and says something like, "These are not just for show, Ray, these were working breasts!" I laughed my head off. How I get the truism there!

My girls are not what they used to be. I have been pregnant or nursing for 99 months, and that can take a toll on perkiness. I used to shy away from anything padded, because of the stigma attached, and heaven knows I wasn't trying to enhance my size. I also used to be tempted by the 'natural cup' baloney. Then I got sick of everybody being able to tell that I'd been pregnant or nursing for over 8 years, or when I felt a little chill, or even got the goosebumps from a great piece of music! I didn't like what I was seeing in photographs of myself, and I had to start doing some serious bra research.

The heavens opened and angels sang the first time I bought a really good bra. What a difference! A good bra can make you look taller, younger, skinnier, and downright happier. I promise. And I usually think that a good bra should cost around $40. Do not skimp. (no pun intended) First, go get measured. You may be surprised. Oprah did a bra intervention show and more than half of the audience members were wearing the wrong size or kind of bra! Properly fitted, a bra should not only make your girls look better, but you should feel better, without back/shoulder pain, and without that bulging back fat that is so unattractive.

A good bra should have adequate outer side wall support to keep the girls in the front where they belong, instead of spilling around the corner like they tend to do as we get older (or heavier). A good bra should lift the girls up, as Oprah says, "to salute!" I love underwire bras for this reason. And a lightly padded bra keeps the temperature a secret, if you know what I mean. Straps should be wide enough not only across the back, but over the shoulders to properly do their job. And even when you bend over, nothing should be squishing or spilling out the top. The silhouette through your t-shirts and blouses should be smooth, not bulgy. That's just as gross as the muffin tops spilling over too-tight jeans. All hoisted up, the girls will make you look like the young vixen you used to be before your working days, and your torso will look longer and your torso flatter. Nice.

If you are not a good-bra believer, you must go immediately and become one. I just went to Victoria's Secret with Conor the other day and got myself re-measured (things change post-baby and after so many years.) Turns out I was a slightly different size and buying a good bra, the right bra has given me all kinds of youthful confidence and vanity. In a good way.

The girls salute you!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Making the Most of It

It's been a little over a week since my three older kids went to Arizona to visit their dad. And this is big:

I haven't cried yet.

Well, the night before they left I cried thinking about them leaving and not being around me, but just for a little bit.

in the airport before their early morning flight

This in no way implies that I don't miss them. I do. I bet they've even grown. But I think I needed a break.

As hard as it is for me emotionally to live my life sharing my children with their dad in another state, I realized how accustomed I'd become to having a long weekend or a week or so to myself every six weeks when they'd visit him. Because of circumstances in his life, moving several times and gearing up to begin law school this fall, they hadn't seen him since their Christmas visit. That was like, 6 months of hard core Mom duty with no break. (I know, I'm spoiled, right?) It was a seriously intense schedule, not just on the Momming end, but with my college schedule thrown in there as well, and having Conor begin intense speech therapy.


I wanted the kids to see their dad. They've grown so much! Dylan grew 7 inches in this last school year! (That's a lot of jeans and shoes!) They missed him fiercely, and I had so much compassion for that longing in their hearts, a longing that as a mom I could not satisfy. I was anxious for them to get off the plane and have his eyes see them and feel that heartburst of joy, and grab them up in his arms and feel them and squeeze them. There's nothing like it, and half a year without them? I get all shaky and emotional just thinking about it.

So maybe this visit had less of my selfishness in it. Less of what I was losing out on for a few weeks. Even six long weeks. More of my excitement to share in the wonder of these amazing kids. What a process it's been for me.

Early on in our separate lives, it was torture for me to drop them off a mile away at his house for a weekend and drive home alone. Once we lived in different states, the impending drive would keep me awake for days: Five hours of gripping sadness in my gut as I felt like I was having my insides ripped out of me on the way there, and then five hours alone driving back sobbing and feeling completely shriveled. Walking back into my house, empty, would send me into a depression that I had to actively work to keep from taking over.

In those early years I was riddled with insecurities. I was convinced that my children blamed me for the divorce, or not so much for the divorce itself, as they knew their dad was the one who left, but somehow for the pain that they felt. My house became the house of duties and routine, and his house was fun and games and adventures. I couldn't compete even on a practical level, as school and scouts and lessons had to be done, and mostly on my time. I was desperately afraid that the woman in my ex's life would steal my children from me, as she had my husband. I was afraid that my kind-hearted little ones would come to love her more than me, or to prefer her over me. I resented her even getting to witness their lives, let alone have an active role in them. On a deeper level, I had fears that they would leave me, as he had, and that I was unlovable and unwantable. I had a lot of difficult emotions to work through, and some of them took years.

Later, I still cried and became emotional about their long absences, but I learned to make use of that time for rebuilding myself. I would take road trips to visit my best friend, I would read a lot, I listened to a lot of inspirational talks or firesides on CD, I sang a lot, I did things just for me. I learned to settle into the new pattern of my life and find something redeeming about it, something that allowed me time alone for spiritual and emotional growth.

Now, though I hate being away from my children, I don't begrudge them the visits one bit. I love that they love their dad. I love that they each have a good relationship with him. And I feel very secure in their incomparable love for me and my role in their lives. I feel content with my ex's wife's place as someone who loves and adores my children, but who could never take my place. I understand more of the way my children feel about the whole situation, and I feel settled. For the most part. And what a relief it is to my previously turmoiled soul. Let me tell you.

The last few years have been different because of Conor. I never really get a complete break anymore, but my mothering just has different requirements when the older ones are gone. I think, actually, that having him around has done a good deal to help me to not feel so depressed and alone when they leave. He has been a great comfort and distraction to me.

And in the meantime, I seriously needed a break. Not from my children, but from Seminary, school, college, early mornings and late nights, constant meals for growing teens, constant messes, and happy noise everywhere. I'm not even close to being ready to consider gearing up to do it all again!

I have a week and a half before Lyndsay comes home (she's only staying three weeks this time) and then another three beyond that before the boys come home. I want to make the most of it. For me, that means, reading, planting, cleaning, thinking, writing, praying, and just being. All of it fills me so that I can be ready to go full swing once they return. And just thinking about that moment when they walk off the plane and I get to see their faces after our long absence from one another and I get to hold them and kiss them. . .it gets me all happy inside.

I can't wait. Lots to do!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summer Jobs for Kids

Summertime is ripe for boredom for kids out of school. The first few weeks are a break, but then too much free time begins to play havoc with once-active minds. I have found that children are happier when they are busier (though they may protest this fact themselves, but that just comes from that natural laziness factor). Busy hands and bodies keep kids out of trouble and developing confidence in their increasing capacities.

I say, "Make 'em work."

I really believe that children need to learn work skills and money skills from a very early age. Debt, consumerism, materialism, and selfishness could be headed off if the link between hard work and self-reliance is embedded in a child's mind. But it is admittedly hard to find things that kids can do to earn money, and to earn it frequently enough that they can really practice their budding financial skills, rather than taking their $1.25 to the store to buy a bag of candy.

I've posted before about our mission savings funds for the boys, and college/mission savings for Lyndsay. Small annual goals, that increase with age and maturity help the account to grow. When I was growing up, the oldest of nine children, most anything I wanted or needed past the age of 12 or 13, I needed to find a way to earn myself. I don't remember begrudging that fact at all. I remember feeling empowered, that whatever I wanted to get, or needed to get, I could find a way to get. I babysat, a lot, of course, but I also had a paper route for a while, and I spent a few summers working in my dad's law office. When I was old enough to officially get a job, I did, at Chick-fil-A, in the mall. And most times, I walked the few miles there and sometimes home, no matter the weather. That's just the way it was. And I'm grateful. I have sought to recreate that learning environment that came out of necessity, and still often does, for my own children, because I think kids today are far too indulged, and far too lazy. So, here are some of the ways that my kids have earned money, or could earn money. One important point I think is to create in children an entrepreneurial spirit, allowing them to take their ideas and run with them. Also, let them not have too narrow a focus. Sometimes the key to earning money at a young age is to have one's hand in several pots at one time.

And of course, here are the top three money guidelines that if learned from a young age, will bless financial lives forever:

1. Pay tithing first.
2. Set some aside in savings (if you're a kid, that should be most of it)
3. Keep the Sabbath Day holy and don't work on Sunday.

Having said that, here are some business ideas for kids and teens (and even adults!)

1. Babysitting. Of course. The old standby. And even boys can babysit. Since Lyndsay got her nannying job, several of her former babysitting clients have turned to Dylan, and he does a fantastic job. Babysitting pays differently depending on where you live in the country, but my kids have found it works best if they decide what they are worth (factoring in the area they live) and then letting the family know what they charge, rather than saying, "Oh, whatever you want."

2. Pet-Sitting/House-Sitting. For several years my kids have done this one. It's easy. They go to the house once or twice a day to care for pets and take in the mail. Often they walk to and from. They charge $20-$25/day. They've even been referred to complete strangers from other families, who, on the basis of the kids' reputation alone, turn over their house keys and leave for a week. That's a very nice compliment.

3. The Famous Lemonade Stand. But never, never sell just lemonade. You must have cookies and brownies. That's how you rake it in. Now obviously, you're not going to do this every single day, but kids could set a business goal to hold 3 or 4 lemonade/cookie stands in the course of the summer.

4. Gift-wrapping Service. Lyndsay was hired by a family that had hired her to do house/pet sitting before and was so impressed by her, that they asked if she was a good gift wrapper. I said, "She'll learn to be the best!" And she did. The husband bought gifts not just for his family, but for his employees and co-workers and wanted Lyndsay to wrap them all. There were over 100 gifts, and he supplied all the wrap, tape, and ribbon. Lyndsay charged $1.25 for small gifts and $2.50 for large gifts, and again, he gave her a key to his house (though you could arrange to have them dropped at your house) and she would go over after school and wrap for a few hours each time. It took about 2 weeks in all, and gave her some very nice Christmas spending money. If this sounds like a fun idea for your kids, prepare a flier and advertise a month or so before Christmas, because many people pay for professional gift-wrapping, and they pay a lot more than $1.25 or $2.50.

5. Car Detailing. My first husband had a job doing this and boat detailing when he was a teen and he was very good at it. Dylan has been hired to do the same from time to time. This is a job for a very conscientious kid, who has an eye for detail (and even perfectionism, when it counts). Sometimes he is hired to just do vacuuming of cars, because it's such a pain, but he does a great job.

6. House Cleaning. Lyndsay and Dylan have both been hired by others (and all of the kids by me) to do cleaning. They are all pretty good cleaners, which is important. You can't have some slobby kid advertising his cleaning business. They have gone to others' houses to do dusting, window/mirror cleaning, and other household chores. They are usually paid by the hour, similar to babysitting fees, but when I pay them, I pay by the job. Like, $2 per window. But I'm cheap, and I feed them for free.

7. Pooper Scooper. I know, I know, you laugh. But this is a great idea! Adam first cultivated this one for Dylan to have his own business, and I've read other places that it's catching on. Think about it: Lots of people have dogs. Lots of people go to work. All dogs poop. Most people hate cleaning up dog poop. Enter the desperate kid who wants a quick buck and some hero recognition. Seriously. Think about all the people that have dogs on your street. So, you make a flier and go door-to-door advertising your service of coming by once each afternoon or evening to scoop up the dog poop in the back yard. You charge anywhere from $1 (for a young kid or one small dog) to $3 (for an older kid and multiple dogs) per day. You don't go on Sundays. So you charge on average $10/week to keep the yard poop-free. Your child collects payment once a week, or once a month. For one house that is $40 a month! If your child is able to work for, say 5 families, that is some serious money! What if he got 10 families? And it doesn't take all that much time, but it teaches great principles like consistency, dependability, and the fact that no work is beneath him.

8. Recycling. I do this one myself, but I know lots of kids that do it too. Save the family's soda/water/milk containers and take them to the recycling center for cash. In our family, only Adam drinks soda, and we don't buy bottled water (except for food storage), so mostly we have Adam's soda cans and milk jugs, but I still earn about $10/month when I turn them in. I know it doesn't sound like much, but that's an extra $120 a year that I can buy food storage with! But what if you asked your neighbors to save their water bottles and soda cans? And you or your child had an agreement that you would come and pick them up once a week? Most people put them out on the curb anyway. I know of one family's teens that work together to collect recycling from neighbors and from baseball parks and they earn up to $400/month! This is another good one to add to a portfolio of jobs, and not have it be the exclusive form of income (unless you're working it like my friend's teens do).

9. Car Wash. Advertise that you're earning money for college, and get a bunch of kids together. Often times, businesses will allow you the use of their parking lot because it brings them business too. Maybe you could do this 2 times in a summer, work really hard, and then rake it in and split it evenly.

10. Yard Work! Dylan has a steady job taking care of the neighbor's lawn for $10/week (it's very small). Mowing, raking, edging, sweeping, weeding gardens or flower beds. . .these are all valuable skills to offer.

11. Dog Walking. Very popular here in L.A. Get your exercise, listen to your iPod, and make some cash! You can often walk several dogs at the same time, and you can arrange a schedule of 'regulars'.

12. Teaching. I know some teens that teach music lessons, swim lessons, sports lessons, or offer private tutoring. I know in our family, my ability to teach piano lessons has been a great blessing, and as my kids learn to play they will always have that skill tucked away for a rainy day. Learning not only a skill to pass along, but also the ability to teach others is very, very valuable. And private lessons pay very well.

13. Yard Sale/Ebay! Teens often have lots of old treasures just sitting around collecting dust and taking up space. Turn that into cash in the bank!

14. Cooking/Baking. I know some families who sell dinners and treats to other busy families. If you have a teen that loves to cook/bake, make up a flier, and offer to bring dinner or treats in to another family once a week/twice a week, or whatever! A night out of the kitchen and without turning to fast food could be a real boon to a busy mom, and would teach kids great skills in cooking, time management, and dependability.

I'm sure there are many other ideas. It's important for kids to learn to work and earn money, and if they have their own idea, go with it! We learn from success and failure, but mostly persistence. Set up a savings account and let them see their money grow. It is a terrific feeling. As they increase in capability and earning potential, require them to save more, but also require them to be responsible for more of their own needs. And don't feel badly about it! Better they learn these skills in the safety of your home, than the cold cruel world of college-life or married-life. And make sure they also do some work for free, at home, just because they're part of a family.

Now, get them to work! They will complain. The fun, and even the thrill of the buck will wear off, but push them through. When they complain, but do the work anyway, that's the time that character building is kicking in to high gear.

Have fun!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Wheat: The New Gold

Store wheat.


This is what has been on my mind for the last year especially. We have such meager means at this time, and always seem to fall short in so many areas, but by doing without what some might consider to be necessities (television, for example) we have been able to begin a food storage and self-reliance program.

One of the saddest days was when I moved here to CA from UT and had to leave my year's supply of wheat and grain and water barrels behind because there was simply no more room to pack them. I sold them to a few friends for a fraction of what I paid, and tucked my desire to be self-reliant into my heart with faith that we could begin again. We did. And then we ate it. And we began again. And we ate it. Times are tough! But we have begun again in earnest and the Spirit whispers to me with great urgency to continue in the path to preparedness. I cannot help but think of how all money now transfers to food. I would really like a DVD player for the downstairs. But, I think, for even the cheapest DVD player ($40) I could buy a bucket of wheat! It's a curse. But a blessed curse.

I believe in a living prophet. With all of my heart, I do not believe that God stopped loving his children enough to speak to them through a prophet on the earth. That did not end with the Bible. And whether you subscribe to my religious tenets or not, I believe that a prophet speaks to the whole earth, not just to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I also believe that any time any of his children obey any of the counsel of his living prophet, they will be blessed accordingly. And I have too many people that I love and care about to not urge you to pay careful heed to what is going on in the world right now, and how it foreshadows calamities and disasters long prophesied of by the servants of God.

"The time will come that gold will hold no comparison in value to a bushel of wheat."
~Brigham Young

Here. Please read this.

The economy is weak, to say the least. Unemployment is rising. This is only the beginning, I fear. There will be the scourges, and pestilences, and diseases, and famines that have been foretold. And in those times, nobody will be counting carbs. People will want bread. Store wheat. Store more of it. Take care of what you are able to store so that it will last.

"The revelation to produce and store food may be as essential to our temporal welfare today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah."
~Ezra Taft Benson

I do not have a year's supply yet. But I do have some, and as I don't have a spare room or a garage, or a pantry, my buckets of wheat and other grains and foods sit right in my family room. An eyesore to an interior decorator, but a great source of peace and comfort to me.

"We will see the day when we will live on what we can produce."
~Marion G. Romney

There are ways to begin procuring a food storage for your family without going into debt, and without panic or fear. There is no need to go crazy and panic. There is a need to get busy. Pursuing preparedness brings a feeling of calmness and peace, a confidence that no amount of money can satisfy. If there is no bread, it doesn't matter how much money you have. Wheat is vital to our existence, and with prices expected to soar because of the worldwide shortage, it is the most important thing to begin storing.

"For the moment, we live in a day of peace and prosperity, but it shall not ever be thus. Great trials lie ahead. . .and we must prepare ourselves temporally and spiritually. . ."
~Bruce R. McConkie

After all, it only makes sense. Make sure your family is taken care of. Please. A prophet's warnings are literal, and only pride keeps us from obedience. Just do it. Start today if you haven't yet. Recommit if you have.

Here. This article ran in the L.A. Times just recently. This is real. I do my couponing and budgeting and buying in bulk and all of that, but in reality it is near impossible to store enough of what we normally eat to last for an extended period of time. I try to make sure that in an emergency, (and the variety of possible emergencies is getting greater and greater) we can at least eat bread and honey, oatmeal, and pancakes. We can stay alive that way. Above that is a blessing in comfort. Do what you can. Just please do something.

"If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear."
Doctrine & Covenants 38:30

*For a very inspiring blog post about food storage, I like to read this oldie from my great friend, Luisa. The pictures make me very happy. Go check it out.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

To Be Offended, or Not to be Offended--That is the CHOICE

A million things a day could offend me. If I let them. It's funny, really, how much energy people spend just being ticked off or ruffled by somebody else's words or actions. Who has the time?

The author of a very popular blog that I follow announced a few days ago that she would be taking a break from blogging. The post that heralded her hiatus was self-deprecating, all in good humor, proclaiming her need to rejuvenate and find her voice again, and now she is dealing with readers who are calling it quits because they just can't take her. . .her what? Her style? Her 'snarkiness'? Her view of the world? Her self-proclaimed 'professional narcissism?

Who cares, people? What's a blog anyway, if not one's own personal shrine? Get over it.

Some readers protectively responded to the disgruntled comments with things like, "If you don't like what you read, don't read!" That's fine advice, I suppose. But when you really adore someone, can't you just adore all of them? Do you have to go looking for a reason to stop adoring? Is every ounce of you just so adorable?

Wait, is this becoming personal?

But seriously, why can't we all just get along? Let cJane be cJane, for heaven's sakes! She's a pro at it! It's the perfect gig for her! Take it all with a grain of salt and see her soul, that blessed soul. Cut her some slack. She never once claimed to be humble. That's part of her charm!

And the rest of us?

I try very hard to not be offended. I'm quite aware of my own shortcomings. I'm painfully aware of how many times I have said the wrong things, or haven't said the right things. I have to allow others at least the same amount of foibles as I have dancing around me.

I just wish that when I am willing to offer charity and a little lee-way to others, that it could be returned. That the forgiveness I am willing to extend could be thrown in my direction every now and then. That maybe something about me could be adored enough to allow the rest to be endured.

And not just me, but all of us. I'm even talking to myself here. Life is so short, so the cliche goes, and why spend one nanosecond of it all bent out of shape? It's exhausting and debilitating.

I've known people who have chosen to stop coming to church, any church, because they had become offended by something someone did or said. I've known people who have left professions that they loved and felt fulfilled by because of some offense. I've known people who have abandoned long friendships because one day somebody said the wrong thing and that just broke everything. It seems silly to me. Especially when we're all so imperfect and in need of so much forgiveness ourselves.

Not to say that we have to endure prolonged injustice or abuse, but we all know that legitimate injustice is not at the heart of most hearts marinating in seething offense. Most of the time it's silly stuff. Inconsequential stuff. Sometimes we stay offended, forgetting what the original incident even was!

It just feels good to brush it off. Let it go. Forgive. Forget about it.

And it's a choice.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Dear Jon and Kate

Ours is a weird, kind of one-sided relationship. You have no idea who I am, nor do you probably care, and yet I feel like I know you and your family inside and out. TV can do that. I also feel like Oprah's one of my closest friends, but I digress.

You know, people have had very strong opinions about you from your very first episode. Opinions about your choice to use fertility treatments, opinions about your decision to carry all six of the babies to term, opinions about whether or not you are exploiting your children by agreeing to have camera crews practically living in your house, and very heated opinions about your marriage.

For the record, Kate, I've been a defender of you and your marriage and your family from the get-go, even on this blog. Yes, I'm aware that you're bossy and controlling and insensitive and sometimes downright b*tchy (excuse me, young readers), but still I said, "Well, we haven't walked in her shoes." And, "I'd probably be that side of crazy too if I had six 2 year olds. (or 3 year olds, or 4 year olds, etc.) We all have personality flaws, and we're usually more aware of them personally than others give us credit for, but still I tried to focus on all of your strengths. I do believe you love your babies, all 8 of them. I believe your most fervent desire is to be a good mother and to raise a joyful family. I commend you on your hard work to keep your children and your home in order, and on all that organic cooking you do for them to build their healthy bodies. (Though may I say that I don't believe organic lollipops are any healthier than regular lollipops--you may be disillusioned on that one.) I have a lot of kids myself, and mothering many is a very heavy, full-time load. I don't know that I could do what you have done for the last five years.

And yet.

When the rumors began to circulate about Jon and his young companion, I was heartsick. When everything started to hit the fan and an "announcement" was to be made on Monday, I still held out hope that the two of you were going to announce a reconciliation and not a divorce. Stupid me. And now I'm really angry at both of you.

Kate, you honestly expect us to believe that the show had nothing to do with your marriage falling apart? Maybe you should sit down with the last 5 years of footage you now have and watch from the beginning. Very. Carefully. Now rewind it and watch it again. See what all of America means? Yeah.

You two were just a couple of Average Folks before this media madness. You had fertility problems, you suffered heartache and longing, you found joy in the twins, you worked hard, you struggled to make ends meet, you wanted 'just one more baby', you found out you were having 6 and you trusted God to take care of the details as you exercised your faith in accepting and rising to the challenge both physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But the two of you really loved each other. You complement each other. You tried to do right by all those little ones and build a life. And you were broke.

Believe me, I get that part.

Here comes TLC wanting to feature your unique family, and it was a hit! And the rest is history, so to speak, at least as far as the money was concerned. Freebies galore (which by the way I do not begrudge you one bit) and doors opened to you in every direction. Suddenly your family is afforded privileges that most of us could only dream about (and frankly some of those dreams are nightmares when considering you tote along 8 little children for all that fun!) But you do it, and you do it thoroughly, I'll give you that. But you've both changed. And the show has everything to do with that.

That's how it works, guys. Money and fame change things. Don't you read the tabloids? Well, maybe you don't now--that would most likely be humiliating for the two of you, but you know what I mean. It's the classic Hollywood Syndrome: A nobody gets a little popular, then a lot popular and suddenly that nobody has money and attention, and plastic surgery and personal trainers, and personal shoppers, and young cute 'fans' of the opposite sex, and voila! A broken marriage and a splintered family. Hang in there and drug abuse and eating disorders may be just around the corner.

Jon, you're acting stupid. Some young teacher? Really? Like you didn't think you'd be followed and photographed? The late nights and the boozing it up is ridiculous, and not your best self. Okay, I get it. Kate is a lot to handle, and you need to get a teensy bit more of a backbone. But still, buddy, you're the one who picked her and made vows to her not once, but twice. And I feel for you about the whole being tied-down thing, being thrust into fatherhood-gone-wild while still in your 20's. Growing up fast. Losing job after job and struggling with feelings of failure and inadequacy. You men have that natural tendency to run. Now you're sporting the tattoos and hair plugs and that tan, and thinking you may have another shot at youth. Well, let me tell you, your other shot at youth is in the lives of those 8 children who call you 'Daddy'.

And Kate, c'mon. Drop the hard exterior. You can still be competent and in-control as far as your mothering and housekeeping duties go, but also maintain a soft neediness for your husband. You can't keep putting him down on national television, even as a joke, and then act shocked when he goes looking to be needed elsewhere. We see you all tan and fit. I saw the tabloid photos of you spanking Leah, and I thought, (not my first thought, but that's a different post) "Wow! Look at how buff her arms are!" That takes some time. Some makeover time, which I have a feeling you're heavy into these days. The hair, the makeup, all those stylish clothes. We really liked you when you were sweatpant and t-shirting it, letting Jon take you shopping. You're losing sight of things, under all that glamour.

So, now you're splitting up. "In the best interest of the children". And now you want us all to think you're so noble by claiming that the new $1.1 million dollar home is the children's and that you both will take turns living there when you share visitation. Yeah. That should work out real swell. You're both delusional. And Kate, "the show must go on?" I can't believe you said that! Girl, you just gave America a wide-open view into your soul with that line. I thought it was about the kids and not the money?

Bravo to TLC for halting the show. Frankly, the two of you should have set aside the dollar signs and made that call yourselves. For the sake of the children. Yes, your children want you to stop fighting. So stop fighting. That's different than 'get a divorce'. You two have been through so much. I don't even pretend to understand. But here's what I do understand. Betrayal. Adultery. I get those two things loud and clear. You can come back from those. In private. For the sake of your children. With all the history that the two of you have, even despite the put-downs and frustration, I know the two of you love each other too, and you've both become selfish since stardom knocked down your door. You should both be in full-swing soldier mode, hunkering down, batting down the hatches, and gathering your little army close in love. Just admit that you've gone a little crazy. Nobody really blames you for that. It's understandable, though regrettable, but you can turn this whole ship around at any time.

I've read your book. You give God all kinds of credit for seeing you safely through the years of infertility and that difficult pregnancy. You claim to honor God and even more, to trust in Him. You couldn't provide for your family, and you trusted in Him. Look at what He gave you! Look at how He's cared for you! And look at what you've done with your end of the bargain. All of life is a test. Don't blow it. God has given you a rare opportunity to show a fractured-family world a better way. If your focus is truly on your family, then focus on your family. America doesn't need any more breaking up. Crap happens. So can repentance. And forgiveness.

I'm just really disappointed with the both of you. Your children deserve much better. It isn't the big huge house or the trips that make them happy. It's your family, and if you take that away, no amount of anything else, whatever it is, will fill that void. I know what I'm talking about. I'm even kind of hypocritical saying all of this right now, but I've trained myself to see what's worth saving, and you guys are worth saving. Coming through this you could really emerge better than ever. If you wanted to. If you'd both put down your cell phones, sunglasses, and divorce papers long enough to try. In private.

I understand the pursuit of happiness.

You're pursuing it in the wrong direction.

Just in case you wondered how I was feeling.