Friday, December 26, 2014

A Merry Christmas

We had a blissful Christmas. I thank the Lord for it. This was our first Christmas here at home, but it wasn't exactly like I had planned it. I had the stomach flu on Christmas Eve, and we got take-out for Christmas Eve dinner. I could barely keep my eyes open while I wrapped the kids' gifts, and Ben waited too long to go to the store, so all the stores were closed when we were trying to buy the ingredients for our Christmas breakfast and the kids' stockings. Things seemed a little bleak to me as we went to bed on Christmas Eve.

This kind of stuff happens to me. A lot, actually. Now I'm realizing that this isn't what it's all about, a picture-perfect Christmas. I think the Lord has taught me this a time or two now. At times like these I keep Mary, the mother of Jesus, constantly in my mind. Where was her perfect Christmas tree and gifts aplenty? Where was the soft place to lay her baby? We can look at what we do have, and stop worrying about what we don't.

I got up on Christmas morning with my beautiful family. We had an absolutely wonderful day together. When we spend days together like this and this, and days like yesterday, I imagine that these are what the eternities must be made up of.

President Monson always talks about memories being the "June roses" in the "December of our lives" (originally written by J.M. Barrie). I thought he meant picture-perfect snowball fights and days free of worries. But what he meant was the memory of a feeling. Feelings of love, peace, and happiness. And these can happen on any old day of the year, under any circumstances.

Let's bottle up those days and keep them glowing forever in our hearts. Merry Christmas to you all.

Our little boy walks!

Here's a blurry picture of a kid who won't stand still anymore, with his new-found freedom. Ephraim started walking right around his first birthday. Now he just can't get enough! His hands stick straight up while he walks (what do you do with those appendages once you don't need them to crawl?). We love our little guy! You're almost a big kid, Ephraim.

And people always want to know-- Cheyenne started walking at 9 months and Delaney at 10 months. Although he walked a little bit later than the girls, he is very steady on his feet. Before he started walking, he could stand straight up in the middle of the floor.

Can you tell in these videos that this kid REALLY loves his mom?

Friday, December 12, 2014

What is Beauty?

My brother Derek and me. You're beautiful too Derek.

Like most women, I've gone through phases in my physical appearance.

There was the "I want to be a punk" phase.

Then there was the "I wish I shopped at the mall all the time" phase.

And the "I wear stuff nobody else wears and I think I'm cool" phase.

And then I've gone through the "I'm a mom so I need to be comfortable" phase.

And now as I've gotten older, I've started to think a little bit more about what clothing means. There are lots of women I admire who are very stylish. There are lots of women I admire who aren't trendy. Who am I, and what does my clothing say about me?

We Americans have an interesting relationship with clothes and our bodies. Our society teaches us to go to one extreme, look a certain way and dress a certain way. Often, those who don't want to buy into this idea go to the other extreme. Clothes don't matter, we don't want to be materialistic, or take part in some "what did they wear" game.

But what if you allowed your clothes and grooming to be a reflection of the spirit that is inside of you? What if clothing was not about what other people think, but about your understanding of yourself?

Over the past few months I've been thinking a lot about clothes. How can you represent the spirit that you are by the way you dress?

The colors of your clothing. Most women I think probably already know what colors they look good in. I think in a lot of cases it follows a certain color scheme. It could be muted shades, or perhaps bright hues. A green to bring out your eyes, or captivating pink to compliment your skin. Stark prints or a bold statement. It's the shirts you are drawn to because you look "pretty" in them. I think the colors we are drawn to are an indication of our spirit. Are you a bright, cheerful person? Or someone filled with peace and calm? Although we all have different facets of our personality, there is probably something that is dominant about you that rings true to you which you should focus on. Your wardrobe should be consistent, and send a consistent message about who you are and how you feel about yourself.

The fit, feel, and shape of your clothing.  Bodies come in many shapes and sizes. I had an epiphany lately about the beauty of different body sizes. I've never had serious body issues (and by that I mean self hate, or problems identifying my worth), but like most women, I've struggled to find my place in society with the shape and size and body I have been given.

In my adult life, I've ranged from a size 10 to 14 through pregnancies and babies. I was a size 8 when I was 12 or 13. This is the body I've been given, this is the way God has shaped and created my body. Could I be smaller than the range I'm in right now? Probably. Do I need to be smaller than I am right now, would that be "more true" to who I am? No. I am not advocating upholding sugar or food addictions or ignoring exercise (both cautioned against in the Word of Wisdom), and both of which are things I currently struggle with. But even if I was completely healthy, there is nothing un-God-like in a little pudge or some cellulite. Satan is the one who has convinced us that these should be banned from our bodies.

I've been given a body in a certain size, and also a certain body shape. I have a pear-shaped body. That means certain articles of clothing really flatter my type, and allow the beauty of my spirit to show through. I have found this through research on my body type, and also trial and error. It's when we work with the body we have been given that who we are is apparent.

The shape of your clothing is important to revealing who you are. Does it drape or flow softly? Is it really structured with bold lines? Is it playful and happy? The shape of your clothing also needs to be consistent to represent that spirit that is tucked inside of this body you have.

The fit of your clothing needs to complement your shape properly, but also not be too clingy or too loose. If I am buying something I know will shrink (make that most things in our current clothing market), I will buy it a size up. If you are cost conscious, you also have to take into account how many times you will wash it, and how many years the material will hold its shape. I also try to take into account pregnancy, and keep from buying anything that won't allow room for a growing baby or postpartum body.

The feel of your clothing reflects who you are. The more I have explored this topic the more I find I am drawn to certain fabrics. Certain fabrics complement certain body types. Certain fabrics represent different personality types as well. As you explore and try on different pieces of clothing, it will start to become clear to you what is fabric consistent with who you are.

Lastly, modesty allows you to fully represent who you are. I want to be modest to respect my body. Showing too much of my body is like saying I don't care about this amazing gift I've been given. It says that womanhood is about showing off, and not about safeguarding our God-given gifts. I don't want my body to be the subject of unkind thoughts or untrue words about myself as a woman, and one way I can protect myself from such indecency is by keeping my body sacred and covered. The form of a woman is God-given and beautiful in every way, but my own unique beauty does not need to be shared or gawked at by the whole world. It's a gift and I want to treat it with respect.

Second, I want to be modest as part of my marriage covenant. In our church we covenant to share our body with one person and one person only, for the rest of eternity. Sexy is such a strange term to me. Why would you want anyone to see you look "sexy" besides your spouse? It is a special part of our marriage that I have no intention of sharing with anyone else. Part of what makes it special is that it is not shared, and that it is reserved for one person. I don't want anyone else to look at my shoulder, or my thigh, or any other part of my body the way that my spouse does. I cover these parts of my body not just because I respect this gift of a body that I have been given, but also because I hold in high esteem the person I share it with.

I think it's so important how we talk about and think about our bodies. So often when we are trying to convince somebody they need to "look nice" we make it about other people. Or we make it about pleasing our spouse. Or feeling good about yourself. If we focus on these reasons, we can still get lost in the hype and materialism. It could quickly become a game of who's "on trend" or "ahead of the trend," who's unique and who's not. It's a comparison game.

I've learned before that God does not compare. We'd do best to do the same, and be beautiful for the sake of our spirit, for the purpose of showing who we really are, and deeply understanding our identity.

It's been an interesting process that I have not expected. Some of you might recognize some Dressing Your Truth concepts, which stirred some of my thinking about this but I have felt were incomplete, and I have been building off of. I've been working on the modesty concepts for some time, and trying to change my wardrobe (which is definitely a process I tell you!). But I had an experience the other day when I was trying on clothes. I felt the spirit. I never thought God would be in a shopping mall. But as I pulled the sweater over my head and looked in the mirror, I thought, this is consistent with who I am. This represents my true self. God does care what we put on our bodies, and not just because he wants us to feel good about ourselves or to keep ourselves covered, but because he knows us, and he wants us to know ourselves.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Where Should You Be?

Note: This post has a lot more of my back-thinking than I usually include. The intended audience for this post is really myself. But I thought others might find it useful to stir their own thinking, so I included it all.

I thrive in the classroom setting. I love having my brain stretched, to learn new things, and see how my learning could be put into practice. I'm a pretty good student, and I have interesting insights to add to the field that I'm in. Although I have felt like school was not a choice but a calling, it has not been drudgery. I actually love going to class.

What about motherhood? I also felt called to motherhood (an experience I won't share here). But stay-at-home motherhood, specifically, I am not good at. My worst days being a SAHM are about 10,000 times worse than the most boring, pointless lecture I've been to. Most of the women I've talked to about this issue, or who've been faced with this dichotomy say, "I wasn't happy at home. That's why I decided to work. I'm much happier now. This is where I needed to be."

Aside from personal revelation (the farther I've gotten in this schooling thing, the more sure I am God calls women out of the home), I want to focus on the idea that because you're not happy somewhere, it implies you need to be somewhere else.

Am I doing stay-at-home motherhood right?

Now that I've been forced to look at my stay-at-home motherhood from another lens, I've been asking myself-

What am I doing that causes my unhappiness?

What, during the day makes me unhappy?

Before all this came about, although I was aware that I could be happier, I thought it a function of the phase that I'm in, three little kids at home. But now I can see it's a broader issue, that, if fixed, can change the way I mother entirely.

What am I doing?

I spend a lot of the day avoiding. I'm grinning every time the kids are all occupied so I can do my own thing.

I have my to do list. It's a mile long and none of it has to do with my kids (and if you saw my house you'd probably wonder if I ever even check stuff off that list?).

I have "dead time." From 3 to 6pm until Ben gets home, I never have anything planned. I've completed any chores I want to do (or given up trying to get them done by this point), but I have to make dinner before Ben gets home, and Ephraim should be taking his afternoon nap. So I usually try to stick close to home. It usually unravels in there somewhere, lots of fighting and screaming by the kids, me trying to decide if I want to feed the kids early, walking around the block a couple times, seeing if there's any chance Ben might be home earlier than expected.

What makes me unhappy?
-Kids screaming.
-Never being alone. Never being quiet. Not being able to think uninterrupted
-Not having someone to talk to
-Time passing too slowly

So if I were to become a working mother, these things wouldn't change. I'm gone for 15 hours, but the way I mother is still avoiding. Kids screaming still make me unhappy. I may have a short bike ride to campus, but other than that I am still never alone.

So what can I do?
I need to learn to actually enjoy being with my kids. I love my kids, certainly, I do. But would I pick being with them over having 3 hours alone? Probably not. What about having an uninterrupted conversation with a friend? Or doing an interesting and challenging assignment? I don't think so.

Does this make me a bad person? Probably. But motherhood isn't something you can "give up" on. It wasn't until I saw how much joy I derived from solving a complex problem that I realized I must be doing something wrong at home. My current mothering tactics are keeping me from the fullness of joy I can experience as a mother.

While I can work on, internally, enjoying every moment, find happiness in every instance, I think there's some basic behavioral things I can do to make spending time with my kids more of where I want to be.

What I didn't realize before was that I can choose activities that I already know are filled with joy and fill our days with those.

Here is my list, yours probably looks different.

-Involve kids in the tasks you have to do and don't be mad about it. Teach them in everything. No more separate to do lists. If there are things I need to do that absolutely need quiet time, I need to reserve it for after the kids go to bed. I've spent too many years of my life considering the day as "my" day and hoping I don't have to spend too much time breaking up fights or cleaning up messes to "ruin" it.

-Recreation. Go outside, exploring, make your kids do hard things

-Spend time talking to other women about their problems. It is such a breath of fresh air to get outside of yourself and spend some time in another person's world for a little while.

-Find ways to serve. I am a huge believer in teaching your kids to serve by bringing them with you. But sometimes you really can't. And it's OK to find a babysitter for the kids from time to time. I am hoping that this is the avenue my schooling with take after I am finished. I still, in my heart of hearts, cannot find it within me to want to work, even part time. So I'm hoping God's plan for me involves volunteering that is infrequent enough I can still stay with my kids the majority of the time.

It's not like I never do these things. But do I do all of them, all of the time? Does it fill my days? No. That's where I want to improve. I hoping that by loading my day with joy-filled things, that joy will spill over and fill my whole day.

Then, no matter what I am called to do on this earth, I can know that time with my kids is filled with happy memories, and it's a place I would choose to be.

If you could improve your mothering, what would your list look like?

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Happy Thanksgiving

We got to have a Happy Thanksgiving with my sister Haley, her husband Greg, and little Emily who came to stay with us from sunny Las Vegas. They brought their good weather too, and we supplied the leaves they were missing. I was trying to think of what I was most grateful for this year, and it would have to be my loving and supportive family. We are so blessed we got to spend this special holiday with them this year.

Many are in want no matter the season, be it in want of food or a family member who cares. Let us cultivate an attitude of gratitude no matter our circumstances. God is great, and we are never without him.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


There's something so intoxicating about exploring. You forget where you are. You are enraptured, captivated by the world around you. Sights, smells, textures. What's next? What's around that next corner? It's one of the most wholly-engaging entertainment I've ever tasted.

Kids fight less when you're exploring. There's less boredom. Less getting-on-each-other's nerves. There's more collaboration and interest. There are greater opportunities to grow and work together, when there are fewer distractions. I find I'm happier with a little fresh air. And as an added bonus, it's an activity that doesn't mess up your house.

Every time I've taken the kids "out in nature" I feel my heart beat a little faster. This is right. This is a good place. This is good for them, this is good for me. So I'm going to try and add "exploring" to our family culture.

Exploring is not confined within expertly-planned camping trips or expensive travel overseas. It doesn't even have to be far from home. It could simply be walking down a new street. I want it to be a part of my everyday life. Exploring, experiencing something new, together.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Simple Birthdays

It seems easy to let commercialism rule your life. It's the natural way of things. Excess excess. Bigger, better. Flashy, showy. Where did you go? What did you do? What did you get?

But giving in to commercialism comes at a cost to allowing simplicity to flower and blossom.

Simplicity let's one gift mean something.

It lets ordinary cake be special.

It lets your everyday blessings be appreciated.

So I'm letting simplicity rule birthdays. Here I have found the sun shining, and gratitude over-flowing in simplicity. "Special" is something you have power over everyday. It doesn't have to be contained within theme parks, grandiose gifts, or over indulgence. Happy days are not "perfect" days, but days where you thanked God for the blessings in your life, and stood in awe of the gift of life.

And what a beautiful life it is, be it simple or grand.