Friday, July 29, 2016

The impact of an inspiring friend: My beautiful friend Rachel

Can I tell you about one of my dearest friends in the whole world? Can I tell you about someone who inspires me and makes me want to be better?

Rachel lived across the street from me when we lived in Provo, Utah. I got to see her last month, and it was a joy! A mother of seven children, Rachel is one of the most unassuming, yet impressive individuals I've ever met. I was so inspired by her kindness, her zest for life, and her honest heart. I would have loved to follow her around and see how she reacted in every situation because her attitude about life and treatment of others so intrigued and motivated me. I got to do the second best thing, which was to be her neighbor and friend, and I count my blessings for it!

What was so different about Rachel? For me, it was as if those goals I'd always had for myself--to be kinder, more humble, to enjoy life a little more--were being lived out right in front of me. I no longer had to wonder what it would look like to live life this way, Rachel lived it. As her neighbor and friend, I saw much more of her life than one would of an acquaintance admired from afar. I saw her when she was stressed and tired, good days and bad days, and her attitude through it all. I saw her heart, and it is a good one. It impacted me in ways I am still discovering. I still find myself asking, "What would Rachel do in this situation?" now one year later after moving away.

Rachel will say right out what she loves about you. One of the first things that initially struck me about Rachel was her amazing ability to find something she loves in every single person she meets or talks about. Not only can she find such positive things--- but she will tell you outright! I mean literally, in our first conversation, a few minutes in, she says, "I like you! You're so..." to me, a complete stranger! Not only was I flattered, but she was being completely sincere. It's not some kind of gimmick, it's her honest opinion. She's a genuine "think no ill" kind of person. You can be guaranteed she sees the best in somebody, whether it be a first meeting or a long time aquaintance. She lamented to me once that she has a problem with just blurting out what she thinks all the time. How impressive and lovely that her initial thoughts are such kind, positive ones! It's such a breath of fresh air in our competitive culture that's constantly pointing out the negative that she's not afraid to admit she likes someone or that they have something worth admiring (and in fact likes and admires everyone!).

Rachel is completely down to earth. There's nothing about Rachel that is hoping to impress or put on a show. Rachel is completely herself. I think it is simply part of the package in which she came to this world, but my it makes for a lovely friend. She doesn't participate in any kind of competition game or compare herself with others. I remember when I was about to take these pictures and she saw Ammon had no pants on and she had a spot on her shirt. She just laughed and said, "Well that's real life, isn't it?" and smiled away. It's so fun to spend time with someone who loves who they are and understands their worth is not measured by any outward indicators.

Rachel is humble and prayerful. As neighbors, we often shared hard parts of our lives with each other, seeking advice or looking for a sounding board. I loved to hear Rachel's simple, sweet testimony of praying over troubling topics or studying the scriptures to find an answer. It was such an inspiration to me. She's always looking in the right place, seeking the right direction. I have such wonderful memories of her humility. I used to wonder if the Lord loved her a little more, she always seemed to be able to get special blessings out of Him, or receive tender mercies. I realize now that it was her doing. She decided to claim more of the blessings He is always offering to all of us.

Rachel loves life. Rachel has an infectious laugh, and she finds much to be happy about. She loves babies and sunshine, cozy fires and fresh snow. It's refreshing to be with Rachel because there's not much that gets her down, and there's always something she's excited about.

Rachel points out beauty when she sees it. True to her outspoken nature, Rachel easily expresses her love for things around her. After it's just rained, she'll tell you how much she loves the way it smells after it rains. When you stop by for a visit, she'll tell you how cute the curls are that frame your daughter's face. She's like a real live Ann Shirley! So many of the things I think about in retrospect that I like about life, Rachel shows gratitude for in the very moment she notices them.

I can never discount the role models in my own family, of having older siblings and learning from them on an intimate level. Our paths are forever intertwined, and those relationships have more of an effect on me than a friend ever would. But I think there's a place in our lives for friends, for mentors, for role models who are completely separate and different from us. Quite often our families are far away and not part of our day-to-day lives. Today's post is to thank God for placing people in our daily walk who inspire us to be better, and lift our sights to things we never would have imagined!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Delaney's Birthday

Does anybody else remember loving seeing pictures of your old toys when you were a kid? No? Just me? I remember searching old Christmas photos trying to figure out what toy I got that year, and then having fond memories of playing with them. I hope capturing Delaney's little birthday gift will give her nostalgia someday as well!

Welcome to 4, Delaney! 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Frank's blessing day

It's been three weeks now since Frank was blessed on July 3, 2016. We were so blessed to have Ben's family, his parents and his sister's family come join us in celebrating the blessing. Blessings are such a special day I feel. If nothing else, it's hard to resist a baby dressed in white. They look so angelic. I really love my babies and something about their blessing day makes me love them even more. Here's a link to Cheyenne's, Delaney's, and Ephraim's.

P.S.-- The reason it took me so long to post these photos-- I just barely took these ones of Frank! Ain't momma got time for photo shoots lately. One of my favorite mom-tricks, no need to take portraits on the day of the actual event (way too stressful/not enough time). So he might fill out his blessing outfit a little more, but, hey, still cute!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

What I've learned as a stay-at-home mom

I wanted to write down some of things I've learned lately as a stay-at-home mom. Some of these have come slowly over time, and they are deep and meaningful to me. Others are simply decisions I've recently made, things I want to remember that I can choose to do to make my life easier. Whatever the case, I thought they were worth recording, to remember where I've been and how I've grown after being a mother for five years.

I've learned that "lifestyle" is not what motherhood is about. I wrote about this not too long ago, and the knowledge I've gained has given me a lot of peace of mind. Because of what's actually important, lifestyle things don't matter. Strictly shaping the environment for your kids by being in one "camp" or another does not have eternal consequences. It doesn't matter how many toys your kids have, what kind of things they're allowed to eat, how much screen time they have, or all those other things that fill up your Pinterest feed. The reason I, as a mom, have a certain affinity for certain habits and rules I want my kids to keep is an indication of my own personality and what feels "normal" to me because of how I was raised. I learned that it serves me best to realize that the way I've shaped the home environment for my kids is simply my personal preference and nothing more, and to not see it as "the right way do to things" and use it a stick with which to measure and judge other people in the way they parent. I can admit that the amount of screen time I give my children, or the snacks I do or don't allow my kids to eat is because it makes my life easier and makes me feel like I am doing a good job, and not because doing so makes me a better parent. Admitting such and recognizing that others make choices for similar reasons has made me a lot happier.

I've learned to own it. It's taken me four kids to finally decide I am okay with who I am. I used to go out in public and be embarrassed with the googly eyes I would get when people would see I had three tiny kids. I knew they were probably thinking something about me, and they probably thought I was crazy. But now I have this mess of kids and a baby, and in this town stay-at-home moms are unusual anyway, I went from ridiculous to extreme. But I've finally decided to own it. This is who I am, this is where I came from, I CHOSE motherhood and all that came with it, this brings me happiness. When you finally decide that, you can be happy, centered, and fulfilled.

I learned that complaining actually makes life harder. Feeling sorry for yourself, avoiding stuff, actually causes you more pain than just bucking up and doing it. Sometimes life can be hard and it can be tempting to treat others badly because you're having a hard time. But when you realize complaining, being rude to others, etc., actually makes you unhappy in a different way, you can decide to stop that behavior, and apologize and be better.

I learned that I should do that hard thing. Even when I'm tired, even if I don't want to, even if I'm scared of the "what ifs." Just do it. Do the dishes, take all the kids to the grocery store, pack the bags when you when you can't keep your eyes open, bathe the kids when they're screaming. When you're a stay-at-home mom, you are the only adult around. I started to realize that this is ALL ME, this is what I've got to do. When you see that nobody comes swooping in to save you over and over and over again, you've got to shove off your insecurities and weaknesses and say, "I've got to do this." This is what motherhood is. It's a lonely adult life in some ways, and a lot of physical work and emotional strain, more than I've ever had before. But when I reached that point and realized that I've got to pull my weight or I won't emotionally make it, it becomes just normal. Do that hard thing. Sign your daughter up for swim lessons when you have a 3-week-old. You can do it. Trust me. And the more times you do that hard thing, the easier it will become. No freaking out anymore, this is my life and I can do it.

I learned to clean the house. I don't know why it's taken me so long to realize this but... I need to clean the house. All of it. With practically no help. All the time. It makes me happier, it makes the kids happier, it makes my husband happier. I don't know why I didn't understand, but little kids can't clean without your help. You can involve your kids in the cleaning, certainly, but until they're a certain age (and we haven't reached it yet), you have to be right beside them, telling them where everything goes (even though they just pulled it all out...). Don't let them start another mess without cleaning up the first one first. And clean up the house before you let them watch anything. Clean the house. Ask the kids to help, it will still be mostly you doing it, but just do it. Let the baby scream while you load the dishwasher. You will be happier.

I learned to apologize to my kids, a lot. I used to think that I was the authority figure in the house and therefore any action I took was "justified." They needed to learn, and I needed to teach them. Their actions may lead to their mother getting agitated, frustrated, angry, and generally treating them bad-- and if they shaped up, they wouldn't get such bad treatment. No one deserves to be treated like that, and God does not approve of me justifying my actions in such a way. There is a difference between firmness and frustration. And because I still mix the two up, sometimes often, I need to apologize and repent, and try harder to react correctly the first time.

I learned that how I feel about my children affects their actions. Related to the one above, if I'm frustrated, grouchy, not liking motherhood or distracted, my kids are more likely to fight, whine, be belligerent, or cause problems. When I decide to feel positive about motherhood and act calmly, my children are way more likely to play nicely with each other and be happy. It's the easiest way to fix behavior problems, I've found, is to change my own attitude!

I learned I need to take breaks responsibly. 24/7 parenting is hard, hard work, and I used to try to "escape" a lot (be it through the internet, or whatever other rabbit hole I could find). I learned that it's ok to escape, and it's important to take breaks from time to time, but they need to be responsible breaks. Get your kids set up with a different activity, or plan it ahead with your husband at a certain time or something. I've also learned with my breaks, they need to be something I want to do-- writing, exercising, scripture reading, whatever it is, and not mindless internet browsing (at least all the time. Ha!). Being intentional about my breaks, I've found, makes me enjoy motherhood a lot more, and more likely that I make time for things that I love.

I learned I should give other people grace. It's taken me four kids, five years to learn some very basic things (like keeping the house clean, for example). When you see yourself change you just want to give compassion to others. You may think you see more selfishness in a someone else but, that used to be you, you know. You may think you see more pride in someone younger than you, but, you've been that person too. And you have plenty of faults that are glaringly obvious to people who've been in your shoes, too. The problem is: you don't know that you don't know. And simply telling someone what they are doing "wrong" or judging them doesn't fix the problem.  In my case, God has taught me a lot, but it's come slowly over time, and I need to trust that he is doing the same with someone else. I've started to accept that this is a journey, and we're all learning things at different rates and in different circumstances that will invariably lead us to be better people. I might see something that is troubling to me in someone else, but when I remember what I used to be, how I've grown, I can see that grace is the best answer. Chances are it's not that big of a deal and they will grow out it. Give other people grace and just love them. You're growing and so are they.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

July little things

Our summer is winding down. We have less than three weeks until Cheyenne starts kindergarten (Aug. 10th!). We've really been trying to soak in the summer and have been having a lot of fun. I've still had plenty of days where I've wanted to rip my hair out and all the kids were crying and whining, and we're all excited for school to start, but I love the easy going schedule and all the FUN things you can do during summer! I know most people get depressed after they have a baby, but for me, a lot of times it's the opposite. I'm SO relieved I'm not pregnant anymore, I'm not uncomfortable, I can BEND DOWN (seriously, I am always so grateful I can bend down). I always feel my best in the summer AND I'm not pregnant means I'm pretty motivated.

I saw these little tiny Carhartt overalls at the Rural King and I had to take a picture for Ben. So cute!!

Me with all my kids. Isn't being a Mom so fun!!! This is after Cheyenne's swimming lessons. Just a regular day, a pic I sent their dad.

Always fun with the kiddie pool and hose

Ephraim is the sweetest big brother. "I hold him, Mom?"

Delaney really loves her Daddy. Scratch that. ALL the kids love their Daddy, it's like I don't exist when he's home. I can't blame them, he's a pretty cool guy.

These big sisters also love to hold Frank. Cheyenne's even fed him a bottle a couple times! We're slowly entering the world of real helpers.

My sister Heather gave us bags of baby boy clothes which we greatly accepted. But some of the stuff she gave us was just a little TOO creepy...

Ben bought a foam board RC airplane that he's been putting together. The kids like to "help."

Ben is also very good at putting babies to sleep...

Fun time at the library! We love our library (although my crew is a little too loud for our small library probably).

Part of a series of texts I was sending back and forth to Ben when Delaney locked the baby in my bedroom and I had to get the doorknob off... Luckily everything turned out just fine!

I took the kids to a Primary activity an hour away and when we got back to our car there was a frog on our windshield wipers!

It must be summer, that means cherries! I had to send a text to my sister-in-law thanking her for this pitter-contraption we use every year!!

My aunt is one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. She loves to buy outfits and make blankets for all of my kids (and all of my sibling's kids... that's a lot!). She's been doing nice stuff like this for me since I was a little girl. You can't help but love her! Makes me want to grow up and be nice too!

My brother loves my chicken lettuce wraps so I sent him this picture one day to make him jealous!

Ben took Cheyenne on a date

I love these two cuties

I took the kids on a Sunday evening walk at this beautiful park by our house.

I love to see the temple! The Indianapolis Temple is gorgeous. I love that we get to go there.

I sent this picture to my sister Heather who lives in Florida. This is when our AC broke and we were dying. Her AC is always set to this in Florida!

Went to the fair as a family. The kids LOVED the rides!

Another Sunday evening at the park by our house

This kid is a serious PORKER... we just went to his 2 month check-up and he gained 5 pounds in two months! He was 7.6 at birth, now he's 13 lbs, 7 oz!! LOVE my chunky baby!!

In our church ward one of our responsibilities is doing activities for the Young Single Adults. It's so fun, and our kids love it. We introduced them to ice blocking (like sledding but in the summer!). Since it's so flat here, nobody had ever done it before. Random strangers kept coming up to us wondering what in the world was going on, ha ha! This is the only hill close to where we live, they call it "Kokomo Mountain." Ha ha! 

One Friday night we took our kids to see "Big Ben," a Kokomo classic. He was 16 feet long when he was alive!

Ben taking Delaney on a date. We thought it might help the kids adjust better with the baby. I don't know that it helped (time, more than anything, is really helping them adjust), but they sure LOVE spending one-on-one time with their dad.