Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thomas' favorite scripture story

A few days ago, Joseph came screeching to me, "MOM!! MOM!! Thomas said *hell*!!!"

I went into the other room, where I found the twins giggling and yelling at each other, "HELL!" "HELL!" "HELL!" It's hard not to laugh when you see two four-year-old twins screaming at each other like that, but I felt it was my parental duty to act serious. Hiding away a smile, I explained to them that certain words are not okay to use like that and they would be in trouble if I heard them saying it again.

Naturally, I had to explain that the word "hell" is used in the scriptures and it is okay to say it when you are reading the scriptures or talking about it that way. The next day we had a little "hell" to deal with again, but we moved swiftly past it and I thought it was behind us.

Score one for Mom's cool and collected parenting awesomeness.

Then came yesterday.

The twins were at a Primary activity with Joseph. When my husband returned home from picking them up, he plopped Thomas down with an angry/embarrassed/aggravated look on his face and related the following:

During the activity, each child filled out a "spotlight" page with all their favorite things so that the other kids could get to know them throughout the year. One of the Primary leaders was helping Thomas with his spotlight form and asked him, "What is your favorite scripture story?"

He replied immediately, "Anything with HELL in it!"

She paused and asked again, "I'm sorry... what did you say your favorite scripture story is?"

"Anything with HELL in it!"

After a little negotiation, they wrote down "Daniel & the Lion's Den" but she stopped me in the hall at church today and told me it totally made her day. I have to admit it made my day, too. I could choose to take it as a great, big parenting FAIL ... but I don't. I'm just grateful to have a kid with so much personality that I have great stories to share on my blog.

Love you, Thomas, my little Sunshine!

Monday, January 25, 2010


I have been cleaning the house with vigor, planning special projects with the twins and feeing optimistic about everything I'll get done this week. It must be Monday.

By Tuesday, I'll be trying to maintain the progress I made on Monday.

By Wednesday, I'll be feeling good about my efforts and feel like I deserve a break.

By Thursday, I'll be tired and my good habits will have been replaced by lethargy.

By Friday, I'll be looking forward to having an extra set of hands to help out over the weekend.

By Saturday, I'll be overwhelmed while looking at our impossible "to do" list next to the impossible laundry pile and dirty dishes.

By Sunday, chaos will reign supreme and I'll be trying to catch up with everything that didn't get done the day before.

And then will come another sweet Monday. Monday is the day that I am queen. Josh has gone back to work, meaning that there is only one set of opinions regarding when to do chores, how much Wii time the boys are allowed, how to handle discipline and what constitutes a "meal." My word reigns supreme and I am once again in control of the household.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Decision. Serious stuff.

I love baking.

I hate making phone calls.

Josh's aunt made a delicious cake a few months ago and I finally decided to beg for the recipe. So I emailed her.

She emailed a reply, telling me to call her for the recipe.

Which do I feel more strongly--my love of baking or my hatred of phone calls? Time will tell.

Friday, January 22, 2010


To love something unattainable is hell.

That's what I decided today after breaking down into tears on my voice teacher's front porch. I quickly had to mentally edit the sentence--not to exclude the word hell, which I don't think is meant in a profane way here, but to clarify the thought.

To love something unattainable is just part of life. We can love the sight of a distant mountain peak with the sure knowledge that it will never belong to us, and that type of love causes no pain.

To love and desire something unattainable is hell. It's a mental contradiction that should never be toyed with, to want something that you know you can't have. This is a lesson we learn when we're toddlers--accept the limits of what you cannot have and don't throw a temper tantrum about it. The hard part is to recognize when your desires are unreasonable so that you can bring your feet back to earth and adjust your attitude.

In church last week, the discussion turned to the talents that we develop. It is the belief in my church, for those who don't already know, that we are born with some talents that we began developing before we were born. Some people just seem to be born patient or artistic or good with words or musical. I wondered vaguely is some might mistakenly guess that music is a gift that I was born with.

The answer is a resounding no, but it is worse than that. I was born with an unflinching love of music--but no natural talent for it. Hence my initial sentiment above. I cry when I hear beautiful music because of the way it reaches inside and echoes deep within me--but also because I want so badly to create that beauty for myself instead of depending on others for it.

(I have to pause here to apologize to those who have read these frustrations of mine before. They are on my mind a lot and blogging about them is a good way to work through them.)

If I didn't love music so much, it would be so simple for me to accept my own limitations (which are many) with regard to singing. When I listen to women with ethereal, lyrical voices I am absolutely enchanted. Those are the voices that people want to listen to. There is nothing ethereal and lyrical about my voice. It's more of a train running at full speed than a canoe lifting gently on the waves of a river. This is why I broke into tears as I was leaving my voice lesson today. I was waffling about whether or not to enter the annual singing competition again. I said to my teacher, "I don't know why I have such a hard time singing in front of other people, but it's just really, really hard for me."

Then it hit me suddenly. I knew why I'm scared to death of performing. "I guess it's because nobody tells me they like to hear me sing," I said to her as the tears started forming against my wishes. It's not that I want people to fawn on me and shower me with compliments. That would just embarrass me. A little encouragement, however, is always appreciated. After all, I've devoted a lot of hours to voice lessons over the last 10 years--and a few thousand dollars. I have done it for my love of music and not because I expect any greatness, but frustration still creeps in when I feel like I cause other people pain when I'm doing what I love.

My voice is overpoweringly big. I cannot make it small except when I sing in a very small, comfortable range.  I have heard people often mock "those women in church who show off and think they're the only ones in the room." This kind of comment is always met with the nodding of heads and murmurs of assent. Apparently those of us born with big voices are legitimate targets of ridicule--we ought to know better than to sing loudly. It's just that I never asked for the Great Big Voice--and I would have to be really, really GOOD to rein this voice in. I try to blend in--I really do--and sometimes I give up and just close the hymnbook in frustration.  Ward choir is a bit of a travesty, especially when the numbers are small. Every mistake stands out with a capital M.

I have anxiety that others think I'm showing off when I'm just doing what I love.

I have anxiety that others hear my frequent pitch problems or know that I'm breathing exactly where the choir director told me NOT to breathe or that others hear me break on the high notes because I just don't blend in.

I have anxiety that others expect a lot from me because my voice is so big and rich, not knowing that you need a certain level of skill to make the most of a voice like this. The Great Big Voice + a lot of talent produces opera stage prima donnas, not ward choir blender-inners. The Great Big Voice without a Great Big Talent is just a train wreck.

I just feel scared when I sing most of the time, but I keep doing it because of that unforgivable love of music. It is so much fun when I can quiet the anxiety. It is so relaxing when it's not the opposite. It's so rewarding when my insecurities are not overwhelming my every thought like they are today. I keep thinking, "Someday all this frustration will result in something wonderful" so I keep on singing. And I keep hoping. I keep thinking that maybe someday a miracle will occur and I will actually like the color of my singing voice. I'll listen to it and feel at peace because I really enjoy that sound I'm creating. Is that such an unreasonable desire?

After all, there are magical moments in my singing when the hair on my arms stands on end and the room is spinning because everything came together so well and I know I had a Moment. A beautiful, magical Moment that makes me giddy and dizzy. I clearly remember having one of those Moments when I sang "Memory" last year and knew I had absolutely nailed it. It wasn't good--it was great. I remember once having a Moment singing "I Dreamed a Dream." It wasn't amazing except that I knew I had sung it as perfectly as I ever could sing it and who can really ask for more than that?

Today, however, I'm struggling against one of those "I GIVE UP. NOW AND FOREVER!" moments. I am feeling so fragile and so frustrated. It was hard to write the check that enters me in the singing competition next month. But I made a promise and I want to stick to it. Even if I feel apologetic about unleashing the Great Big Voice on unsuspecting listeners. Even if I'll be 6 1/2 months pregnant and my heart will absolutely go CRAZY when I'm on stage and then I know I won't be able to breathe. Even if I'm so scared that I keep bursting into tears at the thought of it.

Because I want to respect myself, and I'm not ready to accept that my dream is unattainable. Not yet. I'm willing to live with my own personal hell just a little bit longer.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Winter Rain

Winter rain


We pray for rain
Not only to nurture life in the soil
But to overcome the death in the air

The grey lifts?--
Or falls?
It is conquered.

We give thanks.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


My heart was pumping quickly all the way to the cardiologist's office. Stress. I didn't even want this appointment, but in the wise words of my obstetrician, "You don't mess around with the heart."

What I expected from my cardiologist: an hour-long wait followed by lots of questions, no definite answers, and a round of excruciatingly irritating tests.

What I got: a warm and personable receptionist who told me I'm her hero for having four kids (she only has one), an empty waiting room and brief wait, a reassuring doctor who only ordered one test (yippee! ... even if it's the one I dread the most) and who told me to relax and try not to worry about it.

You know how they always say, "Consult a doctor before starting a new exercise program?" I've always thought that was kind of unnecessary in most cases, but discovered today I am one of those exceptions. No new exercise for me right now. If my heart rate is 120 just loading the dishwasher, I guess training for a marathon is out. (Mwahahaha... like I'd ever train for a marathon. I crack me up!)

When I was scheduling my follow-up appointment, the adorably happy and friendly receptionist suddenly stopped and said, "Oh! Do you want brownies?" Then she looked over her shoulder a little and said, "Ooh, but you can't tell the heart doctor I said that!"

So I came home with a clean bill of cardiac health (pending results of the upcoming test), instructions to relax, not worry about it and live my life. And on top of all that, I brought home brownies.

That was so much better than I expected.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

2010 : learning the fine art of consumption

As I drove my kids to preschool this morning, the whole city seemed to be drowsy still. Cars moved quietly  along at five miles below the speed limit and nobody seemed to mind. By this afternoon, people will be zipping along at heart-stopping paces and everything will come alive.

That's how 2010 started out for me: slow and lazy but gradually awakening to new possibilities. I was embarrassed to think that an entire week of the year had passed (that's 1/52nd of the year wasted!) without that One Perfect Resolution that would change my life. Then it came to me in one of those moments of clarity that inevitably follow moments of confusion or unhappiness or introspection.

I've spent the last two days doing something I love: paper crafting. (Photos later!) I went to the library to check out some books on the subject and suddenly felt burned out. Why? Why? Why was I feeling this way just when I was starting to make some progress?

Simple: I was burned out. Just like I was totally burned out from Christmas music by December 1st because I'd been listening to it nonstop since the start of November. Yes, Virginia, that really is "too much of a good thing." By the time we finally tore down our final Christmas decorations (two days ago), I wanted to shove them into the box and scream, "GOOD RIDDANCE!!!"

Too much of a good thing. Burned out.

Just like when you eat too much candy, you get nauseous. Or when you go shopping and impulsively spend too much, you feel guilty. It's like that with time, too: if you consume too much of it with "fun" and ignore the important stuff, you get burned out. You feel emotionally nauseous. That's how I felt today.

So my 2010 Resolution is to be more moderate in my CONSUMPTION in every little corner of my life. I need to consume money carefully because my husband brought up graduate school with me again this morning. That will require some savings. I need to consume calories more carefully because I've fallen into some very bad habits while pregnant and I don't want to be defined by obesity the rest of my life.

I need to consume time more carefully because I do not relish the inevitable guilt that comes from letting the laundry pile up or listening to my son say to me, as he did yesterday with a sad look on his face, "I wish you would spend more time playing with me, Mommy."

I live in a culture of waste--consumption gone wild. What does the rest of the world think of Americans? Fat. Lazy. Overindulged.

Yep, they pretty much got it right and it's not something we should be offended by. It's something we can listen to and ask, "Do you mean there is another way?"

Yes! When I was in Germany last year, the entire lifestyle that my relatives lead was appealing to me. They savor their time with family. They savor their food. They savor every square inch of their property by planting flowers and shrubs and trees all throughout their yard. They savor life by consuming the right way.

Here are my initial thoughts on how to be a better CONSUMER:

Close my eyes and savor the taste of my food instead of just robotically chewing and swallowing. Breathe deeply when the air is heady with the fragrance of spring roses. Pull over to the side of the road and just stare when that perfect sunset is in the sky. Sit on my front porch and just enjoy the autumn weather. Slow down. Pay attention. Be happy.

Enjoy my hobbies after the kitchen is clean. Do the hard stuff first--and be grateful for arms and legs and health that make it possible to fold laundry and sweep floors and dust furniture. Stick to schedules, look at the calendar, don't complain about the boring stuff. I know myself well enough to know I will never enjoy the good stuff if the important stuff hasn't been completed.

Think about the phrase "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" in every facet of my life. Can I reduce the amount of time it takes to get this done? Can I make this food do double-duty somehow? (Like make it both nutritious and really delicious? Or add something to the meal so that it will fill daily requirements of calcium and protein? Or protein and fiber?) Can I multi task so that I'm having fun and doing important stuff at the same time? (Like practicing my singing--fun--while doing the dishes--not fun.)

Suddenly the year ahead of me is looking bright and happy! Though seemingly vague, this goal is achievable. There is no way to measure whether I have succeeded or failed, but that's okay. It's what I need right now.

Friday, January 08, 2010

2009 resolution revisited, and coming tomorrow ...

2007 resolution :: Stop saying, "I can't" and start saying, "How can I make it happen?"

2008 resolution :: Discover confidence from within.

2009 resolution :: Create joy in my life, instead of waiting for it to happen to me.

Last year, I wrote the following about my New Year's Resolution for 2009: "I'm used to stealing happy moments when I can, not actively seeking them out or planning for them. This will require a complete mental reboot for me. If I can pull it off, this will be, hands down, the best year of my life."

I'm happy to report that although 2009 began as one of the most emotionally tiring years of my life, it ended as the BEST YEAR OF MY LIFE! I can hardly believe all that morphed, solidified or resolved itself during the past 12 months. It's been amazing. 

It all started to change in the middle of the year and made it possible for me to (finally) feel ready for one last baby. As I feel her doing kick-boxing moves in my tummy, I have a tangible reminder of how far I've come and how good my life is.

I am at such a happy place in my life right now, despite bouts of hormone- and pregnancy-induced moodiness. Those things don't define me. They are just things that I "get" to deal with occasionally.

TOMORROW: My 2010 resolution revealed, a principle that might just change everything.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Moody, with a chance of cheer

I was awakened by loud, stomping footsteps over my head. This is one of the things I don't understand about the Y chromosome. Why do my boys (yes, all of them) have to be so loud about life? Why can't they walk quietly or close doors quietly or speak quietly? (Okay... Yes, it's a bit hypocritical of me to want them to speak quietly, but I can dream.)

The loud, stomping footsteps were, predictably, followed by loud knocking on my bedroom door. At 6:54 a.m., I don't take well to this. It makes me grouchy. I was dreaming that I was in Disneyland and the lights were on inside Space Mountain and then suddenly I was awake and dealing with Male Loudness. Who wouldn't be grouchy?

When I'm pregnant and I wake up grouchy, it's hard to shake it off. I don't know why, but no matter how much I try to choose happiness, it all ends up as grumpiness instead. It's very annoying. A while later, when I was contemplating the inevitability of a day filled with guilty grumpiness, I had almost lost hope of cheering up. Losing hope by 8:55 a.m. is a bad sign--a sign that the day is, indeed, not going well.

Then something strange happened. I was in the car, driving my kids to preschool. I was staring off into space ... err, at the road ahead of me ... and a new mood flew in through the window and blanketed me with hope. It may sound strange, but the cheerfulness was tangible and came from the west. It just plopped itself down and decided to stay a while.

I laughed out loud. Who wouldn't laugh out loud when happiness flies in the car window from the west and settles in for a stay?

It's been a few hours and I feel as chipper as ever. Life is good. Life is great. And the greatest thing about it is the great gift I've been given: happiness when I least expected it.