Posts Tagged With: Memories

Beauty in EVERY Moment

My husband’s Grandma Jane made the BEST cinnamon rolls in the world. years ago on one particular visit I decided I was determined to learn her sticky bun magic. Pen and paper out, I jotted down everything, from the type of spoon she used to the number of times she stirred the dough. How she sprinkled on the sugar and cinnamon and the color of the pan she cooked them in. With my careful calculations and particular care I took in writing everything down I just knew I would be pulling out the most golden, soft, moist cinnamon rolls when we got home.

The batches that followed never quite measured up. Rock hard. Too crunchy, too doughy, not sweet enough. Even when following the directions I so carefully jotted down that day I have yet to master her perfect rolls.

Every spring I make a Little Shutterfly book for the previous year. Last July Grandma Jane passed away quickly and unexpectedly. While I looked through pictures to create our annual book and tried to decide what to say for the summer months, I thought about all that I wished I had learned from her before she left. If I could have watched her make those cinnamon rolls one more time I just might have discovered her magic. Just maybe.

IMG_0414But as amazing as her cinnamon rolls were, they dimmed in comparison to the other life lessons I wish I could have learned. In her funeral program is something she wrote.

“Every moment is beautiful and captures the attention.”

Right after our third son was born I remember feeling exhausted, exasperated, and at the end of my rope. Our then four-year-old and two-year-old had demanded one too many things and made far too many messes. I took the baby and locked myself in the bedroom. I could hear the two little criminal master minds contemplating how to break in as I sat with the baby in the rocking chair and cried. Whoever came up with the saying not to cry over spilled milk must have understood mother-dom well. That cup of spilled milk has reduced me to tears far more often than I would like to admit.

THAT moment was not my prettiest, nor what I would have called beautiful.

For months we fought a whitey tighty war against our middle son. Every time he woke up, every time he used the bathroom, every time he escaped my view I had to ask him, “M, are you wearing underwear?” and that was always, always followed by, “Please go get your underwear on.” Sometimes my response was anything but beautiful. Sometimes I was so tired of the constant questioning that it was downright mean. One day M came running down the stairs. “DAD! DAD! Guess what?? I remembered underwear! Wanna see?” With that he pulled down his pants, revealing a naked little bottom. His shocked face was priceless as he yanked up his pants and scampered back up the stairs.

As a mom I can’t say that I find every moment beautiful. Sure, it often captures the attention, but all-too-often in a “You spilled your milk AGAIN?!” sort of way. The scraped knees, the toddler tantrums, the cleaning up after every single messy meal. The legos that I always manage to step on and the beds that never get made. Frankly, motherhood often leaves me a grumpy old witch.

But Grandma Jane didn’t just write that every moment was beautiful. They were so much more than words. I have no doubt that she felt it. She really and truly believed it. Every moment DID seem beautiful to her and did capture her attention. She had an incredible way of finding the best in even the most rotten person or crummy situation. Grandma Jane left behind a legacy of finding beauty.

HPIM0657Some moments might not seem beautiful as a mom. Some moments are downright dirty. But I am sure that with effort we can, like Grandma Jane, find beauty in even the ugliest moment.

Maybe it will take a healthy dose of humor.
I’m sure we will have to seek for a good measure of forgiveness.
We occasionally will have to throw common sense to the wind, forget we’re adults and jump in the mud with the kids.
Sometimes it might mean taking a step back and just being thankful that it wasn’t worse than it was. We might have to be grateful for those that help us through those particularly hard days.

Beauty is there for the finding. We often just might have to look extra hard. And eventually I hope it will get easier and easier for the beauty to capture the attention instead of the mess.

Someday I will master her cinnamon roll recipe. It might take years to achieve the ooy-gooy Grandma Jane-y goodness, but someday I’m determined to serve up a plate of the best rolls you have ever tasted. And today, today I’m going to try to look on life with such Grandma Jane optimism, such happiness, such joy. And I will try to find beauty in every moment.

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Categories: Happiness, Life Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Greatest Gift of All

Baby Sparkles. My little 4-year-old self had been mesmerized with her commercials for months. Those big, blue eyes. Those curly, blond locks. That crown that lit up when her head was tipped back. My heart almost ached with hopes that she’d be under the tree that Christmas morning.

The picture was shaky as the cameraman, my grandpa, tried to follow the dancing four-year-old on the screen darting from one corner of the room to the next. Christmas music filled the background muffling the adult conversations scattered around the room. A blonde six-year-old sat next to the tree admiring the lights and little glass ornaments. My sister. Soon presents were passed around the room. The four-year-old settled down next to her sister and brightly colored wrapping paper flew through the air.

“Baby Sparkles!! Grandma! I love her so much! Thank you grandma! Every inch of that wiggly four-year-old overflowed with delight. Grandpa’s camera scanned the room for the older sister only to find her sulking in the corner.
“And what did you get?” Grandpa cleared his throat.
“Baby Sparkles.” Disappointment oozed from every syllable.
“But don’t you like your baby sparkles?”
Suddenly the six-year-old bursts into tears. “NO. I wanted a DOG, not baby sparkles!”

Baby Sparkles. I can still picture her in my mind. I’d asked for her every day that fall, and holding her was like magic. My sister, well, not so much. Now that the anguish of not getting that puppy has subsided, we both can laugh as we watch our smaller selves so enveloped in the Christmas magic.

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Today as I pick up the Christmas paper strewn across our family room floor and admire the twinkling tree lights one last time before they are hidden under the stairs for the next eleven months, I smile. Baby sparkles is long gone. The Legos that scatter the floor will someday loose their shine. And that’s ok. Somewhere between baby sparkles and lego knights for my boys the magic changed…or maybe just became more clear. The best gift of all has always been the gift of being together with those I love, creating memories that won’t get old or loose their shine. With my parents in Malaysia this holiday season and the passing of loved ones, the gift of memories has been even more magical.

I hope your Christmas was filled with the magical gift of being with those you love and remembering Christmases past. That, for me, has been the greatest gift of all.

Merry Christmas memories from our family to yours!

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Traditions

It starts subtly. So subtle it’s sometimes difficult to even notice. Just a tiny bud here, a little, white flower there. Then it grows. Green splashes the trees, and soon they are covered in a beautiful canopy of leaves. They wave proudly throughout the summer, then, as the weather cools, the leaves burst into a beautiful spectacle of color. The grand finale. Reds, oranges, browns, yellows…it’s as if the trees are celebrating another glorious year. Finally, almost overnight, the fireworks are over. The leaves lay still on the ground, waiting for one last breath of life as a child rakes them up to jump in before they disappear under a carpet of snow.

The grand finale. That’s my favorite.

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The crisp air, the jackets, the hot cocoa, the pumpkins dotting the otherwise barren fields, the corn mazes, the scarves, the harvest moon, the decorations.

The leaves. The beautiful leaves.

I don’t usually get nostalgic, happy feelings while walking into the grocery store, but last night I did. As I bundled my almost-two-year-old in my jacketed arms to protect him from the crisp air and raced towards the front door, the pumpkins lining the entrance and the mums adding a splash of color took hold of my breath. Fall is here. My heart almost burst with joy. Fall brings me joy because it brings back so many wonderful memories. So many fun traditions from my childhood flooded my mind.

Every year as a kid my parents would host a fall party. The kids would wear their costumes, the parents would stand around chatting and eating chili from the pumpkin we’d hollowed out earlier that day. We’d bob for apples or play in my dad’s box maze, then we’d sit around a bonfire in our back yard telling stories and eating homemade doughnuts with our hot cocoa or apple cider. Sweet memories, vivid in my mind like the leaves in autumn.

I’ve been reading a book by Stephanie Nielson titled Heaven Is Here. Have you heard her story? She is amazing. Her story is incredible, inspiring, and full of hope. In 2008 she and her husband were in a plane crash, which burned 80% of her body. She and her husband were, through countless miracles, able to return to their four young children and she was able to continue her journey as a mother.

She writes a blog: nieniedialogues.blogspot.com

…and here’s a clip about her story: My New Life (I bawled through the entire thing. It’s 8 minutes and SO worth it!)

Much of her book she shares how traditions played a big part in her life, as a child, and later as a mother. We’ve slacked off majorly in the tradition department lately, and I’ve decided this week to work harder at those we have and try to begin some new ones that my children can look back on as fondly as I do those in the falls of my childhood.

One I stole from Stephanie’s blog is to have a “Family Theme.” Throughout the year it becomes the focus. She begins each school year with a fancy dinner where they introduce the family theme. I’m a little late, but I think this weekend we’ll give this new tradition a try.

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Our 2014-2015 family theme. Idea stolen from nieniedialogues.blogspot.com

Just like the tiny buds in the spring, I hope that our family traditions can start out small and simple, then catch on and grow until they become a part of us. I hope that when my children look back on their memories, it will be like the autumn grand finale, full of color and beauty.

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Happy fall, everyone!

What are traditions your family has that bring you joy? I’d love to hear them!

Categories: children, Family | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Beauty of Sharing

Our house is under quarantine today. Between the coughs, sneezes, boogers, and wheezes, I made the executive decision that today we rest. I figure it all began about like this…

R, at school: “Hey Timmy! Can I borrow your pencil?”
Friend Timmy (which is, actually, a fictional school mate and really no one in particular): “Sure! Aaa-aa-aa-choooo!” –hands R a snotty pencil.
R: “Gee, thanks, Timmy! Let me just stick it in my mouth while I grab a piece of paper.”

Yes, we all thank you, Timmy. All because of you so graciously sharing your snotty pencil, our entire family is infected with this miserable bug.

My kids are pros at sharing their germs. I can’t think of a time when a cold or flu bug has not made a run through our entire family. I can’t say that I’m exactly thrilled about this, but I do have to say that it makes me happy that they are fantastic at sharing other things besides germs as well.

…All three share a room. I know, it’s crazy. But it works! However, that typically means at 5am our day often starts like this, “Psst, R, are you awake? HEY R… R!! Wake up! It’s morning!!!!!!!”
…They are fantastic at sharing peas, broccoli, mushrooms, and carrots (go figure, right?).
…T.V. Time, is, well, shared. Either that, or Mom chooses, and that typically means some girly show. “Nooo!!! Ok, ok, we can watch M’s show, just anything but THAT!”
…Toys are usually shared relatively well, cookies some of the time, and crayons almost always.

As parents we constantly drill into our kids the importance of sharing. At the park, at friends’ houses, when friends come to visit…the sharing never ends. But why? Why do we feel this need to teach our kids to be giving with others? Frankly, I would have been fine if Timmy would have refused to share his pencil.

A year ago our area was hit with a horrible flood. The rain came for days and days and never seemed to stop. Roads closed, bridges washed away, and canyon roads crumbled into the torrent below. Houses filled with mud or completely washed away as rivers changed their direction and spilled over their banks. The news was filled with heart-breaking stories of families being separated, homes being lost, and even lives being swept away. Tragedy beyond comprehension.

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Even Our *little* stream close by turned into a torrential river during the flood. Luckily, nothing could reach our house. Unfortunately not all of our neighbors were able to say the same.

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But among the disaster came stories of sharing. People came out of the woodwork to give of their talents, time, energy, monetary assets, and love. Neighbors came together and really showed what it meant to be a neighbor. Regardless of religion, race, political preference, or any sort of differences, people worked side by side, sharing all they had.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” –Fred Rogers

The kindness of others was truly inspiring, amazing, and incredible those long, rainy days, and for many, many days following.

We were so thrilled when the sun finally came out!

As difficult as it is for our children to share toys, rooms, treats, and time, This is why I think we do it. Because eventually, as adults, we hope they will be good neighbors. That they will bring their shovels, buckets, and wheelbarrows to help a friend. Or more importantly, a stranger. That they will be willing to put together a bag of clothes, a warm meal, or lend a shoulder to cry on.

So for now, as my boys and I share our box of tissues, chicken noodle soup, and sit on the couch today, I will be thankful that my kids are learning to give. I’ll be happy that Timmy’s mother is teaching him as well. I’ll be glad that this world is full of helping hands in a planet where disaster, sadness and despiration are all too often well-known. And most of all, I’ll look forward to the day when my boys can share their time, talents, monetary assets, and love with those in need around them.

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Categories: Motherhood | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Love Is Not a Jar of Peanut Butter

My grandparents raised seven children. Five girls, two boys. The perfect number for a baseball team. I’m sure if you were to ask them they’d tell you that life was a bit crazy back then. A bit crazy, a bit chaotic, but wonderful all at the same time. I love to hear their stories. One of my absolute favorite that Grandpa tells is of how the whole family, all nine of them, would pack into their little station wagon and go for a drive. When they’d come to a stop, the driver next to them would gape at the old station wagon with wide eyes. Grandpa could see their minds start to turn as they counted all the little blonde heads. one, two, three…little hands in the back seats would then shoot up holding the number seven next to the window, saving them the headache of trying to get a proper calculation. Then slowly the driver would pull away as fourteen eyes stared back.

Every time I go to the grocery store I hear the same phrase at least three times, if not a dozen. “Boy, you sure have your hands full!” It’s not that it bothers me, it really doesn’t. I’ve even caught myself saying the same thing to other moms and dads. I can only imagine the comments my grandma got when she braved the grocery store with her seven.

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The scary thing about going from two to three is that your thrown from a comfortable one-on-one defense into zone. It’s six little, quick, curious hands versus four. All those well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) grocery shoppers are totally right. We have our hands full. Our nights non-stop, our cars packed, our heads racing, our emotions on edge, our days unpredictable, and our laundry never-ending. What those grocery shoppers may or may not know is that nothing in this world could make us go back. A friend of mine always responds with a smile and says, “Yep. Full hands and a full heart.”

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No, I don’t mind the never ending barrage of having full hands. What does get to me just a bit is the people who like to make comments to the effect that having more than one or two means you won’t love them all as much. Like love is a jar of peanut butter that can only be spread so thin. I hope I would never make the assumption that someone who has fewer children loves their children less, just as I hope others don’t assume the same of our family. Love should never be given in quantity, whether it’s given to one or twenty one. When my third son was born, I can assure you I never once told my older two, “I’m sorry boys, I can’t hug you today. I’ve given all my love to the baby. Come back in the morning when I’ve found some more.” Love is not a finite number, and limiting it as such would make this world such a sad, sad place.

“Love is not a thing, it is not lost when given. You can offer your love completely to hundreds of people and still retain the same love you had originally.”
― Leo Buscaglia

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As parents I feel like sometimes we tend to look at other moms and dads and compare. If they do anything different from what we do or what we would like to do, we think they’re wrong. One child or seven children are neither necessarily indicators of a less loving, caring family. No child is the same, no circumstance has a single fix-all solution. Families all function differently, and that’s ok!

When we moved to the country, we weighed the pros and cons. We made lists on what it would mean for our children and for us and what it would mean for our family’s future. When we took the plunge, we ultimately did it for our children. We did it so that they could grow up hiking in their back yard, fishing, sailing, and watching wildlife out their bedroom window. We did it so that they could learn the value of hard work and helping the family and helping others. We did it for all the open space to run around in and get muddy. We made the decision weighing heavily on our love for our children.

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Others might find the city way of life suits their family better. Out of love for their children they might move within walking distance to schools, pools, little league practice, and in a neighborhood full of kids. Barbecues on summer Saturday nights, kids riding bikes and roller blading down the sidewalks, and picnicing every day at a park across the street.

Two very different lives, two very different families. Neither more right than the other, both parents doing what they feel is best for their children and their families. Doing it out of love.

When I sit at the table at my grandparents’ house eating a chicken salad sandwich and listening to the crazy stories of the good old days with a house full of girls and a couple boys, I wonder how on earth they survived. I wonder if they ever got a wink of sleep, if they could even count the number of band aids they went through, if they had even a second to themselves. I wonder how on earth they did it. But NEVER ever have I wondered if they loved all their kids, because I know they did. Just as I love my three, just as others love their one. I’m sure they made decisions different from what I make with my little family, but no doubt they weighed the pros and cons and decided what was best for them and their seven.

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We all make different decisions, have different values and dreams for our children. But for the most part those decisions are made out of love and with the best of intentions. Thank goodness love isn’t like peanut butter, that no child is the same, and that families can do what they feel is best for them under their circumstances. Thank goodness we can appreciate different parenting and respect other’s decisions even when they’re different from our own. Let’s try to do less assuming and remember we’re doing the best we can. It’s totally ok to disagree, but let’s choose to love, because there’s no limit to that.

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The Curse of the Not-So-Green Thumb (Don’t give up!)

Everyone says that I look like my dad. Pale and freckly skin, dirty-blonde hair with a bit of a red tint, blue eyes. I like to think that I inherited his patience, but truth is, well, It’s more wishful thinking most days. I have my mom’s nose, her competitive spirit, and her love of the outdoors. I wish I could say that I got her ability to spell, but unfortunately in that I take after my dad (thank goodness for spell check!). Of all the traits I inherited from my parents, much to my dismay a green thumb was not one of them.

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My dad is a master gardener. Nothing in this world could beat his brilliant red tomatoes and spicy peppers. He can grow green beans like nobody’s business and pickle cucumbers with the best of ’em. Not a summer went by as a kid that we didn’t sit on the back porch eating a tomato straight from the yard, nor a fall without a gigantic pumpkin we picked out ourselves and carved. He knows his gardening stuff.

When I grew up, I was sure that I had green running through my veins. I was my father’s daughter after all, right? One year for Valentines Day my husband gave me a beautiful African Violet. He claimed it was so much better than any cut flower because it would stay alive forever. Sadly, it lasted just a few months before I murdered it. Brutally. And it was totally on accident. My husband never let me live that down. “I see how it is. Just like that poor African Violet I gave you with all my love.”

Before moving to the country we had a year of semi-success. I thought just maybe I was shaking my curse and rising to become the gardener I knew I was meant to be. 10 pumpkins, a handful of peas, several tomatoes, and probably a half dozen zucchini. Not to mention enough strawberries to keep my kids munching on them every time we played outside (thanks to a wasp nest that kept all living, breathing, strawberry-loving animal away). Looking back, that year was most likely the result of beginner’s luck.

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When we moved to the country, I had high hopes we would have the greenest, most lush garden in the whole county. We’d take the blue ribbon home for zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes, peas, green beans, AND rhubarb. We’d be the envy of the town. We had a nice little sunny spot, some dirt, and seeds. I might as well have written to Better Homes and Gardens right then and there. I was certain of our success. Summer came, little seedlings began to sprout. Then slowly we watched them shrivel and shrink. Not a single flower, not a teensy, tiny fruit. Even with all of my amazing gardening skills I inherited from my father or my fancy watering can could I make that garden grow. It was a painful time of truth. My thumb was not green and I had nothing to show.

Feeling defeated but not totally run down, I decided to give it one more year. I so desperately wanted to be a gardener, it almost hurt. We amended the soil, my husband built garden boxes to keep wildlife out, and I faithfully watered. The plants began to grow. Not huge, but they grew! Flowers came, and fruit appeared. Not much, but they were there!

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Built by my dad. I wish I would have listened when he tried to teach me about gardening AND woodworking as a kid!

Built by my dad. I wish I would have listened when he tried to teach me about gardening AND woodworking as a kid!

 

Tonight we picked our first tomato. Red, delicious, and probably only one of a handful that we’ll get this year. After fighting off mice, rats, raccoons, bunnies, deer, and Howard (that dumb dog!), and continuously trying to turn our mountain clay soil into something productive, our garden this summer is most definitely not something to brag about. When comparing it to my parents’ garden, it’s plum pathetic. But that tomato gives me hope. I might not have been born with a green thumb, but by golly, I’m going to turn it green if it drives me (and/or my husband) insane. Next year maybe we’ll pick a dozen tomatoes, a box full of potatoes, and enough strawberries to bake a pie. And someday maybe, just maybe, we’ll open a vegetable stand. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? Someday (as my oh-so supportive husband rolls his eyes).

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Dear boys, some things might not come easy like you think they should. Some days you might want nothing more than to sit down and give up.

“What’s wrong with this block tower?? It won’t stay UP!”

“This bike-riding business is just not for me!”

“Do you really need to know how to read to get by in life?”

“Girls have cooties! I can’t even talk to them. Why on earth would I want to take one to the prom?” (ok. so that’s a problem I might secretly not mind if you have for a little while!)

“That college diploma. I just don’t think I can do it.”

But keep trying. Keep hoping. It may not be easy, you may not be the best. You may never be the best, and that’s ok. But if you try, slowly, slowly, you’ll have success. It might come in surprising ways, but it will come. That little green tomato will grow, and when you pick it, You will taste the most delicious fruit you’ve ever had.

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Categories: country life, Life Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Moments Frozen in Time

I believe that in every mother’s life there are moments when time stands still. Seconds that are frozen forever in her mind as vibrant as the day it happened. The smell, the lighting, the colors…

Staring in those big, grey baby eyes at the hospital as soon as the nurse places that sweet little miracle into your arms, straight from heaven. Realizing that you are holding a creation so pure and flawless. Someone dependant on you for everything this life has to give.

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The first smile.

The first giggle.

The late night standing over their crib, the faint sound of his soft breath and the gentle breeze of the fan. The glow of the night light casting shadows on his rosy cheeks and sleepy eyes. The thought that nothing in this world could possibly be so perfect, so beautiful, so serene.

The fall afternoon at the park with the hysterical, infectious laughter as they slip down the yellow twisty slide and fly off into the sand.

The summer evening catching crawfish under the bridge.

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The “again! Again!” after a favorite bedtime story, the hug goodnight, the early Saturday morning with three extra little bodies snuggled in your bed.

Sweet, perfect seconds frozen in time, never to be forgotten. Maybe they just simply are one of God’s tender mercies to remind us of his love and the love we are capable of feeling.

After finishing up the dishes on Friday I slipped on my shoes and ran outside to join my family to play on our driveway. The boys were decked out with their crash gear and helmets and flew around in circles on their bikes. My dad had just spray painted my niece’s old bike to look more “tough” for M, and R’s training wheels had recently been removed. This was one of those moments. My boys circled around me and time froze.

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The cool breeze and the moist smell from the thunderstorm earlier that evening.

The sun preparing for it’s descent below the mountains, giving that red-orange glow to the summer evening.

The squeals and the laughter.

A perfect moment frozen in time and filed away in my memory, never to be forgotten. To think I could have missed it had I chosen to forgo slipping on my shoes and done something else.

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Some nights I lay in bed and just stare at our ceiling. I replay those sweet memories over and over in my mind. When I look back on my life, I hope I see moment after precious moment, just like this one. I hope I see memories embodying the love I have for my children. Not a million texts I really didn’t need to send, not a Facebook screen I looked at far more often than I should have. Not the scale or the gym with extra hours spent every day wishing and working for that pre-baby body. Not the online games, not the latest episode of Downton  Abbey, not the hours fretting in front of the mirror over make-up and hair to go to the grocery store. I wish I could say I was never guilty of any such things, but that would be a lie.

They grow up so fast. Every Mom knows that. The days slip by and we look back and wish. We long for those moments frozen in time. When I look back, I hope my desire is for those moments that where, not those that could have been. Because in the end, that’s what matters most. Those tender mercies reminding us of that most amazing kind of love.

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And They Lived Happily Ever After (why marriage has been worth all the work)

This past weekend my husband and I loaded up our car with snacks, games, books, and music and buckled our kids in their car seats for a nine-hour drive. Our boys could hardly contain their excitement to play with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmas, and grandpas. This wasn’t just any visit either. My brother-in-law was getting married, and my boys were getting a new aunt! The beginning of Uncle J and Aunt M’s ever after. We were all thrilled to share in their love and excitement. The handsome couple could certainly rival that of any fairy tale. Love radiated from them the entire day and everything about the wedding seemed picture perfect.

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In all of the tradition that comes with weddings, I was reminded over and over that tying the knot comes with plenty of advice. Everyone knows the secret to a successful marriage and is eager to share it with the new couple. As I watched guests spill their wise words onto the pages of the guest book, pull the newly-weds aside to inform them of what is to come, and slip it in with their congratulations at the mic at the family dinner, I was reminded of the same advice my husband and I received years ago when we were the ones starting out.

“Never go to bed mad.”

“Go to bed mad because everything always seems better in the morning.”

“Always talk things through, don’t bottle them up inside.”

“Some things are better left unsaid.”

“Always assume the best in each other.”

“Put your spouse and his/her needs above your own.”

“Make sure to find time and do things for yourself.”

At the time those years ago I felt bombarded with news of this doomsday that inevitably would happen. We would fight. That’s what everyone said, and I hated to hear it! Here we were, newly-weds, so in love. In my little naive mind that was just NOT going to happen. Not to us, not never. I’d found my prince charming and we were headed off into the sunset of our “happily ever after” and all anyone could tell us was, “Congratulations! Now brace yourself. Things are going to get rough.” I just didn’t want to believe it.

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It took about a month or two before it was clear to my husband that he didn’t marry a Rachael Ray, and maybe a week longer for me to discover my sweet husband was no “Chef Fantastico” himself. He hogged the covers at night, I fell asleep mid-sentence, and we both totally disagreed on what time the alarm needed to go off. I was always running late, he was always 15 minutes early, I asked too many questions, he didn’t ask the right ones, he drank whole milk and I was used to skim, and (worst of all) he liked vanilla ice cream flavors over the triple-ripple-fudgy-oooy-gooy-chocolate flavors I preferred. We had a few late-night discussions, a disagreement or two.  Dog-gone-it, all those well-meaning, kind, thoughtful people concerned for our future were right.

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During the family dinner this past weekend my mother-in-law shared a great quote with the lovely couple. “Marriage is two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other.” That first year of marriage (and every year since) happened to be just that for us. It was a year of sacrifice and learning, of compromise and forgiveness. My dear husband, after two summers of lessons (even a solo flight) and a lifetime of dreaming, postponed working to get his pilot license. I no longer took trips up the canyon to go snowboarding every weekend after class. We bought two percent milk, worked together to develop some sort of cooking skills, and agreed on vanilla ice cream with the fudgey ribbon in it. I learned to live with a cover hog and he grew to accept only hearing half of a story before I fell asleep.

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Truth is we still are learning, sacrificing, and compromising. Always trying to forgive, cause both of us mess up. A lot. It might take an eternity for us to truly understand each other and get it right. Somehow in my little world of fairy tale weddings and happily ever afters back then I thought if we didn’t always see eye-to-eye, if we had disagreements, or if we got upset, we must not love each other. I’ve thankfully learned over the years that nothing could be further from the truth.

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The events of Saturday were dear to my husband and me for more personal reasons than just our loved ones getting married. Nine years ago we started our “forever” in that same town. We drove by where we met. We took the kids on campus (we were young and in college back then). We walked by the building where I first saw my husband holding hands with another girl right after we met and nearly lost hope. We walked by spots we liked to study together, around the park where he first held my hand, by our first home, up the hill that we’d ride our bikes, down the field to where we played ultimate frisbee and on to where we cheered at many basketball games. We drove through the canyon where we spent many days hiking and exploring and many nights counting stars. So many memories! I wouldn’t dream of  trading those wonderful times for all the late night discussions, all the silly arguments, and all the sacrifices we had to make. Those sweet moments amidst the more tough ones, that’s what marriage is all about.

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seven years and three kids later…

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Aggies all the way, go Aggies, go Aggies, hay hay hay!

We are certainly no experts. Just two very imperfect people working hard to make it last. But in our short experience, marriage has been about sacrifice, forgiveness, and unconditional love. It’s a journey that always presents new challenges, new experiences, new blessings, and surprises. Marriage is most certainly not without hard work, but I would never, ever go back. So, for what it’s worth, this is our sometimes frustrating, occasionally exasperating, unclear, trying, wonderful, sweet, worth-every-minute, happily ever after.

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Categories: Marriage | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Happiness in a Bag of All-Purple M&M’s

My sister has always been a bit of a jokester. When she was a freshman away at college we recieved an official looking envelope with beautiful coligrific writing addressed to our family. My mom excitedly opened it up, then immediately began to cry. It was a wedding announcement, complete with photo of the happy couple (a curly-haired boy she’d never even mentioned holding her in his arms on a picturesque bridge) and velum paper. My mom was hysterical. It was a good ten minutes later that my dad and I found the tiny paper tucked inside a miniature envelope that said, “April Fools!” and were able to deter my mom from doing anything irrational.

For Christmas the year after My husband and I were married we all sat around our living room exchanging gifts. My sister handed my new husband a round, nicely wrapped presant. As we opened the paper, we found our pajamas getting totally soaked and the paper soggy! “It’s a fish!” She proudly announced. And sure enough, we found ourselves holding a basketball-sized glass bowl full of water.

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Growing up with her was no different. My junior year in high school I happened to sit next to her good friend (now husband) in Architectural Drafting, and had planned to share a few M&M’s with him. Our teacher was giving instructions, so I discretely tore the package and began to pour them into my hand. Purple. Purple. Purple… ALL PURPLE! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. 100 million yen… that’s what the package said. Get a bag of all purple M&Ms and that’s what you’d win. I felt like Charlie finding Willie Wonka’s Golden ticket. I hadn’t a clue how much 100 MILLION yen was, but it sure sounded like an exorbitant amount! I whispered to my neighbor. “Look. Do you believe this?? This is just crazy! They’re all PURPLE!” It didn’t take long before the entire class and teacher were in on my little secret. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t concentrate. I was contemplating what this would mean for my future. Money, money, money! I was going to be rich!

After the bell rang, I stood in the hall showing my friends. Soon a large crowd had formed, students and teachers alike. Everyone as astonished as I was. Word spreads fast in a small school, and I was feeling more and more famous by the minute, probably enjoying my moment in the spotlight a little too much. A while later I happened to spot my sister sitting on a bench not too far away and, clutching that M&M bag tightly, ran over. I could hardly contain my excitement. As soon as she saw me running, that mischevious grin spread across her face. I began to relate to her the events of the morning when she began to chuckle. Her chuckle turned into a laugh, and soon we were both in tears howling hysterically. She had totally got me.

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In my brief time visiting dream-world as a rich, famous, bag of all-purple M&M winner I imagined myself being so happy. Who wouldn’t be with money beyond the imagination, right?? I could buy a beautiful house, fancy clothes, throw elaborate parties for my family and friends.

Since my foolish 16-year-old days I have learned a thing or two. When I went to college, I didn’t have much money and worked at odd jobs on campus. We never did elaborate, costly things, but I will always look back on those tight-budget college years with fond memories. When my husband and I were just married, we lived in a tiny, kinda dumpy, one room, kitchen-the-size-of-a-closet, apartment. The walls were thin, our neighbors were grumpy. But we were so happy! Those were some wonderful times. My sweet, stubborn kids each have one icky t-shirt that they love. Any time I bring a new one home hoping they will finally retire their old ones, they become heart-broken at the mere suggestion. We have so many toys that go abandoned and forgotten, while sticks and rocks rarely are. I have learned in my years since opening that bag of M&Ms that while it may be nice, convenient, and handy, money really does not buy happiness!

That same amazing prankster sister has taught me much about living simply and finding joy in it. She and her husband ride bikes almost everywhere. She buys the cutest clothes for her and her kids at goodwill and garage sales. She builds benches, decks, kitchen cabinets, grows a garden, and has a beautiful home. She is a professional in the art of frugality. They  are, without a doubt, some of the happiest people I know.

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It is so easy to get greedy. Clothes, cars, toys, new furniture, phones, electronics… To wish for more and not appreciate what we have. I know I have been guilty of such selfish thoughts. But the truth is, the more we realize that our most valuable possessions are family and friends, the richer we will be. At 16 for that brief moment I thought I’d found all the happiness in the world in a bag of all-purple M&Ms. But as I look back at those exciting college memories, blissful newly-wed years, through the abandoned toys in the closet, and at my sister and her sweet family, it’s easy to see that 100 million yen could never truly bring happiness. Our real treasures are staring at us across the dinner table, crawling under the covers at night, calling on the phone to say hello, and giving hugs before walking out the door in the morning.  A treasure worth far more than a silly bag of all purple M&Ms.

Categories: Life Lessons, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Observations of a Mother

When my first son was a baby, we had an absolutely amazing paediatrician. My husband and I, naive, brand-spanking new young parents, hung on to his every word, did everything he said, and took every little bit of advice as gospel truth. If he would have told us to feed our kid a tablespoon of chocolate syrup and a jar of pickles every night before bed, by golly, we probably would have done it.

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So when he recommended reading Scientist in the Crib, we picked it up at the book store on the way home from his office and read it that very night. Basically, to sum it up in one sentence, it was about how children learn an unbelievable amount in a very short time. They are truly incredible tiny human beings! An interesting book with great information.

In the past six years I’ve been doing a bit of observing of my own. A little less scientific in nature and much more informal, but I do believe that my results are fairly informative and note-worthy. In my six years of study, I’ve concluded (similar to the studies cited in Scientist in the Crib) that children have talent unparalleled to that found in the adult world. Here’s some evidence backing my findings…

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1. Children have the uncanny ability to go through six outfits in 30 minutes. Eight, if you include the adult caring for the child.

2. A mere tablespoon of peanutbutter can be smeared over their entire body, making it seem like it was an entire jar.

3. They can eat a bug and not even be phased by the squirmy legs going down their throats. Then do it again moments later.

4. They have the amazing ability to remember how you’d promised eight months prior that you would buy them a fish for their fourth birthday, then make sure you held to that promise by giving those puppy-dog eyes and reminding you over and over how you’d promised those many, many months ago (thinking they’d forget).

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5. They can become best buddies with the complete stranger behind the checkout counter at the grocery store in one visit.

6. A perfectly spotless house can become a train-wreck in a matter of minutes using their superior demolition skill.

7. Using bare hands they can crush the nastiest, ugliest crawling creature without a tinge of disgust or fear.

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8. While eating home-made cookies, they can detect exactly which ingredient you’d forgot to add.

9. They know 54 more uses for a wooden spoon that you’d never even dreamed of.

10. As soon as they fall asleep, they have this amazing ability to transform into the sweetest, most precious angel you’ve ever seen, despite the fact that they had just accomplished #6.

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11. A bouquet of dandelions can become as beautiful as a dozen long-stemmed roses when they are picked by a child.

12. They have total and unwavering faith in something they have never seen.

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13. After you have eaten the last few bites of the cookie left on their plate (thinking they were all through) then find out they’d planned to save it for later, they have the talent to, after some tears, forgive and forget and still love you enough to share next time.

14. They can fight furiously with a little brother that hit them on the head with a giant block and ran away with their monkey, then want to play cars with them a minute later.

And finally…

15. Children have the unparalleled talent to make you laugh, cry bawl, have a panic attack, jump for joy, feel unbelievable frustration, want to hug them till their eyes bulge, scream, cheer, squeal, and sing all in a matter of five minutes. I’d like ot see an actor or actress in Hollywood evoke such emotions.

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I find myself in awe at all that my children can accomplish in a day (and often what I feel like I can’t accomplish because of it!). They truly are amazing, talented, little scientists that have abilities I wish so much I still had. In so many ways I feel like they are such better people than I am. I try every day to be more loving, more forgiving, more brave and courageous, and more filled with faith because of the example they set. I’m thankful every day for those three little rascals and all their talents and abilities!

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…What did I forget? Any observations you’ve made watching your talented little scientists, all you amazing moms out there?

Categories: Motherhood, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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