Tuesday, April 16, 2013

America's favorite pastime.

I always intended to sign the boys up for baseball. Kids grow, eat, breathe, and play baseball, right? Before I had children I thought baseball would be easy, fluid, and effortless. I had no idea about districts, age groups, and equipment- none of that entered my mind. All I thought was that they would play, and they would enjoy it. The end. (Don't judge my 20 year old childless mind!)

Somehow my eldest baby is 8. I don't know how it happened. I swear I just put him down, turned around, and BAM he is 8! When I try and remember the reasons we didn't enroll the boys in baseball over the years, many come to mind: we moved, we had scheduling conflicts, we moved, we missed registration, we moved, etc. It all leads to now- the boys have never played. Well, thanks to a wonderful family friend, and are now enrolled!!!!!!

I got a text that practice starts tomorrow.


I found out yesterday that practice starts tomorrow.

I forgot to tell Kurt until this morning.

"What?! Okay. This is okay. Everything will be fine. Ugh, no time to break in gloves. UGH! Okay, that's fine. We will just run into town and I will get them gloves. Do they need bats too?" Kurt starts rambling.

I smile, "The coach said to bring whatever bat they are used to..."

Kurt smiles back, "Hope he won't be too disappointed when they show up with Wii controllers then..."

Yes its true, our boys have truly never played, not even in the front yard. But you know what? They have great golf stances and can do beautiful plies. I am sure that counts for something.

Back to our conversation: Kurt was going to take the kids into town by himself. I wanted to be a part of it but Seraphina just went down for a nap.

"Okay, fine. I will stay with Seraphina, you take the boys." Kurt declared.

"Got it. So... what do I need?"

"Gloves and a bat." He answered.

"Aren't there sizes for gloves? Do I need to get oil and rubber bands (I think of that Liar, Liar movie)? Do we need our own T-Ball stand? Will we need one of those machines that throws the balls to the kids? How many balls do we need, like 12?" I start to list all of the things I think they could or might "need." I try to think back to when my brother played, but honestly I was old enough that I didn't have to go to his practices or games, so I cannot recall them very well. I think I went to a few... how do I not remember this? (My comment about the machine that throws balls to the kids was half in jest...)

Kurt puts his head in his hands. His mind is adding up all the money I am likely to spend on smartly advertised baseball items that claim they are necessary for kids. He knows he cannot send me on this errand alone.

We are now waiting until Fina wakes up, and then we will all be going to town to get baseball stuff. As a family. Awwwwww =)

I foresee us taking a few "baseball" homeschool days this week- if only to give rundowns of the game and help them get a feel for the bat and gloves. I can imagine our evenings will be spent watching The Sandlot and Angels in the Outfield.

Kurt calls the kids together, and he tells them our plan.

Carter jumps up and down. His friends are all going to come play Wii baseball?! No, Kurt explains more in depth about what we are doing, and about baseball in general. After his mini-lecture Carter is smiling and nodding, and Kurt seems pleased with himself for teaching about such an important sport.

Harrison cheers, and this is a quote: "YEAH! I love football!!!!"

At this point Kurt's eye twitches, it is apparent they took nothing from his heartfelt lesson, and he smiles through it and sends the kids out to play.

I cannot help but sit back and laugh.

I love my family. Let the adventure begin!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Too much like Martha...

My Good Morning Girls group just finished Luke 10. In Luke 10: 25-27 we read of Martha and Mary.

Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

I am often a Martha. 

It is so hard to admit.

More than just a regular Martha, I am a stubborn and angry Martha. I am a nagging and frustrated Martha!

This weekend is the General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. While I may have started the day as a correctly-prioritized Mary, my day soon spiraled into the world of a Martha. 

My brother is here in town. He was going to help us move (that is a different story) but instead ended up coming for a visit. He is a low maintenance guest, it is not as if he is demanding or needy. However, I am a horrible hostess. What once seemed like a tidy enough space somehow morphs (in my mind) to something utterly inhabitable. What usually seems like a few dishes in the sink becomes (again, in my mind) a pile of dishes the size of Alaska. What usually seems like average behavior for the kids (in my mind, yet again) becomes the most obnoxious and horrible behavior known to man. I want things perfect. I find myself working hard and losing sight of what is important. I become Martha! 

Rather than take it slow and savor my brother's company, I tend to put my shoulder to the wheel and press on- only with an even faster and more furious pace than usual. Rather than prioritize and realize that between Brian and my much-adored (and highly important!) General Conference, I start to freak out about checklists and chores. Not only do I make myself work hard, but I ask my family to pick up their pace too. The boys and I do dishes while Kurt tidies up the house (Fina was asleep), and this all leaves Brian with no one to talk to, and nothing to do. Is this what Brian would want? Is this what I really want? Is this what the kids really want? Is this what is most important? Is this what Jesus would want me to do?

Jesus did not demand Martha to sit by his side and listen. Jesus allowed Martha to set her priorities and push herself hard. It was only when Martha came to him to ask that he have Mary help her that Jesus reminded her of what is needful: Him. Jesus reminds Martha of what the priorities should be, and then makes it clear that he will not be sending Mary away to help. Spiritual needs should come first.

I didn't read my scriptures until after 10pm. I didn't get a chance to sit back, sip cocoa, and ponder more about some of the amazing talks from Conference. I did not get a chance to breathe and enjoy my funny and quirky little brother. Instead, I sorta freaked out all day, and rushed from thing to thing to thing. Why? Because I allowed my Martha tendencies to take hold and run.

There are only so many hours in the day, and while Martha's serving was important, it was not what was necessary. While it is important to do the dishes, sweep the floor, and run the laundry, today it was not what was necessary.

I am so glad that I figured this out now, so that I can enjoy the rest of General Conference tomorrow, and spend more quality time with my brother before he leaves Tuesday!

To the other Marthas: JOIN ME! Let us work on this together! Housework and daily duties are very important, but they must come after the needs of our spirits! How often do we start our days before prayer? How often do we start our workday before we have read our scriptures? No- let us step back, and take this lesson to heart. Let us put what is needed first.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Keep it simple.

I tend to believe in minimalism. I enjoy simplicity and space. My first apartment was furnished to my liking, and included a fairly open floorplan and vaulted ceilings, I lived alone and I loved it!

Fast forward and my husband now lived there too. What was once open and free felt cramped. When we found out we were expecting our eldest boy, we moved to a two bedroom.

The space still felt small. Too small.

What happened?

In a nutshell, this lover of simplicity married a man who enjoys "collecting." ESPN magazines, baseball cards, and oh-so-many wires and computer parts. It was enough to drive me nuts! I wanted to toss it all. He wanted to keep it all. So, for years it moved with us.

More kids, more moves.

Over the years my husband has let go of a lot of his collections. There are some things he keeps, and they are (still) boxed in the basement. However, I have learned to bend, and so has he. Over time, he realized the freedom that comes from living a simpler life!

This brings us to the tie-in about our vacation:

While on vacation, we packed enough for our little family, and nothing in excess. We flew 5 people (one of them, an infant!) to a two week vacation using 3 suitcases and 3 small carry-ons (this included the kids' toy bag and the diaper bag)! Simplicity.

Things were organized, and made sense. We had what we needed.

We got back home and took a look around and both of us realized that we needed to make a change. Our home was stuffed to the brim with stuff! Without realizing it, we had allowed the stuff to clutter our hearts and our home, and we knew things needed to change.

I packed boxes of things we didn't need to have out. We packed some boxes of Kurt's grandfather's things (we are living in Kurt's grandfather's beautiful fully-furnished home). Kurt moved the boxes and arranged them in the basement storage room. We both took a look around at the finished project and let out audible sighs. Yes- a simple life for us!

It got me to thinking. How many other things have I allowed to become cluttered? More than my wardrobe or living room, what things are there in my life that could use a good cleaning?

I closed my eyes and thought back to my vacation. It was heavenly! Excellent company, good books, fun games, beautiful atmosphere. I thought of what I want long term, and what may be holding me back. What I realized was that I have a lot of decluttering to do in a few areas. I had been allowing things to get too complicated. I started to look at everything from our nutrition (we used to happily follow a paleo lifestyle, now there are gluten free store-bought cookies in my pantry?) to our homeschool schedule. I started thinking about our friendships and our spirituality. Yes, things needed to change.

In Luke 9, we learn that Jesus asked the disciples to go forth and preach. Jesus counseled the disciples not to load themselves with baggage, but instead take very little. The physical belongings the men carried was not nearly as important as the message they brought. Jesus also gave excellent advice regarding those who were less than welcoming: just leave. Do not make a fuss. Do not make a scene. Just leave.


In simple living there is room. There is space to roam, air to breathe, and time to ponder. With less "stuff" comes less clutter. With less clutter comes more clarity. This is true in every area I can visualize.

We will continue to de-clutter our physical belongings, I am sure. It is something we tend to do fairly often. It is a freeing feeling to let go of earthly possessions. Wonderful! For those who have trouble in this area, I highly recommend the book Sink Reflections. While it is mainly a book about cleaning habits, it is also a wonderful book for those who desire to de-clutter their lives and homes. For those who have time to be in front of the computer a bit longer, I recommend the FlyLady website.

Vacation was wonderful because it reminded me of what it is like to live a more simple life. Remove the desire for stuff, clear away the excess, take out the complications. Focus on the priorities, focus on the loved ones, focus on the scenery.

There is beauty everywhere, sometimes it is just hidden by clutter.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The candle burns down.

Oh that glorious vacation. I already miss it dearly! Part of my reason is because I had my parents there. We all got along wonderfully. No, that's wrong. We thoroughly enjoyed one another's company! It was such a great time- having all of us together with no responsibilities, no worries, nothing looming over our heads- what bliss! One of the biggest loves: our amazing housekeeper. She would spend more than an hour in our villa every day- it was always perfect and spotless, gotta love that!

That bliss made coming home that much harder. In the wise words of a friend, "Easier to ask who doesn't feel down after a vacation. Better yet, if you don't feel down, it wasn't a vacation." Ah, true!

Coming home meant resuming our routine, and getting back to work. The work of finding a job (for Kurt), the work of homeschooling, the work of household chores, the work of our daily lives.

While we started to get back into our groove, Kurt found himself pretty ill. He isn't one to normally get sick, so when it does happen, it happens fast and furious. He went to bed, and I looked around and found myself overwhelmed. Unpacking, homeschool, my own courses, the house, the pets, the children, it all fell on me. I wanted to scream and be angry. But rather than do that, I just turned on the music and started to get going.

First, I lit my candle. Yes, my little candle friend who greets me and my weary body. My candle almost speaks to me: "Remember, pray for your family every time you see me. Pray for them, and pray for you. Pray for peace. Allow Him to help you." Yes, little candle, thank you. (By the way, your cinnamony scent is fabulous, and just what I needed on this cold night.)

That little candle helps remind me of what it is that I have promised to do. That candle reminds me to stop the negative thoughts, and remember my blessings. Focus on peace. Focus on happiness. Focus on my little family. As I clean I think of my wonderful little children- each one, I pray for by name. I say specific prayers in my heart for each of their individual needs, and I pray for guidance as I lead them. I pray for my husband. I pray for myself. I pray for my parents. I pray for Kurt's parents. I pray for our grandparents. I pray, and I work with my hands.

My own mother was (is) a hard worker. Employers will proudly say she can do the job of many, and her efficiency is unmatched (no, seriously, she is gifted). Her mind has a special talent for organizing, categorizing,  planning, and her follow through makes her a tough act to follow. I was raised in a very clean house, where dinner was hot and on the table, and dessert generally followed (nearly always home made, ohhhhh you should try her cobbler, it's to die for! But you cannot try her rice pudding, my father and I have a long standing tradition of fighting over it. We actually have made a game of it over the years, of hiding it from one another, swapping portions, etc. Really, her baking is superb. If you have a chance, try it. You will never look at a regular cookie the same way again.) She managed to accomplish all of this while going to school, raising my brother and myself, and working a full time job. She did this, and never do I recall her complaining about fatigue. Wow, just writing that made me tired...

Anyway, growing up with such a mom left me big shoes to fill! Unfortunately I was not very proactive in attempting to learn how to be a housekeeper or cook, so when I moved out on my own I was fairly useless. I actually hired someone to clean my first apartment for me (seriously). I could spray window cleaner and dust, but for deeper projects I had no idea of what to do. I also knew little about laundry (my mother attempted to have us learn, but my brother and I realized if we tossed our clothes in the washer, my mother would eventually want to wash her things, and would process our loads for us. Yeah... I was less than helpful... That said, I did know how to wash towels. My dad taught me that when I was in elementary school. So, at least I knew that much!) But really, my voids in knowledge were there because I felt like I had better things to do. Yes, my teenage self was too important to learn how to house-keep.

Fast forward.

I am here, with my little candle burning, and I feel overwhelmed. Kurt has gone to bed sick, and little Fina is dozing too. The boys come to me, and with beaming smiles offer to help. I smile, and we work together. We do the dishes, and we dance to the music. It takes longer, because they have small and uncoordinated hands, but their company takes the sting out of having to work so hard and having so much to do. Harrison follows me and helps with laundry. Carter is busy using a small hand brush and dustpan, trying to clean the kitchen and dining room floors. Harrison moves to the bedroom and cleans up the toys. Carter picks up the pet areas. Harrison reorganizes the shoe rack. Carter wipes down the table. I am putting things away, and sorting the piles of mail. Together, we get a lot done. The boys are thrilled, they cannot wait for Daddy to see how hard they worked. They brush their teeth, get into bed, say their prayers aloud and drift easily to sleep.

I kiss them and get back to work. Laundry swapped. Baskets moved. Piles changed. It feels like it doesn't end.

The candle flickers, the flame gasping its last breaths.

I am exhausted. I can barely move.

I rearrange the refrigerator decorations so that Kurt can see a note I wrote him. It is a love note, with hearts and expressions of well-wishes for his health. It took 4 attempts to write the perfect words and make it look right. Kurt often tries to get up before me and allow me some rest. He knows I have sleep troubles, and nursing exaggerates them, so he sacrifices his own sleep to help out. I know it is hard, and if he isn't feeling well, I can only imagine how difficult it will be, so I choose my words carefully- expressing gratitude while still offering him an out in case he is still sick. Part of me is jealous he is sick, I want to be sleeping too. I force those thoughts away, and I get back to work.

The candle is nearly gone. Its light a mere speck.

I write the homeschool plan on the white board- Carter in red, Harrison in blue, shared activities in purple.

I look around. Things look nice, orderly, and put together. I take a deep breath, and savor the feeling of a clean house (something I always went to sleep with as a child- and a feeling I adore!!!). I smile, my heart is warm. My body is pushed past exhaustion, and is now in physical pain. I don't care. I feel accomplished. I feel good.

The flame dies. Darkness comes.



Nearly instantly...

My baby wakes.

I bow my head and want to cry.

One more thing.

Always one more thing.

My burden feels like more than I can possibly carry.

I just want to crumble and fall. I want to scream. "Look at all the work I just did! LOOK! Isn't there a quota of work before it stops?! Isn't there a level of exhaustion that is reached where we just get to finally rest!?"

And then I remember: I can ask for help. I do not need my candle lit- I can pray anytime. I say (if we are being honest, it was more like a scream) in my heart: "PLEASE help me. I cannot possibly do this alone!"

Kurt walked up the stairs, and even though his head ached and he felt horrible, he helped.

I look at my mother, and I have no idea how she did it. (Does it.) I love a clean house. I love visiting her home because her home is so beautiful it always feels like a hotel. Fluffy bath robes with luxury products. Double showers with towels nearly as tall as I am. Breakfast provided (my dad does magical things to eggs- he really does!). It feels less like "home" and more like a spa trip- it is like a vacation! I want that in my home. I want my family to feel that feeling. I want my children to feel comfort, love, and warmth. I want my husband to walk in and take a breath and feel like he can unwind. I want my guests to feel pampered and cared for, just by being in the house.

My desires are good, I just need to keep perspective.

How many mothers do I know who work themselves to the bone to create an atmosphere that is full of love? How many mothers do I know who smile and walk past the dishes that pile, to heed the call of a child wanting individual attention? How many mothers do I know who sacrifice their personal time to help another? How many mothers do I know who endure the monotony of housekeeping, and continue to put their shoulders to the wheel and press on? How many mothers do I know who cringe at the idea of having to make one more meal or snack, and yet still do?


Most are quiet about their labors.

A few brave souls speak out.

Tonight, I speak out.

As part of the my vacation blogging, I blog tonight on how much I loved having a housekeeper. I loved having a housekeeper scrub the fixtures we had used, sweep the sand we had tracked, and change the sheets we had dreamed between. I loved it! What a beautiful thing, to have a vacation from all the housework that I routinely do! It was heavenly!

Tonight, as I do my final walk through the house, spending those last moments picking up so our home is in order in the morning, I will think of my mother. I will think of all the mothers I know who work so hard to create beautiful homes for their families. I will think of the mothers who push themselves to wash one last dish, fold one more shirt, or change one more load of laundry. I till think of them, and I will pray. I will pray for them to feel rest, to know of God's love for them, and for them to feel comfort in the work they do.

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Luke 9:23

I loved my vacation. The first day home, I found myself on the phone with my parents, and we joked, "Where is Ruphina?! She needs to help us unpack and clean!" Having her help us for two weeks was truly wonderful, and it reminded me of what I give my own family. As much as I loved slipping into clean sheets and showering in a clean shower, it helped me remember that own family loves that too- and while it is nice to have someone else do it, the benefits are still the same if I can accomplish them. Working hard to create a place of peace is important, and can help uplift and inspire. Every time I wash our sheets, every time I sweep the floor, every time I do the laundry- I help create a more serene atmosphere for myself and my family, and oh how great that is!

Monday, April 1, 2013

The box.

We just got back from a beautiful vacation spent on the shores of the Mexican Rivera. It was amazing. We swam, played, and splashed our troubles away. I had such a great time. I had a really difficult time leaving! The trip was so fantastic that I am going to have to write about it in pieces!

The first piece was actually the end of the trip. It was my last experience before leaving Mexico:

Our resort was cash-less. We had a room key, which doubled as our account, and we charged any expenses to the room. It was not until the end of the trip that I opened an ornately decorated box, containing a generous gift...

My friend is crafty. Crafty, and generous. Crafty, generous, and amazing. She was also the first person I called when we found out we would not be moving to Salt Lake. I needed her support, and I knew she would have the right words, or at least have the right ideas, she is gifted with being able to lend perspective. She and her husband are brilliant and have picked me up before, surely, it would work again.

This time, more than just encouraging words, I received a care package. In the care package (it was addressed to "Super Team Lyle") were streamers, an audio CD, toys, socks, and this little box I had mentioned above. While playing the CD, and watching the boys open their toys, I examined this box. It was unique in shape and it looked like it was wearing a hula skirt. The box matched the decorative streamers, and had been hand-crafted. I love boxes, and I knew my friend did too, and her beautiful gift tickled my heart.

I opened the box.

Inside, was money.

Not just money, but folded money, and a lot of it.

I closed the lid and tears fell.

I felt so blessed.

My friend offered me a distraction. She offered me a chance to spend money on my vacation, without worry, without fear, and without a cloud over my head. She offered me uplifting music (the CD has a permanent home in my kitchen player, and has been there for a month), offered the kids a chance to smile, and offered me a breath.

I did not open the box again.

Kurt saw it, and felt the same way I did. We couldn't take the money out, it was just too perfect in the box. So, we brought the box with us to Mexico.

Back to being cash-less...

Our resort didn't necessitate us to use the beautiful gift. We kept it with us, but it wasn't necessary. My parents had paid for the airfare, the villa, the groceries, and most of the meals- so really, money wasn't an issue.

But that last day...

Kurt was holding the baby and keeping the boys at bay near our gate at the terminal. I was hungry, and wanted to grab a snack. I peered into my carry-on and saw the box.

I pulled the box out, and examined it with fresh eyes.

We were going to be boarding soon. If I wanted something, I would need to get it. I looked at Kurt, who was distracting Seraphina, and I knew if I interrupted him it would likely result in a breakdown (on my baby's part, not Kurt's, haha!), so I decided to open the box and use some of the money (yes, the airport in Cancun is happy to take US dollars!).

I lifted the lid, and was flooded. I felt like I opened my own version of Pandora's box. The thoughts and feelings overcame me, like waves crashing into the spaces of my being.

Going home.
Home is Iowa.
No move.
No job.
Vacation is over.
It will be cold.
It will be grey.
I have assignments due for school.
My parents are already hundreds of miles away.
The kids all need me.
The distractions are over.
Homeschool resumes.
The world has kept turning.
What are we going to do........

I felt so overwhelmed. I wanted to cry, but I kept it together. I quickly closed the lid.

I chose my snack, and made selections for the rest of the family too. I went to the cashier. She smiled and spoke Spanish. I smiled back and looked at the total on the screen. I opened the box. I removed enough cash for the transaction.

Funny thing about intricately placed folded money: in order to use it, you must remove and unfold it.

I touched the bills, and the moment I did, waves of comfort washed over me.

I was taken to my friend. In my mind I could see myself sitting next to her. I could see her, very clearly, working on this box: folding these bills, and putting love into every single cut, fold, paste, and placement that went into this gift. I could see her selecting the perfect songs for my CD. I could see her pour her love for us into this great work. I felt her thoughts and prayers, I felt her love.

I just wanted to take a moment and say thank-you to my friend. This thoughtful gift, this beautiful creation, has really been a light in a very dark place. I wish I could articulate the thought that went into this - from the clever addressing to the fun kind of tape used - this was thought through from start to finish. There is something breathtaking about a labor of love, and I can tell that is exactly what this was.

We still have the box. We will always have it, I am sure. It is beautiful, and represents so much to me.

Thank you, to my thoughtful crafter of loving magic, you truly are amazing.