2017-01-02-08-04-06

On Being the Perfect Mother…

Once upon a time, when I was younger, I dreamed about how I would be the perfect mother.  I would be the inspiration for this right here:

pregnant_barbie

Except, of course, I would wear a longer and much more modest dress.

“Hi!  I’m perfect Mormon Mother Barbie!  I have a dozen perfectly well behaved children.  They never watch television, listen to anything other than wholesome, uplifting music, pray and read scriptures right on schedule daily, and they all go to bed like angels right on time.  Between their studies that get them straight A’s in school they excel at music lessons, foreign language lessons, volunteer for charity work and whistle happy tunes while they clean the house and do all manner of chores without complaint.  My house is immaculate at all times–there is no such thing as a stray dirty sock in the middle of the floor!  I cook perfectly healthy, nutritionally balanced meals and pack my children perfectly healthy and well balanced lunches every single day.  I photograph every accomplishment and record it in individualized scrapbooks for each of them, chronicalizing their perfect lives from the moment of birth.  Every one of them will grow up to be successful, well rounded, perfect adults that will wish there was an award they could give me for my perfect mothering skills.”

Those of you that know me, know, of course, that 24 years later this is exactly how it all went down.

Just kidding.

Recently I discovered this great new show on TV that I love called American Housewife.  I think the reason I love it to much is because that is me.  I completely relate. Yesterday I had one of those days where I started reliving my moments of motherhood failure, and lest you think I don’t have any of those, I submit proof:

Here’s the Proof:

When Savannah was a baby, she never wanted me to put her down.  When I say never, I mean N.E.V.E.R.  I thought I would lose my mind.  I loved her, but I couldn’t get anything done.  One time I had her in one of those little packs you wear on your chest in an effort to try and cook dinner, stood in front of the stove too long and finally realized her wee little socks were putting off a bit of smell.  I almost lit her on fire.  That was awesome.  This event led to yet another great moment for me–the discovery of the Teletubbies.

You know those kids of mine that were never going to watch TV?  When I realized that Savannah loved the Teletubbies more than life itself, her little bouncy chair became permanently positioned in front of the TV where I plopped her to watch the tape over and over and over again. (Yes, I said tape–I know I’m dating myself when I complain that I had to keep rewinding it!)  I abandoned that “no tv” rule about 30 seconds after my first baby opened his eyes and I discovered that I could actually walk away and leave him with the marvelous boob tube babysitter.

When Braden was younger, there was a day when he came home from school on the bus.  As the driver opened the door, I could already smell the really enticing smell of vomit that had been locked in a metal can for about an hour and it was lovely.  It was even better when I discovered it was my kid that was the culprit.  He had vomited against his tray, and, being in a tilted position, all that nasty had run down the tray into his lap and all over his wheelchair.  It was a nightmare.  Not sure what else to do, and knowing for sure I didn’t want to roll that disgusting mess into my house, I instead pushed him to the backyard where I grabbed the hose and…I’m almost ashamed to admit it… hosed him down.  Yes.  I hosed down my disabled son with ice water from the hose.  Not one of my proudest moments.  But in my own defense, I honestly didn’t know what else to do.  He didn’t seem to mind so much…I think.

When Dylan was young, he had difficulty sleeping and was a little afraid of the dark.  He would come in our room and stand next to me quietly, breathing and staring, until I popped my eyes open and wet my pants in fright.  There’s nothing like waking up to giant eyeballs right at face level, staring at you in the dark.  I was not a “come sleep in my bed” kind of mother, so I always sent him away, back to deal with the monsters under his bed all alone.  Actually, though, he didn’t go.  Instead he’d plod around to the other side where Patrick would gladly move over and let him in.  Clearly, Patrick was a better parent than me.

And last but not least, here’s one of my personal favorites:

Several years ago, Patrick got mad at my kids.  I don’t remember the reason, and the reason doesn’t even matter anyway, because the only thing important to this particular story is the fact that he swore at them.  He doesn’t swear often, so this was quite the scene.  It was some mild mannered curse word, like hell or damn…nothing big and ugly like the F word or anything.  Savannah instantly started crying.

Me:  What are you crying about?

Savannah:  Dad just swore at me.

Me:  You didn’t cry when I swore at you…

Savannah:  That’s because you do it all the time!

An award winning moment in motherhood right there.  (For the record, I’d like to state that I only use the mild mannered curse words and not the big ugly ones…in my own defense.  And I was with them all day while he was at work, so really, if you calculated the time/curse word ratio it probably isn’t as bad as she made it sound.  I’m just sayin’…)

I could literally fill volumes with examples like this and we could all have a good laugh at my expense.  But I think I’ll stop here.

A Proud Moment…sort of…

I did have my really proud moments though, like when I made a handmade Spongebob costume before Spongebob costumes were a “thing”.  I made it out of those big foam pads you use to make cushions for furniture, and the costume itself was all made out of felt.  It was freaking awesome!  I walked with Colby’s kindergarten class while they did their Halloween parade and heard some 6th grader expressing awe about what an awesome costume it was and felt like it was one of my better moments.  (Sadly, this also is one of those double-edged sword moments.  As Colby went trick or treating that night, that enormous costume was sort of heavy and he couldn’t really bring his hands together or put his arms down.  Finally he succumbed to the weight of it all and fell over and bounced.  Yep…he BOUNCED.  My sister and I actually laughed at him before helping him get back up.  So, yeah.  It was a good and bad moment for me all in one.)

So why do I bring all this up?

Today was one of those days where I woke up feeling a little down about the job I have done as a mother.  It’s easy when your kids get older to spend time looking back, wondering if you did everything right, reevaluating all the decisions you made and asking yourself if things would be different/better “if only”.

Sadly, it’s my nature to look back and second guess myself.  There is so much to learn along the way that once I learned it, it’s easy to look back and recognize my mistakes.  Maybe the worst part is, there is still a lot to learn, so some days it seems like the mistakes keep coming.

Despite our desire to be the perfect parent, it’s not possible.  We will all fail at it at one time or another.  Expecting that anything else will happen sets us up for disappointment.  It’s one giant series of lessons to learn, and lots of practice. There are definitely bad parents out there, but the truth is, if you’ve ever spent even a second of your time asking yourself if you’re good enough at the job, then it’s not you.

It’s inevitable that we will all spend time wishing we’d done things differently, beating ourselves over the head for past mistakes, and praying for do-overs.  But it shouldn’t be that way.

We are all doing the very best we can with what we’ve been given.  No two people will be the exact same at mothering, and there is not a single one of us that is perfect, We all suck at it from time to time, and that has to be okay.

I wonder sometimes, if I could go back, knowing everything I know now, and do things differently, how would my life look?  How might my kids be different if I had had all the answers back before I started?  (The ironic thing about that is that I still don’t have all the answers, even with 24 years of practice.)

I remember a night, many years ago, when all my kids were still young.  They were all in bed asleep.  Patrick was working, so it was just me.  I looked in at all of them and had this overwhelming feeling come over me that said “Holy crap!  I’m in charge!  These little people are counting on me to take care of them!”

It wasn’t like I didn’t already know that, but the actual realization in that moment was kind of horrifying.  I remember that night saying a prayer and telling Heavenly Father I didn’t even know what I was doing, and asking Him why he trusted me to do such an important job.  Sadly, I still don’t really know the answer.  The only thing I know for sure is I couldn’t have done it without His help.

When all is said and done, I’m happy with how things are turning out.  I wouldn’t change my kids for the world.  They are fabulous human beings, and in the grand scale of things, can we ask for anything more?  I like to think that I played at least some role in how great they are, but sometimes I think they got that way in spite of me, not because of me.

The relationship I have with my kids has definitely changed, and I’m loving it.  Sometimes it’s hard to relinquish the “I’m in charge” mentality, but it’s also kind of nice to just be friends and enjoy their company on a whole different level.  It makes all those difficult times SO worth it.

Now I just wait patiently (PATIENTLY, I SAY!  There is no rush here…) for the day I will be a grandma.  I bet I can make some really AWESOME mistakes as a grandma too!

 

 

2017-01-02-08-04-06

Open When Letters–Missionary Edition

Back before my dear Elder left on his mission, I was pinning things like crazy to my Pinterest board.  I found all kinds of crazy over-the-top things that I thought were worthy of my time and effort.  I was bound and determined that I would be the ultimate supreme-o missionary mom out there, winning all kinds of awards and whatnot.  This was before he actually got his call, of course.  When the call finally came, we discovered that he had only five weeks to get ready to go and that left us in a time crunch.  All my plans for what I would do before he left sort of went sailing out the window.

He’s now been out a year and, sadly, most of the things I pinned and planned have not happened.  It’s funny how time works.  I barely get an email written to him and BING BANG BOOM it’s time to write another email. Time is flying!  That’s the good news.  The bad news is sometimes I feel like I’m doing a less than adequate job supporting him the way I wanted to.  I know it’s just me beating myself up needlessly, but let’s face it, sometimes Pinterest does that to a person.

One of the things I saw when I was madly pinning things were Open When letters.  Most of what I saw were letters written by girlfriends to their boyfriends leaving for college, but I did see examples of letters written for missionaries as well.  I LOVED THIS IDEA!

What is an Open When letter?

open-when-letters-missionaries

If you’ve never heard of or seen this idea, here’s the premise:  You write a series of letters that are meant to be opened under a certain circumstance.  If they are having a bad day, there’s a letter for that.  Feeling unmotivated?  A letter to help get them motivated.  You get the picture.  I saw a lot of ideas and even found a huge list to choose from.

Some of the ideas I didn’t love—like “open after your first baptism”.  Since we all know there are many missionaries out there that will serve a full two years and never baptize anyone, that feels a little risky to me.  I also didn’t want to concentrate on him MISSING things and end up making him homesick.  One letter that I ran across was for after you’ve done something successful, and it went on to talk about the dangers of being puffed up with pride and how being boastful is bad. Seriously?! I REALLY hated that one–I feel like every missionary out there should feel good about the work they are doing and bask in the glow of even the smallest success.

My Own Personal Failure

As much as I loved this idea, I didn’t get them done.  They were supposed to go with him in his suitcase when he left.  The idea and the fact that I didn’t get them done has kind of haunted me since.  Especially at those times when I hear that he’s struggling and think that I might have done something to lift his spirits.

(Now, before anyone decides to tell me I’m being ridiculous to beat myself up over this, I totally get it.  I’m the Queen of putting too much pressure on myself and my expectations of myself are way, WAY higher than they should be.  Some days I say I’m trying to change, but that’s kind of a lie.  I don’t change…it’s just who I am.  Sometimes I think I revel in the chaos that I create for myself.)

Regardless of the fact that I have been sad about not getting this done, I still never did it.  Until now.

A few short weeks ago, my daughter decided to write these for her boyfriend that was leaving on a mission.  It reinvigorated me, and I realized that it was not too late to write them and send them.  After all, he still has a whole year left!  I’m sure he will still encounter disappointments and discouragement (not that I’m hoping he will, but per my experience in this life so far, it seems inevitable…).  Together, the two of us came up with a list of topics and started writing.

The Topics

As I said before, I found a list a mile long of ideas for the letters.  I whittled that list down to the following ideas:

  • You need a spiritual boost
  • You need some inspiration
  • You are lonely
  • You are short a few cents
  • You are discouraged
  • You are missing home
  • You are experiencing trials
  • You’ve had a hard day
  • You need to feel loved
  • You need something sweet
  • You need a good laugh
  • You are struggling to feel the Spirit

Savannah wrote a few more:

  • Your first night in the MTC
  • You reach your one year mark

So what’s in the letters?

Most of the envelopes had a personal letter, a card with quotes pertaining to the subject, and a talk from General Conference that tied in.  A couple of them had extra things too, if I found anything that went along with it.  Like this handy “Spiritual Directory Assistance” list that I included:

spiritual-directory

I also printed this cute reference card, attributed to Stephen Covey, about how to be happy:

12-things-happy-people-do

I printed both of them on a sheet of cardstock together, small enough that they could be cut out and would fit in the envelope.  I wanted them to be small enough that he could carry them with him tucked in his scriptures, so that was the goal when I sized them.

Just For Fun

One of the topics, “When you’re short a few cents” might seem like a letter that would include money.  I’m pretty sure that’s what my Elder expected too, if he’s opened it already.  I figured since I am funding his debit card, I already know he’s never short on money and sending him cash didn’t seem like a great idea.  So I turned this envelope into “short a few sense”…as in, common sense.  This was not so much a letter as it was a list of common sense rules to live by.  Some of them were funny, some were serious…for example:

  • You should not confuse your career with your life.
  • If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.
  • Your friends will always love you anyway.
  • Doing nothing is very hard to do because you never know when you’re finished.
  • No one is really listening until you fart.
  • Never lick a steak knife.
  • There is a fine line between “hobby” and “mental illness”.
  • There is always one more imbecile than you counted on.
  • Experience is a wonderful thing. It enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.
  • It ain’t the jeans that make your butt look fat.

For the “Need a Good Laugh” letter, I threw in some sticky mustaches, some jokes, and some cartoons that I printed on small cards that could be carried around or hung up somewhere.  One of my favorites was something I found that some might not think is funny, but is SO appropriate for my son there was no way I could not include it:

you_rock_u2

Here are some of the others:

mormon-lds-meme-funny-26

21-hilarious-funny-religious-humor-memes-4

21-hilarious-funny-religious-humor-memes-1621-hilarious-funny-religious-humor-memes-17

(This last one is only going to be funny if you’re a fan of The Last Air Bender, a show my children watched, and are still watching with a religious furiosity.)

And then there is the letter about something sweet. It’s pretty hard to include candy, cookies, or any other sweets in an envelope, especially when you aren’t sure when it will get opened.  Instead I included pictures of kittens like this:

kittenfluffy-kitten

Aren’t they sweet? Ha ha!  I’m sure he’ll have a good laugh about this.  Then he’ll probably go use that debit card I gave him to get dessert, just because he feels slightly disappointed.

In Conclusion

I included this pack of letters in with his Halloween package, only because I was shipping it anyway.  He wrote me the next P-day and told me he’d had a few rough days and had already opened two of them, and he loved them!  It made me feel a little bad that he didn’t have them earlier, but also glad that I finally did it.

Not only did I get to inspire him with the letters, but getting to write them was good for my own spiritual boost too.  I read through countless General Conference talks, found quotes that fit, and all the reading, typing, and bundling helped with my own testimony.  I have been so blessed to have a son on a mission, and this is just another way that my testimony has grown as I support and serve him.

 

 

 

2017-01-02-08-04-06

Halloween Fun for a Missionary

Guys!  It’s Halloween time… so of course I had to send a special missionary care package to Dylan for Halloween.  I had TONS of fun putting this box together.  It probably helps that Halloween is one of my favorite times of year.  I love everything about Halloween, so trust me when I say this box could have been much, much bigger.

everything

Before I begin showing the items in the box, I have to state a little bit of a disclaimer here:  I stole most of my ideas from someone else.  I can be pretty creative, but in this case I decided there was no need to reinvent the wheel.  I was sort of in a time crunch (although that didn’t stop me from overdoing anyway) and parts of it had already taken longer than intended. So I took what I saw online, gave it my own touch, and was so happy with how everything turned out.

To Treat, or not to Treat?

Dylan has told me emphatically that he is trying to eat better and not gain weight.  I have tried hard when sending him packages not to send nothing but junk food but it’s sorta hard.  Especially when we’re talking Halloween…because basically, isn’t that what Halloween is about?  I avoided buying bags of candy to send for this reason, and also because he can buy that crap anywhere.  I was going for some homemade stuff that he probably misses by being gone during holidays.

Cookies from your Mummy

mummies

I made these cute little missionary mummies out of Pringles cans.  First a word of warning:  Empty them, wash and dry them, and let them sit for a couple of days to air out.  You don’t want your cookies to taste like chips.  Especially those nasty cheeseburger flavored ones.  (If you haven’t tasted them yet, let me do you a favor and say…just don’t.  They went in the trash in my house.)  I intended to take pictures while making these babies, but before I knew it, they were done and I didn’t have any pictures, so instructions will have to do.

Instructions

I covered the Pringles can with black paper and glued it on.  I tried it with a glue stick at first, but that was sort of stupid because it didn’t even pretend to hold, so I ended up switching to a glue gun.  I had about a half yard of white fabric that I ripped into strips that were about 1 ½ inch wide.  You don’t actually want them to be very long because you want to be able to wrap them at an angle and switch angles often.  Once the black paper was on, I glued on the eyes, and then started wrapping them with the fabric.  I put dots of hot glue here and there to hold it in place as I wrapped, being careful to make it look like the eyes were peeking out.

The ties are just made of scrapbook paper and so are the nametags.  I did one for both him and his companion.

mummy-tags

I made a circle label to go in the lid with matching paper to the ties.  I stuck those labels in the lids with a small piece of double sided tape.

And then for the cookies…

whoopie-pies

I absolutely HAD to go with one of my kid’s favorites:  pumpkin chocolate chip whoopie pies!  These cookies are da bomb.  In an effort to not make this post horribly long, I will save the recipe for another day (but trust me, this is one you really want…)

I wanted to keep the cookies as fresh as possible and not have them all stick together, so I tucked little squares of wax paper between them and then rolled them up in some plastic wrap (plus I didn’t want to take any chances that the cans still smelled like those nasty chips!)

whoopie-pies-wrapped

I put them in the freezer all wrapped up like this.  When I was ready to box it all up, I pulled them straight from the freezer, put them in the cans, and shipped the box.  This worked incredibly well.  I asked him after he received the package and he said they were as fresh as if I’d just made them.

Something to Sink Your Teeth Into

caramel-corn-tag

The other homemade goody that I made for them was caramel corn.  I attached plastic teeth with a little packet of blood to the bags too.  Sending it seemed a little tricky because I didn’t want it to get rock hard, but I also didn’t want to put it in a Ziploc bag for fear it would get soggy.  I opted for cellophane bags.  Hopefully it was good and stayed relatively fresh, but I forgot to ask him!

Bugs And Kisses

bugs-and-kisses1

 

These little goodies are just a bag of Hershey’s kisses and rubber bugs. I got the chalkboard labels at Hobby Lobby and they have come in handy on more than one occasion.  I wanted something black and these were all I had.  I then made the mistake of using a white gel pen to write on them.  That was not a good plan.  I waited two days for the gel pen to dry and it never did, so I had to go over it with a chalkboard marker.

Wrap Yourself Up

toilet-paper-roll

I saw all sorts of other mummy references to go with this cute tag.  Some people had used candy bars, etc.  I decided I already had an awful lot of junk food (and he’s mentioned several times to go easy on the candy and goodies) so I decided to go with one of life’s necessities and send him toilet paper.  I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t include some kind of bathroom humor in every package.

And for your breath…

Tic Tacs with little labels!

tic-tacs

 

Keep it Spiritual

As I am putting stuff together to send each time, I like to always keep the original reason why he’s out there in mind and tie everything back to the work he’s doing.  I loved the saying about pumpkins.

coming-to-christ-is-like-a-pumpkin

I also made these pretzel rod “ghosts” with candy eyes to go with this saying.

ghost-rods

My daughter made fun of my ghosts because she said they looked anorexic, but I thought they turned out kind of cute.

And, of course, the missionary Halloween poem had to be included too:

halloween-missionary-poem

Top it all off with a box of Booberry cereal, some apples with caramel dip, and a gigantic spider and the box was ready to go and cram packed!  I dumped a bag of candy eyeballs on top.

full-box-halloween

halloween-box-spider

This giant lovely spider building a web on top was the final piece.  I didn’t want to bother decorating the box sides, so this is as close as I was going to get.

I also included a packet of “Open When” letters that really had nothing to do with Halloween.  I will post more on those later because I think they are one of the best things ever to give to a missionary.

Other ideas that you might consider if you’re sending a Halloween box to a missionary could include some fun Halloween socks and/or a seasonal tie.  I didn’t choose to send either because A) I couldn’t really find any socks that I liked and B) My Elder is very strict in his obedience to mission rules (and I am so proud of him for it) and he would consider a seasonal tie to be outside the conservative-ties rule.

This was such a fun box to put together!  I really miss the fun of having little kids for Halloween, so this was definitely a project to fill my empty spaces.

dylan-spider

Apparently he likes his giant spider…

Happy Halloween!

 

 

 

2017-01-02-08-04-06

Why I Choose to be a Mormon

book-of-mormon-jpg-kqk1nq-clipartWhen I was growing up I had a good friend named Alana.  She lived across the street from me.  Never were there two people so completely different, and yet we were amazing friends!  We had some great times that mostly involved Spanish class, and we went to Spanish camp together.  Oh, the stories I could tell!  I was raised as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and Alana was not.  Her background was Catholic, but I’m not sure if her family attended church or not because I never really paid attention to those things.  While Alana was outgoing, gregarious, loved to party (and did so often) I was more the quiet type. She couldn’t wait to grow up and leave our tiny town for places unknown, she wanted to get married (but not right away)  and never wanted children. She had dreams way more lofty than me.  I planned to go off to college, but never really yearned for the wings that she wanted.  I wanted to be a writer, knew I could be content with a good place to call home and a family, and couldn’t wait to someday be a mother. As I said before, we were polar opposites when it came to lifestyle choices but we were always good friends and I loved to talk and laugh with her and neither of us ever spent even a moment of time judging the other because we weren’t the same.

Now, thanks to the miracle of the internet and Facebook, Alana and I can still be friends even when we live worlds apart in more ways than one.  We enjoy a good online discuss now and again, keep up with each other’s comings and goings, and even occasionally talk on the phone.  We are still different in more ways than we are the same, but I can still say that I love her like I always did. I had one of these conversations with her several nights ago and hearing her voice from the other side of the country took me back for a minute to when I was sixteen and we laughed about the past and wondered about Senor Mansfield and where he might be these days.

During my conversation with Alana that night, she asked me some tough questions that I never expected her to ask me. Considering we’ve been friends (even from a distance) most of our lives, she’s never asked me these types of questions before.  They weren’t tough as in “I have no answer for that” but tough in the sense that I absolutely know the answer but trying to get it from my heart out of my mouth is challenging.  I know my answers at the time were less than adequate, and I have been thinking about it ever since. Maybe not so much because I need to give Alana a better answer, but I guess when someone, anyone, takes the time to ask us why we believe what we believe or why we choose to live like we live, it’s best to have a response so it doesn’t look like we don’t know.

Obviously I believe in my religion.  I willingly sent my son off to spend two years of his life sharing it with others (granted, most of that decision was on him, but I still went along with it) and I’m paying for it out of my own pocket.  I sacrifice all of my Sundays to worshipping and attending church services, choosing not to participate in other activities that I enjoy in an effort to keep the Sabbath day holy.  I take on jobs in the church for which I never get paid, but that eat up my time, cause stress occasionally, and create work when I have a million other things I could be doing.  I willingly part with 10% of my income in tithing.  The list could go on and on.  Ours is not an easy religion to live.  It requires time and effort and WORK every single day.

I know this doesn’t sound like much of an advertisement for joining up, but it does lead me to explain why I choose this life.

Sending my son off on a mission was difficult to do, but these last two weeks I have had the opportunity to watch my daughter prepare to send the boy she loves off on a mission as well.  It has been really hard for her to do it, but she supports his decision to go. There have been a lot of tears shed (by both of us).  But then I got to watch her get lost in doing some projects for him during his time away.  She created a little photo album filled with pictures, quotes, and memories, all designed to encourage and lift him when things got tough.  Then she wrote him a series of letters, all intended for him to take with him and open when he needs them.  They included talks from church leaders, scriptures and quotes, and, of course, her own words of love, support, and encouragement.

She delivered these things to him the Sunday before he left and said her last in-person goodbyes to him.

Tuesday, in an effort to keep her busy and not let her dwell on his leaving, she and I spent the day together.  We just happened to be passing the airport when his flight departed, and she watched as it slowly became a tiny dot in the sky.  As the day wound to a close and I was taking her back to her apartment, she told me that she knows she’s going to be okay.  She talked about what a great missionary he is going to be, and how caring he will be to the people he is serving.  I’m proud of her for her strength, and she’s right—she’ll be okay.

So why do we do these hard things?

Because, ultimately, it makes us happy.

For all of these hard things that I do, each time I choose to do them, I receive blessings without measure.  Those blessings make the sacrifices worthwhile, and, in the end, I am happy.

Many people look at the life of a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and see nothing but restrictions and rules, wondering why we are forced to live a life with no fun, no freedom, and no choices.  I never look at it like that at all—so when asked why we have so many restrictions, I’m not quite sure how to answer.  All I see is a loving Heavenly Father that gives us guidelines to follow, promising that if we will follow, it will bring us joy.  So far, that has been the case for me.  There is nothing out there “in the world” that I feel like I am missing out on—not one thing.  There are, however, an abundance of things that I have gained by living according to the standards that God has given me.

I have seen more miracles in my lifetime than one would think a simple girl like me would ever deserve.  I haven’t seen an ocean part, but when the small miracles come in your life that give you exactly what you need in that moment, it might as well be the parting of a sea.  I have no doubt in my mind that the Lord knows my name, He knows what I need, and He will perform miracles in my life at exactly the time that I need them.  By comparison, all that He asks of me seems so very small.

My faith provides hope

To sum it up, I have faith that if I do what I am asked to do, I will see the promised results.  So far I have never been let down.

faith_0I could go on and on about the reasons why I choose to live my life as a Mormon, but I think I will sum it up with words from my daughter, who posted the following on her Facebook page last night:

This Tuesday the love of my life left to serve our Heavenly Father, and help bring His perfect gospel to others. I am so very proud of the wonderful man I’ve got to see him become over the past two years, and I can’t imagine my life without him. He is so loving, and he always does his best in everything he does. I have never met anyone as loving and caring as he is, and I know he is going to be so great out there. Our relationship has brought me closer to where I need to be in my life, and because of Spencer’s help, I have grown stronger. One thing I can now say with complete surety is this:

Christ lives, and he loves us. He experienced all the pain and torments of the world, and he did this in order to save us and bring us back to our Father in Heaven. Heavenly Father loves us, and nothing can separate us from that. Romans 8: 38-39 states:

“38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I know this is true, and I feel His love every moment I take a breath. And I most definitely feel this love when I see the wonderful gifts that Heavenly Father has given me in this life. My mom, my dad, my brothers, my friends, Spencer… These are all wonderful examples of gifts that Heavenly Father has sent me to help bring me closer to his love. Yet the perfect example of God’s love for us is in Christ. He sent His only Begotten Son down to this world out of his pure love. He sent Him to save us so that we can all return to the love that dwells within Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. In October of 2009 Deiter F. Uchtdorf gave a talk on the pure and all-encompassing love of God, stating:

“[God] loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love. We are important to God not because of our résumé but because we are His children. He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken. God’s love is so great that He loves even the proud, the selfish, the arrogant, and the wicked.

“What this means is that, regardless of our current state, there is hope for us. No matter our distress, no matter our sorrow, no matter our mistakes, our infinitely compassionate Heavenly Father desires that we draw near to Him so that He can draw near to us.”

I am so grateful for all those around me, whether past or present. You all mean so much to me, and you are all examples of God’s pure love. Though these next two years will be hard, I am so glad that Spencer will be spending it sharing Heavenly Father’s love with others.

I love my Heavenly Father. And I love His perfect son. I know that I can always turn to Him, and I know that He will always be waiting with His pierced hands outstretched.

2017-01-02-08-04-06

Every Missionary Loves Hump Day!

This week I have been working hard getting ready to send off a missionary package for Dylan because guess what day it is?  That’s right….HUMP DAAAAAAYYYY!

Friday morning I got up and saw a memory on Facebook.  I saw pictures of us dropping him off at the MTC.  It was a weird sensation, because I was thinking about how it seems like he’s been gone forever, but at the same time it seems like he barely left.  Some days I really miss him a lot (okay…so I miss him a lot all the time but I don’t sit and dwell on it most of the time), but I’m not the type that sits around and cries about it.  Until Friday.  I cried a little bit.  I’m not sure why, but I think it’s because I looked at the picture of me hugging him and I could actually remember in detail what it felt like.  I remembered the texture of his suit coat, and the rough feel of his hair on my face.  It seemed like a lifetime ago…and yesterday.

True to my procrastinating nature, I put off getting his package ready for this momentus event until the last minute.  It’s not like I had a year to plan for it or anything…  It left me scrambling a little bit (especially since the van thing happened on the same day I was supposed to be shipping it) but I got it done.

Hump Day naturally calls for camels…and lots of them!

I intended to fill a box with goodies and things, but Dylan is trying to eat healthier and the last time I sent him a box filled with candy he wasn’t all that happy with me.  So my goal when I went shopping was to pick things that weren’t quite so bad, but weren’t boring either.  The other requirement was that I would need to open them all and reseal them without him knowing.  This is what I got:

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Now…I’d like to pat myself on the back a little here and tell you that those packages all look new and unopened in that picture, but they are actually NOT.  Using an exact-o knife (and being very, very careful) I opened them all and emptied out half the contents (halfway done…get it?)  I threw a camel joke or saying into each one and then resealed them with rubber cement.  I tell you what–I could be a first rate food tamperer if I wanted to be because to look at those packages, other than the fact that they looked sort of empty, you could not tell they had been opened.

A special warning about camel jokes

I’d like to pause here and throw out a warning about camel jokes.  Please don’t go searching for them on the internet unless you want a serious eyeful of distasteful humor and downright vulgarity.  Apparently, the word “hump” is pretty conducive to foul humor.  Who’d have thought.  I managed to find about five that were suitable for a missionary (or halfway decent human being) to hear and that was about it.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Here are the strips of paper I printed out with the clean but stupid camel jokes that I found:hump-day-notes

I can almost feel the strain of Dylan’s eyes rolling as he reads them and shakes his head.

How missionaries are like camels

I found this really great comparison of missionaries and camels and printed it like a story:

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Hopefully he will find it  encouraging and useful because I loved it!  I’m hoping he will hang it on his wall where he can read it often.  I was going to buy him a stuffed camel but decided against it.  I’m trying not to send him a bunch of things that are bulky and take up room in his suitcase.  Instead, I made him this:

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I cut him out using my Cricut and he’s pretty big.  I sent him an email and told him I expect to see some “Flat Stanley” type pictures showing up with him and his new friend.  I hope he will comply.

Then came the cookies::

camel cookies

When I started out making them I had grand visions of them wearing those fancy rug type saddles on their backs, but it was midnight and I was tired.  They ended up just being a basic brown camel.  Hopefully they arrived fresh and edible.

Let’s keep it positive!

Last but not least (for the camel portion of our package) I wrote a poem about Hump Day.  A lot of emphasis gets placed on the whole “halfway done” part of hump day, and I was looking for something a little different.  I wanted to concentrate on the year that’s left and the amazing opportunity that it provides.  There were poems on the internet, but nothing that really caught my eye so I decided to just write one myself.

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And, of course, we have to include some more halves of things

A while back as we were getting ready for a yard sale, I wrote Dylan an email and joked with him about selling his precious guitars while he’s gone.  I was joking of course, and Dylan, of course, was not amused.  His response was classic and I’ll never forget it.  He said “Regardless of distance or time, this relationship is never going to change, is it?”  My answer:  “Nope.”  So I just wouldn’t be me if I didn’t include some dorky things just to make him roll his eyes at me.  I opted for a new partial wardrobe:

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In case you can’t tell, that’s a half a shirt (let’s just call it a halter top, shall we?), a half a tie, and the bottom half of a pair of black socks.  After contemplating whether or not to send just one full sock, I decided cutting both of them in half was just way funnier.

Half a letter to a missionary is a cruel, cruel thing

The other thing I sent him half of, was an envelope of letters.  Everyone in the family wrote him a letter.  I folded them up, cut them in half (the long way) and stuck them in an envelope.  Not wanting to be completely cruel, I put the other half in a separate envelope to mail later.  I figured he doesn’t really have enough frustration out there in the mission field, so why not provide some by sending him letters he can’t read?  So I threw all this in the box along with a sign on top with the camel from the commercial making his hump day announcment.

Many better moms than me decorate the box flaps.  I’ve done it before, but as I stated earlier, because of the van thing I was a little under the gun.  I chose not to worry about it and just hurry off to get it shipped.  I was so proud of myself that I actually got it out the door when I planned I almost wanted to throw a party for myself.

Fast forward two days

This is the part where I tell you what a complete dork I am.   Friday morning bright and early, I woke up and the first thought to pop into my mind is… THE LETTERS!  I had intended to send the other half the next day so he wouldn’t be left waiting for them and I had forgotten.  I jumped out of bed to get the envelope addressed and get a stamp on it so I could get it off right away.  The only problem is… where were they?

After getting home from the FedEx office, I had been getting ready for the van thing and decided to clean my house up.  That meant cleaning off my junk counter.  It was the last place I remember seeing the envelope.  I SWEAR I didn’t throw it away. Why would I throw it away?  I would pick it up and know exactly what it was and NOT throw it away.  But it was gone.  I have scoured my entire house searching for it and it hasn’t turned up.  I can only come to two conclusions:

  1.  In my haste to run off to the FedEx office, I accidentally put both envelopes in the box.  Which is super lame.
  2. I threw them away.  More lame.

I will not know until I hear from him whether or not the second half of the letters was in the box.  For the letters from his siblings, it’s an easy fix.  They typed them, so it would be easy to reprint.  Patrick’s, on the other hand, was written.  He said he’d have to have Dylan send it back so he could reconstruct it if we can’t find the other half.  Either that or just let him wonder for the rest of his life what the letter said.

Almost There

So that’s the story of Dylan’s Hump Day Package.  It was delivered exactly on time.  I wish I could have included some kind of audio device that played that camel’s voice from the commercial because that would have been awesome!  But I think it turned out pretty well either way.  Even though I didn’t want Dylan to dwell on the “halfway done” portion, I’m kind of dwelling on it myself.  I’m so happy that we’re more than halfway done and I can’t wait to get that hug again when he gets home…one year from now.

2017-01-02-08-04-06

“…And Mine Angels Round About You, To Bear You Up”

There are times in our lives when angels appear, performing miracles and making a difference in indescribable ways.  This happened yesterday for my family.   To properly understand the significance of the event, you need to know some important things about us first.

24 years ago my husband and I had our first child and our lives changed forever.  Our beautiful boy, who had been oxygen deprived shortly before birth, also suffered a stroke.  The two incidents left him with severe brain damage and a seizure disorder that started when he was five months old and froze him in time from that moment forward.  I have written Braden’s story before in another location and I will tell that complete story again another day, but for now, the important things to know come way later…about 18 years later.

Braden

Because of Braden’s disabilities, he is uncomfortable and in pain a lot of the time.  He has cerebral palsy, which strains his muscles in an unnatural way, and scoliosis, which gets worse and worse every year.  We never had a vehicle that would accommodate his wheelchair for a couple of reasons– first, it was outside our budget and second, because it just wouldn’t work with the rest of our family if a large part of our family car was dedicated to wheelchair tie downs and the space he would take up.   Our method of taking Braden anywhere was to put him in a car seat and then break his wheelchair down to put it in the back of our car.  It was a ton of work, hard on Patrick’s back, and meant that every single time we got him out of the car we’d have to reassemble the chair.  Not fun at all.  As Braden got bigger, the car seat got more and more uncomfortable for him.  Imagine sitting in a hard car seat unable to even shift your body weight from one cheek to the other, or in any other way rearrange yourself.  We felt sorry for him, but our sympathy didn’t solve any problems.  Over the years you could see his ability to tolerate traveling in the car waning and we started to foresee a day when we would not be able to travel with him at all.

That day came about six years ago, one day in July (my birthday, to be exact) we loaded him in the car along with the rest of the family and headed to my parents’ home–one hour away.  Up until this day, we’d been able to take him anywhere that was about 45 minutes away before he’d hit his limit and start screaming in protest.  On this particular day, those odds changed and suddenly it was the 15 minute period that he was okay, and the 45 minute period that he spent screaming so loud glasses were breaking all across the valley.  By the time we got to my parents’ house we were all on the edge of sanity.  The worst part about it was that we would need to somehow get home that night and looked forward to that ride with dread.

Our trip home that night was like living a nightmare.  Despite all our attempts to make things better, nothing worked and he lasted approximately ten minutes before the horrible screaming and thrashing started.  By halfway home the rest of my family was having a collective breakdown.  That night, Patrick and I made the determination that this was the last time Braden would travel with us.  From that moment on, unless he had a doctor’s appointment, we didn’t take him anywhere. He went to school on the bus, but loading him in the car became a thing of the past.

Not being able to take your family anywhere really puts a damper on things.  Suddenly, there was no going to relatives homes for Thanksgiving or Christmas, there were no summer picnics or swimming trips that included the whole family,  no going for ice cream or out to eat.  We brought food home, we took turns going to our other children’s functions, and when it was time for family vacations we had to arrange for respite care if we wanted to take the whole family.  Getting respite care was never easy, required a lot of advanced planning, and many times fell through.

2014-05-21-11-56-35-4Two years ago, when Braden graduated from school, it was time to find something new for him.  We investigated every available day program in the valley for him.  There were some very good programs with kind, caring people, but nothing we found was going to meet his needs.  One of the largest concerns was transportation.  Because of our location, there was no program that would transport him from home.  It was too far, and they spoke to us of sending him on a flex bus, something that we would never be willing to do.  I started to face the realization that if we couldn’t find a program for him, he was going to be trapped in our house 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with nothing to break up the monotony of his day.  And if he was trapped, so was I.  No trips to the grocery store, no going to the gym…no going anywhere.  Add to this the realization that our other kids, the built in babysitters that we had relied on, were all growing up and moving on.  Soon there would be no one left but the two of us.

That is when we had to make the nearly impossible decision to move him into a Care Center to live full-time.  It was about the most difficult decision we’d ever made, and it was more difficult for Patrick than it was for me because I am typically the practical one while Patrick thinks with his extremely large heart.  We both cried the day we moved him.  Since then, Patrick spends every day missing him and feeling guilty, like he has somehow abandoned him (I miss him too, but my practical self tells me that we made the right decision for the entire family) and he likes to bring him home on weekends.  This requires him to go through the process of loading him in the car.  There is no car seat anymore, so he just straps him in with the seatbelt–extremely less than adequate and probably completely unsafe.  He can’t bring his wheelchair home because we no longer have a vehicle big enough for it. and it doesn’t break down like it used to.  So it’s back and forth, every weekend, breaking his back, risking his life traveling in unsafe conditions, all because he loves this boy with all his heart and can’t let him stay away.

The day Braden moved out. Patrick carried him around like this everywhere.
The day Braden moved out. Patrick carried him around like this everywhere.
Braden's newest chair would no longer break down to be put in our car, so it had to be hauled in a truck.
Braden’s newest chair would no longer break down to be put in our car, so it had to be hauled in a truck.

The miracle I speak about started to take shape for me about four months ago when a letter arrived.  It was from a man named Al Ackerman–a person I had never met but my husband knew well.  As a regular guest at the Alta Peruvian Lodge, where Patrick works, he had gotten to know him over the course of the past 19 years and had heard stories of our family and Braden.  Al owns a company in New Jersey called Fun Truck ‘n Mobility where he rents, sells and services wheelchair accessible vehicles.  The letter told me that he had acquired a van that he wanted to donate to Patrick, that he would be doing all the modifications we would need, and when it was finished he would drive it out from New Jersey to surprise Patrick with it.  That began the process and was the biggest secret I’ve ever been able to keep.

This is the picture Al sent me of the van before they started doing body work on it.
This is the picture Al sent me of the van before they started doing body work on it.

Al solicited help from other guests that are regulars at the lodge in the form of donations to help him cover the costs of the modifications.  He sent out a letter to about 40 people, who in turn sent it to more people and donations started to come in.  When all was said and done, he had more than enough to cover the cost of the work that the van needed.   The generosity of people can be so overwhelming!

As for me…keeping that secret was hard.  I told only the people that actually needed to know in an effort to keep Patrick from finding out.  I was in communication with Al occasionally over the course of time as I had to get the insurance taken care of, and he sent me pictures of the progress.  It was sometimes hard to believe it was really happening.  The end of August, Al and his wife Cathy left New Jersey on their way here in the finished van.

The finished van, ready to head west.
The finished van, ready to head west.

My real role came in to play yesterday as it was my job to make sure Patrick was home when the van was delivered–a quest that I nearly failed at when he got up in the morning and announced that he had too much to do at work and couldn’t take the day off as planned.  This left all of us scrambling as we tried to figure out how to get him home after he’d left and took some serious coordination.

In the end, all it really took was making him think I was mad that he’d ditched me for the day.  I don’t like making him feel guilty, but sometimes you do what you have to do.  We made plans to go to a movie that started at 3:45 (I picked it strictly for the time–they were planning to arrive with the van shortly after 3:00)

He finally came home shortly after lunch, and all the plans were in place.  I called the Care Center where Braden lives to make sure they had him ready to go (and they were so nice and accommodating).  We decided that Patrick’s mom would meet Al there to sign Braden out and they would bring him here with them.   More people from Fun Truck ‘n Mobility flew in yesterday as well, so arrangements needed to be made to pick them up as well.  My parents wanted to be here, so another scheme was concocted to explain their arrival.  It was an awful lot of lying on my part, but finally it looked like all the gears were working in the correct fashion.

When Al showed up and rang the doorbell, Patrick opened the door.  His response?

“Hey, Al!  It’s good to see you.  We’re about to leave here in a minute…”  to which Al said “no, you’re not” and asked him to follow him outside.  Patrick was pretty confused until he saw Braden in the van, and that’s when he knew what was going on.  (I still find it really humorous that he opens the door to see someone he knows all the way from New Jersey and his response is “hey, sorry, I’m leaving…catch ya later”… Whaaaaattt?)

It was an incredible experience…so incredible that I walked outside and left my camera sitting on the table.  Sometimes I’m lame like that.  Luckily my mom had hers out while I went back for mine.

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Al had a frame, ready for a picture, with all the names of those that had helped and donated their time and money to this cause.  Patrick was overwhelmed and emotional, but he managed to hold back the tears.  Since receiving this gift yesterday, Patrick has expressed to me more than once that he feels there are other people more deserving  than he.  I know that no one deserves it more than he does.  Sometimes I am pretty sure Braden requested Patrick as his father before he came to this earth, knowing that he would be the best father in the world for him.  Having this vehicle to help him bring his forever little boy home is possibly the best gift Patrick could ever receive.  It will change his life forever.

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I have spoken often of the challenges and blessings that come from having a disabled child.  Sometimes the challenges seem like they outnumber the blessings, but it’s also true that the blessings outweigh the challenges. One of the greatest blessings of all is the people that have come into our lives, performing miracles, committing acts of service and love that we never expected.  They are as angels doing the Lord’s work.  It is proof to me that the Lord truly is aware of our circumstances, He knows each of us by name.  He has a hand in our lives at every turn and He blesses us in monumental and surprising ways.  These blessings always come through good, kind-hearted people that see our needs and find a way to meet them.  I have met many of them over the last 24 years.  Most of them stepped into our lives for a small moment and then moved on to other things, never fully comprehending the ways they have changed us and helped us, but I know there are great blessings awaiting them for the good they have done.  At those times in our lives when things seem dark, He sends His angels to lift us.  Through these experiences, I more fully understand what the Lord meant when he said:

“And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face.  I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” (D&C 84: 88)

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Seeing the actions of Al, his coworkers, and all the friends that donated to help make this happen, I am reminded again that there really are good people in the world.  There are no words to express the appreciation I feel for this amazing gesture.  My family has been truly blessed.

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