Thursday, December 20, 2012

Puerto Rico, Baby!

It all began a month ago, when I realized our 8th Anniversary was coming up and I needed a break from reality.  (And we all know 8th Anniversary is the new 10th) Being paranoid frugal, like I am when it comes to spending Student Loans, I was thinking pretty simple.  Local.  I didn't really care where we went, I just wanted to get out and have some fun and be in love with my husband.  I didn't want to go to the Oregon Coast (even though I love the ocean) because I didn't want a quiet, restful, sleepy vacation.  I wanted to have some fun with my man.  Forget about our worries and laugh together.  As you probably saw on Facebook, I was considering a ski vacation.  (If you happened to be around the one time I tried snow boarding over 10 years ago you would know that there would be a whole lot of laughing on that kind of vacation.)  And then out of no where JT texted me from school saying "I am about to do something crazy".  He was referring to our vacation.  (And he obviously isn't as frugal paranoid as I am!)

Actually, JT was very aware that he recently sold a few houses (THANK YOU to everyone who bought houses this year!  I owe my Disneyland Vacation and Puerto Rico to all of you!! Really, thank you so much.) and had actual income to spend, rather than student loans.  He managed to keep the location of the vacation a secret from me all the way to the day we left. (When he accidentally slipped and said it in the car on the way to the airport! Luckily I was packed for sun- and not snow.)

And that is how I ended up in Puerto Rico, Baby!

It started out with an all night flight across the country and then south to sunny P.R.  With the help of Tylenol P.M. I snuggled in and slept for most of it.

On the flight! (Have I ever told you how much I LOVE flying?! And without kids? Wonderful!)
We arrived in P.R. to a nice muggy 86 degrees. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.  And headed straight to Old San Juan for delicious Puerto Rican food.  We had Mofongo and Tostones.  Sooooooo good.  Seriously, I could talk about the food for an entire blog.  Unfortunately I was not cool enough to take individual pictures of everything I ate :( Sorry, all of you foodies who just have to picture the heaven I ingested in your minds.

Old San Juan was beautiful.  Since we met, I have heard JT talk about how much he loved serving his mission in Puerto Rico and have looked forward to the day we could go together. (I did not think that day would come during P.A. school.) One of my favorite pictures from his mission is of a fort called "El Morro" that was used to defend Puerto Rico over 400 years ago. It is really beautiful.  Which you wouldn't know by looking at my pictures...

JT with the lighthouse in the background.

Us- with the ocean in the background.
me again
 I don't know whether to blame it on the jet lag, lack of sleep, or the fact that I was still completely in shock that I was actually standing on the Island of Puerto Rico! (seriously, it took me a whole day to settle in to the excitement and shock that I was at a place I have dreamed of going)  So, my pics the first day are lame.

I took this one from my helicopter.  Ok, just kdding, I borrowed it from here.  And this still doesn't do it justice.

After walking around El Morro for awhile we headed to the city part of Old San Juan.  The city is gorgeous.  It is very European (which I didn't expect) and every window has shutters, or a balcony, or some feature to make you smile (and if you aren't me, you would take a picture).  We spent a wonderful afternoon eating, walking, window shopping, and taking it all in.  There are fountains and statues everywhere.  And the streets are narrow and cobblestone. (Which actually reminded me a lot of Madagascar and made me home sick for my mission.)

This is one of the little squares, with the guy who sells "ice cream" - basically like sorbet.

Again, my photography skills are amazing. 

We took the evening to relax (and sit in insane traffic to get to our Hotel) before we jumped in to all the fun the next day.

When we woke up the second day (at 11:00, because we were on vacation and still tired from the flight) we headed to El Yunque the National Rain Forrest.  We decided to stop off first and do some zip lining.

The Rain Forrest (and it did rain a little at the very end- but it was warm so we didn't mind).

Me getting ready to zip- Yep, I am lame, and don't have one of JT. :(

One of the ziplines


Check out this Iguana on top of a tree! (And we were hanging in a tree above the iguana!)
Me, after I repelled down a giant tree. P.S. Our guide looked like the Puerto Rican McDreamy.  Can you see it??

Zip lining was really fun.  Partly because I was afraid of it.  When they gave us the instructions I thought it would be super steep and super fast and super scarey.  And this is why I love JT- he was so patient and kind and calm.  He reminded me that I was safe, and could do it, and was really sweet.  I love this about him.  I have a lot of anxiety (like a LOT) and most of it is irrational that I can't control.  He has always had a way of helping me and building me up so that I can do hard things.  Without making me feel dumb (I hate feeling dumb, I hate people who make me feel dumb) or like I am being a baby.  Remember how I said I wanted to laugh and have fun on this vacation? Check.

After the zip line we only had an hour for hiking in El Yunque.  So we hurried and ran up to some waterfalls. It was getting dark and we were the last people in the park.  Have you ever kissed under a  waterfall with your sweetheart, in the dark, when you are all alone and it is just starting to rain (a nice, warm, rain forest rain) and you can hear the coqui frogs starting to chirp?  I have.  It was one of the most romantic moments of my life.

We had to scamble up a hill for one of the falls.  But it was so worth it.

Remember how I wanted to get a way and just be in love with my husband? Check.

The next day we spent the day hanging around our resort enjoying the pools and the beach and the Virgin Pina Coladas.  mmmmmmmmmmm.  Then we headed back in to the city for some more absolutely delicious Puerto Rican food and a romantic walk around the city and along the beach.  *sigh*

It was such a wonderful day.  We jumped in the big waves.  That was really fun but it  scared me, I am a Washington girl!  We are use to Ocean water being freezing and never going in above our knees!   This was another time that we spent the day laughing  our heads off... until a giant wave took my tankini bottoms out to sea.  Ok, we still laughed our heads off while JT ran back to the hotel to get me a towel and I tried to keep hidden under the waves. Thank goodness I brought a back up swim suit!

Well, that was a million pics and only half of our Vacation.  I will finish this up tomorrow, right now I have to fight with my kids to get dressed up to go see Santa. :)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

If I Had Known Then

Monday will be our 8th Anniversary since JT and I were married.  (Can I get a Woot Woot?!)  That means we have known each other for about... 8 years.

You see, back in August of 2004 I was dating a pretty nice guy.  He wasn't my dream guy, but he was fun and sweet and not really my type.  It wasn't very serious, so when he decided to leave town for a month neither of us really cried about it.  We just kind of let things go.  Next time I ran into him, I was engaged.  To JT.

On August 17th 2004 we went on our first date.  We walked along the beach at Golden Gardens in North Seattle and ate seafood and ice cream.  Then sat on the dock at the lake by his house.  It was simple but really wonderful.  So wonderful that we kept dating, until finally on September 16th 2004 he took me to dinner at the Salish Lodge in a little private room overlooking the falls and after dinner as we watched the falls in the moonlight he got down on one knee and pulled a diamond ring out of his pocket.  I was sold. (But it wasn't just the diamond, I promise)

We had a long, long engagement to try to get to know each other better, since we only dated for a few weeks before he gave me the Sparkly.  So on December 10th, 2004 we were married for Eternity in the Seattle Temple (ironically located in Bellevue).   If you don't suck at math, like me, you know that was a grand total of 4 months from our first date to our wedding.

We literally spent our Honeymoon getting to know each other!  We loved it.  We went to Cancun and JT found out that I have a fear of riding bikes - which he helped me get over.  And I discovered that he will spoil me for the rest of my life.   And that he falls asleep everywhere.  On the plane, on the ferry, on the bus, waiting for the ferry.  I can't imagine what we did on our Honeymoon that would wear that boy out so much??? 

For such a short courtship you would think we didn't know each other that well. But I think we really did.  We talked about our pasts, our present, and our dreams of the future.  We seemed to have everything in common.  It was so easy to fall in love and to be in love.  And I felt like I knew him as well as I knew myself.

Then a few weeks ago I found out something new.  I thought I knew everything.  I thought we had a completely open and honest relationship.  I thought we had an understanding.  And I had to ask myself "If I had known this 8 years ago, would I have married him?"

While we were driving down the road he shocked me.  I was blissfully singing along with Wham! "Last Christmas" when JT muttered "I can't stand this song." 

Shock.  Horror.  Disappointment.  Loss.  Sorrow.  Confusion.  Betrayal.

I felt it all.  

How could he do this?  How could anyone not love Last Christmas??  Even in Madagascar they loved Wham! (I remember the Coca Cola truck driving around blasting it, and reveling in the beautiful sound of American music) It isn't Christmas till you hear George Michael sing about his poor heart thrown away on the Christmas before.  You share in his pain and cheer on his resolve to not let it happen again.  To be strong.  To give it to someone special.

In fact, I understand this song more than ever.  Didn't I give my heart to someone special?  


Well, I just got done doing a Pros and Cons list.  Turns out, the pros of being madly in love with me.  Being absolutely thoughtful and generous.  Getting out of bed in the middle of the night to get me a glass of water.  Supporting my dreams.  Making me laugh.  Taking me to exotic surprise getaways (only 15 minutes till we leave for the airport!!! I am SOOOOOOOOOOOO excited!).  Being my best friend.  Being the world's best dad.  And being all mine for Eternity seems to out weigh the cons: bad taste in Christmas Music.

I guess if I knew then what I know now, I would definitely still marry him.  (But I might have waited for the Christmas Season to really start so that I knew what I was getting into.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Go ahead, Pin It.

This will be our 8th Christmas together, and our 6th Christmas with kids.  We are still forming our traditions and figuring out how Christmas works for us. (You know, like which of our family's traditions we should keep, which ones we should make fun of, and which we should throw out.)

One thing I have always loved about Christmas is the decorations.  I always looked forward to my mom turning on our Barbara Streisand record and opening up the gajillions of boxes of decorations and finding places around our house for each one.   I loved a set of stained glass candle holders that we set in the window sill that looked so pretty to me when we lit the candles at night. I especially loved a little ceramic music box house with a tiny Santa Clause that could stand on the chimney.  But one of the best parts of Christmas were the advent calendars.  We usually made strands of candy garland with saran wrap and individual pieces of candy (carefully rationed to each of the 6 kids, if you know my mom).  It was sad to watch the candy disappear, but that just meant Christmas was getting closer!

A few weeks ago I saw a Scandinavian type Music Box Advent Calendar with little doors that open for treats.  It seemed like all of my Christmas dreams in one giant $150 dream!  Well, not quite.   You see, I have a problem buying a special keepsake like that at Costco.  I want it to have a memory attached.  Like buying it at Leavenworth on our First Anniversary (like the snowflakes on my Christmas Tree) or ornaments from our trip to Disneyland with the kids (also on our tree).  And, at this point in life, I am not spending $150 on an Advent Calendar from Costco.  (P.S.  Don't hate me if you bought it at Costco. I will still be jealous of your cool new toy.)

Since I didn't have $150 or the desire to buy a memory-less keepsake I took matters into my own cheap hands.  I went to pinterest and saw a cute felt tree that you could make for toddlers.  My kids love felt story stuff.  And suddenly I knew what I could make into an Advent Calendar! (oh, and now that I just copied this to my blog and actually went to the site it was from --- because you know on pinterest you never actually go to the site, you just repin the pic, right?-- it turns out they already had a felt advent calendar on the blog.  Apparently I did not invent this concept. But I totally made it cooler!)   And thus the creative juices began flowing....

(Apparently she knows how to take good pictures of her crafts and her clean hardwood floors)

I ended up deciding to combine the idea of the Felt Advent Calendar with a family tradition we have had of reading scriptures about Jesus every night before Christmas.   I think it helps us remember that the Christmas Season is actually about Christ and not Santa and Rudolph. And that we aren't just counting down to presents, but to the most Sacred Birth ever.

So here goes my Not So Tutorial.  (Because this isn't actually a craft blog and I don't do the whole tutorial thing.)

These are all of the "ornaments" I cut out.  One for each day counting down to Christmas.  They each have a scripture or short activity (written on the outside of the envelope) to read that night.  I just used felt and some little bling.  (It isn't a Christmas Tree without some bling.)

(check out my clean caret)

Here are each of the envelopes with the ornament inside.  Then each night a child picks one, we read the verses and talk then hang it on the tree.  (At first I tried to think of a way that they could each do one every night to avoid the fighting over turns.  Then I realized kids need to learn how to wait for their turn- delay of gratification -  and anyways, what's the Advent Calendar without some sibling squabling??)

I should have thought about taking pics of this before, so that I could write it in really adorable handwriting... or maybe with vinyl lettering.
Here is what it will look like with all of the ornaments on Christmas Day.

I don't know how the side got curled like that for the pic.  Maybe because I was wrestling 3 kids away from the finished product so I could snap a shot and they were excited and I was tired and the tree took the brunt of it.  I promise it is symmetrical and not all funky.

Here is what it looks like right now, having only had 3 days (and ornaments).

My photography skills are impressive.  Don't be jealous, you probably have other talents that I don't posses.  Like doing hair. (Oh wait, I rock that too.)  Or being really cool. (Yep, another one I own.) Ok, Ok, you just have to be happy with your own talents and not always jealous of me.

Here is a list of the cut outs and their Scriptures.  Although I totally recommend coming up with your own - since half the fun was looking up scriptures about the Savior and His birth that I think our family will love.  But, if it is the 4th of December and you didn't buy the Scandinavian Music Box Advent Calendar and you need to hurry and get something so your kids know when Christmas is, and you want to whip it out today during nap time because you have a 40% off coupon at Joann's that you don't know what to do with, and you don't feel like reinventing this, you can use my ideas.  (This is a Not So Tutorial after all.)

In no particular order, although I am trying to order mine a little.

Crown:  Psalms 47:7
Dove: 1 Nephi 11:27
World: 3 Nephi 1:13
Heart:  John 3:16
Manger: Luke 2:7
Candy Cane: Shepherds- Luke 2:8-17
Candle: John 8:12
Gift: Wiseman- Matt 2:1-2
Angel: Luke 2:9-14
Donkey: Luke 2: 1-6 (for next year I think I might lose the donkey and do one about Mary, we'll see)
Peace Symbol: John 14:27
Drop of Blood: D&C 19:16-19, 23
Tree:  Read the book Three Trees (my fave)
Stocking: talk about how Santa is nice to give us gifts, but the point of Christmas is the pure love of Christ and His birth
Hand (I traced Macie's hand for this one! so cute): service- Mosiah 2:17
Bread: Matt 26: 26-28
Cross: Matt 28: 5-7
"W": for Wonderful Isaiah 9:6
Star: Matt 2:9-10
5 Circle Ornaments:  each one is one of the people in our family, when they open that one we will play the I Love You Game and talk about why they are special to us and why the are special to Christ.

So, Scandinavian Style Music Box Advent Calendar purchased on a memorable occasion with spare money I have laying around, you will just have to wait.  This year- we are going with felt.

Friday, November 16, 2012


Is it November already?  Not only does that mean finding every excuse to bake things with pumpkin and apples,  raking up freshly fallen maple leaves in the backyard, and reading everyone's "gratefuls" on facebook everyday, it also means it is probably time to start looking back over 2012.  Since we know that once December hits I will be distracted baking everything with cinnamon and eggnog, cutting out snowflakes with my kids, and reading about everyone's shopping deals on facebook everyday. By then, I will have completely forgotten about my New Year's Resolution Word: Give. (You can read about my Word here.)


I remember someone saying on my mission "You are only as good as your follow up."  Which meant: It is pointless to set a resolution or make a commitment if you don't intend to follow up on it.  So here goes.

Give my attention to my children.

I have to say, this is the one that I am most proud of! (*pat on my own back before I look at the rest of my "Give"list which includes some major failures... remove my hand from patting my own back and start typing while looking around to make sure no one saw me congratulate myself*) I have really tried hard this year to dedicate more attention to my children.  I started by trying to follow their lead and do what they would want to do.  I am not a stay at home mom for my own pinterests.  (Did I say that? I meant to say interests!)  I am at home so that I can be with them.  I have spent a lot more time riding bikes, taking walks, having picnics, playing board games, eating ice cream, doing art projects, riding scooters (sounds similar to riding bikes-but don't worry, it's different), giving "under dogs" on the swings, and getting to know them better.  I feel a huge difference in my relationship with each of them individually.  And I have come to enjoy my "career" as a stay at home mom much more.  I hope my children will look back on their childhood and know that I was really there for them.

Give my heart to JT

This has been a good one for me to do.  It has been a hard year.  Changing direction from New York to Seattle, downsizing and leaving our home, JT starting a very intense program, giving up our income and living off student loans - it seems like everything has flipped upside down.  And let's be honest - you can't flip things upside down without a little conflict. (or throwing up- that is what I do when you flip me upside down) But JT and I are in this together.  And I have given him my heart and my support.   It isn't always easy to give someone else your heart.  It takes a lot of trust, and in my case - humility.  But I can't think of anyone who deserves it more than him.  Man, I am in love with that guy! (8 years in December!)

(Sad that we only have 3 pics of the two of us together all year :( we need a getaway!)

Give my thoughts to prayer.

I wish I had done better on this one.  My Testimony and my Faith seem to be riding the same Roller Coaster as the rest of my life.  Sometimes it has been great and sometimes it is upside down (remember the throw up??).  But I have learned a lot about prayer from Blake.  He gives the most sincere, thoughtful, faithful prayers.  Anyone who has heard him pray can tell he has a true relationship with his Heavenly Father.  (And it really isn't anything we taught him- he honestly just has a very deep Spirit that connects with prayer.)  To help with this one, I have gone back to an old trick - where I make my bed in the morning. (yep, for some of you this is an obvious habit- nope, not for me.  I never had to make my bed growing up, and I had thoughtful companions on my mission who often made it for me, so it really isn't ingrained in me.) That really helps me to kneel down and pray first thing in the morning, which has really helped deepen my prayers the last few months.  Still, as far as my original intention- I am getting a thumbs down here- Ok, Ok, let's just go with a sideways thumb. Not up, not down.  (Like the kid who can't tell if they "thought they felt someone touch them" in Heads Up 7-Up whose thumb is optimistically turned sideways, not quite down, not quite up.)

(Blake, my example of prayer, on his first day of preschool.  Yes, that is a Hello Kitty ring on his hand.  He is cool like that)

Give my time to those who need me.

This is a tricky one to measure.  I am sure I have missed some opportunities, but I have really tried to be there.  And I can think of a few cases where I know I have been there for someone at exactly the right time.  (*considering another pat on the back, but that seems a little bit self serving... doing it anyway, no one is looking*)

(This was the only picture this year of proof that I even have friends.  Sorry, guys, I know this pic is lame!)

Give my energy to my calling.

This has been better at times than others.  But even when I am not at my best, I love my calling in the church.   The youth I teach in Sunday School are pretty amazing.  We have fun, we learn, we laugh, and hopefully we are all feeling uplifted.   I think everyone has weeks where they haven't prepared as well as they should have. (oh wait, that is just me? awkward ) And weeks when you have put it all together and it feels wonderful.  I am thankful for my calling (and not just because I am afraid of other possible callings, which I am) and especially thankful for the kids in my class.

Give my talents an opportunity to improve.

Bomb.  Epic Bomb.  (and I don't even use the word "epic", but that is about the only appropriate description)  I guess this wasn't the year to win an Academy Award or any other talent contest.  Better luck next year.

(If I had improved any of my talents -- say: taking pictures -- I might have something to put right here.  Nope.)

Give my forgiveness to those who have hurt me.

I am so grateful that I included this.  I doubt anyone realizes that they received this from me this year, but I have appreciated giving it.  I have felt burdens lightened and peace restored.  I am grateful for JT's support in this- because it has been difficult at times to forgive people who have repeatedly hurt me (and I think it is challenging for him- no one likes to see their loved ones hurt).  So, if any of you have any intentions of offending me- do it in 2012.. because I will not be doing this in 2013. ;)

(Looked for a picture to put here, but that would just be awkward to post a pic of the people I have forgiven this year, and I didn't want them to be mad at me and have to start the whole process over again.)

Give my body better care.

I don't even know how to score this one...  I have consumed more fast food this year than any normal human should in a lifetime. And I spent more (in student loans, that I have to pay back with interest) at the drive thru purchasing "happiness" for $1 (which means that Dr. Pepper will end up costing $2 by the time we finish paying off our loans, and for that price I should have had two sodas!) than I care to admit.  (especially for someone who has "given up caffeine"...)  But I have been working hard at the gym, and even running again (which my body and soul love!).  One thing I have done better for my body is to try to accept it.  I have tried to be OK with my flaws and my quirks and not allow myself to dwell on them-- especially in front of my daughters.  JT, again, has been a huge help with this.  He is so good at loving all of me, and helping me to look past my flaws.  (what? flaws?  I know you are all confused because I am practically the most glamorous person you have met in real life. *sarcasm dripping all over my lap top*  But, yes, I do have physical flaws that I don't even know how to photoshop.)

(It would probably be more appropriate to have a giant McDonald's soda here instead of my actual body.  But I have had sooooo many requests for pics of me in a bathing suit I just finally gave in.  You're welcome.)

Give my love wherever I can.

I guess this one isn't really measurable.  So we will go with Pass/Fail -- and I give myself a "Pass".

There you go.  My word.  My success, my failures, my year in a glance... I do still have a month or so to work on some of these... but with all of the baking, playing, and partying- I doubt I will have time. :)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Grateful Run-- you know you want to...

Ok, everyone, it is time to hide the Halloween Candy and go Run. (or walk)

You are invited to the First Annual (hopefully)Grateful Run on Thanksgiving Day November 22, 2012!  I decided I would rather not drive to Seattle, and pay $25 to run in a 5K race. So I am going to do one right here.  Ok, not right here because my new neighborhood is Hill Locked which means no matter which way you go- you have to run UP a hill.  Not cool. 

This is how I have been running.  In the rain with my stroller, "BOB"....

 ...and Macie, and a pumpkin.  (I need something to weigh down the other side when Blake is at school.)

Really, though, I want to do a 5K on Thanksgiving morning and work off the Sweet Potatoes before I even eat them :) I thought it would be really fun to get a bunch of us to go and run/walk it together.  My creative sister Karen said she would help me plan it- which means it will be fun too!  So we will pick a beautiful (flat) trail nearby (in Kent or Maple Valley, I am open to suggestions) and we can run it together! For free.

Run, walk, push your stroller, stand on the side and cheer for your friends, whatever- just come have some fun.  You can bring your family, or leave them home to watch the Parade.

When: Thanksgiving Day 2012
Time: 9:00 a.m. so we can get home in time to pull our Turkey's out of their brine and get them in the oven.
Where: TBA -- (Please comment on this post or my Facebook if you would like to participate because I will probably not post the actual location on my blog... since I have tons of stalkers and paparazzi and stuff that I don't want to invite. I don't need any sweaty pics of me floating around the internet.)
Why: To justify the extra desserts and 15 rolls I plan on eating that afternoon, to be Thankful for our bodies, and to have some fun with my friends.

P.S. Don't tell me you don't have enough time to train.  It is just 3 miles- you can easily walk or run 3 miles if you start training now. :)

P.S.S. When I said "now" I really meant now. Like, get off the computer, put on some spandex and start running.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Found it

I don't think I am alone in this.  I think we all have moments (or long strings of back to back moments) when we feel like we are losing our faith.  Or, at least, like we have misplaced it.

This past year has had quite a few of those moments (at times strung together to feel like very dark hours) where I have questioned some of my beliefs and some of the Faith that I have held dear.  There are people who I look at and wonder if they have ever felt the same.  For some people it seems to come so easily.  Maybe they are the ones referred to in the Doctrine and Covenants as those with "the gift of faith".  I then wonder if I was actually cursed with "the gift of questioning".  (Ok, it isn't a curse. I know that.  But when faith is scarce I wish I wasn't so darn gifted at disbelieving!)  But I am writing this for my millions of readers- because I think I am not the first one to struggle.

Fortunately my Faith runs deep enough that there are reserves for times like this.  And I trust that I won't always have to rely on my reserves.

Today, I had a moment of absolute peace during the Sacrament. (Sorry, JT, if I had a moment of absolute peace sitting in church surrounded by three kids, that probably means you had a moment of absolute distraction taking care of everyone by yourself!)  I pondered about my prayer this morning, and the lesson I would soon be teaching the youth in Sunday School, and asked again to feel peace and the love of my Savior.  (Something I have not felt enough of lately)

My class went wonderfully (mostly because I have the best group of teenagers who lift me up and inspire me) but it wasn't quite enough.  Thankfully I had already made a commitment to start attending Choir practice to sing with the Choir again.  (something I haven't done in years)  And sitting in that Choir practice is where I found it.

As we rehearsed the song we will be "testifying" in church next week (I used the term Testify because the Choir Director, Amanda, didn't like the term Perform.  When we sing in church it is not a performance of our own skill and ability.  It is not for praise or applaud.  It is simply to testify and share our faith through music.  I liked it.) Amanda wanted to help us focus on the words.  She reminded us of a story she shared last week about why the song meant so much to her on her mission.  I probably missed every note, every fermata, and any other musical point in the song because the words engrossed me.

I remembered my own relationship with that particular hymn.  "Lead Kindly Light".  I loved it on my mission as well.  But for a different reason.  When my older brother came home from his mission I remember him sharing it with me.  That hymn and "Abide With Me" were ones that he had loved singing on his mission in Spanish with the people in The Dominican Republic.  And I remember one evening as we stood around our piano (like I loved doing) and sang while my younger (and more talented) sister played the song on the piano.  As we sang it, my brother became a hero to me.  I felt the difficulties of a mission and heard the pleading tone of the songs.  I realized how hard a mission must have been, and how amazing he was for serving one faithfully.  I loved him, and I loved the songs because they reminded me of him.

Here are the lyrics if you are not familiar.  I borrowed them from this site.  (Hope that is OK)

1. Lead, kindly Light, amid th'encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on;
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead Thou me on.
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene one step enough for me.

2. I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
Lead Thou me on.
I loved the garish day, and spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will: Remember not past years.

3. So long Thy pow'r has blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone.
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

And then on my mission I loved the words even more.  The nights in Madagascar were dark- with little or no city lights, just the beautiful starry skies, and I did feel far from home.  (You really can't get much farther from Seattle, WA than Antananarivo, Madagascar)  Leaving on my mission I was well aware of my disposition to "choose my path" and I was grateful that through repentance the Lord would "remember not past years."

So I have a long history of loving this hymn.  But as I sang it today,  as I felt Amanda's love for the song, her passion and knowledge for music, and her humility in her calling, it took on a new meaning. I had not realized how much "pride has ruled my heart" in those moments of doubt.  Since I was not blatantly breaking any commandments I think I thought I was fine.  But I knew something was still missing.  Something has been lost.  So when the choir sang the last verse (and I mumbled through distracted by my own insights, no doubt distracting the other alto trying to cover up my mistakes) I heard the last verse in a new way.  

(Disclaimer: since Lyrics are poetry put to music there is a wide range of interpretation.  I may be way off in my interpretation of these Lyrics. But this is what they meant to me.)

I was able to recognize how the Light has blessed me, and how "sure it still will lead me on".  I felt like my plea in Sacrament meeting was being heard.  I felt the promise that I am not alone.  That my doubts, my questions, even my shortcomings have not left me stranded without my Faith.  And I knew that this Light "which I have loved long since" (Really I have loved and felt this Light through out my whole life.  With my brother, wrapped in blankets, singing around the piano.  On my mission, soaking wet, confused about the language and feeling defeated.  When JT and I decided to make the leap from one career to the next.) has led me through so many dark nights.  My Faith has been tested, proved, and strengthened.  I know this. And then we (the choir, not distracted blubbering Katie) sang those words "and lost awhile".  I honestly am not sure what the composer meant there.  But today I heard, no, felt the peace and reassurance that the Light I was seeking was not lost.  Maybe at times it has been "lost awhile", but never for good.

I found it.  Or maybe it found me.  Either way, it is not lost and neither am I.   

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Blake's Big Dream

While I am waiting for my Fitness Book to be published, I am still focusing on my full time career: Stay at Home Mom.  (I really need a cooler way to say that)  Now that Riley has started Kindergarten I have more time with just Macie and Blake which has actually been pretty entertaining.  In fact, it is worthy of it's own Blog Post.

Here is Blake.  He is my little sweetheart.  He still wants to marry his Mommy.  (I don't have the heart to tell him that I am actually taken, because there is something adorable-- and totally not creepy-- about the idea of a little boy wanting to marry his Mommy.  Until you think about Oedipus and then it actually does get creepy.  But Blake just loves his Mommy.) He also has a wonderful imagination.  Right now he sounds like the soundtrack for a Saturday Morning Cartoon.  Every thing that comes out of his mouth is some cartoon catch phrase like "You won't get a way with that!" or "Not if it's the last thing I do" or "That's 'Mr.' Blake to you" or my favorite the sigh and head shake "Oh, brother." as he rolls his eyes.

One of the adorable things Blake does with his imagination is day dream.  He is always telling me about the random things he is thinking about.  

"Mom, do you know what I was just dreaming?  I was just dreaming that we were at Disneyland and I was fighting the Dragon with Mickey."

Usually pretty adorable stuff like that.

But the other day this is what he told me while we were eating breakfast.

Blake:"Mommy, do you know what I was just dreaming?"

Me: "No, Blake, what were you dreaming?"

Blake: "I was just dreaming that I had another penis right here."  As he points to his chest, up by his armpit.  

Me: I recover from my total shock and try not to laugh so that he can finish his train of thought.

Blake: "Yeah.  I was dreaming that I could have TWO penises!  Cool!  Then I could go to the bathroom and just bend over!" (Because standing up is just not cool enough?  He told me the other day how he feels bad for me that I am a girl because I have to sit down when I go potty.)  Then he demonstrates how one would go about peeing while bending over.  Grinning from ear to ear.

So that's my boy.  We are quite proud.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Fitness Phenomenon

At one time or another all of us have looked for the next Fitness Phenomenon.  Admit it, you have clicked on that picture on the side bar of facebook that claims that Rachel Ray lost 50 lbs, hoping for her same miraculous success.  Maybe you have even bought a weight loss shake and taken 3 sips before your gag reflex over ruled that bad decision.  You might have even been desperate brave enough to try a Liquid Cleanse (and then cried next to your toilet all weekend).

Well, I am here to tell you that I discovered a new Fitness Phenomenon.  No, you don't have to buy in.    No purchase necessary, no need to enter your email address or social security number, no commitment required.  I am just going to share my findings with the world (via my blog... that reaches nearly 100 people...) ok, well, you gotta start somewhere.

Here goes:

A few weeks ago JT and I were at the gym together to work out.  Before I work out I like to hop on the scale.  For a few reasons.  One: because I don't have a scale at home, so the gym and the doctor's office are the only places I ever check.  Two: because ever since I lost the baby weight from Riley (5 years ago) every number on that scale looks good (comparatively speaking to pregnant Katie). So I hopped on the scale.

This was right after JT and I moved to our new place and spent a month (OK- probably even more than that) of eating out everyday.  Literally.  (I know sometimes I exaggerate... this is not one of those times.)  I had a bad feeling about stepping on the scale that day.  It had been weeks since I had had a really good workout (unless you call wrestling 3 kids at McDonalds a work out - and then, in that case, it is to you that I am speaking- this phenomenon is for you!).   I had been consuming curly fries like they were protein bars and Dr. Pepper like it was, well, Dr. Pepper.  It wasn't going to be pretty.  But I knew it would help to get me motivated to shed whatever pounds I put on over the course of that month.

As I slid the scale into place I was shocked.

It slid down 4 pounds from the month before!  What?!  I had lost 4 lbs?!

(Oh yeah, I know lots of women fluctuate about 4 pounds throughout the month based on hormones, this was 4 below my low number!)

There I stood, in the middle of the gym, flexing my biceps and sucking in my tummy (because that is what I do when I am at the gym) and looking boldly around for video cameras and reporters.  I had done it. I was a Fitness Phenomenon!  All this time we have been told that eating fast food on a daily basis and drinking gallons of soda would make you gain weight!  But no, not me, I defied the laws of fitness.

In my mind, as I flexed and posed for the invisible cameras,  I was already writing my book:

The Fitness Phenomenon.  (Subheading: How to eat garbage and lose weight like me.)

I saw myself at Book Signings in Costco waving to housewives with bags of Burger King in one hand and a Costco Hot Dog in the other.  I pictured myself on the today show laughing with Rhoda about how amazing I am for making this new discovery as we stuff our faces with donuts.  In this fantasy, I was even invited to the Kelly Rippa show- but since I don't promote anorexia (or whatever she does to get those freakishly skinny arms) I declined.  But I did agree to go on Ellen, because, well, I love her.  (And I have a secret wish for her to like me.  Is it weird that a straight girl like me wants a Lesbian to think I am hot and funny?) Heck, I would probably even end up being the new Subway Spokesperson.

(what's not to love?? I got her picture here, for all of you "straight" girls who like to stalk her...)

As I was about to hop off of the scale and begin my new life as a Fitness Celebrity (since P-90X has run it's course and no one ended up looking like Tony Horton, the world is in desperate need of a new Fitness Celebrity)

(And also for all of you "straight" girls who want to stalk someone- pic from here)

 I turned to brag to my man.

"Babe, check it out!  I ate fast food for a month and lost 4 lbs!" I shouted, loud enough for the guys in the weight room to hear and gawk and for the women on the treadmills to pout with jealousy. (Don't worry, jealous-treadmill-ladies, you can buy my book on Amazon in a few weeks.)

JT looked up briefly from his stretching (obviously not catching the magnitude of this discovery and how he is be married to a soon-to-be-celeb) and shrugged "Yeah, I guess you lost a lot of muscle weight, huh?"  Then he turned back to his stretching, but not before he checked me out (because that is what you do at the gym when your wife is standing on the scale like it is a podium flexing every muscle in her body).

Deflated I stepped from the scale.

That would explain why I lost weight- but my jeans were tighter.  Apparently I exchanged muscle for flab.  Talk about a sad discovery.

I will probably still write the book.  I am not ready to let go of the dreams of being on The New York Times Best Seller's List or of Portia de Rossi being a little jealous of me.  I will just have to change the title:

The Fitness Phenomenon (Subheading: How to lose weight while still gaining inches.) (Sub-subheading: You will probably feel pretty sick on this diet.  You may even lose energy, focus, and the sense of what good food actually tastes like.  But you will lose muscle weight, and therefore feel like a rockstar on the scale at the gym.  Or in your bathroom, if you have a scale there.)

I think the book will be available by Christmas.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Worst First Day of School Ever: Part II (& Bullying)

I know, I know, you have all been refreshing your screen, checking your phones, and stalking my blog to find out how it all went down after The Worst First Day of School Ever.  So, as not to disappoint my fans, here is the follow up:

Riley came home from school happy.  She returned the next day, happy.  She got off the bus- still happy!  Apparently the event that scarred me (and all of my readers) was much less horrific to her.  That isn't to say we didn't have another little incident (which I alluded to in my last post), but it was minor in comparison...

Anti- climatic, right?

"I added this to my blog roll, forsook food and sleep and social interaction, and sat next to my computer for a week waiting for that?!" that is what you are all thinking right now.  Sorry.

But wait...  I did learn something.

Besides the fact that I am a teeny tiny bit overdramatic (which we already knew)  I apparently have some other issues...

The thing that I realized (while rewriting 3 drafts of hate-mail to her teacher, after the very minor incident on Friday, threatening to take Riley out of her class, remove her from the school, and begin home schooling-- *now we are all laughing at the idea of Katie homeschooling* ha ha ha) is that all of this might be coming from somewhere deeper.

I was bullied when I was in middle school.
(Holy Crap, did I really just admit that to the entire universe and the 8 people who read this blog?!)

(I just realized that this may not be earth shattering to anyone else, you may be yawning right now, but that was a big deal for me to write.)

I recovered (from being bullied and then reliving it on my blog) and actually had a really fun and successful High School career.  In fact, I thought it didn't really affect me.  (But did you notice how I just skipped over any details of the bullying to talk about how I recovered and pretend like it never happened?)   I thought that because I was able to make really close friends and have fun and become the Junior Class Vice President (Do you like that Title Dropping?  I sound cool, right? You could also call me the Class Clown- sorta.  And you could read this post about me being the Class Clown.) and other cool things, that the bullying really hadn't followed me.  But watching Riley's first week of school, I am realizing that I might have been wrong.

When Riley was crying on Friday (mainly because she was exhausted and her teacher wasn't there, and the para-educators stared at us like we were aliens with 6  green heads instead of helping her calm down) I knew I needed to walk away.  I knew she needed to be in school.  I knew she would calm down and enjoy the rest of her day.  I knew it would all be fine...

But all I could think about was how I abandoned her.  I cried (a lot, like, hysterical, writing mean emails to the teacher crazy lady crying) and felt like the world's worst mom.  When I could finally verbalize my feelings to JT he pointed out that I was not being a bad mom at all.  But all I could think about was how I left her there.  I am suppose to be her advocate.  I am her defender.  I am the one who will keep her safe and protected.  And I think a lot of the guilt stems from being bullied.

I hated going to school.  Like, hated - faked sick - skipped school - got horrible grades - scared to walk home - hated Middle School.  And seeing Riley cry made me want to grab her and run away.  It also made me want to attack the school and the teachers and Principal for allowing my daughter to be so sad.  (Again, I realize how normal this all is for Kindergarteners and that Riley is not being bullied.)  I am terrified of her hating school the way I did.  I am scared of her going from a kid with good grades and confidence to someone who fails classes and doesn't make eye contact.  I am worried that no one will look out for her.  And I am especially afraid that that will be me.

Thanks, whoever posted this on my facebook years ago.  I know you all needed a visual of the Middle School Katie. (Bottom Right)

The thing is-  I am fine now.  (Right? Maybe not. Obviously not if I am freaking out at Kindergarten.  I think I need therapy.  Josh, you could make a lot of money off of all the therapy I probably need. You owe me anyways for making you so famous by linking to you on my very popular blog.)  I thought that surviving hard things made me stronger.  I thought it allowed me to look at my children and believe that they, too, could overcome hard things.  But I guess I just don't want their challenges in life to be the same challenges I had.  I don't want them to make my same mistakes, have my same heartbreaks, fail the same classes.  (Although if they do, I can tell them how to hide a Report Card so that I will never find out.)   I guess every parent wants to protect their children from heartache.  And we probably focus on whatever heartaches we experienced and try to avoid those ones.  Chances are, she will have her own set of struggles (that hopefully don't involve being scared to go to school) and my job will be to be there for her in those struggles.

I think the Worst First Day of School Ever may not have been as traumatic for Riley as it was for me.  And I can only hope that it was the worst day she will ever have at school.  (However unlikely that is.)

What I do know, is that I had a wonderful talk with both the Teacher and the Principal at her school. (After I got really upset, and maybe cried a little.)  I really loved them and felt assured that my daughter will be loved and looked after at school.  And hopefully Riley knows that her mom was there for her and will be no matter what she faces.

I also know that if anyone ever considers bullying my daughter- I will kick their butt so bad they will be hiding themselves in the dumpster.  (Ok, I never actually had to do that, but it makes a way better story if you think that I did.  There goes my talent for exaggeration:)

P.S. Does that last paragraph sound like I might have some pent up anger issues?  Again, thank goodness we know a good therapist.

P.S.S. So that you don't feel too bad for me, here is a picture from my High School Reunion a few years ago.  I think we all turned out OK.

Thanks again, whoever tagged me in this picture on facebook, I am obviously lame at taking/saving pics like this.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

My ways are not your ways

My ways are not your ways

It’s interesting how difficult this has been for me to put into words.  Some of you were there when I tried to verbalize this in church about a month ago.   But I cried and stammered so much that I am sure you were just as confused as I was.  (“At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you ever close to anything that could be considered a rational thought.  Everyone in this room is now dummer for having listened to it.” 10 points if you can name that movie).  And yet, the words have always been there.  Sitting right on my bed stand, next to me every night, in Isaiah.

Isaiah 55:8-9
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Or in other words: he knows better than us.

I found this verse a few weeks ago while I was reading the scriptures in the Temple.  I actually followed a footnote from Mosiah that led me to Isaiah.

Mosiah 4:9
“Believe in God… believe that he has all wisdom, and all power… man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.

Sitting in the Temple, I was learning the same lesson I have been learning for years.  Again.”

That He knows better than I do.

Back in the beginning of summer we were getting ready to move.  We didn’t know where, exactly.  We knew we wanted to be close to campus so that JT wouldn’t have to commute and so that I could be in the City- which has been a life long dream of mine.  (maybe a little more of the latter)  We were on the waitlist for the U.W. Student Housing and had been told it could take anywhere from 6 to 18 months to get in.   And the rest of the housing in Seattle was so expensive it seemed nearly impossible to move there on a student budget.  We were starting to feel discouraged.  After all, I had been praying about this for months and the only answer I had received was that it would all work out and be clear in the end.  So when would it be clear?

While our family was at Disneyland the idea came to me that we could rent out our friend’s basement while we waited for student housing to become available.  That would buy us some time while we waited for things to work out (and become clear).

It wasn’t actually necessary that we move out of our own house.  But it would mean saving 10’s of thousands of dollars in Private (that is Non-Student) Loans to cover our mortgage.  And we had always planned on renting out our house during school.  In fact, we bought our house with the intention to live in it for a year or two and then move somewhere out of state for P.A. school and rent it out while we were gone.  We just never expected to get accepted to U.W.  (notice: my ways are not your ways)

So there we were.  Choosing to rent out our house (to save tons of money) for a few years and down size to student housing.   But it would be OK, we would be living in the City, my dream come true.

Thankfully, our friend agreed to rent out her basement to us.  She was pretty much alone in this large, beautiful home, after all, and was happy that she could bless our lives as well.  (And let’s face it, she loves our kids and they love her.  It’s a win win.)

But a few weeks before we were planning to move in, the call came from U.W. Student Housing that there was a unit available with our name on it!  We were in shock.  (So much shock that I ended up being pulled over by a cop and given a ticket for speeding, that kind of shock.) 

I was ecstatic.  My dreams were finally coming true.  You all know how rough these years have been on me.  (That is, if you have continued to read my whining about it on my blog for 3 years.  If you just started reading my blog it looks like you have some catching up to do.)  I felt like I finally caught a break.  I felt like there was actually something in this for me.  I felt validation.  I felt like one of my dreams was coming true.  I felt like Someone really had been listening to my prayers for all of these years.  And I felt excited to be a City Girl.

We drove up to campus to check it out.  And we felt nothing.  Nothing.  No excitement, no peace, and certainly no clarity (which if you remember from the beginning of this post- was what I have been waiting for all year).  We prayed.  And the answer we got shocked us both.  (Luckily I wasn’t driving this time- we couldn’t afford a second ticket in one week.)

We felt like we needed to stay with our friend.  (In our friend’s basement to be exact.)  What?!  Right when I felt like Heavenly Father was finally handing me one of my dreams, when He was finally compensating me for my support and sacrifice these years, when He was actually listening to what I wanted, and giving me this one wish, He was going to take it away?

But that is just it.  He didn’t take it away.  He left it there on the table.  And then quietly asked me not to pick it.  (My ways are not your ways) He gave me what I had been begging for, and then asked me not to take it.  I knew it as clear as anything.  There it was, finally: clarity.

So we moved our stuff across the street and down the road.  We left our house and our swing set (Ok, strangely I miss the swing set more than anything, even more than my walk-in closet) and turned down U.W.’s Student Housing (and a life in the City) and we moved in to a basement.  Immediately I felt judged.  I felt like everyone thought we lost our house, that we were too broke to live on our own and were living off of charity, or that we were crazy for turning down student housing.  I felt embarrassed.  How could I explain this decision?  How could I tell people I own a house across the street, but live with a friend?  (In a pretty big basement, actually, with a really loving “landlord”.  About the best rental situation you can get.) How could I explain that I stayed in a suburb when I wanted the City?

(My ways are not your ways)

And then, on Friday, I took Riley to school.  If you read the last post you know we have had our traumatic moments with Kindergarten.  Friday was just as bad (don’t worry, she will not be scarred for life).  Riley was late to class because of a Doctor’s appointment.  She got sad and said she didn’t want to go to school.  (Not because of the first day of school, she is well over that and loves her teacher- but because she is an exhausted Kindergartener who misses her Mommy and her little brother and sister.)  When I took her to the class- there was a substitute teacher.  (Dun, dun, dun….) Things fell apart and ended with Riley being pried off of me, again, only worse than last time, and sobbing and begging me not to go. 

The scene was similar to last week, with me going to the car and sobbing.  (Seriously, guys, if this doesn’t scream “Katie needs meds- she is having nervous break downs on a daily basis!!” I don’t know what does.)  Luckily, I have a close friend who is also a teacher.  She kindly explained how common this is with little ones.   She confirmed how quickly they calm down when the parent finally leaves.  And reminded me that I am not a bad mom.  And as I cried to JT about feeling like the world’s worst Mom for leaving my baby girl crying at school again, he reminded me that she is Ok.  Not only is she resilient, but she actually needs this.  Everyone has to go to school.  And everyone has to do things that are hard, that they may not want to do.  And it won’t help Riley if I am whisking her away from any situation that hurts a little.  (Before you decide to comment and judge, remember, you don’t know the whole story here.  Things are resolved with the first day of school. ((and I promise to Blog about  Part II next)) She is fine.  She came home happy and smiling.  Public Schools aren’t evil… not altogether.  I defend her and fight for her and she knows it. )

As JT held me, crying about how hard this was for me, I heard it again:

My ways are not your ways.

Or in the words I would say to her:
Riley, darling, I love you so much.  I hate to see you cry.  I hate to see you hurt or confused or scared.  I hate to walk away when you are begging me to stay.
But I don’t really walk away.  I look in the window and see you sit back down at your desk.  I watch you recover and get stronger.  I see you in 20 years with a college degree as a successful woman, and I laugh at the idea of agreeing to let you quit school when you were in Kindergarten.  I laugh at the idea of keeping you away from the thing that will make you stronger, and wiser, and eventually much happier. 
I know you don’t understand right now.  And how could you?  You are only five.  But I know what I am doing.  My ways are higher than your ways. 

So here I am.  The child.  But I am also the parent.  I have a small idea of what these verses mean.  And I am beginning to believe them.

I don’t really understand.  I am not positive why this is right.  (why we live with a friend) I just know it is.  I think I always thought that if something was “right” it would also be easy.  You always hear people say that they knew something was right because “things just fell into place” or “it all just made sense”.  That does not seem to be the case for us.  Right means right, it doesn’t mean easy.  It doesn’t mean obvious, or logical, or fair.  It just means that it is right.  And it certainly doesn’t mean that right is always what I want to be right.

There are moments when this is hard.  When I miss my swing set.  When I feel judged by others.  When I feel bad for my friend that her quiet house is being taken over by Tylers.  When I wonder why things are working out this way.   But I have to remember that His ways are not my ways and go back to Mosiah.

“Believe in God.”

And if He is any kind of parent, (and we know He is the Best Parent) He hates to see me cry.   Or scared, or confused or disappointed.  But he also sees the end from the beginning.  And he can see me 20 years from now, when I am successful and happy.  And he knows it is because of the ways he is teaching me, and blessing me, and correcting me right now.
And chances are – He is laughing.