Friday, May 15, 2015


About three months ago, I was approached by a friend, wondering if I could help her out with a mural she was coordinating for her daughter's band teacher. I said I'd be happy to do it, then all but forgot about it while I waited for her to give me more specifics. When she finally gave me the dozens of pictures and ideas that she had for me to work from, I had about a week to make it happen. (!!) Lucky for her, I work pretty well under pressure...I was practically the queen of procrastination, growing up. ;)

I have to say, it was fun picking out art supplies for the project, setting up my own space, and carving out as much time as I could that week. I don't know why it's so hard for me to make creative time for myself, but this commission got me thinking that I really need to. 
I set up the dining room as my mock studio, since it was easy to work on and off in there, and there was plenty of natural light. Plus, we hardly ever use that room, so it didn't really disrupt our lives too much. Which is what got me thinking, why don't we just make this permanent?! So we'll make it our occasional dining room, with storage and everything I need for my studio. Something kind of like this:
Beautiful, right? I could definitely produce good stuff in a space like that. Plus, it looks "normal" enough to use as a dining room when needed. 
I did two big pieces for the band teacher- one 2'x2' mural of the band in marching formation.
And one 2'x4' mural of the memories and trips the band has taken over the past decade or so.
Besides a suggested general layout and source material, I pretty much had creative control over this project. Their school color is purple, the other colors- including the metallics, I chose.
I think they turned out pretty well. Not that I'd hang them in my house, but I think they work for their intended purpose- at school, over their teacher's desks. The students all added their signatures around the borders, which I think was a meaningful touch.
It was harder than I thought handing them off, mostly because it was such a rushed project. I really didn't have any time to sit and stew over it and change things. With all my new-found time, I felt like it was time to get moving on house projects. And I have! I've painted our foyer, the front door (on the inside), and bought a new rug and light with the money I earned. I started building a pair of stools to go under the console in the entry too, inspired by some pretty upholstered ones I saw on One King's Lane. I've also gotten to work painting our fireplace, the upstairs bathroom (which is still awaiting tile), and finalizing colors for the main living areas.

Paul must have noticed my new found zeal to get things done, because he gave me an air compressor and nail gun for Mother's day!! Now board and batten in the dining room (er, studio) can happen! And crown molding throughout the rest of the house!! I'm loving having something to work on (besides laundry and dishes) and having real progress to show for it. I'll have to post an update of the foyer once it's finished. Hooray for projects!

p.s. Thank you for all of your kind comments on my last post! I think it's a topic that I might have felt too taboo talking about a few years ago, but I'm coming to realize how healing it is to share these experiences. I'm grateful to have so many strong, supportive women in my life.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Moving Forward

"Godly fear is loving and trusting in Him. As we fear God more completely, we love Him more perfectly."
—David A. Bednar, "Therefore They Hushed Their Fears"

The app on my phone sent me a reminder this morning, 12 weeks. I'm still trying to figure out how to shut it off. About a week ago, and just days after telling family and a few close friends, the heart beat and the tiny squirmy body that was once growing inside of mine suddenly wasn't. At first I was numb, rationally telling myself I had seen this coming all along. But the wave of emotion didn't take long before it engulfed any defensive walls I'd put up.

Almost exactly two years ago, I held Lydia for the first time. It was a moment of instant love and adoration for this perfect baby who I finally got to meet after an uncomfortable nine months. But that moment was quickly followed by an overwhelming feeling that we weren't done. It was terrifying. Terrifying enough that I never mentioned that feeling to Paul for a few months. I remember his expression of shock, because he had had those impressions too, but would NEVER had brought it up if I hadn't. It was a scary moment for us, but we just sort of tucked that fear away for a later date. Right now we had four kids. We were adjusting our lives to care for four tiny human beings, and that was enough.

There's a popular thread that's been going around Facebook for a while now about so-called "good samaritans" calling the cops on "bad mothers" who leave their kids unattended for brief periods of time. As outlandish and far-removed as these reports sound, part of me wonders how long it will be before I'm brought in and questioned for seeming neglect. You see, I let my kids play outside, by themselves. I let the older boys wander off and play in the nearby woods where I can't see them. I often leave Lydia in her crib while I walk across the street to the bus stop. Obviously, I physically can't helicopter my kids like our culture seems to demand, but don't intend to either. Adding one more child to our circus still scares me, but for even more reasons than it once did. I'm sure we are already being scrutinized for our bare feet, dirty faces and lack of constant supervision. The attack on the family really is starting to feel crushing, and I sometimes have to remind myself why I'm in the fight.

When we found out we were pregnant, it was a bit of a shock, but only because it came so fast. It felt like I'd just jumped into a rushing river, blindfolded, trusting that God had my back and that I would somehow make it to the other side with His help. I trusted His timing, and felt comforted in knowing that He knew what I needed more than I did. I kept waiting to feel pregnant, but never did. I was a little tired, but the morning sickness never came. I didn't want to complain about not feeling sick, but still, this was a little unsettling to me. At my first appointment, I requested an ultrasound just to see it for myself. When I saw the wiggling legs and arms and the regular heartbeat, those fears seemed to subside for a moment. That day, with some hesitation, I told our kids. Then I began to tell others, with that same unexplainable reticence. But for whatever reason, it never felt real the same way our other kids did.

So it really didn't come as a huge surprise when I first knew that I was miscarrying. I scheduled a doctor's appointment for the next day, and came in to face the music. When it was confirmed that the baby was no longer alive, it finally hit me. I was a mess.

Even in those really tough moments, it was obvious to me that this was an experience I was meant to have. I suddenly had much clearer eyes and deeper empathy for the many women in my life who I knew had also gone through this. That pain is real, and until that point, I had mostly taken pregnancy for granted. I was grateful for the simple reminder that God is in control, that He is the author of life - not me.

I've come to understand my stewardship a little better. As much as I love my kids (and I really, really do!), I know that God's love for them is even more than I can comprehend. They are His, and I am entrusted with them for such a short, but vital time. I will be accountable to Him for any neglect or abuse. Kind of makes the societal pressures seem silly when I really think about it. It is amazing to know that He trusts me to care for another one of His children, whenever that might be. As for today, I am ok. I'm perhaps even a little relieved to have a moment to pause and reflect on why I'm crazy enough to want five children. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Baby Girl is TWO!

It's funny how much a child can change you in such a short period of time. Two years ago, I was the contended mother of three, wondering how on earth I was going to handle ANOTHER baby. Lydia came, that miraculous love instantly flowed, and our family has never been the same since. 
Lydia has so much personality. She came to this earth ready to DO stuff. She is undeterred by her bigger brothers and sister, and generally rules the roost around here. 
 Lydia is a huge fan of her older brothers, but mostly she wants to be with Nora all day. Nora is usually only bothered by this when she's trying to clean her room and Lydia is getting in the way, or when Lydia is demanding whatever it is that Nora is wearing or holding. But for the most part, these two cuddle muffins were made for each other. Lydia has the imagination and playfulness that Nora has missed out on, being the only 'big girl' in the family for so long.
 Lydia also adores her Daddy, and gives the best hugs, accompanied by an enthusiastic "DADDYYYYY!!!" when she sees him walk through the door after work. She is really sensitive to who might be missing whenever we go places. Like if Paul is driving separately and she thinks we've left him, she'll wail for a good five minutes. Same with her siblings.
 This isn't a common thing (yet!) but Lydia has started refusing naps, and then usually takes them anyways when I'm not looking. When this happens, she's most often in her big reading chair with a giant pile of books scattered around her. That's her spot most mornings too. Her routine when she wakes up is very particular- Ben gets her out of her crib and leaves, she shuts her door behind him, then she goes to town "reading" her books for about a half hour. After that, she's ready to be social. But you don't mess with her before she's had that reading time! Seriously.
 Lydia is a builder. She loves her Duplos, so we got her a big set for her birthday. She was pretty excited to have more to work with!
 The day of her birthday, I was also teaching Joy School here at our house. Lydia is usually pretty chill about this, and her birthday was no exception. (The last time we had it here was a different story...lots of drama)
I love how easy to please two year olds are in the present department. 
 She was so excited about all her presents.
 For her cake, I used one of her presents (some Frozen figurines) to decorate it. The frosting wasn't much to look at, but it is a REALLY good recipe I recently got from a friend. Usually I'm not a fan of frosting, but this stuff kicks a 'meh' cake up a notch. Anyways. Back to Lydia... :)
 When she saw the cake for the first time, she kept saying "Olas!" over and over. She had been talking about birthday cake for weeks and weeks, and was thrilled when she finally had one!
 She even blew out her own candles.
 This is what happens when I try to take a picture with all the kids. Peter and Lydia. Sheesh.
Lydia loves animals of all kinds. It's fun taking her to the zoo (but only if you bring enough snacks, I've wisely learned).
 We also recently went to Purina Farms to pet the bunnies and baby animals. She still talks about the "Doggy Show" that she insisted on watching twice while we were there.
 Lydia is my fearless girl who will climb up the playground steps and go down big slides all by herself with no one at the bottom to catch her. And if you even try to hold her hand in a parking lot or carry her, you'd better watch out. She walks BY HERSELF thank you very much. And she climbs into the car and into her car seat by herself too. Thankfully she lets me "help" with the buckles.
 Lydia still loves boots of any kind, and is really good at getting them on by herself.
Lydia is comfortable in her own skin. I love her confidence and creativity and her fierce devotion. I'm excited to watch who she becomes as the "toddler" wears off and the girl emerges. Love this girl.

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Long Blah

It's funny with all the flurry of good things I've been involved with recently that I've put off blogging this long. We've had a pretty mild winter, but the tail end of it just DRAGGED. And I think I've been feeling a bit blah because of it. We got snow, snow and more snow. Not many school days off (maybe one? I can't even remember now), but it took a long time for it all to completely melt. Now, at the very end of March, we're finally seeing the first tiny buds of Spring popping out- not a moment too soon in my mind!
Disney on Ice with the girls. After a fiasco with a dead car battery and no cash for parking, we finally made it! 
Lydia was NOT happy about the shortened church schedule we had because of the snow.
She loves going to nursery, and thrives on routine. 
At the Blue and Gold Banquet. Since we only had three boys, we joined up with another group for this. 
Peter and I went to his friend's birthday party at a huge arcade/indoor amusement park. It was crazy.
I can't really account for most of February. The plumbing thing was the biggest issue, and we finally decided it wasn't worth the hassle of going through the home owners insurance to get the pipes fixed (they would have maybe done a band-aid job if we'd pushed), so we had someone come and replace the whole stack from the second floor bathroom all the way down to the basement concrete. Peace of mind, I tell you! We will replace the rest of the cast iron pipes in one more phase, and then plumbing should be a worry of the past here! The plumbing was our only main concern moving in, so it will be nice to have it out of the way. We're still living in the middle of a lot of drywall dust, but I've been getting motivated to make the affected areas OURS, which is a good thing.
The boys finished up a mini karate program after school. They both earned their white belt.
I FINALLY got around to finding us all a new doctor near our house.
And Nora was less than thrilled when she learned she had a few shots to catch up on.
For scouts one week, we made periscopes with the boys. They were a hit! 
March was a big month for family. I got to fly out on my own to my brother's wedding. It was so nice being free of any responsibilities for a weekend and see ALL of my siblings again. It's been years since we've all been together, and it was the very first time all of us got to be in the temple. I could not have been happier about the circumstances for meeting either. My brother Nathan deserves every happiness in the world, and is now getting that in his beautiful bride Jasmine! I can tell they are going to be a pretty fantastic couple.

Then just a week later, we had my parents come here to visit. They came on my Dad's birthday, and stayed until the following week. It was a wonderful week filled with trips to the library, the art museum, and the botanical gardens. The kids had plenty of story time and one on one time with them, and things GOT DONE, I tell you! So many of the little things I've been meaning to get to magically got done, and the drywall in the bathrooms made a lot of progress. My Dad got a swing put up  for the kids, which they were thrilled about! The funniest moment was when the piano got tuned (my Mom has offered to do this for years, and finally talked me into it), and the guy pulled out this giant piece of string-isolating felt that the last piano tuner had left in there (along with some piano tuner's business card, dated 2001)?! Yep, it plays a lot better now. Thanks, Mom! It was just good to have them here, getting to know our kids in their natural environment, and our kids getting to know their Grandma and Grandpa better.

Sorry about the long catch up post. The poor neglected blog can only get better from here, right?! ;)

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Strings and Other Things

It's hard to believe that we're already eight days into February. This winter has been so mild with plenty of warm days sprinkled in between the really cold ones. I'm so grateful for that! But of course the kids are not. We haven't had a single snow day, and not even one chance to use Peter's snow ball maker he got from Nora for Christmas. I guess I wouldn't mind one good snow, but then I'm ready for Spring. I'm itching to get working in the yard. 
January was a flurry of activity for all of us. The boys used their New Years resolution lists to tell us that they were ready to start playing instruments- and NOW. So we set to work finding instruments and teachers. 
 Peter is taking lessons at a music center run by a community college. The building itself is very cool- very arts and craft. Benjamin is taking lessons from an old retired middle school music teacher out of her home.
 Ben's been learning violin at school with all the other third graders (school issued), and decided he wanted to get an early start learning the cello. Next year, he'll get to bring his cello to school. The music department is actually one aspect of their new school that I've been really impressed with. Benjamin has really taken off, and is a dedicated practicer.
 Peter started on the violin, and is doing really well. He's learning all of the basics, absorbing it all at his own pace.
Cub Scouts has been continuing. I am such a novice at the program, so it helps to have more seasoned women in there with me. We went to the City Museum to kick off the new year. Those boys have SO much energy, it's great! We've been busy planning out the next few months for that, with the Blue and Gold Banquet, the Pinewood Derby, and lots of catching boys up on their requirements in between. 
I was also released from my calling with the Young Women, which I'd been expecting for a while, but that didn't make it any easier! I miss those girls. Now I'm teaching the 7/8 year olds in class each week, which brings fresh challenges! They are a sweet bunch. This picture is of one of their drawings/testimonies of Joseph Smith's first vision.  
It's kind of fun being in the primary room with Peter and Nora now. Peter still talks about how he wishes I were HIS teacher (which I had the option to do, but chose not to). He is just his own man. Almost every day, he brings home a new project he made in kindergarten out of recycled objects and tape. He wanted to demonstrate this one right away for me. It's a helmet and breastplate. :)
 Nora and Lydia have lots of time together these days, which I'm really glad about. I registered Nora for kindergarten a few weeks ago (!?!?) so these days are fleeting! They've started coordinating outfits all on their own, which is completely adorable.
 Nora is sweet most of the time with her sister, but when she isn't, I can hardly blame her. Lydia is almost two now, and as delightful and adorable as she can be, she can also be pretty tempestuous and irrational. Like when she randomly threw herself out of her crib in a fit of rage because she didn't want a nap. Or when she threw herself down the stairs because she was mad about...something. Or when she screamed in the middle of the night until I came and got her, and refused to go back to bed because she wanted to sleep on the floor. And the half dozen other times she's tried taking a nap on her floor, first shutting her door. Her language is getting a lot better, and she does talk a lot. Unfortunately, half the time I have no idea what she's saying.
 Having said all that, she really is adorable, and melts my heart by the minute. Here she is, doing her own thing next to our Joy School set-up.
 Our house hasn't seen any changes recently except for the hole that was opened up in our downstairs bathroom...
 We discovered that the discoloration on the ceiling was actually coming from a leak in the pipes above it. And of course those pipes couldn't be accessed from below, so we had to start ripping out the wall in the upstairs bathroom.
Now lest you think we're just reliving past nightmares, I'm actually feeling pretty grateful right now. We knew that the pipes were older going in when we bought this house, and catching this during the first year was great- because it's all covered by our home owners insurance. And since this bathroom is such a mess already, we'll just go ahead and tile it. Part of me just wishes it was the other bathroom that needed immediate attention. All in good time....that's what I have to tell myself about the long list of projects I have constantly stewing in my head. All in good time.