Friday, November 28, 2014

Full

Quiet.
The kids are tucked into bed,
Sam is on his way home from his quick run to his lab,
dishes are cleaned,
food is placed in the refrigerator.

I am reviewing the day...
Thanksgiving dinner round 1 with Sam's family
and round 2 with mine.
The frenzy of cooking and preparing in the morning
and the sleepy satisfaction that follows the feast.
Lincoln's ridiculous antics at dinner,
Talmage's 12ish cups of pink lemonade,
Wesley's dazed expression he gets when he slowly eats rolls by sucking on them.
1 ham and 4 turkeys (2 baked, 1 deep-fried, 1 smoked).
Laughing, joking, story-telling, reminiscing.
Cousins high-fiving, hugging, and playing at the park.

Through it all, I have a feeling of fulness--
full stomachs,
full hearts,
full refrigerators,
full homes,
full of gratitude.

The abundance is at times overwhelming and I can't help but feel guilty for enjoying so much plenty when there are so many who lack even the basic necessities of life.
(Especially when I see things like this.)
And with the gratitude for what we have comes the desire to someday be able to take strides to help reduce that gap between the wealthy and impoverished.

And our goal persists to live a simple life regardless of our circumstances,
because we truly believe that simplicity paradoxically creates abundance--
abundance of peace,
abundance of love,
and abundance of plain and simple joy.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thankful


My heart is so full of love and gratitude today.
Our thankful tree this year was decked out with handprint turkeys
and leaves tied on with twine,
stationed in a simple vase filled with acorns.
It has been brightening our windowsill above the kitchen sink
and it makes me smile to see the things our boys listed in gratitude.

Some of their most thoughtful/creative:
-that we moved here safely
-paper to draw on
-swords and shields (of course)
-snow clothes
-soldiers
-costumes
-that Heavenly Father made Mommy sooo special
(thanks for the brainwashing, Daddy)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Observing Discovery

It was a frustrating evening.
Amidst the general whining and chaos that always seems to exist just before dinnertime,
Lincoln was emptying cupboards and crying at my feet,
Talmage was insisting that he was starving to death and needed a snack NOW despite the fact that we were about to eat dinner,
and Sam called to say he was going to be getting home pretty late.
Wasn't it date night?

I was at my wit's end when Lincoln climbed up on the table for the umpteenth time that day.
And then the world stopped as I heard a high-pitched, "Hi!"

I looked over to where he stood perched on the table and saw that because it was dark outside and I hadn't yet closed the curtains,
he had discovered his reflection in the sliding glass door.
And, judging by the huge smile radiating from his face, he thought it was adorable.
"Hiii! Hi!" he said over and over again as he inched toward the edge of the table and climbed down onto a booster seat,
arm outstretched to greet the blurry image that he so admired.

And just like that, the frustration dissolved.
Here I was in my chaotic, busy home, observing the precious innocence and new discovery of my one-year-old.
I have the singular opportunity to devote all of my time to creating an environment suitable for these sweet spirits to thrive, to progress, to create, and to discover.
And I get a front-row seat to observe it all!
I get to re-experience life through the eyes of a child as I see my children learn and grow.

And though there are many frustrations, stressors, and tears (mostly from them, occasionally from me), there is no place I would rather be.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Brother and I


We have this children's song that always makes me think of my trio of boys when I hear it:

Guess who likes to throw a ball?
My brother and I.
Guess who's growing up so tall?
My brother and I.
Guess who likes to build things with saw and hammer and nails?
Guess who loves exploring, discovering new trails?
Guess who likes to race and climb?
My brother and I.
Guess who wrestles all the time?
My brother and I.
Guess you'll never know why I love him like I do
unless you're lucky and you have a brother, too!

I just love seeing these three grow together and be best friends.
Lincoln is actually starting to join in the fun of his own accord on occasion, and it melts my heart to see all of them interact together!

As I was writing down the words to the song, Sam wondered what I writing.
I started singing the song to him and he commented,
"That sounds like a fun song even though it's grammatically incorrect."

And that, friends, is yet another reason why I love that man.

Monday, November 24, 2014

From Loathing to Loving: My Ongoing Journey

At the end of my junior year of high school, I won a glamour photo shoot.
My camera-shy, awkward high school self was excited to have some nice pictures taken,
but part of me felt highly self-conscious as the photographer coached me on how to pose and how to smile. The teal rubber-bands on my braces caused me to smile unnaturally in an effort to disguise them and at one point during the photo shoot the photographer told me with some exasperation to "put some attitude into it!"

I was relieved when the last outfit change was complete and she was finally done taking pictures. I followed the photographer into a small room in the studio and she plugged the camera in. We went through the images, weeding them out until we were left with the one I decided I wanted edited and printed.
And then I sat in the chair and watched as she magnified my face to about 10 times its normal size and zapped out every imperfection. As she edited away the smattering of acne she looked at me and said, "Too bad we can't do this in real life, huh?"
I was further demoralized as she darkened my lips, increased my eye-makeup, whitened my eyes and teeth to meet a disgustingly artificial standard, and ultimately pushed the "magic button," as she called it, that gave me a flawless glow.

I walked out of that studio feeling ugly, incompetent, and objectified.
Seeing myself manipulated into some kind of Barbie-doll ideal--distorted until I conformed to the world's standard of beauty--was disheartening.
And it only added to the self-image struggle I had dealt with for years.

For some reason, as I had approached my teenage years, any youthful confidence I had in myself withered away and an attitude of self-loathing became rooted within me.
I looked in the mirror and saw only imperfections.
My struggles to make friends and fit in contributed to feelings of insecurity about my personality and I became uncomfortable in social settings.
My perfectionistic attitude caused me to focus on my faults, and my self-esteem plummeted.
I knew I was of infinite worth and didn't question my divine nature as a child of God.
But I doubted that which I had to offer in my mortal realm and earthly capacity.
And for a while, those feelings of self-loathing were dominant in my mind and halted progress in many areas of my life.

And then, due to a variety of factors, I started to recognize my erroneous thinking.
Thanks in large part to loving, supportive parents and leaders, I started to see how this self-obsession was unhealthy and spiritually damaging, and I started to leave it behind.

But not really.

More accurately, I began to bury my feelings of self-hatred and send them to the back of my mind. I hated myself but was convinced that a focus on self was wrong and tried to direct my thoughts elsewhere. 
As I looked in the mirror I thought,
"I hate who I am, but it doesn't matter. I need to not dwell on myself."

And this mindset did help.
My confidence grew and I developed some deep and lasting friendships in college.
I had the opportunity to date a fair amount and met my husband early in my college days.
My marriage boosted my confidence. Knowing that someone had sought me out of his own accord, loved me unconditionally, and saw enough good in me to want to be with me forever was a rock I could fall back on when I encountered self-doubt.
I was happy as a new bride and young mother, and every time those feelings of insecurity tried to surface I would again push them to the back of my mind, bury them deep, and forbid myself to focus on them.

But recently those feelings of insecurity resurfaced and refused to be ignored.
Try as I might, if my mind wasn't occupied with something else it was kept busy criticizing everything about me.
And ultimately I stopped trying to bury them once again and acknowledged them.
And with that acknowledgment came a moment of profound realization:
It's not enough to ignore self-hatred. We have to develop a true love of self.

As I analyzed my many insecurities more closely, I realized that negative thoughts about myself actually prevented me from loving and serving others fully.
If I saw someone who was sitting alone, my feeling that I was an annoying person stopped me from sitting with them because I didn't want to bother them.
I had a hard time befriending people I classified as "beautiful," because my association with them brought to the surface feelings of self-criticism I had tried to bury.
I even had trouble accepting the compliments my husband gave me and occasionally wondered if he was actually genuine because I couldn't fathom how he could appreciate me.

Attitudes such as these were impacting my behavior in ways I had never before realized.
And it was then that I saw that a big change was needed...
a change that would lead to a sense of security and love of self
yet simultaneously increase humility as I recognized the divine Source of any good trait.
I realized that my self-hatred was a manifestation of ingratitude for the gifts and traits with which I have been blessed.

And while I have a long way to go in the journey of loving myself,
I feel that recognizing the problem means the battle is more than half won.
I can look in the mirror and see not imperfections, but the miraculous gift of a healthy body that can heal itself and nurture children in and out of the womb.
I can recognize that it's impossible for my personality to jive with everyone in the world but also acknowledge the fact that God has given me unique gifts that may help someone in need.
I can choose to accept the love of others and thereby love them more fully.

The Savior said, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you." (Matthew 5:44)
Let us follow His counsel and love all of God's children--
including ourselves.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Wanna-Be Farmgirl

I think I'm a wanna-be farmgirl.
Maybe it's because my mom grew up on a farm
and my dad had many farm experiences in his youth,
but there is something about the hard work and simplicity of the farm life that appeals to me.
I have this fantasy of someday owning a milk cow and a few chickens
and having an enormous garden and small orchard.
Somehow in my head, this all works with Sam being a university professor
and living in a tight-knit community close to neighbors.
Just the other day I convinced Sam that it would indeed be cool to have all of that
(he was a little hesitant about the cow part)
to teach these strapping young lads we have to work hard.
(Not to mention the fact that we can easily go through 4 gallons of milk per week even though I ration out their daily allowance!)

In the meantime, we have a little 1/5 acre yard
with two large trees that produced a surprising number of leaves.
With snow on the forecast in the upcoming days,
I knew we'd better get the yard ready for winter.

And as we began raking, I felt invigorated.
I kept thinking about how great yard-work is...
the boys get to run around the yard and "help" me as they desire,
the house stays clean since we're not in it,
I'm getting needed work done,
and it's often good exercise!

9 bulging trash bags and about 4 hours of raking later,
I was feeling thankful that we only live on 1/5 acre.
But, oh, that ache in my arms feels good!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Family Pictures: The Best and the Worst

We haven't had a real photo shoot as a family since I was just-pregnant with Lincoln.
I've been wanting to do family pictures for some time now,
and finally (somewhat sheepishly) asked my mom if we could have an early Christmas present and hire a long-time friend to take our pictures.
Of course, she agreed, and today we met in Salt Lake City for our photo shoot.
Alyssa was wonderful
(she even brought gummy bears to bribe smiles out of wiggly boys! worked like a charm.)
and I am so excited to see our pictures!

In the meantime, I thought I'd share some of my favorite family pictures with you.
Some are my favorite because I think they're just plain adorable.
And some are my favorite because...well...see for yourself


The Best

When Talmage was about 6 months old, a friend of ours from Church took our family pictures.
I loved this photo shoot!
I feel like she really captured the joy we felt as new parents
and the sweet light this baby brought into our lives.

My sister came for a visit the summer after Wesley was born,
and we set up a photo shoot on the porch swing Sam gave me for Christmas one year!
Once again, I love the joy this picture captures.

Words really can't express how much I love these three.

And I positively adore all the pictures she got of the boys together!
They are worth every single grass stain we got from throwing ourselves on the ground to get those smiles.

I was about 12 weeks pregnant with Lincoln when another friend from Church took these pictures for us! I love the feelings of peace and love they convey.


The Worst

Our photographers have been wonderful...
but sometimes we just aren't all that photogenic.
There's nothing really wrong with this picture...oh, other than the fact that Talmage is being choked.

My baby gets really aggressive about eating my chin giving kisses.

Talmage's face. Need I say more?

Well, at least three of us were having fun.

Apparently it's exasperating when Daddy plays with little brother.

Because a baby standing on the back of the porch swing is the most natural thing in the world.
As for the fogged-up glasses and sweat marks everywhere...well...have you been in Houston immediately following a rainstorm? It's a sauna.

So much for all three boys kissing me on the cheeks...and for me being happy about it.

I can't even...what am I even doing here? So awkward.

And this is probably the photo shoot that makes me laugh the most...
that one time my sister took pictures of us in freezing weather with a wind advisory.
We lasted 5 minutes and called it good.
Here Lincoln's spitting up, Wesley's inspecting the shoe Lincoln kicked off with great concern, Sam is laughing, Talmage is shielding his face from the wind, and I actually look semi-decent.
Figures.

Did I mention there was a wind advisory?

Probably the best picture of all...no question what the boys thought of the weather.

And here is Sam with his...4 children? Seriously though, don't I look like another kid on his lap?

We were shocked to find that one had actually worked in those conditions.

I'm excited to see the darling shots we got today.
And if we're lucky, there may even be some awesome outtakes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Peace

Every few weeks,
I get the opportunity to enter a place
perfectly pure.
The worries and cares of life pile up.
Frustrations and conflict echo through my mind--
concerns about the state of affairs in the world--
amidst the clatter of toy cars and the happy shouts of innocence.
I feel burdened.
I enter those beautiful temple doors weighed down.

And then,
though I seldom come out with more answers,
the burden is lifted.
Peace fills my soul
and my spirit is cleansed.
I approach life's problems with greater clarity
and I am filled with confidence that everything is going to be okay.

And everything is going to be okay.

"Come unto me, all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Boys Who Climb

It's so fun to have a third little boy and see ways he is like Talmage and ways he is like Wesley.
Talmage was never a big climber, but Wesley kept us on our toes constantly!
It kind of looks like Lincoln's headed down the same path...

(Both boys about 10 months)

(Both boys about 14 months)

If Lincoln stays on this path, this is what we're headed toward in the very near future!
Wesley climbed things all day long from about 12-18 months.

I sure do love these little crazies.
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