May 14, 2012

The Call of Motherhood

**This is M in the A-Z series**

So I just happened to get to the letter 'M' shortly before Mother's Day and I thought it appropriate to reflect on motherhood. It's been on my mind anyway because I am privileged to know so many amazing mothers. I mean, I am surrounded by women who (on a daily basis!) teach me to be more patient, kind, tough, and that none of our kids are perfect. Really, most of the kids I know pick their noses and eat it at one time or another, poop in their brand new Dora underwear, have a double barreled snot gun that you "forget" to wipe for awhile, call you stupid, say "I hate you!", and refuse to sleep through the night at one time or another. There is nothing better to me than to see one of my friend's children misbehaving so gloriously bad at church that we all cringe in pity for the mom as the struggling, kicking, sometimes screaming, red faced child is quickly taken out of Sacrament meeting. And you know why? Because it's a reminder that I am not the ONLY one who has kids that are not perfect and that all of us mothers have a bad day here and there with our children.

Mothers are amazing creatures. And I'm not just saying that because I am one (although "tooting ones horn" on occasion is both healthy and normal...or so I'm told). I can't think of any other job as tough as motherhood. We have to be doctors, psychologists, behavior specialists, nutritionists, budgeters, chefs, and more...and all at the same time. We never clock out unless we are lucky enough to have a grandma or trusted babysitter take over for us for a time. We clean all manner of hazardous, human secretions, often teeming with bacteria, on a nearly daily basis...for free! There is no health code in motherhood. There is no time for a weak stomach when two of your three children are puking and you know both yourself and poor little number three are next. And usually hubby gets off scott free because he's at work with the grown-ups all day while this is going on. And on a more serious note, we take a giant heaping of responsibility to not only repopulate the earth, but to do it with well adjusted, responsible citizens that will be a benefit to society rather than a detriment. Phew! Makes me tired even thinking about it.

It's not even a pleasant job to become a mother. I mean, making babies the old-fashioned way is certainly pleasant enough but not all mothers are so lucky, and even if we are, pregnancy is no walk in the park. I know several women who have tried month after month to have a baby, only to see no second pink line or blue plus sign on one pregnancy test after another. They ache so badly to hold a baby in their arms only to be disappointed time after time. Many of them go on to have IVF treatment which requires weeks of being injected with hormones, dozens of invasive tests, and thousands of dollars. Only for about a 30% chance of success. Some are successful, others move on to adoption or other means to become mothers. These methods have their own trials and tribulations, and I have heard many tales of heart break.

So why do so many women want so badly to become mothers? Why do we, at one time or another in our lives, yearn for a little parasite to take up residence in our wombs and cause all kinds of havoc with our bodies for nine long months, or one to come into our lives via a birthmother and disrupt everything? I can't speak for everyone, but I believe the way I feel about it is somewhat in line with most mothers. And it's because there is no moment in life more joyful than holding that tiny bundle in your arms for the first time. I remember during all three of my pregnancies, the desire to meet my little baby (the one kicking and punching me in the ribs and bladder on a regular schedule throughout the day) was so strong, I could hardly wait for the pregnancy to end. And I have yet to be disappointed in the magic of that moment. Each time I have been so moved that for a moment, everything else in life has stopped being important, and it was just me and my baby, staring at each other for the first time.

It's also because there is something completely magical about watching a baby slowly morph into the toddler, child, and eventually adult they are meant to become. Seeing their personalities begin to show in infancy is both magical and disconcerting. I mean, it's pretty amazing that at the tender age of four months you can tell if your baby is going to be "laid back" or, well, not laid back. It's magic when they transform from infants that can't even see 8 inches beyond their face or stay awake longer than 15 minutes at a stretch to sitting, crawling, babbling little people with definite and obvious likes and dislikes. And I think we yearn to become mothers because the urge to love and nurture a child is strong in most women from childhood. I used to tell my mom that I wanted to have six kids when I grew the tender age of six! The reality of the trials of raising children has reduced that number for me, but I have always wanted to be a mother.

Now that I am a mother, I have infinitely more understanding and compassion for my own mother. I recall once when I was about 16 having a fight with my mom in the car. I'm sure she was right and I was wrong. But at the most heated point in our argument, and because I was a teenager with only marginal control over my emotions, I called her a bitch. It must have broken her heart to hear that come from a child that she had given up so much to raise. And that's the crux of it. We give up so much to have and raise children, something they will not always think to show gratitude for. And a good night's sleep is the least of it. But what I have gotten in return so far is a thousand fold more than I have sacrificed. When I look into my children's eyes, at the love and trust they so freely give to me, I know both the weight and joy of this most sacred calling. I can't wait to see who they are going to become. My life is full of chaos, tears, clutter, and dirty things. But it's also full of joy, love, laughter, and magical moments. I wouldn't trade my babies for anything in this world, even on our worst day together.

May 08, 2012

Lighthouses (the story of my conversion to the LDS faith)

**This is L in the A-Z series**

I think we all often hear life compared to the ever changing waters of the oceans. You might even say it's 'cliche' to compare life to an ocean. I think it's done so often because, well, it's true. There are times in life where everything is calm and glassy, just like the Caribbean Sea on a warm, sunny day. And at times life violently tosses us about with giant waves trying with all their might to sink our little vessels. You never know what you're going to get...oh wait, that's the box of chocolate analogy. But you get the idea.

So if life is like an ocean, then a lighthouse is like a beacon. Something to guide you into safe harbor when you are getting tossed violently about by the storms of life (cliche, I know). It's so easy to get off course, to find yourself in rough water and desperately seeking a way out. I know, I've been there so many times. And the crazy thing is, I didn't even realize I was seeking safe harbor in my younger years (the pseudo-adulthood known as the early 20's and even younger). Yet someone else knew I was seeking, and He placed people directly in my path along the way to help guide me safely in.

At the times that I needed them, I didn't realize their significance in my life. Or that their placement in my life was far from coincidental. But as they say, hindsight is 20/20 (I am on a roll with the cliches tonight). Looking back, I realize how dear these people are to me and how perfectly they were placed to keep me on a safe course. There are three people who were perfectly placed in my life to lead me to God, His church, my husband, and the happy life I have now. They were my lighthouses.

The very first person was a boy named John Peterson. Oh he is cute (I can say "is" instead of "was" because we're still friends)! He's apple pie, sunshine, California on a sunny day, and ice cream all rolled into one. And he knows it. He has a string of ladies about a mile long to show for it. But don't get the wrong idea about him because he's fabulous. He is kind, deep, spiritual, and would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. I first met him when I was twelve and he was thirteen. His friend George passed me a note at school from John that said I was "georgous". I'm sure you can imagine that I was smitten after that.

John was my first boyfriend. We "went out" for a short time and our biggest step was hand holding, but his impact on my life was lasting. John is the first Mormon I had ever known on a personal level. And even in our youth, when we are wont to discard with astonishing speed the things our parents try to instill and that we know to be right on a deep level, he never seemed embarrassed about his religion. I learned a lot about the LDS church from John, but mostly I learned that LDS people were normal and didn't really have horns or sacrifice kittens and puppies every full moon to Joseph Smith. I was far from conversion at that point in my life, but it's safe to say I developed a deep respect for John and his religion. We have remained friends all these years and I have many letters we exchanged while he was on his LDS mission.

Next came Sara. My dear, wonderful Sara. I can't even put into words how much I love her or how much she means to me. At a time when I was drowning in loneliness and self involvement, Sara came into my life. She was all Morrissey, waist length hair, horn rimmed glasses, peasant skirts, and Doc Martens. And she was so wonderfully different, unique, and sure of herself. She was exactly what I needed the year my parents uprooted me to my third high school. By that point I was so weary of making new friends that I just sort of gave up and kept to myself. But then Sara came along. And we did all sorts of nerdy things together like write a poem titled "Poppy and Prepular Went to School". Um yes, I think one of us still has it somewhere.

It would be impossible to tell of all the ways Sara helped me in my life, but let's just say that without her, I think I'd be adrift somewhere in the outer rings of Antarctica by now. I can firmly say that it is because of Sara that I finally found the courage to do what I knew was the right path for me for years, join the LDS church. I was exposed to it for years through her. I would sleep over at her house on Saturday nights and attend church with her family on Sundays. I went to youth dances with Sara on many occasions, and had deep conversations about life with her at least 8,000 times. And when my heart was broken and I was at my lowest, I stumbled straight to Sara. It sounds dramatic, but it's true. The times in my life when I've been at my lowest, she has always been there to pick me back up.  How can you ever express gratitude to someone like this you ask? Why, write about her in a blog post that can only barely touch on just how important she really is.

The third person was another boy. His name was Andy. While John introduced me to the church, and Sara kept me focused on what was right, this boy was the final push I needed to embrace something that was frustratingly close and comfortable, but that still scared the bejeebers out of me. The Church didn't scare me, just the way my friends and family would react if I joined. Anyway, just as I was poised on the precipice of actually being baptized, but still scared to take the final step, I met Andy. He is sweet, cute, funny, charming as all get out, and just a wonderful person all around. Obviously I was boy crazy and the Lord used this to His advantage :).

I met Andy while he was fresh off his mission. We liked each other instantly. I'll never forget the first time we met. It was at a campfire, a singles ward activity. I saw him and asked Sara who he was. I then made her help me meet Andy. You know, I had her call him while I was sitting right there next to her, too scared to say a word, and arrange for us to "hang out" later. All three of us of course. Like many relationships among young people, ours didn't work out on a permanent basis. But like Sara and John, I owe him a big debt of gratitude for being the example I needed, for helping me learn about my new commitments, and most uncomfortably and inadvertently, making me realize I wanted to be so much better than I was at that time.

 He bought me my first set of scriptures. They were blue leather with silver edged pages and my name was engraved on them. The night he gave them to me we sat on my fireplace and read them. I have since gotten new scriptures but I still have my first set. Andy not only helped me realize my own testimony, he even baptized me. His great-grandmother sat in the audience and clapped when it was over (you're not supposed to clap). To this day I still smile at that memory. His mom had a party for me afterward at her house and invited pretty much the entire singles ward (this would have been really daunting in Utah, but in Texas an "entire singles ward" is a very manageable sized crowd). It was just the welcome into my new life I needed. And Andy was just the nudge I needed to take the final step.

Without John, Sara, and Andy placed so perfectly in my life, I'm not sure where I'd be right now. When we are right in the thick of life, it's incredibly hard to see that we are indeed on a path. It feels scattered, random, and frustratingly off course. But when we gain some distance, it is easy to look back and see God's hand in things. What seemed so random, scattered, and even sad, becomes clear and takes the shape of a path. A path that led us to where we are. I am grateful to God for loving me so much. I am grateful to the many people that led me to the family I have today. I sort of feel like I got the ultimate prize with the Church, Joe, and my kids. It just doesn't get any better than this.

May 04, 2012

Kids and the Things They Say

**This is K in the A-Z series**

It's no secret that I have the most funny, smart, and charming Aspie for a son. And it's also no secret that he says some of the most awesome things ever if you are my facebook friend. So I thought I'd write a little ode to some of the best things Noah has said to me over the years. Oh how I love this kid and all the things he says that no doubt originate from his amazing little mind.

Recently we were discussing bad words that aren't actually bad words. I'm not even sure how we got on the subject because we initially were reading scriptures together as a family. I think maybe we came across the word 'ass' or something in reference to a donkey. Anyway, Noah informed us that the word 'bitch' actually means female dog. We all had a good laugh over that and I was very amused that Noah was so entertained by the real meaning of the word 'bitch'. It was all fun and games until a little while later, when our dog Sonya walked into the room, he turned to her and said, "Hi Bitch!". And then it wasn't so funny anymore. There is no way I can remember all the witty and hilarious things he has said both intentionally and unintentionally, but here are some I can remember at the moment.

-When Noah was 3, he was obsessed with the state of Texas. I'm sure it was because that is where my parents live and he completely adores his Mimi and Papu. He used to sigh wistfully and say with more than a hint of longing, "Mom, Texas is the best planet ever". I never bothered to correct him, it was too darn cute.

-Joe used to let Noah play the game Metroid when he was about 3 years old (I know, parenting award of the year here). Every time the game character was walking through acid rain, he would turn to me and say, "Mom, I'm going through the ass of rain!". And he was so excited about it, like it was the coolest thing ever. The way he said acid rain never really bothered me, I thought it was cute.

-Noah was not a confident bum wiper until he was probably 6 years old. I can remember when he was 4, he told us he did not want to grow up. When we asked him why, he said, "I don't ever want to grow up because I don't want to ever wipe my own bum". Thankfully this was just a phase and he did eventually master this toileting skill :). I think he's realized that bum wiping is far from the worst thing we face as adults.

-Just the other night he was frustrated that we were making him practice piano. He threw his arms up in the air, put on his biggest pout, and said, "I'm just unfit for piano! Unfit!!". He's not, but he got to go all of spring break without practicing so I think it was hard for him to start again.

-Once, when Noah was younger, Joe asked him if he'd like a piece of cheese. He replied, "Dad, I don't have time for cheese" and even completed it with an eye roll.

I wish I could think of more. There have been so many Noahisms over the years. Let's just say that this boy keeps us entertained all the time :).
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