Friday, August 18, 2017

Perfect Days

Since it's summer,* I've been pretty lax about bedtime. My kids all have different nighttime habits. If I give Nicky the freedom to stay up as late as he wants, he will put himself to bed by 9:30 most of the time. With that same freedom, Daisy will fight her fatigue until she crashes on the couch. Then she'll eventually wake up and either A) come find me and tell me she doesn't feel good or that she thinks she broke a bone or B) shuffle her way to her bed and wake up the next morning wondering how she got there. Zoe's sleep patterns are all over the place because she is four, and four-year-olds should have 18-hour days instead of 24-hours days. Eva has decided in recent months to stop sleeping through the night, and just for the sake of being true to her two-year-old ways, she wakes up yelling at 5:45 a.m.

Last night, Nicky, Zoe, and Eva went to bed around 9:30 while Daisy stayed up watching Doc McStuffins. I brought Daisy a glass of water, and I thought, This would be Daisy's version of a perfect day - watching TV and being doted on.

Then I started thinking of what each of my kids' "perfect" days might be like.

I can think of two different versions of the perfect day for Nicky.

Version 1 would be waking up at an Anaheim hotel, enjoying a free breakfast (Nicky is frugal), and then spending the day at Disneyland with no sisters. At the end of the day, he'd go back to the hotel, sit in the hot tub for 15 minutes, the fall asleep watching the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon.

Version 2 would involve a day home from school with no sisters. He would have pizza for breakfast, a cheeseburger from the Habit for lunch, and sweet and sour chicken for dinner. He would spend a few hours wrapped in his favorite blanket watching TV in his room (in this fantasy, there is a TV in his room). He'd probably also appreciate playing a few board games with adults.

The perfect day for Daisy would, as I mentioned already, involve being doted on every moment. She would love to wake up and have breakfast brought to her in bed. Just like her brother, she would be in favor of eliminating all siblings for the day. She'd request a pedicure at the nail shop, lunch at Chick-Fil-A or McDonald's, and then freedom to wander the dollar store where she would buy a cart full of useless junk.  The day's schedule could be flexible as long as she is allowed to pick everything from what songs to listen to in the car to which route we take to Target. To be honest, she would probably thrive on being pulled around in a wagon with someone fanning her, and she would love to spend a fortune on claw machines.

Zoe's perfect day would include taking a three-hour bath with limitless toys. She, of course, would want her siblings gone. After her bath, she would want four hard shell tacos from Del Taco for lunch. She might want to go ride her bike around the block, but other than that, she'd just stay at home. She would be content to pack one of her 8 backpacks (that is not an exaggeration - she has a backpack obsession) with random toys and haul them in the living room to dump them out. She would spread towels all over the living room floor to make a "beach" and then sit on them to watch a show, possibly Phineas and Ferb, though she prefers to jump from show to show to show. She would probably like to have a friend come over, but it would have to be someone who will agree to do everything Zoe wants the exact way she wants to do it. She'd want to wear a costume and some make-up. For dinner, she'd want a kid's meal from Chick-Fil-A but won't eat it. Then she'd want to sleep in mom and dad's bed... without mom and dad.

On Eva's perfect day, she would be carried around from morning until night while drinking a sippy cup of milk.

As for my own perfect day, all I ask is for 24 hours with obedient children, a clean house, and NO FIGHTING. Simple, really.

*I started this post in June and finished it in August

Thursday, August 17, 2017

I Choose Sue

I've always had a fascination with choosing between a cook, a maid, and a nanny. Not that any of the three are a realistic option for me, but you never know... someday I might be held at gunpoint and forced to pick one.

It's hard to know which to go with.

I would love a cook to provide healthy meals for my family thrice daily. That would take a huge burden off my plate (pun intended, thankyouverymuch). But I also kind of enjoy cooking for my family, so it's not a responsibility I want to hand over entirely. I really only need a cook on days when I'm really busy... or really lazy. So while a cook would be awesome, I'm not sure it would be my first choice.

I long for a pristine house, so if I could have someone provide that for me, I'd be quite happy. The problem with a maid is that maids typically clean houses that are already clean. Maids dust and vacuum and clean glass. Not pick up the 1,098 random objects my two-year-old has emptied from various drawers throughout my house or dig chewed up carrots out of my sofa cushions. Perhaps having a maid might be more stressful for me than not having a maid because I'd have to have the carrot thing under control before the maid could do much.

I would love a nanny so I could have a daily break from my kids, but for my current situation (stay-at-home-momdom), a nanny would be a bit over the top. Sure, if I were returning to work, a nanny would be a wonderful asset for my family, but right now I would totally misuse the nanny. I would be like, "Here, nanny, take care of the children while I watch Netflix." I already struggle with being "present" with my children. I'm not sure having a nanny would be a wise choice for my character development.

Since none of the three are really ideal for my circumstances, I think what I really need is not a cook, a maid, or a nanny - it's an assistant!

My assistant would be available Monday-Thursday from 9-5, Fridays from 9-2, and Sundays 10-3.* Her responsibilities wouldn't be too hard; she'd mostly be an extra set of hands for me.

I'd be able to say stuff like, "Sue," (I named her Sue just now), "please hold Eva while I give Zoe a bath."

"Sue, please run to WinCo and buy a 2 lb block of cheddar."

"Sue, please stir the soup."

"Sue, will you run outside and grab the chicken eggs for me?"

"Sue, read me this book while I shower!"

(One of Sue's primary responsibilities is to read me stuff that my phone can't read to me. This is what my life has come to).

Having an assistant isn't about having someone to boss around. It's about relieving the stress of having to choose between two things all the time. I'm always dividing myself between people and tasks, and it keeps me from truly getting things done. Sue's purpose is to tackle the other thing - the one I'm not tackling at the moment.

So when I'm desperate to change the laundry before it starts to smell, but my kids are fighting, I can deal with the fight, and Sue can change the laundry.

When Eva falls asleep in the car and needs to be carried inside, but I also need to get the ice cream I just bought  in the freezer before it melts, I can carry the child, and Sue can take care of the ice cream.

Sue has the potential to meet my level of need for a cook, a maid, and a nanny without having to be exclusively one of those things.

So if ever forced to choose between a cook, a maid, or a nanny, I will first ask if Sue is an option. Because choosing Sue is a no-brainer.

*It's imperative that Sue come to church with us. We need as many responsible persons as possible to keep our pew under control. In fact, this idea is so genius that I might post a listing today for an assistant just for church. It's a good starting point. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Summer Fix

Summer vacation is quickly coming to a close. My kids start school on Monday.*  Usually, by this point, I'm more than ready to send my kids back to school, but this year, for the first time ever, I don't want them to go back to school.

I never thought those words would come out of my

The reasons I'm feeling this way are three-fold:

Reason #1: Nicky and Daisy have been pretty helpful while they've been home for the summer. I've realized that having Zoe and Eva home while Nicky and Daisy are gone is sometimes harder than having all four kids home.

Reason #2: I'm not ready for the responsibility that comes with having kids in school. Packing lunches, morning routines, carpooling all over the earth. In past years I've thrived on these things, but this year, I'm dreading it. I'm not looking forward to enforcing regular showers or supervising homework.

Reason #3: I don't want to send my kids out into the world. I just want them to stay home where I can shelter them from everything ugly, dangerous, and unholy.

Regardless of how I feel about the kids going back to school, it's inevitable. Summer break is coming to a close!

This summer has been a little on the boring side for us. Since I was finishing two classes and an internship well into July, we spent the first half of summer doing a whole lotta nothing. Finishing an internship with the kids home from school was harder than I ever thought it would be. I felt horrible about it, but I had to continually tell my kids that we wouldn't be doing a lot of fun things until I was done with school. I couldn't handle having friends over or taking my kids anywhere. I just had to hunker down and get school done. With a great amount of guilt, I put my kids on the back burner for those last several weeks. I kept them fed, but that's about it.

Since graduating, I've tried to be more present, more nurturing, and more fun.

(I have to confess, I'm not naturally any of those things. I have to work really hard to be those things for my children. I'm much more prone to doing my own thing and wanting the kids to entertain themselves).

There are a lot of things we didn't do this summer. We didn't go on a single hike. We didn't host any BBQs. We didn't have nearly enough game nights. We didn't go to any splash pads (I'm actually okay with this). We didn't have a garden or eat BLTs. We didn't hang out with friends much. We didn't do a lot with family. 

So perhaps there's a fourth reason I'm not ready to send my kids back to school. We didn't get our fix!

*Parents in our school district were given the opportunity to voice their opinion on whether the start of school should be planned around the eclipse. I didn't even know that this was something to be concerned about. Since school is starting on the day of the eclipse, our district is allowing kids to miss school without penalty. I didn't know that missing school to see an eclipse was a thing.

**This is the one thing my kids beg for incessantly that I go to great lengths to not have to do!  

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Regarding Reputations

In my conversations and circumstances of late, "reputations" have been a recurring theme. Reputations are beliefs or opinions that are held about something or someone. In recounting an interaction with another person the other day, I found myself stating, "She has a reputation for..." That led me to contemplate what that individual is known for - both the good and the bad.

Reputations are an interesting concept. They can be true or false, positive or negative. As I think about the reputations of those around me, I also consider my own reputations. Others might believe things about me that are true or false, but there's also the fact that what I think people think about me may be true or false. For example, I may think that my neighbors think I'm lazy. My neighbors might not think that at all, but if that's what I think they think, that will shape my self-concept.

In social psychology, this is called the "looking glass self," and the basic theory is that one of the factors that shapes our behavior is the way we *think* others view us - NOT the way people actually view us.

Are you with me?

Here are some of the components of my "looking glass self," in essence, the things I think I might be known for:

  • Being on time (I often worry that my headstone will read, "Here lies Britt who died right on time!")
  • Being an early bird and morning person
  • Having high expectations
  • Being a little on the critical side (or maybe a lot on the critical side)
  • Buying stuff at the thrift store (If I had a nickel for every time I received a compliment and responded with, "Thanks! I bought it from the D.I.!)
  • Meddling and getting involved in things that aren't my business (sometimes I just can't stay quiet)
  • Saying stuff I shouldn't (again, sometimes I just can't stay quiet)
  • Reading
  • Eating out a lot
  • Being a control freak
  • Being "stuck up" (this is one that people have actually voiced to me after they have gotten to know me. "I used to think you were so stuck up!")
  • Being creative (this is another one people have often voiced, but this one makes me uneasy)
Some of those are reputations I am okay with and others are reputations I don't want to have. Here are a few more reputations I don't want to have (and subsequently, hope I do not have):
  • Being unreliable or flakey
  • Being mean
  • Being judgmental
  • Being boring
  • Being a bad teacher/speaker
  • Thinking I'm better than everyone
  • Being unintelligent
Obviously, I would like my reputation to be the opposite of all of those, and here are a few more reputations I would love to have:
  • Being a good writer
  • Being a good cook (not like a gourmet chef or anything, but I would love to a have reputation for providing adequate potluck dishes and dinners for those I feed. Like, when someone in my church has a baby and they hear I am bringing them dinner, I want them to be happy about it)
  • Being thoughtful
  • Being dependable and trustworthy
  • Having a strong testimony
  • Putting people at ease
  • Being a good host
  • Being fun to be around
  • Being resourceful
Anyway, I've been reflecting on my own reputations this week, and I've realized that I don't really know what other people think of me. I can only assume. So when I say I have a reputation for something, I'm really only guessing. My guesses at what my reputations are could be as inaccurate as my actual reputations could be. This whole idea fascinates me. In short, I don't really know what people think of me. I don't know if I want to know, but maybe it's no better to assume.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Ten Random Facts: Post-Graduation Edition

Fact #1: I'm still learning to navigate life post-graduation. I have moments where I worry that I'm behind in schoolwork, and then I remember that I'm not in school. Then I experience the joyful relief that comes from knowing that I'm FREE! I don't even have the words to describe what that feels like - to be rid of the constant looming of schoolwork.

Fact #2: While I'm grateful for my education and everything I've learned, one of the best blessings I've gotten from going to school was learning to recognize and appreciate "calm." Things are calm for a minute, and I love it and need it!

Fact #3: I've had some motivation for the past two weeks that I refer to as "momentum." I know that eventually the excitement of being done with school will fade, and the momentum will go away, but until it does, I'm taking full advantage of it. 

I've been getting a lot of stuff done around the house - cleaning, organizing, painting etc (though if you were to walk into my house right now, you would not be impressed. My cleaning and organizing process is really messy). 

I shampooed my van carpets, painted my living room, started painting the trim and doors (a task that needs to be done throughout the entire house), went through all of my kids' clothes and shoes and got rid of or boxed-up everything they don't wear, got our van repaired from when someone backed into it in June, fully loaded my freezer with freezer meals, and took my laptop in to get fixed.

Fact #4: I've also been unusually social lately.

Fact #5: I wish I could just always be like this - a high-functioning, productive, social person - but I'll probably crash and burn any second now.

Update: I think the "social" portion of the crash and burn happened this weekend. 

Fact #6: One negative side-effect of graduating is that I've been experiencing what I've started calling "insecurity attacks." I have moments where I feel good about myself and proud of what I've accomplished in life - not just schoolwise, but in general. But then I have times where I'm hit with a huge influx of insecurity, and I feel like I'm worthless and insignificant. The distorted thoughts come on fast and unexpectedly, like when I'm in the middle of eating lunch, so that's why I call them "attacks." I've always had battles with these feelings, of course, but right now they are coming on stronger and more frequently than they normally do.

Fact #7: One of the things I want to do now that I'm graduated is learn to love reading again. I regret to say that I've lost interest in books. Prior to returning to school, I read three book a week. Now that I have the freedom to read for leisure again, I just can't do it. 

Fact #8: I found out the other day that my degree made it through the final approval process and was posted to my transcript. It's officially official!

Fact #9: I celebrated my graduation by stopping my anti-depressants again. In hindsight, I probably should have waited until my kids went back to school.

Fact #10: I only had about eight insecurity attacks while writing this post across the span of two days. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunday Jams

We always have YouTube going at our house for music, especially when we're cleaning. Scotty and I often choose a theme and then take turns picking the song. Themes are sometimes by artist - Michael Jackson, *NSYNC, Rascal Flatts. Other times they are by genre - contemporary country, oldies, musicals. We also do decades - 80's, 90's, whatever you call the decade from 2000-2010 (no, really, what do we call that? Early 2000's?)

Often while I'm working in the kitchen, I listen to spiritual/uplifting music (only in the kitchen, though. Strange). Today, since it's Sunday, I thought I'd share some of the songs I often listen to.

In no particular order, here are ten songs I frequently play from YouTube when I need a spiritual uplift. As I chose the videos to share, I realized that one of the commonalities all of these songs have is that I LOVE singing them. It's not really about listening to them. It's about them being back-up to my kitchen performances. 

#1: Savior Redeemer of My Soul 

What this version lacks is a second voice, and I'm not saying it's pretty, but I provide it!

#2 Glorious

This song has not gotten old to me yet. This one comes with dance moves. 

#3 Simple Gifts/Somewhere Over the Rainbow

This one starts out light and simple, but the power comes at 2:40 when Jon and Steve are suddenly on the set of LOST. 

I don't sing this one since it's instrumental, but I've been known to conduct it. 

#4 Come Thou Fount/How Great Thou Art

Two favorite hymns playing off each other. 

#5 My Little Prayer

I like this song because it talks about how our relationship with God evolves through prayer. 

I like to do yoga moves to this song in my kitchen.

#6 I Know That My Savior Loves Me

I actually really love the arrangement by Ryan Murphy that the Mormon Tabernacle sings. Altos have the melody, which is always a treat (I usually sing alto).

#7 Come Thou Fount/If You Could Hie to Kolob

I love this unusual mashup. 

#8 She Put the Music in Me

I love the way Callie Reed intertwined titles and lyrics from primary songs in this one. 

This song makes me cry.

#9 Angels Among Us

The original version by Alabama, is where it's at (gotta love that piano), but this version adds a unique harmony. 

#10 I Need Thee Every Hour

This is one of my favorite hymns (future blog post on favorite hymns?) I'm always on the hunt for good covers of my favorite hymns. Anthem Lights puts out some good music... including covers of my 90's boy bands. Can't go wrong with that!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Phenomenon

There's a phenomenon I think a lot of you relate to (you'll have to chime in and let me know). It's where you fail to cry over things that should be cried over until something stupid happens that makes you cry, and then you cry for the stupid thing plus everything that's built up over the last while that you haven't cried for yet.

Okay, I just reread that sentence and, uh... I need help here. Let me tell you the story, and then you'll go, "Ah! Yes! That phenomenon!"

I graduated last Tuesday (I'm sorry, but this is going to keep coming up for a while. Bear with me. It's a huge part of who I am right now). I felt like there should be some emotion involved with graduating. I thought I should probably cry or something. But I didn't cry. I didn't feel much of anything. 

On Saturday, I finished my internship. I sat in the chair at the library - a chair I've spent so many hours in this year that I'm pretty sure my butt has molded to it - for three hours straight. I compiled a folder of all my work and emailed it to my supervisor. I thought I might feel something after I hit send, but again, I didn't really feel anything.

I hadn't eaten for a long time, so I decided to celebrate the completion of my internship by going to Chick-Fil-A. I drove to the restaurant, ordered my food, pulled up to the window, and discovered that I didn't have my wallet. 

My heart was set on that #1 with no pickles, Dr. Pepper, and two Chick-Fil-A sauces. 

And I didn't get my chicken!

So I cried.

I cried for chicken. I cried because I didn't know where my wallet was. I cried because I graduated. I cried over The Incident. I cried because I finished my internship. I cried because I don't know what I'm supposed to do now. And I cried because I was really happy that it wasn't my turn to teach Sunday school the following day (Bless you, KoriAnn).

It only lasted about seven minutes, but I finally felt something. And all because I couldn't have a chicken sandwich. 

That is the phenomenon. Please tell me I'm not the only one who does this. 

Demands & Refusals

This morning, I was working on our traditional Sunday breakfast of German pancakes* when I heard Zoe shuffling into the kitchen. I knew she was coming in to "help." This is one of the demands she makes - she is my kitchen helper. Her exact words this morning were, "Mommy, you always need a little kid to help you," and "Little kids need to wear aprons." After a few moments of egg stirring, she then said, "Mom! I need water in a sippy cup with ice." These are three of her frequent demands, which got me thinking about the demands and refusals that my kids make in their current phases.

Nicky - Age 10

Demands that his clothes be two sizes bigger than necessary.

Refuses to wear denim, pants, shoes with laces, or shirts with collars.

Demands to watch Jimmy Fallon, American Ninja Warrior, and Master Chef, Jr.

Refuses to shower, go to bed, do his hair, or wear "nice" clothes (hello, ten-year-old boy!)

Refuses to read anything other than Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Demands that we let him use his own money to buy geriatric supplies at the thrift store (wheelchairs, walkers, neck braces, shower chairs, etc) (we refuse).

Daisy - Age 7

Demands to be first.

Refuses to watch, read, or listen to any movies, books, or music that she didn't pick herself even if it's something she likes.

Refuses to have her hair in a bun.

Demands to watch Austin & Ally, Bunk'd, and Jessie.

Demands to be in charge.

Refuses to follow anyone else in charge.

Demands to spend her money immediately.

Zoe - Age 4

Demands to wear nightgowns all day.

Refuses to drink milk.

Demands to watch Zig and Sharko, Rabbids Invasion and pretty much any show where the characters don't actually speak.

Demands hard shell tacos.

Refuses to wear shoes.

Demands to go on bike rides.

Demands blankies.

Eva - Age 2

Demands "milky." The second she wakes up, she starts yelling, "Milky!!!"

Refuses to eat.

Demands on buckling her car seat herself.

Demands blankies.

Demands that we "tickle back" and "tickle button" (tickle her belly button).

Refuses to take liquid medicine.

Demands to go to Chick-Fil-A.

Demands to watch Good Burger. Not Dora. Not Elmo. Not even Elsa. Just Ed.

*This isn't the recipe we use, but close enough to give you an idea of what they are. When Scotty and I were dating, we both expressed that we loved German pancakes. Then one day, Scotty's mom made a German pancake for us, and I was like, "Uhhh.... what is this thing?" because in my family, German pancakes were crepes

Friday, July 21, 2017

The World is My Oyster

Yesterday was kinda, sorta the first day I've spent at home as a university graduate. Since I'm still finishing up my internship, I'll have another "first day" when I'm done. And then I'll have another "first day" after my diploma comes in the mail. That's when I'll know it's really, really real. I still feel like my education is pending.

In the meantime...

I had several times throughout the day yesterday where I felt like I wasn't doing what I was supposed to. Then I'd remember I didn't have homework and that there wasn't anything I absolutely had to do, so I would happily repeat "The world is my oyster!"

I walked in the kitchen and wondered if I should do the dishes or clean out the pantry. I went ahead and did both because the world is my oyster.

I also gave my bedroom a thorough cleaning, and I even dusted, resulting in an eye injury, but it's cool because the world is my oyster.

I organized the bathroom cabinets, took my kids to the park, did a couple loads of laundry, and had a short nap. I filled my trunk with bags of stuff to donate. Oyster.

I even got a little wild and applied for an opportunity (not a "job" - just a one-time gig) and submitted a piece of writing to a website. I hadn't planned on doing either of those things yesterday, but what the hey! The world is my oyster.

When Scotty got home from work, I made dinner, and then I sat at the table for a while and wasn't sure what to do next. I wasn't in a rush to eat and get out the door to go to the library.

It's been 11 years since Scotty and I have eaten a meal without school pressing on us. Eventually, there will probably be more school (most likely a Master's degree for Scotty), but for now, I'm going to enjoy a few moments of school-free time.

Last night the stake president and his wife stopped by and brought me a graduation gift (Chips Ahoy). What amazing people to be mindful of me! Again, I am in awe at my "village." Love and support flows from many corners.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Graduation: A Journey Across Four States

We just got back from my graduation in Idaho.

We had a busy week of travel, fun, and chaos.

The journey began in Star Valley, Wyoming where we spent the weekend at a cabin with some friends. My phone was dead almost the entire time, so I didn't get many pictures, but there was a lot of this going on:

And some of this:

And before the end, we all gathered around my double chin for a photo:

When we left Star Valley, we headed to Yellowstone for a couple of days. 

Our final stop was in Rexburg where I stepped foot onto the BYU-Idaho campus for the first time. 

I affirmed that I still suffer from "University Phobia." I masked my fears by holding my head high and acting like I knew where I was going at all times. I was a total imposter, and after I got lost walking from one building to another, I reassured myself that it was fine because I burned twice the calories. Never mind the fact that I had a sweat spot the size of a textbook on my back. 

Our first stop at campus was just to scope out the area so we would know where to go the next day. I experienced the campus safely from my van. I think I spent most of the tour griping about how there aren't big signs on the buildings. This is one of my biggest issues with Universities. They have these huge campuses with a million buildings and teeny tiny little signs that say, "Gordon B. Hinckley Building."

After our campus visit, we cruised around Rexburg for a while, picked up a pizza, played at a park, and got some ice cream. Then we headed to Idaho Falls where we stayed the night. 

The next day, we hung out at the hotel for a while. Then we went back to campus so I could get my name card and tassel for graduation. I stopped in the bookstore, and I have to say... University bookstores are awesome! My friend Shannon clued me in on this, and my experience in the BYU-I book store totally won me over. I only had a few minutes to browse since my family was waiting for me in the car, but I could've easily walked out of there with armfuls of clearance merchandise. I settled for a t-shirt and a hoodie, plus a hoodie for a fellow graduate who wasn't able to come.

We also took the time to snap some photos, which was genius because that evening, there were lines of people waiting to get pictures by the BYU-Idaho sign.

(There were so many times throughout this trip when Scotty and I turned to each other and said, "Whoa! We timed that perfectly!" This was one of those times). 

After our campus visit, we headed to Big Jud's for lunch. Scotty has dreamed of eating at Big Jud's for 14 years. Over the past three years, Scotty has made it clear that if I was going to go to graduation, we were going to eat at Big Jud's, and he was going to get the 2 lb burger. I obliged.

Here is the 2 pounder and the basket of fries it came with next to my burger. This picture doesn't do it justice at all. 

Here is the wedge Scotty cut for himself. Note that it's being held by the gigantic hand of a 6'2" man.

And here is Nicky's wedge on a 6" plate:

It was fun! And delicious! And the basket of fries could have fed our family for three days. 

Within ten minutes of leaving Big Jud's, something horrible happened. I can't tell you what it was. I am going to write the story for safekeeping, but I don't know if it will ever be posted here. For now, I will refer to it as "The Incident."

We were supposed to meet my mom at Yellowstone Bear World at 1:00, but The Incident held us up for a while. After some crazy ninja improvising we made it there. 

Oh my goodness. Bear World. 

In doing research for this trip, I heard nothing but good about Bear World, and it delivered! When we first walked in and saw a pen of cubs, I was sold. If I hadn't seen anything else, it still would've been worth it.

Because baby bears! Squee!

That is, until I saw one pee all over itself. 

Animal Kingdom, why you gotta be all gross with your pee?

Luckily I forgot about the pee after an hour, and the cubs were cute again. 

We did the curator tour, and it was worth the money. I tried to get some pictures of the bears, but then I thought, "I'm not going to waste this experience trying to take photos!" (you know that whole, "Put the camera down and enjoy the experience" thing? I did that!) But here's one little glimpse of the cuteness:

The bears would come sit next to the truck on their bums and wait for food. If you threw it just right, they would catch it in their mouths. Some would stand up right next to the truck. It was adorable! And when they saw the truck, they'd come running. It was the best!

There was also a petting zoo. There were two fawns there that were adorable, and as I am wont to do, I made buddies with a goat. 

I seriously love goats. They are my fave!

After Bear World, we had to do more work as a result of The Incident, and then Scotty dropped me off at campus for commencement. 

Commencement is the ceremony where all of the graduates gather to listen to speakers. We had a processional, so I had to go line up with the College of Education and Human Development. I did that thing where I walk around pretending I know where I'm going, but I'm really just following people who look like they know where they're going and hoping that no one has chosen to follow me

I'd made a lot of friends in my three years at school, but I hadn't met any of them in person (I was supposed to go to lunch with a friend from my stats group who was visiting from Georgia last year, but I ended up with a vomiting child that day - I'm still sad about it) so I was excited to see who would be the first official classmate I'd meet. It ended up being LaDawn from my advocacy group. When I walked into the BYU-I Center, I saw her walk past and I ran up behind her and put my arm around her (luckily it really was her. Eek!) She was there for her daughter's graduation, so we visited for a minute and then had to part ways.

I went into the gym where we were supposed to line up. I was there early (because that's how I roll) so I walked to the drinking fountain all fake-confident and whatnot. Then I saw a comfy chair right outside the door, so I went and sat down and looked at "Your mom goes to college" gifs (because that's how I roll).

After a while, I secured my fanny pack under my gown (because that's how I roll) and walked back into the gym and got in line. As I was standing there, one of my classmates came and stood right across from me, and we stared at each other for an awkward amount of time before both our brains kicked in. Then it was like we'd always known each other. A few minutes later, another classmate joined us, and it was like we'd been friends our whole lives. It was so amazing to meet so many people who have gone through this experience. 

Commencement was wonderful. The speeches were meaningful, and there was a great spirit there. 

My family didn't come to commencement because I didn't think it would be good to bring four kids to commencement and convocation, so I was there by myself, and it was nice to have some time to pause and reflect on the last three years of my life. 

After commencement, I walked to another building for convocation (that may have been the point where I got a little lost). Convocation was the ceremony where we went with our individual colleges, and our names and degrees were read and we were given our fake diplomas. 

It was so inspiring to see all of the different people receiving degrees. There were old and young, married and single, men and women. I was so humbled to see a father and son graduating together! There was something truly special about the people who were a little older - those who have a little more life experience behind them. You could tell that they value their education in a different way. 

The convocation itself, I have to admit, was kind of weird. I'm really glad I went to commencement - I almost didn't - because convocation was a little disappointing. The name readers weren't very good. They messed up so many names (mine included, even though I spelled it phonetically and told them how to say it right before they announced it). There was a little bit of a feeling of "we do this all the time, so we're bored with it" from those conducting the ceremony. Commencement, on the other hand, had much more of a "this is important" feeling (even though those involved in that ceremony also do this all the time).

I walked awkwardly across the stage, shook hands with a bunch of strangers, and then it was done.

It hasn't set in yet. I haven't felt a flood of emotions like I thought I would. Is it coming? Will I feel something? Ever? I mean, it felt nice being at commencement, and it felt nice meeting people, but I haven't felt what I thought I'd feel. 

I just need to tie up a few lose ends with my internship, and then I'll be left to navigate this big change. I think I'll be a little lost for a while.

I'm glad I went, and it was fun to get a little summer vacation out of it.

I'm so grateful for all those who have supported me and helped me along the way. The list is innumerable! It's said that it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to get a degree while raising a child... or four. 

Thanks to my really big village, I did it!

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Brittish Take Yellowstone

Since Nicky has a free pass to the National Parks (a perk for 4th graders), we decided we should take advantage and head to Yellowstone for a couple of days.

The last time Scotty and I went to Yellowstone was about 13 years ago, so we were excited to go back. We had minimal space for packing (we seem to have outgrown our van for vacations), so the DSL-R and the stroller both got cut which meant we took all our photos on cell phones, and we carried our children around on our shoulders.

Here are some of our pictures (I'm going to force myself to only choose five):

{Prismatic Spring}

{Geothermal pools}

{Mammoth Hot Springs}

{Lower Falls - Grand Canyon of Yellowstone}

{Just past Tower Falls}

Next time I'll take a real camera, but for this season of life, the phone was all I could handle. 

We had a nice time, and the kids were pretty good. There were issues, of course, but overall, I'm pleased.


The funniest moment of the trip was when Scotty thought he saw a bison ahead of us on the road, and he started getting the kids all hyped up to drive past it. There was some glare from the morning sun, so it was hard to make out what it was, but to me, it looked like something else, so I said, "I don't think that's a bison!" When we got up to it, it was a hippie on a bike, dressed in flowing brown attire with an unruly blond afro.

We named him Tyson. After that, all the bison were bison and not Tyson.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Story

It’s time to tell a story.

To truly understand this story, you need to know a little bit about what I believe.

I believe in God.

I believe that life is a learning experience that will ultimately help us to become more like God.

I believe that God is involved in our mortal journeys – that He blesses us and guides us.

I believe in prayer, and my understanding of prayer has changed a lot throughout my life. Prayer is not just about asking God for the things I want. Prayer is an act of bringing my will and desires into alignment with His.

I believe that God communicates to me (and anyone else who has the desire) through the Holy Ghost. I often use phrases like, “Heavenly Father told me…” or “God let me know that…” When I make those comments, I’m referring to experiences I’ve had where I’ve felt the Spirit. For me, that communication comes through thoughts and feelings which I then pray about so I can make sure I understand them correctly.

I believe that God knows far more than we do. I believe that He often puts us in circumstances and ask things of us that we don’t fully comprehend. I also believe He gives us choice. He will not force us to choose His way, but if we seek His way, He will provide a path.  

A little over three years ago, I wrote a post about my comfort zone. 

To this day, I love my comfort zone. I've learned to live in it very cozy-like. I rarely venture out, and when I do, I keep one foot planted firmly and stretch my other leg out as far as possible without having to actually breach The Zone. In essence, if I can't reach it with my big toe, I don't reach for it at all. 

At the time I wrote that post, I'd been sensing something coming for four years. I felt that God had a request for me, but I didn't know what it was. I only knew that it would force me to leave The Zone.

A month after I wrote that post, I felt a prompting from the Spirit that I needed to go to school. Ten years prior, I'd earned my Associate's, and when I'd prayed about continuing my education, my answer was to wait. I felt great about that because I suffer from self-diagnosed "University Phobia."
The prompting to return to school came as the result of a Google search. I don't remember what, exactly, I was searching for, but I suddenly found myself staring at a list of BYU-Idaho online degrees. I thought it would be interesting to see what programs were offered because maybe I would go back to school in fifteen years when my children were older, so I went ahead and scrolled. 

As soon as I saw that BYU-I offered a degree in Marriage and Family Studies, I felt something overwhelming, and I started bawling. It wasn't what I was looking for, and it wasn't what I wanted, but as soon as it was on the screen, I knew.

This was it! It was time to leave my comfort zone.

I tried to suppress it for a while. For one thing, it was July. You can't apply for a school in July and start in the fall. On top of that, Scotty had just gradated after eight years. I was looking forward to a period of calm in our lives, a time when we could just coast for a while. 

The following week I was driving my daughter home from Primary Children's Hospital, which is by the University of Utah, and as I navigated the campus, I remembered the prompting I'd had. While sitting at a stoplight, I told Heavenly Father, "Fine. I'll look and see when I can apply, but that's it. I'm just going to look."

I wasn't sure God knew that you have to apply for school much earlier in the year, and I was determined to help Him realize this. I knew I'd be a year out, at minimum, from going to school. I trusted that something would change in that year, and that I could still get out of it. 

When I got home that day, I looked at the BYU-Idaho website and found that the application deadline wasn't for another week. I knew I would need to meet with my bishop and stake president to even apply, and the odds of both being available at the drop of a hat were slim.  I fully planned on getting out of it and was more than happy to shrug my shoulders and blame my Church leaders. To my dismay, my bishop was able to meet with me that very night, and the stake president was available that Sunday.

Every excuse I came up with to get out of it got crushed under the weight of God's will. When I whined about money, He told me not to worry about it. When I worried about neglecting my children, He reassured me that it would be fine. When I asked if I would get to be released from my Church calling, He said no. 

And then, just to be funny, He sent us a little surprise the week after I registered for classes: a positive pregnancy test. When I thought, "Surely I can't go back to school now!" He reassured me that yes, I could. 

With much resistance, I did it. I went back to school, and I thought I’d never see the end of it, but now it’s been three years, and I’m graduating!

I believe that I followed God’s will by getting my degree. At this point, I can look back and see so many ways that I was prepared for it. The timing wasn’t convenient, but it was exactly right.

I don’t know what I’ll do with my degree in the future – God’s will can be funny that way - but I’m okay with that because I know I will receive additional guidance as opportunities arise. I know that, regardless of whether I go into a career in my field, I will always benefit personally from what I’ve learned.

I realize that getting a Bachelor’s degree doesn’t make me special. Lots of people have Bachelor’s degrees. Lots of people work really hard to get an education. This story isn’t so much about the degree as it is about following the Spirit and doing what God wants me to do.

Going back to school was hard, especially with four young children. There were times where I thought I couldn’t go on, but any time I became discouraged, I would have an experience that would motivate me to keep going. I was repeatedly reassured by the Holy Ghost that I could do it. God didn’t make it “easy," but He made it possible.

That is the story. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

On Sundays we have German pancakes for breakfast (and ten other random facts)

Fact #1: The other day I took my kids to the dollar theater (do these exist in the greater society? We have one crappy dollar movie theater left around here). Anyway, my kids, who are apparently spoiled with their grandparent sponsored Cinemark and Megaplex outings, were so confused about the dollar theater. "Are we watching a TV instead of a movie screen?" they asked when they saw the significantly smaller screen. "Why won't the seats lean back?"

Fact #2: Despite the previous "fact," I've been a bit of a hermit this summer. My older kids are constantly begging to go somewhere, but I dread leaving the house because of this:


Eva is not "outing friendly" right now. Neither is Zoe. Whenever I leave the house with those two, I end up caked in sweat and nearly in tears (and lest you think the dollar movie went smoothly, I'll have you know I stood out in the hall with a screaming Eva for most of the show. Luckily this theater has small windows in the doors so I could keep an eye on the others).

Fact #3: When we went to the dollar movie, Nicky wanted to sneak in a hamburger from Wendy's so he duct taped it to his stomach. This was one of those situations where I felt it best to not intervene. I just needed to watch it play out. It fell out of his shirt in the parking lot.

Fact #4: I'm pretty sure Nicky has spent most of his summer within arms reach of me. I think I'm supposed to appreciate that my ten-year-old son wants to be with me all the time, but it's driving me pretty crazy. I love my son dearly, but I really need him to find something to do.

Fact #5: Coloring my hair got me like...


Fact #6: I might be getting tubes in my ears this year. I've had fluid in my ears consistently for about five years, and it's time to get my ears checked out by the ENT. My primary care physician (whom we call the "little Dutch boy") has urged me repeatedly to go to the ENT, and I think I'm finally ready to obey. 

Fact #7: I just thought of a future blog post. It's about two pieces of advice I have taken to heart and benefited from. I'm using this "fact" as a "note to self" for later.

Fact #8: It's been pretty hot here lately - over 100 for the past week. I have chronic sweaty bangs. My heart goes out to those in hotter climates. I've spent a lot of time driving around in my van just so I can have a blast of A/C. 

Fact #9: Nicky came up with a fantastic idea for a musical the other day. I can't stop thinking about it, and I'm full of ideas. Maybe we will be writing a mother and son musical. Hmmm... 

Fact #10: The next time I blog, I will have a bachelor's degree!

Friday, June 30, 2017

My Day So Far

"MOOOOOM! My scooter keeps making my foot go down!"

I don't even know what this means.

"MOOOOOM! I need this troll to have a ponytail!"

I'm pretty sure that goes against all things "troll."

"MOOOOOM! Baby cup!"
(Translation: I want to drink from the tiniest cup known to man)

Here is a medicine cup. Go to town!

"MOOOOOOM! Need! Ice!"

As you wish.

Needs ice!

"MOOOOOM! I want four muffins! FOUR!!!"

I give her three. She eats two.

"MOOOOOM! The chicken lost a feather. We need to put it back on right now."

It's not a chicken feather.


Um... you're talking to Dad.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Summer Goals

For summer, I have two unofficial goals.

Goal #1: Graduate

Goal #2: Go "real" camping (as in two nights, minimum)

I'll spare you more talk of my graduation. I'm pretty sure you know it's happening since I mention it in almost every post.

The other goal was accomplished this past weekend. 

Here is a brief history of our camping efforts since having children:

Scotty and I camped a lot before we had kids. We imagined we'd be "camping with kids" people when the time came, but then reality gave us a swift kick in the pants. We are not "camping with kids" people, but we still have this delusion that we can become those people some day. That's why we continue putting our delusion to the test.

All camping trips have been one nighters. Most trips have resulted in children screaming through the night (this is obviously a problem when you are in a campground with other people), and most trips have involved at least one person getting sick (very often, it has been Zoe). To put it simply: camping with kids hasn't ever gone smoothly for us. 

But someday, maybe it will go great... Hence the two-night trial of his past weekend.

We left on Friday afternoon and stopped at one of our favorite pizza places on the way. About an hour before we left home, I got hit full-force with a really bad sore throat and body aches. I went down fast. By the time we were driving, I was completely miserable, and I didn't enjoy the pizza I'd been looking forward to because I felt like crap. 

(Also, please note that my butt is too wide for the seats at the pizza restaurant. This is very upsetting, and I feel like I need to write a letter to advocate for normal sized people everywhere)!

Anyway, I was able to scrounge up some 800 mg ibuprofen, which helped me feel a little better by the time we got to our campsite. 

The first night was peaceful, for the most part. We set up camp, lit a fire, and let the kids go s'more crazy.

Then we went to bed, and that's a whole other story. It was freezing, and the kids woke up off and on all night. Eva ended up in the sleeping bag with Scotty and me. I needed to pee like crazy, but there are many reasons I refused to get up and pee:

1. It was cold
2. The sound of the sleeping bag zipper might wake up the kids
3. The sound of the tent zipper might wake up the kids
4. It was cold
5. I was my underwear because Scotty promised me that the less clothing I wore, the warmer I would be in the sleeping bag (hmmm.....)
6. The bathrooms were far away
7. I might have gotten eaten by a rabid squirrel
8. It was cold
9. It was dark

So I held it.

For hours

I hardly slept. I am too old and fragile to sleep on the ground. The night was so long, and that rabid squirrel I mentioned? It wouldn't stop chittering. I wanted to stab it, but I couldn't leave the tent to stab the squirrel for many of the same reasons I couldn't leave the tent to pee. 

Much of the second day went well, but some things also went awry. We went to a nearby lake and walked about .2 miles before Eva threw herself on the ground and refused to move. 

Camping June 2017

Camping June 2017

I spent most of the day escorting Daisy and Zoe back and forth from the bathrooms. Daisy pees more than any creature on this earth.

Since I didn't sleep the first night, I ended up napping under a tree. Laying in pine needles is quite refreshing after sleeping on the hard ground. I didn't even mind the ants climbing all over me. 

While I was sleeping, Scotty walked with the kids down to the river to do some fishing. When I woke up, he was standing over me with a bloody head and ear. Apparently he fell into a tree, and just to make the experience all the more adventurous, he's also walked in poison ivy. His leg was covered in a red, burning rash. 

A few minutes later, a guy backed his car into our van. 

We had some good campfire cooking. Nicky warmed the leftover pizza, and we also made foil dinners.

Camping June 2017

Part of our reason for camping was to help Nicky finish passing off some Cub Scout requirements to earn his Webelos badge and his Arrow of Light. He had to start a fire without matches and cook two recipes over the fire without pots and pans.

Camping June 2017

Daisy also had a turn to start a fire without matches.

Camping June 2017

We played some games, and I taught Daisy how to do crossword puzzles. 

I tried to read my kids The Secret Garden. I had to explain what cholera is and why everyone in the beginning of the book is dying. Nicky thought this was horrible and doesn't know why anyone would read a book with people dying in it. This is another delusion I have - the delusion that I will be able to read books to my kids, and they will like them. Needless to say, they hated The Secret Garden, so I will be finishing it alone. 

(The little punks hate Harry Potter too. I can't win with them. They hate everything ).

The second night was even rougher than the first. My head and throat ached, and the urge to pee started earlier than it did the first night. I wore more clothing, but I still wasn't willing to get up to go to the bathroom until Zoe woke up at 6:00 and needed to go. 

Scotty eventually emerged from the tent and lit a fire. We had breakfast, and then I went nuts gathering everything up and loading the van. I went into "get me out of here" mode. I needed to go home and take a shower and lay in a real bed. Most of this need stemmed from how crappy I felt. Folks, camping while sick is miserable. I don't recommend it. 

Anyway, while I was scurrying about, I had Scotty's iPhone in my pocket. I bent over to put some duffel bags in the stow and go of our van, and the phone fell out and shattered. It was less than a month old.

We arrived home by 9:00 that morning.

Things didn't go very smoothly, but we did have some successes. The kids had a lot of fun, and that's what matters most. It wasn't easy, though. Holy moly. Camping with kids is hard. 

Camping June 2017