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!