Friday, February 25, 2011

The Big News

We got a dog. Did you hear that? A DOG!

Oh my word, I always said I never wanted a pet . . . not even hamster. Not even a fish. Certainly not a dog. But then our friend Stephanie decided that she needed a home for this sweet 8-month-old border collie. And suddenly . . . my cold, cold heart melted for this little pup. I called Bryce to plead my case but he was not amused. For our entire married lives we'd been on the same page regarding our desire to remain pet-less, and here I was, trying to convince him to love a canine as his own.

Somehow I succeeded. (Between you and me, I can be quite persuasive). When Tyce and Mary found out they were ecstatic! In fact, I have never, ever seen them so excited about anything in their whole lives. That night both kids pounced on my bed, where I was preparing the next day's seminary lesson. "We're getting a dog!" Tyce giggled. Mary came armed with pen and paper and began to brainstorm all the things we'd need to get ready for a new addition. After half an hour of bouncing on my bed and asking a million questions (Can I pick out her collar? Can she sleep in my room?) Bryce and I shooed them off to their rooms, where I'm sure they didn't sleep a wink.

Yesterday I called Donna and my dad, to get advice on what supplies to get for our impending arrival. I spent 2 hours at PetSmart agonizing over leashes, collars, toys, and brushes. Everything was so confusing! I think I would have been less overwhelmed had I only a few hours to outfit a baby instead of a dog.

But that afternoon our new dog KATIE SPRITE SHADOW arrived, accompanied by Bella and Mary. Bella helped the collie transition from her home to ours, but when she left . . . oh, the poor furry creature was pretty confused. Not only was she unfamiliar with her new surroundings, but there were six new humans all vying for position as pack leader. The later the night got the more distressed she felt, until she unleashed a heartbreaking HOOOOOOWWWWWLLLLLLL!!!! that made us all want to cry. In fact, Bryce took her on another walk at 11:30 p.m. just to calm her down, but after she came home she ran upstairs and howled on the landing. Cameron let out a middle-of-a-dream scream, which he later told me was because he thought Katie's howl was a vampire's wail!

I took her to the dog park today and she was terrified of the other dogs. Can you blame her for being wary of anything new? A nice older George Lopez look-alike took me under his wing and introduced me to some other dog park friends--can I just say that dog people and super, super friendly. They talked to Katie and introduced her to their little dogs; even though Katie towered over the chihuahuas and yorkies she still preferred to hide behind my legs. After a while she got comfortable and we walked the perimeter of the park (on the advice of my new friend Manny, owner of Poquito). She never did run around and play--but we will try again tomorrow.

She has been here almost 24 hours and we just love her. I know things will settle down soon. I can't believe we have a dog--I guess that proves that in life, you should never say never!

Alert, hearing another dog. I love those eyes and ears.

Our Katie and her retro-BYU-blue collar and leash (chosen by Tyce). Is she a beauty or what?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Just a Mom?

My patriarchial blessing says, three times: Be concerned in following your chosen field of endeavor, teaching and helping others to enjoy life.

What in the world does this mean. Is being a mother my "chosen field of endeavor"? Should I have become a school teacher? Do my various callings in the church count? Have I missed the mark on a career path I was supposed to take? This has stumped me for over half of my life.

Sometimes I wish I could clone myself and do two things at once: care for the home and family (a full-time job) and also go back to school (a full-time job). You might already know that I'm leaning towards a masters in social work. There are dozens of branches in that field and I think at least one of them would be a good fit. I could even become a counselor like I'd originally planned, working with mental illness; or maybe work for an agency like Casa, which changes children's lives. I think I could really help people; even teach and help others to enjoy life.

But I know in my heart of hearts that now is not the time for school, or even a job. My service is more needed at home than in the world. What good would it do to make 100 people's lives better if I fail the four that God entrusted to me as my children? This is my calling, to lead and teach and train my children.

But motherhood: it is hard. So dirty. So draining. So repetitive. So unglamorous. So ordinary. Some days I feel like I give and serve and chauffeur and cook and counsel and correct . . . and no one cares. Or they care and they rebel. Sometimes I would love to have a job so I could abdicate my responsibilities at home. I could get some praise and recognition for my work.  Let someone else take care of everything at home. Or just let the kids raise themselves.

Those are the bad days. And I'm sorry for evening mentioning them, because if you are in my situation you're probably depressed just reading what I just wrote.

But here's the good thing: It's all a matter of perspective. As always, my attitude is a choice.

David O. McKay said: “[The] ability and willingness properly to rear children, the gift to love, and eagerness … to express it in soul development, make motherhood the noblest office or calling in the world. She who can paint a masterpiece or write a book that will influence millions deserves the admiration and the plaudits of mankind; but she who rears successfully a family of healthy, beautiful sons and daughters, whose influence will be felt through generations to come, … deserves the highest honor that man can give, and the choicest blessings of God” (Gospel Ideals [1954], 453–54).

So if I take those bad-day feelings and turn them, I might instead say:

Motherhood: it is hard. It teaches me that I can't control everything. It's an emotional and physical work out. I get to improve my techniques by practicing every day. I am one of many unheralded but dedicated women who labor at home, and I am in good company. Some days I feel like I give and serve and chauffeur and cook and counsel and correct . . . and I know my service has long-term benefits even if I don't see them day to day. Sometimes the children rebel and disobey but they are learning boundaries and consequences which will help them learn how the world works. If I went back to school or got a job I would enjoy using my talents-- but not at the expense of using my talents at home. No praise or recognition at a job compares to a hug or a thank you from a child. There is no one who can take my place here. I am entrusted, called, and made equal to the honor of raising these precious children of our Father.

How about that?

There may well be time for me to pursue other dreams. I believe there will be time.

Now is my season for full-time dedication to the rearing and educating of my children--to really be there for Tyce, Mary Rachel, Cameron, and Harrison. So I guess maybe I've answered my own question, at least for now? I hope I am on the right track, that this is the right path. And I pray that along the way I am teaching and helping my children (and my husband!) to enjoy life.

Every day is a choice. Today I choose to be happy and strong.

You know that when I write it's like I'm talking out loud. And even though you don't say anything back you've helped me by listening. But you can comment any time you like. (!)

Seminary last week was great. It will take me a while to get in the groove but I've really, really enjoyed teaching the scriptures to a really great group of young people. I feel blessed to have the opportunity study and use my mind and heart to serve in this way. It's a challenge I'm really beginning to enjoy.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day of Love

Valentine's Day seemed to be celebrated in pieces this year. First there was our little get away the week before, followed by Mary's school party (which was also before the 14th). Bryce was out of town for the big day, and Tyce had volleyball practice during our heart-themed dinner!

I saw so many cute ideas for hand-made valentines. And yet we still went to the store and picked up some pre-boxed character-themed cards. Mary had dogs, Harrison had Prince of Persia, and Cameron and Tyce got Transformers. (No, Tyce didn't have a party, but I thought he would like handing out cards to his friends.) Everyone seemed happy, so woo hoo for that.

I got each kid a little box of chocolates because I am lucky to have four handsome/beautiful valentines. Well, if I give them candy they're pretty willing to be called whatever I want.

To me, Valentine's Day is a family-and-friends holiday, a day to celebrate the many people who make your life rich and fulfilling. It's too much pressure to be romantic on that day--not to mention too expensive. Haha. We have had many "oo-la-la" dinners and outings that were pricey and crowded with like-minded couples in love. I told Bryce long ago that I didn't want Valentine's Day flowers; I think the first few years he didn't believe me and I did get some pretties. But I'm serious that I'd rather save that kind of thing for an occasion more personally meaningful . . . or for no special reason at all. If you have a happy relationship I don't think there's any reason to be beholden to a certain date for romance.

Well, now on to the pictures.

I like having a candlelight dinner with the family on Valentine's Day. I started by making the dessert first.

Brownies with ice cream and M&Ms.

Remember when I said I had cute table decorations? Well, are these just the cutest place settings you've ever seen?


 This is the whole table.
Before we ate, of course.

The kids seemed to like the monkey plates the best but I loved the dinosaur.

We ate lasagna, French bread, green salad, and strawberries.

Tyce ate alone after practice. He wasn't feeling well--he has a cold.
 For Family Home Evening Mary taught us a Valentine's dance she learned in Music class. It was a little like square dancing.

The twins received instruction well, though they had a hard time remembering what to do!
The bridge portion of the dance.

Next year I hope we're all home to enjoy the evening together . . . I must say that it does get harder as people get older to have them all in the same place at the same time. There's nothing I like more than spending time with my family. Did you feel loved on Valentine's Day? I hope you did!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pictures of our Trip

Did you kind of wish you were with us on our little vacation? Well, you'll feel like you were after viewing these pictures.

The world's largest golden nugget was dug up by a family outside their mobile home. Crazy!

We were VIPs and had a special check-in room. It was swanky.

Not only was it pretty inside, but they had complimentary M&Ms.

We had a special card to get to the 16th floor.

Look at this! Snacks outside the elevator!

The hotel was updated and redecorated in a modern style. I loved the lighting in the hallway.

These were cool sinks.

Our room! We couldn't find a light switch for about 5 minutes. I fumbled around and felt what I thought might be the switch but I couldn't work it. I took a photo so I could see...only to discover it was the thermostat!

Good news, we figured it out.

We went downstairs for the show. I passed this slot machine and fell in love. If I were a gambling girl I'd definitely choose the machine called "Kitty Glitter." Mee-OW. How classy is that?

Lovebirds are we.

The man has his own showroom. He's not going anywhere anytime soon.

Gordie Brown was an amazing impressionist. However, his show featured a lot of juvenile humor, like 7th grade locker room jokes. Come on, Gordie.

Besides spending time with Bryce, this was my favorite part of the whole trip--the bathroom mirror. I couldn't figure out what this gray part was; I ran my hand over it and figured it was etched for decoration.

But then I noticed a remote control . . . . I aimed it a the gray rectangle and it was a TV! What in the world!? Shock and awe. I've seen TVs in hotel bathrooms before but never so literally built in.

So now you know how it was, minus the conversations regarding toupees. There was also lots of laughing and smooching, too, but like toupees, one awkward candid shot can make a whole blogosphere uncomfortable. Some things are better left to the imagination.

I have the best Valentine in the world! It was a great little trip . . . and I am so glad we got to go!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Confessional

1. I am reclining onto a nest of fluffy pillows in a bed in a room at the Golden Nugget as I type this. Seriously, fluffiest pillows ever . . . I must have these in my own home. Maybe that's an elderly person thing. This casino seems to cater to the retired folks. You know it's true when there's a franchise of The Scooter Store in the lobby. (Just kidding.) Oh man, Bryce and I lived out this week's episode of Modern Family. We discovered this in the Gordie Brown theatre, where every person looked like they'd debated vacation plans between Branson and the Golden Nugget; luckily they all came to the early show of Las Vegas' favorite celebrity impersonator. I wanted to shout, "Hey, Gordie! Over here! I'm not old!" But I didn't want to pierce the hearing aids of our fellow show-goers. Besides, it would have been rude to interrupt Gordie's 10-minute re-enactment of the touching scene from "On Golden Pond."

Clive and Juliana need to break out. 

2. This is our Valentine's Day get-away. Even though Bryce had to leave at 11 to sleep at our own house and get the kids up in the morning for school, we had a great time. He is so nice to me; he went back into the chaos while I slept in a fluffy cloud of feathers all night. The only thing is that everything smells like smoke. I think when a building is as old as the Golden Nugget (though very nicely modernized), nicotine must now be part of the structural chemical make-up.

3. I like Valentine's Day. Or maybe I should say that I looooooove Valentine's Day, because as you probably know, the signature design elements of the day--red and hearts--are totally up my alley. I bought the cutest table decorations at Target and I can't wait for our family dinner on Monday. I don't have the menu planned yet but I'm thinking I might do chocolate-dipped strawberries for dessert.

4. Oh, it just occurred to me that Bryce won't be here to join our family party. This is sad news: his great-uncle Don passed away this week in Ely, Nevada. Bryce is going to the funeral, which is Monday. Uncle Don was a good man and was important in Bryce's life as a grandfatherly figure (since his grandpa died when Bryce was a little boy). Uncle Don and Aunt Adele were at our wedding and I will always remember him with a twinkle in his eye. Now he can be reunited with his sweet wife, and while that brings comfort he will still be very missed.

5. This is my confessionyiest confession for the day and I am so embarrassed and if this were YOU I'd wonder why you don't just get your act together. But for Christmas I ordered gifts for my nieces online. I knew I'd waited too long to ensure on-time delivery so I was feeling pretty lame about it. I had to re-enter my credit card and my address several times. You know how when you do that you have to re-click certain boxes or whatever? Well, imagine my shock when a few days after Christmas I received a package from that online retailer. I couldn't imagine what it was and so I opened it. And it was the gifts I'd *tried* to send to the girls, but apparently shipped to myself. Ackkkk!

When I found out my brother was coming for a one-night visit I thought, perfect, I'll give him the presents to deliver to his daughters. But he came and went, and the box remained out-of-sight, out-of-mind the whole time.

So here it is, almost Valentine's Day, almost Xochi's and Maya's birthdays, and their Christmas gifts are sitting on top of a bookshelf in the casita. What is it going to take to get me to the post office? Ah, I hope that this public acknowledgment of my neglect will spur me to get it done. You know, like those people we saw wearing orange vests with the letters "DUI" emblazened on the back? Friday Confessional #5 is my orange vest of shame.

6. But that aside, I am feeling positive and happy about life. Things are going well.

7. I observed my new seminary class twice this week and they are going to be great. There were 19 kids on Thursday--and that's just 10th graders. I am so pleased to be teaching with Sister Bray because she's very good at what she does and the kids love her. Besides, she has whipped that bunch into shape, doing all the hard work before I got there. I am currently more excited than nervous to start next week.

8. Bryce is coming back here after dropping kids off to school. I need to get ready--after all, when you change the day you celebrate Valentine's Day you can extend it for as long as you want! Too bad he has to go to work today, but good that his office is just down the street. Oh, and as far as a gift goes . . . I shopped the after-Christmas clearance and Target and picked up a fancy box of chocolates that looked nice enough for Valentine's Day. A $10 box was only $2.50 and it was only red and shiny--no snowmen or reindeer in sight.

The difference between being cheap and being a deal-finder is in the eye of the beholder. High five for me!

Happy Friday to all, and to all a good heart-filled weekend.

P.S. I accidentally first posted this on my Kiss the Cook blog! Sorry if you went there hoping for some more confessions....but I will tell you that my kitchen is a mess and I don't want to do anything in there today.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Six Stages of Homework

Stage 1: Curiosity

"What's your homework? Oh, we did that in class last week."

Stage 2: Annoyance

"Yeah, you did it last week but just look at your own packet, okay?"

Stage 3: Realizing You Forgot Something

"Mom! I was supposed to turn in my sight word bag today!"

Stage 5: Snack Break

"Am I thirsty? No, thanks. Oh wait, you have a water bottle? Then yes, I'm dying and I definitely need a little rest."

Stage 5: Getting Down to Business

"Draw a carrot before the rabbit. Draw a worm after the bird. Got it."

Stage 6: Home Stretch

"We're smiling because we're a couple of smarties. We're almost done so we can go play."

Repeat every day until Friday with varying degrees of compliance.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Early Morning Seminary!

That's my new calling, teaching the scriptures at 6 in the morning to a group of (enthusiastic?) 10-graders. This year's course of study is church history and Doctrine and Covenants. I will team-teach with one of the best seminary teachers in the stake, Sister Bray. We have enough kids and teachers to have four classes with two teachers each, plus a super-early class and an after-school class. I am excited and nervous.

I love the gospel and I love the youth. I am a bit nervous about the boys though . . . I've heard from a few people that they are a handful. I know a few of them and I do like them. But as you know, it only takes one ringleader to turn nice kids into mischievous toadies. If I can keep them busy maybe they'll forget to be bored . . . well, I hope that's the case. But at least they're there. If they can feel something positive at least some of the time then I will be happy.

I also find it daunting to be up, nicely dressed, and ready to teach so early in the morning. Right now I walk with Carmen at 6 but I just roll out of bed and go. It will probably be fine, especially when the sunrise comes earlier. It is hard to drag myself out of bed when it looks like it's the middle of the night.

Did you go to early morning seminary? My very first teacher was my own mom, the same course of study we're on this year. I think that was the most rowdy class I've ever had! But we had so much fun. I totally remember my first scripture mastery verse, which my mom helped us memorize (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38). One scripture that I thought of over and over in my youth was Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3:

Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.

Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.

I can see my mom doing the hand motions as we recited, "throoooooo the Red Sea oooooooon dry ground." She was my first seminary teacher and I am grateful for that introduction into scripture study. (And for the wild McDonald's runs after class!)

The next two years I had the most amazing teacher, Sister Cindy Hill. I loved her class so much that I couldn't be there I sent a tape recorder so I could hear it later. She was amazing--more than being knowledgeable she lived her life the way I hoped to live mine--with integrity, compassion, and with the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit. But she was amazingly intelligent regarding the gospel and I learned so much. In that class the Spirit truly was the teacher and I was definitely a better person for having gone.

When we moved from San Antonio to Kingwood I had a wonderful man teach our class, Brother Reg Slocombe. I regret that I did not pay attention they way I should have. I thought the class lacked the "oomph" I was used to and so I found it hard not to close my eyes and daydream (or full-on fall asleep . . . embarrassing). But our teacher was well-prepared and I wish I'd been more grateful and respectful for his knowledge and willingness to teach. One thing that stuck with me is that he was friends with Spencer Kinard, the former announcer for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

I love the seminary program. I believe it is so good for young people to sacrifice their time (and sleep) in the pursuit of higher learning. When they start the day with prayer and scripture study I have to think that it's not only good for the student, but good for the school. I hope I can teach with the Spirit so that one day they will look back on seminary and think, "I can't remember my teacher's name but I had a great experience and I'm glad I went."

That is my hope, my prayer, and my greatest desire.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sometimes We Do Fun Stuff

Today we went bowling; well, everyone but Tyce. Mary and Bryce were on fire. I experimented with various techniques, none of which resulted in pins being knocked down. Bryce asked me if I wanted the bumpers and I said no . . . but perhaps if I had I would have earned more than 55 points. The twins did great and had a fun time.

And why didn't Tyce come along? Well, because he got to go snowboarding with Betsy Fowler at Mt. Charleston! It was so thoughtful of her to offer to take him and another of her young friends, Colton. This was Tyce's first time but she said he was a natural. He came back super excited and happy. Thank you, Betsy, for taking him--he had a blast!

What a beautiful day to play in the snow!


P.S. re: Mary's new med:

Day 1--the best day ever. Like Christmas morning!
Day 3 when she was late in taking it--horrible, volatile moments including an hour-long screaming freak-out I thought would surely lead to neighborhood intervention; alternating with the best behavior she's ever had. I hope things even out.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Stop Gap Meaure

Good thing I rant to the right people. My friend Robin gave me sound advice based on her experience in the insurance field regarding the pricing of meds. Apparently there are 3 tiers; one is full-price, the next is reduced to some degree, and the third is all the way down to the $5 co-pay. If my doctor writes a letter to my insurance company I will likely get the reduced rate.

The pharmacy confirmed that the insurance did not cover any portion of the $179, because there were two medications prescribed for the same condition. All I needed to do was call them to sort it out. So for the past two days I've called but guess what . . . with the horrible snowstorms crippling half the country their office in Missouri is shut down! Oi.

So I called the neurologist to ask if they had samples, but they don't because Vyvanse is a controlled substance. However she did point me in the direction of a coupon on the manufacturer's website for a free 30-day trial. Free is one of my favorite words. It doesn't solve the problem long term but I am grateful to slap a Band-Aid on the problem for a month.

And it's actually better than a month because February only has 28 days. Haha.