Monday, April 7, 2014

I love General Conference!!!!

Scott and I currently serve on Sundays in the nursery. Contrary to what many may believe, I think nursery is one of the best callings in the Church. Maybe it's because I was called at a time before I was diagnosed with anxiety and started taking meds and I knew there would be no judgment by the 2 yr olds. Maybe its because every week I get to spend 2 hrs serving with my husband. Maybe it's because I love toys and snack time. But it probably has a lot to do with the little kids we get to spend every Sunday with. 

Nursery is definitely not something I would have been able to love when all my kids were small. Those days I couldn't have loved someone sitting in my lap to read 15 books, but I do now. I also get to teach important lessons about all the things Heavenly Father does because he loves us. Plus there is coloring and singing time. Seriously nothing compares to a bunch of little kids singing "I am a Child of God." or even "Old McDonald" especially when the animal noise requests change mid-verse.

As much as I love being in nursery, our class has grown from 3 to 5 to 8 to 11 to an occasional 14. Taking care of that many kids, making sure they are played with, given snacks fairly, and even just get to see the picture for the lesson can be physically draining. Often Scott and I come home from church and fall fast asleep for several hours. Another reason I couldn't have loved this calling with little kids, at least ours are now old enough to feed and entertain themselves. But then came General Conference.

It is a week to not just have church in your jammies while eating Monkey Bread, but a change to physically and spiritually. Last week Chloe, Katie, my mom, niece, sister in law, and I were able to gather together for the General Women's Meeting. Then Saturday, Zac was able to attend Priesthood session with the big boys. Each session of General Conference was not just uplifting but because the children are older I was able to listen and not pause the DVR to yell at anyone. Best of all, we made it through all of the sessions without anyone petting my face. 

Life is stressful. That isn't ever going to change. It was so nice to take a step away from health problems, money problems, and all the things on my never ending todo list and just listen. Hopefully the entire family will come away ready to be a little kinder, listen to each other a little better, and inspired to continue down the straight and narrow path. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Middle School, friends that are girls, and growing up

Photo courtesy of Camera Shy
I love this picture of Zac from our family picture photo session because it shows off all the best things about him. How handsome he has become, his quirky attitude, and my most favorite smile. As you can see, he is definitely not a little kid anymore but in my mind he looks a lot more like this.

Last week I took that not so tiny boy and registered him for Middle School. We attended the orientation assembly where he sat with his friends and, most of the time, pretended I didn't exist. He picked a bunch of elective classes, with lots more choices that I remember being available in 7th grade. And together we turned in his paperwork and took a tour of his new school. For the first part of the tour I felt like I was leading around little Zachie who was barely old enough for preschool. Then I turned to tell him something and noticed my eyes were level with his nose. 

Zac is so ready to start his new adventure. Almost all of his friends from the neighborhood started Middle School last year. Voices are starting to drop. They all pass the sacrament and go to Young Men's Activities. Zac is choosing which books, movies, and TV shows are appropriate. He knows the "truth" about Santa and the Tooth Fairy, what all the "naughty" words really mean, and lots about the birds and the bees. His school acquired Chromebooks for everyone in the 6th grade and to login he needed his own gmail account. Now he has to check his email several times a day. He has already designed a website with a friend and can't wait until he turns 13 and can obtain his own Youtube account and start posting videos. 

He is a great kid, but growing up is hard stuff. From friends that don't get along, to walking the fine line between friends that are girls and the other thing girls could be someday, to learning how to be responsible for your own schoolwork. Here I am sitting on the sidelines watching him grow, and I still don't know what I'm doing. So we have lots of talks. I'm pretty sure Zac hates most of them. I'm constantly asking him to "tell me what he is feeling." He wants to sulk to his room and stay there alone for eternity. I remember those days. I'm not sure that I'm ready to be a parent to that yet. But my lack of readiness does not stop him from growing. 

Zac and Scott spent most of Sacrament Meeting yesterday writing notes back and forth across the bench and having a discussion so serious I was not allowed to read anything they wrote. It was a guy thing. Then after a wonderful time in nursery, Zac came in early and helped the kids clean up the toys basically by himself. I was holding one who fell asleep, and Scott was frantically searching for a few misplaced favorite toys. Zac played with the kids, sang with them, cleaned up the mess, and passed them off to their parents without any grumbling at all.

After the meeting we had a grown up talk about grown up things just Scott, Zac, and I where we spoke about serious things. How we want to protect him, while at the same time giving him privacy with his friends. Then he opened up about something personal that had hurt his feelings. By the end we were all laughing and giggling. Later that night we sent the twins to bed and the older kids got to stay up an hour past bedtime to watch a show with Mom and Dad. As Chloe hid in her blanket each commercial break bemoaning all the "cliff hangers", Zac discussed the motivation and intricate details of the characters. 

My life is no longer four kids in diapers, turned around locks for sleepwalkers, or naps. It is now full of after school activities, homework, and lots of in depth conversations about what we each think about the world. It's weird and scary and so much fun. Luckily I have the parents of Zac's friends already attending Middle School to call when I don't know how to fill out the forms. I have the cute 8th grade daughter of a neighbor to pat my arm and tell me Middle School is really fun and I shouldn't worry, but that I can call her when I'm freaking out way more than Zac is about it. And I have a strong willed child who won't back down from anything he knows is right, and for now is still willing to tell me every little thing that hurts him. 

I'm going to try to remember to enjoy this new life while I've got it because I'm pretty sure, as soon as I figure out how to parent a preteen, Zac will be driving a car. And on that thought, lets all take a few deep breaths together. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The thing about anxiety is . . . .

For any one who suffers from a lifelong mental or physical illness there is this thing that is inherently different than a cold, broken arm, or even bout of pneumonia. Those other things get better with treatment. Eventually they go away and you live your life for the most part just as you did before. A little more then 10 months ago I was diagnosed with anxiety. It was my own miracle to have a diagnosis. I finally knew what was wrong with me, and I knew that all those things I'd been feeling weren't just made up in my head -- or they were made up in my head, but there was a reason they existed there. I found medication that for the most part combats all of my symptoms. Some days I even feel like a normal person, a normal person who CAN NOT forget to take her pills, but a normal person. But the thing is for me this condition will never fully go away.

I know that I'm not the only one out there dealing with a life long condition. There may be faint hope of a cure "someday" but day to day management is much more at the forefront of my mind. In my medicine cabinet is one bottle with a green label on the lid that I take every morning and another with "EMERGENCY" written in red sharpie. My husband and kids know how to find the one I need when I ask and usually don't ask questions. For months now, I've been diligent about taking my daily pills, and hadn't needed an emergency one for a long time. Each time I ended up taking an emergency pill I had a trigger that I understood.

I know that I can't skimp on sleep, and sometimes that means taking a 2 hour nap instead of doing what I had planned that morning. I have to eat regularly and healthy too. I now carry meal replacement bars with me if I'm going to be out of the house for a while. I have had to find new ways to deal with stressful situations and say "no" to lots of things I want to do when my stress level starts to escalate. Sometimes when I need the sunshine but can't face that it's 1pm and I'm still in my jammies I'll open my back curtains while I still hide from the world behind the still shut front ones. When my stress starts to escalate I have a few mind games that usually help me calm down before panic sets in. Since I began my medication regimen I haven't had a single full blown panic attack until yesterday. 10 months without something that I used to live with daily. 

I'd forgotten how awful they were. I took all the precautions, worked all the tricks, took my medication, but nothing helped. For several hours it was difficult to take a deep breath, my heart was stuck in a vice, and though I lay as close to my husband as I could for comfort I couldn't stand to be touched any other way. There was no one trigger for my condition. The only thing I could figure out is that I'd just survived a very stressful week. 
  • To help out a desperate FSO (charter school PTA) mom, even though I only signed up for making copies, I ended up in charge of prizes and assemblies. People can be really ornery about  not being picked to win a dollar store prize. It's horrible stressful to try to make everyone happy.
  • My laptop was down for several days as I prayed it would dry out from a stupid kitchen water disaster. Yes I know back stuff up, yes I know not to dump pot fulls of water on your electronic device, yes I know I shouldn't cook, help teach someone to cook, and do dishes at the same. None of this helped my fear that 2 hours of inspiration earlier in the day to solve a MAJOR problem with my 85% complete book was gone. 
  • When the same laptop not only turns on, but my IT husband can save the locked hard drive and all the data, I cried many tears of joy. I'm not a crier. I didn't cry when my kids were born. I didn't cry when I sent them to kindergarten. I did cry that my book was safe.
  • I drove a bunch of family to Logan and back for a baby shower for a wonderful lady on Saturday. I don't usually drive other people. I don't feel like I'm a great driver. It was more stressful that I realized. Very enjoyable but stressful just the same.
  • I teach nursery with my husband. We used to have 5 kids, then we had 8, as of the beginning of the year we've had 11-14 each week. 11-14 is very different to manage than 5 or 8. 
So I think all of that came to a head when most of the issues were already dealt with on Monday. This morning I woke up still unable to function. For me when my anxiety is high I can't leave the couch. I play mindless computer games or apps on my Kindle hoping that if I complete just one more level I'll have the courage to stand up and brush my teeth, unload the dishwasher, or shower. Usually the only motivation that gets me going is my desire to be dressed when I pick my children up from school. 

I hadn't been in the place for a long time. Once the medication started working I never wanted to be back there. But there I was. Hit in the face that most likely I will be fighting this battle for the rest of my life. I know we shouldn't compare trials, I even wrote an entire chapter about it. But when you aren't functioning and you read on Facebook, or the news, or watch stories on TV of others that have overcome even more difficult adversity I tend to become very hard on myself. They dragged themselves out of the house to visit a sick child in the hospital yet again today. They dealt with the death of a loved one and managed to be kind to someone else today. They've lived in limbo over a job, a house, a spouse for so much longer that me. Just get dressed. But for me anxiety doesn't work that way, even if I'd like it to. It isn't something that I can turn off and on. It isn't something that will ever go away. I will have bad days at inopportune times. I will most likely have to find a different way to deal with social events with lots of people. I'll have to be careful what checkout lines I use at the grocery store. 

The thing about anxiety is....I will live the rest of my life with this demon always on my shoulder waiting for one moment of weakness to pounce. It gives me a even bigger reason to work toward a Celestial Resurrected pure with no defeat body. It also gives me a a reason to lean a little more upon my Savior and His Atonement. A more sure knowledge that He has surely born our griefs and our sorrows. He knows and understands exactly why I can't move from under my blanket before I play one more mild calming game of Sudoku. 

It is that belief and knowledge that keeps me "keeping on" and "swimming" through all the bad days until a few good ones come along again. It makes each and every one of the days without this pain so much sweeter. The days my brain works right and doesn't overly worry seem as close to heaven as I might get in this life. They give me reasons to continue to strive to do all the things I've been taught even when they are hard and I want to be contrary. 

I've been lucky so far to have the good days out number the bad. I've been able to see the blessings through this life altering trial. I have amazing family and friends, who check in on me, rush to bring me just the right medicine, and sit next to me and hold my hand when there isn't anything else they can do. 

Thank you life for continuing to go on when I feel I can't take one more step. Thank you family for not outwardly wishing I was different. Thank you Christ for showing me life can be better and I can survive great hardship with Your help. Thank you Heavenly Father for making my brain for different so that I could learn this lesson. Thank you readers, friends, neighbors, and those I hardly know for listening and taking just a few minutes to see life in my shoes. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

When you have too much to do

Family Pictures Check - One more thing off the list
Thank you Camera Shy!!
Do you ever have days when you know in your heart, or your bones, or your soul that you have way more things on your todo list than you have hours you can physically remain awake? I feel like I've been running my life in that mode for a while. There are days here and there that everything is done and I can relax. There are others when I've recorded more steps on my pedometer from running errands than from exercising.

Those run crazy days wreak havoc on my anxiety. Instead of being able to focus, my mind is concentrating on the next ten things I've got to get done. It's an interesting phenomenon, especially since it is one of my pet peeves with my kids. I feel like a broken record (does anyone even remember what that sounds like anymore) as I say, "Just eat your breakfast and stop worrying about what we are having for dinner." Or many of the other phrases that come out of my mouth on a daily, hourly, or by the minute basis, instructing someone to knuckle down to the task at hand. Given, my own lack of focus should definitely this should not surprise and bother me as much when it materializes in my own children. But I think I'm really just dealing with my own frustration with myself.

It is on those days that I feel I'm trying to claw my way out of a never ending amount of activity quicksand that I fall back on hard learned tricks to help me get through the day.

  • I make lists then focus on one thing at a time. 
  • I ask for help for the simple things that take up a lot of time
  • I learn to say no - even when I really want to go, help, and volunteer
Right now I'm working on some big projects at work. AND I have six weeks to get my book edited enough that I won't be embarrassed for my critique group to look at it. AND I'm trying really hard to exercise and eat better. AND I just agreed to help out with Jazz Reading at the school. AND I want to spend time with my family, and clean my house, and occasionally shower. 

It's overwhelming to think of everything that needs to be done at the same time. If I let all those things overpower me, I can become completely incapacitated. Even when times are hard and I think I'll break under the pressure two scriptures bring peace to my soul. I truly believe that not only will All these things give me experience and be for my good, I also know that I can go and do the things the Lord commanded, for I know the Lord will provide a way for me to do all that He has commanded. (D&C 122:7 and 1 Nephi 3:7) Today I'm going to work on being a little more kind when my children are struggling to focus, and when I take the same advice with myself, I know one by one I'll be able to get done exactly what I need to. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

The nicest patch of carpet in my house...

This is how I feel about my carpet sometimes
It's a new year and like waking up on my 13th or 16th or 21st birthday I think I should somehow feel different, yet life is much the same as it was seven days ago. That's the real lie Hollywood sells us. It isn't that someday your prince will come (I got that) or that the nerdy girl can become beautiful (it's pretty easy to change your hairstyle). It's that somehow special days arrive and you feel different right on cue. That just doesn't happen. I still think that 10 years ago was the 90's. Everyone around me grows up but I feel much the same as I did the day after I got married. Though sometimes I look in the mirror and say to myself "Tula, you look so . . . .old." Then wonder, how did that happen?

It's like the nicest patch of carpet in my house. Did you know you have to visit my closet to see it? Everywhere else my carpet definitely shows it age. Occasionally I sit in the living room and stare at my slightly matted, very worn sea green carpet and wonder whatever possessed me to choose this color that makes picking paint and furniture extremely difficult. I usually remind myself, hardly ever out loud, this carpet is great with kids. Stains don't stick out and when I chose it, I knew I could always change it later and when the kids made messes I could tell myself it isn't my forever carpet, but I like it for now.

But the carpet in my closet makes me happy. Every time I sit inside to dry my hair (don't ask - I'm sure you do quirky things too), I can run my hands along its soft surface and remember why I really picked this color. It's unique and makes my heart a little bit happier. Do you know why my nicest patch of carpet is in the closet? Because it is frequently so covered with stuff. When the stuff becomes so overwhelming that we can no longer walk into the walk-in closet we clean it up. The suitcases (no longer needed to hide Christmas toys) go back to their home in the laundry room. The towels and sheets get put back into the big green chest. Shoes are sorted and stacked neatly. And so on and so forth.

You may be asking yourself, "Okay she loves her weird green carpet what does that have to do with anything?" That patch of carpet, it's kind of like my soul. It hasn't aged much and is probably why I still feel much younger than I am. Most of the time it's hidden behind the self I present to the world. It holds all the pieces of myself that are unique and make my heart just a little bit happier. That young piece of my soul gives me strength to

  • Fall in love with someone else's child while I chase them around the nursery room for two hours every Sunday. You might not believe me, but nursery is one of the best callings in the church. 
  • Have my twins baptized one week early, despite the many obstacles. Just so our far away cousins could be there. 
  • Not freak out when my girls come downstairs having applied "real" makeup for the first time and now look like a cross between circus clowns and French whores. Then after much facial cleanser, try to explain how to apply it the "right" way.
  • Allow several spinning toys to fly around the house at the same time. And each time they hit something or someone being glad we had not purchased "The ninja knives of death."
  • Not burst into tears that I screwed up and my oldest figured out the truth about Santa. For realsies this time. 
  • And lastly - to try to things. 
When I stop and think about it, I do feel different than that girl I used to be. I've got four kids, adult friends, and I've learned so much. This year might not feel much different than seven days ago but it's a lifetime away from where I was last January. That is the real lesson of my hidden patch of carpet: Hope. When my house was filled with beautiful new carpet I was three weeks away from becoming a mother. I had no idea what that journey would mean to me. But I knew what I hoped it would be. I'm glad I spent the last twelve months relearning how to be hopeful. It is a marvelous blessing.

PS - It's also helpful when the sun shines and medication helps you find that missing bit of carpet again.   

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

It's Christmas Eve Eve. Which basically means I have a million things to get done but the kids are running around like the day after Halloween. I haven't fed them any sugar. Seriously we ate oatmeal and scrambled eggs this morning. That they made themselves as I sat under a fuzzy blanket trying to deal with the noise.

This year we've got the extra excitement of cousins coming from California and the twins getting baptized on Saturday. Even though I've tried my best to stay on top of everything I have a list of about 10 things I forgot to get at the grocery store on Saturday but need to be purchased to function (you know things like soap for the dishwasher). The girls need haircuts, we haven't done sibling secret Santa shopping, Nathan needs jeans, Scott's car needs to be registered. And somehow in all my extra time this week I've got to send out some sort of baptism announcement, purchase and have scriptures engraved, and get the house ready for loads of people to visit and eat. So much for a low key peaceful holiday.

And yet despite the chaos this year is so much better than last. Sometime during the year the twins turned 2, I realized that our lives were just going to be chaotic for a while. Probably for something like the next 20 years. Instead of spending all my time fighting against it, I just needed to accept it. This crazy chaos is the stuff I can deal with. Last year, I was pushing through physical therapy to be able to not cancel our trip to California to visit family. All the kids had spent weeks fighting the flu. Not the stomach flu, the nasty feverish, coughing, can't get out of bed flu. And in the middle of it I had this unknown health problem that made me anxious, worried, and occasionally panicky about just about everything in my life. It wasn't fun or peaceful.

This year I was again starting to feel my life spiraling out of control. Luckily I had a doctor's appointment at the beginning of the month where she reassured me that it's okay to take that little emergency pill when I'm overwhelmed. And anyone would be with what I've got on my plate right now. On top of that I've got amazingly understanding family members who can see when I'm falling apart and don't judge me when I burst into tears for no good reason. They love me when I need it, let me sleep when I need to, and most of all completely understand when I need a little yellow pill and twenty minutes by myself to be able to cope.

Today I leave you with one of my most favorite Christmas songs. Even on my darkest days, I realized the miracle that I was somehow able to get up the next day and keep going and the hope that someday it would get better. For each day that I wake up and it is better I say Hallelujah. For the knowledge that Christ will reign forever and ever and all of our pain and suffering will one day be alleviated I shout it from the roof tops.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours.

Monday, December 16, 2013

This time 8 seems so little

Each time your child has a birthday I think it is perfectly natural to think back on when they were born. Thinking back on the birth of my twins fills me with horror and dread. Even though life is much easier now, I haven't forgotten what it was like then. I think everyone has at least one thing that they hold in their pocket for when someone else is telling a specific kind of story. It doesn't matter if the story is one of triumph or defeat but it always deals with comparison. My immediate (mostly unspoken response) to these stories is "Oh yeah, well I had twins. AND four kids under the age of 5. AND four kids in diapers so meh." That meh is when I imagine sticking out my tongue at the person who has upset me.

For some reason there is a language in my church that everything that happens is a trial or a blessing. There isn't much in between that is just life. Well there is lunch and laundry, but sometimes even those have been trials and blessings. I've often heard the saying "My biggest trial was also my greatest blessing." I don't like to think of my children as a trial. (Though often I've had trials of my patience through the children). But having twins and all my kids so close together was really hard.

There was the time I lost four year old Zac at a park and left two year old Chloe in charge of six month old Katelyn and Nathan to go find Zac. There was the time I had an argument at o'dark thirty with Scott about which twin I was holding. There was the time I sat humbled in the WIC office to get some desperately needed food assistance. There was the time that Katie said "Mama" for the first time and I sat on the kitchen floor and cried because I didn't think I could adequately take care of the needs of all these small children. There were days that I counted down until everyone slept through the night, wiped their own bum, fed and dressed themselves, and went to school. There were also days when I cried that they'd become big enough to do some of those things.

It was a journey that I look back on and can't believe was my life. Because of this experience I know angels walk among us. Sometimes they are flesh and blood, other times they are just felt. I am loved. And oh boy can I do hard things. But I don't do any of it on my own. EVER. Our family frequently pulls together to get through hard things. My kids and husband are endlessly patient and understanding with a mom who can't do it all.

I've been so excited for each growing up milestone. We cheered when Zac joined Cub Scouts, Chloe got to attend Activity Days, and at each Baptism. Now as I sent my baby off to his first Cub Scout meeting, Katie is meeting with Activity Days leaders, and the twins are getting baptized in just 12 days, I just keep thinking how little they are. Zac and Chloe seemed so much older at this age. Chloe sitting in the chair to get her ears pierced looked all grown up and ready for a new adventure. Katie seemed to be my tiny 4 lb 15 oz baby that I rocked to sleep last night.

We've had a good life with so many adventures. I don't miss the sleepless nights, dirty diapers, or clinging children. But my heart aches a little bit that my babies are so grown up. It's a paradox even my logical brain can't find an answer for.

Twelve, ten, and eight. That's our life now. It's so much better than four, two, and zero. Even if I have to answer questions about penis's and missionary companions who aren't married. There are times each one drives me crazy. But most of the time I'm lucky to have some pretty great kids.

This past weekend we "finally" got to celebrate Katie turning eight. We celebrated Nathan last week, but Katelyn's was delayed due to snow. For three hours I sat on the sidelines while they bounced, flipped, and swung. Though occasional hugs were given, and "Mom watch me's" were said, each of my babies were big enough to explore on their own without me worrying that they'd walk out the door unannounced. We've come a long way in the last eight years.

Seriously can you believe they used to look like this????? Me neither.

May you enjoy your time with your babies. 
Happy Monday.