Monday, December 2, 2013
Christmas has arrived at our house. For me the season is full of magic, helped by millions of twinkly lights everywhere. Yet for some reason this year I feel like bunches of people are telling me I'm doing it wrong. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I even think it's perfectly okay for your inner grinchyness to be put on display for the world to see. Feeling judged probably has a whole lot to do with me and nothing to do with anybody else. So today, I'm going to tell you how things roll at the Stone house.
Teeny and Santa are part of the magic of Christmas at my house. And until I'm dead (or completely crazy) I will continue to tell my kids that #1 Santa is real and #2 I still believe. Last year I had a heart to heart with my oldest about the "myth" of Santa. I told him that Santa is part of the magic of Christmas. He is not just one person. Sometimes he is a family bringing presents to someone who needs them. Sometimes he is in a hug or a smile. Sometimes he is in that one gift you wanted, but never thought you were going to get. That magic, the one of unending kindness, I hope will always exist. And be a big part of Christmas.
So when I stand in line for an hour an a half on Black Friday to get the very last half price printer the store has in stock, or when I keep checking the lightning deals on Thanksgiving while having wonderful conversation with my family or even when I tell my kids that Santa really truly exists I'm not forgetting why I celebrate Christmas.
In the end I don't think there is any wrong way to do Christmas. Go ahead have a naughty elf and clean up after him, or have no elf at all. Put your tree up the 1st of November, dread putting it up the 24th, or don't put one up at all. Tell your kids Santa is real, tell them it's you, tell them there is no such thing. Open a present on each of the twelve days or Christmas Eve. Give three presents, or five, or as many as you want. You are not doing it wrong, as long as what you are doing works for you.
May each of you find kindness, peace, joy, and love this holiday season. I know I'll be out there trying my best to help spread a little bit of magic, hopefully some finds you.
Monday, November 25, 2013
Every year I get to go to a wonderful Time Out event with my family. For two days I learn things that enrich Liz's soul. And because I have an amazing husband I know the kids are not only being taken care of but having fun too. I could seriously write pages and pages about the event. Last year the piece I wrote was even published in the Deseret News (yeah I'm pretty proud of that one). So in the words of Inigo Montoya because there is too much to "splain" let me "sum up".
- Driving to the Maverick Center in rush hour traffic with people trying to get to movies, a play, restaurants, home, and a churchy event is not pleasant for anyone. We are all a little frustrated but DO NOT swear at my delightful pregnant with twins cousin so loud that she can hear it through two shut car windows. Seriously we are all going to learn to better people that is just bad form.
- Sometimes when your brain doesn't work right, you say the wrong words. Thanks to my sister in law we now have a name for this phenomenon. It's called "Brain Mind" No further explanation needed.
- Ann Romney is an extremely gracious and amazing women. Listening to her was truly a treat.
- When you are listening to Ann Romney and suddenly realize in twenty minutes 8000 people are going to stand up at the same time and leave, panic can ensue. When said panic won't go away because you said "Stop It." Emergency anxiety pills are a miracle. Family who sits with you while everyone else elephant stampedes up the stairs and just lets you breath are a blessing.
- All twin mommies are kindred spirits.
- Sometimes the bad seats are worth it when you get to sit together.
- Advice from the always funny Mary Ellen Edmonds, "You can't plant carrots and pray for melons. Well you can but you aren't going to get what you want."
- Even if you've prepaid for lunch, trying to feed 8000 people at the same time can be disastrous. HOWEVER:
- To my family you let me sit in the empty arena and dealt with the crowds so I could enjoy the rest of the event - You are angels.
- To the strangers who took care of Jenny when the crowd and pregnancy overwhelmed her - You are angels.
- Lesson Learned - Angels walk among us. Take time to recognize them for who they are.
- After the trauma of lunch someone mentioned this would be funny someday. Then we shared stories of things that have now become funny. I laughed so hard that I had to use napkins in both hands to dry my tears. Thank you Marjorie Pay Hinckley for encouraging us to laugh because crying can give you a headache.
- A little time away from daily life can refresh your soul and give you the confidence and courage needed to do hard things.
- Getting greeted at the door by children who have missed you while you were gone is priceless.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
Monday, November 18, 2013
This little girl with her bright blue eyes and chubby checks as done a lot of growing. Tomorrow she turns 10. She isn't my little baby any more.
Last week everyone needed new shoes. Double bonus is was BOGO and I had a coupon so off to the store we went. Zac's been in men's sizes for a while. He seems to grow by the second. It didn't surprise me that he'd gone up a size. Nathan and Katelyn had grown a little too (or shrunk if you believed the employee who measured their feet). Chloe, sweet Chloe, had grown 1.5 sizes since we last bought shoes in May. Her new tennis shoes, are a half size bigger than mine. I have a hard enough time trying to find shoes with the right toe/heal combination. Do you know how hard it is to find shoes acceptable to a 4th grader in the women's section? After over an hour in the store and lots of pleading of "You have to find something to wear to school tomorrow." We found the one pair in the whole store that would work. And I thought taking her to buy a bra was hard.
As the kids have gotten older the quest to find the perfect fit for a friend birthday party has become increasingly difficult. No longer is it okay to play a round of duck duck goose, go on a treasure hunt through the back yard, eat cake and go home. These are big kids, and they need big time entertainment. With an eye out for any deal, months ago I saw an ad for "Birthday Makeovers" and showed it to Chloe thinking that would be a fun thing to do for her party. Then our finances got a little bit squirly. That fun thing I'd hope to do, wasn't in the budget anymore. But Chloe still really wanted to do it.
Luckily I've got a brain trust. Except mine isn't just for advice anymore. My mom introduced the concept within our family years ago. Lots of time when you aren't super rich, you need help with something but might not be able to pay for it. So our family shares skills. Kind of like barter with a little bit of you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours thrown in. For example Scott fixes the computers and my dad helps us fix the hole in our kitchen ceiling. At any time you can call up the brain trust and say "Help" and we'll all pitch in to do what needs to be done.
I've also been fortunate enough to have some great friends and neighbors who don't mind joining in with the system. I've traded tutoring\ for haircuts. Scott's fixed computers for yummy baked goods. And every once in a while when we happen to be wondering the neighborhood looking for a certain tool, help and the tool appear. We have been so blessed to have great neighbors.
When I couldn't give Chloe exactly what she wanted, a plan popped into my head. Maybe my neighbor could help us out. And help she did. For 2.5 hours she stood in my kitchen and gave 10 girls a unique "grown-up" do. I painted nails (it's my one sleepover skill). At the end of the party we had a gaggle of giggly girls who had had an amazing time. And were excited to show off their fancy braids and messy buns. Dianna Byrd - you are a super hero and totally saved the day.
One mom who moved away from the neighborhood asked to stay and enjoy the girls time during the party. She has a little boy born a week after my twins and a daughter Chloe's age. That first summer she would often show up on my doorstep just because she needed to talk. Each and every time I needed company but was too tired to drag four kids out to find it. Instead of just talking, she removed polish, painted nails, held strands of hair, and even did a little bit of braiding. Miranda - You are an angel sent straight from heaven.
My life used to consist of an endless parade of diapers and spit up. Now we've moved up to bras and reminders to put on your deodorant. I could not have gotten here on my own. I can not move forward on my own either. I can get up and face my life everyday because people invite my kids over for playdates and treat them like part of the family while they are there. Neighbors run over and shut my garage when I've forgotten, or chase away the older neighborhood boys playing basketball in the driveway when my kids are home alone. They drive carpool, drop off missing lunches, pick me up when my car dies, love my kids when they are sad, and so much more. I could not get by without them. They are part of my most treasured blessings. May each of you know how much you are loved and appreciated. I truly could not do it without you!
Monday, November 11, 2013
After months of drafting the first words of my book and spending each day focused on word counts and ideas, I've switched into editing mode. The idea of this book has been sitting in my brain for years. Now my goal is to have the manuscript close to complete by the end of April so that I can pitch it to an editor at the LDStorymakers conference this year. I've attended this conference for years and learned so much about myself and what I want to do with my writing there. It is where I first submitting my words to be read and judged at their face value. At this past conference, after taking a few years off of serious writing efforts, I joined a critique group to help me achieve my goals. It is because of these hard deadlines that I now spend my days trying to turn the word vomit of drafting into something magical other people will want to read.
In my first draft, I mostly set up the outline of the story I wanted to tell. I devised section and chapter titles that I love, some more than the words written within the selection. There are bits and pieces and are inspired and amazing. There are also large chunks that are horrible. Before I started I envisioned that everything I wrote the first time would be near perfection. After fixing spelling, grammar, and taking out all those pet words, the prose would be exemplary. What actually happened, is an awful lot of rewriting and using the trash bin. After days of struggle sometimes I'm hit with an epiphany and instead of trashing the entire section I figure out a way to make it fit even better than it did before.
Last week I was able to take a few days, leave editing behind and get out of my own head. A good friend had been asked to talk about life with her autistic son in a class on special needs at BYU Idaho. She invited me to tag along. As a special bonus we got to stay with another friend who had moved to Rexburg at the beginning of the year. Her husband was the professor of the class, it's why they moved. Even though I took my laptop with every intention of working, it stayed shut in its bag most of the time. Instead I was reinvigorated with conversation and enjoyed being someone else's guest. My husband took care of the kids at home, so all I needed to worry about was what to order off the menu for lunch.
As we stayed up way too late chatting, my friend told me of her amazing journey of how she got to be where she is now. The months of not knowing if everything was going to work out. Of packing up her family and finding out plans they had made weren't going to work. And of many tender mercies, what they got was better than anything they could have dreamed of. We talked of plans, and how those plans change. It reminded me of the editing I was working on.
When I was younger I had a plan for what my life would look like. Zac would have been born 2 years earlier. We would have 3 kids. I would stay home and have a beautifully clean and decorated house. We would have all the money we ever needed and more. Our yard would be perfectly maintained. The house would not be falling apart. All of the children would be smart and popular and never have any struggles at all. That is not what my life looks like.
Sometimes all you have to do with your dreams is edit them. Our house isn't where we dreamed of living, but I love our neighbors. We have a park literally across the street. My kids have good friends that share our values. I have found bosom friends who I can call at a minutes notice whenever I need help. My street is lined with trees that are starting to be tall enough to give shade and shed enough leaves to jump in (at least sometimes). The house isn't a mansion but when we clean it, we have enough room for all our junk.
Sometimes dreams need to be rewritten. My kids don't look like I had planned, but the basic premise of motherhood is still there. It is something I often take for granted. Every day we change what discipline works, how best to do homework, or how NOT to lose the shoe we spent 20 min looking for this morning. We come up with new ways to balance home and work. Life changes and is much more pleasant when we learn to evolve with it.
Sometimes dreams get thrown in the trash bin and I get the opportunity to find new ones. Usually what they are replaced with fits better than what ended up in the trash anyway. Zac, Chloe, and Nathan all got teachers new to the school this year. We were hoping for a certain teacher for Zac who ended up leaving the school during the summer. The one we got instead has grown his confidence in ways I could have never expected. After years of prayers that somehow he'd be able to be in a good place with school and friends, miracle after miracle has fallen into place to give him exactly that.
Just like my book, life isn't what I'd initially planed. Sometimes there are things I love but need to end up in the trash bin to make room for something better. There are pieces that need to be reworked and reworked until finally epiphany and the solution appears. Eventually, with lots of hard work, I'm going to hit that place when other people will think there is magic in my words. The key is learning to be able to let go of the bad and not so good in order to make room for a little bit of perfection.
Monday, November 4, 2013
I love this part of fall where we've settled back into the routine of school and all the activities that come with it. The club schedules are established. Soccer was fast and fun, but now gratefully over. Homework is not yet dreary enough to be a fight and if the kids work fast enough I can still send them outside to the little park where not only a gaggle of friends already are, but also when it's light enough to still see. I still have high hopes for all the things I can accomplish during the child free days. Amid all the stress of holidays and birthday season there are these lights of joy as I see glimmers of the adults growing up inside my kids. These are the things I love. Nathan's excitement to help a friend be comfortable at a new school. Zac embracing all that comes with turning 12. Going trick or treating with a good friend, and getting to know another a little bit better as we wave at the entire neighborhood walking by doing the same. Katie's sparkly eyes that light up when she laughs. Chloe's desire to help and stepping up each and every time I ask her. The smell the heat makes the first time you turn it on for the season. And it being the perfect temperature for me to cuddle in a blanket while I write this.
Branches at the top of the tree have already released their leaves into the pull of the wind. They are bare and ready for the driving snow. I'm not there yet. First snows are always beautiful, when the light reflects of the untouched field of white and blinds you. It never lasts long. The night comes earlier. The shoveling never ends and we begin our winter hibernation. The street that was full of delightful screaming and laughter is now dull and lifeless. These are the things I hate. Stress, anxiety, fear. They all come together. The inevitable march toward darker and colder days threaten to eat away at the barriers I've spent months building around my soul. Will this year be better? Or will I again slip away to the place of fog and unproductiveness? This is where the mom who yells too much, the neighbor who isn't compassionate, and the person who judges everyone and everything lives. I don't know if I'm ready to face her yet. Those bare branches are just another reminder that ready or not, seasons change.
Then there is the small part of our tree that is completely uninterested in everything going on around it. Those patches of leaves are still green. When days start to get colder leaves on the trees across the street start to turn. By the time ours has fully changed color, most of the other trees are bare. Every year I plead with the 'stupid tree' to drop it's 'stupid leaves' before the 'stupid snow' stays on the ground. And every year the first lifts of my shovel contain more leaves than snow. The tree has its own pace, regardless of what is going on around it. These are the things I'm indifferent about. I'm not going to jump on the wagon of the daily Facebook I'm thankful posts. I don't care that the day after Halloween the stores switched to Christmas. It should probably bug me, but instead means I can get my shopping done early and find deals on birthday presents too. We've decided that Thanksgiving this year is going to be totally low key. We're going to buy some things we usually make from scratch and enjoy being together instead of stressing that the food is perfect.
Most of all I'm grateful that my husband lovingly takes my occasional brutal honesty/bizarre sense of humor. When he takes a few days off work he still loves me when I tell me that "He has no cents, and I'm completely indifferent late at night."
Happy Fall Everybody!!!!!
Monday, October 21, 2013
Hi my name is Liz and I have a picture head tilting problem. I get it from my mother. Any time we pose for a formal picture we tilt our heads at almost the exact same angle. We've done it for years and have several family portraits that display this trait. As you can see here, the boys may try but it's us girls that have got the head tilt down. It's a family thing.
Yesterday we were fortunate enough to have the support of our family as my oldest not only turned 12, but was able to receive the Priesthood. In additional to that excitement, it was also the ward primary program. It gave me the perfect chance for reflection. As the kids clearly sang every song, and a huge number of them stepped to the microphone to recite their memorized parts, I thought back to what life was like when Zac was first born. In those 12 years we haven't moved, but have lived in several wards and stakes. When we first moved in, church was a 30 min drive through two cities. Now we can see 9 steeples from our front lawn. 3 of them are Stake Centers. We had no young men. No youth to prepare, bless, or pass the sacrament. Now, on most Sundays, we have almost a full two benches of Deacons in addition to our healthy group of Teachers and Priests. Our primary still fills all the choir seats, several rows of additional chairs, and a few pews too.
At the end of our Sunday meetings, my family (all 15 of us and many more in spirit) filed into the Bishop's office where with the help of some amazing examples Zachary took a big leap into adulthood. He sat in a chair surrounded by grandpa's, an uncle, and his Dad and beamed. As he shook hands and gave hugs after I looked at my grown up young man standing there in his first suit and knew he wasn't my baby anymore.
He's officially entered the land of Mom and Dad having less and less influence in how he thinks and acts. Motherhood hasn't always been easy. More than once I've felt that I'm doing a horrible job and doing more harm than good with my kids. My efforts alone would not have been enough to steady him, even if they had been perfect. Luckily we are a family. Brothers, Sisters, Cousins, Aunts, Uncles, Grandmas, Grandpas, Great Grandmas, Teachers, Scout Leaders, Friends, and more have all worked together to help empower him. He is unique, special, amazing, and loved.
That night we sat and watched The Amazing Race as is our usual Sunday tradition. Nathan cuddled in my lap. During the show, the contestants needed to leap off of something high to get their next clue. When we heard what was to come, Nathan leaded over to my ear and said, "Don't worry, Mom. I'll protect you." Knowing my horrible fear of heights each time someone leaped his covered my eyes with his arm and patted my back. Half way through the show, as I reveled in the hour of quiet family time, it hit me. This is when our family works best. When we all work together to keep each other safe and happy.
When we acknowledge the fact that we have problems, and when my brother taking the family picture above gets everyone to tilt their head, since Mom and I were going to do it anyway. We we laugh and play with cousins all afternoon. And when I can acknowledge my gratitude for all those people who influenced Zac for good. All those people who helped a little piece of him grown into who he is today. I'm so proud of all my kids. I love watching them discover what they are capable of and treasure every second (okay not the ones where we scream at each other but most of them) of the time I get to spend with them.
Monday, October 7, 2013
Did you ever have a week where everything culminates at the same time and it feels like the end of days. You aren't quite sure how everyone is going to survive or in what state each of you will emerge? That was last week for us. As can be witnessed by my posting here, we somehow managed to make it through. There were several nights of late bedtimes in a row followed by church in our jammies where we ate way too much candy. Needless to say I'm enjoying the quiet of being alone in my house for a few hours right now.
The world this week looks totally different than it did last week. Scott's play opened which means he gets to be home a little bit more. As I work for the same company, it also means that the flurry of last minute todo items turns into a more manageable do this sometime during the week list. Soccer is over. There are no more practices on top of piano lessons, activity days, or scout activities. We can finally settle into the more manageable schedule of the kids being busy but not all at the same time. And we get our Saturday's back to get some projects done around the house (I'm looking at you broken downstairs toilet). I volunteered in Katie's class and attended the 2nd grade school field trip, so I can guilt free turn down other opportunities for a week or two. And last, but certainly not least, my rough draft for my mom book is DONE. I stuffed all the ideas into a box and shoved it into the corner of my brain, so that I no longer will obsess about word counts and grammar for the next little bit.
For the first time since early Spring we don't have a new project to jump right into, I'm able to take a few days and just breathe. I can stand on the top of this mountain and bask in all I have accomplished. I'm finally able to take a look at what is going on around me. I've spent so long concentrating on one step at a time. Fix the broken foot. Learn to live with anxiety. Write the book. Survive summer vacation. Drive the carpool, pick up the kids, make dinner, do the laundry. Time the reading minutes, correct the homework, and don't forget to smile. I knew if I took my eyes off the path for one step, I would trip, fall, and tumble all the way back to the beginning of my journey.
We all of have mountains to climb. Sometimes we are able to have a long chat as we walk the path. Other times we huff and puff and cling to the side of the mountain in order to move just one small step forward. Some people have very visible mountains. Other people have "look at me and all that I've done" ones. Some quietly climb without any acknowledgement of the difficulty of their journey.
There have been many things floating around my brain about these mountains the last few days. Facebook posts, media coverage, and more than a few reminders during General Conference that our journeys are unique AND Heavenly Father loves us no matter where we are on that journey. So I take a few minutes this morning as I stand at the top of my current mountain to remind myself not to judge others as they climb theirs. To try to learn that my journey is different and things that are easy for me, might be hard for others. And to remember those days I was barely hanging on, and to give other people the benefit of the doubt, that when they don't respond the way I want...maybe they are just clinging to their own mountain. Maybe their journey is a little harder than I realize.
We all have to take our steps through the refiner's fire. Those steps make us better, though we might not see it yet. Hopefully I'll remember that a few days from now, when I turn around and realize this mountain that I sit at the top of is not the end of my journey. I'm going to enjoy to break, but be ready for the next peak when it comes.