Thursday, September 29, 2011

Just a Body

About two months ago I got a new route for visiting teaching. I now visit two sisters. Both of these women are incredible. Not only do they each have great personalities but both of them are fighters. One of them has a brain tumor and the other one not only has cancer but also had a stroke about a year ago. After visiting these sisters this last month, I believe that I was the one who received the greater lesson.

When I was sitting in the living room of one of the sisters, we sat and talked about her daughter and her grandchildren. She got so excited as she discussed the possibility of them coming out for Christmas. Then she got very emotional as she shared with me her fears and concerns of her daughter seeing her like she is. Mentally and physically she has aged and of course she continually battles the frustrating residual effects of a stroke. As she poured her heart out to me I held her shaky aged hands in mine and tried to comfort her the best way I knew how. I felt impressed to share with her that the same beautiful spirit that she came to this earth with is still within her and that will never change. We continued to chat for awhile and as I was leaving she kissed Hailey goodbye and reminded me to enjoy these precious moments with my children that will be gone before I know it. As she stood on her front porch and waved goodbye, I felt so much love for this woman. Her husband passed away years ago, and yet she continues onward, battling age and disease in the best way she knows how.

Then I went to the next sister's house and listened as she told me of an incredible experience she had at the temple. Then she showed me how her hair is falling out because of the chemo treatments that she is taking yet again. Once again I felt impressed to talk to her about the beautiful spirit within her. I have loved this woman ever since I moved here. She is loving, thoughtful, grateful, humble, and just as the older sister I visit, she is a fighter. Because of her brain tumor, she has seizures and memory loss that has become a part of her everyday life. And yet, you never hear her complain. There is spunk in both of these women. A special fire within them that keeps them going and fighting day in and day out.

I couldn't imagine how hard it must be to lose my hair by the handfuls or to not have the words come out that I want to say, but I do know what it is like to be in the presence of these women. Yes, their bodies show the effect of the diseases they carry, but they are just bodies, tabernacles of two beautiful and remarkable spirits.

The next day as I got out of the shower and glanced in the mirror at my body, my heart sunk as I was once again reminded of the price I have paid having five children. My body will never be the same. The vertical scar below my belly button, ever pointing heavenward to the baby of my dreams, and the horizontal scar still fresh and red from the recent reopening. Although I would never trade my children for a perfect body free of scars, I still look forward to the day when this body of mine will be resurrected in a more perfect form. But even as this hopeful and joyful thought came to my mind, the spirit reminded me one more time that this is just a body, a tabernacle that houses a divine and heavenly spirit.

Although I should do all that I can to take care of my body and treat it as the temple it is, there is only so much that we can do. Aging is inevitable, and with aging comes the possibility and probability of disease. I have seen my dad fight with diabetes and the unbearable pain of neuropathy for years. I have witnessed my great grandma slip away with alzheimers and my grandpa quickly and unexpectedly die from leukemia. I have prayed and fasted for cancer to leave and never reappear in the body of my sister-in-law. Each of these diseases bring hardships, sorrows, and frustrations. But we need not fear. Our spirits will rise above these mortal afflictions. Fear for the future can be swallowed up in hope and anticipation for the eternities as we remember that these imperfect tabernacles of ours are just bodies, bodies that will someday lay to rest as they wait for the day when they will be reunited once again with our spirits to rise forth in glory.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Got Milk?

Hailey nursing her baby...

...and then pumping afterwards. :)

Look at that crazy wild hair! I love it!

These days my life revolves around milk. It has with each of my babies, but this time it REALLY revolves around milk. Ever since Makayla was born, she has been a very fussy and colicky baby. We did all the tricks (you know, all the things that worked for our other babies), but this time nothing was helping. She would spend her days sleeping and crying, sleeping and crying. And that is exactly how I would spend my days as well, oh wait, except for the sleeping part. Just kidding. But really, it was DRAINING to say the least. I went to a girls night out a couple of weekends ago and Cory asked me if I wanted to take Makayla with me. I quickly responded by bluntly explaining to him that she was the one I needed a night away from. I know that sounds really harsh, but I just needed a couple of hours without hearing a baby cry (funny, or maybe ironic is a better word, that the baby crying in the grocery store was the answer to my prayer while I was pregnant).

Anyways, to make a long story short, we figured out last week that Makayla is allergic to cow's milk. Therefore, I can no longer eat anything with milk in it. It takes two weeks to "clean" out my milk, so she is drinking soy formula in the meantime while I am pumping like crazy in order to keep up my milk supply (I do nurse her at night though).

At first I thought that going without milk wouldn't be that big of a deal, but did you know that milk is in almost everything?! It's crazy! But, I am making do and doing without. It's not so bad, especially since I can eat candy corn, wheat thins, and licorice. (I have to have some kind of junk food, right?) They definitely don't compare to chocolate, but they will work. Other than the above mentioned food, this lactose free diet is really forcing me to eat healthier. Oh, the things we do for our children. :)

Monday, September 26, 2011

An Answered Prayer

When I was saying my prayers one day about two weeks ago, I fervently prayed for something that has really been on my mind. I prayed that Katelund would develop a love for school and learning. It makes me so frustrated because she is so smart and really has the potential to be an amazing student, but unless it is something that she is really interested in doing (anything that has to do with science`)` she just doesn't care the way I wish she would. My love of learning didn't come until college, but for her, I really hope and pray that she develops it earlier.

About a week ago, I was sitting out on the front porch with Katelund and Cloey talking about their day at school. They were both laughing and reminiscing about something that happened on the bus that afternoon. Then Katelund got serious and said, "Mommy, I need to tell you something." With that kind of preface, I was a little concerned about what she "needed" to tell me. She continued, "Today while I was sitting at my desk I had a feeling come and it made me feel like I really love school." I couldn't believe it. I just started laughing. Then crying. I told her about my prayer and how that feeling she felt must have been the Holy Ghost. Ever since that day, things have been so much better. She has changed. She wants to do better and is trying harder than she ever has before.

I know she is not going to be the perfect student from here on out, and I know that somedays homework is going to be a fight (somedays it may even feel like we are fighting to the death), but I know one thing for sure. I know that the Lord hears and answers the prayers of a desperate mother. And knowing that, makes all the difference.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hailey Jane

"Hailey Jane" (said with a "what have you gotten into this time" kind of voice) is a constant phrase said around our house these days. She is into EVERYTHING!! If it weren't for the fact that she is so blasted cute and fun, I think I'd go crazy. These pictures don't even come close to the things that she is into, they are just some that I have on my phone. She is by far the most curious and explorative toddler yet. Although I can't leave her alone for a second and I'm constantly cleaning up her messes, I couldn't imagine my life without her in it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Our Summer Days

I'm not sure how it happened, but somehow I haven't posted any pictures of how we spent almost everyday (except Sundays of course) of the summer. Because I spent so much time chasing Hailey around during swim meets and Cory was either a stroke judge or the starter, we didn't get any pictures from any of their meets. I do have some video that Cory took during the last meet but I'll have to figure out how to post it first.

Motto for Motherhood

{this adorable printable was made by my sweet friend Melissa at sweetcoconutlime. Click here to download one for your home.}

This quote is framed and on the wall of the most visible spot in my home...the kitchen. I look at it and read it everyday, a hundred times a day. As I step into the kitchen first thing in the morning to get breakfast going and lunches packed, I read it. When I clean the kitchen and sweep the floor for the 5th time that day, I read it. When I pace the floors of my house with a crying baby, I read it. When my 19 month old daughter is crying for me to carry her while I am trying to get dinner ready, I read it. When I am battling the wills of my oldest daughter, I read it and read it again. When I am cleaning up all of the daily messes and spills and folding laundry ONCE AGAIN, I read it. It has become my motto. I still remember when Sister Dalton said it in one of her talks. I knew the moment that I heard it that it was something I needed to frame in my home. It just spoke to me, But it wasn't until last week, that I finally got it framed.

Earlier in the week, I had one of those break down moments (literally), you know, the kind where you are in your driveway buckling in a crying baby, trying to rummage through your diaper bag to find a pacifier for your toddler (and wondering how she managed to get food all over her clothes in the hour that she had been awake), making sure that your school age children have lunchboxes, signed agenda mates, homework, and their water bottle packed up in their backpacks, and racing the clock because if you pull out of the driveway any later you will be in major school traffic. Oh, and you had a horrible night sleep the night before so you are definitely not perky PLUS it is picture day and you are really wishing that you had put your foot down and not let your daughter wear the not-so-cute outfit that she has chosen to have her picture in (not that I have to buy the school pictures, but still!), oh and one more have gone without power for 36 hours and counting. But more turn the key in the ignition.....nothing. The battery is dead.

So I pulled out my phone and called my friend. She could hardly understand what I was saying through all of the tears and sobbing, but she dropped everything and came to my rescue. As we were driving to the store (I had also run out of diapers that morning), I just broke down. I sat there for probably a full two minutes and told her how horrible and hard my life was (yes, there was a lot of exaggeration going on). Her response was totally not what I expected. As one of my closest friends, she said to me exactly what I needed to hear, not what I wanted to hear, what I NEEDED to hear. She said, "Melissa, you can do this. Come on, cowboy up." I stopped crying and had a complete paradigm shift. She was right, I could do this. And, I could do it joyfully, because afterall, life is sometimes hard, and if I forget to look for the humor and see the joy than I won't enjoy the journey along the way. Besides, if it wasn't hard at times, I wouldn't be learning the lessons I need to learn in order to become the person I need to become.

It was within the next 12 hours that the power came back on and I printed and framed the above quote. It is now my constant reminder to "cowboy up". This whole mothering thing is hard, but I can do it because I know that I'm not doing it alone. It is all the little things that just build and build and build until I feel like I can't carry them any more. I just have to remember that He has not asked me to carry it alone. Alone, it will always be too heavy and too hard. I just have to remember that He is always there patiently waiting for me to ask for His help. And then I must believe. Believe that with His help, and strength, I really can do all things, even the hard things.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Baptism and a Blessing

Katelund got baptized on Saturday, August 20th. She had been looking forward to this day all year long because she knew that once she turned 8, she would be baptized. I had also been looking forward to this day, but I was feeling some anxiety as well. What if she doesn't understand everything? Had I taught her all that she needed to know? Does she realize how important it will be for her to keep these baptismal covenants for the rest of her life? Was she ready? Was I ready? All these questions came to my mind over and over again all year long. Of all my children (so far), Katelund is the hardest one for me to parent. She is stubborn, strong-willed, and very difficult to discipline. But, she also has a very sweet and tender spirit. As rebellious and difficult as she can be at times, she is usually always very quick to ask forgiveness and to have a change of heart. It truly is one of her greatest gifts. But still the question remained..."does she know enough?".

On the way to the church, Cory and I had some time alone with her (grandmas, grandpas, cousins, and Andrea were all coming later with the rest of the kids). As we drove, Cory explained to Katelund that as much as we wanted her to be baptized, it was her choice. We wanted to make sure that this is what she wanted to do. She told us that she really wanted to do this (whew, not sure what we would've done if she'd said she didn't want to). We talked to her a little about the importance of covenants and what her baptism will mean to her for the rest of her life. She listened intently with a big nervous smile on her face. Then there was a moment of silence and she said, "Mommy, Daddy, I need to ask you some questions. I was wondering if Santa Claus is really real." I turned to Cory in that "I hope you can hear what I'm thinking" kind of way, and asked him (with my eyes of course) what we should say. Should we tell her on her baptism day that all those fun things you believe in when your a child are not real and that we've been lying to you all these years? Then Cory looked at me with the "honey, don't worry, I've got this" kind of look. And he said, "Katelund do you believe that Santa is real?" She said, "yes". Then Cory said, "Well, there's your answer then." There was silence is the car. I looked at Cory with a "good answer, I hope that works and we don't have to discuss this any further" kind of look. Then she spoke up once again but this time wondering about the Easter bunny. The conversation went the same for the Easter bunny, tooth fairy, and if Santa's reindeer really fly. Luckily, she was satisfied and then we changed the subject back to her baptism.

The baptism was beautiful in every way. Grandma Mann spoke on baptism, Grandpa Black spoke on the Holy Ghost. I haven't heard such beautiful and perfect talks at a baptism. Then Grandpa Mann read "the poem". The poem that I had heard about from a girl in our ward. Her Grandpa (who is our stake patriarch) had read this poem at all of his granddaughters baptisms. Once I heard that, I knew that I wanted to start that same tradition with all of my girls. So, since this was Grandpa Mann's first granddaughter to be baptized (and he has 9 more to go) I thought it would be perfect to start the same tradition in our family. (You can click here to read it.)

After she was baptized, I went back to help her get dressed in her beautiful white dress. As I wrapped her up in her white towel, my tears started flowing as I told her how proud I was of her. Then she wrapped her little arms around me and through her own tears she said, "Mommy, I can't believe I'm finally baptized." It was such a sweet moment. As I held her against my chest, my mind took me back to the day that I held her for the very first time. Here she was again, just as perfect, clean, and pure as she was when I first stared into her angelic eyes and realized that I had become a mother.

Katelund, Cloey, Abby, and Ethan sang the closing song, "When I am Baptized". But on the second verse, I had Katelund sing it by herself. She sounded like an angel. As she sang, her face shone with conviction and conversion. It was as if through those beautiful notes, I could hear her testimony speaking from her spirit to mine.

Makalya was blessed on Sunday, August 21st. She was our first baby ever to cry through the entire thing. Cory did a great job considering the fact that he had no microphone and a crying baby. He always gives such beautiful blessings to our girls. When my mom was here with me she shared with me an impression she had while she was making Makayla's afghan (she makes a beautiful afghan for every new is the pink one in one of Makayla's pictures above). She felt like Makayla was going to be special. I don't know exactly what that means, neither does my mom, but I know that it is true. I know that she has great things in store for her and that she has her very own unique role to fill in our family and also in this world. How grateful I am for another precious little girl in my life.

Two Sundays ago was Katelund's first time to do a real fast. I had explained to her before her baptism that once she was baptized she would still have the choice to fast or not to fast, but, if she chose not to, then she would be breaking a commandment. I knew this would be very difficult for her, especially since I had always given her the choice and except for one time (when we had a family fast for Aunt Amber), she had always chosen not to. I told her that she could start with just fasting one meal. She chose lunch. After church, as Cloey, Hailey, and I (I'm nursing so I can't fast) all sat down to eat lunch together, Katelund was struggling with her decision. She broke down in tears and Cory and I explained to her that it was still her choice, but if she was going to cry and complain the whole time then it would not be fasting, just unhappily skipping a meal. She sat there and thought about it for a time and then she said, "No, I will not eat because I do not want to break my covenants with Heavenly Father." As she said this I could feel my heart swelling up within my chest. It was at that moment that I knew that although she doesn't know everything, she knows enough.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

DIY projects

I made this last week out of a ramen noodle box. I was really needing something to hold and organize paperwork, and what do you know...a ramen noodle box is the perfect size. I actually made this during our 46 1/2 stretch of NO POWER!! We had a really bad rain and wind storm and it knocked down a whole bunch of huge trees in our area (3 in our neighborhood alone). Thankfully, the weather was really nice for those 2 days and 2 nights. The girls didn't have school for one of the days (it was the day after Labor Day) because of all of the flash flooding and power outage. The girls couldn't play outside because of the rain, so most of the day I heard the following, "I'm bored. What can I do?". In fact, Cloey said that to me WHILE I was giving her a pedicure!! It was a very L.O.N.G day. When the power came back on, I was happy and yet kindof sad. I rather enjoyed the excuse of no power. "Sandwiches for dinner AGAIN?" "Yes, there's no power." "No clean laundry?" "Nope, there's no power." You see why I was kindof sad? :) But at the same time, no power for 46 1/2 hours is probably the longest I would want to go. Electricity is just one of those things that we majorly take for gran it. (Is that how you spell "gran it"? That's what spell check said but it just seems so weird. Shouldn't it be one word?)

All of these beautiful kitchen accessories (curtains and table runner for kitchen table and China Buffet) were all made by my mom. Have I told you how incredible she is?!? Well, she is. Also, notice the kitchen chairs that we upholstered and spray painted the two end ones. Cory and I actually bought our kitchen table without chairs like 6 years ago because it was majorly discounted. Once we started looking around for chairs, we realized how crazy expensive they are to buy separately. So we have just used black folding chairs for all those years. UNTIL, we found these chairs last year at an estate sale for $30. Yep, all 6 of them for $60. I had originally intended on sanding them all down and repainting them black. But after spending HOURS upon HOURS just sanding two of them, I decided to just have two black and leave the rest as is. I actually really like the way it looks. When my mom was here helping after Makayla was born, I told her how much I wanted to reupholster my chairs. That was all I needed to say. She was totally all for helping with it while she was here. We had a lot of fun doing it, and I learned how incredibly easy it is. The hardest part is picking out the fabric. Next house project for me....curtains for my library. Who knows, maybe I'll actually do this one within the next year. :)

I have a new calling. I am the visiting teaching coordinator. I LOVE it!!! First of all, I love visiting teaching (I didn't always). And secondly, I love thinking of fun things to do to help inspire the sisters in our ward to be good visiting teachers (like the gum posted above). Right now I'm planning a VT conference for next month. I'm really excited about it. Although I REALLY miss teaching the youth, I know that this calling is inspired. It has really opened my eyes and heart to the need for good visiting teachers. Sister Beck recently said that, "A sister in this Church has no other responsibility outside of her family that has the potential to do as much good as visiting teaching." I don't know about you, but that totally puts the fire in me.

The last thing I made last week was for a bridal shower. I wasn't sure what to get and I was trying to keep things small since she is going to be moving across the country. I ended up getting her a metal cookie spatula (the one I really want) and I made a cute little cookie recipe book to go with it (thanks to Amber for the recipes). Then I gave her those really cute cleaning gloves you can get at Walmart. I printed off some fun house cleaning tips and tricks that I found online to go with it. Then I wrote the following poem to tie it all together....

With every toilet you scrub and sink that you’ll clean,
May these gloves protect you against germs unseen.

For your role as a woman, will soon be made clear,
To clean up disasters of those you hold dear.

With the spatula in hand, many cookies will await,
As your family will gather and memories you’ll create.

Cleaning and baking are just two of many things,
For your hands will stay busy with the duties life brings.

But in the monotony of the chores, may you always find,
Your hands as a reminder of promises that bind.

For as you kneel at the altar in just a few days,
Your hands clasped together, your hearts set ablaze,

You will covenant with the Lord and then united you’ll stand,
Living worthy of promises for those who have clean hands.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Have You Ever.....?

Have you ever recommended a book and then finished reading it and felt kindof bad for recommending it? I did when I finished reading "The Help". I liked the book and learned a lot, BUT there were some swear words throughout it and one part that was vulgar and that I really wish they would've left out. So if you read it, just know that I warned you.

Have you ever refinished kitchen chairs? My mom and I did while she was here (okay, so really my mom did most of the work, but I did some of it). They look AMAZING and it was so much easier than I thought it would be. I'll have to take some pictures once my mom finishes the matching table runner and curtain for the window over my sink (Man, I love my mom!).

Have you ever driven 35 minutes to the dentist with all four of your kids and then be told that they are an hour behind schedule? I did, and yes we left. Much to Katelund's dismay (no, I'm not being sarcastic, my girls LOVE the dentist), her filling and spacer will have to wait another week.

Have you ever been so on edge with your 8 year old daughter who is giving you attitude in the car that you tell her the next time she says something with an attitude that you will pull over and she will have to walk home? I did, and are you wondering how that worked out for me? It didn't. I pulled over and she said "okay, I'll walk home" and then starting getting out of the van. What do you do at that point???!!! I told her to get back in and that of course I would never make her walk home. Yep, I totally lost all credibility. That was a seriously bad parenting moment for me!!!

Have you ever been so distracted by the huge black bug that was crawling on your foot while you were loading groceries in your vehicle that when you walk around the back of the van you walk straight into the bike rack? I did and my head is still hurting. Hopefully, there were at least a handful of people in the parking lot who got a good laugh out of it.

Have you ever given away a Book of Mormon to your OBGYN? I did on Thursday and I was scared to death about it. I had a pretty amazing experience at my 2 week appointment where I felt the strongest impression that I should give him a Book of Mormon. So, on Thursday (at my 6 week appointment), I actually mustered up enough courage to do it. Trying to find the "right moment" was a little difficult considering what I was there for. :) But, somehow I pulled it off and gave it to him (well, actually I had him get it since I was still on the chair wrapped in a paper blanket from my waist down...yes, it was quite awkward) I wouldn't recommend doing it, unless, that is, you feel the same kind of strong impression that I did. In that case, good luck. :)

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