Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Easter Cuteness

Just some quick pictures to share of our Easter festivities!

Natalie and her friend gathering flowers to dye eggs

Left to right: hibiscus, onion skin, tumeric, green tea, beet juice. They all faded significantly once they dried. The only one I would try again would be onion skin.

 I was nervous making rolls for Easter dinner. Since moving, every time I've made bread, it didn't turn out so well and I was wondering if something about the humidity here made them not rise as well. Turns out, it was because I wasn't using bread flour. Bread flour went on sale last week and I made these fabulous rolls for Easter dinner. Gotta find a place to buy cheap, bulk bread flour! I never expected to miss costco so much!

 The girls looked darling for church and had a great time hunting for Easter eggs before we headed out.

Another one of those classic "this is the very definition of being a younger sister" moments

We've got a crazy month ahead of us- every week through May is packed with plans. Micah was finally sustained as scoutmaster/deacon's quorum adviser/ym's 2nd counselor and has trainings and a campout as well as Wednesday night activities to attend every week now. I decided to sign up for a Zumba instructor's course this month instead of waiting until May. It turned out to be very provident because my favorite instructor pulled me aside just yesterday to tell me she is having surgery and will need a partner to help demonstrate her routines while she does the low-impact variations for several weeks. It will be nice practice to be in front of a class. I've got my relief society work, a stake campout and service project, helping with Natalie's joy school, taking kids to playgroups, and then in a few weeks, brother Blake getting married in Denver and brother Paco graduating in Raleigh the following weekend. And Natalie is begging to squeeze in one more Disney day before it gets too hot and crowded and we take a break until September. Phwew! I have decided to let myself form a caffeine addiction to carry me through. Don't judge me.

Lastly, a quick story: Relief Society president is out of town. I was asked to take food orders for welfare recipients. I was on the hone with an older lady to get her order. I tried to make it quick, but she kept gabbing and gabbing and gabbing, telling me about the soup she likes to make, how she made herself a sandwich yesterday, even the details about the constipation she's experiencing. Okay, I just need to know what food you want to order, you don't have to justify or explain anything to me! All the while, Natalie kept trying to take my pen and draw on the order form and Angela was crying to be held. I finally just locked myself in the office, finished up taking the order, and came out to find- Natalie cutting her hair. Fortunately, it was mostly just her bangs and she didn't go too short. But, seriously, God?! When I lock myself in a room to care for the needs of a fellow sister, you're supposed to persuade my children to behave! Hahaha. Eh, knowing my kids, they probably felt the spirit telling them to kindly and quietly play toys and so they immediately looked around for the closest disobedient or destructive thing to do to chase away that terrible feeling!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Trying Too Hard

I've been a little erratic lately; I have moments when I'm very busy and energetic and have big aspirations and then I have moments of frustration and extreme exhaustion. I bounce back and forth between joy and satisfaction with what I am doing and hopelessness over what I'm not.

I was taught to always do my best. It's a philosophy that was heavily ingrained throughout my childhood and adolescent years. It served me very well when I first left home- in college, I did great in my coursework ad graduated with high honors. In each of the jobs I've held, my employers and supervisors were always very impressed with my efforts. When given a challenge, I have always tried my hardest and it has been a rewarding cycle. It was hard and it was tiring and sometimes I wondered if it was worth it, but the end always justified the means- the late-night projects yielded a good grade by the end of the semester. The hard work earned a fantastic reference or a pay raise or even just a compliment. It has been easy to try my hardest when I had concrete roles with specific expectations and visible results.

My roles have changed. I'm no longer a student. I'm no longer and employee. I'm a wife and mother. I'm a Latter-day Saint with a calling that requires a lot of time and energy. These roles aren't just not-concrete- they are endless in depth and breadth. Anyone can tell you that there are a million different ways to be a good wife, a good mother or a good Mormon. The problem is, I want to be all of them. I want to be the best at everything.

I've never really considered myself a perfectionist. I don't concern myself a lot with my appearance and I'm alright with a few controlled areas of my life that are messy and chaotic. But I do feel this constant propulsion to make things happen. I plan, I prepare, I execute and then I set about planning the next thing, but then I get so worn. I run out of energy and time before I can carry out all of the plans that I've concocted. I want to do everything, but there are just too many things!!!! As my scope of both possibility and responsibility have multiplied a hundred fold in the 5 years since college, my determination to excel at everything hasn't.

I'm struggling to accept that doing your best doesn't mean doing everything. Also recognizing that trying my best isn't the same as being the best. There's an element of competition and comparing that really doesn't jive with the gospel of Jesus Christ. As I was pondering this, I realized that as my roles have shifted, my internal paradigm needs to adjust as well. As I read Dallin H. Oaks' talk "Good, Better Best", this line caught my attention:

"It is good to ... fulfill all of our duties. But if this is to qualify as “best,” it should be done with love and without arrogance."
This called me to question: Why do I try so hard? I'm afraid that the answer wasn't very pretty.

I try to do everything I can the best that I can because it brings me pleasure. It's satisfying and makes me feel constructive and worthwhile. To put it succinctly, most of the work I do is with arrogance and without love. I do love my family and those I am called to serve, but that love hasn't been the biggest factor in determining how I prioritize my time and energy.

I need to fully embrace, without bitterness, the fact that what matters most is what I do for others. I'm not saying that I should be selfless to the point of ignoring my own needs or well being. I just need to stop trying to be the best at everything I do and instead focus my attention on trying my best to meet the needs of those around me. Not the service that I want to perform, but the service that others need from me. More attention on others, a lot less on chasing after my own sense of fulfillment.

It's hard to let go of the things that don't really matter- a perfectly clean house, a meal made entirely from scratch, attending every single formal or informal event I hear about, being super frugal. It's hard because such things are tied to my pride. I like the self-esteem boost that comes from a compliment on something I worked hard at. I feel empowered when I can do things that are challenging, even when they're completely unnecessary. I feel a sense of importance when I'm involved in everything and everybody around me. Unfortunately, that's what the Lord needs. He cares about my feelings, but He could do without the ego.

Matthew 10:39 says, "He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." So, as I look forward to Easter, my greatest prayer is that I can learn to lose my life. I pray that I can stop putting so much effort into every little thing so that I can begin putting a lot more effort into the few things that matter.

My girls may not be wearing homemade Easter dresses this Sunday. We might just buy an egg-dying kit at the store instead of fussing for hours to color eggs using natural ingredients. My house will probably be a little messy when I have company over for Easter dinner. I might even break down and buy condensed cream soup for the first time in years to make scalloped potatoes. But it doesn't really matter. I need to stop trying too hard to be everything for my own purposes and start trying to just be something for the Lord's purposes.

And finally, since this was a rather somber message and I can't stand being so serious...

Enjoy this funny picture of Micah and Angela doing yoga.
Angela was VERY good at "happy baby" pose.

And this shot of Natalie climbing on Micah as he tried to clean up a spill.

I seriously can't express how much effort it takes to get things done around here with all the constant  "help"

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Boring Words and Old Photos

I was recently lamenting to Micah how I haven't been posting much of substance lately on our blog- he responded that it's because I've been busy living a "substance-tive" life.

And he's right!

For an at-home mom with few scheduled weekly obligations, we stay very busy and are generally pretty happy with how life is shaping up. Here are some examples of some things going on-

Monday morning I always go to a zumba class. I try to go to the gym at least one other morning each week to do some weight machines or the eliptical, but zumba is what I most enjoy. It's super fun and with my background in hiphop dancing from high school and all those years of latin dancing in college, I catch on to routines quickly and know how to put some style into the moves. I'm interested in becoming an instructor some time in the next year- they have one-day certification seminars in Orlando once in a while. I could start out as a substitute at my own gym before eventually having the time and interest to seek an opportunity for a regular class.

On Wednesday morning, we go to a playgroup with ladies from church. With the nice, cooler (read:tolerable) weather, we've been going to the park. In the summer, we'll be meeting at the beach and occasionally at people's pools. When it's rainy, we go to the mall, where they have a little indoor play area. Natalie is a bit frustrating at these playgroups. There are always many, many kids she knows but she doesn't want to play with them- she wants to play with me. If I refuse and tell her to go play with friends, she mopes around by herself and quickly starts begging to go home. Just the other night, we were invited to dinner with 2 other families, and with 5 kids under the age of 7, she spent much of the night just wanting to drag me away from the adults to come check out the toys with her. Angela is a bit more independent. When we go to the park, she is off by herself with little prodding usually. My greatest challenge is keeping track of her as she plays all over the equiptment.  When she comes up against something she can't do, she gets very mad.

Joy School on Thursdays has been super fun for Natalie- all of the other mothers comment on how well she does with art projects. She always finishes her crafts well and is very focused, whereas many of the other kids have to be dragged through it. She loves doing crafts at home, too- she spent hours and hours making valentines day cards last month and asks almost daily if we can paint. Also, she seems to sit and listen with better attention than other kids at joy school when it's time for instruction- probably since she's already had a year of primary and so she's had some experience with classroom etiquitte. Most of the other kids, though in the same school year as her, have just moved up to primary from nursery last month. I just signed her up to start preschool in the fall. She'll be going a few hours in the morning 4 days a week to a baptist church program. I really don't care about academic preparation, I think she'll be fine going into kindergarten. I'm just hoping for her to develop better independance and learn to play with other kids.

Micah's every-other-friday-off schedule is great. Harris changed their vacation policy this year. Employees used to have 3 weeks vacation per year to start with, but now their vacation is "unlimited". Micah expresses that everyone is now afraid to take vacation days, worrying that it will reflect badly on them professionally. With every other weekend a three-day weekend from work anyway, working out vacation doesn't seem like it will be that hard. With one of my brothers getting married in Denver this april and another graduating in North carolina the following weekend, we've worked out the trips so that Micah will only need to take one day off of work. Micah really wants a real vacation. The problem is, it is impossible to really rest and relax with small children. Being at home with them (like we spent a week and a half over Christmastime) is no less work than going to work. And traveling with them- Yikes. The opposite of relaxing.

Our relief society just reorganized- I was serving as the secretary, but now I'm the second counselor. It's kind of daunting because now I actually have to interact with people. I'm just waiting for some poor sister to go inactive because I say something insensitive. I'm not the soft, touchy-feeling, compassionate type. But I can get stuff done, and being over activities will be a piece of cake compared to all my secretary duties.

Our yard continues to develop- I have planted 2 blueberry bushes, a banana tree, a mango tree and a pomegranate tree and some blue mophead hydrangeas. I'm trying to start roots on a plumeria shoot (the lei flower tree). Just moved some seedlings out to my cinderblock raised bed. I've been doing some spring trimming and Micah taught me how to use the lawnmower today so I can pitch in and take turns with that. The chickens are now outside and are pretty much independent- I leave the door between their coop and run open and they come out to scratch around during the day and then retreat to their coop at night. I pretty much just have to make sure they have food and water. They have started picking on one of the hens- plucking her feathers out so that she now has a big bald spot at the base of her tail. Poor girl! Problems can arise when they're too confined, so we just got some chicken wire to set up a little contained yard for them to venture out into during the daytime. Hopefully they'll get some energy out scratching and pecking around a larger area, they won't keep bullying. Eventually we'll let them have range of all or much of the yard in the evening I think, but first we need to seal our fence better so that they can't get out underneath and go check out the neighbor's field. Raccoons are a big problem- they dig around the sides of the coop and run quite frequently. I don't worry that much about one actually getting the chickens, it's just a little unnerving. Micah dug wire mesh a foot down vertically and put some pavers jutting out horizontally about 6'' under the soil, so, as he says, "If a raccoon manages to get in there- it deserves those chickens."

My camera recently died for good. Probably from Natalie messing roughly with it as I am yelling at her not to touch it for the one zillionth time. I got out the nicer dslr camera to use, and less than an hour later, she had pulled it down off the counter and dropped my $500 camera on the tile floor, so Ive put it back away. Ay, ay, ay. It would be an understatement to say that she simply doesn't listen to me. She is defiantly determined to undermine my every rule.

Anyway, here are some pictures that I grabbed from my sisters' phone when they visited a couple of weeks ago...

Hiking sticks!

We ventured out into the wilderness to try and spot some gators. I think we saw a few turtles.

My sisters family and my mom joined us for our first disneyworld adventure. Angela and Adam (one and a half and two and a half) were determined to climb down every last step of the swiss family robinson treehouse by themselves. They held up quite a line!
The jungle cruise- our skipper was decently funny. His jokes were real knee-slappers- as this photo documents me, hand raised, poised to slap my knee in amusement.

ahhhhh, the most TRULY magical part of the day :)

First time to pass this place at the lagoon and NOT see dolphins! How embarrassing to let my guests down....

At least we got to enjoy this lovely little restaurant beachside!