Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Unexpected Blessings

A year ago yesterday, I sat on my toilet seat early on a Sunday morning, staring incredulously at a positive pregnancy test. 

To say it was unplanned would be a major understatement. 

It took two years, a miscarriage, and lots of expensive and humiliating fertility drugs and treatments for me to get and stay pregnant with Max.

I wasn't supposed to be able to get pregnant.  My cycles were ridiculously out of whack, and we were under an incredible amount of stress preparing for Max's second major skull surgery in a year.  (More on that tomorrow when I do another "One year ago" post.  Sorry.  I'm feeling nostalgic.  Or something.)

So I sat there.  And stared.  And stared some more.

Then I showed the test to my husband, who claimed that because the second line was so faint, that it wasn't possible for it to be accurate.

That afternoon Tom was at Walgreens, despite the fact that it was a Sunday, buying another pregnancy test.  That one was more positive than the first.

I spent weeks saying some version of "Are you kidding me?  Now?  Seriously?"  I sat in the hospital with my swollen post-op little boy marveling at the wicked irony of the timing of it all.

It took me months to adapt to the idea of another baby.

But now.  I am completely, utterly,

In love with this little boy.


Can't imagine what we'd do without him.


And I dare you to watch this video without laughing.  Go ahead and try!  (And yes that is me in the background sounding like a complete fool.  But when you get a baby giggling, it's worth it!)
video

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Christmas Letter Syndrome

Do you ever feel slightly inadequate after reading  those letters at Christmas? 

You know the ones, right?  The ones that detail every single thing that has happened to their family over the past year, and how many books they've read, and how many awards their kids have gotten, their gorgeous tropical vacations, and how, of course, their children have never said an angry word to each other and the only thing that's keeping them from being instantly translated is that one time on April 23rd when they had that one hair out of place.  Am I the only one that gets those?  I look at the pictures of their perfectly dressed and styled children, and read the descriptions of all their grand adventures, and usually end up spending a few minutes feeling like I need to redecorate my house and remodel my entire life.

I had a moment like that this week.

I opened up my email a few days ago to find a message from one of my closest friends from college.  We were both violin performance majors, studied with the same teacher and had dreams of conquering the world together with our violins.  We've kept in scattered touch over the years, chatting on occasion, and passing messages and milestones through mutual friends.  She's always been an over-achiever, but when I read her email my jow dropped.  Four homeschooled kids?  Check.  A violin studio?  Check.  A recently-earned Master's Degree in Music Education?  Check.  Recitals at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square?  Check. Teaching offers at BYU and the U of U?  Check.

Stacy left feeling inadequate?  Check.

Normally, I feel pretty satisfied with my life. Proud of the way I mother, grateful for my little violin studio, and feel like I'm doing a pretty good job balancing my roles.  But I couldn't help feeling a bit envious.

I graduated with a group of four other violinists.   We were all the same age, studied with the same teacher, and were close all through college.  Now, 12 years later, I'm the only one out of the five that doesn't have a master's or doctorate degree.

It's so easy for me to look at these friends, see what they've accomplished, and feel like I'm doing nothing with my life.  Especially since I know that most of them are teaching, mothering and doing all the other things that I'm doing.  At times like these I keep wondering if I'm missing something; that somehow I'm not doing enough.  I haven't performed on stage in years, (and years, and years,) and probably couldn't play anything I played on my senior recital if my life depended on it.  I spend my days teaching, mothering, practicing with my nine year old and shuttling her down the mountain for lessons and rehearsals.  I don't think I've put in serious practice time in years.

I frequently tell my students that it's not about the competition- that violin is all about being the best you can be, and not worrying about what everyone else is learning and playing.  I'm having a hard time taking my own advice to heart; believing that the path I've chosen is right for me and that I don't need to be performing, earning advanced degrees, or soloing on Temple Square in order to be a worthwhile teacher, violinist and mother. 

I've consoled myself over the past few days by telling myself that while all my friends were getting masters degrees, I was attending births and managing my son's multiple surgeries and medical crises over the first two years of his life. 

And the truth is, if I was interested in getting another degree, (which I'm not at all at this point!) I don't think it would be a music degree.  I'm just not excited about the idea of hours of practice and intense competition that it would take me to get there. So someone explain to me why I'm feeling so stinking inadequate.

Enter a typical Tuesday morning.  The baby had (yet another) nasty cold and we had been up most of the night.  I had already fought with Abby over her scale practicing, tried in vain to help Ashlynn understand the diffence between treble C and middle C, and came upstairs to find both the little boys fussy and irritable.  I was about ready to give up and go back to bed when I saw this letter on the countertop.


Tears sprung to my eyes.  I left it there all day, reminding me why I do all those seemingly insignificant things.  Helping me to know that someone appreciated it.  It might be silly, but I've kept it clipped to the fridge all week, and it's helped me through my yearly violin-related existential crisis as I've realized that my sweet Ashlynn (and all my other kids) don't care that I'm not performing on stage.  In fact, knowing them, they probably prefer that I don't.

Monday, March 21, 2011

11 Years and look what it gets us

Last week, Tom and I celebrated our 11th anniversary.


Yup, eleven years.

And celebrate in grand fashion we did. 

After I successfully retrieved our lovely red van from the shop where it had its torque converter replaced for the second time, I ran to meet my husband for lunch, with grand visions of sushi rolls combined with deep and profound conversation.

Instead, we ended up hanging out at Tom's work for a while while everyone ogled our cute baby, stopping at a church where I'm trying to arrange a concert for my daughter's performing group, driving by a houses for rent and peering in the windows, nursing the baby in the front seat of the van in the Whole Foods parking lot, and scarfing down Orange Chicken from Panda Express.  Our ten minute lunch conversation alternated between the scintillating topics of "Who is taking which kid where this weekend?", and "Wait?  Where's Max?" 

I dropped Tom back off at work, and drove back to Abby's school to watch the famed 3rd grade Disney Program. Well, "watch" might be an exaggeration.  It really consisted more of me changing the leaky diapers of two boys, and then comforting one onery baby and trying to keep crazy Max from running on stage during "Kiss the Girl" than it did actually watching the program.  We then left as soon as the program was done to haul Abby to Salt Lake for her violin lesson and recital rehearsal, which we left a half hour early (much to her teacher's annoyance) to haul back to yet another run of the Disney program which we arrived to five minutes late, (much to another teacher's annoyance.)  I then drove home, changed into a skirt, drove to the stake center for an interview to renew my temple recommend, and finally arrived home just as Abby called to say she was done and needed a ride home.

Once the kids were finally in bed, we partied in grand fashion- Tom playing an xbox game and me falling asleep reading blogs.

Like I said, we partied.  We celebrated. Look what eleven years of marriage will do for you! 

Actually, we're headed to Hawaii in June, and are calling that our anniversary trip, so we're not as hopelessly unromantic, uncreative and uncelebratory (what?  It's a word!) as this post makes us sound.

And if you want to read our love story, it starts here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Samoas are good too

Dear Girls Scouts of America:

Thank you for your cookies, really.  We love them.  We love supporting our cute little girl scout who eagerly takes our order every year and delivers them to us with a cute little green apron on.

However, this year, I noticed a problem with my Thin Mints.  Check out the nutrition label:
See that part where it says "Serving Size: 4 cookies"?  Clearly, that's an error.  Obviously, you meant it to say "4 Sleeves."  

It's okay.  No harm done.  You'll be fine as long as you get that fixed for next time, m'kay?  Good.  Thanks for clearing that up.

Oh, and while we're asking, why do Thin Mints taste so much better frozen?  Just curious.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Keeping it Real: Family Home Evening

Let me set the scene: It's a Sunday night, and Tom and I are feeling more than a bit frazzled.  Sunday afternoons and evenings are usually a bit less than relaxed as we rush to get dinner on the table with a onery baby who needs a nap, and three older kiddos who are bouncing off the walls afterbeing released from three hours of enforced quietness. enforced quiet-ness.

Tonight, the girls were in rare form and by the time the chores were finally finished (after only 347 reminders, and almost as many threats,) we flopped on the couch with a sigh of relief.  The peace lasted for about 2.4 seconds before the girls started reminding us that it was their night to do Family Home Evening and could we please do it now, please, please, please?  We (inwardly) groaned, cursed our recent decision to move FHE to Sunday nights after dinner and reluctantly moved to the kitchen. 

Things started out with a bang when Max stumbled while climbing into his chair and landed face first in a bowl that inexplicably hadn't been put away with the other dishes.  We finished singing our opening song- "Families Can Be Together Forever" barely able to hear ourselves over the toddler's wailing. 

Abby decided that we should make "scripture cookies" for her lesson.  For those unfamiliar with the concept, the idea is to look up a verse, find the food item mentioned and add it to the cookie recipe.  Nice idea, but we had a few problems.  Ashlynn and Abby had this exact lesson yesterday at an Activity Day stake activity, so Ashlynn was less than enthralled with the repeat lesson, and had to be reminded several times that wandering around the kitchen was not an acceptable FHE behavior.  Max couldn't have cared less about Abby's lesson, and was absorbed in an Elmo video blasting at top volume on the iPhone.  This left me to monitor the recipe, (because contrary to Abby's beliefs, the amount of ingredients in the recipe really does matter, and yes, we had a lovely argument about it...) and Tom to read the scripture verses in between cell phone beeps, answering emails when he didn't think I was looking, and kid refereeing.  Needless to say, it wasn't our most spiritually enriching lesson.

Once the cookies were finally in the over, we commenced our nightly verses of scripture reading, complete with reminders to get scriptures out, follow along, and "could you please stop tormenting your brother and read your verse" moments. 

I was about done at this point.  Unfortunately, the girls weren't.  I made the mistake of asking them to go down a pick up a little in the basement.  While I'm not a huge fan of giant clean-ups on Sundays, I have a lesson coming at 6:15 am on Monday, and the basement was looking a bit like a casting call for TLC's show "The Hoarders."  A few minutes after I sent them down, I heard them reading and gigglng over a joke book.  I then proceeded to remind them that they needed to finish up their jobs so we could have cookies.  Not 60 seconds later, I heard more really bad jokes.  I not so patiently reminded them that they had work to do.  two more minutes went by before I heard them both banging on the piano.

"Bed time, both of you."  I announced.  It was 7:05, and our scripture cookies hadn't yet come out of the oven.

Yup.  A Family Home Evening for the ages, I tell you.  I almost hope that someday Abby or Ashlynn calls me and complains about how their kids are making FHE impossible so I can remind them about the fateful scripture cookies and we can laugh about it together.

As an aside, both my husband and I just got a really good laugh as I searched Google images for "Family Home Evening."  Try it.  You'll see a bunch of pictures of well dressed, perfectly styled families in gorgeous houses, all gazing up lovingly and attentively as someone gives a wonderfully spiritual enriching lesson.  Yeah, right.  As my husband says, "Well, if they showed how it really happened, no one would do it!"

I'm so glad that we can all start over tomorrow.

So anyone want to make me feel better?  Anyone have any good FHE or scripture study horror stories to share?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Validation

My husband and I were having a very normal night the other night- 3 out of the 4 kids were sleeping, I was nursing the baby, he was relaxing on the couch and both of us were zoned out to the TV when one of those internet dating commercials came on.  You know, the "If you sign up on our site, you're guaranteed to find more crazies concentrated here than on any other website" kind.

I absentmindedly looked over at my husband and asked "If I died, would you go looking for another wife online?"

Good thing he's used to my random, out-of-nowhere questions.

"Probably," he answered, "Because where am I going to find the time to meet someone when I'm trying to work and take care of four little kids?"

He then gave a little chuckle and went on, "I'd hate to see what that profile would look like."

"What do you mean?"  I asked.

"Well, it would probably go something like this:

"Single Mormon man seeks wife for me and mother for my four small children.  Must be willing to stay home, nurse the baby, wash and fold all the clothes, pick up my dirty socks, clean the house, cook gourmet meals, help two children with their music practicing, conrtibute about a third of the monthly household income, maintain a social life, and not lose it when your husband is traveling all over the world for weeks on end, all on little to no sleep."

I grinned feeling a little bit validated.

He shuddered involuntarily and looked at me.

"Honey," he said, "Don't die.  And it may be time to increase your life insurance."

Saturday, March 5, 2011

In a Reading Rut

I've always been a big reader, and I would love my kids to develop the same habit.  I'm don't think that there is much that is more wonderful than curling up with a warm blanket and a good book, and reading until you force yourself to turn out the light because you know you're going to hate yourself in the morning. 

But I've been struggling getting my kids motivated to read.  Most days, it seems like reading is a chore for them, one more thing to check off the homework chart.  Not to mention their choices in books are usually a little less than substantial.

For example, I recently had to ban all of this series from the house:


And they've read every one of these that they can find at the library:


They love these, but read them in less than a day:


Ashlynn has recently started:


And Abby is on the third book in this series:


I loved Harry Potter, and both my husband read them as fast as I could get my hands on them, but Ashlynn still groans when I tell her it's time to read.  And while Abby seems to like Fablehaven, and about fell over dead from excitement yesterday when she got to meet the great Brandon Mull in person and he signed a bookmark for her, I still have to remind her to finsh that book before she starts another. What I'm hoping for is something that will really capture their attention.  Something that they can't put down, something worth of  will smuggling a flashlight up to their rooms so they can read under the covers when they're supposed to be asleep. (And I'm wondering what will do it if Harry Potter and Fablehaven don't!)  Suggestions? Ideas on how to help them love reading?

And as for Max, we've read all of this series so many times that the entire family, including him, has them memorized.  I ordered this one from Amazon the day it was released because I was so excited to have a new one!


We also love the close relative of Elephant and Piggie: the pigeon.  (Mo Willems needs to write more of these!)


And we can't forget this book.  We bought this for $.50 at Deseret Industries years and ago, and it has had more readings over the past few months than any book in our house.  Combine multiple readings a day of with all the violin music going on in our house at all hours of the day and night and you get a two year old constantly asking "Max violin lessons?"


And don't forget to "Make way for Elmo and his duckies!"


Max has also taken a weird liking to this book, which seems like it would be way over his head.

So any suggestions for a gripping toddler read from my smart, well-read blogging friends? While we have nothing but love for Elmo, Elephant and Piggie and the Pigeon, it may be time to expand our horizons a bit. 

Ideas? Suggestions?  Plugs for your favorite author? What are your favorite books for toddlers or young girls? 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Dr. Suzuki never told me

I'm utterly convinced of one thing when it comes to Suzuki violin teaching and parenting: It's much easier to be the teacher than the parent.

As the teacher, I can say things like: "Make sure to make your practice sessions with your child positive!"

As the parent, I know firsthand what it's like to bite the inside of my cheek to keep from exploding when the c-sharp is played wrong for the tenth time in a row.

As the teacher, I can remind my students and parents why it's important that they practice every single day.

As the parent, I inwardly long for a Friday morning break from practicing as much as my daughter does.  (And sometimes we take one.  Shhhh!  Don't tell!)

As a teacher, I am constantly talking to my students about the value of listening to their Suzuki CD.

As the parent, I hae been known to switch the CD off in favor of anything else because I cannot take one. more. minute. of violin.

As the teacher, I remind my students why it's so important that they practice their scales as part of their daily practice routine.

As the parent, I want to kick and scream as much as my nine-year-old did when her teacher introduced a new scale program that took an hour and twenty minutes of our practice time to get through this morning.  Curse you Carl Flesch!

As a teacher, I work hard to provide educational, enriching musical performances and opportunities for my students.

As a parent, I sometimes think that if we have one more wonderful "musical opportunity" I might just curl up in a corner with my blanket and my iPod blasting anything non-violin.

As a teacher, I'm more than happy to blather on and on and be the go-to source when someone asks advice on a music-related matter.

As a parent, I roll my eyes inwardly at my know-it-all teacher self, and think how much easier it is to have all the answers when you're not the one practicing with the headstrong nine year old at seven in the morning.

As a teacher, I look for ways to push my student beyond what they think they are capable of, and try to provide them with exciting and worthwhile music.

As a parent, the exciting, worthwhile, beyond-what-we-think-we're-capable-of piece is alternately inspiring my daughter and giving me nightmares.  It's the hardest thing she's ever played and we've had just a little over a month to learn it.  And yes, they're learning the choreography too.  (Take a look- it's pretty darn amazing.)


As a teacher, I get pretty excited when I see a student perform well.

As a parent, I still get tears in my eyes when Abby performs.  And I remind myself that yes, it is worth it.
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