Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Signs that I am turning 30 soon

I turn 30 at the end of this month. On the 30th to be exact. Apparently that's a special birthday to have both numbers match up. I'll look forward to the magic.

I've been noticing a few things lately---other than the calendar---that indicate my age. The list comes with good and bad:

  • My knee hurts. I don't remember doing anything specific to cause the pain, but suddenly I'm favoring it, taking ibuprofen before bed, and waking a few times with pain during the night. I'm not particularly in shape, so this comes as no surprise.
  • Another sign of my body betraying me is that everything I eat is suddenly showing up in my waist and arms. This actually started when I turned 29, it's just taken me a year to realize that it's not a passing thing. Looks like it's here to stay, and if I want to do something about the weight I'm going to have to do more than think about it a few times. My mother said this would happen. Claire points it out to me weekly; bless her heart.
  • I like me (well, so far today I do). While I certainly have and have not had this feeling in the past, it's different now. One thing I've realized is that it's really easy to like yourself when you are easy to like. Like when I weighed 115 pounds, and I was Miss Utah, and boys were lined up all around me, and I could play the piano so effortlessly, and I spent my days speaking and serving---that was easy. Now---far past the 115 pounds, I struggle to get through my few piano performances, sometimes no one listens to me, and sometimes I fail miserably at my responsibilities of being a mother and wife. Boys still hang on me, but usually it's a three-year-old who needs his nose wiped and help going potty or a husband who still insists I'm hot, but may just be saying that because I'm his only (ethical) chance at getting any. Although I do speak (sometimes loudly) at my children and serve them all day, the tangible rewards are far different. But I'm settling into an easy flow with my life and who I am. It's comfortable. I like it
  • My long-complained-about acne problem seems to be resolving itself (knock-on-wood). Maybe it's age, maybe it's the face wash I found, but with that going away it's time to take a serious look at wrinkle cream. I've dabbled in it a bit before, but I think it's high time to preserve my skin. Suggestions? 
  • We will register Claire for kindergarten in two weeks. I know that many of my peers have children well into the education experience, and that technically I should have sent her last year, but it still freaks me out to think I have a kid in kindergarten.
  • We have time-consuming church callings. I actually love that this change is happening. We love our callings, and we love being useful. Nonetheless it's a sign of growing up. With T in the Bishopric and me in the Relief Society Presidency we have at least two nights of meetings a week and very busy Sundays. This week we both have overlapping meetings tonight and last night that we'll be passing the kids to each other and other people, and one or both of us will do visits at some other point. This is how our parents always were, and it makes us feel like we're doing something right to have our lives be so full and so blessed.
  • We have a mortgage. While this makes us feel very grown up, it also makes us very happy to have the house we've worked so hard to have. We have done some painting and arranging around the house lately. I think we've finally realized that we're here to stay and not just hang out until the next move. The yard will continue to improve this year, and hopefully we'll get a great garden in. My roses are bursting to life as we speak (even in the cold), and being responsible for our little bit of earth makes me feel grown up.
  • Our cars are almost paid off---yeah!
  • Our marriage is better than ever. Not that it has ever really struggled, ever. It just improves with time, and I love that. We are definitely half of a whole, and I love who we have become together.
  • As I've mentioned before, we are entering a stage of our lives where the people we love and admire are leaving this earth. In fact, Taylor's other grandpa is in the very end-stages of life and will likely be spending Easter with Jesus this year. This is the season of life that we are in. We've had a rushed and rough entry into this season, yet it causes us to grow, to reaffirm our testimonies, and to cherish our family a little bit more.
So I'll be 29 for a few more days. I love that I'll turn 30 in the late springtime of the year. I feel like it's symbolic of this time in my life. I'm definitely starting the summer of my life. I'm letting go of the spring, and I'm excited not to be a twenty-something. My twenties were ofttimes thrilling, life-changing, and rewarding, but the last half of the decade has been rough. I'm excited to be past that; I'm excited to be a grown-up. I know that I'm not likely to feel any different that exact day (Remember when Claire turned four? She got up, looked in the mirror and cried. "I still look like a baby! I don't look like I'm 4!"), but I know that it's something I'll grow into. And, despite the unfavorable parts listed above, I'm really looking forward to that.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bad habits never die...

...they just get passed on to your kids.
Taylor and both of our kids naturally hold their hands this way. It's how we know they are his---and because they are practically little Taylor clones in every other way.

It's funny how much of us are in our kids. Kyle and I have identical tastes in food: we like mustard, spicy things, and chunky sauces. We will basically eat anything put in front of us, and we will do basically anything for chocolate---even for just one single chocolate chip. Taylor and Claire are anti-mustard, anti-spicy, anti-sauce, and take-it-or-leave-it when it comes to chocolate. Although Taylor has branched out as an adult (still no mustard or tomatoes or anything with a "funny texture"), it is reported that Toddler-Taylor liked everything "naked" from hamburgers to noodles to mashed potatoes. Claire has picked this up without encouragement or previous knowledge---not even ketchup on a hamburger, nor spaghetti or alfredo sauce on pasta, and no gravy on potatoes!

It goes the other way too: Claire has my eyes. Kyle has Taylor's. Both of their hands rest in the same odd position that Taylor's do. They're both super-smart---just like us. Just kidding---because only Claire shows signs of being super smart so far :) Anyway, it's interesting to see parts of yourself in your children. One disheartening thing I've noticed is that Claire has nearly every single one of my bad qualities.

Take for instance the other day:  The kids and I set out to clean up Claire's room. If you have ever seen her room, you know the monstrous undertaking this can be. It had probably been three weeks since any adult had made much of an effort to do more than hang up her laundry.
Claire's closet on a typical day.

So there we were; I was giving the orders, and the kids were supposed to be following the orders:

Me: Kyle, please throw that away. (And he leaves to do it)
Me: Claire, please put your pajamas in their drawer (She walks in the general direction of the pajama drawer but gets distracted by a doll. Kyle returns.)
Me: Kyle, please go hang this up. (Kyle heads to closet)
Me: Claire, remember how I said put up the pajamas? Put them up! (Kyle returns)
Me: Kyle, can you go throw this away now? (Kyle leaves.)
Me (annoyed): Claire, put your pajamas in the drawer or they will go in the garbage.
Claire: would be easier that way.

It went on that way for 2 hours. I think she accomplished maybe five things I asked her to do---in the end both of us got so frustrated that we quit when it was 90% done. She spent the next hour cleaning up (AKA playing with) her dollhouse. She gets it from me. Lucky girl.

I'm an awful housekeeper. I'm lousy at it. Nothing about tidying up a house comes naturally for me. At all. Never has. Probably never will. I know for a fact that since last August our entire house (every room, every bathroom, every surface) has been completely clean at the same time exactly two times. Two times in eight months! I have good runs and small victories. On Wednesdays the entire downstairs (minus the toy room) is clean because I teach piano lessons. On Mondays our bedrooms are pretty good because that's laundry day and it's easier to vacuum without clothes all over the floor! But on every other day of the week it's up in the air. Each day it seems that I wrangle something: the bathrooms, the kitchen (most days my kitchen has moments of being almost clean), my closet, the dreaded toy room, the loft. But if I do more than that it means I'll ignore my kids, and they are completely destructive to whatever part of the house I am not currently arranging.

I need to clarify that I don't need you to call the Hoarders show on me. Or the health department. Or even Merry Maids (well, maybe them if you're willing to pay...) We are neither pest nor mold infested. It's just the clutter that's the problem for me. It's mostly kid clutter, but I'll admit to being guilty for a part of it too. At least I must be the other responsible party, because Taylor is so seldom here.

And I try. I really do. But I'm not effective. This is evidenced by Claire's comments to me the other day: "Mom? Do you think I'll be a good mom?" I assured her she'd be great, and she responded, "Well, I'm just worried about it because all you do all day is clean---and I hate cleaning!" Clearly if I do it all day, and we're still not clutter-free, we do have a problem.

I think I improve by about 2.5% every year. So by the time I'm about 80 I think I'll have this down. In the meantime it kills me to see that this quality has been passed on to her. I'm pretty sure it's on the Nature side of the Nature vs Nurture argument, because my mom was great at this, she certainly tried to teach me. Repetitively and continuously :)

Claire has some other bad qualities of mine. I can already tell she's a "hair nerd" like me and my mother before me. It took me until probably last year until I didn't feel alone when I am in a group. I see that in her and it breaks my heart. Our moods are pretty up and down which might explain why we both love Elvis Costello's song "She;"  the lyrics describe us perfectly:

 She may be the song that summer sings
May be the chill that autumn brings
May be a hundred different things
Within the measure of a day

I do have good qualities I hope that she gains. She's a natural at the piano, so she's got that one down. Claire sings in public without fear and already really enjoys public speaking (just like me, but not the singing part). It's interesting that we all have different abilities though. This morning my friend Katie (who happened to be Miss America and coincidentally is good at singing) blogged about how she's not good at cooking. And you know what, I'm a great cook (probably Katie's house is always clean!). I love to cook, and I can even add, subtract, or substitute ingredients at will without things going horribly wrong. And I do it on a very, very frugal budget spending usually $200 a month and always less than $300 a month for our family of four. I'm also great at staying on top of laundry (with Taylor's help). I wouldn't consider it a forte of mine, but it certainly doesn't stress me out like it seems to stress a lot of people. I never have the proverbial mountain of laundry, so I must be doing something right.

Whenever I get down on myself about my complete lack of tidy skills (which is nearly every day) I have to remind myself about the things I can do: the cooking, the laundry, the sewing, piano, scrapbooking, and hopefully I can add blogging to that list. I can do some things! And I hope that one day Claire will be able to say that about herself---and about me! After all, going back to Costello's song, if you can get over the part of us that brings the autumn chill, the summer song part is pretty awesome. With Claire (and I hope with me) the end of the song rings ever true:

Me. I'll take her laughter and her tears
And make them all my souvenirs
For where she goes I've got to be
The meaning of my life is She. 

And for fun here's a link to that song, along with the clip from Notting Hill that made me love it so much:

Monday, April 11, 2011

(Un)Answered Prayers

I haven't posted for an entire month. I guess I've been trying to pull myself back together after all the funerals. And while I usually write to deal with things, it didn't happen this time. We've been busy though. Since I posted I was called as the second counselor in our Relief Society (our church's women's organization), so that's had me way more busy than teaching Primary (children's organization) every other week :)

One thing that has nearly overwhelmed my thoughts since the last time I posted was the subject of prayer. I've never considered myself an above-average public, out loud pray-er. While my paternal grandfather could orate for hours (literally, I'm sure it's been done), and both of my parents have this quality----as evidenced by their prayer pads (gardening knee pads) that they have conveniently stored under their designated family prayer couch. I likely have the genes for it, but somehow I freeze up whenever it's my turn in class or (gasp!) Sacrament meeting. Words tumble, random and generic things come out of my mouth somehow twisted from their traditional usage. Does everyone feel this way? I regularly speak at church services for almost an hour without blinking an eye, but giving the prayer gives me instant cotton mouth. Probably I just need more practice.

Anyway, public prayer hasn't really been on my mind. It's more the personal kind of prayer. Three or four weeks ago in Primary my teaching partner, Bethany, gave a lesson on prayer. She asked class members to share examples from their lives where their prayers have been answered. I thought about what my example could be. I think I have prayed every single day of my life to find something that I have lost: shoes, keys, library books, my hair brush, my children (totally kidding), my mind (only kind of kidding). Really, I think I pray daily to find misplaced objects---and I usually find them quickly after the prayer, regardless of time spent searching prior to the prayer.

I pray for comfort, for the guidance of the Spirit, for healing, for health, for peace, for safety, for direction while driving, for my children, for my husband, for my parents and siblings and grandparents; my list could go on and on. And time after time my prayers have been answered.

I shared one specific dramatic answer to prayer with my Primary class. And I've thought about it over and over since that time. I don't know that I've had a more dramatic answer to prayer ever. I want to share it, not to boast of how great I am to have my prayer answered, but just to say how great God is. If ever I wonder if prayers are answered, I go back to this moment and get the resounding answer: Yes.

In a nutshell: I was 21 and set to go on a date with a boy. For a lot of reasons, it was important to me to be the one driving the two of us to and from the date. I requested that of him, and he thought I was being silly, that boys always drove on dates. So over lunch that afternoon my Mom and I prayed that things would work out and we would be safe. Probably within 30 minutes I got a call from him, and he said that he had a flat tire. The spare was also flat, and it looked like I'd have to drive. As I pulled up to pick him up on the side of the road I couldn't believe what I saw. The tire was not just flat---it was non-existent. It had literally blown off of the truck. Shreds of tire, none bigger than the size of my hand, were all along the roadside. He just kept saying, "I just don't see why this had to happen today."

Well, I knew why it happened. I drove and everything was fine. Maybe everything would have been even if he drove. We'll never know. And that's not the point. The important part to me was that my prayer was answered. Dramatically answered. And I have relied on that knowledge a lot.

One other thing that has got me thinking is unanswered prayers. I, for one, totally love the Garth Brooks song Unanswered Prayers. So many of the blessings in my life are products of unanswered prayers. I miscarried months before becoming pregnant with each of my children. Oh, how I prayed for those pregnancies to work out---but what if they had? I wouldn't have the children that I do have now. We prayed to get into dental school before Claire was born---what if that had turned out? I wouldn't have the friends I have now. We wouldn't live where we do now. We wouldn't be in the ward that we love so much.

Sometimes I pout when things don't go the way I planned or the way I wanted. I get upset when things seem unfair and unbearable---and sometimes it takes a long time for me to see past those things, but when I do I think of the found keys, the tire exploding, and of the sweet blessings that are mine because of unanswered prayers, and I do know that God is mindful and ever-present and always answering my prayers.

*Tire picture by Larry Page (not the actual tire from that day)
*Hands picture by Katie Tegtmeyer