Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Work in Progress

G showing off his creation in the new kids' room - reveal coming soon!

I have been uber-focused on getting home projects done so that my babes can sleep a bit better in healthier environs and I can focus on more important, less urgent matters (yes, there are more important things than baby's sleep, but you can't get to them unless they are sleeping!).  Although I've done all I can do on the home front, or almost all I can, there is more that needs doing that is out of my hands.

This coupled with a type-A, goal-oriented personality, and being a doer rather than a reader (much to my chagrin!) has made me reflect a lot on accepting the process, or imperfection, rather than the goal. My house may never be "done" (yes, we are still settling after a year and a half!), but I am making continual progress - through my own best efforts and by working together with others.

And so it is with life. I don't know if I will ever be "done" making progress. Every time I turn around, there is some fault, newly seen (but always there!) that needs work.

For instance, recently I have begun to reflect on why I am perpetually late. Yes, I am bad at math, and getting to things on time with three littles requires a lot of complex calculus (and back-up plans!). But it is also a matter of prioritizing others over myself. If others and their goals and priorities are as important as my own, I would get up earlier in the morning and maybe leave my house a little more messy.  Yes, getting G to preschool on time may not be all that important in the grand scheme, but I am not teaching Gideon to respect his teachers, and I am not respecting the education of my 4 year old. I need to do better. A lot better.

And then there is being critical of myself. Turns out judging myself and not allowing some grace in the matter is as wrong as judging others. Also, the "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" commandment actually requires one to love one's self. As I point out in my book (written, it seems, another lifetime ago - I'm still learning the lessons...), my ability to love others is directly proportional to my ability to love myself. So if I am critical and judgmental of myself, I am more likely to do so with others. Guess I need some work...

In short, I need to allow grace for myself--and my house, as silly as that may seem. Without excusing my many shortcomings, I need to be gentle with myself and allow for (lots) of room for improvement. After all, doing so will make me more like God, the author of the most amazing grace of all.

Small Wonders
* "I can watch myself"
* Appetite improving (yeah!) - "I'm hungry already"
* Got Walkie talkies, called "Talkie talkie"
* After being in charge and bringing E up for the bath (I'll take whatever help I can get!), G asked "am I a serious kid, mom?"
* On her waking, Gideon asked Esther, "How are you doing? How is your God? How is your Jesus? How is your curious George?'
* His scripture reading: "One day the body was gone. Hey don't take my body away!." "Jesus didn't answer. Took him on to the cross." 
* "Chloe bit me, but it was all very friendly"
* Gideon will come down and cuddle with me in the early morning while I am reading my scriptures or feeding Ingy.  He came down the other day and said, "mom, a strange thing happened..."
* We flew out to Utah for my step-mom's funeral after a three-year battle with cancer.  We took two red eyes to save $800 but cost us dearly in sleep.  G started the trip optimistically: "It's going to be seriously cool to sleep on the plane tonight" and then, on waking and asked how he felt said, "I think I'm dying" before telling the flight from the back of the plane: "I need everyone to get off the plane!"
* G was quite sick before, and, much to our consternation, during our trip.  Beforehand, when asked how he felt, he said, "I want to go back to Heavenly Father!"
* Overheard explaining something to Esther: "I felt it in my heart"
* Something is getting through in Primary, where he offers prayers and sings with all his heart.  He told his cousin, "I'm trying to be a good boy and make good choices."
* When frustrated with me: "Please don't drive me crazy!"

* Holding G's face, "do you know Jesus?"
* We visited a farm where we purchased our bunny.  Esther demonstrated she inherited her father's way with animals, and watered them all like a pro. 
* Esther scripture reading: "Jesus is the King!" "Body was empty"
* She told me after buttering her toast that she really does understand why she can't eat certain things: "I can't have butter-it has dairy in it!"
* She'll tell Ingy when crying to, "Be patient!"
* She's learning something, as she tries to baptize G in the tub almost nightly.
* When frustrated with me: "I told you several times"

* my greatest joy at the moment, and inspires me to be kinder and more patient with the others.
* has a very special relationship with G.  Whenever he is within striking distance, will reach for him, coo, and laugh, often making him smile and laugh when he is sad or crying. 
* watched almost all of "Beauty and the Beast," completely rapt.

Easter pictures

Sunday, April 9, 2017

12 Signs You Might Be From New Hampshire & East Egg Run!

Front doors almost always lack walkways.

We've lived in New Hampshire now for almost a year and a half, and there are some things that I've come to know as distinct to this state.  I've compiled a list here.

You might be from New Hampshire when:

1) You never use your front door.  One of the first things I noticed on moving here was that there were no walkways leading to front doors. The entire home was structured around the front door, but it was almost never used.  People instead use their side doors, and I am often told that if someone knocks on your front door, they aren't the kind of people you want to know!

2) You are an "Independent" but tend to vote with a particularly party. Every time.

3) You have a foot-long beard. Them are prolific in these parts.

4) You own a truck.  Or a Subaru Outback.  With bumper stickers.

5) You stockpile wood.  Many people heat their homes with wood here rather than turn on the central heat to save money.

6) You use vinegar for things other than cooking.  Like cleaning your floors, or shampooing your hair. Natural, cheap, and stinky!

7) You own a motorcycle.  This state has the highest per capita motorcycle ownership but for North Dakota.  Don't ask me why. And they don't use helmets. Live free or die!

8) You don't pay income or sales tax. It's a beautiful thing.

9) You've met every single president since you were 10.  No kidding.

10) You are used to people campaigning at the dump. Don't mind the smell, it's a public forum.

11) You attend your town meeting.  That's where you vote on your property taxes (controlled by the town - the state is supported by "sin" taxes and certain corporate taxes), after all. Direct democracy in action - it's awesome.

12) You were born here. Even though my toddlers will know no where else, only Ingy will ever truly be from the state, apparently!

Small Wonders

* Overheard from Gideon:
- "I need a break!"
- "I want lemon on my fish!"
- "Gideon, your four minutes to play are up and it's time to eat dinner!" "How can this be?"
- "I never get to do anything" [said with much shoulder-slumping]
- "Mom, I love you.  You are so nice, but sometimes you get angry."
* Gideon has started to make introductions for people he believes to be meeting for the first time.  Today at church he made an introduction, "This is my dad, Lance."
* Yesterday during FHE, Esther told Lance, "Dad, you are so cool."
* When going on or off the freeway on 360 degree ramps, Esther will say "wheee!" against the centripetal force
* Often in the car, I'll look back and see G holding Ingy's hand.
* Ingy is deliberately reaching for things, has grown out of the swaddle, and gotten over her four month relapse and back to 11-12 hours a night (phew!).

The town East Egg "Hunt" (read run! for the littles) was held indoors at the high school this year because it was just too nippy out to hunt in the grass. 

Ready to run!

Showing off his kill

Esther finally got the hang of it after being overrun by kids for about a minute. 

Getting to know you.

Friday, March 31, 2017


all in white, antique christening gown

Our little Ingrid Elisabeth received a name and a blessing (a non-saving ordinance for babies within our faith which normally constitutes the first ordinance of their little lives and adds their names to the rolls of the Church) from her father a week ago Sunday. Our boy turned four a few days after that, so we celebrated him the blessing weekend, too, while family was in town.

Although Esther shared her stomach bug with half the family (ugh!), we somehow managed to have a great weekend.

Gideon's "Wind & Words" party was an exercise in lazy parenting. With the exception of the Etsy cake toppers, the decorations came from found objects around the house - vintage children's books, twine, and Esther's hair bows made to look like kites that I hung around the rented venue, a wooden yurt on a nearby farm. All invitees were at Gideon's request, as was the food: ants on a log, carrots, chips, watermelon, sparkling water, and a gluten free cake. I made the latter (from a pre-fab mix - couldn't be bothered to invest $10 in Xantham Gum...) only because I didn't hear back from the local cafe who could have whipped up some gluten free yumminess. It was unfortunately not windy enough for kite-flying, but the children loved having the books each brought to share read out loud on the beautifully-lit second story of the yurt. Among these, "Grandpa's Tractor," read by "Poppy," or Theron Toler, was the highlight, as his and Gideon's names were substituted for the named characters in the book and the book characters even looked like Poppy and Gideon.

The road to the yurt

ye olde yurt

upstairs - shhh - baby sleeping in a basket!

Check out these stairs!

The next morning, Ingy's naming and blessing ordinance was beautiful. Lance - attended by my father John Updike, my brother Peter Updike, Wally Smalnik, Dan Rescia, and Richard Swett - stood in a circle and held Ingy while the ordinance was performed. Although the language of the naming ordinance is sacred, I think it appropriate to share the relevant content of the blessing portion here:

* Your family has been blessed by your presence the last couple of months.
* You are very loved by your father and mother and other family members - your brother and sister - and all around you.
* You are a special spirit, and your name is special as well, deriving from your grandmother and maternal aunt, each of whom have wonderful characteristics.
* Blessed to grow in knowledge and faith, and that your physical body can grow and function well.
* Blessed to love the scriptures and prayer.
* As you choose to keep the commandments of God and use your free agency to choose the right, you will gain happiness in this life and the next.
* If you so choose, you can make the decision to be married in the temple and have children of your own.
* Continue in the plan Heavenly Father has given us.

my papa and this babe really bonded

Small Wonders
* Gideon's manipulation skills have reached new heights: "The Lord told me to ...[do whatever naughty thing he is doing.]"
* Gideon's scripture "reading": "The Lord will smite the children of men - do you know what smite means?"
* Esther's scripture reading: "The children take the baby..."
* Esther will entertain herself in her crib, often for up to two hours, before she sleeps.  Frequently, she will have her little dolls in bed with her and will carry out their activities, from eating, sleeping, and going potty.  Even if it is completely dark and she has no toys, she will find a way to entertain herself by singing or role playing.
* Esther is learning her colors and numbers - not by any specific teaching on my part (though we will ask what color something is at random) - she just loves figuring things out and follows Gideon's example. I find it all amazing.
* When Esther's had an accident, she will say "bleeeeh!!" loudly as we clean it up. So funny.
* Ingy not only interacts, initiates, and has a whole baby "vocabulary" to communicate certain things, but can recognize my voice and possibly her name. She prefers mamma (is it early for that?), and is reaching for things, can make full 360 turns on her kick mat by pushing down with her legs on the floor, and can do quarter-half turns/rolls with her body. At 15 weeks, she's already gone through her 4 month sleep reversion (down to 7 and 9 hours a night), but is back to a consistent 10-11 hours a night - hoping for the solid 12 soon!  

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Flying Solo: 8 Tips and Tricks

photo by the inimitable Lesley Colvin

Single parenting: it's tough. Especially with two toddlers and a newborn!

Not that I have ever truly been a single parent - the handsome husband has always carried the weight of providing for our growing family and more (like managing taxes!) no matter how far the distance. But for various reasons throughout our four-year sojourn as parents- whether it be because of my husband's work or other requirements such as an intense church responsibility or other factors - I have cared for our children and home by myself for long stretches of time. It has infinitely increased my appreciation for those who are truly single parents. And caused me to get organized in a hurry.

Here are the things I have learned that make solo parenting easier/doable: 

1. S*L*E*E*P. I can do anything on enough sleep.  Our first, Gideon, was colicy, which meant long days with lots of screaming crying. But I knew he would sleep at night, so that kept my head above water. Now, with three, I have, with my sisters' help, been able to coordinate afternoon nap times and nighttime sleeping, and it's been an absolute lifesaver in getting sleep myself and anything else done, like working a little bit or maybe folding laundry. I also have the energy and mental capacity to be patient and consistent in discipline follow-through, which makes the wake times easier. (Read my sisters' sleep secrets here). 

2. Get help! If you can afford paid help, get it. Find someone who can be regular, a teenager (who can drive or walk!) needing the money, a more mature woman in the area, or an au pair as we had (she's gone, unfortunately!).  Don't feel guilty; just be grateful it is possible. Our family lives far away and wasn't available to help with this birth, and in London we were just too far away for family to come for long stretches, so we got part-time au pairs for the months following Esther and Ingy's birth. If the finances aren't there help, find a network of similarly-situated moms and start a co-op you can all draw on for care. Also find help where it is closest at hand - from your oldest, even if they are a toddler themselves.  It's amazing what they are capable of, and it increases self-esteem to lend a helping hand. Toddlers can throw away diapers, click into their own car seats, clean up the floor, empty the dishwasher, and entertain babies or hold bottles. My favorite question from Gideon is, "mom, what can I do for you?"! 

3. Let go.  This is hard for me.  I'm a perfectionist.  Yet I can't iron kids' clothes when I'm getting less than six hours of sleep. It helps to tell myself I'll do something later, and keep a running list on my iPhone. It will invariably get done in stolen, quiet moments, and allows me to focus on children and reading to or playing with them rather than constantly tidying. 

4. Make special time for each child. At bedtime and nap times, each child gets individual time with me, and the others just have to wait. This has particularly helped my two year old, displaced as the baby, to know that she's still very special to me. Even if Ingy is crying, I will say, "Ingy, this is Esther's special time." She gets to cuddle with me then and we sing special songs. We both look forward to this time. Similarly, throughout the day, when opportunities arise where I get to spend time alone with each child- Gideon wakes up from naps before the other two, we've just dropped Gideon off at preschool and Ingy is asleep in the car, or I am changing Ingy, I will put my to dos away and just focus on that child for a bit, cuddle close or reach back to hold their hand in the car, and realize how much I appreciate them.  It's good for both of us and has increased my love for each child.

5. Routine. I am horrible with numbers, including figuring out how to time things right with three, so routines and predetermined schedules help a lot.  Of course, things are forever shifting, but routines help me go into autopilot and enjoy my kids more rather than constantly thinking through the next step. And kids do so much better with routines!

6. Incentivize. Most corporate cultures work better and produce better and higher profits when employees are correctly incentivized (did you know that Marriot raises are based off of customer reviews?). Children are no different.  Last night, the first to get in and out of the bath got to open the gift for Ingy a neighbor dropped by. G knows that if he sleeps through the night without waking me up (sleep training is on-going, even at nearly four!), he will get a treat (fruit). 

7. Prioritize. I know I can only take care of one child at a time, so I have to prioritize child-related issues in picking which crying child to care for (and applaud myself if only 2/3 are crying at once!). For instance, bathroom issues always take priority over eating, and eating issues always take priority over other things. 

8. Take Breaks. I enjoy my children more and have more energy to care for them when I take meaningful, sharpening-the-sword breaks. I normally do this while they are sleeping and read, work, or do something creative (right now my creative energy goes into sewing curtains and picking out vintage electrical appliances for a room I'm working on - reveal in a future post), or the like.  But occasionally I pay for help to go do something I enjoy - like a BYOB (bring your own baby) movie, go rock climbing, or go to a class at the local library.   

I know I'm not the only mamma out there who flys solo a lot of the time - what have you learned about how to make it work and not just survive, but enjoy it?  Always looking to improve!

Small Wonders

* Gideon is four today (!) going on fourteen, complete with eye rolling and telling me "mom, you're making me crazy!"
* Gideon loves his sleep and will call out to Esther, who is singing herself to sleep, to be quiet. The other day at nap time I heard him say, "Esther, if I wake up, there will be problems!" and again at night while I was putting away clothes, "Mom, I'm trying to sleep!"
* Gideon has also started to develop a little testimony, and told me that the Holy Ghost will protect Ingy in her heart, and teaching Esther that God made her and that He loves her.
* Overheard: "The moral of the story is..." "Do I look like a tiger?"  
* Gideon is all about compliments - "You have such good teeth, mom!" and the excuses: "I can't, I have to dig - that's my work!"
* In asking to watch General Conference, Gideon told me "I want Rasband!" (A new apostle who visited the area last Easter. "How do you know who that is?" to which he nonchalantly replied, "because I like him!"
* The children are music tyrants. Gideon told me in the car the other day, "I don't want a beautiful classical song!"
* Esther after being woken up by me making a loud voice [said in animal voice] "I go to sleep - again!"
* Esther's vocab and comprehension has skyrocketed lately, with the beginning of "whys," "because" and, if she really doesn't want to do something, will tell me, "It's too dangerous!"
* Esther's version of Jingle Bells: "Oh what fun to choose the right one horse open sleigh..."
* Esther has developed a good sense of humor with potty training. She woke up with a dirty diaper and, to the tune of "once there was a snowman," began singing, "Once there was a stinky, stinky, stinky..."
* Ingy is full of smiles, coos, and giggles/chuckles, loves the bath, and is moving already! She can scootch and half-roll.  She gives me a 2-3 hour nap and 10-12 hours at night.  Needless to say, I'm in love!

mountains of snow!

fav museum, the Montshire

kite flying

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sorrow that the Eye Can't See - Take Two

Esther's second birthday party last October, seven months' pregnant with Ingy. 

If all people knew of me was what I posted on Facebook and Instagram, they would think my life was idealic: all of the glam of travel while dredging the sweetness of life in the New England countryside in an antique post-and-beam farmlette with three beautiful children, a handsome husband, an au pair, a bunny, with a stimulating part-time profession I can do from home.

All of the above is true, and I gain great joy from the many, many blessings of my life. Yet as my handsome husband says, "no one's life sucks on Facebook." Ha! And too true, and true of myself.

We post the happy on social media. Yes, many of us get downright personal, and I have done that here and in my book, many times. But rarely do we ever get really personal, and share the dark and ugly of our lives. It simply doesn't get enough likes.

Though I honor the sacred opening of the soul - and reserve the right to do that as I feel so moved - it is also difficult and perhaps not always appropriate to do so in a very public space. Now is not the time for me to bare my soul in this, my personalized public space. But I can say something about the "sorrow that the eye can't see" in my life.

First, it exists. I am no stranger to pain. It has and continues to flow powerfully and deeply in my life. Behind the beauty of my life I choose to depict on social media, there is deep pain and heart-breaking sadness.

Yet this pain with which I am all too familiar has taught me a few things. To cherish the sweet and joyous part of life - to even celebrate it on social media.  Perhaps, as a wise prophet and friend has said, my joy is in direct proportion to my pain.

Too, joy and pain may not be mutually exclusive. I haven't yet fully digested the concept, but a special witness of Christ recently expressed the concept that we can find joy in sorrow.

What I do know is that I ache more deeply for others' pain because I know it myself. To sense when others are running through troubled waters themselves. I am also less apt to believe social media's portrayal of lives that seem free from life's challenges, and joy in others' happy moments because I know that this happiness is all that keeps us from tumbling into despair.

I am also grateful for my pain - my struggles brought about by my own and others' choices - because it has broken my own heart, and made me willing to go where I otherwise might not be willing to go, to be taught and tutored in the ways in which I need to repent and change. I am newly aware of my weakness, and renewed in my faith in Christ and his ability to change me. More, I know of my own helplessness to change, to be and do what I know I ought, but hopeful in knowing that if I rely solely on the merits of Christ to make me equal to my weakness, I can be made new and better than I am today - permanently.

I guess, to put it simply, because I know pain, I know Christ. I know what it is like to be weak, and I know what it is like to be made strong. I know he has the power to heal, to change, to comfort, to succor, and to create joy in my life.

The more I live, the more convinced I become of the frailty of man. Yet this frailty strengthens my faith and dependence on Him who was never weak. I know I can change and become better "through Christ which strengtheneth me."

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Talking the Bird and the Bees with Babes

Gideon has caught me off guard with his inquisitiveness about where babies come from!

I had envisioned talking about the birds and the bees with pre-teens, but it turns out that three is the new pre-teen. Gideon has surprised me with his inquisitiveness.

To date, we have had four conversations about the birds and the bees. First and second were about male and female anatomy.

Here's what the most recent two were like:

[A week ago] "Mom, how did the baby get inside you?"

"Daddy planted a seed in mommy, and it grew into a baby."

Then a few days ago, it became clear that Gideon had been thinking about our previous tete-et-tete.

"Did it hurt when daddy planted the seed in you?"


"Where did he get the seed?"

"At the pet store." Just kidding. I really said, "He made it inside his body."

These conversations have ramped-up my thinking about how to approach this important topic.  I want to facilitate a relationship and a comfort level such that my children always feel like they can come to me with their questions, concerns, or the inevitable first viewing of pornography. I have also always wanted to teach my children to be chaste but not prudish. That sex is wonderful and special enough that only married couples should share it.

There is a fine line to walk here.  While I want very much to have my children abstain before marriage as I did, too often within my faith--and perhaps within other strains of conservative faiths-- in an effort to keep youth chaste, sex is taught as an evil. Young women taught within this rubric especially can enter marriage unprepared to contribute and cherish the wonder of intimacy with their husbands.

On the other hand, obsession and licentiousness with the powers of procreation and love can lead to destruction of the soul and spirit.

As I have pondered this quandary, I believe that the emphasis should be on whys rather than just obedience to commandments.  If one understand the whys of chastity before marriage, one can also understand the wonder of intimacy within marriage. As one leader of my faith has called it, intimacy within marriage could be considered a sacrament, where we partake with God in the powers of creation - both of new humans but also of love and harmony within the marital companionship.

Now with the apparent coming of age of my three year old (ahem!), I need to not only sort out teaching the why of premarital abstinence, but also what to share when. In the interest of creating an open and honest ongoing conversation, I have decided to adopt an approach where I answer the question in full but limit it to age-appropriate information.

As I develop my strategy, I'd love to know what you do to instill a healthy and chaste attitude towards sex in your children? What have you found that works?

Thanks so much in advance!

Small Wonders:

* Our new, wonderful au pair (pictured below) hails from Columbia.  We like to have her speak in Spanish to the kids.  Gideon calls it "Spanishing." In church last Sunday, a native African got up to bear testimony in English.  Gideon noticed that something in how the man spoke was different and noted it by saying for all to hear, "He-he-he's Spanishing!" Lance witnessed the explication in slow-motion horror from a few feet down the pew (mom was out with the baby) before he could extricate G from the chapel.
* Our friend slipped on the ice this week en route to our home.  G found out and, concerned, said, "Can we help her?  Can we get a bandage for her face? Can we get a sticker for her and put it on her belly button?"
* G has mastered the art of eye-rolling
* Daddy took the kids out for lunch and had to remove them, particularly G for being rude.  Later, when asked what his favorite part of the meal was, G replied, "Being rude."
* G will often tell us when we have a small chore for him, "No, I'm busy now.  I have work to do." When asked what all that entails, he will say "I need to watch a tractor show, and a car show, and a train show in Daddy's office."
* Overheard from G: "I was like, Oh my gosh!" "The monster trucks (snow plows) go the the bathroom on the road and that's why it's dirty."
* I returned one of two barn cats to the animal shelter.  On the way there, the cat in a Havahart trap, G asked, "Is the cat being brave? Does it get a sticker?"
* To G "Let me think" "Are you done thinking?"
* Overheard by E: "Good job me!" "The bird is silly." "The snow is cool!" "Careful on the road!" "Bumpy road!" all said in the cutest baby voice.
* Ingy's "schedule" is coming along nicely.  At eight weeks, she will wake somewhere between 4-6 a.m. for her first feed of the day.  The next feed will begin somewhere between 7:00-8:30, then again at 10:00.  I then try to get her down for an hour before feeding her at 11:30 and keep her up for a "double feed" at 12:30 or 1:00 p.m. right before her long afternoon nap (that is geared to overlap with G &E's naps as I have been working a little during this nap). I will often need to wake her at 4:30 to eat, and then help her sleep for that last fitful nap in my arms before she wakes for the evening routine.  She now eats at 6:30, then it's bath time, a little bit of baby massage and a last bottle feed before going down at 8:00 p.m.  I then don't usually see or hear from her till the early morning feed at 4:00 or 5:00 a.m.  So grateful for the input and advice (explained in more depth in the How-tos section) of my sister of 9, Anjenette, in being able to get so much sleep!

8 weeks tomorrow!

attempting to breastfeed

our new au pair, Valeria. She's absolutely wonderful