Thursday, March 31, 2011

Happy Things on a Thursday

loving this print via
 












:: a sunny day and a chance to dig in the dirt
:: productivity in the kitchen cleaning out the fridge and using up ingredients that are nearing end-of-life
:: a double-batch of strawberry freezer jam
:: mixes from the Passionista blaring while I work around the house
:: a big sister reading to her little brother
:: the end of March!
:: nice e-mails from kind bloggers
:: the feeling that anything-and-everything-is-possible that accompanies this time of year
:: knowing that I get to work in Miss A's class tomorrow morning
:: plotting and planning for the husband's Friday off tomorrow
:: General Conference this weekend for my church=just the shot in the arm I need

My apologies that things haven't been as positive+awesome around here lately as I always hope for, but I think things are on the up and up.  I'll be back next week with more of the dad story, things on my mind, and hopefully more about learning from others coming soon! Thank you for supporting Bee.  It is another definite happy thing to me!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Let it Shine



I love The Lower Lights.  There is a little part of me that is embarrassed to admit it, especially with a mother-in-law who used to be in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but singing hymns in a revival-style is something I've always kind of craved.  I'll blame it on my mom's southern roots.  The Lower Lights cd is often on in the car, and hearing my kids sing along makes me happy.  Frequently I find myself getting teary to This Little Light of Mine (watch the video above and see if this teary phenomena happens to you too, or if I'm just too emotional for my own good).

In case you can't tell, I've been feeling a slight funk lately.  Actually, it started fairly close to when Bee a Little Better began.  Which has led to a lot of confusion.  I started this blog because I felt like I was trying to let my little light shine.  I started this blog feeling a spiritual confirmation that it was the right thing to do.  I had prayed about it, and things unfolded leading me down this path.  I had thought about it for a long time.  I had a clear purpose and a lot to say.

Lately I sit down to write, my eyes well up, and I walk away from the computer.  My vision feels vague.  I think about this little light and can't figure out what it is I'm supposed to be letting shine.  There's nothing shiny inside- in fact, things seem rather dull on many levels.

I'm  not quitting.   Far from it.  But I am digging deep in figuring out who I am and how to say it.  I'm trying to discover what it is that I have to offer that shines.  Becoming better is a vulnerable thing.  It's not like I'm posting pretty pictures about an awesome craft I've made, and if you don't like it, it might hurt my feelings but it's ok if it's not your style.  I've said from the beginning that this blog is about my journey to become better.  I think the past couple months since starting Bee a Little Better have given me several opportunities for examining myself and identifying the ways I need to improve- the ways I need to be better.  And frankly, it's hard to see those traits magnified, the ones that we wish weren't a part of us, but they are, so we have to own up and work hard to overcome them.  And it's hard to experience the pain that can come because of our own shortcomings. 

I guess I'm in the proving grounds to show that I really do want to become better.  That when faced with my faults, I want to work to overcome them.  That Bee a Little Better isn't just something nice to say, but it is an actual process.  It's hard work.  It's deliberate decision making.  It's good choice building upon good choice building upon good choice.  It's dusting myself off and repenting after the not so great choices, but realizing those choices don't define me.  I can still choose to be better.

Everyday.

And I still have a light that shines.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ebb and Flow

Lately things feel off to me in a friendship that means a lot.  That off feeling leads me to think about it a lot. I am the first to recognize that life sometimes gets in the way and relationships change during various seasons of life.  Growing pains can be a part of any relationship.   Today I'm seeking your advice, readers. 

When things feel off in a relationship do you

a) become worried and insecure that it's something you've done, and pen a lengthy apology for any wrongs you may have committed?

b) recognize that relationships change and accept that this one has just changed?

c)figure that things have a way of working themselves out, so let it go?

d) talk it out before you explode?

e) something else entirely and much more brilliant than anything I can come up with?

Do tell.  I need some words of wisdom. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Can't Get Enough?

Gorgeous photo from Irene Suchocki, a long time Etsy fave

Not that I'm any sort of special when it comes to things to share, but in case you want more of me or more Bee a Little Better, here are a few more online stops (not like you need anymore, truly).  Buttons/permanent links will be coming soon to my sidebar.

-Bee a Little Better just started a facebook page.  It's pretty lonely there so far, but it's a start. 

-I joined Formspring.  Not sure if I'll like it (it may be like my twitter attempt  a while ago- just not my thing), but feel free to ask away.

-I've been enjoying Pinterest for several months.  An online place to store all of that inspiration that keeps track of where you found it in the first place?  Perfection.  Feel free to follow my boards

.....

Plans for the weekend include date night tonight, dry-pack canning tomorrow morning, and some spring cleaning sprinkled in.  I loved the tips on Clover Lane about increasing your house love by focusing on your own home and giving it a good scrubbing.  I'm hoping it will cure my "everything in this house needs changed" feeling that comes every spring.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mom Growth

my new-mom self with Miss A at 5 weeks
With each child, I feel like I've become more and more myself.  Don't get me wrong, there are days when I think each child has also made me more and more crazy, but overall I feel much more relaxed and able to enjoy motherhood as my number of children has increased.

I was high-strung as a first-time mom.  I fully recognize it, now.  There are so many things I'd go back and advise my new-mom self.

Like don't go back to work, even if it's only for 5 months, and even though you're only gone for 4 or 5 hours, and even though your friend is watching Miss A and she's in wonderful hands.  You can't get back those new baby days.  And if there's one of my babies I want to go back and hold the most, it's Miss A, because I treasured those newborn days the least.  Not intentionally.  I just didn't understand.  I didn't understand how quickly time would pass.  I didn't understand how special that time is.  I was super-emotional.  And high-strung.  And not sleeping, but instead of in the "I'm not sleeping but it won't last forever" frame of mind, I was in the "I'm not sleeping and it's pushing me to the brink" frame of mind.  And Miss A has always been a little on the fussy emotional side.  I understand that about her now, and have learned over the years how to tread a little more lightly, and how to appreciate that when channelled the right direction, it may become one of her best qualities.  But as a new mom, it meant a lot of days with an unhappy baby.  Who also had a lot of ear infections.

That's another thing I'd tell my new-mom self.  The intuition will come.  But don't beat yourself up for the times when you just don't know.  I remember going to Miss A's six month check-up and leaving with an ear infection diagnosis.  I felt terrible.  I had no idea.  I figured all of this fussiness was just part of baby-hood and part of her temperament.  Had I realized she'd been in pain, I hope I would have shown more patience and less weariness at her frequent cries.

I'd tell my new-mom self to relax because the milestones will come, and there is no need to rush them.  I remember reading to figure out what the next big thing was that Miss A should be accomplishing, and trying to help her check it off.  I studied the "Ages and Stages" Questionnaires from the pediatrician as if they were gospel truth, and I fretted if I had to check "sometimes" for a skill instead of "always," and heaven help us all if I had to check "never."  The muffin is almost 16 months.  He's still not walking.  At his latest appointment the doctor asked if I was concerned.  I responded with, "not really," and I'm really not.  He's talking up a storm right now with several new words a week, and how is he supposed to focus on walking when he's so busy talking?  The doctor offered to write a referral for physical therapy, but it will be a few months before I take him up on it.  In the mean time I'm enjoying my budding conversationalist and his cave-man walk on his hands and feet.

I'd encourage my new-mom self to embrace the days at home.  I tried to schedule Miss A and myself for different outings- on Mondays the library, on Tuesdays Target, just to get us out of the house.  But now my favorite days are the ones where I can enjoy being at home with my kids.  Sure I enjoy trips to the park and the pool, but I have now realized that I prefer being a stay-at-home mom, not a non-working mom who is never home.
 
I'd make my new-mom self get out there and find some new-mom friends.  That was probably where my biggest struggle adjusting to motherhood came from.  I was the first of all my friends to marry, so it wasn't too odd that I was also the first to have children.  But I didn't realize how much I needed other women, and more specifically other women who were moms.  I didn't realize that I needed people to relate to as I thought about diaper bags and nursing bras.  I didn't realize that I needed to compare notes on baby foods and quick dinner ideas.  I had no idea how much better I'd feel when I could lunch with the ladies and let the kids play every now and then.  Motherhood with one child can be a very isolating time, and I was definitely unprepared for that experience. 

I'd reassure my new-mom self that things would calm down.  I would find a balance and make dinner again for my family.  I would figure out how to take a shower and keep a baby alive and out of trouble.  I would discover what should always be kept in the diaper bag and how to get everyone out the door on-time. And I'd let my new-mom self know that it gets easier.  I really settled into my role as a mother of two.  Three has had its own set of trials, but I love it even more.  And the door is wide open for more babies to come our way someday if it seems right.  Nothing else has helped me grow like this.  Nothing else has been as hard or as right or as joyful or as fulfilling.  Never have I had a time of life I've loved more. 

.....
I enjoyed reading this NY Times article and essay on motherhood by Anna Quindlen, the author of many of my favorite thoughts on motherhood.  

Was it hard for you to adjust to motherhood?
What would you tell your new-mom self?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Senses

family backyard plans via bhg
Seeing: Tulips popping through the dirt, and random bits of sunshine. A fridge full of fruits and vegetables after today's trip to Costco.  Piles of laundry that were avoided.  Happy messes. 

Feeling: Dirt between my fingers when I planted phase one of spring vegetables. Motivated with big plans to do something with our yard this year.  Yard envy as I browse Better Homes and Gardens.    

Hearing: "Brother/Sister Power!" The new catch-phrase to remind Miss A and de-Man to be kind to each other. Miss A reading to her brothers. 

Smelling: Garlic and lemon roasting with chicken.  A yummy new recipe is in the oven as we speak.

Tasting: Leftover chewy pretzel bites.  I need to set a limit on how often I'm making these, because twice every three days isn't going to work out in the long run. 

Today was lovely.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hopeful

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After a few days in the hospital, my dad was transferred to an inpatient rehabilitation hospital.  This is where the work would really begin for him to get better.  This is where the assessment of how bad things really were would take place.  This is where the answers started to come, and the miracles started to happen.

Upon the initial transfer there from the hospital, my brother went and met with a social worker at the rehab hospital to get some paperwork for Social Security disability.  Because my dad was in Idaho, the case was opened there, so my brother helped to get the ball rolling.   Shortly after his paperwork pick-up he called with the number for Alita, the social worker, and told me to give her a call.  Alita and I became very well-acquainted as we talked regularly, often daily, during my dad's five-week rehab stay.

Some of our conversations are forever imprinted in my memory.  During our first phone call, I drank from the proverbial fire hose as we reviewed information pertaining to so many life details that I now needed to manage for my dad.  She let me know that there would be a team of nurses and therapists evaluating him for the first week to determine his current functionality and to set goals.  The next week there would be a family meeting to review the initial assessments.

I made sure the baby was fed, and I dropped off the older kids at my in-laws so I could devote my full attention to this crucial phone call.  I took page after page of notes as each therapist did a self-introduction and then shared their findings from the first week.  The reports were grim, but the therapists tried to remain upbeat while being honest.  It was a hard dichotomy to listen to them sound positive as they shared such devastating news.  It was pretty certain that my dad would be released in a wheel chair.  His lack of ability to walk was so great that it seemed impossible for him to regain that functionality during his rehab stay.  His speech was still unintelligible, and it was hard to determine how much cognitive function was lost.  His left arm was useless, and function was not returning quickly.  The nurses were very concerned about his diabetes management, as his blood sugars were consistently in the 300-400 range, and his controlled diet and various combinations of insulin were doing nothing to lower them.  His blood pressure was still high.  Probably one of the worst pieces of news was about his emotional health.  Alita described him as having a flat affect.  He didn't seem to care.  He was becoming depressed.  And if he couldn't change his outlook, it would be harder for him to progress physically.

The news from the initial report came just days before Christmas, and definitely clouded a normally joyous time of year.  I remember spending time Christmas evening with my in-laws and trying to play games and be upbeat.  The reality of the current situation was not easily glossed over, and while the kids were off playing a group of the adults settled in the living room as we discussed options for our upcoming circumstance.  We talked about the logistics of building a ramp into our home.  We discussed demolition and the possibilities of major renovations to make our home wheelchair accessible.  We thought of different bedroom scenarios and who should sleep where to best accommodate our growing family.  What started as a family of 4 would become a family of 6 within a 6 week time-frame, and we weren't sure how our 3-bedroom home would best accommodate everyone.  As I shared the details of the rehab hospital family meeting with extended family and friends that night, it was hoped by all that the outlook would improve and that my dad would make a better recovery than initially projected.  Our faith was already playing a large role in carrying this load, but we knew it would become even more vital throughout our experience.  While sitting next to the Christmas tree, we decided to fast.  

Family and friends joined us in a fast for my dad the following Sunday.  I felt strength from the prayers of many and our unity in purpose- an improvement in my dad's condition.  Faith lifted me, and I felt peace and certainty that things would improve.  And they did.

The next week I had another phone-call with Alita after her weekly meeting with the therapists and nurses, reviewing his progress over the last week. It was completely different than the call the week before.  He was walking!  Slowly but surely, he was regaining his abilities.  The therapists talked about the miracle and encouraged us to put our renovation plans on hold, because my dad would probably not need a wheelchair upon release, just a cane.  Never in their long careers had they seen someone in such a poor condition make such strides.  It gave my dad confidence, and his attitude changed.  Alita was most thrilled about the funny, happy person she was getting to know who was so different from the man of indifference she saw the week before.  His successes pushed him, and he worked hard to improve as much as he could.  He became the star of the rehab hospital, an example as well as a friend and a cheerleader to the other patients, his new friends.

This was the first in a long line of miracles that would occur as we cared for my dad.  The physical care-giving had not yet begun, but we cared for him spiritually and emotionally as much as possible at this point, and we were blessed with a miracle.  I began to understand more deeply that no matter how hopeless things seem, there is always hope.  Always.  And no problem is too great for our Heavenly Father.  Miracles happen.


In an effort to remember what I've been through taking care of my dad post-stroke and share the growth and beauty that came along the way, I will be journaling this experience as part of Bee a Little Better.  You can find all posts in this series under the label "the dad story".  I hope you'll stick with me as I record this experience.  If it doesn't interest you, come back tomorrow for something different. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Power of our Words

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Last weekend while we were driving home we took a break to stretch our legs and eat lunch. While we were waiting for our food, I witnessed one of the most uncomfortable interactions that has not left my head. 

An extended family was out for lunch together. The parents were probably in their 50s or 60s, and they were joined by two sons with their wives, and a grandchild. It was immediately obvious that one son was the family expert, the one who everyone looked to, maybe because his opinions were so loud that no one else dared to express their own.

His wife gathered napkins and straws and sat down next to him while they waited for their food. He asked her a question, she responded, and the berating began. His ego was oppressive, his words cruel and unrelenting. She cowered at his tongue lashing, then turned her head and began to sob. It was terrible. He resumed conversing with the rest of the family as if nothing had happened, and looked shocked a few minutes later when he turned to his wife and saw her tears.

Miss A couldn't take her eyes off the woman, and I admit I was having a hard time, too. Seeing someone endure such verbal abuse made me want to hug her and let her cry and reassure her fragile heart that she had worth and that everything would be ok and that she didn't deserve to be treated that way.

Over the past week, my thoughts have frequently turned to the woman and how she might be doing.  Is she still as shaken by her experience as I am?  It made me think of a car accident. If this woman had been physically affected in an accident, her well-being would have been examined thoroughly by professionals, and perhaps even followed up on. The person at fault in the accident would receive consequences.  But in this situation, none of that will happen for her.  There is no doubt that the impact of verbal abuse was just as jarring to this woman had she been in a physical accident, but because her scars are unseen there is no exam to evaluate injuries and no one to check in on her progress.


Words are power.  I've been thinking about my own words all week in all aspects of my life.  When the husband and I married, I made a conscious decision in how I would talk to him.  Belittling, unkind or harsh words have not entered our speech patterns with each other.  We have protected our relationship from those types of interactions.  I wish I could say that was true of all relationships in my life, because I think when you let that way of speaking enter it's much harder to remove it than it is to protect the relationship from those words in the first place.  I am working on it with my kids, who receive quick reprimands more often than I'd like.  But I know that I can improve, and that I can take the same approach as I did early in my marriage to protect those relationships from hurtful words. The words of Jeffrey R. Holland are a beautiful reminder to me of how my words should be:

"Our words, like our deeds, should be filled with faith and hope and charity, the three great Christian imperatives so desperately needed in the world today. With such words... tears can be dried, hearts can be healed, lives can be elevated, hope can return, confidence can prevail." 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

a kind of day

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Today was a clouds-have-lifted kind of day.
Today was a decrease in the numbers on the scale kind of day.  
Today was a snuggle a teething baby kind of day. 
Today was a find everyone's green shirts kind of day. 
Today was a catch up on a couple errands while two kids are at school kind of day.
Today was a continue to dig out from event leftovers kind of day.
Today was a how did my house get so epically messy kind of day.  
Today was a visit my dad kind of day.  
Today was a fold 3 loads of clean laundry and wash 3 more kind of day.
Today was a take a minute to think and appreciate the people my kids are kind of day.
Today was a futile nap time kind of day.
Today was a best pot roast ever kind of day.
Today was a no mail- how rare is that- kind of day.  
Today was a make lists for all the awesome/productive things I want to do this weekend kind of day.
Today was a start to catch up on the pile of magazines I haven't had time for kind of day.
Today was a see the green starting to peek through in the grass and be happy kind of day.  

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Monday Night List

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-It's good to be home.  Our trip was full of family and friends and sad and happy moments and lots to post about.  I'm in the middle of all that comes with post-trip territory (aka laundry and messes), so a list will have to do to start the week. 

-Aside from the post-trip digging out, I'm also busy with preparations for a big birthday party tomorrow night.  The women's organization I belong to at church is turning 169.  It's the oldest and largest women's organization in the world, and it's a guiding force in my life.  I'm excited to celebrate.  Tomorrow will be full of details.  And baking. 

-I'm not much of a news watcher, but the magnitude of what is happening in Japan is heart-breaking.  I've watched footage and seen pictures and still feel like it's beyond comprehension.  I've had three immediate reactions: 1. a proper dose of perspective on my own petty problems, 2. a desire to make sure my own little family is prepared for whatever might come our way, and 3. a need to give.  Maybe you're thinking about the same things.

Be back soon with more to share.  Hope your week is off to a great start. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Through Thick and Thin

found via pinterest via tumblr
I've received sad news this week from several friends, and my heart aches for them.  Some are facing uncertainty and concern for loved ones.  Some are experiencing the heartbreak of loss. 

I think it's natural to want to help during these life experiences.  I have great desires to be helpful in just the right way, to say just the right things, to take thoughtful to a new level.  I always feel inadequate.  My simple offerings never seem quite right to express the love and compassion I'm feeling.  But over the years I'm learning that "I'm sorry" is sometimes just the right thing. And sometimes just being there is just the right thing. 

This weekend I'm headed out so I can just be there for a dear friend.  Wishing you a happy one. 

"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." -Galations 6:2

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Link Love

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I love the goodness that can be found through blogging.  A few posts have come through my reader lately that have touched on mothering and given me some reminders I need.  If you need some encouragement as a mom (and really, if you're a mom, who doesn't?) these are some good reads.

Melissa's letter to herself was full of things I need to say to myself.  Sometimes we make our jobs harder as moms when two extra minutes would make it ten times easier. 

Sarah's series of questions is thought-provoking and insightful.  Simplifying our life is always the goal. I love how she makes it seem do-able. 

I stumbled across this wonderful blog today written by a mom who loves to learn more about parenting and is sharing the common themes as well as her application in raising two sets of twin boys.  I can't wait to spend more time catching up on what she's learned so far!

I'll be back soon with more to share.  

Sunday, March 6, 2011

First Phone Calls


image via
I pulled up a chair to my computer desk to look up a phone number for the hospital where my dad was admitted.  There was no hiding the uncertainty and confusion I was experiencing as I spoke to the receptionist that afternoon, my shaky voice asking to speak with the nurse who was caring for my dad.  I remember waiting forever for the nurse to come to the phone, although looking back, my anticipation of the news I was about to receive probably made it seem longer than it really was.  

Not knowing what to ask, I identified myself and began with a general but loaded question.  "How is he?"  I began making hasty notes on an index card, and then another, and then another, until after a few days and a lot of index cards I realized I needed a notebook to keep track of the sudden influx of information.  Blood pressure statistics and blood sugars, paralysis and weakness, rehabilitation and therapy plans, insurance information and disability applications were all being thrown at me without signs of slowing down.  Although I started out unsure of what I should be asking, I soon had hundreds of questions.  My mind was racing already from the feeding schedules and lack of sleep and demands of a 2 week old, 2 year old, and 4 year old, and all of the new information surrounding the stroke sent it into overdrive.  I was exhausted, but sleep wouldn't come.  There was too much thinking happening. 

I called back several times a day over the next several days, speaking with nurses every shift, anxious to know about my dad's current condition.  One day the nurse informed me that he had fallen in the bathroom and broken several ribs.  I can't recall if it was him attempting to do things without help or a lack of supervision that caused the fall, but it was the first in what would become a long line of post-stroke falls that are still happening today.  I would quickly learn that his desire to do things he couldn't was deemed "impulsive," a common side-effect of right-brain strokes.   

I will never forget the first time I talked to my dad after his stroke.  After that first status update, the nurse asked if I'd like to be transferred to his room.  The thought hadn't even occurred to me, especially considering the severity of what I'd just heard.  It seemed like he wouldn't even be able to talk.  Still, I let her patch me through.  

The phone rang several times.  As it picked up, I could hear it being dropped, and then I listened to the struggle as my dad tried to pick it up.  And then we talked.  Or we tried.  My 53 year old dad sounded like he was 90.  I could barely understand what he was saying, his words were so slurred and unintelligible.  I could hear the frustration in his voice as I asked him to repeat himself, not understanding his first attempts at sentences.  At that point I tried to do the talking, saying positive things about his recovery and communicating our love and concern.  But I kept our conversation short.  It was too hard.  Hard to communicate.  Hard to accept that this was our new way of conversing.  Hard to experience the heartbreak, not knowing if we'd ever have another "normal" conversation.  Hard to piece together this new reality with so many unknowns.  And so, in an effort to make the unknowns known, my days, for weeks, were spent on the phone.          


In an effort to remember what I've been through taking care of my dad post-stroke and share the growth and beauty that came along the way, I will be journaling this experience as part of Bee a Little Better.  You can find all posts in this series under the label "the dad story".  I hope you'll stick with me as I record this experience.  If it doesn't interest you, come back tomorrow for something different. 

 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Little things

Image via Hannah on Pinterest
Sometimes, I am all about the little things.  I really think little changes can turn into big changes.  It's often the little things that bring such joy to my life- pictures from my kids, kind words, chocolate ice cream, thoughtfulness, great shoes, quiet date nights, and sunshine, to name a few.  Little details can communicate a lot of love.

But sometimes, there are just things.  Annoyances.  Bothers.  And really, in the big scheme of things, they are little things.  But somehow, they irritate and irk and fester and multiply until those little things have turned into big things.  And that, I've realized, is why sometimes you have to let the little things go.  Deciding they don't matter when they're little is the key.  If you continue to acknowledge them when they're little, it gives them fuel to grow, and then they become big.  And it's a lot harder to get over the big irritations than the little ones.       

I've let a few little things become bigger, lately.  In doing so, the biggest irritation becomes myself for letting it get that way in the first place, for allowing the negative to flourish and for feeding the flames with criticism and judgement.  So, I'm letting it go.  And it's going to take a lot more work to let go now than it would have had I done it when they were just little things.  But I know I'm going to feel so.much.better.

Anything you need to let go of?  Just a little thing?