Thursday, June 1, 2017

Reflecting: Motherhood

Over Easter weekend I took a trip BY MYSELF to Utah to visit my family while Austin took the boys to his parents house.  It was wonderful.  I missed my little buddies almost immediately, but it was a much needed break and it helped me step back and then refocus a little.  


Without my kids around, I was able to see my personal progress more sharply.  Let me explain.  You've heard the phrase "cleaning a house with kids in it is like brushing your teeth while eating an oreo," or how about this one, taped on my mom-in-law's fridge, "cleaning house when children are growing is like shoveling while it's still snowing." 

This concept applies to more than just cleaning.  The ability to be patient, think clearly, remember, be positive, accomplish tasks start to finish, engage in meaningful study, follow through, make decisions, be creative, maintain balance and order, and let's be honest almost any area of growth you could tackle.  Being a parent is not convenient by any stretch of the imagination.  It's not supposed to be.  So, when I was kid-less for a weekend it was like going from heavy weights back to light weights and realizing just how much life progress I've made. 

"No, don't kiss my belly, that's weird!!" 

Motherhood is often invisible work, uncharted, unmeasured, not graded, and unpaid so seeing progress in the moment is a challenge.  Being with my family made it especially easy to see how far I've come since they always bring me back to my childhood.  I really am growing and changing for the better.  Really seeing and believing that was the most refreshing part of the entire trip.  

That and this adorable nephew of mine.


He is pretty great too. :)

It was good coming back to my lovely Vancouver, little red house, and family.  Things are even better now that the SUN IS FINALLY OUT! 


It was beginning to feel like we'd never be done with the damp rain of winter.  Especially since we spent a load of time looking like this:



 and this: 



They are too cute even when they are sick.  

Now that the sun is out, Isaac's nose has finally stopped dripping and James' cough has subsided. 


I can feel the time sliding away as we count the last few weeks as a family of four.  Both boys are growing so fast, but it's good to pause I soak in their littleness.  Their fresh soft skin and bright eyes that seem to radiate their own light.


 Before getting married I thought their were introverts and extroverts in this world.  Austin challenged that idea because he was the most extroverted, introvert I'd ever met.  Now introducing James Fife the most introverted, extrovert I've ever met.  We can't quite predict which it will be.

Today at Home Depot he was hollering "hello! we are getting some sandpaper!" at the top of his lungs to anyone who passed, but a week ago at a friends goodbye party he was clinging so hard you'd think he was trying to get inside my skin. I finally had to feign a bathroom break just to get some air.

On Sunday it was the sunbeams turn to be CTR super heroes.  When his teacher attempted to put a super hero mask and belt on him he lost his mind and took off down the hall crying for mom, jump to Tuesday when he had a cavity filled at the dentist without even flinching.

We are stumped.  The only correlation I can draw is he is uncomfortable if he doesn't know what is expected of him.  If the situation calls for him to perform without any preparation or practice he is not interested.


James has a loud voice.  Austin will often say, "James. volume." at which point James moves his hand as though he is turning down a nob and says, "vrrrrrrr vrrrip" and starts speaking more softly.


He has a mind all his own.  Adventurous and creative.  Leave him alone for 5 minutes with a piece of rope and he will have the whole house in knots.  He was in heaven on our first boat trip of the summer when he got to tie the boat off to the dock.  It took a while for me to undo his pirate knots when Austin backed in with the trailer!  


For his birthday we stocked him up with more play tools and he has finally started to leave our tools alone.  This is huge relief for me.

James loves in a BIG way. As he gets older his relationships with his family and friends are deepening.  When he catches a wave of love for one of us, he can't contain it and he gives the biggest, most sudden, and painful hugs possible.  We are trying to find ways to help him express those big feelings without requiring the recipient to tap out.  It's been a challenge.

He identifies with Tigger and likes to "bounce" people, and generally just seems to have a need to connect with the world physically.  If I am close to him, he finds a way to be pushing, pressing, thumping, or gagging me.  It's also common for him to suddenly throw whatever he is holding at my face.  

Now, we do have precious moments when we just sit and talk and talk, learn to read, or eat together, but I'm ever vigilant.  


I week or so ago, I was having a particularly pregnant morning and was struggling to get out of bed.  He bounded into my room and declared he had a surprise for me.  I handed him my phone on the camera setting and told him to take a picture of it so I could see.  He came back with about 50 snaps of this scene above.  The leaning tower of TP.  




He is always doing something.  Always.  I've learned that the face he is making in the picture below means he is in his happy place.  I took this picture from the warmth of the house while he was out in the rain with boots and a jacket pouring buckets of water from one place to another.  He was focused, "workin'," and completely content.  

If he asks for something and I say no, he will immediately gather all his faculties in coming up with a way to get it anyway.  If I say yes, I'm usually not quite fast enough and he will begin helping himself before I can get to him.  It's a blessing and a curse.  He is so incredibly capable.  He could move out tomorrow and have some decent survival skills under his belt, but it's messy.  oh so messy. 

He is helpful! When his baby sister arrives I can already predict what a cheerful little helper he will be.  The relationship he is building with Isaac is so touching to watch.  They wrestle and bite like the best of them, but they genuinely love and look out for each other. 


I'm pretty sure I remember something about 4-year-old's constantly asking questions?  Yeah.  I was not prepared for just how constant those questions are. He will ask questions about the questions. Questions about the babysitter he might be getting because of the clues he got from a conversation Austin and I had on the other side of the room yesterday. Plus, if I didn't know better I'd think he had hearing problems because the response to EVERYthing is "what?"


As part of his birthday celebration this year Austin took him on a camp out.  Just the two of them.  He looked forward to it for months and it didn't disappoint.  As they were ready to drive off I snapped this picture and then Isaac insisted on joining in.  

That cheesy grin didn't last long after he realized he didn't get to tag along with the big boys. Lucky for him the father-son's camp out was only a few weeks later so he got to get some camping in too. 

 The last birthday surprise was a pocket knife for James.  He only gets to use it when daddy is around, so every now and then Austin will pull it out and they whittle sticks in the backyard.  Isaac is using a plastic butter knife and couldn't be more pleased.


There was another birthday boy (man) in the month of May.  His request?  To make himself a lunch of steak, lobster, shrimp, soda and cherries.  Cherries weren't in season yet, so he had to content himself with mangos. :) 


James and Isaac made the cake on the right with the help of a dear friend of ours. 

While the rest of Austin's peers are lamenting the end of their twenties, he couldn't be more thrilled to finally own the distinguished age, 30.


Isaac, my happy little goof ball.  This buddy is Cuuuuuute.  Spunky and outgoing and a total charmer.  his curls and squishy kisses are pure heaven.  


With all that spunk comes some clumsiness.  He trips a lot. like A LOT. I'm not sure how he ever says upright with the way he is constantly reinventing the way to walk (skip, bounce, gallop.) Sometimes he will even try to walk on tippy toes, so "tippy" that they are bent over backwards!  It's no wonder his skinny little knees are always scraped and his head always bruised.  Luckily, mommy's kisses are pure magic.  No matter how bonked up he is, as soon as there is a kiss planted on it, the pain is gone and he is off on new adventures.

When we are sitting in the pew at church, he has made it a personal goal to fall and bonk at least once every "sac-a-ment" meeting.  I'm getting better at catching him so he has to really get creative in order to met the once a Sunday bonk quota.  Last Sunday he propped his feet up on the top of the bench in front of us. Then quickly reached his arms out to grab on the same place.  To his surprise, his little bottom slipped right off the seat and his folded body slipped right down to the carpet below.


He is aware of feelings.  If mommy is sad, he is intent on helping me feel better, "A kiss it momma?"


He loves giving prayers.  When it's time to choose someone to say it, he will call out, "I say it! I say it!" Whether he is chosen to say it or not he will begin "A father"  and go on and on, speaking very deliberate nonsense words until one of us reminds him to close in Jesus name "Ah-men."

"I got it!" has become a common refrain around here as he becomes more and more insistent on doing things by himself.  Even if he eventually asks for "halp" any attempts to interfere are met with an even louder, "I GOT IT!"  


I can't really emphasize enough, just how cute this boy is.  His mannerisms, his voice, his smile, all of it is just stinkin' adorable.  He is tiny and light and it's no wonder because he's not a big eater and he is always moving, but he loves his milk and applesauce with a passion.

An enjoyable joy ride with Auntie Pat in her convertible!

"Hallo?"






There is so much more to write.  Things about these boys, my feelings, my struggles, and triumphs.  This will have to suffice for now.  I'll just say, these are glorious days.  Hard days. The best and the worst.  Sweetness and pain.

Completely beautiful.



Sunday, March 26, 2017

Making a Case for Easter: Favorite Holiday Status

When you ask the question, "what's your favorite holiday?" How often do you hear Easter?

Honestly though. It's never up there.  Christmas usually wins, Halloween makes a surprising showing (surprising to me anyway, since I'm NOT a Halloween person) even Thanksgiving has a following, but Easter? *crickets*
It's not too surprising really. There's less candy than Halloween, fewer presents than Christmas, a lot of girly pink and pastels, new clothes (booooring), and a bunny that leaves a bunch of plastic eggs.  Bunnies don't even lay eggs...so what's the deal with that one anyway?

(I just got curious and looked it up and apparently the German immigrants to America brought with them an Easter tradition of an egg-laying rabbit called Osterhase. There you go.)

If I lay out the meaning or true spirit of each holiday we celebrate, there are some pretty special reasons.  The birth of the Savior, patriotism, gratitude, love, family history, freedom, new beginnings, parents, and divination/haunting (oh wait...yup still don't love that one.) If we take away all the traditions and emotional connections we've developed to certain holidays and are left with just the purpose of the celebration, Easter wins the day by a long shot.  The celebration of our risen Savior, the new life we are given through Him, The most important event in all history upon which every truth is built. Pretty important.  Almost intimidatingly so.


Now if I were Satan (there's a weird way to start a sentence) I would probably want as little attention on this holiday as possible.  I'd even be okay with Christmas in comparison.  How much less important was the Saviors birth in comparison to his Atonement and Resurrection?

As Austin and I grow this little family of ours we take each family tradition, hold it an arms length away, and study it.  What purpose is it serving? Does it bring us to Christ? Does it teach something true? Some traditions have fallen away and others have been given new life.  With the precious little time we have on earth and the even shorter time we have to teach our children, the things we spend money, time and energy on will make a big difference.

We very quickly determined that Easter needed a bit more time and energy (and maybe even money) to make it big, emotional, and memorable.  My kids won't be forced to like Easter best of all, but you can be sure it will be in the running.

I took some time to ponder, how do I go about making a holiday special? Why do I love Christmas so much?

Christmas has a certain amount of anticipation involved.  We start talking about it at least an entire month before it arrives.  There are sights, smells, colors, sounds, and tastes that we associate with that time of year.  Every one of our senses is treated to something so unique that eating a gingerbread cookie or seeing a Christmas tree in July seems out of place.  There are traditions of service, giving, family time, story telling, decorating, and eating that give the whole experience beauty even if you have no idea what the holiday is really about.

For my part, I'm on a mission to create meaningful sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and colors for Easter.  Maybe that means a little less pink and a little less fluffy bunny.

I want to start talking about it sooner, decorate for it in a bigger way, collect Easter songs (fun ones and reverent ones,) maybe we will make a resurrection garden, have a Passover meal, make matching jammies, deliver cookies, establish "Easter colors." The possibilities are endless.

What have you done in your families to make Easter special?  Impart your wisdom friends!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Reflecting

I wish there was a font that made every word in this post read in a contented sigh.

I'm a happy mom.  


James and I have completed "how to play with toys not mom and dad's stuff" boot camp.  He is still James, but has rediscovered his legos, 'struction site trucks, and fort building instead of take apart the house, destroy, and waste. 


Most noticeably different, however, is my attitude.  I've rediscovered self care in a way that is changing my attitude toward motherhood.  Not just physical care, but mental, spiritual, and emotional care.  For everyone reading this who has seen or talked to me recently, you would be surprised by how much you do for me, just by being my village.  My world of people.  

Thank you.

Other success:

Family mission statements are where it's at!  I had no idea what peace and joy would flood into my mothering as a result.  Instead of closing my eyes and pointing in a direction each day, I have a clear picture of what is important to our family burned in my mind.  The unimportant things fall away and the things that matter to our little Austin and Tikla Fife family are at the forefront.  




This was taken moments after he walked right into the reflection pool

Even good ideas and wholesome things can become overwhelming distractions from the true direction we are headed.  Our goals are messy, authentic, striving.  Best of all they are in phases.  


I good friend shared a quote with me:

"We are human beings, not human doings"  

That rings through my head as I take time to just "be." 


Then there's this powerful affirmation from Jeffery R. Holland, "You are doing God's work. You are doing wonderfully well." 


When I sit next to a pile of deliberately dumped crayons gently insisting over and over, that yes, James, you do need to pick these up, no you don't need help, no your fingers aren't broken, you just went potty, and  you may have a snack after and only after they are picked up and he writhes on the floor while poking the nearest crayon with his pinky inching it slowly toward the bucket.  I can chant in my mind, "I am doing God's work" and suddenly that tedious task, is shown in true colors. I am teaching accountability, work ethic, boundaries, proper care of items, persistence, breaking down a task into manageable steps, obedience, and probably more.  What a meaningful, important way to spend my afternoon.  


I can sing "popcorn popping" and read "hand, hand, fingers, thumb" for the bazillionth time and know that I am doing His work.  The work He would do in our home if He could be here with us physically every day.  

The best part, is when I do these things, with singleness of heart, with purpose, He is here.  




Our little Isaac had a birthday! 

He's two.


 The busy, adorable, once in a lifetime, and yes sometimes terrible, twos.

We deliberately didn't invite any of James' friends to the party since some of the favorite games they play often involve picking on Isaac. (insert stern mom face) It was super fun to get to know the families, of Isaac aged friends, better.

He inherited my enthusiasm for opening surprises.  No matter what was under that wrapping he was giddy about it.


He loved all the attention, "bayoons" and blowing out the candles.  He has been an expert blower for a while now. ;)


 TA DA!


I'd say that makes the stuffed animal party a smashing success.


There is comfort and sadness knowing this phase will end.  He is still such a baby for all his big boy-ness and probably will be until his little sister arrives.  I'm holding on to it for as long as possible. 


His plea for "a kiss and a hug," the way kisses fix "owies" instantaneously, the way he says, "uhhhhhh, nope!" or "SURE!"


The way he interrupts conversations with James to carry on his own with as many words as he can remember from James' and then throwing in a few things about birds and trees and bears.  


Today at the park he saw some adorable white fluffy puppies on a walk with their owners and he pointed and begged, "mama! Cuuuuuute, dog, I kiss them??"  That and waving and calling out "hi!" to every neighbor on the walk there.


He is in a sweet spot right now.  His mischief is predictable.  Washing his hands with the whole bottle of soap, suddenly reclining the couch when you least expect it, unloading the knives from the dishwasher, taking off his pants (and diaper), giving his bear a bath in the sink, throwing food, dumping liquids, stealing James' toys, getting out of bed, and sometimes he will wake up from naps on the wrong side of the universe, 



but let me tell you. This boy will go to nursery or be left with a babysitter without a fuss.  He loves people.  I dropped him off to a play group with a huge dog the other day and he gave me a kiss and said "bye mama!" He is a champion snuggler.  

I peaked in the room to find him out of his crib, happily doing an alphabet puzzle. I couldn't even be mad.
 He isn't picky, he loves his brother James, he uses his napkin, wipes up his messes, tells "jokes," sings songs, grabs my face and pulls it inches from mine when he's really getting into a story he's telling, he throws away his own diapers, he is a happy light to our family.

"James take a picture of us being cute drinking this."
 James is difficult to photograph.  I was laughing as I scrolled through pictures because most of them are him in the middle of speaking or busily focused. Now and then I get a good smile, but you know, sometimes he is most happy when he is focused on a project or explaining things to me.


I finally got some paint for the kitchen with a little sheen to it, I was sick of trying to scrub food off matte walls. 
 He and his brother are both clothing adverse.  It's been even harder with all the rain because sometimes we just HAVE to play outside anyway, which means mud, which means baths, with means I have to decide whether to dirty a new outfit, get dinner on their pajamas, or just let them be breezy until bedtime.  Underwear and diapers usually win.

 James has started a hilarious new line of reasoning.  Some background is required. He created some characters a year or so ago for our bedtime adventure stories.  Every night we tell a made up story about Grass the bunny, Deese the Squirrel, Garner the bird, Pickles the puppy, and cleany (or stinky depending on the story) the sock.

This hilarious cast of characters goes on adventures with him in the stories we make up.

So lately, he will involve Grass the bunny as the authority in situations.  "Sorry mom, I can't go to primary class today, Grass the bunny put up a sign that says, No primary today." or "Grass the bunny says, we need to make cookies today because he loves cookies."


Oh and the ever hilarious use of the letter "y" at the end of words to illustrate his mood.  "Mom, I'm feeling very orangey right now. Can I have a clementine?" or "I'm feeling Curious George-y," "reading time-y," "milk-y" etc.

inspecting the mud on his shoes

"Can't go to the library today mom, I've got some work to do." 

"mix mix mix mix"
 Ha, I know I already did an ode to Isaac above, but this picture reminded me that anytime Isaac brings me a pretend food item, he will wait for me to "taste" it and then say, "a sour" meaning, it's sour, so I taste it again with a sour face and he scampers off to make some more.



eating grapefruit.



These are wonderful days.  They won't last forever, but I will never forget them.  This is my glory.