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 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


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. ;)


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. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Reflecting: Motherhood

I guess I'm finished counting the months I've been a mother.  It's no longer something I've been doing for a period of time. It's who I am.  I am mom. It's an un-changable state of being.

In the first few days after James was born, I had the shocking, confusing realization that I was still just me.  I didn't magically turn into a woman who is wise and capable.  I was just little old me with a baby. Completely out of my comfort zone. I'm not sure when the change took place, it's been gradual, but I'm not Tikla being a mom.  I'm Mom.  Still not as wise and capable as I assumed was prerequisite for the job, but more wise and more capable than I used to be.

 "Morning Mom, would you like a little foot scrub?"

I've let too much time slip by without blogging.  It's always harder to pull the pieces together and capture in a few paragraphs a snapshot of mothering right now when there is so much to cover.  I guess I won't even try.  We will just start with today.

Today is Sunday.  The best day.  Food, diaper change, shirts, pants, bowties, socks, (no matches k, just wear these ones) shoes (what happened to your shoe buckle?) Austin points out a huge chocolate stain on the back of my outfit.  New clothes for mommy. Snacks, diapers, forgot the wipes (eh, we'll be fine right?), Singing time stuff, paper for coloring, friend magazine, out the door,(don't step in the mud!) buckles, drive away.  Forgot phone, (oh well. won't have to remember to silence it.) EARLY!! See Austin on the stand and remember how handsome he is. Happy sigh.

anticipate the sacrament, (keep your shoes on please) here comes the bread. (just one please) here comes the water, (lift it up high enough they can't reach) two sips, two coughs and splutters, two wet spots. Cheerios, (oh, don't dump them!) "I need to go potty" "k, fold your arms!" "do you need any help?" "no!" wash. dry.

Now it's Monday, and I want to talk about my boys.

Isaac doesn't run, he bounces. Sometimes on his toes. If you were to freeze him mid run he would look like Mario hurtling a mushroom.  The most classic example of this is when he is jumping into a pool.  He just runs in, but since his run is already a jump he gets air without even trying.  While on a Sunday walk today, we watched him running down the sidewalk and Austin joked that he might actually be faster if he just walked since so much of his energy was propelling him up instead of forward. :)

This is the face of a boy having so much fun that stopping to say "cheese" for the camera was dead last on his priority list.  "I don't wanna take a picture" Then he scampered off. 

This guy on the other hand...

...he smiles so hard it hurts to watch.

Isaac loves hats.  I'm actually surprised we don't have more photos documenting that reality. 

He is becoming a talker, but he has a funny quirk.  He shortens almost every word to one syllable. For example,

Table: Tabe
Blanket: Blank
Snuggle: Snug
Napkin: Nack
James: Jame
Jammies: Jam
Diaper: Diap
Vacuum: Vac
Yogurt: Yog
Chocolate: Chock

Other favorites: 

"Nope" (emphasis on the "p" sound with those luscious lips of his)
"beep!" (If a timer in the kitchen goes off he will not rest until I have checked it)
"Phone!" (anytime my phone makes a sound)
"wash a hans" (this one could get it's own paragraph. He is obsessed with washing his hands. Ending his fun in the bathroom sink is the surest fire way to get a full blown kicking, screaming tatrum. "WASH A HAANS!!!!!!"  While we are are already talking about the bathroom I'll mention that he is obessed with going potty.  I've declared him not ready for full on potty training for one very important reason.  He doesn't stay seated.  He pops on and off checking to see if anything has come yet and invariably poops on the floor while checking and exclaiming with surprise, "ops nothing." Austin insists that that when they sing songs the entire time he stays put, but I'm going to give it a few more weeks at least. In the meantime he keeps begging and I'm probably missing a perfect window of opportunity.  Ah well.)

You're Welcome: Wehcome
Thank you: Ache you

Run: Yun
Sleep: Seep
Truck: chuck
Bear: Bear-bear
Pacifier: Pah-pah

Speaking of the beloved Pah-pah.  We'd been having a problem with James reattaching himself to Isaac's paci and the addiction was turning into a string of stealing and lying and hiding and scheming and climbing up on to really high things to retrieve the coveted pacifier.  

With Isaac turning 2 at the end of this month we thought, perhaps it was time to just call it quits on the plugs.  That would give us several months before the new baby came to adjust to paci-free living.  I explained to James that in three days it was paci day and we would be saying goodbye to all the pacifiers. We cried together and came up with a plan to go to Dizzy Castle afterwards to have a fun time as a family.  

He counted the days with dread and excitement.  On the fateful paci day, I bought a huge helium balloon and tied our stash to the end of it.  We took it outside and let it go.  James cried, but I cried harder. Being a parent is weird. Isaac was more sad about the balloon being gone, but that all changed in the evening when he said trembling,"pah-pah, bye bye, boon." over and over.  

It was a miserable week, but we are out of the woods and Isaac is finally sleeping through the night for the first time since...well I guess for the first time, consistently, in his life.  yikes! 

"bear-bear" waving hello to the camera

The picture below is a classic Isaac expression.  He is saying, "hmmmmmmm." Usually when we are looking for something, "hmmmmm, where could it be?"

Caught in the act, 
Trying to microwave a can of beans.

Caught in the act,
coloring under the table.

Caught in the act,
being totally adorable.

Isaac is a loving snuggler.  Sometimes it feels like he is trying to get inside of my skin. His little arms sneak all the way around my neck gluing my cheek to his. It is precious.  Except for the times when he is feeling affectionate annnd excited, because, close as possible + bouncing = broken mommy face.

Isaac actually has had a rather rough winter.  Lots of slow motion, PAINFUL, teething, a few colds and maybe growing pains, it's been so good to have his old self back for the last few weeks. 

These special moments in the morning are pure joy.  We wake up very similarly.  Up and happy, but need a little time before actually starting the day.  It works out best when the two of us wake up just a tad before James does so we can be sleepy and snuggly before Mr. James "what's-the-plan" and "why-are-you-not-coming" wakes up. 

His main goals in life seem to include the following:
Say "hi" to all the people,
Hug all the family,
Pop all the popcorn,
See all the birds, airplanes, cats, puppies, leaves, flowers, etc.
sit in all the baskets, buckets, baskets, etc,

Take off all the diapers, 
Eat all the chocolate,
Answer all the "knocks,"
Kiss all the owies,
Sing all the songs.

He is kind and tender.  He is spunky and easily excited.  He loves his big brother.  When daddy gets home he gets sandwich kisses between mom and dad and it might be the best part of his day.  He can open his own umbrella and kisses make everything better. 

  If you ever come over to our house for rice, you should probably know that the rice cooker pan has been on this head, and these feet. Now eat at your own risk.

What is my favorite part about motherhood right now?  It's watching these two boys become buddies.  James is teaching Isaac all the most important things in life:

Always stick out your tongue for pictures.
Curious George is awesome.
When you're hungry just go grab something from the fridge.
Hold hands when we cross the street.
Swings are the best part of the park.
Don't ride in the stroller when you could RUN instead!
Sharp knives are dangerous.
If you can, wrestle, always wrestle.

It's hard to believe we are going to have a third child.  A girl no less.  I'm about 70% excited and 30% in over my head. I guess it depends on the day.  Thursday of last week was a 100% in over my head kind of day.  I'm counting my lucky stars that baby girl Fife is coming in the summer!  We can live outside in their happy place.

James is wearing first draft Nephi Jammies!  More on that coming soon!

Speaking of wintertime, I built them a loft!  We needed some inside climbing space.  I think I might be a fun mom. :D 

Lots of buddy pictures!

Now this boy.  James.  My determined, focused, good, resourceful, loyal, brilliant, little guy.  When I try to get advice from my mom about him she says, "I never had one like James!" I have a sister-in-law who was relieved when her baby was a girl because she "didn't think she could handle a James."  So much ripping, hammering, biting, squeezing, mixing, and scheming.  He is completely beyond age appropriate challenges and so he makes his own.  I recently installed key locking door knobs on the craft room and our bedroom because he had outsmarted the child locks.  Now he has figured out how to reach the "high place" where the keys were kept, determined that blue meant bedroom and pink meant scissors, sharpies, glue gun, and staples.  At least now there are a few steps before he has my hammer stashed under his pillow.

There is a bar of soap in the bathroom instead of liquid soap and the toothpaste and shampoo have been confiscated.  He was too tempted by the urge to mix the "gredients" to make "ketchup." We've brainstormed different consequences. The trouble? If he is told he can't, he sets out to prove that he can.  Not because he is trying to be naughty. He just doesn't take no for an answer.  If it can be done it must be done.  He is going to be a wildly successful adult.  We've found the best method is to give parameters to the things he does rather than telling him that he can't ever do something. Then he can learn within proper boundaries.  "We only use that with mommy's help," rather than "don't ever touch that again."  Even then, it's rough, but we are figuring it out.

The natural confidence he has in his abilities is so inspiring.

The other challenge is the constant pace at which he is getting things done.  If I don't start one step ahead in the morning, I never catch up.

Even after all that, he is just what I need.

If there is a project I'm procrastinating or haven't worked on for a while, he lets me know. Before bed each night he asks about the plan for the following day. He notices if we take a wrong turn on the way to a friends house.  I'm becoming a more tidy mom because if I don't clean up I'll never see those items in one piece again.

After interacting with James, you might assume that he is the type to act without thinking.  That actually couldn't be further from the truth.  Unless he is over-tired or over-excited with friends over, he is actually extraordinarily deliberate. In fact, he likes plenty of time to prepare for new experiences.  He is so much more at ease if he knows what is expected of him so he can be successful.  Sometimes if I haven't given him an idea of what he will be doing at a new place he will pack something along.

For example, when going to visit some friends he hasn't met before he will bring along his ukulele and inform me that when we get there he will sing one of his songs.  It's not because he is a performer, he's not. It's because he wants to know what he will be doing when we get there.  If I don't tell him, he will tell me.  A few weeks ago he was assigned to give the prayer in primary and flat out refused. Since then, every Sunday I watch him during the talks and prayers.  He watches intently taking in everything.  It won't be long now before he asks me if he can give a talk in primary because he finally has all the information he needs to be successful.   

I still sigh with relief when daddy comes home, somehow still fresh after a long day's work, ready to wrestle the trouble right out of this boy.  Did I mention Austin has taken over laundry duty? Um yeah. He's amazing.

I LOVE talking with James.  When he gets in the mood to sit on the couch and talk about the world, it's blissful.

When I help him accomplish his goals he feels loved.  When he wants to show love he folds towels with me, gives massages, smooshes his face into mine as hard as he can, offers a "big, big smooch."

Looking through pictures from the last few months has convinced me, we don't take enough pictures that include Austin and me.  I just forget to!  That needs to be remedied, because as fun as it is watching the boys be buddies the real best part about motherhood is watching Austin be a father.

The beauty of family love is perfect.  We are imperfect.  Our children are crazy and we lose our cool, but the concept of family, with a mommy and a daddy and children is perfect.  It's the ultimate experience.  It's hard to say that out loud all the time because not everyone has it, nor will everyone have it in this life.  Yet, I'm convinced it is what we all should be striving for.  It's the very pinnacle of fulfillment.  

To be able to watch our boys run off down the sidewalk while we push the empty stroller, laughing and talking.  Hearts bursting with love for those two little beings who call us mom and dad.  Swallowed up in love for each other.  Sacrificing constantly for each other.  Leaning on each other while we take turns having hard days.  And on the days when we both struggle we can pray together and commit to a better tomorrow.  Does it get better than that.  So when the days are long and there is just so much correcting, crashing, crying, and crazy I can step back and remember I am living the way people dream of living.  I have it all.  Right here in our red and white cottage with this family of mine. 

I'm so grateful. so. so. grateful.