My valiant, pungent raindeer king

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One night many years ago, my sister and I were sitting in the basement of the home she was currently living in.  We were watching In Her Shoes, which was less than memorable because I couldn’t tell you today what it was about.  But the company was wonderful.

At about 10 o’clock my cell phone rang.  It was my college dance professor, Wendy Bone.  “Hey, Whitney, sorry to call so late.  I’m in sort of a desperate situation,” she said, “I had an emergency appointment come up tomorrow right in the middle of my classes and I was wondering if you could sub for me.”

This was BIG news!  Wendy never asked for my help!  Keep your composure Whitney, be cool, “Of course, what do you need me to do?”

“Could you come meet me at the school?  I know its late, but it would be much easier to go over the lesson plan with you in person and I won’t have time tomorrow.”  I didn’t need to think about it.  I apologized to my sister and hopped in the car.

When I arrived at the dance department building, I tried to recall if she had given me a meeting place.  I was pretty sure she had said to meet her on the stage, which was strange because her classes were in the studio.  But you don’t argue with Wendy.  I went to the stage door.

Darkness.

So I went to the studio.  Empty.  In fact, the whole building seemed to be empty.  I was sure she had said the stage, so I went back.  This time I saw a faint light coming from right in the middle of the stage.  As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I saw him.

Aaron McKee was standing center stage.

My mind couldn’t make sense of this situation, but the unfamiliarity of it made my heart pound as I walked towards him.  As I got closer I realized that there was music playing:  Goldberg Variations, a classical piano piece Aaron had told me he really loved.

He held my hands, and my entire future flashed before me as I looked into his eyes.  While I can’t remember the exact words that he said, I remember the feeling as he asked the most important question I’ll ever hear.  And my answer was yes.  It may have taken me a few days to realize fully that I had been lied to by Wendy, and that I didn’t ever finish that movie with my sister.

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Four short months seemed to drag on forever, and on May 6, 2006, eight years ago today, we were married in the Bountiful, Utah temple and sealed to each other for this life and for all eternity.

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I love this man.  He has shown me kindness, patience, and Christlike service and selflessness every day of the last 8 years.  He makes me laugh.  He’s brave when I am definitely not.  He allows me to be myself.  He has given me 4 beautiful children.  I am so proud of the man he is and is becoming (hopefully I have a little something to do with that).  I look forward to his future head of thick gray hair!

Happy anniversary Aaron!

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One choice can transform you

My enthusiasm for young adult fiction may have reached its pinnacle this past week.

If you, like me, savor this genre of reading material then you also know that the movie Divergent will be in theaters this week.  To celebrate this special event, a friend of mine assigned the book of the same name as this months book-club read.  Upon completion of reading something for a book-club, typically you gather together to discuss feelings about your experience reading the book.  YA fiction fans do things a little differently.

Here is a schedule of events for our book-club meeting:

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•As you enter you will be greeted by a table upon which the 5 factions are displayed.  Here you should choose a tattoo and use the small dish of water and cotton applicators to mark yourself before full entrance into the event.

•Take the following test to determine which faction you will continue on with in the choosing ceremony:

1. You most want your friends and family to see you as someone who…

  • A. Is willing to make sacrifices and help anyone in need.
  • B. Is liked by everyone.
  • C. Is trustworthy.
  • D. Will protect them no matter what happens.
  • E. Offers wise advice.

2. When you are faced with a difficult problem, you react by…

  • A. Doing whatever will be the best thing for the greatest number of people.
  • B. Creating a work of art that expresses your feelings about the situation.
  • C. Debating the issue with your friends.
  • D. Facing it head-on. What else would you do?
  • E. Making a list of pros and cons, and then choosing the option that the evidence best supports.

3. What activity would you most likely find yourself doing on the weekend or an unexpected day off?

  • A. Volunteering.
  • B. Painting, dancing, or writing poetry.
  • C. Sharing opinions with your friends.
  • D. Rock climbing or skydiving!
  • E. Catching up on your homework or reading for pleasure.

4. If you had to select of of the following options as a profession, which would you choose?

  • A. Humanitarian.
  • B. Farmer.
  • C. Judge.
  • D. Firefighter.
  • E. Scientist.

5. When choosing you outfit for the day, you select…

  • Whatever will attract the least amount of attention.
  • B. Something comfortable, but interesting to look at.
  • C. Something that’s simple but still expresses your personality.
  • D. Whatever will attract the most attention.
  • E. Something that will not distract or inhibit you from what you have to do that day.

6. If you discovered that a friend’s significant other was being unfaithful, you would…

  • A. Tell your friend because you feel that it is unhealthy for him or her to continue in a relationship where such selfish behavior is present.
  • B. Sit them both down so that you can act as a mediator when they talk it over.
  • C. Tell your friend as soon as possible. You can’t imagine keeping that knowledge a secret.
  • D. Confront the cheater! You might also take action by slashing the cheater’s tires or egging his or her house—all in the name of protecting your friend, of course.
  • E. Keep it to yourself, statistics show that your friend will find out eventually.

7. What would you say is your highest priority right now?

  • A. Serving those around you.
  • B. Finding peace and happiness for yourself.
  • C. Seeking truth in all things.
  • D. Developing your strength of character.
  • E. Success in work or school.

•To determine your faction, simply add up the number you have of each letter.  Depending on your propensity towards being selfless, honest, peaceful, intelligent, or brave, you will either continue as Abnegation, Candor, Amity, Erudite, or Dauntless respectively.

•Once you have chosen your faction, you, along with the other members of your faction, will start on a journey that will take you from home base to the grocery store 2 miles away on foot in 20 degree weather through the snow.  Without getting caught.

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I almost didn’t go.  I didn’t really want to.  I’m so glad I did!

Even though I am not a good runner, and it was very cold, and I was hiding in bushes and against people’s houses wearing all black while dogs barked at us, and we easily could have been identified as criminals and stopped by authorities (I mean look at us, don’t we look scary??), it was definitely worth it.  Especially since my group got there first.

I would definitely be Dauntless now.  Can’t wait to see the movie!

Easy Street, where the rich folks play.

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The first house Aaron and I lived in on our own as a married couple was actually on a street with this name.  I remember noting the irony of the situation as this was also where we brought our first child home and coincidentally where I began my quite long stint as a stay-at-home mom.  It seemed unlikely that the location of our home would live up to its name any time soon.

I pass Easy Street on a regular basis now, and when I do I think about just how easy life seemed in 2007 looking back from 2014.  In fact, I think about how easy life seemed in 2011 when I had 3 kids instead of 4, and 2 of them couldn’t walk or talk.  But definitely in the moment it did not feel that way.

The truth is, things have never felt easy to me at any time along the timeline of my life.  At some point, there have always been goodbyes, mean babysitters, unfair politics, moves, change, breakups, illness, loneliness, crushed expectations, sleepless nights, difficulty—

The opposite of ease.

But it really is all about perspective.  Of course now the idea of moving to a new house as a 10 year old who has absolutely no part in the moving process seems like a piece of cake.  No signing closing papers or writing a giant check or packing up decades worth of memories.  Just get in the car.

Of course now the thought of deciding between this boy or that boy seems like such a joke, when obviously I wasn’t going to end up with either one.  Plus one of them is fat and also bald now.

Of course now that goodbye moment with my dad at the airport (while still always a tearjerker) is not the end of my entire life.  A year passes a lot quicker now than it did when I was 7.  Or 12.  Or 18.

Of course that 15 hours I spent at the audition for So You Think You Can Dance that got me nowhere would not have gotten me anywhere even if I HAD made it to the final cut.  Where are the winners now?

Of course that night when I stayed up all night wanting to scream and cry and throw stuff while trying to get a crying infant to go back to sleep ultimately didn’t effect my future sleep habits.  She sleeps for 11 hours a night now.

But think about all the memories I have now because of those trying times.  And all the LOVE!  Sure, I could have decided not to have 4 children.  I’m pretty sure no one ever told me it was going to be easy and somehow people are still having kids.  No 75 year old woman ever says, “I wish I didn’t have all these *%!# kids”, but  a LOT of people have told me, “Raising young kids is going to be one of the hardest times of your life, but when its over you will have a big, loving family!”

And somehow I think that, even without the kids, difficulty would have found a way into my life in some other form.

Get Real

Its my first day of school.  I’m in an unfamiliar place full of unfamiliar faces. I’m not really sure if I came in the right door, where the right classroom is, or what I’m supposed to do until the bell rings to signal the start of school.  Is my outfit ok?  I hope the new people I meet will like me.  I find the classroom.  There’s no one there, not even the teacher.  I guess I’ll go out to the playground?  I walk the near empty halls towards the double doors to the playground and then I stop.  So that’s where everyone is.  I look around for someone I know so that I’m not the only one standing there alone holding a backpack.  No luck.  My heart speeds up a little.  This is going to be a long day.  Then I hear a bell and quickly everyone runs towards the school, as if everyone but me was aware of this unspoken rule.  There are teachers lining the wall and kids begin to fall into line in front of each teacher.  I imagine I’m supposed to do the same but I still don’t see my teacher, so I continue to stand there awkwardly.  The next day is more of the same.  Except I arrive at school just a little bit later to avoid having to make a decision about how to spend the time before the bell.

This would seem like a normal reaction to a first day of school, if it were my 5 year old daughter feeling this way.

But it was me.

My little one did fine.  In fact, she instantly made a friend, grabbed her by the hand, and literally skipped out the door towards the playground.  I followed close behind…alone…and, well, you know the rest.

Why did I have no idea that HER first day of school was going to feel much more like MY first day of school?  I felt a little Josie-esque (from Never Been Kissed), having gone into this new experience with my eyes wide open, all smiles.  So this was not like my first day of elementary school, where I had so little world experience that I wasn’t yet jaded to the world of socialization.  More like my first day of college…

I’m walking up the hill to campus from my apartment with my new roommates that I don’t know yet.  We’re heading to an opening-semester party with live music, dancing, and fireworks.  A few weeks ago back home with all my friends this would have been just my thing.  But now I’m dreading standing around in the dark with a bunch of people I don’t know and trying to make a good first impression.  Luckily, I don’t really have to.  Its dark enough that it takes me a while to realize I’ve been abandoned.  So I wander around, again looking for a familiar face, which is unlikely seeing as how I am almost 2000 miles from home.  I’m about ready to walk back to my apartment when ONE of my roommates finds me and asks if I want to watch the fireworks with her.  It was a pity-invitation but I’ll take it.  So we lay on the grass and as I watch the explosions in the sky set to music I just cry and think about what a mistake I made coming here.

Now before you feel too sorry for me, within days I ended up becoming best friends with these abandoners and I’m still friends with them to this day, 12 years later.  And not only that but I had incredible, life changing experiences at this college.  One of which was meeting my husband.  It wasn’t a mistake.

So why did I feel so much like an outcast?  And why do I feel that way now.  And is my projecting of my insecurities onto my daughter going to hinder her school experience?  I would imagine not, because at that age you have no idea how to feel insecure and there would be no reason for you to think someone could not like you.  I miss that feeling.  Every person I meet I wonder what they’re thinking of me.  And as if it wasn’t scary enough to be a parent before the school stage, now my ability to parent will be known amongst the mom group and possibly discussed at the PTO meetings I may not have time to attend.  The reason that they say adolescence is the most awkward time of your life is because its the onset of realizing that people aren’t ALL as kind and uncritical as you’d thought for the previous 12 years or so (hopefully longer if you were lucky enough to maintain your innocence until your late teens).  For me that realization has never gone away.

Case in point.  My daughter was invited to a birthday party recently.  She was so excited for weeks and the day before the party we made a special date out of finding a birthday present.  The day of the party she sat anxiously at the door and kept asking “Is it time yet??”  Finally I told her it was almost time so she could probably go on over (the party was next door).  She ran out the door, gift in hand and a smile on her face, and the little girl met her with “I don’t want you to come to my party”.  Of course, my sweet girl ran home crying.  But as soon as I addressed the problem with the birthday girl, they were again all smiles.  Today they’re best friends.

When I was in 7th grade, my best friend got her first boyfriend.  I had gone to her birthday parties every year since we met in 2nd grade.  But this year was different.  Her party was a “couples only” party.  And obviously as a 12 year old, I didn’t have a boyfriend.  Somehow enough kids did that they formed a pretty sizable group, of which members all ended up being the “popular kids” when we got to high school.  I was devastated.  Apparently you needed to be “attached” to have any worth.  Obviously I haven’t forgotten about it, and it may have been the start to my insecurities.

And today…I’m a grown up.  Married.  With 4 children.  But I’m feeling left out because of the “cool mom” group who joined a relay race team and named themselves “The Real Housewives”.  Most of these “Real” moms have kids at my kids’ school; I saw several of them chatting outside on my first day.  And now all of a sudden I feel like the unpopular or “unreal” mom because I don’t have the same interests, as much money, or as nice of clothes as the other moms.  Just admitting this fact makes me feel even more lame.  My sincere question for these real moms is do they FEEL cool?  Does anyone who people like me think is cool actually feel that way themselves?  What makes someone look “cool” on the outside anyway?

So if I could (and I will) give my daughter any advice as she starts this very long educational/social journey, it would be this:

Just be you!  You are SUPER cool.  You are someone who I would want to be friends.  Give people a chance to see who that person is and I promise you will have amazing, worthwhile friendships and magical experiences.  And even if you don’t, your family will ALWAYS love you.  Your Heavenly Father loves you and you were made in his image.  You have incredible worth.  You are every bit as real as anyone else who you may compare yourself to.  To me, you are beautiful, you are sensitive and caring, you are the best friend a person could be lucky enough to have.  No matter what happens outside our cozy walls, you can always come home.  I love YOU!

And if I’m lucky, in return she will tell me, “Mom, I feel the same way about you!”

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There’s a recurring theme in my life right now.  Everything around me is telling me to slow down and simplify.  I am even telling myself that, but I’m not really listening.

Last Sunday at church I learned three lessons:

  1. Talking too much is exhausting; being quiet conserves energy
  2. No matter our circumstance, we can make it a peaceful one
  3. There is great power in a Christ-centered home

These 3 lessons remind me of one thing: there are too many things in my life that I think are the end of the world.  I want to briefly relay the stories in the lessons that helped to teach me this one thing.

•Several weeks ago, a woman ran a 5K with her young daughter.  At the start of the race the mother decided that it would be helpful to her daughter if she gave her something to keep her mind off the distance.  She began to tell stories, set goals, and explain ways to conserve energy.  Eventually, the little girl said “Mom, talking doesn’t conserve energy”.  Lesson learned.

“Why are we embarassed by silence?  What comfort do we find in all the noise?” -Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie

•174 years ago, a man was persecuted and arrested for his religious beliefs.  After several months in jail with seemingly no hope of relief, this man pleads to his Heavenly Father in prayer asking how long he will be asked to suffer this awful oppression.  God speaks peace to his heart, ensuring him that this will be such a short time but will benefit so many.  His name was Joseph Smith.  Perhaps we have to be placed in lonely and difficult circumstances in order to force us to find a minute to listen.

•An apostle for my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), Elder Richard G. Scott, said in a talk:

Many voices from the world in which we live tell us we should live at a frantic pace. There is always more to do and more to accomplish. Yet deep inside each of us is a need to have a place of refuge where peace and serenity prevail, a place where we can reset, regroup, and re-energize to prepare for future pressures.

He explains that we can achieve this by teaching our children to be trustworthy, accountable, loving members of our family and of society, and reminds us that there is a season for everything and that we don’t need to simultaneously do all things at once.

I can’t imagine that someone lives at a more frantic pace than I do.  When people ask how I stay so skinny my auto-response is always “Well I don’t ever sit down and I don’t have time to eat”.  Even just thinking about having a “place of refuge where peace and serenity prevail” gives me a calm feeling.  So in order to achieve that, I’ve decided to make a list (I love lists!).  And not a “bucket list” like I mentioned in the last post, but a list of things I want to accomplish while I have my children here with me.  As much as I hate to admit it, people are dead on when they tell me this season will go by so fast and I should enjoy every moment.  I want to enjoy this season.  I need to have goals, things that make me excited to get up in the morning.

Goal #1: Go out with my husband more.  I think I’ll start today.  Thanks in advance to my mother-in-law for watching the little ones.

 

Synergy, Assembly Lines, and a song

If you’ve seen the movie The Impossible, then you vividly remember the very long tsunami scene where the mother is being thrown around under the water with absolutely no control over what she gets hit by, gasping for breath every time she comes to the surface but then just as quickly being pulled back under and tossed around some more.  When everything “calms down”, she is pretty beat up, unable to fully comprehend what just happened to her but still forcing herself to move forward, unsure of whether another wave will quickly come and sweep her under again.

Now I don’t mean to compare my trials to what the victims of a tsunami go through by any means.  But this is without a doubt the best way I can describe what is going on in my head most of the time.  Complete uncontrollable chaos.  Trust me, I get many MANY people telling me how lucky I am, or giving me advice on how to combat the demands of motherhood with young children, or telling me I just have to accept that this is “survival mode” time.  I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

But this is how I survive a day.

syn•er•gy |ˈsinərjē|)
noun
The interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.

For example, I keep my kids on a strict schedule that includes a nap.  If we miss out on nap time that day may as well have not existed, for any of us.

But nap time alone doesn’t make for a successful day.  I’ve found that without a doubt if I do not change out of my pj’s BEFORE I go into the kids room in the morning, I am already regretting it by breakfast time.

This co-op also includes but is not limited to having a meal plan, keeping an open mind about how long it will be before daddy comes home, not looking at the clock, saying “yes” sometimes, having a great mother-in-law, breathing, and praying.  Lots of praying.  Do I do all of these things? Rarely to never.

What I DO do numerous times daily is accomplish a lot of menial tasks in a mechanical sort of fashion.  Take diaper changing for example: diapers and wipes to my right, 3 blankets on floor, 3 boys on blankets, bottoms off, wipe, diaper, bottoms off, wipe diaper, bottoms off, wipe, diaper.  If I have time I’ll put the bottoms back on but usually the first 2 are up and running before I get the chance.  I’ll chase them down later.  And sometimes I get a chance to throw away the dirty diapers, but not always.  Lunch time is much the same.

Of course, what I added to my regime the last few days was covering the cups song.  I did this during nap time, bedtime, occasionally for a couple of minutes while the boys were strapped in eating lunch, in the morning while they hollered at me to come get them out of bed, basically any chance I got.  And as promised, here it is…

Cups (When I’m Gone)

It really did work.  In fact, I had a moment where I was rocking baby in his room and as I stared into his gorgeous eyes, smiling even, I actually said to him out loud “maybe you’ll have a little sister one day”.

In the movie there were many peaceful moments between the parents and their children, or one of the parents and a new friend, where despite the hardships they were okay.  Most importantly there were so many kind people along their journey whose service, in the end, reunited the family.

Whether or not the chaos ensuing daily for me is really happening or only in my head, there are moments of peace, and people, that I am very grateful for.