Crunching Numbers

Here’s what the math facts are saying around here lately:

15:  the number of people who said they want to come to the Girls’ Night Out!  Actually, there were a lot more that said they wanted to come, but they had silly excuses like 28-hour drives or previous commitments and stuff.  (We’ll miss you.  *Sniff*)  If you said “yes,” go check your email RIGHT NOW.  I need a confirmation before I buy your ticket.  It’s not too late to join the fun.  Here’s all the info, so just leave a comment on that post to let me know you’re interested, and I’ll forward you the email about it.  I’m going to purchase tickets Thursday night or Friday morning.

The rest of the ugly numbers . . .

7: the number of days left before my husband has to take the Bar exam.
3000: the number of dollars it cost to buy the prep materials for the Bar exam.
0: the number of times I smiled when I told him that if he doesn’t pass this test, he’s a dead man.
90,000: the number of dollars we owe the government for allowing us to have 4, now going on 5, years of school-related stress and husband-related absence.
30+: the number of times I’ve put the kids to bed by myself while he has been studying (because he has to, not because he’s lazy) since Christmas.
0: the number of trophies I will win as “most supportive wife ever.”
6: the number of months we have lived here because all of that work really did help him get a wonderful job, even though we had to move across the country.

changing subject, but still counting . . .

6: the number of “breakfast” purchases I just saw on Clark’s school lunch purchase history. He eats breakfast at home every day before he leaves, mind you.
3: the number of the hour in the morning that I stayed up until last week watching “The Locator” on TV? Have you ever seen it? They help reconnect lost or estranged family members.
4 and half: the number of gallons of tears I shed while watching multiple episodes of aforementioned show.
2 1/2: the number of books I’ve read in the past week. Yay me.
1: the number of really decent meals I’ve cooked in the past week. I’ve cooked a few others, but they don’t really fall into the decent category.
57: the number of degrees that our house was when I woke up the other morning.  I about died. I think I might have felt the same if I had spent the night inside our refrigerator. I awoke to Grant standing in our doorway wrapped in a quilt.
5: The number of books Natalie read this week. Natalie learned how to read this week!!
12: The number of phone calls I had to make to get Natalie an appointment with a pediatric endocrinologist that could see her before April. (I’ll say more about this a little later when hopefully I have more answers.)
10: The number of children that were baptized at the same time as Grant the weekend before last. It was not easy for me to make the transition to what seemed like a conveyer-belt approach to baptism, but I’ll bite my tongue and try not to complain about it (publicly). Despite my frustrations, it was a lovely day, mostly because a lot of family was here to share the  day with us. And, of course, because Grant was happy.
4 or 5: the number of times I have wanted to put Grant in solitary confinement this week. Incidentally this number is down about 235% from last week.
-4.61: the number under the column “available balance” in my checking account right now.  (Sorry, honey)
623: the number of words in this post.  Egads, I’m wordy.
2: the number of times I thought about chocolate while I was writing this.

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Happy Valentine’s Day. Wanna go on a date? I’m serious.

I have a plan full of love and friendship and all things Valentiney.  (And if we’re going to be honest, I also have a fear that this will turn into that party I tried to host where no one RSVP’d and I felt like a total dork.)  How would you feel about a Girls’ Night Out of monumental proportions (based solely on the criteria of cool and classy and hopefully that more than 3 of you will come)??  I’m also going to try really hard not to put parenthesis at the end of every sentence I write (Really.).

Here’s the thing.  I am a big Jane Austen fan.  I think some of you are too.  About a month ago, I received an email from BYU Arts — it was just a newsletter mailing; I don’t mean to make it sound like I got some exclusive invitation–, and my eyes focused on the bottom of the page where they announced their upcoming play:  Persuasion.  Eeeek!  I love Persuasion.  It is my very favorite Jane Austen novel, and was actually my first introduction to her work when I saw the movie production of Persuasion at BYU’s International Cinema forever a few years ago. And I love plays!  And they’re doing a play of it!  You’re probably starting to get the idea . . .

Tickets go on sale today.  I asked Matt if he would go with me, and he painfully consented, kind of like I would have if he asked me to go see a play of Star Trek or Ghost Hunters.  I thought to myself, “This is more of a girlfriend thing.”  Then I remembered that despite living here for six months, I don’t really have any girlfriends yet.  I posted an open invitation on my neighborhood’s blog, but only one person expressed any interest. (By the way, if you see this Yolanda, you’re totally invited.)  So then I started thinking, “why not invite some blog friends?  I bet some of them would be interested.”  (This whole thing is starting to sound a lot more pathetic and desperate than I intended it to be.  Oh good grief. It’s not.  I promise.)

So.  Here’s what I’m thinking:

Saturday, March 19.  7:30 show. (If tickets are not available, then I’d shoot for the following Saturday.)

Maybe preceded by a fun, chatty dinner, like at 5:30. . . either a restaurant or a potluck (Preference?)

Leave your husbands in charge of the kids or get a sitter.

Come have FUN.

This invitation is open to anyone who can travel to the BYU area.  (Unless, of course, you are a 50-year-old creepy guy named Guido who poses as a Mormon mommy blogger just so you can meet the faces behind all these glamorous stories.  In that case, you are most certainly NOT invited.) Here are a few reasons that you might be thinking of that could keep you from coming, which I will now immediately debunk with my crafted rebuttals:

“That sounds really fun, but …”

1.  “… I’ve never even met Stephanie and it would feel really awkward to just show up as a stranger.”  Two things:  First of all, who cares?  Chances are that there will be several other people in the same boat and we can use this as an excuse to meet each other.  Second, I’m sure that the small handful of people who actually have met me in person can testify to this:  I am not worth getting intimidated over.  I’m pretty normal, and down-to-earth, and I promise I will make you feel welcome, even if you are a “stranger.”

2.  “… I feel really self-conscious around people I don’t know very well.” Come anyway.  I will wear sweatpants and no make up if that makes you feel better.  I’ve done several bloggy get-togethers, usually small-group lunches, etc., and I’m always surprised at how quickly we connect and how easy the conversation is, even though we’ve never stepped into the same room together in our lives.  The fact is, we have a lot in common.  Besides, half the evening will be spent in a dark theater and you don’t have to talk to anyone if you don’t want to. Oh!  And one more idea: bring a friend.  🙂

3. “… This sounds stupid and I have no interest in meeting Stephanie anyway.” Well, in that case, you may want to stay home.

Now that I have alleviated all your fears, let’s talk business.  Let me know in the comments if you think you’d be interested.  I’ll respond with an email that has more details about ticket prices, how to pay (yes, you will have to pay for your own ticket), etc.  I think I’d like to buy the tickets by this Thursday so that I can reserve a large chunk of seats together.

Is there anyway to say “please come so I don’t look like an idiot when my first attempt at girls’ night out turns out to be only me and my grumpy husband” without sounding desperate?  If there is, then insert that here.

Find-a-Friend Friday: Meet Amber

Today I’m happy to introduce you to Amber.  She and I have not met in person (yet), but I’m excited you get the chance to meet her today the same way I did– through her writing.  Amber is a kind blog friend who always drops by and leaves nice comments, and whenever I visit her blog, I’m impressed with her candor and her “voice.”  She’s been very open about her struggles and personal challenges and I believe her readers feel safe with her.  Without further ado, here’s Amber.

Before I begin, I want to thank Stephanie profusely for allowing me to introduce myself to all of you.  Stephanie is a wonderful writer who often reminds me to look at the Eternal perspective of motherhood rather than the rather dreary aspects.  Thank you, Stephanie!  (You’re welcome, Amber.  Aw, shucks.)

My name is Amber.  I am 23 and married to my high school sweetheart.  (Granted, I was in high school and he was, ahem, graduated when we started dating, but I still think it counts.)  We married shortly after he returned home from his mission–in which we kept up a correspondence–and made sure to keep things busy from the beginning by having 2 kids within 14 months of each other (Emily, 2 1/2, and Andrew, 15 months). And we were both in school.  Trial by fire? We’ve got that covered. As crazy as it can be, I would do it all over again in an instant and we both hope to add more to our brood in the coming years.  Right now we hail from the great desert of Utah but will soon be relocating to the Midwest for the wonderful, new adventure of medical school (my husband, not me).

I am from Boise, originally, and came from a large family: I am the second of ten. I was–and am–probably the most motherly of our clan.  As soon as I reached a mature age, I was taking care of the little ones as much as I could.  I suppose my most positive attribute, then and now, was my ability to put work first.  My mother often recounts stories of me cleaning up after both my sisters when we shared a room.  Even as I grew older, I would try to complete my chores before reading my books or doing my homework unless my mother excused me from these duties.

As my parents had not considered college, they felt it pertinent that their children not follow in their footsteps and greatly encouraged us to prepare for college at a young age.  I knew exactly where I wanted to go by the time I was in 4th grade: BYU.  I accomplished this dream and graduated with a BS in Marriage, Family, and Human Development shortly before Andrew was born.  Even though it was difficult being a student, mother, and wife I knew I needed to complete my education–no matter the sacrifice.

This attitude of perseverance has helped support me as I support Ben in his school and work aspirations.  Though I know our road is a long one, I do believe that in the end it will be worth it if my husband is doing something he really loves.

1.     What’s your favorite part of motherhood?

Waking up with daily affirmations that I am adored by my beautiful children when I hear these cries from their room: “Mommy!  Mommmy!”  Despite my many imperfections, Emily will inevitably give me her most dazzling smile even after I’ve muddled things up horribly.  Andrew wants me to hold him constantly.  He is my snuggly bug and I wouldn’t trade it for an instant.  I suppose my favorite thing, then, is the sweet and tender love I have for my babies.

2.     What part of motherhood would you subcontract out if you could?

This is a tough one.  I’ll have to go with cooking.  I would provide the menu if someone would cook it for me.  I can even taste the delicious meals they would prepare: Fettucine Alfredo, Spinach Ravioli, Carne Asada tacos, a variety of Thai dishes.  My mouth is watering as I type.

3.     Name 2 or 3 items on your “bucket list.”  (Some things you’d like to do before you die.)

I would like to continue on with my education by getting a Master’s degree in social work followed by a Ph.D in therapy.  Then I would like to open a non-profit clinic and serve the needy populations: immigrants, minorities, and women.  Finally, I would like to serve medical missions with my husband to different third-world countries.

4.     Brag for a minute.  Do it.  What are a few things that you’re pretty good at?

I am very disciplined.   For instance, at the beginning of the year I set a goal to exercise 3-5 days a week.  Because of my husband’s very busy schedule, he is not home long enough for me to exercise without the children.  So, I strap my children into our double jogging stroller and run with them. When the weather turned frigid and I couldn’t run outside anymore, I found something I could do inside: Workout programs on Netflix instant play.  Depending on the day, I workout to them either when the kids are awake or when they are asleep.  This allows me to keep my body fit and show my kids how fun exercise can be.  My Emily often asks to do “Pilates” with me.
I am also good at changing my parenting methods when I see something isn’t going well.  Though it requires patience and sacrifice, I try to cater my parenting to fit the needs of my kids rather than doing what is most convenient.  Mind you, I am not perfect but I am more flexible than not.

5.     What are you loving lately?

Listening to my kids’ laugh.  Snuggling with my husband.  Waking up to a clean kitchen.  Folding and putting away laundry while watching a favorite movie.  Listening to Stuff You Missed in History Class podcasts.  Reading Love and Louis XIV by Antonia Fraser.  Taking walks to the library (when the temperatures are above freezing) and bringing back new kid’s books to read to Emily.

6.     Do you have a favorite scripture or quote?  Why?

“Rather than being judgmental and critical of each other, may we have the pure love of Christ for our fellow travelers in this journey through life.  May we recognize that each one is doing her best to deal with the challenges which come her way, and may we strive to do our best to help out.” President Thomas S. Monson, Relief Society broadcast in October.

I believe that as women, within in the church or without, have the ability to strengthen each other.  Often, though, we resort to judging and criticizing others in areas in which we feel inadequate.  I think about this quote often when I think about other women and mothers and try to apply it to my own thought patterns.

7.     What do you gravitate toward during your unscheduled time?

What is this “unscheduled time” you speak of?  Unscheduled time is a luxury that I do not have yet!  But, that doesn’t mean I don’t do fun things during the day with the kids.  Rather than stay cooped up inside the house, I try to take the kids on walks to the library.  This provides me with a chance to check-out new books for me and the kids to enjoy, teaches them how joyful reading can be, and gives us time to enjoy nature while exercising (the library is a twenty minute walk from our apartment).  Also, I enjoy watching documentaries while folding laundry.  This way I am entertained while completing necessary chores.

8.     Tell us some of your best mom-tricks  (things you’ve figured out that work well for you).

Emily is two and very, very moody.  When she hits her brother more or has frequent melt-downs, I try to think about what could be causing this and how I can ease her frustrations.  Sometimes it can be hunger, exhaustion, or sickness. Other times it is a change in our routine or in our schedules.  When Ben needed to pick up a second job, Emily became very very grumpy.  It wasn’t until a week into his new schedule that I realized her grumpiness came from missing her daddy so much.  Rather than reacting to her melt-downs, I would hold and comfort her so she knew I understood her pain.

9.     What’s something you don’t usually want people to know about you, but that they need to know if they’re going to be your friend?

First, I am very socially conscious.  I often take the perspective of someone who has grown up in different circumstances and with different values when engaging in a serious conversation.  I am also very scientific in my conclusions so will poke holes in theories often postulated in the media.  Many people find my beliefs “liberal” or “unconventional” but, as cliche as this sounds, I try my hardest to use Jesus as an example for how I think about issues.

Second, I laugh.  A lot.  Especially when I am uncomfortable.  So if we do engage in a serious conversation, I will most likely insert quite a few self-deprecating jokes and laugh at things in a slightly awkward manner.  In some ways, this can be very offensive to people.  But I am not making fun of other’s opinions when I laugh, it is a nervous habit I’ve developed.

10. If you were in charge of a girls’ night out, what kind of activity would you love to plan?

Planning? Me? I prefer to attend activities that someone else has planned.  Ha!  So, I’ve never actually been on a “girls’ night out” and I feel very out-of-touch with this type of thing.  I suppose good food and conversation would be a good start.

11. Friends are great for venting.  What’s been frustrating you lately?

Having my husband work two jobs.  There are so many days that I would love to have him home to chat about our  kids and other little things from our day.  Right now, when he finally gets home–very late–we are both too tired to do anything but conk out.  It can be really lonely after an exhausting day!  And I would love to have a little help when it comes to household chores.  I spend at least 3 hours after the kids are in bed cleaning and folding laundry.  This leaves very little time to do anything else.

12. What parts of your testimony are you the most sure of?

Emily’s favorite song is “I Love to See the Temple.”  It has become a favorite of mine as well.  After I had a recent miscarriage, I took comfort in listening to Emily sing this song over and over again.  I know with all my heart that families can be together.

I also know that Heavenly Father cares for each and every one of us. No matter how simple our problems might seem he wants us to come unto Him.

Tell us about your blog:

I blog at Making the Moments Count.  I write about my struggles with anxiety and depression; about my intense love for my husband and children; and occasionally about social issues.  I also do a weekly meme in which readers are encouraged to write about their triumphs in parenting–whether in philosophy or in specific moments–during the week and link up so we can support and build each other.  My main purpose is promoting a community of understanding and support in parenthood so that we can see how various methods work for different people and that there is not one particular way to parent children.

Thanks, Amber! Wasn’t that great? Next week, we’ll meet another new friend. Watch your email inbox; it might be you! If you want to get in on the fun, add a comment on this post. I’ll do a random selection from there every week.

Um, ouch. But in a good way.

I played basketball tonight for the first time in ???? years.  Full court, two 15-20 minute halves.  Final score 70-something to 60-something.  Not bad, huh?  (I’m pretty sure I made less than 10 points, but I did not die, which felt like a major accomplishment.) It was really fun, but I’m already afraid to wake up in the morning.  There’s nothing like a few sprints up and down the court to remind you you’re not as young and spry as you used to be.

It feels good to do something I used to love and haven’t done for a long time.  Feels good in a my-muscles-might-combust-and-I-may-perish kind of way, but still.

(I could have written about how I’ve had the same dirty dishes in my sink for two days and accidentally forgot to show up to a meeting last night that I was in CHARGE of, but this seemed more satisfying.)

Sweet Emma Smith

We all know that behind every good man is a great woman, so it goes to reason that behind a great man is a remarkable woman.  Emma Smith was no exception. In the early 1800s, Joseph Smith was called at a young age to be the inexperienced prophet of a long-prophesied Restoration of the church that Jesus Christ had established while upon the earth.  Joseph became an instrument in the hands of God and the leader of a fledgling church, both assignments which laid heavy burdens upon him and made him the target of much opposition.  Despite his unprecedented faith, his undying work and perseverance, and his naturally pleasant nature, he was often downtrodden.  His suffering was sometimes unimaginable.  During this long refiner’s fire that the Prophet Joseph was chosen to endure, God saw fit to bless him with the company and support of a good woman, a help-meet in every sense of the word.

Emma Smith was a ministering angel in the flesh to her prophet husband.  She faced the same threats, trials, and discouragement that Joseph did, and notwithstanding her own suffering, she offered much-needed support to him and consistently reached out to others in service.  As expected with any female figure who plays an important role in the history of mankind, Emma and her story are somewhat controversial.  Her motives and choices are sometimes questioned, especially during the period after her husband’s martyrdom.  We cannot begin to imagine the depth of her sorrow or the extent of her exhaustion on every level– physical, emotional and spiritual exhaustion– by the point that her husband was murdered.  I’m afraid that she is one of the most misjudged characters in Church history, if not in the overall history of modern religion.

I have a dear friend who, because of her own personal testimony and because of opportunities given to her by her Heavenly Father, has made it one of her life’s missions to dispel the myths about Emma Smith.  She has dedicated years of study and prayer and thought to understanding Emma’s life, Emma’s history, and Emma’s heart.  This past weekend, she was invited to be the keynote speaker at a historical convention in Nauvoo, Illinois to speak about Emma’s story.  She felt overcome by the weight of the assignment, knowing that she would be speaking to a combined LDS and non-LDS audience, many of which have longstanding tight-held opinions about Emma.  However, over the years, she has developed a friendship with Emma, and despite her fears and anxiety about participating in this event, she prepared and fasted and prayed and pleaded that she might somehow be able to honor Emma through this opportunity.  That choice didn’t come without opposition either, but she did it and survived, and I’m very proud of her. She gave me permission to share this media clip that she and her husband prepared for her presentation.  (And incidentally, she received copyright permission to use the clips and music used here.)  I hope you can take five minutes to watch it and think about how remarkable Emma Smith truly was.

I know that Joseph loved his Emma dearly, and he must appreciate so much any efforts that we make to really know her and understand her.  I’m confident he wants us to appreciate her as he did.  She stands as an example to us of an “elect lady” (Doctrine and Covenants 25:3), and there’s so much we can learn from her still.  I’m thankful for what she did, for the price that she herself paid, so that her husband could do what the Lord called him to do.  The fruits of their sacrifice provided the framework of my faith, my family and my hope.  I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to honor both her and my friend.  (Thanks, Shantel.)

GCBC Week 19: The Divine Gift of Gratitude

This week we will study President Monson’s general conference talk,

“The Divine Gift of Gratitude”
by President Thomas S. Monson

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to discuss with an aunt her recent trip to Ghana to pick up her missionary son.  We talked about how amazing it is that people who have so little, and who spend their days solely in matters of sustenance– food, water, provisions, are so kind and vibrant and happy and generous.  It didn’t take long to turn our conversation to the sad reality of how blessed we are and how often we take our blessings for granted.  In short, when we have so much to be happy about, we are often ungrateful.

“My brothers and sisters, to express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven.”

What did you learn and/or understand better from President Monson’s talk?  What did you feel like it encouraged you to do?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

(If this is your first time to General Conference Book Club, click here to learn more about it.)