Find-A-Friend Friday: Meet Stephani

I’m at Women’s Conference today at BYU, but I wanted you to meet Stephani (who is only one “e” short of being as cool as me 🙂 ).  Thank you so much to all of you who chimed in on my post about Natalie.  You have given me some great things to think about and look into, and more importantly, you made me feel understood and hopeful.  Thank you.

Can I just say that the more I do this Find-A-Friend Friday feature, the more my faith is restored in humanity in general?  I love discovering an army of able, righteous, strong women fighting the same battle along side me.  Ladies and gentleman, meet Stephani:

(p.s.  I know this post has some trouble with some of the spacing, but I’m too tired to find all the coding errors, so please forgive me.)

Hello! My name is Stephani and I am delighted to have this chance to share a little bit about myself! I am 33 years old and just last Friday my husband (Corey) and I celebrated our 11th anniversary. We have two wonderful children – our son is 9 and our daughter is 7. After six very long years we are blessed to now have twins (a boy and a girl) on the way. We have lived in Houston, Texas for the past eight years but will only be Texans for two more months. In June we are headed up to Ann Arbor, Michigan and we are excited!

I am the oldest of eight children, seven girls and one boy. Nope, the boy isn’t at the end. He’s smack dab in the middle. My mother decided one little bundle of energy was enough for her! Though I was born in Colorado, I spent most of my growing up years in Wisconsin and Minnesota. I headed off to BYU in 1996 and graduated a few months after I was married with a degree in American Studies. I went on to teach second grade until our son was born in 2001. My husband graduated from BYU in 2002 and we headed off to med school in Houston. He just graduated in 2010 with an MD/PhD and we are thrilled to, at last, be done with school. He has almost completed his first year of residency here in Houston and will complete his last four years of residency in Ann Arbor.

What’s your favorite part of motherhood?
I LOVE reading to my kiddos. I think it’s more of an addiction really. I’m not always the best at dress up or lego creating – but I feel very connected with my munchkins as we are snuggled together reading. Our family reading habits have created a family reading culture of sorts. We have all kinds of fun traditions that we’ve started associated with our reading that have brought us closer together.
What part of motherhood would you subcontract out if you could?
Does it count if I’ve already subcontracted them out? J I really do not enjoy laundry or toilet cleaning. However, my husband has insisted on doing the laundry from start to finish (yep, even the folding and putting away) since the first year of our marriage. I just love him for it! I’ve also recently, as my kids have gotten older, realized the joy of teaching children the value of work. Not only are they learning important life skills, it also means that I don’t have to clean the toilet!
 Name 2 or 3 items on your “bucket list.”  (Some things you’d like to do before you die.)
I would love to travel through Europe. My husband served his mission in Berlin and is in love with Europe. It’s a passion I would like to share with him.

I want to take my kids to Israel. My husband and I, in 2007, had the blessing of visiting Israel. It was a life changing experience that I would like give to my children.

What are you loving lately?
I am loving that I am feeling my energy return after five physically challenging months. It’s so nice to feel like my brain has actually returned from vacation.
Do you have a favorite scripture or quote?  Why?

“Righteous sorrow and suffering carve cavities in the soul that will become later reservoirs of joy” Elder Neal A. Maxwell

“Everything will work out” President Gordon B. Hinckley

“We owe everything to the Lord. We are so blessed to be involved in a faith based work, a work in which we can create families, support families, defend families, teach families, and prepare them for the blessings of eternal life—and love them, love them, love them.” Sister Julie B. Beck

Each of these have offered their comfort and direction at various times, as I’m sure they will continue to do.

Tell us some of your best mom-tricks  (things you’ve figured out that work well for you).
Consistency, consistency, consistency. My kids function best when they know what to expect, not just with routines but rules as well. If there is a clear consequence outlined before hand, the learning from the mistake seems to come easier. Of course there are those times when I find myself thinking, “You did WHAT?” for which we have no outlined consequence. Those are always fun. J

I have also found that revelation flows the most swiftly when my children are involved. I am quite certain that this is due to the fact that the Lord knows I would seriously mess them up if He didn’t send revelation on their behalf rapidly. It has been such a blessing to be able to turn to Him for anything and receive the guidance my kiddos need.

What parts of your testimony are you the most sure of?
I am most sure of the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This reality has been engraved on my heart in a very personal way, which I am so grateful for.
Desert Island Question.  If you were stranded on a desert island (most moms would actually crave this) and could only take 3 items with you, what would they be?
1. My husband
2. A library
3. A resort with a comfy bed and delicious food
What homemaking job/task gives you the most satisfaction?
I really enjoy cooking. I’m by no means spectacular, as I’m sure many would attest, but I derive tremendous satisfaction from putting a dinner my family loves on the table.

What’s something unexpected in your life, and how have you dealt with it?

After our first two children were born, we were unable to have any more children. It was a devastating blow. We spent years and more money than we thought possible pursuing fertility treatments to no avail. It was a dark time as I grappled with depression and feelings of worthlessness. But I wouldn’t trade those six years for the world. The Lord knew that there were things I needed to learn that, for me, couldn’t be learned any other way – despite my protests. My faith, trust and understanding of my loving Father in Heaven grew in a way that I didn’t think possible. I learned about true compassion, about what it means to minister as the Savior ministers. Those awful six years are now sacred to me, my Liberty Jail of sorts. I realized that everyone has their ‘Liberty Jail’. And most of the time you can’t see from the outside what ‘Liberty Jail’ they are enduring. But we all have them at various times throughout our lives – and the Savior has commissioned us to love each other as we struggle, not condemn that which only the person and the Savior can understand. But most of all, I learned that the Savior never leaves us. He carries us when we are too weak to go on and holds us always in His encircling arms.

We have experienced many miracles over the last few months which have resulted in two sweet babies on the way. We couldn’t be more blessed.

Brag for a minute.  Do it.  What are a few things that you’re pretty good at?
I really enjoy all the planning that goes into making a welcoming home for my family, from the look, to the smells, to the yummy food ready to be eaten when they arrive home. I’m not sure if I’m great at it – but it is something I enjoy doing.

If you could make a pie chart (graph) of your thoughts during the last week or so, what would take up most of the space?

Oh my – looking into my brain can be a scary thing!

30% – I have a total of five onesies and two burp clothes for the twins (we gave away every last baby item during our years of infertility). How in the world am I going to come up with everything I need for two?
20% – How in the world are we going to get our family and all of our stuff to Michigan?
10% – I can’t, for the life of me, figure out how handle my son’s latest development of complete inability to follow through with any given task
10% – How do I help my daughter deal with elementary school drama?
10% – How can I better show my appreciation for my husband?
10% – Is this going to be a throwing up day?
10% – General business of the day

Tell us about your blog:

In the last few months I started a personal blog, separate from our family blog, entitled ‘Becoming’. It’s a place where I can share some thoughts and experiences (the good and not so good!) on my personal journey to become more like the Savior. I am hoping for the blog to function as forum for all to share ideas and insights along our very different roads that are all leading us back to Him. I would love it if you hopped on over! www.stephani-becoming.blogspot.com

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Negotiating with a terrorist, and other parenting dilemmas.

See this little angel?

She is going to be the death of me.   She was my easiest baby by far.  (Except for nursing.  I’m hoping someday I can forgive her for the multiple cases of mastitis, plus the lack of weight loss that I had so joyfully experienced while nursing my boys.)  She is bright and sassy and social and fun, and has a vocabulary far beyond her four years.  And yet, most days I want to put her on Craig’s List by 10 a.m.   Although “undiagnosed,” I’m pretty sure she has some sensory issues.  Her clothes always “feel funny.”  Her socks and especially her shoes always “bother” her.  Meltdowns ensue.  They involve crying, wailing, shrieking, flopping around on the floor, throwing shoes, and on lucky days like yesterday, a little bit of kicking and pinching.   Not to mention screaming out completely irrational things like, ” I … HATE … MY … NOSE!”  Seriously.  ?!??!

Last summer, I complained about this a little bit and DeNae suggested that I get rid of all her clothes and just buy her some loose summer dresses.  It actually worked pretty well, at least for the summer, and we’ve managed to garner a collection of a few clothing items that she considers to be comfortable and suitable.  This works until they’re all dirty, and then she spends her morning screaming down the stairs at me that “all the clothes in my closet bother me!”.  The shoes and socks situation, however, seems unsolvable.  The meltdown usually “ends” when I just drag her kicking and screaming to the car barefoot with her shoes and socks in tow, ready to begin the battle again at the place of arrival.  At that point, usually the threat of her not being able to go inside (or the threat of being left in the car … a slightly empty threat, I admit) finally convince her to put them on.  This process is a painful 10-minute exercise in on-and-off, on-and-off, open and close the straps, do it again  . . . . whimper, whimper . . . you get the idea.

Shopping for shoes is a nightmare.  Shoes, sandals, flip flops alike are all met with complete disdain and a quick eject button. (I think I’m going to try crocs this summer, but I’m not hopeful.)  Sometimes I just buy the pair that seems the most comfortable to the touch, and then we battle it out for a few months.  The solution is elusive to me.  She has been up to 90 minutes late to preschool before because of it.  I have tried to set up award systems (“If you can be all the way ready and on time to school, then we will go get the stuff to make that necklace you saw in a magazine”),  punishment (“Fine. No gymnastics today because you can’t get ready to go.”), and embarrassment (“Okay, instead of preschool today,  you have to come with me to Clark’s school and sit in the corner of the room barefoot while I do my volunteer work.”).  I have followed through with all of those by the way, except the necklace which she did not earn.  Nothing so far seems to make a difference or even move her toward more success.  By the way, she likes preschool and gymnastics, so I don’t think this is some kind of avoidance feat.

So, wise blog readers, give me your ideas, solutions, sympathy.  I’ll take any of it.

And in addition to all that, I would love to hear your ideas on a related matter:  the balance between “loving instruction” and just forcing them to do what they’re supposed to do.  I give my kids choices all the time: “Do this and get this, or do that and get that.”  I think that’s not forcing them, but helping them understand the relationship between choices and consequences.  However, sometimes I just resort to “You can’t do anything else until this gets done.  Do it!,” and obviously, in Natalie’s case, I sometimes end up literally dragging her to where she needs to be and shoving her shoes on her feet myself.  I’m starting to have concerns about how to fix this now so that I don’t have to deal with the embarrassing mess it would be when my children are big strong teenagers and I’m trying to drag them somewhere or lock them in their rooms until they’re clean … know what I mean?  Real question:  How do you not resort to “forcing” them to do things, and get to the point where they choose it on their own?  I think I mostly get it, but I feel like something’s missing.

My apologies to those of you who come to this blog thinking I’m some kind of parenting expert.  Let’s face it.  I’ve still got a lot to learn.

GCBC Week 4: “The Miracle of the Atonement” by Elder C. Scott Grow

Happy Easter, everyone.

This is one of my favorite Easter messages ever, by the late Elder Wirthlin.

In thinking about the Savior and his victory over death and sin, it seemed appropriate to study “The Miracle of the Atonement” by Elder C. Scott Grow.  He gives a great summary of the depth and breadth of the atonement and invites us to turn to the Savior.

What stands out to you as you study this talk?  Share your thoughts and insights in the comment thread below.  Have a great Easter and a wonderful week.

(Go here for more information about our General Conference Book Club)

Find-A-Friend Friday: Meet Monique

Today on  Find-A-Friend Friday we’re meeting a friend who’s even new to me, which is why I’m loving this feature. I also wanted to point you to a few of my favorite posts I’ve read this past month across the blogosphere, you know, just to spread the love.  🙂

week 1: word snapshots. from just so long and long enough by teachergirl

The Dangerous Book for Moms: Chapter 2 from We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice In Christ by Jocelyn Christensen

Bothered with Love from Mommy Snark by Jenny P.

Pray for me; heal my heart from Blog Segullah by Michelle L.

The Prayers and Tears of One Stepper R McCrery from stepper was here by Stepper the Mighty

Somebody or Nobody? from Away From It All by LisAway

I can’t answer the phone. I’m “busy” from Classy Chaos by OHmommy

And now, let’s meet Monique, shall we?  Isn’t she pretty?

Hi! I was so surprised to be asked to do this, but I’m super happy and excited to share a bit about my life with all of you! My name is Monique and I’m 24 years old. I’ve been married to my sweet husband since December 2007 and our handsome baby boy was born February 2010. We live in Provo right now, but we’re moving to Boston in June!
I grew up in southwest Missouri/northwest Arkansas — but from 4th grade through high school graduation I lived in Branson, MO. My parents divorced when I was just over a year old. My father remarried shortly after and had another daughter with his new wife, then they divorced when I was about 13. My mom has remarried twice, but I’m her only child. My sister and I didn’t get along well growing up, but she’s one of my best friends now. I joined the Church when I was 15 and I moved to Utah in 2004 to go to BYU. I graduated in 2008 with an English degree and worked as a paralegal for a while, first at a family law practice and then in a bankruptcy office, but now I stay home with our son full-time. My husband is double-majoring in math and economics at BYU and graduates this year, then we’re off to MIT for a Master’s in Finance in June!

What’s your favorite part of motherhood?

I love being overwhelmed by how much I can love. I love hearing my baby boy laugh. I love watching him experience new things. I love mornings when he crawls all over us and snuggles. I love when he wakes up from naps and just wants to be held. I love knowing that he’s mine forever.

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

I want to travel EVERYWHERE. So far I’ve been to Canada, England, France, Germany, Ethiopia, and Zambia, and next on the list are another trip to Africa, South Korea, and Australia. And then wherever else I can manage to go! I want to run a marathon. I’ve recently started running more and while I’m currently only getting in about 2-3 miles 3 days per week, I’d love to be able to have a full 26.2 miles under my belt someday. And, while this is probably the most improbable of the three, I’d love to write a book. Something on nutrition, or motherhood, or a combination of the two: childhood nutrition! I don’t know … I have a lot of other ideas swirling around in my head, but we’ll see if anything ever comes of it. 🙂

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

I’m really good at making homemade bread, Indian food, crepes, and salads. I love to cook! I’m not a big recipe person, though. If I want to make something, I’ll usually do a little research to see basically how it’s done, but then I like to just throw stuff in until it tastes right.

I’m a good teacher. I’ve held callings as gospel doctrine teacher and relief society instructor, and although I’m nervous at every lesson, I love how much I learn in the process and how uplifting it is when people participate. My patriarchal blessing talks about how I have the gift of being a “gifted teacher and speaker” and knowing that has made it easier for me to put effort into developing these talents.

I’m good at learning how to do things. When I wanted to design my own blog, BAM, figured out HTML. When I wanted to learn how to alter some of my clothes, BAM, figured it out. When I wanted to train for a triathlon, BAM, did it. And, when I’m not good at teaching myself, I’m good at asking lots of questions and getting help. 🙂

What are you loving lately?

Running! Our gym membership ended last month and I’ve had to give up my favorite exercise — spin class. I love yoga more, but it just doesn’t get my heart pumping like a hard cardio workout. But running? I can do it anywhere, no equipment or membership required. I love being able to get outside and enjoy 30-45 minutes of uninterrupted ‘me’ time. It’s hard, to be sure, but I love that feeling of accomplishment and the complete de-stressing that I feel after a good run. I’ve signed up for a 5k next month (my first since my son was born) and it’s a great motivator to keep me going on days when I’d rather curl up with a book.

Do you have a favorite scripture or quote?  Why?

Proverbs 3:5, Matthew 11:28-29;  Alma 37:37
All three of these just remind me to have faith in the Lord and that he is there for me through everything. I have the Matthew scripture framed in my house and the Alma scripture taped to the fridge. The Proverbs I have memorized and repeat to myself often.
One of my favorite quotes right now is

“Each mother and father should lay aside selfish interests and avoid any thought of hypocrisy, physical force, or evil speaking. Parents soon learn that each child has an inborn yearning to be free. Each individual wants to make his or her own way. No one wants to be restrained, even by a well-intentioned parent. But all of us can cling to the Lord.” –Russell M. Nelson

I remind this to myself nearly every single day lately. My 14 1/2 month old son is SO independent, and I have to remember that he isn’t trying to overwhelm me, he’s just trying to figure out who he is, even at so young an age. That’s probably one of the biggest surprises to me as a mother, that children express their desires and independence so early. I love how much my son has taught me already. 🙂

What do you gravitate toward during your unscheduled time? 

Definitely reading. I love to read anything — children’s books, young adult lit, novels, nonfiction (about health, politics, history, biographies, on and on). I’m not really into romance novels or mysteries or anything like that, though. I like to read fashion & health blogs in my free time, too.  And I love to sit at Barnes & Noble and read magazines.

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

I know that when I’m living the Gospel, I’m a more loving wife, a more patient mom, a kinder friend, and a happier woman. I feel confident that I am pursuing a course of life that is pleasing to God, although I know I’m not perfect and I need His help every step of the way. I know that Heavenly Father loves me, and I know that through the Atonement I can be made whole and achieve my divine potential. I am so grateful that I was given the blessing of receiving a testimony in high school and that my life has taken the course that it has. I am very, very blessed and I am thankful every day for all that I have been given.

Desert Island Question.  If you were stranded on a desert island (most moms would actually crave this) and could only take 3 items with you, what would they be?

I would want my Kindle (with Internet access, of course) so that I could read any book I wanted, peacefully, for hours on end; the most comfortable bed on earth so that I could sleep blissfully to my heart’s content; and a notebook, so that I could record my thoughts and ideas — I’m sure I’d be pure genius if I had extended amounts of time to meditate and ponder without interruption.

Let’s say you’re dying in your sleep tonight.  What would you eat for your last meal?

An enormous fruit salad — blueberries, pineapple, peaches, grapes, bananas, strawberries, mangoes, kiwis, and cherries. Then probably a vegan cheese quesadilla with avocado and salsa on top. And I’d chase it down with some coconut milk cookie dough ice cream.

What homemaking job/task gives you the most satisfaction?

I love baking homemade bread. It’s so rewarding. The feeling that I’m feeding my family pure love in the form of whole-wheat goodness just makes me so happy. I also love having a clean kitchen sink and counter, a freshly mopped floor, and all the laundry in its place. If all of these things happen in one day, you can be sure I’m experiencing total domestic bliss.

Give your best advice to a newlywed or expectant mom.

Expect that there will be ups and downs. One moment you’ll be totally in love, the next you’ll wonder why you ever married him. But no matter what is happening, it will pass and new happiness and challenges will come. Just remember that you love each other and that no matter what, you’re committed for eternity. For the new mom, I’d say that it’ll be amazingly better than you could ever imagine. Expect the worst and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. (I suppose these bits could be applied to newlyweds, too). Most of all, remember that you are not the first person ever to go through what you’re going through. If they could do it, you can too. Reach out for support and encouragement. And don’t forget to pray for strength and for the Spirit to be with you!

If you could make a pie chart (graph) of your thoughts during the last week or so, what would take up most of the space?

50% when-are-we-moving?!/when-am-i-having-our-yard-sale? (My husband is trying to sell our lease early to save on rent and things keep coming up, then falling through. It’s definitely been a bit stressful around here).
25% preparing for my talk on ‘the resurrection’ this Sunday
15% focusing on making sure I get my scheduled strength training & runs in, making sure my meals are healthy, and avoiding sugar
5% trying to help a friend get a slide show prepared for his wedding on Saturday
5% reading 🙂

Tell us about your blog.

I actually have two blogs. The first is a family blog that I started in 2008, simply titled “The Kamosi Family.” I mostly write about things that happen in our lives, but occasionally I use it as a way to share thoughts I have about motherhood, health, the gospel, or whatever else strikes me. My favorite part of this blog is something I do every week called “Friday Favorites,” where I write all the best things that happened during the previous week. It’s been a great way for me to keep track and remember all the things I have to be grateful for in my life.
My other blog — “Yoga and Pencil Skirts” — is silly, and I’ve hardly told anyone in my real life about it because it’s a little embarrassing. It’s a hybrid fitness/wanna-be fashion blog. I’ve lost a lot of weight in the last couple of years, and I decided I wanted to have an outlet to experiment with fashion and learning how to dress myself (since I’ve never been especially fashionable). I’ve only been writing on it for about four months, but I feel like it’s given me a new confidence that I’ve never had before, and I’m loving it.

Thanks Monique.  It’s been fun to get to know you.

Oh, sweet irony.

I’m over here today.

I wrote that post over a month ago, but isn’t it funny that it went up today, the day after my own little meltdown?

Yep, hilarious.

Thank you for your kind comments.  Some brought tears to my eyes, and they were all kind and encouraging. It really did help.

I also had to study some of the life of the Savior for a class I helped to teach, and that helped too.  A lot.

So, again, bad days are okay.  And we move on.

While I’m not sleeping

This is a middle-of-the-night brain bleed of sorts.

I went to bed with a migraine and woke up with the remnants of a tension headache.  I’m guessing I must be a little stressed out, but I’m not really sure about what.

I have now deleted and restarted this point of my post at least a half a dozen times because I don’t want it to turn in to a list of my frustrations and challenges right now, especially because when I line them all up in my head, they pale in comparison to the “real” struggles I see other people going through.  Then I just feel wimpy, so that doesn’t help.  Plus, I don’t want my mom and others who know me well to read this and think, “Oh dear, Stephanie’s losing it,” because that would be embarrassing.  And it’s not true.  I think.  See?  I already want to delete this paragraph and start over again, but it’s 2:30 in the morning and I should really finish and get back to bed. (There’s definitely going to be a debate about whether or not to hit the publish button when I’m done with this one.)

So.

I’m going to be intentionally vague here.  Sometimes God tells you that you should do something that you’re not super comfortable with, but you do it anyway because you have faith that He will not lead you astray even if He will lead you away from what you think you want.  And if you’re naive (like me), you think that once you take that leap of faith, things will probably fall into place and God will bless you and it will all be just fine.  And it probably all will, still.  But in the meantime, it’s a lot harder than you thought it would be, and there are challenges you didn’t really expect at all, so you have to try hard to keep the same trust you had in the beginning when you closed your eyes and jumped.  And that’s not easy.  And maybe it makes you wake up in the night with a headache.

I’m totally going to change the subject now, because I think that will be helpful.

Last night, Clark taught our Family Home Evening lesson.  He’s six, by the way.  He used some leftover props/handouts from his last Primary class and did it all completely on his own.  It was about covenants.  At one point he said, “This is the third time I’m going to say this, but promises are really, really important.  You should really keep your promises, especially if they are with Heavenly Father.  You should never break them, but if you do break them, make sure you repent.”  My favorite part was when he said, “Heavenly Father never breaks a promise.   Sometimes people break promises, but that’s because they’re not perfect like Heavenly Father.”  I love that kid.

You know what?  I love my children a lot.  I have a fantastic husband.  We have a lot of really great blessings.  I wish I did a better job of showing love and gratitude where it’s due.  I just sat here and reread this post, and these are the thoughts that came to me:  humility and prayer, priesthood blessing, grace (I’m reading a book about this, and I’ll tell you more about it soon), and relax.  Go back to the trust.  And go back to bed.

Good night.

GCBC Week 3: “The Holy Temple—a Beacon to the World” by President Thomas S. Monson

Welcome back, and thanks for your great participation so far.  This week we will look at the talk by our prophet, Thomas S. Monson.  In last week’s talk, Elder Holland testified of President Monson’s calling and divine leadership, and specifically of the prophetic love and warning in his messages.  As we study our talk this week, let’s try to pay attention to his expressions of both love and warning, and try to determine what our prophet is asking us to do.

“The Holy Temple—a Beacon to the World”

by President Thomas S. Monson

What are your thoughts, impressions and insights as you read this talk?  Feel free to join in the discussion in the comments, even if you’re new to General Conference Book Club.