Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hurry Up and Relax!

My mind has been jumping from one random thing to another lately.  I'm trying desperately to enjoy this semester break, but I find myself vacillating between "just relax because you can!" and "you better hurry and do all those other things you put off until your break from school. . . tick tock tick tock!"  It's torturous.  It's like I'm a ten-year-old kid dropped in Disneyland for the afternoon and told to have fun, but hurry up and ride everything.  Which, obviously, is impossible.

When I'm in school, I put off a lot of things.  I dream of the projects I can't wait to be able to focus on when the semester is over.  Things like cleaning the bathrooms.  I jest.  Sort of.  No, more like trying new recipes, planning the spring garden, organizing the children's schoolwork, catching up on my for-fun reading.  My life is a tricky balancing act and I'm constantly at war with my mind, trying to rein her in, keep her focused and disciplined, and yet giving her enough lee-way to keep her from completely melting down on me.

So, I finished the third semester of the RN program.  It was excruciating.  I got my first college B.  And though I was sad when I saw it coming a bit more than halfway through the semester, escaping with that B was a relief by the end.  I just wanted the whole miserable thing to be over.  It was a defeating semester.  Test wise, I suppose.  Clinical rotation-wise, I enjoyed it.  I am feeling much more confident and competent with the skills I've learned, and braver to try new ones.  I really enjoy interacting with the patients, and I think I'm good at it.  Even the old codgery ones have come around by the end of shift.  Said things like, "Hey.  Do what you do.  You're going to be a great nurse."  I love that kind of compliment.  I mean, when my professors tell me I'm doing well, it means a lot, but when the patients tell me, that's huge, because, as you know, patient satisfaction is a pretty big deal.

Anyway, during last semester, our school passed a new calendar, changing us from a two semester school (with two short intersessions) to a three semester, which took our normal 10 week break in between semesters to three.  At Christmastime, which pretty much swallows up all efforts to relax, if you know what I mean.

But some good things have happened:

My friend Jennifer came for a surprise visit with her two boys and stayed a night with me.

Having been without one for over a year, I was given a new amazing sewing machine for Christmas by one of my dearest friends.  I am so excited about that, and trying to not feel guilty that I don't have the time to sew all I want right at this particular moment.  (But I am collecting ideas!)

Christmas was peaceful.  And Christmas happened again this year, which is always a miracle.

Dylan didn't come home this year, but he did call me, and he did make me a beautiful pen.  I love it so, so much.

Lyndsay is here!

I've read several books.

I've done lots of cooking and baking.

I've done some cleaning.

I've napped.

And I've been mentally preparing some family goals for the new year.  Which I will post about separately, soon.

But, you know, there's really never enough time.  I'm trying to gear myself up for 2013.  This will be a difficult year, I think, but one that needs to be faced, and one that in the end, my faith tells me, will be for my good.  For now, I have one more week to enjoy NO SCHOOL, and then it's hit the books time again.

For my final semester!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

In the Days Leading up to Christmas. . .

My posts about Christmas have fallen to the wayside.  And now it's all over for another year, but I wanted to put a few pictures up to remember.  

It's been a tradition to have the children sleep under the tree one night before Christmas each year.  This year, only Aiden and Conor were home for most of the month, but they wanted to do it, so we blew up the air mattress and set them up.  Actually, though, they slept in the family room instead of in the livingroom where the tree is, so they could watch a movie.  Conor loves family time of any sort, and I'm always so grateful when one of his older siblings is willing to have patience and indulge him.  Aiden is a good big brother.  So, in the spirit of the season, I let them stay up as late as they wanted (which ended up to be 11:30pm), eat corn dogs in bed, and watch a movie, and I went up to bed.  They were still sound asleep when I came down in the morning, so cute.  

It was pretty pointless to try and keep it a secret.  Aiden's (and the boys) big present was a basketball hoop that was delivered a few days before Christmas.  It was so huge and so heavy, and Aiden saw the UPS guys trying to get it around to the back patio.  Since he was leaving the day after Christmas for his dad's, I let him go ahead and set it up so he could have some time to play.  It took 2 days and separate shifts of 4 other guys to get the thing together.  Aiden is over-the-moon happy about it.

Here is the crew that finally finished it:

Obviously, from the picture above, Lyndsay is home in between semesters.  (She finished her first semester!)  We had a few cookie baking days to have something to give friends and neighbors.  The Melted Snowman Cookies I saw on Pinterest.

And these Cranberry Bliss Bars I found on a blog.  So amazing.  Also, we made some Ginger Crinkles from one of my cookie cookbooks.

We made 14 plates of cookies and delivered them on Christmas Eve.

Before Conor went to bed, there was a letter to Santa to write.  He took this task very seriously:

In the end, this is his letter:

From what I hear, the Jolly Old Elf was just so thankful to have those Brown Butter Snickerdoodles (my new true cookie love) that he couldn't have given a Ho! Ho! Ho! about that silly carrot.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Acting My Age

This is my last Christmas, my last full calendar year in my 30s.  For the last few years I've been watching my peers hit the 4-0 mark, and I've been taking note of their conscious and maybe unconscious reactions to that milestone.  I've been carefully thinking about how I feel about a new decade of life, what the number means to me, and what I hope to reflect outward of the (almost) 40 years I've lived.

I've seen several people dive into what might be classified as a "midlife crisis."  Running like a fool back into their 20s (or younger!), trying to reclaim something from their past.  Dressing the part, speaking the part, behaving impulsively and recklessly.  I pity them.  By trying to relive one of the less substantive parts of life, I believe they are missing out on the comparative depth and richness that should accompany this one.

I will not do that.

I am not afraid of the number, and I don't think 40 is "old".  Older, yes.  A new stage of life for me, yes.  And yes, I can admit that I have regrets about choices I've made in earlier decades, but I try not even to be terribly hung up on those, clinging to the hope that I haven't made any unnecessary choices for my personal progression, painful as they may have proven themselves to be.

I have always been a woman-watcher, even as a teen.  Trying to see what characteristics I hoped to find in myself, what traits to aspire to as I grew and moved through the seasons of life, how to really qualify beauty at the stages of a woman's life.  I can think of individual women who represented beauty to me at various ages, who modeled grace and refinement, and not all of them were skinny or wealthy or knew current pop culture.  They were each mothers or nurturers, they each had a light earned from spiritual progression, and they each had a servant's heart.  There were other things, like the joy they received from creating a home, and beauty for those they loved.  They each continued to learn whether it was in a formal institutional setting or prayerfully at home.  They each let their lights shine that others might see.

And I did.

I don't know what 40 is supposed to look like physically, because it's so different for each woman.  I have gray hair (which I will continue to dye) and I have laugh lines and baby wrinkles (which I will continue to put cream on).  I will continue to nourish my body with good food and a moderate amount of exercise, but not because I'm fighting age.  Rather, I know what a lack of attention to health brings and I don't want that to dampen any acceleration of wisdom or spirit that I hope to gain as I continue to age.  I want to honor this vessel that has borne my children and allowed me the privilege of being here, experiencing mortal life.

But I want to emotionally and more important, spiritually act my age.  I have not had an easy time of getting here.  I have trudged (and am trudging) through the trenches, an opportunity I do not all-together begrudge.  I am less opinionated, less critical, less judgmental than I was at 30, and 20.  I am more tolerant, more forgiving, more tender-hearted, more compassionate.  My prayers are more sincere, my pleadings more visceral, my curiosity more intense and leading, my desires less selfish.  And my awareness of my flaws more honest and humble.  (Good thing I'm more forgiving.)  I know a bit more of who I am.  Some of what I see makes me grateful, some makes me ashamed, but I can remain hopeful because of what I know about the atonement of Jesus Christ and the experience I've had thus far with time and what the Lord can do with a person's desire to grow.

I am softer around the edges, literally and figuratively speaking.  But the parts of me that need to be firm are becoming chiseled and defined.  I know the gospel of Jesus Christ is true.  I know it.  I know the Book of Mormon is true.  Again, I know it.  I know that the little things don't matter as much as I previously may have thought.  I know that repentance is real and forgiveness is real, that prayer is not only real, but infinitely more powerful than we can comprehend.  I know that choices really do carry (or drag along on shackles and chains) their consequences.  I know that beauty is a gift that is earned.

I want to earn it.

And I want to move forward, not backward.  I'm lucky to have come this far and to have my collection of lessons learned.

I think, from watching the women that I admire, that 40 is when it starts to get really good.

I'm down with that.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Stories

I adore Christmas stories.  Every year I try to choose at least one new story to add to our family's collection.  This year I chose two, and wanted to recommend them to you.  

If you are LDS, you may have heard this story that Thomas S. Monson shared about an experience  he had when he was a 10 year old boy.  If you are not LDS, there's nothing specifically "Mormon" about the book.  The Christmas Train is a sweet story of how a boy learns the joy of giving, even though initially he is more interested in receiving.  I read it aloud to Aiden and Conor and they both enjoyed it.  President Monson is a great storyteller.

I will buy anything that Kate DiCamillo writes, and somehow I missed this book for the last few years, but I read it to Conor tonight and it's lovely.  Great Joy has beautiful illustrations, simple text, and a  heartwarming reminder to look after all of God's children, as a child would.  I really like this story.

That's it for now!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thanksgiving Week

Lyndsay came home the weekend before Thanksgiving.  She had planned to catch a ride back to California with some boys that are in our ward.  All along, they had hoped they would be able to leave Friday, Saturday at the latest, and get to enjoy a longer break.  Lyndsay had been planning on it for weeks and had diligently worked to clear her schedule of tests and assignments so she wouldn't be missing anything.  She worked really hard.  But on Thursday she got the news that one of the boys (who would be the driver) had to go to class on Monday, so they couldn't leave until Monday night.  She called me in absolute hysterics.  That would mean getting home early Tuesday morning, if they drove all night, and that was 4 less days, and she had been counting on it.  I was bugged for her, and I knew how much effort she had put into being ready to come home.  So, I bought her a one-way ticket that left early Friday morning.  As in, the shuttle picked her up at 3:30am in front of her dorm.  

It was the right thing to do.  The boys ended up not leaving until Tuesday late at night and getting home Wednesday around lunchtime.  That would have been such a let-down.  

I like to think Lyndsay just misses me so much, and all the comforts of the home I have created for her for 18 years, but in reality, I think she misses me a little bit, and she misses her boyfriend so much.  Don't get me started.  

But he's a nice enough chap, and he and Lyndsay wanted to make dinner so I wouldn't have to.  (They think I'm such a sucker.)  But they made us sausage and spinach turnovers, which were delicious, and for that, I was grateful.  

During the week, we played lots and lots of Just Dance! on the Wii.  With and without Lyndsay's boyfriend.  That game was one of the best purchases I've ever made.  So. Much. Fun.  And I love that they love to do it together.

Lyndsay and I got to watch the final installment of the Twilight movies on Tuesday night.  We've gone to watch each of them together, every November, as a tradition.  Dylan has always been with us, but this time we went without him.  It was awesome.

I had school that week, so I was juggling wanting to be at home with my kids with having to go to class, which is always a drag.  On Wednesday I rushed home to start making pies.  While the pie crust chilled in the fridge, I ran over to the park to attend the mandatory parent meeting for the All-Stars Football team that Aiden had been selected to play on.  I was very impressed with the coaches and so grateful for this challenging experience that Aiden would have, but I was also grumbling inside that these men would schedule a meeting the night before Thanksgiving when I needed to be home making pies, and then let the meeting run for two hours.

On Thanksgiving morning, the kids made our traditional Apple Turkeys.  My mom did this with the nine of us each year and most of us have carried it on with our own families.

The proud display of turkeys:

Then we sat down to eat a delicious Thanksgiving dinner, just the basics this year, because I am pretty tired in life, let's just admit it.

We had everyone around the table except Dylan.  Oh, how they've all grown up.

Aiden used a lot of Thanksgiving break to work on a book report about Nazi prison camps.  He's not listening to music, as I thought.  He's just blocking out noise.  But I took this picture because I love how the kitty loves him so much.  Aiden is the kitty's absolute favorite.  Wherever Aiden is, Maestro will be with him. Those two have been bosom buddies since Aiden was 4 when we brought the kitten home.

On Saturday, we decided we'd put up the Christmas tree so Lyndsay could be here for that tradition.  We were the first to buy a tree from Kathy's Tree Lot, just like last year.  It was hard setting the darn thing up without Dylan here, but Aiden did a great job.

The tree ended up to be shorter than we normally get, but we had such a time trying to get it set up in its stand that I think that was a good thing.  And then, once it was up and decorated, I could tell that it was ever-so-slightly crooked.  I tolerated it for two days and then had to have Adam help me fix it.  So my mind could be at ease.  You know.

There's that kitty, under the tree.  His favorite place to be if not with Aiden.

And then, because I didn't give Aiden his birthday present when his friends were over, we had to have a second fake birthday celebration for the family, while Lyndsay was still home.  I was sort of birthdayed-out, but there must be a cake, so in 45 minutes I presented Aiden a Texas Sheetcake.  It was easy and awesome.

Another wish, and he still wouldn't be officially 13 until Monday!  (But on Monday all I did was get up extra early and make him his requested breakfast.  And stuck a note in his lunch.  Done.  Officially birthday done.)

Every holiday we have the problem of Conor not being able to keep a secret.  I had purposely not told him what Aiden's gift would be.  That afternoon, he begged me to know.  I thought maybe this time he was old enough to handle it.  It's a Cardinal's watch, I told him.  One that Aiden has really wanted.  But do not tell him!

So Conor's doing well, and Aiden opens the wrapping paper and exclaims, "It's a box!" to which Conor shouts out, "With a watch inside!"  And then realizing what he's just done, he throws his hands in the air and says, "I couldn't help it!"

Oh, that boy.

A very happy watch recipient with his devilish little brother.

And then Aiden was thrilled to get some cash from his grandparents.  Cash always comes in handy.

It was a full week.  Lyndsay headed back up to BYU after church on Sunday (which is a whole other adventure story.  She didn't get back until 4am, with an 8am class that morning and virtually no sleep on the way.  But I'll spare you the details.  Bottom line, she made it safe and sound.)

Then she and I buckled down for the last few weeks of school and finals.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Scary! Aiden's a Teenager!

Well, I have some catching up to do!  Let's start here.

In November, Aiden turned 13.  He is a delightful boy, and only gets better with each year, so I'm not really scared that he's becoming a teenager, but he loved the theme that we used when Dylan turned 13, so we used it again.  Aiden hardly ever gets Friends Parties, so I wanted this to be special for him.  We held it the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  Lyndsay arrived the day before on a break from BYU, so she was a huge help in getting ready.  She and Aiden were the decorating committee, and I did the food.

The Zombie Hand Cake:

Witch Finger Cookies:

Color-coordinating candies.  Because I'm weird like that.

Meringue bones (which I need some practice on):

Spooky decorations: (It's funny to me that I didn't decorate at all for Halloween, but then did all of this a few weeks later.  Oh well.  But hey, FYI, Halloween decorations are way cheaper after Halloween.)

Lyndsay and Conor mixing up the punch:

The jello brain: (The color was pinker in real life....)

The Bloody Hand Punch:

The spread:

More food!

I found these leftover Halloween-themed sodas at the grocery store, so I got them and put them in a cauldron:

Aiden's crew of friends.  Such great kids.

Make a wish!

His friends know him so well.  He got lots of Cardinal's gear, which is his absolute favorite team.

The boys had a great time.  They ate lots of pizza and all the goodies I made.  They watched a scary movie in the dark, they played lots of Just Dance! and they had a great time being together.  Aiden really has the nicest friends.  I loved that after he opened each gift, he went over and hugged the friend that had given it to him.  Such good kids.  The last friend finally went home a little after 11pm, and Aiden was tired, but glowing with happiness.  The night was a huge success, and happy kids make for happy moms.

Happy 13th Birthday, Aiden!