Saturday, June 25, 2016

I Wish We Could Do This All the Time

  We have my niece and nephew staying with us this weekend, so we've got Ellie- 5, Carter- 3, Lorenzo- 2 (almost 3), and Naomi- 1. Yesterday after the three younger kids woke up from their naps, the boys were playing downstairs, and Ellie, Naomi and I were sitting on the floor in my room. Naomi was cuddled into my side, and Ellie sat across from us. We chatted about what Ellie did while everyone else was sleeping, played peek-a-boo and patty cake with Naomi, and just hung out and talked. After a while of sitting there Ellie said, "I wish we could do this all the time".

  Since we weren't doing much, I think the "this" Ellie was referring to was the good feeling of just being together. We were there, paying attention to each other, and enjoying the company.  Maybe it felt special because it was all girls, and Ellie is a girl's girl. Her observation of the feeling there was something tender to me. It is something rare these days to have time together with people you love and to really do nothing but be together. Those times of stillness often seem to prompt us to reach for our phone or to at least say or think, "Ok, now what do we do?" We're so often looking to be entertained. I loved Ellie's connection to that moment, and it makes me as her mother want to create more moments like that for her and my family.
  Last night after getting all four kids in bed, BJ and I each took a blanket and a glass of ice water outside and sat and talked while James Bay radio played quietly in the background. It was another one of those togetherness moments. It's so easy to be together without really being together. Here's to trying my (our) best to have moments each day that include nothing but being with the people we love.
  I love you tremendously, Ellie Layne. I'm glad your heart is sensitive to the things in life that are truly good and doing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Appearing Better Than We Are

  I wrote this post months ago in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep and my mind was whirling. I've debated whether or not to post it, because as months and months have past it hasn't been as relevant to me. But here it is, because maybe someone else will find some relevancy within it.

I had a conversation with my brother in law a few months ago, and while we were talking he used a phrase about people trying to appear "appear better than they are". At the time and still, that phrase makes me think. Do I try to appear better than I really am? Do you? What do you think when you hear that phrase?
Obviously there are people that really try to appear better than they are. People that live a lifestyle way beyond their financial means, people that buy clothes wear them and return them so they can always be wearing something new and nice, narcissistic people, etc. But my brother in law wasn't talking about those kind of people, or at least I don't think he was. He was talking about good people that try to act like perfect people.
I think of myself as an honest person. I'm pretty much an open book as far as my feelings and experiences go, but I also put on a happy face during my hard days and like to at least appear that I have most of my life together even on the days it doesn't feel like it. "Appearing better than they are" stuck with me, because I believe that I fall into that category in at least some ways, and I'm interested to toss this idea out there and see if you do too.

At the root of everything for me at this point in my life if the way I was raised. I just cannot disconnect the years of training and teaching that I received in my home from my parents from who I am and how I view the world. Along those lines, my parents instilled 3 principles in their children that I think relates to this topic. I never thought of them as negative attributes, but in context of appearing better than we are, I've been made to stop and think.

First principle: Put on a happy face. My dad lived and lives this principle every day to a T. He is the most happy, optimistic person I know. He laughs through difficulty, shakes his head and smiles when he's frustrated, and is the world's eternal enthusiast. "You can do it- I have no doubt in my mind that you can do it. Things are going to work out. You're going to do great. They'll be fine. He'll figure it out. Isn't this the best. Could things get any better?" are common dad phrases. My mom also was a big advocate of the notion that no one wants to be around someone that is grumpy or complaining. Bad attitudes were generally not tolerated in our house. As a mother myself, I see great value in this. Have you ever tried hanging out with a grumpy toddler all day? I will advocate the case for the happy smiler all. day. long.
2. By example, my mother taught me that in general, we keep our problems to ourselves. Other people don't want to hear about our problems, and we're the ones that have the responsibility to deal with or fix them anyway. Enter dad saying, "You can do this. We'll get through this. Everything's going to be ok." We dealt with it, and it was ok.
3. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. Peacefulness in relationships was an overarching theme in our home. My mom did not tolerate contention and fighting between siblings. Mom and dad never argued or fought in front of us. We all learned how to keep the peace and are still very good at biting our tongue and shrugging things off. Assume the best and don't hold a grudge.
These are all really wonderful, and important principles. As a mom I am trying to implement these concepts in our family because they are all sound skills and attitudes that will help set my children up for ultimate success in life and relationships. Sometimes, however, these ideals can be taken too far.

  For example, who of your friends and family would you describe as "real"? In my eyes, that person is someone that assuredly does not have their stuff together all the time (not that any of us really do), and they don't care to pretend they do. They can be somewhat of a mess, and they'll show you that, but they are so uniquely genuine and themselves that it is absolutely refreshing to be around them. They are not happy all the time, and they don't act like they are. Sometimes they are frazzled and a little bit crazy but they simply are themselves, all the time. Do you know someone who lives like this? Do you live like this? I can't imagine living like this! It terrifies me, and liberates me just to think of it! This is where I definitely "appear better than I am". The weight of feeling like we should or have to be happy all the time can be exhausting and really just isn't doable. We can think about the idea of wholeness here, and how a healthy person is someone that is well rounded. It's ok and expected that we experience a vast range of emotions throughout any given time. We need to cry, and we will feel anger and frustration. That's all fine. I would argue that it's even better when we can experience those feelings, and still maintain a disposition that isn't going to be destructive, frightening, or downright annoying to the people around us. Especially as a parent. Having a dad that smiled and laughed through it all may be one of the greatest sources of peace and contentment I could have been given as a child. If dad was still smiling, I felt that everything really would be ok.
This thought from the wonderful book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert feels applicable here.

I remember thinking that learning how to endure your disappointment and frustration is the part of job of a creative person. If you want to be an artist of any sort, it seemed to me, then handling your frustration is a  fundamental aspect of the work- perhaps the single most fundamental aspect of the work. Frustration is not an interruption of your process; frustration is the process. The fun part (the part where it doesn't feel like work at all) is when you're actually creating something wonderful, and everything's going great, and everyone loves it and you're flying high. But such instants are rare. You don't just get to leap from bright moment to bright moment. How you manage yourself between those bright moments, when things aren't going so great, is a measure of how devoted you are to your vocation, and how equipped you are for the weird demands of creative living. Holding yourself together through all the phases of creation is where the real work lies.

Isn't that powerful? While she is talking to artists in a creative process her words resonate with people living life just as well.

On keeping your problems to yourself- what do you think about this? Do you think that's good, bad, commendable, or not? Like my mom, I know that we are responsible to take care of ourselves and our families, and I believe that we have been skills to handle this and prayer to handle this. Obviously we often times need help and support, but if you can think of a handful of toughies you know- it  truly is amazing what one single person is able to manage when they put their head down, say a prayer, and trudge forward. I think that naturally some of us are sharers and some of us are not. I also believe that some of us are feelers and some of us are not. My mom has a sister that is both a feeler and a sharer. My mom and her sister are best friends, so naturally, over the course of her life my mom has gotten a pretty thorough run down of my aunt's life. I remember commenting to my mom once how her sister always seemed to be going through really hard things. My mom agreed that that was true, but also said that she goes through hard things too, but she chooses not tell people about it. My mom is a do it herself-er, pull up your bootstraps and get going kind of person.

The Time Lorenzo was Feeling It In the Kitchen

  We've been listening to music a lot more as we're around the house and outside. It's been interesting to observe how the kids will get more involved in what they're doing when there's music on, whether it is taking longer on art projects or playing longer outside. It seems that music inspires their creativity and loosens their inhibitions a bit.
  This short video I posted of Lorenzo on Snapchat the other day is still just the funniest thing ever to me. He was in the zone...

Ellie's First Dance Recital

  Ellie had her first dance recital a couple of weeks ago. Her feelings for dance had been all over the board in the 5 months she was enrolled and I kept telling her she needed to at least dance in her recital, and then if she didn't want to do it any more she didn't have to. We were so pleasantly surprised that on the day of the dress rehearsal and the day of the recital she wasn't nervous at all. She was completely enthusiastic, optimistic, and excited.

She loved her dress rehearsal and was over the moon with giddiness on the day of the performance. She came out on the stage and smiled the whole time. She remembered all of her dances, and did great. Lorenzo was her biggest fan cheering her name, yelling, and clapping during her dances. Sweetheart and Papa also came to watch. Such a fun first for our family!

The evening of the performance I took my friend Joanna to a cooking class because she was moving to Utah, so we all hurried to Yogurtland together to celebrate, and then BJ slept with the kiddos on the tramp. They made it till 3 in the morning out there before it got too cold. Now Ellie says she wants to dance in the fall too. Since then she has volunteered to give the scripture and prayer in Primary on her own, and she was sooo excited to sing in Sacrament Meeting on Father's Day. Looks like we've got a performer in the family!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Happy Father's Day

  To BJ:

  Some nights I go to sleep feeling a bit chewed up and spit out. Tired after a full day with the kids, household obligations, errand running, responsibilities, and time with friends.  Then there are those unexpected, rare nights that seem to sweep me off their feet with their goodness. I feel overwhelmed with gratitude and sometimes I cry because God is just so good and things feel so right. About a month or so ago I was having one of those kinds of nights and I realized all at once that at the heart of all of my great, present day joy was you. Right alongside God, and His infinite goodness and grace was you, diligently working day in and out to be the facilitator of my hopes and dreams. The way you treat me with love and respect enables me to flourish on a daily basis. You gave me our children that are the center of my world, and have been the fulfillment of a lifetime of dreams for me. You brought me here to Southern California, a place that I love- a place that has afforded me some of my life's best friends and experiences.Your hard work that has provided us this home, this comfortable lifestyle that allows me to cook and decorate and keep a house in a way that is so deeply gratifying to me, and have experiences together that create memories and enrich our lives. You lead our home in love and righteousness in partnership with our Savior and His will. You are worthy and fighting to do and be good and noble every day.

It impressed me today how we carry our childhood with us forever. Together we are creating this childhood for our children that I know feels safe and happy and special. You fill all of our lives with a feeling of safety, security, comfort, love, and fun. We love when you are home with us, and even when you are away we feel your love and influence. 

We hope you know how loved you are. Happy Father's day. You are one of a kind. We love you,

Ellery, Ellie, and Lorenzo

Monday, June 13, 2016

Lorenzo Joseph

  Oh Lorenzo, my sweet, sweet boy. You are pure love. Everyone that knows you, loves you. You bring a smile to anyone's face. Your enthusiastic hugs make my day. It has been such a joy to have you as my baby these last three years. You are such a loving brother and son. I can't wait to see how your little brother will learn from and take after you. Thank you for being awesome, happy, and hilarious. Thank you for being brave, and tough, and tender. You're as good as they come.  So happy you came to our family. I love you, Boosk.

Time with Cousins

  BJ and I recently went on a trip to Florida with our best friends from college. My parents were kind enough to fly down to California a couple days before the trip and then take Ellie and Lorenzo to Utah to stay at their house for a week while we were gone. My mom had watched my kiddos once before for a week long stretch when BJ and I went to Hawaii a year and a half ago, but last time she stayed here at my house. She and the kids were so happy to be in Utah where all three of my other siblings, and all of my Baum nieces and nephews live. They spent as many minutes with their cousins as possible every single day. The absolute perfect start to summer.
  My parents stayed a day after we left so that Ellie could be at her preschool graduation/bbq. We were so happy to have found Miss Anita this year. Ellie loved her preschool, and so did I. It was a very play-based preschool. For me it was the perfect balance of educational and fun. She loved her class of girls, and she loved Miss Anita.
  The first day the kids were in Utah they went to the Thanksgiving Point Farm with Katie, Halle, Jude and Tate. They rode horses and a train and saw all sorts of farm animals. They were off to a good start!

  One night they camped out in the backyard with Donny, Tate, Ramona, Ashton and Grandpa. They had a fire in the fire pit and ate "marshmallow sandwiches" (aka s'mores) as Lorenzo called them. I'm always somewhat astounded by the love between my parents and all of the grandchildren. I absolutely love, and am so grateful for how family oriented my parents have always been. They have always, always made us the top priority of their time and focus, and now my siblings have followed that example and done the same with their families, as well as the extended family. These grandchildren LOVE each other. These cousins are sweet and involved in each other's lives. So supportive and kind. We all have so much fun together. I love how all of the nieces and nephews and aunts and uncles have such a supportive, caring role in one another's lives.
  If there were fun activities planned the kids were thrilled, but if not, they still wanted to be together to just hang out.
  When I came back I spent four days in Utah with the family before coming home. My dad said he heard Lorenzo cry in the couple days I was there than he heard the whole time I was gone. So sad that that's how it is as a mom, but really, that's the best way to have it. So happy my children were good and happy for my mom and dad, and so grateful for them and their involvement in my children's lives.
  My family and Utah are always so good to us. The late nights with cousins, swimming, baseball games, shaved ice, and camp fires were the perfect way to kick off summer. Here's Ellie and Lorenzo in a full-to-the-top bubble bath the last night we were there.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Summer Thoughts

  Although we're only a couple weeks in, summer feels like its in full swing. Going on a vacation to Florida the week before Memorial Day, then spending 5 warm days in Utah, and now having been swimming every day this week, our sun kissed skin and happily worn out bodies are testaments each night of the fun-filled days we've been having. Eating lots of produce, and the occasional ice cream cone are also nods to the hot summer days we all love.
  Now that I'm 22 weeks along and feeling much better than before (I actually feel like myself again!), I can't help but feel like I'm swelling with a renewed appreciation for life and all its simple pleasures. In spite of summer's laid-back mentality; well displayed in my one summer goal of swimming as many days of the week as possible, I came across a quote today that has me thinking about the choices I'm making and the path of my life right now and where it's leading me.

"There is great power in pondering about the expectations we have for our lives. We become what we expect to become. I invite each of you to pause for a moment today and ponder about your expectations. Interview yourself. You may ask questions such as:
What am I expecting to accomplish in my life? What am I expecting ultimately to become? What am I doing that I shouldn't be doing? Are the things I'm doing today going to lead me to accomplish the expectations I have for my life? What does the Lord expect of me in my future?
I would suggest that you sit and think quietly about what you want to accomplish in your lifetime. Make a realistic and clear list of your expectations. Then make a plan for how to fulfill those expectations." -M. Russell Ballard

  Do you love that? Does that get you excited, or does it overwhelm you? I'm a natural born dreamer/ponderer. I am romantic, and poetic and I love to lose myself in thoughts like these. Ultimately, my expectations for my life are simple, and mighty. I don't feel the need to do or see it all, but I want to make my corner of the world better. I want to spread gladness and beauty and comfort and love to those within my sphere of influence. I want to be deliberate at home- making things with my hands and my heart that bring beauty, consistency, and splendor to the lives of my husband, children and friends. I want to live simply- to really focus on the things that matter to me: my faith, my husband, my children, my family and friends, service to others, learning, and creating a beautiful, welcoming, and safe environment for those people I love. I want to ultimately become someone that leaves an indelible legacy behind- a woman of faith and kindness. Someone that served that and that was fearlessly committed to living a life that she felt was right. I want to teach my children. I want to teach them to live by faith and to listen to the Spirit. To live right because they love God. I want to teach them to love to learn and to expect a lot out of themselves in school.  I want to read and foster children who love to read. I want to be healthy and help my family be healthy and active. I want to learn and teach my children how to be genuinely empathetic- to be excited for other people's successes.

  One of the questions was, "Are the things I'm doing today going to lead me to accomplish the expectations I have for my life?" This question motivated me to get on the computer and blog tonight. I love to write. I really want to write a book one day. Right now I think it would fall into the style of book that reads like a journal. Books like Bread and Wine, A Homemade Life, and Girlfriends Forever. I would cover different topics, most likely revolving around home and family. Maybe some insights on gardening, cooking, recipes, decorating, and general good living and inspiration. I sometimes realize that it's not going to be easy to whip that book out one day if I'm not practicing along the way. I've had a handful of spiritual promptings over the past few years to encourage me to blog, and now that I'm feeling well again, and now that I have a beautiful, new laptop of my own, I simply have to make time in my life for this outlet that I love so much. The kitchen to clean and the floors to vacuum and mop are waiting for me, but I know that if even just for myself, this writing is important.
  "What does the Lord expect of me in my future?" This question seems hard to answer as I'm not the one directly answering the question. I would hope and assume that if I'm on His path and doing the things I know are right, and if I couple that with sincere prayer and listening to the Spirit I know that I will be doing what the Lord expects of me. So I guess that ultimately the Lord expects me to continue on, trying my best, while doing the things he directs me to do.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Ellie's 5th Birthday

  On May 19th Ellie turned 5!!! I LOVE holidays with Ellie because she anticipates and gets excited about every little detail. She loves the planning and loves the day of, and I have a hard time not spoiling her because every detail delights her. She has always been uniquely mature in this way- always so aware of the little things that most young children wouldn't notice.
  We talked about her birthday for months and she knew just what she wanted. She got to plan her "party" and her food menu for the day, and she had even picked out an outfit and had it laying on the floor by her closet for about two weeks before her big day. I really, really, really just love this girl. She has settled into an easy and enjoyable stage where she is mature and helpful and very positive. I stayed up late the night before her birthday as I aways do wrapping presents and hanging the birthday banner, and making batter for her birthday crepes. BJ always has the job of blowing up about 20 balloons to fill the birthday kid's room with. I love having traditions in our family, and these sweet little details make everything feel so fun, exciting, and familiar.
That happy birthday smile and her darling pink presents. There was the cutest pink popsicle wrapping paper at target this year that she loved, along with pink and purple balloons! Lorenzo gave her a singing card (another tradition- my kids think these are the funniest things ever) that sang "Everybody Dance Now!". She got all American Girl Doll gifts. A new doll, and some accessories and clothes for her doll, as well as a matching birthday dress for herself and her new doll, Leah.
We opened presents and ate crepes together as a family, and then Ellie went to preschool for about an hour.

BJ's mom offered early on in the year that she wanted to take Ellie to the American Girl Doll store in LA for her birthday. Ellie and I decided that this could be her party and after thinking about it for a lonnnng time Ellie decided she wanted a special family birthday with just me and Sweetheart. Getting out of the car after the long, two hour drive Ellie was literally on cloud 9. She was so cute holding Sweetheart's hand walking down the street. I swear she had sunbeams shining out of her. She couldn't have been happier. A mom's greatest reward.

  We had a darling lunch in the American Girl Cafe and then walked around the store, and then headed home. It literally took us almost 3 hours to get home because of the traffic. Ellie was a trooper. When we got home I made spaghetti and meatballs and salad- her requested dinner, and after some playing outside we got out her beautiful red velvet cake and sang Happy Birthday and had cake together as a family.
  Ellie's birthday was a joy. She was deserving of every fun, special moment. I love her, and am proud and grateful to be her mother. We are blessed to have you, Ellie Layne!