Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Missing my Mom on her 61st Birthday

This past month, I have embarked on a herculean task: organizing cards, letters, and mementos from the last ten years to put in my journals.

Yes, ten years of memories were stored in a UHaul moving box in our garage, and I was determined to get them sorted into years and then put them in chronological order in my journals.

It has taken hours and hours and hours, and I'm still not done, but it has been pretty amazing to go back in time and read all of those letters.  It has made me both grateful and melancholy, happy and a little sad--to relive the memories, notice how I have changed (and not changed), and remember the good people who have made me me.

Within this treasure trove of memories, I found a real gem: a letter that my best friend from college wrote to me about my mother.  She wrote it on my mom's birthday, a few years after my mom had passed away.  We always "Sallybrate" on June 14th and share memories of my mom, and that year, my bosom friend Becky contributed also.

Today is my mom's 61st birthday, and as part of my own Sallybration, I want to share part of Becky's letter here.  So few people in my life now ever met my mother (Ryan never even met her!), so to have the memories of someone who knew her, who saw her interacting with me, who felt her goodness in person...it is priceless.

This is what she wrote:


I wanted to write you and tell you the influence your mom has had on me in my life.  I was excited to hear about your Sallybration, and now I am going to add my part of it.

I only met your mom three or four times, but through those few times, and through you, I know her.  I have learned so much from her.  One thing I have learned from her is to have fun despite.  I remember in Moab, when she came to watch us for our half marathon, she had just had surgery, but she was just as happy and silly as ever.  She made everyone around her happy and silly as well.  Things were rough, but she still made the most of life.  It makes me think of Elder Wirthlin's talk at Conference, "An Abundant Life."  Your mom led an abundant life.  I want to be more like that.

I have also learned more about serving. When I was in the Missionary Training Center, I played Secret Cupid for the girls in my training group.  They probably thought I was weird, but I did it anyway because little surprises in life are fun and I had fun doing it.  I love that tradition that your mom started.

I remember you telling me that in the final weeks of her life, your mom asked you to take her to a friend's house who needed her help, even though she was so so sick.  I want to be more like that.  That was how Christ was--He didn't care what the circumstances were, he just served.  He served everyone.  I want to see and take the opportunities like that--like your mom did.

I remember her calling you almost every day that first year of college, to talk about whatever, especially Laura's surprise 16th birthday party that she was planning.  I remember her being so excited about everything you did, everything you accomplished.  She would send you cards and packages just to tell you how proud she was of you and how much she loved you.  When your parents came to Provo, they took all of us to dinner because she wanted to be a part of your life as much as she could and that meant knowing your friends at college.  I want to be a mom like her--so supportive and excited about my kids, so involved in and a part of my kids' lives.

Rach, I am thankful to have known her.  I am thankful for the person she is and for the person you are because of her.  That is one of the biggest things.  I can tell how she was because of how you are.

God is taking care of us, Rach.  Don't you love that?  So many people in the world don't know that, but I know He is.  I look back five years, and I see it.  I see it in our friendship.  I see it in your mom's life.

I love you, Sis.

I am so grateful that Becky took the time to write down those memories, so I could discover them again ten years later, and remember in clearer detail what my mom was like.

If you are ever wondering how to support someone who has lost a loved one, consider writing them a letter of memories.  Moments you remember of that person, lessons you learned from them--and even more than that, memories you have of your friend or loved one interacting with the person that they lost.  That is my favorite part of Becky's letter--the memories of what my relationship with my mom was like.

I can't tell you how much I miss her.  Hearing her voice and her laughter on the other end of the phone, getting a letter in the mail with ideas for my upcoming lesson in church, seeing her interacting with my friends and knowing that they were being influenced by her goodness.

She was remarkable.  Sometimes I wonder if I have romanticized just how good she was--if time has made me remember her through rose colored glasses.  But then I read letters like this, and I am reminded that others saw it too.  Others saw her light.

I will be remembering her today and always--and thanking God that I was blessed to be her daughter.

21 years ago, today

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Little Miss Independent, 21 Months

Sally Grace is 21 months old.  She is precious.  Absolutely precious.  She is also so busy and hard.  Ha!

She somehow got away from us in the mall the other day, and we had ten adults searching for her for about fifteen minutes before she was found.  It was terrifying.  At first I was calm, thinking she would come wandering up to us at any moment (I mean, how far away would she actually go from her parents?), but as five minutes became ten, became fifteen, I started to panic.  I was in tears and so was Noah, and I don't think I've ever seen Ryan so desperate.  Turns out she had run to the other side of the mall and all the way to the back of a department store by herself.  She is so independent and not afraid of anyone or anything. When we finally found her, she wasn't scared at all.  She was just sitting happily in the arms of the stranger who had found her.  Oh my gosh, Sally--you are killing me!  One thing is for sure, she will never be in a busy place like that without a stroller again! 

Noah never wandered away from us like that when he was a toddler, and I am finding that Sally and Noah have really different personalities.  He's never been very independent--he would prefer that I do things for him--but Sally is very insistent that she do things herself.  She wants to buckle her own high chair and car seat; she loves putting on her own socks and shoes (putting on socks is her favorite thing, no matter whose they are--she looks pretty hilarious wearing Noah's soccer socks or Dad's church socks, pulled up high); when I try to help her with something, she says "No, Mom!" so emphatically in her tiny voice. The sound of her voice is the cutest thing on this planet.

She says tons of words now.  Again, not like Noah (who was honestly speaking in sentences by this age--he was more interested in talking to me than wandering away from me, ha!), but she says new words every single day and clearly understands pretty much everything we say to her.  I love it!  I am always so delighted when I hear her say a word for the first time.

She has her own little language, calling my phone "bone," her blankie "menchie," and milk "meky." When you ask her if she wants something she says, "Mmmhmm" instead of yes.  She says "Where are you?" like it's one word, and it's irresistible.  I will hear her calling from her crib after naptime, "Mama, wa-ah-you?"  She will also call this out if she is looking for a toy or trying to help me find my shoes as we head out the door.

She is obsessed with my "bone" and knows how to get to my photos app and look at pictures and videos of friends and family.  This is one of the few things that keeps her quiet and still for a few minutes.  Unfortunately, she sometimes gets out of the photos app and calls people to breathe at them.  I sometimes get texts from my sister who lives in a different time zone, "Uh, Sally called me five times this morning at 6:30 a.m."  Woops!  Her favorite people to call are her Grandma and our friend Adrian Dayton in Buffalo. Ha!  I think it's because his name starts with A and must be one of the first in my contacts list.  Sorry, Adrian!

She will screech at me when I am talking on the phone because she wants to say hello.  She grabs the phone from my ear and yanks it away and then just breathes at the person and smiles.  She also tries to grab the phone away from me when I am sending text messages, and I've pretty much given up on having my phone out when she's around.  I call her the Tiny Tyrant.  I try not to let her get away with too much, but she's so stinking cute that it's hard to discipline her.

She tells knock-knock jokes.  It's hysterical.  She has learned this from her brother (who can go for a good twenty minutes telling me the worst jokes imaginable).  She will say out of the blue, "Knot knot!" And she will keep saying it until I respond, "Who's there?"  And then she just spouts out some gibberish and laughs at herself. 

She loves to laugh.  She is a joyful little girl.  She still loves "slap-stick" humor, and if someone trips or bumps their head, she breaks out in guffaws.  She also thinks bodily functions are just hilarious.  If anyone is ever gassy in our house (not that that ever happens), she laughs and laughs like she is a middle school boy.  Heaven help me.

Her dad is her favorite.  No contest.  He is the first person she asks about when she wakes up in the morning, and if he's already gone to work, she wanders around the house looking for signs that maybe he is home after all.  She will see a pair of his shoes on the floor and say, "Dada! Dada!" and look around excitedly.  When we pull into the garage, she always looks over to see if his car is there, and she often notices that he's home before I do.  "Dada home!  Dada home!"

She also adores her big brother.  She hates holding my hand when we cross the street (again, Little Miss Independent), but she is more than willing to hold Noah's.  In fact the other day when we went for a family hike, she kept saying, "Hand? Hand?" until Noah would reach up and hold onto her.  Sweetest.

She also loves to wear her brother's sunglasses and sit in his booster.  He is her hero!

She is destructive.  I can't keep up with her mischief.  This morning, I found her drinking hand sanitizer so I swiftly took that away and took it over to the sink to wipe it off.  While I was doing that, she ran into my bathroom, turned on my bathtub, filled my tennis shoe with water, and dumped it all over the carpet in my room. As I soaked that up with a dishtowel, she went back out into the kitchen and started the dishwasher, her favorite thing to do. The clean and dry dishes were now wet again. 

Wow.  It's just wow.  We have to lock our bathroom door during the day because faucets are her favorite thing and she has dumped so much water onto the carpet in our room that it's starting to smell of mildew.  She keeps me sooo busy.  I am hoping that she will love the water table and baby pool in the backyard this summer--she can dump as much water as she wants out there!

She's not really interested in toys.  She doesn't have a favorite toy, stuffed animal, or doll.  She just likes to destroy things and hang on her mama's legs.  After an exhausting day recently, I spent some time Googling ideas for keeping a toddler happy.  I now have a list of simple ideas that may interest her (such as building towers and knocking them down, playing hide-and-go-seek with a stuffed animal, and rearranging the condiments in the side of the refrigerator).  I will let you know how it goes. ;)

Though she doesn't have much interest in stuffed animals or dolls, she is obsessed with live animals and babies.  She is very forceful in her affection toward both (like a true Westover girl!) and I often have to restrain her from smashing dogs and cats in her hugs and mauling babies with her kisses.  This past weekend we saw her baby cousin Gracie, and Sally could not get enough.  I was holding them both on my lap, with Sally looking at photos on my phone.  Sally suddenly started to jab her arm behind Gracie's shoulders, and I thought she was pushing her away in jealously, but I soon realized that she was putting her arm around her.  She pulled Gracie close and tried to show her the photos she was looking at.

When she sees her beloved doggies, she will say "Rah rah rah!" instead of "Ruff ruff."  Cutest puppy sound ever!

I know it's too early to tell, but she seems to be athletic like her dad.  She has a good arm and can already throw overhand (Noah still can't do that--ha!).  She loves a song called "Hop Little Bunnies" from a show we watch on YouTube, and she will hop around the room while she watches it.  I've noticed that she jumps with both feet off the ground, which I think is an advanced skill for a kid her age.  (So basically, she's going to be an Olympian...haha!)

We're not sure yet if she has inherited musicality from the Westover side of the family.  I sing her Edelweiss every night at bedtime (my mom always sang it to me), and she puts her head on my shoulder and bellows it out along with me.  It's my favorite moment of the entire day.  Most of the words are gibberish, but boy is she trying!  She did this yesterday at church too.  In the middle of the opening hymn, she just started bellowing gibberish along with everyone.  I wasn't the only one in the congregation who was laughing.

She is still an amazing sleeper, and I love her for it.  With how busy she is, I need my daily break when she takes an afternoon nap!  She never protests when I say it's time for nap or bed, and she waves goodbye to Noah as she walks straight to her room, ready for her book and song.

Sadly, she is going through a bit of a mean phase.  She pushes over other kids and then looks up so innocently when I scold her, like "Who, me?" She also bites when she gets frustrated, and I know I have to be ready to dodge her chompers if I take something away from her and she's super angry about it.  I'm hoping as she gets older and has more ability to communicate, she won't feel the need to lash out to express her frustration.  For now, we do stern talkings-to and short time-outs.  Seems to make no difference but hopefully over time she will grow out of this!

At her core, she's still a sweetheart.  She is hard because she's busy, not because she's cranky or contrite.  She's a good little girl and so likeable.  When anyone walks into the room, she shouts, "Hi!" over and over and uses their name.  I am surprised by how many names she knows of the people we see regularly.

She takes her prayers seriously, especially if she is praying over her favorite food, guacamole:

You can't turn your back on her for one second at the dinner table.  There's a reason her nickname is Menace!

Watching the laundry churning is the highlight of her life, but I can't let her do it very often because she won't stop pushing the cycle buttons!

She's my favorite daughter.  We are completely obsessed with her.   When I am holding her in my arms, she will pull my glasses down to the tip of my nose and say, "Hi, Mom" when I peer over them at her. 

I love seeing her little diaper bum in tight stretch pants as she runs along the path when we go for family walks.  I love the mischievous twinkle in her almond-shaped eyes when she knows she's done something naughty.  I love her nose nuzzles and soft kisses at bedtime.  I love her dimple and how cute she looks in her straw hat.

She exhausts me, but I am so lucky to be her mama.  Losing her for a few minutes the other day in the mall brought that into even clearer focus.  I don't know what we would do without her!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

My Biggest Accomplishment from the Past Few Months

After a year of putting it off because I didn't feel "qualified," I finally recorded a podcast with Power of Moms about Intuitive Eating!

Some of you may remember that I recorded a podcast with them about my experience of going to counseling and learning about the cycle of unhealthy stress and negative self-talk in my life.  This is the follow-up podcast to that first one, focused more specifically on eating disorders and learning to listen to and love my body.

It was scary to record this because I am so far from living all of these principles perfectly all the time--BUT I do believe in these ideas 100%, and I am so SO much happier than I was a few years ago when I was trapped in the diet-binge cycle and loathing myself for my inability to lose weight. So even though I felt inadequate and vulnerable recording this podcast, I am proud of myself for getting up the courage to just do it and put it out there for other women who might need it.

I think sometimes I feel like I can't be a spokesperson for Intuitive Eating because I'm not thin--but this isn't about being thin.  This is about being happy.  And sane.  And not hating yourself all the time.   And not allowing your life to be consumed with thoughts of dieting, desserts, calories, cellulite, food journals, clothes that no longer fit you, the judgement of others...the list goes on.  It's exhausting.  And emotionally damaging.  And there is another way to live!

After recording this podcast, I felt even more committed to living these principles.  I can explain them intellectually a lot better than I can actually live them--but I do believe that it is possible to become a truly intuitive eater, and I have several friends who definitely live and eat this way.  It's inspiring. 

I want to continue on this journey--continue learning how to respect, listen to, and love my body.  Who will join me??

If you ever feel like you are war with your body (constantly worrying about your weight, pledging to start your diet "tomorrow," eating in secret, or feeling self-loathing daily), this podcast is for you.  And even if you are in a good place with your body image, it might be worth listening to learn some ideas for maintaining sanity in the midst of a culture that is obsessed with weight.

Here is the link:

Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Spring Break Traveling Craziness

I don't know if it was my relief that winter is over or a momentary surge of bravery (insanity?), but for some reason, I got all crazy and planned a long and ambitious trip for Spring Break.  And most of it was just me and the kids, making things even crazier.  I am a creature of routine and comfort, and I don't particularly like traveling with my kids even when I have Ryan with me, but we had a lot of family that we wanted to see, so I just decided to make it happen.

First we headed to Utah and saw Noah's birthparents.  Katie is currently in the play The Little Mermaid, and we knew we wanted to see that!  She was the most beautiful "mersister" up on that stage, and Noah enjoyed the show.  His favorite part was Prince Eric's ship.  And flirting with the mermaids after the show.

We also got to go to the park and dinner with Drew, whom we love, and we stayed the night at Katie's Grandma's (so Noah's biological great grandma), and he got to spend some special one-on-one time with her, doing puzzles and building a ship out of tinker toys.


From there we drove to the SLC airport and flew to Denver.  I hadn't been planning to go to Colorado, but my older sister has been struggling with severe depression this past year, and when she told me she hasn't been able to make dinners, keep her house picked up, or get out of bed in the morning, I decided we would make the trip to keep her company for a week.

I love my sister.  She is such a huge support to me, even when she herself is struggling. Despite the depression she's been feeling, she was still so much fun to be with for a few days.  We watched tons of Modern Family while eating chocolate chip cookies and Cadbury mini-eggs, of course; we put together and hosted a 4th birthday party for my niece Jade; we made several dinners and freezer meals to help keep the family fed for the next little while; we refereed our kids fighting (they are best frenemies) and sent them to their rooms for quiet time when we'd had enough; and we went shopping and out for dessert one night.  Honestly, I think the trip was just as therapeutic for me as it was for Sarah, and the kids certainly loved being together!


Oh and in typical Colorado fashion, it was 70 degrees the first two days I was in town and we spent all day playing at the park--and then we got 19 inches of snow in 12 hours.   Ha!  Colorado weather is completely nuts.  The kids had fun making a snowman with Bapa!


I also got to see my grandparents, whom I completely and totally adore.  My grandpa has been getting so frail in recent years, and he was in the hospital for almost a week this month with the flu!  I have been so fearful that I wouldn't get to see him again in this life, so it was such a blessing to spend time with him.  He drove me and the kids to the airport, and when we said our goodbyes, he hugged me close and said, "You have been the light of my life."  It meant the world to me to get that hug and to hear those words that will stay with me for a lifetime.  I hope I have many more years with my grandpa, but I also don't want him to suffer so we are all putting it in God's hands.  My grandparents are as good as they come, and it is a treasure to see them with my children.

We flew back to Utah, and then drove straight to Pocatello for Easter weekend with Ryan's family.  Phew!  What a whirlwind!  But it was worth it.  So fun to be with the Nielson family.  (And Ryan met up with us there so I was no longer parenting solo!) We dyed eggs, drove remote control boats in the reservoir, played with cousins, had an egg hunt, snuggled with our favorite Uncle Tanner who was home from college, and of course went to church and had an amazing Easter feast made by Grandma.






Little Sally and her cousins made quite a splash in their Easter dresses.  I couldn't get over Sally's Easter hat, and I think she and Lucy look like little ladies headed to Grandma's for tea.


Another highlight of the weekend was getting to meet my newest niece, Gracie.  She was born to Cole and Sara two months ago, and she is a bundle of sweetness.  I almost ate her for Easter dinner, but I refrained.  Instead, I let her sleep on me for an hour.  Heaven!  My Sally is obsessed with babies and she was delighted by Gracie, and Noah was so cute with how he "baby talked" to her and wanted to hold her all by himself.





All in all, I am so glad that I took the plunge and made this long trip with my kiddos! Is there anything in this world as fun and comforting as family?? As completely chaotic as it can sometimes be, the relationships are priceless. I love these people with all of my heart!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Winter Lows and Highs

I've come to realize that I really hate winter.  I actually like snow, but the winter months make me extremely blue.  When I look back in my journals, it is obvious that every winter I struggle more with depression than I do the rest of the year.  So the months of January and February were a little bleak for me this year, but in spite of that, we managed to fit in a lot of family fun and memories.

We went tubing with our little family; we went skiing with extended family, including cousin Kate who went for the first time and my dad who came to hang out with us in Sun Valley; we bundled up and went to the park with friends; we went for rainy bike rides to discover worms; we went on a couple of fun preschool fieldtrips...





We spent plenty of time lounging at home and wrestling with Dad, and we had some fun Family Home Evenings based on action-figures of Book of Mormon heroes that I found at Deseret Book.  (Can I get a fist-bump for actually planning a few meaningful FHEs?)



As is our tradition, we had a fun Secret Cupid week in mid-February.  I sometimes feel like I am running out of novel ideas for this holiday, but this year Ryan and I went on a date to Target and each took thirty minutes to pick out a gift and a card for each other.  We then sat in the food court and wrote our notes and exchanged gifts.  Classy!  I picked an extra big card for my Sexy Dexy. ;)  The kids and I also surprised him by sneak-attacking his car at work.

The highlight of my winter was going to San Diego for a sisters' weekend!  The weather was perfection, and there is just nothing like spending time with my sisters.  I also LOVED seeing my nephew Luke, who is at the cutest age and is so friendly and loving.



So there were plenty of bright moments this winter, in the midst of the gloom.  And I cannot tell you how happy I am that spring is here.  I have been feeling so much better the past few weeks.  It's crazy what a marked emotional difference I feel once we get past February! Onward toward spring walks and backyard barbecues...hoorah!