Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Studtholomew and Other Teenage Memories of My Dad

This is part two of a blog series for my dad's 60th birthday.  (I am hoping to chronicle 60 memories by the end of the week.)  If you are interested in reading part one, click here.

Dad with his three teenaged daughters
Tonight I record some of my memories of my dad during my teen years.  Let the fun begin...

My dad is mega smart.  He wouldn’t like me bragging about him, but I am going to anyway.  He graduated with honors from Harvard Law School, which is why it’s perhaps even funnier that he played immature bedtime games and gave himself swirlies in the toilet with us when we were kids. 

I benefitted from his intelligence because he was my personal tutor when I was in high school.  I am terrible at math (truly), yet he patiently helped me through my advanced algebra class.  We spent many late nights at the kitchen table with me in tears and his shoulders twitching, working on math homework. (How he stayed patient with my drama, I will never know.)  And for the record, I never took another math class again after advanced algebra my sophomore year of high school.

English was my strong subject, but I certainly had room for improvement there as well.  Dad always edited my essays throughout high school, and when he gave me back a draft, it would be covered in red ink. Because of his individualized feedback and modeling of sentence structure, punctuation, and clarity of thought, I progressed quickly as a writer, and it has become one of my passions.  It is always humbling to me now when he asks me to edit something for him.  It wasn’t my English teachers who taught me how to write; it was my dad.

My dad has always been known for his crazy nicknames, and during my high school years, he started calling me “Stresstholomew.”  For some reason, he decided that everyone in the family would be a
“-tholomew,” and “Stress” was the best prefix for me during those years (sad but true--I am a perfectionist to the extreme).  And for himself, he chose an even more appropriate prefix: Stud.  So yes, he was the self-proclaimed “Studtholomew.”

He also called himself “SD,” which stands for Super Dad, obviously. ;)  He still sometimes signs emails to me as “SD.”  I wish I had a full catalog of all of the nicknames he has given us and himself over the years, but there are too many to even track, and now he is doing it to our children (more on that in another post).

Some new bedtime games were born during my teen years (yes, he still played bedtime games with us when we were teenagers).  A favorite was based on The Lord of the Rings movies.  Dad would come creeping into the bedroom pretending to be Gollum and start talking to us in a creepy voice, calling us “The Precious.”  Then out of nowhere, his arm would shoot forward in a claw, attempting to attack us.  We would be laughing hysterically at this point, as he used the other hand to grab and try to subdue the claw.  He would then thrash around and act like he had multiple personalities like Gollum, “Don’t hurt The Precious!  But me wants The Precious!  Me wants to grab The Precious.  No!!!”   So random and ridiculous!

He liked to pretend he was up on pop-culture and then tease us and our friends about it.  He learned the popular song “Jumpin” by Destiny’s Child (remember them?), and sometimes when our girlfriends were over, he would come out of his office and start doing a subtle robot dance while singing in a monotone voice, “Ladies leave your man at home, the club is full of ballers and their pockets full of chrome.  And all you fellas leave your girl with a friend, cause it’s 11:30 and the club is jumpin’, jumpin.”  And on those last two words, he would do two little hops into the air.  So hilarious.

Both of my parents loved our friends and were beloved by our friends.  My dad insisted on having a “first dance” with each of his daughters at our 16th birthday parties (my parents threw us big shin-digs with DJs—super fun).  I love that we weren’t embarrassed by our dad or our closeness to him.  It seemed like the most natural thing in the world to dance to “16 Candles” with my dad at my party.  


And then after that serious moment was over, the party music started, and my dad entertained all of the teenagers by lying on the floor and doing his signature dance move: The Twitch.  I have no idea how he does it, but he twitches his entire body off of the floor.  The teenage boys were impressed and tried to do it too, but no one mastered it like my dad.

And speaking of teenage boys, my dad was one of my confidants when I started dating.  I have always been extremely open with my parents (it’s just part of my personality—I can’t hold anything back), and when my dad was the bishop of our church congregation, I went into his home office one night, shut the door, and said, “Dad, is French kissing bad?”  Hahahaha!  My poor father!  I remember that he looked up from the legal document he was editing with an expression of surprise, took off his glasses, leaned back in his chair and said, “Well, let’s talk about this.”

He went on to give me very thoughtful, wise, loving, and reasonable advice about protecting myself, my body, and my heart during the dating years.  Because he handled that conversation so well, I knew I could come to him in the future with my questions about relationships and chastity.

I come from a family of night-owls, and it was not uncommon at all for all of us to be awake until 1 a.m. when I was a teenager, particularly on the weekends.  One time when a boy brought me home from a date at midnight and we were standing on the porch talking, my dad came out and started watering the flower pots.  My dad was oblivious to how awkward this must have been for my date, and honestly I did not think a thing of it either because it was completely normal for us to water plants at midnight; but my date obviously thought that my dad was spying and giving him the hint to “get lost,” so he took off quickly.  Poor kid.

I mentioned in my last post that my dad is known to fall asleep anytime he sits down (it's no wonder when he was watering plants at midnight, right?), and this was even true when he was the bishop.  When someone else was speaking to the congregation, my dad would sometimes drift off to sleep in his seat on the stand in front of the congregation, and my sisters and I would watch him, amused, knowing that at any moment, he would wake up and do his "lost in thought" act.  He would wake up mortified that he had fallen asleep again, so he would keep his eyes closed and nod his head thoughtfully as he raised it, pretending that he had merely been pondering the words of the speaker.  So funny.  I'm pretty sure no one bought it.  But everyone knew how hard he worked at the office, at church, and at home, so no one took it personally.

I did a lot of performing when I was in high school, and my dad never missed a concert, vocal recital, or musical theater production.  After each event, when I was hugging other family members or friends who had come to support me, I would spot my dad hanging back from the rest, watching me and smiling proudly.  He was always wearing a suit and tie--he had always come straight from the office

I knew how important I was to him.  I knew he would always be there for me and that I mattered more to him than any work obligation.  I knew that he was proud of me not because of my talents but because of my hard work and my efforts to be kind and honest.  He was proud of me when I was chorus girl #100 and he was proud of me when I was the lead role, and in either case, he was there to watch and encourage me. 

I am so glad that I had my amazing father as my role model, friend, and confidant during those pivotal teenage years. If it's possible, he became even more important to me after I left home for college because that is the year that my mom's cancer diagnosis became terminal and we eventually lost her.  Because of the foundation of love and trust he had built with his daughters when we were young, we relied on him greatly while we were losing our mother and have ever since.  I can't wait to share some of my memories of that difficult but sacred time in my next blog post.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Rotten Peach (and Other Antics of my 60-Year-Old Dad)

Today is my dad's 60th birthday, which, frankly, is very hard for me to believe.  Sixty seems old, and my dad has never seemed old to me.  He is active, hardworking, healthy, and, if I do say so myself, quite handsome.  I feel like it was just yesterday that he was not pleased about turning forty:

And now he is sixty.  Wow.

And if he is sixty, what does that make me?  Oh yeah--thirty-one next Sunday!  Why do I still feel like a little girl when I snuggle up to my dad and put my head on his shoulder??  (Yes, I definitely still do that.)

So in honor of feeling like my dad and I are both still young, I thought I would take a few minutes tonight to record some of my favorite childhood memories of my dad.  This is Part 1 of a series of blog posts I am going to do about him this week.  Yes, a series.  Because a sixtieth birthday is a pretty big deal--and he is a pretty awesome dad.  I want it documented for my posterity, and this is as good a chance as any.

So thanks for indulging me as I journey down memory lane.  I think by the end of it, you will love my dad *almost* as much as I do.


One of my earliest memories ever is scoring a goal for my recreational soccer team.  I was about seven years old, and I was so excited that I immediately ran off the field into my dad’s arms and he spun me around and celebrated with me.  I remember that he was wearing his suit because he had come straight from work, and I think he was walking up to the field just in time to witness my big moment. 

My dad worked a lot when I was growing up and still does (we’d have to ask his secretary, but I’d say he averages 60 hours a week, even now), but he never ever missed the big stuff.  I always knew that he would be there.

In later years, my dad refereed some of the soccer games for my league.  He never played soccer growing up, so he must have taken on this responsibility because he wanted to spend more time with me and invest in what I was interested in.  I remember him running up and down the field with his dorky socks pulled high, blowing his whistle.

Another early memory happened when I was probably three or four years old and I woke up covered in throw up in the middle of the night (a lovely rite of passage for children and their parents, right?).  I remember calling out for help, and my dad came in and tenderly cleaned me up.  I remember him putting me in a bath and helping me get all warm and clean.  I felt so safe and cared for. 

I loved falling asleep in the car because Dad would carry me into the house and tuck me into my bed.  As he picked me up, I’d always slightly wake, but I would hold very still and sink deeper into his arms, not wanting him to know that I was awake because I loved feeling the warmth of his arms and his kiss on my forehead after he tucked me in.  I’m sure he knew that I was awake, but he never let on.    

When he would come home from work, he’d loosen his tie and yell, “Who wants to play BOOM?!” My sisters and I would run up the stairs shrieking with glee, and Dad would scoop us into his arms and throw us on our backs onto his bed, shouting “BOOOOOM!” We could’ve played that game for hours. 

When my mom was in the hospital for three-months after her bone marrow transplant, my dad became a master of doing little girls’ hair. He was much more patient and gentle with our hair than Mom was (she would just rip that brush right through), and he would meticulously curl my bob under with a curling iron.  Even after Mom got better, Dad continued to curl my hair for special occasions and family photos. 

He taught us girls how to ski, and we loved it.  His little girls were dardevils and tried our best to keep up with him on the mountain.  He was always willing to ski the moguls with me, and I remember him shaking his head in amusement as Little Laura bombed down the hill with her long ski hat flailing out behind her.  Who needs sons when you have the crazy Westover daughters?

Though my dad comes across as serious and quiet, he has a silly side that he likes to pull out to amuse kids and teenagers.  He endeared himself to the children at our church when he performed “Three Blind Mice” at a Spring Sing and came in as the Farmer’s Wife.  He wore a blue dress and a pink bandana tied around his head. I will never forget his hairy legs and tennis shoes poking out from under that dress.  He let out these ridiculous woman-shrieks and jumped all around pretending to be afraid of the “mice” (the boys in his Primary class) and then he chopped off their tails with a cardboard knife.  I remember how everyone in the audience laughed and laughed, and I knew that I had the coolest dad of all.

When he later served as the Bishop of our congregation, he taught the young men and young women about a Prophet in The Book of Mormon named Captain Moroni who ripped off his coat and made a flag declaring the liberties for which he would fight and die.  In the midst of the lesson, to everyone’s surprise and delight, my dad ripped off his white collared shirt, pretending to be Moroni and declaring his allegiance to the cause of liberty.  (Don’t worry, he had a shirt on underneath.)  So classic.  

His silliness perhaps became even more exaggerated within the walls of our own home.  He was the king of bedtime games.  One of his earliest was “rotten peach.”  He’d get us all calm and tucked in (or he would come into the room after Mom had gotten us all calm and tucked in), and as he leaned over to kiss us goodnight, he would say, “Mmmm, I think I smell a juicy peach.”  He would then pretend to take a big bite out of one of our arms or legs or something, and after a moment of “chewing,” he would pretend to violently vomit and then shout, “This peach is rotten!!  Put it down the garbage disposal!” Then he would pick us up, toss us on the floor, and start spinning us around wildly while making disposal noises.  As you can imagine, this charade put us into fits of giggles, and I’m sure it wasn’t easy to fall asleep afterward. ;)

As one of my most random memories, I vividly remember my dad giving himelf a swirlie in the toilet on a dare from his daughters.  (What in the world, Dad??  Did you clean it before you stuck your head in there?!)  Of course we thought it was so hilarious that we had to try it too.   And to top it off, we had some friends over that night who also got in on the action.  I cannot imagine what their parents thought when they came to pick them up and heard what Mike Westover had allowed us to do!  Naaaasty!

His bad influence continued as he took his daughters and our friends “toilet papering” late at night and taught us how to get the TP roll up high in the trees.  Apparently he had done a lot of this as a teenager, and he was a master.  This is so funny to me now—we would probably get arrested or something in this day and age.

When we were littler, he would let us jump off of our big stairs into his arms.  Again, all of our friends got into it as well, and we kept climbing higher and higher onto the steps and then throwing ourselves into his arms.  We never doubted he would catch us, though I think there were some close calls.

For some reason, my dad hated the song “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston.  He couldn’t understand why it was so popular because he said it sounded like a howling dog when it got to the part where she started singing “I-----ei-----ei!” over and over.  Of course he played up his hatred and we totally fed into it.  We would blast the song at opportune moments to get a reaction out of him.  One time we turned it way up on the car radio, and he kicked us out of the car and made us walk home.  Too good.

When my mom threw Halloween parties for our friends or family, my dad played the part of the vampire mixing up the “potion” (which was actually rootbeer).  He wore vampire teeth and fake blood, and, in a dramatic vampire voice, he told all the kids the different things he was adding to the pot, such as “frog brains” and “witches’ fingernails.”  For the grand finale, he dumped dry ice into the cauldron and shouted that it was “NUCLEAR WASTE!”  None of us knew what nuclear waste was, of course, but we all screamed in terror as the potion started to smoke and my dad threw back his head and bellowed out evil laughter.

Can you believe how fun my dad was??  It's even more hilarious when you know him in person because he is quiet, intelligent, and introspective.  But deep down inside, he is a nut.  Either that or a really good sport and a total sucker for his daughters. 

In the midst of all the fun, he was sensitive to our needs and had serious talks with us at times. The first Sunday of every month, he had daddy-daughter “interviews” where he would take us individually and snuggle on the couch and talk to us about our lives.  Of course we loved it as kids, but as we became pre-teens, I remember groaning when he called us for our turn.  We thought it was so awkward (and it was), but he persisted and laughed good-naturedly at our moaning.  We even nicknamed our Daddy Interviews "Torture" and everyone in the family, including Dad, started referring to them as that.  "It's time for Torture, Girls!" ;) Despite our teasing, my dad wanted to make sure that he had at least one serious, one-on-one talk with us each month to get some sense of how we were doing emotionally and spiritually. 

In classic Dad fashion, he sometimes drifted off to sleep in our interviews.  Hahahaha!  That man works like a dog, and he is always always sleep-deprived.  It is a running joke in our family that if Dad sits down anywhere he will fall asleep (it has happened at major league baseball games and even on a Tilt-o-Whirl).  It kind of ruined the whole “undivided attention and interest in my daughter” vibe during our interviews when Dad started snoring beside us, but it just makes the story even better.  Hey, he was trying!

My dad is endlessly patient and calm, and it was very rare for him to lose his temper with us girls.  We always joked (and still do) that you know when Dad is annoyed or angry because his shoulders twitch.  Yet he would never yell or say anything unkind to us or to our mother. 

In 30 years of life, I only have one memory of my dad losing his temper with me.  I was about 11 years old (way too old to be having a temper tantrum) and in a fit of rage because my parents wouldn’t let me do something, I stomped up to my bedroom and slammed the door so hard that it broke.  Yes, the door broke.  I then heard my dad stomping up the stairs (not a good sign) and he came into my room, swatted me on the behind, and picked me up and put me in my bed.  Then he walked out.  I remember lying there and thinking, “Well, I deserved that.”  

As I relive all of these memories, I am reminded again and again that I truly had a beautiful childhood.  And that is all thanks to my amazing parents.  My dad was so loving, so patient, so fun, and so invested us.  I adore him, and there really aren't words to communicate how much I admire him.  I hope the memories that I share this week will capture that.  

HAPPY 60th BIRTHDAY WEEK, DAD!  I love you!!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Quotes from Mr. Personality

Look at that handsome boy.  Oh I love him!  He is so spunky and way, way too smart for his own good.  I want to put together a post of some of the parenting lessons I’ve learned from this strong-willed boy, but that will have to wait for another day.  Today, I just want to capture some quick “Noah-isms.”

-Noah is the life of the party wherever we go—people love him and know him.  At a recent church clean-up activity, he was amusing everyone, young and old, with his commentary as we picked dandelions, saying things like, “Wow! Look at this big bopper!”

-When I was nagging him one day to pick up his toys and come eat his lunch, he responded, “Just let me do my thing, Mom.  Just chill out, okay?”

-When we were all sitting around the breakfast table last week, he said out of the blue, “The sun is made out of hot burning gas, you know.”

-Noah hates it when I tell him that he can’t grow up.  I have no idea why.  But he always tells me, “That’s not a nice word!” and recently also added, “I’m gonna tell my teachers that you say naughty words!”  Hahaha!  

-When Noah found out that we were going to be in Denver for Callum’s birthday party, he excitedly suggested, “Mom, we can make Callum’s birthday cake!”  Then he thought better of it and said, “Well, maybe we should have Aunt Sarah and Jade make it so it actually looks good.”

-When he was being out of control at a Café Rio recently, I picked him up and started carrying him out to the car for a time out, and he was thrashing around violently in my arms shouting, “I don’t love you anymore!  I’m never going to love you again!!!” Everyone in the restaurant was amused at my expense.

-Noah loves to say the prayer over dinner, and he never fails to include this line: “Bless everyone in this whole world!”  It makes sense--he literally loves and talks to everyone he comes in contact with.  He is a people person.

-In the midst of a grumpy day recently, I lost my temper with Noah, and when I came back into the room, I heard him saying to his baby sister, “Punch Mom for me, Sally.  Just punch her--she’s always being mean to me!”  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  I actually burst out laughing because I realized I kind of deserved it--but seriously, so naughty!!!

-With the exception of when he encourages Sally to punch me, Noah is a really good big brother.  He adores Sally and always baby-talks her and gets the biggest grins out of her.  It’s the sweetest.  He says things like, “Hello there, chubby girl!  Hello there, my chubby-wubby.”  Let’s hope he never says that to any other women in his life!

-Sometimes when we drive by the temple, Noah wants to talk about marriage.  He asked the other day if he can marry me when he grows up.  I told him that I am already married, so he asked who is available. I listed off some of his little girl friends from church and school, and he thought about it for a moment, apparently unimpressed because his next question was, “Are those really all my options, Mommy?” 

-A favorite recent memory of Noah is definitely the 5K run we had at our church.  Noah wanted to wear one of the free race t-shirts, but it was an adult size large so it was massive on him.  We tucked it into his sweatpants, and as he raced along on his little strider bike, the shirt filled with air and billowed out like a fat-suit.   He was trying so hard to keep up with the big kids so he was cruising ahead of me and Ryan, his legs flying out to the sides, his head tucked in determination.  It is a picture I will never forget. 

-When we were at a friend’s house, Noah was being very demanding and shouting for a juice box.  As my friend headed into her pantry, I said, “Noah you can’t have one until you ask nice.”  He looked at me and said, “Why?  She’s getting it for me anyway.”  Ooooh such a stinker!  Can you see how I have my hands full??

I love him too much.  Most days he’s really very pleasant to be around, but he has this defiant streak that I’m not quite sure what to do about.  Ryan and I are doing our best to be consistent and loving, and I feel like we are learning which things to let go of and which things to insist upon.  I am a better, more patient, less controlling mother because Noah is my firstborn.  He is good for me!

Couldn’t possibly love this handsome boy more! 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

"Being Old and Full of Days"

I am on the cusp of a new week.  Sunday night, the night when I sit down and look at the week ahead and make a "plan."  I always feel a little overwhelmed when I think about all the things I need to/would like to accomplish in the coming days, and yet I don't really know why.  Most of what I do doesn't have set deadlines.  

I think feeling overwhelmed is just part of my nature, but it's something that I consciously try to change about myself every single day.  I have always dreamed of being someone who is relaxed, spontaneous, present, and carefree--someone who is not busy and who people know they can call on a whim if they want to hang out or if they need to talk.  I am making progress on this goal, as I constantly try to simplify my life, say no to commitments that will make me stressed, and manage my time better.  But it's a work in progress.  I'm a work in progress.

In high school, I noticed that one of my best friends was starting to distance herself from me, and when I asked her why, she said, "Oh you're just so busy.  I don't want to be one more thing you have to fit in."  A little hurt, I responded, "But I would always make time for you!!"  I will never forget her response.  She looked at me seriously and, without an ounce of malice, said, "Rachel, no one wants to feel like their best friend is 'making time' for them."

I have never forgotten her words, and they are so so SO true.  So I am working on this.  

I want more than anything to be present with my kids.  I don't want to waste their baby years checking things off my to-do list.  I never want them to look back and feel like I simply squeezed them in between cleaning and projects and to-dos.  I recently heard a sermon in which a busy, young, wise mother was quoted as saying, "Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling.  You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps.  It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in.  It is what God gave you time for."

That last line has stayed with me, and I have thought of it often.  Motherhood is what God gave me time for.  

My days with the kids are simple and sometimes frustrating, but I have been praying lately that God will give me "eyes to see" the beauty in this current stage of my life--to see beyond the surface and to recognize the gifts underneath.  As I look around my house and see train tracks scattered across the floor and dirty baby bottles lining the kitchen counter, I try to see the blessings instead of the mess--the blessing of having a creative, active, thriving little boy underfoot and a snuggly, hungry, healthy baby girl in my arms.   

These days are precious.  They are also repetitive and mundane, but they are all pieces of the mosaic that will become my life--and they are pieces of the mosaic that will become my children's lives.

I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about who I am, who I have been, and who I want to be.  Sometimes I miss the "old Rachel" who adventured across the world and had endless energy to accomplish anything and everything (did I really start an international volunteer program while in the midst of my first year of teaching when I had 207 students??  WHO WAS THAT GIRL?!?!).  Sometimes I can't figure out how to reconcile the girl that I used to be with the girl that I am now--and yet I know in my heart that I am the same person with the same core beliefs, values, and characteristics.  How can I honor what has been and never forget it, while also honoring what is and what will be?

It was in that mindset that I recently discovered the last verse in the book of Job, and it has been a long time since a verse of scripture has spoken to me so directly.  As the final words to the story of an amazing life, the Bible simply says, "And Job died, being old and full of days."  

Understanding flooded over me as I read and reread those last few words: "Being old and full of days."  Each day of my life builds on the last.  I am full of days.  Each experience, each trial, each adventure, each joy, each sorrow, each friendship, each bedtime story read to Noah, each lullaby sung to Sally, each conversation snuggled up with Ryan--they become part of my foundation, they are still part of who I am.  

This image makes me happy--the idea of being full of days.  It gives me peace.  It helps me to cherish these routine moments at home with my kids, these days that are adding to the breadth of who I am becoming.  

A wild-haired Noah eating yogurt and watching a show.

A wiggly Sally, climbing all over her Daddy (who is always and forever reading a book).  

A messy house, full of the evidence of Noah's current favorites: trains and forts.  

Date nights with Ryan, holding hands and walking the trail at the bottom of the canyon as we discuss our children, his career, our hopes and dreams, our future.

These are the moments that I want to be full of when I reach the end of my lifetime.  This is who I want to be.  

Tonight as I head to bed, readying myself for the new week ahead, I am feeling comforted in the knowledge that nothing is ever lost.  Days build upon days, and moments build upon moments--the good and the bad, the ups and the downs--they all count, they all make me who I am.  

And when I die, I, like Job, will be old--and full to the brim with a lifetime of remembered and forgotten, meaningful and mundane, simple yet profound, days.  

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Walking on Water

Today is Easter, and I have been thinking about Christ all month.  I am somewhat amazed that the Easter traditions and activities that I planned to do with the kids this week actually worked out (!!!), and it was a spiritual, fun, peaceful week of learning for all of us.  I love when I am able to teach Noah about the things that matter most to me. 

About a month ago, I admitted on this blog that I was feeling burned out as a mother. The constant cycle of cleaning, diapering, meal-making, picking up, disciplining, dressing—it had just started to wear on me.  The day after day after day of the same mundane tasks, the constant effort to be patient, the helping get shoes on, the whining whining whining…I was suddenly just over it. 

I think this is normal, and I think all parents go through weeks of feeling especially worn out and frustrated—and then somehow, and sometimes without apparent reason, the fog lifts and life seems manageable again.

But one of the things that was weighing on me the most during that week or two of feeling utterly depleted was that I didn’t see an end-in-sight.  I thought, “Is this really what I have to look forward to for the next decade?  Being a stay-at-home mom and cleaning up messes for whining children?  I used to go to work and do something that I knew I was good at.  I used to feel accomplished and successful at the end of the day.  Now it’s impossible to measure how I am doing, and I just feel exhausted at the end of the day.  Do I really have to do all of this again tomorrow?”

Fortunately, my perspective changed one afternoon as I was reading Noah a book before his quiet time.  He had requested the Bible Stories book, and as I read to him about Peter walking on the water toward Jesus (Matthew 14:25-32), Noah asked me, “Why did he start to sink, Mama?”

Not thinking much of it, I said, “Because he stopped believing he could do it.  He took his eyes off of Jesus.  He looked around at the stormy waters and the wind, and he thought, ‘What am I doing??’ and he got discouraged and fearful, and he started to sink.”

All of the sudden, the words I was saying registered.  And I knew that there was probably a reason we had opened the book to that particular Bible story that afternoon.

I was like Peter.  I had taken my eyes off the Savior.  I had forgotten that these children of mine are a divine blessing from him, that my role as their mother is sacred.  When I had looked around at the storm and all of the challenges of motherhood, I’d started to sink.

This story can be universally applicable, I think.  We all have struggles and challenges of various types and degrees that leave us wondering, “Can I really do this?  Can I defy this storm and stay afloat another day?”

Yes.  Yes you can.  If you keep your eyes on the Savior, you can accomplish miracles and do things you would never imagine—things you could never hope to do without His help.  Doesn't mean it will always be easy, doesn't mean you will never feel discouraged; but it does mean that you will be able to make it through one more day if you simply keep your eyes on Him.

Snuggling Noah close, I read him the rest of that Bible story—how Peter called out to Jesus and He reached out His hand and pulled Peter back up to safety.  Something in my heart told me that I could do the same.  I could ask Christ to help me out of the pit of discouragement I was feeling.  I could reach out to Him, and He would be there to save me.

I am grateful beyond words for Him.  I am grateful that He loved me—me!—enough to suffer for my sins and my sorrows in the Garden of Gethsemane, to be tortured and then killed on the cross. I am infinitely grateful for His Resurrection, which means that I will get to be with Him again, with my mother again, with everyone whom I love on this earth again. 

He bore my griefs and He knows how to comfort and lift me in the midst of my sorrows—even the small ones, such as a discouraging week as a mother.  I have felt a difference this Easter season as I have turned to Him and kept my eyes on Him—and as I’ve tried to teach my family to do the same.

Thanks be to God for His unspeakable, unspeakable, gift.
                                                     2 Corinthians 9:15 

My favorite video that I showed Noah this week--so powerful.  Please watch!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Favorite Memories from January, February, and March

It feels too daunting to get caught up on this blog, to document every detail of our trips, traditions, and treasured moments these past few months.  But here are the highlights!

*Two family weekends at the cabin in Sun Valley when Ryan was working at the office and hospital there.  My dad even joined us for one of those weekends, and it was so great to see him interacting with my kiddos.  He is the best Bapa.  One evening, I took him on a daddy-daughter date to a fancy restaurant at the top of the mountain.  Funnest.

*Family day trips and outings on Ryan's day off.  We try to do something a little "extra" and fun that day of the week, such as a trip to the nearby hot springs, a family hike, a father-son ski day, or a family bowl-off at the local alley (I lost, yes, even to my three-year-old).  These family outings are some of my favorite moments of all and stand out to me even more than the trips and holidays.  I love letting go of all distractions and spending a few hours with my people.

*A little holiday magic with the reappearance of the "half birthday cake" and Secret Cupid!

Thrilled to be 3 1/2!
This outfit kills me.  Especially the belt.

"Heart attacking" Daddy's car!
*A weekend in San Diego with my sisters--kid-free!  We ate way too much delicious food and spent way too much time talking and laughing.  I think this should be an annual tradition, ladies!

We are lovely.
Good eats, good peeps
*Lazy days at home with Noah.  (And Sally of course--but that goes without saying!)  Noah is my little buddy and my little helper lately, and we have fun hanging out and getting stuff done.  He helps me here and there, watches too many shows on the iPad, makes lots of messes (his most recent thing is fort-building and he likes to use every pillow and blanket in the house!), accompanies me on walks to see "our horse," Little Brown, and just keeps me company and makes me laugh/drives me batty depending on the day and moment within the day.  I love him.  I don't know what I would do without him.
One of his many forts
And another, built with a buddy
Little Brown is our friend
He insisted on teaching his steam engine how to make macaroni and cheese
*A massive organization project!  It all started when I organized the pantry as one of Ryan's Secret Cupid gifts--and then it spiraled out of control from there.  With Ryan's help, I completely organized our entire house, including the garage and laundry room.  It feels heavenly.  As Noah said to me one day, "Bins, bins, bins!  What's with you and bins, Mommy?"  Hahaha!  I do adore a clutter-free space.  I have problems.

*A trip to Denver to see my sister and her husband perform as featured soloists in the Easter oratorio "Lamb of God."  It was a fantastic production, and I was so glad to be able to be there to support Sarah and Logan--they were incredible.  I felt the Spirit and love of Christ touch me so deeply as I watched the production.  It felt like a once-in-a-lifetime moment to be listening to such beautiful sacred music for the first time, sung by two of the people I love most. 

I decided to make a week-long trip out of my visit to Denver, so my kids got to spend lots of time with their cousins (Noah even got to go to Callum's Wild Kratt's birthday party!), their great grandparents (who still get on the floor and play with my kids--be still my heart), and their aunts and Bapa.  As exhausting and chaotic as it is to travel with the kids (especially without Ryan!), it's so worth it to see my family.  I miss being close to them.

Noah is a little possessive of his favorite cousin
See?  He's giving that kid with his arm around Callum the stink-eye
Sally even got a "Creature Power Vest" :)
I love them both more than words could possibly express
Granny and Noah--always playing "tracks"
Twinsies at the zoo
I'm a sucker and bought them matching snakes.  I couldn't resist--they were just too cute with them.
*A weekend in Utah on our way home from Denver.  We got to stay with Derek and Alli and celebrate D's 34th with the family, and we got to have a picnic at the park one evening with Katie and Drew.  Double win!  We love all of these good people in our lives and know that we are beyond blessed.

So there you have it: the highlight reel of Quarter One of the Nielsons' 2015.  I have much more to say about what I have felt and learned these past few months, particularly about motherhood and being present with my kiddos, but that will have to wait for another post!