All Happiness and All Grief

It has been so hard to actually come here and write. My emotions have been up and down for about two weeks now. I have had some really great and wonderful things happen… And I’ve had some really terrible, tragic things happen. Not to me, but to people I care about and love greatly, and it has broken my heart.

I’m so happy to announce the end of such a successful winter guard season. My guard won first place at their last regular competition, then competed at state championships where again, they won first place in their division. It wasn’t our best performance, but it was enough. The girls worked so hard this season. My staff and I wanted this win not just for them, but for us. I felt like I really had something to prove as I am not part of the “in crowd” of guard coaches. I run my program differently than most people do. I never marched drum corps. In fact, I was never a member of a winter guard!! This whole activity is new to me, and I wanted to come out and make a statement. I think I did. I’m disappointed a bit in some of our local judges. I felt like there were a couple who took an instant dislike to our show and no matter what we did, it wasn’t going to be good enough for them. Their scores did hurt us in the end. However, the majority of the judges seemed to really love us. I am very excited for marching band in the fall and next year’s winter guard. I hope we only get stronger. (And I hope next year our state doesn’t “cheap out” and actually brings in some judges who haven’t seen us at every local competition all season. Who aren’t invested in particular programs because they are on staff at those schools. Who aren’t part of “the club”, as I call it.)

My pregnancy is moving along just fine. It’s definitely harder than my others, but knowing this is my last pregnancy also makes me want to try to enjoy it for what it is. I may be tired and sore all the time (seriously, I’m in SO MUCH pain!!), but there is nothing in the world like feeling that little being inside me and knowing I’m making a human. I can’t wait to meet our little guy!! I honestly can’t believe I’m about to have another baby… another boy! Wow! I’m going to be a mom of FOUR boys! It’s just… trippy. Can’t really think of a better word. It’s amazing and scary and wonderful and frightening. Okay, so none of that is any different from any other pregnancy. 🙂

While I was at winter guard championships, I got a devastating phone call. A close friend’s son passed away. When I got the call, there were no details yet. We have a group of women who are pretty tight, and they didn’t want me to come home, get online, and suddenly see everything posted all over Facebook. No one wanted to send me into an early labor. I appreciated that. So I got a call from one of the other women. What made it worse was knowing that this little boy’s father was killed just one year earlier. I was devastated for my friend and for her young daughter. How could so much tragedy come to just one family?? When I got home, I found out this little 2 year old boy was being a normal child… a tragic accident that could happen to anyone. My friend has asked for privacy, so I won’t go into details. Just know that kids are kids and sometimes, no matter what you do, things happen. I’m still completely broken hearted over this. My friend is amazing and has said she doesn’t blame God or anything. She knows tragedy and fate has had a heavy hand in her life. She is fighting to stay strong for her daughter, who needs all the prayers and support we can give one so young. My friend doesn’t seem to question, but I sure do. All I could ask for days was “WHY?!”

And then, not even a week later, Julia posted the news about her daughter, Liz. Again, another child being a child. A freak and tragic accident. We could all only pray, as Liz was in the PICU. Then, exactly one week after the loss of one friend’s son, Julia and Paul lost Liz. I called my mom to let her know (she knew Paul from when he and I were classmates at Ricks, and my mom grew to know and love Julia through her blog). My mom said, “Oh, after everything they’ve gone through with their son’s health, it just doesn’t seem fair…” I interrupted her. “How is ANY of this EVER fair?” I am devastated and I am angry. I now know two families in the space of one week who have lost children. Doesn’t matter what the circumstances were. It’s just plain NOT FAIR.

I am so touched, however, by the unselfish generosity that Paul and Julia have bestowed on four strangers. With their 12 year old daughter’s death, two people will receive sight, one young man will walk, and a baby has received a new heart valve. Could there be anything more beautiful?

Most of you who read my blog know Paul and Julia, or you know my other friend. You all know the emotions I am feeling. We are all devastated.

I can’t help but feel a bit guilty. I’m trying not to, but I still do. How can I find such happiness in my own life when there has been so much despair for these two families? And right now, I AM finding happiness.

Aiden and Dallin and Parker are my three sons. They drive me crazy, but they fill me with happiness. I’ve been reading “Holes” to them before bed each night, and it’s been so fun! They have all looked forward to this mother/son time and when it doesn’t happen because I am gone for the evening or it just wasn’t a good day and every one is getting into bed an hour late, they are disappointed. They cry and they beg. I’m disappointed, too. It’s a lot of fun to experience things with them. I went on a field trip today just to be with Dallin. I had to miss out on one with him recently because they could only take a small amount of chaperones and I was so sad! I have never missed a field trip with Aiden or Dallin. Today was hard (it was the Zoo… lots of walking, hot weather, etc…), but it was still SO FUN. I am signed up to go with Aiden’s class to the science center in a couple of weeks. I get to volunteer in Aiden’s classroom each week and it’s just fun to sit and grade papers and watch the class go. I love that they want me there and Aiden is really upset if something comes up and I can’t come to his class. I love spending all this time with Parker just before he goes to Kindergarten. It’s a good thing we have this baby coming because otherwise I would be SO lonely when he goes to school next year! He’s my little buddy. We read together and go to the park and run errands and he is always asking me the most interesting questions, like “When Arizona was the Wild West, what did the first people do to find food?” and “Do we still have birthdays after we come back from Heaven?” We sing along together to the radio (seriously, you should hear this kid sing Adele. SO cute!!) and read books together and race up the stairs (he always wins). These boys fill me up with happiness.

And then there’s Ches. Our 14th anniversary is coming up in a few short weeks, and I can’t believe how much I am still in love with this guy. Sometimes I can still look at him and my heart skips a beat. When he’s not near me, I’m sad. It’s true. He’s about to go on a trip with his band and orchestra, and more than anything else, I’m sad to not have him in bed, snoring the night away. I love just sitting next to him on the couch. I love him teasing me the way he does (mostly). He’s funniest guy I know. He’s just plain fun. He makes me want to be better. Always and forever, I want to be a better person just because I can be… for him. We are so happy together. I love it.

Where am I going with this? I dont’ know. I have so many insane pregnancy hormones and emotions going on!! It’s hard to jump between the happy and the sad. And I just had to spit it out there for all of you to read.

A Sunday Ritual

It’s funny the things we find ourselves making into a ritual. Just something you do over and over and don’t realize it’s what you always do until one day you miss doing just that and you feel weird all day. Like something is missing. So you sit down and start thinking and figuring out what it is that feels so off. Then it dawns on you… and you realize you have a ritual.

Every Sunday I read Post Secret. I have been reading it for years now. I find the secrets funny, sad, revealing, obscene, honest, over-thought, under-thought… pretty much everything. They run the spectrum. They make me laugh and cry. They make me think. Mostly, I end up feeling just a little bit sadder than when I first clicked on the site.

To remedy that, I now follow Post Secret with Cake Wrecks. Sunday on Cake Wrecks isn’t their normal messed-up cake site. They have “Sunday Sweets”, which are beautiful, fun, whimsical, clever, and extremely well done cakes by professionals who actually know what they are doing. There is a different theme each week. It’s so fun to see these creations by some really talented artists. And I admit, I often love the commentary even more then the cakes. Jen and John (hubby of Jen) are just super funny and clever and probably have taken a restraining order out on my stalking self by now.

I was going to make a secret to send in to Post Secret, but since I’m telling you, I guess it won’t work. It’s not a secret anymore.

Every Sunday I log on to Post Secret and get sad. Then I log on to Cake Wrecks’ Sunday Sweets and cheer myself up.

Every single Sunday, without fail.

Laying Down the Law

I have had it. I try and I try to make myself clear to my children in my expectations. I try to give rewards when expectations are fulfilled. I have made out nice, type written, attractive-looking chore charts and lists. I have set timers and put on loud music. I have threatened, cajoled, promised, cried, screamed, pled, whispered, and begged in order to get things done.

All that ends now. I’m sticking with “The List” because when they follow The List, it works. But I’m serious this time. They don’t follow The List, they don’t get any privileges. None. We’re talking no screen time (computer or TV). No toys. No books. No friends. No park. No cub scouts. No sleepovers. No extra school activities. Nothing until The List has been completed.

I should not have to yell at my children 25 times in the space of 15 minutes to remind them to put on their clothes for school. I should not have to yell at them 25 times in the space of 15 minutes to brush their teeth. A 9 year old and a 6 year old are more than capable of picking out their own clothes and getting dressed. They don’t need me to sit in their room and make sure it’s getting done. I refuse to do it. And if that means they are late to school… so be it. I can not do everything for them. They know how to read. They know how to follow The List.

So why don’t they do it? Do they enjoy being late for school? Do they enjoy me being so upset that I lecture them the whole 4 miles drive to school? Do they enjoy having things taken away from them? I do not understand why they can’t just follow a few simple instructions.

I don’t like being the mom that has to yell in order to get anything done (and don’t tell me to whisper and talk calmly. I have tried that. Many, many times have I tried that. It. Doesn’t. Work. Maybe it works with your kids, but not mine.). I don’t like being the mom who’s last words as she drops her kids off to school are “run before the gate gets locked” rather than “have a good day! I love you!” I don’t like being the mom that never lets her kids invite friends over because they haven’t made their bed or picked up their Legos from three days ago. I don’t like being the mom that I am.

It’s my own fault. I do too much for them and can’t relinquish enough control. And then I just plain snap so easily. I want to be the nice, happy mom that is able to get her kids to fulfill the expectations without anger. I want this last month and a half of my pregnancy to be a joyful time with the three boys as we prepare for the baby. I don’t want to be full of stress and contention.

This morning I said to the boys that I’m laying down the law. They WILL do their chores. They WILL follow The List. Or they get nothing until The List has been completed. We’ll see how it goes. It feels like more of the same… I have been laying down the law for years. The boys do great for a few days… then go back to old habits. I let it happen.

Something’s got to change. Something’s got to give. I just don’t know what.

When Abnormal *IS* Normal!

As you may be aware, we have really been struggling with Aiden. He is very behind in his school work and just not performing up to his potential. No where near his potential. It’s frustrating how unfocused he can be. It’s disconcerting in so many ways. And it’s a major reason that we’re pursuing the ADD/ADHD route.

Last night I kept Aiden up until 11:11 pm, working on research and a rough draft. The rough draft was due last Friday. His final draft is due tomorrow. We will be up late again tonight because he will turn this paper in on time. I have been so overwhelmed by the amount of work he has to do and doesn’t get done. I even had a panic attack about the paper yesterday! I do not feel that I should be there, holding his hand constantly just so he can get his regular homework or school work done. He is 9 and a half years old and in the 4th grade. He should be able to get it done, right? He is given plenty of time at school and plenty of time at home to get the various assignments done. Yet things still get lost and forgotten. More like everything still gets lost and forgotten. I am at my wit’s end.

Today I got to volunteer in Aiden’s classroom again. I walked in and his teacher said, “How are you at math?” Normally I feel shaky, but some boys needed help on a math packet (that I had insisted on Aiden bringing home earlier in the week so he could get our help if needed and get it done early, thereby giving him more class time to work on stuff he kept leaving in his desk…), so I said, “Oh, I can do that!”

Please remember that Aiden is in a self-contained Gifted classroom. This means that ALL of the children in this class are exceptionally bright kids. They kind of scare me with their collective intelligence sometimes! However, it also means that each of these kids has different personal, social, mental, or emotional issues they have to deal with because of the “Gifted-ness”. It can be so fun to work with their fast little brains, but it can be very frustrating at times. And the level of work they do is so far advanced of what I did at that age!! Wow. It’s hard to keep up with them, and I’m just so grateful for the teacher in this class because she is so wonderful for these kids. She really gets them. She likes each and every one of these kids! She works so well with and for them. I love to watch her interact with the kids and I love to watch her teach.

Anyway, so I took three boys out in the hall to a table so we could work without distraction. These boys really didn’t need my help (other than an initial “How many mL are there in a liter? I know you don’t like working with metrics. Neither do I. We’re American. But Aiden’s dad is Canadian and he totally helped us, so it’s easy. Let’s think this through…” Quite comical, actually.). They are smart and can problem solve and think and they really knew what they were doing for the entire packet. No, what I really had to do was sit next to them and say, “Do your work. Do your work. Got that question done? Good. Do the next one. No, don’t talk to Jaedin. Do your work. Darius, do not go get another drink of water. Do the next question. Yes, Jaedin, I know he’s distracting you. Aidan D., stop distracting Jaedin. No, Darius, you can not have a second one of Rachel’s birthday donuts. You can finish your question. Aiden D., get a pencil you can actually write with and then finish the page.”

It was exactly — I really mean exactly — like working with my own Aiden. It’s constant redirection and focusing. It’s a constant presence to make sure they get the work done. Like I said, they are all smart enough they can do the work with no help. They just need someone there making sure they get it done.

After my volunteer time was up I went to pick up Parker from preschool. I was talking to a mom at the park after preschool. This mom also has a daughter in Aiden’s class. I mentioned that Aiden had to stay up late to finish his rough draft and how we’ve been spending so much time trying to play catch up that I think he’s getting behind in a lot of his current work. Best thing I heard? She said, “SAME HERE!!” She had to keep her daughter up late to finish one assignment a couple of days ago and her daughter just turned in another major assignment (that was due weeks ago… and one that we want Aiden to redo since he only got 11 out of 52 points) just today. Her daughter kept asking, “Can’t I just go lie down for a minute? Can’t I have a short break?” It is exactly like Aiden!!

The moral to my story? I do not at all think it’s normal for kids to be this unfocused on a regular basis. However, Aiden isn’t the only one. All of these kids are abnormal, thus making them normal. It makes me breathe so much easier to know that we are all fighting the same fight.

Oh, guess what? I’m going to win, too. Aiden is being taught to be responsible and focused. It will work. I will win. There is no other option.

Working Dad Dilemma

We’ve all heard of the Mommy Wars and the dilemma mothers have with whether or not they should work or stay home full time. I realized the other day I can fully count myself as a working mother now. No, I don’t work full-time and I am mostly home during the day, but I teach color guard and private flute lessons. It takes me away from my family four afternoons a week and most Saturdays. I also get paid. It’s not much, but I am able to contribute somewhat to my family’s finances. I am not just a stay-at-home-mom anymore. However, this is not what I really want to talk about today. I want to talk about the working dads.

I was thinking that while we just expect fathers to be the primary bread winner in our family (because traditionally, that’s exactly the case. For centuries it’s been up to the husband and father to work and earn a living, to support his family), does that mean working fathers don’t also have regrets about working and missing out on things at home? I think a lot of them do. I just don’t think they are “allowed” to talk about it like wives and mothers are.

I think mostly about my own husband, of course. He has a very demanding, very busy job. He works about 75 hours a week and gets paid for 40. He puts his heart and soul into his job. He has to. He’s a high school band teacher. It’s what they do. However, it doesn’t come without a lot of sacrifice.

Ches’ job is not one for a family man. He is rarely home in the evening or on the weekends. Even when he is, he is doing work to prepare for classes or answering calls from boosters or studying scores of new music or watching videos of other marching bands… The work is never done. I understand there are lots of jobs that are demanding of home time. However, Ches and I are really feeling the sacrifice now that we have 3 (almost 4) kids… and those kids are old enough now to have their own activities that kind of need a dad. Yes, moms can do things like Cub Scouts and after school sports and the like, but sometimes a kid just needs his dad. Mom can’t do everything, all the time. And when you are in a two parent home, Mom should do everything, all the time.

We have been talking to each other for a while now and what to do to make a change. So Ches can be home and see the kids, have dinner with the family, attend Pack Meeting, or whatever. Basically, we have two options: Ches can completely change careers, or Ches can teach at a different level (middle school doesn’t have marching band, jazz band, pep band, winter guard, winter drumline, etc., so it’s a lot less demanding on the out of school time stuff).

Now, if we went with option 1 (completely change careers), what would Ches do? We spent years and tens of thousands of dollars on his schooling. Ches has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in music education. He is not trained for anything else. Oh, and he’s good at it, by the way. He’s a successful teacher and his students (most of them) seem to really love him. He also loves teaching. No, he doesn’t love the long hours and he gets frustrated when he gives his all and the students don’t prepare (there’s a concert tonight and festival tomorrow and Ches is quite discouraged right now…). But over all, he really, really loves his job. He loves those kids. He cares for his students on a very personal level, too. How lucky is he to have a job where he loves what he does and he’s good at it, too? So option 1 just doesn’t seem likely.

Option 2 (switch to teaching middle school) is a lot more likely. He spent 3 years teaching middle school in Idaho (while teaching high school), a year of just middle school here in Arizona, and then two years teaching middle school while teaching high school. He can do it. Like I mentioned before, middle school is a lot less time consuming because there just plain aren’t the myriad of extra activities for the students that he has to be in charge of. The biggest problem with option 2 is the money thing. We all know teachers don’t get paid much. Honestly, we are barely scraping by (thank goodness for tax refunds… we are able to catch up on the bills!), and Ches makes as much as he does because of the extra activities. He gets a small stipend for each activity. It doesn’t adequately compensate for all the extra time he puts in, but it’s something. In middle school, he doesn’t have that opportunity. On the other hand, he would have more time to get another part time job or maybe work as an assistant with a high school marching band or whatever. Then again, we’re back to him not being home with his own family, like he wants, because he has to make that extra money. Sigh. I feel like we’re just running around in circles.

In church the last few weeks the topic has come up quite a bit, actually. The feeling I’m getting over all is that they are telling men to stop sacrificing their family time for their jobs. Even if you have to change jobs or careers, you have to do whatever you can to be home with the kids and your wife. Your family needs you at home. Ches and I have been feeling that for a while now anyway, but it suddenly just seems to be thrown in our face everywhere we turn.

Oh, the other problem is that once Ches makes whatever changes to be home with the family, doesn’t that just free him up to have more involved church callings? Ches was saying that he remembers his own dad not spending the evenings at work, rather most of his evenings he was gone for church things. I’m not saying that’s bad, and there are lots of things that need to be done. I appreciate the sacrifice the leaders of the youth make for the teenagers, whether through Young Women’s or Scouting. I know a bishop has a LOT to do to run the ward. But if the point of making this change is to spend more time with his family, how is he supposed to do that when he’s gone several nights a week to do things for the church? How much family life should be sacrificed for church callings? (Am I a total apostate for even asking this question???)

Working dads have the same dilemmas as working moms do. Budgeting time and resources to make the family unit run smoothly is really hard. There is always going to be a lot of sacrifice, whether it’s the job that suffers, the kids that suffer, or the church attendance that suffers. Something has to give. And knowing what it is that has to be cut down or taken out completely? That’s the hardest decision of all.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

I tried a new-to-me farmer’s market recently and came home with 2 pints of blueberries, 2 pounds of strawberries, a pint of raspberries, the largest Granny Smith apples I have ever seen, a head of lettuce, two bunches of bananas, and a humungous bag of broccoli. All for $16. Yay me!

I love broccoli! Fresh broccoli, to be precise. I love steamed, fresh broccoli. But even what I got was too much for my family and I had to have a way to quickly cook it up before it went bad (Yes, I could have frozen it. But I didn’t. So there).

One of my favorite soup recipes I’ve ever tried was a broccoli cheese soup. I loved it. Ches loved it. The kids loved it (this was years ago, before they started boycotting anything I made that doesn’t rhyme with “lickin’ buggets”). I looked around for the recipe, but couldn’t find it. So, after looking at several recipe blogs, I decided to make my own. And it’s my favorite so far. Ches couldn’t get over how good it was! I feel so Molly Mormon. 🙂

So here’s my soup and here’s what I did:

First, I chopped up all the broccoli I had and put it in my biggest pot. I have no idea how much broccoli it was and I didn’t bother measuring it. Sorry. (I’m not good with measurements, so your guess is as good as mine)

Then I added enough water to the pot to just cover the broccoli. In this case, it was 8 cups of water. I added 7 teaspoons of chicken bouillon, 2 teaspoons garlic salt, and one small onion (finely chopped). I let it come to a boil and then cook until the broccoli was tender, which was about 10 more minutes.

Once the broccoli was tender, I added 3 cups of milk, two cans of cream of celery soup, about 4 cups of shredded cheddar cheese, some salt and pepper, and let it all come to another boil. Then I let it simmer for about 10 or 15 minutes. And then… voila! It’s all done! Normally I like it a bit thicker (so add more cheese), but this was pretty tasty as it was. Also, it’s really filling. I only needed one bowl to feel full and had to talk myself out of a second bowl.

I’m such a Julia Child now, huh? Bon appetit!

Irritated

Is it part of pregnancy that I find myself so overly irritated by just about every one around me and everything that is happening? I am SO annoyed. SO irritated. SO bothered.

As mentioned in the comments on my last post, I feel like I have to justify all of my thoughts or actions. WHY? I do not. Guess what? I’m 35 years old. I pretty much know what I’m doing by now. I still make tons of mistakes, but WHY should I have to explain away my actions, my thoughts, my desires? This is not my first pregnancy. This is actually my fifth. This will be my fourth child born. My fourth c-section. I think I know a little bit of what I’m doing. However, I have people around me constantly trying to give me advice and tell me how I should be feeling and what I should be expecting. Ummmm, no.

We don’t even need to get into politics. I try to keep my mouth shut because no one ever agrees on politics. Why can’t people just trust that I’m going to try to make the best decisions after carefully studying and thinking out the process? We have our Arizona primary coming up. I got my sample ballot in the mail yesterday. I’m pretty sure I know who I’m going to vote for, but I’m not positive yet because there is still more to look at. There always is. (Oh no. I just realized that by advertising I will be voting in the primary now everyone knows I’m registered Republican. Let the flaming commence…) I hate politics. I’m sick of the presidential election. I’m sick of the bickering and fighting and the stupid things that are getting in the way of the actual issues (seriously… Romney speaks French fluently. Why is this a problem again? Just one example of how the politicians are taking small things and blowing them up when they never mattered in the first place).

I’m sick of being me right now. I’m sick of feeling like I’m not allowed to have an opinion on anything because I don’t speak as firmly or loudly as someone else.

I’m constantly annoyed by being told how, when, and why to do things. I’m a big girl. I can figure it out. If I need help, I’ll ask. These aren’t big things. It’s inconsequential things, like how to clean the blinds or where to put my kids’ beds. What do I actually need help and advice on? How to deal with doctors and ADHD diagnoses and major anger issues in a 6 year old… And I’m pretty sure on those I have asked for help from certain people and I completely appreciate their advice. If your child does not have ADHD and/or is highly Gifted, you have no idea what I’m going through so stop telling me things like, “He’ll just have to learn how to focus. You can’t hold his hand.” You. Don’t. Know. (Some of you reading this really do know what I’m going through, so of course I’m not talking to you in this paragraph. I need your advice and I need to hear how you dealt with things and what your child did. cough*Karen*cough)

You know what doesn’t irritate me? Support. Kind, loving words from my real friends. The ones who say things like, “I love you. You’re doing a great job. This will come to an end. I’ll pray for you.” I’d love it if you could bring me a yummy sandwich for lunch and say, “Hey, how are you feeling today? Can I take Parker so you can take a nap?” But that’s just not going to happen. My real friends are all too far away. They are the ones reading this now.

Oh yeah. I’m irritated that all y’all live far away from me. I can’t be there physically to help you, either. It drives me batty. I want to be able to be the shoulder to cry on, the one to come do your dishes or take your kids. The one to say “hey, I found this job listing from whatever company around the corner. Maybe it could help?” But no. We’re all spread out from coast to coast, in different countries, and it’s hard to not have that physical presence sometimes. So I’m irritated by that. Don’t get me wrong. I’m loving the support that I do get from each of you, my real and true friends. You are amazing and give me just what I need, when I need it. But it gets lonely sometimes when you have to stare at a computer screen in order to feel any love.

And now you know. I’m irritated, annoyed, and kind of angry on a pretty regular basis. Three more months and then this baby will be here and let’s hope I don’t have to deal with PPD this time so I can move on to being a happy mother again.

Boys Vs. Girls

It shouldn’t be a contest, but apparently it is. Everyone seems to expect that because I have three boys and I’m pregnant again that I want a little girl. Everyone seems to think that they have to wish pink on me. Everyone is very vocal about hoping that I finally get the daughter I am “obviously” trying for.

Let me make myself very clear on this. I was not trying to have a girl. I was not trying to have another baby. We thought we were done. It’s been over 5 years, after all, since the last baby. I don’t get pregnant easily. I don’t like being pregnant. This is a surprise. A happy one (I *do* love newborn babies!!), but a surprise nonetheless.

Also, I love my boys. Very, very much. I love having all boys. Yes, they are messy and loud and active doesn’t even begin to describe the boys. I love having Star Wars toys and Legos and cars and trucks and dinosaurs spread throughout the house. I hate ironing, but I love getting those crisp, white shirts on them each Sunday and fighting about whether or not they should wear a tie (the answer is always yes, by the way). Yes, I feel outnumbered in the house, but I love being the only girl. It’s what I know.

Do I want this baby to be a girl? Not really. Like I said… I know boys. I am a mom of boys. I am used to boys. I know how to change boy diapers and how to comb boy hair and where to find the cute and fun boy clothes. I know what boy toys to buy and what boy books to read to them. I know BOYS.

I will admit to having a desire for a daughter. I want to put bows in her hair and dress her up in pink plaid or cordouroy dresses. I love cute little Mary Jane shoes and white tights. I want a daughter to buy a prom dress for. To take to dance lessons and have in my color guard. I want to be able to go wedding dress shopping with my daughter someday. Several months before I got pregnant Ches caught me watching “Say Yes To The Dress” on Netflix and asked me why I was crying. “Because I’ll never have the experience of watching my daughter try on wedding dresses!” He was mystified and said, “But you’ll have daughters in law. You can go with them.”

“It’s not the same,” I answered. You see, while I am amazingly blessed to have a mother-in-law who I love dearly and who seems to be pretty fond of me, I know that is not the case for everyone. What if my sons marry girls who don’t want to have anything to do with me? Or don’t respect me? Or just plain don’t like me? What if I don’t like them??? What I have with Heide seems to be rare. I love her, I respect her, I want her to be a part of our lives. From talking with my friends, that is the exception more than the rule. That makes me sad.

Having a daughter is different than having a son. Teenage girls are SO different from boys. I work with teenage girls. I love my girls. You have no idea how much I love them and I try to keep track of them after they leave me. But I come home from work and then I whisper to my belly, “Please be a boy. Please be a boy.”

Girls are just so full of drama. Believe me, I know. I am a girl! When boys have a problem with someone, they punch it out and are done. Either they are friends again or they aren’t. Doesn’t matter. They are done. When girls have a problem, they talk to their other friends. They spread gossip and play mind games. They hold grudges. For yeeeeaaaaarrrrrssss. I am still upset at the girl “friend” of mine who, in 1994, sat down next to me in AP Biology II and said out of the blue, “Even though you’re Mormon and going to Hell, I’ll still be friends with you.” Oh, and then a year later, when my boyfriend and I broke up because we were going to universities like 2000 miles away from each other, she KISSED him that very night. Not cool. So yeah, I’m still holding a grudge. You know the movie “Mean Girls”?? That’s exactly how girls are. In middle school, high school, college, the work force… it just doesn’t end. I don’t want that in my house. I don’t want a girl because I can’t handle that kind of drama.

Boys are easy to dress. Blue jeans and a t-shrt and they’re good. Girls have to have “outfits”. And yes, there are tons of cute things out there that I drool over every time I go to the store, but the thought of having to actually buy any of that scares the heck out of me! Certain shirts with certain pants. Skirts and dresses. Casual skirts, dressy dresses. And the HAIR. My boys are lucky if we even comb their hair in the morning (well, Aiden likes his hair long, so we definitely have to brush and comb it every day…), but with girls? Brush, comb, style. Every stinking day so they don’t look like paupers going to school.

And then there are just the looks. This is going to make me sound so shallow, but it’s something I have thought a lot about. I just hope I can type out properly what I am thinking.

There is a certain standard of what is considered pretty, beautiful, cute, or whatever when it comes to females. I feel like it’s a lot more strict and a lot harder to be truly attractive as a girl. Males don’t have those same standards. I mean, how many times do we watch a TV show and the husband is this awkward looking, over-weight guy, but the wife is always super thin and super hot? Men can be downright ugly as long as they are smart and funny and friendly. Women have to beautiful no matter what.

I was a skinny, scrawny, nerdy, awkward little thing. I felt very keenly from a young age that I didn’t measure up. I never had clothes that fit me properly. I remember hanging around after church with all the kids in the gym, running around, waiting for our parents to finish gabbing so we could go home and have lunch. The older girls would play with the younger girls. You know, swing them around or play tag or whatever. I noticed, however, that the older girls only played with certain younger girls. The younger girls that wore the pretty, frilly dresses and had their hair done in perfect curls and intricate braids. These younger girls were “cute” and “pretty” already, by the age of 5 or 6. And other people noticed it. I wasn’t one of those girls. No one EVER swung me around. I was easily overlooked. Of course, my memory (like any distant memory) is flawed and it may not at all have been how I perceived it. But it was my perception. In middle school I had bad skin and a bad perm. In high school I was “one of the guys” for so long, I honestly didn’t know how to react when I was asked out on a date for the first time. (I thought he was joking. I shot him down. Big time. In front of half the band. I’ll never know if it was real. We never went out. I couldn’t figure out why someone would WANT to go out with me!) I just never was one of the pretty girls, no matter what my mom said to me.

I don’t want that for my daughter. I don’t want her to feel awkward and ugly at age 6 or 16. I’m scared of the standards our society has set out for beauty for girls and I just plain don’t want to deal with it. I don’t have the best body image of myself, and I don’t want to be a bad example to her because I feel so fat and ugly and unsure of myself at age 35. I’m scared of eating disorders. I’m scared of outside influences. I’m scared of my influence.

And now you know. I don’t want a girl. I want another boy.

I’ll find out in probably another 2 weeks. And if it’s a girl, I WILL rejoice and look forward to all the great things a girl will bring to our family. For now, however, I will continue to hope for another boy. I don’t want to hear another word about it.

Life Lesson: You Never Left Junior High

True story. No matter how old we are, we’ve never left junior high. I’m 35 years old, but I still feel as insecure as a 7th grader. I think I’m all grown up and the women around me have also grown up, but no. It’s all the same.

A couple of weeks ago I went to the park for our “official park day”. I pick Parker up from preschool and we walk across the street where we know all the kids and moms from church. It’s supposed to be fun. I don’t usually have a lot of fun, but I’m there for Parker. He loves it. I try to make an effort. I do. I just don’t feel comfortable around most of these women, try as I might. I know it’s just one-sided, but if you don’t feel like you fit in, why push yourself, you know?

Anyway, I sat there for an hour, listening to conversations where I had little to contribute, and trying to just be friendly and happy and enjoy the good weather. The women then commented on my pregnancy, and one woman asked, “So, are you having a baby shower?”

I thought it kind of an odd question. I mean, the baby isn’t due for months yet, we don’t know the gender, and it’s not like you throw yourself a baby shower, right? But, whatever. So I just answered with an, “I don’t know…”

Woman number two pipes in with, “Well, you want to know what the baby is, right? So people can buy blue blankets or pink blankets. You don’t want green or yellow. That’s just ugly.”

Ummm, okay. I like green and yellow. I’m fine with gender neutral things. But whatever.

So this whole other conversation is going on and on about how I need to know the gender of the baby (seriously folks, not my fault I have such an active baby that was moving too much during the 19 week ultrasound and we couldn’t get a look!! Also, not my fault that the doctor won’t try again until my 28 week ultrasound. Like I can afford to just have extra ultrasounds anyway. We can be patient… so can you!). And while the conversation was directed toward me and about me, I still felt like I wasn’t actually part of the conversation. I couldn’t get a word in!

Woman number one asks me again, “So, are you going to have a baby shower?”

Are you fishing for an invitation or something? Geez. I decided to be a little snarky. “Well, I don’t know because it’s not like I can go up to someone and say Hey, will you throw me a baby shower?

I got the desired chuckles and thought that would be the end of it. (Or perhaps an offer to throw me a shower? Because I have nothing for this baby!! I know it’s baby number 4, but my personal belief is *every* baby should be showered. And it’s been years since I had a baby. We gave just about everything away. And yes, I just want the attention. I’m an attention whore, just like everyone else!)

It wasn’t the end. Woman number two said, “Well, I’m sure someone will give you a baby shower. What about [named three woman who were not at the park that day]? You’re in their group. I’m sure they’ll throw you a shower.”

Woah. “Their group”??? We have definite “groups” now? And I have seen these three women, other than passing them in the hall at church or cub scouts, in months.

I’m sure nothing mean was meant by it, but I went away from the conversation feeling icky. That’s right. Icky. I felt like I had blotchy skin (oh wait, I do!) and a bad perm (thankfully, no) and wore last year’s style of clothes (yup). Or I wore orange on Pink Friday and the Mean Girls were about to go write in their slam book… four pages, just for me.

Park day is tomorrow. I don’t really want to go. But Parker looks so forward to it. I will spend all morning picking out the perfect outfit and packing the best snacks and try out a new hairstyle I found on Pinterest in the hopes that I will be accepted into this group. Or any group.

Can we put Park Day on my Murtaugh List???

What If I Could Write A Letter To Myself?

What if I could write a letter to myself? My younger self, that is. With all that I know now that could help erase some of the pain of back then? Or what if my future, older self could write me a letter that I could get today that would tell me yes, everything really will be okay? Would it help me now to get through all our trials? And what seems so huge today… will it seem that huge in 5, 10, 25 years?

Today a couple in my ward blessed their baby. They had been trying for a long time to get pregnant. It got to the point where they were just about to give up and were looking into adoption, when she got pregnant. And stayed pregnant. It wasn’t the easiest pregnancy (really, are there actually easy pregnancies? I don’t believe there are, no matter what some women say!), and several weeks before the baby was due, the mother and her father were in a car wreck. It was bad enough that the mother was in the hospital and they were trying to prevent an early labor. It was too early to have a healthy baby. Thankfully, everything turned out just fine the worst that happened was her baby shower had to be rescheduled. The couple has a healthy baby boy a few months ago.

When the mother got up to bear her testimony during Sacrament Meeting today, she said, “If someone had told me a year ago I would be here today, blessing my baby boy, I would have laughed in their face. No, I would have cried in their face and thought it a cruel joke.”

I remember those feelings all too well. I remember how long it felt we tried (unsuccessfully) to have a baby. I remember feeling the desperation as I watched friends and family members seemingly have an easy time of it. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t get pregnant. And when I finally did get pregnant, it resulted in a miscarriage. It was such a tough time. I sometimes wonder how it was the Ches and I made it through that because there was so much strain. So many tears. And then… Aiden. I couldn’t believe we actually got this little miracle who was so perfect and so lovely. I didn’t know how I could ever be so happy again. I never forgot the pain of the years before Aiden came to us, but the pain was lessened so much by that little being we were blessed with.

And now look at us… three boys. Three wonderful, active, smart, funny boys. After a long break where we thought our family was complete, we found ourselves blessed again. In the next 15 weeks we will have our fourth child. FOURTH!

Has it been easy? Not by a long shot. Am I a good parent? I try. I don’t think I am (not what this post is about, however), but I try. Is everything perfect since we got our long-awaited for children? Not by a long shot. We still have so many trials and tribulations. Sometimes it feels like we are bogged down so far into the muck there is no way of pulling ourselves out. But I don’t know what it will be like a year from now. Will I be able to look back at this year and say, “I am so blessed. We kept working and trying, and things are better. We are happy.”

That’s all I really want. To be able to acknowledge that life isn’t always great, but we’re still happy. I have Ches. I have my kids. We’re still working and we’re still trying to pull out of this muck. Little by little, we’ll get there. Maybe I don’t need a letter after all. And maybe I need the pain to make the reward that much sweeter.