Friday, March 30, 2012

our lives just got messier.

somebody decided she likes solid foods.

a lot.

welcome to the big leagues, june bug.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

defending the silver lining, part 2.

i want to write about what happened with ben's dissertation proposal yesterday, because i'm still reeling from it.

but first,

i'm going to write about what happened today.

today was about my best friend andrea. i keep writing about her because she is someone who i just love to pieces.  she is constantly inspiring me.  

in just the past 2 years, andrea has:

~broken free from a destructive marriage
~moved herself and her children {packing up an entire house on her own} into a new home for a fresh start
~became a CNA after passing an intense program  
~was accepted into the master's in counseling program at ASU, and has been juggling a year of grad school along with being a single mom who has full custody
~passed her GRE
~continued with really intense self-discovery and healing through therapy the entire time

{after looking at this list, i feel a little inadequate thinking what in the world have i accomplished these past 2 years??}

and now?  andrea is engaged, to a really great guy.  

together they are going to make an amazing couple.


i've written before about the fact that andrea has not had an easy life.... beginning well before her ended marriage.  and because of her beginning, she has been basically on her own in her life in every sense of the word.  

a couple of weeks ago, i went shopping with her to find a wedding dress as beautiful as she is.  i pretty much cried the whole time, because i'm just so happy for her.  {i'm going to be a mess on the actual day!} but i also knew that financially, a wedding is expensive.  and andrea is the only one providing for those expenses.

after a girls night last weekend, where we excitedly talked about wedding plans, i was contacted by two of our friends, amanda and katie.  they had the genius idea of trying to gather together some support from others who love andrea, to see if there was a way we could help lift some of the burden of the cost of the wedding, more specifically....a dress. 

working together, we reached out to friends who know and love her, to see if they would like to contribute.  we were hoping to gather a couple hundred dollars, to see if we could maybe cover the cost of dress alterations.

within 48 hours of contacting our friends, we were overcome and amazed at the generosity we were witnessing.  we had collected well over our hoped-for amount, and had actually gathered enough to almost completely cover the cost of her dream dress!  every time i texted amanda to get an update on the total, she would send me the amount and i would just start to cry.  i could not believe what was happening.

we wanted to give others as much time as we could to donate, but also wanted to present the money to her before she had made a final decision on her dress, to have the pressure lifted as she tried them on and know that she was going to be completely covered financially for it.

so amanda, katie, our friend kelly and myself set it up to meet andrea this morning at the bridal shop to help her make a decision.  our plan was to surprise her with the money we had collected.  our other friend farrah had put together a fabulous photo book with a picture of each person who had generously donated and a message they had sent to her.  {we were so sad that last night farrah came down with a nasty stomach bug and wasn't able to come with us!}  but seriously?  keeping surprises is not something i'm great at, especially when it comes to keeping secrets from andrea. 

i relate so much to kristen wiig's character in this SNL skit that it's sad:

i was proud of myself, because i didn't even give her one hint that anything was going on, even though i felt like jumping out of the windows of our house at times.  poor ben had to hear about how excited i was for pretty much 24 hours straight.  and every time i talked about it i would start to cry, so that doubled the fun.  

but it went perfectly.

amanda had withdrawn the money in small bills and wrapped them in a beautiful silver box, and the photobook was printed minutes before we got to the bridal shop.  

as soon as we got in, we sat down.

"we have a gift to give you,"  amanda said, as she handed andrea the silver box.  i immediately started crying.  {what is wrong with me? i have totally turned into such a softie.}

as andrea opened the box, she screamed.

"ahhhh! what is this??" she yelled, and looked at each of us.  i looked at kelly through my tears and saw her own.  now we were all crying.  

"it's a gift for you, for your wedding dress.  we wanted to do something for you, to let you know how much we love you and how happy we are for you,"  amanda explained.  and then told her how we had reached out and so many others had wanted to do the same.

and then, andrea began to cry.

here is the thing.  

i have rarely seen someone go through so much for so long, and still continue to keep her soft heart.  but she has done this on her own, digging herself out of the deep holes that were dug for her by others who could not face their own demons and she suffered because of it.  yet she has never been vengeful, or wanted those who hurt her to suffer.  

she has never played the victim card, when she absolutely could.  she has chosen to continue to put her heart out there again, to be vulnerable.  leaving behind fear to become faith, giving everything that she had with the hope there there was still goodness to be found.

and by doing so, she has found it.

and this is why, within a mere 48 hours, the outpouring of love for this amazing girl came.  and for the few of us who were able stand there and present tangible evidence that all of those experiences of her past that told her she was not deserving of goodness and love were absolutely untrue...

it was an amazing experience for all of us.  

we cried and hugged and cried some more.  

and then, we watched as andrea tried on some gorgeous dresses.  and we watched as she was able to pick one that looked like it was made for her.  and we watched as she was able to pay for almost the entire dress in cash.  we know there is more financial responsibility coming for her, but it felt great to know that some of the burden was lifted.

then we went to lunch, and we talked about all that has happened in the last two years.  how she has changed, not only on the inside but on the outside.  

there is a light that andrea has.  one that has always been there, but had been dimmed by those who hurt her.  but now it shines through her.  

today was an incredible day,

and i have a feeling that there are going to be a lot more.

****i feel immense gratitude toward those who reached out and helped make this possible.  i know not many know all of the details of andrea's story, but it didn't matter.  thank you so much!! 

******** also, if you would like a chance to send andrea a gift there is still time and i know she would absolutely appreciate it. there is a lot still ahead for her, and we only had time to reach out to those we knew.  if you're interested, leave a comment here or send me a message through facebook with a way for me to contact you and i will get in touch with you! 

Friday, March 23, 2012

digging in my heels

{this picture has nothing to do with my post, i just love these 2 little girls}

i have a boatload of things to do right now, but i'm too wound up to do any of it.  i keep wandering around the house, feeling twisted and frustrated and a little helpless.  so?  i will write.

no analogies here today, folks.  no deep metaphors or making a big story out of nothing.  let's just straight talk.

since the beginning of ben's school in 2008, it has felt like it has been a constant fight for finding success. to just accomplish the requirements ben is asked, it feels like we are constantly swimming upstream in a deep ocean full of small, choppy waves, and then switching to big kahuna waves.  

oh shoot, there's an analogy/metaphor.  i just can't turn it off, i guess.  

continuing on.

we have come to crossroads several times in these 4 years of attempting a degree in higher education.  places where we have literally found ourselves on our knees, praying for a miracle.  praying for patience.  praying to hand our will over to God's, praying for faith to know there is a plan for us.  and our prayers are always answered, once we let go and surrender.  and recognize just how they have been answered, because they always are.

we have accepted consequences for mistakes, and have tried to keep our heads high and just accept the outcomes of choices made by others who hold our fate and future in their hands.

but darn it all, sometimes i just get so tired of it.  when we are doing all that we can, both of us, sacrificing so much.  sleep, time, money, freedoms that only those in grad school can understand.  because we believe that it in the end, these sacrifices will pay off.  a better life, more freedoms than we were experiencing before we made the jump into school.  allowing ben a career that not only he is good at, but that he enjoys and feels fulfillment.  it is big for both of us, that in some small way, we can make the world a better place.  that was and continues to be our intention for this decision. going into the mental health field is not because the career is going to be a piece of cake, you know?

we have watched our friends achieve this, and i am so happy for them, truly.  but to continually watch those pass us by while we feel so stuck.  there are days it can be hard.  

today is one of those days.  ben has worked his tail off on the defense of his proposal for his dissertation, and was asked by certain people to do more than what is required of his peers, because this place requires more, and is allowed such a short time to do it.  so he does it.  we do it, because it is actually both of us working together.

he turns it in on time, completed.  all that is asked.  we wait to hear back from this place, for the approval that is required to move forward.  and wait, and wait, and wait. 

on tuesday is ben's one chance to defend this proposal, and if he doesn't, then we are set back for an entire year.  everything is finished, his classes, his practicum.  we will still be here, stuck.  

but we're waiting on the approval, and were just informed that they have not even looked at his proposal yet.  not even looked at it!  he turned it in 6 weeks ago!  he asks if they can look at it and approve it by tuesday.  "not likely, we would have needed more notice..." is the response he is given.

which is when i want to show up on their doorstep and yell, HOW MUCH MORE NOTICE DID YOU NEED?  9 YEARS???

it's probably a good thing this place is in texas, because i would be fighting the urge to seriously walk my 4 foot 11 1/2 inch self to take them on.  i know, i'm so intimidating!  

i realize there are much bigger things going on in the world.  that on the richter scale of life and catastrophic things, it's minor.  but today it feels big.  and sometimes i just exhausted from the fight, you know?  

i keep an eye on the prize, i visualize that day that ben walks down the aisle of his graduation, receives his certificate, and i know i will be a ball of racking sobs.  because these last few years of school have really taken their toll.  on ben, on myself.  we were just talking a week or so ago about how we feel like we are shadows of our former selves.  and dang it all, i just want us back.  

i know once school is over, it leaves our future still uncertain.  there will be big decisions facing us, and making big decisions is not our forte, so it's not like it will be all smooth sailing once he graduates.  but those are the trials and challenges that i am ready for.  

these trials?  where all that we've worked toward can be set back for another year of more debt while we're just twiddling our thumbs because someone else is too lazy to pick up a report, read it and approve it?

okay, vent session over.

i know that God is a God of miracles.  i know it!  we have witnessed it so many times.  we have a son who not only survived a 35 minute seizure, but survived it without any brain damage, even though his brain was deprived of oxygen during that time, and we were told it would be almost impossible for him to not be affected by it.  and that's just one personal example.  

our life is in His hands, and he knows who we are and what we need.  we have been blessed so many times throughout these 4 years, and we will continue to be blessed.  

now that i've vented my frustration, i can take a deep breath and surrender.  however it works out, will be for our benefit.

i have faith, i believe, i accept His plan.  

we'll keep fighting, digging our heels in with faith that He knows us better than we know ourselves.  we'll continue to swim, even if our muscles are aching and tired.  we'll hang on through it, even if it means we add on another year.  i can make it through another arizona summer.

icanmakeitthroughanotherarizonasummer.  icanmakeitthroughanotherarizonasummer. 

My motto for the past year is needed again:

"Be of good cheer.  The future is as bright as your faith."  --Thomas S. Monson

Thursday, March 22, 2012

memories like a river running through my head

oh, brandi carlile.

this was one of the songs she sang last year at one of her concerts i was able to go to.  if you have a chance to see her live, take it.

she speaks to me and rips my heart out at the same time.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

instincts, speeches, screams, escape plans, business tone, snowmen, connecting and grace all wrapped up into one road trip.

i love a good road trip.

i love my children.

but my children with me on road trips?  well, i consider that a true test of my mothering abilities.

for the most part, i have pretty great kids.  the first two arriving with big personalities.  which is something i love about them...until we're all trapped together in a car for {what feels like endless} hours with those two personalities competing with each other.  survival of the fittest.

ben and i have tried a variety of tactics and with trial and error, we have decided what works best:  seating them as far apart as possible in the vehicle.

when we first begin each trip, they both are excited to sit by one another.  begging, pleading, promising us they will get along, we have caved one time too many.  letting them sit together, our fingers crossed that maybe, after years of attempting to cultivate it, this is the beginning of a beautiful sibling relationship.

within about 5 minutes, we realize our first mistake:  going against our initial gut instincts.  parents, never do this!  you know it will most likely lead to disasters beyond your wildest imaginations!

the shrieks that ensue once one has picked up a toy that the other one has suddenly decided is their favorite toy ever, is only the beginning.  it then cycles to the older one determined to making the younger one understand the complex social etiquettes of north american culture in children, believing that if he talks and explains in detail long enough, he can convince his more-primal-instincts-younger-sister to see his enlightened ways, and peacefully hand back the precious trinket she has just yanked from his tightly-gripped fingers.

when that doesn't happen after a 10 minute soliloquy including pouring his heart out and delivering his most persuasive argument to date thus far, and she returns his well-thought out speech with a stubborn and resounding reply of "NO!"

is when you-know-what hits the analogylitic {yes i just made that up} fan.

then on cue, i look over to see the calm and peaceful baby staring at me nervously, thoughtfully expressing to me with her eyebrows arched in fear that she has contemplated her escape plan and knows just where the closest exit is to her round little feet.

her concern now lies in her abilities to execute that escape plan, and she sends requests to me that come in the form of her adorable little "hoo-hoo's", in between gulps of her bottle, sweetly asking if i would assist her with this?

and i realize that it's unfair for her.  to be the third, the calm one, stuck in the back with her only company now turning into two shrieking hyenas that no amount of layers of knitted hat over her tiny ears can drown out.

so i do what any good mother would.

"that's IT!"  i exclaim, and what ben calls "business tone" takes over my voice.  and face.  and posture. and heart.  i motion for ben to pull off to the next exit.  we open the doors and get to work.

hauling leah in her carseat up to the middle row, confiscating the toy that began this debacle, and then announcing to them {with my voice an octave lower than it normally sits} that unless they shape up, we-will-turn-this-car-around-and-go-back-home-where-they-can-sit-in-their-rooms-for-the-rest-of-the-day-and-forget-about-this-vacation.  {and yes, of course i realize just where my oldest acquired his amazingly determined speech-delivery skills}

and that is how, 30 minutes into our 12-15 hr-each-way road trip, things settle down.

but by this point in time, i'm already wondering why did i think this was a good idea?  and how are we going to get through the next 2 days of traveling with everyone {myself included} making through it alive?  and then after a week of fun, get back in the car for another 2 days to go through it again?

but i look at ben, my optimistic partner in crime, who continues to believe in the power of a good family road trip regardless of fighting children,

and sigh.  and decide to change my attitude, bite the bullet, and keep going.

we make a snowman during one of our get-out-of-the-car-before-we-all-go-mad stops.

we turn on our favorite non-children-music, road trip CD's and sing at the top of our lungs.  we talk about deep, meaningful things, and make jokes about shallow, non-meaningful things.  we connect and hold hands and daydream about our hopefully impending future where our kids become lovers of road trips the way we are.

and somewhere along the way, amidst tantrums, and spills, and cries, and whines,


like a piece of grace falling from the sky and landing directly into the walls of our dark blue minivan, they simultaneously sleep for 2 out of what-turned-into 16 hours on the road.

those 2 hours of peace and quiet, staring in amazement at their angelic faces, reminded me that road trips are like a compact look at motherhood as a whole.  there are a lot of hard and un-fun moments, but the ones that are rewarding are magnified so greatly when they happen.

and those moments were what convinced me to get back in the car and do it all over again, on the way home.

***for some added fun, want to actually see my children fight?  here's a video of our road trip, i made it for the weekly monday vlog on the blog i write for, Baby Half Off.  click on the video to watch the insanity unfold....

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

spring break

this week, the kiddos and i are here:

and i have to say, we're having a fabulous time with our family and friends.

i sometimes forget just how much i miss the mountains.

more about our spring break later.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


yesterday she woke up with just a few spots, on her arms and legs.  

do they itch? i asked.  no momma, it's just a yittle rash, she replied.  {she has such a big vocabulary and yet still cannot pronounce her "L's" correctly if they're at the beginning of a word. and the truth is, i kind of hope she always talks this way.} 

and carried on her sunshine-y way.  but i knew better, i'd seen something similar before.  several years ago, on our nephew.  an allergy to amoxicillin.  just to be safe, i didn't give her the morning dose, prescribed from an ear infection last week.  and i called the doctor.  

i got her ready for her morning fitness class, and as i was pulling her out of the van to go into the class, i noticed the rash had spread.  a LOT.  she skipped her class, and we went straight for the doctor.  

it will get worse before it gets better, the doctor informed me, confirming that it is, in fact, an allergy to amoxicillin.  

worse? the doctor wasn't kidding.

this is what she looks like today.

there are certain areas where they're hurting her, around her elbows and knees.  but other than that, the rash's bark is worse than its bite.  

still, poor little girl.

{side note:  this is about the 5th or 6th time she's had amoxicillin in her life, and she's never had this reaction before.  i was under the impression that she wasn't allergic to it because she'd had it before.  guess i was wrong.}