Nathan and I have an ongoing joke that he is the rough sandpaper, and I am the fine sandpaper. This has come as a result of the numerous house projects we have worked on over the years. He knocks out the large components of replacing drywall, rewiring the electrical outlets, landscaping our yard, painting the house, and laying tile to name just a few projects.
I follow behind him fixing the finer points of the projects, pointing out holes that still need to be patched, rough edges to knock down, bushes that need to be pruned or finishing touches that are left. I am the official indoor painter in our home, because of my eye for details, but when I want 5 bushes ripped out of the backyard, I won't even touch them.
Our differences just demonstrate how we complement one another. We both know our own interests and allow each other the freedom to pursue our passions. We are supportive of each other in our varying interests. Not only are we supportive, but we push each other to be better in all that we do.
At the same time, we have always been unified in the important goals and priorities. We are equally yoked in all our pursuits. We have always been committed to each other and to our family. We have laughter in our home and prayer that bookends our days.
Marriage is always a bit of a risk, placing our life in the hands of another person. I am blessed to have done pretty well. Considering when we were married, Nathan didn't have a declared major with years of college ahead of him, we have come far. He has excelled in his career as a city manager, always working to improve himself and the people around him. He has always served faithfully for his church in every calling that he has been given.
Most of all, he has been a father worthy of emulation. He has told stories every night for the past 14 years. All of our children look up to him and see him as a hero. I am grateful my my rough sandpaper and for how he lifts me and improves me.
I have been employed as a child/adolescent outpatient counselor for nearly a year, and I have learned some lessons about listening. Being able to truly listen to another person is a skill that is developed through practice, and I have noticed when people around me don't have that skill when I feel unheard. Sometimes, my kids will say with frustration, "You're not listening to me!" and my first reaction is defensiveness. Upon reflection though, I realize that often they don't feel heard, because I am not using my listening skills, so I pull back and start over. There are several basic listening skills that can make a huge difference in communication.
1. Rephrase: I use this skill with every client I meet, and I am constantly surprised how often when I rephrase something they just said, they have two possible reactions. The first, is that they correct me and restate in a way to clarify for me what they are experiencing. I work on rephrasing until I get it right or sometimes I nail it on the first try and their reaction is to become postively animated, relieved that someone understands and hears what they are saying. Sometimes rephrasing is actually parroting back exactly what they said, especially with small children. Sometimes it is repeating their communication in my own words to make sure I am understanding. Often it means listening for quite a while before I step back in and summarize what they have told me. There is power in being a sounding board for someone's thoughts.
2. Validate: Most children I work with are constantly invalidated by their parents, usually unintentionally. I have become more sensitive to times that I forget to validate my own kids and a lot of the times that they don't feel heard are when I don't validate. Just a simple, "I hear you," "That sounds tough," or, "You are really upset," help others feel understood. The key to validation is to understand that validation does not equal agreement. When our kids tell us that we are the worst parents in the world and we are doing every thing wrong we can validate, "I can see that you are really mad at me right now and don't agree with how I handle things." Their voice is acknowledged yet I am not necessarily going to change anything about how I am dealing with the situation. Still, the validation can often diffuse a tense situation. I know I feel better for expressing myself even if nothing about the situation changes.
3. State the Facts: We are emotional creatures, and often we get sucked into accusations and mind reading another's intentions. Once we have heard what the problem is and validated their feelings, we can simply state what the problem is and ask for their ideas in solving the problem. For example, I often get impatient with my kids when I am doing school with them, and they are not seeming to focus. I can rant to my kids about how they never pay attention and that they need to buckle down and work harder on their school, or I can calmly state the facts, "I have noticed that you are having a difficult time concentrating on this assignment. The problem is that we only have 30 more minutes to finish before dinner. What do you think would help for you to be able to concentrate?" This approach leaves a better chance of ending well.
4. Compliment and Express Love: We all feel more listened to when we feel loved by the other individual. The single most important factor in counseling another is the therapeutic relationship. The same is true of our loved ones. This is my most difficult listening skill to remember with my own kids. Studies have shown that when you start nagging at children or adults about a behavior you don't like, the behavior actually increases. If instead you express love and compliment them for the good things they are doing, the behavior you appreciate increases. Love expressed can make up for a lot of inadequacies in communication.
I appreciate the times when I feel heard and understood. I feel closer to people who fully listen to me, and I want to spend more time with them. I am still on the path to becoming a better listener. I like the simple principle: we have two ears and only one mouth so we should try to listen twice as much as we talk.
I have recently been reading a series of books by Ralph Moody, that I have enjoyed so much opening with "Little Britches." The first book is set in Denver, Colorado in the early 1900's, and I read it out loud to the boys when they were younger when we were new to Colorado. We really enjoyed this true story of Ralph Moody becoming a rancher with his father, and it felt a little like the Little House on the Prairie books, though more for boys.
This year I read the book again, because Connor didn't really remember it, and the story was a new one for the girls. We all loved it again and when we looked on the library website, we were surprised to discover that there was a whole series. I became hooked. Generally, when I read a book to my kids, I will read the first book and then let them read the rest on their own, and this was no exception. Only, they had to stand in line behind me while I read the books. The later books are just as good as the first, but there are some amazing twists and turns in the stories and no two books are alike, other than the fact that they worked hard to survive and were quick to think and be creative in their survival.
I love several things about these books. One of my favorite things is to be able to envision the world my grandpa grew up in, as he was born in 1901 and truly was a cowboy. I only saw him in overalls or a suit my entire life. I like the simplicity of the times they lived in and how there were less choices to be made. The constant struggle to provide a roof over their heads and food to survive brought them closer to God.
I love his descriptions of the way he and his siblings contributed to the household and were proud to do so. They learned to work and the value of money by contributing. It is hard for people in our era to create work for our children outside of the home. My oldest son has tried to apply for minimum wage service jobs to no avail. No longer are paper routes run by youth but by adults. He is able to do some yard work and dog sitting that was once done by younger children. Babysitting is more of an option for girls, so it is tough for him to earn his own way or to get a job at 17.
I know that I tend to idealize the past and prefer the comforts of my generation as well as the many miraculous technical advances that allow us to accomplish so much, but I do wish at times for a simpler era. I also love his mother and wish I was a little more like her. It is easy to see that he loved her dearly and looked up to her. I'm glad to know that just when you think you've read all the great books out there, others turn up!
When I was a little girl I loved to write stories, though they were quite melodramatic and I never got past 6 or 7 pages before I moved on to my next story. I have also always been a voracious reader. Books were common topics of conversation in our family. We always discussed what we were reading at the dinner table and both my parents read to us when we were young. Just tonight, I had a phone conversation with my mom discussing books we have read this week.
Writing a book has always been on my bucket list. Several years ago, while talking with my sister Lenaya, I asked her when she was going to write the book about her life and struggle with an eating disorder as well as numerous addictions. She admitted that she did want to write a book, but she was struggling with how to present her story. So many books sensationalize their experience, and she absolutely didn't want to have that effect. I had an instant illumination that what we needed to do was write a book together back and forth, her perspective and then mine in order to have a balanced story. We began work on our book and spent several years off and on working on it.
We are getting very close at this point. We are starting the editing process and hoping to submit the manuscript by the end of the summer. Being so close to it, I have alternated between elation and doubt about whether it will ever be published. I think it is a compelling story, but will others think so? I doubt my skills as a writer, but I see moments of greatness as I read back through our tale. Time will tell whether it will be published, but there are several gifts that have come to me as a result of our work.
The process of writing things down has forced me to crystallize floating ideas that weren't true thoughts, and wisdom has grown, not from the experiences themselves, but from the process of writing about those experiences. I distilled truths of my experience through the writing process I would never have previously been able to articulate.
I learned so much about my sister and have grown so much closer to her. We have had countless conversations which brought healing and comfort to our wounded hearts and meaning and purpose to our suffering.
I also believe that her story has made me a better counselor and I occasionally share insights with people who are going through similar experiences. One client who has been to counselors for years told me that I was the first person who understands what she is facing. Hopefully, our experience can help other people.
Finally, there are been many tender moments where whisperings of the Spirit have prodded me in a direction of how to start my next section, which quote to use in a specific spot as well as how to rewrite a passage to evoke emotion. I feel that God has directed me in this process, and I feel so grateful to Him for His hand in it. Whatever happens from this experience I feel very richly blessed.
More and more in my life, I feel like the painting The Responsible Woman typifies my life. I am pulled in a million directions, and I try to meet my responsibilities with as much grace as possible. Lately, I've been reminiscing about the year I was pregnant with Andrew. I stopped working full-time when I was a few months pregnant, and while I was so happy to not be working nights any longer, I had to take some time to reinvent myself. Hours of time somehow needed to be filled each week, and I went to work creating a routine to fill up the endless hours.
Every day we walked to the Lindon Park which was a mile away and played on the playground for at least an hour. The hills at the back of the park were great for exploring and in the fall provided piles of acorns and leaves in which to crunch. During each walk I surveyed the different neighborhoods, scoping out each of the houses and daydreaming about the day when we would be able to buy our own house. I critiqued the different lawns and color schemes finding different aspects that I preferred of each.
We took trips to the nearby Deseret Industries Thrift Store, the only place that I could afford to window shop. Nathan was in the last year of his Master's program, and now that I wasn't working we were pretty broke. I savored the great bargains I could find, like a toddler bed for Brandon for only $5. He and I perused the toy and book section and occasionally came home with our little treasures.
I invited Brandon's cousins over to play or went to visit them occasionally. We took trips to the Pleasant Grove library and checked out a stack of books to read together. Craving intellectual stimulation, I spent the afternoon on our front porch, perusing borrowed newspapers while Brandon played around in our front yard with his rescue rider. I followed him around chasing after his wanderings. Sometimes we would sit in the car, and I would let him drive the steering wheel just to get through a long day.
Never will I forget the overwhelming feeling of making it through each day until Nathan arrived from work. Partly, we had absolutely money then, so I had few options, but partly it was just the season that I was in at the time.
Within the past 15 years, life has gotten far busier, and I now find myself figuring out how I can fit everything into the small amount of time that I have. We no longer have a free evening at home, and I can't remember the last time I felt bored, but I am positive that it was years ago. Just last Friday, I was in charge of the Ward Activity, so I left to set up after taking the girls to their homeschool art class. Brandon was at a basketball game in Phoenix, OR, and Nathan took Andrew to his Eagle Board of Review. Multi-tasking has taken on new meaning these days.
I find myself pining for the simpler days. While I don't want to go back to that time, I wouldn't mind just a week or two with nothing to do. With 5 children at different stages of life, thing are hectic, and I don't see it slowing down anytime soon. Somehow, I will muddle through it all. I imagine myself, at times, in the future looking back on this period with a sense of satisfaction that I somehow survived without tripping up too badly.
In the meantime, I just try to stay on top of the waves and enjoy the journey.
After driving for two days in drowning rain, I was pretty uncertain about how I would find my time at Disneyland. I am happy to say that I really had a wonderful and magical time.
We went to Disney World about 5 years ago when Nicole was Danielle's age, and that was a wonderful trip, but I was surprised to discover that there are several things about the California Disney that I preferred to the Orlando version.
While there aren't the same number of parks or rides, they do a several of them better in California....especially Pirates of the Caribbean and It's a Small World. I also found the smaller size much easier to negotiate. We could easily walk back and forth between parks. The kids enjoyed having a little more freedom, and for Danielle, the trip was pure magic.
One attraction that I missed before and wanted to check out was Turtle Talk with Crush.....it was fabulous. Crush interacts with the audience and talks with the kids and adults, and he is funny, clever, and really amazing. Danielle had her hand up for a long time to ask Crush a question, but the show ended without him calling on her. Everyone was leaving the theater as she proceeded to burst into heartbroken tears. The person who holds the microphone came up to ask her if she had wanted to ask Crush a question, and she sobbed out that she wanted to know why turtles have shells. He told her that Crush wasn't very far away and he thought he could call Crush back. So with only our family left in the room, Crush zoomed back into the "tank" and crashed into the glass, making her laugh. She then proceeded to have a 5 minute charming conversation with Crush. It is little things like this that make Disneyland the happiest place on earth!
Danielle loved getting to see all the real princesses both in the parade, around the park and at Ariel's Grotto.
We saw family periodically and some of the kids paired off to go on their own adventures.
Nicole got to hug her favorite princess, Mulan. Even Andrew had a wonderful time, despite his unhappiness with having to miss a busy week of school.
Danielle was tall enough to go on most of the rides and was surprisingly a thrill seeker! She even put her hands in the air her third time on the Thunder Mountain Railroad.
All the kids had the privilege of trying out a Dole Whip like they have in Hawaii! Connor used his souvinir money to get a couple more he like them so much.
We had a wonderful time at Disneyland. I just wish we had a little more time to spend with our extended family. I wondered a little about what changes will come into our lives before we are back.
We had our first snow last night, and I feel fall blending into winter. Richness and bounty fill my life. The chaos of finishing my master's degree has paid off in a much more balanced life.
I am only working a day and a half a week and then have more focused time to homeschool my younger children. Andrew started school for the first time this year, and he has had a wonderful transition. He enjoys his classes and has made a nice group of friends. He has more balance after a lonely and isolated year last year. while he misses his free time, he enjoys all that he is doing and learning.
I love having free time back. Projects that were looming in the future are slowly but surely getting checked off my list, and I feel that I have time to just be once in a while. I love the work that I am doing, but don't feel like it consumes my life like school did for three years.
I actually had time to get the girls signed up for some extra-curricular activities which has been nice for all of us. We are starting to make friends, but I don't feel frantic about the process and know that things will fall into place through time.
Nathan turned 40 this year. We have both struggled a bit with feeling older, but we have started jogging a few times a week and are doing what we can to keep ourselves healthy for the next 40+ ahead of us. We are ever closer and unified. Our struggles have brought us together, and I so appreciate all he does to serve and honor me. He is a wonderful husband.
We have come closer as a family as well through our transition to life in Oregon. I love that my kids are friends and enjoy spending time together. I know each of my children and feel privileged to watch their personalities and talents emerge.
Our tradition of learning has been a great blessing. Their interests have led me down avenues that I never expected to explore.
My mom told me a story she recently learned from her sister about my grandma. Grandma Cunningham had a difficult first marriage which ended in divorce, causing her a lot of grief, pain, and regret. She talked very little about her first marriage and didn't want people to even know that she had lived that earlier life.
One Christmas, when my aunt Joetta was old enough to look forward to Christmas, they spent time looking at the window displays in anticipation of the holiday. Shortly before Christmas that year, her husband disappeared taking all the money and leaving her hopeless and unable to buy a single present or even food for a nice meal.
On Christmas morning, when she woke up and searched the cupboards all she could find was a package of jello and a box of saltine crackers. She made up the jello and they ate that with saltines for their Christmas dinner. She didn't have the heart to tell Joetta that it was Christmas and so ignored the holiday that year.
I wonder at the heartache my grandma suffered and at her contrasting joy when later she married my grandpa and embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I also felt a sense of sadness for what she started with in life and the comparison of what I was blessed with from my childhood. My children have an even greater start, and I hope they will be able to live up to their privilege.
This Thanksgiving as we celebrate our rich harvest from the past year, I feel gratitude for so many things that I often take for granted. I am thankful for messes, because they represent fun and time spent together as well as rich material wealth.
I am thankful the generations who laid the foundation for my life. I look forward to thanking them someday.
***July 27, 2012-- Danielle (being potty trained) "Pee-pee's coming!!!" After saying that all week, she decided to play a joke on us...."Pee-pee's coming!!!.....No pee-pee coming. I so silly." ***July 14, 2011 -- Nicole: "I don't like to say too many words in baby language, because I might say a bad word, because I don't know what I'm saying." ***July 2011--Connor described the difference in fast food burgers, "McDonalds deep fries their hamburgers, but Burger King boils theirs." ***January 2011-- Danielle spit/blew on her food, said, "Haaa" (meaning hot) and then ate it and said, "Mmmmm." ***September 2010 -- The boys play SWAT team nearly every afternoon with all the neighborhood kids and their friends who come over. Nathan was heading out of the garage one evening after work, when Brandon ran around one corner of the house, Connor around the other, and their friend Kenai popped out of the garbage can. (Not a quote but it was pretty hilarious) ***9 September 2010 -- When all the kids were discussing what they want to be when they grow up, Connor said that he wants to be a City Imaginer of a small town like his dad. *** June 2010--Connor turned on the pre-recorded songs on our piano and started pretending to play. The song was quite fast, and he yelled out as he fingers flew over the keys, "Just imagine my fingers are smoking!" ***June 2010--Brandon told us a story about a time when he was making hot chocolate, using cocoa powder. He tasted it the first time and thought it was really bitter, so he added some more and said, "This tastes terrible!" while pouring it down the sink. ***July 2008--Nicole walked out of her room one morning yawning and told us, "I have shopping bags under my eyes."
I'm a mother of 5 children. My blog name comes from James Christensen's painting: The Responsible Woman. Every time I see that painting, I can relate....I love to read, cook, learn with my kids, play the organ and travel. I have homeschooled my children since 2004 and marvel at all my kids are able to do these days! I graduated with my Master's Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in 2014 and work part-time as an outpatient counselor.