Saturday, January 24, 2015

Angry Pain and Sweet Friendships

I'm on Day 2 of Post Spine Injection, and it's going alright.  I wish I could have some more of that Valium they gave me right before the procedure, because it made that day a whole lot of fun.  Everything was funny, and I was shot up with so much Lidocaine that I couldn't feel my butt for hours, which was absolutely hilarious to me.  My kids are still making fun of me for how often I said the word "balloon" and then would just laugh uncontrollably.  Balloon?  Why is that even funny?  Penguin made me a list of more "happy words" to read and laugh about: lagoon, raccoon, rangoon, jelly, bazinga...I still chuckle when I read it.

The cortisone isn't supposed to start kicking in until later today or tomorrow, but I think I'm starting to feel it already--there's no crazy, make-you-gasp-when-you-move pain screaming down the back of my left leg anymore, and the tightness in my hips has been subsiding all morning.  There's pressure and stiffness throughout my lower body still, which can be expected after a week of avoiding moving anything at all, but not a whole lot of angry pain.

Relief.  Calmness.  Appreciation.

Which is good, because Bluebird's Italian Cooking School birthday party is scheduled to happen in a week, and Junebug's Kawaii party a week after that.  As you can imagine, I'm a little behind in my preparations.  I'm just not going to stress about them.  If the decorations and food aren't 100% what I'd like them to be, it doesn't matter.  What does matter is my physical therapy, and the fact that a party is about spending time with people you like, and that's more important than what the party looks like.  Health and relationships, people.  Those are the goals.  The pretty-to-look-at parts are the frosting--memorable and sweet, but just one little layer of something much bigger.

We have been well cared for by our neighbors, so everything is pretty amazing, especially considering the situation.  My house is clean, thanks to my awesome kids staying on top of their chores; we're eating healthy, thanks to the delicious dinners that have been prepared by our friends; the day of the procedure went smoothly in regards to all the logistics of needing a driver to take me to and from the doctor, and someone to watch Monkeyboy; and we even have clean laundry, thanks to a very kind and understanding soul.  I love my neighbors.  We live in a great neighborhood.

Contentment.  Gratitude.  Comfort.

Hard things are so much easier to handle with friends.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Birthday Season is Upon Us

Do you remember, two years ago, when I threw the coolest baking birthday party and Snow White birthday party for my February girls?  Do you also remember that I only do cool birthday parties in odd years because it takes so much stinkin' work to pull off said cool birthday parties?  Did you realize that 2015 is an odd year?

It begins...

Bluebird, culinary-obsessed as she is, has decided to make the "culinary party" theme a tradition, and she wants to throw an "Italian cooking school" party.  I'm having fun putting this one together, as I really enjoy doing fun activities with girls in this age range.  (Can we take a moment to wipe away a small tear at the realization that my eldest child is turning eleven in a month?!  Jiminy...)

And then, two weeks later, Junebug is having a Kawaii party, which is just so freakishly fantastic that I break out into a goofy smile every time it crosses my mind.  (For those of you not in the know, Kawaii is that over-the-top cutesy Japanese "look"--like Hello Kitty.)  I could have a lot of fun with that theme, the trick is knowing where to say "no" to the ideas.

So, it was nice knowing y'all, but putting together two birthday parties and also putting my house back together after being gone for five months means I'm going to spend a lot more time curled up on the floor crying and rocking myself.  If I didn't love how these parties turn out in the end, I'd run away from these ideas, screaming.  But, thankfully for my kids, I'm a little birthday party-obsessed and will probably always embrace this descent into madness.

However, the descent into madness usually involves a fervent desire to vent, so you might just hear from me a little more over the next six weeks...

And then we'll get to go through the fun of getting ready for Penguin's overdue baptism in April, followed a week later by Monkeyboy's birthday party.

Party hard or go home.

*For the record, I did intend to throw both Penguin and Monkeyboy some awesome parties in 2013, but I blew out my back at Junebug's birthday party, and spent most of the rest of that year flat on my back while it healed.  Hard to do anything, let alone throw parties, in that state.  I plan to make it up to them this year.

Saturday, January 3, 2015


I've spent a few minutes scrolling through my blog posts from the past year, and it honestly does not feel like those things happened.  I mean, two and a half weeks ago I flew home from Australia.  We lived in Australia for five months, but now we're back in our home and it feels like it was a movie I watched...there's no way something like that actually took place.  I never thought I'd live somewhere like that, and now I can say that I have.  It's surreal.

2014 was...busy, challenging, and overwhelming.  After 2013's back injury, I threw myself into 2014 with passion, only to feel like I couldn't quite get ahead, ever.  Michael traveled a lot, and it was very difficult to homeschool, keep the house in order, or move ahead on anything while he was away.

I let the girls sign up for sports, which took up a lot of time.  It's insane to shuttle the kids around for that stuff, but at year's end I'm so glad we did it.  Penguin loved soccer and gymnastics and is eagerly awaiting getting back into both, and Bluebird went out for fastpitch, which I was really nervous about, given that she's wary of new things and hadn't shown any inclination towards the sport ever before, but she blossomed over the course of the season.  I was so proud of her.  I hope she plays again this year.

I helped throw a baby shower for my dear friend, Rachel, and it was a smashing success.  That was one of my favorite things of this past year.  I love to throw a party, I loved the reason we were celebrating, and it was just so much fun to do something so elegant.  I love my kids' birthday parties, but grown-up stuff is just so much more appealing to a grown-up, you know?  That was a lot of fun.  I felt like I was able to expand into a lot of my potential with that event.  I always want to do nice things, but I'm limited most of the time, so it was nice to do an "all-out" thing that turned out so well.

I also made a work of art in 2014, the Storybook Hexagon Quilt.  I'm still fairly new to the quilting scene, so it was scary to give myself over to my heart's desire to create something I was sure would be incredibly beyond my fledgling abilities, but that quilt turned out spectacularly.  I don't think I mentioned it on the blog, but I made the quilt for Rachel's baby girl, who arrived in June.

When I found out that Rachel was pregnant, I was overjoyed for her, but also knew I needed to respect her personal space and not be all like, "LET'S TALK ABOUT THE BAY-BEEEEEE!" all the time.  I was going to channel my enthusiasm into a simple little quilt that would allow me to flex my FMQ skills, but I happened to see those ridiculously cute fairy tale prints, and they just seemed so perfect for a child of Rachel's because Rachel likes Japanese things and she practically has a Master's in Literature...and that's when the vision happened.

It was such a huge undertaking for me, but I had to do it.  HAD TO.  Any time I felt like making up an excuse to knock on her door and harass her, I'd spend some time with the Storybook Hexagon Quilt first.  (I think my actions helped preserve our friendship, because, oh boy, did I want to stalk her and her growing belly.  I was just so stinkin' happy for her!)

Rachel was absolutely shocked when I gave her the quilt because I had led her to believe I was making it for one of my own girls.  While I was in Australia, she wrote me letters and included pictures of her growing baby girl, always laying atop the quilt.  Such a feel good project, even many months afterwards.

The girls and I were cast in our stake's musical, which was very exciting.  But then we learned that we would be moving to Australia, and that our departure date was smack-dab in the middle of the musical's run, so we had to resign.  (It later turned out that we left an entire month later than our original plans, but I'm so glad we weren't in the musical during that time with all the preparations we had to make!)

And then it was all about Australia.  Oh, the packing.  The securing of services to keep our home functioning and our pets alive during our absence.  The stress of visas, passports, and plane tickets.  We did manage some time at Disneyland, which was a great day.

And then we did it--we moved to Australia.

And it was harder than I ever believed it could possibly be.  I mean, it's a first-world country and they spoke English, how hard could it be?  It was beautiful, there were lots of neat things to see and experience, we had great neighbors and a great ward...but it was hard.  Things were just different, all the time, and I had to constantly remain conscious of everything so that I could remember all the different things and not make mistakes.  It was exhausting, despite the general awesomeness of the things we were able to see.

Which led to the decision to put the girls into school while we were there.  I was just maxed-out with everything, and had to make some cuts.  It was a great decision, and we enjoyed our time with their adorable little school.  I wish I could find a school like that here where we live in the States.

And then it's all a blur.  The girls caught the bus at 6:45am and got home at 4:30pm.  I worked hard to keep our rental from getting dingy, ran errands with Monkeyboy, spent a ridiculous amount of time line-drying clothing, and did a lot of cooking because Australian take-out did not agree with us.

I managed to make some fair progress on two big projects, the Peacock Feathers Stole and the Star Spangled Diamonds Quilt, and knit up a pair of socks as well.

We had the missionaries over for Thanksgiving, and it did my heart good.  My goodness, it was a lot of work to make that meal, what with continually converting my American recipes into metric and Celsius, and trying to figure out substitutes for ingredients I could not find in Australia.  In the end, I figured it out, and we had a lovely meal with four very happy guys.  It was a great experience.

We visited the Australia Zoo.

We were able to observe a wild sea turtle lay her eggs.

And then it was time to go home.

Since we've been back, it's been a whirlwind of cleaning, unpacking, Christmas, and throwing a New Year's Day brunch.

A whole year in 1,136 words.  It seems like it should take more words than that, especially with the events that happened.

Regardless of what has happened over the course of a year, I think the most important question to ask myself at the end of it is, "Am I a better person now than I was at the beginning of the year?"  Because, really, that's all that matters in the end.  Did I progress?  Did I do anything to make this world better?


I'm happier now.  Not because I can say that I lived in a foreign country, or because I've fed a kangaroo, or because I went to Disneyland.  I'm happier now because living in Australia opened my eyes to how unnecessarily busy I was with things that didn't even make me happy, and it also made me see how much my homemaking matters in regards to my family's happiness.  I've gone through experiences that will help me be kinder to others in difficult situations.  I've experienced what it feels like to really let myself go and do the best job I can do with something, and how great that feels afterwards, despite how much extra work it might have required.  I experienced the fun of working with a group and the end result actually turning out nicely.  I re-learned how much I love my home.  I re-learned how good my life is on a regular, ordinary day.

Big things happened in 2014.  2014 was busy.  2014 asked a lot of me--I had to sacrifice some things, and I had to learn to trust in my abilities a little more than I have for a very long time.  But each of those experiences ended positively, which makes me think that I've been hiding and protecting myself a little too much.  I'm looking forward to putting these realizations into play a little more in 2015.

Thank you for your kind words, whether you chose to send them through comments or emails.  I love hearing from each and every one of you, and it means a lot to me when you take time out of your busy lives to write a few words to me, whether you know me in real life or whether we've never had the pleasure of meeting face-to-face.  I wish you and your families a beautiful new year in 2015, and look forward to sharing more of my family and my experiences as the year unfolds.  Blessings to you all.