Monday, January 31, 2011
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Go to Bed!!!
I envy people who can get by with just a few hours of sleep. Real true serious envy. Because in my life, everything is dictated by sleep. How much I’ve had, how much I’m going to need, and how well I am (or am not) functioning because of it.
I’ve known for a long time now that one of the great ironies of my life is that the quality of my day is greatly determined by what time I go to bed the night before. If I stay up late (and don’t all parents want to stay up late, savoring that “alone time”?!?!?) then I pay for it the next day when I’m dragging, unmotivated, listless, short-tempered, and desperate for a nap. If I get plenty of rest the night before then it seems the sky is the limit the next day. I enjoy my kids, want to spend time with them, read to them, play games, cook good food, etc.
Sleep makes all the difference in the world to me.
For the last couple of years I’ve thought again at the beginning of the year that I really should make a resolution to go to bed earlier. But I’ve always been reluctant to voice it, and even if I’ve tentatively resolved in my heart the resolution has been quickly broken and abandoned.
This year I have a different plan.
1) Since Russ has to drive Josh to seminary again this year, he is getting up at 4:55 AM. Yes you read that right—we live so far away from the church that he has to get up before 5AM every school day. And he may need less sleep than I do, but not that much less. So Russ definitely needs to go to bed earlier. And I really prefer going to bed at the same time that Russ does. I love to snuggle up with him and talk for a while before we go to our own sides of the bed to go to sleep. That snuggling is often the best reconnection we get during the day—we don’t see each other in the morning (hello, did you think I was capable of getting up at the crack of dawn?!?) and when he gets home the kids are all clamoring for his attention. Sometimes we watch a tv show together in the evening, but that’s still not the kind of quality time I really crave.
2) I’ve realized that it takes me approximately 49.8 times longer to get ready for bed than it does Russ. Which means it takes him 30 seconds (brush teeth, get pjs) and it takes me 20 minutes. (Clean off counters, put away 3 things left on stairs, Brush, floss, start a load of laundry, remove eye makeup, wash face, put away 7 random things that have landed on the bathroom counter, squirt salt water up nose, blow nose repeatedly, fold basket of laundry, put on pjs, straighten books, etc.) Now the reason that this is a problem is that during the 20 minutes that I am getting ready for bed, while Russ is already in bed, there is a complete and total possibility that he will have fallen soundly asleep. (By virtue of the fact that it only takes him 30 seconds to fall asleep, which means in essence that 1 minute after starting to get ready for bed the man is asleep. I kid you not.)
3) Both of these facts bring me to my plan to accomplish my resolution. And that is this: Be ready for bed at 9pm. If we watch a tv show from 8-9, I can get ready for bed during the commercials. If Russ is ready to go to sleep right at 9 then great, so am I. If I get ready for bed and he’s not quite ready to go to sleep then I can either hang out with him or find something else to do for a while. (Heaven knows I can always find something to do, even in my pjs.) My hope is that thinking about going to bed earlier will mean I get more sleep, Russ gets more sleep, we get more time together, and my days go better. How’s that for a lofty goal?
4) Now I know from past experience that my tendency would be to abandon a goal that doesn’t seem to be working just as I had intended. But fortunately for me (and poor tired Russ) this year I’ve read a couple of books that address this issue. One of them, titled “This Year I Will…” says that we must expect that as we work towards our goals there will be times we do not succeed—that is a normal part of the change process. And instead of throwing up our hands in defeat and giving up on that goal, we need to be prepared for these failures. So this month I’ve been paying attention to how & when I get ready for and go to bed. And on the few occasions that I’ve not managed to go to bed with Russ and have stayed up way too late, I’ve calmly analyzed my night and figured out where I went wrong, and what I need to remember the next day. No sense of failure, no need to give up!
PS—I totally recommend that book to anyone interested in information on how to be successful in making changes in your life. It’s called “This Year I Will” and it’s by MJ Ryan. It’s so good I’m actually going to buy it. Which is saying a lot because I rarely buy books. (I also recommend her book “The Happiness Makeover.” Which I also bought.)
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Friday, January 28, 2011
Remember how I totally dissed the PAM the other day? How I vowed to stop using it?
Well, I was making muffins yesterday morning in a hurry. (I know you’re thinking that’s the only way to make muffins, or anything else, but this time I was in a BIG hurry.) So there was really no time to grease each of those 24 tiny little muffin holes, and against my better judgement I got out the PAM.
And do you know what? Something had happened since I used it last. It had leaked or exploded or leak-sploded. It was all over the inside of the lid, dripped all over the counter as soon as I opened it, and I had to pour standing oil off of the can before I could tilt it to spray.
I’m thinking it somehow knew my intentions, and had a cooking spray temper tantrum…
Thursday, January 27, 2011
For heaven’s sake, eat more fruits and vegetables!
When I was on the hcg diet in the fall I was allowed 2 servings of fruit a day (out of a list of 4 fruits) and 2 servings of vegetables a day. (Out of a list of about 8.) I tell you what, fruit has NEVER tasted so good. Every day I ate that apple and it was one of the highlights of my day. Same thing with the orange. I LOVE fruit. But in my day to day life I sometimes just forget to eat it. When we’re having green smoothies I get plenty of fruit, but otherwise when I’m hungry I’ll just get lazy and grab something easy, something that doesn’t have to be cut or peeled, or whatever.
It also made me realize how lax I’ve become about serving vegetables to my family. If we had the big box of salad from costco then we had a vegetable with dinner. If not, nothing. Now on the one hand I can rationalize that if I’m serving dinner at all, that’s awesome. But I want to do better. I actually really like a lot of different vegetables, and I want my kids to both like them and to benefit from a better diet. So I’m trying to reform.
I haven’t quite figured out how, though…except that maybe after I do my shopping and buy the vegetables that are available I need to pencil them in on my menu…I’ll let you know how it works!!
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Several years ago I resolved that I would never read “secular” books on Sunday. I’d hoped that this change would mean that I would read more church books and feel closer to the Lord.
For some reason it just hasn’t worked well, and I’m not sure why. So this year I’ve decided to change that goal. I’m relaxing my rules about Sunday reading, and will be interested to see what happens. But I also have a new rule:
When the new Ensign comes (church magazine for adults) it’s the only bathroom reading allowed until it’s finished. No more excuses for not having read it.
We’ll see how that goes!
Monday, January 24, 2011
Did you know that if you use Firefox you can add a background to your browser screen? It doesn’t make a big difference, but to me it’s like choosing a fun postage stamp instead of the plain one (which I do), or choosing your own check design instead of the basic one. (Which I sadly don’t because my basic checks are free.)
Today I have an ocean themed “persona” for firefox. Last week I had a winter persona that was ice blue with a few scattered snowflakes. In a few weeks I’m going to be ready for some beautiful flowers!
This is that my browser looks like now—can you see my dolphins?
You can get your own personas here.
(No, I don’t stand to gain anything from telling you about personas. I just thought it was cool…)
Sunday, January 23, 2011
With my new calling comes more time alone in my car. Now if you’ve ever driven far with 3 -10 year olds and 2 -8 year olds in the back of a minivan (I do this for 2+ hours once or twice a month) you’d understand that I actually like time alone in my car. But this is a lot of time and I want to make it useful. So my goal is to not only have appropriate Sabbath music with me when I’m going to another ward on Sunday, but also to have talks on cd or my mp3 player to listen to so that my driving time is edifying.
And to get all of that arranged early enough so that it doesn’t make me late for church like it did today!!
This morning I realized I didn’t have anything to listen to on my drive to Chapel Hill, so I quickly logged onto the byu talks website and downloaded the first thing I saw. It happened to be a CES fireside by Elder Bednar from 2 years ago, and as I listened on my way to and from Chapel Hill I knew that this talk was divine intervention in my life in this moment. We have been struggling to figure out what appropriate limits are for Josh and the xbox. (Funny—since I felt prompted by the spirit that buying the xbox was the right thing to do, I kind of assumed that we wouldn’t have these kinds of problems with it! Silly me…) Anyway, the talk was tremendously helpful to me in clarifying my concerns. Tonight we put the little kids in bed and had a family home evening just with me, Russ, and Josh. We watched the fireside together and took notes on the things that stood out to us. Afterwards we talked about what we felt the spirit had been telling us we needed to work on, and what we felt the spirit telling us to help us with the xbox dilemma. Josh wasn’t happy about it (and why would he be?) but I feel like we were able to have an important and positive conversation. And my hands are sore from rubbing his back the whole time so that he would know that no matter what I was saying, I love him. Anyway, I was grateful for that talk just being the one I saw and being the one I needed in this moment. I love it when I can see the hand of the Lord so clearly…
Saturday, January 22, 2011
I got to spend the day with one of my favorite people in the world.
My little brother Val.
Isn’t it great that siblings get to grow up and really enjoy each other?!?
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
It’s time again; another Ray child begins the orthodontic adventure. (We should probably just have the paycheck transferred straight over to the orthodontist for the next few years—that would keep us from hoping against hope that we ever have any money leftover!)
Jared has a nice combination of crowding problems that mean he gets to start braces earlier. Hooray for Phase 1. (Yes, that was entirely sarcastic!)
It is very convenient that we share an orthodontist. After I was done getting my new retainer I just strolled down to the other end of the room and took a picture of Jared as they were getting his teeth ready for the brackets.
And here he is in all his beginning metal-mouth glory!
The girls, on the other hand, are the first of our children to have managed somewhat straight teeth at this point. With the added benefit of having lost a premolar which provides a convenient space for a straw.
And, while we’re talking teeth, Jason had his wisdom teeth out last Friday in Utah. A million thanks to my wonderful sister Andra for saving us a ton of money and taking care of him too!
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Several months ago I posted about the dearth of pencils in my land. Once I added several new boxes of pens and pencils into circulation our problems were not over. The pencil sharpener started making this shrill, piercing whine. And stopped really sharpening our pencils. It’s been frustrating, because over a couple of months we’ve managed to wear down every pencil we’ve found to a nub.
Last week I was in Costco and guess what they had on an end cap? Pencil sharpeners! I didn’t even look at it. I’d been looking at sharpeners on Amazon and didn’t want to pay $35+, so I figured anything at costco for $17 was coming home with me.
My faith was not unfounded. It sweetly and (relatively) quietly sharpened each and every one of the thousand pencils we fed into it.
And it is clear, so we can watch it work! How cool is that?!?
Sunday, January 16, 2011
I’m gonna do it this year. Resolved. I promise.
In the beginning I thought Goodreads was a great idea. But do you know what happened? Ratings. The idea of having to assign a rating to each book I read just shut down my brain big time. I couldn’t figure out what three stars should mean. Was it like a C in school; theoretically an “average” grade, but in reality might as well be failing? The stress of grappling with these weighty issues was too much for my fragile mental state and I resigned myself to a life of enjoying everyone else’s Goodreads reports but never having one of my own.
But after thinking about it for at least a year, I’ve figured out my own personal rating system.
★★★★★ = fabulous, worth reading more than once and even buying.
★★★★ = a great book, one that I’d read again but wouldn’t buy.
★★★= enjoyable but not something that I’d read again.
★★= OK, I finished it but wasn’t thrilled.
★= Not worth my time, wish I hadn’t read it, or didn’t finish.
Can I tell you what a weight off my brain it is to have that figured out?!? Now I just have to remember what my Goodreads password is!
I saw this book recommended a few places and got it from the library to read over the holidays. It was a fun choice.
CeeCee Honeycutt is a 12 year old child who has been raised by a mentally ill mother. When her mother dies she is taken to Savannah to spend the summer with her great-aunt. The synopsis on the inside of the cover intrigued me, since it promised that this is “a book of feminine wisdom.” I decided to keep track of the bits of wisdom, and I wasn’t disappointed. Read the book—it's like a gentle Savannah hug. And in the meantime, here’s some feminine wisdom for you:
- Do something too often and it stops being special.
- Just set up as best you can…we’ll play with whatever we got.
- This is what friends should do: cherish the good and pretend not to notice the harmless rest.
- It’s what we believe about ourselves that determines how others see us.
- Don’t go wastin’ all them bright tomorrows you ain’t ever seen by hangin’ on to what happened yesteryear.
- Wisdom comes from experience—from knowing each day is a gift and accepting it with gladness.
- Its how we survive the hurts in life that brings us strength and gives us our beauty.
I have a great denim skirt. It’s great because it’s long, because it’s made of stretch denim and so it fits regardless of where my weight is. It’s low maintenance, travels easily, and rarely needs ironing. I have loved it.
But my skirt has had one problem. The slit, though modest while I was standing, extended past my comfort level when I sat down. (And isn’t that what church is—sitting down again and again?) Perhaps if I had model-beautiful knees I wouldn’t have been so self conscious, but as it was each time I sat I had to pull my skirt down and arrange things carefully so that my neighbor wasn’t getting an eyeful of my knobby white knees. It was so annoying.
When I first wore the skirt I decided that I should fix that overly long slit. But I just wasn’t sure how it would turn out. Did I have any thread the right color? Would it hang right? Would the stitching rip out? I wasn’t sure I could make it look ok, and so I didn’t do it.
I just kept wearing the skirt, and pulling it down over my knees.
And then one day a couple of months ago I just grabbed the skirt, and walked over to the sewing machine, loaded some blue thread, and sewed.
Do you know what? It is great. My wonderful skirt is even more wonderful now that I do not have to worry that I’m flashing my fleshy knees at everyone. The blue thread doesn’t even show at all. And nothing is ripping.
All this time I have worn the skirt and wished it was different, yet never actually tried to fix the problem. Just fretted about it in my mind.
So today I’m saying: Just Do It. Whatever that thing is that has been worrying you, that you’re not quite sure about—just do it. So what if it doesn’t look perfect. Give it your best shot, and chances are it will be better than having your knees showing all the time!
In Stephen Covey’s book, “The Divine Center,” he says that the tension that we experience when we put off doing something we know we should do usually causes us much more stress than the task itself.
My 3 minute fix at the sewing machine was a definite testimony of that!
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Friday, January 14, 2011
Last night we had the opportunity to go and see the broadway play of The Lion King. In a word, it was AMAZING. I had seen it about 6 years ago with Jason, and it was just as wonderful as I remembered. Here’s a little sneak peak from their youtube channel if you want to see the costumes. (The gazelles were my favorite.)
The music was all so much more beautiful than I remembered. (I can forget a lot in 6 years!) There were the songs that we know from the animated movie, but also many more songs written for the stage play. The rich African harmonies were so powerful.
The part that I most appreciated last night was the gospel application. I know that the Lion King is based on Hamlet, but I’ve only ever seen the movie once or twice so I haven’t spent much time thinking about it. I hadn’t realized before last night that it is also very much a story of a prodigal son. I thought the scene where the now adult Simba sees the ghost of his father, Mustafa, was so powerful.
Mufasa's ghost: [apears among the stars] Simba, you have forgotten me.
Adult Simba: No. How could I?
Mufasa's ghost: You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life.
Adult Simba: How can I go back? I'm not who I used to be.
Mufasa's ghost: Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one true king.
It made me wonder how often our Heavenly Father would say the same things to us.
“You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me.”
“Remember who you are.”
I can’t describe how powerful it was, but it was beautiful and it brought tears to my eyes.
What a great evening!
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Here's my first resolution for you. (Posted in no particular order.)
In 2011 I resolve to ALWAYS (did I say ALWAYS clearly enough??) write on ziploc bags before I put them in the freezer--both the content and the date. I always think I will remember what is in the bag, and then later I pull it out and it's an amorphous indistinctly colored mass and I never know if I should cook it or throw it away as quickly as possible. So this year I resolve to do a better job of labeling.
A closely related but less frequently needed freezer goal would be to never again forget to turn the freezer back on after I clean it. That was nasty...
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
I’ve been thinking a lot about New Year’s Resolutions. I couldn’t think about them much before New Year’s, because I was too busy partying. And I couldn’t think about them after New Year’s, because we were still partying with Cindy Lynn. But now she’s gone back to the frozen North and I’m going to be thinking about them more. I’m particularly working this year on making realistic, trackable goals. And perhaps even a little chart (a la The Happiness Project) on my mirror…
Monday, January 10, 2011
Um…isn’t Billy the Kid dead?
Does he really need a pardon???
Sunday, January 9, 2011
My family heritage was on my mind a lot this fall. For some reason I was very aware of the blessings I enjoy every day because I was born to two parents who loved the Lord and were committed to serving Him.
In November I blogged about my mother’s choices and sacrifices here.
Before the meeting that made me think about my mother’s legacy, I had been thinking of the legacy of my father’s family. I knew that my great great (?) grandparents on my father’s side of the family were early LDS pioneers in South Carolina. This fall I had a new question. Both of my paternal grandparents came from large families; my grandpa had 13 siblings and my grandma had 5 siblings. Both of their parents were members of the church. And yet only 5 of the 14 kids in my grandpa’s family remained active members of the church, and only 2 in my grandma’s family. I started wondering how and why my grandparents defied the odds and spent their entire lives as strong, active members of the Mormon church.
In October while I was visiting at the farm with my dad and several of his siblings, I asked my question. “How did it happen that Grandma and Grandpa stayed active in the church when so many of their brothers and sisters didn’t?”
After tossing around several possibilities (which included the vital importance of the example of my grandpa’s older sister, Hattie, and her husband RB) my uncle looked at me in the eye and said, “it probably had a lot to do with Mom and Dad taking our family to the temple.”
I could tell there was a story to be told, and I was not disappointed.
My grandparents were poor. Poor. When they first married they rented a room in someone else’s house to live in. At one point they lived in a room of RB and Hattie’s house. By the time my father was young they had moved to the farm on the outside of town. My grandpa worked as a machinist during the day and came home in the evening to work his farm. The children also had farm chores to be done.
My grandma always told my grandpa that she wanted to take their family to the temple. This would be no small undertaking. From their small town in South Carolina the closest temple was in Utah; over 2100 miles away. I don’t know what my grandpa thought about her desire; but I do know that years went by without their family making the trip.
One year my grandpa was in a motorcycle accident. He was terribly injured and spent over a month in the hospital. After the accident my grandmother intensified her request that he take their family to the temple, apparently telling him that “if he didn’t she would find herself a man who would.”
One day when Mark (baby #7) was just a few months old, Grandpa told Grandma that he had a plan that would enable them to go to the temple. They had purchased a car that was big enough to drive the family across the country. (Though “big enough” was certainly a relative term!) Grandpa could take enough time off of work to take the trip. They would be able to afford it…and here was the kicker. IF Grandma and the kids picked the field of cotton behind the house. If they picked the cotton themselves they would have enough money to be able to travel to the temple.
Now I’ve known this story for many years. I’ve heard my Aunt Pam tell how the cotton boll was sharp on the end, and that it would sometime catch their fingers so that they would bleed while they were picking the cotton. But on this particular day I heard more of the story.
I told my Uncle Chuck how impressed I was that the kids had all picked cotton after school so that their family could afford to go to the temple. Uncle Chuck told me that all of the kids (except for the baby) were in school all day, that the little kids were too small to accomplish much, and that he and my Uncle Cal (who were in their mid teens) had other chores that had to be done around the farm.
And then he said, “Do you know who the real hero of this story is?”
I was quite certain he was going to tell me that he was the real hero. Or that he and Uncle Cal were, since they were really the only ones old enough to shoulder much of the burden. But what he said next was not what I expected.
He said, “The real hero of this story is Margaret Watson.”
Each day my grandma would take her 3 month old baby out to the cotton field. She would lay him on a blanket at the end of the row, and then pick cotton all day long. When her kids came home from school she would make dinner and take care of all the other chores that needed to be done. And then the next day she took her tiny baby out to the cotton field with her and picked cotton again; cotton that would pay for their trip to Utah and the temple.
I saw my grandma differently that night in South Carolina. I already knew that she was a woman who had married young and worked hard to create a better life for her children. But I had never known of her heroic role in this story, of her driving commitment over the years to take her family to the temple.
Was this the thing that made the difference, that kept my grandparents and their children committed to the church throughout their lives? I can never know. But I do know that sacrifice and dedication like this leaves lasting impressions, and I am sure that I am the recipient over and over again of blessings that have come because of these sacrifices.
When I was a young child singing songs of the Mormon pioneers I often felt left out and inferior. I was the only person I knew who wasn’t descended from the Mormon pioneers. I wish I had understood then what I know now; that I am descended from Mormon pioneers. One young woman who was the first pioneer in her family. And another family of pioneers who worked harder than I can comprehend to be able to have their family sealed together.
What a superior legacy they have left me.
P.S. As it turned out my grandparents had other obstacles to overcome before they made it to the temple. My Uncle Chuck wrote an article about it for the Ensign and it was published in Feb 1985. Oddly enough the Feb 1985 issue isn’t available online right now, but if you’re curious to read the rest of the story you can find it here.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
First, some new jeans for you.
Next, to keep you warm around the house.
Lastly, just in case you need a little nap--location is no longer an issue.
Stock up--keeping your New Year's resolutions should no longer be a problem!
Monday, January 3, 2011
Mahon & Jason flew out yesterday. I was so sad. I loved having everyone here! (And I really appreciated how flexible they were about the sleeping arrangements!) Cindy Lynn will stay until Friday, then she too will leave. We’ll be back to Josh and the triplets.
Good thing we’ll have such an awesome couple of weeks to remember!
Saturday, January 1, 2011
Every year on New Year’s Day we take a look back at the previous year. We cover the table in newsprint (unless our roll runs out before the table is all the way covered), get out the markers, and each person makes a list of the best and worst things of the year. This is at least the 13th year we’ve done this!
(funny story. Josh didn’t want to come in and participate in our review since it would cut into his xbox time. I persuaded him that it wouldn’t take long and he ended up enjoying himself. He offered to take the group picture, and proceeded to torture me while he was doing it. In exactly the same way I torture my family every time I take a picture. Like this. “Just one more picture. No, I don’t think that one was in focus. Let me take another one. Now smile, everyone, and let’s do it again. Just one more, serious. Except that the flash didn’t go off that time, so we need another…” He was so funny.)
When we’re done with our individual lists we decide which things make it to the family lists. We always have a great time together.
Here is my “best of 2010” list in photo form.
Cindy Lynn and Mahon visiting; last Christmas, this summer, and this Christmas again.
Spring break; Charleston, South Carolina
Beach with family.
Beach with friends who feel like family.
This boy graduated and got a 4 year scholarship to BYU. (Although his being gone to BYU did make my “worst” list.)
Going to Education week with Cindy Lynn and my sister Andra.
Flowers on my deck.
Camping with friends.
Hcg and the new me.
Jared’s cool bald head. (pic by Melissa)
Getting my braces off again.
Cindy Lynn staying out of the hospital for an entire year.
Refinancing at a great rate.
What a GREAT year 2010 was!!!
I’m sure you’ll be happy to know that both girls’ “worst” lists included the death of Pecky, the best friend we never knew.
PS—if you’re wondering if the first picture was accurate, and I was still in my purple pajamas at 12:38, the answer is
And just to make it a really awesome New Year’s Day, I stayed in them the whole day!