Category: Faith


Sundays have been such a challenge for us in the last few months. For a variety of reason, I have ended most Sundays in tears for one reason or another.

To begin with; Caleb has been really struggling with being at church. Something was setting our sensory boy off about church and he would spend 99% of our time there having a complete sensory meltdown in the halls- which often included lots of screaming, hitting, and flailing in my arms. Basically every Sunday Caleb and I both cried in the halls of church. Him because he was feeling overwhelmed by something he couldn’t communicate to me and me because I was feeling like a bad Mom because I couldn’t figure it out and because I felt alone there in that place trying to help our son. I felt like Sundays involved Caleb and I battling something I couldn’t see or feel so I didn’t know how to help him. We have involved all of Caleb’s therapist in trying to solve this puzzle. Caleb’s behavior was stumping us all and one of his therapist even came to church with me and the kids to try and figure it out.

Added to that dynamic is that I am still not a pro at going places with all five kids by myself. When people typically have kids they do it one at a time with at least a nine month period in between to help them adjust to each new addition- we went from zero to five in less than two years. No adjustment time and with the exception of Caleb and Baby Otter the kids came in multiples. We are coming up on a year of being a family with five children all four and under and I am really just starting to get my footing. So taking the kids to church by myself (because my husband does not attend) is very stressful for me. I would see other large families who had their children all sitting calmly, or at least calmer than one screaming in the halls and four other kids that still need some help, and I would feel like I must be doing something wrong. It seemed like it was just too hard. 

The final stress of our Sundays lately has been the insane number of things that has happened to our family in the last few months- multiple surgeries, injuries and kids who were sick for about two and half months straight. So we missed far more Sundays than I am ok with- so while I was trying to hold it all together in the middle of that storm if we missed church that week there were tears then too because I felt I was failing my kids.

It has been a crazy adventure lately. However, this last week was amazing. In speaking with Caleb’s therapists we decided that Caleb just cannot handle a three hour time at church right now. Not until he can communicate better and we can figure out what is setting him off or at least what helps make it better. We even figured out a way to make that work. Tyler will come with the kids and I to the first hour of church, the Sacrament meeting, and then he will take Caleb home while the other kids and I stay at church. Yay for a solution!

Unfortunately, Tyler had a medical procedure done Friday and was not up for coming this week. I decided to take the kids and leave after the first hour, when a dear friend volunteered to drive the big boys home allowing them to stay for Primary. I woke up with a different mind set than I had in the weeks prior. I was not filled with a sense of dread, instead I was confident that it would all go well. I knew that my kids would still not all sit calmly in a pew and I also knew that Caleb might have some moments he struggled but I was sure we could navigate it. The kids and I went to the Relief Society room so that the youngest three (2, 2 in 6 days, and 10 months) could move around a little more and not fuss because they felt stuck. Caleb does better there than he ever does in the chapel. Everything went great! I mean the younger kids were running around like little terrors but they were not crying and the big boys sat fairly quietly. I realized the key to a calmer Sunday is for me to keep things easier for Caleb by letting him leave after an hour and to realize a successful day at church for us will look different in reality right now than it did in my head. Managing realistic expectations and realizing success to us will look different than success to other families is the secret. I am so proud of all five of my little miracles.

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For more information about sensory processing disorders visit The Sensory Processing Disorder Parent Support website. 

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He Came to Save Us

“He came to save us” our four year old Damien said with a smile on his face and a light in his eye. I nearly fell over and had to take a few deep breaths so I didn’t start sobbing in the middle of our Family Home Evening.

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Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints practice something called Family Home Evening (FHE) once a week. Family Home Evening is a time to grow and deepen our bonds as we study the gospel together. This practice of studying the gospel as a family has gone on since the dawn of time. However, in 1915 church leadership encouraged families to have one night a week devoted to studying as a family.

Family Home Evenings can be such spiritual and uplifting times, and with five children four and under they can also be a three ring circus. With children crying because their play time was interrupted and babies wanting to eat or sleep added to the moth like attention span of children this young I occasionally have asked myself why we bother trying to teach them anything.

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Tonight for FHE we decided to talk about the birth of Jesus Christ and the true meaning of Christmas with the kids. After our opening prayer and song we read from Scripture about the night our Savior was born. We then watched a Veggie Tales clip from YouTube that showed the story briefly to engage the kids with characters they were already familiar with. To finish up before we lost our short hold on their attention we watched the breathtaking video of The PianoGuys’ “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. The video is beautiful and at one point shows Mary holding a newborn baby Jesus, I said to the kids “Look, there is baby Jesus” and that is when Damien showed me exactly why we wrestle the kids into focusing on the gospel every week when he said joyfully, “He came to save us”. It was a simple statement and one I could tell he was proud he knew and understood.

When Damien, Perry and Alize joined our family last year they had no experience going to church or knowledge of the gospel. We were kind of generic Christian attending a Methodist Church when the kids came home and since then we have found our way to the fullness of the gospel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and we are growing alongside our children in our knowledge of the gospel. It is so important to us that the kids grow their testimony’s and this was a huge milestone moment for us all. They really are listening, even when they seem to be doing everything but listening.

Damien could sense how proud we were of him and when it came time for our closing prayer Damien was bouncing in his seat waving his arms asking if he could say it. I leave you tonight with the sweet prayer of our four year old:

“Heavenly (Heably) Father, Thank you the baby Jesus and Christmas. In the name Jesus Christ, Amen.”

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From all my reading on the subject of homeschooling I find relief in the knowledge that I am not the only Mom who has felt a bit like I am riding a merry-go-round in my head on the subject. I find myself literally mid thought changing my mind on the subject and the closer we get to our oldest being of age to start Kindergarten the more frantically the merry-go-round seems to spin.

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To homeschool or not is a thought that dominates my mind lately, no matter how many times I remind myself that the decision doesn’t have to be set in stone I still feel like this is the pivotal moment for the decision to be made. Damien currently attends a specialized Preschool where he receives the extra support he needs to succeed. He loves his school, loves going and his teacher is phenomenal. If this had been our only experience with preschools I would feel fairly confident (despite my original plans to homeschool) sending him off to Kindergarten next fall, unfortunately this has not been the only experience we have been through. Damien was enrolled in his current preschool before we finalized his adoption and it was part of the local county supports he was involved with before joining our family. With the idea of kindergarten looming we decided it would be a good idea this past September to enroll him in Head Start so he could experience a more Kindergarten-like setting (his current preschool only has 6-8 kids in a class and is only two days a week). Head Start was complete disaster that ended in me pulling him from the program and filing both state and federal grievances that lead to an investigation. Without getting into the specifics of what happened at Head Start the situation involved many of my main concerns with public education; lack of trauma informed care, no acknowledgement of the student as an individual, rigid policy with no reason, etc. We returned Damien to his original preschool and things returned to normal and now next week we have a meeting about transitioning him to Kindergarten and I am so worried. I worry about a repeat of the Head Start debacle. I worry about class size. I worry about my son who struggles with transitions succeeding in a traditional public school setting. I worry he will lose some of the magic that makes him Damien as he conforms to the school norms. I worry about the focus being on standardized tests and not on creating a lifetime learner.

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I love the idea of homeschooling and I could write an endless list of the reasons to homeschool so in that way it seems like a no brainer and yet I still go back and forth. I am concerned about sending Damien or any of our other children to public school and I am also slightly (sometimes extremely) worried about my ability to successfully homeschool all five of our children and meet their various needs. When I imagine us five years down the road I can picture an amazing homeschooling rhythm and I have so many lesson ideas I cannot contain myself, however when I think of getting started with school next year I get so nervous and I feel frightfully unprepared to juggle my first year of homeschooling and four younger children at the same time. I worry about the logistics of getting them all to the various extra activities I want to involve them in if we homeschool to add more diverse experiences and socialization opportunities.

Round and round my thinking goes. Decisions, decisions, decisions. Does anyone have a magic ball that can give me the exact right answer or some assurance that if I decide to homeschool I won’t fail my kids? Of course I know what I need to do in this situation, as with any situation when I am stuck, I need to take it to the Lord in prayer.

I pray for clarity.

I pray for courage and strength.

I pray for wisdom.

I pray to be sure the decision we make honors Heavenly Father and ultimately helps our children grow closer to Him as they grow into the amazing young men and woman they are becoming.

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I have learned countless lessons from my children, at least once a day I find myself humbled and amazed by the knowledge small children seem to posses that we lose somewhere on the way to adulthood.

Today’s lesson came while taking our three year old son to buy “Big Boy Underwear” because he needs a jump start on potty training. Perry knows where to go potty and how, he can go by himself even…. but he doesn’t. This morning he was playing with a toy in the living when he suddenly turned around and started grunting. I asked what he was doing and he responded nonchalantly “Oh, I’m pooping”. I scooped him up and raced him to the potty, the whole way reminding him that he knows he should not poop in his pants and that he is a big boy. He was unruffled by the whole scene and once we got to the bathroom I asked him where he was supposed to poop and again he responded as if there were nothing amiss, “Poop goes in  the potty”. That was the moment I realized, he fully gets the concept, he is just choosing not to use the potty because he thinks going in his pull-up is easier. This discovery lead us to our post dinner Mommy-Son Target run for big boy underwear.

 

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We go to Target a lot, for a variety of reasons. One reason is that I love it, I think Target is a mini vacation.It is aisle upon aisle of books, home decor, cute clothes and of course the essential we need at a moments notice.  Target is a Mommy haven, it also happens to be less than two miles from our house. With five children I try to make sure we have time one on one as often possible and this was a great opportunity for some Perry and Mommy time.

From the minute we entered the store Perry was a ball of energy and excitement, I am sure to the casual observer it must have appeared that Perry had never been in a store before in his life. Every display, sign or person we walked past was gushed over with equal zeal.

“Wow, Mommy what is that?”

“Look at the dress”

“There is Christmas on the ceiling”

“Hi boy”

“Let’s go that way”

“Look over there Mommy”

On and on he went, I really do not think he stopped to breathe the whole time we were there. I could not get over his unadulterated joy at a quick trip to the store. We were about half way through when he looked up at me eyes filled with wonder and breathed “It’s amazing. I love you”.

I wondered as I watched my son delight in the magic of a Target run when I lost the ability to see the divine magic in the everyday? Where did I lose that wonder? Possibly more important than when or where I lost it is why did I lose it? I need to get it back regardless.

We are surrounded by amazing, wonder inducing, beautiful things every day and we can lose sight of this fact as adults. We are living in a world so diverse, complex and beautifully created that one could find no end of joy if we approached our daily tasks and errands with the same joy as a three year old. There is joy in that Target run, there is joy in the sink of dishes and the piles of laundry, there is joy in the errands and the work. Everywhere you go and in everything you do there is joy, the trick is to find it.

So stop, smell the roses…or if you are near a Target hit the candle aisle and delight in the joys of the seemingly mundane. Everything in the world was created for a purpose and our purpose here is to find happiness and joy while progressing, the joy is hiding in plain sight. There is no magic formula to find joy; we won’t find it once we get that promotion, buy that house, drop those pounds or find those riches. The magic is all around us and within us, we just have to tap into it and remember what it is like to be three.

I am eternally grateful I have five little miracles here to teach me these lessons and I hope I learn them well. I don’t want to miss out on the wonder of a single moment.

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We have gone from zero to five children in less than two years through adopting from foster care and that has been amazing and crazy in equal measures. It has also resulted in a life of crisis management, where I basically live crisis to crisis as our kiddos work through some very difficult challenges. I rarely have time to think too hard about tomorrow, let alone process all the big emotions I feel during the foster to adopt journey. Last Christmas Eve we were blessed to be able to adopt our first little one, who is now our middle child at 21 months old. We are now preparing to finalize the adoptions of three of our other children next month.

I recently went to complete all the entrance paperwork for our oldest child to start full time pre-school in the fall. The meeting started off as expected, lots of mind numbing repetition of “sign here”, “initial here and sign here”.  The school employee then nonchalantly told me that parent-teacher conferences happen three times a year. I felt like someone had suddenly plunged me into cold water- taking me out of the repetition and crisis management mode to give me a glimpse of the enormity of what is happening. Three times during this next year there will be parent-teacher conferences and I will be attending them as the parent. Wow. We really are becoming his forever parents- no prefix just his parents. It was not a foster parent-teacher conference but a parent-teacher conference. Suddenly the paperwork I was breezing through mindlessly took on new meaning.

We have felt they were all our children from the moment we met them but to know that soon they will be our children forever, legally, is huge. You would think that all the diaper changes, behavior talks, monster in the corner checks, snacks and cups made, boogers wiped and accomplishments cheered would make the parent word stick. Apparently it hasn’t sunk in yet. Thankfully, I have these glimpses that show me how much it hasn’t all sunk in and I can laugh at myself for being thrown by such simple phrase as “parent-teacher conference”. 

Years ago I worried we would never be parents. I was terrified of never getting the chance to see my husband tickling a squirming boy laughing and yelling “Daddy you’re getting me”. I thought I would never have small hands reaching up and eyes alight with cries of “Mama” as I entered a room. I prayed I would experience those things and part of me always felt sure I would but fear is sneaky. Fear will worm in to all of your hopes and dreams if you let it. 

We have one child’s case still up in the air and if these glimpses have taught me anything it is to not doubt the promises of The Lord. All things will work together for our good and the good of our children. I hope to soon to able to say we are preparing for our final adoption but I know if things turn out differently and our youngest leaves our home that as painful as that will be, Heavenly Father will have a plan for greater things for him and for us all. I am not letting fear worm into my hopes and prayers for an amazing future for any of our children, including the ones who don’t share our last name yet and I am reminding myself that I am for real and forever a parent now. Wow. Still seems too good to be true. 

This Side of The Font

There are moments in time that irrevocably alter us, changing us at an almost cellular level. For me some of those moments include the day I married my husband, the day our first son was placed into my arms, the day I was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the day I received the conferring of the Holy Ghost.

It’s been a little over a week since I was baptized and became an official Mormon. It’s taken a while for me to even begin gathering my thoughts about this experience. I have never experienced anything like it, and I know I will never forget the beauty of that day. The day couldn’t have been more perfect, the weather was perfect and so many loved ones gathered to support me and our family as I took this monumental step. In the last week I had an appointment for our oldest son and I had a very surreal experience when the provider we were meeting with asked me to identify the religion our family follows and I answered without a second thought that we were a Mormon family.

When I first felt myself being called to The Church (that story can be found here) and to the restored Gospel I was so worried that our loved ones would not be able to get behind such a radical change. I knew with the surety of an eternally encouraged child that my parents would support me no matter what, it was everyone else (myself included) that I was worried about. How foolish that fear turned out to be, something I realized fully as I looked around at the large number of people who gathered to support and celebrate my baptism. I cannot think of it, or look at the pictures without tears filling my eyes. We have friends and family from all walks of life and from all faiths and still so many showed up to support me following the path I had been called to walk. As with almost all new converts I had to physically restrain myself from grabbing everyone I knew to try to convey how amazing my baptism felt and how deeply I desired for them to feel it for themselves. I know from my own experiences on the other side of that interaction that such behavior rarely has the desired effect. So I restrained myself and just attempted to let my unfettered joy speak for itself. To everyone who came to my baptism and to all who sent me words of love and encouragement, I want to take a moment now to again thank you. The support of those you love in matters of importance to you should never be underestimated in value.

I, somehow, agreed to bear my testimony at my baptism and as the day drew nearer I became more and more terrified by the idea. I am not afraid of public speaking and I do not embarrass easy. I do, however, cry easily. I knew how deeply moved I was to be going through this experience and I was worried that my testimony would either not touch the gravity of it all or I would end up a wet mess that no one could understand. I was taught by a few combinations of Elders but the main two; Elder Tengberg and Elder Woodbury are both spiritual giants and I am continually in awe of their strength, faith and love for serving Heavenly Father on their missions. I was certain next to both of them, my testimony was going to be the linguistic equivalent to a finger painting being shown next to the works of Monet. Nonetheless, I was able to stand up and share my testimony of how I found my way to The Church;  how I came to know that this is The One True Church, that The Book of Mormon is true and that President Monson is a Prophet of the Lord.

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The day of my baptism ended with a day long picnic in the sun with friends and family. The kids got to run and play, we all got to spend some time with those we love and we celebrated me finally finding where I was meant to be in life. And somehow this amazing journey wasn’t over. I still had the gift of the Holy Ghost to receive the next morning at church.

Sunday started with its own miracle since my husband, who is amazingly supportive but not (yet) a big fan of going to church, decided to attend church with the kids and I. Every time we all can go to church as a whole family is a sacred and beautiful gift. As we were settling into the pew for Sacrament Meeting our children were all extra restless from their day of adventures the day before. I was just beginning to feel overwhelmed with trying to juggle our five children (three and under) when it was time for the conferring of the Holy Ghost. I was so blessed to be encircled by such strong and faithful Priesthood Holders as I was given the gift of the Holy Ghost and a Priesthood Blessing. This too was an experience unlike any I have ever experienced and one I feel I cannot accurately describe. There are a few things that seem to continually weigh on my mind and heart and as I was receiving the immense gift of the Holy Ghost and my blessing I felt such peace for once that everything was going to work out as it should and that there was no need to worry.

The week following my baptism was one of the crazier weeks we have ever had and I cannot imagine having gotten through that week without the joy and peace from my baptism still carrying me forward. There are no real tangible things to represent this huge change and yet from the moment my face broke the surface of the water as I emerged from my baptism, everything had changed and realigned.

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When my husband, Tyler, and I were matched with our first son we worked with an amazing case worker, Regina. We felt an instant connection with Regina and remained close after she left our agency. Later we would learn that Regina was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Shortly before our son was adopted I began having a recurring dream about Regina, the dream never changed and I started having this dream every other night. The dream always consisted of Regina and I in her kitchen talking during which conversation I would ask her to tell me a bit more about her faith. I could never remember what she told me, the next part of the dream I could remember was me deciding to convert and then I would wake up. I always woke up feeling at peace but dying to know more. I delayed mentioning the dream to Regina because I was afraid it would come off wrong, and possibly insult her. A month in to me having this dream every other night I received an e-mail from Regina in which she told me that she did not typically do this with people she met professionally but that if I was open to it, she would love to share her faith with me and what she believes about families. I have never been a believer in coincidence so I shared my dream with her.

A few weeks went by before Regina and I reconnected. I was having a bad Mommy day and was out for a drive praying about our children and crying. As I ended my prayer I told God, these dreams were driving me crazy and if He was serious about this new direction He needed to send some Missionaries my way because I had so many questions and if converting was not the path for me the dreams needed to stop. The very next day I got another message from Regina that she wanted to know if she could come visit and bring some Missionaries with her to answer the questions she knew I had. That was the moment I said “Okay, God, I hear you”. The dreams stopped the day I met with the Missionaries.

To many people I know this sounds a bit crazy, to have a dream, even a recurring one, and follow that inspiration. I was blessed to be raised by parents who encouraged me to find my own path, my bliss and to follow it. I was raised with the knowledge that we all have our own journey and encouraged to find my way. I have been looking and tried many paths and none felt true and right until I followed a dream and that dream lead me to The Church.

I have been what we call an investigator of The Church for a few months now and have scheduled my baptism for April 18th. I am so happy to be claiming my path and to officially join The Church.