Sunday, December 13, 2009

Two great quotes

Here are two of my favorite quotes from the year:

Often the greatest service to others is one-on-one. It need not be on a grand scale, and it is noblest within the family.
--President James E. Faust

You just have to muddle...You don't have to handle everything that comes your way. There is no rule book somewhere that says all good people must go around handling everything.
--Janene Wolsey Baadsgaard

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Today, Jacob and Katie turned 15, and on Wednesday, I turn 40. I remember so clearly bringing home newborn baby twins from the hospital and wondering what on earth the hospital people were doing sending us home with these babies when we didn't know anything about how to take care of them! I had had some complications in the hospital, and the twins had literally been in the nursery the whole time I was there. On my 25th birthday, after getting almost no sleep that first night, Rich and I sat facing one another on the couch with our feet touching, each of us holding a baby in our lap, waiting for my mom to arrive from the airport. She would know what to do!

When Rich and I were engaged, we decided we wanted to have 9 children. People wonder why 9? We wanted a large family and figured that, if I had a baby every 2 years from age 25 to age 40, we would have 9 children. We haven't made it to 9, but we got off to a running start with the twins coming (three weeks early) a couple of weeks before we had been married 9 months. Boy, have we have learned some things in the past 15 years since we sat there waiting for my mom to come take over. Once she left, we had to--it was sink or swim! I was thinking about all that I have learned from marriage and family this morning. Here are a few of the things that came to mind:
  • I learned that, with the Lord's help, you can accomplish anything. I am the baby in a family of two girls, and to think I would be able to have 8 children was actually laughable to my mom. I didn't really know how to cook when we got married, and I wasn't much of an organizer or homemaker. Over and over, I have gone to the Lord for encouragement and ideas. That process has never failed me. I am still not much of a homemaker in the organizing sense, but we are making it!
  • Which made me think of the second thing I have learned, and relearned, over the years. The most important thing to the Lord in parenting is not whether you keep a clean, organized, decorated house. I know that He will help us with that, if it is important to us, but if you can't ever get it quite together (I am speaking from personal experience here), that's okay, too. On the other hand, what does matter is to love the people in our lives.
  • I am learning all the time that Savior's way really is the best way. This applies to marriage and motherhood and everything else. When I follow the Savior in how I treat others by being patient, unselfish, long-suffering, kind and gentle, I am much happier. Family life sure seems to be a natural, if sometimes painful, path to learning how to be better in this area.
  • I have learned that I am a better mother when I forget myself and put other people first. I am a much better wife when I do this, too! Oh, to always remember!!
  • I have learned that the ideal of having a family is pretty different from the reality of actually raising one. What you don't see in that family snapshot where everyone is smiling for the camera is the fighting and teasing and wrestling and broken windows and broken bones and tears and mess and work. But you also don't see all the laughing and fun times and sweet moments and chubby little arms wrapped around your neck, either. All in all, it's worth it!
It has been a hard 15 years in many ways. I have spent a lot of time on my knees. But it has also been a great, happy, full 15 years as well. In fact, it has been the best 15 years of my life, so far. I am so grateful for our family and for the many lessons in forgetting myself. And you know what else I am grateful for? I am grateful for so many little people who each want to sit by me in church and for people who call my name out every 60 seconds to share their every thought with me no matter where I am or what I am doing and for endless cute pictures that say "Mom, I love you" and for so much to do that blogging usually comes at the end of a long list. It won't always be this way, so I am just thankful for now.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A glimpse of joy

On Saturday, we got to spend most of the day at Folsom High School watching Katie compete in a big invitational track meet involving 10 schools from all over the area. This was the first time we have been able to attend one of her big meets this season. Up until now, we have had to hear her results by text message. She ran the 100m hurdles, 300m hurdles, the 4x100m relay and competed in high jump. It was a sunny, warm day, and several of us went at at time. What a treat it was to relax in the bleachers and watch her compete. She did well, despite an injured hamstring, and she came away with three personal records for the day.

On Saturday night, as I got ready for bed, I thought about what a great day it had been. There have been so many years when I have wondered if the work would ever end. I have spent most Saturdays trying to drag myself, and our children, through the endless list of chores that are essential to keep this family running, and faced so many Mondays when I didn't think I could handle the week of work ahead. There have been years of struggling with little children, tied down to the home with a nursing baby, or so tired from lack of sleep that I didn't feel like going anywhere even if I could. I felt like this Saturday was a glimpse of some of the reward that is coming after years of foundation-building. I felt deep joy watching Katie compete in her events, so much deeper than anything I ever felt when I was the one out there on the track years ago. I felt in my heart on Saturday that all the sacrifice has been worth it. It feels like the sacrificing goes on forever, and we are nowhere near done, but there is satisfaction that comes, unlike anything I have ever experienced, from watching children that we have loved and served and given our all to do good, happy things. Just thought I would pass along to anyone who is reading (or will be reading someday) that the hard times are all worth it. There are great times ahead!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

True parenting

I am reading a great book by a speaker I heard in a BYU Devotional Forum called Authentic Happiness by Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman. Here is a quote from the book that gave me all kinds of food for thought on what parenting is all about. It is in the context of a story he tells when he is crabbing at his five year old daughter. She informs him that she had to learn not to whine when she was little and that it was the hardest thing she had ever done. She said that if she could learn not to be whiny, he could learn not to be a grouch. He realized she was right. But he also learned something significant about influencing people. He says:

I realized that raising Nikki was not about correcting her shortcomings. She could do that herself. Rather, my purpose in raising her was to nurture this precocious strength she had displayed...and help her mold her life around it. Such a strength, fully grown, would be a buffer against her weaknesses and against the storms of life that would inevitably come her way. Raising children, I knew now, was far more than just fixing what was wrong with them. It was about identifying and amplifying their strengths and virtues, and helping them find the niches where they can live these positive traits to the fullest.

I think this perfectly describes the kind of influence used by our loving Father in Heaven. Focus on the good and on the big picture, amplify positive traits, lift up, encourage, support, strengthen, guide and direct, love, only finding fault when absolutely necessary.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Love, love, love, love, love

Despite the changes that come into our lives and with gratitude in our hearts, may we fill our days--as much as we can--with those things which matter most. May we cherish those we hold dear and express our love to them in word and in deed.
--President Thomas S. Monson, Finding Joy in the Journey, Oct. 2008 General Conference

It is hard for me to relax and love sometimes--well, lots of times. I love having a living prophet to remind me what life is all about!!

Monday, March 23, 2009

From a talk I read today entitled Celestial Marriage by Elder Russell M. Nelson, given in Oct. 2008 General Conference:

Each marriage starts with two built-in handicaps. It involves two imperfect people. Happiness can come to them only through their earnest effort...That effort will succeed if each partner will minimize personal demands and maximize actions of loving selflessness...Harmony in marriage comes only when one esteeems the welfare of his or her spouse among the highest of priorities.

This comes naturally to Rich. I confess that, on the best day, Rich's needs usually only make it to number 9 on my list of priorities, and on a bad day, he's lucky to make it to number 10. This morning, I realized that many of my complaints and challenges in life would fade away if I spent more time forgetting my own "selfish demands" and focused more on making his welfare one of my "highest priorities." I am going to work on that.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The power of faith coupled with the Holy Ghost

A young woman shared this quote by Brigham Young in her talk on Sunday. "If the Latter-day Saints walk up to their privileges and exercise faith in the name of Jesus Christ, and live in the enjoyment of the fullness of the Holy Ghost constantly day by day, there is nothing on the face of the earth that they could ask for that would not be given unto them."

I love that! I believe that promise is literal.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sick days

A really bad cough/fever virus + eight children = no time to sleep or shower let alone blog!

However, my sister posted a beautiful video about the Savior that takes 5 minutes to watch, if you want something uplifting in your day.

Visit her blog here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A little time alone + a good night's sleep = appreciation

Rich and I went away to San Francisco for one night while a good (and brave) friend babysat our family. We had such a wonderful time together, and I am posting some pictures and details on our family blog. This weekend helped me to see a couple of things differently.

First, I love being with my husband alone. When we are alone, we can talk without being interrupted. We can hold hands and sit next to each other without someone plopping themselves right in between us. Everything is more fun with Rich, including walking around in the rain on a cold night, eating at a little city diner, and even laying around in our pajamas and reading separate books. However, as I watched the other people in the city shopping or sitting alone or dressed in perfect corporate-world outfits, I felt deeply how grateful I was to have such a fun, busy, full life with so many great people in it to go home to. I love my life and all the little (and big) people in it that demand so much of my time. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

Second, I am grateful to be able to take care of all these people. I spoke last night for a long time with a friend who has had life-threatening complications after the birth of her last baby. She has five children about the same age as our five youngest. Because of her health problems, she cannot even lift her baby, who is 10 months old. She mostly can only care for herself and help with only the simplest needs of her family. What a blessing that, although it is a lot of work to take care of this big group, I am strong and healthy and able to do it.

Life is good.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Here is what one of our daughters wrote during the Sacrament today:

I am six yere's old
Don't bug my brothers
I'll triey to ctr
becuse I know that
Jesus loves me and that
he died for me
I shood ctr becuse
I love Jesus

She also made a list of things she is going to do to be better, including ctr, not bug my brothers, and not scream at my parents. Two of the things that family members complain about is her bugging and screaming.

At the time she showed me this, I had been thinking about my own goal of using kind words with our family and how I just couldn't seem to change my behavior on my own. Reading her note gave me great insight into both her behavior and into myself as a parent. Once again, I realized that she and I are not so different. She wants to change, too. She can't do it on her own, either. She is trying, at her own level, just like I am. Except I am not the patient, long suffering, kind parent that my Father in Heaven is. He doesn't scold me when I make the same mistake over and over. He doesn't lose His patience. He doesn't get angry or throw His hands up in disgust. He just patiently tries to help me remember what I want to do and to help me change, and then He waits while I give it another try, over and over and over.

I thought of the Savior's parable on forgiveness in which a servant is forgiven of a large debt by his Lord but then fails to forgive his own fellowservant of a much smaller debt. My Father in Heaven is unfailingly patient with my inability to change, and I am like the unforgiving servant if I am not patient with my children as they struggle with their own weaknesses.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Great Builders

My mother-in-law sent me an article entitled "The Invisible Mother" by a woman named Charlotte, a US Embassy doctor's wife in India. Charlotte discussed the idea that we feel invisible as mothers and that our work goes unseen by most, and compared it to the makers of the great cathedrals of the world. Here is a portion of the article. (Please email me if you want me to forward the whole text.)

No one can say who built the great cathedrals--we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story... told of a rich man who came to visit a cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, "Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it." And the workman replied, "Because God sees it."

It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, 'I see you Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewed on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral , but you can't see right now what it will become.'

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the anti-dote to my strong,
stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home for Thanksgiving, 'My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours, and presses all the linens for the table.' That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there's anything more to say to his friend, to add, 'you're gonna love it there.'

As mothers, we're building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The very fiber of eternity

Anna is cutting six teeth. On top of that, she has a bad cold. For the past five nights, we have not been sleeping much. Yesterday, I went to Walmart to hastily grab a few things. I looked liked a mother who had not slept much and had no time to do much for herself. While there, I saw a friend and we visited for a few minutes. As we talked, I noticed how good she looked. Her hair was done, she had on make-up and jewelry, and she was dressed in a cute outfit. Mentally making the contrast between how she looked and how I felt, I found myself wondering why life has to be so hard sometimes, especially when I am just trying to raise a family like I am supposed to be doing.

I needed a pep talk. I have spent the last 24 hours composing that pep talk in my mind, and I am typing it up here.

Matthew 16:25 says "For whosoever shall save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." This scripture perfectly applies to motherhood. We literally lose our lives, or in other words, give up control of our daily expectations and schedules in order to care for our children. When they are young, their physical care can often take over our day. When they are older, their emotional and spiritual care can take over our nights! It is so important to remember the promise that as we willingly lose ourselves now, we will later find ourselves. This time of intense care for other people, which sometimes takes up all our time, will come to an end and we will come away with something great, including time to ourselves and eternal relationships with our children (and certainly appreciation for the ability to put on make-up, do our hair, and pick out a nice outfit without spit up or runny nose rubbed on the shoulders).

I read an article on Meridian Magazine (that you can read here) in which the author compared the well-known pioneer story of the three young men who carried many of their party across the freezing Sweetwater River to the sacrifice required to bear a baby, where each mother carries her child from the bank of the pre-existence across the chasm into mortal existence. I think this same comparison can be made about caring for our children. We figuratively carry them on our back or in our arms throughout childhood until they reach the bank of adulthood and are ready and strong enough to stand on their own and continue on the path back to Heavenly Father. Sometimes the day to day of that effort can feel like such a heavy sacrifice. But when you think of it that way, doesn't that make motherhood seem so noble? Doesn't it take you above the runny noses and mundane work to see it as something grand, something that is about saving souls?

I love the statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley which he made to a group of General Authorities. I know it also applies to parents. "I hope you are enjoying your work and service. I know that it is demanding. I know that it is strenuous. But what a tremendous opportunity we all have. How could we better spend our time? We are dealing with the very fiber of eternity. We are dealing with the salvation and exaltation of our Father's children."

I have thought of that quote many times. What better could I be doing with my time than to be helping to raise up Heavenly Father's children? We are dealing with the very fiber of eternity. What I am wearing or whether I got to do my hair just right or what the house looks like today will not matter over time. In fact, it will not even matter tomorrow. But it will matter that I spent my time taking care of my sick baby, loving her, meeting her needs.

The day will come when I will get to decide exactly how I look, and how much sleep I've had, when I go to Walmart, but that day can wait. There are children that need to be raised right now, and this is the only chance I get.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Power of the Atonement

Do not forget who you are. You are sons and daughters of God, our Eternal Father, and He loves you. You can lay any burden that you feel like you are carrying on the shoulders of the Lord Jesus Christ as you internalize the Atonement and let that be real in your lives. Remember what He did in Gethsemane and what He did on Golgotha for you and me. Then, somehow, someway, the power of heaven gives you the strength to carry on, do the best you can, to move forward, and not to be too concerned about your own personal worries.
--Elder M. Russell Ballard, Single Adult Conference, May 2007

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Grace to help in time of need

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:15-16

I love this scripture. Jesus Christ is the High Priest of the Church. He understands our inclination toward weakness as well as all of our struggles. He is available to offer mercy and grace when we need it.

I was thinking of this scripture the other night after I had once again failed to keep one of only two personal goals for the new year--to use a gentle rather than berating voice when correcting my children. Frankly, I am not sure I have it in me to accomplish this goal. Every day, I start out with good intentions, but when things heat up and tempers flair, I can't seem to keep myself from ranting and raving. It is the exact pattern as someone who has an addiction. The brain path naturally follows the same direction every time there is stress, right back to the same unhealthy behavior.

I want to change, though. That is why I like this scripture. I looked up grace this morning in the Bible dictionary. Two sentences really stood out to me. First, grace is "divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ." Then, more specifically, "individuals, through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means.

Change takes patience and time. During this slow process, we depend on the grace of Jesus Christ. We lay our burden of sin before Him, asking the Father for forgiveness and help to change. Then we to do our best to improve but also to trust Him, being kind to ourselves and patient with the slow progress, knowing that His Atonement will not only bring strength and assistance but also make up for all the mistakes. Grace to help in time of need.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The trouble with boys...

The trouble with boys is that they are messy and loud and energetic. I have one boy that makes loud noises all the time, over and over and over. As if there is not enough noise in our house! Another boy delights in teasing his siblings. He especially likes the ones that scream the loudest. I have other boys who sneak downstairs and play legos all the time. I am forever standing at the top of stairs, yelling down for boys to come back up to do school work or chores or whatever. And when they play legos upstairs, they leave them all over the house. The boys also leave their dirty socks just about anywhere they feel like taking them off, like on the kitchen counter. That can drive you batty!

This morning, we had a rare moment when all five boys (plus Anna) were upstairs as I was reading aloud. I paused to look at them. They are so cute and sweet and considerate of my feelings. Well, they try anyway. I realized something surprising as we sat there. I only have four more years guaranteed to be with all of my boys. Jacob will turn 18 and head off to college in about four years, or less, really. Wow!

That put me to thinking. So is it really so bad when they are loud? Maybe I could be a little nicer when I ask them to be quiet or to do chores or to put away dirty socks. Is it really so bad when they are teasing? Mostly, it is just in good fun. Maybe I could encourage the screamers to try laughing instead. Okay, that won't work, but maybe I don't have to get so mad. I wish I were better at keeping my temper and using a nicer voice.

I had a friend remind me just this week that you spend a lot more time with your husband alone than with your children at home with you. She said children grow up too fast. She should know because her sixth and last child just went off to college last fall.

I'm going to work on that. I am going to work on using a nicer voice and being a little more patient and not taking things quite so seriously. And not just with the boys. The trouble with boys (and children) is that they grow up so fast!!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I choose joy

This morning I woke up crabby. We have not been getting much sleep lately because Anna is cutting six teeth simultaneously, and she has had an ear infection and the flu, and Beth had an abscessed tooth and the flu, etc, etc, etc. I have this gastritis stomach thing, undoubtedly aggravated by the wakeful nights, that forces me to be sure to get extra sleep or suffer from stomach pain. So this morning, I couldn't get up when I wanted and therefore began the day playing catch up. This makes me crabby. The thing is, I love the days when I can get my shower and scriptures read before the little children are up. This was not one of those days, and I was feeling pretty bugged by life. I was dragging myself through the morning routine, wondering how I would make it through a day of what felt like total drudgery ahead. Crab, crab, crab.

I decided to read the scriptures with breakfast. A gentle thought came as I was reading, probably the first chance I had given the Holy Ghost to influence me all morning, that it was unusually quiet. I looked around to see children doing an amazing thing--for the first time since the new year, they were doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing. Josh was reading; Jacob was doing homework; Adam began practicing the piano. No one was bugging anyone else, and I didn't have to drag someone away from the beloved legos to get started on school work. Suddenly, I viewed the day from the perspective of what was going right instead of was going wrong.

A quote from President Monson's Oct. 2008 talk "Finding Joy in the Journey" came to mind (which my sister shared in a recent blog):

“Both abundance and lack [of abundance] exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend . . . when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present—love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature, and personal pursuits that bring us [happiness]—the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience heaven on earth.”

Here was this principle in action in my life. I could choose to focus on what was missing, having everything the way I wanted, or I could focus on what was going well, like children choosing to follow the routine and a sunny day and a stomach that didn't hurt.

Our Bishop gave a fantastic talk on Sunday. One thing that struck me was his discussion on the need to purify the heart of pride. I can see that the things that make me the most crabby and irritable are directly related to my pride, like not being able to do what I want or have the house look the way I want or have my children behave the way I want. If I follow President Monson's thought, then I humbly and patiently submit to the things that are not the way I want and recognize the things that are the way I want with gratitude and appreciation. So I am working on that.

Today, I chose to be cheerful instead of crabby and to be grateful for the things that were going well instead of the ones that weren't. It turned out to be a pretty great day, and the drudgery ended up being pretty fun.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I have a confession to make. I am in over my head. I have more than I can handle. I am a blue diamond mother trying to make it on a black diamond family ski run.

Anyone who has gone downhill skiing knows the feeling when you head down a run harder than your skill and realize it partway down the hill. You have that out-of-control feeling where the poles are flying and you are going quite a bit faster than you can handle. You feel like you are going to crash any minute, every minute. You want to yell to the other skiers "Get out of my way! Novice skier coming through!" and you pray like crazy. Yeah, well that's how I am feeling about our family. This is out of control.

You might ask, "Well, why did you have so many children?" Good question! What I want to know is why Heavenly Father didn't stop me when I got married and say something like, "Now, Khristine, you weren't raised in the church and you were the baby, so you better just take it slow. Let's keep you on the bunny hill for a while. Let the gals who helped raised all their younger siblings have the fast and furious big families. Let's not overdo it." But no, He sends us twins right off the bat, and there I am, with no idea what I am doing, on the blue diamond hill to start. Then He lets us hop on the lift and head right up to the black diamond course without so much as a warning, "You might not want to do that!"

The problem is that we sure love all these children. Who would we do without? If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't change one thing. Maybe I am just a glutton for punishment. So what is there to do? I guess I am going to have to pray my way all the way down to the bottom of the hill!