Friday, December 21, 2012

Crazy Times

It's been a long time since I've written. First, it was because we were scheduled to give a talk which was all consuming until the scary moment it was finally over. Finally I felt like I could actually start working on Christmas and the five hundred other projects awaiting me. Then came the awful shooting, fifteen miles away, in Newtown. Whenever these tragic events happen, I always feel sickened and have to avoid all media for the next week or so, but being physically close to this one was unbelievably jarring. Genevieve and Hannah's schools went into lock down and while it was mostly clear that the person causing this horror was dead, I felt a little powerless and was anxious to have them home. The hardest part of all of this has been thinking about how we looked at a few houses in Newtown and realizing we could have been one of those grieving, missing a daughter. One of the families who did loose a daughter goes to our church building. It was so painful watching their grief and seeing so much of our own family, in their family. We could have so easily been there too. And I guess really in life, we are all on a razors edge between life and death. Life is so precious. I'm so grateful to also know that healing can happen through the atonement, comfort can be found through Christ and we can again be with all those we love because of His sacrifice.

I hated the need to break some of my kids innocence and talk about what happened. I don't want to have that kind of conversation. I want them to grow up in a world where everyone is safe and people don't do evil things. I don't want to tell them that a bad thing happened at a school, but at the same time try to reassure them that they are safe and all is well.

Mental illness needs to loose it's stigma and the silent way people have to try and work their way through such difficulties. I don't really know a whole lot about the shooter and his mental problems, but I do know that the mental health system is broken and most of all, people have a hard time admitting they or their family member has a problem. Finding the proper help is also difficult because of the immense fear of repercussions personally, professionally and internally. LDS Family Services was awesome. They came to our ward and told us all how to help ourselves and our children through a tragic event. They also made themselves available to talk to anyone who needed to talk, for free. I kept seeing emails and Facebook posts begging for people to take advantage of the counselors and their offers of help. But I assume no one wanted to admit they needed "help". In fact one of the pleas tried to inadvertently quell their fears, by saying they didn't need to do a "session", but they could just talk to the therapist or ask them questions about their kids. What's so wrong with a "session"? What's so wrong with just talking to them about you and your fears? What's so wrong with wanting to talk to someone when something so unimaginably horrific happens in your community? I think we could all use someone understanding, sympathetic and trained to hear our fears and feelings at such a devastating times. I'm ready to argue that we could all do with a "session" every once in awhile in everyday life. We all need a therapist to talk to. Sometimes a parent, spouse, friend, hairdresser, cab driver or stranger can be that therapist. But why is it so scary, so shameful to go to someone whose trained to do that very thing? I'll admit that when I told my friend I was considering going to talk to them, it took her encouragement to actually go and talk. And talk I did. And while it was so hard even after being to therapy in two different states, I feel so much better now and I'm so happy I swallowed my pride and my fears and stepped into a session. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

A hurricane visit threatened a few times in North Carolina, but one finally found us here in Connecticut. To be honest we were fairly lucky, we didn't get a ton of rain and so we were saved from any flooding. The wind was strong and crazy and after six hours of surviving it's wrath, the power flickered a few times and went out for good for six days. My poor parents picked an exciting or rather boring time to come and visit us. But they got to experience their first hurricane so I guess they'll always have that. I don't think any of us expected their trip to be a camping trip, but that's what they got. No showers, cooking over a tiny camping stove and reading by flashlight and lantern. The storm also had poor timing as far as effectively trapping us in right after my uncle passed away. We made flights out soon after we heard, but they were subsequently cancelled. Russ was a saint and watched all the children, plus worked from home, when my parents and I finally flew out four days after the storm hit. We weren't sure we were going to get off the tarmac, after sitting on it for two hours, but I think all of us practically melted in relief when we left the hurricane mess behind us.

The morning after the storm we were greeted with a couple of small trees that fell over in our yard and two huge trees, that fell in just the right way, a couple of houses down the street. I was amazed how so many people were so blessed that trees and debris fell in just the right way.

Last Saturday Russ let me be the one to go and help with some apartments that had flooded in South Norwalk. It was a Stake service project with the new Mormon Helping Hands campaign. I loved being able to get out and do some good work that seemed to be appreciated and was very much needed.

Tree Blocking Our Street

Downed Power Line

Tree Slingshot
Another Look at the Tree Blocking Our Street

Top of the Power Lines Hammocking in Other Power Lines
Additional Huge Pine Across the Street from the one in Earlier Pictures

Friday, November 9, 2012

Kim Taylor Stewart

My uncle passed away two weeks ago. He was so young and he was such a big part of my life. I've never had someone pass away unexpectedly, especially not someone whom I considered a second father. Growing up my family and his family would see each other at least four times a year, even though they lived in Washington and we lived in Utah. We would meet each other at a beach house in Capistrano and invade Disneyland, the beach, San Diego and Magic Mountain every year, in the spring. He was always there at Christmas and Independence Day. So many of our vacations were coupled with his. He let me come and spend weeks at his home in the summer. We camped together and hiked up Timpanogos and across Southern Utah. My Dad and he would talk every Sunday night and I always looked forward to his calls. I loved answering when he called, because I got to sneak in a chance to talk to him and find out when we'd get to see him and his kids next. If I didn't get to talk to him, I would shamelessly listen into their conversation to see when we'd be getting together. Every time he left, I'd ask when he was coming down again. He always laughed and I know he must have been slightly weary with how insistent I was, but it was that important to me.

 I loved being able to talk to him about everything. He is such a wise, careful, intelligent person who thought things out thoroughly and at length. I valued his opinion on everything from school, cameras, traveling and life. He had such a quick, dry wit and loved to tease. He was incredible with kids. I used to love having my uncles play and chase me and he always made me feel so important, special and loved. Watching him play with my kids and knowing how much they loved him, allowed me to go back to my own childhood all over again. Genevieve and Hannah will miss him so much. He was so smart. I swear he knew everything. When we would play Trivial Pursuit I'd always laugh and say, "We just pretend to play and instead we just watch you and Dad play."

He took the most beautiful pictures. I always loved getting his daily picture email that he would send to the family. I was able to put together the slideshow for his memorial and I will be forever grateful for all of the gorgeous pictures he took and all of the wonderful memories that will live on because of those pictures. Even in pictures where he was only behind the camera, the picture said so much about him. He loved his family fiercely and his greatest joy seemed to be when he was with them. He was incredibly loyal and would do anything for his family and forgave over and over again. He was very good with money and extremely humble. He lived in a very modest home which housed a few well-made creature comforts, but the majority of his money was carefully saved and spent on his family. After he passed away, a concerned neighbor asked Matt if he was going to be alright financially and if he'd loose the house he was living in with his dad. Kim had had that house paid off forever ago, but of course he was so quiet and unassuming, no one would know that.

I also learned at his memorial that he was an incredible dentist to the Native American people in the Okanogan area of Washington. Many patients expressed that he was the best dentist they had ever had. His co-workers, friends and patients also spoke of the kind, sweet man he was and how they never heard him say a bad word about anyone.

He helped me pick out my first camcorder, plan my adventure across Europe, introduced me to Costco, Rick Steve's and my forever obsession with all things Costco, the best traveling websites, Cananda and camping, Nakusp, Diana Krall, Dick's and White Elephant. He was such a good cook Everything I ever had that he made tasted divine. Who knew Asparagus could taste so good?  I loved knowing that he read my blog and he would occasionally tell me how much he enjoyed reading it. I hope he can still read it now.

I will miss our good talks, his wheezing laugh, his happy hiking steps, dollar movies, camping under the stars, his quiet little snore, his advice, eating good food together, traveling with the best traveling partner, Costco trips, playing board and card games, cruises, watching him read a book with his narrow reading glasses, listening to my dad and him tell stories of growing up, watching how giddy and happy my dad and he would be when they got together, seeing the roses he'd bring my Nana and watching him be the proudest best dad to his two awesome kids.

I know that everyone always says after a loss how grateful they are to know that life continues on after this one is over and that we can be with our family forever. The reason they all say these things is because they feel it now more than ever. I know that I will see him again. I feel that more strongly than I ever have. And I'm more grateful for that knowledge and for our Savior Jesus Christ, because the pain of losing someone is raw, real and terrible. The separation feels unbearable and long, but because of His sacrifice the loss and pain isn't forever. God is SO good! But man, is this life ever hard.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Freedom to Have a Childhood

When we lived in good old Orem, UT we had a fairly large, fenced in back yard, but I was still so worried to let Gen roam around by herself. I was seeing horrible stories of child abductions and Elizabeth Smart was still fresh in my mind. I seriously remember thinking that it was a good possibility that someone from the street, if they walked to the back yard could see through the chain link fence and possibly or most certainly steal my child. So I would trudge out there and monitor the kids every move. I kept thinking about when I grew up and when my parents grew up and when their parents grew up and I wondered if it really was a different, scarier world than back then. I thought a lot about roaming my yard and neighborhood after school or in the summer. Those roamings changed me. They gave me a sense of independence and plenty of time, space and material to use my imagination. I deeply felt that this was an important part of growing up, as well as in developing a good sense of self and confidence. I wanted this for my kids and I wanted this for myself. I needed a little time to have my own independence. But everything-from TV, to friends, strangers and who knows where else, seemed to be screaming at me that it just wasn't safe. I would be a terrible mom if I wasn't helicoptering around at every moment and my children were at a great risk for being hauled off.

Six months ago I heard a piece on NPR that was done in conjunction with when the first kid was put on a milk carton. The whole piece talked about how that one abduction and the subsequent publicized kidnappings had gone on to misconstrue our sense of safety. They sited several studies and numbers that I can't remember, but the gist of the message was- Most abductions are not random and are by someone in the family or that the family knows and that children today are a lot safer than they were in the past. "Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids" also brings up this point and attempts to convince parents to let their kids roam a little more and talks about the uproar and demonizing that went on when a mom let her 9 year old ride the subway and how ridiculous that was.

But I think the pressure and the guilt-inflicting are frequent and pressing. The first day we were here and unloading, a nice man across the street was conveying how safe it was here and how he constantly monitored who came in and out of our little cul-de-sac. And while this was reassuring and very neighborly, I also wondered why he needed to be so vigilant. Genevieve's bus stops two houses down the road and by law "?" she has to have a visual on me in order to drop Genevieve off. It's annoying to constantly check my watch and freak out if I think I hear the bus. I honestly don't remember my mom waiting at the bus stop. I would just run home. Russ walked home from school by at least second grade.

So despite all the pressures, internal and external, I'm committed to my kids being able to have a real childhood. When I worry about them running over to the neighbors, I'm going to stop and think logically if I really have a reason to be nervous and then check my gut, but I'm not going to guard them at every turn and not allow them some autonomy for the 1 in 1,000,000,000 chance that something bad could happen. And I'm going to try equally hard to not care when I get nasty stares from the other, more "vigilant" parents.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Many Thanks!

Many thanks to all of you who lent your wisdom and especially, one of my best friends, who called me up and helped me sort through everything and find some serenity. I don't know why parenting is so confusing, frustrating and difficult for me. Maybe it's because everything else in my life up to this point was fixable, controllable and winnable and if I just studied or worked hard enough I could master anything. Plus, I thought I'd be so good at being a mom, and while I knew it was going to be hard work, I didn't think or know how hard it would be on me.

I've been reading a couple of parenting books, not to know what to do, but to either make me feel better about how my kids will turn out, or give me permission to parent like I want to. Sometimes I think that's the best way to approach parenting books. If you can't handle rocking your child to sleep every couple of hours and waking up to put your child back to sleep multiple times during the night, then find a book that talks about letting your child cry it out and how it will be life changing for you and your child. In short, find the book the justifies your methods. Because really whether you do attachment parenting or any other method of parenting they all promise that your child will be smart, well-adjusted and happy. The book that I'm reading to help me relax about my parenting, is surprisingly called "Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids". More children is the last thing I need right now, but the main concept that your child's genes play a lot more into how your kids are going to turn out, as opposed to your superior parenting, helps me relax and has got my brain a-churning. So in the next several posts I want to "talk" about some of tid-bits I've been mulling over. Here's to more relaxing and more enjoying.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Call for Help

I need help. Here is my problem, Stew is a really sweet boy (see the above pic) and he's so much fun when he's constantly and I mean constantly being entertained, but left on his own for even a couple of minutes he begins to whine, then cry, then scream. So I spend most of my day feeling like a crazy woman who can't think straight because I'm trying to empty the dishwasher while my son is screaming. After twelve hours of switching off between feeling guilty, my arms falling off from holding Stew and feeling mentally exhausted, I can't bear the thought of doing it all over again. Genevieve was the same way and so perhaps it's my magnetic personality that my babies just can't tear themselves away from or maybe it's my parenting or maybe I just have high maintenance children. I know all of you out there are better parents than I am, so can you please lend your advice. What do I do? Do I just let Stew cry a lot of times throughout the day? I wonder if I can do that because it tears me apart and I feel horrible if I just let him cry. I barely make it through sleep training. But if I knew other people let their kids cry, then maybe that would help. I really just don't know what to do, but I'm going crazy. I can't get ANYTHING done. If he's awake, I can't do anything and if he's asleep then there is no way I want to do something that will wake him up. Especially because he's been a horrid nap taker and little sleep makes him even more clingy. And as far from getting something done, I don't mean making my house sparkle from top to bottom. I'm talking about wading through the mess to take a shower, or get a few dishes done. If you read, please comment.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Marriage Litmus Test

In seminary and in church there were often lessons about what to look for in a future spouse and while most things were probably on lots of people's list, the options for a complete list were endless. I doubt that there was anyone who just had one test on their list, but Genevieve does.

On driving home from dinner at a friend's house, Genevieve confidently announced that she was going to marry the eight year old son. Matching her complete seriousness I asked her how she had decided that he was the one she wanted to marry. She quickly came back with "He's really good a Lego's mom." Then she added that it was between this boy and another boy back in Utah because he was also quite good at Legos. Stifling the smile in my voice I followed up with "and why would that be important?" "Because moma, I think that when I'm an adult, I'll still like playing Legos and he'll be good at building stuff for me." A good parent maybe would have used this as a good teaching moment as to what's really important in a future spouse, but I was enjoying this moment too much and I didn't wanted it to remain untouched. Besides Legos are important to her right now and it does take some serious skills (ones I still don't have) and time commitment to create masterpieces and hopefully when she gets older, something like family will replace the Legos.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tick Lesson

I knew a tick looked like this:

I didn't know it looked like this:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fall Colors

 Fall is doing it's best to refute my last post and woo me to Connecticut. It just might work. It's gorgeous! And all of these vistas are along our daily drives and not five minutes from our house. But fall also signals winter and I haven't forgotten what a real winter with sick kiddos is like. And there is that nasty tank that's going to be hungry really quick. Don't leaf me! Wahhaaaa! I'm hilarious.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Jury is Still Out

Google says it's been two months since I posted. I guess that speaks to how insane my life has felt and currently feels. Besides not really having a moment to breathe much less type, I've been hesitant to share my true feelings. Because, after all, Russ has a new job, I live sixty miles from NYC and all the other many things I should definitely be happy about. Plus it's not "the thing" to do anything except portray how absolutely perfect your life is. But I just can't do that, because I want to be authentic and I'm helped so much when others are real..

North Carolina was amazing, is amazing and I miss Durham. I was lonely and adjusting when I first got there, but I fell in love with the place right away. Here, I'm working on trying to figure out why they do a lot of what they do. We are renting. We have a pool, but we don't have A/C. Instead we have two crazy, ghetto, white trash window air conditioning units. Our house was hotter than, well you know where, and that right there is enough to make me crazy. Who decides to put in a pool, but doesn't get A/C in a place that hits 90 and 80-90% humidity day after day? Seriously messed up. And our house is just one of the many that have this "charming" paradox. I was amazed how many houses had a pool and had no A/C. I think I had almost convinced myself that it was cool here in the summer, but that was short lived once we arrived and I was sweating to death and sleeping in my skivvies every night.

Next, this place is still living in old time America. Have you heard of heating with oil? Yeah I hadn't either, but that's basically how they do it out here. We have this industrial revolution, mammoth metal tank that waifs a hint of lamp oil smell and costs a whopping $1000 to fill up. By all accounts we'll likely be filling this bad boy up three or more times this winter. We also have well water, which tastes so yummy, but well water? What? If the power goes out, which happens frequently (again back to the dark ages reference), we have no water.

I hate mosquitoes, but the land harbors those and one worse--ticks. Poor Luna has already fallen victim to three feedings and we are hoping that she doesn't get Lyme disease or worse. I'm really scared about the kiddos or Russ and I getting them too. I've been to that exhausted, sick place for years and I really don't need to go back there with Lyme's disease.

Everything is expensive here: preschool, housing (try three times that of what we're used to), gas, groceries, taxes, babysitters, restaurants---everything.

I don't think I'm a small town girl. All my necessities are too far away. I need somewhere to get bread no more than five minutes away. It can't take me forty-five minutes to get back with a gallon of milk. I like lots of parks and one close that I can walk to. Our town has one park. I need streets with sidewalks and walking trails. Most roads don't even have a shoulder--I swear I'm going to die. There are towns or cities that are closer to the necessities, but then you have to give up living in the "nice" part of the county to live in. Welcome to the ghetto.

I must say though that our ward is AMAZING! People have been so incredibly welcoming, helpful and kind. They have made everything SO much better. Also, this is a great place to be living to visit all kinds of cool places that are close by. NYC is only sixty minutes south. Flights are cheap from here to Europe. There is so much to do and see in this part of the country. So I guess what I'm saying is it's an awesome place to visit, so take advantage of us living out here and come and visit! Your bed awaits and you are welcome anytime!

P.S. I'm still giving myself time to fall in love, let's hope it doesn't take too much longer.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Stewart is Blessed and George is Home!

The Uintas-Utah is Gorgeous and So Are You!

June and Early July Happenings

Picnic at Big Springs
Independence Day 2012
The Guys at the Cancer Free Party

Jo's Wedding

Jo and Chris