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Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

I’ve done this twice before, packing for an international move. It is always intense, painful, and usually by the end, brings me to tears. I often feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we’ve accumlated despite my best intentions to keep clutter to a minimum. As I sift through clutter, I am tempted to throw the whole lot of it away and join a cloister. If I didn’t believe so ardently in my own religion and love my husband and children so much, packing would surely turn me into a nun. Yes, I can do without all my worldly goods. Yes, I can take a vow of silence. Yes, I can live a simple life devoted to God. But my life is much messier.

And tangled with the physical collection of stuff, inevitably comes all the emotional bonds that pull at me as we pull up roots and move on. When we moved from Utah to Sweden, while worried about all I would miss in the U.S.A., I still felt exhilerated and excited for the grand adventure ahead. When moving from Sweden to New York, I wept bitter tears hating to torn apart from all I had learned to love.

Here, I’m somewhere in the middle. Most of my stress stems from the uncertainty that surrounds the details of this move. We STILL don’t have a move date (though we are leaving this house by the end of the month). A great deal of administrative paperwork needs to be completed by the company that is sending it–yet the work is being completed at a snails pace. I worry about finding temporary housing, dealing with school, money, etc. I haven’t had time to think about missing friends because I am knee-deep in the mess of uncertainty, garbage, clutter, and boxes. When all is packed, stored, and cleaned, I’m sure I’ll feel plenty of homesickness. 

Well, getting that all out does feel better. I’ll stop being whiny and get back to work!

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Planning an international move is mind-boggling. Any move is stressful, but imagine doing everything you normally do for a move and then add to it: moving all your stuff overseas, dealing with passports, visas, immigration, foreign beauracracy, school enrollment, etc. Did I mention finding a house? It’s not like Househunters International, I can promise you that.

In some ways, moving to Sweden was much easier. I had the assurance that while I couldn’t speak Swedish, I’d still be able to communicate. Sweden is a part of Europe–thus subscribing to Western ways and culture.

But Saudi Arabia is really an unknown quantity. I’ve been reading what little information I can find about the country and I hope I can remember all the rules.

In the meanwhile, I should get back to cleaning my house. . .

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When my son was baptised in Sweden, the chapel was full of friends.

So if you’re Mormon and have ever surfed on the net, you’ve no doubt come across Mormon sites with lively discussions about Mormonism and lots of whining about Mormon culture. Usually those discussions annoy me because of lot of the complaining is petty and mean-spirited.

Sure, the LDS church isn’t perfect (that 3-hour meeting block on Sunday is killing me), but when I think where I would be without the church, I shudder.

I believe in the doctrines of the LDS faith with my whole heart. But this isn’t the post where I discuss that. I want to talk about community and belonging.

We moved to Sweden 9 years ago. We were poor students with two small children. My husband had been a missionary there, but I was a bit lost. I couldn’t speak more than three words of Swedish. My travels were limited to the Intermountain West and one jaunt to Cancun, Mexico. But I have an adventurous mindset and was prepared to jump in with enthusiasm.

When we arrived in Sweden we were greeted by people from our ward. Groceries filled our refrigerator and the offers to help were geniune and frequent. In time, our lovely Swedish friends-fellow ward members-became like family. Leaving Sweden 5 1/2 years later was like leaving my own family. I still feel intense homesickness even though we’ve lived in the U.S. for 3 1/2 years.

We experienced a similar outpouring of friendship when we lived in Israel for a short time. We made friends and enjoyed outings together. The kindness of the branch members in Tel Aviv eased the foreigness of Israel. It took the sting of isolation away and allowed us to truly enjoy our stay.

I’ve since learned that my experience was unique. Ex-pat women talk of loneliness and isolation, especially if they can’t find a community where they are accepted and welcomed. I had my community from the beginning.

Moving to New York felt like moving to another country. But once again, the unfailing generosity and kindness of ward members made us feel welcome and part of a community. Leaving our friends, even for a short period, is going to be hard.

But I have the promise of new friendships and the community of new ward members to look forward to. Already I’ve been contacted by members in Saudi Arabia, offering advice and extending friendship. There are a number of things I wonder and worry about moving to Saudi Arabia, but making friends is not even on the list.

Say what you like about the LDS church, but the community that can be found within the church is wonderful. It has made the difference for us in our moves and travels.

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Randomness

I know its been awhile since I’ve posted. Life has been surprisingly busy, filled with a myriad of things that aren’t especially exciting or things I don’t feel like providing a commentary on. And the weather is humid and when it is hot and humid, my will to write is drained away.

I’m on track with things. New adventures are on the horizon. My kids are happy and busy. And the weather is humid.

So just in case you are wondering what I’ve been up to, here are a few things happening in my life.

1. My toddler throws major fits. Full, all-out, throw-himself-on-the-floor-and-scream-as-loud-as-he-can-fits.

2. I went to a two-day scrapbooking conference where I took 10 classes and spent the night at a hotel with my husband, sans children. It was blissful.

3. My oldest son enters middle school in the fall. The barrage of meetings, the puberty talk at school, forms, etc. have been ever-present.

4. My daughter enters kindergarten in the fall. Same barrage of meetings and forms, minus the puberty talk/video at school. 

5. I’m reading Acts in the New Testament.

6. I just finished Downton Abbey, a 7-episode BBC series, set in England between 1912 and 1914 at an aristocrat’s home. The interplay between servants and master is fascinating.

7. I finished watching Wuthering Heights and was reminded why I disliked the book so much. But I also felt really sorry for all the characters. I totally get why it was and is, to me, such a shocking book.

8. Zucchini and yellow squash can now be found again at the market. I’m crying tears of joy, truly. They are my two favorite vegetables.

9. I’ve sorted through all the clothing, which is such a major and detestable  chore. I also purchased new summer clothing for everyone.

10. We still have a month left of school and I am totally not in the mood for homework. I want to eat watermelon outside with my kids while they run through the sprinkler or splash in the wading pool.

11. Did I mention the humidity?

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Who knew?

I am secretly amused at myself when I drop my daughter off at preschool. During that time I look completely normal. I have two children-a boy and a girl. I drive a mini-van. Sometimes I’m even wearing exercise clothes. (Yes, I am exercising!) What amuses me so much is that I have three other kids at another school. And there is no way of hiding the fact that where I live, five kids is NOT normal. When I casually mention the other three boys, the other preschool mothers and fathers are usually shocked.

Yesterday at the pediatrician’s office, we ran into one of my daughter’s  preschool classmates. I cheerfully greeted the boy’s dad and introduced him to my oldest son. I mentioned the other two boys and his eyes got big. “Really?” he asked me. I laughed and said, “I know that I must look so normal with just the two kids–”

“You look happy, ” he interrupted me. “We’re going to have three boys soon and I’m not sure how it is going to be,” he rushed to explain.

We chatted for a few minutes about the baby they will have and then I left with the conversation hanging in my thoughts.

I am always surprised at the number of people who imagine that having more than children increases one’s misery or unhappiness. Almost as if extra work equals unhappiness.

I won’t lie to you, having five kids is hard work. I don’t spend my mornings working out at a gym. I don’t have a nanny or housekeeper to pick up the slack.  I don’t have grandparents nearby to provide babysitting. My husband doesn’t arrive home at 5 p.m. on the dot. His hours are long and while he is a tremendous support to me and totally involved with his children, much of the child-rearing rests on my shoulders.  I know many mothers like myself–but I don’t live near most of them. And to the people in my area, having more than two children, making do without a nanny or a housekeeper, seems like an impossible feat to accomplish. They find it hard to imagine that I can keep smiling.

But I do keep smiling, even when I want to throw things because my kids keep making messes, spilling drinks on the floor or fight. This is my life. And I am not miserable. I have my tough days, but tough days are universal.

I believe that achieving something worthwhile, like raising a large family, requires hard work. The hard work is worthwhile and valuable because I believe that I’m building something bigger than myself.

 Why is that we as a society have a hard time acknowledging that as a valuable contribution? Yet we laud olympics athletes with praise as they dedicate virtually every minute of their lives to breaking records and winning medals. And yet, the Olympic feats are so fleeting. Records are broken by other driven athletes. 

My hope is that my work with my family will extend throughout generations. And that seems a little more valuable and worthwhile than an olympic medal. Certainly worth a smile or two at least!

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Wrestling

Like every average woman, there are things I wrestle with. There are problems  with which I grapple and feel defeated. There are challenges I don’t understand, much less finding solutions for said challenges.

When that happens, I feel impotent and powerless against forces that are stronger. Sometimes my desperation spirals out of control and I wonder what in the world I will do.

I like action. I want to precipitate action in the face of challenge and adversity. But sometimes patience is warranted. I chafe against the waiting, the quietness, the inaction of it all. Then I worry.

But worrying is counterproductive. It stays in your stomach, adding lead to the weight you already carry, subtracts sleep from your schedule and frazzles your soul.

I find myself at an impasse. I’m torn between relentless movement and the need for inner stillness.

And in the meantime, meals must be prepared, clothes washed, children cuddled, stories read, houses cleaned. And I still wrestle.

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Almost Famous

Since moving to New York three years ago, I’ve been approached by modeling and acting agencies a few times about my kids. I imagine it is pretty common as there are lots of opportunities for modeling and acting and plenty of parents with visions of celebrity children dancing in their heads.

Part of me is totally flattered. Since I don’t post pictures of my children on this blog, you’ll have to trust me that the interest in my kids, particularly my youngest, is totally warranted. My little blonde baby has piercing blue eyes and the cutest little grin, if I do say so. I’ve secretly fantasized about Ralph Lauren seeing my little guy and demanding a photo shoot. What parent doesn’t want the world to acknowledge how darling and beautiful her children are?

The other part of me cringes. I know that  modeling and acting ventures don’t have to end badly. There are probably scads of well-behaved, well-adjusted child models and actors. The problem is that gossip magazines and the internet are full of stories of the bad experiences. I don’t want my kids to end up like Miley Cyrus, Lindsey Lohan, or heaven forbid, like the newest scandal, Demi Lovato (yes, I follow gossip magazines. . . it’s a vice).

I don’t want my kids to grow up with the crazy idea that being famous epitomizes success. If they want fame and are willing to work  and sacrifice for that dream–that is something they can pursue. But I won’t be pushing them toward it.

I want my children to understand that worldly success doesn’t equal happiness or contentment. And often the price of worldly success is far too high to pay.

What do you think? Would you let your child be a model or actor? If you were approached by a talent agency, would you take the opportunity? Do you think I’m crazy for saying no?

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