Monday, March 15, 2010

Mom? Dad?

We can't seem to communicate with you through email. We're receiving YOUR emails, but as of a week ago, any email we (including Michelle) send to you is getting returned to us as failures. This started for me on Monday, 3/8. Just wanted to let you know we are not ignoring or forgetting about you.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Last words

Someday I am going to die. Sobering thought. But it's true. Could be 40 years from now. It could be 40 minutes from now. It could be in an instant. It could be after months or years of pain and suffering.

In December, my friend and Relief Society president gave her first Sunday lesson on preparing for our own death. At the time, we had lost two sisters in our ward and stake. From the sister in our ward whom Bev got to be around more than the rest of us, she wanted to share some things she learned.

Like sometimes, when people get sick with cancer or another life-threatening disease, they think they will have enough time to make the necessary preparations for their death or to say good-bye to their family. But they don't consider how your body can quickly deteriorate and you may never get that chance due to physical obstacles, no matter how much you want to.

Bev shared some amazing ideas and the three things that touched my heart, that I committed to do, as a result of her lesson were A) make my funeral plan B) teach Jared my system for running the financial aspect of the Hough family and C) write "last words" (good-bye letters) to my children. These three things are services I can provide for my family now, before I die, so that they won't have to wonder or worry when the time comes and will hopefully provide peace for them during a very difficult time.

A and B were easy, assuming I were to die tomorrow. I tried to select speakers for my funeral (ironically I've never been to an LDS funeral before) that wouldn't have to travel far to do so. I certainly wouldn't want to pose a financial strain on friends from out-of-state. Here's your courtesy head's up...Stephanie M., you're doing my life sketch. Good luck with that. Bev, you're her back up. Grandma Vickie, you're giving the talk. Shocis, I'd love it if you would sing "I Know My Redeemer Lives" (your special arrangement of it) as a solo or small group or choir. It's up to you. Barbara, would you be so kind as to accompany her (or them)? My deepest gratitude in advance. Oh and if anyone is wondering...I like tulips...any color or better yet, a variety of colors!

Jared wasn't thrilled about having to learn the financial ropes. He's happily avoided the responsibility for the past 12 1/2 years and has no desire, whatsoever, to go anywhere NEAR the family finances. Ever since we were married, he's been in charge of production, I've been in charge of distribution. And it's worked really well for the both of us. But...he needed to know the system, just in case. And now he does. So don't let him claim ignorance!

C was what I was dreading the most. No one wants to contemplate how short life really is, let alone ponder their mortality for more than 30 seconds. It's uncomfortable. It's not a happy place to be. Planning your funeral program and burial is one thing. But how do you say good-bye to your babies--those precious spirits you helped create and bring into the world, with so many hopes and desires and dreams for them? Especially when you want to BE THERE for everything. You want to be there to celebrate when they get a good grade on a test they studied their heart out for or when they make the try-outs. You want to be there to comfort them when they fall and get hurt or when they don't make the try-outs. You want to be there to teach them what you know, to help them with their homework, to support them in all the good things they try. You want to be there when they ask for your advice. You want to pray with them, play games with them. You want to be there when they get baptized, receive the priesthood, go to the temple for the first time, go to their first dance, have their first date, get their mission call, go to college, get married.

Most of the heartache I experienced was certainly out of pure selfishness. It was excruciating just to consider missing special milestones in my children's lives, let alone all the other days in between. But we all know, it's not what I want. It's whatever the Lord has in store for me. I had to convey all the mothering I would have done, had I been around, in verbal form to my babies in the event my death happens sooner, rather than later.

Writing these letters was, without a doubt, the most heart-wrenching, emotionally difficult thing I have ever done thus far in my life. I took an evening when Jared wasn't going to be home to do this. Though I warned him if I was a blubbering mess when he returned, not to panic and told him what I was doing. I said a prayer before I began because I knew I couldn't do this without Heavenly Father's help. More importantly, I pleaded for the Spirit to guide the pen and my thoughts so that I would write the things my babies would need to hear most from me when I was gone. I spent 2 1/2 hours that first night and only got through Jake and Cooper. Half the time I couldn't breath let alone see or write because I couldn't stop sobbing. I was a wreck.

The letters to Jake and Coop were hard because of all the things I wanted to "talk" to them about: their personal characteristics, their talents and strengths, giving praise for the things they've done so far, my counsel to them for the big and not-so-big things in life, my testimony and of course, the love I have for them in the deepest corners of my heart. It took me another two months and two separate occasions before I finally finished the letters to Karcyn and Calvin. Their letters were difficult also but for a different reason as well. Karcyn is almost 4 and Calvin not quite 2. I've had less time with them. I don't know them as well as I know Jake and Cooper which made leaving last words for them a lot more general and felt a lot less meaningful. It seemed like I was cheating them andI only hope they won't feel that way.

As painstaking as this was, I'm glad I gutted through it. More importantly, I don't ever want my children to wonder if I loved them and what I hoped for them. I don't want them to ever worry that they never made me proud. And I don't ever want them to wonder about my testimony of the Savior or the restored gospel. Even though I tell and teach my children these things, once someone is gone and as time goes by, it gets tricky to remember them. The written word is a powerful tool in helping us remember those we loved and to feel their spirit and "hear" their voice.

A few last words...

I love you, Jacob. Chin up, Sweetheart. Smile for me. Help Dad. It will be hard on him, too. Love Cooper. Be his buddy. Take care of Karcyn--protect her. Baptize Calvin and help him remember me. You make me so proud and honor me with all the good that you do.

I love you, Cooper. You are the son we chose to name after my grandparents that I loved to my very core. And now I get to be with them again. Don't ever take your eyes off the temple! Do whatever you have to do to get there worthily and keep going back so we can be together again.

I love you, Karcyn. You are pure sunshine. I feel so blessed to have been a part of your life--even if just for a little while. The gospel is everything! Embrace it. Be grateful for it. You are a daughter of God who loved you before I did.

I love you, Calvin. You light up whatever space you are in. Sweet boy--life isn't easy. Life isn't fair. But this is the only life we get, so make it the best you can by becoming the son of God I know you are and I will be the proudest mom ever.

I hope you'll consider doing the same for your children. I promise, you won't regret it. And as emotionally taxing as this process was, there is profound peace in being prepared and leaving your children (no matter how young or old) their own personalized gift from Mom. A gift that money can't buy. A timeless gift. A gift that could only be created for them ahead of time because their mom knew it would be hard on her kids when she died and she wanted them to be able to treasure her own words written just for them that they could read over and over and over again. Words that might bring them peace, solace, strength and above all, a reassurance of her love for them--even after the sting of her death has faded. For as long as they need it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Blowing off steam...lots of it!

My Santa came through, as he usually does, year after year, and got me the steam cleaner I had been wanting for the 8 months leading up to Christmas. I told him it was the only thing I wanted. Jared rolled his eyes and told me to just go buy myself one if I wanted it that bad, but I couldn't justify it. Nope, in order for me to not have any buyer's remorse, it had to be a Christmas gift. Jared was actually raised to NOT buy his wife any kind of appliance or household tool that would suggest "cleaning" or "work." I'm very grateful he was brought up that way. However, in the case of marrying an undiagnosed, slightly OCD, Type A woman, all bets are off. If said wife, ASKS, or better yet, BEGS for things to enhance kitchen productivity and cleanliness of the home, I believe her wishes trump any and all parental upbringing on the subject! Fortunately Jared has seen the light and has given in and gotten me those things on my wish list. He insists my practicality is no fun. But, c'mon! It makes me happy! And happy wives make for happy husbands :)

I wanted the steam cleaner, if for no other reason, than to clean the grout in between the ceramic tile in our kitchen and bathrooms and laundry room. Two years of traipsing through our kitchen with four little rug rats and friends can make it really dirty. Here's a BEFORE picture (plus two adorable rug rats).

Here's a picture of first time I experimented with the cleaner. Notice the 3 vertical lines and 2 horizontal ones closest to Jared's feet that are lighter than all the rest? That's what I'm talking about!

And here is an AFTER picture.

Even with the steamer blasting away at the grime, it was still hard work. The cleaner worked great, but it took time and boy my back was killing me. It took me three sessions to complete the kitchen floor and the sessions were not as close as I would have liked. At one point I had half the tile done. It looked silly for a long time. But now, I feel like I have a whole new floor!! Thanks, Santa Baby!

March 2nd

Aside from it being the day Jared and I got unofficially engaged (without the ring) 14 years ago and my friend's wedding anniversary (Hey Suzy, hope it was great!), it was also Dr. Seuss' birthday. And at our house, we celebrated.

Nothing says "Happy Birthday" more than atomic, glow-in-the-dark green eggs and (diced) ham for dinner. Ewww...they really did look gross. Fortunately, that didn't stop my kids.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Puzzle Princess

We've noticed for the past year or so that Karcyn really enjoys puzzles. We have several wooden ones with 9-12 pieces and she would just do them over and over again. So I got her a couple 24 piece puzzles and she whipped right through those. It was around September that we noticed this was more than just a kid who likes puzzles. She has a real knack for them.

She doesn't have a system, like looking for outside edge and corner pieces first and then filling in the middle. She doesn't always look for the colors that match on pieces either. She looks for the actual SHAPE of each piece and where they connect. And let me tell you something...she's got an eagle eye because she finds them before I do. I don't know how she does it. It's quite amazing to watch.

My parents got her a big floor puzzle (48 pieces) for Christmas. It was one of the first gifts she opened. And she had it done and put together in a matter of minutes. Less than 20 and only because she had to rescue several pieces from Calvin who thought taking them and running off with them was the best game ever.

I got her another floor puzzle a month ago for a potty training reward. I sat down with her the first time she did it and offered my assistance to help her out. Yeah...turns out I kept giving her the wrong pieces and suggesting they went in the wrong places! So I just stay out of her way. Fortunately, Karcyn is very sweet and doesn't get frustrated with my "help".

I'm having a REALLY hard time keeping Karcyn in puzzles. They aren't exactly cheap and trying to keep them stored is a ton of fun...especially when she does 3 at once. I finally remembered a Noah's Ark puzzle, over 100 pieces, in our Sunday box. Out of desperation, I got it out to see how she did with it.

Karcyn was in puzzle heaven! It was no big deal and as soon as she was done, she wanted to do it again! Sometimes she works on a puzzle until it's done, sometimes she takes breaks and goes back to it, but not very often. I'm impressed with her ability to focus and find that much patience in her 3 1/2 year old body to do such a project. She is definitely a puzzle princess and it will be interesting to see how this lends to other talents and abilities in the future.

I remember seeing my friend's mom doing a puzzle back in the '80s. It was at least 1000 pieces of the poster "CATS." So it was virtually pitch black with two small glowing green eyes in the center which consisted of about 20 pieces...maybe more, but not much more. I'd like to see Karcyn attack that one!