Friday, November 11, 2011

Gretchen Caroline

Well, she made it, and so did her mother!  Gretchen Caroline Stringham was born at 10:38 on Saturday, November 5, 2011, weighing in at a whopping 8 lbs. 14 oz. and was 20.5 inches long.  I was already dilated to a six when Dr. Boheen came in to break my water at 7:30 that morning.  The anesthesiologist came in pretty much immediately and inserted my epidural, but I have to say I was totally disappointed in it.  I don't know if I just wasn't dosing myself enough or if he used a different kind of medication, but the whole point of the epidural is to have a painless delivery, and I'm pretty sure I felt the majority of my contractions.  Not exactly how I wanted it to go, but at least it was pretty quick so I didn't have to suffer for too long.

After she was born, Mike and I decided against naming her Zoey.  It just didn't seem to fit.  Gretchen is a name that we had on our previous girl name list, and our favorite out of the bunch.  Kinda funny, but when we looked up the meaning of her name, this is what we found:

Gretchen is a German pet form of Margaret(h)e created from 'Gret' plus the diminutive suffix '-chen'. The German Gretchen is thus roughly equivalent to the English Maggie, both meaning 'pearl.'

Isn't that amusing?  Maggie couldn't be more proud.  As for the name Caroline, it comes from Mike's great-grandma Caroline Watterson (Dorothy's mother), and another one of his great-grandmothers, Caroline Behan (Barb's grandmother on her father's side).  We found out after giving the news to Dorothy that Caroline's birthday was the 7th.  Would've been neat to have her on the 7th, but let's be honest....I would've poked myself in the eye having to be pregnant for 2 more days.

Barb spent a few days here helping out with the housework and the kids.  It was so nice not to have to worry about any of it, especially since I've been having a harder time recovering this go-round.  And, really, who wouldn't want to wake up to fresh baked bread and hot cocoa with marshmallows every morning?

Gretchen is a little beauty.  I'm pretty sure I fell in love with her right from the start.  I've had to resort to pumping milk for a few days while I recover from her ravaging me, though.  Boy does this girl have an appetite!  One I wish she could suppress in the wee hours of the night, but we're getting better. (fingers crossed)

Yep, this little girl definitely belongs in our family, and I'm so glad our caboose is finally here and that I never have to do it again.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Still Here.

Yep.  Dilated to a 4, 60% effaced and all I get are irregular, painful contractions that are clearly not doing their work.  Maybe I should fire them.
We actually thought we might be ready to go on Friday night.  We got back from Trunk-or-Treat and I started having contractions every 5 minutes for over an hour, so we decided not to chance it.  I called my angel friend, Jen, and she dropped her movie plans and came over to sit with the kids.  On the way to the hospital, we got pulled over in Riverdale, due to the passenger side headlight being out.  I rarely drive anywhere at night, so I hadn't bothered to get it replaced.  Ha!  When Mike explained that we were on our way to the hospital, the officer quickly handed back his license and registration and said, "Well, we won't keep you here--you best be on your way!"  We laughed as he followed us all the way to the hospital.
Once there, my contractions stopped. I think I only had two while actually hooked up to the machine.  Grrrr.  They monitored me for about an hour & a half, but nothing was changing so they sent us home.  Bummer.  On the way back, we got pulled over in Riverdale again, this time for a brake light that was out.  {I love my suburban.}  Needless to say, Mike spent part of Saturday changing out a headlight and a brakelight.  Now when those dumb contractions finally get their act together we can make it to and from the hospital without incident.
Had my final appointment with Dr. Boheen this morning, and I'm still at a 4.  If I make it until Saturday, we'll induce at 7 am.  It's a weird situation to be in because I've never been this far along without being hooked up to an i.v. with an epidural already in my back.  It's completely reasonable (and therefore completely terrifying) that I'll start labor and have a baby in 5 minutes. (I really hope to not emulate you, Ashlee!)  It's also reasonable that my body isn't quite sure how to do this since every other time, it's been helped along by pitocin.  I may need help getting past this 4 and that's why things aren't progressing at all.

It's a control freak's nightmare.

So I'll keep you posted as to when this little one arrives.  Until then, I'll keep trying to figure out what her name will be.  Another thing we've usually already figured out by now.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Big Picture

Ever since Mike was made the Bishop of our ward, he's had unexpected conversations with all sorts of people.  It's as if by virtue of his calling, people feel they can speak with him candidly about anything and everything. He's still trying to get used to the strangeness of it all.

A couple of weeks ago, he had one such conversation with a mortuary co-worker.  On a middle of the night removal, he confided in Mike that his wife was leaving him.  She told him she had fallen out of love with him six years ago.  He was beyond devastated.  He wasn't sure how he could afford all of the expenses that come with a divorce, nor was he sure he'd even be able to see his children much with his crazy mortuary work schedule.  Not to mention, he was still in love with his wife, who wanted nothing more to do with him.  Mike didn't know what to do or to say to him, just tried his best to console him.

Mike got a call today from a friend at the mortuary saying they'd found him today, having committed suicide sometime in the early morning.  Mike called me, sick to his stomach and said that he had a feeling this was going to happen after their conversation that night, but he just didn't know what to do about it.

I didn't know him well, but I admit, I've sat here with tears rolling down my cheeks for this poor man who truly felt as though he had nothing left to live for.  I've felt the pull of suicide only once in my life. (I was already somewhat depressed, and when I got on birth control for the first time, it whacked me out!  I never actually considered suicide, but the thought of it (while on that medication) sat just fine with me, and I immediately knew I had to get off the pill or something bad could happen.)  That was enough to scare the bajeebers out of me, and since that time, no matter how depressed I get, I never sink that deep.

Lately, we've been more stressed out than ever.  Not knowing if or when work will come, not knowing if Mike will be able to find full-time work, not knowing what direction to look in (let alone go in), plus the imminent arrival of baby #6, a wife that doesn't have the energy nor the gumption to take care of menial household duties (you should see my kitchen.....), and a whole slew of people who are coming out of the woodwork, demanding the Bishop's time, compassion, help, and advice.  (I'm completely overwhelmed, and I'm a secondary figure in this whole scheme!)

Then came the news of Jay's suicide.  I've tried and tried to reflect upon all the positive things we have going for us, but they were too few, too far between--until now.  It's possible that if something doesn't pan out soon, we'll have to go through some painful legal channels, including losing Mike's business to a bankruptcy.  It's not a road we want to take, so we're doing everything we can to avoid that, however, even if we are forced to go that route, the things that really matter will not change.  Whether or not Mike has full-time work, we have a stable, part-time job that includes a roof over our heads, electricity in the walls, and heat in the air.  We have a home to come home to.  We have food on our table, though sometimes, it's pancakes or cold cereal for dinner.  We have a  happy, loving marriage.  We have healthy, happy, smart, amazing, faith-filled children who fill us with more joy than they can know, and they have parents who are doing their best to love them and teach them and help them to become whom they are meant to become.  In the grand scheme of things, we really do have it all, and I'm so thankful for it.  I just need to remember it more often.

Monday, October 17, 2011

So far, so.....the same.

Feeling kinda bummed today.  Mike's interview got postponed until Wed., (which means more waiting) and we got 2 more rejection letters via email, including the job that we weren't really expecting to get, but were really hoping for anyway.  That plus pregnancy hormones makes me all sorts of negative and I HATE feeling this way.

Just this weekend I was visiting with a good friend of mine who was sharing some great news with me about the launch of her new business and a new home they're purchasing.  Within a week and a half everything just fell into place for them when they weren't even looking for it.  I'm over the moon happy for their family, but I can't help but wonder, what am I doing wrong?  Am I trying too hard?  I spend at least a couple of hours every day searching for jobs for Mike and the few that we've found, we've gotten rejection letters from. (Except for the one he's interviewing with on Wed.) I feel like I'm spending a LOT of energy just spinning my wheels and it's beyond frustrating for me.

I'm hoping that giving birth will finally give my mind and my emotions a break so I can see a little more clearly.  Until then, (THREE MORE WEEKS! For those of you who are keeping tabs...) I'll continue the search, and try to keep my stress levels in check.  It's been a helluva last couple of months.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I can't think of a clever title.

I've hit a wall.  Six weeks to go and I feel like I've been hit by a truck.  After all my abounding energy despite this pregnancy, I guess it was bound to happen sometime.  I just wish it could've lasted a bit longer....I still have a lot to do!  I just barely survived finishing the baby's quilt yesterday, and got NOTHING else done because of it.  I really shouldn't complain.  This final pregnancy has been surprisingly my best and I'm so grateful for that.  It just stinks because now I'm back to feeling like I did  throughout every other pregnancy--BLECH!  I was told today that I look like I'm going to pop, which is kind of a compliment, considering I usually look pretty squishy all the way up until delivery, thanks to all my extra food storage. ;)

I go in tomorrow for substitute training at the kids' school.  Clearly, I didn't anticipate feeling crappy again, or I may have postponed my subbing until after the baby is born.  Oh well.  Nice thing about subbing is that I can always say no, right?  We decided this would be a great way to bring in some much needed income when Mike's work is slow, like it has been lately.  We've looked and looked for decent jobs for him, but the construction world is not the same as it was when he graduated 6 years ago, and we've been mulling over the idea of a new career path for him.  He's been fasting all day for some direction, so we're praying a pathway somewhere opens up, whether it's a new job or a new career.  I don't mind helping out in the meantime.  I've toyed with the idea of getting my teaching certificate anyway.  I just wish my contribution could come when I didn't have a newborn to feed and snuggle at home.  That part makes me really sad.  Yes, she and Dixon will be home with Daddy and not a sitter, know what I mean.

So, thank you, Maggie, for making dinner tonight while I laid in bed feeling like I didn't want to get out until sometime after Christmas.  I have a feeling it won't be an everyday occurrence. Bummer.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Live Within Your Means

I had a thought come to my mind last night as I was mapping out in my head my game plan for this week's purging.  I realized there's an entirely different meaning to the phrase, "live within your means."  I'd always associated that with finances, and the oft-times resulting debt that comes from not doing so, but as I contemplated my tiny little house and its overflowing contents, I understood that in a much broader sense.

The Lord, I've discovered, has given us all different sorts of "means."  For example, our income is the "means" by which we acquire physical necessities and wants in this life.  Our bodies are the "means" which house our spirits.  Our time is the "means" we've been given to accomplish our tasks within a 24 hour period. etc....  I could go on and on, but I think we get the picture.

Problems (of our own making) come into play when through any aspect of our lives, we find ourselves living either below or above the means we've either been given or created for ourselves.  It seems that Lord is actually quite lenient in this regard because we have a bit of a buffer with much of our means.  My weight could easily be as normal and healthy at 120 as is could be at 140.  I don't pretend to know everything there is to know about health and nutrition, but I do know that I'm clearly living beyond my means in this regard. (We'll let little "Zoey" get here before I do much work in that department, though...)  I also know of those who have struggled with living below their means with regard to a healthy body and I tell you it's just as difficult at that end of the spectrum as it is at the other.

Another "means" that I've been neglecting to consider is our home.  Ever since I went on my purging binge, I've felt, happier, lighter, and in more control than I probably ever have.  I believe it's because we've been living beyond our means--in this case, the capacity of our home.  For a long time, I've been complaining about not having enough room here in the little beige house.  We literally have no storage and we seem to be accumulating more and more things that require the use of space that's already sparse.  My prayers have been along the lines of, "Please help Mike get the work he needs so that we can afford to move out of this little house and into a place that fits us."  After my epiphany, that has changed. By taking control of what I bring into my home, I have just begun to really live within my means.  It's a fabulous feeling.  One that I desperately want to address in other aspects of my life as well.  I already mentioned getting my body healthy, but I also need to work on living within my time means.  I'm reminded of Elder Oaks' poignant talk on "Good, Better, Best"  which was really a talk on budgeting our time, or living within our time means.  It's fascinating to me to look at all the "issues" we (I) have in life and truly be able to trace it back to simply a problem with living within our means.

Now that I have effectively tackled living beyond our means in this home, (at 7 months pregnant, I might add!!)  I feel completely enabled to address the other things in my life that I'm living both beneath and beyond in.  For heaven's sake, I just got rid of close to 50% of my household goods--that's 7 trips to the DI in a FULL suburban and countless sacks of garbage (that are still cluttering the back door area, since our cans aren't big enough to fit them all--yikes).  If I can do this, then it just proves to me that I really CAN do anything, and I'm excited to start proving that over and over again, with each issue I begin to tackle from here on out.  So, here's to living within our means--all of them!!!!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

"The Great Purge"

A couple of years ago, we ripped out the carpet in the living room so we could refinish the beautiful wood floors that are original to this 1920's house.  We had already done both upstairs bedrooms, and they were fairly easy, so we were ready to tackle the big room (12 ft. X 20 ft.   Ha! And you thought your house was small....).  We took the couches and TV downstairs and were left with nothing but a wide open space.  We took turns rolling a marble from one end of the room to the other, showing how "off" our little house is.  There were also some pretty sweet tap dancing routines going on.  What I remember most was that it was so much fun. 

I'm realizing more and more just how little we need in order to be happy.  I mean, really content.  In fact, I think the things we have tend to get in the way of that happiness far too often.  It's difficult to want to take the time to play a game with the kids or to just lay down and take a nap, when I look around and see all the cleaning up and tidying that NEEDS to be done.  Why?  Because we have SO MUCH STUFF that needs to be cleaned and tidied. 

I think this is what has been feeding into my frustrations lately.  Well, not lately--pretty much for a few years now, but I think I finally have it pinned down.  Today I started what I'm deeming "The Great Purge."  I'm absolutely positive that I can get rid of half my household goods and not miss a thing. (Don't worry--the children and husband will NOT be included in the definition of "household goods.")  What's more, I believe that I will be happier in direct proportion to what I do get rid of.  It's still a theory, but it's one that I'm putting to the test. 

I've done some organizing and some "baby purging" before, but nothing like the "big daddy purging" going on today!   I started with the baby clothes because they have been the bane of my existence for far too long.  Tucked under Maggie's bed for all these years, I was constantly having to repack it all because the children would think, (and what kid wouldn't?) "These would make great doll clothes!" and then proceed to pull them all out of their nicely organized home.  It was exhausting having to pick up their dirty clothes AND the now dirty baby clothes all. the. time.  I finally decided that I could easily get rid of half of what I've accumulated in baby clothing since Hannah was born--in 2000.  Granted, I've been lucky to be able to pass down clothes from one kid to the next, but after thinking about it, I really only used my absolute favorite little outfits on the girls.  I now have only two under-the-bed type rolling containers for newborns all the way to 4T!   Three big white plastic bags are full of decent clothing that I am going to pass along to someone else.  I can't even tell you how good it feels!  What's better is that I'll never have to repack those clothes again, because as soon as this new little one outgrows them, they are getting donated as well!  (Oh, and I'm storing them under the crib so as to avert all temptations to dress up dolls with them!  I know, I's about time.)

So, I have lots on my plate for the next few months because I know that it's going to take me that long to go through things.  Luckily I have nesting on my side right now. :)  If only my energy was equal to it!  For now, I'm concentrating on clothes, then toys will have their turn.  I'm not sure which drives me crazier....

Wish me luck!  I don't think I'll have too hard of a time throwing things out, but the rest of the family may have other ideas....

Sunday, July 10, 2011

One More Month....

In somewhat of a panic yesterday, I realized that school starts in one month.  One month from tomorrow, to be exact.  We do start a bit earlier than most schools, but I'm still left wondering what happened to our summer?  Could the highlight of Summer 2011 really be our attempt at a vacation at Flaming Gorge?  I need to plan something really cool STAT!  Something that's dud-proof and will give ME a better memory of my final summer pregnancy.  Because let's be honest, the kids had a GREAT time camping.  Maggie has even proclaimed that her favorite part of the trip as when the wind came roaring through the canyon like a freight train and collapsed our tent--while we were in it!  I'm pretty sure it's only the parents left with bad memories of things because of plans going wrong or things not quite working out the way we'd hoped or envisioned them to.  Then again, maybe its just me.

So, anyway, we've got a 4 1/2 week window of opportunity here, before another summer gets written in the annuls of history, and because I'm a little OCD, I started getting ready in the basement.  You see, I need to go clothes shopping.  I need to know what clothes can be handed down, which pants are salvageable, which need to be cut into shorts or capris, and if there are ANY stainless shirts hanging in closets.  Before that can be determined, we had to clean up rooms, and I mean get into every nook and cranny where my children seem to tuck things for no apparent reason. Before that can be done, we needed to get all the laundry done, so all the clothes were in one place.  It was a fun day!

Of course, once the rooms met with my approval, the toy room also had to be cleaned because it has become a veritable dumping ground for socks.  Yep, socks.  For whatever reason, the girls decided the best place to remove their socks is amidst all the toys and in the cupboards downstairs.  I think during cleanup yesterday, we pulled out at least a dozen pairs.  I suppose that flip flop season has pushed the sock shortage from the forefront, or I surely would have noticed it...

After the kids (mom) finally got things organized and clean, I sent them to bed (yes, it took all. day. long.) and began sorting through the collection of grass stained, holey kneed khakis, navys and jeans to find that I had a total of 10 pairs of pants that could be reused for the upcoming school year.  That's about 1/3 of what I need in order to not have to do laundry every single day.  As for shirts--I never even got around to them!  It was all about the pants yesterday....  So, I guess I will make a trip to the DI and to Savers next week to load up on 20 pairs of pants, and hope they have enough for my whole brood.  I've discovered that for the same price as cheap pants from a retail store, I can generally find a few vintage pairs that are better quality and in good enough condition to last at least as long as the cheap, brand new pairs.  And let's face it--buying clothes for 4 children is hard enough on my pocketbook, especially when I still have 4 different school supply lists to fill!  I'm tired already.

As for that "ultimate" summer activity, I'm still working on it.....we'll see if there are any funds left after school shopping.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Stringham Family "Trip" 2011

After getting home from our trip to Flaming Gorge, I sat down and wrote an entire novel on all the things that happened {i.e. went wrong} between Friday and Tuesday.  I uploaded 40 pictures, and literally spent hours writing and then carefully placing the pix in their appropriate spots along the way.  Upon returning to my project after dinner last night, I discovered that blogger had deleted THE ENTIRE THING.  While I still remember every detail of the trip, I'm having the hardest time motivating myself to rewrite everything, especially since all my wittiness seems to have disappeared along with my previous post.  Therefore, I will spend the next 2 hours RE-uploading all 40 pictures {because the combination speed of blogger and my laptop makes me feel like I've returned to DOS mode}and then I'll decide whether to give you the Cliff's Notes Version that I'm leaning toward, or the full version I may try to regurgitate.  Thankfully, your wait time will be much shorter than mine......

Cliff's Notes version it is!

My beauties so happy at the beginning of the trip!

Dixon not very happy with the late start and bad signage in the Ashley National Forest that put us behind another hour.

Mom and Dad were not as happy in the morning as the girls were, after sleeping on a slab of rock instead of their air mattress, thanks to a corroded air pump.

The National Park Service didn't know this little guy was going to be at this campground or they would have been much more clear in their description of the site.  i.e. "There is a 1700 ft., unfenced drop into the gorge about 20 yards away from your tent."

Have you seen this shake & pour pancake mix?  Campers dream!

Picnic site @ Flaming Gorge Dam where Mike took the girls fishing with his $11.00 pole he bought at the Evanston Walmart because his fishing gear was left at the bottom of the stairs waiting their turn to be loaded into the Suburban.

"Petting Zoo" at the Flaming Gorge Lodge that consisted of a donkey, a goat, two llamas and a miniature horse--none of which wanted to be pet.  I thought the sign nailed to a nearby tree stating the animal's prices was a nice touch.

Bridget Dorothy was so excited when she found out her horse's name was Dorothy!

Dixon resting after the first of his 3 falls.  The kid is like a peanut butter sandwich that always lands jelly-side down.  I may have to get him a helmet.

Instead of showing you my bedhead, I decided to show you my twin's instead.

View of the drop off.

Could they be any cuter?!  Seriously!

Our attempts at containing Dixon in the stroller were thwarted when he figured out he could just stand up and walk anyway.

Decided not to drive in to Dutch John for the fireworks since the camp host told us we could see them from the ridge.  We did not stay to watch the entire quarter-sized display.

40 miles to the nearest church + no showers at our campsite = our Sunday nature hike.

The one and only place with fencing.

Afternoon thundershowers EVERY day produced some lightning that hit this tree about 20 yds. away from Mike and Dixon.

The lightning blew the bark almost 15 ft. away from the tree.  We started noticing several trees after that which had been hit by lightning previously.  Not a good ratio for a campground with PEOPLE in it.

4th of July Parade @ Vernal.

Bridget giving us a replay of her puking episode on the way down the canyon into Vernal.

Since when does the drill team ride unicycles?

Utah Field House of Natural History aka the dinosaur museum

Dippy the diplodychus' 112 millionth (give or take a few thousand) birthday.

Ended our excursion to Vernal at the Big Kahuna Waterslide Park.  That meant ONE waterslide, a community of people who actually thought they looked good in a bikini, and a lovely specimen who opted for tattoos over a top row of teeth. I'm quite certain I'll only go back to Flaming Gorge if the following conditions are met: 1) They grow more trees so we can camp in the shade; 2) We get a boat; and 3) A plague wipes out whatever it was that gave me the worst allergies I've ever had in my life, forcing me to walk around with paper towels shoved up my nostrils and eyes so swollen and watery that I looked like someone punched me in the face.  I think I'll want someone to punch me in the face if I ever suggest going to Flaming Gorge again.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Great Expectations

I already outlined the events occurring up to "The Calling," Mike received, but there is a little bit of information that I neglected to disclose.  You see, about two days after we were called in to meet with the Stake President, Amanda passed her little white stick test.  Yep...  Stringham #6 is on HIS way!  For those of you who were there when I swore up and down that Dixon's miserable pregnancy would absolutely be my last, you may not know the whole story.

Three days after that blessed little son came into our lives, I sat gently rocking him one night.  In the quiet, the most overwhelming feeling came over me, and I KNEW he was supposed to have a brother.  You can imagine my emotions as I sat there, enduring through another agonizing afterpain...

I find it ironic that at the same time Mike and I felt that the timing was finally right, that he would receive a call to be Bishop.  Sometimes the Lord's humor is lost on me.  And if this baby turns out to be a GIRL....I may need to schedule an interview with the Bishop.

Oh yeah, our due date is 11/11/11.  What's up with that?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I haven't been feeling the blogging love lately...writing or reading.  I don't know why.  I used to peruse them for hours, gathering ideas and learning new things.  I don't know if I'm just over it all or if I'm in a blogging funk.  We'll just say that's what it is.  A funk. 

Not so
much is new around here....besides that whole "Bishop" thing, which hasn't been nearly as ominous as I was preparing myself for.  Maybe Mike has a different story, but from my perspective, it hasn't been overwhelming at all.  Yet.  I'm no fool.  It's definitely become a family effort, though.  We had the girls sticking new address labels on the tithing envelopes during conference.  They thought that was the best job in the world.  Secretary anyone?

On another note, I think we've finally kicked the puke bug out the door.  (Fingers crossed.)  It's been hanging around for almost a month now, wreaking havoc and making life more difficult than it really needed to be.  I was upset one particular Sunday when Maggie got sick right before church, causing me to have to stay home and take care of her.  ( I know, I clearly have anger issues, as referenced in the prior post...) Then when both Dixon and Katie decided to get sick through the night, I was much more grateful for the daytime puking.  Funny how that works.  This does NOT mean I'll be happy about pukers next time, but I'll be ever so grateful if they--or we--decide to do it in the light of day.  You can consider this a request.

Now that Spring Break is here, I'm hoping to keep the Bedlamites under control.  (Don't you just love that new word coined by Elder Holland at conference today?)  We're planning on a trip to the library sometime tomorrow before Meredith takes the girls for a sleepover tomorrow night. I love that even though she has boys and I have girls, they all get along so well and really have a great time playing together.  My most-oft request by Bridget is, "Can we go play with Zach and Wes?"  To which my most-oft response is, "Not today."  Because she really does ask me every. single. day.  Sometimes more than once, based on her level of boredom, or sometimes frustration with Mom.  Anyway, after the sleepover, we pretty much have no plans, at least not until Friday when the cousins come into town.  I'm going to have to come up with something because that really is a very bad idea to have no plans unless I'm okay with hearing, "Mom!  I'm bored!" for 4 days.

So that's it for now.  Maybe I'll catch the blogging bug again long as it doesn't bring the pukes with it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

It's not about you.

A quiet moment is terribly elusive these days, which is probably why it's taken me so long to sit and write.  The last few months have been interesting, to say the least, and I find that retrospection and introspection have become my constant companions.

A few months ago, there started to be chatter in the ward about the pending change of the guard as the Bishopric was nearing their five year tenure.  I suppose it's the same in all wards, as there's a natural curiosity and even an excitement that comes with change of this type.  There were many moments when Mike and I would catch ourselves speculating who it might be, and without speaking it out loud, my mind would always come back to Mike.  I laughed.  Sometimes out loud.  Then I'd think, "He'd be a GREAT counselor!" But just as quickly as the thought would come into my mind, another thought would replace it: Bishop.  This went on for a good two months until finally I forced myself to stop thinking about it altogether.  It was just too "unrealistic" and honestly, I didn't want to think about the consequences a call of this magnitude would mean for our young family.  Too overwhelming.  Too daunting.  Besides, with two time-consuming callings of my own, a fledgling company to run, a household to maintain and a family to raise, I was looking for ways to remove burdens, not add them to our platters.
One Sunday particularly embodied the old adage, "Anything that can go wrong, will."  After a rough night for Dixon (which translates into no sleep for Mom and Dad), Mike got up and left for his usual 7 am Stake meetings.  Before my feet could even hit the floor, I was in a bad mood.  I awoke to find that the kids had gotten up and poured their own cereal, which, around here is the equivalent to a monsoon roaring through the kitchen.  Cereal and milk were everywhere, and as if that wasn't enough, two of my lovely children were now throwing up that cereal and milk.  Talk about wanting to move to Australia.  I kept trying to talk myself out of being such a grump, but I was not budging.  My day continued, with little nuisances being thrown at me right and left and I was just plain angry about it all.  Angry that I didn't get to go to church.  Angry that my children couldn't see that mom was in a bad mood, so they should be on their best behavior so as to make things easier on their poor mother.  Angry that I had to answer the darn mortuary phone every time it rang.  Angry that I had to clean up puke.  Angry that I had to break up fights and listen to squabbling and pick up dirty socks laying on the floor.  Angry that Mike got to sit peacefully through his meetings and feel the Spirit and pay attention to talks and lessons.  Angry that I was still in pajamas with greasy hair hanging in my face. Angry. Angry. Angry. 
Then the phone rang.  Too angry to answer, I let it go to voicemail.  "Brother Stringham, this is Pres. Austad.  I'd like to speak with you for a minute if I could today..."  Not an unusual request, considering Mike's on the High Council.  It's probably just something having to do with the Blood Drive or Pennies by the Inch.  But I knew it had nothing to do with the blood drive or with Pennies by the Inch.  Mike came in and I mumbled to him angrily that there was a message for him on the phone.  He listened to the message, then went to our room and shut the door.  Moments later, he came into the kitchen where I was stirring dinner on the stove--in my pajams, with my greasy hair pulled back in a pony.  Pres. Austad wants to see us tonight.   "D@%!-it!"  I whisper-yelled as I burned myself on the stove, letting a superlative fly that hadn't come from my lips in years.  I spun around to see Mike standing with the phone in his hand, awaiting my reply, which clearly was not the one he was expecting as the Stake Pres. listened on the other end of the line.  With a look of horror, I said, "Yes, of course we'll come see him."  Then with a knot in the pit of my stomach, I finally dragged my angry, filthy self into the shower.
How can the Lord ask us to do this? We can't possibly manage this calling.  How am I going to do this on my own, without Mike there to help me?  Is this really happening?  Couldn't it be something else?
Then, with a clarity my mind rarely enjoys, the thought came, "It's not about you."  Well, that was enough.  My pity party had been crashed and I knew it was time to just stop being angry.  We left the puking children at home with Maggie and went to the Stake offices where we were greeted warmly by Pres. Austad.  The dread was gone.  The knot in my stomach was gone, and Mike's vice-grip on my hand had loosened considerably.  Pres. Austad pushed a letter across the desk to us and said, "I received this letter in the mail this week from the First Presidency, directing me to call you, Brother Stringham, as the Bishop of the Roy 8th Ward."  The Spirit in the room was palpable.  The call was accepted without reservation as we knew that we'd been prepared to receive it.  The promptings and thoughts we'd had in the months preceding all made perfect sense.  Our inability to leave the mortuary and consequently the ward, no matter how many times we tried, made perfect sense.  The several responsibilities Mike had been given as a High Councilor, and that he unquestioningly fulfilled, prepared him to serve in this capacity.  Hindsight is an amazing blessing.
We kept this information to ourselves for nearly a month.  Only a few family members were even made aware of the call before last week's Sacrament Meeting, and by the look of surprise on people's faces as we walked into the chapel with our little entourage, it was an unexpected change.

I'm excited for Mike--not that I'm looking forward to him riding an emotional roller coaster as he'll try to help people through their trials and challenges and heartaches.  But I know that with all this will come a new understanding and a new kind of growth.  I've seen how being on the High Council has changed him, and I can only assume that the Lord has even more work to do on him, and I'm so proud of the way Mike has allowed himself to be what the Lord wants him to be. 

I don't pretend to know the first thing about being a Bishop's wife, but I think I'll manage as long as I can remember, "It's not about you." we go!  Wish us luck, and a few prayers our way would be appreciated!

Friday, February 11, 2011

If you give Amanda a cookie...

If you give Amanda a cookie, she will probably want a Diet Coke to go with it.  

As she's pouring her Coke into a tall glass covered in white film, thanks to the new Utah law forbidding phosphates in dishwasher detergent, she'll remember that she needs to start the dishwasher.  

On her way to the dishwasher, she'll step on Cheerios someone dumped onto the floor in proclamation that breakfast was over, and grab the broom to clean them up.  

As she sweeps the kitchen floor, she'll notice the Cheerio mess extending into the living room, so she'll follow it to find the mother-lode in a pile behind the couch.  

As she bends down to get a better look, she'll probably see the chocolate handprints on the arm of the couch, and remove the slip covers for an overdue spin through the washing machine.  

On her way to the laundry room, she'll realize that she should check the girls' bedrooms for dirty clothes before starting the washer, so she'll head downstairs.  

After walking to the other side of the basement, she'll probably notice that a tornado has turned a minutes-ago clean toy room into a disaster zone of epic proportions and in her furor, turn and stomp back up the stairs to get as far away from the mess as possible.

Once she reaches the top of the stairs, she'll probably see the landscape of coats, hats, gloves and snow boots strewn across the floor, with nary a thing hanging on its hook.  While muttering things about kids, grounded, locked in their rooms, and just let them freeze, under her breath, she'll start hanging things up and notice a crumbled paper under a boot and upon closer inspection will see that it's the homework she spent an hour working on with her daughter the night before.

She'll probably shake her head in disbelief and go back up into the kitchen to put the paper on the shelf where she's sure to find it again, and while she's there, she'll notice the phone bill on the shelf and remember that she needs to pay it today.

She'll sit on the side of the couch that now has an indentation remarkably the size of her posterior, and log onto the internet.  Before signing onto Bill Pay, her Facebook page automatically pops up and she'll probably spend the next 30-45 minutes checking statuses and commenting on all the Jimmer jokes.

While she's reading The Jimmer jokes, she'll get a great idea for hilarious valentines and open up her Publisher to start creating them.

While she's laughing hysterically at her own humor, shell need a tissue to wipe yesterday's mascara out of her eye.  

She'll walk to the bathroom and question how on earth the turquoise, white and red striped Aquafresh toothpaste got smeared across the top of the doorway.

She'll probably go to the hallway linen closet to get out a washcloth and upon opening the cupboard, become victim to a waterfall of hair accessories, deodorant, hand towels and pom poms.

She'll have to bend down to pick everything up and when she does, she'll find the spare Church key she's been searching for for two weeks.

She'll need to put the key in a memorable place, so she'll realize the best place is the kitchen shelf.

Once in the kitchen, she'll look around and realize that the dishwasher is not on, the laundry has not been started, the floor is filthy, there's still toothpaste on the bathroom door, the contents of the linen closet are on the hallway floor, the phone bill has not been paid, she can't find the key that was just in her hand, and there's a warm Diet Coke next to a cookie on the counter.

Amanda clearly doesn't need any more cookies.  
But she's in desperate need of a cold Diet Coke.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Work or Play?

Ever since I was unexpectedly (and unknowingly) replaced as the Box Tops Coordinator at our school, I've been trying to figure out how to put in my required 30 hours of volunteer work (we're at a Charter School where volunteering is mandatory).  I didn't do a darn thing the whole first half of the year, mostly in protest of my ousting.  (Which I realize is totally ridiculous, since not another soul probably even knew of or cared about my displacement.)

Mike's had a slow work week, so when an email came about a volunteer opportunity at the school, I figured I should take advantage of not needing to find a babysitter, and start whittling down my hours.

I had a little information about what Mrs. J wanted on the bulletin board, so I sketched something out on a piece of paper and started to work.  The 4th graders are working on reports on North American animals, so that (and that it needed Spanish translation) was my only stipulation.  I was supposed to have some helpers, but in my overachieving, controlling fashion, I hyperfocused and did it all myself before anyone had a chance to screw it up give helpful suggestions.

  Here's what I came up with:

All the animals assigned to the kids are represented here and it was so cute to see them get excited when they saw "their" animal up on the board.  I even had comments from some of the "smart kids" congratulating me for putting the animals into their correct habitats.  (Thank you, Google, for helping me not embarrass my college educated self, or my 4th grade daughter.)

This particular board took me 12 hours from start to finish, when I include all the time it took me to find pictures of the animals online.  I guess I'm doing alright on those volunteer hours....

Katie's teacher pretty much got on her knees and begged me to do her board next, so I reluctantly obliged and got hers done today. ;)

Another 4 hours shaved off--one more bulletin board and I'll have met my volunteer quota for the year!  Though with all of the requests from the other teachers in the past two days, I'm pretty sure I'll be exceeding my 30 hours.  Good thing it doesn't feel anything like work.  I kinda wish I'd figured this out 2 years ago!  Thank you, whomever decided someone else needed to do the Box Tops.  Who knew you were doing me such a favor?