Dec 30, 2012

Leaving the back 40

Well, it's the end of the year.  It's easy to think about all the things I didn't do in 2012.

I didn't learn to floss my teeth.
I didn't play with my kids enough,
or mop my floor enough,
or weed my garden enough,
or use my indoor voice enough,
or support my loved ones enough.

My laundry was never done.
I wasn't always happy.
I ate more ice cream than is reasonable for an entire lifetime.
My mile time is still painfully slow.
My abs are more sloppy than steely.
And the crack in my van's windshield has reached epic proportions.

I didn't always follow through on spiritual promptings
or say the most meaningful prayers.
My family has not mastered reverence
(or anything like unto it) at church.
Sometimes I play hooky and take a nap during Sunday School.
I'm kind of judgmental.
I'm not the best example for my dear young women.
And I'm certainly not the best friend.

But there's one thing--ONE thing--that I'm really proud of doing this year.
I didn't give up.
And let me tell you, that was really super hard some days.
There were plenty of times this year when I was about twenty feet 
below the end of my rope.
That's not a fun place to be.

Somehow I found the rope again and started to climb.
I slipped off a lot of times and had to find it again.
But through it all, on my good days and on my bad days,
I kept going.

Aside from my firm belief in a Savior and His atonement
And my ability to repent and receive His grace from day to day,
And doctors and friends, of course,
The thing that saved me this year was running.
The treadmill literally saved me.

Somehow I dragged myself to the gym.
Somehow I managed to run from the couch to a 10K.
Somehow I learned to love steel cut oats and broccoli and apples.
Somehow I lost 40 pounds.

I love a screen shot from my Cardio Trainer phone app.
It's a literal, visual reminder of how far I've come.
The image says a lot more to me than miles and hours.
The image stays stuff about endurance and patience
and hard work and sacrifice and self-discipline.
The image gives me hope for the future.
I can do hard things.
I don't do hard things for the sake of doing hard things.
But occasionally, when hard things come, I can conquer them.

These pictures prove it.

So here's to a new year.
I'm in a phase of self-discovery.
It's hard and I don't really like it most of the time.
I want answers that don't come easily
And resources I don't have
I have friendships that aren't working
And responsibilities that are overwhelming
And difficult/wonderful/exasperating/fabulous children
who stretch and mold every fiber of my being.

But this year taught me that I can survive.
I'm actually thinking about making seven Bartle t-shirts that say 
"I survived 2012."
And then maybe I'll burn my calendar.

So here's to a new year.
Wait, I already said that.
I guess I've got a long way to go.
But I can do it, 
And so can you.
Let's do it together, okay?

Dec 29, 2012

December randomness

It's been an eventful month. Imagine that!  We made a few fun memories outside of December 25.  

I'm having tons of fun with my young women at church.  We manage to enjoy each other apart from Sundays, too!  Our ward Christmas party was a kick.  The youth all performed musical skits on a holiday theme.  The Beehives lip-synced to the hilarious "Pretty Little Dolly."  A few days later all of the youth went caroling on hay rides.  We had a great time, but it was freezing (about 18 degrees)!

Kate is a climber. She has learned to scale chairs and bar stools, which grant her access to all kinds of things. On this day it was an open jar of peanut butter, which she raided with her hands and smeared on the computer. When I put the stools on the table, she managed to climb up and get stuck under one of them. Ha. Serves her right!  I mean...poor baby.

This was inevitable, but I'm pretty sad about my awesome yellow flower pot.  *sniff*

This photo really scares me.  How can she be that tall?

But this one is pretty cute.  The girls enjoy their reindeer antlers from Granny.

Gavin bought a sherpa-lined hoodie (Walmart version) with his birthday money.  That has become his favorite article of clothing EVER.  He loves the soft fuzzy stuff on the inside so much that he wears the jacket under his clothes and pajamas.  It's hilarious. He knows what he likes!

Gavin also LOVES one of his Christmas presents: a climbing rope that hangs from the back yard tree.  It's so good for the kid who needs sensory input for his joints.  Garry is crafting a swing to hang on the bottom knot.  Our back yard just got a little cooler.

We invited friends over to decorate our traditional sugar cookies.  This is one area of my life that offers ample evidence of my lowered standards.  The mess and the work don't bother me.  The quality of the finished product doesn't bother me.  Frosting cookies is just a fun activity.  And this year it was just a check in the "done" column. I think the kids enjoyed themselves.

I took Tyler out for ice cream (and a grocery trip to Costco).  He was feeling slighted on Christmas and I told him we could go on a date.  Apparently two scoops of bubblegum ice cream fixes everything.  The low fat, no sugar ice cream I had was pretty good, too.

Lexi had a cute little friend over to play one day.  Those girls are two peas in a pod.  I loved their twinner dress-up outfits.  Silly girls.

Last night we had a great time playing games with friends at their house.  The kids really enjoyed each other and played some fun games.  Garry and I had great conversation with our hosts.  We definitely ought to be social more often!

Garry took the kids bowling yesterday.  They had a fantastic time.  Garry got the high score, but Lexi was next with 77 points!

Dec 28, 2012

Online Garage Sale: Kid & Baby Stuff

I probably should have done this before Christmas, but since I don't want to wait until June to have a real-life garage sale, I'm going with this option.  Please, please, please help me clean out the closets and shelves of my children who never play with their awesome toys.

I will check comments frequently, you can send me a text, or email me at heidi [at] thebartles [dot] com.  If you aren't local, I will ship, but you pay.  :)  I will update as items sell.  All proceeds will go to the Send Gavin to Full-Day Kindergarten fund (yes, full-day kindergarten has a hefty tuition, but I am determined....).

11,000 fuse beads and several design plates: $8 SOLD

Remote control monster truck: $5

Junior Laptop Learner (Target Brand): $3

VTech Laptop: $8 SOLD

Play kitchen (24" high and 18" wide and 7" deep): $10

Rocket/Space Shuttle set: $20

Geo Trax with train and remote: $15

Soft and squeezable jumbo-size dinosaurs: $5 each

Hard plastic dinosaurs: $8 for the set

Thomas books: $1 for both

Dr. Seuss book: $1

Little People mechanic and car: $1

Wooden block set: $5

Wooden push toy with shape sorter and other activities.  Storage basket in back.  $15

Wooden shape sorter: $5

Electronic shape sorter with shape, number, Spanish, and English settings: $5

Build-a-Bear panda: $5

Portable nine-channel baby monitor.  Operate with a plug or batteries.  Three years old.  $10 SOLD

Mega blocks with car and figures.  Container included.  $8

Tech Deck skateboards: 50 cents each

Shake-n-Go race cars: $3 each

Music and lights ball: $3

Vibrating teether: $1  SOLD

Soft doll: $2

Rocking bumblebee with music:  $5

Sleep Sheep with four "white noise" and two time settings: $10 SOLD

Leap Frog ABC bus with four learning settings (huge hit with my kids): $8

Fire Truck with lights and noise: $5

Discovery Toys rolling caterpillar: $4  SOLD

Leap Pad: $8

Quantum Pad: $10

Leap/Quantum Pad learning books/games with cartridges: $3 each (titles below--all work with both pads except as noted by **)

LeapPad Library (PreK-2nd Grade)
Smart Guide (Multi-Subject Fundamental Skills; K)
Cars (Reading and Math; K-1st)
Leap's Pond Sky's the Limit (Multi-Subject; PreK-1st Grade)
Leap's Pond On the Farm (Multi-Subject; PreK-1st Grade)
Phonics Long Vowels
Phonics Digraphs & Blends
Fox in Socks (1st Grade)
Stanley Surprise Safari (PreK)
Leap and the Lost Dinosaur (1st Grade--includes a set of cards)
Quantum Pad Library (Grades 3-5)**
Quantum Pad Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House #1)**
Quantum Pad Lost in the Solar System (Magic School Bus)**

Haba wooden marble run set - 50 pieces; a combination of several sets.  Storage container included: $40

That's all, folks. :)

Recap: The Happiness Project

Remember back in January when I started a Happiness Project based on Gretchen Rubin's book? I outlined categories of my life and goals that I thought might boost my happiness in 2012.  Because making check marks makes me happy, I used my favorite Excel spreadsheets to keep track of everything.  At the end of the year,  I think I am significantly happier than I was at the beginning.  Here's a brief rundown on how my project went, and what I learned along the way.

Meeting the goals I set for this month definitely increased my happiness. After a year of very poor health, making healthy choices made me feel fantastic. I loved exercising (no pun intended) control over one area of my life. The physical activity was a great boost to my mood. Eating better helped clear my mind. Having incremental success in the Couch-to-5k program strengthened my confidence as well.

During this month, I set out to develop more meaningful relationships with my kids. I don't naturally gravitate to board games and dress-ups and soccer, but in February I really tried harder to do those things. However, I achieved the most happiness as I prayed for each of my children every night. February was an especially hard month for me; depression had a wicked hold on me and I wasn't functioning very well. My January goals fell completely fell by the wayside, apart from keeping up with the 5k training a few days a week. But the times I did spend focusing outside of myself was very good for everyone in my family.

March was a task-oriented month.  Instead of focusing on ideals and feelings, I put my energy into changing the silly little behaviors that bugged me.  I strove to floss and read church magazines and put away my laundry and tidy up the house every night.  It might speak to my shallow personality, but fixing those things (except flossing...not sure why I can't conquer that) really contributed to my happiness.  I also got back on the January bandwagon and continued to make conscious efforts to connect with my kids.  One March event that contributed to my happiness was rearranging the furniture upstairs.  That turned out to be a refreshing, functional change that continues to make me happy every day.

I threw out my original plan for April and focused on a recent read from Brene Brown: The Gifts of Imperfection.  Through her books and a depression seminar given by a lady in my stake, I was learning a lot about being more open and vulnerable, being kind to myself, and redirecting my thoughts and behaviors to positive things.  So in April I tried to implement some specific things that added to my happiness.  I also decided that I wasn't going to blog about my Happiness Project anymore.

During these months I focused a lot on reaching out to people, strengthening friendships, going outside my comfort zone, and trying new things.  I tried really hard to make a nice summer for my kids.  I took the Ordinary Courage online class and LOVED IT.  The things I was learning from Brene Brown and Jen Lemen about shame and vulnerability caused a paradigm shift that really helped me better understand myself and my relationships.  I spent a lot of time serving friends during the summer.  That made me feel good.  These things, combined with counseling and medication, really helped me feel like I was mentally turning a corner. That definitely contributed to my happiness.

These months were less goal oriented and more survival oriented.  My mental health nose-dived after school started, so much of my limited energy was thrown into correcting my deviating course.  The fall months were a challenge.  But I did continue to exercise nearly every day and make better food choices.  People started noticing my weight loss, and of course that was an emotional boost.  I reached my goal of completing a 10K. I really enjoyed my church callings as newsletter editor and choir pianist.  Both played to my strengths and brought great satisfaction. I still struggled socially but worked hard to continue implementing my goals to reach out and let people in.

So now, at the end of the year, I look back and see lots of growth and change.  The transformation is mostly in my brain.  My physical surroundings haven't changed much, my family structure is the same, finances are the same, friends are the same.  I still live far away from my family, I still have five crazy and busy kids, and my house is still perpetually messy.  But I think that viewing those things differently has been a huge part of my increased happiness this year.  I also learned that exercising is extremely beneficial for my mental health,which, in turn, makes our home climate much happier.  Three other things that greatly contribute to my happiness on an ongoing basis are scripture study, prayer, and temple attendance.  Those are pretty private, personal things, but a discussion about my happiness is not complete without at least mentioning them.

My Happiness Project didn't turn out exactly as I planned.  It wasn't as structured and organized as I imagined it would be in January.  But I'm very glad I started the process and became more mindful of the things that make me happier because, as we all know, if the mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!

Dec 27, 2012

The Plan B Christmas

Despite our last-minute change in gifting plans, our Christmas lovely.  It was the best one that I, personally, have had in a long time.  The kids were a little crazy, but I suppose that is to be expected on the most highly-anticipated day of the year.

In keeping with tradition, we enjoyed a lasagna dinner, a nativity reenactment (complete with a cartwheeling shepherd kicking Mary in the face), hot chocolate with candy canes, and opening new pajamas on Christmas Eve.


On Christmas Day, we woke up to snow.  A white Christmas!  How magical.  But that wasn't our first item of business.  A few very excited children congregated on the stairs and threatened to charge if we didn't hurry up with the pictures already.

Although Garry and I were disappointed to miss the gasps and screams we imagined, the kids were plenty happy with their gifts.  Tyler couldn't believe he had received something he hadn't dared put on his wish list: an mp3 player.  Lexi was enamored with her doll clothes and Zach with his carpet skates (of all things!).  Gavin's favorite gift of the morning was a purple Colorado Rockies hat, which he wore with pride the rest of the day.  Kate slept blissfully for a while, but eventually the commotion was too loud and she joined the fray.  She didn't fully appreciate the refinished doll cradle and hand-sewn doll bedding that Garry and I labored to make, but Lexi coaxed her into loving it.

What followed was a joyful hour of opening and enjoying gifts from the extended family.  Grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles spoiled the kids, so the kids had plenty of gifts under the tree.  The kids loved everything in their stockings, which included some candy and a few small gifts.  Santa brought each of the kids a board game and we made plans for a winter break of cooperative play.  Almost as an afterthought, we explained the garage situation to the kids.  They shrugged it off but were excited that more gifts were in store.

Garry pooled money from the extended family and I to buy a car stereo.  I received my fabulous boots, a garage key pad (how ironic is that?!), supplies for an elaborate cell phone charging station, tile samples for the downstairs bathroom, a gift certificate to have my van detailed, earrings, socks, and a scarf.

Garry made delicious butterscotch bread for breakfast.  Then we played and organized and relaxed.  Around noon we joined friends at their house for a lunch of ham, scones, and treats.  The delicious food and fun company was a nice addition to our day.  Back at home, Kate and I crashed for awesome naps, Garry helped Tyler load his mp3 player with books and music, and the other kids played with their new things.

Tyler did have a few sad times.  He felt like his presents didn't measure up to Zach's and he was worried that he had broken one of his new Nerf guns (he hadn't). I was able to reassure him on a few points, and although he recovered, he had a pretty emotional day.  Poor Tyler.

At 3:30, I received a text from our traveling friends (owners of the house where our gifts were stored).

Friend: Hey! We are about two hours away--still time to save Christmas!
Heidi: Thank you. :) The morning was lovely. It's kind of fun to stretch it out. And your house is intact!
Friend: :) Haha!!  Yes, extending Christmas!
Heidi: The kids were understanding, and it all worked out.
Friend: I am so glad.
Heidi: Yep, all is well.

Then, at 5:24:

Friend: We are 10 minutes away.  Do you want to pick up the items now or after kids are asleep?
Heidi: We are just getting dinner ready.  Garry made a ham-and-potatoes feast!  Get yourselves settled at home and Garry will come a little later.  I'm glad you are home safely!
Friend: OK.  Sounds good!  Thanks! :)

Garry left at 6:30 to retrieve the gifts. We decided that he would just bring them in, unassembled, to surprise the kids, and then after bedtime, he would put everything together. When I knew Garry was close to home, I sent the kids to the basement so Garry could bring in the punching bag and kitchen and we could reenact Christmas morning.

Although the "wow factor" was decidedly missing with our lackluster presentation, the kids were plenty happy with their bonus gifts. The boys immediately put on their new boxing gloves. I held the punching bag and braced for impact, and they punched away. Gavin was the most enthusiastic boxer, and stayed with it for a long time.

Garry stayed up late to assemble the little red kitchen for Kate and Lexi.  It is completely adorable.  I'm in love.  Lexi and I spent some time this morning arranging her food and cooking utensils in the fridge and cupboards.  I imagine the girls will spend hours of creative play in this corner of the house.

And so ends another Christmas.  Tyler has already started the countdown to his birthday with a paper chain.  Forty-nine days to go...

pass it on!

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