Comic Relief

The kids are always asking me to tell them funny stories from when they were little. This is a good place to put some of the funny things I have observed over the past month.

Here, we have Gavin wearing Ricky’s basketball shoes and trying to make a serious “baller” face.

Winter grew out of her puppy crate. The new crate is pretty big because I’m not sure how much she will grow. It’s big enough for Ricky. So if he’s bad, he can go sleep outside with her.

Brooklyn is taking swimming lessons from one of Makayla’s friends who comes to our house and teaches her in the afternoons. Brooklyn was so excited for the first lesson, she sat on the front porch like this for a half hour watching for her teacher’s car. Here’s another funny story from Brooklyn and Andrew.  Do your kids wipe boogers on the wall or sides of the couch or car?  It’s disgusting!!!  My older sister did this.   Emily used to have a nice collection on the wall by her bed . . . gross!  I wonder if she has any on her wall at BYU.  Not all my kids have this disgusting and very inconsiderate habit, but Andrew does.  When I found a new collection on the wall near a light switch, I berated him.

“Andrew!  You come here right now and scrub these boogers off the wall.  It’s disgusting!  You’ll clean this and then you will also clean a toilet for being inconsiderate and gross.”

Andrew claimed innocence with all kinds of excuses. I call him my excuse arsenal. He even tried to blame Brooklyn!

I said, “There’s no way Brooklyn can reach that high with her boogers!”

Brooklyn said, “Ya, and I never wipe boogers on the wall! I eat them!”

Gross. And funny. But mostly gross that we even had to have this conversation in the first place.

Gavin got my phone during family scripture study and took about a hundred pictures. These are a couple.

On the day Ricky was scheduled to leave for his preparing for his backpacking trip he realized he didn’t have a floppy shade hat that he could smash into his backpack.  So, off to Walmart we went and he insisted on buying this beauty:

I tried to talk him into a more practical tan hat, but he was in love with that one.  He wore it proudly all week.  He’s a funny guy.

While Ricky was backpacking, Rick and Makayla were at girls’ camp.  Rick took the big van, so because I had less kids, I took the little black car around town.  At the grocery store, we spotted a small plastic pool that would work to help keep Winter cool (she’s scared of the big pool and we don’t really want her dog hair plugging the filter).  I bought the pool before thinking about how I would get it home in the little car with four kids.  We made it work . . .

And she loves it.  We had been spraying her off with the hose a couple of times a day, but this works better because if she’s hot, she just gets in all by herself.Later that evening, the kids talked me into taking them to the park as the sun was going down (I refused to go any other time of the day because it’s too hot).

Andrew and Brooklyn tried out the baby swings.

Andrew has been begging me to take them to this park for a long time because he loves this spinny thing. He talked Sean into climbing up there with him and begged me to spin them fast. I warned them that it might make them feel sick. Sean was worried, but Andrew kept goading him on.

After the big spin, Sean had to have a long rest.

A couple of days ago, Gavin showed up in the kitchen dressed as a “bad guy,” complete with a fierce weapon.  I was successful at dodging his jabs with the spoon.

Gavin:  “Sean pinched me!!”

Me:  “Oh no!”

Gavin:  “Oh YES!!”

Kids are funny.

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Bishop’s Wife Life — The Beginning

Attention from others makes me uncomfortable. Well, certain attentions are ok–the quiet kind like thoughtful notes or one-on-one compliments or personal expressions of gratitude. That kind of attention is great–even uplifting. I don’t like the kind of attention that comes from a crowd of people. You know, like when your friends sing you Happy Birthday in a crowded restaurant or when you are presenting one side of a debate in front of opinionated classmates, or when your name is called for an award and everyone swivels in their seats to look at you as you walk toward the podium.

I was both dreading and anticipating the day Rick’s calling would be announced. It would be a relief not to keep things quiet anymore and Rick could move forward with some of the “Bishopy” things he needed to do without drawing suspicion. But I was not looking forward to the moment when the Stake President would say, “Rick Mergenthaler as Bishop of the Iowa City 1st Ward,” and every head would turn to look at him. I knew they wouldn’t be looking at me, but I still wondered how to react. Should I look at him in surprise and awe? Could I summon a look of complete adoration? Maybe I should look down at my lap in humility. Should I smile? That might be creepy. Besides, who would I smile at? I know I was overthinking and now that I’m writing about this, I honestly can’t remember what I did when the call was announced. I probably missed the moment because I was busy helping 3-year-old Sean dry the sacrament water that spilled on his shirt (he used to freak out about anything on his clothes–even water).

What I was dreading more than the actual announcement was speaking in front of the ward. I knew I would be asked to bear my testimony. When I was a teenager, I was horrified at any speaking assignment. I would hide in the bathroom at school and take a failing grade on the assignment rather than actually present anything in front of the class. When assigned to speak in sacrament meeting, I’d read a short talk from a paper at the podium without looking up because if I looked up, my nervousness would cause my head to shake like a palsy patient. Over the years, with practice and positive speaking experiences, I have learned to be better at public speaking. I might even count it as a strength if I am able to prepare. But I had no idea what I would say on this occasion. It turned out that my children gave me plenty to talk about.

Here’s how it went:

I can’t remember the order of the speakers or what anybody before me said. When it was my turn to “make some remarks,” I handed baby Brooklyn off to Emily and headed up front. I began my remarks by thanking our previous Bishop who was so generous and kind. As I spoke, I noticed the star stickers on my arm placed there by Sean in a neat row from my wrist to elbow, and my thoughts of the past few weeks came back to me.

I raised my arm full of stickers to show the congregation.  “Do you like my new accessories?  Bishop Mergenthaler has been sitting on the stand for only 20 minutes and we have already had an exciting time down there in the congregation.  I’m going to tell you a quick story about what just happened. Just as Bishop Mergenthaler was speaking, I started getting a little nervous because I knew I would be next. To combat my dry mouth, I took a drink from my water bottle.  The kids saw me get a drink and then they all needed water just as badly as me.  I know it’s gross, but we passed the bottle down the line.  Unfortunately, Sean fumbled the half-full water bottle and it spilled onto the carpet.  I stared at the puddle in shock for a couple of seconds thinking about my next move. Should I run out to the bathroom for paper towels and run back in again with the bundle to mop up the spill? That would create quite the disruption. Should I ignore the seeping puddle and pretend it wasn’t there? That was less disruptive. As I said a silent prayer for help, I was blessed with inspiration.  I already had what I needed to quickly soak up the mess without anybody noticing–something super absorbent and very convenient. I fished through my backpack, pulled out a diaper, and slapped it, absorbent-side down, on the puddle. Voila! Problem solved!”

“The story is kind of funny, but it helps to illustrate some of what I feel about Rick serving in this capacity. We have had a long time to think about what this would mean for our family, and I have had some worries. I don’t doubt that Rick will be inspired to help others in very specific ways. I know you can trust him to guide our ward and help you individually as needed. He has been prepared for this calling. He will learn as he goes and the Lord will help him, but I have no doubts about his capacity to serve or his ability to receive revelation in this specific calling.

“My worries, though, have not been about how he will serve. I have worried about how his family will cope while he is serving. I have questioned if I can bear the burden of caring for our family while he is away. Our little incident during sacrament meeting has reminded me of the answer I have received over and over any time I worry—I will be blessed with the inspiration and resources I need to care for our family when I need them. I know Heavenly Father knows my needs and my worries and He will send me the help and comfort I need–even the idea of using a diaper to clean up spilled water during sacrament meeting.”

I closed with my testimony and exited the stand. Phew! At least that part was over.

In my relief, I forgot to prepare for the next wave of difficulty on the horizon–the congratulatory remarks. I know that, in most circumstances, when somebody congratulates another member of our church on their new calling, they mean the words as a way to show support and love. But for me, accepting congratulations for receiving a calling from God feels wrong somehow–almost like the calling is viewed as a promotion or accomplishment. Callings in the church are not status markers or advancements. In the most simple terms, a new calling is a new way to serve with new responsibilities and different people to work with. Our current Bishopric was reorganized last week and I loved what the released Bishop’s wife said: “We lift where we stand.” Sure, some callings require more time and sacrifice than others. Some callings are more visible than others, but I cannot think of any call that deserves congratulations. It’s probably more appropriate to say, “I am so excited for you to serve in this capacity. I will help all that I can.” or “I know that you’re going to do great work here.”

So, what do you think is the most appropriate response to congratulations in this circumstance? I think a quiet expression of gratitude works best. And be happy that people care enough to express their love and support.

That first Sunday as the Bishop’s wife was long and stressful, but there were also a few small I should record (besides, of course, the diaper idea which was also a small miracle).

First, a man who Rick had been home teaching for years came to church for the first time in over 20 years because he loved Rick and wanted to support him.  The man didn’t know that Rick would be called as Bishop (though he may have had suspicions).  On a visit a couple of weeks before Rick had told him that this particular Sunday was going to be a big day for him and it would mean a lot if this man could be there.  It was very special to see him there with his family who had been attending church without him for so many years.  But it was even more touching to know that this man cared for Rick like a son.  Rick’s dad couldn’t be there, but this man was.  He loved Rick enough to put aside any doubts he had about the church or any awkwardness at attending after being away for so many years.

Another small miracle happened during the meeting to set the new Bishopric part after church. We met in the high council room with our families. After three hours of church, I didn’t know if the younger children could sit reverently with arms folded and heads bowed during four priesthood blessings.  I especially wanted to hear what was said in Rick’s blessing because I wanted to be aware of how I could help. I also didn’t want to be disruptive to the other families there who would be doing their own part in supporting their husbands in demanding callings.  I was pleasantly surprised, though, when the baby was calm and the kids sat and listened to all the discussion and stayed peaceful and respectful during the blessings.

Those two small miracles were just the beginning of the many blessings our family received during Rick’s service.  Even when things were hard, miracles happened, inspiration came, and we were able to move forward with our responsibilities and thrive in difficult situations.

I’m going to throw a couple of pictures on here just for fun.  About a month after Rick had been serving as Bishop, we celebrated Ricky’s and Andrew’s birthdays on a Sunday evening after Rick got home from meetings.  This doesn’t seem like that long ago, but I can’t believe how much Ricky has changed!!

Here are some pictures of Ricky now:

What a difference 5 years makes! And I haven’t aged a day. 😏

Bishop’s Wife Life — The Call

It’s hard to tell the story of when Rick received the call to be Bishop without telling some of what was going on with our family at the time.  If you look back through our blog history, you’ll see I get quiet from 2010 through 2017.  During those years, I spent much of the time in survival mode.  I only documented large trips or events–if that.  Mostly, our family blog was a place to put pictures.  My personal journal writing is also kind of sparse.  I did write, but mostly when I was upset or worried about something.  Writing in my journal was a way for me to think through things.  Because of this, there is a tone of negativity in a lot of the entries of those years.  That isn’t to say there wasn’t joy or good times.  Like I have said before, there is always opposition. I just didn’t record as much of the joy as I should have.

So, what was going on with us in the spring of 2013?

Brooklyn, our 6th baby was a newborn–a difficult newborn.  She cried every time she was in the car–especially in the evenings.  She refused pacifiers, so comforting her quickly was difficult.  She didn’t sleep well at night.

 

Rick’s job was very demanding.  He was approaching tenure and the timing was right for him to “get his name out there” as far as collegial notoriety.  More experienced faculty encouraged him to present his research at several universities.  Often, when presenting your research, the visit is structured somewhat like an interview.  The presenter meets with leading faculty and sometimes job offers arise out of this process.  We were strongly considering moving “up” to a more prestigious university at this point in Rick’s career.  He had strong opportunities at a couple of schools and he was very close to accepting an offer at Dartmouth in New Hampshire.  That is until I had a very distinct dream in which I was helping Rick write a letter to Dartmouth declining the job offer with very clear and inspired reasoning.

Basketball season was just winding down.  Emily played high school ball, and Makayla, Ricky, and Andrew were played with AAU or YMCA teams.  Sean had also participated in a Saturday basketball class.  With the end of a very busy basketball season, Ricky wanted to give baseball another try.  At this first practice, he caught a baseball in the mouth.

2013MarchtoMay 042I was serving in the Stake Primary Presidency as 1st Counselor.  Yearly ward conferences were scheduled in the springtime, so many Sundays found me and Brooklyn traveling between 30 minutes and 2 1/2 hours to visit wards and branches in the stake.

One very difficult week towards the end of March, little Brooklyn got her first cold.  The congestion from the virus caused her to have an eye infection which she kindly shared with me.  I had conjunctivitis in both eyes.  The swelling, itching, and mucus were so bad that I had to wake Rick at night so that he could bring me the baby to feed her because my eyes were crusted closed.

At the tail end of this double eye infection, Brooklyn and I attended a branch conference in Belle Plaine, Iowa.  Though medication had cleared my infection, I did not yet have new makeup (I threw the old stuff away to avoid reinfecting myself).  The dark circles under my eyes were evidence that Brooklyn still wasn’t sleeping well.  I looked hideous,  but I was well enough to go to the conference.  Just before sacrament meeting, President Hansen casually said, “Hey, I need to meet with you soon.  Maybe when I get back in town, I’ll call you and set something up.”  I said, “OK.”  I was pretty sure I knew what this was about.  Our sweet Stake Primary President had served a good tenure and had experienced a shoulder injury making her service very difficult.  I thought the Stake Primary Presidency would be reorganized soon and I would be released.

A few weeks later, President Hansen called me to schedule the appointment.  He asked that I bring my husband along.  With the request to bring Rick, I wondered what this interview might be about because a simple release from my calling would not require Rick’s presence or approval.  I teased Rick that he needed to practice being more supportive of me in my callings because something was on the horizon.

At the appointment, President Hansen called me in first.  He asked about our family and how things were going.  I was honest, but not pessimistic.  I told him we were well, but I was tired.  Our 6th baby was our most difficult (that’s because I hadn’t had the 7th yet).  After our short conversation, he called Rick in to speak with him.  Last, he called us both in together.

He looked at us, smiled, handed me a piece of paper and said, “Sister Mergenthaler, can you read this letter?”

I took the letter and began reading silently.  I guess I must have made a face because President Hansen said, “Can you read it out loud?”

I did.

It was a letter from the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stating their approval to call Richard Dean Mergenthaler Junior as Bishop of the Iowa City 1st Ward.

We were completely blindsided!  I laughed awkwardly saying, “Well, you’re tricky!  We thought this was about me and my Primary calling!”  I felt sheepish for teasing Rick about being more supportive because it was actually me who would have a lot of supporting to do.

I don’t remember what Rick said in his acceptance of the calling, but I do remember President Hansen asking Rick, “So does this answer your questions about your possible move?”  And Rick said, “Yes.  We will be here in Iowa for a while.”

And that was that!  The rest of the interview was mostly sharing information.  We found out that the change wouldn’t happen for nearly a month. Meanwhile, Rick was to pray about counselors, talk to the current Bishop, study, and prepare.

Those weeks before he was set apart were hard.  We didn’t say anything to the kids until a few days before, but Rick’s absent-mindedness, intensive studying, and hushed conversations hinted that something was up.  Our older and more observant children picked up on the change in home climate.  The week after he learned of the call was General Conference weekend.  Usually, we enjoy listening to conference together and doing something fun and active in between sessions.  Rick was severely focused on reading in Handbook 1 about the duties and responsibilities of a Bishop and was very difficult to draw out.  I played with the kids while he studied indoors.  He spent his 36th birthday on a campout with the Young Men instead of with his family because in his preoccupation he didn’t realize the double commitment.  A few weeks later, a friend of ours observed that he seemed pretty distracted on that campout, but he couldn’t pinpoint the reason.  I don’t think this distraction or absent-mindedness is specific to somebody who is preparing to serve in a challenging calling, but I do think a calling like this can weigh heavily on a person–especially when so much is unknown and new.  Rick’s personality especially leans in this direction.  He recently accepted a calling to serve on the Stake High Council for the first time, and in an effort to serve well has been a little distracted, but not nearly like he was as he prepared to serve as Bishop.

I didn’t tell anybody.  I’m good at keeping things quiet.  Even my close friends rarely know when I’m struggling.  Usually, only Rick bears the brunt of my worries and stresses (too bad for him).  I’m not a whiner and I don’t open up about challenges too often.  On the surface, everything went on for me as it normally would.  One friend was pretty upset at me for not sharing, but she’s kind of a “talker,” if you know what I mean.  I didn’t want any hurt feeling or confusion because I wasn’t careful about what I said.  This ability to keep quiet was needed multiple times throughout Rick’s tenure as Bishop.  Most of the time, I didn’t know what was going on, and some of the time I pretended I didn’t know what was going on.

Though I didn’t talk much, I thought plenty.  One sacrament meeting, when the kids were especially peaceful, I looked over at Rick holding the sleeping baby and thought, “He will never be able to hold Baby B in sacrament meeting again.”  On Sunday when he escorted Sean out of sacrament meeting to use the bathroom, “How am I going to do this on my own?  Who will sit with the kids when I have to feed the baby?  Will I have to traipse out of here with a trail of children?”  I also mulled over the worries I listed in the first Bishop’s Wife Life.

Consider this picture I found taken about the time Rick received his call.  Each of the facial expressions probably matched my own throughout the process.  Emily looks dazed–like no matter what you say to her she will stare back, stone-faced.  Makayla is annoyed.  Ricky is surprised and confused.  Andrew has a slight smile, like “Is this a joke?”  Sean is confident and happy despite the odd situation he finds himself in.  I knew that supporting Rick in this calling would be hard for our family, but the challenges were as temporary as the spots the kids painted on their faces.  I also knew we would come away from the experience much better off than when we started–because when you start out like we did, there can only be an improvement.  2013MarchtoMay 075

Mothering with Migraines

Migraines are my Supermom kryptonite.

The pain itself is formidable. Imagine a knife going through one of your eyes and out the back of your head just above your neck. The pain is not worse than childbirth, but close. For me, maybe it is worse because I have experienced at least one hundred times more migraines than I have had babies.

In addition to severe pain, nausea can come on quickly and suddenly, forcing a rush for the bathroom. If you’re in a car,  you have to master the ability to quickly pull off to the side and hope your kids and other passing drivers turn away.

Light and sound sensitivity intensify the pain and nausea. And then there’s the general brain fogginess. When a migraine is at it’s worse, it’s difficult to communicate. It’s like your thoughts can’t make their way out of your mouth appropriately. “Can you bring me some medicine?” comes out as “I need that bottle of blue and a wup of cater.” This verbal stumbling and brain fogginess occur before, during, and after the pain.

This is not a headache you can just “sleep off” because the stabbing pain that runs from behind your eye to the back of your neck is so relentless and intense that sleeping is impossible. But you try to sleep anyway because you can’t do anything else. You just exist in a pain-filled nightmare on your bed with a pillow over your face to block out any specks of light hoping you won’t throw up again and praying for a cease to the torture. Though medication lessens the pain, it often worsens nausea and brain fogginess while also causing weakness in limbs.

I have had migraines since I was about 12. I can’t count the times I ended up in the school office hoping I wouldn’t throw up in the adjoining bathroom with the sounds reverberating for students and staff to hear.  Once, I threw up in the school cafeteria. I was mortified. I also threw up in a friend’s driveway. Another time, I blacked out on a school field trip while watching a presentation by a radiologist.  People thought it was because the broken bone x-rays on display made me queasy, but it was actually the onset of a migraine.

Luckily, I had very understanding family members, friends, and teachers. But doctors weren’t helpful. My headaches and the accompanying nausea were attributed to hormones, stress, and low blood sugar. The diagnosis was probably accurate, but there wasn’t anything to be done.  Every teenager experiences hormonal imbalances, stress, and raging hunger.  I wonder if it wasn’t common back then to give migraine medication to teens because in lieu of medication I was told to eat frequently, avoid strenuous activities, avoid stress, and carry a pack of Rolaids to help with nausea.  The hope was that after I had endured the pubescent teenage years, my body would calm and my headaches would ease.

High school was rough, but I made it.  After high school, I had a slight reprieve from frequent migraines for about 10 years.  I would get them once in a while, but not too often and not too horrible.  After I had my fourth baby, I started to have them more frequently, but still manageable.

Just before I was pregnant with Brooklyn, I began having horrible migraines again. The first few months of the pregnancy were extremely difficult. But as the morning sickness waned in the third month, so did the headaches. Hormones–they cause so much strife for all the good they do.

The reprieve was nice, but a few months after Brooklyn was born, I found myself knocked out at least once a week. Sometimes I would have headaches for a few days in a row. I was having to call Rick to come home from work to be with the kids because I couldn’t care for them or drive to activities. He was able to help sometimes, but he was a new Bishop and often had appointments, meetings, and responsibilities that precluded helping at home. The older kids did what they could, but it was so hard.

I can remember more than once knowing that Rick had a meeting or something to get to and also knowing that I was in no state to care for the children at home.  From the couch,  I would lie “My headache is getting better.  Don’t worry.  Go to your meeting.”  And he would drive away and I would cry and then maybe rush to the bathroom to throw up.

We have already established that being a mom is incredibly difficult and the tasks and responsibilities are unending.  Kids need mothers who are present, involved, and stalwart.  Nothing can replace the physical, spiritual, and emotional nurturing that a righteous woman can provide a child.  It doesn’t always have to be the mom that provides this nurturing, but when a mom is absent because of death, sickness, addiction, work, or other circumstances; the child suffers in spite of efforts to fill the void.

That void is what I worry about every time I get a migraine.  I know it’s okay to get help.  Hiring a babysitter or asking friends or older children to help with children is fine–even needed.  But I also know, in spite of what others say, my work and influence in my own home with my children are irreplaceable.  It’s disturbing for me to consider how much time I have lost with my children because of migraines.

I also see the flip side.  How much empathy for others have my children learned?  What opportunities for service have they been given because they had to step in and help?  In this way, migraines are a blessing.  I am a very independent person and I like to just get things done.  Being knocked out with a migraine forces me to let others in.  Sometimes the house falls apart around me and the kids watch TV for hours, but other times, they have looked outside themselves and served.

Moms carry a heavy burden, and so much of what we do is not readily observed.  Every mom has challenges that limit her ability to fully serve her family.  These challenges can take many forms.  Migraines are not my only challenge.  Each day I fight against impatience, selfishness, and exhaustion.  The hours in the day are limited and there’s always more to be done than can realistically be accomplished.  These challenges are not limited to mothers–everybody fights against inadequacies and time constraints.  I believe the barriers and challenges we experience daily are intentional.  How else could we learn to rely on the influence of the Spirit to teach us how to spend that limited time and how to act when we are not as naturally patient or kind as we should be?  Without the opposition, there is no growth.  Do I keep saying that?  It seems like every time I write about my life challenges, I come to the same conclusion. I guess the truth never gets old!

Migraines have taught me empathy, service, patience, flexibility, and endurance.  Though I dread them–even hate them, as I do many of the challenges posed to me, I can look back and see small miracles and specific blessings that have resulted from this fight.

Like Superman and his kryptonite, my SuperMom kryptonite requires me to look for solutions, adapt, and rely on the help of others.  And in the end, I am blessed.

Bishop’s Wife Life

I haven’t written about this before because I didn’t want to draw attention. I worried that my thoughts on the topic may be perceived as bragging. But then I thought about when Rick was called as a Bishop five years ago and how I worried about what it would really be like to be the Bishop’s wife.  I have realized there are thousands of women out there that have the same concerns as their husbands serve in demanding church positions and maybe they can find some comfort in what I write.

When Rick was called, I wondered about many things. How could I be supportive? What could I do to lift his burdens at home? What was my role in helping him to balance his church and work responsibilities with his responsibilities at home? Would I be lonely, overwhelmed, overlooked? How would our children handle the extra demands on his time? How would ward members see me? Would they worry I knew their struggles and treat me differently? How would I avoid and prevent gossip? Could I show genuine love, kindness, and patience when people were inconsiderate about his time–especially his time with me and our children? Could I share the love of my life? Would he be protected from those who would seek to harm him?

I had a lot of worries.  But my overarching worry was, would I be strong enough?  My big fear was that my weaknesses would prevent him from achieving his potential–that I would hold him back in some way.  This fear has always been something that nags at me.

When we were first married, I knew I was marrying a spiritual giant.  Please don’t take this as bragging.  I don’t intend to brag.  He is not perfect and neither am I, but he is good and he is always trying to be better.  I knew that I was marrying a man that would always try to do the right thing.  I knew that he was service-oriented, other-oriented, and a hard worker.  I knew that he would serve in callings that would require his distinct gifts in those areas.  But it didn’t even matter where he was called to serve because I also knew he would serve in any calling with his whole heart.  We hadn’t been married very long before he was called as Elder’s Quorum President in our married student ward.  With that calling, I knew that he would always be called upon to give service in callings that would require our family to sacrifice.  We began patterns when we were young to generate a proper balance–weekly date nights, family home evenings, family prayer and scripture study.

But my worries that I would hold him back in some way still nagged–especially with his call as a Bishop.  I wanted to be the kind of wife that he needed to serve and support him.  I did not want my insecurities or loneliness or neediness to limit how he could serve.

I looked to positive examples anywhere I could find them.  I was constantly searching for examples of women who were successful at balancing the need to support their husbands while also keeping a strong family life. Of course, I read about Marjorie Hinckley and Frances Monson, but I also looked to women who I knew and loved whose husbands also served in demanding callings.  I listened to their kind words of support and advice.  And this is why I’m writing.  I’m hoping women with worries about living life as a Bishop’s wife, or other supportive callings can read some of my experiences and find the comfort and strength they need to move forward.

As I have sat down to write this, I’m realizing I have more stories to share than can be included in one post, so I think I’ll start a Bishop’s Wife Life series of posts.  These are things I avoided sharing while Rick was serving as Bishop because I didn’t want people to worry about me and I didn’t want to draw attention.  I also didn’t want to single anybody out who may have unintentionally hurt me or Rick.  I didn’t want anybody to avoid talking to him or seeking his help because his wife would be mad about the time spent away from her or their family.

We had a lot of very difficult times during Rick’s tenure as Bishop.  And I had a lot of very personal experiences that tested my strength and resolve.  If anything, these things should be recorded for our children and grandchildren because I want them to know that their mom/grandma/great grandma wasn’t perfect, but her challenges helped her to become more perfect.

So, stay tuned.  My writing time is very limited because I do have to keep the rest of my life in balance and my family needs me to get the laundry and dishes done just like they need me to share these thoughts.  But this is something I want to do and I feel like it’s the right thing to do, so get ready because it’s going to get a little personal around here.

Crazy May

After my last two grumpy posts, I thought you deserved some light reading, and I could do with a little light writing.  I promise no negativity in this one.  “All good things!  All good things!” (Frozen)

May is always a busy month.  There’s the end of the school year events–choir concerts, field trips, graduations/advancement ceremonies, and more.  For us, May contains a lot of family events as well.

Our May started out with the kids missing almost an entire week of school for teacher walk-outs.  Maybe you heard about the walk-outs in the news.  I don’t think Tucson was the only place to experience this.  Maybe all of Arizona?  Maybe other states?  I’m horrible at following the news, so I didn’t get involved. I love and respect most of my kids’ teachers and I know they have hard jobs, so I hope the benefits of the walk-out were worth the cost to them.

For me, it was a week of “summer practice.”  It was mostly fun (see I’m trying to be positive here).

The kids played outside a lot and tormented the dog.  Don’t worry, she likes the attention.

They ate lunch outside and swam in the pool.

One day, we went to the Sonoran Desert Museum which is a super cool place that is more like a zoo than a museum.

I was proud of Makayla for getting her Arizona Driver’s Permit the week before, so I let her drive us to the Desert Museum.  She experienced construction zones, freeway driving, mountain driving, and more.  She did very well!

The museum just opened this new Pack Rat Play Area.  It’s cool and creepy at the same time.  

This past month, the cactus plants have been blooming.  I took a picture of my favorite cactus flower while chasing Gavin. Imagine these blooms of magenta dotting the mountainside and roadsides.

We took our signature javelina pictures at the museum exit.

Andrew had two days back to school before he took a day off for his birthday.  He actually asked me, “Can I play hookie on my birthday so I can stay home and hang with my peeps?”

I replied, “Your peeps?”

He nodded his head, “Brooklyn, Gavin, Winter,” a slight hesitation, “and you.”

How could I refuse since he made me feel so special?

Rick surprised Andrew by coming home from work and taking him out to lunch.  They had a great afternoon together.

Do you know about our family tradition of giving all the children little gifts when it’s one child’s birthday?  Gavin and Brooklyn got new goggles.

Andrew was excited about his new fitness tracker/watch.

He loves The Ranger’s Apprentice books by John Flanagan.  The main character, Will, is one of Andrew’s role models.  He’s awesome at archery, has good morals, and wears a camouflage cape.  So, Andrew got a bow and arrow, more books from the Ranger’s Apprentice series, and an awesome cloak.  He has used his cloak more than once to hide and surprise Ricky and it has worked.  Boys are funny!Two days after Andrew’s birthday, Brooklyn went to her last day of preschool. She will be a kindergartener next year! Also, next year I will go from having kids at 5 different schools (if you count Emily at BYU) to only two schools–elementary and high school.

I know I will have to field the question, “What will you do all day with only one child home with you?”

Here’s my answer–the same things I always do. I still have the same number of children to care for as well as other responsibilities. I don’t imagine a life of ease where Gavin and I lay around by the pool eating ice cream and napping. Ok, sure, I imagine it, but maybe for only a day. There’s always work to be done, and people to serve.

I’m happy for Brooklyn and her growth and maturity over the last year. Having a girl after three boys is a delight. She would be a delight no matter where she fell in the mix. I love her to pieces.

And then, Ricky turned 14!!

For his birthday he invited a bunch of boys to a barbecue and pool party at our house. They had a great time playing in the yard. This is a group of exceptional young men. Ricky has great friends and I hope he is a good friend to them.

Later that evening, the older boys got spiffy and we took them to a church dance. It was a first dance for three of them. They had a great time.

In fact, they had so much fun that I took a crowd of them to another church dance last night.

Ricky is a natural leader. He is fun to be around and helps people feel comfortable because he doesn’t worry too much about his own insecurities. He’s good at inviting people. I told him if he wanted to go to the dance, invite as many people as he could and I would drive them both ways (it was at a church building that’s about 40 minutes from our house). He gathered six kids to ride with us and some others met us there. They were so fun in the car–blasting Disney, country, and 90’s hits with the windows down, laughing, and talking. It was good, clean fun.

The day after Ricky’s birthday was Mother’s Day. One thing Rick is exceptional at is spoiling me. He made me breakfast in bed.

But that is not all. He also cleaned the kitchen a million times, made dinner, played with the kids, and handled almost every sibling argument. It was heaven, but I felt bad for Rick because he was completely exhausted and a little grumpy by the end of the day. I think he understands why I think the dinner hour until bed time is the most difficult part of the day, but he definitely experienced the full effects of it on Mother’s Day.

What else? Ricky had his final choir concert last week. He’s the boy at the top left.

Ricky loves to sing and he’s getting better and better at it. Today at church choir practice our leader asked him to switch to bass because there was only one other bass there and we were performing that day. After one run-through with his bass friend singing at his side, Ricky sounded great. The choir director was surprised and asked, “How long did you take piano lessons because your sight reading is fantastic!” He said, “I don’t really read music.” This is true. He did take piano for a few years, but he learns his choir part by listening to the people around him and practicing. He is especially good at matching his neighbor’s pitch. He’s an expressive singer and brings the Spirit when he sings. I love having him in choir because I know the words of the songs he learns and the feelings he has when singing will come back to him when he needs direction, assistance, or comfort. Go to ward choir! It’s so good for you. Take your teenagers. They need it.

And that’s our Crazy May so far with more to come! Ricky is graduating from 8th grade tomorrow, Rick and I celebrate 20 years of marriage on Tuesday, the kids have their last day of school this week, and Sean will go to Cub Scout camp for two days at the end of the month. “All good things! All good things!”

Laugh Instead of Cry

If you read my last post, you know that a storm was brewing in the Mergenthaler household.  Makayla went to bed hating me, school, responsibilities, and life in general. The others were sent to bed without special stories or cuddling because I needed space.

I wake in the morning ready for a fresh start. Gavin walks into my room happy to lay on my pillow while I pray and review the morning’s tasks. I find Sean in the kitchen trying to decide what to eat for breakfast. And he is happy, but not happy enough to take care of morning dog responsibilities.  There’s always an excuse.  His excuses are ok as excuses go–he wants to get his daily piano practice in, tidy his room and be ready for school before taking care of the dog.

So I do dog duty.  And then, I wake up the rest of the kids later than usual.  Andrew’s grumpiness from the night before has carried over.  He also has excuses why he can’t go run the dog around the yard.  His excuses are less convincing–I’m tired, it’s somebody else’s job.

So, the dog chews on my new patio furniture while I wake Makayla up for the second time.

By some miracle, I get the boys to the bus stop on time.  But as I park the car and walk around to help the boys cross the busy street, Andrew says, “Is this bus going to school?  Because if it is, then I’m not getting on it.”  This is said with a partial smile.  And it’s kind of funny, but pulling him out of the car is a foreshadowing of what would happen with Makayla almost an hour later.

So, Andrew and Sean are safely off.  Yay!  I know Makayla won’t be ready for seminary yet, so I take Ricky to school.  Another one down.  Yay.

I drive home to get Makayla.  She will be about 20 minutes late to seminary if we leave right away.  It’s not great, but late seminary arrival is typical for her.  I leave Gavin and Brooklyn in the car while I go inside to help her gather her things.

Upstairs, I follow a trail of water from Sean’s shower to my bathroom.  There she is in her pajamas with soaking wet hair.  I grumble inside.

“Gavin and Brooklyn are waiting in the car. What can I do to help?”

“Nothing.”  She has that defiant, hateful look on her face.  Pressuring her to get out the door won’t help.  So, I go to get the kids out of the car and find a mid-size lizard had come in the garage with the van. Nice.  I haven’t eaten breakfast or done anything for myself yet (typical of most mornings), and now I have to chase a lizard out of the garage and find a way to get a stubborn teenager out the door to school.

As I search for the broom, a list of all the things I had hoped to accomplish that morning runs through my head, “Would I have time to exercise?  Should I work on registering Makayla for her online health class this morning, or do it after the weekend?  The load of laundry I started last night is still sitting in the washer.  With the lack of help last night in the kitchen, the dishwasher needs to be unloaded and reloaded.  I haven’t balanced the checkbook and paid bills yet . . . . .”  The internal dialogue continues, and I get a text from Ricky:  “Can you bring my wallet?”  I think, “Sure, what else do I have going on this morning?” I reply, “Yes.”

I get the lizard out, but Makayla still isn’t ready.  I make myself breakfast and take it out to eat in the car with Gavin and Brooklyn because I think we will be leaving any minute.  After a few minutes, I honk the horn.  I wait.  I tidy up a few things in the garage and the car. I honk again. I wait.

And she finally comes out.  Seminary has about 5 minutes left.

“Do you want me to drive you to seminary or school?”

“Neither.”

I know a fight is coming, so I begin to back the van out so she can’t escape into the house.

“Put your seatbelt on.”

“No.  I want to die.”  Which is translated as, “I really don’t want to deal with life today.”

“Just put your seatbelt on.”

“No.”

Great.  She wants me to pull over and not drive until she’s buckled in.  Well, I won’t do that.  She’s going to school.  She will NOT win this battle.

But she’ll try.  Without a seatbelt on, she begs, pleads, cajoles, insults–anything to get me to not take her to school.  This is accompanied by all that things that are wrong with her face and why she doesn’t want to be seen.  And her teachers are dumb and they’re not doing anything important there and she will not go.  Meanwhile, the car is beeping an annoying alert that the passenger in the front seat is not wearing a seatbelt.

It doesn’t matter what I say in these arguments.  I’m always wrong, stupid, close-minded, and unloving.  I still say the same things, though.  “You can do this.  We all do hard things.” (I’m telling myself this in my head as I say it out loud.  “Not everything in life is easy.  You can’t hide. You’re going to get through the day.”

Meanwhile, I feel pressure building up inside me.  I am so mad at her!!  Why does everything have to be about her?  Doesn’t she care that she just made her siblings hang out in the car for a half hour, that she’s wasting my time, that I was counting on exercising this morning and now I won’t be able to, that I have a huge list of things to do, that we have this same fight at least a few times a week in different forms? I’m so mad!!!!

And then I remember my sister-in-law’s recent blog post where she and her teenage daughter are training for a marathon and it’s not going well:  http://motobees.blogspot.com/2018/04/mind-games-or-should-i-say-running-with.html  They actually changed shorts in the middle of the trail and she threw down her water bottle while yelling at her daughter, “You can and you will!!!”

And I can’t help it.  I snap.  All that anger and frustration building up inside me that would normally come out in tears or yelling or slamming on the brakes so that her unseatbelted body crashes into the dash comes out as laughter.  First, it’s a slight smile.  Then, it’s a giggle.  And Makayla says, “This is not funny.”  And then it IS funny.  I can’t help myself.  I feel a little crazy.  I can’t stop laughing.

She hates me.  We pull up to the school parking lot, and she refuses to get out.  So, I get my ugly, non-made up face and hair out of the car and walk around to pull her out.  She’s a little embarrassed and gets out, but then runs around to the driver’s side and hops in and tries to drive away!  Lucky for me, I had taken out the keys.  I walk around to the driver’s side and pull her out.  More people are arriving at school and she realizes I’m not above making a scene.  She gets out, grabs her backpack, and says, “Thanks for nothing!” as she stomps away.

I’m not proud of this next part because it’s immature, and I should never stoop to her level, but I get in the driver’s seat again and yell in a mocking-Makayla voice, “Thank you for making me a delicious lunch, Mom!  And for filling up my water bottle with refreshing ice water!  I LOVE YOU!!!”

And I turn the key and prepare to back away.  Suddenly she is walking back toward the car.

Uh oh!  I quickly lock the doors.  She is NOT getting back in!

She taps on the window.  “I need my phone charger.” (Yet another thing that didn’t go well this morning.  I plugged her phone in last night, but the cord wasn’t actually plugged into the wall–oops.)

I give her the charger and drive away.  At a stoplight, I see a text from her, “I am going to the office and coming home sick.”  I reply, “That’s going to be a long walk home for you.”

But, she got to school.  After another 20 minutes in the car to deliver Ricky his forgotten wallet, I bring Gavin and Brooklyn in the house and attempt to get going with the rest of the day.  Gavin is crying because he wanted to see the lizard I chased out of the garage and I didn’t show him.  And now Brooklyn is screaming, “I want chocolate chips.”  She can’t have the chocolate chips because Rick purchased special Guittard milk chocolate chips and they are not meant for kids to snack on instead of eating breakfast.  Her tantrum continues for quite some time.  I try to ignore it and go about the monumental task of tidying the kitchen.  But it’s just too much.  Imagine a slightly chubby little girl sitting on the pantry floor crying and hitting the wall because she can’t have her daddy’s special chocolate chips.  I don’t want to laugh at her or reply like a teenage mom, so I take a deep breath and say, “Let’s go play outside.  I’ll even go swimming with you if you let me exercise for 30 minutes.”

The dishes are undone, the laundry is still molding in the washer, Makayla’s health class issue is not resolved, I didn’t shower or make myself “cute” today.

But I had a great morning.  I exercised for thirty minutes (if you count playing soccer with the dog and jogging in place as exercise).  And then I swam in the pool with the kids.  We played until lunch time.

And now that the kids are on their way home from school and nap time is nearly over, I’m girding myself up for more battles, more challenges, and, yes, more blessings.

A Rough Night

Being a parent is the most difficult thing I have ever done or ever will do.  And it’s the best because the blessings come through the difficulty.  Parents are challenged physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally from newborn stage through teenage years and on through adult parenting and being a grandparent.  It starts out hard and it doesn’t get easier no matter what those seasoned moms say as your child throws a tantrum in a public place.  Having multiple children with differing personalities, needs, wants, and challenges of their own compounds the difficulty.  This should also mean that the rewards are also compounded, but it’s so hard to see the rewards most of the time.

I had a rough morning.  Unfortunately, the morning I’m about to describe happens in some variety multiple times a week.  It’s like I’m being beaten with a hammer.  Sure, maybe the hammer is shaping me into a sword, but for now it’s hurt over and over.

I think I need to make this story a two-part post.  This will be the depressing, stressful part.  It will be the post that if you’re a parent, you’ll nod your head in understanding and empathy, but you’ll not actually want to read it because you’ll remember all of the times and ways you have been particularly stressed.  It’s the prequel to the funny one.  So, if you rather not trudge through my therapeutic writing, skip to the next post called “Laugh Instead of Cry.”

My rough morning started last night.  Makayla was angry.  One of the most difficult challenges to parents these days, I believe, is technology–how to limit and monitor media usage so that your child is safe and achieving their potential while also developing necessary skills to limit and monitor themselves.  We have rules and when those rules are broken, there are consequences.  Makayla wasn’t obeying the rules, so consequences were enforced.  I suppose that’s all I should say, except, I’m so irritated by the fact that it wasn’t as simple as it sounds . . . I had to wrestle the phone away, change settings, and be verbally abused as a bad, overprotective, stupid mom.  Fun.

That’s not all, Sean was in need of attention from his brothers, so he tried for that attention by teasing Ricky while he was trying to read a book about his Grandpa.  Ricky and Sean just haven’t been kind to each other lately.  Especially Ricky towards Sean.  Ricky, like any other teen boy, deals with a lot of garbage at school–insults intended to make people feel insecure, inappropriate jokes, disrespect, and unkindness.  The stress of dealing with these challenges comes home with Ricky and soon the same insecure insults, inappropriate jokes, disrespect, and unkindness are directed toward Sean and others.  No parent likes to hear their child called horrific names or physically assaulted, but when it comes from another child in the family in a place that should be safe it makes you sad, angry, protective and potentially violent all at once.  The mama bear comes out, but she can’t attack the offender because she’s also meant to protect the offender.  It’s horrible.

So, while Makayla was glaring, stomping, snapping at everybody and overreacting to any partial disturbance in her space; Ricky was negatively responding to Sean’s annoying attempts at obtaining positive interaction.  And then there was Andrew . . . Andrew hates school right now–most especially this week.  His good friend at school suddenly stopped talking to him without explanation.  Instead of enjoying recess wandering and talking with his friend, he is playing basketball with a group of boys. Because he’s not focusing on that one friend during recess, that friend thinks Andrew has “changed.” Sounds like girls, right? So Andrew doesn’t want to hurt his friends feelings, but he wants to have more than just one recess friend.

The atmosphere in our home was already feeling tense and unhappy with Makayla, Ricky, and Sean; but Andrew added to it.  He was doing his spelling homework which he had put off until the last minute.  He hates handwriting.  It’s challenging for him.  His teacher has required the class to learn and write in cursive for spelling assignments.  So, as Andrew was huffily completing his assignment, he was grumbling, “I hate school.  This assignment is stupid.  We don’t even have a test tomorrow.  I don’t need to know how to spell these words.  Cursive is dumb.  I’m not going to do this.  I’m not going to school tomorrow.”  These phrases and similar ones were stated on repeat.  Sometimes, I tried to pipe in with something positive like, “We don’t love everything we are required to do,” or “Doing hard things makes us better people.” to which the grumblings would continue with increased intensity and directed at me instead of the room at random.

It was a relief when I finally got everybody to bed.  I had this thought–“Are the kids actually more disobedient, stubborn, and lazy when Rick is out of town, or does it just seem that way because when he’s home he helps to bear the burden?”  I’m not sure.  Parenting is challenging, but parenting alone is an especially heavy burden.

I went to sleep determined to start the morning fresh and happy and prayed that the kids would also awake refreshed and happy.  Since this is a two-part post with more adventure to come, you can guess that my hopes for happy, positive, obedient, and helpful children did not come to pass.  To be continued . . .

Home Again

We had a super fun visitor a few weeks ago. Emily took a break from BYU to spend a week at home with us. I know she doesn’t really consider Tucson her home, but her family is here and she’s at home when she’s with her family.

Brooklyn, Gavin, and I picked her up from the airport on Tuesday morning while the older kids were at school. They were so excited to have her just to themselves. Gavin and Emily had a dance session to music from The Greatest Showman. Gavin is always asking me to play “Greatest Snowman songs.” On a side note, I didn’t love the movie. I didn’t like that is was being touted as super family friendly and uplifting. I liked some of it, but other parts left me uncomfortable and wondering if people really Call this uplifting family entertainment. Everybody else in my family loved it, and I like most of the music. Emily and Brooklyn played doctor and went swimming.Emily brought Brooklyn a new dress which she made for her in her sewing class. It was so cute that Brooklyn wore it for family pictures

Emily met Winter. Originally, Emily’s goal was to become Winter’s favorite, but she has too much competition there. For better or worse, I’m Winter’s favorite because I do the most to care for her.

School was cancelled for the remainder of Emily’s visit and most of the next week for a teacher walkout. I appreciated the timing of the school cancellations because we were able to do more together.

We had family pictures taken. I haven’t had a chance to download all this pics, but here are a couple:

We went to dinner at a place called Sauce.

We went to a trampoline park, swam some more, did baptisms at the temple, and played games together.

Having so much fun can wear you out.

I love my family and feel very blessed to serve them every day–even if I get grumpy and overwhelmed sometimes. They’re fun to talk to, laugh with, learn with, and be with.

Plants

I love plants–especially flowers and fruit trees. I appreciate beautifully planned landscaping, but I also wonder at wild forests and meadows of flowers that grow without direction or nurturing. A person might not be able to tell how much I love plants by looking at my yard. This is because I lack the time to care for an elaborate garden. I don’t even have time to care for a few pretty pots. It’s just like interior design. Few people know that I am interested in that because our house has half-painted walls and no pictures up. But that’s because I have limited time and resources and I choose to focus my time and resources in caring for the immediate needs of my family. I suppose you could argue that my house and yard would look nicer if I spent less time writing blog posts, but I would win that argument. My blog posts are written when I’m sitting at swim practice or other kid activities that take me away from home.

One of the perks of our new house is that the previous owners loved flowers and plants too. Though the yard was quite overgrown in some areas and under watered in others, the planning that went into making our yard beautiful is obvious.

I was so happy when this rose bush finally bloomed. There are three other rose bushes there that aren’t looking too healthy. I think the javelina and rabbits are munching on them. I’m still trying to learn the name of the bush in the background. It’s an evergreen that blooms with pale pink flowers in the spring. Anybody have any ideas?

I spent a few minutes last week laying in the hammock in the backyard with the kids. I love the gnarled black branches of the mesquite trees. Our yard is bordered with large oleander bushes. Many of them died our first summer because I didn’t know their watering zone was off. These are hardy plants, though, so some survived. I know they’re poisonous, but I still love the color variety they bring to the yard–even if they’re in desperate need of trimming. Andrew brought some blooms in last week for me to enjoy in the house. As long as none of us ingests them, we will be OK. We have a hedge of bushes on the back side of our pool. They surprised me by producing small green fruit last fall. I did a lot of internet searches in the hopes of naming the fruit and finding out if it was poisonous or edible. I just couldn’t figure it out, so I ate one. Dumb, I know, especially with a yard full of oleanders, but i didn’t die or even get sick! And the fruit was tasty! This is what it looks like, and this is what I thought it was:

So, I thought, cool–we have feijoa bushes. And then I noticed these flowers on the bushes a week ago.Google told me these are guava flowers. Hmmmm. So I asked Google to tell me the difference between feijoa and guava. Guess what…they’re the same thing. Feijoa is also called “pineapple guava.” I know not everybody who reads this will appreciate my discovery, but I think it’s cool that I have guava bushes in my backyard. It feels so tropical!

I also have lovely bougainvillea bushes. They’re actually a tropical plant too even though they’re popular in the desert. Winter ripped off a branch and brought them to me last week.I am so happy we have a yard that we can enjoy. Even the horseshoe pit has come in handy as a sand box. Check out that sunset!Sometimes, though, we have problems with our plants. Besides the work of keeping them trimmed and cared for (which is work I do like, but don’t necessarily have time for) sometimes they cause problems.

I have learned the names of most of the cactus in our yard, but this one was a mystery to me until Brooklyn crashed her bike into it and forced me to take another look. Brooklyn taught herself how to ride a two-wheeler a couple of weeks ago. She felt confident enough in her skills to follow Makayla and Winter on a walk. They weren’t even gone 5 minutes when Brooklyn returned crying and covered in spines–large and small.

Not all cactuses are particularly painful, but cholla is the worst of the bunch. Brooklyn had crashed into a Christmas cholla, named for its bright red winter fruit. The large spines from a cholla are not nearly as painful as the small spines. The small spines are like tiny hairs or slivers–almost like what you see on your shirt after a haircut. Though the small spines look like harmless hairs, they are very painful because they are barbed and you can get as much as fifty in the palm of your hand by just touching a cholla. Brooklyn’s hands, arms, legs, and stomach were covered in small painful spines. It was horrible! People say to use duct tap to remove the spines, but that only took care of about half. They were too fine to stick to the tape and had embedded into her skin. We threw her clothes away and tweezed and taped like crazy for about an hour. Then I sent her to the hot tub to soak.

You can bet she was a lot more careful on her bike after that!

I planted some pretty flowers in pots on my front porch. One morning, I woke up to this:

Javelina. I don’t like them. They’re ugly, smelly, and they eat my plants.

After a few weeks, I planted more flowers, and a few days later there was an even bigger mess. Right now my pots have one or two flowers that have survived the blind beasts. I have since done a little research. If any of my family is reading this an needs ideas for Mother’s Day . . . . buy me new javelina-resistant flowers for my pots.  I’d like to try cosmos or vinca because I like their bright colors.  In fact, I’d also like some replacement plants for some other areas in our yard: 3 or 4 salvia bushes, 3 or 4 purple lantana.  Or let me go to the nursery by myself to pick out some plants.  It’s really hard to go plant shopping with little children.

The prickly pear are blooming. Yellow isn’t my favorite flower color, but it’s kind of pretty. I prefer reds, pinks, and purples. Orange is OK too.

This next picture has nothing to do with plants, but it does have to do with the outdoors. Sometimes the kids leave the slider in the game room open and we end up with wildlife in the house. So far, it has only been spiders and lizards. I did kill a scorpion by the back door once last year. I sure hope a snake never finds it’s way in. Oh, and thank you for asking how the puppy training is going. It’s going.

I have a great story about how Winter saved my life this morning. I told it to Emily and she was cracking up with my facial expressions and hand gestures. Unfortunately, you can’t see that on a blog post. So here’s the short, boring version–Winter was barking like a maniac with her hackles raised on our walk today. We walk the same route every day for training purposes, so I couldn’t figure out why the horses we were passing were making her jumpy. She was barking and backing away from the side of the road. I was embarrassed, so I picked her up and carried her far from the horses before putting her down. On the way home, as we prepared to pass the horses, there was another neighborhood dog barking at something in the same place. As I got close, the older couple warned us, “Look out guys! There’s a rattlesnake!” It turned out, Winter wasn’t freaking out about the horses at all. Just on the side of the road where we had been walking was a rattlesnake coiled and ready to strike. Good job, Winter!