Summer Fun

I am behind on updates. I blame the Family Tree app.

When we were in Washington, I found myself with a little more down time than I’m used to. I decided to use some of that time wisely by seeing if I could familiarize myself with Family Search. I know genealogy isn’t rocket science, but it seemed too overwhelming to take on. What if I sat down for five minutes and got sucked in? Hours later, my family would be foraging for food in the wilderness. What if I made big mistakes like a few years ago when Rick was “helping” me update our family tree and turned my Grandpa into my dad?

Though I was afraid to get sucked in or make silly mistakes with unfamiliar software, I have been inspired by President Nelson’s encouraging words to the youth of our church to gather Israel. Family history work is a big part of this. I decided that if I want my kids to do this kind of work, I can’t be afraid of it. So, I dived in.

Guess what I learned? My worries were valid–I get sucked in sometimes and neglect my family, and I make mistakes. But I have also learned that it’s very fulfilling and very doable–even with only 10 minutes a day in captured moments waiting in the car or at appointments.

My favorite thing to do is spend one or two minutes at a time attaching sources to family names on my tree. Sometimes census records show a child I don’t have a record of or a marriage date that wasn’t previously listed. I also like to merge duplicates to “clean up my family tree.” A lot of the merging I do is from dumb mistakes I made when learning how to use the app, but I’m getting better. I’m going to sound like a commercial, but I have to tell you–it’s so easy with the app! I can spend 5 minutes at a time. If I get stuck on something, I take a screen shot to remind myself what to come back to and pick it up another time. I have learned a ton in only a month.

But time is a limited resource and my 10-20 minutes here and there are 10-20 minutes I don’t spend uploading pictures or writing. So, now I’m going to get to some of that.

We did have a great summer. Summer break can be a challenge with lots of kids with a wide age span, but we found a good rhythm just in time to go back to school.

Ricky is funny. This picture has nothing to do with summer except that it happened in July. He’s just a funny guy. And he’s growing a ton! He’s taller than me now!

The kids spend a lot of time outside–even when the weather is hot. Monsoon season is super fun. The heavy rains and thunderstorms are exciting.

They still love their dog even though both Rick and I curse the work that goes into take good care of her–especially since I carry that burden.

At the end of July, Emily flew in for a weekend to get her endowments out at the temple. When I picked her up from the airport, she made me stop at a taco truck for lunch. It was fun having her home to play for a couple of days. They don’t get sunsets like this in Provo. The temple was nice. I was a little sad that she didn’t experience finding family and friends waiting for her in the Celestial room because it was just me and Rick, but it was a good and peaceful experience. She has continued going to the temple each week in Provo and now she can help with more there.

Brooklyn had swimming lessons this summer. A super great girl came to our house for a few weeks in the afternoons to teach her the basics. She is a pretty good swimmer now. Having a pool is such a blessing! We had a few 105-107 degree days that required swimming time to get through. Winter uses her pool all the time.

And just over ten days ago, the kids started school again. I had a hard time getting good “back-to-school” shots. Ricky and Makayla aren’t even in any of the pictures. Rick tried to catch a picture of Ricky one day, but it didn’t turn out well.

I haven’t gotten into a good rhythm with school yet because I took the little ones to Disneyland and then Rick ended up in the hospital with appendicitis. This weekend, Gavin and I are off to Provo to bring Emily home for a couple of months before she goes on her mission. I’m hoping to get settled more in the next few weeks.

I suppose I should share a little about our Disney trip and other stuff in another post. For now, be happy I took some time from my righteous family history work to share an update with you.

Washington 2018

Grandma’s pictures are better than mine, but I’ll share what I have.

We love the 4th of July in Anacortes. The weather is perfect and the small town atmosphere is fun.

We went to the parade,

ate pizza in the park, visited a beach, andwatched fireworks. Gavin and Sean were scared of the fireworks. I was surprised at Sean’s reaction because he is eight years old and has seen fireworks before, but maybe we just haven’t been as close to the loud booms as we were this time.

Gavin enjoyed it as long as I covered his ears.

Brooklyn was in awe. When Ricky was four years old, he was terrified of fireworks and thunderstorms. He spent much of the summer of 2008 wearing earmuffs over his ears. It’s funny the things that bother some kids and delight others and how this changes over time.

Whenever we visit Grandpa and Grandma, we try to hit as many beaches as possible. The kids love searching for unique shells, skipping rocks, and exploring the tide pools. I have a million beach pictures, and I bet Rick’s mom has a million more.

Another must-do when we visit Washington is to visit the Davis family. The kids have taken to calling each other “cousins” and on this visit we used the Family Search app to prove that we are actually related! Who cares if it’s 10 generations back. We had a great time visiting and playing games at the park. I loved listening to the kids share their memories of good times together. I can’t believe it’s been ten years since we moved away. I’m glad they could add some fun new memories to the mix like Ricky catching a water bottle in the face and Gavin yelling, “Gavin’s out!!!” Oh, and Ricky climbing on Rick’s shoulders to retrieve a frisbee–that was funny too.

Nice wink, Darren.

We missed Emily, but I sent her a picture of her “cousins.”

Seriously, we love this family.

So, that was our trip to Washington. One of the more wonderful things about this trip for me was the ease of getting to Anacortes from Tucson. Traveling from Iowa was rough and very expensive. I think the traveling portion of our trip this time took halfthe time at maybe sixty percent of the expense compared to when we lived in Iowa. We are blessed to live on the west coast now because it makes visiting our families so much easier and, therefore, a more pleasant experience.

June 2018

Is it OK that this is mostly a place I dump pictures? I haven’t gotten digital prints in a few years, and the prints I do have from the past ten years are in boxes and drawers that sometimes the kids get into. The little rascals like to dump the pictures out, mix them up, and throw them back together so that I have 2009 with 2015. It annoys me, but not enough to reorganize them chronologically. So, the blog becomes a safe place for pictures but also it’s kind of boring because instead of great writing you find pictures with short descriptions. Oh well, maybe this will keep my readers checking back for quality work in between the boring family updates. You’ll never know if a post is going to be insightful and witty or just another news report. Lucky you! And lucky me because I don’t know either. Honestly, I could spend time being a little more witty and creative with my captions, but that sounds mentally exhausting and I just want to do something worthwhile with all these cute pictures.

I plan to write about our trip to Washington last week, but a few other things happened between our Moab and Washington trips.

Raingutter Regatta is one of those fun Cub Scout activities that can get out of control with crazy crafty parents and aggressive competition. Thankfully, our troop’s Regatta was all fun. I threw Sean’s boat together in about 15 minutes, wrote an “S” with permanent marker on the sail and called it perfect.

It wasn’t bad either.

I’m glad the activity wasn’t anything more than a fun race and a swim party.

Gavin is just cute lately. He’s super talkative and has strong opinions. He insisted on wearing Ricky’s socks all day because they were his “basketball socks.”

Ricky left me some nice selfies on my phone a couple of Sunday’s ago. During family scripture study one evening, Gavin sat on a stool by the back door and took care of his baby.

I’m not sure if I have said much about Sean’s swim team experience. This kid can swim! He’s fast. He only participated in two swim meets because of family conflicts, but still ended up with two first place ribbons, a second place ribbon, and a third place ribbon. He has improved a ton since April–swimming every weekday for an hour will definitely help you improve. He hated swim team at first because practices were hard and he didn’t want to go every day, but once he got a “taste of the glory” (Nacho Libre) at a swim meet he loved it.

Here’s a picture of his arm with his swim events written in permanent marker.

Here he is on the block, ready to race:Cheering on a teammate in a relay:Having Sean involved in swim team was quite a sacrifice for me The meets were very long and late at night and they fell on evenings when Rick was out of town. This meant I had all the kids with me at the pool from 5:30-9:30 pm. Luckily, we had friends there.

I think Brooklyn will participate in swim team next year and Andrew has expressed interest. We shall see if I’m ready to make the sacrifices to get them to practice every day and endure those meets. I do think it’s important for the kids to be good swimmers and this definitely teaches them skills.

These last pictures are of Brooklyn and Gavin being friends. These two play together so well. Brooklyn starts kindergarten in just three weeks. Gavin is really going to miss his playmate.

Here they are “making notes” on the office door.

And here they are digging in the dirt with Winter.

Sometimes they make big messes, but I love that they can play for hours without any interaction with a screen. Brooklyn is especially creative in her play and she’s great and inviting Gavin along.

So, there’s some random “summer of 2018” pictures for you.

Get ready for a Washington Trip picture dump.

OK, Let’s Go To Moab

Ricky went to his first EFY in Flagstaff with a friend. About a week before I drove them there, I got a crazy idea–Flagstaff is halfway to Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Moab. Rather than driving the boys to Flagstaff and home again, why not visit my parents? Rick and Makayla stayed home to care for Winter and work while I took the younger kids on a road trip.

Before I share pictures from our trip, observe Ricky’s first haircut from an actual barber.

He had a few special requests for EFY: nice clothes (besides his usual basketball shorts and t-shirts), sunglasses, Axe body spray, and mints.

With those things and some candy from Target around the corner, he was ready for a great week.

After dropping the big boys off, we drove another 5 1/2 hours to Moab. What a fun visit!

We went to the community pool.

Brooklyn jumped off the high dive about ten times. The first jump took a little cheering and convincing from the kids waiting in line behind her, but she did it.

We visited my parent’s property near Monticello called, Mountain View Terrace. It was fun seeing the ingenuity, planning, and work that has gone into that place. The kids thought the camping trailer was so cool!

The pond level was low because of drought. We ate dinner at the Moab Diner and watched Incredibles 2 at the movie theater.

We went to a new rock climbing park.

We also went to Moab Giants, a dinosaur park. The weather was hot, but the park was nice.

On Friday, we drove back to Flagstaff to be prepared to pick up the boys on Saturday morning.

We stopped at The Hole In the Rock Visitors Center in Bluff, Utah to eat a picnic and take a break from driving. What a great place!!

The kids panned for gold.

They dressed up like early settlers They practiced roping cattle (Gavin chose to ride one instead).

The bathrooms were clean and air-conditioned and we were able to have a delicious snack of ice cream and cookies before getting on the road.

As we continued our drive to Flagstaff, Emily called to let us know she had received her mission call!

She was so excited to open it, we had one hour once we got to Flagstaff to get settled, eat dinner, and be sure we were connected to Wi-Fi for a video call.

Emily has accepted a call to serve in the Port of Spain Trinidad Mission and the Suriname Mission Region speaking Dutch! She reports to the Provo MTC on October 31. We are super excited for her and are enjoying learning about the area and doing what we can to help her prepare.

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.

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!”