Wednesday, January 27, 2016

My Brave, Bold Boy

Every time I look into this little boy's eyes, I can't help but pull him into my arms and squeeze him. The best part of all of this is that when I pull him close, his body melts into mine and he snuggles right in.

I think we've actually stayed this way for upwards of an hour before.

Andersen is a momma's boy. He always has been. 

Sometimes it's hard to watch him get older because he is my baby. A part of me selfishly mourns that he relies on me less and less. And another part of me selfishly mourns the fact that I thought my life would be totally different right now. I never envisioned Andersen being my youngest child. He was always going to be a middle child. That's just sorta how it works. You don't always get to choose those types of things.

I worry about Andersen, maybe more than a momma should worry about her son (or maybe just the right amount). I see him differently than most of the world would see him. When he reacts without thinking, I remember back to the days when I would get in trouble and I wasn't quite sure why.

ADHD will do that to a person. 

There are times Andersen is in tears because he swears he didn't mean to hurt his sister or a friend. He just happened to be swinging his arms in circles and wacked them in the face.

I get this boy. 

And I know why God gave him to me. 

Because even though I get frustrated with him, it happens less and less the more I see him acting how I used to act. I see so much of myself in him and I want him to know that I get it, that I understand why he does the things he does.

Andersen marches to the beat of his own drum.
Have I mentioned how much I love that about him? 
(If we're Facebook friends, you hear about this regularly.) 

A while ago, he saw another boy who had grown his hair out longer and then buzzed the sides and he had his long hair in a bun on top of his head. As soon as Andersen saw this, he said, "Mom, I'm growing my hair out just like Elijah's." and he's begged for me to put a bun in his hair most days since then.

 At first, it wasn't a possibility but he has been patiently growing his hair out for months and now we can get a tiny bun on top of his head.

The very first time I put a bun in his hair, Andersen looked in the bathroom mirror and pretended to faint because he loved it so much.

His reaction just about killed me, it was so cute.
And the happiness that simple little bun brings him is worth all of the weird looks we've gotten from people.

Because that's the only crappy part about marching to the beat of your own drum---not everyone likes that. Not everyone understands it.

The first day Andersen asked if he could wear his bun to school, I was worried for him because I didn't want the other kids to make fun of him.
But when I picked him up that day and asked him about it, he told me how so many kids told him they liked his hair and that his teacher complimented him.
Melt. My. Heart. 

All I've ever wanted for this boy is for other people to understand him like I understand him. I pray daily that the other adults in his life will be patient and loving, even when he has a hard time listening and following directions.

I'm proud of my boy for being who he wants to be and being bold enough to not care what other people think.

He is one of a kind, this boy. 

And I love him with all of my heart. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Courageous Parenting

Years ago when I was still married, we went and saw the movie, Courageous, for one of our birthdays. It is a Christian movie and was about 4 men who were learning the importance of fatherhood.

At the time, it impacted both my husband and I.

For a long time after that, when asked what my favorite movie was, the answer was easy.


It wasn't a hard question to answer anymore. I loved that movie so much. I bought it for my husband and we watched it a few more times after that.

It made a lasting impact on me, on the kind of parent I want to be.
For a long time when we were going through some really deep struggles in our marriage, I would beg and plead with my husband to be more Godly, more patient, more compassionate, more more more more...I would think about the focus on fatherhood in that movie and the millions of ways I was sure he was failing our family and I often forgot to focus on the person that I was.

I compared the two of us and thought, "Well, I'm going to church so I don't need to work on those things that I KNOW he needs to work on."

If you knew me during this point in my life, I'm sorry...I promise I've learned a few things since then.

Looking back, I'm admittedly ashamed of the way I used to react to the hard stuff. I'm ashamed of how un-Christlike my attitude was toward the people who were hurting me.

Although I know I was trying to be a good person, I was a lot more judgmental than I'd ever care to admit.

But having been in both of those sets of shoes before, I've learned not to take as much offense when I feel like someone is judging me or telling me what I should be doing. I've learned that people are generally doing what they know best how to do.

And---when you know better, you do better.

Being a courageous parent doesn't mean never failing or having really embarrassing moments of weakness. In fact, to me it means quite the opposite.

To me, being a courageous parent means admitting when we are wrong.
When I lose my patience with my children and I was way out of line, I've learned to apologize. I want my kids to know that everyone loses it sometimes but that the right thing to do is to humble ourselves and apologize.

This hasn't always been easy for me but I'm hopefully, possibly getting the hang of it now.

Courageous parenting is something that I am learning is a product of selflessness---the desire to teach my children about Christlike love and humility instead of teaching them that mom is always right and that I am the boss and always will be the boss and that they have to do exactly what I say always and forever. (longestrunonsentenceever)

And a huge part of my courageous parenting is allowing my kids some breathing room and realizing that they're not going to be exactly like me or have the same opinions and beliefs that I do.

That one is hard. 

Extremely hard. 

But my children will have different experiences than me. They will learn different things and feel different things and like different things. So I'm eventually going to have to let them figure out who they want to be and not who I want them to be.

It isn't going to be easy. I've had small glimpses of what this is going to feel like for me and it's a bit painful. But that's what parents do---they teach and then their children grow up and change things here or there.

I don't ever want my children to be afraid to tell me they think differently than I do. I want that to be ok. I want them to know I'll still love them no matter what.

Courageous parenting isn't easy parenting. For me, the easiest kind of parenting would be never letting my children leave my sight and keeping them safe every second of every day. But that isn't courage-based---that's fear-based.

As much as I'd love to indoctrinate my children's brains with a whole bunch of "mother knows best" thoughts, the truth is that I don't always know best.
I may know more than them about safety or education or religion but that will shift someday.
Someday they'll be as equally versed in all of those areas and it won't be a matter of "mother knows best".

I mean, I'd like to think that I'll always know best. I'd like to think that I'm living a good enough life that I'll want my children to grow up to learn what I've learned and believe what I believe but what's best for me may not be what's best for them.

And I'm trying so hard to learn these concepts while they're young so that I can relearn them over and over again as they grow up and become who they want to be---and who God wants them to be.

Because really, He is the only one who knows best. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016


 We went to the snow recently. We'd been planning a similar trip for weeks but plans changed and we ended up in Strawberry, Arizona with some of our favorite people.
Once I got over the asthma problems and tired knees, it all felt so magical.

My children were happily playing on the hill and squealing with delight every few seconds. There were tears and fights every once in a while but there were much longer periods of happiness and giggles.

I sat down near a tree for a while and closed my eyes. The wind was singing and I had so many thoughts running through my mind.
Homework. Cleaning my house. Losing weight. Eating healthier. Organizing. Figuring my entire life out. 
I felt like there was so much I could be doing but I also knew that if I would've been home, I probably wouldn't have been doing any of those things.

On the drive home, there were no other adults in my car and I had some time to myself. I was questioning many different things and felt like my brain was on overload.
Why does that always seem to happen when I get some time to myself? Instead of relaxing, I am constantly trying to nitpick every aspect of my life to figure out where my successes and failures are.
It's exhausting.

I was thinking about church and my first post on this blog. That was incredibly intimidating to write and post. It was hard for me. In fact, I almost took it down a few times.

But then I remembered---confidence. 

And since then, I've been thinking a lot about confidence and authenticity and how the two can go hand-in-hand so easily. Because if you're authentic to yourself, you probably have confidence in yourself.

A few weeks ago, I was having a semi-difficult conversation with one of my closest friends. I had been feeling the push to be authentic because I don't want to pretend that I am someone different than the person I present myself as. We were walking and talking and my confidence was dwindling because I didn't have all of the answers.

My gosh, I don't know if I'll ever have the answers.

But lately, I've felt this push to talk about all of the things I don't have answers to and although it hasn't always been comfortable for me, I think it's been good for me.
And the best part about friends who challenge you like that is that you find yourself becoming a little bit stronger and possibly even a little bit wiser too.

I've felt this awkward-in-between stage of "Who is Suzanne" creep up on me. The stage where I'm scared to make the leap in a direction that will hurt some of my people. I really hate hurting people. But a conversation I had with another friend last August has stuck with me. We were talking about my testimony and what I believe and how I'm scared of hurting the people who love me and she said, "The thing is, Suzanne, you don't get to choose who you hurt or don't hurt. That is our choice. You have to let us feel that." And realizing that was extremely hard for me but also eye-opening.

I have hurt many people in my life and although it isn't always the case, most of them were hurt by things I cannot change or things I didn't deliberately do to them.

I'm starting to realize that that is life. We get hurt. We hurt people. It happens to everyone.

But a person's true colors shine when they are hurt by someone they love. They can choose to stick by their loved one's side or walk away.
Both of these situations have happened to me.
And although neither of these situations have been easy, I've had the opportunity to learn from each situation and realize the kind of person that I want to be.

I'm a little bit obsessed with the attributes of Christ right now---certainly not a bad thing to be thinking about a lot of the time---and I've been trying to remember Him when I react to the situations presented in my life.
Most of the time, I completely fail. Like today, when I yelled at Hayley to "Stop it!" and she melted into tears, thinking I had called her stupid (momfail).
But sometimes, I get it right. Sometimes I remember that self-control and sincerity can go much further than my impatience and sarcasm ever will. Sometimes I remember that my children are watching my every move and emulating my choices so when they yell at me, it's probably because I have raised my voice at them.

It's not easy. Becoming this person that I want to be, trying to stop and think, "What would Jesus do?"---these are not my "go-to" reactions.

But figuring this out and trying my hardest to become more like Jesus is the right thing to do.
It is what I want to do. 

And I believe that is when I become the most authentic---when I'm living for Christ and loving others with no expectations.

Christ is for me and He is for you. I think I love that concept the most. I love knowing that no matter what, He is our Savior. He died for all of us. He lives for all of us. He is for all of us.

And it is never too late to remember that. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Why We Don't Do Sleepovers

Photo credit
I remember being 8 years old and my best friend having a birthday sleepover party.
I remember trying everything to convince my parents to let me go. She was practically my sister. Our mothers were best friends! We had grown up together.

I tried it all. 

But my parents stayed strong and reminded me that we don't do sleepovers.

They explained their reasons, like they had done so many times in the past and I brushed them off thinking none of those things could ever happen to me and that they were ruining my life! 

And I'll admit it, I swore up and down that I would NEVER deprive my children of the oodles of fun I was sure I was missing out on by missing countless sleepovers throughout the years.
I would never be that mom.

Well now I am that mom---and frankly, I'm proud to be her. 
I can remember the first time I ever held Hayley in my arms and sensing everything in my world shifting. My views were changing and I knew I would end up doing a lot of the things I swore I'd never do as a parent.

Things shift when you're holding that tiny infant in your arms and realizing you are responsible for them for the next 80+ years {give or take...}.

And one of those shifting things became sleepovers.

Now before I give you my own personal reasons for not allowing sleepovers, let me tell you that it hasn't been easy. Hayley's best friend is the daughter of my best friend and I trust their family wholeheartedly. I have felt conflicted at times thinking it'd be so fun to let them have sleepovers together. Lucky for me, my best friend views sleepovers the same way so the decision has always been no.

But here are my reasons for not allowing my children to have sleepovers:

- We don't do sleepovers because of my experiences. Even though I was only allowed to spend the night at my cousins' houses, I was a much different person there. I stretched a lot of my parents' rules while spending the night away from them. Although nothing extremely dangerous ever happened to me during sleepovers, I don't feel like the positives outweigh the negatives. 

- We don't do sleepovers because body safety is extremely important to me. My children are young and they will be considered young in my eyes for a very long time. I have taught my children about good vs. bad touch but just teaching them about these things isn't enough. I need to create safe spaces for them where they feel free to create their own boundaries and this is much harder to do when they are not under my roof. 

- Pornography. Sigh...Pornography and it's technological advances have made sleepovers more dangerous in my eyes. It is hard to know which homes are protected from this evil and which homes aren't. Children are all different and the average age of children first viewing pornography is around age 7. What. The. Hell. I mean, if that doesn't scare you, I don't know what could. It sure scares me!

- Even if I trust my friends, I cannot surely know everything about every person in their household. Children can be taken advantage of by an older brother, sister, cousin, or even a family friend. Just because I trust my friends does not mean I can trust everyone they know. There is no guaranteed stamp of approval for everyone in the household. 

The fact is that supervision is much lower during sleepovers. Parents go to sleep and assume the kids are asleep all night too. But that isn't always the case.

I don't believe our world is more dangerous than it used to be. I believe we are able to fight against the danger and see it more than we used to and that makes us believe there is more of it.

I don't believe sleepovers are going to make or break my children's upbringing. They might hate me for a while {they've already expressed their opinions on this subject many times} but in the end, that is worth it for me because I will know that I've done everything in my power to keep them as safe as I possibly can. I'm more interested in keeping them safe than I am in being the cool parent. And I'm just going to assume that someday they'll thank me for that, just as I've done with my own parents.


And if you needed a disclaimer, we don't judge others who choose to let their children have sleepovers. This is something I was raised with and something that I've prayed about many times and feel like is the right choice for our family.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Confidence: ASU Semester #2

You know how people comment on adorable pictures with that phrase, "All the feels"?
That was the epitome of my emotions as I read this quote the other day.

All. The. Feels.

It reminds me of that new Demi Lovato song, "Confident", that my baby girl and I jam out to pretty regularly in the car.

Confidence is not my default. In fact, it's the opposite of my default. It is a thing I believe is possible so I fight for it every day of my life.

But it does not come easy.

I get anxiety if I think too far into the future---about future relationships, my kids getting older {and me not screwing them up}, and school.
I've heard how demanding the Masters of Counseling program at ASU can be. I've been told that the odds are not in my favor. At all. And sometimes I question whether I'm doing the right thing or whether I'll get to the end of all this and realize I actually couldn't do it.

I tell myself failure isn't an option but I'm pretty sure I said that same thing in the beginning stages of my marriage and in the beginning stages of every diet I've ever started.

Failure is always an option. 

And I want to have the confidence with school that I do when I'm around my tribe of people who buoy up some fierce confidence within me every time I'm around them.

I'm scared that this isn't what I want---because I would've been so damn happy being a stay-at-home-mom for my entire life. I would've. And I still would if I were given the option.

But things have changed. I've realized that I need to be prepared for however much I'm capable of preparing for---and for me, that includes knowing that NO ONE can one thousand percent promise to always financially support myself and my children. No one.
There are a million different circumstances that could happen but the moral is that I need to be the strongest, best me that I can be---and although it isn't for everyone, for me, that includes a career path.

And while I'm on this journey, I am trying so hard to find the confidence to make it through one semester at a time, instead of stressing out over the bigger, more daunting reality that is my 3+ years of school left.

Saying that is so oddly incredible though. Because it used to be 6+ years. And I've made it this far already. And I've only failed two classes (because math is stupid hard). And I've learned an exuberant amount of things about psychology and sociology and myself.

And I think I like that the most---that throughout all of this, I am learning more about the person I want to be and the person I've been up until this point.

My new semester starts tomorrow. Pray for me. I get anxiety every time the new semester begins because I'm absolutely, positively sure it is going to be the semester that breaks me. So far, that hasn't happened.

And I'm trying so hard to have enough confidence to remind myself that I can do this---because my record so far is looking pretty darn good.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2016: Confidence

 A few days ago, I saw this quote on Pinterest and it seemed to jump off of the screen at me.

And I knew that this was what I wanted to focus on in 2016.

You see, in the past, I've come up with a word/mantra that I adopt for the entire year. The past few years, this has really helped me to stick to my goal.

Healing. {Anchoring to the good}

It's funny because my 2015 word was healing and within a few weeks, I felt like I was drowning trying to figure out recovery from so much trauma. I happened to be pouring my heart out to a friend when she told me I needed to anchor to the good and her words were so powerful. I knew that was God telling me to switch my mantra for the year.

Because healing is wrapped up in all of this. It really is. Healing is a part of the bravery and faith and positive thoughts.

And looking back on my year and all of the deeply personal struggles I faced, anchoring to the good was exactly what I needed.
More than exactly.
If only I could explain just how perfectly this fit with the year we've had.

Anchoring to the good.
There were many times in 2015 that I had to remind myself to anchor to the good but one particular situation changed me and taught me more than I ever could've imagined.

Because there was a time in 2015 that I thought life would be better if I died. I pleaded with God to let me give up.

And it wasn't magically fixed. My mantra couldn't make everything better. But it did help. I remember nights where I would stare at my chalkboard where I had written those words and I would repeat them over and over again.
And sometimes, all of the good I could remember was my children. Sometimes I even left God out of it because I wasn't sure I trusted Him.

Sometimes in 2015, the good seemed minuscule.

But it never vanished. There was always something good.
And that is what got me through to today, where I am a completely different person than I was when I started this year.

Because 2015 forced me to leave my comfort zone many times and I realized that I was craving a deeper relationship with my Heavenly Father.

About halfway through the year, I started attending other churches to figure out where I feel I am supposed to be. For part of 2014 and the first part of 2015, I had tried to force myself to stay in my then-current church, the LDS church. I felt like I was holding on, mostly because my friends/family are incredible and I didn't want to disappoint anyone or worry them.

But there was a point where it became too much, where I needed to start living for myself and not for others.
And unless you've been there, you probably don't realize just how scary those feelings are.
Unless you've been there, you probably don't consider how hard it is to tell your loved ones you're walking away from something they believe so strongly in and want you to be a part of---because they want the best life for you. 

And that's ok if you don't understand. Let me try and explain a little bit of my journey if that'll help.

The easy thing for me would've been staying an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The majority of my friends are in my ward. Most of my family members are active.
And I struggled with this for a while. In fact, I tried to find a testimony for a while. I listened to the Book of Mormon at work and poured over Ensign talks. When something would rub me the wrong way, I'd call up my bestie and her, her husband, and I would get together that night (or as soon as we could meet) and talk it through.

I wanted to stay.

Because everyone wanted me to stay. 

And there came a point where that wasn't good enough anymore. There came a time last year when the culture I'd been raised in wasn't bringing me closer to Christ.
If your a member of the LDS faith and you love me, you probably think that happened because I wasn't opening my heart to the Spirit and if you do, I'm ok with that.
Because what I've been trying to work on is having my opinion, letting others have their opinions', and allowing there to be dissonance between the two.
If you know me, you know how much I hate dissonance. I want everyone to be happy and feel loved and when there is conflict, I freeze. I get anxious. I don't like knowing that not everyone is ok with an outcome. 
But I cannot change the way you feel---nor can you change the way I feel. And I'm trying to work on letting there be a difference in opinion without needing to fix that.

During this time of faith struggle, I went to a non-denominational Christian church with a friend. I had been praying for answers and trying to figure out what the right path was. She invited me and I thought it sounded like fun. It was on a Saturday and it didn't interfere with our Sunday meetings so...why not?!
We walked in while the music was playing and then Pastor Joel came on the stage and as he spoke about everyone needing Jesus in their lives and how important that is, tears were streaming down my face. {And I'm not a crier...or at least I didn't used to be.}
And I wish I could remember everything he spoke about in that meeting because it was so spiritually powerful for me. I did post a thought on Facebook that night that said, "The series today was called In This House and focused on carrying people and loving them through their brokenness. The pastor spoke about the difference between catching someone in their act of sin and catching someone when they've fallen. And I loved this thought that there are different ways to catch. 
We can either catch someone when they've made a mistake and shame them for it OR we can notice they are falling down and be there to catch them and love them.
It was incredibly powerful. I loved it so very much.
The truth is that none of us are perfect. We have all fallen. We all have failures and things we aren't proud of. Because we are all human. We are all broken. And we ALL need Jesus."

After that night, the ONLY thing I knew was that I needed to go back there again.
I craved more.
I wanted to feel the hope and happiness that I felt for that hour.

I knew it was the right place for me. Right then and there, I knew there was something I needed from Mission church.
But then I remembered that this new-found answer to prayer wasn't going to be easy on the people that I love.
And I got scared.
It was the first time I really knew that I wanted to leave the church and I wasn't sure I was brave enough to tell people.

But then I thought back to my struggles and how one of my promises to myself was not pretending to be someone I'm not---and I knew I was going to have to tell them.

And I did.

I told my people. It took weeks because I knew it needed to be in person with most of them but I tried.
And although there was sadness and confusion, no one was angry. No one told me to leave and never come back. No one stopped loving me. None of my worst fears happened.
And I guess that was just me overreacting---believing the worst even though I know my people and I know they'll still love me.

So now I'm here. It's been 6 months since then and during the past 6 months, I was never fully sure how to write about it or what to say. I wasn't sure I could get the point across of how much I've changed and grown.

And I knew I needed to pinpoint that this wasn't an easy decision and that it certainly wasn't some childish rebellion---cause trust me, I've already been there and done that and I'd rather not go back to the childhood rebellion stage, amiright?

So 2016. What a big year. I am excited for this year and all that it seems to be offering my beautiful family.
Hayley will turn 8.
Andersen will turn 7.
I will turn 29. (Although I may or may not be panicky about my last year in my 20's being SO CLOSE.)
We will all gain more knowledge through our school studies. We will try so hard to become closer as a family.
And above all else, we will make sure we are coming closer to Christ. 

So for 2016, I decided my word needed to be confidence.

Because there are so many aspects of my life that could use a dose or two {or five thousand} of confidence.

I am going to gain the confidence to unapologetically be who I am and the confidence to know that the choices I'm making are going to benefit my family and help us all learn more about the only perfect being to ever walk on this earth.

2015 was beautifully messy. There was darkness and light. But I am grateful for everything I have learned and the confidence I have already gained.
I am grateful for all of the times fear almost took over---because it didn't ever fully take over. Bravery was always there, fighting against the fear. And that bravery came because I am a warrior but it also came because God is bravery. 
There were many times this year where I couldn't begin to understand the heartache and confusion and I knew I'd never be able to get through it on my own---so instead of letting myself drown in it, I'd hand it over to God and he'd fight my battles for me.

He is the reason I am where I am and He is the reason I am fighting to become the person I was intended to be.