Friday, December 30, 2011

Spoooooooiled!

I'm not gonna lie.
Brad and I TOTALLY and COMPLETELY spoiled our kids this Christmas. We bought everything they asked for. (Fortunately they didn't ask for a car or anything that was truly out of budget) I don't know who was more excited for Christmas morning, the kids or Brad and I. And admittedly, it is WAY more fun to give gifts to kids than adults. They just get all giddy and don't care about being proper or adult-like. I love that. And I don't feel bad one bit about doing it either. Our kids deserved to be spoiled. They're good kids. And we deserved to do it. Our kids have had Christmases in the past where they got nothing because we couldn't afford even one thing. They've had lean Christmases too where they all just got what they got from Grandparents (thank goodness for them) and that was all. Of course, our kids never cared, but as a parent, it's heartbreaking to spend Christmas morning staring at a tree with nothing under it or to know that your kids were aching for a particular thing that you couldn't in any way afford to give them.
So we bought everything they asked for and some things they didn't ask for but we knew they'd like. And our kids did most of the Christmas shopping. We let them buy things for each other rather than all the gifts being from us. It was so sweet to hear them tell each other thank-you and give hugs and have Novan say, "thank-you so much Beya! I love you!" when he opened up his Laserbeak transformer. The moments when your kids get along so beautifully are such a blessing.

We didn't really spend any money on anything else for Christmas. We still used the same 3 foot fiber optic tree we've used every year since we got married. We used the same fake holly flowers and homemade Christmas ornaments from our nieces and nephews that we received years ago, the same set of glass ornaments my college friend Kelsey gave us the year we were married... although there are about half as many due to breakages over the years with 4 kids. The only thing we DID spend a little extra money on was our Christmas dinner. We're all meat snobby and there isn't anywhere to buy free-range anything here in ND (unless you want to buy a half a cow) so I ordered a duck online for our Christmas dinner.

One of the things I love about this ward that we live in now is how everyone doesn't care much for proper etiquette and trying to leave some kind of false good impression. We go over to our friends' the Clarks many Sundays for dinner and no one puts on some kind of dinner party show. There are no fancy deserts and Kami Clark doesn't go out of her way to make a fancy dinner. When Brad invited the Thorntons over to our house for Christmas dinner, I didn't know they would then extend the invitation to another family without telling me or that Brad had also invited one of the men in our ward who lives and works in Williston but who's family lives in AZ. I don't stress about stuff like that. I just figure out a way to make it work because nobody really cares if your duck is too small to feed that many people. Everyone was just happy to chip in. Fortunately though, I had also ordered some massive free-range ribeyes along with the duck for Brad for a Christmas present so we had duck AND ribeye steak for Christmas dinner along with all the other Christmas dinnery type things. I had wanted to make a bunch of yummy deserts and maybe some homemade rolls on Christmas eve for the following day but we were out of town most of the week at my Grandma's funeral and didn't arrive back in town until Saturday night, late late. No worries. Tiffany Thornton had already forseen this and picked up some pies from the store for the occasion. It all just kind of came together. We were with friends and we got to spoil our kids and it was WONDERFUL! My favorite Christmas ever probably. Brad likes to say that money doesn't solve all your problems but it solves all the ones that are caused by not having any. =) And we finally have money, so we spent some of it on my favorite holiday. And we remembered Christ. And every day we reminded the kids of why we celebrate Christmas. And we were so grateful to be here in North Dakota. To have a good job. And to have good friends and a supportive family.
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ka-Chow!

Is it just me or is my McScreamy actually screaming less? It could be that he's screaming just as much (because he does still scream) but he's just being more fantastically cute and charming. Whereas before all I wanted to do was confine him to his room so I didn't have to listen to him, now I just want to squeeze him and make him laugh and ask him questions to see how he'll answer.
Yesterday I was taking his clothes of to put PJs on him. I had a new diaper ready (because I diaper trained him before I left NC) and when he saw it, he informed me, "Mom, I'm not poopy."
"OK, good," I replied, yet when I pulled off his diaper while he was standing up, he was indeed poopy.
"Oh no Iyov!" I exclaimed, grateful we were in the kitchen over linoleum and not carpet in case something got on the floor. "Ok, we gotta wipe you." I said, grabbing the wipes.
Iyov, instead of laying down customarily, plants his little feet and puts his hands on the floor in front of him and pushes his dirty little bum in the air... truly the ideal poo-wiping position but a hilarious one, nevertheless. I thought it was pretty intuitive of him to recognize this would be helpful and I shrugged and proceeded to wipe.
"You welcome, mom." he said, looking at me upside down from between his legs as I got to work.
I chuckled in reply, and said, "Oh, excuse me. THANK-you!"
When we were done, I stood up and Iyov said, "Sank-you, mom!"
"You're welcome, buddy."

And that's just the kind of interaction I get a lot with him. Please, thank-you, and your welcome were among Iyov's first words and it's like he knew at a very young age that the use of polite words could quell any situation with Mom. He's also recently discovered "Sorry, Mom" which he says in a pitiable and small voice, with head hung when he does something wrong. I often wonder how sincere he's being but if he's not, he's such a darn good actor that it's hard to be upset with him after he says it.

He really likes Lightning McQueen and he refers to anything Lightning McQueen as "Ka-Chow!" He'll see his McQueen jammies go into the washer, "You washing my Ka-Chow mom?"
Or he'll choose a movie to watch, "I want Ka-Chow."
Maybe he'll see a Mater tow truck toy at the store, "Ooooh, Ka-Chow!"

His vocabulary has increased quite a bit in the last few months and he's still at that age where it's still cute to say words wrong, like "Crit-mus" for example.
"Ohhhh, Crit-mus tree, mom?" is what he said when we set up our tree.
"Ohhhh, yay, Crit-mus!" is what he said after we explained Christmas presents.
One of my favorites is his words for blueberries, grapes, blackberries, and any other kind of berry.
"Can I have boobies?" he says, pointing to the grape container in the fridge.
"I want boobies," he commands, holding a frozen blueberry package he got from the freezer.
Another favorite is "shoop" which is his word for 'gun' or 'shoot'.
"mom, shoop me!" he says, handing me an invisible gun.
"Where's my shoop?" he asks, referring to his lightsabre which he uses like a gun because we don't actually buy the kids any guns.
"Shoop" is one of those uber cute words that everyone else in the family has now picked up. We all call guns "shoops" now. It's kind of like Novan who used to say "Mac-tie" when referring to semi trucks. We all started doing it too because we just liked the word better.

Iyov has also, at 2 years old, mastered the art of giving facial expressions. If he hasn't actually mastered it, then we're in real trouble because that means he can only get better at using them. He makes me laugh out loud daily at the facial expressions he gives me which range from, "if I'm not the cutest thing you ever saw, then you must be blind" to "I just totally did something wrong but if I make you laugh first then you won't be as mad at me." My favorite is, "make a cute face while trying to make you think I don't know you're looking at me" (because you know, accidental cuteness is cuter than on-purpose cuteness, and he knows it).

His other tool, which he uses quite effectively is, "Need to hug you, mom!" or "Need to hug you, dad!" This is what he does when all else has failed. When mom or dad has been pushed to their brink, when little bums need to be spanked or hard words spoken, the appeal that he needs some love and cuddling ALWAYS accomplishes his goal. It's not that he avoids the consequence but he knows that hugs can fix any mom's temper. He pretty much shortens the time I'm upset with him as he runs and throws himself on my leg with a tearful eye, "NEED to HUG you Mom!!" in a sad but insistent voice.

Like I said, maybe I'm used to the screaming or maybe he's FINALLY figuring out that it doesn't work. Whatever it is, I just want to kiss these cheeks and squeeze this little boy whenever I get the chance!

Friday, December 9, 2011

I finally did it

Today I enrolled my child in public school. I know my kids have pretty much been in school before but it felt a lot less official when they were at  ABC. It was technically private school after all and they certainly didn't call it KINDERGARTEN! Plus I have this built-in mistrust of all organizations mandated and funded by the government...and I also have a year's supply of food. Now if only I had some ammo and money under my mattress I'd be a full fledged citizen militia, you know, especially with all the kids I've got.
It went kind of like this. I had been researching the local schools and determined that academically they all seemed to be the same. So I cruised up to the local school district office this morning and walked in with said 6-year old boy and infant-in-baby carrier in tow because I figured I ought to show up with the kid I'm going to be leaving with them... I don't know if that's required for enrolling but I wanted to have all my i's dotted. It kind of felt like I was going into enemy territory, and as I type this I realize how silly I'm sounding. That's cool. I'm kind of a conspiracy theorist that way. Anyway, I left the other kiddos at a friend's house because I didn't want to scare anyone or have them assign Novan some awful teacher because Iyov climbed on the desk or spit water on the floor or rearranged the furniture. (yes, he has done all those things in the past)
The lady at the desk who was maybe 40's and had an incredibly stylish haircut was incredibly nice (just like everybody in this town) and the first thing she asked was, "Where do you live?"
Everytime someone asks me that I answer the same way, "Ahh-umm... well I have an address but it's not a mailable address."
She gave me a pleasant smile, "No problem, we just need to see which school he'll be in."
As I give her the address I'm thinking about the bus driver who's going to have to figure out how to come get my kid who will be picked up right outside the Nabors man-camp. I shake my head ever so slightly at the novelty of this place. I do that a lot. There are a LOT of things that are novel about Williston, ND.
"Hmmmm." The lady with nice hair says in a concerned tone.
I perk up at that, because you know, I've already got my back up anyway because I pretty much ALWAYS expect to run into problems when dealing with government organizations. I raise an eyebrow.
"Hey Jerry!" she calls to this cover-all suited guy down the hall who's carrying a big walkie-talkie. I honestly have no idea what she would need this guy Jerry for. He looks more like grounds maintenance rather than the go-to guy for elementary school assignment.
She turns her monitor towards Jerry and I. It has something like google earth pulled up with 16th Ave West the closest real street to where I live) shown clearly. There are what appear to be school district lines running through it.
"I just don't know if you are technically within the school district. We aren't doing open enrollment for students outside the school district."
As she and Jerry discuss school district lines I'm thinking 2 things. 1-If I'm not in Williston school district, what the heck school district am I actually in? I live behind the Wal-Mart for goodness sakes! There isn't another town for 30 miles! 2-Wow, it sure would make this decision about putting Novan in public school now a lot easier. I could actually keep him home without feeling like a rebel delinquent parent. (I had actually been strongly considering not sending him to school for the remainder of the school year.)
"Your good!" declares Jerry, resident school district line expert. Who knew you needed all that cold outdoor gear just to know everything there is to know about school district lines?
"Great!" I say with a smile although inside I feel like I've just sealed my child's fate. They know where I live. And they'll know if I don't send my kid to school. There's no turning back!
Ok, so that was a whole lot of drama to find out where Novan would be going to school. No one strip searched me, or asked for 3 forms of ID, or passport, or, heaven forbid my immunization record!
So Novan and I head over to Hagan Elementary where everyone is pleasant and nice, and interested, and exuberant. It looks like a typical elementary, small, but typical. We even meet his teacher. And no one challenges my decision to start him in January rather than Monday. And once again, no one asks for any ID or vaccine record or birth certificate. Honestly, I found that a little weird. But it was pretty much painless and Novan, after seeing the innards of the place, gave it a stamp of approval. All the kids in his class said Hi to him in synchronized fashion, just like on TV when they introduce the new student. Novan informed me when we left that he sure was going to have a lot of new friends! So that's good. But I'm sad. He's going to be gone from 8:15-3 every day during the week! That's a long time to be under the influence of a government organization. Anything could happen! And after all that school district line rubbish and my worry about pick-up outside a man-camp, I find out they don't even have a busing system!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Making Beauty out of Despair

I felt inspired to share some thoughts I have had over the last few months, things that have occupied my mind, my prayers, and my day-to-day life. As I am sure we have all experienced, there are times in life that you feel that you can reach out and touch the Father's hand; that's how close you feel to Him. His influence is so real that it seems like His appearance in front of you would only equal how closely you feel His presence.

The last couple years seem to be riddled, in my mind, with the hand of the Lord I cannot look back on any one experience and say that I didn't see Him there, not just watching over me, but guiding me, guiding the events of my life, and influencing those around me in ways that would inspire me to be better. Sometimes, when I allow myself to explore all the things He has done for me, I feel I cannot bodily contain the joy that fills me up. I tangibly feel that my cup runneth over. I could write a novel documenting each experience but today, I will just talk about the last 4 months.

Early August, 2011: The total dissolution of our livelihood. Watching the sacrifice and work of the previous 6 years get stamped with a big fat "Worthless" label. I watched my husband go from capable and confident to fearful and helpless. Day after torturous day of watching the market careen up and then down in a few hours time made my heart and my mind scramble for some way out or at least a fast-forward button to escape the moments.
The blessings:
-An unshakable confidence that despite the moment, my Heavenly Father knew what was happening to us and there was something waiting for us at the end of this dark tunnel. As cliche as the phrase is, I KNEW everything would be ok. There was sickness in me over the loss of so much but it never overwhelmed my certainty that the Father always looks after those who seek Him. And I was seeking. I searched for the cracks in my faith, places that needed shoring up but to my peaceful delight, there were none. I found my faith rooted to the right foundation. While I had experienced plenty of hardship in the past, this felt like the maiden voyage in which you test the limits of your faith. But I didn't even see the limits. I felt the heartache, oh how many times did I cry out for guidance and understanding. But I never wavered in my confidence in the solace of my God.
-An appreciation for those things which cannot truly be taken away. My husband. He is such a good person. His heartache was almost constantly over the lives which he had adversely affected. Despite wanting to kick his butt back into gear and get the confident and positive husband I knew back on a couple occasions for suffering so constantly and immovably, I appreciated knowing that he was demonstrating the charity of Christ in regards to others. My kids. Their oblivious joy and loving natures were a strength to both Brad and I. We spent more time with them. We listened to them. I grew to appreciate even more how this task of raising righteous spirits doesn't stop when life is in an upheaval. While some earthly things may pass away, the raising of children in a manner which pleases our Father continues on. It is a way to focus on the eternal even amid circumstances we cannot control. My faith. Life is immensely hard! It does NOT get any easier as time passes and the only thing that CAN get easier is how quickly we think of and turn to our Heavenly Father and His Son, thus making the burden lighter.
Late August-Early September: We determine, after searching for a local job to supplement our income, to no avail, that Brad should go to North Dakota to seek employment. Shortly after beginning to apply for jobs in ND, he gets a job offer from Tractor & Equipment. The catch is that we have no idea when the kids and I will be able to join him.
September 15-November 20: Brad leaves for ND, sleeps in his car for several days after arriving as he looks at the local job market. Kind people from the Williston Ward feed him every Sunday and allow him to take a shower at their house. Meanwhile, I'm overseeing the work on the house necessary to beginning the process of finding tenants for our downstairs unit. We are forced to fire our one employee who fails to perform while unsupervised and as a result, we decide to shut down the operation of Magnum Opus Financial in the upstairs unit. Thus begins work on the upstairs unit to make it tenant-ready. Painting top to bottom, installing a kitchen and laundry room, new carpet, and windows are among the items on the list. Brad has accepted the job offer from Tractor & Equipment, discovering that the benefits are pretty much unheard of at the other available jobs (at least right away) and the pay is competitive. He finally has a place to live in a trailer with two other guys provided by T&E. We await the news of when our "family trailer" will arrive in Williston and be ready for us to occupy it. I've set a date of Nov 21 to depart NC and have made arrangements with a moving company. November 18th I sign a contract with Laura Farrell (of ILoveArdmore.com) to find tenants for me. She calls me later that day with a young well-qualified family, ready to sign a lease. Quick work! November 21, a grad-school couple signs a lease for the upstairs unit... did I mention I love Laura? The best part is that Laura charges a fee for finding tenants but does not manage the property for a portion of the rent each month. EXACTLY what I had been looking for (Thanks to Etta to turning me on to her).
The blessings: As if all that work ACTUALLY getting done on time wasn't blessing enough, I gained spiritual blessings which I value far more than the temporal ones. I discovered how much I can kick butt at managing a household, children, and a remodel all at the same time. I say it flippantly but I mean in all honesty that I am CAPABLE. In the past, I've pretty much deferred to Brad on household administrative matters. He's pretty particular and I've always found it easier to defer a decision/action to the person who cares the most about how something gets done. It's not worth it to me to argue a point unless I feel strongly about it. As a result, the last 10 years of marriage have not involved a lot of me making solo decisions. However, this time, because Brad was working SO much, he gave me pretty much complete autonomy to make decisions especially relating to the remodel. It was also up to me to plan and carry out the logistics of everything. I don't know how many of you have experience with home remodel and if you haven't you'll have no idea what it's like and the challenges it presents. Suffice it to say, I was GRATEFUL for the major renovation we did 2+ years ago and for all that Brad and I both learned about getting that stuff done on a time schedule. I spent every day DOING something. There were no wasted moments.
Furthermore, I recognized that being solo and under immense stress, I was going to need some extra armor so I resolved to start reading my scriptures TWICE a day instead of just once and to fill my solo working moments with conference talks via audio and good music. What happened as a result of that was being incredibly in tune with Heavenly Father. I found myself having conversations with Him more often through the day. I would ask what I should do about what kind of stove to choose for upstairs, if I should spend time trying to get cheaper cabinets, if I should move cable lines, what was the best carpet, if I should pay a professional for a certain water line, etc. Silly, it seems, but in a way, I had companionship that I was missing by not having Brad around to ask those questions to. I felt the companionship of the Holy Ghost more because I was filling the "spare time" in my life with scripture, music, and conference talks rather than TV shows, novels, and popular music. John Bytheway, a popular speaker in LDS culture was known in one of his talks for asking the question, "What would you give up to know God? Would you give up your favorite TV show to know Him?" We would be hard pressed to use the justification, "How could giving up ONE TV show possibly affect my relationship with Heavenly Father that much?" I think we foget that "By small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise."
-Alma 37:6
During this time I also found a joy in service. I can't quite recall what made me decide to turn a new leaf but it was before Brad left for ND. I decided that excuses would always find a way of ruining good intentions and that service would not ever be convenient. So I took every available opportunity to serve that arose. I raked my neighbor's leaves when I was out doing mine one day, I babysat, I made meals, and I called people I knew were having a hard time just to talk. And I found time for it all even though it seemed so silly to be spending any time doing something other than the work that needed to be done so immediately.
So lots of people asked me during my single months how I was faring and if I was "really looking forward to being reunited." Well of course I was looking forward to that and of course the road was hard but I was just so GRATEFUL for that time I was sharing with my Father. Of course I missed Brad but I was also appreciating him more by not having him there because I was appreciating myself and all the talents I had been given and blessed to discover. I was looking forward to being reunited and showing Brad a more beautiful me inside. When Brad and I were married, we wrote our ceremony from the book of Proverbs 31.  And now, when I look back at it, it gives me chills to think of how much of it seems like my life and how I feel about what I have accomplished. When we and the minister spoke those words, it was really a prayer and how little did I know or understand the role the words would play in my life!
 10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
 11 The heart of her husband doth safely atrust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
 12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
 13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her ahands.
 14 She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
 15 She ariseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
 16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
 17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
 19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the adistaff.
 20 She stretcheth out her hand to the apoor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
 21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
 22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her aclothing is silk and purple.
 23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
 24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
 25 Strength and honour are her aclothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of akindness.
 27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of aidleness.
 28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
 29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
 30 Favour is deceitful, and abeauty is vain: but a woman that bfeareth the Lord, she shall be praised.

Friday, December 2, 2011

All I want for Christmas is some BANDWIDTH!

Hello my blogger friends. I have SOOOOOOOOOOO much to share about my new adventure and so many pictures to upload but unfortunately, picture-free posts are what you're going to get for a while. I had to buy an air card today from AT&T just so I could stop sending e-mails from my iPhone (which is amazing in itself but my fingers are tired of that cramped keyboard). The card works great but I've noticed that uploading is a little slow, and also air cards do not provide unlimited usage and I have to keep my downloads and uploads to a minimum so as not to incur exorbitant monthly charges.

I've been here in Williston, ND for one week and one day. We've been living in our house (mobile home) for 3 nights. We've only had hot water for 1 day. We've had cold running water for 2 days and we still don't have a properly functioning sewer system. I have no idea where one is supposed to put trash in this place and I'm getting a little tired of burying the kid's do in the yard. (Oh yes I did!) But we have a place to sleep and it's got heat which is a HUGE blessing considering we still didn't know where we were going to live when we left NC.

I've been researching internet here and at my location I cannot get anything faster than basic DSL which is probably fine for most people. However, I've been living a plush bandwidth life for some time as we had the very fastest broadband connection we could get while living in NC. DSL seems a lot like dial-up to me in comparison to what I had. I know... snob right? Well some DSL might be ok if it weren't going to be a minimum of a MONTH before I can get it. So I'll just pay for my meager 3G internet connection in the meantime, thank-you very much.

We are so very glad to be here finally though, despite the fact that Dad actually does work at LEAST 12 hour days EVERY day except Sunday. Just knowing we're all in the same 10 mile radius really does make it nicer. I certainly haven't been any less busy since being here though. There's all this unpacking and reorganization taking place. I hate moving into a new place and trying to figure out how you are going to make all your stuff work. Moving from a 5 bedroom house to a 3 bedroom single-wide is difficult even if I did leave a LOT of stuff behind. Nevertheless, the place is larger AND nicer than I expected which is a plus.

This place (Williston, ND) is absolutely fascinating. I really feel like I must be on some other planet sometimes. The pace of life here is so much faster. Everyone is in a hurry and every place of business is busy. It's amazing to me how drastically different the overall feel of it is. In NC, (and out of NC), I knew so many people out of work. I knew so many businesses slumping under economic recession. Life for many seemed to crawl along. People were barely making it and many getting laid off. It's strange that all of that is still happening when all around me there are people working at ALL hours of the day, through the holiday and every business having a "Now Hiring"sign outside. There is such a need for things to be done NOW NOW NOW! There's a waiting list for EVERYTHING and there's no real answer on WHEN things will get done.
I have to tell you though, that the most fascinating thing to me is that despite the rush and lack of available service, everyone is absolutely PLEASANT. You'd think that people, not really being worried about whether they can keep their job, and knowing how many other jobs are out there, would take the opportunity to be total slackers and not care in the least about customer service. That just isn't the case though. EVERYONE I have dealt with in a business fashion  has been SO nice and SO helpful and so HAPPY. It's not just customer service. It's the lady in Wal-Mart who assures me over and over "Oh it's fine! Don't you worry about it in the least!" when I apologize for my children being painfully unaware of the inconvenience they are causing her by not moving out of the way. It's the fact that I'm sitting at a green light for a good minute because I'm not paying attention and NOBODY honks at me to get my butt moving. It's the guy who definitely looks like he works outdoors on a drilling rig (it's 20 degrees and snowing) telling me to go ahead of him in line because Iyov's acting like a nut-job and I just want to get him away from the public ASAP. I don't think I have encountered a single person who is sour, in a bad mood, or just plain tired the entire time I've been here. I haven't observed any cross words between anyone in a store or elsewhere.
It's kind of weird. But it's pretty much wonderful and refreshing and it makes my day every time I get to see people be nice to each other for no reason at all.
Yeah, I think I might kind of like this crazy place.