Friday, August 24, 2012

Another School Year? Really?

It seems like the years are flying, and the beginning of a new school year is always a poignant reminder that children grow up.  This year is no exception. We've had 2 big milestones with Rebekah starting kindergarten and Forest starting preschool. It's hard to believe that they are getting so big. Maija started second grade and is turning 8 in a few months. It just doesn't seem real.

Here are pictures of their first days of school

First Day of Second Grade - Maija

First Day of Kindergarten - Bekah

Bekah & friend Julia - They were so excited when they found out they're in the same class and sitting next to each other.

First Day of Preschool - Forest

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Finland and How I Never Knew My Mother

I know, I know. It's been ages since I last blogged, and the posts seem to be fewer and farther between as time passes. It's not that I have nothing to say. Anyone who knows me at all is well aware that I have plenty to say, pretty much all the time. But, as a very good friend pointed out to my soon-to-be-husband back in 2003, "You have no idea how many dead horses you will be beating." In other words a lot of what I have to say is the same stuff I always say. How many times can I blog about poopy diapers, toddler tantrums, soccer games and the majority of what makes up my days? I often think, "I should blog about that. Oh wait, I already have."

Today I have something new to blog about, Finland. My two oldest daughters and I just returned from a weeklong trip there to visit my mother and father. My mom is from Finland and she and my dad are currently living there as missionaries. They've been in Finland for almost a year and have five months to go. Although I've been to Finland several times, my last trip there was 26 years ago. A lot changes in a quarter century.

My perspective as an adult is very different than it was as a young teenager. My adolescent memories of Finland include being irritated that I had nothing "fun" to do, listening to my walkman (yeah, that dates me), and being puzzled by how emotional my mother was. Her mother was in a retirement home at the time and was suffering from dementia. There were times when she didn't even recognize my mother. Unfortunately, as a teenager I was more worried about myself than my grieving mother. My grandmother passed away not long after our trip. Needless to say, that visit to Finland was a bit depressing.

This time around was quite the opposite! We had such a great time enjoying the greenery, the myriad lakes, the people, the language, visiting old friends, and most importantly seeing all the things about Finland that make my mother who she is. All of these things that I had thought were my mother's quirks, like making really runny scrambled eggs, turn out to be Finnish things. My mother's serious demeanor which melts into warmth and sweetness when you get to know her. Her love of cheese and rye crackers. The tone of her voice and the rhythms of her speech. Her nose. My mother's skepticism and her love of beauty. I came to understand things about my mother that I had never fully understood in a lifetime of being her daughter.

One particularly poignant experience was when we visited the home she was raised in. Many times mother told me of the impoverished circumstances she had grown up in. Her family lived in a large house that was shared by six families. The space allotted to my mom's family included a small kitchen with an attached living room which also doubled as their collective bedroom. That's it. They partitioned the room by hanging curtains. There was no plumbing or bathroom (or shower for that matter.) All residents of the house shared a common outhouse and sauna which were not connected to the house. Imagine a freezing winter's night in Finland and having to go to the bathroom...outside. The sauna was their means of bathing. They would sweat out the dirt and grime and then rinse off in cold water.

I thought I had a pretty clear mental image of what the living conditions were, but when we went to the house, I was stunned to see how small my mother's living space was and the general condition of the house. I had a whole new appreciation for my mother's strength and determination, and also for how blessed her life had been since then. It's almost beyond description the differences between her life then and her life now.

Watching my mom interact and converse in her own language, her own culture, in her homeland, I've never seen her so at ease and at peace. And, to have her two eldest grandchildren with her (and her daughter, too) to share it with, my mother seemed to be happier than I've seen her in years. I am so grateful we made the trip and grateful to Kent for staying home with the two babies (I can't imagine how hard the trip would've been with two toddlers in tow.)
It's amazing to me that you can have one of the most intimate relationships known to man, that of mother and daughter, and decades of shared time and experiences, yet in the end I hadn't really fully known or understood her. And, I probably will never know all that makes her who she is. It goes to show you that one can never know another person's heart, not completely. Our own perspective gets in the way.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Motherhood: Work, Hobby, or Political Spin?

It's 11pm and my job is not done. Little feet run in and out of bedrooms where they should be sleeping. My five-year-old repeatedly comes to tell me that she's scared and can't fall asleep, and my seven-year-old is crying because I'm upset that she's not in bed. I've been taking care of children since 7am, and apparently I have miles to go before I sleep. Anyone who tells me that what I'm doing does not qualify as work is gonna get a verbal smackdown because I'm completely exhausted.

Before you rush down to the Comments link to tell me how I can get my children to sleep and how I could do things better, I'll preemptively defend myself by mentioning that Kent has been out of town for almost 3 weeks now, and even though I have help from our Finnish friend who's staying with us, my children are SO ready to have their daddy home. And, so am I. No matter how you slice it, this mothering business is hard work. That's!

In the last week a new round of the Mommy Wars has erupted over comments made by Hilary Rosen that Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, "never worked a day in her life" because she chose to be a stay-at-home mother to five children. So, if taking care of children is not work what are daycare providers doing? What are nannies doing? How about teachers? Maybe this attitude towards caring for children is the underlying reason that teachers are paid so little. Or is it a career choice only when one is caring for other people's children? If you choose to care for your own children, it's a copout.

I've worked in a variety of jobs since I was 14 years old. I've been a waitress, a cashier, a customer service rep, a corporate trainer, a high school teacher, a research assistant, a computer programmer, and a doctoral student. Then I had my first baby and after a year of trying to juggle a PhD program and being a new mother, I chose to stay home full-time which I have done for six years now. Without a doubt, I have never had such a demanding and overwhelming job in all my life. It is ten times harder than being a full-time high school teacher. It's harder than getting a PhD. It's harder than waiting tables. It's harder than any other job I've had because it is unrelenting. I don't get sick days or personal days. I'm at work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

I know it's a choice to stay home, and I also know that many women would like to stay home but can't. I also openly acknowledge that I don't know what it's like to work full-time and raise children. Especially for single mothers, it must completely overwhelming at times. I know many amazing women who work and raise kids, and I have nothing but respect for them. But, that's just the point. I won't tell a working mother that they've never worked a day in their life because they haven't stayed home with kids. So, don't tell me that what I'm doing every day isn't work, especially at the end of a sixteen-hour-day with four children 7 years-old and younger...and I'm about to start the nightshift.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Love Letter to Brenner Pass

(Note: For those who don't understand all the Mormon lingo in this post, here's the shorthand. For a time I was the leader of my congregation's - Brenner Pass - women's group, and this post is deidcated to those women.)

Dear women of the Brenner Pass ward:

Last week I attended my new ward's Relief Society birthday activity. We had an amazing dinner and beautiful music. I had fun chatting with my new friends. But, sitting there and looking around at all of the women, I felt like something was missing. I realized that there were so many women I didn't know and whose lives I knew almost nothing about. And, I missed you, deeply.

For that moment I remembered how close I felt to all of you and the love I had for each one of you. I shared so many moments of joy with you and moments of sadness and pain. I knew your children and your husbands. I knew your worries and I worried with you.

As much as I love our new ward, there is a hole in my heart without you. Thank you for letting me into your lives and for being my friends and my sisters. I miss you terribly. I wanted you to know that. But, most of all, I wanted you to know that I love you.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Poor Poor Blog

My poor neglected blog. It's not that I don't love you anymore, but I have to confess that I am in another relationship with Facebook. I could tell you that I've been neglecting you because I've been so busy with the kids, which is true, and that someone has been sick on and off since Christmas. That's true, too. But, the real reason is that Facebook is where I turn to first when I have pictures or info to share with the world. Facebook only expects me to write a quick sentence or two, but you, my dear blog, require many sentences. And time.

Like Newt Gingrich I would ask you to be in an open relationship because Facebook doesn't care if I have other relationships. But I know that you require time, attention, cute backgrounds, uploaded pictures, and witty prose. I guess I'll let you decide, oh blog of mine, if posting once a month is enough to make you happy or not. Call me callous, but I can't promise you any more than that right now.

Please forgive me,
The writer of the blog