Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Things I Wish They Would've Told Me When I Was a Newlywed

My 14 years younger brother just got engaged this weekend.  And I'm so, so happy for him and his soon-to-be bride.  They are young, in love and doe-eyed, and have their future stretched out in front of them.

And for some reason, this has got me thinking back to when I was their age, and thinking about my future.
Maybe young people of this day and age have a better handle on reality and life than I did when I was young.

Growing up, as an LDS teen, attending Young Women's every week, every lesson, every activity that sunk in for me told me to focus on getting married in the temple, do everything you can to get there, be worthy, find a worthy mate, and get married.

 And then have babies.

That last part I think was implied, or maybe I just assumed that was the next step because my mother had 8 babies.

And these are all very good things; important things to plan to do as a teenage girl.  And I did them.  I made it there.  I married a good, handsome, worthy priesthood holding man in the temple.  And then had babies.

But at some time during that first year of marriage, I had an existential crisis.  At no point during my youth, had I made any plans for myself beyond my wedding day.  This was it.  I had made it.

Now what?

Eventually, I figured it out.  Or I'm still figuring it out.  And I'm sure most people do, but for my brother and his bride, and young (or old, like me) people everywhere,  here is a list of things I wish they had told me before I got married.  By no means, does this mean I have all the answers.  Not even close.  But these are little tidbits, ideas, and notions that have helped me along the way.

1. The fairy tales are lying to you.  You don't step off the boat from your honeymoon, and magically live happily ever after.  Being married in the temple doesn't make you impervious to marital discord. You don't have to stop trying just because now you're married. Being married and living with another person is hard. Really, really hard.  You have to work at it every single day.  Over and over.  Yes, there is such a thing as happily ever after, but no, it doesn't happen automatically.  Put in the work, you will reap the reward.

2. Pray every day to love your spouse (this is actually the best advice my mother ever gave me.  She told me one night when I came to her house crying after a silly fight with my new husband in our first year of marriage).  Some days, he will irritate the heck out of you.  Sometimes, you won't even like him.  Many times, you will disagree about things. But, pray to love and accept him the way he is.

3. Date nights are important! Whether you have no kids are 20, alone time, one-on-one time together are husband and wife are crucial to nurture your marriage and your friendship with your spouse.  I've heard and read other people say you can even have date nights at home.  This is great, but with 5 kids, it just doesn't work. At least for me.  Inevitably, at least one will come knocking, or want to join you.  As our kids have gotten older its gotten easier, but they know, Friday night is Mom and Dad's date night.  Every week.

4. Express Gratitude to your spouse. Every day.  Saying Thank you goes a very long way.  Men and Women alike like to feel appreciated.

5. Be Friends with your Spouse. At some point, that honeymoon phase will wear off.  You will both go to work, or school every day.  Time will pass.  And one day you will wake up with 3 babies, and realize that the only thing you and your husband have said to each other in the last week is "We're out of milk", "Did you pay the light bill?" or "The baby has a fever.  Again." Don't let your relationship be all business.  Have fun together.  Laugh together.  Read together.  Play together. Involve your children and let them see you enjoying each other's company.

6. You don't have to agree to get along. And just because you disagree doesn't mean it's the end of the world.  Or your marriage.  Learn to express your differences in a calm and open minded way.  My husband and I are complete opposites when it comes to personality and interests.  But we compromise. We participate in each other's hobbies.  We talk.  We listen.  We bite our tongue when necessary to avoid conflict or hurting the other's feelings. But know that it is important to talk about your disagreements and differences.  There is no room for resentment or grudges in a marriage.  Be open. TALK. Communication is key.

7. Forgive easily and be trustworthy. This is really important.  And doesn't need much explanation.  Be faithful in thought and deed.  Don't sweat the small stuff.

8. Accept unsolicited advice graciously, and then make your own decisions. There will be many who will want to share their infinite wisdom with you.  Take it with a grain of salt, glean what makes sense to you, and use what you have to do what works for you.  There is no right or wrong answer. This blog post included. This applies to children also.

9. It is not only acceptable but crucial for you to take care of yourself. Sometimes as adults, especially women, we get this disillusioned notion that we shouldn't be doing anything for ourselves.  This is fundamentally wrong.  I don't mean you should be selfish.  I mean that you can't neglect yourself and expect to have the energy to care for everyone else that needs you.  For me, exercise is the thing I do that's just for me.  Everyone has their thing. Find yours, and do it.  Guilt free.

10. It's no one else's business when you decide to start your family, and how many kids you have.  Of course that won't stop people from trying to tell you when and what you should do.  Again, accept their suggestions graciously, and do what's right for you.

11. It's okay to speak up and tell people you don't want 100 visitors in the hospital room when you have a baby. I didn't get the nerve to speak my mind til I had my 4th and 5th babies.  My first three, I was so overwhelmed playing "hostess" in the hospital, I wanted to hide under the covers and cry.  I wish someone had told me it's ok to tell people when its time to leave.  Or to ask people to call first before they come.  

12. Someone else's opinion is NOT a good reason to discipline a child. If I had a nickel for every time I disciplined one of my children for someone else's benefit... One day, I realized, who cares if this person doesn't approve of how I am raising my children.  I, their mother, know what's best for them, and no one else.

13. There is no better therapy than baby cuddles.  Messes will wait for you.  Sit down, read to your babies and cuddle.  Nothing cures the blues better than some snuggle-therapy.

14. You will develop some mad ninja wrestling skills when changing diapers. If you sing and make obnoxious animal noises, while giving your baby something to hold, he or she will magically hold still while changing their diaper.  You're welcome.

15. Sometimes YOU are your child's only advocate.  Be on their side.  Always. Even when you know they are wrong.  Even when they made a bad choice. Even when every other person in authority in their life is telling them and you that they aren't good enough.  It's heartbreaking, and someone needs to be in their corner.  That person HAS to be you.

16. Kids make messes.  And getting them to clean them up is tricky. I have to think up new creative ways to get my kids to do their jobs on a regular basis.  Be patient.  And stubborn.  I wish I knew a word for that concept.  Being patient and stubborn at the same time.

17. No one's children are perfectly well behaved all the time.  And neither will yours.  I remember being a young newlywed, and thinking, "Oh, my kids are never going to act like that."  Oh, if only I had known.

18. No matter how many times you tell your kids the rules, they will still want to break them. You will have to remind them to pick up their socks every day.  Every flipping day. Probably 20 times.  Remember that patient and stubborn thing.  It comes in handy.

19. Houses get dirty. Absolutely make time to clean, and involve your kids in the effort.  But don't hold yourself to a higher standard than you can maintain while keeping your sanity. And it's ok if it stays dirty sometimes.

20. Nobody stays caught up on laundry all the time.

21. Sometimes even good, righteous families forget to read their scriptures, or say their prayers or hold Family Home Evening.  So don't beat yourself up if you miss it sometimes.  Finding a balance that works is hard.  Just keep trying.

22. Stop comparing yourself to other people.  It's not a competition.  Be happy for other's successes, and be proud of your own.  And understand that no one's life is perfect.  Even the woman in relief society, who's hair is perfectly coiffed, who's home is always sparkly clean, and who's children seem to be perfectly behaved in their Sunday best every time you see them, who attends the temple every Tuesday, and always has some deeply insightful thing to say every time she opens her mouth. She is fighting some sort of battle.  So is everyone else.  You aren't the only one who has it hard.  Open up.  It's amazing how many people come out of the woodwork, when you admit you are struggling.

23. You don't have to pretend to be perfect.  Keep it real.  It's ok to have bad days.  It's ok.

24. Pray. Pray, pray, pray.  Every day.  I pray in the shower, or in the car.  A lot.  Because quiet time alone is very rare and fleeting.  And I couldn't make it through a single day without Heavenly Father's help.  Or just knowing He's there and listening to me.  And asking Him to be mindful of my children.  There is a deep comfort in that.

I know there are so many other people out there who have so much more knowledge and experience than I do. And I'm still learning.  Every day.  And some things I have to relearn over and over.  And my life is absolutely not perfect.  And I have my bad days. And what has worked for me might be different that what works for someone else.  But, I am happy, and remembering these things helps me to be happy, so I thought I'd share.

If anyone has anything to add to this list, I would love if you'd share your wisdom in the comments.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

In which I attempt to pretend I am Martha Stewart, or June Cleaver or whatever (and a recipe for Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent)

Little by little, inch by inch, I've found myself turning into more of a crunchy granola Mom.  At least that's what I like to tell myself.  We're trying, really, to detoxify.  Trying to eat clean.  Trying to eliminate the chemicals from our life.  Three years ago, I started using essential oils. In fact, since then, I have eliminated every over-the-counter/pharmaceutical drug or remedy from my home.  Slowly, that has transferred over into our diet and household products.  About a year ago, I switched from store-bought-factory-made-chemical cleaners, and I make my own, with essential oils, baking soda or vinegar (not together--do NOT try that!).  I'm slowly making my way into the natural side of things.  Up until today, I have still been using store bought laundry detergent.  I've been wanting to try homemade for years, but have never gotten around to doing it.  Why?
Because I'm lazy.  Because I don't consider myself a homemakey, crafty, do-it-yourselfer type o' gal.  But, I have two babies with eczema, the tiny one has sad little dry, scaley patches all over and I decided it's high time, I get rid of the chemical culprits in our house and take matters into my own hands.

So, yesterday, in a fit of I don't know what--insanity? inspiration?--I went to the store and bought all the ingredients for homemade laundry detergent.  Based on several Google searches, Facebook and Pinterest searches, I found 1,000 different recipes, all of which had the same basic ingredients.  My recipe was adapted from recipes I found here and here.

Here's what I used:

1 bar Ivory (Original) natural soap
1/3 bar Fels-Naptha soap (nothing gets stains out better than Fels-Naptha)
1 Cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (NOT baking soda)
1/2 Cup Borax (as my Dad would say "Who put the Borax in again?")
1 TB Oxy-Clean (added as a booster)
About 60 drops of essential oil (I used Lemon and Wild Orange, but I have full intentions to play around with different scents in the future)

All of these ingredients except the essential oil were purchased at Walmart.  If you need to buy some essential oil, come visit me at mydoterra.com/sherrieshepherd and I will hook you up!

Grate both bars of soap and put into large saucepan.  Add 5 Cups Water, and stir over Medium-Low heat until soap is melted, reduce heat to low.

Add washing soda, borax, and oxy-clean and stir until dissolved.  Remove from Heat.

Pour 6 cups of HOT water into a 5 gallon bucket and add soap mixture. Add essential oil.  Stir.

Now, fill bucket to about 3/4 full of water.  Stir, cover and allow to sit overnight to thicken into a gel.

Stir, then pour into empty gallon jugs (I used cleaned out milk jugs), or empty laundry soap dispenser (saving that one for next time), or just leave in the 5 gallon bucket. Shake or stir before each use.

For Top Load Machine use 5/8 C per load (180 loads)
For Front Load Machine use 1/4 C per load (640 loads)

So, my homemade detergent is now sitting, waiting in it's bucket til tomorrow.  I can't wait to start using it!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Peek into my Super Crazy Life

Over the past 3 months, I have gained a much, much greater appreciation for mothers.  My own, first and foremost. My mother raised eight children.  And most of us are pretty well adjusted, decent, good human beings.  Some of us are a little crazy.  For example, my mother's oldest daughter might be a little nutty.

I have always appreciated my Mom, and admire the amazing woman that she is, and the wonderful job she did with Dad, teaching us, loving us, setting an example for us.  Whenever someone asks me who my hero is,  and I contemplate it, her name always pops into my mind.  I have always and will always want to be just like her when I grow up.

I didn't truly come to appreciate my Mom completely, until I started having babies of my own.  And now that I have five little rugrats running around here, I really appreciate her.  And I wonder: How did she do it?  How do all of you do it?  I honestly feel like I went from four kids to ten.  How did that happen?  And between early onset Alzheimers, urinary incontinence, forced insomnia, with a little side of PPD, in addition to all the other lovely side effects of child birth, I'm pretty sure I've been running around without my head for the past three months.  Add soccer, wrestling, rugby, tumbling, piano, homework, and now, UGH, Summer break, and trying to keep older monkeys from turning my home into a Nuclear testing facility, and keep the little monkeys, entertained, fed, cuddled, changed, etc, my mind has run away along with my decapitated head.

Somedays, like today, I have to just sit down and decide to not care that my laundry is piled as high as the ceiling; that my kitchen floor has more little footprints and paw prints than clean spots; that the toddler has found the magic markers and colored herself and her little brother, again;  that I haven't done my hair or applied makeup since Sunday; that we are perpetually late for everything; and that we spend more money on groceries than we do on all of our other bills combined (I really need to start couponing).

But, despite all the chaos, I am happy.  Crazy and happy.

Here are a few little reasons I am crazy happy.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Massage Envy

While the title of this post may appear as such, I am not making a shameless promotion for the Walmart of massage parlor chains.  Do they even call them massage parlors anymore?  I guess that term kinda of alludes to a more seedy establishment than I intended.  Ok, day spa, then.  Whatever.

Actually, I have never even stepped foot into a Massage Envy...er...spa.  My husband, however, has a full on membership.  I guess they have this deal that you buy a membership and you can go in and get a monthly massage.  At any of their 4 billion locations nationwide.  My hubby likes to skip months and save them up and go get a 2 hour massage.  How nice for him. Which bring me to my point.
What I have is actually, good, old-fashioned massage Envy.  Jealousy.  It's not fair, and I'll tell you why.

As a woman in her ninth month of pregnancy, there are certain "minor" (ha ha) aches and pains associated with my current condition.  I'm sure most of you who have been through the whole baby-growing thing can attest to my opinion that of all human beings on the planet who need a good solid massage, pregnant women should be at the very top of the list.  Right? RIGHT!

Recently, I went on a last hoorah "work" trip with my hubby.  While he worked all day, I decided to book myself a massage at the hotel spa.  They immediately told me I wasn't "eligible" for any kind of massage other than their pre-natal massage, in which, the massage therapist isn't allowed to apply any sort of pressure or reflexology.  What the what?!  I told the receptionist, I promised not to sue them, blah, blah, and booked the massage anyway.

The therapist seemed pretty easy going and willing to accommodate my need for some good deep tissue massage during our pre-massage conversation.  But, during the session, the only slight pressure she applied was on my neck.  And while I appreciate that, there are plenty of other places, I could've used some relief; my lower back at number one.  She didn't even touch my lower back.  She "massaged" my legs for more than half of the massage, but didn't even touch my feet.  And the worst part of the whole thing was, because she "couldn't" apply any pressure, it felt like she was just...uh...caressing me for an hour.
Having a female massage therapist whose mannerisms and appearance led me to believe that she might possibly play first base on an all women's softball team, and probably frequents the home-depot quite often,  "caressing" me for an hour, made me more tense and stressed out than I was when I walked in there.
(sorry, I'm not known for being PC.  Apologies if that last sentence offended anyone)

So, a word to all you pregnant ladies out there who are dying for some relief from your sore, tired, muscles.  Pre-natal massages suck! Luckily for me, I have an awesome 11-year-old daughter who gives better massages for waaaay cheaper (a buck or a candy bar).