Oh my goodness, the Book of Mormon commentary I have spent eight years writing is officially published!

It is coming out as a series of five volumes!

The first volume dropped tonight as an eBook HERE.

If you need help converting the file to work on your Kindle or iBooks or whatever device you are using, there are super simple instructions HERE.

It should be out on Amazon and iTunes in the next week or so, and then paperback and hard copies after that.

It’s so exciting!

Even the Hebrew came out beautifully!

The cover was designed by Nathan, as a pattern (get it?! A PATTERN?!) of gold plates and Liahonas.   Isn’t he so clever?  I love it so much!

It even has a super cool searchable table of contents so you can jump around to wherever you are studying!

I can’t believe it!  It’s really happened!  Eight years!

Here are the acknowledgement pages:

This is crazysauce!  Eight years!  We are so excited!  Thank you for all your support!

Growth Chart

Maybe I should make her have the feeding tube all the time.

Maybe being able to eat all her food and all her snacks and actually get most of it swallowed isn’t enough.

But for us, its miraculous.  Really.

And so when this six year old in the body of a two year old tells me she doesn’t want the feeding tube “because I can get it down”, and tries so hard to eat, then we give her that freedom if she really can swallow some of it.

Sometimes she can’t. 

Sometimes she just tastes her food, and then spits it back out in my hand like a bird.

Then we have to use the feeding tube, whether or not she would prefer not to use it.

Or sometimes she can eat her food, but can’t swallow her drinks without drowning, and then we have to use it (and flush it with water, which is part of using it anyway).

But we have come so far, and we have come so close!

But I’m not worried about her not being on the chart.

Because she is taller.

And growing.

And learning.

And happy.

Except for, you know, the being two part.  But mostly happy.  We are trying.

It’s a fine line, though, and there is always mom guilt.  Maybe she would have hit the chart if I hadn’t stopped the feeding tube.  I’m sure it’s my fault, because I’m the mom, right?

Or maybe it’s not about failing by a few dots.

Maybe it’s about that upward line, and everything counts as progress.

That’s the hope we all need, I think, that instead of doomed to failure because of this or that, we ought to zoom out and see the big picture of progress.

And instead of despairing because of a hard moment, or being overwhelmed by little things, maybe we just need to take a big Kyrie breath and recognize how far we have come – and be content, that it’s enough, for today, and enjoy the lines of life that we have been given between the dots.

Well Children

Mama!  I saw the doctor, and she asked about my poop!  Can you believe that?

That’s what Kyrie said to me when she got home from her two year old well child checkup.

And you said she was your friend, and so I went in there without any boo-boo’s, but I came out with a boo-boo!

We finally got her well child visit completed, and our little sassy pants is finally 22 pounds at 25 months!

That’s just fine if you consider she is still growing, or if you have our palliative care doctor who says just to use the WHO chart for her.  How funny is that?

Her oxygen was 89 at the doctor today.

We have more sleep and swallow studies coming up, oxygen while she sleeps (but we need to buy a new concentrator and I don’t know how to pull that off), oxygen for physical therapy and as needed, and we just continue one day at a time.  Her epiglottis still isn’t right, and she will have to have pflap surgery when she is four… but we are talking about that, about if she is four.

In the meantime, I got up at 3am this morning to work on a new parenting consultant website unrolling soon!  There will be free printables and free videos, plus links to all the books as they come out, plus courses people can take if they want help… as well as starting to do individual coaching and consulting for families.  It’s going to be so fun!  I can add content whenever I am able while the children are sleeping or I am at conferences, record some of the conferences, and just let it grow on its own over time.

We also have the first volume of my Book of Mormon commentary edited, and it should be released as an ebook in the next week or two!

Making Marriage, our book for engaged and newly married couples, is about halfway finished and we can work on it more again now that Nathan finished his opera and two musicals that had summer deadlines.

Mary has settled in, and Anber is doing better than ever.  Kirk is doing great, and Barrett is almost settled.  Alex is still struggling with the transition and acting out with regressive behaviors, but we expected that and are just trying to be consistent and direct with him while we ride his wave of autism anxiety until he knows everything is still okay.

Breathing a little better, all of us, even while we know scary days still come… but we have learned enough not to take any of good days for granted.  They are everything. 

Thanks, doc.

Queen of Katwe

We just wanted to recommend the amazing film Queen of Katwe, which is currently streaming on Netflix!

It’s a wonderful movie with a strong African female character and covers all kinds of fantastic topics like choices and consequences, hard work and endurance, pride and humility, chastity, dating, boundaries, bullies, friendship and social skills, teamwork, parent-child communication, domestic violence, and overcoming the limitations of your background.

It’s based on a true story!

We used it last night for Family Home Evening, and it’s one we will purchase someday to use again and again.   It’s one I want my girls especially to watch over and over, and filled with characters that model traits for them to incorporate.  It’s a story they can watch now, but with layers that will unfold for them as they grow into teenagers rewatching it. 

The story is about a 9 year old Ugandan girl who becomes a Master at chess.

We love chess anyway, but finding a strong brown girl movie about chess was miraculous.  It also has a female director, and the book was written by a female, so that was good for my girls to learn as well.  It was wonderful, and enagaging for all their ages.  We all want our young princesses grow up to Queens, and this is a movie that shows them how way more than cartoon fairytales.

Temple Day

We belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  For us, that means our church building we attend every Sunday is called the chapel.  We take Sacrament there, and listen to talks, and sing songs in a very modest and simple service before scampering off to Sunday School.

But we also have holy temples, where we do sacred ordinances to seal families together.  This is where we go to get married, so that there is no “until death do us part”.  It is where we brought the children after they were adopted, so that even when any of us die, we can still be a family.  Even after death, like when my mom was killed, I could do ordinances for her so the ordinances were completed in mortality – though she still gets the choices to accept them in her behalf or not.  But our temples are quiet places of worship, and special places where we come to pray and offer our thanks and give service as well.

Our closest temple is in Oklahoma City.

It was a lovely thing to come today, this beautiful and crisp day after the storms, to thank Heavenly Father for so much protection from the storms of life and so much provision through impossible times.

We have to have a temple recommend to get inside, the way you have to have a driver’s license to drive.  We get this in an interview with our bishop, during which we talk about covenant keeping.  Heavenly Father provided salvation for all of us through what the Savior did for us, and the way we live our lives gives evidence of our accepting that gift.  We don’t earn salvation, but being faithful back to Him is a natural response when He has done so much for us!  We pay our tithing, remain faithful to our spouse, do not use pornography, do not smoke or drink alcohol or use drugs, we serve in our callings (as our church does not have paid clergy, so we all take turns in different roles), and we are asked to be honest and do honest work and be kind to others.

Nathan and I take turns inside, while the other plays with the children.  We have so many fun family traditions, from songs to stories, and from flowers to fountains.  And always the ladybugs!   It is always a special day when we get to come to the temple!

Soon our temple will be closing for about two years for renovations, and during that time we will have to go all the way to Dallas or St. Louis or Kansas City for our temple trips!
But when it re-opens, there will be several weeks that it is completely open to the public!  Anyone can go tour just to see!  Please remember this, and go see while you can!  I will post reminders, of course, because it is so exciting to have opportunity to share.

After the open house, we will have a special meeting where the temple is rededicated as a holy place again, and then we will need our temple recommends – and the daily spiritual preparation that requires – to get inside once more.

Unfolding Mornings

Since we last lived here, my body has aged lifetimes.  Miscarriages and cancer, eighty-seven children, and living in hospitals for two years all ravaged my health in ways I never knew were possible.  Recovery is exhausting.

But now, when my children are old enough to sleep past 5am and functioning enough to start their days without me when they do wake, these days when finally we could rest… my body is too achey and sore and stiff to stay in bed for long.

We do stretches, all of us, to unfold in the mornings.  In a mix of yoga and physical therapy exercises, we move slowly as stretch our bodies as they wake.  From the simplest things to keep my remaining lymph nodes working to untangling Kyrie from oxygen tubing to strengthening Kirk’s muscles so he can even get out of bed, it’s all a bit of a process to get us moving in the mornings.

With it, though, comes so much joy.  There is a happiness settled that many families take for granted because they grow up together instead of piecing their family like a patchwork quilt.  We have gathered our children in, who must learn to trust us the way we must learn to love them, and they must learn to care for each other.  We’ve come a long way, and there are more and more moments that feel as if we have always been.

In a way, we have.

Our faith tradition holds the understanding of existing as children of God before ever being born on Earth, where our spirits have come to get our physical bodies.

Somehow, in some way we can’t quite remember, we all together decided back then we would be a family here, in mortality.

They were such great spirits, these brave little ones, who somehow made covenants and commitments to other families, who would bring them into the world, and to endure all the challenges they have faced because of that, all for opportunity to bring the gospel to those families through sharing, and example, and temple ordinances.  That’s so powerful! They are such big spirits in such little bodies!

Mortality isn’t always so noble, though, as this conversation revealed today:

Alex (age 8): I need to confess I was running around the church building last night, and even got in the primary cubbies, and that was not a God choice.

Me: Thank you for telling me. What do you think that was about?  

Alex: I think I was just very excited to be there for Scouts, and everyone was playing instead of having a little place to be, so I got overstimulated. Maybe since I didn’t have a place to be, I was every place.

Kirk (age 8): Your place to be was in the gym!

Alex, hanging his head in shame, a movement I know his biological father does:  I guess my natural consequence is that I don’t get to go next week.

Me:  That’s all pretty insightful, Alex

Anber (age 4):  Know what else is insightful, Alex?  You smell like a chicken.  So maybe you need a shower.

These children!  

Anber is in a new phase of trying to fix her own hair, if you couldn’t tell.

It’s just that hers is especially pronounced in process!

We are a mess, all of us, and struggling, but we are happy and well and covered in blessings.

When finally all of us are awake, and showered, and dressed, we aren’t ready for our day until everyone has also read scriptures and said their individual morning prayers.  That’s another piece of our faith practice.  It makes our days better, it seems.

We make breakfast together, and do family scripture study and prayers after we have eaten.

Then our school day begin, with Kyrie counting ponies while I get the other children started:

And that is my day by 7am everyday.  

Once everyone is set up for the day, we do a rotation of stations so that by lunch time everyone is finished with their school work, and everyone has practiced piano and typing, and everyone has had an art project, and everyone has had reading with Mama, and everyone has had silent reading time, and  Mary and Alex and Anber and Barrett have practiced violin, and everyone has had some alone time at “recess” (indoors today).  Using our color chart instead of a time schedule gives us the flexibility to work around therapy appointments and play dates.

They take turns by days helping me make lunch, and the others do their chores while they wait.  This way, by lunch time, everyone is ready for special group projects, activities, and free time or naps.  

Nathan works while I do all that, and then takes over in the afternoon when I go to work, giving lessons on language and culture and entrepreneurship and working on their special projects.  I leave dinner in the crockpot or on the stove, or he makes it, and I call to say good night for bedtime prayers.  Nathan tucks them in early, since they are still little (though less so every day), and goes back to work on his computer until I get home.

That’s how we do our days, starting with mornings, six days a week.

And that’s what makes the Sabbath so glorious, Kirk says.

He’s right.

Stormy Fight Club

Today was my every two years re-certification in how to poke your eyeballs out:

Except, you know, de-escalating the conflict before it comes to that, plus all the usual evasive safety maneuvers, just in case.

Now when Kyrie pulls my hair, I can flip her like Jackie Chan and summersault right over her until she is pinned down.

Maybe not exactly.

But it is good stuff, and a small part of what I will be teaching in Houston in a few weeks.

Also, I got to put my boss in a choke hold, which always feels good, right?

The best part of being in training all day is that it meant I got the night off, which was a rare and lovely treat.

Except Nathan was gone to Bartlesville maybe selling our house, so we still needed help because we couldn’t be everywhere at once.

I was very grateful Nathan’s mother went with Mary to the activty days mother-daughter girly event since I couldn’t be there.  I took Mary to buy nail polish today, since obviously we don’t have any in our house.  She saved up her own money and everything!  We negotiated three simple pale pinks appropriate for a eight year old, and of course she came home in bright colors and glitter from everyone else!  Classic!  She had such fun!

In the meantime, the younger three had a date to pick strawberries!  My forever friend Kirsten, who is hard of hearing and lives around the corner, is very excited we are back and my little ones were very excited to meet her little girl (who is not smiling in the picture but is a very happy little girl).

They were also very excited for snow cones, thanks to another friend who gave her her freebie card.  It was just enough to split up for three little tummies!

Unfortunately, it was too much for Kyrie.  She has so recently been weaned off thickener, and most of the time does okay.  Today, though, she aspirated pretty badly and for moments that always feel like time stopped, she could not breathe.  She got through it, but now we have the waiting game to see if she will have pneumonia or not – sometimes we know in as little as six or seven hours.  Nathan will give her a blessing when she gets home.

I was so anxious for the older children to get home because of another tornado night here.  Lightning was coming in fast, and I was watching the weather closely.  They were home late for some reason, and so missed their ride to the end of the year party, but I was glad they were home because of the storm.

But I wanted to keep us all relaxed, though, so I put on some music to cover the thunder a little:

This was extra cozy with my great-grandmother’s lamp welcoming them home:

And then perfected when the children brought home crepes for me from the activity days event!  They put chocolate pudding inside and powered sugar on top.  It was adorable!

I had a treat ready for Nathan’s dad, too, because he brought papers for me, and Barrett’s desk.  We found out our car insurance has still been charging us for the car I gave them after they let us use up their van before we got our own van, the car I had paid off but was scared to drive after mom’s accident!  What a mess! But my friend Brother Funk helped us sort it out, and now with papers from Nathan’s dad showing it has been insured, we will get that corrected and a credit applied to our account.  What a relief!  So I got Nathan’s dad a thank you treat, for his help with that, except we missed him in the storm excitement so it’s still here!  Maybe it will blow to Bartlesville!

Nathan’s mom has her basket here, as the children were delighted to draw her name from the Mother’s Day drawing we held for those who shared our video.  How funny is that?

Then just before I could get anxious about Nathan, he burst through the front door with hands full of milk and bread in the middle of this torrential downpour!  How kind is he?  I am glad he is home, and Nathan’s parents made it home safely, and grateful the children were worn out to fall asleep so fast, and pray protection from the storm – even from our little ducks and rabbits and turtles that live in our yard!  

Love Bug

Every day we are a little smoother in our process, whether that is homeschool or physical therapies or unpacking the house.

Every day we are a little more nested, and a little more home.

It’s more than just hanging pictures.

It’s years ago, in a blessing after a miscarriage, when we were told the means for adoption would be provided.

Except we didn’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars for fancy international adoptions or infant domestic competitions.

And we were already committed to fostering.

But Alex and Anber came almost first, which meant Kyrie was with them even if not yet.

And instead of traveling to China, or some exotic place, we got a miracle house in Bartlesville.   It wasn’t far, but it was across county lines.  It wasn’t long, but it was long enough to gather the other half of our children.

And now we are home again, on the other side of that wilderness, all of us breathing a sigh of relief.

We are covenant keeping, despite our weakness and challenges, despite the difficulties of mortality and the limitations on our time, energy, and resources.  Do we have a set curriculum for the children?  Yes, but we also study scriptures every morning together.  Are we teaching art and piano and violin and fluency and typing and dance to the children? Yes, but my favorite is curling with them in my giant chair and reading aloud to them.  Do we still get playtime and go for walks and spend mornings at the park? Yes, but my favorite is cozying home again at the end of the day, loving on my barely-still-littles, and cooking together before family home evening – which was on Tuesday this week, instead of Monday, because of my work schedule.

Kyrie gave the lesson for the first time! She wanted to talk about crying and being happy, so we sang the turn-your-frown-upside-down song and talked about happiness coming from covenant keeping.  We also talked about feelings being ok, even sad or mad, but practicing expressing them effectively.  She chose a movie for the big kids because that makes them happy, and chose to go to bed early because that makes Papa happy!  It was so funny!

But here we are, a miracle, the lot of us, and learning together.  We are trying.  Some days, Alex said, it just feels like everything is peeing oil on you (like in the old Herbie movies).  But when that happens, you just keep on skating.  You can wash your hands and face later.  But before dinner, or you will be hungry.

Good days, you guys.  We are having good days, just like we were promised.  Everyone is blossoming here, and I am so grateful!

The Progress of Motherhood

My reader friends who have followed my blog for years know that I haven’t written nearly as much in the last year as I did before.  Mostly this was because of working two jobs and only having four hours a night to sleep, and partly it was the simple sacrifice of not being able to parent well and write for many hours a day if Nathan was ever going to get a turn for his writing.  All of that is better balanced again, with me working evenings and having the days with the children, and journaling is always important, and mostly something about being back in the yellow house has opened up that space for me again.

I have stretched some as a writer, shifting from only the blog to also the articles for Deseret which pay just enough to get gas money for our family, to actually publishing Keeping Kyrie last summer.  That was an experience in itself:  how much Amazon takes out of the profits, how people want cheap packaging over recycled-better-for-the-environment-and-way-cuter boxes, and the bad reviews – not just people who didn’t like the book, but reviews that were badly written!  One was a mormon hater, and one had terrible grammar, and all of these are permanent things online that everyone sees.  There were also those who were so kind to encourage us by getting the first edition of the book, even though there were still three editing mistakes we fixed later, and others who borrowed the book from someone else instead of buying it, which knocks down the sales and ratings by default.  There was even drama over the ebook, which we can’t do right now because Amazon pirates give it away for free when there is an audiobook, so until that lawsuit settles we could only offer one or the other.  We chose to go with the audiobook so that it would be accessible to our blind friends in Tulsa and Nathan’s parents who have many blind friends as well.  Turns out, though, that it really made some people cranky because they wanted the ebook because it’s cheaper.

Tell that to my children while we are at the hospital where I work, eating cereal for dinner because it’s free with chaplain coupon.

I’m kidding, right?  Except not.  Seriously, what a learning curve when you decide to be vulnerable and open and share your story.  The people who know you appreciate it, even if you write in feminine narrative structure so the circles go round and round with chiasms thrown in until the easy reader is lost and confused.

Also, it’s hard to write when you are lost and confused yourself.  Here are some of the big things I battled through in the last year:

1.)  Learning I don’t still need (bad) mothers like I thought I did.  I mean, wise women who mentor or mutual edification kinds of spirit guides who can see your rawest moments and still be your friends?  That’s something special.  But those who just add on more bad mothering for me to untangle myself from later, after having already worked through my own mom issues?  Yeah, I’m over that.  I seek out friends who are good and healthy for me, but am more confident about setting boundaries with those who are not healthy for me.  I am also less apologetic for things like protecting the sleep schedule of my children, limits I set as the mother, and not being able to participate in extra activities when it is time we need to be together at home or when I have to work so that I can be home with my children while they are awake.  But I am also not bitter, and so don’t want to just whine all the time.  That’s part of growing up, I guess, being able to be confident and competent in all those things but without it just being a big ole public baby fit.  I don’t know when sassy transforms into forth-telling.

2.)  Mother-in-laws.  That’s hard.  Nathan had it hardest, because he inherited my mom.  Except he was a genius with her, and I so appreciated how well he interacted with her.  He always said it was easier for him because he didn’t have the baggage she carried for everyone else.  I’m so grateful that our final months with my mom were so healing and beautiful, even though moms can just be hard (I wrote about that here once).  I was the lucky one to get Nathan’s mom, who is so very generous and kind, but that got harder when my own mother was killed and I didn’t want her replaced.  We also don’t share the children very well, as it’s my first time to be a mother and Nathan’s mom’s first time to be the grandmother instead of the mother, and so in the last year we have just taken turns instead, which works out way better.  I love that my children have Nathan’s parents for grandparents, and don’t think anyone could love them so well.  Nathan is my favorite person on the entire planet, and if they grew him into the amazing person he is today, then that’s got to be good for my children, right?  When Nathan told me this morning his parents weren’t coming today because what we are good at sharing is all the germs from the children and the colds they get, I was so disappointed to miss out on them.  It seemed funny that on a holiday where it would have been busy trying to make schedules work for everyone, we ended up missing both mother-in-laws – and even me, because I had to work tonight!  My mom would have been such a pill about equal time, and I have to admit I am relieved that has been one battle we haven’t had to endure!  But not being able to write about things doesn’t feel good, or transparent, or real, and so I need practice still at finding respectful but authentic ways to do so because it’s not healthy to just leave it in me.

3.)  Schools.  We really had very high hopes for having all the children in Deaf schools.  It has been so hard!  When a child is adopted, there are such concerns for attachment that in this case sending Mary away to residential Deaf school for an ongoing thing year after year is just not healthy for her.  They also wouldn’t let her journal or read her Book of Mormon, both of which are huge pieces of our faith practice.  The local school was excellent, and one of the reasons we moved to Tulsa, but she was not being challenged academically and the two boys were just lost – literally, neither of them in a classroom all year!  The younger ones had such a positive experience, but we were not allowed to be in the classroom to help because of our faith tradition being in conflict with their version of evangelical Christianity.  The whole mess has been heartbreaking, because we loved the people and the culture and the teachers and the language so much, and it really was so good for our children, except for also being mixed in with Kyrie being hospitalized so many times or on precautions so we all had to stay home anyway.  That’s how we landed back in homeschool by default, except I wouldn’t surrender a moment with them for anything.  It’s so good for us in that way!  Our children also need so many physical and occupational and speech and feeding and sensory therapies, that we can get more approved on our own than we can in the school, so it seems this is our season and it is better for us to just settle with it and be consistent than keep trying other things, at least for now.  This piece and its layers were hard to write about because we felt so wounded, and because it had to do with very personal issues – adoption and our faith tradition – and so we felt protective and didn’t want it to just be name-calling or political, because that’s not it.  It’s our hearts, and these children, and their hearts.  That’s what matters.

4.)  Group homes.  We are moving forward with opening the group homes, and even have the support of a tribe now.  Except because of that support, they might move us to their land to have an entire continuum of care there, instead of having to find properties all over Oklahoma.  I don’t know how that is going to unfold, or if the whole plan will really get licensed, or what is happening next.  I am keeping up best I can, and it is all still happening, but I don’t know the exact shape it will be when it is “finished” – or what that means about where we will live, ultimately.  We do know from a blessing that we will be in the yellow house for a “season of rest and replenishment”, which sounds like a fine thing, before the next round of battles begin.  I am grateful for that, no matter what happens with the group homes.  But not knowing many pieces, except for one at a time, makes it hard to give updates (and makes me anxious as we are down to five months until some alleged doors allegedly open).

5.)  The children.  The older the children get, the more in control they are of what we share as a family or not.  Sometimes they tell me specific things they want me to share, and sometimes there are things they ask me not to share.  We don’t share anything without permission, but what that looks like shifts as they get older.  We have new pre-pre-teens with all kinds of new emotions and developmental things happening, and that just takes extra sensitivity.  We are exploring some fun new ways we can continue the benefits of them expressing themselves and their stories the way they want to share them, but more and more in their own way from their own perspective.  The younger two are just all the sudden not babies anymore, and becoming their own mature people with preferences and requests.  The youngest isn’t a baby anymore, and woke up on her second day a full blown person, apparently, with opinions and demands like never before, so we are just getting to know her!  We also want to continue being sensitive to the biological families, some of whom have the blog and social media info and follow along as one more positive way to stay connected.  At the same time, contact with their biological families is a greater challenge for the younger three because they don’t remember anything before us.  It is so tempting to just pretend we are the only parents, and give in to the adoption illusion and assume none of the rest matters, but none of that is true, and none of that is fair to the children or their families.  So we have to work extra hard to talk about adoption, and foster care, and the biological families, even though it seems so foreign to the younger three… it will make life easier and better later, when it matters.

All of that, in list form, naturally, is what’s in my head on Mother’s Day.

Oh, yeah, and the whole Dead Mom thing.

It’s easier, of course, than it was, but obviously this time of year is harder.  It’s when the accident happened.  It’s when her birthday is.  It’s when Mother’s Day happens.

And, of course, we just moved back to the house I shared with her.  But even that’s been okay, really.  I had one cry on the first day, and that seemed to take care of it for now.  I haven’t even looked up the driver of the jeep in ages, and until now hadn’t thought of him sitting at the Sunday dinner table with his mom, wondering if he is remembering that I don’t get to sit with mine today.

I tell the children stories of her.  They know how she cheated at board games, even her first night of meeting Nathan.  They know the funny things she said, and the funny things she did.  They know which foods were her favorite, and what she did to me when I got in trouble, and which kind of trouble she herself got into as a preschooler.  They know which clothes she made me that they now wear, and they know which winter coat that I wear was hers, and they know that they held her favorite puppy (whom she loved even more than me) who finally passed away to go home to my Mama where she belonged.

My children may be adopted, but I still hear her wit in their voices and see the looks of mischief in their eyes, because I put it there.  Because she put it in me.  Because that’s what we do when we are mothers.  We pass it on.

I want my children to have the generosity of Nathan’s mother, and the humor of my mother, and the kindness of Nathan to balance it all out.  I will give them the boundaries to not be intrusive, or mean, or a pushover with those gifts.  I want them to know how to endure the way I have had to learn, but also to know how to play the way they have taught me.  I want them to have a voice in the world, to learn how to think with their minds and discern with their spirits, to see the invisible, and to serve those everyone else has rejected.

I want them to feel my testimony even more than they hear it.

That’s hard work, though.  It means modeling in every moment.  It means admitting mistakes.  It means asking forgiveness.  It means praying for guidance, for help, for promptings.  It means coming out to do scripture study and prayer time at the table instead of in my closet where it’s easier and more quiet, so they can see it happening.  It means using a quiet voice when I want to scream, but sharing in words when I am overwhelmed, or overstimulated, or frustrated.  It means negotiating one on one time in a crowd, and it means letting them grow up and celebrating their individuality no matter the shape that it takes.

It means spending rare free time making presents for the mothers who brought them into the world, and it means fighting back stinging tears when they run into their arms as if mine have been holding them back.

It means acknowledging their grief at being separated from their families, even while we celebrate the joy we share together.

It means loving them with everything, even when sharing about the babies we have lost.

It means all of it is true: the pain, and the struggle, and the tears, as much as the laughter and songs and snuggles.

I guess being a mother is a lot like being a writer, and maybe over time I will get better at both.

When we wrote Keeping Kyrie, all the material from the book was already out there, but now it’s an actual legit book, whether people like the format or price or structure or story or not.  I learned so much from that, but it was also the very best I had to give and I am okay with that.

Now more books are coming:  our first volume of my Book of Mormon commentary is coming out very soon (ebook only for now), and I am halfway finished with the next book (Making Marriage).

Except also like in parenting, I still make plenty of mistakes – but most of my mistakes are just learning – like when Nathan tells me that my next book is really two books, so which one do we want to publish first?

I don’t know, because I’ve never done this before.

And it’s exhausting.

Like parenting.

But none of it’s failure.

It just… progress.

So we celebrate all of it.

Today, my Deaf daughter sang and voiced and signed when the primary went up to sing for Mother’s Day at the front of the church.  And she smiled.  That’s progress.

Today, my Autistic son was overwhelmed and overstimulated by that same primary program, but he held on to his sister’s hand and made it back to the pew after, only hitting himself in the face five times before taking a deep breath and being okay again.  That’s progress.

Today, my son with Cerebral Palsy hugged me with both arms, which may be huge for a physical accomplishment, but he’s been really angry with his other mom and taking it out on me, so it brought attachment tears to my eyes because I knew it meant something.  That’s progress.

Today, my five year old son who has been the King of Tantrums for five years got mad at his baby sister (who is undoubtedly a brat), initiated a time out on his own, sat on his bed and cried until he was done, self-soothed and calmed himself, and then rejoined the family activity – all without any prompting at all.  That’s progress.

Today, my four year old daughter with attachment issues and selective mutism clung to her brother and made it up on the stage for the primary song, stayed there, actually sang (even though she hid behind her brother), came back to me without any kind of meltdown, and then gave me a high five because she was so proud of herself.   That’s progress.

Today, my two year old daughter who sometimes can’t breathe and often can’t swallow, ate all of her food and every meal and snack for the fourth day in a row – for the first time ever, and has been three days without a feeding tube at all.   That’s progress.

This is what is critical to remember, even on days like today, where maybe it’s Mother’s Day but you have a Dead Mom, or your sweet baby has passed away, or your body is swollen and fatigued from attempts to have a baby, or you have other people’s babies, or you never had a chance at all yet, or your baby is a very old but beautiful furry creature.

Being people of progress matters because now is not the final moment.

Our stories are not over, and there are more chapters to write.  This chapter might not even be the ugliest, which is maybe hard to imagine.  Others will be beautiful and sweet, even if the one before was monstrously scary or sucker-punch sad.

We have a Savior, and the power of that atonement, that helps us become more than who we could be on our own.

And we are worthy of it – we really are – not because of what we have done, but because of who our Father is.

To deny that we are worthy is to deny God, to deny the atonement, to deny the Parents from which we come.

He is our Father and our God.

And that is enough.

Because He is enough.

And so we are enough.

Together, we are making progress, even on days like today, whether you laid in bed and cried, or whether you went to the woods to avoid people, or whether your children made a hilarious music video with you as the star.

It’s progress.