Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Panic Attack

I just survived my first panic attack and, boy-oh-boy, those are no joke.

1:29 in the morning.  I awoke with a jerk.  I was absolutely dripping with a cold sweat from head to toe.  It was a bit difficult to breathe and I felt dizzy and lightheaded.  I knelt next to my bed (in desperate prayer, as you can imagine) and heard the loudest rushing in my ears.  My eyes swam and my stomach lurched.  I was inexplicably scared of everything.

It lasted for a couple of hours, then it slowly dissipated and I was able to fall into a restless sleep.  When I woke up two hours later, I felt completely normal.  It almost seemed as if I had lived through a crazy nightmare.

I do know the trigger (though I'm not yet ready to divulge the trigger to the world) and I've spoken to my doctor.  She reassured me that it was a panic attack and that I wasn't dying or losing my marbles.  She also said it was completely understandable and will likely happen again.

It was a huge relief, to say the least.  Even if I have another one, at least I can now explain it away and try to reason myself through it.

So how common is this?  Have you ever had a panic attack?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Sad Tale

On Sunday evening, our van wouldn't start.  I'll save you all of the details because who wants to live through the misery of car trouble--especially when it is someone else's stinking story.

So I'll just tell you this:

The timing belt ate our van's engine.

Really, it is okay because the car was on its last legs already.  It was time for a new vehicle for several other reasons as well.  We had already been pre-approved for an auto loan and had begun looking.  But now there is an urgency.  My husband's car only has four seat belts.  It doesn't take many math skills to know that that doesn't work out too well for our family of seven.

Put me in a warehouse full of kitchen hardware or dusty journals and I am in heaven.  Put me in a car lot and . . . . someone give me a gun.

WHO LIKES THIS?  What kind of demented mind enjoys searching the internet endlessly for the perfect fit, the honest dealer and the right price?  Please tell me because I've only been doing it for a couple of days and I want to commit hara kiri.

At least there are only three options for us.

  1. Suburban/Tahoe XL
  2. Expedition/Excursion
  3. 12 Seater Van
That is helpful.  (I like restaurants that only have three things on their menu.  The places with novella menus stress me out.)

If you don't hear from me, send a rescue team to the car lot.  I'm probably huddled in a corner crying and sucking my thumb and certainly incapable of finding help on my own.  Please send me all of your good vibes and happy thoughts.  I'll be needing them!

Sunday, September 23, 2012


I attend my church because I have felt The Holy Ghost testify to me that it is Christ's Church, established for the cause of bringing all of us home to our Heavenly Father.  But one of the things I love about my church is how our lessons are taught.  None of our clergy is paid and every position; from the organist to the Scout Master, every one of us are volunteers.  The teachers in the classroom are regular moms and dads, accountants and mechanics and optometrists.  We don't have (for the most part) degrees in theology and are not trained lecturers.

There is something, though.  Something that each one of us has and that most others in the room do not have.  We have our life experiences, our struggles and successes, our personal search for truth and the quiet moments kneeling at our bedside.  Each one of us has a unique relationship with our Heavenly Father and with our Savior, Jesus Christ.  The scriptures teach us:

"And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.  Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand."  Doctrine and Covenants 88:77-78

In a classroom where the Spirit is welcome, this kind of more perfect instruction is possible.  The teacher may teach it, but it is more likely that we, the students, learn from one another and when done right, by the Holy Ghost himself by speaking to our hearts and minds.

Indeed, sometimes we even teach ourselves!  A clarity of thought, given as a gift of the Spirit, helps us know what to say.

I had just such an experience this week.  In a class where we were talking about family history work and the importance of the promise given to Elijah, as spoken of in the very last verse in the Old Testament:

"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet . . . And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers . . ." Malachi 4:5-6

Anyone who has done any genealogy at all will testify that this promise is coming to pass.  The hearts of the fathers are turned to the children!  There is help from beyond the veil.  Our fathers and mothers are doing everything they can to help us find the dusty book in the corner of the library, the tombstone in the overgrown cemetery, the distant cousin who just happened to check a site where you were posting questions to which she knew the answers.

I know this is already long, but stick with me.

My comment was something like this:

Several years ago, I had an epiphany--and it wasn't a positive epiphany.  I realized that when Lucifer and his followers were banished from Heaven, they came as a group.  We didn't.  We came as we come; one or two at a time, born into families.  And we don't stick around for long.  Satan and his "angels" all came at once and they have been here for a long time.  They have practice and experience and, since these are the last days, they are getting desperate.

It had a dooming effect on me.  We are totally outnumbered!  They are all out there and they are all attacking my family!  We don't have a chance!

And then the lesson came, from my lips, but not from me, if you know what I mean.

Why are the hearts of the fathers turned to the children?  It isn't just for selfish purposes.  It isn't just because they want their temple work completed (though they do want that, too).  It is because they love us!  We are their grandchildren and they are interested in our welfare.  They are doing everything they can to help us.
The hearts of our fathers are turned to us because they want us to be saved!

We are not outnumbered.  There are so many more of us than there are of them.

Suddenly, my heart is turned to my fathers in a whole new way.  Duty is not the reason for searching out our kindred dead.  Now, for me, it is selfish.  My family and I need all the help we can get.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Building with an Architect: Back On!

We first met with our architect, John, back in June.  He and I had been corresponding over email for several months and I already felt comfortable with him.  We had an exciting meeting where I shared every house dream I'd ever had and then told him I wanted him to build it for pennies.  He handled it very professionally.  In other words, he didn't do what I would have done: burst out laughing and recommend buying doll house plans online.

The day after our meeting, he sent us a cost proposal.  There was nothing on there that was a surprise because he'd basically outlined the cost of things to me via email months before.  However, we then had a few financial surprises (car troubles, medical bills, too much McDonald's) and had to put the project on hold.

For a few weeks, we kicked around other options.  Should we add a big library onto the trailer to make it work for another few years?  It would be a cheap alternative and we could pay our student loans down tremendously.  Should we just go buy an already done house?  It would automatically have enough bedrooms and we could move in right away.  The problem is that to be reasonable with money, we would have to move into a neighborhood again.  We both felt that we would rather live in a trailer and get to have our gorgeous land than have a nice house, but a small yard again.  Third option was to replace our current single-wide with a newer, larger double-wide.  If we did that, though, we would probably end up staying in it for a long time to try to recover some of the investment.  The same amount of money that would land us a nice-ish manufactured home could get a mega head start on our house.

The fourth option is to bite the bullet and get moving on building the house.

Every other day we were sure that one of the different options was the perfect solution.  Then we would change our minds and be sure of the next option.

One day last week, I hollered, "I hate this house!" for the fourth time within twenty minutes.  The house is made of cardboard so if you close a bedroom door with a little too much vigor, something breaks.  We are crammed in here like sardines.  I went to the twelve hour sale at my grocery store last week and my kitchen is full--and I didn't buy a truck-load of cereal, either!  The temperature of the house is pretty much the temperature of the outside.  We are grateful for shelter, but enough is enough.  I am ready to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to get my family into a house and since we don't want to forsake our little lot, we need to make the house here.

I contacted John and told him to get drawing!  The thing about a good, quiet man is that they know how to listen!  He wasn't so busy proposing ideas he's wanted to try that he couldn't hear what we want and need in a home.  I can't wait to see what he designs!

At one point, I told my eight year old, pointing at John, "This is the man who will be drawing our house.  Do you have any specific requests?"

"Yes," she said.  "Can you make it out of marshmallows?"

I suppose if I can request the Seven Dwarfs Cottage, she can request marshmallows.  We all have a dream!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Organizing Food

Something happened when we started getting a paycheck and summer was in full bloom.  I think most people call that something, "lazy."  After years of having to be so careful with money, we suddenly had plenty.  And it was hot.  What did we do?  We let someone else cook for us.  I'm not saying I didn't cook at all during the month of August, but I am saying that if it was near a meal time and we were already out, we bought the meal.  My good, working husband also bought lunch every day--and he didn't limit himself to the dollar menu!  We bought ice cream cones.  We bought milk shakes.

Butterfinger Blizzard.  Every time.
It was so unusual and fun.

And expensive.

A big part of our organizing our money was to organize our food.  I made a sacred pact with my husband that if I had lunch foods for him, he would not buy lunch.  I made a similar pact with myself: if it was meal time and we were anywhere near home, we would get home and eat.  We would plan our eating out and not let it rule our food budget.

With my student budget style, I went grocery shopping once per month, with a few extra outings for fresh (WIC) foods.  Other than that, if we had vegetables, it was out of a can or frozen in a plastic bag.  Free fruits from neighbor trees were bottled in season and lasted us all year.  I ONLY bought in-season produce and even then, I had to be careful.  Trying a new recipe was always tricky because if it didn't turn out, I didn't have an alternative meal.

Now, we have decided to keep our budget strict.  It is tight enough that I will have to cook, but it also gives me leniency to try new recipes without it being the end of the world if it doesn't turn out.  I will buy goat cheese and fresh grapes whatever the season!

With a bi-monthly check, I'm going to begin shopping more, but buying less each time.  I'll use the weekly ads and coupons to make a weekly menu, while also slowly building our food storage back up.

This was last week's menu and I have to say, it worked pretty well.  I'll make a few adjustments--Tuesday, for instance, needs to be a packed lunch so "left-overs" won't work on Tuesdays.

Eating from home is a much better option for our health and our pocket book, but it is more than that; it makes me feel like a better mom.  As the kids stand next to me, stealing bits of chopped carrot or grated cheese, stirring the pot and straining pasta, I know they are learning healthy food habits that will effect the rest of their lives.

**Update:  I totally burned our dinner last night.  We went to McDonald's.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Organizing Money

Justin has been receiving actual, full-time employment paychecks for two months now.  Those first paychecks went to filling up the kitchen cabinets and paying off some of our bills so we could breathe.  Then, we bought summer--you know what I mean by that; summer is expensive!  Now that we are into September, we are ready to really take a look at how we are spending those well-earned dollars.

When we first started school, one of our big adjustments was living four to five months on one check (student loan payout).  We divided the check into months, then the months into categories.  X amount for food, X amount for gas and so on.  We had each month's cash in labeled envelopes.  If we spent all of the grocery money for the month on the first day of that month, I had to be VERY creative toward the end of the month.  I never (well almost never) borrowed money from the next month's envelopes because there was no way to recover.  We also never (or almost never) used the credit card because there was no money to pay it back.  We had to be disciplined and crazy frugal.  

Now that we are back to bi-monthly paychecks, we are having another big adjustment.  That is, we're going back to the way we did things seven years ago.  It's weird.

Also, we're changing banks.  We want to re-establish ourselves with the account I've had since I was a teenager, but that means changing all of our automatic withdrawals.  I worked on that a couple of weeks ago.  Some of the changes were super easy and I made them.  Some of them require that I send in a voided check.  Some require a fresh form.  Now, I'm stuck with my foot half in and half out of two bank accounts.  It is confusing!  The added burden of trying to remember which is where is not helping me get my grass watered.  

Today, my job is to do whatever I have to do to fully switch all of our bills to withdraw from one account.

It sounds simple and silly all at once, but is indicative of my crazy disorganization.

In addition to organizing the actual payment procedure, we needed to make some changes to what bills are paid.  For instance, we'll need to buy a new car sooner than later.  We needed to budget in a car savings fund (that will eventually become a car payment).  That way, we can save up as much as possible before our good ol' van finally bites the dust.  We are also starting new health insurance plans that have a large deductible.  First, I have to get a firm number on the monthly premium.  Then, we'll need to fill up that health savings account to prepare for the rainy day.

Justin and I sat down and estimated all of the "new" bills and added them to the list of our existing bills.  We then looked at due dates for those bills and tried to make a plan.  All was going smoothly until we got the printout from the student loan people.

6.8% for the student loans?  At a time when the 15 year mortgage rate is well below 3%, why is our student loan interest rate 6.8%?

My other job for today is to call the government loan people and to go to our credit union and see if they can't beat that interest rate.

I went online to check our credit reports and to find out our credit rating.  I discovered that every semester's student loan is on our credit report as a separate account.  All of those student loans look like a long list of fully maxed out debt accounts.  That can't be good for our credit rating.

I will also be asking to combine all those student loan accounts into one.

After I have firm numbers on some of those things, I will force myself to sit down and make the spread sheet.  It will have two sections; one for each paycheck of the month.  It will be color coded and clean.  It will be so simple to follow that if I died the day after I made it, any ol' stranger would know how to keep up on the bills.

Is that enough for one day?  One other minor goal is that I would like to put my change into rolls and deposit them in the travel account.  I want to go back to Hawaii.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Project Organize Me

My current "filing system" for random paperwork that doesn't exactly have a home.
Also, please notice the thick coating of dust on our wedding picture.
I am falling apart from the outside in.  I think it's usually the other way around, 
but this small-space living is really getting to me.  
MY grass is dead.  Mine.  The gardening lady.  
I have no flower beds and my peedly vegetable garden is already nearly gone because of the frost.  
We only got three cherry tomatoes out of the deal.

What is wrong with me?  I'm not depressed, my husband has a great job, my children are all happy and healthy and I live in the most beautiful place in the universe.
Really, Emily.  What's the deal?

After much introspection, I decided that I need an organizational overhaul.
I'm frustrated by my environment.
I'm not one of those people who are in love with spread sheets.  I know how to use them and I appreciate their beauty when taped to the fridge, but it is not joyful for me to tippity-type them up.  In fact, creating those helpful documents stresses me out.


Over the next few days, you will be subject to the way a naturally unorganized woman goes about organizing her life.  It won't be pretty. It will be raw and you will judge me.
At least I have curves.
And good hair.
And more freckles than you.
Er . . .

You shall discover my plan to organize:

  1. Meals
  2. Finances
  3. Bill Paying and Mail Sorting
  4. Household Chores
  5. Home School
  6. The Closets, Clothes and Shoes
  7. The Award System
  8. My Church Assignments
  9. The Heapa Heapa Must-Keep School Work and Art
It won't all happen at once and I am prepared to fail a bunch, but eventually it has to get better.  
It has to because I'm pretty close the bottom of the barrel right now.

The costume box.  Upon not-so-careful inspection, you will discover that there
are much more than costumes in there.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Silly in the Big, Big Trees

Laughing at Dad--who apparently was making fun of me while I was taking the picture.
It's hard to compete with the Redwoods, but this ancient cedar grove does a pretty good job of it.  Some of the trees were more than 500 years old.  They are super large, but have the added bonus of the gorgeous red, strippy bark and the soft green moss.  It is an enchanted place.

The kids crawled inside one of the dead, burned out trunks.  I stuck my camera inside--that was as close to getting in as this rodent phobic woman could bare.

Crawling out of one of the many little Peter Rabbit houses they found 
"under the root of a very big fir tree."

Best of friends.  She is so patient with his constant dancing!  
I would have been hollering at him to Get a Move On!  
She just waited.

I don't quite know what happened, but somewhere along this short hike through the cedars, the posing began.  

It was like they suddenly couldn't hold still and smile.  As soon as I whipped out the camera, they struck a pose.

There are more . . . so many more.  I'll spare you the brunt.  This one cracks me up because they were supposed to be "gangster."  They dropped their pants a bit and flashed, wait for it, peace signs.  Hahaha!  
Remember that scene in Indiana Jones when the bad guys wanted to find Professor Brody?

Bad Guy He sticks out like a sore thumb. We'll find him. 
Indiana Jones: The hell you will. He's got a two day head start on you, which is more than he needs. Brody's got friends in every town and village from here to the Sudan, he speaks a dozen languages, knows every local custom, he'll blend in, disappear, you'll never see him again. With any luck, he's got the grail already. 
[Cut to middle of fair in the Middle East, Marcus Brody wearing bright suit and white hat, sticking out like sore thumb
Marcus Brody: Uhhh, does anyone here speak English? 

Yeah.  That would be my kids. 
Channeling Marcus Brody.
But, I mean, how stinkin' darling are they?

Here is our young one, carrying an armload full of rocks, the unneeded jacket and interesting sticks. 
Who knows.

At one particularly striking viewpoint, Justin snagged a shot of me in front the amazing backdrop.  We took a normal picture, then, in the spirit of the day . . . 

 . . . a kid inspired pose.

Over and Out,


We will be bringing Isaac back to his ballet academy on Monday and Justin had two days off in the middle of the week.  We decided to go camping, but not at just any campground; we went to the first campground we went to after we were married and revisited every summer until we moved.

This is the site where we usually stayed.  We didn't stay there this time because it doesn't have great water access.  When the kids were little, we liked that inaccessibility.  Now that they are older, we aren't so worried about being close to the water.

 In fact, with the kayaks, it was super nice to be so close to the water!

 These two can bicker to the point that I want to tie them together and make them sing Sisters, but they can also be the best of friends.  I don't think they so much as disagreed during the whole camping trip.

 Patches wouldn't be left out.  Several times he bolted for the middle of the lake, not realizing there was no rest once he reached the kids.

 I'm glad that we have a water dog . . . though I could live without the stink of him when he gets out.

The scenery at this lake is amazing.  The Cabinet Mountain Range jolts into the sky.

What it is about rocks and kids?  Every time we go anywhere, we come home with a haul of rocks.  Here is our 6 year old showing me a rock.  
"Mom!  Take a picture of me with this beautiful rock!"

As you might guess, quiet time when we're with all of our sweethearts, is hard to come by.  Boy were we grateful for the kayaks.  

It is the most peaceful past time.  Fishing doesn't come naturally to this family, but I am tempted to pick it up.  When I'm out on the water in my silent transport, I float over schools of fish, begging to be our dinner.  

Our little van is so stuffed when we go camping that we don't have room for camping chairs.  I stuck two in the boats that sat on top of the van, but the kids had to fend for themselves.  Here is our 8 year old hauling her seat.  She had found a cut up tree quite a ways from our camp and worked and hefted her log all the way to our fire.

One of the tragedies of the camping trip was that I forgot marshmallows!  It is fun to roast marshmallows, but I mostly love what roasting does for conversation.  Oh, well.  We still had a wonderful fireside chat.  

 I am one blessed lady.  What a remarkable thing that we could drive a little way and be in this remarkable spot.  I love being in the outdoors with my family--no phone, computer, housework or other responsibilities. In the woods, the focus is on being together and enjoying nature.  

I am blessed by my quiver full.