It is a little close to torture to go to the outlets (to return something for someone else) and window shop. It is torture 1. to be with a toddler and attempt pausing a few seconds to look at something of interest 2. to be with a toddler in a stroller with non-automatic doors 3. because even if you have some money now, you may not have it later, so you have to delay the gratification of a few sweaters no matter how much I justify needing a new wardrobe for UT winters. 4. If you're going to justify anything, it is going to be clothes for your children to stay warm. Children first, right?

It was distracting for a time, but sometimes I can't get away from my situation. Until I learn that someone else is struggling way worse than me, but in reality I just feel more guilty for not feeling anymore grateful for my own struggles. The distractions are mere moments, in my mind. They push me along, but technically I might as well still be drowning. Hyperbolizing of course. Don't freak out Mr Smith. Pity is the last thing I need. Support? Yes. A desire to laugh through the pain? Yes. And that is why you never lose your friendships, your sense of humor or your love for nature.

You can also go back to your favorite Taylor Swift song and other distractions from the last two months: 



Blank Space

Just bought it. on repeat. Some may judge. Some may join in on the dance party in the car.


Lasting Relationships: Kindness & Generosity

I wrote this quote in my scriptures by Mosiah 2:17 from Elder Robert Whetten of the Seventy:
"Every unselfish act of kindness and service increases your spirituality. God would use you to bless others. Your continued spiritual growth and eternal progress are very much wrapped up in your relationships--in how you treat others. Do you indeed love others and become a blessing in their lives? Isn't the measure of the level of your conversion how you treat others? The person who does only those things in the Church that concern himself alone will never reach the goal of perfection. Service to others is what the gospel and exalted life are all about."
I posted a link to an article on Facebook this past week. Every word made sense to me. And not just about marriage, but all relationships we experience in this life.  "Of all the people who get married, only three in ten remain in a healthy, happy marriage" That isn't saying 7 end in divorce, but to me, you might as well be if you're unhappy and stagnant in your marriage. I am the type of person who believes in growth and improvement. I believe in being refined (not that I'm great at it). I believe a happy marriage is essential for a happy home.

"I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort. I am not asking that all criticism be silenced. Growth comes of correction. Strength comes of repentance. Wise is the man who can acknowledge mistakes pointed out by others and change his course."
- Gordon B Hinkley
So how do we keep it up? I have voiced my concerns on more than one occasion of the complacency that can happen within the first few years of marriage and especially when little ruggrats take control of our time and energy. Life happens and we are asked to deal with things that test our reactions. I can see the effort on both our sides diminish and I find myself standing here slightly deflated. I don't want to see the end to realize what I could have done differently. We are creatures of habit so once the snowball starts you have to buck down deep and perhaps even knock down a few walls before you can start the climb back up. 
"Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife — a sign of interest or support — hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird. The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband, as Gottman puts it."
"Much of it comes down to the spirit couples bring to the relationship. Do they bring kindness and generosity; or contempt, criticism, and hostility?" … “There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained in an interview, “which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”
"People who give their partner the cold shoulder — deliberately ignoring the partner or responding minimally — damage the relationship by making their partner feel worthless and invisible, as if they’re not there, not valued. And people who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them not only kill the love in the relationship, but they also kill their partner's ability to fight off viruses and cancers. Being mean is the death knell of relationships. Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from theirs has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved.You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don’t. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle.
Tell me I'm wrong, but I tend to think women, or those who are more feeling centered, recognize the snowball forming first.  At least I need emotional and spiritual support and ask for it before Mr Smith does or ever will. It isn't needy. It isn't weakness. Christ was the only one who could shoulder everything. And I feel like He has told us the best way to carry our stresses, and worries, and heartache, is to "bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2 "…and are willing to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light; Yea and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; comfort those that stand in need of comfort…" Mosiah 18: 8-9

We are not relieved of our burdens for they are to refine us. They are to sculpt us into perfected beings, for how else can we truly have charity? We would no not how to love otherwise. But we were not meant to do it alone.
“If your partner expresses a need,” explained Julie Gottman, “and you are tired, stressed, or distracted, then the generous spirit comes in when a partner makes a bid, and you still turn toward your partner.” “Disasters will say things differently in a fight. Disasters will say ‘You’re late. What’s wrong with you? You’re just like your mom.’ Masters will say ‘I feel bad for picking on you about your lateness, and I know it’s not your fault, but it’s really annoying that you’re late again.’” 
I will spend my life learning patience and selflessness, but we all will. We make life harder for others when we are the constant takers of kindness and generosity. It is hard when you feel like you are giving and never receiving. That's not God's plan. So to those who feel down because there is no shoulder to lean on, my heart goes out to you. Unfortunately, you are not alone and Christ has carried one too many lonely hearts. We can do better to reach out and uplift. We can do better to pay it forward and not look back. We can do better to ask Christ for strength to keep trying.


18 Months

I think her hair has grown the most of anything. She didn't get any taller! Which is hard to believe since all of a sudden she can reach things off tables and in cabinets I once figured were out of reach. She is only a pound heavier. 
Stats: 32 inches, 24 pounds. 12 teeth (so one new molar?)

We don't really get out much since she is still on two naps, gas is money and maybe we're lazy? I promise one day I'll have fun UT pictures that make it the bestest place on earth to live, but for now, I'm just not really feeling it. Or maybe I'm being selfish and keeping the mountains to myself.

So more about Alexis Jane at 18 months. . .

Behaviorally, I'd say she is happy, easy going, tough, playful and into everything. I'd say helpful, but she oftentimes causes the mess in the first place. However, usually she will listen when I ask her to pick something up or throw something away. You can tell she likes the idea of helping and being involved. She is pretty independent when it comes to entertaining herself and meeting new friends. We've already discussed that not all of her new friends appreciate her back (except apparently there aren't any issues in nursery so far!) She LOVES testing limits and is well aware of her unauthorized actions as she runs off with something she shouldn't have. She goes into a room where she isn't allowed and closes the door so you don't know she is in there. Tricky monster! AND she is a climber, thanks dad. Little tantrums occur when you tell her no or take something away (typically near nap time); usually I can convince her to give it up with a good ole fashion "please"unless of course she wants the chase.

Verbally, she is a lot more willing to attempt words. She enjoys singing and dancing, especially with her cousin's influence, but we aren't singing words yet.  She says a lot of words though when she wants something. Some new ones are apple, fish, down, up, outside, stop, dog, please & thank you. She thinks if she says please, even repeatedly, that she can get whatever she wants. Words I didn't want her to know are juice & candy. She also says Amen, Jesus & boo. She loves saying bye bye and waving hello. We are working with names because her cousin has them down pat! Lexi calls Maren "Mar", Abigail "Abi". We ask her questions now like "do you want to go to bed (or any form of night night) or did you go poo-poo?" and she typically answers no. Sometimes it's quickly repeated over and over in a cute convincing fashion. When you guess what she wants correctly, she laughs. She counts to two. But she'll say three if you ask her to.

Sleep - 2 naps & sleeps through the night 830PM-8AM

Favorite Food - any fruit (although she requests apples), beans, goldfish & fruit snacks

Favorite Toys - chapstick, baby doll, push toys, blocks & things with buttons (books don't last long anymore)

Favorite Things To Do: run around outside: chase after balls, dogs & sticks or be in the stroller. Swing at the park. Get into drawers. Play hide and seek with my scarves and grandma's dry clean only curtains. Tackle. Be chased. Turn on & off the lights.

Her attitude comes out every now and again, and we tell her to get over it, but really she is just so darn cute and it's fun being the mother of a hair twirler, cuddler & dare devil.


3 Years of True Love

Yes, three years still sounds like nothing, but at the same time it definitely feels like I remember every day of those three years - sort of like when I remembered every day of Lexi's first year (not because it's bad, just because a whole lot has happened and I feel like a new women because of it, although most likely I haven't changed much). I'm a nostalgic person when it comes to photos - the memories - places, people, things that were said and done (I'm not super sentimental when it comes to physical things).

Our one year anniversary was spent newly pregnant. I was crawling out of a nauseous, coma inducing black hole. Well, it wasn't that bad, but it was the anniversary before the minion. We recently moved to Winston-Salem, NC where Mr Smith started his fellowship. I recently started a new job, the job that would allow us to have 2 incomes for 9 months. It was such a blessing. We were ready for a family if it was part of God's plan, but I wasn't 100% about anything and I just knew it made working extremely difficult in those dark days. But alas, in one year, we moved to a different state, both started new jobs, and we recently found out we were going to be parents. I feel like I handled all the change well, but things were simply falling into place. We spent a lovely dinner together at Olive Garden on a gift card without too many life daunting concerns. So although not super romantic, I feel like we were that couple in the clouds who hadn't quite reached reality of what tough love is, which is illustrated here:

"It's amazing to have that person you can tell everything to. If I could bring anything on my island, it would be Mr Smith. I want you everywhere I go, lover. No adventure is the same without you."

Our two year anniversary was spent as new parents. Holy crap life turned upside down, but mostly just for me.  We were both sleep deprived, but again we were starting to find our feet again. We were thrilled to be parents of the cutest baby on the planet. We thought everything about her was perfect. She did become most of what we talked about. In this year, we had a baby, moved again - to Hickory, NC - Mr Smith started a new job (and essentially career path) and I was trying to find my place as a mother. More significant changes, but at this point we are decent movers. We weren't in a permanent home, but it was nice accommodations. I was apprehensive about the move and I was definitely vocal about my concerns.  So we both tested our marriage and woke up a little from the cloud coma. However, we were both accustomed to change and we still enjoyed being on our own and handling life as it happened. We lived two hours from my mother, so she came to babysit while we went out for Thai. I still love and find so much truth in what I said about Mr Smith a year ago:

"He really does make me excited for the future & protected from this crazy world. He is my best friend & that person I can always fall towards. I can't thank him enough for catching me every day & for being a wonderful father to Alexis."

Now looking back on this past year, we managed to move again, this time across the country (so a little more intense) and not all the stars were aligned or dots connected. So now we are in a high stress situation and are relying a lot on faith and each other for emotional support. I wanted to be pregnant, but this time it didn't come quickly for many reasons I assume. I pictured ourselves differently at year three and Mr Smith will tell you that expectations can lead to your emotional downfall, which is true. I know this life is all about preparation and we are definitely willing to accept that fact. I appreciated someone who spoke in church and stated how a good life is lived uphill, and that empowers me.

I'm not sure what we'll do today since the family is recovering from the stomach bug. It honestly doesn't matter to me; I still just enjoy being with him where ever we go, even if we are bickering. So maybe I am still in the clouds because I never like for him to be too far.  I have begun to realize that you have to work hard for a happy marriage because we do take each other for granted. Sometimes I still want to know if he is happy that he picked me. I guess I worry I have changed in ways that aren't always my better self, so it's a comfort to still have those moments of falling in love all over again. It came so easy when we were dating, but as life throws more things our way, I realize what they meant when they said true love means work. You can't just watch HGTV forever. And I hate to mention this, Amy knows it's true, but we lied when we said we loved giving back massages. That was before the joint pain. It's hard to be selfless. And it's hard to give up control.

True love comes from a devotion to God; and in return he blesses us with a glimpse into His view. Nothing beats the warm embrace of a husband who, in a small and simple way, can take away your pain or your toddler who laughs at the simple things. But maybe at 6 years I'll feel like I know a little more and be a little better. But for year number 4, I say this:

Mr Smith is mine forever and always, and for better or worse, we will live the highs and the lows hand in hand, foot in mouth. To this day he is still my rock of support, wisdom and spiritual strength. I love him for being my knight. He's the only one I believe when he tells me "it'll all be okay." 


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