Emma's 5th

Dear Emma,

It's your fifth birthday!  Five years since I first saw your beautiful face. That was such a the great day.

You've done so many fun things in the last year.  You started tumbling, broke your arm trying to do a tuck-jump, and bawled after the final tumbling performance when you didn't get to participate. It was devastating.  You also started reading, and you've picked it up really quickly. Grandma tells me you always have ALL the answers during preschool.

You are becoming my right hand! You've been so helpful with George since he was born. You love to feed him, hold him, play with him, and watch him in the bath for me. You even help change diapers with a little supervision.

This summer was full of fun - trips to Twin Falls, Cedar City, Aspen Grove, and Lehi - lots of time with Dad around. Fall was harder with Dad gone for 3 months. You were a trooper though, and rarely the problem child, when there were problems.

You've had lots of time with Lex in the time since Will started first grade, which has been both good and bad. Lots of time to play, lots of time to fight. You're learning how to push buttons and manipulate others into doing what you want ... oh joy!

You're as strong and feisty as ever.  You DON'T like to be wronged. You can handle yourself with other tricky kids, and we chuckle at your reactions when you get hurt by something. (It usually includes a grunt-scream and a "That's why we shouldn't __________!")

We love your freckles and the cute gap between your front teeth, your singing and dancing and art skills. You are turning into such a beautiful young lady!  We love you!

Love, Mom


the money

Per Slice's repeated requests I've compiled a post about our finances.  More specifically, the things we've done over the last few years to create financial peace in our marriage & home. We've learned a lot about finance and personal habits, human psychology, etc. as we've gone through this process. I'll tell you right up front that the most important thing is communication, communication.  I don't know why people are weird about talking money, but I wish it weren't so. I'd love to change it. Being open about money could eliminate SO many problems in relationships.
Without further ado....

1. The first thing we did was to pay off all our outstanding debt.  At the time, we had a car loan and some credit card balances. Slice was also changing jobs, so we took the retirement $$ he had saved from the previous job* and cashed it out. YES we had to pay taxes on it.  YES it was worth it to pay off every debt (aside from the mortgage).

2. Canceled our credit cards and resolved to pay cash in the future.

3. Refinanced our mortgage.  We were paying on a typical 30-year loan and wanted to put more of our income into the house. The loan rates were great: we refinanced to a 15-year fixed rate. Some people say to just make double payments or an extra payment a year on the 30-year, but I really like seeing that interest amount cut drastically. Just makes you feel better about where your money is going.

4. Emergency Fund. We took Dave Ramsey's advice and gradually stashed away 6 months' expenses. It took many months, especially as we sold & bought a house (draining our savings for a good-sized down payment) and then sold & bought a car. Actually we bought two cars, the second one cost almost $10k; we waited to buy until we could pay cash and still keep some in our fund.

5. Cars. I basically had to let my car pride go.  A car gets you from Point A to Point B, and everything beyond that is just a status symbol. AKA Pride.

6. Winning in the Margins, or "make money everywhere you can." Slice and I have added income via photography, firefighting, trading stock (true story!), music/golf lessons, painting, etc. We rented out our basement several times, to different people. Slice is always looking for ways to make money. I love that about him.

7. Budgeting. We are NOT the best budgeters, I'll say that right now. Basically all we ever did was sit down and say, "Where did our money go last month?"  But even that was better than nothing. We could at least see where it went and what we could do to make it work for US, rather than the other way around.

8. Cut the crap. Oh so much financial trouble could be avoided if we all quit buying things we DON'T NEED. Minimalism for the win! I've never been a product person or an "I need the latest trendy home decor and seasonal clothes" person, and I was raised on a lot of food storage. So, we buy things in bulk - case lot sales, Costco trips - we eat mostly at home, and we don't buy clothes unless we actually need them. I could probably save even more by frequenting yard sales and thrift stores, but I've never set aside the time for that.
In this same category I'd add DON'T watch those "product deal" websites. They may save you a little here and there but I guarantee you're spending more money over time just by following them. I don't even look at Amazon deals anymore, so I'm not tempted to buy things I don't need.

Those are the basics. I doubt anyone has questions or comments for me, but if you do, hit me up! I love talking about this stuff. Obviously.

*Side note: Retirement savings is great!! Put away as much as your company will match! We've cashed ours out twice (which is not the goal) and it has come in very handy.


since u been gone

Parenting solo has given me many opportunities for self-examination. Inventory, if you will. And in that spirit, I give you a list of things I am NOT good at.

Food things. All the food things, I truly hate them. Planning food, shopping for it, bringing it in, putting it away, pulling it out, cooking it, fighting with my children as they refuse to eat it, cleaning it up. If I could just do dishes and no other food stuff, I would be a happy mom.
This is why Slice does real cooking and we're not as well-fed with him gone.

Adulting. Most obnoxious, yet totally fitting, word for all the things I always procrastinate. Making appointments (and keeping them!), getting tires rotated, buying chicken food, replacing lightbulbs, calling babysitters. Calling anyone really. I get by surprisingly well without doing many things that I'm perfectly capable of. Maybe I have low-level anxiety? High-functioning depression? Maybe I'm lazy, or I'm a Type 2/4 who avoids forced interaction with people. Who knows.

Cleaning regularly. I have a printed cleaning schedule hanging in my kitchen that has not been followed ... at all. Since George is done nursing, I'll be better about my household duties, but it's hard to motivate myself when I know it'll be undone in a day. And no one but myself will even see my effort.

Doing anything regularly. (Except naps.) Slice and I have had this conversation about a million times.
Slice: "The kids need to do jobs every day. You shouldn't be doing everything."
Me: ".... but it's easier to just do it myself."
Slice: "And Will has to do his homework every day."
Me: ".... but homework is dumb."
Slice: "Wouldn't your life be easier with a schedule?!"
Me: .........

I'm doing pretty well with laundry though, I'll have you know.


The Drowning

It's been three months since my last post and I'm just now feeling like I'm getting the hang of this single parenting gig. And by "the hang of it," I mean I only had one major breakdown last week (spent an entire day doing nothing) and I dyed my hair purple.

I think of this quote often -
- because it's the closest description I can find to what my life feels like. Barely keeping my head above water. Survival mode so hard that I don't dare add a thing to this mess, in case that's the thing that takes everything else down with it.

All of that to say .... I'm alive, we're alive, and here's a little update for my non-Instagram peeps.

Slice is in Provo at DevMountain, a 12-week coding bootcamp, in school Monday through Friday. He has 4 weeks of class left. He's doing well and enjoying it, mostly. I'm in Roosevelt keeping our small humans alive. The days are long and the nights too short (except when they're long). I'm still teaching piano lessons and we're still doing some photography. When this bootcamp is over, we have no idea what we'll do.

The options seem to be multiplying - which isn't a bad thing, but it's hard. We think we'll have to move out of the Basin and leave it all behind. There's not exactly a huge tech scene between Roosevelt and Vernal.  But we have a house to sell (or not), and lots of questions/feelings/wonderings about what's best for our young family. Also lots of gratitude for everything that has gotten us to this point.

Thanks for sticking around here, whoever you are.


just a late-night rant.

I think I'm finally feeling the panic/weariness/despair that I should have felt four months ago.

Slice is working on a project in Cedar City for a couple weeks, so I'm a single mother to FOUR CHILDREN who are home ALL DAY EVERY DAY thank you summertime. None of them are old enough to be any real help to me, so I basically spend every waking minute feeding, cleaning up after them, or silencing their cries. Forget those planned trips to the library!

In my lower moments I find myself thinking things like, "No one understands! No one else has had four kids in six years, a Type 1 husband and judgmental Type 4 in-laws, adrenal fatigue from an autoimmune disorder, neighbor kids who want to live at their house, plus a yard that grows only weeds, plus [insert nightmare here]!" (Notice I didn't mention Unemployment, that's barely on my stress radar at this point.)

I know that's ridiculous though. Other people have gone through this before, just maybe they didn't see perfect photos of sparkling playrooms and happy children on Instagram all the time. Freaking Internet.

So I'll put myself to bed, and maybe wake up at 3:00 and 6:00 to feed George, and probably force myself out of bed to make breakfast by 8:00. I'll be grateful for my blessings -- not least of which that I've been spared all of this for as long as I have -- because come August 15th, things will be getting much harder.



Six years of motherhood!

My Dear Will,

It's summer, and that means your birthday!  You were confused this year because you knew that "summer" means "school's out," and you got out on May 27th, but your birthday wasn't 'til the next week. We had a few days of arguing over that.

You LOVED going to school this year!You would drop anything if I told you it was time to get ready for school. Your teacher gave out awards to each student at the end of the year, and you got the Snickers Award. Mrs. Guymon said you always had a smile or a snicker - that didn't surprise me at all. You liked everything about school: carpool, field trips, recess, friends, art, music. One day your dad came to talk to the class about being a firefighter, and that was the coolest thing ever.

You are growing like a weed. Truly. We gave you new (Star Wars) pajamas and shoes for Christmas, and they're already too small for you. It startles me sometimes to see how tall you are getting. You're also getting to be a pretty good reader. You improved leaps and bounds over the school year, and now you love to read us the back of the cereal box or the advertisement on the side of the computer screen. We love to listen to you!

The things you love most these days are Legos and Star Wars, and older boys to play with. You've mostly grown out of the Rescue Bots phase, which makes me a little sad. But you do play nicely with Emma, and you've learned how to compromise. We had such a fun trip to Disneyland in Novermber. You still talk about it all the time.

Lots of big things have happened over the last year! You learned to ride a 2-wheeler, you went ice fishing with Uncle Russ, you got your own room for a while, and then you got a baby brother who now shares your room. He adores you (the feeling is mutual). You've been helpful and happy with George, and we just have the perfect little family with 2 boys and 2 girls. We have been so blessed.

You had a hard time adjusting to Dad being home all the time after he lost his job. You didn't like having two adults bossing you around all the time. It's better now, and we've all had more fun with Dad, since you get to run errands and go golfing with him. We're going to miss him when he's gone for three months this fall. After that, who knows what will happen?!

We love you so much Will and can't imagine life without you!



The Life

If I wasn't so obsessive about my writing, I could be churning out blog posts daily - courtesy of blogging apps and my abundance of time spent sitting (nursing).  Heaven knows I'm reading and thinking and feeling and reacting to stuff that's going on, and that I should be writing. But no. My writing style requires too much rewording and rewriting to post anything of substance through a talk-to-text app.  It's old fashioned document drafting for me.

My abundance of sitting (nursing) time is only made possible by Slice's abundance of home time. Friends, I could NOT be doing this 4 kids under 6 thing without him here. I'd be beyond crazy by now. I'm pretty sure this second round of unemployment is a tender mercy of the Lord, wherein He does me a favor after sending me all the babies when I least expected them.

In other words: things are good here. We've been to the zoo and the library and the stores and the movies. Slice has had time for golfing, cooking, coding; I've had time for nursing, napping, even running errands BY MYSELF.  We all need to get on the extended maternity/paternity leave train. It is the best!!
(Or, I highly recommend saving enough $$ that you can quit or not work for a while. Pretty much the same.)

Oil prices are slowly recovering, which is good news for our house. Our new community pool is opening tomorrow! And, my baby George might be the sweetest in all the history of Georges. He is patient with my mysteriously skim milk supply. He consistently sleeps 7 hours at night and gives us radiant smiles all day. He loves his siblings and Adele. We love him so much.


The Reactions

We've gotten a few predictable reactions from people who hear that Slice lost his job. Many express condolences, which is very kind, and many mention job opportunities that they know about.  I don't remember this happening last time - but it seems like people have come out of the woodwork with ideas of things that Slice could do, so we could stay in Roosevelt.

The other most common reaction is surprise.  Surprise that we aren't worried about our financial situation, that we don't want to grab the closest available job, that we're ready to move and try something new. Surprise that I am so happy to have Slice here all the time!

Our reactions to the layoff have evolved over the last several weeks.  First was the shock of being terminated and wondering why, if there was something else Slice could have done to keep his job. The accompanying relief - we don't have to deal with this anymore! And then the buyer's remorse for all the money we spent unnecessarily over the last year. ("If only we hadn't taken the trip to Disneyland! Good thing we didn't buy _________.") I know it's completely irrational and we had no idea what was coming, but I still had those feelings knowing we could have saved more, had we tried even a little.

I've also had this gathering/purging compulsion. I've gone through closets and toy bins, shelves and baskets and drawers, gathering everything that we don't use or need. I want to get rid of it all. I've gathered all our financial information and expenses, laying them out for easy reference, calculating them over and over. I've made to-do lists like my life depends on them. I've made MENUS for the first time ever. It's like nesting on steroids.

One thing I'm determined to avoid is the borderline-obsession with money that's easy to slip into.  I keep thinking of this scripture:


The Options

We have SO MANY options, y'all.

Slice could try to get another job here in the Basin, oilfield or no. He could try to get a job outside the Basin (St George?). He could start classes again at our local USU extension to finish up a degree. He could go to school somewhere else - we've discussed UVU's Fire & Rescue Academy at great length.  I could try to get back in the workforce with my fancy history B.A.
Heck, we could probably buy a local restaurant that's for sale and try to revamp the place. I'm always trying to convince Slice that his heart is in the food business.

Right now we're looking at web development school. This one in Provo offers free housing during the 12-week immersive program. "Free" as in "not extra over the $10k+ that the program already costs."  This option has many pros: short duration, convenient location, jumpstart into a new career in an ever-growing field without years of traditional schooling.  I have nothing against traditional schooling, truly, but we all know the tech world is constantly evolving and moving in different directions.

The coding bootcamp path presents a whole bunch more options. Do we all move to Provo, or do I stay here with the kids while Slice comes home on weekends for 12 weeks? Do we try to sell/rent the house now, or wait until we have a job offer somewhere? And do we look for work in the meantime, or do we keep doing our side jobs and make do?

I'm leaning toward 1. Side jobs for now, 2. Staying here in Roosevelt while Slice studies in Provo and 3. Selling/Moving after he has a job. We just have a lot of opportunities here (and a great network) that I'd like to use as long as we can. The real estate market here is terrible and we might lose money on our house even if we're able to sell it soon. The major downside of this plan is MONEY.  Coding bootcamp is expensive and if we sold, we'd get all the equity in the house that we could live off or put toward something else.

So, what do you think? What would you do if you had the chance to reinvent your life?


The Leap

When Slice was "let go" from the golf course five years ago, a ten year career was effectively ended.  We were in a terrible position: just bought a house, I'd quit my job at the school, we and our 9-month-old baby Will had lived off our meager savings through the winter months. Then our plans were thrown completely off track.  It was devastating, and we tried really hard not to be bitter.

Five months later, Slice got a job with Newfield. It was a good job, a great opportunity. We were grateful. (We learned a lot - and I wrote a little.)

But I never wanted the oilfield to be the end of the road. I've been hoping for something different all along. Oh, the conversations we've had about our future! Our hopes, our ideas, our family, our priorities. Business plans. The merits of various lifestyles.

This time around, as we find ourselves at a crossroads, we have solid ground beneath us. No debt besides our mortgage, 6+ months of expenses saved, equity in our home, food storage, steady side jobs including firefighting and a fairly predictable photography business. We have options!  We don't have to take the first job offer, or even the second! We're in the fortunate position to study it out, make a plan, and execute it. Possibly with contingencies.

Part of that plan is for me to start blogging regularly again. I want to record this time of our life, exciting and scary and daunting as it is. I've felt a sweet peace through all the uncertainty that has convinced me there's a reason for this.  There's a reason we had this happen RIGHT NOW, in this way. We just have to figure out what it is.


The Nudge

Ten days after George was born, my husband lost his job.
I wasn't worried. In fact, I was excited.
(I was also .... right. It's very different.)

Although the layoff was unexpected, it was a long time coming.  If you drive a car, you've seen our amazingly low gas prices. And if you read the news, you should know that the oilfield - and consequently, the rest of the economy - is suffering because of them.
(See here, here, here for local stories, here, here, and here for national news sources.)

Gas prices are tied to global events and complex economics that we have absolutely no control over.  In the last year and a half, thousands of people have lost their jobs. The Basin is seeing something of a mass exodus .... so, while a layoff wasn't inevitable for Slice, it was definitely possible.

A few months before, on a whim, we started looking at other jobs. Utah's economy is booming elsewhere and I've always said I could live in St. George! Okay, I could probably live anywhere. See:

It's more a matter of getting Slice on board. Anyway, we applied to a few random jobs in Washington County, but our search was half-hearted. It wasn't quite right yet.

Then the layoff happened. While I tried to act appropriately sad on Slice's account, I didn't do a great job of it. No more long, unpredictable long hours? No more weekends and holidays on call or working, no more Sundays at church without my husband?*

Plus, extra time with Slice right after I birthed our 4th baby??

Now's our chance!

*I'm well aware that all of these things could (and probably will) happen again. Just let me pretend.


By George!

Well .... it's been over a week of newborn snuggles, sibling adjusting, housekeeping and sleeping every chance I get.  I (might) have a few free minutes here, so it's time to record a birth story.

Slice and I were hoping to have the baby on his birthday, March 13th. My due date was the 11th but Lex was 5 days late, so we thought the 13th would be perfect. I certainly didn't expect to go early.
Also, remember how I always have contractions?  Through my entire pregnancy? And how that makes it hard to determine when I'm actually in labor? Just keep that in mind.

Friday, March 4th, my contractions started getting painful. They weren't frequent, but by nighttime, they were keeping me awake.  I spent the night wondering if it could really be time already.  Saturday I went to a Relief Society meeting and had almost no contractions in almost 2 hours. I figured it had been a false alarm.

That afternoon I made strawberry freezer jam at my mom's, and watched a movie in the evening.  I timed my (increasingly painful!) contractions all day.  When I walked home, around 11:00, they were 10 minutes apart.  I drank water and went to bed, listening to Hypnobabies tracks, hoping to slow them down.  My kids were just getting sick and I didn't want a new baby until they got over whatever illness was setting in.

I was up all night again.  I tried to time contractions, but I'd sleep between them and then forget when the previous one had been.  It was another fitful and exhausting night, and Sunday we woke up to three even sicker kids.

Slice called his mom in Cedar City and asked her to come, although I wasn't sure what was happening with my labor.  I worried that she'd get here and have to wait a few days before I had the baby.  On the other hand, I was still hoping to wait a few days to give us all time to recover.

We stayed home from church and spent the day together.  We basically lounged around the house, giving the kids alternate doses of ibuprofen & tylenol.  My mom, knowing the state of affairs at our house, made dinner for us and brought it over.

By the time Slice's mom came and we had eaten, my contractions were bad enough that I was standing/kneeling/doing whatever I could to get through them.  But STILL they were fairly sporadic.  Slice ran to the store for more children's medicine (we were out), I finished packing my hospital bag and labored wherever I could get some peace and comfort.  I thought we should go to the hospital after we had our family Skype meeting and put the kids to bed.

I sat on the medicine ball through the meeting, kids went to bed, and I came back to the living room to wait for Slice.  By this point I was SO. TIRED. I was curled up on the floor, not caring to move even during the contractions. 
Me to Slice: "I can't do this anymore. I just want some rest. Sleeping pill, anesthesia, I don't care."
He threw our stuff in the car, snapped a horrid photo, and we headed to the hospital.  It was 9:00 p.m.

When we got there, of course we had all the checking in to do.  Front desk registration, long walk back to OB (hard contractions on the way!), questions at the OB nurses' desk. ("Are you having contractions?" "Yes." "How far apart?"  "Well .... 6-7 minutes.") And nurses don't hide their skepticism very well.  They didn't think I was ready to have a baby.

We got into the room, I changed and Slice told the nurse that I go reeeeally fast at the end. I also told her that I wanted some anesthesia, so they started with an IV and some bloodwork for labs first.  Then she checked me and said "You're at an 8!"
Slice and I looked at each other - there would be no time for anesthesia.

The nurse monitored the baby for a bit while I stood through contractions and collapsed on the bed in between.  She left, came back and said the baby's heartrate was low. They put me on oxygen and dripped a bag of fluid through my IV. That kept me pretty much tied to the bed.  
THEN she called the doctor.

(Me to Slice: "She hasn't called the doctor yet??!!" We'd already been at the hospital for 40 minutes.)

Less than 5 minutes later, the doctor walked in. He got the call and, luckily, remembered just how fast my labors go at the end. "Good thing you live so close!" I said.
He checked me and I was at 9cm. We knew there was no time to call the anesthetist, so he broke my water instead. Immediately I had a really hard contraction (still lying on the bed, couldn't really move), and I breathed through it as well as I could. I felt like I'd need to push soon. Still had some cervix left. 

Next contraction, I said "I'm feeling pushy." 
"Let's do another contraction on your side like this." (The Doctor.) 
  ... I wasn't planning on moving anyway.  Too tired. I'd been at it for 48+ hours. They started breaking apart the bed.

Another contraction came quickly, and - I was pushing! There is nothing in the world like that feeling. I had almost no control.  It was a long hard push, and after I screamed (first time ever!) his head was out. They yelled at me to stop pushing, and I tried, but in the split second that they turned his body, the rest of him came right out.

They laid him on my stomach, and he just looked around. I think he was as shocked as I was about everything that had just happened.  The nurse said to me, "You made us earn our keep tonight!" 
The doctor said to Slice, "I better give you the Homebirth course."

It was just after 10:00. Sunday, March 6th. Five days before his due date.  He was only 6 lbs. 12 oz, much smaller than my other babies. Everything about him was a surprise! He really wanted to get here, I guess.  
We were okay with that.


The Waiting

Hey guys.

It's March 2nd, and there's plenty going on here, as I'm sure there is with all of you.  For starters, I look something like this -

 - only bigger, because that was already a couple weeks ago and I JUST DON'T KNOW HOW I CAN KEEP GROWING.  I'm as big (and heavier) than I was full-term with any of my previous babies, and much more uncomfortable, I swear.  Please let that not be a sign of a huge baby boy....or even baby head.

Up until this week I was still teaching history classes and piano lessons multiple days a week. Now that I'm done, I realize just how stressful all of that was.  Good thing I took off a couple weeks early to get all the other things done that I've never gotten to.  Like cooking meals! And cleaning the kitchen cupboards! And taxes! And hanging artwork on the walls in this house that we've lived in for eighteen months!

I'm also sorta-maybe going to do Hypnobabies again with this birth, so I've been trying to practice, but it's not going well. It's a little tricky carving out 45 minutes a day when I am completely uninterrupted.  Imagine that.

We've been sick, and almost better, and sick again, mostly with respiratory issues. I had Strep and a sinus infection myself; Lex had a double ear infection.  Right now Emma's coughing up her little lungs while she tries to take a nap on my bed.  Poor kids!  And I am not the most patient caregiver these days.

Speaking of not being patient ... my pregnant self, you guys. It's just not putting up with anyone's crap. I have little-to-no patience for certain things or people that I can usually cut some slack.  That sounds like I'm having major relationship drama, and I'm not. But I've almost felt bad about my behavior in a situation or two over the last few months. Ha!

Hoping to have (but still not quite comprehending) another tiny human to love in the next two weeks.  Yeah, two weeks.  Less would be nice.


Lex is 2

Dear Lex,

Today is your 3rd and last birthday as my baby.  You, my dear, are my sunshine.  You somehow delight me more every day.  I used to wonder if parents grew immune to the charms of their cutest children ... now I know they don't.

You're growing into such a bright, happy, darling girl.  Everyone loves your gorgeous curls! You are expressive and intelligent - at two years old, you already know more than half the letters in the alphabet. (?!?! I did not teach you those!)

You are such a loving little sister. You're quick to give a hug and an "I'm sorry" if Will or Emma is ever upset. You'll even grab your own blankie to wrap around them to make them feel better. You giggle at everything they think is funny, even if it's a story about the puppy at the park or an old episode of Shaun the Sheep. You love to sing into fake microphones and you're just starting to dance a little, in your silly wiggly way.

You're obsessed with screens. The only thing that makes you really upset is getting a phone or laptop taken away from you. And then, boy, do we hear about it! Maybe you feel like you don't have control over much in your life, and devices give you that control. I don't know.

You've changed so much in the last little bit!  Once you started talking, your personality really shone through.  You've got loads of character! And we love every bit of it.

We all love you so much, Lex.  And your new baby brother will too!

Love, Mom