To understand where I come from as a mother, one must understand where I came from as a child. I grew up in kind of a rough neighborhood on the south edge of the beautiful community of Springville, UT. I am the youngest of 8 children. My mother was only a few weeks away from 40 and not in the best health and my dad would turn 47 that fall. My dad kindly called me his bonus baby. They had grown up during The Great Depression and adhered to many of the principles they had learned then. Though we were somewhat a lower middle class family, my parents taught their children to work hard and be frugal with money and assets. They lived within their means and expected their children to do the same. I had the rare opportunity to watch my older brothers and sisters raise children the same age as I was, often babysitting those younger. I was able to watch what was and was not working for them and make decisions of what I wanted for my own future family. They are some of my greatest examples.
One of the biggest life changing influences in my life has been The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The gospel of Jesus Christ has allowed me to grow as a person and has been a guide in all that I do especially as a mom. At the age of 21 I had the opportunity to serve a mission for my church. I went to Southern California and worked among the Spanish speaking community there. Upon return, I quickly fell in love with a friend I had met in high school (a story in itself) and we were married in the Jordan River Temple, July 28, 1995.
My husband, Lyn, suggested that we wait a year to begin our family giving him a little more time to get through school and for us to get to know each other better. That first year I worked full-time while he attended school. My paycheck paid the bills and his went into the bank. The following year I was excited to begin our family as I spent my evenings watching him do homework all night. I was a little bored and wanted to move forward. He was scared to death, being the oldest in a family of 2 kids, never having much experience with babies. By that time we were in a bit of a better position to start a family as he had been promoted to an office accounting job which was his field of study. Ty was born in June, 1997, the following year. I was so excited. I quit my job ready to become a full-time mom. Things didn’t go too smoothly. Soon after, my husband learned that there were issues in the company he was working for and was not willing to overlook the dishonest accounting practices he had uncovered. Here we were with a small family, my husband still a student, and no income.
One of the only true arguments my husband and I have had was over if I would go back to work or not. I told him that I didn’t have a child for someone else to raise him. Part of my argument was that if I were to go back to work, most of my paycheck would go toward child care and gas. I wouldn’t be bringing home enough to make it worthwhile. We found our solution by living on our savings and finding an apartment with lower rent. Those lessons taught by my parents came in handy as times were tight. My husband found a part-time job on campus at BYU that helped to cover our bills, and I helped with groceries by cleaning houses for neighbors on the weekends, and babysitting so that I could stay home with my son. It was one of the best things I did.
Lyn graduated with his Bachelors of Finance, December, 1998. Though that year was financially difficult, our marriage was strengthened as we learned to compromise and work together to meet common goals. January, 1999, I ended up needing a hernia surgery. That meant that we needed to put off having another child for at least a few more months. Lyn was vigorously looking for a new job. That blessing came in March. On the very day I was pronounced healed enough to once again lift Ty, BYU called and offered Lyn a job working in the accounting office at the BYU store. He has worked there ever since. I was ready to have another child as Lyn’s parents had practically taken over their first grandchild, and I felt that in some ways I had given up my first born. I wanted a little one just for me. Ethan was born March, 2000.
Never before had I felt such love for my little family. At the same time it was a time of great confusion for me. Here I had these two fantastic children, but how was I supposed to divide my time between them? Everyone from the grandparents, parents, next door neighbor, to perfect strangers had words of unsolicited advice for me. “Pay more attention to Ty because he is older and will remember if you don’t.” “Don’t spoil the baby.” “Love your kids, they grow up so fast.” they would say. I found myself in a place of turmoil as I tried to balance an active 3 year old and the desire to just hold and enjoy MY newborn son. Add to that, Ethan was fussy, prone to ear infections, and didn’t seem to be thriving as much as Ty had as a baby. I felt trapped in a dark place where there was no relief. In the meantime, there were awesome things happening for our family. We were now in a position to move into a new home. Yet, I was expected to be home caring for little ones with nothing of my own time or space to be me.
That fall, I finally asked for some help realizing I was likely dealing with post partum depression. My husband felt terrible when he realized where I was at and was very supportive in helping me get to a better place. After a priesthood blessing from my dad and an understanding with my husband that I needed some me time, I began getting out for a morning walk. The sun began to shine again. Soon after, we became pregnant with our third child. I was eating better, exercising, and finding myself. I also realized that it didn’t matter what other people thought I should do with my kids. They were my responsibility. I hadn’t had them for others to raise so, right or wrong, I needed to do what felt best to me.
Ayndria was born July, 2002. This beautiful little girl was such a delight. I felt enlivened and joyous to explore the difference between little boys and girls in this precious new little life. There was such a difference this time. Life was fun and things were going well in our new home.
When Ayndria was 9 months old, she began having seizures. Ethan, at age 3, was an emaciated waif, and we had our hands full keeping Ty engaged in his first year of school. The first thing we did was to get Ethan into a gastroenterologist. It turned out that he is asthmatic and has a milk allergy. As we worked to change our diet, he began to grow and fill out and as an added bonus, my cholesterol dropped. A success!
Ayndria, though showing a slightly abnormal EEG, grew out of her seizures by the time she was 18 months old. In some ways we figure it was a stress response to not being able to express herself. As she became mobile and was able to talk, things improved and the seizures stopped. It is something we no longer worry about and yet something I ponder in my heart.
Ty’s issues, to some extent, had to do with having a lot of instability in the classroom. His original kindergarten teacher came down with cancer and never made it to class. He had a wonderful substitute teacher the first term, and then a lady who was dealing with her own pregnancy and issues the last ¾ of the year. I made the mistake of unknowingly getting frustrated with her little daughter who was misbehaving in Ethan’s gymnastics class, not realizing who she was and that it would result in retaliation against my older son at school when she became his teacher. The teacher had him labeled as needing remedial help by the end of the year. Not willing to accept the situation, we told Ty that if he would read 100 books by the end of the summer, we would take the family to Lagoon, an amusement park in Northern Utah. I went to the library, found beginning readers and worked with him daily, little by little teaching him how to read and then slowly upping his reading level. We tracked his progress. By the end of the summer the biggest pay off came in him telling me that above going to Lagoon he had learned to love reading. Another blessing we received at this time was the school zoning changed and Ty was able to go to a different school where labels didn’t follow. He started 1st grade needing glasses, which he got, and on grade level with the skills he needed to be successful.
With all this going on, we decided to wait an extra year before adding another child to the mix. It was probably a good thing. Jonathan gave us a little bit of a jolt when he entered life 5 ½ weeks early in February, 2005. The hospital staff was very hesitant to allow him to come home. He needed to learn to eat and hold his body temperature steady. We talked with our children and told them we were in need of their prayers on behalf of their little brother. He was able to meet those goals and allowed to come home on time. Little did we know at the time just what a faith building experience he would provide to our older children. On top of his due date, he came down with RSV and spent 10 days in the pediatric ICU. An average stay with RSV is 3-5 days. We nearly lost him. The doctors told us when all was said and done that his was the worst case they saw that year. He came home tethered to oxygen for the following two months so was nearly 4 months old before he was able to really move. During all this, I felt really rather free. I had an 8 year-old who was an amazing helper, a 5 year-old in kindergarten, and a 3 year-old sweetheart. Really other than summers, I have only had two kids home during the school year at a time if that makes sense. I had gone from needing everything other than the kitchen sink on a changing table in the front room, to a full diaper bag, to sticking an extra diaper in my purse before I headed out the door. I could do this! Here is our family in 2006.
Spencer Seth came a year later in March, 2007. Again, there were complications with him showing up 6 weeks early. He spent 17 days in the NICU and came home past much of what we had dealt with when Jonathan was a baby, thankfully healthy and strong. When I asked the doctor if this was a trend that would continue if we had more children we were told that yes, if we had more children they most likely would continue to come earlier and earlier. After a great deal of prayer we felt we had our hands and hearts full enough and Spencer would complete our family.
Within the next little while we would realize that Jonathan had developmental delays due to his illness. To illustrate this, by the time he was 3 years old, he was on the mental level of an 18 month old child. Intervention was necessary. We enrolled him in a preschool and got him speech therapy. After a year of this he was now 4 and at a 2 year old level. I went to an IEP (individualized education program) meeting at the school and was told by the preschool teacher that Jonathan needed to be enrolled 4 days a week so he could learn how to use scissors. She began yelling at me when I insisted that it was more important that he learn how to talk rather than giving such a young child scissors. I stood my ground, insisting that I would teach him at home while bringing him to the school twice a week for speech therapy. It is amazing how certain people come into our lives at specific times for specific reasons. It just so happened that the principal of the school was our next door neighbor. When I told her how frustrated I was with how I had been treated in the meeting, we began working much better to get the issues Jonathan was facing resolved. As I worked with the speech therapist and Jonathan throughout the following year he improved by leaps and bounds. We got the kindergarten teacher, also my neighbor, to benchmark Jonathan at the end of the school year and get a recommendation for his kindergarten year. Within the previous year he had nearly completely recovered. She suggested that I work with him through the summer and then enroll him in regular kindergarten. Then if he had to repeat nothing was lost, but if he was able, he would be allowed to advance. That summer we worked hard on letters, numbers, and other skills as suggested by the speech therapist and kindergarten teacher with the knowledge that he would have to do better than most of his peers if he was to be looked at as on track. By the time he was retested at the beginning of kindergarten, he was on par with many of his peers and has since continued to advance with his class with no further difficulty.
If there is one thing that I would tell moms from the roof tops, it is to be involved with your children. Dive in and be their best advocate. If you don’t do it there are very few that will. Teach your children the skills they will need to be independent and strong. Each child has been through the tradition of reading 100 books at the end of their kindergarten year. It has given them a great foundation for their schooling. They do chores that teach life skills. We are constantly talking about the need for a good education, and celebrate each term and success.
As our children have continued to grow, we have faced various challenges knowing in Whom we can put our trust for the best answers possible. Each child is different and unique. Ty has become a very big personality who is social, happy, and outgoing. He is currently, as of this writing in 2016, on an LDS mission in Barcelona, Spain, where he is having good success. Ethan is studious, crafty in that he can envision and build anything out of whatever material is handy. He is an amazing musician, and recently has taken up a penchant for drama. Ty did drama as well. Here they are 3 years apart and it took clear until the end of Ethan’s sophomore year for mutual friends to realize they are brothers. Ayndria is 14. She is quiet, loves to read and write and may well be a famous author before she is out of college. She is a peacemaker, and generous, and such a dear sweetheart in my eyes. Jonathan is in 6th grade this year. He is one of the truly popular kids in his class. We walk down the street and are recognized as Jon’s mom or dad or sibling. He is on his way to being an entrepreneur as he is always trying to figure out a new business to start when he is older. Spencer tends to be a bit of a serious young man. He loves structure and schedules, and video games, and pulling faces in pictures. Though he was my smallest child, he is within an inch of the same height as Jonathan 2 years his senior. We are often asked if they are twins, which I have to say is better than the question I used to get, asking whether all my kids have the same father.
I have learned you don’t ask about pregnancy (I used to tell people who asked if I was pregnant that I was due in a little over 10 months. Often they didn’t get it), or if people have kids unless they have hinted about it themselves. Children wield some of the greatest power to either hurt or bless a woman’s life. Too many people carry unseen sorrows in their hearts when it comes to their experiences so it is best to tread carefully. My advice to mothers would be to be invested in your children; teach them, advocate for them. You brought them here to Earth. Don’t be responsible for other people’s mistakes in raising them. Take the teaching moments when and where they come. Be willing to sacrifice and if at all possible stay at home with them. There is joy in motherhood. You have the greatest potential for changing the world one child at a time. The ladies that told me children grow up fast were not kidding. Here I am all these years later realizing just how true that is and am now saying it myself. Know that there is life after kids. I am a student at BYU working towards a long desired degree in teaching. I am continually learning how much once again my church means to me. Much of the training I am receiving in school I can relate to what I have already learned by teaching in primary and in other church callings. I see the Lord’s hand and His miracles all around me and you can too if you stop and look.