Thursday, May 30, 2013

Today I'm Thankful For... kids. There really isn't any greater joy than watching your babies, babies of all ages, loving each other and playing together. It seriously cannot get any better than this.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Because Weddings Mean More to Me Than My Personal Playtime

The faux leather tiny red mini-sectional was packed. 2 of my daughter's friends sat there with the soon to be mother-in-law (who is also my friend, Shannon) next to me, my cute husband, the ever supportive dad, parked on an ottoman that matched the couch just to the side of all of us. We all waited, surrounded by mirrors pointing in every angle. To the right and left of us and even creeping up behind us, we were engulfed in all shades of white taffeta, tulle, satin and lace.

"Now which one is this?" we'd call out, watching her little feet under the curtain. Bare and nervous, pulling on dress after dress. "It's the one I REALLY want" she'd say before walking out to walk the little runway laid out in front of us.

A little platform of carpet in front of us was her stage and one by one she'd model the dress she had picked out. We'd oooh and ahhh and I'd snap photos and tell her what I loved about each one. "Oh the sweetheart neckline of this one!  It is so flattering!" or "Oh Kenzie, the tea length one in satin, it's got pockets!  You LOVE pockets!"

One by one she'd come out feeling like Cinderella before the ball, the fairy godmother in her changing room helping her to fit each dress to her body.

Finally, she came out in The One.

We knew it was the one by the look on her face the second she stepped out of the dressing room. For each of the other dresses, she'd look at us like "is it pretty? Is it ok?" but this one...she gave us a look that said "This one makes me feel like a bride..."

She had previously sauntered slowly up to the platform, taking meek steps, walking up to the mirrors and turning to the right and left, looking slowly up and down as we all took pictures with our phones. With this dress, she DANCED out of that room. She leaped up on that platform, turned to the side, spun around and then turned to us and said "What do you think?  Mom, look at this one!"

We knew before she even said a word that this was the dress. She went into the store wanting a very specific thing.  All lace, floor length, high waist. What we found for her was almost 100% the opposite. Minimal lace, tons of bling, a huge tea length tulle skirt with layers and layers of incredible femininity.

If you know Kenzie, you'll know that she's always been kind of a tomboy. She's played hard with the boys outside her whole life. When I imagined her in a wedding dress, I did NOT imagine her in a cloud of girly-ness but what we saw that day is that she looks perfect in exactly that. She looked stunning. It was incredible.

Today we went and bought the dress. The dress didn't look complete without a big  embellished sequined sash and we had to get that, too. And while we were there, she tried on a veil and whaddya needed a veil even though she didn't think she wanted one!

I'll tell you what, guys. Weddings are no joke. They're expensive, they're personal, they're a big deal and there's one more thing about them that we've realized. They are something you do for your kids because you love them. We may not have tens of thousands of dollars to pay for this wedding but we're going to make it happen. We're working doubly hard, both of us taking extra jobs to make sure this happens but like she said today on the way home, she knew from the day she got engaged that we would make this happen for her.

And that makes all of this worth every single stressful moment.  My kids are worth everything we do for them. Including both of us working to pay for something like this. While other people in her family coolly live their lives as if the kids were their "buddies" who they can go to lunch with occasionally, we work our butts of to make sure these kids will have an amazing wedding. They only get married for the first time (and hopefully for the rest of their lives) once and we are making this the best wedding she could ever want. 

It's only a couple months away and we can't wait to show you all of the details. More to come...

Thursday, May 2, 2013

On Self Loathing and Self Loving

I always knew I was different, I mean, that my body was different than what I wanted it to be. I remember being a little girl on the beach in Corona del Mar, California and wearing a little shirt that exposed my tiny little brown midriff. I still have the picture.

I recall thinking "am I always going to be fat?" even then. It makes me sad to think about that tiny little blonde baby feeling so sad about her body already. Where did this issue with body image come from? How did I think that I was fat back then???

I am now pregnant with my 8th baby. My body is still strong enough to carry this miracle but I wake up every day and look in the mirror and the first thing I do is to glance at my body in disgust. It's something I need to rid my brain of. It's unhealthy.

Thing is, when I'm alone with someone I love, I'm the most confident person alive. If I feel loved and beautiful, especially if the person has told me that they think of me that way, I'm like a superstar, ready to bare it all and give everything I have. It's a good thing and a bad thing.

Good in the way that I'm confident and open and that I feel sexy and beautiful and that's not a bad thing, right?

Bad in the way that I find myself crashing afterward because it's brain says stuff like "that was so dumb. Why did you show your stomach to him?"

Body image.

Self loathing.

Self loving.

Confidence and the lack thereof afterward.

Isn't this what most women go through?  Tell me I'm not alone here...

But for now, I really do feel pretty. I feel better now at age 40 than I ever have. Is that old age fooling me?  Am I just more comfortable in my own skin?

Today I feel pretty, tomorrow I'll avoid my own image in the mirror.  Ah, the life of a woman...

Monday, April 29, 2013

Long But You Guys, This Is Seriously So Groundbreaking For Me...

Driving through the desert, it's endless expanse of pastels and light, I find myself in the deepest trenches of thought a person can find themselves in. The lack of thick greenery and buildings lends itself to the automatic self inquisition I'm so often prone to get trapped in. Thankfully, I know this desert like I know my own skin. Each turn and straight leg of the trip is like an old friend, a neighbor you wave to when you see them yet you don't really even take notice of them because of the familiarity of their face.

The desert. It can do two things to me, depending on which direction I'm traveling. If I'm not headed toward the Pacific Ocean, what it does to me is not good. It's unhealthy. It's toxic. It's like the long walk down death row toward an electric chair. Too graphic and dramatic? Um...have you  met me?

Guys, if you don't already know me "Hi, I'm Allison. I'm super dramatic.". That sums it up pretty well, don't you think?

So here's the thing. Last night we were headed back from a little work vacation in Las Vegas and as we got on Interstate 15 headed toward Utah I felt it kick in. The dread and sadness I get so often when I am headed in that direction.  I went silent in the car, Mike knew to turn up the tunes and to keep to himself because these are the times he's used to. He's seen this a million times and he knows how this goes.

We live in Utah. When we moved here we were inspired to do so and we always knew it would only be for a few years. It's now been 5. This was never supposed to happen.  We moved here to be close to my sister and her family and to get a fresh start, yet we weren't prepared for what it would do to me.

Within 8 months of living here I was receiving treatments at the Huntsman Cancer Center in Salt Lake City for acute anemia. Guys I literally was almost dead. I couldn't process iron which is apparently required for life. The next thing to happen was my fibromyalgia. I'd had it for years and years but the second we got here it seemed to intensify by about a billion times.

So that's where we are. I'm in pain literally all the time, trying to mother all of these kids and be a wife and work and function and guess's not working. It's just not.

So when I go to California I feel like a million bucks. I keep telling myself it's because I'm selfish and I just like living by the beach and to suck it up and that it's in my head. See, when I'm there, and I'm not kidding, I am...


Zero. Nada. I have to take no medication at all. Here?  Well let's just remind everyone that last April I had seizures for a month because of the medication I was put on by doctors trying to quell my symptoms here in Utah.

So here's the thing, I have been telling myself it's in my head. I keep saying "There is no way this is real, you're making this up, you just like the beach" because really, who doesn't like the beach? And if you don't, well I don't even think we should be friends. Truth.

So I got home last night at 2 am, woke up this morning and felt like I'd been hit by a freakin' mack truck. Like, SLAMMED. Couldn't walk to the bathroom. Climbing stairs felt like I was walking on hot pokers. It was ridiculous.

I called my doctor. He said for me to log onto their website and do a bit of research. See, Fibromyalgia is still something they're learning about daily. I've been diagnosed for 14 years now and what they knew then is different than what they know now.

So I get online and seriously, within seconds I find this:

What Weather Factors Affect Fibromyalgia Sufferers?
There are five major weather factors that appear to affect fibromyalgia symptoms. These include:

  • Temperature: Rapid changes in temperature can sometimes trigger a fibromyalgia flare or help to ease fibromyalgia pain. Cold weather tends to make fibromyalgia symptoms worse, while warmer weather tends to ease those troublesome symptoms.
  • Barometric Pressure: Barometric pressure is a measurement of the weight that is exerted by the air all around us. On beautiful sunny days, barometric pressure tends to be quite high, but during a storm or similar weather front, barometric pressure drops suddenly. Fibromyalgia sufferers often find that these changes in barometric pressure can trigger muscle aches and pains.
  • Humidity: Absolute humidity is a measurement of the amount of water vapor present in each unit of air. When absolute humidity is low, fibromyalgia sufferers often report headaches, stiffness, and flares in widespread pain.
  • Precipitation: Precipitation is the term used to refer to any type of water that falls to the ground from the sky, including rain, sleet, snow, or hail. Precipitation is often accompanied by a change in barometric pressure, and therefore may exacerbate your symptoms of pain and fatigue.
  • Wind: Whether it’s a light wind or a gale-force wind, wind generally causes a decrease in barometric pressure. This means that wind can trigger fatigue, headaches, and muscle aches in fibromyalgia sufferers.

So back to the whole point of this. I live in the Utah desert. There are trees up here but it's DRY. It's cold. It's got almost zero humidity. It's windy. It's stormy.

Basically, it's toxic for Fibromyalgia sufferers.

Can I tell you that I'm typing through tears right now telling you that I am so relieved that I'm not crazy? Utah is toxic for me. I can't live here anymore you guys.

I just can't.

Now if we could just find Mike an amazing job like the one he LOOOOOOOOOOVES here in Utah down in California, I would move today. Like, no joke pack up whatever clothes we needed, put the beds and couches in a truck and go. Dump everything else and just go.

I need to not hurt you guys. We get one life...and I'm wasting mine by being in pain because I live where it hurts.

Help. I need help.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Swimming in Chocolate Piggy Cake

I've seen photos of this cake floating around Pinterest and Facebook for the last few weeks and finally, after some CRAZY searching I found a girl from the Netherlands who originally made this cake and someone translated her recipe!

Here ya go. Because seriously though, this is so cute it makes me wanna die. I'm so making this for myself for my 40th birthday party. Alone. To eat in my bedroom with a big spoon. Did I mention alone?  Ok fine, Mike can come.

Swimming In Chocolate Piggy cake

You will need
A 20cm sponge cake
2x 200 g milk chocolate bars
250ml of cream
Filling of choice for your pie. Layer of jam/ tinned cherries or such, and a layer of creme patisserie , cream or butter icing
3x five packet kitkats
1 packet of light pink marzipan. ( I'm thinking you'll have to use almond paste and food colouring for this or maybe get creative with some pink marshmallows? )
Big knife
Tooth pick or skewer
Flat plate or board to put your cake on

Start by making your pigs. Do your own thing as there are no instructions for this.
Put your cream in a pan over low heat
Keep stirring until it just starts to boil. In between break the chocolate bars in pieces.
When the cream is almost boiling take it from the heat and gradually add chocolate. Keep stirring until you have a nice smooth mass and then leave to cool stirring every now and again.
Cut your sponge in half and put your fillings of choice in.
Put your cake , at this stage, on a lazy Susan or something else easy enough to rotate . The sides are going to be covered with your chocolate and you don't want your serving plate/board to get messy.
Break your kitkats in two and have them ready.
If your chocolate sauce has cooled at thickened to a custard consistency you can start smearing it on the sides of your cake. Use a spatula or the back if a knife to do this. Once you've smeared it all around you can stick your kitkats on. This can be a bit tricky so place them on a slight angle against the cake. When you have gone right around quickly tie your ribbon around the cake. This will pull the kitkats up straight against your cake.
When the left over chocolate sauce is only just fluid pour it over the top of the cake. MAKE SURE IT IS NOT TOO THIN WHEN YOU DO THIS OR IT WILL SEEP BETWEEN THE KITKATS.
Before it totally sets place your little piggies on the chocolate
Place in the fridge to set.
After an hour or so you can place the cake gently on your serving plate.
Eet smakelijk. Bon appetit . 

Monday, March 4, 2013

...and They Are Mine

When I get stressed out I have a tendency to worry myself sick about the smallest things to an unhealthy level. I've learned over the years through some very personal work I've done with myself along with the help of my sweet and patient husband, how to in a sense "talk myself down".  Gratitude has played a huge part in this.

I start by saying to myself in my head "can I change this?" And if the answer is "yes", then I ask myself "Can I change this RIGHT NOW?" Usually my most stress filled moments are in the tiny, quiet and dark hours of the morning. 2 am lately, this seems to be the most common time.  If the answer is "no"...(which it ALWAYS is), I can emotionally feel myself come down from the ladder I'm standing on that feels like it's teetering on the edge of a rocky cliff.

The next thing I do is to count my blessings. I've seen so many stories in the last few years that make me appreciate exactly what I have. Appreciate them in a HUGE way. Stories about families who have lost their homes in hurricanes, people who have suffered all kinds of accidents and fires, and stories like the one about sweet Mitchell who just passed away this last weekend. These are the things that make me grateful for my life, laundry and teenage bathroom messes and all.

I sometimes feel inadequate to mother all seven of my children. Can I love them all the same?  Can I love them all enough?  And the answer comes to me simply, quietly in whispers of their hugs, when I lay in bed with my teenage sons tangled in the blankets at my feet watching movies with us. Times when I feel like I'm not getting it all done for them. Like when my 3 year old, with the hints of last weekend's adventures with gumball machine tattoos still on her arms, quietly plays on my bed near my feet,  happily imagining a charmed life with her little Disney castle and all of the princesses she's collected. I look around then and the first thing for me to do is to critique the situation, mostly with a shaded eye. "Why is Lola undressed?  Why did she take her clothes off again to play?  Why has she pulled her hair out of the ponytails I put in just this morning?  What would the neighbors say if they saw this?"

But then I force myself to do what I do so often, I take a picture. I snap a quick shot of whatever I'm worried about, and then I look at it on the screen with new eyes. What does this say about me?  What does this say about the quality of my children's lives?

And always, every single time, it says that my kids are happy, they are loved, they are warm, they are smart, they are well, they are fed, they are rested, they are loving, they feel loved, and they are mine...

Our journeys will always seem hard, that's the beauty of life. There will be struggle, that's how this journey is designed. But like Sigmund Freud said:

"One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful..."