Sunday, January 3, 2016

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!  The holiday season in the McCollum house was a quiet one this year.  It was our first Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years in Ohio where we were far from family.  What it brought us was some great time to bond and reflect on all that we have and all that we are truly thankful for.  This past year was full of change and adventure that we had not anticipated. 

We started talking about possibly moving to move to Ohio in February last year then officially made the decision in March and moved the end of May.  Saying goodbye to family and friends that feel like family was super difficult for all of us.  The reality of the move settled in when we realized that this house is pretty quiet without all of our friends coming and going constantly, and we miss that.  The girls have mastered the art of long distance friendships and still talk to their Kansas friends every day while they have also made some new ones in Ohio. 

Charley and I have settled into being parents of 3 youth that are now more independent than ever before since Nikki started driving them everywhere.  She has been wonderful at picking up her sisters after school and getting them to where they need to be, grocery shopping on her way home from her college classes, and even cooks dinner a lot.  The real bonus was that she also took her sisters Christmas shopping without us so they were able to buy presents that we didn’t see first.  It was so great to see the sweet and thoughtful things that they selected on Christmas morning.  My favorite was the solid bright pink tie that Sierra bought for Charley because it is her favorite color.  He wore it to church today because he is awesome at being a dad.

Over the past 2 weeks with the girls home from school and Charley and I having some extra days at home with them, we have all come to realize that while this move was incredibly hard and has changed our normal drastically, it has also been a great blessing to each of us.  LaGrange, Ohio is where we are meant to be (not just because we have some pretty awesome neighbors)!  The girls, having less friend distractions, have spent a lot more time together and have become better friends.  They have had to step outside of their comfort zones to meet new people, but have been blessed with good friends because of it.  We have all enjoyed more time together as a family, and we needed that. 

New Year came and went quickly, tomorrow we settle back in to the normal work and school schedule for everyone.  With all of the extra time at home, I should feel relaxed and prepared, but as of this morning I was still feeling rushed and anxious.  The Christmas decorations are not put away, I start traveling again on Tuesday and I still had not taken the time to reflect on last year and mentally prepare for 2016.  One of the things that I normally do is try to write some goals for the year.  I really struggled with that this year since the last couple of years have not gone nearly as I planned them and I do NOT like to start something and not finish it.  I couldn’t really think of anything that felt right, until today.

As the girls and I were getting ready to leave for church, I reminded them that we were not going to play on phones during church.  Trying to set a good example, I put my phone away and didn’t look at it until Sunday school time.  That is when I realized I had a text message from the Relief Society President saying that she was sick and not able to come and teach the lesson today.  I had 45 minutes to prepare a 40 minute lesson on 30 pages of material I had not read.  If I had not chosen today as the day to not use my phone I would have had another hour to prepare.  Prayers are answered, we all survived my last minute lesson and I stumbled upon the perfect goal in the process.  The McCollum family goals for the year will be this quote from President Howard W. Hunter:

“…Mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again.”

Now with the goals written, one class dropped (it was dumb to think I could do 3 at once), and family home evening plans to de-Christmas the house we are ready to make this year awesome!

Happy New Year to all our friends and family!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sister Meetings

I came home from my last work trip for 2015 to find that estrogen overload had hit the house.  The girls were super moody with each other and Charley, who has an incredible amount of patience, said I am not sure I can handle one more discussion with the girls about their attitudes.  He tagged out and I tagged in as the lead to what we call episode #579 of Emotion Overload: Teen Edition.  We tried to do some grocery shopping and made it about 55 minutes before the text messages started flowing in from two of the teenagers who had each decided that the other one was being irrational.  Off and on throughout the day the "let's be kind" reminders became more and more frequent but I was determined not to let them wear me down.  At about 11:30 pm I decided it was time to end the episode, but not just for the night.  After some quiet thought and contemplation, I decided to take a trick from their own book, a "sister meeting."

Sister meetings began when the girls were little.  We would find them fully clothed sitting in the empty bath tub with the shower curtain pulled shut.  They would talk and giggle for hours.  When we would try to check on them they would politely tell us that we were interrupting their "sister meeting" and to please go away!

It was so fun to see them happy and enjoying each other.  As they grew up, they moved the meetings out of the bathtub and into other places in the house or yard.  They would plan all sorts of fun things together.  One time, they even made up a restaurant and menu for Charley and I to have a special dinner prepared by them.  They kicked us out of the kitchen and made sandwiches.  Then Sierra played the hostess, Sydnee the waitress, and Savannah was the chef.  

These sister meetings then grew into fashion shows, make-overs, photo shoots, movie nights, dance parties, and sleep overs in each other's rooms.  Seeing them plan a sleepover and getting all excited about the movies they want to watch, the snack foods they need to make, and the things they wanted to do made my heart happy.  They would put together power point presentations with background music to present their vacation ideas and friend party requests.  

These sister meetings changed when the older two started high school and started to be replace by emotional breakdowns.  Occasionally, we would have something happen that would pull them back together and we would have months of good times.  I had to help them find one of those reasons to reconnect.  So at 11:30 at night when they walked in the door all angry at each other over whose turn it was to ride in the front seat of the car, I decided it was time to call a sister meeting.  After an hour of sitting on the floor taking turns talking about what makes us mad, cranky, angry, feel left out, hurt, or [insert other feeling here], we finally got to the point where I could see their loving side come back out.

These are the girls I love, the ones that know how to come together and focus on what is good and right.  This picture is of them with Charley after he was moved from the trauma unit at KU Med to the rehab floor at Lawrence Memorial Hospital a few weeks after the car accident that he and the older two girls were in on February 10, 2012.  This moment, when they were finally all together again at the same time, recognizing that their dad was going to get better and he was one step closer to coming home.  These girls had been truly afraid that they were going to loose their dad and they pulled together and got each other through it.  

It made my heart so happy to see and hear them finally break down the walls that they had built up over the last few weeks and really talk.  They listened, they accepted fault, they apologize, they forgave, they loved, and they laughed.  They made me laugh so hard I cried from the silly things that they said and did and also from the pure joy of seeing them love each other.  I am so blessed to have shared that moment with them, I am thankful they were able to share their pain and fears in such healthy and healing ways.  Nothing makes me happier than seeing the three of them love each other, serve each other, and laugh together.  

So thankful for these mostly lovely ladies!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

For My Daughters

Traveling for work is getting old and exhausting.  I am thankful that I will be home for several weeks soon.  I have been so busy that I have failed to post a blog post and the girls have asked a couple of times when I will do the next one.  They didn't know that I have been working on a writing project for them, but I am giving them (and you all) a sneak peak at the project tonight.  I am writing out my thoughts, feelings, and quotes on a variety of things that I wish I had better understood when I was their age.  If there are any topics that you would like to have heard from your mom or a trusted adult about when you were a teenager, please leave a comment.  I would love more ideas.  This collection of writings starts with a letter that I have written to my girls:

My (not so) Little Ladies,

Often as I travel, I find myself with time to think and so much of that time spent thinking I end up thinking about you.  I think about the silly happy moments we have shared and memories we have made as a family.  I think about how much I feel truly blessed to be your mom and that despite all of my short comings, you still love me.  I think about what makes you happy and how much you have each grown.  I think about what troubles you and what makes you sad.  My heart aches when your heart aches.  I hurt when you hurt and I often wish I could take away all of the negative things in life so that you would only have to experience the joys and pleasures.  Then I remember, most of what I love and appreciate most has been formed by my life experiences both good and bad. 

I love and appreciate your father because of the role he has played in my life.  He is the first man that made me feel truly safe, protected, and loved.  Neither he nor I are perfect.  We had our fair share, maybe a tad more, of trials in our early married life.  Working through those trials together, growing together and choosing to forgive and love is what has made us so strong and happy together.  If we stayed at the same level of love that we had when we got married, we might be happy and fine together but that love I felt for your father when we first got married is nothing compared to what I feel for him now.  Because we have experienced the ups and downs of life and trials together we have grown together and our love and bond is stronger than I had ever imagined.  I am thankful for those trials that strengthened us.

We haven’t always made the best parenting decisions, I am sure you each would agree, but we try our best every day to be the parents you need, not necessarily the one you want.  We have always and will always love each of you.  You are all three very different from each other, unique in who you are.  I cannot describe the amount of love I feel for each of you.  I have spent hours trying to put into words how I feel and the best that I can come up with is that each of you holds a place in my heart that will forever feel empty if I lost you.  I love that you occasionally still ask to be snuggled and sometimes even let me sing to you even though you are teenagers. I love you to the moon and back, more than you love me, times 5 hundred million thousand, and all of those silly things we used to say.  I am truly thankful for the knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ and our belief in eternal families.  An eternity with you is not long enough. 

In all my time thinking about you and trying to find a way to communicate all that I think and feel for you, I have come up with a list of things that I hope to share with you.  These are things that I have either learned or wished I had understood when I was younger.  These are things that have become very important to me and things that strengthen me.  They are things that I know will bring you a balance of peace and harmony in your life so you can find and embrace true happiness and love.  There is no amount of money or possessions that will bring you greater happiness than finding peace with yourself and those you love.  I hope this collection of thoughts will bring you that peace in hard times, remind you of your infinite worth, and the potential that you possess.

Thank you for the love you share with me, teaching me how to be a parent, and all of the happiness you bring to our family.

Love you forever,

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Thousand Words...

I have always enjoyed writing and often found comfort in expressing my feelings through my writing.  If I am filled with emotion, positive and negative, taking the time to write them down brings me the greatest peace.  My favorite gifts have been the heartfelt hand written notes and cards from Charley.  I had noticed that the oldest daughter had inherited this love for writing, but I recently noticed that the second daughter also is a talented writer.  Shhh...  she doesn't know that I know this yet!

We had family friend turn 40 this week and her husband asked us all to write letters of memories, appreciation, or thoughts about her so he could print them all in a book for her gift.  My older girls each wrote their own letters and emailed them without sharing them with me.  When I had the chance to preview the book I was curious and I read their letters.  I was not surprised to read the first letter and the lovely thoughts that were shared, but when I got to child #2 I discovered that she has a beautiful talent that she has been hiding.  It made my heart happy to read her carefully constructed words that allowed you to see right into her heart.

These girls are so full of creative expression and I love the messages that they send me.  Tonight I received this message: "Are you awake?  I wish to discuss getting temporary hair dye in the red color for me.  I am willing to let you help pick out the color so it is acceptable.  But I want to try something new with my hair.  And it's temporary so it won't last that long."  This young lady is skilled at asking for what she desires by acknowledging any argument or concern she knows that we will have up front.  FYI - teaching kids to negotiate will back fire on you and often be used against you....

These girls are dangerous when they combine their powers.  They have mastered the art of putting together a well done PowerPoint presentation that includes back ground music to pitch ideas the Charley and I to request girls night parties, sleep overs with friends, and even family vacations.  They write the sweetest notes and text messages that make my heart happy.  I have often walked into their bathrooms to find love notes they have written to each other on their mirrors with dry erase markers.

I listened to a speaker talk about the Ripple Effect at the conference I am attending this weekend. The thoughts that he shared about how we interact with others and the impact it can have on our life and other people was something that really resonated with me after reading my girls kind words.  It reminded me of the importance of taking the time to truly appreciate those we love and sharing our thoughts and feelings with them.  I am blessed to have a husband that started writing me sweet notes when we were dating and still leaves them for me a few times a year.  I am thankful these girls are beginning to understand the richness of their words when they use them to share the feelings in their heart.  A thousand words could not adequately describe the love that I have for my family, but I have an eternity to keep trying.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Church Porn for FHE

One of the blessings/curses of being Mormon is that there is not a preacher that gives a sermon each week.  Instead, members are asked to give talks on topics that are assigned to them by the local church leaders.  They try to include the youth, kids 12 and up, and this week it was Sydnee's turn to give a talk.  She was assigned the topic Family Home Evening, which we refer to as FHE.  Church leaders many years ago (1915?) encouraged families to set aside one evening a week to spend time together as a family, and that is when FHE was born.

Sydnee gave a great talk about the benefits of FHE and talked about her favorite family activities.  One of which is our nightly tradition of "best and worst."  We go around the table and share the best thing and the worst thing about our day.  It starts fun conversations, we laugh with/at each other and find perspective through gaining a better understanding each other's day.  There are many times that we have learned more about our girls and what is important to them through these simple conversations.

FHE was also a topic that I was reminded of during my grandfather's funeral this past week.  He always made time for family home evening and valued family time.  I listened to my aunts and uncle talk about how important and special that was to them.  With these little reminders, I was feeling extra guilty for not taking the time to properly plan family activities these past few months.  I know that I should try harder to take time for planned family activities, discussion topics, and service.

That is when I remembered that I started watching a new Mormon Messages video that I saw on Facebook that talks about how to protect children from porn or talk to them about porn.  I meant to share it with the girls and forgot.  At dinner tonight, I thought it would be a great time to share the video and talk about it.  I borrowed one of the girls iPads and told them that we were going to watch the church porn video.  Speaking before thinking is a bad idea.  They looked at me like I was super crazy and a little terrified, then made fun of me while I kept searching to find the video.  Charley's friend came over and the girls told him that I was searching for church porn on the internet....   And we ended the discussion with "we'll have to watch church porn another night."  Another FHE failure in the books, but points for trying?!?

Two lessons were learned tonight:
1. Think before you speak to children, they will use your words against you.
2. Properly PLAN for FHE

Disclaimer:  I didn't actually search the phrase "Church Porn" so I can't vouch for what that really is.  Google at your own risk folks.

Update: A friend shared the video link.  If anyone else wants to see it and share it with your family, here you go: What Should I Do When I See Pornography?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Power of Music

Having three young ladies in the house means that we rarely have a dull or quiet moment.  They make us laugh, sometime make us want to cry, but mostly make our hearts overflow with joy and love.  The amount of singing and dancing that happens in this house probably qualifies us as a music studio instead of a residence only we can't vouch for the quality of talent.  This weekend we had a girls night (a.k.a. Charley left us home alone) and the 18 year old was the kitchen deejay while we made some homemade mac and cheese.  "Ok, this is a throw back song way back from 2009!"  Did I mention that they make us both laugh and cry?!?

Music is a blessing in so many ways and we were reminded of that this weekend as we listened to our church's General Conference and the beautiful music that accompanied the inspired words.  My grandfather passed away this past Friday and I have had him on my mind all weekend.  As I listened to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing, I was reminded of a very special experience that has impacted my entire family.  My grandfather, many years ago, would listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Spoken Word program in the barn while he tended to the cows on his farm.  The music touched his soul and he contacted the church to learn more.  He and my sweet grandmother, Norma Jean and the Flying Machine, joined the Mormon church when my mother was a young child.  Because of the music that touched his soul, my grandparents joined a church that believes in eternal families sealed together for time and all eternity in the temple.  Because of the music that touched his soul, I grew up to have these truths close to my heart.  I feel incredibly blessed to know that Charley and I will be together forever with our daughters as well.  Because of the music that touched my grandfather's soul, he taught his family to be prayerful and faithful and loving.

My Grandfather, Harvey Shrack, talked openly and honestly, with kindness and compassion, and didn't hold back (I might have inherited that trait....  sorry guys!)  He gave me the only taste of beer (non -alcoholic, relax!) when I was in 16 and I have never had the desire to drink again.   The love and compassion that he showed me when it often meant that he went against the wishes of his own family taught me that doing what is right is more important than doing what is easy, even when it means that the ones you love most may not understand.  The love that he showed me when I needed it most helped give me the strength to stick to my values and become the wife and mother that I am now.  I never properly thanked him for that, and I should have.

Music fills our home often and is something that we enjoy as a family.  This weekend I was reminded that music has the power to touch souls, inspire minds, guide us through trials, and change lives.  Every time I hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir I will think of my grandfather and the power of music.  And on that note (pun intended) please enjoy a beautiful and inspiring song from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Well That's Plum Crazy!

We have some pretty awesome neighbors.  This past weekend they brought over an overflowing bucket full of plums and a bag full of apples from their fruit trees.  We really like plums.  This was not just an ice cream bucket or small pail, but a 5 gallon bucket.  The girls were super excited.  We all took one, okay two, off the top and ate them.  Then looked back at the bucket and realized that it didn't look like we had even touched it. Some quick math lead to the conclusion that this bucket of plums would take us about 134 days to finish if we each ate 2 per day.
My mother is excellent at canning foods, dehydrating them, and finding all sorts of ways to use every ounce of nutrition with little to no waste.  Unfortunately, I failed to pay much attention when these activities we happening, we moved 800 miles away this summer, and I had no canning supplies.  Thank goodness for pinterest!  We spent Saturday afternoon researching plum recipes and found all sorts of plum butters, plum jams, plum preserves, then it's like the recipe jumped out at us - PLUM BBQ Sauce!  WHAT?  Is that really a thing?  It sounded weird enough that it had to be good.  We purchased our supplies and prepared for the adventure.
Sunday right after church we punished the two oldest girls by making them pit the entire bucket, minus about 10 more plums that we decided to eat.  The youngest child helped me make apple lemon jelly, apple pie, and a jar of apple sauce.  When the plums were all pitted we realized that we had WAY more than what we needed for the recipe so we decided to triple the recipe, we were clearly feeling pretty confident.  Even with the triple batch we still had enough plums to make a plum breakfast bar recipe and freeze ten bags full of plums for baking projects later this fall.
We started cooking the plums for the BBQ sauce and so far all that was added was a tad bit of sugar and touch of cinnamon.  It smelled amazing.  Then it was time to start adding garlic, cumin, chili powder, red pepper, onion salt, black pepper, and other spices and we all looked at each other for confirmation.  We knew there was no turning back once we dumped that mixture in.  Within a matter of minutes the aroma changed from sweet to savory.
This was one crazy week full of greatness.  We ended up with 8 jars of the most amazing BBQ sauce ever, 3 jars of jelly, 1 jar of apple sauce, and the best part of the whole thing....   WE FINALLY FOUND THE GARAGE DOOR OPENER.  It was in the fridge inside of the butter holder.  That seems completely logical, I am sure one of us put it there on purpose.  It was probably even me since I am the only one that can't actually reach the place it is normally kept, but they can't prove it so....  :)