Life Lessons

I recently had an argument with my son about black suits. We went shopping for a new suit and he kept pulling out black jackets. I told him that at fourteen he had no real need for a solid black suit. Black suits were for funerals and very formal occasions, I explained, far too fancy for regular church services. Motherhood is full of teaching moments, important lessons and inconsequential lessons. Who knows if my son will even remember this little lesson about formal and informal suits based on color and cut.

mom-sara-heather

Its funny sometimes to reflect on the lessons that have stayed with you. I was thinking of a few of the gems I’ve learned from my own mother.

  1. If you’re going to cut your hair short, do it in the winter. When its hot you’re going to want to be able to pull it back and off your neck.
  2. When buying eye glasses, pick a frame that matches your hair color- they will flatter your face.
  3. Never wear white or black to a wedding (I know this rule is considered old fashioned now, but I’m a die hard)
  4. Butter and real maple syrup.
  5. Don’t stay in hotels near pawn shops and don’t make eye contact with anyone on the street near a pawn shop.

I learned the hard way to always pack shampoo on a vacation.  When I was fourteen my mom, sister and I took a road trip through Texas to the Gulf of Mexico. The first morning on our trip I realized I didn’t have shampoo and I don’t think our motel offered any either. I asked my mom where the shampoo was- because surely it was her responsibility as Mom to make sure those things were packed! Mom was not amused or willing to share her shampoo and my sister and I were on our own for not packing any. Its something we all laugh about. At the time though I was mortified that I couldn’t wash my hair, I think I even resorted to bar soap a few times. In hindsight I don’t know why it never occurred to me to go to the nearest drug store and buy a bottle…but it didn’t. Life lesson learned.

At thirty-eight, I am still learning lessons from my mother, and I hope I never stop. My mother is amazing at supporting her daughters even when she thinks we are crazy or cannot see the logic in our choices. There were times when I made choices I knew my mother wasn’t happy about (getting married at twenty!), but she always, always supported me. As my own children are ageing and beginning to make their own independent choices- some of which I don’t agree with, I feel crazy, frustrated and helpless.  I recently asked my mother how she was able to be so supportive when my sister and I were sometimes making stupid choices. Her response just left me in awe. She told me she knew that she wasn’t always right, and that sometimes there is more than one way to do something, or an avenue that maybe she can’t see. I have been trying so hard to remember this as I ride the crazy roller coaster of raising teenagers…I’m trying to learn humility.

Ariley-kathy-kids

My parents divorced when I was very young and to be honest it still has ripple effects in my life today. The silver lining (more like platinum) in their divorce is that I now have Kathy in my life.  She and my father married when I was seven, and I love her. Because of Kathy I’ve been known to say “hooray for broken families!” I could not have asked for a better step mother. I’ve learned a few little gems from her along the way too.

  1. Never wear navy with black.
  2. Your purse, belt and shoes should always match (I’ve given up on the purse bit).
  3. Easter means new spring sandals!
  4. There is always something to laugh about, even in the midst of challenges.
  5. When eating a sandwich that has been cut into two triangles, you always eat from the end, not the center.

I laugh more with Kathy than anyone else in my life, she can take an ordinary situation and make it funny. When I was twelve or thirteen Kathy, my sister and I were all at the mall flipping through a clothing rack. Kathy pulled out a shirt that looked more like a leotard but with intentional under-wire cups (this was the 90’s), she held it up to us and said, “Its a fill-in-the-blanks shirt”.  I’m not sure what it was about how she said it, but my sister and I busted up laughing. For years after that when we saw shirts like that we’d call them fill-in-the-blanks and chuckle to ourselves.

I’m so grateful to have her in my life, I’m so thankful for her listening ear and her patience. She is probably one of the best listeners I know, sometimes I get off the phone and wonder if I even let her get a word in edgewise but she never makes me feel like I’ve monopolized the conversation.

I am so lucky to have these two women in my life.  I am a better person because of them, who I am today is because of them and their love for me (Dad gets credit too!).

Mom- thank you for never giving up on me, even when times were really hard. As a mother myself I understand some of the pain and sacrifice that comes from not giving up on your kid. I Love You.

Kathy- thank you for always listening to me, for being my friend, for making me laugh. You accepted me from day one. I Love you.

Happy Mother’s Day

What Morning Looks Like

scriptures

Maybe eight or nine years ago my Grandmother, who has a very deep love for the Book of Mormon, challenged her children and grandchildren to read the Book of Mormon again as a family.  I had one reader and one non-reader at the time and thought, ugh, the stories of the BOM don’t always make sense to me, how on earth can I read this to my children and have them get anything out of it??

I have a deep love and respect for my grandmother and I just could not ignore her challenge. My husband suggested we start reading together before we put the children to bed. That lasted maybe a week before we switched to reading in the mornings. By the time bedtime rolls around I am so ready for everyone to GO TO BED AND LEAVE ME ALONE, that I really struggled with putting on a good face and reading the word of God to my kids.

We started reading two, maybe three verses every morning before the kids went to school.  I would read the verses to them and then we’d talk about what we read, I would try to summarize it in a language that they would understand. I’d relate the wars to the people of Tempe feeling like they didn’t have enough land, so they started a war with Chandler to take over some of their land- anything to help bring understanding to my kids.

Our reading has evolved over the years, I think it took us something like five or six years to finish the book as a family, and then we started over again. These days, with three kids and only one sort-of not quite a reader yet, our mornings look something like this:

6:45 am my alarm goes off, I literally drag myself from slumber and shuffle down the hall to open the doors to my children’s rooms where I mumble something like “Rise and Shine” but more like “get up”.  I usually have to sit down in the girls rooms and rub their cheeks to get them to wake up and then we all shuffle to the living room. My daughters take up the couch, my son is buried in a blanket on a chair, while my husband and I take the two remaining chairs.

My husband who is infinitely more alert in the mornings than I am, opens his scriptures and reminds all of us what page/verse we are on. This is the moment where it dawns on my kids that they need to have their scriptures with them- so then there is a slow stumble to the book shelf to collect the books. Then my patient husband has to tell us all again about ten times what page/verse to turn to.

We each take turns reading a few verses of an entire page. My husband, the alert one, will sometimes ask questions to see if the children understood what they read (um, we didn’t even try asking during the Isiah chapters of 2 Nephi).

Then, in theory, we all kneel together around the coffee table for family prayer.  What it really looks like is my husband kneeling at the coffee table with one daughter perched on his back (as if he were giving her a horse back ride), my son, still covered in a blanket kneeling at the chair, the other daughter curled up next to me, while I get as close to the floor as I can without actually looking like I am laying on the floor- and then we pray.

Its a whole lot of effort- especially for someone like me who is not a morning person, but I know that it makes a difference in our daily lives. It helps my children think beyond themselves, it helps them to put their problems into perspective, and I know when we invite God into our home we are kinder to one another.

King Benjamin (in the book of Mosiah) had three sons Mosiah, Helorum and Helaman, whom he taught the language of their fathers- which was Egyptian. He wanted his children to know Egyptian so  they could read the records of their people-which were the plates passed down from Lehi. If they couldn’t read and understand Egyptian they wouldn’t be able to (as Mormon writes) ” read and understand His (God’s) mysteries, and always have his commandments before our eyes”. Benjamin didn’t want his sons to grow up and raise their children in unbelief, he wanted a faithful posterity. I have the same hope for my posterity, and I know if I don’t teach my children to understand the language of the BOM (and the Bible) then they will not be able to understand the mysteries of God.

 

What I’m Reading 2016 edition

books-small

I really enjoy keeping track of the books I’ve read over the years- here are the following years

2015
2014
2013
2012

This year I am serious about using Goodreads for suggestions and book summaries.  I’m still figuring the site out and how to “friend” someone, but I’d love to be your reading friend!  If you know how to do the whole friend thing- you can find me on Goodreads as HeatherInAZ.

Without further ado- here is what I’ve read so far….

  1. In the Unlikely Event– Judy Blume
    I really enjoyed the writing, the characters and the story…but I felt like the story had no point…there was really never any resolution. It was just a snapshot of a moment in time and I didn’t care for the ending.
  2. Yes Please -Amy Poehler
    This was a fun read. I enjoyed hearing Amy’s voice, and I appreciated her honesty.
  3. Carry On Warrior– Glennon Doyle Melton
    This was a very easy read- Glennon writes as if she were sitting next to you.  She talks a lot about God and religion, I skimmed through a few of those parts. She shares her story of addiction, recovery and continual self growth and acceptance.
  4. Murder On the Orient Express – Agatha Christie
  5. The Sound of Glass -Karen White
  6. Letters From Home– Kate Mc Morris
  7. Fiercombe Manor– Kate Roirdan
  8. The Boston Girl -Anita Diamant
  9. I Gave My Heart To Know This– Ellen Baker
  10. The Gilded Hour – Sara Donati
  11. The House on Tradd Street – Karen White
  12. The Goldfinch-Donna Tartt
  13. Sea Change – Karen White
  14. Keeping House- Ellen Baker
  15. Falling Home – Karen White
  16. The Nightingale – Hannah Kristin
  17. The Color Of Light- Karen White
  18. A Long Time Gone- Karen White

Parenting is Not for Wimps

For the last 2 months my week day mornings consist of nagging my teenager to hurry up, get dressed, brush his teeth, pack his lunch etc. I’ve offered him money if he can be ready to leave for school on time. I’ve threatened to take his bedroom door off so he can’t go back to bed after we’ve read and prayed together as a family. I’ve threatened on many occasions that if he isn’t ready on time he will need to find his own way to school….and every time I’ve failed to follow through, rationalizing in my head that this time an exception should be granted.

But, not today. I warned him right after he got up that if he wasn’t in the car by 7:40am he would need to find his own way to school. He wasn’t ready until 7:45am. He wasn’t that late, I started to rationalize; and he did get dressed faster today than any other day…I didn’t want to penalize that. Plus, I’d never ridden the route with him before, and all the cars backing out of driveways…would they see him, would he see them?

I swallowed my fears and gathered my courage to tell him he needed to find his own way to school.

He stormed out of the house as if I were the devil.

I texted my husband, who was already at work:

IMG_3677

After a stomach churning twenty minutes he made it to school.  Riding his bike to school also meant he had to ride home.  When he arrived home he was coming from the “wrong” direction.  He told me he rode home ALONG THE FRONTAGE ROAD to avoid seeing the kids from his old school.  THE FRONTAGE ROAD, the road with really fast cars and not so friendly homeless men!!!!

I know, I know…this was character building (for both of us), it taught him responsibility, and independence (you know that skill he’s going to need when he moves out at 18). He even told me it wasn’t so bad and he may do it again.  It took a lot of guts, but I turned to him and said, “If you’re not ready by 7:40 that will be your only method of getting to school”.

I know this is a good thing for him, but man it was hard for me. I have no problem helping my kids be successful when they are helping themselves, but I get mean and snarly when they don’t help themselves and I just enable them. Enabling isn’t really good for either of us, but it is the easy way out (at least in the short term).

Perspective

Wildflowers

Every November blogs get taken over by gratitude posts, a month of Thankful.  Yesterday (November 1) it occurred to me that writing a month of gratitude posts might be a good writing exercise and good for my mental health.  But yesterday was a loooonnnngggg day and by the time the kids were in bed I only had energy for Masterpiece Theater, so I wrote nothing.  If you are curious- I was going to write about being grateful for medical science.

Which brings me to today, where fate decided to mess with my head.  It all started last night when Phoenix had an earthquake, one that I felt but told myself it was the wind because, earthquakes in Arizona?, right. About 2 am one of my daughters woke me up to tell me that her throat still hurt- really bad (the same throat that only hours ago tested negative for strep). I made a mental note that the sore throat should probably stay home from school with the other child who tested positive for strep.

Cue sun-up and the off-spring who was going to school chose not to get up….its a long drawn out story that I’ll spare you to save the embarrassment of all involved but suffice it to say the whole experience ended with a screaming match between a parent and child about the child not taking responsibility for themselves. The child was an hour late to school.

In the middle of the above “situation” our cat barfed on the living room carpet. She kindly decided to spread the love around, it wasn’t all in one place.

I was trying to go with the flow, two kids home from school, one legitimately feeling bad and the other just waiting for that magical 24 hour since antibiotic window and feeling just fine (read- doesn’t want to lay on the couch and rest all day). Everything had calmed down and I decided it was safe to take a shower.

On my way to start the shower I noticed that the cat missed her litter box by an inch and there was cat poop on my floor. I took a deep breath cleaned it up and realized it wasn’t even 9:30am yet and good golly what else does Monday have up her sleeve?!

It was about this time that the thought popped into my head that I was going to write about gratitude. My inner self rolled her eyes, laughed and said something snarky about gratitude smatitute. Underneath all that snark though, is an understanding that this is all temporary and that there are plenty of good things to be happy about.

In the midst of this crazy morning I got a text saying the Cardinals won yesterday, which means half priced drinks at Sonic ALL DAY. So I know there will be a large Diet Coke in my future- and that makes me relax my shoulders a little bit. While my children might be sick, I know that it too is just temporary and unlikely to be serious. I have a roof over my head, clean clothes to wear, food to eat, a husband who will stick with me through this crazy roller coaster called “parenthood”, and good friends who will listen to me complain about my day.

Its all about perspective, how we choose to frame our days and our lives. When people have asked me about being a glass half empty or half full kind of person, I’ve always responded that I am a realist about life.  But really, I think I’m a closet optimist.  When I was fifteen I had some life changing epiphanies, one of which was realizing that I controlled my own destiny and that tomorrow could be as good as I made it.

 

Weight-y Matters

scale

I have written this post in my head many times over the last four years, but I think its finally time to proverbially put pen to paper. This is an open letter to any of my friends who have ever lamented their weight in front of me.

Dear Friend,

I don’t see your weight.

Even if you think you are 50lbs or 150lbs above your target weight, I simply don’t notice it.  Maybe the first time I met you I made a mental and general assessment of your weight; something like, “My new friend Jane, she is tall and round. Fran, she is short and slender.” That’s it, that is probably the only time I ever thought about your weight. Oh- and maybe the times you were pregnant and never looked more than 6 month along even though you were ready to deliver.

Recently your weight has crept into our conversations more and more, I can tell it bothers you.  Maybe that ugly voice in your head is telling you that every time you step out the door everyone sees you as a fat girl? I’m writing you this letter because I want you to know what I think of every time I see you…

I see the woman who has cried with me over the frustrations of family life. The woman who inspires me to be kinder and humbler than I am. I see the times we have laughed until we cried. I see the woman who will patiently listen to me as I whimper about my first world problems. I see your strength as you bare the burdens life has thrown at you. I see the woman who makes me feel better than I am. I see all the things I love about you. I never see your weight.

In college I worked at a bookstore and one day one of my co-workers told me that our boss had recently lost weight. She told me that our boss had worked really hard to loose this weight and that if I had a chance I should tell her how good she looked. I never even noticed that she had any weight to loose, but I was all for cheering on anyone who had worked hard at something that was important to them.  The next time I was alone with my boss I commented that I had heard she was loosing weight and that she looked good.  She took it as the compliment that it was intended, but to be honest I felt super awkward about the whole thing.

Talking about her weight somehow made it a thing between us, it felt like a backhanded compliment. Almost like I was telling her that she looked bad before, but now was better looking. When honestly I’d never thought about her looking anything other than herself before. I don’t want it to be like that between us.

Twice since then I have complimented someone on their weight and each time it was only because I knew those woman had worked really hard and WANTED people to notice and give them feedback. But I still felt awkward.

I just want you to know that I love you for being you.  I realize your weight bothers you and I’m sorry for that. I wrote this letter because I wanted you to know how I felt about you, and what I see when I look at you.  If you gained 50lbs I probably wouldn’t notice it (you think I’m kidding but I am dead serious). If  you dyed your hair blue and got a forehead tattoo- that I would totally notice!

We’re friends because you make me feel good about myself, you make me laugh, you listen, you care, not because you are short or tall or fat or skinny or anything in between. Please remember this the next time you look in the mirror and that ugly voice starts talking.

xo
Heather

Horton Springs- early fall

My kids are on fall break this week. They want FUN! EXCITEMENT! SOMETHING NEW!, I want quiet, reading, sewing and kids who forage for their own meals.

sign

In the name of FUN! we hauled them kicking and screaming (well 1 out of 3) north today for some exercise and family bonding.  We love Horton Springs Trail because its easy, green and has water. Admittedly we have never in the gajillon times we’ve been there ever made the full 4 miles to the end of the trail…we go maybe a mile and a half and play in the water and then head back.

water-play

It wasn’t until we were heading back that the switch was flipped for “happy family time”. The kids ran along ahead of us giggling…until my middle child spotted a TARANTULA!! crawling across the tip of her shoe and ran screaming back to me.  Having never seen a TARANTULA! in real life I asked her to show me where it was, we found it crawling in some grass.  No, I didn’t take a picture! I could barely look at it without squealing and running away myself.

creek

We finished off the day with a late lunch at our fav. Payson, mexican place- La Sierra.  The best part was that we were having a good time together, squeezed into a booth laughing together about topics other than farting. We were cracking jokes about what the kids would be like when they were parents.

all_sm

As the years wax on, I know the kids won’t remember the kicking and screaming that began this trip. They’ll remember the laughs, the tarantula and positive feelings.  The whole experience was a reminder to me that its worth the effort to drag my kids through positive life experiences, they will be better happier people in the end.

P.S. totally unrelated…we switched hard drives and I lost ALL my pretty fonts. boo! What are your favorite fonts? Give me some ideas of what fonts I should be sure to have in my arsenal.

Advance 8279

full-dress

I picked up 3 yards of cotton lawn for a steal at SAS last week and it was just begging to be sewn!  I’ve sewn Advance 8279 once before and it was pretty straight forward, so I gave it another go.

advance_8279

 

Last time I made the dress I omitted the button placard and put in a zipper, this time I opted for buttons.  The cotton lawn was really light and I was worried about it not supporting the dress, so I lined it.  I have no idea how to add lining with a collar and a button placard…I did my best and it worked out alright.

back-detail

I’ve found that each time I’ve made the dress it tended to be very boxy on the sides, despite the darts.  If you want a more fitted bodice I would sew deeper darts or cut the sides slimmer.  The collar always wants to flip up, I think its because of the weight of the piping. I even top stitched the dress to the collar seam allowance and it still wants to flip.

bubbles

I absolutely love the exterior pockets with piping- I think they are SO CUTE!  I had my daughter wear the dress with a petticoat under it for the pictures, but it looks just fine without it. She loves the dress because it twirls really well and is nice and light weight- perfect for an Arizona summer.

I just bought a vintage pattern for myself that I’m hoping to sew this summer but I’m looking for the perfect buffalo check fabric.  One that isn’t too thin and has a nice drape to it. Or maybe this nice rayon print from Heather Bailey? Any recommendations for what fabric to use?

Fan Quilt

It’s finished!!!! 3years of working on it and it is washed, dried and ready for use!! #fan #quilt #quilting #scrappyquilt

A photo posted by Heather Hales (@heatherhalesdesigns) on

I finished it, FINALLY!  Yes, it really did take me 3 years to make this lap sized quilt.

up close

I started by hand cutting all of those wedges, I used pink, red and blue scraps left over from projects I’d made in the past. I love quilts where the fabrics tell a story (the red and pink striped fabric was from a dress I made my youngest as a baby, the pink Japanese print is from a messenger bag I made my middle daughter) Because I am a sucker for the old ways I hand stitched the wedges together into fans. Then I began hand appliqueing them to the 9″ white square. After 2 years nearly half the blocks were finished and I decided hand sewing was for the birds.  I machine stitched the rest and put together the sashing.

fan quilt
I wanted the quilt to be a little warmer than the others I’d made, so I used two layers of Warm and Natural batting. Have you ever tried to quilt a double layer of batting on a home sewing machine?!  This is the worst quilting job I have ever done- it was so thick and so hard to quilt. Thank heavens when I washed and dried it- the crinkle effect hid a lot of my mistakes.

Quilts

The quilt has been added to my pile of slowly growing quilts!  Honestly, I’m kinda proud of myself for not giving up on this project.  It could have easily died a death in the back of my closet, but every summer I brought it out and did a little more work on it. I’ve already put it to use on the back of our couch.

Super Easy Summer Dinner

Super Easy Summer Tortallini

Summer in Arizona is akin to living in an oven; which means I try really hard not to have to use my oven for cooking.  This week I planned a whole menu of foods that do not require the oven, only the stove or the slow-cooker.

I found this great site and made a whole bunch of freezer meals on Saturday that I can just throw into the slow-cooker, I’m very excited about this notion of freezer dinners! I’m really lazy about remembering to thaw out meat early in the day. I also find by 5pm I’m melting-ly hot and the last thing I want to do is stand in the kitchen prepping food. I’m optimistic that this freezer meal thing is going to revolutionize my cooking…I’ll let you know how it goes.

One of the two non freezer meals this week was tonight’s Cheese Tortellini  & Vegetables in a creamy tomato sauce.  I made it up as I went along and it turned out great! So great that I wanted to write out what I did so I can do it again.

Super Easy Vegetable Tortellini

16oz package of Cheese Tortellini
1c Chicken (or Vegetable) stock
3T butter
1 small onion diced
1 orange bell pepper cut to bite size pieces
3 carrots peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
3 cloves of garlic minced
1/2c cherry tomatoes sliced in half
1/4c Parmesan cheese shredded (+ more for garnish)
small handful of fresh basil chopped
1T flour
1/4c prepared (or homemade) marinara sauce

Cook pasta according to package directions. Sautee carrots, garlic, onion and bell pepper in butter until desired tenderness. Mix in flour. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.  When sauce begins to thicken add Parmesan cheese and Marinara sauce, stir until combined- drop heat to low and add the tomatoes.  Mix cooked pasta with the vegetable/sauce mixture.  Salt and pepper as needed. Top with basil and cheese then serve. Approx 20 min start to finish to make this and it served my family of 5.