Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Greatest Service

I was going to tell you all about how hard this past month has been. Going to school full time while having two baby children is NOT easy. In fact it is probably the hardest thing I have ever done.

But I'm not going to talk about all that.

What I do want to share with you is what I've learned.

Dr. Seuss says, "be sure when you step, step with care and great tact and remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act." This is definitely true!

When I applied to BYU-I , it was under the major of Elementary Education. I felt like it was something I'd be good at.

Within the first week of classes I knew that was not what I wanted to do.

I met with an academic adviser and learned quickly that while I love to teach, I'm not passionate about studying theories of education and ONLY education. Long story short, the El Ed major is very specialized and leaves no room for additional studies or interests. Not for me.

Surprisingly, one of my favorite classes is American Foundations. So much in fact that my new major incorporates quite a bit of Poli Sci. More on that later :)

I've learned that jump-rope can be quite effective in teaching a class the finer points of essay writing.

I've also learned that I really hate online classes.
I've learned that spiritual learning can reinforce studies anywhere.

I've learned that changing your location can really change the way you think.

I've learned the power of learning names of individual class members and how it relates to keeping baptismal covenants.

Yes, my English professor took a selfie with our class.
Since being here I have felt immersed in the gospel. More than at any other time I have previously in my life. Between church on Sunday; devotionals on Tuesday; being on campus M, W, F; feeling fellowshipped by a great ward; participating in choir; having a temple on a hill watching over us; and truly studying the Book of Mormon while journal writing every single day for an hour, I have found that there is no beginning or end to my spiritual week. It's how I've always wanted to incorporate Christ into our lives, but I never really had a good pattern down.

Being here (I won't say this physical location of Rexburg necessarily), but in this mode of study, truly makes it impossible to feel let down by the spirit. As I keep up my end of the deal, I find a truth witnessed through the principles taught in this school. I'm still getting used to prayers during class and such, but when your psychology professor is lecturing on a pretty standard principle of brain development and then relates it to principles of the gospel and teachings of the prophets without even skipping a beat, it is pretty comforting! This is an experience of dual learning where others around you truly understand the nature of learning by spiritual means along with secular. Just as there is no discernible beginning or end to our souls, so should the cultivation of our minds be mingled together.

I've learned that not all Target stores are created equal...
We were spoiled back home with a brand new HUGE Target opening 5 minutes away just months before our move. Now the closest Target is 25 minutes away, and it is TINY. I would say the general selection in each department is about half of what was available back home. In fact, it felt like stepping back in time to the old Douglas store in Roseville before it was remodeled. Anyone know what I'm talking about??

Yes, the squiggly neon lights still float around the walls of each department here, circa 1992.

I've learned that going to school full time is a full time job, and so is being a mom.

Jon and I have worked out our schedules so that he is at home with Edwin and Kate while I am at school, and then when I get home he heads off to work and I am home with the kids the rest of the day. This is the first time ever in our marriage that I have not needed to work. It's really been a huge blessing that I can focus my time on school and things at home!

The hardest part though is that we rarely are home together. Meaning that my homework time is all while I'm home with the kids by myself. Since Jon closes most nights at work, the kids are ready for bed (or already in bed) by the time he gets home. On the days that I have school, I am gone in the morning before the kids wake up until lunch time. I get home in time to eat lunch with everyone, and then Jon is off to work and I'm home with the kids to do naps, clean the house, make dinner, and try to get as much homework done as possible before Jon gets home. We like to spend the evenings together if we can. (Although usually it's spent in a combined effort to do homework for my online math class.)

The past three weeks has been a rough adjustment. I haven't known how to balance my priorities of home and school. I want to do well in school! I haven't taken any college classes since I was pregnant with Kate. And I've NEVER gone to school full time. That alone is hard, but having babies is challenging because they need almost constant attention. Because of that, homework usually looks like this:

Good thing Kate really likes to color!
Having children while going to school is like having the two most inconsiderate roommates on the planet. I mean, they can't even control their bowels. This makes for a lot of fun when you are bringing them both with you to an 8am study group on campus. Kate likes to throw books at me when I'm trying to read for my religion class (apparently not noticing that I'm already holding a kicking baby in one arm, propping my book open with my leg against the couch, and trying to highlight.) All she sees is that I'm "too busy" for her. It makes me feel really guilty :(

I have never been so excited, uplifted, energized, fulfilled, stressed, happy, at peace, and exhausted at the same time.

But this week something really clicked. I was sitting at the table with Kate feeding her dinner, and I saw her in a whole new way.

I realized that caring for my children is the greatest act of service I could ever do. I have learned that this little person relies on me for everything. I thought of nurses in a hospital and how they feed their sick patients, change their bedding, care for them constantly, and devote their time to caring for human beings. It is such a great act of service. Being a parent I have that same opportunity now. I change diapers, keep tushies clean, give baths, feed babies, and take care of these little people who can't do anything for themselves. If there was anything important I could do in this life, it is to give these humans a great start.

I think I have always known this. I mean, I have always wanted to be a mom and I love kids! But when you actually become a parent, it is hard to set aside all of your interests and the things that feel important to do things with them constantly. I always thought I was a pretty patient person until I had children.

I know that the kids don't really understand homework and school. They won't remember that I was studying and taking tests and worrying about classes. But they WILL remember us building traditions and enjoying family time together. The other night we were making cookies together, and Kate dumped the oats EVERYWHERE. My initial thought was to take Kate off the counter and work on the cookies myself. It would be faster and cleaner. But some of my favorite memories of growing up are cooking and baking with my mom in the kitchen, and I don't ever remember her getting frustrated with us. Instead I laughed and showed Kate how to help me clean up, and we kept going. The cookies were delicious :)

I've learned that the most important thing to me right now is seeing my kids happy and smiling. Their laughs are better than anything else in the entire world!

The laundry will get done. The floors will be vacuumed eventually. It only takes 5 minutes to read Fox in Socks. But the time will come really fast when they don't want to cuddle and give hugs and kisses:

I know there is a balance and I can't just have playtime constantly. Sometimes I do have to actually get some homework done. But I'm thankful for the things I am learning here at school, and that most of my learning so far isn't in the classroom :)


Lindsey and Jared said...

What an amazing post! This path you chose is definitely not for the faint of heart. I think you are handling it magnificently and soon things will fall into place and routines will emerge. Good for you for having such a positive outlook. I am always inspired by you! :)

Karen Meteer said...

What a blessing to be able to attend BYUI (and tying secular and spiritual so effortlessly together), knowing everyone is understanding of the kids! There's no other environment where that could reasonable happen. Though it won't be easy, (nothing worthwhile ever is) those darling little munchkins will be the most studious, well-read kids around! By your example, they will learn to love learning! And that you can tie jumping rope to essay're genius and the kids will need you as their teacher! P.S. Two RS women in the ward once said that pushing aside too much family time -when going to school as an adult- in order to get straight A's was a mistake which they regretted. B's are okay if for the sake of the kids. You get it though, and recognize how important these years are. Bless you, and BYUIMOM-on!

Kelly and Tadd said...

Wow Steph, this basically made me cry, minus the fact that I am at work and I held my tears back. I am so proud of you. You are doing such a great job I can just tell. You are working so hard at everything and I bet it seems like no one appreciates it, but it seems like you are also looking at in the best way! I am glad you are doing so well, and it sounds like your kids are getting so much love! Way to be the best YOU! Miss you guys.

The BaKeRs said...

!!!!!! Love this post! Thank you for sharing all the amazing things you are learning! I am grateful that you shared it! I know it is hard but you are amazing and just the things you wrote in this post prove how amazing you are and how you know the importance of prioritizing :)
Love you all and miss u!