13 April 2015


The other day I was complaining to Alex about how crazy I feel all the time right now. Sometimes I just want to feel normal, you know?

He said, "Honey, You're not normal. And that's okay."

He is exactly what I need.

12 February 2015

The Bright Side

Lately I have been on a quest to let go of being judgmental. (By lately I mean basically since my early twenties when I noticed how judgmental I was)  In my search, I found this lovely article, which I would like to share:

How to be NonJudgmental

I have taped it to my bathroom wall, so I may review it regularly.

Additionally, I was perusing positive thinking books on Amazon. I have not actually committed to buying one yet, but something amused me, and I have to share. Have you ever looked at positive thinking book reviews? They are overwhelmingly positive. 

09 February 2015

Note to Self on New Baby Depression Failsafes

This post is in case I get low again after the next baby to help me remember my failsafes.

Plan the Food, Assert its Goodness 
 I find a huge amount of joy and satisfaction in planning, preparing, and eating a delicious meal. I also love trying new recipes, whether from Pinterest or my food magazines. Sometimes my children try to rob me of my joy by complaining. My husband refrains from complaint even when I cook something so revolting that I decide to throw away the rest of the pan. It is a privilege to be the wife of such a man. So when the kids start in on my delicious home cooked meals I just tell them loudly what I want to hear. "Mom, thank you for all of your hard work making this meal! You're welcome my beautiful, grateful, kind children." They usually get the hint.

A house does not have be immaculate and sparkling all the time. Cleaning is the area in which I struggle the most. However, from being around various women who have clean houses, and observing what they do, I have realized that, like cooking, it is a skill that can be mastered through hard work and habit. It takes me about 10 minutes to just pick up the floor of the family room. I do not straighten, vacuum, dust, and put everything away every day. But I have noticed a significant psychological improvement in my state of mind and that of my husband if there is a basic semblance of sanity when he gets home from work.

Stock the Kitchen
Sometimes when I have a baby, I do not have time to cook elaborate meals for myself or my family. We all have to eat anyway. I need to keep bread, milk, eggs, and especially fruit and vegetables on hand so that we can all eat every day. If I have to buy pre-packaged baby food rather than making my own in my blender, so be it. Conveniences are there to help us when we are overwhelmed, and we should take advantage of them.

Last year I made a psychological breakthrough in the area of exercise. I used to try to exercise in a significant way two to three times a week. That meant if I missed session of exercise, I only got once or twice a week, and it was very easy to let go of good habits. When I worried about my fourth baby coming out ginormous, I decided to walk every day except Tuesday. This made a huge difference in my way of thinking about exercise. If I missed a day it didn't matter, because tomorrow was another day. I always felt capable of exercising because walking for short periods of time was so easy. Changing my thinking about exercise enabled me to form and keep a habit with a little bit of work instead of a lot.  

Think Positively
I have a problem with negative thinking. It has been so bad at times that I thought, "I need to find a book about Stopping Negative Thinking." I later realized such a book would be called a book about positive thinking. Duh. It has been a long time coming, but I am finally forming thought habits of looking for good, refraining from criticism, and allowing others such as my husband and children, to make their own choices instead of trying to control them. 

Reach Out
Talking to other adult females during the day lifts my spirits considerably. I realized how true this was one day when my lunch pals and I had an extensive discussion about socks and the folding thereof. It didn't matter that we were talking about socks. Talking to them made me feel better, and it is okay if I have to call or text three or four people before someone is available to talk or play. Someone else might need to talk, too, so I should reach out.

Be Mindful
This is a technique I use to fight anxiety and depression. I focus on the moment I am in. I focus on what I see, what I hear, what I smell, what I physically touch. This has been the single most helpful parenting and life in general technique I have found. So many times in the past I have put my children off because I was blogging, addicted to my phone or email, busy cooking, or really just busy off in my mind thinking about things that are totally out of my control. Yoga helps it. Exercise helps it. Cooking and quilting help it. When I am able to focus the full power of my mind on the present moment, my quality of life significantly improves.  I can celebrate those beautiful little moments of parenthood the way I have always wanted to when I am mindful.

So there you go, self. Now, don't forget like you did with the caramel tips you blogged and then forgot to review before you made caramel (and overcooked it) again the next Christmas. There are lots of coping strategies for blues. Use them! 

07 December 2014

Merry Christmas 2014

Dear Friends and Family,

We hope that 2014 (pronounced twenty-fourteen) was as good to you as it was to us. This year, Alex's attempts at Christmas lights resulted in a masterfully crafted cartographic masterpiece. . . made with masterfulness. Visitors who come to enjoy the amazing light displays next door and down the street from our house have been very grateful for the solitary lighted arrow that we provided to help guide them westward and keep them on the road.

This year, Jenny had an entire human being pass through her digestive system. . . well. . . next to it, anyway. Jenny's garden produced a very large pumpkin weighing more than all of our kids, and only took a few months to do it. The garden had no epidural, no pitocin, no whining, no midnight snacks, no strange cravings, no swearing at its husband, no labor. Nothing! Plus, it was almost free. Take an example from that garden, ladies! Jenny also completed a drawing class at the University, and finished eight quilts! Eight! Take that Pinterest! Jenny For The WIN! Jenny also was forced out of her usual gig writing the Christmas letter. Hopefully, that's apparent at this point.

Alex discovered a secret love for Chinese trampoline fighting, and has joined an underground circuit that flourishes in the seedy underbelly of Toquerville. You should SEE the costumes! On a side note, his injuries require major donations from everyone he loves via kickstarter. We are not making this up. (Jenny's note: Alex is completely making this up.) Think Lucha Libre with less gravity, less fabric, and more MSG. Alex continues to teach Photography at DSU during the day, which means that somewhere out there, there could be young people with bits of his philosophy attached. Yeesh. Alex is building another R2-D2, because STAR WARS, and he finally got his shop organized over spring break. . . which took three solid days.

Grace is still learning Spanish. Also, she decorated her own room, which greatly complicated our ability to comply with local zoning laws, and required several conditional use permits before it was legal to enter without proper safety gear. Grace has an odd obsession with Jean Claude Van Damme, which makes us wonder what exactly the school is showing for those perfect reader movie nights.

Henry also began learning Spanish this year, and he found pokemon', digimon', and reggae mon! We discovered that all of our children somehow voted in Chicago in 2012, and Henry was apparently elected to some smallish post in Thailand.

Scott hasn't had a date since he was two, so he's been pining away a little for the ladies, but luckily has set his sights on stealing Jenny away from Alex. He's so much happier when he has a goal. Sometimes, we wake up to find him just standing on Daddy's side of the bed, staring, and muttering to himself. So cute.

“Little” Kaleb (I use the quotes, because he is not, in fact, little) was born on Star Wars day at 9 lbs 10 oz, but hasn't shown much ambition since. He's attempted to ingest bits of the Christmas tree but he can't be bothered to get off his rear end and work for what he wants yet. He never talks to the other kids, just sucks on their faces when they pass within his little orbit. He'll sometimes make rude noises and then just smile. We'll start working on social skills soon.

We hope the coming year brings as much joy as any year may in which a Star Wars film is released.
Love to you all, from the Chamberlains

PS Jenny promises to write or edit more heavy handedly next year. 

29 November 2014


 We live next to several very amazing Christmas Light Enthusiasts, and that might be putting it mildly. The photo above does not remotely convey the magic of the season that lies next door and down the street from us. These lights are truly something that must be experienced and appreciated first-hand.

Last year, even into mid January my children asked if we could drive down the street every time we came home. So we, in our gratitude, decided that our lights should support giving credit where credit is due:

We might put some more up later, as the joyous spirit continues to trickle in our direction from the epicenter of awesomeness down the street.

09 November 2014

Baby Blues: An Annoyingly Misleading Term

I still feel sad multiple times every day for my friend who lost her beautiful baby daughter. I know she thought it would be old news for many after a few weeks, and maybe that is true. But it is not old news to me. Every time I drive past her house, and often when I just look at my little ones, I try to imagine the heaviness of her grief. I am sure I fail, because I think that kind of grief can only be understood by experience.

One of the things on my mind is isolation. I always feel very isolated for the first six months to a year of a baby's life. It's funny, because some might wonder how a woman with four children and a loving and attentive husband could ever feel isolated at all. People use the term "Baby Blues," which I find annoying, because it makes it sound cute, and less serious and painful than it actually is.

I have a few thoughts, after my extensive analysis. I host a book group and attend my local quilt guild, which activities help me feel connected to a community twice a month. I have an assignment at church, which can keep me connected to my faith community. I can call, text, or email my family and friends to stay connected to them. I have lunch and a scheduled play date with friends every week, and sometimes have other play dates as well.

But when I have a baby, while doing all of those things, there is often a large part of my brain that is not connected to anything except The Baby. He is underneath all of my thoughts, often fussing in the background, ready to interrupt anything I do at a moments notice. I love him, and I want him, and I enjoy him as much as possible.

I feel the blues around me, waiting to settle in. I wave them away with my quilting, my play dates, my exercise, my books. Sometimes I fail, and I feel alone. I feel disconnected from everyone: from Alex, from the kids, from my friends, and even from myself. In the past I have been addicted to blogging. Now, I check Facebook too many times in the hopes that someone has something to say to entertain me or help me connect with humanity in a meaningful way. 

Recently I talked to a good therapist, and she immediately put her finger on my problem. Through our session, we talked about so many things, and I felt 100 times better when I was done. I think the biggest realization I had was that I can change my modes of operation to improve my situation. I am the captain of my own fate. I am the master of my own destiny. And if I am tired of feeling isolated, I need to reach out. I have been doing so, and it is already helping so much that I even feel like blogging again. 

I guess this post is a way for me to make it public. I am working at stopping being such a lazy extrovert. Let's play.

30 October 2014

Conversation with my Daughter

Me: putting on my full blown Sunday makeup and styling my hair.

Daughter: "Mom, why don't you wear makeup every day?"

I finish the sentence in my own head, "Because wow, you look so much better today."

Out loud: "Because I think I am beautiful whether I wear makeup or not. I like myself just the way I am."

Daughter: "Oh."

Me: "That is why I don't think you need to wear makeup until you are older. I think you are beautiful just the way you are."

Daughter: "Oh."

Please dear daughter, like yourself just the way you are. You are magnificent.