Hi, I'm Stephanie

 

 

 

  I love Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice so much that I decided to have five daughters and name the second one Elizabeth.  Like a modern-day Mrs. Bennett, I spend my days raising my girls so they will be happy and independent when they grow up – only I prefer that they make their money instead of marry it.  And if my youngest runs away to London with some loser at age 15, I will track her down and haul her home myself.  But I’ll totally do some sightseeing first.

 

Kira

 

The Guinea Pig.  Gives me hope.  My husband in feminine form, she just gets more fun.

Lizzy

 

 

 Energetic, smart, kind, and will argue her convictions to the death. 

 

 

 

Hallie

 

My Hallie Priscilla. Unique fashion sense, desperately wants to live in a purple house.  Loves skunks and fruit bats.

Sophia

 My girly-girl and lone lefty.  Charming, gracious, stubborn, preternaturally practical.  And ya, she and Hallie are identical twins.

Scarlett
Scarlett Bella, Bella-boo.  Becoming a daredevil. Spoiled rotten, practically perfect.

 
Mr. Man

My intensely private husband.  Hilarious, smart, compassionate, good. 

 

Joan Rivers on Housekeeping:

I hate housework.  You make the beds, you wash the dishes, and six months later you have to start all over again.

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Amen!

"I surely know that there is no role in life more essential and more eternal than that of motherhood.

"There is no one perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children. The choice is different and unique for each mother and each family. Many are able to be “full-time moms,” at least during the most formative years of their children’s lives, and many others would like to be. Some may have to work part-or full-time; some may work at home; some may divide their lives into periods of home and family and work. What matters is that a mother loves her children deeply and, in keeping with the devotion she has for God and her husband, prioritizes them above all else."

Elder M. Russell Ballard, "Daughters of God"

Sunday
Aug032014

She's a bit of a fixer-upper.

Lizzy’s undergoing a bit of remodeling this summer.

Actually, it started eight months ago, (although the surgery bit is new,) last December, with feeling extremely light-headed.  This, I believed.

She also said her arms and sometimes legs were tingly and numb, which I thought was teenage hypochondriasis.

The last symptom was brief, intense pinpoint headaches. Doesn’t everybody get those?

We started with a doctor at the walk-in clinic, which told her it was run-of-the mill vertigo, which would last three month or so, possibly less.  He gave her medication which didn’t decrease the dizziness; it just made her embarrass Kira in public.

After three and a half months, and lots of missed school, we took her to Doctor #2 (her regular pediatrician), who referred her to Doctor #3 (an ENT) who said it’s not vertigo and promptly ordered an MRI.

The MRI was normal, so we went off to Doctor #4 (a neurologist) who said (I am paraphrasing here), “This is a no-brainer, she has low blood pressure.”

Not scary the-first-doctor-should-have-caught-it low blood pressure, just on the low end of normal and not enough to pump blood to her noggin and extremities. Apparently, this is not that uncommon among young teens, both boys and girls (some people have assumed it’s one of those “girl things”) and it’s something she’ll outgrow. She’s now on medication, plus has to consume a high sodium diet and lots of water.

Crazy, huh?

And, because MRIs and EEGs (she had one of those, too) are deductible-busting expenses, we decided to get her tonsils out because they [were] ginormous and made her snore like a 60-year-old obese man.

Last, we finally called about getting her lost retainer replaced, which may require a little bit of corrective orthondontia because I’ve forgotten about it every month for the last… six months?

 

When she’s feeling better she’s going to get her hair chopped off and dye it brown.

Tuesday
Jul222014

I Went, I Did, I Was

Tap, tap, tap…

…is this thing on?

I’m sitting in my favorite chair.  The dishes are done, the washer and dryer are loaded and humming along, the floors are vacuumed.  It’s still daylight, I have nowhere else to be and nothing else I need to be doing right now.

Young Women Camp 2014 must be over.

I’d meant to post more stuff about camp before it actually happened, but I chose sleep instead.

The theme was “I Will Go, I Will Do, I Will Be,” and the goal was for every young woman to understand that she has a unique and vital role to play in building the Lord’s kingdom. Practically, that translated into classes/activities on patriarchal blessings, “Lessons from Nephi,” and some heads-up discussions on church callings, strengthening families, and being good examples. Our special speaker talked to the girls about how every young woman is needed, and each has special gifts. Our stake YW president taught a lively and interesting class on the war chapters of the Book of Mormon.

And we camped.

We took our fourth years on an overnight backpacking excursion, complete with pouring rain, hail, thunderbolts and lightning (very, very frightening).  We dug a group latrine and hung bear bags while our shoes filled up with water.

It was awesome.

I later heard of some whining from adult leaders. The whining happened before the hike, but I heard about it two days afterward.  Note to self: never listen to complaints – especially stupid ones – when you’re in the middle of pouring heart, body, and soul into completing something you’ve worked a year to plan. Some people wish we’d do a girly version of scout camp, some would prefer we rent out a Holiday Inn for the week, and you’re never gonna please everybody.  The fourth years enjoyed the overnight hike (“my favorite part of camp!”), they learned some new skills and felt proud of themselves, and that’s what matters.

 

I hiked Monday afternoon, then Tuesday morning.  Tuesday afternoon I hiked some more to mark the trail for Wednesday’s hikes. Then I hiked with a group Wednesday morning to make sure they didn’t get lost, then went on the compass certification ( surprise – a hike!) Wednesday afternoon.

Gnarly blister on my right food aside, I need to hike more.  It agrees with me. 

 We had a bear scare – turns out moose poop and black bear poop look remarkably similar.

I had to make an announcement about the bathrooms every single time I did announcements.  I am tired of talking about bathrooms; tired of talking about cleaning them, stocking them, or staying out of them (during the hours of 1-3pm, when the priesthood leaders get to shower).

 

I found myself sharing/venting about the family drama of the past few months to some ladies on the camp committee, because they’ve experienced similar things, and it felt so good to discuss it with someone.  It turns out I’m not the only one with crazy relatives.

By the end of the week, I got used to hearing “Hi, Sister Cozzens!” shouted by young women that I hardly know, but who somhow feel like they know (and like) me.  I’m not going to say they think I’m cool – let’s not be ridiculous here – but I never expected that the tired, kinda frumpy, 40-year-old me would have more teenage friends than the 17-year-old me ever did.

 

Somehow, by the end of the week, I started to wrap my head around the fact that I don’t get to do camp again next year. With three younger daughters, I’ll probably have the opportunity eventually, in some capacity, but it’s not in my immediate (read: as long as I’m a bishop’s wife) future.

And I’m at peace with it.  Being the stake camp director has been one of the greatest joys and privileges of my life.  I’m far more grateful for the opportunity than I am sad that it’s over.

Monday
Jun162014

In short, dear reader, I have good problems.

My teenagers tell me I've been kind of "ranty" on Facebook lately.  I thought I was being funny about minor complaints (Scarlett misbehaving at her summer class, one of those teenagers acting embarrassed to see me in public.)

I've definitely been a little "ranty" in my last two blog posts - although I hope the point about not being camp director came through - I have been hugely blessed to have this experience,  and although I will miss it, I'm mostly glad to have had the chance to do it in the first place.

In addition to needing to make peace with my church assignments, we're also getting some whopping huge medical bills, courtesy of Lizzy's still unsolved vertigo mystery, and we've decided to leave our van and suburban with some significant repairs undone because we just can't  - and won't - keeping forking over hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars every month.  We've always said that as long as the repairs were cheaper than car payments, it was worth it to keep fixing them.

*sigh*

The repairs are no longer cheaper.

So I vent, I do. Because when I don't, some days I feel like I'm choking down the frustration all day long.

I felt like that yesterday morning as I frantically told Scarlett to FIND A SUITABLE CHURCH DRESS (one that does not have pajama pants underneath) and tenderized steaks for our Father's Day dinner. I wondered to myself, as I wrapped potatoes in foil, how do I meet everyone's demands and still be a good mother?  How?

Then I went to church, and the talks were all about having a Christ-centered home.  Nothing about scouting, or callings, but lots and lots about having family prayer, family home evening, scripture study - all things we do. And somewhere in between shushing Scarlett (who was apparently having a tea party during sacrament meeting) and the talks, I heard that little whisper, telling me to move forward and trust that it would work out, that I would know how to get the important things done.

My husband and I talked this morning, in a very general way, about his challenges helping the people in our ward.  Although he never tells me what the specific issues are or who's having them, it's a reminder that if the worst things that happen to us are long to-do lists and some minor [in the long run] finanial hiccups, we are very blessed indeed.

Everybody has problems.

I have good ones.

 

Saturday
Jun142014

Being stake camp director has been one of the most joyful experiences of my life.

And it's going to end in July.

The powers that be have determined that it's too much for me to be a bishop's wife and stake young women camp director at the same time.

I disagree.

I counted the number of school nights I'm absent in a given year for camp meetings, and came up with five. Five is not too many, in my estimation, and because I'm the director, I can schedule them when they have the least impact on my children.  Most of the real work comes whenever I get a spare hour or two, so I can fit it around my family's activities. Few church callings could fit as beautifully with my family's schedule as this one.

Furthermore, YW camp scratches my creative itches, provides an opportunity to meet amazing women from around the stake I'd never get to know otherwise, and reminds me that I'm capable of things other than cooking, cleaning, and childcare.

NOT that cooking and cleaning, and childcare are small things.  They are big things, important things, and have helped me grow immeasurably.  But there's more to life, and more to me. Being the camp director has been a good reminder of that.

Still, after I finish YW camp in July, another director will be called and I will hand over everything I've done to her.

I've made peace with it.

Every year, I say think that we couldn't have a better stake camp committee, that they couldn't be any more dedicated, creative, fun, smart, faithful, wonderful. But I'm pretty sure that this year, I'm actually right, and one of these ladies will probably be the next camp director. (It's a tough choice, and I'm glad I don't have to make it!) As much as I have loved this church calling, I'm not the only one who can do it. I'm looking forward to seeing the good things the next director does.

And I'll see what I can do when all my creative energies aren't poured into a church calling. It's a funny thing to contemplate doing something artsy and putting together a big project that benefits me and my family and not anybody else. That's allowed, right? It might even be healthy.

Thursday
Jun122014

What this mother of five daughters REALLY thinks about cub scouts

I told myself that I had to fill out my application to be a cub scout leader TODAY, which has me thinking about cub scouts and scouting in general, and naturally I decided that the most urgent thing was to write a blog post about it.

Technically, I’m not “over” cub scouts in our ward – that responsibility belongs to another primary presidency member. The good women of our stake primary presidency, however, have asked that all members of our presidency register as scout leaders and become members of the ward cub scout committee.  Although this is a little more involvement than the handbook suggests, it makes sense for our ward.  Miranda, who is the ward primary counselor over scouts, is bright, energetic, awesome, and a single mother of small children. No way can she be expected to add committee meetings, and round table to her to-do list.  Our primary president, Sarah, is a force of nature – who’s due to have her third baby just about any minute.

So I guess it’s up to me to fill in the gaps.

(Reminder: my husband is the bishop, we have five daughters. You probably do remember, but it surprises me how often this does NOT come up when people assume I am free to attend additional evening meetings/appointments a month.)

I’ve learned about cub scouts in two ways, the first being watching my five brothers make pinewood derby cars and earn patches during our childhood. It looked like fun, and I never understood why it was so important for the boys to have this amazing program while the girls got nothing (I grew up before Achievement Days, which then became Activity Days, and may have had another incarnation altogether before my time).

The second experience was being assigned to cub scouts during my last stint in a primary presidency.  I was handed a stack of books and told to go to round table every month, where they would tell me what I needed to know.  Being the responsible person that I am, I attended faithfully for a whole year, and learned a lot about fun crafts, the proper way to conduct a pack meeting, and nothing whatsoever about what a primary counselor does to help the scouts. 

I checked the ward calendar I could attend pack meeting.  Half the time, it had been canceled or moved, but nobody had told me.

I asked if I could help out with the weekly meetings, but was told I could not.

After a year, I knew nothing about what I was supposed to be doing, except that I wasn’t doing it, and I admit that I mostly gave up. The experience left me angry – angry at the people who should have trained me, angry at myself for not demanding that training.

When I got released, I overheard the Primary president handing off cub scout materials to the new counselor, telling her, “you have a boy, so you’ll care more about cub scouts.”

So this time?  With this presidency and this new round of responsibilities? I am willing, but leery.

Trying to learn from my last epic failure, I’ve asked a lot of questions.  And this time, we’ve been fortunate enough to have help from the counselor in the stake primary presidency help us figure out what to do.  This woman is a scouting genius, and bless her, she dumbed it down enough for me to get it. I’ve learned more from her in two meetings about what I need to do with the cub scouts than I learned in the two years I was over cub scouts before.

Still, I do have questions, and most of them have been about how much I really need to do, what meetings I really need to attend.

This might be a good time to state categorically that I support the cub scout/scouting program. It’s great, and I can see that it’s a wonderful thing for those boys and young men who get to be involved with it. I’m sure it’s a positive experience for the leaders also. Furthermore, it’s what our church leaders feel these boys and these leaders should be doing, so I think it’s what these boys and these leaders should be doing, too.

But I do have questions.  They’re not doubts, they’re not criticisms, they don’t stem from a desire to change the program or escape responsibility.  My questions have everything to do with a need to support my husband and be available to raise my children, and making sure that if I’m not there for them, it is a necessary absence.

My other previous and current church responsibilities permit questions. Right now, I’m the stake young women camp director, and I constantly question what we’re doing, and invite others to ask questions.  How do you make the program better if you don’t ask questions?

Once upon a time, I was the activity days leader in our ward, which is, in and of itself, a giant question mark. (One of the questions I will ask when I get to heaven is why the 8-11 year old boys get a beautifully laid out, well-funded program, when the girls get this nebulous, poorly and often unfunded “figure it out for yourself” non-program.)

I asked a gazillion questions when I was in the Relief Society Presidency, and the kept me there until I figured it out and stopped asking so many.  So I guess questions are okay in Relief Society.

My experience asking “do I really need to do this?” questions about cub scouts has not been so positive. Generally, the reaction is some version of, “Don’t think you shouldn’t have to do scouts just because you don’t have sons.”

And I am gathering that within the Boy Scouts of America, you toe the line, do what you’re told, and you don’t question things, for any reason, unless it’s to find out how to toe the line even more closely.

I have tried explaining that with my husband being a bishop, he is gone several nights a week.  He has to be gone that much.  That leaves me alone to do the parenting on those nights.  We have found that we can occasionally both be gone on a school night, and it’s okay, but if we both leave regularly on school nights, homework doesn’t get done, instruments do not get practiced, and there’s more fighting.  Worse – to me, anyway, - is the increased anxiety from my little ones.  They need a parent around after a long day of school, and as lovely as my two older daughters are, they’re still kids (with huge stacks of homework) and they’re not the parents.

So, yes, if I’m told I have to be away from home for several more nights each month, I will ask if it’s necessary.  And it won’t be because I don’t-like-scouts-because-I-have-all-daughters.  It won’t be because I don’t support the scouting program.  It’s because my family comes first, and failing them is not an option.

(Quick side note: between my husband and I, we have ten visiting teaching and home teaching appointments each month, all of which have to be done in the evenings.  At least it’s down from last month’s high of twelve.)

So.  Should I be released from the primary presidency? I’ve volunteered, repeatedly, until the primary president is sick of hearing it, to fill several other callings.  I would love to be in nursery.  I would love to be a den mother, so I can REALLY learn the cub scout program (and get those people to shut up who think I don’t like scouts!).  I’d do both, actually.

But right now, she feels like she needs me where I am, and so I will stay and do my best.

I will do my best. 

It won’t satisfy everyone, or convince the “you have daughters so you must not be pro-scouts” camp, but it’s all I can do.

Because I support scouts, but my first obligation is always to my family.