"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Surfaced emotions

Okay, I'm emotional mush. No really, I think I have some sort of disorder. I feel my throat swell up and tears sting at some of the craziest things. I have to cough sideways, sniff like I'm clearing my nasal passage, and scratch my nose all to cover up that I'm once again getting overwhelmed and to keep those that I'm with from laughing at my silly sensitivity to sentiment. Sounds crazy I know.

It's moments like these:

At some venue, I'll be in the crowd when we're all singing the Star Spangled Banner. Something inside of me clicks and that "one nation under God" feeling kicks in and draws out that tight throat, gonna cry, feeling. Weird.

Once, I was on my treadmill preparing for, what to me, was a lengthy race. I was struggling to hit my mileage goal and so I tried to picture myself coming around the corner into the stadium with all of the crowd cheering and seeing the finish line ahead. Nothing feels sillier than to find yourself running alone on a treadmill psyched out with tears welling up because you mentally convinced yourself to reach your end goal.

I recently watched Celia run the 4 woman relay in track and as she pumped her way around the track trying desperately to make up ground for her team, I got that same ball of emotion watching her work so very hard.

That said, this weekend was ballet recital weekend. Having a dance background myself, I do so love going to watch Annie dance. She's so much better than I ever was at that age.

I thoroughly enjoyed the rehearsal the evening before the recital, and that's saying a lot. Those things are usually painful. But this time was different. The line up of dances were run through like clock work to smooth out any kinks. I kept an eye on the program, watching for Annie's number.

One dance to go before my girl's ... the lights came up and in center stage stood an approximately twelve year old girl with Downs Syndrome, beautifully clad in white leotard and skirt. The music began and she danced her heart out. At it's close, she continually curtsied and curtsied and I cried great elephant tears. So much so, I couldn't even pull it together enough to enjoy my own daughter's dance to follow. It was just one of those moments for me.

Thank goodness for recital rehearsals because at today's show, I was better able to hold myself together. Maybe it was knowing what to expect. Maybe it was wrestling bored-with-ballet Eliza, or my slight irritation at too many teen "pole dancing" numbers squeezed in between classical ballet. But I held it together until the end, ... and then I cried right through Annie's Tarantella because I couldn't believe how hard these girls work.

Emotional response always catches me by surprise, but I'm starting to realize it's brought on by anything awe inspiring. Namely, observing individuals reach their full potential after much struggle. I'm a mess, I know. But today was a day I felt privileged to be a part of.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Decisions, decisions

I've had some pretty big decisions to make recently. Not the short term sort like which color to paint the living room, but the sort that determine whether your children turn left or right. The details aren't really so important as the process to making the hard decisions.

Plan A might feel great and Plan B might be good too. Maybe I like Plan A because it's comfortable, maybe it's safe, maybe it only "seems" right because it's what I want. And isn't what I want always right anyway -- because, after all, it is what I want?

And round and round the mulberry bush it goes.

But, recently the thought occured to me.

Back in October of last year, Janie grew tired of missing out on all of the tooth fairy fun. It'd been awhile for her and being a "make it happen" sort of gal, she started wiggling her very not loose front teeth until she had forced those front teeth right out. I didn't learn any of this until too late -- observant, I know.

It's been almost eight months and finally those new teeth are starting to grow in.

Decision making is like that. I'd like to force some paths to be the right ones. It feels comforting to do what I want to do. Or should I really feel out the correct answer because if I force things to happen in certain directions it just might hurt my growth. Like Janie's teeth, I might be stunted by pushing my will rather than praying my heart out. Taking some time, searching it out, feeling inspired ... I might just become a little bit more by trusting in the peace I feel toward the end I can't see.

I'm a little bit frustrated with not having the right answer, right now ... BUT...

I guess that's why faith is having a hope in the things we don't know. It only makes us stronger and helps us grow the way were were intended. Patience, trust and time build divine characteristics -- "teeth" that need to grow and develop along an inspired path. And answers will come.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Sorry to my family but I've got to blog this. I'VE GOT TO. Apology's up front.

Since the arrival of my new camera, I've been snapping pictures like crazy.

I'm so enjoying capturing artistic pictures of my children that freeze the light in their eyes, hold their expressions and make me feel like I'd love to put each one on a canvas in my living room.

That was my whole point in the first place, to hold time in my hands. But some pictures just tell a story. Lacking perfection, no artistic flare, some photographs just say it all.

My sister sent around this picture via email this morning and I so wish I could make it bigger but it's poor quality won't allow me to do so or you would see the following details about the family I grew up in and of which I write about so often.

1. There were nine children and this picture only shows seven. Apparently my oldest brother had just escaped to college and the youngest was probably just beginning to toddle.

2. That's my dad right in the center of it all and if you could see his expression clearer, it would scream, "How did I get into this mess?".

3. Erin is holding up the cat. She always had a cat draped over each shoulder. Always.

4. Why is Joseph on the bike to the right, wearing a pioneer bonnet and dragging yellow "caution" tape?

5. Mamie's got that bike concentration face going on. She took everything seriously. Everything.

6. Meg, -- don't know what Meg is celebrating but she was always celebrating something. And she always had to be up front, in front, noticeably .. out ... front.

7. Will -- the small lost boy in the middle, was always wandering around small and lost, whistling tunes to himself. Still a whistler, nowadays he's big and hopefully not so lost.

8. Arms and legs coming out from behind Will and Meg, that'd be Josh. He was too cool for any of this debacle. Still is.

9. That's me looking over Dad's shoulder. Yeah, I was hoping to go unnoticed too. Fat chance. Like a Shriner circus, we were anything but unnoticeable.

10. Left side, there's that poor brown Ford LTD we each took a turn driving into the ground. Some of us were harder on it than others. Sorry about that broken window, Mom.

Thanks for the memory jog, Meg! This one made me laugh like crazy and check my photographic intentions. Don't forget the memories because a picture speaks a thousand words and this one spoke volumes to me. There's nothing like capturing "life". It all passes by so quickly.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Why I blog

I love to read other people's "reasons why I blog" posts. It gives me a lot of perspective. I think when one begins blogging, they worry about painting a picture of life so much more fulfilling or perfect than it really is. Some blog to remember, some blog because it's cathartic to have an outlet to thoughts, other's blog to keep in touch with extended family.

I started blogging for some of those reasons as well as to have a place to keep our stories and pictures all together in one spot. But, reasons change and here's why I blog now.

Recently my ten year old daughter had a very difficult day at school. She's just wrapping up the year with a teacher who is self-admittedly "direct" and that can be hard to take on a day in and day out basis. And this particular day had been full of that knot-in-the pit-of your-stomach-directness.

Annie was in computer lab with a couple of her dear friends and having the freedom to utilize the computers, she pulled up our blog to show them. There they sat, reading the stories and looking at the pictures. That afternoon she told me how nice it was to have that moment in the middle of her really hard day to just feel like she was home for a second. The knot loosened and she just breathed it all in and felt a little calmer to be able to feel close to us.

Yes, I blog because I love the journal keeping. Yes, I blog because it's cathartic to write stuff down. And yes, I will look back and say "Hey, that was us .. the good and the bad!" But really, I love that anywhere my children may ever go, there's nowhere far enough that they can't come home for just a little while. Breathe it in and feel the safety of what it means to be a family.

Wherever you go, you're still one of us.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Chubby's birthday

Shouldn't every child get to attend a chicken birthday party on a Saturday?

Only in the country, I guess, would you find a heap of kids excited to celebrate a chicken's eight years. And trust me, in chicken years, that ain't nothin' to sneeze at. Our 4-H friends all brought their birds and we really whooped it up -- funky chicken style.

We brought presents. You know, a cute baggie of worms freshly found after our most recent rain, a carton of tomatoes, some home-baked layer scratch and corn cookies (our dad said they smelled so good but we didn't go so far as to let him try them -- though almost).

We had a cook out -- no chicken just all beef hot dogs. There was cake, and yes, I checked carefully to make sure it was people cake not "chicken cake" as was threatened. You don't even want to know what goes into a chicken cake.

And this is just Eliza having a good time.

It all reaffirmed why I love it here and how much I've so enjoyed getting to know these wonderful people. They sure know how to keep it real.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Choosing the good

She's got so much fire and so much determination. Sometimes good and sometimes bad. I keep telling myself if I can just gear her toward latching on to correct principles, she will drive that determination full force in the right direction.

But boy it's hard. It's a constant fight.

Her baptism on Saturday was beautiful. I think she liked it best because it was all about her. Everyone here to see her, lots of hugs, focused attention. Janie eats that up with a spoon. She needs attention and she'll take it, good or bad. That's the hair yanking truth of it.

A little while back, she left her purse laying around and I picked it up spilling it's contents in the process and I found this:

But it's empty. Not one page written on. I thought it the cutest thing ever and didn't really want to invade her privacy but couldn't help myself. One night while tucking her in, I asked her about it. I wanted to know why she'd not written in it yet. She said she just hadn't made any good choices.

It was hard for me to hear that she felt that way because she is so great in so many ways.

I reminded her that her choice to come to our family was good and encouraged her to look for opportunities to make some to write about. And now she has one to include.

Super strong willed children teeter on an edge. They'll have their way come heck or high water. It's almost like a supernatural power. It's useless to try to break them and would be really sad if we did. So, as her mother, I'm trying to think of this power as being something divinely ingrained. And if I can help her hone that laser focus in the right direction, that really will be something.

And when I remember that one thing, then mornings like today's difficult one make me re-evaluate ways I can redirect that unbreakable deterimination into a force for good.

Because everyone's self esteem should be boosted by a spy book brimming with good choices.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My Mothers

I'm a little selfish. I know. And selfishly, I was pleased as punch to get to have the mothers of my life all to myself for the weekend. I do so love these two women.

My mother in law is always so complimentary. She makes me feel like a super mom -- which I'm not, but every once in awhile it's nice to have a cheering section come around and validate the job you're doing. I get burned out, I get tired, I have days I want to throw in the towel. But when she comes for a visit, after she leaves, I believe I can run faster and try harder because she makes me feel like everything I'm doing is worthwhile. I wish I had that more often.

I'm amazed by her. Her family is beautiful and I'm so glad to be a part of it. And I admire the strength it took to raise one girl and four boys -- one of which I'm married to. He's fantastic -- now -- and it can only be because she ran a tough training ground and got him all prepped up for me. That's admirable.

It's always sad to see her go knowing it could be awhile before we will enjoy one another's company again.

And this mother:

I could write volumes about. She would scoff at every word but it'd all be true.

I've never seen her take anything for herself. Ever. After awhile, I think women feel like they turn into their mothers but I'll tell you, that's one quality I'm still waiting for. I want to be more like that.

I remember a time right after I went off to Utah for college. Winters were cold -- really cold. I had very little money for anything and I'm sure my parents had less with two tuition's being paid and seven other mouths to feed at home. I called my mom one Sunday night telling her I'd never felt a cold like this before. It was numbing.

She had an old pair of leather gloves. She wore them to drive all of us kids everywhere in that ginormous van. They were the only pair she owned and with wear and tear, they'd ripped and torn. I do remember being slightly embarrassed as she'd pull up to the high school to pick me up following some extracurricular. Worn gloves across the top of the steering wheel waiting patiently for me to dive into the back seat hoping not to be noticed by friends and acquaintances.

A week following my cold complaining phone call home, I received a package in my dorm mailbox with a pair of worn gloves. Old and leather, knuckle seams sewn with dental floss.

That's just one of many. Like I said, I could write volumes.

I pull these out every now and again just to remind myself how much I want to be like her. Her every thought has been for her children. I look at her and see how polished and flawless the outcome when a mother walks through the refiner's fire. One day, maybe I'll get there too but for now, I just bask in her example. She gives me a distance to reach for.

Thanks for spending your Mother's day with me. You both were certainly the highlight of mine. I only wish our visits weren't so few and far between. I love you.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

New baby

I have to introduce my new baby. I'm so in love. Newel said not to get all braggy about the new camera these guys gave me for my birthday/anniversary/mother's day present. So, I'm not even going to say how great she is with crystal clear clarity, fantastic speed, easy use, and perfect precision.

She's the new extension to my arm.

I'm so bad at remembering things. And I love gathering pictures because they help me remember. There's nothing more fun than looking back. We used to do it as kids. Sit around with our mother's photo box -- before my sister organized everything neatly into chronological books. I'll get there myself one day, but for now, mine are in a box too.

But I love to capture these beautiful kids expressions. The light in their eyes, smiles and emotions. I'm not great at it but I'm learning and having so much fun.

Just one more talent to add to my wish list of things I'd so like to be good at.

And I'm sure in love with this baby! Cuz she captures perfectly how much I love this baby:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

On-going debate

Grant spends most of his time with these guys.

One recent Saturday morning while making breakfast as Newel sat reading the paper at the table, I asked Grant what he was playing. "Darth Vader and friends," I was informed. Newel glanced up just long enough to state that Darth Vader doesn't have any friends.

"Yes he does. They're Storm Troopers." was Grant's retort.

"No," came the wisdom from a father, "the Storm Troopers are his employees. Employees can't be friends."

Insisting that they were so friends, Grant scooped up his guys and left the room.

Reopening the subject later, Grant said that Darth and the Troopers might be friends, even if they have different opinions. Families are like that too. It's just hard to tell sometimes that people love each other.

Kids can teach the most inspired stuff.

Newel still holds strong to the opinion that employees can't be friends.

Husbands can teach the most distorted stuff.

And so the debate goes on, friend or foe? How do you know.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lamb and the Lion

What is that about the lamb and the lion lying down together?

He's pretty tightly wound, knowing that as a hunter, just this once, dinner is tethered to the other end of a leash.

But ... as Annie and I worked with these two, it struck me as funny that the same tactics that work on animals, work on children as well.
  1. We had to get down and look the cat straight in the eye and forcefully tell him no.
  2. We scratched the rabbit behind the ears while scratching the cat, too.
  3. We praised him for his efforts with kind words.
I've struggled recently to know how to better help certain siblings with almost lethal differences of opinion learn to get along better. I guess this is a reminder to me of a lesson I need to reiterate with them at such trying times. It's not new, but in the busyness of life, sometimes I'm just looking for a means to an end rather than taking charge of some serious teaching moments.

So here are some things that are important to me that I hope, as a mother, to teach much better.
  1. Zero tolerance for fighting. It turns my world upside down. There are always going to be times when you feel that your shoulders are so tight the only cure would be to pounce and maul, but ... take a breath, calm it down, let it go. Newel always says it takes greater strength to love and if I can teach this, I will be genius.
  2. We are a family and respect is key. There's nothing more important than being each other's best friends, even when we're not. But each child is one of my children and nobody gets to disrespect that. Nobody.
  3. Accentuate the positive. Always look for the great stuff and acknowledge it with kindness. It begets more good -- and a desire to serve each other!
If it can work with two animals with instinctual differences, surely a pack of kids can learn it too.

Post Editorial Note: Since writing this, I've tried this tactic on the kids and am amazed at it's effect! First squabble coming my way, I stopped both offending parties and lay down my new law regarding fighting -- and nixed all follow up commentary. Validated each child's feelings and told each what I found fantastic about them and then praised their passed efforts at getting along. Expressed how great it makes me feel to see that behavior and wha-la ... they were off trying to impress me with their "get along nicely" skills. Thanks Mitt and Thumper, you're an awesome coupla guys!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mother's Day.

"Don't peek, Mom" I keep hearing at every turn. "What are we going to get Mom for Mother's day?" There's hiding and sneaking, whispers and secrets. And it's really all so unnecessary.

They could ask me. And what would it be that I'd want? Would it be flowers? Would it be breakfast in bed as I rest on my backside? Would it be a shiny new toaster to sit on my counter reminding me day after day of my call to mothering?

I'd like dishes that do themselves. I'd like laundry magically put away neatly folded in drawers. I'd like loving words and kindly playing. I'd like time. Time to sit and watch their happy faces engaged in an activity. Time to dust off the board games. Time to read a good book to them without the nagging thoughts in the back of my head of lists undone. Time spent together on our knees putting seeds in the soil of a garden. Time made possible by caring hands. Time holding still for just one moment to soak it all in. I'd like a sharp ear and a quick response. A one time asking and a quick hop-to. Bathrooms cleaned, kitchen floors scrubbed, a car emptied of it's massive amounts of trash. I'd like agree ability, I'd like dependability. And last but not least, service with a smile.

It's like asking for the moon.

"Who would want that??" they'd whine. "Not nearly as cool as a toaster."

Thursday, May 6, 2010

15 years

I used to look at folks married for fifteen years and think, whoa that's a long time.

It doesn't seem so long ago really.

It's funny to me how some couples start to look like one another over time. I remember remarking to my own parents that they seem so "related". I mean, when my mother gets in the mix of her family, I just don't see how she fits. She's more us than them. I guess when two people face life's challenges and triumphs together, they start to reflect each other. I don't know if we do but after all of this time, I do feel that connect.

Even though I've got more fire than one guy ought to have to handle and he's got more stubborn streak than one gal ought to deal with, he still makes my heart beat just as fast as it did on that morning fifteen years ago when I took his hand and watched our parents drive away leaving us to make our way without them -- even if it was only so far as our reception.

That was a pretty great day.

I've so enjoyed traveling through this life with my very best friend in the whole world. A journey that began 15 years ago today. I love you so and look forward to all of the great days still to come.

What's it worth?

So tired of school fundraisers promoting cheaply made Chinese garbage.

Our's held a jump-rope-a-thon and so I did my duty and put our usual five dollars in five separate envelopes for each school age child to donate. I have to spread the love and each fundraiser gets the same donation per child so by the end of the year, we feel we really did do our part.

But five wasn't enough to be given the cheaply trumped prizes that ten and twenty got.

I picked this boy up from school and he slumped into the back seat of my car. "How was your day?" I asked typically. "Not good," came the answer and then the tears. "What's wrong?" I asked.

"I tried really hard to be good today and I guess I just wasn't good enough because I didn't get a prize at the end of class like all of the other kids."

Talk about frustration. And try explaining sneaky motivational tactics to a kindergartner. So, this is how we spent our afternoon ... no matter how much I assured him that his goodness is unparalleled.

Nearly broke my heart. Is fundraising worth this? No. And that's my soapbox for today.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Waving bye bye

Just so's ya know, it don't mean what you think it does cuz ain't nobody really goin' nowheres.

Posted by Picasa

Just try it, and see what happens.

Monday, May 3, 2010

what promises do you make?

I mentioned that eight is a big year. Reason being, this week, Janie is going to be baptized a member of our church. Grandparents will be arriving for her special occasion. It's a big deal.

(thanks for making her feel special, Primary Teacher!)

And for those that don't know, before her baptism she has an interview with our ecclesiastical authority to determine her readiness. He'll ask her if she understands the promises she's making and what they are. She'll talk about some of the things she's learned along the way to becoming accountable.

If baptism represents accountability, a mother's job is to make sure a child is learning all they need to know to be prepared to accept responsibility for the mistakes they will make along this path called life. That makes my job huge. And with each child's approaching baptism, I always find myself reflecting -- am I teaching enough? Not that the teaching and learning ever ends, it's just that this particular milestone always makes me think.

Recently, while driving to and fro between lessons, I thought I'd do a little interview of my own. You see, as her mother, all of this time I've been teaching and wondering how much is sticking in there.

"Hey, Janie," I began, "your interview with the bishop is coming soon. Do you feel ready?" Car time is always excellent for discussions with my children.

"I think so." came the reply from the back seat.

"You know, he's going to ask you some questions like 'Do you know what promises you make at baptism?' do you think you can answer that?" I ventured.

"Sure," came the little voice from the backseat of the car, "I promise to be good .... and not to fight .... and ... to stop practicing witchcraft."

I choked and nearly drove off the road.

And you've gotta love Celia, my co-pilot, who leaned over and said "Mom, I suspect you ought to be ready for an ecclesiastical interview of your own." Thanks, Celia.

While we're on the subject of accountability, let me be clear... I have never had any lessons, talks or discussions in my home regarding witchcraft. I'm just sayin'.