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

-- Robert Frost

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

every mother's wish

"All I want for Christmas is Peace on Earth ... literally. Kind words. Loving laughter. And you all just to get along" is every mother's wish of the season.

Not an easy order, so they balk and ask what they can go get at the store.

But ...

Their clipped expressions when told we would be visiting the residents of a local retirement home before opening presents Christmas morning ....

Uneasy smiles greeting individuals left behind with no family to attend them....

Those smiles turning to beams as they sat enraptured in a morning long game of "go fish" with those able ...

Happy conversations. Stories of long ago. Relationships kindled ...

Hearts radiating through their faces as presents forgotten, they begged not to go so soon ...

Pleas to return again and often ...

I had my gift.

And I hope yours was every bit as merry.

Friday, December 21, 2012

unassuming gifts

The kid excitement grows to find new boxes on the doorstep at the end of each day. The brown packages sit by the front door, awaiting my attention.

As I closed the door on the early school exodus, I glanced at the stack, making a sighing vow to actually do something about them ... right after I finished repairing the morning rush aftermath ... again ... 

My eye caught on a yellow enveloped perched on the pile top. It seemed to have had a somewhat rough journey by it's tattered and corner torn appearance. It's return address from an unexpected aunt.

I could tell from the ripped corner that it wasn't wrapped much further, so I went ahead and dispensed with the now useless envelope.

I held in my hand a simple, yet beautifully created, apron made more beautiful by the crinkled letter accompanying it. A Christmas gift for me.

Tears flooded my eyes as I momentarily stood speechless caressing in my hand, fabric held in another hand so many years ago. My head spun thinking on that beautiful woman whose desires ran simple. To teach, love and serve a family while trying to be like the Savior she adored.

My first thought?

This gift is too priceless.

I folded it, gently setting it on the counter and continued cleaning the toast explosion I'd been grumbling in my head over a moment ago.

Look at me? ... followed my next thought. I'm not even worthy to wear it.

That woman wasn't a complainer. She served with a heart full of love. She loved with a labor unfeigned. And I'm irritated by the cleaning of another's disaster yet again.

I returned to the folded pile and gently set my hand to it, feeling everything she was.

I can't wear this, my heart further ached. I might ruin it, devaluing it's pristine nature.

Why ... I splatter sauces. I drop eggs. I drag myself through muck and mire. Not to mention the noses and tears I'd unintentionally wipe with it's corner!

Mentally, I considered hanging it in a place of honor where it would keep forever, untouched and unmarred by me and my imperfections.

She was with me all morning as I went about my duties. My eyes kept seeking the pile. I thought of her. Devoted to loved ones around, continually teaching, ever bending to clean their messes because she wanted to be like the Savior who cleaned all of hers.

My heart lifted as I dwelt on that gift ... and thoughts turned to another.

From a loving Father who sent a Son to teach her ... and me ... how we wanted to be. Uncomplaining. Endless serving. Loving kindness with tender hands. He who came to clean the messes of others through the promises of His atonement. A life lived to wash away the spills I'd make, to clean my mistakes, to wipe my nose and my tears.

If I took that gift and set it on a shelf? Unused.
Considering myself unworthy of it? Unprofitable.
Preserving it's nature by denying myself the need? Ungrateful.

He didn't come for that.

And I wrapped my Christmas gift around my waist so I would remember today, tomorrow and always, the Greatest Gift of all. Priceless, flawless, and sent just for me.

Magnified and taught once again by a woman who was everything He sent her to be ... flaws and all.

(To the women of my family, thank you for the much needed reminder of who we are through the examples of who you are. And for the jolt back to the true meaning of the season. Merry Christmas and all of my love to you!)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

photo shoot with these guys

I don't know why, but I love the thrill of opportunity in photographing a child who presents some challenge in a family. Maybe because I have a challenge child who I love to death. Maybe because I was a challenge child and I see them through different eyes. They are just down, right, my favorite.

Challenges aside, I just love getting the opportunity to photograph a family whose fun together radiates in their own eyes.


Thanks for being such great friends and for letting me capture how wonderful you are!

Friday, December 14, 2012

factual friday

The kids are checked out. They still have one week to go before the Christmas break, but they are .. checked. out.

Christian and his new teeth.

I'm so glad that funny kid takes our disciplinary tactics the way he does. Seein's how he's the king of checked out right now. Last week, I absolutely refused to hold his hand one more morning. Instead, waited to see if he would be able to follow the same routine we've been doing for the last nine years of his life in getting ready for school.

I guess I answered my own question whilst taking him to school following the butt end of the bus for the third morning in a row.

And the fourth day .. after his clock alarm was snoozed for yet another time ... Newel got him up and sent him to chop wood in the dark cold out behind the coop for the day's duration.

I called the school to explain his absence. That our days hold certain responsibilities and if an education is not of value, then other opportunities await ... like manual labor. I assured the humored secretary that I was certain my boy would wish to be with them once again on the morrow.

He worked all day.

And laughed at me all day.

And laughed at himself all day.

And laughed with the teasing secretaries the next.

But ultimately got the point.

Eliza has asked and asked to go see Santa. Over breakfast the other morning, I told her that the young women would be putting on an evening with Santa at church activities next Wednesday. She would see Santa at church.

"And JESUS ??!!" she clapped with acclamation.

There's really no good way to explain to a three year old that Jesus won't be at church but Santa will.

Since braces have been a hot topic this week, Janie informed me that she didn't ever feel the need for braces because she loves her teeth as they are and thinks she looks absolutely perfect.

That right there is pure self esteem of the highest form. Can't help but love that girl.

This past Wednesday night's activities included gingerbread house making with friends.

Or animal cage making ... whatever.

Best night ever, said Celia. Somehow, I think it had nothing whatsoever to do with the house making itself but the company ;)

Annie has worked and worked on this DNA display. They could use anything to build the strand. Hearing about all the creativity of the other kids ... wow.

I'm really ready to get that thing out the door to school because the candy piranha's keep circling and I just know I'm going to find it in pieces on the floor.

And ... I'm calling this core exercise.

That's the factual Friday facts.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"this is the worst day ever"

And I struggle with every shred of my being not to smile, adding, "worst day ... so far ..."

I heard this uttered recently and in a moment of weakness, couldn't help but feel a twinge of parental remorse at having been the perpetrator of "the worst day ever" .. at least for a minute .. though skilled parental discipline wouldn't lend to the contrary.

"Worse day ever." I said later to the back of the man laying beside me in the nighttime darkness.

"The day my brother backed over our cat on the way to high school. That was a worse day ever." I began.

"The day I pulled those kids out of that rolled car accident on the way to school. That was worse." I continued.

"The day the back passenger window got broken out of my beater car and my parents decided to make me drive to school all of entire senior year with a dish towel duct taped in it .. that was not the best day," I go on.

"The day I stopped on the way home from the evening shift at work to chat with a friend in the local park and found the gate had been locked, consequently trapping my car. Climbed the fence. Hitchhiked down to the Waffle House. Borrowed their phone to call the police station. Found the officer in the next town over with a key to unlock the gate and let me out. Got home at 3 a.m. Faced my mom crying on the couch. Waited for my my dad who was out searching alleys for my dead body. Endured his angry lecture to me about moving out if I couldn't obey house rules and then receiving a most restricted life to follow .... that was a pretty bad day."

I heard the chuckle beside me in the dark and then,

"The day I snuck under the fence at that concert in Long Beach and felt  someone grab hold of my leg yelling 'One move and I'll blow your kneecaps off', looking back to find an officer of the law pointing a shotgun at my leg ... not my best day." he said.

"You win," I laughed.

I sighed and let humor defuse a teenager's perceived "worst day ever" and my parental part in it.

Then lay there thinking about my best days ever. How many do I remember? How many actually perfectly perfect days can I bring in full detail to my remembrance. Laying on the beach? Perfect summer bliss? Days without a hitch?

Truthfully ... not many. At least not many of much consequence. Perfect days. They are there. And I love them. But there's nothing much to mark them.

Days, what one would consider most perfect?

Let me think.

There's the day I got married. A pretty perfect day. Memorably perfect? You bet. But most probably because of a wrinkled mess of a dress found on the morning of, heaped in a car. My tardiness to the ceremony and a panicked crowd stressing over a possible runaway bride. A small bruised-like curling iron graze on my neck and plenty of good natured reception ribbing. A honeymoon commenced in tears from a journey begun by whisking thoughtlessly away without a hug and word of thanks to my mother.

Perfect day. Most memorable for it's marrings.


The birth of my first baby .. and every baby for that matter. Each distinctly remembered for the details that did not go according to a perfect birth plan. Unexpected timings. Unknown genders. Quick changes. Weird diagnoses.

Experiences without a hitch may well resulted in a life of less distinction.

Every little child has a favorite pastime of scanning scars and listening intently to the story each one bears. Some we look back on and laugh. Some have made us who we are. The very definition of our lives.

As the final still of darkness closed on the so dubbed "worst day ever", I smiled to myself and decided, I'll take it ... so far. Because like as not, only in the markings is there ever a real story to tell.

And one day, they will tell these, too. Hopefully with laughter at the imperfections of a perfect flawed journey together.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

do as I say not as I do

My mom keeps most everything in an organized sort of chaos, boxed in her garage. My two youngest brothers laugh about once using two ski poles untouched in twenty years for a sword fight, breaking them, and then dumping them in the garbage thinking she'd never miss them amongst the other keepsakes.

Enter Mom to the garage ... tilts her nose to the air ... takes a deep breath inward ... and asks where her ski poles are.

Hilarious laughter all around.

They are funny boys.

I wonder aloud if she's still got that telephone and cord that used to wrap all the way around the house from the old rotary hooked to the kitchen wall. Boy, if anyone ever comes across that old thing ... I'd really like to have that for Christmas.

Because, much as I'm sure I hated being on the receiver end of those days — trying to swap secrets to a best friend over the phone tucked neatly away under the dining room table .. or closet ... or stairwell — I'm already tired of the recession the teenage cell phone age seems to cause.

Hence the recent withdrawal and regroup.

We had stories to tell. What will kids these days say at the end of theirs? "I sure wish I'd sent more texts" ??

Texting creates distance. Texting replaces social skill. Texting is an escape. 

Pleas of why can't a teen be allowed one guilty pleasure? And then comes the counter attack of "it's no different then blogging ... mom" ... 

It is different in so many ways, but just the same, I've been walking the walk.

That's the nutshell, anyhow, so carefully, new rules apply .. on all sides.

Even though, we've been busy.

Winter .. and Christmas .. are in full swing. Saturday, as kids skied with Newel and church friends for our annual scout ski day, Eliza, Charlotte and I cranked the carols and held a wrapping party. Her excitement over each brightly papered item was delightful.

And as kids walked in from an exhausting day she declared, "I have secrets coming out of my ears!"

It's just a matter of time before they come out of her mouth.

This scout couldn't love being a scout more.

Celia completed her young women's personal progress receiving recognition at an evening of excellence. We tease her about the "Arise" part of the "Arise, Shine Forth and Sparkle." motto but she's got the rest of that theme down.

She also tried.. again .. for a school play. Singing in the Rain, this time requiring a little tap dancing. I taught her one move in the kitchen so she could fake it at the audition the next day. The panel asked if she could tap dance and she replied, "Of course!", throwing down her one and only step.

She made the ensemble.

She's in real trouble now and better keep living the lie.

I love this man.

And I love this baby.

And I love this man holding this baby.

And I love this baby now saying "Dada".

And I love his excitement over the possibility that she might actually be calling out to him and not just uttering a first sound as she becomes accustom to tongue, lips and voice.

And I love that when she gets going over in the baby bed in the middle of the night, I can just nudge him and say, "She's calling you."

Christian played an entire basket ball season on the school team. That boy has got height and arms and legs ... and zero control over it all. But he's darn cute.

It's hard to be frustrated as heck when I've sent kids to bed, climb into my own, and then one by one they come back to lay across my legs and yammer some more.

It's also hard to stop that party.

In other news, Eliza has/had an umbilical hernia.  I say has/had because one day the bulge was there, and doctor appointments later, it was gone. This many kids, you'd think I'd have a nursing degree by now but here's no real explanation so I put the surgery on hold to see if little developing bodies self heal while still growing.

I watch and wait. But while waiting this week in the doctor's office next to the fish tank, she informed me that she'd named the orange fish Hernia .. because she thought it was a pretty name.

Found this in a box in the basement:

Bless her heart. She looks like me. What my father would laughingly call, "Damning evidence."

AND .. I made all of the kids join our ward choir with me. At first they were less than thrilled because none of us can sing. I tried to explain to them that with a newly split ward, it wasn't about the singing at all.

Analogizing as usual, I related how I duct taped fabric over rods to create my first curtains. The ward choir doesn't really care if we can sing. They just want to look full of people. And we are their duct tape.

The Christmas music is lovely and the kids are beginning to agree.

So much so, that I get a little carried away in the loveliness of it all ... and I start feeling the crescendo ... and I start singing loudly ... and the next thing I know all the alto's are following my off key belt ... and the whole thing goes in a hand basket.

But I can't help it. Because it's lovely.

AND .. I cut off my hair to donate ... and because I was tired of washing it.

That's my guilty pleasure. Sorry, texting teen.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

hung up on thanksgiving, or hungover .. whatever

The last few years for Thanksgiving, we've swept away to the mountains to ski. I can't say how much I love sweeping these people away. 

My brain settles. To-do lists stay home. Phones get put away. Hot chocolate flows. And this mom only remembers to pull her camera out a time or two because the fun is a team sport rather than spectator ... though my skiing sits on the sidelines for the future.

Just pure enjoyment and gratitude for an un-complicated holiday.

This sign was posted at the condo hot tub.
We laughed a little.
And worried some.

Pretty close to perfect this year. Mild weather. Accommodations just feet from the gondola and village center.

Let's just get a closer look at that cuteness.

We soak in the hot tub, play games, read, ski from dawn to dusk, watch a movie or two, eat, and sleep for tomorrow we may die when we have to wake up for school again at 5:30 a.m. 
(pardon the lousy iphone shots)

Again with the close up ... that's a hard afternoon's sleep right there.

The snow is only just getting going for the season.

But it doesn't stop this crew.

Eliza took to her first time like a pro. She never wanted to quit.

But quit she did.

"Mom..." she said, as I collected her from the others after a cold and tiring late afternoon, "You're the best mom over, to wipe a girl's nose."

And that right there ... that's what there is to be thankful for.