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

-- Robert Frost

Monday, November 30, 2015

not ready to end

Today there's piles of laundry to do. Things to put away. Kids at school and the oldest safely tucked back to college.

I wasn't ready for it all to end.

I stood at the top of the mountain with a grumpy and cold child. The wind was biting despite the blue sky and bright sun. Looking for a remedy to her discomfort, I told her to close her eyes and turn her face to the sun. Together we focused on the warmth coming from the direct light and that made it impossible to feel the bite of the cold. Attention could not be divided for both. So we chose to be warm.

Three more weeks and we'll do it again. But in the meantime, I hope I remember to STOP and FEEL every day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

happy thanksgiving ... now STOP and FEEL

Week before last, my neighbors put Christmas lights on their trees. They are beautiful and I couldn't blame them. The holiday onslaught looms even though most of western humanity had yet to think about pie choices or turkey purchases.

I'd be lying if I said I hadn't already given my own half a thought to greeting cards, gift giving and holiday calendar events. It's inevitable. It can't be helped. We plan. We prepare. We often find ourselves living internally, somewhere in the future.

Before the turkey timer pops, we may already be weighing the stacks of dishes to be done. Prior to guest arrivals, we may be mentally planning the evening's entertainment. While family mingles, we may be thinking of tomorrow's activities and necessities. When loved ones share, our thoughts wander to how we will respond.

There's nothing wrong with that but I'll bet, unless one has a time machine, the future is a place where most of us have very little influence. No more power in the unknown of what is to come than capability to change the happenings of the past.

Only within the very minute of time in which we reside, do any of us have the ability to do or be or become.

So in this moment here and now ... STOP and FEEL.

Wake up. Be aware. Look around. Pay attention. Be present. Take note.

Let the the beauty of the world around you gladden your heart. Feel it and the renewal of positive energy will bridge all things.

That's gratitude.

Not just today ... but every day ... and in every minute of it.

This favorite quote by author Melody Beattie brings our timeline of existence full circle:

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow."

Can't predict the future. Cannot change the past. It will come and it will go. So love right now.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours as you embrace every good thing that this very minute has to offer.  Now STOP and FEEL it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

a glimpse into eternity

"When will she be here?"

"What time is she coming??"

Yesterday I absorbed the whine. It didn't hurt the way frustratingly obnoxious whine does. I couldn't help but feel it a little bit, too.

I picked up Annie from school, "Has she left yet???"

"Yes, she made it to the airport and through security."

A little later the phone rang as Christian was leaving a study group headed for a work shift. "Hey Mom, I've got to work .... Is Celia there yet?"

"No .... not yet."

The children ran about finishing homework assignments, trudging through snow to complete chores, and assisting with dinner preparations.

Annie made a cake.

Grant lit a fire.

Eliza folded napkins for a tenderly laid dining room setting.

Newel infectiously shuffled through the kitchen to music being played.

Charlotte artsy-ed up a welcome home card ... then cut it into unidentifiable "snowflakes".

Janie practiced a monologue for play tryouts, proclaiming repeatedly that when Celia arrived, she would help her get it just right.

The air was so thick, it would cut with a knife.

The front door opened.

The tide was a rush nearly pushing her over, drawing her in. There were voices at once. Laughter. Overwhelm. I'm not sure she felt heard. I'm not sure she could hear. Too many questions. Too much competition. All of it, love.

Every mother has those moments full of worry, full of fear, some frustration.

Will they be friends? Will they like each other? When they are no longer forced to be under my care, made to apologize, sent to rooms for discourteous behavior, punished for offenses, enticed to serve one another ... will they even want to be together?

Then it happens like a thing of beauty.

The heart skips a beat for the return of one.

And a glimpse into eternity.

Friday, November 20, 2015

falling into fall

Autumn has such a short transition here. 

One minute, we were squeezing out the last bits of love summer. The next, we were scrambling for our coats.

Just like the seasons here, Charlotte kind of only has an "on" or "off" switch, too.

See?  Long walk home from a picnic ... off.

Christian's friends come around ... on.

I love Christian's friend's face here. You can tell he doesn't have any sisters and isn't quite sure what to do with all this girl love.

Girl's Camp happened somewhere right before our school began. Janie took this good friend with her and they had a ball.

After so many summer trips, a lot of spaces in our house looked like this from the packing and repacking.

Charlotte became an expert at folding laundry.

I loved that on the last night of the fair, Grant bravely asked this cute couple to teach him a thing or two about country western dancing. They were so helpful and great and Janie made the best partner.

In order to make travel possible in the summer, we exchange animal care with our neighbors. The opportunity to look after our friend's sheep was a favorite.

Grant graduated from cub scouts to boy scouts and received his Arrow of Light award, too.

It was a gorgeous evening just before the fall cool set in.

School started, of course. Eliza could not have been more thrilled to begin a full day of first grade. Charlotte and I miss her but she loves it.

Grant started middle school and Janie is a top dog eighth grader there. I'm so grateful they have each other.

Orientation nearly killed me with anxiety for him. He looked so little even though that grin is huge.

Right off the bat, he headed off for outdoor education.

A week in the mountains alone with friends and school teachers? I thought about him every minute he was gone but he absolutely loved it and didn't miss us a bit, I think.

Janie went to a skydiving place and had a fantastic time. A friend sent me this pic of her levitating.

The girls and I dragged Christian along to see Wicked with us. We had such a great time downtown together. The show was amazing and we've been singing all of the show tunes.

With kids back in school, Charlotte and I enjoyed time at the zoo together. She has asked me every day since, if we are going to the zoo.

This tiger adores tigers. I'm not surprised.

Tigers play hard and sleep hard.

The school had a Muffins with Moms morning. We were excited to go to school early with Eliza. At least I thought so.

Maybe not.

I think we realized we weren't staying for the whole day ;)

After Annie's trek experience, we were concerned about an increase of asthma attacks. A check up revealed a bump on the roof of her mouth. She had it removed in a surgery and the doctor kind of stressed us out over it's unexpectedly large size. After plenty of prayer and worrisome speculation on our part, we were relieved for the labs to come back benign.

Her asthma meds have been changed and she is doing so much better.

An envelope arrived from Africa containing letters from the sweetest young woman I know. We thought our hearts would burst, we love her so.

This young man has been a special part of our family. He and Celia were good friends for much of their high school years. He is a senior this year and gets to miss her right along with us.

He had a special day.

I couldn't have been more grateful for these fantastic friends who came to support him. Most of them are not members of our faith but were so good to him. They are an impressive bunch.

We flew Celia home for his big day and he has become one of our family. We love him like our own. You'll see him in a lot of our pictures.

A few weeks later, another best girl friend called to say she, too, was having a special day.

Of course, we had to fly Celia in again and be her support. Oh man, do I love this young woman's dedication to attending early morning seminary with my kids when she wasn't even a member of our faith!

She is full of strength and light.

We soaked our girl in for both quick weekends. We seem to be loosing Christian more and more now that he has a job and is working to pay for all those dates he goes on.

Having her back means saying goodbye again and that's never easy.

I couldn't love more, those friends that Celia left behind who are now all seniors this year. The theater kids are a tight bunch and they have been so good to wrap their arms around Janie as she develops her own interest in theater.

Janie was worried about trying out for a major part in the middle school play and this fine fellow took her under his wing to mentor her as she prepared for her audition.

She rocked it snagging the part.  I felt so lucky to know a group of high school kids who would send me a text, thrilled to be the first to announce that she did it! They were so excited for her.

Can't ask for better friends.

And just because Janie and I think they are the bee's knees, we attend all of their plays.

Celia snagged her dream job at BYU.

She's working on the lighting crew for all of the campus performances. I think she's in love.

They gave her a name tag, the keys to the kingdom, and a golf cart to haul around in. I think she's feeling really legit and I know she loves it more than actually going to class.

Modern technology is the best.

We all gather around to talk to Celia and hear her week's adventures every Sunday.

Once upon a time, I got dropped off at college. The distance was far and calling expensive. It was hard not to feel homesick at times.

Keeping connected is so convenient now. We have eased into the separation and enjoy hearing all about college life. It has even inspired some of these other kids to work a little harder. But it's also important to us that we balance letting her be on her own.

Another reason I love modern technology ...

It gives me a peek into my kid's world, most especially when they use my phone to text .... ;)

And yes ... my phone is always out of power.

Annie and I tried to photograph a blood moon, unsuccessfully. But, we had a great time practicing our skills.

Newel received a big award in scouting. He was honored that leaders would travel far and wide to see him decorated.

I love when my kids appreciate a beautiful fall sunset and have to grab my phone to keep it.

Grant had a musical performance at school.

Christian was asked to the Sadie Hawkins dance. The theme was "villains and heroes" so he and his date went as an angel and devil. 

Here is my angel ;)

Wish I'd seen her costume but he was picking her up from far away.

Christian was nominated for homecoming king so we went to see him in the high school homecoming parade.

Games, games and more games.

We cannot drag Janie out of play practice. She pours out of school with an army of friends and ignores us until she is ready to get in the car.

I'm so glad she's found such belonging in her friendships.

These two girls read this magazine to death. We had to make everything in it.

Halloween wipe out.

We threw a huge teenage party on Halloween weekend for forty of our kids friends. We transformed our barn into a real barn party with hanging lights, j\Japanese lanterns, hay bales, fire pit, and food galore.

Christian and his friends conducted a haunted woods with costumes and fog on the back acre.

Annie and I experimented making homemade root beer with dry ice.

The party was so much fun and we were so busy, I never even picked up my camera to take a picture of the spectacular.

But I did find this on my phone at the end of the night which I left laying around to play the music. So ... there's that.

We went to get ski rentals for the season. This is the face of a gal who learned that Sport Authority didn't carry her size while the other kids were being fitted.

I gave in and put this girl into preschool with a friend who teaches out of her home. She's so much happier to be spending time twice a week for a few hours with other kids.

We both are :)

Now we just spend the time that she's not there crying to be there.

 And sometimes we fight over taking off that backpack for awhile and trying to keep the "on" switch "on" until we can get there.

But she loves it and asks me to take her picture every time we go up those steps just because of the one time we did that to mark her radiating happiness.

And that's our falling into fall.