Saturday, September 27, 2014

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio

Recently I read a fascinating book titled The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio.  It is a true story of Evelyn Ryan's life written by her daughter.

Evelyn Ryan is a housewife in the  1950's and 1960's.  Her husband struggles to provide for their family of 10 kids due to his alcoholism.  She keeps their family afloat by entering poetry and jingle contests.

Terry Ryan beautifully captures the love, work, and sacrifice of a mother and the redeeming power they can have on those around her.  She doesn't hide the struggles of a poor family but there is always hope in her writing.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

London Highlight - Jeeves and Wooster

This past summer, the Professor and I had a chance to visit London without our entourage.  It was wonderful.  One night we attended a three man show called Jeeves and Wooster.  I loved it.

The show is based on the books by P G Wodehouse written almost one hundred years ago.  The stories are about a rich, stupid, entertaining young man (Bertie Wooster) and his smart, proper butler (Jeeves) who gets him out of the most convoluted scrapes.

In the show, three actors play Wooster, Jeeves, and one other butler.  The butlers also act out all of the other parts as part of their butler duties.  And, of course, Jeeves provides all of the scenery.

The actors did a fabulous job with the characters.  They captured each personality well.  Considering that at times that meant acting like a proper butler acting like a headstrong girl or an imposing aunt, this was no small feat. 

The show was hilarious.  I laughed until my cheeks were sore.  One of my favorite parts was watching proper Jeeves play both parts of a spunky girl arguing with her strongly opinionated uncle (complete with costumes.)

I found the show to be a perfect ending to a London day.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Food for thought

This morning I listened to yesterday's BYU devotional. (You should be able to watch here.)  Elder Dale G. Renlund spoke about spiritual stability.  I really liked what he had to say and the stories he shared.  He talked about obeying the commandments, being teachable and humble, serving others, and focusing our lives on Christ.  But go watch it.  He says it beautifully and illustrates each point well.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Yesterday I dropped Young T off at his first day of preschool.  He was super excited (to the point of tears shed earlier because he had to wait until after lunch).  Then I drove home with Miss S to put away groceries.

After five or ten minutes in the car, a sad little voice piped up from behind me in the car: "Mom, I miss T..."  A minute later, "Mom, I need to go home and get a binky."  (Her first defense against all that is wrong with the world.)  When I stopped the car to check on her, she was morosely staring out the window, inconsolable.  My heart broke just a little.

I'm grateful that my children are friends.  Young T had a marvelous time and loved every minute of it.  And Miss S survived by spending an afternoon with her beloved binky and Cinderella.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cookie Clicker

Warning:  This review talks about a ridiculous addictive game that has no point.  You have been warned.

Recently at our home, we have been wasting time playing Cookie Clicker.  This game is silly.  The entire point of the game is to make cookies by clicking a cookie, buying things (with cookies) to make cookies, and upgrading things (again, with cookies) to make even more things.  Achievements are earned along the way.

About the best thing I can say about the game is that it has taught my children how to count by thousands up to octillion.

Unfortunately, the game is a bit fascinating.  It starts out slow, but eventually you can reset and start again, only this time with "Heavenly Chips," which can speed things up quite a bit.

So, if you are in the mood for a mindlessly fun game involving cookies, try it out.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


FIFI, the only currently flying B29 bomber, stopped at our nearby airport earlier this summer.  We drug the kids out on a hot, hot day to see this bit of history.  We stood in line in the shade under the wing and visited with a very knowledgeable veteran (I think) about the plane.  While waiting we got to watch a helicopter (Harold's friend, according to Miss S) take off.  For a child obsessed with Thomas and his friends, this was the highlight of the day.

After a very long time standing in the line, we were able to climb up through the bomb bay into the cockpit and look around briefly.  We got our questions answered, heard a few stories, and climbed back down.

All in all we had a great, hot afternoon.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Friday, August 29, 2014

Sorrow and Pain

I hate being uncomfortable.  I don't like being cold.  I don't like being sore.  I don't like being sad.  I don't like being numb.  And, while I believe that opposition leads to growth (like exercise), I'm still somewhat angry that learning and growth seem to need to hurt.  I keep feeling like I could do so much more if only I weren't hobbled by the pain and problems I have.

And yet I am learning.  I am learning that without need, I wouldn't seek help.  And without divine help, I cannot become my best self.

For me one of the hardest parts of being an adult is watching those I love struggle with enormous problems.  I wish I could fix it all.  I can't.  I hate depression, cancer, anxiety, poverty, unemployment, abuse, death, serious illness, loneliness, and all the other miserable pieces of this life.

In Genesis 3 we read that the earth was cursed for Adam's sake.  In Doctrine and Covenants 122, after a large list of awful, painful possibilities, we are promised that, "all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."  Believing that promise in the face of great, prolonged suffering takes more faith and trust than I sometimes have.  Especially when I am not the one suffering.

I recently ran across a quote by psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.  She said:
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.
As I watch my dear friends and family weather many of the tragedies of life, I'm starting to agree with her.  Beautiful people do not just happen.  They are grown in the intersection of pain and redemption--when we "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

Nathaniel Givens recently wrote at Times and Seasons:
We are made to suffer, and this is true for both definitions of the word “made.” We were created to experience suffering within this life as part of the general plan. Once we get here, we are forced to undergo specific painful experiences. Some are God’s will. Some are random chance. Some are the result of the choices of others. Some we bring upon ourselves. It’s probably hopeless to try and figure out which is which.
We are here to become Christ-like.  We cannot do that without suffering. We are called to "bear one another's burdens...mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort." (Mosiah 18:8-9)  And we cannot do that if we avoid others' pain.

A good friend recently related to me how she had come to understand that one blessing that came out of a traumatic past was the knowledge of how to respond to people experiencing trauma.  She said that mostly people need to have their trauma acknowledged, whether by a meal that is brought by or a phone call to check in or a hug with a sincere, "I'm so sorry."

Givens wrote about a large study that found that two thirds of the participants had experienced abuse, neglect, or family dysfunction as a child. Sorrow and pain aren't unique. All of us struggle.  All of us hurt.  As we learn of each others' wounds, let's be gentle with each other.

I love the thoughts in the post titled Beautiful Sorrow.  The author describes perfectly the way I am learning (over and over) to deal with the sorrow of life.
Happiness doesn't drown sorrow, sorrow births happiness. We NEED to experience pain and sorrow, in order to know joy....If you can learn to embrace your sorrow, to let it wash over you, you can truly conquer it. Avoiding pain and sorrow, especially emotional pain, only leaves it hanging out there. It will always come back, and you will live in fear. As you address it head on, mull it over, allow it to hurt you, learn from it, pieces of it chip away until you are able to conquer it completely.
I believe that pain and sorrow are necessary for us to change.  I am learning that by clinging to Christ day by day, I can develop faith in him to replace my fear.  Rather than worrying about what comes next, I can know that, whatever comes, he won't leave me and he will ultimately heal whatever breaks.  For he is the Savior who has been sent to "bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to give unto (those that mourn) beauty for ashes."

I am learning to trust that when Christ heals someone, they become better than they ever have been.

The beatitudes claim that it is a blessing to be to mourn or to hunger and thirst after righteousness or to be merciful or to be a peacemaker or to be persecuted.  We cannot be peacemakers unless we are subjected to contention.  We cannot be merciful unless we are unjustly treated.  We cannot hunger and thirst after righteousness unless we lack it.  We cannot mourn without loss.  We cannot be persecuted without a persecutor.  Yet we are told that these are blessings.

Christ asks for broken hearts and contrite spirits and promises to heal them.  He cannot heal a heart that hasn't been broken.  He can't gather spirits that haven't strayed.  And he won't do anything unless we want it.

When we are subjected to war and violence and come to Christ with our imperfect desire to make peace, he helps us become more than had we never been violated.  When we are unjustly used and turn to him, he helps us learn mercy on a much deeper level than we could have otherwise known.  When we want to be righteous but fail over and over and yet turn to him, gradually we are made to not only be righteous but to be gentle with those around us who are struggling. 

 Over and over, as we turn to him in prayer, in scriptures, in song, in pain, humbly and full of doubt, Christ takes our brokenness and creates a glorious, complex whole that we never could have become on our own.  And in doing so he draws us closer to himself, to those around us, and to ourselves.  And the beautiful atonement creates beautiful people.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


This summer we went camping: wall to wall people and sleeping bags in two tents.  It was lots of fun.  (See?  Miss S thinks so.)  There are lots of parts of camping I don't like, but I love waking up in a tent with beautiful mountains just outside.

Of course, like all camping trips, this one had the "interesting" parts.  Shortly after setting up our tents, a heavy rainstorm blew in.  This wasn't nearly as bad as it sounds.  We were camping with friends from the ward near a friend's family's house.  We sheltered in the kitchen for dinner and by the time we were done, so was the storm.

The kids loved staying up late with friends and then waking up to play some more.  Their favorite place to play (of course) was the large pile of sand left over after some project or another.  We were lucky enough to get to bring home some souvenir sand in shoes and pockets.  So much fun!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"To love another person is to see the face of God"

Tonight I am remembering a high school friend who died this morning from cancer.  And the quote that keeps running through my mind is from Victor Hugo, "To love another person is to see the face of God."  She truly helped me see Him through her cheerful, loving, beautiful life.  I am so lucky to know and love her.  I hope to become more like her, able to love and show that love to whoever happens to be nearby.  Thank you for all that you are and have been, Suzanne.  We'll miss you.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Doesn't it look fun?

While visiting family this summer, Uncle M and Aunt H2 taught Young M and Miss E a few moves.  They loved it.  Miss E is now counting down the years until she can go swing dancing at the local university.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Whew! We survived.

This has been quite the summer, filled with trips and scares and girls camp and family and stress and exhaustion and sorrow and swimming lessons and joy and being spread too thin.  I'm glad we had it, and I'm glad it's done.

School started again yesterday.  I don't love having schedules imposed on me (even if I like having the schedule.  Irrational me.)  But I'm so glad to have my calmer time back.  This is my exercising, errands, thinking, writing time.  I've got all sorts of stories to tell.  Hopefully some of them make it here.

Until then, goodbye from most of us!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Another hiking picture

Did I mention the scenery was beautiful?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Science experiments for 10 year-olds

The Professor and I recently started helping with Cub Scouts.  Our first week went pretty well.  We did science experiments.

The fire portion went well.  Somehow, I never learned that when you hold a flame near an index card and blow at the other side of the card the air pressure changes and the flame moves towards the card.  But it does.

The boys really enjoyed the water experiments.  We swung buckets of water around, inverted cups in the water, and poked holes in cups to watch the differences of water pressure at different heights.  Amazingly, science still works.  And the water only got on the table.  Lots of water on the table.

Next came the air pressure experiments.  (Translation, balloons are fun.)

We ended with ice cream bars (left over from the ward campout a week ago.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Charles and Emma

Charles and Emma, by Deborah Heiligman, is a delightful book.  The author tells the story of Charles Darwin's marriage.  She uses many of their own words to help tell the story.  And what a story it is.

When Charles Darwin and Emma Wedgewood decided to get married, they already knew that his research challenged her faith.  And yet they built a beautiful marriage based on love and respect.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading through the ups and downs of the rest of their lives as I got to know two thoughtful people who were dedicated to truth.  I loved the glimpse of a love story that lasted their entire lives.

This is not a fast paced book.  It is a nonfiction biography.  Then again, my life isn't fast paced either.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Bells Canyon Reservoir

A couple of weekends ago, we took a hike up Bells Canyon to the reservoir.  It was absolutely breathtaking.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Written months ago, but always true:  

I get tired of falling short in so many things I want to do.  Many of them I can just let go of--they aren't important (such as being a great dancer).  Many I postpone--they can wait (like figuring out how to decorate my living room).  But many things that I fail at matter.  If I mess up my parenting, I don't get another chance with that child.  If I am not kind to my neighbor or my family, those relationships are damaged.  I feel surrounded by people constantly judging my efforts and telling me how badly I'm doing (from the dentist to the schools to church to well-meaning family or friends).  My housekeeping and my discipline and my fashion sense and my priorities and my health and my faith and my choices are all lacking.  It gets discouraging.  Trying today is hard when I tried yesterday and the day before and the day before only to still not have made any visible progress.

And so I was reminded about grace.  BYU magazine a while ago featured a talk given by Brad Wilcox on grace that I really liked.

"In all of these cases there should never be just two options: perfection or giving up. When learning the piano, are the only options performing at Carnegie Hall or quitting? No. Growth and development take time. Learning takes time. When we understand grace, we understand that God is long-suffering, that change is a process, and that repentance is a pattern in our lives. When we understand grace, we understand that the blessings of Christ’s Atonement are continuous and His strength is perfect in our weakness (see 2 Cor. 12:9). When we understand grace, we can, as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, “continue in patience until [we] are perfected” (D&C 67:13)."

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Boston Marathon

(For Hollywood.  Looking up Heartbreak Hill.)
On my trip to Boston, I was lucky enough to get to spend some time watching people run the Boston Marathon.  We hung out at mile 20.  The atmosphere was like a really long, really inspiring parade.  The sense of triumph and perseverance was intensified as so many remembered the bombing last year.  A few pieces of the experience continue to inspire me.

On the other side of the street from us were four college-age young men.  As the runners passed by, they would find one whose name was visible (on their bib, or arm, or shirt) and start chanting the runner's name loudly until the he or she responded.  At which point they would cheer.  A few minutes later, they would find a new target.  I loved the enthusiastic, personal way they encouraged strangers to keep going up Heartbreak Hill.

During the half hour or so we watched the runners, we saw runners with one or two prosthetic legs.  We saw a man who seemed to be eighty.  The amazing diversity of people willing to run for 26 miles was astounding--old and young, male and female, so many different people.  If they can do that, surely I can do some of the only somewhat hard things I am avoiding.

There was a man who rode past on his bike cheering on one of the woman runners at mile 20.  My guess was that he was riding the whole way with her, encouraging her in this great endeavor.  I loved that show of caring.  And then there was the couple who ran past holding hands.  I wish I had a picture.  It didn't matter who was the faster runner.  They were in this together.

At one point, a two runners came the wrong direction to the side.  The man escorted the woman, who was limping, past us to the medical tent behind us.  I love that she was more important than his time in this big race.

I came away understanding better why the Boston marathon means so much to people.  It is truly an amazing experience.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Fenway Park

I spent a few days in Boston recently.  As part of my adventure, my delightful brother, his fabulous wife, and I went to a Red Sox/Yankees game.  We questioned the wisdom of our choice as the cold rain fell in the afternoon.  By the evening, though, everything had dried up.  

And then the Yankees pitcher was thrown out of the game.  I'm so glad we braved the cold and went.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

On being a righteous mother

Over the last few years, I have been searching for the principles behind righteous motherhood.  I wanted to understand which parts of everything I do were vital and non-negotiable and which parts were nice if they fit.  So far, I have found three characteristics that describe to me the mothers I know who I respect and admire, with all their variety.

1.  "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."  (M. Russell Ballard, April 2008 General Conference)

A good mother loves her children.  They are one of her top priorities.  This doesn't mean she never does anything else.  It means that she makes sure that what else she does fits with her children's needs.  When she can't be with them when they are small, she makes sure that whoever is in charge will take good care of them and love them, whether it be a neighborhood teenager, a nanny, a grandma, or a daycare.  She makes sure that her children have the food they need, whether it be homemade, allergen free, carefully screened food or school lunch or something quickly picked up on the way home.

2.  "The righteous are whoever are repenting, and the wicked whoever are not repenting."  (Hugh Nibley, The Prophetic Book of Mormon, p 474)

I love this beautiful idea.  In many ways, it sums up my experience with the Atonement and with Christ.  In my life, the important thing isn't whether I'm doing everything right, it is whether I'm turning towards Christ.  He can fix any and all of my mistakes, but He will not force me to come to Him.  As long as I keep working and trying, it is ok to keep failing or keep falling short.

This applies to mothering.  It doesn't matter if I am a good cook, or am an amazing saver, or can throw birthday parties every year.  It doesn't matter if I struggle with depression or health or finances or testimony.  It doesn't matter if my marriage is rocky or my family is dysfunctional.  What matters is that I am teachable and keep trying.  As long as I don't give up and keep doing what I know how to improve and stay willing to change when I realize I can be better, I am a good mother.  As long as I let God into my mothering, He can work miracles.

3.  "We prayed and pleaded to know what to do. The answer that came was clear: 'It is OK if the house is a mess and the children are still in their pajamas and some responsibilities are left undone. The only things that really need to be accomplished in the home are daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening.'"  (Linda S. Reeves, April 2014 General Conference)

As a mother, I am bombarded by opinions on where I should spend my time.  Often it seems that everybody wants a part of my precious time with my children.  Especially because my influence with my kids is so strong, others try to tap into it.

The dentist wants me to spend 5 minutes morning and night teaching each child proper oral hygiene.  The French teacher wants me to spend at least 15 minutes supervising my children on French websites and to listen to French CDs in the car.  The speech therapist wants me to spend my time with Miss S focusing on her speech and talking to her in the "right" way.  The eye doctor wants me to spend 15 minutes with Young A strengthening his eyes.  The school teachers want me to supervise homework, reading with each child, reviewing spelling, checking on each assignment.  The school sends home papers telling me activities to do with my children and conversations to have with them and to get them to bed early, especially if there is testing going on.  The orchestra teachers want me to supervise my children's cello practice.  The piano teacher wants me to pay attention to each child's piano practicing and to help them do it right.  The primary at church wants me to listen to children's songs in the car when we go places.  The teachers at church want me to talk with my children about what they are learning at church.  The scouts want me to help my children fulfill the requirements to advance each year.

And then there is the public in general.  There are ad campaigns to get me to talk with my kids about smoking, or bullying, or drugs, or sex.  The library wants me to read 1000 books to my kids before they start kindergarten, to sing songs and nursery rhymes to the kids, and to support my kids in the summer reading program.  There are loudly voiced, strong opinions about everything from diapers (cloth vs disposable) to schooling (home vs public vs private) to activities (none vs some vs super busy) to working (stay home vs part time vs full time) to appropriate behavior (children should be seen not heard vs let them be kids) to food (from scratch vs from box vs from restaurant or organic vs affordable vs healthy vs what-the-kids-will-eat) to family planning.

Life is messy.  It doesn't fit into everybody else's expectations.  Every choice I make will offend somebody, especially every mothering choice.  This drives me crazy.  I love being told that most of it doesn't matter.  The only things that always matter are the things that help me and my family turn towards Christ and God.  Prayers and scripture reading and spending time together as a family are the way to build a foundation for my family that will hold us up through the weeks and months we slip into survival mode.  Prayers and scriptures are where we get the answers we so desperately need.  They are what gets me through the extremely difficult days (or weeks).  Everything else is negotiable depending on my family's particular needs and wants.  Most of us will be able to fit in much of the huge list the public throws at  us most of the time.  And many of those expectations are good for us and our children.  But they are not the essence of my mothering, they are simply the manifestations of it.

My current personal definition of a good mother is a woman who loves her children and the Lord, a woman who listens and learns how to become better and to meet the challenges of her life by turning regularly to God and then putting into practice what she has learned (even if only imperfectly), a woman who teaches her children to turn to God during both the easy times and the hard times.

I'm not saying that the many specific things mothers do are not valuable.  I'm a firm believer in reading with children and teaching them manners and providing them the tools to function well in society.  I expect them to learn to cook and clean and serve those around them.  I am saying that each child and each family and each year are different.  Most of us cannot do all we wish.  In this broken world, that is expected.  That is why we have grace.

I am surrounded by good mothers in my family and my neighborhood and among my friends.  They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  They home-school, public-school, breast-feed, bottle-feed, work at home, work outside the home, or don't "work" at all.  They have no children, one child, two, three, four or more children.  Some decorate beautifully.  Some clean well.  Some organize amazingly.  Some paint.  Some bake.  Some quilt.  Some run.  Some blog.  Some play tennis.  Some teach.  Some read.  Some travel.  Some are Muslim.  Some are Christian.  Some are Mormon.  Some aren't sure what they believe.  Some have lots of formal education and degrees.  Some don't.  All of them love their children.  All of them fail.  All of them learn and grow and change.  All of them do the right they know.  The Lord is working miracles with each of them.  And I love every one of them.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Happy day for Miss S

While I was traveling, the Professor introduced Miss S to the movie Frozen.  Since then we spend parts of most days watching the movie, or listening to the songs, or watching clips online.  This girl loves Elsa, Anna, and Olaf.  (During the Sacrament at church recently, she had to be carried out after loudly saying "watch Frozen Mommy's phone," and getting upset at the answer.)

Our elementary school recently had a carnival.  One event was "Meet Queen Elsa."  While Miss S didn't say much during the actual meeting, she has told me repeatedly since then about when Miss S and Elsa got their picture taken on Mommy's phone.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Fortunately, the Milk

Fortunately, the MilkWe recently discovered Fortunately, the Milk, by Neil Gaiman.  The Professor brought home this delightful book from the library a while back.  We read it aloud as a family over a few days.  The children were quite upset that we wouldn't let them read ahead.  

This is the tale of a father's fantastic adventure bringing home milk for his children's breakfast, as told to them when he returned.  As you can see it involves dinosaurs, hot air balloons, milk, and much, much more.  This has become one of my favorite read-aloud books.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Saturday, April 12, 2014


The Professor took this in Trieste, Italy.  I cropped it.  I think we make a good team.  What do you think?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Grandfather clock costume

For this grandfather clock, we used cardboard, a dowel, and a clock.  We used gold duct tape to cover the cardboard end of the pendulum.  While this isn't a very convenient costume (sitting and maneuvering are tricky) Young A did get his working clock costume that he wanted.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Last Friday I followed the scriptural advice found in Matthew, "Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee."  However, as my offensive gallbladder was not readily accessible, I had someone else do the plucking.

We are doing well.  The Professor's saintly (she will protest this apt adjective) mother has come to our rescue.  She also has been following the injunctions of the scriptures.  She has been "impart(ing) of (her) substance to the poor...according to that which (s)he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief...according to their wants."  She's thrown in some diapering of the odiferous, reading to the bored, and cleaning of the bedrooms (a miracle worthy of any aspiring saint).

I have been working hard at not working.  Sometimes this takes great effort.  (At other times, I'm a natural.)  Now that my tummy is healing and my cough is subsiding, I'm doing well.  (For the record, abdominal surgery and a cough/cold that interferes with sleep are a bit of synergistic misery.)

Now I'm at the confusing part of recovery.  I feel much better, but not 100%.  I'm not quite sure how much to do and how long to play the recovering invalid.  Thankfully, my own personal miracle worker is leaving me well stocked, in a clean house, with the laundry done.  We are very grateful.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

From February 2008

(I found this recently.  It seemed appropriate.)

Who am I? Some days I wonder, as I struggle through the dark.
I cannot feel; I cannot see. The clouds around are just too much.

When they break, the sun comes shining. I remember who I am.
The Spirit's back, my joy flows o'er. I bask until gloom comes again.

Light and dark. Shadow, sun. Back and forth I seem to go.
Faith then doubt, despair then hope. I wonder who I really am.

Lord, I do not want this trouble. Lord, please take the clouds away.
Without light, I'm sure to stumble. How can I do my work today?

"Follow me," I hear my Savior. "I will send the light to thee.
Hold on tight until you see it. Know it comes for it's from me."

"When you're scared and dark and lonely, know I see through all there is.
I can see your heart; it trembles, yet it brings you here to me."

"I won't take all clouds away, for you need them to know me.
But I promise, I'll be with you. And, sometimes, you'll see the sun."

Sunday, March 23, 2014

So that I remember

(I recently found this again.  I'm amazed at how much I had forgotten.  I wrote this almost 3 months after Miss S was born.)

I realized recently that I'm forgetting some of the sweet blessings of the first few weeks of Miss S's life.  Those weeks were full of enough things that happened to go just right that they ceased to be coincidences and became small miracles sent by a loving Father in Heaven.

Each of my babies has been born at the right time, even when I had no idea when it would be.  Miss S was no exception.  She waited until after Young A's baptism, the midterms the Professor had to write and grade, and the worst of the flu that came to our house had passed.  The first grandma couldn't come until the last week of the month; the second grandma had to wait until her spring break the first week of the next month.  The week after that was the children's spring break.  I expected Miss S to be born a week or two earlier than she was.  Since she waited, I got home Friday afternoon and my mother-in-law came on Monday.  Had she waited even 12 hours, I would have been induced.  It would have been fine, but wasn't what I really wanted.  Perfect timing.  (And, the other children were mostly in bed when I left and still in bed when the Professor came home.)

The nurses this time were each what I needed.  Thoughtful when I needed thoughtful, kind when I needed kind, and efficient when I needed efficient.  I have never been as well taken care of.

The most humbling miracle has been the outpouring of love from our neighbors and friends and family.

For context, you need to understand that most of my babies have been born far away from family.  Most of the communities we've been part of have been full of young student families starting out and having babies.  They always take care of each other, but their resources (both time, money, and experience) are limited.  The last two babies have been born less than a year after a move (eight months and four months respectively) when we were still getting to know those around us.  I've learned to lean on others for the necessary things (babysitting to go to the hospital) while becoming quite independent for the rest.

Before Miss S was even born, those around me wanted to be part of this.  As I asked women if they were willing and able to help with the other children when Miss S was born, I was surprised that not only were they willing, but they were eager to help.  There was no way I could know who would be around when we needed them, but I knew that there were eight or more women who know and love me and my children hoping to hear from me, even at 2 am.  What peace that brought.

The flu started going around our house the week before Miss S was born.  It was no fun.  And yet, when I needed babysitters for doctor appointments or hospital visits, people were willing to come and help.

On my due date, when Miss S still wasn't here, some friends organized a lunch get-together.  Rather than sit at home feeling sorry for myself, I was able to visit with friends and enjoy myself.

As was planned, the women of my church were assigned to bring meals for three nights after I came home before my mother-in-law came.  I thought that would be all.  How wrong I was!  People volunteered to bring dinner the night I was still in the hospital, the day my mother-in-law came, during the week after all the family went home, during the week the Professor was out of town.  Last Sunday, another woman apologized for not bringing anything yet (she's been out of town for a few weeks) and said she will bring something during the next week or so.  I've been surprised more than once by someone on my doorstep with dinner who didn't even bother to volunteer.  I've never before been the center of such an outpouring that just won't stop.

(One Sunday, the Professor was out of town.  A friend at church found out he'd been gone much of the week.  She offered to bring dinner.  When she brought it, she brought an alternative for me--in case I didn't feel like spaghetti.  Then, right before dinner, my next-door  neighbor called.  She had made too much of a dinner that wouldn't keep.  Her daughter brought some over.  Suddenly, I had three dinners for one night. The leftovers made wonderful lunches over the next few days.)

And these amazing women don't just stop at bringing meals.  We have plenty of baby things around here from the other children.  Yet Miss S is being spoiled.  She has been given toys, clothes, shoes, diapers, and blankets.  Many have been homemade.  Many have been sent from far away.  All have been appreciated.

The first Sunday after Miss S's birth a dear friend was in town.  She had moved away when I suspected I was pregnant but didn't know yet.  The Professor saw her at church and invited her over.  I got a chance for a lovely visit with her that afternoon.

This school year was rather ridiculous, schedule-wise.  I had four children getting out of three schools with in ten minutes of each other.  Each school was at least ten minutes away from the others.  And yet, a couple of weeks before Miss S came, two of my friends I carpool with took over my driving duties.  For most of the rest of the year, they have driven my children to and from the schools that needed it.  Most of the time, I just have to stay home and take care of those of us here.  When I've offered to drive more, they choose to keep driving.  My days are much easier with the flexibility this allows me to have.

My dad was able to come with my mom to help us.  He spent the first day working hard in our yard, crossing jobs off the list of yard work hanging over the Professor's head.  The biggest of the jobs was pruning the front yard trees.

At the end of that week, my grandparents visited for an hour.  While my grandma held the baby, my grandpa fixed our toilet that had been driving me crazy.

Then, a week or so later, my little brother and his wife stopped by to visit.  He had a free afternoon, so he fixed the cupboard doors whose broken hinges had plagued me.  (After I fixed them, they broke again.  So far, he seems to have done a much better job than I did.)

And then there are the times Miss S sleeps when I'm getting desperately tired.  And Young T's amazing growth in the last three or four months.  It is so much easier to help him now that he can often tell me what he wants or needs.

The last few months have had plenty of tricky.  We've had the flu and a broken air conditioner.  We've had another cold.  I've had little sleep.  There's been the usual adjustment to a baby, including tears and fights.  There have been minutes when everything is going wrong.  But through it all, we've been watched over and loved.

I think my favorite thing about the last few months has been the sense of celebration.  The response we often got when people found out we were expecting again was discouraging.  I wanted people to be excited about another baby, and that wasn't always the case.  How healing it has been to celebrate with those far and near the arrival of our beautiful daughter and to watch this community claim her as one of their own.

(March 2014:  Since this was written, I have come to understand that when I am pregnant or depressed, I sometimes misunderstood others' actions and words.  I don't know why my ability to socially read others gets compromised, but it does.  I understand now that more people were excited about my pregnancy than I thought at the time.  I am grateful that the Lord's healing covers the pain caused both by others' unkindness and by my misperceptions.) 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Day for Miss S

The view from my back door, late last year.

In honor of our newly minted two year old, today you get two pictures for the price of one.  I hope you enjoy these as much as we enjoy the festivities of the day.  (I'm especially looking forward to the strawberry shortcake.)

Miss S, "helping" with the snow a few months ago.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

So big

(Note:  This was written last October, but never got published.)

The other day was an exciting day for Miss S.  Not only did it snow, not only did she wear her boots for the first time*, but she went for a walk without a stroller.  Her favorite part was the three-foot high wall she walked on (over and over and over).  Our 15 minute walk only took 50 minutes.  And for this little girl, it was over too soon.

*Note:  Watching an 18-month-old walking around in boots for the first time is very amusing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Flash Point

Product DetailsWe recently got a new cooperative game, Flash Point.  This is a game where the players work together and everyone wins or every one loses.  I like these games, especially after the kids go to bed.  I'm not always interested in using our few quiet minutes in competition.

In Flash Point, the game board is a map of a house, and you are the firefighters.  Your goal is to save the people in the house, putting out fires as you go, before the house falls down or they get burned.  I haven't tried the complicated version that includes fire hoses and ambulances.  But the simple one is lots of fun.  My kids enjoy the autonomy that it offers.  There is less big plan working together than other cooperative games we've played.  Instead it feels more like lots of little missions you help complete.  (Put out the fire in the kitchen.  Save the person in the bedroom.)  But watch out for false alarms (look like people to save, but aren't) and explosions!

The game claims it is good for 2-6 players.  Young A enjoyed playing it by himself.  The Professor and I can fit one or two games after the children go to bed.  The Professor has played with three or four or five of the kids.  Overall, we've found Flash Point to be a versatile, enjoyable game.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Panoramic Hiking

Taken on the trail to Stewart Falls on a gorgeous day.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Pooh Bear Costume


When Miss M was little, we got a yellow fuzzy snow suit hand-me-down.  With Young A we figured out that it was a warm, easy Winnie-the-Pooh costume.  All we had to do was put a shirt that was a couple sizes too big over the top.  As you can tell, we've used it a fair bit since then.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Last year during fall break, we spent a day harvesting grapes at a friend's and delivering them to Grandpa (who dearly loves his grape juice.)  The children helped pick (except when they didn't.)  And the main casualty was the ball that went over the fence.  (A quick trip to the neighbor's house fixed that one.)