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.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Watching the English

In preparation for an exciting adventure coming later this summer, a friend recommended this book, "Watching the English."  I'm finding it fascinating.  The author, Kate Fox, is an English anthropologist who grew up in England, the United States, France, and Ireland.  She now lives in England and spends her time studying English behavior.  In this book, she attempts to explain it.  Her explanations are both enlightening and amusing.

Thus far, my favorite section is when Fox explains "The Embarrassment Rule":
In fact, the only rule one can identify with any certainty in all this confusion over introductions and greetings is that, to be impeccably English, one must perform these rituals badly.  One must appear self-conscious, ill-at-ease, stiff, awkward and, above all, embarrassed.  Smoothness, glibness and confidence are inappropriate and un-English.  Hesitation, dithering and ineptness are, surprising as it may seem, correct behavior.  Introductions should be performed as hurriedly as possible, but also with maximum inefficiency.  If disclosed at all, names must be mumbled; hands should be tentatively half-proffered and then clumsily withdrawn; the approved greeting is something like 'Er, how, um, plstm-, er, hello?'
If you are socially skilled, or come from a country where these matters are handled in a more reasonable, straightforward manner (such as anywhere else on the planet), you may need a bit of practice to achieve the required degree of embarrassed, stilted incompetence. 
The most interesting thing for me is how much this book helps me understand some very English tendencies in my very American family.  Some tendencies and ways of thinking have survived the generations.  Fox talks about how the English practice "negative politeness" more than "positive politeness."  "What looks like unfriendliness is really a kind of consideration: we judge others by ourselves, and assume that everyone shares our obsessive need for privacy - so we mind our own business and politely ignore them."

I also like her explanations for how the English go out of their way not to ask about others' names, or jobs, or marital status, all because they don't want to make someone uncomfortable by inadvertently bringing up a subject that my be sensitive.  And to people from the outside, this seems very uninterested and unwelcoming, when it is often, instead, an effort to avoid possible awkward situations.

I'm thoroughly enjoying learning the unspoken rules of England, especially since many of them were also unspoken rules at my house growing up.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


Written in June 2012

I've been wondering lately about faith.  What exactly does it mean to have faith?  Is it not questioning or acting in the face of questions?  Do I have faith in the Lord even if I'm scared (sometimes completely terrified) of His timing or plan?  How do I pray in faith for something He may choose not to grant?  Anyhow, this isn't an answer, but it is a response.

As my children get older (and more of them join our family), I find myself concerned with our responsibility.  I don't know how to raise these people.  I don't know how to answer their questions or which principles to teach them.  I worry about how prepared they will be for the world in general and their specific place in it.  I worry about teaching them to work.  I worry about helping them be healthy.  I have no idea how to teach them to do the things I struggle with, but I don't want to watch them have the same struggles.

And then, one morning I have an idea to help motivate them to do their jobs.  All it requires of me is a piece of graph paper and a willingness to do fun things I already wanted to do with them.  And, before breakfast is over, my children are motivated. (Mostly.  At least for the last week.)

And then one lunchtime I have an idea to add something to lunch.  And before I know it, my children are happily eating a smoothie filled with the things they often ignore.  Even more, they are generally liking it.  (And even giving it a Zelda inspired name.  And brainstorming what to add to the one tomorrow.)

I pray for direction, expecting to wait and wait and wonder and worry, only to find that not only do I feel drawn to an answer, not only does peace and calm replace most of the concern, but the Professor supports the answer calmly when I expected to have to convince him.

I am reminded of Nephi in the Book of Mormon who wrote, "And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do."  I am reminded of the Doctrine and Covenants where the Lord promises multiple times to give his followers what they need "in the very hour" of their need, whether it be food, or clothes, or words to say.

I have no idea how to be the parent my children need next year.  I don't know how to parent teenagers.  This transition from physical/mental needs of young children to emotional/independence needs of older children is disconcerting.  But the Lord has always given me what I need when I need it.  Over the last ten years He has helped me have patience, make educational choices, teach my children the Gospel, choose where to live, teach my children to work, teach my children boundaries, discover and address medical issues, and more.  I'm learning to trust that He will still be there next year, and the year after that, and the year after that.

I feel like Peter.  I've followed His counsel out onto the waters of life, knowing that I'm walking on water that I can't walk on.  If I think too much about all my responsibilities, I feel paralyzed, unable to move forward.  When I focus on Him, things fall into place and I move forward.  I don't like the feeling of being constantly on the verge of sinking, knowing that I'm dependent on someone else.  Ignoring all the reasons my choices don't make sense while following Him takes more faith than I usually have.  And yet, as I listen and follow, like Peter, I find myself doing the impossible.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Hiking on Oahu

Six years ago, the Professor and I escaped to Hawaii.  While there, we hiked on the Diamond Head Summit trail.  This was our view.  So many of my favorite things combined: mountains, clouds, ocean, sun, and shadow.  It makes me happy.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Grace O'Malley costume

A couple of years ago, Miss E dressed up as a pirate princess.  This last year, Miss M chose a pirate queen.  Grace O'Malley was an Irish queen way back when (during the 1500's) who was resisting the English advances on her land.  She claimed she was a queen levying a tax on ships in her waters.  The English viewed her as a pirate.  At one point she visited Queen Elizabeth to plead for the lives of her sons and her brother, captives of the English.

This was a fun costume to research and make.  (You can see our inspiration here.)  The Irish of the time wore shirts with big, baggy sleeves the English hated.  And the wealthy wore it dyed with saffron.  We just used yellow.  I used elastic around the neck and sleeves to scrunch it together.  This shirt is supposed to be baggy, which makes fitting it nice and easy.

Next we made a bodice that laced together down the front.  I used a shirt of Miss M's to guess at the size and the pattern.  We laced it up with a brown ribbon.

For the skirt, we used either a brown, tiered skirt we already had or a basic, full green skirt I made.  Miss M wore two or three skirts underneath as petticoats.

We finished with some belts, a sword (foil covered stick), and a cloak.  The cloak was either a piece of fabric, or a warm blanket (for the cold night), held together at the neck with a safety pin.  We added a nice rose pin to pretend to be the clasp.

I present our pirate queen, Miss M.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Just like Mom...

Miss S wants to be just like me.  One day a few months ago I stepped out of the kitchen for a minute while making waffles.  I came back to this:

My favorite part of the whole thing is that by trying to be just like me she is just like me.  My mother has a picture of little me cooking eggs at the stove with the drawer underneath the oven pulled out for a step-stool.  This picture of Miss S was taken for her.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ardella Laird (Park) ~ April 1929

One of EMB's photos
In the pictures I have from EMB, my great grandfather, we found a number of pictures of a young woman.  The two envelopes containing most of the pictures were labeled.  Both said "Indpce" in script that looked more like "Mapel" and "Apr 1929".  One said Laird and one said Ardella.

With that, I began the fun part.  And I found Ardella Laird (Park) from Idaho.

Ardella Laird Park ~ 1985
Ardella Laird Park
Ardella Laird Park looked similar to the pictures.  She was buried in a cemetery near my parents' home.  My mother (a high school teacher) asked one of her students about the name and was connected to one of Ardella's children who lived nearby.  And looking through our photos, they found one that Ardella Laird Park had kept a copy of in her photo albums.

Ardella grew up in Idaho Falls, where EMB and his family lived.  She was close to the same age as his oldest son.  And she graduated from Idaho Falls High School, just as my great-uncle did.  In 1929 she was serving a mission for the LDS church in Independence, Missouri.  After she came home, she married and became a teacher (at the school my nephews go to now).  Her autobiography is available at the link above.

Another of grandpa's photos
Now the pictures make sense.  My great grandpa visited Independence in 1929.  While there, he visited with a missionary from back home.  It is likely that he knew her family before that.  And what family doesn't want pictures assuring them that their son or daughter is doing well?  And, when far away from family and friends, who doesn't enjoy the serendipitous meeting of a familiar face?

Another of grandpa's pictures.  I'm guessing these are the sister missionaries
in Independence, Missouri, in April 1929.  Ardella is the second
from the left.  I'm still working on the other five.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns

13247046I recently found a new book at the library called "The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns" by Margaret Dilloway.  It is a story about Gal, a high school teacher who loves breeding roses and needs a kidney transplant.  Her niece shows up on her doorstep needing a home.  Both of them struggle in their relationships with others.  This beautiful story is about them learning and healing as they face the misunderstandings and the hard experiences in their lives.  I love the compassion and hope with which the prickly people in this book are written.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Block Sampler 2.1-2.10 ~ Square in a Square

A few years ago I started my second sampler quilt.  While I haven't quite finished it, I thought I would update my quilt blocks with those that are done.  I will update the names of the blocks (maybe) sometime.  Here are the first ten.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Facing the impossible

I was reading Timothy Dyches' talk from last October recently.  I was struck with his examples of the Savior healing.  He describes the scene at the pool at Bethesda:

As the Savior raises the edge of the cloth with one hand, He beckons with the other and asks a penetrating question: 'Wilt thou be made whole?'
The man replies, 'Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me' (John 5:6–7).
To the man’s seemingly impossible challenge, Jesus provides a profound and unexpected answer:
'Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.
'And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked' (John 5:8–9).

To me, it seems like the impossible challenge wasn't the man explaining why change is impossible; it was Christ's response.  What is more impossible than telling an infirm man to take up his bed and walk?

This isn't the only time that Christ asks someone to do something impossible.  He asks Lazarus to come forth.  He commands the daughter of Jairus to arise.  He asks Peter to walk on the water.  Each time, He then provided the ability. Each time he healed them and blessed them and gave them all that was needed to fulfill his commandments.  But each time, the miracle isn't clear until they trust and try.

I'm reminded that often when I pray for help or guidance, the answers seem impossible.  Whether it be to have another child or to share a personal experience or not get angry at my children or move to a huge city or forgive a careless (or not so careless) remark or even to find time for scriptures each day, I am often like the man at the pool of Bethesda, patiently explaining to the Lord exactly why it is impossible for me to do more or be more.  "I'm broken," I explain.  "There's not time."  "I'm not talented like that."  "I don't know how."  "I'm exhausted and scared."  "I can't even do my current responsibilities."

I'm learning to trust and move forward.  I'm learning that, yes, it is all impossible.  And yet as I strive to do the impossible, miracles happen.  The power of grace fills in all the gaps, and then some.  Through his power, things work out eventually in beautiful ways.

Maybe someday I will be able to hear an impossible invitation from the Lord and rejoice in the miracle that is about to happen.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Rainbow at the lower Yellowstone River falls

Last summer, the Professor and I got to spend a day in Yellowstone without the children.  I took this picture on the path down to see the lower falls on the Yellowstone River.  No wonder they named it the Yellowstone River.

Looking at this, I am reminded just how very much I love those mountains.