Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day

25 years ago I found myself a lonely and somewhat cynical college student with a class assignment to make a simple computer animation.  I created a beautiful rose... and then had it explode into smithereens.  The year after that was my first Valentine's Day with my very own valentine - we were newlyweds of a couple months and it was delightful to know that someone loved me on that day.  The next year, I celebrated Hearts Day by feeling the new wiggles of a little one beneath my own heart.

This year, I'm celebrating all those hearts.  I bought our traditional red carnations, and bundled them up with bunches of baby's breath.  I took flowers and pizzas to my college boys.  I took flowers and pizzas to my newlyweds.  I gave cute little boxes of candies to my small fry.  I got my dad a box of chocolates.  


Then all my little hearts gathered up their valentines for their classmates and their lunches and backpacks and trotted off to school.  Maybe not all of them trotted.  Maybe none of them trotted.  Trent went off to the office, my dad went to take his morning nap, and the house was quiet.  

I sat back and listened to the quiet for a few minutes, and then I found this quote:

"Sometimes, my dear sisters, you feel inadequate and ineffective because you can't do all that you feel you should. Rather than continually dwelling on what still needs to be done, pause occasionally and reflect on all that you do and have done. It is most significant.
"The good you have done, the kind words you have spoken, the love you have shown to others, can never be fully measured."  -Thomas S. Monson

Happy Valentine's Day, especially to you mothers.  Your love is good and needed.  Thank you for the good you do in the world.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Happy New Year!

 It's a new year, but it feels an awful lot like the old one.  We're still eating odd things at odd times, we're still sleeping in late and staying up late, we're stl in party mode, and the house reflects that.  

Usually by the time January 1 rolls around, I am so ready to pack away the holidays.  The tree bugs me.  The red spangled decor looks like clutter.  The cute window stickers are all in disarray and have long ceased to be cute.  The stockings were hung with care, but now live in a wad on the floor.  The camels and sheep have been played with thoroughly and their packs and bells are regularly rolling around underfoot.  The pine boughs on the front porch look like something I picked out of a throwaway pile (wait, I did pick them out of a throwaway pile, but they definitely look worse now than they did a couple of months ago.).  It's all a big mess.

But this year, it doesn't bother me so much.  There's a messy pile of boxes still in the corner which houses the gifts Ben and Chris got, but when it leaves it means my boys leave, too. The big bowl of nuts is still on the coffee table (and I keep buying nuts to refill it) because the twins have learned to crack nuts this year and I like setting them work together and share.  And they drop lots of nut meat in the shells bowl so I get to eat nuts for free!  The tree is still up because Ben loves seeing the lights of his first Christmas home after two years in a third world country.  There are pillows and blankets strewn all around three different rooms, but the visual cacophony means that we've all been cozy warm and snuggled up together while the weather has been in the single digits outside.

My home is a place to house my favorite people, not a museum (although sometimes it feels a bit like a warehouse!).  I am glad I have this space to be together with this family of mine.  I'll clean up the decorations... elsewhen. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Honor Your Parents

Yes, children!  Did you see what today's challenge is?  HONOR YOUR PARENTS!  Be nice to me! Do what I say!  I'm so funny that I make them all roll their eyes.  Pick those eyeballs up off the floor, children.  You might need them someday.

So maybe the little video here says it more nicely than I did.  Watch it and think about it for a minute.  It says Jesus honored his parents, which makes me think of Joseph the carpenter.  I have a special spot in my heart for him, since he willingly stepped in and raised another man's son as his own.  Just like my sweet Trent has done for my older boys.  I am so grateful for the parenting and strength and love that he shares with all of us.

I wasn't particularly close to my mom growing up.  I loved her lots, and I knew she loved me.  I knew it.  But we clashed in some ways.  My dad said it was like living with two queen bees!  I wish I could talk to her and tell her how sorry I am for that.  I wish I was a better daughter... but I didn't know how at the time.  I would love to sit down with her and ask her advice about a number of things that I can see she did really well: welcoming other people into the family, maintaining calm in a crisis, encouraging people to do their best, holding your tongue instead of blurting out awkward things...  Love that lady, and I'm proud to be her daughter.

We live with my dad, so we see him all the time.  He has Parkinson's and dementia, so life is a bit tricky for him and will only get more so.   Today I sat with him and just listened to him talk.  He told me about how the pollen that is in his bedroom is thicker in the morning and dissipates as the day goes on.  He told me there are spiderwebs and strands or cords that hang from the ceiling.  Water condenses on the strands and when they get too big, they drop off and he can hear them hit the floor or feel them hit his head.  He thinks they make his bedcovers damp and cold in the morning.  But he says the pollen is beautiful, shimmering with purple and different colors. Sometimes he is frustrated that I can't see and hear all the things he does.  His world looks different than mine sometimes, and I think it sounds lovely and magical.


He can still walk and get around most of the time.  On bad days, he'll use his walker to stay safer.  His feet and legs freeze up sometimes, and he is stuck for a few moments until the brain messages finally get down to them.  He says he has to get his landing gear down and locked before he starts to walk.  His balance is poor and he tips a lot.  Most of time Trent or I are near enough to catch him - we are never far away - but sometimes he falls.  He spends most of his day sleeping or watching TV in his room, and sometimes both at the same time!  I hold his cold, thin hand when we go for a walk up the street and he tells me about the cars he has had, or about winning tennis championships in his glory days, or about what he would like to do next on the model train layout in his garage.

He can't live by himself, as he'd be lost trying to cook in the kitchen.  I made a grilled cheese sandwich for his lunch today, with extra cheese and butter for more calories.  I hid a can of Ensure and some black beans in his banana and peach shake to add some protein and nutrition.  He's missing a few teeth so it's hard to eat, plus he tires out quickly, so we do what we can to help him stay healthy.


It's not easy to be a caregiver, but for us, it's the right thing to do.  Dad gets to stay in his own house, sleep in his own bed, do his own hobbies in his own garage, and greet the neighbors he's known for 40 years at his own church.  We really didn't know what we were getting into when we moved in, and it's become more challenging since then.  It's not so bad when we can share the care around.  Angel likes to fetch things for him.  The boys look out after him.  Trent shaves him for Sunday and cleans up his toilet (which is something I can not bring myself to do!).  I think we are often too rowdy and busy for him, but he patiently puts up with us.  We're glad we are here, and glad he is still here.  I love my dad.


Oh, and as long as you are here, you can read this old, finally finished post about hidden blessings  from last April!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Little Overwhelmed and Pizza

Deferred maintenance can be a killer.  On a house, not keeping things up over time will lead to left messes, decay and  eventually structural issues.  Not keeping a car running well will kill it even faster.  As I'm looking at my blog, I'm glad it doesn't break down, but there is a lot of work that needs to be done - and I haven't been doing it!  Notice how young my children look in the header?  They are quite a bit older now.  I'd like to update the background too, now that we don't have current world travelers.  And I just found a whole pile of old posts that I had started, but never got finished.  Sigh.  There is always something, isn't there?

So I don't know if I'll post every day, or even every other day.  But I am going to start chipping away at my old stuff.  Like this post from last April about what we had for dinner.  New and complete!  And then I will feel like I've been productive.

Honestly, it's been hard to feel productive lately.  My health hasn't been exactly bright and perky, so I haven't wanted to be up and doing things.  I've not been feeling well in the mornings, so I haven't been walking the kids to school.  There have been some difficult family things going on, so it's sometimes hard to find my happy.  And my dad has been more shaky, so I can't even leave the house until someone comes to spell me off.  So maybe this is a perfect time to start writing again.  Then I feel like I've accomplished something even when I have just been sitting on the couch.  Hooray for little wins!

But hey!  We did do something good today!  Have you seen the "Light the World" challenge?  It's being put on for the month of December by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Every day, we see one trait or characteristic of Christ, then we see how we can do better in that way.  Today is the kickoff, and it's a day of service.  Please click on the link there.  The videos are so well done and inspiring!


We learned that there are 60,000 refugees who now live in our state, and that they are in need of food for the holidays.  Our closest refugee center was asking for rice and bean meal packs.  It costs 5 or 6 dollars for a pound of beans, 2 pounds of rice, and 5 pounds of flour.  This week, the kids have been doing chores to earn their own $5 to help with this effort.  We went to the store and picked up the supplies.  They were excited to pick out which kind of beans they wanted, and help tie a pretty ribbon around each package.  Tomorrow, Trent will take them to the refugee center.  It doesn't seem like much, but I think every little bit helps.


And then, if we needed a reminder that good things come back to those who do good, our neighbor brought us pizza for dinner.  This is a snapshot of the leftovers.  We have the best neighbors!  And when we try to do our part to make it a better world, I think we become better neighbors too.

Maybe we are more productive than we think we are.  Maybe there are ways we can help and serve, even if it's only a drop.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

When My Memory Fades

I forget things.  Not just because I'm getting older, but also because moments change.  When the house is a disaster and all the pennies need pinching and I'm hungry but there is nothing for me to eat and the kids are fighting with each other and we are LATE AGAIN! it is hard to remember that there are times that go well.  But there are good moments.  Lots of them, in fact.  So I need to write them down, because that's how I remember better.  I think that is one of the great blessings of the scriptures - they make our collective memories bigger.  And it's nice to remember the good things, especially when hard times hit.

***


Alec came over to change his oil.  I have appreciated how Trent has taught the boys how to fix and maintain a car.  When Alec's new car spilled oil all over the driveway, Alec was good to come back and clean it up.  He stayed for a bit and we ended up all eating hamburgers in the kitchen together - 12 of us with Grandma Jeanne that day.  It so warms my mother-heart to be together.

***

We were driving home from a late-night family gathering in the big van.  I love being in our big van, even though I don't particularly like driving our giant, unwieldy van -  because it means we can be all together.  Something is missing when we have to take two or three cars instead.  Eddie started saying things in a British accent that evidently wasn't quite up to snuff.  Before long, David, Chris, and Ben were all criticizing  his attempt, but each fake accent was different than the one before.  I think we all ended up in giggles at all those bad accents.  British giggles, mind you.

***


When someone does an especially good job on a school paper or artwork, we hang in on the refrigerator.  I was pleasantly surprised when Chris asked at the end of his senior year if he could put his well-done-paper one the fridge, since he usually does not like to be the center of attention.  The next time I walked past the kitchen, it looked like this!  It was so fun we left it that way, all covered with his awards and achievements, for the whole summer.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Family Funnies

Even though I haven't been blogging, I have been collecting little snippets of our family life.  Some are funny, some are sweet, and some are just happy family moments that I'd like to snuggle up in and enjoy for a long time.  As much as I'd like to remember them forever, I know myself better than that.  If I don't write it down, it is lost and gone.  End of story.

We went to a family reunion recently, and they talked about having a family talent show.  At dinner, we discussed what talents are, and what we could do for the show.  Angel was more than excited with all sorts of ideas.  "Ooh!" she squealed, "I'm going to draw some pictures!"  Freddie pondered for a few minutes before somberly announcing, "My talent is reading."   Georgie didn't have to think long before he let us know what he planned, "I'm going to hoop a hula.  I like hooping."

Angel loves watching all kinds of animals and birds.  She told us she wanted a bird to make a nest in her lower lip and lay and egg there.  "When it hatches, I can raise it for my very own.  It would be glorious!"

Trent took Freddie on an errand in the car.  After a few minutes, Freddie innocently asked, "Dad, why didn't you use the [tongue clicking]?"  Thinking.  You mean the blinkers?  Yes, that.  Busted by the six-year-old back seat driver!

Georgie had been in the car too long.  In desperation, he demanded, "I want to walk home for the last block!"  When the answer was in the negative, he insisted, "Then I will cry all the way home!"  Freddie muttered under his breath, "Oh, just let him walk!"

Freddie let us know an important upcoming event.  "I'm gonna change my name when I grow up.  I'm gonna change my name to... (thinking)... Hot Sauce."  Not to be outdone, Georgie will also change his name.  When asked what his new name will be, he replied matter-of-factly, "I'm Batman!"

Monday, November 28, 2016

Must Right the Not Writing

A few years ago, one of my sons implored me to never stop blogging.  "How will we ever know when we did things?  Or remember our family stories if you don't write them down, Mom?"  His plaintive request caught me totally off-guard.  I didn't think he read the blog at all, or even really knew that I wrote.  Especially since he was in an I-don't-care-about-this-family kind of stage.  So I kept writing.  Every now and then, life gets crazy and other things are more important than writing, so I pause.  But I miss it.  It's hard to jump back in and not feel guilty that there are things that I didn't record that I wanted to - that's why the pauses last longer than I want them to.  I feel like I have to play catch-up before I can jump back into today.

In the past half year, we have gone from Mom and Dad, six kids and Opa, with two missionaries out, to both missionaries home and eleven people in this house!  At the end of the summer we had a wedding and two other boys going away to college, so we were down three.  David and Eddie were happy to move into Chris's old bedroom (it has a window!), and the twins got to move out of the room they shared with Angel.  Yes, we had eight children in three bedrooms for a while - although some of the older boys preferred to couch-surf rather than sleep downstairs.  It seems funny to say that the house is quieter and feels empty now, because there are still five kids plus two parents plus a grandparent who still eat, sleep, and hang out on the premises.

But it is a little empty.  Alec and his new bride have a cozy little apartment a few towns over, and seem to be living happily.  Do we need a bloggy name for her?  Does it need to match up with Alec's letter A, or should we begin with B since that is the next girl name in the alphabet after Angel?  Let's call her Belle, just for fun, and because it fits her.  Ben's university is in the next town over from the university Chris chose, so they are sharing an apartment and commuting.  I love to hear them tease and bicker over bedtimes and groceries, and I'm glad they have each other.  My mother-heart has grown a few sizes to include a new family member, and to love my boys as the adults they are becoming.  I pray every night that they will all find real happiness and fulfillment in their chosen areas.

David is a sophomore this year, so I have him in the nest for two more years while he grows his flight-feathers.  I'm so impressed with how he handles the challenges he faces, and how he determinedly gets back up every time.  He is learning such good things!  Eddie is in eighth grade and finding his groove in his studies and groups of friends.  He and David clash on a regular basis over the standard sibling things, but I'm glad that they like each other anyway and manage to set things straight.  If we could figure out how to simultaneously play music and have quiet; turn the lights on and have dark, we would be a thousand times more peaceful.  And rich, if we could sell that technology!

Our Angel is eight and thriving in second grade.  Her social butterflightiness (can I combine "social butterfly" and "flightiness"?) is calming down several notches, and she spends a great deal of time writing and drawing pictures, or playing school with her little brothers.  When she has been quiet for a long time, I know her imagination has been captured by a good book.  Freddie and Georgie are in the first grade.  Gone all day!  I love to hear the commotion that descends upon the house when the three of them come tramping in after school.  And then my mother-heart is happy: my children are home!

Yes, dear son, I'll keep blogging.  There are so many things for me to write about and I miss it when I don't.  We have a great family, don't you think?  If I don't jot down the things I am ever so grateful for, then I forget.

And I don't ever want to forget.