Wednesday, April 30, 2014


We went camping recently.  No, it wasn't really camping.  Camping, to me, involves tents and sleeping bags and dirt.  And less-than-what-I-have-in-my-house restroom facilities.  So this wasn't really camping.  We, with the encouragement of my vivacious sister-in-law, rented a cute little cabin for the weekend.  No, of course it wasn't big enough for all of us, so the oldest boys pitched a tent and did the camping thing.  They did.  I didn't.  I slept in a bed, under sheets.  This is glamping.

The man and I had a queen bed, and then there was a bunkbed with a full on bottom and a twin on top.  We fit six of us in there, plus one more on the floor.  It was nice and cozy.  And we had a bathroom!  With a shower!

My brother's hamburgers are never better than when eaten outdoors on a wooden picnic table.  We ate lunch at an historic park.  We went on (itty bitty) hikes and saw amazing vistas.  We got s'mores in our hair.  We saw the Milky Way.  It was great.

Dad trying to corral Freddie, Mom gracefully falling off the step, David trying to stop Ben from pouring water on us, Angel and her funny faces, David's monkey ears, and "Oh Heavens do I really belong to these people??"  Georgie was sleeping in the van.  I think.

Living all that close and bunched up together gives you a new perspective on things.  Like how our ancestors could have lived with a family in the double digits in a log cabin of this size.  Amazing.  Like how well we really can get along without any outside things going on.  Like how much my teens would die, just die without electricity to recharge their PDDs (personal distraction devices).  Like how many people in this family snore!  And I'm the light sleeper of the bunch!   I'm lucky I made it out of there with my sanity intact.

 And I realized, like I do every day or so, how much I love this family.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Mission Monday

For today, I wanted to share of list of things we need to get and do before Ben goes on his mission.  It's substantial.  Too bad that Ben and I haven't gotten on the same page and listed it all out yet!  The things I'm working on right now include getting an appointment for wisdom teeth extraction, filling out passport paperwork, and accepting college scholarships and getting them deferred for two years.  So while I'm writing up the long, long list of things that need to get done, I'll just sit and smile at this picture of my mission-bound boys.  Watch out, world! 

Friday, April 25, 2014

School and Flaming Hoops

One of my sons is struggling with school.  He isn't having a hard time understanding his classwork - the boy is actually brilliant.  Maybe even a bit too smart for his own britches.  He knows the minimum he can do to get by, and only does that much.  The minimum to get by, however, has been shrinking as his acceptance of lower grades and less effort continues to grow.

As a mother, I worry and scold.  We talk about potential and the need for work.  I search in vain for adequate consequences or work plans.  So far, nothing is working.  And he is not working.

As a used-to-be student, I understand.  I remember being fed up with my classes and feeling misunderstood and ignored by my teachers.  I didn't pull in my grades for my teachers, for sure.  I didn't do it for myself - I didn't really care.  I knew, however, that my mother would tan my hide if my grades were bad.  She worked at the school district office, and was friendly with all my teachers.  She never missed a parent-teacher conference.  She was constantly asking about how my classes were going.  She programmed the computers that calculated our grades, and she would bring home a copy of my report card before they were passed out at school.  I'm not sure how she distilled that school-is-important into me and my brothers, but she sure did.  I wish I knew, because I haven't been able to give that same school-is-important vibe to my children.

I asked my brothers, fellow scholars in our growing-up home, how they managed to get by in school.  Without exception, they all said the same thing.  "I figured out which hoops were essential to jump through and played the game their way."  One brother called them "flaming hoops."

And that is the rub, because my boy doesn't want to jump through the hoops.  He thinks that playing the game is childish and beneath him.  He loves to learn things, but not only does he not feel that his schooling  helps him to learn, but that it actually hinders real learning.

I think there is a lot more to learn in school than just the subject matter in the textbook.  How to jump through hoops.  How to respect authority.  How to accomplish things even when you don't want to.  How to be a finisher.  How to do hard things.  How to accept responsibility.  How to get along with difficult people.

I was so glad to find this article today, written by a teacher who honestly cares about his students.  It hits the nail right on the head about why school is important, and why we can't quit.

Some favorite segments:
You see, the main event of school is not academic learning. It never has been. It never will be...  The main event is learning how to deal with the harshness of life when it gets difficult — how to overcome problems as simple as a forgotten locker combination, to obnoxious peers, to gossip, to people doubting you, to asking for help in the face of self-doubt, to pushing yourself to concentrate when a million other thoughts and temptations are fingertips away. 
It is your resilience in conquering the main event — adversity — that truly prepares you for life after school. Because, mark my words, school is not the most challenging time you will have in life. You will face far greater challenges than these. Sure, you will have times more amazing than you can imagine, but you will also confront incomparable tragedy, frustration, and fear in the years to come.... 
But, you shouldn’t be worried about the fact that you will face great adversities. You should be worried because you’re setting yourself up to fail at overcoming them. Here’s the real reason I lose hours of sleep worrying about you: You are failing the main event of school. You are quitting.  You may not think you are quitting, but you are because quitting wears many masks. .

He goes on to detail a few ways that students - and all of us - quit doing our jobs.  It's a bad habit to get into, and it can destroy us.  Really.  It's that big of a deal.

I wonder how I can present it to my smarty-pants boy without him giving up because "none of my teachers care about me like that/"  But I'll Mom up and keep trying.  That's what we do.

Read the whole article - it's really worth it.  And then go take care of your job.  We can do this.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Close To Me

I was at the flower shop the other day, ordering a large arrangement for a funeral.  I had tried to get to the shop earlier in the day, when Trent could watch the little people, but things don't always work out like I want them to.  That's pretty much a general rule for  me.  Anyway,  I had to take Angel and the twins on errands eith me.  They are getting older and and listen better than they used to.  We usually have a pretty good time together on our outings.

Before we went in the flower shop, we had a pep talk.  It was the standard "put your hands in your pockets and look but don't touch" lecture.  Oh, there were so many fun things to look at!  They loved the smell.  They loved the roses behind the glass doors.  They loved the vases full of bright blooms.  They loved the cheerful tulips and daffodils.   The store seemed to be full of excited but muted "Oh!  C'mere and look at this!"  And not touching.  I was so proud of them.

I finished up my order and folded the receipt into my wallet.  My little sweeties were quietly admiring a bookshelf display of Willow Tree statues.  Just as I got to them, Angel flung her hand out to point out to me the statue she loved most.   Her hand hit the front of the flimsy shelf, flipping it up and sending the backmost statue flying into the air.  I watched in slow motion, wanting to close my eyes and hide, as the statue of two embracing figures slowly crashed to the ground.  It split into large chunks, sending one figure under the shelves and half of the other skittering across the floor.  Broke up that little romance pretty thoroughly, didn't we?  It took all of us and the store manager several minutes to find the head that had popped off.

I sheepishly paid for the statue, stuffed it into the box and gathered up my now-quiet twins and the daughter from her time-out on the door mat.  They -especially she - got a learning moment (doesn't that sound nicer than a dressing down and a lecture?) and I pulled out the glue. 

Hopefully it would stick back together decently, without too many missing pieces and ugly cracks.  I actually do like these statues, even though I was certainly not planning on buying one today!  It wasn't until I got all the pieces firmly glued back together that I realized what the statue was. 

The figurine depicted a tender embrace between a mother and her daughter.  In all that excitement, it was the mother who had lost her head.

Just like me.  I nearly lost my head over an accident, although expensive and careless, which was not worth permanently damaging a loving relationship. 

The piece is mended and sturdy now, but I can still see the hairline cracks.  I like them.  They remind me of how fragile a relationship can be if I don't treat it carefully.   And they remind me that mistakes can be fixed.  There is one piece I never did find - a little chip in the middle, between the mother and the daughter.  

Interestingly enough, it forms the shape of a heart that never would have been there if they had been perfect.
On the box it says, "Apart or together, always close to me."   Perfectly imperfect, just like how I will always love my daughter.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

In the Morning

This isn't what our mountains look like in the morning.  
Then again, maybe it is, but I usually have my eyes screwed too shut to notice.

Today I got up at oh-dark-hundred to make breakfast for Wave I.  Ben and Chris attend early-morning seminary before high school starts.  They like to begin their day with a dose of goodness.  I don't like getting up that early, but for me, "that early" extends until "you're still in bed?" for most people.  I get up when I have to, not when I want to.  Trent's alarm goes off, and he springs forth.  Most of the time I don't hear the alarm (he has the Hunger Games tune on his iPhone, and it's not blaring enough to kill my sleep), but Trent wakes me up.  He dashes, I stumble into the kitchen, and we do food.

One of us (usually him) makes breakfast, and the other (usually me, but sometimes also him if I've had a really rough night) makes lunches.  We lay 16 slices of homemade bread (also usually made by him) out across the counter and start slathering mayonnaise and mustard, cheese and ham.  We bag up the sandwiches and sort them into piles with a piece of fruit or some cookies.  Two sandwiches and two fruit into the first Spiderman lunchbox.  Three sandwiches and two fruit in a pile.  Two sandwiches and a fruit in the second Spiderman lunchbox.  One sandwich and one fruit in the lunch bag.

Breakfast often looks like a dozen eggs and most of a loaf of bread, toasted.  Ben and Chris eat, brush their teeth, scrape the car windows if it is cold, and they're off.  We say goodbye to the First Wave, and then we go back to bed.  Sometimes Trent stays up, but I've never had enough sleep yet.

An hour later, we get up again for Wave II.  This one is shorter because David's lunch and breakfast are already made, and he is usually running late.  He runs through the kitchen, grabs his breakfast, munches while stuffing his Spiderman lunch box into his backpack, and dashes out.  The door slams behind him, and I usually go back to bed again.

After another hour of sleep, I am starting to feel human.  Time for Wave III.  Eddie is the most cheerful in the morning, and makes sure to feed and water the animals before walking to school.  I can always count on a kiss and hug before he goes.

Wave IV is the most leisurely, as I can make breakfast slowly for the little people and me.  Sometimes Trent eats with us, and sometimes he has already eaten earlier.  He gets ready and leaves for work, and we start our day.

Every morning I think I should get to bed earlier, but it's so hard with teens who stay up late and a husband who doesn't get home from work until later.  One day I might be a ball of sunshine in the morning, but not with this schedule.  At this rate, I'll be able to be cheerful for my children... when they don't live at home any more!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Mission Monday

Just before Alec left for Johannesburg , South Africa,we got another large white envelope in the mail. This one was for Ben. He was so excited, and invited a bunch of friends and grandparents over that night to eat peanut butter bars.  Oh, and to watch him open the letter. This was the result:

While Alec spends his next two years in South Africa, Ben will be his neighbor in Madagascar!  I wonder if those boys prayed to get away from their mother, because they really can't get any farther away from home and stay on this planet.  They will both be such great missionaries.

We've been learning all kinds of things about these two African nations. Like that the average height of a Malagasy man is just slightly taller than Eddie here.  Ben will certainly stand out. In a good way!  In a good way!

So we'll have another round of getting ready to do. Maybe this time I'll get better organized.

So proud of these boys!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Five Boys

It's been nearly a decade since these boys lost their daddy.  He slipped away peacefully in his sleep after a long, long battle with brain cancer.  They watched him struggle, but they had time to play with him and say their goodbyes.  It was hard.  I was 33, a widow with five young sons to raise.  It was hard.  I haven't written about it yet because it's still hard, but maybe I will someday.

I wish I could send a little message to that younger me.  I wish I could whisper into her ear that these brave little lads would make it through.  We wouldn't be without our share of challenges and difficulties, but we would make it.  I wish she could have seen that one day, they would be like this:  tall, strong, and handsome.  And still making it though.

Wherever you are today, hang on.  You'll make it through.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


I was sitting down at the computer, ready to write up a blog post I've been thinking about, when I heard a little voice calling me from the hallway.

"Mom?  Mommy?"  I smiled and answered without stopping my work on the computer.  "Yes, Dear?  What do you need?"

The voice was small and sweet.  "I want you to come give me a hug and kiss."  How can I resist that?

I tip-toed into her room and held her tightly.  "I love you so, so much," she whispered before she carefully placed gentle kisses on both cheeks, my forehead, and my nose.

Oh, I love being a mom!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Quick Shots

Before that first boy of mine left, I had to get a new family picture.  To shirk this motherly duty would be downright shameful.  Especially if you consider that it will be two years before he comes back home.  Two years.  <sigh>  And by the time he comes back, That next boy of mine will be gone.  And the third will be packing up his bags.  It is entirely possible that Chris will go out before Ben comes back.  And it might be four years before I see this again.

And in four years, it is entirely possible that we could have a daughter-in-law.  Or two.  I've seen how those girls look at my boys.  It's with a sparkle in their eyes, like they see something special.  They do.  They also look at these boys with their heads tilted way, way back.  'Cause I have tall boys, I do.  I'm not sure when all this tallness and handsomeness came about, but I've got to capture it while I can.

I am so grateful for my family.  They are for sure the biggest blessing I have.  Every day, in every prayer, I thank my loving Heavenly Father for the chance to be their mother.  Oh so grateful.

I wish I could grab every moment and hang on with my fingernails.  In the very same breath, I love watching the time pass and the buds open.  I can't wait to see what they will become.  It just doesn't get any better than this.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Toss Those Cookies!

We have a new friend at our house, a little blond neighbor girl.  Her name is confidential because she is a minor (I'm laughing at myself), but in keeping with our alphabetical pseudonyms, we'll call her Babby.  Her mom is going to college, so we get to play with her a couple of afternoons  week.

When Babby first started coming to play, she and Angel would shut themselves in the bedroom and not let the twins in to play.  No, not all the time, but occasionally.  I found it hilarious that Freddie and Georgie would wander around complaining in sad voices that there was no one to play with.  Really?  You are twins!  You always have a built-in-buddy to play with!  But Angel was such a good organizer of play that they felt lost without her.  Over the past few months, they have gotten used to playing with each other, and they enjoy it.  It's good practice for when Angel starts kindergarten in the fall.

Angel and Babby took a little dance class together last fall, and were just cute.  Babby is a great little dancer, and I was hoping that Angel would learn some grace.  Our girl dances like a boy - feet planted, hands balled into fists, and hips shifting back and forth mechanically.  But no, a dance class did not give her a smooth dancing rhythm.  Oh well.  They did have a good time together, though.

And they are as adorable as any little girls out there when they wore their pink tutus and curled hair for their dance recital.  Dutiful parent that I was, I made them sit still for the hot curling iron and nasty hair spray, and then took pictures.  That's what we do.

Today, we made chocolate chip cookies.  There were supposed to be consumed in the middle of the night yesterday (early this morning?) while we watched the lunar eclipse, but they somehow did not get themselves baked.  Bad cookies.  Don't you know that the longer you remain in dough form, the more I will eat of you? The eclipse was still amazing without them, especially since Trent made up hot chocolate for us.  Good man.

I didn't know this was possible, but Babby prefers her cookies without chocolate chips.  I'm game for that, and I found some dough at the bottom of the bowl that didn't have as many chips mixed into it.  There's usually some unmixed flour and baking soda down there too.  I'm a great cook.  I picked out a few stray chocolate chips, rolled the dough into balls, and put them on a little plate.  They missed the bus into the oven with all the other cookie dough balls, so I thought I'd microwave them.  I'd had such good success with my microwave muffins, after all.

These cookies cooked in ten minutes in the oven, so I figured that two minutes in the microwave would be plenty.  After one minute, I stopped the microwave when smoke started curling out of its door.  The cookies were badly and un-fixably burnt.  And the smell!  Worse than burnt popcorn, but not as bad as the hair I used to pull out and toast over the open flame in my junior high science class.  Burnt hair is bad.  Oh, so bad.

We turned on the fan and opened windows and doors.  All we could do next was to take the burnt offerings and throw them in the chicken bucket where we put all out scraps.  And take the bucket outside.  Blech.  Toss those cookies, baby.  It took me several more batches of good oven-baked cookies to cover up the smoky nastiness.  But now we have cookies!

And Babby ate the warm chocolate chips cookies anyway.  With the chips.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Missionary Monday

Wow.  It's been a month.  This getting a missionary off took more out of me than I thought.  Now I have to wonder if I should go back and catch up, or just jump in where we are.  That's why I have always had big gaps in my writing - I think I need to fill in all the gaps, and it just seems like so big of a task to do.  Too daunting, so I put it off and the job just gets bigger and bigger.

So I think I'll just jump back in with this:

Can you see my boy?  The angelic one in the back with the glowing face?  I think he's now known as the "white boy."  This picture was taken a week and a half ago when he arrived in the Missionary Training Center in Johannesburg, South Africa.  He'll be all trained and shipping out tomorrow morning.  After that, he will spend the next couple of years of his life in the Cape Town, South Africa area.

You can read his weekly letters on his mission blog.  Oh yeah, and his name isn't really Alec, but you knew that, didn't you?

I love his smile.  He's happy.  And despite the fact that he is literally half a world away, his happy fills my heart.  I'm a happy mom.