Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Love You, Grandma!

My first mother-in-law came to visit us.  We are so lucky that, even though she lives a few thousand miles away from us, she comes to visit every summer.  She spends a week with each of her children's families, travelling more than seven thousand miles to see all five homes and twenty-three grandchildren.  She is an amazing woman, and the week we have her flies by too fast.

Maybe one day, we will convince her to move closer.  We would love it!

I am so lucky to have such a loving woman for my mother-in-law.  She is incredibly loving and giving.  She raised an amazing man, the mother of my first five boys.  And even after his passing, she still loves us!  I am impressed how quickly she adopted Trent as an honorary son-in-law when I married him.  She sends birthday cards and Christmas gifts for her grandkids - all 8 of them, no matter whether they are her biological grandchildren or not.  If you asked her, they are all hers.  And I agree.  My children are so lucky to have three sets of doting grandparents.

We love you, Grandma.  You are such a gift to our family!

Monday, May 26, 2014


I decided to make a necklace for Mother's Day.  It was kind of a cross between a necklace and a mother's ring and a grandmother's brag book.

It starts in the middle, with love, and represents every person in the family.  Every boy has a blue bead and every girl has a pink - pretty standard colors, I know, but I liked how the blue and pink ended up, and it just made more sense that way.  Grandma and Grandpa were pink and blue beads on the same pin, separated by a small clear bead and two more small beads on top and bottom.  After that, each of their children (they are all married) was shown as a couple, but with only one small bead at top and bottom instead of two.  After each couple comes their children, and then the next family begins with a new couple.  This one was for the Alaska grandmother.

The next one got more colorful.  I really enjoyed making these necklaces, because I had to think of each member of the family - aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews - as I strung the bead for them.  I like my families.  How lucky I am to be surrounded by so many good people!

And then I made a little bracelet, just for fun.  Can you guess who inspired this one?  Maybe it would give a better hint if I hadn't turned the Africa charm backwards for the picture.  Man, I love my boy!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Prom Pictures

Ben went to prom a few weeks back, and they asked me to be their photographer.  Why, I don't know.  I'm not all that good at taking pictures (but I am getting better).

When I was in high school, the dance pictures were a big deal.  We went to the dance and danced a few songs, then joined the majority of the kids in our school in a tremendously long line that snaked through the cafeteria and down the hallway.  This is where we spent most of our time at the dance.  Not actually in the dance, doing something crazy like... dancing... but standing in the line to get a picture to prove and commemorate us being at the not-dance.  We stood in line, talking and laughing and inventing new and creative poses for the pictures.  The pictures often cost more than admission to the dance, but they were important.  I have a whole stack of them... somewhere.

I'm there on the front row, right side, in my borrowed pretty dress.

Oh, maybe that's why they ask me.  I take pictures for free.  And I guess having a professional formal portrait isn't all that important anymore, at least to my children.

That's ok with me.  I love spending a little bit of time with these kids, and I love being with them on their big date.  I was so impressed with them.

The girls were gorgeous, inside and out.  The guys were handsome and goofy.  They all just overflowed with goodness.

Every one of these boys already has his mission call.  This good group of friends will be scattered completely across the globe in the next few months.

Thanks for letting me be part of your party.  Our world is in good hands.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Playing With Hair

Growing up, I had four brothers and no sisters.  I loved my brothers, and we all wrestled and played ball and Legos together.  I thought it wasn't fair that I had to wear dresses on Sunday because you can't climb a tree in a dress.  Loved my brothers - still do.  They are amazing men and wonderful daddies.  But I did miss out on playing beauty parlor.

Occasionally, I take out my pent-up beauty parlor passion (which isn't much) on my cute little daughter.  Like today when I saw these pictures:

When Angel was a baby, she had such fine and wispy hair that there wasn't much I could do with it.  As she got a bit older, I didn't know what to do with it.  And then she fell out the window and  landed on her head and didn't want anyone to touch her head at all for the longest time. That sounds like a very bad fairy tale.  I wish it were, but she's ok now.

Anyway, her hair is longer and she has the patience to sit and let me do it.  Mostly, we play Rapunzel and spend a lot of time brushing and brushing and brushing her hair.  We braid it at night and try to do something pretty during the day.  Most days.  Some days.  But today we did this, and it looked a little bit better before she ran around like a crazy monkey.  But we did it.  Way to go, girl!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Bird and a Burial

A pair of starlings made their nest high in the chicken coop this spring.  The children were delighted to see the daddy fly in and out, bringing food to the mama bird on the nest.  When the eggs hatched, we all heard the peeps and the tiny squawks for food when a parent bird flew in to the nest.  The kids found out that if they climbed high in the coop they could just barely see the little birds.  We heard of their progress and growth as the little birds got bigger.  They feathered out!  They are fluffy!  They are venturing out of the nest!  David rescued a baby bird from the floor of the coop before the chickens would certainly peck it to death!  

I think my little ones were feeling like proud parents as the little birds learned to fly.  Such fun to watch that growing part of life.  Inevitably, the circle closes down on the ending side, and we got to see that too.  Sadly, Angel brought me the limp body of a baby bird.  It was just barely as big as her cupped hands, its floppy head dangling against her fingers.  She was distraught.  The twins were bewildered that such a thing could happen.  Eddie was sad, too.

Angel wanted to put the dead birdie in the sunshine to see if the warmth would help it to wake up, and kept running away from us.  Eddie got the shovel and we scouted out an appropriate burial place.  I pushed the blade into the moist soil, turning over worms and bugs - evidences of life - while making a place for this new death.  Angel slowly placed the bird into the hole and smoothed its feathers.  Freddie peered over the edge of the tiny grave and announced that he wanted to go to Heaven, too.  Georgie hung back, hesitant to be too close.  We said a little prayer and closed the grave.  

With that, we put away the shovel and washed our hands.  Its short life was over, but ours keep going.  Death is an integral part of life, and I am glad that my children can see births and deaths.  Getting too far away from the natural cycle makes us fearful of ends and beginnings.

And I do believe that our deaths are just a new beginning elsewhere.  Our bodies get worn out and tired.  But there is that something, that spirit, that chi, that power that makes us who we are... and that lives on.  I'm so grateful for my faith in that progression - that death isn't the final end - that helps ease the sting of separation.

And helps me to console my little ones when a wee birdie dies.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

All By Myself

I grew up in a medium-sizish house with two parents and two cats and four brothers.  And one bathroom.  Yes, one bathroom for all seven of us (thankfully,the cats used other facilities).  It wasn't usually a problem, except for when we were coming home from one of those long "hey let's go on a drive" outings, and we all had to go.  We would start calling dibs on the bathroom as soon as we entered the neighborhood, but all bets were off when we pulled in the driveway.  As soon as the station wagon slowed down in the driveway, the doors were flung open and children flew out and raced like mad for the bathroom.  We all knew that, dibs aside, whoever was able to slam the bathroom door shut first was the luckiest.  The rest of us would line up in the hallway, hopping or crossing our legs, and wait.  And holler at the one in the bathroom to hurry.  Hurry!

Occasionally we would have other bathroom problems.  I'm fighting the urge to use the words congestion or constipation here.  Sometimes someone would be in the bathroom for a long time.  Sometimes a really long time.  Little kids can only wait so long, you know.  If it went on too long - like more than two or three minutes - I remember pressing my ear up against to door to listen to what was going on in there.  sooner or later, I would hear evidence of my suspicions, which gave me license to tattle.  "Mom!  He's reading in there!"  Reading in the bathroom, whether it was a book or the newspaper (usually the funny pages), was strictly verboten.

When I was in junior high, oh happy day, we got a second toilet installed.  Please note that I do not mention the bathroom, just the toilet.  This is because there was no bathroom, just the toilet.  The toilet was installed where the bathroom would eventually be, and there were two walls around it made up from a bedroom wall and the cement side of the basement.  Part of the third wall was made up of a furnace, a water heater, and a washing machine.  But there was no wall between the toilet and the hallway.  And not enough of a partition to screen the toilet-sitter from anyone coming down the stairs.  This all meant that if one really, really had to go, and one were sure of a quick finish, one might be able to furtively take care of business while keeping an ear out for footfalls on the stairs.  It was risky until the rest of the walls were erected.

Now, I live comfortably in a larger-sizish house with three bathrooms.  It's nice to have more bathrooms.  One is shared by the five - oops now only four - boys living downstairs.  The upstairs bath is shared by the girl and the twins and everyone who is upstairs during the day.  The last bathroom is mine.  I mean, it's the master bath, accessible only by going through my room and then my closet.  It is used by me and the man... and anyone else who discovers that the other bathrooms are full.

The little ones use it quite often, especially now.  The twins learned that they can stand up at the toilet.  Fortunately (seriously!) they have pretty accurate aim.  They have also learned that they can take care of business at the same time.  Wonders!  Again, good aim.  They don't even play games like crossing swords when they are in there.  I'm glad.  But we did have to draw the line recently when Georgie decided to share toilet time with Angel, who was sitting properly as a girl should.  He thought that if he could go tandem with Freddie, then sharing with Angel would also be no problem.  Not so.  She ended up soaked up and down, and madder than a wet hen.  Not that I've ever seen any of our wet hens mad, but that's beside the point.

Now I tell the little people that there are some things we should do alone.  When anyone sits on the toilet, they are now perfectly capable of doing it solo.  I remind the twins on a regular basis that she can "do this all by herself."  And when she tries to poke her head in on one of the twins in the bathroom, she hears, "He can do this all by himself."  I say it often enough I've adopted it for myself.

When Mother Nature comes a-calling and I dash into my bathroom, I can be assured of having seven seconds or less of peace.  Then, for some reason, everyone needs me.  "Mom!"  "Mom!"  "He hit me!"  "I need..."  "I'm bleeding!"  "What's for dinner?"  "Where are you?!?"  Not even the bigger kids are immune from the change in the air that evidently happens when Mother goes into the bathroom.  And due to the through-the-bedroom-and-through-the-closet location of my bathroom, they can't hear me respond to their requests very well.  When the little ones do locate me, they often try to join me in the bathroom.  No, thank you.

So I've taken to issuing a standard response.  "I'm in the bathroom and I can do this all by myself!"  And then they will have to wait... while I scroll through my facebook or read a newspaper article.  Fortunately, the electronic reading material doesn't rustle when I turn pages.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mission Monday

So the boy got to call home for Mother's Day.  I think he thought it was Friend and Family Day, because he was more excited to see others than me.  That's ok <sigh>.  I remember being at that stage, and he hasn't been away from home but for a few weeks anyway.  I wasn't sure what to expect before he called (except that we would likely have technical difficulties - that seems to always be a given).  With my exact expectations, it turned out precisely that way.  Still not sure what to think about it, but it was really nice to see his face and know that he is happy and doing well.

It is nice to know that they keep their dishes done, too.  He told me his companion was big about that.

And they have already had a few baptisms.  That surprised me, since he hasn't been there very long yet.  He is enjoying getting to know the people, and loves them already.  I'm content.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Favorite Recipes

In spite of the enormous quantities of food consumed in this household, my new favorite recipes are not meant to be consumed.  Please do not eat them.  Please.

The Recipe for a Clean Mattress After an Accident

8 ounces hydrogen peroxide
2 tablespoons baking soda
a drop of dish soap

Mix it a spray bottle, spray it on the stain (works on all kinds of stains, they say), and in 5-10 minutes it should be lifting right off.  For impatient users (me), rub a bunch of borax in after about 5 minutes.  Put on your bedroom fan and leave for the day.  About the time you are dead exhausted and can't wait to get into bed, re-enter the bedroom and sigh that your bed is not made.  But the mattress looks great!  Vacuum off (yes, Trent hauled the regular vacuum onto the bed and it worked great) all the now-dry powder and ta-da!  White spot!

The Recipe For Dead Weeds

1 quart vinegar
1 teaspoon liquid dish soap
1/4 cup salt

Mix and pour into a sprayer.  Spray on weeds.  Watch them die.

And the best thing about both of the recipes is that they work.  Honest.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Mission Monday

I taught Relief Society recently about missionary work.  It was a hard lesson to give because... because I am an introvert.

I have a hard time preaching or teaching things I don't practice, so in the weeks before my lesson, I work extra hard to apply and get better at the principles I'm planning to cover in my lesson.  It makes the lesson more authentic, and helps me to grow and be a better person.  I definitely get more out of my lessons than anyone else in the process!

This particular lesson was to cover what Elder M. Russell Ballard said in his General Conference address last fall, titled "Put Your Trust in the Lord."  You can watch the whole thing here.  Or maybe I can even get it to appear here and it will work.  Maybe.

It's a good talk.  But the challenge is that *I* don't talk to people about my church.  I mention it, I live it, sure.  But I don't go doing the missionary thing.  I hardly talk to other people about anything.  Ever.  I'm just an introvert like that.  And after decades of feeling like something was wrong with me because I'm not more outspoken, I'm finally at peace with myself.  I'm just not a social talker person. 

And why would I feel like I want to share my beliefs?  Religion is a highly personal subject, I know.  And it's supposed to be taboo at social gatherings and Thanksgiving dinner.  But I have so many blessings that I believe have come to me and my loved ones as a direct result of living the principles that are taught at church on Sunday.  I love my Lord.  My faith in him in more comforting than anything else I have.  

If I am having a really rotten, nobody-likes-me-I-think-I'll-go-eat-worms day and tell my kids about it, before I know it they are all having bad days too.  If I unload on my poor, patient husband, he dutifully listens as much as he can before falling asleep.  I can go to the cemetery and cry out at the graves of my mother and Jay (they are neighbors there - how convenient!), but I just get more depressed.  I can meditate and mentally search for peace, but through experience I know that this is the best way to make myself mad.  But if I kneel in prayer, my broken heart is always comforted.  Always.  This is the best balm I know of - the best set of rules for living a happy and fulfilled life.  I do believe in God and in Christ.  I believe that they love me.  I believe that living the principles taught by these wise men and women will help me to live the best life I can.  I believe that some Gospel messages every day will help me keep going.  I believe that this is the best set of guidelines for raising children.  I believe.  And it makes me happy.  How would I not want to share the good stuff?

I tried Elder Ballard's challenge to ask the Lord for a missionary moment, trusting that He will give me something I can handle.  And He did.  I had a beautiful opportunity to comfort a friend with an aching heart - a moment that would not have happened if I had not been actively looking for it.  I'm so glad I was.  Spreading the Gospel cheer is so much more than teaching a set of lessons.  It's about loving people, and helping them be more happy.  That's what Christ did.  

By the way, my Sunday lesson went amazingly well, which I was not expecting when I first started looking at it.

And that is why I want to share my faith.  And that is why I send my boys off on missions.  It's not to brainwash anyone.  It's just to share what makes us most happy, in the hopes that it will help someone else be more happy, too.  It's to share a bit of Christ's love.  You can learn more about it here.

And that is why I'll be having Mission Mondays - to chronicle some of what this mission stuff is all about.