Friday, January 29, 2016

Kindergarten Wisdom

I was picking the twins up from kindergarten today.  I was a little bit concerned about the call I had gotten from the school earlier, telling me that Freddie had a bit of a spill on the slide and scraped up his chin.  Georgie saw me coming towards the school and ran to meet me, as usual.  I catch him, spin him around a bit and give him a big hug.  He loves this, and I have to be on my guard or I'll get bowled over!

Freddie walked over more slowly, and I was ready to offer condolences and kisses.  "Let me see your chin, sweetie."  I tipped his head up and looked at the road rash on his chin and the swollen lower lip..  I gave him a big hug and braced for the meltdown.

The first words out of his mouth surprised me.  "Mom!  You know what?  I have a crush on Margaret!"  His soft face drew itself into puzzlement.  "Wait, no," he said breathlessly, "I mean, I have a crush on Bridgette.  An' she has a crush on me.  An' she likes to play with me an' everything!"

My dear boy.  Thanks for reminding me that we should be happy to play together.  What a great lesson from kindergarten!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

This Game We Play

Last night, my sweet niece posted this little witticism.

Yes, yes!  I still feel like I'm running around with no clue about what I am really supposed to be doing.  Or more recently, I have a pretty good idea (or sometimes just a vague understanding) of where I need to be ending up, but I haven't the foggiest how to get there from here.  Or that I know where I am going, but every path takes me further from my end goal.  Sigh.  I think we're all on the same page in this game of life.  But it does get different as you get older.

25 to 35 - still no tutorial, but you figure out how to level up. On the 4th level you realize you've been going in circles on the 1st level this whole time.  And everyone is yelling at you that you are going the wrong way, no matter which way you turn.

35 to 45 - found some online tutorials, but they all say different things and none of them actually work for you.  And they still say you are going the wrong way.

45 to 55 - realize that when you thought you've been accidentally killing your teammates, you've actually been helping them. They are not hurt, but do not appreciate your help.  And you quit reading the online tutorials.

55 to 65 - wonder why you keep playing this game, but you keep going because you have made it to the 27th level!

75 to 85 - finally get the notice with the game tutorial. It says, "There are no levels. The only way to rack up points is to help people and love."

85 plus - you win!  Hopefully.

I'm actually glad I didn't make up this game.  And I'm glad I didn't make up the rules.  Every time I think I have my life all planned out properly, something happens to show me that my plan just wasn't a good idea.  And that the Lord has a better one for me.  

It's taken me a while of running in circles, but I think I've finally gotten it figured out.  If I follow the Lord's plan, it just works out better for me.  Not easier, but better.

It works.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Mission Monday

Today I am grateful for people who do things they don't have to so that other people will be happy.  Ben's mission president's wife routinely takes pictures of the missionaries she sees and posts them on social media.  I don't follow her, but some of the other moms of missionaries let me know when she sends out pictures of our boys. Here's one of a soccer match the missionaries got together and played on their weekly preparation day.

She also took a few short videos of the game and more pictures of the group's activities for the day, including a clip of Ben and the others singing.  Ben remarked that they had to drive an hour out of the city to play on an actual turf field - I guess they usually play in the dirt.

It makes me happy to see random pictures of my boy, especially when I know she doesn't have to take pictures like that.  She just does it.  And I'm grateful for people like her.

Read more about the soccer game here, and keep up on Alec here.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Storybook House

I was bored the other day.  Yes, I had things I should have been doing,  but nothing on the A list, or even the B list.   Trent took the kids to play laser tag,  and I stayed home to watch over my dad,  who has been wobbly and falling a few times lately.  I cleaned the bathroom (because I got some cleaning supplies that don't make me sick from the chemicals!), and then sat.  And got bored.

I opened up my laptop and,  on a whim,  stayed looking to see if there were any good houses for sale in our area.  And then I saw it.   My dream house.

I had to put the sparkles on the picture because I always get stars in my eyes when I think of this house.  It looks like something from a storybook, doesn't it?  I always expect to see some princess coming out the front door, or find something magical in the gardens.  Actually, the first time I walked through the back yard, I did stumble across a tiny, bubbling stream.  I'm sure it was enchanted water.

We found the house several years ago when we were looking for a bigger house.  Adding the girl to my five boys meant that our house was a bit too full.  We needed something bigger.  And we found the Storybook House.

It was gorgeous.  And it had a kitchen spacious enough that we could all cook together.  I fell in love with the wooden door peephole in the front door, the tiny alcove that looked out on the front porch, and the Romeo and Juliette balcony over the great room.  The spiral staircase, the giant storage room, a dining area that would accommodate a table for ten, an office for Trent - it had everything.  Of course, with 7000 feet, it had room for everything!

Can't you hear the angels singing?  I do.  I love everything about that house.  Yes, it is really too big.  But it was going into foreclosure and was in our price range.  We didn't end up there, obviously.  And it's for sale again - for double the cost!  Sigh.  I'll keep dreaming about it.

And maybe if I take a stroll through our backyard,  I'll find something magical there, too.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Mother Promptings

My mother told me a story about her mother.  The family was in the living room, doing whatever the normal things were to do.  Grandma Amy was doing sitting in her chair, probably busy with some handiwork.  She embroidered and crocheted beautifully.  The three girls were there in the room, but I think the older three boys were gone.  The oldest son was in Vietnam, where he flew helicopters on rescue missions.  

Without warning, Grandma Amy jumped out of her chair, spilling everything to the floor, and ran upstairs.  My mother said she remembered looking around and seeing the surprise on her sisters' faces.  Grandma Amy just did not jump and run like that.

After quite some time, she returned to the room, her face pale and grim.  She explained that she didn't know why, but she felt compelled to pray for her boy in Vietnam.  She knew he was in some kind of bad trouble and needed to plead with the Lord to help him.

Later, she found out that he was indeed in peril at that exact moment, but had a narrow escape.  I wish I knew more details of the story, but I love the idea that Grandma Amy could importune the heavens for blessings on her children.  

While I was playing the organ at the temple today, I had a vivid flashback of a time with my oldest son.  I had gone out to Virginia to see him graduate from some of his military training.  It was our last day there, and his commanding officer had given him three hours of leave.  When it was time for him to go, however, the acting sergeant reduced it to only one hour.  Alec was furious, and disappointed.  His anger and frustration and discouragement boiled over into tears - tears he didn't want anyone to see, of course.  My mother heart broke for him, but there was nothing we could do. 

We spent the hour together and I savored the moments.  I watched him walk back to his barracks, smart and trim in his dress blues.  More tears fell, but this time they were mine and I didn't care who saw them.  I was so proud of him, and so glad that he wanted to spend time with me.

I don't know that Alec shed more tears today, or that there was something frustrating or angry or discouraging in his life at that moment.  But I still prayed for him, and I hoped he would be strong and happy.

I never knew what a mother heart would feel like.  I never understood how strongly a mother could love her children, and how physically that angst and yearning and care could express itself.

Now I get it.  And I am grateful for the legacy of strong mothers who taught me love.  What a blessing I get to be a part of!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Mission Monday

Oh, how I love hearing from these boys!

They email on Mondays, but due to the time difference between here and halfway across the world, I get emails late Sunday night. If they ate getting to the Internet cafe (or cyber, as they call it in Madagascar), I'll start getting emails as early as 11 pm Sunday night. Sometimes I'm still writing to then at that hour, if our Sabbath had been more busy than normal, or if I've just been slow in getting to writing.

More commonly,  I'm already in bed when I hear my phone make its happy little "you have mail" sound. Then I have a decision to make. Do I smile and close my eyes and have happy dreams about my boys, saving the letters to read until the morning?  Or do I go ahead and indulge, reading by dim smartphone light, knowing that now it will take me forever to get back to sleep?  I've done it both ways.  Honestly, there isn't a better way to start a Monday morning and a new week than by reading letters from my boys.

From South Africa:
Well, this week has been a baptism by fire for me here in Hermanus. It has been jumping into the deep end headfirst. But at the same time it has been fun and exciting. The area here is doing good and they are doing well. The branch is primed for missionary work and things are starting to move. We have a baptism that is planned for the 24th, and the guy who is going to get baptized is a stud. We have also found a few families that are wanting to hear the gospel, and several of them we found through the members here. I love it and it really is amazing. 

From Madagascar:We were going up this path and a bunch of punks were walking down towards us and yelling at us. They got in there way and seemed like they wanted to start a fight. So we just walked through. One of them jumped right in front of me and made me stop. He took a nice big breath from his cigarette and tried to blow it in my face. Jokes on him, I'm 6'6" and he's probably like 5'4"--Elder Glazier made him look tiny--so he ended up blowing smoke on my tie knot. We just walked away and didn't do anything but part of me really wanted throw him down with his little buddies. So that brings us to our Malagasy Morsel for the day: faharetana. It means enduring, but it also means patience. I kind of like how that works: enduring to the end becomes being patient to the end.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Patient Outpatient

I'm hanging out in the hospital with my dad today.  This is his second surgery within a month, and we'll have two more to go after this.  He's had some challenges with his eyes, and these four surgeries will clear that all up.  (How many bad eye puns can I come up with without even trying?)  None of the surgeries are very serious, and all of them are out-patient stints at the surgery center of the hospital, so I am very glad it isn't more intensive.

Still, it takes all of my day, plus most of the next couple of days to care for him.  Not that it's totally  a bad thing.  I get a couple of hours to myself in the hospital, where I can read any book I want to.  Without interruptions.  That is, if you don't count clanging hospital beds and constant foot traffic and the ever-present murmur of conversations that I try not to listen to and sometimes succeed.  But at least not the demanding Mom kind of interruptions.

I really don't like hospitals.  I think I went to way too many of them with Jay and his cancer.  They are just so sterile and cold, all paper and metal and matter-of-factly clinical when I'd rather have soft and warm and home.  That, and the specter of hurt and illness and what-if is always lurking about.  

It's amazing, isn't it, what modern medical technology can do?  Without these surgeries, he would be relegated to slowly losing his eyesight, then blindness.  But now, everything can be restored.  It's impressive, especially since I would so hate to lose my vision.

The procedure went well, just as they thought it would.  The waiting room was cold and noisy, just as I though it would be.  Dad's got a patch over his left eye, even though he was sure we should be working on his right eye this time (he got the right eye done last time).  

We'll wait for him to come out of groggy, eat a little to make sure his stomach isn't queasy, and get dressed in non-disposable clothing.  After that, we'll be on our way back home.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Meeting the Queen

I heard her voice before I saw her.  It was husky and low, but surprisingly gentle, like she had just spent the past 17 hours crooning lullabies to a nursery full of colicky babies.  I turned the corner and she was the one waiting for me, helping me. Helping me!  I had a nearly irresistible urge to help her, to wait on her, to peel her some grapes.

This woman is 108!  I'd love to hear her stories.

She was short and stocky, her perky head sitting atop her shoulders like a queen on her throne.  I'm not sure she even had a neck.  Her short, white hair was in precise curls around her head, and I'm sure not a hair dared to be out of place.  Her face was full of wrinkles and her perfectly lipsticked mouth was tight and prim, but her eyes sparkled and smiled.  She did not gesture with her hands, but with her head.  I was mesmerized watching it bob and point as she spoke.

The thing that really got me was her clipped British accent.  No, that was the first thing.  After that, I was in awe at how firm her words were, but how kind the tone.  I wanted to hug her and beg her to love me - but I knew she already did.

I've met many women like her, beautifully seasoned ladies wearing their gorgeous silken robes of wisdom.  The world may pass them by, smiling condescendingly at their un-Botoxed faces, to their own detriment.  These women of experience know.  They know the good and the bad of the world, of humanity, of human nature.  And the best of them have learned how to love anyway.  In spite of, or maybe because of it all.

It makes me want to get old so I can be like that.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Mission Monday

I wonder how much the holidays sets the missionaries back by switching their concentration from what they are doing back to what we are doing at home.  I remember Ben said it was a bit hard and homesick last year for a day or two.  Good thing they bounce back!

Ben had a neat experience recently:

Just a real quick story for this week about S. and O. We found them my first couple of days here when we were waiting at a time and this guy next door heckled us a little and was very surprised when we responded to him in Malagasy. So then he talked to us a little bit, found out why we were wearing white shirts and ties and wondering around his neightborhood and he wanted us to come visit him. So we go to his house and teach him. His wife had just left him with his kid, he had a drinking problem and was out of money and had no job. Turns out his wife's parents had her and wouldn't let her go back until he had 40,000 ariary, about 13 dollars to his name so they knew that he could take care of her. So we kept coming, then they got together, they're reading the scriptures, they are way happy all of the time, and we went to pick them up and take them to church yesterday (they hadn't been yet) and we show up and he's dressed up like a blackjack dealer in Vegas, got a black shiny button up shirt, looking so good! Then we walk back to his house, his wife's all ready, and nailed next to the front door is the Family: A Proclamation to the World that we gave to him. They loved church, made some great friends, it was fantastic!

Read more on Ben's blog here, and you can keep up on Alec here.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Eating is Good for You

When I started this sick-of-feeling-sick journey, I did a lot of research.  I read about leaky guts and irritable bowel syndrome.  I found out about chemical sensitivities and food aversions.  I watched documentaries about better diets.

My current diet goes closely along with Forks Over Knives.  I eat a whole foods, plant-based diet.  That means I eat things that came from plants, instead of things manufactured in plants.

Sorting through blueberries before I freeze them for later

I eat whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.  That's pretty much it.  No processed fake food.  No commercial yeast, sugar, fat, or dairy.  I'm staring to be able to digest the fat in nuts., but no other fats.  Yes, you can survive this way, and even feel better.  I do!

Don't believe me?  Here is what I ate today:

  Breakfast bowl with old-fashioned oats, Grape-Nuts, almond milk, and a whole pile of blueberries, pineapple, and banana

  Brown rice and black beans topped with onions and squash sauteed in water, diced tomato, parsley, and a garlic hummus sauce

   Medium orange, apple slices with a tiny smear of natural peanut butter

   Big salad with greens, tomatoes, corn, peas, shredded carrots, and grapes with balsalmic vinegar and garlic toast, a few almonds and dates

It's all yummy, and it feels so much better!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Healthy Me in 2016

How could I make that rhyme?  Healthy teens and tween in two thousand sixteen?  Healthy beans?  Human beans?  I'm a queen in 2016?  Yes, I like the royal idea.  I need a crown.  None of your spindly tiaras, but a full-out crown for me, thankyouverymuch.

Yes, that may do.  The crown has nothing to do with health, however, and it may even cause headaches, so I'll go back to my original topic, if you don't mind.

About a year and a half ago, I started feeling tired.  Started, nuthin'.  I've been tired for decades!  But I started getting more tired.  And irritable.  And just... off.  I got my thyroid levels checked and they were fine.  I made a concerted effort to get more sleep, and that helped some.  I swore off sugar and that helped more.  But my body wasn't working right, and I knew it.  

I had a hard time falling asleep, and I would wake up several times every night,.  My vision was blurry.  I had mild stomachaches most of the time, unless I actually ate something, and then it would hurt more.  The food would stay in my stomach for four hours or longer without progressing through the system, and then it would hurry on out.  My feet hurt and I couldn't raise up on tippytoes.  I had headaches.  I had bad mood swings connected to my monthly cycle.  My skin hurt in patches.  I got terribly sensitive to chemicals of all kinds.  If any neighbors sprayed their lawns, I felt sick.  I couldn't use deodorant, shampoo, perfume, or any sort of cleaning supplies without feeling sick.  I could taste the chemicals!  My face broke out like a teenager.  My hair got thinner.  And I was so tired.  Me and the couch were best buddies.  By last summer, I'd had enough. I had felt miserable for long enough that I was willing to do anything to feel better.  I was desperate enough to (gasp!) go to the doctor.

With the help of a friend, I found a medical doctor who works with a homeopath, and I scheduled an appointment.  When I got there, I felt more validated than I have for a long time.  You mean I am not making this up?  There is actually something wrong with me?  I'm don't have crazy in my coconut?  Well, I probably do have a lot of crazy, but this wasn't one of them.

With their help, I changed my thyroid medication, revamped my already-getting-more-healthy diet, and started taking a handful of supplements.  I've seen quite a change in the past 6 months.  I can eat without stomachaches.  I lost most of my baby belly and twin skin.  My digestion is nearly normal.  My energy is going back up.  My brain isn't quite so foggy.  My skin is clear and rosy, and my hair is growing like crazy.  I love my family instead of being perpetually annoyed by everyone!

I'm not all the way out of the woods.  I'm off most of the supplements, but I still have a restrictive diet.  If I cheat, the gut pain lets me know about it... for days.  But I'm growing accustomed to feeling healthy and eating healthy.  If this is what it takes to be healthy and feel good, I think I'll take it.

It feels good to be back.  Here's to a happy, healthy year!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Big Family Christmas Parties

We had a big Christmas party with my brothers and their families over the Christmas break.  Actually, we had three family parties: an adult one with Trent's siblings and parents that we look forward to all year, the big party with all of Trent's family, and the big but not-as-big party with my family.  Trent's parents have seven children, and there are nearly 40 grandchildren, plus a handful of great-grandchildren, so we are getting to be a pretty large group.  I only have four brothers, and no married grandchildren (Alec is the oldest of that generation), but we are getting substantial as well.  All the parties were enjoyable, but I'm only going to write about the one with my family because I was in charge of it.  And I didn't take any pictures of the others.

We met in my brother's church building because we needed the space for the activities we would be doing.  I wanted to just play lots of games.  We marked off a space for the little kids and build table-and-blanket forts for them.  My small fry were very happy all day there with paper to color on and games to play and lots of blocks to build with and a huge pile of stuffed animals.  And they ran around the halls some, too.

The first thing we did was take a group picture, before we got too wild and ragged.  I'll see if I can find that.  I think we ended up having more than 30 people there.

We went through our game closet and brought all the games we were tired of, and my mom's old games for a game swap.  We just piled all those games on a long table and the middle kids played some during the day.

We had a family tree race, and tried to be the first team to assemble our ancestors in the right order.  We learned that we know more about our pioneer forefathers and mothers than we do about our German ancestors.  We also learned which brother we should have on our team!  (hint - he's the deep-thinking one)

We played a game of Family Feud, where we learned that slamming your hand down hard on a bell really, really hurts, but it's worth it (maybe?) if you get the question for your team.  Also, trying to kiss your wife as a means of distraction so she doesn't hit the bell before you may not work as well as you want it to.

Trent arranged for a pizza truck to bring us our dinner, which was delicious and fun.  I'll never know how someone figured out to put raspberries on pizza, or mangos, or peanut Thai sauce, but they made some really amazing combinations.  And the dessert pizza!  Yum.  What a man I have.

After dinner, we cleared out all the tables and chairs and got ready for the big snowball fight.  We all brought our Christmas boxes and leftover wrapping paper and piled it up in the middle of the gym floor.  We split the boxes, the paper, and the people into two more-or-less equal teams, handed each team two rolls of packing tape, and blew the start whistle.  

The rules were simple.  The forts had to be behind the free-throw line.  If you got hit with a "snow" ball, you had to lay down before you could run away.

I loved watching Chris's vision and creativity with building the fort and outfitting his little brothers.  He was so patient!

The forts were pretty impressive, and surprisingly sturdy.  All the kids (especially the big ones) had a good time building.  It doesn't hurt to have men with lots of building experience, die-hard Lego creators and even a general contractor in the mix.

Freddie in his peppermint armor.  He refused to take his helmet off, even though it significantly impeded his sight.

I didn't bother further explaining or enlarging upon the rules, so they developed naturally.  Scrunched wrapping paper doesn't fly very well, and was helped out with a bit of tape.  "Getting hit" was defined as "on your skin or clothing," so elaborate armor was invented.

Georgie ran laps around the gym so his wrapping paper cape would fly out behind him.  He also had a box-helmet with a tall red flag on it, but it was too easy for the enemy to spot and thus was abandoned.

I think they spent more time in building forts, making ammo, and crafting costumes than actually lobbing hits against the other team.  It was fun to watch the creativity and comraderie.  After a while, but before they could possibly be ready! I blew my anemic whistle for the snowball fighting to commence.  And then I moved out of the way. 

We had some couches set up on the sidelines for Opa and mothers with small babies and anyone else who would rather watch.  I retreated to safety there, although we were not immune to the occasional badly-lobbed ball or retreating warrior running recklessly back to his fort.

We even had Goliath, taunting the other team to send out their best warriors to best him.  The little girl in front of him came our and did just that.

The snowball fight ended as the forts were falling apart, and when one team's fort was propelled over the center line.  It was a wonderful, fun mess!  We played all day, and had a great time.  At least I did.  I love being with these good people!  See what happens when you have a good family?  Families are pretty awesome, and I'm grateful for mine.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Mission Monday

No letters today!   Wow that's unusual to not hear from either of our missionaries.   And it's transfer day today, too.  I wonder if either of them will be transferred to a new area.  Alec will be, I'm sure, as the area he had been working in has been closed.  I'm curious as to where he might be going now, and if he will finish out his mission there.  Only three months until he comes home!

But no matter about the lack of letters. I'm still happy from being able to Skype with my boys on Christmas.  The brothers all had a good time visiting, too.

Chris visiting with Alec on Christmas morning

David and Eddie, with Georgie reading his book between them, chatting with Ben on Christmas night

Love them all!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!

We rang in the new year with a sore throat or two.  Needless to say, we were not terribly festive.  We managed to stay awake all evening, which was a challenge.  I don't know why we can't end the old year a few hours early!  We even missed the countdown because of a confusion over the correct channel.  Oh well.  The new year came in whether we watched it do so or not.

Trent got a new game, based on a show he loves, so he played that with the kids.  Of course, we had to have a round of Disney Monopoly as well.  The twins are old enough now, mostly, that they don't throw the pieces around like a Tasmanian devil explosion anymore, so that's good.

For the first time in years - a couple decades, actually - I don't feel panic at the beginning of a new year.  People look back at the past year and hope the next one will be better, but I always had an anxiety attack, worrying like crazy that the new year would actually be harder than the old one was.  Those fears of mine were not wholly unfounded, because we've had some pretty hard times.  But this year feels different.  Now, I feel different.  There's a new optimism in me that I haven't seen for a long, long time.  I really do feel that this year will bring good things.  Hooray!

Happy New Year!  I think this will be a good one for us.