Thursday, December 31, 2009

It was a doozy

I'm not going to recap the year. Living it was exhausting enough. I don't really want to go through it again in condensed form. There was a lot of good; a lot of bad; a lot of blessings; a lot of tests. Just a lot.

As a good friend put it, "Its been a long damn year."

I remember when Doug was in grad school and working and I had a young toddler and was pregnant with another and we scrimped to get by in oh-so-expensive SLO, I said on more than one occasion, "I'll be so glad when we get past this point in life and things slow down and we have a normal schedule and we aren't so broke." Ha. Oh, my sweet, innocent naivete!

Each year since then has been successively busier, crazier and more fully loaded (we are slowly making progress on that whole "not so broke" thing). Don't get me wrong, the last four years have been fabulous, but they've been challenging. Both Doug and myself have poured a lot of blood, sweat and tears into his job and all the relationships that go along with it. There have been demanding callings, other jobs, school, and drama--family drama, friend drama, ward drama. Drama, drama, drama. I wish I could dismiss it as melodrama, but I'm afraid much of it has been things that matter. Big things. Things that aren't easily fixed.

And yet, this year, probably more than any other, has been full of huge blessings and many tender mercies--little moments that have reminded us that we are loved and watched over and attended to. Our friends have never been kinder to us, and many of our loved ones have never understood us better. I am reminded that the Lord maintains a balance in our lives. As the number of challenges and trials grows, the number of blessings and mercies grows as well. We often tell ourselves that where much is given, much is required. Perhaps we'd do better to remind ourselves more often that where much is required, much is given.

So very much is given.

May you find that 2010 brings you many blessings to count, treasure and find joy in.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas

Our kids had a pretty awesome Christmas. Rachel was kind enough to spend Christmas Eve with us, since during Christmas Eve day Doug and I were in Sequoia Park showshoeing (more on that later). The kids had a great time with her and then we all had a nice ham dinner when we got back. Read the Christmas story, sang Silent Night, said a family prayer and then marched them up the stairs, as neither Mommy nor Santa had done a single bit of wrapping yet!
This was just about Kylie's only present from us. She's young enough to not care (Keilana and Dylan opened all her presents and stocking stuffers), so we used her share on the big kids this year! She loves this thing, though. Usually she just takes the lid off and dumps everything out and then loads it back in, but sometimes she tries to get the shapes in like her brother. That mostly involves just violently pounding the plastic shapes against the plastic lid. She'll get there. =)

These have been a pretty big hit, but Keilana already managed to put a small hole in hers, so I need to figure out how to patch it. Perhaps duct tape? (Yeah, I'm classy like that). Her personality is captured fairly well by this photograph.

Kylie was most interested in the Christmas food. She kept stealing other people's candy and popcorn balls. She's quite a sneaky little theif, too.


Santa scored with this one. Easel with paper, markers, paints. Chalkboard on the opposite side. Our house is now full of paintings. So many paintings. This particular drawing is "Mommy and Daddy snowshoeing in the mountains".

And Santa's biggest score of all. When Dylan ripped back the paper and saw what this was, his hands and head started shaking, his eyes got huge and he short of half-yelled-half-shrieked, "Its a Lightning McQueen race track". He's spent half of his life in his room since Christmas morning. He's getting pretty good at it, too. He's better at moderating his pace so that the cars don't fly off the track than I am.
He likes to put things together, too (or at least think he's putting them together), so I think helping Daddy was part of the fun of this present.

Kylie has been carrying around her little music player from Mimi like a personal boom box, and Keilana is all aflutter about her Tinkerbell doll she got from Mimi. Personally, I'm pretty excited about the portable DVD player that Yaya bought the kids this year. That should make the 1300 miles(actually, more like 1500 mile the way we drive it) trips to MT much more pleasant!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Giving

After a long conversation with some good friends Monday night, I realized that there has been a lot of anger or, worse yet, detachment on my part recently. I laugh at things that shouldn't be funny. I make jokes that are flippant at best, hurtful at worst.

I always feel ridiculous and extremely ungrateful for being anything less than completely happy and contented. My life, the parts that pertain only to me, has always been ludicrously easy, and I've always known it. So I have to fight feeling guilty for being upset about anything. Nevertheless, I had started to feel like much of my life has been spent watching train wrecks, unable to stop them, and then standing in the middle of the carnage and surveying the damage, wondering what, if anything, I can do. I got tired of hurting over other people's lives, so I started to emotionally detach because I hate being angry or sad.

But I realized after going home on Monday night how hardened some of my comments probably were, and I was ashamed of myself. Long-suffering is sometimes just that: suffering long, because even though it hurts to keep trying you could never forgive yourself if you just walked away. I'm sure everyone of you knows a similar situation in your own life: its the father you never see because every conversation is an argument and every act a betrayal; the brother you love but no longer recognize through the haze of addiction; the suicidal friend who calls you in the middle of the night, unsure he wants to live, but pretty sure he doesn't want to die; the young woman you watched grow up who is now losing herself in alcohol and casual sex in an attempt to drown a grief she doesn't know how to deal with; the boy who lashes out at everyone around him, angry at parents who betrayed their obligations to him before he was even born; the girl you take into your home in the hope of giving her something better than cycles of abuse, only to see her walk down the same path all over again; the loved one who magnifies the consequences of his imbalance rather than humbly seeking real help.

On Sunday I did a lesson on the Savior with the youth. We went over a condensed version of His life, hitting on some of the major events. We talked about how one of the last acts of service He gave, before the ultimate act of service of the Atonement, was to wash his apostles' feet. This has always struck me as one of the most humble acts of His singularly humble life. As we have been taught repeatedly, Jesus made lame beggars walk and blind men see. He healed lepers and brought the dead back to life. These were incredible acts of service, to be sure. I do not know the "mechanics" of miracles, if you will, but on this side of things the methods seemed quite simple: a bit of mud on your eyes, a walk to a priest, a touch of His robe. But what of this act of washing feet? It was not miraculous. There was no glory in this service. It was a dirty, probably most unpleasant job (bearing in mind that these men walked nearly everywhere, in sandals, on dusty roads, their feet were undoubtedly filthy), and the only result was clean feet.

No, I shouldn't say that. The other result was cleansed hearts.

Hearts were cleansed because it was an act of service given voluntarily, humbly, without complaint and with great love--even, I might add, over the initial protestations of those who were benefitting from the service. There are ways in which we asked to serve in life that may seem, on the surface, to be dirty and unpleasant jobs, and sometimes where those we are trying to help seem not to want our service. And yet, here we have the example of the greatest being who ever lived, kneeling at a basin and scrubbing the filthy feet of the men to whom He was teacher and leader. If we serve with humble hearts, truly out of love for those we reach out to, the Lord will sustain us. It may take a long time to see any results, but He will help us scrape away the dirt and mud and stains to find a clean surface.

That was the Savior's parting lesson to His apostles. If you would lead people, if you would teach them, if you want them to ever "get it", you must serve them. As Christmas rapidly approaches, I am reminded that we must serve wherever the Lord asks us to, in however humble or unglamorous the circumstances. Our official callings are one thing--generally, there is someone to hold us directly accountable if we are not fulfilling our obligations there. But what about the "dirty work" of every day life? Have I been the friend that I ought to be? Have I given way to anger where prayerful compassion ought to hold sway? Have I given up where there is something more I could be doing?

"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, my brethren," He said, "ye have done it unto me." That applies as much to giving up on someone as anything else. The times where I have regretted something I have said or done to someone have actually been quite rare, but far too numerous to count are the times I have regretted turning a blind eye. My Christmas prayer this year is that I will be more aware of opportunities for small, humble acts of service, even if that only means holding onto hope for someone who may not have much hope of their own.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Seriously?!

Why did you let me sit at the computer this long? I have so many other things I need to do today! If you see me posting again, please send me scathing text messages rebukes or something.

Parade and Santa

Friday night was the Lindsay Light Parade (they do this every year for Christmas). The PTO at Washington (aka Karen Hunter) put together a couple of floats for the kids to ride on. Keilana loved being in the parade, and Dylan loved watching it. It was a brisk, fairly dry evening--in other words, just about perfect.
Dylan, Brad, Kylie and Doug watch some of the lit-up floats go by. Its pretty fun seeing all the Christmas lights on cars, sleighs, trailers, etc.
Andrew, Keilana, Seth and James were pretty awesome little float-riders. They wore their Santa hats and reindeer antlers and sang "Feliz Navidad" and "Santa Clause is Coming to Town" as loud as they could.
Santa stopped by our ward party. Dylan had already talked to him at the mall a day earlier, but he saw that he could get a candy cane, so he felt it was necessary to talk to him again.
FINALLY, at the ward party, after 4 years of tears and refusals, Keilana sat on Santa's lap and told him what she wanted for Christmas. She has sent him lists before, but would never go up to him. She was still pretty shy, but she did talk to him at long last.

In contrast

This is what the inside of my head has looked like in recent months:
I'm working on regaining some focus.

Lights



Saturday, December 19, 2009

Focus

Been having a little trouble getting all "Christmased up" this year. Needed this reminder today. Thought I'd share.

To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world.

". . .I speak of those final moments. . .that concluding descent into the paralyzing despair of divine withdrawal when He cries out in ultimate loneliness, 'My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?'
". . .But Jesus held on. He pressed on. The goodness in Him allowed faith to triumph even in a state of complete anguish. The trust He lived by told Him in spite of His feelings that divine compassion is never absent, that God is always faithful, that he never flees nor fails us. When the uttermost farthing had then been paid, when Christ's determination to be faithful was as obvious as it was utterly invincible, finally and mercifully, it was 'finished'. Against all odds and with none to help or uphold Him, Jesus of Nazareth, the living Son of the living God, restored physical life where death has held sway and brought joyful, spiritual redemption out of sin, hellish darkness and despair. With faith in a God He knew was there, He could say in triumph, 'Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.'"
~Elder Jeffery R. Holland

"There would be no Christmas if there had been no Easter. The babe Jesus of Bethlehem would be but another baby without the redeeming Christ of Gethsemane and Calvary and the triumphant fact of the Resurrection."
~President Gordon B. Hinkley

". . .May we stand by Jesus Christ 'at all times and in all things and in all places that [we] may be in, even unto death', for surely that is how He stood by us when it was unto death and when He had to stand entirely and utterly alone."
~Jeffrey R. Holland

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas List

Fabric scissors

Bounce flash

new 18-55 lens (or fix the one I've got)

Some of those cool slipper/bootie things from Target

A cashier's check in the amount I need to get all my current dental work done

bunk beds

the orange crates from my backyard gone

new ankles

a little more faith (and, consequently, a little less cynicism)

crafting supplies

a Dyson animal hair vacuum

books (so many books. . .)

the ability to read said books without falling asleep

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oh, the drama

Kylie had her twelve month check up and shots today. Her head is 17.75 inches (the 50th percentile), she is exactly 30 inches tall (the 75th percentile) and she weighs 24 pounds even (about the 85th percentile). She is quite healthy--strong little ball of pudge, with good reflexes and hitting all her milestones: waves bye-bye, walks well (and climbs even better), gets lids off of things, says a couple of words ("Mama" and "wow"), etc., etc.

She handled her shots just fine (except that we held off on getting her vaccinated for chicken pox--apparently she can't be around anyone who is undergoing chemotherapy for two weeks after getting the shot), crying angrily while she was stuck with the needle, and stopping immediately once the band aid was on. But she cried at the MA the whole time she tried to do measurements. She screamed at Dr. Resa pretty much the whole time he was doing the exam. I was just sitting there thinking, "Oh, please, child--I'm 2 feet away!" But this kid cried when strangers held her by the time she was 8 weeks old. Obviously that says a lot about her attachment and her shyness, but sometimes I wonder what does that say about her awareness? A two-month-old shouldn't know, even instinctively, what a "stranger" is. Oh, sure, they know Mama's face and smell and sometimes will want her in particular, but for the most part out-of-sight, out-of-mind and whatever face is in her place is just fine. That's how my older two (and every other baby I've ever known) were. Its gotten worse since she hit the traditional separation anxiety age, but my my, its always been a problem. My other two had their moments--certainly Keilana was attached (still is) and it was hard to go to work every day, but she was always easy to leave with a sitter. Dylan cried maybe two or three times, total, ever, about me leaving him.

But I watch Kylie watch her brother and sister and how she "gets" some of their games and tries to join in. It makes me wonder what the little wheels turning in her head are up to. It makes me wonder what she'll be like as she grows into her personality a bit more. Mostly it makes me wonder what I've gotten myself into. Then I sigh. Then I turn and look at Dylan and sigh again. Then I look at Keilana, and she notices that I'm looking, and flashes me one of those ginormously cheesy Keilana smiles and I start to laugh, and she starts to laugh, and Dylan starts to laugh and Kylie starts giggling. . . . .

Monday, December 14, 2009

Can I just say

it really, really, really ticks me off when people behave as though their children are accessories. I believe in having your children well-groomed and decently dressed (I think its one of the ways you show that you care about them and are paying attention), but kids are not Fendi bags or Jimmy Choos. They're human beings, for Pete's sake! Pay a little more attention to what you're teaching them, or they may end up treating people like objects when they're all grown up, too.

And, on that train of thought, I absolutely and unequivocally abhor when anyone (I don't give a rat's patoot if you're straight, gay, transgender, black, white, red, yellow, green, male or female) attempts to sexualize children. Innocence is a precious gift and with nearly every person who comes into this world, it has a severe time limit. Let it last while it can. There's no shame or prudishness in wanting kids to be kids. So, no, its not OK for you to teach my five year old about your sexuality (whatever it may be) and I'm not going to put up with your snooty nose in the air because I dress her like the little girl that she is and not like a miniature 16-year-old.

Don't screech to me about your need for "liberation", to be free of the shackles of an "oppressive" (polite and moral?) society and then wail and moan about the loss of safety and security. You made a Faustian bargain--you destroyed that society for the sake of your "freedom". My children must grow up in that world, but I will not help you destroy their innocence and naivete any quicker than is absolutely necessary. So maybe you think I'm a bad parent because I won't fight for my child's right to be properly "educated", but I will fight tooth and nail to give my children the right to be children for that short period of life when they can.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Kylie is one!

So here's a little info on Kylie. I'm not sure of her exact size at the moment (she has a check up on Tuesday, I'll let y'all know after that), but she's a toddling monster. She walks (and tries to do so very quickly), but has been much more lackadaisacal in her approach to learning to walk than her brother and sister were, so even though she took her first steps more than two months ago, and has been a "real walker" for a month, she still sort of walks like a drunken sailor. She is extremely shy, and so around most people other than Doug and the older kids and I, and in most places other than home, she is very quiet and still--extremely reserved. At home, she is still pretty low key: she isn't a constant babbler the way that Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum were and she's pretty easy-going.

But she is BOSSY lately. She rules the roost around here, and she knows it. She is positive that every toy belongs to her, and is incensed when her brother or sister disagrees (however, she usually gets over it quickly). She already has more control of Ginger than Dylan does. She is pretty content and loves to wrestle with Dylan and have pillow fights with Daddy. It is very important to her to keep up with Keilana and Dylan--she wants to be part of the crowd and tries very hard to be involved in what they're doing most of the time. She's a cuddler, already giving very good hugs and the occasional kiss. She's still very attached and cries a lot of the time I'm gone when I leave her, but she is making progress. Her favorite toys are Dylan's large cars (she kneels, holds onto Lightning McQueen with both hands and drives him around the livingroom) and anything that makes noise when you shake it. She loves laughing and is quick to join in when anyone else is laughing, even though she usually has no idea why. Her only word so far is "Wow", but she uses it a lot since she finds the world endlessly fascinating. She waves "bye bye" and signs "all done", but that's all (we're still working on the signs for "please" and "thank you"--I haven't been as consistent with her as I was with the others). She's growing up quick!





Thursday, December 10, 2009

Grrr

One of my biggest pet peeves in life is when people use the wrong your/you're or there/their/they're (the it's and its or who and whom don't really bug me).

But has anyone noticed how often I've been doing that lately? And its not an issue of confusing which one goes where--I know quite well what each one means and when to use it. But my brain and fingers don't seem to be communicating well lately. It drives me absolutely insane when I see it in my own writing.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Nearly unprecedented

Just finished making some snickerdoodles. Tried doubling the recipe--they're OK, but didn't come out as well as last time. Got the patio cleaned up and feel happy every time I see the pretty wreath on my front door (then a little sad when I see the stockings hanging up the stairway banister and remember I still don't have one for Kylie).

Anyway, almost done with my must-absolutely-get-done-today tasks. Keilana just left for a tea party, that makes it easier. Especially since Kylie's down for an afternoon nap. Where was I going with this?

Oh yeah. We're having the missionaries over for dinner tonight. We're horrible about feeding the missionaries--partly because they usually send the calendar around in RS and I never know when Doug's going to be home at 5 and when he's going to be home at 10, or somewhere in between, so I always mean to ask him and then forget. He signed us up this month. Its about time.

So we'll welcome them into our Christmas bedecked home (there are construction paper decorations everywhere--you've got to love little folk helping with the decorating), and then tomorrow night a friend from the ward is coming over in the evening to discuss some business stuff. Then Saturday Mimi and Papa are gonna come over and have some birthday cake with us (Kylie will be one!)

We so seldom invite people to our house, three times in one week seems almost bizarre. Don't get me wrong, we like people, its just that we are so bad at taking the initiative to plan ahead and invite people over. We'll have to work on that. My kids are such social creatures that they probably wonder why they got sent to somebody as lazy as me. *Sigh*

Keilana's turn. . .

So last night, I'm laying on my tummy on the floor next to the Christmas tree reading. Keilana comes and sits down in front of me, looks at me, smiles, and says, "Mommy, your nipples are coming off!"

I start laughing and say, "What?!"

Again, great big excited smile, "Your nipples are coming off a little bit!"

Laughing hysterically and utterly confused as to what she's talking about (after all, she can't even see my chest, since I'm laying on my tummy), I said, "Keilana, I don't understand. What are you talking about?"

She rubs my face where I had a nasty acne breakout a week or two ago and says, "Your nipples are almost gone."

I lost it and started laughing again and explained to her that the word she was looking for was "pimples".

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Which reminds me. . .

I've been thinking about Alexa a lot lately. For those of you who don't know Doug's family, his sister Christa is pregnant with twin boys. They have a 3 1/2 year old boy, Keith, and a little one year old girl, Alexa. Yes, this little girl will be sandwiched in between three boys. I'm feeling for her.

You see, I was "the girl" in my crowd when I was little. I've always been a bit of a tomboy (or, as we call girls in Montana who like to play sports, climb trees, traipse around in fields, creeks and mountains and find dresses delightful but too impractical to wear on a daily basis, "normal") and I loved spending so much time with the boys. My sisters are 5 1/2 years and 7 1/2 years older than me, so in they weren't a big part of my life when I was growing up in the same way that my brothers were. With a twin brother and another three years older than me, there was never any shortage of boys around. All the kids who lived close (my cousin, Adam; the next door neighbor, Brian; and neighbor Trent--and his four brothers) were boys. So that's who my playmates were. My days consisted of playing machine guns in the haystacks and building forts in the lilac trees outside Grandma's house and the willows and cottonwoods by the creek (if you don't think lilac trees are strong enough for forts, you underestimate the ingenuity of determined five year olds). I remember one time when I was about Keilana's age, Brian's older sister (a year older than me) invited me over to play Barbies. After about 10 minutes of holding the doll, I finally asked what we do. She responded that we put different outfits on them and fix their hair. "That's it?" After my days with the boys, this seemed somewhat pointless and silly to me. I loved my boys, all of them (still do).

But sometimes I watch girls who grew up with all these sisters, or with at least one sister they were close to, and envy a little what I missed. When I got to high school, I learned to enjoy being one of the girls (though I never did get accustomed to the drama that tends to accompany female relationships) and started to wish I'd had more female playmates all along. As much as I loved my days filled with male-oriented activities, the fact is that I am a girl, and sometimes those boys could be a little overwhelming. I should be grateful for that, though, I guess. When the boys just got to be a little much and I needed some time that didn't involve hitting things (or each other), pretending to shoot things or (as we got older) blowing things up, I would retreat to the company of my books, notebooks and pens, which have proved to be some of my best companions.

I delight in all the girliness of my little girls, so I may have to steal Alexa now and then to make sure she gets some tea parties and stuffed animal safaris mixed in with the wars and broken windows. Just to make sure she knows that sometimes her brothers may tease her for being weird or silly, but she is in fact quite normal--boys just have a tendency, when they're young, to think all things feminine are silly or weird.

Ah, boys

We got home from doing some grocery shopping this morning and as I was straightening up the livingroom I said to Dylan, "I need to get some work done for a little while. Would you like to watch a movie?"

To which he confidently responded, "No, football."

I explained that there was no football on TV right now. He sighed and dejectedly said, "OK. PBS kids."

Monday, December 7, 2009

Grateful

So, most of you are aware of the fact that I have a tendency to complain about California's lack of a true winter. I grew up with four glorious, distinct seasons: a hot (but not sweltering, live in the pool unbearable) summer with big blue skies; a crisp, colorful autumn with cold mornings and pleasantly breezy afternoons; a cold winter with dry air and light snow; and a rainy/sunny, 60s and sunshine kind of spring. I love that weather pattern, and I miss it. Especially once the Christmas decorations are up, I always get sad that the chances of snow are pretty darned slight. I love the hum of the furnace, the warmth of a wood stove, a cup of cocoa in my hands and a pair of SmartWool socks on my feet--something about all of that transports me to a better place in my mind.

But this morning I see its between 18-25 below zero with windchill where my family lives. Mind you, this isn't normal--usually the winters there are fairly mild for that far north. But every 5-10 years, a week or so of that type of thing shows up. And if you've never been in that kind of weather, let me tell you it is MISERABLE. Any thought of leaving the house causes great mental pain, let alone the thought of hanging out on the playground for 15 minutes at recess (yes, they still sent us outside--we northern kids have to be tough). Don't wear jeans. They get stiff and cold and that makes it feel as though they've frozen to your legs--which doesn't actually matter so long as you're outside, I guess, since if you were dumb enough to wear jeans you can't feel your legs, anyway. If you live in a trailer (which my family did when I was little, and my brother lives in it with his family now), its pretty much a given that your water pipes will freeze (and, then, possibly burst) and you may be without any heat besides your wood stove. It makes for a rough week.

So here are some of the things I'm grateful for about winter in California:
*I don't have to chop, haul or stack firewood (as a kid, we had an entire shed dedicated solely to firewood, and then another closet-sized room in the house whose sole purpose was holding firewood)

*I don't have to bundle my kids up in sweaters, two pairs of socks, a snowsuit, a heavy jacket, gloves and a hat every time I leave the house.

*My car starts every morning, and I never have to knock snow off of it or find something to scrape the windshield with (because for some reason, the scrapers made specifically for this purpose would always wander off). I also don't have to waste gas by starting my car 20 minutes before I leave in order to make it a bearable temperature when I get in.

*I never accidentally melt clothing made from artificial fibers while trying to get warm next to a stove (every one of you Montana kids has one of those stories, right?)

*More than not, my car tires grip the road firmly all winter, and do it without studs.

*I don't have to carry chains in my car.

So there are some advantages to this lack of a winter.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Disneyland


Monday was Doug's birthday, so we left Dylan and Kylie on Sunday afternoon and went down to Anaheim with the Bug. We stayed at the Anaheim Plaza hotel, which is a very cute, affordable option right across from the park if you're ever down that way. (And they let you bring pets, which is nice for us--Ginger came along on our trip, too).

I seem unable to get around to pictures--hopefully I'll get more up here or Facebook. But it was lots of fun. Keilana is absolutely the perfect age for it--she was such a rock star. She was on her feet almost constantly from 8 to 8 and she uttered nary a complaint all day. She kept up. She told me that she was hungry at noon and didn't complain once when she had to wait an hour for lunch. When we nixed the plan to go see the Princesses at the Princess Fantasy Faire because the wait was over an hour, she was disappointed but didn't so much as stick out her bottom lip or let out a tiny whine. She volunteered to go on the Tower of Terror, before we had ever brought it up and was super brave the whole time--pretty sure she screamed less than me.

I've discovered that my daughter is a roller-coaster lover. We hit Pirates of the Caribbean first, and she could see Thunder Mountain from there so she asked if we could do it next. She stuck her hands up in the air for much of it, even though it meant her puny self went sliding from side to side. She went on the Mulholland Madness (which is much less intense but way freakier than California Screamin', in my opinion) and wanted to go again! Once again, arms in the air the whole time. While Daddy took his turn on California Screamin', we were hanging out next to the water checking out Ariel's Grotto across the way and Keilana caught a glimpse of the Princesses. While I was on the roller coaster, she went back with her daddy, and saw Cinderella at which point she shrieked (and we all know how loud Keilana can shriek), "Cinderella!!" Cinderella heard her from clear across the bay and turned and smiled and waved at her. It made her day.

When we took her just a few months before she turned three, she really liked all the characters, but was too shy to go close to any of them, except the Mouse himself on the last day. This time, she walked right up and hugged everybody. She loved "the dolly ride" (Small World), which is pretty fantastic all lit up for Christmas. She insisted she didn't want to do the Haunted Mansion this time and she'd been such a super trooper that we didn't push it. The Christmas Fantasy Parade was much more fun than it would've been without her, I'm sure. She was just enthralled (the girl loves music and dance) the whole time, happily bouncing off my lap and pointing as each float came around the bend. She got to be there to countdown the tree lighting and was in awe of the castle (she has finally decided that it is, in fact, Sleeping Beauty's and not her's) with all the snow and icicle lights.

She was so awesome--happy, energetic, eager--that we promised her the next time we go (we're going to try to make it for Dylan's birthday), we will take her to the Princess Faire even if we have to wait in line for 2 hours. She more than earned it.

Oh yeah, and happy birthday to Doug!!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Before and After

Alexa before pig tails

Alexa after pig tails.
I have admit, she's pretty adorable, too!

Beautiful Baby

I'm so smitten with this girl. May God provide her with younger siblings so that I don't ruin her. She can't be the baby. Its just too dangerous.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Welcome to the world. . .

This is Aydhn (Aiden, but my brother is pretty committed to the traditional spelling). From the looks of this photo, he's a dead ringer for his daddy, right down to the carrot top, it would seem. Michael's pretty excited to have a little red-headed Irishman of his own. He was 8lbs 10 oz and 21 inches long. To put that in perspective for those of you who don't know Deva, his mommmy, she's about 5 feet tall (maybe--I wouldn't be surprised if she's actually 4'11") and has a tiny frame. One heck of a big boy for somebody that size. Happy day for the Umphreys--this makes grandkid #21 for my parents!

Aydhn Umphrey
November 23, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ahh, Sundays

Changes in the Lindsay ward today. Kindon was released today, y el obispo nuevo es Kirk Ingoldsby. Clayton Lucas and Tim Cregor are his counselors (Danny and Doug stay in their positions as Executive Secretary and Ward Clerk). Pretty good meeting. Sunday School and Relief Society also went pretty well (just love those double lesson 4th Sundays--keep thinking I'll get released from one or the other, but I sort of doubt it).

But the best part of my day was the music. The Sacrament Hymn was "I Stand All Amazed", at which my 5 year old lit up and exclaimed, "Mommy, that's Conner's song", and then sung along. Then the closing hymn was "I Am A Child of God", so my three year old sang the whole thing. All three verses. Correctly.

Ah, melt my heart. . . . .

Friday, November 20, 2009

Home again, home again

My husband will be home in a few hours. The house is completely clean (including freshly laundered bedding--there are few things I like better than clean sheets and newly shaven legs when I fall into bed at night), the car is scrubbed and vacuumed, and the patio and backyard are cleaned up and swept. Its a pretty comfortable place to be.

So many heartaches lately, so many frustrations, so many reasons to be angry. Having my husband away all week has just reminded me all over again that I am supremely blessed. Whatever else happens in life, I have that one person I always miss terribly when he's away, that person who misses me. He's not perfect and neither am I. As a matter of fact, we're both terribly flawed. But we can see glimpses in each other of that perfect person that could exist someday, with enough practice and enough help.

Having someone constantly beside you as your friend and companion, encouraging you, lifting you and loving you even when you fail makes every other trial in life seem quite small.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What I'm really grateful for, part 3

Sam: How many people can say they're still close with and adore their best friend from kindergarten? We haven't lived anywhere near each other since graduating from high school 7 years ago, but we've stayed close to each other's hearts. Her surprising me by showing up for my wedding reception (when I thought she was still in Alaska) and being able to be there for her Endowment and sealing are two of the best memories of my life, ever. It is such a joy and a comfort to have a friend in life that, no matter how far apart you live or how long its been since you've seen or talked to them, you can always pick up right where you left off without missing a beat. I only wish we lived closer--sometimes Utah seems terribly far away. I'm grateful that even if the Lord didn't make us sisters, he sent us to the same place at the same time so we could find each other. She feels like a sister.

Angie (and Kindon): I have chronic-out-of-placeness syndrome (really, can we classify it as a disease so I have an excuse for my awkward self-consciousness?), and I felt at home and at ease with her (them) from the first time I met her (and him). That says a great deal more about her (them) than it does me. They are two of the most generous-hearted people I know, so patient and honest. I can be honest and unguarded with them, trusting that we usually agree and when we don't they won't mind. They're in on all our secrets and our struggles, and love us wonderfully well anyway. They've regularly taken the time to express kind thoughts to me and are ever mindful of me. Everyone should be so lucky to have those friends who seem to magically pop up the second you need them most. They are both kind without ever being syrupy or fake. Kindon is a very kind and loyal friend to Doug and has helped him through many rough days. And that makes my life a lot better.

Emily: She is thoughtful, kind, generous, non-confrontational, emotional, hardworking and unselfish. What's not to be thankful for? She immediately reached out to me when she moved into the ward, was the best counselor you could possibly imagine for Young Women's and stays service-oriented despite the fact that she has five kids (including a very high needs autistic daughter) and her husband works an insane amount of hours. But she's always looking outside herself, always striving to be a good friend, to magnify her callings and to reach out to people she sees who are struggling. She's been an amazing support to me (and Clint has been a great support to Doug), and she and her husband have been a great friend to Brad, through all the family drama. They are my heroes, for so many reasons.

Karen: Whatever's going on, whatever mood I'm in, Karen can make me laugh. She's outgoing and friendly, comfortable and socially graceful. A couple of well-timed hugs from her, or an arm around my shoulders, have been instant sanity savers at exactly the right moment lately. She's happily babysat my kids for me on multiple occasions (a favor I've yet to repay), but it was never a big deal, always insisting they are a ball and she's happy to have them (of course, with the way Sethy and Keilana love each other, and the hilarious dynamic duo that is Dylan and Lulu, I imagine that's true). And she's got red hair. We all know I have a serious soft spot for the reds.

Beatriz: She is always the most surprising example in my life. She's come so far, and she never, ever quits. On Sunday, she expressed frustration to me about something that was going on (that didn't have anything to do with me), and boy howdy did I ever agree with her. Yet she called me back the next day to apologize and say that she should've held her tongue and needs to be a better, more patient and loving friend to the individual of concern. Color me repentant. She does things like that all the time. She is one of the most humble and sincere seekers of truth I've ever known. And I love her girls--I'm grateful she shares them with me a little bit.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Jack Johnson.

Jimmy Buffett.

Neil Diamond.

What more could a girl want?

What I'm really grateful for, part 2

Katy: we have very different personalities and very different ways of doing things, and yet have been able to forge a strong friendship. She loves my kids and is a great grandma to them. She has expressed appreciation for me as a mother, reminding me that someone notices and appreciates what I'm doing. She's taken the time to come visit me when my husband was out of town and I was alone all week. She's generous to all of us.

Chuck: He usually gets where I'm coming from and how I do things. His goofy humor is a delight and his gentle demeanor a much-appreciated balance. His bright mind and many talents, and his complete willingness to use them to serve others, always amazes me. Probably as much or more than anyone I've ever known, Chuck will do anything anyone asks of him. He gets me--and everybody likes someone like that.

Brad: I am so thankful that Dylan loves him so much and that he is so willing to engage him. He's had a lot of "Dylan time" in recent weeks and despite being sick and past bedtime, he's been fantastic about it. I'm grateful that he's been so upbeat in the middle of all this craziness--that's been a great example.

Jennifer: She's the Clark girl I've spent the least amount of time with, but in some ways the one I relate to the most--I think we're a lot alike in a lot of ways. I appreciate her desire to spare people's feelings and her utter honesty about herself. She is self-aware and tries to be proactive and I admire that. Every time we've been to visit in Utah, she's been a cheerful, friendly host and we've really enjoyed spending time with her and Paul. She has a great smile and such a tender, sweet heart. Her willingness to share herself has always amazed and gratified me.

Amanda: What can I say? I think she would appreciate a "Frickin' Amanda. . ." :) Her intense, vivacious personality is a delight. She's like a tornado, but not like a bad tornado--not like the tornado that rips your house up. She's like the tornado that leaves your house alone but drops a new washer and dryer and flat screen TV in your yard. She's my reliable, fantastic babysitter (the only problem being my kids don't want to leave with me when I come to pick them up). She is the passer of hand-me-downs and wicked awesome eBay deals. She's my ranting buddy, the call me up and start a "Can you believe?!" conversation friend. Amanda rocks.

Melissa: She made Doug's wicked awesome wedding vest (wow, I must be in a 90s mood--I just used "wicked awesome" twice in one post), and fixed his baseball jersey. She's offered to make costumes and dresses. She's got mad skills and she's always willing to share them. She has a clever and silly sense of humor that I definitely appreciate. She belches better than any other girl I know. Call me crazy, but I respect that.

Paul [Christina got in on the in-laws on the other side, so Paul slides in here]: Paul helps me feel like I'm not actually crazy. He is a passive aggressive martyr like myself :) He has very much felt like a brother to me in many ways. One Thanksgiving we were over at the beach and Paul and I were making cookies or deviled eggs or something and being silly when Doug told me that we flirted too much. It completely caught me off guard and when I stopped to think about it, I realized I interacted with him very similarly to how I do with my twin brother--playful and familiar. My sisters are 5 1/2 and 7 1/2 years older than me, so I spent a lot of time with the boys growing up. Its nice to have a brother around.

Christina/Christa [I'm bringing back "Slash"]: I love her wit. Let's face it, I appreciate a good verbal one-up. She's about my age, got married about the same time, have around the same number of kids--that's been nice. I don't worry too much about where I am relative to the people around me, but it has been nice to have one person in my life the last six years who is at more or less the same stage of life as me at more or less the same time. She's been a good friend to me since I joined the family, and in many ways is the member of Doug's family I have the most "sisterly" relationship with.

Rachel: You didn't think I'd forget Rachel, did you? Doesn't everyone kind of forget about Rachel? Haha. . .poor kid, with two families but kind of in a family of her own :) I love how comfortable Rachel is with herself, and with everyone else as a result. She has a good head on her shoulders. She was Keilana's first friend, and still her favorite. She is so patient with kids and so much fun for them. She's honest, sweet and smart. Seriously, who doesn't love Rachel?

Oh yes, there's more. . .tomorrow. .

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monkeys

So God seems intent on sending me kid after kid that develops climbing skills before common sense. We were at the park today, and monkey-see-monkey-do: Kylie saw her brother and sister climbing the monkey bars, so up she went.



She was pretty doggone pleased with herself.


I swear she's like 7 ft tall now. Look at that LONG body! She can go all the way across by herself now. :)

Neutrality and Morality

I am often diplomatic and vague. I have a natural tendency to "go along to get along" in many respects. I think that there are many times when it is best to stay out of conflicts that have nothing to do with us (you can be of much more help sometimes if you keep your head during the heat of things and bring all parties to the bargaining table once cooler heads have prevailed), and there are times when we need to stand down and let the wicked punish the wicked. There are also times, however, when we have a moral obligation, no matter what the costs, to take a stand, choose a side and fight a battle.

I have often used Switzerland as an example. The Swiss have a long standing policy of neutrality. Geo-politically, this makes sense. They are land-locked between France, Germany, Italy and Austria. With a potential for being attacked from all sides, neutrality seems like a pretty good idea, and there have been times in European history when that neutrality has been a key factor in preserving lives, treasure and sanity (and not just for the Swiss). But then comes something like WWII--not exactly a fence line dispute. When you have a neighbor who is systematically killing thousands of innocent people and trying madly to extend their power, you take a stand. You declare that you will fight on the side of the innocent, on the side of human liberty, on the side of justice (and ultimately peace), because if you don't then you aide and abet evil and sell a bit of your soul.

We all have those moments in life. Some lives are full of them by the time an individual reaches adolescence, and some may not have to confront that moral question until old age, but that moment--when you have to stiffen your spine and stand a little taller--will come to all. When the Savior said, "He that loseth his life for my sake. . .", He knew that sometimes that would mean a very literal loss of life; He knew that sometimes it would mean the loss of relationships with people dear to us; He knew that it would sometimes mean the total loss of our earthly treasures, right down to homes and clothes. But what profiteth it a man if He should gain the world but lose his soul?

We have to be willing to call evil what it is, boldly but humbly, both in ourselves and in the world around us. We have to have the faith to fight it earnestly, faithfully, consistently. When we excuse, justify, enable or explain away immoral behavior because confronting it puts us in an awkward or difficult situation, we give away a bit of our own morality. Rarely does anyone suffer a tremendous loss of light all at once. Its bit by tiny bit that it usually happens--an excuse here, a blind eye there, until we can't hardly see any more at all. Often, we claim to be showing mercy. Mercy does not cower. Mercy does not excuse. Mercy is strong and resolute--it is understanding the full weight of the sin and error and showing forth love and forgiveness anyway. The Lord extends His mercy to us when we repent because He has paid the full price of our sin--He knows intimately its weight. We show forgiveness to others for the wrongs that they do against us. But we are not the Savior--we cannot take their sins upon us and presume to excuse them. What's more, when we try to do that, we step in where it is not our place--where only the Redeemer's power will suffice--and offer a bit of temporary, superficial relief to those we claim to help, giving them one more reason to delay turning to the Lord and placing those burdens on His back.

It seems counterintuitive, and must be approached with much sensitivity on a case by case basis, but sometimes the most merciful thing we can do for someone is to humbly but directly address their immoral behavior. Sometimes the kindest act is to step back and let someone fall--perhaps fall very hard--so that they will finally understand that they cannot do it on their own, that no mortal soul can do it for them. Sometimes people have to feel the tremendous weight of their choices, unaided by other people in carrying that burden, in order to finally understand that they must turn to the Lord and hand their burdens to Him.

And sometimes, the only way that will happen is if we take a stand, make the hard choice and refuse to excuse or ignore immoral behavior. When confronted with evil, we can't just bury our head in the sand and hope everything will turn out alright. The Lord designed us to be better than that. He expects more than that.

What I'm really grateful for. . .

Doug: He seriously is wrapped around the littlest finger of his little girls. They woo him, he gives in, they all know it, they all love it. Dylan wanders into our room at 10 or 11, glancing with a faux pathetic face from the corner by the desk. Doug smiles, tells him to come get in bed and then looks at me and says, "He won't be little very long." He will sit and talk to me for hours and hours about anything that interests me. He will load up the car and head out on an adventure when I say, "I need to get out of the house". Every now and then he'll walk up to me, smile and say, "I got a babysitter. Wanna [insert delightful activity/destination here]?" So many other things. . . .

My mom: She makes sure that I know I'm loved. I've lived 1300-3500 miles from home since I was 18, but she has always made regular efforts to visit when she can, to call often, to help out so that I can visit home. Her grandkids know her way better than you'd expect considering the distance between them. She is always before me as an example of patience, hard work and generosity.

My dad: He taught me how to think--and, in many ways, what to think about--unintentional training that still shapes how I view and approach the world today. He is still that person (besides my husband) I engage most often when I want that kind of conversation, because his wealth of knowledge and depth of intelligence are kind of amazing. He helped mold my subversive humor (very much inherited from him), in helping me understand where it was appropriate and effective, and where it was simply prideful disrespect. Together with my mom, he made sure I had access to resources and opportunities that would open my eyes and round out my education, much more than what most kids in poor, rural Montana know in their childhood and teens.

My oldest sister, Christa: When she was working as a camp counselor at a rich kids' residential summer camp in the San Juan Islands (when I was 12ish), I wrote her regularly and sent packages now and then. She told me she'd remember that. Boy did she. When I was in college, she sent me a package almost monthly. She still sends packages for every holiday and birthday (now usually containing crafty creations dreamed up by her and her kiddos). She bridges the 1300 mile gap between me and my family with her thoughtfulness.

My older sister, Gwen: She is the big sister every kid wants. She's 5 1/2 years older than me, so was frequently my babysitter. She taught me to read. She taught me to work, organizing household chore lists and prizes for said chores getting done with her little brothers and sister. She never was embarrassed or annoyed to have me around--she let me tag along. And as we grew up, she let me grow up and become her equal in friendship. She is humble and thoughtful, and I am a better person for her having had her in my life.

My big brother, Eldon: His wildly weird sense of humor has always kept us all laughing and guessing. I know that there is a sweet heart somewhere under that restrained surface. When I was a freshmen in high school and he was a senior, I was going to prom on my own (not allowed to date yet, but in a school that size everyone goes to prom), and he showed up when I was getting ready and gave me a beautiful corsage. I assumed this was a parent-prompted-big-brother-thing. Until my mom asked where I got the beautiful corsage. Perhaps his girlfriend suggested he do it. Perhaps not. Either way, he picked it out and bought it.

My sister-in-law, Christina: How many in-laws could make you feel more at home in your own family? We've known each other since we were kids, and she is just awesome. She pays attention to people--she is masterful at putting people at ease. She is direct and hilarious, and is the best friend my husband has in my family. For all their vast differences, they are in many ways kindred spirits. She takes care of Eldon, and that probably deserves some kind of medal :)

My twin brother, Michael: I believe we arrived together because we are kindred spirits. In a family of passive aggressive and/or stoic edges, we were the emotional, sensitive, affectionate ones. He is playful, curious, inventive and creative. He is incredibly good with both kids and animals and is a wonderful father to his stepson and his two little girls. He is, at his core, one of the sweetest people I've known my whole life and he will always hold a special place in my heart. I'm excited to see him raise his little boy, who will be arriving by scheduled C-section a week from today.

More tomorrow. . . .

Saturday, November 14, 2009

MMmmmmm. . . . .

Ignore the belly

but check out that hair! I'd almost forgotten just how long it was. And it was still healthy!! I will have that again someday, when I stop having babies.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Today its easy:

Doug will take the time out from work to go spend time with his brother while he's getting chemo
Doug can take the time off work
Even though Doug went to Tulare in our only car, I can get everywhere I need to go today using my own two feet and my stroller
My kids have a father who is easily melted by their sweet smiles, and even more so by their mischievous grins.
Kylie's pigtail "horns"
Keilana's love for school

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Daily list

We'll see if I can actually keep it up daily:

An uncle who adores me, who has been through cancer/chemo himself, and keeps track of what's happening
A Bishop who has gone over and beyond for me and my family/extended family time and again
Flowers
A little boy who runs around in nothing but his Grover underwear when its 65* in the house
Forgiveness
Pomegranate
Being able to shop online and avoid retail stores in November/December

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Its November

Starting the gratitude lists. Here's today's:

A husband who has incredible ideas
See's truffles
Worthy Priesthood holders who can be relied on
Babies
A mother who cares so much about my life, she calls to see how my in-laws are doing
Dancing and singing in the car with my kiddos
Cold night air
Families who keep trying to be good families, even when its hard
Facebook--modern communication methods in general, really
a grandma who loves me

Veteran's Day tribute

My sister put this together with her kids for Veteran's Day. A few of the men I'm grateful to call family. Give it a watch. And thank a vet today.



It just occurred to me as I was watching this video again that not a single one of these men was drafted. Every one of them signed up voluntarily. There is a cross-section of Americans who look down on our soldiers--who see them as low-class grunts who have nothing but the military. Every one of these men gave a service to their country, and then went on to be very productive, industrious members of their communities. All the ones in this video happen to also be very, very bright. Most of the soldiers I know who are currently serving are much the same. They serve out of loyalty, a sense of duty and honor, and selflessness. We don't always appreciate that they way we should. We don't always appreciate that around the country and the world are thousands of mother putting their babies to bed without saying goodnight to daddy, thousands more mothers who go to bed at night knowing their baby is in combat, or standing watch with a gun. To all my friends who are in the military, or whose husbands are valiantly serving our country, a sincere "thank you" for your service and sacrifice. It is not done unnoticed.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

So usually the five under six thing works out pretty well for me. The babies are so, so easy (seriously, we all got such mellow little people in this round of cousins) and the three older ones (5, 5, and 3 years old) all entertain each other so that I don't have to worry about them much.

The one catch?

Keilana and Clayton are extremely loud people. Especially when they're with each other. And I developed some nasty sinus stuffiness/headache this afternoon, seemingly out of nowhere. The noise I usually ignore quite contentedly is making me want to just slip into a deep, clueless slumber.

But, hey, they're all happy (and the babies are sleeping), so its not that bad. And Spiderman is almost over. Then everyone's off to bed and I can drink my hot cocoa in peace.

Ahhhh. . . .

Dual Immersion update

I have sssoooo many other things I want to address, but find myself unable to focus my thoughts or sit at the computer long enough to sort them, so here is the first of the promised updates on Keilana's progress in dual immersion.

First of all, several people were apparently under the impression that this was our only option here in Lindsay, but that's not the case. You can choose dual immersion or regular kindergarten for your child, so this is something we opted into--I would feel very differently about it if it were required.

Keilana is absolutely loving it, and picking up Spanish vocabulary much faster than I anticipated. She frequently corrects my gringo accent on simple words like "gracias" or "viente". Each morning she starts the day with an hour and forty minutes of solid instruction entirely in English (she's in a classroom with a different teacher for this part of the day) and then returns to Senora Samaniago's class for the rest of the day en Espanol.

Most of the vocabulary she has picked up is exactly what you'd expect from a Kindergartener--family members (she got out a piece of paper the other day and drew a picture, then wrote "Mi Familia" at the top and labeled the whole thing "mi papa" "mi mama" "mi hermano" "mi hermanita" "mi perro"--she asked me for a little help with spelling, but did it primarily on her own), some foods, commands (she's frequently heard yelling, "Bada!" at her brother), and classroom objects like backpack, desks, pencils, crayons, etc. She actually uses the Spanish word for such things as often if not more than English at home. She seems to be making great progress at contextual vocabulary (figuring out what a word means by how and where it is used). Each night she has to read me 2-3 books in Spanish and 2-3 books in English (her English reading is at about mid-year 1st grader right now, her Spanish is early Kindergarten. She still mixes up vowel sounds when sounding things out because of all the Spanish and, let's face it, all of English's bizarre rules for written language).

She is enjoying it immensely and I think will actually be a big asset for her slower-learning mom and dad in about a year. We'll see how Dylan does when he hits kindergarten--while he knew all his ABC's by 2 1/2 and is starting to sound things out now, his verbal skills have always been much farther behind than Keilana's. But, on the bright side, his natural syntax seems to veer Latin (ex., "I want the car blue"). ;)

Overall its been a fantastic first trimester--parent teacher conferences next week!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

By small and simple things

I walked into Church on Sunday not exactly my best self. I was physically tired (we didn't make it home from the Halloween festivities til around 1am--and my children have no concept of Daylight Savings Time, so they woke up at 6 anyway), I was emotionally drained (have I mentioned its been a rather intense few months?), and I was dreading the possibility of running into a few people I just really, really didn't want to see. Oh, and I was also alone, since my husband was still nasty sick (still is--getting better, but for Pete's sake, he got sick a month ago), so it was me and the older two monkeys. Just one of those Sundays where you make yourself go even though staying in bed sounds so much better.

A humble 9-year-old, without ever meaning to, severely put me in my place.

Cotter, one of my friend's sons, and a young man Brad was teaching to play piano until his sudden move, walked up to me before the meeting started and asked me how Brad was doing. I explained that he was doing OK, but was sicker than we thought at first so he has to start a new medicine next week. He looked at me with grave earnestness and said, "I heard he has cancer." I said he did, but he's still feeling OK right now. Cotter looked at me with solemn, intense eyes and said, "I'm fasting for him today." I felt about an inch tall before being completely overcome by gratitude for this little boy's faith and love.

His mom told me last night that he made it a full 24 hours. He ate dinner on Saturday, and fasted all through the Halloween activities--no nibble of candy or anything else that night. At about 2:30 Sunday afternoon, he said to his mom, "I'm really, really hungry." She told him that it would be OK with her if he broke his fast, and that she was extremely proud of him and she was sure Heavenly Father was, too. He thought for a moment and responded, "Do you think Heavenly Father will be more proud of me and help Brad if I make it til 5?" She choked back her own emotions and said, "I'm sure he'll notice. You're doing great." Cotter didn't break his fast until dinner that night. Rarely have I seen someone fast with such sincerity and devotion.

And a little child shall lead them. . . .

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween


I'm having major photo issues today--lots of trouble with programs of all kinds, so this is all you get, at least for now. Great times, lots of candy. Yes, Kylie's wings are sideways. She kept trying to pull them over her head and eat them.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Addendum

So Brad will start chemotherapy in just over a week. Sounds like that may go for 3 months or so, depending on the severity. The oncologist didn't think that the cancer had made its way to his liver or brain--if that's the case, things still look pretty darned optimistic. Won't know for sure until another battery of tests, including full-body CT scans, next week.

Trying to put aside the guilt, and the anger, and focus on the hope and the love. That's what is productive right now. Just need to let go of the rest. What's done is done. What matters is moving forward from where we are right now.

Its a wonderful family--not without its flaws, not without its setbacks, but filled with wonderful individuals. Brad is surrounded by a great support system. God bless them.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Bad news

We just (and I mean just) found out that while Brad's surgery was successful, the cancer had already spread to his lungs. He's meeting with an oncologist today at 4, so I will update further after that, when a clearer picture of what that is going to mean comes into view.

In the mean time, please keep him (and his mom and stepdad, who bear the brunt of the financial and emotional cost) in your prayers. This week is fast Sunday, so if you are fasting, please include Brad in your fast.

Much gratitude and love to all!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Children need models far more than they need critics.

I think that, with rare exception, most parents truly love their children, deeply. Some show it or act on it better than others, but most people are doing the best they can as parents and, on the whole, do a pretty decent job. Some even do a fabulous job. The simple truth is that we sometimes fail even those we care deeply about. Every single one of us makes mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes hurt or frustrate or anger our kids. Its part of being a parent and being human at the same time. My parents were pretty great in most ways, and I've tried hard to remember that and be grateful for it and let any mistakes go, in hopes that my children will do as much for me. I've been accused on many occasions of thinking my mother is perfect. Well, I really don't, but all I pass along to anyone else are the good things that she is and has done as a person and as a parent because I know she tried really hard--that she still does--and all in all, she does a great job.

Keilana is in many ways my greatest joy as a parent. She is unquestionably my biggest challenge. Her ability to push my buttons is unique among my children. She had managed by 9 months old to make me more crazy at times than Dylan ever has, still, at nearly 4 years old. I have never had any feelings of impatience or frustration in dealing with Kylie yet, ever. I can easily count up the number of times I have lost my patience or even gotten close to it with Dylan. Not because his behavior is any better than Keilana's at all (in fact, in many ways its worse!), but because the particular nature of her personality and her challenges are the things I happen to struggle to be patient with because of my personality.

But nothing--and I mean nothing--puts me in my place so quickly or so effectively as when Keilana turns and says (or yells) to me, "Mom, stop yelling at me!" It doesn't matter what kind of brat she's been (and let me tell you, that girl can both whine and scream like you wouldn't believe), that's it. Then I try hard not to undermine myself further. I give her a hug, tell her I'm sorry, that I shouldn't have yelled and then politely and calmly send her to her room until she's ready to calm down and apologize to Mommy for what she did and change her behavior. And when I take that approach, she always does. Within a minute or two, she comes downstairs and looks up at me with big, sad, pathetic eyes and says, "I'm sorry I yelled at you, Mommy. I'll be better." And she is.

Lately its been the "nice talking Mom" or "mean talking mom". I have nearly conquered the yelling altogether (and I say nearly--I may never conquer it entirely), but I do still have a tendency to rebuke her with a sharp tone. You know the voice, its the "mom voice" every one of you has used when you're about on your last nerve with one of yours. When I do it, she says, "Mommy (and that word is usually almost yelled)! I want you to talk nice to me." I immediately change my tone and say, "I'm sorry. I do want to talk nice to you. I don't like sounding mean. Do you know why I was frustrated and angry with you?" Sometimes she knows immediately and sometimes she has to think about it for a few minutes, but I rarely tell her--I let her get there on her own. If I do that, then she apologizes and tries hard to change her behavior, pointing out to me the rest of the day how she's doing it right, and I always thank her for it. In turn, the way that she talks to Dylan and deals with him improves, as well.

When I respond the other way, and just get angry and send her to room or lose my patience and yell at her, it solves the problem momentarily, but very, very temporarily. The behavior gets worse day by day until I realize the pattern that we're in and stop it--take a moment to explain that I know I haven't been patient and I need to try harder, and then ask what she needs to work on. If I take that approach, she can always figure it out if I give her a few minutes to think about it. And then she feels like we're working together (something Keilana not just appreciates, but needs), and she's happy to try to fix her bad behavior. She just needs someone to show her a better way to deal with the problem. I have discovered as she's gotten older that Keilana is a unique combination of both extremely, intensely emotional and supremely reasonable. When I yell or even use a sharp tone, she just gets hurt and frustrated because she's already upset about something and now I'm mad at her for being upset. Don't get me wrong, she always knows who's in charge, ultimately, but when I approach her with honesty about where I can do better, she's much more obedient because she trusts me more and feels validated.

My mom, who teaches a very wide-range of kids in middle school Special Ed, jokes about her professional mantra: "I'm the adult here". Keilana has always had a hard time controlling her emotions--even the tiniest of frustrations can set her off. And sometimes I have to very consciously take a deep breath and say, "I'm the parent here". How do I expect her to learn to stop yelling and screaming and throwing a fit about every problem if when she does it, I respond by yelling and getting angry? My mom's children almost never yelled at her. I remember a few very isolated incidents, but in general it just didn't happen. It did not escape my attention, though, that my mother almost never yelled at her children. Yelling, no matter how authoritatively, doesn't work--not in the long term. The few times I did see one of my siblings yell at her, she remained remarkably calm and collected. That's an even more impressive feat when considering that the yelling was the least emotionally taxing thing about the situation when it did happen, but it was the icing on the cake that could've finally pushed a lot of parents over the limit. I have always shown great respect for my mother, because she has always shown great respect, patience and forgiveness for me. In those respects, she modeled to me the type of parent that I ought to be.

When Keilana was about two, I sent my mom an email stating that as a present to both her and myself, I was shipping Keilana to her house. I listed the litany of offenses she had committed that week (raw egg breaking and black widow catching were near the top). My mom responded with a great, big, virtual chuckle and said that she thought I must've been paying for Doug's sins because I was such an easy, obedient child. Perhaps I was blessed with this effervescent delight (and really, she is that more often than anything else) because as a child I had a mother who modeled the right way to handle it. If only I'd remember that more often.