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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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. :)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.