I still haven't even downloaded photos, much less edited or resized any. Maybe tomorrow when the house is relatively empty. I don't have a lot of great photos this year anyway--besides my big belly making me rather lazy, my two year old crawling on me a lot, my auto-focus not working, etc, etc, most of my photos are. . .eh. But I'll get there.
But we had an awesome Christmas. Santa was good to the kids, cousins were good to the kids, and grandparents were good to the kids. Dylan may not need any presents for his birthday. More about all the fun later--we've really been enjoying having cousins here (well, Kylie, Dylan and Keilana have really been enjoying the cousins, and Doug and I have been very much enjoying the company of Jen and Paul--we hope they'll come visit us again even though we kept them up til 5am talking).
And I have lots of things I want to write about for the first time in some time, so hopefully I'll get some time to quietly sort out my thoughts and get to that, too. Stay tuned. . . .
Its been strange getting into "Christmas mode" this year: usually, Christmas time kind of sneaks up on me; this year, I was ready months ago to just get to Christmas already. And then when it was actually time to start thinking about Christmas, so many things had so rapidly become complicated (or it was rapidly revealed how complicated they were) that my mind and emotions have been all over the map.
Yet, in preparing with the kids, I've been more on top of things than usual--we have ended our day each evening with a scripture related in some way to the Savior's birth, or to his actions/mission while on the earth, and then a prayer. I've done a couple of Family Home Evenings where all the kids actually paid attention most of the time! We've worked on being patient and kind to each other. In the midst of the troubles and difficulties, our home has truly been a refuge. Although too many personal connections remain at the end of the day to leave the stress of work completely at work, Doug has been very good at leaving it to the side when he is with his family: he comes home and, rather than unload his stress on the kids or just sit in front of the TV to unwind (either of which would be pretty understandable), he pours his energy into playing with the kids, and they all end up in a heap on our bed, or leaping over couches and tables as they wrestle with daddy and act like the adorable, hilarious little monsters that they are. Even though having a family adds to the stress of every problem, I have never been more grateful for the relief that a happy family provides from the rest of life's worries.
I was remembering perhaps the most unhappy Christmas I've ever experienced. Eleven years ago, just shy of week before Christmas a young man who was a close friend to both of my brothers took his own life. Needless to say, it was tough to feel much like celebrating anything. His memorial was just two days before Christmas, and though I liked the young man (he was by far the friendliest of my brothers' friends relative to me), I hadn't been close to him. My brothers' hurt, however, was abundantly apparent and it was hard not to ache for them in such a horrible loss. I didn't really feel like doing Christmas at all--life just seemed too ugly at the moment to be festive about anything.
On Christmas Eve, my older sister was talking to a relative about something--I honestly can't remember who it was or what the conversation was about--and I heard her refer to my brother and I as "the twins". I loved being a twin, but for much of my childhood I had resented that tag, feeling as though I never had my own name. But suddenly, hearing her use that phrase at that moment brought me back to the good in life--I suddenly remembered that I belonged somewhere, at a moment when I think we all felt a bit like we were drifting. I was one of the "twins", a part of a wonderful and loving family. I was born as one of two to be one of seven, seven wonderful people I was so blessed to have as part of my life. And I looked around at all the other relatives in our home that Christmas Eve, and remembered how many people there were in my life that loved me, that I loved. That was reason enough to celebrate.
Our absurdly large (as it was added to nearly every year for almost 20 years) homemade clay nativity was set up on the end table next to where I sat. At the center was the one truly lovely piece, the first one my father ever made, starting our tradition: Mary, holding her child. Into my head came Isaiah's words: "Unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given. . . ." That little boy was sent not just to Mary, but to all of us. We celebrate his birth because he brought with him the promise of redemption from sin and error, and of comfort for all pain and hurt. Elder Maxwell, who battled several rounds of very painful cancer, once said, "If the only kind of pain he felt were mine, he loves us more than we know." I needed to be reminded that whatever pain we might feel, particularly under such difficult circumstances as those, where so many questions remain unanswered, there is a remedy. The sting will dull, and there is one who promises peace. There is one who offers rest unto our souls, however heavy the burden we carry may be.
This Christmas has not been nearly so difficult as that one more than a decade ago, but it certainly has had its challenges. But even as times and circumstances in our lives change, eternal principles do not. Whatever difficulties or challenges we face--professionally, physically, mentally, or emotionally--he knows our need and can fill it. Whatever the trials in our lives, we look to his birth as a time to celebrate because the life he led offered us all so much.
The baby in the stable of Bethlehem became the Savior of Gesthemane and Calvary. He walked the most difficult path and lived the loneliest life ever lived so that our path might be easier, our burden lighter, and so that, no matter what trials lie in our path, we might never walk alone. All that he asks in return, to truly show our discipleship, is that we "love one another". Even when its hard. I'm trying to remember that.
I always miss my Grandma the most at Christmas. That's when the nostalgic happiness that accompanies my many, many memories of her turns into a bit of an ache. She's been gone for six years now, but so many of my happiest childhood memories, and happiest Christmas memories, period, involve her. I would snuggle up on her couch in a quilt and watch her large collection of Christmas movies. Michael and I would always help her put up and decorate the tree (which in her mind was never complete until Michael had set up the train), and ooh and ahh over the cleverness of the Christmas tree stand that our Grandpa had made out of horseshoes, for a moment "remembering" with her a man we never knew here and yet held fondly in our hearts. We'd pin her little elves to her drapes, hang candy canes just about anywhere they would stay, and carefully put up her ornaments, most of which were much older than we were. She loved Christmas so very much, and was a great gift-giver; every year she swore that she wasn't going to do presents because "there are just too many this year" and every year her little red Toyota would be loaded up with gifts as she made her rounds to the houses of her children and grandchildren.
Of the many stories I heard her tell and retell, one that was always one of my favorites, and certainly one of hers, was the Christmas present she got when she was four. She remembered it being a long winter, because it seemed like her Mom had been in bed a lot. All she wanted for Christmas was a baby doll. On Christmas Eve, her dad emerged from her parents' bedroom, proclaiming, "Here's your baby doll!" and handed her her present: her baby sister, Verna.
I think I loved that story so much because it meant something to me. I spent a lot of hours playing on Verna's carpet, building various things out of Lincoln Logs with my brother, or learning to play various card games at her table. They were the best of friends, and such a wonderful balance. Grandma was all about firmness, determination, being tough. Verna has always been a bit softer, a more accommodating type of personality. I loved going places with the two of them and watching them have fun together.
This year, Grandma's "baby sister" is 90
I wish I could be there to wish her a happy birthday, but a card will have to do. My grandma was born in June of 1916, and Verna was born in December of 1920. Keilana was born in June of 2004 and Kylie arrived in December of 2008. So far, my girls are great friends. I hope I can say as much when they're in their 80s.
Though nothing will ever, ever pass "O Holy Night" on my list of favorite Christmas songs (aside from perhaps Handel's Messiah, is there a more stirring, moving song, anywhere?), "The Little Drummer Boy" is a close second for me.
Perhaps because I am somewhat prone to feelings of smallness or inadequacy, the story of a little boy with nothing but a drum has always resonated with me. Here is this young man, brought before, not just a king, but the king, told to bring his "finest gifts". He feels that he has no gift fit for such a recipient--he is poor and young and has nothing. Nothing but a drum. And its not a piano or a harp or a flute, or some other instrument we generally associate with reverent or worshipful music--nope, this guy is carrying around a snare. And yet he plays his best, offering the only thing he has to give, with all his heart. And then the Christ smiles at him. That's a beautiful, moving story.
It is sometimes easier to recognize other people's gifts than it is to see the value in our own. But the Lord knows us, through and through, inside and out. He knows our capacities, potential, and our limitations. He knows, even better than we do, exactly what we have to offer. Even the simplest gift, no matter how inadequate it may seem to us, is pleasing to him so long as it is offered with a sincere desire to serve and "honor him". We can sit there worrying about how we look next to others with their gifts of gold and expensive ointments, or we can stand confidently and "play [our] best for him". If we do that, I do believe that He smiles at us--that he is pleased and grateful for our efforts. If the Lord is pleased with the gifts we offer, our pride should not stand in the way of us being pleased with them ourselves. He values the devotion and efforts of the girl quietly scribbling in a notebook in the corner just as much as he values the gregarious fellow who's always putting together the best programs and parties.
No one, not even the most righteous and talented and blessed among us, will ever come close to repaying even a fraction of the gift we all were given: "Unto a us a child is born; unto us a son is given. . ." That's what we celebrate. That's why we buy presents and make cookies and decorate trees. Because the Father gave his son, and the son gave his life. Without that, every other gift would be meaningless. With it, every faithful effort is sanctified. In the shadow of the Ultimate Gift, every other gift seems so small. But by faithful exercise of our agency and gifts, we very slowly (line upon line, precept upon precept), work towards eternal exaltation, and a chance to bless countless lives further, to bestow gifts of eternal value. We each have to start somewhere, even if we're too poor and inexperienced to offer anything but a pleasant beat on our little drum.
One of my favorite renditions of this particular song:
The other day, a friend said, "I keep forgetting you're pregnant." That's the third or fourth time someone has said that to me in the last few weeks. And I keep sort of having that problem myself. There's been so much going on the last few months, and this seems to be the laziest baby ever, so I keep "forgetting" a bit myself. Suddenly I'm going to have a baby around here and it will catch me by surprise. So I thought this might help me remember:
(Sorry about the weird picture. I was too lazy to use a real camera, and then Kylie started pulling on my legs while I was taking it).
Today I'm 28 weeks, so exactly 12 weeks til my due date and 14 weeks til the day we plan on inducing (due dates tend to be somewhat meaningless in my longer-than-average-gestation family). I realized when I looked at the big version of this picture that it looks like I'm sticking my belly out, when in fact I just can't stand up much straighter and actually be comfortable. Its been pretty easy for the most part, other than the annoying and ever-present fatigue. She's sitting a lot lower than Kylie did, which means I already waddle quite a bit, but at least she's not poking into my ribs and decreasing my lung capacity yet.
My midwife is awesome and very low-key, and I've been grateful for that: I've only been in for three appointments so far and don't have another one until after Christmas. It is SO tedious to go to the doctor (especially when you have to leave town and consequently block out an entire afternoon to do so), so when I have no history of complications, personally or in my family, and its the fourth baby and seems to be going smoothly, she just has been really relaxed about everything. I'm so glad that a friend recommended her when I got pregnant with Kylie--she's a great find.
So three months to go! Wish us luck--Kylie LOVES babies, but I'm pretty certain she's going to have a hard time with another little girl overthrowing her reign as baby of the house.
I've been having trouble getting myself back on track recently (likely because I haven't been trying in the right ways), but three things helped me do that today: its Doug's birthday, so we're going on a date; I got an email from a very old friend; and I gave one of my kiddos a candy cane for the first time this year.
A couple of weeks ago, I was reading a friend's blog where she wrote about the challenge of staying upbeat and focused on the positive in what has felt like a very "heavy" fall.
I knew instantly that she had found the perfect word. Heavy.
In addition to all the trouble in our little neck of the woods, with public lies, personal threats, private hurts, broken trusts, big shakeups, etc, etc, there have been other challenges for us and for people we love: lost jobs (or still no job, despite constant hunting), unexpected illnesses/medical problems, and on top of it all a lingering uncertainty about much of the future. My grandpa (or rather, my grandma's husband--they've only been married 10 years, but they're sealed, so he's grandpa, no?) passed away the day after my grandma's birthday. Because of the ridiculous cost of flying to Montana (especially last minute), I didn't make it home and I felt rather discombobulated to not be with my family as they grieved/celebrated Clark's life and comforted and helped to care for Grandma. A couple weeks later, a woman who was a big part of my childhood passed away--the mother of a girl who was one of my closest friends from first grade all the way to high school graduation. Gaye was only a couple years older than my parents (and actually shares a birthday with my dad), and not having been around the last several years, the news that she was in the hospital was quite a shock to me. At the funeral, my mom approached Dennis, her husband, and expressed how grateful she was for what a great "second mom" Gaye had been to me as I was growing up. He replied, "Oh yeah, I always thought of her as my barefoot daughter." I was comforted by that expression of affection from him, and I was very sad not to be there to express for myself my gratitude for the generosity they had both always shown to me, and to offer to buy him a banana milkshake.
Its just all been a whole lot to process, mentally, emotionally, and in the practical "Now what?" of daily realities. Add to that the general busyness of jobs, callings, three little kids and a tiring (but, thankfully, healthy and uneventful) pregnancy, and the last few months have indeed felt pretty heavy.
But today Doug turns 34, and we decided to go to dinner and a movie tonight (have I mentioned that I LOVE my sister-in-law, who lives a few minutes away and babysits pretty much any time I ask?). That's two months in a row we've managed to make it out on a date. And I love going on dates with my husband, because when we don't have our hands full of children, diaper bags, toys, books and various sticky and/or greasy foodstuffs, I am very much his date: he opens my door for me, he holds my hand, he charms me. I happily and contentedly define myself primarily as a mother, but it is refreshing to be reminded from time to time that there is someone in my life who appreciates all of me--everything I do with and for the kids, and everything else, too. Someone who sees the whole me, and loves me (sometimes, admittedly, in spite of myself). As with most married couples, we probably get more of the worst of each other than anyone else does, but we most certainly get more of the best of each other. And that's why I love him so much--in the long run, we always make each other better. Our marriage is much greater than the sum of its parts.
Hayley, who is the one who lost her mom almost two months ago, sent me a message today in which she apologized to me for not being in better touch. Why would I ever fault her for that? But as I read her brief message, I thought about how every time I see a really great Halloween costume, or eat a bit of Nutella, or see a troop of Girl Scouts, I think of her mom. Nearly every time my little girl wants "the pink one", whatever the "one" is, I think of Hayley. I am grateful for the many memories I have of their family, because years later (and it has been literally years since I spent time with any of them now) they still make me smile. Their kindness still regularly gives my life joy, even though they aren't themselves a regular part of my life anymore.
Last night Doug bought a package of candy canes and I opened it today to give one to Kylie. The first candy cane of the year always makes me think of my dad. Right around this time of the year, he'd come home from Missoula one evening after being at the University or doing some shopping and tell Michael and I (and Eldon, when we were a bit younger), that while he was in town, he'd happened to run into Santa Clause. Santa had asked how we were doing, and Dad always reported that we'd been pretty good kids, and so Santa would send a few candy canes for us and make sure Dad reminded us to get him our Christmas lists. That "Santa candy cane" was usually the first one I got each year. Every time I pull out the first candy cane of the Christmas season, I think of my dad and feel happy all over, because now at 26 I can still picture in my mind, nearly as clearly as I saw it at 5, my dad's young, unwrinkled, mustachioed face, lit up happily as he delighted his children with his story of casual conversation with Santa and a little sugary treat. That has always been one of my favorite memories, but its one that actually means more to me now as an adult, because now I get it--now as a parent, I understand the joy you feel yourself when you can, in such a small and simple way, delight your children and bring a little magic into their lives. There's no feeling quite like that.
So I made a plan today. Some of the activities and treats that I know my kiddos love best, and some new ones I'm hoping they'll love, and where they'll fall in the now-til-Christmas schedule. Because life is full of twists and turns, hard losses, long trials and heavy burdens. But its also full of all kinds of little, wonderful moments: moments that can give us a little smile, a little joy, and consequently a little relief, even if just for a minute, from those trials and burdens. And now as I move a little further down the road of life and finally start to get enough distance to look back a little bit, I understand a better that those little moments are so important, not only for the joy that they give us at the time, but because they still have the power to bring us joy years after they happen. They make us smile, remembering how life has been good, and help us to refocus on the ways in which it still is.
Because it really is. For all its troubles, life is good.
So, since most of the people I see on a daily/weekly basis don't know my family, I get asked a lot of questions about them, or am asked to describe them. I think maybe I'll just start whipping out pictures like this:
"Yeah, they're pretty cool folk. Hardy. They like war games in the woods. In the snow. With their scraggly facial hair and fatigues."
This is actually a shot my sister got her son's 13th(13th?!) birthday party--they all went paintballin'. And, let's face it, in Montana there's just a whole lot of woods and snow to be had, right out the front door. Some days it makes me sad that my kids are missing out on all that great militia training and cold-weather hardiness.
(And click on the link and read my sister's blog about her son. I love that kid. And its nice to know [since I've been gone for more than half his life now] that he's still essentially the same kid he was at 5. Because that kid is awesome).
Parents: I learned so very much from mine and have been fortunate to be well-loved by them. The older I get, the more I realize I got from my dad: the love of solitude, a notebook and pen, a love for growing things (this arguably came from both sides, but Dad's the true hobbit), the subversive sense of humor. My mom has spent a lot of time and money traveling to visit us wherever we have lived so that my kids really know and adore their Yaya, despite the distance. I know I can depend on them and even as an adult that knowledge and stability lends a great deal of comfort to my life. And Doug's mom and step-dad have been wonderful surrogate parents and friends to me--I genuinely love spending time with them, and I'm well aware that that isn't how a lot of people feel about their in-laws. They are both wonderful grandparents to my kids, and spoil them rotten, as grandparents should. I'm tremendously grateful for the parents in my life.
EVERYBODY ELSE: I have a large and wonderful family, and so does my husband. This makes for quite the circle of love and support. In a world where it is increasingly difficult for people to find one or two individuals in their lives who really love them and can be depended on, Doug and I (and our children) have literally dozens. There are so many brothers, sisters, in-laws, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, cousins, grandparents that give so much joy and friendship to our lives and we love the fun and interesting individuals that each of them is.
Health: Being pregnant always makes me appreciate this one more. My normally awesome immune system goes on vacation while I incubate, and I catch every little bug that goes around. On top of that, everything starts to ache and not work right. It makes me very appreciative of my youth and general good health, which do make the rest of life so much easier to do. With three kids, we have only been to the the ER once, with a resulting few-day stay in the hospital. That's it. Other than that, its only been colds and the occasional flu and then, every once in a great while, an ear infection. That's pretty amazing.
Priesthood Blessings: On the rare occasion that one of the kids is miserable sick, Doug can always give them a blessing, and we have lots of wonderful Priesthood leaders in our lives who are unselfish with their time and happy to help him do so. A few weeks ago, Keilana was at the horrible-fever-rattling-breath-barking cough point and could not sit comfortably, much less sleep. She was given a blessing and, though she still had a miserable night, within an hour her breathing has eased enough that she was able to get some sleep. Similar circumstances have played out many times in our home (or in homes where Doug has been asked to assist) and I'm grateful that that power is a regular part of my life.
For my kids: I'm so grateful for Keilana's sunny temperament and helpful attitude, for the way her zealous excitement makes everything more fun (I'm pretty sure that she is the main reason I like Disneyland). I'm grateful for Dylan's alternative view of the world and his off-beat sense of. . . .everything, constantly making me see things in a way I never would've myself, and usually making me laugh. I'm grateful for Kylie's calm good-naturedness, her natural proclivity for affection and sharing, so that, her tremendous bossiness notwithstanding, she helps to add some calm to our busy home. I'm excited to see who our next daughter will be and how she'll fit with the others. Watching children grow and discover the world is definitely about the most fun and amazing thing I have in my life.
For my husband, and the relationship I have with him: I'm grateful for the way he provides for us, in every sense. Without me having to take a job outside our home, he provides us with a warm home and a good car and lots of good food and plenty of clothes and fun. He listens to the kids, and plays with them and cuddles with them and does everything a good dad should. He serves faithfully as the Priesthood leader in our home and is good at teaching the kids. I'm grateful that he and I are a team, that we're best friends, that we rarely ever miscommunicate, fail to communicate, or disagree on anything of true substance. And he's really, really funny.
There are way too many other things to list--and maybe that's the greatest blessing of all. I have so many things for which to be grateful, that its difficult to even begin to scratch the surface
I love good a cappella (probably because I love music and I love to sing--but my own voice and ear are quite weak). This is one of my favorite hymns, performed by BYU a cappella group "Vocal Point". Give it a listen if you have a few minutes.
Tonight is the ending of an era. It may seem important only to a few, but important nonetheless. Scot, Doug's wonderful boss, officially announced his resignation on Friday, and at this evening's city council meeting an interim city manager will be named, to fill the post until the city council finds a permanent replacement.
Its been a privilege to be a little part of a vision that, though now much bigger than Scot alone, began and was realized largely because of his passion, faith and intense drive. He is one of those rare leaders whose passion and commitment is truly contagious, who has nearly as much concern for the lives and careers of those around him as he does for his own. He is a unique individual who chose a somewhat rocky and often lonely path, out of a desire to serve others, because he was able to see what could be. He has a generous heart, and many people have benefitted from his near tireless giving of himself. He will be sorely missed.
In the last few weeks, he has been publicly attacked and personally threatened, and even his children have had to deal with some harassment at school and in the community. It is unfortunate that sometimes people sink to the lesser aspects of human nature. It is especially unfortunate when children are involved. But the fact remains that those who have engaged in such behavior can't destroy anything of true value--the Townsends are good people, and so no matter what they decide to do or where they decide to go from here, they will be blessed. Those who have treated them unkindly will likely go on living mostly unhappy lives (people who behave in such a manner almost always do so because they are themselves unhappy).
When we moved to Lindsay 4 1/2 years ago, it seemed quite a bit different than it does now. I've seen many miracles, large and small, in that time. Many of those miracles came as a result of a humble, dedicated young bishop who said, "Let's open those doors; we'll fill this place up," and a visionary city manager who said, "Let's build it; let's find a way." I am more grateful than I can say that I am blessed to call both these men--and many, many of the other people who were absolutely instrumental in helping so many miracles happen here--my friends.
I wish I could express in any clear and meaningful way everything that has happened in our lives and around us since we came here. But there is too much, and my talents are inadequate to such a task. There has been so much opposition, in the forms of medical problems, antagonistic individuals, financial difficulties, family misunderstandings, and all kinds of other trials, and I have seen person after person and family after family rise to the occasion and make themselves and their little corner of the world a better place. I have seen unity in places it would seem most unlikely, and services large and small that were given and received in love and humility.
What this change in leadership will mean for us in particular is not quite clear yet. I'm sure it will be over time. But I have learned much in the last half-decade and I have tremendous faith in the Lord's ability and willingness to bless his children. Whatever happens, it has been amply proven to me that the Lord takes care of those who trust in him. Trials will come, sacrifices will sometimes have to be made, but the rewards reaped in the end seem always to me to be disproportionately large to what is asked. I am grateful to know that there is a plan--for myself, for my family and for all those that I love, even if I don't always know exactly what it is at any given moment.
Dream big, work hard, be patient and the possibilities are nearly endless.
I have had a nasty cold all week. No, not nasty. Exhausting. I've only been a little cloudy and stuffy, but I've been totally wiped-out tired. Its been hard to find motivation to do basic chores, let alone everything else. Yesterday, I went back to bed after I dropped Keilana at school and fell asleep by about 8:30 and then slept until 10. After I dropped Dylan off at preschool and put Kylie down for a nap, I slept again for nearly an hour and a half. I felt like such a bum.
I'm so glad I did it.
This morning, as soon as I had dropped off Keilana, Kylie and I got to work. We cleaned up the dog mess out on the front patio and backyard, raked and cleaned up all the leaves, threw out our Halloween pumpkins, cleaned up strangers' trash (the one thing I hate about living here is that for some reason people seem to believe that, since its located at a major intersection, my front patio is a public trash can. . .grrrrrrr!), scrubbed the car and cleaned the kitchen. Then we got ourselves cleaned and dressed, and folded a couple loads of laundry. Then I cleaned up the living room and bedrooms and folded a couple more loads of laundry. After I dropped Dylan at preschool, I had to take a break because my back was telling me it was time to do that, so I sat down and had a snack with Kylie.
But meanwhile, Doug got all the old carpet/padding that we ripped out of our garage (the friends we bought it from had had it carpeted in order to use as a playroom--nice, in theory) loaded up and hauled away. Then, he put together the garden wall on the patio. It still needs gravel and glue and capstones, and then fill dirt and top soil, but we're a big step closer to finally, finally growing things.
I love days that are productive. Visible progress makes me sssooo happy.
Which is good. Because the last few weeks have been so supremely weird (and what the last few weeks mean for the next few months/years) that I just don't know what to do with it, emotionally.
So clean patios and houses make me happy.
Now off to make breakfast for dinner and watch Toy Story 3. And then after the kids go to bed, hubby gets home from work and I will sit down and watch The Good Guys and eat Halloween-discount fun size Snickers with him. And I shall feel satisfied and relaxed.
So I haven't written in two whole weeks. And for a few months before that, let's face it, most of my writing hasn't been terribly interesting or exciting.
Some of this is due to the mental and physical fatigue that's bound to occur when you're raising three busy kids while incubating a fourth. But a lot of it is just keeping my thoughts to myself.
Its not that there hasn't been plenty going on. Its not that I haven't had quite a few interesting insights, conversations and revelations. I just don't know how to share most of them, or if I even can. I just feel like keeping them to myself for now. There is a tendency in today's world for over-sharing. There are thoughts I've tried very hard to communicate because I think they can serve a purpose beyond myself, but there's always that wariness about giving too much away. Too many people do that, and often I think its done with little thought to the consequences that may follow--not only for themselves, but for others.
October was a very, very good month for us. I got out more in October than in the previous six months combined. We went on two all-evening child-free dates in one month! That's more dates than we often have in 10 months. But it was also a very stressful, tense month for us and for many of the people we care most about. Lindsay has been a contentious place the last several weeks, and so we needed all the fun, I think, to help maintain some sanity in the midst of the opposition and tension. There had to be some balance.
I wasn't sure I wanted to live in Lindsay when I first got here. Now I am so in love with my friends, my ward, the life we have most of the time, that it's hard to imagine having made any other choice. I know there were many good reasons we came here, not all of which we could've possibly known when we made the decision. I'm grateful that this is where our life has brought us. In the midst of the vitriol and opposition, I looked around at those who were there to say "thank you" to many others for the hard work they've done; I saw how many people were willing to face an ugly confrontation in order to stand by their friends; I realized that, though we sometimes lose sight of it when climbing a hard hill, most people are still basically good and decent and courageous.
I start my month of Thanksgiving with a fervent prayer of gratitude for the friends that the Lord has placed in my life, and how they have shown me how to be the person I want to be simply by being the people that they are. I am truly blessed.
I'm so very grateful for the blessing of loving companionship. Whatever any given day may bring, I always end the day in the presence of my best friend. Its nothing grand, nothing extraordinary, but its real, its reliable and its everything I need. I sometimes think how wonderfully content Adam and Eve must have been with each other to be able to live so long with the presence and companionship of only each other. What wonderful friends they must have been.
Turn me loose, set me free
somewhere in the middle of Montana
Its not always feasible, but sometimes I wish I could--just for a moment--disappear to the Missions, to the wide, open space, somewhere far from here. Just run away, take a deep breath of fresh air and be away from people.
We will have disappointments and discouragement--that is part of life. But if we will have faith, our setbacks will be but a moment, and success will come out of seeming failures. Our Heavenly Father can accomplish miracles through each of us if we will but place our confidence and trust in Him.
~Ezra Taft Benson
Life is hard. It often feels like opposition is everywhere. But some sources of strength truly are endless. The Lord promises happy endings, and he delivers--its just that we sometimes see an "ending" where in reality there is merely a plot twist. Be patient. Be obedient. The Lord will make it alright in the end. If its not alright, its not the end. The Lord's timetable is eternal. Ours tends to be weekly. We are loved, more deeply, purely and completely than we can possibly understand right now.
Peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine affliction shall be but a small moment. . .thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.
Joshua the prophet had a big job. After Moses died, he had a huge pair of shoes to fill: he had to lead the Israelites to the promised land, fight some very literal battles, and help to build a new nation. The Lord knew there would be troubles, and he knew the adversary would be hard at work, and so he commanded Joshua, "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."
The harder we try to do good, to actively discover and apply the Lord's will, the harder the adversary will press down on us. The Lord has told us that contention is of the Devil, and so it is that sometimes the adversary pursues his purposes through the bullying acts of other people: threats, intimidation, lies and anger. We needn't strike back in his way. We need only stand courageously for truth and the Lord is on our side.
When you find yourself weighed down by the stress of opposing forces, simply ask yourself, "Have I tried to do the right thing? Have I been striving to be faithful and obedient?" If the answer is "yes", the Lord's promise is as true for you as it was for Joshua. Do not be intimidated by the tactics of the adversary; be strong and of a good courage, because the Lord blesses and protects those who serve him faithfully.
"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid." ~Ronald Reagan
Valerie Umphrey, Lettie Gilbert, Keilana Clark, Becky Clark
Been thinking about my grandma a lot lately. She'll have been gone six years next month. She could always calm me down when life was stressful--probably because she was a woman who had lived through a lot of stresses and managed to find a lot of calm in the middle of it all. And because no one in life has ever seemed to love me as effortlessly and completely as she did. And that's saying a lot, because I've been blessed to be well-loved by a lot of good people in life. But nobody can love quite the same way as a grandma. Some things I learned from watching her.
Sure, life is tough. But you're tougher.Whining or complaining is a waste of time. If you've got food in your belly, clothes on your back and a warm place to sleep, you aren't poor; you should always be grateful for what you have, otherwise you're wasting your blessings.Someday you'll laugh about this; the sooner, the better.You are responsible for your actions and the consequences that follow them.Nothing, and I mean nothing, is ever more important than family. Refuse to be taken advantage of. Love unconditionally, but hold people accountable.Everything is more fun with a few kids in tow. There's always someone who could use your help, so look around, figure out what needs to be done, and get to work. Your husband should be your best friend and someone you respect and have fun with.Discipline is more about consistency and clear expectations than about punishment. But when you've failed to meet the clear expectations, punishment will be fair and swift. Hard work is worth doing, and it always comes before playing. But playing is pretty important, too. A good lightening storm or the Northern Lights are far more important than a warm bed and a little lost sleep. Traveling is one of life's great pleasures, but the most important part of any trip is coming home to the Missions.A good fire makes any home cozier. There are few things better than knowing you got a great deal.An organ is a perfectly reasonable thing to buy at a yard sale.Disneyland is pretty great and you should go if you get a chance, but the happiest place on earth is anywhere that a grandma is surrounded by her grandkids. Patience brings peace. A woman can never have too many shoes.Poking a hole in the bottom of a chocolate is the best way to figure out what the filling is.Never be wasteful-yogurt cups make pretty good kiddy cups and old butter tubs are great for sorting your knickknacks and whatnots. Moms love having things like their little girls' eyeglasses from 5th grade--even if that little girl is over 60.Meat should always be well done, and a little half and half or gravy can make just about anything better. Memorial Day decorations must be left on graves the Saturday before Memorial Day, so that when everyone else comes to decorate graves, yours will already be there looking beautiful. Lilacs and peonies make great bouquets. Walking and flower picking are two of life's great pleasures.Children should be free to explore, so long as they check in now and then. There's nothing wrong with letting the horse hang out in the front yard with you for the afternoon--he's a pet, after all. Tuna fish sandwiches and red Kool-Aid make a fine summer afternoon lunch. Christmas is the best holiday.Halloween is a close second.Grandkids are for spoiling.
So I have to get a TB skin test done so that I can volunteer at Dylan's school, but the office in town isn't able to do it because I'm pregnant. So I had to get a lab slip from my midwife, and the lab next door to her office isn't able to do it either, so after driving to Visalia to her office I then had to hop on 198 and drive across to Visalia to a clinic I've never been to, in an area I'm not familiar with. I should also mention that I am tremendously bad at navigating and am quite easily turned around and lost.
So I'm getting irritated and frustrated about having to do this running around for something so simple to begin with, and then on top of that, the last direction on my iPhone didn't make sense and I'm not seeing the lab. Dylan tried to ask me for something (I'm pretty sure it had something to do with McDonald's) and I snapped, "Dylan, be quiet for a minute! I can't find the freaking office!!"
So when I looked at the map and finally figured out that the phone hadn't told me which direction to turn and consequently I had gone the wrong way down the street, I found it quite easily. As I turned into the parking lot, Dylan asked cheerfully, "Mom, is this the Freaking Office?"
I guess I should just be grateful that my six-year-old daughter thinks that "freaking/frickin", "dangit", "heck" and "oh my gosh" are bad words. At least I trained one well. My impulse control isn't great when I'm pregnant.
I've had a pretty fabulous weekend. Yesterday, just as I dropped Dylan off for preschool and was thus down to one child for a few hours, a good friend texted me and said they were meeting some of our other good friends for lunch and asked if we wanted to come along. So the six of us spent two hours hanging out and eating delicious pizza and laughing at our toddlers. You have no idea how awesome my friends are--you would love them. I know you would, because everyone loves them. I'm just very grateful that they love me. It was a great "break" and I needed the conversation.
After I picked up the older two from school, we made a Target run, and who doesn't love Target? I mostly just had to pick up a few essentials, but I also scored a pair of great shoes for $9, and I so needed shoes.
The kids and I spent the evening playing hard at McDermont with some friends, so that everyone was good and worn out by the time we got our customary Friday night slushies.
This morning we headed out and did a little bit of geo-cacheing close to home. We bought the kids delicious, unhealthy junk for lunch and found a couple of caches out at Kaweah Oaks Preserve. I think Keilana has found a new passion, and her daddy is very glad--I see many cacheing adventures in our future. But let me tell you, geo cacheing at Kaweah Oaks with three kids 6 & under is like combining a jungle adventure with a treasure hunt--in other words, pure magic. We had to do a bit of bush whacking to get to the first one we found, but for Keilana and Kylie that seemed to just add to the fun (and it didn't slow Dylan much).
But what actually struck me about all this as I watched Doug and Keilana race back to the car this afternoon (she kicked his booty in that race, by the way), was how very un-extraordinary all of this was. Enjoying the company of great people, watching my kids run and jump and squeal with wild abandon, soaking in the wonderfulness of my husband playing with them, giggling with them, sharing their excitement--that's just my every day life. Its a good one.
After we got back from Montana, we didn't do a whole lot this summer, what with me being tired and sick a whole lot, our budget being fairly well exhausted from one 3,000 mile trip, and Doug working every Friday and Saturday. But we have squeezed in a little fun. A few parting summer shots.
Claire off to join the big kids in the fountains.
Dylan and Clayton cooling off.
Dylan nervously approaching Space Mountain in Daddy's arms.
Keilana, walking through Fantasyland with Rachel and Mimi. Life is good.
I'm pretty sure that this baby already hates me. I think I'm sick again. Yesterday we went for a Sunday drive, and I started feeling horrendous on the ride down from the mountains on the very, very curvy road we took home. Motion sickness is a phenomenon I usually only experience when pregnant, so I assumed that was all and as soon as we straightened out I'd be fine. I was still feeling sick until about an hour after we got home. Then I started to feel better, had something to eat and sat down to veg for a while. By the time I went to bed, I had a headache. At 1am, I finally got out of bed and took some Tylenol. It didn't do a thing, and now I was nauseous again, too. At 2am, I finally woke Doug up to ask him to give me a short blessing, just so that I could get enough relief to get some sleep (because even if I'm well-slept, the bone-crushing fatigue doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon--I told you, this baby hates me). By 2:30ish, I was starting to drift in and out because I was feeling a bit less pain. When I woke up at 4, I felt fine and was able to go right back to sleep (other than the occasional, unintentional slap from a sleeping Kylie). I got to sleep in for a while this morning--I didn't get out of bed til nearly 8:20, so that helped. But I'm still vaguely nauseous, and just walking up and down my stairs makes me exhausted. Grrrrr. Usually, by the time the second trimester hits I feel fine. I have discovered, as the symptoms linger on and on, that I really hate being unproductive. No, that's not entirely true. Being unproductive can be quite enjoyable when I feel good, but not getting anything done AND not enjoying myself makes me a bit crazy.
On a completely unrelated note, as I was reading news this morning, I noticed all the news websites had headlines about the VMAs, most of which were accompanied by pictures of Lady Gaga. I'm not very familiar with her--I think I've heard two of her songs. But I assume there's no reason to figure out who she is. If experience has taught me anything, its that people who try so desperately hard to be outlandish, outrageous, different (insert appropriate adjective here) are likely not extraordinary in any way. People who are genuinely that different or extraordinary usually get noticed eventually, despite their best efforts to appear normal.
Yesterday, a young father and new Bishop was shot to death in his office between services in an LDS church building in Visalia. The motives of the shooter are still hazy, but what we do know is that very suddenly and unexpectedly, a young mother is now a widow, with six sons to raise, ranging in age from teenager to infant.
Mormons tend to form pretty tight-knit little communities, as one of our fundamental beliefs is the responsibility to care for one another. We usually have large families, so that even far apart little pockets of church members tend to have connections to each other. Consequently, tragedies that happen to "our own" tend to hit us very hard, even if we don't know the individual directly. In this case, being so close to home (indeed, occurring in a ward where we have friends, to an individual my husband knows, and in a building where my mother and father in law usually meet), its left me in tears several times already.
Over the last 24 hours since this horrible event happened, I have pondered what this young mother must be feeling--the shock, anger, and terrible, aching hurt she must be going through. I've thought about how on earth I would find a way forward were I in her unenviable position. I keep feeling like I should do something for her family--but what can I do?
I have prayed for her. I have asked others to do the same.
That is a pretty standard practice for me when it comes to big challenges in the lives of others--ask people, whether they know the individuals involved or not, to offer prayers on their behalf. I once had a conversation with a friend who seemed to think that this practice, while perhaps comforting to the one asking for the prayers, was silly. "I don't get it," he said, "Do you think God will help them more if you get enough people to ask? That seems like a pretty stand-offish parent!"
I do absolutely believe that there are times when the Lord steps in and changes the course of events in someone's life in order to reward the selfless faithfulness of those who were willing to ask, with the faith believe that he can do anything they ask, if its in his will. I think the Lord still whispers to individuals today, "Thy faith hath made thee whole". Certainly as he walked the earth, he could've pulled lepers and blind folk from the crowd at will and made them whole, but in practice what he actually did was heal those who asked to be healed. Through this method, he taught us over and over again, "According to thy faith, be it unto thee." I happen to believe that sometimes he also blesses us according to the faith of those who love us.
But what good are prayers in a situation like this? A husband and father is gone, and we know that no amount of prayer will change that. All that can be healed is the hearts of those who loved him, and it is much more difficult to heal a broken heart than it is to fix unseeing eyes.
I believe, however, that the sincerely offered and truly heartfelt prayer, that is a true expression of love and faith, does change something--that that act of faith does somehow nudge the world a little bit. Many people think its pointless to offer prayers on behalf of people we don't know, people who don't know we're praying for them. I vehemently disagree. I think that when we pray out of true, selfless concern for another, there is a very real, very literal transfer of. . .what? Energy? Power? I can't pin down the specifics, but something tells me there is more to it than we can understand. In the Doctrine and Covenants we are told that "all spirit is matter", its just that its so fine and so pure that we can't see it with our mortal eyes. I believe that faith and love are much more tangible things that we could possibly know on this side of the veil. I believe that when we selflessly exercise our free will on the behalf of someone else, even if it is simply to ask that they be comforted, there is a very real offering that is made--that perhaps a measure of our spirit buoys them somehow. Someday, beyond the veil, I hope to understand all the spiritual physics of how our lives are moved forward and touched by others. For now, I don't care about understanding the mechanics, all I care is that I know that it does work.
Prayer is powerful, when we use it correctly. I believe that not only does Christ offer his comfort when we pray for others, but that something very real and important is relayed from our souls to the souls of those for whom we pray. To dismiss prayer as simply a kind gesture severely underestimates its power and dismisses what is ons of our greatest weapons in the battle for the souls of men. When we offer our hearts to the Lord and to each other in sincere prayer, we are all strengthened, and I think that's because our souls, for a moment, combine, in an amazing way that we may never understand in this life.
My prayer is that God will bless and comfort the Sannar family and the Visalia 2nd ward. They will need much borrowed strength in the difficult days and months ahead. It is our sacred obligation to offer it to them.
Its just that some days it seems like it would be preferable to live on a nuclear submarine than take care of them, and all that implies. Have I mentioned that I'm terribly claustrophobic on land, and when you add being surrounded by water I can barely breathe just thinking about it?
Ah, but I never forget for a second that I love them, and I'm grateful to have them. And by morning, I'll even like them again.
Well, as long as they don't come into my room and start begging for pancakes at 6am.
My oldest daughter is, more often than not, a happy, helpful, obedient child. She tends to attract fan clubs everywhere she goes because she's vibrant and social and loves to please people.
She's also very emotional and has a tendency to be over-the-top when she's upset. The last week or so, every time I've asked her to clean her room I've been met with glaring, stomping and "I don't want to!" My response to this is almost always a very calm, "So? I didn't ask if you wanted to. It needs to be done. Go clean your room." And so she begrudgingly marches up to her room and pouts and whines the whole time she's accomplishing the chore, moving slowly, frequently getting upset, even yelling at her brother a bit.
I don't interrupt this little melodrama. What I've asked her to do, though it seems monumental to her little eyes (and, to be fair, she and her brother can make one heck of a mess in there), is not so big a task it can't be tackled. What she also seems to have forgotten lately is that, usually, when she happily agrees to complete this task, I help her. What could be a long, miserable chore turns into a fun, fairly quick activity with an attentive parent--the only difference is her attitude.
How often do we, as children, approach things our Heavenly parents have asked us to do in this same way? How often do we say, "I don't wanna!!" and stomp our feet and throw our fists? Our temper tantrum doesn't make the right thing any less right, it simply makes us miserable while we're doing it (or even more miserable while we're refusing to do it). We can avoid it (which inevitably leads to more misery down the line) or we can approach it with a displeased if-I-have-t0 attitude, which will make us miserable and resentful of the whole thing. Or we can cheerfully say, "Ok! I can do this!" and have a happy, loving parent at our side, helping the whole time.
Its is easy for us to sit in judgment of others as they act and react to trials or challenges in their lives that we have not ourselves been asked to experience. Sometimes we take for granted that we'd do the right thing if we were in their position, because we usually are obedient when push comes to shove. But the point of the story about David and Bathsheba is not to teach us that David was an awful person or that leaders can fall. Its to remind us that anyone, no matter how good and obedient they have been over the course of their life, can fall into misery and disobedience quickly if humility and self-honesty and the impressions of the Spirit are ignored. David has been promised that he won't languish in misery forever, but the price he'll have to pay is very, very steep. So many of his good deeds and faithful acts are undermined by a single, prideful instance where he failed to be obedient to the Lord's will.
David exercised a great deal more faith throughout most of his life than I can honestly imagine in my own--from his courageous childhood act of walking up to a giant with nothing but a slingshot while grown, trained soldiers cowered in fear, to living in the wilderness to protect himself from a jealous ruler, to governing his people with justice and righteousness. He faced many challenges and trials, made many sacrifices out of a desire to be righteous and obedient, yet that didn't mean he was done. There were still sacrifices to make, challenges to overcome and temptations to conquer. How strongly must the Spirit have warned him, "Look away!" and yet that resistant, human part of him responded "I don't wanna!" If he, so blessed and faithful, could fall so quickly, how much faster then could I slip into undesirable circumstances if I am not constantly vigilant in trying to cultivate the humility to be obedient, no matter what is asked of me?
Life never stops testing us. Difficult things never stop being required of us. Sometimes, it is immediately obvious why we must do something. Sometimes, we never (in this life) know why we were supposed to do something, or not do something. But I know that our lives are blessed when we exercise the faith to believe that whatever the Lord requires is right. It has been amply proved to me that when we are obedient to His commandments and promptings, we are blessed for it, and all things will work together for our good, even if we can't understand how.
The key to a joyful life, regardless of what circumstances we may be in, is to learn to say, not begrudgingly but with a genuinely joyful and grateful heart, "I'll go where you want me to go, dear Lord. . .I'll say what you want me to say. . .I'll be what you want me to be".
This morning I was upstairs at the computer working on my lesson for Relief Society, when my toddler started to cry--and not an angry, get-this-sibling out of my face cry or an irritated I-can't-reach-what-I-want cry. It was that sad, loud, it-really-really-hurts cry. So I went to investigate. I found my crying toddler laying on the floor between the kitchen and the livingroom with her face and shirt covered in Nutella. I turned to examine the cupboard where said Nutella had been hiding, and saw that my white microwave and medium-oak stained cupboards were also covered in Nutella. The outside of the Nutella jar was covered in Nutella--but the lid was on, straight and secure. As frustrated as I was about her nasty bruise and 2 hours of misery (thank goodness it finally occurred to me to give her some Tylenol--she was up all night, so my brain wasn't processing quickly), I was also impressed that before she fell trying to get down from the counter, she managed to open the chocolate by herself and get the lid back on when she was done. Quite crafty for being under 2. If she can learn to keep herself clean and avoid falls, she could be dangerous.
So now that school has started, Kylie won't have her big sister around to entertain her. I think that this means she'll be getting into mischief a bit more often. Keilana wanted watermelon for an after-school snack, so I was cutting up a giant melon and had to turn my back for a minute to rinse something off in the sink. While my back was turned, Kylie helped herself to a big piece of watermelon that I hadn't chopped up yet.
And she ate the whole thing. That's how she rolls.
She's a builder. She loves blocks, giant Legos, etc, etc., and frequently proudly shows me her creations. But apparently when I'm doing dishes and there are no Legos in sight, stacking paper towel rolls and Ziploc containers will do: Oh, toddlers. They're my favorite. This age is when I could just eat them up for all their scrumptiousness, and find myself constantly laughing at their antics and discoveries.
Yesterday was the first day of school in Lindsay!! Everybody was very excited and ready to go (no one more than Mommy, after a very long Monday with the kidiots). So after a Monday night blessing from Daddy and Tuesday morning oatmeal and bran flakes, we headed out the door.
Keilana is in first grade this year. She was a little bummed that none of her close buddies from Church/Mom and Dad's social circle are in her class this year, but she knew quite a few of the kids, so it was OK. She told me she had a really good day, practicing writing and making a new book, "Que?" Her teacher sent home a little handout and she asked me what it said. I replied that I wasn't sure, since I was only getting parts of it because I don't know enough Spanish. "Let me help you," she said, and crawled up to the counter and proceeded to translate it successfully, sentence by sentence for me. I'm more grateful all the time that we decided on dual immersion. My little social butterfly was definitely ready to get back to spending six hours a day with other kids. Dylan started preschool. I wasn't sure I was going to send him to preschool (I only get them for 5 years before they're off to school everyday, after all), but he started asking halfway through the year last year when he got to go to school and really wanted to go. Though they didn't tell me this when I signed him up (have I mentioned that our school system is not great at the whole communicating with parents thing?), he was put in the special needs class. One of the preschool classrooms is set aside for kids who fall under the ADA/Special Ed umbrella and then once they have those kids covered, they fill the rest of the class up with "normal" kids, for much-needed socialization in both directions. We laughed when the teacher told us it was the Special Needs classroom, and she looked at us quizzically. We explained that while he's very bright, that seemed somehow appropriate for our "unique" little guy. Based on our brief conversation yesterday, I think I'm really, really going to like his teacher. And since its a special needs class, its very small--about 10 or 12 kids. And Dylan was very excited that Lulu is in his class!! Miles is, too, so he has some good buddies with him.