Sunday, December 30, 2012

That's my girl

Doug wanted to go for a drive today, but Dylan and Kylie were quite adamant that they were not interested in going for a drive, so I stayed home with the two of them and Keira, and Keilana got on some snow gear and went on an adventure with her dad.  This is the pass west of town, and a bit out of frame, stage left, is a small waterfall that tumbles down the mountain.  They drove up to Discovery Ski resort, so Keilana could see where she'll be starting her skiing lessons two weeks from now.

She needed this today.  This past week, I almost forgot what I love most about Keilana: her adventurous spirit, her wanderlust, how much she loves to go.  She is always on the lookout for a new experience, interesting things to do, places to go, things to eat.  She's been busy right from the start (and when I say "the start", I mean it: she scooted herself up several inches on the little warmer they put her 4-minute-old self on to clean her up in the delivery room--she was ready to go somewhere and didn't sleep more than 40 minutes til about her first birthday, always seeming as though she was afraid she'd miss something if she gave in to fatigue).  If you want to go on a mountain hike, try out a new lake for swimming or fishing, learn a new sport, spend a day traipsing around Disneyland, try that weird new food you've never heard of, or visit a new town, she's your gal.  She'll keep up, she'll giggle, she'll never complain or seem tired and she'll be excited about every second of it.  We've been holed up in a house most of the week, without anything very interesting happening.  That's not her style.

I'm sure she'll have adventures of every sort, and if her current habits are any indication, I'm sure we'll see lots of photos, and hear every last detail about them.

That sounds pretty perfect to me.


In Sunday School today, we talked for a while about fellowshipping, keeping track of each other, and what we can do to show love to people who may be less active or inactive.  A few people pointed out that, ultimately, we have to have our own foundation and drive, our own testimony and tenacity, and I ultimately agree--you don't ride to exaltation on other people's testimonies.  But that doesn't negate the obligation we have to uplift and befriend and nurture those around us (and for the record, I think every person who made one of the comments I referenced would agree whole-heartedly).  My testimony is solid and has been for a very, very long time, but that being said, its impossible to overstate the influence that good friends and conscientious leaders have had on me.

When I was a teenager, my entire family was inactive except for my mom.  I would've kept going even if I felt all alone, but I was much more actively engaged and spiritually fed because of the kind attention, affection and encouragement of people like Brett and Erica Allen, Lynette Mikkelsen, Marci Leishman, Rod Arlint, Judy Best, and dozens of other people who consistently made their love for me known in both large and small ways.

I always appreciated that, but I appreciated it more after living in a different ward for 2 years and never felt in all that time like I was actually a member of the ward or that anyone there really cared one way or another whether I was there or not.  I had a small calling that only required my time once a month, and I still struggled to find the motivation to do it.  It was a large ward, and yet few very people reached out, welcomed us (and at that point in my life, I was still absolutely no good at doing that myself).

In Lindsay, I had the opposite challenge of having either a really big calling or 3-4 smaller callings at the same time the whole time I was there, which would make it really easy to feel like just throwing in the towel because there's no time or energy left.  But I had amazing friends.  I had one of the best bishops anyone could ever ask for:  he was my good friend, a trusted confidante, who knew the youth, who knew what was going on in our program and with our kids as individuals, who used his third hour on one Sunday a month to teach my girls.  I had an amazing counselor who always knew what to do before I asked, who certainly became a sister to me, who loved those girls even more than I did.  So many women (and men) in that ward reached out to me, became my friends and my extended family, and often expressed their love, appreciation, and affection.  In the years that I lived more than a thousand miles from my family, I can say sincerely and with a very full heart that I never lacked for sisters and brothers.  Their love was the fuel that I ran on for years.

So, yes, we ought to have a firm enough foundation, a strong enough conviction in our testimony that we can stand firmly even if we stand alone.  But because that testimony involves a covenant to care for one another, none of us should ever have to stand alone.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The thrill of hope

Weary is a word I've thought about a lot. It brings to mind not just tired, but worn out--worn down. I love Christmas time because it is so often true that at this time of year, like at no other, a weary world chooses to rejoice.

The world is often a discouraging and difficult and ugly place.  In the places that I call "home", there have been multiple violent murders in the last few months.  On the other side of the country, a classroom full of first graders was mowed down by a lunatic with a gun.  Around the world, far more people live under oppression and in war zones than live in peace and liberty.  We all have our various, wearying challenges in life, be they physical ailments, financial trouble, broken relationships or some other such burden.  Life is exhausting.

But yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.  It is the night of our dear Savior's birth. . .he appeared and the soul felt its worth.  That light shines clear and bright anywhere a soul remembers the true definition of charity--not a mere transfer of funds, but a Christlike love, where both giver and receiver are enriched and enlightened.

Too often we make the same mistake that many of Christ's disciples made during his earthly ministry and mortal death--we think that he has failed us because he hasn't removed our earthly troubles, the things that too often weary us.  We forget that he has not come to free us from Ceasar, but from sin and death.  We must still overcome challenges, we must still learn patience and discipline.  We must still learn to turn to him to lighten our load or strengthen our shoulders as we learn to trust that his law is love and his gospel is peace.

The steady downward march of the world is not evidence of the Savior failing or abandoning us--it is fulfillment of prophecy indicating that it is not long yet before his final victory.  Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother, and in his name all oppression shall cease.  That time is coming, and in that day only light will remain. But for all the troubles and difficulties, we can choose to live in that light now.

Most epic stories have a similar arc: things start out light and promising, and then troubles and challenges start to come, until before long the world has become terribly dark and frightening, and the main players are all on the verge of losing hope because the task seems impossible.  And then the seemingly impossible happens: good triumphs, evil is defeated, and the world is full of light and joy again.  Instinctually, we know that that is exactly how the real story, the story we're all in, goes:  a baby born, a child raised, with wonderful promise, with great hope.  He teaches amazing doctrine and performs miracles, despite the corrupt and sometimes downright cruel culture around him.  But then comes a moment when it appears to those around him that the evil men have won: their Lord is slain, and the very earth groans and quakes with grief.  How could any good come of this?  How could they go on?  What hope was there left to them? As they weep in grief, confusedly trying to figure out a way forward, suddenly their Lord appears to them--he has risen.  That baby, so full of hope and promise, has become the Resurrected Christ.  He didn't slay the evil men who murdered him, he conquered evil itself.  He conquered death, never to die again, offering us the promise of a life eternal, a life that is always full of light, joy and love.

Remember that in your darkest nights, at times when the world seems daunting and it feels as though hope is foolish: the story has long been written, there is no doubting the outcome.  Good always triumphs, evil always loses and no matter how dark the night, the sun will always rise.  One day, it will never set. Look for the rays of light that point to that perfect day and believe in Good.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Old Habits. . . .

So, there's three or four inches of snow on the ground.  I forgot Kylie's snacks in the car after a trip to the church this afternoon, but didn't realize it until after I'd taken off coats, shoes, etc.

I debated for a few seconds before walking to the car barefoot because it just seemed like too much work to put on boots or shoes again.  Yes, apparently I'd rather put my bare little footsies in the snow than take two minutes to get shoes on.

It may be time to admit that I have a problem.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A little bit of light. . .

Its been a hard week.  Its been a hard couple of months.  Its way too easy for evil people to hurt innocent ones, whether their weapons of choice are fists, knives, bats, cars, guns or words.  Too many people will be spending their Christmas--a time that should be filled with joy--with heavy hearts, and every Christmas for the rest of their lives will likely be tied to a cumbersome grief for which there is no easy cure.

A few hours after the shooting in Connecticut, a loved one of mine posted what he believed to be the shooter's Facebook profile picture.  My first thought was, "No.  Forget him.  The fewer people who ever learn his name, the better.  He doesn't even deserve the fame that comes with infamy.  Don't let any other lunatic who is capable of this sort of thing see this boy getting recognition."

We give far too much attention to evil, focusing on it intently and applying the wrong remedies.  We call for laws and regulations and reforms, because when we are hurt and angry about things beyond our control, it is instinctual to reach out and grasp more firmly anything that we feel we can control.  We want to believe we can legislate away evil, because its just too scary and overwhelming to think that maybe, just maybe, there really is nothing we can do.  We will not defeat evil by studying it or banning it.  We can only overcome evil by studying, and more importantly by doing, good.

We can indeed to something, but what we can do to affect real change isn't found in chambers of national government.  Its found in our personal, one-to-one relationships, in the homes and communities that we build.  We can't legislate away evil--as scary and discouraging as that reality is--but we can increase the goodness in our homes and our communities.  We can teach our children that everyone we know and everyone we meet is a child of God, and so ought to be treated with every ounce of kindness, patience and love that we can muster, and then we set the example so that our children know what we mean.  We don't wait to be asked--we pay attention, we notice the little things, and we reach out to the people around us and meet their needs.  When I reflect on my own life, some of the acts of service that meant the most to me, and had tremendous impacts on my life and who I am, were things like a five-minute "How are you doing, I love you" phone call, a sincere compliment that came when it was most needed, and an unexpected thank-you note.  We have no idea how much good we can do until we try.  You will only be a good person in a moment of crises if you don't wait for that moment to be a good person.

But there are still those parents and brothers and sisters and children who have lost loved ones and who, as they are surrounded by decorations and music that declare "joy" and "peace", feel anything but peaceful or joyful.  I pray that the promise of Christmas will penetrate their hearts this year, when they undoubtedly will need it more than ever.  As these parents mourn the loss of their babies, may they remember the grieving mother of Christ, after he was cruelly slain by evil men, weeping at her son's tomb, and, most importantly, may they remember that she did not long mourn for her child--he rose, she saw him again.  Death was conquered forever in the Resurrection of the Christ, and so these grieving parents will see their beloved little ones again, too, and never be separated from them again.  In Christmas, we celebrate the advent of a life that conquered death, of the One who conquers evil through his love and sacrifice.  When they see their children's faces again, it will be a world where evil is bound, and there is no more death, no more pain;  where the Lord wipes the tears from their eyes and there is no more weeping.  I pray that they will feel the love of the Savior surround them and that they will also feel the love, the spirits of their dearly departed, who are not so far away as it may feel at times.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Is it terrible

that I only really want another baby 
if I can somehow guarantee its another little boy?  
I love them at this size.  
I really, really do.  
The days are long 
when you're parenting the toddler age, 
but I stand firm 
that it just isn't ever more fun that that stage.  
I could pinch those little cheeks.  
And I still love this little guy more than I can say, 
even if he is 
an almost-seven-year-old now.

Brrrrr. . .

I managed to get myself out the door 
(and stay out for half an hour) 
at 6:30 this morning.  
It was about 4*F.  
I might need to invest in a treadmill eventually.  
But I won't lie: 
temps like that really motivate you to move fast.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Kylie is 4!!

Sassy Cheetah!

That's what Kylie told me she was for Halloween.  If it helps tell you anything about her personality, this photo wasn't posed, this is just how I snapped her "talking" to me. I found this little dress and ears combo at Goodwill (the dress had a tail) and she fell in love with it.  I thought it was a leopard.  She told me it was a cheetah, and then on Halloween, when we first got her dressed, she told me, "I'm a sassy cheetah, so I have to do sassy dance moves!"

She's a big personality, quite a character.  There's nothing small about her, really:  big, beautiful, blue eyes; big mouth that lets out a big laugh and a big (often bossy) voice;  she turned 4 today and has been wearing big girl size 5 clothes for months now; she's got a good-sized booty that she loves to shake.  She loves to dance, and is pretty obsessed with ballet.  She has a little pink tutu leotard that she puts on with a little pair of silver ballet flats that were handed down by a cousin ("these are my pointe shoes" she tells me) and asks me to turn on "ballet girl commercials" (YouTube videos of professional ballet) so she can dance along, and then does her best to mimic the movements she sees on screen.  She is supremely expressive and has the perfect facial expressions to accompany whatever dance she's doing at the moment.  When she's not a ballerina, she's usually a rock star, with lots of scarves and a microphone (no, I do not let her watch Aerosmith videos), jutting her hips from side to side and singing quite loudly.  When she's finally tired of dancing, she just turns into a frills-and-lace four year old.  She loves dresses and skirts, anything with sequins, feathers, or beads, and loves having her hair fixed fancy.  Unfortunately for my wallet, she's always sneaking into my makeup.

She's very verbose and quite confident, but for all her verbal dexterity and blustery confidence, she is quite sensitive, and has difficulty with teasing (especially sarcasm).  She is easily embarrassed, and has one of the most effective glares I've ever seen.  But she is affectionate and sweet, loves attention and hugs and fun conversation.

With her big ginger mane and girly of girly girl temperaments, I see a lot of boys in our (hopefully still distant) future.  She's a huge flirt and quite charming.  She is bright and picks up new ideas and tasks quickly.  She still loves to build--has since she was a very small toddler.  She started stacking cups and rolls of toilet paper and other such household items around her first birthday, and still loves blocks more than any of my other kids.  She is pretty good at making complex castles, forts and towers with her blocks. 

Maybe she'll be daddy's little architect.  Or maybe she'll be an actress.  Either or both would suit her quite well, and one of the best things about being four is that you can be whatever you want. Precocious and bossy, but still somehow gentle and sensitive, the world is wide open before her, and she absolutely loves discovering it.

Monday, December 10, 2012

For Myself

I actually posted this on Facebook on November 7, but wanted to record is here for myself.  To remind me how fortunate I am on those days when I feel like whining about my secondhand furniture or lack of nice wardrobe, instead of focusing on being grateful for the abundant ways in which I'm blessed.

I am tremendously grateful that my husband has gainful employment in his chosen profession. We arrived from California one year ago today. After spending 15 months trying to cobble together a living from savings, odd jobs, part time work, etc, and applying for nearly every job opening in Doug's profession in the Rocky Mountain and west coast states and a few midwest states--anywhere we even thou
ght we might be willing to move our family--and applying for a lot of jobs that were in some way sort of related to Doug's profession in those areas, and applying for $10-12/hr management jobs, and putting in applications at places like Lowe's, Sports Authority, etc, and not even hearing back from ANY of those places, and selling a lot of our possessions and uprooting our family to accept the help of others, we were struggling to stay optimistic about our future. Last spring Doug suddenly landed two interviews in a week, and the first one he went to led to a job offer, which led quickly to a promotion. I'm glad that we found this job, and that we found it here, in western Montana. For much of the time that we had little to no income, that was actually not even our primary trial--it was a tough couple of years and I will forever remain in debt to the many generous souls who saw us through some of the most difficult times in our adult lives. Thank you to the very best friends and families in the world. The thousands of acts of kindness that we have received have never gone unnoticed. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It still overwhelms me to even think about it. Our thoughts and prayers are with our many friends and family members who are still unemployed or underemployed. We think of you often.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Worth Remembering

I used this talk for my Relief Society lesson last week, and I was very grateful that I came across it.  Its speaks of so many of the things I often think about at Christmas, but expresses them more eloquently than I could ever hope to myself.

I don't think I ever really thought about Mary in a serious, meaningful way until I had my first baby.  It was several weeks shy of my 20th birthday, I was thousands of miles from most of the places and people that were familiar to me, and I was in an old, run down and poor country hospital that many mainland women turned their noses up at when it came time to have their babies.  But compared to Mary's experience, I was in the lap of luxury:  not only were my husband and mother at my side, but so was a highly trained, wonderful OB-Gyn who had delivered hundreds of babies, and plenty of capable nurses.  For all its quirks and deficiencies, Kahuku Hospital did have most modern technologies expected of American hospitals, and clean, sterile sheets and a comfy birthing bed (yes, I jest--there is no such thing as a comfortable birthing bed--but it was a bed, nonetheless).  It started to finally click for me what it must've been like to be 14 or 15, having your first baby away from home and family, with no assistance, in a dirty and drafty barn on a chilly spring night, after having ridden or walked about a 100 miles in the preceding days.  How terribly uncomfortable and frightening.

And as I have not just had babies, but raised children, it has dawned on me how daunting the task assigned to Mary and Joseph was. That difficult, uncomfortable night in Bethlehem was but a shadow of the sacrifices that they would ultimately make. Every parent has moments when she doubts herself--every parent sometimes thinks, I should've done this better, I should've done more of that.  I can only imagine how inadequate Mary and Joseph must've felt at times, knowing what and who they had to prepare their son to be.  It is astonishing how readily and humbly they accepted one of the most daunting assignments in history.

We remind ourselves often (as we should) that our Father gave his first born son.  As parents, I think we come to understand and appreciate that sacrifice a bit more as we better appreciate how much our children mean to us and how we loathe seeing them suffer.  I also think, however, that sometimes it still feels a bit removed--he is, after all, God, and so far beyond us in so many ways.  I think we would do well to remind ourselves that Mary, an inarguably exceptional but still very mortal woman, probably understood better than any other soul the words of Isaiah's prophecy as she held her newborn baby: "Unto a us a child is born, unto us a son is given. . ."  He was very much hers, and yet she knew that he was ours, and she and Joseph together reared the living Son of God, fed and clothed and taught him, to help him become what they knew he must be.  The Father gave his first born son, for which we ought to express gratitude and reverently rejoice, but it is worth remembering that, nearly as willingly, Mary gave her firstborn son, as well.  At the beginning of Jesus' life, there was Mary, in pain, exposed, tired in every joint, bone and right into her soul.  At the end of his life, the Savior hung on the cross, in excruciating pain, exposed, more thoroughly exhausted than any other soul before or since, and there, always as close as she could be, at the foot of his cross, was his beloved mother, undoubtedly in anguish at the sight of her son's agony, having to part with the child that she had sacrificed so much for.  Again, she probably knew better than any other living soul that his death and resurrection would bring us all new life.

So as you celebrate the Savior, take a moment to remember those two nearly anonymous souls who were two of the chiefest figures in helping to give us the most precious gift in all eternity.  Think of what was asked of them, of all that they did to serve the one who ultimately served us all best, and consider if there isn't perhaps a bit more you could do to serve others in your life.  Even if that only means being a bit more patient, kind and compassionate.  Its as true now as it have ever been that the best gifts that we give are the ones we cannot wrap.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

What I Hope They Remember

One of my friends was here the other day and mentioned another mommy friend and said, "I just feel so inadequate around her.  I swear she never yells at her kids or loses her patience".  I agreed that said mom was indeed patient, but then added, "A lot of it is practice and experience". The mom making the comment has two children, the oldest being four.  The mom she spoke of has five kids, the oldest being 12.  In some ways, the more kids and more practice you have, the easier it gets to be patient.

I am a much better mother now than I was when Keilana was 3 and Dylan was 1 1/2.  First of all, a precocious, independent 8-year-old is much easier to be patient with and encouraging to than a precocious and independent 3-year-old (in most ways, anyway).  But I'm a much better mother to the 3-year-old and 1 1/2-year-old I have now than to the ones I had five years ago.  I've learned a lot, I've grown up a lot, and I've learned some lessons.  I always knew it was important to pick your battles, but I now have a better grasp on which ones are worth picking.  I've learned better organization and time and home management, making us all a lot happier and more patient.

That said, I still fall short a lot of days (or, more accurately, in a few ways every day).   So I hope that I do well enough that my kids remember the good things more than the bad. I know that she won't remember the nights from baby through toddlerdom where I stood  by her bed, holding her and singing hymns and Primary songs softly to soothe her to sleep when it seemed sleep would not come, standing and rocking until my back ached, but hopefully they will remember, somewhere in their unremembered memories, that tenderness and affection when they think of me. And I hope they remember that I kept singing those soft songs to them each night at bedtime, well into the big kid years. I hope they remember walks to the park and trips to the library.  I hope they remember me gleefully stomping and growling along with them as we read "Where the Wild Things Are".  I hope they remember those evenings sitting together in the livingroom with our scriptures open and that we try to to have family prayer every day.  I hope they remember sitting there shrieking in frustration while I calmly and quietly waited for the storm to pass so we could get back to learning to tie shoes. I hope they remember the random, impromptu side roads and day trips that add adventure to their lives and how much we all loved doing those things together.

And as I thought about all that, I was struck that this is the reason I have such affection for so many of the people who were in my life the last few years: they saw it all, the good, the bad and the ugly, but chose always to remember only the good and the beautiful in me, and reminded me of those things often.  I became better because they saw the best in me.  That's what I hope to give my kids, and hopefully I'll be good enough at it that they will be willing to reciprocate for me in their grown-up memories.

And, hopefully, I can get better at that with the adults in my life, too.  . . . .