Thursday, November 27, 2008


It was a pretty quiet Thanksgiving this year--at least compared with what we're used to.  Everybody had a lot going on this year, so instead of heading over to the coast en masse, it was just Doug, Keilana, Dylan and I at Mom's (Katy's) with Mom, Chuck, Sarah, Rachel and Brad.  It was tasty.  And so much left over pie.  So head to our house if you'd like some more pumpkin, lemon meringue or banana chocolate.  A few of the day's highlights:
Keilana in her "turkey hat", in the car on the way to Grandma's house.
Rachel working off dinner through a wrestling match with the kids.
Rachel giving Keilana's turkey hat a try.
The Winter girls trying to redeem themselves after I took a very unflattering photo of them. . .this one is much nicer.
The tryptophan kicking in.  Well, that or going to bed at 2am the night before.
The kids playing. . . .I don't know, something noisy.
Keilana hanging out with Grandma (working diligently on Alexa's baby blanket).  I can't get that girl to NOT cheese out.
Keilana trying (quite unsuccessfully) to get Brad out of her way.
Me, with 5 days to go until my due date.  But at most, I will no longer be pregnant 2 weeks from tomorrow.  Woohoo!!  I can't breath anymore, and its getting really annoying.

Overheard on Thanksgiving Day:

Doug (to Keilana upon waking):  "Where's Dylan?  He never got in bed with us.  Despite how uncomfortable it is, Daddy likes having you guys in bed with us."

Chuck (decrying his name):  Charles is the butler!

Keilana:  Daddy, stop being so weird today!

Keilana: You look like a turkey!

Dylan:  I want eat  
(2 hours after everyone else had had dinner, and he refused to eat and simply sat at the table salting his food).

Dylan: I want bite
(as soon as the pies came out)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Oh give thanks

Those of you who are regular perusers of my blog know that I have a habit of semi-regularly publishing lists of things for which I'm thankful.

I take time frequently to count my blessings (quite literally), because I have found that gratitude for all the wonderful little and big things that make up my life lead to more gratitude for the Lord.  As I become more grateful for the Lord and His constant hand in my life, for all his tender mercies and bounteous generosities, the more I love Him; the more I love the people in my life; the more I love myself the way that I should.  I firmly believe that gratitude is the surest path to a plethora of other virtues.

Inevitably, when I make my lists there's a lot "stuff" on them--things.  But time after time what I am the most grateful for are people.  My life is filled with so many glorious, wonderful people.

I taught a lesson for the girls on gratitude this week.  I had them read only one scripture:  ". . . .Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy heart and with all my soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." (Matt 22:37-39).  The Savior Himself said that everything else hinged on those two commandments.  Without that love, the rest is meaningless.

I have three great loves in my life (soon to be four!) who I simply cannot imagine life without.  And I know that whatever comes in this life, I will never be truly separated from them.  We are bound eternally by stronger bonds than man can imagine.  This Thanksgiving, it is that sealing power for which I am most grateful.

People make many, many mistakes.  Mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, wayward children--we all mess up.  But if I understand the promises of the sealing ordinances correctly, as long as there are people in that family circle, within the bonds of that seal, are striving for righteousness, it is nearly impossible to separate them.  How often do we benefit, not just temporally, but eternally, from the righteousness of our loved ones?  

My patriarchal blessing stated that through my marriage, I would be able to bring children into the world with whom I would form bonds that would last throughout all eternity.  As I have come to know these wonderful spirits better, my appreciation for who they are and what they can be has only increased, and I am anxious to get to know our newest addition.  Before you have a baby, it is hard to imagine who they will be and how they will change your life.  After you have one, its hard to imagine how you ever enjoyed life without them.

This year, as I look into the adorable faces of my strawberry-blonde babes and imagine what their little sister will look like, and as I snuggle up to my husband in all my round-bellied discomfort, I am most grateful for love that lasts forever--and the opportunity to enjoy it right now.

Monday, November 24, 2008

16 Things

"Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 16 random things, facts, habits or goals about you.  At the end choose 16 people to be tagged, including the person who tagged you."

Faye did a wonderfully thorough job of responding to this challenge and tagged me in her note, so I thought I'd give it a go.  I really enjoyed reading hers, so I've tried to convince myself that someone will find mine interesting, even though I generally find myself feeling that I can never be anything but deeply uninteresting to most people.  I also had trouble trying to think of 16 things about myself that I was willing to share with the world (or the small circle of folks who read my blog, anyway), that everyone doesn't already know.  Which leads me to. . . .

1).  I'm not good at sharing myself.  I like to tell funny stories about my life or things that happened to my friends/family members, but I am loathe to share anything meaningful beyond that.  Most people have found my blog to be far more open and emotional than I am in person.  It is.  Part of the reason I write it is as a form of mini-therapy for myself.  For years I have actively fought my natural tendency toward extreme introversion and crippling shyness, with many victories evident (such as living more than 1,000 miles outside my comfort zone and the people with whom I feel the most at home, as well as being able to carry on a one-on-one conversation with someone I've known less than a year).  However, it is still a very difficult challenge for me, which is why I generally refuse to reread my own posts--half the time just initially posting them makes me a bit queasy, but I can move on and more or less forget about it.  If I go back and reread them I start to get ill:  "I posted that up here?  For anyone to read?  What on earth was I thinking?! Pass the Pepto."

2). In a somewhat related line, I have the Keilana syndrome.  People who don't know me well think I'm quiet, while those who do wish I was:)  With my husband, Sam, my mom, most of my closer girlfriends, I can be an inexhaustible chatter box.   It is particularly bad when I'm with my mom, since I see her so seldom I guess I feel like I've got to get everything out at once so I don't miss anything.  Even so, those who know me best and spend the most time around me see me tend to swing to extremes--I am either full of conversation and can't seem to shut up even if its obvious that they're not interested in talking, or I have nothing to say at all.  I sometimes will go hours or days without saying hardly a thing and will barely notice that I haven't spoken to anyone.  I can spend days having conversations with myself in my mind, and not really need to interact with other people.  

3).  Which leads to the fact that I am almost never lonely.  Before being married and having kids, although I had many friends and a big family, I spent a good deal of my time intentionally alone.  Part of this was due, of course, to the circumstances of the time, wherein I had a difficult time relating to many people on the things that were of the most importance to me, but more of it was due to the fact that I like to just sit or walk alone, to be surrounded by stillness--no chattering crowds or busy activities.  Just me and my thoughts, or perhaps a notebook and pen. I still often feel quite anxious and on edge in large crowds, particularly of people I don't know well, and after an evening or week of heavy socializing I often have to retreat to near hermit status for a time to feel balanced again, even if I very much enjoyed the socializing.  I have sometimes wondered if I'm a little off my rocker as I have listened to friends talk about how lonely they are when their husbands aren't home.  When Doug is gone, I miss him terribly, but I don't necessarily feel lonely.  I am grateful to have married a man who also treasures his solitude and so does not misunderstand how I feel as a reflection of my feelings for him.  We enjoy our time together more than most couples I know, but we are both very independent spirits who need space to ourselves and understand and love that about each other.

4).  I love corduroy.  Seriously--corduroy pants, coats, stuffed animals, quilts, jumpers.  Love it.  I think there may have been some indoctrination from my mom on this point, though my memory is too hazy to say for sure.  First of all, one of my favorite books since I was small child is Corduroy.  I know this had something to do with my mom--it is one of her favorites and so it was read to me often.  One of the only items of clothing that I clearly remember my mom making for me when I was little was a pink corduroy jumper (and yes, I loved it and wore it all the time).  I have noticed when shopping for baby/child clothing with my mother that she is often drawn to corduroy jumpers for little girls.  Perhaps its a gene.  I also think that maybe it has something to do with the fact that I was a youngest child and so when I first started to get a sense of "cool", it was the mid 90s and many of the older kids I knew (siblings and friends of siblings) were in to grunge.  Hard to say if this was an influencing factor or not, as I have retained somewhat of a fondness for skate shoes, but no such overt love in my heart for flannel shirts.

5).  That reminds me of another one. One of my friends once gave me a splendid compliment when he said, "You're a great person to buy presents for, because you're just like Corduroy.  Whatever you get is just what you've always wanted."  I have pretty simple tastes and am pretty easy to please.  I am picky about very few things.  My husband both loves and detests this quality about me.  My wants are simple and few, so if we do have a bit of extra money to play around with, I very honestly don't care if he uses it to get new tools or a new toy.  On the other hand, being non-particular makes it nearly impossible for me to make simple decisions.  What do you want to eat?  What movie would you like to see?  The purple one or the green one?  I just don't care enough to make a decision, making simple tasks take much longer than they should.  And the few things about which I am picky, I am crazy anal.  Like. . . .

6). Cleanliness and order.  Clutter and uncleanliness make it difficult for me to focus and make me very, very grumpy.  On a day to day basis I keep my house quite tidy, and then clean blinds, windows, doors, baseboards, walls, etc. on a fairly regular basis.  Doug has a very bright but often disorganized mind--he is like the classic ADD kid.  His desk (and dresser and kitchen counter and work room) is constantly a pile of papers, receipts, disks, etc.  I try to keep these piles as neatly stacked and organized as possible, but they make me crazy.  Right now our carpet needs to be cleaned and some boxes in our dining room need to be put away, so no matter how clean I scrub the rest of the house, I always feel like its filthy and it makes me grumpy.  I had to rewash all the baby clothes that I will be reusing, even though they had been washed, put away in tight plastic containers and not touched in between uses.  If a dish is once used to feed an animal, I cannot ever again serve food to a human being from it, no matter how many times/to what degree it has been washed and sterilized.  I am not OCD, but I do need my own space to be clean and organized to feel relaxed.

7).  I love having my hair brushed or played with.  This may very well be in the genes, as it is a well known fact that one of my grandma's favorite things was having her grandkids stand behind her on the couch and brush her short grey curls.  While the indelicate nature of my 4-year-old doesn't lend itself particularly well to this activity (though I let her "fix" my hair all the time anyway--she loves it and I am not what could be in any way classified as "tender-headed"), when someone isn't ripping the brush through my hair, it is very relaxing and pleasant to me to have my hair brushed or braided.

8).  I tend to internalize other people's emotions and thus am often overwhelmed by heavy emotional conflicts.  I have always been non-confrontational to a fault by nature.  I am passive aggressive, but more often than not simply passive.  I have always had trouble walking away from someone who was hurting or angry or upset, because knowing or sensing they felt that way was very emotionally upsetting to me.  I had to do something.  When a conflict breaks out, I can almost always understand the emotions and reasons of individuals on either side, but am too wrapped up in their emotions to be a good arbiter while emotions are still running high.  In the past, this usually meant a good deal of my time spent listening to/comforting each individual after the disagreement and quietly trying to help them understand the other person's feelings without excusing their hurtful behavior.  Since having children, I have discovered that this has been. . .well, not replaced but more shoved aside by a mother bear instinct.  My primary concern in the moment is to shield my children from the conflict and to hell with how anyone else feels until that goal has been met.  My kids, who rarely see any conflict at home, are very upset by adults yelling at each other.  In our house, the words, "Shut up!" are bad words--if Keilana hears them she is likely to cry and Dylan will either cry or resort to that quiet, angry grimace he has so perfected.  When they yell at each other, they have to sit in separate spaces until they calm down and can "hug it out".  I do not like open conflict, but I also despise vicious passive aggression (my particular weakness), so I am determined to teach my children healthy, productive confrontation and to have something better than screaming matches or hurtful sarcasm modeled to them.

9). With a few rare exceptions, I hate the phone.  I would much prefer an email, text message, or to drop in.  I like talking to my mom and mother-in-law and Doug on the phone, but other than that it always feels like more of a chore.  Being a grown up tends to mean having to make a lot of phone calls, and this is especially true of my calling in Young Women, for which I am frequently on the phone.  I'm not sure where this aversion came from, but I have always found the phone to be an awkward tool for me, personally.  That's probably why I like the phone I have now so much. . . .it has so many useful tools besides the actual phone part.

10).  I love feeling like I'm in cocoon. This is why I love the cold so much.  Its not as much about being out in the cold and snow and freezing ice (though I love that too) as it is the wonderful feeling of being protected from it in a cozy little room.  I love to watch the snow fall outside and know how bitterly cold it is and be sitting in a warm house, preferably wearing a sweater and wool socks while sipping hot chocolate or cider and baking bread or cookies.  Its just hard to imagine anything more delightful than the warmth of home, the smell of a wood fire and fresh baked anything, and the coziness of sweaters and socks.  I love to feel snug.  And if I have someone to snuggle with under a cozy homemade quilt, so much the better.

11).  I never really wanted a career.  This was a hard thing for many of my friends to accept, as I talked about many different careers that I thought would be fun: doctor, teacher, anthropologist, counselor, wildlife biologist, physical therapist, etc.  And I really do think I would enjoy and be decent at any one of those--I think they'd be a great way to spend my time if I had to make a career.  But I have never, at any point in my life that I can remember, desired to do anything other than be a wife and mother.  People tell me that I'll be bored once my children are all in school/grown.  I have a hard time believing that.  First of all, I will have at least 3 children, and plan on a few more than that, so even if they're all at school I imagine there will always be a huge list of things to get done during the day while they're gone--I will simply be able to check items off the list more efficiently than if they were home.  But if they're gone and I have more time to read, more time to delve into writing or researching the huge and bizarrely random list of things-I'd-like-to-learn-more-about, great.  Once my children have all grown, they'll start having children of their own, and I'll get to be Grandma.  What could be greater than having a grandma who could and would take you pretty much any time because her schedule wasn't tied down to a traditional career?  I think nothing is more important than the marriage and family you build--the rest is just details.  I feel fulfilled and happy, so why on earth do I need to get a job and make my life busier?

12).  I have very, very little patience for people who equate being immature with being youthful and can be quite judgmental and rude to said people.  Now, does immaturity tend to go hand in hand with youth?  Of course, but one is not necessarily "youthful" because one behaves in a selfish and/or immature manner.  And of course, someone can be very mature and still very youthful.   If you're 30 and people always think--not because you have a baby face but rather because of your attitude or behavior--that you're 22, that is not a compliment.  And my own immaturity is revealed in this particular circumstance by my woeful impatience with such individuals.  If I ever say, "Wow, I would've guessed you were younger than that", unless its a specific reference to your looks or the age of your children, what I'm probably actually thinking is, "Wow, you sure know how to make an ass of yourself."

13).  Despite all the rambling just now, and the aversion to crowds and prolonged socializing mentioned above, I love people. I can count on one hand the number of people I don't like, and even that is more of a passing its-irritating-when-I-have-to-deal-with-this-person feeling than an active dislike.  I have rarely met anyone that I couldn't find something to like about and am constantly amazed and gratified by the wonderfulness (is that a word? if it isn't, it should be) of the people around me.  People I work with, people in my ward, family members (biological, step and in-law), other moms, dads, grandparents that I meet at the park.  I am so impressed by the wonderful diversity of personalities and talents that abound on a daily basis and admire so much about most of the people I know.  It would be easy for me to sit and list 100 different people I know and why I love them.  Perhaps that will be my Thanksgiving ritual this year. . . . .

14).  For all my faults, I rarely covet or envy anything.  I love to look at fancy cameras and dream of all the amazing photographs that I could take with one, but feel no bitterness or frustration when I look at the price tag.  I love to look at house plans and dream about what I would do with such a home, how I would furnish and decorate it, etc, but am content when I consider the possibility of always having a small home with a little yard and hardly any decor on the walls, so long as its filled with a happy family.  I love to look at toys and imagine all the wonderful things I could buy my children and the wonderful play spaces I could create for them, but then wonder if I would spend less time interacting with them myself if they had more stuff. I am not socially ambitious--I don't think there's even a gene in me for that, as far as I can tell--and I can count up the number of times in my life I've ever been truly jealous of anyone.  The things I have been jealous of have without fail been emotional connections I wish I had, but those needs more than any other are met by the Gospel, and so that jealousy has generally been short-lived (though intense).  I am not terribly competitive, and so I rarely have ever felt like I was behind, which has saved me a lot of frustration in life.

15).  That may be one of my virtues, but I am about to share a major vice, so it balances out, right?  I tend to take someone's feelings--emotional or physical--much less seriously the more dramatic or theatrical they are about them.  For example, when my husband gets a flu that affects his whole body, there is are kinds of horrible facial contortions involved when he has to get up to perform a simple task like get a drink or walk to the bathroom.  There is much moaning and groaning every time he coughs, rolls over or is forced to lift his head.  My natural tendency toward compassion is oddly diminished by demonstrative behavior--I am inclined to snarkily mutter, "Drama queen" and think to myself "It can't possibly be that bad," even though I know just how miserable the same type of thing is.  Now, I use Doug as an example because I trust that if he reads this, he'll forgive me.  But this is true of nearly everyone I interact with--overdone screaming because of physical pain or seemingly overwraught emotions make it hard for me to take people seriously.   Isn't that terrible?  This is because I forget that not everyone is:

16).  Emotionally repressed.  Hahaaahaha.  I am, of course, a very, very emotional person, but I tend to keep my emotions (aside from happy or irritated) to myself most of the time.  Much less so than I used to, though.  That has been a constant effort on my part.  My twin brother is also a very emotional being and when we were young, he tended to let his emotions fly and consequently was a more fun mark than I was and got picked on a lot more.  I was an extremely sensitive child and was heartbroken when anyone was mean to me, so I think seeing that only reinforced my natural tendency to turn inward.  I always had a sort of compulsive need to be liked and to get approval, and I think part of me just instinctively thought that being nothing but happy all the time would make me more likable to people (which it did for the most part).  I am very happy in life and do have a naturally cheerful and upbeat disposition, but I don't feel the need to "fake it" any more when I don't feel sunny.  I worshipped my big sister when I was little and something that always amazed me about her was that she always seemed so in control (now, maybe when we were kids she wasn't as much as I remember--she is 8 years older than me, after all, I may have missed a lot), and she still is.  But that's who she is, not who I am, and as I grew up I slowly learned (and am still learning) to embrace my own emotional nature.  Its a part of who I am and said emotions are one of the things that tend to endear me most to those who know me best.  I just have to keep reminding myself that.

So, are these really 16 different things?  I don't know, a few of them are really just further exploration of the same trait repeated, I guess.  But its the only 16 I'm willing to put out there for now.  And I definitely will not be rereading this post, so if there are spelling or grammatical errors, deal with it--they aren't going to get fixed.

Highs and Lows

Lately I feel like I've got the stability of a drug addict.  I had such a fantastic morning--best Sacrament meeting I've been to in quite a while.  The talks were on tithing, a principle I really never struggle with at all, and yet I was able to actually focus and prevent my mind from wandering.   I didn't have to fight with the kids at all, even though we were sitting right behind the Meiks and next to the Ashcrafts, so there were all kinds of other kids there to distract them into noisy nuisances.  Instead, they were quietly hilarious.  I felt so relaxed and at ease, and it was so easy to just sit there and feel like, "This is what its all about."  The other Meik family did a musical number.  Nathan and Faith both sing beautifully, and their older kids (7&9) sang quite well, also.  It was hard not to smile hearing the words to "O My Father" while watching their 2 year old and 1 year old pull at their hair/ears/jewelry/etc and their 3 year old mouth the words with intense earnestness.   Then, when Tim stopped about 3/4 of the way through his talk to let his 4 year old, James, sing "I Am a Child of God" with him, I simply thought the day couldn't get any better.

The rest of the morning went that way, really.  Everything just seemed to fit, to flow as it should and I found myself more in love with my children (and, for that matter, everyone else's children).   I felt like maybe I'm ready for Thanksgiving, after all.   Finally feeling truly grateful for what is, really, an incredibly wonderful life.  

After church I got a few bits of rather deflating news.  None of it was truly surprising in any way, none of it truly "new" I guess.  But all of it still difficult for me to grasp.   Thus, my crash started.  It was a slow descent--it began with cynical, sarcastic humor that was far too flippant and rude for anyone's good.  It went from there to frustrated rehashing, and then by the end of the evening, I bottomed out--feeling depressed and biting back tears.  

I felt like I got my morning fix, but then lost it with no stash in the house to quickly pick me back up.   Then I woke up this morning to a cheerful husband and two delightfully perky and non-demanding kids who snuggled up to me under our warm covers, fighting off the cold morning air.  We all said a prayer together before Daddy had to drive to Fresno to take a 4-hour test and I remembered again, "This is what it's all about."  And it is a truly wonderful life.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Parent-Teacher Conf and Baby Shower

I had my first parent teacher conference as a parent today (that's still a little weird).  Sounds like Keilana is doing very well at school.  Her teacher said her basic math and reading skills are excellent, and her social skills are even better.  Apparently they get to see the real Keilana--she was described as talkative, enthusiastic and fun.  She loves the playhouse, spending a lot of time on make-believe (and apparently assigning her friends roles--yes, this was a polite way of saying she's a little bossy).  She follows direction very well and seldom needs correction (and I can tell from the tone of her teacher's voice when she told me this as well as from the 10-15 minutes I spend in the classroom before school everyday that this a trait they very, very much appreciate).  I was so glad to hear that she opened up and they get to see the same joyful little girl that I see everyday.

Tonight, a couple of friends of mine threw me a baby shower.  It was a lot of fun, and everyone (including a few friends who weren't able to make it but thoughtfully sent presents anyway) was very, very generous.  It was pretty funny to look around the room, because Emily and Angie--who threw the shower for me and are sisters--are both pregnant, due in January and February, respectively, and Amanda and I were sitting there looking like we were about to pop.  And then Christa, with her beautiful 4-day old daughter.  It was a very baby-centric baby shower. :)  It was nice to spend an evening with friends and family, just talking and laughing and relaxing (without our kids!).  Ellen made it, which I was glad for.  She's Doug's cousin, and seems very sweet (and by all accounts is), so I love having opportunities to get to know her a bit better.   Just a couple quick highlights from the evening:

Keilana was an excellent present assistant, fetching the presents for me and helping me open them.  She reminded me several times that they were Kylie's presents, not mine.
I see pictures like this and it helps me feel a bit justified about how uncomfortable I feel.  And doesn't Alexa look cute?
I like pictures from the front. . .I don't look nearly so massively pregnant.
And the reason I brought the camera. . .wanted a few pictures of Alexa.  Isn't she a pretty little thing?  Only 4 days old and already out partying with the girls.  The second picture is pretty good, but I'm not sure who took it.  Rachel, maybe?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How quickly we forget

I went to see my midwife today, and after the regular measure-the-belly, listen-to-the-heart routine, she did quite a bit of external palpitation to try to figure out how baby girl Clark is situated and what her size is.  She's sitting exactly like I thought she was based on what I could feel and her movement patterns.  Rita said she'd guess at this point she's about 7 1/4 pounds, if not a little bigger, with a few weeks still to grow.   Now, she could be way off, but given the size of my first two babies, that sounds about right.  That seems so small, especially after holding Christa's almost-7 pound baby this week.  It amazing how quickly we forget just how small they are when they get here.  I was looking at pictures of Keilana and Dylan when they arrived to help my brain adjust from 35 pound 2-year-old mode to newborn mode.

Keilana napping (a rare happening even then!) at exactly one week old.
Trying to escape the confines of her bassinet at exactly 2 weeks (dressed up for Daddy's graduation that day).
Dylan at home at 3 days old. . . .his 0-3 month sleepers certainly seem to have a lot of wiggle room!

My 20 month old toddler holding her baby brother (about 9 hours old in this picture) for the first time.  They BOTH look really small in this one! :)

Peace, be still. . . .

I have been far less kind and charitable in recent months than is my usual habit and inclination.  I have been far less patient.  I have retreated deeply back into my sarcastic habits.  I have been more vulgar (which for me generally means being more blunt than usual and using "hell" and "damn" a lot--being tired and physically out of sorts only worsens that habit, I'm afraid).  I have been more judgmental than I usually am, more quick to assume the worst--well, maybe not the worst, but more bad than good.  These things are all very contrary to the person I have been most of my life, I don't like myself very much when I behave this way.

Much of it is due to fatigue and frustrations that began before I even got pregnant, and those things have continued to prove more and more difficult, even as my hormones and tired muscles and achy everything have exaggerated those difficulties and my reaction have become poorer and poorer.

Keilana has been in love with the song "Give Said the Little Stream" lately, singing it often.  If you're not familiar:

"Give," said the little stream,
"give oh give, give oh give,
"give," said the little stream
as it hurried down the hill.
"I'm small I know, but wherever I go
"the grass grows greener still."
Singing, singing all the way, 
"Give oh give, oh give away."
Singing, singing all the way, 
"Give oh give away."

One of the reasons we have children is to help keep us focused and remind us what is good when we have perhaps momentarily lost sight of it.  Another children's song we don't sing very often, a Christmas song, says, "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me."

How to we find peace?  Just as the little stream, give oh give away.  No matter how small the difference, if we simply strive to be generous spirits (with our money, our time, our talents, ourselves), we may make a parched bit of earth a bit greener.  And that's enough.

Let there be peace on earth.  And let it begin with me.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I was right!

My sister Christina (West, not Umphrey:) ) had her baby this morning.  She had a little girl!!  They didn't find out, so we all took guesses, and I was one of the few who guessed correctly, so I'm pretty jazzed:)   Alexandra Bailey West (I believe that's all spelled right) was born around 10 this morning, measuring 20 inches long and weighing 6 pounds, 13 ounces (almost a full pound bigger than her brother was!).  She is a cutie.  She definitely has her momma's big, pretty mouth and though I didn't see them (she was a little too wrapped up and I didn't want to disturb her) she apparently has beautiful piano player hands.  I was surprised to see that, even though she was only about 4 hours old when I met her, she was already very round and pink, rather than squished and blotchy:)

Christa actually looked pretty good herself.  She was able to have a natural delivery, even though she had an emergency c-section with her first baby.  Sounds like things went pretty smoothly, overall, and I'm glad she was able to delivery vaginally.  All Katy's kids were mostly problem-free regular deliveries, but the previous 7 births among her daughters had all, for one reason or another, been c-sections.  Way to break the trend, Christa!!  

Anyway, just wanted to share the happy news with everyone.  I think her nickname is going to be either Alexa or Alex, though I'm not sure which.  Its about time we got some girls around here.  Keilana's been the only one for so long!  Well, we've got two more coming next month, I guess.  Wish us luck!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions I am tired of answering all the time, and my responses.

How old are you?
24.  Yes, really.  No, its ok, I understand that that's hilarious because 1984 is the year you started middle school/finished HS/came home from your mission/etc.

Doesn't going barefoot hurt your feet?
No.  Think logically here--unless you think I'm a masochist (and only a few of you do), why on earth would I persist in a behavior that was painful?  I like feeling the dirt or grass under my feet, I tend to have more careful and surer footing on uneven ground, and my feet hate being hot and cramped in shoes.

Is Dylan always like that?
Yeah, pretty much.

Do you always talk like that?
No.  I almost never talk like that. I write like that and had everything I said written down.  In conversation, I generally use only half my vocabulary and very little real emotion, I giggle too frequently and for no good reason, and I don't think--or rather, express--on my feet very well.

Where do your kids get their red hair?
From the recessive genes carried by both myself and my husband.  I don't have time to go over the basic genetics, but trust me, they're in there.

Is  your family Catholic?
No.  My family is LDS for multiple generations on most lines, though they have struggled with inactivity, which I occasionally imply.  Any comments from my husband about my mother being Catholic or being raised Catholic should be dismissed as the silly jokes that they are.

Wouldn't it be cool if you had twins?
Don't make me slap you.

Are you and your brother identical or fraternal twins?
Identical twins are just that--genetically identical.  I know this is a difficult concept, so pay attention.  Michael and I have at least one HUGE genetic difference:  he is male and I am female.  We are from two different eggs and two different sperm.   Identical twins are from one fertilized egg that splits, therefore making it impossible for there to be both X and Y chromosomes.  While Michael certainly holds a special place in my heart, we are no more genetically alike than any of the rest of my siblings (actually less genetically alike than my sisters and I).

Isn't all that hair hard to take care of?
No. I have long hair largely due to tress laziness.  I wash it, I brush it and I leave it alone. I may braid it or put it in a pony tail.  I don't have to style it on a daily basis or maintain a haircut.

Can I see your phone?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I feel like I'm actually getting somewhere!!  Last week, we started cleaning out the garage, taking things to Goodwill and throwing stuff out.  I went through the kids' toys one day while Keilana was at school and Dylan was occupied on the computer, and sent a whole bag of toys to Goodwill, as well as some old books, etc.   Doug has been using our 4th bedroom as a shop, which is slightly annoying just because it didn't have a lot of space for him to work and when he wanted to use things like saws and such after bedtime, it kept the kids awake (and kept Dylan very intrigued by power tools. . .ugh).   

So, now that we've gotten rid of a few things, we are working on making a switch.  Doug's work table and the majority of his tools are down in the garage now (where he is currently building me a pretty new oak coffee table).   There are a few more things he needs to get down there, which I'm sure he'll be happier about doing once he gets some pegboard hung up so he has somewhere to put his tools away.  Then, I can vacuum out the extra bedroom, stack up the extra boxes from the garage (hopefully getting them on some utility shelves soon).  Once that's done, we will have some more usable space, for visiting friends or play space.  Maybe I'll even do some sewing if there's space to set up a machine. :)

Today I got Doug's bass amp and speaker unit moved over into the corner by the desk with his guitar and bass, so there is actually nice, clean space by our bed to put up our crib.  Now if I could just manage to get the crib here from Amanda's, we'll be in business!! That was quite an accomplishment, because I had to move our desk over (a solid wood behemoth that's about 3 feet deep and four and half feet long), and those amps are no feather-lite things themselves.  I also got our infant seat and baby swing out of the garage, stuck all the removable parts in the washing machine and cleaned up all the rest.  They both look suitable for actually placing a baby in.

I've got out all 0-3 month size baby girl clothes.  When Mom and Sisterbella came down, she brought me a bag of random baby clothes. She wasn't entirely sure what all was in it, but it turns out there were several 3 month sleepers (as well as some great Grizwear!).  This is tremendously helpful, as Keilana was born in June and spent her first three months in Hawaii and California so she was scarcely ever clothed, let alone in anything heavier than a short sleeved onesie.  I still need to get a few sleepers and onesies and hats (oh yeah, and socks or booties--cold little feet!), but a friend of mine recently offered to throw a baby shower for me (because she's just awesome like that!), so I'll probably wait and see what I get there before I do any shopping.  Particularly since I haven't done any Christmas shopping yet!  

I'm still trying to get everything clean--the worst part, because a part of me can't ever relax because things aren't tidy yet.  I organized our closet yesterday, throwing some things out and getting everything else arranged in a way that actually made sense.  It looks SO much better.  Next I've got to get the blinds and windows upstairs cleaned (they are so dusty), but fortunately I was able to clean all the ones downstairs last month, and they still look pretty good.  I was able to clean out behind the stove and refrigerator a few weeks ago, but I still need to clean the oven and the fridge out.  Once we've finished rearranging boxes from the garage (a few of which are stacked in our dining room), I can rent a carpet cleaner and shampoo our carpets.  I am very much looking forward to that, because I cannot stand dirty carpets.  No matter how clean I get the house, I never feel like its really clean as long as the carpet needs to be cleaned.  

But once I've checked those items off my list, all we've got to do is set up the crib (and get that beautiful quilt out!), buy some diapers and get decorated for Christmas.  How I look forward to a being in a very organized, very clean house decorated for my most favorite of holidays, nestled down on the couch with new little baby in my arms, all in the glow of holiday lights.  

Three weeks til my due date, and 4 1/2 weeks at most until we welcome Kylie (and hopefully have everything else done).  Whew!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

If you can't make them see the light

Friday evening, Doug and I went up and did a temple session with our good friends Kindon and Angie.  We haven't done a session together in months, so it was just nice to be there, and the company made it that much better.  A delicious dinner at PF Chang's afterward didn't hurt the experience much either.

I've been needing something for months (as evidenced by all the whining and frustration in my blogs), but I had overlooked the need, instead blaming everything on fatigue and pregnancy hormones and stressful situations at work and in our social lives.  While all those things have certainly been reasonable and significant concerns, I have been craving time in the temple.  Its just that I have been so muddled, I had trouble recognizing that craving.  I have felt a bit renewed, much more relaxed and tremendously more at peace in the last two days than all of the last two months combined.  I needed that for myself, and my husband and children need that from me, as we all prepare to expand our family circle and possibly make even more changes.  It is true that no matter what's going on with everyone else, the tone of the home is set by the wife and mother, and the feeling in our home the last few days has been much more peaceful.  How grateful I have been to be able to give that back to my family, as it has been missing far too frequently in recent weeks.

On the car ride there and back and over dinner, conversation ranged all over the place--the recent election (and fall out from Prop 8), mutual friends, family stories, kids and parenting, etc--but at one point, we began talking about a mutual acquaintance who has struggled to get his act together his whole life and whose situation has recently taken a major turn for the worse.

The crux of the conversation was about helping vs. enabling.  Doug hates enabling behavior and becomes quickly aggravated and upset at anything he perceives as such, or anyone he sees displaying that type of behavior.  He has experienced far too personally what one person enabling another's bad habits can do not only to an individual but to a family, and all those affected by the line of dominoes that runs from that individual.  I understand the compulsion to feel like if I just do a little more, if I just "help" a little bit longer, things will change.  But one of the most difficult and painful lessons I have ever had to learn is that there is no helping someone who doesn't want help.  Not someone who says they want help, but someone whose behavior demonstrates a true desire to change, to grow, no matter how painful or difficult that must be.  The truth is, we don't help someone, not really, by shielding them from the consequences of their actions.

I understand that often being an enabler comes from a desire to be Christlike, to be a safe harbor for someone, a shelter from the storm.  While certainly eternally Christ saves us from the consequences of our own actions--that is what the Atonement is, really--He does so only after we take full responsibility for those actions (or inactions).  Only when we feel true Godly sorrow and understand the gravity of what we have done does that Atonement apply.  And in this world, as we are still in the midst of making our mistakes, often the kindest and most merciful thing the Lord does for us is let us get a bit drenched by the rain and parched by the heat.  

We can aspire to lofty ideals all we want (and I certainly am working towards ideals I believe in), but the simple fact of the matter is that human beings are primarily driven by the desire to obtain pleasure or avoid pain.  If someone is constantly trying to save us from the pain or discomfort our own actions may cause us, the sad truth is very few of us would have much motivation to change our behavior.  That's human nature.  Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone you love is to step back and let them fall flat on their face.   The thing about hitting rock bottom is that you've got nowhere to go but up.  Now, its true that some people will just sit there.  But most people will eventually get sick of the dark and misery and start climbing.  That's when its time for a hand up.

While I love Ronald Reagan, he's not generally someone I quote when it comes to spiritual topics.  One of his more famous sayings, though, I think applies here:  "If you can't make them see the light, then let them feel the heat."  When someone is in a pattern of destructive behavior, we try to help by guiding them to true principles.  But if they won't have any of that, the next best thing we can do is have enough faith that if we hold their feet to the fire, they'll start making those changes.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

New Clark

Literally.  Just wanted to let everyone know that Doug's sister, Melissa (the one not pictured in the Halloween lineup), had her little boy today.  Poor girl was a week and half overdue, induced last night, and had a c-section this afternoon.  But it sounds like everybody's doing really well now. 

Clark Abrahm McDonald (I think that's how Katy spelled it to me on the phone) weighs 7lbs, 8 oz, is 20 inches long and is a healthy boy!  Congrats to Melissa and Nate!  I'm sure they're glad that their little boy has arrived healthy and that she's finally no longer pregnant:)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Signs of Winter

As most of you are aware, I have been (quite impatiently) awaiting the arrival of winter, or at least a real fall.  Here are a few signs from the last few days that winter is indeed on its way.

1. Stomach flu.   Saturday we went to Visalia to pick up a few things from Target and gas up at Costco ($2.43! Woohoo! We may buy a few Christmas presents after all!), and Doug decided to pull into A&W's drive thru to treat us all to a cold rootbeer (so yummy).  So we're driving along, everybody happily sipping away at their soda, when all the sudden Dylan starts spewing half-digested goldfish crackers everywhere (since that is the only thing he'd eaten all day).  All over his shirt and pants, booster seat, hat (which was unfortunately sitting right next to him), and the seat of the car.  He holds up his disgusting hands and, in a rather distressed tone, tells me, "Look! Yuck! Look!!"  Since he was so upset, we decided to stop at Walmart and buy him some cheap clothes and clean up the car seat a bit so he didn't have to ride home like that.  This was quite a sacrifice, as we both despise Walmart (you know all those trashy stereotypes you hear about Walmart? In California, they're all true).  So I tried to clean everything up as best I could while Doug ran in and got a shirt and some pants.

Ok, so we think we've solved the problem.  He's clean, seems fine for a few hours and I think, "Just a fluke.  Too much Halloween candy."   Still, when we get home, all he would put in his mouth was water or milk.  So about two or three hours after the first incident, we're in the livingroom, and he starts spewing curdled milk.  And walking back and forth like he's trying to get away from it instead of just standing still til he has stopped puking.  Then he holds up his hands to me (once again unfortunate casualties) and says, "Loo-ho-ho-hoook!!!" as he starts to cry.  I tell him its ok and say, "Do you want to go get in the tub?"  To which he responds with a sad but enthusiastic "Yes!"  He's all better now.  Poor guy was not happy about it (neither was my livingroom carpet or my husband, who was charged with cleaning up the livingroom carpet while I cleaned up the child).

2.  Head cold.   I was a lot more tired than usual the last few days, but I just attributed it to the fact that I seem to get bigger and more uncomfortable by the hour.  The real reason was, however, made very obvious this morning when I woke up with a stuffy nose, scratchy throat, pressure headache, droopy eyes and mild nausea.  Some Sudafed seems to be mostly doing the trick. . .or at least making me feel better than I did.  I hate colds when I'm pregnant.  

3.  Cold weather.   As late as last week, we were still hitting the mid to high 80s some days.  This disgusts me, as I have not been hesitant to share.  But this weekend we had some serious rain (we could see the Sierras and the coastals!!!!) and this morning when I walked the kids to school it was a delightfully nippy 45 degrees.  For most of the rest of the week, the highs are supposed to be in the mid-to-high 60s, climbing to around 70 over the weekend.  I can handle that.  It was so nice to be able to see my breath this morning.  

4.  Fog.   It was also foggy for the first time this morning when I walked the kids to school.  Fog here is akin to the first dusting of snow in Montana.  This morning it was a light fog, but in the middle of winter, it can be rather thick and oppressive (one morning last December, I couldn't see McDermont from Dylan's room--a huge steel building literally across the street).  White Christmases here are foggy ones, rather than snowy ones.   If the fog is rolling in, it means the holidays are, too, and that excites me.

So it seems that winter may be on its way after all.  And though the first two signs were not pleasant ones, the second two more than make up for them and keep me excited and anxious for Thanksgiving, then a new baby and then a Christmas in our home with our three children, nestled inside our warm house while the cold wet fog surrounds everything outside.  Its not snow, but I'll take it.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


We had a pretty darned good Halloween.  Keilana was Ariel this year (she declared months ago that this would be the case and never wavered) and it was Dylan's turn in the Tigger suit.  Keilana got to go trick-or-treating in the morning during preschool, and her favorite stop was definitely the firehouse--they gave her a sticker and a frisbee, which was so much cooler than the candy she got everywhere else.  So by noon she already had a fair amount of loot.  We made a stop at the ward party for dinner, but didn't stay for the games and stuff. Halloween is also my mother-in-law's birthday, so we always head over to her house.  When we got there, Tim, Paul, Christa and Rachel were just heading out to do a round of trick-or-treating and they took our kids along for us.  I very much appreciated that, because I had already eaten too much sugar and it was very muggy last night, so my hands, feet and face were all much puffier than usual.

They got a pretty good haul and the kids all had fun together.  Taylor was a very beautiful Rapunzel (and a very tall one! man she's getting big), Clayton was Baby Jaguar, and Keith was a most adorable little scarecrow.   This was his first year trick or treating.  Later in the evening, Keith and Keilana jammed out pretty good to our Barenaked Ladies children's album.  They are both dancers! And Keith was so hopped up on sugar that he was kinda hitting the delirious point and he was so funny.  

We ended up staying at Chuck and Katy's til about 1:30 (everyone else managed to leave by 9:30 or so, but apparently we were feeling blabby).  Keilana eventually asked for a blanket and put herself to bed on the couch, but Dylan of course was going strong right up til we left.  He thinks Halloween is all about the suckers (his favorite candy, and one I rarely let him have), so he was falling asleep in the car on the way home nursing his giant Tootsie Pop.  So here's just a few highlights of the evening:

One of the things Keilana was most excited about was getting to wear Mommy's makeup.  Doesn't she look pretty? :)
Posing in her Ariel costume before we head out for the night's festivities.  She told everyone, "I got it at Target!" (If you talk to Keilana for more than 20 minutes any day, you will likely hear something about Target).
Dylan had a sucker of some kind in his mouth pretty much all night (long after the costume and shoes had been ditched).
Clayton and Keith check out some of their loot.  As Christa said, it looks like they're getting ready to make a trade.
Dylan and Keith are an interesting combo, because they are both very weird, in very different ways.
She's such a poser!  If the camera comes out, she's cheesin' !
Have you seen those Got Milk?  White Gold commercials?  You know, with the rocker who plays a guitar made of milk?  Paul put on Taylor's Rapunzel wig, and that's what we thought of right away.
Christa and I belly-to-belly.  She's due either Nov 2 or Nov 8 (they changed her due date on her) and I'm due Dec 2
Lining up the three bellies.  Amanda is due Christmas Day.  We should get a picture of Melissa and Photoshop her in! (Katy was having trouble figuring out our camera, so all the shots are in between our posed moments.  We're all making kind of funny faces in all of them!)