Sunday, February 28, 2010


So Keilana spent the night at the VanderArk's last night, and this afternoon when it was close to time to go, auntie Amanda told her and Clayton to start cleaning up. Keilana begins to do just that, while Clayton starts doing all he can to avoid it (pretty standard, really. Keilana's a good little cleaner. Clayton and Dylan, on the other hand, are classic males. Need I say more?) So Keilana keeps asking Clayton, "Where does this go?" After attempting this question several times with no response she finally says, "Clayton, if you don't tell me where this goes, I'm just going to throw it away!"

Sometimes I really love it when our children mimic us! :)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ah, refreshed

I was hitting that Mama-needs-a-meltdown moment near the end of last week. The last few months have been insane (I know I say that a lot, but its always true; the last three years have been insane!) and all of the reality finally caught up with me. And almost two straight months of sick at our house were starting to make me loopy. Then I got sick, and had to deal with a few other emotionally taxing things at the same time. I hadn't had a break from all three of my kids at once since New Year's evening, and before that since July. It'd been raining almost constantly for two weeks. I'd had it. I made some grumpy remark to Doug. He looked at me and said, "You need to get better!" I half-laughed, half-whimpered, "I know!"

You see, for all the insanity swirling around and through our lives, I usually really am quite even-tempered and upbeat. Patient even. I struggle to ever ask for help of any kind from any one and hate anyone to ever see anything but happy and content. Its a blessing and a curse. I have my moments, where I snip at my husband or lose my patience with my kids, but they really are usually few and far between. The vast majority of my whining/complaining/ exasperating is reserved for my blog. But I wasn't terribly pleasant this week.

Monday, Doug came home for his lunch, and then suggested that when Keilana got out of school that afternoon we drop off the kids and disappear. Amanda agreed to take them on short notice and kept them all afternoon until bedtime for us--fed them dinner, got them bathed and in PJs. She's awesome. I love her. I can't begin to tell you how fantastic and fun and thoughtful and splendid she's been the last 8 months--I'm so glad she's my sister. Anyway, we drove Yokohl Valley, enjoyed the green hills and overcast afternoon and then wandered to Visalia and Tulare to do a little much-needed kitchen shopping. I love being able to wander around stores without my short people. We had Chili's salads for dinner. And got home just in time to put kids to bed and just enjoy an evening knitting in front of the TV.

Yesterday, Emily, a very dear friend of mine, texted me at about 3 o'clock: "We're going out tonight. Do you guys want to come?" I called Doug, who drove to Tulare and picked up Brad so he could sit with the kids. We went to Visalia with Clint and Emily and Kindon and Angie and had dinner at Fugazzi's (sweet potato fries to die for. so delicious.). Great friends, great conversation. Adult interaction. So important. I never had a very hard time being alone--I was often a little too content to have conversations with the people in my head. But being alone with kids all the time is very much different than just being alone. I'm starting to feel human again. I should try to make a habit of this.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sitting on the swings at the park
watching my two older monkeys
as they act out some hilarious make-believe
on top of the jungle gym,
holding my baby girl
her warm little cheek nuzzled against me
her chubby little arms around my neck
calmly, contentedly
enjoying the gentle motion of the swing
and the comforting security
of my arms around her.
Little glimpses
of a life where everyone's always healthy,
the sun always shines,
mommy's arms are always there when you want them
and there's always a happy baby to snuggle.
We only have it in moments.
But we're working on getting there forever.
Day by day.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Absolutely, fantastically best quote of the week

I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.

This is a quote from the recent Esquire interview with Roger Ebert. He's spent the better part of his life reviewing movies. He's spent most of the last decade battling aggressive thyroid cancer--he's lost most of his jaw, and his ability to eat and speak. Yet, his attitude is one of hope and gratitude and even humor. This is great perspective. Read the whole thing if you have time. Its worth it. The Lord gives us talents, and he will find a way for us to use them to bless people, even in our trials.


So far this morning
Kylie has eaten:
a whole bowl of oatmeal,
half of Dylan's PB&J,
a small handful of raisins,
several bites of my omelet,
and two M&M's.
I'm still sick
(getting close to feeling normal, I think)
Dylan is constantly chattering in a whiny tone
and after taking a shower,
I was letting Kylie wander around the bathroom naked
while I got dried off and dressed.
She pooped on the floor of my closet.
And giggled about it.
Its shaping up to be quite a day.
Birthday cake and presents tomorrow.
Dylan turned 4 yesterday!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Few things set me off as quickly as a resigned (or worse, satisfied), "Well, that's just who I am." Really? Listen, we expect people in our lives to love us in spite of our flaws, but we owe that love the effort of working diligently at reforming those flaws.

Maybe being critical and overly-blunt really is who you are. Maybe being a victim and playing the martyr is really integral to the personality you've developed. Maybe you've defined yourself as a rebel for so long you don't know who you'd be if you gave it up. Maybe you are very definitely by your nature an intensely moody person. Maybe everyone who loves you knows that you're self-righteous and they accept you as you are because they can see the good parts. Maybe being self-centered is so second-nature to you that you hardly notice it. Or maybe its something smaller: maybe you are rather disorganized (and consequently, only semi-reliable); maybe you're kind of messy and cluttered; maybe you're bad at getting daily chores done; maybe you tend not to notice those around you as much as some think you should.

Yes, any and all of those things may be "who you are"--a deeply ingrained piece of your personality. That absolutely does not mean that it is who you must be. It certainly doesn't mean that it is who you should be. Saying, "Well, that's just who I am" or "that's just how I am" is a faithless, indolent excuse. It implies that our nature is unchangeable and effort is useless. It baffles me when anyone who claims to have a testimony of the Atonement uses this line.

Granted, there are some things about ourselves that are such a deep part of our character that they will probably never change. My husband, for example, is an extremely intense personality, and he always will be. But he doesn't have to be intensely moody or intense in his outward reactions--those are behaviors that can be reigned in and changed (an example I use because I have already seen him make tremendous progress in that area in the last 7 years).

Most things that we don't like about ourselves or that others don't like about us (that they justifiably don't like, I should say), are things we have been given the power to overcome. The Lord says that, if we cooperate and do our share of the work, He can change our hearts. He frequently refers to our heart as the center of ourselves--life begins and ends quite literally with the heart, and so it is metaphorically where we define ourselves and what is important to us. He promises that, as we are obedient and faithful, he will convert our hearts and change our very countenances.

Does that sound easy or painless to anyone? Its hard work, to be sure. We come to Him with a "broken heart and contrite spirit"--that sounds pretty painful and difficult to me. We all know how much a broken heart hurts, and the simple fact of the matter is that no one breaks our hearts more than we do it to ourselves. Oh, sure, we try to blame it on just about everyone else if the "contrite spirit" is missing from the equation--the broken heart comes when we make mistakes, but the contrite spirit is up to us. If we recognize what we've done and feel that contrition, we can go to the Savior and He binds up our hearts. If we are not contrite, we continue in our misery, often pointing fingers at those around us, and instead of overcoming our mistakes we turn them into a part of who we are.

My step-grandpa is very ill. He was taken to the hospital last week and, though he's home now, his prognosis isn't very good and his time is likely very limited. He married my grandma about 9 years ago. Shortly thereafter, he joined the church--at 91 years old (there were many jokes about death bed repentance). A year later, he went through the temple and was then sealed to my grandmother--herself being sealed to an eternal companion for the first time in her late 70s. He has blessed her grandchildren and stood in on their confirmations. He has been sealed to some of her children. He has been an active temple-goer. All in his 90s. I've never gotten to know Clark terribly well (though I have enjoyed my visits with him at my grandma's house), but he has been a wonderful reminder to me to never be discouraged. There have been times in my rather short life of 25 years where I felt like giving up on myself or someone I loved because it didn't seem like there was any progress at all--where I felt like nothing had changed, and that nothing ever would. But his life changes at an age where most people don't even have the luxury of being alive anymore have kept me ever mindful of the fact that I ought not get impatient. There is still time. And there is always hope.

I am often painstakingly slow in my own progress and usually run a two-steps-forward-one-step-back course. I can be impatient and self-righteous and lazy, but that's not who I am. Who I am is a daughter of a Heavenly Father and Mother, blessed by their Divine nature and Heavenly traits. When someone offends us or screws up, we often react by saying, "Well, now they're showing their true colors". I vehemently disagree. Who we really are is shown in our best moments. When we succeed, we are touching the potential of our noble birthright as a Child of God. That's who you really are. Maybe that's not who you seem to be at the moment, but that's what you ought to be striving for. He gives you the tools to reach for that ideal, and so He expects you to use them. There is no quitting. There is no, "Can't change now that I (insert random life milestone here)" or "I'm too set in my ways to change". The Savior told the parable of the vineyard workers so that we would understand that that excuse will never fly. Some worked from dawn til dusk, and some only made it at the last hour, but they all got the same reward. The Atonement is there for all, whether you're 15 or 105, and as long as your body draws breath and your heart beats, you have time to become what your Father intended you to be.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sick of sick

We spent Christmas break with someone different throwing up every day for a few weeks. February has passed in a haze of stuffy noses, achy bodies, painful coughs, sinus infections, ear infections, fevers and fatigue. I'm sort of done with winter now.

I shall regret this statement long about August, I imagine, but bring on the heat. I'm done with these germ-infested winter doldrums.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lessons in Gratitude

Today would've been little Conner's fourth birthday. Its kind of hard to believe that Kylie and Claire are now almost the age that Dylan and Conner were when he passed away. The "bitter" part of bittersweetly remembering him has almost passed for me. I now remember him almost entirely with smiles.

The greatest gift that Conner gave me, aside from the joy of knowing him and watching him grow, was the gift of being in the moment, every moment, every day and being full of gratitude for that moment. I can honestly say that since watching Conner slip away, I have never taken an hour with my children for granted. I had lost loved ones, people very dear to me, before. But the unexpected death of a small child puts time in perspective much more so than the relatively unsurprising passing of a cherished elder.

For three solid weeks now, at any given moment, two of my kids have been sick. There has been a whole lot of crying and whining. Today I'm the sickest I've been and the culmination of the last few weeks finally just got me. I've had a lot of patience up til today, knowing how miserable they were, but today I was a little snippy. Even at that, I never for a moment lost sight of the fact that they're kids, that I love them and that this long day will be over much quicker than I expected.

I don't take life for granted anymore. My own, my husband's, my kids--anyone's. Its hard in youth and good health not to take life and health for granted. When you suddenly find yourself facing an uphill battle you couldn't possibly have seen coming, all of a sudden that sense of security is taken away from you. I still hope that I'll die an old woman, sleeping peacefully at home, surrounded by my very much alive children and grandchildren, but I don't assume that anymore. I don't constantly worry about my children and I'm certainly not over-protective or some kind of safety nut, but I try to live every day, particularly relative to my husband and children, in a way that ensures that I'm prepared for the next day, but if I don't wake up or one my kids slips away, I can be at peace with how I spent my time with them.

"Carpe diem" meant something much different to me several years ago than it does now. We recently watched "Up" with our kids, and the writers at Pixar deserve every award they get. The little boy says to his aged companion, "Sometimes its the boring stuff I remember most." Motherhood isn't very glamourous. Sometimes, its downright dirty and gross. But its full of those wonderful, little moments that make up the substance of life. I love all those little moments.

I was always tremendously happy. Thanks to Conner, now I know it.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Go. Look. If I had more money, my little girl would spend all spring and summer living in the items displayed on this page. Love them. Love them, love them. (So does she!)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

flee! flee!

I'm having one of those moments. Talked to my awesome grandma for about an hour last night, which of course meant that all day today I've been feeling the need for a Montana fix. Don't want to do anything. No, scratch that. I do want to write, knit, watch a good movie and read a good book, but I don't want to do anything I'm supposed to. Having one of those days where I suddenly wish that I had no callings (don't want to do any of the things I should for my 4--yes, count them, 4--callings) and no bills and no school (well, technically, Keilana has school) so that I could just steal away somewhere fun with my husband and kids and not worry about anything else.

Does such a place exist in grown up land?

Doug jokingly asked this morning, "How about we drive up Highway 1 to Monterey today?" Oh, the temptation. A great drive along the rocky coast. A day at the Aquarium. Chowder in a bread bowl slathered with garlic butter. Happy little kids playing in the surf. That sounds pretty fabulous.

Ah, but in two weeks we're doing Disneyland for the Wild Thing's 4th birthday. Four. Where does the time go? Suddenly, two weeks doesn't seem so long.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I love creative people

One of my bestestest friends is starting her own business, making handbags. First of all, she has the best business name ever: Bags for Bettys (she's a recovering snowboarding addict--motherhood steals some of that slope time). But check out one of her prototypes:

Love it. These are exactly the kind of color/prints I can never get enough of. Send some good karma her way on this new adventure.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

*kicking myself*

The other day on the way home from school, we decided to stop at the Plaza and play for a little while. It was a perfectly overcast (but not a drop in sight) day. So, in other words, perfectly even, soft light. Perfect day for shooting photos. And I was found with nothing but my little phone to take pictures with. Its a shame I missed the opportunity, because there was stage dancing:
"I am a T-Rex!"
And hill rolling:

And, of course, posing:
(Because even if its just a phone, its still a camera, after all)

True Friends

We all value highly the friends we can count on. The best friends are those who love you patiently, with all your faults, and make you want to be better. We all need people with whom we can speak freely and not feel judged, not feel the need to justify or excuse ourselves, trusting that the person to whom we speak will understand. We need friends in our lives who can wipe away the dust of our imperfections and see the good beneath.

I absolutely despise when people pull out the "If you were a true friend, you wouldn't judge me" line, though. There are certainly times when that applies--times when people in our lives are overly critical or impatient. But there are also times in our lives when we need someone to hold us accountable. A friend of mine in high school was very fond of the Oscar Wilde line, "A true friend stabs you in the front." Very true words. It is often our kindest, most trusted friends who are the only ones willing and able to do this for us--to say what hurts, not because it hurts but because not saying it will hurt much, much more. There are times when our actions, attitudes or behaviors can be destructive--both to ourselves and to many others in our lives by the nature of our relationships with them. Most people, even if they see such behavior, will turn a blind eye, or say something to others, but will not try to talk to us directly. The friends who loves us the most will have the courage to say, "If you keep heading down this road, you're in for a world of hurt--and a lot of people around you are, too."

Truest friends will support us in all things that make us better, and help lift us up where we are lacking. But if someone is the best kind of friend, they will not sit idly by while we do things or behave in ways that are not right. They may be a listening ear, they may well be the one who is still there to pick up the pieces if we don't heed their advice, but they will not tell us something we're doing is OK if its not OK.

Don't get me wrong. As many of those closest to me are frustratingly aware, I don't think there is ever an appropriate time to launch an angry attack. I don't think its ever OK to scream at someone "because that's the only way to get through" to them. I have given in to my temper on a few occasions, but I don't think screaming or angry accusations or insults are ever right. But if someone tries to talk to you--if they express their love for you and say that they are trying to help, and sound sincere--listen to what they say. Thoughtfully, sincerely consider it. True friends don't refrain from judging us--true friend know our faults and love us anyway, but they try to help us be better than we are. They realize their own faults and hope that we will help them become better, too. Love isn't consistently putting up with the status quo and patiently trying to ignore backtracking--its kindly, patiently and generously pushing each other to be the best version of ourselves.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Funny kids

Keilana didn't go to school today. This morning she told me she had a cough and couldn't go to school. (She's had the sniffles for a few days). This afternoon, she asked me if she could write her teacher a note saying that she was home sick. She got to work, and about 15 minutes later brought me a piece of paper with a picture of her laying in bed with a blanket over her, me standing next to her, and "Yo enferma en mi casa" scrawled across the top. Not too shabby.

An hour or so ago, Kylie was standing at the piano bench and, with some paper plates and sheet music that her sister had helped her acquire, was dutifully rearranging things over and over again into different sized piles. I love how toddlers engage in such tasks while looking like they are concentrating very hard on a job of immense importance.

Ah, someday she'll be a super powerful CEO, arranging people and products in such an efficient manner that it makes millions of dollars, and I'll feel stupid for having written that.

Recent quotables:

Doug (passing the two big dairies on 168 & 137): Mmmm-mmm, that's the smell of money.
Keilana: No, Dad, its poop.
Doug: Someday you'll understand.
Keilana: No, Dad, I do understand. Its poop.

Keilana (after saying "I knew that" to everything we told her for two hours): Daddy, do you know who else knows everything? Sethy.

Doug (watching the girls fight over a toy): Do you know what causes sibling rivalry?
Me: Having more than one kid!
Dylan (from across the room, to this point in his own little world): It wasn't me!

Doug (to Dylan): You're cute.
Dylan: No, I'm cool. And mommy's beautiful.

Keilana: That's Chuck. He likes to beat box.

Keilana(dismayed to turn on the TV and find that her program had been preempted by a speech): Not the president AGAIN!