Saturday, February 26, 2011

Good news and fun

We found our car! We'd been hunting and hunting and researching and researching online for six weeks and finally yesterday, we bought this little number:
Its a 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT. It has the captain's seats and the Stow N Go seating for all the back seats, a DVD player (we let the kids test it out last night, and it was the quietest ride home. Ever.) Its got brand new tires and has been through the full inspection, new fluids all that that dealers do, and we got it for a great price, plus we have a 36,000 mile warranty on it (which is good, because it does have over 90,000 miles on it). Best part of all, it is 100% paid for. The kids love it, of course, since they have been pretty squished in the back of our Accord the last two years. We took it for a longish drive today and it accelerates pretty nicely (this model has the largest engine available in the Caravan) and handles well. It is sssoooo much more comfortable for me to sit in than the car is right now (when not pregnant I can sit in just about any car for any length of time without much trouble at all--I'm pretty easy to accommodate--but right now I hate riding in the car). Its nice to be able to bring our pooch along with us (especially since she has attachment issues--I swear, we leave for an hour and she acts like we've been gone for days!)--today she snuggled up next to Kylie for most of the trip. And Kylie, of course, was trying to hug her and exclaiming, "Ginger love me!!" She doesn't ever remember not having Ginger, so they're pretty tight.

This next week Doug starts work (he'll be working part time while finishing his project for his Master's Degree and job hunting), and he'll mostly be working weekends and holidays, so we seized the opportunity of a day off on Monday to get out together, all 5 us. Between work and the baby, that probably won't be happening much in the coming months. All our kids love to go geo-cacheing (if you haven't tried it, do! Its a great modern version of a scavenger hunt, and you can do it any time!), even Kylie who has now figured out what it is (more or less). So we hunted and hunted, and they had to show off the little prize they got (its a pin with acorns on it that says, "You don't have to be nuts to cache. . .but it helps!" This particular cache was hidden by a woman that uses the tag "Nut Lady"). Aren't these guys a cute crew?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


We have to buy a car. Soon. Technically, my due date is a week from tomorrow. We have no plans on this baby arriving until 3 weeks from tomorrow. Hopefully she'll cooperate.

In the mean time, our solitary vehicle (yes, until now the job/living situation has been such that we have been able to get by with only one car and a couple of much abused but surprisingly resilient strollers) is already stuffed to the gills with children, and there's no way that we can fit another kid in our car unless we trade in one of the children we already have (which is an increasingly tempting thought the longer I'm pregnant, actually). I have offered to have Dylan ride in the trunk a few times, but since he shares my claustrophobia gene, he does not find that to be an amusing joke at all. So we have to find a vehicle that will accommodate at least 6 people, and hopefully more like 7-8. And we have to do so in the next 2ish weeks. For under the max amount of money we've set aside for obtaining said vehicle.

You know what I've discovered? I feel exactly the same way about car shopping as I do about cooking: with a more or less unlimited budget, all the time in the world, and no children, it has the potential to be a lot of fun. But when you've got a very set, limited budget, a definite timeline, and lots of little people, its mostly just a headache.


Wish us luck.

(And if you happen to know of anyone looking to get rid of a 2005 or newer Caravan at a decent price [or any other decent minivan or SUV], let me know).

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Not As the World Giveth

One of my callings is teaching the youth (12-13-year-old) Sunday School class. During ward conference, the Stake Presidency teaches all the youth during second hour and I have the pleasure of sitting in and listening. Usually a week or two prior to conference, the Stake leaders have the youth submit questions that they would like to have answered, and the Stake Presidency prioritizes the questions and addresses as many as time will permit.

One of the questions at the last conference a few weeks ago was, "Does living the Gospel guarantee a happy life?" At first the leaders bounced the question back and forth amongst themselves, trying to decide who would answer. One of them laughed lightly and said, "Define 'happy'." That seemed an honest and appropriate beginning of a response.

My instinctual response is to say, "Yes, absolutely, so long as you don't depend on 'easy' to be 'happy'." Several people started appearing in my mind: I thought of my Grandma, and the weariness she's experiencing; I thought of a dear friend who has a profoundly autistic daughter, as well as four other children who need her time, attention and energy, and has recently struggled with health challenges of her own on top of everything else; I thought of the friend who went from an abusive and broken childhood to make a happy marriage and motherhood, only to be plagued by an aggressive cancer and its after-effects; and of course there was the loved one who has faced a great deal many trials while also shouldering the burden of being judged and somewhat ostracized by her own family for making the right decisions and being true to her testimony.

All these individuals have been obedient to the commandments, diligent in their callings, amazing, devoted wives and mothers and sincere, charitable friends. They are all very, very good people who have nevertheless had to walk some stony paths. They have all had to carry heavy burdens over which they had little to no control, and their lives have had much difficulty and a lot of tears here and there. But every one of them is a happy person. Every one of them makes me happy. They are, more often than not, at peace with themselves, their families, their lives, and the world around them.

Just before the Savior laid down his life, he spoke to his apostles about comfort. They surely did not fully understand yet the magnitude of what was about to happen--the Atonement, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the Ascension--or the trials that were to follow. The Lord knew that they would be persecuted, left nearly alone at times, be asked to travel far from home and family, and live through many difficult and temperance-testing circumstances. And He knew that they would have to do it all without Him at their side in the same way that He had been during his mortal ministry. "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you," He told them, but with a very important clarification: "not as the world giveth, give I unto you." The world understands personal peace to mean a lack of conflict or difficulty--there is an ease of circumstances implied in peace as it is traditionally understood in the world. This is not the peace of which the Savior spoke. He spoke of the peace of that comes through his Atonement, the peace brought by the presence of the Holy Ghost; a peace that looks forward to a celestial rest, where conflicts do indeed cease, but that seizes a bit of that peace here and now, in the midst of conflicts we cannot necessarily resolve, hardships that can't necessarily be lifted, outward circumstances that we can do little to change.

The Savior lovingly admonished his apostles to "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." This is where the happiness lies. Our hearts can be light, knowing that He has "overcome the world". Too often we forget the temporary nature of the challenges we face, and indeed the temporary nature of life itself, and so we make unwise or momentarily satisfying decisions that appear easier or more desirable than striving to live the commandments that the Lord has set forth. Or sometimes in our short-sightedness, we feel that we are being unduly tried after laboring so hard to do the right thing. Without fail, the times we feel alone are the times when we forgot to ask for Him to give us that peace, or we have asked half-heartedly because we know that's what we're supposed to ask for, when in fact what we actually mean is, "Make the hard stuff go away." Too many of us equate "having fun" with being happy or having true joy. The fact is we can have a lot of temporary "fun" while lacking real joy in our lives, and we can have real joy even when life is anything but "fun".

The Lord has paid too steep a price for the agency of man to interfere with it, and that means that no matter how hard we try to be obedient, we will sometimes suffer adverse consequences of others using their agency as they so choose, or simply the happenstance of life. Certainly the Lord can help us to change our circumstances to escape burdens at times, but often there are things we simply must endure. The Lord promised, "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever. . .I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." The peace that the companionship of the Spirit brings is not readily describable; I sometimes think of how a loving embrace from a family member or friend in a difficult time can make us feel better, even though that hug itself has done nothing to change the circumstances which have upset us, but even that is a very weak analogy. It is peace and joy in our hearts in knowing that someone loving and wise is ultimately in control and is ever mindful of us, that this too shall pass, and in acknowledging that truth to be able to look beyond the difficulty to what beauty and blessings we may have been overlooking. Its developing a trust in the Lord by cultivating a relationship with the Spirit so that we can obey when we hear the Divine whisper, "Be still, and know that I am God."

Living the Gospel does indeed guarantee a happy life, because one of the commandments is "Be of good cheer". The Savior gave us all the tools to be cheerful in the midst of life's heaviest trials. He offers the Atonement freely, and the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, but we have to grab hold and make use of them ourselves. Your own happiness, your own peace, your own joy, are always within your grasp.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Good Stuff

If you have just a minute,

If only they all got such a welcome home.

If only they all came home.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Define "Normal"

So I'm putting the kids to bed and Dylan has become rather. . .energetic the last six months or so. He's always hopping around, in someone's face, bouncing off walls, jumping off any piece of furniture he can climb, constantly drumming on something, etc. And he's taken to curling up in a ball, with all his blankets swirled around him, in the center of his bed. Which would be fine except that it lasts all of about five minutes and then he's on top of all the blankets and has icy fingers and toes by the time Doug and I head upstairs to go to bed.

So everybody's had a super grumpy afternoon today and I am so done with the bouncing and I say to him, somewhat impatiently, "Dylan, stop hopping around and put your head down on your pillow and lay down under your covers like a normal kid."

Without a hint of humor, and in fact with every bit of earnestness his little voice can muster, he replies, "But Mom, I'm not normal!!"

I really had to laugh at that one. Last week I had them in the car and they started arguing about something (I was zoned in on my music and had tuned them out) when Dylan started to whimper. I asked what was wrong. "Keilana says I'm weird," he whined. She responded very cheerfully, "Its OK, Dylan. You are weird, but its OK to be weird." A few days later I was on the phone with his aunt while he played upstairs and she said, "So, like, don't take this the wrong way, but Dylan's really weird," to which I instantly replied, "Oh, I know." She continued, "He's not like 'special' weird is he? Some of his behaviors are kind of extreme for someone as little as he is." I pointed out that he's in the "special" preschool class, and no one there has even considered having him evaluated, much less labeled, so I'm pretty sure that he still falls somewhere under the bell curve, even if he is skewed sort of far to one end of it. The fact is, "weird" runs in the family. What on earth would we do with "normal"? I'm afraid it would look terribly strange to us.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


This cute little boy wrapped in my sarong and the clear memory of how gorgeous it was in Hanauma Bay that day (how I miss warm ocean and fresh pineapple and the scent of plumerias everywhere. . . ) almost makes me want to go live in Hawaii again. Almost. Then I remember how very far away it is when you want to visit a grandparent or somebody gets sick or you're too broke for plane tickets. Then I remember that, as much fun as it was living there single or childless, now that I'm a mom and a grown up, I much prefer being a closer part of the lives of the people I'm bound to. Even if California is still dreadfully far away from this little boy (who ain't so little anymore--he's 10 now!) and the rest of his family and cousins. In my dream world, both families are just a few hours apart so I can be a big part of both of them. For now, we work with the distance as best we can and I relish the opportunity to read my sister's blog and see my brother's photos on Facebook and chat with my mom on the phone. If I have to be almost 1500 miles from them, I'm glad I live in the digital age.

It also almost makes me wish my hair was that length again. Almost. Maybe once I'm past the "baby stage" in life. But I think its getting lopped off again this summer--as soon as baby is big enough to start getting her fingers twirled up in it.