Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Praiseworthy and of Good Report

Dear School age Grahams,

Wow you did an awesome job in school this term! I feel so happy with you! Fabulous job you fantastic students! You were stellar. You can feel so good inside knowing you've earned terrific grades and learned some amazing things. I know as you press on through these last 6 weeks of school you will continue to feel a great sense of accomplishment as you work hard to make good grades to the very end.

Mason, I am honored to have an honor role student. Bryn, 94% average in all subjects? Awesome. Madi, above grade expectations in every area? Fantabulous, and Porter-you are a smart and great reader, writer, and mathematician. Wicked Awesome dude!

Keep up the great work. It is your willingness to study and try that has brought you this success. Keep it up you Smart Grahams!!!
Your very happy (even proud) Mom

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Anatomy of a date night

One competent babysitter. One very long walk (to the movies and shops just outside our neighborhood along the no-sidewalk farm road), a yummy sandwich for dinner and a fun movie. Long conversations as I hold hands with my sweetheart and walk home to our children and straightened up house (remember; competent babysitter...)
All this is the anatomy of a great date. Have one sometime soon with the person you love most!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Retro cool in my Texas kitchen

Thank you, David at Southlake DWR, for letting me browse your studio with two little girls climbing all over your fine modern furniture. You assured me that these so totally cool stools would indeed look great in our suburban Texas home. And you were right. Thank you, John, for letting the "its on sale" truth lead to the purchase of the awesome functional seating now tucked perfectly under the tall counter space. And for being happy for me that we could add them to our furniture inventory here in the new house. Oh, and thank you, Sherwin Williams guy, for assuring me that if I let the paint dry at least 5 hours before I cried "wrong color" that I really would like the idea of red in my kitchen.

Making a house a home can be sometimes be so fun!

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Texas Welcome

So, over a month ago I was driving home-at night-speaking to my Grandpa on the phone (Hi Grandpa!). As I visited with him I accidentally missed the turn to get to our road- it happens often for me :( - but on this particular night my absent minded driving was costly!

My conversation with Grandpa was interrupted by flashing lights behind me and the screaming of a Texas Police officer's siren. Needless to say Grandpa heard an abrupt good bye as I fumbled to find our newly acquired insurance cards. Having only lived in Texas a few short weeks, they'd been placed on top of some of the moving boxes instead of inside the glove box...sigh.

"Mercy please" was all I could manage to pray as the officer came to my car.

Mr. officer came to the window and gave me a kind but firm scolding about driving a car with an expired registration from another State. He said I was a red flag for sure driving with those old expired plates (the plates were from UT, and the registration had expired in SEPTEMBER, while the cars sat in our storage bin in Texas along with all our belongings). Then I could not produce proof of insurance, nor could I show him a Texas drivers' license even though I had become a resident of that Great State.

again I say...sigh.

Mr. Officer took the time to carefully explain the procedure. First, he would find out my address, then send a wrecker to that address to impound my car until I could bring proper proof of registration and post it as bail for the old suburban. Upon retrieving the vehicle, I would then be expected to pay a $500.00 fine for driving an unregistered vehicle on Texas roads. That would be justice served.

In addition, a $75 citation would be issued because I could not show proof of insurance.

I explained my story. We'd moved, car was in storage, just got to Texas, barely got into the house, working on registering the cars but first had to register my kids; into school. So sorry officer, we want to comply with the law...

pretty sure I threw in "we have 6 children" a couple of times so he'd be able to factor in that level of personal chaos that would ensue if we had no transportation for said number of children. I just wanted that picture in his mind as he weighed the impending punishment.

After my quickly constructed alibi the officer welcomed me to Texas with true generosity and mercy. No ticket. No impounding of the family auto. Only a promise from me that my car would be registered within 24 hours.

I could do that. I made the promise. I went on my way as he said one more time

"welcome to Texas mam. We're glad you've come to live among us."

Needless to say the car was registered within the promised time. And I got my mug shot for a new TX drivers' license on the very same day; that piece of ID came in my mailbox just last week. A promise kept. Sigh!

Happily, a month after that experience, John's car is finally registered too. I, after having the late night conference with the officer at my car window, could not bring myself to hardly ride in let alone drive John's unregistered car. What if I saw that officer again? My integrity felt compromised (and at some points my marriage too, not willing to drive the less gas consuming of our two vehicles when I was the only one traveling ;) But after a trip or two or five to the mechanics and some savvy scheduling on John's part he and his car are also legal in Texas.

Welcome to Texas indeed.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My reusable grocery bags are cooler than your reusable grocery bags...

Plastic? This is the question asked of me at the cash register at the conclusion of every shopping trip in Johannesburg. You see, there you buy your plastic grocery sacks. The stores say it is a way to raise consciousness about the environment and how we ruin it with our grocery garbage, but I think it is also a way for the stores to re-coop their grocery bag supply cost. As a result of this policy, the stores have for a very long time offered reusable grocery bags to their customers as an alternative. Because this has been a long time practice, the Joburgers have over time, come up with some great grocery bag design (if you can believe there is great design in reusable grocery bags.) There are thermal lined bags to keep milk and cheese cold, fabric produce bags, and brightly colored rectangular grocery sacks for boxed and canned items. Over our months in Africa I felt it a great use of our means to bring home the concept of sustainability-especially in our family where grocery shopping amounts to an unreasonable amount of packaging any way. So, I found my favorite design/style of bag, and I bought loads of them. John could not believe the purchases, he felt them over the top (and since when do I not do things a little over the top?) and I am fine with that.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

a Small regret...

Whilst in Africa, we tried not to buy too much stuff to dust. You know how it goes, you travel somewhere you know you'll never be again, and all of a sudden you feel as if you've got to bring home every little souvenir you see-to remember your trip, right? Well, when you get home, your souvenir takes up valuable space and lots of your time because you have to dust it again and again. A waste of money-and not so much a reminder of your experience as you thought it would be....

we were careful. We brought precious little home in comparison to all the goods the merchants tried to sell us. And I feel happy, overall, that our purchases were tasteful and tactful and that when I dust them I do actually have a second to remember the things we experienced in Africa (o.k., that is when I actually get around to dusting..)

I do have a few small regrets regarding purchases not made. I would have liked to have "shopped" Capetown a bit more for a piece of art that would fit nicely in our home. The Cape is the best Art town in Africa, and our trips there were just not the type that allowed for strolling galleries. I also wish I had bought the huge rhino you see in the picture above. It was expensive and utterly does NOT fit with our family's decor, but the creativity of the piece was so intriguing, and it would go perfectly in my closet.

You see, the pieces in the photo are made from the souls of flip flops. Yep, you read right. Coastal dwellers pick up the flip flops that wash up on the beaches, remove the souls, press them together into huge blocks of multi-colored foam, and carve away. Awesome if you ask me. The coolest form of recycling. And I missed it-darn. Especially since flip flops are somewhat of a collection of mine, I feel I go lacking because the foam carved rhino is not seated comfortably next to my huge bucket of flip flops in my dressing room (no, I don't really have a room for dressing, but I do have this box of a closet where my stuff hangs and a light turns on in there, and a door shuts me in so i can change when I need some privacy; so I call it a dressing room...)

lots of times I've felt buyer's remorse, knowing that I would have been better off with the money I spent on something I hold in my hot little hands-but in this case, I have the reverse, I wish I'd shelled out the cash for the completely unnecessary but intensely cool flip flop rhino.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

What's up Friend?


My dear friend Jenna,

How are you doll? I've missed you lately and wished I had you right across the street to come over and sit with Molly and Lucy-reading books and playing games-while I do the dishes or lurk in other homemaking ways as you love my kids. I wonder how your year has gone, how the grades are, how the boys are. Wonder how many dance recitals you'll be performing in this spring and how busy you'll be with girl's camp and service trips abroad this summer.

Do you think you could squeeze us in somehow? Perhaps a weekened just before school starts again? I need my Jenna time. It's been far too long without you in our home.

Oh how we love you Jenna! Come soon!
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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Time Flies...




This memory is only a year old, an yet if feels like many years since our last domestic family vacation. It dawned on me this week that 12 months ago exactly we were driving home from a fantastic and much needed family trip when John received a phone call from his friend and colleague Chuck. It was at that time and on that drive that I knew our lives were going to change; again. Listening to John speak with Chuck and pondering on our time in Salt Lake I had that dreaded sense that we were going to be saying goodbye again. Good bye to our wonderful home, to friends we'd grown to love, and to the nearness and accessability of our extended family.

Driving through that desert as John listended and spoke in turn on his phone I felt the landscape before me was appropriate. The vast desert of blank earth. A clean canvas. Perhaps uninviting but also unpredictable. And I do o.k. with unpredictable.

12 months, selling a house, living in a foreign land, buying a house, and now learning how to paint the clean canvas of the life before our family here in Dallas. Unpredictable it certainly has been; with life taking a turn in the form of an adventure to Africa, and then an adventure learning to love the suburbs of Dallas. Even more change than I had anticipated in the moments of that phone call 12 months ago. I wonder if I've dealt adequately with that unpredictable part...Have grown and deepened as a person and a mother? Have I helped my fellowman-even when I've felt I needed a little help myself? Have I taught my children to appreciate the blessings of the past and look forward to the blessings yet to come? Not sure. But, I think in the last 12 months I've come to feel a greater appreciation for my family, my faith, my culture, and the amazing interconnection I have with other cultures not like my own. I'm thankful for the last 12 months-and for the 12 months before them, and the 12 even before that too.
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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Texas twisters a plenty

In the five years we owned a home in Dallas (yep, this is our second round living in Dallas, but this time we live in the 'burbs) we had the tornado alarms go off twice. Once I was home with my little kids (Mason was in second grade, now he's in 7th) and a boy who lived down the street. After taking cover in our hallway and phoning my sweetheart-who was sitting down to a business dinner in Louisville KY-we waited out the hail storm and the eery silence. Once I was downtown-completely away from the storm's danger- while my children piled into my best friend's bathtub to seek shelter from the twisting winds. Twice in Five years...

But in 5 weeks-o.k., maybe almost 10 weeks now-we've had the sirens three times. Looks like they'll go off again tonight.

We are steadily prepping a closet underneath our stairs to be the tornado shelter we need. A lantern, some sleeping bags, a first aid kit, radio and some water and food tucked away in our storm shelter. You should see me spring into action when that siren goes off, wish I could use that as a starting sound for a triathlon; I'd kill my bad time through adrenaline alone. When the siren went off in the middle of the night I was out of my bed like a shot-"you get the kids, I get the shoes" was all I could get out of my mouth as I noticed John pulled himself from his peaceful slumber (so centered, so assured, so calm is my darling)while I went flying through the house gathering tennis shoes that tie on my kids' feet "just in case".I'm such a paranoid, such a protector, such a doomsday believer, I guess.

At least we get the siren.

I distinctly remember lying in my bed in our home in Salt Lake City-with visions of earthquakes (a definite future event on the wasatch front where we lived) dancing about in my mind. No warning, no siren to tell me to find my kids and put them somewhere safe.

In Africa, one evening I woke to the sound that was surely an intruder. Someone trying to enter the house (a very common occurrence in Johannesburg). Turns out a fence had broken and the wind was banging it shut again and again...Once the offending fence was sealed shut I slept soundly, feeling as if I had just run a marathon with all the adrenaline drained out of my overly tense and worried body.

Why do I worry so much? Why does all of this get to me? Ill-prepared? Afraid of loss? I don't know....

Threats of one nature or another have been present wherever we've lived, and somehow I've managed to completely worry myself over all of them. Why do I react with such concern? Why do I tense up at the thought of cleaning up from hail, or wind, or quake?

Any free counseling is welcome, I know I'm over the top too paranoid. But perhaps ther is something to the scripture which states "if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear".

I'll go finish my closet prep now. Maybe that will bring more sleep-and more peace- to my tired eyes tonight.

Isn't she lovely?

I adore all of my children. In this photo, I revere my Madi. Her quiet confidence, her still understanding that our family weekend, our party to celebrate, all of it was about the special steps she had taken just moments before this photo was shot.

She understands, and you can tell.

Knowing she's done right by her God and that He is pleased with her. Knowing she is numbered with His own. Feeling His love for her, amidst a crowd of people who adore her-

she knows He adores her too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

He's Back

Older and wiser I hope. Much loved by my sister and well trained as far as can be seen.

Only one poop accident so far, and he's been with us for a week. He comes-mostly-when called, and he answers to his name and sits and stays. He even walks on his leash without crossing in front of the stroller wheels.

So far, so good I'd say...Welcome home Mr. Cooper.

Photo Disclaimer

I owe my sister a HUGE apology.

You see, I stole her beautiful photos. The ones I posted on the blog about our perfect weekend with family-most of those photos were shot by her...

So sorry to steal images of laughter and fun Mandy. In the end I"m so glad to have shared that fun with YOU! I won't be a picture stealer again, I promise;

just come back to take more pictures with me soon ;)

The pain of separation

This was the scene just minutes before my beautiful nieces and their mother, Amanda, left us and flew back home to their lovely life in utah. Separation is painful. It was bitter sweet to witness tears over flowing from my children in their beds that night

"why can't we live by our cousins....?"
"I miss Haily and Read"
"When will company come back again?"

That last one was from Porter. He knows his grandma is going home tomorrow, and so he needs to know when someone he loves will again come visit our home...what a heart of gold.

I'm happy they mourn for their family. I want them to yearn for their roots-my roots. I want them to be desperately drawn to all those who made us who we are through their teachings, their examples, their sweat and their love. If their emotional ties are that connected to those whose blood they share it is more likely that they will remain loyal to the values and testimony of those who they cry for. And that is what I've prayed for as a mother from the start.

Cry on my dears, cry on. And when we meet family again I hope it is with joy that we greet them, and laughter that we enjoy them. And I hope, when our time is again cut short, that you cry and cry again for the chance to be a big "grand family" once more...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Signs of a wonderful weekend

Grandpa and Lucy nap comfortably on the couch. Lucy and Ruby bond in the bathroom. All the girls (we missed you SO MUCH Haily and Jody!!) enjoy girl time at American Girl Place Dallas. Madi perches over her loving cousins and sister, just after her special baptism.

More snapshots to come. A wonderful weekend gone.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

in desperate need...

Today more than ever in my blogging career I wish I could draw lines and circles around my photos-so you could see how desperately my handsome prince needs a game night. Notice our master bathroom, in the privacy of the comode we see, yes that's right, a new GAME (here I would use a different font and color if i knew how) in the magazine bucket. Next to the tiny garbage can we see the remnants of the cardboard game PIECES (I would draw an arrow here to show you said cardboard) which needed to be punched out in order for the game to be played.

My husband is a master at multitasking, what can I say? He is so busy with work, home, church and wife that he has resorted to game preparations while taking care of that other business one takes care of while in this room of our house;impressive use of time I must say...

Promise, Saturday night after Madi's celebration John, you and Dad and Dean can sit down and play play play!

I can see you are in desperate need and I deeply desire to help meet that need. I pledge my attention to your game night come Saturday. I love you with all of my heart.

Its not exactly what it seems

The other night, after watching a weekend of conference and in the attitude of pondering on the spiritual feast of the hours of instruction and encouragement from men of God (and women too), I retired to my bed to find this note on my pillow. Much to my initial dismay-it actually was a sweet and welcome note...

You see, Madi takes part in a church program called "Achievement Days" now that she is of age 8. In this program she is working to earn an honor called 'Faith in God' and in order to earn this honor she must keep track of goals set and reached in a pamphlet called "Faith in God". She lost the pamphlet. This is not the first time the pamphlet has been misplaced, and Madi knows that her mom is a real stickler on putting things "in their place" so they are available to us when we need them. As she had not done that, she was apologizing. And asking for help. Thus the note.

But think about it; how many of our children do need help in developing "Faith in God"? All of them. Even though I believe they come filled to the brim with the love of Christ inside them, they need direction to learn how to find God in this world, how to leave the cares of this world in their proper place and follow Christ with a measure of Faith. Usually, it is mothers (with necessary and important help and nurturing from Fathers too) who lead their children in a development of faith.

Sure Madi, I'll help you find your Faith in God. I'll teach you how to pray, I'll help you serve your neighbor, and when you lose your stuff I'll try to be patient and kind so you'll know I'm trying to follow Him in whose faith you will have peace and joy in this world. I'll try and teach you a little about your Heavenly Father every day and I'll work hard in the things I'm asked to do to serve Him so you can see I love Him with all my heart and that my faith in Him is sure and strong. Then you can follow me for a while, and hopefully I'll lead you to Him; and soon you'll realize (because moms make lots of mistakes) that all the good stuff that came from me was really only because of the love I have for Him. Then you'll want to follow Him too, and in the following your faith will grow brighter and brighter, until that perfect day.

with pleasure and joy I will help you Madi. Love, Mom.

looking more like our home...

It's looking more and more like the Graham's house thanks to John and Mr. Fix-it Rick who have helped us hang all our memorabilia. John stayed up late and got up early to make the walls sing with beautiful portraits of our children (some of which he had taken himself; what a renaissance man).

A little bit of paint and this place will really be home. Thank you, Ms. Nie, for the beautifu Silhouettes on our staircase wall. They are lovely.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Couldn't help it

I just had to show you how darling my "ms. M" can be...

April Conference in Photos

Brunch. Spiritual feasting in front of the television. Yummy treats for those who are "reverent". Conference sweet rolls, made hours too late but enjoyed just the same.
Thank you President Monson, for showing us your tender love for Francis, and for sharing with us your sweet love and devotion to our Savior, Jesus Christ.

It was a special experience to see my son stand with those of the aaronic priesthood to sustain a prophet. And cute to see Molly and Lucy stand on the couch to raise their hands too.

Like a stone cut out of the mountain without hands, the truth rolls forward-even without President Hinkley sitting in his usual chair. We miss you and love you President Hinkley; I'm sure you were pleased to witness the proceedings with Marjarie by your side.

Thank you endlessly, Elder Ballard. I feel so grateful that often my husband is doing the things you suggested, he is a prince and a gentleman. I appreciated your council and feel humbly grateful to serve as a mother in these times, with these souls as my charge.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Easter Traditions, a month late

So, a few of you asked about our family's Easter traditions. I know Easter is a year away, but I thought I better shout out my favorites before I forget. A year is a long time in my mothering life; although it will be here before I know it and I'll wonder where all the time went!

OK; One of our favorites involves the empty egg. If you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints you may have heard of the story of the little boy who brought the empty egg to school as part of his spring project. If you haven't, you should. It is sweet and teaches in a good way the resurrection of our Lord and its value to each of us. Email me if you need the story.

We have an empty egg, It is closed in a basket and tied with a bow during the weeks leading up to Easter. On Easter morning the egg is open, to reveal that is is empty "He is not here, for He is risen..."

Next: For a few years (like 9) we fiddled around with what to put in our kid's Easter Baskets. It is such a reverent holiday, and cheesy presents in the baskets seemed so totally opposite the nature of the sacred remembrence. Well, a few years ago we decided that instead of goofy prizes in their baskets the kids would each receive a perennial plant (these are the plants that come back year after year). I usually wrap each plant pot with a bow and set it nicely in the basket. Then on Easter morning we put our plants into the ground. They grow all spring and in the fall we prune them back. Next spring they come up bigger and more beautiful, reminding us of the renewal of life and the rebirth the world sees at this time of year when we celbrate our own second birth; the chance to be reborn and cleansed from sin because of Jesus Christ. It fits our family. And all the houses we've had have lovely Easter gardens to remind us year after year (I even got some plants into the ground here in big ol' Texas this year).

Last: I feel a little lost on this last one, because we've moved and I don't know if this tradition will hold. But for the last 5-6 years I've been the Easter Egg hunt queen of our neighborhood. We've lived in subdivisions or neighborhoods that beg for community interaction, so an Easter Egg hunt has been my personal contribution. For years one of the rooms in our house is transformed into easter egg central where neighbors bring their plastic filled eggs (wrapped candy only and taped shut please) to our home, lists of ages for the kids who will participate. For years I've been getting to know my neighbors as they drop by our home to deliver their eggs. It has been my blessing to interact with my neighbors this way year after year-and to enjoy the association of other moms as we plan these egg hunts together (hello Holly! Hello Sarah!). I felt so lost this year, showing up to an impromptu hunt organized by a church friend. As the kids wandered for their eggs I really felt a little sad. Who knows, maybe next year, or maybe this is one for the record books and there is another way to visit with neighbors at my front door and learn the names and ages of their children as we talk nicer weather and the upcoming spring break from school.

So there you have it. I didn't post a pic of our Easter buns; a swedish tradition that involves hollowed out bread rolls, almond paste, powdered sugar and whip cream. Those are so "Graham" because we brought them from our Swedish life of years ago. I also didn't share our Easter Tree, also a swedish tradition, as all its decorations stayed in the box this year (no time to sprout the twigs, no time to make a space in the boxes for the tree to be decorated; that will have to be for next year!)

Hope some of these are good ideas for your family. Let me know what your traditions are, and Happy Easter!


So in my monumental effort to focus on our last "un-moved-in" room I kinda left other stuff to the wind. And now I'm living in the aftermath. Mainly that aftermath is a 3 yr. old who colors on walls and screams at her 2 year old sister (who has now, thanks to the 3 year old, learned how to scream back). Today we worked on using the toilet properly (for the hundred thousandth time) because any day where I don't say little things like "oh, you are so good at keeping those underwear clean little friend!" is a day when we don't have clean underwear.

No day of work is complete without another day of work to follow, right. ONly this work is harder; because the work of molding and raising souls is eternal, its no "now how shall I organize this colored paper in the corner"-nope. That organizing stuff is pansy work compared to parenting...

On the bright side, said little toddler is absolutely adorable for many minutes of every day. She is in there; the "best" her, I just have to work through this aftermath to bring her out.

Come out soon, little friend, can't wait to be with your best you ;)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

These last hours

After dinner Dad came home...Yippeee! John swoops in to save the day; as he usually does. He puts little girls in pajamas while I read with Porter. Then I sing to Lucy (a nightly ritual)and promise to read to Molly tomorrow (its late!). After kissing all our kids and telling Mason to turn the lights out and hand over the comic book, John and I converge for one last push in the studio.

I didn't post the picture of the pile in the corner that still needs to be sorted out (all that 12x12 paper needs to be stored by color ya know;) nor did I show you the massive amount of recycling/good will stuff that is sitting outside the studio door waiting to be put in its proper place; a job for the morning, but instead we focus on the positive.

You can see the darling rug I found to cover my studio floor
You can see the fantastic farm table on which I will create
You can see most of the supplies I will use to aid in that creative process
You can see a happy, well-worked Katie, after a day of putting things where they belong
You can see John, and Katie with John. And you see them together in their own home, no more boxes to unpack and with John working with a local client so as not to be traveling on a Tuesday evening...

I like seeing all of that a whole lot.

Thanks loads for checking in today on my work. I think I'll tag some of you to share with the rest of us what you do hour by hour. It's pretty enlightening.

Grandma Noodle
Katie H.
Bonnie (on a Saturday, k? so I don't get in trouble with your teachers...)

Just try to keep your camera with you for one full day. Set a watch or a timer for 60 minutes, and when that timer goes off take some snap shots that show what is going on in your life, and what kind of work you do. Just for one day-give it a try

email me when you are ready to post on your blogs, or just email me and I'll post it for you on mine, cause I know some of you don't actually blog per se.

Remember...prepare for tomorrow by working today!

Dinner and beyond

O.k., things always wind up at dinner time; kids wind up and I wind up too. tonight was leftovers, because of the day's project I didn't cook. Kids are called to to clear the table. Mom dishes up spagetti with clean hands, The kids who are supposed to be cleaning the kitchen after dinner instead have a boxing match with the hot pads for gloves, and finally I catch Molly; who has been severely neglected when not in trouble today, sweeping up the kitchen floor for her sister Madi. This picture is the treasure of the day, and the memory very sweet with Molly happily humming a tune as she does her sister's chore. This scene makes the days' work of organizing "things" in a space of our home seem trivial, and I remember that my real work is to mother these little (and bigger) souls and help them come closer to a life of meaning and service.