Friday, August 29, 2008

Did you help Yesterday? And a little reminder from me

Did you help Ms. Nie yesterday? Designmom (awesome blog by the way) set up "Nie Nie Day" full of fundraising auctions and, more than that, an amazing show of force that people who don't know each other can help each other. I scored a fun new bracelet and sent all the money for said bangle to help Nie and her family with recovery. You can still help too...just click on the link above and enjoy the chance to help another. Remember the truth bearing quote "to help another person is to see the Face of God" (Victor Hugo)

Last Saturday Erin and I met in the church parking lot to participate in another "Nie event". We sent off helium balloons laden with well wishes for whoever happens to find them. This is a tradition in the family of Nie, and thousands of balloons went into the atmosphere (sent from far off places like England and Australia) to show faith and love and hope for a family that is struggling. Thanks Erin, for getting the balloons and being "together". I"m glad to have been a part of that little act of faith with you.

And...Just a little reminder from me. So many of us have been touched by the tragedy of Nie. Such a good person, such a horrible accident. Sometimes it is easy to climb the bandwagon when tragedy happens and we see it so obviously, so openly affect the lives of so many. But, please let us all remember, we never know the silent burdens that are being carried by our friends, our neighbors, the clerk at the grocery store or the person we stand next to in that grocery store check out line. Sometimes we see the way another carries her burden and we are strengthened and lifted. And sometimes, just sometimes, that nobility and strength in another is actually the pinprick that reminds us that we-though we wish it were different-don't carry our woes in likewise manner.

Reach out to those who are around you. Remind them they have value. Remember you are valued above gold and riches yourself, especially on those days when you feel clumsy and painfully not noble as you carry the load that weighs down your own heart.

We can lift the ones who suffer silently, as well as those whose suffering inspires the masses. A kind word, a moment of patience, an understanding heart can make the difference for one who suffers so silently that you'd never know anything was wrong.

In honor of Ms. Nie; spiritual enlightenment here.

Happy Long weekend, see you Tuesday.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

finishing touches

to the newly painted kitchen. An old picture re-framed to work with the white trim, a newly aquired antique rice scoop from China. An addition to my ever growing collection of "g"s. Thanks John, for making the kitchen look like me.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Daily Melody

As today is the first day that all my school aged children are actually in school (I hope the flu is gone, my own stomach is queezy today but you have to wonder if its the bug itself or just the memory of all the barf I've cleaned up since last Friday...) We are doing lots of chores. Laundry, organizing, straightening etc.

Lucy likes to sing to the hum of the washing machine. Its a great skill, to do your work "with a heart full of song". A great little lesson for the day.

I hope it is good bye flu and hello to routine. I crave normalcy right now, but I see in our lives it is just not to be. So I'll try to sing to the hum of the chaos and do my not normal life's work with a heart that is-trying to be-full of song.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A better ending

At the end of the school day it was apparent our children survived. Porter did not collapse for lack of nutrition, Madi made some friends, Mason came out of his first day of 8th grade having conquered his locker. Bryn stopped throwing up about 11 a.m. or so and we made our way tentatively to Jamba Juice for our annual more expensive than gold per oz. smoothie; a tradition we've been keeping for 6 "back to school" years.

A friend called and offered to have my little girls come play (I took a rain check, but so nice she called huh?). My mom posted a "hang in there" on the blog and my mom in law called and listened as I tearfully recounted the awful morning. My brother called Mason and asked him about his first day back to school. A friend brought by some delicious cinnamon swirl bread.

Little acts of kindness are such a poignant reminder that a Loving Father hears our silent prayers and -through others- reminds us that He is near and that He cares.

John made it home before the middle of the night, so he was here for our Family Home Evening. We introduced this year's family theme "We Will Walk In The Light". This talk was the basis for our lesson, we listened to it during dinner and re-visited it's concepts of:

*learning true doctrine
*obtaining a testimony
*living courageously

some visual aids were introduced. We'll light our candle (remembering the "light") at dinner this year and hopefully discuss one way we have walked in the light during the day. Our little picture is sitting on the kitchen display shelf, it will remind us that Christ is the giver of all light and truth; that He is the light we hold up, and His is the light that can fill our dark spaces and fill us, literally, with light that can burn within.

Each family member was given their own flashlight in symbolic remembrance of the family's theme. I wonder how long before the little lights, chained to backpacks, will remain...but it was an effort made with such good intention, hopefully the kids will think about walking "in the light" when they see it for as long as it lasts.

My favorite scripture from our lesson was this:

Ephesians 5:8 "For ye were sometimes in darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord; walk as children of light"

I love the mercy of the words. To me they are a reminder that because of the atonement of Christ we can be full of light, even if we had chosen darkness (or a portion of it) at one time or another.

A better ending to this day than could have been foreseen from it's rotten beginning. I guess out of darkness light can emerge, just like the scripture says.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The worst "First Day"

This has been our worst "first day of school" pretty much in the history of the Graham's going "back to school".

Brynley threw up all night. Which means she is missing the first day all together. Bummer for her, and for her grade; the teachers made a huge deal about having every enrolled child in their seat bright and early because if all the numbers shake out the school would be able to hire another fifth grade teacher....I hope my repeated explanations at the attendance office are enough NOT to have the school miss out on the extra staff due to one sick child :(

Porter threw up all day yesterday. Which means he went to school in a weakened and sorry state. Fed him cheerios and worried that might be a little much, but hey; the kid needed something in his stomach to handle a full day away.

Madi was 15 minutes late; due to the fact that I got -like-2 hours of sleep, and they began at about 5 a.m.-so needless to say we did not have a calm "hot breakfast" morning. It was more like; "kids, get dressed, hurry! We're going to be late!"

and we were.

Mason didn't have stuff in his locker. That is because his locker wouldn't open. We had wanted to get over to the school last Friday so he could calmly organize himself. But, last Friday our Molly was throwing up, and getting to the school couldn't happen with her chucking her cookies every 3 or 4 minutes (and she was throwing up cookies, because she kept sneaking food from the pantry all day even though she would then throw it up; Silly 4 year old!) And, because the elementary school kids were late the middle school kid didn't get as much time to get his things taken care of. I left my child, his back laden down with books and supplies, sitting in his first class (gym) without a locker that worked and with a look on face that said, "I knew this was going to be a crappy year. I hate middle school."

I hate middle school too.

So, that was our first day back. Horrible. Glad it is only one day. Tomorrow will be better, won't it?

Maybe I can pull the day out of the ashes and we can make something good of it; I've never been very good at stuff like that, much better at wallowing in the mire. But there is always a first time, right?

Check back tomorrow and we'll see how this 24 wraps itself up. Hopefully better than it began!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Getting Ready Today...

To be the schedule keeper, the bus driver, the homework task-master and the house organizer. Sorting clothing, straightening closets and the mud wall of our garage. Making sure back packs are empty and ready to re-load Monday morning. We go over today at 3 for the kids to "meet their teacher", find their classrooms and put their school supplies in their desks. Mason has already been "oriented" for 8th grade and he'll make a trip to his locker this afternoon to dump his stuff inside.

Here we go. The first full public school year we've had in a while. Are we ready? Probably not. But its coming, so bring it on...

Happy Friday.

and p.s. balloons will fly from our back patio tomorrow in honor of Ms. Nie. Read more about it here Any locals who want to join, post here to let me know and I'll firm up a time and process

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A calm in the storm of sibling rivalry

when they aren't clocking one another over the head with a doll or competing for my attention, this is how our two tiny girls behave as siblings.

AAWWWW, so cuuuuute.

How do I keep them asleep until they are, say, 5 or 6 years old and that impulsive scream-until-you-win phase is over? Any suggestions are welcome.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Thoughts on Growth

In the past several weeks I've been pondering at length on the process of how it is that we grow. I've thought a lot about those tiny seeds we put under the earth. We nurture them and give them a healthy environment; but unless they are willing to sprout and push through the ground with all their might they will not grow and become what it is they are meant to be. It's in that pushing, that reaching, that striving toward the sunlight
that they reach their full potential. The work and the struggle ultimately provide the chance for good seeds to grow.

I've come to feel for myself that all of us will have to push against the dirt at one time or another. A wise and trusted apostle once shared a story about a truck that was stuck in the mud. The driver figured that while he waited for help he'd go ahead and load down the outfit with the firewood he had come to the mud to gather in the first place. As he loaded down the truck bed he came to a realization. The load-the weight-the hefty burden placed upon the vehicle- would provide exactly the traction it would need to roll it's way out of the mire. The apostle, at the conclusion of his lesson, admonished us to remember that in our lives, it is the load that provides the traction to move us forward. The load causes us to seek, to reach and to grow closer to that God who loves us so. He advised us to "evaluate the load" and reminded us that sometimes we throw a few heavy burdens onto our own backs through choices which bring sorrowful consequences. But sometimes the load is placed carefully, even lovingly in our lives in order to help us push against the dirt and grow. And sometimes that load is just a crazy accident, a sad crossing of the wrong stars,a fluke.

A few of you may have read the few words I was invited to share on a "blogging friend's" Mother's day post last spring. Nie Nie, of the Nie Nie Dialogues, has become somewhat of a "blogging colleague". Someone who I admire and feel a personal connection to because of our mutual beliefs concerning religion, mothering, being a wife and being a woman. I could go on and gush-I hope you'll find out for yourself the quality and depth of the woman I'm introducing you to...

Ms. Nie and her loving husband were involved in an accident over the weekend that involved an airplane. A third individual involved in the accident has perished, and Mr. and Mrs. Nie are critically burned and looking at months and months of recovery. Their 4 children are in the loving care of other family members.

A load has been weighed down upon the backs of many. A dramatic, life-changing and faith challenging load. Nie and her sweetheart fight for their lives, and their family and children humbly pray and wait and work as the load they face becomes more apparent day by day.

I have great confidence that we will see-through blogs and other media-this family rise to this horrific occasion and carry their load with dignity, courage, and humor as they push through. I've been a witness to their faith, and I know that they allow the Savior of the world to shoulder this burden with them as they meekly seek help from heaven.

It is times like this when I evaluate my own load. And for my own load, I am grateful. I don't wish to carry it-and sometimes I even resent it-but I see it is my own, and I will bear it with all the dignity and faith I can muster. And I can humbly testify that I don't carry it alone. I recognize that my Savior carries the greater part with me (and He sweetly sends me help through family and friends too), and I know that yoked with Him I am able to move through the mud, push up against the dirt

and grow.

The cutest guy in the class of 1988

at Bountiful High School is my husband, John. It was such a pleasure to be his "arm candy" through out the evening of his high school reunion. He had contemplated skipping the whole event, stating that no one would remember him and he'd not be able to recognize anyone he saw.

I swear a hundred people hollered "John" and greeted him with a hearty and heart-felt handshake. After the introduction of spouses the high school acquaintance would turn to me and say something like this;

"I knew John through all of elementary school and middle school. Not just in High School. He's always been a great kid. Always."

They also said he looked "exactly the same" as he did in High School; just taller and with a better hair cut (and a cuter girlfriend, I might add-just kidding. I'm his wife, not just his girlfriend.)

You have always been a great. And though you didn't have such deep smile lines back in the day, I love you more today than I ever could have then (never went for kids in acid wash, I was a guess jeans girl, ya know?). I'm so glad I'm the one you introduced as your wife. I'm so lucky to raise our crew with such a great kid as you as their dad. Happy reunion John. What a great way to spend our last night in Utah.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Favorite Souveniers

Favorite things brought home from our summer holiday:

*the only real "Thing" ; a painting I attempted (with minor success) thanks to my wonderful, supportive and caring mom-in-law. John's mom drips talent when it comes to paint-she is astounding. She lets me try in my own way to be creative, and then when I get stuck she comes in and helps me out. I worked on this project for hours at her house while she served in the Bountiful Temple and my kids watched TV. Then, just before we left her, she swooped in and made my one dimentional effort look, well, finished. And she let it look like me. she didn't try to change it or make it "her", which is what I love best about her. She let it be mine, and listened to me and helped me make it what I had wanted it to be. Thanks mom, you are such a gift in my life.

*The gentle breeze of the mountains. I can't show you a picture of that amazing memory. I can only tell you that time spent where there is no cel phone coverage, a cool breeze and a river where children can gather rocks and sit and splash is an unbelievable souvenir to bring home from any excursion.

*The love and relationships of family. Cousins who hug and play happily together. Sisters who listen and tell it like it is. Brothers who shed a tear when we hug and say goodbye. This is the one thing I truly do wish we could HAVE here. But we carry their love and acceptance and support and friendship wherever we go, even though they are not around the corner or a short drive away. Thanks mom, for helping me hem the jeans. That was my favorite time spent with you this trip. Too late at night you once again came to my rescue-not sewing the hem, but helping me process and unload all my thoughts and feelings; I know you want to fix and repair and renew things for me. But you let me figure it out for myself when you just listen and show me your love. I'll remember our late night alone in the sewing room every time I put on the silly jeans. Thanks ever so very much.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Home improvements while we are not at Home

We had some developments while on holiday. My husband -as a loving and generous birthday gift- purchased a painter (or at least he purchased the labor of a painter) to transform our o.k. kitchen into a light and bright center of activity in our home. I am so over-the-top pleased with the results. The red accents are exactly the "punch" I hoped for, and the wall color is that perfect "lived-in" shade of blue I had searched and searched to find.

We also gathered a long-ago ordered rug for the floor in the den. This too was a long searched for color and pattern, and although a little smaller than I had desired for the room, I like the subtle pattern and hooked rug texture (I am a huge hooked wool rug fan, love the home-i-ness of that texture and design in floor coverings). The kids had one last long car drive on Tuesday as I loaded them in the car and trucked down to Uptown Country Home where the rug had been ordered from. I love this darling store tucked back in Snider Plaza -that is a favorite haunt from Dallas living of yester-year for me (when Snider Plaza was 15 minutes away instead of 45!).

So, a few fun things to welcome us home; a new look for the kitchen and a rug to replace the scratchy grey rug pad we'd had in the den since last February.

Trying to find fun in coming back to Texas. Thanks John for the wonderful, thoughtful and very clever birthday gift. I'm so thankful for your generosity and smarts (painting without kids under foot is always a winner for me!). I think of you, my handsome prince, whenever the white kitchen cupboards catch extra light from the windows and cast a bright happy glow on the room where I live most of my life. The calming blue reminds me you are coming home to calm my daily worries. The red accents remind me you are the fun and spunky joy in my life.

Friday, August 15, 2008

One big thank you...

must be given to Mr. James Bourne. A very dear family friend, James has been a mentor and hero to Mason for some time. You see, James is a student in the animation department at Brigham Young University. This prestigious and hard earned position is one that Mason would like have sometime down the road, and James has for the last two summers been willing to give Mason a first hand look at what it is like to be an animation student. Figure drawing, learning how to depict expression, perspective and action are just a few of the things Mason got a taste of in his intensive training with Master Bourne during our holiday in Utah.

Thanks James, for giving Mason some very precious time and some great advice. Thanks for helping him to have direction as he looks to his own future. Your gift of time, talent and friendship means a lot to him, and a lot to me, his mom!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I don't mean to dwell

on our recent month in Utah, but there are just a few things I need to mention.

Like the fact that all of the things in the basket you see are things I LOVE from Utah-or near Utah. And most of them ya just can't get anywhere else. Like;

Utah Sweet Corn. John and I had a corn selling stand, it was our first business venture together and it was unprofitable, but we grew to really enjoy a good ear of corn, like every night of the week during corn season we enjoyed it! And it never got old or tiresome to bite down on a lovely ear of salt and pepper corn on the cob. We ate corn night after night in Utah. Whenever I drove past a corn stand on the side of the road I stopped and brought some home to share with whomever we were eating with that night.

Bear Lake Raspberries. You can get these outside Utah, namely at Bear Lake. They are like red diamonds they are so precious. They melt with sweet goodness in your mouth. Eat them alone, bake them in things, put them in and on ice cream. They are wonderful. The only thing that compares are fresh Oregon blueberries (and you can't buy those in Utah...)

Great Harvest Bread. O.k., you can buy a great loaf of Great harvest bread right in my neighborhood here in TX, but you can't buy the sweet and buttery yumm of the sugar cookies that only the Store in Holladay has learned how to serve up. 24th of July, Valentine's day, Start of school and many other random and lovely holidays bring these special cookies to the "for sale" counter at our old neighborhood's location, and those are Utah-local and oh so yummy!

Fresh picked green beans. We have grown very good green beans in many different places. But eating fresh green beans with my siblings at Sunday dinner is -well- an experience I can only have in Utah. And I enjoy that experience, because we all like them, and we all compliment my mom when she buys them. And someday soon my little sister is going to harvest boat loads of them from her significant other's lot-turned-farm and I won't get to eat them with her because I live in stinkin' Texas. Just had to vent. Next year I swear I'll have yummy young green beans of my own from my very own garden (I've mentioned lack of garden before, and this won't be the last time either, since I'm convinced that we just don't have our OWN home unless we have our OWN garden to weed, and I don't mean flowers either; I mean tomatoes and beans and eggplant that no one eats but me!)

Oh, and Utah Sweet's company cinnamon bears. All the other kinds leave my taste buds over-worked. Only in Utah can you have just enough goo and just enough spicy cinnamon.

Some things are just better in Utah. Don't mean to dwell on that, its just the sorry truth.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Drive we Make

Out of Texas before the sun rises, into New Mexico for such a long time. A few hours (or less) in Colorado, and then on into Utah and pressing north to our family. This is the drive we make -24 hours of driving almost exactly - to be with family. This last weekend we made the trip in reverse, leaving behind loved ones and packing the car to the gills in order to go back to our Texas home and re-settle there after a long holiday.

It is a surreal feeling to make a drive like that with our large family. On the one hand, unnerving as kids squabble over electronic devices which are only aloud on long travel excursions. We pack into our suburban like sardines and climb over food, extra diapers and personal comfort devices ("blankies") in order to get in and out of the car. Kids need to stop for a chance to stretch, Parents drive with cafine pumping through their veins, we are all apprehensive about reaching our destination.

On the other hand, it is only our children and ourselves. Phones have no reception, conversations that only the perfect family dinner could match - its like a slumber party with your most kindred friends happening for hour after hour. Sitting close to John in the car with our children around us and only the Lord of Heaven aware of exactly where we are on the planet - in some weird sort of way I absolutely love that feeling.

Now we are home, feeling a little uneasy in Texas-its been a long time since we slept in our beds, and we moved here such a short time ago in the scheme of things that it all feels a little new again. Homesick for familiarity and the feeling that this is home for good-we all stumbled around this house in that "what are we doing here" kind of daze once returned. Then friends called, the kids swam in their swimming pool, and we were given chances to think of others before ourselves, so a hope that this will be home creeps in with the promise that happiness is a state of mind and not a State to live in.

The Grahams are home again.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Family Dinner in Utah




Once a month my parents gather their posterity in celebration of family and good food. Always the meal is on Sunday after church, and always it feels like we get to be "home" for a while. THose of us who live away from Utah miss these family gatherings, and we revel in them when we come home to visit. I thought it would be fun to share the way a large family enjoys one another, and document the importance of this family tradition in my life and the life of my siblings, my nieces and nephews, and my children. Hopefully my pictures can tell the words I lack to describe or convey the precious feeling of being part of a family that loves and accepts each other so comfortably and so truly.

The kids and their children begin to arrive and help prepare the last details of the meal. Dad then calls us all to prayer, and after proper thanks are given for the bounty of our blessings the grandkids are served. Parents and grandparents then dish out and converse longer than the meal could ever last. Table is cleared, and dishes are done while kids and grown ups go out to the drive way to play. The birthdays which occur during the month are, in finale to the evening, celebrated with Mom's traditional Boston Cream Pie. This month one of the birthdays celebrated was mine, lucky me! Converstations continue and sometimes games are played well into the evening, until all the posterity clears the house and mom and dad are left again with a little peace and quiet, and time to plan next month's gathering.
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Friday, August 08, 2008

Longing to see this face

this many weeks are too many. I'm longing so much to see my John again. Tonight he'll fly in, spending some 14 or so hours alone with me on an early anniversary overnight up at Snowbird resort (in a few weeks it will be 15 years since we began our lives and husband and wife. and We began them -after marrying in the Salt Lake Temple-with an evening up at Snowbird. He remembered, isn't that sweet?) He arranged it all himslef. All I have to do is settle the kids with the sitters he begged (thanks mom and Dad, and Jess and Dean; it takes a village to raise a child, I guess it takes and army to raise our 6!) and pick him up at the airport. I've been pretty strong without him until this week. About Monday I started to feel it; that feeling you have when you know that something so vital to your happiness and wholeness is just not with you. Even though John and I spend very few hours in the same place when we are home in Texas, those hours are the glue that hold me together. I can see and feel that some parts of me are so gone missing when we are apart so very long.

I love you John. I'm eager to be whole again. Fly safely to me my love. See you soon.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

My Favorite Cousin Camp Adventure




was a fun scavenger hunt on Main Street in Park City. The cousins were split into teams, and each team was given a section of the alphabet. Finding things, people and places beginning with each letter in your section and photographing them was the quest. A time limit was given, the stakes were high (Aunt Mandy provided the exciting prizes for most creative photos). Here you see our team's favorite letters; Y-yellow flowers in the park and W-WEAVING in the window (o.k., my nephew's favorite was actually the S; "stop for chocolate" sign in the fudge factory's window. And our most creative was certainly the kids posing as sniffing dogs in front of the R; red fire hydrant...but these pics were all I could find to share, so Y and W will have to do!)

Thanks to Jody for pulling off a cool power point presentation showing all the cousins' scavenger hunt photos. This was by far the most fun we had at camp this year, aside from riding the slide...
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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Day 1 Cousin Camp 2008





Awesome T-shirts; thanks Jody and way to go cousins, you were so creative in your artistic additions! Fun having lunch in the trees of the Park. Water bombs and squirt guns are so much more fun when aimed at an adult; thanks to Aunt Jessa for sacrificing her cool cycling jersy to appease the water-armed little tyrants! Back to the condo for swimming, dinner, tv and bed. What a great start to a fun week with cousins!
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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Our Family at Discovery





Spent a day at Discovery Gateway in Downtown Salt Lake while John was in town. We had planned to go jet-skiing on a resovoir near Park City but were rained out, so we found fun indoors instead.

Madi loved being the newscaster, Porter was a great "sports guy". Bryn creatively contrived fun contraptions while Mason directed the news cast. Molly and Lucy ran around from exhibit to exhibit, happy to have interactive toys to play with and other children to smile at. John and I enjoyed watching our children. They are amazing creatures, these kids. Every one of them. Sometimes we have those moments when we look at one another and feel completely satisfied to be the parents of a huge crew of very different and even sometimes challenging souls. What a Discovery it is to be their parents. How great to have the chance to discover new things about them on days like this one.
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Monday, August 04, 2008

the Slide





Riding the Alpine Slide is a yearly ritual that has been part of my life for the past 20 some odd years. As a kid our summer vacation was in Park City, where my dad could drive down the canyon to work each day while my mom and us kids ran around the mountain resort as if we owned the place. We spent evenings walking the Park city arts festival, we watched fireworks from Sweetwater when we were there on the 24th of July, and we rode the alpine slide like it was the indi 500. This year all six of my children could ride (with the help of awesome Uncle Dean as Porter's escort). What a rush to pass down to my kids something that's always been so fun for me.
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