Thursday, October 30, 2008

Teaching and Learning with Molly

I've spent the last two Tuesdays and the last two Thursdays as Molly's preschool teacher. 7 other students and one other daughter (Lucy stayed home to have Mom teach her too) were with us as we discovered the color orange, did a lot of cutting and patterning, celebrated Halloween, and generally learned from each other. I've enjoyed the experience a lot. Though my ever present need for greater patience was a looming interruption to the flow of my thoughts, I felt it was good to see how Molly interacts with the children she calls her friends and in an environment that is different from the "go play with Lucy while I clean up the kitchen" that is the general hum of our life together.

Molly wasn't perfect while I was her teacher. Time out on her bed happened once, and comments about why we don't use potty words with our preschool friends were frequently delivered (by me, to Molly, not visa versa). However, I learned a lot in observing My Molly over the course of my teaching turn. She is bright, very bright, and she likes to be engaged in projects that tap into her smarts and her wit. She has good fine motor skills, and it was a pleasure every time I watched her spell her own name and use the scissors to her advantage. Molly is learning to talk instead of scream (this is a long time coming) and I've found recently that if I come upon her in mid-scenario (like, two daughters are crying and it seems there has been a scuffle) I can see that she is truly trying to work things out without becoming infantile. That is a big step for her, and I am feeling a measure of respect and quiet respect for her that I've hoped and prayed for over the last little while. She is still our little Ms. Wiggles, and she can scream with the best of them (especially if she is made to ride in the car for long stretches at a time), but she's coming right along. And I'm proud of her. And, as always, I'm glad to call her mine.

So love my Molly girl, so happy to learn from her these last two preschool weeks.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's 10:33 at night and I should not be blogging...

but since I don't want to clean the kitchen, or tape up all the preschool art that needs to be on the walls for Halloween-Fest joy school style tomorrow, or finish my daughters' halloween costumes (yes, plural daughters need their costumes finished, by tomorrow people), or make the pumpkin bread that should be ready for halloween fest, or set up John's office to act as the self contained preschool room it has had to be this week, or clean off the library table in preparations for glue-ing tissue paper pumpkins in the morning, or go put Porter on the toilet in his sleep so he doesn't wet the bed, or pick up the den so it doesn't look like a trash pit, or wash my face, put on my pajamas and say my prayers in preparation to sleep...

I am blogging.

I might watch "the office" too, haven't decided. And I've seriously toyed with the idea of going upstairs and starting a scrapbook page (because I am 3 weeks behind in my $100 scrapbook class that lasts 8 weeks, and did I mention I am 3 weeks behind? I am).

I believe this is called "magical thinking" because as I sit here and ramble to you I have some vague notion that some little magic fairy is going to fly in through Cooper's dog door and make the kitchen clean again and perhaps finish the costumes too. I can really manage the rest in the morning,that is, if I don't stay up all night and just get it done.

Wait, no one but me is going to get up when the alarm goes off. John is not going to be with me to run scripture study or to help the kids get off to school. Shoot

What am I doing blogging? I've got so much to get done!
catch ya later.

A Final Thought

It's time to give the weekend's race a final goodbye and adieus. Go Here for better photos and commentary than my tired brain could come up with and to enjoy the essence of the race more fully.

To be sure, this experience was, for me, a reason to work toward a goal. I find that when I employ the efforts of others whom I respect and saddle them with me in something challenging, I tend to rise better to the occasion. Call it competition, call it pride, call it group psychology, but it works for me, and in this experience it worked particularly well. As you'll see by the thoughts and comments of my teammates, I was saddled with some of the best and brightest this world has to offer. Bright spirits, bright smiles, bright friendships that will last far beyond a fun weekend. And I found that even though I cannot return to the super-fit me I was in my training for tri days, I can still do hard things; and I can do them with less sleep and more of a packed life of motherhood.

As a fitting word for this occasion, go here for spiritual enlightenment.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

So Late, but Not at all Forgotten...

Jessa's birthday was two days ago, and i missed it. I didn't call. It didn't register when she sent me a text of congratulations on running without falling. The past 5-7 days have run together in a blurr; husband is unavailable at the moment so days turn into nights unnoticed. I am Molly's preschool teacher this week and last, so the house is overrun with projects that teach 4 year olds what the letter "O" looks like and books that celebrate Halloween. The race; awesome, fun, challenging and time consuming, took three nights worth of sleep and to be honest I think I'm getting a little old for that kind of rest deprivation (but not old enough not to do it again; count me in for next year girls!). So, I didn't even realize the date, or even the day of the week...and I missed our Jessa's big day.

I'm so sorry sister. Could you possibly forgive?

Please know that you are so not forgotten! You are adored by all who live in this Graham house, and I-your big sis-remember every year the night I walked up stairs to see my mother holding her brand spankin' new baby, freshly delivered, by the ankles-reassuring me that my new little sister would be o.k. (yep, got to witness post birth Jessa, as she was too impatient to be birthed at hospital).

I've been there with ya from the start, literally. so please know that even though the whir of my current pace made my birthday wish for you late, It was in no way ever forgotten.

I love you J., like a big sister really should love her little sister; protectively and proudly. With awe and respect and wonder. I am inspired by your artfulness, by the fresh way you see the world. I love the passion that is in you, and the talents that ooze from your being. Your loyalty is astounding, and your challenged faith growing, ever growing, to solid knowledge and couragious living. I'm happy you are loved by me and all who live with me, as you've been among us more than any other family member. How could I not love a sister who would play super heroes with my kids?

I do love you, and I wish you, belatedly, a grand and wonderful year ahead. You are in a good place J., enjoy every living second of it.

Happy belated Birthday!

Monday, October 27, 2008

The race, in brief

I have 30 seconds to tell you that the race was spectacular. Every runner outdid herself (including me I must say, finished every leg faster than I had anticipated). The kids and John did well without me, although the house missed me a lot (lets just say it took a bit of doing to sort the laundry and finish cleaning the kitchen this morning; thanks to Mom-in-law Judy who took a long layover and spent it helping the Grahams' get back on their feet!).

More pictures and stories tomorrow. Thanks to all who sent love and support; a special and ever mounting thanks to John for being my cheerleader and best friend. Miss you all Ragnar runners, can't wait for a repeat next year!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hello to a Dear Friend and other bits of news

I had the priviledge of hearing from our dear friend, Trust Shoko, who was our driver and overall protector while we lived in South Africa last year. Trust has and will always been completely endearing to our family. His loyalty to our children, to his religion and to his own wife and family is sincere and devoted. He is hard working, resourceful and humble.

Some of you who read my blog (Melissa I'm thinking of you in particular) are friends from our wonderful days in Joburg. If you can, please look out for Trust. Contact him, send a note to the Shoko home, invite the Shoko family to dinner in your home, visit them in theirs. See what you can do to lift the hands that hang down at this time of challenge for a dear and good soul.

Remember, serving others helps us become more happy. Who knows but that the next time I will be the one who needs the lifting, but for now, I ask you to care for this wonderful family as I am too far away to provide swift relief. Don't delay. Extend your heart to them now.

Happy Thursday.

p.s. In light of the fact that I am leaving tonight to participate in a 24 hour relay, I won't be blogging much until next week. But I do plan to show you the beautiful clogs I've earned by running even though I didn't want to , and going without sugar even when I craved it to my very bones. My month of sacrifice is almost over, and to be honest I've not done very well this week as per my no-sugar diet, but overall I think I've earned the new and funky shoes waiting for me at the finish line...

look for fun pictures of wonderful women enjoying the chance to stretch our muscles and endure hard things in the name of competition and good health. See you all on Monday!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


This little light in our family has had quite an exciting few weeks. We enjoyed hearing from her during the 3rd grade music program where she not only charmed us with her crystal clear every dilectible voice, but she also delivered her speaking part with fantastic diction and perfect inflection. Next day, we got a packet of information regarding the LEAP program (advanced learning) that Madi has just been tested into, smarty-pants that she is. And she raced out the door this morning to make it to her choir practice-she had to audition and of course, she made it.

Such a bright light, such a quick wit, such a sweet smile, such an able mind, such a tender spirit...

we recently enjoyed girls night out and I asked Madi what she would "keep" in the way of lessons learned during her first term of school. Her reply, "It is really really really important to always be honest." Math, reading, history and science all took a back seat to a value that will serve her well, and she recognized that honesty was the keeper lesson for the term; I love that maturity about her.

love you my Madi-long-legs. So happy you are a Graham

Monday, October 20, 2008

Some thoughts on Relaxation and Meditation

These are my things, carefully placed in a tranquil locker as I prepare to be de-stressed. My plan as I set these things in their temporary place was that I would meditate on some spiritual matters that had been at the front of my mind and sitting on my heart. John had given me the day (quite literally; he took the whole day off, and gave me the order to go to the spa-his company had gifted me a full day's treatment which I had very dutifully avoided-who on earth has a WHOLE DAY to relax?! WHO WANTS ONE? I'm not joking when I ask that, who does?)
This is me, standing in the spa bathrobe (I give it a 6, not as soft as some I've enjoyed) and the spa shoes they give you to slip on and off between treatments...At this point I had thoughfully considered my plan. As my muscles were de-knotted and my skin made smooth I would commune with Heaven and consider my spiritual quandries. The topics I had wanted to ponder were at the forfront of my mind, my heart prepared to hear resonate with truths to be unfolded as I pondered.

Then they started the massage. This is where the soul searching basically ended and the sleeping began.

The body scrub was next. Women dressed in black uniforms put nice smelling lotions and oils all over me, and sometimes stuck their hands in my face so I could be more fully entoxicated with the aromas (this was kind of nice with my eyes closed, but to be honest, I opened my eyes at one point to see a person towering over me with her hand 2 centemeters from my nose and it kind of unnerved me.)

Lunch followed, delivered to you in a "common room" where all the spa goers hang out between their treatments. Music that included the sounds of forest animals and running water was playing through the entire experience.

At the end of the day my body did feel relaxed. That spot between my shoulder blades that sometimes causes me excrutiating pain felt less troublesome, and my toes were beautifully painted a rosy red. I was pleasantly fragrant, my skin had been scrubbed and my face was refreshed. My body had been tended to.

But in the day of relaxation I learned such a valuable lesson. See, The world we live in tells us to take time to relax, to rejuvinate and that by doing so our souls will be lifted too. But my experience was quite the contrary-when my body was being concentrated on, even in a tranquil setting, it was hard for me to connect, to commune with heaven, when I was so occupied with my physical self. That isn't to say I haven't had wonderfully spiritual experiences when I've been enjoying physical activity. My triathlon experience was both a physical and spiritual accomplishment, but it was definitely true that when my body was so distracted with relaxation my spirit could not as easily connect.

This doesn't mean I didnt' have a great day, or that it was TOO much of a waste of time. It just means that I learned one very important thing. If I want to rejuvinate my body, I'll go to the spa. But if I want to fill my soul, to ponder the truths of God or ask Him for answers to my ponderings I'll need to chose a better place.

In honor of the Nie, who is hopefully awakening, spiritual enlightenment here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Upside of home officing...

Stories stolen during a 15 minute lull of the busy business day. These days are ending for a season, John is officially staffed after a couple of weeks between cases. Sigh, I'll miss his occasional surprise announcements that he'll be "working from home today". Even though we don't see much of him on those home office days we do enjoy 10 minute story time bursts or a good look at his handsome mug while he joins us for peanut butter and jelly during his lunch hour.

Yes, he does actually work when he works from home. The mess on his office desk and the sound of the white noise machine are all good indicators that his employer is getting his money's worth out of John's salary...

and, yes, that is my darling daughter with her finger basically all the way up her nose.

Happy Friday

Thursday, October 16, 2008


She began screaming (and I do mean full throttle screaming) when we pulled into the driveway. "Don git me outttt!" she screeched, perhaps wanting a little afternoon drive around the neighborhood?

Out we came, and her screams continued for another 20 minutes. The jacket came off, she put it back on, it came off again and she put it back on, screaming for me to "zi pit" every time.

Still screaming, I put her in her bed. She would not stay. I stopped trying to force it, and she wandered down stairs, climbed into John's chair, put on her hood

and finally fell asleep.

Sweet dreams little screamer. Wake up happy :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Monday is for Making...

this. Bread for my family to slice and use in their lunch sandwiches, as toast in the mornings, and for after school snacks smeared with honey or jam. Finally the weather is bake-friendly, and my life has a pattern enough that I can claim Mondays to be in my own home, all day long, with my little girls at my feet and my domesticity staring me in my eager face.

When do you act domestic? It is good for the soul you know. Being domestic (which includes folding laundry, planting or weeding a garden, washing things like floors and windows, baking or cooking delightful dishes, improving your home with a coat of paint or a picture on the wall that wasn't there before-to me, these kinds of things are domestic things, and they are good in their proper doses).

what is your favorite domestic delight? Some love to clean (this is not me). Some love to decorate, some to cook, some to organize. What for you? Baking, decorating, organizing; all these are part of the domestic goddess within me. Mothering too, is part of my personal domestic godess-ness. Nurturing a child, watching them understand something they didn't get before, and helping them learn how to clean, cook and grow is all part of the domesticity within. And I enjoy all of it, especially when my attitude is that of service and not of servitude.

One last thought, you don't have to mother to be domestic. You don't have to be a parent to enjoy improving your domicile and the nature of those who reside within it. Domesticity is the appreciation of all things home-it lends itself to everyone, and it can be enjoyable and fulfilling.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I'd like to win the green one....

I hope I'm not selling my blog down the river for a handbag, but here goes:

check out this website
try to win a bag
I hope we haven't all been dooped!

All in the same minute

My little daughters rummage through the paint basket in the laundry room to find paint smocks
I try hard to be a great mom/neighbor in making pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (this venture began before this minute began, who'd have known the ensuing chaos would be so overwhelming?)
Madi paces the house looking for something to do (she ended up mentoring Porter, bless her!)
Brynley works on homework, causing me to glide from kitchen to library to help her with her math (she is so smart, she rarely needs any help, who knew it would be in this minute?!)
Porter creates a paper pumpkin to complete his class project, paint out on the patio-with little girls prancing around begging for a brush!

Couldn't even post the picture of Mason checking his teacher's websites, or me, with my hair standing on end and my shirt all untucked, racing from child to child and wondering how in the world the chaos became so out of control in the course of one tiny minute of my mothering life.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A small love letter from John

Dear Katie,
Though I've been away on business in Europe, I wanted to leave a few little reminders that you are the center of my universe. Like labeling all the spice jars so when you open the drawer on the 4th night of my long absence you'll see my handwriting and begin to cry. Or keeping my favorite shorts draped over the bench in our bedroom so you'll consider that soon I'll walk in the door and change from my blue power suit to my favorite cargos, fringed hems and all. Or, finally, I"ll leave my old t-shirt (the one I've worn to every birth or "gotcha day" for every child we parent together) under your pillow, with a little note reminding you that one of my old t-shirts is the perfect sleeping attire.

I love you, and these are some ways I show it.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

I'm finally offically IN

I had wanted to write a really great essay on the photos you see above. The process of bringing this quilt together for a Relief Society Service Project caused me to really ponder and reflect on a lot of things. But I have to say the thing that I thought and felt the most as I labored with my friend (the talented quilter friend who really brought the project to a timely completion; thank you Tamara!) Was this:

FINALLY, I am in.

For some 20 years I have been a member of the Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. No where in the welcome packet does it mention the making of quilts as a right to passage into this great organization for women. But, oh, how it is talked about. "When we used to have our meetings..." and the quilting stories began. The very founders of Relief Society met and organized themselves over the need for the men working on the Nauvoo Temple to have newly sewn shirts-theirs having become worn with the labor of the cutting the stones and laying the foundation for the Temple. Quilt making is kind of like a fringe right to those who belong, and other than tying some knots at meetings I've avoided the process as best I could.

I am a timid seamstress to say the least. Plus, I like having time, not fabric, on my hands.

Please don't misunderstand, I love to look at fabric. I've tried my hand at applique and I even made a little crib quilt (or 3) when I was a younger mother. But never a real quilt for Relief Society. I'd never been asked and I'd never volunteered. It didn't bother me, like I said ; membership didn't require sewing squares of material into artful blankets.

But as I stood in my studio ironing seems just so it really hit me hard; I'm participating in a right of passage. I am now linked in a different, homemade kind of way to my grandmothers and their relief society sisters of yore, who gathered to serve through sewing.

The words haven't come as eloquently as I'd like. It doesn't sound as profound or artful as I'd hoped. But at least I've made an attempt to let you know.

I'm finally officially IN the Relief Society

(to see what we as an international Relief Society do and why; go here.)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Service to others can Help Our Happy

I came across this article in Time magazine last month. Way to Go Utah! You, collectively, have a better understanding that helping other people can help your happy!

One of my favorite church leaders has shared some powerful insight in the last few weeks during our general conference meetings. You've been reading about a Heritage of Happiness here on my blog. I'm determined to claim that heritage, and I'm learning here of the things I can do for it to be mine (and yours!). One way to become a happier person is to learn to look outward and serve those who need. This isn't necessarily a grand production, often those who've rendered the most tender service in my life have done it through a phone call, a note in the mail, or a kind word on this blog. Did you know you were answering prayers when you spoke those kind words to me? Probably not. But I did, and that is what counts. This is one of my favorite quotes from the recent conference addresses:

"In the end, the number of prayers we say may contribute to our happiness, but the number of prayers we answer may be of even greater importance. Let us open our eyes and see the heavy hearts, notice the loneliness and despair; let us feel the silent prayers of others around us, and let us be an instrument in the hands of the Lord to answer those prayers." -Deiter F. Uchtdorf

I hope at some time I've been an answer for someone. I know others have been the sweet relief or tender mercy I've longed for when I've prayed. I intend to help my happy by being the answer to someone's prayers; someone like, maybe, my children's, or my spouse's for starters. Perhaps a neighbor, a friend, or the woman who scans through my groceries.

Try it; say your prayers and then go out and be an answer. See if it doesn't help your happy too.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Another Reason for Happy; Date night with my Big girls

Saturday night found us girls out on the town while Mason and John were enjoying spiritual enlightenment here. When I was living near my sisters, the night before general conference was "girls night out" as the menfolk headed to a special session of spiritual feasting catered just to them (we women get our own special sessions, respectively the week before each general conference weekend). Girls night usually included food, sometimes service, always "bonding" and did I mention the food? While we are no longer living near family I had to make a girls night of my own; thank goodness I have a couple of girls old enough to enjoy it with me!

We began our evening in glutinous eating at the Cheesecake Factory, and continued on with a Halloween costume hunt. The food was (expensive and) delicious. It was fun to have good conversation with these two fantastic souls that are my children. They are so unique from each other and yet so compatible when they desire it. My heart sings with gladness that they have each other as friends and compadres through this mortal life. Both do well in school (though with very different learning and study styles, another interesting thing about them) and so it was nice to celebrate good grades as we ate like pigs (have you seen the portion sizes at that restaurant? Ridiculous!) and giggled together.

The local fabric/craft store and Target provided all the "fill in" things we needed for the girls' very creative Halloween costumes. Both girls are using almost all things we have on hand, with just a few embellishments here and there-I'm so proud of their creativity and their willing frugality! We headed home, arms loaded down with our Halloween fare (decorations were half off; we have a new thing or two to add to our happy Halloween house decor).

We were lacking on our service, so tonight we'll begin our "friendly phantom" tradition-more about that later. For now I'm just so happy for female companions who share my blood (and my cheesecake) on the Saturday night before conference.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Straw?

This is Lucy, she is watching her brother play in his first soccer practice of the season. Lucy's mom is taking the photo, her heart is racing and her forhead beaded with sweat. This is not because Lucy's mom has just been cycling or training for her upcoming race, this is because her mom is running in the race of life...
Porter has begged to play soccer for the last 18 months. Why 18 months? 'Cause that's when his last soccer season ended.
During the past 2 seasons we have either been living abroad or moving in to a new home/neighborhood/routine, which means no soccer for Porter.

Only trouble is, I think soccer might be the straw-you know that straw, the one that broke the camel's back...

Soccer begins about 45 minutes after piano ends. Soccer is a day after "Winkids" day, in which we eat dinner at 4:30 p.m. and then spend hours at a sports facility for all our kids to develop their talents (no soccer at winkids; darn!). Soccer comes a day before gymnastics team and friends day (Friends day is every friday; as long as the kids do well in school they can bring kids home with them. Mason has his buddies over every Friday night for movies, or video games or board games. Good grades=friday friend day). Soccer happens two days after Scouts/Achievement day, which means 4 days of each week there is something happening besides homework, dinner, bath and bedtime. Just writing it down causes physical exhaustion and mental anxiety.

so, As I was hollering at the kids to "get yourselves into that car" to go to soccer I realized my pulse was racing and my voice a bit shrill. Once we got there (15 minutes late but at least fed) It was nice to sit down, watch my boy in action, help my kids do homework as we sat and talk to my teenager about music and friends (David Archuletta is a current favorite, but thank goodness for his guitar teacher who encourages the Jack Johnson influence as well as Pete Brienholt, now those guys I can jam to).

We'll see if soccer is the straw. Most weeks I'm pretty organized and fairly "together", getting the kids where they belong (it really isn't that many places, there are just that many kids!). I am just longing for a little time at home and the chance to reflect on my blessings. I think I'm a bit busy delivering opportunities to my children at times, and it is difficult to feel I am delivering the lessons they need to know that life has meaning beyond the soccer field or the piano recital. Do they know that? I hope so. Because in the end it won't matter if my Porter is a soccer star, but it will REALLY matter if he knows that I love him, and that I am calm and patient as I teach him to be a good team member and a good and honest boy who says his prayers before he falls into bed after a good hard soccer practice.

Gotta run, happy Friday!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Remembering can help our happy

I'm remembering today that one year ago these scenes were part of our daily experience. Wow, did I really get to do that? Live in Africa with all of my children? Have my husband work regular hours and come home at night to his adoring family? Visit orphanages, see living history, ride elephants? Yep. I got to do that. And it was only a year ago.

Remembering the blessings we've been given helps us feel happy as we live in our everyday. In fact, I heard here how writing down our daily blessings can be a great help and sustaining spiritual strength in harder times. And the things we record can bless the lives of our children too.

Give it a try. Before you sleep each night, pull out a notebook, say a little prayer, and stare at the page until you can see, or hear, or feel one way you or one of your family members has been blessed in that day. I bet you don't stare very long. If you open your heart, the good blessings of the Lord will become apparent. He will lovingly remind you that He is in your day to day, that He is interested and has helped all He can to bring you and your family closer to Him, and closer to knowing His Son.

Two nights ago, my little diary entry was about the sweet love and advice my daddy gave me in a phone conversation we shared about how to raise a teenager. Yesterday, I was thankful that I made it through bedtime without pulling any of my hair out of my head-and without screaming at my children (yes, that was a blessing, and I am thankful for it and can publicly acknowledge that sometimes I want to rip out hair and scream, don't we all want to do that sometimes? Please tell me yes!).

There are blessings in your life. Try hard to see them today. Remember them later, and let them help your happy.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

helping my happy

In an effort to take in and become one who enjoys a heritage of happiness, it is important to recognize those things around us that can bring happiness to our lives. I think sometimes I fall short in seeing that even when life is chaos, there are a few things in the chaos that are happy. I"m trying to see those things, and to pause and really enjoy the chance to feel the happiness that comes from them. Here are a few things in my little life that are currently helping my happy. Decorating for Halloween.
The conversation I had with my absolutely heavenly niece Ella by phone the other day.
and the simple truth that these little people are just about to complete their first 6 weeks of school; with nary a poor grade among them. Their diligence in learning has brought me great happiness even in the chaos of homework and tardy bells...

what helps your happy? Think about it. I bet in the craziness of the life you are in you can fin some things that bring happiness. When you do, be sure to stop, breath in that happy feeling for a while, and then go forward looking for more happy to be had in the every day of your living.