Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Trying to look ahead...

I've fallen into a bit of disrepair this year. Especially since about June. Scripture study is all but not happening for me. I haven't exercised regularly since we ran Ragnar. My eating habits aren't habits at all, but instead they are indulgences seasoned with a peppering of guilt. I'm looking back over my shoulder a lot; re-visiting old experiences, remembering nostalgically the adventures of past years. Not wanting to forge ahead into the blessed possibilities of tomorrow, I'm sad for having lost something of what I was; the me who cared about me enough to take care of soul and body.

I must admit, I look in the mirror and I don't like what I see. And though I'm certainly not happy with the outward appearance (no muscle! so much soft goo hanging around my middle! uneven skin tones and wrinkle, oh my!) I also am not liking me on the inside very much. I feel brittle. I feel lonely. I feel I have little to give.

That is not the me I want to be any more.

A couple of days ago a friend sent a quote :

"Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor each morning the
devil says~~
"Oh Crap, She's up!"

So, its time to become that me. Sugar, farewell. Cookies and candy, I must bid you goodbye. No more sleeping in, but exercise must happen instead. Prayers (the personal kind) morning and night-and on my knees instead of sitting up in my bed ;) Scriptures are now placed in the car, in my handbag and by my bed so I can indulge in "feasting upon the word" each day for 15 minutes. And-the change that almost needs to happen more than any other-I will do as Camilla Kimball has suggested:

"Never supress a generous thought."

Its time to think about others. The others I live with and the others around me.

wish me the best of luck. And a prayer would be nice as well.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

John as Dad

John as Daddy

I went in to wish Brynley good night. She was crying. Frustrated by her less than perfect arithmetic, she said that she "felt dumb". I began to cheer lead, to encourage and to nurture. The tears kept flowing, the frustration was not laid to rest. Then her Daddy entered the room. He walked bedside, and placed his large hand on Brynley's tender cheek. Wiping tears away, John soothed his little girl, letting her know how proud he is of the way she is working and trying. Reminding her that she will grow smarter with effort and encouraging her not to give up. With calm words spoken and a touch only dad's can give, Brynley's crying ceased. She rolled onto her side, lights went out, and off she went to dreamland.

Sometimes there are words only believable when spoken by your Daddy. Compliments matter most when delivered by the man in the center of a child's life. It was this way for me. It is for those that are now mine.

John and I never bargained for a life raising six little souls. It was handed to us, one child at a time, and now sometimes we feel overwhelmed with the responsibility and the magnitude of what we are gone about doing. But in those moments, bedside, when John is Daddy and my little ones are in the palm of his hands, I know that we can do all that has been set before us. We can do it because of how John is Dad.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Standing on top of the world. Table Mountain, Capetown RSA

African nations represented; Halloween bash Joberg, RSA

Last Saturday I found myself at the Apple store. With our Apple. Which was broken. The MacGenius who serviced me was willing to download all of our data onto an external hard drive.

I felt panic. Our pictures! All of our pictures in jeopardy!

I explained to her, as clearly as I could, that I was willing to lose every pixa bite of information; Every document, every spreadsheet. But I was not willing to lose our photographs.

I asked her a dozen times to confirm that in her work she would retain every single little Kodak moment. The photos of us throwing a Halloween shin dig in Africa. The pictures of Lucy asleep next to Molly. I couldn’t bear to part with them. I was deathly afraid the genius would not be able to perform the weighty task.

She assured me she could.

I bought the external drive and left every visual memory of our family’s life over the last 2 years in her (hopefully) capable hands. I walked out feeling stripped of something vital. Not the computer, but the evidence of things experienced. The visual images of people we have loved across oceans and miles.

I didn’t know that I cling to these pictures. But I do. They remind me of the value of experience. They bring smiles and tears to me as they chronicle the life we’ve lived in and through. They are as close to a treasure as I have. No souvenir, no piece of furniture, no thing to touch or handle holds the value of the images that remind me of who we love, what we’ve seen, and who we have become because of it all.

MacGenius called Saturday night. She had retrieved everything-photos included-and the Apple is ready for me to retrieve it. I will spend an extra half hour under her tutelage to learn how to save photos in hard drives and on line so my life documented can remain safe from corrupt computers or natural disasters.

Most of you who read this blog are in those photographs. I wish for you to know that while the pictures themselves are precious, your friendship and love are more valued than the snapshots we have shared. The pictures are the reminders, but the memories stay with us even when MacGenius holds the fate of the photos in her proven to be capable hands.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Still a Top Dog...

Porter is enjoying school. He comes home telling me how he is making friends. He shares with me the kind comments from his teacher, Mrs. Jordan. His grades are good. He is happy.

But at heart, Porter is still a Top Dog. One of Mrs. Neudeck's top dogs.

Mrs. Neudeck was Porter's first grade teacher. She was awesome. Her class of "top dogs" were premier in Porter's mind as the very best and brightest the state of Texas had to offer.

Today during after-school-pretend-school in the garage, I caught Porter (named "Mr. Grant" today) encouraging his class of 3 willing students;

"Great job top dogs!" The phrase rolled out of his mouth like de ja vou.

Thank you Mrs. Neudeck, wherever you are. For being the teacher Porter adored. For treating your students like intelligent capable children. For expecting them to do their best. For bringing out the top dog in my very own kid.

He's still one of yours at heart.

(school's out tomorrow so we are going camping. See you back here on Monday.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

School after School

Sometimes in the afternoons I have to take one child or another to a practice. Others of my children do not enjoy the endless driving, so they stay home. While they are home, they play school in the garage.
John's work out white board is the chalk board. Madi is usually the teacher. The little girls and Porter use make-believe names, sit at tricycle and hotwheels desks, and raise their hands to speak.

They love their "after school-school".
And I love them.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tea with Grandma

My Grandma is the most propper lady I have ever known. She can teach how not to behave at a dinner table with just one frosty look. And her reverent demeanor in Temple and at Church is a sermon I am glad to have been able to receive.

And now Grandma is growing old. And while she is still quick with her wit, her step is growing slow.

Grandmas and Grandpas are one of the reasons we were glad to move back to Utah. We wanted to be a little more doting on the people who've doted on us over our the course of our lives...

so imagine my happy surprise to find an invitation in my mailbox to a "tea party with Grandma". All daughters, grand daughters and great-grand daughters invited to greet and eat and the home of cousin Liz. Yippee! Girl time with Grandma.

Unfortunately, tea time was also school carnival time and send-the-boys-to-fathers- and-sons-outing time. And it was the day our house was to close in Texas. But the house didn't close and we were left in a quandry for the weekend concerning all things Pacer Way.

A little shell shocked and very over scheduled, we arrived at Grandma's tea underdressed and overstressed. I sat next to my grandma, trying to converse with her while my older daughters tapped their watches demanding a short stay so they could return to the carnival we had just come from. As Grandma looked around and asked me how I was doing I had few words to express the "up in the air" feelings I had concerning the close of our home, the newness of our life back in Utah and the immediate demands of my daughters.

I did not enjoy the moment.

My cousins surrounding me, my sisters and mother near. My Grandma kissing her great-grandbabies and my aunt chit chatting about puppies and kittens. And I, completely pre-occupied.

President Thomas S. Monson has said "Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved." My problems, front and center, took hold of the chance to enjoy the people around me at Grandma's tea. What an important lesson I learned on this busy over scheduled evening.

Thank you Liz for the fantastic gathering. Thank you for all your preparation, for the tea cup and saucer, for the jovial welcome and the opening of your home to all of us! So very sorry to have missed the chance to enjoy the moments with you. I hope you'll give me another try-and that we could gather again. I'll do better this time around. Checking my worries at the door to enjoy time spent with people who matter most.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Laying Texas to rest

This morning's phone call was a great relief and also bittersweet. Our real estate agent, who happens to be my former running partner, my mentor and all around dear friend, called to inform us that our home is sold. Closed and Funded, Pacer way no longer is an address we is a place in our past.

The relief is immense. Tender mercies, seen in hindsight, have been mercifully showered upon our family. My testimony of the Lord's timing-which was made sure with the adoption of our daughters and the experiences of past moves and adventures, is now to a point of unwavering. While I desperately wished for the timing of the sale to be sooner and the price of the home sold to be higher, I can see how Heavenly means have brought our family many blessings (including the blessings of experience). Our hearts are full of thanks. Thus, the phone call that all is well and done was sweet.

And also, it was bitter. Pacer Way was a wonderful home. While we experienced trial and challenge there, we were also given comfort and peace. Our kids were blessed with great friends and a wonderful education. I was again surrounded by friends who have become woven into the fabric of who I am learning to become. My personal growth in Texas has been monumental. The independence I came to develop was empowering. The interdependence in the marriage I enjoy deeply satisfying. My love of God and Savior is deeper and more profound. My appreciation for covenants and worship in the Temple has become too tender to express. My eyes were opened to opportunities to minister to the needs of others as a way of inviting healing and power into my personal life. I am new and more because of Pacer Way. We enjoyed the beauty of nature around us there; the wide open spaces,the horses in the pasture, the power of the wind and rain, the immensity of the heat. For these reasons, and many more, we loved where we lived. And so the phone call this morning that all is well and done was a little bitter too.

Farewell to the yellow roses of Texas. So long to the long Horns and wide open spaces. We remember you with fondness, but more fondly still we remember the friends who graced our home on Pacer Way, and we truly and fiercely miss them.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Walking for Science teachers (and Art Teachers, and Music Teachers...)

There are some things about living in Utah that are not as nice as the same things were living in Texas. The public education system, in my opinion, is one of these things. In Texas the kids had Spanish, Music, Art, and P.E. with a paid certified teacher. Until last year in our local Utah School district the kids had P.E. with a parent volunteer and music, art and science were up to the classroom teacher. No spanish, at all, until Jr. High

So, I'm pleased to see that our elementary school has ponied up (through a generous grant from the PTA aka the parents) to hire specialists to go into the classrooms and cover these subjects. That's great, I'm really happy to see it being done...

but now we've got to pay for it.

And here, we pay with one annual fund raiser. The Walk-A-Thon/Carnival/Silent Auction/Basket raffle/late night outdoor movie fund raiser. This involves many mothers (and fathers too) spending hundreds and hundreds of hours gathering donations and promoting a day dedicated to making some big bucks. It also involves children asking parents, neighbors, grandparents, bishops, dance teachers and swim coaches to "sponsor" them as they walk around the massive school playing field and earn so much per lap (Porter was our star walk-a-thoner this year, he completed 21 laps). The kids wait until the night before the pledges are due and then start making phone calls. Then we show up to support the walking. And we go back in the evening to buy over priced corndogs and play silly expensive carnival games all in the name of raising money for the school. The money gets raised, and we get to bid on some cool silent auction items and hang out as a neighborhood at the school. But lots of time and effort has been expended; families lay down their lives for a few weeks so the massive event can unfold.

So this brings me to one of the other things that Texans can do better than Utahns. Fundraise. Texas parents write letters, telling the families and businesses in their school's boundaries how much money it takes to provide the services they are going to provide and then we write our checks for as much as we can afford to support those services. End of hours spent. Money raised. Done.

Please do not misunderstand me. I am all about fun school carnivals and getting the dollars gathered-but why not let the carnival be a "not for profit" reward for the money that was raised through writing and mailing out letters? I ask you in the name of the $5 corndog we will buy for dinner tonight and the $2 a ticket fish pond game we will play why not? Letters written+money sent in vs. Dj's, auction items, baskets compiled, food concessions organized, etc. etc. etc+hours of time and energy = the same money raised. I guess not everything's bigger Texas.

Have a wonderful weekend. If you are a Texan, be grateful you wrote your check and won't be spending your Friday night at a little school carnival. You can spend your $5 on the State fair corny-dog instead ;)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Color has come to the Spruces

I know the leaves are changing with oranges and reds in the air, but a kind friend brought over some fall color of her own. A terra cotta pot of beautiful purple/blues. This was all the encouragement I needed to "nest" a little. A new pot, some additional purples and greens (all to last us through Thanksgiving, I assure you!) and now, a happy welcome awaits the guest who graces our front door.

Thanks to Heidi for bringing the beautiful botanical colors; and a warm and tender thank you for her friendship.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Signs that this is Home...

There are a few things that need to happen before I feel like a new home is ours. One of those things happened last week and it is worth making mention of here.

We made chocolate chip cookies.

And we froze some of the dough, and it now waits in the ice box (next to the 7 grain cereal and above the Costco size cheese block and the Rhodes bad-for-you-but-oh-so-good white roll dough), in bags counted with a dozen cookies each, for us to bake up in the oven and enjoy.

One simple thing that means the Spruces is home to me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

History repeats itself

I was the second of six children. And I tried to be involved in lots of things; like singing in choirs and running for student body office. My baby sisters at the time were pre school age. And whenever my mom showed up to support me, my little sisters were right there with her.

And now my girls are at my side, as we tromp from track meet to swim meet to soccer game. And they cheer for their older brothers and sisters just like my sisters cheered for me.

I don't know how my little sisters feel now about the times they were by my mother's side, cheering me on through volleyball games and cheer leader try outs. But I know how I feel about them when I look back on it all. A mixture of gratitude and compassion (poor kids!) and the sure understanding that I am loved.

And that is what these two are delivering on almost a daily basis to the heroes that are their siblings.
Go Mason! They shout.
Go Brynley!
Yea Madi! Good Job Porter!

yells in little girl voices on various athletic fields across our neighborhood. Shouts of devotion. Cheers of adoration from our smallest Grahams. Go Grahams Go!

Monday, September 14, 2009

I have a plan to show you just how great this bike is

I am an avid fan (and have been since before Martha Stewart said you were cool). I want to show my readers (about 100-200 per day, modest I know but I love them all dearly!) just how purposeful this bucket bike would be if used in my daily life. Because my daily life is a lot like theirs, and they are just wanting to see that this bike can go all the places and haul all the good stuff (people, groceries, library books etc...) that you tell them it can on your one dimensional website. They can see it all work in my 3 dimensional life! And then they'll want one for themselves, I just know they will! And so I've come up with this plan.

Here is what I propose;

1. You allow me to pick up a "scratch and dent" or "sample" bike (blue please!) at your headquarters in SLC. I will do the hauling, and I'll haul it right to the Spruces, where I live in shadow of the mountains....

2. I'll ride the bike to PTA meetings, the local grocery store, the park and even to church, and I'll blog about it-I'll blog about it daily (and sometimes more than once daily) to let you and all those readers (whose numbers will increase as the word spreads, I'm sure!) see and hear, in my own words, just how awesome this bike really is.

3. At the end of the week, we can talk about you making me a deal on the very bike I've been riding! You'll be so happy with the rave reviews you may just cut the ol' price in half, or better yet, you may see this partnership as so successful that you'll want to give me another not so scratched or sampled bike for nothin'. Really, you might want to do that, right?

Sound like a quality plan? Great! I'll look forward to hearing from you soon!
Katie Graham

Thursday, September 10, 2009

School Shoe of Choice '09

Each daughter desired a different color. all are satisfied. I couldn't help but join in the fun, but of course with my very own "spin"

wishing you a very colorful autumn weekend. I'll spend some of mine reading this.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

This year's daily grind

Each child who reads plays piano.
Each child in Elementary school or older is aloud an activity besides.
Our Molly (who turned 5 only a short month ago) enjoys creative dance once a week.
Lucy attends preschool two mornings out of 5. Molly goes every day.
Church activities, family obligations and a volunteer responsibility at the Elementary school.
The schedule is very very full.

But I am getting my sea legs. And we are finding our way. This year, unlike last, John is with us in the evenings and that has made our life more full and more happy. Who doesn't want a kiss goodnight from daddy? Who wouldn't rather have the math wiz father help with homework? Who isn't appreciative when a load of laundry is magically folded "overnight", or dirty dishes left waiting in the sink found loaded in the dishwasher next morning? Life with John has made the busy schedule of Fall not just bareable, but enjoyable as well. To have him pop up on the soccer field for Porter's practice, or call to offer to bring Brynley home from gymnastics. Partnership parenting at its best.

Which makes this year's daily grind not such a grind after all.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A farewell to summer...

Almost on cue, the weather today is cooler, and I spent the morning watching my little girls try out their new school's playground. Pears are dropping from our trees like manna from out of heaven.

I am aching to go to the mountains, to remember what Autumn is about. The changing colors of the leaves, the way the Aspens shiver with the slight breeze of Fall.

My Texas friends are sweltering still, our African companions are coming out of winter. But here, at the Spruces, it is Autumn time in its infancy.

Farewell to this tumultuous, adventurous, surprising summer.
Hello to a welcome Fall.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Not 20, but 16

John has in the past several months mixed up the number of years we've been married. In this year of my 20th high school reunion and the celebration of our oldest son's 14th birthday John has been sure that we've been married 20 years.

And for some that could be unnerving. But for me it has only been endearing. Because we have been married what for us is a very long time. And we feel like we are comfortable with the fact that we are every day growing older together. And the together part is the part that matters.

Today we celebrate the anniversary of our vows, made 16 years ago right here in the valley where we now live.

On that morning I walked into a room in the Salt Lake Temple. In that room my soon-to-be husband knelt on his knee, and before me and the two kindly temple workers who were watching over us until our actual ceremony, my forever Love addressed me as his queen, and promised me there that he would take care of me. And that he would be my friend and love forever.

And then we promised God, together, that we would do our best to treat one another the way He would want us to. And that we would belong together and stay in each other's keeping and care until the end of eternity.

And eternity has no end.

And every day of our marriage I come to see a little more that my forever companion has kept his word. He keeps his covenants with God, and he has kept his promise to me. From the big things like how to provide for our family to the little things like hanging the pictures exactly the way I want them on the walls here at the Spruces; John is treating me like the queen he told me I was those 16 years ago while we sat alone (almost) in the Temple.

Which means that while we have not been 20 years married to one another, I look forward to the day that we will be. And to the day that it will be 30 and 40 and 50 and then on to forever.

Happy Anniversary John.

My take on Healthcare Reform

Our family waits to been seen by our Kindly South African doc. We saw her often over the 6 months we lived there. There are lots of illnesses in Africa.

Last Wednesday I had a lot to do. I mean, I had a lot to do, ya know?

One of those things was having our little girls' immunizations brought up to date. I planned for an hour spent in our new doctor's office. An hour is ample time to arrive, be seen, comfort crying daughters after they are pricked with pain and antibodies, pay our co-pay and leave.

We were there for 2.5 hours. We waited more than 90 minutes just in the waiting room.

In the waiting room was a sign that read;

If you are more than 15 minutes late for your visit today you may be asked to re-schedule. You will still be charged the copay for the late appointment. Thank you.

Why can I not charge the doctor for making me (and my anxious little ones) late for all the other things we had lined up for the day? Why should I, as a "stay at home mom" be expected to wait an unreasonable length of time to receive medical care for my kids? I watched, my friends, while drug reps walked in and out of the office with warm greetings and total access to the doctor, while little children with fevers sat in the waiting room waiting for a turn to be seen and diagnosed.

Needless to say, I don't believe he will be our doctor for long. As nice as he was to our children, as knowledgeable as he seemed about flu vaccines and meningitis shots, I feel my time ought to be given as much regard as he demands his patients give to his.

I am very skiddish about health care reform, having participated in a national health care system when we lived in Sweden (total pros and cons) and having repeatedly used the private health care system in South Africa (those who can pay are treated, end of story). I know I need to be realistic and understand that reform of some kind is in order.

Couldn't we just start with doctors who respect the time of their patients? I think that's a reform measure that would pass....

have a great (and healthy) weekend.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Pears have come to the Spruces

The acres of land where our neighborhood sits used to be an orchard. I wish I had seen it back in that day, with pears and peaches ripening in the shadow of the mountain. Today some of the homes are still graced with backyards of fruit; grapes, peaches, pears and I've heard even apples dotted over the area.

We have two pear trees, now overgrown with years and left to their own devices, but still bearing fruit to our delight!

The pears are dropping by the minute in the driveway and onto the grass in the back yard. But a week or so ago Mason looked up how to ripen the fruit, and picked several green pears to experiment with. Guess what? That teenage fruit farmer worked some magic, and for the last few days we've been feasting on pears.

I look forward to learning how to can them dehydrate them and even perhaps freeze them. for now we are just eating them (and cleaning them up off the drive way ;)

A fun reason to love life at the Spruces.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today my mom celebrates a milestone birthday. She told us "no party". We wanted more than anything to make her happy; so no party it is.

Mom's happiest hours are spent with all her kids and grandkids gathered around her, preferabley in her home. We can't provide that today,but we are still going to celebrate!

Daughters will enjoy a breakfast "out" at one of the area's local eateries. Then mom will have a companion through out the day and into the night to chat with and consult as she does whatever she wants to do.

We think she will want to clean out her basement. My parents have just remodeled that space, and with all change comes the need to clean out, thin out and start fresh. Mom has long told us she needs the time to do this, and the help to do it with someone. So we will take turns and hand off our kids to one another so she can have a friend and daughter by her side as she thins and organizes.

Or maybe she'll just want to go shopping-and in that case we'll come along and visit as she goes.

Today is bitty brother Alex's first day of school, which brings a whole bag of mixed emotions of its own. We'll be with her through the relief and joy of knowing he's in a good place and has come a long way to be in school all day. And we'll pat her arm and wipe her tear as she laments the loss of this little daily partner she has spent all waking hours with all summer long.

We will "cater" lunch and dinner, and just let her chose to use her time as she pleases. We hope she enjoys her day and more than anything we hope she feels our desire to celebrate her in every way we can (accept for a party!).

Sunday we will all gather at the Spruces for dinner and a presentation, a celebration of the wife/mom/grandma who means the world to us.

Happy Birthday mom! We love you so much!