Monday, November 30, 2009

How Was Yours?

Our kitchen has a fireplace, right on the wall. No way to sit around it, with a massive mantle like its a centerpiece when it isn't even centered in the room...this is what I've taken to using it for; holiday decorating

Hope you enjoyed a Happy and Thanks-filled weekend! Here is what we did in a nutshell;

-John takes oldest 2 on their first snowboarding trip. Mason, brave as he is, cried as he fell for the hundredth time. He came home and told me it was awesome. Then the next morning when I made him go running with me he said he couldn't because "everything hurts". I told him to lace up the runners or forget playing rugby because one day with those Highland boys will be a heck of a lot harder than a morning on the board. He ran 4 miles, no complaint ;)

-John cooks the turkey (for a little while) on his brand new TEXAS SMOKER. Our resident chef has wanted a TEXAS SMOKER for a very long time. New house calls for new toys I say (bring on the Madsen bike ;) so he's got an awesome black barrel looking thing out on the covered porch. Unfortunately, said TEXAS SMOKER blew a fuse due to a faulty fan in hour 4 of the 12 hour cooking process, so we ate oven roasted/smoke fusion turkey for dinner. VERY YUMMY. the candied yams and Brussels sprouts were delicious and my rolls were phenomenal.

-We played games with cousins til midnight at my mom and dad's house. It was awesome. John and I ate like pigs (at least I ate like a pig) since this was the only day off we were taking from our new healthy eating lifestyle (you could call it a diet, by why?).

-We worked on our basement, tons. The construction is so close to finished, and our basement is a wreck. Because of an upcoming trip to NYC (can't wait, please comment and tell me what to do while John goes to his fancy big meetings and I have a DAY to MYSELF in the city!) we felt we should kick it into gear and try to make order out of chaos. It didn't work. Still living in Chaos (which I think has very little to do with the basement being under construction)...

-We enjoyed a great dinner with the Malens. Love you guys. Please come often. We kept the Malen boys out late; which Pete and Annette I'm sure did not appreciate. This is a family that shuts down at 9 p.m. and starts up again at 5. Annette and I used to run together when we lived in Utah before, and often when we met at 5.30a.m. she had already cleaned all the bathrooms in her house. Wish being around them made me an early to bed early to rise type of person, it mostly just makes me jealous ;)

-John went to the BYU/UTAH football game on Saturday. Hope he had fun even though he sat with the BYU fans and the team of choice (can you say UTAH RED RUNNIN' UTES?) lost in overtime. Hope it counts for something that he got to hang out doing "guy stuff" for an entire day. He felt sheepishly guilty. Guess he doesn't know that I"m going to ask him to let me take lots more than one day away "girl weekend" away from home with my sisters this February (don't feel guilty any more, k honey?)

-Took the big 3 to see "the BLINDSIDE". Great film. PG13, and that means the previews before the film began were not for young eyes (especially not MY eyes). Scary movies are coming out soon, that's all I can say. But the movie itself was great. Wishing I could get away with the strong southern woman persona, but I just seem bossy when I try to pour it on. Wanting to be a more giving, less judgemental person after seeing the redemption of a child all because he was given love and support in a family. See the film, you'll be glad you did (just close your eyes for the previews)

-We (mostly) decked our halls at the Spruces. Still sans Christmas trees, and we need some garland and stuff here and there, but all the nick naks are out. wow, surprised at how fast that goes when you have as many helpers as I did (2 items broke in the move, thanks super glue for coming to our rescue!)

-Katie got to sing the Messiah along with a thousand other people and the Utah Symphony last night to usher in the holiday season and make me wildly happy I can read music and keep a melody line. Thanks Mom Graham for bringing me along, it is always a pleasure spending time with you and especially fun to sing with you the words of scripture which prophecy, lament and rejoice in the reality of Jesus Christ, whose birth we now celebrate all the rest of the year!

Thanks to all those who have responded to the holiday cards. We are glad you now know where we live and so thankful our lives are filled with memories of you all and the times we have shared with you!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Not to be Trite, but What are you Thankful For?

Lucy and I pause and overlook downtown Boise. One of 4 states we've lived in and loved

I saw this little clip Thursday night and it really made me think. So many thankful thoughts I was smiling as I sat alone, late at night at the computer (John has been away and it is so hard for me to go to bed on time when he's not waiting for me there...)

So, what ARE you thankful for? Me? Shall I do it by the numbers? Or with the ABC's? Not to be trite, but here goes:

8 grahams (yes, including me, I'm thankful I'm one of them) who I live with, fret over and love every day
13 permanent addresses, which have brought me wonderful relationships and experiences (a few of those addresses were from my childhood, and some addresses John and I have shared are not listed because they were only months long internships...)
8 hadfields, who made me the person I was when I became a Graham
4 parents, 2 who raised me, and 2 who raised my love. All of whom I am grateful for, and humbled to call my family.
31 A's on smart kids' report cards
4 States in which we've lived and made friends who feel like family
3 countries where we've called home, and 1 we adopt because it is the mother country of one of our own Grahams; these with their cultures, differences and people have helped make us more than we'd be with just one...
1 John. With infinite number of reasons why I can be thankful for him
1 healthy body
1 set of standards, commandments and expectations to live up to-which help us as a family see that everything good in the life of this family comes from a loving God.
5 bedrooms, nestled inside one ample cottage, whose windows today glow with the reflection of the sun on the new fallen snow.

Of course, I could go on. And I will, hopefully through out this week of Gratitude and beyond. I challenge you on turkey day to find yourself on your knees before your day begins. Offer thanks, and thanks alone-and see what the Lord has done for you. Thanksgiving is only a really good meal unless accompanied with a reflective sense of blessings granted.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Go Here...


once upon a time a handsome college boy gave a smitten college girl a ride from the Institute building on campus to her class in President's circle.

She fell in love with him on the short drive, and as he dropped her off to class she thought
"oh my gosh, I love that guy"

(It was the Monday before Thanksgiving by the way, 17 years ago next week)

He didn't know it for months and months
but she thought about him every time she walked up the steps to that building
where he drove her to class.

We took our family to the place where it began.
Logan from Sprout photo came along
She captured the Grahams years after that little drive
look what we've become!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Giving the sign of the Scout

self portrait, taken Saturday Afternoon when Porter just couldn't help but get into uniform

Nothing in Porter's boy(!) life is organized or kept tidy, save the uniform

Porter has been waiting for this day for about 4 years. Back then his mom was asked to be a den leader for a bunch of darling 8 year old boys. They came to our house every week, and I struggled to teach them to tie knots and "do a good turn daily". I loved those boys through 2 years of cub scouting-having never appreciated before then all that other den mothers had done for my then Boy Scout Mason. Porter was right at my side every single week, asking when he would be a scout from the very first den meeting.

And now the time has come. He has learned the scout motto, and the scout law. He knows what it means to follow Akela and he literally needled me incessantly until I put his pack number on the side of his shirt, so he would be "official".

His big brother is coming to the end of the trail to Eagle, just as he sets his foot on the same path. This time, I will be stronger and better and helping my son appreciate the values espoused in Scouting (How could you not want your kid to internalize "I , Porter Graham promise to do my best to do my duty to God and my Country, to help other people and obey ...."?).

Welcome to the pack Porter Graham. I hope you will become one who does do a good turn daily, who honors God and those who represent him, and who will fulfill the duty we all have to the country in which we live.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Once Upon a Time

We fed them University of Utah Pizza from the Pie, just so they'd know where our loyalties are...

A heated game, just like those of long ago, between good men and boys at our house on Friday night.

These boyish men were once little boys, 12 and 13 years old to be exact. And John (along with some other amazing men)was their scout leader. He led them in lessons on Sunday about honoring God and placing trust in the atonement in Jesus Christ. He led them on weekends, in snow caves in winter and sliding on ice blocks in summer. He led them 50 miles into the Idaho Wilderness, twice, and led them back home again.

And he loved them.

And they, in turn, loved him back. Game nights in Boise when these boys were 12 was like a planned tornado. I lost a screen door due to their running through it. Our kids were kept awake late into the night for their screaming and shouting at each other (and at John) in the middle of exciting games.

And I loved them too.

They grew up. And now they all attend BYU, just south of the Spruces by less than an hour. So on Friday they came. They ate our food and made loud noises and played games ALL NIGHT LONG (John came to bed around 2:30 a.m., and they guys had only left because some of them had sporting events to participate in the next morning...)

And John and I loved it. Every single minute. We will invite them again and again. Because, thanks to their parents (and maybe a tiny tiny bit thanks to John too) these men are good men. Strong men. Happy men. Who are preparing to become missionaries and who live the lessons John led them in many years ago.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Memories which surfaced at Craft Night

the fulfillment of revelation; I stand with our children and the man who interviewed me for marriage; Paul Koelliker. He and is amazing wife Ann are now serving as missionaries and church leaders in Southern Africa. My own amazing companion is snapping our photograph.

My sisters and mom and I were gathered last night to create and craft. We chatted about Thanksgiving plans, our husbands hobbies and other interesting topics while we worked on our individual projects. My sister, Amanda, mentioned that she had wished she had served a full time mission.

I listened and nodded as the women who mean the most to me worked the ideas over...I had nothing I could really contribute. I was remembering long ago.

When I was 21 years old I wanted to be a missionary. I prayed with fervency and asked the Lord to confirm that I should go. I was busy with college. Serving as president of my LDS sorority, and dating a lot of boys. I lived at home and still had the busy obligations of parents and brothers and sisters around me all the time. I was ready to see my life transform into some bigger and more than it was.

The answer was no.

I prayed more earnestly and asked for permission to do this service for the Lord. I wanted to be independent in my testimony and to give my every waking hour in the service of my God.

The answer was no again. And there was another answer too;

"you need to prepare now to meet your husband."

I kept that part of the answer a very very tight lipped secret. I'm not sure I've EVER shared this revelation before. I FELT TERRIFIED (this part is a post for another day).

I didn't try to "find a husband". I tried to do exactly what I was told to do. I tried to prepare to meet him. I studied harder in school. I was more friendly, more reliable, more thoughtful of others than before. I tried to save my money. I tried to look nice and eat right and exercise. I tried to read my scriptures. I tried to prepare to be someone who would be noticed by the kind of guy that I wanted to be married to. It was hard work, but my own expectations for an eternal companion were pretty dang darn high, so I had to measure up myself.

Boys started crawling out of the wood work. I dated every guy I knew at least once and did more lip smacking in the next month or two than I had ever done in the 21 years prior to that. And with very little effort on my part. It was as if I was all of a sudden noticed and noticeable. I enjoyed the attention. None of them knew of my deep buried secret. If they had they would never have paid me the attention (at least not the most interesting ones!).

One month after this frightening revelation I saw John's face for the first time. Three months after that I was flirting with him in my sorority office and fell in love with him on the spot.

He was the last guy on the planet who would have stuck around an hour had he known about the answer to my prayer.

We dated. I loved him. He goofed around. He was inattentive. I was in love. I tried not to let my deep feelings show. And I definitely tried not to seem as though I was looking for a husband.

Time passed. Our story wound on. And as John and I realized our feelings for one another were mutual he begged me to serve a mission. 18 more months for him to not be a husband. 18 more months for me to prepare to be a wife, the kind of wife he wanted (because he wanted to marry a return the way).

I could not tell him everything, I could only tell him that I knew I was not to go. And, gratefully, I could tell him that I honestly wanted to go and that the experience for me would be welcome.

He persisted. I declined. I never revealed what had been revealed to me. By then I wanted John to be the subject and object of that revelation so badly that my insides ached with hope. But the last thing on the planet for me to do was tell him.

the summer came. Events transpired. We became engaged. And that is kind of the end of my little Friday story.

Accept for one thing. I kind of made a deal with God when he told me no(not that God is a deal maker, just that He helped me accept His answer a little better this way). I asked Him if maybe I could just take a rain check for later.

And He said Yes.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Family Crest (upon request)

The Crest hangs over the mantle in our Texas home, Christmas 2008

Now it finds its place here, over our Swedish bench in the kitchen, at the Spruces

painted with love for John's Christmas gift 2006

*Every symbol and phrase is something I want our family to remember.
*The words you do not recognize are foreign languages; all the ones in which we have experienced God's love (English, Spanish, Swedish, Vietnamese. We had not yet felt loved in the tongue from Zimbabwe or Evie's native Xhosa when this piece was created).
*The black and white border symbolizes our symbol of integrity; like a railroad track, what we know is right must line up with what we do-we've asked our kids countless times if they are "on track", and the border reminds them of that train of integrity that means so much to us.
*John's mother is the reason the images have depth, warmth and dimension. I designed and painted the canvas, but before her help it was a one dimensional idea-her artistry and talent is the reason it looks like a painting instead of a child's drawing. Forever thank you Mom Graham!

* John and I have imagined where it would hang
in the homes we've purchased since this piece was gifted on Northwood Road. I think it will have its permanent home right where it is, in our kitchen at the Spruces.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

As the Dust Settles

We are in the midst of some very small improvements here at the Spruces. Making the "breakfast nook" more of a nook, and creating a laundry room where there was once a basement storage space. Making the existing laundry area (off the back entry to our home) into a "message center" complete with a place for kids' papers, my files, a doc station for phones and cameras and little spots here and there for stuff like re-usable grocery bags and dog leashes and such.

We are excited and grateful to be able to enjoy these little additions. Now we just have to live through the few weeks of mess and inconvenience in order to make them happen.

Thanks to Jeff Shaw Construction and Justin Rametta our cabinet craftsman, we should see completion just in time for Thanksgiving (I hope ;)

We'll keep you posted as these ideas become reality. For now I'm trying to smile and think happy endings as I watch the dust settle!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Two Years Ago...

waiting for the bird show at the Monte Carlo bird preserve, Johannesburg, RSA

We've spent some of our weekend looking through photographs of our family-particularly of Porter as he has grown up for a project he gets to do at school. It has made me think of all the people and places we have enjoyed.

Truly, the greatest treasures of this life have nothing to do with stuff. Most valuable are the relationships we have been blessed to have; and most of you who read this blog are my life's treasures indeed.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Friday was terrific

John and I meet for a date, Salt Lake 2009

*I got to remember the sweet kindness of a friend, who sent me a note telling me she knew I was loved by the Lord. She had no idea that the very day she had sent me that note I had been on my knees pleading that I might feel the love and approval of my Father in Heaven. A tender mercy for me.

*I got to spend time with my dad. He helped me create a light fixture for our home. It was fun being with him-watching him use his talents. I appreciated that he respected my ideas, and that he helped me make them become reality. Thanks Daddy, you are fantastic.

*My kids played with their friends. The house was full of children, it was clean before they came and I was relaxed and enjoyed the noises and messes they made. What a gift to have a house full.

* Sometimes when he travels, John quietly meets me by the trampoline before the children know he is home. If he is discovered, I have to compete with 6 other bodies and one dog for his attention and affection, so ours is a secret meeting-a tender hello after his absence. Its like the balm of Gilead for me. I'm like a giddy teenager, butterflies dancing as I tiptoe out the door unnoticed and fly into his arms to hear that he missed me and that he's glad to be home with me again.

*Board games galore on Friday night. I watched movies and cuddled with my little ones while John lit up the Power Grid and saved the Kingdom with Cities and Knights. I felt so happy to hear him laugh and spurt rules left and right. It's a new tradition; First Friday night of the month is game night from now on.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

At the Dinner Table Last Evening

Mine was not this beautiful, but it was yummy just the same. image found here

We tried a new recipe. I made it up myself. Chicken vegetable soup (no, not chicken noodle soup.)

The kids moaned.

“This is NOT chicken noodle soup” they said.

“Does this have ZUCCHINI? AWW I hate zucchini!” they said

“looks like the noodles are not the right shape” they said

I thought to myself “I just made this darn soup and it looks good to me, and I want to eat it in peace without your complaints”

Molly was asked to say the prayer over the food. With sarcasm, I asked her to please ask Heaven to give us strength to eat the soup even though there are things in the soup that we don’t like to eat.

Molly’s prayer was like this;

“Heavenly Father. Please Bless that we will ….eat….this….soup. And Thank thee that we have this….soup. And Thank thee that we love each other SOO much that we can be a happy family.”

Zucchini never tasted so good.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Ready to Read

Molly's crown announces her achievements, that she is ready to 'blast off" into reading...

Molly announced to us yesterday that she is "ready to read". I was happy to hear the news, though not quite sure why she was so positively decided. Today I understand.

Molly jumped in the car from preschool with this crown on her head and this chart in her hands. "SEE!! I TOLD YOU! I'm all ready to read now!" she bubbled.

Molly's ability to recognize every letter and sound in the alphabet, not to mention knowing numbers from 1-10 makes me bubble too. Hearing her giggle the letters and sounds (cowboy "Y" says yyy. Apple "a" says aaa.) was the absolute highlight of a very tiresome week.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A Late Afternoon Post for a Day that is slipping away too quickly.

I am trying to be focused in my efforts to keep house, to keep my spiritual and physical house in order. To keep the house where we live in order. To keep my mental house in order. Lists each day which include a little box to check for "pray, exercise read (meaning read scriptures) and blog (because this is the best intellectual exercise I have time for right now).

Very few of those things have happened.

Sick kids. Two of them. Busy toddlers. Two others. Doctor visits that were not scheduled. Running for popsicles and jello and anything to con my little boy into letting clear liquids into his body.


sometimes in the mothering the house feels like its more made of cards than stone.

And yet. At least I can say that my house is built upon a rock.
So that when these crazy days come. And the wind and the rain and the floods come up, my house can at least

stand still.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Their Favorite Part

This is what Sunday morning brought to our house this year...

The kids like to create their costumes (or at least they like to see how their designs have turned out of my creating...). The kids like trick-or-treating. But what the kids like most of all is the trading.

"One big candy bar for all of your licorices?"
"Two bit-o-honey and a lollypop for your reece's peanut butter cup?"

It goes on for hours.

This year, they called their cousins. Dinner at Grandma's consisted of children trading treats while parents conversed above the rustle of wrappers and the loud-ish negotiations.

Now that the trades have been made, we can almost throw the candy away (almost!). Though they like to eat it (definitely!) they like to trade it even more.