Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Swimming in Busy

Elder Johnson no longer wears shark teeth as his regular attire. He now wears white shirts and ties, and he is going to be an awesome missionary

some of us with some of the Johnsons, Summer '08

We are swimming in the busy things of this season this week. My to-do list is long, and a little overwhelming.

But it is worth it.

Because the reason it is a long list and we are behind a little? We went to Boise. For the Weekend. To See the Johnsons. To be with our friends there. To Celebrate Nate's choice to go on a mission.

So I will take the long list and the feeling that I am behind.

Because we made time for friends who are like our family. And that is what this season is abou, anyway.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Great Expectations

A horrible photo, but true documentation of the richness and texture in the life I am blessed to live.

This could be a post about seeing an amazing piece of art; looking at the dimension, the fatness and thickness of Van Gogh's strokes, the depth of color, the energy of the painting.

But this is a post about a teacher.

I'm going to tell you a truth about me. I wasn't an amazing student. I liked school and wanted to be successful in my life. But I had a life while I was in school. I had a part time job all 4 years of high school and all my years in college. I was involved in student government (a little in High school and more in college) and I wanted to make and keep some friends. My freshman year I played sports, and all my years of high school and college I sang in choirs, with performances and even some travel thrown in. And I was part of a family. My parents needed me to help at our house, and to help in our family owned business. They are amazing parents, and provided me with fantastic blessings and lessons at home, one of those lessons being the responsibility to look after other siblings (a lot).

So my studies just weren't the main thing, ya know?

There is one huge exception to this general truth.

I aced my Humanities class.

Humanities was a college level course. Only senior year students could take it. Mrs. Hewlett was the teacher. She required the best from her students. She crammed amazing information into our heads with an understanding that we would keep it there (for good). She required us to perform well on exams or we were excused from the course. We had to learn how to articulate our beliefs about art and history and literature and music. We had to be able to tell her what we knew in many different ways and at any given time during the year-long experience that was Humanities class.

She had great expectations.

And I worked hard to meet to them.

My grades were nearly perfect in her class. I could not let her down. And as I left my mediocre high school performance and looked forward to college, it was her expectations and the way I rose to them that made me feel I could succeed in the more challenging work of University studies.

And its because of those great expectations that I, when seeing the paint practically erupting from Van Gogh's canvas, could remember the reason his work was so monumental in the history of art and culture. I knew why the large brush strokes were significant in the context of the time period in which he painted. Why it was revolutionary. Why he is one of the masters. And the viewing of the painting meant something more than colors and strokes on a canvas. It was an experience. It was full, it had meaning and depth-and I was more for having had the experience.

And as I realized that I could remember those things that I learned more than 20 years ago, I thought about expectations, and why we rise to them. And I thought about my children, and about what I expect of them. And I wondered and hoped and prayed that maybe, some 20 years from now that one of my kids (or all of them) would see something or do something and be reminded of the expectations their parents had of them-and be grateful that there experiences could make them more for having risen to the expectations we'd set. That their lives could become like the masterpiece, full of texture and color and depth-

because of my great expectations.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

How Did He Make Our Eyes?

Lucy looks for clarity concerning her greatest quandary in life; How was the eye created?
Thanks to Logan at Sprout Photo for a clear view of Lucy's beautiful eyes

Lucy is fascinated with the creation of man. She asks about different facets of it all day long. 'How did Jesus make us mommy?' in various forms and with varied specifics is her constant question.

Lucy is most interested in the creation of the eye.

She wonders out loud how it might have been made. Why they are different colors on different people. Why they are circles instead of squares. Why they are two instead of one.

Yesterday she thought she had it figured out.

'I think He used some jello mommy. That might be how he made them. Jello is lots of colors. Jello is soft but stays in a shape. Jello is kind of gooey...' and on and on and on

After much verbal thought Lucy asked one more time; "is that how Jesus made our eyes?"

I told her honestly "I don't know."

and then I said, also honestly

'maybe some day we will get to ask Him'.

Lucy resolutely and assuredly replied

"Oh I will Mommy, I will!"

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

This Year's Be-Decking

The outdoor bench. A 'G' brought home from New York is perfectly placed outside.

Jess looked through the garden shed and in our boxes of ornaments and found the perfect things to display outside for passers by to see

My favorite touch? The glitterfied pine cone wreath I found at the garden store, framed by a half price cedar wreath from the grocery store. Rest assured, the pine cones will come back year after year!

a cousin's ornament exchange scored a beautiful vintage ornament from my late Grandmother Hadfield. I placed it on the mantle, just a little red touch to all the apple green

Though our fireplace has such an awkward placement in our home (along the wall of the kitchen, with no space for a cozy sitting space), I do feel glad we can have a fire going in the kitchen, and I am pleased that a beautiful tribute to the Savior, whose birth we celebrate this season, finds a prominent place in our home year round...

My sister Jessica of DIG DESIGN designed our outdoor porch decor.
I absolutely LOVE it. It is full. It is festive. It has glitter and fresh greenery.
Would you love for Jess to design your outdoor decor for you? Go Here and she'll be glad to oblige (for a small hourly fee...worth every penny!)

For inside, we are still working there, but lets just say it is staying pretty simple. I am leaving several things in their boxes this year. Having fun tucking pine boughs all over the house. I fell in love with the apple green berries Jess used outside, and found some amazing ribbon of the same hue. It has founds its way into the red and white of my Swedish style Christmas tree and has even graced the multi colored tree the kids decorate 'for themselves' every year.

One of the good things of this season of the year? Enjoying some creativity.
Merry decorating!

Monday, December 06, 2010

New York Weekend

As close to Tiffany's as I'll ever get!

The view from Bouchon, Columbus Circle as it prepares for Christmas

John enjoys a slice of Red Velvet from Magnolia Bakery, delicious!

Two weekends with John in one month is other-worldly for me. Those weekends being on each of the Country's coasts was incredible. Eating good food, seeing a show, satiating every shopping tendency in my body (not buying, just shopping!), and walking miles a day was down right fun.

The best days of the trip; delicious lunch and a matinee with John. And a day following my friend Sariah through the city. Sariah let me tag along as she ran errands (on foot) and purchased her children's christmas gifts (FAO Schwartz and the American Girl Store). Sariah and her husband Ben moved to the city just after their marriage and graduation from Business School in Chicago (where we met them). 13 years later they are still there, raising their 4 children in a 2 bedroom apartment. Ben was just released as the bishop of the church congregation that meets on Columbus Ave. They work and serve and adapt all the time as they raise their children in urban-mecca.

So, enjoying those relationships was the best part of the trip. Shopping and lights and glitter and 'stuff'? that was fun too, but not nearly as fulfilling.

My trip taking time is ended for at least another year. It was an amazing experience to be on each coast of our country and to take in the very different sights and sounds and "feels" of the Eastern and Wesetern sides of the continent.

Now I'm home, and we are back in the throws of Holiday preparations and parenting a crew. I'm glad to have had these wonderful experiences, and feel doubly blessed to have enjoyed them with John.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Way Back Last Weekend

candles, bounty-inspired, and brown and white decor were the fashion for the table.

John's cooking schedule. He has make these elaborate lists, spread sheets and time tables for the last many years-no wonder everything is ready on time, and all the dishes make it to the table warm and delicious!

Mom Graham dishes up, with smoked turkey, pinenut dressing, smashed potatoes, jello salad, tossed green salad, traditional sweet potatoes and even more traditional green bean casserole. 3 varieties of pie and two different types of bread. A feast if there ever was one.

Our Russian neighbors join us for their first traditional Thanksgiving. Grandma Graham has been our Thanksgiving guest for the past many years.

We celebrated Thanksgiving. John, in usual fashion, made us a wonderful feast. This year he let me make the apple pie, and I contributed my usual offering of homemade rolls (two kinds). We enjoyed setting a beautiful table, and it felt nice to have that table full of neighbors and wonderful family. We 'passed the pig' to share the things we are thankful for (a little 3 legged clay pig, passed from person to person, when the pig comes to you its time to tell something you are grateful for).

I like Thanksgiving because it is full of our family. We invite friends, we invite relatives, but it is us and the kids cooking and cleaning, setting table and being together. And sometimes that time with our family is the thing I'm most thankful for.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

On the Road to Eagle and bragging rites

merit badges Mason has earned. Not more than enough, but not the minimum either. For a kid who was without a scout program for 6 months of his scouting experience, he did pretty well I think!

A couple of sundays ago we escorted Mason to his Eagle Scout Board of Review. This is a final meeting where scout appointed mentors 'test' potential Eagle scouts on the things they've learned as a result of scouting, on how they interact with their parents and family, and on what they did and what they learned from doing their eagle scout project.

Having never become an Eagle scout myself, and this being our first scout, I had no idea what awaited our boy. Needless to say, I was pretty impressed.

Mason met three men, two of whom he'd known prior, but one who was a stranger. They introduced themselves and then asked Mason to introduce himself and his parents. They proceeded to ask Mason's parents if we could recommend him to this honor of Eagel Scout. John and I did, indeed, recommend this boy of ours. While he is not a perfect kid, and while the road to eagle has been a bumpy road, with a few detours along the way, he has done a good job of finishing something that was difficult, and he finished it for himself. Most moms know as much or more about their kid's project as the kid himself; but in Mason's case he really was the one who organized and executed (with some pointers and opinions from his parents) his project by himself. He even had to do TWO projects essentially, because the first project date was changed after he had done all the leg work and had gathered donations, but he was to be up at camp when they rescheduled the project. So on to another project and a different experience, and after lots of painful effort, he finished that project too.

After we gave our word of recommendation, we were excused. Mason spent time tying knots and reciting scout oaths and laws while we sat in the room next door, hopeful that his experience would be a good one.

Mason came back out, and while the board deliberated he worried that he had forgotten how to tie a simple square knot-he asked to borrow my belt, so he could practice and get it right. He was caught, mid-tying, by the board summoning us all back into the review.

Mason passed with flying colors. In fact these were the words they said, exactly;

"This is the best board of review we have ever had. And Mason has been the best candidate we have ever seen. He has presented himself and his family well, he has conversed with us and explained himself effectively. He displays scout spirit in everything he presents; his dress, his demeanor and his attitude. We are happy to recommend him to be an eagle, and that rank is effective from this moment on."

Yes, I am not kidding. That is what they said. It made me tear up; not because I'm super scout loving mom (I think it has its good place, but I'm not exactly a cheerleader when it comes to the saluting and uniform wearing...) but just to hear a stranger tell you that your son is outstanding in a positive way. Its enough to make a mom want to sing it from the rooftops.

Or at least shout it into the bloggosphere.

so, here is where the road to eagle technically comes to its end. There will be ceremony some time in January where pats on the back will be given and smiles will be spread all around. But the work of the walk down this bumpy road is over, and Mason took the road less traveled, which for me has made all the difference.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Down here in the trenches

big and small. Busy and lazy. Happy and surly. All these are part of my mothering right now.

Right now in my mothering there are so many perplexities. I have children who are big and others who are small. Still with one who is home much of the day and another who is so busy we rarely see her here. New and busy opportunities like football and swimming have fractured my time in the evenings with our children as I leave my beloved dinner night routine to taxi drive instead. Our morning routine is in shambles to say the least. I'm not sure how to remain stable when it feels like the ground beneath me is shifting all the time.

This morning John had to head to work early. Mason missed his ride to school and I missed saying goodbye to Bryn as she caught her ride while I was bus driving Mason. The next two to leave pranced out of the house without lunches; again. They will instead choose from the multiple fattening offerings in the school's cafeteria. Molly's lunch wasn't made when her ride pulled in the driveway; I'll have to deliver it to her carpool mom before her lunch hour arrives.

As things change and children grow I don't know how to match my philosophy to their schedules. It is a quandary that challenges my confidence and makes me wonder where my mothering needs to go now.

I know the answers can come to me if I will stop think and pray. But I kind of lament this moment of my life, when my confidence is challenged and my skills stretched and my weaknesses raw and public.

Mothering isn't about scheduling and it isn't about cleaning or organizing. Mothering is about nurturing; about leading children into adulthood with security, faith and independence. If I work on those three things and leave the extras aside a new routine can emerge. A feeling of confidence, even if not of control, can return. I can feel that my work is worth it.

Off to the thinking and praying I guess.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Napa Valley Road Trip

Probably my favorite photo of the entire road trip. John sits, satisfied, at our table at Mustard's Grill. We have cooked many a meal from this restaurant's cook book, so going here for dinner was like meeting a pen pal for the first time. A place you know you like even though you've never visited.

for me, the drive is half the fun. Having John be a captive audience so we can talk and plan and talk some more. Even the ugly salt flats were a bearable part of the journey because John and I spent the hours chatting and laughing together.

This was my personal favorite: Buchon Bakery. Chef Thomas Keller is owner and operator here. We saw the most beautiful baked goods on this planet, and got to eat some of them too!

63 miles of riding up and down the valley was a fun and long day for both of us. But the beauty of the vineyards and the fun of knowing John has wanted to ride these roads for years and years made the many miles worth it!

We enjoyed much of a day at the Culinary Institute of America. Here, the country's top chefs are trained and tutored to produce the finest in culinary arts. John said to me as we left that he hopes one of this institution's "boot camps" would somehow be in our future.

John and I recently enjoyed a road trip to Napa Valley. This was a dream come true-for John because he has wanted to visit this cooking mecca for many years, and for me because I've always wanted to take him there. John's 40th birthday was the catalyst; I saved pennies and dollars, spare change from the dryer and rebates sent in the mail. All of these dollars and cents added to just enough for the two of us to drive to the valley, enjoy some great food, learn about cooking, and spend some time together. There was one particular restaurant we could not try because we couldn't secure a reservation. But otherwise I'd say the weekend was nearly perfect! Uninteruppted time spent talking in the car. Time spent on our bikes (a lot of time!). Time spent learning together about food and how to make something so necessary into something so special. I'm so glad we could get away together; and I'm especially glad we went away to this unique and interesting valley where food is paramount and beauty is everywhere.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Reason You Make Your Own Lunches

My mom made my lunch for me. She almost had to, as we were newspaper boys and girls; waking up before the sun to fold, bag and throw the day's happenings onto the porches of our neighbors. Once we were home it was a mad dash to dress, breakfast and deliver ourselves to our classrooms before the tardy bell (in my memory we were late every day...but there were no truency officers at our house so that memory is a clouded one). Mom was awesome to do for us what we weren't getting done for ourselves.

But every day, it was tuna. My back pack smelled like tuna. My books smelled like tuna. My homework smelled like tuna-and sometimes like pickles if the day's sandwich was so embellished.

By Junior High I couldn't stomach tunafish. And I think to this day I have not served a can to any of you at lunchtime.

Each morning you complain and fit throw that you make your lunches before you leave our home. There are some perameters; protein, carbohydrate, fruit, vegatable, drink. Once a week you enjoy your choice of a variety of potato chips. Once a week you take 'dessert'. Once a week your drink is chocolate milk. But you choose the filling of your sandwiches. You choose the flavor of your juice box. You even pick lunchsack, lunchbox or target sack (Mason's favorite) to carry your confections.

Amidst your complaints, I want you to understand. I do not have a paper route to use to teach you the value of learning how to work. Your morning chores; piano, bed making, room straightening and picking up your things; are the ways I can show you that we must labor to be happy and feel satisfied. And the choosing is the reason that I have you make your lunch. Not only do you work a bit, but you have the power of choice. Something my mother could not give me; (tuna was the affordable option; and the family I grew up in had to be concerned with affordability. Bless my mother for all the ways she knew how to stretch a dollar. My parents did so well for us, giving us everything that was most important and sacrificing for our welfare).

I hope when you write the fuzzy memories of your growing up you will have some kind words to say about lunch making. And about morning chores. Maybe as you search out ways to teach your children work you will bless your mornings of bed making and picking up around the house.

And I hope you will appreciate the sweet smelling power of choice that was offered you as you made your lunch each and every morning.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A recent email from me to you...

I just saw you out jumping on the trampoline in the rain. I enjoyed watching you
with a big smile getting wet, jumping into the splits and doing tuck after tuck.
I had heard a noise and a rhythm, I didn't know what it was, but as I watched I
realized it was the sound of your feet splashing on the springy black net of the
tramp, sending you higher and higher.

I loved seeing the joy and satisfaction on your face.

I hope you always make time to do things you love-and that you share those fun
things with your own children some day. They will be so lucky to jump in the
rain with you.

You will be a wonderful mother.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

About Halloween

Madi got to dress up in two costumes this year, playing the part of a darling witch, and also a beautiful princess

That is my 12 year old daughter-she wore the batman costume half a dozen times until it was time to trick or treat, then she chickened out and dressed up as a ballerina fairy...thus showing us the swinging mood shifts of the budding teenage girl...

A witch is never without her loyal black cat...

On their way to the school parade. The "Ute" baseball cap was a satisfactory replacement for a real "Ute" football helmet; thank heaven for small miracles!

Dear Kids,
One of my favorite memories of this month was the costume parade you gave for Dad and me the Sunday before Halloween. You were so excited to get dressed up. Mason reluctantly accepted that he wasn't going to be gifted a costume (you are on your own once you hit Jr. High where the costumes are concerned) so he instead took the camera and gave you a great photo shoot. I realized while you smiled and waved in the den for your adoring fans that even though I had thought I was "finished" gathering supplies for costumes there was still work to be done. I spent hours the day before your school parade finding beautiful princess gloves, some kind of black cat cover up and something that could take the place of an authentic Utah football Helmet (thank you football video games which show professional football players in their pads and a team baseball cap-listening to the coach on the sideline telephone!).

Dad and I loved watching you have fun with each other as you jumped off the bench and showed off your costumes to the camera. It was more fun than the real Halloween, when you all scattered to trick or treat with your friends while I walked the neighborhood with Grandma and the little girls (they wondered out loud "how does mom know who lives in all these houses?" Thank my lucky stars that I've had the chance to learn who our neighbors are...and that we are finally at home in the Spruces). Dad fell asleep on the couch while listening to the Football game and didn't answer the door when our friends came to trick or treat! You all trickled in one by one with stories of how many houses you 'knocked' and how many regular sized candy bars you'd have to barter and trade with next morning.

Just a few days after Halloween and you've all but forgotten about your Halloween candy. Once you'd sorted, traded, sorted, traded, sorted and finally traded it all again you were kind of done with it. By next week I'll have tucked it away in the game night stash or in the garbage can. And Halloween can be behind us again until next year. As much as I love you and all the fun you have during this spooky zainy holiday, I'm relieved when the costumes are back in the dress up bin and the schedule is free of parties and parades and programs. Happy Halloween until next year!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A Reflection

I began blogging in July 2006. We were on our way to Vietnam, to bring Lucy into our family. The blog was a way to show our family (especially our other children) what we were experiencing while we were across the world from them. It was also a way for me to write the feelings of my heart, for Lucy to have some day.

After 5 weeks of roller coaster worthy experiences, we came home.

And I kept on writing.

But the writing became less about Lucy and adoption, and more about me and mothering. It became a way for me to write letters to my daughters-the kinds of letters they might read when they were mothers themselves. I wanted them to hear and to see the reasons I did what I did because I was there mother. So someday when they wondered what they should do or how they should proceed with their own child rearing they might refer to me, but to the me that was really "in it" - not the sugar coated "back when you were young..." kind of talk, but straight talk and real photos of messy countertops and tearful sacrifice.

After a while (and a move away from "home"), my writing changed again. It was still a daily letter to my girls, but it became a little bit more. I had met and was associating with many mothers who were just younger than I. Not only were my kids a little older than theirs, but I had more of them (most often, many more). I heard from these great women a smattering of phrases like these;

'I don't know how you do it.'
'I would go crazy if I had more kids.'
'I couldn't do what you are doing.'

I wanted them to change their minds. To see their great potential. It wasn't that I wanted to promote large families. It was that I felt in those phrases I heard a smallness, a lessening of great character. Having a large family had not been my design. John and I were very happy with the idea of 4 children (a large enough crew for my intense desire for tidy kitchens and John's desire for peace and quiet). But promptings came, the heavens spoke. And we decided to listen. We had to change, to grow, to give up. To give ourselves over to the truth that God would make more of us (and would take from us that which was not needed or eternally attractive) if we would be what He asked us to be. Messy kitchens and seizmic noise levels included.

I wanted this to be a "you can do it, if you are asked" kind of space. I thought about monetizing the blog, about networking with other bloggers, about finding an "angle" a "niche" of sorts, to draw more readers to me. I toyed with these thoughts (I sometimes still do) until it was time to decide.

And then I realized something I didn't really like. The blog had become less about any of those things, and lots more about myself. Not that self expression isn't valid-it is. But I wanted people to read what I wrote. I cared that they listened to me. I wanted to be an example, its true. But I also wanted to be, well, liked. I wanted others to want to read the things that I had to say.

An element of pride had entered the process, and so I took a sharp step back.

I'm ready to write again-but for the reasons I began this blog from the start. For it to be a place for the kids to know me, back when I was the mom of their younger selves. And for mothers who worry and wonder if they can become what the whispering voice of heaven suggests that they ought to become-a mother of more than "a few". To help them, and help me, remember that when we give ourselves over to what God asks of us, He can make of us more than we are.

I hope there is something of worth, should you continue to read. I pray I will be true to my design, my intent. And that if I stray from the sincerity I feel now that I will be reminded, and know that its time to put blogging away.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Gift to Me Last Friday

Laura, Allison, Andrea and Stephanie sit around my table. There is nothing I like more than having good people around my table. So that made this meal something I liked very much.

I was recently invited to be part of a recipe exchange. Once each month a few of us gather, each having brought something to contribute to a meal centered around a theme. We eat together, we talk. We enjoy one another. And we trade recipes and divide up the leftovers.

I'm flattered to have been invited.

But not because I'm thankful to be recognized as some kind of chef, whose cooking is worthy of boasting about. I'm a decent cook, and a better baker, but that is not why I am flattered.

I feel humbled and honored to be near such great women. To listen and learn from them. And to be listened to by them, when we sit around the table and share.

Thank you friends, for being friends to me. For allowing me to speak. For listening and for teaching me when you share your thoughts and ideas.

And thanks for the recipes too!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dinner Night on Steroids

Brynley patiently stuffs won tons with a pungeant shrimp and ginger mixture
do notice the swim towell on the ground behind Brynley, and the various random items on the counter. Our family is a work in progress. Sometimes work is messy...

Just a hint of the involved process, the won tons are now cooked and draining in a strainer, as new delicious bites are cooked on the stove. Again, see the chaos around us? We live in a measure of chaos all the time. Order is vital to my sanity, yet I rarely experience it for more than minutes a day.

We have for a few years had a practice of assigning the kids one night of the week to help in the kitchen. The mission was three fold: teach the children to work, spend time alone working with them, and help them learn how to cook. This has worked well at times and not worked so well at others. It is a big commitment for me, and for them, because it involves a lengthy stay in the kitchen preparing, setting table, serving, clearing table and cleaning up (all with the partnership of a parent). When it has worked well, it has worked wonderfully. When it hasn't worked well, it hasn't worked at all.

Bryn has become an interesting phenomenon when it comes to dinner night. She wants to cook things that she likes to eat. These things are involved and time consuming to prepare (not to mention difficult to CLEAN UP after). Bryn is undaunted. She wants to sit down to something she enjoys more than she wants to be finished with dinner night sooner rather than later (oh yeah, and Bryn rarely believes she will actually have to clean up her messes-I think she is of the view that if she produces something spectacular, she should be exempt from cleaning up after herself. It has been a hard realization for both of us ;).

Last week we gave in to Bryn's long time persistent pestering that she make shrimp pot stickers, from scratch. She has this amazing arsenal of cook books that John has collected over the years, and from them she had produced this recipe that was several ingredients (as well as pots, pans, spatulas and strainers) long. We purchased the ingredients, she went to work. She began cooking at 4:30 p.m. or so. The prep work was complete just about in time for her piano lesson to begin. The dinner was hot and ready while she was playing her scales. A sister and father were at soccer practice. A brother was at final dress rehearsal for the school play. Another brother was hard hitting at football practice. The dinner was served (a mountain of food by the way) to the two little sisters and a frantic mother who could only see the dishes, (think; ' forest for the trees') and the mess to be cleaned up.

It was delicious.

Bryn's lesson ended. She reveled in her work. She boasted of its goodness. Then she excused herself from the kitchen. It took many threats and some gnashing of teeth to get the girl back in the kitchen and help me clean it up.

Sometimes I wonder, in the middle of dinner messes, why on earth I work so hard to teach our kids how to work in the kitchen ....

The other night during a discussion about what our kids want to become before they leave our home we listened to the children say things that they want to have experienced when they no longer live under our roof.

Ya know what Brynley said? "I want to leave home with a huge list of recipes that I know how to cook!"

and my wondering heart was at peace.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

You've Heard All This Before...

I finished this run like 9 minutes ahead of my personal prediction. I was so proud of myself I yelled "I win!" as I handed off to my teammate. My fellow runners were pretty stunned. My time was not amazing, yet I was so thrilled! Its all in the setting of realistic goals :)

That is a photo of me running the Wasatch Back last June. I am a bit embarrassed to show you my man sized thighs-I've always had football player's legs...but I am posting this picture for a reason:

I am heavier now than I was when I ran this race last June.

And that is a slippery slope my friends.

I will turn 40 in less than a year. I've heard the statistics, I know this drill. If I do not work hard to avoid it, my body will turn into mashed potatoes and gravy before I can say 45.

The 30 or so m&m's I ate tonight (one at a time) are evidence of my greatest challenge...

I have no will power right now.

I have had, in my past. But since school started? It's been a steady chorus of "eat whatever you feel like" playing in the back of my head.

I'm working out. I know how to eat right, I even know how to "diet". But the problem is, I don't want to.

I'm a very reward driven personality. I want something waiting for me at the end of my accomplishments that constitute more than a pat on the back. Show me the money would be more like it, thank you very much.

I've set some recent goals, and I'm trying to devise adequate reward for the accomplishment of these goals. Any of you who know me, write some suggestions as to what kind of reward the completion of these goals deserves...I'm curious what YOU think my accomplishment is worth!

From Now until Thanksgiving:

Goal 1; exercise 5-6 times a week (1 Yoga session counts, but otherwise sweat and heavy breathing must be involved, and the duration must be more than 30 minutes).

Goal 2: "eat right". This one is a tricky one for me. I've tried "the Zone" and I lost some weight, but it was a pretty miserable experience and not a food lifestyle I think can be sustained. So this is a bit of a work in progress, but at least it includes the following:
a. Week 1; no more than 1 dessert on Sunday, no more than one dessert on another day of the week (I've gone without completely before, only to binge instead. So I'm trying moderation and reality this time.)
b. Week 2: only 1 dessert per week. Not a "free day", that doesn't work for me, but one dessert a week is manageable til thanksgiving at least. With one exception; when John and I are in Napa. Then, any time John has dessert, I can share with him...
c. By week 3 (or before) a "diet" will be decided upon; this isn't so much a diet as it is an eating plan. It will likely be "the zone" because I know how it works. But I'd rather find some guidelines that are more specific to this ideal.
d. 100 oz. of water a day.
e. No more soda. period. This has very subtly crept into my life a bit as I've eaten out with John or the family, or as I've gotten up before the sun to run with my neighbor and friend. When one is dragging through the day it seems justifiable to have a diet coke....but this is a luxury that cannot become habit, so NO MORE starting right now.

Goal 3: overall well being
a. Lights out before 10.30 4 of 7 nights each week. It isn't realistic to do this every night, especially if John is traveling. But when he is home I know I can get my fanny under the covers by 10.30. Plus, I know he will be a willing partner to help ;).
b. 1 day a week designated for being "home". This will be Thursdays this year. No preschool pick ups on Thursdays, no volunteering in the school, no early afternoon carpool. The only exception will be if I have the chance to enjoy a friend or neighbor, or to do something kind for myself (like a haircut, or an extra yoga class, or a chance to take a walk or go hiking with Lucy). Lucy will be by my side all day, but the idea is to spend the day at home. Finishing projects, baking bread or trying a new recipe or just organizing the cupboard. A day where homemaking is the flow of the day from 9 am until 3.
c. Read my scriptures 10 minutes or more, 5 days per week; This has been a difficult habit for me to form in recent years (it used to be so natural for me...). So I am being realistic, but I'm also hopeful that I will read EVERY day, and that adding devotional messages and sermons from current church leaders will also be a part of my study.

Those goals are lofty, but also very achievable. Especially for a month of the year. And especially in a month where practices and weekend games are subsiding and there is "space" between the rush of autumn activities and the bigger rush of the holidays to come.

What goals are you currently working on? What are the "rewards" of your efforts? Are you like me, do you need something concrete to substantiate your success? Or is the achievement reward enough (if so, I'm truly jealous!) wish me good luck, I'll post my progress as I go.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What is Up at Our House...

Madi has made her debut as an accompanist. She played in our Church Sacrament meeting while other darling girls sang "the Fourth Article of Faith".
This has taken hours of practice including me singing the song over and over as she played. I am beaming with pride as I write this; she was awesome.

the Daily pick-up routine is out of control. In the morning I holler at the kids to gather their things. By night, those things are all out again; dress-ups, shoes, school supplies, sporting equipment; A perfect homemaker I am not, but I do expect things to be straight!

Friday after school entertaining is a regular thing around here. I've tried to keep healthy snacks out on the counter so the kids can take their pick; o.k., so Halloween oreos aren't healthy; just wanted Sharon Cliff to have a reason to smile :)

We took a break over "Fall Break" and went up to Park City for a couple of nights. That is my favorite getaway with our family. Next time I hope we do less Disney Channel watching (!) and more hiking in the autumn beauty. Just being in that town helps me feel relaxed and youthful. I hope my kids find the same enjoyment in that charming place.

Yes! My eye is totally swollen and red. No one in our house hold has had pink eye; until me! I've fought red, itchy, weepy yuck for almost a week. Haven't dared use my make-up, and have had two professionals advise me that our whole house will go through it-Yuck!

We are in the homestretch of Autumn's most frenetic activities. Only 2 more weekends of soccer, 3-4 more weekends of football and 7 more days of the High School Musical (break a leg Mason!). John's travel schedule has eased from 4 nights per week to 1. We have had our longest fall break until Thanksgiving, the garden has pretty much finished growing (or at least I've finished tending it) and I can see light at the end of the tunnel.

I am looking forward-and the future looks bright.

Dinner together as a family will be making a come-back in November, and skiing will appear as the sole family activity aside from piano swim team and dance (hey, that's fewer than half the activities we've been running to and from since the week that school began...). I'm ready to blog more regularly again; I want to write about this year's family theme and share more suggestions about things to do in our city. I want to ask you-whoever is still reading this that is-how you remember treating your parents when you were teenagers. I want to reflect on life with a traveling husband, and I want to share the good things that our family has experienced this year.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

If you ever come to Salt Lake City...

A "cone of frites" is enough for several to share...

the waffles are to die for, try them with fruit and whipped creme fraishe

I was recently asked by a magazine to be interviewed concerning awesome things to do in 'my' city. If that interview ever is published I will tell you more about why I was chosen and what that was like...but anyway...

I thought it was a great excuse to explore my city a little bit more. I grew up here, but this place has changed so intensely since my childhood (and then my experiences were so limited geographically). Salt Lake has become more "sophisticated" in so many ways-and some would say its arguable as to whether or not that is really a good thing-

my side of that argument would be that, it is. A good thing.

So I thought I'd share with you every once in a while something I think you should try should you be in my general neck of the woods.

Across the street from Pioneer park, at 336 West Broadway, there is a tiny little waffle shop; Bruges Waffles and Frites. The guy who owns and runs it is - you guessed it- from Bruges. The waffles are fantastic, but be sure to eat them warm. Especially good with the whipped Creme Fraishe and any kind of fruit. And the fries; top notch. Lucy loved them. I loved the dill mayo sauce they came with. Great for an afternoon shopping snack or a treat after a basketball game or time spent at the Farmer's market across the street in the park.

Try them. You'll like them

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Trooper

A high fever has plagued our girl for going on 3 days. She wraps herself in her own little dress, trying not to shiver and to sleep.

Molly, though very strong in personality and spirit, was not born strong of body. She bruises easily, she scars when cut or scratched. And when she gets sick, she gets really really sick...

Fevers seem to run out of control through her little body. Her eyes become red and blood-shot. She is listless. She is weak.

And it worries me so much.

The other night in the rage of her fever John and I sat with Molly on the couch. Her head was heavy on John's lap. I stroked her beautiful hair. She whispered and whined a little. But mostly she was still.

In those still hours of illness I realize how Molly was not meant to be still. Though she came to us without a whimper or a cry, her voice found itself soon after. Her body, ever moving and her mind ever active, she is sometimes a challenge to corral onto the church pew or into the classroom.

But that is how Molly is meant to be. Busy like a bee. And hopping like a bunny. Loud like a lion. And tender like a kitten.

So I hope Molly will be well soon. so soon. So that we can have her back, even though "back" means "busy".

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Anatomy of a PreTeen Late Night

Love Sac jumping and dressing up were the surprise activities of the evening for this unseasoned mom
. and also sailing down our steep road in our 15 year old wagon

girls not seen in the photo are huddled in the corner, braiding and twisting each other's hair.
girls will be girls

Bryn's carefully crafted busy work suitable for endless conversation as many hands make light work

Lots of Sugar; m&m's, licorice, gummy anything, marshmallow s'mores, Halloween Ore's (all of them inhaled in bulk)

Some miscellaneous junk food; hot dogs on the grill, chips and salsa, "regular chips" and grapes (our one food served in its natural original state)

Water: balloons, hoses, buckets, pitchers
Blow dryers and other hair drying/styling tools: vanity runs rampant between friends
Towels: almost every clean towel in our home was dirtied.

A 'chic flick': The girls chose "Letters to Juliet" and let me watch too. Its been a while since I've viewed anything slightly romantic. As poorly constructed as the movie was, it was perfect for young hearts with clean pure minds.

A 'craft': something to occupy busy hands. These girls braided embroidery floss with myriad color combinations. And they braided each other's hair. And they wore every single dress-up in our huge dress-up collection (which proves these girls are still young teenagers, even pre-teenagers. They still have some girl left in them).

A partner in crime: John was the partner who prepped the house and yard while I cheered Madi at her swim meet. Mandy, my sis, was the partner who stepped out for extra hot dog buns when supplies were running low. An army of 12 year old girls is nothing to be reckoned with alone!

Bryn cleaned and scrubbed, mowed the lawn and made signs and notes so her friends would be directed through the evening's events.

I hope we enjoy many more late nights-its good to see who your kids count as friends, and even better to observe the group as it makes its way through the muddled real-ness of adolescence. And best? Oh, best is seeing your daughter believe for just a few hours on a Saturday night, that you are still her ever-loving, truly devoted, loyal and even sorta cool- in-a-dorky-kind-of-a-way MOM.

Friday, October 01, 2010

October Begins

pounds of candy from the discount grocery store is the bulk of this year's decor

Though still warm enough for swimming and tomato growing (some of ours are just finally coming on) it is time to awknowledge October. Unlike many mothers I greatly admire, I do not anticipate this month of costumes and candy. Maybe its because I was never good at playing dress up as a kid (though I made a very brave Princess Leah when my brother and the neighborhood boys wanted to play Star Wars...I was good with a light saber and even better with a lazer gun). Maybe its the frugal side of me (do I have one of those?) that has a hard time spending money on costumes that will not be handed down (we've tried that a hundred times-no one wants to be the witch that Madi was, or the secret service agent of Mason's yester-years). Maybe its just that when the weather turns, my natural instinct is to hibernate instead of go into hyper-drive creating costumes for the crew and getting from corn maze to costume party with magical speed and eerie enthusiasm...

At least this year we are down to 4 costumes, as we've announced to the teenagers that if they want to be teenagers (Bryn's age does not include the suffix teen, yet she insists she is one) we no longer want to be responsible for providing costumes with which they can greedily go ask the neighbors for candy that belongs in the pillow case carryalls of children...little children.

For whatever the reason, I accept October, but I do not embrace. I tolerate, and I smile and I try not to be a scrooge (wait, wrong holiday) and I patiently wait. For while the kids dream of candy to sort and trade with each other in the early dark evenings of November, I have already happily planned for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Heee Heee Heee Hee Heeeeee!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Antics from the Football Field

He is holding the 100th water bottle for this season; leaves them at the field most evenings

Last Saturday I saw one of Porter's personal "top 10 things that have happened in my life" moments (remember, he's only 8).

Porter 'recovered a fumble.'

Let me explain how it all went down, so you can smile on the inside like I do whenever he retells the story;

1. Porter, one of the team's smallest players, is put in a defensive position at the very end of the line (I have no idea what this position is called). He goes out, stands like 15 feet away from his nearest team mate, and waits for the other team to snap the ball.

2. His next job is to plow over the kid on the other team who is standing across from him (don't know what that offensive position is called either). Porter tenaciously goes to work on this task. The opposing player decides to go around Porter-and both players are happy.

3. Porter, having 'gone through' the other team's guy, sees that the QB has been tackled-and like manna from heaven, the ball distills itself on the dew of the football field.

4. Porter is the first one to it-no one is paying attention to this little guy-and I see his hands open just slightly as if to gesture to himself 'come to Papa Mr. Football'.

5. Porter tackles the football. He winds himself around it, tightening into such a fetal position so as to never let it see the light of day. The referees blow their whistle, the fumble has been recovered by the defense-by Porter.

6. Porter jumps to his feet. Having played his part successfully, he leaps high into the air, and sends his fists before him. He screams "I did that-YAAAA! I did that!"


7. Coaches yell 'great job Graham!' and Porter starts pounding his chest. I think he was looking for a teammate to chest bump, but they were busy cheering for the guy who tackled the quarterback.

Whatever the blessed circumstance, Porter feels he has made a contribution to the win. And this week, to validate that idea even further in his mind, they made him "team captain" (a rotating job that travels from boy to boy all season so everyone gets a turn to call the coin toss).

Porter thinks this is his week 'because I got that fumble'. I think Porter feels good about himself.

and that is all that matters.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I am her mother

Lucy crashes most afternoons on the couch in the den...

I've thought for some time to share a moment with you that I experienced a long time ago. Way back when we lived in Idaho (that seems like forever from our life now) and when we were thinking of adopting. The story of our adoptions is long and has exciting twists and turns-surprises, suspense. Laughter and tears. This is one moment of that crazy magnificent story.

I had known for some time that it was time to find Lucy. I had felt impressions that I could not deny. I had wanted so much for John to feel the same. He trusted me, and he encouraged me-but this wasn't an experience that would be only for me, and I desired greatly that he receive a portion of the revelatory thoughts, feelings, dreams and whispers that were then part of my daily life regarding the need to find a dark haired, fair skinned, ebony eyed girl and make her one of ours.

I prayed God would give John the ability to feel the texture of our little girl's hair. I knew its fine corn silk softness though I had never touched it. I wanted John to know the depth of her eyes-the deepest and most full dark color that I had ever peered into, though I had never seen them. I cried for him to know her as I had come to know her. And I felt such confusion and frustration that all he could do was trust.

One day as I was talking to my mother on the phone I was describing my emotional longing. She listened patiently. I paced around the house as I expressed this sincere desire that "John could know her the way I do." I thought it would make sense that he, being her father, was entitled to the same revelation about her that I had been given (unsolicited I might add). And as I spoke to my mother I cried.

"Why doesn't God show her to John?"
"Why does he leave this to me?"

in my expression and question I felt a quiet and yet an undeniable answer come; it came through my heart, and it permeated my soul

"Because you are her mother".

In that moment, with that thought, I felt something I had never experienced before and have not had the privilege of knowing, really, since. It was power. It was power to do for another what she could not do for herself. It wasn't just peace, though peace was there. It wasn't understanding, though that had become sure. It was power-and I knew in that moment who I was in all of the eternities.

I am a mother.

And with my motherhood I have been granted power. Not power over those I rear, but power to aid them on their way. Power to call down from Heaven help for the sake of my own. Power to hang on when they choose to make choices I wouldn't . Power to trust that all of the heavens look down on them (and me) to get us home safe, if we will come.

I knew what I knew about Lucy because I am her mother.

Do you know the power of your motherhood? The conduit of pure inspiration that is available to you for the sake of those whom you rear? In this world where "experts" and friends and family have opinions about how we should raise our little ones, I encourage you to experience the reality that is the power of your mothering heart. To call to the heavens for help. To sincerely want what God wants for your children. To set aside what the world says you should say or do or be as a parent and seek out what God wants you to be-for the children He's asked you to mother.

In so doing you'll feel this power. It is quiet but it is sure. It is patience when anger is justified. It is calm when the household is chaos. It is inspiration when you don't know what to do or what to say. It is the ability to forgive when we are hurt by those we love, and the beauty of trust in a God who watches over them when we cannot. I know this power is real. I have experienced it in my motherhood. It is for any woman with a mothering heart who thinks of her children before herself.

It is for you, and it is for me.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday's Thoughts

Friday is the only day of the week for "screens" so computer, TV upstairs and TV Down are all busy from the minute school gets out until dinner, sometimes after

Porter and a friend play video games until their eyeballs pop out. Screens on weekends only was a tradition begun 12 years ago. I believe its helped us raise better readers and better all around students, but I will admit I like the quiet distraction of screen days for some time to get things done

The kids are all home, watching TV and doing their "Friday Thing". The oldest have found friends to be with, the youngest have each other.

I will write this post and then go read the scriptures. I've been working hard to find time in each day to be quiet and listen to the thoughts and feelings that come. I think the crazy schedule of my daily routines is balanced with these few minutes of peace for my soul.

Then I will de-junk my little desk on the landing. It is cluttered with carpool schedules, school papers, coupons, catalogs, and the like. Taking something that is chaos and making order of it brings satisfaction to my psyche.

This afternoon I'll drive kids to birthday parties and "late nights". John is away having fun (for once). Seeing some big football team play in Arkansas. I miss him already-but he needs to have a turn once in a while to relax.

Tomorrow will be busy. I wanted to start the day with a bike ride, but the mornings have grown too dark for the hour when I wake. Instead it will be yoga, stretching and weight training. I'm trying to recover from some long time aches and pains, trying to take care of my body not just from the measurement of inches in my waist (though dropping a pant size by Thanksgiving is one of my goals!) but in terms of what I feed it (food as well as thought) and taking care of things like my skin and my muscle tone rather than trying to cover those things up with a new fall something from one of the catalogs on my desk...

Hope your weekend is wonderful. Mine will be very full and busy, and a little lonely without John. But the sun is shining, the patio is clean and I can sit and breath the fresh air in between football games, soccer games and my own evening events.

See you back here Monday...