Friday, April 30, 2010

The Current Battle

A view of my message center, built so I could have a place for everything, but these things are not in their place!

Whenever we move we find ourselves about 6 months in to a new house and up to our eyeballs in unorganized spaces. Because it takes at least 6 months (often closer to a year) for us to see how we are going to "live" in the spaces that make up our home. And one pile gets moved to another place, while another gets tucked in a drawer "for now". And then all of a sudden


and closets must be cleaned out, storage rooms and garages overhauled, and desks and cupboards organized. That is our current battle. And it is the last 4 weeks of school to boot.

These are the busiest, YES busiest weeks of the year. Busier than Christmas BY FAR. At Christmas one has parties and presents and traditions. At the end of the school year one has parties, and traditions and soccer games and rugby games and dance recitals and piano recitals gardening and-for our family-2 birthdays before the last day of school and yada yada yada. ...

So I've decided on numerous days to boycott all outside activity and hole up in the house to work. Thing is, most of these activities are not boy-cottable. Can't miss "mom watch your daughter dance day" at Molly's dance studio. Can't miss Preschool performances. Can't stop driving the carpools you set up because other people's children are in them and deserve a ride to their practice/performance/class/activity.

There are too many "have to's" to get to do the "want to" of unburrying the message center and labeling every single cupboard shelf in the Spruces so there is no mistake as to what belongs where (notice the labeler just waiting for me in the photo above. Calling my name to "use me! use me"! )

To John's great credit, our garage looks absolutely fantastic. I haven't inspected the cupboards in there, but the emergency preparedness kit is re-stocked and in the right place. Bikes have been brought out of the shed and skiis have been put in (he organized the shed too! What a prince! What a guy!). But to my lack of ability or whatever, the shelves, surfaces and closets remain a frightening domain of disorganization. I've even paid Brynley, my master organizer, to get to the medicine cupboard and the linen closet. But her services aren't cheap and she wants to be in the fray of all those busy things I mentioned before so her help is often out of pocket...

Perhaps the day after school ends I can send our children outside and blast the tunes as I get in the "zone" of organizing and placing the things in the Spruces right where they belong. Then my resting heart rate will certainly lower a little, and I can feel all the way home and moved into this woderful place where we live.

Bring on the last day of school!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

On the Road to Eagle...

Mason and John at the top of the trail, camping last weekend for the Eagle

We are one project away from having an eagle scout. While I had hoped Mason would be perched in the Eagle's nest by his 15th birthday (which is Sunday...) that is not to be. But before Mason steps through the doors of his High School Next August he will have reached a very important goal.
A rite of passage.
An expectation.
A worthy accomplishment.

Moving through 3 different programs has certainly slowed Mason down. And having an oaf of a mom when it comes to scouting hasn't helped much either. And-by the way-anyone who tells you that a mom shouldn't have to be involved in a boy's obtaining an eagle scout rank has not read the program. It is designed for family involvement. No scout has accomplished this without a very hard working mother and father (or substitute for such as available). All the scout masters have been great. Even in Africa, where there was not scout program, John was a terrific scout master helping mason earn at least a couple of merit badges (physical fitness being one of them).

So, with this latest update, I look forward to the eagle project with Mason. He will do it, of course with our help-but this final capstone of all the effort will the the thing done most independent of us; and I believe in the end that is what we work toward. From cradling the boy, to teaching him how to walk on his own, to watching him soar alone.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Summer style wishes

It happens every year. The summer catalogs come and I wish for new styles to embelish my already bulging wardrobe...These are this year's wishes, along with a couple of extra work out shorts that are long enough for me to stay in them long after my work out (like the ones I got from LuLu lemon when in Chicago this month)

what do you think? Would summer be perfect with these fashions gracing my figure? my pocket book couldn't manage, but it is always fun to dream!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Thank You's To Recent Visitors

Dear Linda,
Thank you for making the Spruces a stop on your whirlwind tour of Salt Lake/Provo a few weeks ago. I'm so glad the boys forgot to give you your keys before they headed back down to the Y! We got to stay up late and talk and talk. It was lovely. And I love the yellow pots you picked for the front porch-how do you like them now that they are home? I can't wait to see them when we get up there next month. And I"m going to make you buy furniture for your living room! Start collecting samples girl, it is GO TIME! Is it nice now that your college boy is home and preparing for his mission? I hope you are relishing every suit purchased, every minute spent listening to his thoughts about the work ahead, and all the advice you have to offer as you were once an amazing missionary yourself. I love you. Our early morning runs years ago have welded us forever friends. I miss those mornings with you.

Dear Sharon,
I am so flattered that in the 36 hours you had in this town you found a way to check out the new digs and sit in the kitchen and gab with me! I miss going to the temple with you Sharon, and I miss your fun and real-world comments. I miss your politics, and I miss your compliments. It was great to hear how things are going down there in big ol' Texas. And it was fun to show you around the house that you watched me agonize over purchasing. I can't wait for this summer when you come over again, and hang out with me in the back garden sipping lemonade and telling me all about the goings on in Flower Mound and the good things in your life. You make my life a good one Sharon. Thank you so much for that.

Dear Erin,
John and I had such a great time at dinner with you and Bart! We hope we left you to go home and find your children tucked in bed by someone else that loves them (Grandma? Auntie?). You looked amazing for just having FINISHED A MARATHON. I am so proud of you for all of your continued physical accomplishments. And the business you run. And the household you run. I miss our little outings and talking about the latest fun things at Anthro. (I don't go there anymore now that we are on a budget ;). I also miss visiting teaching with you-please tell Melissa Netto Hi from me, and Katie Goff too! John and I were both so flattered that in the short time you were in town you two would sup with us. Great choice of restaurants, and lets do it again soon! Erin, you've taught me lessons in how to live my life that no one else could teach. I look up to you in many ways and am thankful for your friendship.
Glad we could fill up the Ragnar team, even more glad that means I'll see you again SOON.

Dear Susie,
THANK YOU for staying in our home! Thank you for talking to me and being me big sister, full of wisdom, advice, kind words and good vibes in general. Our time being across the street neighbors and the trip to Haiti with you pretty much makes us family. Thank you for organizing our Shower! Thank you for the much needed bed slats! Your gifts were just what we needed (and I"m so embarrassed we didn't even know we needed them ;) We are all excited to see you soon and to celebrate your (well, our) lovely Jenna as she graduates this spring! See you so soon!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Way I feel right this minute...

This is how I found Lucy 5 minutes after she cleared her plate from dinner last night. Exhausted, she lacked even the strength to walk herself down to the blue basement bedroom where her white fluffy bed resides.

This is how I feel right now, tired to the bone and wishing for relaxation. But it is not to be, as dinner is yet to be fixed or served, and we have both soccer practice and the pinewood derby before the day is through.

As I write to you, the college piano student who is my children's instructor is counting the beat as Brynley tries with an expressionless face to plunk out the new piece she will practice after the big recital on Monday. The house is alive, kids running in and out of the back door and other children reading and studying at the counter.

Funny how it puts my body in the mode of rest. They are close, they are safe. The sun is out after a day of rain, the birds sing outside and there is peace for the moment. After a hard day of doctor visits and delving into the small new complications that arise whenever an adopted child grows older and has questions we have now a calm at the Spruces. And so it is that my body gives itself permission to slow down, to look hard, and be tired. To long for a suspension of this moment as reality turns into dreams and can linger in peace and quiet.

I'll go back to work now. I'll cook and chauffer and cheer. I'll dress the girls in pajamas and read stories and ask Molly about when she was happy/sad/mad/scared today (my new nightley assignment) and the sun will go down as I work.

Then I'll beg my big children to go to their beds, and I'll struggle to read my scriptures and I'll write the things in my heart down into the pages of my little black journal all the while longing for John to cuddle up and tell me he needs me to stop thinking and just be with him as we drift off to dreamland.

and then, only then, will I sleep.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Other Day I was Thinking About Africa

these are my "Wellie Boots" purchased at the Woolworth's in Johannesburg

The other day, in the snow, I was trucking around in my floral wellie boots. They made me think of the days I trucked around in South Africa.

I bought the boots there. At Woolworth's. No, That is not a "five and dime with a soda fountain". It is an upscale grocery store that became wealthy during apartheid because its British owners found some way to stay open during all the economic sanctions. You can buy wonderful things at Woolworths; from delicious fresh groceries to furniture to bubble bath. I went there a lot, and sometimes to more than one of their locations in a single day, because supply levels were never quite "on" and I'd find that one store lacked ingredients for a recipe-so I'd have to fill in those gaps at another.

But that's not what I was thinking about.

Maybe its because I had asked my mom and sister if they'd read the book "The Help". I too had a "help" when we lived in Joburg. Evie kind of "came with the house". Her services were part of the arrangement made by my husband's employers and the home owners. Every morning about 7.30 a.m. she would take her key and unlock the back door, go into the skullery and begin her "chores". I did not dictate to her what she would do that day, I worked hard to NOT tell Evie what to do. But her chores always involved our laundry (even my undewear; so embarrassing) and very often she washed our dishes. She wiped down the many glass panels and windows at least once each week-she used newspapers to do this and I often wondered how she never had streaks, because in America if I washed my windows with newspapers there would be newsprint on my hands and all over the glass when I was through.

that is, if I ever washed my windows, of course.

Evie heard me, every day, trying to parent. She heard the kids complain about home school. She heard us say family prayers, she heard me teach in the school room, she heard us play in the yard. Evie helped me cook the food for the ward Christmas Party and she even came to the party because I invited her to. She listened and saw as I tried desperately to potty train Molly. My deepest regret about Africa is that I yelled at my kids in her presence. I fear I was not consistent with what I said I believed and how I behaved on my worst of days (and I had worst of days over there, for sure).

I wondered the other day how Evie felt about us. If she thought fondly on her time among Grahams or if she did a little jig as the blue van that drove us everywhere pulled out of the drive for the last time, on its way to deliver us back to the place we had come from.

Did she feel sad we were gone? I thought about the gifts I left with her; a Book of Mormon translated into Xhosa, a scrapbook with letters from each person in our family, and some other less significant things. Does she have them still? Did she read the book? What has she thought of us now that we are a memory? Did my less than acceptable mothering stay behind to paint us as less than good people? Or does the goodness of us remain, to cheer for the truth in the book that I gave her with tears in my eyes as we parted?

I pray that the good overshadows the bad, and that my mothering in her view was not a distraction from the truth of the things I believe. All that thinking about Evie has made me take a really serious look at how I behave when there is only a group of children at home to observe the consistency of me; the ones who I preach to and teach every day, do they see the same things Evie Saw?

Yes, and probably more too. It causes me to ponder on how I can be more like the things I say I believe in. Why should they bother to try out my preachings if my doings don't bring them (and me) some joy in the fruits of all the labor?

I tried to be a good example for Evie, but I see now more than ever that I must try harder. For Evie is a memory from Africa, but my children are all around me. And they are judging and choosing the path they will walk by watching-not hearing-my life.

Its just what was thinking about the other day, as I trucked in the snow in my Wellies.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pondering the purpose for my posts

Lucy and I pose at the airport in Japan, just one flight away from being united as a family. Her story and the story of how Molly became a Graham were the first reasons I began to BLOG.

As you've noticed, I've not been so consistent lately when it comes to blogging. Too many afternoons have found me sitting in front of a screen trying to get a picture to load to a post when my children walk in the door after their short walk home from school. I was here, when they needed me to be at there, at the threshold, welcoming them home and hugging them tight. So I've had to put first things first, which means that this little space for me to write in is no longer a daily "to do" but a "want to" that needs to take its turn instead of a self imposed responsibility.

Realizing this important priority -placing- fact has helped me remember why I started writing things down on the internet in the first place. Originallly a place where we could show you (mostly the "you" then was our kids and parents and grandparents) what it looked like to bring a daughter home from Vietnam. Those posts are precious insight into the heart of my motherhood. And after the fairy tale of adopting Lucy and Molly ended, I kept writing; about Africa, about Texas, about moving and relationships and friendships and family and faith.

And that has all been good. And I will keep on writing, and I'm sure it will be more frequent at times and less frequent at others. For now, I'm happy to have a chance to reflect and review on why I sit in front of the computer and spew my thoughts and feelings.

Here is why I blog:

*to record my thoughts and feelings for my children and grandchildren to read. I want my daughters especially to see the chaos it is to raise a family, and the joy and fulfilment too..

*to rejoice in my own ideas and thoughts, my observations and my abilities. Not to toot my own horn at all, but to practice writing and thinking. To observe and record. To process and praise.

*to be reminded of the goodness of my marriage, and the wonder of the relationships within the walls of the Spruces.

*to encourage others in their journies, wherever those journies are leading. I especially want other mothers to see that every home has its mess, its not- so -perfect -parts. And that raising a large family-though unique in the eyes of the world-is possible and wonderful in this day and age.

*to testify and proclaim the source of all good things. To awknowledge God in the daily experience, and to point His workings out to others. To share my belief and my conviction, but more than that to show that the doctrine I espouse has an everyday-ness to it, it works in real time and it helps in hard times. It is a source of strength and comfort, and an encouraging kick-in-the-pants when I am spiritually stalled to get up out of the myer and press forward with all my faith.

Once I thought I'd get all "advertise-y" and try to attract more readership and become a "blog brand" of my own. I have a couple of blogger acquaintances who have found financial success and lots of internet popularity through their daily writings. But as I thought a bit further, it seemed to me a farce to try and be more than just me and my thoughts. So this blog as a business is not for me. Its just a place where my ideas have space to be recorded and reviewed by you.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


John catches me mid-bight in one of the yummy restaurants of the Windy City

Last weekend we stayed in a hotel that was less than a block away from some of the most expensive shopping in the country. Chanel, Burberry, Tiffany, Saks, and every other designer label you can think of within walking distance of our bed. We took one whole day to "shop" with Brynley.

We walked Michigan, and I did make a stop at JCrew and LuLu Lemon, but otherwise our walk took us further north to the neighborhood boutiques and other less swanky and less expensive items for purchase. It seemed silly to go into a store where the sales staff was snooty and the socks cost more than last year's entire wardrobe...who wants to give money to a person who sizes you up when you enter the store and the size they give you? XS.

Still, in all our wandering, shopping and looking, we saturated ourselves in materialism.

We ate what we wanted. Yummy breakfast, heavy italian for lunch, yummy ice cream snacks and some very upscale chocolate. By the end of the day our pocketbook was feeling lighter but I felt considerabley weighed down.

My body was soaked in the things of the world. Looking at its fine things, eating its yummy not-so-good for you food, carrying around the knowledge that the budget book would somehow have to be reckoned with after the fun was over. It was a feeling I did not enjoy; though the darling gifts and souveneres are lovely to have and the food definitely memorable, I realize something that I don't think I've known until this point in my life.

There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Too much good food. Too much wandering aimlessly in search of that perfect "thing" to purchase (to be fair we did have a purpose; Brynley was looking for a handbag she could bring home from her trip. We found it in the very last store we went to. Light blue with dark blue branches and little blue and yellow birds sitting on those darling branches. $30. What a bargain for the right thing, but a lot of looking to find it!)

I'm not saying I will never shop again. And I probably won't be able to resist a delicious piece of chocolate if offered one. But I learned how it feels to be distracted by stuff. It is exciting and enticing at first. Enjoyable and even inspiring to see (I now have several ideas for ways to repurpose items in my closet thanks to the beautiful shop window displays, and a very cool business idea surrounding personalized diaper bags and children's finery...) But it did not bring us closer together. It did not make us more happy, it did not bring anything lasting (even the darling handbag will not be so perfectly blue for all the time Bryn owns it. Stuff wears out, ya know?)

Returning home, I have no interest, desire or need to flip through a catalog, check out a sale or run to the mall any time sooner or later. Even in Target today (where I seldom resist a walk through the women's section) I flew right by the spring offerings with no second thought. I'm still saturated with having looked at so many things. Still satiated, like I need to dry out or dry off from all the colors and frills of shopping all day long in Chicago.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Windy City ReCap

Aside from seeing "The Blue Man Group" Bryn's favorite memory of Chicago was going to the bookstore. Two new books were purchased, one of the consumed that very night

The Museums in Chicago are World Class. Science and Industry, Field Museum and the Shed Aquarium were the three we consumed during our stay. We learned about ocean life, dinosaurs, Ancient Egypt, the World's most precious gem stones, Ocean Waves, sleep and the wonder of our human bodies. Pretty amazing. I'm pretty sure I spent more hours in museums this trip than I had ever spent when we lived in the Windy City. Of course, back then I was the working mother of two very small children, not so much time to be a tourist in those days...

This could be me learning about how many calories I should eat in a day at the Museum of Science and Industry, or it could be me trying to decide what to have on my Chicago hot dog. Or it could be me trying to choose which of the many upscale stores to walk through on Michigan Avenue. Or it could be me trying to figure out why Brynley's only desire on our last night in the bustling town is to go back to the hotel and devour a new decide!

Giodarno's Pizza with our long time dear old friends Gabe and Judson Brooks (and family!) was definitely a high light of our visit. They fit us inbetween a spring break trip to Florida and a quick road Trip to Indiana to sit and chat and let us enjoy their company. We love you Gabe and Jud! And your children are incredible and darling!

John got home and logged in his podometer, and was amazed at just how much we walked over the course of our trip. CTA (mass transit) works great in Chicagotown, but we did our best to stay above ground and enjoy the bustling of the city.

Tomorrow you get to see what the rest of the Graham's were up to while we were away. It was great to be alone with our oldest daughter. We learned so much about her, the way she doesn't want to be the center of attention. The way sitting and reading is as much of a pleasure as shopping and eating out. The way she says thoughtful things when she prays. The way she giggles and sings and dances as she walks. The way she takes pictures of the world around her. The way that she is growing up.

Friday, April 02, 2010

We are in the Windy City...

John, Brynley and I are in Chicago through the weekend. Enjoying Brynley's birthplace by eating hot dogs, wandering through museums and shops and giggling and laughing with Bryn. I'm going to try and convince them today to take a "Segway Tour" just so I can see John leaning forward on one of those machines wearing a neon green bike helmet speeding down the sidewalks of the friendliest big city in the world. Or maybe I'll get Brynley to rent a bicycle with me, and we'll ride down the coast (something I never did when we lived here) of Lake Michigan and look out at the water that seems to go on forever.

For sure we'll eat Giardarno's Pizza for dinner. And we've already had Garrett's popcorn. So you can see its shaping up to be a great trip.

I'll be back on Tuesday with awesome pictures of the city and our oldest daughter in it. Travel with your kids. Even if its only to a town an hour away. Take you all out of your element. Enjoy them.

that's what we are doing this Spring Break. Enjoying Brynley (and Chicago too).

p.s. Thanks to ALL who are helping our kids at home feel happy and distracted instead of dejected and left out. They'll all get their turns, but for now we thank you-Jessa and Grandma and Mandy and Bryn and Dean-for all you are doing to keep the crew happy and safe at home.