Friday, December 16, 2011

Mason and how he's been doing...

Acting like a smart alec is pretty much a regular thing with Mason these days. He goes from contrite meek young man to know-it-all punk kid at the drop of a least he looks good as a smartie pants! In all truth, Mason is carrying a very challenging class load this year: AP History, which he loves and usually excels in, Honors English which is another winner, Honors Chemistry which is a huge challenge for him and Pre Calculus which also tests his academic limits pretty regularly. Spanish comes o.k. for Mason, and Seminary, Graphics, and concert choir make school not all work, but some play...he is so academically capable that we expect great things when the report card shows up, but we know he has to work really hard to pull himself up to the academic heights we expect him to reach!

Mason was in the school play again this year, the High School did "Annie Jr.". He was in most every scene and had a blast once practices ended and the performances began. Most alarming to us was the life-like portrayal of the town drunk he so perfectly pulled off. Looked a little too perfect to me...

The dating scene has gotten lots more fun for Mason now that he can get asked to dances by girls. What guy would go out and find girls to date if he knew they'd come flocking to him around each and every holiday? We've been hard pressed to get this guy to ask out since his one date per month quota is easily reached with girls choice dances smattering Halloween and Christmas!
We are, don't get me wrong, glad he is a polite enough boy to be asked by such nice girls. He has had fun on his dates and we hope to see them increase a bit through out the rest of the school year. And not just for dances either :)

I just had to show you the fluffy cotton candy hair do Mason was sporting through fall semester. He was lovin' his curls, man! In October, for the Halloween dance where he was asked to dress up like an indian, he thought he'd get himself a mohawk. That, unfortunately, looked a LOT more like a mullet, so we were so happy when he finally chopped the rest, and we could see how handsome that guy is underneath all the fuzz that had accumulated on top of his head :)

no, I'm not his HOmecoming date, but I did choose his tie! Mason is becoming a handsome kid. We were so proud of him this summer and into the fall as he was working out every day to get himself ready to play rugby again this year. That has tapered a little bit, but he will be back at it soon, and we are proud of the way Mason is trying to take care of his mind, his body and his spirit.

I receive kind words about Mason pretty much on a daily basis. 'He is so articulate'. 'He is such a good kid'. 'He has a testimony of what he believes in'. 'He is creative'. 'He is fun'. 'He is friendly'. I know these things are all true. And that Mason is developing a character within him that will allow him to look himself in the eye and be proud of what he sees.

a few weeks ago I got a text message from 'our Jenna' a dear family friend who is in college up in Idaho. She wanted to forward me the nightly text messages that Mason has been sending all of his contacts. These messages are SO MASON. They are encouraging his friends to make good choices. They are promoting good ideas. They are telling nice stories. Some of them are LONG and some of them are CHEESY. But they are good words, and sent out of a desire to bring others to a good place. This is the kind of kid Mason is. A little unique, very very sincere, and very intent on showing the world that he will make this a better place for being here.

I love you so much Mason!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lessons Learned this Semester...

At the end of last year, with Lucy headed off to Kindergarten in the Fall, I sought out a chance to be involved at our Jr. High School. I hadn't before that time known the faculty, the administration or many of the parents whose children are friends to mine.

And I had a secret motive, I wanted to see what it would be like, for our family, for me to be 'out of the house' a bit more. John and I dream about sending me back to school for a Masters Degree (a HUGE dream of mine) and I wanted to test the waters to see if the family functioned well when I am occupied with other things to think about, other places to be, other good causes to fight for.

This volunteer assignment ballooned into a very busy frenetic fall semester project. The objective was to help a student committee feel empowered to give local community service in a way that they choose, and to mentor and support them as they reached out and learned how to give of themselves and make a difference.

These kids wanted to make a difference in a very big way.

Seeing the financial needs present at the Christmas Box House, the kids decided they wanted to raise cold hard cash and give it to this worthy, local organization. Their brainstorming produced a cool-if larger than life-idea to create a t-shirt that would be approved by the school administration to be 'in dress code' and then sell that shirt to their fellow students; giving the profit to CBH.

Enter Bob Pedersen, founder of Del Sol Company and generous philanthropist. he heard about the kids' idea. He invited them to 'pitch it to him' and then, after they told him what they had in mind, he donated all the shirts. And the ink that would be used to print them.

The dream (and the project) got bigger. Instead of taking orders for t-shirts in advance, the kids were asked by Mr. Pedersen to set a high goal and then reach to achieve it. The kids produced a design-and pitched that design to the principal, who approved it with a smile. 600 shirts of various jr. high sizes were printed with colors that change when the shirt is taken out into the sun.

the school mascot shows off the t-shirt at a boy's basketball game...

Posters were made, kids came early, they stayed late. They made schedules so they'd know when they were to sell shirts during their lunch time. We organized moms to mentor the kids and basically be the 'adult' so they could continue in their work. We gave suggestions, and we did some behind the scenes things that other adults don't believe kids are ready to do for themselves (like ask the founder of the Christmas Box House to present an assembly to the school. When you are a famous author like Richard Paul Evans, it isn't very often that you take phone calls from 8th graders).

Time on the computer writing articles, coordinating volunteer schedules and bouncing ideas off of others took place of blogging, dish doing and laundry folding for me. It was an intensive course in Jr. High politics, mentoring, and in community volunteerism. It was emmersive and engaging. And at times a bit exhausting not to mention daunting...

At times it felt like we were swimming in T-shirts, and it was hard to see how we would help the kids reach their goal. The project lagged on, and then finally gained momentum. Student body officers became engaged in the cause, parents sent money with their student so the goals could be reached and their kid could take part. Mr. Evans agreed to come speak. The district newsletter picked up our project and secretaries and principals from other schools sent donations through the district mail, then t-shirts were sent back to them. The neighborhood Top-It (frozen yogurt shop) sold shirts for us, and their employees wore them to work to show support. The local Great Harvest Bread store had their staff wear shirts as well. Shirts started disappearing. The dream began coming true.

The last week of our donation drive Richard Paul Evans presented an assembly where the students explained what they'd been doing and why, and handed him a check for nearly $4000.00. Much of the student body came to the assembly wearing their shirts, the audience was a sea of grey bulldog pride. My heart was swollen with gratitude. I felt so happy for the kids/the committee who had begun this dream to see it realized so concretely. Mr. Evans made a great presentation, promising the kids that their efforts would be used to serve others right in their own neighborhoods. 'Some of the kids at this very school have used the Christmas Box House. Your donations are helping your own. You have truly made a difference.'

you know me, I had to find a way to 'style' my t, pearls and a black sweater were perfect with bulldog blue gingham underneath!

We are still cleaning up a bit after the whirlwind of the term we have had around here. A few extra shirts will be delivered to children down at the Christmas Box House. The students who dreamed big will enjoy the ultimate closure of this project when they go with me to see the kids whose lives will be made better for their project. Next week we will deliver the real money, and some much needed school supplies purchased with it, to the children who are staying at CBH for the holiday.

I've learned a lot this semester. I don't think the family is ready for me to be a full time student. Too many rolled eyes when I pled 'Christmas Box House' as my reason for not having dinner on time, not cleaning the jeans in time for school the next morning or not coming to bed before midnight. But I have still received a great education. The Jr. High principal knows me by name, and I've interacted with many of the teachers and staff at this terrific school our kids get to attend. I've worked with an amazing partner, Andrea Ferguson, on this project, whose mentor-ship in service has been a gifted education all its own. I've felt supported by heaven, cheered on by my husband, and even appreciated by my daughter at times (Bryn was the chair of this project, she designed the shirt, pitched the idea to Mr. Pedersen and Principal Harris and presented the money to Mr. Evans-with the help of the whole committee of course!).

Its been busy and the learning curve has been very steep. But I'm thankful to have had the experience, and to have enjoyed the education of this semester.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Finding the Art in Cuisinart...

An essential culinary tool, and my arch enemy

Most reputable chefs and cook book authors require, as part of the cooking process in a recipe or two, the use of a Cuisinart. This is a food processor. It chops, it dices, it pulses, it splices. With its invention, this machine ushered in an entirely new era of cooking. At home chefs could re create amazing culinary delights previously only found in restaurants and pastry shops. Wonderful soups, delicious pastry. Its all possible with the amazing Cuisinart.

I hate the Cuisinart.

The other night I was working very late in the kitchen. John was traveling, the kids asleep, and I was preparing for guests the next evening. Hummus was on the menu, for dipping various vegetables and crackers. Hummus is such a simple recipe when you have a Cuisinart.

Only, I am Cuisinart impaired. I know the reason it has such a very special way of 'clicking' itself together is so multi-thumbed individuals, people with low IQ's and children cannot operate it - thus saving them from sliced fingers and slashed multiple thumbs.

I cannot make the lid click into place. And because it is made of plastic, I am terrified that if I force the click I will break it, breaking the essential kitchen tool and causing an irreconcilable difference between myself and my Cuisinart loving spouse. He can create in the kitchen with the Cuisinart.

I cannot.

What does this say about my dexterity, my IQ?

First, I must stir the tahini that has separated. I spatula it into the bowl of the machine, the blade securely in place. Then comes the latching of the lid. Only, for me there is no latch. No click. So I reposition the bowl. As I remove the bowl I realize that the blade will now not be put back into its place properly-it will be bumped up and over the tahini, causing the oil of the sesame substance to drip down into the bowels of the machine.

I cuss. And then I feel guilty, because even though no one is around, I know Heaven hears me in my weakness. And heaven alone sees my ineptitude around this fundamental kitchen tool.

The mess cleaned up, the blade put back, the bowl on correctly, the lid latched with its affirming click. I pulse the machine on.

when I use this kitchen gadget I don't care how the food turns out. Just hearing the sound of the machine properly doing its mixing or chopping is confirmation that I conquered the complexity of the Cuisinart. I have successfully engineered the beast!

After the tahini is mixed, I must go through the process all over again; put the bowl on securely, put the blade in correctly, add ingredients (garbanzo beans, garlic, tahini and a shot of cumin seed along with salt, pepper and olive oil).

And though I've checked my mechanical bearings, I come up short again. The lid will not mocks me a second time.

I swear once again...only this time I don't feel guilty.

the same humiliating result. The same mess of a solution. The bowl is disassembled. The ingredients spill over, the blade moves from its vital place.

Cuisinart failure again.

After the humiliation subsides and the cussing streak ends, I carefully correct the mistake I've made before. The blade in its sweet secure spot, the ingredients are replaced, the lid clicks in just like it should. As if it were that simple.

The pulsing and mixing commence. Hummus is the end result.

and my hatred for the artful Cuisinart is heartily reinforced.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cleaning House...

looking ahead; photo taken in Johannesburg

enjoying the moment with sister Jess: photo taken in Sweden

Welcoming Porter: photo taken in Dallas

enjoying a moment with Evelina: photo taken in Boise

looking back, looking forward: photo taken in Utah, a long time ago

Cleaning house comes in many forms. A friend of ours was telling me that this weekend she cleaned out from behind her bed. She has no children yet, just her and her husband. She was appalled at what she found (the dust, the dirt) between her headboard and her wall.

Sometimes we clean house by cleaning out the garage. Sometimes we clean house by giving away/getting rid of holiday decorations that are dated or just unused and taking up space.

Right now I'm in the process of cleaning out my computer. Or cleaning it off. I have to install the latest operating system on my laptop and I don't have enough hard drive to hold it, so I've attached a little external hard drive and have been, when I have time, copying all my photos from my laptop to the drive, later to be downloaded onto our big home computer where the majority of our photos are kept.

It has been quite a walk down memory lane to copy and clear out the photos. When the machine was given to me it had been 'loaded up' with years worth of memories. Sweden, Boise, Dallas, the birth of Porter and the arrivals of Molly and Lucy all scrolling before my eyes as I 'dump' those memories onto the little blinking hard drive that sits beside my little laptop.

Time is flying by, I see it as I scroll. Children are growing. Our adventures living abroad, our time away from 'home' in Utah, all back there in the past. All being 'stored', moved, cleaned out...making room for future scenes, future experiences, future changes to our family.

Its made me desperately want to slow down. To 'stop the train' from moving so fast, so seemingly out of control. These words resonate in my mind every day, and yet when I pray (fervently!) to know what to let go of, how to slow down, the answer has not yet come.

So I continue to look to the things that lie ahead, and try to pleasantly remember the things that are behind us. And accept that cleaning house-in all its forms-is a natural part of this life's experience.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It feels like a year ago but...

we actually just got back from Hawaii. Just John and me. Just 4 nights. Just blue skies. Just SURFING. Just SNORKLING. Just amazing shave ice, lots of hand holding, beautiful scenery and dreams come true (swimming with sea turtles, surfing and sea kayaking not to mention complete yoga instruction at sunset on the beach. DREAMS COME TRUE for me)

We have been home I think 3 weeks. It feels like a year. It has been so frantic that I've hardly had time to remember. But the trip was sweet. It was beautiful. It was thoughtful. It was romantic and wonderful. Thank you John for such a gift; for so many gifts from you to show me that even at 40 you are glad I belong with you...

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Halloween Review

Lucy: 'Asian Princess'
Molly: 'Fairytale Princess'
Porter: 'Ute Football Player' second year running
Madi: 'Pink Lady'

Mason: Indian with small date. Though I had sworn off costumes for anyone older than 12, Mason was asked to the girls choice masquerade ball, so we crafted a costume for him

I have said many times that I do not like Halloween.
It is true.
I think it is expensive.
I think it glorifies violence and just plain scary stuff.
And I think it takes LOTS of time to prepare costumes, parties and parades when the thing we celebrate-the origin of the day-is the warding off of evil spirits, or the celebration of them.


But here is the one thing I do like:

I like to trick or treat with my kids.

I don't ask for candy.
But I do say hello to my neighbors.
And I always meet someone I didn't know before who lives just down (or up, or around the) the street from me.
And I do talk to my children as we walk.
And I see them say hello to their friends, to their church teachers, and to others who know and love them.

That's what I like about this day.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Crossing the fine line...

This is what you see from the front door, if anyone were to come to my home they would (rightly) believe it unkempt and untidy

This is our kitchen counter: see the cool new white breadbox? It is supposed to be a secret hiding place for all those papers you see scattered all over the place. The bags running down the length of the hallway? Things that need to be returned to various stores as we prepare for our yearly family photo shoot...and trash from cleaning out the car. We are a mess I tell you, we are such a mess!

So, name that movie:
"There's a fine line between clever and stupid"

I crossed this line about the second week of school

There is a false perception that once all your kids are in school you have more time to do things you choose...

I believed this perception and am now knee deep in wonderful comittments which take time away from my home, or time in my home but not concentrating on my home.

As the photos show above, I have also believed in a false perception that I had taught my children 'a place for everything and everything in its place' sufficiently for them to practice this principal when their parental conscience is not reminding said children to remember to put things in their place.

I am living in messes I don't have time to clean up. And I have made (wonderful, exciting, worthwhile) messes elsewhere in our community that I have an obligation to 'finish up' in a successful manner.

I'm excited to tell write about these wonderful messes, because they revolve around the growth of my children in ways I want them to grow (as community servants and as more open minded and better bilingually educated individuals). But we are not used to my being thus engaged in 'doing good' among our fellow men, and the family-especially the mother of this family-is dealing with a lot of shock and awe at the things our home and family are going without in the name of serving the community.

I'm not sure its worth all the glorious wonderful things that I hoped for when I committed. I guess only time will tell if they've made the positive difference that makes the mess worth while.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Lucy's excitement for snow...

she watched the snow fall for at least 15 minutes, complete contentment written all over her face.

Lucy: "Mom, did Santa make the snow?"
Mom: "Lucy, you know who made snow...think about it....."
Lucy: "Jesus?"
Mom: "That's right Lu"
Lucy:"He made it so FUN!"

Our winter angel. Born in Asian summer.
Enjoying the welcome of snow to the Spruces.

Its nice to be blogging again.

I'm trying to run my life instead of letting it run me over...
taking back time to write and think is a very good first step

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On Travel

waiting for their latest adventure to end, these are our families most traveled accessories. Our trusty suitcases.

We bought the large green suitcase the year John finished Business school. He had bought into a school based franchise selling great luggage and nice suits and shirts to newly recruited business school grads. It was a great deal. We knew we'd be a 'large-ish' family. We knew we were moving away from where our parents lived. We expected it would get some use.

That suitcase has been all over the world. Sweden, Vietnam, Africa and now Hawaii, not to mention Chicago, Dallas, Boise and Salt Lake. And many places in between.

I never expected when we bought it that we would get to travel so much.

John bought the black one when he returned for his 2nd round of consulting, the last time we lived in Texas. He keeps it under our bed, because he uses it so often. Las Vegas, Bentonville, New York, San Fransisco. Those seem to be the places he takes it most often, but it has also been to Greece, China, Australia, Singapore, and many places in between. I knew it would be well used, but never dreamed it would be taken on so many adventures.

The newest piece, light green with our 'G' monogram for ID, was purchased on a whim when we lived the last time in Texas. It was a bargain, an outlet find, and I was heading to Salt Lake to buy a new house. Our old carry on was tattered and worn, and I felt it was time to refresh...

I also never expected to get to use it as much as we have since it found its way into the luggage inventory. I thought after leaving Texas that our family travel would be lessened. And it is true that as a family we haven't ventured all together on too too many adventures.

But still that newest bag has been to New York a couple of times. It went with Madi to Wisconsin and it traveled well to Napa and Newport. It was the perfect size for our latest trip to the island of Maui. And it will be heading on a few other fun adventures before 2012 is over.

This was not the life of my youth; our family adventures were limited by money and the time it takes to run a family business. I feel so blessed and lucky that in my life as wife and mother, my adulthood if you will, the world has become large, infinite to my mind, with so many places to see and, lucky for me, a few I've experienced.

Travel is so valuable. It gives perspective. It gives understanding. It promises adventure. It makes home more meaningful and more safe. I'm so thankful that we, the Grahams, travel.

Monday, October 17, 2011

How is Your October?

a rare occasion for October; all the Grahams together at the same time in the same place! Porter's Football game, in far away Tooele

Its been really busy around our house of late. Soccer season, Football season, dance (which happens in every season), piano practicing, rehearsals for the High School's musical and swim team work outs paired with community service commitments (PTA service chair and PTA foreign language chair) and John's professional obligations (a start up within 1800 contacts is John's latest project) and church service assignments like scouts and Primary. Whew. That's a lot for one family; even a family as large as ours!

Its made things pretty interesting around the Spruces. Dinner nights where no one is home for dinner. Saturdays where 'chores' are going to games and rehearsals. This season has moved more quickly than I prefer.

I've tried to find ways to slow us all down.

A few weeks ago, Mason was home from the play before it was time to take Porter to his game. Madi and were already back from Soccer. We had a window of opportunity. We took it. Cramming all of us in the dirty family ride, we made our way down to Tooele-an hour's drive-to cheer Porter at his football game.
He lost the game.
We won time with our family.
We stopped for a burger on the way home.
The words or prophets echoed through the otherwise quiet car as we listened to General Conference.

It was a 'breather' in what has been a very chaotic Autumn.
I've taken the difficult step of pulling myself out of a few time commitments so I can be home a little more to do things that bless our family and keep me feeling 'sane'.
I am counting down the days (19 of them exactly) until soccer and football are over. The musical ends this Wednesday.

I can't wait for dinner time to include all of us sitting at the table at one time, discussing the day and finding joy and gratitude in the life we get to live.

Heaven knows we are living a LOT of life right now!

How do you keep things in balance when your time is taxed by your children's opportunities? We are truly struggling with how to help our kids understand that their talent development is a privilege and an 'extra' and not an entitlement or a job. When they see it as an obligation instead of as a joy I feel its time to set it aside and let other joyful things surface - like sitting outside in the crisp fall air or jumping on the trampoline or finishing that book or project. I'm praying for the way to lead our family to balance. Its not an easy road, and one less traveled indeed. But its the road that looks best to me, and I intend to take us down it, joyfully and with purpose.

Friday, October 07, 2011

If you are ever in Salt Lake...

Delicious sandwiches with a secret ingredient. Yummy cookies and artisan breads

2 locations; one in Sandy and another Downtown

John knows good food. And he told me about Hagermann's.

And now I'm telling you.

Hagermann's bakehouse is a terrific spot for breakfast or lunch. Its local. Started by a local. Owned by a local. Operated by a local. Great food. Reasonable prices. Well worth the visit.

John learned about this yummy spot from a former business associate. His brother owns the place. John's friend, to help his brother get the business off the ground, went into the bakery every morning at 4 a.m. to bake the bread, and then went to his regular job.

family helping family. I like that kind of business.

Now there's a regular bread bakin' guy, and a funny man who runs the front counter. And lots and lots of people standing in line for sandwiches, soups, brownies and more.

The Sandy location is at 11400 South and 700 East, on the southwest corner of the intersection.

And you can find them down town in the new City creek development, right on South Temple near the Deseret Book.


Thursday, October 06, 2011

Snow, so soon, is falling

We wore shorts and sandals all weekend long. Monday it was still blazing hot. The tomatoes have been growing so beautifully in the late season heat, and I've felt it was justice for the cold June we had so long ago at the start of summer.

But right now there is snow falling. And sticking to the ground. And my tomatoes.

It is kind of the last straw in a difficult realization that my entire life is a day late and a dollar short.

I had hoped to paint the kitchen and den before the grey of winter set in. I kept telling myself last year in the cave of our home that this year it would all be different.

Its too late. The grey is here. And the kitchen looks the same.

I made dinner this week and sat down to eat it with two other members of my family. The pattern I've set my entire career as a mother to sit at mealtimes together has completely fallen apart.

I have looked at the garden with its dire need for attention and tried to see how I would fit in the hours it would take to prune and pull and prepare it for winter.

Now winter is here, so early. And the roses are still blooming in the back. They started late and now they are caught in the white blanket of cold. Unprepared and wishing for more time in the sun.

Like me.

Monday, October 03, 2011

I Live with Junie B. Jones

We love reading stories about Junie B. Jones. Her spunk. Her absolute guile-less perspective on life. Well, I live with Junie B. -she is embodied in the actions, the demeanor and the make up of our very own Molly E.

Here is the thing about life with Junie B.

Have you ever noticed the reactions of her parents? They are always tired, always explaining, always straining to stay patient and composed when their darling (funny) spirited daughter is lost in the school, or is in trouble for with "Mrs." the teacher, or is inconsolably afraid of school bus rides or losing her tooth.

Its hard to be Junie B.'s mom.

But here is the thing about it; we love Junie in the story books. She is spunky. She is smart. She sticks up for herself and her antics make sense when we see the way she thinks through them -

and that's what I'm trying to remember. Every day that I'm Molly E.'s mother.

Someday, if we were to see Junie B. all grown up she'd be a rocket scientist or a super creative musical genius or at the very least an inquisitive television news journalist. Her inquisitive no- nonsense stick up for myself nature would prove to be her success.....if we could only see into the future of that spirited 1st grader.

So for now, when she pinches the twirp who made a face at her in line, or when she screams that she is terrified of the grasshopper that jumped on her arm in the yard, or when she dresses and acts like a princess for hours and hours on end I just keep telling myself to be patient in mothering her and, if I could read her thought process like a grade school novel it would all be really cute and funny.

Cause my daughter is Junie B. Jones.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Teenage Financial Plan...

I had a part time job all through high school. Sometimes, I had more than one job. Some summers I worked full time to meet expenses for fun experiences like school pep club or our madrigals singing group. Working and earning were part of the very fabric of my upbringing. I feel, now that I'm raised, that the lessons I learned through work are some of the most vital lessons I've been blessed with in my life.

John parents handled things differently. John had responsibilities at home. He also was VERY accountable for his grades. As long as the grades were top notch he was given cash to enjoy time spent with friends eating out or going to a show. His clothes were purchased for him; not extravagant, but sufficient. He was taught hard work through academics. He earned a full ride scholarship to the University of Utah in the most challenging department at the University (materials science/Engineering).

Different approaches. Both a success. John is one of the most hard working people I know, and a life long learner to boot. I too can be hard working, but I can't admit to being academically minded - that discipline just didn't get 'set' with me.

So, now we have this teenager. And there are expenses that come along with having one of those; every kind of expense from car insurance to High School fees to clothes to deodorant to scouts; you name it. Having your kids grow up is EXPENSIVE...

and we want Mason (and those who follow him) to learn fiscal responsibility and hard work too.

So, we've tried to take the best of how we were raised, and mesh it into one financial plan for raising financially mature individuals.

The family will allow Mason to manage a portion of our budget in order for him to meet expenses that are part of being a teenager in school. We will put money into an account that he will manage. And in return for that trust he will take on 'family jobs' that need doing on a regular basis-like a part time job (only a little more flexible). He will have to save this money, meet expenses when they come up, and report back on how he is managing the funds. Part of this trust includes getting good grades-so Mason knows that his grades are directly linked to his financial independence.

In addition, we've provided opportunities for Mason to do work around our home for which he'll be paid so he can 'play' just a little. Because we want him to have a chance to pay tithing and manage his savings account (which he will use for mission and college expenses) we have given him 'mad money jobs' which are optional, but because they fund the fun they are quite desirable to him. It is amazing how much he gets paid per hour compared to the minimum wage earnings I made as a teen, but what good is the process of teaching if the kids has no incentive to learn? Mowing the lawn each week (plus trimming, plus edging etc.) brings a whopping $20, but after tithing (10%) and savings (20%) its just enough to take a girl out for a burger :) And because the 'family responsibility' jobs have to be done each week, we know the 'mad money jobs' won't get done quite as consistently (especially if he has a date or an outing with his friends to attend to ).

How do you do money with teens? Its been a really difficult process for us to come up with this system, and its just in its infancy, not sure how it will go. I was surprised at how starkly different my approach was to money with teens compared to John-and its been a process for the two of us to come to an understanding and appreciation of the good things in the other person's viewpoint. In the end the goal is the same; raise kids who have become personally responsible educationally, physically and fiscally. We hope this arrangement when properly followed and practiced will bring the result we desire!

Have a great weekend. See you here next week for :
Living with Junie B. Jones
Conference in Review
This year's family theme
If you are ever in Salt Lake City...

Monday, September 26, 2011

My Favorite Blogs for Monday...

When I sit down at the computer there are a few places I 'go' before I do my own tasks. I thought it would be fun to just share the places I like to visit on the web; and I chose them simply by how often I go there vs. how often I go to other blogs or sites.

I don't have tons of time in front of this screen, so I don't do a ton of surfing-mostly I stick to those places that I know will uplift or inform, invite me to be better or let me laugh, or those places that connect me to people I love. I tried google reader once, but like most tech-savvy things I let John set it up for me and I didn't get notified in my own email inbox and I didn't learn how to add or take away from my 'follower' status so I dropped it and never pay attention to it. Instead I punch in the url to each of these sites daily and check and see if there's anything new that I really want to read about.

I always check John's blog. He is sporadic about posting-and I began to be sporadic about checking-but in recent weeks and months I go there every day. Especially right now, as he is SO busy in other aspects of his life, I like to see what he is thinking about when he is not thinking about selling glasses on the internet (go here, to see what John's job day is all about!)

I check on Tricia nearly every day as well. She is a mentor and a friend, someone I truly admire and learn from. Her philosophies on education, spirituality, home decorating (she actually works hard at decorating her home...) and homesteading are so dead on with me. She is doing her life purposefully and i learn from her with every reading. Thanks for being my friend Tricia!

I also check on this gal frequently. Her blog is so artful and again, so purposeful. I've actually enjoyed meeting this wonderful girl in person (my sister is her friend!). Carin is a photographer and mother, a thinker and a 'beautifier' of the world we live in. I appreciate, when I read from her, her visual and spiritual perspective. I have often taken John's camera and just tried to photograph everyday things to make them beautiful like Carin can. I'd love to be more skilled (though Carin is not skilled, she is artfully talented).

I also check on Sharon a lot. Because Sharon makes me happy. She is smart and articulate and also not too sappy-she accomplishes much and her intelligence about everything is so completely real. Sharon is a good friend from Texas days, and when I read her words I wish I could pop over to her house and gab with her in her kitchen. Her phone calls to me are bright spots in my life and her blog posts are reminders of the wonder that she is.

And recently I began visiting this site. I like that Shawni is a mom of about my 'stage' in life. Teenagers and youngsters, and she is successful in her mothering and her other pursuits. I have also posted several times about 'family propaganda' and Shawni has the same philosophy as I do when I comes to this idea. Dead on. We do it different ways, but we are making the same effort; and I like that. A lot. I will admit that I get that 'envy' sometimes that she has it all together and I don't-but mostly I appreciate learning and listening to her thoughts and philosophies and seeing if they jive with me.

And finally, my younger sister (whose blog I used to visit every day until she stopped posting; oh, all my sisters stopped posting it seems!) connected my to Stephanie a very long time ago. It was when I didn't know people went 'public' with blogs. I had been keeping mine up for family to see, but Jess showed me that others actually advertised on their blogs and wrote every day and that there was an entire culture practically around blog reading, blog checking and blog creating. Who knew? Steph, as you know I'm sure, was in a plane crash some years ago, and now she is like the most popular blog on the internet. But I like to think I was with her from the beginning-and since I've had the pleasure of meeting her and working with her (pre and post accident) I enjoy reading what she has to say....and I wish her success because she has shared some very good vibes with me.

have you visited these or other blogs? I like others as well, but these are most frequented, so these are what I share on this Monday. Check them out and tell me what you think! Happy reading!

Thursday, September 22, 2011


My friend Andrea and I spent time together yesterday, running errands and 'grabbing lunch' (Haggerman's Bakery; definitely going into the "If you are ever in Salt Lake" archives very soon, watch for it!).

Andrea took me by Cy's Market. A small family run produce market that is running a great produce co-op.

I opted in.

I came home with a box of organic, well picked produce. Tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, red bell pepper, green leaf lettuce and Kale. Green onion, some radishes, snow peas, beautiful green beans, brocoli and some juicy white peaches. A few pears, a couple of apples, a bag of grapes and loads of bananas. Then Cy threw in a couple bunches of fresh basil, picked from his own gardens the day before. And 2 bunches of 'bread bananas' which were going brown and ready for bread (this is a tradition for the co op boxes. Some ripe bananas, and some real ripe bananas).

I added to my stash some interesting cucumbers and a local cantaloupe.

We've had two smoothies,and a delicious salad and green beans for dinner.

I'm happy we opted in.

Its good to look at a box (or garden full) of produce and center your meals around whats given you that is local and fresh. I like that I"m supporting a local farmer, and that I have a connection to my community in some small way. And I'm glad that every other week me and Andrea and Lara will take turns driving out to pick up our produce filled boxes. I drive every 6 weeks; I get a box every 2. Something so 'green' about pick up sharing don't you think?

tonight we'll have pasta in red bell pepper sauce. And lots of brocoli to compliment. Tomorrow for lunch, chinese noodles with fresh green onion to garnish, and cucmbers with dip for snack time. I'll try my hand at a peach pie this weekend (if John will teach me the art of the crust) and on Sunday, I'll whip up some yummy banana bread to share with a neighbor or two.

Its great to co-op-erate :)

A conversation on the way home from Football

*Note: when my first son-who is also my first child-was about 6 years old, he became enamored of Pokemon cards. We were living abroad at the time, and all I knew from him was that these were cards you traded, centered around an imaginary world where people caught creatures and exploited them for their own gain. Not wanting to teach my child that this form of self gratification was part of our family make-up, I banned the game. Oh, how parents learn as they become seasoned by raising a family...which battles to pick, which causes to take up, and which child like games to let run their course over the span of 3rd and 4rth grade...

Porter and our next door neighbor, Josh, were riding home from football practice in the back of our car last night. Their conversation did not center around tackling and blocking and throwing-oh no. They were talking intensely, incecently, about Pokemon.

Porter: I was so glad I traded my charmander, cause I was getting so sick of that one. I was trying to evolve him but I 'sucked' at I wanted him to evolve but he just wouldn't and it took so long...

Josh: Dude, you gotta be patient when you want them to evolve. Patient.

Porter: I had to get rid of him and find a guy who could fight right away

Josh: patient Porter. That's how it is with evolving those guys...

Porter: I stunk so bad at it. I tried to evolve another guy and I sucked at that guy too

-sorry for the language-they'd just been with their swearing coaches so I was glad these were not expletives coming from their angel mouths...

Porter: I can't wait to trade a guy again, so I can get a strong one who is ready to go.

Josh: PORTER. You are not hearing me. I SAID, you GOTTA BE PATIENT. DUDE. PATIENT

There was some kind of cosmic wisdom in a child telling another child to give patience to an endeavor of any kind. Especially to Porter. That concept of setting aside what you want in the moment (a guy who can fight, in this case) for what you really want most (and evolved guy in this case) is something Porter has been learning a lot about lately in his nine year old life.

And there was some other kind of wisdom in the whole conversation. As I drove along, listening, I could almost hear myself discussing child rearing with the sage parent of the universe

me: but I want them to evolve. To become. I'm not good at all this waiting. And all the steps you have to go through for them to be what you see they can be; powerful, intelligent, amazing. Maybe its easier if I just make them happy right now. I kind of 'suck' at the evolution of them.

Sage Parent of the Universe: Patience. Darling. Patience. Its all about patience. Do you hear what I am saying? You gotta be patient when it comes to evolution...

'morphing' from someone self centered into someone who is selfless. Evolving from the 'what's in it for me' to the 'what's best for everyone else.' I wonder how much of it really is, as our little neighbor so wisely taught over pokemon cards on the ride home, all about the patience.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A New System...

binders stay on a shelf in our message center, right by the door where the kids leave for school

our awesome tokens can add up quick for the kids; they can earn 7 per week just by doing their daily tasks; and more if they put in a little extra effort!

Even Lucy is excited to do her 'morning tasks'. She earned her first token this morning, and was thrilled to put it into the ziploc duct taped on to the back of her binder

We have used our "clipboard" system for several years now, and it has been losing effectiveness pretty fast-kids weren't getting their checklists finished often enough during the week to earn their allowance at the end of the month. I was losing my temper more and more because they were so apathetic about their responsibilities.

It got especially bad when school began.

I really thought hard about how to shift our focus from the kids being 'slave driven' to the kids becoming independent and productive...a hard paradigm shift for kids to make.

I felt it would take an incentive that was concrete enough to help the kids have a desire to 'buy in' now and then as their good habits form and they become more natural at keeping themselves in order (both physically, spiritually and mentally) then the fruits of being independent become the rewards themselves.

So I 'lifted' my friend Sharon's concept for her kids' summer work, and have made it a part of our every day routine.

Just a couple of SHOUT OUTS. First, THANKS MALIA! For the 'tokens' - Malia is John's administrative assistant and she really double times as our 'family assistant'. She was in charge of the company Summer party, which was "Harry Potter" Themed complete with 'galleons' we used during the amazing event. Malia was so kind and helped us by donating the expired galleons and they have become our family tokens!

another THANKS to SHARON! Your description of the family binders you put together last summer was the seed from which this idea grew for me. I appreciate you as a mom and thanks for showing me what could work for my family by sharing what was working for yours :)

So, Here's how we do it.

1. The kids are expected to take care of some simple tasks each morning before school. these include dressing, eating, making their lunch (even Molly makes her lunch with my supervision), cleaning up their room and making their bed, having a 'quiet minute' to have personal prayer and hopefully personal reading of scripture/spiritual thought, helping straighten up one of our home's common areas (this 'weekly job rotates; kids help with the library, music room, dining room, den and family room) and practice the piano.

I know that seems like a lot each morning; but our kids get up early. we gather the kids at 6:40 a.m. to read scriptures as a family and have prayer before John leaves for work and Mason leaves for school. These early mornings have been our family pattern for over 5 years; and it works for us though I know it seems over the top for many other families...

2. When the kids complete their list of tasks before they leave for school they get a token. Tokens are saved in each child's binder in a ziploc bag.

3. Extra tokens can be earned by giving an extra music practice session, practicing a foreign language, practicing math concepts through Kahn Academy and other various things. Kids also earn a token when they participate in their dinner night without complaining and follow through with those duties from start to finish...and they earn 2 tokens on a Saturday if they complete their jobs "Saturday style" which includes dusting and vacuuming as well as helping with laundry a bit and doing a "Saturday job"...

LOTS of chances to earn tokens.

4. Kids turn in their tokens for various things; namely they turn in the bulk of their tokens in order to claim their monthly allowance. Kids don't have to have earned 100% of their tokens in order to claim allowance, but they do have to earn 85% or better...nobody's perfect but you've got to try, hard.

5. Other 'token love' includes staying up a few extra minutes on a school night, or turn in a few for a treat from 'the stash' (more on how we are handling candy and sugar in our home these days to come). They can let their tokens pile up and even turn in 20 for a late night with their friends...lots of different kinds of incentives/prizes and prizes worth just a couple of tokens to prized/privileges which are worth up to 20.

a couple of 'asides': the Jr. high kid gets a little break on the time; she has until 4 p.m. to complete her task list because she leaves for school only 30 minutes after scriptures and she has piano and guitar to practice. And, we've changed our High Schooler's routine completely-more on that tomorrow!

How do you run your family 'routines'? How do you motivate your kids to work? How do you help them contribute to the family without incentive-ising them into entitlement? I'd love to hear more about what you do in your homes...your ideas and 'systems' could be helpful to others-me included!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

How were you asked to your Homecoming?

The only dance I remember being asked to was Homecoming of my Freshman year...a huge bunch of helium balloons in our school colors were left on my front porch with instructions for me to pop the balloons and find a 'hidden message' revealing my date.

I was too young to go.

It was a difficult thing you see, because he was a senior and a Student body officer. And he had a steady girlfriend whose parents had suggested the couple find other dates for this dance. So it was a 'safe date' if you know what I mean.

But I answered back with a 'no'. I did it in a clever way. But I still said no.

Our family rule growing up was just like it is for my own kids today:

"do not date until you are at least 16 years old. Date those who have high standards. When you begin dating, go in groups or on double dates. Plan activities which help you remain close to the spirit of the Lord." (taken from 'for the strength of youth')

Last night Mason asked a cute nice girl to the homecoming dance.
Brynley, Madi and I orchestrated the 'asking'. We came up with the clever idea, packaged it all up and sent him out the door so the girl he'd hoped to go with wouldn't get asked by someone else.

They are both 16.
They'll go in a (fun) group.
They'll plan a very fun (wholesome) evening full of activities.
It will be a great evening.

How have you been asked or answered to dances in your past?
Did kids at your school pull these crazy stunts to invite to dances?
What fun, wholesome activities do you remember as part of your high school dating experiences? One of my favorites was sailing paper boats down the river in Millcreek canyon - super fun night during my high school career!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Perspectives on Parenting

making his name bright again, Porter scrubs the grime away

Once upon a time there was a darling little boy who loved his mom so much he wants her to sleep with him at night and hugs her tight (!) on his way out the door to school each morning.

This little boy was really clever, and decided to use his brilliance to avoid doing school work. He convinced his teacher each afternoon that his classwork was in the appropriate basket, earning himself a teacher's signature on his daily planner. Once the signature was seen by his adoring mother it was said that no homework was required of the sneaky clever boy; as evidenced by the teacher's approving John Hancock.

One Friday afternoon the boy's loving mother figured out the deception. Boy and mother walked down the road back to school to concur with the teacher that indeed work had gone undone and was legitemately missing and required at the boy's hand.

The boy began to have a stomach ache.
The boy began to cry.
The mother, completely realizing she had been lied to for many days, wanted to cry too.

It hurts to be lied to by your boy, ya know?

Reality was placed before the boy. Consequences too. While friends played outside (or on their video games) all Friday afternoon the boy sat at the library table and did assignment after assignment. By Saturday morning, with the work still not fully completed, the boy begged to be aloud to play in his football game. Mom stood her ground. 5 minutes before game time the work had been complete.

The boy played in his game.
(And did a darn good job)

Once home, he was put to work, with the understanding that his task was a metaphor for the choice he had made to dirty the family name through deception and lying.

He scrubbed the smoker. He wiped out the grease pail. he swept up the charred ashes and cleaned out the dripper pan.

It was a dirty job.
the dirt was all over him. Just like a lie. Just like deceit. That yuck is hard to wipe clean.

After the boy was bathed and showered he was given a short but sweet lecture, on how our lies can be truly washed clean, and told of the joy that when we choose wrong, but decide to turn back to right ways, there are open arms waiting to receive us.

This morning, that boy, with a letter of apology in his cute little hand, was escorted to school again by his mother. She watched as this child whom she adores so much handed his confession to his teacher.

The boy's mother wanted to cry again. But held back tears as her son cried instead. An embarrassment she hopes he will never forget.

And while these events are so much about this wonderful, devious, good at heart boy they are also about his mother. Who sometimes cries when its hard to parent. And who worries that she teach about the values of honesty and integrity in a way in which her children will adopt them and make them their values. And who hopes beyond hope that the day of hiding papers and lying to teachers is behind her (and her boy) for good.

Friday, September 09, 2011

No title, just ramblings

no picture either. I sent our new camera to Sweden with our men. the battery is dead. I haven't had the time to find the charger and plug it in the wall. I usually have a camera in my purse. I've been using my iPhone lately, but my pictures ALWAYS come out blurry.

This week we had another basement flood. Not as bad/catastrophic as the first one. But still, large fans blowing on wet carpet and walls, and large bills to pay for repairs(the major disappointment of this isn't actually the flood, its the fact that the dollars which will pay for its clean up were going to be allocated to new paint for my very boring kitchen walls. Darn! Foiled again!). Large feelings of discouragement about owning an old house and filling it up with young kids are haunting me. This flood was preventable, if the toilet had been flushed right and the leaky valve given proper attention I would not have had gallons of (at least it was clean!) water sucked off the floors....sigh sigh sigh and sigh---

Because of the flood John and I gave up our bed to our kids, and took to sleeping in 'fun' places like out on the trampoline and downstairs on the big leather couch. I'm not sure if I have mosquito bites from the trampoline or spider bites from the basement, but either way I'm looking forward to making my kids sleep with those fans blazing outside their closed doors so I can lay on my side of my bed with my pillow and have a decent night's sleep tonight.

I went to a 'beyond the barre' class today at the gym. This is a toning/strengthening class 'trend' in lots of gyms around the country. Ballet words are used like 'rele-ve' and 'tondu' which are graceful terms for squats and lunges. But it is fun to actually pretend you are graceful for an hour while sweat is dripping off your face. And, since as a child I was told not to come back to ballet class because I had no 'natural grace', it is kind of fun to hold my arms like a ballerina, look in a mirror and try really hard to believe for just an hour a week that I can 'walk lightly' and with poise and femininity if I stick to this class instead of thundering through life as I do, walking like a football player entering the stadium (foot pounds and heavy legs; that's my natural gate).

Finally, you might be interested in seeing the delicious dinner John made for our anniversary. I had a conversation with some very dear friends this week about my insecurities surrounding John's incredible culinary abilities and affinity. Is it true love to provide opportunity for the person you love most to spend time doing something he loves, even if that something in the end benefits me? And is it true love if this gifting of time comes with the stipulation that in the end more time will be taken to right the wrong of kitchen disaster that takes place when any great chef is in the flow of creating delicious masterpieces? Or is that 'conditional love'? A conundrum I ponder when John takes to the kitchen...

Just a few random things on a Friday. I'm sure Monday, when my flood -ridden house is put back together again and my camera battery is charged and I've had my own turn in the kitchen to bake and cook I'll have fun things to show you and even funner things to talk about. Until then, Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Anniversary Weekend and Blueberry Pie

Because he loves me, he cooks for me...

It was our anniversary Sunday, so we farmed the kids out to cousins and friends and spent the night together in our very own home. While I attended to church responsibilities John cooked a magnificent meal; tomato tower with basil and vinegar, squash soup with homemade stock, beet ravioli in beet sauce, salmon in cardamom broth and blueberry pie with homemade lemon sorbet for dessert.

John loves to cook. He loves the chemistry of it. He loves the preciseness of it. He loves the presentation of it. He loves it as a gesture. He cooks for people he loves; a coconut pie for my mom's birthday, Thanksgiving feasts each year for his own mom, and tomato soup or blueberry pie or crab cakes for me. It is an outward expression for him of an inward desire to care for another. Think of those scenes in Spanglish or No Reservations where the chef expresses passion and love through the divine tastings in his/her kitchen...

It is a beautiful thing.

I have had to come to terms with it though; with the process, the mess, the time that it all takes. It has evolved over the course of our marriage to the point where I can receive all that he is giving when he is giving me a nice meal.

Sometimes I wish I was the one cooking. But I know the end result would just not be the same. The love that he feels for cooking can be tasted in each and every bite. Its part of the reason the meals are amazing. And I cannot equal that.

The rest of our weekend consisted of a long walk in the dark. A late morning in bed. A lingering stroll through the cooking store. Then back to our kids and our life with them. It was short but so sweet to spend time remembering that our life together started with only two of us, and that we are glad that life has grown to include an entire bunch.

Happy anniversary John. I loved our weekend together. Thank you for the blueberry pie. I ate the last piece for breakfast. With each bite I thought of you and all you do to show me you are glad you chose me all that time ago. I'm so glad I chose you too! I'm the luckiest girl in the world to be by your side forever!

Friday, September 02, 2011

When Adults Act Like Children...

Sometimes its a good thing when adults act like children. Take this summer for instance. At Porter's birthday party, when the boys (many of whom are my cub scouts) drenched me with their water guns, I gunned them right back. Instead of getting all stodgy about being a grown up getting wet, I got wet with them. This is a good time for a grown up to act like a child.

When Brynley pulls out her camera, John and I do our best to look silly in her pictures. Unless she wants us to look less silly (which is hard for us to pull off). This is how our teenager wants us to have fun with her; so this is a good time for an adult to act like a kid

And when our new nephew comes for a visit, John and I make baby sounds and stick our tongues out at this little bundle of YUM. We look like infants ourselves, but its o.k.-because this too is a good time for an adult to act like a child...

and the week before school started, when we had night games in the driveway and our next door neighbor came over and played 'red light green light' with her kids (and mine) now that was a wicked perfect time for an adult to act like a kid!
(I literally had forgotten that I was allowed to play, thanks so much Megan, for reminding me that I can have fun with my kids too)

But, yesterday, when the immature parent at our elementary school butted in line to talk to the new principal, and didn't really talk but 'yelled' at her because he wasn't getting his way, and bullied her and tried to use his adult-ness to childishly manipulate her into doing what he wanted, this was NOT the right time (or way) for an adult to act like a child...

I was embarrassed for this whining adult as he ranted in public to another adult while children and even more adults cringed in their observation of his performance. He was throwing down words like "constituency" and "influence in the community" but the only influence he had was the lesson that if you are a childish adult in the wrong way at the wrong time you can look like a giant much of this kind of behavior has gone on in our public politics, both in the town where I live and in our country at large. We shouldn't be too surprised when the children who observe this turn out to be childish adults-its the pattern we are setting for them in the very worst sense.

Here's to being child like when it comes to being with a child. Here's to playing with our kids and teaching them through play that we value them and the world of play that they live in and learn from daily.

And here's to being an adult when its important to be one. To communicating disagreements in respectful conversation. For finding common ground and working hard to understand another adult's point of view. And to showing that even though you might be absolutely right; manipulating or bullying another is not the mature way to 'get your way'. Let's show our kids that its great to be a kid, and lets show our kids how to be good adults, so some day they will know how, and someday be able to be one.