Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My personal back to school wish list...

New shirt dress; I love that the leave-it-to-beaver mom dress is back! Couple it with my strings of pearls and I could so be June C. herself. Now, if I could just learn to vacuum without my apron on

We've done a lot of school shopping for the kids this year, especially for Mason. Its hard with the catalogs coming and the eye candy in shop windows not to wish for a little wardrobe update for myself too...its just a WISH list. No money in the clothing budget means no new clothes for the mom this year!

my favorite chinos of all time; right length, good fit through the waist and hips; were ruined last year by our son who did a load of laundry without checking pockets for incidentals like INK filled pens...OH to have the perfect fitting chinos, it would make dressing so much more enjoyable for me! Always too big in the waist to be able to fit the hips-and FOREVER TOO LONG..yes, new chinos would be a top priority for this lady's back to school shopping

perfect skirt. Emphasizes the waist, gives length so as not to reveal too much thigh. Great with tennis shoes or pumps. Perfect with a t-shirt in September or a turtleneck in November. Could be belted, or worn with blazer or cardi. Would look awesome with my sorel's this snowy winter

do you see the PUFF SLEEVES! Oh, Ann of Green Gables and I are suckers for PUFFS. So feminine! puts the shape back into the figure when the shoulders are made more broad so the waist can seem more slender...

I would wear a blazer every day to work if I had a job where I "dressed for work". I LOVE jackets, and these little petite school boy blazers are the perfect proportions for my short waisted body

classic, with a pointed toe instead of squared. So beautiful. Perfect ending to a great wardrobe update.

do you see the trends to longer skirt lengths, and almost 'school uniform' looks? I love it. Plaids and tweeds are also SO BACK. Finally, clothes like the ones Gidget wore are cool again for us! I think the pricetag on the above items are almost the size of my mortgage payment but hey...

A girl can wish, can't she?

p.s. skirt by emmersonmade. All else, J.Crew. Other sites had better choices, but they wouldn't let me use their images for all the '360 degree' viewing options...

The two year itch...

I had been feeling really antsy about home projects that I see EVERYWHERE I turn. Everything from the big stuff (I am DYING to paint my cupboards, want to do it before winter hits) to smaller ones (organizing the sock drawer, no big deal).

It has been really eating away at me.
I wasn't sure why. Well, accept for the part that I literally have piles in every space of my house.

And then I kind of realized. We've lived at the Spruces for 2 years now. 2 years is when we always move.

Only, we are not moving....

So it is my natural life rhythm to purge, organize and beautify every two years. I've tackled the message center and the family library. Now its on to my studio. Check out the disaster zone that I am trying to tackle....

piles that have been moved from the previously organized spaces down to the basement, for me to find them a proper home or give/throw away

endless scrapbook supplies which I long to use, but have no idea how they are being stored. Glue is in with markers, stamps with is so random that I can't start a project cause I can't find the right supplies...

my children use my crafting space much more often than I do. And they don't clean up after they use it. So bits and pieces of summer sewing projects and paper creations are littered through out the tiny room...

Molly and lucy's art table. Can you even see the table top?

The goal is to have this become a haven for me and my own projects (which of course are projects which bless my family ;) before the week is over.

wish me luck.
And pray a 'for sale' sign does not end up in our yard if for no other reason than to motivate us to get the home projects completed so we can actually enjoy the home!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ramadan with Friends

Our amazing hostesses; the feast we enjoyed was made entirely by their hands. They are such proud cooks, and their meals are delicious!

The men enjoy their dinner. Khilola's husband works in car repair to support his family. He likes living in Utah, 'because the people around us are good'

'Grandma' and I. She cannot speak English. I don't speak Turkish or Russian. And yet, we are good friends

All the kids were happy dancing and playing in the small duplex after dinner

my dear friend, who lives thousands of miles from her mother, has let me be a sister

My dear friend Khilola invited our family to celebrate the close of Ramadan with her household. She and I have been friends for about 18 months, we live on the same street. I believe she is one of the most incredible women I have ever known. She cares for her twin toddlers, her aging (and in ill health) parents in law, she cooks all her meals from scratch (the most incredible meat dumplings! Delicious almond cake!) and she keeps a small house full of many people (three bedroom duplex with her family of 4, her in-law parents, and her brother-in-law's family of 3 as well). She feeds and clothes her family on a shoe string, and she speaks Russian, Turkish and English. This past week she passed her citizenship exam so she soon will officially be an American Citizen.

But her citizenship does not diminish the fact that she and her family are refugees who have fled their homes to be free of religious persecution and ethnic prejudice. We are so cruel to one another in this big human family.

Our dinner began as the sun set, and as we entered we were seated; women at one table and men at another. Khilola and her sister in law and niece then spread a feast before us, home made bread sticks stuffed with spinach and cheese. "Pretzel bread" and hand made noodle soup with beef and vegetables. Delicious salads with avocado, cauliflower and green beans. Tasty little cakes for dessert as well as mountains of fresh fruit.

After dinner we were introduced to YouTube videos of traditional Turkish/Russian dance, the music moved us all to swing and sway-Mason tried to lower himself to the ground and kick out his legs but he landed on his back side, while the dancers in the video kicked easily and returned to their feet. We took pictures. Kissed cheeks. Smiled WIDE and were content.

Thanks to Khilola and her good husband for sharing their traditions with us. Thanks to my kids who were willing to experience something new and different and didn't complain but tried and smiled and said thank you instead. Thanks to John for being someone who I could be in other cultures and countries with for the rest of our life together. Thanks to the heavens for making my street the one where Khilola lives, so I get to be her neighbor.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Lucy Begins Kindergarten (and why I'm glad its half day)

This is Lucy first thing in the morning. She rises before the sun most days, her internal clock is 'early'

This is Lucy 20 minutes after school let out. I barely got a meal in her before she was sacked out on the couch.

It is hard for me to let her go. Not because she is gone too much, but because this is the beginning of a long educational career. While she is with me half of every day now, I know her school career takes her away from me more and more, and that my days as a mom of 'little ones' are truly truly numbered.

Lucy started school today. Half Day, morning, Kindergarten. Her teacher was Molly's teacher before her. Lucy spent many hours in the classroom last year while I was a volunteer.

She feels like she owns the place.

John was amazing. With tons of pressure waiting for him at the office, he walked with us down the street to school. Video camera in hand, he captured Lucy's first trip to our elementary as an enrolled student.

Lucy met familiar faces in the school yard, and walked to her line once the bell rang. Other parents followed their children through the doors. I stayed back. Lucy didn't need me hovering over her, in fact I couldn't keep my composure much past the tardy bell's ring

I cried all the way back home.

Then I poured out my heart in thanks that I am Lucy's mom. And that I've had 5 years of loving and parenting her before this day had come. And that I'd be there to pick her up at lunch when her day was done. And that we live right down the street from school. And that she gets to go to school. And that I get to be a mom. And that there are good teachers to watch over and guide her as she learns.

And that I get to teach her too. About reading and math and about sewing and cooking and more than anything, about life; about God and His blessings and honesty and truth and compassion and service and kindness and love.

Lucy came home. She ate and she napped. Its going to be a great year.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

muddy instead of clear

I have a summer cold. Having a summer cold is like getting punished for something you did not do. All the pain, with no justification for its purpose.

Our kids are gone, save Lucy, but there is so much in the way of housework to be done right now that I'm not enjoying the freedom afforded by full day school. I hope by next week the message center and library are all organized, the laundry caught up and the pile of clothes for donation or hand-me-down boxes gone through and placed properly.

I ran a half marathon two weeks ago, in beautiful Provo canyon. With Jeni. It was great fun! Somehow I hurt my foot, so I've hardly exercised since then. Hardly exercising is not good for my mental health. I'm starting to feel really down. Now the foot is feeling much better, but the head is full of congestion and the body is simply exhausted-I hope the foot fully healed and the nasal passages fully cleared happens soon...real soon, so I can get back to feeling like an emotionally balanced individual.

I went to the dentist, so he could fix a chipped tooth. He did his best, but seems to have made things worse instead of better. More dental work is in my immediate future. In the meantime I chew on only one side of my mouth so as to avoid lighting from striking up the other side of my face.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes things just don't go right? All at once the check book is out of balance, a head cold, hurt foot, sore tooth, empty nest...the stars just mis-align and life seems muddy instead of clear.

It has caused me to remember this great advice, and to try and let the universe come back into clarity as I go about the business of knowing things will be better soon, if I am patient.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Molly's birthday re-cap

Madi organized a wonderful treasure hunt for Molly to find her birthday treasure

A new bike, with working tires and sparkling handlebar streamers is Molly's initiation into being 'big'

Molly's birthday party was weeks after her birthday, so we celebrated on the day with a special lunch, enjoying chocolate fondu for birthday dessert! Molly requested marshmallows and long pretzels for dipping...

birthday lunch of macaroni and cheese and garden grown green beans. Flowers for the table compliments of our back yard.

Molly was a joy on her birthday, all day long

It is always fun to celebrate a birthday in our family. This year, Molly had two celebrations; one on her special day, and a party a couple of weeks after. Birthday morning was met with a scavenger hunt/treasure hunt organized by Madi which led Molly through the house and right to her very own new bike!

Then it was off to swimming lessons and back home for a special birthday lunch with a decorated table, chocolate fondu for dessert and candles to wish on.

Molly is such a bundle of life. Challenging and wonderful. I hope on her birthday she felt loved loved loved!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Robbed of Summer

no pictures.

I'll start blogging regularly beginning this week because, well...

School started.

Like a thief, taking away the last two weeks of hot swim worthy summer.

taking my children away from late mornings, and late nights, and games of capture the flag or red light green light with the neighbor kids.

taking my long bike rides and my daily outdoor swim work outs while my kids learned the back stroke and the breast stroke yards away from me in the pool.

I've silently fought to preserve the last of our days without carpools, schedules and homework. But today they were back in classrooms. Listening to someone else teach them.

someone that wasn't me.

I love my children's education; I like a traditional school with its micro society and all our kids learn about the big world by walking down the street together in the mornings and taking care of one another on the long walk home after the last bell has rung.

But I feel like this year my time was taken from me. I was just getting warmed up. Just beginning to love summer with big kids and little kids. Just getting good at it. Just starting to have fun in the place where we are as a family and the place where I am as a mom-

so, welcome school year, I guess. You aren't going away, so I'm reconciled to embrace you. But I wish you'd given me just a couple more weeks to hug my kids and let them eat Popsicles after dinner.

look for some review of our last fun weeks, and a commentary or two on John and Mason's European camping trip. I have some things to say about teaching our children how to work and helping them become useful, happy adults. I'm back. Just like school, like it or not :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Far and Away

Pioneer Trek: 3 days, 1 camera, 10,000 photos taken by John alone.

Week long Trip to China for Work; first time to China. Two weeks after Trek

9 boys and my John as their fearless leader: 15 days camping in Scandinavia, 2 weeks after China

and now, two nights spent in Arkansas....

This time of year I think quite often of a question I dreaded when I was a kid going back to school in the fall. "What did you do this summer?" Growing up it was very rare that our family took a trip together. The closest thing to a summer vacation was the week each year we spent in Park City Utah (which is one of my favorite memories of growing up, no complaints mind you...). Many of my classmates had stories of beaches or forests, trips to big cities or to far off lands.

If only John got to answer that question next week in front of a class...the stories he could tell!

This summer has been full of experiences for John. Not things he conjured up for himself, mind you-but opportunities and responsibilities handed him that have been remarkable in many ways. Days spent trekking with the youth of our area were filled with fun and service. Days spent in China and Hong Kong were enlightening and rewarding. Days spent in Scandinavia with Mason and 'the crew' were life changing and joy-filled.

I"m so happy John has had this summer. These experiences, this travel. I'm glad for what he is becoming because of the things he has seen, heard, and felt. I'm happy for all it is making him.

and I miss him.

Sleep well tonight John, in your hotel room far away. I'll keep our bed warm and dream of you with me. But be amazing while you are away. Make the experiences count and be your best in all you do. You are becoming so much so quickly. I'm so lucky to be the one who keeps the home fires burning while you are far and away.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Authentic Me: Forty

Our next door neighbors surprised me with a birthday cake after the kids enjoyed 'night games' on our street. One of the sweetest moments of the day was having my children and all their neighborhood friends sing/yell 'happy birthday' to me and help me blow out candles.

Long time friend DeAnne took my girls and me to tea; it was So FUN to spend time with this dear friend eating shepherd's pie and drinking peppermint tea. I'd love to return again and again to the tea house to sit on the fluffy pillows and listen to D, she is an amazing person with great insight and inspiration!

a smattering of the flowers that were hand delivered by John's assistant, Malia, to the swimming pool where my children were having their swimming lessons. Her surprise visit was accompanied by this little book-which held an even bigger surprise from John to me on my birthday...

what you can't see:
A morning breakfast with my mom and sisters
My daddy running swim team and football carpool so I could be at breakfast
A lovely lunch date with my running partner Jeni
phone calls from friends in Sweden and Idaho
Sweet Text messages from my husband in far away Sweden
hugs from my kids
notes and gifts left on my front porch

It happened. I turned 40. The day I had dreaded came and went. And the day was a wonderful surprise for me in many ways. I felt so remembered. I felt loved. I felt calm. I felt I could face the realities of 'maturing' and the prospect of making life better through the decade that is in front of me. I shed tears of tender gratitude as I prayed at the end of the day. I'm thankful for the blessings that make up my life.

It is a very good life. Full of 40 blessed years...

John completely shocked and surprised me in every way this birthday. He had taken me to breakfast the morning of his departure and given me a little blue box. Tiny diamond studs have stayed in my ears and will remain until he gets home! Then, on birthday morning, his amazing and capable (and beautiful inside and out) assistant, Malia, found me and delivered beautiful flowers with a little book to go with them. The book read like a story, with a very happy ending. John has booked an exciting adventure for the two of us to share later in October. Babysitters are even arranged! A vacation. An experience. A getaway with my beloved. There is no better birthday gift than time spent alone with John.

So, my authentic self is no longer in her 30's. She is learning to look forward and see the prospect of things to come. Thanks to all who remembered me on this very special day-my friends and family are the reason I have to rejoice and be grateful this birthday!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Molly is 7 Today

Molly woke up this morning to the serenade of "Happy Birthday". A long wished for pillow pet was wrapped in a box with a single clue around it's dolphin clue led to another until at last a new pink bicycle, one without training wheels, was revealed.

Lunch? Macaroni and Cheese followed by chocolate fondu featuring marshmallows for dipping

It's Molly's day all day long. And next week, when daddy is home, we will enjoy a swim party (with crafts as per Molly's wishes) with new school friends and neighborhood friends too.

Molly, we love you so much!

Happy Birthday to You!

Monday, August 01, 2011

One Week down, One to go

These handsome boys and their handsome leader just before takeoff

We've been hearing a bit from Sweden this week. The two men from our family are having an amazing experience camping with 40,000 others in the rain in the south of a land we love very much.

They are camping next to the Egyptians and across from the Danes and the Dutch. Several of the boys from our group have learned that the boys (and girls!) from other countries had to work very hard for the opportunity to attend this big event; they wrote essays and showed that they were bilingual. They worked to earn the cost of the trip. They sacrificed to be there.

Our boys were selected to attend by our local church leaders. They raised funds to attend and they were given lots of training and expected to give their time to go to meetings. A pretty small sacrifice when compared to others-hopefully that will sink in and the boys will really appreciate the opportunity they are living over the coming week.

The photos coming back are full of smiling boys, with thumbs up signs or hang ten hands. They look happy, if dirty and rained on, and
they look like they belong together.

Like they are friends.

When we left Texas the only things I wanted for Mason were some friends who would help him make good decisions and help him feel comfortable in his own skin. The other of my children would easily find their way, but friends haven't come easily for Mason unless those friends are the same age as his parents-his peers were a feared entity. All the moving, all the trying, all the quirks that make Mason awesome and unique made him feel less than 'part' of his peer group.

I hope Sweden is changing that. For the better.

In the coming week we'll have more pictures to see and a few more emails to read from my boys describing the amazing things they are seeing and doing and the amazing people they are meeting. And I hope I'll see in those photos and soundbites the sure signs of friendships forged. Its all I want for Mason, thank Heaven for his trip to Sweden!