Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Twelve minutes for twelve things on 12/12/12

silly little trinkets and treats compiled for 12.12.12

 My dear girlfriend and I were sitting in our daughters' ballet demonstrations when one of the other mothers raved about the amazing production her mom put on for all the grand kids on 12/12/12. Twelve activities, food with 12 ingredients, treats that start with 'T'. My friend, mother of 7, and I looked at each other. We had thought of nothing to take note of the day- only how we would get our kids to piano or ballet and still see our high school seniors perform in their Christmas concert. We were thinking of homework routines, college scholarship applications and what we what we would feed our families for dinner.

But it was a good idea to acknowledge the uniqueness of the day. I distinctly remember my own mom celebrating 8/8/88. We had 8 people in our family growing up, it was a good idea to celebrate! 8 ingredients were put in the stir fry, 8 flowers placed on the table for a centerpiece (rarely did we 'set table' growing up). All 8 of us came for dinner, which was rare, because daddy was always at work during dinner. 
The memory remains sweet and clear long since the calendar said '88.

I had a 30 minute window after the last daughter's ballet demonstration and before her Sugar Plum Fairy party had ended in order to find my way to celebrate. I dragged Lucy to the drug store. We scoured the aisles-or I scoured the aisles while Lucy protested. She wanted to know the purpose of the errand, but before long she was resigned to our outing. The woman at the check out stand said 'We don't get a basket that full very often.' I smiled and paid, and Lucy helped carry out the groceries. She sat in the car while I used the back cargo hold to sort out my 12 items, put them in cellophane and tie them with a tag and bow. Silly little things; chap stick, a pencil and pen, a comb for the boys and some hair ties for the girls. Nothing memorable. Like the ingredients to mom's stir fry 24 years ago I knew these items would be forgotten. It wasn't the tokens but their compilation on the day that mattered.

12 minutes of goodness in our library on 12.12.12
Once all the kids were home for the night (after the little one's bedtime, but oh well) we gathered in the library. They saw the bags with bubble gum and toothbrushes and figured out our little celebration.

I set a timer for 12 minutes. On this day of 12 I wanted twelve minutes to pass by with us all gathered together. And I wanted it to be 12 minutes filled with good words and not criticism. Encouragement instead of sarcasm. Kindness instead of cutting.

We listed 12 reasons why its good to be a Graham. I gave no suggestions. Madi was our scribe. I promised we would end when the timer rang and our 12 minutes had ended.
This was the list:

12. We have cool cousins
11. We are healthy
10. We are musical, we like music
9. We're funny
8. Being a Graham is never boring
7. We play together
6. Grahams are nice
5. We know how to serve
4. We like to learn
3. We take care of each other
2. Grahams are extraordinary
1. We strive to follow Jesus and His Father

The timer went off, and the kids kept going. The good feeling in our library lingered. The little kids hugged me before heading to bed. The big ones talked my ear off about this and that. I sat. I listened. They were kind to one another. They were even kind to me (this is a challenge for tween aged girls, mind you). I wished more than anything that John was there to hear it, to see it and to feel it with me. The reason we are doing everything we do; that feeling is the reason why we persist on all the other calendar days to be the things that the kids called out on the list. That feeling is our purpose, and our hope and our goal. To have that feeling every day. To invite it for eternity. It was sweet to let it shower us for a little while late at night on the 12th day of December.

The things in those little bags, the bow, the tag; those things don't matter at all. I will find them scattered and strewn through the house in days to come.
But those 12 minutes, and those 12 statements, those matter a lot, and I'm so glad for 12/12/12 and the mother at ballet who somehow instigated 12 minutes of heaven in our home. Those minutes will matter for a long time to come, even until the calendar reads 12/12/12 again and beyond that; even forever.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

An End of Year Update from the Grahams

 Blogging has become such a novelty in my life, but I wanted to take the time during 'Christmas card season' to document how our kids are doing and what we are up to as a family. As you can see, the kids are growing, faster it seems, than ever. Mason is a Senior in High School this year. As of this writing he has applied to 4 universities/colleges and is frantically studying for AP classes and making it to singing 'gigs' with the High School Ensemble. He is most 'on his game' when he is busy, and it has been a pleasure to see him fill his time with worthwhile activities and good friends. Mason is involved in our LDS seminary council, on his school ensemble (singing-beautiful bass voice) and is also taking 4 AP classes. Instead of Rugby Mason has picked up Ultimate Frisbee and is having a blast with a competition team from his High School. He has decided to 'hasten' his LDS mission service and will apply to serve beginning in June or July of the new year. We, as his parents, are very proud of his eagerness and worthiness to serve in this way. Mason will be a force for good in all his endeavors. The best word I can think of to describe this young man is EARNEST. He truly desires to do what is right.

Bryn is enjoying a lot of fun experiences and challenges this year. She was selected to be a cheerleader at her school and she is very involved in dance. Bryn is an excellent student, and aspires to have a full ride scholarship when she graduates High School. And Bryn is nice. That's what I want the world to know most about her; she is pleasant, she is generally positive and she is kind. Last week she and her younger siblings made a mess of the front room cutting out strips for a 'Christmas Countdown' paper chain. Without our knowing, and without promt, Bryn encouraged her siblings to write one nice thing they could do for someone else on each ring of their chain. And Bryn did the same. Our home has been a happier place as the kids have acted on these invitations. Bryn is like that. And I love her for it. One of Bryn's most impressive accomplishments has been her accompanying her seminary class when they sing church hymns. This girl who for a decade has hated piano is now using it to serve. Its awesome

Porter is enjoying 5th grade this year and has a lot of new experiences. His teacher is new to our school and she is fantastic. He has a lot of kids in his class who he hasn't had as classmates before, and these new friends share more of his interests (Harry Potter and the Avengers!) and are a very new 'mix' kids (friends who are girls? Who knew?!). Porter also took on a new sport this fall, leaving football to take a stab at LaCrosse. he had a great season of growth as he learned how to handle the stick and run the field and even scored in a few of his games. We are very proud of his effort in trying all of these new things. Porter is looking forward to a fun winter, and he would like to learn how to snowboard this year-another new attempt. He has also had the opportunity to take piano from a new teacher, and Porter's abilities have really improved. He competed in our area's piano federation in November, and he did very well. Porter is sincere. He wants to be loved and understood. He is kind at heart, and we are working to help him feel that he can keep that heart open to showing that kindness more and more.

Molly has had a big year, turning 8 and choosing to be baptized a member of our church. She is now in 2nd grade and it has been fun to see her confidence in reading increase this year. We are so GRATEFUL for her school teacher, who has shown an interest in helping Molly in many ways. This year we have learned that Molly will always have to work extra hard to keep herself on task, and it is a challenge at home for mom and dad to learn new parenting strategies to help Molly and our whole family. We are all learning and growing, and that is of course a good thing. Molly's prayers are the sweetest I know. She shows gratitude for lovely unique things like the color of the sky and 'the love of the family'. Molly has tried soccer this fall and she is taking Ballet this year; she has truly enjoyed both of these activites. Molly is also looking forward to skiing. She loves to spend time alone with her parents, and she loves to be alone with her toys (she could spend hours playing with dolls or stuffed animals). It is a pleasure to be Molly's parents, and the uniqueness of her needs will become a blessing as John and I learn how to sharpen our parenting skills!

Lucy goes to school all day long! This is something she is very proud of, and she does very well in class. Lucy is an amazing reader, plays the piano well, and is a graceful ballerina. I personally love the tenderness of Lucy's hugs and all the 'gushy love' she showers upon me. It is nice to still have little hugs and hands to hold! Lucy has also tried soccer this year and liked the game as long as her friends were in attendance on her team. Lu wants others to be happy. It is often the case that we find her helping a sibling who is sad or doing something nice for someone to cheer them up. Her compassion is so appreciated in our bustling house!

Look at Madi's beautiful smile! Madi had her braces removed just before the start of 7th grade, and she shines those pearly whites as often as she can. Madi is taking a challenging class load at the Jr. High and is fitting in well on the Jr. High scene. Everyone loves Madi; she is funny and smart. She enjoys all types of kids and she can relate to anyone. Madi is oozing with so many talents, she is just realizing some of them and is working hard to enjoy them all! She has a great voice and is ALWAYS using it at home. Madi's beautiful soprano sounds are in the car, in the bathroom, in her bedroom, and at the piano bench. She recently tried out for the school talent show and her teacher told her she had made the cut but they had to give her spot to the older 9th graders. Madi is a wizbang piano player as well, receiving all 'Superior' marks at her recent piano competition. Madi has also really picked up her soccer game, and is now playing on a competition team. She is learning about self discipline and the challenge of self improvement and we are so proud of her effort. Her love for music and laughter are my favorite things about her right now, and her empathy. Madi can put herself in your shoes, and she can show love in amazing ways.
We are currently pressing forward with plans for a new home. The hole is dug, the building permit is issued and now we work hard to see our ideas become reality. It is hard to believe we would CHOOSE to move, but we are excited about 'the Homestead' and should be sending our Christmas cards from a new address (still in our High School boundary but not in our zip code) next year.
John and I are learning a lot this year about being partners and parents. We thought we had both down solid, but it seems that parenting teens a lot different than parenting toddlers! And with little kids and big kids crawling over each other at the Spruces, it is definitely a two parent full time job. John's work at keeps him challenged and busy. In this uncertain economy we are so grateful for employment, and feel blessed to have employment that brings challenge and growth. I am learning the ropes as a mom of kids who are not 'underfoot' during school hours. I'm also learning a lot about foundations, windows, appliances and all the other components of 'new construction'. John is an incredible partner in all of this process and has trusted a lot of 'the Homesteading' to me. It has been so neat to LEARN again, and to put my mind and ideas to work. I appreciate the education more than I can say. I hope I can apply the lessons I'm learning the making the whole world a better place once our family has this place that we've envisioned to live in and grow in.        

At this Christmas season I want to express my love for my family and for Jesus Christ. I know He lives, and that He knows each of us and desires us to come to Him. He waits to receive us not just at this time, but at any time, and when we give our hearts to Him He shows us love, mercy, confidence and a perspective of this life that motivates us towards better things. I'm most grateful for this humble understanding and hope I live up to what I know is true in the coming year.

Thanks to all of you who make our lives full and happy. Friendships and family are the treasure we enjoy most! At this time of gifts and giving we know we have already received the greatest gifts of all; love, encouragement, friendship and acceptance. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our family to yours!

Friday, November 30, 2012

On instagram and inspiration

Today I took a minute to look through Brynley's latest web obsession; instagram. I saw friends there, beautiful images of their homes, their children, their vacations. It was nice to see their smiles, the beautifully 'altered' photos and the quick captions that express the joy of their living. For an instant I felt jealousy; that 'they have it so together' kind of feeling. And I felt a little lonely; I had just come in to a darkened house on a Friday night with no one to make dinner but me and no one who wanted to hang out but Lucy who really just wanted the IPad password (Friday is 'screen day' after all).

I've turned to my blog dozens of times over the last 6 months, wanting to write, to express, to document my life and all that is passing before me and through me. Blogger changed the format; it takes eons of time to download photos to share in this space. My kids are so busy I rarely give myself time to sit down and write or read anything, let alone send my thoughts out into the atmosphere. The words are coming so fast, by the time I sit to write them new thoughts are forming.

Life is speeding up. I don't know how to speed up myself.

I picked up the mail after putting down instagram. In the pile was a note from a friend. We had helped her in some small way and a thank you was was stamped and waiting.  She said we had been an answer to prayer, and a strength to her faith. Not that we had known that. We just listened to an opportunity and felt glad there was something we could do.

I was humbled we had been able to help. To have been a part of 'making a difference'.  I wonder how many times I could be the answer to someone's prayer if I would just stop and listen inside and do what I feel I might do.

So, I stop now to write. The dinner can wait, and I cannot wait to express to my children (for whom this blog is written) that it is best to hear and heed. The impressions are so faint-like a whisper on a windy day. It takes effort to hear and faith to believe the message that is softly spoken.  And what an important reminder for me to listen and act more often.

My instagram friends are leading beautiful lives; not just pretty to look at but lives of substance. But today I'm so grateful for the opportunity to act quietly, with  no photos or hashtags or altering of images. Just a chance to do what is right, and the reminder that my life is blessed and I'm never ever alone.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Things my kids have said lately...

Molly-as we walked through the new City Creek Shopping Center together last week-said:
"mom, this is a mall. But its next to a Temple!"
"You are right Molly" I replied...

"But the temple is SACRED mom! We shouldn't be shopping where it is SACRED!"

hmmmm...out of the mouths of babes?

Mason-at parent teacher conference last night (which I was impressed he wanted to attend with me) said something like this to his AP European History teacher:

"Please don't take my very occasional head resting as any indication that I'm not interested in your class".  This was in response to his teacher asking him if he found the material interesting...

(Mason has this class the first hour of the day. An hour before that he is sitting in his seminary class. He studies until 11 at night and is up by 5:30 in the morning; and he is doing it on his own. I was very proud of him last night as I heard from each of his teachers that he is personally responsible and is doing fine in their classes. He is growing and maturing and that makes me happy.)

Lucy-as we drove away from leaving Molly for an appointment:

"Mom, Molly and I are such good friends"
I answered I was glad to hear that news (!)
she then replied "and we are sisters too! That's two good things in a row mom!"

Who could ask for two better things in a row to hear from her daughter?

Madi-I haven't heard lots to laugh about coming out of Madi lately, but I do want to report that her friends think she is super funny! She has always been quick to a punch line and she is very very witty-it is nice to hear her humor isn't going to waste, she has just started using it on a bigger audience!

Porter-after returning from a day long LaCrosse tournament with Pro LAX players coaching his team
"mom, the coaches said I'd get better at LaCrosse if I took my stick with me everywhere I go. They said I should even sleep with it!"

that night, we 'tucked in' the LAX stick right next to Porter in bed, it was curled up in its own blanket and everything (Porter is 10, keep in mind:)

Brynley uses this funny voice that she has copied from "Miranda" the Youtube teen sensation...Bryn has this voice down pat and pulls it out whenever she can at home to get a laugh out of her parents. I've realized lately that the Miranda voice tends to ask for things like TV on school nights or renting extra netflix episodes of Vampire Diaries...that Miranda, doesn't she know the Graham family rules?

She is learning them quickly!

A mother in line at parent teacher conference asked last night how all our kids are doing; it was nice to answer 'they are doing great thanks' and really really mean it. I don't know if its because we've lived here a while or if they are just growing up a little bit more, but it seems the last few months they've settle into school and activities and all seem pretty happy and content. While I'm feeling like a chicken with her head cut off most days, it is nice to see my kids relaxed and learning, and fun and funny too.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Porter in Real Time

 Porter, now 10, is still learning a lot of very important things. He still needs to work on doing assignments when they are given instead of the night before they are due. He is learning how to become a more compassionate big brother. He is still challenging the truth that honesty is always the best policy, and he is still figuring out that the sneak to the next door neighbor's house is not as good as to ask permission to go...but there are a few things Porter has learned that are pretty darn amazing.

 Porter is nice. He wants to have friends and he wants to be a good friend. His best buddies live next door, and they are a bit younger than him. He is seen by them like a big brother and he takes the responsibility seriously. Porter chooses to be nice to kids at school, and he is usually very nice to his mother...

 Porter likes scouts. And scouts teaches honesty, trustworthiness, resourcefulness, compassion, hard work, a love of the outdoors and a love for country too. This is why I have been willing to act as Porter's scout leader for the last 3 years. It has not been easy to squeeze that extra responsibility in, but Porter loves it so much and I am so happy for him to have exposure to these great attitudes and attributes. It was fun last summer to take Porter to Webelos day camp where he got to shoot bb guns and arrows, boat, play basketball and make stuff out of leather. The highlight was looking at the live rattlesnake that had been caught by one of the counselors in the archery shed. You would have though Porter had caught it himself; the tales about the snake were as long as the reptile! I hope in all the fun he is learning the character traits that will grow Porter into a good man.

 Porter loves to PLAY. For his birthday this year all he wanted was 'a family baseball game'. We gathered cousins, aunts and uncles and the Andersons from next door (Porter's second family!) and went down to the elementary school for a game of baseball. It was fun to play with Porter.
 Porter idolizes his brother. he watches what Mason does and says and asks for advice from him often. I'm happy that right now Mason is a good example to look up to; I'm happy the boys have one another and that they love each other so much.

 Porter loves school!  This is such a welcome adjustment compared to last year! He has been assigned to a new teacher in our elementary school and she has captured his heart and mind for sure. His favorite thing about her is that she has a piano in her classroom and she allows the kids to play pieces they know when they are done with their work. This has helped Porter to be motivated to improve his piano skills as well; a double awesome outcome for mom! Porter was told just yesterday that he got the highest score on the math test. He came home beaming. I feel so grateful for incredible educators that light a fire of curiosity and determination into our children. I hope Porter continues to learn the skills and habits that will bring him academic success throughout his educational career.

 Porter wants to be nice. Just today I was sent an email from a mom stating that she brought a new student into Porter's sign language class and the student was a little nervous. Recognizing Porter, this mom asked if Porter would be this new boy's friend and 'buddy' and help him get to know the other kids. Porter gladly accepted the assignment and genuinely helped the boy feel comfortable and happy. Porter will become a good leader as he learns to lead with kindness and by good example. 

 Porter is learning about being the oldest. We have expected him to take responsibility for the safety of his sisters on the way to and from our school I've been proud of the way Porter has accepted this role, that he watches out for his sisters when they are at school and he makes sure they get there and home on time. In frustration he typically asks me to 'tame Molly' so I know its not all peaches and cream, but I believe with work and time Porter will grow to love both of his sisters and desire to protect them as they grow.

 Porter decided to try Lacrosse this year. He opted out of football so he could play the fall LAX season and really learn the game while the team is small. I am proud of the way he is paying attention and really learning the sport. I am not a person who cares if her son is super athletic, but I do care that he is active. This new sport has given Porter some opportunities to learn new things, meet new kids, and become skilled at something that's difficult. I'm really proud of his progress and hope he falls in love with the sport and enjoys it for many years to come.

Porter is still so loving towards me, his mom. I like it that he still will kneel down in prayer with me at night by his bedside. I'm grateful when I hear him tell a story from the scriptures to his sisters. I'm glad he still snuggles up to me and wants hugs and kisses from mom. I know this cannot last much longer and I savor every smile, every hug and every night time prayer from my little boy. I'm so glad I get to be his mom.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Saying the Pledge

This morning I was in our elementary school when the children were asked to stand and repeat the pledge of allegiance. I was in the hallway...and from each classroom I could hear the echo of those hallowed words

'I Pledge Allegiance...'

I put my hand over my heart, caught a glimpse of the flag hoisted in the school office, and joined the school in this solemn promise to love my country.

Its hard for me not to get choked up when I repeat the pledge of allegiance. I feel such gratitude with each repetition.

How can the day be bad when its begun with a reminder that we live in a place where we can be loyal to a system of government that respects our individual rights and is to protect our freedom?

I know we are in the middle of mud slinging, slander smearing, insult flinging elections. I have felt discouraged with the direction our country is taking. But I felt so glad that for a moment today I could be reminded that we are called, as citizens and neighbors, to become indivisible in our resolve to protect this system which allows us have expression, opportunity and education.

With Liberty and Justice for All.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mason's last year and Lucy's first

This school year marks the beginning of the end of Mason's public education. What began in a kindergarten classroom in Stockholm Sweden will end at a graduation ceremony in Salt Lake City. Mason has entered his senior year.

Lucy marked the beginning of her full day school career, beginning first grade the same day Mason began 12th.

I thought I'd be so choked up about Lucy leaving the nest all day long. It is the first time in 17 years that a small person is not my companion for at least half of the school day...and it is a bit lonely I will admit.

But on that first day of school I felt more excitement for Lucy than I did pity for me. I had so many errands to run, so much to do to begin to 'catch up' from all of our summer adventures, that I was glad Lucy would have a good and happy place to be; with activities and exploration, reading and writing, friends and recess. It was so right for her to step into this part of her life, I felt joy for her instead of sorrow for myself.

But, completely by surprise, when Mason rushed out the door to drive away for his first class, I followed him out with the camera in urgency. I snapped a picture of him behind the wheel with his 'hurry up mom' face on...and then he drove away.

And I broke down and sobbed.

Next time he drives away for a first day it will be hours to the classroom, with roommates instead of siblings to get along with at home. And home won't be in our new house, nor will it be here at the Spruces, it will be in a dorm room on a college campus without me.

12 months and he leaves.

Now, mind you, we are ALL looking forward to his college career. It has become widely apparent that its time for Mason to learn and grow in different ways. Though still a vital part of his upbringing, as parents we lost our 'voice' with him a little while back, and the constant reminders of those things we are trying to teach him before he flies the coop have become a broken record-a string of sound-that Mason sends in one ear and out the other. It is frightening the desperation I feel as a mother to be sure that certain life skills are second nature. We are not talking about teeth brushing and laundry folding. We are talking about personal responsibility and duty to the society at large. These are the big ones; do the homework when it is assigned instead  of waiting until it is due, remember to say thank you and take responsibility for your own actions instead of blaming outcomes on others, be KIND to others and seek to help because it is the right thing to do not because you will get a pat on the back.

And I'm not sure they are really there is panic and urgency in all that I do.

But I can see that what I do just isn't as impactful any more. He is in the realm of the hard knox of learning for himself to implement what we have taught.

 First day of school photo; traditionally taken on the front porch.
They are all ready to get back to school

 The 'big 3' leave earlier than the rest, Madi LOVES when mom asks her to smile :)

 the 'hurry up mom I'm late' look is classic from Mason. He is off to his Senior Year at Olympus High School

The 'little 3' still walk to school, just down the street from the Spruces. This year Porter is the mother hen, he is responsible for making sure his sisters arrive safely to and from school each day.

And for that reason I'm glad we have this last year to help him by listening when he comes to us to talk. To be there to cheer on the successes of personal responsibility and to watch as if on the sidelines when he falls and has to pick himself up again. But at least I'm still on the sideline, and not far away in the bleachers somewhere. At least I can cheer lead and back-pat and coach a little bit one on one, face to face. I've become hyper aware that not long from now I will be texting my encouragement long distance instead down the street. Phone calls and facetime will be the extent of my influence, at least for now I have real time and late nights and dinner hours to try to influence and encourage. At least I have this senior year. 12 more months with Mason.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Madi in real time

 Madi helped organize a party for all the girls in her 7th grade class. She was o.k. with being in charge, but she like just being one of the girls BEST.

 Madi and Bryn show their Jr. High schedules: the girls are back at the same school for a year before Bryn moves up to High School and they couldn't be happier :)

 The mustache craze has not been worn out on this girl; she loves it

The braces came off just a week before school started, look at that beautiful girl!

Madi is magnificent in many many ways. She is also, unfortunately, a 'tween'. And she takes that sorry fact out on her mom pretty much every day.

She is cutting the apron strings. 

But even though I don't get to hear much from Madi these days unless it is a complaint or a criticism, I can tell you about all the amazing things I am seeing this girl do and become.

Madi is compassionate. She has always been able to sit herself in someone else's shoes. She says hello to the lonely, cheers up the sad, and seeks the stranger. Her friends are not always the most popular girls, but the girls who are her friends are loyal kind and fiercely grateful for Madi.

Madi is talented. Her voice is incredible; a mix between Ingrid Michealson and Regina Spektar. She can trill and slide that clear high sound into so many incredible lilts and larks - and we hear it from morning til night. Recently I had to put my foot down and call a curfew to 'radio music' during study time in the afternoon. This did not sit well with Madi as she spends most moments playing and replaying Florence and the (?) songs and singing perfectly with them. Madi is also gifted at the piano...her fingers are as fast as her vocal chords. She is at her best when the notes move quickly and frequently across the keyboard. And she recently decided to teach herself how to play the guitar too. 

Madi is smart. She is learning the art and key of personal organization, but on sheer brains alone she has been admitted to our Jr. High's gifted program and is mastering it very well. Her teachers are impressed with how articulate she is, able to express herself and explain her viewpoint clearly and persuasively. Madi is impressive to me as a writer-her stories and essays are so well crafted for a girl of her age. I hope words and writing become something she can use to explain and express herself all her life long (like mother like daughter? For my sake I hope so!)

Madi is funny. Seriously so funny! She is quick to a punchline, she has silly voices and expressions the just ooze out of her cute smiley mouth and she isn't afraid to make herself look a little silly to get a good laugh. It is always fun to get her going and see the ways she can come up with to get a giggle out of others.

Madi is trying new things. She made a competition soccer team last spring and has been learning how to pick up her game and make skills out of talent. It has been challenging for her, she has already had some bumps and bruises, but she is loyal to her team and happy to have left swimming behind for this more team centered sport.

Madi's testimony is growing. I have been so impressed as she has enjoyed beehive camp and girl's camp this summer that she was willing to share her feelings about God with others. She mentioned how strongly she felt the holy ghost bear witness to her at girls camp that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true.  I hope as she continues to show faith and be obedient to the commandments we have been given she will gain an unshakable testimony that will be stability for her in the shaky world of being a teenager. These are the critical years for our youth. Their decision to believe or to step away so often happens in Jr. high when its easy to make choices that bring sorrow instead of joy. I'm so glad Madi is making those decisions that confirm the peace that comes when we follow the example of Jesus Christ. I'm happy for Madi to be learning and growing.

Madi is magnificent. I'm so glad I get to be her mom. Even though its a little rocky right now I am so proud of her and so grateful my life is filled with her laughter, her music, her talents and, well, just HER...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The story of our new garden (this post is as long as our summer has on if you dare)

John came to me at the end of Spring and gave me the opportunity of a lifetime; build our family a brand new house. We pondered over whether or not to really give so much time and energy into a 'thing' like a house; our means and energy can certainly be used elsewhere. We have been happy in all the houses we have lived in, and we haven't built any of them. After giving it serious thought and prayer we decided to move forward and look around for a place to build.

The parameters were tight; I wanted us to stay within our church boundary and certainly in our school boundary. We have moved our children half way across the world but I didn't want to move them this time more than just across the street (at least that's how John saw it I'm sure!).

One Sunday afternoon, as we had become accustomed to doing (John's goal was to own a piece of land before the summer had ended) we drove past a little rental house with a realtor's sign in the front yard. It was exactly one and a half miles away from the Spruces: I know that because I often run right past it to get to my 1.5 turn around for a 3 mile warm up run. The house was tiny and clearly neglected. The yard also had been forgotten long ago. But the trees were not just mature but OLD, they had seen the history of our town and and grown strong over many years. I was intrigued, but not convinced. Though close to home by distance, it would require that we move church congregations (our faith divides itself geographically, we attend the congregation that we live among, so we can take care of one another and be ministers to each other). It also stepped us outside of our elementary school boundary, and I wasn't so sure my little 3 would feel super excited about a new school any time soon.

But the place tugged at me. And the price was right. We decided to take a look.

I called the agent and got permission to walk on the land. WE didn't need to go inside the home, we wanted to see what kind of lot this would be not so much what the walls were painted in the rental. John and I and Porter (who was with us so we could take him out on a special date to have 'the talk' with him...more later) stopped in front of the realtor's sign and walked back into the yard.

And I felt at home.

I cannot explain this. It just felt like we belonged. And I didn't want to leave. The shrubbery and undergrowth was dry and brittle. Cement retaining walls were crumbling around us. The back yard shed was literally about to collapse from age and wear. But this place felt like home.

I wanted to go back.

I called our friend and real estate agent, Carolyn Kirkham, to ask her to arrange another showing for me. This time I brought the little girls.

Molly and Lucy hopped into the car so I could drive us over (Molly is still unsure about riding her bike, and it was over 100 degrees in the July heat, so we drove instead of riding). I reminded the girls of the story called the secret garden. Of overgrown neglect giving way to loving beauty. Of something being made again where it once was glorious. I thought I'd found us a secret garden. I wanted them to see if I might be right.

I met Carolyn on the land. The girls went off exploring. I stood among the trees and two feelings came to me;
'You will be a good steward here'
'Porter will be blessed'

Now. You must understand. I have been fretting over Porter. My prayers have been rising often and fervently asking for help to raise our cute boy into a great man. This second thought felt like an answer, though how it would be I still do not know.

The first thought surprised me. A steward. Someone who is entrusted to care for something important. I feel that this word describes my mothering; I'm trying to take care of souls entrusted to me. The word means so much to me.

We made an offer. I felt joy and gratitude. My husband the handsome prince, handing his fair maiden her fondest wish. A garden to create, a home to build, a place to teach our children what stewardship can mean.

The offer was accepted verbally with little negotiation. We expected to sign an agreement and move forward with the process. The paperwork did not come for us to sign. The acceptance was withdrawn. The sellers backed out with no true explanation accept to say that they had made other plans for the property.

I felt crushed. I felt LOSS. I felt bewildered and confused. I felt sad.
John shared my disappointment.  But my true confusion was my own. I thought that in those feelings had been direction. I didn't understand.

We had no recourse. Even a desperate phone call to the selling agent left me no sign of hope or explanation. It was a place we had to put behind us.

We had scheduled a family trip to the beach, our vacation for the summer. I asked John if we could give the home building dream a little rest while we spent some time with our kids, away from that special land and the sadness of losing it. Our trip was an absolute blast. We played and rested. On our way home I felt I could move beyond the unexplained disappointment of the secret garden that remained a patch of forgotten earth and looked ahead to different direction.

Upon our return we were given the chance to make an offer on a different property. This was in the heart of our church community. It was a simple straightforward lot-fewer trees and a flat yard. A lovely story of a family of 9 raised in 2000 sq. feet, with raspberries, chickens and a garden of peonies. Roses lined the drive. It was a logical and exciting choice. We prepared our offer and were ready to sign.

Only I could not feel right to do it. Instead of driving by the lot that could be ours, I lingered in front of the one that could not. The trees would not leave my mind. The before felt promptings nagging me in my dreams at night. The thought that though the second lot was a better choice, the first lot was the right one. Only the first one wasn't a choice any more. I didn't know what to do.

On a Monday evening I called an acquaintance who lived in the neighborhood of 'the garden'. I asked if she knew who owned the land. If she had any gossip that could help me understand why it would not be ours.  I did not know when I dialed her number that her husband knew the owner well; at least one of the owners. He was a 93 year old man who lived down the street from the garden. My husband's friend had heard we had made an offer and he also wondered what had actually happened. He offered to pay the owner a visit. He promised to report back by the end of the evening.

I gratefully accepted his help and wondered what would come of it.

He called after he had been visiting with the land owner, George Quist. Mr. Quist had shared that he was sentimental about the land. It had been a special place for him in his youth, and he wanted to be sure it was cared for. He had been informed that the buyer's intention was to exploit and develop the land. he had been misinformed.

Our friend had asked Mr. Quist if I could come and visit.
I spent a night in humble thought. Did I want to meet him? Were those feelings and promptings so strong and real that I should extend myself like that and beg a total stranger to hear my longing desire to have something he possessed?

As I thought about it more I realized that what I wanted was to understand him. If I could know why that place was so special to him, then maybe it would help me know why I felt so drawn to it.

I woke up the next morning and dressed myself up. I knelt to ask for help to know what to say and how to listen. I went to Mr. Quist's house.

It was a sweet meeting. His hearing aids were not in his ears. I had to sit by his knee. I asked him about his lot, and why it was special to him. He called it sacred ground. He said he wished it could never change. He wanted to take care of it.

He said he had felt he was a steward over it.
I said I felt the same way.

Mr. Quist told a story of the home on the land. In an earlier day - when he was a young man of just 12 or 13 - he used to be assigned this home as a place where he would 'ward teach'. This meant that as a young priesthood holder he was assigned to visit the family in this home, to teach them a gospel lesson and to administer help to them when they needed it. At the time the area was much more rural. It was farmland just outside of Salt Lake felt much like 'the country' back then. And the houses is in a farming community were much more spread out and sparse. This home was the last on his route. In winter the walk was long from family to family to do his duty. Mr. Quist would arrive to this last home. In the fireplace a blaze would be waiting for him.

They always had a fire burning for this young man. They listened to his message. I'm sure they ministered to him with kind words of thanks and encouragement. He never forgot the fire. Nor the family who had stoked it for him. And as he grew into success and the land needed a new owner he became its steward, its protector.

I told him I felt so grateful for his time and his explanation. I understood his fierce protection. I shared his love for the land. He told me I was persuasive. He suggested I give him some time to think about our meeting together. He promised he would pray.

I left feeling peace.  I no longer needed the land. I understood its meaning. We made the offer on the other lot.

Within 48 hours a phone call came to our realtor. That special place, the lot I loved, was made available for our purchase. Papers were prepared. The offered signed. The second offer was amicably withdrawn. We could be stewards over this special place. The secret garden could be realized.

There have been several road blocks over the last 4 weeks-barriers to this land purchase, which are not useful for our story. Accept to say that sometimes when something is right  there is opposition. We fight our way through it with faith that those feelings of right are from Heaven.

and in the end our fight is rewarded. And we feel grateful for the process. Because when the obstacles have been removed or overcome we see that we are stronger for the experience, the challenge brings the growth.

The day after we were in possession of the keys to the secret garden John and I were alone together standing in front of the fireplace that Mr. Quist had warmed his young self by the fire. My heart swelled with gratitude and I felt completely and totally content to make this spot our homestead and raise our family with new stories of duty and service, faith and fire to stoke the flames of our children's faith.

One week later, unexpectedly, I received a phone call from the friend who had arranged my meeting with Mr. Quist. She explained that Surprisingly he had passed away that morning. His signing over the land to us was his final" item of business" before his health rapidly declined and his time was ended.

Surprise, gratitude, awe, tenderness all were felt as I heard the news. If the land had not been sold to us before his passing it would have been mired in a very large estate, mixed with a partnership that had been difficult to navigate...the secret garden would have been impossible not only to acquire, but to preserve.

So, with such a turn of events, we can only feel more privileged and more responsible to maintain and honor this beautiful new family homestead.

In coming months we will share the process of bringing life, energy and charm back to a place that others have seen for so long as a mess of land. Pictures won't be able to convey the feeling I have whenever I stand in the secret garden. Feelings of gratitude, wonder, appreciation and respect for a spot of earth that has been the means of teaching one boy about love and ministry. A place that became 'sacred ground' for that boy so long ago will now become hallowed ground where our kids and grandkids will play and learn, where John and I can serve and love. After so many moves to so many places over the years we will be finally and completely HOME.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Brynley in 'real time'

Because my blogging has taken a back seat to my shauffering/mothering/volunteering this spring-into-summer, it seems I've left a lot of amazing life events in my memory instead of on this blog.

That's o.k., except this blog is kept in eternal storage, where my memory is quickly fading.

So here, as my last post, is an attempt to capture who my kids are 'in real time'. Let me tell you a little about Brynley.

Brynley is confident. This internal understanding of who she is and what she can do is a marvel to a less secure mother like myself. Bryn looks at things and thinks "I can figure that out". She masters simple tasks like reading the directions to a new cell phone and she masters more difficult feats like memorizing 11 dances for her end of year recital. She excels in school, not only because she is smart, but as importantly because she knows how to listen and follow directions. And like I said, she believes she can figure things out. With that as your core instinct courses like math, science, history and English all become manageable, heck, conquerable even. Her confidence oozes out of her as she presents herself on stage. The audience can see in her motion that she owns what she is doing.

Bryn is a hard worker. And right now, she will gladly tell you as much! She secured 3 summer jobs and when she is in town she is working a LOT. And Bryn doesn't just work hard, she works smart. She looks at her surroundings and surmises what needs to be done. With the nod of her employer's head she tears into a project until it is complete.  I wish she had the same determination with her chores at home, but somewhere deep down inside I like to believe that one of the reasons she works well for others is because once upon a time I taught her how to work well with me...wishful thinking, I know, but I hang on to the little things these days ;)

Bryn enjoys her friends. They are the center of her universe. She texts them, facebooks them, instagrams them and hangs out with them. They are sometimes here, and she is often wherever else they are. I appreciate that Bryn has a very wide range of friends. Of course, as a mom, I always believe that the circle can widen a little more, but I'm very impressed that Bryn has chosen to associate with kids who are good. And even among them she stands up for the things that she believes in that are right. And I also appreciate that she honors her parents in front of her friends. She may roll her eyes at what we ask of her, but she honors our wishes for her curfew, her media choices and some of the activities she has or has not gone along with.

And in return we are trying to honor her. One of my more difficult mothering moments was the text from Bryn where she asked 'permission' to semi permanently die a streak of her hair bright was a difficult thing for me to tell her 'we trust you'. She was thankful and now her hair is navy blue right by her ear. Rebellion? no. Not from Bryn. Its her way of showing that she is her own girl. But the truth is she is still my girl, and currently I'm struggling to look at her and not roll my eyes at the silly blue streak.

just a very few of Bryn's many good friends. This girl has a gaggle of buddies

I don't know how to rotate the photo, but Bryn is right there, smiling and 'present' on a recent trip to St. George

Bryn is rarely still. Her body dances in one way or another every waking moment of her day...
Brynley has talent. We often hear of her dance ability. We are impressed ourselves. It is kind of fun to have a kid be good at something you've never been good at. We get to look at her with awe, and be moved by their expression and grace. She navigates her dance 'career' very independently. We work hard to help steer her through, but aside from asking a lot of questions and interviewing many 'dance moms' I can only pray for help, advise her as best I can, and see the decisions she makes. And so far they've been good decisions that have helped her develop her talents while not compromising her standards-and as long as that continues to be the direction her dancing will take her we continue to watch, inspired and awed, by the talents that Brynley enjoys.

Brynley is successful. Her Straight A average since the start of Jr. High, achieving a high honor by being selected as a cheerleader, and performing with her school and private dance companies with great success are just a few ways she is a success. To me, seeing her compassionately address the needs of a little sister, or inviting a less 'well known' classmate to a party or being willing to serve a grandparent are more evident signs of success. She is not just good at some things, Bryn is good at the important things; and that is why her success now pales in comparison to that which shines on the horizon of her future.

Bryn is growing. Not so much physically. She is still wearing the jeans she bought for 7th grade and her shoes haven't changed size for a while. But last weekend she wrote down her testimony and glued it in the back of a Book of Mormon. She rode her bike over to a friend who she thought would appreciate the book. That was an impressive display of growth and testimony. But what meant more to me was the realization that Bryn has read that book, cover to cover. She doesn't just believe in the spirit of the text, she has experimented on its words for herself. She knows, she doesn't just believe any more. That growth is the most valuable, the most tender, the most special part about her right now. Her spirit is blooming-with the color and explosion of our back yard garden. It is sweet and full of texture and life. She is becoming complete, and it is exhilerating to witness the burst of her just busting out and glowing in all direction.

Friday, June 22, 2012


I recently saw a quote that said, "don't be so concerned with raising a good kid that you forget you already have one." This gave me pause-and I pause for very little these days. It feels like my very being ticks down the minutes until our oldest son leaves our nest. He is headed in just a few weeks to tour colleges with his dad. I can count the number of vacations/breaks/milestones on just one hand before he moves into a college dorm.

I feel like I have so much work left to do to grow this kid up to be a productive human being.

Sometimes I forget that he is a really great person. Someone unique. Someone of quality. Someone of substance.

I'm so concerned with raising him well that I forget he is well meaning. I want him to be productive so I weigh him down with multiple tasks and expectations - so many of them that he cannot accomplish them well, and therefor seems unproductive.

Its time for me to get out of the way, and let him find his own way instead. And have faith that he will choose a way that, though not like my own path, will be a path that will lead him to a happy faith centered and others centered life.

Here are some cool things you should know (and I should remember more often) about Mason:

Mason is creative. He wants to come up with interesting ideas. He likes to entertain others with the thoughts of his imagination. Though he is nearly considered a man he still likes to play pretend like a boy. Not in a weird way; in a creative and innocent way. He was so relieved and excited one night after his weekly Young Men's activity. A new leader had been invited to join the group, and this guy is a comic book fenatic (as well as a pharmaceutical rep and a good husband and father). Mason was so happy that somehow as he finds his own life's path it may get to include COMICS! and Super Heroes! And regular guys who somehow get to do super extraordinary things...

Mason is interested in a wide range of things. Last summer he enjoyed learning about 'the greatest generation' and Nelson Mandella is is personal hero. He understands geography and he grasps the differences in other cultures. His travels last summer to the world Venture scout jamboree gave him new insight into religions like Islam, and a continued respect for and interest in other cultures and countries.

Mason is loyal. Loyal to his friends. Loyal to his family (including our extended family) and loyal to his faith. His hero is his grandpa, who has had to correct and cojole him on occasion when Mason goes to work for him. No matter. Grandpa could say anything, even in an exasperated tone, to Mason and he would still be revered and looked up to. He is trying to push through the roller coaster of emotions (annoyance, over confidence, a general "I know it all" attitude) that are part of teenage boyhood, and get to know his siblings better. He regards it a duty to be good to his little brother. He desires the approval of his sisters and is hurt and mad when the little girls at our house don't want to worship him. He desires the loyalty of his friends and of us, his parents. Loyalty is acceptance, its the feeling that you have someone's back and that they are looking out for yours. Mason wants that very much.

Mason does his duty. He goes to church meetings. He participates without complaint. He enjoys service of every kind. This spring he was invited to be part of the seminary council at his high school. This is not a position that is applied for, but instead it is something that you are invited to do. It means he has the chance to serve the student body of the seminary by putting on activities with the other council members. It is an honor he has been selected. It reflects his nature as one who desires to stand up for his beliefs. It deepens my faith in his ever growing testimony-he feels satisfaction and peace when he does what is asked of him in our church.

Mason is talented. He sings, he can draw, and he can write as well. Liberal arts suit him, and he is choosing to pursue creative writing as he enters college. Next year he will be on the yearbook staff. He is looking forward to an advanced graphics class and will be part of the school's elite singing group; the Ensemble. As he participates in all these fun things we hope he will continue to learn about himself, about what he is good at, and as important, about what brings him joy.

 Mason on his spring break choir tour to Disneyland, CA.

 In line at 6 Flags Amusement park near Dallas last Spring break

A boy working hard to become a good man

There is still work for us to do with Mason to help him be ready to grow up. I still fret and worry over him and feel an intense sense that time is not on my side as some very important life skills still have not taken hold on my boy. But its good to remind myself, and to tell the world, that I'm lucky I have a good kid. I'm so thankful that he is my son.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Its happening before my eyes...

I've been watching them grow up before my very eyes...
Lucy's play group happens each Wednesday after school. I hostess one week and then 
wonderful mothers of these darling daughters take a turn in rotation. Our last play group 
is coming Lucy is graduating from kindergarten and moving into full day school.

Life is happening before my very eyes. My mother in law once told me that once my kids hit Junior High they'd be graduated from High School before I knew it. it is definitely true that the year has passed with lightening speed, and we have only one year more until our son leaves the nest and everything changes. So I've tried to put first things very very first, and that has meant that blogging just hasn't hardly happened at all.

It has been so long since I posted on my blog that the entire format of the blogger site has changed and now its taking my 3 times as long to post as it used to! I feel like I'm new at blogging, and I may as well be. Its been months since I sat to write something here.

I've been watching my children grow. And trying to keep up with all we do to help them grow in to being productive good and good natured people.

Its exhausting difficult sometimes painful work. And right now, its dotted with joy though not dripping with joy-but I think this work is like that.

I want to document trips we taken, things I've thought about and ideas I have. Check back here on Monday and hopefully you'll see loads of life happening in our house.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Parental Venting, Katie style

My parenting is being attacked from all sides. I'm down in the trenches, and I'm winding which side my kids are actually on...
sometimes they seem like the enemy!

If I have to hear the latest Taylor Swift song (a death march, written for 'Hunger Games') one more time I will scream and fire will come out my ears....and frankly as amazing as Adelle's voice truly is I can only hear about Fire in the Rain so many times before it just sounds like blah blah blah. I thought I was sick of all the 'little kid music' we used to listen to; Remember Raffie? But teenagers keep their tunes on replay 24/7 and they feel the entire household is better off for hearing their ballads.

Bryn has decided she is 'old enough' to 'enjoy' the Twilight series. I called the books 'poopie' trying to make light of their stupidity (I know some of you loved these books, but seriously...this heroine is so pathetically weak ; who could want their young daughter feeding her brain with that??). She very maturely asked me to let her make up her own mind about what she reads and allow her to 'be entertained' as she chooses...she was very articulate and mature. I basically told her "I'll tell you what I think whether you like it or not, but thank you for being so reasonable with me" which caused her to cry...what a bad mom I am not to stand by while my daughter reads her way through a soap operah...sigh.

Mason left this morning for 6 days in CA with his choir homies. His teacher has moved these tours away from spring break 'because parents don't want family vacations interrupted.' Instead, we had to hound other teachers to let him take his finals early and turn in projects early because the term ends while he is gone. One teacher said he could take a test yesterday and then was not at school yesterday to administer the test (he was sick, could't help it). Now Mason's grade will show as a D until he takes the test and goes through the hoops to get the grade changed on his transcripts. This is only one of the many glitches Mason has run into in order to participate in this choir tour. And all this so families won't be interrupted over the legitimate break from school. Since when do we as parents decide we really need our vacation time more than our children need their time IN CLASS?! Never mind that these are the grades that make or break college applications, never mind that we are a society that says that education is paramount (aren't we? or is that just in my family society?). No, we really need to hit the beach or get down to St. George so our kids can't possibly have 'significant away from home experiences' when it is inconvenient for us but works well with their EDUCATIONAL FUTURE...

And finally, my Porter has decided he feels very comfortable sneaking to the next door neighbors' house to play with the boys who live there. he goes downstairs as if to read his book and then when I leave the kitchen sneaks back up the stairs and comando crawls across the back yard or tiptoes through the front yard in order to get across my enemy lines and into the safe haven of the neighbor's house. I found today a very intricate stepping stone system of the outdoor ladder and a tupperware bin located just so against the back fence so he can hurdle himself across the gate without my hearing it open or close. And when he was found out and now is caught (as we speak he is writing a paper on integrity) he told me that I am an awful mother for not letting him 'play with the only people who really care about him'. Wow. Its my fault he decided to lie his way to a playdate.

OK, that's enough. All of this has been stewing over the past 36 hours and I just had to get it out. I'm feeling like a lone gunman in the trenches with rogue playdates, poorly constructed literature, shallow parental peers and just plain tired music all coming at me like zombie soldiers trying to eat me up and then go after the children I'm trying to raise. Funny thing is, I think the kids are rooting for the zombies.

I'll keep shooting anyway, I guess.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Bringing on the Happy

These little giraffes have been popping up all over our house lately. They make me happy, with all the detail and the careful cutting of the tiny tails and long skinny legs. Molly and Lucy are equally responsible for the long necked one dimensional wonders. I usually find a new giraffe lying on our studio table or on the girls' art table down stairs. Sometimes they appear on my pillow at night, because the girls know that I giggle and gawk over their sweet creations.

These giraffes are like snowflakes; no two alike. And also like snowflakes, their beauty and the fascination surrounding them will melt away quickly for my daughters. In days these mammals will be forgotten and new artistic creations appear instead; maybe fairies or puppies or flower gardens will be the next constructed creation, and giraffes will be history.

But for now, they bring me happiness, reminding me my girls are still little and full of creativity and imagination.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Right this very minute

it is 8:21 a.m. and the kids left about 40 minutes ago to get to their early morning Foreign language classes taught at our school. My plan has been to rush to the gym as soon as they leave but I found myself today in front of the computer. So I thought I'd just procrastinate a little longer and post a 'verbal snapshot' of this very moment in my life.

My kitchen counter is a mess. At this moment I have a pile of clean dishes that John washed on Tuesday night while I sat huddled in my bedroom finishing "The Hunger Games" (did you like that book? did you hate it? Children being forced to hurt other children? Disturbing, and riveting, and sad, and interesting...she is not the most incredible writer but she did have a good story). If you put your eyes level with the counter, you can see the crumbs from last nights grilled cheese sandwiches still scattered all over the granite surface. We had 20 minutes from the time we stepped into the front door from Molly's dance class to the time we needed to step out the door for Brynley's musical performance. Grilled cheese and left over chicken noodle soup. Thank goodness I didn't break down and buy hamburgers on the way home from dance; this was less expensive and better for our bodies :) But now I have crumbs to show for our hurry to get out the door and see Bryn.

There are wrappers on the counter, wadded up Hershey kiss wrappers from the chocolate bites Brynley stole after school yesterday. She is a skinny little thing, but her diet wouldn't be the reason! Chocolate kisses and chocolate mint balls were her after school snack, and I think her dinner was white bread with butter (I had purchased the white bakery bread as a way to get her to eat a grilled cheese sandwich; but since she had to be ready and gone before I got home from dance, I could gather that the bread never got grilled with the cheese, and she wouldn't touch leftovers with a ten foot pole so no soup made it into her stomach).

Also on the counter, a hairbrush and a book; "Mercy Watson" to be exact. We tend to like books about pigs around here. Poppleton is a standard favorite, and now Mercy has entered the scene. Madi loves pigs; she has since she was tiny. She won't eat ham or pig in any form with the very important exception of bacon. Madi will eat bacon. Mercy Watson is not bacon, so Madi won't eat that; which brings me to wonder why Mercy Watson is on our kitchen counter? Oh, because one of the little girls wanted to read while I was brushing their hair (thus the hairbrush nearby).

Two cups of breakfast smoothie, one with a straw and one without, are standing near the sink. And I've found two pieces of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and either honey or jam on the counter this morning as well. Breakfast had been started by a couple of the kids but forgotten or left so they'd be on time for school. The smoothie? One of them is mine; filled with kale and frozen banana and berries and some yogurt. It churned from green to purple this morning as the children watched the berries camouflage the kale in the blend tech mixer (which is also still on the counter). They'll eat the smoothies if they are purple. They will gag if they are green. But the wrong child watched the color turn this morning; the disguise was not made complete because the green was seen before the purple overcame it and so it goes uneaten.

And finally, along with scattered dirty dishes and a few perhaps but not likely clean dish towels there are some old fashioned ice cream sundae cups stacked and waiting to be put away. They were used to hold toppings for a frozen yogurt bar we spread out for some out of town friends last weekend. The kids don't know where I stash all of our serving items, so it is common when I come to see how they've unloaded the dishwasher to find stacks of things on the counter but not put in their proper places. It seems that even when I show them where and how to settle in those clean items they don't register this new information, and again and again they must be shown until finally they will put those things away instead of stacking them to wait for me.

Now I will go clean up the counters. Then I will read my scriptures. From there I'll put on my exercise clothes and make my way to the gym.

This morning, as you can surmise from the description of my counter, has been a difficult one. Though I've been awake since 5:30 a.m. I have little to show for it. Rousting our children from sleep to scripture study was a monumental task today, and one that involved a lengthy disciplinary experience with Molly (she sometimes wets the bed. In her incredible embarrassment she likes to insist it hasn't happened. Sometimes I find I am forcing her into a bath or shower completely against her will. It becomes painful and frustrating for both of us. Until the girl is clean. Somehow the warm water is the wake up call to the reality that being clean is necessary. Then there are tearful apologies-sometimes from both of us-and the bed is stripped and we go on with life. But it takes time away from dutiful counter cleaning and dish washing to wash the little girl who is more important than sandwich crumbs or any amount of mess).

The day is young, and yet I've already had 'a day' and now must muscle up the gumption to go onward and upward, through the many more hours that come between me and tomorrow. And much to manage as well. Two birthdays next week, a short out of town trip for a family gathering this weekend, and the school muscial, a swim meet, a rugby game and a church party all happening while I am away. It will be a race from now until sleep tonight. And another race all through tomorrow to have things organized and ready for me to be away from the family for the third Saturday in a Row. (Last week Bryn danced in a competition while I watched and the week before I learned about photography; a fantastic gift from John to me last Christmas. I can hardly remember what I learned from that day, it feels like a year ago. But I have my notes and intend to practice at the family gathering this weekend).

Here's to clean counters, a sweaty work out, and a smile on my kids' faces when they come home from school this afternoon. Here's to our only 'sit at the table' dinner of the week-happening tonight after swimming and rugby and before the school play. Here's to the rest of my Thursday.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Grandma Retired...

John's mom has opened up a whole new chapter in her life. No longer bound by monthly payroll and year end bonus checks to cut at the Law Firm where she ran the financials for several years, she has taken to other pursuits. Not that she hadn't been following those pursuits despite her career ;)

To celebrate we all went snow shoe-ing. our family of 8, Mom Graham, and the other Graham family; John's brother, sister in law and their baby Lincoln.

We didn't last as long as Grandma. She can out snow shoe us.

When we came home we had a big breakfast. And we gave her a basket full of little things we knew she'd need now that she has retired;

yarn for her knitting
brushes for her painting
a flashlight for her early morning miles long walks near her home
a walking stick for hiking
some flies for fishing
some beads for jewelry making
some seeds for planting in her back yard garden
and bike socks for cycling
we didn't get her anything for the nights she volunteers in the Bountiful Temple.

Grandma will enjoy all of these, we know, because she has already been following these fun hobbies even without the retirement. Now that she has the time to match the interests, we know she will be very busy-and happy-for years to come.

Congratulations Mom Graham! We love you so much Grandma!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Why we play the Piano in our Family

Dear Kids,
When we were a 'young family' a man in Daddy's Dallas office gifted us his old piano. The ivory keys (keys aren't made of ivory any more, did you know that?) were chipping a little and the black paint was scratched a little but it was still a wonderful musical instrument and he was so generous to share it with us. He knew I wanted you to be able to learn to play. He understood that developing a skill like the piano could not only bring you personal joy, but could enrich the lives of others.

As a 'young mother' I was touched beyond words to have the gift of our piano.

So you began taking lessons. I waited until you could read, and I tried hard to find teachers who would come to our house so I could hear what you were being taught and so I could still manage your brothers and sisters who were tiny and new. At first you were obedient students. You listened in your lessons and you practiced during the week. Then we moved. Then we tried again. Then we moved again. And tried again. And moved again see the pattern here. Once established with a teacher and a practice routine we would uproot, and you'd start again. It has been our pattern. It has been inconsistent and difficult.

but we have always started again. Always found the new teacher, established the new routine. I have not yet given up on having you play piano.

As a girl my parents sacrificed for me to have piano lessons. And I complained. And because it was such a sacrifice and I was so ungrateful they let me quit. I had learned how to read music-at least some, but I was no musician.

It is a painful regret of my youth that I quit playing piano. And dad was never given the opportunity in the first place.

In all of those moves and with all of the change that we have had as our family's constant, so many people could have been blessed if I could have played for them.

People like you, and me.

So now, We make you play. We require it. And you complain and kick and scream over it.
And we will not give in.

We want you to have, when you are old enough to know you need it, a skill that can be a blessing to others.

Something you can do to serve. Some way you can help sooth troubled hearts, and calm busy minds, knowing that sometimes those minds and hearts will be your own.