Monday, June 7, 2021

Scrambled Thoughts

1. We've been watching a lot of Sherlock Holmes lately


Well, not Eliza. But the bigger kids. And I'm pretty sure that Benedict Cumberpatch has embodied the character so completely that there's no hope for anyone else on the planet. 

2. The kids grab my phone and take pictures of me all the time.


And I delete them all the time. Because the lighting is all wrong and the lens is all smeared and my eyes are half closed and my face is all blurry and etc, etc, etc. But maybe the kids'll want some terrible quality pictures of their mother in the height of her mothering season someday, so maybe I'll start keeping them around.

3. Carson's name should have been The Most Caring and Compassionate Brother Ever.


I have so many pictures of these two. They've adored each other since Eliza was born, and I keep wondering if at some point Eliza will start looking more like a pesky little sister to Carson... but it certainly hasn't happened yet.

4. Singing Teenagers are Cool


These guys got all dressed up to audition for Zions Youth. And they spent hours practicing. The weirdest thing about the entire situation was not being sure whether to have Carson audition as a tenor or a bass. What is happening?!

They both made it and had such a fantastic experience.

5. I'm really not sure why I stress so much about having the perfect couches.


Because do you know what teenagers don't care about? Couches.

6. When homeschool officially ends I will *miss* mornings like this:


And this:


7. This date night is inspiring me to hang swinging lights alllllllllllll across my yard.



So, Brian might not ever want to take me on a date again.

8. I think I should pile into a van full of women way more often.


That's a genuine smile up there. If you've known my struggle with friendships over the last several years that will mean something to you, too.

We all went up to Cara's cabin in the mountains for a couple of days to watch Time Out for Women (which was available for streaming because of the pandemic). Filling both spiritually and emotionally. 

9. Remember that portion of life when we didn't have a dog?



That was weird.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Baptized

 

Timothy was so very ready for his baptism. He didn't have a nervous or worried bone in his whole body as he spent the few weeks beforehand preparing. He has a sensitivity to him that is deep and real and yields itself to feeling the Spirit and believing. I recognize it because I think I have the same thing. I wonder if his heart will ever question deeply or if he'll mostly always know - in the deepest parts of him - that God is real and that he is loved and cheered on by the heavens. His mind might question, as mine does, but his heart seems blessed with a living testimony that pulses as consistently as the muscle itself. I think it might take a lot for his faith to skip a beat, and even more for it to diminish in its life-giving nectar. We are so blessed to have him in our home.

He dressed in white just minutes before the meeting started, and his eyes told the whole story of anticipation, excitement, faith, preparedness. My favorite quote from the whole weekend was from him just before we started the meeting. "I can't believe I'm almost baptized... it's like... ONE MINUTE!"

When the time came for him to get into the water, he stepped a foot into the hot tub we had heated just one hour before. And, it turns out, a hot tub can lose quite a bit of heat in one hour if it's left open to the elements! He opened his eyes in surprise as he stepped down to the bottom and laughed a little as he said, "Cold! Cold, cold, cold, cold, cold!" But even being submerged in cold water couldn't temper his excitement and couldn't dull those bright, happy eyes. 

He is such a beautiful boy. Outside - it's true that sometimes I can't stop myself from staring at that handsome face and wonder how many hearts he's destined to break - but so much greater is his beauty inside.

He was lucky to share his day with his best friend, Ezra.

And, I know I've said this here before, but I love that this pandemic has showed me that my home is a sacred place. We have now baptized in our hot tub, and we have given the gift of the Holy Ghost on our sports court.

God's power is here. In my home. In my family. And I feel it so fiercely. God's power doesn't care too much about the dust on the shelves. It moves around the dirty dishes and unfolded piles of laundry with ease. It patiently waits for me to work through my overwhelm and frustrations and wraps me up each time I turn to it for help.

I still don't understand God's power very well. But I do know that I have the authority to call it into my home, to use it to strengthen my faith and my family, and to let it flow within us and around us.

And it is here.



Love you to death, Timothy! 

Here are a few extra pictures of him getting ready.



Timothy’s 8th Birthday

 

His birthday eyes started the night before his 8th birthday. We snuggled into my bed and I wrapped him up as tight as I could to hold on to the last little sliver of seven. We snapped selfies and laughed so hard that it was impossible to get any of them crisp and clear; he was just. too. excited to stay still for 2 whole seconds for the exposure. I love them all the more for it.

But try as I might to keep that last little sliver of seven from slipping away, the morning came and turned him eight. His birthday started with breakfast and presents.


And then he and I climbed into the car and drove into town for some shopping and lunch. We picked Old Navy because they were one of the only retail stores that had open dressing rooms and, after almost a year of not shopping for anything, I really wasn't entirely sure what size he'd need. He was so excited just to be out and shopping on his birthday that he came out of the dressing room dancing like a duck every. single. time. Not that I know, exactly, what a duck looks like when he's dancing, but after watching Timothy I have an idea.


Even after he'd tried on a couple of things so we were comfortable with his size, he still begged to try on every single piece we pulled off the racks because "it is just so fun!" So I spent lots and lots of minutes on the bench just outside that dressing room door clapping and admiring every t-shirt.

After shopping we headed out to his favorite restaurant for lunch, Zupas, where he ordered his standard cauliflower soup and grilled cheese sandwich.


While we were eating, a man dressed in ragged clothes came up to our table and asked if I had any money for a bus ticket. I don't carry cash on me and told him as much just as a Zupas worker came and escorted him out of the building. It hardly caused a ripple in my moment and I turned my attention back to my beautiful 8-year-old, ready to ask him another probing question to find out more about his brain and his life. But Timothy's demeanor had noticeably changed and, after a few minutes, he revisited the moment.

"Why do you think he needed a bus ticket, Mom?"
"Why couldn't he buy one?"
"I feel sad for him."
"I hope he gets home okay."
"Mom, do you think we could ask all the rich people in the world to help the poor people?"

Discussing the hards of life with him in that moment was... hard. His heart was pulling for that man, and I felt guilty that my heart had not been. Through my conversation with Timothy, I started to wish I had offered to buy the man lunch, to have a seat at our table, to hear his story. It had been a non-threatening situation, and I could have been so much more compassionate and understanding. Timothy is such a good example of love, and we are so blessed to have him in our home.

Eventually, we made it back home ourselves and pulled out the cake and candles.



And he went to bed a very happy 8-year-old.

A few days later, his friends came over for a birthday party.


His best friend, Ezra, has a birthday just two days before Timothy, so they decided to do a joint party. We had games in the backyard, pool, pizza... it was perfect.


Happy Birthday, Handsome Boy!

Friday, June 4, 2021

I'm not really a dog person...


Meet Maisy - 3.5 lbs of pure fluff and love.
Well, now she's 8 lbs of pure fluff and love because she's six months old... but we'll back up in time since these pictures are all from her first week home.

I'm not really a dog person. I don't like their slobbery noses, and I don't like their smell, and I don't like their fur, and I don't like that they poop. 

Brian feels the same way, so it was easy through our first 18 years of marriage to not get a dog. But then our kids got older and developed their own opinions on the matter and they did not agree with our rather snooty and judgmental views on dogs. They used words like 'fun' and 'cute' and 'loyal', and they've been wearing us down for years any way they could. Miles, for example, took his daily writing prompt and weaved into every single one (for months) reasons why we should get a dog. His essays were not what I'd call convincing or well argued, but they were certainly passionate and creative... which, in turn, made them slightly convincing after all.



I'm embarrassed to admit just how picky I was in selecting a perfect little canine companion... it had to be completely non-shedding, hypoallergenic from both parents, small but not yappy, playful but not crazy, have an adorable little face and beautiful coloring... it took us three months to find her once we started looking, and we felt pretty lucky in that because at first it looked like we were going to have to pay to put our names on several different waiting lists that were a full year long.

Anyway, it was important to me to find the perfect puppy because I knew it might take a little bit of thought work to get myself to a place of enjoying the puppy, and thought it would be easier if I controlled for as many circumstances up front as I could. 

Of course, there's no such thing as perfection, so even after I picked her up in St. George, I still felt a bit sick to my stomach through the two hour drive home, hoping I'd not just made a most terrible mistake. I was concerned that her presence in my home would count as a mild negative in my life, along with the laundry, or tolerating the teenage boy smell whenever all the friends come over and work up a sweat playing tag downstairs... something that I'd rather not do, but that I do do because I love my children. In addition, I was concerned that a puppy would feel to me like one more set of eyes looking to me, needing me, for love and care and life-sustaining involvement.

But I was happy to note that after just a couple of days I felt rather... indifferent.


And then a few days after that I found myself smiling occasionally while I was all by myself watching her play.


And then I started taking pictures of her first bath... and I realized I was on a slippery slope towards love. 



And now, six months later, she is sitting here by my feet (with a cone head since she just got spayed, poor thing), and I can't even believe we thought our home was full of love before she arrived. We are all completely wrapped up and in love with her!

Anyway - back to the first week.

I love watching my kids with her. Miles, after just two days, exclaimed, "I vow to never live without a dog again!" I'm so sorry, Miles's future wife... I hope you love dogs as much as he does.

Also, we felt we needed another red-head in the family, so this worked out well.


Eliza was a little apprehensive for the first few weeks (anyone surprised?). Maisy was a bit too unpredictable for her. But has since adopted her as her favorite friend and carries her around the house every chance she gets.

Maisy turns heads everywhere we go, and she has the sweetest little personality to go along with that cute face. Whenever we take her to the vet, the staff all joke that we're going to have to wrestle someone to take her back home.


She fits so perfectly into our family and our lives would feel a whole lot emptier without her.

I still don't quite consider myself a dog person... but I definitely consider myself a Maisy person.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

McKenzie's 17th Birthday



Seventeen.

I read a post on instagram this morning from a friend whose twin babies just graduated from High School. "I blinked..." she wrote, and in her reel of pictures she had them dressed in high school graduation robes, dressed in kindergarten graduation robes, and snuggled up on her chest in a hospital as the tiniest premies I've ever seen.

I always reflect on my kids' lives when their birthdays come around; it feels natural. And while McKenzie's life to this point has certainly gone fast for me, I'm not sure that her baby years, or her toddler years, or even her young childhood years feel as close away as my last blink. So much change and so much growth has happened in the last 17 years that, while I can still see those chubby cheeks and that beautiful head of ringlets, to even say that it seems like yesterday is quite a stretch.

But do you know what does feel like yesterday? Her 12th birthday. I swear Grandma was just here, sitting in my living room with a bright and crooked-toothed smiling Kenzie snuggled under her arm, replaying her own memories of the beautiful day McKenzie was born. Maybe it's because we haven't moved in those six years, so the memories I have of her from that time fit right into the backdrop of my current life, I don't know. But, man, if I woke up tomorrow and 12-year-old McKenzie came walking into my room in those cute little blue-rimmed glasses, I'm not entirely sure I'd notice right away that something was off.

But, well, now here we are, one tiny year away from this beautiful girl graduating. 

And while the last six years maybe haven't shown me the types of personal changes to help mark my own passage of time, they sure have changed her. She has blossomed from a responsible, happy child who was eager to do good, into a young woman that confidently stands for her values and who navigates and takes care of all the aspects of her own life. She is in the business of creating herself, and she's doing it so, so well. 

Her teenage years have been a delight to watch, so much so that Brian and I still have no idea what it feels like to parent through those 'hard teenage years' because for us, they just haven't been that hard. It's not that hard to heat the hot tub and buy marshmallows and graham crackers when all the friends come over. It's not that hard to hug the girlfriends who come over with broken hearts and take them out for ice cream. It's not that hard to love the boy McKenzie likes because she likes such a good boy. It's not that hard to sign her report card of straight A's or to give advice when she genuinely comes seeking it.

She's spoiling us.

And while my love for her is certainly not dependent on any of that, the reality is that it's made it easy for these years to be relaxing and fun.

There is something in her that contributes to making this family flow. She has a deep love for each of her siblings and it has created a beautiful tone in our family through all of her years. 







Anyway, her birthday was fun. It started with family breakfast and presents, and then continued with a shopping trip up to St. George where the cutest little puppy was looking for a home, and since we were in the market for one, it seemed like a fun birthday trip. We took her two best friends, Alex and Kaylee, along with us to give us some extra opinions about the puppy, and to add a bit more fun as having extra girls around for shopping is prone to do.


These three have all been going to Nevada State High School this year - working hard to get as many college credits under their belts as they can before they actually go to college - and it has given them the perfect atmosphere in which to bond.

And, after seeing the puppy, we all agreed that she was simply irresistible!


Best birthday present ever! The whole family was shocked and ecstatic when we walked in the door with her.


She seriously looks like a little stuffed animal.


We finished out the evening with cake: 


And a few rounds of our new favorite game, Secret Hitler (I know, it sounds terrible).


We love you, Kenz! Happy birthday!

Monday, May 24, 2021

Colors and Sunsets and Emotions and Jesus

The colors are what make a sunset beautiful.

I know. It seems like a shallow thing to say, but it made me think today.

Colors.

Nothing more or less than wavelengths of light scattered around us.

But the sky is clear, you know.

————

I woke up this morning, and the first thing I said to God after opening my eyes was, well, here we go again.

Because another day loomed large, and I’m tired. The monotony of life is feeling heavy and overwhelming, and the kids and I are feeling it.

It's just that sometimes I get tired of taking care of things. And I know the kids do, too, because they respond very strongly to simple requests like, will you please brush your hair? Or statements like, if you pee on the floor, here are the Clorox wipes. Or informational comments like, did you know that eating hot dogs for breakfast, lunch and dinner is not a good way to take care of our bodies?

But most of our daylight hours are spent doing just that. Taking care of things. And we do it day after day after day under a sky that looks so blue.

But the sky is clear, you know.

————

This evening two of my boys ran off in opposite directions, both crying wailing at the unjust actions of the other. They are fighting all. the. time. these days and I feel frustrated and powerless about it. As I walked up the stairs towards one of them I said to God, well, here we go again and asked for some guidance because I am in completely over my head.

We sat on his bed and talked for a while. And when I thought we were finished I moved to the kitchen, but we weren't finished because the conversation ripped open again and we talked about it again in the kitchen. And then we moved outside to the porch swing because hard conversations always feel better in the fresh air.

We talked about relationships and kindness and humility and love. We talked about forgiveness and compassion and learning our lessons the hard way. It was messy and disjointed and heated at times, and we did it all under a sunset sky that burned with oranges and pinks and reds.

But the sky is clear, you know.

-- -- -- -- 

That night before I went to sleep I kneeled on my bed in the funny way I do, careful to position my injured foot in just the right place, and cried while I told God all about how weary and frustrated I am about this foot pain. It's been eleven months now. Two doctors, seven doctor visits, two x-rays, two MRIs, three months in a surgical boot, and I don't feel any closer to a solution now than I did eleven months ago. The tears that fell were from a deep sadness about all the things I am really starting to miss.

Hiking. Walking. Flip Flops. Actually, shoes in general. Currently I only have one pair of tennis shoes and one pair of ridiculously expensive, ugly, clog-like 'recovery shoes' that I can wear somewhat comfortably. And now that we've gone back to church I feel a little silly picking between the two of them to go with my Sunday dress.

I miss squatting down to the level of my little kids, pickle ball, biking, playing the piano for more that 20 minutes at a time. I miss swimming, I miss boating barefoot...

... and the list goes on.

What if I'm never be able to do those things again? I prayed. 

As I lay awake in the darkness, the emotions of my day cozied up to my center and sat down together. Heaviness. Overwhelm. Frustration. Powerlessness. Weariness. Worry. They spread their colors all over the canvas of my day and created a picture of chaos.

And right outside my window, the sky looked so black.

But the sky is clear, you know.

-- -- -- --

Our sky looks blue during the day because of our relative position to the sun. When the white light from the sun comes straight into our atmosphere, it scatters into a full rainbow of colors, but it's the blue wavelengths that scatter in the perfect way for our eyes to pick up.

During sunset hours the earth has shifted our position to the sun in such a way that the sun's light must travel through more atmosphere to reach us. Through the longer journey, the shorter blue waves scatter so much they eventually get lost to us, while the longer waves of red and orange and yellow power through to our eyes.

And at night the earth has shifted our position to the sun yet again. This time in a way that the sun's light cannot reach our eyes at all, and so we see black.

The point is that even though our sky is clear, our perception of what it looks like is all about our relative position to the sun. (And the amount of pollution in the air, but let's keep it simple, yeah?)

Is the sky blue or orange or black? Well, it depends on where the sun is. 

Which made me think, what if my own emotional atmosphere is clear? What if frustration and weariness and worry are just colors in the atmosphere of my soul, and could their colors be influenced by my relative position to the source of emotional light?

When Jesus Christ (or the Son, if you'd like to be punny) shines his light into my soul, it scatters into a full rainbow of colors while it travels through the atmosphere of my mortality, and those colors illuminate my perception of my circumstances.

When the flow of my day gets interrupted, is it frustrating to me, or funny? Well, maybe it depends on where my position to Jesus is. Does frustration motivate me or shut me down? Depends on where Jesus is. Does sadness help heal my wounds or keep them festering? Do my busy days taking care of things deflate my feelings of self worth or inflate them? Well, where's Jesus?

I can't figure out exactly how to tie this up here... all I know is that life seems to look different when I'm facing the Son directly verses when I'm watching Him over my shoulder.

My favorite time of the day is the sunset hour, when the sun's warmth and light are a bit more tempered by the atmosphere, when the shadows are long and the colors seem to glow. But not for my soul. For my soul, I like the kind of light that destroys the shadows and illuminates as much as possible. It's in that light that things feel much more manageable and fun.

So here's me, turning again to put Christ front and dead center in my life. Because I like that view best.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Brianhead


After basking in the tropical sun of Maui with the Theodosises, we gathered all of our kids together the next weekend and headed to their cabin in the snowy mountains of Utah.


Two thoughts about this: 

1) You know how they say that the more hours you spend with a person the closer your friendship is? We're really starting to love the Theodosises. 

2) The tropics and the snowy mountains have something in common. They both smell a.m.a.z.i.n.g. Give me plumerias and pines forever.



Skiing is what drew us up there. The Theodosises cabin is right on the slopes of Eagle Mountain Ski Resort. In the days before we left I took inventory of our snow gear, bought the extra things we needed for the kids who keep sizing up, packed it all into bins, and loaded it into the Sequoia. On the morning of I helped kids into long underwear and gloves and hats, and then sent them out the door with a wave and kisses. Turning back around I felt a slight pang of disappointment that I could not join them on the slopes but my foot needed care, and so did my little lady.


It didn't take long after everyone else left for me to cozy up with Eliza on the couch, and my attitude shifted quickly. We had a wonderful time!

She is such a fun little friend. We read story after story after story, watched some cartoons, played in the snow, and even put together a 300 piece puzzle of an African safari landscape. It was so wonderful to be with her without any other distractions. 

She's had a different toddler/preschool experience than my other kids - homeschool takes me away from the day-to-day play that I was able to engage in with the other kids... they didn't have to share me nearly as much. But, then again, none of the other kids had quite so much entertainment throughout the days. I suppose it all shakes out in the end, but I was grateful for this entire day that I had to spend with just. her.


When the other kids came back home they went straight to work building a long sledding hill and eating the fresh snow.


This is a pack of really, really great kids. 


Bonus picture:

On the way up to the cabin, we stopped at Cafe Rio for dinner and this wall made me feel a strange mixture of happy and sad. Sad because so many of the tables were closed and uninviting due to the pandemic; happy because of all that color!