Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Goodbye Autumn

Well, they did it. You'd think that after seeing the leaves change on the trees 28 years in a row, I could get through a fall season without being moved to tears by the beauty of it. But they get me, every year. This year it happened as I was driving down the road on my way to church a couple of weeks ago. I think the term 'breathtaking' must have been coined by someone driving down that North Carolina road during autumn. It was overwhelmingly beautiful, and I found myself wiping a tear as I pulled into the church parking lot. After church, I couldn't help from pulling the camera out in the beautiful autumn light and pointing it at my handsome baby.

The rain and wind are taking their toll on the straggling leaves. The vibrant beauty is gone. Only whispets of color remain. It's cold and it's drizzling.

Winter is coming.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lessons in my Cupboards

Six and a half years ago, I stood in front of our open kitchen cupboards and began unloading the precarious pile of clean, mismatched bowls and plates into open cardboard boxes. The remaining 10 pieces of breakable dishware were carefully wrapped so they would make it safely across the country and the rest of the plastic hodge-podge was piled around them. The green clearance bowls from Target (that had been microwaved so much they almost looked white), the two gigantic purple cups, the free little cups that came with a child's meal from Red Robin, the tiny blue juice cup... My life was simple, though I didn't know it at the time; I was happy and optimistic about the future; I had a bright, handsome husband and a new baby girl. I was excited that the new apartment we would be moving into had a dishwasher. (Our nice drinking glasses were on the verge of extinction because Brian's large hand was too much for the thin glass walls as he pushed the soapy rag to the bottom.) The thought of not having to wash sinks full of dirty, mismatched dishes by hand was liberating.


A few nights ago, the phone rang at 10:10. A worried friend on the other end told me that her husband was four hours late and wasn't answering his cell phone. She was frightened that something had happened to him as he was riding his bike home through the shady part of town and asked if I could come sit at her apartment with the sleeping baby so she could go out looking for him. I arrived 25 minutes later, gave her a hug, and sent her out the door. I turned around to survey the apartment and actually smiled when I saw the sink full to the brim with dirty dishes. Dirty, mismatched dishes. It wasn't long before I plunged my hands into warm, soapy water and my mind filled with the memories of who I was six and a half years ago.


The kitchen cupboards in my new apartment looked much like the cupboards in my old apartment. And the dishwasher was everything I had hoped for! I unloaded the cardboard boxes into the open kitchen cupboards and smiled as I placed the last mug with the other mugs, glasses, and plastic cups. Someday, I thought, maybe I'd like to get matching dishes.

Brian and I have been through much during these years in North Carolina. So much, in fact, that the number six and a half seems small and unrepresentative. Three pregnancies, friendships flourishing, our personalities and relationship solidifying, two newborns and the loss and burial of a third, the purchase and renovating of a house, friends leaving, changes in Brian's schedule from month to month, year to year... and all the while, learning more about ourselves and each other as we grow closer and closer to becoming one. I hardly remember the girl I was when I walked into our apartment that first Friday night in North Carolina.


My friend called as I was drying the last of the dishes. She had found her husband, asleep in the library, surrounded by textbooks. We laughed in relief and she promised to be home in a few minutes. I stacked the last plastic bowl on top of the others and smiled at the precarious pile. And, as I slid the last glass onto the shelf with the other cups, mugs and glasses, I paused and thought fondly on the time in my life when my cupboards looked the same.

When I got home, I opened my own cupboard. Over the six and a half years, my stacks of dishes have been refined. The lonely cups have been replaced, and the microwaved plastic thrown away. Now, everything has a defined place. Now, everything fits. The children section of the cupboard is tidy, colorful and fun. The grown-up section is classic, white and glass.
I paused and thought fondly on this time in my life.

Of course, I'm not saying that a kitchen cupboard and it's contents are representative of one's progression. (In fact, I sometimes envy you whose personalities are unruffled by a bit of disorder, and have even tried to become one of you. But, alas, I must be honest and admit that I thrive much better when my world is stacked in nice rows and columns.) But, for me, the transition of my cupboards strangely parallels the transition of myself. I am growing. I am being refined.

It's just sometimes hard to see when it's only one plastic cup at a time...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Knights save Princesses from Dragons...

I know, I know...sorry! I've been cornered by three of you so far about Halloween pictures, and you'll be happy to know that I chose today to post them. :)

I actually have a great reason why these photos are a bit belated. One of my best friends, Melissa, is an excellent photographer (in addition to being kind, generous and thoughtful)...so when she heard that a dear family in our ward was trying to raise money for a heart transplant for the father, she jumped in and volunteered to spend an evening doing mini photo shoots for anyone interested and donated 100% of the proceeds to the family in need. I signed up for one of the sessions 2.6 seconds after I read about it and took my kids to a gorgeous field the evening after Halloween to get some 'real' pictures of them in their Halloween glory. Yesterday, Melissa handed me a CD full of the most amazing pictures.

(I did crop this one because I thought the boys faces were just so precious...I hope you don't mind, Melissa!)

(Oh! I LOVE this one! Totally Carson. Totally.)

(I can't say I have a favorite - - - but this one might be it...)

(As we were watching the slideshow of these pictures as a family, McKenzie saw this one and said, "Oh! That's it!" She thinks she looks absolutely beautiful in this picture. I agree, and hope with everything I have that she can keep a little of that image confidence as she gets older.)

So you see, I had no motivation to post my own Halloween pictures of the kids when I knew these were coming. :) Anyway - if any of you are looking for a photographer in the area, I would highly recommend her! She's spunky, fun, and (obviously) very talented. She took a wandering 16 month old, a distractable 4 year old, and a I-can't-give-you-a-real-smile-because-I'm-concentrating-so-hard-on-this-fake-one 6 year old and turned out these beautiful pictures. :) Check her out!

These silly kids came up with this theme all on their own. I thought it was brilliant in light of their personalities and after a couple of borrowed costumes and a sheer curtain turned into a flowing cape, this Halloween was the easiest one yet! And DEFINITELY the most fun, as my parents were in town for it. Here we are, carving pumpkins:

(Carson, putting the 'puzzle' back together...)

We all went trick-or-treating on Saturday night, and then had a candy party on Sunday while we waited for the other trick-or-treaters to come to the door.

We laughed all night long...especially when I opened my tootsie-roll to find this....

Until next year! Happy Halloween. :)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lessons, Learning, and Camping

Put me in a tent in the middle of the forest, surrounded by hiking trails and bright stars, and I will always expect to have a good time. There's something about the outdoors that has always tugged on my soul, and I've listened to it with varying levels of attentiveness over the years. Dating back to my childhood days of making mud-pies and catching grasshoppers with my best friend, Tony, I have almost always preferred to be outside. Sitting inside to play Barbies with my sister, Michelle = pure torture. I always imagined my future family to be quite outdoorsy.

Well, here I am - in the middle of my future family - and we're not even close to what I imagined in this regard. Sometimes I mourn this imaginary family... this hiking, biking, camping, running, swimming family I thought I would be a part of. This past July, as I was giving poor Brian an (another) earful about how I would love it if he would take us camping more often, and suggest family hikes on Saturday mornings, and get himself a bike so we could hitch up the baby trailer, and teach McKenzie to ride on two wheels, I started to listen to myself talk...and it was ugly. I realized that it was completely and totally unfair of me to expect him to fulfill my dream of being an active, outdoorsy family.

So, I took it into my own hands. If I wanted to be outdoorsy, then I needed to make it happen. The kids and I started hiking down to the river a couple times a week. I went to Target and bought a bike pump for my tires, assembled and vacuumed out the bike trailer (which had accumulated quite a few spiders and bug carcasses in it's long hibernation in our storage shed), and we went on bike rides together almost every afternoon. We took walks in the late afternoon as we waited for our dinner to finish cooking, and for Daddy to get home from work. I learned to ignore the sweat rings forming beneath my arms and to embrace the sweaty sock smell once we returned to the house. Being outside so much was beautifully refreshing!

Already on an outdoors high, I was thrilled to learn that the mountains were the same distance from our house as from the Aldriches new house in Atlanta. It was the perfect excuse to plan a camping trip out there to meet our favorite people! I'd never planned a camping trip before, so it didn't go off without a hitch...but it was lovely, and we've decided to make it an annual tradition. (And, that's where all of these pictures are coming from...)

I've learned a few things over the course of these few months...
*McKenzie has amazing willpower, even in the face of peer pressure. If she does not want to get entirely wet in the freezing cold lake, then she won't. Case closed. She was the only child who didn't even attempt to get wet much above her knees.

LOVE the kids faces in this one! Most of them had just come out of the water on a
dunking dare...and that water was so, so freezing!

*Carson, though uncomfortable, will succumb to the crowds...at least partially.

*You should never, EVER, ask me to eat another brussel sprout.

*I should not practice on a walking toddler with my camera on the full manual setting. I'm not that quick...

*And most importantly, I cannot, and should not, expect others to fulfill my dreams. I'm not exactly sure why I had the notion that the man of the house should be in charge of family outdoor outings...maybe because that's how it worked in the environment I grew up in...but I have been much happier since I've let him off the hook and taken charge of my own desires. Plus, I've seen that when I'm not focused on the things I want him to do, it's much easier for me to see all the helpful, wonderful things he already is doing. He's terrific at making sure the dishes don't pile up, and he happily puts the kids to bed every night...

Here's to many more fun, outdoor activities!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Phantom Feelings

I read somewhere that you can hold your breath longer if you make yourself hyperventilate right before taking in the last breath. So even though I may have looked strange standing on the curb breathing in and out as fast as possible, I did have a purpose. The baby inside of me was changing my body and my emotions in many uncomfortable, unfamiliar ways - and the one way I grew to hate the most was the nausea. I found it cruel that pregnancy heightened my sense of smell to a nauseous level, and the last thing I wanted to do was vomit on campus. But there was that building. That one big, beautiful business building with the mystery smell that churned my stomach every time I got close...and my choir class was inside it.

So, I hyperventilated. And just as I drew in my last breath I made my way quickly across the street, into the foyer, down the stairs, across the atrium and through the double doors into my choir class where the clean air in my lungs gushed out, and my breathing pattern resumed to normal with the smelly air. The smell wasn't quite strong enough - once I was deep into the classroom - to make me vomit anymore, but I could count on being miserably nauseated those 5 hours every week. The thing I didn't count on, however, was being nauseated by that building every time I got close for the rest of my BYU education. Even after my sweet baby girl was born and growing, I still couldn't get near that smell without wrinkling up my nose in response to a stomach churn. I suspect it would still be the same today.

This is weird to me.

The other day I was finishing up my scrapbook for 2008 (which is why I've been missing in action on the blogger front). I was just finishing up December - in which I was almost done with my first trimester with Miles - and by the time I was done scrapbooking, I felt terrible! I had come across a few pictures that reminded me of just how awful pregnancy is.

Christmas eve, while the rest of my family had a princess tea party, I put my head down on the table and pretended to be involved.

And, we have a total of 7 pictures of Christmas Day. This is one of them. Let me tell you that it is NOT in my personality to be comfortable sleeping in the middle of the day - ever - and especially surrounded by such a mess!

Blech. I'm starting to feel ill again - how weird! It's got to be mental by this point, so how come I can't control it? Is this normal? Do any of you feel the same way sometimes? Maybe next time I start feeling baby-hungry, I should just look at these pictures again...the sick feeling is strong enough to make me think logically about the whole situation!

Anyway - even though my scrapbook ended on a terrible note, it's done and on it's way to my house as I type this. So my blogging should return to normal now. . . . because you care, right?