Wednesday, December 1, 2021

My Jess


This year Jess's birthday was a great one. We'd learned in previous years that picnicking on the temple grounds is rather frowned upon, so we abandoned that tradition and started a new one this year.

Olive Garden.

Maybe not my personal favorite on the list of things that are wonderful, but it certainly belongs on my kids' list of Wonderful.

So it totally works.

It felt like a celebration.

I never quite know how I'm going to feel as this day circles around each year. But this year the feeling was Family.

McKenzie told me recently that sometimes when we have an empty chair at our dinner table she thinks of Jess. I don't know how things work on the other side of the veil, but I know that Jess was sitting around this Olive Garden table with us that night. We laughed at spaghetti faces, teased about dumplings, cheered at the Coaster Flip game, and had such a genuinely great time that it made an impression on the waitress at the end of the night who whispered to me as we were leaving, "You guys have a really beautiful family."

I smiled and whispered back to her, "they truly are wonderful." And the narrative filled into my mind as I opened the heavy doors to the outside. They are wonderful... we are wonderful... because we have angels around us.

I believe we have armies of angels, really, but that night we were focused on just one.

We drove to the temple next and walked the grounds.

We talked about Jess and the impact he has on our family.

And we loved the feelings and the conversations and the energy so. much. that we stayed until dark.

My heart always breaks when I hear of a friend who joins the Stillborn Baby club. There is so much heartache and pain, and that hurt never really goes away. But in my experience, the joy gets louder and louder to the point where sometimes when I'm thinking of him, I can't hear the pain at all.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Some Deepish Thoughts on Treasure, Trust, and So. Much. Dirt

Once there was a man who traveled to a far-away city to find rumored treasure there which would help ease his financial burdens. But when he arrived, the treasure could not be found.

He was confused and frustrated and he prayed to the Lord for help.

And the Lord told him that there was, indeed, much treasure in the city for him, but that it was not the kind of treasure that would satisfy his debts. "For there are more treasures than one for you in this city."

We don't have record of what the "more treasures" were; perhaps knowledge and progression, perhaps souls.  But we do have record that the man wanted, needed, financial treasure, and that he went through great lengths to find it.

We also know that he didn't find it, and that the Lord didn't even seem to share his concern about it. In fact, knowing full well the depth of this man's financial distress, the Lord even went so far as to say, "Concern not yourselves about your debts." Or, in other words, "Joseph, the biggest concern of your life right now? Stop worrying about it."

I wonder if Joseph was able to do that, and I wonder how much faith it would have taken for him to do so.

It's a story about trust.

I feel like this parallels my journey here in Boulder City. Of course, I'm not seeking financial treasure here, but I think I'm seeking a treasure of ease. Maybe a treasure of rich relationships. And, dang it all, after all these years here I just haven't been able to find those things.

I've been confused and frustrated, and I have spent countless hours on my knees praying to the Lord for help.

I think I'm finally hearing that the Lord's answer to me is similar to the one he gave Joseph Smith all those years ago. "There are more treasures than one for you in this city... Concern not yourself about a desire for ease. Concern not yourself about your loneliness."

I wonder, as Joseph might have, if I have the ability to do that. 

"There are more treasures than those for you in this city."

I wonder, what treasures?

I am starting to see a few. In fact, I'm probably only able to analyze this today because I'm finding them. They are buried deeeeeeeeeeeep, but that's okay because I've been digging for a long time now. For seven years I've been sweaty and muddy, throwing nothing but dirt, but my dirt-throwing muscles are getting stronger, and - praise the Lord - my shovel is finally striking a few objects that are... not dirt. These not-dirt objects are still caked in mud and it's difficult to see what they are exactly, but I can see the general shape of them, and I can tell by the weight of them that they're valuable. 

The one I've cleaned off the most is the treasure of emotional strength. After years of deep study and practice, I now have a richer understanding of my emotions. I harness them, I control them, and I am building a better life for me and for my children by using, and even choosing them during my strongest times. It's an invaluable treasure to me; it's a gentle power that stirs within me, and it continues to gather strength. It has helped me become a better mother, a better friend, a better human. I've used it to mend strained relationships, to access the best parts of me as a mother, to help lift others, to change the course of at least one child's life. It is powerful. And it could never have been found if I had been living a life of ease.

There are other treasures, too. I see some wisdom. Some knowledge. Some understanding. But those are less developed and might take a while yet for me to see them clearly.

So in the meantime I'll trust in this promise the Lord leaves with Joseph:

"Therefore, be ye as wise as serpents and yet without sin; and I will order all things for your good, as fast as ye are able to receive them."

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Scrambled Thoughts

1. I might regret this... 

I got so tired of summer screens and overall laziness in our home that I went to the hardware store, bought an armful of shovels, marked a perfect 15' circle out in our one, lovely, little patch of grass, and told the kids to dig. 

For every two hours of digging they were allowed to spend one hour on screens. All summer long. It worked beautifully and the hope was that by the end of the summer we'd have a trampoline-sized hole that we could fill with... well... a trampoline. It turns out, however, that there's a lot more dirt in a trampoline-sized hole than I would have imagined, plus I hadn't taken into account that it would be over 100 degrees by 8:00 in the morning every single morning. They worked hard, but when the end of summer came, the pit was only 3/4 of the way dug. At that point, my work force went back to school and I climbed down in the pit myself to finish the job.

But after an hour of work, I was hot and sweaty and tired and remembered, wait a minute, this little project never really was about sinking a trampoline, it was about raising kids! I'm not a kid! So, I hopped out of that pit faster than a cheetah and hired a landscaping company to come finish the job. 

Lazy? Or resourceful?

We still have a lot of work to do in terms of landscaping, but it's coming along. 

2. Daddies who do nails are legit awesome.

Did I use that adverb correctly? I'm pretty sure that's how the kids say it these days. Or maybe that was so three years ago... I can't keep up.


3. I may have discovered why Miles isn't progressing in his piano.

I wish I was joking. I came around the corner to see why his playing sounded like... this. 

4. When Maisy doesn't want to come out of her cage, but Eliza wants to play with her:

I hate to break Eliza's heart, but it's entirely possible that Maisy was sitting in her cage to get away from Eliza...

5. I'm not so sure Eliza had a good time in preschool last year.

At the end-of-year ceremony she spent the whole time with a vacant, detached look on her face while the other kids sang their songs and smiled for their mothers.

She did smile once after I caught her eye and mimicked one myself... but then went right back to that safe place in her head.

Her teacher got up and said a few words about each child and it was clear to me after listening to her take on Eliza that my real Eliza never showed up for a day of preschool. 

It was a rather unnerving realization.

Of course, the child her teacher described was a piece of my Eliza... the quiet and extremely focused piece. And she mentioned that, on a rare occasion, Eliza would light up with an 'out of the blue' excitement when something sparked her interest.

It broke a little piece of my heart. Rare excitement? Out of the blue? That's not who she is in my world, but watching her there at that end-of-year celebration I couldn't say I was surprised.

Anyway, it was one of the first things that actively set me on a new path to study and understand the brilliant little mind inside this beautiful girl.

And, spoiler alert: that study has already proven rich and informative and life-altering. She is happy at her new preschool and progressing in managing her anxiety, and I can't wait to see where she goes next. But I'll leave all those stories for another post...

Visit us!

The Malms came to Vegas for a few days so Sofia could play in a volleyball tournament. It was fun to watch her and made me remember how much I liked watching Kenzie play. "Maybe I'm ready for this pandemic to end," I thought. "Maybe." And during the evenings, of course, we swam. 

And Mia and Timothy learned how to navigate the hover board together.

And there was lots of basketball, too.

Every time Mary comes to visit I watch her dive into honest and optimistic conversations with complete strangers. She talks and asks questions so casually and with such friendliness you'd think they hadn't just met twelve seconds before. She really does inspire me.

Next up was a visit with my cousin, Seth, and his family. 

After they left McKenzie opened her eyes wide and said, "I was *not* expecting that! My jaw *literally* dropped when he walked into the house and I had to consciously close it. I didn't even know 'jaw-dropping' was an *actual* thing." And then Carson and Miles said at the same time, "My first thought was, it's Hagrid!" 

And Hagrid he is. Such a kind and gentle giant. His whole family is wonderful.

Next up was Memorial Day.

I woke up in the morning and it didn't take long for me to start feeling all sorts of self pity that we had no plans. "I have no friends," is a common thought in my head and it never leads to anything good. Sometimes it takes a whole lot of effort to change it, though. Memorial Day was one of those times. "How can we have lived here for six years and have no one to party with on Memorial Day?" crept into my brain. "Everyone else has family around and they have no more room in their hearts for us," is another one. And always, always, always, "there must be something wrong with me."

I let myself sit in those feelings all morning and even let some tears fall before deciding enough was enough and that I was sick and tired of letting all those thoughts ruin my days. I tried to believe, just for a second, that there might be other lonely people out there... maybe even in my neighborhood. I always fight that thought, though, because it doesn't support my sad story and for some reason I'm really attached to my sad story. But anyway, I believed it for a minute which was enough time to get a text out to a few families to invite them over for a barbeque. And wouldn't you know, they said yes, so I tried searching for more lonely hearts... and it turns out there were way more lonely hearts out there than I anticipated and the party kept growing and growing.

Ah, look at all the lonely people. All the lonely people. Where do they all come from?

It was a good day. And ended up not feeling lonely at all.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Scrambled Thoughts

1. Did I tell you we named the parts of our yard? 

It's a real thing now - with signage and everything! 
Now, let's talk about drilling holes into that cinder block fence back there. Actually... let's not talk about it because I'm still recovering.

2. Let's talk about how lovely it is to have hanging lights along that cinder block fence instead.

Because it is quite lovely. Especially when you can enjoy them with some of your very best friends in the whole world. Doug and Becky were with Joseph in St. George for his senior trip when one night they had a harebrained idea to drive four hours round trip just to jump into our hot tub and visit for a few hours. We love the Larsons!

3. Another type of fun is when you cram 74 people back there.

I love a full backyard to the deepest parts of my heart. The youth needed a place for their summer party and we all ended up here. All I had to do was tidy the yard and turn on the waterfalls, another leader brought boxes and boxes of ice cream sandwiches, and we were good to go. Easiest activity ever.

4. And while we're on the subject of the backyard...

This is me, enjoying it. Truly enjoying it. One of the most frustrating pairings of my life is the deep pleasure I feel being in lovely spaces, but the incompetence I feel creating lovely spaces. Designing and homemaking do not come easily for me. I spend a myriad of hours thinking and analyzing before I make a move toward any improvements at all, and by the time I do finally get around to making some improvements my mind is frankly sick with worry that I'm making a mistake, and everyone is tired of hearing about it. And I do make plenty of mistakes. This house has not been a love project for me. Every single step of making this house into my home has been stressful and fraught with obstacles and disappointments... but it's working. And I'm starting to see some fruits of my labors. 
So slowly.
I'm starting to feel more at home here.

5. We're the Birthday Babes

I didn't choose the title, and I don't particularly like it, but it is alliterate, and I like that, so I suppose that's satisfying in a somewhat special sense. We assemble for the annual advent of another voyage around the sun to fan the festive flames of friendship by frolicking forth with a festive theme. The theme this time was Dora, Dora, Dora the Explorer.

We went OVER the mountain,
INTO the Luxor,
THROUGH the escape room,
to the happy, happy donut shop! 
Where we each left with some sort of GI problem and spent the night up and sick. Thanks donut shop. 🤢

6. Timothy has a friend in high places

So high that this friend invited Timothy to an amusement park for his birthday celebration.

And rented a hummer limo in which to take him.

7. I'd say my pool boy is cuter than yours, but that might sound rude.

So instead I'll just keep it to myself and continue watching out my window every time he shows up. It's a good thing I watch him so intently, too, or I might have missed this gem of a moment when he allllllllllllmost fell straight in.

He pulled himself up from that fallen perch with the strength of a hundred lions 😆

8. Teenage boys are hard on things.

Good thing a trampoline is just a 'thing'... but still. This is the SECOND trampoline those four destroyed in under a month. The metal frame is completely folded.

9. We end with my favorite two little girls:

I really am so glad that someone (all four children) talked us into getting a dog. ❤️

Hike to the Wild Grapevines

Did you know that there are wild grapevines growing in the desert?

Well, there are. And when we heard about it, we all jumped into the car to investigate. At first the trail didn't look too promising. 

Lots of rock, lots of sand, lots of desert, lots of sage

But we kept walking and walking and walking, through the sage, through the rock, through the sun... 

...and then, there! Around the bend! GREEN! The actual color of green that looks like green. We don't get much of that here as most of our green has so much brown in it that it almost doesn't feel green at all. 

I can't believe I didn't get a picture of just the landscape, but you can see the vibrant color of it in the background of these pictures:

Grapevines. Who knew?

The trails through the grapevines were narrow, and plentiful, and while it was only a small area, it felt like a true oasis.

A short continuation led us to these reeds that grew along a small stream. Zoomed out like this it doesn't look all that impressive, but it felt impressive to my thirsty eyes.

Just like the reeds in this picture, sometimes the pockets of peace feel small in a largely barren landscape, but if you angle your lens in just the right way and focus on that peace, you can still create some beautiful moments.

Carson wasn't thrilled when I asked him to pick up Maisy for a photo, but he scooped her up without complaint. I only knew he didn't want to because of subtle body language and that super fake smile. 

I learned after the shot that it was because Maisy's paws were wet and he didn't want to get dirty...Which made a whole lotta sense to me and which I keep remembering every time I see that wet spot on his shorts up there. It makes me feel all sorts of things for this oldest son of mine. He is an obedient soul, still learning how to express his own desires and wishes, sure, but I predict that his obedience will take him far in life. I remember the first time I noticed that obedience in him... he was crawling-on-the-floor years old, making his way to an electrical outlet. From the couch I said, "Carson, no..." fully expecting to have to put down my work and go physically redirect him, but instead he stopped and craned his neck back over his shoulder to look at me to make sure he got the message right. "No, Carson," I said again, pointing to the outlet. And he turned and crawled another way. 

I was shocked! My sweet McKenzie would have increased her speed towards the outlet had she caught wind of the fact that I might be coming to stop her! (Let's be clear, she has a million strengths, too.) But Carson listened, then obeyed. And he's been making that choice ever since. Even in as something as small as a request to "pick up Maisy and let me get a picture of you two!" 

Anyway, that's just a tangent in a post about wild grapevines. 😂