Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Promises, Promises...

It has been a little over a week since I blogged. And I’m afraid this little blurb will not be the beginning of one so to speak. I simply am reminding myself that I need to blog. I need to write down all the little details about Christmas before they escape me. All of the fun we had Christmas Eve at the Bissegars. The fun Christmas morning and the wonderful gifts from some former strangers. The weekend of nothingness. A talk on Sunday and getting my son back. Our family Christmas party (complete with gangsta rap and beatnik poetry reading) on Monday and the discovery that I have Raynaud’s syndrome. And then a trip to mom and dad’s, which is where I am now. Getting ready to go to see "Avatar" in 3D with my baby brother. Its all good :)

Monday, December 21, 2009


So the last few days have been…interesting… for me. The last few Christmases have been good ones. The first Christmas after Dave died was hard; the firsts in the year that follows the death always are. But it got easier from there, and the past 2 Christmases I haven’t minded one bit being alone with my children at Christmas. I didn’t need extra people around to fill in the emptiness, and I was glad for that feeling. It made the holiday much more bearable.

But this year has been different. I have felt the emptiness more acutely over the past few days. And it’s an emptiness I’ve become somewhat unfamiliar with recently, and so it disturbs me a little. Let me see if I can explain. It’s been quite some time since I felt our family was missing something. I mean, we always keep in mind that we would like to include someone in the everyday joy we share (somewhat tongue in cheek…but there are moments). But I have tried very hard to not lead my children to believe our family is broken because we are fatherless. We are simply different, and what we have is what we need and it is enough. So at the same time I recognize we are missing a portion of the whole, I also immediately recognize the extraordinary amount of blessings we enjoy.

Which is why this is disturbing, because it’s a strange mixture. I have felt, most sharply, both the gratitude and peace that comes with contentment of your position in life. We aren’t wealthy, but we have a home and good landlords, we have a car, phones, food…and even cable. I was worried about Christmas coming out alright. But, weeks ago when I was fretting, I had the feeling come over me not to worry about it. So I didn’t. And it has, indeed, been taken care of by good people whose hearts were moved on our behalf. My degree is done, we are all healthy, and my children are active and progressing. I have wonderful family, extraordinary friends, and several jobs I actually like and find fulfilling. We are truly, completely and wholly blessed.

Which is why this other feeling seems like it should be contrary and the twain should cancel each other. But I’m not sure they are opposites. Partly because I can’t define this other feeling. Emptiness partially describes it. But sorrow or hopelessness does not. Let me tell you what I mean.

Last week I looked at my children individually. Really looked. And I saw all of the great things they are becoming. And I thought how their dad would be so proud of them. He would think Maryn was so smart. He would find Conner funny and Ashlyn cute and charming (even when she’s screaming, which is what daddy’s are for I suppose). I find my children to be all of these things. But I don’t have that other person to share that special smile and nod that only parents share when they recognize their children’s growth and look at each other knowingly. My oldest daughter came home from school with a rather serious problem with another student that required me to intervene, which was fine, but it was a serious battle and I had no back up. And her dad would have backed her up completely and without question, and I know this. Or Sunday, when my 3 youngest sang. And I watched their sweet faces, and began to cry because I watched beaming parents grab each other’s hands, and do that knowing smile thing I talked about, and relish in their shared accomplishment. And I had no one to share that moment with…and neither did my children. Or tonight when we were going to the elementary Christmas program, and my daughter comes out all dolled up and comments. “I used to twirl for daddy, and he would always tell me how pretty I was. It’s just not the same now. I know my daddy would think I was beautiful, no matter what anyone else said.” Or when Ashlyn “wrote a letter” to Santa in cursive and “read” it back to me saying, “Dear Santa, You’re the best woman in the whole wide world. I know we’ll like your presents. Have a very Merry Christmas, Love, Ashlyn.” And I practically smiled my cheeks off, and suppressed laughter until my gut hurt…and I smiled alone. Maybe it’s the lack of someone to share with. But I can’t define the feeling or figure out where to put it on the emotion spectrum. Can anyone else?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lunch at La Piazza

Here are the beautiful and wonderful people from my water aerobics class, the one I teach (and have been teaching for 5 years). We had lunch together, and they gave me a card and a gift. Daily, I feel blessed to have such amazing people in every aspect of my life. How strange that one of those aspects would include a swimming pool! (...and people as old as my grandparents.)

From left and around; Jerry, Ann, Helen, June, Dorothy, Jenny, Barb, Bill, Barb, Dorothy. JoAnn, Kay and Ted.
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Come Unto Him...

So, last night we had an activity with all of the youth in our branch. We had 12 there! This is, for us, a big turn out. What we did is created a night in Bethlehem for them. We had the inn set up, with a typical meal of chickpea soup, brisket, grapes, pomegranate, rye bread, olives, boiled eggs and some assorted modern goodies like cantaloupe, apples and poundcake (which, BTW,had 7 1/2 cups of powdered sugar in it). Here is a collage of our feast, sitting in the floor and on pillows Bethlehem style, passing the food around in the presence of our innkeeper Mike. But as we feasted with appropriate inn music in the background, we had some visitors come knocking.
The first visitors were Mary and Joseph. They were, of course, in the area, looking for a place to stay. The innkeeper insisted they were very busy and should just go away. Joseph told him his wife was pregnant, and asked if he know of anywhere they could go. he said no, and told them to leave. So they did, but not until they left a gift for each person...a blue stone.

The second time the door knocked, it was the shepherds. Well, shepehrd missionaries. And they used a great door approach! They even left the innkeeper with a pass along card! So funny. Shepherd McLellan (is that Scottish-Jewish?) asked the group what religion they were. We all laughed, but innkeeper Mike told them we were all Jews. The shepherd then reminded them that meant we looked forward to the coming of a Messiah, and that they believed the baby they were looking for was that Messiah. They were told they were too busy and needed to leave. They did, but also left a stone- a red one.
The third visitor, the wiseman insisted that if I took his picture he'd beat me up later, so I didn't get one :). But he did knock, asking for the Messiah, got the same answer, too busy, go away. Left a clear stone.
At this point, one of our young women arrived late...she was let into the inn. One of the young men pipes up "So we have room for her but not the pregnant chic?"

Below you see the entire ensemble in the room we prepared as a stable...yes that's the wise guy....err, wiseman. He relented later.
We had a final visitor, Kerry from Kerry's trinkets and gifts in the Bethlehem square. He said how he had become so busy with his things, that he heard someone say the Savior had come, but had missed it. He asked if anyone there could help him find this Savior. I gave them a piece of paper they could use to find the way, since it had a clue. As they followed the path dictated by the "scrolls" each one told them how each stone represented something they must do to come closer to the Savior.
Here is the basic idea:

John 17:3

And this is alife beternal, that they might cknow thee the only true dGod, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast esent.

The blue stone represents Prayer.

“Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith.”

“Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.”

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”

The clear stone represents repentance.

The invitation to repent is rarely a voice of chastisement but rather a loving appeal to turn around and to “re-turn” toward God. It is the beckoning of a loving Father and His Only Begotten Son to be more than we are, to reach up to a higher way of life, to change, and to feel

the happiness of keeping the commandments. Being disciples of Christ, we rejoice in the blessing of repenting and the joy of being forgiven. They become part of us, shaping the way we think and feel.

The red stone represents Obedience.

Obedience gives us greater control over our lives, greater capacity to come and go, to work and create.

As Nephi explained, “And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them” (1 Nephi 17:3).”
So they ended up at the manger scene, where the trinket man asked Mary about her baby, how he seemed so special, and who he was. Mary, then Joseph bore testimony of who they knew this child was Christ. The shepherds then told of why they had come, and one of the shepherds shared how there was one thing the angels said that struck him, that this was good tidings for ALL people, that the Savior's life and atonement applied to all. Then the wiseman, who, it turns out, was truly wise, gave a beautiful and very appropriate testimony that perfectly fit all of the things we were trying to get across to them. It was magnificent actually. Then the trinket man came and knelt before the manger, and told the group how blessed he felt to be there, and how he looked forward to following this child as he became a man, and to try to become more like him. This was all completely unscripted, we just asked these marvelous people to consider themsleves as if they were their parts, and it turned out absolutey perfect.

Then I sang a song called Come Unto Him. My son told me later it made him cry. And one of the young girls, who we rarely see, was also in tears.
It was wonderful.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Quote of the day

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Paul "I like squirrels. I really think they'll help us fight when bunnies take over the earth."

Saturday, December 12, 2009


This morning when I woke up, I rolled over to face my little girl. She had slept with me the night before. She moved around a little bit, and drowsily opened her eyes the smallest bit. With a half- there grin, she raised her hand, forming her little fingers into the “I Love You” sign. I smiled, and whispered I loved her too. Soon, we were joined by Conner, then Maryn and finally Paul. We laughed at how we all had to squish to fit on the bed. But as I giggled and chatted with my kids in the still dim room, I started to think about how I had chosen very consciously, to make each of them part of my life. Sometimes, four seems like a lot. Other moments, like this one, it seems just right. As I looked at each of them, I remembered bits and pieces of the months I carried them inside of me. They were a little easier to control at that point for sure. But I can remember feeling kicks and rolls. Paul had sharp feet (at least that’s what it felt like), Maryn had an affinity for laying sideways, Conner was a bladder bouncer, and Ashlyn liked to kick straight down. I started to get to know them then, and the traits I saw in them before they were born, have translated quite nicely into their living breathing lives. And then I remember the first time I held each of them. I wasn’t the kind of mother who counted fingers and toes…I figured the doctor would have told me if some were missing and even if they were, what’s a few fingers or toes any way as long as the rest of the baby was okay? But I remember falling in love. Four distinct feelings of complete and total adoration coming right up with a heaping side of responsibility.

And then I realize that the past 15 years has been a blur. I haven’t been the type of parent I intended to be when I was 14, but then again those aspirations were a little lofty and, now I realize, totally unrealistic. And it’s okay. It’s a very different process then I thought it was, and differentiation requires flexibility. I think the important thing is that my children are alive, have clothing, and seem to be somewhat normal. Considering their parentage, I see this as an extremely worthy accomplishment on their part. And the beginning of success on mine. A success I anticipated all of my life, but didn’t expect to procure itself in quite the way it has or using the path it ended up taking. But a success by any other name, is still as sweet.

As all of this was whisping around in the early morning nothingness of my mind, they each, one at a time, kissed me, smiled and left.

And then I was alone.

All kinds of families

I don’t know how many of you have the privilege of having more than one family. I do. Today I want to introduce you to portions of my branch family. I’ve lived in this area for 12 years now, making it just a few years short of the time spent in Wyoming. I love it here for many reason (not the cold though),some which I may expound on later, but here is one of them. I have been blessed to have as part of my life, people who seem to genuinely care about me. Today, as I looked around our little happy Christmas party at all of the faces which had become so beloved to me, I felt warm feelings of gratitude come over me. I am thankful for all of them, for what they mean to me, and for the love and support they provide for me even when they don’t know they do it on purpose. There’s something about the feeling in our little corner of the world when we meet together. We are spending our Christmas Eve with some of them. And it’s just like family.

Here is my brother in law Kirk, William, Tanner and Al checking out cell phones and ipods. Hey, whatever floats your boat boys.

So during the Santa episode, Claira wanted nothing to do with him, and neither did Addy Kay. Addy is the daughter of one of the girls Melanie and I used to have in Young Women's when we were in the presidency together. LauraLee now has two daughters and is our friend. Its kind of fun. But here are those who rejected Santa hanging out from a safe distance.

An assortment of people gathering around to observe the goings on.

My nephew James on Santa's lap.

And this is sweet little Kate, LauraLee's other daughter. She wasn't afraid of Santa.
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Christmas Party

Today we had our branch Christmas Brunch. It was a brunch and Santa. And lots of visiting. Simple and to the point. Just the way I like it. Santa was helped out today by the (nonmember) step father of one of our friends Rod K. He did a great job and seemed to enjoy it, although he had a little trouble with hair falling in his eyes.

It kind of cracked me up. Maryn is past believing, yet she was the first one up there. I didn't listen in. Hopefully I hit that nail on the the head.

Mr Conner was cheerful and happy to go and spend some time with the big guy. I know he wants a light saber and a game cube game. He was also very sweet, and I saw him hig my sister Melanie, 3 times during the event and say hi. He has his moments.
Little Lyni was also enthusiastic about seeing Santa. She liked getting the little pink bear and a pencil (Everyone got one. Maryn slept with hers tonight)
And here are all my kids and Santa with Santa's helper (his wife I think). I like this pic a lot.
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Quote of the Day: Maryn (While we were surfing channels) "Wait Mom! Stop! Don't turn it! It looks like a Christmas Special about a reindeer! Or possibly...a goat."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Quote of the day

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Paul "Mom, I'm not an adult. I actually know what's going on." Snot.

Wrapping gifts

Tonight the kids and I wrapped gifts for siblings. Paul kept putting things on his tags like To: Maryn the tolerably cute little sister From: Paul the hottest guy alive. Or "To; Ashlyn the cutest Angel ever From: P-Will (his nickname at school)". Sheesh. And then Conner brought in one of his he "accidentally" ripped, which I fixed, and he said, "Darn, I thought you'd say 'go ahead and just open it'." Double Sheesh. He reminds me of his dad at times like that.

Every year I take them to the dollar store, and let them get two gifts per sib. It was an interesting experience last night. We went to Bob Evans, and then went Christmas shopping, The two younger ones had to have it explained to them that they bought for others not themselves. But it turned out okay, and I enjoyed a few moments of one on one with my kids to talk and wrap. Paul, even at 14, has a severe wrapping deficiency. I assumed he knew how to wrap. Wrong-O. He knows how to bunch wrapping paper around an object and say "That'll do."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dashing through the snow

Since we've moved to Maria Stein (and my kids have been in school) we have celebrated St. Nicholas Day on December 6th, since everyone else does we have to in order to maintain the illusion of Santa Claus. So I started having a tradition. St. Nick brings a gingerbread house and we put it together as a family. This year, I decided to try gingerbread sleds I found. There were four in the package, so instead of fighting over portions of the house, everyone got their own. They loved it! Paul's kind of fell apart right away, so he just ate it, but here is how everyone else's turned out before the feast began. There were little gummy Santa's. It was very cute!

Nativity Festival

The first weekend of December out stake puts on an interfaith nativity festival. My mother is in charge, so we usually go. This year, we also performed a 45 minute concert with Me, Mel, and Rob. Mel and I brought our families and we enjoyed looking at all of the beautiful nativities from around the world. Here's some pics.

Conner pointing out his favorite one...the p
gang as the na
tivity. When I asked him which was his favorite, he
took my hand and led me right to this one.

Here is some more of the displays. It was so beautiful and

They also had a terrific children's room. There were tons of crafts and things to do including nativity charm bracelets. Here's Ashlyn making hers.

Quote of the day Part 2

Quote of the day Part 2: Maryn "Wow mom, in a month, I'm practically going to be 10. (Her birthday is in April) Sheesh. I'm getting old."

Quote of the day

So QUOTE OF THE DAY! Ashlyn comes in to where I am typing on the computer with banana peels draped over her shoulders. "Look Mom! Its a banana peel scarf!" She walks away and I hear. "Oh crap. It broke. And now part of it's down my shirt."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

577 Foundation

So, last year I discovered this cool place near my parents house called the 577 Foundation. It was owned by an heiress and her family as a country home. But she was a good person apparently. It's prime land on the river, and she didn't want to leave it to developers and their luxury condos, so she bequeathed it to the community as a place of education, especially for children. Here are some of the things we like best.

This is a room in the old dairy that they now use as a bee observatory. There are a lot of little things to learn about bees and beekeeping. And here are Ashlyn and Conner taking a turn as bees. Teancom was a cutie. He had a stuffed be and was buzzing around everyone with it in his hands.

This was taken in the bio-dome, which is very cool. It has a pond with big fish, rare and endangered plants, and interesting information everywhere. Here are the kids on the bridge over the pond. I could sit in there everyday of my life and be happy. Its perfectly warm, there's greenery and water. Its pretty much all I could ask for.

There are also some great outdoor spaces. This is a picture of the treehouse. We also went on a walk down a hill to the river, and enjoyed the sound garden (see other post) and the historic cabin.
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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sound Garden


Here is our moments in the sound garden!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rejectemento...or the Top 3

This is a little narrative I came up with in response to a discussion I had with my dad. Please understand these are my thoughts, and pretty straight forward and plain. They are not meant to point fingers or pass judgement, they are just observations and explanations.

I realize that although a majority of my blog is dedicated to cute kid stuff, today, I have something serious to say.

At the risk of opening a can of worms…ahh, heck, lets open this baby wide open. I don’t care.

So my parents are in a branch presidency for the single adult branch in our stake, and last week in the men’s class, I guess they ended up (accidentally) having a discussion about being rejected by women. Surprisingly enough, I have heard this same conversation from the other side, which means there is an equal amount of rejectemento going on. I also remember having a young friend, whose mother stated that all she really wanted was for her daughter to find a modern-day Nephi…which would be something like a modern day Paul or Peter for my non LDS friends.

I hear a chorus resounding from all of the singles in the world (myself included) :“I want someone to accept me for who I am, and love me despite all of my shortcomings and imperfections!” This, in and of itself, is not an incorrect thought. We are all imperfect, and we are daily judged and categorized by these imperfections. Some of them we can’t do anything about; A little too short, a little too chubby, not really pretty enough, already been married, too many kids, bad choices in the past, didn’t serve a mission…a small list of things that make some of us, in the eyes of others , unmarriable. So we go around proclaiming that our needs are simple, we want to be loved for our individuality. The problem with this is that we are not willing to grant the same benevolence to others. The very judgments we abhor are the same ones we hold others to as well. We make these lists of things we feel we want or deserve to have, and somewhere along the way, we started pushing people off the list of possibility because they didn’t have some of those things.

Let’s discuss this list. Let’s pretend for a minute, there was a machine you could put your list of requests into and out popped your perfect mate. Now write it down, every single quality you desire. Don’t hold back, this is after all, make-believe. We are talking absolute perfection, remember. Got it? Good. Mine would go something like this; tall, handsome, 6- pack, funny, charming, wealthy, sweet, kind, gospel centered, has a testimony, dark hair, skin and eyes, fix-it guy, good cook, does laundry without complaining, good father, temple recommend, mentally stable…oh I could go on and on and on. We are, after all, talking about my happiness for this lifetime and possibly the next, so it’s only fair I make this list extensive, right? Now take that list, and, being brutally honest, put that entire list in order from least important to most important. This might take a while depending on how long your list is. Is Taylor Lautner’ s body a nice-to-have or a necessity? Sadly, I put 6-pack abs and dark hair, skin and eyes on the bottom. Donald Trump holds no appeal for so I guess wealth goes next. The process continues until I have prioritized my list. Now for the tricky part. Look at your list. Put the thumb and pointer fingers of each hand in space below the quality marked as number 3…and tear it off. Keep the little piece of paper…and crumple up the rest of it and throw it away, or burn it. Get rid of all of it. Yes that’s right, every single quality is gone expect for the top 3.

My little piece of paper reads something like this: Mentally stable, Kind, Temple Recommend Worthy (which covers a lot of little things…tricky, huh?). And that’s it. So everything else, now in the trash bin or in ashes, is not as important as these 3 things…which means they should not matter, right?

Theoretically, yes, that’s right. I know, deep inside of me, what it takes to make a marriage work. And, so do the rest of you when you are honest with yourselves. And those three things would cover it. So why do we, and I mean this generally, keep dredging up the bottom of the list (you remember the part we took a flame to?), when we start making our decision regarding a spouse. I could meet someone who has the big three, but throw them out because they are lacking #10 or # 45, because even though it’s not part of my list, it’s still part of my mindset.

But methinks I heareth protest. “I should also be physically attracted to the person I marry!” and then to the side you cough and say “But I know looks aren’t everything”. And I know which of us is coughing to the side…the ones who have been told they aren’t pretty enough, or are too fat, or are too short or not enough of whatever. So we’re right back to the “love me for who I am but I want a greek god as my intimate partner” mode. Let me let you all in on a little secret. The stronger you feel about a person emotionally, the more attractive they become to you. Your soul becomes attached to theirs and you want to make that attachment it deeper, because of how it makes you feel and you want to feel more of it. I agree you should be attracted to that person…procreation after all, is a commandment…but many people keep making that “instant attraction” the first requirement of relationships instead of growing into the attraction. Anyone will tell you, whether its oatmeal, hot chocolate or relationships, instant is never as good as the kind that takes some time to prepare.

And yet, I hear another protest. “I should never settle for less then I deserve.” Ah, here we are. We are about to hit the nail on the head here. What you deserve. Well, let’s be honest. What do you deserve?

Let’s go back for a moment to my young friends who wanted a modern day Nephi as her eternal companion. I turn the question over; I think the question is not what kind of person was Nephi, so she knew what to look for, but the real question is ; What kind of person was Nephi’s wife that she deserved to have him? We know so little of her, but the few glimpses we catch through the narrative are impressive. She must have had an enormous amount of faith and patience to endure what she did. Love and compassion to be the companion of the leader of nation and to offer the support she did. We know Nephi himself, speaks of his marriage and says he felt greatly blessed. What a remarkable woman she must have been. So, did being married to Nephi make her remarkable because being his wife required her to be amazing? I suggest that this is not so. Marriage will only make us more of who we are. Out of all the daughters of Ishmael, Nephi chose her because of how he felt around her, because of who she was. And, I submit, she chose him for the same reasons. She had discovered (due to some nasty business on the way back to wilderness from Jerusalem) that his values and priorities were closely aligned with hers. Neither Nephi nor his lovely wife became who they were because they were married to each other. They were already who they were. They had groomed themselves from the time they were young to be the kind of person God wanted them to be, and when the time came, because of their faith and perseverance on that path, they got what they deserved.

So what if beauty and wealth are in your top 3? Well, I suggest you become those things if you want to have them. If you want it, you must be it. If you are not it, don’t expect to get it. Not if they aren’t in your top 3. You may still get a rich greek god like person, but it won’t be because it’s who you are, but because they happen to have those qualities in addition to your top 3.

There is however, one more important element here: choice. So you not only have to find it, you have to choose it which means you put your feelings into ACTION. And even after you have made the choice once, you have to choose it over and over again. If you choose that person, over and over again, every day of your life (and they return that choice), and then act on it…you will be happy. You will be beyond happy. You will be fulfilled.

True, you run the risk of having that other person stop making the choice, but that is beyond your control. We all have agency. It is one of the great eternal principles upon which the plan of happiness is based. Which means you may, at some point, be hurt by someone else’s choices. That doesn’t mean you made the wrong choice if your original choice was made on sound principles and priorities. And it doesn’t mean every person with these qualities will make the choice at the same time you do. It just means when you have a compatible top 3, it’s a possibility you can choose each other and be happy.

My concern is that there are way too many people who never give that compatibility a chance because they are so caught up in the stuff further down the list they wish they had but realize ,way deep down, have about the same purpose as a mittens in Tahiti. If you get to know each other and realize your top three don’t fit, then fine, move on. And don’t try and MAKE your top 3 fit because you really like #12 or # 62 they happen to have. I’ve made that mistake as well.

The summary; Become the type of person you want to end up with. Be faithful to your top 3 (this will be harder than you think), and then choose that person every day and act on that choice.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sugar and Spice...or not

So this morning I was attempting to get Maryn up and at em. She laid in bed, whining and complaining, complaining and moaning, moaning and whining. It was lovely.

I pulled of her covers...she whined and pulled them back up.
I shook her by the shoulder...she complained and moaned something incoherent.
I goaded her with words...she complained and rolled over.

So I laid down by her, and splayed my hand across the middle of her face so she could not ignore it.

And thus began another round of whining and complaining, complaining and moaning, moaning and whining.

To which I respond..."Where is that sweet and wonderful girl that usually sleeps in this bed?"

She stares blankly at the ceiling, and without moving replies "I have no idea."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


So, in the course of trying to have quality time with my four wonderful chidlren amidst the chaos that is my life, I confess to sometimes contriving situations I think will be memorable. Sometimes they are, sometimes they disintegrate before my eyes as I try to return whatever has erupted back to relative calm. And then there was tonight. I had an abbreviated lesson schedule, and so I waited to make dinner until after I was done. We ended up making it together. Paul helped Ashlyn break and beat 12 eggs and then I helped her pour them slowly (so as to leave behind all the little accidental crunchies) into a preheated pan. She watched and starred them vigilantly and was SO proud of herself when they were done. "Theses are hard mom, aren't they? But I did it!" Conner wanted to learn pancakes. I put the ingredients in, and I allowed him to use the mixer to blend them together. Then he used a scoop and put them on the hot griddle. I showed him how to flip, and he did it. Maybe not so well at first (we ended up with some broken and two-headed pancakes), but he stayed until the last bit of batter was browning. Paul wiped the table and Maryn ,with her injured thumb, made juice and set the table...with place mats and everything! Then the kids decided they wanted to eat with just candles for the meal, and have on some music. I smiled and sent Paul and Maryn scurrying to get the right candles, which pyro Paul lit. Then I went and got my laptop and put on some nice background music. That's right. We ate scrambled eggs and pancakes by candlelight to Bach's Suite for Cello.

It was wonderful. And it was completely unexpected.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Monster Repellent

So, ever since the winter after Dave died, my kids have been sleeping in my room. It was for a few reasons at first. One was to keep them close. They were small…very small…and I didn’t like having them so far away from me. The other reason was to conserve heat. If we were all in one room, in theory it would cost less to keep one room warm then a whole house.

But the time had indeed come for me to have my own space. So we made the big move and relocated everyone upstairs.

Again, another good theory.

Except that Ashlyn was afraid to be upstairs, and especially alone. So if Maryn wasn’t there with her, she would cry. So tonight, I went upstairs with her when she came down crying and asked her what she was afraid of. She told me was she afraid of the monsters. And she would not be convinced otherwise. So I had a brilliant idea.

I told her I had a candle that chased monsters away. See, monsters HATE the smell of peaches because they are allergic! All they have to do is smell it, and they run away screaming. So I lit an anti-monster candle, and then strategically placed some cans of peaches around the room…under the bed, in the closet and topped it off with a jar of peach jam placed in the middle of the room since monsters hate jam the most (because its extra sweet!)

She went to sleep.

The other side of him...

So my 7 year old son is a constant reminder to me of who the other half of his genetic make-up is. Tonight, I was talking to Aaron, Dave’s brother, and told him a story that made him laugh and laugh…apparently because it reminded him of something his little brother would have done. Whenever I wonder what compels my son to do some of these things, Aaron theorizes that it’s “just Dave making sure you don’t forget him.”

So what brought on this discussion? Last night when Ashlyn was in the shower, I hear her yell. I go in there to find her brother (Conner) peeing into the shower while she is still in it! Why? Why I ask you?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Monster Maze

Maryn made a homemade board game called Monster Maze. She brought it to me to play. I won in 2 moves because she put in a card that said "Go to the End". Then she told me I was a sore loser and a cheater. And she laughed, "My own game backfired in my face! I'll play it with Alexa tomorrow."

As soon as Maryn and I were done with our game, Ashlyn came in with her own game. She had copied Maryn's, but added some embellishments. One thing I found funny was the fact that one of the only words she knows how to spell is LOVE, so all of the little signs and extra spaces only said LOVE and were subject to her interpretation. She even had cards with number son them and little pieces of paper with dots on them for tokens.

We played, and she won. Then she turns to me and smiles. "Mommy, aren't you proud of me? I did this all by myself!"

I am darling. I am.

A return to gratitude

So here is a column I wrote for the magazine. I put a shorter version into the I guess you could say this is the uncut version.

I actually don’t believe that any of us have a problem saying “Thank You”. At least, not if we were raised right (Thank you mom !). We thank the clerk at the store, the server who brings us our drinks, and even the officer who gives us a ticket…quite liberally and without thought. Its kind of a way to end a conversation in some instances. We use it so much, in fact, the sometimes the words “Thank You” become nearly meaningless, or even worse, sarcastic.

You’d think with all of this thanking going on all of the time, that, generally speaking, we would all be more aware of the things we are thankful for. We should be happy with everything we have. But when I look around me; at perfect strangers, acquaintances, friends and even in my own home (and, truth be told, in my own mirror), I see a marked lack of happiness. We always seem to want more. Someone else always has what we feel we deserve. And sometimes it feels like we simply don’t have enough.

Today was like that for me. It was, to say the least, a very frustrating day. There were money issues, home issues, work issues, kid issues and even issues with people I barely know but seem to deeply dislike me for reasons beyond my control. And all these issues led me to a higher stress level that eventually made me say and do things I normally would not do and later regretted. In my state of stress and woe (some of it self –inflicted I admit), I became bitter. I was suddenly acutely aware of everything it seemed my life lacked, things that had become apparent during my sojourn in pity -ville.

It was during this reminisce of the misfortunate that another thought found its way into my mind. I began thinking of others. And I thought of their problems, and their worries; a friend who, like me, is unmarried and never has been, another who is struggling with wanting a child so badly and not being to have one, another who is fighting cancer, another who is watching her toddler battle leukemia, another whose husband was jobless and another who is caring for aging and ill parents on her own. I knew, in that moment, that if everyone I knew gathered around me and threw their problems into a pile. And we were all permitted to take out whichever ones we would rather have…I think I’d take mine back.

With that, the thought process changed. Instead of focusing on what I didn’t have, I began to recall all that I did have despite the problems I was facing. We have food and shelter. I have a loving extended family that watches over and cares for me no matter how desperate things get. I have 4 beautiful and somewhat obedient and helpful children who are healthy and active. I, myself, have not been sick for over a year. I began to recognize more things that enriched my existence ; I was blessed with fabulous friendships that have made my life truly complete, I can play the piano and sing and have the opportunities to share those talents with others in many circumstances. As the thoughts spiraled onward and upward, I could suddenly see the simple things that made my life great; warm blankets, warm clothing, good food, good books (I can read! Isn’t that an extraordinary blessing in itself!), education…the list began to get larger and larger until it overflowed.

And then I could feel it.

I didn’t want to say thank you, it was more than that. I could feel it pushing on my chest trying to escape…a bright, sweet feeling that made me feel peaceful and filled me with hope. It was gratitude.

And there it is, our biggest chance for hope in an increasingly desperate world; finding a way to recognize and be happy with what we have, instead of having what we think we want. A return to gratitude.

3 Sweet yet Simple ways to bring gratitude back into your family’s life:

1) Count Your Blessings Chain: We have a tradition before Thanksgiving. I cut strips of autumn colored cardstock or construction paper, and we sit as a family and name every single blessing we can. Be very specific! We are sure to name each other individually (of course) and then go from there. I accept answers from my kids like Dolls and video games, because I believe it helps them appreciate having these things at all. We try to name as many things as possible and put each blessing onto one of the strips of paper. We curve each one into a circle, connecting them together with a stapler (tape and glues also work, but I’m lazy and a stapler works faster). We then hang the chain in our kitchen to remind us of all that we have to be grateful for as the holidays approach. I think out longest one was 135 links long! Talk about a lot to be thankful for!

2) “Thankfuls” Journal: Shortly after my husband died, I felt the need to try and reconnect with my kids on a daily basis since the toils of just trying to take care of them physically seemed to consume me some days. I bought an inexpensive journal (notebook or diary at the dollar store), and each night we take turns listing 3 things that we were thankful for (or that made us happy) today. No matter how bad the day seemed, I would always help my children come up with at least something they could see as positive in their day…even if it was getting to the bus on time or having an extra cookie.

3) Service: Nothing helps you see how blessed you are then to go and help someone who is less fortunate then yourself. There are two ways to do this. The first is pretty obvious. Depending on the ages of your family, find somewhere to go and help out; a soup kitchen or food pantry, the nursing home, a hospital. Seeing others who face misfortune every day can be very eye opening. Another way is to be an example everyday of being considerate of others. I watched my own father, only a few years ago, stop in a parking lot to help a young mother trying to life heavy packages into the back of a truck. She would grab one, climb in, shuffle back on her knees to set the box down…you get the picture. My father, without a second thought, went over and offered to hand her the packages. He didn’t know her, he never saw her again…but he recognized her misfortune in that moment and did something simple to ease it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Granville Millinery

So, a week ago I went over to Columbus area to visit with a milliner (hat maker) for an article I was writing. It was so interesting! To check out the entire here.
The Milliner's name is Amy Hamilton, and this her hands making a hand painted silk flower.

Here's her work area with all of the pieces she needs to finish this hat.

These are some of the forms she uses for shaping. Most of them are vintage.

Here's a little corner of her studio with the forms in it.
I love my JOB!

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Quote of the day

This is actually an interchange, not just a quote.

Paul picked up Ashlyn by the feet tonight, and hung her upside down.

"Tell me you love me and I'll put you down."
Ashlyn's screaming, "I love you! I love you!"

I joked, "Is that your plan to get a girl to marry you? Just hold her upside down by her feet until she says yes?"

He laughed, "Yeah, pretty much."


So every once in awhile, Ashlyn grabs my phone and takes random pictures around the house. I have pictures of walls, pictures of the TV, pictures of faces and pictures of feet. This picture, I actually like. Its a picture of Maryn letting in some light.

Keeping with the random theme of this blog post, lets go over the last week. Maryn came home sick last Friday, the day after I couldn't sleep and went to bed at 4 in the morning. I had several meetings that day and didn't get to take a nap. By Friday night, I was wiped out. Saturday I went to Mom and Dad's because I needed some space and some quiet. My parents is the only place I can count on that happening. I basically dropped my kids off at my parents and went to the library to finish my writing...which I did. It worked well, except for this little old lady who kept talking and swearing and complaining about everything. Stayed the night at my parents and left early the next day to get to church by 10. I taught both Sunday School and Young Women's. Monday, I got a call to come and get Ashlyn, who had thrown up in class. Ended up not teaching last night because no one wanted to come share a home with the sicky. So we had popcorn and hot chocolate and watched a movie together. Ashlyn felt better this morning, after throwing up once more time in her sleep (a total of 10 times in 12 hours). But Paul felt crappy. So he stayed home from school. The best thing about having older kids, is that if they get sick, the whole world does not have to stop. I was still able to go teach my class and attend and afternoon meeting and he laid there on the couch with a cell phone if needed. I think he is feeling better. Now, I suppose, its Conner's turn.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Today I am thankful for angels. I don’t mean the kind that fly or make token appearances in nativity scenes. I don’t mean the kind you collect from curio shops or even the kind we read about in the scriptures that are sent with special messages from heaven itself. We talk about guardian and ministering angels, and those were the kind that were with me today. Except they were people…people here on this earth that the Lord put in my path at the right time to fulfill a purpose in my life. Since he cannot be everywhere at once, he uses the spirit to prompt us to do for others on his behalf. Today, I experienced that great and marvelous blessing not once, but twice.

I had made an appointment with some folks in Bucyrus, Ohio. They own a “factory” that produces hundreds upon hundreds of different kinds of handmade cookie cutters. I mean seriously, you can order 49 of the states (Hawaii just makes a weird cookie), the entire nativity, a ballerina…practically anything you can think of and lots of things you don’t ever think of (like buzzards and groundhogs or the Taj Mahal). I was excited to go.

So I set out, alone…to do this interview. For the past few days, my car had been misbehaving a little. It started rumbling and shaking whenever I hit anything over 50. I just kind of ignored it, prayed it wasn’t something serious, and hoped it would just go away. Once I hit Highway 30 going east, somewhere between I-75 and Upper Sandusky, it started rumbling really, REALLY badly. So I pulled off. I walked around the car, and saw nothing wrong immediately, until I got a closer look. My rear driver’s side tire was fraying at the edge of the tread on the inside wall. Great. I’m in my good clothes and heels (including a pink shirt) and I have never changed a tire alone before. I’ve watched others do it, but never alone. So I sighed a little, called the Highway Patrol (just in case…to let them know I was there), called my dad for some coaching and tips and started out. I was doing pretty well, remembering of course, that because my van is a stow and go, my spare is under the front two seats underneath the van. I had it out and had the car jacked up. But I had a terrible time moving the lug nuts. I’m not as strong as pneumatic drill I guess. Just as I was going to give up and wait for some nice strong highway patrolman to come along, another nice man came along. He was a little older and looked quite safe. He offered to help and I accepted. From there on out it went much faster. We finished up, I smiled and asked for a name. “John”, he said, shaking my hand. I thanked him heartily and he was on his way.

I was late for my appointment. Grrrr. But the wonderful lady I met, Mary Fox, knew what had happened, and had a clean towel waiting for me when I got there. How very kind and thoughtful.

I very much enjoyed taking a tour of the little “factory” and was extremely impressed with the assortment (hundreds and hundreds) of unique cookie cutter shapes they make by hand in their basement. You can have anything from a cardinal to a pair of scrub pants and crocs, or awareness ribbons, or one of 80 breed of dogs. Plus so much more. But after I spent a little time with Mary and her son Kevin Kohls, I found out we Mary and I had something in common. She had been widowed in her late 20’s and had 2 children. She remarried Ed Fox (who passed away the same time as Dave did), and they had 3 more children. We talked and talked about the grief and difficulty of being a young widow. “You know, “ she said, “God wants to take care of us. It’s what makes Him happy.” She went on to convey that she knew God had always provided for her. It was that faith that helped her, and that eventually led her to Ed in the most unlikely of places…a bowling league. This is especially odd since she doesn’t bowl. I told her how sometimes it was hard to believe that the Lord would provide me with another husband, and that having four children definitely made it hard. She told me she could tell that I was an amazing person, that she could tell how wonderful I was just by being around me for such a short time…and that some man would see that in me and all that I have to offer. Her words were exactly what I needed to hear.

The visit was indeed, a blessing for me. I needed to remember all of the things she said, and to hear it from someone who I’m not related to. I am extremely grateful for the intervention of our father in heaven in bringing her into my life for that moment. I surely needed it.

Quote of the day

So today's quote belongs to Maryn:

"Mom, do you have to go to college to become a vegetarian?"

I think she thought it was similar to a veterinarian...a vegetable doctor perhaps? I need carrot juice...stat!


So tonight, as we were getting ready for bed, Ashlyn came walking in the room and her mouth was completely black. I was shocked...and frankly so was she. Apparently she had been sucking on my camera strap, and the dye had ended up all over her mouth. Sweet. So I had her rinse and rinse, and then we brushed her tongue and rinsed some more. Pretty soon we had most of it out. But not all of it. I commented something about it being dye, and she starts to bawl, "I'm going to die?!?" I had explain the difference between the two words although they sound the same.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Quotes of the Day

Kids say the funniest things! Here's a few from recently...

Ashlyn had brought home a decorated shoebox to hold her special little reading books they make and practice at school. Some of her decorations includes what I thought were random foam letters applied in perfect lines on different parts of the box. On the front, were these letters:


She brought me the box and asked me what the letters (above) spelled. I pronounced the sound of each letter and it came out sounding somethin like "ja-lewz-i-full-iz".

"Wow," she said, "I almost spelled Elizabeth!"

Ummmm....sure sweetie...

Ashlyn also has a habit of taking Paul and Maryn's iPod's. I have a habit of borrowing Maryn's iPod when I go running. Sometimes these two habits do not coincide. This morning, I was trying to find the iPod to pack my gym bag, and could not find it. I felt prettys ure Ashlyn would know what had happened to it. So I asked her. The conversation went something like this.

Ashlyn, do you know where the pink iPod is?

"Yes, I put it somewhere where I would remember where it was."

And where is that?

"I don't know."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Sunday night my brother Rob’s daughter called me. She had a very important question.

“Aunt Chiara? Will you sing at my baptism with Aunt Melanie and Grandma Thacker and my daddy?”

Thinking I was funny, I responded; “Ooo, I don’t know Miciah. I can’t sing with your daddy because he’s so stinky.”

It only took her a minute to reply “Well, Aunt Melanie and Grandma can stand in between you!”

I smiled, and with that assurance told her I could accept her offer on those terms. Does she never call her little brother stinky?

So I called Mel to tell her of this interaction with Miciah, and as we were speaking, my brother’s cell phone beeped in to Mel’s number. She flipped over, sure it was Miciah, and we agreed to just talk the next day.

A few minutes later, Mel calls me back. It had, indeed, been Miciah and she did, indeed, ask if Mel could sing.

Melanie responded that she would be honored to sing and would be happy to agree. Miciah then continues. “I have a questions to ask you Aunt Melanie…could you stand in between my daddy and Aunt Chiara?”

Melanie, playing dumb to the whole previous conversation, asks, “Well, why Miciah?”

“Because Aunt Chiara thinks my dad is stinky and she won’t stand by him.
By now, Mel is cracking up inside.

“Well, you could just ask him to shower.”

“Yeah, that’s what my mom said. I think he should. I don’t want him stinky at my baptism, because he’ll be touching me and then I’ll be stinky.”

Evidently, my brother has indeed, been occasionally stinky J

Monday, September 14, 2009

Let that be a lesson...

So, the other day I threw a Dr. Pepper into the freezer to cool off really quick. I remember goignt o grab one later and wondering where I put the first one, shrugged and grabbed another one.

When I opened the freezer later that evening, I found out where I put it. Evidently, if you leave a soda in the freezer for too explodes. All over.

Here is the evidence:

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Heritage Festivals

Labor day weekend, we took a chance to go to the Piqua Heritage festival. It was a lot of fun! Here are some of the highlights:

There was a family there that travels around with their covered wagons. One was authentic and the other was turn of the century...20th and 21st century that is. It was kind of interesting because we have pioneer heritage in our family. Just think, they took all that trouble to go out west, and we went through all that troubel to come back. Seems like a waste :)

Here's the kids in the pioneer covered wagon.
And the kids in the mini wagon they had for them to play in.

Here's the inside of the modern one: comfy bed, flat screen, radio and that's the way they should have traveled to the valley!

They also had some demonstrations. This fellow was making apple butter over an open fire. He said they cook it and stir it for 6 to 8 hours. He stand sthere all day and stirs and stirs. But he was very cheerful about it.

They also let the kids peel some apples with an old fashioned apple peeler. They had a fun time participating!

There was a petting zoo too. This is a teeny tiny goat the kids loved.

They also had a group of tents that were made a little market. Everyone was selling old fashioned stuff...hats, clothes, pottery and toys. This nice man had some wooden tops he taught the kids how to use. You wrapped a string around them and pulled fast. They would spin on and on.

I thought it was also time to introduce them to the good things in funnel cakes. We never really eat stuff like that, so we just got one and shared. One funnel cake a year is probably good:) We alos enjoyed some kettle corn, some maple candy, and lemon and strawberry shake-ups. Those were very refreshing on such a hot day.

Some other fun things we did that I didn't take pictures of was a rodeo and a group of scottish tribal drummers (with a bagpiper!) called Albannach. Look them up online. They were really great. You can actually listen to them on iTunes.

Overall, good day!