Friday, February 27, 2009

More than milk

I was out of milk, toilet paper, soy milk and eggs so the logical place to go is Costco. Can I come home with just the milks?

Armed with good intentions, I march through Costco, looking neither to the right or left. Drat the free samples!!! Even if I had the will power to pass up something free, my two little companions simply must try every offering. The marinated salmon is to die for and I can't imagine life without it so it goes into the cart. The bagels are fresh and chewy and on sale today for 2 sleeves for $4.99. "And," the sales lady adds, "they freeze beautifully and you can cut them up in pieces for the kids to dip in sauces." Two sleeves of bagels enter my cart. Have you ever tried Vinegar and Salt Almonds? I can't resist because sometimes Costco's inventory changes and I can't find my favorites. Will I ever see them again? Well I will for sure if they are in my cabinets.

As we exit, the 1/4 pound all beef hot dogs call my children with their sweet, relish-deli mustard song. I pull all the change out of my planner and let Little Mother count and pay. The three of us can eat for $3.27. Can you beat that? One for Sunshine and I, and one for Little Mother.

While we munch, glops of mustard and relish fall on our paper towel plates and we watch and listen to the fellow hot dog eaters. The elders are next to us. The four of them are talking boy talk. One elderly gentleman stops with his cart and hugs one of them. A few minutes later a young woman approaches their table. After a bit of chit chat she flops a $10 on the table for their lunch and says, "you must take it. I've been where you are." And off she goes. A young man wearing a Riverton High Baseball jacket and his dad stop at the table next. After they leave, a Caucasian elder walks over to the table next to mine and they hug and talk. I hear mention of my husband's profession and am curious.

When he leaves, I decide it is time to make Costco one big happy hot dog eating family so I get up and go visit the table next to me. I introduce myself and find out about them, find out that the man has seen my husband and wanted to meet him. We discuss mutual acquaintances and I network beween the sherif's dept. and my husband's job before I toddle on back to clear off my table. He tells me that an elder wanted an "in" to my husband's profession.

At the garbage cans, I meet the elder in question. I quickly introduce myself and offer my husband's services and give out our phone #. "Yes!" he said. "I knew we should go to Costco today!" As the girls and I loaded our car I spotted the $10 Samaritan. I thanked her for touching my heart as she served those who were serving God with no pay. Her heart warmed and mine did too as I offered gratitude. I giggled to myself that I had made five new friends under the red and white umbrellas.

With full tummies and happy hearts we left Costco.... once more with much more than the milk we came for.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


The snow has melted and children appear in our yard like the tips of the bulbs pushing toward the sun in the flower beds. For 2 1/2 hours, laughter rings, squeals peel, and the sound of racing bikes keeps me company as I tidy up a home that has been abandoned since 8:30 this morning. I look out my kitchen window and see two boys and three girls that I have never seen before in our playhouse and on our trampoline. My children race on plasma bikes and scooters up and down the circle with neighbors that they have missed all winter, though they only live a few houses down. They are so energized by each others company.

I too have been energized by the company of others. I entered the Hellenic Cultural Center attached to the Greek Orthodox Church and saw several beloved faces from the beautiful clients at the House of Hope. We hugged and caught up while the tables filled with alumni, 112 women who represent the hundreds who have beat the odds and overcome their addictions with the help of their higher power. Behind each woman is many children and I imagined the hundreds of children that would no longer live in neglect and fear due to their mother's courageous choices.

The program to honor those who have stayed sober lasted many hours. Many graduates of the program shared their stories, and my dear friend Jodi read a poem about Hope she wrote and provided a beautiful musical number. The governor and his wife came and talked with the women, but most impressive were the women we gathered to honor who fought the battle with drugs and alcohol and won.

One story was representative and will always stay with me. Syd has long dark hair streaked with grey. Her clothes are nondescript and she is heavy set. I remember her from years earlier with frightening teeth, but something has changed and they look fine now. Quietly, she tells how her alcoholism began at age 2 when she begged her father, "drink! drink!" Her father responded by offering her his whiskey. Neglected and abused she spent her early childhood calling bars to find her mom when she never came home. She was homeless and on her own at age 14. A gypsy married her at 15, and her first son arrived at 16. She used drugs and alcohol to ease her pain, and they floated from place to place and had more sons. Marriage #1 ended, marriage #2 began... abusive and full of substance abuse. After she escaped marriage #2, she ended up in jail... I think she was there several times. When she arrived at House of Hope in 2001, she looked the part of the rough mean jail bird. Through the support of women in the program, she found herself for the first time. Her oldest son died while she was in treatment, but she kept on. Against all odds, she graduated from treatment and went to college, graduating with a degree in social work. She stayed on to volunteer at the House of Hope and eventually was hired as a counselor. I feel her quiet peace about herself. I have seen her work firmly with the women currently in treatment and find it hard to reconcile with the scary woman of 8 years ago.

I think of the good she is doing with her life now and all the good she will do. I am struck by the worth of one soul and the power and goodness within each and every person, even the least. The contrast between gorgeous, classy, well spoken Mrs. Huntsman and Syd was huge, yet not. I felt that neither one had more value than the other. Mrs. Huntsman was doing her best to change the world in the circumstances in which she had been placed and Syd and every woman in that room were breaking ancient cycles of horror and creating new futures for generations.

Sadly, I did hear that as Syd worked her way through treatment she went to church in pants (all she had) and smelled of cigarettes. She was asked by the good women to leave. My heart aches for her and for all of us well meaning snobs that forget to reach down and help another up who may be carrying burdens that we cannot fathom.

The energy, happiness, and hope in the Greek Orthodox today lifted all of us. Those currently in treatment left with hope that they too could remain sober and perhaps be the next success story. The graduates celebrated that their hard work to remain sober day by day was paying off. The board of trustees, the staff, and the 3 volunteers (Jodi, Jacqueline, and myself) felt awe, respect, and honor. We realized that we were witnessing something that we did not truly understand, but we witnessed that these women knew and used their higher power more than us. We felt the perseverance, the courage, and the forgiveness exercised by the women. I was refreshed by their humility and candor. I truly love these women. I am so grateful to work with them when I can. They need extra prayers though, especially those still in treatment. Since 2001, four graduates have died from overdose... they didn't make it.

I looked for some of my favorites from 6 years ago. I couldn't see them. I hope they moved on to amazing things and didn't have time to attend. I can't bear to think of them back in that horrible spot of addiction again. They were too beautiful and sparkly. Send a prayer up for my girls in treatment tonight. And while I'm at it, I will thank my Heavenly Father for my amazing life, my girls, and my sweet supportive husband and every other happy positive influence in my life.

While rambling in my head, I think of the power of a woman, of a mother... to influence generations. I want my girls to always know their value, their power... for it is great. I envision the lives they will touch with their compassion and strength and pray I will do them justice as their mother.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Cats in the Cradle or Table

Last night at the dinner table, I saw something I never thought I would see in my household. Yes, a cat slept on the table while we ate. I watched in silence to see what would happen. How could my cat hating husband eat calmly and not notice? Finally, toward the end of my artichoke, I ventured, "Russ, do you know what is on our table?" "Oh, I guess that's not very sanitary is it," he replied. "I think she's really tired and needs to catch up from her hard night last night."
Part of me is incredulous. What happened to the man that said year after year that cats were for drop kicking? But the other part of me understands that I married an incredibly loving man that loves all living creatures. He could not hold it against Pywackit that she is a cat once she was part of his household. "Besides," he tells me, "I already love a cat and know how they are. (me) They have to choose to when and if they are loved. It is a privilege to win their trust and affection." My heart warms to this funny man with all his inconsistencies that aren't inconsistent at all to me.
Yes, now that it's warmer, the cat will spend more time in the garage and outdoors. Her curiosity will enjoy the new smells and things to pounce. But I think Pywackit is embedded in our house to stay.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Mud covered trackers

The inversion has lifted, leaving a bright blue sky against the snow covered mountains. We, who have been cooped up too long between four walls, cannot wait to feel the sunshine on our face, to smell the air, to walk on earth instead of carpet. I load the car with 5 little girls and we drive. No one complains about the drive, because the excitement is too great.
We arrive at the farm. The wonderful scent of manure fills the air. I love the smell. It smells earthy, alive, and real. We are trackers, looking for animal tracks. We leave the beaten path and walk in the overgrown brush, tiptoeing so not to disturb the outlaw roosters hiding out in the marsh. My trackers don't find much, only chicken, dog, and horse tracks, but that doesn't stop us from searching in excitement.
Ladybug, our prima dona tracker, discovers an abandoned goose egg and carries it with us in the hopes of hatching it herself at home. Everywhere, signs of new life excite us. Sheep wool is scraggly and falling off, ready to shear. Every cow is pregnant, and two little calves are fed in the barn.
The snow on the ground is mostly melted so we jump over mud puddles, and fall into some. Well, what is a pair of white lace Mary Janes to the scent of manure mixed with waking soil, the feel of the sun on your cheek, and the happy sound of children exploring? Not a thing. I sit on a bench while the little girls play in the chicken coop. I close my eyes. My fingers still tingle under my gloves, and the bite in the air causes my nose to run but I am at peace. Spring will come... it is almost here.

Our drive home is joyful. All red vehicles are evil. Pictures are taken with a click of small fingers, then my passengers duck so the x-ray vision will not find them and do untold evil. Now, we prepare for a stay-late with the two extra girls.

Nature is valuable to our well being, as are good friends. So often I forget to include friends in our outings, but I believe that it is so important to encourage friendships with good kids. It's been a good day.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Parenting Ecconomics

I learned about productivity today. Big business does not have all the answers for parenting. Nope. They don't know everything there is to know about productivity. I am grateful for and use some of their notions in parenting. Coffee breaks, limiting your output with a quitting time, and the all powerful mantra, "if you fail to plan you plan to fail have served me well. But, my children, though my business, are not business.

I plan projects, outings, crafts... enriching - teaching activities. For my input, I want the greatest return. Therefore, I try to include all my children in each and every enriching moment. After all, it is the greatest bang for my buck. So what if one LOVES what we are reading and the others leap off the furniture screaming war cries during the tear jerking climax. Six ears are better than two. Or so I thought till lately.

Little Mother and Ladybug's dad took them rock climbing at the gym. Sunshine is still a few months too young so we stayed home. My four year old spotted the bird feeder kit I had brought out the previous day in hopes that we would find time for construction. "Mom! This is the perfect time! Let's do what you said and help the birds this winter."

I dragged my feet because my effort should get a greater return than the experience of one small four year old. After some persuasion from my small companion, we began to mix cornmeal and peanut butter with which to stuff pine cones. We worked together companionably, chatting... I noticed additional confidence build in my small one as she rolled the cone in sunflower seeds.

We held hands as we crunched through the snow, taking turns holding the flashlight. We agreed on the perfect spot to hang our creation, then searched under the trees for more pine cones to make more feeders.

The birds enjoy their winter treat, but not more than Sunshine and I enjoy watching them. The uneconomical use of my effort yielded greater results in my one child than if I had spread the myself on three for the activity.
And... my effort continues to give each time we look out the window together and see a tiny bird, flapping his tiny wings to reach his treat. I get a conspiratorial hug and kiss as the feather bundle flies off. "It's just me and you Bob," she says.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Go Girl. Do Good.

Doesn't a little encouragement go a long way? Just a little thought of love, a little "you can do it?"

This morning, I rushed to get everyone ready. Sunshine had a field trip to the dentist, Ladybug school, Little Mother had her weekly appointment with Melody to do a little home school.

Today was my day, the only time in the week where I have 2 hours to myself. I planned to edit some chapters of a book, clean out the fridge, then when everyone came home I was going to tend my little friend Chloe. Then my friend Jodi and I were going to craft and craft while the kids played. I haven't planned so much fun in ages! I am so excited!

Then, Sunshine started to cry. "My head hurts Mommy." A few minutes later, Little Mother chimes in, "I'm going to throw up. I have bumps all over my body." Just as we prepare to load Ladybug, I hear a splat as her breakfast finds its way from her stomach into the sink.

Well, all MY plans are now cancelled. No time alone, no crafting, no cuddling with babies. Just sad sad kids, barf, and headaches. Is it going to be a bad day? I think on it. Nope, it is not. All things come from my Heavenly Father. "This is the day the Lord hath made. I will rejoice and be glad in it."

My eyes rest on encouragement I gave Little Mother when she didn't want to do her school work. It feels strangely for me. "I love you. My Girl. Do good." I'm feelin' the love. I can't wait to see what he has in store for me today.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Kicking Valentines

Its the small things that make the difference. Every Valentine's Day, the doorbell rings, small girls race to open it and find 3 boxes of chocolates on their doorstep. They know that in the age old tradition of kicking valentines, the giver will be hiding and they must run to find her. 70 year old Grandma is found, hugs given and joy received.

Later that night, at their dinner plate, they find the valentine's they received in the mail, from Nana and Grandpa and Aunt Marlene. They excitement as they read a note that is just for them.

Its just the little things that make memories, special moments and love.

I am a bit envious. I would like a Valentine too.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pretty as a Princess

I've always wanted a cloak. Silk or maybe velvet. Long, mysterious, elegant, magical. I wondered if my girls would have the same penchant for capes that I do. After 3 little ones went to bed on Friday, I whipped up 3 Princess cloaks for a special Valentine for my Princesses.

"Up the secret passageway!" "Do not let the king know I live here and pick these flowers kind lady." "Come with me kind sister!"

The magic words flew. Strange accents floated in from the front room. Who are those mysterious ladies? What amazing adventures are they conjuring up! It seems that the cloaks really are magic, because I had to sneak in after bedtime and untie the silk magic off little grubby bodies so they would not choke.

Hmmm. Perhaps I'll try my hand at a larger cloak. One in deep velvet. Then I can join in and not just be the old woman who picks up the flowers.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Temple Open House

Sometimes I shake. "Why are you crying Mom?" asks Little Mother. "I love the temple." I reply. I don't have an answer. Nothing is particularly touching, I don't have any particular thoughts. Its just that sometimes my insides swell, bigger and bigger till they pop out of my small frame and I shake. When Ladybug stuck her little hand in mine, not to remove it for ages, when Little Mother leaned and rubbed on me, when Sunshine didn't run once in the temple, I knew they felt it too. They silently pointed to me and tried to communicate their feelings... I am so grateful to live so close to 12 temples.

Of course, after thinking reverent thoughts and being SOOOOO good, the bus ride back to the church (parking) was wild and exciting.

Ladies Valentine's Luncheon

The hostess fretted about the house. "Is she here yet? Is she here yet?" The guest arrives. Both parties are flushed with the excitement of the occasion. Just a moment between friends to celebrate the season with a light repast.
They await their luncheon while catching up on what is new while their servant finishes preparations for their tea. Upon hearing that lunch is served, they arrive with rapidity and eat their delicacies with voracious appetites. Tongue tied over the formality of the occasion, the servant provide a needed respite by asking about the weather, one's family, and how one likes ones refreshments.
The formality thawed when one of the servants began a juggling show. With conversation flowing freely, the two ladies set their creativity to remembering others for the upcoming holiday with a bouquet of carnations. When their business was satiated, they retired to the basement to discuss their family (all with the name of Barbie) and decoration of homes created from the finest primary colored wood.

The Magic of Edward

Magic happened at our house. Edward Tulane came alive, in his Edward form and in another of his identities, Susanna.

I have memories of my mom reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder series to me before bed. Laura came alive in my room. I tasted the maple, I watched as Ma and Pa danced, I fell in love with Alonzo, I made my own dresses. I lived the stories.

I have picked several favorites, The Box Car Children, Little House on the Prairie, and the Narnia Series and tried to read them out loud. Perhaps I started too early because I felt that it was more for me than for them. Finally, I found a book that they begged to hear, during lunch, before quiet time, and at bedtime. We whizzed through The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

The mixture of a toy rabbit with beautiful clothes learning to love and the many children (and grownups) who loved the rabbit came alive for my girls like Laura, Mary, and Carrie did for me. When my girls heard that it was possible to make an Edward, they never let it go. Every day for the past two weeks, "Can we make Edward today?"

Well, this day was cold enough that I re-dried the clothing in the dryer so I would be warmed by the touch. The snow was blowing sideways, the roads were slippery enough that the car fishtailed on the way home.
The first way to improve a blustery day is to deny its existance. We made snow castles and sought shade under an umberella to keep the tropical sun from burning our skin.

Finally, with school done and gray windows, I had no more excuses. Today was the day to make Edward. Sunshine stuffed, Little Mother stitched, I sewed. Edward and Susanna emerged. They are loved even more than I hoped. Little Mother is planning to make a larger wardrobe, and Susanna is kept warm, even durring preschool.
Perhaps the children infused their socks with love as they created, perhaps the story is just that magical, but two very real rabbits are now living at our house. Blue Yonder pointed me to simple directions. May you find magic today too.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I drove carpool at 3:30, assisted with homework and quickly made zucchini soup for dinner, drove a little one to dance while dinner simmered, slurped my soup, kissed my husband hello and drove off to participate in a radio study. I offer my opinions for money several times a year, but this is the biggest yearly study.

I walk into the Sheraton a bit early and sit down. My focus group members stream in, at least one hundred of them. We are all between 34 and 44. 90% are overweight. As a group we are nondescript, blah, boring. Hair is generally stringy, overgrown, needing a fresh cut. I see highlights grown out 3 inches but more often, no highlights at all. Clothes are generally fashionless but serviceable. Here and there I see baggy sweats. The woman in front of me is wearing Simpson PJ bottoms and a Micky Mouse sweat shirt. The few exceptions are notable in the care put into their appearance. I can tell that this survey is an event "out" for them. Hair is newly curled, best clothes are worn. But I can tell by the crease and the newness that they have just been donned. The group just screams "MOMS"! Not the hip and happinin' young moms mind you, but the "our lives are full to the last drop of car pool, late nights, teen to baby" moms. Moms that desperately needed the $60 we were paid for our thoughts. Moms that snitched the extra mints lying on the tables and snuffed them in their purses.

I am one of them. This is my group. "This is a bit sad." I tell myself. "We are a sad, sad, little group."

I watch for a few more moments. All of a sudden the volume turns up. What has happened? After sitting by another woman for 3-4 minutes, the women could not stand to waste the opportunity. Far beyond feeling self conscious, women of "a certain age" turned to each other and started to talk. From behind, in front, and to the side of me I heard snippets of life tales. Talk of children, ages, returning to Jr. college, husbands, exercise and jobs filled the air. I myself bonded as I discussed handling children approaching puberty with my neighbor, when to buy a first bra and how to make an emergency kit for their first menstruation. Women who didn't know each other poured water for each other and watched each others bags during bathroom breaks. Women not chatting, were busy on their cell phones, checking on all they were responsible for.

The man introducing the study prefaced it by telling us that we were being polled because as a demographic we ruled the consumer world. More dollars and decisions about dollars went through our hands than any other group. Marketers were anxious to get our opinions. I looked around at our unprepossessing group and laughed inside. This meek group of clearly service oriented women rule the world? They obviously didn't think so. One of the first questions asked was from 1-7, how much do you agree with the statement, "I never have enough time for myself." The room erupted in laughter. Plainly the others thought that was as stupid a question as did.

2 1/2 hours later, the survey ended. We streamed out the door, connected, easy going. I heard, "so nice to meet you!" and "Good luck with that!" We all click click clicked to our cars, feet going rather fast as I knew we were all anxious to get back to ruling our world.

Dinner Celebrations

Part of my plan to slow down, and savor each day is to use moments we already have to teach, learn, build memories and relationships. One time we have every day without fail is dinner time. One of my goals this year is to create dinner time celebrations.

In order to keep with the simplicity I am seeking, I have given myself 2 rules. 1. Preparation cannot exceed 1/2 hour more than dinner normally would. 2. I cannot spend more than $5 over what I normally would for dinner. Within these rules, I am going to experiment with the dinner table 52 times. (One per week).

To give me some accountability and to share my successes and failures with those who might be interested, I am recording our experiences at and recipes at A Year of Celebration At the Dinner Table.

Chinese New Year went off pretty well, Sunshine asked if we could have another dinner like that this evening. Sorry sweetie. Just once a week.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ladybug's First Dance

Today was Ladybug's first dance. These moments kind of sneak up on a mother. She thought she was going to "a play, some type of field trip", but I read the transportation form and knew that she was going to a sister school for a Valentine's party and dance.

My stomach hurt in anticipation. What would happen to my darling girl? I have watched at Achievement Days as she completely gets pushed aside to the point of invisibility by the unknowing energetic girls her age. Would she get lost in the crowd? Would she sit alone?

Refusing to place my issues on her, I simply asked how she would like her hair. She wanted to look pretty and had a specific look in mind. Well, that I could do. I could at least ensure that she left our home feeling beautiful.

I reluctantly drove to pick her up in the afternoon, hesitant to hear how the day went when I was so powerless to change any of it. I was the last car in the line. I saw my daughter, as beautiful as she left, smiling up at me. "How was your day honey?" As usual, no answer was forthcoming. I have learned to wait. As we drove down the road strains of "Zip-A-Dee-Do-Da" reached me from the back seat. When, "My oh my what a wonderful day," was repeated, I knew we had a winner. "Oh tell me about it honey!"

"Well, I danced today. A girl taught us the coolest dance ever. It's like what dads and moms do when they're in love. I guess it was kind of gross."

"AAAAHHHH!" I thought. "What are they teaching my tiny fifth grader, the bear hug?" I remained silent and forced a smile through my voice. "Go on honey."

"I danced with three different boys. I didn't know any of them. I liked one of them. He had black hair and his clothes were black and white. We talked."

Well, that was it for the drive, though for Ladybug that was an enormous amount of information. When we arrived home, she grabbed both my hands and taught me to Left, Right, Back step. I guess this was the frightful thing that Moms and Dads do when they love each other.

Zip-A-Dee-Do-Da continued to float through my house for the rest of the evening. On several levels I am so glad I kept my mouth shut and just listened.

I am back to sixth grade, my first dance, where a few high school girls came and taught our class to left together right together, clap and turn. I wore my favorite pair of red pants that my mom sewed in the night before so they fit around my narrow waist and a plaid shirt. I felt attractive and up for the new and strange sensation of sweaty boy palms, clasping mine too tight. At the end of the hour in the gym. I felt victorious, ready for anything. That hour changed me. I felt on the brink of something new, not yet understandable or known.

Well, here we are. May she and I enjoy this marvelous adventure.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Favorite Things for 2008

1. Metromint: 0 calories, 0 sugars, 0 anything bad for you. Incredibly refreshing drink. My favorite flavors are Chocolate Mint, Cherry Mint and Spearmint. Downside: runs about $1.69 per bottle.

2. Piano Wizard: A computer program/keyboard that teaches the basics of piano and reading music with a fun video game. Cost is $200 for everything you need at piano wizard. Program has a 4 step process that by level three has you reading music. The wizard academy then switches them off a keyboard and onto a real piano. As a pianist, I believe there is no substitute for a good teacher, but this was a fantastic way to start all my kids, not to mention cost effective. I can ascertain their level of interest and give them a level of confidence as they play basic songs before ever shelling out for the lessons. For Christmas, we purchased the Guitar Wizard... to teach the basics of guitar without them knowing they are taking lessons but I don't know how that works yet. I'll let you know next year.

3. Electrasol Dish Detergent: recommended by the man who installed my dishwasher. I get it at Costco and Love it

4. Movie: Cranford a BBC production based on the book by Elisabeth Gaskell. (North & South and Wives and Daughters are pretty good too.)

5. Jewelry organization system: My friend Jeanie showed my how to use clear adjustable tackle boxes to store my jewelry. I keep them on my closet shelf and reach into each square and pull out a coordinating jewelry set, necklace, bracelet and earrings.

6. Ped Egg: I saw this on infomercials and purchased it for my husband and his HOOVES. I tried it on my soft feet and have the softest feet I've ever had. It goes without saying that I don't even recognize my husband's fee, neither does he. I purchased it for $9.99 at Walgreens.

7. Favorite Picture Books for ages 3-100: The Princess Kiss, by Jennie Bishop (about the importance of saving yourself for the right one), The True Princess, by Angela Elwell Hunt, and The Squire and the Scroll by Jennie Bishop (about the rewards of a pure heart). God's wisdom for Little Boys by Jim George (lessons on character)

9. Family Scripture Study: 1. Read Searching the Scriptures: Family Scripture Study by Gene R. cook. If that doesn't inspire you, nothing will. 2. Create a space: I use a $5 red cloth basket from Wal-Mart that sits by my breakfast table. 3. Pick a time: After trying every time and trying to get everyone home at the same time, I have surrendered to holding more than 1 study. Our main study is after breakfast just before I take everyone to school. 4. Our format: First, I pray. We alternate during other prayers, but this is my plea to my Heavenly Father for my children during the day that sets the tone and brings the spirit. Second, we sing a song... again to bring the spirit. Third, we have a quote that we repeat every morning or we go over the scripture we are memorizing at the time. "I AM a child of God and a gift to my parents. I CAN do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me. I OUGHT to be kind to others and have a teachable heart. I WILL do all things that my Heavenly Father asks. 5. KEY INGREDIENT: mini dry erase boards! These are for illustrating a story while its read, finding lists in a verse, dozens of things. They keep the children engaged. 6. Other resources are the Gospel Art Kit, Scripture Study for Latter-Day Saint Families and the story picture books for the non readers. Each child has their own CHEAP scriptures from Deseret Book Outlet for $1. This is separate from Church or other scriptures because they stay in the box and don't get lost. Each child has a set of pencils for marking (color coding different colors for faith, atonement, repentance, etc. )7. Memorization scripture goes on the fridge for the week. Those who pass it off take a trip to the prize box. (Inexpensive things I collect wherever I go, suckers, gel pens, color books etc.) 8. Each child makes a carry along B of M with Modge Podge and scrapbook paper that can go with them anywhere. I take mine and read it in the car, working out, or at the Dr.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunday Morning Sleep In

I open bleary eyes. By the slant of the dreary sun in the window it is late. Much later than I should be getting up besides, I have a lesson to prepare. I roll over for the comfort that early morning spoons gives before rising. We wonder out loud how our children have occupied themselves for the morning and even more mysterious, how were they so quiet.

After a blissful uninterrupted shower as I stand combing out my hair I hear the first chirps of my little birds. I hear by the skips and hops and sing-song voice that it must be Sunshine. "Momma, Momma" she sings. "Its breakfast time and there's blueberries in the salad. That's my idea. Come on. Come on! There's blueberries in the salad." The words excitedly tumble out over each other.

I take her small soft hand as she skip pulls my down the stairs. I round the corner, see my sweetheart already seated at an obviously Valentine themed table. "It's for Valentines," says one of the chefs. "Would you like some reading material?" I glance at Bears on Hemlock Mountain and Woman's Day placed on the table for my perusal.

Ladybug lights the candle. My order is taken. I order the daily special. It is served. My breakfast is a bowl of carrots and blueberries with Ranch dressing to dip, a salad of Romaine, carrots and blueberries, a chocolate bran muffin, tortilla chips and the crowning glory, the chef's own creation, homemade chili mixed with sour cream.

"I thought it would taste good so I mixed it." Little Mother said with the practiced air of a true chef. "We came up with it ourselves!!" chirped Ladybug.

Ladybug poured the Martinelli's Sparkling cider and cleared each dish away to keep our eating area visually appealing for us. Our two chefs kept refilling our plate and pressing more of the tasty delicacies on us. Little Mother, pleased at the success of her personal creation, made a second batch of Chili-Sour Cream for us.

At Breakfast end, my sweetheart took a golden opportunity and assisted Lady bug in creating a bill for us. Our apro ed chefs insisted on cleaning up.
What beautiful young women they are and will be. Consumed the entire morning with the joy of service, they shine as they offer what service they were able. Oh, that I would serve with as much joy.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Cheap Thrills

Quote of the day: "Oh Sunshine, you are such a great artist. Where did you learn to paint like that?" asked Melissa. "Joseph Smith." is the matter of fact reply. "I didn't know he painted."
"OOoooh yeah."

Dad and Ladybug are off having fun skiing. Funds are gone for the week. Day looks long. What to do? Kid's Club is having a FREE "thing" at the gang banger mall in town. Are we scared? No we aren't. Off we go.

We walk a 2K. We play in bouncy castles, we visit several booths and get lots of FREEBIES, including lemonade, chocolate Creamies, Hot Dog on a Bun hats, hand lotions, pencils, and pain relieving cream. We take pictures with an overgrown bee, and 6-7 assorted Star Wars characters. We learn the technical skill of balancing and throwing leather thong stick things. We listen to several small children who were given to microphone to do karaoke (boost their confidence and get the rest of us to leave the mall as quickly as possible.)

I begin the painting process. Joy of joys, I let Little Mother paint the primer over the flowers. How much mess could she make anyway? Good call. Little Mother feels proprietary over the finished job and thought she was given an extra large canvas to paint on. FREE JOY!

Little Mother had a basketball game where we got more FREE treats. The evening ended with a church activity Newlywed Game/dinner. Yes, FREE dinner and date. At bedtime my two smallest gushed, "Mom this was the best day EVER!

WOO HOO! Cheap Thrills!

Spring Cleaning

The rain today washed away enough of the snow to do a bit of spring cleaning. My "little mother" had a consequence that entailed clearing the back yard of dog feces. I looked out the window and saw a picture worthy of Tom Sawyer. "Happy" felt honored to trot after her buddy, carrying the poop bucket assisting in a very nasty job that was not her responsibility. They are so blessed to have each other.

In my part of the world, this part of the year is the longest stretch. Many of the women in my neighborhood suffer from severe depression at this moment. It may be the after Christmas letdown, the long periods of bad weather where we are all cooped inside, or maybe that many women really have traumatic happenings in their lives. I am not in this camp though I feel a bit different now.

I have a strong need to turn inward, to care for my soul, my home, and my family. The only thing that could rightly be termed a seasonal disturbance is my aversion to people at this time of year. Nothing personal, its just that so many demands on my energy feel depleting during this time of renewal for me. Just like the soil, seeds, and bulbs rest during this period and soak up energy for the time of blooming, I need to hibernate, fill, and feed.

Some projects are working great. A woman on Hair Today (see sidebar) talked about how the five minutes a day she spent on her daughters' hair was centering and bonding one on one time for them. I loved this mental picture and determined to do better in helping my children meet the day with confidence. I visited a hair bow site and started making different bows, then emptied four drawers with no organization whatsoever into a shoe holder on the bathroom door dedicated to girl hair.

Today I hope to start painting that same bathroom. After all, I've had the tape up since before Christmas.

Other projects require more tweaking. I keep a blank book where I write train of thought musings. Anything that crosses my mind that I may want to remember from church callings, to grocery lists to birthday is written. I have mused on what I want 2009 to look like. What I wish to create and how I want to be different when it is over have been the subject of much thought.

I mainly want to create peaceful space, inward and outward... I need a purposeful existence. So much of what I scurry and hurry to day in and day out leaves my feeling acted upon, choice less in the madness. I am trying to not necessarily do different things, but do them differently. That is the reason for this blog. I wanted to slow down and capture our days, to ensure that my actions were consistent with my goals.

I am still struggling with the times I am encroached upon by others and their agendas. Phone calls from those needing help never come at opportune times, Friends need a walk or a visit right when I plan inner reflection time. And let's not even get into the way sweet children have needs that cannot be scheduled or planned into order.

I thought about building a wall around myself to insulate me from the many people who want a piece of me, but I can't feel right about it. My relationships and building others bring me great joy. Being at the crossroads for others is my purpose. I have not written any great books, but a great book is being published that would not be in existence without me. I do not create any great works on my own, but I help others create great works in their lives and that is a calling I take seriously.

So, I am still mulling over the best ways to give my mind and soul the space it needs to germinate and grow. Some ideas are to limit my online time, to set a few hour space when I don't answer the phone, to insure that my private morning devotional happens before I set out to fill other's cups, to carve out even an hour a week where I can sit with myself and be with me.

Hopefully, my year will fill up with the pages of mindful activities that fill my brain book. This period of mental and physical spring cleaning will bear fruit. So, Holly, lets set that timer and get to WORK!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Valentine Cookies

Its cookie time at our house. Aprons are donned, the hungry vultures gather, circling the kitchen, waiting for a morsel of dough. Anika reads the recipe and measures. This is her homework for our fractions unit. Juliette scrapes spoons and bowls and generally waits for my back to be turned so she can snatch more tastes. Haylie is interested in the artistic part of the enterprise and she is big enough to roll out and cut the dough by herself.

Why do we do this when it is easier to do it ourselves? The end product would look so much cuter if the mom did it.
Well, Anika and Juliette are taking the heart cookie cutters and starting with small to large, are placing them over their heart and reciting how the Grinch's heart grew ten sizes that day. That sight alone is worth the mess. Then, full of confidence and joy, they report to me that Anika is the chef and Juliette is the cook. Anika tells me she is just about ready to grow up and take care of a family she knows so much about cooking. Oooh, that's a fun thought. My girls puttering about the kitchen, creating flavorful things for others, nurturing their bodies and souls. My mind is caught by the beauty of the thought.

As Haylie finishes her cookies, she makes plates of her creations and covers them with plastic wrap. I come into the kitchen and ask what she has done with the cookies. "One plate is for my ski instructor, one for maybe my other teachers and I don't know who else." Ooooh. Another fun thing about cookies. My thoughtful girls know at this tender age how to use their gifts to bless others. Anika and Juliette have already decorated a plateful for Aunty Melody and Gary Taylor. "Does Gary like sprinkles?" Anika asks. "I doubt it." I reply. "O.K. Here is one with hardly any sprinkles for Gary."

I think we'd better do this more often.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Into the Light

I hid under my bed tonight. I walked in my room, turned off the light and looked for the best hiding place I could find. The space was cramped and as I curled up in the fetal position, my hips scraped the frame and ached. I didn't care. I wanted to escape. I really hoped the floor would open up and swallow me whole. Sad moans escaped, then full fledged sobs. I lay there and daydreamed about cocooning in black fabric so no one could see me or suck me dry anymore. I listened to the voice of my sweetheart downstairs, cheerfully helping my children with the dishes and the reconstruction of the hamster cage. His voice was soothing and happy, but I also heard the voices of my torturers and knew I could not come out.

After an hour, I felt a knee in my back then a small hand as it reached over my body. It reached again... and again. "What was it doing so quietly?" I wondered. Finally I saw a fringe of blanket flip over my feet as I felt the small body behind me struggle to wedge anything over my tightly wedged body. After about 5 minutes the blanket was as covered as it was going to get. I then heard little feet traipse over to the other side of the bed and then wriggle under and over to my face. "Mom? Mom? We did the dishes and the hamster cage. What else can we do for you? Is there anything you need? My heart had been melting for the last five minutes and now it was in a pretty good state of thaw. I silently reached out and grabbed a soft padded hand and held it in my own. "Would you like to sleep on your bed now? Come on out."

At this point I am wondering what strange things my children are inferring about the world when they find their mom comatose under a bed. I finally speak. "I think I'm stuck."

"I'll get you out!" I could hear the excitement building. "Oh great I thought. I am now a humiliated family project." I heard Anika outside my room. "Rose, come help me. Mom is stuck under the bed."

"What is she doing under the bed?" Asked a very incredulous four year old. "I don't know, I guess she just wanted to go under there. But Dad and Haylie went to the store and it is up to us."

I heard soft feet pad to my backside again. Little hands coached me and massaged me onto my back and then little hands tugged and tugged till I was out in the world again. I hugged my two saviors who had brought me back to the light and brought them downstairs for chocolate Creamies.

Yep. Sometimes that's life.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Princesses and the Peas

What is wrong with these pictures?

Is it something wrong with their beds? Are they smelly, wet, cold, in a draft, lumpy, or frightening? Are they true princesses who can't sleep on the peas I have placed under their mattresses?

Perhaps the beds are wet. But all three?

Why don't my children sleep in their beds?

Russ answers me. "I know why they love to sleep on the floor. They don't like to make their beds." I realize.... truer words were never spoken. So behold- a monument to the ingenuity of laziness.