Thursday, November 5, 2015

Places I've Been And Need To Go

I was pretty excited to fill out this map of the United States and see how many states I've been to, most of them with our family.
I'd sure love to be able to fill in Alaska (cruise!) and Hawaii!


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Random Thoughts

Most of my kids are more fluent in movie quotes and song lyrics than in actual speaking. And I think it's pretty great - especially the song lyrics. Because that's my kind of language. Movie quotes, not so much. Unless the movies are from the 80's. I watched a lot of those. But you know what stinks about movies from the 80's? I remember them a lot differently than they really are. Like, when I find one and get really excited to watch it with my kids and then there is more swearing in the first 5 minutes than I remember being in the entire movie, so we have to turn it off. And then the kids say, "But I thought you said you loved that movie?" And I respond, "I was a different person in high school than I am now." Only, to tell the truth, I think there are a lot of things about me that are the same.

I still have curly hair. And it's been long enough now since I've been pregnant that my hair is becoming itself again. It's slowly graying too, but my hair is a huge part of my identity and I love it. I know that sounds kind of... I don't know. Vain? I don't mean to be vain. I just love the curly hair God gave me. I know a lot of people who have naturally curly hair who take the time to straighten it all the time. I do that every once in a while. And then my kids tell me I look weird so I wash it and POOF! I'm back to being me.

One of these years I'm going to dye my hair a subtle red and dress like Miss Frizzle. Not for Halloween. Just because. Maybe for like a month. I'm going to work on my sewing skills by crafting dresses that represent the solar system and weather patterns and nocturnal animals and ant colonies and volcanoes and such. And when people ask if I'm supposed to be Miss Frizzle I'll just look at them like, huh? I can not wait.

Have you ever eaten a persimmon? Oh my goodness. I had never even heard of them until a couple of weeks ago when Elle and I went to visit some friends and the husband was eating one. He told me he got them at a local store, so the next time I was there I bought some. They look like a tomato but they are not a tomato. They are mildly sweet and just delicious. They are my new favorite food right now. Persimmons. Who knew??

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Echo and Stars

I am excited to be a part of a partnership between our local library and my kids' elementary school library as a Book Ambassador. This just means that once a month I get to choose a book from a selection provided by the public library, read it, and then come back to the school to share my thoughts on the book with a few classes. 

Last month I chose Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan. I loved it so much. So. Much.

If you have a passion for music and a love for history being weaved into stories and a fascination with the way words can be used to pierce the soul, you will love it too. It tells the tale of a harmonica that travels over years and continents to touch and inspire the lives and intertwine the stories of three musically talented children. The book touches on the struggles of life in Nazi Germany, the loneliness of the Great Depression and the difficulties faced by a migrant farm-working family who become caretakers for the home of a family sent to a Japanese internment camp. It was like a combination of August Rush and The Book Thief, with a little bit of Newsies thrown in.
The only thing that bothered me was the tidy conclusion to each person's individual story. There were points when the reader is left hanging as to what might have happened and at the end it was kind of like the author thought the book was too long and didn't want to elaborate on where the stories were going so they all had miraculously happy endings. I also kind of felt like the fairy tale that starts and ends the story was kind of cute but not necessary. However, I will say that I thought the way the three stories intertwine at the end was heartwarming and beautiful.

I also recently acquired The Fault In Our Stars while visiting a local Little Free Library. I just finished it yesterday.
I have heard nothing but great reviews of this book so I was excited to dig in. And yes, it was beautifully written in parts. In fact, I have fallen in love with the following passage (along with a few others):
“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” 
Every book-lover can relate, right?
There were a few other moments in the book where I felt as if the author was peeking into my brain and putting my thoughts into words. I loved those parts. The love story between Hazel and Augustus was very sweet and perfect by most people's standards. However, I really didn't love this book. There was way too much swearing and the whole love story was kind of Twilight-esque to me. I'm sorry if you loved this book and you hate my review. But that's how I felt about it. It's also the kind of story that builds up a young woman's hope that a guy like Augustus exists and will say all the perfect words and do all the perfect things and have all the perfect feelings. I'm not a fan of those kind of stories.  
So, how about you? What books have you read lately that you love?

Monday, November 2, 2015

Pictures With My People

I have thought long and hard about what I would want if I could have any gift available. (It came up as a question at some point a long time ago and I haven't stopped considering it.) I have finally figured it out, and I'm feeling confident about this answer. I would like a large collection of photos of me with my friends and family. And what I mean by this is that I would like to have someone follow me around and take pictures of me with each of the people that I love.  Not just pictures of them. I want to be in the pictures with them. I love taking pictures but I'm so often behind the camera. I want to be in front of it, along with the people who have been a part of my life's story.

Some people are uncomfortable with the idea of telling others that they love them. Some say that "love" is overused and overstated. I've gotten to the point where I disagree. Love is the key to everything. And when I say that I want pictures with the people that I love I don't just mean my immediate family. I don't just mean my neighborhood family. I mean ALL of the people that I LOVE in my life. And that probably includes you, if you're reading this. Because I bet I love you, even if you don't know it.

I need to start carrying my camera with me everywhere I go so I can get started with this plan. I would guess it has been at least 5 years that the idea has been swirling around in my brain and the more I think about it, the more I love it.

I would love to make it a point to travel around, just to get these pictures, which I know would be such a treasured gift. And then I have thought about starting a blog that is just for posting these pictures and writing about why I love each person, what I respect and admire in them. I think I would call it "Pictures With My People". But that's not set in stone yet.

To complete the vision of what I want to accomplish here I would have to travel all over my state. I'd start in my own city then travel everywhere from Cedar City and Vernal to Layton and Blanding and then some. I would need to travel all over the United States. I would need at least a month in California, a trip to Montana and Boston and Texas and Nevada and Iowa and New Mexico and beyond. I would need to get a passport so I could get to Italy to meet Stephanie and Canada to meet Jerri and Shanghai to meet Heather, all of whom I have never met in person but feel connected to.

The enormity of this plan is what has stopped me from making it happen. But the more I think about it, the more passionate I feel about it. So maybe, little by little, I can make this happen.

Somehow, writing this all out, it feels so much more real. And bit by bit, so much more possible.

So if I run into you somewhere and I happen to have my camera with me and ask for a picture together, please just smile and say yes. And know that my asking means that you are loved. And that you will be helping me make a dream come true.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Being Thankful

So, it's already November 1st. And I really, really wanted to write every day this month for NaBloWriMo. (Is that even in November?) And also to take time to think about what I'm thankful for and how blessed I am. Without getting into too much detail, I had a less-than-stellar day this morning and I kind of just wanted to come home from church and feel sorry for myself. I was going to lock myself in my room and read for a while but decided I should first throw the clothes in the dryer since they've been sitting in the washer since yesterday.

I do not know how to describe the feeling of opening the washer to find that every item of clothing is covered in some unknown substance, then realizing that the unknown substance is the insides of a bedtime diaper that someone must have accidentally thrown into the laundry basket. I just closed the washer and walked away. I. Just. Can't.

I decided to make a list of all the good things in my life. OK, 10 things. That is do-able. I need to get out of this slump.

1. Despite the swollen diaper mush all over my latest load of clothes, I do have a washing machine. And it works great.

2. I have a dryer, too.

3. Everyone in my family is healthy right now.

4. I have a stove and oven that allow me to cook food inside my house.

5. I have water that almost magically comes to the sinks and showers and spigots all around my house. We can use as much of it as we need.

6. The weather has stayed warm enough for us to still be eating garden fresh tomatoes every day.

7. We have a family pet that requires no maintenance. His name is Bob. I am hoping that Bob will tide the kids over for EVER and we will never need to get an actual animal that requires care.
(Meet Bob.)

8. I have a refrigerator to keep my food cold.

9. I know how to sew. I can make some pretty cool things with my sewing machine, like the costumes I whipped up for the kids this year. I can also fix things that need mending.

10. I have two functional hands, which can remove the disgusting load of laundry from my washer and into a laundry basket. I have two functional legs, which can carry the basket full of clothes outside. I have two functional arms, which can shake the swollen diaper pellets off of the disgusting clothes. And then, when I need to wash the clothes again, I can go back to number 1.

I'm off to work on Number Ten.

UPDATE: I didn't go work on Number Ten. Instead I ate a bunch of chocolate from my kids' Halloween stashes. Then tonight, as we were all getting together for prayers, Elle brought a laundry basket full of clean clothes into my room. "Are those the clothes that were in the washer?" I asked, worried. Yes, She had read my post and shook all the grossness off of the clothes for me. Then vacuumed and cleaned out the washer. Tonight, I have a favorite child.

11. My kids are awesome.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween 2015

This year's Halloween costumes started off with All-a-Boy getting asked to the Halloween dance. He and his date decided to dress up as Peter Pan and Wendy. I didn't want to have to make too many costumes this year so I decided we would just rent him one from a local theater or costume company. The day before the dance we went to three different places to try on costumes and guess what? None of them worked. One was much too large, one had women's tights as the "pants" and a zigzag stitch across the chest to repair a tear, and the other was too much money for not much of a costume. So I headed to the thrift store and found some brown pants and a large green t-shirt. Then I got some felt to make a hat. A few hours later and: voilĂ ! Peter Pan.  

Every year for the last few years Princess has asked if she can be a trash can or a sleeping bag. I keep telling her that those are inanimate objects, not necessarily costumes, and she has found other things to be. This year, she said she wanted to be a kangaroo. Two days later Amazon delivered this cute and comfy costume...

Curly wanted to be Hermione Granger. She's so cute I can hardly stand it.

Cowgirl always knows waaaay ahead of time who she wants to be for Halloween. This year it was Darla from Finding Nemo. It came together really well! The hardest part was finding the logo for her sweater and making her headgear.   

Hubba chose to be a Jedi again, which I was thrilled about since I made this costume a few years ago and it still fits him.

And Little O wore Hubba's Fix It Felix costume from last year. 

Then there's this little yay-hoo. He looked through the costume box and found parts of a lion costume and parts of a fireman costume. He says he's a "firefighter lion-tiger because it's not a lion because it has no mane". Perfect.

I'm not sure I can even begin to tell you how much I love these two and their costume choice. I was so glad they stopped by to say hello yesterday! Seriously, have you ever seen a cuter couples costume? They are practically perfect in every way. The cutest Bert and Mary Poppins I have ever seen.

Elle was invited to a Halloween party the day of and needed to figure out a quick costume. This is why I keep everything. Since she already had the perfect spectacles for the job, she pulled off the Waldo costume effortlessly.  

Allen had his black afro from last year so I found him a plaid suit coat and some polyester pants from a couple of my favorite thrift stores and he was a believable 70's guy. But I didn't get a picture, dang it. Sorry.

This was one of the first years that I didn't really dress up. It was kind of sad, to tell you the truth. But I was so busy getting the kids costumes together that by the time we left for our neighborhood Halloween party it was all I could do to grab a pair of prop glasses and a bag of books and tell everyone I was a librarian. I don't wear glasses normally, but apparently nobody thought anything of it. I'll come back in a big way next year.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Great Pumpkins

Last year Little O's first grade teacher gave each of the students in his class a little baggie with 4 pumpkin seeds inside. He brought it home and begged me for weeks to let him plant them. I kept thinking I would be using all of the available space in our back yard for gardening but as the weeks passed I realized that the garden, unfortunately, was going to be a lot smaller than originally planned.

Much to O's delight, I let him plant his seeds. All by himself. And now he is the proud owner of his own little pumpkin patch which produced 11 potential jack-o-lanterns and one smiling boy. (One pumpkin is still dark green and ripening on the vine as we speak.)

All-a-Boy was asked to the school Halloween dance and asked if he could have one of O's pumpkins to use in answering his date. Little O did not hesitate to say yes. And when I asked if we could use a few to decorate Z Library for Halloween he chose his favorites and shared them with me.

He is such a generous boy with a tender and giving heart. We love him to all of infinity.    

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Quick Quips: Road Trip Version

Some things my kids said on our drive to Minnesota this summer:

Little X: Those clouds looks like they catched on FIRE!

Hubba: The sky looks like an ocean out here. I'm totally serious. Look at it. It's like an ocean in the sky. Like a floating ocean. I'm serious! Is everyone seeing this?

Little X: I wish there is never ending tunnels in the earth so our car can go places a lot faster!

Little O: Those are the biggest pointy mountains I have ever saw.

Little X: (in North Dakota) Whoa! That is a LOT of grass!

Little X: (as we're trying to complete an animal scavenger hunt in Yellowstone) Hey! I sawed a deer!
Everyone: Really? Where?
Little X: On that sign back there!
*1 minute later*
Little X: Hey! I sawed a bear!
Everyone: You did? Where?
Little X: On this paper they gaved us! I WIN!

In one of the hotels we stopped at we watched the last 40 minutes or so of the movie Rudy. Curly sees the closing credits and the following conversation ensues.
Curly: His name is Rudy? That's a funny name for a boy. 
Me: You just now realized his name was Rudy? It's the name of the movie! What did you think they were all chanting in the stadium at the end?
Curly: I thought they were saying, "Fruity! Fruity!"
Me: That doesn't even make any sense.
Little X: I thought they were saying, "Little X! Little X!"

Thursday, September 3, 2015

So Much Change, So Little Time

I think I have mentioned before that I am not a fan of big changes. It's hard, because a lot of changes we've had this year are really, really great things that are happening in my family. But between July 23rd and September 23rd there have been/will be a series of huge changes, the kind that take my emotions all over the place. It's like life's roller coaster is traveling at top speed through a constant series of loop-de-loops without giving me a chance to recover from one before I'm riding into another.

In the beginning of July Allen (the elder) was asked to serve as bishop of our church congregation.

As his wife I can say that this is something he is perfect for. It's weird to say that, because it's not something anyone asks to do or really, even wants to do, but in my eyes he is a great bishop because he has such a natural ability to serve and love our neighbors and friends. He is overwhelmed at times, I think, and that is hard to watch as someone who loves him so much. People often ask me how I'm doing with his new calling and I tell them all the same thing - it's simple for me. I love this man beyond description and it is easy to support him in whatever he does. He is amazing. The difficult part for me is that I will soon be released from my assignment of working with the young women of our local church stake. Man, do I love being around the young women. Most especially at camp. Camp is my refuge, my annual week long vacation in the mountains with the girls. When I hear of people who aren't excited to attend young women's camp I just don't get it. For me it is a piece of heaven. Not perfect by any means, but perfect for me. I can't explain it. If you have been to a young women's camp and love it like I do then you will understand. Anyway, there's that. It's hard. It makes me emotional so I try not to think about it. But I'm excited to see where I'll get to serve next.

In the end of July my oldest daughter Elle returned home after serving a mission for our church for 18 months in Louisiana.

Man, was it great to get her home! We missed her so much, and seeing how her experiences there have shaped her into an even more fantastic human being (we didn't think that was possible) made it all worth it. We were at a family reunion in Minnesota so she got permission to fly in to the airport there and join us for the last day of the reunion. We then made the long road trip home as a complete family again, something we had not been able to enjoy for 3 years (since our oldest son Allen's mission overlapped with Elle's).
Now that she's home she's living normal life again, which means working, dating, and going back to school. And I'm not oblivious to the fact that I better enjoy this time while I have it, because life is going to happen really fast and before I know it she'll probably be off changing the world in her own way, just like we want her to do.
On August 22nd Allen and I celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary at our son Allen the Younger's wedding in Mesa, Arizona.

He and Kia are so well matched. We love Kia like we love each of our children. She is beautiful and smart and funny and talented and kind and helpful and a blast to be around. I love that Allen T.Y. picked someone who is such a perfect fit in our family. And her family is complete awesomesauce, too. How often does that happen? Man, are we ever blessed. As I was looking through hundreds of pictures of Allen T.Y.'s life and choosing which ones to include in a slideshow for their reception, I was brought to tears more than once. Because when in the world did my sweet baby boy grow from this:   
to this?:
And then I had to choose a song for a mother and son dance at the reception. I thought of many songs that had words that expressed my feelings and emotions but once again, I was tearing up as I listened to them and read the lyrics. "You'll Be in My Heart" by Phil Collins? "My Wish" by Rascal Flats? Perfect choices. But I couldn't do it. I didn't want to be crying out on the dance floor. I wanted to be smiling and laughing, because that's kind of how Allen TY and I are. So instead, after much searching for the perfect song, we danced to "A Biologist's Mother's Day Song".  

So what's next? Julia's leaving, that's what. She leaves at the end of September for her 18 month mission for our church. She is going to New England (5 states!) and she's going to be awesome.  But when I think of going 18 months with our only contact being weekly emails and 2 phone calls a year... wait for it... I get a teensy bit emotional.

Not because I'm sad that she's going. The truth is, I am SO PROUD of this young woman! And I know she will have life-changing experiences that will affect her and the people she serves with in such fantastically good ways. I'm just going to miss her, that's all.

So yeah, change is hard. Especially so much of it at once.

But also? It is awesome.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Conversation On Running


O: Can I run for miles tomorrow?

Me: What do you mean?

O: I want to run like, lots of miles.

Allen: Like, 50 miles?

O: Or 60.

Allen: So, just running all day tomorrow?

O: Sure. I can just wake up then run all day until it's night.

Me: What about school?

O: Can I skip it tomorrow?

Allen: I'll tell you what. We can get up really early and I'll run with you until you get tired.

O: So, all day? So I CAN skip school?

Allen: We'll see how much you want to run.

O: So, can we pack lunches and stuff and take them with us?

Me: You could probably swing by the house and take a little break at lunch time.

O: And then we can go run again?

Allen: If you're up for it.

O: So, does running mean running straight?

Me: Nope, you have to do cartwheels and somersaults while you run.

O: Okay.

Allen: And you can go up hills and around corners and back and forth and stuff.

O: Okay. What time will we leave?

Allen: Bright and early.

O: Okay.

UPDATED: The next morning Little O came upstairs with a piece of elastic on his head, like so:

because "This is what running people look like, right?" He was ready to run 100 miles (he upped his goal). Allen rode his bike beside him as he ran continuously for a solid 30 minutes. Then he came home, changed clothes, and went to school.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Everyone Is Awesome


I was having one of my typical trains of thought this morning. 'Typical' meaning that one random thought leads to another and then I'm thinking about something completely irrelevant and strange for the moment. It kind of went like this...

I need to make a call to get some things taken care of for the wedding luncheon in a couple of weeks.

I need to look again at the list of people coming to the wedding luncheon.

I need to find out for sure if Allen's brother and his wife are coming to the wedding.

One of my best friends from high school and her mom are flying in for the wedding.

I wonder how my friend's mom's health has been.

Her dad has bad health, too. I wonder how he's doing.

He has always been kind of a tough guy to live with. Well, not just kind of. He can be frustrating and even absolutely infuriating. But when he dies I will definitely want to go to his funeral.

(That last thought brought tears to my eyes.)

What is it about him that makes me emotional when I think of his eventual death?

What kind things would I say about him if I had to speak at his funeral? 

I would say that, on the surface, he can be pretty rough around the edges. But man, can he cook! And I always love being fed by him. He loves to cook and he loves to see people enjoying his food. Food is kind of his quiet love language and he speaks it well. He has always made me feel welcome in his home. He was even ok with me living there for a while. He is a lot of fun to play games with. Usually he wants to play card games, which I'm terrible at, but when we'd play Win, Lose or Draw or Pictionary... oh, man, I don't think I've ever laughed so hard! He loves his kids and is proud of the good things they accomplish. He can be generous and even kind and thoughtful, I've experienced all of these things myself. He can be quite intimidating, but when you get to know him he's really just a big teddy bear.

And once again I was reminded that there is good in everyone, despite what is seen on the surface.

You can find the awesomeness in everyone if you look for it.

Let's be good to each other.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Power of Words

In the last couple of weeks I have noticed quite a bit of graffiti showing up around our neighborhood. But nothing bothered me more than the offensive word spray painted on the overpass near our home. Every time I drove past I would see it and wonder when it would be painted over so I wouldn't have to see it any longer.

Today I was at the Dollar Store and saw some motivational posters and duct tape. I called the city to make sure it was OK to cover up the foul language with some more positive words and they gave me the thumbs up.

I kind of love the new look.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Random Thoughts

It's LESS THAN ONE MONTH before I get to see this smile in person again!

Every time I hear the opening for Ice Ice Baby on the radio I get super excited to sing along and it's always actually Under Pressure instead. That song is such a cruel trick. So I turn off the radio and just bust out Ice Ice Baby acapella. Take that, new-fangled mashup!

Lines of songs that move me every time I hear them:

-The players tried to take the field/The marching band refused to yield

-Something has changed within me/Something is not the same

-Scarce to be counted/Filling the darkness/With order and light/You are the sentinels/Silent and sure

-You say you'll give me eyes in a moon of blindness/A river in a time of dryness/A harbor in the tempest

-His hands/Tools of creation/Stronger than nations/Power without end. And yet through them/We find our truest friend

-Eviscerate your memory...I look at her and I see the beauty of the light of music

-An angel come to save me/Who didn't even know she gave me/Something to believe in

I don't know how to put into words what a good song can do for me when sung at full volume! Music is like therapy. When I feel like a connection is loose somewhere inside of me that needs to be fixed,  music is a means of repair. Music feels like breathing when life's held me underwater for too long. When I sing a song that's right in my range with words that flow together like poetry, expressing my thoughts in a way that words alone never can, it's like I've come up for a breath of fresh air. Pretty cheesy, I know. But man, does music soothe my soul.

I subscribe to emails from a store called Anthropologie, which sells clothes that I love. Long, flowy dresses in beautiful patterns and shades and blouses with lace details and floral pajama pants andandand. The likelihood that I will ever actually purchase something from there is slim to none because I can't justify paying $498 for a dress or $188 for a blouse and feel good about that, despite how gorgeous they are. But somehow seeing FREE SHIPPING in the subject line of an email from their store triggers some kind of happiness endorphin for a millisecond and I'll think, "Maybe there's something in the sale section I could afford! And the shipping is free!" But then I go look and no, the only thing I could afford in the sale section are dish towels that cost $19.95 a piece. I can't wear those.

I obviously need to go through and cancel some of my email subscriptions.

One day this week during dinner, Little X did something that made Julia laugh. She inhaled some rice as she started to laugh and then suddenly she was struggling to breathe. Time sort of froze as she spit out her food but was still choking. She ran to the sink, struggling for breath that wasn't coming. Somewhere in all of this my mom instincts took over and the next thing I know, I'm doing the Heimlich on her. Repeatedly, as she's trying to breathe. And then finally, I see a grain of rice come flying out of her mouth and I hear her suck in some air and the world starts turning again. I didn't realize how scared out of my mind I was until the moment passed.

Man, am I ever thankful for all those years of first aid training for Young Women's camp!

Also, I miss Young Women's camp. I am going through withdrawals. (I will write my annual camp post soon. Promise.)

Whenever Allen is out of town, the kids all sleep in my room. They climb into bed with me and pull out mattresses on my floor and I sleep better knowing they are all close to me and I can hear them breathing. And talking in their sleep (5 out of 6 kids that slept with me talked in their sleep), and grinding their teeth and... I actually kind of love it.

5 little monkeys sleeping in my bed... one rolled sideways and kicked me in the head, one kept me up with all the talking in his sleep ("This spaceman is mine", "Where the heck am I?", "I have FOUR!"), one wouldn't stay under the sheets, one kept asking for me to sing a song, one was grinding his teeth all night long.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Another Z Library!

A few months ago my friend Brenda asked me if I would like to have a second little branch of Z Library in Kenya. How could I say no to such a thing?! I went through all of the books we had on hand for Z Library and went and purchased some from local thrift stores as well. I asked for donations and had a few friends donate an impressive number of books. Brenda had some friends who donated books as well. Brenda traveled to Kenya earlier this month, along with a group of youth (with an organization called YouthLinc) and they brought the library with them in their luggage.
When Brenda sent me these pictures of Z Library all set up at Kathwana primary school I just straight-up cried. This makes me so, so happy.