Saturday, December 26, 2009


Last Sunday was a little worse than what is typical. Allen had some meetings that prevented him from attending our meetings with us so I was left alone to wrangle the youngest kids.

About 10 minutes into the meeting Little O started his squirming which then became whining which developed into full-fledged You-Better-Get-Me-Out-Of-Here-NOW-Or-The-Whole-Congregation's-Gonna-Be-Sorry.

I grabbed Little O in one arm, the diaper bag and bottle in the other, and headed for the foyer. When I got there I realized that Hubba and Curly had followed me out as well. Curly wanted me to help her color a picture. Hubba wanted to pretend he was a train headed into a volcano that was ready to shoot hot lava UP TO THE SKY! Little O wanted to run. I wanted to die.

I looked back into the chapel to get some reinforcements (aka The Teenagers) but realized that they were all heading up to the front to participate in a Christmas musical number. All-a-Boy sat on the edge of the bench, reading something, while Princess and Cowgirl tried desperately to annoy each other. I let out an exasperated sigh. What could I do from the foyer with a wiggly, screaming little boy?

I was lucky to have a friend who was happy to have Curly sit with her. This left me with the two rowdy boys and a whole hour yet to keep them un-rowdy. Hubba kept trying to jerk away from my grip and get closer to the gym where he wanted to run for the remainder of the meeting while Little O bashed his head back against my face and chest hoping I would let him down. I was trying not to cry as I stood there feeling helpless and I offered a silent prayer in my head.

Please, Heavenly Father, I pleaded, I am trying to do what's right. I want my kids to know that church is the right place to be today. I don't want to let them run around but I don't know what to do. Please, help me to make it through this meeting without breaking down. Help me to do what is right. Help me not to cry in front of people.

I stood for a few moments longer, wrestling with my boys, and just when I was nearing a point beyond frustration, help came.

I like to think that my Heavenly Father has a sense of humor, because the help I sought came in the most unexpected and unlikely way...

It was a cat.

She came out of nowhere and started pawing at the doors to the church, meowing and jumping about. Hubba noticed her first and dragged me to the doors. "Awww, mom, that cay-at is so cold outside and it is so warm in he-yer. She just wants to come get warm for a minute. Can't we let her in? She just wants to he-yer the people singing..." After I explained that cats do not come inside churches he and Little O were content to stand near the door and just watch her.

She would strut from one end of the doors to the other, occasionally stopping to stretch or roll or pounce at a stray leaf and they were mesmerized.

That cat silently entertained my boys for the rest of the meeting. Then just as the congregation began to sing the closing song, she turned and left.

Some may say it is a coincidence that the cat showed up when she did, but I see things differently. Coincidence or not, that cat was an answer to my prayer. It was evidence to me that my prayers are heard and that my Heavenly Father will not leave me alone when I am frustrated and upset and at my wit's end.

Yes, a cat, of all things, was evidence of my Savior's love for and understanding of me.

And I was so very thankful.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Let It Snow

Early last week my scissors came up missing. In our home this means one of two things...

1. I misplaced them.
2. They are in one of the kids' rooms.

It is usually #2.

I made my usual rounds and asked each child if they knew where my scissors were and I was having no luck. I got to the final room, my oldest boy's little alcove in the basement, and opened his door. I found my scissors - and a winter wonderland.

What 16-year-old boy does this? Mine, apparently. And it's awesome.

Are you dreaming of a white Christmas?

All you need is an imagination and a pair of scissors.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Cheer

As a general rule, last minute Christmas shopping = misery.

Except for one small moment on Saturday.

We have a tradition of letting the kids buy gifts for each others' stockings so Allen and I each took a portion of the kids shopping. I had Coolister, Thumbelina, Princess, Hubba and Little O with me as we looked for fun items to stuff stockings with. At each store Coolister would hoist Little O up on his shoulders and my little trail of duckilings would follow me in.

When we came to a bookstore a gentleman and his wife held the doors open for us - me at the front and Coolister with Little O at the back of our entourage. As Coolister thanked him for holding the door the man responded, "My pleasure. You two have a good-looking family!"

Coolister looked to me, rolled his eyes, and thanked the guy... even though I know that he was probably disgusted that someone would think he was married to his mom.

It's the little things like this that make my holidays awesome.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


photo from
I am not a fan of cats.

Don't get me wrong. If you are a cat-lover, we can all still be friends. I have no problem with others' pet preferences, but to me cats seem to have an air of arrogance that I just cannot tolerate. They laze about doing what they want, when they want and seem to enjoy napping more than anything.

Today I was surrounded by chaos. I was ready to pull my hair out. My second batch of dough for holiday cookies was mixing, my clothes dryer had broken and my kids were into everything imaginable. I put the dough into the refrigerator, draped sheets and blankets over doors to finish drying and got down on the floor to pick up the Legos that were strewn from here to infinity.

As I sat there on the floor, my foot became warm. I looked and realized that it was caught in a sunny patch of carpet and I moved my entire self into the sun's pathway, allowing it to warm my legs, my arms, my face. Oh, heaven, did it feel wonderful.

I woke up awhile later to the sound of my telephone. I had fallen asleep? In the middle of the floor? I had let the sun overtake me and dozed as it warmed and energized me. That was when it hit me... how much like a cat I was just then, lazing about in the sun's rays right in the middle of a mess of Legos and the incessant chatter of toddlers vying for a turn on the computer.

Right then, it was like nothing else was important. That little siesta was all about me. I felt a bit... what's the word? Arrogant? And I liked it.

I suppose it just goes to show you that even with our differences we can learn to appreciate the things we share in common with those we don't like much.

As much as I hate to admit it, I loved my afternoon catnap, basking in that little spot of sunshine as the chaos continued all around me.

But I'll still never own a cat.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Golden Rule

Today's Sunday School lesson was all about the golden rule and making good choices. After an extensive message on doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, I gave the kids examples of situations they could be faced with and then asked what would be the right thing to do.

I asked Super C what he would do if he found a wallet full of money on the street near his house.

"Give the money to someone who needs money?" he asked.

"Well, that would be very nice for someone who needs money, but you could maybe look inside and see who it belongs to..."

"And buy them some gum?" he asked.

"Well, no..." I started to answer, but then he excitedly answered,

"Oh, I know! So the people who need money that you gaved the money to can tell them thank you!"

Close enough.

Next I asked Hubba what he would do if he was playing baseball in someone's yard and broke a neighbor's window. His response was immediate.


"No," I told him, "you don't run. They would probably see you running off anyway and then you'd be in even more trouble. What would be the right thing to do?"


*sigh* Sometimes I wonder if I am actually teaching these kids anything.

But this much is true; they certainly know how to make me laugh.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Season's Readings

Every year at Christmas our family likes to read a holiday story together. These are my two favorites and I often recommend them to others whether it is the holiday season or not.

Let me tell you why.

Christmas Jars is the story of Hope, a reporter who is grieving the recent loss of her adoptive mother when her apartment is robbed. Soon after someone leaves a small jar full of money anonymously on her doorstep. Eager to learn the source of this unexpected generosity, Hope uses her skills as an investigative journalist to find other recipients of 'Christmas jars'. Her search eventually leads her to the family who first began the tradition of saving a year's worth of spare change to give to someone in need at the holiday... but that's all I'm going to tell you.

It is a wonderful story which teaches the power which lies in giving of yourself... and may inspire a new Christmas tradition for you.

A Return to Christmas is a heartwarming Christmas story which follows the lives of two young boys living in different worlds; Artemus and Chess. I don't want to give away too much of what happens, but through a simple twist of fate these boys are thrown into unexpected circumstances which teach them both much of who they really are. It is a story of Christmas miracles and family ties and enduring love. This book is written by Chris Heimerdinger, who is one of my favorite authors because of his ability to write in such a way that his stories are brought to life.

Both books are great to read aloud with your family or all by yourself, wrapped in your favorite quilt with something chocolate nearby.

Celebrate the season with a little bit of readin'!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Where Are You, Christmas?

I was at the end of my rope.

I finally had all of the Christmas decorations ready to be set out, the festive music of the season playing and the tree purchased and waiting to be wrapped with strings of colorful lights. I plugged in the lights for their annual test-run and sighed. Only one strand was working.

Two of my youngest kids were rummaging through the box full of ornaments which sat beside me on the floor. "Careful, guys!" I warned. "Lots of those can break." They moved to the piano to admire the nativity.

I sat, cross-legged on the floor next to the tree for nearly 2 hours, painstakingly removing and replacing each light in an attempt to find and repair the one bulb which was preventing the others from glowing. As I did so I reflected on the lack of Christmas spirit I was experiencing this year. Where are you, Christmas? I wondered. The beginning verses to this song seemed to play over and over in my head and I found myself growing more melancholy as I worked. I had 3 colors working on one strand and 4 on the other but the dead bulbs detracted from what I wanted to accomplish. Again, a sigh. After 17 years it was time to purchase new lights for the tree.

I stood to stretch my cramped legs and noticed that the nativity scene had been rearranged into a small cluster on the piano. I placed each piece back into its proper position and went to the kitchen to set up Santa's Village. When I was finished I collected the now useless lights in a grocery sack and placed them near the door. I went to grab my purse and noticed the nativity, once again, all pushed into a corner. I knew this was the doing of my 5-year-old boy, Hubba, as I had seen him push the nativity together numerous times already. As I rearranged the pieces I wondered if this was all worth it; setting everything up only to have it moved around so that I would need to organize it all over again and again and again. "Hey, everyone!" I announced as I left to purchase new lights. "I'm leaving! Keep the little kids away from the piano, please!"

I ventured out onto the snowy roads, found the lights as well as a few Christmas gifts I needed, waited in a long line to make my purchase and then headed back home. As soon as I walked through the front door I noticed the nativity again, all crowded together. Again I moved each piece where I wanted them to be. I noticed Hubba peeking at me from around the corner.

"Hubba!" I scolded, exasperated. "I asked you to leave these alone. Why do you keep messing them up?"

"They're not messy, mom. They like being in a circle."

Frustrated, I turned to look him in the eye. "They do NOT like being in a circle. The wise men want to stand over here, the shepherd and his sheep want to be over there, and the angel wants to stay right here," I told him.

"But I thought they all camed to see Jesus," he said to me. "It's Jesus' birfday, and they want to see him. I was just helping them see him more better. 'Cause that's Chris-mis, right mom?"

And that's where I found Christmas. Right there on my piano, in the middle of a cluster of nativity figures. The reason we celebrate and decorate and give gifts and sing carols and promote peace on earth, good will to men all December long. I just needed Hubba to rearrange the nativity - and my way of thinking - so I could see things more clearly.

Yes, Hubba, that is Christmas. Thanks for helping me remember.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Letter 2009

I finally got around to writing our family Christmas letter. I try to make it fun every year - a bit more than the typical "our family is awesome" (although, we ARE awesome, make no mistake about that!). Parts of this poem may not rhyme or fit well because I had to switch out the kids' real names for their blog names. But either way, you're all on my Christmas card list, so here you go. Enjoy! And happy holidays everyone.

p.s. If you would like an actual hard-copy of the picture and poem, I'd love to send you one. Really. All of you. Even if it's just so that you can have more Christmas photos on your fridge than your roommate or neighbor. I'm all about competition. Just tell me so in the comments or send me an email at gerbdonna at gmail dot com.

This year was exciting, fantastic and fun!

Let me tell you some of the great things we have done.

Allen & Coolister came back, all ranting and raving

From scout trips with rafting and camping and caving,

And biking and hiking and canyoneering, too.

There is nothing that these two scouters can’t do!

The oldest 3 kids are involved in all sorts

Of reading and writing and singing and sports.

Cross country was great for Coolister(16) and ElemenoB(15)

And basketball’s in the equation as well.

Thumbelina’s(13) in “Annie” and an all-girl choir,

All-a-Boy’s(10) a Webelo who loves a good fire,

He, Thumbelina and Cowgirl are writers of prose

They always impress us with what they compose.

Cowgirl(8) was baptized because she turned 8,

She, All-a-Boy and Princess think choir is great!

Princess(6) loves the first grade and lunchtime at school

She always says ‘awesome’, thinks reading is cool.

Hubba(5) loves trains, dirt and video games,

(And he thinks that Hubba is really his name).

Curly(3) enjoys singing and drawing with colors.

She loves to drink milk and play with her brothers.

Can you believe our happy Little O turned one?

He thinks that destroying and biting are fun.

But we’re always a sucker for when he will come

And snuggle up to us while sucking his thumb.

Allen’s year (in numbers) has been mighty fine.

He’s been alive for 40 and at his current job for 9.

Want to know what’s happening with me; Gerb, the mom?

Go visit

For you in our lives, we count ourselves blessed.

We wish you all peace, love and much happiness!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's Finally Here

This morning we looked out the window and saw this:

Which resulted in Princess' prayer this morning:

Heavenly Father,

We thank thee for finally covering everything with so much snow 'cuz it sure is sweet to look at! We know we can't play in it yet because we are good kids who hafta go to church in this morning but when we do get to play in it later we'll be thankful all over again.

We're thankful for the food we get to eat for breaftist because we can eat it while seeing all that sweet snow outside! And right now when we woked up it was still snowing so thanks for letting us really see the snow fall and make even more snow stick on the earth, too. It's pretty awesome.

I want to ask thee to bless lots of things but I can't remember them because I'm too excited about the snow. But bless all those things. You know what they are.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Friday, December 4, 2009

$20? $20! Do I Hear $25...

I'm not sure how many of you have heard the story of the recent tragedy at the Nutty Putty Caves here in Utah. I'm not sure why it has affected me so much or why I can not stop thinking about what happened. We do not know John Jones or any of his family. Perhaps it was because Coolister had just been to the cave the week before and returned, along with his scout crew, with stories of excitement and adventure. Maybe it is because Allen and I were following the story online as soon as we discovered that someone was stuck in the cave.

We went to bed the night before thinking that the morning would bring news of a rescue and were shocked to learn that he had died. It weighed on me for the following few days and still makes my heart heavy to think about what happened and how this unexpected turn of events is affecting his family - specifically his young daughter and his wife who is expecting their second child next year.

It is one of those times when I really wish there was something I could do to help, but feel completely helpless... until yesterday.

My friend Rebecca posted on her blog about an online auction being held to raise funds for John Jones' widow and children. This is how I can help. And I wanted to pass the word along.

Just visit the online auction here, find something you want for yourself or maybe as a Christmas gift for someone else, and place a bid. New items will be posted until December 7th, so you can shop all week, all the while helping someone in need.

It's a win-win situation. So click over there and buy some stuff!

By the way, the warm fuzzies you'll get are free.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Girl's Basketball

ElemenoB made it onto the freshman team at her high school and today was their first game. I went to watch, somewhat excited to get a feel for what to expect this season.

It was not pretty.

First, let me say that the girls on ElemenoB's team seemed to be playing well and having fun. The coaches were encouraging and happy. To me, that's what sports should be all about.

The other team, as well as their spectators and coaches, were not so... what is the word? Courteous? Sportsman-like? Those don't quite work. Let me put it this way: the coaches loved to scream at the girls on their team, specifically the ones who were playing well. Especially pink-sweater-lady coach, who also took delight in telling the referees how dumb all of their calls were. That lady has some sort of issues going on in her life that just make her an angry person. I wasn't sure if she just needed a hug or to have someone tell her that everything's gonna be all right (rockabye).

The girls on the opposing team would yell in our girls' faces when they were blocking them (is that what it's called? Blocking? Guarding? Tackling?) or if they were trying to get the ball away from them. Things like BALLBALLBALLBALL!! or DENYDENYDENYDENY!! What the heck is that all about?

The home team's spectators would yell and scream and stomp their feet anytime someone on our team was shooting a free-throw, but if we did the same when their team was shooting, we got dirty looks and glares from every 13 and 14 year old tough guy in the gym. I was like, what? Why can't we be friends? We should all be friends. And all I got back was *glare, glare*.

If you are laughing at me at this point, fine. Go ahead, laugh. I know what you are thinking. Basketball is a competitive sport, Gerb! They're supposed to tackle each other and be jerks and yell and glare at everyone. Well, I don't like it when people are mean, sports or not.

This is SO hard! I want to be supportive of ElemenoB's new endeavor, but I feel SO uncomfortable around mean people!

I think I may have a solution, though. Sort of a Pay-It-Forward for girl's basketball.

Do any of you out there know the coach for Orem Junior High's freshman girls' basketball team? (I SO wish I had brought my camera so I could show you a picture! She was so pretty, but she'd be a whole lot prettier if she smiled once in a while.) If you do, could you do me a big favor? Give her a huge, squishy hug the next time you see her and compliment her on her pink sweater. Then ask her if she'd like to talk about what it is that makes her so mean and angry. Once you're done with your heart-to-heart and she's gotten it all out, give her another hug and then ask her to do the same for one other coach or player who seems mad at the world. I'm hoping this will have the effect of eventually increasing my comfort level at girl's basketball games because everyone will be nicer.

If she refuses or resists or gets in your face, could you do something else for me? Get as close to her as you can, look sweetly into her eyes and then yell at the top of your lungs,


Thanks. (SO much.)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Life, Love And Learning

The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart. - Helen Keller

I am not sure I can adequately express what I want to, but I am going to try.

The children at church took a walk across the street with their teachers today to sing some songs for the residents of the rest home there. First we walked the halls, holding hands and singing a few familiar favorites, bringing some residents to their doorways to share a smile or offer a wave as we passed by.

We continued to the main gathering room where we congregated on a stage to present a few more numbers. As we stood there singing, I looked out over the crowd. The faces I saw were happy, almost lit up with joy. And why? Because some children that they didn't even know were there to sing some songs for them.

My heart ached for these people, despite their currently pleasant demeanor. Thoughts raced through my mind. Why were they here? Did they have family? If so, did they come to visit? Were they lonely? Hurting? Sad? Scared? Where would I be when I reached that stage of my life? I continued to stand there, mouthing the words to each song along with the crowd of kids, but not actually singing for fear that my emotions would come to the surface. I am not sure how to describe what was going on inside of me except to say that I felt a great deal of love towards our audience.

When we were finished with our music we turned to exit the room. Residents of the home waved farewell, smiling, some calling out things like, "Such beautiful children!" and "Come again!"

I wanted to take the time to hug each person there, to tell them that they were loved and important. But I didn't. Not only for fear that I would become emotional but also because it was time to get back - time to sit in my classroom with the sweet 5-year-olds who I have stewardship over each week. Time to teach the lesson that I had prepared.

As we gathered back at the church and settled down for class I had a similar emotion overtake me, only this time it was one of love and appreciation for each of the kids in my class. I am uncomfortable crying in front of others and welcomed the distraction of Little O being brought to me right then as I don't think I would have been able to hold back what was threatening to emerge.

As I walked through the halls of the church, my little boy in my arms, I continued to think over the things I had felt. And I realized something. At the rest home as well as in my classroom, I was not edifying them. They were edifying me, offering me a glimpse of things that I needed to see and feel.

In reality, they were the ones teaching me the lessons today.

Lessons about the power of music and the love of mankind and the ties that bind us all together.

Remembering to count my blessings.

And none of that even comes close to sharing what I really feel.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

5 Minutes

I have 5 minutes before this day is over.

I said I would post everyday this month, and I'm a woman of my word. But I have no ideas.

I learned to do "free-writes" in some English class a long time ago, which is where you just write whatever pops into your head for a set amount of time. This is a free-write...

Yesterday we poured 6 yards of concrete around the borders of our property. I helped with setting the forms

(forms set, before concrete)

and doing the finish work once the "big, swirly truck" (as ElemenoB so articulately named it) came and dumped the concrete for us.

We were out there all day. When I am taught to do something for the first time, I am something of a perfectionist. Allen kept telling me I needed to think quantity, not quality, but I couldn't help myself. It was like smacking down a pile of mud with a trowel and then frosting a cake, nice and smooth. And it seemed to stay pretty mushy for quite awhile so I kept taking my sweet time... until it came down to the wire. Then the concrete was hardening before I could get to it. I had to spray it down and exert more elbow grease to get those sections pretty. By the time we were finished my whole body ached. Lesson learned: I would never choose to have a profession like concrete masonry. But when I went out this morning to see how everything set up overnight, I was quite impressed with myself.


I own this stretch of footings, as well as some along the west side.

I am woman! (rawr.)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Can you spot the girls in this picture?
(The Royce kids, circa 1979)

I will never forget the anticipation of Thanksgiving as a child. For us, it was almost as exciting as Christmas.

We lived much too far from most of our relatives on both sides of the family, but Aunt Jan lived close enough that we would occasionally make the long journey to her house. The six of us would pile into our little Volkswagen Bug with an ice chest full of sandwiches at mom's feet and off we'd go.

My favorite part was always being able to sit, knee-to-knee, with my younger brother in what we called the 'very back' seat. We felt bad for our older siblings who had to share the roomier seat in front of us. Funny thing is, they never seemed to complain.

We would pass the time trying to be the first to spot a certain letter of the alphabet or license plate, guessing how many miles we had remaining before reaching our destination and doing our best to annoy our older siblings in as innocent a fashion as possible. Our arms would be sore from playing Slug-Bug and our throats would be raw from the stifled laughter produced by inside jokes. We'd sing the songs learned from Sesame Street and The Electric Company as well as theme songs and commercial jingles.

For me, getting there was half the fun.

Once we arrived at Aunt Jan's place we'd stretch our cramped legs, run around like wild Indians for a bit and then immediately look for Aunt Jan's dog, Toby. I always got some secret delight from the fact that this little poodle shared a name with my oldest brother. Poor Toby (the dog, not the brother) would usually be cowering in the corner beneath the couch, not looking forward to our visit. Aunt Jan would have him all dressed up in a striped sweater and finally he'd come crawling out, resigning himself to his fate over the next few days.

I don't recall any specific dishes that were prepared but I do remember that mom and Aunt Jan would spend hours in the kitchen preparing our feast while we played outside in her yard. When we were called in to eat the aroma of turkey and stuffing blended with potatoes and hot rolls was intoxicating. I also remember there being such an exorbitant amount of food covering the table that I'd wonder whether we would be able to actually sit around it.

Well, times have certainly changed, but most things remain the same. We now occasionally cram our family of 11 into our suburban with an ice chest full of snacks to enjoy on long trips. Our kids sit in the back and sing songs, play traveling games and try to annoy their siblings in a way that allows them to feign innocence. When we reach our destination we all pile out and enjoy the freedom from the car's confinement. There is still too much food and plenty of visiting... but no Toby in his striped sweater (the dog, not the brother).

Memories, road trips, family, good times, food, laughter...

There is much to be thankful for - and not only at Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It's Hard To Say No

Coolister was asked to the Christmas Dance at the high school. (Which, incidentally, has the theme of 'Wear An Ugly Sweater' - awesome!) Unfortunately he was asked twice, which meant he would have to say no to one of the girls who had worked up the courage to do the asking. This was difficult.

He had told us stories at Homecoming of the way some others had given a 'No' response which appalled me. The worst was a girl who gave a guy a bucket filled with dirt along with a shovel and the note: I DON'T Dig You. In my opinion? Rude.

Coolister wanted to convey that he felt flattered to have been asked and was sorry that he couldn't go. He decided to go with a candy bar poster. With some help, he came up with the following note:

You were a SWEETTART to ask me to the dance.
We would have had a JOLLY TIME!
I feel like a NERD but the only RIESEN I can't go
with you is that I was already asked.
Thanks for inviting me! -Coolister

It still didn't quite seem like enough to make up for her efforts in asking him, so he added a flower and (with some bribery) his handsome younger brother as the deliveryman.

Here's how it turned out:

I thought it was much more 'tasteful' (haha!) than the dirt and shovel approach. You dig?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bedtime Songs

I do not sing to my children often enough anymore.

Last night as I went downstairs to silence the bedtime rabble-rousing, Hubba made the request. "Mom? Can you sing me a song?"

"Which one?" I asked.

"Angel song," he answered without hesitation. This song, actually called Angel Lullaby, is one I have sung to every child in their infancy. It is one I learned as a child and have loved ever since.

I began to sing and Hubba stopped me. "Can you please look at my eyeballs like you're singing it just for me?" he asked. I smiled, looked into those wide-open, inquiring eyes and was immediately struck with the idea that this would not last. That these kids of mine are growing up much too fast and that I needed to make more time for things like this - simple things like singing a song to them at bedtime.

I felt an urgency to create as many memories as possible in the short amount of time I have with these kids while they are still in our home - to create a bond that would bring them back home to visit once they no longer lived here.

For a moment, I could not sing. I could only enjoy the warm feeling that seemed to permeate my heart - a simple yet profound gift to me wrapped in melancholy - a reminder to enjoy every minute with my kids while they're here with us in our home.

So, I looked into those beautiful blue eyes of his and began to sing the Angel Song, just for Hubba. When I finished, he gave me a little smile and quietly muttered, "Fanks, mom." Be still my heart.

I started to leave when Cowgirl made her request. "Can you sing Be Like A Child?" Another favorite.

I sang. And then All-a-Boy asked for a song as well. I even heard Coolister crack his bedroom door open. Was it so that he could once again listen to the songs he heard so often when he was younger? I like to believe so.

Upon finishing my last melody I stood to leave the room. All was silent. I took a moment to look at each sleeping (or almost sleeping) child and offered silent thanks that I am blessed with so many amazing little (and some not so little) people to share my home and life with.

Today, I am thankful for the chance I was given to remember that each moment (and each child) is a precious gift. I am thankful that they teach me so much. And although my dreams of performing on Broadway stages were never realized, I am thankful for the captivated audience I have at bedtime.

I am thankful for the song of my heart.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

It's RAD

Remember the word RAD from back in the 80's? I loved that word. Everything was rad. Rad, as in: It looks so rad when you peg your pants! Or, The A-Team is such a rad show! Well, I'm bringing it back today. Except instead it's an acronym for Random And Disjointed because that's what this post is going to be. Here are a few things I've been pondering lately...

I can't believe I ever used to cook quesedillas in the microwave. They just don't compare to the pan-fried version.

I need to make the time to read more often.

I need to get outside more, although that would likely necessitate my putting on something besides pajama pants and an oversized t-shirt.

Why in the WORLD would the Anniversary Inn make a Twilight-themed room (based off of the vampire books)? Can you imagine the conversations that would take place?
Husband: "Happy anniversary, honey. Isn't it nice having some time alone?"
Wife: "If you can't sparkle in the sun, don't talk to me. I'm having an Edward moment."

I am terrible at making decisions. Why? Is it because I don't know what I want or because I'm afraid of what someone else will think of my decision? I can't decide.

Gravity is awesome.

So is peanut butter.

I'll admit I'm not really at the top of my game when it comes to knowing the who's-who of 80's hair bands. But when did Britney Spears join Poison?

The end.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Rich And Famous (Sort Of)

Remember this post from last year?

Well, it happened again! Only this time it was a surprise.

I got my December/January SPECIAL HOLIDAY ISSUE of Family Fun magazine on Tuesday and started to read through it. When I got to page 88 I saw this:

I thought, Funny, that sounds like the idea I submitted a LONG time ago. And it was even funnier when I saw that it mentioned our family by name. It WAS my idea! Someone did call me about publishing it about a year ago but she didn't have a definite date. Honestly? I think it was a lot more fun finding out about it this way.

Two days later I got 2 extra copies of the magazine in the mail. I'm guessing it's so I can autograph them and pass them out to my adoring fans.

It makes me feel a little famous.

To top it all off, they pay you $100 if they use your idea...

I think that makes me rich and famous.

(Hey, when it comes to fame and fortune, I take what I can get.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Yo Ho Yo Ho

Thumbelina recently told me of her desire to design and custom-create her own dress. I saw this as an opportunity to dust off my sewing machine and agreed to help her in this pursuit.

She has a notebook that she likes to sketch in and it was filled with all sorts of different dress designs. She chose her favorite and we searched until finding a pattern to match it as well as a fabric that she felt good about.

We began to cut out the pattern pieces we would need and Hubba watched, interested in the whole production. As we laid the pattern out to determine placement on the fabric, Hubba asked what we were doing.

"Thumbelina's making a dress," I told him.

"Oh," he casually replied. "But when is she making the pirate hat?"

I looked quizzically at Thumbelina. She shrugged.

"She's not making a pirate hat. She's making a dress," I repeated.

"Oh," he answered again.

We pinned the pattern pieces to the fabric, ensuring that they all lay in the same direction. Hubba continued to watch with interest. When Thumbelina began to cut the fabric he asked again, "When are you gonna make that pirate hat?"

"What pirate hat, Hubba?" I asked.

"This one," he showed me, pointing.

Well, shiver me timbers. I have never noticed that a short-sleeve pattern piece looked like a pirate hat.

Good call, Matey.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Past, Present and Future

photo from

There are some memories which I would prefer to forget altogether, yet there are others I would love to step into and breathe all over again.

Have you seen Harry Potter? I am fascinated by the idea of owning a pensieve. Have you noticed that people will often remember the same event—yet with differing details? Well, a pensieve would solve that problem. One could simply slip back and glimpse at what it was that really happened.

In my own life, I can think of so many memories that I would love to slip into yet again... not just to remember, but to actually re-live. What I wouldn’t give to be back under the old porch on 5th Avenue in Iowa, playing make-believe games with my little brother. The moments of dancing with my dad when I was still his little girl, and then again in the moments during the last weeks of his life. I would love to re-live the feeling of magic as I performed on a stage—hearing the thunderous applause of the crowd at the conclusion of the performance. Or better yet, to once again breathe in the sweet smell of grandpa's pipe smoke, and watch more closely as he worked his magic with paints and pencils, bringing a blank canvas to life.

If I could combine the pensieve with the time machine from Back to the Future, my life would be truly awesome. I could sort out my memories first, find the ones that needed a bit of ‘tweaking’ and head back in time to fix them. I would make it so that I had never worn that humiliating outfit on my first day of high school. I would return to the pageant I was in, and answer my final question the right way. I would become better friends with the guys I was interested in, instead of wishing there was more there. I would have...

Actually; when I come to think about it, it is all of these experiences which made me who I am today…

When I was bullied, I learned to stand up for others.

When my heart was broken, I learned that I'd never want to inflict that same pain upon any other human being.

When I made mistakes, I learned how to do better the next time around.

There are so many lessons I have learned; I don't think I'd want to change my past - because even the slightest change could alter my future and who it is that I have become.

So on second thought, forget pensieves and time machines, I will instead be who I am and live for today - taking things as they come.

Bring on the experience.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Reflections of November

Today I pulled out my old journals and was rifling through them, enjoying some memories and cringing at others. Here are a few excerpts from this very month over the years...

November 1980
"I have a very nice substitute teacher who seems to notice me. I like being at school when she is my teacher."

November 1981
"I am happy because it is raining and I love the smell and sight of it."

November 1985
"I am starting to wear a thing called a head-gear. When I wear it I look like a stupid nerd and mom even says I have to wear it to school. She says I look fine in it so I think she must have problems with her eyes because everyone can see that it makes me look like a dork. I only wear it until I cross the street in the mornings and then put it in my backpack until I get home after school. That way we are both happy."

November 1986
"I feel like a total loser. You know why? Because I am one." (Ah, those wonderful teenage years!)

November 1987
"Being 15 years old is stupid. I bet there is no one in the whole history of the universe who liked being 15 years old except for maybe Ricky Schroeder."

November 1988
"Trish and I took a bunch of pictures today. I hope they turn out good 'cuz it's expensive black and white film and the developing costs like $11.00. We went to the dance in P.V. and they played Def Leppard! Trish asked me, "How is anyone supposed to dance to this?" So I showed her some of my headbanger moves. She was embarrassed but I still love Def Leppard. Their music is amazing and they make me wish I could play the guitar."

November 1989
"I spent the entire day at the kick-back cliffs with friends today. We brought a picnic and just talked about everything imaginable. When it started to get close to dark almost everyone left but I stayed to watch the sunset. I can't believe they were all right there with prime seats for the sun's big finale and they missed their chance. I sat beneath my favorite tree and stayed until there was not one flicker of light remaining. It was an amazing show."

November 1990
"I can never get enough of Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey would have to be among my two favorites. I go into the shop so often that the workers know me by name. Whenever I walk in they yell out, 'Gerby! What's it gonna be?'"

November 1991
"Today I certified as a Level 2 Interpreter for the Deaf. That means I'm up to $10/hour! Not even half of what I made in California a year ago, but I'll take it. You know what I miss most about California, though? Weather that makes sense. Around here it changes about every two minutes: from a clear, cloudless day to dark, stormy skies with a promise of rain or snow. And, for the record, I'll almost always take the rain over anything else."

November 1997
"Today Coolister (age 4) asked, "Mom, why does God put mistakes in our skin?" I asked if he was talking about things like birthmarks but he said, "No, I mean mistakes INSIDE our skin - in our bodies. Like when you want to hit someone or take a fish out of a fishbowl." I started to explain free agency to him but he stopped me and said, "Wait, I know this already. Because there's always good and bad, but WE have to choose." He is such a smarty pants."

(I had to add another one from 1997...)
"Coolister, in his most serious manner, told me today that when he grows up he wants to be a farmer, a cowboy or a doctor. He then asked, "Which is better?" I told him he could be anything he wanted so he asked, "Could I be ALL three?" I told him that he can do anything he sets his mind to. ElemenoB (age 3) had been listening in on the whole conversation and piped in with this: "I just want to be a dog when I get big. A little one." I guess it's a step up from her just wanting to be pretty when she grows up!"

November 1998
"I want to be someone who brings light into dark places. I'm not sure how to go about doing this exactly, but it is something I feel passionate about today."

Any other entries are still a bit too recent to be included... but if you come back in another 10 years or so I may have some new material to share.

( Today I am thankful that I kept journals in my younger years - even though I often debate creating a bonfire with them.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Family Photos: Part 2

It has become a tradition in our family to do two sets of pictures every year. One set is to put on our wall and the other is to have fun and create some memories for our kids. Last year was a 70's theme. To be honest, we weren't sure how to top that - but Allen came through with an idea that we all got excited about.

The best part for the kids in this year's fun pictures? They were told to go play outside and get dirty ALL DAY LONG on the day of the photo shoot. The best part for me? No one's hair needed to be curled.

Plus, crying kids? Snotty noses? No problem.

(in case you are unaware, you can click on the pictures to view them larger)

Want to see more? Click here.

Want to get your own set of awesome family photos? Click here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Seems Reasonable

Quote of the day:

"I like to keep my eyes open fo pray-os because I listen bett-o wif my eyes lookin' a-wownd at stuff. And anyways, when I shut my eyes it just makes me want-a fall asweep." -Super C

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Forever Is A Mighty Long Time

Some days I miss my dad a lot.

Some days, for no particular reason, I will have him on my mind all day long.

Other days something will trigger that place in my brain where all of my 'dad-memories' are stored.

In either case there is nothing much to do about it... except to remember.

When you lose someone you love to death, there is no describing the range of emotions experienced. I'm not sure I can speak for anyone else, but for me it has not gotten any easier as the years have passed. There will always be that void that only a father can fill. I will always love him and miss his physical presence in my life.

On days where I am particularly besieged with these thoughts and memories, I like to go visit his grave. There is some solace in being able to just sit there and sign to him, tell him my thoughts and feelings, disappointments and dreams. I am sure I appear to be something of a mad-woman, hands waving about in rushed thought and frenzied words as I sit at his graveside there in the cemetery, but it is my way of working through things.

When I have these days, I talk and cry and laugh and even scream until I have said my piece. And when I am done, I look down at his grave and see this:
And I am comforted. I find peace. I am so thankful to know that I will see him again someday.

I am thankful for the knowledge that death is only a temporary situation.

I am thankful that my family is a forever family.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Family Photos - Part 1

We got our new family pictures done recently and we love how they turned out!

The whole crew




The "big girls"


The "Little Girls"
Little O
In true form...

Want to see more? Go check out the rest (and some of my favorites!)
at our awesome photographer's blog.

I am thankful to have a friend with an amazing talent for photography!
All photos are by Jason of Backroads Photography.