Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sky Sparkles and Frozen Rain

One day last week the snow fell like pieces of glitter outside my window.  When I went outside to drive the kids to school the snow swirled around with every footstep.  It was so light that it made me think of tiny, frozen feathers blowing around my driveway.  As I brushed the snow from the windows of the van I created my own little blizzard of floating sparkles.  I kind of wanted to freeze the moment (no pun intended) because for some unexplainable reason it filled my soul with happiness.

When I came inside I showed Little O the glittery snow as it continued to fall.  He told me, "It is sky-sparkles falling to the top of the snow because that's where it lives so it can make the snow look all sparkled and beautiful."  How could I not love that?

The next day the world was an ice rink thanks to the strange occurrence of frozen rain.  Everything outside looked as though it were wet from rain but in reality just about every surface was covered with black ice.  It was a little scary - but also fascinating.  How can it be cold enough to create instant ice but warm enough for it to be raining instead of snowing?  I'm sure I could google it but it's more fun to wonder.

The last two days we have been blanketed with a thick layer of fresh snowfall.  The driving can be treacherous but when I'm sitting in my warm, cozy home looking out the window at the untouched snow in my yard, on the trees and fences and mailboxes and everything, I am in awe of this gift that falls from the skies.  Winters can be pretty barren and blah.  I love the way the world is instantly brightened by a blanket of fresh snow.

So yeah, the inversion has been gross.  And the freezing weather's not my favorite.  But, contrary to popular opinion, I'm really liking the snow.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Stuff I Do That You Won't Find On Pinterest

Holes in your kid's footie pajamas?  NO PROBLEM!  Cut the feet off of the pajamas and VOILA! No more holes!  No sewing necessary!

Use your old ice cream buckets and potato salad containers to store random items in your pantry!  Just like grandma used to do!  Classic!

Collect bread tags!  I don't know what use they'll ever be, but they're colorful and someday you will need them for something (says your obsessive compulsive brain)!  Store them in an old jelly jar and use them as kitchen decor until then!  Recycled art!

Have you ever wondered what to do with those stickers on your fresh produce?  Mod-Podge your sandwich bag box with them as you prepare lunches in the morning!  Maybe you could store your bread tags in the box once it's empty.  Crafty!

If your kids won't wake up when they're supposed to, sing them a song that you make up on the spot.  Include the names of their friends, things you see around the room, just be creative!  This always works for me - they jump right out of bed and scream, "SERIOUSLY MOM, I'M UP!!!"  Bonding time! 

Need a classy way to store your BoxTops and Labels for Education?  Stick sandwich bags to the refrigerator with magnets!  Then hoard them until there's some kind of contest that one of your kids' classes is thisclose to winning and use them as a bribe to get that kid to do housework.  Win/win!

Wipe the crumbs from the table directly on to the floor!  You're going to vacuum/sweep eventually, right?  Better yet, just vacuum/sweep your table when you do the floors!  Total time saver!

I hope you've enjoyed this exclusive show-and-tell with all of my best tips for mothering and managing my household.

You're welcome.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Pep Talk

My friend Stephanie sent me this today and it made me all kinds of happy.  I immediately knew that I had to share it.

This is your time.
This is my time.
This is our time.
We were made to be awesome.
So get to it!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Books I Read: The Seventeen Second Miracle

I had a friend come by the other day and bring this book to me from another friend.  I hadn't asked for it, but she must have known I would like it.  She was right.

I don't buy books until after I have read them and determined that they are worth my money and the space on our bookshelf.  This is a book that I will buy for our home library. 

This book focuses on service and consciously making an effort to perform some small act of service each day.  It also talks about recognizing the little things others do for us.  

The Seventeen Second Miracle is a story that was not only inspiring but one that I have been thinking about ever since I finished it.  You can read about the author's inspiration for the story and a bit of an explanation on how Seventeen Second Miracles work HERE.

I think that the thing I liked most about this book was the idea planted in my brain that if everyone, every day, looked for opportunities to do just one nice thing for someone else, and if we all learned to recognize the little things that family and friends and strangers do for us, this world would be a whole lot awesomer.  Call me an idealist or a dreamer or whatever you want, but I really do hope for these kind of things.  Which is probably why I liked this book.

You should read it too - and tell me what you think.

Friday, January 25, 2013

We Are Geodes

This is my friend Nadine.

I mostly knew her from the fabulous monthly tea parties held at my dear friend Jan's home.  Nadine did not ever say much about her life.  She mostly tended to keep to herself, a quiet observer who brought a smile to the table.  I knew that she had fought cancer and that she had discovered ways to heal and protect herself from further damage by eating right and using different oils and vitamins.  I remember one time when I mentioned that I was suffering from restless legs in a pregnancy and she offered some advice on vitamins and oils that would help.

I did not know Nadine well, but I knew that I liked her and felt comfortable around her.

Earlier this week I found out that Nadine had lost a battle with pneumonia and had been reunited with her husband who had died many years before.  Her funeral was yesterday and I left the service with a strange range of emotions.  There was so much about her that I didn't know.  I found much of myself in the words that were read from her journals.  I found much of my life in the things they described in hers.  She loved music and mail and family and antiques and intricate quilts and old buildings.  I could relate to all of this.  I felt a kind of emptiness in knowing that she had lived right around the corner from me for so long and I had never gotten to know her the way I could have.  She was an amazing woman.  You can read more about her life here: Nadine's obituary.

In the foyer of the church there was a table set up, displaying many of the things Nadine loved and created.  Interspersed throughout the display were quotes from her journals.

I could relate to so many of her thoughts.  They mentioned a few times during the service that she wrote of being frustrated with her lack of ability to understand and express her feelings.  She was compared to a geode, with so many beautiful qualities, talents and traits that were hidden beneath what everyone saw on the surface.

I wish I had taken the time to get to know her more personally.  However, I am hoping that I will do something with the valuable lesson I learned from my friend Nadine.  I need to make the time to get to know those who are still here.

Everyone has a story to tell and I want to hear as many as I can, to listen and discover the hidden gems beneath each outer shell.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Empty Chairs

Our family normally eats dinner all together each night.  I feel like this is important and have come to realize more and more that it is not something that happens everywhere.  Occasionally there will be a child or two missing, but for the most part the gang's all here to eat together and talk about what we've all experienced each day, and that's the way I like it.

Dinner was interesting tonight.  Allen was working late, ElemenoB, Thumbelina, Cowgirl and Princess went to see a play, and All-a-Boy and Hubba were off at scouts.  All that was here to sit around the table were my three littlest ones and yours truly.

I wasn't really sure what to do with myself.  Where was the happy chaos I am used to?  The most excitement we had was when Little O asked "If all of the animals in Charlotte's Web can talk, why can't the cat talk?"  It brought on as lively a discussion as can be had with this cute crew.  I think we decided that the cat was just cranky because it couldn't catch Templeton.

I had the thought enter my mind that this is what it will be like someday, all of the time.  Eventually everyone who is living at home will fit around the table.  And then one by one each chair will become an empty space until all that's left are Allen and I.  I know it's just a blink away.  How in the world will I cook for only two people?  Will Allen and I learn to eat in a comfortable silence, interrupted occasionally by pleasant conversation about how grand it was when all of the kids were still here?

As the boys came home from scouts, the sound level in the house rose by about a million decibels.  I'm reveling in the random chatter as All-a-Boy corrects everyone's words and Curly mothers the little boys.
A quote that I love comes to mind, and I think it sums everything up just right:

"Come what may - and LOVE it." -Joseph B. Wirthlin

pic found here

That is exactly what I intend to do.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Weather Outside Is Frightful

The weather here has been as low as -14 with wind chill factored in.  I can't go outside without gloves on or else my nails break and my hands start to crack.  My lips are so chapped I have to re-apply a fresh layer of Mentholatum about every hour and my hair has so much static cling I want to wash it in fabric softener.  However, in an effort to find the good in things, I would like to share this quote:

“It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily.
"So it is."
"And freezing."
"Is it?"
"Yes," said Eeyore. "However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately.”
-A.A. Milne

Well played, Eeyore.  Well played.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Gerb Unplugged

(Actually, the bottom picture shows what I'm like when I get real mail for as long as I can remember.)

I remember well the anticipation of receiving the mail each day as a child, as a teenager, and even now as an adult.  I'm not talking about email or messages in your Facebook inbox.  I'm not talking about comments on your instagram pictures or return texts on your smart phone.  I'm talking about real letters, hand-written and stamped and sometimes even with cleverly decorated envelopes, delivered to your mailbox.  I still love to send these notes almost as much as I love to be on the receiving end.  It has always been amazing to me to think of how a letter which I held in my hands could be in a far-away place by the end of the week at the cost of one small stamp in its corner.  I used to even lovingly decorate the borders of each envelope, hoping that just the sight of it in the receiver's mailbox would bring a smile.

I remember when the only way to communicate with someone quickly was by phone or a face-to-face visit.  There was no email, facebook, texting, tweeting, instagram or whatever new 'thing' I haven't heard of yet to communicate with a person without any real interaction.  I remember when the only way to share pictures with someone else was to carry them in your wallet or purse, or to mail them off to friends and family.  I remember when I used to get phone calls from people who were not trying to sell me anything.  I remember when a boy wanted to ask a girl out on a date and he had to either do it in person or suffer the agony of possibly having to speak with one of her parents when he called her home phone.  Ah, the good old days.

I know what some of you are thinking right now.  Blah, blah, blah, it's another GerbRant about technology. *yawn*  Big whoop. 

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying that technology is a bad thing.  I just worry about what my kids are missing out on.  I worry about what I am missing out on, now that we are all so completely electronically connected.  What kind of communication skills are my kids lacking?  What is happening to their writing skills when things like LOL and abbreviated phrases like CUL8R are used often?  (I actually made that last thing up.  I'm not at all fluent in abbreviatedwords-ese.)  I love words.  I love the nuances of each person's penmanship.  But I most especially love my kids and I love my interactions with them which, regrettably, are not what they could be due to the T.V., computers and other electronic devices in our home.

The same goes with my extended family and friends.  The only way I communicate with most of them is on Facebook or by email.

This is what I see everywhere I go: people more connected to their electronic devices than the living, breathing people around them.  (Thanks for sharing the link with me, Sarah!)

Okay, here's what I'm getting at.  I control my own life.  I am the boss of me.  As such, I'm cutting waaaaay back.  I'm fasting from Facebook for a while and limiting my time on the internet.  Some days I may not even log on at all.  I'm going back to the way things were, to see if it's really as wonderful as I remember.  I'm going to sew more and read books more and sit and play trains and robots with my little boys more.  I'm going to write more stories and have more personal study and make time to practice my accordion.  I'm going to call people instead of emailing them. 

And here's the other thing - I want to spread some of my favorite kind of old-fashioned happiness in the form of real, actual, handwritten mail.  I want to send more letters, cards and postcards, just like I used to love doing.  I will put a colorful stamp in the corner of each and send them off, to bring smiles as people find something besides another bill in their mailboxes.  The world needs more happy mail!  More notes of encouragement and support!  And as of next Monday, that's going to start happening, from my mailbox to yours. 

This is where you come in.  Do you miss that excitement that comes with the anticipation of a happy note in your mailbox?  Have you never felt what I am describing?  Well, let's do something about it.  If you send me an address I will physically mail some hand-written happy and encouraging words and thoughts to you.

If you're interested, you can send your address to:

gerbdonna AT gmail DOT com

I can't wait to get back to basics around here.  And I can't wait to send some sunshine to your mailbox! 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Quick Quips

Little O: Mom, can you take your head off?
Me: Nope.
Little O: Weird.  Me either.

Little O: This book is full of pages!
Me: Most books are.
Little O: Are you trying to ruin my life or something?

Little O: I had some good dreams last night!
Me: Oh, yeah?  About what?
Little O: It was called 'Going For A Walk Means Mom Pulls Me In My Wagon But She's The Only One Who Is Walking Pcuz I Am Riding In My Wagon.'

Little O: Is my new coat a boily coat?
Me: I don't think so.
Little O: Okay.
(10 minutes later, wearing Hubba's coat)
Little O: Is this a boily coat?
Me: I don't think so.
Little O: UGH! Okay.
Me: Maybe it is.  I'm not sure what boily means.  Do you mean it makes you boiling hot?
Little O: (exasperated sigh) NO, MOM!  It means it's a BOILY COAT!
Me: Okay...
(5 minutes later, carrying Curly's coat)
Little O: See this coat mom?
Me: Yes, It's Curly's.
Little O: But it's a GIRLY coat.  I want my coat to be BOYLY.
Me: Okay, now I get it.  Then yes, your coat is boyly.
Little O: FINALLY!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Life Is Good

Happy New Year!  Can you believe it's already 2013? 

This year was filled with all sorts of awesome things and all kinds of difficult, challenging things, too.  When I sat down to try and write our annual Christmas letter this year, the hard times kept pushing the good things out of the way and the task became overwhelming and emotional for me.  I finally decided not to include a letter this time around.

I'm sure I don't need to point out that the greatest, most challenging and heart-wrenching thing I had to face was the unexpected death of my close friend, Jason.  I've had to cope with the reality that he is no longer here every day since he left us.  And I've learned that the best way for me to deal with it is to remember the best things about him and to allow myself to smile.   

My oldest boy left on his 2 year mission for our church this year.  I don't get to see him again until the summer of 2014 - and although I wouldn't give up what he is learning and doing and becoming in those two years, I am still his mother and I miss him.  Talking to him on the phone Christmas morning was... well, just awesome.  His voice, infused with his typical enthusiasm, brought a smile to my face and set the tone for the rest of the day.

I could go on, but that's not my point.

The reality is, life's not perfect.  Not for anyone.  However, I think that looking for the good and learning to smile through the tough times offers some great opportunities for personal growth.  I love this quote by Jenkins Lloyd Jones:

"Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he's been robbed. Most putts don't drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise.  Life is like an old-time rail journey — delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride."

Politics, health, world events, all sorts of things have taken me on an emotional roller coaster this year.  But when my emotions threaten to overtake me, I try to remember the good things that cause me to smile.  Things like Allen the Younger's missionary service and the blessings that come to our family because of this.  ElemenoB's immediate decision to serve a mission in January 2014 after a change in age requirements for missionaries was announced.  Thumbelina's first date.  All-a-Boy getting cast in the school musical.  Cowgirl's ability to reach out to those in need.  Princess' new-found love for skiing.  Hubba's decision to be baptized as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Curly's love for numbers and kindergarten.  Little O's desire to spontaneously dance and sing at any given time.  Baby X's sweet hugs and new words.  Allen's beyond awesome place of employment.  And as for me?  I got to enjoy the ride of it all.  Oh, yeah - I also saw NEWSIES.  In NEW YORK.  Both of which I loved in indescribable ways.  

I'm not one who usually chooses a Word Of The Year or anything like that, but I think this year I am going to make a real effort to find the good in the world, in my community, in my life, in my circumstances.  I want to seek out uplifting and positive things and remember all the reasons I have to be happy.  

Every day I will find reasons to smile and remember that my life is pretty darn good.