Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tidings of Great Joy

Every year at Christmas I worry that my children will hear the racket of the world screaming of consumerism more than they'll hear the subtle stirrings of the spirit. I worry that they won't get it, what Christmas is really about.

But I have some reasons to hope:

1) In her yearly attempt to make sense of Santa #1 deduced, "There really is only one person who loves everyone in the world and who is really watching what we are all saying and doing. There is only one person who wants to give everyone a gift. Heavenly Father must be Santa!"

2) After I became impatient and expressed a few graceless and less than loving expressions, #2 approached me, and without a trace of self-righteousness, sincerely pleaded with me, "But mom, now is the time for good cheer and happiness and love!"

3) #3 asks to read "The Nativity Story" almost every night and is often re-enacting the narrative with toys or drawings she's made. Yesterday I asked her to do it one more time so I could capture it as she tells the story in her own words.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

We've got spirit! Yes, we do! The Christmas kind. Do you?

'Tis the season to be jolly because Baby, it's cold outside and I'm seriously dreaming of a white Christmas.

How Christmassy are you? Take my Christmas quiz to see if you are more of an Ebenezer Scrooge or a Clark Griswold.

Check your answers after each section then leave your final score in the comments. And no Googling, cheaters!

Christmas in the Movies

1. In “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” what does Lucy want for Christmas?

2. Where does “It’s a Wonderful Life,” take place?

3. What is the little boy’s name who stayed home in the movie Home Alone?

4. What was the most likely reason that the Grinch hated Christmas?

5. At the beginning of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” what book is Clarence reading?

1. real estate 2. Bedford Falls 3. Kevin 4. his heart was 2 sizes too small 5. Tom Sawyer

Christmas according to the Bible

1. After Joseph, Mary and Jesus left Bethlehem, they went to what country?

2. What is the translation of Emmanuel?

3. What is the name of the angel that appeared to Mary?

4. What was the name of the old prophetess who saw Jesus in the temple when he was presented to the Lord after his birth?

5. How many wise men come to see the Savior?

1. Egypt 2. God with us 3. Gabriel 4. Anna 5. the Bible never says a number

Christmas in Literature

1. What is Scrooge’s first name?

2. How many ghosts visit Scrooge in the course of “A Christmas Carol”?

3. In “Little Women” who says, “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents” ?

4. In “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” Gladys Herdman pushed her way to the front of the angel choir and shouted these famous words: “Hey! __ __ __ ___ ___ ___!” (6 words)

5. Complete the line from “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” “More rapid than ____ his coursers they came and he ___ and shouted and called them by name.”

1. Ebenezer 2. 4 3. Jo March 4. Unto you a child is born! 5. eagles, whistled

Historical Christmas

1. What river did General Washington cross on December 25, 1776?

2. What Christmas treat is a round or oval candy filled with fruit preserves or cream and covered with chocolate?

3. In which country was eggnog created?

4. In which country did the custom of having and decorating a Christmas tree originate?

5. A copywriter for which major department store in 1939 wrote the first poem about Rudolph, the 9th reindeer?

1. The Delware 2. sugarplums 3. England 4. Germany 5. Montgomery Ward

20-25 correct - You are a serious lover of Christmas, welcome to the club! You are in the ranks with fellow Christmas die-hards, Cindy Lou Who, Ralphie Parker and Santa Claus himself.

10-20 correct - You love Christmas too!

5-10 correct - Don't be ashamed, some of these questions were hard!

>5 correct - Yikes, you're in trouble! Don't be surprised if you get kicked out of Who-ville for your Grinchy ways.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Giblert Days Fun Run

Two days post-Thanksgiving feasting, (and still feasting!) my body is begging for some exercise and to slow down on the butter. Maybe now is a good time to post about healthier days!

Last month I mentioned to my kids that it was time to register for the Gilbert Days Family Fun Run and asked if they would be interested in participating again this year. The answer was yes!

A week ago yesterday was the big day. All three ran their hearts out and crossed the finish line with big smiles and their chins up.

Here is the Buster, who shaved almost two minutes from his time last year. What a champ! I think next year I'll run the 5K with him and see if I can keep up!

Next in, #3. I ran along side her and expected any minute for her to need a walking break, but it never happened. She plowed through the whole mile barely breaking a sweat. And yes, she most definitely is running in a skirt. What else would you expect from her?

Poor #1 had to learn a lesson on pacing the hard way. She shot out of the starting line at a full sprint and kept sprinting until she was out of breath and needed to walk in order to recover. After that she kept up a nice even pace and came in about 15 seconds after #3. I was so proud of her for persevering and pushing it until the end!

I'm loving our Gilbert Days Family Fun Run tradition. As I tried to convince Spouse to run it with us, he aptly pointed out that we needed him not to run so there was someone on camera duty at the finish line. Hmm. Good point.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Familial visits!

A week ago I happily hosted my Texas-inhabiting sister, Jess, and her daughter for the weekend. They arrived just in time to help #1 blow out her birthday candles (more on that later).

Although we did walk over to the local bouncy-place and then to ice-cream, we mostly stayed close to home where the kids could ride bikes outside or throw pretend surprise birthday parties inside. Jess and I talked. And talked. And talked.

I think Jess and I could live right next door to each other for the rest of our lives and always have something interesting to talk about.

That's mostly because Jess is a thinking, compassionate soul who notices and analyzes the world and it's people. Plus she's a great listener and just when I think I shouldn't say any more because I've already hogged the conversation too much, she wants to know my opinion about something else.

Photographic evidence:

Saturday we overdressed for #2's football game. By the 2nd half we were all sweating! I thought I'd try to get a good picture of #1 and her cousin, but #3 felt left out and, as you see, I never got that good picture.

#2 LOVES his cousin. He told her so in his sincere, straightforward way.

Not only is she an amazing sister, Jess is also an amazing aunt. She was patient and loving with my children, even though she saw the dark side of them when it was way past their bed times or too early in the morning.

As I mentioned earlier there was a birthday last week.

Quick! Let's play Two Truths and a Lie!

#1 is nine.

#1 is nine.

I'm not getting older.

Happy Birthday to my beautiful, book reading, Lego building, cartoon drawing baby!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Evidence of sweetness

Life moves at a pretty brisk pace these days. Children included, we are all working hard and focused on what needs to be done.

It's all too easy to let time fly by me without pausing to enjoy the sweetness of this stage of our life.

Last week there were three moments that caused me to stop and smile and taste the sweetness.

Sitting with friends at the park #3 overheard me compliment my friend for always being so prepared. My praise included me telling her that she was "the best mom." A moment later, #3 put her face near my ear and whispered, "But I thought you were the best mom."

Way past the time I thought she had been asleep, #1 came bursting out of her room, ran into my room and jumped into bed next to me. She has never had an easy time expressing or admitting her feelings and it took her a while to explain that she had just read a sad part in her book (Dobby's death in Harry Potter, part 7) and just needed to be with someone while she felt so sad.

Our kids are very protective of their turns. When it was #2's turn to choose the song before evening family prayers, he generously (and unprompted) gave his turn over to his sister, #1 to let her pick.

These are tiny, almost insignificant moments. But added together, if I pay attention, they are the stuff that changes my job from a chore to blessing.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy November

Buster woke up this morning, stumbled into the kitchen and politely demanded turkey for lunch. "I've got ham. Or you can have pizza at school." Nope, only turkey would satisfy my boy. As much as my son loves Halloween candy, I think he loves his Thanksgiving turkey even more.

Before I turn my attention to turkey planning let me share with you some our Halloween joys:

This kitten, who sometimes was sweet and sometimes scary.

Tron. Dumbest movie ever made but my kids inexplicably love it. #1 and #2 decided to be "Tron people" for Halloween. Spouse took on the challenge. It was entertaining to watch his creative genius at work as he cut out and carefully applied the reflective tape to the kid's black clothes. #1 and #2 especially loved their 'identity discs.' As soon as #2 got suited up he immediately started slicing up invisible enemies.

Between our church party, school parties and the actual party of trick or treating, we reached new heights of candy collecting. Our house has never seen so much candy! It's actually kind of disgusting.

I'm with Buster on this one: bring on the turkey!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

October's Light

For my non-Arizona inhabitant readers: You know that wonderful, deep down feeling of joy you experience sometime in the end of May (sometimes in June!) that is inspired by the knowledge that winter is most definitely over? You feel parts of your soul emerge from hibernation. You are happier, calmer; life is more joyful and you notice beautiful things again. The extended, dark and frustrating winter is finally ended.

In Arizona our extended, hot and frustrating summer is finally ended and I feel like I'm coming back to life again. I want to be outside, soak up the sun and take everything in. The flowers are more beautiful and the songs of the birds have never been lovelier.

I was doing dishes last night, my hands warm in the water and my neck cooled by the breeze blowing in from an open window. Through our back window I watched the neighbor's tree sway in the wind and I thought, "My goodness, even the light is more beautiful."

It made me think of an afternoon earlier this month in Logan Canyon when I had the same thought: My goodness, this light is beautiful.

Don't you agree? Isn't October's light the prettiest?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Directions for a perfect fall afternoon

1) Begin with a hand cart. Watch your smallest child climb in the back while the two older children attempt to pull. Soon the older two will release the handle and the back will drop to the ground and the youngest will land with a thud a roll out. Strangers may come running.

2) Storm the barricades! Or summit the hay fort and be the first to dare to jump.

p.s. It always helps when an uncle says he'll catch you and then he doesn't.

3) Don't worry if the train ride is out of commission for the day. There's always this old farm equipment to pose by.

4) The secret to having fun in a corn maze (with or without kids) is to control the map. Periodically show your children the progress you are making. But really you've gone in about 1/5 of the way, turned around and exited at the entrance. Win/win for everyone!

5) The final requirement for a perfect fall afternoon: getting buried in hay and then bursting out like Frankenstein awakening.

And there you have it! A perfect fall afternoon. Thank you American West Historical Farm.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The birds and the bees

Last night, after a long and busy day, I was in the girl's bedroom helping #3 into her pajamas when Spouse arrived home from work. I heard the front door shut and then heard #1 and #2 greeting him and making surprised sounds. They followed him as he found me back in the bedroom. He was carrying a lovely bunch of flowers which he handed to me as he bent over to kiss me. It was quite romantic (and thoughtful, given my stressful day) and Spouse must have seemed the perfect hero to his children. They were happy for me and liked seeing Spouse surprise and please me.

In all her joy, #3 exclaimed, "Now you can get married and have a baby!"

Done. And done. That's how all this trouble started in the first place.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Interesting, to say the least

Have you ever found yourself in "an interesting situation"? One that was never on your radar of possible life experiences?

At about 7:30 Friday night, I found myself thinking, "This is a very interesting situation. I never imagined myself doing this."

What was I doing?

I was standing in neck deep, moving water, unable to get out, waiting and hoping for someone to come along to help me get out. And it was dark - both the water and the night.

A couple hours earlier my family met up with some friends for a bike ride. We rode along the paved path next to the irrigation canal behind our house. The plan was to ride for about a mile and a half down to a park where we would play some bocci and then head home before dark.

Things were rocky right from the start. #2's bike chain fell off. We got moving again, then #1's bike chain fell off. Then #2 fell off his bike. Then #1's bike chain came off again and yet again. The simple bike ride was taking much longer than expected. Did I mention that Spouse drove to meet us at the park? So it was just me, dealing with all these set backs, and getting increasingly more frustrated and embarrassed.

We eventually made it to the park and played a couple rounds of bocci before it got dark and we decided we had better hit the trail for home. Spouse got in the jeep to meet us at home and the rest of us got on our bikes.

Before I continue I feel I must disclose that Buster is a much better bike rider than will appear in my story. He got a new bike for his birthday (in February!) but it's been too big for him and this night was the first time he had ever taken it out. Apparently it is still a bit too big.

At first the entire group was riding together but then Buster crashed on his bike which bent his handles. While I bent them back (again, no Spouse!) the group went on ahead. He hopped back on and within seconds, crashed again! This time in mud. By the time we got going the group was so far ahead of us, they were way out of sight.

Finally we were moving; Buster was gaining momentum and I was feeling grateful that this nightmare of a bike ride would soon be over. Suddenly, without warning, Buster veered sharp to his right and corrected hard to left and went straight into the canal, bike and all.

My first thought was, "You've got to be kidding me."

The canal is about 25 feet wide with steep walls. It flows at a leisurely pace and is full of brown, fish-and-turtle-infested waters. I run on this canal, often, and have seen it's depth vary but have never been sure exactly how deep it is. I've taken my kids for walks along its path and we've had many, many family bike or scooter rides next to it. Although it is big, I've never felt threatened by it and always felt it definitely unlikely that anyone would end up in it. My kids are strong swimmers and I felt assured if they ever fell in they could easily swim to the side.

So to watch one of my children actually plunge into the canal was somewhat shocking and totally unexpected.

I immediately knew the situation was urgent but didn't fully comprehend the threat. I jumped off my bike and ran to the edge shouting, "Swim! Buster, swim!"

But Buster couldn't swim. He kept going under the water. He was panicked and the canal's current was much stronger than I had expected. In my mind I was thinking, "I can't believe I'm going to have to get in there!"

This was all happening very quickly, there really wasn't time to think things through or make a decision. I jumped in and swam to the middle where Buster was coasting in the current. I was quite surprised that in the middle it was too deep for me to touch without submerging my head - which I was NOT going to do.

It wasn't too hard to get Buster over to the side where I could stand in about neck deep water. He was panicked and out of his mind scared. He was screaming for his bike which was at the bottom of the muddy canal. I rested, holding him, while I tried to think how I was going to get him out.

The canal walls are steep and I had totally underestimated how far down the water was from the path. The path was at least two arm lengths above me. The concrete sides of the canal were slimy with moss and there were no hand holds or rocks within reach to grab onto. I knew I was going to have to push him up high in order for him to grab something and pull himself out.

It was difficult because I didn't have a very stable stance. The bottom was muddy and slimy and the canal's current made it hard to stand up right for very long. Between the seriousness of the situation and my son's panicking screams, my body must have produced a lot of adrenaline because I was able to push all 68 pounds of him over my head and hold him there until he transferred enough weight and climbed out.

Getting myself out was a different story. I made several attempts, but it didn't take long to figure out it was impossible. It was surprising to discover how difficult it is to move in water up to my neck - my attempts at jumping were futile. There were no ledges, no hand holds, nothing for me to grab onto. The walls were slimy and steep.

With Buster out of the water, I relaxed considerably. I felt in no immediate danger. Despite the cool water and the disgusting carp swimming around me, I knew I could stay there all night if I needed to. But seeing me neck deep in dark water, unable to get out had Buster in near delirium with panic and worry. It breaks my heart to remember him on that pathway screaming, "Don't die, mom! Keep swimming! Please don't die!"

I got him to sit down and take some breaths. We sang a few songs. Prayed. I explained that we were just going to have to wait until someone came along and could help me out.

It was in the middle of "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam," that I started laughing. That was the moment when I thought, "Never in a million years would I ever have expected to be stuck in a disgusting canal, at night, singing primary songs!" I tried to imagine what I would look like to the first jogger or bike rider that came along. The picture was hysterical.

I don't know how long we waited. While I waited I threw my shoes onto the pathway and felt around with my toes, hoping to locate Buster's bike. I found it, pulled it up and with Buster's help, got it out of the water.

Finally, it seemed like forever but was probably only 7 minutes - the longest 7 minutes in the history of the universe! - I heard bike tires. I called out into the dark, "Uh, hello? I need some help down here!"

Thank goodness it was my friend! They had been waiting and waiting for us and she finally rode back to see if we were OK. She laid down across the dirt and reached down with her arm. I jumped with all my might and caught her hand. She pulled and when I was far enough out, Buster grabbed the other hand and together they heaved my body over the side.

I've never felt more like a beached whale in all my life.

I got up and comforted Buster. His relief was intense. As I mentioned, I really had never felt that I was in any danger, but in Buster's eyes this had been a shocking and terrifying experience. I used my friend's phone to ask Spouse to come pick us up at the next road. As we walked our bikes the quarter mile to the road, Buster talked about what happened and kept repeating, "I'm so glad you didn't die, mom. I'm so glad you kept swimming. I wanted to save you."

After I had stripped out of my disgustingly filthy and stinky clothes, I stood in the hot shower trying to wash every last bit of that canal off me. I started thinking about how many times my kids have ridden ahead of me on that canal path or the times I've ridden in front of them, only turning around every few moments to make sure they are behind me. They could have gone in the canal any of those times and I wouldn't have seen it.

After that night's experience I knew something for certain: if I hadn't been right there when Buster went in, if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, he would have died. Even if he had been able to keep his panic at bay and had been able to swim to the side there is no way he could have gotten himself out. Without being able to touch the bottom and stand to rest, he would have quickly gotten tired of treading water.

I have a new respect for that stinkin' canal. And we have new family rules about when we're on the canal path.

That is one interesting situation I hope to never find myself in again!

ps If you can identify in which movie Jimmy Stewart says, in his characteristic voice, "This is an interesting situation!" I'll send you a signed copy of my new book, "What Not to Wear When Biking Along a Canal."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

September Firsts

The past month I haven't felt like blogging for a few reasons:

1) I was too bloated and sweaty from the never ending heat of Arizona summer.

2) I didn't have any inspired thoughts or experiences to share... read: I was lazy.

But I'm here today to make it up to you! Today I offer you a few of the "firsts" of the past month:

First day of Joy School!

#3 started Joy School, a preschool program co-op with 6 (6!!) other little girls mostly from our neighborhood. She tells me that she rides a bus to school and that I'm her bus driver. She is loving the structure and having her own place to go twice a week.

First football game

My Buster is playing flag football and after a month of practicing, (in the insufferable heat!) competed in his first game. His team won! Go Panthers!

First page of Harry Potter 7

As a book-loving mother, can I express my joy at having a book-loving daughter? A few nights ago, long after I thought the children were sleeping, #1 burst into our room, "I did it! I finished it! Whoo hoo!" She was talking about Harry Potter 6. She wanted to start #7 right then, but I convinced her to wait until the next day. Sure enough, the next afternoon when she got home from school she ran straight to her room, got tucked under her blanket and cracked open #7.

P.S. I'm looking forward to a big planting and seeding day on Saturday! Yesterday we bought, 'fertilizer', and grass and garden seeds and then spent an hour spreading the manure over the garden area - it's Buster's favorite job! When I told Spouse about it he simply commented, "So you bought a bunch of crap, huh?"

Monday, August 29, 2011


The youth speaker at church yesterday was the picture of loveliness. A confident, beautiful, 16 year old girl, speaking from the heart on being a "guardian of virtue." You couldn't watch and listen to her without feeling joy.

#3 must have felt the spirit radiating from this girl but wasn't quite sure what to make of those good feelings. So she did what any 4 year old would do. Just as the youth speaker said "Amen," #3 said, in an excited and loud voice, "Daddy should marry HER!"

And in case any of you are worried, Spouse has chosen (so far!) to stay with his plump, not so radiant mother of his children.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Sign Says

Dear Bugs That Live Around Our House:

I know that it's really hot and muggy outside and you're probably dying for a cool dry place to rest your weary wings and your thousands of eyes. But unfortunately your presence will not be tolerated in our place of residence.

Specifically we do not welcome any:





and certainly not any flies.

If there are any questions or if you feel unfairly targeted, please contact #3, second bedroom on the right.


The mom

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Back to School Fashion 2011

Tomorrow is the big day. Are we ready?

Or click here to view the movie in higher quality. I recommend you do.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Chapter Five, in which few words are needed

Would you like to see why I go to Utah for a month every summer? Of course it's good to be there for family activities. But here's the main reason:

Arizona is HOT and Utah is NOT!

We fly north so we can do things like this:

without sweating profusely.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Chapter Four, in which we climb every mountain (or just one)

One of my favorite hikes in Logan Canyon is the Wind Cave trail. It's not a long or strenuous hike. It's steep, but short. The view at the top is amazing and the caves themselves are fascinating and a little scary.

I can't count how many times I've done this hike. And I think I've hiked it with everyone I ever knew before I was 21.

When I hiked the Wind Caves with my family in July it had been quite a while since I'd hit that path. It was like meeting an old friend after a long separation. Nearly every turn inspired a unique memory. I remembered first dates, friends, my family, emergency situations (of both the funny and scary kind), old family dogs and of course Spouse.

Now my kids are part of my Wind Cave memories too. How #2 and I decided to take a "short-cut" that was more of a "long-cut" and how when he stopped to go to the bathroom we watched a mother deer and her still-spotted baby pass by without their noticing us. And how I drove #1 crazy with all my frantic warnings, "Don't get so close to the edge!" "#1! Stop! You're too close!"

Here is a glimpse of the famous Wind Caves:

That's Brother Brig on the top.

Slowly but surely, she made it to the top! Now, if I can just get her to step away from the ledge!

Just before this picture, Brother Brig had borrowed my camera thinking that I would have a high-zoom lens like his fine art photographer wife and he could get a better view of some creature down below. After a minute of fidgeting with my lens, he handed the camera back to me with a dissatisfied sigh.

#1 down inside the cave.

Me, #1 and #2 from inside the cave

Mom, littlest sister, Brother Brig, #2. Not pictured, Bra and baby S.

Have I hiked the Wind Caves with you?