Thursday, November 24, 2016

Conscious of Our Treasures

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On Thanksgiving Eve, we wrote gratitude lists, counted gifts, filled paper to the edges then taped our thanks to the kitchen wall.

This special November Thursday has become a favorite at our house.

Come morning, Doug is stirring the filling for his grandmothers' no bake pumpkin pie on the stove. Our children are watching the Rockettes kick in perfect unison at the Macy's Thanksgiving parade on NBC. And I am about to begin my grandmother's recipe for turkey dressing.

I ran the icy streets this morning before sun-up. Grateful for gloves, a fleece hat, and a healthy body.

Run alone and you notice so much. The sound of your breath, the way your elbows glide past your ribs, branches still laden with leaves and snow bent to the street, the crunch of crystalline tire tread underfoot.

And I smelled the most wonderful smells...

(The rest of my Thanksgiving thoughts on noticing our treasures at Segullah today. Happy Thanksgiving my dearest readers and friends. I am so very thankful for you.)



Monday, November 14, 2016

A Halloween Election Conspectus

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"Election Conspectus!" Sounds like a spell from Harry Potter. And while I don't intend to wax political, I can't help but draw a slight parallel between Halloween and this year's Election.

Initially I titled this post Wizardry, Bravery, and Stealth. Which pretty much sums up these five on Halloween. Three wizards. One brave Rey. And Cat Woman on the prowl. 

But when I began this post Wednesday after the Election, I thought, "Geesh, those three words could be the title of a 2016 Election post."

Thus, this very brief conspectus:

Doug and I stayed up past 1AM last Tuesday night to see the new President Elect address the world. I sat there, stunned. How did we get here? The Donald as Commander in Chief?! How did our country allow this demagogue to rise so far? Was it wizardry? Stealth? Un. Be. Lievable. 

No one can be criticized for voting this way or that. Everyone had their reasons, their strategies, some heading to the polls with more nose-holding and personal concessions than others. But wow, I did not see this coming. And by morning, bravery assumed a new light. 

I mean, you gotta give props to a third party candidate like Evan McMullin. While he didn't have much of a chance, I loved his message, his courage, and his impressive range of experience. And Hillary's concession was one of the most inspiring political speeches I've ever heard. So gracious and moving. I haven't been a fan in past years but she had my respect that morning.

What a political year. And now, what's done is done. So we move on with optimism and kindness, remembering this wisdom from Barbara Bush, which I'm sure you've heard, but it helps me come back to what I can control.

"Your success as a family, and our success as a society, depends not on what happens in the White House, but on what happens in your house."

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While we have seen administrations change society, I do believe what we accomplish and teach at home, can trump (is there really no other word that fits here??) what goes on in the world. 

So here's what went on at our house for Halloween. Ron looks like he's ready to protest the election. Or maybe having a bath. Or the fact that I asked him to do his own laundry that week.

Everyone carved their pumpkins (mostly) on their own this year! 

Before trick-or-treating, Doug served dinner at his Halloween restaurant. The Graveyard Grill.

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You never know what will show up on the menu. Last year's Werewolf Vomit was such a bust the kids and I can't order said soup anymore at Corner Bakery. Just can't stomach it. So I requested the word vomit be removed from the menu this year, and Doug acquiesced.

Short video of what the kids ate. And thought. Pardon the feline attitude and pumpkin pee pee (?!). Maybe focus on Michael Jackson in the background?




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The kids were anxious to hit the streets, so they painfully suffered through photos, shoving and annoying each other as they tried to stand still. 

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Gordy lost his wand in the canal. But knowing if we paused to retrieve it, I would lose everyone for the evening. So he stood like this. Weaponless and unamused. (We did find it afterwards.)

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Ali loved being Rey. Our kids are growing up on Star Wars, thanks to Doug's lifelong obsession with the movies. And I love it. Note our costumes further down.

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Ali's hair-do was a fun one.

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These two besties loved being Ron and Harry. (Spencer as Ron. Gordon as Harry.)

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Sami helped them memorize a bunch of spells before Halloween. The Harry Potter books are going over big at our house right now. Ali and Sami are almost ready for the 6th one. And Eliza plowed through three this weekend, finally giving in to her sister's pleadings to read along.

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Can you tell what Harry is doing here? 

Extracting a memory...

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Someone said we ought to keep the hair color going so they could tell the boys apart! And you know, I did grow pretty fond of this ginger boy and his freckled face.

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Here they are pre-hair color. Jumping into the big maple leaves piled up in the canal.

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And of course, Sami was Hermione. Such a fun costume for her.

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Liza did her own makeup and I straightened her hair. Man, she's growing up. She was excited to trick-or-treat with her best friend, Katherine. 

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And darling Caleb. Who led the way for the first ten minutes or so.


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All the kids came home with plenty of loot. Which they promptly began to devour. 

A Halloween sugar success. Oy!

A few other Halloween moments:

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Our favorite tennis teacher, Jane! All my kids have loved summer and fall tennis with Jane. She cares about every single kid, really gets to know them and loves them. And she is a fantastic instructor. She even dressed up on their last day of tennis!


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Teachers and mentors like this don't roll around every day. 

I hope you know, Jane, how much we adore you. How grateful we are for your time and goodness.

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We went to Cornbelly's with the kids. A Fall Harvest Festival. Spence was the first to be buried in kernels. 

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Doug and I celebrated our 42nd birthday. No one else I'd rather share candles with.

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We dressed up as Kylo Ren and Leia for Deb and Will's Halloween party. Their final Halloween shindig. And we're sad about that. But in our humble opinion, R2 was their best piƱata yet! Big thanks to Liza for doing my buns. And to Deb and Will for so many years of amazing Halloween parties!

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Our cute neighbors, the Fredricks, had their Halloween party too. And look who I found? Leia Cubed! Love these VandenAkker girls. That night, I didn't have time to do my hair in buns, so we decided I would go as "Leia lets her hair down." 

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And here's our crew in full! Wizardry, Bravery, Stealth, and... the Dark Side. That could work for an election post title too. But we'll leave it at that. Hope all your Haunts were safe and happy! 


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Stand Back and Watch Me Work

A couple months ago Eliza was asked to paint something for the cover of our children's church program. I absolutely love the mixed media piece she composed. So I wrote about her art, her dyslexia, and our effort to study the scriptures together. 

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Thanks to Eliza's artistic symbolism, when I open the scriptures I have this visual now, of all the gifts that rise out of God's words. And my interactions with her are teaching me God is in charge. He feels after his children, and speaks to them in his own time and way. Full story at Segullah today.

Enjoy this gorgeous October Sabbath,

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Nothing Gold Can Stay

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Last week, on a blustery-gray morning, I dropped the kids at school and rather than driving home to do breakfast dishes, drove up into the canyon. 

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Small droplets of rain smattered across the windshield. Before long it was raining hard and steady. I drove and drove until the rain turned to snow. And my wheels began to spin as they slipped along the pavement. So slick, I had to turn back. But I determined to return after school with my children so we could revel in the changing color. The glorious reveal that will soon be under snow.

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After school I told the kids to drop their backpacks, put on jackets, and pile back into the car. Our first stop? Starbucks. To pick up pumpkin spice hot chocolate. So we could sip it on our drive. (Truth? Not as good as we had hoped. My favorite place for hot chocolate is still MacCool's. If you're local, stop in for their sweet potato fries with curry sauce and a mug of hot cocoa. You can't beat their nutmeg whipped cream!)

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It was a gorgeous drive up. Chilly, but no longer snowing. So we made it to the tip-top without a struggle. And this is what we found. 

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Yellow aspens. Shimmering through snowy pines. Golden spindles nearly touching the clouds.

Mr. Frost was right. Nothing gold can stay. 

But if it could... maybe the marvel of it wouldn't.

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That is the stunning beauty of fall. That it comes and goes. Just long enough for us to witness the sublime, the glory. So brief. And then leaf subsides to leaf.

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See the gorgeous light in the west? Hollowing out a place in the clouds as we turned for our descent? 

Carl Sandburg wrote,

I cried over beautiful things knowing no beautiful thing lasts.

The field of cornflower yellow is a scarf at the neck of the copper sunburned woman, the mother of the year, the taker of seeds.

The northwest wind comes and the yellow is torn full of holes, new beautiful things come in the first spit of snow on the northwest wind, and the old things go, not one lasts.


Carl Sandburg (1918)


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Not just leaves are changing around here. 

It's a whole new season with all five kids in full-time school. And all of them together. For just this year.

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As school was starting I read something my friend Melissa wrote about time. You'll be able to relate. The school year begins, social media feeds brim with back to school photos and you hear the same sentiment. "How did we get here? When did they grow up? Where did the time go?" 

Melissa writes, 

I won't say "I don't know where the time went" because I do. And so do you. The time went through us, and down those lurching-surging channels of anxiety and hope, fatigue and cheer, pooling right into [these children]." 

Yes, right into their beings. 

Everything I've had. 

And this new season will be the same. More giving, more letting go. More mistakes and learning. 

I look at this lineup and feel so humbled to be a parent. 

And happy too. That we've made it this far. That I have hours every day to dig out from the last seven years, to get organized, tackle a few projects, take a class, feed my soul.

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Eliza is eleven and in 6th grade. These three photos kinda sum up her moods. Which can disappear and reappear at any time. 

Silly.

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Happy. That is her gift. Happy so much of the time.

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And not so happy. Some of the time.

Becoming a teenager is hard. So many changes. So many emotions. So much to navigate and figure out. My heart feels like it will rip apart some days when I'm the last person she wants to listen to. I can't push her along anymore. It's about encouragement, and gentle, gentle guidance. And we talk a lot about choice. 

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In these moments, I find letting go hard. But I trust her. I trust her interests and abilities. I trust her mind and her heart. And I trust a loving God who knows her better than I do, to hear my prayers and work with her on his terms and in his ways. I pray I can hear his whisperings when I sit on her bed at night and listen and love.

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Ali is nine, 4th grade, and blessed with an astute sense of knowing. She observes others' emotions, their faces, their words. She listens and learns wherever she is. And I love when she wants to join me on errands, stay after church with me to visit with friends, snuggle next to me on the couch. Often she generously puts her arms around my waist when she can see frustration on my face, sorrow in my eyes.

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Sami is nine too. The glue in our family. She holds all her siblings close. Each adores her and has a wonderful friendship with her. She is steady and strong and constant. 

The other morning I was staying with my mother while my dad was out of town and forgot it was school picture day. I hurried home to do their hair in the morning, but it was stressful and rushed, and I hadn't filled out any of their picture forms. I asked who would be wiling to go late to school and sit in the car with me to help fill out forms. She volunteered immediately, stayed with me in my hurry and impatience, shuffling and licking envelopes. And when we finished, she gave me a big hug then ran across the field, ten minutes late for school, still smiling. I cried at her goodness as I drove away. A child teaching her mother.

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And these boys. Age seven. 1st Grade. Oh, I miss our morning snuggles on the couch. Their sleepy heads and warm arms woven round mine as we pulled blankets over our legs and read stories. Now it's out the door with them too and I ache for their company.

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Spencer is a fiery one right now. Quick to erupt sometimes. But just as quick to know when he's wrong, to apologize, and to make things right. He is very athletic, loving soccer and football, and all things Star Wars. It's such a gift these two have each other. They very rarely argue. They look out for each other, and love each other deeply.

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Gordy is tender and good. Anxious to please. And a hard worker. He still gives me the best hugs and loves to kiss my cheek before bed -- eskimo, butterfly, and nuzzle style. He says the most thoughtful prayers. Always remembering friends in need by name. "Bless John's heart to be strong on his mission, bless Emma's brain tumor to not grow, bless Ryan's bell's palsy to go away, and Grandma Ronda to get stronger, and Hillary and the Stephensons, to be comforted." His list is long and to my amazement, he remembers every name.

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In early October we drove south to cheer Doug on in his sixth marathon. I keep thinking he'll feel old and tired like me and quit racing. But not yet. I'm proud of him.

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My Dad celebrated his 72nd birthday. So we made silly faces together. Because... he's silly. And makes me laugh every time we're together.

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September brought the birth of a new cousin. Jack. Sarah's second. He's so precious; we love him already.

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These cute girls had a lemonade stand to raise money for a water project in Africa. 4th grade global service.

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September brought the most wonderful harvest of peaches. Most we ate fresh, and some we used for cobbler. With vanilla bean ice cream.

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Maggie's trees have been so good to us.

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Mums on the front porch made me happy every time I stepped out the front door. They kind of exploded over the weeks, growing spindly and long, and full.

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My mom feels pretty strong, despite indications from her last MRI that new tumor is likely growing. 

Can you feel the love in this photo? 

I could not hold it together as I watched my friend Crystalyn visit with my Mom. They talked faith. What it means to not have the miracle you want, to not receive the answer you hoped for, to have your heart break. How a higher faith is accepting and trusting that a generous, omniscient God, knows you. More perfectly than anyone else. And loves you, no matter what happens to you. 

Crystalyn moved into our ward over a year ago. And she has become a sweet, sweet friend. Her Dad was just diagnosed with the most aggressive brain cancer. Bilateral Glioblastoma. Stage 4. We are grieving with her and loving her family as they walk this difficult road.

She used to live in my parents' neighborhood and taught the best church lessons, my Mom said. As my Mom spoke, Crystalyn wrapped her arms around my Mom, laid her head on my mamma's shoulder, and cried. In her own sorrow, she showed us what it means to lift and love.

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I hit the trail yesterday. Feet and heart pounding. Every weekend the trail is different. New color adorns the hillside, new bundles of trees are barren. Clouds drift in and over the mountain tops in new patterns. No two weeks are the same. 

I think. I listen. I whisper to the Lord, "teach me." And then I try to hear what it is He needs me to know. Yesterday I felt so thankful for my healthy, healed, body. A year ago I injured my foot and missed eight months of running. To be back on the trails this Autumn resurrected a part of me. A joy that has been sleeping.

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When there's a carpet like this to soften each step, the ground smells of dry leaves, a blue jay chitters in a nearby tree, and I catch the scent of wood smoke on the air, I am pretty much giddy.

I know. That gold beneath my feet won't stay. No beautiful thing lasts, the poets say. People we love leave us. Too soon. Children grow up and want us less. Life hurts. And yet, I hold on to that flicker of gold in the distance. That place where all things golden stay. And stay. And stay. 

This life isn't everything. There is so much more. There is light brighter than we can imagine. Golden light. Ahead for all of us.

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