Friday, December 23, 2016


 photo IMG_6378_zps5zjpmahl.jpg

My last post was one month ago, at Segullah. A brief listing of my treasures. My gratitudes. An attempt to be aware of this wondrous life. From its smallest snow-crystalled beauties to the greatest and grandest gifts of children, family, and the Lord himself. Written without the slightest intimation that one of our treasures would slip from us just hours after my posting.

On November 25th, 2016, Doug's little brother, Steve, passed away in his sleep. Steven Garth Arveseth. The youngest of six brothers. Nicknamed "the favorite" because, he truly was. Brother, son, husband, father of three young children, friend, brilliant technical accounting mind. Gone. And for weeks we've been trying to pick ourselves up from the blow of it.

 photo 15622449_10211362111712313_5985579264697279476_n 1_zpsy5jlrmqs.jpg

Usually I have words. Words are how I process, how I feel, how I make sense of the world. And while we have been blessed with exquisite insight, comfort, even divine teaching through this sudden and painful loss, I am still unable to find my words.

So, as we do in hard times, I will lean on another.

Doug will share with you some of what he said at Steven's funeral on Monday. I hope in his words you will feel the unbreakable bond of family, of brothers who would do anything for each other.

 photo Kids - 81 Dec - Chr Eve - I cant wait_zpsi5zohsdj.jpg

I also hope you will feel the Holy Ghost witness to you of that unspeakable gift Paul wrote about. The gift of Christ's Atonement. The scope of it, the depth of it.

I am positive we simply cannot comprehend all that it covers. All that it does. But I trust in it. And I trust our Lord Jesus. That He has every magnificent capability to rescue, restore, and make right. If we let Him.

 photo IMG_6373_zpsjkmoddym.jpg

I posted Doug's words at Segullah yesterday. He spoke directly to Steven's children. And taught us that instead of Goodbye, we will say, More.

Because we will have more of Steven. 

 photo IMG_0198_zpsvlunw6jn.jpg

More of his laughter, his teasing, his teaching, and his smile. 

 photo IMG_0226_zpsnyu6z10c.jpg

 photo IMG_0218_zpscudz5sgn.jpg

More joy. More light. More love. More forgiveness. 

Because of Jesus. 

Blessed Jesus. 

And his unspeakable gift.

 photo DSC01158 1_zps2lwu2fah.jpg

This Christmas we told the kids, it is enough that we have each other. 

We haven't done our usual traditions. Doug and I haven't had much time to shop. There will be only a few presents under the tree. But we have each other. And we have Jesus. And in that there is joy. In that there is peace. 

Merry Christmas dearest friends and readers. So many of you have mourned with us, mailed us cards, texted, or shown up on our doorstep. You have loved us through this sorrow. And your love has held us.

Joyous Christmas to each of you. 


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Conscious of Our Treasures

 photo IMG_6147_zpshzhdk55t.jpg

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

 photo IMG_5965_zpsjlqvafac.jpg

"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."

 photo IMG_5946_zpsbgf0ny2q.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_5977_zpso4s92v8r.jpg

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?

 photo IMG_5803_zpsl2zb50d3.jpg

 photo IMG_5814_zpsfxokovaq.jpg

 photo IMG_5826_zps4gifhdzl.jpg

 photo IMG_5832_zpsdroecvkm.jpg 

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. 

 photo IMG_5959_zps4jhvxh3r.jpg

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.)

 photo IMG_5894_zpsusymlgdm.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_5888_zpsldeipoxb.jpg

Ali's hair-do was a fun one.

 photo IMG_5904_zpsr2d0esl3.jpg

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

 photo IMG_5917_zpsa5g8ygy3.jpg 

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.

 photo IMG_5923_zpshmbc85cv.jpg

Can you tell what Harry is doing here? 

Extracting a memory...

 photo IMG_5926_zpsh7vuu8kx.jpg

 photo IMG_5940_zpsglmlo6ju.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_5936_zpsv10hawtt.jpg

 photo IMG_5769_zpsalxbb2kc.jpg

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

 photo IMG_5756 2_zps2coomshd.jpg

 photo IMG_5875_zpsqp7o77yq.jpg

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

 photo IMG_5882_zps66xupjxm.jpg

 photo IMG_5870_zpsjtnwajl1.jpg

 photo IMG_5914_zpsmk4rhwkt.jpg

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. 

 photo IMG_0075 1_zps6iel20r3.jpg

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

 photo IMG_5987_zpsmaydjzzt.jpg

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:

 photo IMG_5506_zpsxvbsciad.jpg

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!

 photo IMG_5734_zpsxoizs75x.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_9843_zpsy3sjfbh7.jpg

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

 photo IMG_9842_zpsq1qpsgvl.jpg

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

 photo IMG_9862_zpst3jdzvtr.jpg

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!

 photo IMG_9929_zps2elecpm8.jpg

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." 

 photo 1955FE94-8A5E-4201-8A78-A64D8A6C2C94_zpszkmj6dhv.jpg

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. 

 photo IMG_4673_zpskukpmoyd.jpg

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

 photo IMG_5287_zpsjkyyvsfm.jpg

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. 

 photo IMG_5293_zpsaf600thu.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_5284_zpshgpszuvd.jpg

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!)

 photo IMG_5299_zpsbkajkn6v.jpg

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. 

 photo IMG_5303 1_zpsphljfcsd.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_5283_zpstcuztrao.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_5312_zpsulstyref.jpg

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)

 photo IMG_5318_zps2nrtohnr.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_4664_zpss0zawy8k.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_4626_zpsplu2p1ey.jpg

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


 photo IMG_4629_zpse5v5omtt.jpg

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

 photo IMG_4635_zpsnw1gemyo.jpg

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. 

 photo IMG_4656_zps7v53jyjy.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_4645_zpstrpwohav.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_4623_zpswjiyuw4a.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_4601_zpsreh88lvz.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_4579_zpsgycw8yvx.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_4590_zpshv2kkr7r.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_5251 1_zpsxiarmiwp.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_9559_zpshnjc6hxd.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_9621_zpsp8ozlic8.jpg

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

 photo IMG_4719 1_zpsrw8tnbgl.jpg

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

 photo IMG_4690_zpszxcf0601.jpg

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

 photo IMG_4695_zpscgak100u.jpg

 photo IMG_4697_zps9ixtvrrp.jpg

Maggie's trees have been so good to us.

 photo IMG_4702_zpsalirzc8a.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_4704_zpspv0cg05o.jpg

 photo IMG_9630_zpspc5al0a1.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_9763_zpszgfyrwhi.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_9764_zps3aomsi64.jpg

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.

Related Posts with Thumbnails