Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Anchored

Dear May, I love your sweet honey locust smell, your green grass, your blooms, and the blessed rain we've received all month, but truthfully, you're killin' me. With all your recitals and programs, baseball games, birthdays, piano duets, school projects and school activities. You over-scheduled me without my consent. I'll just keep hanging on. Submissively Yours, c.

Pretty sure I haven't sat down for an entire month. And it's not over yet. Thus the neglect here. Pardon the silence. It's been a multitude of things. May on steroids, trying to squeeze spine rehabilitation into my life, a blip on studio 5 yesterday about books to read over the summer (more on that next time), Doug's marathon, a power of moms retreat, and needing/wanting to take care of my own mom.

But it's alright. We capture what we can and hold the rest quietly inside, grateful.

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Let me start with my Mom. After writing that last post, she took another difficult turn. The day following, she had a hard seizure that would not stop. (I can't imagine how terrifying that must feel.) Her seizures are sensory and muscular, so she is conscious throughout. A couple weekends ago I was there when she had one and it was hard to watch. I could see her steeling herself mentally to survive the four minutes it lasted. But this particular weekend, the seizure wouldn't stop.

My Dad took her to the ER where they sedated her heavily so the seizure would turn off, which it did. But once she was clear to go home, my Dad had the difficult task of getting a drugged, grown woman out of the car and inside the house. Here's where the story gets funny... I was horrified when he first told me. But now we can laugh. Because they both survived it.

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His brilliant idea? Put her on a hand dolly. Yep, one of those things warehouse workers stack boxes on, tip it backwards, and roll it on two wheels where they want to go!? Yeah. Somehow he got her standing/reclining on the dolly, tipped it backwards, and started lugging her up the front walk. Obstacle 1? Steps. As he hefted her up the first step, they lost balance and fell down. My Dad sprained his thumb badly, but my mom was okay. She actually slept through the whole charade. Can't remember a thing!

After the fall, she slumped down to the bottom of the dolly, was just sitting there. So my dad got himself up and pulled again, bumped her up over the steps and into the house. From there he dragged her back to her bedroom, propped her against the bed (imagine this: she's facing the bed, forehead on the mattress, kneeling on the carpet, arms dangling by her side). Then he grabbed the back of her pants and hoisted her into bed.

Oh. My. Goodness. It was like Weekend at Bernie's! I told my Dad I don't ever want to hear a story like this again! We live five minutes away! Next time... call us! Which he promised to do.

My uncle made me laugh when he said, "Now the only thing Robert forgot... was duct tape!"

The bad news? My mom had an increased loss of function on the left side after this seizure. We were quite worried about her for a couple days. She could't get out of bed on her own, stand, or walk. Very little balance.

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That afternoon Kara brought these gorgeous tulips over. Some for me (pictured at top of post) and some for my Mom. With the most inspired and beautiful letter, which I took to my Mom that next evening. Just to give you a feel for Kara's heart, here is part of the letter:

Ronda, When my Isaac died, your card was one I kept close by and reread again and again. You grieved with me and rejoiced with me and then you said this, "little baby Isaac, a pure and precious soul, has been enfolded into Father's loving arms with everlasting shouts of joy!" Your testament of joy meant so much to me. It was exactly what a worried, wondering mother needed to hear and think about. I am so grateful for you and your perfect insight always. You remind me that life is joyful. That life does not end here. That life is a continuing, beautiful experience here and there... You make life beautiful and strong for everyone who knows you. And you are still doing it, even in your suffering, because it is so much who you are. You can't help it.

I sat on my Mom's bed, my Dad in the chair next to it, and together, all three of us cried, as I read the letter to her. I cut the tulips and put them in a vase in her room. Then I climbed into bed next to her and read her the Psalms until she fell asleep.

Since then she has regained some function, is able to walk on her own if she steadies herself on something. She even dressed herself a few days ago. Which was a big accomplishment! But I know it's a struggle every day to feel grounded, to calm herself, to trust.

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So for Mother's Day I gave her this necklace.

An anchor. To remind her when she feels worried or tossed, how anchored she really is. By God. That he has a hold of her life. That she won't have to go through anything without him. Or without us. 

My Dad wrote her the sweetest card. About this new road they are going down, with bumps and rough patches (literally!), and how he is so grateful they don't have to go it alone. That they have each other, and the Lord. 

Seeing them navigate these new challenges together has been very touching.

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My Mom has always been an anchor to me. I've relied so heavily on her input, her experience, her listening ear. She never judges; she just listens and tries to understand. Because of her I have a sense of belonging, of being known, of being loved.

Thank you, all of you, who have left words here, on Segullah, or Facebook. Who have stopped by my door, sent me a text, visited my mom, told her how much you love her, prayed for her. Your compassion and outreach have brought us to tears again and again and again. We can't say thank you enough.

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I am also grateful for this mother. Who raised Doug and his brothers. Who continues to serve and love our family. My children adore Renae. I don't know what I would have done without her all this years of having small children. She has been the favorite babysitter, the one who offers to help before I ask, and never makes me feel like I've inconvenienced her when I do.

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We love you Renae.

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Mother's Day 2015. Finally got the boys to stand still... for just a second.
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And these were their portraits of Mom. Gordy's is top left. I'm in my blue dress. Spencer's is below. Note the red starfish eyebrows. Ali's bottom middle. Sami's above. And Eliza's on the right. 

I love those five children of ours. With all I have.

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First weekend in May we had the annual Power of Moms retreat at Richard and Linda Eyre's home. It was so fun to be with these wonderful ladies, Saren and April. I don't see them enough. They are always inspiring.

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Saren's Eliza came along. So fun to see them together. We love that Eliza.

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And it's always fun to meet the tremendous moms that come to these retreats. I ran a few discussion groups and had such a delightful time talking with some of these ladies.

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This mom and her baby were so darling.

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Richard and Linda always bring such a great sense of humor to the day. As well as incredible insight and gifted teaching.

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I was so excited when I learned Saydi was coming! Saydi (Saren's sister) and I went to Israel together years ago and she has been such an inspiration to me as we've become mothers. I love her parenting style, her devotion, her realness, her intent. This is Richard talking about how much he loves his amazing daughters. And they are amazing. 

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April's daughter, Grace, also came along. And it was her BIRTHDAY!  So we sang to her.

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Seriously, if you're in Utah (or want to come to Utah) next year, first weekend in May, make this retreat happen! It's open to moms everywhere. We had moms from Canada, Texas, Virginia, California, Boston. It was a great group!

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Richard and Linda talked about how to avoid Entitlement. (Have you read their book, The Entitlement Trap?) It's excellent. So helpful as my kids get older and we work on developing qualities that will help them become independent, hard-working, compassionate, human beings.

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Saydi gave an excellent presentation on living in the moment and being present. It was so well-done.

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A couple tips on how to be present more often: 1 - Change your focal length. Zoom in or Zoom out. 2 - Change your filter. Change the way your'e seeing things. 3 - Try to stop sometimes and really see your children. See their hair, their eyes, they way their body moves. See who they are right then and enjoy it.

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We can't wax blissful all the time. Most days we just slog through, trying to keep everyone alive, and we teach where we can. Like this photo which I absolutely love. April took it last summer. It's of Saydi trying to have scripture study with her kids. This was during the prayer. Ha! I laughed so hard. Doesn't it make you feel normal!?

It takes our family at least five minutes every night to quiet down for family prayer, get everyone on their knees, and stop the fighting.

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And here's part of our Power of Moms Board. The women who make everything happen behind the scenes. They are an incredible group of people. So talented. And devoted to this cause of making motherhood the best it can be for women around the world. So glad to associate with them.

As I looked through photos of all these moms, I thought of each of them, as anchors in their children's lives. Anchors for their husbands or other family they associate with. I love what women and mothers can do for the world. Ground it. Give it meaning. Teach compassion and strength.

A late Happy Mother's Day to all of you women and mothers who keep the world anchored and spinning. I love you.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

How to Find Comfort in Times of Trouble

It's been a while since I've written about my Mom. New symptoms and challenges have developed. Two weeks ago, a sensory seizure left her without the use of her left hand, a loss of function similar to a stroke. Recent imaging studies are helping us understand what needs to happen for her next. 

I am writing about it at Segullah today. About comfort, the psalms, and inner storms.

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Mom, I know Jesus will calm the waves you feel. He is not sleeping in the hull. He is listening to you, and loving you. You are in his boat. You are in his hands.

Your bravery makes us believe no matter what happens, it will be alright. And I'm with Dad. There is still time. Still much for you to do together. I love you.

Monday, April 20, 2015

High (and low) Holy Days

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Hi ho! Hi ho! It's off to school they go. And who would guess it's the middle of April?

Last week a much-needed snow storm blew in. Boy, do our mountains need the water! So we celebrated that morning with hot chocolate and the donning of snow gear. 

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Our sweet neighbor, Rebecca, took the boys sledding and then to preschool. So I had the day to run a list of errands I'd been putting off during spring break. Of course, as luck would have it...

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this happened as soon as I pulled into the grocery store parking lot.

The good news? It was April 15th and Doug could actually break away from his desk. He's not just handy with a ten-key; he can change a flat. In the snow. Hallelujah. Tax man to the rescue.

I wish I could report that he'll be home for dinner every night this week, but I can't. I've learned over the years that April 15th is just a pause in the tax madness. Immediately following are new deadlines, employee reviews, and other projects. So... I'm hoping we'll see more of him in... May?

For now, I'm just grateful he makes the bed every morning. I appreciate that small service so much. And on his first Saturday off, what did he do? He cleaned and detailed the minivan. By himself. (With some vacuuming help from Spencer and Sami.) Seriously. Pen on the seats, popsicles melted into drink holders, stickers on the windows, french fries in-between seats. Oy! You should have seen the pile of trash he pulled out. And I thought I was throwing away all garbage every time I gassed up! Bless him. 

There are always blips in the journey. Lows, if you want to call them that. But we've had some beautiful highs. Particularly during Holy Week. 

Spring Break and Easter fell on the same week. Which I loved. Time off from school gave us the luxury of diving into all our traditions. We stayed close to home, tried to make the days holy. 

Here are the highlights, along with a few new traditions or alterations. 

Palm Sunday

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On Palm Sunday we cut blossoms for our Easter tree. A tradition I've really come to love, as we tie small squares of religious art onto plumb boughs, depicting events in the Savior's life.

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Starting Monday, much of Spring Break was spent on the Pollei's trampoline. A favorite, old, bouncy tramp tucked into a beautiful yard round the corner. When our kids heard Dick (Pollei) had put it back up, they were the first to try it out. Dick and Bev are dear to us. Despite Bev's ailing health, she and Dick love the children to come. 

Monday

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Monday evening we took the kids to Temple Square for Family Home Evening

Because Christ preached in the temple the Monday before his crucifixion and cleansed it a second time that Monday or Tuesday, I thought it would be a good tradition to take the kids there, see the beautiful gardens, and have one of the children teach a lesson.

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This statue is called "Joyful Moment." The original is in the Nauvoo Women's Garden, where I served my mission. I used to walk through the garden after we closed the Visitors' Center, past the beautiful bronze statues, toward our little white house. Fireflies flashed lazily in the humid air and I would think about the future. What kind of family would I have? How many children? Would they love me? I wanted so much to be that mother, who knew joy.

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Doug was kind enough to oblige as we tried to create a similar joyful moment. It lasted all of three seconds, then Gordon decided ring around the rosy was stupid, and Spencer got stepped on and decided to sit out.

You know how it goes, right?

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The tulips were amazing.

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Eliza wore her french painter's beret. 

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And right about now, as I was taking pictures of the girls leaping over the flower beds we were approached by security and politely asked to take our playing elsewhere. Oops.

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Ali took us into the Visitor's Center, where they hung new murals of the Savior and she taught us about love. 

The best moment of the evening was when two sister missionaries joined our lesson and told the kids how lucky they were to have good parents who loved them and were trying to teach them the right. 

One sister from China read 1 Nephi 1:1 about Nephi being "born of goodly parents" and explained how she didn't have parents who wanted to spend time with her or teach her. She told our kids she could see how much we loved them. Then she committed them to always remember how blessed they were to have good parents. It was very tender. Just what our family needed. And I was reminded how inspired missionaries can be.

Tuesday

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Tuesday morning, Renae watched the kids so I could attend a temple session. In the temple we learn about the creation and renew special covenants we have made with God. I'm not getting to the temple enough in this season of life. But when I do, it is a real joy.

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A couple other events that happened over Spring Break: I attended my friend Kristen's first solo concert. Kristen and I served missions together in Nauvoo. I wrote about her here a few years ago. Doug couldn't make it so I took Ali. Kristen did an amazing job. Her voice, her wisdom, her stories. I'm so glad I was there. She has a new CD out and I'll let you know when it's on iTunes. But for now, enjoy this teaser: her version of How Firm a Foundation.

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We took everyone to see Cinderella. Pretty sure we were the last ones to see it (note the empty theatre), but if you haven't, you must. Don't wait.

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This scene was totally entrancing. The whole movie was so. well. done.

Holy Thursday

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Thursday we invited friends to join us for our annual Easter Walk

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Parker found this withered daffodil to represent something dead. Every year Katherine and Parker join us (Kara's children), and I think of their baby brother Isaac. How his death and anticipated resurrection will forever instruct and inspire their family.

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The underside of a mushroom for something black, representing the darkness after the crucifixion.

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Alice and Abby with their small round stones, in memory of the stone rolled away.

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My mother's crab apple tree. Truly glorious.

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Eliza's stacked tulips, representing new life and resurrection.

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The whole crew. We always welcome newcomers.

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This year it was chilly enough we had hot chocolate and cookies afterwards.

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Late afternoon, I went over to Pollei's to gather the kids for dinner. When I turned around, I noticed this dark eastern sky, neon trees against gray clouds swiftly moving over the mountain. So beautiful.

The girls set the table while I went to pick up our take-out from Layla's. Our modified version of a Passover meal. Seder, in memory of Jesus' Last Supper with his apostles.

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I still haven't made the traditional foods. Some day I will. For now, it's pita and hummus, chicken kabobs, kibbe, falafel, salad and grapes. But we do talk about the symbolism of the meal, the bread made in haste with no leaven, the exodus, the bitter herbs. 

This year I turned on some arabic music for fun, and well, it was all crazy after that.

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Gorgeous full moon Thursday evening. 

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That night we talked in depth about Gethsemane. About the word Atonement. I love this painting by Franz Schwarz from the Sacred Gifts exhibit last year, Agony in the Garden. 

My friend, Elizabeth, found this beautiful children's song I played for my kids. The words are perfectly chosen. Just right for young minds and hearts when it comes to comprehension. All my children loved it and wanted to listen to it as they fell asleep that night. I think we'll try to memorize it next year.

Each day of the week we watched a few LDS bible videos depicting the last week of the Savior's life. The church keeps adding new ones and I am always impressed. Such a great teaching resource.

Good Friday

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First time ever making our own hot cross buns and I was thrilled they turned out! Did you know English folklore says that sailors took these baked buns on ships with them for good luck? Others believed that hot cross buns baked on good friday would never spoil. And friends who give hot cross buns to each other will remain friends for life.

I think that goes for us Adri. Even if it was only in recipe form. Thank you for sharing your recipe. And thank you Pioneer Woman. Recipe here: Hot Cross Buns. They were delicious! 

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Funny side note: My sister, Deb, unbeknownst to me, used the exact same recipe. Friday morning I got this text and picture from her:

"Pretty sure these are going to have to be 'it's the thought that counts' hot cross buns."

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I laughed so hard. "Not necessarily round," I said, "but I bet they taste good!" We laughed some more, especially because I'm the lesser cook and infamous for dough fails, and mine turned out! Beginner's luck.

Then she texted me this:

"Mike (age 4) just said, 'Look! An S for Super Jesus'!" 

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My kids busted up. We had no intention to be irreverent, but on Good Friday, I thought it absolutely appropriate for a four-year-old to consider Jesus a hero.

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Friday afternoon we colored eggs.

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And in the evening we hung our lanterns.

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Our own Easter Vigil. 

More about what this tradition means to us in a post Multiply Goodness ran a few days before Easter.

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Small flames, slowly glowing brighter.

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As the last rays of sunlight fled the valley, Deb texted me again. With this photo.

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"It was a special night for us to talk about Jesus and the resurrection."

Her own Easter lanterns were flickering on her porch, her daughter Lizzie, sitting quietly in her pjs. 

That evening and into the next day, photos on Instagram popped up from friends round the world who lit lanterns. And below each picture, their own declaration of a living Christ. Beautiful lines about lighting Easter fire, about waiting, and believing. 

In Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, London... all these friends quietly witnessing. I was so touched.
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Easter Sunday

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Easter morning we joined Eliza in watching the sun rise over her backyard garden tomb.

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Sami wrote a most important message on the blackboard.

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We hunted for Easter baskets.

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Notice the small pom-pom animals Sami and Ali made. They worked soooo hard on these! And they made one for each person in the family. A chickie, a bear, a fox, a squirrel, a bunny...

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Eliza decorated our hummingbird cake with fresh flowers. Traditional Easter dinner was at my parents' home. 

Our high holy days were beautiful, full of juice and joy, and life. It's official. Holy week remains my favorite week of the year. 

This is a long post, and I feel like it hasn't much depth. It's taking all my life force lately just to keep our family moving. Week after week goes by and I find almost no time to write, to read more than my scriptures, or to ponder.

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But just a few days ago these rays of sunshine were buried under snow. Today, they are reaching again, turning their leaves and faces to the light. They survived. 

Sometimes we doubt our own resilience. Our ability to thrive, when we feel we aren't getting to it all, or doing it right. 

How grateful I am that Christ restores my soul. Again and again.

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