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. 


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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.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Looking Back at Summer

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Summer is officially gone. The Fall equinox brought rain, sweatshirts, and the most glorious color spilling itself across the Wasatch Mountains. I will write about it soon, but for today, one last glance over the shoulder, at summer.

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Living in Utah means mountains. Every season. And for so many reasons. For exercise, for family time, for gathering in groups, for nature, for cook-outs, for adventure.

I love our mountain home.

Albion Basin dazzled us with her wildflowers, per her usual style.

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We did a Friday night hike on as many Fridays as we could. Sometimes everyone was game. Sometimes not. I'll let you decipher that from the photos.

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We hiked up to Timpanogos Cave on a rainy, cloudy day. 

Rainy hikes are chilly, but they always make for the prettiest scenery. The clouds were magical, wispy, floating over and around us.

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Doug and Eliza summited Mt. Olympus again. 9,026 feet.

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Eliza had her first big "stay away from home." She and Katherine went to Mill Hollow. A three-day Summer Camp for 4th-6th graders.

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Darling group of girls they bunked with. And she didn't miss us a bit. :(

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Summer Piano Camp yielded a goldfish for each of the girls. This small gift from their teacher, Miss Betsy, absolutely made their summer. 

I guess salamanders for half a summer didn't fulfill their pet need. Darn.

Eliza named her fish LuLu.

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Sami and Ali named theirs Squishy and Silver. 

"I shall call him Squishy. And he will be mine. And he shall be my Squishy." (We said that a lot.)

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I know goldfish are supposed to live in a tank with a filter system and all that jazz, but honestly, I wasn't convinced they'd survive that long. Guess what tho? They are still alive. And thriving. Sami takes good care of them. And we've added a few new friends. At the Country Fair a few weeks ago, the kids came home with three new goldies. Now it's a goldfish party in our kitchen!

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Summer also meant books. Lots of books. 

Eliza plowed through the Michael Vey series in a matter of weeks. She is proud to call herself a "Veyniac" and couldn't wait to order the 6th book that came out end of September.

I listened to the first book, to get a feel for the story, and while it's not fabulous writing, it's a gripping story. Clean. And kids her age are devouring Evans' books.

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Ali and Sami made their way through much of the Harry Potter series this summer. Sami even started reading the first book aloud to the boys. 

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I think the girls have two books left.

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Other books we have been enjoying for read-aloud, or young/pre-teen readers:

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Narnia Series (Yes, still reading these aloud. We finished Prince Caspian and oh, we had the most powerful experience reading The Horse and His Boy.)

Little House Series (Still reading these aloud too. We finally made it to Little Town on the Prairie.) 

Echo by Pam Ryan. Newberry Honor book. Fantasy, magical, incredible weaving of stories.

Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eager. Tender story about a girl coming to know and understand her grandfather.

Listening for Lions by Gloria Whelan. Looooved this book about the strength of the human spirit, compassion, dreams, all while learning about Africa.

Summerlost by Ally Condie. When it comes to YA fiction, Ally Condie is one of the best authors out there. She is simply a great writer. I love her prose.

Are You There God? It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume. Remember this one? From when we were young? I have been reading this with Eliza as she is "coming of age," and navigating all the awkward self-awareness that goes with this part of growing up. We have laughed and laughed and laughed together. It's so good to laugh about things we sometimes take too seriously. Highly recommend this for pre-teen girls.

Penderwicks Series by Jeanne Birdsall. We finished the last one this summer. And sigh... I love, love, love those Penderwick girls. Each book gets better and better. It's like Little Women in modern times but without the technology and unsavory issues of our day. Pure joy. Even our boys have loved these reads. I wish Birdsall would write more.

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We did a lot of talking about Love this summer. What would love do now? What does it mean to have charity? To not be easily provoked? To not be puffed up? It's an ongoing conversation at our house.

Sometimes I worry, when these kids are about to kill each other, that they'll grow up and never be friends. But I'm holding out for love. I pray, that in the end, that is what they'll feel and remember and see, when they look back.

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Spencer makes me laugh. He likes "borrowing" Doug's iPod and plugging in.

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He listens to his favorite. Boston.

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And plays air guitar around the house.

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One afternoon in July, these girls wanted to play "Pioneer." Perfect, as we were about to celebrate Pioneer Day.

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Eliza went with the wonderful Lehnardts to Lake Powell. Such a fun trip for her! And so kind of them to invite her along. Go to Lake Powell once and you're hooked. She's hooked.

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Love these two girls.

At the end of the trip, a sweet lady bought Eliza a t-shirt she wanted at the marina. Eliza was a few dollars short and as she started to walk away, this generous lady said, "Oh, I love that shirt. But they didn't have one in my size. Let me buy it for you!" And she did. Don't you love nice people?

Hop over to Michelle's blog for the rest of her Lake Powell pics.

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Our new piano has been such joy. It feels like we added another sibling to our family. It brings us together, sends a sound of happiness out into our home. Everyone likes to gather in the piano room. 

One quiet Sunday evening, Doug was outside with all the kids and dishes were done, so I just sat at the piano and played. Hymn after hymn after hymn. And I sang. Something I haven't done in so long. It made me happy.

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There was lots of wading in the canal. One afternoon I got out old wood, hammers, and nails, and made boats with these cute little sailors.

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We had a family work day in my parents' yard. My Mom watched from her throne, Queen of the Garden, and gave us instructions.

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We took the boys to a Bees baseball game. They had been asking for "ice cream in a hat" for weeks. Dream come true.

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And our last hurrah of Summer was a trip to Disney World. Right before school started. "Magic Band Power!"

Doug was already there for work, so we flew out a few days later and spent the week together in the parks. We did this last summer as well. 

Unless you're a die-hard Disney fan, I wouldn't recommend two summers in a row. Man, were we exhausted after seven days.

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We road the Yeti ride five times in a row. Until my head hurt. Definitely a favorite!
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We walked around the Orlando Temple after church on Sunday.

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Handsome lineup.

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There was no line at the French Pavillion to see Sleeping Beauty, so we stopped for a visit. She was lovely.

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We loved all the Star Wars hoopla. Two shows with an army of storm-troopers, all the characters, even BB8. The boys were out of their minds excited!
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We survived the sweltering afternoons by heading back to the hotel for a swim. Goofy Spence.

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The moon was large and full one night. So gorgeous.

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And there was rain. But we didn't mind. 

Rainshine on the boardwalk. Kinda beautiful. 

My friend, Saydi, always talks about the "glistening whole." How in the middle of family trips and travels, or just trying to live out life in a busy home, there are hard moments, awful moments, ones we wish could slip out of memory. But in the end, if there is enough love, what rises to the surface, will be an experience that glistens. 

I love that.

I count on that.

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