Tuesday, December 28, 2010

what the eye can't see

This year, more than the last, Ryenne had some questions about Santa.

"Is he real, Mom?"

In response to her question, I told her what I firmly believe.

"Yes.  The magic of Santa Claus is real."


I read once that magic is only real so long as you believe in it.  Once you stop believing, the magic stops. 

I believe.


This afternoon, I was looking through our pictures from Christmas morning.  What I saw (or didn't see) almost made me cry.  There were hardly any pictures at all.  It had been such a fun morning- in fact, it was magical.  As I scrolled through the pictures on the screen, I realized I have so little to remember this special morning by.  I suppose I feel a sense of panic because I'm realizing that mornings like this won't last forever.  After all, Ryenne is almost eleven.  Growing up before my eyes, she is.  Kate and Emmy?  Not far behind.  My little girl days aren't going to last forever. 

Eventually I put my camera aside and went on with my day, but my mind stayed back on those pictures.  I moved on with a tight heart, wishing with all I had that I could go back in time to capture the morning but knowing that the opportunity was lost. 

I'm afraid about next year, next month, next week even.  Will I remember?  I have a few pictures, yes, but I've looked through them several times already.  I can't see the magic.

I want to remember the squeals of delight, and the joy in their faces when the girls realized that yes, Santa did come!  "And look!  He even left candy canes on the tree!"

I want to see the way Kate shrugged as she looked at her presents and concluded, "I don't think Santa brought me a sewing machine, but that's okay.  We didn't really need one anyway.  He knows what will make me the happiest."  Sweet, sweet girl. 

I long to recall forever the happiness at each and every gift.  Not one moment of selfishness.  Not because the girls got just what they had wished for, but because they loved what had been given them.  They had come to understand that a gift is just that, a gift.  Something given from the heart.  Not an obligation on any one's part, but simply a kindness given from one to another.  My heart was happy when I saw them wait to open their own presents because they were so excited to see a sister, a grandparent, or a daddy open a gift they had so carefully chosen and wrapped.   I saw the goodness in my girls that morning.  I loved what I saw.

I hope I'll never forget the look on Ryenne's face when she opened up a small package and squealed, "Toe socks!"  And the giggles that followed with an exclamation of, "And they even have frogs on them!"  At was as if she had thought it couldn't possibly happen, but it did.  In that moment, I saw a little girl, my little girl, and for just a moment it seemed as if she would always be so.

For a moment, the world seemed far away.  All of the pressure to grow up, to quit believing was gone.  It was just us, our girls, and the magic of childhood.  Life was just the way we wanted it to be.  Nothing too fancy, not one gift even required a battery- only an imagination and a dose of creativity. 

As I remembered our morning, I realized why I have hardly a picture.  I think that as I sat and surveyed the scene, I was a little bit afraid to miss anything.  I didn't want to view it behind the lens of the camera.  I wanted more than anything to be present, to soak it all in, and not miss one magical moment. 

Maybe a picture wouldn't be able to capture it anyway.  Perhaps it is best this way. 

The magic is tucked away safely in my memory.


A few weeks ago, Emmy's primary teachers told us a funny story.  They had been talking about the upcoming excitement of Christmas and asked the children what they were hoping Santa would bring.  As they moved from child to child, they were surprised when one child (six years old, mind you)  responded that Santa wasn't even real.  He went on to tell the rest of the class that Santa is only mom and dad who buy the presents and put them under the tree. 


You can imagine the stunned silence.  Brother Nelson said he was pondering on what he should say when Emmy stood up and faced the unbeliever.  Those were fighting words, you see.

I know Emmy, and  I am pretty sure she had fire in her eyes. 

She stood tall and lit into him, defending her beliefs with something like this, "That's not true!  Santa is real!  He IS real!  I know because my parents wouldn't spoil me like that!"

Seeing the wisdom in her logic, the class breathed in a sigh of relief and quickly rushed to her defense.   In a sudden show of solidarity they bolstered their six year old hearts together with a collective,  "Yeah!" 

Don't mess with the magic.


Amongst Ryenne's gifts on Christmas morning was a letter in response to her question.

"Yes, Ryenne, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life it's highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Ryennes.

. . .Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies.

.. .The most real things in this world are those that neither children not men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in this world.

You tear apart a baby's rattle to see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart.

Only faith, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Ryenne, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God he lives, and lives forever. A thousand years from now, nay 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood."


Why do I believe?

Don't we all need a little magic?  A little joy?  A moment every so often when the impossible seems suddenly within our reach?  Who, old or young, doesn't need something to "gladden our hearts" now and again?

I am most certain that there are some things the eye cannot see. Some wonders that can only be seen and understood by those who know you the best and love you the most. True happiness- real magic comes when you are part of something bigger than yourself- when you take part in giving someone something that they couldn't give themselves.  Sometimes those things that are the most real can be felt only in the heart.

This Christmas season I know one thing for sure. 
Magic is real, so long as you believe.

grandma's cookie party

Grandma's annual cookie party is always a highly anticipated event- one that the girls look forward to as Christmas approaches. They always know that there will be cousins to play with, sugar to consume, and if they are lucky, a special visitor! This year didn't disappoint, and everyone had a great time as usual.

You know cookie baking is seeerious beeeezness when you have to remove your shirt to do so. 

Kate had attended a friend's baking party earlier in the day and was so happy to have the appropriate head gear in which she could perform her baking duties.

Daniel, Ryenne, and Emmy couldn't let the new arrival of snow go to waste, and ventured out in the dark to have some fun.  They rolled a ball so big, they could barely budge it.  (Unfortunately, it started to rain shortly thereafter and continued until Christmas, destroying our hopes of a white Christmas.)

Papa was super excited about the whole thing.

Can you blame him?  Look at this crew!

When all the cookies were baked and packaged to send home, the excitement began to mount as everyone listened for the oh-so-exiting sound of jinglebells, signaling the arrival of our favorite visitor.  And arrive he did!  There are few things more magical than the look on all the little faces when those door opens upstairs and those bells start to jingle. 

Santa is here!

The minute Santa arrived, Claire was so excited that she she could hardly stand it.  As he talked to each person one by one, she stood close by, talking to him the whole time. 

"Hi, Santa!  I like you!"

"I want a skirt. . ."

"Did you bring me a present?. . ."

It was pretty cute.  By the time her little bag was drawn out of his bag and it was finally her turn, however, she was a little timid.  She had to sit on his lap via mine, and would hardly look at him.  When she realized it was time for him to leave, she quickly changed her mind and asked him if she could sit by him on the couch.  She sat there and cuddled into him for several minutes!  She and Santa are now the best of friends.

Unfortunately, our camera battery went dead during the middle of the big visit (who doesn't charge their camera before events such as this?).  Lucky for us, a few of the aunties snapped pictures of the big girls, and hopefully some day soon I'll get around to getting them. 

Thanks Grandma and Grandpa for throwing such a grand party!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas everyone! Another year is almost gone. I asked the girls tonight what lessons they have learned over the past year (I was thinking that this year we might stun you with our brilliance). But alas, the girls have thought it over and have informed me that there have been no lessons. Nothing learned. No intellectual progress whatsoever. Seems we are not even one bit smarter than we were a year ago. What have we been doing, you ask? Hmmmm. . . Running to and fro I suppose. So. While you and yours are busy writing glowing reports of award winning performances and honor roll students. . .. . .. . here’s our report of 2010.

Courtney. As always, Court is staying busy with work and girls. Girls, girls, girls! He often finds himself on the other end of tears (from big girls and little girls alike) with a look of bewilderment on his face. I’m always afraid that one day he might bolt, but so far he’s holding steady. Last week he competed in the Elder’s Quorum Pinewood Derby. Although he had great design plans, they were laid aside for diaper changing, story reading, and other such manly pursuits until he ended up with a last minute job- a skinny little plank of wood (don’t ask) with four wheels. The girls were so, so excited for the big event and I threatened him that the five of us gals might show up with pink “My Dad Can Derby!” shirts, but we refrained. Anyway, he actually did quite well and the whole thing got me to thinking how his pinewood derby career is a lot like the rest of his life. Too often, his own hobbies and interests are put aside so he can be the daddy to four little girls who adore him (but don’t always show it). He’s still my favorite guy.

Me? Well, I’ve been quite busy polishing up my run for the “Meanest Mom of the Year” pageant. I’m feeling quite confident that I’ll finish with a real good showing as I am reminded daily of my remarkable skill set in this arena. I’m a little shaky in the swimming suit portion of the contest, but feel that I can overcome that deficit by a stronger than normal performance with my talent choice. I don’t mean to brag, but I am extremely well-suited at slave working my children (their words, not mine) and eliciting astronomical amounts of tears at frequent intervals.

Ryenne. You wouldn’t believe how she’s growing up. We can’t, anyway. She is in fifth grade this year (eek!) and will be in Young Women’s in just over a year. That’s freaking us out just a little bit. She has been starting to do a little babysitting for us and so far everyone has been alive at the end of each endeavor. (We have to carefully inventory her and Emmy’s moods before we leave them in each others company with out a referee). She is still taking ballet and participated again in the 4H livestock show at the county fair with her lamb, Pork Chop (so-named because she threatened to turn him into one whenever he was naughty, although we tried to convince her he would actually be classified as a lamb chop.) Lucky for Pork Chop, he was never turned into one. In fact, we are now the proud owners of this four legged friend. (Once again, don’t ask).

Kate. Our Kater-bugs was baptized in June. She loves gymnastics, reading, and learning about pretty much anything she can wrap her brain around. Kate also worked with the lambs this year (thanks to Grandma and Grandpa Jones) and was quite the trooper. Judging by the amount of weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth she exhibited every time we walked the lambs, I am not surprised one bit by the fact that she cannot wait to show a lamb with Ryenne in the big leagues this next year. Just in case you’re wondering? I can’t wait either.

Emmy. Skippy is still our little firecracker. She entered kindergarten (finally, she says!) this fall and is having a great time with her new friends. Emmy loves ballet and can frequently be found teaching her little sister a few new moves. She is currently missing her four front teeth, and is just about the cutest toothless gal I have ever set eyes on. Just tonight I asked her to go brush her teeth and she replied (read this in your highest pitched, whiniest voice for best effect), “But! Mom!!!! Why should I have to brush my teeth when I don’t even have any?”

Claire. Oh, Claire. She is about the busiest, spunkiest, happiest (when she’s not kicking you in the shins) gal that we’ve had so far. She is her dad’s girl, hands down. I feel mostly sad about that at night when she’s turning circles beside him on his side of the bed (hee, hee). Just the other night he turned away from her in bed to cuddle with me when she sat up, grabbed his cheeks, and ordered (still asleep, mind you) “Not that way, Dad! Look at me!” Claire loves to watch the girls do ballet and has taught herself a number of dances by watching their recital dvd over and over. Her favorite dance is The Good Ship Lollipop, which I’m willing to bet you have seen her perform if you have been around her for more than a few minutes. She wears a tutu and a “leitertard” every. single. day. (No exceptions).

In July of the past year, Claire broke her right arm and was in a cast for six weeks. Just two weeks after she broke her arm, Emmy fell off her bike and broke her thumb, giving us the honorable distinction of having been the only family having two siblings casted on the same day at the orthopedic clinic. The two girls sported matching casts for the remainder of the summer (and you can bet we answered more than a few well-meaning questions by the doctor). One month after Emmy’s cast was removed, she slammed the same thumb in the car door and we headed back to the doctor, this time coming home with a splint. just last week Claire broke her left arm and is now wearing a cast again. Soooo. . .I guess I can’t say that we’re not good at anything. Turns out we have a few talents, after all.

All in all, we have had a great year. Four giggly girls make for a lot of excitement. We can’t remember the days before they were around, and what’s more, I don’t think we really want to. They are what makes our world go around. (And around. . .And around. ) Most often, life seems to be spinning beyond our control and we are slowly learning to let it. Seems the only thing we really can control is how much we appreciate the ride.

We hope all is well with you and all those we love. We thank Heavenly Father for you and for all we have been given and look forward to another year of life, love, laughter, and of course, lessons.

Speaking of lessons, it seems we did learn a few this year after all. While the girls couldn’t think of a darn profound thing to say, they did come up with a few jokes and knew that your life wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t share. Lucky you, we are now ready to impart a tiny bit of our profound wisdom. Ahem. . .

What does Scrooge’s lamb say at Christmas? “Baaaaa-humbug!”

What kind of snake likes pie? “A pie-thon”

What do you do to stop a skunk from smelling? Plug their nose.

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Police! Police who? Police let me in, it’s cold out here!

What did an alien say at Christmas? Please let me in, I’m cold out here.
(In case you are wondering, yes- Emmy just made that up. Clever, ain‘t she?)

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Dishes. Dishes, who? Dishes a nice place to go.

And finally . . .(in Ryenne’s own words)

Once there was a man sitting at the edge of a road. Across the forest he saw a castle, so he went in and there was a wizard stirring a pot. The wizard said, “I will grant you three wishes, what shall they be?” “Oh boy! Three wishes!” the man said. “I wish for a thousand dollars.” Poof! Here’s a thousand dollars. Hmmm, two more wishes. “I wish for a red corvette.” Poof! A red corvette. “Hmmm, one more wish.” Then the wizard says, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll grant you a third wish. So the next morning he gets in the red corvette with a thousand dollars. When he started his new car, the radio turns on and all the sudden his favorite song starts and so he starts to sing along with it. “I wish I were an Oscar Meyer Weiner. . ..” Poof! He is an Oscar Meyer Wiener driving a red corvette with a thousand dollars.

Now that your life is complete, we will leave you with one last wish. We hope that this coming season brings you the Merriest of Christmases and a new year full of happiness, joy, a new red corvette, and one thousand dollars. (We’ll let you slide on that Oscar Meyer Weiner part. . .)

Love you all, Courtney, Kelly, Ryenne, Kate, Emmy, and Claire

Sunday, December 19, 2010

i love you, too

To my sweet little girls,

Sometimes I spend too much time focusing on our naughtiness.  I guess it helps me when I can laugh at us and our foibles (that's a fancy word for mistakes).  Yes, it is true that we have our share of not-so-picture-perfect moments as a family.   However, just tonight as I was just getting ready for bed, I was thinking about each of you.  And when I did, I didn't think of all the stinker-ish times.  I thought about how good you are.  I thought about how often you make me smile.  The thought crossed my mind that even though you sometimes make me want to pull my hair out (or say a naughty word), I most often feel something entirely different.

I love you, too.

Ryenne.  I love your creativity.  I love the way you decorated your room for Christmas, with snowflakes and cute letters (spelling s.n.o.w.!.)  hanging from the ceiling.  I smile every time I look in your bedroom.  I'm so glad that you're not in any hurry to grow up, although it's still happening awfully fast!  You just take your time, my little girl.  I'm proud of the way you take care of your younger sisters when you have a mind to (and realize that it's normal for you to not always have a mind to!), and for the fun you and Claire had tonight when you put on some Christmas music and danced around the family room.  I like the way you sing your way through whatever you might be doing.  You are creative and artistic and always quick to see the beauty in the world around us.   It's fun to see your sense of humor change and you often make me laugh out loud.  I think we will always be good friends, which makes me glad because I like you!  You are kind, thoughtful, and a blessing to our family.

Kate.  I love the way you use your time.  You are always wanting to learn and are often found sewing, drawing, or reading.  I am so glad about your new found love of anything artistic and it makes me happy to see you crocheting!  I never thought to do anything like that when I was your age, and I'm so happy you asked Grandma to teach you.  I like that when you want to learn something, you'll find a way!  My heart feels so good when I see the way you play with your sisters and I have loved watching you teach Emmy everything from reading and handwriting, to art and gymnastics.  You are becoming much more patient and are learning to work harder when something is difficult for you!  Good for you Kate!  It makes me happy every time you leave me a note on my pillow.   You often remember to tell me thank you for the things I do for you.  You have a big heart and are quick to notice when someone needs a kind word or a hug.  You are a good girl, through and through.

Emmy.  My little energizer bunny, how you are growing!  I am so glad I have a half-day with you this year.  I love to see your toothless grin as you get off the bus each day.  I love our special time together in the afternoons when I read you a story or help you with your piano and homework.  You try hard to learn and to excel in school and in piano.  It's fun to watch your excitement when you learn something new and set out to become better!.  You are becoming more patient all the time, which is something that is hard for you.  I am so happy about the way you treat Claire and she is so excited when you come home from school.  She looks up to you and learns so much from you.  I love you and you make me very happy.   I can't look at your cute freckles and perfect smile without my heart feeling like it will burst!

Claire.  You are the sunshine in our family.  We all love you so much and you make us smile from sun-up to sun-down.  I love the way you dance all day long, singing and twirling and making me smile.  I have to laugh at all the funny things you say.  I like nothing better than to cuddle with you in the rocking chair and read a book with your cute little cheeks next to mine.  I'm so glad you are quick to pass out hugs and kisses!  I don't get much done when you are around, but you are so much fun that I hardly even mind.  No terrible two's for you!  You have made an age that used to seem so difficult into one that seems so fun and enjoyable.  I wouldn't trade my days with you for anything.  You are an absolute joy and we all adore you.

Oh, my little girls.  I could go on and on about all the good I see in you and how my heart is so proud of you.  I love who you are and all that you are becoming.  I thank Heavenly Father each day for your special spirits and am in awe that He has entrusted me with your care.   We are growing together, you and I.  Thank you for being patient with me and loving me all the same.  That is the best thing about being part of a family, isn't it?  Learning, growing, faltering, and forgiving.

I love you.  I love being your mom.  And guess what?

You make me smile much, much, more often than you make me cry.

Friday, December 17, 2010

guilty as charged

We had a rough morning.

In fact, I lost my temper at Ryenne, who then reported me to the authorities.  She told Courtney that I swore at her.  This, of course, immediately peaked his interest.  "She did, huh?," Courtney asked (with a half-grin, I'm sure). 

Sure enough, Ryenne threw me under the bus.  "She told me that I had made her morning h-e-double-hockey-sticks."

She's right, I did.  But I was right, because she did.  I will be truthful and admit my guilt- yes, I did say just that.  But does it really count if I tell you that deep down, I really don't feel all that guilty about it, because I was just calling it the way I saw it?  It was the truth, I swear.  (Oh, I already did that, didn't I.)

To her credit, she plead guilty.  When her Dad asked her what she thought about the whole ordeal, she answered, "I think she was kinda right."  Kinda?  Well, I'll take what I can get.

So, for the verdict:  Guilty times two.  I'm guilty for having said a naughty word, and Ryenne's guilty for having deserved it. 

Give us a little credit, please.  At least we're honest.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


When December arrived, I asked the girls what things they wanted to do the very most in preparation for Christmas.  (It seems like this time of year can get so busy because I sometimes try to do everything instead of choosing just a few special activities to enjoy.)  The girls almost immediately agreed that one thing they really wanted to do was to make gingerbread houses.  A few days later, I happened to be at IKEA, where I picked up a kit for each of the girls.  They were so excited when I brought them home and from then on, I was asked "When can we decorate our gingerbread houses?" about every five minutes from morning until night.  

We finally got around to assembling and decorating them and they had a marvelous time.  As we set to work beautifying our little cottages, I was reminded of the time my best pal Valerie and I made some gingerbread houses in college.  If I must say so myself, they were pretty darn fancy.  Yards, fences, the whole nine yards.  It was so much fun. 

Of course, Ryenne had to build a "no copying" fortress around herself in order to protect her artistic notions from being duplicated by her sisters. ( As she often reminds me, it's not easy being the big sister.)

This time around we didn't get quite so involved, but even so- the girls were pretty impressed with my mad gingerbread-house-decorating-skills.  In fact, Kate told me repeatedly that she was "dumbstruck" with my abilities.  

I'm pretty sure I can't remember making anyone dumbstruck in recent memory, let alone one of my children.  Let's just say gingerbread houses will be a tradition from now on.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

a noble endeavor

Oh, Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree!

Each year, the day or two following Thanksgiving, we bundle up and head into the wilds to find the perfect Christmas tree with which we might adorn our little abode for the holidays.  This year we found no reason to not do the same- even though we had much more snow than usual.  No, we were not about to be deterred! 

We usually plan the day with most of my siblings and their families, but this year they were all party poopers (okay, maybe they were just busy), and so it was just us and the every fun-lovin' Shawn, Kelsey, and Grams. 

We didn't get away too early.  In fact, it was almost two o'clock in the afternoon by the time we headed out.  (Mistake #1).  We (as in my little bunch- Shawn was much more prepared) didn't take a truck, because we don't own one big enough for all of our kiddos (Mistake #2). 

We stopped to get our permits and then headed for the hills.  Usually we don't have much more than a skiff of snow, and so the girls were all thrilled with our prospects of tree hunting in a winter wonderland.  It sounds so much more festive, don't you think? 

After approximately one-hundred-and-three "are-we-there-yet's", we started spotting some holiday worthy specimens.  We even pulled over and marked the snow to remind us where a few better looking ones were standing, deciding to keep looking just to make sure.  After all, who wants to cut the very first one you see? Besides, I always know which tree is the right one when I hear angels singing at the sight of it.  Always.   After years of tree hunting, I have found that I never hear angels until we have hiked all over the mountain first.  Let's face it, there's nothing romantic about grabbing the first tree you see, chopping it down, throwing it in the truck, and heading home.  It's all about communing with nature, you see.

Waiting to hear angels, we headed further up the mountain.  Before long, the snow became much deeper.  Our trusty suburban was holding it's own, but just about the time Courtney spoke aloud, "I don't know how much further we should go" we slid off the road and into the deep snow.  What is worse, underneath the snow was ice. There was no getting back on the road for us!  Shawn, of course, couldn't resist laughing and suggesting that it might be better if I could try hearing angels about a mile back. 

In an effort to pass us so he could pull us out, Shawn tried to drive up and around.  However, as soon as he tried, he too slid off the road, barely missing us.  Not wanting to stop and get stuck as we had done, he gunned it and headed down through the drifts, engines roaring and snow flying everywhere.  Fortunately, after a very impressive performance, he made it back up to the slippery road.   All the while the girls were hooting and hollering, "AWESOME!  That was totally wicked!"  Claire, hearing the girl's approval of his driving skills, started yelling, "AWESOME!  Shawn is totally NAKED!" 

We are nothing if not exciting. 

After a dozen tries, Shawn was finally able to pull us out, after which we decided the safest route (for us, anyway) was to back slowly down the mountain.  (Turning around was not an option.)  And so it was that we backed about two miles down the mountain, all the while listening to Claire sing, "Shawn is naked!  Shawn is totally naked!" 

Finally, we got a place where we could safely turn around- right where we had found our first possibilities!  Because it was getting dark by this point, Shawn, Kelsey, and I decided to quickly hike around for a bit and see what we could see.  We did find a few options (don't let him fool you, I am convinced that Shawn is even more picky than I when it comes to finding the perfect tree), we found that all the trees were somewhat yellow-ish and we chickened out after all. 

And so it was that we headed the rest of the way out in the dark, tree-less and laden with unhappy girls.  Eventually we convinced them that we would get a tree, just not on this particular day!  Besides, we reasoned, this adventure would go down in the books as one of the most memorable tree hunting excursions so far!  We all stopped off to have dinner (looking a bit like a bunch of soggy loggers, I might add), and called it a day.  An unsuccessful tree hunting day, but a fun day nevertheless. 

A week later, we were determined to try it again.  However, after a little bit of research and a pow-wow with Shawn, we reluctantly agreed that there was just too darn much snow this year.  In order to get to where we wanted to go, we would need several more snowmobiles than we could round up and the logistics just didn't make it seem feasible.  Going against our grain, we decided to buy one.  Upon announcing this to the girls, their hair stood on end as they shrieked, "What!!!!!  We are going to buy our Christmas tree?!!!!!!"  Really, you would have though we'd committed murder. 

Eventually, we did find our tree.  A noble fir.  And you  know what?  As soon as I saw it, I heard angels singing.  Really!  In a tree lot.  In town.  First tree I saw.  (The wonder if it all never ceases to amaze me.)

Despite the girls' initial disappointment, they were quite happy with our find.  It is beautiful, just the right height, and fills our home with a glorious smell.  Sunday night we filled up every branch with lights and shiny ornaments of every kind.  Nothing matches.  In fact, our noble fir looks homemade and happy, just the way we like it.   

As the girls were scrambling for ornaments and Christmas music blaring, the chaos seemed much too much (to us old folks anyway).  However, I had to smile as I heard Kate sigh and pronounce, "This is paradise."

Happy girls, a beautiful tree, and twinkling lights..  I love the memories that are shared as favorite ornaments are rediscovered, admired, and remembered.  It's not fancy, but our tree, our noble fir, tells our story.  I wouldn't want it any way. 

I agree, Kate.  Paradise, indeed.

Monday, December 6, 2010

bringin' home the bacon


"Bringing home the bacon" sounds a bit more snappy.   But in this case, Emmy brought us a pie. 

The last day before Thanksgiving break, our elementary school always holds a Turkey Trot.  The older grades run a mile, the younger set a half mile.  At the finish line, the winners of each class receive a turkey while second place bring home a pumpkin pie. 

In all of our family history of Turkey Trotting (I've run one or two myself), our Thanksgiving dinner had never before been graced by any of the previously mentioned prize goods.  Until this year, that is.

This year's training went about like all the others.  No one gave a second thought to it.  The many notes sent home throughout November, urging all to train like the dickens?  (Come and win the turkey! they urged.)  Didn't do a thing.  In typical family fashion, we gloriously succeeded in procrastinating until the big day.  Sure enough though, when I picked up the girls from school the day before the event, Kate and Emmy were all fired up.  On the list of to-do's was 1) going to the track to run and 2) using the treadmill to practice running.  (Both, mind you.  This was not an either/or list).  They were determined and I tried not to dampen their enthusiasm when I gently explained that it might be a little late to train. 

The next morning, however, the two of them donned their best running attire and talked strategy the whole way to school.  Kate explained the finer points of breathing and told Emmy that everyone will start really fast, but it is best to go slower until the end and then run fast-as-all-get-out.  Kate had her eye on the turkey, Emmy was sizing up the pie.  I smiled to myself and remembered the time when I went to the race to cheer Ryenne on.  She came running by at the very tail end of her second grade class.  I had to laugh out loud when she grinned and hollered over, "Hi Mom!  I just told my friend that last's the best of all the game!"  

So you can imagine my surprise when I picked up Emmy from kindergarten and she stepped off the bus holding a pumpkin pie and grinning from ear to ear.  Second place and a pumpkin pie- just as she had hoped.  She couldn't have been more pleased.  Her secret?  Kate's strategy!

Kate never did bring home that turkey, but she had a great time!  Even better?  There were one or two kids behind her!  She and Ryenne were pleased as punch to not be the last ones across the line.  Some of us run just for fun, it seems. 

The others run for pumpkin pie.

Friday, December 3, 2010

back in business

Seems we are back in the cast business.  Pink and sparkly of course.  (That tends to be the color of choice around these parts.)

This time?   Broken arm.  Again.  Except this round, Claire chose the opposite arm.  Same break, different arm. 

Don't know how it happened.

Don't know when.

(Don't know how I  became such a darn good conscientious mom.) 

Lucky for us, DCFS hasn't hauled us away yet.  In fact, the doctor (our pediatrician this time) insisted that these things are hard to avoid and urged me not to feel bad about it.  As you can see, he's a super nice guy.

So.  We are all bandaged up and on the mend.  Claire feels sparkly and pretty so all is well.  Let's just say this little gal of ours is a really, really, REALLY busy girl and leave it at that. 

All's well that ends well, eh?

Thursday, December 2, 2010


I haven't written in a while. Life has been busy, yes. But mostly, I don't write when I am can't explain how I'm feeling.

Almost a week ago, Heavenly Father's plan unfolded in my back yard. Three teens, one car, and lives forever changed. Completely unaware, we were tucked safely inside our home, listening to Christmas music and decking the halls. At the sound of sirens, we watched out the window and uttered silent prayers, too late and far too helpless to do anything.

I didn’t do anything.

A life was lost right outside my window- and me, busy in my little nest, didn't even know it was happening. Perhaps I could have helped. If we had only heard it happen. If only we’d gotten someone there a little earlier. I’ve agonized for days.

Tonight I was reminded. What might have been doesn’t matter. The “what might have been” was never part of the plan. . . His plan. However hard it is to understand, I know things like this don’t happen by chance.

A year ago, when my little brother Shawn had his accident, I was driving down the road when I received a phone call. It was my mom, letting me know a few quick details and asking me to first, call the temple and then second, call my brothers and sisters and tell them to start praying. I didn’t know much, but I knew it wasn’t good. After all, a head on collision with a semi? I knew what that meant. Just as quickly as I felt the panic begin to settle in, I received the clearest impression that I have ever known. In just a few moments, I came to understand very distinctly that what had happened- and what was to follow, was not a mistake. What had taken place that morning was not a mere coincidence. I knew, without a doubt, that everything that had unfolded that morning- every little detail- had happened exactly according to a plan. A very careful, deliberate plan. In that moment, I knew that my Heavenly Father knew me. He knew my family, He understood my little brother, and He most definitely knew what He was doing.

I didn’t know if my little brother would live. . .that was unclear. What I did know, and what I will never forget, is that our lives don’t happen by chance. We have a Father in Heaven who knows us completely. He knows us where we are strong, and He knows us where we are weak. He knows where He needs us, and perhaps more importantly, where we need Him.

We are part of something much bigger than ourselves.

I didn’t know Devin. But he has changed me. His family and their quiet faith have changed me forever. I have been reminded to slow down and look beyond my “to-do’s”. I hope to listen, to not miss an opportunity to save. I reaffirm that the details of my life are orchestrated by a power greater than my own and recommit to do all that I can to fulfill the unique mission that is my own. I can seek to open my heart and understand that the words I say and the way in which I say them have great power. I may lift with each word I speak, or I may destroy. This life is temporary, but my family is eternal.

For nearly a week, I haven’t had the heart to write. I have been too unsettled, almost terrified of what might come. After all, what will I face? Who will I lose? And perhaps worst of all, am I doing it right? Courtney smiled gently through my tears and reassured, “You can only do your best.”

Tonight, as I look around my quiet (but very messy) home, I see the lights and am reminded of the season we are celebrating. Yes, I will face hard things. I cannot escape the inevitability of losing someone I love. Sadly, my “best” will always fall short of what I desire to be.

Fortunately, in all His wisdom, Heavenly Father knew all that. He understood me perfectly, and He sent someone to make up the difference. Tonight my heart is celebrating that knowledge. I feel peace in the promise of eternity. I rejoice in His perfect understanding and find hope in His son, Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.