12.15.2014

TIS THE SEASON


Over the last few years, I've pared down and I've pared down, until I now have a stress free Christmas. I have to say that I couldn't do it without Amazon. I know I've said this before, but how wonderful is it to spend an evening in my own house picking out presents for the kids and then have them show up on my doorstep 2-7 days later? They come in sturdy, cardboard boxes that I can leave in a pile in my room and the kids can't even get a peek--Wonderful!

Anyways, the point is I feel like I'm really enjoying this Christmas season, and I think that my focus and the family's focus is definitely turned towards Jesus' birth.

I memorized The Living Christ around Thanksgiving, but wanted to recite it for my family. I finally did that this week for FHE. (I do have to say that it never seemed especially revelatory to me, but memorizing it made it a lot more meaningful.) We watched the short YouTube clip He Is The Gift, and put up the tree.


The next night while Woo was at work I let the kids decorate the tree however they liked. Minutes after this picture was taken, Archie pulled the tree down on top of himself, all the kids ran around like nuts, making things worse trying to help, and the tree wouldn't stand up anymore due to all the decorations being concentrated on one side. That was the point where I lost my temper (still not perfect ...).



Here are some random things from the last two weeks:
Me: I don't know computers as well as Dad.  
Linus: You don't?! I do!  
I just get a book and I type, type, type.  
Just like Dad does. 
Oh, Woo. You make it look so easy.

Four things Linus has to say every night after I kiss him goodnight.
  1. I love you and I like you and goodnight!
  2. Will you take me to the potty?
  3. Will you pinch me when you take me to the potty?
  4. Are you staying up?
Linus (announcing the arrival of another Fedex truck): It's a Fedup truck!!
Whenever anyone can't remember something, Linus is quick to yell: 
Ask Jesus! Jesus is the only one who knows. 
He says this because recently he couldn't remember something, prayed, and then suddenly was able to remember it. 
Moses (wearing his fire helmet backwards like a flat brimmed baseball cap): I'm a lazy man.  
Woo: Is that how lazy men wear their hats, Moses?  
Moses: Well, sometimes they wear it like this. (Turns the brim to the side.) 
Moses is very, very motivated by candy. He'll step right up and do a fantastic job on all his chores and cleaning his room just for a little Christmas treat.

He was very proud to show me his math test. Not only because he got 100%, but because (as he carefully turned each page and showed me) it was five pages long and he didn't miss anything.


Last Sunday Penelope suddenly announced that she's Betsy. Betsy has three children: Cheerio (Archie), Archie (a doll) and Chouin (a doll). Actually the doll's names are sometimes Powchin, Bunkbed (a girl), Wowa, John and Konn. 

Betsy does all the important Mom activities like brushing her children's teeth, putting them in bed and putting them on the potty. Penelope sure is lucky to have a younger brother who is such a good sport, and who she can parent in her spare time. Archie will do almost anything she asks--even lie down and pretend to nap. 
Linus: NellPea who are you married to?  
Penelope: Archie. He's my kid.

Woo's bought himself a few toys this week and last. Two new sets of headphones, and his crowning glory--The X11 Hornet. For those of you who don't know, the X11 Hornet is a quadrocopter. We've spent many evenings with the lights off, Woo flying his X11 Hornet up and down the living room and the kids watching, totally transfixed. Woo loves it so much (and the kids have too), that he's ordered almost all of them remote controlled helicopters for Christmas (don't tell them).


Herbie came home from school one day very excited because his friend Brock had made him an elf (as in the Elf on the Shelf). His friend was being very kind to draw him an elf, write out the rules and package it nicely for Herbie, because (according to Herbie) he's the only kid in his class who doesn't have an elf at home spying on him.


Ruby, Moses and Linus immediately colored and cut out elves of their own and placed them in the living room. Herbie made the rules absolutely clear to everyone, and even told the elf the rules of our house, and then (oddly enough) the elves never moved, and everyone forgot about them. 


Archie now does that cute thing where if one of the other kids hurts his feelings, or we tell him he can't do something, he'll bawl all the way to the stairs and up them. Then come down ready to be happy. He's seen the others kids go upstairs crying so often and come down happy that he seems to think it's some magic panacea. And maybe it is.


Ruby went shopping with Grandma Sandy for her birthday last weekend. She was super, super excited and got do some things she'd always dreamed of, but her tyrannical parents were always preventing. Like eating spaghetti with meatballs (Woo hates it, and I've never made it for that reason.) She also got herself some clip-on earrings, and a whole bunch of books--everything Harry Potter.


Well, I think that's it. Hope everyone's enjoying their Christmas!

12.09.2014

SOMETHING DIFFERENT ...

Sunday night, immediately after putting the kids to bed, I laid in bed myself and fell right to sleep. Also, we fell off the photography wagon last week and only got like two pictures of the kids. But I've had a few stories swimming around in my head that I think need to be recorded, and since I don't keep a journal right now--only write emails, I'm going to send them to you. You're welcome. :) The first two are mission stories. The last is from St. Louis.

Story #1

Every week in Vienna we visited a woman who had been baptized many years ago, but had never come to church and knew next to nothing about the Gospel. Part of the reason for this is that she was bedridden, and had been for many years.

We went to try and teach her, but we were never able to because almost the second we got there, she and her husband would start in on an endless tirade of hate, injustice and vitriol. They'd work themselves up into a froth.

My companion and I were powerless to stop them until we finally stood up to leave. Then we were able to get in a word edgewise where we asked if we could leave with a prayer, and the woman would agree and the man would leave the room. He didn't believe in God.

It was very depressing. We did some thinking and praying and my companion and I (who were not great singers) were inspired to sing them a hymn. So next visit, before their tirade had gained legs, we sang them a hymn. And it worked. They were silent. They didn't interrupt. Pleasant smiles spread across their faces. In short, they felt the Spirit. But it didn't last long. After only an acceptable sentence or two they were off. But we had made a breakthrough.

So the next time, and all future visits, the second they would turn negative, we would ask if we could sing them another song. It always had the same effect of stopping the negativity and bringing a smile to their faces. Sometimes they wouldn't hear us ask (or pretended they didn't) in the middle of a rant, so my companion and I would simply turn to the same page in our hymn books and start singing, and they would shut up and listen.

Some visits we would do nothing but sing, and eventually we were even able to give short and simple lessons. But the truly amazing thing is that the husband quit leaving the room for prayer, and by the end of my almost nine months of weekly visits, had given the closing prayer himself.

I consider this to be one of the greatest miracles of my mission.

Story #2

Every week in my first area, my trainer and I would visit an elderly man named Herr Zaks. Herr Zaks had been a widower for many years, had no children, and after some sort of an outburst at the church had been asked to not return. (That branch had a lot of problems :( )

Herr Zaks loved our visits, but once he told us that "Näher Mein Gott zu Dir" (Nearer My God to Thee) was his favorite hymn, I think they were the thing that he lived for. He started to fix us a little meal (usually a piece of toast and a hunk of meat), and after we had eaten, we'd sit in his tiny kitchen, open our hymn books and sing a dozen or so renditions of "Näher Mein Gott zu Dir." 

My companion was a wonderful singer, Herr Zaks just belted it out, and I tried to hold on to the alto line, which was easy to do when I saw how much joy it brought Herr Zaks--not only to be singing, but to have us singing along with him.

A couple of months after both my companion and I were transferred out of the area, Herr Zaks died. I consider those evenings spent singing with him the best service I performed on my mission. I loved Herr Zaks.

Story #3

One fast Sunday morning I got up on the wrong side of the bed. I yelled at my husband. I probably yelled at my kids. I was mad--just so mad--I got to church feeling something like shell shock. I had no plans to participate in anything or even smile at anyone. 

And then the branch president got up to bear his testimony. While he was speaking, I knew that I needed to get up, and I knew what I was supposed to talk about. This is the only time in my life that has ever happened, and I didn't want to do it. I didn't feel worthy. How could I get up and bear my testimony about one of my most sacred experiences when I had just been such a jerk to my family? 

So I didn't get up. Then my baby started to cry. I think it was Moses, and I thought, "Good. Now I don't have to get up." I carried him out of the chapel.

While I was standing outside the doors, listening to the testimonies, this scripture in D&C 62:3 floated through my mind.
Nevertheless, ye are blessed, for the testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon; and they rejoice over you, and your sins are forgiven you.
And I knew that if anyone needed forgiveness of their sins, I did. 

So I marched right up to the pulpit and said what I was supposed to say. And it worked. I could feel that my sins were forgiven, and it turned my whole Sunday around 180 degrees.

I can still remember the end of that testimony:

If you have any questions or concerns about what is true, ask your Heavenly Father. He will tell you what is true by the power of the Holy Ghost.  
And what he will tell you is this: 
The true church of Jesus Christ has been restored upon the earth.
Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.
The Savior lives, and
He loves you.

I hope everyone had a great week!  I'll return to my regularly scheduled programming next week.

11.30.2014

THANKSGIVING!


For a long time, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday (tied with the 4th of July), but over the last couple of years it's slid down to something I barely think about or sometimes even dread, in large part because of where it falls in the year. I had spent most of the month thinking that this sure was a rotten time for trying to be grateful, because this is easily the month it's the hardest for me. But today in church, I realized that it was exactly as it should be. This is the time of year when I need that extra kick in the pants, and I should welcome all the reminders I get. I'll be better next year.


Of course, this year Thanksgiving Day was a lot of fun. But, before that, the first grade had their program. Moses sure makes these things more rewarding for us because he is constantly looking at us to see if we're looking at him. We give him big grins and thumbs up and whoops and he alternates between beaming at us and looking away with that proud-trying-to-be-modest look on his face.


Then we headed down to my Dad's shop for the big meal. The bounce house was a huge hit. The kids spent almost seven hours in it, only taking brief breaks to eat, ride the dollies, and in Penelope and Ryssa's case, climb the stairs to the ceiling to narrowly avert death.


Dad opened with a Thanksgiving thought including Albert Einstein, Bob Marley and scripture. Mom organized it all and made it all look nice. Woo got all the mashed potatoes one could possibly want (and the next day, and the next.)


Right after eating, we held a series of races through the two sides. Tyson, Josey and I all ripped out the knees in our pants, and Lyndy only ripped off a nail. I was the slowest adult, but somehow I came out with the best prize (a giant bag of almond m&ms--and no, that's not debatable, Brody.) Marcus was the fastest kid, and everyone else was somewhere in between.


Ruby, surprisingly, spent a good chunk of time playing "princesses" when the bounce house was a "castle," and was instrumental in organizing it into a "haunted house" later. I think I'm the only one who went through that one, which is unfortunate because I'm not the funnest person to scare (just ask Tyson).


Herbie got hurt numerous times without actually getting hurt, which was no surprise until the time where he actually got hurt (bloody nose after landing on his face.)


Linus didn't let his broken leg slow him down. He got the cast signed numerous times, and wore a hole clean through his sock running around on the concrete floor.


Penelope told everyone that she beat her Mom! Which I guess is technically true because I lifted her into the house and over all of the obstacles ahead of me.


Archie was terrified the only time he went through with Woo, but he enjoyed all of the food. Especially all of the treats.


I'm sure you all are wondering who made the best dish. The smoked turkey or ham? The bounteous mashed potatoes? The fancy pomegranate and avocado salad? The rolls? The homemade peppermint or strawberry ice cream? I think we all were in agreement that it was the Stovetop stuffing, made with all the love and minimal mixing that five harried minutes can spare.

Happy Thanksgiving!


11.24.2014

STUFF


This week was better. Wednesday was a low point for me, which was mostly my fault. I couldn't get to sleep and then woke up early because I was too excited for the future (?!?!?). I know. Unfounded and crazy. Anyways, when I did get out of bed Wednesday I felt terrible and was as stiff as a board. After getting the big kids off to school, I laid on the floor all morning while the little kids played with legos. And it could only go up hill from there.


Ruby had her first school spelling bee. She and I were both excited when she got the study list and started out strong, but the time change hit us, and many times it felt like we were just clinging to air, holding out until the end. She managed to qualify for the school bee against a tough group of kids and did great in the real thing. She got 10th, which I think is perfect for a 4th grader. High enough to be hungry for the win, but not so high that she's paralyzed by pressure the next year. Anyways, so much of the spelling bee is nerves and luck (even for us parents!); it was fun to watch.


Herbie lost two things this week, his scout shirt and his library book. He remembered his library book the day before it was due, made a very thorough search, then asked me to pray with him, then went off again by himself and found it in an unlikely place in Moses' room. He remembered the scout shirt on his way out the door, ran around with his head cut off--frantic--until I shined a light in his favorite stash place in his room. There it was.


Sometimes we go five years without getting a babysitter. Other times we get two in one day. One of the boys Woo worked with as YM Pres in St Louis got married in the temple here Friday, and we were able to go to the sealing in the morning and luncheon in the afternoon.


We really enjoyed ourselves, and the kids had a ball while we were gone. Penelope got to play with her best friend while Linus dressed up as a wiseman and Archie as a cow in the morning. In the afternoon, they made movies of themselves with a helium app and found squirrels outside with "Tanner Jon."


When I asked Linus what his favorite thing of the day was, he said, "Being a scary bear with Jon. That was funny!"


Both sitters told us how good Archie was, and how he was so mellow, and good, helped clean up, etc. And we're always kind of surprised that people are surprised. Aren't all 1-2 year olds that way? But maybe we don't appreciate him like we should.


Moses saw a new friend from church at school.
Me: Oh, did he say hi to you? 
Moses: No. I said hi to him. He didn't even know who I was.  
Herbie: I know why. Moses is taller in his church clothes.

Penelope got to see her old pal Aunt Alisa today, when Alisa and her family dropped by for a visit. Alisa wasn't wearing sunglasses on her head, so I wonder what Penelope will be running around with to help her be Aunt Alisa for the next few days.

Apparently Woo's biggest disappointment in marriage is that I don't make mashed potatoes and gravy often enough. I've had my moments, but they've never been something I've enjoyed making. (Or eating.) Anyways, he made his own today, so we both could be happy. Thanks, Woo!

Well, that's about it. Hope you all had a great week!

11.17.2014

BLACK NOVEMBER

I apologize to all you November birthdays out there, but for my life, right now, November is the worst month of the year. (Darn you, time change! Darn you!!)

It doesn't help that we always have vehicle registration in November, which in a very pleasant surprise (miracle???), we passed on the first try. You wouldn't believe the sense of euphoria we felt when that happened. It felt like we had finally gotten a well-deserved break.

Anyways, let's just say it's been a long two weeks of whining, yelling, wrestling, arguing, and not being able to get the kids in bed fast enough. But why focus on that? Here are some good things--


Turns out fears of Ruby being bullied were overblown. She's not dealing with anything above and beyond what any normal kid does. That was also a great relief. Sorry for the false alarm :)

Every day her class walks or runs 1 mile. This week she was very excited to tell us that some kid in her class (we'll call him Dexter) was going to pay the winner of the mile $20. And then just before she left for the bus, she accidentally let slip out that Dexter would give $20 to the winner, but you had to give Dexter $1. I immediately confiscated the dollar that she did indeed have in her pocket.
Woo: So Dexter's getting into race promotion or gambling?
I was thinking more like fraud.

(She did win the mile, and no one got $20, in case you were wondering.)


Here are some things Herbie is proud of and is excited to share with me: when he anonymously shovels the neighbor's walk, invites a friend to church, passes off his multiplication tables, is "top dog" in his class, or when he cleans his room or makes his bed really well. He'll also come home excited about any successes the autistic boy in his class has made that day.
Ruby: Did you know Justin Bieber taught himself the guitar?  
Herbie: Kinda like I'm teaching myself the guitar? 
We don't own a guitar. At least I don't think we do.


Linus got his leg casted this week, and he was able to walk on it right away. Partially because we again requested one cast for the full duration instead of a new one every couple of weeks, and they casted his leg at an angle comfortable for walking right away. He's even able to go play out in the snow. He just wears my snow boot over his casted foot. Linus has done an incredible amount of whining this week, but did make Herbie's bed for him one day, and was very proud.


Moses' attitude change about always trying his best seems to have spilled over into school too. He's now bringing home spelling tests with sentences that are absolutely perfect and written in very neat handwriting. He also keeps bringing home "pink slips," which sound bad, but are actually compliments from reading aids.


Penelope still really believes that she's a mom, and is offended if anyone suggests otherwise. She napped a few times this week, but not enough. It's always amazing to me how little kids, who're low on sleep, are somehow unable to relax and get the sleep they need for a maddening amount of time. Hopefully, this week's the week.


Archie was very excited to see the snow. The other kids thought it was so funny when he walked right up and stuck his bare hand right in the first chance he got, not realizing they'd all done the same thing as babies. He's spent some quality time trying to get boots on his feet, gloves on his hands and hats on his head.

Woo drove down to town with a neighbor on Tuesday to unload some junk at the dump. He took Linus, Penelope and Archie along for the ride. Nobody realized that it was a holiday and the dump would be closed, which it was. The saving grace was the free krispy kreme donut they got at the gas station. Woo decided against sharing with the kids because of the mess they'd make in the back of the neighbor's car, so instead stuffed the whole thing in his face and climbed in.
Linus: It smells like donuts in here!
Well, that's about it. Hope you all had a great week!

11.09.2014

WHEN IT RAINS IT POURS


The day after Moses got his cast off, Linus broke his leg. He seems to be doing fine, other than the fact that he can't walk. He's scooting pretty well around the house, and can climb into chairs, but he needs help dressing, getting up and down stairs, etc. No idea how long this will be. He still just has the splint on.
Moses (while driving up to the grocery store with the words food and drug prominently displayed): Mom! Do not take me to the part that says drug!  
I made a pledge at my school to not take any drugs!

Ruby, Herbie and Moses have had a few fun evenings running around and playing tag in the dark after dinner, now that the time had changed. They originally thought they needed their snowsuits, but soon peeled those off--the weather's been so nice.

I moved Archie out of his little high chair. He now sits in a kid chair around the table just like the rest of 'em. I always love to watch the baby get to do something just like the older kids for the first time. They're always so excited. Archie's "no" has evolved to "nope" and he says it most of the time. He'll say "yep" only very rarely.


I'm tired. Part of it is that Penelope hasn't napped well this week, so I haven't. But mostly, I'm going to blame the time change and all the extra work that always brings. It's always worked for me in the past.

Woo worked a lot, told some jokes, did some nice things ... I can't remember any specifics right now, but I think we've both had better weeks.


Well, that's about it. Hope you all had a great week!

11.03.2014

HALLOWEEN


This week was sandwiched between extended family. We saw Woo's family last Sunday for a family dinner and to see his brother, Kevin and family, in town, and on Saturday we saw my family for Taija's baptism.


Herbie was very excited to see his older cousin Ryan (freshman at BYU), and stuck to him like glue. It reminded me of the last wedding reception we went to (actually a non-wedding reception, but that's a long story). Herbie parked himself next to the (non)groom and his friends for most of the time we were there. I wonder how old he really thinks he is.


Herbie and I have played a lot of catch in the last couple of weeks. For not being much of a baseball fan, I find playing catch to be surprisingly fun. And Herbie and I are just about the same level--8 year old boy. I have an edge on catching and he has an edge on throwing.


Archie had a love/fear relationship with Kevin and Margaret's dog, Ollie. He used a toy spatula as a tool to pet Ollie, and he did a lot of laughing. Nervous laughing. It's the same laugh he uses when we have to walk past the horses behind our house.


I also loved watching him run up to a crying Penelope a few days ago with his arms outstretched and making kissing noises, which he planted on her back. It was just what she needed.

Penelope loves the leaves on the grounds right now. She likes to pick up a whole armful on our walks. And if she happens to take an armful into the library, she likes to drop them all right in the middle of the floor the second her mother notices them.


Woo has had an extremely busy week, but he still managed to make it to Herbie's pack meeting, go for a walk with Ruby, help out with Moses' class Halloween party (and dress up as an escaped convict so policeman-Moses and friends could chase him at recess), bear his testimony with a story about Penelope, and sit with all the crazy Halloween-high kids alone, while I waited in line for mine.

Moses (on our way out the door for trick-or-treating): Mom, sometimes people give out healthy food...
And you say thank you, even though it's healthy. 

Penelope discovered that when people lowered their bowl of candy at the door, she could grab a handful, and then another, and then another, without them even saying a thing. Then she tried the exact same thing today with the Sacrament bread.


Ruby has been so much better this fall at home, but we found out that she's moved all her moody behavior to Primary. Also those cool kids at school are a problem. Not only do they not like her, but they're actively mean to her. Feel free to shoot up a prayer or two in her behalf.


Linus has been in a pretty crabby mood all week. Almost as soon as we started learning his talk, he refused to even try. I just kept repeating it to him every once in awhile, and one day I bribed him to try the first part with a piece of candy. He spit out the whole talk right then, perfectly. He told me he'd practiced by himself and "learned it in the middle of the night." That little stinker.

Here I am in my natural state: surrounded on four sides by children everywhere I go.


Well, that's about it. Hope you all had a great week and a happy Halloween!

TESTIMONY BELOW:

A month or two ago I reread Sister Reeve's excellent conference talk--a Christ focused home--and said to my husband, "I love this talk so much. I wish I had given it. I wish these words had come out of my mouth."

So, as the next best thing, I'm going to quote a couple things from it, which many of you are already familiar with.

First when she receives answer to prayer while overwhelmed with a young family, she says, "It is OK if the house is a mess and the children are still in their pajamas and some responsibilities are left undone. The only things that really need to be accomplished in the home are daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening."

I believe this with all of my heart to be true of all of our homes. 

Sister Reeves also says, "A friend recently cautioned, 'When you ask the sisters to read the scriptures and pray more, it stresses them out. They already feel like they have too much to do.'

Brothers and sisters, because I know from my own experiences, and those of my husband, I must testify of the blessings of daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening. These are the very practices that help take away stress, give direction to our lives, and add protection to our homes."

I would like to add my testimony to Sister Reeve's that these things are not just something we do when everything in our life is calm and peaceful, we have nothing better to do, and everyone in our home is on board. These are things that we do to create calm and peace, make our days more productive, enlighten our minds and enrich our relationships. Especially when done daily over a period of years, much like watering a tree, it will someday grow into something so tall and strong that everyone around you will be able to gather strength and protection and knowledge from it.

I love the gospel of Jesus Christ and the opportunity that it gives me to become clean and free from my sins and the power that it gives me to become more than I am.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.