Monday, December 28, 2009

And how are you?

I haven't even uploaded pictures yet. But guess what....I got a new camera! A replacement, really, since someone threw my old one and broke it.

Observation: the most beautiful color in the culinary world is the cranberry.

Observation: kids would be happy with stocking gifts and one present.

Observation: the movie "Elf" is on a lot during December.

And one more . . .

I will blog when I have more time. But for now, suffice it to say that Christmas was lovely.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tuesday Touch up

Almost here. I think I'm ready. It's nice to have Bryce's sister Heather visit, as well as Grandpa Al. If the kids can hold themselves together it will be a Christmas miracle.

Tyce had an thought-provoking conversation starter. He asked, "Was Jesus black or white?" I said, "He probably looked a lot like the people on that movie we saw ("The Nativity Story"); Middle Eastern. Unless Mary was very fair-skinned . . . "

And then I thought, you and I are all made up of two parents' genes but Jesus had Mary's genetics and . . . God's?

What are His physical characteristics? Skin color? Hair? And does He have all the dominant and recessive traits for those like we do?

Or does Jesus look just like God, bypassing Mary' genetic contribution?

Interesting question, eh?


I only have a moment today. I'm taking Tyce to the dentist in a few, and then taking the kids a couple at a time to shop for each other.

Oh, and BYU won the bowl game last night against Oregon State. Some of us went, some of us stayed, but all now raise our colors high in the blue to cheer the Cougars of BYU.

(Rah rah, rahrahrah...Rah rah rahrahrah....Goooooooooo Cougars!)

That was for Bryce.

I love him. He is the best. And probably the team's biggest fan.

And now I'm off.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Four Major Causes of Misbehavior

If the parent feels bothered or annoyed, the child is seeking attention.

If the parent feels angry, provoked, or threatened, the child is seeking power.

If the parent feels hurt, the child is seeking revenge.

If the parent feels like giving up, the child feels hopeless and inadequate.


Something to think and think and think about. More here.

In other news, I have done some Christmas shopping . . . AND . . . I think I'm going to be ready for the big day. You know what's bad? I truly can't think of anything I want for myself except when I'm out and THEN it's all I can do to stop myself from impulse buying everything on the shelves.

I may or may not have spent $60 on makeup.

I may or may not have bought myself a new coat.

I may or may not have gotten 12 Twilight posters to tack around my own bedroom walls.

(Okay, that one is a joke. Bryce would never go for that!)

Oh my goodness.

What a month.

I  wrote a Sesame newsletter (my last one) on Christmas traditions. I referenced the gifts given to the Christ-child: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. My Jewish editor asked me what those were (besides gold). And I thought, Isn't that common knowledge, even if you aren't Christian? Didn't she ever watch A Charlie Brown Christmas?

And then when I tried to answer, I came up blank.

So I did the lamest thing possible. I consulted wikipedia. I felt like a failure. Precious minerals used for sacred oils, that's the best I could come up with.

But guess what. Redemption through the New Era!

From Wendy Kenney's article entitled "We Three Kings" (December 2009):

Why did the Wise Men bring Jesus such rare gifts? Most scholars agree that the gifts were symbolic. The gold symbolized Jesus's kingship, frankincense His divinity, and myrrh His suffering and death, since myrrh was a substance used to perfume dead bodies before burial.

And that makes sense, doesn't it?

Well anyway.

I've reorganized the laundry room, after visiting with the Hardys last night. The lightbulb went off and I knew what needed to be done to combat the monstrous mound of clothes that lives in the hallway, waiting to be folded. So thank you, Rex's mom, for having a system that I am sure will work for me.

(I shall post before and after pictures soon. Oh, the suspense!)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Winter Concerts

Last night the symphonic band, orchestra, and honor choir performed.

Tyce's full-time commitment is band, but he also sang in the choir, lending a much-needed second male voice to the all-girl ensemble. (This is only a shot of the most of the choir warming up.)

I had a hard time focusing on my video- and picture-taking duties because I had the other kids doing this:

(being silly and fidgety)


(dreaming of being somewhere else).

But I thought the concert was great and I'm really proud of Tyce for using his talents.

Good job, Brown Bears!

And then this afternoon we went to Mary's choir concert at her elementary school.

She's in the middle, standing by her friend Sara. They had a neat repertoire of modern songs and very old (Lo, How a Rose Ere Blooming, Good Christian Men Rejoice, Holly and the Ivy). Their best number was "Hark, Hear the Bells", which garnered very enthusiastic applause from the other students before the song was even over!

After the concert the singers went back to class. Mary and Sara and their classmates did a great job!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chocolate and Lights

I guess you could say that chocolate lights up my life.

Just kidding.

(I know you won't believe me, but I am only so-so on chocolate.)

But on Monday, I was THREE CHEERS for the stuff. It's not like I'm going to turn it down. We went the the Ethel M chocolate factory for Family Home Evening. The main attraction was the cactus garden--what a sight!

It was a perfect night for walking around.

That's Leslie, who's staying with us for the week.

After strolling the grounds we went through self-guided factory tour (as fast as humanly possible) in order to get our free sample. Milk chocolate and white chocolate for the kids, dark chocolate for me.

And then, brownies at home. Sweet.

(And chocolicious.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Peace on Earth

I've always loved this poem but disliked the hymn we sing at church . . . that dreary, five-verse hymn that rings in a depressing new year. The final verses are hopeful, but to me, that's lost in the funereal tune.

This video is how I think Longfellow envisioned his words performed.

This is what I want to sing at church.

The peace! The hope! The joy! To a dark and imperfect world Christ was born and offers us salvation.

I appreciate the opportunity to watch, listen, and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Test

Last night I woke up about 10 times, my mind riddled with mix of real concerns and paranoia. (For an example of the latter, I took the phone off the hook at 2 am just in case someone decided to call friends.) As I lay there and thought of the week's schedule, and getting the playroom ready our upcoming house guest, and how I truly might end up on December 25th with nothing to give, my heart began to pound.

Bum BUM. Bum BUM.

I'd run a mental marathon and had gotten nowhere.

Have you heard that story about the religion class final exam?

A professor taught his students all year from the scriptures, the New Testament I believe, about compassion and Christ-like charity. He also told his class that their final exam was 100% of their grade and that it was imperative that they arrive on time.

On their way to the final the students encountered all sorts of obstacles. It was snowy and some passerbys asked for help with their vehicle, another person dropped a stack of books, a stranger asked for directions, and so on.

Most students focused on being on time for the test, and didn't stop to help.

But when they got to class, the professor informed them that they had failed.

Because the true test of whether they understood what was taught in the scriptures wasn't in the recitation of the doctrine--it was in the application. 

Fair, unfair? Urban legend? Faith-promoting rumor? Whatever it is, I've been thinking about it.

Everything on my schedule is pressing. Everything is time-sensitive. But not everything is equally important.

I would like to throw out all the less-fun, more difficult matters to make room for more fluff. Who wouldn't?

But fluff distracts me from the heart of the matter. In this season we celebrate the birth of our Savior, who healed the sick, ministered to the poor, taught and by word and example, and spent His days in service and love. He died that we might be forgiven of our sins and attain eternal life. He is the Savior of the World.

I know this.

For me, right now, the hard things are most important. I have to let the other things go, even good things. It makes me sad because that means I will be letting some people down.

And if you know me, you know that is the worst thing I can imagine.

Deep breath.


This is really hard for me.

Why are the hard things so hard?

It stinks because this means I have to cancel the one thing I really want to do today. 

I think the only way to stop my heart from beating out of my chest is to focus on what really matters.


Perhaps then everything else will fall into place.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Young Women in Excellence

It was wonderful. One of our Young Women, Brooke, was in charge. I think she did a really great job, and equally (if not more) importantly, she felt that it went well. I know from experience that pulling off this kind of activity is quite the feat--how awesome that she has experience at 15 doing something that can still induce a panic attack in me (and I'm 20 years older). Now she has a project done in her Personal Progress book and she's one step closer in earning her medallion. I'm so proud of her, and grateful to Cindy for mentoring her. The theme was "My Faith in Jesus Christ Leads Me to the Temple."

I realized I haven't written about Young Women in a while but I just love them so much. They are all so different and so very special. I have loved getting to know them these past two years and seeing them grow, both physically and spiritually. Being a leader of youth is a privilege because there are very few places to serve where both the sacrifices and rewards are so great. I have given my heart to every one of them, and yet my heart has grown in doing so.

I wouldn't be able to function if I didn't have such wonderful leaders around me. I truly love those ladies--Libbie, Aranne, Rachel, Shela, Jolene, and Cindy. They are great examples and great friends.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Conversation at 11:00 pm

Mary: Hi Mom.

Me: Oh! I thought you were asleep!

Mary: Not yet. Hey, you know those old green pillowcases you don't use anymore?

Me: No.

Mary: The ones you never use? And I think you were going to throw them away?

Me: No. I use those sage green pillowcases all the time.

Mary: Oh . . . uh . . . well . . . I made them into clothes for my stuffed animals. Do you want to see?

Me: You cut them up?

Mary: Yeah . . .

Me: No. I would like to pretend that never happened, at least until the morning.

Mary: Okay. Goodnight then.


P.S. Today is my one-and-only brother's birthday! Even if I had 12 siblings I'm sure he'd still be my favorite. Happy Birthday, David!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Peek at the Week

I'm putting the "Our Story of Adoption" mini-series on hold until January. Don't die, okay? Think of this:  I've been waiting for LOST to come back for like 9 months and I'm still a semi-functional human being.

I am paralyzed by indecision when it comes to Christmas shopping this year. I have bought exactly zero presents so far. All of the grandparents and my sister-in-law Kim have shopped and SHIPPED their gifts to us already, and I haven't even started. Do you ever feel that way--totally lame? I mean, overwhelmed?

I bought cinnamon-scented pinecones today. I held them up for Cameron to smell and he exclaimed, "Oh! They're pinecones filled with peanut butter!"

He is a funny little guy. Yesterday we passed a bottle of Snuggle fabric softener just like this one and Cameron said, "Look Harrison, this bottle has a dead bear on it!"


(I'm drownnnn-ing! Goodbye, cuddly-soft world!)

 Seriously, if you're ever feeling down you should take Cam shopping with you.

Maybe one reason I'm not more Rah-Rah-Rah about Christmas shopping is because of all the drama we've had at our house lately. I did not know raising kids was so crazy hard. I obviously have no idea what I'm doing because if I did we'd have exactly 3,567 less problems to deal with.

In a flash of generosity I let Mary Rachel decorate the house. It was torture to relinquish control and I wondered whatever possessed me to do it. She did a fine job, aside from micromanaging her minions (the twins) and causing meltdowns.

(But I'm better now.)

I had to buy a new nativity set yesterday. Our old one has Mary, Baby Jesus, one Wise Man, a donkey, and a sheep. I know, at least the key players are there. But this new one is so much more complete, and kind of fancy! Of course, it was an exercise in futility to keep small hands away. Every once in a while I'd hear the "clang" of glass on glass (or porcelain) and Cam would yell, "It's okay, no heads fell off!"

So the set is exactly on day old and all heads are still attached. Glory!

Oh Christmas.

I love you.

I will do my best to be ready for you.

(With a joyful heart.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Two Saints and an Angel

Monday night we had dinner with our dear friends from Houston: Kent, Cassie, and their daughter Meara.

I was Cassie's visiting teacher while we lived in the Hermann Park ward. I probably talked more than I listened, because I told her all about my crazy life as a full-time foster parent running a group home. One day I told her about two toddlers who had come into care, and how cute they were, but what a difficult time they had coping due to their past experiences.

That very night we went to a church meeting. I remember standing by the piano in the Relief Society room when Cassie asked me to tell her more about these kids, Meara and Lucien. I thought that was odd, until she told me that she felt a strong feeling that they were meant to be part of their family.


And to make a long story short, Kent and Cassie adopted Meara and Lucien. They already had five older children, and now they were starting over with 2- and 3-year-olds. There was no better family for those kids; I knew it then, and after our visit on Monday I know it even more now.

Meara and Lucien have had every opportunity for growth--horseback riding lessons, gymnastics, orchestra, the best schools, a myriad of therapies and counseling sessions, and a ton of love from the family. They have improved immensely, especially Meara. Despite all of that, wounds run deep. Issues become greater and more difficult to handle.

Cassie even said, "It's okay that you've never done therapy for your kids; we've been doing it for 8 years and it hasn't helped." And then we all laughed. Morbid, I know.

But I can't tell you how refreshing, how validating it was to talk to parents who understand us. It isn't easy to deal with past trauma or mismatched hard-wiring or emotional voids. We do our best, and the kids do their best, but some days I feel unqualified for this role.

But I marveled at Kent and Cassie's strength and patience and love, especially with their son Lucien. They told us jaw-dropping stories that sounded like case studies from an Abnormal Psychology text book. Despite all they've been through with him, they love him, actively love him. If you'd heard the stories, you'd agree that most parents could not keep going.

It put things into perspective with our children.

And our children were full-on basket cases that night. The twins wore themselves out and collapsed before we even had the Family Home Evening treat.

Thank goodness for amazing people in the world like Kent and Cassie. There is a special place in heaven for them.

And we get to be their friends.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving Weekend

Somehow I never remember to take pictures of people or food.Will you believe me if I tell you that we had a lot of food and a lot of people?

In addition to Bryce's family we also had Andy's siblings visit, so all together there were 21 guests (plus two cute babies). And the food was great. Tyce assisted with the rolls, which were delicious. We have lots to be thankful for. Here's a huge Thank You to Bryce's parents for hosting us all!

It didn't snow while we were there but it had earlier in the week--a real treat for the kids.

Is it just me or does this snowman's eye look realistic . . . and deranged?

The next day we went to Classic Skate which was a blast! Heather, Judy, and Bryce watched the kids skate and scooter around the rink.

Mary is pretty good on the skates.

Harrison went by in a blur! I love this one.

Kess and Mary enjoyed the bounce houses--I think they discovered where the two parts don't meet and someone got a foot in the hole.

Tyce did his own thing.

Tyce and Harrison pelted Bryce in the Blast Zone.

All the kids liked the giant slide--by report, it was very slick and fast.

Don't be a hater, but Bryce, Tyce, Al, and I went to the BYU v. Utah game. Thanks be to Betsie for watching the kids.

It temperature was in the 30s for the majority of the game, and we did the best we could to keep warm but my toes still froze off. Imagine being the guys in front of us wearing flip flops . . . oh, those crazy Utes.

And guess who won--BYU in overtime. Go Cougars!

It was nice to get away and spend time with family. We love you!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Our friends Aranne and Dan

See their "Hoping to Adopt" badge down there, on the right-hand side? Aren't they just the cutest couple you've ever seen?

Now they are parents!

I think I was more excited for them than I ever was for myself. I was free to be totally, completely happy without also feeling responsible, nervous, under-prepared, etc. Their little boy is named Blake, and I'm going to his baby shower tomorrow. He will undoubtedly be the star of the show, which is the way it should be.

I love when good things happen to good people. I love the miracle of adoption.

My Refrigerator

We have plenty. We are blessed.

I took this picture for my sister-in-law Kim. This intriguing article explains my inspiration.

Attorney / Homemaker, Henderson, Nevada, six-person household, has enough condiments to sustain life for a year, 2009.

P.S. I shall allow someone to organize and wipe down my freezer as a service project during this holiday season of giving--Because it is so much more blessed to give than to receive.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Our Story of Adoption--Part 5

We drove a million miles from Utah to Texas in a semi-reliable U-Haul, where prayer frequently overtook the tiny engine and saved us from breaking down.

I honestly thought that after graduating from Kingwood High School, I'd never come back. I was a Texan but my roots in Houston were shallow; I'd only lived there a year and a half before leaving for college. But there we were, pulling into my parents' driveway amidst the pine trees and opressive humidity.

Bryce started school and immediately found his niche with a great group of friends in Lane, Rhonda, and Stella. I found a job--with a salary!--as an insurance administrator at a barge transportation company, proving that enduring six horrible months at the insurance agency in Utah had not been in vain. With school and work sorted out, we left the suburbs and moved into an apartment in the city.

I felt proud that my salary supported us. I felt proud that Bryce was doing so well in school. For a year or so, we were content to push forward and throw ourselves into work, study, and church. (Our first callings in the ward were unconventional: Scheduling Secretary for me;  Building Czar for Bryce.)

Eventually we felt ready to add volunteer work to the mix. I searched the newspaper under "Volunteer Opportunities" and circled the ones that interested me. I called on a few, but they were too far away or didn't fit our schedules. Finally I called on a great match--Casa de Esperanza, not too far from where we lived. We began to volunteer on Thursday evenings.

The home had six children living there: brothers named Christopher, James, and Jimmy; a baby named Lynette; a preschooler named Brian; and the most adorable little boy we'd ever seen, named Tyce.

Bryce and I walked in that first day, knowing we were to help the house parents (two recently college-graduated young ladies) do things like fold laundry, play with kids, and read bedtime stories. Shannon called from the kitchen, "You can come back here! We're just finishing up dinner. We have two in high chairs, and they're ready to get out."

First I released 11-month-old Christopher. "Just put him on his tummy," Shannon instructed. I did, then moved down the line to Tyce. I released him and did the same thing. But to my surprise, he got up off the floor, stood up and smiled--and walked away!

Bryce and I loved coming each week. As volunteers we weren't allowed to know the children's situations but we could sense some of their issues; one was medically fragile, one was dangerously violent, one was developmentally delayed. But they were so much more than their issues and they all had a special place in our hearts.

At night after the kids were all in bed, we helped with chores and chatted with the house parents. One night as Bryce and I were packing up, Teleia said, out of the blue, "You guys should become foster parents."

We laughed. Was she kidding?

"Foster parents? We live in an apartment. Bryce is in school. I work. We're not experienced--we don't even have kids. Foster parents are older, stable, mature parents with a history of success when it comes to raising children. No, that just wouldn't work!" I scoffed.

"Here's how it could work, " Teleia explained. "Child care would be provided, support services would be available to you as parents. You'd go to monthly foster parent trainings and have a caseworker working closely with you. Most importantly, you would be providing a child with the stability needed to grow emotionally and socially. I know you could do it. Casa would support you every step of the way."

We left that night with a lot to think about. In the car I said, "Can you believe that? Pretty weird, huh?"

Bryce replied, "Yeah . . . "

"But it kinda sounds doable . . . if we wanted to do it, that is," I said.

It was a crazy idea that wouldn't go away. We agreed to pray about it.

That night, it was as if divine hands took us by the shoulders and literally steered us right instead of left. We felt compelled to change courses. We felt a burning, clear answer that we could not deny.

Yes, we got an answer. Yes. Yes. YES. We didn't know how or why, or for how long, but the answer was YES.

With the ball set in motion, there was no stopping it. In a matter of weeks we left our volunteer positions, said goodbye to our houseparent friends. Bryce quietly gave each child a blessing before leaving.

And then one evening in December, we packed up bags of toys and clothes for a 17-month-old, curly-headed toddler about to join our family, if only for a while.

The drive seemed to take forever. In fact, our little backseat passenger fell asleep. Upon arriving at our apartment, Bryce and I looked at each other, nervous and excited--and took a deep breath.

"Wake up, Tyce, " Bryce whispered. "You're home."

P.S. If you click the word "volunteer" here or above, the third video  on the Casa website (by Cheryl K.) is about our twins and our family! You're awesome, Cheryl!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Our Story of Adoption--Part 4

So Bryce and I dated for 9 months (and two of those I was in Italy for a study-abroad program; engaged, love-sick, and pathetic). It was a gorgeous day when we were married in a beautiful ceremony in the Salt Lake temple on August 21, 1995. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world.

As strange as it might sound, when we first discussed having a family I didn't think about infertility. I didn't think about that deep-down feeling. I wasn't denying or challenging my earlier promptings--I just never gave them a thought. I wanted to have babies and I assumed I would, in a few years when we were ready.

We continued as a married couple at the Family Support and Treatment Center, but this time as respite house parents. We worked overnight shifts on weekends, for the children who stayed for extended periods of time.

There were several bedrooms, and some nights they were all full; sometimes we had no one. One of our first little overnight guests was a 2-year-old named Jesse who loved trucks and frequently exclaimed, "Diesel!" We tried everything we knew (not much) to help him settle in for bed. But he was the Energizer Bunny. About midnight, Bryce and I got in our bed and made Jesse a little pallet on the floor. He vroomed in circles with his toy big-rig at the foot of the bed. Eventually he crawled slower and slower, his shout of "Diesel!" became more infrequent, and finally he collapsed right there on the carpet, truck in hand.

Another time we had two sisters who took a bath before bed; the bathroom was huge, with a tub and a separate shower. The girls took turns running from one to the other, laughing and having a grand time. My first thought was to stop them from making a mess. But then I thought about how these girls were spending the night in a shelter because they couldn't go home. Maybe they needed this. Maybe they would look back and remember that in a scary time, they had a little fun. Bryce agreed. And while they made a spectacular mess, it was worth it.

Most of the kids were friendly and manageable. But some were angry and difficult. A 10-year-old boy we had one Saturday put all of my behavioral management training to the test. He threw a tricycle on the roof. He broke a toy airplane. He threw a football at me while I was cooking macaroni and cheese. I was really at my wit's end, fearing that he would escape the facility or harm the other children. After talking to him several times about our expectations I finally got on his level and said, "Here's the deal, Daniel. The things you break are the things you can play with, and that's it." I didn't think that was a particularly effective threat, but he smiled, became pleasant, and stopped acting out. Bryce and I looked at each other like, "What just happened here?" but we sure weren't complaining.

I finished school in December and went to work as a customer service representative at an insurance agency, where my psychology degree was used to deal with my incompetent boss and his staff of angry women. Bryce worked on finishing his degree in Political Science. In April we donned cap-and-gown and walked across the stage in the Marriott Center, graduated at last!

Bryce applied to several law schools, and his first pick, hands down, was Notre Dame. I exercised every particle of faith that I had to pray morning, noon, and night that he would get in. They had a program that was perfect for him, and a psychology Masters that was perfect for me. We were in love with everything Fort Bend. We would have jumped through any hoops to get there.

And Bryce got on the waiting list!

And he also got accepted to several other schools, including the University of Houston.

I crossed my fingers and prayed even harder that any day, any day, any day we'd get that acceptance letter from Notre Dame! We could practically hear the Fighting Irish chanting our names!

But time passed and there was no letter. In the summer, we even called the university. We were told to wait, that there may be room but there was no way of knowing until school started.

And like two kids with a helium balloon, we let go of that dream. We watched it float into the sky until it got smaller and smaller, and we missed it less and less. We knew we'd go where we needed to be, and apparently it wasn't Indiana.

It was Houston.

And going to Houston changed everything.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Today I'm finishing up the turkeys and mashed potatoes for our youth-and-seniors Thanksgiving dinner. I made a mistake about who to invite; apparently last year we decided to include those 60 and over, and this year it was 55 and over. So some of the younger "seniors" are a little offended. Oops.

But they get in on pretty much the best activity of the year, so they should be thanking me, right?

Anyway, I'm short on time but I have this cute cartoon Mary drew to share with you. You'll want to enlarge it to read the words and see the facial expressions.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Our Story of Adoption--Part 3

Bryce and I walked home together nearly every evening. I worked in the Biofeedback lab at the Counseling and Development Center, and Bryce worked at the front desk in the Services for Students with Disabilities. Many nights he'd come all the way to my apartment, where I would make him dinner. I was very good at following directions on a box and I loved arranging the Hamburger Helper, orange slices, and canned green beans in artful patterns for an appreciative audience of one.

He taught my roommates to play the crazy card game Mau Mau. What were the rules? I remember making great plays, only to have Bryce say, "Oh, I forgot to tell you that you can't do that if there's a 2 played before a 9" or "Yeah, sorry, I should mention that this play is only valid during the full moon" and other such lunacy. We had many fun nights laughing and shouting, "SNOOPY FLYING ACE OF SPADES!" while Garth Brooks' "The Thunder Rolls" or Smetna's "The Moldau" played in the background. He was more popular than I was in that apartment.

And we spent our Saturdays volunteering, of course.

He was smart and funny and kind and upstanding. Many times we studied together for my religion class and I felt the Spirit very strongly as we discussed the Scriptures and the words of the Prophets.

He was a great friend. And I knew, as time went on, that he wanted to be more than that.

But I wanted to keep my options open. My heart was in more than one place. I had a missionary and I was keeping things light with dating.

But guys stopped asking me out when they assumed that I was already taken.

But really, was that bad?

Because I really did like Bryce and I had feelings for him.

And so I stopped sitting on the fence.

And I let myself choose romance.

And I was not disappointed.

{Then or now.}

Short Visit, Fun Times

This week my dad had a convention at the South Point. In a fortuitous set of circumstances, my brother ALSO had a convention here this week, at Mandalay Bay. So we met on Thursday at the MGM for dinner and the Cirque du Soleil show "KA."

This was David and my dad's first time seeing KA, and my second. It was spectacular.

This is my dad and my brother David. The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree, eh? David treated us to dinner and it was great to spend time with two of my favorite people in the world.

Which is scarier: serious siblings . . .

. . . or crazy ones?

David and the Pharoah = BFF.

Going my way?

David stayed at his hotel that night and returned home to his girls the next morning. But my dad stayed until Saturday! He did a home repair project (the patio table that Harrison pounded with a croquet mallet) and changed my outside lightbulbs. (Thank you, Dad!)

He also got to spend time with the kids. He read library books to the twins and even Tyce was intrigued by the pirate story. After school he said, "So where's that book? I need to find out what happens at the end." Ha!

We went to the park on Saturday. Mary even got Grandpa to play the board game "Sorry" with her--and Grandpa never plays games. He even won! So maybe we can persuade him to play again.

The best thing about living here is having visitors. Viva Las Vegas!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Our Story of Adoption--Part 2

Time passed. I went to college. I had amazing friends and wonderful experiences at BYU. While my major was Psychology, my minor was Dating, Socializing, and Watching Brigham Do the Funky Chicken.

I also did volunteer work.

I started out as a Big Sister in the Big Brother/Big Sister Program. Mine and my partner Lance's charge was a 13-year-old girl named Jamie. She was overweight, shy, and self-conscious in most areas of life. But she loved when Lance taught her (and me) to play tennis, when we played board games, and when I talked with her about boys. She had a Jason Priestly poster on her bedroom wall, so we bonded over our fantasy crushes on 90210.

After a year and a half, Jamie "graduated" from the BBBS program. Wanting another volunteer opportunity, I asked around. Another friend introduced me to a crisis shelter called The Family Support and Treatment Center, and I had a 3-hour shift every Saturday morning. Parents who were registered for counseling were encouraged to bring their children to the crisis nursery whenever they needed a time-out to regroup and take care of  pressing matters affecting the family.

I played hard with the kids. Every Saturday I went home and made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich--the same thing the kids ate right before I left at noon. I loved my time with those kids. Some were a bit indifferent to the volunteers, but most were hungry for attention. One child who really touched me was a 6-year-old girl named Ashley. After spending a majority of my shift with her, she made me a card. The front was a picture of a rainbow. The inside read: "Thank you for being here. I love you. Please don't ever leave this place."

Oh! I wished I didn't have to. I wished I could take Ashley home with me, even though I was only 20, naive, and inexperienced--and she already had a family. I knew I had enough in me to bring her into my circle, to love her as my own. I remember feeling grateful to have a heart with the capacity to care for others.

The only thing missing from my work at the FSTC was someone to share the experience with. And so I asked a new friend, a sweet red-haired guy who lived in my apartment complex and worked in the office next to me in the Kimball Tower, to go with me. And he did.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Our Story of Adoption--Part 1

In honor of November being National Adoption Month, I have decided to do a mini-series on our family's story, and of how we came to be.


When I was a young woman, I had a feeling--a very quiet, primal instinct that I had probably never put into words--that I would not bear children. I dreamed of having a beautiful family with my husband, of course. I assumed I would have children that looked like me, who inherited my good qualities (and none of the bad). I hoped to have 6 kids--4 girls and 2 boys. In daydreaming I was no different from other girls my age. But if I really thought about it--and sometimes I did--I felt that children would not come to me in that way.

When I received my patriarchial blessing at age 16, there was a promise that one day my home would be a place for the rearing and educating of my children. After the blessing, my mom clapped her hands and said, "Hooray, that means you're going to have babies!" I think that was the first time I really knew that I wouldn't.

But I knew I would be a mother.

I knew it deep down: I felt peace, not sadness. I knew I would get married to a wonderful person, and I knew we would be parents--somehow.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Most Welcome Package

We weren't expecting anything in the mail, but it was still exciting to think of what might be in the oversized-mail box. When Bryce jimmied the lock open we discovered a smallish box with the return address of . . . WHAT!? For real? The Wild Animal Park!

And inside the shredded paper were Mary's glasses.

(They were filthy. I'm dying to know where they were found. I was sure they were crushed under someone's shoe, or that a cheetah was enjoying improved vision.)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sunny San Diego

I'm not usually one to suggest going away for the weekend--that's Bryce's thing. I'm the stick-in-the-mud who wants to get the shelves put up in the closet. He's the one who wants to party it up, eating out every meal in a new city.

So you can imagine his surprise when I declared, "We should go to San Diego. This weekend. Make it happen." And then I did a smart military turn like when I was in marching band. Left flank, harch!

Luckily, my wonderful husband was on board. And he likes marching band references.

So we drove to the San Diego Zoo on Friday afternoon. We only had one hour before the park closed, but what a glorious hour it was. Gorgeous weather, low crowds, well-behaved children, well-behaved animals.

Checking into our hotel was next on the list. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza, which Bryce got for a steal on Hotwire. It was an older but quite lovely hotel, with a lush interior courtyard and a glass elevator.

We settled down for the night. The three boys were in one room; Bryce and Mary and I were in the adjoining room. Mary was very put out that she merely had a roll-away bed instead of a place on the "real" bed but she, after arguing her case, accepted her lot.

So imagine this.

You're lying in bed. Beginning to drift off. But then you smell something.

Something familiar, but awful.

Cigarette smoke. Oh for the love of Pete. You go on to the balcony to see if there's someone right next to your room lighting up. But you can't see anything.

It's getting worse. It's like there are 10 people puffing right into the air vent. You check your hotel door and it says "NO SMOKING" just like you thought, so how could this be? Reason, unlike the smoke, goes out the window. You, or somebody in your party, canvasses the halls with a proverbial fire extinguisher and a snappy speech, ready to nip the problem in the butt. Literally.

But vigilante justice is not the answer. Not because you've come to your senses, but because you can't find the offender. You assume that the person must truly be smoking in the ceiling of your hotel room--that's the only explanation!

This world is full of crazy people, you think as you approach the front desk in your pajamas.

Eventually you are moved two floors away, on the other side of the hotel, away from the pretty courtyard and glass elevator. Away from the mirrored entry ways and art-lined halls. But thankfully, AWAY FROM THE SMOKE.

As a bonus, you get comped a free breakfast at the fancy hotel restaurant.

End drama. You may return your brain to its full and upright position.

On Saturday we drove to the Wild Animal Park. The highlight was going on the Cheetah Run Safari. It was totally worth the extra expense. Bryce was so nice to let me take Tyce and Mary while he ran around with Cameron and Harrison.

In addition to watching the cheetah chase her "toy" down a track (she was truly phenomenal to watch), we also got to see two hyrax up close, and a Perrigrin falcon. Tyce took the cheetah pictures and was especially proud to have taken a better live-action one than I did.

When we met up with the group things seemed to go downhill.

That's when Mary discovered she'd lost her glasses. People were hungry, it was hot, Cameron kept begging for a sombrero (when he meant "souvenier"), and we just seemed to suffer from a lack of organization. But the kids did get candy as we wandered around (because it was Halloween) and then half of the kids did the costume contest. And after that we went back to the hotel.

And you know how Halloween night went.

The next day we packed up and went back to the zoo.

Cameron took this picture of Tyce!

So after a while we bought our sombreros--I mean, souveniers--and headed home. It was a great weekend, and I'd love to go back soon.