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!