Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Be Strong, and of a Good Courage

This is the Mutual theme for the year, Joshua 1:9.

Yesterday all four of our children showed courage.

Cameron and Harrison swam for the first time since the summer. We have a new indoor pool just down the street and they were excited but a little nervous, too. But they trusted me to be there for them, which gave them confidence and courage to try. (And they had a great time.)

I was impressed that Mary took it upon herself to call LaKeisha about her hair. She would have preferred that I call her but was willing to look up her stylist's number on my cell phone herself. She asked LaKeisha how to take care of her hair before and after swimming, and then she did it.

Tyce asked to go to a friend's house to deliver a letter. I was suspicious and asked about it. He showed me the very sweet, very honest letter he'd written to a girl about wanting to serve a mission and honoring his committment to himself and his church, which meant, no girlfriends. (Perhaps you can read between the lines on this.) Talk about courage!

I think it is so hard to stand up for yourself, or to get out of your comfort zone sometimes. But as that scripture says, the Lord is with us wherever we go. We are never alone.

And I am thankful for that.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Easter Week

We are celebrating Easter all week! Every day we will have a devotional and an activity to help us focus on our Savior Jesus Christ. Even celebrations of spring have religious significance as we celebrate new life.

I gave the children new outfits yesterday for church. (It was as much for Easter as it was dire need--all three boys had outgrown everything they owned for Sundays.)

And really I just want to show you how gorgeous these kids are.

I am blessed to have a wonderful family.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Colt of the Month

Yesterday we attended the Colt of the Month awards at the elementary school.

(It's better that I'm telling you this in writing, because when I informed my sister-in-law Kim on the phone, she thought I said *Cult* of the Month.)

This is what the school counselor read to the group, as written by her teacher Mrs. Cropp:

I nominate Mary Rachel Jones for Colt of the Month because she has improved by stepping up her academics in 4th grade. Mary has done a great job teaching strategies to her classmates and being a great role model. We are so proud of you!!

And, of course, we are so proud of our Mary too!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Budding Artists

I have bought watercolor sets for each of the children at various points.

I have also thrown out used black-streaked, frayed-brushed, disgustingly drippy-dried watercolor sets belonging to each of the children at various points.

I was actually surprised we had any sets left at all, but apparently we are down to one.

Mary, believing the lone set to be hers (of course) convinced Harrison and Cameron to set aside petty discussions of ownership and join her in a painting extravaganza. She provided the paper and the ideas, and her magnanimous offer appealed to the boys.

 So they painted.

And painted.

I really love all of their work. Each did a rainbow with a pot of gold. Mary painted a herd of horses. I think some of the twins' work is a little more abstract (i.e. I can't really tell what it is without explanation) but it really appeals to my eye.

Of course, I'm a little biased . . . since I know the artists personally, you know.

You can come see their pieces up close in the gallery, located at Refrigerator Plaza.

Mary will draw you anything you want. Seriously . . . she's amazing.

Cameron won't likely give you an autograph, but he will spell his name for you lightning-quick:

c a m e r o n

and his brother's name

h a m e r o n

which drives not-Hameron crazy.

(But I have to say, I think it is hilarious.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Advice for Young People re: Vampires

Dear Young Friend,

I am pretty sure you're not a vampire. But it wouldn't surprise me if you had a crush on one. Apparently they are pretty hard to resist. I know I'd appreciate a man who sparkled.

(Bryce, take note!)

But this is a serious matter, young people. Books and movies make these relationships seem beautiful and romantic and without consequence. I'm here to tell you, there are consequences.

Not every part-vampire looks as cute and sweet as baby Renesmee.

Some . . . well, let's just say that some children won't compete in any beauty pageants.

Beware, young people, of vampire love.

You could have a baby like this:

A Hillbilly Vampire.

They're cute except when they chase you, fangs bared, with a rally cry of "Git 'er done!"

Don't say I haven't warned you. Beware. Be vigilant.

And when they're running full force, be afraid.

Your older, wiser friend

Friday, March 19, 2010


A few things this week have really brightened up my life. The first is the gorgeous weather outside. Cameron and Harrison have loved riding bikes up and down the street with the Hardy boys: Evan, Mason, and Ty. This means that I get some girl-chat time with their mom, and I have really enjoyed that. I don't think I've mentioned it, but Cameron learned how to ride a two-wheeler while I was in Houston. Harrison took off one of Cam's training wheels, which really annoyed him because it rendered his bike unrideable. I guess he got sick of being stuck on the sidelines because one afternoon Bryce took off the other one, helped him get started, and Cameron just rode away!

The other thing is that I feel like I'm evolving (albeit slowly) into a better mother of a teenager. Most of it has to do with changing my perception, my expectations, and my attitude. And realizing that my worth as a parent isn't dependent on how my kids turn out; I used to think that if I loved my children enough (with everything that entails) I could innoculate them against poor choices. My hard work was an insurance policy, if you will. Have family prayer, and there won't be fighting. Model clean language, and they will never say a bad word. Bear your testimony every day, and they will never doubt the truth.

But they are free to choose for themselves how to live, what to say, and what to believe.

“You can’t force your boys, nor your girls into heaven. You may force them to hell, by using harsh means in the efforts to make them good… Our children are like we are; we couldn’t be driven; we can’t be driven now… We won’t be driven. Men are not in the habit of being driven; they are not made that way.” --Joseph F. Smith

I love this. I have been pondering it lately. I know *I* can't be forced to do anything, so why do I think anyone else can? But I can drive them away trying.

"If pain and sorrow and total punishment immediately followed the doing of evil, no soul would repeat a misdeed. If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil—all would do good and not because of the rightness of doing good. There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no free agency. . . . There would also be an absence of joy, success, resurrection, eternal life, and godhood." --Spencer W. Kimball

I love this one too. But oh, the temptation to wish that the lightning bolt would strike and the precise moment of a misdeed!

I'm not saying that anything super bad is happening around here, just so you know. Growing pains, mostly.

I certainly made mistakes growing up, and continue to make mistakes today. I'm not perfect and I know that NO ONE is perfect. That doesn't mean that I don't expect a lot from my children but I acknowledge that there are bumps in the road and obstacles to overcome, some of their own making and some not. It doesn't mean that if people stray that they won't come back.

So while this probably sounds like the opposite of sunshine, these epiphanies have all been enlightening.

The third ray of sunshine was our Relief Society birthday party last night. Stephanie Smith did a beautiful job, as she always does, with planning and executing the program. Her sister Christie was the guest speaker on finding joy in the little things. Man, her talk was inspiring. I wished I'd gotten a Kleenex ready because my tears made rivulets on my freshly-powdered cheeks. I am renewed in my desire to express gratitude, and to find joy in the little things.

After that we had a lovely dinner and lovely conversations with the sweet ladies of our ward. It was so nice to socialize and get to know people better.

And finally, it is with gratitude that I say a big THANK YOU to Denalee for awarding me my very first blogging award, the Sunshine award!

Now you see where I was going with this theme? Sunny!

Thank you. And I would like to share the love. It was hard to choose but I've picked three to pass this award on to:

And I hope you all have a wonderful, sun-shiney weekend.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

The Wearin' O' the Green

Today is the day fer the wearin' o' the green.

Today is the day when the little people are seen.

Today is St. Patrick's Day, so if ye'r Irish me lad,

Join the celebratin' fer the grandest time ta' be had.

Ya' put yer hand up in the air, the other hand on your hip.

Ya' tap yer toe, ya' tap yer heel, ya' bounce yer knee a wee bit.

Ya' prance 'n dance around the room, n' circle one two three.

The saints be praised, I must admit, ya' all look Irish ta' me.

--Author Unknown

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Piano Festival

Mary has been taking piano from Rebecca Shapiro for a little over a year. Not only is Rebecca a great friend but she's also an excellent piano teacher. I'm so thankful that both Tyce and Mary have taken lessons from her.

For the festival Mary played "Silly Sandpiper," a jaunty little piece reminiscent of the bird. She also played "Computer Talk" which showcased staccattos and dynamics.

We waited in the hallway at UNLV for about 30 minutes; 15 because we were early and 15 because they were running behind. That gave Mary plenty of time to get nervous and antsy.

But when her name was called to perform, I couldn't tell she had butterflies at all. She did very well. Afterward I complimented her on her confidence and she said, "My heart was beating out of my chest." She hid it well!

And she got a Superior rating at the end of the day.

I'm really proud of Mary for working hard and doing her best. Good job, Mare!

Monday, March 15, 2010

What We Do in a Day, by Cameron and Harrison

We play with blocks.

We hold the skirts of princesses.

We comb our hair with saws.

We lick the shower wall.

We pull the wagon with all our might.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Eight Things on My Mind

1. I have the book club at my house tonight, where we're discussing "The Goose Girl" by Shannon Hale. What should I have for snacks? Who will clean my house for the guests? If only these were the only pressing questions in my life. But I'm happy to have friends over, and guess who else is coming . . . Mary! She has read this book probably 10 times since Christmas (along with the other books in the series). If anyone has insight or commentary, it's bound to be our little bookworm.

2. Girls Camp is the albatross around my neck lately. I reserved the location in September, but our camp director, called in January, can no longer perform her duties. (I'm not upset at her.) But the long and short of it is that after having a few scheduled-and-canceled meetings, we have nothing planned. And camp is in 13 weeks. There are even more hitches and glitches, but talking about them right now makes me feel hyperventilatey and sad, like Taylor Swift at the VMAs. I know one thing: I don't want to plan it myself, or even delegate it to the board to BE planned. I just wish someone would take over and make it all work out.

"Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted." It's like the consolation prize for things falling apart. Boooo for things falling apart.

3.  I think Alice in Wonderland looks creepy and scary. It may be really good, but the commercials freak me out. Maybe it's because Cameron whimpers, "Why is that evil queen's face so small and white?" Why, indeed.

4. The Queen of Hearts can make tarts but *I* have made bread twice so far, even without a stand mixer. I need a really great recipe though, because the bread I've made is pretty good but not amazing. If I'm going to injure my triceps kneading three loaves at a time, I'd better have something incredible to show for it. And I don't mean muscles.

5. Three people I know have been in the hospital this week. So the rest of you: stay out. You can't have a heart attack or a stroke or be bitten by a horse, and I'm serious.

6. Tyce is going somewhere today: his band festival (competition) at UNLV. He brought a little mouth whistle to school. I can see no good coming of this combination. It appears I am the only one of the two of us who can predict the future. Perhaps I should get my own Disney show. And Tyce can get "experience."

7. I bought a calendula pot, which I think is a fancy name for marigold. It is pretty and orange-flowered. I put it on our front porch. Bryce took one look and said, "Why did you do that? You don't have a good track record with plants." And I couldn't be offended, because he's absolutely correct. But for today it is quite lovely, and a reminder that Spring is on its way.

8. And I'm on my way to get ready for the day. Ciao for now!

Monday, March 8, 2010

What We've Been Up To

I haven't posted much. It's not that things aren't happening, it's that it's just normal life.

Mary is on track break, and I took this bunch (our three and two of the Shaprios) to see Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.

They liked it. But they're kids--what do they know. They think everything is funny. And as long as we're buying treats, what's not to like?

After we came home Sara and Zach played Wizard 101 with Mare, while the twins looked on. Those poor little dudes always have back-row seats to the big kids' screen time.

Harrison and Cameron sure do love their candy! They are such cuties. I thought I was going to have to answer 100 questions during the movie but the boys were riveted by the those singing chipmunks.

This Friday Tyce, Mary, Bryce and I went to see Nathan Burton's Comedy Magic at the Flamingo, courtesy of Donna and Angela. Angela's Girl Scout troop got free tickets to the show and they were nice enough to invite us!

It was pretty good. I did remember him from America's Got Talent but now I'm thinking, "You already have a Vegas show." I guess the $1 million would always be nice though, right?

He was pretty amazing with his sleight of hand tricks. But I think my favorite part was his "intermission" comedian (Michael Holly), who was absolutely hilarious.

Tyce wouldn't let me take any good pictures, but here's a nice one of Mary and Bryce.

Thank you for inviting us, Donna and Angela!

I took Tyce shopping on Saturday. I bought the clothes, and he used his own money to buy the accessories.

If he's not careful, I'm going to be borrowing his clothes soon. In fact, maybe I will. That's the surest way to mess with his perception of "cool."

If you see me in a fedora with a blinged out belt, just act normal.

On the upside, things for the past few days had been as tense as possible, but after a shopping day together, Tyce and I were back to our friendly, happy selves.

That's the power of fashion at work, people.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Our Story of Adoption--Part 8

I really can't tell you how we came together on this. It's kind of a blur. I remember pleading in prayer--bargaining, really--that if we ran the group home for two years that the Lord had to PROMISE that Bryce's career wouldn't suffer for it. I also had a side deal with Him that He would lead us to add another permanent child to our family, maybe a girl? I'd started fertility treatments and really wanted another baby one way or another. I knew it was crazy to make demands but it was my desperate attempt to grasp a semblance of stability when the ground was shifting beneath our feet.

I also had the burning feeling that we were on the right track. And I know Bryce must have done the same thing, because before we knew it, we were employed by Casa--as full-time house managers in a long-term group foster home.

If people thought we were crazy they hid it well. Or we were too wrapped up in our impending move and life change to notice.

I quit my job. Bryce took the Bar and passed it. We moved into the very home where we'd volunteered not long ago--that big, beautiful home with a thousand memories.

Looking back, I can't imagine what was running through Tyce's 3-year-old mind.

Here's how I envisioned that first day going: taking the first day to move in, the second to settle in, and the third to welcome our new brood of children into an organized, lovely home.

I'll let you in on a secret: It didn't happen like that.

Our moving van pulled up and little children poured from the house. One of the houseparents told us she'd stay until 6 to help with dinner and keep the kids occupied. My eyes grew wide with alarm as I realized that there was no downtime here. I wasn't welcoming children to my house; they were cautiously allowing ME--us--to step foot in their domain.

As soon as we piled boxes in the living room, kids climbed them. They jumped on our furniture and rifled through my purse.

I looked at Bryce with sheer panic and said, "We've made a mistake. I can't do this. We need to go back."

"We've made a commitment, Rebecca, for two years," he reminded me. "We can do this, and we will."

With my heart and soul I wanted to believe. But when the 10-day-old baby began to cry when the two 3-year-olds crashed into the table, and the 2-year-old spilled his juice, I really wasn't sure.


I didn't brush my hair for two weeks because I couldn't find a brush. Somehow the cave woman look worked for me--I felt just as primitive and untamed on the inside as I looked on the outside.

Eventually we got the hang of things, unpacked, and established a routine. I began to enjoy the children: 3-year-old Pierre (the smartest, most artistic, and most athletic child I had ever met), his 2-year-old brother Jarvis (who was quiet, liked to suck on two fingers, and liked pushing his toy lawnmower), and the baby, DeAndre (who was delightful). Tyce loved having constant playmates and brothers.

But life was HARD--so much harder than I imagined it could be. There was so much I couldn't control, so much noise I couldn't quash, so many people I couldn't keep tabs on, so many meals and snacks to make, so meetings to attend, so much housework. Oh my word, the housework alone could have been a full-time job.

Bryce stayed at home with me, which was wonderful. He also did some of Casa's legal work, even going to Washington to lobby for changes to be made regarding adoption subsidy. He enjoyed doing adoptions and I think it was a real blessing for him to put his education to good use.

One morning, about a year into our service, we dropped the kids off with the Catholic nuns whose ministry was to support the Casa community. Sister Rita and her associates were always so wonderful and grandmotherly to all of the children, and so we knew they were in good hands.

Bryce and I talked to our fellow houseparents before our training meeting started.

"Hi, Mary. Looks like you have a new baby! Does that mean that little Miguel went with the Smiths?"

"Yes, they're a great family. I hope it works out. I just got the baby yesterday. Wanna see?" She bent her arm down a bit so I could peek at the little face inside the bundle of blankets. "Her name is Mary."

"Just like you!" I quipped.

She was a beautiful baby wrapped in pink. Curly hair, creamy skin, such a cute nose and her eyes . . .

Suddenly I felt a hot stab in my heart. Like I'd just remembered something important.

Her eyes.

I drew in my breath.

Her eyes.

And then the thought came to me: This is your daughter.

And I knew it was true.

I'd come to know that feeling--and I knew it was true.

I had no idea how this would come to pass, but I knew one thing was sure--the Lord did not forget His promises.

This was my daughter, whom I had prayed for all my life.

Our Story of Adoption--Part 7

In Bryce's third and final year of law school we got a letter from Casa.

Dear Foster Families,

Casa de Esperanza is moving our group homes in the direction of family-based care. Children in long-term foster care thrive when in a family setting. To that end, we are contacting our foster families to see if any would like to move in and manage a group home of four to six special children. You would be provided with a home, a vehicle, a stipend and a small salary in exchange for your two-year committment.

Foster Care Coordinator

I read it and passed it on to Bryce.

"This sounds great," Bryce said, pushing play on the VCR for Tyce's nightly viewing of The Lion King. "Those kids definitely need the stability."

"I hope they find people to do that. It was nice of Teresa to think of us."

"It looks like they sent it to everyone."

"Oh. Maybe. You're sure it doesn't have anything to do with our awesome track record of raising one child
for a whole year?" I asked in mock seriousness.

"Oh yes, I'm sure that played a major factor in sending out the form letter," Bryce teased.

He took a fake punch to the shoulder. "Let's go watch Simba with our little Simba," I said. "He grows up so fast out there on his own--we don't want to miss the good parts when he's still young."


That night in bed I couldn't sleep.

"Bryce," I whispered. "Bryce. Are you awake?"


"Not even a little?"

"Okay, fine, a little," he said, rolling over to face me. "This had better be good."

"I'm just wondering what you're going to do after graduation," I ventured.

"What I'm going to do after graduation is jump up and down. After that I'm going to study for the Bar. And I just might sneak in a little vacation with you in there somewhere," he added, kissing my hand.

"I mean, for a job," I said, rolling my eyes. "And I want to go to San Francisco, in case you're taking requests."

"Well, I know what kind of work I want to do, and I know what kind of work I don't. And I don't want to work 90 hours a week in a huge law firm. I don't mind working hard but my first priority is my family. I couldn't stand being away from you and Tyce that long. So we'll have to see what comes along. You never know. We'll have to keep praying and have faith that things will work out."

"You're right," I said. "I know things will work out."


During my workdays when I'd file papers, answer phones, and prepare reports, I fantasized about the day when my full-time job would include doing puzzles, playing ball, and making snacks for my son.

I thought about those kids in the group home. I thought about myself in the group home. I even thought about myself running a group home.

The Letter.

I found myself thinking more and more about the letter.

But we'd dismissed that idea, hadn't we? Bryce went to school to be a lawyer. Why would he take a two-year detour before he even got started?

The Letter.

You should pray about it, said the angel on my shoulder.

Don't do it! You don't want to hear the answer! countered the devil.

And then the angel kicked that devil right in the shins.