Friday, December 20, 2013

The Days Are Long But the Years Are Short

I read this last night and it really struck me, probably because I have two kids in the last years of school--a senior in high school and an 8th grader in her last year of junior high. In the monotony and grind of daily life it seems that hardly any time passes at all. But when I consider that only a few short years ago I had four children in Primary it seems impossible that they have grown. I still expect to see Tyce jumping on the bike ramp outside with his friends, or to have Mary's wish list to be filled with requests for My Little Pony. But here they are, taller, smarter, and older than the years should have allowed.

Tyce with his pretty Homecoming date, Kayley, back in October.

Mary and I after Thanksgiving.
Tyce joined our family 16 years ago, December 17th. Sometimes I think of that first Christmas with us, when he was a toddler who'd been with us less than a week. He was the cutest, sweetest boy we'd ever seen, so overwhelmed by the Christmas spectacle that he hid out in a giant box. I have often felt cheated by my time with him, since he was already 17 months when he came to live with us; his milestones have arrived way too fast. He was given the gift of music and when I consider all the difficulties that he has (self-inflicted and life-given), it is a blessing that he has music to sustain him. He has loved singing this Christmas season all over the city. He sang a solo, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" at the concert this week and he was amazing. We are so impressed with his talent and proud of the good things he does.

A few years ago our family was hit with a devastating blow. It sent us in to a tailspin in every aspect imaginable--emotionally, spiritually, and financially, to name a few. Life had been hard and rocky for a while but at a certain point Bryce and I went into hibernation. We set our lives on autopilot to deal with the repercussions of the situation. It wasn't willful--it was survival. Because of that I think I missed a lot of what was going on around me, the good things. This is one of the many reasons I am grateful to be homeschooling Mary. Our time together has been  truly one my greatest blessings.

Yesterday we had the carpets cleaned so she and I were out for the day. Mary has many quirks and one of them is anxiety--she didn't want anyone in her room. There was a minor meltdown but she was able to pull it together in the end, enough to leave the house. She didn't want to see a movie but she did want to visit her dad at work. She we just showed up, and lucky for her, there was a dessert party downstairs. It was very hard for her to talk to people but she endured the socialization for the sake of mini red velvet cupcakes. After that we drove to the Las Vegas temple. We sat in the car, listened to sweet music, and talked. I love that I can bear my testimony to her, and that she accepts it. I have talked to many young people in my life but to share my deepest feelings with my daughter, and know that is hearing with her ears and her heart, is a joy.

Because we are together all day I can work WITH her personality instead of steam-rolling right over it, which is what I have done in the past (being frustrated, angry, and intolerant of her social issues and learning style). She is an amazing person, and forgiving of my follies as a mother. I thought I knew it all but I was wrong; she is patient as she teaches me how to love her. I always had the feeling but I lacked the ability to make my actions match. I am obviously still learning but my skill set is growing.

I am trying to be more mindful of the twins as well. They are in a wonderful stage of life, those sweet elementary years, still innocent and loving. I can't think of them without my eyes welling up with tears for the lovely boys they are, good and honest. Oh man, I love them so much, hope so much for them. I want to protect them from everything and everyone who would bring them down.

Harrison playing with worms.

Cameron was looking for worms as well, but settled for climbing walls (literally).

I wonder if over 2000 years ago, another mother felt the same way when she looked at her young Son.

"She Shall Bring Forth a Son" by Liz Lemon Swindle

Did the days feel long to her? Did she bathe him, feed him, and teach him like we do? Did she fret that she was doing enough, that her Son would measure up to his potential? Did she ever long for free time? And did she marvel that though the years seemed short, that He grew into a man before her very eyes?

Did her heart break knowing the burden He was willing to bear not just for her, but for all mankind?

Perhaps we are in good company.

"Mother" by Liz Lemon Swindle

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?

Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will make a blind man see?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the mute will speak, the praises of the lamb.

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the great I Am.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Simple Christmas

We were issued a challenge by the stake presidency to share the gospel with someone by a certain date. I asked my own presidency about the same thing and when they reported to me their experiences it re-confirmed to me how amazing these ladies are.

My experience was that I substituted in seminary and was able to teach a student's friend some of the basic principles of our beliefs. I really felt the Spirit as I testified first and foremost that Jesus is our Savior and that through Him, we can overcome spiritual death (sin) and physical death (mortality) and strive for eternal life, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God.

Michele talked with a co-worker who had gone through a hard time about the plan of salvation--who we are, why we are here, and where we are going. 

Amy works with a young mother and she said, "I'd bet your boys would love Primary." The friend asked, "What is Primary?" Amy explained and invited her to church so that she could see, and have a friend to sit with as well.

Merridee and her husband had a long-time friend over to work on their house. He asked them, "Are you Mormon? Really?" He had a lot of misconceptions (for example, he asked, "How do you handle the women thing?") but was interested in finding out the truth. His wife had gone to a Relief Society activity with a friend and so it sparked his interest. She and her husband had a great discussion with him.

I loved hearing their experiences. It made me feel closer to our Lord, especially at this time of year when we celebrate his birth.

The highlight of the Christmas season so far was the lesson my sweet friend Kim taught in Relief Society. She showed a video that touched me deeply and that I'd like to show my own family on Christmas eve. It is called Reflections of Christ

I hope to keep focused on the reason for the season and not get bogged down by the stress and pressure that comes in December.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Las Vegas Santa Run!

Today was the big day. It was supposed to be a whole-family event but only the twins would get out of bed to go. I won't lie, I flipped on the big kids because they promised they would go and I spent the dang money to make it happen. I also had this fantasy that we would have a cool family picture to show for it. I shouldn't have been surprised that they bailed but I was and the disappointment was sharp.

Thank goodness for the twins. Harrison had a hard time with the transition but he rallied and did great. Cam was a superstar the whole time. He wanted to run the whole 5K! I stayed with Cam and Bryce hung out with Harrison. I kept stopping to take pictures so even though Cam and I "ran" the others who walked caught up with us in the end.

On the way.

Handsome Santas on the elevator.

The iconic cowboy on Fremont Street. This was the start of the race.


We got there early.  It was literally freezing, but not snowing as predicted. When the wind kicked up it was crazy cold.

I even wore my beard at first to keep warm. I kept trying to sweep those little hairs out of my mouth but I had knitted mittens on, which made the problem worse.

Entertainment before the race included Fox 5 TV peeps, local entertainers Zowie Bowie and the Chippendales, the Jabbawockeez, and some annoying banter between Mayor Carolyn Goodman and anyone who would take the stage. Man, she was loud.
Las Vegas' sister city for this race is Liverpool, England. There is a yearly competition to see who can hold the record for the most Santas. Since the races were a week apart, Liverpool's event last week overtook last year's record and they got the "trophy". But after the numbers were tallied this week, Las Vegas regained their title. 

Shania Twain was the grand marshal this year.  Some organizational glitch made it take forever for the race to actually start. We went to the Walgreens while she gave her opening speech because the twins couldn't stand just hanging out any more.

There were over 12,000 Santas! Believe it or not, we were towards the front of the pack.

Ready . . . Go!

Santa came by on a float! You can see Mayor Goodman holding the trophy.
Some people took off running but it looked to me that most people just strolled along. Like I said, we ran a lot (Cam said he "ran like a wildebeest. No, actually, a leopard") but also walked a lot because he "didn't get a blink of sleep all night." Too excited!

Cameron stopped to pose for me.

He couldn't believe we passed by a house with TWO limousines!!!

Bryce and Harrison caught up with us on mile 3, just when when got to the federal courthouse where Bryce works. He jumped up on the sign and struck a fireman-calendar pose. Ha!

Mr. December and Cam the photo bomber.

Proof that lawyers do talk out of the sides of their mouths.

Cam and his stick. He is such a boy.

Bryce and the boys crossing the street on the way to the finish line.
The highlight of the whole race for Bryce was when he got to actually talk to the Liverpudlian organizer of the Liverpool Santa Run!

Under his Union Jack he wore a Sgt. Pepper's jacket.

Bryce showed him the Liverpool jersey he'd worn under his Santa suit in honor of the sister city. The Brit said, "Oh, no no no." He lifted his own shirt to show his support of the rival team, Everton! They gave some good-natured ribbing over that.
He even had cool shoes.

I enjoyed taking pictures of things that caught my eye, from architecture to the urban decay and regrowth going on in the heart of downtown.

Fremont Street Experience.

Abandoned building.

Attached to Designing Woman.

Not sure what kind of business this is but the art on the brick walls was intriguing.

Right behind new construction on Las Vegas Blvd.

Bike-shaped bike rack?

Totally pink, for the girly girls in a jam.

The actual shop on the reality show PAWN STARS! There was a huge line just to get in there (of regular people, not Santas).
Peep show AND arcade. I can't really imagine an x-rated pinball game.

One of the many wedding chapels.

Canopy of the federal courthouse.

Downtown revival. 

I liked this artwork: Suzie Selfie.

Colorful Motel.

We had a great time and the time went by really fast. Nice that this benefits an amazing organization, Opportunity Village. I wish our whole family could have done this together but I look forward to creating a new tradition with the twins.

After the race we enjoyed another new creation, the Container Park.

A very interesting place.
This bad boy bug shot fire from his antennae!
Okay, check out this amazing playground. Look at how long those slides are! Guess what, they had interior lights and flashing images as you slid down. Hello.

Harrison liked the life-size electronic Simon Says.

There were lots of tiny stores--the twins loved the candy shop. There were restaurants and a stage for live music.

Harrison also loved this build-your-own giant marble run.
A very cool sculpture outside.

Close up: loving thoughts on hearts.
 And the highlight of MY day:

I saw Jack Sparrow.

How did it feel to be Santa? Kind of cool. Cam says his costume makes him feel magical and he's still wearing it. It was fun to be in the company of so many cheerful people.