Wednesday, November 18, 2009

DAY OF FASTING AND PRAYER FOR AMERICA

Those of you who know me, if you think about it, will realize that I never send forwards, no matter how cute, dire, funny, or true it may be. I don't mean to start now, but I did just receive a forward that I wanted to pass along to those interested, without adulterating your inbox.

Please suffer my soapbox for a moment, or at the least skip down to below the bold headline and read the really important part that follows (up until then is just my ranting), but know that to me this isn't really political. It is spiritual.

I do look on the current course of our country with trepidation. The government, meaning the elected officials in the government, is aggrandizing itself and gathering more and more unrighteous power that was never indented to be a matter of national governance [i.e. mandating programs to promote irresponsible home ownership and loans, "rescuing" floundering businesses, labeling absolutely natural and vital gasses (carbon dioxide) as "hazardous waste" that must be strictly regulated, mandating that the labors of another must be given without just recompense (vis. entitlement programs, universal healthcare, et. al.), insulating individuals from all the possible negative eventualities of life (flood insurance for otherwise uninsurable areas, why uninsurable? because of the very high likelihood of floods!; mandating insurance for all preexisting conditions, even if the person made no effort to be insured before the condition arose), I could go on and on, but I won't]. Many of the ostensible goals are admirable: taking care of one's fellow man, preparing for life's pitfalls, averting an economic crisis, but in taking these goals out of the free will of individuals and mandating it the population or by bolstering a diseased system without remedy to the causes (which were quite often government officiousness in the first place), the government of this country is follow in an evil track. And I mean literally evil. It is exactly contrary to God's law to forcibly remove the free will of man and the consequences individuals must endure because of their own choices. (Please don't extrapolate that I think all problems a person has are the consequences of their own choices. I don't. And I wholeheartedly support and promote private charities in their work to relieve suffering however it is found--that is the result of free will offerings, not force or coercion in any form--including a government tax or mandate.)

I have received countless emails, both forwards from personal acquaintances and from mailing lists I belong to. They all say essentially the same thing: Things are going awfully. We are doomed. (Though occasionally one will break the mold and say: Things are going awfully. We are doomed. Send us money.) I do not believe everything I read, but I see enough of what is actually going on to feel sick inside. My biggest problem is how powerless I feel. I see my country with its glorious constitution suffering an identity crisis that may leave it forever crippled, yet I can't think of any way to be involved that will make a difference. The candidates (the only way we really have of making a difference--getting people in to the offices who will pursue that difference) that I support and vote for are not elected, or there is no candidate who reflects my values and goals. Career politicians win favors for their constituents so they keep being reelected, and every constituent who votes for such a politician believes their "favor" is actually the important one, not an inappropriate earmark, and it is everyone else's incumbent that needs to go.

However, this is one suggestion that rings true to me, that is empowering. It is not about horrible destruction of all we hold dear and nothing for us to do but cower and tremble. It is what we can do. It is what we must do. Whether you participate in a national day of fasting and prayer, or pray in your own way at your own time, please, please, pray for our country, and remember that there is great power in shared fasting. This is what will save us--God's influence gently touching individual hearts and minds to make the better, the more noble choice, in whatever choice they are faced with. I don't know the people who originated this message, but I agree with and endorse it wholeheartedly.

[commence pseudo-forward]

DAY OF FASTING AND PRAYER FOR AMERICA

"We, my wife and I, are firmly convinced that our elected politicians are incapable of representing the will of the American people – and incapable of adhering to the Constitution of the United States of America which they took a solemn oath to uphold and defend.

"We are among the millions of U.S. Citizens who are at our wits end sending e-mails, faxes, telephoning, meeting with elected officials, demonstrating, rallying – and hoping – that those representatives will do the will of the people. They have failed. Have we, as well?

"The United States of America is a choice land, a nation that was founded by our forefathers who were divinely inspired by God the Father Almighty. This choice nation has been the defender of freedom throughout its relatively short history. We have led in the fight for freedom against many tyrants and dictators who have plundered and pilfered their citizens and have subjected them to great sufferings through blood and horror. The people of those nations who suffered these great injustices knew that they could always depend upon the goodness, power and righteousness of the United States of America to extract them from their plights, and it was done – many times over. It was not done without expense – the expense of the blood and sacrifice of the members of our armed forces – and the suffering of their families.

"As the year 2009 soon comes to a close, we the citizens of the United States of America find ourselves facing many of the challenges – which those nations suffered at the hands of their political leaders. We are being attacked from within! Who do we turn to? To which great nation can we turn to help us keep and maintain our freedom? We do not have the same hope of those nations to whom we were benefactors.

"We MUST turn to our Savior. If we are a righteous people, we will be deserving of, and receive of His blessings as He has promised. He suffered and died for us – He atoned for our sins; each one of us - individually. We know that - as a nation – we can once again be the choicest of lands. However, we cannot achieve that blessing without our willingness to please our Lord and Savior.
We are asking that all who read this message that have faith in Christ designate Sunday December 6, 2009 as a day of fasting and prayer for America .

"You do not have to march on the nation’s Capitol nor go to a tea bag rally. From the comfort of your home, you can get on bended knee and with a broken heart and contrite spirit, petition the Lord to bless this nation generously according to His will. Then, keep the fast for that day. Make that Christ-like commitment to our Heavenly Father. He will listen, He will answer. That has been promised.

“'And whatsoever ye shall ask the father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.' (3 Nephi 18-20) 'And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.' (Matthew 21:22) "

Joe and Janice Hagen St. George, UT.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

How to get kids to eat vegetables

Tonight I was doing the dishes and filled up the dishwasher, but still had about half of the top rack empty. So I started looking around for other things to put in and realized I wanted something more to eat. Something like vegetables because I was feeling a little heartburn coming on (forgive the TMI). I remembered we had leftover mixed vegetables from last night, so I got them out to eat up and put the container in the dishwasher. I realized that the kids (my Willow and my sister's Sam) were in the other room, and if I was eating something, they would inevitably see it and want some. So I had to decide if I was willing to share. This would have been more of a quandary if it were, say, chocolate, but being as it was vegetables, it did not take me long to decide: Heck, yes! So I called to the kids in the other room, "Who wants a snitch of vegetables?!" And both of them came galloping in shouting, "Me, Me!" So we squatted in the kitchen sharing a tupperware of cold mixed vegetables with one fork. They loved it, and argued about who got the last bite. Then Willow insisted she wanted more, so we got out the leftover squash from 2 days ago and she ate that up. I don't mind my kids having a midnight snack of all the vegetables they want.

The real secret is the word "snitch." This is a magic word. Anything is desireable if it is a snitch. So we never call anything a snitch unless we want to share it. (What? A snitch of chocolate? No, this isn't a snitch, this is just a bite.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Motherly Musings

I know this is probably incredibly cliche, but I really didn't know you could love each of your children this much. I get that you don't love your second any less than your first, but I think I always sort of thought of it like the general love-ness of your life increases and you have overwhelming good feelings about being a mother and all of your children, but this is like, mind boggling awe and fierce devotion on a very individual level. I love each of my children absolutely with all of my being, completely independent of eachother. Wow.
How full my mom's life must have been with 11 to love like that. I am loving my children right now, and I don't really want the time to go quicker, but I am just so excited to meet all the rest of my children (I'm not even pregnant again yet, my body hasn't reset from the last one yet, so stop speculating!) I want to know them, who they will be, how many of them there are. Nothing can even come close to comparing with this feeling of motherhood. It truly is what it is all about.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I deserve a major award

Neoma owes me for this one. She put off and put off figuring out a costume for Sam, who wanted to be the muppet Rowlf the dog for Halloween until the Thursday a little over a week before Halloween. It was only started then because she decided to go to the community Harvest Happenings event that Saturday. I prodded her to get started on it and helped her find some brown clothes that could make a really make-shift costume (borrowed leggings from Willow, Neoma's fleece jacket) but we still didn't have anything for the ears that would say "I am a dog." Neoma thought about going to the fabric store to buy fleece or feaux fur or something, but she didn't do it. I went looking through my fabrics and remembered I had cut off the cuffs of a new brown linen jacket that the sleeves were too long on. I didn't think I had thrown them away, but I couldn't remember where they were. I finally looked through a box of old worn-out clothes that are in too bad of shape to give to a thrift store, but I just feel stupid throwing fabric in the garbage can to go in a landfill and be buried forever. I ran across the pants shown in this picture here:

They are fabulous double-knit polyester with the crease down the front of the leg actually sewn into place. Looking at them again, I couldn't remember why I put them in there in the first place. I think the stitching must have been coming out in some places.















Regardless, I took those defunct slacks and refashioned them into this:
























Yes, that entire ensemble, except for the cardboard piano in his hands and the socks on his feet used to be my pants. And there was very little left over, too. You may all gasp in awe. Thank you, thank you.

Our Prize-Winning Pumpkin


Yes, this Jack-o-Lantern won us an actual award--the people's choice award (the only one given. They didn't have like, official pumpkinly trained judges or anything) in the adult division of our community Harvest Happenings event. Yes, we beat out all the other (4) entrants. The competition was fierce (they had made no provision to ensure people only voted once--who knows how many people tried to stuff the ballot box!) but we prevailed (even though Willow voted for Neoma and Jason's pumpkin)! We recieved a large black and orange ribbon and a cool gift basket with lots of yummy things and a scratch-and-sniff gift card to blockbuster (it smells like buttered popcorn).

But even aside from the competition, Kevin and I had a lot of fun carving this. We used some woodcarving tools we seem to have accumulated at some point. Idid the vegetables and Kevin did the basket. It wraps a little further around the pumpkin than you can see well. Our only disappointment was that they couldn't display it in the dark or with a candle inside, so it didn't look quite as cool (but we still won anyway, so hey).
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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I know you're jealous


I know this is every woman's dream. And he's all mine!
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tender mercies and other awesome things God does


10 points to the first person to correctly identify each of our costumes. Ready, Go!

Our ward at church had a Harvest Party on Halloween. As you can see from the picture, I enjoyed it immensely. Actually, I did have good time and was able to participate in some of the activities like getting pictures taken, going on a wagon ride, helping my daugher "fish" at the game booths, and taking my kids around to the cars for the trunk-r-treat. This was also what everyone else got to do, but it was especially cool for me because I was the person in charge of it all, and that meant that things were running smoothly enough that I didn't have to pay attention or fix things the whole time. That is what is so cool.

But what amazes me the most is how God is willing to to come right into your life and give you answers to the most seemingly trivial things. Case in point (Warning--this will be a long and tedious story in which I describe in great detail aspects of events that you will probably never care about but make for a thorough understanding of how I feel about what happened): The place where the activity was held is a Christmas Tree farm owned by members of our ward. It is an awesome venue, but comes with the uncertainty of being outdoors in rainy Northwest October. The only permanent shelter available for us there is the selling shack, which is empty this time of year. It is also the only source of electricity in the area, so we try to make that the place where we have the food. The problem: it's a pretty tiny shack with only one entrance. Actually, there are 2 entrances, but the second is a narrow back door onto a short boardwalk connecting it to the storage shed behind with an extra-large step down to the ground on the side. Two years ago when I went to this event (this is the first year I have been in charge and I missed last year's) they had tables set up all the way around the edges of the room (where the outlets are) and the crockpots of chili and other food on them so people enter, walked around the food loop and exited the same door while others are still trying to come in. It was a mess trying to get through the buffet line. So my task was to streamline the process.

I had been meditating for weeks on just how to do this and was not much further along than a niggling feeling that the back door should be able to be used. The owners were leary about using both doors and exiting the back because of the tricky step down at the end. I still hadn't come up with anything by the time I arrived in the morning to set up. I was still wandering around waffling about what to do--so-and-so said this needs to happen, so-and-so says this won't work, so-and-so said this will be a problem, so-and-so said ... etc--when finally it hit me, as I shortly realized, as a stroke of inspiration: I am the person in charge of this event. No one else is supposed to decide how this works. I have done my due diligence and gathered ideas and opinions, but now it is time to decide, and I am the one who has been called and set apart to recieve the promptings and direction to make this work the best possible way for the people it is intended to bless.

With this in mind, I said a fervent prayer, turned around toward the building and saw it again with entirely new eyes. The tricky step at the back door is really only a trick if you are trying to go down it in the dark with your hands full. This years event was earlier than past years, so it would not be dark, and if we had the beginning of the buffet line at the back, people could enter that door instead of exiting it. Thus, they would be able to see it clearly on the way up and their hands would not yet be cumbered by their food. Such a minor change, such a seemingly simple concept, but it made all the difference in being able to go forward with the planning and set-up. The second challenge was that the shack was too short for a line that would allow for all of the chili to be set out on a single line and too narrow to have two lines for people to go down both sides of (besides, this is somewhat of a chili show-off event, so I wanted all of the things people brought to be available in one place, not divided between two separate lines). Also, the outlets for the crockpots were all along the walls, and though we had extension cords, they would be pretty trippy and likely to be snagged and pulled down hanging off the edges of the tables.

I was stewing over this, looking at the tables set up in the shack when I litterally had a vision of how it could be. The picture was flashed into my mind of two tables set up side by side in the place of the first table of a buffet line with a single table centered at the end of the other two. The extension cords were run from the walls under the tables and up between the two so there were no hanging over the edge where people would walk. There were heavy carpets to cover over the extension cords on the floor, so they would not be kicked or caught. The two tables together provided more than enough room for all of the pots and pans of chili that would be brought and the last table easily held the cornbread, condiments, and desserts.

It blows me away that my Heavenly Father would condecend to so thoroughly answer my mundane dilema. I know it was from Him. It was a seemingly secular subject, but though very much in my own body and while I was thoroughly awake, I cannot claim that the extremely complete picture that was planted in my mind was at all of my own making. I love the Lord. It was a brief and simple vision, but it made everything work well. It was one of those things that bless lives not because they make themselves known, but rather by being entirely unnoticed. The arrangement of getting food at a ward activity is not typically something people remember after the event as having enriched their life, but they can remember if it was horrible, and that experience can overshadow anything positive that may have happened there. In that way, a proper arrangement is a spiritual matter, in that it allows other, more spiritual things to be at the forefront. It was such a problem in the past that one of the major things people remembered was how horrible the set-up was, so much so that people actually did notice and remark that things flowed smoothly this time. How often do you hear that at a ward potluck, "Wow! This dinner was so fabulous--we could actually get through the line!"

And now another Awesome Thing God Does, and I don't think Kevin will mind me sharing it. Yesterday I got home from being out with the kids and Kevin was just finishing watching a movie. I left the kids with him for a moment and came back in the room to find the kids playing around just fine and Kevin leaning over with his head in his arms on the counter, sobbing. It took several minutes before he had composed himself enough to talk to me, during which I am frantically trying to figure out whether he was injured, whether he got horrible news, whether he was just so touched by the movie he was watching, or what. He just kept shaking his head, no, no, no to everything I asked. Finally he could choke out, "We have wonderful kids." That was all. He'd had a moment, entirely unsought for, when he was divinely granted a view of these people who are our children in all of their eternal glory, as God sees them, and it moved him to tears. As Kevin put it, it was as if Heavenly Father whispered to him, "there is more to this person than you can possibly know," and then He showed him. Wow. I love my husband.
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Friday, October 9, 2009

My Father's Legacy


My dad died about 6 years ago. That's just preface--this isn't a somber post. At that time I received my inheritance. Some people get property or trust funds or jewelry or furniture or a house. I got $5 and eyebrows. My David Andrew Crapo Memorial Eyebrows, to be exact.


I have always had eyebrows, and they've always been a little bushy, but since they were blonde, they've also never been overbearing. But about the same time my father passed away, I started getting eyebrows--that is, individual eyebrow hairs--that are longer and thicker and coarser and stick out however-the-heck they want to. I know some of my other siblings get these, and they had them before dad died (presumably because they are older and so had already grown into them). They do everything they can to eradicate these erratic wisps. But secretly, I like them. My dad got these same absurdly long individual hairs, so when ever I see mine, I think of him. Sometimes I do break down and pluck or trim them, but they always grow back, and I am glad.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Willow's favorite song

So, Willow's favorite song is currently "Jesus Dying, the Wicked Mans Hit Him," or in other words "Oh Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown." This stems from her favorite story, which is currently "Jesus Dying, The Wicked Mans Hit Him with a Reed." Which all started with the events in the "Momma, tell me something" post. I would tell her stories about Jesus when she asked me to tell her about Jesus, but pretty soon the only one she wanted to hear was about when he died, then was resurrected and Mary Magdalene saw him. So she got in the habit of specifying, "Momma, tell me about Jesus Dying." Not wanting to emphasize the negative, I would try to gloss over the dying part to get to the resurrection. She would have none of this, so she refined her request to "Tell me about Jesus dying, the wicked mans hit him." After a while of telling her this story, she requested it during our scripture reading time, so I decided to look up the actual scriptures that portray it. It was there that I was reminded that what it actually says is that Jesus was scourged by Pilate, and the soldiers hit him on the head with a reed they had previously given him as a mock scepter. (I think it may also say the leaders of the Jews hit him as well, but we didn't read that mock trial part.) After reading this, Willow added that part to her request, "Tell me Jesus dying the wicked mans hit him with a reed." The desire for this story also tainted her requests for lullabies. I will often ask her what she wants me to sing, and she will choose, but she has been so fixated on this story that she asks me to sing it, too. Oh Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown was the only one I could think of that sort of told the story, and she still asks for it about every other night. I sing it to the tune of If You Could Hie to Kolob, because I don't remember how the melody actually goes.

She is actually pretty good at tellingh the story herself, at least the important parts. It usually goes something like this: "Jesus dying, the wicked mans hit him. After 3 days, Mary Magdalene cam to a tomb, a stone was rolled away, it was empty! A man came up to her, say 'woman, why weepest thou?' 'because I don't know Jesus' body is, you took it?' 'Yeah!' And then a man come up to her, it was Jesus! He alive again!"

I love my little girl so much!

Rhysie is growing!

Today Rhys climbed up a step! He's 7 months old. He sits up for long periods of time, but he usually falls over painfully afterward. He's still working on the dismount. He also army-crawls over to things and pulls himself onto his knees at them, then eventually falls over painfully because he doesn't know how to get down. Occasionally he has even pulled himself up onto his feet, but usually that is with a little help, except for the one time he did it while leaning over the fombag (like a luvsac), so he actually was up all the way, just mostly leaning against an enormous soft thing. He loves to eat paper and electrical cords. We don't usually mind the paper, we even sometimes leave junkmail on the floor for him to find, but we really have to watch him near walls.

On another topic entirely--Kevin is offshore. He has been for about 3 weeks. He should be coming home next week, but I won't believe anything until I see a flight itinerary (plans always have a way of changing suddenly with this company). I was able to video chat with him today, and we even had our Home Teachers over for a long-distance visit. It was pretty fun. How many of you brethren can say you have successfully home taught someone in another state?

Willow is also growing rapidly. She just started using a word that sounds like "cuh-bee" to preface explanations that she gives and it took me a while to figure out what it meant. It sounded at first like "could be," but I didn't think she had enough sense of probability to be trying to use that expression to let me know she was just making a guess as to something's cause, and it's not something that I use often enough that she would likely pick up it's use without any meaning attached to it. Finally I figured out she is trying to say "because." It's really funny. My favorite way to wake Willow up from a nap (she still takes nice, long ones, and I finally figured out I have to wake her up so she can sleep at night.) is to sneak into her room, but Rhys in her bed, and sneak out before she wakes up, then listen to her wake up because of his movement, find him, and exclaim, "Rhysie! You in my bed?!" Sometimes I will ask her how he got there, and I'm pretty sure she doesn't realize I put him there. My favorite explanation she gave was along the lines of "Cuh-bee he was crawling and he just 'ploomp!' (accompanied by hand flapping) in my bed."

And now I'm going to bed.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The birth has arrived!

I have finally, finally published the complete story of Willow's birth on my other blog (OK, I am actually about to go publish it after I publish this, but I was already here, so I thought I'd make the announcemnt first).

confessions of a chronic hypopregniac

Rhys' birth story will follow, hopefully within the week.

Momma, Tell Me Something

The other day, Kevin went to the temple to help with a youth baptism trip and Neoma and Jason went to do a session at the same time, so I was home with my two children and two nephews--two two year olds and two infants. I decided to explain to the kids where their parents were and what a special thing they were doing. I started my explanation with how much Heavenly Father loves his children and wants them to be able to live with him again. I was trying to keep the concepts fairly kid friendly and pertinent, but about halfway through, they wandered away to go do something else. I thought, "Oh, well," and went on with my knitting.

A few minutes later Willow came up to me and said, "Momma, tell me something. Tell me something."

"Tell you something about what?" I wondered.

"Tell me something about God."

So I continued my explanation about temples to the end and she ran off happily. Later that night she ran up to me again requesting that I tell her something about Jesus. So I obliged with a bible story. At dinner the request was continuous and I had to tell her, "No, I'm not going to tell you about Jesus." Just so I could eat my meal. I sang her a song about Jesus, too. She wasn't so impressed with that, but her cousin, Sam, was, and he spent the rest of the evening echoing Willow's request for stories about Jesus with, "Ting a Desus tong, Ont Deyol." (Sing a Jesus song, Aunt Carol.)

This was about two weeks ago, and requests to tell her something about Jesus are still the most frequent ones she makes of me. It is wonderful. We told the Christmas story to them about 7 times during one dinner the other night. Their faces light up with absolutely angelic light when they hear about Jesus. It is really beautiful. I don't know how anyone can not believe in God when they see how readily a child overflows with love for Him, even in their simple understanding--more quickly and ardently than Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy combined.

Monday, June 8, 2009

I joined the club

A while back, my sister-in-law recounted her undesireable adventure with an early-morning-diaper-diving two-year-old. I just wanted everyone to know, I feel her pain. Thankfully, I was already awake, though not out of my room, when my two-year-old walked into my room holding her finger out infront of her with a look of astonished disgust on her face. You guessed it: on the tip of the finger was an unmistakeably smelly brown blob.
Perhaps it was the shock of this event that prompted her to completely remove her diaper on the subsequent two nights and completely soak her bed. We put training pants (purchased during the brief and gloriously unsuccessful early potty training phase) over her diaper the next night, and she managed to keep it intact. She hasn't had an in-the-buff sleeping episode for the last few nights since then. Oh, the joys...

The real reason I haven't been blogging

because I finally did some good and serious blogging today, reading and writing both, and now look at me (and the time). I have to go to the gym in 5 1/2 hours!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

This is a test. This is only a test...

Our bishop at church has told us the last couple of weeks at church that "the ward seismograph has been active, and we can expect 'The Big One' to be coming sometime in the next few weeks." He's given us lots of specifics about the "inspiration" he has received about the extent of the damage that will occur--all roadways will be blocked, except those to work or school, but specifically those to the gas station and the grocery store, whose shelves will be empty anyway. Phone lines will be active for the first 8 hours, but after that will go out. All major gas and electrical lines will remain intact. This is his way of making a ward wide emergency preparedness drill sound a little more fun. We'll be testing our emergency communication plan and disaster response as well as our personal family preparations in 72 hour kits and food storage. I'm excited for it. Mostly this post is to let you know that I have a legitimate excuse if you don't hear from me for a couple of weeks in the near future. We have also been asked to limit electronic entertainment and communications to the crucial for normal life functioning during that time. I'll let you know after it happens how it all went.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I'm Back (and no, that's not Baaa-aaaack)

At least, I'm here for one post, right now. And it will be succinct, because I need to get something up here instead of agonizing about all that I don't have time to write just now or making it sound terribly exciting and perfect and something that I will re-read later and think, "Dang, I'm good!" (vis the last post).

Since November I have put on a Ward Christmas party (yes, I was called as the activities committee Chairperson in the beginning of November and told, "We would be having a Christmas party December 5th, now make it happen." That is what initially spurred my writing hiatus--guilt that if I wasn't all caught up on the things I should be doing for the Christmas party, then I shouldn't be wasting time blogging, even if whatever I was doing was not very constructive, either), had a baby (in Utah--which is a whole big series of posts all in itself, which I really had intended on writing while I was waiting for the baby down there, but Surprise! he came 2 days before his due date instead of 2 weeks after, which I was preparing myself for, and we ended up with a lot less waiting time than I had anticipated), paid taxes (using a tax professional for the first time, and catching a $190 mistake she made), made matching family Easter outfits,
spent discretionary income (we haven't had that in a while, but it is thanks to over-saving for taxes. Kevin bought a laptop and I bought Art), for the first time successfully motivated myself to consistently get up early even when I didn't have anything I needed to go to (though it's sort of petering out right now, I've got to find a way to re-commit), got chickens (OK, it was actually my sister who did that, and they are just babies right now, but since I live at her house, they count for my food storage--eggs--too), made bread and rhubarb jam (and if you don't like rhubarb, it's only because you haven't had this jam!), dug out the back fence (OK, I've actually just begun this one. An explanatory post will have to be forthcoming), and celebrated my first Mother's Day as a mother of two. And I'm not going to stay on here typing past my bed time!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Belated Post: My Christmas Party Hiatus, Plus Some

I started this post in January as the beginning of appeasement for my past neglect. Just goes to show you how effective appeasement is... I didn't quite finish it, so I didn't post any of it. But when I did finally post it, it put it in line as if I had posted it the day I started it, so here it is with some completing notes on the bottom:

In the beginning of November, I was called as the Activities Chairperson in our ward at church. The immediate result of this was that I was suddenly put in charge of making sure our ward had a fabulous Christmas party in less than 1 month (the date was already scheduled). I've never planned an activity in my life larger than a bridal shower. I've helped with lots of things, but this was a big jump. And I wasn't allowed to skimp, either--last year we had almost had no party, and it was thrown together in the last couple of days when someone realized nothing had yet been planned. It also needed to be a full dinner because the ward progressive dinner that was traditionally in December was canceled to make the month less crowded.

So I was thrown into a long month of always feeling like there was something I was not doing as I tried desperately to find people to help me pull this off (Our ward is the only one I or anyone I have spoken to has ever known that does not have a standing Activities Committee for the Chairperson to call on. The idea is that everyone in the ward is a potential member of the activities committee, so I can call on anyone I want to to do anything I want. This is great in theory, but really difficult in practice when you are inexperienced and not sure of yourself.) I ended up with really great people to help me, though, and it was wonderful to be able to turn whole chunks of responsibility (i.e. decorations, set-up, dinner, a craft activity) over to someone else and stop worrying about it. I hardly had to think about it after the initial discussion to let them know the general parameters for the jobs. The job I kept for myself was planning, organizing, rehearsing, etc., the program. I had help with this, too (and I am so grateful for ward members who saw what I was trying to do and stepped up to help without being specifically asked, because I wasn't really good at defining what I needed help on for this, so I had a hard time asking people), but I took most of the responsibility on myself.

So the initial reason for this explication is to excuse myself for not posting anything for the last 2 months. OK, this really only excuses the first of those months, but I will get to the second in a little bit.

The other reason for posting about the Ward Party is to rejoice in the awesome experience of being inspired and led by the Spirit.

Interesting background--last year sometime in October or November I was called on the phone by someone in our ward (I'm not even sure, who), and asked if I would be willing to help with the ward Christmas Party. Just a couple of days prior to that, I had been thinking about how much I loved our Ward Christmas Parties when I was young, which, as far as I could remember (I'm sure it wasn't the only theme we ever had, but it was what I remember doing several years at least), was a visit to Bethlehem. This involves decorating the cultural hall (gym) at church like a middle-eastern village with booths where people display trades or crafts, or (mostly) food and everyone that comes dresses up in their best New Testament inspired garb and wanders around with fake money buying food and things until the Holy Couple comes wandering through and draws everyone's attention to a live-action nativity that happens somewhere where everyone can see. This is the gist of the event, though there are multitudinous variations. I'd been daydreaming and hoping that this could happen for a Ward Christmas party again, so when I was called and asked if I would help, I said yes, and immediately compiled a stack of information and recommendations and instructions on how to do it from the bazillion websites and blogs extolling the Spiritual and Recreational virtues of this particular activity. (I couldn't re-create the experience just now with a web search, but when I searched for ward Christmas Party ideas over a year ago, about 70% of sites I found said in essence: "my ward just had the most amazing activity I've never heard of before that is the only spiritual Christmas party I ever attended and it is the most unique one I've never even heard of before: A visit to Bethlehem!" It was really funny since I had been familiar with the idea for at least 20 years.) Anyway, I had this pile of information (along with a token list of 2 or 3 other suggestions, just in case the Committee Chair didn't want to go that direction), and waited patiently to be informed of our first meeting when I could get this all off my chest. I was going to say "to make a long story short," but that's not really accurate because it is actually just a short story: I was never called (It turns out, I heard later, neither was anyone else who had been initially contacted and agreed to help with the party--hence the no party being planned).

So I was sitting on this bottled excitement and packet of information for a year, when, out of the blue, I was called as Activities Chair with the initial sole responsibility of making a fabulous Christmas Party. It was amazing how quickly after the initial excitement and amazement that here this perfect opportunity to do exactly what I wanted had fallen in my lap that I felt the distinct impression that this would not be the right activity this year. It was a little heartbreaking at first. But since it was my only idea, I had to resort to fervent prayer and pleading for some inspiration. It was really sweet to me what we ended up with. I felt that it was very important to make it an activity that members would feel comfortable and excited to bring friends and neighbors not of our faith to. I wanted the entire activity to be very Christ-centered. I called it "Sharing the Spirit of Christmas," which is, of course, Christ.

The biggest challenge I could see was getting the ward members excited and committed to coming. We have the unfortunate circumstance that our ward party is scheduled on a fixed and nearly unchangeable day every year that also just happens to conflict every year with a fixed annual city event and an annual theatrical event. I am the last person to say or believe that coming to ward activities has any bearing on your eternal salvation. I honestly believe that if a ward activity in no way fulfills any of your needs, you are just as well off not attending. What this means is that the activities chairperson is especially obligated not to make sure people come, but to make sure that the activity is valuable to the ward members individually so that they will want to come. Besides, I really wanted to be able to go to those other activities, too, so I couldn't blame anyone for choosing them over our party.

That being said, I knew that we needed to provide an opportunity for members of our ward to focus on what Christmas is really all about, and have a ready-built situation for them to share it with their friends. As much as the other activities may be fun or worthwhile, they would not be so well designed to invite people to come unto Christ, which is the whole core of our eternal salvation. So I wanted people to come, because I knew it could be so good for them--if only I could do it the way the Lord wanted me to so His Spirit would be sure to be there.

Then I was struck by a brilliant idea (read "inspired")--design the program to involve all of the youth and primary children. If the kids are going, the parents will come, and what more exciting and natural thing to invite friends and neighbors to than something you or your your child is performing in? With this as my goal, I set about to design a program that would fill all of these criteria:
  • Powerfully establish Christ as the central Spirit and meaning of Christmas, as well as all human existence.
  • Meaningfully involve 60-80 kids between the ages of 3 and 18.
  • Last no longer than 20 minutes
  • Come together with no more than 3 weeks notice and one or two rehearsals for all involved.
  • Be able to accommodate extra performers who are unable to attend the sole rehearsal but still want to participate.

Now try typing that in a google search and see if it pops up with something anyone else has put together already. Nope. I had to come up with something new. And this is where the Spirit comes in yet again--because there is no way that I could do that by myself. I will try to figure out how to post a copy of the script to this blog, but for now I will just give you the highlights and the process--

As soon as I could, I let the primary, young men's, and young women's presidents know my intentions, but I couldn't really give them any specifics because I didn't actually have any. As I pondered and prayed, the program started taking shape in my mind--a reader's theater of scriptures with connecting commentary depicting prophecies of, and events surrounding Christ's birth. Reader's Theater (which I'm familiar with primarily from my college courses on elementary education) is essentially a narrator-driven play, where none of the actors say anything (or very, very limited lines), but simply provide living illustration for the story as read by the narrator(s). This would cut memorization and rehearsal to a bare minimum (the narrators get to read the script from the paper, and the actors basically just have to listen to hear what they are supposed to be doing), thus making it possible for extreme armatures (I'm including myself as director in this) to pull off in very limited time with limited rehearsals. Another benefit is that because you don't have people waiting to deliver lines based on eachother's cues, it can go very, very quickly.

I assigned the primary (3-11 year olds) the roles of sheep (3-6 year olds), shepherds (7-11 yr. boys) and angels (7-11 yr. girls). We were able to have one practice on a Saturday morning before the Friday party where we ran through their brief parts 2-3 times and they made parts of their costumes. We had about 2/3 of those who were wanting to participate actually come, which I hoped would be enough to help those coming into it cold on the night of the party to be able to follow along and generally get in the right places.

I was able to announce to the young men my intentions to include them in priesthood meeting (it is an extremely interesting experience to be the sole female voice singing an opening song along with a chapelful of men while you are waiting to make an announcement.) a couple of weeks ahead of time, but was unable to invite the young women to participate until the Sunday before the party. I was able to secure that Wednesday's mutual activity time for a rehearsal with all of the young men and young women. There were only about 4 or 5 active youth who were unable to attend either mutual that night or the Christmas Party on Friday, and since it was just one of their regular activities, they all very willingly came and participated. It was so exciting to see it all actually happen.
I just so happens that the Young Men significantly outnumber the Young Women in our ward, which turned out to be ideal for the program as I had it laid out before I even started trying to fill roles--when depicting scriptures, the individual roles are almost entirely male. Casting was worked out entirely between me and the Young mens' and young women's presidents, and then I approached the individuals about whether they would be able and willing to fill them. The roles we had were:

  • Males: Narrator (scriptures), Isaiah, Nephi 1, King Benjamin, Samuel the Lamanite, Nephi 2, Joseph, Wise men (3), Harod
  • Females: Narrator (commentary), Mary, Angel
The rest of the young men and half of the young women were Nephites in Zarahemla that heard Samuel prophesy and then saw the signs of Christ's birth. The other half of the young women were angels, filling out the lack of senior primary girls in that role.

(Let me just comment here that I do not actually believe that all angels are female. In fact, I am certain that at least as many in the heavenly choir that announced to the shepherds were male as female, as well as a personal belief that the one angel in particular who appeared to the shepherds first was male. That being said--you try and find roles in the Christmas story for all the girls, or boys who have their own white dresses to wear.)

I also recruited a baby and a little toddler boy to play Jesus (new born and when the wise men come). I was very glad I asked 2 different families for each of those roles, as we ended up needing the "back-up Jesus" for both of them. I also had a young man and a young woman in charge of lights (in 2 different places).

We used the entire gym for the production. The stage was the central focus for the beginning--where prophets wrote about Christ's birth--then attention was directed to "Zarehemla" in one of the back corners of the gym, where events from the Book of Mormon were depicted. The stage was then re-purposed into Bethlehem and the surrounding area, where we saw the holy family, shepherds, and angels. Finally, wise men came from the other back corner of the gym and met Harod on one side of the stage who directed them to the Holy family in Bethlehem (where Baby Jesus had aged a few years). It ended with the whole cast coming back on stage and singing along with the audience "Joy to the World."

Ready to be amazed?--the entire thing was about 15 minutes long. The only hitch that I observed (and I actually was running around not observing for most of it, so maybe there was more) was when the narrators failed to pause and wait for the Sheep and Shepherds to come on stage before announcing the angels, who came on, reassured and empty stage and proclaimed the birth to no one. Luckily, the narrators were supposed to pause there for the angels to sing the chorus of "Far, Far Away on Judea's Plains" ("Glory to God in the highest, Peace on earth", etc.) The shepherds finally came out, followed by a single-file line of nearly 20 little sheep who shamelessly stole the show for their 2 minutes on stage. They all sang their song, and things were back on track for the rest of it.

I was so tied up and harried for the entire event that I could only pray really hard that the Spirit was there--I had a really hard time feeling the peaceful influence of it myself.

I'm not sure where I was intending to take that line of thought when I wrote it, but I do remember many people telling me how much they like the program. However, I'm sure there are those who would have said that regardless of what it was. But I do remember coming out to the floor to see the Holy Family on the stage (hence being there to see the shepherd miss their cue and the Narrators fail to notice) and being overwhelmed by how beautiful it was.
I do know that I was supported and inspired through the entire process by the Spirit of the Lord, because what came out was far beyond my abilities to organize or invent.

There was one point, the weekend after Thanksgiving, when I started getting a little sick. Kevin really wanted to go away for a few days for our anniversary (we call it our family's birthday) that was that weekend and I very reluctantly agreed to take a few days off of planning while we took Willow with us to Leavenworth (the Bavarian-themed village, not the prison).
Kevin walking the baby in Leavenworth (he's even carrying my bag!):
On the Sunday beforehand I was able to announce to the Young Men and Young Women at church the anticipated rehearsal on Wednesday and ask people to fill particular roles. Monday I woke up and my voice was gone. We left for Leavenworth, and Kevin allowed me the time during the car ride to make phone calls (which I whispered and croaked through) to make sure people were coming and had or would be able to make costumes. I spent perhaps only an hour or so over the next two days on the phone answering calls and contacting the last couple people about details for the rehearsal. Most of the time we put the phone away and just focused on having fun as a family. We did have a really great time, but my voice was so tired that I spent most of the time smiling dumbly at the shopkeepers and turning to Kevin for a response whenever they asked me a question. I was really desperate as Tuesday passed and I faced the prospect of a Wednesday night rehearsal at which I would be trying to direct 30 or 40 boisterous youth in our one practice in a large gym without audio amplification or a voice. I prayed really hard that God would allow his grace to make up the lack of ability that I had in my circumstance. I did not have the ability to take time to rest and I did not have the ability to delegate the director's role to someone else (I was the only one who had any idea what I was trying to do, and me only just barely).

We got home Wednesday afternoon with just enough time to clear out the car, grab all of the stuff I needed for the rehearsal and run over to the church building. Amazingly, Miraculously, as I entered the building for the rehearsal that night, the voice that I had not had that morning was restored sufficient to make myself heard throughout the entire basketball-court-sized gym. I knew that logically using my voice for projection of that nature in it's weakened condition should worsen the hoarseness severely and prolong the recovery time, but I pressed forward faithfully doing what I needed to do to fill the calling I had been given. The sweetest miracle, the tenderest mercy of that experience was that even though I spent no time slowing down to rest, no time conserving my voice or my energy, by the time of the party on that Friday night, my voice and my body were as fully recovered as if I had spent the entire week home in bed. And all of this I had the energy to cheerfully do while 7 months pregnant. This was not my own ability. And I am so grateful to the Lord for the opportunity to see him, to feel him reach right through me and do His work using my hands but His capacity. And to come out on the other side of it feeling not exhausted, but energized. It was very sweet and powerful to me.

After the Christmas party, I had to throw myself full force into personal and family preparations for Christmas. It was the second week of December and we didn't even have any decorations up, let alone Christmas presents planned.

Prior to this (being called as Activities Chair) I had re-taught myself how to knit (over the summer. Mom taught me the basics when I was young, but I mostly forgot. I started knitting something, then decided I was done because it was big enough that it could have been a barbie scarf. I don't think I ever learned how to cast off, though, and as far as I know, it is still on the needles somewhere floating around my mom's house). In August or September I had the genious idea to knit Christmas stockings for our family. The first one was a real learning experience, so it was for me because I didn't know how it would turn out. I started and re-started it and pulled out large sections and nearly finished, then pulled it out all the way and re-started again far too many times, but the finished product was something I really liked.

The second was for Kevin, and I got a little ambitious. It had a pattern of snowflakes on it, and it was taking a long time to do because of the need to carry the different colors of yarn behind the color being used so it would be in the right spot to make a stitch the right color. This also made the knit very loose, and the stocking kept getting bigger and bigger. It ended up about twice the size of mine, but I told Kevin he liked it, and he told me, yes, he did like it, regardless of what I said, so that is how it is staying. However, with the ward Christmas party and then getting ready for Christmas, I did not finish the stocking in time, let alone one for Willow as well. I actually finished it in Utah after Rhys was born. For Willow's, I refused to do a complicated pattern and also used yarn that was the same brand and type as that I used for mine, so I could more accurately size it. I just breezed through hers and it ended up the same size as mine. I'm now working on Rhys' with a sort of argyle diamond pattern which is an all-over pattern but requires no carrying of yarn, so it is not too slow.

Not only was December a crazy mess of lately-started Christmas, we also had to prepare ourselves to leave the state right after Christmas and be gone for up to 2 1/2 months and come home with a new baby. It was a hectic frazzle, and I do not appologize for not blogging during that time. However, I have no excuse for not blogging during our trip to Utah. I wrote several fantastic posts in my mind, but just never sat down to type them. Perhaps sometime I will re-create some of them.

Good night.