Thursday, December 20, 2012

What is a Lie?


I straight up lied to my son last night.  Sigh.  I don't like to do that.  Sometimes need for sleep leads to desperation.  I'm all for playing pretend, but I don't like lying.

This is the thing.  My little man is the fiercest fighter in the world.  He will never turn his back on danger.  Dragons? No problem.  Bad guys?  Taken care of.  Wild amimals and monsters?  So easy.  Supervillains?  Bring 'em on.  But there is one thing he is deathly afraid of:  Bugs.  He always has been and I don't know why.  I can think of no negative bug experience in his past, but every flying insect is greeted with, "Bee!" and crying and running away.  Every creeping insect is hailed, "Spider!" and I am ordered to smash them on sight.  I remember him having terrifying dreams of spiders crawling on him when he was really little, and of imagining spiders in every shadow, but I had largely forgotten about it.

For the last little while R has been getting up in the early/very early morning and coming to my room.  Typically I just let him in and snuggle til morning.  Last night, however, I was up past midnight working on a project.  I heard little feet upstairs after I knew all the kids were asleep.  I finished my project then went up to bed and R was standing in the middle of the hall.  When he saw me, he started crying.  He said he was scared, but I brought him back to bed anyway (I still had things to clean up downstairs).  He clung to my neck and said he was scared, scared, scared.  I tried to get out of him what he was scared of--the dark isn't enough for me.  Finally he explained that there are bugs waiting in the shadows to come get him.  He went on and on about how he is terrified of the bugs.  I first tried the never-successful scheme of telling him there were no bugs.  As expected, it did nothing to assuage is fears.  So I tried to expand upon his imagination to get rid of the problem.  I asked him if he wanted me to shine a special laser into all the corners that would kill all the bugs.  He said yes, so I went to get the flashlight that can have a red glowing handle.  I really hoped that all he would be able to see in the mostly-dark was a red glow.  I went all along the baseboards and shined the red light everywhere.  Then I said, "There.  No more bugs!"  He smiled and laughed.  And when I tried to leave he complained, "No!  The bugs will get me!"  "But I just killed all the bugs!"  "No!  The bugs are real!"  "This is a real laser."  "That is a flashlight."  Shoot.  Caught.  Maybe it was the jzuuuurrrrrr sounds I made with my mouth while I shined it around.

Well, what do I do for a kid with a tenuous grasp on reality--the bugs are real, but the powers to defeat them are not.  I tried to talk with him through what could defeat them.  Finally he said we needed a shoe to stomp them.  Awesome.  I can let the kid sleep with a shoe and go to bed myself.  So I went to get one of Kevin's shoes and ended up with a pair of his slippers that he never uses.  I brought them to Rhys and asked if he wanted them on the floor by the bed or on the bed with him.  "You hold them."  "No, I am going to my own bed." and he cried and fussed--he needed me there to used the shoe to stomp the bugs while he slept.  Then came the big, big lie.  I don't count the laser as a lie.  That was a pretend.  But this time I made up a great big fib about those slippers.  "Rhys, these are magic slippers.  Santa Claus gave them to Daddy and he put magic inside.  They stomp bugs all by themselves when you are asleep."  Rhys brightened all up, "Really?  They are real magic?"  Big lie #2: "Yes.  They are real magic."  He giggled and was very excited.  I was excited, too, to leave him.  But I was ahead of myself.  He loved his magic slippers, and he still didn't want me to leave.

I laid down and cuddled him for a while, then woke up cold and stiff with no blanket on at 7:20 am.  I gently slid my arms out from around the sleeping him and as soon as I stood he sat up and started to cry.  I thought I was through with this when he graduated from his crib.  I finally said, "Do you want to sleep in Willow's bed?" "Yes."  So Willow got a surprise visitor to cuddle with her for the rest of the morning while I hurried downstairs to hide the evidence of the previous nights workshop before kids got up.  Then I turned up the heater in my room to thaw out before climbing in my own bed and praying the kids would let me sleep for a couple of hours.

I thought that would be the end of things, until I found Willow bringing this strange pair of Daddy's slippers that had mysteriously found their way into her room downstairs to put them away.  I then had to explain to her and Delilah, who was helping them clean their room, what they were doing there.  Agh!  Multiplication of lies!  As I tucked Rhys in, I made sure that he was content with the slippers on his bed with him, and Willow asked, "Are they really real magic?" and I said, "Yes!  They are really real."  "And they only work when we are asleep?" "Yep."  "I don't know about this," half smiling, half unsure.  Willow is one smart cookie.  I sat down by her and she asked me, "is this really real magic?"  "Yes."  "Really?"  I leaned down and whispered in her ear, "What do you think?"  We had a conversation of whispers and meaningful looks, concluding with, "Rhysie needs to believe it so he can sleep tonight.  OK?"  "OK."  I said good night again as I left the room and she said again from her bed, "I don't know about this."

What have I done?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Empowering Mary: A Paradigm Shift on the Nativity Story

I've always felt at least a little uncomfortable with the common modern renditions of the conditions of Christ's birth:  Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem, poor and alone.  They reach the one inn in town, Mary obviously ready to pop, if not already in labor, only to find it crowded and run by a grumpy and inhospitable innkeeper who gruffly forces them to leave.  In despair and urgency, they take refuge in a stable among the animals and filth. Alone and in the most squalid of circumstances imaginable, the Christ child is born and laid in the manger where the cows and goats continue to nibble the hay out from under his head.

The entire basis for this account is these 4 verses from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2--


 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is calledaBethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
 To be taxed with Mary his aespoused wife, being great with child.
 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
 And she brought forth her afirstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the binn.

When you read what is there, there really is so little that is concretely declared about the circumstances.  I have no problem with people inventing details to flesh out a story that is so important to so many.  The problem I have is with those invented details being perpetuated and taught as truth down the generations.

It started with the innkeeper.  Even as a child, I was uncomfortable with the birth story having an invented villain.  No where in the Bible does it mention an innkeeper, and yet he consistently makes an appearance, turning the holy couple away out of selfishness and greed.  My first childish thoughts were, "That is so unfair. No one knows that he was mean or selfish.  Maybe he was nice.  He even let them stay in his stable.  What, should he have kicked out someone who was already there?  He did the best he could."  It wasn't until later that I realized--there may never even have been an innkeeper at all.  And I think that's the point.  I can invent details that please myself, but I do not claim that is actually how things were, any more than the "traditional" details.

Some other thoughts are on the accomodations available to Mary and Joseph.  The Joseph Smith Translation of the bible renders the word as "inns" rather than "inn," and some research into the original Greek (on the internet--don't judge) points out that the word translated as "inn" in this circumstance is not the same as that meaning a public house for travelers, but rather a guestroom in a private residence.  This makes sense.  Bethlehem is Joseph's hometown.  It seems only natural that he would have family to stay with.  But, being a time when everyone came home, the houses were probably crowded.

Since having my own babies, I have connected more with Mary in this story.  The more I thought about her, the more I felt offended on her behalf even more than on the innkeeper's.  Why should she be depicted as the simpering, wimpering, powerless victim?  I personally think God would have picked a Mother for the Christ with a little more gumption than that.  Having traveled to a different state in order to have a natural home birth, in the basement of a friend's house where the rest of the family who owned the house went about their business upstairs, I know what it is like to have a baby far from home, in a busy house that doesn't belong to you.  And let me tell you, there could be plenty of "room" to live and eat and sleep at night and still "no room" to have a baby.  And at this point my imagination started to run.  I can only imagine Mary, coming on to her time, looking around that crowded house and thinking, "No. Way."  OK.  Say she is demure and kindhearted.  She won't kick anyone else out of the house just for her, but still.  She goes to Joseph.

Mary: There's no room here.  I can't have my baby here.
Joseph: There's no where else to go.  The city is full.
Mary: I don't know.  Not here.
Joseph:  Mary, there is no where else.
Mary:  There has to be.  Somewhere.  I can't be here with all these people.
Joseph: Where, Mary?  Where?  The entire city is full.
Mary:  I will find a place!
Joseph:  Where are you going to go?  The barn?
Mary: Yes!

Her nesting instincts kick in and she starts cleaning.

OK, that's the funny way it goes in my mind.  Truthfully, there were probably many female relatives and a midwife or two there to anticipate her need for solitude, and clean for her.  Nowhere says that Jesus was born on the first night they arrived.  They had time to prepare for this journey.  They would have planned time to prepare the circumstances for his birth.

Again, I emphasize that I am not claiming this is what happened.  I am only saying that this narrative fits with the facts as laid out in the scriptures as well as any other does, and it feels a lot more respectful of the Holy Mother as a women and a powerful daughter of God.

And who ever thought I would be writing a feminist Christmas blog?

Make a Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Our Halloween

Today:  Mom!  You spend so much time looking at your computer and your iPod, we don't have any time left to do things like look at clouds!

I was secretly thrilled at my 5-year-old daughter's rebuke.  What does this have to do with Halloween?  Well, I'll tell you.

First, unrelated to Halloween, I have been growing increasingly frustrated with my children's fixation on screen-delivered entertainment.  I know that they are perfectly capable of entertaining themselves with other things when they can just stop thinking about the TV/computer/iPod for 2 minutes together, they just can't seem to get that far without weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.  I also realized that in order to enact this, I must set a better example.  I use my screen time for more than just consumption, though--communication, financial organizing, trip planning, research, etc., but they can't tell the difference.  All they know is mom is looking at a screen and telling me not to.  And the truth is I also watch videos and play games, too.  So I asked the kids to remind me to spend less time on the computer, even as I encourage them to do other things.  

Now, the Halloween connection.  

I have had a long and troubled history with Halloween.  for the first, oh, 9 years or so, we celebrated it without a second thought.  And then abruptly, my family stopped celebrating it.  It was a slightly traumatic experience to begin with, but I came to embrace the reasoning--why should I celebrate witches and monsters and frightening experiences?  There is nothing in that worthy of celebration.  In fact, it is exactly not what I ever want to celebrate.  Even digging deeper to the roots of the celebration didn't help.  I don't need to worry about warding off spirits roaming the earth or anything like that.  So no Halloween for me.  But I surely did miss dressing up.

This was the status quo until I got married.  Then I had another's opinion to balance with, and slowly, a growing family to teach, and things weren't so simple any more.  Through many years of discussion and pondering with my patient husband, my narrow minded and somewhat self-righteous opinions began to soften.  Not that my initial declaration wavered -I will not celebrate scary, creepy, or evil.  And I will not celebrate pagan holidays.  But that doesn't have to be what Halloween is.  And that concludes the long path of Halloween self-discovery and brings me to my opinion today, which I know you are dying to hear:

Yes, the deep roots may be in the Pagan celebration of Samhain, but Halloween--All Hallows Eve--is a Christian holiday.  I will not argue that All Saints, or All Hallows day was not placed on November 1st specifically because it was already a celebrated time by the people who converted from Paganism to Christianity.  Obviously it was.  But so what?  The date of Christmas was chosen the same way.  Does that make Christmas a less Christian holiday?  What of the traditions surrounding the holiday pre-dating the Christian conversion?  As long as they are in and of themselves innocuous and free from deference to other gods or dark powers, how is there any harm?  Like a Christmas tree or a Yule log--we can make those things whatever we want.

With these decisions, Kevin and I have tried to carve out for our selves our own Halloween traditions.  Yes, we will dress up ourselves and our children, but never as anything creepy, scary, or remotely evil.  We will trade candy with our friends and neighbors, but I will never instruct my children to say, "Trick-or-Treat."  Even if everyone else in the world argues with me, I know that that is play-acting at extortion, and that's not OK with me.  And if we are celebrating it as a Christian holiday--All Hallows Eve, then we will spend the evening and the day in celebration of our beloved and righteous dead.  (As LDS, we know that all of us are Saints, so it's really easy to find ones that we know to celebrate.)  

So, this October 31st, we sat around, ate candy, and read from my grandmother's journal.  I read to my 5 year old daughter my grandmother's memories of her first year in school.  About how her father had a honey house, and her cousin was so disappointed when he discovered it wasn't actually made out of honey.  And I read to her how one of Grandma Elaine's favorite things to do was lay on the grass and watch the clouds.  And I was struck by the fun she had in her childhood without electronics.  I pointed this out to my children, and encouraged them to find fun things to do outside of the house and lighted screens.  

So when Willow brought up her intense new-found desire to watch the clouds, I made it happen--even though it had been raining all day.  She got on a coat and took a tarp to the back yard to keep the wet of the grass off her.  

Because of Halloween, I remembered to take the time to introduce my children to my grandmother--to learn of my grandmother myself--someone I never had the opportunity to know before she passed way, and someone that I come to love more and more the more I learn about her.  And I love my mother all the more, knowing how much she loved her mother, and remembering the stories she has passed on to us about her. I love Halloween.

And here are some pictures, because I know you want to see them:

We gave out saran-wrapped brownies at our ward trunk-or-treat (at which I tell my kids to say, "treat-or-treat" because that's really all there is to it.  Just give us candy.  We know you will.  Tricking is not an option.)

The kids getting candy.  It was inside because of the rain.  What a sugar frenzy!

The kids and Aunt Delilah (a friend aunt), who recently moved in with us.

The kids and I were fairies and painted up our faces.  Here's me:

I didn't get a picture of Kevin, the poor huntsman who stumbled upon our fairy circle--but just know that he never escaped us.  :)

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Good Mom Lunch

For lunch, I fed my kids mostly carrots and broccoli.  You can see what is left of the large broccoli head Rhys was eating.  They each at most of their carrots, too.  I think a large part of the appeal was the size of the food--whole, long carrots were very exciting.  That and Ranch Dressing.  Thank you, Hidden Valley.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Helpers of Helpful Help

It's way after the fact, but I though I'd get in a photo of the kids painting.  This is my daughter and my nephew.  You can see my son's arm on the left of the picture.  They are so eager to participate in a way they label "help."  It is so hard to figure out the balance between fostering their work ethic and getting things done.  This day, I gave in to helping the helpers learn to help.  And there was much rejoicing.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

On Names in the English Language--an exploration very limited in scope

On Names in the English Language--an exploration very limited in scope

Today I made a joke to myself that among Lists of virtue names that come to mind: Prudence, Faith, Charity, etc, there are two I have never heard included: Karen and Sharon. Ha, ha--caring and sharing. Ha, ha.

And then I kept thinking about those names, because Karen sounds very similar to Carol, so I am naturally interested in it, and Sharon has it's similar--Cheryl--as well. And then there are Sherry and Carrie also. And as I thought about this I realized that not a single one of those uses the same set of letters to spell "care" or "share"--CARol, KARen, CARRie; SHARon, CHERyl, SHERRy. Of course I only used the most common spelling. I am fully aware of Karols and Sharyls, but how marvelous and convoluted our language is that the presumptive spelling of such similar sounding names are so very divergent.

And speaking of virtue names--anyone have a particular favorite, or one they wish they would see (though perhaps wouldn't want to name their own child). For a long time, I have felt fond of Peace for a name--but it sounds like a boy to me and I don't know if I could get away with giving it to one of my sons. Maybe as a middle name. I also like Valiant and Vigil, but would have to use them judiciously because of our last name. What are your thoughts?


Sent from my iPod

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Channeling Martin Luther

Neoma wasn't home when we drafted our Declaration, so I felt the need to post it in a very prominent place.  I didn't have a nail or a church door, so tape and the microwave door had to suffice.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

How We Are Celebrating Independence Day


Declaration of Independence


When in the Course of family events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the residential bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the households of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, etc, etc, etc. This being the case, and we having enjoyed our time immensely here in this house and with these people, we catagorically state that we have suffered under no form of abuses, userpations, or attempts at absolute Despotism from our kind and generous Householders. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
They have allowed us nearly half the space in their home, though we did not contribute half of the household's costs.
They have provided babysitting almost whenever we needed it, with no thought to ask for remuneration.
They have allowed us to eat their food without a just reckoning of expenses.
They have lent us their more reliable car for long road trips.
They have repeatedly put themselves to considerable inconvenience in order to aid in our endeavors.
They have loved and served us in all ways with selflessness and compassion.
In every stage of these Generosities We have Expressed Meager Thanks in most weak terms: Our repeated Expressions have been wholly inadequate. A Family whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Saint, is in need of Greater Thanks.
We, therefore, the Members of the Vezzani Family, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, by Authority of the good People of this Family, solemnly publish and declare, That this Family is, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent; that the Gould Family is entire absolved of all responsibility to provide Shelter, Sustenance, and Live-in Childcare Services; that the Vezzani Family has full responsibility to Maintain a Home, Feed Themselves, etc, etc . And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the ever continuing family ties and generosity which will undoubtedly continue even without co-habitation, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Carol E. C. Vezzani
Kevin L. Vezzani
Willow L. Vezzani
Rhys M. Vezzani

Sunday, May 20, 2012

No Summary Possible

I just couldn't think of a title for this:
I recently took a basket full of belts and cording used with our medieval garb out of the top of the closet and it has been in easy reach in the kids' room recently.  Rhys came upstairs draped in belts and cords using his sword backwards as a firehose to spray out all the fire that was everywhere.  He is sans shirt due to efforts to avert disaster of the white-Sunday-shirt-meets-spaghetti-sauce variety.  He was just so enthusiastic about his rescue hero duties while trailing vines of all shapes and sizes that I couldn't keep myself from laughing.

I love that kid!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

With Both Feet

Today was a glorious day.  The Unofficial Event was the Sargentry Midterms--as succinctly as I can put it, and to the best of my understanding, it is a teaching event to help Sargentry candidates learn the various things they need to know to become a Sargent at Arms--the basics of archery, heavy fighting, horsemanship, dancing, geography of the SCA "known world", arts and sciences, etc.  Which makes it also an excellent social gathering.  It was at a member's home in the woods--rolling land nestled in forest with chickens, goats, a horse, and mud.  We spent much of our time under pavillions like this:



Again, though I thought it was going to be a family event, my children were the only ones there.



 They didn't mind, though, once they found the animals and sticks.



I was so happy today.  The only day I can remember smiling more constantly was my wedding day.  I felt completely at ease, because I decided I wasn't expecting anything.  I wasn't waiting for anyone to come take care of me.  I was there to be as I was and to enjoy whatever was there.  And the more I observed, the more I liked these people I was getting to know.  They way the interact with each other, their take on the world, their joy in reenacting the middle ages.  And most of all, I loved catching sight of my children tumbling across the hills, grinning, in garb.  I love that my son never questioned why I put him in a dress and told him not to wear pants.  I felt like my heart would melt and burst at the same time as I watched them.  "I should have been here all along," I kept hearing the voice in my head, "I should have been here all along."

Because I cast off misgivings, I introduced myself to everyone (sorry if I missed anyone), and felt free and happy to converse with them.  I was not embarrassed by what I did not know, or by forgetting names (someday I probably will be, if I persist), or by knowing some things that others didn't.  I was happy and at ease.  And I can't wait for Kevin to join me here.

Some videos of Rhys today (he was a little show-stealer):




Here they are watching the fighters set up the arena


Then it is their turn:



At the end of the day, we all felt like this:



Here's to many more good times to come.


Jumping In. . .


My husband likes to say that he met his wife in the middle ages.  What he is joking about is that we met through the Quill and the SwordBYU's medieval history club.  Almost my entire social experience in college was tied up in that club and the friends I made through it--even my marriage.  Thankfully, my marriage was not so tied up in it as to suffer from our graduation and removal from BYU and The Club, as it is usually simply referred to.  However, my social life did suffer.  I have tried various things through the years to make friends, particularly to make friends outside of church, but even when I joined a group or plugged along at some group activity, doggedly going and smiling at everyone, and usually genuinely enjoying myself, I still felt a little out of place.  Kevin and I even looked up and started attending activities with the local SCA group shortly after we moved to Washington.  I was really looking for that close-knit kinship that I had lost, and I wanted to find it, but I didn't.  People were friendly, but we didn't really make any friends.  Our attendance petered out after a couple of months and, though we always intended to "someday" we haven't ever gone back.

You see, I've never been very good at making friends (shock!)  I am very good at being friendly (no shock), but I've never known how to become friends.  Every strong friendship I've ever had has seemed to happen entirely on its own without my direction.  I still don't know how.  But I think I've made a major discovery over these last few years of wanting and trying and never figuring it out: No one else knows, either.

I know one thing that initially made me feel very comfortable at the club was that on my first day there, the club president saw me walk in, came up to me, and started talking to me.  It wasn't just a, "Hi, what's your name, nice to see you here," and move on.  He actually had a conversation with me, and then he introduced me to some other people in the room with whom I got into a conversation before he drifted off.  It may sound silly, but I learned that first day that he was married, and somehow it made his friendliness and attention seem more genuine, because I knew there was no pretension or ulterior motives--why would he be putting up a front of friendliness when he had already gotten a wife.  It must be real.  His wife, just a few years our senior, went on to mother us all through the subsequent years.  And I made friendships through this club, through this group of mismatched misfits drawn together through medieval mania, that are still the strongest I have.  Feeling so welcomed and comfortable kept me coming back.  Coming back over and over, experiencing wonderful and stressful and funny and exhausting things together over and over made these people like family.  And I love those people.  They are the best group of people I have ever known.  I could go on ad infinitum, ad nauseum, about all of the good qualities they embody in general as a group, but I won't.  Because thinking about them all is making me cry right now.

And so I kept looking for the place, for the people to reach out to me and make me comfortable again--comfortable like family, comfortable like church.  And I wasn't finding it.

I don't know what clicked for me suddenly this week, but I decided that when we move, I want to jump in to the SCA again.  Many of the our old Clubbie friends (and even some college friend who were not members of the Club then) are currently memebers of the SCA in Utah and watching and listening to their activities set me pining.  We would be moving to a new Barony and it would be an opportunity to start fresh.    On a whim, I looked up the new Barony and saw on it's calendar a social gathering--for that night (last Tuesday).  There were no other social gatherings scheduled in the near future.  I guessed that it was a monthly meeting, and suddenly, I didn't want to wait a month to get started.

I dithered about it for most of the morning, but finally decided that I would take my children and introduce them to the middle ages that night.  I spent quiet time in the afternoon sewing little tunics and sifting through my old garb.  I threw the clothes on my kids, rushed them through dinner, and hurried out the door.

The activity, though the description sounded family friendly, had no other children in attendance.  I had made a decision, however, and I was not going to be deterred.  I wanted to be there.  Not just there at that activity at that moment, but I wanted to be there, in that group, in my life.  I wanted to belong there.  I wanted to be comfortable there, and I wasn't going to hang back waiting for someone to welcome me.

I am not shy, but I can be reticent if I feel out of place, especially if I feel like others think I am out of place.  But a strange assurance gripped me--I was not out of place.  No matter what anyone else may or may not think--This is going to be My Place.  And so I was not reticent.  When someone made eye contact with me, I walked up to him and introduced myself.  I told him I was new and what my experience was and that I wanted to be part of this.  He introduced me to a few more people, and I kept talking with them until I felt like I should be talking to them.  It was a little awkward for my children, because the room was full of strange-looking strangers, but I knew the awkwardness would pass for them with time, so I petted and assured them, and pursued my personal course toward belonging.

I smiled and spoke to people, and did not let them assume I was here with someone else.  I am here by myself.  I am here to meet you.  I learned about future children's activities and upcoming events.  The children warmed up a little bit when I led them to a table with pot-luck goodies and let them share a couple helpings of chocolate cake.  I sat at a table and introduced myself to women working there.  I was told about an unofficial event happening this weekend.  And I decided to go.

Today I took down the medieval dress that has been decorating my wall for the last 6 years.  I wanted a hand project to work on at the event today, and it has unfinished embroidery on the sleeve.  I haven't worked on it since I left medieval social life.  It has paralleled the fate of my medieval passions since then--displayed, but not lived.  It's time to change that.  The dress won't be going back up there for a long time.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Eager to Agree

2012-February-19

In our church during our sacrament meeting services, we in the congregation are not often called on for active participation. We say "Amen," to the prayers and sing the songs, but otherwise mostly sit and listen. One exception to this is during the "business" portion in the beginning of the meeting where we are informed of people who have been called to or released from positions in the church. As these are done, we are asked to raise our hands if we agree with the changes and to show our support. When there are changes at the level just higher than our local congregation--the stake, a member of the High Council visits to present them. Usually when they do, the High Councelor also gives a talk later in the meeting.

Today, a High Councelor came to present some stake business during which time I repeatedly prompted my 4 year old to raise her hand at the appropriate time. Later on in the meeting, the High Councelor came to the pulpit again, this time to give a talk.  As my daughter saw him, her eyes brightened and she watched him intently, enthusiastically waving her hand high in the air at about every other sentence. It took me a moment to realize what she was doing, and I had to stifle my laughter as I whispered that he wasn't asking us to raise our hands anymore.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Moment of Presence

2012-February-19

I think that I spend most of my life disconnected. This is largely an innate self preservation instinct--if I am too aware of the world around me, there is too much sensory stimulation, it is exhausting, and I couldn't stand it for long. However, sometimes the Lord gives me what seem to be small glimpses of absolute and comprehensive reality: my heart being opened to feel, for a moment, pure charity for the man who is my husband; looking at my infant daughter and seeing her fully mature spiritual self smiling back at me, trusting and compassionate toward the imperfect sister she has chosen as her mother. Times like these remind me of what is really real--the gospel of Jesus Christ; the love and relationships we can have in families; and the simple and pure joy of being exactly where you are supposed to be, doing what you should be doing, fully engaged in this moment of eternity.

But most of the time is not like that--usually I just go through the motions of life--my body and part of my mind must be there, but I can hardly even remember what I was just doing when I am done with it. The real, deep part of me isn't there. I wish I could say that it was somewhere else deeply meaningful, but I don't think it is. I think it is just somewhere drifting in a stupor, waiting for the next moment of spiritual poignancy to wake it up, and pull it in to the present.

Today, I had a moment. I the most remarkable thing about it is how unremarkable each part of it was. I was sitting in Sacrament Meeting as I do every week, getting ready to sing one of the songs.  I opened the hymnal and started to sing.  My children were wiggling around me and I looked up toward the chorister.  Suddenly, it was as if I had been looking through fuzzy glasses that were suddenly removed, earmuffs fell away from my ears, and my senses opened up directly into my heart.   It wasn't just the power of the music, but I felt that, as well as the power of a congregation of faithful Saints gathered to express their faith unified in song.  I felt the power, not only of the song, but of the organization that pulls from the lay members of the congregation to fill roles like organist, chorister, music director, bishop, deacon, clerk.  I saw all of the normal, mundane aspects of the routine of worship I engage in every week, for just a moment, with a clarity that elevated it to the divine.  And I was there.  All of me was there, experiencing, absorbing, participating.  Every ounce of me was singing with full voice, and at the same time, hyper-attuned to the activity going on around me.  I felt like everything around me, whether I was physically looking at it or not, was open to my observation. I saw, I heard, I felt everything.  And I saw the role that these routines play in cultivating our very real and eternal spirits.  

At the time, the day this happened, I started writing it, but only got as far as "I was sitting in Sacrament Meeting" and was pulled away.  The rest I wrote just now, trying to remember the event.  And I can't do it justice, because the moment has passed and I know a large part of me is somewhere else, drifting again.  I'm going through the motions and trying to do all of the important things, but I'm rarely all here.  But I wish that I could share what I do remember of how unique the experience was--I have previously glimpsed the divine as my heart and understanding were opened to see how the people I am interacting with in the moment are connected to me in an eternal way--feelings of pure charity for others, seeing another's eternal presence--but this time, it wasn't about any other person, not even really about myself.  It was about life.  Every moment and all the mundane motions that we go through to get through.  At the time, going to church felt like a motion--something I was doing because it was supposed to help me, it was where I was supposed to be, and it did help me in general--by the occasional inspiration thought that penetrated my stupor and my children's attention grabbing rowdiness, and by helping me qualify for divine assistance by doing my best.  So, I was as there as I could be, and I was content to be there, and I generally felt good about where I was and what I was doing, at least with the part of me that was there to feel anything.

That's when my heart and mind were opened, and all of me came rushing back to experience it.  I was wholly, completely there, and along with this emotional and spiritual presence came an awareness of the pertinence of the activity I was engaged in.  I always knew that worshiping together was good and important, but in that moment I felt it.  The difference between belief and testimony, the difference between thinking it's a nice idea and knowing it's true.  I felt my whole soul present and participating.  I can't even remember the song we were singing, but the words and melody burst from my heart.  I felt the presence of not just other bodies in the room, but other spirits.  Other souls, a whole chapel full of souls, jointly seeking communion with God, and that was powerful.  It didn't even last the whole meeting, just for a little while, but it was enough.

I am so grateful for these moments peppered throughout my life--personal, private reminders of the greater whole outside this life, and within my self.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Rabid Frog


That's what we get for feeding him cottage cheese without a bib.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mandarin Elephant

Our favorite way to peel clementines:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Meaningless Dreams?

2011-November-5

I dreamt two nights ago that we got the children we have been desiring to foster. The person we've been working with to become licensed came to the door unexpectedly with all three children and told us, "You got them! Here they are!" I took the baby in my arms and I couldn't keep myself from crying. My already children and my new children started playing while I held the baby and cried, trying to listen to the rest of what the social worker was telling me.

I have had some crazy dreams at times. I have had dreams that we're undeniably messages, visions, if you will. I have had dreams from which I learned something or experienced something I could never have done in real life. And then I have had dreams that are very comforting and I wish I were dreaming truely, but I just cannot say that they are, because I don't know.

I have had meaningless dreams before. I have had dreams I really hope are meaningless (no, I don't actually want to be Spiderman punching hybrid supervillians in the face). And then there are dreams like this one. I hope and I want so badly for it to be true. But is it meaningless? Does it really have no reflection in reality? If nothing else, I recognize the peace and comfort that came through it as the peace of faith and trust in the Lord. Whatever is or is not in store for the future of our family, I know that He is in charge of it, and in the end all will be right , whole, and perfect. (If it isn't, it isn't the end yet!)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Why I'm not asleep right now.

2012-03-11

I don't like it when my kids wet their beds. I don't like it, but I deal with it. What really gets me is when my kids wet MY bed. Then we have big trouble.
My son crawled in bed with us this morning and then overflowed his diaper. I discovered it by the spreading warmth and damp where he was snuggled against my stomach. Yuck! So our bed got stripped and put into the laundry this morning. I didn't remember to put it into the dryer until after we got home from the fireside tonight. Luckily we had friends over to keep me awake until the dryer was done and I don't have to sit around sad and tired waiting for the dryer to beep, or sleep on the couch, which is actually quite comfortable, but harder to share with my husband. Instead, I heard the dryer beep while I was brushing my teeth and brought the clean sheets down to the bedroom wih me in the first place instead of forgetting until I discovered in dismay that my bed was not ready to fall into and having to go back up to the laundry room after already mentally preparing for sleep.
So I was in my room with my laundry basket of newly cleaned linens and I sat by it on the edge of my
bed and realized that I did not want to get up. It seemed like too much work. So I pulled out my iPod to read blogs instead. And I kept cycling in my mind through the thoughts, "I want to lay down and pull covers over me. But you can't. You have to make the bed first. The sheets are right there. Get them. Yes. But that is effort. So I will just sit here a little longer. OK. . . Sitting is so much effort. I just want to lay down and pull covers over me. But I can't. The bed's not made. The sheets are right there. Get them. Yes. But that is even more effort. Sigh. Just sit here and read a little longer.
Know what finally roused me our of my funk? I heard footsteps upstairs and thought how embarrassed I would be if my husband came down and found me sitting with the sheets next to me on an unmade bed, reading blogs instead of sleeping after I made such a big deal out if goingto bed early. So I heard footsteps and guiltily set down my iPod and started making the bed. I got up to the flat sheet being halfway on when it suddenly seemed like too much effort again (That, and I haven't heard any more footsteps), and here I am blogging to you about it instead of making actual progress again.
Although I am getting to the point where continuing to stand by the side of my bed feels like more effort than finishing making the bed. Good thing the timing coincides with being done with everything I had to say.
Good night.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fashion a la Rhys

Rhys has taken to hats, and currently, just one isn't enough.  Here he is with 3.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Escape!

 I didn't notice that one of the kids had opened the door, but this boy did.
I didn't even know he was outside until I saw him through the window, happily grubbing in the old leaves.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Monday, April 9, 2012

Bribery

My sisters and I had a retreat the days leading up to St. Patrick's day.  As a special bribe to help my kids love it when I leave, I picked up gifts for them while I was away.  
I think they were a hit.
 Especially seeing as Rhys hardly ever lets his go (this is going to bed--yes, he sleeps with it).

Friday, April 6, 2012

Justice and Vengence

2011-05-31 (This was actually a complete post.  I don't know why I never published it.)

Late Sunday night, Kevin was online and mentioned that suddenly he was reading everywhere that Osama bin Laden was dead. If I thought that would be all I would hear of it, I was sadly mistaken. The next morning all that anyone talked about on the radio as I was waking up, driving to the YMCA, and driving home was this development. Along with the report of it were reports of the spontaneous celebration that broke out in gatherings where the news was heard.
At first I was a little confused in my feelings. And now I am a little disturbed and decidedly disappointed by the reports I have heard.
First of all, I want to be very clear--I believe that those of the military who went to capture bin Laden and ended up killing him acted honorably. I believe the search for him and the efforts to bring him to justice over all of these years has been valuable and important. What bothers me is not the events, but the reactions and language that have been just as much in the media as news of the event itself.
I cannot rejoice in death, even though I may think it justified. It, perhaps, may be good that he is dead, but it is not wonderful. It is not cause for jubilation. Perhaps if a death marked a release from oppression or bondage, or the end of a war, perhaps that could be cause to celebrate, but the celebration would be about the newfound freedom, not the death. As it is, the death of Osama bin Laden does little to change world. The "war on terror" is not over. Jihadists still want to destroy us. The world is not safer. The only significance in his death is that he is no longer alive. And I can't rejoice in that. I can be glad that he is no longer able to hurt anyone, but I can't celebrate.
The second thing that bothers me is the language being used to describe the events. Even the President declared, "Justice has been done!" But I can't agree. Justice would have been if they had captured him and he was brought to be judged. If at that judgement he was condemned and executed, that could be called justice. As it is, he had not trial, no judgement except in the hearts of those who had decided to hate him. And that judgement is not justice. Again let me state--I do not believe that those who killed him did anything wrong. They acted correctly in the situation. They were trying to bring him into custody. He resisted and fired on them. They returned fire and he was killed. That happens. But it is not justice. He was not "brought to justice." He just died. He avoided justice by choosing death.  

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Texas--the Bibb House

Some interesting modern ruins we explored with the cousins--I don't know how old this house is or how long it has been abandoned, but it has been well vandalized.  But it's all cement, so it's still there.  It's on a cliff.  
This is looking up from the very small ledge of land on the edge of the cliff under the house:
And this is looking out at the land dropping away in the other direction, toward the Rio Grande and Mexico:
It was very interesting trying to figure out what the layout of the house had been like--what the different rooms had been used for.  I think we determined that this was probably a bathroom:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sometimes . . .

W (as I'm helping her put on her tights): Mom, I love you.
C: I love you, too.  I'm sure glad you're my daughter.
W: Me, too.  Sometimes you're a little mean, but sometimes you're just right.

Further Proof

2012-01-01

See!  We really were there!  


This is actually the "Welcome to Texas from Mexico" sign.  We didn't actually go into Mexico, but we did go to the border to see the fence, and on the way back we got on the road that heads toward this sign, some 100 yards or so after you actually cross in.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

When the Crepes are Gone

2012-01-01

We traditionally have crepes on January 1st.  We just ran out before Willow was done eating the good stuff. 
Yes, that is broccoli and whipped cream.  Yum!

Monday, April 2, 2012

New Years Fireworks

2012-01-01

While planning for the trip, we mulled over the question of whether to book it back home after the wedding, or to spend Christmas with someone else.  Since we would already be in Utah, and since I had a gift that I had been wanting to give my brother in Texas for Christmas that was too big to want to mail, we decided we might as well drive the rest of the way and spend Christmas on the border.  We thought we would be going to Texas, but we ended up in little Mexico.  Eagle Pass, the border city where my brother lives, has so much Mexican influence, it is hard to see the Texas in it.  It was a quite a cultural experience.

As far as I could tell, there were no fireworks restrictions in Texas.  We stayed until New Years, and boy, was that night a show.  Because their house is on a little bit of a rise, you can see the sky all over town.  Standing outside at midnight was like being inside of a fireworks show.  The sky was exploding in all directions.  It was the first time that I was awestruck by amateur fireworks.

Earlier in the evening, we enjoyed a bonfire and some fireworks of our own with the kids:  (yes, that's my kids out in shirtsleeves after dark on December 31st.  It was warm there that week.)



And to finish it off, I can't tell you how much I want a big dirt field in Texas every year, just so I can watch my kids do this:



Now that is what childhood should be like.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

I Married a Winner!

Our ward had a non-scout pinewood derby.  It started out as an Elders Quorum activity, but too many others wanted in on it, so they opened it to the whole ward.  They had an "unlimited" class, which meant that the limitation were different than the traditional--12 oz maximum, must start with gravity, no CO2 or combustibles, no damaging the track, and it had to fit in the starting area.  Also, Kevin clarified, the entire car did not have to cross the finish line, only a part of it.

He won.



It's rubber band powered.  It was inspired by Condorman.  Next he wants to make one that has 2 stages--slingshooting the bottom half out, then catapulting a driver across the finish line.  I love my man's brain.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Don't Interrupt Me!

2011-02-18

Why I love blogging:  Sometimes, when I am having a conversation and telling a really great story, the person with whom I am speaking, not realizing the story isn't finished, utilizes one of my pauses to begin their own story, or, worse, to change the subject.  They appear by all discernible signs to be enjoying the conversation, and not covertly bored out of their minds and trying desperately to salvage their own mental stimulation from my mind-numbing inanity.  I think they genuinely don't realize that I hadn't actually made a point yet.  Then I'm always stuck trying to balance the merits and importance of what I had wanted to say against the advisability of just letting it go for easiness sake, and the risk of coming across as megalomaniac for continually coming back to my own self-important monologue in spite of every divergent comment.  Often, I just stay quiet and never finish my story.

But when I blog, I can tell every story in its entirety without interruption.  Ahhhhh.  Thank you.

Monday, March 26, 2012

All Right, Here They Come!

So, I have a bunch of old, unfinished posts that I want to finally get out.  I think I've convinced myself this is more valuable and fun than Korean Dramas (at least for now).  So here I go.  Get ready for some old news and things that may not be entirely relevant anymore.  I'm going to set them to post now, as opposed to being lost in the middle of the past pages where no one will notice that something new has been added, but I'm going to put the date I originally started the post at the top of it so someday when I use this blog to make my personal history, I can get these events in the right order.  Climb in your way back machine, and here we go!

How Disposable Diapers are Undermining the Emotional Stability of the Civilized World

2010-11-02

As a child I remember watching my mother dip and shake my little brother's cloth diapers in the toilet. I remember that, occasionally, some of the poo-water would get on her hand and I didn't know how in the world this could be an acceptable life situation for her.

Once, as a teenager, while on vacation at a campground resort we were hanging out at the restroom/laundry facilities to play card games where it was light and warm late into the night. A little girl we didn't know, maybe 6 or 7 years old, stumbled in, bleary eyed. Zombie-like, she made her way to the stall, used it, washed her hands, and stumbled back out. As she was leaving, we noticed a small trail of poo on her lower leg that she was tracking with every other step. I almost threw up, but my mom got up, got some paper towels, and not only cleaned the floor, but the toilet as well. In retrospect, I think the nicest thing we could have done would have been to follow her back to her camp and warn her parents. I know I wouldn't want to deal with finding that in the sleeping bag in the morning. But the point is I was paralized and incapacitated by the sight of poo outside of its acceptable enclosures: toilet bowls, diapers, wet wipes, possibly the unidentifiable blue liquid of portable outhouses.

I remember at some point a few years ago that there was a clogged toilet.  I can't remember right now where we were living or even if it was at our own house.  What I do remember is that we didn't have or couldn't find a plunger.  Kevin was still able to unplug the toilet--by using his hands in a plunger-like fashion to push poopy water down the drain.  When I saw him stick his hand in the poopy water, I nearly threw up again.  Gross! Gross! Gross!  Gross! Gross!!!!

Then I had kids, and it was still OK--in general, the poo stayed in the diapers.  Occasionally it got on the clothes, but I was able to generally contain it and avoid touching it directly too much.

Then one day I decided that I was fed up with buying diapers.  It just seemed like throwing money in the garbage can in expensive blue plastic sausages (I love my Diaper Genie!)  Encouraged by some new acquaintances and some strangers' blogs, I delved into the realm of modern cloth diapering.  Being cheap, I bought everything second hand and dived right in...

To a life of poo.  You see, being cheap, I never bought the cool modern gadgets that help you clean and rinse poo off the diapers with minimal skin contact.  And the instructions I heard from other cloth-diapering mothers to, "knock the solids [poop] off" and then leave the residual traces for the washing machine, never made any sort of sense.  I guess I feed my kids too much fiber, because there have almost never been solids in my kids diapers--more like thick puddles.  You just can't knock off what is soaked in.

So every day I found myself up the the elbows in poopy water.  It was disgusting, revolting, and I don't even know how I tolerated it.  But I did it, because I already paid for these stupid diapers and I was going to get my stupid money's worth out of them!  And after a few weeks, I realized that it didn't bother me so much.  In fact, after a month or so, I realized it didn't bother me at all.  In fact, I even found myself getting a little lax in all of my extremely careful hedges built up to guard everything in my life from the poo.  Sometimes, I would be interrupted in the middle of rinsing and actually have to grab something before thoroughly scrubbing my hands with soap.  (It's been long enough since then that I can't think of specific examples, or maybe my memory is shielding me from confessions that might shake my friends' faith in my ability to maintain a minimum level of sanitation in my own home.)  I know sometimes things were splashed or sloshed and wiped up but not sanitized.  And here's the thing--we never got any more sick than we did before.  Yes, poop is disgusting, and you don't want it on things, and when there is cholera, or ebola, you better bleach everything and don't drink from the well by your outhouse, but other than that, being it intimate contact with it doesn't automatically get you sick.

I don't know about you, but human waste is about the most disgusting, unsanitary substance I can think of.  But I can deal with it.  If I needed to, I could walk into a room, pick up a pile of it with my bare hand, dispose of it, wash my hands, and go eat lunch (Oh, wait, I have done that...).  And that is an incredibly empowering feeling.  If I can deal with this, I can deal with anything.

And now I come to my title point.  It is my self-important, prideful, and possibly offensive opinion that members of modern society in general suffer from a massive lack of being able to deal.  And it begins with the fact that they are not required or expected to deal with the unpleasant things of life. So much is built up in our modern age to insulate us from unpleasantness.  I will disclaim, that I am very, very grateful for most of them.  But when you are so reliant on them that you can't function when they are removed, that is a problem.  When you never live in a situation where the buffers are removed and you just have to deal with the small, basic, disgusting realities--like poo--every day, over and over, not just as something to suffer through for a time and then move on, but as a way of life, you never get to know just how capable you are.  You miss out on gaining faith and understanding in your own inherent power and ability to deal.

When all women knew about keeping their babies clean and dry was being up to their elbows in poopy water night after night, how could anything else overwhelm them?  That is power.  That is liberation.  "What, I have to clean out the refrigerator of months-old moldy leftovers?  I have to clean the toilet and there is no scrubby wand, just a rag?  I have to take care of a throwing up toddler all night long?  That's nothing.  I've lived in poo!"

I believe it is invaluable to the sense of perspective and ability to handle anything to have, at some point in early(ish) life, a prolonged, intimate relationship with Poo.

Current addendum: For various reasons, I am no longer cloth diapering.  I am grateful every time the 3-year-old's accident ends up in the disposable instead of the underwear.  Nevertheless, I am still grateful that I did have the opportunity to live with poo.  Because I can deal with it.  Poopy pants?  Annoying, but not incapacitating.  Finding a diaper removed prematurely and a pile on the floor instead?  Gross, but tolerable.  And if I found a clogged toilet with no plunger in sight, I wouldn't even cringe as I . . . asked Kevin to deal with it.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Waco Gets the Blues

Have you ever seen one of these?

I only ever saw one (OK, three) in this movie:
In the beginning of the movie, the title character retires from his job in a mine.  He and the two others retiring at the same time each recieve one of those as a gift.
In this scene, after the man on the left turns his on, Schultze, center, says, "Schoen" (pretty).  The man on the right then picks a flake off with his fingernail, tastes it, and says, "Salzig" (salty).  That scene made me laugh so hard that I have always remembered it.  

So imagine my surprise and delight when we entered the home of an old family friend of Kevin's in Waco, TX, and there on the entry way table, was a rock salt lamp, all lit up, schoen and salzig.  I refrained from tasting it.  
This wonderful widower was immensely generous, giving us pretty much free reign of his house, catching Kevin up on the lives of his children that Kevin knew, offering driving advice, and giving the children each their very own keychain from the university where he teaches.  

By the time we said goodbye the next morning, the children had adopted him as another grandpa.

Thank you, thank you for reminding Kevin why he misses Texas hospitality and a for a first-hand glimpse at what is in my mind an icon of German cinema:
Shultze would be proud.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Mexico?

But not a white as New Mexico was.  After leaving Utah, on the evening of the 22nd, we spent the night in Santa Fe.  There was snow on the ground when we got there, and we woke up to more snow falling.  Many of the highways, including the one we needed to take, were closed.  So we took the road that was open, even though it wasn't going quite the right way.  This is what the surrounding areal looked like:

We stayed on the interstate through Albuquerque and then the interstate was closed, too.  We took the road that was open--winding through the middle of the state--and kept checking back on the road closure site to see what road we could take next.  This way we finally made it from Santa Fe to Roswell--winding through the middle of the state.  What should have taken us 3 1/2 hours took from 9 am to 5:00 pm.  The snow was falling thick in Roswell and we skedaddled out of town after a quick dinner and kept driving, trying to get ahead of the storm, until we had to stop for a rest.  The Lord surely blessed us to find a way to push through.

Proof of Our Trip

Like I said, during the first part of our trip, I forgot to take many pictures.  Here is the first proof that we are not at home that I have (though we had already been gone for a week and driven through Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Utah).  This was the first state we were in on our trip to which I had never before been.
This was taken on December 22nd.  Mostly the color was white.



Galavanting

So, we're not home.  (Don't come rob our house, though, I keep very vicious guard Goulds there while we are away.)

The initial impetus for our trip was Kevin's younger brother Michael's wedding on December 20th in Salt Lake City.  We left for it on the 15th.  We stayed with Kevin's sisters in Provo, as did his parents, Michael, and his older brother and his wife.  It was a two bedroom house with a living room, dining room, and small kitchen.  And one bathroom.  Yeah.  That was squishy.  But also very fun.  

While we were there, we found a little bit of time to visit with some of my family and some old college friends.  I am not very good at remembering to take pictures to remind us of events, so I don't have any of my , but I did manage to whip out my iPod to capture this moment:

I call it "Chinese Peasant on a Horse"

You can't tell very well from the photo, but he is holding on to the reigns and squeezing his thighs together to hold the horse.  He wouldn't hold still long enough to get a better picture

Stay tuned for further updates on our trip.  

Window Art Wrecks

I wish there were a Cake Wrecks-style website I could submit this to. I think her name is "Quasimodo-Bell."
(from a gas station probably in Idaho)