Saturday, October 23, 2010

Some Fall Shots

With the weather looking nice, and fall leaves sitting happily on their branches, I decided to take some fall pictures of my kids the other day. As with most of my daring enterprises, there was little planning -- no matching clothes or clever . . . I don't know . . . chairs? I've noticed people love to put cool chairs in the middle of nowhere for photo shoots. I ought to get me one of those. I did brush my girls' hair out and redo Penny's napped on pony tail. Then I commanded everyone to go find, at least, a white shirt (never mind that most white shirts they own are old stained undershirts) so they would somewhat appear to match.

I realized, quickly, that my dreams of happy smiling children all huddled close and lovingly were merely that -- dreams. I really couldn't get five kids to look at me all at the same time:And then . . . there were the special objects they'd each brought. Somehow I was so focused on their darling little faces (and trying to make those faces look at me) that I didn't notice how distracting a pair of black gloves and a tiger stuffed animal; or, a silk rose and some sock monkeys; or even a Dora the Explorer bag would look in the finished picture. Huh. Well.
And, what about this picture? Jesse? Where did you run off to? And Abe! When Daisy tries to put her arm around you, don't knock it out of the way! Everyone! Stay put.
Thank you Daisy and Abe for your valiant effort here -- only Abe, you're looking blurry (yes, I know that's my fault).
But, the real problem was even more specific. You may have already picked it out as you looked at the above photos. It had something to do with the little fellow you see in the background here:
Yes. That's him alright. Jesse.He was . . . to put it mildly . . . very . . . sad.I think it started when I attempted to make him sit on a rock for a picture with his siblings. Who wants to sit on a rock? Then, whenever he tried to happily wander away and get lost in the mountains, I would bring him back . . . and that didn't sit well. Add to that the fact that I'd foolishly allowed him to bring sock monkey 1 AND sock monkey 2 and -- hoo-ee. He was forever dropping one or the other, picking them up, and sobbing that they were then covered in dirt, small sticks and leaves. But, if I took them away or tried to hide them, he would be certain they were being left abandoned in the woods and would howl all the more.
Abe tried to comfort him a time or two:
And Daisy offered him a leaf:
One time, an airplane flew over head. That distracted him for a minute:

But that sad little fella almost sent us, and our dirty white shirts, home before any real photo-ing had begun. Luckily, we still managed some pretty good shots (as you shall see in the next post).

Despite the Tears . . .

and all the stuffed animals, Dora bags, silk roses, etc.; I was able to get some pictures I was quite happy with! Here's a sampling:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Some Killer Business

I just got through eating lunch. It was one of my concoctions involving nearly every left over ingredient available in our fridge. It contained some beans and meat and a little cheese and some tomatoes and a few other items. It was killer.

Which reminds me of something (as the word killer always shall). Once, when I was a mere girl of 12(ish) -- untrained in the arts of small talk and flirtatious banter. I found myself in line at a local water slide in front of a slightly older boy who seemed intent, to my horror, on striking up a conversation with me. I don't recall what was said or how I uncomfortably answered until he questioned, "So, have you ever ridden the water slides at night?" "No," I answered awkwardly (were the water slides even open at night?). "It's totally KILLER," he assured me. Having little idea what to do with this information about killer night water sliding, I nodded and smiled and mumbled something and turned back to the line -- willing it with all of my heart to be nearly over with.

That is probably about how all of you felt just now when I mentioned that my weird lunch was killer -- awkward, embarrassed, and willing the post to just end.

And yet, it continues.

We had a good deal of crummy sickness around here this past week. It fell my family members one by one in the following order: Jesse, Penny, Abe, Goldie, Jesse (again?? Who really knows. He started the whole business and seemed to have moved well beyond it, but then, just for good measure -- or maybe because he wanted to remind us whose sickness this really was, he threw up again a few days later), Daisy, Mike.

It was relatively short lived -- slamming those who got it quite fiercely for about 8 hours, then restoring them back to near perfect health with in about 18. Mike threw up so hard though that he actually burst a bunch of capillaries around his eyes. He still has two blood red dark circles under each of his eyelids. That was a little scary.

Anywho, six out of seven isn't very good odds (well, for number seven staying healthy that is . . . if you are looking at it as "good odds of number seven getting it," then, well, I guess you are right). As I am number seven, I have been living in a state of fear -- just waiting for my turn; wondering when it will begin. It's kind of like waiting for labor (only, you know, quite a bit less exciting). Every night I go to bed thinking, "Will tonight be when it all starts?" And then Mike calls me in the day to see if I'm still here.

But who knows. It's been nearly two days now. Maybe I just have a super charged, super great immune system! And that, if anything in this post, is what is "killer." (Although, one must fear, after making such a bold statement, that they will most likely be found crumpled in a miserable heap next to the toilet with in the next few hours.)

Then again . . . perhaps not. I ran around playing in dirt and probably eating it (for all I know) most of my growing up years. I don't recall anyone ever once suggesting that perhaps a good hand washing was in order. Oh, I picked it up on my own at some later stage of life (the smiled upon art of hand washing and frequent bathing), but it just may be that those early carefree days of germyness are serving my immune system well now! (Incidentally, spellcheck is quite uncomfortable with the use of "germy-ness"). Isn't that a happy thought though? Not happy enough to stop me from enforcing hand washing among my own children, but happy enough for me to turn a blind eye when Mike lets them eat dirty old snow.

And, since we all know a post with a bunch of words and zero pictures is BOOORING, treat yourselves to this:
(Penny and Jesse standing by our front porch where, let's face it, shall we? My flowers are currently looking quite fantastic.)

(Mike making shakes for the kids.)

(Abe practicing violin with Grandpa Al.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lessons on Faith

A couple of years ago, I had an experience that taught me a huge lesson about faith. Before that time, I'd always been a little confused -- I knew that we were supposed to have faith, and not just faith. Faith IN something -- namely, faith in Jesus Christ. Faith that He is our Savior, that everything He does is to help us return to him and to have eternal happiness. Faith in God our Father, that we are His children, that He wants good and happy things for us just as much (more) than we do for our own children. Faith that He hears and answer our prayers, that He will guide and lead us if we ask and listen and follow. Faith that, as it says in Proverbs, His ways are higher than our ways -- essentially that He sees the bigger picture and knows what's best for us, and why certain things are allowed, and what we must face to grow and become who we hoped to become when we chose to come to this earth and face this test.

I also knew that we were supposed to pray, as it says in James 1: 6, ". . . in faith, nothing wavering. For he that waivereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed."

But, I didn't understand this correctly. I thought this meant that when we prayed for something we wanted, we had to somehow muster complete and total confidence that it would be so -- that if I waivered for one second in my certainty that He would grant my request, I would not be granted an answer to my prayers. Where this got me into trouble was here: I knew that we were also supposed to pray, as Christ taught us, "Thy will be done . . ." If I knew something was certainly the will of God, then fine, that was all good and well. I could pray with perfect faith, but what of when I didn't know His will -- which, truly, is most of the time? When I am praying to get quickly over and illness, or for someone to be healed, or for someone struggling with infertility to be allowed to have a child, or for someone to get past a particular trial -- I don't know, for certain what the Lord's will is in the matter. Because of this, I wasn't sure how, exactly, I was supposed to pray with unwavering perfect faith when I made requests.

When Mike and I moved to WA, we purchased a house. The housing market had been exploding up there. We had no idea how many years we'd be there, and we were afraid if we didn't act quickly, the going rate for a home might leap up again. We had a decent down payment and were able to find a good home fairly quickly. Three years later -- and much earlier than we'd guessed we'd be moving back home -- we were moving back home and needed to sell our house. The problem? That rapidly rising market we'd purchased our home in had crashed (as it did in so many places). Our neighborhood was particularly hard hit and, with something like 70% of the homes for sale in our area being foreclosures, the going rate for homes had plummeted even further.

At this point, from looking at homes similar to ours, I felt certain that we had a chance (slight though it was) of selling our house at a price that would allow us to break even (meaning just lose our entire down payment). We'd have to be lucky -- things were at a point where a few homes still managed to sell for a reasonable price (from a sellers perspective), and we'd have to be able to sell it on our own (realtor fees would do us in). Still, I felt that my hopes weren't overly optimistic -- they were possible. And, with this in mind, I went to the Lord and prayed with all of my heart that things could work out as I'd outlined -- that He would lead the right buyer quickly to our home. Mike was less hopeful. We were in a hurry to sale before leaving by the end of summer and he thought that we needed to ask lower and likely use a realtor to really move it quickly. Still, I'd felt confident my prayers had been heard and I convinced Mike to let us try my way for two weeks. I prayed like crazy during those two weeks. I particularly recall praying about it during one of my runs (maybe that sounds strange, but I think and pray quite a lot when I am out running). As I prayed, I knew "nothing wavering" that my prayers were being heard. I can remember the very spot on the trail -- right where it crossed a small section of road before going behind a stretch of houses -- that it hit me. THIS was what praying with perfect unwavering faith was. It wasn't knowing you'd get what you wanted. It was trusting 100% that He was there -- that He heard. And with that unwavering faith, it was easy to say, "not my will but thine be done." I knew the Lord heard my prayers. I knew I was acting in faith and hope that those prayers would be answered . . . and because I knew that, I could trust His will in the matter. He was aware. He was guiding me and if, after all my prayers and faith, it wasn't to be -- well then, I could trust that He had some other plans.

I continued hopeful and, on the last day of my two weeks, I got up early to make sure every speck of the house was clean and "show worthy." I was absolutely certain, that if it was His will, it would happen that day. I'd like to say it did -- that at 10:00 pm someone knocked on our door ready to buy the place. But it didn't. In fact, when our house did sell (several weeks later with a realtor's help), we lost not only our down payment but had to take out an extremely significant loan to get out of our house -- a loan we will be paying for several years to come. This was frustrating and difficult -- particularly since we'd always tried to avoid debt beyond house and car payments. But I truly felt alright. In fact I felt more sure of the Lord's awareness for and love for me than I had in a very long time. I felt that He was pleased with me for my faith and that somehow, this would work towards my good; that He would honor the trust I'd put in Him -- that He always honors the trust we put in Him. It was scary and I'm sure I shed a few tears for simply not knowing how things would play out. It was frightening to be moving into my parents' basement indefinitely, to not know when we'd get into a house again, to not know where my kids would go to school, etc. But I did feel peace, and I felt that I finally truly understood what it meant to pray with total faith while still trusting in His will and time frame. Even with out knowing that in six month's time we would be blessed to find an incredible deal on an amazing home, and even still, not knowing if getting us here was the reason for that situation having turned out as it did, I did learn that I can pray with total faith -- even when I don't know His will. I can know that if it is His will, He has the power and the graciousness to grant me the thing I am praying for, and, if it is not His will, I can know assuredly that He is teaching me what I need to reach my full potential in this life, or, He is leading me to something altogether better.

Tonight I was reading a link to someones blog when they mentioned a talk given by Elder Dennis E. Simmons several years ago in General Conference. Even though it had been nearly six years since the talk, just hearing the title brought it right back to me because it had stood out so much at the time I'd originally heard it and been one I had truly loved. It was titled, "But If Not . . ." During the talk, he told the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego who were going to be burned alive if they did not worship the golden image that king Nebuchadnezzar had commanded them to. Here was what Elder Simmons said next in his talk:

The three young men quickly and confidently responded, “If it be so [if you cast us into the furnace], our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand.”. . . But then they demonstrated that they fully understood what faith is. They continued, “But if not, … we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” That is a statement of true faith.

They knew that they could trust God—even if things didn’t turn out the way they hoped.

They knew that faith is more than mental assent, more than an acknowledgment that God lives. Faith is total trust in Him.

Faith is believing that although we do not understand all things, He does. Faith is knowing that although our power is limited, His is not. Faith in Jesus Christ consists of complete reliance on Him.

I love this talk so much. I love that they said: Yes. He can and will deliver us, but, if He doesn't, we'll go to a horrible fiery death before we stop trusting in Him. I love the idea of, and want to be the kind of person who could, as boldly as Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego say, "My Lord can deliver me from this . . . But if not . . . I will stand firm and true to Him."

He then went on to quote from one of my all time favorite chapters of scripture -- Hebrews 11 where it lists all of these amazing things that have been accomplished through faith: The Red Sea was crossed, the walls of Jericho fell, kingdoms were subdued, people escaped death by the sword and claimed great and amazing blessings, etc. And, that is pretty great when our faith secures us those types of experiences, but then the tone of the chapter changes and it mentions other things -- things people were able to endure through their faith:
“And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, … bonds and imprisonment:

“They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about … being destitute, afflicted, tormented; …

“God having provided some better things for them through their sufferings, for without sufferings they could not be made perfect.”

Here is a link to the full talk if any of you want to read it. It's pretty great: "But If Not . . ."

I haven't had many trials in my life -- and sometimes this scares me in an "Oh no! How much longer 'til my luck runs out" sort of way, but I am so grateful for the things I have learned about faith and hope I can truly have the kind of faith required to constantly rely on the Lord -- even when things go far far from how I hoped they would.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Blogging Under Less Than Ideal Circumstances

I'm wishing I would blog, but I am here to let you know that blogging -- or being on the computer at all actually -- has quickly become an unappealing way to spend my time; and I will tell you why -- it is because I have basked in the luxury of my laptop for so long. Who wouldn't want to type a little post as they relax on their couch in the evening -- or the morning -- or whenever they happen to be relaxing at all for that matter?

But now our laptop is down and our only other means of communication with the outside world (well, besides all the other means of communicating) is by sneaking down to our dim unfinished basement to use the old slow creaking computer of days gone by that is left here for -- well -- just such an occasion as this, I suppose. And it does feel like sneaking . . . like at any moment someone (good or evil) might discover me down here in my dark little room hunched over this keyboard -- waiting for the letters I have typed a few seconds ago to actually catch up and become visible on the screen. This did use to be a hidden room where marijuana plants quietly bloomed (only accessible through a small secret door under the stairs) so that can only add to the feeling of being about sneaky business here. (For those of you who think I'm just being clever, I'm not. The previous owners of this house loved to grow their marijuana).

Anywho, so I've scuttled off down here like a little rat to let you all know I am alive and well -- in the bright and light upstairs computer free world. My kids are too -- or at least I assume. I can't actually hear them down here, so, it is possible that they may not be well at all.

While I'm here, before I get too cold and scared, let us see what I can find to type about.

One -- I might keep changing my blog name to other cool things like, "A Chicken in the Window Well and A Jaw Bone Boiling in a Pot on the Stove," or, "A Chicken in the Window Well and . . ." well, here, my new idea is breaking down. BUT, Abe did find some mysterious jaw bone in the hollows behind my parents' house on Sunday. He was concerned it might give him rabies and while, mostly, I was sure this would not be so, I quickly agreed with Mike when he suggested Abe might boil it. So, Sunday night there was a jaw bone -- teeth and all -- bubbling away happily on my stove. I'm going to tell my kids they should be grateful that that jawbone wasn't all we had to season our shriveled potato and water soup -- like when I was a kid.

Two -- Yesterday as we drove home from the library, everyone was looking at books (saving me of course). Goldie was reading hers out loud. Jesse, who was intently studying his own book, kept repeating the things he heard Goldie reading. We laughed that his book would happen to have such a similar story line; then I asked him, "Is that a good book, Cubby?" "No," he responded. Oh funny kid. Also, today I was getting ready when I heard something that sounded slightly different from the usual blocks or Legos or dishes from the dishwasher being thrown to the floor. I came to check, and there was Jesse (if you can imagine that), up on a stool with a little tupperware of eggs he, to his great good fortune, had chanced upon in the fridge. He was quite contentedly wiling away the time by calmly throwing egg after egg through out the kitchen. He'd done about ten by the time I got to him. I admit, as I cleaned it up, I felt a sudden surge of envy. He seemed to be having such a satisfying time, and, it occurred to me, that throwing those eggs -- seeing and hearing their nice little splat, probably would be an enjoyable thing to do. If only there was someone to clean up after my turn.

Three -- I was feeling very much like a no good, not measuring up sort a week or so ago. I wrote a long post about my blues and then didn't post it because I felt quite fine again after getting it out, and it was a good thing I was feeling all better because a mean and crummy individual said a very low and insulting thing to me and all my kids (about me having so many kids) as I was coming out of the grocery store on Saturday. While I admit that my mind spent the rest of the day seething with good come-backs I could have used to put him in his place, I didn't particularly care about or feel upset by the opinion of someone so lacking in class and decency that he would feel fine slamming a mom and her kids. The very fact that my oldest is only nine and not a one of my kids could be so lacking in courtesy and intelligence as he clearly was suggests to me quite obviously who our society is truly better off having, but, it upset me a great great deal that we do live in a society and a time where men would think something like that would be OK. It discouraged me so much because I want my girls growing up in a world where men are gentlemen and where chivalry still exists. This was so very much the opposite of that, that it truly depressed me. I am sure, or I hope, that such individuals are still the vast minority, but it was upsetting all the same. What bothered me the very most was that Abe was so upset by it. I don't know that he caught or understood what the man said or my response telling him what a classy gentleman he was -- only that some stranger had insulted his mother.

The good news is, however, that it made me especially aware of and grateful for my kids and family and home. You always hear that we should make our homes a sanctuary -- a place our kids can come and be free from the strains and crumminess of the world. It truly felt like that when we came home that night -- like washing off the care of being "out there" with all the lowness the world has to offer. Also, after his ill informed remark, all I could think was what a sorry life he must lead and that he couldn't possibly know of the joy and happiness I have with my little troop of kids. Mike was at the Priesthood Session of General Conference that night, but, after putting the two little ones to bed, I let Abe, Daisy and Goldie stay up late -- just because I felt like being with them. We played "Catch-A-Phrase" together and laughed. I felt so lucky to have them and so lucky to be back in our home where we could feel peaceful and feel the Spirit and be far removed from the crassness we had experienced earlier that evening. When Mike came home, he had roses for me. I felt so happy to realize that even though I am a wimp about handling rudeness, it stems in great part from the fact that I have so little experience with it. I married the very kind of man that I hope will exist in the world for my own girls some day. Mike has never said one unkind thing to me. Truly. And if that is the reason I am shaken by the opposite type of communication, then, what a blessing that is.

Four -- Wouldn't it be nice if there were some pictures with this post -- you know, to break up all these blasted WORDS? Well, it would be nice, but all I can say to that is, "You wish." Until this computer business is all worked out, there will be NO pictures. (Oooh . . . unless I draw some with the paint program). Mike has been trying to get things off our laptop hard drive onto this hard drive . . . or maybe another hard drive . . . or something. All I know is that our computer looks like it is having surgery with cables and wires poking out everywhere. It looks like a delicate operation and I don't dare meddle with it by hooking in something like a camera cord. Plus, I'm feeling the cold and loneliness of being down here seeping into my bones -- which is a shame because it might be that I could come up with lots more good stuff, but, this will have to suffice.

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