Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Trying too hard

Ah, Spring is in the air.  It is the time of year when all good crafters have so many creative juices flowing that if you poked 'em with a pin they would leak Alizarin Crimson Acrylic (that's red paint, for all you craft virgins out there).  I guess that would make us craft-floozies.  Yup, me and the bishop's wife, we are craft floozies.

Actually, I have only recently allowed the word craft into my vocabulary.  You see, I am a child of the 80's, a time when every good housewife had a grapevine wreath bedecked with giant silk flowers and pastel plaid ribbon, hung in the living room.  Some of them still hang there, all faded and under a 20 year old layer of dust and kitchen grease.  Nasty.

I actually refused to own a glue gun for the first 10 years of my marriage.  Find a woman completely devoid of skill or talent, give her a glue gun, and suddenly she thinks she is Coco Chanel.  Well, then I had a cub scout and, let's just say, I now own a glue gun - and the boy's patches never fall off anymore. 

 I also found that if I didn't want to do crafts, I didn't get invited to many social events that centered around them.  Add to that my disdain for any household item that can be acquired through a "party", and I was nearly a recluse.  Now, I am no scrapbooker, but I have learned that I can still make handmade cards for a card trade once in a while.  They are painted, not stamped, but no one seems to mind. 

So Floozie Kathy and I decided to get all jiggy with Easter eggs this year.  She came packin' heat (a totally different kind of gun, but alas, a gun nevertheless) for embossing, and we attempted to re-create the beautiful eggs featured in Martha Stewart's April issue of Living. 

Stupid Martha.

Did she, or any one of her craft-minions mention that the stamps slide all over the eggs when you try to stamp the embossing adhesive onto them?  Um, no.  They did not.  Probably because they paid some grad student minimum wage to make, like, 500 eggs that they chose from to get the 4 that turned out nice enough to put on the cover of the magazine.  Somewhere in East Hampton there is a grad student in the fetal position in her closet, rocking and mumbling something about a student loan and scrambled eggs.

Next, we tried our hand at onion-skins and old-silk-necktie wrapped eggs.  It turns out that rubber bands melt and break in boiling water, effectively allowing the cloth to fall off of the eggs.  Who knew?  We succeeded in producing a lovely pot of brown eggs.

Last, we moved on to Ukrainian Egg dying.  This is an ancient art form that began centuries ago when the good people of the Ukraine realized it would be a few hundred more years before they invented TV and the snow plow.  After making our eggs, I began to understand why these folks invented Vodka.  The eggs are dyed in a series of intense colors between being drawn on by a stylus tool filled with wax called a Kiska, that is heated over a candle every few seconds. 
Yes.  Every.  Few.  Seconds. 
After about 4 or 5 layers and a hand full of hours,
the wax is removed to show you that you totally did it wrong. 
 It is awesome. 
Or rather, великий.

Seven hours after smiling arrival, Kathy staggered out of my house with a tiny clutch of colored eggs and slight eye twitch.  I set about tidying up the table for round two... we had yet to dye eggs with the kids.

The kids sat down and, as kids do, made a dozen gorgeous eggs in about 15 minutes.  I was awestruck at the pure simplicity and beauty in them.  My favorite was one that Ethan did by "trying to see how ugly I can make it" by putting it in all of the colors.  It looks like an amazing ancient stone.  Adam made one that looked like the sea by a beach, Tess made one that looked like rosy granite, and Ellie produced one that looked like a sunset.

When they were done, my eggs looked so contrived and naive next to their spontaneous and rich ones. 
I need to try harder not to try so hard. 

Just getting started.  She looks so happy, doesn't she?  If only she knew...

You are supposed to be able to transfer the pattern from a silk tie onto an egg. It worked a little, but that darn rubber band had to go and act all...ya know, rubbery and melty and all. 

Are they eggs, or are they a science fair project?

 Doesn't she have healthy cuticles?

Masters at work...

Which came first, the stained fingers or the eggs?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Let's go to the movies!

Family Fun Alert!!!

Where can you go to a movie and:

bring your own goodies without sneaking
 (who would do that?  Not me!)
talk really loud
wear your PJs
walk around
see a double feature

The Drive-In, that's where.  I thought it was going to be miserable.  I thought it would be cold, and hard to hear, and that our kid noise would bother nearby movie-goers, but if was AWESOME!  We went with Kathy and Bishop and their assorted offspring.  I popped a grocery bag full of cinnamon kettle corn, and brought cereal bowls to fill with candy for the kids (Alright, I admit it!  It was for ME!).  The admission was reasonable for the adults, and one sweet buck per kidlet.  With only 12 cars in the lot, we had so much space we were able to spread out on camp chairs without disturbing a soul.  If Jonah cried, I didn't have to go stand out side in some hallway staring at movie posters.  We bundled the kids in blankets and watched Hop and Rango back to back.  The only bummer of the whole night was Guy having to hike all the way to the restrooms to take Tessa for a potty break, but it was his bummer, not mine!  (I swear I do not abuse the nursing situation, but every once in a while it works to my advantage when a kid needs to be wiped and I happen to be feeding Jonah-boy).

If you are in the mood to go vintage-Hollywood, here is a link to all of the drive in theaters in the good ol' U.S. of A.  This is the perfect time of year, because the films don't start too late for munchkins like they will after sundown later in the summer .

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Jackie's Story Corner

A lifetime ago, when I was at college, I was given an amazing blessing.  Her name is Jackie.

Jackie and I were plunked into an apartment together at random like two drops of rain that fall into the same puddle.   Or flower pot, maybe.  No, definitely a puddle, one of those oily puddles that makes beautiful marbled rainbows that float on the surface.  Jackie got me, and I got her.  She could make me laugh on days when it was the last thing I wanted to do.  She was humble and faithful and magical.  

Jackie barked on occasion when someone suddenly knocked on the door.  She made up marvelous words that I still use today, like "boi-yoingy" (the feeling when you hit a little rubbery bit of ground beef in your food).  She would end random sentances with the word "probably".  I loved it when she made up dances.  There were dances like the "The Mail Came Early and There Is A Letter For Me!" dance, the "It's Snowing and My Socks Are Soggy" dance, or the "It's Thursday, So There!" dance.  She would transform into a prima ballerina in a bounce house, and with unabashed freedom would dance about.  I quickly learned life was much happier when I joined her, and I somehow magically knew all of the steps.

Jackie gave me a book all those years ago.  It was a children's book called Chicka-Chicka Boom-Boom, and in it she wrote a message to my children, who didn't even exist yet.  Each time I read them the book, I start by reading her inscription:

"This is a great book, and when you are done reading it give your mom some kisses, and a hug, sing her a lullabye and put her down for a nice nap!  Don't forget she is really the very beautiful fairy princess and needs to be treated with gentle love, of course!  From the rather bedraggled Fairy Princess of the Kingdom Slightly to the East, Jackie (Daughter of Terry Lou Punkfrog, Fairy Princess Gorkle!)
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Have you cleaned your own room?"

Over the miles we have sent books with messages in them for each other and our children.  If a book makes me laugh out loud in a store, I have been known to buy two, one for me, and one for Princess Jackie.

It is in honor of Jackie and her kiddos that I am creating "Jackie's Story Corner" where once a week or so I will read a story to her children, and maybe to yours too, if you don't mind!  I have always intended to record tapes of some of my favorite books for Jackie's girls.  Well, since "tapes" went out with legwarmers and Aqua Net, I am resigned to this here new fangled tek-nall-oh-jee.

I am starting with a dear little book called Sleepy People by M.B. Goffstein. If you would like to purchase it, go take out a small bank loan or promise your firstborn to a troll and you may get a very tattered copy.  Mine came when, after a maddening day of reshelving, a public librarian got crazy drunk with all of her peeps in the children's section and accidentally put it in the discard pile.  I always knew the Dewey decimal system would work to my advantage someday. 


(Technical problems... of course!  I hope to get the video to upload soon!)


As I wrote the above post, Tessa woke from her Post Easter-candy-binge barf-session nap, and this is what she said, with glazed eyes and a grin:

"I prayed to God in a quiet place that he would not make me frow up, and it worked cuz he heard me.  I frew up on my shirt, and it got colorful like that colorful crayon.  I prayed "please do what I say or I will cry, amen".  I did it in quiet places."

Does God take threats from queasy five year-olds as long as they do it in quiet places?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Savior of the World

For the past four months, every Saturday morning Ellie and I have been at rehearsal.  For the past two weeks, we have rehearsed, polished and fine tuned until we were singing our songs in our sleep.  And this weekend, we performed in a musical called Savior of the World to commemorate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as is accounted in the New Testament. 

This has been such an amazing thing to be a part of.  I have been in many casts in my life, but this one was so special, and I hope to be able to somehow capture here in words what I have experienced over the past several days. 

As the curtain was ready to open on the first of our three performances, there was a strange and heavy silence over the whole stage.  We had just come from the green room where we had shared in testimony, scripture and song to prepare our hearts for opening night.  The jitters of wanting to do well coupled with the intensity of the opening scenes created a solemn stillness in us.  As the first few scenes unfolded, which depicted events as they might have been as the family and friends of Jesus departed from the tomb and went to their homes grieving the shocking loss of their spiritual leader, we found ourselves weeping both onstage and off.  I worried I would not be able to hold myself together.

Then, as in the scriptures, when to news of the risen Christ was spread, a cheer came to the cast members and an energy filled the stage that was palpable.  But with that cheer and energy there was an amazing reverence.  At one point I stepped into the green room and was amazed.  Two dozen people in costumes sat in silence, some reading from the bible or from the book Jesus the Christ, others just listening to the strains of music that came through the wall.  But it wasn't just the silence and reverence there that was notable, there was a spiritual presence that felt like being in the temple.

By our second performance for the Saturday matinee, the sweet and happy feeling we had been left with from our first show was there from the start.  There was such a feeling of joy as we performed, and it carried us through a long day to the last performance that night.  At one point as the angel choir sang, those of us in the cast stood in the wings singing too, adding our voices to the chorus.  I wished then, that every person in the audience could be up there with us, feeling what we were.  "John", a man named Jacob who I shared a very tender scene on stage with, smiled and reached over and squeezed my hand.  There were many such moments.  "Solome", the sister of Mary, had over these weeks and months become like a sister to me, and she stood near by, a gentle hand on my back.  Often as members of the cast passed through the curtains exiting the stage, they were immediately received with a hug or a gentle touch to let them know how well they were doing.  Sometimes as I stood there in the dark, a whisper of "good job, Mary" would come from close behind me.  Other times the glow of the stage lights would illuminate the face of another cast member as we stood silently in the wings, and as our eyes met we would exchange smiles. 

The shows went as shows do.  There were the expected mistakes, a dropped line or a stammer here and there.  But for a cast of amateurs, it was amazing. More than that, I had the opportunity to imagine what it might have been like to witness events that I have only read about my whole life.  Seeing the relationships that grew over the course of our rehearsals helped me to imagine the personalities and relationships that exsisted between the followers of the Lord.  They were his friends.  They ate with him and laughed with him and loved him as friends and family do. 

As this Easter Season is upon us, I am grateful for the sweet reminder of the gift that has been given us by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  He is our friend.  He loves us.  He provided us an example and a path back to our first home.  Just like the members of a cast in a play, we have stepped out onto a stage for the span of this life, and we will be here for a time, but all too soon the curtain will close on what we know here.  We will return to the company of dear ones who have left us, and to a loving Lord who knows us so well.  I imagine when we look back at this life from the context of eternity, this life will seem so short, our pains so brief, the reasons for our struggles and trials so clear.

It will be like a small play on a small stage.

 Just before opening curtain
(Sweet Sharlene- "Solome", Milti-talented Erin -"Mary,
Mother of James" and Amazing Tara -"Mary Magdalene")

 Gathering after the Sabbath

Mary Magdalene at the tomb

Dawn ("Joanna") researched all about our parts for us and helped us to understand the relationships our characters had as sisters-in -law.  She also researched Jewish custom and helped us to have all the correct items to use as our props.  We even had real spices and oils.

 Did you know that angels use aps?

Two of the Marys

 Most of our scenes were together, so Mary
and I enjoyed lots of little jokes about all of our hand holding.

 In the upper room

Some of the Twelve

 Teaching the multitudes

 Little Angel Ellie gets so involved in the action below,
she almost comes down out of heaven to join the scene.

 "Joshua" (Gordy) and "Rebecca" (Emma) made this scene so fun.

In the green room, all smiles dispite the heat of the costumes.

I just want to know what the angels are talking about...

The End


Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Busy Bees

We have been a hive
 of activity around here, too busy to write. 
But here is a week in pictures...

Art projects in every corner (including gourds in the tub!)


Growing like a weed (and pulling weeds, too)

 Thrilling over the gorgeous weather
and springtime flowers gone wild!

Learning about technology (solving computer problems
 and teaching Jonah the joys of music)

Making birthday cakes

 And watching little ones become bigger ones

 Dress rehearsals...

And finales.
(look for blue, center right, then look down to the left
to see little Ellie in her first play)

Our big musical called "Savior of the World" about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, (that we have been practicing for weeks... no YEARS!) will finally be here this weekend.  Maybe after that, I can find two minutes to put together to write!  (You know, if two minutes get together and really like each other, sometimes you get a whole bunch of baby minutes!)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Did you think to pray?

I remember my mama's mellow alto voice floating though the house as she worked in the kitchen.  She sang hymns, sometimes in English, sometimes in the Spanish she loved.  But when I think of her singing, I always hear her voice crooning one song in particular;
"Ere you left your room this morning, did you think to pray?"

We have been struggling around here lately.  The tension, squabbles and anger have been the rule to the exception.  There is seldom a span of more than 15 minutes that isn't punctuated with tattling and tears.  A fight breaks out, and then in our attempts to sort out the he-said-she-said, another fight will ensue "No!  That's not what happened!"  "I did not, you did!"   
Soon my volume goes up to match the rest,
 and inevitably someone somewhere slams a door.
 Sometimes even me.

When I have nothing left in my parenting tool bag, I find myself turning the thing inside out.  What can I do now?  What haven't I tried?  Finally I crumble into a mental heap and hear my heart call out "What should I do, Father?" 
I wonder why prayer tends to be my last, not first, resort. 

And so I unpiled a messy, jumbled corner in my mind, and in the quiet there I prayed. 
And there in the quiet, the question became the answer. 

I sent the children out to the garden to gather large stones.  We washed and painted them, with beautiful colors and even some glitter, each with one word; "Prayer".  The children each put them on their beds, a reminder for each new day to begin and end with a prayer. 
But I know that it is not up to them to turn around the tone of our home.
 Guess whose job that is?

I made a rock, too.  More as an example to the kids than as a reminder, because prayer has been in the front of my mind for the past several days.  Each time I have to talk to certain children about certain things, before I open my mouth to speak, I have taken to saying a quick prayer that the words I choose will come out right.  As I pull up to the school to pick the kids up, I tell God about my plans for a more harmonious afternoon and ask for help in achieving those plans.  And I am praying for each of my little and not-so-little ones to feel a more peaceful spirit here in our home.

"Oh, how praying rests the weary
Prayer can change the night to day,
so when life gets dark and dreary
don't forget to pray."

Even though mom is gone, sometimes I can still hear her voice.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


There is something so satisfying about wallpapering two rooms in just two hours.  Today, as the kids drew pictures and sewed little felt animals and drawstring marble bags, I worked on the dollhouse.  We all quietly busied our hands while General Conference, our church's semi-annual broadcast, filled the house with sacred music and spiritual counsel.  We heard gentle reminders of those things we should all be striving for, as we seek to live more Christ-like lives. 

While listening, I was reminded yet again of the role I can play, if I am willing, to bring peace into our home.  A scarce commodity in our house these days.  "Fathers are the head of the family", we were reminded, "but mothers are the heart of it".  As I heard those words, I had a feeling come over me of, "Ooooo, I would love to be the heart!  The heart is the best part!  The heart of a watermelon is the sweetest.  The heart of a human is what keeps us alive.  The heart is where the music plays, where love blooms and where joy resides.  Why have I spent so much time being the busy hands, the running feet, and the aching back, all the while ignoring my first and best role as the heart?!"

I think that lately I have been abandoning my post.

  Every part of my body was designed for what it can do for my children, to comfort, to nurse and to nurture.  Just like my little dollhouse, I can make small changes that make a big difference when you see them collectively. 
Today I will start by trying focus my eyes and tune my heart to see more of the right my children are doing
and less of the wrong. 

"Home is where the heart is" takes on a whole new meaning
when heart means mother.

Spreading Branches

"...wisdom is not a path, it is a tree...
and I can stay in one place and spread out
in all directions, and I can do more learning
shading this brood of mine than if I was all alone."
Spoken by Sarah Prine in These is my Words

I had a dream not long ago that I was in a giant art studio filled with amazing art.  Up on a pedestal one of my college art professors was painting.  He called my name, and then another professor appeared and showed me a book.  Inside the book were prints of paintings done by all my peers from art school.  I was painfully aware that my art was not in the book.  I felt the heaviness of the question that hung in the air, why wasn't my art in the book?

I felt defensive.  I thought, "I have been raising five children", but I didn't dare utter it aloud.  I remembered their "no excuses" mentality.  I wandered away into galleries full of the most beautiful art I have ever seen.  I ached inside, both at the beauty of the art, and at my longing to create, and began to cry. 

I woke crying.


Like the quiet trees outside, my new growth is just beneath the surface.  I can feel the warmth of coming spring making the sap rise, and my mind is bursting with ideas.  But sometimes I get caught up thinking I am on a path of learning and growing.  But I like the idea that wisdom is a tree.  As my branches spread in a million directions, I learn things I never thought I could, and beneath the canopy they create, the little ones that find shade there are blessed.  Trees never leave the spot where they find root, but those roots reach far and create an anchor.  My branches become a place for my children to play and rest and learn.


I told Guy about my dream.  He pointed out something I hadn't seen before.  All of that amazing art that I was so overcome by....?  It was created by my mind in that dream. 
It was my art, after all.

My friend Chantal always says "As women, we are so hard on ourselves."
It is so true.