Thursday, October 10, 2019

Back to the Simple Days

I have loved this school year so far.
The kids have fabulous teachers
(tomorrow Talmage is participating in a mock trial of the Patriots vs. the Loyalists in the American Revolution and he was assigned the role of an attorney for the Patriots!)
and spending so much time with just Maxwell and Benson has majorly recharged my mom-batteries.

I love our simple days together.
A while back I asked the kids to fill in the blank and said, "My mom is always..."
The general consensus was "kind and calm."
I WISH that was always true (it's definitely not at times!), but it illustrates the fact that I really value quiet and slower-paced living. I like to really soak in a moment and enjoy it, rather than rushing from moment to moment in a frenzy.
I LOVE having a big family too, and having all five of my kids around. There are beautiful things about having lots of children that fulfill my deepest desires for my family, but s-l-o-w-i-n-g down and focusing on the youngest two for now has definitely given me a boost.

I love our morning walks or bike rides around the lake and the excitement we all get when we watch the ducks and "geeses" or see a turtle.
I love it when the three of us crowd around a carton of ice cream, sharing one spoon and eating all together.
I love our simple lunches--like peanut butter smeared on crackers, cheese sticks, and milk.
I love visiting with my friends while our little ones play together--a four year old girl telling me adamantly that she is going to marry Maxwell when she gets old.
I love mid-day baths and the hysterical giggles that result as they throw themselves into the water.
I love reading stacks of stories out on the porch swing in perfect weather.
I love catching a toad and seeing them intently study it and hold it.
I love the quiet nap times when I get to be so productive at whatever I choose to do.
I love the way the two of them have the cutest little friendship, and when Maxwell calls Benson "sweet boy," but "sw" is hard for him to say so it comes out, "Goo'night, fweet boy!"

All of the above took place this morning and my heart feels light because of it all.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Lest We Forget

Several months ago, I left to pick up Sam from the bus stop
in the midst of making dinner.
It's always a bit of a frenzy at that time of night as I try to juggle
making dinner,
teaching piano lessons to my boys,
having friends over to play (or boys going to friends' houses),
tidying up the house,
setting the table,
helping with homework and/or music theory,
supervising after-school chores,
having kids wanting to help make dinner (or not wanting to, but being forced to help on their assigned night),
and then, in the midst of it all, loading up the kids to pick up Sam.
I'm often pretty frazzled and my mind is going a zillion directions at once.

I was just pulling into the parking lot a couple of miles from our house, where he was waiting, when I had the horrible realization that I had left a pan of chicken cooking on the stove at home.
A nasty, dark pit formed instantly in my stomach and tension immediately filled my jaw and forehead as Sam got into the car and we hurried home as quickly as I could reasonably go, praying all the way and gratefully zooming through green lights.
I sprinted into the house upon our arrival to find, thankfully, no fire, but a destroyed frying pan, a melted spatula, and some blackened chicken.

I retreated into our bedroom for a while before getting the rest of dinner on the table,
trying to work through the horrible feeling of realizing how much I had put in danger because I simply forgot.
It's one of my worst fears, as a mother.
As a child, I remember having vivid nightmares about my younger siblings dying or being put in great danger because of something that was my fault.
I dread unintentionally doing something that will cause harm to another--especially my family.
But forgetting is a behavior that seems to be less directly in my control.
How do I stop forgetting things?
How can I possibly cover all my bases?

A few nights ago, I was on my way to pick up Sam again,
and I suddenly realized that I had no clear memory of turning off the stove before we left home, where I had been in the middle of making Thai Curry.
Was it still on??
In light of the previous situation, I began to panic inside.
I instantly called Sam and told him that we were going to turn around and go check,
and I raced home, my heart beating like crazy while I once again prayed all the way.
Again, I sprinted inside when we arrived and, to my relief, discovered that this time the stove was off.
My forgetting again caused Sam to be waiting for us for a good 30 minutes,
and Talmage would need to skip dinner and go straight to Scouts as a result.
(Minor inconveniences when compared with the house burning down, but still...)

I was anxious and skittish when I told Talmage we would need to go straight to Scouts and asked if he had his shoes.
He didn't and I was less than perfectly patient about it in my moment of anxiety.
"You guys really need to remember to always bring a pair of shoes when we get in the car!" I said. "You've got to remember!"
And then came a not-so-gentle nudge from within that pointed out the irony that I had just prayed for divine intervention the whole way home because I had forgotten,
and yet here I was, scolding my son because he had likewise forgotten.
What if I had left the stove on?
What if the reason it was off when I arrived home was because of divine intervention?

I felt like the biblical unmerciful servant in Jesus' oft-quoted parable, who begged for forgiveness for his own massive debt and then turned around and refused to forgive another of the paltry amount he owed.
The experience was a sermon that burned itself into my being,
and I have found myself being far more patient with my boys' shortcomings since that night.

As far as forgetting goes, there is one scripture that brings me great comfort:
"Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee."
(Isaiah 49:15)
We may forget.
But Christ never does, and He is there to pay the price and make up the difference in our forgetting as we turn to Him.
He has "graven [us] upon the palms of [His] hands, and [our] walls are continually before [Him]."
He is right there beside me as I mother, from moments of burning chicken to moments of far greater eternal impact.
And for that, I am eternally grateful.


P.S.-A family friend nearly died when she delivered her 4th baby, and she eloquently shared the following thoughts about forgetting:

After almost a week in a coma, I began to regain consciousness. I felt very calm for those first few hours. At one point, I remember my dad began to ask me questions. I couldn’t talk, but could kind of nod to communicate.

“Do you own a business?” he asked. I nodded yes.
“Are you a primary president?” I nodded yes.
“Are you remodeling your house?” I nodded yes, and allegedly flashed a look that said, “ could I possibly forget THAT crazy part of my life.

But then he asked, “Do you have a new baby?”

Baby. My heart sank at that word. I don’t remember a baby. I remember lots of things about myself. I recognize the faces of the family members in the room. But I don’t remember a baby.

Fear and shame began to creep into my peaceful state of consciousness. If I do have a baby, I should love this baby. I should be with this baby. Why do I feel a sense of fear and panic every time I think about this baby?

Brian, with the loving pride of a new parent, asked if I wanted to see a picture of our baby. I told him no. I saw him turn away to hide his tears.
My mom didn’t ask...she just put the phone or printed pictures in my line of sight and chattered on about how sweet and perfect he was. If I had been able to use my hands, I would have pushed the pictures away.
They brought the baby into my room one time for a few minutes while I was in the ICU, but I couldn’t move my arms enough to hold him. It took a lot of time and recovery before I was able to be pushed in a wheelchair down to the NICU to really hold my sweet little baby. And when I did, those feelings of fear and panic all melted away into the deep love, fascination, and quiet gratitude that I remember so well from the births of our other 3 children, and which was deepened by my long separation from this beautiful baby.
Later, as I reflected on this experience, a scripture from the book of Isaiah came into my mind.
“Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?”
Elder Jeffery R. Holland referenced it when he said,
“When Isaiah, speaking messianically, wanted to convey Jehovah’s love, he invoked the image of a mother’s devotion. “Can a woman forget her sucking child?” he asks. How absurd, he implies though not as absurd as thinking Christ will ever forget us.”
It is absurd to think that a mother could forget her child, but I did just that. Because of the trauma, sedation medications, and a week in a coma, I did the unthinkable: I forgot my child.
But there is a line in this scripture that wraps me in a warmth and understanding. After asking that question, can a mother forget her child, it says:
“Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”
That phrase, “Yea, they may forget” seemed to have been written just for me. I was that strange anomaly who had done something as unthinkable as forgetting my own baby. And yet I am saved by a love even deeper and more powerful than that innate love between mother and child.
Maybe in the spirit of Father’s day and with mothers day not too long past, we can all find comfort in the phrase “yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee”. Mothers may forget. Fathers may forget. Parents may forget. Children may forget. We all periodically suffer from forgetting to be kind, forgetting to be patient, forgetting to do all the things that we know we should
Perhaps we may even forget our divine heritage and get lost in this confusing world for a time. Yet we are not forgotten by Him who bore the the trauma that engraved us all on His hands.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Lincoln's 6th Birthday

A couple of days ago, I was driving down the freeway and the electronic marquee above it said,
"100 is the temperature, not the speed limit."
That's pretty accurate--tomorrow's high is supposed to be 97!
My sister put it well when she said that Summer in DC (very similar weather to Memphis) is like living in the inside of a dog's mouth. BUT highs in the 70s are on the horizon!
Next week!!

Lincoln's birthday was on September 5th.
I met up with him for lunch at the school, bringing a pizza with me.
He was absolutely THRILLED.
Maxwell always loves being able to see his brothers at the school. By the time we stayed for all 3 boys' lunches, we had been at the school for almost 2 hours and the little ones were getting pretty restless in the noisy lunchroom. We said our good-byes, leaving Lincoln with snacks for his class, and headed home to work on his birthday surprises.

My sister had previously sent me a video she had seen of this fun volcano cake being made.
I thought it would be super fun to make for Lincoln's birthday so, after a trip to Trader Joe's (my favorite store for all-natural candy!), we were ready to whip up his cake.
I made 3 different cakes and stacked them and carved them for the volcano, leaving a cup inside.
Lincoln and I crushed and melted lollipops in the oven to create lava exploding out the top and dripping down the sides. I mixed up the extra cake with frosting to form the dirt around the sides and we embellished with additional candies and toy dinosaurs.
I'm usually not thrilled about how my cakes for the boys turn out, but I thought this one was pretty fun!

And Lincoln was SO happy.

When Lincoln loves a meal, he really loves it and will have several large helpings. So we had several of his favorites for dinner: Thai curry, "bunny pasta," hot dogs, and fruit.
Wesley and I had an outing to a paint-your-own pottery place a while back, so Lincoln got to take the new birthday plate I made on its maiden voyage.

The best part of dinner was when we put the dry ice and water in the cup in the middle of the volcano and watched it "erupt!" The effect looked SO cool and the boys were over the moon about it.

Next up was present time!
When we were living in Texas, one of my piano students told me that she and her family hide birthday presents instead of wrapping them. I thought it was a fun idea, and since then we have occasionally taken that approach with birthdays. Lincoln chose to find presents this year, so I don't have many pictures of him opening presents.
But he was so excited about his plasma car, hydration pack, Labyrinth game, and zoom ball, as well as his awesome bey blade and remote control lizard from grandparents!
For ages 6 and up, I highly recommend the game Labyrinth. It is a really unique, fun board game with the object to move your piece through a changing maze to different treasures.
It wasn't the most exciting present for Lincoln initially, but he has since decided it is his favorite birthday present and he begs to play it almost daily.

Happy birthday to the most enthusiastic 6-year-old this side of the Mississippi!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Thank You, Strangers

We have been busily preparing for Wesley's baptism
and all the surrounding activities.
His birthday isn't until the end of October,
but our month is jam-packed with family events, so I am trying to get a jump start on everything!
Tonight I lay beside him as he excitedly finished reading The Book of Mormon
by himself for the first time,
and earlier today we went to the temple to take some pictures to use in conjunction with his baptism.

While we were taking pictures, a man arrived with an elderly woman (who I later learned was his mother). He asked me if I would take a picture of them with the temple in the background,
and he mentioned that they were tourists from Utah.
I asked him what had brought him to Memphis, and he explained that he had come to Oxford, MS for work, as he works for Governor Herbert (the governor of Utah), and he loves civil rights history so he had toured around the area a bit at the same time, bringing his mom along.
He was very kind and effusive, congratulating Wesley on his upcoming baptism and telling us more about their visit. He offered to take a picture of Wesley and I together in front of the temple
and snapped a few with my camera before he and his sweet mother headed off to the airport to catch their flight home.
As we parted ways, I thought to myself, "I bet he doesn't just 'work for Gary Herbert'...I bet he is a higher-up."
Sure enough, when we got home, I looked him up and found that he is the chief deputy of staff!
I told Sam I am awfully good at giving famous people humble pie, because I usually don't know who they are. ;)

The experience got me thinking about a couple of other recent encounters with kind strangers.
The other day I was riding my bike, pulling Maxwell and Benson in the trailer.
I reached a short but somewhat steep rise in the trail and pushed hard to make it up while pulling the kids behind me and, when I reached the top, a woman down the street started cheering me on, saying,
"That was AMAZING!!! That's a hard hill! You go!! You are amazing!"
It really wasn't anything to be proud of, but her comments to a stranger totally made my day regardless.

A few weeks ago I was in the store, roaming through the produce section.
A woman came through the door and, when she saw Maxwell and Benson in the cart, she stopped dead in her tracks and clasped her hand over her heart.
"I just...they just...I just...oh!!"
I smiled at her, expecting her to carry on her way, but she began to tell me a story.
She told me about how, years ago, her baby had died. She said she was angry at God but then, through the grace of God, she was led to a baby girl to adopt.
She felt awfully sick during the adoption proceedings and it wasn't long before she learned that she was pregnant! She gave birth to her son and had two babies together.
She explained that Benson resembled her son when he was a baby and how she only wished that she had had many more children.
"You're young, you're beautiful, and you can have more!" she told me.
She was rather shocked when I said, "Well, I already have five..."
We parted ways and I continued on with my shopping, when she called to me from across the fruit and vegetable stands. She walked resolutely up to me and extended a hand filled with dollar bills.
"Let me buy your bananas," she said.
I immediately protested. "I can't take this!" The $21 she was trying to give me was MUCH more than I needed to buy bananas, and I felt certain that it would be a sacrifice for her to give me the money.
"Please. I can't do this for my children--they live in Pennsylvania. Please take it."
I hesitantly accepted the money and marveled that, yet again, a complete stranger had just given me money.
It must be a Southern thing.

I just love interacting with friendly strangers!
My mom is amazing at making friends wherever she goes,
and she once told me that when she went into a store, she liked to find the checker who looked the grumpiest and try to make them smile before she left.
It may not be my default nature, but I've tried hard to take a leaf out of her book and talk to people wherever I go. It's amazing to see how the world can feel like such a friendly place when I let down my barriers.
Thank you, strangers!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Caramel Apples

I love our tradition of welcoming Fall with a batch of caramel apples!
It's kind of a long process, but one that I (mostly) enjoy.
Maxwell woke up from his nap when the apples had just been dipped,
and in his typical grumpy post-nap state, he was NOT pleased to learn that they weren't ready yet and that I wasn't assigning him his very own apple.
"Which one is MINE, Mom??"
The change in his attitude in the pictures at the end is so hilarious to me! He is sweet and sour right now, and we love both sides so much. How could we not with faces like those??
Delivering caramel apples to spread Fall cheer is almost as exciting as Christmas time!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Superpower Dogs

The Pink Palace museum hosts free parties for members at Club level or higher every time a new IMAX movie comes to the museum, including a free showing of the movie.
Since we have a membership this year, I was super excited when I saw that the new IMAX movie would be Superpower Dogs! The activities at the party sounded so fun and included visits from Tennessee Task Force One, a dog-themed dinner, and presentations from a dog-training company.
Maxwell and Benson typically love dogs and display little nervousness when interacting with them, but they were a little more hesitant than they had been in the past...I think because the dogs were so BIG and there were quite a few people around.
The 3D movie followed the training of a police dog from the time she was a puppy and was interspersed with a number of different stories of other rescue dogs along the way, like an avalanche rescue dog, an ocean rescue dog, and even a therapy dog that surfs with kids in California!
The boys were huge fans of the movie.
Sam and I enjoyed it too, although I admittedly only half paid attention as I frantically juggled Benson, pacing around at the top of the theater. That boy is excellent at finding trouble wherever he goes!
At one point I had taken a seat with him in a near-empty section toward the back. He stood up in his chair and looked over the back and, to his delight, noticed some dogs laying down right behind him.
"WOOK!!!" he squealed excitedly. "WOOK!!!!"
So cute.
But also so disruptive.

My phone pictures are poor quality, but I wanted to document our fun night regardless!

Hot dogs were an obvious choice for the dog-themed dinner.

 Also cookies as big as Benson's face...

This picture shows Benson's typical enthusiasm about dogs. 

There was a table with trading cards on it for all the dogs of Tennessee Task Force One.
This seemed like it was probably the three older boys' favorite part of the whole thing, besides the movie! They loved deciding on which trading cards they would get and reading all the stats on the back!

Thanks to the Pink Palace for such a fun night!
We're already looking forward to the next IMAX party.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Yet Another Shiner

When I was growing up,
I always wished I could get a dramatic black eye from some injury.
Unfortunately for me, all of my eye injuries only yielded pain and never resulted in the black eye I hoped for.
But having five boys seems to be making up for those unfulfilled desires of my childhood...
my boys have had the most amazing black eyes!

Poor Wesley was jumping on the neighbors' trampoline a couple of weeks ago,
and he kneed himself in the eye when he was doing a back flip.
His eye was swollen shut for the first 18 hours or so,
but gradually opened up and darkened into a gorgeous black eye.

(The morning after it happened)

Here are a few other snapshots of black eyes over the years:
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