Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Jane Austen or Dr. Seuss

I always get so sentimental when Fall begins.
This year I'm particularly nostalgic because on top of the usual memories of dating/falling in love that Fall brings,
we're a few months away from our 10th anniversary
and I'm turning 30 in less than a year.
So I've been given to even more reflection than usual (and that's saying something!).

In the early days of our relationship in dating and marriage,
we wrote many long, gushing e-mails to one another while we went about our duties on our college campus.
Ten years ago today, for example, just as we were falling in love:

From: Kaitlyn
To: Samuel
Subject: Quintessence of Your Nature

To Samuel the Magnificent:
I came across this quote and decided it epitomizes your essence, so naturally I had to show you:
"'That best portion of a good man's life [is] his . . . kindness,' said Mr. William Wordsworth ('Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey' [1798], lines 33–35). There are lots of limitations in all of us that we hope our sweethearts will overlook. I suppose no one is as handsome or as beautiful as he or she wishes, or as brilliant in school or as witty in speech or as wealthy as we would like, but in a world of varied talents and fortunes that we can't always command, I think that makes even more attractive the qualities we can command--such qualities as thoughtfulness, patience, a kind word, and true delight in the accomplishment of another. These cost us nothing, and they can mean everything to the one who receives them."     -Jeffrey R. Holland
Do you recognize the first line? :) You, however, are handsome (and beautiful, in a very manly kind of way...), brilliant in school, witty in speech, and...hmm...I guess I don't know (or really care, frankly) about wealthy! You have a wealth! The more important qualities listed above are abundant within your character, and I thank you for that! Your kindness is a continual shining example to me. Actually, all of your actions are so exemplary that I am continually 'awed and amazed,' to use the phrase of my mom. I continually look forward with excitement to be a partaker of your presence and essence. Thank you for all you do! I hope your day is absolutely exquisite!

From: Samuel
To: Kaitlyn
Subject: Re: Quintessence of Your Nature

To Kaitlyn the Pure:
Thanks for the wonderful quote! Your compliments make me want to live up to them, so thank you. I have learned that it takes more virtue to compliment than to be complimented. Sometimes we are tempted to impress but the people of real virtue are those that are impressed and learn from others rather than trying to impress others. You are definitely that kind of person - that compliments, that is impressed and learns from others, rather than seeking compliments and to impress, and you take "true delight in the accomplishments of another," like Elder Holland said in the quote. 
And for the record, I am a millionaire. Everyone must know this, and you most importantly. I thought the word motif you used in your last email was really impressive and poetic - with the -sence suffix (quintessence, presence, essence). Perhaps sometime I will tell you about the miracle of cellular senescence and how it prevents the formation of cancer in our bodies.
I'm grateful, so very grateful, for our relationship. I wish I could explain to you how peaceful it makes me feel. Everything about you exudes peace, happiness, sweetness, and incredible awesomeness, modesty, appropriate restraint, sweet boldness, patience, humility, and much, much more! I hope to have the pleasure of doing something with you this evening! 

We laugh fondly as we look back on these e-mails...
(If you think these are gushy, just know that I chose some of the most mild ones.)
I have them compiled in a very large binder along with dozens of creative notes.
Just before we were married, one of my aunts remarked about our relationship, "I feel like I'm in a Jane Austen movie!"
And it's funny, because while we occasionally still have a cute note or an eloquent e-mail to add to our repertoire,
our life is currently more Dr. Seuss than Jane Austen.
But that's totally okay.
Because we have grown ever closer even as our lives have been filled to the bursting with other responsibilities.
Parenting together, as crazy as it is, has been such a unifying process.
The ups and downs and busyness of schooling and career progress have brought us closer together as we have turned to one another for counsel and strength.
The all-encompassing demands on our time right now help us cherish all the more the moments we get to focus on each other 100 percent.

Every life and every relationship has different seasons,
but our love has grown ever stronger through the changes.

So while our love is currently characterized more through kisses stolen in the middle of dish duty with children underfoot than it is by rapturous writings,
we are steadily growing closer together.

And now I'll end these sappy writings
and continue to re-live my memories to myself.
Just like I do every Fall.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Happy Fall, Y'all!

This weekend we welcomed FALL with caramel apples, pumpkin chocolate chip pancakes, about a 20 degree drop in weather, and lots and lots of RAIN.
The thunder is rumbling as I type and the pumpkins were out in the grocery store and that distinct feeling of anticipation is in the air.

It's beautiful and we are so, so happy about FALL.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Happy as a Clam

I haven't posted much about Benson lately.
He is such a sweet, happy baby.
He is starting to get pretty bored with sitting and doing nothing, though...he plants his feet and straightens his legs when he's sitting on my lap so I will stand him up and he greatly prefers it when I walk around the house with him.
Today he was a bit fussy so we went on a walk in the brutally hot weather and he was happy as a clam.
He is the most fascinated by his brothers and they totally capture his attention when they are in the room.
He loves Maxwell just as much as Maxwell loves him despite face squishes (hilarious to watch a baby squish another baby's face!), head mashes (when Maxwell cuddles with a great deal of pressure), and the way Maxwell likes to completely sit/lay on Benson. The two of them are going to be great friends.
He sleeps pretty well at night, although he still likes to eat 1-2 times per night for about 5 minutes.
I haven't done much with feeding him solids, but he has tried applesauce, mango, a smoothie (he couldn't get enough), a lime (hilarious full-body shudders!), and a tomato and he has loved it all.
He is quite chubby but really just proportionately big; he is growing out of his 9 month size clothing already, which is so strange--he's wearing clothes his brothers learned to walk in!
He is constantly clasping his hands together like in the picture below.
He is extremely ticklish but hates being tickled.
He spits up like crazy.
He is anxious to MOVE and is already starting to scoot, although without clear purpose in mind.
He's the perfect addition to this loud, busy family and we couldn't love him more.
It's been such a delightful (almost) 5 months.

Monday, September 17, 2018


Lately I've been working on mindful eating with myself and the kids.
When we eat, we often discuss the sources of the food we are eating.
We'll talk about bees and all the work they do to produce honey
or we'll look up peanut or oat plants and learn more about them.
We talk about how much of the world's cocoa bean harvest comes from Africa and how many cocoa bean farmers have never even tasted chocolate.

With myself, I've tried to be more mindful about why I'm eating.
Am I bored? Tired? Craving sugar? Actually hungry?
As I consider the source of my food and the processes it has gone through to be before me,
I have found myself actually being more easily physically satisfied.
Eating mindfully has helped me feel gratitude instead of gluttony and I have a new appreciation for all food, but especially plants.

Does that sound cheesy?
Maybe it does, but it's made for some interesting discussions with the boys, anyway.
So the other day Talmage was saying the breakfast prayer and he said,
"Thank Thee for the farmers who grew the wheat and thank Thee for the people who milked the cows and thank Thee for the people who pasteurized it."

Pasteurized it?
I was surprised by that one, because we hadn't ever discussed that before.
I don't know where these boys learn so many things that come out of their mouths.
Teach a child to read and you give them the world.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

So Many Rolls

One of my sisters (Hi, Breanne!) did this awesome multi-cultural book club for her nieces and nephews over the past year.
Each month she would send a book that helped the kids learn more about a different culture or life situation and then they would discuss it on video chat.
At the end of the book club, she had the amazing idea to have the kids work together to raise money to buy a goat for a refugee family in Jordan through Lifting Hands International (LHI), after reading and discussing Beatrice's Goat.

Wesley has been begging me for quite some time to have a "roll stand."
You know, like a lemonade stand, but featuring rolls because Wesley loves bread so much.

So naturally, when we were thinking of ideas for the kids to raise some money, we decided selling rolls would be a fun activity. I figured I could make a bunch of rolls, and then the boys could walk around the neighborhood and, while I watched from the sidewalk, knock on doors and explain their project. It would be a good way to meet more of our neighbors, help people learn about LHI (it was started by my friend's sister and is truly an amazing organization!), and help the boys develop some skills.
Well, I decided that before they started going door-to-door, I might post about the project on our ward Facebook page and see if there was any interest.
So I snapped a picture of the boys with some rolls (don't they look like such cute little business partners??) and put it online.
And then the orders started rolling in (no pun intended!).
More and more and MORE people were ordering rolls until I had almost more than I felt I could handle.
At last the orders stopped and we made plans to make and deliver rolls.

33 dozen rolls later I was totally exhausted, we had made deliveries alone for 4 hours, and my boys were ELATED about how much money they were able to raise for the goat.
My wallet was very full of cash as people gave more than they owed to support the good cause,
and the boys had a memory that I hope will last a lifetime.

Needless to say, we didn't walk around the neighborhood this time,
but we might try a project like this again in the future!

Only next time we better work on communicating a little better with Lincoln.
Somehow he misunderstood and thought we were raising money to buy a goat for US to have.
When he learned that wasn't true, he dissolved into tears.
Apparently he wants a mini-farm just as much as his mommy.

Thanks for the fun project, Aunt Breanne!


PS-I had people asking for the recipe, ordering additional rolls, and asking me to teach them to make the rolls after they ate them. For anyone interested, here is the recipe!

Blender Rolls

Blend up:
3 eggs
1 t. salt
3/4 c. butter (not margarine)
1/2 c. sugar
2 T. yeast
2 c. very warm water

Pour liquid into a bowl containing 6 cups of flour. Mix well with a fork (it will be very sticky). Let rise 1-2 hours. (If it rises longer it will get too sticky.) Spread 1 c. of flour out on the counter and scrape dough onto it. Knead a little (add more flour if needed) and divide into three equal pieces. Roll each piece into a circle about 1/2 inch thick and cut pizza style into 12 pieces. Roll into crescent rolls. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes (or until lightly browned) after letting them rise a little on pan. Rub a little butter over the tops immediately after taking them from the oven.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Dog Days of Summer

We've been enduring the dog days of Summer lately,
and popsicle time on the swing was a frequent occurrence.
the weather totally surprised us by plummeting in temperatures this week.
Today it was in the 60s and it felt GLORIOUS!!!
I have been keeping the windows and door open and sitting outside, enjoying the chill on my arms and the crisp feeling in the air.

We are making plans for apple picking, caramel apple dipping, birthdays and parties, and General Conference all while feeling such nostalgia over the fact that TEN years ago we were dating and falling in love.
I always missed Utah the most at this time of year when we lived in Texas,
but here in Tennessee we still get chilly nights and the leaves change colors so I'm a happy camper.

Yesterday evening I walked into the backyard to find a number of kids from the neighborhood perched on the jungle gym, playing with the boys in the beautiful weather.
I was baking brownies inside, the baby was curled up asleep nearby, Maxwell toddled around happily pretending he was every bit as big as everyone else, and frequent melodies were performed on the piano by passers-by.
Altogether, it was a loud, busy jangle.
When it was time to tell friends good-bye and Talmage happily said, "See y'all later!"
a feeling of perfect contentment settled upon me.
I'm so grateful for change.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Aunt Avalon's Visit

We had such delightful visits from family this Summer!
My sister, Avalon, was able to come visit us toward the end of August before her new semester started at BYU.
We had such a blast!
Avalon loves our boys in a way few people do outside of Sam and I. We are so grateful she spent so much time throughout high school babysitting and playing with them. They were more than thrilled to see her again, and even Maxwell seemed to remember her, as he didn't show his usual signs of stranger anxiety!
Maybe that's because we're often told we look just alike (she's even been mistaken for me before!).
When we break down our appearances, we really can't see it...we have very different hair, eyes, noses, and chins...but then I've seen pictures where our mannerisms look almost identical and I think that must be what makes us look so similar to outside observers.
In any case, it was a delight to have her here.
Here are the highlights!

DAY 1:
Avalon arrived after the boys were in bed, so we didn't do much besides make a pit stop at Sonic for half-price shakes on the way home from the airport!

DAY 2:
First we took advantage of the gorgeous weather and headed to the zoo.
We spent a good chunk of time in the farm section...I am longing for our own space so badly right now. I keep praying to be content with where I am now and not wish away these years because I want to fully enjoy them. But goodness, I REALLY want some chickens and a great big garden.
So visiting the farm at the zoo helps curb my cravings. :)

The komodo dragons are pretty amazing to see as well. Did you know ONE of these lizards can eat an entire deer in 20 minutes?? This guy came right up to the glass, clearly watching us as his super long tongue flicked in and out.

We spent a little more time in the panda exhibit than we have in the past and watched a fun movie about the preservation of the pandas. The US Ambassador to China was from Tennessee when the pandas were brought to the Memphis Zoo, so he was able to make arrangements to get the pandas here. (The Memphis Zoo is one of only 6 zoos in the US that has giant pandas.) It was a years-long process that was pretty fascinating to read about.

Here Lincoln and our cute panda friend have identical expressions:

And here our cute panda friend demonstrates her awesome photo-bombing capabilities:

The African drums were pretty amazing to play!
Lincoln's rendition of "Praise to the Man" was quite entertaining.

The boys were really excited to take Avalon into the nocturnal animals exhibit, which is only lit by black lights so the animals will be awake for us to see during the day. I think our favorites are the 3-toed sloth, the porcupines, and the armadillo with its hilarious fast running of "laps," as the boys say.
On our way out of that exhibit, we watched a monkey doing HILARIOUS tricks for a man he evidently wanted to impress. He would do these amazing 360 degree jumps along a ledge and move in these bizarre ways and then run right up to the glass and do a thumbs up for the guy in a questioning way, waiting for the guy to give him a thumbs up back before doing more tricks. It was a riot!

After that fun, we let the boys play in the wading pool before heading home.

Goodness, guys, if someone would just figure out the stork delivery thing I think I'd want about 10 more babies just like this one. He is adorable and squishy (17 lbs, 12 oz at his 4 month checkup) and cuddly and ridiculously happy and smiley. We are all pretty smitten with him.

After the zoo we came home for a brief nap time before Talmage and Wesley got home from school and then I headed to the store to pick up some Blue Bell ice cream. Because no visit to the South is complete without Blue Bell!
The boys were so taken with the komodo dragon that we decided to eat our ice cream and watch a documentary about monitor lizards together before picking up Sam and having dinner.
Then Avalon and I headed to a Relief Society activity about "when life gives you lemons" with inspiring speakers and lemon-themed desserts.

DAY 3:
We got ready and, after a quick Costco trip to pick up some groceries and some lunch, we headed to the International Harvester Managerial Park (how's that for a mouthful??) to hike around a bit.
It was a beautiful hike through the forest and around a lake, but it was also super exhausting and I'm pretty sure I broke about 20 cobwebs with my face, so I was pretty creepy-crawly by the end.

This little guy jumped right on Avalon's shirt!

Maxwell's "cheese" face is one of my most favorite things ever.

We stumbled upon the most charming, quaint cemetery hidden in the woods while we were hiking around. It was really charming, that is, until we discovered that we were no longer in the boundaries of the park and we were likely trespassing on someone's private cemetery that had no road access.
Then I got a little nervous and we quickly made our way back to the designated trail.

After the hike we were SO EXHAUSTED but we had promised Talmage and Wesley that we would visit Shelby Farms Park after they got home from school. By the time we finally made it there it was almost time to pick up Sam, so they got 15 minutes to play on the awesome playgrounds and then we headed home.
That night we watched "Woodlawn" (and ate more Blue Bell, of course) before crashing.

DAY 4:
Saturday morning we loaded up the bikes and Avalon and I headed downtown to Beale Street, where we enjoyed breakfast at Miss Polly's Soul City Cafe.
We decided to have the full Memphis experience and ordered biscuits and gravy, chicken and waffles, eggs, and grits. It was pretty tasty!
After all that heavy food, we were ready for a bike ride so we rode bikes across the Mississippi River and visited Martyr's Park, where a cool statue stands as a memorial to those who gave their lives to care for the sick during the Yellow Fever epidemic of the 1800s.

Then we headed home and hung out the rest of the evening, enjoying copycat Guru's cilantro-lime chicken quesadillas and playing Blokus with Sam. He trash-talked me all the way through and won in the end, so it made for a pretty entertaining evening.

DAY 5:
We didn't do much beyond go to Church and hang out at the house,
but we did put together a scripture treasure hunt (one of our favorite Sabbath activities) for the boys to find some peanut butter popcorn. Avalon had the idea to give them a scripture that referenced a baby and hide the clue on Benson's diaper...the boys had quite a time finding that one and then laughed hysterically when it finally dawned on them!

DAY 6:
On Monday we got ready and headed to the Bass Pro Pyramid. The pyramid was built in 1991 and was originally a basketball arena for the Grizzlies. (Memphis was named after a city on the Nile in Egypt, so the pyramid sits on the banks of the Mississippi River.) But then the FedEx Forum was built and the basketball teams moved there in 2004, leaving the Great Pyramid empty.
After lots of rumors of various businesses not wanting to open up shop because of a crystal skull that was supposedly put in the point of the pyramid (evidently that would curse the building!), Bass Pro finally took the plunge and opened a massive space dedicated to sporting in the Great Outdoors in 2010.
It's random and unique and a Memphis icon, so naturally we had to go see it!
The boys loved seeing the animals, especially the aquarium that housed a catfish about 4 feet long!

After the morning at the Pyramid, we headed over to St. Jude to check out the campus and the Danny Thomas Pavilion (a small museum of sorts).
After we finally found a place to park, we made our way through the maze of buildings and food trucks over to the memorial garden and pavilion. I texted Sam a picture of myself with his building in the background to say hello, and the next thing I knew he had come down to find us and walk around with us a bit!
St. Jude is such a fascinating, inspiring place.
It is a dream place for Sam to work.
I gave Lincoln some change as we walked into the pavilion and saw a donation jar. I told him he could keep the money or put it in the jar if he wanted to help kids not be sick, and he eagerly put all the coins in the jar. When Sam came down he excitedly told him, "I put money in the jar so I could help you with your work to help the sick kids!!!"

After Talmage and Wesley got home from school, we headed to the Crystal Shrine Grotto.
This was a new discovery for me as I was researching different activities for us to do with Avalon.
It's a man-made crystal cave nestled in a gorgeous cemetery in East Memphis, and throughout the cave are various sculptures depicting scenes from the life of Christ.
It is super unique, beautiful, and peaceful.
It was a lot cooler than we were expecting it to be!
So cool, in fact, that Sam and I went back this past weekend for our date so he could see it as well.
Lincoln was furious that he didn't get to see "the crystal cave" again with us.

Outside the crystal shrine was a picturesque area where I had ambitions of getting a nice picture with all my boys...
one of those pictures that depicts the joy of motherhood and the love we all share.
Silly me...
sometimes I forget that I have 5 little boys who do not want to stand calmly and peacefully while gazing at the fish in the pond at the cemetery.
They want to dig in the dirt, climb the rocks, and be rambunctious.
I'm a bit embarrassed about the way I acted in trying to get this nice, loving picture...
obviously pictures can be deceiving!
Thankfully little kids are super forgiving and no one was permanently scarred.
So, yeah, enjoy this peaceful-looking fake photo.

We picked up Sam and had dinner and Family Home Evening,
and the next morning Avalon left.
It's always a little sad to say good-bye,
but when Lincoln was sad as we were driving back from the airport because he missed her I told him,
"Soon it's your birthday and then it will be Talmage's birthday and then Wesley's birthday and then Halloween and then Thanksgiving and then we are GOING TO UTAH for Christmas!!!"
Bring on the joyful whirlwind that is Fall!

Thanks for the visit, Avalon!!!
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