Wednesday, December 31, 2014

When We Were Spies

Sam is better than me at just about everything.
Except wifely/motherly duties and playing the piano.
You'd think it would be annoying, but it really just makes me marvel at him all the more.
Generally, in our relationship, I initiate something mildly funny,
and then he responds in such a clever, witty way I could laugh until I cry.

Take our wedding cake, for instance.
My sister got married 2 weeks before me, and at her reception I said something about neat, tidy feedings being boring.
He plead with me to keep ours nice and not smash it into one another's faces.
So, on the evening of our wedding day
(yep, my hair really did look that flyaway by that point in the crazy day)
when we cut the cake and raised it to one another's mouths,
I teased just a little with a twinkle in my eye and put the cake barely to the side of his mouth.
The casual observer would have noticed nothing amiss--I meant it to be an inside joke as I respected his wishes and fed him his cake tidily.
(Blogger is saying that's a word, so we're going to go with it.)

But the next thing I knew he was smashing cake all over my face and mouth,
smearing frosting all over the place.
I was shocked and delighted.
And that's pretty much how things go between the two of us.
(And by the way, we laugh all the time about how diabolical he looks in this photo...
he was enjoying that way too much.)

As another example of his stellar responding ability,
consider the following.
Shortly after we were married, I sent Sam this e-mail:

Subject: raptopeion vleae kwor leary

*psh* Agent KWB89 calling Agent SWB85, Agent KWB89 calling Agent SWB85, Urgent Message:  It's a no go on Operation Leave Work Early. :( The leader of the cohort is leaving the scene prior to the appointed time. Alternative plans listed below. *psh*

Plan 642
Leave the location of scholastic achievement after the workday concludes and immediately depart for the temple around 5:30 from the Center Street stop.

Plan 643
Stay in the realms of academia and wait until the 5:50 shuttle arrives.

Plan 644
Facilitate our legs, and walk hand in hand in pocket up to our destination.

*psh* KWB89 to SWB85, please let me know what your decision is based on your stellar sense and perception of time management. Thank you. Good luck on the demonstration of scriptural knowledge you will heretofore perform. And, uh...I LOVE YOU! This is KWB89 signing off...*psh*

Like I said, mildly funny.
Then I got the following e-mail as a response.

Subject: Re: raptopeion vleae kwor leary

Dear Random House Subscriber,

Thank you for your recent purchase! Due to an overwhelming request for "Hooway for Wodney Wabbit," we will be unable to process your request at this time. Please contact us at a later time.

With apologies,
Random House Customer Service

*psh* KWB89,

Your message was code x-niner fuzzy (and warm) but I managed to catch it anyway. Ensure your device is not malfunctioning. I have employed codex measures SWB+KWB->JOY, revision 12.27.08 in order to ensure that this message is not detected by our enemies. Disregard the distantly preceding message above *psh*.  Plan 644 would place us with most rapidity but may lead to intolerable hypothermia. Please consult me further. I will meet you at coordinates ASB at 0-1700 hours unless informed otherwise *psh*.

Standard protocol dictates that I refrain from the following *psh*. Ensure the cohort leader does not intercept our message *psh*. You are the FUNNIEST GIRL I have ever known! I love you so much! I don't know how you come up with these things! I can't wait to see you later today...*psh*. Ahem *psh*. Carry on...

Equally matched or not,
I'd say we make a pretty good team. ;)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Snow Trouble

After such a long warm stretch, the weather seems to be making up for lost time.
It is COLD!
And it's giving us a run for our money.

We woke up to a lovely 6-inch blanket of snow on Christmas morning,
and since then have had lots more.
Yesterday I bundled everyone up and we went out to build a snow fort in the 12 or so inches of snow covering the backyard.
About 15 minutes into our fun, I tried to come back into the house for something, and I discovered a wooden dowel meant to keep the sliding glass door closed had fallen down onto the track while we'd been outside, successfully locking us out.
At least we were in all our snow gear!
The boys and I trekked over to the neighbors' house and used their phone to call my mom
(she came to our rescue once again!).
And then we crashed at my parents' house for the rest of the day, until Sam got home from work and could get us into the house.

Last night we had crazy 75 mph wind which shook our house,
and early this morning the power went out.
Which meant the heater didn't work.
After a few hours of huddling under blankets for warmth
(except wiggly Lincoln, who just ran around with ice cubes for hands),
I looked out the window and saw my mom running up to the house,
fighting the crazy wind to save us once again!
I stubbornly didn't want to bother her again today,
but she had tried to call and figured out we were without power, so she came to tell us to come over and warm up!
And we were certainly glad she came.
The power didn't come on until the middle of the day.

After 5 years of living so far away from any family members,
when we moved back to Utah I was insistent that we wouldn't need any help from our families.
It's taken a few experiences like these to humble me,
and I certainly feel grateful they are here to help us out.

But even with the havoc it's caused,
the boys have loved the snow...
and they're always thrilled for more time at their grandparents' houses.

Wesley loves the snow so much he never complains of being cold.
The picture below of him was taken immediately after he face-planted in the snow.
He came up laughing!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Plain-O Sandwich

Wesley is at the age where he is saying funny things right and left.
The Wesley-story-of-the-day usually has us doubled over with laughter.
Today we were having Thai Curry for dinner, and we were attempting to make it sound really fun for our super-picky boys, but also offering the alternative of a sandwich (they don't usually get an alternative).
After building up how awesome Thai Curry was,
and talking about pretending dragons ate it and the like,
I asked Wesley, "Do you want Thai Curry??? Or do you want a plain old sandwich?"
He promptly replied, "I just want a normal sandwich. But I don't want any plain-o on it."

We had a beautiful Christmas and a most wonderful anniversary celebration.
Saturday marked 6 years for us!
Pictures and details will come later this week.
I hope you're enjoying the last few days of 2014!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Home

We try really hard to go on a date every week,
and since we've been on a tight budget ever since we got married,
we've had to be pretty creative about how to make that happen.
We've swapped babysitting with other couples,
gone on picnics,
scouted out free concerts,
and even enjoyed a creative meal from a dollar-store scavenger hunt.

But sometimes, time and budget constraints just make that weekly date out of the question.
So we have what we call "states," short for stay-at-home-dates, after the kids are in bed.
Friday was one of those nights,
and after confining Sam to the bedroom I set up a "Christmas cafe" at the kitchen table.
The dimmer on the light switch came in handy,
and I wrapped an extra strand of Christmas lights around.
Christmas music played in the background,
and I set out cinnamon toast, kettle corn, hot chocolate, and nutritious pumpkin pie milkshakes
(they tasted about as nutritious as they were...not the greatest).

When I brought Sam down I welcomed him to our cafe
and told him we each had to make up a game using Uno cards,
and it had to tie into Christmas somehow.

Mine was a variation of speed that involved shouting out Christmas carols when red and green cards were placed on top of each other.
Sam outdid me, as usual.
His elaborate game involved constructing a neighborhood with cards wherein we got certain points based on the aesthetic value of the roads and houses we built
(red and green got the most points, of course!).

It may not have been as glamorous as a real cafe dinner with hot chocolate
followed by ice skating at the local rink,
but I'm pretty sure we had just as much fun...
plus Sam got to wear his pajamas
and I could laugh as loud as I wanted without getting funny stares.

I just really love this guy.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Sugar Cookies

Just in case you ever wondered,
this is what decorating Christmas cookies with 6 kids under 6 looks like:

powdered sugar snowstorms
sprinkles from floor to ceiling
icing globs stuck to clothes and furniture
cookie crumb explosions
inedible frosting mountains
and lots of great big smiles
and ear-splitting laughter.

We're off to Grammy's house today to dip chocolates...
here's hoping we can have just as much fun
while sparing her a little of the goopy mess.
All these messes are great memories in the making!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Oh, What Do You Do in the Wintertime?

Oh, what do you do in the wintertime
when all the world is green?
Do you pretend you're an angel with a flaming sword
and preach sermons to the "bad guys," aka the fence?

Well, that's precisely the activity for which these two littles decided the unseasonably warm weather was perfect.
(Blame Sam and his fixation with not ending sentences with a preposition for that awkwardly-worded but grammatically-correct sentence.)
And with Talmage's natural oratory abilities, it was quite the powerful sermon.

I remember the games we would play as kids...
we were orphans trying to escape the evil matron and make it on the streets,
or lab monkeys being experimented on, secretly smart but playing dumb to the scientists while we planned our strategy to get away,
or astronauts forging into the unknown in space.

And it makes me so happy to see my kids playing in the same way.
A couple of days ago they burst breathlessly into the house and said,
"MOM! Mom! We've just killed the mommy and daddy coyote because they were about to attack us, and now we're trying to find a bed for the babies!"
I followed them outside to find an assortment of objects nestled in the crook of the tree,
forming a makeshift "bed" for imaginary baby coyote orphans.
As Sam said, it was quite a gripping story!

And every once in a while,
I put down the broom or set the laundry aside and join in the pretending...
pretending to be the one they're trying to put in jail and having a spell put on me to make me fall asleep but being saved by fairies and then putting up a force field,
or transforming into a wild tickle monster the boys have to get past.

And it takes me to another world I experienced long ago
while simultaneously enriching the one in which I currently live.
It just makes me so happy.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


I gave this little munchkin another haircut today and had to snap a few photos of his smiles.
And his cheeks.
I'm obsessed.

You need never wonder why the sliding glass door leading out into the backyard is never clean.
And let me tell you, these faces are so, so worth the smudges.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rattlesnakes and Parenting

Sometime around my 5th birthday,
my family got together with many of our relatives
and biked together through a canyon near our house to a picnic spot in the mountains where we enjoyed dinner together.
I was proud of my new ability to ride my bike without training wheels,
but the terrain in the canyon and the little wheels on my bike made it slow going for me.
My dad sent the rest of the family ahead, my mom caring for my four other siblings,
while he stayed behind with me as we slowly but surely made our way along the trail.

My dad hung back a little, giving me independence and allowing me to set the pace.
I have always had this unique ability to completely tune out my surroundings when I'm concentrating,
so it comes as no surprise that as I was focusing on maintaining my balance
and pedaling as fast as I could over the bumps on the trail,
I neglected to hear his cries.

"Stop, Kaitlyn! STOP!!" he yelled as he frantically pedaled to reach me.
He could see what I could not.
A few yards in front of me, coiled on the trail, lay a rattlesnake.
And I was headed straight for it.
It must have happened in a matter of a few seconds--his sighting of the snake, his shouts for me to stop, my continued pedaling, and finally the snake's venomous strike.

It hit my tire.

And the entire time I remained blissfully unaware.
Moments later, he was at my side, checking to make sure I was okay and assessing the situation before asking with a mixture of panic, frustration, and relief,
"Why didn't you stop?!?"

I really don't have any memory of what happened between the time he asked that question and when we made it to our destination and enjoyed dinner with my family.
I don't recall great feelings of fear or relief.
I think, to my young mind, it was just another of life's incidents that didn't require any special attention.

Fast forward about twenty years.
Last night I walked in the door after a meeting and immediately knew something was wrong.
The cover of our giant LoveSac had been removed and there was the faint smell of something sour in the air.
Sam explained that Wesley had come into the family room with a stomach ache
and while laying down had suddenly thrown up everywhere.
I rushed down to my little boy who lay awake in bed.
Though it wasn't a big deal, I was concerned that in his time of distress I wasn't there to soothe him, to rub his back and stroke his hair and dote on him and make everything better the way moms do.
Sam had taken care of his needs, but I felt strangely helpless.

And as I lay beside him, coaxing him into slumber,
I thought about that situation in my childhood and how helpless my dad must have felt.
I thought about what it must have been like for my mom to hear what had happened and to know she wouldn't have been at my side if the snake's strike had hit my leg and not my tire--
in that pre-cell phone era, the scenario could have been very urgent.
And I thought about the many situations that exist in parenthood where we want desperately to take away a problem and simply can't.

Whether we put a bubble around our children and try to protect them from anything bad that may come their way
or give them unlimited freedom to explore to their heart's content
or more likely hover somewhere between the two extremes,
we will never be able to fully protect them.
Whether we like it or not, situations often lie outside the parameters of our control
and we all have weaknesses in our abilities to care for their needs.

But thankfully, I know there is a plan.
I know that my job is to do my best, to teach my children, and then to trust that the One who knows better than I has a plan for them and cares for their interests even more deeply than I can imagine.
I know I need to trust that He will make up the difference as I fail to mother perfectly,
and I have seen Him make up that difference on many occasions,
some too painful for me to even recount.

I have learned that I can't do it alone, and I rely on Him more deeply than ever
as I try my best to care for these precious little ones.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ultimate Hot Chocolate

Even though it's been unseasonably warm here,
after living in Texas for 5 years my body seems to be having a tough time adjusting to the cold!
Christmas tree lights are magical,
and one of my favorite things is to curl up next to the Christmas tree,
wrapped in a fluffy blanket after the kids are in bed,
and read something while sipping hot chocolate.

I love hot chocolate so much we even had a hot chocolate bar at our wedding reception,
which was two days after Christmas!
Sam teases me a little about how he loves seeing me with my hot chocolate,
but it's a sure way to warm me up from the inside out.

This is my favorite recipe for hot chocolate.

1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1/8 t. salt
5-6 1/2 c. hot water (start with 5 and add according to taste)

In a large saucepan, combine sweetened condensed milk, cocoa, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Over medium heat, slowly stir in water; heat through, stirring occasionally. Do not boil. Hot chocolate can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Mix well and reheat before serving.
This also keeps well in the crock pot if you want to keep it handy throughout a snowy day!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Can I Be a Mother of Young Children Forever?

It is 11:00 pm.
I fold the last pair of footed pajamas and wearily drag myself into the bedroom,
wondering how many hours I have before a child rouses me from slumber with their cries.
As I pull back the covers and climb into bed, I sigh.
Someone has been here before me.
With crackers.
Climbing out of bed, I brush the cracker crumbs away and burrow under the covers once more.

My day has been filled with wiping up spills,
soothing cries,
picking up (and stepping on) toy cars,
and changing diapers.
My house isn't the picture of cleanliness I always imagined,
my hair has peanut butter in it,
and my boys polished off a pan of brownies hours earlier when I accidentally dozed off.

But I drift off to sleep with a smile on my face,
my life more fulfilled than it has ever been before.
And while I know there is much to enjoy about every stage of life,
there's a big part of me that wishes I could be a mother of young children forever.

Because watching them grow means I get to re-live my childhood.
Because they teach me each day with their innocently profound questions.
Because they are young enough that a hug and a kiss can make anything better.
Because all of my boys still love cuddling under a fluffy blanket with their mom.
Because I get to experience first-hand their pure spirits--so pure they can't even be tempted.
Because they love unconditionally and forgive immediately.
Because the funny things they say continually bring smiles to my face.
Because they still need me--and it feels good to be needed.
Because they teach me to see the magic in life's simple pleasures.
Because the worries I have about their well-being are almost entirely physical worries--I know that bad behavior is an opportunity to teach, not yet a sign of rebellion.
Because while their needs are constant, they are simple.
Because they don't yet care if their gifts came from the the dollar store.
Because they don't understand comparison with their friends--they are thrilled with whatever good fortune comes their way, from new pencils to 50-cent hot wheels cars.
Because I get to shape their sense of "normal," to carve out new traditions, and to create a blissful yet instructive childhood that will hopefully prepare them to face life's challenges head-on.
Because I know that, to some small degree, I hold the future in my hands.

So even though temper tantrums are the norm,
my body is continually aching from everlasting stretching, bending, tripping, and hauling,
my home will never be crumb-free,
and I can't read more than one story without falling asleep from exhaustion...

I cherish these little years.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Inspirational Movies

Sam and I aren't huge movie people,
so when we watch a movie we want it to be well-worth the couple of hours we spend staring at the computer screen.
It's kind of challenging to find totally clean, uplifting, inspirational movies of decent quality.
I thought I'd share some we've enjoyed recently--
and maybe one will join you this Friday night!

Gifted Hands
Ben Carson's story is amazing! This movie is his story--the story of how a young boy emerges from inner-city Detroit and a reputation of failing in school to become one of the world's leading pediatric neurologists at Johns Hopkins University. The movie is suspenseful, tasteful, and motivational. I am so grateful we took the time to enjoy this one! I hear it's not available on Netflix and it's also not on Amazon Instant Video, but it can be purchased inexpensively at the link above or most likely checked out from your local library (ours had several copies in circulation).

A dear friend had been telling me we would enjoy this one for quite some time before we finally decided to watch it a month ago or so. It had us on the edge of our seats, and the story of these policemen coming to recognize the importance of their roles as fathers is deeply touching.
Note: It's rated PG-13 for some scary action scenes involving shooting and drug content, but Sam and I both felt it was perfectly appropriate and totally clean.

This is the amazing story of an autistic woman who overcame significant obstacles and opposition to become an enormous success and use her autism for good. The way the movie portrays the way she thinks is truly fascinating!

I loved this movie, but it was definitely a tear-jerker! This is the true story of an Amish community's response to a mass shooting that occurred in their school and how they forgave the killer and found peace in their lives. So inspiring, but also so sad! I have to admit that when we were done watching this movie I pulled my sleeping boys from their beds and put them in ours for the remainder of the night.
Note: This is also rated PG-13 because of the traumatic subject matter, but once again, it is completely clean in our views.

I scored this whole collection at a garage sale a couple of years ago for $5! Sam and I love a good documentary, and the footage on this set is absolutely breathtaking. Our little boys love watching these as well, and learning more about fascinating creatures and their adaptations to the beautiful world on which they live. Definitely get the David Attenborough version, though--it has a far more majestic feel!

This is one of our favorite Christmas movies--the true story behind the song "Silent Night." It illustrates the remarkable circumstances in which the song was written and the courage Joseph Mohr had to defy his superiors in the process.
Watch it free online here!

We haven't seen this one yet, but BYUtv released it this year, and we'll be enjoying it sometime within the next few days. This one is the story behind Handel's Messiah.
Watch it free online here!

I'd love to see some more inspirational films--what are your favorites?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Snowflake Tree

A few days after Thanksgiving, I took down our thankful tree
and tossed it in the trash.
And a few days after that I started feeling junker's regret
and fished it back out again.
I put it back on the windowsill, filled the vase with silver bead garlands,
and my little guys and I decked out the branches with snowflakes left from Sam's and my wedding reception almost 6(!) years ago.

I kind of think I really love it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Giving Children Wings to Fly

When I was five years old, my dad decided it would be good for each of the kids in my family to take a turn once per week to make dinner.
Of course, my mom helped me at first, but I was in charge of planning my weekly meal, deciding which ingredients we needed from the store, and then putting the meal together with my mom.
I clearly remember sitting with my mom on her bed, flipping through recipe books and selecting my first meal--sweet & sour chicken.
And by the time I was eight, I was usually making the meal without much assistance.

It sounds crazy--a five-year-old planning meals?
An eight-year-old cooking dinner for a large family alone?

And do you know what that meant?
It meant that sometimes I forgot to drain the pasta before adding the sauce and our family ate nasty pasta soup for dinner.
It meant that sometimes I got way too eager with the ever-trusty Lawry's and the topping for the rice had enough salt in it to make a whole cow's worth of beef-jerky.
It meant that on more than one occasion my mom had to help me find appropriate substitutes because I had forgotten to write something we needed on the shopping list.

And it also meant that I learned to be independent from a very young age.
It meant that I learned to be confident in my abilities,
and to never feel like I am limited by my current situation in life.

Because whether we were making dinner or mowing lawns,
learning to read or learning to ride a bike,
our parents had high expectations and confidence in their children
and, like most children would, we actually stepped up when given the opportunity.

It's not always convenient,
and sometimes the whole family has to suffer as one person learns.
But I hope I can likewise sacrifice perfection for learning,
and thereby give my children wings to fly.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Package Deal in Real Life

Sam and I worked together and made some new floating shelves for our living room!
It was actually "my" project,
but as is so often the case, I got in over my head and began enlisting his help,
and before he knew what was happening at least half the project was in his lap.

As I was apologizing for the state of things,
he said, "It's good, because you're so confident and just jump into projects without worrying that you won't be able to do it, and then you get so much done!"

He could have said, "Yeah, why don't you realize how much effort and ability all your projects will take and quit jumping in with both feet before taking everything into account?"

But he didn't.
And you know, the "package deal" mentality has made it so I really don't even think he thought about it in that light.
He chose to focus on the good side of a trait I have,
and we were both much happier as a result.

And incidentally, we both love our new shelves!

As a side-note, that "package deal" blog post is by far the most-viewed post I have.
I was surprised by the number of times it was shared in the first 24 hours it was up.
It features some of the best marriage advice I received (from my mother),
and the way that advice has changed my life!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Creative Energy

The weather here got really chilly overnight about mid-November,
and now that December has begun things have warmed up to beautiful October-weather!
The boys and I had to take advantage of one nice morning
and go draw with chalk.

I was so proud of Lincoln for lasting about 3 minutes without putting the chalk in his mouth,
but when I saw him with a mouthful we sadly had to watch his brothers from inside.
That baby is always getting his hands on crayons and the like and chewing them up and swallowing them. I'm not sure what he sees in them, but it makes me a nervous wreck.
We have rules in place to keep them away from him,
but he still manages to get ahold of them occasionally.
A couple of days ago he began choking on a crayon and when it didn't come up within a few seconds of gagging, he threw up all over the kitchen table where he was sitting.
I was relieved, but goodness!
I have to watch this kid like a hawk.

I simply love seeing my handsome little guys immersed in creative work.
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