Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Merely to be There Was a Cure

I have always loved houses.
When I was 14, my parents were thinking about a move and I would spend hours poring over houses with them and asking about all the details of buying a house.
In High School, I took an Interior Design class and then traveled to another school to take an Advanced Interior Design class. A number of assignments required us to go out into the community to make observations with a partner and, since I was from a different school and there was an odd number in the class, I would just go home and my mom would work with me as my partner. I loved spending that time with her, involved in one of my favorite past times.
My best friend and I would visit model homes sometimes, just to enjoy them while we were in High School.
I was even planning to major in Interior Design in college, but BYU got rid of their program before I started.

I have since learned that I don't really have the best eye for design,
but I still enjoy looking at houses, dreaming about houses, and striving to make our home a place that creates a feeling of well-being.
I love this quote from Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien:
"That house was a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep, or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear, and sadness."

Sometimes my desire for a beautiful home interferes with my desire for the feeling of peace and happiness that I want to exist in our home, but I also feel they work together. None of us feel very peaceful in the midst of a big mess.

At Christmas time, I put out my beautiful, hand-carved olive wood nativity my parents got for me in Jerusalem, and as I watched Maxwell's enchantment with the figures I realized it was a microcosm of what I desire for our home. It is beautiful and meaningful, but also made of a kid-friendly material that allows those little fingers to grasp each piece and be a part of their surroundings.
The way he insisted that Mary always be right next to Baby Jesus made my heart melt.

I realized that I want our house to serve OUR needs--I don't want us to constantly have to serve the needs of our house.
It's an ongoing process, but I am constantly striving to create a place like the home J.R.R. Tolkien described.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

A Year in Tennessee

November 25 marked 1 year here in Tennessee for our family.
And what a year it's been! Benson was born, Sam is loving his job and having amazing opportunities, and the boys are thriving after a somewhat challenging transition.
I asked the older boys what their favorite thing about living in Tennessee is, and this is what they said:
Talmage: "The people are very welcoming and kind, even if they don't know us."
Wesley: "I like school friends and I like our house."
Lincoln: "I have made new friends."
Then I asked them what they miss most about Utah, and the answer was unanimous: FAMILY.

It's interesting to me that the things they love most and the things they miss most both revolve around people they love. Somehow two fairly introverted people ended up with a bunch of kids who LOVE being around people. I am curious to see if that remains to be the case as they grow.

There are a lot of things I miss about Utah.
cool Summer nights (one of the most magical things)
hiking and camping in the beautiful mountains
the greatest snow on Earth
so many family-friendly activities and facilities
soft, luscious, green grass (one of the most underrated things about Utah)
and obviously our family.

there are so many things I love about living here!
fireflies in the Summer
Bluebell ice cream
delightful accents
charming houses and welcoming front porches
beautiful forests
cotton fields
good manners
and that good ol' Southern hospitality.

I wanted to record a few experiences we've had since moving here that have really demonstrated the way people here have welcomed us with open arms.

Right after we moved here, Talmage shared his testimony in Sacrament Meeting and mentioned how hard it was for him to leave his family but how I had told him that our new ward would be like a family to him. He said he knew that "men are that they might have joy" and that Heavenly Father will help us through our challenges. After Church, someone in the ward posted the following on the ward's Facebook page:

"Today's testimony meeting was so moving. I especially was touched by the precious little boy that spoke about how sad he was and how he missed his family but how his mom said his new ward could be like family. I don't know this sweet boy but I wanted to find him afterwards and squeeze the stuffings out of him. I wanted to tell him that I knew just how he felt all those years ago when I moved to Memphis and that sometimes I missed my family so much it hurt. I wanted to tell him to always listen to his mommy because she is so very smart and she loves him more than anyone on this earth ever will. I wanted to tell him that there are lots of us that will love him and be his substitute family while he's away from his family. I wanted to tell him that me and [my husband] have a train that he can ride on! I wanted to tell him all these things but he doesn't know me and I didn't want to frighten the poor boy. But it is my intention to meet him and shake his hand and hug his mother for raising such a tender soul.

A few weeks later, we were walking around our neighborhood, delivering homemade chocolates for Christmas with the hope of meeting some of our neighbors in our quiet neighborhood. We knocked on one door and learned that they were just beginning a party for their son's pre-school friends and they wondered if we wanted to join them. I was hesitant about crashing the party of people we had just met with our four busy boys, but Sam thought it would be a good thing, so we came in and the boys began decorating cookies and playing while we chatted with our new neighbors (and learned that the dad of the family had worked with my uncle!). After a while, Santa showed up and beautiful presents had magically appeared for each of our boys--a cute stuffed dog for Maxwell, a remote control car for Lincoln, a color-changing bike light for Wesley, a miniature drum set for Talmage.
I was stunned. How had these kind people arranged things so perfectly and reached out so selflessly?

Kindness continued as we met more neighbors and got to know more friends, especially from our church congregation. We were touched as we were given treats, invited to dinners and fun activities, and served--especially as Benson was born. And just about everywhere we went, people commented on the boys and struck up conversations with us.

A few months ago we had an experience in the grocery store and I wrote about it on social media:

"Today I got in line at the grocery store and, as often happens, the woman in front of me commented on my boys. Soon she was telling me what it's like to have a daughter-in-law and coaching my 5-year-old on how he needs to make sure to pull my chair out for me when I sit down. As she finished checking out, she handed him a 10-dollar bill and told him to pick out treats for himself and all his brothers. He was totally thrilled and his smile spread from ear to ear as he dropped the leftover money into the Salvation Army bucket. The whole store suddenly seemed to be filled with Christmas cheer as observers commented on the kindness. She went quietly on her way and I felt like I had a new friend although I didn't even know her name."

Although we still have moments of sadness and times we wish we could be with our family, we love it here in Tennessee and are so grateful for the opportunities we've had over the past year. There's no question we all consider it "home" now, and truly Home Sweet Home it is.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Ode to the Bus

Utah has pretty great public transportation options.
In an effort to save money during grad school/postdoc, we decided to have just one car.
And in Utah, that was only slightly inconvenient.
The bus and train both stopped just a short distance from our home and dropped Sam off right by his lab. Both came at many times throughout the day so if Sam needed to change his commute time it wasn't a big deal. They were well kept up and reliable and the ride was quiet, filled mainly with business people headed to work.
After those lovely three years, Sam determined that he never again wanted to consistently drive to work. The public transportation option was kind to the environment and gave him a chance to read his scriptures or do additional work and he never had to have the stress of traffic.

So he was determined to make the bus system work when we moved to Memphis, despite many reports that it was unsafe, unreliable, and run-down.
I admit, I wasn't the most supportive about that decision upon our arrival.
I was really concerned about his safety and skeptical that it would be a reliable transportation option.
But I gradually got used to the idea and these days I don't think much of it...
until the bus doesn't show up,
or Sam comes home with an unknown substance soaked into his pants,
or I hear about a sketchy incident that took place.

The other day, Sam was waiting for the bus in frigid conditions with that characteristic Memphis bite in the air that instantly cuts through all clothing and pierces you to your core.
And of course, the bus wasn't coming.
He waited and waited in the freezing air until he finally called me to see if I could take him to work.
I was on my way to pick him up when the bus showed up, so I returned home.
Shortly afterward, I got a rather amusing text message from Sam.
(sing to the tune of "You Raise Me Up")

Have you heard of Parry Gripp?
He's the entertainment sensation loved throughout the world by little boys.
And, apparently I have the sense of humor of a 7-year-old, because I think the songs are hilarious, too.
This is the one I referenced--enjoy!
(Warning: It may or may not be stuck in your head for the rest of your mortal existence if you watch. Speaking from personal experience here.)

Friday, February 15, 2019

Thanksgiving after Valentine's

When I was pregnant with Benson, everything was overwhelming to me.
I typically LOVE celebrating holidays with my family, but the thought of creating a holiday celebration during those trying 9 months was almost more than I could handle. I felt so sad that something that typically brought me so much joy became a dreaded event to be endured.
I was afraid that, because of the busyness of raising 5 kids, I would never again enjoy holidays.

But to my relief, once the dust had settled after Benson was born,
I was once again dreaming and planning fun events to bring our family together
and holidays were joyful again--something I loved to anticipate and create traditions around and enjoy together.

Although our celebrations are typically very simple,
we feel united as a family as we enjoy those simple things together.
And, as demonstrated by the title of my blog, I am a big advocate of embracing simplicity in family life.
So bear with me as I finish catching up this blog with a re-cap of our holiday celebrations,
finishing up with our fun Valentine's Day activities.
love to celebrate love--romantic and non-romantic alike!


We had grand plans for Thanksgiving this year.
My friend and her husband were going to drive up from Atlanta and my sister was going to fly in.
I was planning an extensive menu
and dreaming up a gorgeous table consisting of pine boughs, clementines, gold-brushed pinecones, cranberries, and white dishes placed on thin slices of a log.

But gradually my well-laid plans fell apart.
My friend ended up not being able to come,
my sister had plans to travel out of the country for work so she pushed her trip up earlier in November,
and everyone I asked already had plans.
I said good-bye to my mental celebration and wondered if we would have yet another Thanksgiving spent alone as a family. Our kids don't even enjoy most traditional Thanksgiving food much, so it seemed pointless to even have a feast.
I can be pretty sentimental, especially when it comes to traditions, so I was feeling down about it all.
To me, Thanksgiving=lots of (traditional!) food and LOTS of people,
so the thought of eating tacos with just our family was bringing to the surface all the sadness of the challenge of living away from family.

But then, we ended up gathering with some other loner families at our friends' beautiful home on acres and acres of wooded land where we made new friends, ate lots of yummy food, and played games until late in the evening.
In the end, Thanksgiving was filled with lots of food and lots of people, and I came home that evening filled with contentment.

I snapped these pictures in those kind friends' backyard.

Today the kids are out of school for parent-teacher conferences and we are having a "yes day."
Which is why it is after 10:00 and the kids are still in their pajamas,
playing pretend video games they created out of construction paper
while squashed together in the hammock.
We may not have a high-tech game system (or even a TV, for that matter!),
but hey, we have cardboard, construction paper, tape, a stapler, and pens.
And that's kind of the same thing.

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Stuff of Nightmares

Being a mom is hard sometimes.

YES, it's a great blessing
and YES, I'm tremendously grateful for the opportunity,
but it doesn't change the fact that it is definitely a stretching experience.

Today's trip to the grocery store was rather dismal.
Maxwell was running away from me,
the kids were blocking annoyed shoppers as I tried to corral them patiently,
Benson was sick with a cold and fussy and ready to eat so I opened the box of Cheerios in the cart and started feeding him,
and I finally set him down on the grimy floor,
scooped up Maxwell and put him in the cart's baby seat so he would stop running away from me,
and then continued on my way with Benson in my arms.

Have you ever held 23 pounds of fussy baby who likes to fling himself in all directions while pulling a cart loaded with $270 of groceries with a mad 2 year old in it, keeping track of a 5 year old, crossing things off the grocery list, and trying to keep track of coupons?
It's not the most pleasant experience in the world,
and I think if I got a dollar every time someone stopped me to say,
"You've got your hands FULL!"
I just might be rich.

But somehow I juggled everyone and everything and made it out to the car,
came home,
unloaded everything,
put away groceries,
fed the boys lunch,
nursed Benson,
changed two diapers,
noticed I forgot to use my coupons,
got two out of three boys settled for naps,
and was working on the third when I heard footsteps.

And they sounded like they were coming from Benson's room.

I froze, certain my ears were playing tricks on me.
I crept down the hall and stood outside Benson's room, listening, when I heard knocking.
Not on the front door.
Coming from his bedroom.

I flung the door open and he was sound asleep in bed and nothing was amiss.
I checked on Lincoln, who was also still in bed.
But the noises persisted!
What was going on?!?
I peeked out the window and saw, to my horror, a ladder leading up to Benson's window.
This was the stuff of my nightmares.

My heart was racing and I was ready to shoot someone to defend my little ones
when I had the presence of mind to look and see if a maintenance worker was here.
A quick check out the front window revealed that a roofing company was indeed here and the footsteps and knocking sounds were coming from the roof!

I sent our landlord a text to see what was going on and apparently she asked the company when they were available to come and, instead of telling her, they just showed up. So she had no idea they were coming either.

It's all very laughable now, but seriously.
I just about had a heart attack.
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