Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cupcake Walk of Shame


I was trying to keep a straight face as I observed what seems to have become a ritual around these parts- the "Cupcake Walk of Shame."  I know I should have been embarrassed or at least a little angry with him, especially since this is one of about a half dozen "Walks of Shame" over the past year and the second for this day alone.  But I couldn't help but think how adorable he looked as he shuffled up to the door with a plate of cupcakes in hand and gave a couple quick knocks with his tiny little fist on the door of his primary teacher.

*Door opens.  Insert awkward silence*

Me:  "Luke, what do you have to say to Sister So-and-so?"

Luke: "Sorry-ugh."

Me: "What was that?  I don't think she heard you."

Luke: "I said 'sorry-ugh'!" as he thrusts the plate of cupcakes forward with his chin tucked into his shoulder.

Me: "For what?"

Luke: "For being mean-ugh!"

Sister So-and-So: "Oh, Luke!  You didn't need to apologize, but thank you for coming over!  May I have a hug?"

Batting his butterfly eyelashes he tries to hide a pleased smile and leans in for a big bear hug and then takes off at full speed jabbering about Legos and his sister with the crazy hair "who screams like a wild banshee."

One more reason, out of about 1,000, that motherhood is the most amusing job on earth.

And there's your random, pointless anecdote for the day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dressed in Bonnets and Bloomers

Today is bound to be one of those days.  I have a to-do list the length of my arm as we prepare for our next summer adventure (white-water rafting down Hell's Canyon!) which preparations include another trip to the store with all four littles later this morning.  I usually come back from the grocery store with all sorts of wonderful stories like this one and this one.   Yee-haw.

Even though today is going to be packed from start to finish, I felt like I needed to take a few minutes and write about some of the things we experienced on the recent pioneer trek we went on.

Our family handcart.  Dennis engineered this awesome
covered handcart thingamajigger with a fitted sheet, grommets,
and bungee chords.
I'm fully aware how odd it may seem to people not of our faith that we would get dressed up in pioneer outfits from the mid 1800's and reenact the crossing of the mid western plains of our Mormon ancestors with the young men and women in our church group (ward).  In a time of luxury and comfort, what on earth would possess us to push handcarts for almost 30 miles with all of the items we would need for 4 days in a 5-gallon bucket as we brave the heat and dust decked out in bloomers and bonnets?

To be honest, I had to give it some serious thought myself.  I understand the need to appreciate the sacrifices of the ones who went before us, " But come on now," I asked myself, "are the bonnets and bloomers and whole charade really necessary?" The answer was one I didn't really have until it was all over.

I'll try to recap some of my favorite experiences without being too long-winded.  After we assembled our group of almost 100 people into "families" with their respective "ma's and pa's," we started down the pre-determined course through the Owyhees.  Our family pulled the lead handcart as Dennis was the most familiar with the route.  The 9 other handcarts pulling behind us in single-file along the tops of the mountains was an awe-inspiring sight.

One of the boys in our family resting at
the top of the first mother of all hills... or 

at least the first of several to come.
Soon came the first big "hill," if you can call it that.  It was more like a daunting, steep ascent of large, loose rocks.  We decided to have only 3-4 families go at a time, using the manpower from the other groups to help each group up.  As I pulled our handcart up the hillside, everything inside of me felt like it was on fire.  No amount of physical preparation could have prepared any of us for the rigors of the trail combined with the high altitude.  We reached the top and nearly collapsed from fatigue.  We rested a few minutes and headed back down to help the other families.  First major obstacle: check .

That evening the men split off and went to a separate campsite as the women geared up for what would prove to be for the women, the biggest challenge of the event- the "Women's Pull."  While historically there was never an actual handcart pull exclusively comprised of women, this is to commemorate the thousands of women who crossed the plains without their husbands, often with little children in tow.  One of the highest mortality rates of those who crossed the plains was that of the men who braved the elements, often without relief, as they pulled the handcarts for their families day in and day out.  They often sacrificed their unthinkably small rations of food to their starving wives and children, leaving them especially vulnerable in their already weakened conditions.  Other men were called to serve in the Mormon Battalion or to serve missions or in leadership positions for the thousands who were crossing the plains.  This pull was not to show the men that we didn't need them or to put on a display of "girl power," but to pay tribute to the sacrifices that both men and women gave selflessly in honor of their religious faith.

I had traveled the route we would be taking a month before on a four-wheeler as we established the course we would be taking.  I knew it was going to be tough, but that's what made us want to use this portion of the mountain for the Women's Pull.  We knew the degree of difficulty would require us to draw on something other than our own strength to finish it.

The final portion of the 3 1/2 mile pull was 1 1/2 mile stretch of steep, rocky, up-hill grade.  Holy moly.

The Women's Pull.  Why is it that things never look as
hard in pictures as they really were in real life?
It was on this portion of the trail that I have my fondest memories.  My group of girls pushed with all their might as we passed the men who had come to watch- some of who silently and tearfully removed the hats from their heads as they watched us struggle by.  They had received strict instructions that they were not to assist us.  This was something we needed to complete on our own.   The seemingly never-ending road ahead of us in the blaring hot sun made the hill climb from the day before seem like child's play.  I tear up thinking of the resilience of the women in my group.  In silence we huffed and puffed and groaned under the difficulty of our task.  Occasional shouts of encouragement were heard as the girls cheered each other on.  We stopped several times to re-hydrate and catch our breaths but never once was a word of complaint uttered.  Not once.

I later heard a tearful recount from one of the adult women in our group.  She said that one of the tiniest girls in our group- only 12 years old and not even 90 pounds- at seeing her struggle, said quietly to her, "You can stop pushing if you'd like.  I'll push for you."  Such was the attitude throughout the entire ascent.  There were times during the Women's Pull when all I could do was put my head down and focus only on putting one foot in front of the other as we inched our way up the mountain, with our bodies feeling like they were on fire from the inside out.   There was vomiting, a few collapses, and a level of sheer exhaustion reached that had never been known to most of us before.

When we reached the top of the mountain, the girls in my group took a quick drink, and within just a few minutes, stood at the top of the trail, saying they were ready to go down and help the other groups of women coming behind us finish their pull.  I wanted to take each of them in my arms and hug them.  They seemed to have morphed from young girls, into women of strength, faith, and kindness and I had a front-row seat witness to the wonder of it all.

The rest of the trek was wonderful and everything I hoped it would be.  Despite the fatigue at the end of each day, I felt oddly rejuvinated and strong.  The entire 4 day experience was over far too soon for me.

This picture does poor justice to the blisters.
So back to my original question, "Come on now, is that really all necessary- the whole charade and all?"  The answer is one of humility and gratitude to our God and our forebearers.  It's "yes."

There's something about exerting oneself to the point of near collapse that leaves one's heart humbled and open.  A few people quietly remarked that they knew that those who had gone before, whether it be deceased siblings or ancestors from several generations back, were pushing right along side them, helping them along.

There's something about going down to the very basic of necessities that helps you clear all the clutter from your mind, and see with an unobstructed view the beauties of human nature.  People are better and kinder and stronger than we think.

It helps us see that God is good.  He did not forget our ancestors then and He certainly has not forgotten us now.

Our handcart family. 
When I got home I struggled with feeling ready to jump back into the 21st century.  I just wasn't ready. I didn't know how to make sense of all the nonsense that was waiting for me down off the mountain. I wanted to live forever in a world of simplicity where at every turn you were seeing the goodness and selflessness of others.  I felt slightly depressed and demoralized to think that this is my life, not that life up in the mountains.

After doing some processing, I realized that this is my trek- the 21st century rat-race.  Just as they made the most of their trek across the plains then, I am expected to make the most of my trek now.  And now, just as they did so many decades ago, we struggle but we also rejoice.  And there are countless reasons to rejoice and give thanks.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Birthday letters Part 2

From May 24- July 10th we have our wedding anniversary and all of our kids' birthdays.  That's six weeks of fun and exhaustion.  So for now, the marathon is over until next year, at least as far as birthdays are concerned.  Here are Camden and Lauren's birthday letters since their birthdays fall close together.  These letters are a little late but they were written with lots of love.

Dear Lauren,

You've turned 3 years old.  Three!!!  I was looking through pictures of the day you were born, and then a few months later when you had your wild, wild hair, and it felt like it was just last week.  In so many ways you remind me of myself.  I feel like I'm looking at a mini-me from 27 years ago.
Early in the morning I gave you your birthday gift from me- a purple princess outfit, complete with the tutu, shoes, wand, tiarra, and fur-lined purse.  I had to take you to the store for some last minute items for your birthday party and you insisted on sporting your new look to Walmart.  I had never seen you look so cute as you clomped loudly through the stores in your shoes that were too big, wand and purse in hand, as you flounced around with your chin held high.  Several women had to come to comment on your beautiful outfit.  Over the past few months it's as though the "girl gene" in you has just been switched on and we are now in full princess and ballerina mode around here.  All of a sudden you have discovered that all things pink, purple, and frilly are marvelous.

We have a routine on Sunday mornings as I try to get you dressed.  The only way I can get you to sit still while I fix your hair is to turn on Angelina Ballerina on PBS.   The other day I was fixing your hair just as the show was playing it's introductory theme song and you started squirming and whining.  When I asked what was wrong, you kept saying, "I want to twirl, I want to twirl!"  So I had to stop, and let you twirl in circles in front of me as the theme song played before you sat back down so I could continue.

Your dad and I agree that you usually have more energy than our two boys combined.  You also have an unbelievable knack for finding mischief.  Little lady, you are exhausting... but oh, how I adore you!   One of the saddest things in life for me would be to ever see you lose your spunk. You are almost always happy and cheerful, eager to help, and eager to show affection.  You are sweet and thoughtful with others, especially your parents and your little sister.

You are remarkably coordinated and were ready to have your training wheels taken off your bike before you turned 3!  (even though we haven't gotten around to it yet, you're definitely ready)  You can hold your own on just about anything physical that your brothers can do.  You can also out-eat them at just about every meal!  Now that appetite, I must say, you inherited from your momma- sorry sis.  One of the most adorable things about you are your stout little legs, especially when you wear a swimming suit.  Oh, there aren't many things cuter than little girls in swim suits!  Again, that stoutness is something you inherited from me- sorry again.

One of the things that has been nice over the past few months is that you finally decided to start speaking in sentences and using the right words!  It was as if you just woke up one morning and said to yourself, "Hmmmph... it's been long enough.  I guess I'll start speaking now."  And all of a sudden you're using full sentences and you are oh-so-expressive...to say the least.  You also potty-trained recently, and quite quickly.  It just came down to you deciding that you wanted to do it.  And just like that, there were no more diapers and no more accidents.  That stubborn streak has an eerie resemblance to your older brother.  I'll let you guess who I'm referring too.

My sweet, little princess- I can't imagine what this family would be like without you.  You bring a vibrant energy to this family that is irreplaceable.  I felt a special bond with you the moment you were born.  You are my little girl!  There is no comparison in the world to the feelings a mother has for her daughter.  I love you sweet, Lauren.  Happy third birthday.



Dear Camden,

This birthday is a special one as it's the year you turn eight.  It's hard to explain the feelings I've had leading up to this birthday.  They are ones of anticipation and excitement, but also of trepidation and dread.  You aren't my little boy any more.  You're a little man now.  You've reached what we believe to be the age of accountability.  It's sobering and scary for me to think that with all of my imperfections (and there are many, many, many) that the mantle of accountability has been lifted from my shoulders and placed on yours.  While my work is far from over with you, this is a new chapter in your life.

No matter your age though, to me you will always be the little boy that first taught me about being a mother.  There's a special bond between a mother and her first born.  You were the one that first brought that explosion of love I felt for a little person who relied so entirely on me for those first few years.  From the second I saw you, I was smitten.  No matter how many sleepless nights, or colicky evenings, or trips to the doctor's office, my love for you has never waned, not even for an instant.  It was you who first taught me to love the way a mother loves and for that you will always have a very special place in my heart.

Our ward went on a pioneer trek the day after Camden's birthday.
This picture was taken the evening after our first day on the trail.
He walked all 9 1/2 miles that day and did wonderfully.  
There are so many things I love about you.  You are ingenious at building and creating.  I'm flabbergasted at some of the things you create with Legos.  Ever since you were tiny, just over a year old, I could tell you had a gift for organization as I watched you organize your little cars by color and size in a perfectly straight line.  It was unbelievable!  You inherited your dad's artistic gift as well and are able to draw pictures and comics with wonderful creativity.  You are kind and helpful to your siblings.  You have a well-developed moral conscience and instinctively know the difference between right and wrong.  What a joy it has been for me, as your mother, to see you grow into a kind a loving person.  You have learned Spanish beautifully at school and even received an award for your achievements in learning and speaking Spanish.  You are athletic and enjoy spending time on your bike, playing tennis and racquetball, and playing with your brother.  I love to see the sweet relationship between the two of you.  I pray that will always continue throughout your life.

Camden, while these are things I love about you, this is not why I love you.  I love you because you are my son, and that is something that will never change.  Some of these talents and gifts may fade away and you may develop other interests in life that take you down different paths.  Life is a continual process of waxing and waning, but hopefully one of always growing.  I don't know if anyone really grows into the exact person or leads the life they had envisioned as a child, and that's alright.  In the end, I love you because you're you.  I love you for being you, no matter what form that takes.

Thank you for your patience with me.  Thank you for loving me despite my short-comings.  I'm excited to see what the future holds for you, as I have no doubt that it is very bright.  I love you, Camden, more than these little words can do justice.  Happy eighth birthday.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Coming up for a bit of air

Luke enjoying some chips while sitting
in a tree.  One more reason to love summer.
The past few weeks have been incredibly busy, as it is every summer.  Sometimes when things are this busy I forget to lift my head above water and take time to do the things I enjoy, like blogging.

We enjoyed some time camping in Eastern Idaho at a family reunion and are now gearing up for a pioneer trek with our ward, followed by a river trip down Hell's Canyon and then another family reunion.  These are good times.  I love it.

The fourth of July came and went quickly.  We spent the evening with some wonderful friends and enjoyed a marvelous dinner and some fireworks.  We had a little incident with some stray fireworks which burned the side of my leg and burned several holes through the blanket Calista held on her lap (yikes!).  After the embarrassment of my initial reaction of jumping up and letting a few colorful words fly out of my mouth passed (uggh... with two bishops and half of my Sunday school class watching, I was mortified at my reaction), I felt overcome with gratitude that my little baby had been holding that blanket on her lap when the fireworks leaped onto her lap.  It's all fine and well though.

On Sunday as we stood up in church to sing the national anthem, I suddenly got a lump in my throat as I read the beautiful lyrics.  What a change from 15 years ago.  I remember as a teenager lacking any sort of patriotism towards the American flag.  I thought Americans were arrogant, close-minded, and ignorant.  I remember getting into several arguments with other American teens as I pointed out all the ways Americans were blissfully clueless as to what went on around them.  It irritated me immensely and  I vowed I would never live in the U.S. as an adult.  I didn't realize that at the time I was the one being arrogant, close-minded and ignorant.

And here I am as an adult,15 years later, feeling a swell of pride as I stand to sing the national anthem of my home.  I've realize that sure, there are some Americans that fit the stereo-type I held.  But then again, you can find people that fit that same stereo-type in any country, anywhere in the world.  I guess that's the funny thing about stereo-types.  Usually it's not the people that fall into stereo-types but the people assigning the stereo-types who ends up being guilty of it themselves.

So what caused the change?  I'm not quite sure.  I imagine it came mostly from gaining some maturity on my part, but it also came piece by piece throughout the years.  Part of it came as I earned my college degree using Pell Grants and other government loans that had low interest rates.  I could choose any career field I wanted with the sky being my limit.  It came bit by bit with the birth of each of my children as they were born in clean, modern hospitals.   It came as Camden started attending a fantastic dual language school that is part of a marvelous public education program.  It came as I traveled internationally as an adult and had my  eyes opened to the corruption in other countries that I had been oblivious to as a kid. It came with the wonder of the prompt and efficient public services offered (fireman, paramedics, teachers, garbageman, etc.).  It came as I learned about the sacrifices of my ancestors and the forefathers of this country.  It came as I watched people tearfully remove their hats and hold their hands to their hearts as service men and women led the way at local parades with their flag held high.

What a blessed place this is!  This is my home and I feel I indescribably blessed to be raising my little family on American soil.

My dad's brothers and sisters on their family stomping grounds.

One of my favorite views in all of the United States