Saturday, December 19, 2009

Six year olds

Much of this story will be lost in the telling. In order to fully appreciate it you had to be there, see the light in her eyes and hear the excitement in her voice. But I'm gonna tell it anyway.

Yesterday I helped with Girlie-whirl's kindergarten Christmas party. She hadn't wanted to go to school that day because Sweetie flew home for Christmas the night before. But she went and by the time the party was over she was a mass of exciteded babbling on the way out to the parking lot.

After telling me that this was the best day EVER and recounting multiple thrills of the day, she said, "Oh, and guess what I finished in art today?!"

"What did you finish in art today?!!" I asked her, trying to match her enthusiasm.

"My platter!" Confused look. "My splatter?" More bewildered pondering. Then her face cleared, and with no less excitement than before she said. "I can't remember the name, but I KNOW it has an r at the end!!!"

Don't you just love six year olds?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Just following along

I've temporarily checked out of the writing side of the blog world. Still reading, just no posting. It may have something to do with my back-log of Christmasy things on my to-do list, but, whatever the reason, I simply don't feel the need to post right now.

I'll be back after the holidays. Unless I'm not, you know?

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Crocheted Christmas Tree....er, Hat

My three younger children have no memory of their Great-Grandma. We lived in her basement apartment for the first six years of our marriage, and it was a great blessing to us.

She was an expert crocheter (is that a word?). One year she crocheted a beautiful Christmas village out of crochet cotton. She also crocheted for us a Christmas tree. She recommended that we decorate it with mini ornaments and beads and things, which we never did, but we use that tree every year. It sits there amongst our other decorations with a cone underneath to give it structure.

My children's favorite thing to do with the tree is to remove the cone and use it as a hat. We had a big enough break in our family, that for a few years, the tree was only a tree. The younger ones had never experienced the tree-as-hat. And yet, with no prompting and having never seen it done, when they reached a certain age, the tree ended up on their heads just as it had with their older siblings.

Every one of my six children have danced and sung and played in that Christmas tree. Today we decorated and as we opened the totes and were reunited with our favorite Christmasy things, the hat ended up on Girlie-Whirls head, just as it did last year and the year before that. And I spent a sweet moment walking down memory lane with my Grandma.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Christmas!

I listened to Christmas music yesterday. Now I'm all excited for the holidays and so, I gathered my younger children around for a family counsel on Christmas. I asked each of them which Christmas traditions are important to them. We made a list so that we wouldn't get to the end of the holidays and realize we'd missed some of our favorite things.

Here are my three youngests lists.

Bikey-Boy (14 years old) wants to go to that church that has all the Nativities (Creches and Carols), wants to visit Grandma and Grandpa in Nauvoo, hopes to find a nice holiday concert to attend (probably for extra credit in his choir class), and it was important to him that we have pie on Christmas day.

Banana-Girl (11 years old) wants to decorate the Christmas tree while listening to the Amy Grant Christmas CD, go see that house with the amazing amount of lights that blink in time with music playing on their own radio station, do an advent calendar, and watch the movies, It's A Wonderful Life and White Christmas.

Girlie-Whirl (6 years old) wants to make sure that we leave cookies and milk for Santa along with nine carrots for the reindeer (we spent some time over the appropriate number of carrots, wanting to ensure that Rudolph wasn't left out). Make gingerbread girls (not men). She said it's important to her that we have three trees, "The one in the family room, the one in there (pointing to the living room) that we sleep under (a standard Christmas tradition in our home), and the little one upstairs." And lastly, she wanted to do that thing where she dresses up as angel and we act it out. "But this time I kind of want to be Mary."

As we talked we decided that the following traditions were also crucial to our Christmas: making it a month of meaningful service (still working out the details on this one), cutting out lots of snow flakes, reading Christmas Stories and singing Christmas carols (we try to do this every night through December), making homemade gifts for each other, delivering treats to neighbors, and last, but certainly not least, making candy canes with family and friends.

I've barely started Christmas shopping, but who cares? I'm cutting back this year. Oh, we'll still do presents, and probably a bit more than we should, but it's going to be all about the family council list. The challenge will be to resist, resist, resist everytime I want to spend more, make it bigger, pay attention to all of the material stuff that constantly bombards us all, especially this time of year. The focus is going to be, and I'm completely determined about this regardless of how pitiful I've been in the past, the Savior, serving, and family.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Politics. Just This Once.

I'm a political junkie. I can't go to bed each night without finding out what happened politically in the country that day.

I've purposely stayed away from all things political on my blog. Politics is not what my blog is about; it's about my family and my life. But I'm not so sure that my life isn't being ripped out of my hands by the political winds in this great nation of ours. So, I'm going to make an exception this once and go political.

If that bothers you, feel free to leave now and know that when you check back next time you will find, once again, only the literary mutterings of a mom.

This is a link to a video (about 8 minutes long) that played yesterday on The Fox News channel. I would embed the video here, but I don't know how and my efforts to figure it out have been in vain, so this will have to suffice.

If you're a political junkie like me, you're already well aware of the things on this video. If not, I urge you to watch it. We have to know there's a problem before we can begin to fix it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thankful

I came back from a run this morning, tired, stiff, stinky, and cold. Lot's to do today and so I jumped in the shower.

As I washed away the grime, I took a moment to savor. The hot water relaxing my tired muscles, the smell of my Refreshing Tangerine shampoo (Suave. I'm very high end), the water enveloping me in warmth and chasing away the chill.

There...is...nothing...like...a...hot...shower. Nothing. And I realized how rare a thing I was experiencing. Showers are so commonplace for us that we don't give them a thought. For most of man's history, however, turning a knob and standing under hot running water was not only an impossibility, it was simply unimaginable. Even today, there are millions of people who will never know the joy of of standing under a steady spray of warm water.

And so, in this month of gratitude, I am grateful for my shower. Amongst the hard water deposits and clutter of bottles, it's a beautiful thing.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Shameful Plug

This post is for the purpose of winning. Yup, blatant and shameful and completely self serving!

Annette over at The Lyon's Tale has a contest this week. I discovered her blog a few months back and discovered she was an author I had already read. A pleasant surprise.

There are two of her books, however that I have not read and that I will purchase soon.
1. There, Their, They're: A No-Tears Guide to Grammar from the Word Nerd. Word books are hysterical and I'm looking forward to reading this one.
2. Her Chocolate cookbook that is yet to be released. After reading about her adventures creating it, it's a must have in my book.

Check her out. You'll be glad you did.

(Wow, did you notice that I linked to her blog or book three times! Impressive wouldn't ya say?)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Smile!!! -- yeah, right!

My family is not normal.

When a camera is shoved in their face and the words, "Say cheese!" are uttered, most people tend to do what they can to look their best. Not at my house. A camera is seen as an opportunity to pull faces. This family tradition started with Hubders in college -- his friends literally competed to see how offbeat they could get their student ID pictures to look. There actually was an art to it -- too strange, and they make you take another picture. But I digress.

Last night, when it was time for family prayer, I found Hubders and Banana-Girl talking and laughing on the stairs. There was nothing profound or unusual about this, but I love the relationship that my man has with our children and wanted to document the simple, sweet moment with a photo. I turned on the camera, walked up a few steps and snapped a picture:

Not quite what I was hoping for, so I tried again.


Love Hubders smile, but can I get a normal look from both of you, please?

After this shot, which is by far the worst of the three,
I specifically asked Banana-Girl to smile.

She did, and I gave up, knowing that having a fun dad
is infinitely better than a getting a good photo.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Chubby

I'm a victim of an over zealous love for food, and it's starting to show. My spare tire is growing and I'm not going to buy any bigger size clothing. Something's gotta give!

I know how to lose weight, done it before--sixty pounds even. Thirty of it found me again, pretty depressing, but I keep reminding myself that thirty of those pounds have been gone for four years now, better than nothing!

Here's the game plan: Keep a food journal (yuck!), exercise daily (I like this one, but that doesn't mean I'm doing it often enough), find substitutes foods that satisfy my cravings but are kinder to my fat stores than the ones I am currently consuming (this one takes time and energy and who has THAT?), assert portion control (chortle!!), and quit grazing in the kitchen (yeah, right!).

I want to lose weight, to fit better into my clothes, to stop catching glimpses of myself in mirrors and thinking, "Who is that fat lady?" But I don't want it enough right now. I can't seem to summon up enough self control to do the right things for longer than a day or two (okay, so maybe it's actually more like an hour or two). Whimper.

When things are not going well, we have two choices, we can get discouraged, or we can get determined. That's what my weight watcher leader taught me. But I've chosen a third option. I'm ignoring it all while I eat few more pieces of Halloween candy.

Can someone please fedex me some will power?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

6:52 to 7:07 am

Have you ever had one of those mornings?

One where you woke up feeling fat and pitiful because you did the good mom thing yesterday and made those mini caramel apple thingey's with your five year old because you couldn't say no to that hopeful look when she asked, but you have no self control when it comes to your mom's caramel recipe (really, it's best caramel on the planet), so you ate some and then couldn't resist it for the rest of the evening and ate at least 94 weight watcher points just in caramel (and you only get 22 for the day, but you're no longer doing weight watchers which is part of why you've gained five pounds), and the house is a mess because yesterday was a zoo and you had no time or energy to make your kids put their stuff away or to clean up the kitchen and there are mountains of laundry, and deadlines are looming and you didn't have time to go to the grocery store either so there's no milk and no bread in the house and Banana-Girl is whining about not being able to find anything to put in her lunch and when you suggest pretzels and peanut butter she looks at you like you're from another planet, and she finally leaves for school, but she comes right back and interupts your discussion where you've just devastated Girlie-Whirl by explaining that she'd have to break the ten dollar bill Grandma gave her for her birthday in order to pay tithing, and Banana-Girl's bike chain is off and she's been trying to put it back on while still wearing her knitted gloves, and once you've fixed the bike and washed the grease off your hands you realize that you don't have any clean pants to wear except your skinny jeans and because of the extra five pounds you just don't have the confidence to do the muffin top look today and there isn't time to wash any before you have to go to your Wednesday morning class, and your to-do list for the day is making your head spin, and you don't even care about spelling or grammar or anything on your blog post because all you really want to do is go back to bed and it's not even 8:00 in the morning.

Any else have a morning like this?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Happy Birthday!!

Six years ago today Girlie-whirl was born!!!! It was a horrific pregnancy. Although in my heart, I knew that it would be worth it; (she is, after all, child number six) near the end I had nagging doubts in the back of my mind. Could it really be worth THIS? As they put her in my arms, all worry was quickly swept away as I basked in the joy of my beautiful new daughter.

Girlie-whirl has been happy and adventurous from the beginning. Unlike my two previous daughters, she took to water like a fish, needing protection from drowning, rather than coaxing to dip a toe in. She loved to climb on the playground well before she had acquired the needed motor skills. She's a girlie-girl who, until just recently loved all things pink, purple and sparkley (red, is now her favorite color). Being the baby by six years, she has been my constant companion, just her and me during the day, for years now. I sent her off to kindergarten this year... sigh, she growing up.

Happy Birthday Girlie!!! I can't imagine life without you!!







Thursday, October 22, 2009

Motherly duties and Autumn

Do you spend your days in the car? Today I made two trips to the church, one for seminary and one for a youth temple trip, two trips to the middle school, one trip to my dear friend's home, an elegant 81 year old French sister that I visit teach, one trip to the grocery store, two trips to our piano teacher's home, and, as I write this, I'm waiting for a phone call telling me that it's time to make yet one trip more to the church to pick up my son.

I do NOT like spending my days behind the wheel. And so, today I made a conscious decision not to be a victim of the incessant need to spend time in my auto. Fall colors have come to our neck of the woods and I have not yet found time to enjoy them beyond the walk to and from the bus stop with my kindergartener.

The rain was a steady drizzle all day, however, as my car just happens to have a roof, the rain didn't prevent me from basking in the beauties of nature from behind the wheel as I shuttled my kiddles to their various activities. I've seen fourty-four falls in my lifetime. You'd think they'd be boring at this point, but I never cease to be astounded at the intensity of the hues on display just in my little neighborhood.

I grabbed my camera on one of my various trips and after dropping my children off, took some pictures from my car. The pictures are nice, but they do NOT do justice to the beauty that is just outside my window. Have you enjoyed the fall colors yet?




Here's a close up in the rain.


This tree has been stunning for days! Bright greens, intense yellows, neon oranges and deep purply reds all at the same time.


A close up of the multi-colored tree.


One more of the same tree.


I've been enjoying this tree for weeks. Why on earth, would half the tree be a gorgeous maroon and the the other half still green?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nauvoo Surprise!

We took the three younger kids out of school Friday and took the fam to Nauvoo so that our newly returned missionary, Ruggles, could see Grandma and Grandpa again! It was their P-day and they planned to spend all day with us, except they had an important meeting that afternoon that they couldn't really tell us about.

We had already decided to spend some time on the temple grounds with our children. Hubders had set us up in three teams and we were to look for the symbolic and decorative things on the temple. Each team had a notebook and we were to sketch, count, and describe each item we found in the notebook. We left for the temple a bit before Mom and Dad's meeting and were enjoying our time there when someone came out of the temple and said that President Monson was inside!

We were there when he came out of the temple, quite a thrill! Hubders took some pictures, and we would have left it at that, but there was a couple standing near us and the wife called out President Monson's name just as he was about to get into the car. He looked up, came over to where we were, and shook all of our hands! There wasn't a crowd, just the couple, the six of us, and, as President Monson turned to go back to his car, a newly married couple and their photographer walked up. He shook their hands and their photographer captured it! Quite the wedding pictures for them!!!

None of us could have imagined that we would get to see the prophet! We didn't even know he was in Nauvoo!! But what a sweet experience for our family!!!




Saturday, October 3, 2009

He's Home!!!!

No words needed. (Heavy sigh of contentment from Mom)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why I'm a Mormon

(Note: This post liberally uses Mormon lingo which may be unclear for those not of the LDS faith. If you have questions, you can ask me, or click here (an official website of the church), or here, (a fabulous "Ask a Mormon" feature by a trusted fellow blogger).

I love going to church. I love the fellowship, the spiritual uplift, the knowledge gained and the opportunity to serve. One of my favorite things about church is that out of ordinary people doing ordinary things come quite extraordinary blessings.

A quick example from last week. In Sacrament Meeting each Sunday, between speakers we often have a special musical number. This week the Priesthood brethren, Aaronic and Mechizedek, were asked to sing. When it was time, almost half of the congregation stood and went up to the front. They completely filled up and overflowed the choir seats, standing room only. Only three males over twelve years of age were left in the pews.

It was a great mix. Young and old, tall and short, thin and fat,; handsome and homely, rich and poor, confidant and shy, musical and couldn't carry tune in a bucket, stalwart and semi-slacker they all went up and started singing.

They sang We'll Bring the World His Truth. (If you're not familiar with the song, you can listen to it here.) I'm pretty sure they had practiced in Priesthood meeting opening exercises, because everyone seemed familiar with the tune, but there was nothing particularly musical or well done about their presentation. And yet, the impact was immediate and anything but subtle.

It was one of those times when you could palpably feel the power of God and his priesthood. They are just ordinary, garden-variety saints, as Elder Packer once put it, but collectively, what a powerful force for good in this world! Most of those standing up there on Sunday have been a blessing to my family in one way or another over the past nine years. I love these brethren! I love that they have testimonies and try to live them. I love that they try and sometimes mess up, but get back up and try again. I'm grateful that my sons have learned from them, in classrooms and campgrounds. They have helped my husband give blessings and have brought us chocolate as home teachers. I've watched them overcome difficult family situations and watched some of them newly embrace the gospel and press forward on the path with a faith that is beautiful to behold.

And Sunday, they sang. Most of them aren't comfortable with that kind of thing, but they were asked and so they did it. And as they sang, they bore a powerful witness of the truthfulness of the gospel that the spirit carried into the hearts of those who listened and we were filled, and lifted and blessed.

This is part of why I'm a Mormon. And I love this church!!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ten again....sigh

Our family has been getting nervous. You see we hadn't recieved any flight plans for Ruggles' return from his mission in Thailand. We seem to remember Tough-guy's plans coming a month or so before he got home and some good friends had both of their son's travel schedules a couple of months before.

In this weeks email, I asked Ruggles about it. He called the mission office in Thailand and they sent his itinerary. Yes! Finally!!!

We've known for quite some time that his release date is October 2nd. Side note: A good friend who's Catholic recently pointed out to me that the phrase "release date", which we Mormon's commonly use for the date our sons come home from their mission, sounds like he's been in prison! Because Thailand is a 12 hours ahead of us, that gives him a full 36 hours from the time October 2nd starts there until it ends here. Plenty of time, this mother reasoned for him to actually make it home ON the 2nd.

But, alas! Between 20+ hours in the air and over 12 hours of lay-overs, he won't be home until the 3rd of October.

Ten is still a beautiful number, but I was hoping that today would be nine....sigh.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ten is a Beautiful Number!

After waiting more than two years (yes, it's been 2 yrs and 11 days since this picture was taken at the airport), having only 10 days left before I get to hug him in the flesh is a very exciting thing!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I forget!

I am no longer what could truthfully be termed young. The evidence has been mounting for quite some time now and has become increasingly difficult to ignore.

For example: Gray hairs are much more plentiful than previously in my mop of once nicely brown tresses. My first steps out of bed each morning have become a hobble to the bathroom. Opening a jar or turning a steering wheel occasionally causes breath-takingly sharp pains in the joints of my hands. And, I now frequently have to move a book farther from my face in order to get the words into focus, a very annoying development! I can no longer ignore all of these signs clearly indicating that age is creeping upon me at a steady pace.

Don't get me wrong, there are wonderful things about growing older. I'm much more comfortable in my own skin than when I was a mere 20-ish. I stress less over the small stuff. I understand my own strengths and weakness more clearly and thus am better equipped to deal with the stuff that happens in life. Twenty-four plus years of marriage to the same guy has too many benefits to list in this post, but suffice to say that it's a very good thing. There's definitely an upside to it all.

I was raised by a father who clearly enjoyed the process of growing older. Age has never bothered him and although my mom has been mostly silent on the issue, she seems to feel much the same; no lamenting the loss of youth and the effects of advancing years. My parents passed that attitude on to me. Thus, I have never had any problem telling others my age and birthdays ending in zero don't dismay me in the least.

However, there is one side effect of having a substantial number of years under my belt that truly drives me nuts! It's the horrific lack of memory!!! If you've given birth, you've experienced it during pregnancy and know what I'm talking about. However, I can no longer blame this sad malady on gestation and, worse, I can't even comfort myself by pretending that it's going to get better after the delivery! It's here to stay along with all the drawbacks that come with chronic forgetfulness!!! Thank heaven for forgiving family and friends!

I've tried herbal remedies purported to boost memory, but forget to take them much too often to ever ascertain whether or not they are at all helpful. I write notes to myself as reminders of things and then promptly lose them never to be seen again (okay, I do eventually find them, long after they are no longer relevant!) And I write appointments on my calendar that I forget to look at. There are myriad ways that this lack of memory negatively affects my little world and all of them are embarrassing and stressful!

I'm truly quite comfortable with most of the signs of my not-too-far distant old age. Grey hairs? Bring 'em on! Slower pace? I'm ready! Hairier self? I've got good tweezers (though, sadly, no cilia forceps. I didn't win InkMom's contest!). Failing vision? My glasses are stylin! It's all good except that I'm more forgetful than a baby whose yet to develop that whole object permanence thing!

I don't have anything profound or particularly interesting to say about the whole issue, just aaaarrrrgghhh!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sisters!

Do you remember the song from the movie White Christmas? The way Rosemary Clooney's voice slides into the notes? Love it!

I have lived far, far away from my sisters and any and all family for nine years now. Count them, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 years. That's huge!!! (at least to me).

Before we moved to the midwest, we lived two blocks from my mom (my children could literally walk to grandma's and pick apples off her tree!) and 10 minutes by car from my in-laws. One sister lived twenty minutes in one direction, another 30 minutes in the other. Most of Hubders family was within 20-ish minutes too. Family was everywhere. Anytime you needed somone to watch your kids, help out with --whatever--you know, the kinds of things that you need help with and can't ask anyone but family, they were there, always. Multiples of them and you could always count on a helping hand, more food than you should eat, a laugh or two and a sympathetic ear. I've missed that!

I love the Midwest. Love the green, love the friendly atmosphere, love the common sense outlook, love the spring and falls (the summers and winters--not so much, but that's another post), love the fact that my children have dear friends from different religions and races, and most of all, love the people! My only real beef with where I live is that my family is NOT here.

Most of the time, I don't really think about it and it's bearable. But occasionally, especially holidays and General Conference, when you know exactly where they all are and what they're all doing, and you're not there, it hits me with an ache that almost overwhelms me.

We've made multiple attempts to get Hubder's employer to move us back to Utah, but don't have any hope of it happening anytime in the near future. So, I try not to think about how extended family-less I am and enjoy the things I love here. Because they're truly legion. Really, I don't want any of my Midwest friends to get the idea that we don't just love living here. Because we do.

I'm sure I've mentioned that one of my six sisters moved here this summer (yup! I'm one of seven sisters--and we all have exactly one brother--a really great brother!). She's only one sibling from a large family, but can I just say how NICE it is to have some family around again!!! Our kids think it's the coolest thing on the planet just to hang out at each others houses. Labor day, we got together with family!!! It was such a novelty!!! My sis and I chat, and learn sign language together and share recipes, and books, and crafty and bloggy things.

Now, I have some really wonderful friends here, friends that would literally do anything for my family. But, I'm so hesitant to ask. Maybe I shouldn't be, but it's just the way I am. And so, for the past nine years, anytime I've needed someone to watch preschoolers in the middle of the day, when we have to go out of town for a couple of days, or we need some help with a panic/semi-emergency, I've asked. But I've always felt uncomfortable and a little bit guilty. Yes, I've returned the favor and all, but still, I'm very reticent to request friend's time and energy to help me in my little life.

Enter, my sis who just moved here. It's pure bliss!!! Somehow, it's completely different when it's actual family! I don't hesitate, even when it's last minute and maybe not even nice to ask. I know that if there's any way she can do it, she will. If it won't work for her, she'll say so. And I know that she'll ask me back whenever the need arises and I'll tell her yes, or no depending on my own life and it'll all be good!

I didn't even realize how much I missed that easy give and take in a big extended family, until I got a smidge of it back in the form of my sis.

So, this post is dedicated to Laree, my MUCH younger, (I'm almost old enough to be her Mom!), fellow bloggin, joy to talk to, fabulous Mommy, brought something really sweet and important to me back into my life, sister.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Toothless!

Have you ever noticed that there's nothing cuter than your kid's toothless grin?


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Take that tag off!!! Last Triathlon post


Hubders is a nut!!! He's the funniest guy I know, makes me laugh every day and prevents life from ever being dull.

One of his favorite ways to tease me is that he tries to wear new clothes with the tags still on them. More than once I have been sitting by him at church and suddenly realized that he has a tag hanging behind his tie. Jeans will still have stickers on them as he walks out the door. Shirts will have tags hanging off them. I have to chase him around the room in order to rip off the tags. He loves to act offended that I wouldn't let him wear the tags out in public. This little ritual has been going on in our home for quite some time now.

Saturday morning while waiting for the signal to start my division of the triathlon, I started hearing people call my name. I turned around and saw that my family had arrived, all of them in the green shirts from my sis. I looked at my sweetheart and saw that he still had the sticker down the front of his shirt! Surprise! Yup, that's MY man! I hollered at him to "Take that sticker off!!" He just smiled and shook his head.

I finished the swim, transitioned from swimming to biking and headed out. As I went past my family, I again told him to rip that tag off and he hollered that it was motivation for me and I would have to take it off myself once I crossed the finish line!

He couldn't believe how many women tried to take that tag off during the race. He had to protect it multiple times in order save it for me.

It's soo easy to take for granted how supportive that good man is of everything I do. Hubders thinks I can do anything and often I'm able to accomplish things for that very reason. I'm motivated to keep going and never give up simply because of his faith in me. He's the best husband on the planet, and he's mine!!! It's a beautiful thing!




My guy! Yup, he's the one with the tag on his shirt!


Just before my victory kiss. Notice the tag in my hand, I finally got to rip that thing off!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Triathlon Surprises

I love surprises, and got a big one this weekend. My sis, who lives here, called on Friday morning and we arranged to meet at a park later in the day. As I walked to the park, I could see her there with her kids and then I saw someone else who looked like one of my sisters that lives in Utah (I have five there). I looked again, sure enough, it was her! I ran and threw my arms around her asking what on earth she was doing here. It turns out she read my post on surprises, and decided it would be fun to surprise me by flying to the midwest to watch the triathlon! WOW!

I was dumbfounded! But as I think about it, I shouldn't have been. She's always doing really thoughtful and sweet things for people around her. Buying a plane ticket and arranging to be away from family and church obligations (she's Primary president in her ward), is huge!!! But that's just the way she is. We had sooo much fun together!!


My sis and me at the park!

To top it off, she brought green t-shirts (my favorite color) for everyone so that I could easily find my cheering section! Some of the shirts said, "It's a beautiful thing". I didn't quite understand why and when I asked, she said it's because I say it a lot. I had no idea that I said it, but over the course of the next few days, I noticed every time I said it, and she's right, I say it a lot! She also brought a black frame with "It's a beautiful thing" in vinyl between two pieces of glass. It looks fabulous and I'm trying to decide where to hang it in my house.

My next surprise was that my husband showed up a few hours later. You see, I originally thought the triathlon was not till the 29th, next saturday. Hubders had a three day conference for his work on the 20-22, so when I realized that the triathlon was on the 22nd, I was dissapointed that he wouldn't be able to be there. But it couldn't be helped, so we moved on. [Side note: When I posted that I was a ditz and had discovered that the race was earlier than originally thought, I stressed my sis out! She already had her plane ticket and had to change it!! She says she's gonna hold that ditzy moment over my head for some time!]

When hubders pulled in the driveway, I didn't know if he left the conference early or if the conference had been cut short. Turns out it was neither. Apparently an email was sent out in June changing the conference from a three-day to a two-day conference and I missed the email (I'm his secretary, and still a ditz!). So, according to Hudber, I surprised myself on that one. But, whatever, woot anyway, he was home!

So, not only did my husband get to be there, Sweetie is home for two weeks from college, my sis was there, my three still-at-home kids, and Cutie-Pie, my adorable daughter in-law who is a photographer came too! I can't tell you how great it was to see them as I came and went each time! Quite the cheering section!!! And sooo easy to spot!

Here's my cheering section. A sampling of the best people on the planet!


The wind beneath my wings (more on the tag on his shirt in the next post)


Cutie-Pie, Hubders, and Sweetie


My Girls!



Girlie-whirl!


Cutie-pie! Have you ever seen a more adorable daughter-in-law?!


Banana-girl!



Sweetie!! Home from college (for a minute, anyway!)


Bikey-boy and Cutie-pie!


Hubders and Girlie-whirl!


Triathlon and I lived to talk about it!

This is the first of three posts about the triathlon. This post is about the logistics of the actual race, the next two posts will be about the emotional stuff connected to the race. (this will be the most boring one, I promise!)

The morning started lousy. Having inadvertently set my alarm for 4:45 pm instead of am, my eyes popped open at 5:11, exactly 4 minutes before my running buddy "C" was to pick me up (we were meeting "M" there because she had a booth in a festival that she had to go to immediately after--crazy woman!). In a panic, I scurried around trying to get ready. Do you have any idea how many things you have take with you for a triathlon? Water bottles (lots of them), biking shoes, sunglasses, helmet, biking gloves (these are absolutely crucial!), two towels, Gu (which wasn't as nasty as I thought it would be), power blocks, your triathlon packet, swim goggles, the bike, a shirt to throw over the suit after the swim ... you get the idea, there's lot's of stuff. I threw it all into a bag along with clippies, hair elastics, brush, a yogurt smoothie and string cheese, (because you have to, have to, have to eat something and I obviously had no time to eat at home!). I threw on my suit, socks and shoes and ran to the door to see if "C" was there. Thankfully, she wasn't yet, so I actually had time to go put on deodorant and take care of other, um, personal needs (I know, TMI).

Food and hair were taken care of in the car and soon we were walking our bikes and all our stuff up to the club house, having parked blocks away. As you walk in, you have to give your race number and someone writes it on both of your arms with a sharpie. Then they write your age on your calf. "C" said, "Let's go to Cathy, a friend who was volunteering." So Cathy wrote on me. She learned it was my first triathlon and asked if I wanted smiley faces. "You, bet!" I told her. Later, I had a woman ask me, "Hey, how come you got smiley faces and I didn't?" I told her that when you're with "C", you get perks, which is true, she seems to know everyone and they all love her (who could help it!?)
My number and smiley face!

Yup! I'm 44!

We set up our transition area, got our computer chips (they looked like a Velcro watch kind of thing that you put on your ankle) and then went down to the water to wait for the race to begin. The temperature was AMAZING for August in the Midwest, so amazing that we were freezing until we got into the water. I stayed at the back of the pack as we headed off ("C" says there's less chance of being kicked and clawed in the back), and, since I'm an incredibly slow swimmer, that's exactly where I stayed. A quarter mile looks sooo much farther when you're in the water than when your standing on the beach! But, I just kept moving my arms and legs and eventually made it out of the water.

Waving to my family after the swim.
Next it was time for transition to biking. I toweled off, drank/ate (I don't know which to call it) the Gu, followed by LOTS of water, put on my shirt, socks, shoes, helmet, biking gloves, forgot my sunglasses, and headed on out. The bike was just as I practiced it, but maybe a smidge easier because of the adrenaline of race day. Nothing unusual happened and, twelve miles later, the transition to running went smoothly.
The end of biking

Running was the event that I had become stressed over. You see, my killer work-out class instructor had advised me to only give 60% on the swim, 80% on the bike, and 100% on the run. To me, this meant running the whole thing, no walking. But, two weeks ago, when we biked and ran the course, I was absolutely shocked by how hard it was to keep running after the bike ride, even though I'd combined biking and running into single workouts multiple times. I simply didn't have it in me to run the whole thing, so we walked up the hills and ran down them. I was grateful that I learned this before race day, knowing that it would have been defeating to learn I couldn't run the whole thing the day of the race.

I was fully prepared to run as much as I could and walk when I had to, but, since this was the run (100% remember?) I was determined to give it all I had and see how far I could make it before I had to walk. (Have I mentioned that I live in a VERY hilly place? There's no such thing as flat around here).
The run was easier than two weeks previous, maybe adrenaline again, who knows, but I was more than 3/4's the way and was sure I had one more tough hill to conquer and knew I wouldn't be able to run up the whole thing when I turned a corner and saw the finish line!!! The last tough hill was already behind me and I ran the whole thing!! What a happy moment!!!
I finished strong and didn't care what my time was (in fact, I never checked and since they haven't posted the times on-line yet, I still don't know how long it took me). I was just so thrilled to have crossed the finish line in one piece!!! No bleeding by the side of the road with a mangled bike, no drowning, no tripping and biffing it on the run! Just the toughest/longest work-out I'd ever done and it was behind me!!!

Me running up to the finish line.

Imagine my surprise when, "C" and "M" went to check on their standing, came back, and told me that "C" came in third (she didn't even have time to really train and she comes in third!), "M" came in fourth (she cut 30 minutes of last years' time!), and I came in fifth!!!! Admittedly, we were in the fat-girl division (they call it Athena's!--funny!), but still! I was third to the last one out of the water. We had the purple swim caps and there were only two after me, so I was SHOCKED that I came in fifth!!! "C" repeatedly told me that it's not about the swim, don't sweat the swim, and I guess this proves it. I was simply concentrating on getting from point A to point B, and had no idea that I had passed anyone in my division!! It was quite a happy moment.

"M" (4th place), "C" (3rd place), and me (5th place)

The triathlon was exhilarating, I felt like I had climbed Mt. Everest. I think I may be hooked!!! Last night my husband looked at me and said, "I'm going to have to buy you a bike, aren't I?" I just gave him a big smile and he started calculating the cost. "C", "M" and I are already looking for another triathlon. We're all trained up, it seems a shame not to do one more this season!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Primary Pet Peeve

Primary teachers. (Mormon lingo: Primary is the organization in our church for children ages 18 months to 12 years). Love them. Been one. Worked with them multiple times. Thank God for primary teachers (literally!) But, have you ever noticed that every ward (congregation) has at least one that seems to think that sharing/singing time is their opportunity to simply sit and listen? Their primary class is talking, throwing things, refusing to cooperate with what's happening in sharing time, pulling others hair, you name it and the teacher just sits there completely oblivious and does exactly ... nothing!! Seriously?!! Hasn't it ever crossed their mind that having one adult for every 8 to 12-ish children is crowd control strategy, a strategy that will never succeed without their active participation?

I'm not in a leadership position in primary--not my place to do anything about this. In the past when I have been in a leadership position nothing we did seemed to make a difference on this issue anyway. But it's a pet peeve of mine and I wanted to vent.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Calming Down

My friend and I biked and ran the triathlon course last saturday. The biking was easier than I thought and the run was much harder than I expected. But it was a good thing. I'm much calmer now about it all. I know I'll cross the finish line, I may have to walk part of it, but I'll get there!! What would we do without good friends?!!

Here's a pic of us after we finished. It was SOOOOO hot!!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

AAUUUGH!!!

Stress levels have now skyrocketed!

I have just learned that I've been a total ditz (so what else is new!). I've had the wrong date in mind for the triathlon!! It's a whole week earlier than I thought! Yup, only 16 days left! I think I'm gonna be sick!

Runnin Scared

I try to ignore it, pretend it's not there. Sometimes I even almost succeed. But, most of the time, it's there in the back of my mind, popping out at odd times and interfering with my already taxed thought processes. It spurs me on to do things I wouldn't normally do, things that are painful and inconvenient. It's fear, nagging, tug in your gullet, deep down fear.

That triathlon which sounded like a cool idea last September when two dear friends started putting the pressure on me to join them in 2009, is looming large. It's now only twenty-three days away and counting down fast. It seemed like a good idea, but, it was then comfortably eleven months away. I didn't even feel nervous when I paid my 90 bucks to register in January, eight months is plenty of time. The fear started mounting in March and now it looms so large that I find my insides shaking with it at odd moments.

They call it a Sprint Triathlon. In layman's terms that means that it's the shortest, easiest series of the three parts of a triathlon (swimming, biking, and running) that you can string together and still call it a triathlon. So here's what it consists of: a 1/4 mile swim, then a 12 mile bike ride, followed by a 5K run.

None of the parts by themselves feel too daunting. I'm not that great of a swimmer, but I just happen to have enough buoyancy(okay, it's fat) on my body that sinking takes effort, so as long as I keep kicking and moving my arms, I'll get there eventually. I figure I can ignore the stinking lake water and make it through the swim fairly well.

Next, we bike which is more intimidating to me. Although I'm learning to love biking, I'm just not that experienced yet. My own bike is WAY too heavy, I'd never make it. A good friend, who happens to be just my height (I almost wrote "just my size", but I'm sure her pants are at least two sizes smaller than the ones that I can button myself into), and has been a triathlete, graciously offered to let me use her amazing bike.

Her bike is sleek and incredibly light weight, which makes the hills sooo much easier!! The drawbacks? Well, I hadn't even heard of clips (in the biking world, I mean), until talk about the triathlon began. For the uninitiated (read, me a year ago), clips are what serious bikers use in lieu of pedals so that they can not only push down when they pedal, but they can also pull up. You see, there are no pedals on this bike, just two little do-hickeys called clips. The other part of the clip is on the bottom of the special shoes that you wear. In order to ride this bike, you have to get one foot clipped in and then, in order to avoid falling over, you must be moving forward as you clip in your other foot. The clip, of course always flips upside-down, so you have to flip the clip and then clip your foot in, while riding, before you can successfully start down the road. When it's time to stop, you have to get at least one foot unclipped really fast or your gonna fall over with your feet firmly attached to the bike, praying all the time that no one is looking.

I'm getting better at getting myself in and out of the clips, but when the lady who taught my killer exercise class learned which triathlon I was doing, she said, "Oh, that's a really tough bike course for a first triathlon." Great, my stress levels are rising! I can do a 12 mile bike ride, in fact, a friend and I did one with our kids a couple of weeks ago. But between the the hills and a friend mentioning that rideing your breaks down the really steep hills could cause your tire to pop off, and hearing that what this course takes is an experienced biker, the fear mounts.

Last of all we run. 5K is very doable at this point in my life. However, to run it AFTER swimming a quarter mile and then biking for twelve? I just plain don't have it in me yet! I know I don't! (can you hear the panic?) So, every day, I'm running or biking or swimming or doing a combination of them to try and get ready for the big day. Every mile I run, every completed bike ride and every half-hour in the pool helps keep the fear a bit more at bay. But I can't eliminate the fear, it's real and getting bigger every day. It didn't help when a man in my ward (church congregation), told me that when his wife did a triathlon a few years ago, woman after woman ran into one of the many Johny-on-the-spots before the race started to toss her cookies!

I don't want to place or outshine anyone in the triathlon. My one and only goal is not to die! Okay, I admit, I do have one other small goal. I don't want to do anything really really embarrassing. I want to be able to converse about the race afterwards without hanging my head in shame. Is that too much to ask? I certainly hope not! In the mean time, if you need me, I'll be swimming and biking and running scared.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Wedding

July 11th Tough Guy, my oldest, got hitched. He married Cutie Pie, his girlfriend for a year now. The ceremony was at the Conservatory in Old Town St Charles, a really beautiful place. The wedding went off without a hitch and they headed off for their honeymoon in Florida. They got back on Monday and tomorrow, Tough Guy will fly back to Iraq for somewhere between 3 and 7 more months. Cutie Pie is a doll and we've grown to love her through the last few months. We wish them all the best. A few pictures are below.

The happy couple.

My kids--Cutie Pie's included in that, she's officially part of the family now!
Only Ruggle's, who's in Thailand, is missing.

Walking down the aisle with Dad.

Grandparent's and Hubder's brother.

Girlie-whirl with the bouquet.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

My Chosen Career

Years ago, early in my marriage, I was smack dab in the middle of babydom. My boys were 3 and 2 and I was a couple of months from the birth of my first daughter. I'd wanted this, prayed for this, hoped for this, and now that I had it, it was, well...tough. I'd had four very young sisters when I'd knelt across the altar from Hubders and so I knew that little ones were relentless. But I'd been the helper, the sitter, someone to give my mom a respite. Now, they were mine. I was the mom and it was just what I wanted, except for those moments when I thought I'd go nuts.

Hubders was wonderful. I loved the time of day when he'd walk through the door, with his smiling face, his adult conversation, and his joy at playing with his two little boys. But, he did have to bring home that bacon, and so, days were just me and the kids: the diapers, the runny noses, the laundry, the endless messes, the rashes, the tantrums, the lost shoes, the spilled milk; they were all constants in my life.

Usually I looked on the bright side, and fully enjoyed the sleepy snuggles, the faces that lit up just for me, the giggles, the wonder as they watched a bug at the park, the shrieks of delighted terror as I chased them round our little apartment, the absolute trust in their eyes, the joy of watching them learn new things, and the reading. It had become one of my passions, reading to those little guys. Where the Wild Things Are was a favorite and they never tired of hearing it. Who knew that making a story come alive for your kids could be so much fun?

Most of the time I was able to focus on the good things, but the relentlessness of the hard stuff would gang up on me some days and then it would bother me. Oh, not enough for me to feel like it was a mistake. I firmly believed that being a mother was the most important job on the planet; literally a sacred trust from God. I still wanted this as much as ever, but it was a harder gig than I'd imagined, and in the midst of the necessary drudgery, it was sometimes hard to remember how important being a mom was.

One morning, Sally, a friend from church called. Her babysitter was sick and Sally asked if I would watch her 18 month old daughter, Molly, for the day. I agreed. The day was uneventful and Sally eventually returned to pick her up. Sitting on the couch, she looked at me and said, "You don't know how lucky you are. I wish so bad I could stay home with Molly!" I replied that I did feel very blessed to be a stay-at-home mom, and after a few more exchanged pleasantries, Sally took her daughter home.

After she left, I couldn't get her comment out of my mind. I did feel blessed, but something was nagging at me. I mulled it over until I came to a realization. Sally was also very early in her marriage and I'd been to her home. It was a brand new, nice sized house, tastefully decorated with new furnishings, and there were two cute sporty little cars parked in the garage. On the other hand, Sally had trudged down the stairs to our basement apartment, sat on our hand-me-down furniture and walked past our one and only, on-it's-last-legs car. And it hit me. Sally could be where I was; struggling to make ends meet, with little in the way of material goods, and home, full-time, with her kids. She had chosen differently than I had, which is just fine, but it was a clarifying moment for me. The life I had chosen was more important to me than anything else. Owning a home and new furniture and nice cars would come once Hubders had a few more years of full-time employment under his belt; but they could wait while I did more important things.

I wasn't judgmental of Sally. This wasn't about her. It was the realization that this was the only acceptable way for me to live my life. I firmly believed that no one else could love those boys and give them what they needed like I could and I would have happily given up a lot of things before I'd give up full-time momhood. There was something liberating about seeing clearly why I'd made those choices and that, given the chance, I'd make the same ones all over again.

That realization was important, later on, when Hubders faced a long-term illness and money got even tighter. Although we knew that I may, at some point, have no choice but to enter the work force; together, we decided that until we couldn't even put those twenty-five cent boxes of macaroni and cheese on the table (yes, years ago you could by off-brand mac & cheese for a quarter), I wouldn't start looking for a job. Somehow, that day never came and I'm, happily, still at home preparing to send number six, my baby, off to kindergarten.

Although I may at some point get a job, I don't think I'll ever have a paid career. My past dreams of traveling, teaching in a school for the deaf, serving a full-time mission for my church, performing with impressive choirs, and writing gripping novels, all happily gave way to being a wife and mom. I'm entering a new stage of life now and I'm thinking about dusting off a few of those old dreams, but they will never mean as much to me as simply being a mom.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I'm back, maybe?

It's been a while since I've posted. Life has been eventful and busy and hard. Don't get me wrong, there been good stuff too, but I'm feeling pretty fragile. I've written a couple of drafts about it, but haven't felt like posting them. I want to get back into it; look for the funny, the quirky, the silly, and the heartwarming and post about it all, but I'm not sure I'm up to it quite yet. I may just keep reading all of your blogs, without blogging myself, for a while longer. I'm sure I'll start posting again, but not yet.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

By Small and Simple Things

I love the LDS hymns. Nothing brings the Spirit of the Lord and the peace that always follows, into my heart quicker than the singing of hymns. My testimony has been strengthened more in church by the singing of hymns than by listening to the sermons given. (Is that terrible to admit? Maybe so, but it's nevertheless true). There is something about sacred words put to music that bespeaks holiness and sinks the reality of the truths sung deep into my heart and soul. Truly "the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me" [Doctrine and Covenants 25:12]; and many's the time that my heartfelt singing of hymns has been answered with "a blessing upon (my) head".

We went to choir practice after church the other day, something I really didn't want to do. I was tired. We were all hungry. I had to drag all of the kids with me, and two of the three really didn't want to go. But we went. We only sang two songs, both hymns of the restoration. As we sang I again felt the witness that our Redeemer truly is our "shadow by day and our pillar by night" That he saves us today, just a literally and readily as he saved ancient Israel. That the "tokens already appear" and so, we can be sure that "the hour of redemption is near." It's all stuff that I already know and love, but to have it reafirmed as we sang was a sweet and tender mercy from a loving Father.

It's interesting to me that the spirit speaks so powerfully in such quiet ways. No one sitting near me had any idea that anything beautiful and sweet was being experienced nearby, but I came away from that practice refreshed, uplifted and more sure than ever that God is intimately acquainted with me and my struggles. All just from a hymn. "By small and simple things..." [Alma 37:6].

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Random Thoughts

A smattering of thoughts rolling around in my noggin:

Fitting into the next smaller size is exponentially better than chocolate!

Being a Mom is the best and the toughest job on the planet!

Mega intense workouts are good for the soul as well as the body.

Organization may have to wait 'til the next life.

A tag-a-long on the back of your bike is harder than it looks.

Husbands are beautiful things.

You're always tougher than you think you are.

Without the peace and joy of the gospel I'd be ready for rubber wallpaper!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pain and Results (I hope!)

I just started an exercise class. There were only five of us in the class and one personal trainer. Now, I love tough work outs. I don't see any point in doing it unless you're gonna go for it and push yourself. Having said that, I was totally unprepared for the beating. I've been working out for some time now and although I still have more fat on this body than is recommended, I have some good muscle tone under that fat, thank you very much, and some pretty good stamina going on. But within ten minutes into this hour long class, my entire body was jello with fifty minutes to go.

Here's just the first part of class, so that you have an idea of the experience. First, for our warm-up, we ran up and down the flight of stairs five times. Keep in mind that these are stairs in a commercial building and so they are longer than the flight of stairs in our homes. We were breathing really hard by the end, but it was doable.

Next, she set us up with five different stations and we were to do each exercise for one minute. I could see that most of them weren't going to be that bad. Push-ups for a whole minute would be tough, triceps behind the head with a 10 lbs weight--I'd really be feeling it, but knew I could make it. The bicep one I knew would be the easiest. The tossing the ball over your head against the wall as fast as you can, didn't look too hard, and running the stairs for the other station would leave me winded, but I knew I could do it. Not a piece of cake, but remember, I like tough work outs.

I was at the bicep station to begin with. It wasn't that tough, but my eyes got big as I watched our trainer go over to my friend at the push-up station, place one hand on each shoulder blade and push down. You gotta be kidding me?! Push ups like that? Thirty seconds into it, she moved over to the tricep station, took hold of the bottom of the weight and pulled down. The friend at this station started grunting heavily with each rep. Yep, by now I was nervous!

My second station was triceps. I've done tricep with a twenty lb weight before, but I have NEVER worked those muscles like I did with her pulling down on the weight! At the end of the minute my arms were feeling things they had never before felt.

I moved over to the station with the ball. It looked like a regular basketball. Imagine my chagrin when I picked it up and realized that it weighed ten lbs!! My arms were complete jello from the last station, so the ten lbs felt like thirty, and the minute like at least five!

I then ran stairs and now my whole body is completely exhausted, and it's time for push-ups! Every time she pushed down on my shoulder blades, my arm muscles collapsed! I just didn't have it in me.

She then let us take a quick sip of water, towel off the sweat that was dripping like rain and said, "One more time." We did the circuit again.

That was just the first part of the class. She didn't let up for the whole hour. And I do mean hour --she worked us the entire time, to the last minute and told us that we could cool down and stretch on our own time!!!

When the class finally ended I was very sad to realize that those who designed the building didn't have the forsight to put an elevator in. Didn't they realize that there would be people who were in the state where they'd rather just sleep there for the night than to go down those stairs to get to their cars?

It's only because my dad taught me stay on two ibuprofin to prevent stiffness that I can actually make it all the way down to the toilet seat today. I have a dress for the upcoming wedding that I can zip up, but can't wear until I lose a few lbs. If anything can get me there, this is it. That is, if I can get up enough guts to go back on Thursday!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Can you say big?!

Banana girl celebrated her 11th birthday this week. The only thing she really asked for was a big Hershey bar. She meant the 5 oz. size, but her dad, being all about making memories for the kids, found a slightly larger one. The look on her face was priceless!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Some Things You Just Know

Girlie-whirl had two friends over to play the other day. We decided to pack a picnic lunch and head to our favorite park. The day was warm, the sky blue and the park crowded with families enjoying each other.

After playing for a while, we headed over to the picnic tables for lunch. We hadn't been eating long, when a woman at a nearby table screamed out an expletive. Everyone, of course, looked to see what the problem was. She had just noticed a seemingly dead baby bird under her table. Her family quickly moved to another table.

The whole area had now been alerted to the baby birds presence. It was interesting to watch the reactions. Birds had been flying continually in and out and no one seemed to pay any attention. But one dead baby bird and everyone was riveted. The children, especially were drawn to it. Time and again, moms had to remind children not to touch, not to get too close. Parent's faces showed pity and concern. One look wasn't sufficient for anyone, all eyes continually strayed back to the bird.

Then, the once thought dead bird started to flop and flail. The children cried out, "It's moving, it's moving!" Before, everyone felt sad, but now we were stricken. It was obviously not going to survive, was quickly on it's way out, and watching it struggle just hurt. As we stood around wondering what to do. One woman stood up and with her napkin, gently rolled the bird over, he flailed and was immediately on his back again. She tried again and eventually got the little thing to stay on it's stomach. It now looked more comfortable, and flailed less, but we all knew that it was just a matter of time.

Eventually I went back to the playground with the girls, but I kept going back to check on the bird. The last time, the bird was gone. I think it had breathed it's last and someone removed the body. A nice sign of respect.

Life is all around us, so much so that I think we take it for granted, don't even notice it--I know I do. Death, on the other hand, tends to be hidden from society. Old people move to rest homes where we don't see their physical descent. People dying of natural causes or accidents frequently do so in hospitals, hidden from view. Even the death of animals, something that 50 years ago was a common occurance is now a rarity for most of us. We don't kill the chicken and eat it, we buy a package of meat from the store.

Although our society hides death as much as possible, although we diliberately try to be ignorant of death and everything surrounding it, everyone at the park knew instinctively that the death struggles of that bird were not insignificant, that they mattered. Young or old, educated or otherwise, rich or poor, everyone there recognized that life is sacred, you could see it in their faces. It's a universal truth, and a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Embrace the Differences

We are not experienced travelers, but the little travel we have done has been an adventure. We've tried to embrace the differences in other cultures and not expect things to be like they are at home. This has generally been easy, but there was the one time when it took some real effort.

Years ago, my husband and I took a 21 day trip that included a three day Aegean Sea cruise. I'd never been on a cruise before and was excited to experience one for myself. I'd been told that the food on a cruise is to die for, and I was eagerly anticipating the food, the islands, the sights and any other delights that were in store.

We happened to board right before lunch, so we hit the smorgasbord and loaded up our plates. Sitting at a table with two friends and our Greek tour guide, Magda, three of us realized that we had big, black, curly hairs in our pasta salad. Can you say, YUCK!!? Magda asked us what was wrong. When we told her, she shrugged, and in her beautiful Greek accent asked, "What can you do?" Because we had come to enjoy our experience in Greece to the full, we determined not to let a few hairs ruin our meal. Leaving the pasta salad on our plates, we thoroughly checked our remaining food to ensure hairlessness and finished off our meals with only slightly dampened enthusiasm.

The cruise proceeded and we visited the islands of Patmos, Mykanos, and Rhodes. The sites were beautiful and enlightening. Our meals on board were good and, although we ate somewhat cautiously, we, thankfully, saw no repeat of the hair incident.

The last morning on board, we breakfasted as usual, eating leisurely while we chatted with friends. As we finished up, a couple at a nearby table asked the waiter for more orange juice. In full view of us all, he walked over to a nearby table, picked up two glasses, one half empty and one seemingly untouched, filled the half empty glass to the brim, placed both on a serving tray, and gave the juice to the couple! We were more than mildly disturbed, slightly queasy, and grateful that our meals on board were behind us!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sweetie

Sweetie is away at college. Far, far away. I miss her like crazy, but she calls almost every day--a beautiful thing for a mom's heart. I confess that I stalk her on facebook occasionally to see what else I can learn about her life. It's always virtuous, lovely, of good report and praisworthy stuff. One of my favorite things about the whole facebook thing is that every time a friend of hers posts a picture with her in it, I can download it. So I have a bunch of pictures of her college experiences all taken and posted by people I don't generally know. Below is a smattering of my favs.