Friday, August 29, 2008

The Best of Both Worlds

Instead of doing everything I was supposed to do yesterday, this was how I spent my afternoon:

Eating chocolate and reading a great find. It's the mailman's fault! He delivered this new treasure to me, and I just couldn't possibly be expected to, say, finish that article I'm writing, or scrub the bathroom. . .

While browsing Amazon last week, I came across an old book of Carol Lynn Pearson's diary entries, Will I Ever Forget This Day? I thought I knew every book by Carol Lynn, but I had never heard of this one, so I was intrigued. I bought it used from a bookseller in Utah, who had a 'very good' copy of the first printing (and maybe only printing?) in 1980. I adore Carol Lynn Pearson. She writes like I aspire to write. She feels many of the same things I feel. She is able to put into breathtaking simplicity the sacred truths of life and motherhood and womanhood. I don't always agree with her, but I love the workings of her mind and her heart. She also feels like a link to my own mother who had books of her poetry on our bookshelves when I was a child. Sometimes I consider her to be a bridge between my mother and me, because though we differ in so many other beliefs, Carol Lynn seems to be able to span that gulf and help me see so much common ground that we still share in our woman-hearts. I almost can't even really describe what Carol Lynn Pearson means to me. Almost every poem I read makes me want to break into one of those gut-wrenching sobs. Not because it was sad, but because it was so precisely what I feel in the deepest recesses of my soul.

This particular book is right up my alley. Elouise M. Bell approached Carol Lynn after learning that this Mormon woman who had gained some notoriety from her poetry and plays, also had kept diaries from the time that she was a senior in high school. She asked if she might read through those diaries and publish excerpts from them with the intent to not only show the progress and growth of a woman who "became" someone in the public eye, but also with a very prominent goal of encouraging others to also begin to keep a personal record. Carol Lynn still is an avid diarist, and in all the years since 1956, has very rarely missed a day. At first Carol Lynn laughed at the idea, thinking it egotistical to suppose that anyone would want to read even her little accounts of daily life. But (and the letter of consent is included in the beginning of the book) she finally had a change of heart and decided it would be okay because she believes so strongly in keeping diaries that she figured if her entries could motivate others, it would have been worth any personal embarrassment. The conditions were that the entries must be from her very early years and must offer some value to the reader.

And they do. It's fascinating! "Knowing" her as I do now, it is astounding to see that the feelings and beliefs that are prominent themes in her life now began in her high school and college days. It gives hope to see that she didn't become famous overnight, but rather she felt leanings towards writing and the dramatic arts and she worked. Hard. She wanted very much to know what she should do with her life, what the Lord expected of her. She entered most every contest, poetry and prose. She tried out for most every play. In her free time she read many, many plays, and she read volumes of poetry and made a consistent effort to commit poems to memory. She was in training! Her spirit was being schooled for the magnificent mission that she would fulfill in this world. But she also had the same melodramatic heartaches and yearnings of every other teenaged girl. She didn't get asked to some dances. She, at times, gave up on men and love, only to be rekindled moments down the road. We all know the scene.

I am an avid journal keeper. I have kept a journal fairly regularly since I was four. I also keep journals for each of my children, and they keep their own as well. (I loved to discover that CLP also kept diaries for her children, which she would read from on their birthdays!) I know that as I read back on my journals I see that much of who I was when I was a child and teen, is still who I am today. I see that I had the same worries and concerns that my children now are experiencing. It gives me great compassion for them, and others, to see how much of the human experience is really all the same. I see areas in which I have matured, and others in which I still need some work. I see periods of tremendous pain and struggle, but also periods of astounding growth and progress. I see the hand of the Lord working in my life. I see the blessings that I am showered with. I see goals that I've set and accomplished, and am reminded of other dreams that I have yet to see fulfilled. I even see my writing improve (which CLP also admits. She says that one of the best tips for aspiring writers is to keep a daily diary). So, I don't know if anyone will ever want to read the volumes and volumes I have penned about my life. I don't know if I will ever "become" someone of record. But, I do feel confident that keeping a record of my life has been a blessing to me, if to no one else.

Carol Lynn Pearson and journal keeping all in one. A treasure of a book to add to my collection! And a worthwhile afternoon after all!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Food Memories

Last week I sold a cake. Nothing extravagant, really, but the mother of one of my piano students saw the birthday cake I'd made for Lyndsay and asked if sometime I could make her family a homemade cake, just to eat for dessert, as a treat. They decided on chocolate, so I used my sister's recipe (that I am now in love with) and baked a double layer chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. She was thrilled to get it. This week when she came for lessons she told me how much her family loved it.

She said that when she was a little girl, living in Mexico, her family was very poor and often did not have enough to eat. There was a woman that lived close by, named Marina, and she always seemed to have chocolate cake at her house. My friend and her sister, as little children, would go and do odd jobs around Marina's house, in hopes of being offered a slice of that chocolate cake, which they would share. She said many times since then, even since moving to this country, she has tried to find a chocolate cake that would satisfy that memory of what that chocolate cake tasted like. She was teary and giddy as she said that this one did! She tasted it and recounted the childhood memory to her children. Several days later her sister came to visit her and there was still some cake remaining, so she offered her a slice. The very first thing her sister said was how that cake tasted just like Marina's cake from so many years ago when they were children! The sisters revelled in the cake and the memory it evoked. What a compliment!

Food is powerful. Tastes and smells seem to live in our subconscious mind eternally. There are dinners that bring back powerful memories for me of my mother's cooking when I was a child (and before we became vegetarian as a family).

Swiss Steak. I remember her pressure cooker, with it's little thing-a-ma-jig wiggling to and fro on top and the steam hissing forth. She always served it over mashed potatoes. One of my favorites.

Shepherd's Pie. Still one of my favorite meals, comfort food at its finest. My children love this dish too. I remember frequently asking for it on my birthday.

Creamed Chipped Beef. I can so vividly remember my place at the dinner table, with my dad to my right, and Amanda at my left. I remember the pile of toasted white bread stacked on a plate that the beef was served over. I will probably never make this meal, but I remember it with fondness from my youth.

Deviled Ham sandwiches. A Sunday afternoon, after-church quick-meal. Again, I will never make these, but even thinking about them, I can taste them, and remember making them on the counter in the New Kitchen (the room that was supposed to become the new kitchen after remodeling, but never quite got finished.)

Oh, there are so many! And of course, the treats. I still make the giant chocolate Easter Eggs for my children that my mother made for us. I still use the same Sugar Cookie recipe, the dinner roll recipe, and many others. One of my favorite Christmas gifts ever from my mom (and she is a terrific gift giver) was a recipe box stuffed with recipes from her collection, my grandmother's collection, and even great and great-great grandmother's favorites. All handwritten on recipe cards for us. She made a set for each of her daughters. I love that recipe box, and refer to it often.

When Adam and I got married, he had a small issue with my insistence on family meals. He didn't grow up that way, and the regularity of it stifled him a bit. He was used to dinner left on the stove for people to help themselves to, whenever, or even worse, people fending for themselves completely. I am a big fan of family meals. I cook breakfast every morning, and dinner most every night. When we're all home, like on a Sunday, we may even eat all three meals together as a family. I know it makes a difference to kids, even though it is, admittedly, a lot more work for mom. I consider it an investment, not just in their health, but in their well-being. If you ask my stepchildren what they love about me as their stepmom, they both will say 'family dinner'. I believe it makes children feel safe and secure. It provides a stability that they can count on.

It warms my heart when my kids request a meal. It means that those food memories are forged nice and deep in their minds. It means they'll probably call me one day, when they have families of their own, and ask for that recipe, because they've just got to make it. Share it. Pass it on.


Monday, August 25, 2008

An Example is Louder than Words

It's easier to know things than it is to do them.

A few days ago, Lyndsay and I were walking around the track, doing our laps, accumulating our steps. One of her friends happened to be there, unexpectedly, sitting on the bleachers with a few other friends. We stopped and said hi, but there was something uncomfortable in the air, and I knew what it was. This friend of Lyndsay's, whom she adores, is sometimes a one-sided friend. Lyndsay often does all of the work in the friendship, calling her, reaching out to her, texting her, writing to her. They missed each other so much while Lyns was away at her dad's, and they had a blast together at Girls' Camp, but since then there has been a drought. Lyndsay wrote her a really sweet letter, has called her multiple times, and has had no response from her for the last two weeks. It has racked her with that familiar female insecurity. "What have I done?" "Why is she mad at me?"

We'd talked about this at home, how it was nothing she'd done, and her friend isn't mad at all. Just preoccupied with other friends and other things (boys, most likely), and she's the type of friend that is used to doing a lot of the taking and not so much of the giving. It's a natural, and common problem, really. What concerns me is that I don't want Lyndsay to grow up thinking that in all of her relationships she should have to do all the giving, or the helping, or the rescuing, or. . .the being walked on. She's so kind and she's so sweet. And she deserves a friend that goes out of her way for her, like she does for everyone else. She deserves, as does everyone else, to have her needs met.

So, when we saw her friend at the track, Lyndsay felt a bit miffed. Her friend acted as if nothing was wrong, nothing out of the ordinary had happened, and she was thrilled to see Lyns. And though she blithely skipped on over and walked with Lyndsay for a lap, all she did was talk about her life and her problems, and Lyndsay said nothing about how she'd been feeling bothered. So, when her friend went back off to the bleachers, Lyndsay was still just as bugged as before.

I told her she needed to act with more integrity for herself. Speak up for herself! Teach other people how to treat her. This friend apparently doesn't expend much energy in her friendships because she's learned that she can act that way and still have people clamoring to be around her and get a piece of her time. It makes me concerned for my daughter. She has been sitting around and stewing because she wasn't telling her friend that simply ignoring her was not going to be okay, and she was compromising what she needed in the friendship relationship. If she could kindly explain to her friend that she was feeling like a 'back burner' friend, or a 'friend of convenience', I'll bet her friend would be surprised to know that she was causing those feelings, and would behave differently. She's a great girl.

I know this was good advice to give her. I felt good about the life lesson I was teaching my daughter. But meanwhile, I was staying awake at night stewing about my own lack of courage to stand up to someone that I felt was taking advantage of me.

I tried to make my position clear, but then this person attempted (and succeeded) to get to me through emotions, and I caved. I never, ever want to hurt someone's feelings. So, I drew a new boundary and laid that one out. It was accepted, and then later bulldozed, and I was caught so off guard that I didn't know what to do except cower. I felt uneasy inside. There is nothing particularly dangerous about this person, but I just felt disrespected, like the boundary that I had set for myself was second to this person's desires. I agonized over it for several days, and even when talking with this person, I put on a happy, cooperative face, trying to suppress the feelings I was struggling with. But it was eating me alive. Today, feeling like a hypocrite, I contacted them and told them the way that I was feeling and that the boundary I had initially laid forth was still in place. It was scary, and I am more than a bit afraid that I have offended this friend, but I have an enormous weight lifted from my shoulders because I acted in accordance with my conscience and my integrity.

I guess the way that other people react is not my problem. I only have to worry about my end, difficult as it is to separate the two. But I have spent far too much of my life in pleasing mode, and I want to have more personal integrity so that I don't find myself resenting the circumstances that I got myself into out of weakness and lack of courage.

It really stinks that our children follow our weakest traits, no matter how hard we try to hide them. Maybe I have taught her to allow herself to be treated that way. Maybe I will have to show her, rather than tell her, the way to do it differently. Today started out weak, but ended on an exhilarating high note because I allowed myself to matter.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Catching Up

Every day I hope something blog-worthy will happen. It hasn't yet. Or, I've just been suffering from writer's block and can't seem to break through with something fun or interesting to say. Which frustrates me. I'm sure I have things to say. I just can't think of them. But I've been out of touch with so many for so long, that I must just jump back into the game and start from somewhere. So, here's a recap of what's been going on over here for the last few weeks. For those who read my children's blogs, I apologize for the redundancy. They keep taking all the good stories!

First of all, the big highlight of the summer was the release of the final installment in the Twilight series. Since three of us are fans, one copy was simply not enough. We were there when the store opened to buy two copies, with the understanding that Mom didn't want to wait too long for her chance! I'm finally getting my turn, and whoa! What surprises! If only life wasn't so busy! I'd rather just read all day. . .

It seems like we've spent a lot of time in pools this summer. I wish we had our own, but we have access to several, which is almost as nice. I love being with my kids. Their company is never dull, and I will soak up the fact that they want me around as long as they do. No conquering the water slide yet. But someday. We had a great time in the high school pool one day, only to go back to the locker room and find that someone had stolen Lyndsay's shirt. We had a few hearty laughs, mostly at her expense, but in the end, chivalrous Dylan surrendered his shirt and walked the mile home bare-chested so his sister didn't have to.

And Conor is starting to love swimming. As long as Mom is close by. Dad just isn't as good. Darn it.

Of course, Lyndsay and Caitlin went to Girls Camp, and Dylan to Boy Scout Camp.

And Aiden and Sean also got to attend a week of day camp at Camp Akela for Cub Scouts.

Conor is also deciding that going potty is very fun. Especially with some reading material. If that's not his Grandpa Holiday, I don't know what is.

This morning I took Dylan and Aiden to the airport to have one last summer visit with their dad. Lyndsay stayed home this time. As she gets older, it gets harder and harder for her to want to leave her life here, understandably. But it was good she was here because this morning after the airport, she and I went to her high school preview appointment to set up her schedule and walk the school to find her classes. It helped her nerves quite a bit, but we really need to get the first two weeks behind us. She'll do great, I know. It was exciting to be there with her. Really takes one back, walking the halls of a high school.

For about four days there I'd planned on starting a preschool here in my home this year. I had a few people ask me to do one, and I finally agreed, but a little too late. It seems there isn't time to get enough kids together for this year, so we'll put it on hold for next fall. I have so many good ideas, and I know it would be fun. Good for Conor too, and a creative outlet for me. For now, I'll keep building my piano business and focus on writing while the kids are in school. That is certainly enough.

And now, off to bed. Or maybe another hundred pages of Breaking Dawn first.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

He Has All the Fun

Adam works a valet job some nights and weekends. Usually it's at the Country Club, but sometimes they are hired for private parties or corporate bashes. He never knows what's in store if it's private; he's just given an address and a time to show up. Last night he worked in La Canada, the city where his ex-wife and kids live, at an address, incidentally, right around the block from them. I got this call about half an hour after falling asleep:

(whispering)"I just opened the door for Forest Whitaker!"

(rubbing sleep from my eyes and trying to focus my mind and stop my heart from pounding after the phone's ring woke me) "What?"

"This party. . .it's at Angela Bassett's house. It's a surprise birthday party, and everyone showing up is some A-list celebrity. Her friend snuck her out for the day so they could have 'girl time' and they just brought her back blindfolded for the surprise waiting at home. And I just opened the car door for Forest Whitaker."

"Holy cow! That's cool!"

When he got home at 3 in the morning there were more tales of opening doors for, driving mega-cool cars for, and talking with notables like Stevie Wonder (who showed up at 1am to sing in the backyard), Magic Johnson, and Samuel L. Jackson. What a trip! Adam's been in the business most of his life, so these encounters aren't all that new for him, and he's not a starstruck person, but he plays along for me. He just thought he was working some birthday party, so imagine his surprise! Makes for a fun evening of work. I'm not terribly starstruck, but I do think it's cool to see someone who has played a part in a favorite movie. He told me he learned something really profound that night, which I won't spoil for him because he's planning to blog about it.

So, now we have a small pile of cash on the dresser from tips given to him by famous people. Even more fun to spend!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

If Mama Ain't Happy. . .Life isn't Fair

I'm hardly ever grumpy. Seriously, hardly ever. I try very hard to be cheerful and upbeat, and to look at life in an optimistic way. But everybody has their days.

Conor's birthday (before the celebration part) was one of those days. Besides the cake I made for Conor, I also made a cake that day for one of my very good friends. She didn't ask me to, but her birthday was last week, and she mentioned that it was a great day except for the fact that she didn't have a cake. And she loves cake. I love her, and she does so much for me that I wanted to do something for her. So, I figured, I'm making one cake, why not two? (Who do I think I am? Hannah?)

I baked all four chocolate cakes the night before so they could rest. I made a batch of marshmallow fondant and sealed it up so it could rest. And I had this really cute idea in my mind for my friend's cake, but it required brown. Well, I didn't want to dye a batch of fondant brown, cause that seemed weird. If it's brown, it should be chocolate. I didn't have loads of time to go find a cake store, so I searched online and found a recipe for chocolate rolled fondant, and I figured, 'Sure, I can do this.' So, with the help of my trusty assistant, Lyndsay, we were up late making homemade chocolate rolled fondant (which I will never do again, because Holy Cow), and then we covered that all up to rest. The food seems to get a lot more rest than I do. I went to bed that night feeling very excited to do the decorating. All my ducks were in a row, and resting.

I started bright and early on Conor's cake. Lyndsay makes all the colors for me because my hands and wrists hurt from the kneading, so she got to work covering the cake with fondant and making the waves. . .there was some frustration and do-overs with that, but we're amateurs and we expect that. . .and I got to modeling the baby out of gumpaste. With the second layer of waves being irksome, I could tell that Lyndsay was losing it. I told her everything would be fine, and not to worry, to which she replied:

"Well, you're just so stressed out that I feel like I'm tip-toeing around you."

Wait, what?

"I'm not stressed, Mom. I'm only reacting to your stress."

Well, I'm reacting to yours, because you're over there huffing and puffing, and I always feel like I'm tip-toeing around your moods.

"Well, I'm just trying to stay out of your way so you don't get mad."

Well, I'm just trying to stay out of your way!

A stalemate.
So, then I had to explain to my daughter that I am entitled to be stressed out sometimes and that it is not her responsibility to cheer me up or overcompensate for my grouchiness. For heaven's sake, I pointed out, I dodge her bad hair days, hormone days, and nothing-to-wear days constantly. I just let her alone and leave her to work it out. So, can I be a stress case sometimes too? Okay, she understood that. Although up till that point I didn't even really feel stressed.

Then came the second cake. We worked that chocolate fondant and rolled it and lifted it and placed it. . . and it tore. Six times. I was madder than a hornet. I wanted chocolate fondant with pink flowers! Pink and brown are her favorite colors! That's how I wanted it! But that stupid chocolate fondant just would not cooperate. And I was sick of figuring this whole stupid cake thing out by myself with no one to tell me what I'm doing wrong and how to do it properly, and I just wanted to cry because in two hours she would be here with her son for piano lessons.

Finally after about an hour and a half of failed attempts to cover the cake with chocolate fondant, Lyndsay had a clear-headed idea. "Mom, what if we cover it in pink fondant with brown flowers?"

But flowers aren't brown, except dead ones.
And then she said, "It would be a better idea if you'd been the one to think of it, right?"
Oh, crap.

Well, fine, she was right. There was really no other choice. So, that's what we did, and the cake turned out well, and most importantly, my friend was delighted and thrilled.

After a few piano lessons I cooked dinner. We had Adam's kids here too, which we do less frequently these days. The kids were all having a blast together, dinner was great, the party went off without a hitch and as the kids were getting ready for bed, I asked Adam how he was, as he had been strangely quiet.

"I don't know, how are you?" he said.

"I'm great!" I answered. "Why does how I am affect how you are?"

"You just seem really stressed out today and it makes me nervous around my kids."

This is the part that made me want to curl into a ball and beat my fists against the floor. Yes, I admitted, I was stressed out earlier today about the cakes. Nothing was working like I had wanted it to. I was tired and frustrated, and I wanted the cakes to be beautiful. But I never once snapped at a kid. I wasn't grouchy with the kids. How come I'm not allowed to have a bad day every now and then? He's grouchy most of the time! He's stressed out most of the time! I'm always covering for him with my kids who see him stressed out! I am entitled to have a bad day for crying out loud! Nobody needs to tip toe around me! Let me have a bad day! It will pass! I will snap out of it and be cheerful again! Why is Mom not allowed to be human?!

I explained that to him without the exclamation points, and he hugged me and walked out of the room to go play ping pong with his brother who had just arrived. I went to bed. He came and woke me up after 11:30 to kiss my face and apologize. I'm allowed to have a bad day sometimes. He was just being insecure, and he was sorry.
So, now I have permission to have a bad day every now and then. I'm saving up the next one for something really good.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

He's 2! And I'm Tired!

I think the older I get the sweeter my babies are. Or, rather, it's probably that I've just learned to cherish them a bit more. I can hardly believe that two years have gone by since little Conor came to our family. But we carried off his celebration last night and this year was fun because he seemed to know it was all about him. You should have seen him giggle when we sang "Happy Birthday" to him. All aglow, he was. But first. . .a trip down Memory Lane. . .

7 months along. . .Conor's first trip to the beach

Fully cooked! Just 2 or 3 days before he was born!

And so now here we are at Conor's 2nd Birthday! Here's his cake for the year: (copied from Sharon's Sugar Shack, must give credit where credit is due, though obviously mine is not as good as hers.)

Conor ate dinner at the big table with the rest of the family, instead of in his high chair. We had his favorite, of course, baked mac and cheese, and he loved it all. He's even a pro with a napkin.

And then it was on to present-opening. He was so grateful that this time he was the one who got to do the opening, instead of constantly being told 'no!'

I have so much more to post about! But I wanted to at least get little guy's birthday up for family. . . Life is BUSY! I'll post again very soon!

Happy Birthday, Conor!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Troubled Years, Triumphant Years

The teen years are filled with pressure. Everyone who has been a teen remembers that well. If you're raising a teen, then you're feeling, like I am, a whole different set of pressures. I also work with the teen girls in our church. I hear their conversations, I watch their interactions, I notice the nervous insecurities in their body language, and I know lots about them that they don't know I know. I feel this calling inside of me to be an advocate for them, to help them find their voices in this crazed and chaotic world of mixed messages.

We have a teen at Church who is now pregnant. It's no surprise, really. She liked to listen to other girls brag about their escapades, and she liked to shove her own in everyone else's faces. But I heard something much different than that when she talked to me. When she talked to me, she said sadder things like, "I've never heard my dad tell me he loves me."

"Never?" I asked.

"Not once," she said.

"I'm sure he does love you. Maybe he shows it in other ways because saying the words are too uncomfortable for him," I reassured.

"How hard is it," she countered, "to say three words to your own kid?"

She had me there.

I don't know. There is no excuse good enough. So, sure enough, she went and found some guy who would tell her. And now she'll have a baby to love differently than she was loved. And she had to veer her entire life off course in order to achieve love. Love that at least for now is going to keep her from graduating from high school, going to college, finishing out her youth, and coming to marriage and motherhood prepared.

I have my eye on another girl, who lets some guy leave his mark on her neck, so that she can feel chosen. I do not pretend to not notice. I don't believe girls like her need people to not notice. On the contrary. If people would notice them, maybe they wouldn't have to go looking for validation in the arms of some hormone-driven young male.

There's another girl who is toying with the idea of bulimia. Not on my shift. I'm arranging a tour at a residential eating disorders clinic so that she and the other girls can see what "skinny" gets them. I watch my own daughter obsess about her weight and everything she puts into her mouth. I've been hearing for years about her father's concern about her weight, and his praise of the ultra-skinny babe, and his monitoring her food choices and portion sizes to the point of her tears. I have a very close eye on her. I remember those days.

I have a big, bold mouth, and I feel like part of my job is to ask big, bold, tough questions. And I do. I have discussed everything from alcohol and drugs to porn and masturbation with my teens. I am not afraid to say any word, or to be honest with them about any subject. I can't afford to be afraid! What they don't learn from me, they will learn from someone else incorrectly. Someone else who also deals with acne, hormones, and their own self-interest at the expense of my children. I made a deal with them that they could have any information they wanted, if they just come and ask. And they do. I want to hear it all.

I want my kids, and every other kid to feel empowered in life. I want them to know who they are--children of God! I want them to know that they have every opportunity right before them, that they can actually and literally construct their own lives, to their own liking and dreams if they will but make some concrete choices for themselves and then take back the reins. I am willing to help them yank the reins out of someone else's hands and give them back to them. They are beautiful! They are powerful! They are influential and can make a difference! They cannot afford to act like everybody else acts. They have every reason to hold their heads high and stand up straight, and give other people around them the liberating permission to do the same.

I must go tell them again. And I will add, looking into their eyes, those three easy words.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Girls Camp

This week Lyndsay is off at Girls Camp. Last year was her first year and she'd only been home from her long stay in AZ for a few days so she was not excited about going. The unknown can be scary, especially when you're the youngster. But now that she knows what to expect, she looked forward to this year with much excitement and enthusiasm. She's got more friends, more confidence, more experience, and this year, her little sister, Caitlin, gets to go too! I've told her tales of my Girls Camp days. I loved Girls Camp more than anything else in my teen years. I went for six years, and would still be going as a leader if I had a car and if Conor was a bit older. But, thinking of her there prompted me to take a jog down memory lane. I got out my journals and read the sordid details of each year, and found some photos too.

Overly confident me, 1987

Back in my day, all the Yearlings (first year girls) had to pass some kind of initiation, primarily meant to humiliate us all in good fun, and to make us easy targets. In my year, we all had to wear pacifiers around our necks. All day, every day, and don't get caught without it! If you were caught without it, then you had to go to the front of the mess hall during dinner hour and do something else baby-ish, which escapes me right now (I don't think I ever lost mine)--wear a diaper and pin on your shirt or something and clean the mess hall, or sing some embarrassing song? I don't remember. Jenn will when she reads this, I'm sure, or my Aunt Lori. But we loved our pacifiers! We even sucked on them and got quite attached! I still have mine in a little box of camp treasures.

Baby Yearling with pacifier

Another fun initiation that my Aunt Lori did was "Mr. Moose". (I read in my journal that she was later told to abandon all initiations as they were against Church policy, but I don't think any real harm was done.) Anyway, the first year girls were blindfolded and seated on a bench in the mess hall, and then Mr. Moose came staggering in. He would stand and face the blindfolded person, and quiz them.

"Point to my left antler."

"Point to my right leg."

"Point to my right ear."

"Point to my tail." (and at this point, a jar of peanut butter was put in front of the poor Yearling, who jammed her finger right into it, pointing at the tail. Gross. But effective.)

I loved that my Aunt Lori came to Camp as our leader. I'm pretty sure she was there with me all six years. She may still be going, for all I know. But she made Camp so much fun and so happy. She wouldn't let us sit around and complain or be negative. She believed in singing. Singing louder. Singing more. She'd take us around to sing to the other cabins at nighttime, and she'd teach us harmony parts and rounds around the campfires. If I get to be a camp leader, I will do it the way that Aunt Lori did. I love that she is a part of my favorite memories.

Monster Mash skit, 1986

I made great friends at camp, grew closer to the girls in my ward, and met new friends from other wards in the Stake. I had this habit of becoming instant best friends with someone new and then almost suffering a broken heart when it was time to leave camp and go home. I just grew so attached to some of them, and always longed for an older sister, that they seemed to fill that emptiness in me. I remember growing especially fond of an older girl named Gail Behler. I wrote pages and pages about how dear she was to me. I loved that even though she was several years older than I was, she never treated me like a squirt. I mattered. She saw me. It made a huge difference in my life. It was a neat surprise that my second year she was also my Secret Sister (the name we drew and secretly gave small gifts to throughout camp, and then revealed our identities the last night of camp.) When I came home that year, and the next year from camp, it was Gail that I missed so much. I would sit in my room and cry and cry. (I was a very dramatic teen.) In reading back on all these memories, I decided to try and find her, and did on I emailed her, and am hoping she remembers me and emails back. I'd love to chat with her again.

Me and Jenn, 1990

One of my oldest and dearest friends, Jenn, was there with me every single year too. We were inseparable at Camp. Sometimes a good thing, sometimes a bad thing, as we worked through our teen years, but I wouldn't have it any other way. She was my partner in crime, always a good sport, and always ready for adventure, and she was always content to tag along and let me shine (or be bossy, whichever way you look at it). She was with me when we paddled out into the lake and deflated Miriam's raft. She was with me when we got lost on our hike and we were miserable and hot and sweaty and irritated with mosquitoes. And she can still remember the words to every single camp song and can still sing them in harmony with me.

Our ward at Camp, 1990. That's Tara in the Groucho Marx glasses

Oh, we had the usual cat fights amongst the girls. We had practical jokes--some that went way too far--all night talking sessions, cold showers, bugs and more bugs, injuries and accidents, hurt feelings, laughing fits, tearful testimony meetings, skit nights, crafts, and hiking misadventures. We cooked our own food over campfires, and figured out boating by ourselves. I loved it all. I loved it when Tara came, two years after Jenn and I started. Tara is so much fun! I'm still in touch with her too, and I'm sure we could get together and laugh for hours about camp memories.

Me with Beverly Carter

Another leader that I admired was Bev Carter. She was our YW leader in Church and came to camp for several years. I wrote in my journal that she didn't much care for the dirt and bugs--she was a little softer than my Aunt Lori--but she was so much fun. I looked up to her in many ways, and watched her closely. She and I are still friends to this day, now as mothers and wives. Her example was pivotal to me as I shaped my own family. I just adored her then, and still do.

Laura Hoppe and my sister, Amanda

My last year of Camp was special to me because my sister, Amanda, got to come as a Yearling. I just knew I couldn't miss the chance to go to Camp with her. She wasn't yet a great camper, but she was funny, and she put up with me. My dad came to Camp that year also, just for a day, as the Representative Priesthood Holder, or whatever. I wrote in my journal that he sat at a picnic table and just wrote poetry the whole time and we brought him food. Sounds like Dad.

Dad the poet

Oh, my gosh, those days were so fun. I am so grateful that my Lyns is up there having a blast too. I'm quite confident that the memories she is making will last a lifetime for her as well. I can't wait to hear all about it when she gets home tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The FIVE Meme

My stepmom, Raelene (who has started her own blog! Check it out here!) tagged me for a meme. This one looks easy, and fun.

Rules: Each player answers the questions themselves. At the end of the post the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment letting them know that they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answers.

Ten years ago:
1. Almost to the day I had surgery to remove a (benign!) tumor from my breast.
2. I read the entire Book of Mormon in 50 days.
3. I was finally starting to feel at home in Show Low, AZ.
4. I was really getting my feet wet with homeschooling Lyndsay.
5. My sister, Abby, was living with us and going to school.

5 Things on Today's To-Do List:
1. Teach 4 piano lessons.
2. Clean the bathrooms.
3. Walk at least 10,000 steps.
4. Finish the Chris and Dana Reeve book.
5. Call the Junior High about enrollment for Dylan.

5 Snacks I Enjoy:
1. Cheetos
2. Ben and Jerry's (Cookie Dough, Mint Cookie, Half-Baked, PB cup)
3. Vanilla yogurt with blueberries and walnuts (which I can never add again because of Conor's allergy...can't even have them in the house. But, I suppose I'd rather have him.)
4. Cookies
5. Soft pretzels with mustard

5 Things I Would Do if I were a Millionaire:
1. Of course, buy a house and two cars.
2. Hire a really good interior designer (who lets me be bossy) and a Master Gardener to make our home/property so enticing we never want to leave.
3. Take the family on several trips to see interesting parts of the world where history is rich and people are a lot less fortunate than they are.
4. Give a lot away to those aforementioned less-fortunate.
5. Have an incredible food storage system.

5 Places I Have Lived:
1. Merchantville, NJ
2. Mesa, AZ
3. Show Low, AZ
4. Draper, UT
5. Sunland, CA
(see? Coast to coast!)

Now I tag: Adam. His first meme!

Saturday, August 2, 2008


With all of the trials and worries we have going on right now, I don't know how, but I feel blessed. So peaceful, and contented, and calm. I love my life!

I am insanely proud of my children. I'm watching them unfold and become amazing little people. Dylan returned home from Scout camp with bee stings and adventures, and happiness in his voice. . .that is starting to crack. I inundated him with letters while he was gone. Made the other kids write him too. I knew that leaving for camp was hard for him. He'd only been home for a day after his long visit with his dad, and off he went again. He was full of nerves and worries about what the experience would be like. I'd hidden a letter in his backpack for him to find once he got there, and then every day he was gone I wrote him long letters filled with the happenings of our days, good ol' Mom advice, and my love for him. He said the other kids teased him about the piles of letters he got every day, but he loved it, and told them, "That's right, cause my mama loves me!" Boy, is he right. I hope he never ever doubts that!

Last night I had Mother/Son Date Night with Aiden. We went to McDonald's and then to the track (to walk it off), where we walked two miles and talked. And sometimes we didn't talk. And it was all nice. I'm just getting to know Aiden as a boy. He's growing up so fast, and he's always so generous and patient and giving. Sometimes I have to work to find out what's really going on inside that heart of his. Sweet times. He told me that Date Night is his very favorite privilege. Mental note: Do it more often.

Lyndsay and Dylan are right now at the Los Angeles Temple doing baptisms with the youth in our ward. I love their hearts of service and willingness.

I was setting Conor in his high chair tonight after a long period of incessant whining for food, and my frustration almost made me miss the fact that every day tending these kids, even in the monotony of every day, is a labor of love and an investment into who they will become. I had this image of my grungy whiny baby driving me nuts change into Dylan and Lyndsay who have so little time left in the nest really, and of Aiden who has grown out of all vestiges of babyhood, and I was overwhelmed with this sense of contentment. It's all worth it. I saw it, even just a glimpse, but I saw just enough to have my frustration and impatience melt away with Conor and look at him with new eyes. A good reminder for a tired Mom.

My days are filled to overflowing with activities, goals, projects, and just plain old work. But it fills me, and I am aware of how lucky I am. Even on the days when it seems like I don't get a second to myself. Maybe even especially on those days. Another day will come, though I'm really in no hurry. Tonight, I feel blessed.