Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Women's Conference with a Stop at the Tulip Festival

This is me with one of my dearest, bestest friends, Sara. Sara and I met when we were each pregnant with our first baby girls. We talked every day on the phone when our babies (and then our second babies) were little, and we did all kinds of things together when we could. Then I moved up to the mountains, and she moved across the country for her husband's years in medical school, and we've each moved several times since then, but we've always stayed in close touch, sneaking visits whenever we can. She's been there for me in ways that are hard to even talk about because they are so sacred to me, and I hope I've been able to return some of the love and kindness and friendship she's offered to me, though I'm surely still in her debt. Because guess what she did for me as a graduation/turning 40 present? She flew me to Utah to attend Women's Conference!

Women's Conference is held at BYU each May, and I've never been able to attend (Sara has several times.) Women from all over the country (and Canada!) come for two days of uplifting classes. We get to stay in the dorms on campus, eat in the Cannon Center, and use the beautiful facilities on the BYU campus (it was like Lyndsay and I switched places! She came home and was watching the kids for me, while I was sleeping in the dorms where she'd just been! Made me kind of teary to walk in her shoes.)

It took two planes to get there. I flew from Burbank to Las Vegas, where I met Sara, who was in Vegas at a medical convention with her husband. We got on the same plane and flew to Salt Lake City. And we were both ready to heave-ho when the plane landed. Holy turbulent skies, Batman. When we arrived, we couldn't remember which company we'd rented a car from. But Utah is friendly, so we just went from counter to counter asking if our name was on the list. We finally found our reservation, all the way at the end. And then we stepped outside to go get the car.


Here I was coming from southern California, and Sara lives in the Arizona desert, and we were COLD. It was such a beautiful day looking through the windows, but outside it was 48 degrees. The wind was blowing, and it was snowing on the mountains. But we got our car and headed toward Provo. On the way, we passed a sign announcing that the Tulip Festival had been extended at Thanksgiving Point, and Sara knows how much I love tulips, so we pulled in for lunch and a tour. We were told it would take about an hour and a half to walk through the gardens, but since it was so cold, (and thank you, Sara!) she opted to pay for a golf cart (with a windshield!) and do a speedy tour, with a blanket. Good thing she can drive a golf cart! The tulips were amazing, but it was so cold. We stopped by a vendor truck and bought gigantic hot chocolates.

After the Tulip Festival, we got back on the highway and headed to BYU to check into our dorm. I was so happy to be there. We went over to the bookstore and spent a few hours perusing (and I bought some fudge! BYU Bookstore Fudge is incredible!) and then we had a fun evening just chatting, catching up, and deciding which classes we wanted to take in the morning.

Here is a shot as women gathered in the Marriott Center for the opening session. (Opening and closing sessions were held here, all together, and then we split up and attended our individual classes during the day.)

On the first night of the conference (our second night there) there was a concert held in the Marriott Center. I learned that my friend Hilary Weeks would be one of the performers, so I was able to get in touch with her and she had Sara and me come through the secure entrance and gave us floor seating near the performers.
Sara is also a Hilary Weeks fan, so it was fun for her to meet Hilary for the first time. And I always love any chance I can get to see her.

We were able to snap a quick photo together after the concert. Me, Hilary, Lynne McLean (Michael McLean's wife), and Sara.

Fortunately, for the two days of the conference, the sun came out in full force and it was perfectly lovely. The classes were wonderful, I ran into two old friends from different states that I've lived in and hadn't seen in ten years, and we ate until we were sick. The food was amazing everywhere. The Cannon Center had the most delicious breakfast and dinner selections, and there were treats and food carts all over the campus. I had so much fun just eating. But the best part was being with Sara. Usually when we're together we're wrangling our children. Or we're chatting while cooking, or cleaning, or running errands. For three and a half days, we just got to be together. And it was such a privilege. Time away from our busy lives is a rare commodity. A lot has happened to each of us since we met all those years ago. I love having a friend that has seen me through all of it (I'm very blessed with several incredible friends like this.)

The memories of being with her will last me a long, long time, as will my gratitude that she blessed me with the chance to go and have the experience. And I took pages upon pages of notes of each of the speakers and classes, and I've already gleaned more from reviewing them.

So grateful, Sara! I love you!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Organizing Children's Schoolwork

I actually completed this project over my Spring Break, but haven't had a chance to blog about it. This was one of those things that has been in my mind to do for years. Previously, I had a drawer in my filing cabinet dedicated to the children's schoolwork, and then another file in another drawer for report cards, and one for awards. But it was all so mish-mash, and I wanted to compile everything chronologically and in a way that could be added to easily as the years go by. Plus, I wanted the kids to be able to take their memories with them when they have their own homes.

It was quite the project, let me tell you. Over the years, I've only kept the best of their work. It was really something to go through and see all those old projects that I remembered helping with, seeing their progress, all of the learning and hard work, and all those memories.

One by one, I pulled out a child's folders and went through each item, putting it in the pile for the right grade (which was sometimes tricky as not everything was dated, or would just have a teacher's name on it, or I'd have to guess by handwriting proficiency, but I think I got everything correct.) These were Aiden's piles, here on my bed. He's had some very creative teachers and his projects and reports were so fun to look back on.

After I had everything sorted, I made file folders for each grade. (I got my filing boxes and file folders from Office Depot on sale earlier in the year. I love that I could get folders to match the color of the boxes! I found it was more practical for me to turn the boxes long-ways and to use legal size folders because so many school projects or art projects are a bit odd-sized.) I also made a file for ART (miscellaneous drawings or things that they'd made out of school), REPORT CARDS, AWARDS (Conor's Student of the Month and Principals Awards went right into that folder once I'd taken a picture of him with them.), and then MEMORIES (a folder for miscellany like a letter from Mom or Dad, or a drawing from a sibling).

Of course, Conor's is the easiest, since he's only just beginning his schooling! He's also the only one with a PRESCHOOL folder.

Lyndsay's is complete, since she's finished with high school. College papers are mostly done online, and they can be her responsibility, thank you very much! She really only had high school in public school, but I did have some things from lower grades when we homeschooled. I also have homeschool binders for each of the three big kids that I don't want to take apart because they're so cool the way they are, so I guess I'll either slide those into the back of their file boxes, or they will be in addition to the boxes.

Boy, was it satisfying to go through all those papers for all those children over so many years!
Made me love 'em so much, too.

And now they sit all tidily on a shelf in the closet: Lyndsay, Dylan, Aiden, Conor. A very good feeling!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Conor's 1st Grade Open House

I don't love all public school functions, but I do look forward to Open House. It gives me a peek inside my children's lives away from home, sitting at their little desks, coloring with their stubby worn-down crayons, and working so hard. I love to see all their art and writing projects displayed, and I love how excited they are to show off what they've been up to. Here's little Conor's night, as he finishes up 1st grade. (sniff!)

 Conor with his mom and dad at his desk

 Where Conor works his magic

 Nice and neat inside his little desk! (I had to look)

 His ocean diorama, just finished on Thursday. I love his little clay crab.

 Conor's most amazing teacher, Mrs. Pinkston

Last week the first graders went on a field trip to a strawberry farm. A bulletin board had been set up outside his classroom where I got to see pictures for the first time, and read his little writing sample.

 Conor got to pick his own basket of strawberries to bring home.

 This is the best picture I've seen in a long time. How sweet that these tired little guys fell asleep on the bus after all that berry picking! So grateful his teacher captured this. 

 His "stained glass window" that he worked on for days

 Conor standing inside the classroom coat cupboard. 

 With his friend Seth

 With his friend Luis

 I took a picture of this writing sample because I loved that he spelled 'erupt' exactly the way he says it: without the 'r'.

 With Danyel

 With Irwin

 With Xol
(see, kids in my classes at school never had cool names like this. They were Richard, Mike, Jennifer, and Christine.)

 Last Friday, Conor was awarded Student of the Month. And not being Mother-of-the-Year, I forgot to show up and missed it. Yeah. Right before Mother's Day. 

He also got Principal's Awards for Math and Language Arts. 

So proud of my little guy! He's definitely got a mind (and a mouth) of his own, but his heart is all gold. I adore him so very much and am grateful for another chance to have a first grader! 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mothers Rule

While I dangled my feet in the pool, Aiden came and set this leaf in the water for me. 

I've never had a perfect Mother's Day. In past years there have been some real doozies, to tell you the truth. But still, I love Mother's Day. Mothers rule the world. Mothers are the most influential, powerful figures in the world, never mind governments or Fortune 500 Companies. The future lies in the strength of mothers. I am grateful for my own mother, a Saint, really, and for all of the mothers that have come before her to bring me to this point in the history of the world. As a mother. 

A Mother's Tree sampler cross-stitched by my mother, waiting for me to frame it

Every year I look forward to Mother's Day. I've read about women who hate the holiday, but I don't care. I love it, even though it never resembles the Hallmark holiday it's accused of being. I love the handmade card that will inevitably come home from my 1st grader. 

I love that I can always count on Aiden to set his alarm and get up early to bring me breakfast in bed. I love that with breakfast, is always a vase of tulips, which he had Lyndsay drive him to the store to buy, late at night after I'd gone to bed.

But, it's not perfect. After I ate my breakfast in bed, I still had to get up and make pancakes for everyone else. And I still had to tell the boys to stop fighting a million times because for Pete's sake, it's Sunday, and Mother's Day! The cat still barfed up a hairball on the newly shampooed carpet, and it was 102 degrees outside. (Two things I hate.) I am still a single mom, delicately balancing this new separation, and I am still worried about bills I don't have the money to pay.

But today, I got to lead the Primary children in singing "Mother, I Love You" and "My Mother Dear" during Sacrament meeting, and they sang so well. And the talks were not about perfect examples of motherhood, but of the expectations of men to support the women and mothers in their lives. And today? Today Dylan called me, and he sounded happy. And he told me he loved me. And even though I made dinner tonight, Lyndsay and Aiden didn't balk when I told them they were cleaning up afterwards.

Taken singly, these events of the day seem insignificant, though possibly quaint. But that's how it is with mothering. Day in and day out, a whole routine of minutiae, mundane, do-it-to-have-it-undone sort of tasks. And yet, enough of those days go by and you look at the people who now populate your home (or their own), and your life, and this world, and you stand all amazed that you had something to do with that, whether you birthed them or not. Because the work of mothering is how the real evolution of this world is occurring.

And you tell me that's not powerful.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Surprise! A 40th Birthday Picture Post

The day began with L.A. traffic during morning rush hour, errands, and rain. (Loved the rain!) I got to take a nap, which is always nice, and I had cleared my day of piano lessons. Usually the kids make me taco salad for my birthday dinner, but this year we switched things up and they made taco pizza instead.

It was delicious!

Lyndsay made me my traditional angel food cake with strawberries.

And then things started getting weird. People were rushing around, and Lyndsay told me maybe I should change my clothes for the family picture. I was so confused. "What's wrong with what I'm wearing?" I said, but I got no answer. Don't ask too many questions on birthdays, though. So, I changed.

As I was eating my piece of cake, Lyndsay was telling me, "Hurry up. Get your shoes on. Eat quickly!" And I'm saying, "What in the world is going on?!" Next thing I know, I'm blindfolded and in the car, and Lyndsay is taking me somewhere, while Aiden and Conor are giggling.

Then, Lyndsay is leading me, and I'm taking timid steps.

 When everyone yelled "Surprise!" I screamed. It scared me to death. Apparently, it made for a good reaction. I love the pictures that follow.

This was at my friend Ale's house (my friend who is the children's clothing designer behind Alejandra Kearl Designs) and many friends from church were there, having all worked together to give me this surprise birthday/graduation party.

But then I saw that Hannah was there! Hannah was my best friend from nursing school. She lives about 50 miles away and I hadn't seen her since graduation, but Lyndsay had arranged for her to be there too. I was so happy to see her face!

Love these girls! And boy, do they make yummy food!

 me and Hannah

me and Jennifer

How cute are these cupcakes?! Little fondant band-aids!

And chocolate mints (so delicious!) with the nursing symbol on them! These girls thought of everything!

And mini graduate cupcakes! Love it!

That little stinker Lyns was in on it, helping to arrange my day so I could be celebrated and loved. It was such a great night! I've never had a surprise party like that before. Made me feel so awesome, as I welcome a new decade of my life. Thank you to all my amazing friends! I'm a lucky girl! Love you!