Monday, January 25, 2016


So, I'm standing in line at Costco, waiting for my pizza to be ready when my phone alerts me that I've got a text. When I open it, the first thing I see is that beautiful shimmering diamond on my daughter's hand, and then I read, "WE'RE ENGAGED!!!"

My heart started beating and my eyes filled with tears of absolute joy. My precious girl, my only daughter has found her Prince and tonight they have made their intent to marry official. I couldn't be happier. Of course, I had to show the complete strangers around me the picture and share my news! Bless them, they were excited and happy too!

When I got home, I ran in the door and shouted the news to the boys and Conor and I started jumping and dancing around the living room. Lyndsay and Nate FaceTimed us when they got home from Park City, where he had taken her for dinner and the proposal. They told us, through their beaming smiles, the story of how the night went down, complete with fancy steak, a walk in the snow (and she didn't bring a coat!), and a bent knee with a ring extended. She said, "If I had known he was going to propose, I would have washed my hair! Or worn eyeliner! Or worn pants!" (she had leggings on). She's so silly.

Afterwards, she sent me the other selfies they took afterwards. I love the pure joy on their faces, even though her nose and fingers are pink with cold.

Love is beautiful, and I am so grateful that Lyns and Nate have found each other. I truly love Nate. I feel like the Lord has prepared him for my sweet girl, and she for him. They will be a great pair with a glowing future. I had a serious talk with Nate when he was here over Christmas, expressing to him my deep love for Lyndsay, how precious she is to me, and how because of the things I have experienced in marriage, it is so important to me that she be safe, always. That she never feel what I have felt. He listened carefully to me. He promised me. I trust him, and that's big.

So, the kids were up late reveling in their happiness, but got up early the next morning to attend the Provo City Temple Open House before Nate headed off to classes.

And then Lyndsay's room mate begged to take some pictures of them. She got some terrific shots. They will have professional engagement pictures taken next month, but I love to look at these and just smile and laugh and cry. The emotions of motherhood take over my heart at times like this.

So happy for my girl! Later this month, she and Nate will be coming here so that Lyndsay can go through the temple and take out her endowments. Nate's family will come down from Visalia to attend with us and we will celebrate together, and get to know each other a bit, and PLAN A WEDDING!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Eagle Project Day

Finally, the day has come! Today was Aiden's Eagle Project Day! Anyone who has a son who has earned his Eagle knows exactly why the mother is given a pin. Holy moly. Aiden has been finished with his merit badges and rank advancements for years, and this project just loomed over our heads. Once high school begins, finding the time to do scouts becomes a serious challenge. I finally told Aiden he couldn't get his driver's license until he at least had his project planned and approved. That seemed to be the golden ticket.

He decided to do some landscape improvements around our church building and the pavilion behind our building. The trees needed borders and mulch. There were nine trees that needed borders and several others that needed to be mulched. I have to say, this project was all Aiden. I didn't help him at all. He filled out his workbook, made the necessary appointments for signatures, had his interviews, arranged for materials and delivery, did all the fundraising and planning, and then executed the project with stellar leadership. I guess that's the whole point of the project, really, far outweighing what the actual project is.

I had worked the night before, so I came straight from work, picked up 8 dozen donuts on the way home, and then directly to the church we went.  Aiden had announced his project in church and made reminder phone calls/FB announcements, but I really had no idea how much support he'd have.

I shouldn't have worried. Cars started pulling in, and pulling in. Fathers, sons, scouts, leaders, teachers, people who just loved Aiden and wanted to help him gave up the early morning hours of their Saturday morning, and I was fighting back tears as I walked around taking pictures.

I love that Aiden's brothers were there to help him. Dylan earned Life Scout, but then never did his Eagle Project after he moved to his dad's. I think he regrets that now, and was very insistent that Aiden see this through. And little Conor worked the whole time with all those big boys and men, never complaining, proud to be a part of something important.

This is Darren Whitcomb, Aiden's Scout Master.

We started with a prayer, which Aiden asked me to offer, and then Aiden rallied his troops and designated tasks.

And then everyone got to work. Much of it was hard! The soil was compacted, there were difficult roots to overcome, but people worked together in a beautiful way.

Here is a front view of the property of the church with the trees as they were before.

And in the park behind the church, the trees needed some TLC.

Aiden showed great leadership.

 Aiden made all the arrangements with a landscaping company to order the materials and have them delivered the day before the project. He raised all the money to pay for it.

Once each tree had a border and fresh mulch, it looked so beautiful and fresh!

I love this picture. The man on the right is Sam Buyon. He was one of Aiden's dad's missionary companions in the Philippines all those years ago! How serendipitous that here he is helping his companion's son work on his Eagle Project in Sunland, California!

This is Silvia Pinkston, Aiden's Seminary Teacher Extraordinaire.

Here's Aiden with Bishop Pinkston. Now his bishop, but former team Seminary Teacher with his wife, and always a spiritual (and football!) mentor to Aiden. He's been a great example to him.

And here's Aiden's Stake President, President Morgan helping too! Such love and support.

Um, let's go back to the shovel, shall we?

It took about two hours in total to do all the trees. And it looks so lovely!

Here are the people we could gather together at the end that came to help. There were others that had to leave a bit earlier. You know, it is so humbling to me. We do the best we can and the Lord fills in the gaps. That's how I feel about all these people who love my boy and add things to his character and his life experiences that I cannot. Each of them has been a teacher, leader, friend, or role model to him in various ways, and has watched him grow from tiny Cub Scout to almost an Eagle Scout! I am especially thankful for the men who have stepped in voluntarily, taken Aiden under their wings, loved him and taught him, and been positive, strong, spiritual role models, to teach him how to be a godly man.

And here's the view of the front of the church now, with many other trees done as well!

And the leftover mulch was added to all the planters around the church to freshen up rose bushes and flower beds.

Great work, Aiden! You're almost done!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Let Me Go Home

I hadn't seen my mother in almost six years, or something shameful like that. The years roll by, in one accumulating avalanche of poverty, hardship, nursing school, single mothering, new-job-getting, barely keeping your head above water until one day you look around and think, "My mom! I need to see my mom!"

Things were somewhat more stable. I feel comfortable in my job now. My boys are older, and Dylan is with us now. Both he and Aiden can drive. We were between sports seasons. I could squeeze a plane ticket into the budget. And I needed a break. So, for Christmas, I gave her the news that I would be coming for a visit for her birthday in just a few weeks!

My mom lives in Denver, and this would be my first visit to this particular house that she now lives in. I did some mighty prepping at home before I left the boys to fend for themselves and each other for four and a half days.

I was greeted at the airport by my mom and youngest brother, Jonah, who is living back at home with her for the time being. The very strange thing about not seeing your mother in so long is that when you do, you are assaulted with the visual realization that she is getting older. I still picture my mom around age 40, which is when I moved away from home. Of course, I'm 42, so that can't be, but still, we want our mothers to be immortal, don't we? 2015 was a challenging year for my mom as she had cataracts removed and cornea transplants in both eyes, requiring lengthy and slow and careful recoveries, and one repeat transplant. She's been without glasses that entire time, as her eyes needed to heal without correction til a new prescription could be ordered once the healing was complete. But even without glasses, her vision is better than it's ever been in her life, which is a tremendous blessing for my artist mother.

My baby brother Jonah seemed happy to see me! He was only a little guy when I left home, so he and I don't know each other well as adults, but he let me stay in his room and we had terrific late night talks.

My middle brother, Micah, who also lives nearby in Lakewood, came by with his wife and children and it was fantastic to see them.  Micah is a devoted husband and father, who has overcome so many things in his life and is now working full time as a manager of a restaurant and plowing his way through school earning straight As, with hopes of working for FEMA one day.

I had to reacquaint myself with Micah's children, Madden and McKenzie, whom I haven't seen since they were tiny. I just told them that their dad is one of nine children and I'm number one. As long as they remembered that I was Aunt Jenna and that I'm number one, we're good.

I loved seeing Micah with his children.

Here's Mom in her chair. Every chair in her cozy living room has an afghan thrown over it, and there are books lining the walls. So, it's pretty much a perfect room.

Her sweet kitty Lavender is usually right by her side as well.

I made chili for everyone for dinner the first night, with Micah's family staying for games around the table which was so fun.

The next day, I took my mom and Jonah to see the movie "In the Heart of the Sea" (which I'd already taken my kids to, because, Hello! Moby Dick and Conor!) and then Mom treated us to sandwiches and salads at a favorite deli.

The day after that was her birthday and I really wanted it to be special for her. I planned to cook dinner for everyone again, Shepherd's Pie, and to bake her a cake. Mom has special dietary restrictions, having both diabetes and Celiac's disease, but I had seen a recipe on one of my favorite blogs for a gluten-free cake. Now, of course it had some sugar in it (not much, really), but while she must be careful to watch sugar intake, it's the gluten that she must absolutely avoid. I asked her if I could give it a try, and she was game.

I started on the cake early in the morning. Get this, it was made with quinoa. Quinoa! And it was a HUGE success. I think Mom felt like she was eating a Real Cake. Which was the goal.

Mom has this box of her old 45s. I love it. Someday it will be mine, but I hope that someday never comes, because that would mean that my mom isn't here anymore, and I'd rather have her than this box of 45s, even though they are really awesome. Man, I miss records. 

Micah and I had fun going through the different songs. His children had never seen records or heard them played, so you know we busted a few of those bad boys out.

We played The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Who. . . and the kids watched the records spinning and asked, "How did they get the music on there?" Though, are CDs or DVDs any less a mystery in that regard?

Dinner was fabulous comfort food all the way. Even Micah, who initially griped that there were onions in it, had more than one helping. As did everyone else as well. That was a big pan, and it was pretty much devoured.

And then we got to sing to our Angel Mother.

Her first, middle, and last child with her on her birthday. One, five, nine.

Sure love these brothers.

After cake, we played more games around the table. I think it was a Birthday Success.

The next day was for Mom and me. She drove me around Denver, showing me downtown and various landmarks. We drove over to her cathedral, and though we couldn't get inside due to some renovation work going on, it was easy to admire the stained glass even from the outside, as well as this cute door that reminded me of Mom and I had to take her picture in front of it.

Then, Mom had a tour planned of some of Denver's haunted sites. Yeah, baby. I love me a good haunted house or cemetery-turned park. We drove to several and then parked and Mom told me the history behind each place. Some good stories right there.

After the haunted houses, we drove over to a bookstore and spent an hour or so wandering around, filling our arms with books. She took some of my recommendations, I took some of hers, and we walked out of there with a few bags of treasures to add to our reading piles.

That night, Mom broached the crochet topic again. By "again," I mean, that she tried to teach me when I was 8. I vividly remember. We lived in the old house on the banks of the Delaware River. We watched Princess Diana and Prince Charles get married when we lived in that house. My dad made all of us kids watch Roots in that house. I got spanked pretty good for going down to the river and playing on the icebergs when we lived in that house, and our one episode of dog ownership happened there too. Anyway, Mom tried to teach me to knit and to crochet. I was an avid rug hooker at that age, and was devouring Nancy Drew. The knitting I picked up, the crochet made me feel like a failure. I just couldn't get it. And so with that belief, formed as a child, I never tried again.

Mom asked me, "So, do you crochet?" And I reminded her of that dark time so long ago, and told her I was still clueless. "Can Lyndsay crochet?" Well, of course not. Lyndsay can only do what I taught her to do. So, she can knit. Mom thought that maybe I had it in me to learn and so she patiently sat with me in her living room and walked me through the steps of chaining and then single and double crochet. At first the wrong hand held the tension. I moved the yarn instead of the hook. I messed up over and over again, pulling out my stitches and starting over. And Mom just bore with me. I wish so much I had a picture of it. I will remember that few hours forever. My fingers and hands were so slow, so methodical, so tense, not beautifully rhythmic like hers, flowing in and out of stitches. But I was determined. We changed hook sizes, we changed yarns, I kept trying. And I got it, folks! Another belief barrier shattered! I can crochet!

The next morning was time to head home to California. I took one more round of pictures, here with David, all bundled up for the snow.

Here with my dear Mama.

Here with my baby bro.

It was hard to say goodbye, but I felt like I'd be back soon, that visits would be more frequent.

After getting through security, I settled myself in front of the gate and started chaining. I figured I would use the flight to do some practice.

Here's what I'd done by the time we landed. I was slow (I'm getting faster now!), but developing muscle memory. My hands were less tense and my fingers didn't cramp up. And I think I really like it! I will definitely keep trying.

And when I walked out of the terminal to baggage claim, look at these three handsome boys who were waiting to greet me!

The house was clean. Clean! Even the yard had been raked and the patio swept! Everything had been fine, but they were so happy to see me and have me cook for them again. I so appreciate their support and capabilities that allowed me a visit home.

I know how grateful they are to be with me, because, well, Moms make a difference. And I learned from the best.