Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Moments of Beauty

Hustling, my mind full of disquiet from accounting for backpacks, shoes, jackets, instruments and three clean-faced boys (Brandt's face doesn't have to be clean at this stage of my day), I backed out of my garage because, once again, we were too late to walk and I would have to drive the kids down the block and around the corner to the school.

At the end of the driveway I froze with my foot on the brake pedal.
"Woah, look!" someone said.
Two enormous hot air balloons were drifting slowly over our neighborhood.  I mean, they were probably normal size, but they looked enormous because they were so low.  Their colors were bright and the morning sun shone behind them.  I became aware of the music that was playing on the radio (Capriccio: Moonlight Music by Richard Strauss).  I started driving down the street toward the balloons, then stopped at the intersection so we could watch their peaceful movement.  We watched the flame ignite under one balloon, then the other, heating the air to prevent their baskets from scraping the tiles on a nearby roof, so it seemed.  Gradually, they grew farther away, and I remembered that the kids would soon be late for school.  I started driving, the song ended, and the moment was past.


It was bedtime.  All the boys were upstairs brushing teeth, shoving at each other, laughing, taunting.  Except for Brandt, who was sitting quietly on the dark stairs next to the built-in night light.  I sat down next to him and kissed his round cheek.  He smiled, then looked at the tiny moth that was walking on the glass of the light.  The moth stopped.  
"Look."  He said. "It's a bug."
"A moth." I said.  I watched Brandt as he watched it, his face golden in the light, then I pursed my lips and blew gently at the moth.   My breath ruffled its wings, and it walked along the glass to the edge of the frame until it was partially hidden under it.  
Brandt frowned.  "I wanted to touch it," he said.
Its back half was still visible.  "Touch it." I said.  
Brandt raised his finger and softly touched its wings.  He drew his hand back and smiled and the moth squeezed between the glass and the frame to slip inside to the light.  I grabbed Brandt, hugged and kissed him, and took him up the stairs.


I was driving along the back of the grocery store parking lot with my trunk full of fruit and vegetables (and maybe a handful of bulk-bin chocolate-covered raisins) when suddenly a gust of wind picked up  the leaves that were strewn along the ground and lifted them into the air, tossing them across my path.  The sun shone on their lighter under-sides and I felt like I was driving through golden-brown glitter.  Just then a man in a sports car rounded the bend and drove past me.  I looked at his face as he passed.  I was sure he hadn't noticed.


I'm trying to pause when they happen, these moments of beauty in my life.  They're often very simple, or happen at inconvenient times.  But they are there.  I hope you see them in your life too.  Life is beautiful.

Predictable Endings

I was putting things away in the kitchen when Dallin, who is eight years old, paused at the counter.

"Mom, how come you always know how books and movies are going to end?" he asked.

"What do you  mean, Dallin?" I asked.

"Like you always know that the good guy will win."  He talked about the protagonist in the book I'm reading aloud to him at bedtime, and how he had known all along he would overcome his obstacles. "It's always like that," he said.

"Are you saying that because you know that in real life, things don't always work out like we think?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said.  "I wish there were more books and movies like that."

We talked about how most people like to have happy endings, but that there are some books and movies without happy endings (which he plans to read/watch).

"Besides," I said.  "In the great story of humankind, we do know the ending already.  When all of this is over, we know that good will win over evil."

"I know," he said, and then he ran off to play.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Snow and Celebrating: Happy New Year!

We have a tradition of bundling the kids up and driving north once a year to find the snow.  Mitch and I have great sledding/snowman-building/cocoa-drinking memories from our childhoods, and we want the same for our kids.  This time we decided to combine our snow day with our New Year's celebration.

It was so fun!  Even though it was too cold to build snowmen, we had two days of fun in the snow.  Here are some pictures from our fun in the frozen north.

On the last day of the year we found a beautiful place to play and we were the only ones there.

We were also the first ones to sled here after the recent snowfall, so that meant the boys had to blaze sledding trails down the hill.  It was very cold and there was so much snow, which meant lots of work!

But before long they were flying down the hill and having fun, though at the bottom of this run, Brandt turned and screamed up the hill as loudly as he could.  He'd been blasted in the face with powder at the bottom of the hill and it was quite a shock for him.

Another exhilarating moment for Brandt on this day was his first experience creating yellow snow.  Yeah, that is exciting for little boys.

Adam wanted to make a snow angel.

We saw this sign as we were leaving.  Apparently there is a frozen pond under all that snow and ice at the base of the hill.  Oops. We'd steer clear next time.

That night I decorated our hotel room because I'm a nerd like that.  We celebrated by watching movies, playing a ton of games, and eating snacks.  I had a package for the kids to open on every hour starting at 7:00 pm, with something fun inside: poppers, noise makers, a time capsule sheet, special treats (Tim Tam Slams!),  etc.  Just before midnight we switched on the TV to watch the ball drop in NYC. Then the kids pulled our balloon-drop ripcord, we toasted with sparkling strawberry soda, and lit sparklers in the frozen night on our balcony.

New Years Day we played with fluffy stuff in the hotel room, thereafter employing the vacuum.  The kids played with this happily for over an hour.

In the afternoon we went back to our awesome sledding site.  Though still very cold, it was sunny with no wind, and a beautiful day for sledding.  And since we had made our sledding paths the day before, it was smooth sailing.


Since then, Brandt has prayed almost daily, "...and thankful for me to play in the snow."
Bright blessings and happy new year to you all!

Christmas 2012

December was busy.  School and music events and performances, Mitch's formal work party, two church-related Christmas parties, Conjunctivitis, colds, and coughs, doctors' appointments, a backpacking trip, church callings, a concert, hosting two holilday dinner parties; All of this made for craziness  a busy holiday season.  Sound familiar?

Here are a few pictures from December.

 I made these salt dough ornaments as a Christmas gift for the children in our Primary.

I was so excited to have a chance to use this fun decorating idea for a friend's birthday.

Gingerbread houses with the kids.

My family exchanges home-made ornaments each year.  This was mine for this year.  I used the same technique to make poinsettias to decorate a tree skirt I made for the tree in our family room.

I also made balls like these to use for our outdoor lights display.

 Another fun thing we did was create a 12-days of Christmas for our cousins who are living in China, using their guinea pig, Snowball, who we adopted when they left the country almost two years ago.  We emailed them one photo each day for twelve days leading up to Christmas.  It was one of our favorite Christmas activities!

On top of everything,or rather, in spite of all of that, I really wanted my kids to get a sense of what Christmas is all about.  I wanted them to remember the reason we celebrate, and give them a taste of that great feeling you get when you give selfless service to others.  But sometimes it's hard.  Sometimes it's too busy.  The kids aren't listening.  There's so much to distract them.

So I planned some service opportunities.  WAY to many service opportunities for us to get all of them done (the goal was one a day, ha!), but we did get some done and it really made a difference in the feeling in our home around Christmas!

 Here are some of our favorites:
Taped quarters to vending machines
Donated new clothes and toys for local kids in need
Baked these cookies for our local fire fighters (who then graciously gave us our very own tour!)
Taped candy canes to ATMs
Gave small toys to random kids at a playground
Donated food through the kids' school to local food banks
Picked up trash all along the way to school
Donated some of our toys and clothes
Made stuffed sock snowmen to donate

I am so glad we did some simple acts of service.  Although the month was crazy (I literally had to fish a jingle bell out of my youngest son's right nostril one night) I think it really made a difference to the kids to spend time serving others and feel the spirit of Christmas.  I know it made a difference for me.