Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Family Resolutions 2009

Adam has already told me that it's unfair to set family resolutions; that resolutions must be set on an individual basis. It's my belief that whoever pays the mortgage can set resolutions for all who live in the house.

So here are our family resolutions for 2009:

* More consistent family scripture study
* More consistent family prayer
* More consistent family home evening

These happen to be the same resolutions we set every year. And to give ourselves a pat on the back, I don't think we're too terribly bad, but we can do better. The easiest of the three is family home evening. Our church recommends that every family set aside time one evening a week to have a gospel-based lesson, a song, a fun activity, and maybe a treat. The kids enjoy this, so the only hiccups have been in finding a workable night for all six people (got to be Sunday) and deciding who does what. We'd made a little chart with the following categories: lesson, prayer, song, treat, activity, participant . Six spots for six people. We put velcro on the back of photos and the idea was that we'd rotate the pictures, giving everyone equal opportunities. The problem was people kept messing with it through the week. Abby even just wrote her name in marker next to the spot marked "activity". So, Madeline and I chose this lovely chart on-line and it will be hung up. HIGH.

Moving on: family prayer and scripture study. Now, we've never had a problem with prayers at meals. And I believe everyone is saying their individual prayers. But the family prayer we envision is a daily kneeling prayer. We'd like to have it coincide with family scripture study. I believe both of these things are important. I really do. And yet we have struggled to make them a daily reality. We thought at one point that we must do this in the morning before anyone left the house. Here is our first attempt:

Doesn't it look successful? Do you see the dazed look on little Madeline's face? Are you getting a good look at Adam? Doesn't his body language tell you he's teachable and open to the whisperings of the spirit? If you could hear him, this would be the audio: "I don't WANT to read scriptures in the MORNING!" Shortly after this photo, Lyle happily left for work and I looked at my two grumpy children who really didn't need to be up at that hour and it was a VERY long day. So early morning doesn't work for us. It definitely doesn't work now that Adam has early-morning seminary--which makes me laugh considering his proclamation now forever preserved in photo form.

We switched to dinner time scripture study which worked for quite a while. But now we've got kids doing wrestling and plays and dinner isn't always ideal. SO, the plan for 2009 is that all family members will meet in our bedroom right before the little girls go to bed. We tried it last night.

To inspire us, I started with a quote by Marion G. Romney. He said that consistent scripture study would result in great blessings.

"The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity--the pure love of Christ--will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness."

I looked at those assembled to see if they had a gleam of inspiration in their eyes. Adam said, "I don't like Mitt Romney."


"You said the quote was by Mitt Romney."

"No I didn't. I said it was by Marion Romney, a former apostle. I don't think they're even related. But the quote. Aren't those amazing blessings?"

Adam said, "I don't like the part about children being submissive."

"O.K. It's not like you'll be Stepford Children or anything. It's just saying you will be more teachable. More humble. Less likely to argue with your mother about inspirational quotes...."

So we moved onto the scripture reading. I read, Adam read, Madeline read and then it was Abby's turn. At this point, for whatever reason, Maya Qiu got the giggles. She thought the word "therefore" was hilarious and Abby's verses were peppered with therefores. Abby laughed because Maya was laughing.

Madeline rolled her eyes and said, "Abby. Just let me read it."

Abby screamed, "NO! I'm reading it!"
Adam said, "Oh my gosh," and put a pillow over his head.

Maya laughed.
Madeline complained, "It's taking like ten minutes to read one verse."

Adam sighed and said, "Oh my gosh, Abby."

"I'm DOING it!" Abby screamed. And she started to read. "Therefore..."

Maya laughed like a hyena. Abby fell over onto the bed. The teens rolled their eyes and we decided we'd read enough for the night.

We knelt around the bed for family prayer and the little girl's went to sleep. Maybe because of the newness of the routine, we forgot to put a diaper on Maya.

She came to our room groggy-eyed at 5 AM and with wiggly legs said, "I need to use the potty!" She ran to the bathroom, did her business, went back to sleep, and woke up dry as a bone.

Blessings already.
Bring it on 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Aging Fast

Our dogs have birthdays in December. We knew that. Somehow though, we were a year off on their ages. We thought Olaf was turning 4 and Charlie was turning 8. Wrong. Charlie just turned 9 and Olaf will be 5 on New Year's Eve. I think we subconsciously subtracted a year because we know dog years equal like seven people years. Even more in big dogs.

In big dog years, nine is old. And in giant dog years, Bernese Mountain Dog years, five is old. This has brought out tears in the children. And lost sleep. And conversations on the cycle of life, and enjoying your time on earth, and pets in the eternities. And I've wondered for about the millionth time why we have such intense children.
Lyle asked one of the kids yesterday, after she'd tearfully plopped herself on his lap, "Well, would you rather not have dogs because they don't live long enough, or have dogs and love them while they're with you?" She's still thinking.

Do you know my kids can't listen to the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" without choking up? The day our cat died, Madeline asked me to play it on the piano. The children sobbed and Lyle yelled from the kitchen, "ENOUGH! It's a CAT!" So now forever after, "Over the Rainbow" is a song of pet death. Intense children.

We had a wonderful little dachshund who died before we got Olaf. We chose a giant breed because Lyle wanted to be sure he'd easily see the dog in the rear-view mirror. He wanted a giant breed because if the truck happened to bump it, the truck would be more damaged than the dog. Because when little short-legged Sally died, the kids were beside themselves. The funeral was very moving. The day after, Madeline left class and spent quality time with the assistant principal where she drew pictures and wrote poetry. Adam was called from his class and they shared a hug. Seriously intense children.

So I look at our aging dogs, the scraving eaters--one with a graying muzzle and the other with arthritic hips, and I pray for longevity. Please don't be going over the rainbow anytime soon.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Aging Gracefully

My Madeline turned twelve in October, which puts her on that teetering edge between childhood and teen-dom. There was no trip to Toys-R-Us for her Christmas presents this year. She wanted an i-Pod and jewelry and lip gloss. This has put me in a bit of a funk. I've resigned myself to the fact that Adam is now a full-on adolescent, but I'm not quite ready to let Madeline make that leap.

I think it's because she was arguably the cutest little curly-headed girl ever. She could have been a modern-day Shirley Temple. She had the hair, the voice, the personality. But she's grown out of her tap shoes and now this weekend she went to the salon and asked them to straighten her hair. The last bit of Shirley Temple gone.

It wasn't chemically altered (that would have killed me), they just used big brushes and hair products and a straightening iron, but it still felt like a moment. And along with the hair and i-pod and earrings, I've been seeing hints of the twelve-year-old insecurities and moodiness--stuff I never thought I'd see in my ultra-confident Madeline. But still, she's making that childhood to adolescent leap so beautifully and gracefully.

I, on the other hand, did not. I've included a small grouping along with my twelve-year-old school picture, because I think it's important to show that 1984 was a bad year all-around.

So, Madeline, if you can make twelve look good, which you do, you're pretty much set for the rest of your life. And do you know what? Shirley Temple traded in her tap shoes to become a U.S. ambassador and diplomat. She knew there was more to her than just the curls-- something you've known all along.
Duh, Mom.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Camera Love

On a recent episode of The Office, Oscar the accountant tells his boss Michael Scott that they have a surplus.

Michael attempts to look knowledgeable and says, "Just for fun, why don't you explain it to me like I'm an eight year old."

Oscar says, "We have an extra 4,300 dollars. We need to spend that by the end of the day so it won't be deducted from next year's budget."

Michael nods and says, "Now explain it to me like I'm five."

"Your Mommy and Daddy give you ten dollars to open a lemonade stand......"


With my new camera, I'm Michael Scott. I've read the manual, but I need someone to explain it to me like I'm five.

Thankfully, in auto mode my camera does good things. This was one of my first pictures, taken Christmas day over at our friend's home.

Baby Elizabeth was a willing subject and at my house those are hard to find.

And then I got crazy and turned off the flash. I kind of like it.

Here is lovely Madeline in portrait mode

And I can't remember what I did here, but I know it was right after this photo that Lyle glared at me and told me to stop.

So I moved onto the dogs. This was taken without the flash. When I don't use the flash, I like the colors better, but the picture is more likely to be blurry. Someone needs to explain that to me like I'm five. Maybe four.

I believe this was in portrait mode. I think it really captures that the dogs were getting annoyed with me too.

So I moved onto inanimate objects. You can actually see the stitches on my quilt. I'm giddy.

And look at this. I've been trying unsuccessfully to get a picture of this for years. Back during my HGTV obsession, Hildy on Trading Spaces painted a board red and then laid lace over it and spray-painted it gold, making a stencil effect that was really quite ghastly. I saw potential though and tried it on the closet door panels in the little girls' room. My old camera would just flash and you could never see the stenciling. No problemo for the new camera.

This was taken with the old camera. Boo, Hiss. That's as much area as I could fit in the picture. Check it out with the new camera.

I'm sure towel-head Madeline is thrilled with the wider angle.

And the colors. Oh, what a difference. With the old camera.

And the new

I sensed that the inanimate objects were getting annoyed too, so I'll just leave you with a picture of the new wood floor. The floor which I told Lyle numerous times (with at sigh) would be completely and totally acceptable as a Christmas present. Really, truly. And Lyle wisely saw through the sighing and didn't buy any of my act. He just bought the camera.
He's so smart that way.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Scenes from Christmas

Mary and baby Jesus

An angel proclaiming the good news

Shepherd with interesting sheep

Christmas Eve jammies

The traditional Christmas Eve jammie pyramid

And on Christmas morning I opened the slipper box--the one I'd seen on the counter and had to hide myself. The one that Lyle made a point of wrapping right in front of me, completely stealing away every last element of surprise.....

...until I opened the slipper box and found this....

....and from the garage Lyle brought in this.....

It was a perfect Christmas.

Next post: Camera Love

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Repentance

She did it! Because she felt it was the right thing to do.....

...and because you never know what the bishop might be telling Santa.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Peace On Earth, Good Will to Men

I look at this picture and my first thought is: Thank goodness portraits are no longer done in profile! Next, I think of my favorite Christmas carol. In the photo are Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, his wife Fanny, and the two oldest of their six children. It was taken years before Henry grew his trademark beard; the beard he grew to cover the scars.

Henry had already lost his first wife, who'd died after a miscarriage, when he met Fanny in 1836. No one can pine quite like a poet and for seven years, on almost a daily basis, he crossed the bridge from his home in Cambridge to walk to her home in Boston. He became such a familiar sight that the Boston Bridge was later renamed The Longfellow Bridge, which I find highly romantic.

Henry and Fanny married in 1843 and Longfellow was blissfully happy. Interestingly, their third child and first daughter, Alice, was delivered with Fanny under anesthetic--a first in North America. Despite the neighbors' comments, "How dare she avoid the curse of Eve," Fanny was feeling quite comfortable with the decision. Their youngest daughter's name, Allegra, was a tribute to the joy they felt in family life.

The Civil War began in April 1861, a tragedy for the whole country. Only three months later, on a hot day in July, Fanny wrote in her journal, "We are all sighing for the good sea breeze...Poor Allegra is very droopy with heat, and Edith has to get her hair in a net to free her neck from the weight." Instead, Fanny trimmed Edith's curls and saved them in an envelope. To seal it, she melted a bar of wax with a candle and either the match or the burning wax fell on her dress. The flame was strengthened by the sea breeze that came through the open window and she ran to Henry. He threw a rug over her to stop the fire, but in the end only severely burned himself. Fanny died the next morning and Henry was too ill to attend the funeral.

Longfellow wrote that Christmas, "How inexpressibly sad are all the holidays." Soon after, his oldest son Charles joined the Union forces. Charles became a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac and was a source of pride for his father and siblings. On a December night in 1863, a young courier delivered a telegram to their door. Charles had been seriously wounded. Henry and his son Ernest went to Washington and brought Charles home to recuperate. Doctors feared he might be paralyzed. That Christmas, with the war in full force, desperately missing his wife, and with his son's future uncertain, Longfellow wrote the poem, Christmas Bells.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play.
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of Peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how as the day had come
The belfries of all Christendom
Had roll'd along th' unbroken song
Of Peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair, I bow'd my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,"
For hate is strong and mocks the song,
Of Peace on earth, good will to men."

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearthstones of a continent,
And made forlorn, the households born
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With Peace on earth, good will to men."

The fourth and fifth verses, which relate directly to the Civil War, were omitted when it was put to music as the Christmas carol, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. Even before I knew the story behind the lyrics, I loved this song because of its hopeful message. Now that I do know the story, I love it even more. After all Longfellow had endured, with the future of his son, his family, and his country bleak, he still found hope. He still believed that the right would prevail and that eventually there would be peace on earth, good will to men.

A family we know and love has had a Longfellow type of year. Frankly, I think even worse. On Easter Sunday they lost their precious teenage daughter after a sudden illness. It was the type of blow that almost seems beyond the human capacity to endure. But with God's help, they have endured. I got their Christmas letter in the mail a few days ago but I couldn't read it in one sitting. I'll admit, that even just as a friend, I couldn't handle the emotion. I finished it today and I'm in awe of their strength. After all they've been through, they ended with hope. They know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is not dead nor doth he sleep. They know that they will see their daughter again and be reunited as a family. Their faith strengthens my knowledge of God's love for us all and gives me hope of a day when there will be "Peace on Earth, good will to men."

Normally I'm opposed to "modern" versions of traditional songs but I've heard this one on the radio several times and it's grown on me. I might even love it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Our Chapel in the Woods

I had a front row seat at church today. I even played the piano and gave the benediction. I've always felt at home in church, but never more than today. Today our home was church.

The blowing snow effectively shut down the Northwest and we felt like pioneers, worshipping together in our home. Our children asked for and planned the service; they even printed out programs.

Note the "Maybe talk" by the concluding speaker.

I was greeted at the door of the chapel by a smiling seven-year old.

The chapel wasn't ornate, but was sporting a lovely new wood floor. (Still need to put up the base boards, but it was worth my sore shoulder, don't you think?)

Maya arrived, dressed in an outfit she'd carefully selected for the Sabbath. Thank goodness we're staying home.

Madeline led the music and the congregation graciously ignored the repeated missed B flats in "Angels We Have Heard on High". Lyle blessed the sacrament and Adam passed it.

Abby presented her talk, using numerous visual aids. She mentioned stockings and elves and reindeer and presents but then she said that's not the pacific reason for Christmas. "There was a star, bigger than anyone had ever seen...

And an angel appeared to shepherds and said, 'I bring unto you good tidings of great joy. For unto you a Savior is born. Even Christ the Lord.'"

Abby finished her talk with a picture of our family. She said Jesus wants us always to remember the baby born at Christmas. Madeline read a story called "Room for a Little One" and asked if we'd made room in our hearts for the Savior. Adam spoke on giving of ourselves. Our concluding speaker, Sister Maya Qiu wandered through many topics, but we did hear, "Jesus was born." It was lesson enough. Thank you kids, pacifically Adam, Madeline, Abby and Maya.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Conditions Deteriorating

I got a phone call at 6:02 this morning. It was a female computer voice. Halting, but chipper.

"This is the North Kitsap school district calling to inform you that due to snow, school will be starting two hours late."

I snuggled back into bed. I have dreamy flannel sheets. Five minutes later the phone rang again. It was the same voice.

"This is the North Kitsap school district calling to inform you that due to snow, school will be starting two hours late."

Yep, got that message. I burrowed. Around 6:30 the phone rang again. Same voice.

"This is the North Kitsap school district calling to inform you that due to snow, school will be starting...." I HEARD!

Sometime before 7:00, I saw a different name on the caller I.D. This time Central Kitsap school district. Yes, we have two school districts residing in one house. Long story, but same computer voice.

"This is the Central Kitsap school district calling to inform you that due to snow, school will be starting two hours late."

Relief. Everyone can sleep in. The phone rang again.

"This is the North Kitsap school district calling to apologize if you are getting repeated phone calls." Could have done without the apology. Fifteen minutes later.....

"This is the North Kitsap school district calling to inform you that due to deteriorating conditions, school will be cancelled."

Fine. The phone rang again.

"This is the North Kitsap school district calling to inform you that due to deteriorating conditions, school........" YEP, I GOT IT!

Lyle left for work and I imagined the grief and righteous indignation of the Central Kitsap students when once again the phone rang.

"This is the Central Kitsap school district calling to inform you that due to deteriorating conditions, school will be cancelled."

And so this is what my bed looked like this morning.

And this is my entryway.

Because if I heard the message right, due to deteriorating conditions, it's a SNOW DAY!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Here We Come A-Caroling

This past week we've had the car radio tuned to a Christmas-round-the-clock station. Since I spend a large part of my day in the car, the tunes have been recycled numerous times and I've learned a few things:

*The Muppets singing the Twelve Days of Christmas is just funny. Actually, I don't know if it's the song or just Maya's reaction. She nearly hyperventilates at Miss Piggy's "FIVE GOLD RINGS..." Throw in Beaker on the Lords A-Leaping and the poor girl's beside herself.

*Abby has a strange affinity for "Santa Baby" which scares me somewhat.
*Madeline is all about the traditional. Santa Baby indeed. Give her Oh Holy Night and the Hallelujah Chorus.
*Adam rolls his eyes at Christmas songs but then hums them in the kitchen.
*The line "The logs on the fire fill me with desire...." makes me laugh every time.
*The Carpenters seem to have produced a whole lotta' Christmas songs. Ditto with Tony Bennett.
*And have you heard The Christmas Shoes? Based on the number of times it's cycled around our Seattle area station (way more than the Muppets Twelve Days of Christmas if you can believe that) it must be big. Call me Scrooge, but is it just a little too much effort to pull at the heartstrings? I find it rather gaggy.

So, there's a full docket of errand-running on my schedule today and if I'm lucky I might hear the Muppets. What song are you hoping to hear? Or not?

Oh, and speaking of Christmas songs, guess who WON our local caroling competition? That would be my girls, raising over 600 dollars for the food bank. Now that's some serious caroling. And see, on occassion Abby can part with money.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tithes and Offerings

It wasn't our family's finest moment. Our church believes in paying a ten percent tithe and last night was our annual tithing settlement with the Bishop. It should be a happy, testimony-building experience. It shouldn't include weeping and wailing.

Abby enjoys money. She doesn't enjoy it for its purchasing power, she just appreciates the feel, the smell, the look of money. For Christmas she received a twenty in the mail from her Grandpa Kelley. She had no plans to use it; she just liked having it.

So on the way to tithing settlement we explained to Abigail the purpose of tithing and how her two dollars would help the poor, contribute to church and temple building, assist the needy in times of disaster. She wasn't budging. She wanted her twenty. We told her that once we gave her a ten, a five, and three ones in exchange for her twenty she'd really have more money. No go. As we pulled into the snowy church parking lot I was beginning to feel a bit frantic about how I'd get that two dollars.

We entered the Bishop's office and took our seats. I felt disaster was imminent. The poor unsuspecting Bishop asked Abby, "Are you a full tithe payer?" A simple question.

"Sometimes," she whispered, turning towards the wall. The Bishop looked at us and we just shrugged. We'd tried. It was his turn.

"Don't you think you should be a full tithe payer all the time?" He said it very gently.

"I want to keep my money," and her chin started to quiver. Her shoulders moved up and down. And then she sobbed. Loud, wailing sobs.

I attempted to comfort Abby and the Bishop turned his attention to Madeline. He asked her some general tithing questions, possibly to educate her younger sister on the finer points of the ten percent tithe. Madeline answered loudly over the din of her sister. "When you pay your tithing you're telling the Lord that you're willing to make a sacrifice." Abby screamed louder.

The Bishop moved onto the rest of the family. All proceeded without incident and the mood was lightening. Abby had down-graded from sobbing to quiet weeping when Maya loudly passed gas. Her offering. We asked the Bishop if we could possibly exit, re-enter, and try again. A tithing settlement do-over.

In the end the Bishop never got his two dollars. At least he hasn't gotten it yet.