Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Casdorph Christmas Eve

On Sunday as I entered the rehearsal location for our ward choir practice, I got to hear the tail end of a Mecham-brothers rehearsal.  I know they aren't famous except in our ward and their own family, but they are definitely two of my favorite singing brothers, so I was curious what they were practicing for.  "Our family  program tonight," was the reply, and I felt slightly less unique knowing there are other families out there who celebrate Christmas with a good old fashioned family talent show.

This was always the tradition on both sides of my family growing up.  Whether we spent Christmas Eve in Arizona with the Casdorphs where the talents included strings and saxophone or at Aunt Enid's here in the valley with the Nelsons where the talents ranged studiously practiced to... (well, we all remember some pretty interesting programs with Cameron and Justin's improved fun).

It's been a tricky tradition to implement with our smaller family unit, but this year the kids were actually well prepared to share something I didn't have to beat into them just for this occasion.  I simply asked Adam to choose one of his recently practiced Christmas songs (thanks, Ms. Shayla), and Alex happily agreed to sing along.  Both brothers agreed to help Dylan perform a David Archuletta sing along live, and when upon request, Alex reprised a previous performance of "Little Donkey."

It was fun to have the additions of Sumon on violin playing "Good King Wenceslas" (unfortunately not video recorded) and Damber singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem" with my dad.  I had suggested that maybe dad bring his trumpet, and it was a hit with the little boys.  I shared a poem written by a ward member who is currently serving a mission, and Lisa shared a quote via Skype.

I've highlighted just the best moments in this clip.  Feel free to enjoy  :)

We ended the evening with a less-than-traditional puppet show rendition of Luke 2.  Let's just say that between my three little ones and the "help" of two somewhat reluctant Nepali's, the behind-the-scenes (couch) action was more than a little crazy.  But despite the crazy, we seemed to manage to get the message across that Christmas really isn't about Santa.

That was evident in Adam's bedtime prayer.  "Please Alex, Dylan, and I - and Mom and Dad - that we can remember that Christmas is really about Jesus's birth."

And the next morning Alex commented, "I know Jesus really gave all these presents to Santa to deliver."

Yes, for me, the spirit of Christmas Eve really captures the spirit of Christmas.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Best Christmas Ever

A whole bunch of stuff combined to make this my favorite Christmas ever. Part of it is finally feeling settled enough as an adult to truly enjoy the giving. (I realize most of you probably made that transition long before 31, but I am a bit of a late bloomer.)  Part of it is having all three children old enough to participate in the gift getting.  Part of it is the generosity of grandparents and great grandparents who helped us spoil three deserving boys rotten.

And part of it may be the perspective I received reading Sumon, Damber, and Kuron's letters to Santa Claus.

"Name = Kuran Pakwal
Dear Santa,

I hope you are doing fine.  I am doing ok.  The following list item I need for this Christmas are:

1. Money, Happiness, Love, Health
2. Good, better job, full hours, better pay, car, making more money
3. Blessings, faith"

"Dear Santa,

Today I got a golden chance to write a letter to you.  I am so happy.  All I want is new church [clothes], school [clothes], and [couldn't read this part].  That's all I want.

Thank you,
Your lovely boy
Damber Pakwal"

"Dear Santa,

I hope you are fine.  Here is my list.

1. I want basketball and soccerball.
2. I want basketball and soccerball shoes.
3. I wish I would speak English clearly so everybody understand me clearly.
4. Bless my mom that she would be happy.

From your lovely boy Suman Pakwal.
I live in [address here]
Draper, SLC,
Utha U.S.A."

With new-found gratitude that for this blessed family, Christmas is all about wants, I present to you the best moments of THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER.  (In installments, because that is really a lot to blog about in one day!)

Tomorrow: Christmas Eve!

Friday, December 21, 2012

On the Lighter Side

I've been reading this guy's blog off and on for awhile now, mostly because I enjoy his writing style as much as I enjoy the variety of the posts he writes.  I like his humorous stuff.  I respect his serious stuff.  Mostly I like that I really think he writes just to write.  He just happens to have readers in each of the 50 states as well as 137 countries.

Anyhow, enough creepy adulation.  The point is that I just read one of his older posts about wanting to keep a bit more upbeat on his blog.  He urged his readers that if he got too heavy, they should send him a message with the word "wenis" as the only content.  It amused me - and reminded me that I had some lighthearted videos to post that I haven't got around to, since I seem to have just had a lot to say lately.

As videos, they are super boring.  But hit play and then check Facebook or something.  You might get some enjoyment out of my kids singing their two new favorite Christmas songs, each included on the David Archuletta album (Christmas from the Heart) we received from Paul and Joan Mecham as a Christmas gift.

Adam's Top Pick: Track 9 - Pat a Pan

The loudest vocals are Adam, with Dylan joining in full force at about :45, singing what we like to call "the right note."  Al's best contribution is the beat boxing at about 1:30.  Alex actually sings both songs very well, but was quite tired this particular evening.

Al's Top Pick: Track 11 - Riu Riu Chiu

It's a bit harder to separate the three voices on this one, since Adam's Spanish very closely resembles Dyl's standard jibberish.  Best moments are at 1:40 and 2:04-40.

In all honesty, I'd recommend the whole CD.  But I've become pretty fond of the three-boy sing-a-longs!  I'm not sure the CD will sound the same to me without the backup group.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

In the Silence

They called this morning's scheduled activity a "lock down drill."  We've done them before, and this one was apparently scheduled in advance to happen today.  But even though the drill was routine, how could it really be the same?

This time we notified the students of the drill, explaining that the purpose was just to practice procedures.  We discusses the students' anxiety over potential threats.  Then we waited for the "LD mode" call to come over the intercom.

It really didn't seem much different to the students huddled quietly in the corner.  But as the adult to whom young lives have been entrusted, it didn't feel much like a drill to me.

It felt like a moment of silence.

Up to this point, I've been fairly successful at keeping the "what ifs" at bay.  While others posted on Facebook about hugging their children tighter, I remained carefully detached from anything that might stir genuine emotion.  I've avoided television news coverage and read only a few articles.  I've participated in this tragedy in only the barest of intellectual capacities, intentionally distancing myself from the despair.

I guess it's my coping mechanism.  Not to pretend that bad things don't happen -- they certainly do.  But to interpret them as though they happened in a fictional book to fictional characters.  To inspect and disect only in a sterile environment, free from connection.

But in a moment of silence with students in a corner, how could I remain detached?  How could I stave off the "what ifs"?  How could I not let my all-too-vivid imagination interpret the procedural jiggle of the classroom handle as the real deal?

I am a planner.  I have mentally planned for the eventual passing of both of my parents.  Funeral and financial plans have been mentally made and reviewed every so often in solitary moments in my car.  I've imagined the aftermath of Kirk's untimely death as well.  It's not that these events aren't painful to consider -- just that I feel more comfortable, more in control, knowing I at least have a plan.

I plan for other stuff, too.  If I ever was attacked in a dark alley, I have mentally formed a plan to scream.  The next time a large object attempts to fall on me, I have planned to get out of the way.  It turns out I have a shortage of self-preservation instincts, so I practice these things in my mind.  Based on life experience, I worry that if I haven't made these plans, I may think of these important steps a moment too late.

I know bad stuff exists in this world.  And the only way I can reconcile that is to plan for it.  I tried so hard to keep the realities of the school shooting from affecting me emotionally, because once that seed takes root, will I have to plan for that, too?

My friend Ben, a fellow University of Phoenix student, told me this past week that any bad guys would have to go through Mr. M first.  He says that in the event of an intruder, he would break the leg off a desk and wait by the door.  He's planning for it.

Is this a thing we plan for now?  I mean -- obviously it is -- we had a lock down drill.  But is it a thing so real that I plan for it?  Do I consider the scenarios?  Do I let my mind wander to the "what ifs"?  The "what if" someone came into my classroom?  The "what if" one of my own children was in there with me?  The "what if" I heard gunshots in the classroom across the hall -- the one labeled "Mrs. Casdorph"?

This is why I keep my thoughts and emotions so carefully separate.  Because this is not a world I can plan for.  This is not a world in which I can mentally live.

Please give me my emotional bubble back.  Because reality kind of sucks.

Monday, December 17, 2012


I wish I had the resources to be able to present this as a full scale video production mimicking the ever popular crime dramas.  The episode would start with me sitting across from an internal affairs investigator, or a psychologist, or a judge, trying to explain why I shouldn't be fired | committed | hanged.  As I told my story, there would be flashbacks, subtitled with words like "2 Days Ago..." or "11:53 a.m."  And you'd all be dying to know how I got to where I started.

Let's see if this picture sets that mood:

"You see, Mr. Investigator | Dr. Psychologist | Your Honor," I might start.  It's not that I don't have Christmas spirit.  I just show it in a different way.  What you might see as a coffin leaning against my house and an absence of Christmas lights is... well, it's a coffin leaning against my house.  But what you have to understand is...

Saturday, December 15th, 1:23 p.m. (okay, that's a total guess...)

I am sitting at the tech table at the Dickens Festival, running the music for our matinee performance of Oliver!, happy to be watching 15 pickpockets and Fagin explain the lucrative benefits to crime, when suddenly, the lights flicker and the power goes out.  Buddy, the professional technician running the equipment for our show quickly runs to the front of the stage, checking cords and equipment, while I sit observing Proud Director Moment (PDM) #1: each of the 16 children and teens on my stage has chosen to freeze in their current position until directed to make a different choice, never breaking character or showing concern.

Buddy determines that the power is out in the whole building, and before we begin to troubleshoot that, I suggest that perhaps it is out at the whole fair park.  A quick text later, we find out that the problem is nothing we can fix.  The power is just out.  

I ask my actors to step back stage and be ready to come out again at a moment's notice.  I announce to the audience that we are uncertain of the situation but that we will get the show up again if at all possible.  Someone suggests that I should have my orphan choir take the stage, since their music is all acapella.  I agree that this is a great way to entertain our now-dwindling audience, and 31 children take the stage.

We receive notification from the powers that be that the power will be down for at least a half hour, and we reluctantly cancel the rest of the Oliver! performance, inviting our audience to come back at 3:00 for Scrooge and at 5:30 for our evening performance.  I begin to consider the options, because in my mind, "The show must go on."

Saturday, December 15th, 2:15 p.m.

A plan has been hatched to run our 3:00 p.m. show using an emergency battery pack with inverter (similar to the picture), borrowed from the back of the Richardson family vehicle.  Buddy the Great has hooked a CD player (also provided by the very prepared Richardson) family, and the scheduled dance performance is taking place on the stage.  But it is becoming apparent that A) the music from the CD player is nowhere near loud enough to run our show and B) the power from the battery pack is dwindling rapidly.

I make a few phone calls and get ahold of Marie Nugter, a staple at the Empress Theatre.  She agrees to let me borrow her Tailgater, a rechargeable amp and speaker that was loud enough to use on the Magna parade route and happened to be sitting fully charged on the Empress prop table.  Cast member Shawna Pierce offers her phone, which we hope at 58% battery will last long enough to play the tracks she has fortuitously loaded into a playlist.  I send assistand director Perry Whitehair to get the Tailgater, instruct cast members to look as nice as they can sans curling irons, and to be ready for the 3:00 p.m. curtain time.

Saturday, December 15th, 2:55 p.m.

I hear that the power has come back on in one of the fairground buildings.  I check in with Buddy the Magnificent, and pose the theoretical question, "If the power comes back on, how long will it take for you to get all the equipment up and going."  He pauses, deep in thought, then replies, "Have your people wear and trade their mics as if they are working.  If the power comes back on, distributing the mics would be the worst part.  But this way, if it comes back on, they can just keep doing the show while I work to get everything going."

Buddy and I determine that we will run the show from the battery pack for as long as it lasts, in part to get a higher quality sound and in part because Perry isn't back yet.  When necessary, I will switch to the Tailgater. I announce to our large gathered audience that they can expect to see a great show despite strange circumstances and explain that they are to ignore me as I sit at the back corner of the stage, visibly operating Shawna's phone.  I position my mother/music director Jackie Casdorph in the audience to be my ears and give me signals to balance the accompaniment volume against unamplified voices, and we begin.

The show continues as Buddy makes preparations in case the power returns.  We discuss remaining battery power as Perry arrives with the backup machine.  We determine that I can probably get one more song from the battery pack, and discuss a plan to get Tiny Tim a corded microphone (run from an output on the amplifier/speaker combo) for his solo.  I make the determination to switch to back up power, and carefully watch the phone battery, now down to 48%.

Saturday, December 15th, 3:27 p.m. (another guess...)

The Cratchit family has taken the stage, setting their table and stools closer to the audience as suggested by Jackie, and they are deep in the dialogue that sets up their family song, "Good Times," when the stage lights flicker.  Soon the lights are up, and the audience gasps.  Infused with that bit of extra energy - pun intended - the Cratchits begin to sing.  Buddy the Amazing hurries quickly from equipment box to equipment box, readying the microphones, and by mid-song we have both lights and mics.  PDM #2: I look out through the Cratchit family who despite their relatively young ages (Kortnee Linnett - 5ish, Soda Evans - 8, Brynn Hill - 12ish, Cami Whatcott - 15ish, Alisa Woodbrey - 23ish, and Christopher Kennedy - 25ish) are continuing to perform as if nothing has happened, and I can see between their kick line to the audience.  I look at the faces of the mothers who've been to every performance, who have volunteered back stage, who have brought me offerings of chocolate and moral support, and whose faces are currently alight with overwhelming pride.  And I have to turn my face away as I choke back tears.  As the song ends, I power down the Tailgater and Shawna's phone and head back to the tech booth to watch/run the remainder of the show.

Saturday, December 15th, 3:48 p.m.

The entire cast of Scrooge takes the stage for a final bow, and I mentally will the audience to give a standing ovation.  This cast deserves it.  This performance deserves it.  PDM #3: I recall all this season's "The show must go on" moments and remember with pride the night that Colton Jensen, fighting a losing battle with the stomach flu, hurried on stage right after throwing up backstage to make sure he didn't miss his solo.  I remember the night when a cast member was stuck in horrible traffic and had to miss the show.  I sent light technician Miki Davis, one of last year's pickpockets, on stage in his place with absolutely no rehearsal, telling her simply, "Break a leg, and I think he stands two people to the right of center in the front row during the 'windmills.'  Other than that, just rely on the other kids."  I think of Travis Hymas whose intelligence on stage gives me the trust to know that a simple, "Cover for him, Trav," will do the trick, and each line and solo is delivered with confidence as Trav reworks his blocking to cover the conversations of two characters.  I think of Kylee Ogzewalla who, after an unfortunate fall in a rehearsal, jumped back up on stage without so much as a moment to go composer herself.  I stand, even though no one will notice.  I give this cast a standing ovation.

Saturday, December 15th, 4:00 p.m.

We begin our cast party, high on the adrenaline of a crazy - but successful - performance.  Shawna charges her phone, just in case.  We laugh together, eat together, and then prepare for our closing performances.  The 5:30 showing of Oliver! goes off without a hitch, which is especially great considering we hadn't been able to give the matinee a conclusion.  We return to the green room and begin preparations for the closing performance of Scrooge.  We check in any Oliver! specific costumes, and I send my littlest orphans home for the last time (as they are only in the one show).

Saturday, December 15th, 7:15 p.m.

The power goes out again.  This time it is too dark and too cold to just announce, "The show must go on."  We reluctantly close without a final performance.  We collect costumes in the dark.  We send home the volunteers who had signed up to help sort, organize, and load props, sets, and costumes.  We ask for new volunteers for an 8:00 a.m. Sabbath Day work party.  We say our goodbyes and go home at an unprecedented 9:00 pm.

Sunday, December 16th, 8:00 p.m.

I arrive to see the Jensen family (three year Dickens veterans), the Pierce family (two year participants, and work colleagues/students), Brett Hansen (this year's Fagin), Arlee Heslop (one of my best friends), Nate Kennedy (recently returned missionary and great addition to this year's cast), and of course - my parents.  In only two hours, we accomplish all the work that has to be done, including loading up the props that don't go to St. George for storage.  My dad drops them off at my house, following my exhausted instructions to just, "leave them in the front yard."

I arrive home to see a coffin leaning against my house.  I leave it there.  In part because I have to get to choir practice in 45 minutes, and I am definitely currently in my favorite orange sweatpants and yesterday's unbrushed hair.  I leave it there.  In part because I truly don't have a solution of where it needs to go.  I leave it there.  Mostly because it is a symbol of this year's Christmas spirit.  Of the fact that I am so tired that I keep welling up at the slightest thing.  Of the fact that this year's Dickens Festival has somehow brought me to a point where the Holy Spirit seems to be constantly right at the surface, keeping me in tune with tender emotions that I often overlook.  I leave it there in memory of the final performance my amazing cast didn't get to give.

So please don't fire | commit | hang me for my completely bizarre Christmas decorations.  Just consider this a final curtain call for the incredible 67 people with whom I have spent the last several months.  Well done, my friends.  Well done.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Reason for the Fight

I'm trying to hold my tongue here, but it just isn't working.

Here's what I don't get about the whole "wear pants to church" thing.  What exactly are these women trying to change?  There is no church policy that says women have to wear dresses.  In fact, I am fairly certain that most of us wear dress for one or both of two reasons:

  • Our mothers (and Western culture) taught us that when we want to show the ultimate respect, we wear a dress.
  • We want to show respect.
It's all a choice.  It's always been a choice.  So I just don't get the point of making a big fuss.  With no policy to change, I have to assume these women are trying to change perception.  

Good luck.

I really couldn't possibly care less what someone else wears to church.  That is their business, and who am I to say that a pant suit doesn't show equal amounts of respect?  But that doesn't mean I won't do a double take.  And it doesn't mean I won't judge.  

Not because I'm a judgemental Utah Mormon, either.  No, its because I belong to a society in which women wear dresses when they want to show respect.  Not all women, true.  But most women wear dresses to weddings, to funerals, to dances.  And when someone does something different than what most do, it is human nature to take notice, to consider the reasons for the differences, to pass personal judgement on the difference.  

Now my personal feelings are based in what my mom taught me.  The church is Heavenly Father's house.  When I am going to be in the chapel, I wear a dress.  If I am going to step foot in the building except for the purposes of sports, I wear long pants.  That's what my mother taught me, and it makes sense to me.  I dress up for job interviews.  I dress up for family pictures.  And so I'm totally okay with dressing up to go visit Heavenly Father's house.

I also remember clearly that when my school changed to uniforms and required the girls to wear a jumper on Mondays and Wednesdays, my mom would not allow me to wear shorts under my dress.  "If they wanted you to act like you were wearing shorts," she reasoned, "they wouldn't be requiring skirts."  So I guess I was just raised that you dress a certain way not just for outward appearance, but because dress affects behavior.

And I admit to being a bit more judgemental than the average bear.  I really don't think women or girls should wear leggings under their dresses to church or that boys should get away with a polo shirt when girls have to wear dresses.  I also don't think flip flops have any place at church.

But I totally get - and respect - that the definition of dress up is a personal one.  And so of course I'm not going to act differently.  I'm not going to base friendships differently.  But I am going to notice.  And some organized pants day isn't going to change that part of my nature.

Besides, if the plan really is to get people to stop noticing women wearing pants, I think they're going to have to go a lot further than an LDS Sacrament Meeting.  We're really talking about changing an entire culture, here.  That's a pretty big uphill battle.  And I'm saddened by the few who choose to fight it where I go to worship.

Wear pants if you want to.  Your choice.  Always has been, always will be, and no one but you can know your internal motivation.  But please consider the purpose of the organized pants day, and consider that bringing a fight to church may not be a way to prove respect.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


They say one man's trash is another man's treasure.

I found a few other variations:

  • One woman's trash is another woman's boyfriend.  (Laura Ruby, novelist)
  • One man's vulgarity is another man's lyric.  (Supreme Court Justice John M. Harland II)
  • One man's saliva is another man's mousse.  (Charlie Sheen in Two and a Half Men)
  • But one man’s caution is another man’s passivity and inaction.  (Michael A. Walsh in the New York Post)
  • One man's remorse is another man's reminiscence.  (Ogden Nash)
  • One man's theology is a another man's belly laugh.  (Robert A. Heinlein, sci-fi writer)
  • One woman's tramp stamp is another woman's declaration of undying love.  (Alexis Munier in The Little Red Book of Very Dirty Words)
Well, I don't have a cute little way of saying it, but:

One person's super annoying singing elf doll is another person's chance to hear her three year old sing at Christmas.  And yes - all elf singing is also accompanied by a mad dash around the nearby furniture.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

2012 Christmas Letter

I've been receiving annual Christmas letters from friends and family in the mail, and I've enjoyed reading each - even from those whose lives I follow step by step via blog.

Well, I'm an unfortunate combination of lazy and cheap this year, so there will be no mailed tidings of great joy.  But I would love to commemorate a great year in pictures and words.

So here it is...

The First Annual |BoyTrapped| Christmas Letter
With Photographs by Jami Marshall

If you had been a fly on our wall this year, you would probably have seen a whole lot of coming and going with brief moments of craziness between.  I've seen a quote that says, "In this house... we do real, we do mistakes, we do I'm sorry, we do forgiveness, we do hugs, we do fun, we do second chances, we do really loud, we do love, we do family."  

While I hope that we do all those things, too, I'd have to write a pretty specific one to describe the Fifes.  "In this house... we do busy, we do community, we do crazy, we do support, we do friends, we do party, we do welcome, we do responsibility, we do yes, and when we can get around to it, occasionally we do clean and food."

KIRK is still working for the Internal Revenue Service as a revenue agent but has begun to take on additional responsibilities which have sent him to Vegas for training and to the exotic location of Idaho Falls on several occasions.  Whenever he gets the chance, he enjoys golfing with his buddies and playing basketball with the guys from the ward.  Kirk has recently been called to teach Gospel Doctrine and is blessing his home with the additional spirit that comes from preparing to teach his lessons.

ANDREA is plugging along in her Masters program, working toward a teaching certificate.  It has been quite a feat to log the 100 hours of observation required for the degree, but she has enjoyed getting to watch friends and family teach.  Andrea is glad to have major projects like Trek, EYT, and Dickens behind her in 2012 and intends to focus on school for the next several months.  Andrea is still teaching music at Navigator Pointe Academy, and has particularly enjoyed having Adam along for the ride for many of this year's pursuits.

ADAM won't stop growing.  He eats everything placed in front of him and outgrows everything he tries to wear.  In addition, he has grown in intellect, spirituality, and talent.  He is excelling in 2nd grade at NPA and especially loves science.  He is preparing to be baptized in April, having chosen to wait until Aunt Lisa will be in town.  Adam has participated in three musicals this year and also enjoyed playing Flag Football for the first of probably many seasons.  He played in his first piano recital and likes to play for his own enjoyment at home.

ALEX continues to light up the lives of all those he meets.  He's doing very well in Kindergarten, and his teachers comment cheerfully about all the stories he tells.  He has continued his love of music, participating in two musicals this year and stealing the show in The Empress's Oliver!  With Adam gone at school, Alex has started to develop a close relationship with his younger brother and has started to exhibit at least occasional compassion for others.  His parents may jest about his antics, but they know life would be a bit boring with Al!

DYLAN has had a huge year, finishing out 2012 by finally learning to talk.  He has made big transitions from being the baby of the family to welcoming a brand new niece and learning to be the big boy.  He will soon be entering Primary, and he will hopefully soon reach the milestone of potty training.  Thankfully he's kept the ginger hair, but his mom is a bit sad to admit that his blue eyes have turned green.  Stubborn and adorable, this Fife family caboose has just as much steam as his older brothers!

Though some would say we're crazy, each progressing simultaneously toward individual goals, we know that as each of us improves, our whole family grows!  And though we may spend a pretty hefty amount of time apart, nothing beats the time we get to spend together.  Whenever possible, we can be found all piled together on two cushions of our five-cushion couch, because we just like each other that much!

Merry Christmas from the Fife Family!

Monday, December 10, 2012


Last year we set up the Christmas tree downstairs.  It was beautiful!  And I never saw it, because when I finally got home from Dickens each night, I went straight to bed.

I was bitter, and didn't even realize it.  Until this year rolled around, and for the first time in 11 years of marriage, I was not up on Thanksgiving morning begging Kirk to start setting up the tree.

In fact, the entire Thanksgiving weekend came and went, and I felt not even the slightest bit of Christmas spirit tugging at my  heartstrings.

Well, I guess it's just going to have to wait until after Dickens this year, I grumbled.  Not too busy.  Not too tired.  Just too grouchy to put it up.

But when I realized the real lack of motivation was not exhaustion and schedule related, I approached Kirk.  "I know you really liked having the tree downstairs, but I didn't even get to enjoy it.  What would you think about moving it back upstairs."  Loving husband that he is, we decided to return the tree to its former position of front room pride.

That decision in mind, I've been secretly antsy to put up the decorations.  But, grouchiness out of the way, exhaustion and schedule still prevented me from acting very quickly.  But a few key decisions (including skipping the class hours of church yesterday in favor of much-needed family time) gave me a rested, open block of time to begin digging through the boxes.

And I got happier and happier as I went.  With each item placed proudly where I could see it all season, I felt every last bit of Grinch and Scrooge melt right away.

The best part is that I even felt creative enough to try a few new things this year, leaving us with a collection of sentimental Christmas all around.

Favorite handmade ornaments from G.Gma and G.Gpa Nelson

A proud new location for my favorite picture
"And Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart."

Last year's impromptu gift from my dad,
a picture of Mary with little-boy-Jesus,
absolutely precious to this mom of little boys

A new porcelain doll from Kirk's mom
My favorite porcelain doll ever - from Jack when he was about 9
New candles - donated to the cause by Mariah

A Thankgiving decoration made years ago with Heather Case
Re-purposed as a starry night at the manger

A new craft project using the vinyl that Marie Fountaine gave me years ago.

A unifying theme for Christmas and life (again handmade by G.Gma & G.Gpa Nelson)

My Christmas doll collection (from my mom over the years) displayed proudly
on a shelf made for Kirk by G.Gpa Fife, lit for the first time by Christmas lights.

Go ahead and laugh at my laziness... the important part here is the voice.
G.Gma Casdorph's gift to me last year.  Which made me cry.  
And will probably make me tear up every time my kids sit down
to listen, which so far has been frequent.

Everywhere I look, I see something that I love.  Something that means something to me.  Something that I hope will mean something to the kids.  Something that reminds me of someone I love.

I think my descroogification is complete.

Now to work on Alex, who is walking around singing "I Hate People" and introducing himself as Alvineezah Scrooge...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Am and Ax

When Al arrived in the world, we adopted an easy shorthand for labeling their things.  Big A = Adam, little a = Alex.

But when Al started to recognize his letters, that changed.  Adam kept the A, but as Alex started to identify with the distinctive letter X, we adopted the current A | X system.

But now that D has come along, and is talking more and more, he has started to classify his brothers using his own system.

He has started to direct questions, requests, demands, and complaints to a specific brother, starting or ending many sentences with "Am," or "Ax."  Add that to his growing propensity toward complete sentences and his steadily improving diction, and we have one adorably communicative redhead.

The only problem is that Dylan calls Alex, "Am," about 75% of the time.  Sometimes, he'll even refer to them as "Am" and "Am."  I feel kind of bad for Adam, because his name gets inadvertently included in sentences like, "Am!  Geh ah!"  (Adam, get off!) and "Grunt, grunt, Am, grunt, hih me ah hea!"  (Loosely, Adam hit me on the head.)

But when he does actually remember Al's name, he stands at the top of the stairs, hollering down at his brothers, "Am!  Ax!"

It's pretty much my favorite thing in the world right now.


Another favorite thing:

My dad taught Dylan to poke people, then hold his hands out to his sides and say, "It wasn't me!"

Yep.  They're both favorite.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Playing Favorites

There was a recent episode of the tv show The Middle where the family vied for the title of "favorite." Favorite child.  Favorite parent.  Well, you can watch if you want...

In support of the life-imitates-art-imitates life conundrum, I submit the following:

Adam: "Grandma, can you buy me the video game that you rented on Thanksgiving for Christmas?"

My Mom: "Well, I don't know... maybe if you write me a letter that says, 'Dear favorite Grandma...'"

Adam: "But what if you're not my favorite Grandma?"

My Mom: "Then I guess I don't need to buy you that video game..."


Alex: "You're my favorite Grandma."

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Festival

...The festival? The festival?  The King's Festival?...

And I digress already.

I've been kind of too busy doing Dickens to remember to mention Dickens.  But here's the details and my suggestions:

The Dickens Festival is open from Friday, December 7th to Saturday, December 15th.  Admission is only $6 for adults and $4 for children/seniors.  With the price of your admission you get to:

  • Visit the booths of TONS of unique vendors (Christmas Shopping!!)
  • Stop by Mr. Bumble's Buns (delicious cinnamon rolls generally located across from the main stage)
  • Interact with famous Dickens characters, and maybe even Mr. Charles Dickens himself
  • Enjoy free entertainment by local dance and performance groups 
  • Get photos taken with Father Christmas (extra charge)
And {most importantly} for only the price of admission, you get to come see both of the awesome shows I've been working on.

Evenings at 5:40 = OLIVER (featuring my kids as Orphans and my dad as Mr. Bumble)

Evenings at 8:00 = SCROOGE (featuring my dad as Marley)

There are also matinee performances on Saturdays.  You can catch OLIVER at 1:00 and SCROOGE at 3:00.  

"But I've come before.  Why should I come again?"

  • It's a great family tradition, and there's so much more to do than just see the shows.  Plus we've added a few fun features to the shows this year.  Trust me... you don't want to miss Charlie in Oom Pah Pah.
  • More seating!  That's right, folks... the fair park has extended our audience.  If you didn't get a seat last year, come a bit early for the show and see if your standing ovation can be optional this year.
"When should I come?"

Well, we've never done weekday performances, so I'm not entirely certain what to expect.  But here's my best guess.
  • The matinee shows have less effective lighting.  But they are great for kids who don't want to stay up that late.  If you're going to hit a matinee, I'd suggest maybe doing the 3:00 pm Scrooge, heading over to the food court for some dinner, and then hanging around for the 5:40 Oliver.
  • If you want to avoid the crowds, try the Tuesday or Wednesday shows.  My prediction is that there will be more available seating.
I hope to see lots of friends and family at the festival this year!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Power of Prayer

The untold story leading up to the Nepali Festival we attended a few weeks ago:

On Fridays, I am generally out at my parents' house working on the accounting for my dad's business.  Knowing that the evening's activities were in Daybreak, the kids and I decided to just kill time in the Sandy/Draper area between work and play.

First we headed to Southtowne Mall to get the needed hats.  That went quickly, so we opted to stop and play in the Dinoland play area.  But when cheeks began to turn red as overheated boys continued to play, I decided we'd better head elsewhere.  We still needed gift bags, so we set off in the general direction of Daybreak with instructions to look for Walmart, Walgreens, or Target on the way. 

Spotting a Target, we also spotted the Jordan River Temple ahead.  Knowing we'd still have plenty of time to kill, we made the quick Target trip, then planned out a quick visit to both the Jordan River and Oquirrh Mountain temples on the way.  A quick check of my nearly-dead cell phone revealed the texted address to the night's destination.  "11567 I..." I caught as I quickly glanced before turning off the phone to save just enough battery for the GPS to get us there.

We stopped first at the Jordan River temple.  I asked the boys to point out things they noticed.  "It's tall."  "The Angel Moroni."  "The colored glass windows."  We sat along the edge of the fountain, and I reminded the boys this was a place to be reverent because this is Jesus' house.  "Oh, is that why I feel him here?" asked Alex, just recently returned from his tour as the-kid-who-pushed-the-emergency-stop-button-on-the-mall-escalator.  What a perfect reminder that he isn't rotten.  He's just Alex, and sometimes my sweet boy happens to push or pull things that shouldn't be pushed or pulled.

The next stop was the Oquirrh Mountain.  No colored glass.  Same angel.  We discussed the similarities and differences, and once again visited the front fountain.  After a family vote, it was decided that the Oquirrh Mountain temple has the superior fountain.  Not sure how this applies in the grand scheme of things, but it was information duly noted before we headed back to the car. 

We quickly placed the correct hat in each chosen gift bag, and I powered up my phone to GPS our way to the Festival.  But as soon as it powered up, it immediately shut down.  I calmly explained to the rambunctious boys that it was going to be very tricky for me to find the house for the party, because I could only remember part of the address.  11567 I....  With instructions to be very quiet and keep a look out for Grandma's car, Grandpa's truck, Aunt Michelle's car, or Daddy's truck, we headed out on our search.  Unfamiliar with the complexities of the area, I decided to aim for about 11500 South and then drive carefully on an East to West path looking for any street that started with an I.  My hope was that when I saw the street name, I'd recognize it.  Soon after beginning this approach, I realized it would  not be enough.

"Adam," I said.  "Could you please say a prayer?  I think we are going to need help to find this house."  He was hesitant.  "I've never said that kind of a prayer before.  Could you help me?"  Worried that my own lack of faith (and general reliance on that which can be proved) might get in the way, I was really counting on his faith to get us through.  "I'm driving," I explained.  "I would really like it if you could say this prayer for us." 

He said a short, sweet prayer, asking that we'd be able to find the house.  I became worried that all I'd done was double the stakes.  Now we wouldn't find the house AND I'd have shattered my son's faith in prayer.  So I said my own silent prayer.  "Please let me have the faith to see this through." 

After every passed non-"I" street, I fought the urge to go knock on the door of a stranger to use a phone.  The boys were strangely quiet and the car for once still enough to invite the spirit.  I fought back the pull toward "proven" methods and relied on my children's faith.  For fifteen minutes we canvassed the general 11500 S area.  We arrived at the western edge of the Daybreak community without having found the street, but we'd emerged around 11600 south.  Wanting to give up, I felt prompted to head the additional block north and begin traveling east again.

In two streets, we found the street beginning with "I," and as I'd hoped, I recognized it immediately.  Sure enough, the house marked 11567 had cars in front of it, suggesting we'd arrived at the right place.  The prayer story, recounted once to the hosts, once to Grandma, and once to Daddy was quickly strengthened as everyone agreed that it was only because of Adam's prayer that we arrived at the right place.

Chances are, Adam received a small testimony of prayer that night.

Either way, I gained a testimony of faith. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Candy Corn Gratefuls

For the first time since I can remember, I didn't take the opportunity during yesterday's Thanksgiving dinner to follow the Nelson-Norris family tradition of announcing what I am grateful for before eating each of my allotted candy corns.  In part, this happened because Dylan came whining for more candy, and it was easier to just give him mine.  And in part, it happened because we were seriously outnumbered by people who didn't necessarily understand the more generic traditions of turkey and mashed potatoes (the three Nepali families who joined us for Turkey Day) and weren't necessarily in a position to need their meal interrupted every few moments by everyone announcing what they were grateful for.  I decided I'd share the candy, wait a day, and make up for the missed two gratefuls with a post-Thanksgiving grateful list, similar to the daily Facebook grateful lists in which I refuse to participate.   So here it is: 30 days of grateful in one convenient (if wordy) list.

  1. I am grateful for every word Dylan says.  I recently overheard Adam, frustrated because the soda he'd left on the counter was surprisingly empty.  Adam: "Did someone drink my soda?"  Dylan: "Yes."  Adam: "Who?"  Dylan: "Me."  
  2. I am grateful for my sister, Michelle.  She recently took a few weeks off from watching my kids (because she had a baby), and although my interim nanny (one-"l"-ed Michele) did a fantastic job, that extra "l" seems to make a difference for my boys.  It has been great to have her in my ward, in my home, and a lot more in my life.
  3. I am grateful for a husband who, while so many were likely seated with feet up enjoying a football game, worked side-by-side with his wife, sister-in-law, and mother-in-law for three hours to prepare Thanksgiving dinner.  And for the very long list of other things he does around here.
  4. I am grateful for new friends. especially for this year's addition of Logan Gifford and Ben Meredith to the ranks.  Just as it takes a village to raise a child, sometimes it takes a whole team to preserve my sanity.  
  5. I am grateful for my talents.  I get to do so many cool things with so many great people, and I owe that to a combination of divine blessings, a mom who pushed me to achieve, and hard work.
  6. I am grateful for my stuff.  My house.  My car.  Laptop.  Kindle.  SmartPhone.  Xbox Kinect.  iPod.  I am so blessed, and I have so much!  
  7. I am grateful for missionaries and missionary experiences.  It has been amazing to feel how my focus has changed since sending a few close missionaries out this year.  It seems like the gospel is a bit more present in the forefront of my mind as I think frequently of the experiences Jack is having in Bolivia and Skyler is having in Portugal.  
  8. I am grateful for the modern technology that allows me to communicate with far away family.  It would be a lot more difficult to have Lisa living across the country if I had to spend extra money to communicate long distance.  I am grateful for texting, free long distance, and Skype, and all the things that allow me to reach my sister whenever I need her.
  9. I am grateful for my job.  It's been a bit difficult this year to keep up the energy I need in order to do what I do.  But I can't complain.  I get to work only 20 hours a week doing something I love, making a difference, getting paid, and being in the same environment as my kids.  
  10. I am grateful for heat.  I have already been very cold this fall/winter, and I cannot imagine how unbearable it would be for me without the modern convenience of heat.  Also, I am grateful for hoodies.
  11. I am grateful for safety.  I've read several war books lately, and I've been watching Revolution.  So with that combined historical and fictional perspective, I am more acutely aware of the blessing it is to not have war on my front steps.
  12. I am grateful for music, especially in my children's lives.  When Adam sits down at the piano to play "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," and Alex joins in to sing, I am grateful that what I consider to be a family tradition is already putting down roots in the hearts of my boys.
  13. I am grateful to have parents/grandparents so close.  My children are incredibly blessed to have all four grandparents healthy and accessible.  I am grateful for family dinners so frequent that Adam can't see what's so great about Thanksgiving.  We eat and gather like that all the time!
  14. I am grateful for every opportunity I get to play games.  Thanks to everyone who has ever gathered with us around our table our theirs for strategy and inside jokes.  "Come when you're full."  "None shall pass."  Okay, most of our inside jokes seem to be with the Michaelises.  So thanks, Kevin & Alicia.
  15. I am grateful for blogging.  I need the written outlet it gives me, and I like getting to share my life with others.  Thanks to everybody who reads and makes me feel like a rock star.
  16. I am grateful for in-laws.  It is the coolest thing to get to have more family, especially when you get the kind of more I've gotten.  A whole new family that accepts me for exactly who I am at any given moment, plus great additions to my biological family who, I'm certain, were already my best friends in the preexistence.
  17. I am grateful for modern medicine, and especially that my gallbladder removal was as noninvasive as possible.  I am glad my dad is recovering from his hernia surgery, and also that there are still a few more options for Grandma Casdorph who is battling cancer.
  18. I am grateful to have a new niece, especially since Alex thinks she's his little sister.  One of his candy corn's this year was spent on, "I'm thankful I have a new little sister."
  19. I am grateful to be included in the adventure of my parents' mission.  Kuron, Damber, and Sumon are a positive addition to our lives, and the awareness of the situations of the refugees has brought a whole new perspective of gratitude in my own life.
  20. I am grateful to work closely with both of my parents.  I am lucky to work with my mom four days a week and for my dad on the fifth, and even more lucky that they both seem to enjoy doing Dickens with me.  When we all get so busy, it is great to be busy together.
  21. I am grateful to be a part of the Utah Theatre Bloggers Association.  Tonight's date night at the Desert Star Playhouse is courtesy of that opportunity!
  22. I am grateful for all the chances I get to be "the boss."  I am grateful to direct both EYT and Dickens, to be the Ward Choir director, and to teach at NPA.  I need some straight up bossiness in my life, and I am so grateful to all those who put up with said bossiness.
  23. I am grateful for television moms who inspire me, console me, and amuse me.  Whether I want to be like them, want to not be like them, or have to laugh (or cry) because I'm just like them, I really appreciate the presence of the Braverman women, Claire Dunphy, and Frankie Heck in my life.
  24. I am grateful for social media, specifically Facebook and Instagram.  I appreciate the ability to stay connected and to share in an efficient, get-to-it-when-you-can forum.  Some may consider it impersonal.  I consider it perfect.
  25. I am grateful for education - for the foundations I received at Challenger, for the opportunities my kids get at NPA, and yes, even for my degree program at the University of Phoenix.  
  26. I am grateful for money.  No, we don't have enough of it (who does?), but I am grateful for every dollar we earn and for every dollar we get to spend.  
  27. I am grateful for three consecutive weeks in Relief Society, and particularly grateful to the members of the back-row crew.  We may be irreverent and probably even a bit disrespectful, but thanks to those ladies who've filled my cup on the back row.
  28. I am grateful for my sight reading skills.  (read: I am grateful I rarely practiced the piano)  I am so fortunate to be able to sit at a piano and play while my friends or family sing. 
  29. I am grateful for the ability to download eBooks from the library.  So great for a procrastinator, and I love that when I read on the Kindle, I can click on a word I don't know to see its definition. Geek?  Yep.
  30. I am grateful for a loving Father in Heaven who has given me everything I have and the chance to be all I am.  I am grateful for the knowledge that numbers 1-29 are all because of Him.
I have may have missed the around-the-table gratefuls, but only because - like usual - I had too much to say.  Now where's my 30 candy corn?!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Festival of Lights

In case I haven't addressed this bit of back story yet:

In May, my parents were called to serve in the Haven Ward, a ward for refugees from several Asian countries including Bhutan and Nepal.  A few weeks after they were called, the church organized a branch just for the Nepali members, refugees, and investigators.  As I understand it (which is probably not well), these people - or at least their ancestors - were originally from Nepal.  Unhappy with the civic situation in Nepal, they emigrated to Bhutan, where they lived peacefully for some time.  That is, until the government of Bhutan decided they were no longer welcome.  Seeing them as traitors for leaving, Nepal would not take them back.  And so they are here in Utah, a group of refugees trying to figure out America.

Nepal is not open to the missionaries, but there is a small branch there of individuals who've been converted and returned to Nepal.  Many of the individuals my parents serve here in the Salt Lake branch are not members and may never be.  In fact, each week of primary (for my mom) or young men's (for my dad) means brand new faces they've never seen.  Nearly every sacrament meeting includes new member confirmations delivered in both English and Nepali via translator.  And with each passing week, more and more Nepali names become household vernacular as my parents become more and more involved in their new lives.

The first names we knew were those of Sumon, Kuron, and Damber.  Shortly after moving these teenaged boys to the United States about two years ago, their mother remarried and moved, and Kuron (now about 21 years old) assumed the responsibility of caring for his younger brothers, Damber (19ish) and Sumon (14).  My parents were assigned to help this family out.  It started out with lessons in budgeting, needs vs. wants, employment assistance, homework assistance, legal assistance, and parent-teacher conferences.  And then, when the boys were being evicted from their apartment, my parents invited the boys to come stay for a few months while they save up a rent deposit.

And you can't have 3 young boys living at my parents' house without them becoming a part of our lives.  In fact, yesterday as Alex was randomly explaining to me the list of people he intends to invite to his birthday party (in March...), he included Sumon and Kuron.  We've been teaching them card games, number games, and pattern games and enjoyed having a few extra around the dinner table.  While Kuron and Damber still struggle a bit with the language, Sumon pretty much has it down and has enough sense of humor to carry the rest.  One evening, as my mom complained that "everyone in Nepal is named such-and-such," Sumon waited the perfect amount of time before looking up from his cards and stating, "I'm not."  {pause}  "My name Sumon."

Sumon came trick-or-treating with us, having never experienced the American tradition.  In return, we were invited to attend the final day of the Festival of Lights (Tahir Festival) at a member of the branch presidency's home last night.  Kirk was less than interested in attending.  I was excited, but apprehensive.  Would the boys be able to handle the serious ceremonial traditions?  Would I be able to handle food?  Would there be a place for the kids to play?

I should not have worried.  The host family had two adopted children of their own: Maxwell (8) and Asha (6), and other than when requested, I didn't see my children at all during our stay.  The food was different, but completely edible.  I even ate lentils and almost enjoyed it.  And the ceremony was the highlight of the night.

Our hostess is American, married to a man from Nepal who has been in the States for many years (not a refugee) and speaks English very well.  They explained that although the celebration - a Brothers and Sisters holiday - is rooted in Hindi tradition, they have taken the advice of the General Authorities and kept what they could of their native traditions, separating the tradition from the religion.  He told the story of a sister who bargained with the keeper of the underworld for the life of her brother.  She worshiped for five days (the length of the festival), and gave the keeper a mala, or garland of flowers.  It was decided that when the keeper found the end of the garland, her brother's life would be over.  Since the garland is in the shape of a necklace, there is neither a beginning nor an end, so her brother had received eternal life.

In the traditional ceremony, the sisters make and give mala to their brothers.  My sister Michelle and I stood in as sisters for Sumon, Damber, and Kuron.  Asha became Adam, Alex, and Dylan's sister last night, which - our host explained - means she is off limits now from ever dating them, and this is taken very seriously in Nepali culture.  He jokingly told Adam and Alex, "If you think she's cute, don't take the flowers."  But with his somewhat thick accent, they didn't catch it.  In addition to the mala, the sisters give the brothers a hat.  The brothers then give the sisters money.  The sisters apply a taki to the foreheads of the brothers.  Our hostess explained to the children that while we know blessings can only come through worthy priesthood holders, the people in Nepal believe that the taki is a blessing.  She said we can perform it to wish other people well, but we know it is not the same thing as a blessing.  Asha applied a stripe of wet rice flour to the boys' foreheads, then applied a dab of each of the seven colors.  Michelle and I completed this for the Nepali boys.

My boys received the traditional hats from Asha while the Nepali boys
received "traditional" American hats from me and Michelle.  Maxwell
apparently receives a ball cap or fedora or something he'll actually wear,
since he has an extensive collection of traditional caps that just gather dust.
And then we all just hung out.  Our host got out a traditional Nepali game, which I am fairly certain my dad has plans to replicate.  We lost our kids to the very American bedroom of Maxwell, and I had to insist that Maxwell doesn't live very far from the school; maybe we can have a playdate.

Sometimes I will admit it is a little weird to have our lives somewhat overrun by the Nepali influence, but I am grateful for these cultural opportunities.  I'm looking forward to sharing Thanksgiving with "the boys" and, from the sounds of it, several of the other familiar names!

Monday, November 5, 2012

New {and perfect}

Welcome to the family, Tyler Marie Davis.

6 lbs 12 oz, 19", born on November 1, 2012
With a new niece just added to the family, there's been a lot that's new going on around here.

  • It's new to be the big sister of the mom.  I've only ever been little-sister-in-law or the mom.  It's a bit of a challenge to shut my big mouth and let Michelle do it her way.
  • It's new to have a little girl around.  I actually heard Michelle refer to her as a him for a second yesterday.  I think it's like when you've had a dog for eight years that was a boy, and sentences about dogs used the pronouns "he" and "him," and then you're around a girl dog, but to you all dogs are he's and him's.  We've been awfully short on the pronouns "she" and "her" in our family, and using them is a bit of an adjustment.
  • It's new to get to hand a crying child back to its mother.  New.  And awesome.
  • Yes, that is a look of relative disinterest.  And when I asked him
    to hold her head, he palmed her face with the opposite hand.
    "No worries, Mom.  This head isn't going anywhere!"
  • It's new to have Dylan jealous of a baby.  If I try to hold her, I soon have my baby at my side, pulling on my hand and saying, "Mom... mom... mom..." because suddenly he is in dire need of something

Alex snuck in forbidden kisses to Tyler's forehead when no one
was looking.  He thinks she's pretty awesome - for about
5 seconds, then he loses interest.

  • Tyler's toys are all new to the boys, and it's new to constantly have to remind them not to turn on her swing every second.  And new to frequently remind Dylan that the rotating fish mobile does not go backward, no matter how many times he requests it or tries to force it
Adam is 100% doting cousin.  He holds her as much as possible,
but likes to walk around the room, gently bouncing her.  He
laid her next to him on the couch to watch a movie during
yesterday's visit, and whenever she is near, his face lights up in
a pretty silly grin.
  • It's new to get all the fun of a baby without all the work.  
  • It's new for my boys to have a cousin on the Casdorph side.
  • It's new to see Skye and Michelle taking on the roles of parents.  But they are so great at it!  
Yes, I think this little dose of new is just right!  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A New Side of the Covers

Once, about twenty years ago, I sat at the piano in our front room, bundled in a coat, shivering wildly while trying to touch the cold keys.  It felt like a particularly cold January morning to me, but as it was 6:00 a.m., it was my required time to be up practicing the piano.

My parents weren't up yet, but I knew my mom would be supervising the sounds from her side of the covers.  Despite the extra cold morning, I knew I had better just do my best to practice the piano.  My fingers ached from the cold, but I did my duty and got in my hour at the keys.

As other family members began to stir, my dad came downstairs and turned on the oven, opening it to allow the heat to warm the kitchen.  It turns out our furnace had broken overnight, leaving our home unheated on a snowy January morning.  My parents had apparently known this all along, had discussed whether to tell me to go back to bed, and had decided that I might as well just stay up and get my practicing done.  Thanks, guys.

My thoughts turned to that chilly morning as I lay, this morning, under my warm covers listening to the sounds of Adam's piano practice coming from the front room.  Until three days ago, I would have been out of bed, working on breakfast in the kitchen as he practiced.  But three days ago, he asked Kirk to please set his alarm clock for "thirty minutes before Mom usually gets me up."  Apparently, my schedule has been making him feel rushed in the morning, and he would like to have plenty of time to "practice the piano, and do my hair and everything, and still have some time to just sit on the couch."

So now he wakes before I do and sets about practicing, just like I used to.  As I contemplated braving the chilly air to begin my day, I realized that things are pretty awesome from this new side of the covers.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Grandpa Dollie Co

I once alluded to the possible future existence of this post, and that day has finally arrived.  If you've not been eagerly anticipating its arrival, you probably should have been.  

Once upon a time, many many years ago, my Grandpa Casdorph retired from a company called Monsanto.  As a thank you for years of employment (okay, so maybe I'm making this part up), they gave him a fairly creepy doll with his own face printed on it, multicolored yarn hair, and Care Bears inspired overalls complete with a rainbow.  

In reality, I don't remember that part of the story.  But I do remember the doll.  I named it Grandpa Dollie, because - well, it looked like Grandpa.  Legend suggests that I carried that doll everywhere.  I'm going to guess legend is correct.

Fast forward several years to a time after my high school graduation.  I hadn't thought of Grandpa Dollie in years, nor had I recently carried him around as a cherished plaything.  Christmas came that year, and as always, there was a package from Grandma Casdorph under the tree.  And in that package, my very own Grandpa Dollie.  

Grandma handmade a Grandpa Dollie for each of her children and grandchildren for Christmas, complete with each family member's own likeness.  She even photographed them together in nuclear family and extended family photographs.  Each has the signature multicolored yarn hair of the original Grandpa Dollie, and if you pull up the hair, each will reveal a "Grandpa Dollie Co. by Grandma" official label.

This may all sound silly to you.  At times, maybe it has sounded silly to me.  But my grandma knows how to make a memory, and I appreciate all the effort she put into that one.

Fast forward again several years to the present.  I've mentioned before that Alex's insomnia combined with his extensive imagination make sleep pretty challenging for him.  What I've probably not mentioned is that for the last two years or so, he has slept with a framed 5x7 picture of Jesus to help him feel safe.  Each night, I tuck him in with those sharp edges lying next to him on his pillow and wonder if there is some better way to help him feel the Savior near him while he sleeps.

I'm a bit hazy on the details here.  I think I suggested maybe going to a Christian bookstore to see if any plush versions existed.  And I think Kirk gets ultimate credit for suggesting that we ask Grandma to make him a Jesus Dollie.  

It felt a little fundamentally irreverent, placing the likeness of someone so sacred on a doll.  But I thought of my sweet five year old who wants nothing more than to sleep with his Eldest Brother beside him each night.  I decided that my loving Father and Brother would understand, and we asked Grandma if she'd be willing.  She paused for a moment before responding, "Well, I probably won't give Him multicolored hair."

We kept the project a secret from Alex, so when a package arrived yesterday, he had no idea what to expect inside.  When he unwrapped the handmade gift, his eyes lit up, and he immediately hugged the doll.  When I asked for a nice picture for Great Grandma, he suggested a posed side-by-side at the piano, much like a photo one might take with a physical brother.  

He became a bit distracted by the trinkets Grandma had included for each of the boys, and while they played, I inspected the new doll.  Respectful brown hair tied back with a time-period band.  Sandaled feet.  Soft white robe, perfect for cuddling.  And of course, the Savior's face printed directly on the doll.

I collected a few more details this morning so I could write this post.  Curious whether the new doll sports the same authentic label, I headed to Alex's room, camera in hand.  At first I was frustrated to not find the Jesus Dollie on his bed as discussed.   But then, in true Alex style, I found a whole separate sleeping nook behind the head of his bed, where I assume both he and the doll slept peacefully last night.  

Thank you, Grandma, for indulging a mother's strange request to help her son feel peace at night.  It is a gift he will treasure for years.  And I happen to think He looks right at home in Alex's ship bed.

And for any who may have been wondering:

He's authentic.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Interactive Pinterest

Thanks to the excellent lesson format in both Sunday School and Relief Society today (and thanks to the fact that I snuck out of Primary to enjoy both), the day at church felt like an interactive Pinterest (and left me kind of wishing to be released from Primary so I could visit more often). 

You know how sometimes you don't even realize you've really been wanting to (or needing to) improve in an area until you hear every one else's great ideas?  That was church today.  And not in an overwhelming, I'll never be good enough, way.  More like a, That's totally doable! way.

Nothing earth-shattering.  Nothing deeply doctrinal.  But definitely some much needed chicken soup for a tired mom's soul in the form of actual people doing actual things.  Suggestions to read a quick verse of actual scripture along with my current easy-way-out scripture videos at bedtime.  Reminders of the blessings one can earn by reducing distractions like coveting.  Simple, implementable, doable stuff, mentally pinned (and likely to be just as ignored as my real Pinterest pins). 

But I'm glad to be reminded that I should be doing better.  Even better to be told how I can be doing better.  Now let's see if any of it sticks.  ;)