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.  ;)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Halloween Preview

Halloween arrived early this year, since Aunt Heather, Ryan and Kaleb were able to come to town over the weekend.  That meant a new date for Grandma Tess's annual party, and a chance to test drive the costumes a couple of weeks early.  The boys opted for a "classic monsters" theme this year, and we had a lot of fun making these simple costumes.  For me, there's something memorable about each costume.

Dylan is pretty much the cutest ghost ever, and his soft ghost sounds are far from scary.


Alex came up with his costume idea on his own, insisting that he be a vampire bat.  The blood is his design, too, as he requested that he "look like I just bit somebody."



Adam sat patiently through my first attempt at skull face paint, and was complimentary and appreciative of the job I did.  And the costume is vintage - a hand-me-down that Daddy wore as a child (and Grandma kept hoarded).


I went as a witch, and Kirk handled his own zombie costume.  I got home from Dickens rehearsal to find that he'd had all sorts of fun with the tattoos and fake blood.



And of course, the party was awesome as always.  My boys look forward to it every year, and the days leading up to this year's event were filled with "How many more days until the Halloween Party?"


Grandma combined some of her classic games (musical headstones and the saw-dust search) with a new relay race and blow up ring toss.  She also gave each child a costume award.  Adam brought home the "most traditional" category, while Dylan got "cutest" and Alex got "most creative."



Thanks, Grandma Tess, for another year of Halloween fun!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Maybe it's time to call him Dylan...

I constantly find myself calling him "Baby."  I did it with all the boys, but as each subsequent "baby" was born, the older kids slowly became "Adam" and "Alex."  With no follow-up child, Dylan has retained the name "Baby" probably longer than he should.

But whether I call him "Baby" or not, he'll always be my baby.  And now, my baby is three.

He has a thing for pumpkins and an October birthday, so we'd decided on a laid-back birthday cake approach: a barrel of pumpkins.  He loved it, and it turned out to be perfect for our overturned week.  The boys helped decorate the cupcakes while we educated them on the history of the assembly line.




Family came over bearing gifts for the eager birthday boy, and he played with each offering equally.  The light-up skull from Alex provided entertainment for all as we tried to decipher the instructions he was impatiently giving his Aunt Heather.  We were finally able to figure out that he only likes it to light up when the eyes are facing away from him.  He told us "backward" and demonstrated by holding up his pointer finger and turning it from facing out to facing in.


He also used his new word when playing with his new firetruck.  That one is definitely a birthday favorite!  He mimics all sounds including the clicking of the ladder as it turns around.

Blowing out the candles is always an adventure when there are brothers and cousins around.  I wasn't going to post the birthday song video, but his face is just so sweet as he realizes everyone is singing to him.  While I could do without Adam's current 2nd grade variation on the song, complete with the obnoxious "cha cha cha, ooh la la, hi-ya, pizza" ending, I even want to remember the sounds of everyone scolding various children when it was time to actually blow out the candles.  Aunt Marie's "Chance Michael!" is probably my favorite part.



With each passing birthday, I become more acutely aware how fleeting these moments are.  Happy Birthday, Baby!

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Boy with Many Talents

Kirk asked Adam what he learned in primary on Sunday.  "Talents," he responded.  I questioned further, "What about them?"  "If you don't use them, then they go away."

We complimented him on being the kind of kid who uses his talents.  In fact, just this week he wrapped up his first season of flag football and played at his first piano recital.


I think the recital thing may have caused him a bit of anxiety, since the night before the recital, Kirk found him downstairs at 9 pm putting on his school uniform.  Adam explained that he wanted to sleep in his uniform so he would have plenty of time to practice the piano in the morning.

If only he'd worried so much about the flag football game.  He actually ran the ball for a touchdown, but it didn't count because he'd forgotten his flags and had to be considered "down."

Even though these are some of his more obvious talents, I think his best talent is being a big brother.  I was more proud to hear Miss Shayla publicly praise him for always redeeming his earned tickets for extra candy for his brothers.  Yep.  That's the kind of kid he is.

And I'm just glad I get to be the proud mom who watches him use all those talents.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Power and Thank You's

I have always wanted to be the kind of person who sends handwritten thank you cards.  I've been on the receiving end plenty.  I've received cards thanking me for a ward choir program that touched someone, a dinner offered after a baby, a shower present given.  And no matter the occasion, the thank you card reminds me that I really want to be one of those people.

But I'm just not.  I'm also not a drop-everything-to-have-emergency-surgery kind of person.  In fact, after I had been told that my gall bladder was not working and would have to be removed, I asked the surgeon what, theoretically, would happen if I chose not to get it out.  For, say... two days.  Or a week.  (Or, in my mind... until June.)  Kirk said he watched me as the surgeon explained that I'd be in pain, that there were risks of complications, etc., but that when the surgeon mentioned that it could rupture and release toxins, Kirk thought, "Ding ding ding... you've just said the magic word."  Kirk is pretty accurate in assuming I'd have postponed if the only threat was pain.

I cried when they told me they were admitting me to the hospital.  Actually, sobbed is more like it.  I had class Tuesday evening that according to university policy I would be dropped from if I missed a night.  I've never missed a day of music since I started teaching at NPA.  Adam had his first piano recital on Wednesday - what if i had to miss that?  Not to mention after-school theater and show choir rehearsals and Dickens Festival.  Yep.  Sobbed.

But what could I do?  The surgeon had said toxins, and I was committed to the removal of one redundant organ.

A side story:

The previous Sunday had been pain-filled as it was leading me, unaware, to the whole gall bladder out thing.  Skye and Michelle had come over to hang out, and Skye suggested that I get a priesthood blessing.  I declined the offer, and then tried to explain my own personal feelings of when the power of the priesthood is necessary.  It was hard to explain, and I found myself saying lame things like, "Well, I guess Heavenly Father's power is probably infinite, but it feels like if I ask for a blessing over a little thing, that it may be taking attention away from someone else's big thing."  Sounds dumb, yes? But I'm just not a little thing priesthood-blessing person.  I could handle the pain.  And it was a Sunday, and I had nowhere I had to be.  I like to think Heavenly Father likes it when I handle what I can handle.  (Don't get me wrong... I think those who are able to rely more fully on the gifts Heavenly Father has given us are amazingly strong in their faith!  It's just not my way.)

Back to the main story:

Now, pre-surgery is definitely on my time-for-the-priesthood list.  My dad, father-in-law, and husband all came over to give me a blessing, and I was so grateful to have the priesthood there in so many great men who care about me.  I asked my dad to give the blessing, and he delivered the perfect words straight from Heavenly Father to me.  I was blessed that I would be calm.  And I was blessed with the knowledge that there would be many people who would step in to do the things that I could not do.

Those words were such a comfort to me as I thought through my commitments for the week and realized there was much I would not be able to do.  And a few things that only I could do.  I knew that Heavenly Father would help me through the essential tasks and would provide someone to do the other things on my list.

And so this week, more so than any other week, I should be a Thank You card person.  I apologize for the absence of handwritten, USPS-mailed notes.  But here is my public thank you to the individuals who were an instrument in the Lord's hands, sent directly to me to fulfill the blessing I was given.


My father-in-law:  Thank you for taking care of the kids until 3 am on the night I was in the emergency room.  Knowing my kids were being looked out for made it possible for me to focus on being in the hospital.

Michelle: Thank you for picking up the kids at the hospital on Tuesday morning and keeping them all day until we were able to get home.  I really needed to see them before my surgery, and it was a huge help that Kirk didn't have to leave to take them back home.

Skye: Thank you for the dinner on Tuesday.  It was the only reason we were able to turn around and get Adam to his game and me to class on time.

My mom: Thank you for handling after school theater without me.  I know it wasn't easy to rearrange the schedule to make it so I could miss.  Thank you also, for rearranging your Wednesday plans to attend Dickens rehearsal to be my backup.  I felt a lot more confident knowing you were there to look out for me.

Ben: Thanks, Ben, for picking me up at Adam's game and taking me to class.  I did not have enough energy to drive, and the meds I was on probably wouldn't have made it safe.  Thanks also for carrying my laptop case to and from class so I didn't have to lift something heavy.

Substitute Teacher: Thanks for rearranging your lesson plans so I could leave class a bit early on Tuesday night.  Thank you for recognizing that some things transcend university policy.

Perry: Thank you for your taxi services!  Thank you for driving Adam to school on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, so I did not have to get out of bed so early.  Thank you for driving to rehearsals all week so I didn't have to make myself a hazard on the roads.  And thanks for all the little things you did to prevent me from needing to lift or overextend myself.

My visiting teachers: Thank you for the Thursday dinner.  Let's be fair: Kirk cooks almost every day anyway.  But by bringing in dinner, you freed him up to concentrate on taking care of me and the kids, and to straighten the house and keep up with the laundry.  Plus you brought rice crispy treats, which made my evening.

Shawna Pierce: Thank you for not only arranging to take home Adam and Alex from school but for insisting that Kirk bring Dylan in so you could take him home, too.  Thursday evening's quiet home was just what I needed to prepare for Dickens rehearsal.  And the kids needed to be somewhere where they could get lots of attention.  Thanks for giving them what I haven't felt up to giving.

Jenecee Pierce: Thank you for hurrying down to the multi-purpose room to respond to Mrs. Fife's need for help.  Pushing play on the CD player to save me from having to walk to the back of the room repeatedly literally saved me during show choir.  It may seem like a small thing, but I could not have done it without you.

Cindy Whitehair: Thank you for the Friday meal.  It was delicious!  I didn't want to give up making Dylan's cake or finishing up costumes for a Saturday party, and your offer to bring food freed me (and Kirk) up to do those once-in-a-lifetime tasks.  You played an integral part of making D's 3rd birthday party happen.

Logan Gifford: Thank you for lending your energy to my orphan rehearsal on Saturday morning.  You helped those kids have a rehearsal I just didn't have the energy to give them.  Thanks, also, for being the kind of person who acts kind of like a battery.  Being surrounded by people like you keeps me charged.

Carmen Gale: Thank you for being willing to sub for me in primary today.  Child-chasing was just not in the cards!  It is great to know that I have back up and support and don't have to do everything myself.

Amy Jenkins: Thank you for responding to my last-minute call to play the organ.  That was the hardest help for me to ask for, because I certainly could have played.  You were a direct answer to my blessing, and exactly the sort of help Heavenly Father wanted me to use.

The Moms of Mom Row: Thank you to the moms who sit in on Dickens rehearsal and cast me glances that say, "Are you okay?"  I know that if I had needed anything, you would have been right there, stepping up to help out.  It is always nice just to know you are there.

Others: I am certain I am missing some.  Thank you to every person who has taken a moment to make my life easier!

My husband: Where to start?  Thank you for getting up early every morning to make the kids breakfast before you went to work.  Thank you for listening to a prompting on Friday to take the day off and look out for me.  Thank you for bringing me flannel pajamas and a quilt to the hospital and holding my hand while I was scared and crying.  Thank you for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners in bed whenever I haven't felt up to venturing out to the kitchen.  Thank you for gentle reminders to take my medication and nudges to ask for or accept help.  Thank you for letting me do the things that I needed to do and letting me complain about how hard they were.  Thank you for being there for me all week.

Sadly, I don't think I am quite in the clear yet.  I had to stay home from church today and slept for the entire three-hour block.  But I feel blessed and grateful and ready to try.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Being Grownup


A preface:

There are several pivotal books that set me on the path to be who I am today.

The first: Are You My Mother, recorded by my grandmother in her West Virginian accent.  This is the first book I remember loving.

The second: Roald Dahl's The BFG.  The first book I was unable to put down.  I remember placing it on top of my dresser, feeling a bit of loss when I closed the final cover.

The third: Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time.  The first fantasy/science fiction book I ever read, which opened my eyes to the genre that will forever be my favorite.

The point:

I came across this quote while looking for some words of inspiration to send to Elder Bluemel.  I was struck by how perfectly I related to the words.  And then when I noticed it was quoting Madeline L'Engle herself, I knew I had to put it somewhere where its wisdom would not be lost to me.  So here goes.

“I am still every age that I have been. Because I was once a child, I am always a child. Because I was once a searching adolescent, given to moods and ecstasies, these are still part of me, and always will be...

This does not mean that I ought to be trapped or enclosed in any of these ages...the delayed adolescent, the childish adult, but that they are in me to be drawn on; to forget is a form of suicide...

Far too many people misunderstand what *putting away childish things* means, and think that forgetting what it is like to think and feel and touch and smell and taste and see and hear like a three-year-old or a thirteen-year-old or a twenty-three-year-old means being grownup.

When I'm with these people I, like the kids, feel that if this is what it means to be a grown-up, then I don't ever want to be one. Instead of which, if I can retain a child's awareness and joy, and *be* fifty-one, then I will really learn what it means to be grownup.”

― Madeleine L'Engle

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Free for All

Last week, I was all prepared to write a blog about how I felt like I was in a rut.  In fact, the introduction was already written in my mind.  I hate to waste a good intro, so I'll share:

"Am I allowed to admit I am in a rut?  I know I'm allowed to be in one; I mean, that's not really something I choose.  But can I really admit to it?  If I do, is everyone going to look at me with their heads turned slightly and an expression that says, "Oh, look at that poor woman.  What can I do that will pull her out of her rut?" 

I'm turning 31 this week, and just like I predicted in last year's birthday post, I'm feeling a little destination-ed out.  A little like, though I'm living the life I chose and a life I love, nothing truly exciting ever happens."

Well, thanks to an awesome birthday weekend, I'm going to have to rewrite that post.  Here goes...

In all reality, none of what happened happened because it was my birthday.  Rather, I was lucky enough to have a bunch of free stuff fall in to my lap on three consecutive days surrounding my birthday.

The first was a new phone.  I've joined the world of the 4G Smart Phones, and I have to say, I'm in love.  I've downloaded a few fun apps (which I never have time to play), but mostly I'm enamored with the organizational and timesaving apps.  That and the ability to have my phone read from the scriptures aloud to me while I am driving home after dropping Adam off at school.  I'm all about the multi-task, and this phone allows me to do it.

This phone does all the cool stuff I expected, but what I've really loved has been the surprises.  It reads my blog, facebook statuses, and text messages to learn my writing style.  Based on that, it predicts what words I might want to say next.  Apparently, I write very predictably, because it is right a lot of the time.  It's so cool, and it saves me time.  Plus there's the whole forward-facing camera thing.  I had no idea how much fun one of those would be!

And remember... free.  I did have to order it online as it is not sold in stores, and I did have to use my now-in-Bolivia brother's upgrade to do it.  But... FREE.  And it came on Thursday just to kick off my birthday weekend.

Another great surprise which fell into my lap was the chance to review a murder mystery dinner theater for the Utah Theater Bloggers Association.  For the full details, read my UTBA review.  But the short version is: find the money somewhere and go see this show.  Or if not this one, make plans to go to another Poison Ivy Mysteries production.  We had so much fun!  And my birthday felt pretty awesome with dinner at Famous Daves and a murder mystery show!


Then there was the long-anticipated University of Phoenix alumni Lagoon Day.  Four free tickets per alumn meant 8 free tickets for our family.  With three tickets to spare, we invited Skye and Michelle (a bit selfishly, knowing 36-weeks pregnant Michelle could do little but watch the kids) and Adam's friend Soda.  Somehow the stars aligned to have three well-behaved children and a respectful friend for 9 straight hours of rides and fun.


I loved seeing Dylan enjoy the rides.  I liked being the one to sit next to the kids when they were just barely brave enough to try something new.  (Apparently having tallish children means they are tall enough to ride long before they are tough enough.  Since I couldn't ride the Colossus until like 6th grade, this seems a little backward to me.)  It was great to ditch the little kids and go ride the bigger rides.  And it was nice to send Adam and Soda off with a cell phone and allow them a bit of space to be kids without hovering parents.

Frightmares was particularly exciting, since we've never been to Lagoon during this timeframe.  Michelle got a particular kick out of the funny headstones, and Skye and I had to ride Dracula's Castle a second time to get this picture.

There were fun "trick-or-treat" type areas set up for the kids, and I was particularly impressed with one Lagoon-employee-princess who took the time to read the kids' University of Phoenix nametags and call them by name.  "Adam, are you my prince?" she asked.  "Alex, are you my prince?"  I thought, "Wow, this girl really takes her job seriously."  That is, until she mentioned that she is Ryan and Kaleb's cousin and used to occasionally babysit my kids.  Now I'm just super impressed that she remembered their names from several years ago!

We decided to do the whole "Pioneer Photos" thing, and it turned out to be a blast.  The boys looked adorable dressed as little cowboys, and apparently Alex thinks saloon girls are pretty.  "Mom, you look so beautiful."  I've gotta watch that one...

Okay, this part wasn't free.  But it was TOTALLY worth it.
But even with all the other great stuff I got to do, there was one clear highlight. You see, I nearly had the opportunity to cross off #4 on my list (go skydiving) when Brett and Lisa were here this summer.  But it got cancelled because they plane had to go in for repairs.  So I've been feeling the need to in some way fly through the air, and I finally got the opportunity.

I have to say that of all the thrill-seeking things I've done, this one is very possibly the top of the list.  (It may have to share that spot with bungee jumping.) 

The Catapult. 

It went down something like this:

Skye: "Are you gonna ride the SkyCoaster with me?"

Me: "Are you gonna pay?"

Skye: "I always ride it.  Usually I make my dad go with me.  But he's not here, and Michelle certainly can't do it.  I've been saving up some money and somebody should go with me."

Me: "Well, then, yeah."

But we've both done the SkyCoaster.  So we opted to try something new, wondering why the price was slightly higher for the Catapult.  Well, it costs more, because it is more AWESOME.

They strapped us in, tilted us back, and then I swear we waited forever before they launched us.  I had expected to be launched before needing to inhale again, and I started to worry that right when I decided to take in a breath of air, they'd launch.  I'd need to scream, and I didn't know how that was going to work with air going in and sound going out simultaneously.  So I held my breath. 

And they didn't launch.

I finally had to breathe, and I was able to finish that before the ride attendant started our countdown.  "3..."

Launch.

No "2...1..."

Just launch. 

I screamed (naturally), but it was a "this-is-the-best-thing-EVER" laughing scream.  We were hurled up to the top, then the ball rotated and we watched the ground as gravity did its thing.  We bounced up again, were pulled down again, bounced, dropped.  It was pure awesome.

Skye agreed that - short of skydiving (which he has done) - this is the most fun a person can have.  So thanks, Skye, for giving me that for my birthday.

And I certainly can't say I'm in a rut.  I think what I was actually in was a bad day.  Because this life I live sure is exciting!