Sunday, March 30, 2014

Do What is Right

My apologies in advance that this will probably read like it is straight out of the New Era.

I was raised with some pretty clear expectations of how to keep the Sabbath day holy.  Pretty much the standard LDS stuff plus a few house rules about television (no TV before church).  When I married Kirk, it hadn't really occurred to me that different families observed the Sabbath in different ways, and that I'd married someone to whom Sunday was pretty much just another day.

Once Kirk became active in the church, Sunday of course included three hours of worship services, but he was not accustomed to any sort of reverent preparation my Sunday mornings included.  9:00 am church was no problem.  11:00 wasn't so bad either.  But he was very upfront when we had 1:00 church during football season, he would be watching a game while I was away at choir.  Although he has never felt the need to alter his methods of keeping the Sabbath day holy, he has always been willing to respect mine.

While my preferences for Sunday morning have always been pretty straightforward, it's the after church part that gets a little sticky.  The rules weren't hard and fast growing up, but general guidelines pretty much meant we were generally inside with our family.  We didn't play with friends.  We didn't jump on the trampoline.  We didn't go to the park.  Instead, we ate a big Sunday dinner then piled onto my parents' bed to watch Lois and Clark.  The big exception was when there was a family get together at Aunt Enid's.  In this case, we'd generally spend the Sunday afternoon outside with our cousins, pretty much acting as though it was any other day of the week.

Well, I married into an amazing family, most of whom do not share my religious beliefs, but the members of which have been incredibly accommodating to my requirements over the years.  That seemingly arbitrary list includes:

1. If you're going to plan a water party on a Sunday, my family will not be in attendance.  (Rationale, we all live really close, and the party could easily have been on a Saturday).
2. All other Sunday family gatherings will be observed in much the same way we acted at Enid's.
3. If Heather is in town for a short period of time, and the only logical day to do fun things with the family is on Sunday, we will participate.  However, I will bend over backwards to help plan it so major things like going to Lagoon happen on a different day.
4. We will happily attend all Sunday family gatherings be they immediate or extended family; we will show up after our full three hour block of worship.

Kirk's family has kindly timed Easter celebrations around our church schedule, rescheduled parties, and never made me feel marginalized for following my personal set of values.  But there is one annual tradition that has caused me some trouble over the years.  Super Bowl Sunday.  The boys all get together to watch the game (see Enid's house rules).  But the women - before I joined the family - all went to dinner and a movie.  Then Kirk made the mistake of bringing an active LDS girl into the family, and no one quite knew what to do when I said I would really prefer to not spend money on a Sunday.  Fortunately, the kids were all young, and for several years, it just kind of made sense to alter the family tradition.  For several years, we got together at a sister-in-law's house to eat and play games while the little kids ran around (far from the football game, so the daddies could enjoy the game).

But the kids grew up.  Now everybody can either handle watching the game, or going to dinner and a movie.  So the old tradition resurfaced.  Mom Fife called me to let me know the "girls" wanted to go to dinner and a movie.  She knew I might decline, but wanted me to know so I could think about it.  I let her know that it would be a tough decision for me, and that I would let her know.

As the day got closer, I weighed the pros and cons.  In this unique one-day-a-year case, was it more important for me to set an example and maintain my standards or to be an active participant in family traditions?  I prayed.  I fasted (convenient that the Super Bowl is on Fast Sunday).  I listened for any answer that might come during the lessons in church that day.

I got nothing.  No answer.  Which was pretty frustrating, because this question had a deadline.  Feeling like the Lord really must not care either way, I ultimately decided that I would go to dinner, rationalizing that it made sense to be an active part of the family.

Two weeks later, I sat in the baptistry at the Jordan River Temple, reading a New Era cover to cover while waiting for the youth to finish doing work for the dead when I read an article about a similar decision.  Elder Richard G. Scott was faced with knowing that the repercussions of choosing the right could negatively impact those around him. As he considered his choice, the words of the song, "Do what is right, let the consequence follow," came to his mind.

As I read this, I thought of how may times I have glossed over the words to that hymn, just kind of singing along to its cadence.  But when I really stopped to consider it, it was precisely the answer I had prayed for.  Why the Lord didn't answer me sooner, I don't really know, but there it was:

DO WHAT IS RIGHT.

LET THE CONSEQUENCE FOLLOW.

You know how a lot of people put "Return with Honor" or "Remember Who You Are and What You Stand For" above their front door so their kids will see it as they leave?

Well, my new house is going to display:

DO WHAT IS RIGHT.
LET THE CONSEQUENCE FOLLOW.

In reality, that is the answer to nearly every prayer we can pray.  Do what is right.  And for me, having the awesome parents I have, there is rarely any doubt of what is right.

Not "do what is right for others..."
Not "do what seems best in this situation..."

Just "DO WHAT IS RIGHT."

I'm sure going to try.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

What's Gonna Work? Teamwork!

It's been quite a long time since I've seen an episode of The Wonderpets, but their teamwork-driven theme song is still sung frequently in our home.

I was raised in a home where if one person was working, the whole family was working.  Everybody pitched in for Science Fair.  Everybody helped clean the house.  And if dad was working, you'd better believe one of us was at least holding the flashlight.

As a child/teen, I learned to use a variety of equipment working alongside my dad.  Not only did he teach me to change a tire when I learned to drive, but he made sure I had plenty of experience with the wide variety of tools in his shop including the table saw, drill press (I remember once when he used it to drill through his fingernail to remove the pressure of blood that had pooled after he'd smashed it), router, and anything that can be hooded to a compressor.  He taught me the beauty of a well-made jig, how to spray an even coat of varnish, the importance of keeping kitty litter nearby to clean up spills, and probably most importantly that everything is a hammer.  No, I take that back.  He taught me, most importantly, that I could do it.  Maybe I was little.  And kind of weak.  And a girl.  Maybe we didn't have the right tool.  Maybe we'd never done something like this before.  So what?!  I could do it.

I wish I could remember more of the specifics of what he taught me, especially when it comes to how to fix a car.  Fortunately, even though the specifics didn't stick, the confidence remained.  Just knowing that once upon a time, I helped roof a shed gives me the confidence to believe, "Hey, I can roof a shed!"  And knowing that once upon a time when he and my mom were building their own house, he had the confidence that I could handle hooking up all the electrical outlets (I was eleven) helps me have that same confidence in my own kids.

We aren't doing much of the work in the new house, but we are installing the flooring ourselves.  Well, sort of ourselves (the list of friends, family, and neighbors who've lent a hand keeps growing)!  I haven't dared take the kids to the work site every time we've gone, and we've actually done much of the work in the middle of the night just to avoid needing to worry about their well-being.  But we've taken them over in batches.  One at a time.  Two at a time.  Three at a time if we were feeling particularly brave.

And they've worked alongside us.  I've been trying to remember the same methods my dad used when I was little:

1. Choose a job the child can accomplish, mostly without supervision.
2. If the kiddo is working alongside you, explain everything.  Talk about the math.  Talk about the technique.  Explain the details.
3. If all else fails, let him (or her) hold something.  A bucket.  Supplies.  The marker.
4. Make him feel important.  Make sure the child knows that he is making your job easier just by being there.
5. Be patient.  Forgive the mistakes.  Point out your own.  Build confidence.

What I've ended up with is great helpers whose work I can be really proud of.

Dylan handed me spacers while I laid tile, and when the job was done, he gathered them all up.  He hammered.  He measured (okay, played with the measuring tape).  He vacuumed.  And sometimes, he supervised.



Alex hasn't spent as much time helping as the others.  Unfortunately there are a lot more steps required when working with Alex that include frequently making certain he isn't doing absentminded damage to himself, the tools, or the supplies.  But he did come over today and spent some time hammering with Daddy.  I also assisted him with one cut on the chop saw and caught him once using the dremel unassisted.



Adam, however, was the one with whom I was most impressed.  We weren't just allowing him to work for his own growth and well-being.  He was actually helpful.  He measured and cut (unassisted) the starter pieces for an entire bedroom.  He also took orders from Kirk for various end pieces that needed cut.  In about 3.5 hours of work, he made one wrong cut, the rest of the time keeping measurements and directions straight.  Although I'm certainly proud of his mastery of the noisy machinery (this is a kid who used to cry during fireworks), I was most proud to see how quickly, confidently, and accurately he could measure to 1/2, 1/4, and even 1/8 inch increments.  I also thought he managed the scrap resources well, kept his work space organized, ("Oh, mom, I have 10 pieces in my left-side 16" scrap pile," to which I jokingly turned to Kirk and said, "But who's counting?  Well, obviously you are sir!") and took pride in being as accurate as possible.  Now to look through his Cub Scout book and see what he can pass off for his hours of work!


Oh, and then there's me.  Honestly, I'm pretty much as proud of myself as I am of the kids.  I've been there for nearly every square of tile and strip of laminate wood.  I've done the mortar, spaced the tile, cut the laminate, used all three saws we have on site, and even completed the pantry flooring with just me and Michelle (and technically Tyler and Ryder).

"Uh, there's a baby in the cold storage..."  -- Mr. Electrician
But I really don't mind putting my own spin on it.  I have no problem working with a tiny measuring tape and a gold marker, and I'm not above asking Kirk to buy me safety glasses.


I've gotten double takes from the construction supervisor, I've gone to bed physically drained and covered in dust, and I've sung "Callin Baton Rouge" with Nick and Kirk while laying flooring.  And - truth be told - I've loved it.  There's just something to be said for working on your own house with your own hands.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Coincidence?

ON topic:

co·in·ci·dence

kōˈinsədəns,-ˌdens
noun
1. a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection.

OFF topic:

Did you know...

that there is a little arrow beneath the Google definition box that comes up when you search for a word?  And if you click that little arrow, you get all sorts of cool stuff, like this:


Now, not only do I have a specific definition for a common enough word that no one needed the definition anyway, but I also now have the knowledge that the word coincidence experienced some sort of resurgence in the 1960's, and my mind is kind of off on some journey trying to figure out just why that may have happened.  

NEAR topic:

We've been making great progress on our house, and it has been really exciting to live close enough to literally see the changes every day.  If I had been on the ball enough, I'd have taken pictures daily and done a cool time-lapse video set to some existentially relevant song.  But I wasn't.  So as for the exterior, it went something like this:



1. Wow!  I can't believe how fast they framed that!  I can't wait to see the brick color.
2. {Insert panic here as I saw the delivered brick sitting on its pallet and didn't realize only the face of the brick - which I couldn't see - bears the colors I'd chosen}  Oh, no!  The brick is so red.  What if I hate it?
3. Nevermind.  The brick is totally gorgeous.  I can't wait to see the stucco color.
4. {Insert panic here as I saw the colored stucco before it had dried}  Oh, no!  The stucco is so yellow.  Can I live with that?  
5. Nevermind.  The stucco is really creamy and great.  I can't wait to see it with all the dark brown accents!
6. Yay!  I was right, and the dark brown gutters and shutters really make it look even less yellow.  Whew.  I can't wait until they hang the garage door.
7. Hey, they installed the - || WHOA! || {Insert random flashback to the house I grew up in plus a, "Hmm... that was weird..." afterthought} - garage door.  It looks great!  I can't wait until they paint the front door.

FINALLY Getting to the Real Topic

Nothing has changed on the exterior since the garage door, but the weird flashbacky thing keeps happening.  I mentioned it to Kirk and then wondered aloud, "I wonder exactly what it is that is reminding me so much of the house I grew up in?  I can't quite remember, but maybe it had a dark brown garage door."

I made plans to drive by it next time I was heading out to the school, but then I had a great idea.  Google Street View.  


Hm.  Yep.  Dark garage door and dark shutters and dark gutters.  Light creamy contrasts.  I guess maybe it has one or two things in common with the new house:


Which leads me to wondering...

COINCIDENCE?

I chose the colors in a piecemeal sort of way.  Being particularly terrible at visualization, I really had no concept of what these tiny little swatches of color would turn into.  So I certainly had no overt plans of paying tribute to my childhood home.  Could my subconscious have been expressing some sort of a yearning to make this house feel just right in that way that only going home can?  Or did the colors of that home somehow influence the colors that seemed ideal when I started making the many tiny abstract choices that are slowly turning into a real thing?

Who knows.  The good news is that each time I turn the corner on the way to "the new house," it looks perfect to me.


Friday, March 14, 2014

A Back Porch Kind of Day

Kirk hates eating outside.  Which was why it was just fine that he was off coaching his Young Men's basketball team in their Region game last night instead of eating dinner with me, Michelle, and all the combined littles.

As we dragged folding chairs out (my picnic table benches haven't quite made it home after their annual use on stage in the Dickens Festival) and set up dinner, I quickly felt the effects of a much needed Vitamin D High.  Maybe it was the warmth of the sun.  Maybe it was the delicious maple dijon pork tenderloin.  But I'm pretty sure it was mostly the view:


Three awesome sons.  A sister who cooks me dinner.  Smiles and bubbles from a baby whose bum I don't have to change.  Tyler in pigtails.  And a view of my new backyard.

No wonder it felt like a back porch kind of day.

Note: I'm really not willing to part with the boys, the babies, the sister, or the new house, but I can at least share the delicious recipe.


But you may want to check with Michelle - I think she put some of the sauce on the side.  I'm not sure exactly what she did, but it was delicious!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

TBT: A Lapse in Tradition

Early on in my initiation as a Fife, it was made known to me that my mother-in-law had always made really cool cakes for Kirk and his siblings, and that this was a tradition Kirk would love to continue with our kids.  He even showed me the old, ragged cake book his mom had kept and from which his siblings borrowed cake ideas.

My first step along the road to birthday insanity was to restore this book.  I scanned and colored its pages and produced it in binder form, complete with page protectors to stave off long-term icing stains.  This step happened before I even had a kid of my own for whom to make a cake.

Then the kids came.  And so did the cakes.  I've made some pretty cool ones (the best came after we discarded the old book and just came up with our own ideas).  An iPod complete with fruit roll-up apps.  Adam's recent pirate ship.  Trains, baseballs, a pretty awesome tiger.  From the first cake, I quickly discovered that I really enjoy it.  Truth be told, that's the only reason I am willing to put HOURS and usually about $30 into each cake.

Prior to March 2013, I custom made 16 birthday cakes (8 for A, 5 for X, and 3 for D).  And then a terrible thing happened.

Technically, that terrible thing was called "Student Teaching," but when I think back on it, I mostly just remember all-nighter after all-nighter after all-nighter.  I also remember always being behind on something.  And in the middle of this sleepless nightmare, Alex turned 6.

We planned the party.  We arranged for it to be at Grandma Tess's house, because there was NO way we would find time to have the party and clean the house.  The date loomed closer and closer, and I finally had to make a decision.  

Kill myself to make a cake.

Or

Take Alex to Reams and let him choose a store bought cake.  (Oh, the horror!)

It was a really hard decision.  Far more difficult than a cake should be.  But in over-dramatic Andrea style, I couldn't fathom a lapse in tradition.  All I could see was an end.  That once I served a cake I didn't make that I would never look back, and the days of mom's cakes would be over.

I probably put way too much meaning into these things.  But as a working mom, I tend to cling to the few mom things that I know I hit out of the park.  I may delay family dinner a few times a week.  I may have missed half the baseball season last year because of school.  I may... well, let's just say I'm substandard in a lot of areas.  But I make awesome cakes.  What kind of mom would I be if I gave up on that?

Well, I gave up.  And it was the right choice.  Alex loved his Reams Angry Birds cake.  I didn't die trying to provide something that was probably only important to me.  And though the less-awesome-cake-tradition did continue through D's October (remember, Jekyll & Hyde / new full time work / Dickens Festival) birthday, I proved with Adam's pirate ship that it was only a lapse.  Mom is back!



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Shhhh

Adam has been working toward earning his Faith in God award, an achievement he can accomplish when he is eleven if he has met a list of requirements.  Since I was a bit behind, trying to figure out this Mom stuff, we didn't start the Faith in God when he was eight like we should have.  So just after his ninth birthday, we sat down to determine which of the requirements he'd met just by being the incredible kid he is. The "Developing Talents" section was easy; between theater and sports he met the required two activities for the year.  And one particular option under the subheading "Serving Others" stood out.
Entertain young children with songs or games you have learned or made yourself. Show that you know how to care for and protect a young child.
When I met Kirk, he explained to me that he had always wanted to be a dad.  Not in that, "Someday I'll be a dad," sort of a way, but in the sort of way that by the time he was eighteen, he really wanted a child.  I had known girls who were that way, my high school best friend Emilee Anderson being one of them.  Emilee had a way with kids, she talked about being a mom, and I just knew that whenever that happened for her, she would be amazing.  Kirk's desire for kids reminded me of Emilee and was one of the things that attracted me to him in the first place.

I didn't get a chance to know nine-year-old Kirk.  From many of the stories, I'm fairly certain I'm grateful for that!  But when I look at the way our son handles his little cousins, I can only imagine that this is how Kirk must have been.  And I can only think of the word "nurturing."


Yesterday, Adam had been a huge help with the kids all day, and I knew he was going to need to be a big help during the evening.  I sent Alex and Dylan outside and asked Adam if he'd like to take a break from the kids and play a game with Mom and Dad - no little kids allowed.  I explained that sometimes it is easier to keep being patient if you have had a bit of a break.  I turned to finish a few last dishes in preparation for the game, and when I turned back around, there Adam sat, quietly rocking Ryder to sleep.


 "Michelle, he's trying to snuggle into me," he explained as Ryder tried to bury his head in Adam's chest.  Recognizing his telltale sign of being ready for a nap, she offered to put him to sleep.  But Adam insisted that he could do it.  Michelle brought out a blanket to block some of the light, and she taught Adam how to hold Ryder in a way that would soothe him.

Recognizing that her brother wrapped up in a blanket meant his nap time.  Tyler rushed over to "Shhh" everyone.


Noticing that her little legs couldn't quite push her up to sit beside him, Adam expertly balanced baby in one arm while helping Tyler up with the other.  I've seen this maneuver countless times from Michelle, Skye, and Kirk.  I've tried it a few times myself, and it's not exactly easy.  But Adam continued to rock Ryder while giving Tyler the love and attention she was seeking.


I don't think my picture taking really helped Ryder to fall asleep.  

I imagine that someday in the not-as-distant-as-it-seems future, Adam will marry a beautiful girl, and they'll give me a beautiful grandchild.  They will visit for Sunday dinner, and his wife will go on and on about how good Adam is with the baby.  How he is so calm.  How his lack of anxiety helps their infant feel safe and comforted.  How she is so grateful to know that he is the father of their children.

I will smile, remembering that is exactly how I felt about Kirk.  And then I'll begin the story of how Adam was born a good dad.

Monday, March 3, 2014

My Mind is Blown

We have been playing this game for years.


As is the case with most of our favorite games, our friends Kevin and Alicia taught us to play at a game night at their house.  At the time, Kevin operated a board game company out of his basement, so - as is the case with most of our games - we bought a copy from Kevin.  We've taught multiple people how to play.  I included this game in the set of games I took backstage in Oklahoma! three years ago, teaching cast members to play as we waited for cues.

We taught this game to my dad, who I thought would be an expert at making the required pieces match the figure on the card.  We laughed as it turned out he was easily frustrated by the game, and even more frustrated by the fact that Jack kept beating him.

So when Julie Wrigley suggested Ubongo at Saturday's game night, I was thrilled.  Julie and I had each played before, but Michelle and Carmen Eggers were both new.  I taught the game, instructing them to place their cards in front of them, demonstrating with the dice symbols along the top, providing columns for each of the required piece sets.

We played for a few rounds with Julie and I having more success than the game's newcomers.  Noticing that Julie placed her board on the table in a different way than I had displayed, Michelle asked, "Is it easier when you have your board turned that way?

I hadn't noticed, but Julie's board was in fact opposite how I was using mine.  The quick consensus was that board direction certainly didn't matter.  But perhaps turning the board when one was stumped?  Perhaps a fresh perspective might just do the trick in solving the puzzles before the sand timer emptied.

We continued to play with the change-in-perspective tactic helping Michelle solve her puzzle in two consecutive rounds.  In the ensuing conversation, Carmen came up with a third option.  The card could be turned on its side.

Well, that looked just plain weird to me.  This newcomer was clearly out of her mind, altering the whole feel of the game with cards turned to a landscape orientation.  I quickly resolved to stick with my original card placement.  Until...


... wait!  When you turn it that way, the hieroglyphic dice symbols all become right side up!  No more elephant turned on its trunk!  No more thumb pointing awkwardly down!  I laughed to myself as I realized the sideways glyphs had never bothered me before (but now seemed intensely ridiculous).  

And then, I noticed it. There were people in the background of the puzzle!  People with jars on their heads, looking particularly cave wall-ish.  I turned my card back to what was becoming apparently wrong.  The people disappeared, replaced by the familiar cracks in the cave wall.  A reverse 90 degree rotation: the jar-headed people reappeared.  

"Kevin," I said, demanding his attention from the nearby table where he and several others were engaged in a particularly brutal round of Dominion.  "Hey, Kevin... did you know that if you turn these this way that the hieroglyphics are all right side up?  And look... there are people in the background!"  

He appeared equally surprised (though significantly less interested).  Kirk, too, had previously had no idea.  

There are people in the background of the Ubongo cards.

My mind is blown.





Sunday, March 2, 2014

Not Exactly Hallmark

We go check out our new house every day.  Every.  Day.  Sometimes more than once.  As a result, we've had many opportunities to chat with the tradesmen as they do their work.  Most are only there for a day or two, so they don't really see our pattern of visiting every day, but the mud & tape guy (whose trade, I'm sure, has a more official name than that) has been working evenings and weekends for nearly a week.

He arrives sometime before my 5:30-ish stop at the house on my way home from work, and he finds it quite amusing that I usually get there about fifteen minutes after Kirk has left.  He doesn't seem to mind when Adam hovers over him while he works, and he even patiently answers Adam's questions.  One evening, Adam accidentally stuck his palm in the recently applied mud, and though I responded less than jovially, he was patient and kind.

Through conversations with the brick mason, I had learned that Mr. Mud and Tape would be there working all weekend, so Kirk and I decided to thank him for being so awesome with our curious kids.  We made a batch of brownies, and the kids wrote thank you cards.


Thank you for spending so much time working at our house.  I have learned so much.  Our house is being built so fast.
From Adam
And the more verbose Alex:
Dear Mr. Mudder,
My name is Alex.  What is your name?  I just wanted to say thank you for making our new house.  Thank you for letting us watch you.  I think you are cool.  You are the best.  I hope you enjoyed the brownies.
From Alex to you.
Alex also drew a detailed picture depicting the previous evening when we'd brought Marie and Chance over to see the house.  Mr. Mudder had been up on his scaffolding, which we had to cross under in order to enter the house.  Alex depicted him atop the scaffold with trowel in one hand and mud/tape contraption in the other.

Wayne, as it turns out he is named, gratefully accepted the cards and brownies, read each card, and responded thoughtfully to each beaming boy.  He explained that he had been just about to take a break, and that the warm brownies would be a perfect treat.  When I tried to apologize for the noise and craziness each time we visit, he responded, "It gets awfully quiet over here."

This man has a job to do; he is responsible for making our walls and ceilings strong and beautiful.  He had no responsibility to set an example for three young boys, but he has certainly done so.  In a way, I think I will be a little sad to move on to the next phase of building.  Thanks, Wayne, for taking the time to be a great human being.

Another positive that came out of the card making was that Michelle and Kirk made a reference to a card I'd never seen.

"Can I be invited to your funeral?" they joked.  I stared back, confused.

Apparently, when the boys and Kirk attended Aunt Marie's 40th birthday party a week ago (I had attended a Stake Conference session with our ward's Young Women), they had written her cards.  Kirk had explained that people often joke about 40 year olds being close to death, which Alex incorporated into his message.

Happy Birthday, Marie. Will you invite us to your funeral?  Circle an answer, Yes or No.  I will miss you.