Monday, June 23, 2014

To the Women Who Mourn

I want to say a word (or more...brevity has never been my strongest suit) to those sisters who are grieving over the excommunication of Kate Kelly.

Eons ago, my very first (and quite wonderful) visiting teaching companion said something in a lesson that has stuck with me for a great many years. She said, "The best way to prepare for future ordinances and covenants is to keep the covenants you have already made."

We need you. There is room and love enough for you in God's Church. You have gifts and talents and beauties to share with us, and we need YOU and the threads you bring to the great tapestry of our faith.
The answer now may be "No," but that doesn't necessarily mean "Never." Saints across the globe prayed for many years for the expansion of the Priesthood before, and they continued to live the gospel and prepare for future ordinances and covenants by keeping the ones they had already made. In the end, their lives were blessed, joy expanded.

Others left, deciding that they were not willing to wait on the timing of the Lord, and in addition to giving up on their existing covenants, they lost the opportunity for future covenants (and their accompanying blessings).

I do not know whether the Priesthood will ever be expanded to women. And frankly, I can be happy either way. But I know that God lives, and that He loves each and every one of us, and that He has a plan of infinite beauty and joy for each of us. I know that there is a prophet who guides us. I know that accepting the Lord's will (and His timing) is sometimes painfully hard, but part of our purpose on this earth. I know that because of the covenants I have made with Him that I can live with Him again. And, if ever the time comes that I can enter into other ordinances with Him, that will depend entirely on my work to keep sacred those covenants I have already made.

I deeply feel for those women who struggle with the question of their place before God when it comes to His Priesthood. I don't feel in any way that the consequences that came down were about the question, as questions are one of the most important tools we have to draw nearer to the Savior. In spite of all that's happened, the church today is the same church it was yesterday, and your covenants still tie you back to the Lord. So please, stay. Share your testimony (because when it feels weakest--another friend taught me--is often when you need to share it most); pray for peace; exercise the priesthood already within you; and keep preparing by keeping those covenants which you have entered into with the Lord.

Come what may, it's the best way to be ready for it.



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Monday, February 10, 2014

To my son, on his fifth birthday:

Little Bird:
Happy Birthday! FIVE!
You sir, are like a new kid this year. It's been exciting and fun, and heart-wrenching and bitter-sweet.

The biggest development of the year is that you started school in earnest. I never thought I'd send you to full day school before Kindergarten, but it has been a truly wonderful thing for you. At four, you were already reading and writing and doing addition and subtraction, and a mistake with your previous preschool meant we needed an alternative. I knew you'd be unhappy doing nothing, and with my work schedule the way it is, I knew I couldn't devote enough time to your learning. So, we entered you into a full-day Montessori school. It has been such a great experience. You are reading so well independently, your math skills are fantastic, you have made great strides with your anger, and have just blossomed in your learning and your thirst for knowledge.

This year, from four to five, you have learned a lot about keeping your temper, reasoning things out, and understanding consequences. Sometimes those lessons are hard, but you are growing up into a sweet and responsible kid. All the baby is out of you now, and I'm learning to see glimpses of who you will turn into. I absolutely adore all that you are.

Some ways to describe you:
Imaginative--you are in one of my very favorite stages, where you like to take me along on long, detailed imaginings and "what ifs." Made up animals, inventions, adventures--they are all happening in that big, beautiful brain of yours and often come spilling out in a flood of excitement. You have become increasingly talkative this year. If I ever have the chance to be alone with you, I can rarely get a word in edge wise as you excitedly tell me about your ideas.

Sweet--You are sweet as sugar! Your love language is definitely words of affirmation and acts of service. If I tell you what a sweet kid you are, if I do something helpful for you, or offer to make you something special, you light up in a way that is uniquely yours and pretty much makes all the dull/hard/exhausting moments of being a mom completely melt away. You can smile up at me and tell me I am the best mom ever in a way that just gets deep down inside and tells me how much you really believe it. You offer to brush my hair or hold my hand and tell me things you like about me. Admittedly, we butt heads from time to time, but so often it's because I forget that you need first and foremost to know that you are loved and to understand that I have your best interests at heart.

Perceptive--You have a way of reading and reciprocating emotions. This is sometimes the biggest blessing, and sometimes the heaviest of curses. When we get it right, when I am engaged and attentive and loving, you return so much more back to me. When I am tired, short tempered, or overwhelmed, you have the ability to amplify those emotions until both of us are crying in time-out. I've often said that your sister made me a mom and you have made me a better mom, and in a lot of ways this is still true. You are the one that has me reading parenting books, asking friends for advice, and overanalyzing my actions and plans. And that's okay, because as you have always done, you have helped to change me into something better than I could have hoped to be without you, and the moments when we get it right make all the rough patches a blessing.

Smart--oh, child. You are smart. When I started you in preschool this year, I told your teacher that you were already reading and doing basic math, that I had wanted to start you in Kindergarten early, but was unable. She "Uh-huh"ed me, as I assume many teachers are used to being told by parents how their children are exceptional. A week into school though, she asked me to stick around after school because we needed to talk about you. She showed me all you had done, that you'd blown through the books and spelling she had offered you, and that she was shocked at how far ahead you were. "Kierra," she emphasized, "he is SO. SMART. I don't know if I've ever had a 4 year old like him!" I didn't say "I told you so," but I sure did think it. :) You latch onto knowledge. You're still little, but your learning is big, and I truly hope that will always be the case.

Strong-willed--There is nothing that is true in this world, unless you say it is so. I recall an argument you and I had this year about whether the sun was shining. I, of course, could clearly see that it was. But you, on the other hand, had some reason to disagree. I finally relented, and to be honest, the words, "Okay, boss, if you say so..." are kind of common in our discussions this past year. It's been known to cause a few screaming matches between you and your sister, or you and your school buddy, this inability to change course of yours. However, I hope it turns into a tenacious desire to achieve your goals and to find the answers to the questions you'll ask.

Compassionate--You are really learning to have empathy for those around you. Though you never like the lesson, and you have a tendency (don't we all) to lay blame with others, you are learning the value and healing of a true apology. You love animals and babies and are gentle with them and you think about how others would feel in various situations. I love your thoughtful, gentle heart and your intense sense of justice.

Cantankerous--Oh, my darling. You are still my little "Grumpy Gus." A lack of sleep brings out a monster in you, and you are, at times, the poster child for "the Hangries," but this year you have also learned a lot how to balance yourself and work through those big emotions. Yet another sign, I reckon, that you are becoming a "big boy."

HILARIOUS--This is probably a by-product of your intellect, but you know how to work with words, play to your audience, and have a great sense of timing. And you love it. You LOVE making people crack up. Admittedly, much of your humor revolves around bathroom humor still, but you also have a sharp little wit that is as surprising at times as it is hysterical.

It's been an amazing year. And YOU are an amazing kid! I'm so grateful for everything you are and the chance to be your mom. I love you, my sweet Little Bird!

Love Always,
Mom


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Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Surely the apple is the noblest of fruits."

One fun fact about the school up here is that they have the an apple orchard up here that is one of the most diverse in the US, with varieties as old as the 1600s, from all over the world. We take a trip (or two or three) every year to enjoy the crop.

I love the way the kids whoop and holler about the apples they find, the vinegar smell that permeates the air later in the season, the mystery waiting in every tree when so many varieties are waiting to be tasted.

Enjoy a few photos from our recent excursion!

{Yum!}


{Ladybugs taking cover at the stem.}

{Little Bird says, "This is my little friend!}


{Unfortunately, the pears were off limits for data collection.}


{Brother and sister, so excited!} 



 {Enjoying the spoils.}


 {Daddy does the climbing and the hard work!} 


{But big sis does the lifting!} 



 {Sharing together!}


 {What?!? No more eating apples!}


 {Oh! Just kidding? Phew!} 


 {Apples!} 


{Too much fun and delicious apples...}


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Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Letter to My Daughter, on her Sixth Birthday

Dear Sweet Squirrely Girl,

Happy Birthday, my darling! This year, you are six. SIX! This year has been like a whole new world, and I think it's because you have really entered the WORLD. No longer does everything in your life revolve around home and the little existence we carve out together; you go to school,  you make friends, you experience things I will never witness or be a part of. Thankfully, our little family is still the center of your world and everything else you experience is still in the peripherals, but this is the year that I have begun to see this delicate world of ours is already beginning to tilt.


Your father and I have spent the few weeks before your birthday teasing you, telling you that you mustn't, no CANNOT, grow up. We informed you and your brother that no more birthdays are allowed, and you would therefore be five forever. This, of course, led to a great deal of despair, and wailing over the complete unfairness of the parental unit you were dealt, until we finally relented and explained that, regardless of our wishes, time marches on. And how it does, my sweet.



This has been a banner year for you. Perhaps, the biggest event of the year is that you started Kindergarten. This was both terribly exciting and a bit heart-wrenching for me. I love the excitement you had, the way you were so brave, with just a touch of nerves showing through. I love watching you learn. I've been amazed at how much you have come to know this year. You went off to school knowing your letters and most of their sounds, and you have ended Kindergarten as a reader. I feel so much joy and pride when we sit and YOU read ME a book. This change from non-reader to reader is as mysterious and miraculous to me as the metamorphosis of a butterfly. You do math too. And draw so beautifully now--your people have arms, legs, smiles, hair; your flowers have petals and your houses have windows. You LOVE your teacher. I have to admit, there have been times when I've been a bit jealous of the amazing Mrs. D--her ability to coax that learning from you and your trust in her teaching. But because of all she's done for you, I love her too. And in spite of my constant reassurances to you that you will love first grade and your new teacher just as much, I feel a little bit of that anxiety you feel as well, wondering if another teacher could possibly ignite that fire and show such care for you as well.



You have a best friend. A "best best best best best friend." And it's not me or one of the dorm girls, but another little girl, like you, who loves the land of make-believe and dress-up and princesses and dragons and rock stars as much as you do. You play inexhaustibly. I love that you are learning the ropes of friendship and the discussions it brings up, the additional layer of preparation for the real world it gives you. I'm not crazy about the sassy way you have learned to speak back, or the concepts you pick up which I wish we could keep away a bit longer.  I feel dread too, in this transitional stage of our lives, knowing you will lose her at some point and knowing that the first heartbreak so many little girls experience is the loss of a best friend to distance.


You are growing in the Gospel in a sweet, and beautiful way. Your prayers have become more thoughtful and sincere. You ask deeper questions. You encourage your brother towards reverence and have started teaching family home evening on occasion. You have a sweet little testimony and enjoy the lessons you learn at home and in church.


You are in many ways much the same as you have always been, and with the way time continues on relentlessly, I am so grateful for the consistency of your personality:
You are charming. Your big blue eyes and dimples and sweet thoughtfulness catch the affection of everyone you meet.

You are contemplative--you ask big questions and listen to the answers.
You are sensitive--you are still so scared of so many movies and shows, and you are affected deeply by bad news you might hear about. (For instance, our pug Titan died this year, and though he hadn't lived with us for 3 years, you wept as though you had known the daily comfort of his presence.)
You are thoughtful--you like to do things for others that know will make them happy: draw pictures, sing songs, make presents.

You are flighty--you travel from activity to activity, never caring to put too much effort into any one thing. We bought you a ukulele for your birthday, and though I think you'd have a great deal of joy from learning to play, I won't hang my hopes on you applying enough dedication to be a maestro.
You lose things--I don't know if this is a "you" thing or a six-year old thing, but you cannot keep track of your shoes, your backpack, your "favorite" toy of the moment.
You are silly--you love getting people to laugh, and lately this silliness takes form of making funny voices and funny faces, or trying out hysterically terrible impersonations of songs or movie scenes you know are funny (though you may not always know why).



You are a performer--I love watching you dance because there is such a transformation that comes over you when you know you have an audience, but you also love to sing and run and leap when no one is watching.





You are sassy--you've always had a sassy, defiant streak since the day you were born, and it certainly remains. It's turning into a pre-teen sort of sassiness, something I'm not sure if you've come about naturally or if it is something you've learned from your peers. Thankfully, your finer graces usually win out, even though we do have to endure your defiant shouts of "no!" and crossed arms.


You are a great sister--you love your brothers and you mother them. At times, this causes problems, like when you boss your brother to the point of arousing his anger (in fairness, his anger is often easy to kindle), or when your baby brother lets out banshee screams because he doesn't like someone interfering with his plans for mischief. But for the most part, you are amazingly helpful and loving with them.

Some things you love this year:

Music: Adele--anything, Mumford and Sons' "The Cave" (you and your brother will play this on repeat FOR-EVER); Ellie Goulding's "Lights;" Five for Fighting's "100 Years;" Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds;""Somewhere Over The Rainbow" (we read The Wizard of Oz this year) and "The Rainbow Connection," and from primary, "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus" and "I Love to See The Temple."

To Eat: Candy. Always you have loved candy. You also have a thing for cauliflower and sweet peppers this year.


Your baby brother: Oh, how you have delighted to have a baby brother! You have been such a proud sister from the beginning. You love coaching him, teaching him how to crawl, walk, laugh, clap. You read to him and sing to him. In the days I have been writing this letter, he has started to call your name, always after you walk away from playing with him, he'll call to you up the stairs or through the door. He adores you and his favorite part of the day is when you come into my room where he sleeps, talk to him in sweet tones and carry him off to play with you. I love the love between you.

Your bigger little brother: While this relationship is somewhat more volatile, there is still such a great love between the two of you. The gap between you two is widening as you shift this year from family-centric to peer-centric, but there is still much fun to be had. Unfortunately, not a day goes by where the two of you don't have some sort of explosive disagreement (which almost always goes something like this: he does something he shouldn't or that you don't want him to; you put on your bossiest voice and attempt to correct his behavior; he resists; you insist; he either screams at you or hits you; you erupt into emotional tears). Thankfully, not a day goes by that you two don't roll in hysterical laughter together as well. You two are into body humor these days, jinx, and elaborate pretend games like superheroes, animal rescuers, princesses and knights, and detective. I know the impending years and gender difference will continue to spread wider over the next few years, but I hope that these years of friendship and joy will lay a strong foundation for the other side of that valley when the gap narrows again.

To work: Emptying the dishwasher, sweeping, and cooking dinner. You always want to be helping in the kitchen, and admittedly, this is the place I LEAST like getting help. I'm working on that. You've also learned how to do your laundry and are getting better at this. You have the same problem as me though--you'll wash it and sort it, but folding and putting away are never any fun.


To watch: He-Man and She-Ra--Your father introduced you and your brother to the hero of his youth, and you both became instantly enthralled.

To play: Barbies, dress-up, princesses, and make-believe. Happily, you also enjoy a game of cars or superheroes, but your world is first and foremost, a "pink" one.

To read: Amelia Bedelia--you think her antics are hilarious, and I love watching you deduce the misunderstandings that she is known for. Elephant and Piggie--these Mo Willems books leave you in stitches. I am absolutely gaga for the hysterical laughter that these books bring out in you.


Things you definitely do not love this year:

Bedtime, but this has always been the case. You are somewhat better now, if I will indulge you in a story and any number of lullabies.

Cleaning up your messes--oh, how you weep and wail at the mention of cleaning your room or the piles of toys you have a tendency to leave out. I try to make this a more enjoyable experience, but it's hard when you collapse to the floor at the suggestion that you need to pick up.

The bus ride home from school: In theory you like the idea, but you are the last off the bus and it makes for one tired kid by the time the long ride is over. But I sure do love meeting you at the stop after school and enjoying those few minutes the two of us have to talk and enjoy one another.


As always, the simple descriptions and generalizations of the past year hardly do you any justice at all. And as always, it comes down to the simple fact that every single day, I am more in love with you than the last. Even though it is hard to see you grow up, to feel the long expanse of your body that once fit into my palms, it is also a delight. Every day I put the "old you" to bed and know that I will never have that same little girl in my arms again. But every day when you rise up and come to me, I get the "new you," and no matter how relentlessly time marches on, the loss is worth getting to know the person you are becoming. You are truly a glorious being. You are so vibrant that you reflect around on others. I am full of so many shortcomings and misgivings and so blessed to be your mother. Somehow, you are quick to forgive me of those shortcomings and make me feel better than I could ever hope to be. I'm so grateful every day for the blessing of being your mother and the deep spring of joy that comes from such a title. I love you my darling, darling love, from the depths of my soul. Thank you for being you, and for sharing another year with me!



All my love,
Mom


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Thursday, May 30, 2013

To My Son, On His First Birthday


Dear Sweet Baby Grasshopper,

You are ONE! You are amazing! You are suddenly so BIG and it breaks my heart and is simultaneously so. much. FUN!


Where do I start? You have been a whirlwind and trouble since you were still in my belly. The events of my pregnancy with you turned me from someone who suffers from a slightly elevated level of neurosis on a daily basis to a woman in constant risk of totally losing it. And to be honest, there are still days where things are like that between us. For me, that pregnancy journey was about really learning to trust God, and not just to fix a trial, but to trust that He would carry me through one that couldn't be fixed. I had a lot of fear in the weeks leading up to your birth, but I learned that the ONLY thing that conquers fear is faith, and that sometimes faith is hard work. But always, it is worth it. Your father of course, was a perfect example of exercising faith. He always has been, and was my steady rock (along with the healthy sounds of your NSTs and the oft-counted kicks) through the uncertainty.


When you were born, oh, how I rejoiced at your safe arrival. You were strong and feisty and sheer perfection. You were my easiest recovery from a birth, but also my neediest baby. We had a tough go of it at times in this first year, as you rarely slept. Ever. You've never taken a pacifier and are attached to no lovey. Instead, your comfort items are me--nursing at the breast, pulling on my skin, chewing on my hair. At times it seemed that you were never satisfied with the level of closeness between you and me, but that you would literally chew my hair to get closer to me. And I admit, as a mom, there are times where I would hand you off to Dad and run to the store just to get at little distance.

You are my "Koala Baby" or "Velcro Baby"--the vast majority of your life has been spent in my arms. While I am exhausted by the busyness that your recent ability to walk has brought on, I am also glad for the respite it brings at times--for the personal space I regain while you destroy something besides me. You are now a year old and you still wake every 2-3 hours in the night, and a 45 minute nap in the day is practically a miracle. There were probably too many lazy days, too many dishes left undone, and too few sweet moments captured in all my sleep deprivation, but what I do know is that I wouldn't trade you for anything, even if it meant a year of uninterrupted nights! First of all, you are the only of my three babies who will actually snuggle me. Your brother and sister never had much interest in snuggling, and I am so grateful for the way you will sit quietly in my lap sometimes or fall asleep on my chest.


And, even though it is at times hard, I love that I am your favorite. By about six months old for both your brother and sister, Daddy was the favorite. They knew when he was coming home, and they looked forward to it. They were always happy to play with Daddy and sometimes fussed about being handed back to Mom. There is no doubt that I am your favorite. In fact, I can be sitting in my office working and hear you happily playing with Dad or the babysitters, and if I sneak in to use the restroom or get a drink, and you spy me, it's all over--you'll weep and wail and cry "muhMAH" until I come over and sooth your pitiful abandoned self. And yes, that's sometimes exhausting, like when the house is a wreck (always, since you came along, sweet thing) or dinner needs making. But it's also kind of sweet to know that no matter what everyone else in the world may think of me, I am your favorite person on the planet.


What you lack in sleep skills, you make up for in personality. You are at times the most pensive child I have ever seen. I love watching you watch things. You have this funny way of pulling in your bottom lip and gently furrowing your brow as you observe the world around you in a most meditative way. When strangers talk to you, you use this wistful expression on them until you decide whether they are friend or foe. Generally, you decide they are friend, and how you light up! I get so many questions from perfect strangers about whether you are always this happy, or what I do to have such a happy child. (The answers are: no, you are not always that happy because sometimes I try to make you sleep; and apparently if you want a happy baby, all you need do is never let it sleep, but take it out in public to perform for strangers!) You have one of those smiles that just makes people laugh out loud at you, and not in a "oh, what a sweet baby" kind of way, but a deep, surprising sort of way. Perhaps it comes from the contrast in your expressions, but I think it really is just that kind of smile that tells people that we're all children of God and He's closer than we think.


You don't dance. I think this is funny because your brother and sister both danced as soon as (or before) they were walking. You do not ever dance. Instead, you come over and sit in my lap or sit on the floor when your brother and sister are dancing about and give them that thoughtful look as though your are attempting to figure out just what this silly ritual is that they are performing. You clap for them now when they are done, and you'll laugh and giggle if I spin you around, but dancing is not yet your thing.


You spend a long time studying the pictures in books. When we read a book, you are very intent on a page, and if I turn it before you have fully completed your perusal of it, you will inform me with your angry squawks of your displeasure. You aren't big on TV (which to be honest, I have at times just wished you would sit and watch a Baby Einstein or something to get five minutes to myself!), but you do get very enthralled momentarily when the big kids want to watch Kipper. Something about that opening theme song just pulls you in.


You are so funny! And I really do think you know it. You have this funny little "Huh-huh" laugh that you use when you've done something that you know if funny. I love the little glint in your eye when you catch my attention--that infectious smile and one little raised eyebrow get me laughing every time. That same pensive quality you have lets you know when people will be surprised by your actions, I think, and you anticipate that you'll get a reaction. Sometimes, you like to poke me or stick a finger in my nose or smack me while you nurse, and you get a mischievous little smile, and laugh your little giggle. You'll peek around the corner at someone and giggle, you'll throw away a piece of food to get your brother and sister to laugh at you. I'm so amazed that such a little guy already has his timing down so well!


In just the last few weeks, your growth in every area has simply exploded. In the last month to six weeks, you have started to fully walk on your own, to reliably say a few words, to clap, to eat a variety of solid foods of all textures, to color, and to point. You got your first two teeth around six months, but haven't had any more come in for a while. Now, in just the last few weeks, your teething has been nuts--right now you are working on six teeth. At least three of them have finally broken through, and I think the next few will be just days behind. You'll have a mouth full of teeth in no time.

You say "mama" and "dad-dad" with knowledge of what they mean. My favorite expression you say right now is "HUMM" which roughly translates to "That looks yummy! Can I have some?" Any time someone is about to eat something, you will wander over and expectantly repeat "HUMM! HUMM!" until we share (or in the case of your brother, until he says, "No! No HUMM!").


In the last couple months, you have also become a much bigger fan of your Daddy. Where before, there may have been times when you didn't even want to let him hold you, you have now learned the great secret about Daddies: they are super FUN! You've learned to wrestle and roll about, to be tickled, to giggle and laugh with Dad and that it is a blast. I love this special relationship that your dad gets to have with you.


You absolutely adore your siblings. Squirrel comes in to the bedroom where you sleep with me most mornings, and you are always so happy to see her! I think your favorite part of the day is when she comes in and talks baby-ease to you and then drags you off to play with her. She's always my first up and always happy to rise, and so she's always good to carry you away for play time in the mornings. And you laugh and giggle as she carries you happily into the hallway or her bedroom.

When it comes to Little Bird, his feelings are not always as warm--I don't think he quite understands that you're just a baby, and so now that you're busy enough to do things like climb on him and pull hair, he'll push or yell at you, and we're working on that. But he does love you so! In fact, his love for you and his desire to help with you has been an unexpected, but delightful, surprise. He loves to wrestle with you, to play with you and your toys, even to help me out by taking out diapers or attempting to make you bottles. He's always looking out for you! He will be an awesome big brother, and I can picture the two of you on many adventures as you grow!

You are becoming more independent--with your recent mobility, you seem to experience less frustration and boredom than in the previous months. There is more trouble for you to get into and that really delights you. Even with your new independence, I am still home-base, and I love the way you'll wander off to check something out, and then return to sit in my lap and observe from afar. I love this relationship we have, this push and pull. I can see it being the type of mother-son relationship that helps you explore your world safely and learn new things in a deeper way because I hope you'll always bring back what you've learned and allow me to help you process it. I know that the bigger you get, the less time you'll spend with me as your "base," but I hope there will always be time spent there, no matter how little. To me, it will always be meaningful. And as difficult as it sometimes has been to give up so much of myself to being your mom, I wouldn't change it for the world. Because in the end, I'm getting all those pieces back, and they are so much richer and better than I could have hoped.

I love you, my sweet little Grasshopper. Thank you for coming to me and for being you. I'm so grateful to have you (constantly!) by my side and a part of our family.



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