Friday, January 28, 2011

New Rule: Pass more notes

I love my hair. I love the rainbow behind me. It makes me feel young and happy. (from Jilly)

Very politically correct. Even everyone else. Even Ozzi (the dog) (from Sophie Mae)

This from my 12 year old son. Made my day.

You're the best mom a kid could have. You are always so nice and always make me laugh and feel good. I just want you to know that I love you more than anything in the world. (Besides dad. You're tied.)
Gabriel Wes

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ping pong ding dong

So. It's been a kinda rough week. Putting on the happy face has been a little bit more of an effort. I am grateful for friends and family that don't allow me to retreat too far into my 'pity party' -but throw Bachelor viewing parties instead. :)

I also had a good laugh when I came across these photos when downloading pictures from my camera the other day. Gabe took credit for the awesome photography. My brother, Erick, is his subject. I. Laughed. Out. Loud.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Artichoke dip, bunko, birthday boys, and predictions

That's just a small sampling of what our New Year's Eve entailed. It was a Par-tay!
Jill (shown here after midnight) is deliriously enthusiastic about ringing in the new year.
In fact, I think these two girls may be vampires. When all of the adults were ready to crash from staying up way past their bedtimes, Sophie and Jill seemed to come alive.
This New Year's Eve Jodi had a new hubby, 3 more kids and a sparkle in her eyes. 2011 is looking like a very good year.
BUNKO! Dad swept the winnings. He started to feel bad and gave away most of his prizes.
Kelli and her grown-up-girl, Kate. Kelli's girlies love their momma.

Our real reason for gathering-of course-is that it is also BRANDT'S BIRTHDAY! Jodi made the best chocolate cake ever (from the Keeping Up cookbook) and Angie supplied the cute flags. (Thank's Ang.)
Holy Cow! I love that Brandt picked out his own birthday balloons.

This could have something to do with why Jill seemed to have so much energy at midnight....
The poppers seemed like a good idea at the time. But they made a HUGE mess! We were ringing in the new year with the vacuum in one hand and a glass of Martinelli's sparkling cider in the other.
My prediction? That we do this again next year. Same time, same place. Maybe without the poppers.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Back in 2010...

...we had a very Merry Christmas.
Although we get to sleep in a little longer than when our kids were younger, Gabe said he still read for over an hour waiting for a decent time to try to wake his older siblings. I believe the waking order was the norm: Gabe, Mom, Hailee, Dad, Christian & Brittney.
The picture of Christmas: red and white stripped pajamas, enthusiasm and JOY!
A different kind of picture of Christmas:
Christmas Brunch with the fam...german oven pancakes, fresh fruit, homemade syrup,breakfast casseroles, sausage, waffles, juice and hot chocolate. Mmmmm. Emma suggested that we do this menu for all of our gatherings-including Thanksgiving.

Show and tell
Showing the love.
Caleb gave Jill a porcelain frog. Jill is protecting its fragile-ness.
Maddie was so excited for presents. Hers and everyone else's.
Maddie K. has been doing an internship in a hair salon. She is very gifted in the area of personal hygiene and appearance-as is obvious with how dang cute she always looks. Jodi blew her paycheck on hair products for her and Brittney.
Gabe got the very interesting, mesmerizing, disgusting Guiness Book of World Records book as a gift from his dad. (Who I think secretly got it for himself).
One whole semester behind them and they still like each other.
Sophie has always had a special affinity for Brittney. I have seen many similarities in the two. Although Brittney never skipped class until she was in High School.
Mom gave each of us a canvas print of our family pictures. The gift of family: priceless.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sometimes bad days need big brothers

I knew something wasn't right when there was no chipper "hellloo" called when he walked in the door. Instead he came in the office and silently sat down.
"How was your day?" I asked carefully.
After a couple of silent seconds, he quietly answered that it was the worst day ever.
"Start at the beginning," I urged.
He then proceeded to tell me about his very frustrating, lonely, defeating day. I was all ready with my pat on the back until the clincher....a soul crushing comment hurled at my boy by another boy. My heart sank. I said a silent prayer that his happy, friendly nature would remain intact and that I would have the words to help heal the hurt.
During the conversation, Christian had been come coming in and out of the room acting like he wasn't listening. I knew better.
Trying to buy myself a little time to come up with my response, I asked Christian if he had any ideas of how Gabe should respond.
"Yeah..I do," he said. "Next time you see him, reach across the table and punch him in the face."
I look at Gabe and see a little hint of a smile forming.
I give Christian a chance at redemption. "Hmmm..let's see, if that doesn't work do you have a plan B?"
"Sure. Find out what girl he likes and then get her to like you. I know you'd be good at that."
At this, Gabe breaks into a full on grin.
My need to come up with the "right" repsnse no longer appears necessary.
Thank goodness for the heartfelt advice of big brothers.

As Christian walks out of the room he casually asks, "By the way...what was that boys name?"
Took the words right out of my mouth.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Christmas Eve (Part II)

After coming home from mom's house, we gathered our little family together in the living room. I thought, somewhat wistfully, of my sisters, Kelli and Jodi, at home leaving cookies and milk for Santa and sprinkling reindeer dust to attract Rudolph and his gang to their house. I remembered all the years our kids wanted to sleep in the living room under the tree lights on the hopes of "catching" Santa filling their stockings. But right now my 'not-so little' kids were all just staring at me-waiting to get 'this' going-whatever 'this' was. The thought of sleeping anywhere besides their own lovely beds was the last thing on their minds.

"You guys aren't much fun anymore," I lamented.

They responded knowingly with grins and yawns.
We plowed ahead.
They listened intently as Jordan read, The Light of Christmas. In it the "Keeper of the Flame" looks for the giver of the "truest gift of Christmas" to light the Christmas torch. Unexpectedly, a young boy's selfless act of service rendered to the Keeper of the Flame himself is chosen as the "truest gift."

"I've thought a lot about "gifts" this Christmas," I said. They all glanced enthusiastically at the pile of Christmas Eve gifts (jammies) waiting to be opened.
This was what I expected but not what I meant. I tried to explain what had been on my mind.

I thought about gifts as our ward focused on providing gifts for children and families who otherwise would have gone without. I thought about "gifts" as Gabe and I watched The Polar Express. Me for the first time. I thought of the littlest boy on the train who was so hesitant to BELIEVE because his lack of "gifts" in the past had stripped him of anything tangible to believe in. I thought of my own children who had never had any lack of gifts but have also never had high expectations or have acted disappointed or entitled with what they received. But I also mentioned that I felt that there had been a greater focus on what they wanted to receive as opposed to what they wanted to give. There had been past years where we had the kids draw names between themselves to attempt to ease any financial burden they might feel. And though none were in any better position financially, I had begun to feel it was important they they spent the time and effort-and money-to give a gift to each other. All their siblings. I had thought much about my gratitude/guilt for our own good fortune. I struggled with the thought of the injustices in the world and focused specifically on the subject of "gifts." Why do some receive and not others?

And then a friend sent me the link to this short video:

Suddenly, it became very clear to me. My focus on gifts had been a little misguided. Christmas was about giving gifts. It was also about receiving gifts. And it became clear that each and every one of us have the opportunity to give and to receive equally. Our Heavenly Father gave His Only Begotten Son- a gift- to us ALL. The Savior's gave His love and His life and His redemptive power to us ALL. It has been offered freely and unconditionally. It is packaged for us personally.
And the choice is ours to either accept or reject the gift.
It is "the trust gift of Christmas" and I, for one, would like to gratefully accept the gift.

My favorite part of the night was watching my kids give and receive the gifts they had for each other. They were definitely more excited about the giving. They put a lot of thought into the gifts they gave each other.

Hailee loved her ring that Brittney found for her.

We are all big PSYCH fans around here. Christian made t-shirts for each of them in his graphics class. He went early and stayed late for days to get it done.

The girls picked out this t-shirt and his new favorite cologne for Christian. They totally have him pegged.
Hailee worked tirelessly to put together a photo calendar for Jordan from all the kids. It was a huge hit.
Jordan took the calendar out to work with him. The girls have mentioned receiving a couple of random "I'm thinking of you" texts from their dad since Christmas. I am willing to bet that seeing pictures of his kids on his new calendar had something to do with his middle of the day texts. I don't think Hailee realized at the time that it would be such a reciprocal gift.

Christmas Eve was just dreamy...(part I)

In keeping with tradition we went to mom's for Christmas Eve. Can you believe that of my 3 siblings each and every one live close? And can you believe that those same 3 siblings are some of my favorite people to be with? Add to that that their spouses and kids just complete the package. It makes holidays and events so enjoyable. And comfortable.
Mom and Dad had a little "program" set up with a couple of short nativity and thought provoking Christmas clips. We sang. Kelli's kids harmonized. Jill had her own act. She put on a whole separate Christmas program complete with song and actions. We had to end with that. There really was no way to top it.

We broke tradition,however, with dinner. On a recommendation from friends, we ordered brisket from Famous Dave's BBQ and then added our own sides. YUM! That one might be a keeper.

Speaking of 'keepers'...all of these girls helped with clean up until the very last counter was wiped off. Let's be honest...that is the true Christmas (anytime) gift.

Like I said...very comfortable.

Jill helps Brittney put together the puzzle.
The guys. (I think this was while we were upstairs cleaning up.)
I love the way Mom goes to so much effort to label and package her gifts. This year the gifts were 'book' related. She made each one so personal and put so much thought and time into each one. Her grandkids feel important to her.
Lots of this...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Masterpiece in Progress

Back in April 2006, Elder Worthin told this story in a conference talk:
Harry de Leyer was late to the auction on that snowy day in 1956, and all of the good horses had already been sold. The few that remained were old and spent and had been bought by a company that would salvage them.

Harry, the riding master at a girls' school in New York, was about to leave when one of these horses—an uncared-for, gray gelding with ugly-looking wounds on its legs—caught his eye. The animal still bore the marks that had been made by a heavy work harness, evidence to the hard life he had led. But something about him captured Harry's attention, so he offered $80 for him.

It was snowing when Harry's children saw the horse for the first time, and because of the coat of snow on the horse's back, the children named him "Snowman."

Harry took good care of the horse, which turned out to be a gentle and reliable friend—a horse the girls liked to ride because he was steady and didn't startle like some of the others. In fact, Snowman made such rapid improvement that a neighbor purchased him for twice what Harry had originally paid.

But Snowman kept disappearing from the neighbor's pasture—sometimes ending up in adjoining potato fields, other times back at Harry's. It appeared that the horse must have jumped over the fences between the properties, but that seemed impossible—Harry had never seen Snowman jump over anything much higher than a fallen log.

But eventually, the neighbor's patience came to an end, and he insisted Harry take back the horse.

For years, Harry's great dream had been to produce a champion jumping horse. He'd had moderate success in the past, but in order to compete at the highest levels, he knew he would have to buy a pedigreed horse that had been specifically bred to jump. And that kind of pedigree would cost far more than he could afford.

Snowman was already getting old—he was eight when Harry had purchased him—and he had been badly treated. But, apparently, Snowman wanted to jump, so Harry decided to see what the horse could do.

What Harry saw made him think that maybe his horse had a chance to compete.

In 1958, Harry entered Snowman in his first competition. Snowman stood among the beautifully bred, champion horses, looking very much out of place. Other horse breeders called Snowman a "flea-bitten gray."

But a wonderful, unbelievable thing happened that day.

Snowman won!

Harry continued to enter Snowman in other competitions, and Snowman continued to win.

Audiences cheered every time Snowman won an event. He became a symbol of how extraordinary an ordinary horse could be. He appeared on television. Stories and books were written about him.

As Snowman continued to win, one buyer offered $100,000 for the old plow horse, but Harry would not sell. In 1958 and 1959, Snowman was named "Horse of the Year." Eventually, the gray gelding—who had once been marked for sale to a low bidder—was inducted into the show jumping Hall of Fame.1

For many, Snowman was much more than a horse. He became an example of the hidden, untapped potential that lies within each of us.

I was reminded of that talk Sunday after Mary's farewell.

Brittney's good friend, Mary Beth, left today for California to serve an 18 month mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints. Brittney has an amazing group of friends. They were gathered at the house the other night on their way to Molca Salsa for one last pile of nachos and country burritos before they all left to go their separate ways. It's amazing for me to see how much these girls have grown in the last four years since high school graduation. They were never "flea-bitten grays"-not even close-but there is a wealth of untapped potential that they are all seeking to unlock. The choices they are making is a witness to that fact.

Elder Worthlin continued:

Brothers and sisters, the abundant life does not come to us packaged and ready-made. It's not something we can order and expect to find delivered with the afternoon mail. It does not come without hardship or sorrow.

The abundant life isn't something we arrive at. Rather, it is a magnificent journey that began long, long ages ago and will never, never end.

One of the great comforts of the gospel of Jesus Christ is our knowledge that this earthly existence is merely a twinkle in the eye of eternity. Whether we are at the beginning of our mortal journey or at the end, this life is merely one step—one small step.

I began a journey today. A journey to find a picture of Brittney and Mary Beth to post here. Wow! The banana bread burned and the laundry never got switched because I became so engrossed in the hundreds of crazy pictures Brittney has in her stash. Talk about entertaining...

Just a small taste...
Brittney and Mary at High School graduation

I LOVE this picture of Meg, and Ashley and Brittney and Mary. Speaks volumes...
Halloween. They dressed up as.......?????
There were lots of pictures like this...
...and this...
..and of course this.
It is in the quest of the abundant life that we find our destiny.

As illustrated in the story of an old, discarded horse that had within him the soul of a champion, there is within each of us a divine spark of greatness. Who knows of what we are capable if we only try? The abundant life is within our reach if only we will drink deeply of living water, fill our hearts with love, and create of our lives a masterpiece.

So..with Ashley married and Meg pursuing her career, and Brittney in London and Mary on a mission...they are taking those steps. They are trying. And creating a Masterpiece of their lives in the process.

I'm dang proud of you girls.