Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend

Did Memorial Day seem super early to you? It did to me. Technically this is the earliest day it can fall on, but it was a long time ago since we had it that early. It snuck up on us.

The first thing we did, in preparation was go to get Madison's cast off. She had it on for only a month, but when everyone else is swimming, everyday is torture. She got it off right before the weekend of swimming and will be good to go for Knott's Soak City and the Teachers v. 5th grade students Boom Ball game. Unfortunately, she missed out on the Presidential Fitness Testing. She really was disappointed. She had all her numbers in the range for the Presidential Award and just needed to perform the final test. The testing was during her "cast-on" time. That's life. So much for a year of preparation of running a mile (under 8 minutes) curl-ups (72) push-ups (19) and various others testing of flexibility, endurance, and strength.

My mom, two sisters, and niece Layne and nephew Mercer came into town on Friday. They came for Ryan's graduation and to have a little fun in the sun. We went to dinner at Fisherman's on Friday night. My mom and Karen L-O-V-E Fisherman's. It has basically become the tradition that when they come, we all go out their first night and my mom treats. Thank goodness for my generous mom.

We returned home and got on the swimsuits. It was Mercer's first time in the pool and we stayed until well after dark. The temperature was perfect and the weather was warm, but not too hot.

The next morning, we ate our Panera bagels and went swimming again. Karen is a fish and never truly happy unless she is in a pool. When we were growing up, we had a nice big pool. We would spend the entire day, into the late evening, in that pool. Occasionally we would get out to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a TV dinner or have some powdered Country Time Lemonade that was either way too strong or way too weak, depending on who made it. Sometimes we would even get on our bikes and get some Cupids Hot Dogs (on Nordhoff and Lindley) or ride a little further for Thrifty's Ice Cream on (Nordhoff and Reseda.) The rest of the time was in that pool. We swam, played games, we had floating contests, we had diving contests, cannonball contests, belly flop contests, holding your breath contests. We tried to see how high we could get the waves and how much water we could splash out (with no regard to the water bill.) We played the normal games of volleyball, Marco Polo, toothpaste, basketball. We had a diving board and a slide. Somehow we managed to fill up about ten hours a day and never get bored.

Over the years, four out of the five siblings grew out of the endless pool days concepts. About two hours feels good to me. But my oldest sister NEVER grew out of it. She still can spend all day and night in a pool. She plays all the games with my kids. She is going in for a surgery in a couple of weeks and then won't be able to swim for a month and a half afterwards, so that made it even more critical that she get in every wet and wild moment.

We spent the rest of the day finishing up Madison's Exhibition Project and Prepping for Ryan's Graduation. At Madison's Elementary School, all the 5th graders have to do an Exhibition Project. It is an IB school and they are suppose to study an issue and then develop an action plan for a way that they can change the world and make it a better place. Madison chose cancer as her project. She made magnets, ribbons and treats to sell to raise money to donate to help people with cancer. She will be presenting her project the last week of school. This is a little blog she put together on it.

After the graduation, we came home and there was more swimming. The next day was Sunday, everyone went to church with us and then left for home.

The next day we did our BBQ and swimming with the Caress family. Lots of yummy food and a Laker game. Even though they lost, it was still a good way to celebrate.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Ryan had his graduation on May 23rd. We went to the University of Redlands' Greek Amphitheater for the ceremony. We left at 2:30 to give us plenty of time to make the drive, shuttle from the car to the amphitheater, save our seats for both sides of the family and get ready. Ryan went to join his classmates and line up.

The ceremony started with all the normal pomp and circumstance, flags and prayers, marching in, cheers and tears, and excitement you could cut with a knife. Honestly, even thought the graduates were grinning ear-to-ear, the family members in the audience were even more hyped up. The little ones were desperately looking in the sea of black caps for their daddy. Luckily, he sat on the back row, so we could keep an eye on him.

We were sitting in the sun at 4:30. It was warm, but there was a nice breeze. It was a good twenty degrees cooler than the desert, so not to bad. We slathered the sunscreen on faces and arms before it started. No one burned. (Woo Hoo!)

The speakers were both inspiring. Even though the stereotypical speakers are always too long and everyone is anxious to hear their family member's name called, I really did think both did a great job and said things that were timely (about the economy) and inspiring (enduring) and yet both speakers were unfailing positive.

Then started the name calling ... the good kind of name calling. It was touching to see each little group of family members cheer their graduate. Some had air horns, some poppers, noisemakers. Some were in unison, some stood. All around us there were people who were so proud and happy about this accomplishment.

I was particularly touched when you saw an older person's name called. You know that they really had to sacrifice. It is much easier to just keep going to school. It is harder to go back after you have been out a while. Going back to studying and reading and writing and sitting and note taking and sacrificing. You see them with their older kids and you just know that it took a lot to go back to school after all "those" years. It made me tear up every time I saw the gray hair peeking out of the cap.

I love seeing the groups of thirty cheering for the graduate. It was so cool to see that much support. I thought, perhaps, they were the first one in their family to achieve this much. It was neat.

Ryan's entourage was not too shabby. We had our immediate family, of course: me and the four girls. On his side, we had his dad, mom, brother Matt, sister Kym, and her son Lincoln. On my side, we had my mom, two sisters, and one sister's daughter and son. We all cheered with pride for our graduate as they called his name, "hooded" him, gave him his diploma (cover), shook hands with the important people, and made his way across the stage and back to his seat.

We took our pictures and massaged our sore jaws - hey, it is tough smiling intensely for two hours straight.

Afterwards, we headed to Chili's for a celebratory dinner. Yum-o. We miss having one close by. By the time we got home, exhaustion had overwhelmed us and we went straight to bed. Well, maybe a few went for a little swim and jacuzzi soak. It had been a long and extremely rewarding day.

Ryan actually has a few more weeks of class. That was just the "walking" part and the photo op. When he is done-done, we will go out to a place that "is real nice."

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ryan's Graduation

Ryan will be graduating this Saturday. I will, of course, post a marvelous post with all the pomp and circumstance and pictures and family. But, I wanted to write a little bit about it first.

A couple of years ago, Ryan came home from work and said "We need to talk." I hate it when he starts conversations like that...what is it? My mind always thinks of the worst things ... It certainly is effective to get me to drop everything with dinner and the kids and run in the bedroom and shut the door. "What is it?"

"I want to go back to school and get my MBA." Uh ... okay. That was kind of unexpected. He had already done all the research and talked to others who had completed the program and talked to admissions. I made two requests.

The first one was that if he started, he would have to finish it. I did not want him to be in the middle of it and then get a promotion or a transfer and have nothing to show for it but a big chunk of student loans. That meant that we would be locked into living here for the duration of the two year program. It was actually pretty funny that I was insisting upon us living here for a guaranteed two years, since I was always the one trying to figure out a way to move out of the sweltering heat. But nonetheless, if he started, he had to finish.

The second one was that our Family Home Evenings had to be the highest priority. I knew he would be gone at night in class and that he would need study time, time to read, time to write, time for group projects. Time, time, time. He would already be missing school performances and soccer games. I would have to miss a few things along the way as well. I told him as long as we are 100% on Family Home Evenings on Monday night, I will support him 100%. (He always was, except for a one-time group project that he had no control over, so I cannot fault him.)

Keep in mind, he does work full time in a 9 to 5 job. In fact, it is rare that our evenings and weekends are not interrupted with a phone call or two from work that he has to take. He also spent a year and a half in the Bishopric during this time. Bishop James was very accommodating to his schedule - thank goodness. He is additionally the father of four daughters that love him very much and enjoy swimming with him every evening, cuddling while munching on popcorn and watching movies, and performing their latest dance moves for him. Monterey, in particular, really missed having him around. And, last but not least, he has a wife who likes having adult conversation and interaction with him. We really do make each other laugh all the time and I was not going to be happy giving up that time with him.

He rarely complained. I rarely complained. (Well, let's be honest ... I hated when he would email me his paper at the very last minute and without warning and wanted me to "look over it" when it need to be turned in within the hour AND I was in the middle of something with the girls that he wanted me to drop so I could work on that. That drove me up the wall.) But I never complained about him being gone on Wednesday nights or all day Saturday or doing homework or spending time with a study group. I knew he wanted to be home with us, at the school performances, at the soccer games, in the pool. I also knew that my example would rub off on the girls. The last thing I wanted to do was to hang out with a bunch of martyrs who whined every time dad missed something. If they are in a position to support their husband as he completes his education, I want them to do it with a positive attitude. No complaining about "but we don't spend enough time together" or "I miss you when you're gone" or any other number of comments that would undermine his success.

We kind of got into a few traditions. Like we tried to go out to eat on the night that dad was in class. It was our consolation prize. We would even go to the same place every week for months on end. Panera was our place on Wed. nights for about two months straight. At the very least, we would go out for frozen yogurt. Many friends we made along the way would refer to him as the "phantom husband" - never quite sure he actually existed.

So here we are: Ryan is graduating. I am so proud of him for accomplishing this, in spite of his busy schedule. He has worked so hard and had to make tremendous sacrifices. Obviously, he did this so our lives down the road would be better - AKA more income and more choices in where we live, more opportunities. But the real achievement is what he has done for our daughters.

It is one thing to say education is important. It is another thing to show by your actions that education is important. It is one thing to say that it is worth the sacrifice. It is another thing to actually sacrifice. By setting this example for our daughters, he has guaranteed that they will place a higher priority on getting educated. Ryan and I feel very strongly that education is the key to a better, more satisfying, more enriching, more well-rounded life. It opens up opportunity. It is insurance, particularly for a woman, that you do not need to be a victim. You can stand on your own two feet if something should go wrong or not ideal or not as planned. Ryan has given the girls the gift of placing education as a very high priority. The gift is an investment for all of us and will influence generations of our family.

A talk by President Gordon B. Hinckley had a profound influence on our determination to further our education and to help our girls get as much education as fast as they could. We were already educationally minded, but this talk really helped us understand that it was not strictly temporal in nature. Here is an excerpt and the link to the complete text from 2000.

President Hinckley counseled us:

"You are moving into the most competitive age the world has ever known. All around you is competition. You need all the education you can get. Sacrifice a car; sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of the world. That world will in large measure pay you what it thinks you are worth, and your worth will increase as you gain education and proficiency in your chosen field.

You belong to a church that teaches the importance of education. You have a mandate from the Lord to educate your minds and your hearts and your hands. The Lord has said, “Teach ye diligently … of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—that ye may be prepared in all things” (D&C 88:78–80).

Mind you, these are not my words. These are the words of the Lord who loves you. He wants you to train your minds and hands to become an influence for good as you go forward with your lives. And as you do so and as you perform honorably and with excellence, you will bring honor to the Church, for you will be regarded as a man or woman of integrity and ability and conscientious workmanship. Be smart. Don’t be foolish. You cannot bluff or cheat others without bluffing or cheating yourselves.

Many years ago I worked for a railroad in the central offices in Denver. I was in charge of what is called head-end traffic. That was in the days when nearly everyone rode passenger trains. One morning I received a call from my counterpart in Newark, New Jersey. He said, “Train number such-and-such has arrived, but it has no baggage car. Somewhere, 300 passengers have lost their baggage, and they are mad.”

I went immediately to work to find out where it may have gone. I found it had been properly loaded and properly trained in Oakland, California. It had been moved to our railroad in Salt Lake City, been carried to Denver, down to Pueblo, put on another line, and moved to St. Louis. There it was to be handled by another railroad which would take it to Newark, New Jersey. But some thoughtless switchman in the St. Louis yards moved a small piece of steel just three inches, a switch point, then pulled the lever to uncouple the car. We discovered that a baggage car that belonged in Newark, New Jersey, was in fact in New Orleans, Louisiana—1,500 miles from its destination. Just the three-inch movement of the switch in the St. Louis yard by a careless employee had started it on the wrong track, and the distance from its true destination increased dramatically. That is the way it is with our lives. Instead of following a steady course, we are pulled by some mistaken idea in another direction. The movement away from our original destination may be ever so small, but, if continued, that very small movement becomes a great gap and we find ourselves far from where we intended to go.

Have you ever looked at one of those 16-foot farm gates? When it is opened, it swings very wide. The end at the hinges moves ever so slightly, while out at the perimeter the movement is great. It is the little things upon which life turns that make the big difference in our lives, my dear young friends.

Be smart. The Lord wants you to educate your minds and hands, whatever your chosen field. Whether it be repairing refrigerators, or the work of a skilled surgeon, you must train yourselves. Seek for the best schooling available. Become a workman of integrity in the world that lies ahead of you. I repeat, you will bring honor to the Church and you will be generously blessed because of that training.

There can be no doubt, none whatever, that education pays. Do not short-circuit your lives. If you do so, you will pay for it over and over and over again."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Reflections on Motherhood

For a reason I am not going to go into, I was reading through the Proclamation on the Family on Saturday night. I was reading it, thinking about ways to illustrate the different sentences, paragraphs and phrases.

Because Mother's Day was the very next day. the sentences on motherhood were popping out at me. Here they are, I have bolded the words pertaining specifically to mothers: (For the complete text, follow the link above.)

All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.

The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.

We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan.

Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wivesmothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.

The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.

I started wondering about how hard we all work as mothers. Even though there is an attempt to honor us on this one day, and even though the rewards can be as simple as a sincere "I love you" from a sweet child, sometimes there are no words and no moments and no gifts to really make up for the cleaning up of throw up at two in the morning. I reject the concept of a "birthing gift exchange" that has become trendy. The very concept that a gift, at that moment, could somehow convey even a portion of the miracle that just occurred, in my mind, belittles the miracle of birth.

So what do I want on Mother's Day? I want a nap (got that.) I want to not do any cleaning or straightening on that day (well, once the sun went down I was back at it.) I want something meaningful (my gift this year was pictures of the girls take by Lillie) AND I want other mothers whom I love to know how much I love them, admire them, respect them, want to emulate them, look to them for advice, a shoulder to cry on, someone to laugh with, and love them.

Originally, I was just going to give a general shout out to the 200+ mom-friends I have on Facebook. That would be easy, but generic. I went to my friends list and started with the A's. I tried to leave everyone a personalized message. Granted, with writing over 200 messages, eventually there probably was a little duplication. It was a great moment for me to spend over three hours yesterday, writing messages to friends who were expecting their first baby (Dayna and Kelly) friends who just had their first (too many to name) friends who had small children, friends who had kids the same ages as mine, friends who kids were all teenagers, friend who were almost done raising there kids, friends who helped raise me. For each friend, it was not the message that I left them that was the real gift. It was the reflection on their examples and love for their children that was enriching my life that was the real gift to me. What a great Mother's Day! I am so blessed to have such awesome friends. I have older and younger. I have friends who have overcome horrible trials. I have friends from so many different cultural backgrounds, religions, experiences. But the common element: they are all incredible mothers. I loved pondering about the examples they all are to me. Women who sacrifice their time and talents and bodies and sleep and money and ... the list is endless: all for the privilege of rearing these precious, precious children.

I cannot articulate the love I have for all of them. But I loved reflecting on their mothering. It was definitely a great Mother's Day for me.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Thoughts on Motherhood

One important mother in my life was my mother's best friend. She died of cancer way too young, but after all her children were grown. She was a returned missionary and the mother of eight. She was an artist and a veracious journal writer. After she passed away, her husband gave my mom all of her journals which she had kept for the years spanning her years as a mother. My mother was overwhelmed by the expressions of gratitude and understanding of her divine role of motherhood. She asked if she could share some quotes in a pamphlet with the other women in the ward. He agreed and my mom went through and pulled quotes from her journal to be published for Mother's Day. These quotes inspired me as a Young Woman and now resonate in my heart as I now have a better understanding of this sacred role.

Thoughts on Motherhood: from the journal of Sibyl Jones

"To be co-creator with God is the greatest, most fulfilling, most delicious, most rewarding, most satisfying, and the most glorious mission on this Earth. Any other thing that a woman can accomplish besides motherhood pales in significance."

"It is so easy to mold the clay when it is soft and pliable. But when the clay hardens and the child is finished you can never more re-mold that clay: it is finished. You get one chance to be a parent!"

"The gift of oneself is the greatest gift."

"What a speck of time in this life [is pregnancy] and what a miracle is a child. "Cloud Nine" is the feeling as I hold my newborn in my arms. What mere words can describe the joy of parenthood? Oh, gift of life from Heaven sent. Oh joy of joys, how lucky, how blessed. As I look down at this miracle of soft, cuddly baby, I am baffled. How is this unbelievable beauty created in nine months?"

"It is in these moments after childbirth that you touch the Divine in your thoughts and feelings. It is the deepest pain and deeper joy. To arrive at this "golden moment" when all heaven is bundled in your arms is worth all the care and worry."

"The next best thing to having your own children is to see the lovely grandchildren. Here is the hope of the future. As I get ready to "let go" of this world and say goodbye, here are the grandchildren to carry on. How glorious that we are two small links in a great and glorious chain from here to the end of the world. I wonder how many grandchildren I will have?"

"I'm here to testify that there are only twenty fruitful years when a mother can have children - from twenty to forty. We decide during that time how many earthly children we will have for our Heavenly kingdom. In all the myriads of eternity we will live, we are only allowed twenty short years to have these little "earthlings."

"I love my family and look to them to continue in righteousness. Through them I shall continue to live as long as they continue to give life. The gift of gifts is to give life! If they continue, I shall continue. I shall never die!"

Monday, May 4, 2009

I'm sure we think we are much cooler than we are ...

Ryan's Uncle Jack has a black Porsche that says CARESS. It's pretty cool. We have always thought it was too cool for words. But heck, if you can afford a Porsche, then personalized plates are nothing.

So one day, Ryan starts playing around with a few ideas and we discover it only costs $41 to get personalized plates. What?!? That's it? Yeah, but all the cool stuff is taken, I'm sure. So Ryan starts by typing in his first choice ... R CARESS. It accepts it. We can't believe it. For $41, I want one too. Ryan plays with RLMMMMC, but it didn't really do anything for us. L CARESS seems cool, but lets face it: I drive a minivan. The whole family agrees that CARESS 6 fits. The system accepts it and once again, we can't believe our first choice is the one we are going to get.

It all seems too easy.

Now for the hitch. We don't hear anything for an usually long time. Ryan checks it out finally and discovers that our plates have been sitting in the DMV for weeks ... in Jackson, CA not Jackson Street in OUR city. So now we have to fill out paper work to have them transferred to OUR DMV. Ryan finally get his notification and then three weeks later, I get mine.

Let's see, it is May and this was our Christmas present to each other? Hmmm?

Oh well, better late than never. And we do think we look pretty cool.

Friday, May 1, 2009

First Broken Bone

I have always prided myself that none of my children have ever broken a bone. This is, of course, due to my superior supervision. (That should be said with heaps of sarcasm.) Tuesday night, my record was shattered.

The youth in church were having an ice blocking activity at the park. For those who don't know what ice blocking is ... it is a Southern Californian version of sledding. You bring a block of ice to a grassy hill and slide down while sitting on it. This photo is a stock photo showing the slide. This injury has nothing to do with ice blocking.

We had just arrived for the activity and started unloading the blocks of ice. I had brought all the girls because I thought they would all love it. The two littlest ones darted off down the grassy hill, that had just been watered with the sprinklers, toward the playground on the opposite side of the field. I asked Madison to go them while McK and I continued to get the ice ready. The next thing I knew, Madison was walking back up the hill, crying and covered with wet grass. She was holding her arm in such a way that I could see something was wrong.

"Come inside the car, honey. You will be fine. It is just sore. You will be fine."

5 minutes later: "Here is some ice. Hold it there. You will be fine."

5 minutes later: "Can you wiggle your fingers? Does it hurt when you move it? Keep the ice on it. Try to rest."

To other people who were concerned about her: "She will be fine. She just hurt it. She is a bit of an hypochondriac."

Finally, as we were leaving, Kyle and Portia let me know that it might be broken. Knowing that Madison had a yearly physical appointment on Thursday, I figured we would have it checked out then. In the meantime, we wrapped it in an ace bandage to keep it from hurting her. It didn't work too well. Even with some meds for pain, she had a difficult time sleeping. I wrote a note to excuse her from P.E.

At the doctor's appointment, our doctor immediately confirmed the suspicion that it was, indeed, broken. We finished the physicals and headed to x-ray. Back to the doctor. Off to the orthopedic doctor.

Madison, the whole time, was practically giddy over the prospect of getting a cast. After watching other kids get all the attention from having a cast, it was finally her turn. She recounted all her friends and what color casts they had. She debated the possibilities of coordinating the cast color with her clothing. Should she try to match or contrast? She decided to contrast in order to optimize the amount of attention she can get. She listed the outfits in the next few days that she could wear to make sure that no one missed her cast. She was additionally thrilled when she heard that it should be off in time to attend the 5th grade Knotts' Soak City trip in mid-June. Talk about the best of both worlds.

So here she is with her coordinating fingernail polish. Poor helpless victim or attention junkie? You be the judge. Just remember, this is the same girl who tried to pull this.