Sunday, November 29, 2009

Coincidence or Choreography

At church today, we had a special speaker. He talked about the many events in his life that could be considered coincidence--how his great-grandparents met each other, how he met his wife, how our church came to purchase the land that our Sacramento Temple is built on. However, his perspective was that these were not coincidences, but divine choreography.

He then shared some specific stories that took place in the Sacramento Temple. For instance, shortly before the dedication, a woman was cleaning one of the rooms in the temple. As she cleaned, she heard the dripping of water. Upon investigation, a large leak was found in the ceiling. The water had been steadily leaking for some time, and would have ruined the irreplaceable, custom sculpted carpet had not some repairmen mistakenly left a mirror flat on the floor, directly under the spot in the ceiling that had started dripping. The carpet was saved, the leak was repaired, the crisis averted.

Another story involved a large, 3-tiered chandelier that hangs in a beautiful, hand painted cupola in the most sacred room in the temple. The middle section of the chandelier was not lighting, so when the temple was closed, they took the chandelier apart to determine what the problem was. They found the wires inside were burned and blackened. Typically when an electrical problem of this nature occurs, it is accompanied by lots of damaging smoke and noxious, lingering smells. The cupola should have been blackened, the room malodorous, but neither occured. Definitely divine choreography at work.

As we drove home and discussed the idea of divine choreography, I was struck by the fact that both of these near disasters had occurred in the temple of the Lord.

It's been a rough year for our family, and not just our immediate family, but for much of my extended family as well. My sister and I have talked often about how we've had to adjust our perspective in the face of these trials. Many of us like to think (whether we admit it or not) that because we try to be good people, serve in the church and generally do the best we can, we'll be exempted from trials. Or maybe that's just what we hope for. Unfortunately, it often doesn't work out that way.

In Mosiah 7:33, a group of people is in bondage. They are told, "But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage." Later on, these people are promised deliverance from their trials. The Lord says, "Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage. And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions (Mosiah 24:13-14). I have a quote from Carol B. Thomas written next to these verses which reads, "Sometimes the Savior calms the storm. Sometimes He lets the storm rage, and calms you."

Our temples are holy places, the nearest places to heaven on earth. They are dedicated to the Lord and his purposes, just as we should be. After all, 1 Corinthians 3:16 reads, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?" The temple is not exempt from trials. We are not exempt from trials. But all our trials are in the hands of God.

Winter Wonderland

We went to Costco the other night to get our Christmas tree (Have I mentioned that we have the best Costco ever?). While we were in the store we heard mucho thundering and tied to tree to the top of the car while being rained on. Honestly, I was kind of enjoying the rain since it's about the only kind of winter weather we get around here.

However, as we were driving home, I started noticing what looked like snow on the side of the road. I mentioned this to Bracken and he just looked at me like I was crazy. I tended to agree with him, and speculated that it might be spilled styrofoam, or some sort of white debris. However, as we continued to drive, we continued to see white drifts on the shoulder. When we got home, we saw this on our roof.
And this on the ground.

It may just be hail, but it still counts as a Christmas miracle around here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Two years ago when I was back in Utah visiting my family, my sister recommended a book to me. She was only the latest in an ever growing list of women I love and respect who had recommended the Twilight Saga. "You'll love them!" "They'll remind you of when you were dating your husband!" "You'll fall in love with Edward!" "You'll feel just like you did when you were in love in high school."

Now that last one wasn't really going to sell me on wanting to read the books. I didn't fall in love in high school. I fell into unhealthy obsessions with generally unworthy recipients. Generally speaking, the days of my high school romances are not days that I want to relive. Just thinking about them makes me want to call up some of those former flames and apologize for being a freak and reassure them that I'm not such a hot mess anymore. Of course, the act of placing that phone call would assuredly confirm in their minds that I am definitely still a hot mess, so that's best left alone.

Anyway, I needed reading material for the drive home, so I picked up the first book. Honestly, I wasn't completely enamored of it, but I'm not one to walk away from a series of books, so I purchased the next two and read them as well. When the fourth one was released, I consumed it also. When talking with devotees of the series, I took a neutral position, or perhaps feigned more connection to the books than I actually felt. I kept waiting to feel that connection, to gain my own testimony of Twilight, as it were.

I wondered if maybe the books didn't exactly do it for me because I tend to not like to follow the crowd. There were already 4 Harry Potter books in print before I picked up the first one, but I fell in love immediately with those. I thought maybe I didn't swoon over the Twilight books because, as I mentioned before, I didn't fall in love in high school. It seemed many of the women I knew who loved the books had found their true love at a much younger age than me, so maybe the books resonated more with them because of that. That idea stuck with me for quite a while, and made me feel better about my inability to marry myself to Team Edward or Team Jacob.

A few months later I was working on a group lesson I was teaching the Young Women. I was trying to talk to them about opening themselves up more and being more aware of the other young women around them, of reaching out to those who might not feel included. I couldn't tell you what the search terms I used were (I've been trying for the last hour or so to recreate the search with no success), but one search pulled up an interesting article on Twilight. I went ahead and read it because even though I knew it wasn't appropriate for my lesson, I am always easily distracted.

In reading the article, I finally realized why Twilight just wasn't doing it for me. The author made several points that resonated with me in a way the books never had. For the life of me, I can't find the original article, but basically the author was contending that though the Twilight books were touted as clean and chaste and appropriate for young women to read, they really aren't.

For one thing, though Bella and Edward never have premarital sex, they are continually pushing that boundary as far as they can. It starts with kissing and once Edward feels he can handle that, they try a little more. They are constantly seeing how much they can do without actually having sex. Which is not exactly being chaste. In fact, that's how many human couples get pregnant. It's like the anecdote about the man hiring a driver. He asks each candidate how close they can drive to the edge without falling off. They all get closer and closer to the edge, but the one he hires is the one who vows to stay as far from the edge as possible.

Secondly, Edward and Bella do not have a healthy relationship, and Edward is not the perfect man. Yeah, I said it. Edward is controlling, obsessive and abusive. If you want to read more about that, check out this link. I could delve more into that, but there's another point that sounded to me. As members of the church, families and service are of ultimate importance. The other article I read highlighted how Bella and Edward's relationship isolates them from everyone else and turns them completely inward whereas a good relationship should include service and should make those in it better people. These are things we know and accept as adults, but are harder for young people to recognize.

Finally, I love my husband. Titillating as the books may be, and I acknowledge that they are,

I'm not picking a fight. I'm not trying to hurt anyone's feelings. I know I'm in a vast minority here. But let it be known, I am not now, nor will I ever be, a Twihard. And I hope none of my daughters are either.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Slushy fail

My family has a slushy problem. We have a Sonic locally which is fairly convenient to a good amount of the errands I run. My children are conditioned to beg for slushies whenever we are out. And I use it as a bargaining chip or bribery, and often just give in because it's happy hour. I mean, how can I do better than a 50 cent slushy? However, if it's not happy hour and my kids are already sucking lollipops as a reward for being good at the doctor's office, and the dashboard is flashing an indicator light causing me to stress about repair bills we can't afford, I decline the slushies. Like today.

So Chloe begged to make one at home and I thought, I've got some strawberries in the freezer that need to go away and yogurt and ice, which will make a healthier slushy anyway, and said, "Okay." I put Maggie the insomniac down for a nap and we started to make the slushy. Frozen orange juice--check. Frozen strawberries--check. Skim milk--check. Funny noise from the blender--dang it, check. We powered through, and Chloe wanted to get the yogurt from our fridge all by herself. She did, I added it while refusing her desire to press all the buttons on the blender herself, and we finished the slushies. I served them to my waiting baby birds, then started to clean up.

Our fridge has french doors and a bottom freezer. The yogurt lives in the left hand side of the fridge. The skim milk lives on the right. I opened the right hand door and was assaulted by half a cucumber and a container of something moving too fast for me to identify. It revealed itself to be sourdough starter when it splattered all over the floor. For a moment I tried to figure out how I had balanced things in the fridge in such a way that this could happen, and then realized it wasn't me. All the other objects stacked haphazardly in the left hand side of the fridge revealed the true culprit. Chloe!!! Note to self--do not let Chloe retrieve things from the fridge herself. Of course, this means you'll have to get up off the couch more often to get her things. Oh, the dilemmas of life.

So I sent her to timeout, mainly because I needed to not see her while I cleaned up her mess. Then she came back, returned to slushy eating, and I went to check on Teethy McCry Face. I tried in vain to get her to sleep, then returned to check on the other two. And found Addie attempting to fill the toothpick dispenser with slushy.

Next time I'm just going to shell out the full dollar to Sonic.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

He loves me.

Bracken stopped Trick or Treating when he was about 7. He wouldn't have gone that year, but his parents made him. They put him in an old angel costume, slapped a thick layer of Noxema on his face, called him a ghost and shoved him out the door. He's said that he didn't like dressing up, and didn't like begging for candy from strangers. In the seven years we've been married, he's often reminded me that he doesn't like dressing up. And then I remind him that he married a costume designer.

I've coaxed him into a costume a few times. He's been Captain Kirk (a costume he actually owned before we met), a nerd, an odd artist (for a murder mystery dinner). This year, though. This year was full of indignity. I made him dress up 4 different times in no less than three different costumes.

First we went to a fun Halloween party. We raided the dress up bags and went as funky seventies couple. Bracken wore one of my favorite retro finds. His shirt features workers in blue hard hats climbing into manholes. I once saw Fez on That Seventies Show wearing the same print. My dress is from The Vested Gentress and is sprinkled with geese and strawberries. And the costume nerd in me tried to determine online the exact year my dress was made to make sure it coordinated appropriately with Bracken's.
Next we went to a fun Murder Mystery dinner. Our hosts, the Jacksons, went all out. As in repainting the house and changing the art "all out." It was amazing. My character was the grieving widow, and Bracken was the pool boy I was having an affair with. Which of course meant that I put him in the shower and gave him a spray tan before we went. Oh, bronzing tint. Your odor calls up such memories for me. He was a really good sport about it, though not a good enough sport to wear little pool boy short shorts. You can see more pictures here.

And then there was his Prince Charming costume. I made him a pair of pantaloons, stuck him in tights, a vest and a cape. But look at the lovely ladies he got to spend the evening with. He put on the costume to go to Trunk or Treat . . .
then wore it again the next night when we all went out together. See, I knew deep down he was excited.
Thanks for being such a good sport, honey. I think you're pretty cute, you know, no matter what you're wearing.

2 princesses, a prince, a dragon and a tired old hag

When we asked the girls what they wanted to be for Halloween this year, we were not surprised that Chloe and Addie wanted to be princesses. Chloe started out wanting to be Snow White, but changed her mind to Cinderella. Addie of course was a natural Ariel. I asked what the rest of us should be, and Chloe said Dad should be the prince (Because as she tells me daily, she's going to grow up and marry him one day and then she'll be the mom. And though we tell her she can't marry Dad, part of me thinks it might be nice to trade responsibilities. Yes, I will gladly take a daily nap.). I asked what I should be, and she said, "The witch." Thanks so much. We tried to think of a princess for Maggie to be, but ultimately decided to trot the pterodactyl costume out again and call it a dragon in keeping with our royal theme.

Here is Princess Cinderella

I had enough left over fabric to make her a little cape to wear trick or treating. Because I'm kind of crazy, and I still vividly remember hating having to wear a coat over my Halloween costumes as a kid. Plus, it still doesn't really feel like fall here.
And here's our Princess Ariel. Addie was so excited to be a "Marbead." She would stop and sing a few bars of Ariel's song on command, but the song got shorter and shorter with each repitition. It was about 3 notes at the end.
She also had a crown and earrings, but they didn't stay on very well, and thankfully she decided she didn't want to wear them after all.
Here are my princesses, ready to head out the door to Trunk or Treat.
Escorted by their handsome prince. The witch had had her first carpal tunnel surgery that morning and decided to stay home with the dragon.
At Trunk or Treat, they were joined by another witch and a pirate.

Halloween night we all went Trick or Treating as a family. When the witch idea first came up, I'd thought, I could be Snow White's wicked stepmother. You know, a hot witch. Though my surgery had gone really well, I'd also come down with a cold and 36 hours post op, I just wasn't feeling very hot. So I ended up looking much more like Snow White's wicked stepmother after she drinks the potion and turns into an old hag. Saved me lots of time on makeup. And thank heavens I still had an old witch cloak from high school hanging around.

Here's Prince Charming taming the dragon. The round cheeked, teething dragon.

Look how cute they are all lined up at the door.Addie just ran for each door. She was so excited.

No really, she was. And after they would give her candy, she would tell the people, "Thank you. I love you, too."
Bracken's favorite part of the evening came after they all returned with their booty. Me and Maggie had called it quits a little earlier. The doorbell rang and Bracken opened it to a crowd of trick or treaters. He was a little shocked when a girl took a call on her cell as he was putting candy in her bag. All in all, it was a fun Halloween. On to Christmas. I thought we were going to celebrate Thanksgiving next, but I went to the mall and Santa was already there and the stores were playing Christmas music, so I guess we're skipping gratitude this year.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A few things on my mind today

I actually left the house with all my kids! I know I'm kind of a recluse and a hermit anyway, but this whole surgery on my hand thing has made me even more so. I hadn't really thought this whole recovery process through. The problem has been, with extremely limited use of my left hand, I haven't been able to pull the release on the carseat base, lift the stroller out of the car, or push the stroller if I've managed to complete the previous tasks. And it's been taking a toll on Addie and Chloe. Stir. Crazy. And I don't even want to talk about the grapefruits on the counter that I would like to eat, but can't because this bandage stays on until Monday, and I don't want to think about the havoc eating a grapefruit would wreak on it.

If I'd known it would finally stop the yelling, I would happily have stuck Maggie in her exersaucer all by herself in the other room hours ago.

And by yelling, I mean YELLING. Not crying, yelling her indignation to me at full volume. She also kind of yells when she laughs. It's more of a bark than a chuckle. And I did chuckle when, after I started nursing her this morning, she latched on for a second, then let go to look at me and laugh/bark joyously, loudly, and then got back to business.

Chloe just hurt herself and started crying. While I initially felt badly for her, I stopped when she started experimenting with new and interesting ways to wail. I know the difference between real and fake. Take note, Maggie.

Chloe did make my day earlier when, as I struggled to get the stroller out of the car, she leaned over the seat and said, "Mom, when I grow up, I want to be just like you." That alone can erase years of high school self esteem damage.

I'm mentioned recently on facebook and to those around me that I will maim the next person who gives my children purses. They have about 21,378 which they fill with small objects from their room, then tote around the house and dump randomly. The favorite place is the Dardanelles between the ottoman and the couch, which is very dangerous on the feet. It makes me grateful that my children have no legos, cause I dare you to find something worse to step on. After I finished their Halloween costumes this year, I made them coordinating candy bags because yes, I am that crazy. And I forgot that a treat bag serves a similar purpose to a purse. They immediately grabbed their treat bags, filled them will small toys, and began their day's work. So, in conclusion, if you really feel the need to purchase a purse or small bag for my children, please consider me instead. I could use a new handbag that is not a diaper bag.

Maggie is almost 4 months old. This means next week I could start her on cereal. I think she's ready. I think getting her eating from a source other than me would be incredibly freeing. Bracken thinks he's not ready for another child with stinky poop, and I can understand that (Here's where I mention how incredibly toxic Addie's diapers are, and how sometimes Maggie's smell really good to me.). However, I also think Bracken should have thought of that when he was refusing to warm ice cold milk for a 4 week old, telling me she needed to toughen up, thus totally turning her off of the concept of a bottle.

Maggie has a patch on her cheek that is gathering black lint from my sweater, confirming my suspicions that part of what was making her happy in the other room was Addie's sucker.

And in conclusion,

Yes, she's asleep. Yes, I just let her eat all that candy. Yes, I just reread "Are You There God, It's Me Margaret?" In case you're wondering, I also recently reread the Little House books. Maybe it's the pain from her recent injury making her sleepy. I've fallen asleep before 8 every night this week.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Surgery at last

I had carpal tunnel release surgery on Friday. I checked in at 5:45 AM (!) and was out the door at 8. My initial thought at waking up from sedation was, "Well, that wasn't a very long nap. I would have preferred more."

So far the recovery has gone pretty smoothly. And by pretty, I mean, check out my awesome photo. Bandaged hand--check. Caffeine free Dr. Pepper--check. Computer entertainment--check. No makeup, same clothes for three days, great-grandma's sparkly green jewelry, part of a knight costume and a "Ghost Named Buster" DVD--check, check, check, check and check. Speaking of a ghost named Buster--that would be a great Arrested Development movie.

But seriously, things are going well. The pain is not bad as long as I remember not to use my hand, and I have figured out how to pick up Maggie without really using it. The bigger trick is keeping the bandage clean for the next week until my post-op Dr. visit. Can I just mention here that our morning started out with lots of poop in the carpet? This will be interesting.

But manageable thanks to my wonderful husband. I don't know what I would do without him. He picks up the slack, even when I'm not sick. I was laying in my bed, listening to him play with our daughters, thinking how lucky we all are to have him. Thank you, lover!

And I promise, pictures of Halloween and flowers and everything will be coming soon. But I can't blog anymore tonight. Though the doctor did say I should use my fingers while recovering, I think I'm at my limit tonight. After all, I did spend most of the day using them to open little tiny candy wrappers, some of which I let my children eat.

Yes Chloe, There is a Pumpkin Patch

Remember Chloe's struggle with fireworks? This year, the concept of "The Pumpkin Patch" started to enter the mythical world of fireworks for Chloe. It started out with a late breaking plan for family home evening. Bracken came home one Monday night with the suggestion that we go to the pumpkin patch. I thought that sounded like a great idea. I looked online and visited the website of what looked like a really cute and fun pumpkin patch that was open in the evenings. So we pumped the kids full of excitement, loaded up the car, and drove to an empty lot. No pumpkin patch to be seen. We drove up and down and all around Roseville, but were unable to locate a pumpkin patch. We then went to the Home Depot, got free balloons, and purchased pumpkins for $2.99. Which is where we probably would have bought them anyway because though I wanted the pumpkin patch experience for my kids, I'm not interested in paying pumpkin patch prices for my large squashes. Especially since I'm still bitter that my pumpkins didn't grow this year. But I digress. Upon arriving home, I rechecked the internet to discover that the pumpkin patch we'd attempted to visit had shut down the previous year because of the damage done by copper thieves.

A week or so later, we decided to attempt a visit to a different pumpkin patch. There's one on a main road near our house that we drive past all year long, but have never been to. We loaded everyone up, pumped full of excitement once again, and drove to the pumpkin patch. Chloe was bouncing in her seat. As we approached the entrance, traffic started slowing. We thought maybe it was just a busy night, but then we saw the flashing lights. There was some sort of traffic accident right in front of the entrance, and the patch was closed for the night.

So we kept on driving while trying to think of some way to save the evening. Chloe was starting to ask questions we couldn't answer, like "Is there really a pumpkin patch?" and "How can I know the pumpkin patch is true?" We scrambled, and I remembered I had seen signs for another pumpkin patch south of us, and we decided to head that way. And saw this.
Initially, we saw the flashing lights, and started to sink into the depths of pumpkin patch denial, but we were relieved when the lights moved away from the direction we were headed. We followed the signs to Pumpkin Hill, and were rewarded for our perseverance. We found a petting zoo, hay ride, scarecrow contest, multiple photo cut outs . . .

(One word--Impish)
Bounce houses . . .
Bounce cages . . .
A hay pyramid . . .
And lots of fall produce.
Oh, and a cute dad with crazy eyes.
But why does Chloe look so sad? Maybe because there were still no fireworks.

Carving Punkins

We carved our pumpkins the other night. Chloe was a girl with a plan. Which she drew with a fabric marking pencil.

Bracken helped clean out the gunk.
And I forgot how important it is to not slouch in pictures.
Here are our ghoulish creations.
And very excited girls. Chloe really was just as excited as Addie--it was just more excitement than the camera could handle, obviously.