Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I'll Read Yours and You Read Mine

It seems we have had our own family book club going on these last two months or so. As in Eliza, Isaac, and me. It's been so fun to love a book, suggest it, hear and see how much the other enjoyed and even loved it.

(Just a little side note, now that I'm thinking of book clubs. Years ago when Jane was about nine (she's 18 now), she and I were involved in a monthly mother-daughter book club. Each duo would take turns suggesting a book and would host a gathering at their home. We'd discuss the book, engage in an activity or craft, and have refreshments that had something to do with the book or the setting. It was a wonderful experience all the way around- bonding between the mothers and daughters while reading the books together, what it means to plan and prepare for the special hosting night, and the good social experience this provided for our homeschooled daughter.)

It first started with Eliza picking up my old beloved and tattered  copy of Jane Eyre, complete with Ruth Cartright's, (the original owner- I have no idea who this person is) name and charming 1944 inscription on the inside cover. I fell in love with this book when I read it first during my senior year in high school, vowing to name my first daughter Jane. And my Jane did read it, too, and loved it as much as I did. It made my heart so happy to see Eliza enjoying it now. Seeing that she couldn't put it down. Both of us really emotional when she finished it. Almost in tears as she closed the book, looking at me, and all she could say is, "Mom!" and I so proud I could nearly burst, happy that she not only finished it, but loved it.

So that very night while on my date with Keith, browsing the shelves of Barnes and Noble, I knew I wanted to buy her her very own beautiful hardback copy in celebration. How could I resist?

Since then, she's been on a roll, reading two other favorites of mine in one month's time: Peace Like a River and The Help. Again, the same type of reaction when she finished them. In fact, the day she finished The Help (this past Saturday), Jane (she read it after I did this summer) took Eliza to see the movie at our local dollar theater. So fun for them both to share this together.

Isaac finally got me to read Harry Potter this month. It's taking me awhile because of my involvement with other interesting books, but I'm almost done. Now I get all the hubbub. Adore. Even checked out Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone DVD at the library to watch soon.

At the same time as all this, Eliza got Isaac first and me second (in the middle of Harry Potter) to read City of Ember (jr. fiction science fiction fantasy). It only took me two days; that's how much I liked it. We enjoyed the movie almost as much as the book.

Even though I'm not reading aloud much these days to my littles (no longer homeschooling them), we're still sharing the love and delight of reading. Bonding over books.

And that makes me very happy.

Have you or do you share books between you and your kids? Which ones and what is your experience with it all? I'd love to hear!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

finding my groove

Well, at least I hope I've found it.

Thinking about a few things in which I need to get on the bandwagon. Wondering where my motivation went. Waiting for it to come.

Two categories, really.

1. Fitness/Regimen. I've alluded to this here before. With the approach of winter's cold weather, my desire to get out and run or walk in the mornings has been challenged. Some days I just don't have it in me. Finding myself in "lazy rut" mode. It's been blah blah blah. I know it's pretty normal to have ups and downs. I guess I'm comparing myself to the motivation and drive I had last winter and the winters before that; the motivation that's always pretty much been there, ever since I first started running. 

Well, I'm feeling a shift since Thanksgiving. I want to do more. I want to get out more. I want to get back to hill running ease. I love the sunlight and I know it does me good. Even in the cold, the sweaty invigorating feeling I have when I come back inside is something I love. So, my plan and my commitment (it helps me keep some sort of accountability writing it out here.) is to run--with some walking if I feel like it-- 5 days a week with one day being solely yoga and Sunday total rest day.

I've also been neglecting taking my vitamins and supplements, too. This is totally a no brainer as far as effort goes. Why have I let it slide? Get in gear, Emily!

2. I wonder why it takes me so long to get into Christmas mode. Holiday music bugs me before Thanksgiving. Kind of does now. (Please don't judge me. I really do love and adore the season and all it means.) "Can we turn on Christmas music, Mom?" Like they have to ask me. Making me feel pretty darn guilty. Pretty darn Grinchy. I know I should start thinking about getting the Christmas decorations up. I'm dragging my feet. The kids pressure, question me, and wonder why it takes me so long. Why do I feel like it's too early, still? 

I think the answer lies in my (work in progress) perfectionism. In years past, I seemed to feel so overwhelmed with it all. I wanted to do everything right: create the perfect Christmas for my family, provide all the happy memories, special foods, thoughtful, homemade gifts, meaningful activities, perfectly decorated, cozy home. I felt like I'd get on a runaway train and couldn't get off, all of which resulted in unattainable expectations, stress, and exhaustion. The opposite of what I really seek which is peace and joy and love- the spirit of the Savior- the essence of the season. I guess I'm still holding onto the fear of that. Now, maybe with age and loosening up a little (a very good thing) I want to find the right balance on the scale between this perfect Christmas vision and apathy.  

I was asked to decorate and do the place settings for a table of eight for this Thursday's (church) Relief Society Christmas dinner party and program. I went to my favorite paper goods store (Xpedx for you locals.) Picked up all the necessary supplies I'd need for the season: paper table wear for the parties and dinners, wrapping papers, ribbons, darling gingerbread house gift boxes for baked goods, cellophane bags, etc. Wanting to support a few local businesses, I also purchased a few gifts for the children. Today's shopping excursion has put me more in the mood. Yay! 

Hoping to get there soon.

I've decided to join my blogging friend Denise throughout the month of December as we chronicle 25 Days of Joy. I loved this simple way of capturing and focusing on each day's "happy". I know this project really will get me in the mood. I hope my sharing will help you feel a little more joy, too.

Come along for the ride, won't you?


Sunday, November 27, 2011

gratitude sunday

A day filled with gratitude. That's what today is.

A few weeks ago, Keith and I were approached by our local church (we refer to this geographical boundary as a "ward") leadership to speak to our congregation today on the subject of Thanksgiving or gratitude.

Of course, we agreed after the initial surprise of this somewhat random choosing, and, speaking for myself here, I acknowledged and accepted the little bit of added stress that naturally comes with these kind of things. 

Not too long after this conversation, as I was sitting in my chair waiting for the Sunday school/Gospel Doctrine lesson to begin, I thought of what that brother said: "I just couldn't stop thinking about you two for this subject, for this special weekend." I rehearsed these words over and over in my mind. Then it hit me.

I knew that I was the one needing to speak about gratitude.

You see, I've been on a mission to live it. To test its promise. Especially these last two years.

And now I see for myself that gratitude has been the key to unlocking the doors to my own personal happiness. A loving God's tender and most profound lesson taught and received; grace to a seeking, starving soul. This practice of seeing, acknowledging, naming, remembering; not just theoretically, but really engaging my whole being, whether it was through my ongoing "thankful" lists, my journaling, my blogging, my photographing, my praying.

This idea of Thanks-Living, not just a"Let's be thankful" Thanksgiving Day afterthought or desired virtue, this life changing habit has brought me a profound sense of peace and joy. My journey, a treasure hunt of sorts, searching for the simple beauties of life. God's "tender mercies". His hand in my life, my family's life.

I knew I was meant to not only to share my experience and feelings with others today, but I think more importantly, I needed this opportunity to voice, to gather, to formulate, to review all of this, the impact and power it's had on my life. To me. Emily. More than any other. And what a concrete way in which to do it. A culminating celebration.

So it is yet another gift.

And is it a coincidence, on this Gratitude Sunday, that my precious son Gary has come to the culminating point now in his life with his decision to become a full-time servant to God and His children? Turning in his papers this very afternoon in a meeting with his Bishop, (area leader) willingly serving and devoting these next two years of his young life as a missionary for our church.

This son of mine. There just aren't words to express the years and years of laborious soul searching preparation, the saving and the enormous sacrificing (in ways too innumerable to count), the heart felt yearning... All of it a prelude to the fruits of today's joy and anticipation. The eager awaiting now in these next few weeks to know what place it is in this world that God wants him to serve. To share. To grow.

All because of love. And the miracle that is gratitude.

Friday, November 25, 2011

More Thanks-Giving: U-Z

U: United States of America, Utah, UK, universe, UPS truck delivery, UDOT express lane, useful, U2 (and going to their fabuloso concert this year), unpretentious, unselfish, unity, understanding.

V: veterans, volunteers, vote, vacuum, van, violin, vegetables, vegan, voice, vision, vacations, victory.

W: water (clean, running), warmth, whole, wellness, wool(ens), walks, Waldorf, wood, weekend, ward, welcome, windows, Wisconsin, wishes, wonder, wonderful, women, work, words, Washington (the president), worship, wren, write, willingness, wisdom.

X: x-rays, Xpedx.

Y: yoga, yams, yard, YouTube, yearning, You.

Z: zinnia, zoo, zeal, zest, zen, zesty, Zion, Zupas, zzzzzzz's.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

over the river and through the woods: our family thanksgiving

Yes, we really did go "over the river and through the woods". Not to gather at Grandmother's house, but to that beloved cabin on the mountain. Higher elevation meant snow on the ground, adding even more to this beautiful coziness. We hunkered down, wrapped in blankets and warmed by the crackling fire. Cooking side by side. Football. Movies. Cousins. Dogs. Puzzles. Reading. Talking. Laughing. Traditional food favorites. And there was pie. Oh, the pie.  

Another Thanksgiving Day, tucked away in our heart's memory.

Hoping you, too:

Found beauty in the faces of those you love.
Relished in the sound of joyful laughter.
Filled your belly with scrumptious delights.
Made some happy, lovely memories that you tucked in your heart, as well.
Found a quiet moment to see all the good, all the abundance, all the fullness
that is your life.
Right now.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

our school's renaissance feast

We've been blessed to have each of our five children transition
(all at their own choosing) from homeschool to 7th and 8th grades (except for Isaac who started 2nd grade this year) at a wonderful and very small (K-8, 20 kids per class) community school, or charter school. Some of you may not be familiar with these types of schools.  Publicly funded institutions, (there is no tuition) they have the feel of and are operated similarly to private schools, but with much more flexibility and specialization as far as curriculum and vision go than your typical, neighborhood public school. Parents play a very active roll as board members and are essential in helping the school succeed and function optimally.

Dedicated to excellence, the combined efforts of students, parents, teachers, and administers make for such a feeling of unity, almost like family, with a common goal and mission. This is one of the things I love most about this school. 

One of the favorite traditions we all love and look forward to every year is the annual Renaissance Feast held a couple of days before Thanksgiving. The older students in grades 5th, 6th, and 8th grades study this time period intensely and are invited to participate by sharing some of the things they've been studying in their classes. Things like music on their recorders and other percussion instruments of the era, as well as Madrigal singing and dancing. Grade 6 even performs a challenging theatrical performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream that they diligently work on and memorize since school began in August. 

Our wonderful director, along with a troupe of parent volunteers, puts on this over the top, memorable feast. The lunchroom is beautifully transformed into a Great Hall with a parent couple taking their places as King and Queen at the Royal table. (They really get into the part! So much fun.) All the special details, including the food- nuts, crackers, cheeses, apple slices, cut up raw vegetables, breads, roast chicken, and little pies or tarts (eaten with only the hands, of course!), time in the stocks for the naughties, the student jester entertainment, the creative costumes worn by everyone (including the "servants" like me)- all of it certainly makes the learning come alive in such an unforgettable, meaningful way.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

More Thanks-Giving: O-T

So thankful for my sisters

O: One, oats, ocean, October, olive oil, old fashioned, order, orchards, optimism, orchestras, organization, oven, open minded.

P: Papa, patience, Portugal, Phyllis, peppermint, poetry, pink, pastry, peaches, peony, Persuasion, prophets, picnics, piano, plaid, pottery, popcorn, prayer, peace, purpose.

Q: quinoa, quilts, "Q" Scrabble tiles, quotes, quiet.

R: refine, refrigerator, run, rainy days, rainbows, relationships, recipe, red, rhythm, read, restaurant, rice, roses, roof, right, ribbon, revolution, reunion, rest, relax, release, respect, renewal, remembering, remembered.

S: Samuel, sisters, smiles, stillness, solitude, sunrise and sunset, Soul, Spirit, snowfall, support, service, scripture, school, stevia, sound sleep, singing, signs of spring, summertime, study, sewing, sweaters, strength, sunlight, Savior.

T: tax returns, toast, tulips, temple, touch, taste, tea time, testimony, truth, Tasha, Thich, thoughts, transportation, trials, talents, teaching, thinking, travel, teachers, Thai, telephone, traditions, trees, technology, trust, time, together.

Monday, November 21, 2011

monday morning ponderings

We woke up to snowfall on the ground on Saturday. Not much, but it was still beautiful and exciting. I went for a run anyway. It got us in the mood, or should I say, motivated us to go get some long overdue cold weather clothes for all the kids. (All that, plus a 8:30 pm starting time college football game most of them would be going to that night.)

You probably thought the other day, "Emily, Why in the world are those kids still wearing shorts?" It's, like, November. Baaad mom, I know. Let me tell you a secret. Poor Eliza outgrows her pants every other week and it's just so hard to find  and keep her in pants long enough for her mega tall-they go on forever- legs and that will still fit her teeny tiny waist. As far as Sam goes, well, I've had to pick my battles. (Sort of. What's the deal with teenagers being too cool to wear jackets or coats? It drives me crazy.)

After my run, I drove down to pick up Jane so she could join us. It would be everyone except Gary. Having Keith tag along for a clothes shopping expedition was the highlight. I don't remember the last time we took most of the day, all together, and went shopping and out to lunch.

Snow's long gone now and this morning I woke up to rain and cold damp.

I took Sam to a follow up appointment for his broken finger first thing this morning. Dr. suggested another x-ray to determine the possibility of him fully joining his basketball team when they have their first game next Tuesday. Just got the phone call from the doctor a little while ago. Looks like he needs two more weeks for further healing. Sam will be so disappointed, I know.

Now, I'm playing catch up at the kitchen sink with all these dishes. Sam's turn on dinner cleanup last night and it's really impossible for him to wash the big pans by hand. I don't mind. I'm half way done. Two birds with one stone, with the phone call to my mom. Usually, I'm cooking up a storm by now (Monday big cook/prep day) but it's just not going to happen today.

It will in a couple of days. I think I'm on pie duty, as usual. Still waiting to hear back from my sister if going up to the cabin for Thanksgiving is even possible with all the snow covering the mountains. We sure would love to.

Here's to a new week. One of my most favorites of the year.

Happy Monday, my friend.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

the only way

"Understand your own suffering.
Then understand the suffering of another person
and you can have compassion."

~Thich Nhat Hanh

I read these words quoted in a book the other day. Wisdom from a beloved teacher and writer. Words so simple, yet so profound.

I know for myself and from the lives of those I love that this is truth.

We wonder why we have to suffer in this life. Why others suffer. We try to see the meaning, the purpose in trials, big and small. We question God's goodness, care, and love for us.

Yet through it all, I truly do believe that the pain we sometimes go through is a gift.

A refining fire.

And it is only through this gift that we can know what it means to love another.
To understand another.
To know,
To develop,
To live, 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

missing you

There I was at Macey's yesterday afternoon. Stocking up with groceries for the week. Scanning the Asian food section. Wondering if there was anything I needed. A woman, about your age, paused too, off to the side of me. I glanced at her, but didn't really look at her. Something about the way she was leaning over her cart. Something about her gesture. Something about the way she was. She really didn't even look like you all that much. But it was just something.

It startled me. Kind of took my breath away.

Then I looked down and saw the huge turkey sitting in her cart. I smiled to myself, thinking that this woman, like so many of us, are thoughtfully gathering, planning, and preparing for this upcoming feast day. Wanting to make everything perfect, special, just right, because we love our families.

And I knew you'd be doing this, too, if you could.

It hit me so hard, then, how much I miss you. I do miss you, Nana, so very much. Still so hard to believe you won't be there in the kitchen this Thanksgiving Day.

The tears welling in my eyes there in the Asian aisle. The chin quivering. Suppressing the urge to sob out loud when that young man came right up to me then, looked right into my eyes, and asked, "Are you finding everything alright?"

And now, as I type and look at this picture of your joyful, smiling, beautiful face, those tears can no longer be contained. I let them fall slowly down my cheeks.


Friday, November 18, 2011

More Thanks-Giving: H-N

H: home, hands, health, Heather, homeschool, healing, help, hummus, handwork, hearing, heroes, heart to heart, hardwood floor, herbs, heat, holidays, holy, honesty, hearth, harvest, habit, husband, happiness, hope, hugs.

I: Isaac, Ivana, inventions, integrity, Israel, intuition, ideas, imagination, IKEA, ice cream, individual, information, intelligence, industrious.

J: Jane, jam, jazz, jeans, jalapeno, jaunts and journeys, journaling, job, Joseph, justice, joy, Jesus.

K: Keith, kindred spirits, kale, kitchen, kites, knitted, Keats, knead, knowledge, kindness, kiss.

L: Lisboa, listeners, licorice (red), lessons, lipgloss, laptop, libraries, learning, lavender, leaves, light, literature, laughter, living, loving, loved.

M: Mama, Momo, Mane, Montessori, music, marathon, movement, meditation, moon, mornings, missionaries, motherhood, maple, massages, Midway, meaningful, mothering, meekness, mercy.

N: Nana, nature, natural, nourishing, neighbors, notes, newspapers, naps, nearness, notebooks, nuts, new, needed, nice, now.

Monday, November 14, 2011

my resume


Sunday, November 13, 2011

glimpses of a sunday

Eliza's church style. So beautiful. Oh, how I wish I could do this, be this pretty.

Can she bake a cherry pie? (With a some mixed berries thrown in for good measure.) You bet she can, 'cause she knows her man will be happy. (a vegan compromise on my part) The grandparents will be, too, when we go to their house after supper.

Day for reading those novels, the Sunday paper, New Testament with the children right before bed.

Day for pulling the board games out. Isaac can sure count on Dad.

What made your Sunday special?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

My Mom: The (Real) Master Baker

I can honestly say that I don't know anyone in this world who knows and understands the art of home baking like my own mother. It's always been that way. If I could describe the one predominant smell of my childhood home, it would be that sweet, warm, homey aroma  of bread baking in the oven. She was constantly baking. Most days when we'd come home from school, we'd call out "Mom!?" and she'd answer us from the kitchen, apron donned, as always.

And all of those bread sticks, loaves, cookies and treats most certainly were meant for our family, (and that was her primary motivation) but as was often the case, something was almost always imparted or shared with our neighbors. It was just the way things were. She used her self-taught talents to bless and cheer so many. I've heard people say that when they receive a loaf of her bread at Christmas time, so beautifully wrapped in a cellophane bag with that cheery red ribbon, they can't bear to break into such a work of art.

When I was about ten years old, she held a little summer school for my sister Sara and I. She'd call us in from play those hot, lazy afternoons where we'd trudge in to read, practice math facts, watch film strips about composers, or go on field trips. She even took the time to hand stencil 4-square and hopscotch outlines on our drive way. One day, she met with us and asked us what we could do to earn money for some fun equipment; things like a tether ball, playground balls, and art supplies.

Mulling the idea around in her mind, she proposed something that surely would get us the desired funds. She'd get up at 3:00 am once or twice a week and bake (over the hot stove with no air conditioning in the house, mind you) until the afternoon.

She covered apple boxes with red gingham contact paper for Sara and I to carry the baked goods all around the neighborhood to sell. Obviously, the neighbors were overjoyed. We gained popularity and soon we were taking orders. We even walked a mile down the hill so the 7-11 man could buy his bagels. (To take home; not to sell!)  Talk about a mother's sacrifice. These lessons she taught us, more important than any math drill, were ingrained forever.

My mother was approached by her church congregation women's organization (the Relief Society) if she would be willing to teach a bread making demonstration/class this afternoon. She's done this kind of thing countless times. It was a blessing that my mom has been feeling so good lately. She has her good days and not so good days, living for years with fibromyalgia, lupus, and depression. Like everything she does, health challenges and all, she gives 100%. That, and much, much more.

I came along for the ride. I didn't even know she was doing this until yesterday. I came to offer a helping hand, "moral support" she called it as we packed up after all was said and done, and also to chronicle and be the official photographer. (There are a lot of photos here, but I think it's important to capture it all for posterity's sake. For my children's children to know who and what this woman is.)

So glad there was a good turnout and support. Not only did she previously bake all these breads shown below, she demonstrated to us all how to make Orange Butterflake rolls and how to braid and bake the Challah. Everyone was in awe, as you can imagine

Recipe handout packets she prepared to distribute. These, and the many, many hours of preparation sacrificed, the ingredients, the tasting samples, loaves and leftovers for lucky "sisters" to take home to their families- all of it freely offered, from the heart, and  a gift of LOVE.

My mom always, always makes things pretty. Her class wouldn't be complete without things like this handmade, snowy white crochet tablecloth and silver platters complete with doilies to display all those beautiful breads, and it wouldn't be "LaVaun-ish" without a centerpiece. Harvest theme, of course.

Challah, or Braided Swiss Bread

Pumpkin Bread

Nutty Multigrain Loaf

Raspberry Jam Filled Candycane Sweet Bread


Portuguese Sweet Bread

Yuletide Danish Wreath

Mozzarella-Basil Stuffed Focaccia