Monday, August 29, 2016

Mothering Monday: Summer Confessions of a Mom

I let my kids sleep in their clothes with dirty feet, dirty faces, and dirty teeth.

I only washed the bathing suits a few times and instead just threw them in the dryer to dry for the next day of swimming.

I seriously neglected the laundry.

I forced my older kids to go on outings to the local zoo and to the beach.

I let the older kids go on biking expeditions around our village hunting for Pokemon Go.

I locked my kids outside while I cleaned the house because it was grossing me out.

I let the kids watch TV or play games on their devices all day.

I made the kids do chores and clean the house.

I forced everyone to clean out their clothes and toys and we got rid of bags and bags of stuff.

I took the kids swimming frequently and only brought along a few snacks.

I made the kids play outside without any electronic devices.

I let the kids sleep outside without an adult supervising.

I made lots of frozen and prepared foods like burritos, taquitos, etc.

I let the kids stay in their pjs all day.

I made the kids mow the lawn.

I woke the kids up around 8 a.m. and made them help me with stuff around the house.

I ignored the mess and did my own little fun things.

I stayed up late watching movies with my husband.

I skipped FHE and went to a movie with friends.

I took my kids on tons of outings to the local fair, local zoo, beach, etc.

How was your summer? Did you let your hair down and relax? Did you get on a tight schedule?


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Taking a Vacation

This is my children's last week of summer vacation and promises to be...stressful. We have a few loose ends to wrap up. I've been battling an infection that seems to get worse when I am stressed. I have other responsibilities I need to manage.

So I am taking this week off so I can focus on getting my children off to school, have one last summer hurrah, and finish up some other things.

I'll be back in a week or two. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Superheroes

I originally posted this entry on August 22, 2007 on my blog, A Stranger Here, when we lived in Sweden. At the time, my children were 7, 6, 4, and 1. I don't actually remember which son I had this conversation with, but I suspect it was most likely Trent. Today I took Trent to the high school for Locker Opening Day. He is a freshman. Time has flown by at warp speeds. 

Superheroes are a hot topic in our house as we have 3 boys. One of my sons and I had the following conversation yesterday.
 Son: “Mom, is MacGyver a superhero?”
Me: “I don’t know, what do you think?”
Son:”Yeah. He saves people and stuff.”
Me: “I think so too. Are you a Superhero?”
Son: thinks a minute before answering “No. I don’t build smoke bombs to save people.”
Me: “Um, okay.”
Son: “Mom! You’re a superhero!”
Me: “Me, why?”
Son: “Because you don’t kill people.”
You heard it folks. I am a superhero because I don’t kill people. I feel like I deserve that label this week.
Now to figure out my superhero name. . .


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wondering Wednesday: Mourning with Those Who Mourn

Late in the afternoon I received a text from a ward member. It was news of the most devastating sort as a young man in his prime had lost his life in a tragic accident. His family, friends of mine, were cast into the deep valley of grief.

Later that evening, I knocked on their door and waited for them to open the door. My friend's husband welcomed me inside with red eyes raw from crying. I wrapped my arms around him and we cried together.

I then entered their home, whether the family was sitting silently and patiently, each waiting to receive a blessing from missionaries and a ward member. Friends sat in the room, offering comfort and silent support as we witnessed the blessings. I sat on the bench, in a holy place, mourning with my friends who were mourning.

After the blessings were given, more friends arrived, to sit and comfort, talk quietly, or to sit in silent acceptance. Words were inadequate and at times, we said nothing. I couldn't shake the feeling that the act of sitting together, often in silence, grieving together was an expression of love. Platitudes were not offered, but rather acceptance of the loss and the pain that accompanied it.

In my current responsibility as Relief Society President, I often have the opportunity to be present in those most intimate moments of loss and grief. Sometimes I have a personal connection that I also feel loss. At other times, my grief is for those who mourn. I am learning that holding space and comfort for those walking in that deep valley of grief is a hard thing to do because you have to be fully present and totally sensitive to their needs. Each situation is unique and cannot be navigated with trite sayings. Often words fail us and we resort to actions of love-washing dishes, bringing food, loving embraces, and tears.

What have your experiences been when helping a grieving family? How have you coped with loss? What does it mean to you to mourn with those who mourn?


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Travel Tuesday: Saturday in Philadelphia, PA

Liberty Bell 

Let Freedom Ring

Independence Hall

All six kids--with varying degrees of happiness

Downtown Philly

A walk of international flags--including the Swedish flag!!

At the Philadelphia Temple Open House

Philadelphia Temple


Monday, August 22, 2016

Mothering Monday: Safety Calls vs. Moral Judgments

Over the past few years news reports in the media have been filled with stories of children being left unattended for a few moments (in reasonably safe situations), a stranger calls the police, and the parents face charges of neglect/abuse. The childhood most us of enjoyed where our parents allowed us freedom and autonomy has been replaced with a brand of obsessive and excessive helicopter parenting. Even parents who don't favor the current flavor of hyper-vigilance are terrified to not maintain the status quo because if they aren't hovering their child, some stranger will make a call that could destroy their family.

It's crazy and infuriating. Why did our society make this shift? When did we stop helping one another and start accusing each other?

A few researchers from the University of California, Irvine wanted to study this phenomenon and discovered that the majority of these cases were based on moral judgments against the parents rather than actual danger faced by the child.

This statement by one of the researchers struck me as very important:

 I guess what I would like people to start thinking about is how this new legal standard of paranoid parenting enshrines a kind of class privilege. Besides the fact that it is irrational, the idea that you must watch your child every single second until they turn 18 is deeply classist. It's not something you can even aim for unless you have a whole lot of money, and probably not a lot of children. For parents who are working, who have more than one child, who need to get something else done during the day — to say nothing of single parents — that model of parenting is absurd. If you think about Debra Harrell's situation, she's raising a child while working a minimum-wage job. Suddenly, we as a society have decided (without any rational basis) that she is negligent for allowing her 9-year-old to play in a public park. This is very, very disturbing to me. It is basically criminalizing poverty and single parenthood.
I think changing this mania has to start with parents themselves. First, we need to start supporting and helping each other instead of judging and convicting one another. Second, we need to start realizing that we all have parenting styles and the majority of them are okay. Third, lets loosen up with our kids and let them have some freedom and autonomy in their lives.

What do you think about this? Have you ever worried about letting your child play alone because you are afraid that someone will call the cops on you?  


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Spiritual Sunday: Philadelphia Temple Open House

I believe that there is life after death and that families can be together forever. To be bound--or sealed--as a family requires a special ceremony performed by the right people with the proper authority in a temple.

My husband and I were sealed in the Vernal, Utah temple eighteen years ago. That day was one of the most special days of my life and having that perspective of eternity has carried us through the good and bad times of our marriage.

Only members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who fulfill certain requirements (living certain standards) can attend the temple after it has been dedicated. Before temples are dedicated, the church opens the doors to these building and allows anyone to take a tour and see the inside.

The temple in Philadelphia was recently completed and hundreds of volunteers spent hours of their time ushering people through this building. My husband and I took our six children to Philadelphia on Saturday to show them the inside of this beautiful and holy building.

I will admit, my two-year old was a terror, throwing off her white booties (that we all wore to keep the carpet and floors clean) and running on chairs. But we took her anyway and no one glared at us or asked us to leave. All my children seemed to appreciate this experience, which they will soon repeat as the temple in Hartford, CT will soon be completed and we will not only tour the temple, but volunteer to help usher people.

There is still time to visit the Philadelphia Temple. You can comment on this post and I will get the information for you. If you are local, I would even be happy to take you on a tour myself.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Scrapbook Saturday: Pic Tap Go

Since I don't take pictures with a point and shoot camera or DSLR, I use my camera phone exclusively; I am always on the hunt for a good photo editing app. The Iphone picture app has a basic decent photo editing feature. Snapseed is a free photo editing app that offers more options with color saturation, brightness, shadows, highlights, etc.

I have heard about the Pic Tap Go app from a lot of scrapbookers, but because it cost $1.99, I was reluctant to get it. The most recent update to the Becky Higgins Project Life app allows you to edit photos in your layouts with the Pic Tap Go app, so I decided to get it. I am really glad I did, because I am BLOWN away by how easy it is to use.

Here are a few examples:

This is an ok photo as it is, but we have shadows on our faces and the color of the temple isn't very true.

In contrast, here is the edited photo. I brightened up the photo quite a bit and played with a few different filters.

Here is another photo I took of my six children. They were all in the shadow and the lighting was hard to get right.

And here is the edited photo. I lightened it and added a cool grungy filter to it.

I don't think editing and filters will turn a bad picture into a good picture, but I do think that editing can enhance a photo. I have a long way to go in improving my photography so I am grateful for this app that gives me some help with lighting.

Here are a few YouTube tutorials you can check out about this app.

Happy Editing!


Friday, August 19, 2016

Friday Favorites: Simone Biles

I have a huge girl crush on the American Olympic athlete, Simone Biles. She is astounding and her athleticism and skill is beyond amazing. She totally crushed it at the Olympics.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Suffering through a Saudi Summer

As summer in New York comes to a close, I am reminded of the summer of 2012 when we lived in Riyadh and stayed there during the summer, at a time when most expats flee the oppressive heat for home and hopefully, cooler climes. That summer was quite memorable as I recount with the blog post, Suffering Through a Saudi Summer.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wondering Wednesday: Finding the Words

As I much to articulate my thoughts and process my experiences, there are so many times when don't have the concepts I need to describe things. It reminds me of a deaf lady I know. She hurt herself rather badly and was taken to hospital via ambulance. She told us that she had broken her ankle. In a visit with her later, it was apparent that her ankle was not broken. My friend, who interpreted for her told me later that she probably didn't have the words or or even concepts to express the nuances of her injury.

My toddler is at that stage where she has so much she wants to say, but she doesn't have the vocabulary or capability of fully expressing herself. This leads to a lot of frustration and fits on her part. I often find myself experiencing that same level of toddler bumbling, trying to articulate deep life-changing experiences. 

I feel a lot like my friend, hobbling along, unable to describe what I have experienced and how it changed me. When we returned to the United States after living in Sweden for 5 1/2 years, I had no idea how to process all our experiences and what returning to my home country would entail. Five years later and a chance encounter with a book about Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and I finally had words, concepts, and tools to explain my experience.

Reading the book, Misreading Scripture through Western Eyes, has given me concepts and tools to describe experiences I had living in the Middle East. In particular, they discuss the tension between individualism and collectivism or a community/family oriented society. Western culture (by that I mean the United States, Canada, and Europe) is much more focused on the needs, wants, and desires of the individual. We often hold the autonomy of that individual as paramount over the greater good of the society. In many Middle-Eastern and Eastern cultures, the good of the community is prioritized over the individual.

Reading this book has given me new ways of looking at my experiences as an expat--an eternal traveler with an insatiable craving to explore and understand.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Travel Tuesday: Albany

Albany is the capitol of New York state. Its a cute town, almost embarrassingly small compared to its crazy sibling down south (NYC). I don't know of anyone that travels to Albany for fun, unless you are a government official and you consider politics fun...

My daughter was invited to participate in a State Children's Honor Choir and has been practicing all summer long for the two day event. I loved the music the kids learned: They sang 6 pieces: Alleluia (a piece by Bach-sung in German), Sim Shalom (a Hebrew song), The Mango Walk (a fun Jamaican song), Night and Day (a Jazz style song about the moon), Marokeni (an African greeting song), and the final piece, Will You Teach Me? She and her choir mates rehearsed the bulk of yesterday and part of the morning today. They performed this afternoon at the Hilton hotel. They had a marvelous director who was so engaging and light in his teaching that the kids didn't even realize how much knowledge they gained during practice.

While my daughter rehearsed, I took myself on a fantastic date. I checked into our hotel, treated myself to a gorgeous room service hamburger, watched HGTV, scrapbooked, took a leisurely bubble bath, and read. I rarely get time alone and often have such a full plate that this was an afternoon/evening of unparalleled delight. I must say that I am an excellent date.

After I picked up my daughter from her rehearsal, we went back to the hotel where she went swimming with a bunch of the other kids in the choir. They all had a blast screaming at the top of their lungs and splashing enthusiastically. I made the right call in opting to hang out on a lounge chair and read. Later we sat in our beds in our room and watched TV together. She had total control of the remote and relished in making all the choices.

The next morning, we enjoyed a leisurely and fun morning. I got ready while she watched more TV. Then we went to the pool and she swam some more. She loves the water as much as I did at her age. Then we went back to our room and finished getting ready. I dropped her off at the hotel rehearsal room and went on a little adventure of my own.

The Hilton is right near the capitol building. I walked around outside taking pictures and exploring the area. The State government buildings are beautiful, massive, and filled with people working. As much as I enjoyed looking at them, I couldn't help but think that those buildings are the reason we have such high taxes in New York. I got to see St. Peter's Church, a church that was built in the early 1800s on the site of older churches.

The view from the church looking downtown was pretty cool.

Then I walked up to the New York State Capitol building which is very impressive. The statue is of General Sheridan of Civil War fame. He won the battle of Shenadoah and also is known for the burning he did in the south. (What a legacy--and yet there he is, in front of the state building...)

I walked over to another square of buildings that featured a building called The Egg, which apparently is a theater. Some of the architecture in this square reminded me of science fiction films where the entire world is now being controlled by a mind-numbing device.

After my walk, I grabbed some food from a street cart. The Greek truck catered my inability to choose between the gyro and falafel and combined them-bless him! I ran and picked up my daughter from the hotel and we walked back to the capitol for lunch.

After lunch, we returned to the hotel and my little girl sang her heart out for the concert. I cried a bit at the beautiful music. After the concert, we went to a mall where she found a store she has been dying to investigate--the Build-a-Bear store. With her birthday money, she built a bear.

Now we are back home and I feel refreshed and ready to return to normal life and my position as "everything" at home.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Mothering Monday: Getting Ready for School

In just two and half weeks all my kids will return to school. It sure went by fast, as it always does. With five kids in three schools, it does take some maneuvering to get everyone ready for school while keeping to our budget.

Prep Work

I find it wasteful and extravagant to purchase new clothing, new shoes, and completely new supplies for the new school year, so I always assess our stores and current situation before buying new items.

1) Clothing: We clean out each child's closet thoroughly and then assess the condition, size, and function of each item. I throw away any item that is stained, torn, or worn out. Some items my kids won't wear-for whatever reason and so I prepare those for charity. I then count quantities of pants, shorts, underwear, socks, long-sleeve shirts, and short-sleeve shorts. In general, I like to have 5 pairs of pants, 5 pairs of shorts, five long-sleeve shirts, and five short-sleeve shirts. My boys like hoodies, so we make sure they each have 1-2 hoodies in good condition.

2) Shoes: I only replace shoes as they are worn out or needed for an event. This year, three of my kids needed new shoes for school. I check the shoe situation every few months and we buy new shoes as needed.

3) School Supplies: There is so much waste at school with notebooks, crayons, markers, etc. At the end of the year, my kids have brought home empty notebooks that only had one or two pages marked. I throw out any worn or broken supplies and then sort the usable supplies into groups. Then I pull out the necessary supplies from the school list. Any items we don't have, I plan a shopping trip with a detailed list.

4) Backpacks and coats: I do not replace backpacks or coats unless they are damaged or worn out. I purchase high quality backpacks and coats at our wholesale club with the intention that they will be used/worn for two or more years.


I compile a shopping list based on the needs and holes left after assessing our resources. I plan a trip to a location that has a good selection of modestly priced stores. One shopping complex about 30 miles from my home has a Walmart, Target, Kohls, an outlet mall, and a wholesale club. Its almost one-stop shopping which is great in my book.

If our budget allows, I will buy one new outfit for each child. You may be cringing with horror at thought of the kids using hand-me-downs or not getting brand new items. The fact is, I make sure my kids have decent clothes in good condition. I feel like it is wasteful not to use the things we have well. We do buy new items, but only when it is necessary. My kids do get the fun of shopping and getting some new items. But they also understand that we have a budget that has to be worked with.

I hope that over the years, my kids  understand that you can have a wonderful life and many great experiences on a budget. I don't think it is good for kids to think they have unlimited resources to buy whatever they want whenever they feel like it. Such an attitude can lead to debt and poor financial decisions. How many young adults in the United States are dealing with staggering student loan payments because no one ever talked to them about practicality and working within a certain budget?

How do you get ready for school? Do you have certain rituals and practices?


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Spiritual Sunday: The Blessings of Keeping the Commandments

I delivered this talk in Sacrament Meeting in my ward today. I spent a long time thinking and praying about this topic and was surprised and amazed at the experiences that I felt God wanted me to share. They aren't your typical examples, but they felt very real, as if God were witnessing to me that they were blessings He had bestowed on me. 

The Blessings of Keeping the Commandments

Blessings come from keeping God’s commandments. It’s a simple thought that is rooted in the scriptures and in the words of our modern day prophet and apostles. It is also a thought that brings me a lot of joy.

The first scripture my husband and I teach our children to memorize is from 2 Nephi 2:25, 
“Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy.” 

So the purpose of this mortal experience isn’t just to be tried, but is also for us to experience joy. I believe that one of the primary blessings of keeping God’s commandments is receiving joy. Our Prophet, Thomas S. Monson said the following at the Priesthood session of the October 2015 General Conference:
“God’s commandments are not given to frustrate us or to become obstacles to our happiness. Just the opposite is true. He who created us and who loves us perfectly knows just how we need to live our lives in order to obtain the greatest happiness possible. He has provided us with guidelines which, if we follow them, will see us safely through this often treacherous mortal journey”.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave a devotional at BYU on September 10, 1974 as the University president where he said, 
“Commandments are a blessing, my brothers and sisters, because our Father in heaven has given them to us in order to help us grow and develop the qualities we must have if we are to obtain eternal life and dwell with him. By keeping his commandments, we qualify for his blessings.”
The Lord himself has said, on more than one occasion:

“There is a law irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (D&C 130:20–21).
“I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (D&C 82:10).
Part of our progression in this life depends on the lessons we learn and the experiences we have. Heavenly Father is offering all his blessings and help, but those blessings are contingent upon our keeping his commandments. God tells us, “Look, if you keep my commandments, I HAVE to bless you. I cannot deny you the blessings that are yours when you do what I say. This is the law in Heaven—it is as unbreakable as a law of physics.

Now I want to talk about the blessings we receive when we keep the commandments. When we partook of the Sacrament today, we were promised that when we keep the commandments, we will always have His spirit to be with us. That’s an amazing gift.

My mother is a woman who has always kept the commandments. She is a quiet woman, secure in her faith and testimony of Jesus Christ. Because of her manner, she is very in-tune with the Spirit. On more than one occasion I have been guided and helped by her promptings and wisdom. When I was a teenager, my youngest sister started complaining about her foot hurting. She was known to exaggerate quite a lot and my sisters and I didn’t believe anything was wrong with her. My mother, however, felt differently. She had a prompting that something was very seriously wrong. She took my sister to the doctor and insisted that they run every test they could think of. It turns out her prompting was correct and my sister had a serious staph infection in her foot and had to be hospitalized for several days. I believe the Spirit prompted my mother, which saved my sister’s life.

My father joined the church in his mid-20s as a widower with three young daughters. He had to make big changes in his life but he made them without hesitation. Over the years, his decision to be baptized and his firm commitment to keep the commandments has been a source of great blessings for our family. I’m so blessed to have parents who kept the commandments. It has comforted me so much to know I can rely up on them.

On a more personal note, I would like to share a few experiences with two specific commandments.
 “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him” (D&C 59:5).

When we truly love God, our entire lives are put into perspective. We firmly orient ourselves on the Lord’s side, aware of our eternal destiny as daughters and sons of Heavenly Parents. We can count on the God’s protection, comfort, and love, knowing that all things will work for our good.

In December of 2010, I was about 13 weeks pregnant and our family was so excited about the new baby. Unfortunately, almost as this new life was beginning, it ended. We were so sad, but the many tender mercies from God kept us aloft, sure in the knowledge that things were going to be okay. We could endure the loss because we could see the many miracles He orchestrated on our behalf during that time.

I love God because I know He loves me. And every time I open my heart to Him, He floods my life with reminders of how much He loves me.

Jesus Christ taught his beloved friend and disciple, Peter, that to love God, we must love one another and feed His sheep.

Several years ago, during my senior year at BYU, I taught seminary at a Special needs high school across from the BYU Law School. All of my students were profoundly disabled. One student in particular had many behaviors and mannerisms that were very repulsive to me. In order to teach the gospel to profoundly disabled people, you have to develop a pure and Christ-like love for them, otherwise the classroom becomes a disaster. I grappled with my feelings of revulsion for this student. I was unable to develop love for this student, until I reached out to Heavenly Father for help. It worked and has worked over and over again when I have struggled with forgiving someone or learning to like someone. When I ask Heavenly Father to help me develop love for someone, my heart just about explodes as he expands my capacity to love and serve.

I have personally witnessed and experienced the heartache that shatters lives and families when people break the commandments. I have also seen the blessings of God when we keep the commandments. The reality of Heavenly Father’s blessings cannot be denied.  I testify to you that God isn’t remotely removed from the details of our lives. He is there-watching over us. When we keep God’s commandments, our lives and opportunities are expanded exponentially. I hardly have the words to describe how blessed I feel in my life when I keep God’s commandments. This is the promise God makes with all of us when we keep His Commandments. I know this is true. This is my witness.


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Scrapbook Saturday: The First Four Years

In the book, The First Four Years, novelist Laura Ingalls Wilder recounts the first four years of her marriage to Almonzo Wilder, a farmer and homesteader. Together, they try to make a go of it homesteading in South Dakota. Those years are harrowing as they face debt, a fire that destroys their home, serious illness that permanently disables Almonzo, the birth of two children, and the death of one as an infant, Throughout the book, it obvious how much the couple love another and how they face their challenges with courage and hope.

The first four years of marriage are often a proving ground for any couple and frequently determine the future for a marriage. My husband and I are halfway upon our 19th wedding anniversary. Our eldest child is two years from graduating high school and our youngest is leaving her babyhood behind. As I face all these transitions, I find myself pondering what the past 19 years have meant and what things our future holds. For some reason, I haven't felt a desire to scrapbook the present photos I have taken. Instead my heart keeps going back to those early years. Today, I pulled out photos from every little cranny and compiled photos from the first four years of my marriage--from 1998-2002.  I want to tell our stories from that period in terms of the ways that we changed and grew, since that period was like an introduction to the rest of our lives. I also want to use Stacy Julian's categories to tell stories so it isn't entirely chronological. I want to find meaningful connections that go behind describing events.

As I pondered how much I learned during that period and the changes my husband and I made, I couldn't help by think of Wilder's book about the first years of her marriage. It really was an introductory period where we lived in Utah and started our family. I feel all kinds of excitement to go over these pictures and record stories and thoughts about those years. I decided to first concentrate on our engagement and wedding and tell our love story.

Here are some stories I want to tell:

  • Our dating story
  • The location of our wedding and we chose it
  • Brent's proposal
  • Our lives before we got married
  • Our honeymoon
  • The wedding day
  • My dress 
  • Friends who attended
  • Why we chose our wedding date
  • Joining our two families together
  • Things that attracted me to Brent
  • How we fell in love
I'm so excited to work on this album!


Friday, August 12, 2016

Friday Favorites: Music on My Iphone Right Now

Just a peek into what I am listening to at the moment on my iPhone.

Amarillo By Morning as sung by George Strait

Sunny and 75 as sung by Joe Nichols (my summer anthem)

Kiss You Tonight as sung by David Nail

Viva La Vida as sung by Coldplay

I Can't Love You Back as sung by Easton Corbin

Yes, I'm a country girl at heart. These are my comfort songs. What's on your phone right now?


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Madeline L'Engle

I originally posted this piece on my blog, A Stranger Here, on August 18, 2007. It caught my eye while browsing through my archives and I felt it worthwhile to repost. 

Madeleine L’Engle is one of my all-time favorite writers. Many people know her as the author of A Wrinkle in Time. She has written many fictions stories and some wonderful non-fiction essays.
I have my own little personal story about her. She spoke at my University graduation and gave a beautiful speech about creating a life that can’t be eroded away by time or winds of trial. Anyhow, a few months later, I reread A Wrinkle in Time and I wrote her and thanked her for her great work as an author and for her fine speech at my graduation. And a few months later, I received a handwritten note back. I like her even more because she didn’t have to write and respond to my note.
Anyhow, last week, I found an old interview of her on the internet. I wanted to link it and share it  and particularly highlight my favorite quote. It’s worth reading through. (Unfortunately, the link is no broken. I'm so glad I preserved this section of the piece, because it is truly profound.)
 And my favorite quote in the interview?
So to you, faith is not a comfort?
Good heavens, no. It’s a challenge: I dare you to believe in God. I dare you to think [our existence] wasn’t an accident.
Many people see faith as anti-intellectual.
Then they’re not very bright. It takes a lot of intellect to have faith, which is why so many people only have religiosity.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Wondering Wednesday: The Great Summer Clean-Out of 2016

Since my husband and I got married eighteen years ago, we have moved a total thirteen times-which averages to less than 18 months per house or location. Six of those moves have included moving to different continents. Fun times. Now we have lived at our current residence for three years. THREE YEARS is our world record!!!! Recently, the hubs and I had a conversation about what our future plans are, and came to the conclusion that we want to stay put for awhile. It's kind of shocking to have that mindset but its also exciting. And no, my husband does not work for the military. He's actually a scientist.

This is actually what my living room looks like right now. I have been sorting through clothes for six kids for days. What remains will hopefully sell at the garage sale on Saturday. Anything that doesn't sell is going to a charitable organization on Monday. If you have ever made a big move, you will recognize this scene. It happens in every home at some point during a move and it is one that inevitably brings the mom to her knees in tears as she deals with it. Or at least, it does me. The only reason I am not crying is that we aren't moving in a week or two days. YAY!!! After we clean up this mess, I still get to live here.

Because we have moved so often, I actually get this compulsive itch to declutter and clean out my house frequently. Let's face it though, I have six children and a whole host of interesting hobbies and obligations that consume my time. I finally put down my foot and set aside five days of decluttering culminating in a garage sale on Saturday. It's been dull, grinding work, but removing the stress of a major move has eliminated the layer of emotional distress that makes packing and moving such harrowing work.

Sigh. My kitchen really looks like this right now. We've mostly managed to keep it under control this week, but I haven't been able to keep it sparkling clean while working today. The kids have been busy with assigned projects. So glad that this will soon be over and we can return to normalcy.

As I've sorted through clothes, books, crafting and school supplies, memorabilia, and toys, I have realized an important truth about possessions. All possessions place a little weight on your shoulders and emotions-both good and bad. It's really up to us to manage those possessions in a way is joyful and useful. I don't know that I can ever enjoy a clutter-free existence while having six children at home, but we can work on setting up patterns of dealing with possessions. I hope my kids will develop a healthy relationship with things. I don't want them to feel that having things is more important than relationships or experiences. I also want my kids to enjoy the things they do have--to derive pleasure from toys, games, books, or clothes. The trick is to enjoy what you have, and recognize when an item no longer brings you that joy. (Totally a paraphrase of the master of decluttering--Marie Kondo).

Maybe this doesn't look uncluttered or Zen to you, but I really worked on this room. Every cubby has been scoured and stacks of stacks of school papers have made their way to the recycle bin. I am happy to have this space that is clean. It makes me want to write or craft.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Travel Tuesday: KSA Memorabilia

I'm in the midst of a major clean-out at my house. No drawer, cubby, closet, or bin is safe from me. I came across some pieces of memorabilia when we lived in Saudi Arabia. Since I'm short on time, I quickly snapped photos and then posted a few memories and comments about the items on my Instagram account. I'm reposting screenshots here in honor of the 18 months we spent in Saudi Arabia.

Curious about our experiences in Saudi Arabia? Check out my blog, In a Maze of Beige, for all the details.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Mothering Monday: Onto a New Phase of Mothering

At the moment, I am literally buried by clothes. When you have six children, the clothes situation is no joke. As a family we are trying to live a bigger life with more experiences and less stuff. Last week, I challenged my children to go through all their belongings so we could hold a garage sale of our unwanted and unused items. Any proceeds they earn will go to a daytrip at a local water park, or another destination of their choosing. They are slowing working their way through their junk. I'm buried in the contents of several plastic bins looking for items to sell and to reorganize.

That pink bin on the table in the picture was filled with Winter's baby clothes. Winter is now 2 1/2 and truthfully, she is our last baby. We feel our family is complete with six children and I'm ready to move onto a different stage of parenting and new personal opportunities. My husband and I feel at peace with our decision, but oh the flood of memories I have experienced as I have sorted through those tiny baby clothes.

Many people would hold onto that bin of clothes for sentimental reasons. Others might keep them just in case another baby were to come. I can't see the practical benefit of keeping the clothes. We don't intend to stay in New York forever. At some point, we hope to live abroad again, and will likely have to massively reduce our belongings. Speaking from personal experience, it is better to declutter gradually so it isn't a huge undertaking in the end. Also, I don't want to burden my children or grandchildren with the decluttering process four or five decades later. It's time to let those clothes go, while they are in good condition and can be a blessing to another family.

I did save a few little precious outfits that were particularly meaningful. My older boys wore these bright orange hoodies when we lived in Sweden. I could always pick them out in a crowd at the playground.

I discovered two of my abayas tucked away in the bins. I kept those because I want to remember what it felt like to live in the Middle East and wear an abaya. Seeing my abayas also reminds me of our adventures our the wonderful friends we made.

As I have sorted through clothes I have remembered what it was like to have three small active and mischievous boys with their Bionicle and Superhero obsessions. Seeing my girls' clothes reminds me how I much I wanted daughters and what they mean to me. (I wanted my boys too, but I had a whole bunch in quick succession, and given my husband's extended family, it looked like I wouldn't have a daughter... Plus the whole lupus thing almost made having more children an impossibility.) While I reflect on their childhoods, I also see how they are all growing up so well. As much as I enjoy looking back, I am so excited for their futures.

These clothes are tangible reminders that I appreciate, but I can give them up because their stories are recorded in scrapbooks filled with pictures and details that are rich and vivid.

As my kids outgrow their clothes and toys, we are moving on to new opportunities. Soon my oldest will either leave for a mission or start university. My youngest is just a few short years away from kindergarten. My role as mother is changing and evolving. I don't find the change frightening, but rather interesting and full of possibility.

So goodbye old clothes. You've served us well. You kept my kids clothed through all sorts of adventures. I've washed you more times than I can count and I'm happy to say goodbye to both the washing and the clothes.

When you transition to a new phase of life, do you find that process challenging? How do you find peace with a new phase? How do you deal with old clothes your children have outgrown?