Friday, December 19, 2014

The Miraculous Gift

"You know she was Laurie from Oklahoma!--on Broadway," my friend confided. "She's struggled with her health for a long time, and she never thought she would sing again, but I convinced her to sing "O Holy Night" in church. She will get you the music." It wasn't really a request.

I've been asked to accompany vocal solos in sacrament meeting more times than I can count, and "O Holy Night" is a common Christmas choice. Bass, tenor, soprano--I've played them all, including a piano solo arrangement that I pull out on occasion.

Somehow, this performance felt different. I was nervous. I've never played for a professional before. L has her own CD and has been singing forever. I stressed out whenever I pulled out her music to practice. Would she hear every incorrect note and feel every miscounted beat? Was my playing up to her standards? Would I bring her performance down?

We had one very short rehearsal--so short, in fact, that we never ran through the song completely. It was during that practice session that it hit me. She is a small, bespectacled lady with wispy hair and a quiet manner. What came out of her astounded me. Her voice is a gift--the most gifted singer I've ever played for. I found myself struggling to keep my attention on the sheets before me because I was so distracted listening to her effortlessly reach ever higher notes. It was beautiful.

As I drove her home, she glossed over some of her health problems: loss of peripheral vision, short-term memory loss, along with the sickness that has left her body weak and disobedient to her wishes. "I didn't think I would ever be able to sing again, and I am so grateful I still can. Thank you for helping me."

I didn't know what to say. You're welcome just wasn't enough, but it was all I could say.

On Sunday, she caught my eye as she walked into the chapel. "Ready?" I asked. "I think so," she said. It rang not of uncertainty but of humility. I followed her to the podium, positioned myself at the piano, and waited for her to fill the chapel with sound.

I can't describe that moment in time, but it is one I will never forget. The beautiful melody. The captive congregation. Most of all, the pure joy she radiated as she sang. I was honored to be part of it.

When the meeting was over, I waited my turn behind all of her admirers so I could return her music. I listened to the congratulations and smiled at the hugs. Then I heard her speak, and her words hit my heart.

"I never thought I would ever sing again, and I am so grateful that God didn't take my gift away." With that, it was my turn.

I reached down to hug her and return her music. "Thank you so much for playing for me." I didn't know what to say. All I could muster was, "Any time." And I meant it.

God has given all of us gifts to share with the world. Gifts of music and artistry. Gifts of athletic feats and discourse. Gifts of kindness and listening. At this time of year, it is easy to let presents overshadow true gifts we can give to those we love--time around the piano singing carols or around the tree sharing stories. We never know when our ability to share these gifts may be gone.

Six more days. How have your shared your gifts with those around you this Christmas season? There's still time.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

2014 Review Extravaganza, Part 3--July through September

I can't believe that this is the FIFTH time I've participated in Emmy Mom's Year in Review Extravaganza--a time to reflect on all that's happened at the Sanatorium in the past year.

Here we go with Part 3--July-September

Sam spent most of the summer on a work trip to India, so Heidi decided to come home while he was gone. What a fun summer!
Evie started sounding out words, Micah and Lily participated in MCC's workshop, and I took photos of Tucker's new little family.
July brought the "big reveal" of the project I had spent weeks and weeks developing--a website dedicated to improving gifted education in Mesa Public Schools. Education that brings out the best in all kids is my biggest dream. Here I am, five months later, and I'm still working with the school district, still presenting ideas, and still hoping that change is just around the corner.

Brad and I took a cruise to celebrate our 25th anniversary, and I took very, very few pictures. But we did go. And I got to do yoga on the deck in the middle of the Caribbean. I'll never forget that.


After a week in California with the entire Denton clan, we were shocked back into school earlier than ever before--August 6. Something seems just wrong about that.

I continued my love myself project--I've always loved great shoes.
I continued the back-to-school shopping tradition with each of my kids. Micah, Hyrum, Lily, Evie.

I mourned with the world over the sudden loss of a dear friend. And ground was broken on our cabin up north.
Remember the trip I took with my mom? Dad's turn was in August, and we spent a memorable five days in DC, visiting museums, almost missing planes, eating yummy food, and riding horses through battlefields. Seeing the world through my dad's eyes was an experience I will never forget and one of my favorite memories ever.

We drove to Utah for Annie's baby blessing. What a beautiful day it was. This may be one of my favorite photos from the year.
Ben and I took a short vacay in Utah, and we completed his missionary shopping.

Norbert flooded central AZ--biggest storm in over 100 years. My wet basement attested to it.

Hyrum's visit to the dentist touched my mother heart.

And Heidi and I almost blew up the house canning chicken.

Lily started to cheer and sing at her high school.
And building progressed up north.
I concluded the month with another post on my yearly focus on refining myself--I didn't feel like I'd gotten anywhere in nine months.

Why does it seem like summer was so long ago? 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wrapping It All Up

On top of all the Mom Christmas preparations, this time of year has big kid projects as well.

Lily is in her first year of high school, and I don't think she realized what a big difference that would be when it came to finals and workload. She performed in a concert, a voice recital, and three fundraising holiday dinners in less than 10 days.
 Oh, did I mention that she's having her first taste of finals week? And stressing that just one test can alter an entire semester's worth of work? She's handling it all well, and I know she will be the happiest of the kids when the semester is over.

Micah seems busier this year than he's ever been before. He had his holiday orchestra concert.
 Here's a short video clip Brad took. I love Hyrum's and Eve's responses. It's hard to be the younger sibling at times like this.
He had his first taste of Battle of the Books. He thought he was prepared--one of the books was Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief, which he's read a dozen times at least. I think he was surprised how hard/random some of the questions were. His team was a little disappointed, but fifth grade is a learning year for the tough sixth grade cutthroat competition.

Fifth grade is also the year of the first big project--an in-depth state report. I posted a little about this project here.
Micah sometimes struggles with organization, procrastination, and completion. Not this time. He was on top of each deadline. He typed his paper without nagging. He talked with Grandpa Tucker about Chief Joseph and researched Philo T. Farnsworth online (know what Farnsworth's important place in history is?).
He completed the entire poster himself. Completing all of that work with no arguing and begging was a first, and I was really proud of him. Much of the credit goes to his amazing teacher, Mrs. H. She is a teacher who dedicates her time to instilling in her kids the fire of learning new things--just because there are so many amazing things to learn. I hope these changes in his work habits are permanent.

And last night was the final holiday concert--Micah's and Hyrum's piano recital.

Micah is old hat at this piano stuff, but it was Hyrum's first. Hyrum was so nervous beforehand. He practiced and practiced his songs, telling me it's bad to make a mistake on familiar songs because people know when you mess up. He even asked me if he should practice his bow. He messed up a little, but it's his first time, and he didn't get too flustered when he mad mistakes. That's an invaluable skill for a pianist. Micah learned a lot these last few months--most significantly, he is learning how important dynamics and tempo are to set the mood for a piece. Here's the video.

 Now just three more days of school, the state fair, Lily's first finals, a few class Christmas parties . . . there's still so much left to do!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sometimes They Really Surprise Me

This is the view out my bathroom window--one tree almost completely bare, another in all of its fall glory. I love this time of year in Arizona.

Not that this post has anything to do with the weather or this picture . . .

My kids have a rotating schedule for Christmas gift giving. It makes things a little more manageable each year, and then each child can really think about the gift they're giving to their sibling.

Saturday afternoon I had a few free minutes, so I snagged Hyrum from his regularly scheduled Saturday activities--rabble rousing, playing, getting dirty--and we headed to the mall to find Lily a present.

Hyrum's only seven, and I prepared myself for his disgust at shopping in "girl stores" and not looking at "cool stuff."

It didn't happen.

We walked into the "girl store," and he immediately began looking for something he thought Lily would like. He carefully considered many different options, first selecting one thing before finding something he thought she would like even better. He weighed color options and even said things like, "Not this one. She already has one that looks kind of like it." I was surprised he paid any attention to what Lily wears or looks like.

Some of the finer aspects of shopping in "girl stores" were lost on him, however. He did run around displays more like he was tackling an obstacle course than a present selection. I laughed to myself as he would corner and dodge other customers, completely oblivious that he really was a young bull in a china shop. He also couldn't be enticed by the possibility of buying something for himself like I always seem to be. (duh. It was a girl store. No Nerf. No Pokemon. Not even candy bars!)

I loved watching him make his choice (he put thought and care into it) and then walk to the register to buy it. He was very proud of himself.

"Can I use your card and push the buttons, too?" Of course, my love.

Within 15 minutes of arrival at the mall, we were driving back home. That is definitely not shopping like a girl.

"I'm not telling ANYBODY what I got Lily. Not even Micah. I can keep a secret so she'll be so surprised."

So far, so good. And his secret is safe with me.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Saturday #49--Attention Grabber

Or alternately titled, "When your legwear blends perfectly with your furniture."
I fell in love with these stockings the moment I saw them. I wore them while shopping the next day. Two strangers commented on how happy they looked. One stranger was a 70+ man who stopped me to say, "I LOVE your stockings. They make me smile."

That's what I was going for, because they make me smile as well.

And no, they are not tights. They are over-the-knee long stockings, like Pippi, I suppose. They stayed put all day long, and I'm hoping we actually get some cold weather this week so I can wear jackets and boots and stockings because I'm cold, not only because they make me smile. Here's hoping.

Christmas is coming!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

2014 Review Extravaganza Part 2, April-June

I can't believe that this is the FIFTH time I've participated in Emmy Mom's Year in Review Extravaganza ! (I even checked back in my archives and counted on my fingers twice to make sure this really is the fifth time.) The primary reason I love to participate in this review is that it gives me the chance to reread my blog and remember all that happened this year.

Here we go with Part 2--April-June


This is a little late, since he was born March 30th, but Evie and I went to Idaho to help Heidi with the arrival of her new little boy, Jonah Cardon Brubaker.
I wrote a letter to Evie, Ellie, Nathan, and Jonah about what I will remember from my trip.
I even snapped a few family pictures--just because.
I remembered my grandma Tucker for one of my love myself projects--bushy Tucker family eyebrows, and woke my fourth grader up in the middle of the night to see the blood moon eclipse. This moment was probably my favorite mothering memory of the year. I need to remember it more often.

On April 25, 2014, I defected to the dark side--the Apple side of computing--and although the learning curve was steep, I've learned an important truth. Once you go Apple, you never go back.

Ben celebrated his 18th birthday with his high school's cast of "Phantom of the Opera." Not everyone gets serenaded like that. Here's video proof:

And the entire family got a chance to cut down some trees . . . so they could start building our cabin. Dreams come true.


May was Ben month.

Ben and his friends reunited as One Direction for a farewell performance.
He went to his Senior Prom--a masquerade ball.
I hosted the prom dinner--one of the most magical nights ever which even had its own rather large miracle--while Brad and Hyrum went to Rexburg for baby Jonah's blessing.
Evie and I spent our next-to-last Tuesday together, and she graduated from preschool. My last baby, ready for kindergarten. I still get sad when I think about it. School ended for everyone else, but it was different this year, since it was Ben's senior year. Lots of lasts. Last ballroom performance. Last voice recital. Graduation. But the biggest news of all--
--Ben received his mission call to the Peru Lima South mission, leaving October 8th. What a great day.

I threw my usually not spontaneous self out the window, and we headed to CA for a few quick days at the beach. And I loved every second of it.

Have you ever seen straight into your child's soul? I did just that one day in June.

One of the two hardest days of the year--Ben said goodbye to his best friend, McKay, as McKay left to serve a mission in Korea.
Even rereading that post rolls tears down my face. Six months down, 22 to go.
I wrote a week's worth of tribute posts to my love--celebrating 25 years of marriage.
Part 1 introduction
Part 2 by the numbers
Part 3 the good stuff
Part 4 love without limit

Diana Joyce Denton was born on June 29, 2014. Two new grandbabies in one year. I'm a lucky gran.

And the biggest blogging honor of my life--I was a guest blogger about mothering on Clover Lane. This post may be the best writing I've ever produced. The post has since been made private on her blog, but you can read it here. 

See why the second quarter of 2014 was our most exciting? Graduation, mission call, two new babies . . . Summer was calm in comparison.

Stay tuned for the next installment.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Through Her Eyes

Over and over and over again the ornaments on the bottom half of our tree find new homes.
Each child has an ornament to commemorate the year they were born, and the hanging of these ornaments is met with no small ceremony. "I remember this ornament. This one is MINE." Then a sacred branch is found for it to hang for the season.

Eve kept asking me where her ornament was, and with each succeeding layer of ornaments disappearing from the boxes and finding spots on the tree, hers could not be found. She couldn't even remember what hers looked like--a green present with a big red bow--and she would carefully pick up an ornament, look hopefully at my face, then be disappointed again and again. We hung every ornament, and still no green present with a big red bow. Her hopes crushed, she grabbed her silky and cried quietly on the couch as the rest of the family enjoyed the glow from the tree's lights.

A few days later, as I was emptying the last of the green-lidded Christmas boxes, I found it. I placed it carefully on the kitchen counter where I hoped she would see it when she came home from school. She did. "Momma, is this it? Is this MY ornament?" Yes, darling. This is YOUR special ornament. With great care, she carried it to the tree and found a perfect spot for her green present with the big red bow. About once a day she turns it over to read the words written on the bottom. "I know what this says. It says Eve Diana 2009."

Christmas through the eyes of a five year old is sparkly and electric and noisy . . .  and knowing that somewhere on that great big tree is one small place that belongs just to you.