Monday, September 11, 2017

Wisdom from a Sickbed

Mom, after a dash to the toilet with his hands over his mouth: "Sorry you don't feel well, buddy."

Hyrum, from the cozy layers of his bed: "It's okay, Mom. Sooner or later it happens to everybody."

I had to laugh at his wisdom.

Hope he makes it to the bathroom next time, too.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Here We Have Idaho

Something about Idaho recharges my spirit, especially the smells--the smell of rain on freshly cut alfalfa (and even the smell of dairies and horse pastures).

After spending the last week back home (I still call Idaho that, even though I've lived in AZ much longer now), I figured out what some of that something is. It's the people.

Farm people

Rural people

Salt-of-the-earth people

Sensible people

God-fearing people

Patriotic people

Hardworking people

Humble people

Kind people

Good people

Idaho folks as a general rule (like most of the country between the coasts) don't have time to worry about rainbows and statues and what their underlying meanings may be. They're too busy working to pay the bills. They're busy taking care of livestock or their neighbor's sick wife. They're busy picking fresh tomatoes and green beans from their gardens and canning them quick before the first heavy frost comes. They're busy checking maps and forecasts and camp equipment for the big hunts in October.

They're busy living.

They are also sick of city people telling them how to spend their money or their time or how to best utilize their wilderness or how many guns they can own. They are tired of city people legislating change to their lives. City people rarely share rural values like these: Hard work outside or inside is what brings satisfaction, and that hard work often doesn't punch a clock. Family (whether blood or not) is what brings joy. Love of God and country is what brings meaning.

They still salute the flag and tear up when they hear "The Star Spangled Banner." They fly flags from their trucks and from their gutters--and not just on national holidays. They carry guns in the backs of their trucks and on their hips--and not to make a political statement, but because they may need it sometime. They still pray in public--and no one rebukes them.

Ironically, because of how hard life in rural communities can be, these hardworking people have more reasons than most to be bitter. Yet they retain their optimism and conviction that America is the greatest place on earth.

These are the people who voted for Trump in large percentages--for someone who espouses American values and doesn't play by the Washington rules they hate.

And while I may have drifted over a thousand miles from them geographically (and hundreds of miles politically, in some cases), a small portion of my heart always opens again in Idaho, whispering, "Welcome home."

50 Golden Years

My parents celebrated their 50th anniversary July 7th.

Aren't they awesome?
Fifty years together--fifty years on the roller coaster of life. I'm so blessed to have been raised by these incredible people who love their family and God and taught their four children to be pretty decent people.

All of their direct descendants minus two missionaries and one grandson-in-law.

My favorites are the three on the left--look at Ellie, Eve, and Nathan. I don't think they realized this was the serious one!

Here we are in our real state.

Congratulations, Mom and Dad. All these crazy people love you!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Back to School 2017

This post is two weeks late, but better late than never.

School started August 9th, and it is the last time I will have five kids home on the first day of school. Ben is headed back to Provo this week--on to bigger and better adventures, but we snagged him for pictures anyway.
Twelfth Grade
Favorite Food: Bacon
Favorite Song: Forever Young by Lil Yachty
Favorite Activity: Snapchat
Favorite Show: House, MD
Favorite Movie: Safe Haven
Favorite Sport: Chasing Boys

Lily is trying hard not to wish away her senior year. She wants to be on her own and done with high school more than anything, but she's decided she's going to make good memories this year and do the best she can about all of it.

She just started a new job working at the mall, and she's getting tons of hours. All that cash will go a long way towards replacing her phone, which was stolen a few weeks ago.

Eighth Grade
101.5 lbs
Favorite Food: Corn Dogs
Favorite Song: No favorite
Favorite Activity: Sports
Favorite Show: I don't know
Favorite Movie: "Civil War"
Favorite Sport: Football

My little boy is growing up fast. His voice is cracking almost as often as he teases his little brother. Micah is excited to play football this year (had their first W on Friday), and he's still practicing the piano, even though he does complain about how much time it takes.

He still doesn't have a phone (and may be one of only a handful in eighth grade), but as soon as he earns his Eagle, the phone is his. He's close--just a few merit badges and his Eagle project, so hopefully within the next few months he will stop checking his Instagram on my phone.

Fifth Grade
66.5 lbs
Favorite Food: Mashed Potatoes
Favorite Song: Bagpipes (on the piano)
Favorite Activity: Reading
Favorite Show: Clone Wars
Favorite Movie: None
Favorite Sport: Soccer
I've always loved his chocolate eyes. This kid--he's a mixture of hard and soft. He loves weapons and sneaking up on a brother with a sword or nerf gun for a noisy ambush. He also loves babies and little kids, taking time to play with Annie and Eli or any other little one who's around.

Hyrum decided to try football again this year, and he quit piano but started the cello in orchestra. He loves to take things apart, and he's my only boy who hasn't needed me to nag him to death to get his homework done.

Third Grade
51.5 lb
Favorite Food: Grapes
Favorite Song: Shut Up and Dance with Me
Favorite Activity: Coloring/Playing School
Favorite Show: SpongeBob
Favorite Movie: Princess Diaries
Favorite Sport: Swimming
My baby is in third grade. When did she grow up? Eve loves to play school, using books and papers and sticky notes to convert our homework area to her classroom. She's convinced she's going to grow up to be a teacher, and I hope she's right.

Eve loves Annie, and after Tucker and Karli bought a new house this past month, the girls got a little lonely for each other. She loves to mother anyone younger (or the same age, to be honest), and even though she's the baby of our group, she has plenty of littles around her most of the time.

Don't let this picture fool you. Micah's on his tiptoes. But it won't be long until he really is that tall. It seems like he grows every week.

Of course we had to take a silly one as well.
Brad came out just as we were finishing the photos, and he added me to the mix--first day of my second year teaching.
Then he asked for a silly one, and my patience disappeared--I'm always on a time crunch on school mornings. Look at the kids in the background. They thought it was pretty funny.
Two weeks down, and it looks to be another fantastic school year.

Bring on 2017-18!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


I rarely blog any more.

I miss it.

I miss the catharsis. I miss the creativity and the photography and the assembly and the fulfillment.

Mostly, I miss the memories I recorded.

Now the missed memories will be forgotten.

I'm hoping to blog once a week this school year. That's my goal.

I've already fallen short, but I'm not going to give up on it.

I turned 48 yesterday--and the planets aligned just for me in a spectacular eclipse.

I hardly saw it, because I was teaching. And that's ok.


My back gives me fits all the time.

I feel pretty good most of the time.

I want to be active and healthy like this the rest of my life, and I'm making some goals to do that.


I'm learning I can't fix everything.

I'm also learning I don't want to.

I'm learning to let go and let it be.


I'm weaker.

I'm stronger.

I'm set in my ways.

I'm changing.


Life feels a bit unsettled at the moment, but that's because there's a lot going on--Heidi's baby is due in a few days. Ben is leaving for Provo next week. Lily's a senior and my littles aren't that little any more. School is overwhelming but satisfying.


It feels . . .

 . . . just right.

Thank you, Goldilocks.

Sunday, July 2, 2017


How to sum up our days in Copenhagen.


Brad has been keeping up on all the small details of our trip on Facebook, posting pictures and funny comments every day, but there's been more to our trip than seeing the beauty of Denmark--learning her history and experiencing her quiet dignity and loving her light late nights.

I studied so much medieval European history in college that I'm embarrassed to admit how little I knew (or remembered) about Denmark. It was a fun journey, acquainting myself with all the King Fredericks and Christians, walking the halls of their palaces and churches. We experienced "Hamlet" in the courtyard of Elsinore castle. We strolled the green paths of Roskilde where Vikings left to discover remote areas of the world.

We stood where kings and queens were married and crowned and buried--and where ruthless modern dictators stormed through the streets. The windows of history opened, and eras of styles overlapped and collided in cathedrals holding the remains of saints and monarchs. I remembered my medieval architecture lessons and taught Brad how to tell the difference between Romanesque and Gothic arches. I connected to the symmetry of the architecture and whitewashed stone interiors unlike those I'd seen in other buildings in Europe, and it all felt somehow . . . familiar.

As I sat in the chancel of the cathedral in Elsinore, I wondered if any of my ancestors (who lived in this community) had been baptized or married inside its walls before immigrating to Utah in the nineteenth century. And on our final afternoon in Copenhagen, we walked through a small flea market in the square across the street from our apartment. In one stall, I saw a bag like one I bought in Tangier, Morocco--one size larger. Nine years ago, when we were sailing back to Gibraltar on a ferry,  I was wishing I had bought the set of bags but Brad hadn't had enough dirham and the boat was leaving so I left the bigger one behind. I can't believe we found the same design (straight from Fez, I was told) almost a decade later on the streets of Copenhagen. This time, Brad negotiated a price using both Danish kroner and $20 bills from the U.S. and I carried it home slung over my arm.

Danes are kind, unassuming people. Their language is unfamiliar and undecipherable, but they are also fluent in English--strangers came to our aid in train stations, at restaurants, and at the checkout for groceries. Danish women have a casual beauty that is hard to explain. There is none of the Kardashian-influenced makeup and style as you walk among them, but they carry themselves with confidence and a subtle style and grace. Unlike the millennial generation in America, few sport tattoos or extreme styles, but surprisingly, many are smoking as they wait outside shop doors.

For four days, we lived on the fourth floor looking at this view each evening, rehashing our adventures of the day. For four days, we experienced summer life like the Danes, wearing jackets and carrying umbrellas as we took the Metro, eating laks and ebelskiver at cafes as the rain turned on and off and on again.

Pieces of American history I taught this last school year interrupted random moments, like this biography I dug out of a stack of Danish history books at a church rummage sale.

Or this bust of Edmund Burke, carved by Berthel Thorvaldson

The steeple visible from our apartment window always kept me oriented in the unfamiliar city, and with our itinerary for the day complete, we wandered the streets until we found the church below the copper spire. Written on the entry wall were the words, "This is not a church." 

Nothing was inside the sanctuary--nothing but a modern art installation of sound waves that bounced around the enormous, white, empty space. It made me think of another building that "is not a church" any more back in Mesa, Arizona, where my desk and lesson plans wait for August and my return.

Spending four days in Denmark taught me about America. Somehow, Americans get bogged down in the immediate--stupid tweets from the President. Shootings at congressional softball practices. Party disagreements and disillusions. We forget a few small details about humanity and history. 

America is so young. We have weathered so few crises in our 200+ years compared to the rest of the world's wars and catastrophes. Humanity is resilient and can't be permanently beaten down by a few individuals or one president or a few bad economic years. Humanity has survived mysterious plagues, mass genocides, and natural disasters of epic proportion. History forgives and forgets the small things and remembers and records the big things. And often, those living each day can't distance themselves enough to tell the difference between the two.

The world is so big--so many different languages and people and perspectives and cultures and problems. Big problems like refugees from civil war and small problems like interrupted commutes from railroad track maintenance. But the more I travel in the world, the more I see the goodness outside my small little world in the middle of the Southwestern desert of the United States.

Today, we are speeding across Sweden in train for Stockholm and the next leg of our Scandinavian adventure--and what the world has to show me.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

And So It Begins, When We Wondered If It Really Would At All

Scandinavia here we come!
Boots in June. It's got to be a good day, right?

This day almost didn't happen.

Brad is the trip planner in our family. He researches destinations and plans activities and books flights and airbnb homes with gorgeous views. He does it all.

Sunday night, just as we were winding down for the night, kissing kids and reading stories, Brad came to the top of the stairs and said, "My passport is expired."

Yeah, right. For those of you who know Brad, this is a common way for him to tease. I didn't believe him, but I should have. His passport was fourteen days expired.

After a few hours research online and three phone calls with the nicest lady in government service on the East Coast at 1 am her time, Brad planned to spend Monday driving to Tucson for an emergency passport.


One government program that works better than expected.

Today's the big day. Seattle then flying to Iceland by morning tomorrow.

I've been so excited. But a few wrinkles in my kids' lives have made this departure difficult.

Heidi broke her arm a week ago, and her consultation for surgery is this morning. She needs the ulna repaired, and the doctor thinks he may need to replace the head of her radius. Four small kids at home (Ellie is only 6), and she can't even open a sippy cup. And did I mention she's seven months pregnant? That's hard for a mama to leave behind. Lily is flying up on Thursday to help with the kids for a week, and when I get home, I'll see if they need me then. Lily is almost as much help as me--she loves Heidi's kids and can drive. Plus, they have all the seasons of Gilmore Girls to keep them busy.

Tucker and Karli are in the process of getting their first house. Looks like that might go down while we're gone as well (but you never know with these things).

And then there was Eve this morning. When I woke her for scriptures and prayer, her blond bedhead couldn't hide her tears. I know she will be fine while I'm gone--Ben has lots of fun things planned--but leaving her crying in the garage broke me and almost convinced me to stay home.  And two phone calls from home since sitting in the airport and a promise from me that I'll call one more time before our flight leaves.


I love mothering my kids. But it's good for parents to get away and enjoy being together sometimes.

And plus--Scandinavia!