Sunday, December 29, 2013

Enjoying the Innocence

Jason:  What did you put on facebook?

Me:  I wasn’t really listening while dad was watching the football game earlier.  I posted on facebook that I was surprised to hear a commercial about “reptile dysfunction.”

Jenna:  What’s “reptile dysfunction?”

Me:  That’s when your lizard isn’t working the way it should…

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The price we pay for blue

So it turns out that sometimes the sky is blue in the pacific northwest in the winter.


And that there is a COST associated with these clear skies.


We’ve realized that when the skies are gray and thick with clouds, they serve as insulation.  It was so interesting to notice last winter that often the low temperature during the night and the high temperature during the day were only 10 degrees apart.  Every now and then there was only a 5 degree difference. 

But if it’s clear at night, or sunny during the day? 

Well then, all temperature bets are off.


Friday, December 6, 2013


Over the last few months I read an interesting book called Positivity written by a professor at UNC.  In her research she discovered that “experiencing positive emotions broadens people's minds and builds their resourcefulness in ways that help them become more resilient to adversity and effortlessly achieve what they once could only imagine.”

I love the idea of positivity, and I love the thought of increasing positivity in my life trying to achieve the 3 to 1 ratio of positive moments that she says enables people to flourish in their lives.  I’m surprised, though, at the difficulty I’m having making any changes towards that goal. 

At first I thought that I would try to do some meditation (loving-kindness meditation, to be exact) every morning since this was something that her research found was tremendously powerful in adding positivity to people’s lives.  But since we started getting up early to read the scriptures as a family a month ago, I haven’t been able to make a minute for myself in the morning, much less 10 minutes for meditation and time for personal scripture study too. 

It has also been interesting to see how much of my life is lived in the emotional gear of neutral.  Do what needs to be done.  Go where I need to go.  Clean and cook and shop and wash and do it all again.  I suspect that at least some of this feeling of emotional flatness has to do with the ongoing low level of depression I am still experiencing, so hopefully that isn’t permanent.  But still I have wanted to figure out how to increase the positivity in my life.

Then recently I noticed something.  I noticed how really and truly happy I was when, as I was driving around town during the fall, I saw a beautiful tree. 


I decided that while I might not be succeeding at increasing positivity in my life any other way, I could at least work on this.  Instead of noticing the trees and then letting those thoughts slide on out of my mind and returning to my normal thoughts, I made a conscious decision to savor what was so delightful to me.  I noticed the beautiful trees that I passed repeatedly, looking forward to their brilliance.  I took pictures when I could, trying to capture the beautiful colors as well as the happiness they brought me.  IMG_7723IMG_7778

Fall here is long and beautiful and it gave me a lot of positivity mileage before it froze last week and the last leaves turned dark and started dropping off the trees.  But I have been on the lookout for other things that are delightful to me, including odd street names, strange cars, and funny signs.  


Another thing that I love seeing around town are the cranes at Intel.  They are by far the tallest things in our part of town and I can see them from almost anywhere I go.  I’m not sure why I’m fascinated by them—it could be left over from pointing out all mechanical things to my baby boys, I guess, but I am.  Over the last year I have watched as they have increased the number of cranes, including adding one of the biggest cranes in the world over the summer.  That crane is gone now, but I still love to see them when I drive near there. 


The other night on my way home I happened to drive by the cranes and noticed that one of them was dressed up for Christmas.  For some reason in the freezing cold night that just brought the biggest grin to my face, and I decided that I had to try to get a picture.  I had my good camera with the long lens on it, and I stabilized it on the back of a nearby truck. 


So that’s my positivity strategy for now.  Sure, I’m going to keep trying to arrange my day so I can manage some meditation because I think that’s a good idea in general.  I need to review the list of ideas from the book on increasing positivity too.  And for now, I’m going to really really savor the things I see around town that make me happy. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013


In October I looked at the calender to try to make an evening appointment.   What I saw scared me.  We had our marriage class every Tuesday night November.   There was something every Thursday night that month.  And I was supposed to be at church two Wednesday nights.  I knew that as the month progressed the calender would full up even more. And it did. 

November just about killed me, and that is no exaggeration. 

These two pictures show how I measure the difference between "too busy" and "under control. "  Far too much of November looked like these pictures.

I've been thinking a lot about November, and the ripple effects of living life at that level of busyness.   I know there are people that are energized by a full calendar, but I am not one of them.  When the calendar gets this busy I feel like I am just racing from one obligation to the next without any time in between to be deliberate about my life and our home, and things suffer because of it. We spend very little quality time together, things pile up everywhere, and we eat way too much pizza. 

Going forward I'm trying to be more careful about our schedule, trying to protect our precious family time better than I have done this fall.  Much of the busyness has had to do with my medical issues from this summer, but I think that November has shown me that if I don't actively safeguard our time together the are many things that will appear to overwhelm me. 

This week starts something new for us--an experiment for our family.   In addition to the regular school stuff,  everyone has a major after-school activity. We have swimming every evening, color guard 2 evenings a week, and wrestling 3 afternoons a week.  Add in the wrestling meets, swim meets, and eventually color guard shows and I start to worry.  My goal is to keep the rest of life balanced enough that things don't feel as out of control as they have for the last 5 weeks.  To pace things well enough that I get my bed made, and even more importantly my scriptures read.

I'll let you know how it goes...

Saturday, November 30, 2013

My kind of books

Through the years I have often jotted down a quote or two from books I have read, but a while ago I decided that I wanted to work harder at doing this.  I started putting little slips of paper in books as I read them to mark things I really liked, then going back afterwards and typing up these bits and keeping them in one place.  Recently though I read two books that have challenged my system.


When Cindy Lynn told me to read the first one, saying that she thought I would like it, I didn’t realize that it would be a book that would feel like it was pretty much written about my own life.  I just finished reading the author’s second book and it seems like a forecast of my next decade, again filled with beautiful thoughts and ideas. 

Here’s the problem, though.


I mean really—that’s just way too much to type out!  Maybe there really are some books that are meant to be owned…

And while I’m talking about books that are really meant for me, I picked this up for the library on a whim the other day. 


Within just a few pages I had an epiphany—“I AM a minimalist parent!”  I’m not weird!  (Well I am, but for other reasons.)  I’m not just a spoilsport.  I’m not unconcerned about my kids’ lives.  I’m just a minimalist.  And there are other people out there like me.  What a relief…

Friday, November 29, 2013


One of the things we were so excited for the kids to be able to do at school here in Oregon last year was band.  The band practiced for an hour 3 mornings a week starting at 7AM.  Thank goodness Russ was willing to take them and drop them off at school on his way home from work!

The elementary school band teacher, Mr. Allen, was terrific.  He did such a good job of teaching all of the kids how to play their instruments and how to read notes and count music.  DSC_4844

At their first concert the songs they played were all very simple, with every student playing the same note as every other student.  (File MVI_4643 Christmas) By the end of the year they could play so much more complex music.  (File DSC_4831)


The middle school has two bands, an intermediate band and an advanced band.  Typically the students coming in from the elementary school are put in the intermediate band, especially if they have only played one year at the elementary school.  When I was talking to the counselor, though, we realized that if the kids were put in the intermediate band the girls wouldn’t be able to sing in the choir the second semester, so she decided to put them in the advanced band. 

[One nice thing for our kids as homeschoolers is that the 7th grader counselor decided they could take 2 credits of electives instead of the 1 elective credit that full time students get to take.  Band is one credit, and the girls will are taking art the first semester and chorus the 2nd, while Jared is taking computers the first semester and shop the second.]

I wondered how they would do in the advanced band, but figured that one way or the other they would survive.  Well, they have done more than survive. 

IMG_7805Jenna is the first chair flute, Rachel is 5th (out of 9), and Jared is the first of the two alto saxes.  And I could not believe their sound at their recent concert—they’ve come a long way in a year.

For some reason I can’t get blogger to upload the video link…  but if you want to hear them in their recent concert here they are. . (And hopefully we will never see Jenna take her flute apart during a song again!)

Monday, November 25, 2013

The very worst parts of me

The other night I had a phone call from a worried little babysitter.  Like any good mom would, I hopped in the car and drove across the neighborhood to help her with the fussy baby.  As I pulled into the driveway and ran up to the front door I couldn’t help but notice a few things.  That this young family has a 3 car garage.  That their house is quite a bit bigger than ours.  My brain had done all the math before I even realized it. 

This is not the first time I’ve made this observation.  Not by a long shot.  In fact in the last 18 months I’ve probably categorized every house I’ve seen in relation to the size of my house.  And not in a pretty way, either.

I’ve realized that I had unconsciously made some assumptions during the last two decades that haven’t proven to be true for us.   I had never expected to live in homes as nice as those we owned in North Carolina, but having once lived in them I expected that our house owning trajectory would continue, if not upwards, then at least even.  Moving here was not a part of that plan.  Moving to a place where we would pay almost $100,000 more for a house almost 50% smaller was nothing I ever expected to experience.  After living in a nice roomy house for the last decade having to cram ourselves in here has been hard.  And so I compare, and begrudge, and feel guilty.  Over and over again.

I wish I could say that this is the only less than admirable quality that has shown up in the last two years, but that wouldn’t be true.  The last two years have been like a panorama of all of the mean and spiteful thoughts and feelings inside of me.  Feelings that I hadn’t experienced before—not because I was living more righteously, but because the circumstances of my life weren’t provoking them.  I have felt more envy in the last two years than in the previous 10—I’ve been jealous of bigger houses, better jobs, available choices, more established social lives, the works.  In the last two years I think I’ve felt more anger, resentment, frustration, neediness, and self-pity, than in the last decade.  It’s been a lesson to me on how evolved I’m not, and provided continual need for repentance.


But you know, here’s the interesting thing.  I started writing this the other night as soon as I got back from the babysitting house, all of the feelings fresh in my mind.  I wrote a couple of paragraphs and then stopped because I was tired and ran out of mental energy.  Today I was driving down a road near our neighborhood and passed a street filled with really large houses.  And for the first time in a year and a half, I noticed them without any emotion and drove on by. 

I’m test-driving a new hypothesis today.  Could it be that all of these negative emotions that lurked beneath the surface of my satisfying and happy life needed to be exposed, brought into the light so that I could see them and repent (over & over again) of them and maybe even put them to rest for a while?  It’s heartening to think tonight that perhaps there is method in this beyond exposing me to all of the darkness that exists inside of me.  And to hope that maybe through this pain and discomfort, healing is happening.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Proud Mama Moment

Jared wanted to play football this fall.  Given the recent research on football and traumatic brain injury we nixed that idea.  (Although it was just pointed out to me that with our family history his brain would probably be fine at football…if he was going to get a concussion it would be while he was alone in the wilderness, dependent on the kindness of passing strangers!)  He decided instead that he wanted to try wrestling.

On the first day of practice this week they announced that in addition to the $100 fee the boys would need to sell at least $100 worth of raffle tickets each.  There was an option to pay another $75 instead of selling the tickets, but since he also needs shoes, a mouth guard, and something to protect him from the dreaded cauliflower ear (???) I told him he’d need to sell the 10 tickets.  I even bought the first one.

Yesterday he came home from practice with the tickets and paperwork.  He told us that he was going to go out and sell at 10AM this morning, before anyone else had hit our neighborhood.  This morning he walked around practicing his door approach, nervous but determined.  We talked about where he would go, and I suggested that after he had done one end of our street he should come back and tell us how it had gone.  Much to my surprise he was back within 10 minutes, telling us that he had found 4 families not at home, two had said no, and two had bought tickets.  He was so excited, and so was I.

After a snack he went back out.  An hour later he burst back into the house, announcing to everyone who would listen, “I sold them all!” 

I was sure I hadn’t heard him right.  (Or that he was pulling my leg—a frequent occurrence with Jared.)  But no—that is what he had said.  He showed me on google maps how far he’d gone (not very) to sell the last 7 tickets.  He was stoked.IMG_7872

And do you know what?  I am too.  I know what a big deal it is to go door to door and do something like this.   Way to go Jared!!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Oregon after 18 months

This morning was a new “life in Oregon” milestone. 

I went for a walk in the rain.

(I’ve noticed that most experiences that are distinctly ‘Oregon’ include some form of rain.  Walking in the rain, camping in the rain, campfire in the rain, seasons of rain, etc.  Poor Jared had a scout campout Friday night and pouring rain and cold as well.  He was miserable.)

Last spring I noticed something odd.  I’d be driving around, doing something normal and routine, and then all of a sudden I’d have a moment that I can only describe as “anti-deja-vu.”  A moment where my brain would suddenly shift, and I would look around me and wonder what on earth I as doing living in someone else’s life.

That hasn’t happened in a while, and I think it’s a good thing.  As hard as it’s been, as much as I miss my old (warm) life and my old (big) home and my old (awesome) friends, this is our new life.  And I need to be fully in it.

I think going for a walk in the rain is a great milestone.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dermatology, I am loving it!

You know how our deductible has been, shall we say, MET?!?  Well we are trying to take care of any other medical stuff that we need to before the year is up.  Last week Russ went to get all of his moles checked, and this week was my turn.

I sat on the table in my hospital gown and the physicians assistant asked me if I had any moles that were bothering me.  I mentioned that there was something at the nape of my neck (what there was I could not say as I have never seen the thing) that from time to time gets irritated.  She looked at it and said, “Oh, we can slice that right off; make it flat.”

I showed her the odd spots that had appeared on one of my hands and she grabbed the can of liquid nitrogen.  Bzzzz, bzzzz, bzzzz.  “We’ll just freeze those right off.”

Then she came around to the front of me and started looking at my face.  She looked closely at this red bump I’ve had under my right eye for about 20 years and said “we can zap that with the laser.” 

It was only then that the light bulb turned fully on.  She was good for more than analyzing all of the little freckles and moles on my skin.  She could FIX things!!  As she was looking at the bump under my eye I asked, “Can you do anything about this bump on my nose?”  “Sure,” she said, “We can slice that one off too.”

A few shots of lidocaine later and I had been frozen, sliced, lasered, and sliced again.  Now I’ll be wearing a bandaid on my nose for the next few days, and the kids have already told me that it looks strange.  But hey—after that, all my annoying skin things will be gone!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mum’s (not) the word.

I will admit to being a sucker for a lovely flower.  And when I saw this one at Walmart at the beginning of October I just grabbed it and put it in my cart.


Even though I don’t really have a good history with mums.  In fact I believe that while in NC I tried mums once and swore off them forever.  But how could I resist those bi-color petals?  So I didn’t even try.  And I told myself that this time around, my experience with mums would be different.  They would thrive and be beautiful in a place of honor on my bridge and I would enjoy looking at them every day.


I forgot to ask around.  To get the native opinion on how mums thrive in what they euphemistically call “liquid sunshine.” 

And after two nights of heavy “liquid sunshine” (is it “liquid moonshine” at night?) this is what my beautiful mum looked like.


Let’s look at that from another angle, shall we?



Thrashed.  Completely.

And that’s why I’d ask, should you see me sidling up to a brightly colored mum, that you remind me gently (and not so gently) of my previous experience with mums.  Tell me to save my money.  Or to use my money to buy some chocolate.  Because I’ll get to enjoy it for about the same amount of time, and with chocolate there wouldn’t be a bad taste left in my mouth…

Monday, November 11, 2013

Scones & Soup

I’ve been reading the most fantastic book—“Friendships Don’t Just Happen.”  I’m at the part right now that emphasizes that friendships are a process of time.  And that the more frequently you meet together with your friends, the faster those friendships will progress and deepen.

Right up till that point I was energized and jazzed by the book.  But that part made me feel tired.

You see, I feel exhausted and overwhelmed by my life as it is on a regular basis.  The thought of needing to add anything else into my life regularly makes me need a nap.  Right now.

And so I did the only thing I could think of.  I said a prayer, asking Heavenly Father to guide me to the interactions that would most benefit both me & others.  He knows what I need.  He knows that I need to have friends—good friends, real friends, in order to be happy in my life.  I don’t know yet who those meaningful friends will be, but He does.  And hopefully I will have enough energy for His plan.


This morning as I started making a batch of bread I told the kids that I would make scones for lunch.  It occurred to me that since it was Veteran's Day, one of the women I visiting teach (someone that I hope will become a good friend) probably had the day off.  I called and left a message inviting her to come over for a lunch of scones, and she quickly returned my call offering to bring homemade tomato soup as well. 

Our meal was lovely, with lots of laughter over stories of most embarrassing moments, (we both have some great ones!) and assurances to our daughters that one day they, too, will have similarly embarrassing moments in their lives.  The scones were good, the honey butter was divine, and the homemade tomato soup was amazing. 

And when they left and I cleaned off the table the thought came to me that I had asked, and Heavenly Father had arranged.  What I had thought was my own clever idea was surely the spirit’s prompting, answering my prayer with a suggestion of a possible activity with a friend.

It makes me hopeful for the future…


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Garden Notes

It was definitely an uneven year for my garden.  The early heatwave bolted all of my lettuces before we had even begun to eat them.  I got carried away with the tomatoes, ending up with about 14 (!!!) plants in a household with 1.75 tomato eaters.  They were delicious, until early September rains caused them all to split and mold.  (Welcome to Oregon!)  Here are pictures from the tomato forest late in the season, and one of the hummingbird that liked to hang out in it after tanking up on nectar.


I learned the hard way that I didn’t plant enough peas or enough beans, though Rachel did enjoy eating every pea that appeared on the vines.


I also learned that while the tomato forest thrived, plants planted in un-amended soil (where there was recently a rhododendron) definitely didn’t.  Poor me—I love summer squash so much and got almost none.  Next year my plan is to try straw bale gardening in this area.  I love that because our house is built on the lot line on the south side of our lot, we have a nice sized side yard on the south side. 


Russ tore out all of the tomatoes yesterday, and I will miss their foliage outside the dining room window.  In future seasons I might plant some winter flowers in the garden beds, but this winter we need to add another layer to them so for now they are just bare.

As we were finishing our work in the yard yesterday (which for me meant tearing out some shrubs to freecycle and planting more tulips) I realized that I needed to harvest the potatoes.  I’d planted them in 2 unused containers when I ran out of room in my raised beds, thrown dirt on them from time to time early in the season, and then forgotten them.  I was pretty sure they wouldn’t have produced any potatoes at all.  Much to my surprise, this is what I ended up with—a nice bowl full of purple potatoes!


Russ chopped them up and roasted them to go with dinner tonight.  They were…very purple.


The insides were even more purple—this picture has the roasted edge torn off.


They were delicious—the flavor was really nice.   But I must say, they didn’t look quite right with catsup!


Saturday, November 9, 2013

In my next life…

I promise I’m going to be a cat.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Willamette River Cruise

One day in October while I was still kind of drugged from my endoscopy a friend called and asked if I wanted to go on a short cruise on the Willamette River in Portland with her and another friend the next week.  I might not have been quite in my right mind, but I was lucid enough to know I should definitely take her up on her offer.  The next week on a rainy windy day we drove into Portland and made our way to the riverfront. 


We started the trip up on the top open deck, but within a few minutes it became clear that the weather wasn’t going to allow us to stay up there.  We did get to see this great chart showing all of the bridges in Portland—I had no idea that there were so many, or that most of them are drawbridges. 


The lowest deck (where they were serving a lunch) was completely full, but the deck above that only had a few people on it.  We had a great time ordering appetizers and sitting and watching everything.  We saw a new bridge in progress,


we saw an incredibly beautiful house built around an historical pump station that’s never been lived in, (tragedy on the construction crew, and please excuse the raindrops in the picture)


and best of all, houseboats.  Originally living on a houseboat was a cheaper way to live in Portland because there was no property tax.  Now they’ve figured out a way to tax people who aren’t actually living on any…property…but apparently it’s still worth it to some people.  Some of the houses were old and run down, but some were fabulous looking.  I was totally wishing I’d brought the long lens for my camera.


It was totally a fun day—such a treat to get to spend it with two friends and to see so many new things too!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Catch up blogging --post about Olivia's visit & great starfish pictures

Friends,  I have so many unblogged about things that need to be caught up on that it is positively making me twitchy.  So I am committed to applying myself over the next few days and trying to get more caught up on my life.  I know it doesn’t matter to anyone else in the world, but I want to have a record that is, among other things, an account of our family experiences together.

Ordinarily when I blog something late it just stays where it lands, but since I’m going to try to get a bunch of out of date stuff done I’m going to stick it in chronologically.  On the off chance that anyone else is interested in checking out what I’m blogging, I’m going to put links in this post.

Go me!

Olivia's Visit

Saying Goodbye to Jason
Taylor Swift!

Cindy Lynn & Kate's Fall Visit
Roses, Roses, Everywhere
Other Oregon Adventures with Cindy Lynn & Kate
(Divine Summer Plans)

Family Hike
Concussion Hike

Delicate Arch
Sand Dune & Landscape Arch
Moab Miscellany

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Things that make us happy

My cool cousin Emily posted a message on facebook recently.  For a project in her graphic design program she needed to collect lists of things that make people happy. I LOVED reading the lists that people left for her.  I was surprised at how much happiness it brought me to think about the things that made me happy, and I was really surprised at how happy it made me to read other people’s happy lists.

A few days later she sent me a message and said that she was building an artifact made of post it notes, each with something on it that makes someone happy.  The day before this message I had been at the dollar store and had seen some really cute post it notes.  So (despite the fact that I already own a life-time supply of post it notes!) I went back to the dollar store and got them.  Then during school one day we wrote down things that make us happy. 

Again, I was surprised at how happy it made me to read the things that my kids had written that made them happy.  And in the end before I could stack them up and send them all off to Emily, I had to take a picture so that I’d be able to remember all of these things that make us happy.


What a great way to start November!


PS—my favorites?  “Talking in a British Accent” and “family….sometimes”!!!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Week

We’ve had all sorts of Halloween fun this week.  We’ve had Halloween Hair,


while playing on the Halloween ukelele.


(We had other hair fun as well.)

IMG_7677IMG_7678photo 1photo 2

We had Halloween Food,


and we had Halloween Pumpkins (aka Jack O Lanterns).


And of course we had Halloween Costumes.

Jenna’s new costume wasn’t ready for the first party so she wore last year’s costume.


Rachel had ordered her Catwoman costume online, but Jenna asked me to make her a Pikachu costume.  It was ready for the trunk or treat the next day.



Josh wore his horse head and crazy shirt to a Halloween Party.  Jared decided to skip dressing up and didn’t go trick or treating this year.  (Though he is regretting that a little now that the girls have candy and he doesn’t.)  The girls wore their costumes to school as well.  (The kids go to the middle school every afternoon for band and art/computer class.)  It sounds like Jenna got lots of positive attention for her costume.


So there you have it—it’s been a fun Halloween week.