Saturday, March 30, 2013

Loving Kate.

Everyone in our family loves to hold her, though our arms do get tired.


Russ and Josh had to go back home Thursday night so Russ spent as much time as he could at the hospital.


Josh even held her for a while.


Now that Cindy Lynn and Kate are home from the hospital we are taking turns fighting over her.  Kate is going to be lucky to have two such adoring aunts!



And I hung out with Kate till 3AM this morning.  I kept thinking that she was going to need a bottle any minute, but she slept and slept and slept.  And now all of my computer bookmarks are reorganized.  And I’ve seen the newest episode of Survivor.  And I slept really late this morning.  But it was sure fun…


Thursday, March 28, 2013

The truth of the matter…


Cindy Lynn has a book about childbirth sitting in her bathroom.  (And since I already posted this you already know that I read in the bathroom. I also read while I brush & floss my teeth, if I’m eating alone, and I would read while I’m driving if I could!)  Anyway.  This book has all sorts of essays and stories, but in general it is a book about the spiritual awesomeness of giving birth.

To all of you out there for whom giving birth was a spiritual event, very cool for you.

For me?  Not so much.  I’ve had 4 very different labor and delivery experiences, and all of them have involved a lot of pain and I’ve been glad when they were over.  I am perhaps missing an important gene (the one that connects spirituality and childbirth) but I’m ok with it.  I just feel the need to stand up and say “Hey, for me it wasn’t spiritual.  But it worked just fine anyway.”

And while I’m confessing my child-birth shortcomings, here’s another one for you.  I didn’t bond instantaneously and amazingly with my babies.  For a while I wondered when their real parents were going to show up and claim them.  After a while I was completely attached to them, though, so I think it’s worked out ok.  Now I adore them and would fight to the death anyone who messed with them. 


You’re probably wondering why I’m writing this.  Really, because I want to put my truth out there.  We live in a world of blog/facebook/pinterest wonderfulness.  Where if we’re not careful we can begin to think that everyone else’s life is prettier and shinier than our own.  That everyone else’s experiences are deeper and more meaningful, and that their children are all above average.  I just want to go on the record saying that my experiences with childbirth were a lot of things (painful, intense, painful, exhausting, and one time both frightening and painful) but not spiritual.  And that I didn’t bond immediately and intensely with my new babies. 

And guess what.  We’ve turned out just fine.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

“I Didn’t Say It Would Be Easy” and other things that really bug me. (Along with a few more baby pictures, of course.)

It seems almost sacrilegious to post about anything other than baby Kate right now.  After all, what else in my life can compete with this kind of cuteness??



Those are pictures that make my heart more than happy.

And if I wasn’t going to talk about that, I could talk about our afternoon at my sister Andra’s house, where we kept trying to leave and she kept enticing us to stay just by being her normal awesome self.  And how after Russ made death bars for her daughter, she gave him a massage.


(Right before that happy look on Russ’s face he was crying.)


But I’m not.  Because even though all of those things are true and it seems like I should be just marinating in the baby-liciousness of this moment, the baby is at the hospital and I am here (and should be in bed) and there is something on my mind.


#1) Russ & I were just up in the bathroom getting ready for bed.  (You see, I was headed there but now I’m delayed just a bit.)  I’d read him some interesting bits from a church magazine article I was reading when he responded to me,

Well you know, He didn’t say it was going to be easy…

to which I interrupted (and not really nicely)

Oh PLEASE don’t say it!!

but he did anyway, and finished,

He just said it would be worth it.


Yep, he did.  He said that.

Now you may wonder why this would bother me.  It bothers me because it’s NOT TRUE.  Jesus said a lot of things.  But this is not one of them.  So I think we should stop attributing it to him.


#2) Tonight we had dinner with Russ’s awesome brother & sis in law.  (Every trip to Utah reminds me that I truly hit the jackpot in the in-law department!)  I was talking about the kids going on trek last summer, and how we’d watched a movie about the handcart pioneers before they went.    Then I told them how much it bothers me when people tell the story about the three 18 year old boys who rescued one group of handcart pioneers by carrying them across an icy river, and later died from the exertion and exposure of that experience.  I’m sure that you know the quote I’m talking about.  Well it turns out that someone at BYU Studies did a little more researching on this, and in 2006 published an article about it.  This is what he said,

The evidence indicates that more than three rescuers braved the icy water that day. Of those positively identified as being involved in the Sweetwater crossing, none were exactly eighteen. Although these rescuers helped a great many of the handcart pioneers across the river, they carried only a portion of the company across. While some of these rescuers complained of health problems that resulted from the experience, most lived long and active lives that terminated in deaths that cannot be definitively attributed to their exposure to the icy water that day.

It seems to me that if this was published 9 years ago, we should be done quoting it now, don’t you think?  Especially since it was publically declared that their exaltation was secure, and some of them grew up to not be very nice people…


#3 And in the same (almost exact) vein.  There is a beautiful story of a handcart pioneer, Francis Webster,  who defends the decisions made by the Martin & Willey handcart companies to leave so late in the season.  I’m sure you know the one I’m talking about, but if you want a refresher, you can read about it here starting about 1/3 down the page where it reads “I heard a testimony once…”  Part of me really loves this story and the honest sentiment it describes.  I love the idea that this man felt his experience in the handcart company had deepened his faith.  But the truth is that part of the story that is told isn’t accurate.  He is quoted as having said,

We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that Company utter a word of criticism? Not one of that Company ever apostatized or left the church because every one of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities.

Now from what I’ve read this quote about what Francis Webster said wasn’t written down until 40 years after he said it, so who knows how exactly it was remembered.  Maybe he said it that way and maybe he didn’t.  But the point is that we are still teaching it this way.  And Br. Webster, in that day and age, would have had no way of knowing whether or not all of the members of the handcart company stayed in the church because they all scattered to different places after arriving in Salt Lake.  As it turns out, more than a few members of those companies did leave the church.




By now you are probably thinking that if these things bother me, I’ve finally lost it.  But I really do have a point here.

My point is, I want my faith, and even more importantly my children’s faith, grounded in truth.  Not in inaccurate stories or platitudes. 

You’re probably still thinking that I’m getting upset about something that’s not that big of a deal, and I get that.  But to me it’s significant.  I want my kids hold on to the things that Jesus actually did say.  Not in a little convenient phrase that someone invented.  And even more importantly, I don’t want them to base any part of their belief in God, or their gratitude for their pioneer ancestors (because my children have them, even if I don’t) on things that didn’t happen.  I don’t want my children deciding that difficult or traumatic experiences will automatically solidify your faith.  Or that carrying people across icy rivers qualifies them for exaltation.  I want them to be inspired by truth and reality, not by sensationalism that makes truths pale in comparison.

And I think that as soon as we become aware that we’ve been believing (and quoting in general conference) things that are inaccurate we should make a real effort to correct them.  And we should probably take them out of the sunday school manuals. Winking smile


PS—If you’re interested in a more accurate and very inspiring story of Francis Webster who was really an amazing person, you can read about him here.

PPS—Another Mormon Urban Legend, which fortunately has been corrected, was the quote attributed to President Hinckley, in which he said that the youth born today were generals in the war in heaven.  I guess because this was supposed to have been said by a prophet a letter was sent to every church congregation in 2008 telling people to cease and desist using this “quote.”  And to correct it if it was used!

PPPS—Sometimes I ask Russ if he knew I would be so _________ (difficult, tired, cranky, emotional, etc) when he married me.  He always says yes…that he knew it wouldn’t be easy, but that I was worth it…

Monday, March 25, 2013

Well now I am…

On Christmas Eve day when we went ice skating I sat down by a little British boy who was about 4 years old, just so I could hear his cute accent.  He looked at me, and without missing a beat, asked in his adorable little English voice,

Are you someone’s granny??

Well now I am.


And Russ is a grandpa.


Our awesome son-in-law is a dad,


And Cindy Lynn, quite possibly the toughest pregnant woman I’ve ever known, is a mommy.  If there was ever a woman who deserved this, it is her.

cl and kate

We couldn’t be happier. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Further proof that they’re growing up…


earlier this morning

Me:  Plan what you’ll wear and pack 4 more outfits.  Then we’ll just do laundry while we’re there.


just now

Rachel:  Mom, I need your help.  I need to know if you think this shirt or this shirt looks better on me. 

Me: Why?

Rachel:  So I’ll know which one to pack.

Me:  Can’t you bring them both?

Rachel: Um…well, I probably have too many things packed already. 

Me:  How many?

Rachel:  Well…I think this would be my 7th shirt.  I just have too many cute clothes!  I can’t choose!!


Needless to say, Jared is NOT having this problem…

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

These kids keep me laughing.

We were just doing school, studying irregular plural words.  (Doesn’t that just sound so schoolish of us???)  After we’d read our chapter we had a list of words to practice on.  Words like mother-in-law, manservent, and handful. 

Jenna read the word “eyetooth” and was taking a minute to say what the plural was.  Rachel was confused about what an eyetooth was.  And then Jared said,

“Eyetooth?  Is that an apple product??”


Later Rachel was annoyed (again) with Jared.  Jared has been in a teasing mood this morning and Rachel was on the receiving end of a lot of his teasing.  When Rachel complained that Jared was always “mean” to her but that she was never mean to him, he proclaimed,

That is because my goat cannot be got!

After which Rachel lamented that her goat is very easy to get.


(When I was growing up and we kids were irritating each other my dad always told us is that the way to get a man’s goat is to find out where he’s got it tied.  I have shared this wisdom with my kids from time to time, and you can see that while they are not able to use this bit of wisdom, they at least remember it enough to beat each other over the head with it…)


And finally, a video of Jared reading from our history lesson about Oregon trappers today.  In his best Oregon trapper voice.  He was actually doing a better one before I started recording him, of course…


A Year Ago

I just found this to-do list from a year ago on my computer.

No wonder I felt overwhelmed all the time!!


Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Swim Meet

When the triplets were one we moved into another house, one with enough room for 3 high chairs and another bedroom.  One of the wonderful things about our new neighborhood was that it had a beautiful swimming pool, and as we were to find out, a neighborhood swim team.  When spring rolled around we signed Jason and Josh up for the swim team, and they started practicing.  (Which really meant “learning to swim better.”)  They had their first meet and it was all very exciting. 

But then it came—the meet at Homestead Heights.  The boys had heard about Homestead Heights from everyone on their swim team, coaches and swimmers alike.  Homestead Heights was notable because instead of being 25 yards long, their pool was 25 meters long.  What difference did this make, you ask?  A difference of about 8 feet, which is a big difference when you are a little boy. 

We arrived at the swim meet that day without our usual high spirits.  Josh and Jason both were apprehensive, and as we walked into the pool area they both decided that they weren’t going to be able to swim that day. 

I could see the fear in their eyes, and the soft-hearted-mommy part of me wanted to tell them that it was ok, that they didn’t need to swim at that particular swim meet. 

But the other part of me knew better.  The other part of me knew that they actually could swim this 25 meter pool just fine.  The other part of me knew that it would be a good experience for them once it was over.  And so I wiped away their tears, reassured them that they would do fine, told them I was proud of them for being so brave, and sent them off to swim. 

It’s been a lot of years since that day so I don’t remember many of the details.  But what I do remember is seeing Jason finish his first race, and come straight over to me, beaming and still out of breath.  His eyes were bright with excitement and he said “I DID IT, mom!”  And I hugged him and told him that of course he did, and that I was so proud of him for doing something so hard and scary.


At some point over the next few years as this experience floated in and out of my consciousness I realized how like this swim meet many of our earthly trials are.  The difficult experience starts and we are so afraid.  We assure Heavenly Father that we simply cannot do this thing.  Or tell him over and over how much we don’t want to because we are so frightened.

I think that there is a part of God’s heart that, just as Jesus cried with Mary & Martha, aches with us in our pain and our fear in those moments.  I wonder if it is ever hard for our Heavenly Father not to “rescue” us, or if his ability to see so perfectly and clearly the relative shortness of the trial and it’s eternal benefits gives him some kind of divine equanimity. 

What I am certain of is that when we pass through the experience and come out intact on the other side we have grown and changed in important ways, and he rejoices with us, reminding us through the spirit that he knew we could do it, and that he is so proud of us.

may 131

Jason & I, spring 2002, before either of us had braces. Winking smile

Friday, March 15, 2013

To Portland, to Portland, to buy a bookshelf.

I am so tired.  By the end of every week I am just exhausted.  In fact by the end of every day I’m exhausted.  In the middle of the week I was fighting a cold and I told Russ Wednesday night that I was so tired that I felt like I had been beaten with a stick.  Every night I’m so grateful for the restorative power of sleep, and it is just amazing to me that I can be so exhausted and then wake up and do it all over again the next day.

Anyway.  Today’s exhausting time:

I went to curves to work out a little later than normal, then changed my clothes there and drove into Portland.  First I went to Ikea out by the airport to return some curtains. 


(I am very entertained by buildings built on corners that are acute angles.)

Then I headed for a place called the Rebuilding Center.  The Rebuilding Center is a repository for scads of recycled home bits and pieces.  Cabinets, light fixtures, tubs, toilets, sinks, knobs, doors, windows, you name it and they probably have it.  I went because someone had posted on our ward email list that they also had large bookcases (from Powells, the largest used bookstore in the country) for only $30.  I thought that bookcases would be a terrific idea for our garage for storage.  I measured the van to be sure that 4 bookcases would fit in, and planned my trip.

The Rebuilding Center was interesting.  I could see from the exterior that they did more than sell recycled house parts.



You know, I’ve never seen a window mosaic before.  Very cool.

I waited my turn to have my bookcases loaded in the van, and then realized something.  While I had measured the INSIDE of my van and it was big enough for the 4 shelves I had paid for, I had neglected to measure the OPENING of the back of the van.  Oops.  Only 2 shelves could fit in at a time. 

I decided that I would come back on Saturday to get the other two.

My drive back wasn’t nearly as long as I had expected, perhaps because I had stopped by the library and gotten a couple of books on CD. 

Perhaps because I was so entertained by seeing these houses.


Please notice the size of the car to be sure you have some idea of the size of the house.


When I got home I had lunch and decided that I was going to go right back to Portland to get the other shelves.  This time I took Jenna with me so that we could do some shopping on the way home. 

We picked up the shelves, drove past the small houses again, and also a house with a crazy paint job.



When we got back into Hillsboro Jenna and I went to a children’s consignment sale.  We found a bunch of tops and a dress for Rachel & Jenna.


After we’d gone through all of the teeny-bopper clothes we decided we should look at the baby girl clothes just in case we saw anything that Cindy Lynn’s baby needed.  Well let’s just say we found plenty, most of it very pink.  A huge bag of pinkiliciousness.


Here’s a sneak peek:


We arrived back home at about 6:30, thoroughly exhausted. 

After a day like today I think I need a weekend to recuperate…

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


I’m thinking that when we bought our house there must have been something in the pond/waterfall water.  Russ later emptied it all out to get the little bit of moss out of it, and refilled it with the hose.  We’ve had a couple of warm days here and there over the last few weeks and this is what it looks like right now.



Clearly we need to figure out what was in the water before, and get more of it.  Because this is a little scary!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Celebrating Technology

Things I have googled in the last five minutes:

  • crystallized honey
  • can I add water to crystallized honey?
  • fall 2013 schedule for BYU
  • general conference care kit

I was telling one of the kids this weekend about my initial exposure to the internet, you know, when Russ tried explaining it to me, and I said (and I quote) “That sounds like the dumbest thing I ever heard of.” 

Now I can’t live from one moment to the next without the internet.  I can’t even imagine life in the “old days” when missionaries wrote real letters home and their parents had to wait for the mailman to bring them.  I can’t imagine moving to a new place without the ability to pull up google maps 3 or 20 times a day.  I can’t imagine not having the ability to search out the answer to any question I have at any moment of the day or night and almost always find it.

I’m just going to say it. 

I love the internet.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I never wanted to be a story that could be put in the Ensign.

About a week and a half ago a thought popped into my mind—something about the girl’s best friend in North Carolina, Olivia.  Then I thought of Olivia’s lifetime nanny, Carol.  Carol is an amazing woman.  She had been with Olivia’s family for several years already when Olivia was born, and she was like a second mother to those girls.  And when my girls were over there, Carol took care of them too.  She might have been in her 70’s but she was still fun and fiesty, taking them on outings to the skating rink or planning Easter parties.  Last Christmas when Russ was out of work, Carol brought over presents for every person in our family.  Every single one.  She was really incredible.

As all of these thoughts ran through my mind, I had the thought that I really needed to text Olivia’s mom and tell her to tell Carol that I was thinking of her and appreciated her so much.

But you know what?  I didn’t.  I didn’t have my phone right with me, and I didn’t go find it, and by the time I was back with my phone I’d forgotten.

Right up until the moment last Sunday night when Olivia called to tell us that Carol had died very suddenly and unexpectedly.


Then I remembered.


I know it doesn’t make a difference to Carol (especially where she is now) whether or not I sent her that message. 

But I feel blessed to have known Carol, and I would have liked to have told her that…


Saturday, March 9, 2013



“I wanted to thank you,” she said.  “Last night I noticed that you hesitated when I asked you that question, and then you answered.  I appreciate that you would share that with us.”

“I enjoyed the evening so much,” she continued.  It’s been a long time since I’ve felt able to express my feelings about things without worrying that I might say something that would offend someone.”


There is something about being able to speak without stopping first to filter your comments.  Her comment caused me to reflect on how many wonderful conversations I’ve been a part of over the last fifteen years.  We’ve talked openly and honestly about so many things.  We haven’t always agreed, but we have mostly been able to be agreeable

How lucky are we?

Friday, March 8, 2013

If it seems to weird to be true…


A couple of weeks ago I took the kids to a pediatrician for check-ups and to get them up to date on the vaccinations required in Oregon.  The doctor we went to see has just opened her own practice and is using a very non-traditional model.  She has an integrated medicine practice and only has an office assistant in the mornings to keep her overhead down so that she can spend more time with her patients.  For our 3 physicals she scheduled 3 hours of time!!   If I had known this before I probably would have chosen a different doctor —I’m not a fan of spending long stretches of time at the doctors.  The kids loved the doctor though, so we probably won’t change now.

One really strange thing happened while we were there.  All three kids failed the hearing test in their left ear.  It was the strangest thing.  So she did it again, and they all failed again!!  I couldn’t believe that they would ALL have a hearing problem in the same ear!  But I felt like I couldn’t ignore it either, so yesterday I took Jared to see an audiologist.  And I’m happy to say that he passed the hearing test with flying colors.  She told me that there must have been a problem with the pediatrician’s equipment, and that she didn’t think the girls needed to be checked out.  Whew.  I’m just as glad that no one has hearing problems…

So the moral of my story is if it seems to be just to bizarre and strange to be true, maybe it really isn’t!

Thursday, March 7, 2013



I am kind of like a Nazi about family dinner.  Enough so that on a night like tonight, a night that I was completely tapped out by a long phone call with a troubled friend, a night when I’d prepared no dinner and Russ cooked frozen pizza for the kids while I heated up leftover chicken-noodle soup and I wanted to hide while I was eating it because I was so emotionally spent, everyone still assumed that we were all eating together and came to the table.

I can’t say that I was thrilled.  I was happier at the thought of some solitude with my soup and my computer.  But of course I couldn’t send them all away, not when they were assuming that we’d have family dinner.  So I set my computer aside and pretended to be happy.

The funny thing is, within just a few minutes I was happy.  Their chatter and banter and silliness even singing re-energized me, filling my heart with the awareness of just how blessed I am.  And then I was grateful once again for our family dinner habit…

Ancient Technology

One of the interesting things about moving is that you end up touching, at one point or another, things that you haven’t thought about in a long time.  The other day I opened a box and this is one of the things I unpacked.


As I pulled it from the box, memories slowly surfaced.  The first HP graphing calculator, it was required for one of Russ’s classes the semester after we got married.  It was the first piece of technology we owned, and it cost more than anything else we bought (other than car repairs) for a long long time.


I was overwhelmed by the cost but at the same time I understood what an investment this was in Russ’s education and our future.  That investment has paid off over and over again. 

Oh, how far we’ve come since this calculator…


(But now what do I do with it?)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Litmus Test(s)


I don’t want to come across as someone who is taking her emotional temperature all of the time, but I know myself well enough to know that stress impacts the way (and which) things happen or don’t happen in my life.  I already know this about myself; I’ve had the experience before of seeing missing parts of my life gradually come back online.  So it’s been interesting to see what things are happening in my life now, what things are slowly coming back and what things still seem far away.  It feels like each of these is a litmus test showing more or less emotional stability in the moment.  (When I started writing this post I hoped that there was an elegant Latin-esque plural for litmus test, something like litmii test.  Instead it turns out that the plural is just litmus tests.  Meh.)

Here are some of the positive things I’ve noticed lately.  First, I can wash the dishes after dinner.  This may not sound like a big deal, but I’ve noticed an absolute correlation between my mental and emotional well-being and my ability to deal with the after dinner mess.  And finding myself cleaning up the dishes without feeling any frustration about it is a big deal in my world.

Another thing that’s come back online in the last few months is homemade bread.  Bread is another thing that disappeared after the triplets were born and didn’t reappear for many years.  When we were in the apartment here there was no space, literally or emotionally, for the effort of making bread.  In the first few months after we lived here it was still more than I could make myself do.  I think I finally ground my first batch of wheat here so that I could make loaves of bread as Christmas treats, and we’ve been eating homemade bread ever since.  This is a development that everyone has been happy about.

A big litmus test is piano lessons.  As soon as I started really working on the house last year in North Carolina, piano lessons were a thing of the past.  There was just not enough energy in my world to do everything that needed to be done and still teach those three piano lessons every week.  Fortunately for me a talented friend stepped in to fill that gap until we left, but since May the kids have been lesson-less.  I’d talked to a woman in our ward about giving the kids lessons here, but the lessons are so expensive that it was really more than we could afford even to have lessons twice a month instead of every week.  And then the semester ended and I started thinking about dropping out of our homeschool class on Fridays and within a week of stopping that I could tell that there was now “room” in my life to do piano with the kids again.  I was surprised at how excited I was to get started again.  I love hearing them practice and enjoy my one-on-one time with them every Friday morning.  After the first week I felt like announcing to the world: Houston, we have piano lessons!


There are still some things that are noticeably missing from my life.  There are NO flowers.  In fact not only are there no flowers, the flowers from the apartment are sitting dead in their pots on the end of our deck.  I’ve been so constantly overwhelmed by the house that the idea of doing anything with the plants (dead or alive) has been too much for me.  I’ve thought about this a lot—why is it that I had a balcony full of flowers in the apartment, but I can’t deal with them here?  I think it’s because Russ had already unpacked most of the stuff in the apartment before we got there, and what was there was finite.  I didn’t feel a ever-present pressing need to deal with everything that was in storage like I do now with everything in the garage.  I also think that in the apartment the flowers were an effort to bring some home into a place that really wasn’t my home, while here in the house I’ve been busy trying to make this my home.

There hasn’t been much sewing either, and right now while I’m trying to work on making Easter dresses and a blessing dress I can see that while I love sewing, it is typically not something I do while I’m stressed.  In the last 2 weeks I’ve made a lot of progress in putting things away in the sewing room (remembering not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good enough) and I finally feel like I can walk in there without getting a rash.  It’s a very small space, so a little bit of unpacking mess in there went a long way.  I’m hoping that at some point in the not too distant future I’ll find sewing a fun and relaxing way to use my spare time again—because we’re going to have a baby girl to sew for.

One last thing that hasn’t really made it back—bird feeders.  I had a little one at the apartment but it wasn’t positioned in a way that made it easy to watch.  And I just haven’t had the energy to think about getting any of them set up here, although we have unpacked a few.  But then I was at the hardware store the other day and I saw this beauty,


and just that fast, we were back in the bird business…let’s hope the birds like it.  (Russ was so surprised that those 4 screws cost $20.)


In the interest of transparency, I want to explain that any amount of emotional equilibrium I’ve achieved at this point in my life (i.e. first winter of our first year in Oregon) owes a lot to my daily doses of SAMe, 5HTP, and vitamin D.  It’s been a tough winter emotionally and I’m glad that I already had an idea of what would help me deal with depression thanks to 2.5 years of triplet post-partum depression.  I can’t imagine trying to live though this without any “chemical” help.  I don’t really know how to characterize my supplements—they’re not vitamins or minerals, they’re not prescription, I guess they’re not really chemical…whatever they are, I love them and I wouldn’t be surviving without them right now.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Teaching: The Work of Salvation


When I was still a very young mother I was called to the primary presidency in our ward.  I served as a counselor for a couple of years and then as the president for about 2 years.  By the time I was the president I had a firm testimony of the importance of those sharing time lessons in teaching the gospel to all of those little children.  As I prepared and taught I found myself thinking, “Surely this is the most important teaching in the church.  These children are young and just starting on their life journey.  The foundation we lay is so important.”  I loved teaching the children because I knew how important my job was.

Years passed, we moved to North Carolina and I was the primary chorister for many happy years.  As primary chorister I felt that what I was doing was really like teaching Gospel Doctrine to those sweet spirits and once again I felt like it was the most important teaching I could be doing.


Then it was time for a change and I was called to teach the Laurels.  (The 16 and 17 year old girls.)  What I felt surprised me.  I was astonished at the intensity I felt about the importance of teaching these lovely young women.  I could feel that they were at such a vulnerable point in their lives—each one of them making decisions that would shape the rest of their lives.  I prayed that I would be able to teach them well enough that the spirit would take the lessons deep into their hearts and help with those decisions.  I decided that I must have been wrong before, because this had to be the most important teaching in the church—these vulnerable young women at such a critical moment.


When we found out that I was pregnant with the triplets I was released very quickly from all of my callings and left to gestate in peace.  And for the next 18 months my only calling was surviving from day to day.  When the triplets were 1 I was called to teach Relief Society after promising everyone concerned that one lesson a month wouldn’t be too much for me.

I’d never taught Relief Society before, and I was unprepared for the feelings as I taught those first few lessons.  I looked out at the sisters, some young and just starting their adult lives, some in the midst of raising their children, some in later stages of life.  And as I looked out at them I thought, “These women are giving their all, day in and day out, taking care of other people.  Most of them are exhausted.  They need the spiritual boost of these lessons here each Sunday to carry them through their difficult weeks.”

When I found myself thinking these thoughts I just laughed, and thought I must be the most fickle church teacher that ever was, convinced that each of my teaching callings was surely the most important calling.


Several years ago in the Worldwide Leadership Training broadcast there was a roundtable discussion to talk about the new handbooks that had been released.  I was sitting and watching it, interested but not terribly engaged.  But then came a moment that I have never forgotten—a moment that provided unexpected clarity.

Elder Bednar was talking about some of the handbook sections on teaching, and then he stopped and said something like, “We’ve moved the sections on teaching into section 5, ‘The Work of Salvation.’”  Then he stopped, and he said, “Because teaching IS the work of salvation.”

And in that moment I understood.  It wasn’t that I was a fickle teacher.  I had felt the truth of Elder Bednar’s statement years and years before I heard it, felt it in my heart and soul.  I had known that teaching was the work of salvation for whatever group I was teaching in that moment.


A few months after I arrived here in Oregon I was called to teach the 9 year old primary class.  I’d actually never taught a primary class before, and I had some worries about it.  What I found was that I loved teaching them about the Book of Mormon, and when the new year rolled around I was excited to teach them about Church History.  Because, you know, this was the most important teaching in the church!

Much to my surprise the bishop asked to see me a few weeks ago and called me to teach Relief Society.  When I was set apart by one of the counselors he gave me quite possibly the most beautiful blessing I’ve ever been given.  I wish I had had the presence of mind to jot down my thoughts right after, because I can only remember a few things now.  One thing that I can remember is that he said that many of the women in our ward struggle with their testimonies even now, and that it is my calling to teach and bear testimony in a way that will help the Holy Ghost to strengthen them. 

I’m a little anxious about it.  I’ve never taught the prophet lessons before, even though I’ve taught people how to teach them.  I think they’re sometimes difficult lessons to teach.  I worry a little about some of the dynamics in this Relief Society—how to manage things in a way that minimizes the disruptive possibilities that exist while still teaching with the spirit.  I’m worried that my lesson for March is only about 4 pages long.  But I’m determined to do it, and to do a good job.  Because you know what, I’m sure that this is the most important teaching in the church…

Friday, March 1, 2013

Strange Plants

[This post brought to you by the purse cam.  It has been a camera with a mission—capturing what we see here to record it on the blog.]

So people in Oregon seem to like strange plants.  It could be that I have just forgotten what plants people landscape with in North Carolina.  But I think I would have remembered if there was one of these on every corner, as there seems to be here.


My neighbors have one in their front yard so that I can be entertained by it on a daily basis.  (Notice the odd little droopy bush/tree behind it.)

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There seem to be a lot of japenese maples here.  They do have an interesting shape and they’re super pretty in the fall, but I need to be sure that ours don’t end up looking like Cousin It.


Some of the strange plant sightings are just a conjunction of natural circumstances.  I’ve seen several times what happens when the moss on a tree gets really thick.  Yep—ferns start growing out of the moss on the branches of the trees.


Some plants are so strange it’s hard to know what went wrong where.  This is a couple of blocks away from us.  Did the owners just think “That little rectangle of dirt is too hard to deal with it, so we’ll take care of it this way”????


And fortunately for all of us, it’s a matched set of strange/ugly bushes, though you can’t see the true (wide) beauty in this picture.


The funny thing is that I haven’t seen any plant manicuring going on, but it must be happening sometime…




Many of the trees here seem to be straight out of Dr. Suess-land.


Last, but certainly not least---