November 19, 2017

Lily Turns 9. A Simple Lego Party.

Birthdays are simple at my house. We don't spend a lot of money on extravagant gifts. My kids are happy with a small stuffed animal and a wall full of why we love them. 

Lily felt like it had been too long since she had a friend party. So, her sisters and I put our heads together and helped her plan a little party. 
Simple and sweet as a 9-year-old birthday party should be.

Lily has the sweetest friends.
She is a joy. 

Drew's Treasures

Drew saves things.
He will leave on his mission next summer and I will miss finding his treasures around my house. 

Drew especially likes to hide things on my bookshelves.
He makes cool things, like paper airplanes, and he brings home free books. I find old books hiding on my shelves and in random cupboards. He makes me smile. 

Sometimes I want to go through and throw away all his junk. Sometimes I do. He kept an old TV in his closet for years because he wanted to take it apart and fix it.

Today, my book shelves aren't styled like a magazine, but they are full of treasure. I KNOW I will miss his treasures when he leaves home next year.  

I love this kid.

Building With Grapop

This is the cutest story that Eve wrote about building a barn with her "Grapop".
Love these memories.

My Dad Builds Us A Small Barn In Our Pasture

We have a few cows that my kids raise and sell for beef.  

My dad called a couple weeks ago and offered to come and help us build a small barn for them out in our pasture. We are still waiting for it to warm up so we can paint it to match our house and big barn.

It has been so fun watching him work with my husband and my kids. Drew stayed home from school and helped with walls and shingles.
Thanks Daddy! 
It is perfect.

Another Sampler.

A friend gave me a cross-stitch pattern for a sampler that I love. I think it was called Mystery Marquis.  

Here is the sampler that someone stitched on dark fabric...
When I went online I found a blog where another woman took the pattern and personalized it to tell the story of her life. 

I love this SO much. 

I think I'm going to start one over Christmas break.

I love this color palette.
Aren't those bright colors fun? 
I also love these light colors.

Oh, don't you love dreaming up new projects? 

Anna Acts

Anna played a prim and proper wife who dies in the high-school play Blythe Spirits. 

She had SO MANY lines and was darling to watch.

Anna is naturally lady-like. She's lovely and strong.
Anna just got her patriarchal blessing last week. It was beautiful to hear the Lord blessing her. 

She is speaking next week at our Stake Conference, can't wait to hear her speak.

Honestly, SO fun to be a mom of teens. 
Love her. 

Ellie Crochets.

Ellie is always making things, beautiful things. 

I love that about her. I love her. 

This morning, I was running late for church and when I came downstairs Ellie had gotten all the little girls dressed and was curling Eve's hair.

Ellie is sweet and spunky, simple and lovely.
My life is better because she is mine. 

Just Eve.

She has freckles on her nose and is my only baby who had dark hair that didn't turn light.

At parent-teacher conference her teacher said that Eve has a glow about her. She is spunky and passionate. She often slips into her own thoughts and wanders in her own paths. 

She hugs big and puts her hands on my cheeks to tell me often how much she loves me.

Eve is one of my extra-credit kids. Just joy.
Life is good.
I love being her mom.

November 03, 2017

There Is Unity is Diversity

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The truth is that I am weird, I’m not someone who has ever had one best friend or one favorite ice cream flavor. I love people, I have 20 best friends, and I like ice cream. My favorite colors are blue skies, pink cheeks, brown and white spotted cows, gray cats, hazel eyes, purple grapes, deep red cranberries, fluffy yellow baby chicks. You get the picture. My favorite thing about this world is the diversity within it. Buy me a bouquet of wildflowers not one dozen pink roses.

Sometimes I wonder if I am an odd phenomenon. We raise chickens. And, chickens are interesting. They naturally flock together with chickens who look like them. If we buy a bunch of baby chicks a mix of 4 different breeds and raise them together from day one in the same box with heated lamps, as they grow, they will naturally segregate. The brown chicks will sleep in one corner, spotted chicks will sleep in the middle, and the yellow chicks will sleep in another. A chick who looks or acts differently from every other group will be pecked to death by the other chickens. It is so sad. Are humans like this?

I once sat on a design team for an interfaith dialogue committee. One man, a former Interfaith founder, and director said, “Nobody thinks they are racist. But, when was the last time you had someone that was a different race or religion from you over to your house for dinner.” This quote shook me a bit. Since then, I have made it a point to fill my home with colorful, unique, diverse people. Diversity and I are not just talking about race, gender or sexual preference is my favorite thing. Diversity is so much more than the skin we are in. We are all different. I think we spend too much time focusing on how we are all the same and not enough time celebrating the fact that we are NOT the same!  Differences make us beautiful!

Families are the first places where we learn to love people who are different from us.

I may be a bit biased, but believe me when I tell you that my first child was perfect. He was adorable. He was good. He potty trained before he was one. He said please and thank you and spoke in complete sentences before he was one. He was kind and obedient. If I told him not to go in the street, he wouldn’t even step one foot on the driveway because it was the same color as the street. Honestly, once my mother in law was babysitting him for me, and when I came home, she was crying because she thought Jakob was so perfect he would die young. I love that kid. From the day he was born, he has always tried so hard to do what was right.

And then, I had another little boy, only sixteen months later. My little Drew Bear as we called him, was very different from his older brother. If I told Drew not to go in the street, he would run, laughing across the street with a cute, maniacal giggle. Drew had a hard time getting along with other kids. He would push them over at the mall playgrounds and scratch their faces in the 3-year-old Sunday School class. Drew ate dirt. He made big messes. And, he potty trained early, but he would do things like walk into the bathroom and pee on the bathmat. Once his dad saw him do that and asked, “Drew, what are you doing,” To which Drew replied, “Oh Dad, sometimes I do that.” Drew was tough.

You might think that as a mother it would be easier to love my perfect Jakob than it was to love my independent Drew. Tis not so. They were both quite easy to love, and I LOVED that they were so different. I never let anyone label Jakob, the good kid and Drew the bad kid. Drew was Drew. Powerful, strong, and independent. Jakob was Jakob, disciplined, orderly, and obedient. Both boys have grown up to be inspiring, amazing teenagers. Jakob graduated third in his class. He played the French Horn, started on the Varsity Soccer team, ran track, is an Eagle Scout, was voted “most likely to succeed” and had a room that was always clean. 

Drew was voted “most opinionated” and is the senior class president. He started his own business selling beef, he wakes up at 4:30 am every day to go milk cows at a local dairy. Drew is strong and passionate. He is by far my easiest, kindest, most hardworking teenager. I have eight children, and every one of them is beautifully unique and equally endearing. My favorite part about being a mom is by far, getting to know eight very different, equally beautiful souls. We all have different strengths, but we all have strengths. Our goal in life should not be to create an ideal person. Our goal should be to investigate each person we meet to find their hidden talents. It is our differences that make us great.

Religious differences teach us to love a universal God.

I am a very devout Mormon girl. I met my husband (who is currently a Mormon Bishop) at BYU where I graduated with a degree in Human Development, taught Mormon seminary classes, and was a stay-at-home mom for twenty years to eight children. I didn’t find my fullest religious identity until I joined Interfaith Works of Central New York, right here on James Street in Syracuse? I didn’t fully appreciate prayer until I knelt next to my Islamic friends and prayed during Ramadan. I didn’t fully know what it meant to love my neighbors until I heard the stories of the Unity preachers. I saw Heaven at a world harmony day when my family sang “families can be together forever” to a room full of beautifully diverse Interfaith friends. I facilitated an Interfaith Dialogue in the basement of a little church in the Northside of Syracuse, and I confronted my fears and strengthened my love for good people like my friend Nebraski Carter, preacher at the Church of God in Christ.  I feel God as I study his word. I see God as I love his children.

Different cultures add richness and beauty to our lives. 

The first time they asked me to pick a refugee family up from the airport, I was really scared. Because I have eight children, I drive a ridiculously large, white, 15 passenger van that was needed to transport a family arriving at the Syracuse Airport as Muslim refugees from Afghanistan. We waited anxiously for their plane to arrive and then watched in anticipation as a large, refugee family came through the rotating doors into the lobby where we were standing with an interpreter. The children were excited and energetic. The parents were concerned and wary. All that they owned was in their bags or in a few, heavy, plastic shopping bags that they clutched close to their bodies.

While the interpreter filled his car with these luggage bags, I smiled and acted out charades encouraging them to follow me, to get in my big, white van, and to buckle their seatbelts. This particular family had a few, younger children that sat in my own children’s car seats and boosters. They looked up at me with big eyes and smiles as I talked away in English that they did not understand, and clicked them in, just like I have done hundreds of times to my children. At that moment, these children were my children. My heart opened up and sucked them right in. I have worked with many, many refugee children since that first day. My fear is gone, and my heart overflows with love for these people. I don’t love them because they are like me. I love them because they are different from me and still so, so good. Goodness transcends ethnicity.  

Differences can be just as unifying as similarities.

Yes, diversity is unifying. Our world is better because every one of us has something different to add. Think how limited we would be if we were all the same. When I was little, I always order vanilla ice cream with wet walnuts at Baskin Robbins, just like my mom. Today I know that my favorite ice cream is a new flavor that I’ve never tried before. Diversity is my favorite. Audre Lord said it best when he said, 

It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” 

Celebrate the differences in your families, in your communities, and in the world. 

November 02, 2017

Going to School With the Professor

The best part about going back to graduate school at age 40, is spending ALL DAY with my favorite professor. 
He carries my messenger bag even when his arms are pretty full. 

Love this old cat.

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