Friday, May 27

A Rose by Any Other Name

Yes, it's another family birthday. I have seven children, remember? And three of our children were born in May.

Today it is the birthday of my little Rose. Rose is her middle name, but it has found its way into most of her nicknames. She loves roses -especially red ones! - and has adopted them as her logo, and loves to draw a rose every time she signs her name.

Not that she is a girlie-prissy-sissy girl. She also loves wolves, sharks, dragons and dangerous animals in general. She climbs trees and porch railings and play sets and door frames and whatever else. Definitely a climbing Rose.

She is not a tomboy, though, because she does love dresses and dancing and make-believe and fairies, and cooking and holding babies and sewing and drawing and painting...really, art in general. Certainly a beautiful Rose.

She is also a snuggler. She enjoys hugs and sitting on her daddy's lap, and she wants to sit next to me on the couch during movies or family scripture study. She will crawl into bed with our baby and just lay there, watching her while she naps. Kind of a clinging Rose.

I guess she is just a natural child, she does what she likes and defies the labels and stereotypes anyone would try to stick her with. Possibly a wild Rose.

Happy birthday to my Rose. A Rose by any other name still wins my heart with her thoughtful kindness and sweet face.

Thursday, May 26

Open Thank You Note: Mom and the Household Chores

Dear Mom,

It's probably small comfort, waiting twenty years or so for me to thank you for giving me chores around the house when I was young. But where, oh where would I be without them?!

I learned how to scrub toilets, wash dishes, sort and wash and dry and put away mountains of laundry, clean and vacuum and organize pretty much any room, iron shirts, clean out fridges and closets and drawers...all before I was ten.

Why? Because you said so.

Now, as a woman and a wife and a mother, I can see so clearly how valuable that is. It wasn't enough for you to teach me how to do it, and then go back to doing it yourself, although that would have been faster and more convenient. No, you showed me how to do it, and then expected me to get it done. And to do it to your satisfaction.  And to never take "I don't wanna!" for an answer.

You couldn't have better prepared me for life if you had been Rumpelstiltskin and taught me how to spin straw into gold. The ability to walk in to any room (or home), see what needs to be done, roll up my sleeves and get to it is like solid gold in my realm. I learned it from you.

I have my own children now, and I know from hard-won experience that teaching children how to keep house is not for the faint of heart. I also know how vital it is that they get the experience, that they learn the skills, develop the habits, and feel the satisfaction of a job well done.

Thanks is not enough. But thank you.


 I'm really sorry for being whiny, for dragging my feet, for sassing back, for shoving everything under my bed and telling you my room was clean, and for bickering with my sisters while we folded laundry or washed the dishes. Thank you for not selling us. Thank you for not throwing your hands up in the air with righteous frustration, shooing us all out of the way, and doing it yourself.


Paper Boats

Today was the oft-rescheduled birthday party for my little five-year-old. We've had wild and windy and wet weather, and she so dearly wanted a picnic, that we've had to move the date to a sunnier day twice.

The picnic went really well. It's not hard to please a group of little girls when you feed them out of a picnic basket, and they get to eat on a blanket at the park. Everything pleases them when they are outside and playing with friends.

We got the gift-giving out of the way right up front (mostly because her little friends couldn't wait to give them), and I packed them away and we had the picnic. That didn't last long, because the lure of the playground and the stream beyond it was stronger then lemonade and cracker sandwiches and frosting-covered animal crackers.

At that point, I pulled out a lovely basket full of brightly colored paper boats.

My oldest son and oldest daughter had spent half an hour folding paper boats like mad this afternoon, just before the party. I was desperate for a good party activity, and I think God mercifully inspired me with the idea. So my son looked up the instructions online, figured it out, showed his sister, and they made enough boats for every little girl.

They were a hit. The girls loved them! The stream was shallow but moving quickly enough to hurry the boats along very pleasingly. The mothers wandered up and down the banks, supervising, chatting, and taking pictures.

Of course, several girls got very much wetter and muddier than we had planned, but no one seemed to mind. Of course the boats got wetter and wetter until they simply went flat, but that quickly became part of the fun. It was possibly the most enjoyable little-girl-birthday party we've ever had.

I am grateful for paper boats. I am grateful for my son, who is good with instructions, and for the dear soul who posted them in the first place. I am grateful for simple, elegant solutions (paper boats) to seemingly intractable problems (how to entertain eight little girls for an hour and a half?). I am grateful for bright sunny weather to enjoy at the park with friends. I am grateful for my little girl, who is a bright, sunny person herself.

What are you blessed with today?

Wednesday, May 25


I am in charge of my family reunion. We have it every two years. The reunion happening this July will be our fifth one. This year, my youngest sister has volunteered to be my sidekick.

I am grateful beyond words for this.

Actually, she called me and asked to be assigned something. Her husband is working an internship this summer, and she is bored. So, I gave her something to work on. And she called back asking for more. I spent the better part of this morning on the phone with her, talking reunion activities and meal plans and various "plan B" ideas and contingency plans.

I love planning reunions. I love my family. It is so much fun for me to dream up fun stuff for us to do, and the actual event of getting together means more to me than just about anything. But as the weeks go by and the reunion gets closer, I start getting worked up about stupid stuff, and bogged down on minor details, and I easily lose sight of the big picture. Having a cohort with too much free time on her hands is such a blessing.

I am grateful for delegation. I am not very good at it, because I am a micro-managing,  megalomaniacal fool. Of course, in hindsight, I can always see the virtues of recruiting help from those around me. I am practicing seeing it in foresight, as well. I am grateful for my youngest sister, who actually begged to help. I am grateful for a family that likes each other enough to actually want to get together for a reunion. I am grateful for a husband who supports me in heading up the reunions over and over and over, and who knows when to help me breath through a tense moment or two, and when to grab me by the shoulders and shake some sense into me.

What are you blessed with today?

Comforting Words

I live in Tornado Alley. And the tornado season of 2011 is now the worst since they started keeping records about tornado season.

My husband and I sat down with our children, just before bed, and talked to them about what to do when the tornado sirens go off. For real, I mean. Because the sirens go off every Thursday at noon. And nothing like familiarity to assure that no one takes it seriously.

Did you know that 75% of all tornado warnings don't actually end up with a tornado? Thank heaven for that, but the downside is that people may not consider the remaining 25% a genuine concern.

At any rate, we talked about where to go (the storm cellar if you're home) and what to do (don't stop and look for your stuffed animals), and so on. Good stuff, I thought.

My poor little six-year-old daughter! She was terrified! She has heard us talking about Joplin, and she has seen the pictures and the video clips. When it was time to tuck people in, she grabbed my hand and whispered, "Mommy, will you help me say my personal prayers so I'm not too afraid to go to sleep?"

Oh dear!

So, after the lights were out and everyone else was settled, I climbed up onto her bed and cuddled up to her, and listened to her say her prayers. And then I held her close and we talked about life, and God, and dying, and not living in fear because God is in charge of our lives.

I am grateful for comforting words. It's not like what we say changes our circumstances. But it helps us to deal with them. I am glad I can comfort the hearts of my little children when they are worried or confused. I know I have clung to words of comfort from others in my own times of fear and uncertainty. I am grateful for friends and family who comfort me, and for the opportunity to do the same.

What are you blessed with today?

Tuesday, May 24


Tonight, I had the opportunity of sitting on a tool case and reading out loud to my husband while he patched a hole in a wall.

It wasn't our wall.

As usual, he was using his construction knowledge to help someone who needs it. Since I've hung out with him for so long, I forget that not everyone knows how to build and to fix and to, well, construct. And if they do, they don't necessarily have the tools. He has both. It is such a blessing. I tell my oldest son over and over, "Get useful skills, like your dad! You will never regret the time you spend learning a vocation, no matter what you do when you go to college."

I am grateful for my husband's construction experience, for his ability to do it so well it looks deceptively easy. I am grateful for the tools he has built up over the years that makes his skills that much more effective. More than once, it has been these skills and these tools that have held hearth and home together for us.

What are you blessed with today?

Monday, May 23


I spent the better part of my morning reading about and viewing pictures of Joplin, Missouri. The devastation there is so thorough and stark. People have compared it to wartime bombing damage. It is crazy and sad and too close to home. Tornadoes and floods and droughts are affecting my family and friends all across the Midwest.

It is hard not to feel helpless and desolate. It is hard not to feel guilty that others are experiencing loss and hardship and sorrow while I sit in my comfortable, intact, air-conditioned home living my blessed life.

Not too many minutes after I started my reading, other things started popping up: donation drives, calls for prayers, stories of Eagle Scouts and regular citizens stepping up to help everyone around them, community action groups gathering up resources and combining them to make the biggest impact for the most good.

I felt guilty this morning, because when the tornado hit Joplin, I had just finished celebrating my daughter's birthday, and we were all snug and safe and sleeping in our comfortable home. Seeing other people suffer makes it hard for me to not feel guilty because I am not suffering, and I cannot help theirs.

I am not grateful for devastation. But I am grateful for the greatness of the human heart. I am grateful for the prayers and concern and dedication of personal resources to people we have never met simply because they are people in need. There is so much good in this world. It doesn't just show up when disaster strikes. That just seems to be when it comes into the sharpest focus.

I am grateful for the opportunity to inventory my life and my blessings, and sincerely feel them, and thank God again. My blessing do not lessen the significance of adversity in the lives of others; tragedy in other places does not make my blessing less legitimate.

God bless the people of Joplin, and everyone who is reaching out to them.

What are you blessed with today?

Sunday, May 22

Another Birthday

Yes, May is a bountiful harvest of happy birthdays at our house. Today is the birthday of my fifth baby. She was born the week we moved,which really threw us off, because we weren't expecting her for another three weeks.

We celebrated with her favorite breakfast before Church (pull-aparts), a very pink and fancy new dress, and chocolate chip cookies to hand out to her Sunday School class. Then we finished off the day with a family outing to try out the brand new playground at a local park. We will be having a birthday party for her and her gal pals later this week.

I love this little person. She is such an earnest, thoughtful girl. She is attentive, willing, affectionate, and wants more than anything to be good. I have not always been patient with her unique intense way of seeing Life. I have learned a lot of things being her mommy.

I am so thankful very for her. I am thankful to be her mom, and enjoy her sweetness and silliness. And I am also thankful for yet another birthday, and the birthday celebrations stacked steep and deep. I love my family, and each person in it. I sometimes let myself get sucked into the stress of planning and inviting and mailing off cards, and I allow that to ruin the joy sometimes. But I am getting better about it. And I am thankful for that, too.

What have you been blessed with today?