Saturday, August 13

Cousin Camp

When we were young, my brothers and sisters and I would watch jealously every summer as our friends went off to various family reunions. And then came back to regale us with the good times and funny stories they had with their cousins and aunts and uncles.

I went to just one reunion during my growing-up years, and it was for my father's grandmother's family. We knew hardly anyone there. I wanted cousins to play with and love and have good times with, too. But my mother is an only child, and my father comes from a family of people who don't necessarily like each other, except the one uncle with the cool kids who lived on the other side of the continent.

Jealous, indeed.

We swore that, when we were grown up and married and had kids of our own, they would see each other all the time and be involved in each others lives and love their cousins like BFFs.

To that end, now that we really are grown up, we have a family reunion every two years. It would be more often, but we are scattered all across the lower 48 states. But two years seems to be adequate. Our children really do love each other, and are so excited to see each other. And it makes me happy.

On the other side of the pedigree chart, my mother-in-law is hosting a "Cousin Camp" this week for all of her grandchildren (that can make it) ages 7 and up. And by "Cousin Camp" I mean sleeping over at Grandma's house for four nights, playing and making crafts and learning songs, and swimming and watching movies and chasing fireflies and roasting marshmallows. Seriously good stuff.

I am grateful for Cousin Camp. I am grateful for a family that really truly loves each other enough to make the effort to get together. I am grateful for my sisters, who work as hard as I do to keep our kids connected, and for my mother-in-law who goes to extraordinary lengths to grow and strengthen the connections on her side. I love our big families, and I love that we are fun to be around. I love it.

What are you blessed with today?

Friday, August 12


Last month, a pair of barn swallows started building a nest on my back porch, not five feet from my door. I was confused by birds nesting in July, but a garden-and-nature friend of mine informed me that barn swallows will hatch out three clutches in a summer, or more.

I was excited to have swallows nesting at our house, even though my friend warned me that they were messy. We all watched the nest building with interest, and then left town for a family reunion.

When we got back, the babies were hatched out (we've counted four for sure, although one of my girls says she saw five). At first it was a contest to see who could see a baby over the edge of the nest, and watching the parents feed the babies was a fascinating all day activity. We've never had front row seats to this sort of thing before. Now, the babies are big enough you can see their heads above the edge of the nest all the time, and I imagine it's getting crowded in there. It's only a matter of time before they fledge.

I am grateful for the swallows. I feel oddly flattered that they picked our back porch to nest, and pleased that they placed their nest for such conveninet viewing. I am grateful that my almost-three-year-old boy has accepted that nests and baby birds are for watching, not for touching (or aiming at). My friend was right, the swallows are messy, but the mess didn't start until the babies hatched, and it will clean up very easily once they have flown away. Until then, I am enjoying this little chirping miracle while I can.

What are you blessed with today?

Thursday, August 11

Relief Socitey

Tonight was our Branch's monthly Relief Society meeting. I always try to go, but I had completely forgotten about this one until a friend mentioned it in passing.

I'm so glad she did, and I'm so glad I went. It is really easy for me to allow myself to become overwhelmed and feeling burdened and unrewarded and unappreciated. And I love the women in my Branch and how they lift me up. I don't hang out with them much, as I am one of the Nursery leaders on Sunday, and we are all busy and obligated enough in our own lives that "hanging out" doesn't happen as often as I would like.

Tonight, we laughed and laughed and visited and laughed some more. Why was it so hilarious? I don't know. There were presentations on the Three Degrees of Glory, Family Home Evening for Different Family Structures, Family History (with a Q&A), and Crock Pot meals. Nothing really out of the ordinary. But we laughed and joked and giggled and enjoyed ourselves all the same.

I am grateful for Relief Society. It  really is a relief to me. I used to go to the meetings, and then go home feeling all resentful and inadequate, but I have learned that God doesn't expect me to run faster than I actually can, and that the whole "line upon line, here a little there a little" thing is a viable life plan. So now I am just grateful to visit with women and share each others sorrows and triumphs and laugh-out-loud personal anecdotes. And be real on a weeknight, instead of on display on a Sunday morning. And eat good food. I am grateful for the good food, too.

What are you blessed with today?

Wednesday, August 10

The Fridge

Once, I was reading about a woman and her forays into provident living and home storage. Her husband had been a real estate agent in Las Vegas, and when the housing market went south, Vegas was hit the hardest. So she was doing everything in her power to feed her family under their current circumstances.

I quite liked reading her tips and stories. She was full of optimism and can-do spirit. I wish I could find her site to link back for you, because it is very good. I read and read and read. But one little point of advice stands out. She said that when you don't have any food in the house, super-clean your fridge. It will help you evaluate what you actually have, and you will feel better every time you open the door because it's clean, as opposed to depressed because it's not bursting with yummy, easy-to-prepare food.

I am not out of food. But I am out of oomph. And every meal preparation has become a battle for motivation. I would love to just take some time off and regroup (or order Chinese takeout three times a day for the next fortnight), but my family keeps getting hungry. Like, every four hours. Seriously. What's with that? How can a gal get a rest with that sort of a schedule?

The day did not start with me planning to deep clean the fridge. It started this afternoon, as I was clearing up after lunch (what? another meal? geez louise.) That's when I decided I was just going to drop everything else and combine the three partial ketchup bottles, the four mustard bottles, the two dill relish jars and whatever duplicate items there were hogging space and thwarting order in my fridge.

It is a slippery slope, I am telling you. One thing lead to another, and soon I was pulling off shelves and washing out drawers. My two-year-old opened the fridge while I was washing shelves, and got mad. "Fix it, Mommy! A bad!" I guess it really messed with his head that the state of the refrigerator was not the solid anchor in the world he thought it was.

It took a lot of stop-and-go (and a break to feed people dinner. Again.), but I stand before you as a woman with a clean fridge. A really, really, really clean fridge. If you walk into my kitchen, you can't tell I've done anything significant. But I can. I can feel the aura of shiny cleanliness radiating from the fridge.

So, I am thankful for the fridge. I am thankful it's clean, and that I have food in it (but no duplicates!), and that after over a year, the spilled green Jell-O is finally all gone. I am grateful for good advice, and for a few hours to commit to an unscheduled but overdue task. I am grateful that my husband is steadily employed, and that oomph is the only thing missing from the pantry. And I think I am going to go open the fridge door and look at it again.

What are you blessed with today?

Cutesy Curtains

I like surprises. My husband does not. So, I am constantly trying to surprise him, and he never surprises me. It sounds worse than it is, and we're working on it.

One time I really like surprises is on my birthday. In an effort to surprise me (in a good way), my husband asked for a list of stuff I would be happy to receive. So I gave him a long list, full of practical, frivolous, small, extravagant  whimsical, or needful things. He tucked it into his wallet, and proceeded to spend the next three years whittling away at it. I never knew what he was going to do next. Christmas, birthdays, Mothers Day, our anniversary, Valentines Day...he returned to the list for my next surprise.

One thing that was not on the list was curtains. We had curtains, but they were old (possibly as old as me), and have not withstood the shenanigans of my children. I lucked out and found four matching sets for my dining room windows for a pittance (yard sale!), but the rest of the house has poorly clothed windows.

Imagine my joy and complete surprise when my husband arrived home from a store run with several packages of curtains for my kitchen. It was not my birthday. Or any other traditional gift-giving day. The curtains were not on clearance. But they were in my favorite colors, and they were the style I like and they were absolutely perfect. As he gave them to me, he said, "I overheard you telling one of the girls that you like beautiful things, and so I was trying to bring something beautiful into your every day life."

I took them down today to wash them. Being kitchen curtains, they are in need of it on a regular basis. Taking them down and putting them back up, I was reminded all over again how happy I am to have them.

I am grateful for my cutesy kitchen curtains. I love how they make my kitchen feel light and homey and cottage-ish. I am grateful for laundry detergent that actually gets all the hand mixer oopsies out of the curtain fabric. I am grateful for a husband who doesn't resent my girly penchant for pretty things, and who does his best to fill my life with beauty and joy.

What are you blessed with today?