Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's resolutions

Yesterday I did some errands with Mark.  It meant the Son of a Baconator for him from the Wendy's drive thru (I am not above enticing my children to accompany me), listening to the guy at the post office grouse about the address I was sending the package to (who's crankier, school secretaries or post office employees?), and the drive thru book drop at the library.  (The Orem library.  It makes my life worth living.)

I asked Mark while we drove and I stole some of his french fries if he ever set New Year's resolutions.  He said he had.  Twice.  Once he set a resolution to get pro status in tennis on the Wii.  He said, "And I did it!"  Another goal was not to use his fuzzy blanket during math.

He said, "I didn't do that one."

He explained about how when he was little he used to like to wrap in his blanket but I didn't like it during school.  I would make him go put his blanket away.

I remember that.  It's hard to hold a pencil when you're wrapped in a blanket.

He said, "I decided since you didn't like it, I'd set a goal that I wouldn't use the blanket during math.  But then I did anyway."

I pointed out that now he never wraps in a blanket for math, so there's progress.

I had no idea my little ginger was setting goals to make me happy, even if they turned out to be too much for him.  I miss homeschooling that rapscallion.  Also, why do little boys have to grow up?

I guess so they can shovel snow and create good playlists for errands.  And share their fries with you.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Books I read in December 2015

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen **

I've been on something of a Sarah Addison Allen binge lately.  I went to the library a while back and got every book from her I hadn't already read.  This wasn't one of my favorites.  It was a reprise of the characters from Garden Spells and I don't remember books well enough to have years pass between reading books about the same characters.  I always enjoy books by her though.  I love the tiny bits of magic here and there.

Contents May Have Shifted  by Pam Houston *

This book was confusing and I didn't make it very far.  If I wanted to read something complicated and hard to understand and I would read about our health insurance.  I don't, so I have no idea what our insurance does and doesn't cover.

Long and Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott *

A book by her I'd never read, let alone heard of?  I snatched it up.  I guess the title should have tipped me off.  It was very melodramatic and I didn't get too far before I abandoned the book.

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume **

I liked this book but almost quit reading it several times.  It was about a series of plane crashes that happened in the 50s in Elizabeth, New Jersey.  Judy Blume lived there then and remembers the crashes so that interested me.  All the characters were fictional and I liked some of them and loathed some of them.  I thought she did a really good job of creating a world in 1950s New Jersey.  I didn't appreciate the dips into immorality that she took that seemed wholly unnecessary.  I expect better things from the creator of Superfudge!

Where'd you go Bernadette by Maria Semple ****

I love this book!  I had already read it years ago but I re read it because my book club is reading it.  The book is kind of a satire of Seattle which I appreciated and made me laugh out loud at times.  It's also a story about a sort of dysfunctional family and how they find their way.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen ****

I really liked this book too.  It's set in a small quirky town in North Carolina full of quirky people (a giant for one).  I liked the characters and the magic and it was just fun to read.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Face palm

Month and months ago, I jazzed up the spine of my binder with pictures.

Isn't that cheerful?  I have a calendar I made on Snapfish and on the back cover, it had tiny pictures of each image in the calendar.  They were perfectly sized for my binder!  I got my scissors and got to work without really thinking about it.

(Because that's who I am.)

Then December hit.

The back cover of the calendar is also the December calendar.

This calendar has not been as helpful as it could be.  I keep looking at it for dates--particularly Sunday dates because most of the planning I do at my desk revolves around YW stuff.

Every time I look at this calendar, I just sigh deeply and shake my head.

How soon til January? (I don't calendar is wrecked.)

Monday, December 28, 2015

The highlights

The tears

I don't know what to do with myself.  Buy Kleenex is the only solution I can come up with.  We had the local elders over for dinner on Christmas Eve and I started crying while I was setting the table because I was thinking about them away from their mamas on Christmas Eve.  (Maybe I was thinking more about the mamas.) It's rough.  I rallied though and we had a nice evening.

We had the Elders Brown (same name! and both from Texas!):

I had the boys give me their mom's cell phone numbers and I texted this picture to them.  I immediately got back two thank you texts.  Lots of exclamation points.  I know, sisters.  I know. Solidarity.

Talking to Braeden

It was incredible to see him and to hear him laugh.

Between the messy curly hair in the way on this end...

Mark's new Lego TIE fighter is there on the right of the computer because of course Mark had to show that!

...and the poor lighting on his end that made him look a bit gaunt:'s hard to see him well, but though skinnier, (he bikes everywhere) he seems healthy and happy.

In this picture he is recreating the crazy video Emma made when she was under the influence of her wisdom teeth surgery drugs (we showed it to him--some things just need to be shared). 

If you squint and look at the tiny picture in the bottom right corner, you can see Emma covering her head in embarrassed anguish but she was also delighted.  It's been a while since Braeden was laughing at her expense.

He was at some local members' house and I loved seeing him interact with them.  I can tell they like him and he likes them and that warms my heart.  It was all too brief and the good-bye was heart wrenching and then I felt like I'd been hit by a truck for the rest of the day.

Talking to him was the best part of Christmas though.

An extravagantly white Christmas

In the morning we saw deer wading chest deep through the snow.  It was a beautiful snowy day.

Adam and Mark shoveled snow.  Teenage boys are the best.  Boys + food (lots) = strong boys (and bonus:  they're funny too).  It's sort of a miracle.

Mark dug himself a chair so he could take a break.

No one was sick

Being sick on Christmas is the worst and it seems to happen to us a lot.  None of us were sick.  High fives all around.

"You know me so well!" type gifts

This matters to me; gifts are my love language.  Everyone was happy and appreciative and we enjoyed our new gifts all day long.  I said I wanted adult coloring books so Mark calls them my "adult content" coloring books.  Adam and Emma and I all colored a bit.

Dinner with Ammon and Melanee

Getting together with family makes everything more festive.  We got to see the exciting new gifts Cormac and Azure brought to show us (a Millennium Falcon and two stuffed foxes, respectively). I got to hold everyone's favorite cherub, Lucette, and she sucks on her two fingers exactly the same way Ammon used to suck on his two fingers when he was a baby.  I dug up some photos to show them.  We enjoyed visiting and hearing about the wonders of their new robotic vacuum.

What kind of a spectacular world do we live in anyway?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Every year I love Christmas.  I love the traditions and the decorating (red! red! red!).  I love the music and the food (fudge! fudge! fudge!).  I love Christmas cards in the mail and the gifts.  It makes me happy to wrap up my best ideas and cross my fingers that the recipient will know that I love them.  That I get them.  Sometimes I miss and the gifts aren't as good as I hoped.  But sometimes they are and I love that!

Every year Christmas hits me all at once too.  Not all the glorious trimmings and trappings, but the glorious reason why.

This year, it was at the high school choir concert of all places.  (In Washington, it was always a "Winter Concert."  Here, it is unapologetically a Christmas concert.

The finale of the concert had the orchestra playing an awesome arrangement of I Heard The Bells and Mr. Shelley, the drama teacher performing a monologue about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow writing the song.  (It was the same arrangement The Mormon Tabernacle Choir did several years ago.  They got permission from Mack Wilberg to use the arrangement.)  And then the A Capella choir (Emma's choir) came rushing down the aisles and sang I Heard the Bells.

Oh my goodness.  It all hit me (ugly crying ensued).

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Till, ringing, singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

Longfellow was in the throes of tragedy at the writing of the song.  Only when he realized God is not dead, nor doth he sleep, was he able to feel hope and peace.

That's the why behind all the Christmas razzmatazz.  

The scripture I'm ponderizing this week is Isaiah 41:10:
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
It seemed perfect for the week of Christmas.

I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas break so far

Emma got her wisdom teeth pulled and I learned a thing or two about Emma.

For example, I have a pretty good idea of how she would act if she ever got drunk.  (Not good.) She would be the type of person to drunk dial.  She thought she was totally fine and she so wasn't.  One advantage of sending crazy messages and videos to your friends that you don't remember:  Haley brought over sympathy ice cream for Emma.

So there's that.


We made gingerbread houses and decided to make it a contest with Adam and me on a team and Emma and Mark on a team.

Adam thought we should draw out what we wanted to do first.  What?  You just dive in and then regret your impetuousness later.

Emma wanted Mark to clear everything with her first and he wanted to attach candy with abandon.

At one point someone remarked that maybe we should realign the teams.  If we had, I think Adam and Emma would still be working.  You need the person with no hesitation if you're going to get finished.

I made a tree (that needs to be propped against the house or it will fall):

Adam made a modern art interpretation of a tree (and the jelly bean rock wall):

And then Emma did this:

Here are both houses, Emma and Mark's in front:

The gingerbread boy that the ginger boy made was relegated to the side of the house, under the eaves:

I thought he was cute.


We went to Star Wars with everyone from Adam's work and their families.  Here's Haley, Emma and Mark before the show:

As you can see we got there early...a little excited.

Emma is a little swollen from the wisdom teeth thing but she still enjoyed the movie.  I slipped her some medicine partway through and after that she was a little hazy.  At one point, people were laughing at a part of the movie and it took her a minute to realize why.

We all had a great time.  Star Wars didn't disappoint.  At the start of the movie, I scooted the girls down and had Mark come over and sit on the other side of Adam.  They needed to be together so they could whisper nerdy Star Wars stuff to each other.  I wished Braeden would have been there too.  He would have LOVED it.  Emma and Haley were talking about it being sad Braeden was missing it and I told them that all those boys on missions will get prettier wives someday because they missed Star Wars.

I'm pretty sure that's how it works.


Earlier Adam was refereeing a basketball game at Mark's school.  Mark's PE teacher, who also coaches football, talked to Adam about Mark playing football.  The coach said, "He's so big."  I may feel differently if Mark was really interested in football, but I am not willing to subject my son to head cracking activities just because he's big.

I'm too busy exploiting his size by having him shovel snow.

We all see different potential in Mark's growth spurt.

Speaking of snow.  We have some.  And then this morning I woke up to a regular blizzard.  The wind is howling and it is snowing sideways and I'm grateful to be inside.

The view out the window normally looks like this:

Here is how it looks outside right now:

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

This is one of those posts

...where if you're not related to me you may want to just skip it.

I just want to record my gratitude, mostly for my kids.

I have a really great husband.

Sunday I was teaching the Christmas lesson to the Young Women and I wanted to do a silent lesson (which is a thing, just ask Pinterest).  I had also heard about silent lessons from my kids who have had them in seminary.  (Seminary here knocks their socks off!)

Anyway, I wasn't totally sold on any of the silent Christmas lessons I could find on the world wide web so I wrote my own and put it into a really ugly and clunky power point presentation.  Then I turned it over to Adam and he created this amazing multi media presentation that was beautiful and made people cry.  His admitted his main goal was to impress Emma.  Mission accomplished.  After church she wanted to know how? How? How?

Of course I'm grateful that my husband is a whiz kid and super smart but I'm mostly grateful that he stayed up really late multiple nights to serve little old me.  I felt loved.

After church, I had two meetings in our living room, one after another.  (Because are three hours of church ever enough?)  During the second meeting, tantalizing smells started reaching us because Adam was preparing food.  The ladies I was meeting with seemed shocked.  "He's making lunch?!?"

Times like that I realize how lucky I am.  In my mind (and I think his) he's not doing anything amazing.  He's making lunch because I am in a meeting and he is not.  That is just how he rolls and I'm used to it.  I don't appreciate him enough.

Later that afternoon, we went to visit my grandma.  She had a new cable box and wondered if Adam could hook it up.  He of course installed it lickety-split.  Then he showed her how to work everything.  Then he turned her ipad into a remote control so she could use the record function easier (gotta record those BYU and Jazz games).  After a few minutes, we realized all the channels weren't working so Adam figured that out.  My grandma kept telling him over and over how grateful she was for his help.  I kind of felt like the hero because I brought the guy into the family.

When we were leaving, Adam had already gone to warm up the car and I was saying good-bye to my grandma.  She thanked me again and told me how wonderful Adam is.  I said he was happy to help and then she confided, "I think he really likes helping."

And I think that's one of the nicest compliments he could get.  There were a million things Adam could have been doing to spend his Sunday afternoon and evening (sleep for one since he lost so much helping me with my lesson), but as far as my grandma knew, he was having the time of his life, helping her.

He's a gem.

And he's mine.

How lucky am I?

Monday, December 21, 2015

New arrival

One of the really great things about our kids growing up and leaving the nest is that Adam and I really like each other.  It's fun to spend time together and we purposely save our errands sometimes so we can do them together.

The other night we were in search of a new Christmas bear.

We saw this guy who seemed like a perfect companion to Lars, but we left him at the store.

If he'd been red, I don't think I'd have been able to resist him.

(I'm only human.)

We eventually found this little guy:

We talked on the way home about how to present him to our children--which is always important.  We decided to ring the doorbell and leave him on the doorstep.

What we didn't know is if Emma or Mark would answer the door.  They don't answer the door or the phone as a rule (we miss Braeden at such times...OK.  We miss Braeden at all the times).  It's a frustrating rule and I have to sometimes send them angry texts, "ANSWER YOUR PHONE!"  I don't know where we got those two introverts.

Oh, wait.

We rang the doorbell and lucked out because Mark was walking by and answered the door.  They immediately fell for the new arrival.  He is a boy--we all agreed--so we named him James.

In a recent letter, Braeden asked if we would name the new bear James if it was a boy (Elizabeth if it was a girl).  That's what happens when your son who loves history wants to honor Virginia.

The entire bear community seems to have embraced the little guy.

We're mostly just glad he's smallish.  That matters.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas weather

There are icicles hanging off the eaves of our house and that just seems right to me.  I've missed winter.  I have missed snowy winter.  When the world is shimmery white, that seems like Christmas time.

The unifying theme of all these pictures is that they were taken from inside the house.  I like snow and all but I also like being warm, inside.

The roads have been a little dicey at times but the snowplows zip through fairly frequently and the sun shines between storms and it all just makes me happy.

Let it snow!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Introverts unite! Separately.

I think I need this shirt.

What do you get when you combine an introvert with several busy busy days where she doesn't get much alone time?

A really unproductive introvert that would mostly just like to stare at the wall all day.

It takes it out of me!  I'm back on track today.  I might just do something amazing.  Like make my bed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Getting involved

I don't have a lot of friends here.  For quite awhile, I think I was too shell-shocked by all the changes and too engrossed in my children to really care about making new friends, I mean I have friends, the best friends possible.

They just don't live here.

Slowly I have realized I need to make friends.  It's good to have people that care about you and what happens to you.  It's good if they don't all live hundreds of miles away.

So I joined a book club.  I'm still tentative around there.  I don't belong yet, but I'm working on it.

I decided to try to volunteer more at school.  I could meet like minded people.  I went on the choir field trip and enjoyed chatting with the other mothers.  Monday I signed up to help feed the choir kids (all 400+ of them) before the big Christmas concert.

I was talking to the other mothers while we were getting set up and I realized, "These are my people!"

Mothers of children in performing arts tend to have a lot in common.  Make them all Mormons and you have the makings of people that get each other.  Some of them were the mothers of Braeden's good friends that I'd never met because the boys could all drive themselves and the mothers never interacted.  We all compared notes on our sons' missions.  We are all going through the same withdrawal and trying to figure out what to do with all the leftovers since those big boys are gone.

Then the kids descended to get their food.  I saw Emma and her friends and I love those girls.  Emma hit the jackpot in the friend department.  I saw a few of the Young Women from church.  I saw Bridger, Braeden's good friend that is still in high school.  He said, "That email from Braeden today..."

I said, "I know, I cried."

He said, "I just can't...all those guys on their missions..."

--> Then he walked away, shaking his head.

Several of the kids went out of their way to thank us for feeding them and that's a universal truth among performing arts kids.  They are well mannered and comfortable talking to adults.  (Maybe all teenagers are that way and I just mostly interact with the performers.)

The concert was great and I am always floored by their talent.  I loved being a teeny bit behind the scenes, although it does come with hazards.  Earlier I had witnessed a beautiful tall girl put her arm around another girl with Downs Syndrome who is in the choir.  The tall girl said, "Are you excited?"

The other girl smiled a smile that could light up a whole city block and said, "Yes!"

When those two lovely girls walked onto the stage, the tall one helping her friend know where to stand, I remembered the scene earlier and I started crying.

It's tough to be me.  And why do I ever leave home without Kleenex?  I mean, that is just basic safety.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Christmas trains

Sunday we got together with Adam's cousin Pam's family.

I love their family.  I have always liked Pam.  Her twin boys are seniors this year and we were standing by the stove while she was keeping an eye on the soup and breadsticks and we were crying over our boys growing up.

Crying mothers just bond you together, you know?

Branson, one of her handsome boys walked by and smiled and just shook his head.  Mothers. 

After the tears and the soup which was delicious, we got down to the business of making trains.  They are experts at it.  Watching Pam get prepared was a thing of beauty.

in the bottom corner is another of Adam's cousins, Doug and his family
Every time we see Pam, I tell Adam over and over, "I really like her."

Because I really do.

Monday, December 14, 2015

This calls for a celebration

We've had a good time.  On Thursday Emma and I (Adam was out of town) took Mark to dinner to celebrate his birthday.  We both wore Star Wars shirts in honor of Mark.  (He was wearing one too but that's pretty much what he usually wears.)

Mark said he would take the selfie because his arms are longer.  That was hurtful as well as true.

He also opened his present from my parents.  It was a Lego set. (What else could it possibly have been?) 

Notice the Milky Way candy bar in the background?  He saved it from his Halloween candy for his birthday.

Friday Geri came and by then Adam had returned.  We went to downtown Salt Lake and met up with Marianne and Robert and family there.  We had dinner at a German restaurant where the proprietors were slightly intimidating but the food was delicious.  The Johnsons went to a play and we went to Temple Square.

Mark is standing uphill in this shot.  He's not THAT tall....

I love going to Temple Square anytime.  In December, it is pure magic.

Here we are in the Joseph Smith Building.  And yes, Adam is wearing sandals.

Saturday we had one kind of adventure and another.  One low point was me locking my keys inside the van while Adam was refereeing a basketball game and couldn't come to the rescue.  A high point was having a brother who is always at the ready to save the day...even when he is in the middle of remodeling a bathroom.  Ammon for president!  (Seriously, I like him more than any of the other candidates.  A lot more.)

We went to the Norman Rockwell exhibit at the BYU Art Museum which I loved.  We had birthday cake (I think the picture is blurred because Mark was rushing off to finish his Lego set Grandma Geri gave him):

there was a slight cake crumbs in the frosting issue
And Geri treated us to The Forgotten Carols.

It's all been lovely.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Tiny notes

Dear Olivia and Tabor,

Talking to you on the phone the other day (one right after the other) was exactly what I needed.  Sometimes I get trapped in an unproductive dialogue inside my own head and my siblings bring clarity and perspective and make me laugh.

I love you kids.


Dear Marianne,

Sorry I didn't call you back.  I was on the phone with Olivia and Tabor....


Dear Citizens of Pleasant Grove,

Let's talk about intersections.  There are three lines.  The first one is the stop line, the next two are a crosswalk.  You're going to give me a heart attack when I am driving on a cross street and you stop beyond the third line.


Dear Guy Behind Me at the Grocery Store,

Cheer up buddy.  You seemed really annoyed, standing there.  You kept sighing and muttering "you have got to be kidding me" under your breath because the lady in line in front of me was taking her sweet time.  Your only purchase was a box of spiced apple cider envelopes.  I don't think you should drink angry.  Even if it's spiced apple cider.


Dear Mark,

Thanks for being sick and staying home the other day.  Wanna do that every day?


Dear Emma,

You know when you speak to me in French and I just look at you in confusion?  Then you say, "I forget sometimes you don't speak French."  Maybe write it down: MY MOM DOESN'T SPEAK FRENCH.  You can use all caps if it helps.  (I love you, but you are nuts.)


Dear Guy At Costco,

I know my last name isn't Dahl anymore, I know I don't have facial hair and I'm not six and a half feet tall, but I know Enoch Dahl too.  He's my brother too.  When you asked Tabor if he knew Enoch and Katie said, "This happens all the time," I felt a little left out.  Maybe I need a name tag.  Enoch Dahl's Sister.  It may open some doors for me.  Then next time we meet up at Costco, we could chat.


Dear Pajamagrams,

I keep hearing your ads on the radio for "matching holiday pajamas for the whole family even the cat and dog."  Has anyone truly purchased pajamas for their cat or dog that match their own?  Never mind don't answer that.  I don't think I want to know.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Happy Birthday, Mark

We have another teenager and I couldn't be happier.  I love having teenagers.  The movies and TV shows that have snarky, disrespectful, unappealing teenagers do not get it right.

Because teenagers are pretty great.

All my kids' birthdays cause me to reflect on who they are and who've they been.  Also I feel beyond grateful that I get the privilege to be their mother.


Here are some thing about Mark.

He is his own person.

He has self assurance for days.  He's hard to talk into anything he doesn't want to do and he's pretty much against new things.

Except for when he isn't.  He's this rare mix of being a stubborn creature of habit and then having a breathtaking amount of resilience to change.

I was never more impressed with Mark than on his first day of public school.  He is suspicious of every new recipe I ever try but when he needs to do something new and scary, he pretty much says bring it on:

He misses this guy.  A lot.

His whole life he's had this kind and accommodating older brother to look up to and play with and wrestle with and to regale with all his words.  He excitedly tells me now about something he's doing on Minecraft and I usually have no idea what he's talking about and I know that Braeden would.  I'm standing in for Braeden at times like that I feel like a poor substitute.

But Mark's OK with it; he just keeps trying to explain it to me.

It makes me happy to see the relationship between Emma and Mark grow.  They can both be cranky and contrary but they take care of each other and laugh together every bit as much as they bicker:

It's good to have a sister because he also misses this guy:

What were we thinking moving Mark away from Gavin?  He doesn't remember not knowing Gavin.  They celebrated their December birthdays together and went trick-or-treating together and got into all sorts of shenanigans and trouble together.

It's been tough for Mark to make new friends.  There will never be another Gavin.  I am over and over impressed with his ability to dust himself off and try again though.  I wish I were more like him.

Besides Mark-and-Gavin, this pretty much sums up his childhood:

Messy hair + white t-shirt + Legos.  (His Lego sets sit mostly neglected now and it's a little sad but those little bricks probably needed a break.  They've been used.)

Homeschooling him was one of the highlights of my life:

He's had 13 years to perfect the art, and that kid makes me laugh:

And has always been expert at melting my heart:

This note was written on one of the many occasions he broke something.

How could I not forgive him though?  I mean, look at him.

Life with Mark has never once been boring:

Happy birthday, baby boy.  I am glad you're mine.


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