Saturday, December 27, 2008

"The" Gift of Christmas

Does this happen at your house? It seems like every year, no matter how many or how few presents our kids get, whether or not they got exactly what was on their list, there is one present that EVERYONE wants. One present that is the source of greatest excitement, greatest conflict, greatest anxiety, and greatest pleasure. Every year.

This year, the gift was Henry's. A Clone Trooper Voice Changing Helmet. I had seen it in the stores and thought it was really overrated. Every time we passed it at Costco, my kids would drool over said item. But two weeks before Christmas, I pulled out everything I had purchased to wrap it and discovered that Henry was woefully underrepresented in the presents department. As in, I'd bought him a t-shirt. And as there wasn't much on Henry's wish list, you might not be surprised to find that Santa brought Henry the Clone Trooper Voice Changing Helmet that everyone wanted.

What may (or may not surprise you) but certainly took me off guard, was that this year, everyone else has wanted to play with it, too. As in the adults. As I was in the kitchen late on Christmas Eve, working on pull-apart bread for the morning's breakfast, I could hear Jared in the living room, playing with the dumb thing. And it was loud. I had to come out and shush him before we woke all the kids up at 11:00 pm and ruined Christmas.

Not only did all three boys want to try the helmet on immediately, but the moment that no one else was wearing it, Bronwen tried it on.

Friday morning, we piled into the car to visit my family in Southern Cal. I said the voice changing helmet should stay home. I was overruled by everyone else. And before we even got into my mom's house, two of my brothers (ages 27 and 24) had already tried on The Helmet. I hugged a clone trooper in greeting on the sidewalk.

As if that wasn't enough, last night after the kids were in bed, I found my mom trying it on. What the?????

So I guess I'm the only member of the family that doesn't get the allure of The Helmet. Does that make me out of touch?

What was The Gift at your house this year?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

In Lieu of A Christmas Card

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

As noted in previous posts, I have been trying to reduce my commitments and the expense this holiday season in an attempt to give me more time to enjoy the holiday with my family instead of having daily meltdowns due to stress. One of the things I decided to skip this year was sending Christmas cards to friends and family. Don't worry-- I'll do it again next year and give up something else instead, (like presents or Christmas Eve dinner)! I know that an e-Christmas card is a cheap substitute for getting something in the mail, but it's what I was willing to do this year. Hopefully my family and friends felt like it was worth it to catch up with us that they clicked the link from their email to come over to my blog and get an update.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, there won't be much that is new to report. But you can take a walk down memory lane with us of the year 2008.

December 2008 finds our family well (if you aren't counting colds and hacking coughs) and content, feeling blessed with the bounty the Lord has given us. We have been in Northern California for almost 6 years now and it feels like home to us. We are fortunate to have Jared's parents, my sister Allison and her family, and my sister-in-law Becky with her kids all nearby, as well as many friends that we've made here.

Kimball, our oldest, is 8 1/2 this year. He loves reading anything he can get his hands on, all things Star Wars, Legos, and learning new languages, codes, and alphabets. We have been recently spent about 6 weeks studying ancient Greece in our homeschool and Kimball has started writing everything in the Greek alphabet. We all need a key to translate,but he can now read the Greek alphabet as well as English. Kimball has also taken off in our Russian studies this year. He is in Cub Scouts, is learning the piano and tae kuk mu sul karate, and participated for the first time this fall in rec league soccer on the Mighty Titans. He was also baptized this year and has become quite the scriptorian.

Here are a few posts about Kimball from this year (read as much or as little as you like):
In which I report on his baptism
In which you get to see his sense of humor
In which you see how tortured he is by his parents
In which you see how closely he identifies with characters in his books

Henry is nearly 7 and can't wait for his birthday. He is bright and excited about learning, especially math and history. Henry played soccer for the second season this year, and also takes piano and tae kuk mu sul karate (he recently earned his "striped belt"). Henry is our most generous child, always willing to share with someone who doesn't have what he does. He loves to be my helper, which I also appreciate. Henry's interests include Star Wars, library books, adoring his little sister, and riding bikes with the next-door-neighbor and his brothers.

Here are a few Henry posts from this year:
In which he is interviewed on his 6th birthday
In which he proves that he knows his mom better than she's willing to admit
In which he says good-bye to kindergarten

Ian is a mischevious 4 year old who can't decide if he wants to be a baby or one of the big boys. He loves everything his big brothers do, but still holds on to his interest in cowboys and monsters. Although our most easy-going baby by far, Ian is giving us a run for our money this year by challenging nearly all our requests of him. Ian attended preschool in the 07-08 school year, then joined our family homeschool this fall. His favorite time in homeschool is when he and I do math together--I bought a kindergarten math program for him this year that he is eating up. He loves being read to, playing outside, and going to a friend's for a playdate.

Here are a few posts about Ian:
In which he decides to go by an alias
In which I report his alien abduction
In which we celebrate his birthday, circus-style
In which I interview him
In which he tries to emulate his uncle

, our youngest, will be 2 in a few weeks. She has everyone's attention around here. Bronwen loves to mother her babies, cuddle with her blankets, help me empty the dishwasher (she's quite good at it), and being read to. She recently mastered the computer keyboard to the point that she rotated my display by 90 degrees. It took me over an hour (not to mention calling two of my brothers) to fix it. Now you can call me for tech support if that happens at your house.

Here are a few posts about Bronwen:
In which she makes her Christmas requests
In which we celebrate her 1st birthday and rehash her birth
In which we note that she finally has enough hair for pigtails

As for Jared, he is busy running his practice, serving as the Elders Quorum President in our ward (he helps to coordinate service and sees to the needs of about half the families in our congregation through home teachers). He has been working on moving our fence out 5 more feet on one side to give us more room in the backyard. Hopefully we'll finally be able to put in our new backyard soon. On rare occasions, Jared gets out to ride his dirt bike, take the boys camping, or hangs out with some friends, but most of the time he gives his free time completely to us.We both spent a lot of time and energy helping to pass Proposition 8 here in California this fall.

I don't have a lot of blog posts about Jared because he doesn't love me blogging about him. Here is one that I wrote for his birthday, honoring him.

And then there's me. I am obviously busy with our children, our homeschool, keeping up with laundry, cooking, and other housework. I continue to serve as the Compassionate Service Leader in our ward (meaning that I arrange for help when people need it, like meals when they have a baby or surgery, or rides for the older sisters, etc.) In my free time, I like to blog, and started a homeschool blog and a healthy habits blog this year, both of which are SORELY neglected at the moment. I also love to cook and bake, which is sometimes my downfall. I have really focused on spending less and wanting less this year and feel that I have been successful in overcoming some bad habits and perpetual I-want-itis. We have had some struggles like everyone else this year, but feel so blessed for everything that is good and wonderful in our life.

Here are a couple more posts if you're not completely burned out by now:
In which you get to belly laugh at my expense
In which I muse about motherhood and what I've learned
In which I share my wish list of things to do in the next 5 years and how it's going

So, if you are still reading this (surely a sign that you have insomnia, as this post is too long for ME to read a few days before Christmas), we wish you a Merry Christmas. We testify of the Savior's love for each one of you, and we know that Heavenly Father desires to bless you richly in your life.

Feel free to leave a comment, even if it is "anonymous" (just sign your name at the end).We would love to hear from you.

Sweetest Words

I'd like to take a break from Christmas-related blogging (as if I haven't just been taking a break from blogging lately) to share some of my favorite phrases, which are repeated often these days by my nearly-two-year-old.

  • "I wuff u, Mommy!"
  • "Cuze me, Mommy!"
  • "Sowwy, Mommy!"
  • "Cullel, Mommy!" (cuddle)
and last, but certainly not least,

  • "Go potty, Mommy!"
I will feel so sad when her sweet little baby-talk voice goes away. Don't you want to just bottle it up and keep it forever? The only joy I can find in her getting older is that each stage brings something newly adorable. (Here she is in one of Henry's hats, which she loves to wear around the house. Silly girl.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Working on My List

How are your Christmas plans coming along? I am famous in my family for being a complete basket case at Christmas time. Every year I plan to do things differently, to scale down, to not bake and make candy for everyone that I know, etc, and every year I drop a few things from my list and then manage to add 10 more.

This year is feeling a little less frenetic, though. I don't know if it is because I really have scaled back the presents this year, if it's because I decided to skip Christmas cards, or because I'm delusional and will be crazy in a few more days. But just in case I have finally figured it out, I'll share here what I've done/what I have planned as we move toward Christmas. I have essentially finished my shopping, with just a couple of small things I still need to pick up. What's more, yesterday I wrapped everything that I had in the house. I'm waiting on some things I bought online to show up, but it feels good to not procrastinate the wrapping.

I have forced myself to not bake until this week. I figured that would help me to not eat like a glutton for the entire month. This evening after we put the kids to bed, I baked my first (of many) batch of pumpkin chocolate chip bread. Over the course of the next several days, we'll be delivering loaves to piano teachers, RDI therapists, tae kwon do instructors, speech specialists, and all of the widows in our congregation (the diabetics will get whole wheat bread instead.) Then, I'll move on to cinnamon rolls for our neighbors and some of the people we serve in our church callings. Hopefully by next Sunday, I'll be ready to focus on Christmas cookies and candy for our own family and to share with a few close friends who haven't already eaten our food!

In terms of school, I am going to lighten the academic load this week. We will gather each morning for our "meeting" and then the kids will do some independent work: a math worksheet, journal writing, and some Christmas activity pages that I'll find on the internet when I've finished this post. They'll practice the piano and do a Russian lesson on the computer. We'll read a Christmas story together. Then they'll help me bake and deliver goodies. They are really hoping to have a holiday party akin to those they remember at public school, so I'm trying to find a way to fit something like that in. (They tell me that essential elements are crafts, goodies, cookie decorating, and friends.)

Last week over Sunday dinner, I asked Jared and my in-laws what kind of meat they wanted for Christmas Eve. I braced myself for the "prime rib" response, as I know they love it. It is just time consuming and expensive, but I can never resist making it when someone requests it. To my surprise and delight, they suggested a spiral sliced ham. What could be easier? With a low-maintenance main course and my presents already wrapped, is there a possibility that I won't collapse into an exhausted heap on Christmas Eve, praying that my children will sleep later than 6 am? That would be the true measure of success, but it's still too early to call a victory.

Other things that have gone out the window, however unplanned they may be? Blogging, for one. Early morning exercise. Taking pictures of my kids (these photos are all previous years). Math lessons. And I only wore makeup twice all week. Hmm. Looks like there's some room for improvement.

How do you stay sane in December?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Suffering from Burnout

Have you ever suffered from blogging burnout? That must be the malady that is afflicting me right now. Perhaps starting a third blog was what really pushed me over the edge. I just haven't been in the mood for blogging lately. When I started getting concerned comments and emails, though, I knew that it was time to post.

I am so behind on reading blogs that it's downright depressing. I have nearly 300 new, unread posts in my Google Reader right now. I'm seriously considering marking them all as read and just starting from scratch. I'm sure I'd miss out on some of the great things you've all been writing about in the past two weeks, but at the moment, that Google Reader seems like an unconquerable pile of laundry. I suppose it would be silly to throw away all the clothes and start over if my laundry waxed out-of-control, but that's essentially what I'm going to have to do if I'm ever going to open my Google Reader again!:)

So what have I been doing instead of blogging?
  • Enjoying lots of family, who visited us during the week of Thanksgiving.
  • Overeating with aforementioned family during the week of Thanksgiving.
  • Potty training Bronwen, which has been going great. At least it was going great until she got what we call The Big D around here. I'm seriously considering putting her in a diaper again until this little bug passes.
  • Learning about (and then teaching) the Peloponnesian Wars. This week, it's Alexander the Great.
  • Teaching Ian about pictographs. Here's one we did on hair color of people in our family. If you are protesting that we got your hair color wrong (Daddy), I left that up to Ian.
  • Decorating the house for Christmas. As our pre-lit tree didn't have any working lights on it any more, we put colored lights on this year. It reminds me of the tree we had when I was growing up and gives me a warm, nostalgic feeling. But I have decided that having colored lights makes the tree look much busier.Next year I'll either go back to white lights or use a lot fewer ornaments.
  • Listening to my Christmas CDs. Don't you love Christmas music?
  • Helping with the ward Christmas party. I was in charge of roasting the meats, plus made two jelly-roll pans of brownies. We served spiral-cut ham and a Garlic-Herb Crusted New York Strip Loin Roast, which was fab. And much easier than it might appear, thanks to a great recipe and electric roasters. (I used the 13+ pound roasts from Costco and they were a cinch. You should try it.)
  • Nursing a cold.
  • Reading. I just read Enna Burning last week (the sequel to The Goose Girl, which I loved.) It was not as good as TGG, but it was a fun read so soon afterwards. I started Sarah last night and couldn't put it down. Except for the fact that I was congested, drowsy, and hacking, so I eventually went to bed.
  • Starting my "school day" later and later. Except for 6 am math with Kimball. Before the cold hit.
Oh, and Kimball decided to cut Henry's and his own hair on the day after Thanksgiving. To the hairline. So they now look like shorn sheep, having buzzes courtesy of their father. I don't think they'll be cutting their hair again (or anything else) in the near future.

Anyway, no promises on how soon I'll be back with a new post, but at least now you know that no one has been hit by a car. How is the season going for you?

Monday, November 24, 2008

It's Turkey Time!

Are you ready for this week? Thanksgiving for a foodie means that I usually spend most of the week preparing for the big day. This year, my sister and mom are in town, so we'll be working together, which makes it much more fun and less work.

My favorite day of our preparation is Wednesday--Pie day. My mother-in-law makes her delectable pumpkin pies and then we Johnson women go to town on the others. The photo to the right is the fruits of our labors last year: an apple, french apple, apple-berry sour cream, toasted pecan, pumpkin cream cheese, and lemon and toasted coconut meringue. My Johnson family (the family I was raised in) are also HUGE boysenberry pie fans. We almost always buy ours at Marie Callendars, but the past couple of years I have been less-than-impressed with the quality. This year, I have bought the berries and we'll be making a couple of berry pies, all the apples that we did last year, and a banana cream. Although the pecan pie is delicious, it is so rich that you can't try several kinds, which means that it gets neglected, so I'll wait and make it at Christmas or next year.

The Johnsons are also traditionalists when it comes to the Thanksgiving meal (as are my in-laws,) so we don't fiddle much with the recipes, except to perhaps add a new side dish here and there or toss in an extra pie. But there absolutely must be a roasted turkey (and most years Jared also deep fries a turkey--mostly so he can have a good excuse to fry everything in the house the next day when they're watching football.) Alli is doing the turkey this year, so Thanksgiving morning will feel downright leisurely around here. We also make a traditional onion-celery-sage stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, candied yams, a raspberry jello-sour cream salad, and these rolls:
One of the crowning dishes is the citrus-cranberry relish. Sure, it's just a side dish and you generally only eat 1/4 cup or so, but it is so beautiful on the plate, and the sweet and tart of it pairs so well with the turkey. There is nothing better than a leftover turkey sandwich on homemade whole wheat bread with cranberry relish smeared all over it. Yum.

What dish or dishes can you not go without on Thanksgiving?

If you are interested in trying a new recipe at your Thanksgiving table this year, this is a great one. And it can be made on Tuesday or Wednesday, which is always nice. Bon Appetit!

Johnson's Cranberry Relish
  • 1 bag fresh cranberries
  • 2 red apples
  • 2 large oranges
  • 1 lemon
  • 1-1 1/2 cups sugar

Core apples. Zest the citrus and reserve zest for later. Peel oranges and lemon, removing as much of the white pith as possible. Grind cranberries and other fruit together, using an old fashioned CLEAN meat grinder. Or use your food processor, but keep it chunky, not pureed. Add sugar to taste (my mom likes it tart, but my in-laws prefer it sweet). Add citrus zest. Best if made a couple of days ahead, which you want anyway when you’re making Thanksgiving dinner!

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Aubrey, my one-time mission companion, tagged me for this Sevens meme.

Seven things to do before I die:
1. Learn to keep my temper and hold my tongue.
2. Take my husband and kids to Palmyra, NY and Nauvoo, IL (they've never been.)
3. Take my mom to Israel. She sent Alli and me years ago and we pledged we'd take her there someday.
4. Get out of debt!
5. Spend some quality time in Europe.
6. Serve another mission or four with my husband.
7. Find a fudge recipe that likes me as much as I like it.

Seven things I cannot do:
1. Go to bed with a messy kitchen. (Okay, it happens on rare occasions, but it really pains me.)
2. Cartwheel.
3. Dive head first. (Now you really know what a clutz I am.)
4. Go hours at home without checking my email.
5. Give up sugar.
6. Run a mile. Maybe someday.
7. Travel as much as I'd like to.

Seven things that attracted me to my husband:
1. His singing voice.
2. What a great, hard-working, rule-keeping missionary he was.
3. His sense of humor.
4. His dreams for the future.
5. His love for children.
6. His passion for the gospel.
7. His strong hands.

Seven things I say most often:
1. "Don't wipe your nose on your shirt."
2. "Don't tip your chair."
3. "I love you."
4. "Not until you've cleaned up this mess."
5. "Just a minute."
6. "This is the last blog I'm reading and I'll stop."
7. "I'm sorry I said that."
(Oh well, at least I say "I love you" a lot.)

Seven Books I love:(besides those on this list)
1. A Wrinkle in Time
2. How Green Was My Valley
3. Anne of Green Gables series
4. Emma
5. The Chronicles of Narnia
6. The Goose Girl (just finished it today)
7. The Giver

Seven movies I could watch over and over:
1. Meet Me in St. Louis
2. The Sound of Music
3. Charade
4. White Christmas
5. The King and I
6. Fiddler on the Roof
7. My Fair Lady
(I only own #4 and 6 if you're looking for Christmas ideas!)

Seven people I'm tagging:
1. Janet
2. Christine in Istanbul
3. Sonja
4. My sister who never posts on her blog anymore
5. Ashley
6. Judy/Cammi
7. Sea Star

Friday, November 21, 2008

Christmas wishes and toddlers

The other night at dinner, we were going around the table, telling what we wanted for Christmas. The boys each named off their items (a pirate shirt, lots of Legos and Star Wars things, an anti-gravity car, anything remote control, blah blah blah,) while Jared and I listened. We got around to Bronwen and asked her, sure that she didn't have a clue what we were talking about.
  • Me: What do you want for Christmas, Bronwen?
  • Bronwen: Um, I nno (I don't know). Uuh, dresses (as she rubbed her belly. This means clothes.)
What?! Did I hear that right?
  • Me: You want some new clothes for Christmas?
  • Bronwen: Yesh.
  • Jared: We are in so much trouble!
So there you have it. Our not quite two year old is already requesting new clothes for Christmas.

Jared may take it as a bad sign, but I'm thrilled. My boys have stopped wanting clothes years ago (unless the clothes have a character on them, which I am generally opposed to.)

And by the way, one of my favorite baby girl brands, Baby Lulu, showed up at COSTCO this week! I had a hard time narrowing it down to one outfit, but now that Bronwen has expressed her wishes, maybe I should go pick out another! Go see if your Costco has them.

Here she is in my adorable Target clearance rack find: this printed corduroy dress. She was not interested in having her photo taken, even if it was for Nana. Those terrible twos are on their way!

And here's a glimpse of what we'll be doing today.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Isn't She Lovely?

I just got some pictures back from a photo shoot that Nicolette did a couple of months ago. Here are a few of my favorites of our little girl, then aged 19 months.

And a few of the other supporting characters in our family (the photo shoot was just going to be Bronwen, but they obliged the photographer for a few minutes. Too bad by then, the baby was DONE and refused to sit still or be cute. Oh, well. I'm not doing a Christmas card this year anyway. I sacrificed Christmas cards on the altar of eliminating stress this year.)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Update on the HH Challenge

I am so excited that we already have 14 people (counting me) participating in our Holiday Healthy Habits Challenge. It's not too late to join us. Read my last post to find out how--you get to choose your own goals this time. We'd love to have you come improve with us.

If you are participating, or if you'd just like to watch us as we go along, I've set up a new blog for us to track our progress. Each day I will post (I'm scheduling these ahead of time, since I know I won't be able to post every day) and each participant will leave a comment, reporting on how their goals are coming along that day. We can cheer each other on there, encourage each other, and be accountable.

Please be patient while I get this blog up and running. At the moment, I don't have all of our participants listed there, but I will soon. And in the meantime you can still comment.

I'm looking forward to this. I really want to avoid my usual holiday frenzy/gluttony/stress case ways and I'm thinking that regular exercise, consumption of things that came from the ground, and scripture study may possibly help with that. We shall see.

And if you participated in the last challenge and haven't ponied up your money yet (or finished filling in the spreadsheet), DO IT NOW, please!:)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Join Me

Okay, so by now it's pretty obvious that I didn't start a new Healthy Habits Challenge on November 10th. But I really need your help to get through the holidays without putting on 15 pounds and being a grumpy, stressed out mama. So here's my plan:

Let's face it--this is the time of year when we are already spending more money than usual on gifts, cards, decorations, wrapping, baking, special clothes, and convenience foods because we are so busy. So who wants to sign up for a challenge that might cost them more money? My Christmas gift to you is that this challenge isn't going to cost you a dollar.

I understand that for some of you, that means that the motivation is lacking. But I'm thinking we just need to support each other and be accountable through this troubling time, when we throw caution to the wind and stop taking care of ourselves.

So I am issuing a challenge for us to start or continue some healthy habits from now until the New Year. We'll log in and record for all to see how we've done, each day if possible. We'll leave encouraging notes for each other. We'll coach each other along. We'll help each other from looking like this at the end of the season:

Now, what I propose is that each person leave a comment, telling me what their healthy habit goal is going to be. I am going to strive for 5 days of exercise, a 7 days of personal scripture study, and at least 5 days where I eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each week. Your goal could be the same as mine, or yours could be to write down everything you eat, only have one treat a day/week, run a certain number of miles a week, etc. Please set a goal that will challenge you a little but that is reasonable to achieve at a busy, decadent time of year. I'll make up a spreadsheet and make it available on line where you can record your progress each day. (I'll put a link to it in my sidebar). I'll start it on Monday, November 17th, but if you read this after that and still want to join us, just leave a comment and you can start then.

Hopefully, this will help us get ready to really challenge ourselves in January to develop the healthy habits we've been missing in our lives. I am cooking up something bigger and better for that one, and the people who participate in this freebie challenge will have an advantage in the 2009 challenge.

So join me. Commit to being a little better at something in November and December--or at least to not let your usual habits slide. It will feel so good, and I'm hoping that it will make up for some of the Christmas cookies that I will be eating along the way!

(I borrowed the overindulgent cat photo from this blog.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ian's New Obsession:

Facial Hair.

I blame his Uncle Evan, whose wacky sense of humor includes growing hideous facial hair for fun.

I keep telling him that this is no way to find a wife. But apparently, he's not interested in what I think. Sigh.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Musings and Ramblings

I was a little uncomfortable with all the "atta girl" comments in the past few days regarding my work on Prop 8. And after re-reading my last post, I fear that it may have sounded like I was asking for them. I just want to take a moment to say that this effort passed because of the sacrifice and work of over 100,000 people like me-- and many of them did much more than I did. I was a little drop in a big bucket, but felt compelled to share some of the ins and outs of how our grassroots effort brought about success.

It has been exciting to be a part of something so much bigger than myself, yet something that I care so deeply about. And though I object to the claims that the LDS Church was overstepping its bounds by calling its members to get involved and to "give [their] best efforts" to helping Proposition 8 pass, I will admit that I don't think it would have passed without the involvement of so many members of the Church. We have the spirit of volunteerism and consecration, but also the organization already in place to participate effectively in a grassroots effort.

And yet, this was not passed by Mormons alone. We are responsible for a very small percentage of the population here, and were a part of a larger coalition of other churches. It was a privilege to work alongside other people of faith, who saw the long reaching impact on our society and children of preserving traditional marriage.

With that being said, some reports I read (and the tasteless commercial that aired on the day of the election) accused the "Mormons" of trying to force our beliefs on others in regards to same sex marriage. Um, the last time I checked, Californians were free to choose and vote as they see fit. Those who rallied around Prop 8 were striving to educate, but we were instructed to never argue or to become heated in any way when talking to our fellow citizens about this issue. I fail to see how our involvement in speaking out to defend what we believe in is any different from the people of the gay and lesbian community speaking out about what they believe to be their right. We have the same freedom of speech and freedom of religion that they enjoy.

I know that some call us old fashioned for our beliefs. Chastity is not in vogue. Modesty? An archaic ideal, rejected even for our young daughters and not just for adults. Integrity also seems to be fading fast as a sought after quality, as cheating is on the rise from elementary schools to universities to Wall Street. But I am thrilled that the majority of Californians (arguably one of the most "progressive" states in the Union) still believe in marriage between a man and a woman. Those marriages may not always be perfect. Too many end in divorce. But it is the fundamental building block unit of our society (not the individual--the family) and we need to be striving towards the ideal that every child deserves a mother and a father who are married to each other and completely loyal to one another. Children thrive in that environment. They develop healthy attitudes about relationships, sexuality, and their own self esteem. They desire to have a marriage and family of their own someday. And thus, society prospers and continues on.

And that's the bottom line.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We did it!

Yesterday was the pinnacle of two and half months of work, sacrifice, and blogging about a political issue!:) Election Day.

I volunteered to be a poll watcher at one of our local precincts. I rose at 5:00 and got ready for the day, praying that the downpours of Monday would be over. I piled my bleary eyed kids into the van, picked up a box of donuts, and was at my assigned polling place by 6:30. My instructions were to set up a YES on 8 table near by polling place, (but of course within legal limits, which are 100 feet from the polls.) I chose a spot farther away because I didn't want anyone to feel intimidated or irritated by my presence, but wanted to be available if people needed clarification on the proposition. (Although you'd have to live in a cave in California if you didn't know that Prop 8 was about marriage, the wording on the ballot was very confusing thanks to our Secretary of State, and we wanted people to go in remembering that a "yes" vote was for traditional marriage.) My kids sat in the car, snarfing donuts and watching a movie until my friend Nancy came to pick them up.

By 9:00 we had decided that there were better uses of our time (as I had people there to help me once it wasn't dawn) and so I continued to check the polls hourly while our other volunteers canvassed the precinct, visiting the homes of people who had pledged to vote Yes and reminding them that it was election day. Those who weren't home got a door hanger with their polling place printed on it. By 4:00, I'm pretty sure that every potential YES voter in all seven precincts that our team was watching had had their door knocked.

At 4:00, we moved to our call center and had a new flood of volunteers in addition to the poll watchers like me who had been going all day. We set up in Jared's office, which is closed on Tuesday afternoons. There were people all over the place, using their cell phones. Our goal was to call every voter until they had voted (with our lists including likely YES and definitely YES voters.) We had some food donated by some good people who wanted to help, and at least 20 people calling through our lists. As people told us they had already voted, we crossed them off the list. When an entire page was crossed off, we did a little dance and shredded it. By 7:30, every page was shredded (at 7:15 we started leaving messages for those who were not picking up the phone, which was about 10% of our list). By 8:00 we were locking up the office and heading home.

Pushing through exhaustion, a few of us decided to go to the Protect Marriage victory party that was being held in Sacramento. I was really hoping for shrimp, but was disappointed! However, we got a chance to cheer and mingle with other supporters while the initial results came in. When it was clear that we were well ahead but that there was a long way to go before all the votes were counted, we left, trying hard to stay awake for the drive home. (Here's a picture with Christine. You might ask why I would post a picture of myself looking tired and harried next to my gorgeous friend. I just didn't remember to pull out my camera earlier in the day, so these are the only pictures I can come up with. At least one of us looks great!)

This morning our local news stations seem hesitant still to call it a victory. With 98% of precincts reporting and with 53% voting YES and 47% voting no, they are saying it is still "too close to call." Hogwash. They called the presidency much earlier than that! Here's something that I found from that almost infers that the proposition may have passed.

This post is not about gloating and being a poor sport, Mom. It is breathing a sigh of relief that the work of so many people for a cause that we deeply believed in has paid off. I am sorry that a victory brings pain to others. I want so much for them to understand that we hold no ill will towards them personally, but that we disagree strongly about the appropriate guidelines for and definition of marriage. Perhaps because our perspectives are so different, that has been nearly impossible for those voting NO to understand.

I do hope that we will be able to live together peaceably after this. Much like presidential elections, (which sometimes your candidates lose and sometimes they win,) when the election is over it is time to put away divisiveness and remember that we are all Americans. We are so blessed to live in a place where democracy rules, even though it doesn't always go the way we had hoped. I pray that it will be so.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Where Have I Been?

I feel like this blog is my long lost (or at least neglected) friend of late. Things have just been so constantly busy around here that I have little time to read or write blog posts. And I miss it! Yet I'm not sure exactly what I could have cut out these past couple of weeks. Here is a glimpse at what we have done in the last 7 days. Obviously, little time has been spent at the computer. To those of you who think that I have turned my back on your blogs, please know that I will make it back!

So, here are a few things that have been keeping us busy:

Soccer. Luckily Unfortunately, today's games were rained out. But last Saturday we had two soccer games. And we are at the point in the season where almost everyone wishes it would just be over!:)

Prop 8. We've been to rallies, town hall meetings, and phone banks trying to spread the excitement and educate people about Prop 8. We've been to training meetings and planning meetings. We've been talking about this so much with everyone that we know that I'm not sure what we'll talk about after Tuesday (don't forget to vote!) We are in the final days now. The final days of calling the people who promised to vote yes until they get to the polls. The final days of waving signs on street corners. The final days of knocking on doors and shaking hands.

Cub Scouts. Kimball's pack had a great meeting at the library. Although we go to the library regularly and check out our limit of 50 books, Kimball didn't have his own library card yet. Well, he does now. The librarian also showed the boys lots of new books that were just up their alley. Kimball came home with a few of her suggestions, including books about gross things, books about spooky things, books about world records. . . . yes, he still loves books. He also participated in retiring the flag at the library that day. And no, I have no idea where his neckerchief and slide are. Thanks for noticing he wasn't in full uniform!

Homeschool. We are busy learning about the ancient Greeks. Among other things, this week we learned about the Greek alphabet and tried writing our names using it. We also adorned Grecian urns with drawings of mythological stories, had our own Olympic games, and brushed up on the Odyssey, which we read together last spring.

Halloween. Duh. We had a ward trunk-or-treat plus our annual Halloween open house, inspired by our dear friends, the Renoufs. (You can read about our tradition here.) Yesterday the forecast called for rain, so we set up the shade tarps just in case. The rain stayed away until about 8:15, over two hours into the party. We had a good turnout, especially given the weather, and fun was had by all. One Tinkerbell even managed to sleep through a good part of it before awaking to play with her friends.

Kimball agreed to be a clown for the trunk or treat, but for Halloween night, he had only one wish. He had to be Howard Carter. (Go ahead and click the link. You have no idea who Howard Carter is--admit it! I didn't.) With his nana's help, he and Henry turned their room into an Egyptian tomb, complete with hieroglyphics, paintings of Egyptian gods, and a sarcophagus. He led our guests on expeditions back to the tomb, where his lantern was the only light, and explained all the details of the paintings to them. He was absolutely adorable!

This Bon Jovi wannabe grilled and served hot dogs and corn dogs all night (after cleaning my house and setting up tables, chairs, and tarps for me.) This annual gig couldn't be done without all his work.

Our little ballerina proved to be quite the party girl.
After the initial phase where she bolted out the open double doors and towards the front street multiple times, she finally figured out that the fun was to be in the thick of things. She flitted about, visiting everyone, charming people into taking the wrapper off of a lolly for her every time one ran out. (The clever girl had quickly discovered where the trick-or-treat bin was.) She was thrilled when any of her friends arrived, like her cousins, Lydia

and Isaac, or her BFF, Cali. She refused to go to bed until our guests were gone, even though it was long past her bedtime.

Ian, on the other hand, is famous for getting dressed for bed halfway through the party and he lived up to his reputation this year. Henry was thrilled to not have his mom policing his food (although he kept asking me before he ate anything, not quite catching on that I was going to let him eat whatever he wanted that night.) He paid for it this morning, though, by puking the chocolately contents of his stomach at 8:00 am. It's a good thing that at our house the candy disappears on November 1st. We get our fill before then.

I'm hoping that after the election on Tuesday I'll have some time to write and read blogs more often, but I'm not making any promises. November is not known for its unhurried ways around these parts. It's pretty much a whirlwind from now until January 2nd. But please stick with me. I'll try hard not to neglect you if you'll still check in once in a while!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Photo Tag

This tag has been floating around the blogs I read for some time, but I've finally been tagged. I really should be writing my weekly report for last week on this blog, but I just don't feel like it, so here I am. Thanks, Molly!

Here are the rules. Post the fourth picture in the fourth folder of you picture files. Tell us about the picture. Tag a friend or two.

This picture was taken almost exactly two years ago, by our friend Maggie Rassmussen. She came up with my brother, Evan, and shot hundreds of pictures of our family. We went to Apple Hill, a Halloween party, the temple grounds, and just spent time at home, all the while she was snapping pictures. She did excellent work and I love every one of them. This one caught Kimball in a familiar pose. It was after breakfast on a Saturday or Sunday morning and he was stretched out in the sunshine near the sliding door, reading a book. He was six and a half at the time. You can still find him in his spare moments (and in moments when he is supposed to be getting dressed, cleaning his room, or some other productive thing) reading a book, lost to the world around him.

Thanks, Maggie, for taking these pictures that my family will always treasure.

I tag Sonja, Mandy, and Morgan.