Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Holly Jolly Christmas

Holly the Christmas Cat came to stay with us today.  She's a very sweet girl--curious but not aggressive, and very, very friendly.  Let's just say that the kids were especially vocal in their thanks to Santa this year.

New pet aside, it was a wonderful day--maybe our best Christmas yet--full of thoughtful gifts, good family, and generous hearts.  I think we're getting the hang of this whole "Real Meaning of Christmas" thing.  All our love to all of you out there!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Lucy always lets us know what she wants. When she wants it.
She's been insistently demanding a gingerbread house for what feels like weeks now.

We finally got it pasted together and upright over the weekend -- with a few redos of cracked pieces -- and last night Family Home Evening consisted of decorating it.

The kids adorned each reindeer according to its name:

(Rudolph, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen,
Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, in case you couldn't tell.)

I should have gotten a picture of the other side, too -- Sage made amazing icicles, and Lucy had a cute little candycane sign that said Ho Ho Ho.

And then...Lucy wanted to eat it right away for refreshments. She's definitely not one for delayed gratification, that girl! 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sage, All 'Growed' Up

  She turned 12, and measured a cool 5-foot-3 1/2 at her checkup. We can't believe the grace and good nature she is learning -- she is kind and compassionate, and gaining more and more confidence in herself. She's keeping her friends from Primary and elementary school, and happily making new ones in Young Women's and middle school.

Her birthday fell on a Saturday, and since it wasn't her year for a full-on party, we decided to take her to explore a nearby nature center (technically an 'environmental education center') that we had never yet been to. They had a few animals out that day for us to interact with -- a turtle or two, a snake, a frog, and a Flemish Giant rabbit that weighed 20 pounds and sat in a baby carriage -- so we thought it was a perfect fit for our outdoorsy-animal-rights girl.

After we wandered around in a glorious fall garden for a while, and then used some provided nets to muck around in the reclaimed marshland, we took her home to put on her tiara and make a wish.

I think whatever that wish was, it's bound to come true, don't you?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

LucyLu, One Year Older

Our all-singing, all-dancing, queen-of-nonsense-words girl turned nine recently.

She wanted to watch a Harry Potter movie and make potions, so potions were provided...

It's certainly easy to please a gaggle of third-grade girls with a bunch of baking soda, vinegar, and red food coloring!

I also gave them some flour, cornstarch, and pepper, and they only stopped mixing when all the ingredients finally ran out. Even then, they had to take all the large bowls and pots I had provided and dump them into one. The final fizzy overflow of it all was delightfully dramatic.

(And yes, a hose was involved in the cleanup.)

Lucy, Nora, Ella, Jamie, Kylie, and Mischa

 What a great thing it is to share in the wonder and excitement of childhood through Lucy's eyes.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Poor Kitty

I don’t remember exactly how we got into the game, but we started playing “Poor Kitty” around the dinner table one summer evening. Someone goes to their neighbor and begins meowing and butting their head to be petted, while the neighbor has to stroke their hair and say “poor kitty” three times without cracking a smile. Of course, once we each had a turn and were getting a little goofy, it expanded into a free-for-all -- siblings ganged up on one another, or on the family member who was particularly hard to break. Eventually it became a point of pride to be able to resist not just one poor kitty, but a whole slew of them. 

I was able to keep a particularly straight face, and my children pestered me to explain my secret. It wasn’t until the next day, though, that they really made the connection: my littlest came limping in, upset about some nearly-invisible boo-boo. As she shed her big crocodile tears (in the manner that a youngest is especially good at), all her siblings started to snicker. I gave them a big wink and began to comfort her in a slightly exaggerated tone -- “Aw, what happened to your poor footsie? Right there? Do you think you’ll ever walk again?” -- while the other kids were burying their faces in each others’ shoulders to cover their laughter. 

It’s been a wonderful memory to carry into the busy year. I particularly enjoyed watching my kids compose their faces before their turn began; you could see the smiles trying to flit across, in competition with whichever grumpy or solemn expression they were aiming for. Each person had their own distinctly endearing way of trying to trump the giggles, and I loved them for it.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Way We Live

[Advisory for the Faint of Heart:  Among other things, this post will discuss, but not show, an autopsy and a slideshow of unpleasant corpses.]

Two days into my new job, I saw the top of a man's head taken off and his brain cut free.  He was already dead, no harm done, but still--there's no putting things back together after something like that.  I think that's what lingered with me the longest: the finality of it.  Once you're dead, it doesn't much matter what someone does to even your most essential organ.  You're done with it, right?

I should emphasize that I was just a tourist in this scenario, as superfluous as that man's brain.  My new employer, the attorney general's office, was giving its summer interns a tour of the state medical examiner's office, and I was tagging along as a curious chaperone.  Mind you, I didn't know when I signed up that we were going to get a live demonstration, so to speak.  I don't know what I was expecting--maybe livers in jars or, at most, a sheeted corpse on a gurney, toe tags peeking out.  Nope.  Here was blood and tissue and bone, all in messy disruption.

There was nothing glossy about the examiner's office, with the seedier part of town visible on the other side of the interstate.  The conference room where we met the chief medical examiner was a shrine to mid-seventies masculine professionalism, all dark wood paneling and leather chairs, befitting the gray-bearded chief himself, the very model of a competent, slightly pompous New England doctor.  He quizzed the interns, via Socratic method, about causes of death, toxicology, DNA testing, and arson investigations. Then the real tour began.  The other deputy attorney general, a longtime veteran of the homicide unit, warned the squeamish to stay in the conference room as we descended two flights of stairs into the autopsy room.

Paradoxically, I think I was expecting the morgue to look like a sterile environment, but there in the floor was a drain, and there on the table was the body, face up, flies buzzing around its head.  He was naked, about my age, piercings in his eyebrows and tattoos on his arms.  He had not been dead a day, and already there were rough stitches running up his arms, across his chest, and all the way down his strange, skinny legs.  Under his skinless back I could see blood seeping in a large, absorbent pad--he had been a tissue donor.  All the visitors stood a very respectful distance from the body, and no one seemed to know quite where to look.  Not in the face, certainly, not at his splayed feet, and not at the rest of him either.  Flies would land on the face, buzz around, and then land on you.  Up in the corner, a blue bug zapper hummed and crackled.  I got the sense that our discomfort was not unpleasing to the chief--he seemed a little more quippy, a little more inclined to show how routine was the sight before us.

The deceased suffered from both drug addiction and seizures, thus the need to determine cause of death, thus the need to get at his brain.  A stout, frizzy haired woman with a thick slavic accent, looking for all the world like a Polish grandmother or butcher, started slicing back the scalp while I and many others began to look away.  The ears wiggled as she folded back the skin, and I tried not to think about the man's face.  Then an interesting thing started to happen.  As the autopsy progressed, members of our group tended to drift in two directions--either farther away, to the edges of the room, or closer to the corpse, peering deeper into the secrets of the human machine.  I was surprised to find myself in the latter group.  The less the cadaver resembled a human being, the freer I felt to marvel at it--wondering at the framework of meat and bone left behind when the spirit flies away.

With the skull exposed, out came the circular saw, attached to a suction hose for reasons which were obvious once explained.  The grandma made an "X" in the front of the skull, forming a notch that would keep the pieces from sliding once the top of the cranium was sawed loose.  Off came the top, the inside grooved with the imprint of blood vessels and lobes.  Then she went to work on the dura mater, slicing it away, pulling it back and suddenly there was the brain--everything the man had been and was rapidly ceasing to be.  It looked soft when she pulled it out, already starting to liquify, and she held it in her hands for us to see--so terribly easy to ruin, the most fragile thing in the world.  She dumped it on the hanging scale (just shy of three pounds), then set it on a cutting board to slice and dice.  The brain cut easily--far too easily, easier than cheese or butter--and she soon had it cubed and put into containers.

By this point I was standing maybe four or five feet away, looking at where the brain had sat in the skull.  It was fascinating how much inhabits such a small space.  Grandma dug out the pituitary gland with a scalpel, scraped it onto the table for us to see, and we all marveled that something smaller than a pea could regulate so much of our destiny.  After that, the show was mostly over.  As we filed out, I saw the other deputy, standing back.  "I've given this tour many times," she said, "but it's not something I relish."  She had been running on very little sleep, looking at murder scenes all hours of the night.

Back upstairs in the auditorium, the chief began to show off in earnest.  Up on the big screen, almost too big to ignore, he clicked through his slideshow of interesting corpses.  They were all local, all of them from the last decade or so.  Here was the blunt-object trauma of two murder victims, their bodies left in a torched vehicle less than a mile from my house.  Here was the man ravaged by flesh-eating bacteria after only a sharp bump to the elbow, and the man who had the misfortune of dying in an apartment full of hungry, neglected Nile monitors.  Here also was an anorexic suicide, an autoerotic asphyxiation, and a man accidentally drowned in a garbage can full of spackle (don't ask).  "You would be surprised," the chief told us, "how many corpses we find in the nude."  It's nice to think we can leave with a little dignity, but it became clear that not everybody gets to choose when and how they go.

On a relative scale, the least disgusting slide showed the body of a retired highway patrolman, his skull repeatedly fractured by a lifetime of crashes in the line of duty.  Addicted to painkillers, one day he got hopped up on morphine and began firing an assault weapon into his suburban neighborhood.  The SWAT team pinned him down on his porch, and in the ensuing firefight a sniper shot him right through the nostril, leaving barely a mark.  Another slide showed him where he fell, naked, lying like a baby in the doorway.  Another slide showed his bedroom, the bed piled high with weapons and ammo.  "Maybe it's not a good idea for a morphine addict to have all those guns," said the chief.  "But I guess that's the way we live."

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Events, Belated

I got to attend a 'graduation' for Sage, who is moving from elementary to middle school next year.

So beautiful and grown-up-looking, she towered over most of her classmates. Luckily for her, the balance of height is evened out by spunk in her best friend Jessie...

Katie, the last one on the right, is also a cherished friend who loves art and small creatures in deep ways that only Sage can appreciate.

Nora requested a nature party for her 6th birthday, so I figured I could easily make it all rustic and trendy and take advantage of the abundance of online ideas. I think she was slightly disappointed, having pictured more trees and leaves and stuff, but it was much simpler to pull together a theme that was already in the popular consciousness.

I think our favorite treat to eat was the acorns (made with mini-Nutter Butters and Hershey kisses), though I was personally enraptured by the meringue mushrooms.

We stayed pretty simple with games, playing duck duck goose in the front yard, wrapping Nora in a birthday 'cocoon' of toilet paper from which she would then break free, and playing tag wearing woodland-creature headbands that I found on a nice printable site. We pulled out our Milo and Otis movie for a little stretch, as well.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Not Too Soon

K. can see the future.  When we were still in law school, she predicted that, once all my education was behind me and there was nothing but work ahead of me, my restless soul would start climbing the walls of its cage.  We laughed about this observation, but nobody said she was wrong.

Uncertainty I can handle.  When our job plans fell through just a few months before graduation, K. fretted for all of us, but I felt calm.  The decision of where to look for work was the result of much prayer and convincing inspiration, so I felt good about the destination even if I couldn't see the path.  Eventually, I lucked into a steady, unexciting job with good hours, good pay and good co-workers, and it seemed my earlier faith had been rewarded.

But the very steadiness of the job made K.'s prediction come true.  Grateful as I was to be able to eat breakfast and dinner with my family each day, the quiet, repetitious nature of the work began to make me feel dead inside--take the bus, draft transactional documents, bill nine hours of time, go home.  Based on what the more senior attorneys were doing, the future looked very much like a straight line, stretching into infinity.

With six figures of student loans and a thirty-year mortgage, I was locked into a job that was too adequate to leave, especially after the bottom fell out of the legal market.  Rationally, I understood that the despair of having a well-paying but unsatisfying job was the kind of first-world problem that not many would sympathize with, but that didn't make the despair any less real.  There were plenty of perfectly contented days, but then there would be long stretches of discouragement, depression and lethargy.  I began to worry that my inability to love my work would inevitably lead to a disastrous mistake.

Over a year ago, on Leap Day, I went into such a deep funk that I only managed to bill four hours before I decided to just give up and try again tomorrow.  Taking an early bus home, I did a lot of soul-searching and prayer, and finally arrived at this thought:  It's okay to leave this job.  Let me put that another way--I felt as if God himself was saying, "Don't worry, you've stuck with this job long enough.  You're free to go."  All the way home, my thoughts rushed and raced.  Back in my memory, my brain found this lyric from Throwing Muses and began to sing it, over and over: "It's not too soon he said/ It's not too soon at all/ You might as well be dead he said/ If you're afraid to fall."

My friend Steve put that song on the first mix-tape I ever got, but somehow in that moment the lyrics and my mood and the straight-ahead tempo of the song became a drumbeat in my head, pounding again and again that it was time to move on, and that was okay.  I came home singing and smiling, turned the song on full blast, and told K. what I was thinking.  She was on board.  A month later I told my bosses, and they were great.  Never mind that it's taken me until now to actually find the next job.  To me the big step was finally knowing, or maybe just admitting, that it was time to go.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Once Upon a Galaxy Far, Far Ago

I found Ian and Sage laughing helplessly at the kitchen table a few weeks ago. They had a composition notebook in front of them, and had undertaken to alternately contribute four words each to a saga. The story has a rocky start, as you can see them stuck in a four-word rut at cross-purposes with each other, but then it evolves in surprising ways. I can't help but think my kids are amazingly cool, spending their time on stuff like this epic collaboration. Enjoy.

"An army of Ianians planned an attack on the evil Sagacians. With their wimpy fruit weapons, the Sagacians couldn't fight! They upgraded to blasters! Their blasters all jammed. The Ianians were disorganized. However, they had nukes. The nukes destroyed them. They were reincarnated as very weak, stupid daisies. The Sagacians all died. Then, they lived again! The Ianians became dragons. The Sagacians became golems. They were water golems. They became stone golems. Both sides made peace.

But a new threat arrived from Minecraft: it was an army of zombie pigmen, which were planning to take over. They allied with evil creatures from Magic the Gathering. But the Ianians could resist fire, acid, and could work magic. The Sagacians could travel between dimensions. So together, they were an unstoppable force that eliminated each and every obstacle.

Suddenly, the seltzer water became stale, so according to a mystic porpoise, they must rise up in rebellion against the evil empire of fire-breathing chinchillas in flying armchairs. They must ally themselves with living beanbags, because the beanbags could spew armor and weapons. This would greatly improve their chances against the evil army of chinchillas. (Chinchillas can cancel magic.) 

Unfortunately, the chinchillas allied with rocks. This made the zombie pigmen and several ducks bound to them turn against the allied Sagacians and Ianians. They gained the ability to cancel magic too. The chinchillas cackled evilly. Then, a brilliant Ianian developed a new weapon! It destroyed the rocks! Now they could concentrate their efforts on the evil, cackling, maniacal chinchillas. With their armor and weapons supplied by the beanbags, the alliance defeated the chinchillas! Peace was established and they were heroes. The End."

[I split it into paragraphs and corrected one misspelling, but otherwise it's unedited. I only wish you could see the different handwritings in the original!]

Monday, July 1, 2013

Mother Earth

We all just spent a long, wonderful week in south-central Virginia, tapping into our outdoorsy side. We've always tossed around the joke that we'd like to chuck it all and just go farm; so we finally decided we'd regret it if we didn't check it out. The owners of this particular little farm are looking to take a break and were offering it for lease, equipment and house and all, and so we got in touch and took a trip down.

While we won't be making the plunge into full-time agriculture at the moment, we enjoyed ourselves more than we ever imagined. Family teamwork, fuzzy animals, the quacks and clucks of the poultry, feeling like you're on a treasure hunt while collecting eggs and digging potatoes -- these are some of our valued souvenirs. Not to mention a renewed appreciation for clean fingernails, and continuing gratitude to all the farmers who work so hard to feed us.

Shout-out to Michael, Kathryn, Eli, and Luca, the farm owners and our patient hosts.

S. has photo-narrated the adventure on facebook, so check out the pictures there:
Appalachia Star Farm

Monday, June 10, 2013

May in Photos

Ian's Titanic project required a costume reflecting the era

Mother's Day

Not Mother's Day

Lucy's sewing creations

Tiny tadpoles

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Plenty of Things to Love

 (Pretty Please, the horse who just wanted a sandwich)

When I get bored at work, which is most of the time now, I think of topics for this blog. Usually, they are somewhere in the neighborhood of "How Did I End Up Here" or "When Can I Do Something Else" or "What Else Could I Do" or, if depression is starting to set in, "Can This Even Get Any Better".  I sat down fully intending to follow one of those threads, but the sun is shining outside and I'm home with my family and I just can't muster enough ennui right now.  What I really feel like writing is a list of things I love.  Here goes:

Kristin.  I honestly never expected anyone to make me so happy, or to understand me so well.  She is the secret ingredient that makes everything taste better.

Stolen Things.  One of the maxims I've taught the kids is that "Snitched food tastes better."  That's probably the only lesson they'll remember from me, but it's true.  Ice cream that you eat from the carton, hiding behind the fridge, is at least three times as good as ice cream someone served you in a bowl.  It's not just food, either.  Sleep ten minutes past the alarm is the best sleep of all, and kisses are better if someone's 10-year-old daughter catches you and your wife hiding in the broom closet when you're supposed to be cleaning the church.*

Dogwoods.  Have you seen them in bloom?  That's when you know Spring means business.

Rolling Hills.  Remember how you'd pass the time on long car rides, sticking your hand out the window and making it curve up and down in the wind?  That's kinda what hills do for me--add a little fun to the landscape.

Cognitive Psychology.  Why do people make the same mistakes over and over?  How do we navigate through randomness or uncertainty?  What makes us happy or disappointed, and why?  My intellectual curiosities have tended to be ahistorical, apolitical and personal, a field dominated for centuries by gloomy philosophers and crazed poets, but I'm coming around to the idea that empirical study is where the money's at, right at the intersection of psychology and behavioral economics.  I started with Stumbling On Happiness, then Nudge, then The Black Swan and now Thinking, Fast and Slow has got me hooked.  When we say "That's Life" or "That's human nature", what we're really talking about is how the world outside gets filtered through our brains.  I feel like we're finally starting to understand how that works.

Custard.  Also Pie.  Also Cakes and Cookies With Nuts and Stuff In Them.  When something is sweet and laden with carbs and has more than one texture when you bite it, that's how you know it's a good thing.

The Kids Growing Up.  They play together and draw for hours.  They're very free with their affection and quick to do good.  We're reaching a point where I can start to see how the kids are going to take the foundation we've given them and then grow up and out from it, into different and better people.  They inspire me.

Virginia.  Virginia is the Golden Mean, green valleys and blue mountains.  Snow in Winter, fireflies in Summer, bright colors in Spring and Fall.  Hilly, leafy, farms full of horses and woods full of deer.  Somehow the light is brighter there, and the feelings richer.  When we go to Heaven, we will all see that it looks like Virginia, mid-May, just an hour before sunset.

The Temple.  More and more, my temperament could be described as restless or uneasy, but that's not how I feel in the temple.  When I'm there I feel full, and whole, and grateful.  Christ, in his candor, promised a troubling life, but coupled with a "peace that passeth all understanding."  He keeps that promise in the temple, his toehold in a lower world.

*This may or may not have happened yesterday morning. I confirm nothing and regret nothing.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Beautiful Lucy

As long as we just posted Lucy's debut play, I'm going to post a little blurb I was asked to write about her for an activity this week. (It seems to be the month of "daughter letters" at church...) I was asked to describe her beauty, especially inner beauty:

Lucy is beautiful in a fierce kind of way -- loyalty and acceptance come easily to her. She gives hugs readily, shares with others easily, and wants life to be a big experience. Her energy and affection are often contagious, and so she spreads her beauty throughout the world around her. Her dad and I imagine that she was so anxious and excited to come to earth, that she can barely contain it now that she’s here. She thinks, imagines, and lives large. 

Beautiful Lucy.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Lucy's Corner: Peter and the Magic Dog

After General Conference today, Lucy wrote a one-act play. There was a part for each of us, so after dinner we performed it to thunderous (imagined) applause. Here's the work in its entirety:

Peter and the magic dog

narrator;Young Peter wanted a dog.VERY MUCH!!!!
Peter;MOM!!!!!!!Can we get a dog?!
Mom;NO!!!! Thats the hunddreth time you,ve asked me!!!We need as much money as we can!!!!!!!
Narrator;As you can see,they argued.But one lucky day, Peter saw a dog.
Peter: WOW! A dog.
Narrator: The dog was a Greyhound. It followed Peter home.
Peter: Mom! I found a dog!
Mom: WHAT!!!!!!!!
Dog: I don't like the shouting woman. She's loud.
Narrator: The next day, Peter's Mom let Peter keep the dog He named her Nashta. Nashta showed extraordinary powers. Whatever she bit turned to gold, she had laser vision, and could transform into mammals. COOL! But one night...
Peter: What was that? It's Nashta growling! The house is being robbed!
Nashta: These men are bad! (Turns into a tiger).
Narrator: Nashta threw the burglers out the window and they never came back again!

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Little Bit of Boasting

I got to take my first daughter to the New Beginnings program at church last night, which is basically a special evening introducing the program she'll be joining later this year when she turns 12. There are only 2 new girls coming into the youth program for 2013, so she got some spotlight time all of her own, and they asked me to write an intro for her. Here it is:

Sage was the first granddaughter in her whole extended family, born in hot, humid, Houston, Texas. She was 3 ½ when her family first spent a summer in [this state], and 4 ½ when she moved here for good. This ward has been her home ward the whole time, as she's grown, been baptized, and now is on the cusp of Young Womanhood.

There are some really wonderful, but often hidden, qualities about Sage. For example, she's a keen observer of the world around her, especially details about nature, animals, color, and landscapes. She combines those powers of observation with a very tender heart and a desire for all creatures to be happy and taken care of. She'll stop and see every puppy or kitten but also every mantis or cricket she finds.

She's very neat and responsible, even though it's often overshadowed by the combined chaos of her siblings since she shares a room with her two sisters. She's a bit shy, but still loves to be around people and to be included in groups. She reads constantly, and has an incredible imagination. Combine her love of reading with the fact that she's definitely a morning person, and that means that she's often the first one awake, curled up on the couch with a book.

What I love most about Sage is watching those moments when she quietly blossoms. She's not dramatic, but she can really surprise you with her wit and intelligence right when you're least expecting it. She brings home paintings and art projects that belie her age, and I've kept them in a special place separate from all my other kids' school artwork. I love watching her run or ride her bike when no one else is around, she breaks free and glows with delight. I don't want to embarrass her, though that's hard to avoid; but she has such a sensitive awareness of the world around her that sometimes things are a little too much and she'll withdraw so that people don't get to see her when she really shines.

The name Sage was chosen to mean someone who was wise, respected, an anchor to those around them. It also happens to be a lovely herb, not showy but soft and fragrant, and we’ve planted a “Sage garden” including various varieties around our mailbox. Either way, the name fits her and we’re so glad to have her.

Adding to my bragging, if you don't mind indulging me a tiny bit, is the fact that my son Ian stayed home with the other kids during this evening event, and of his own initiative made us a batch of fresh bread. He had heard me mention that we were out and would have to figure something out for school lunches in the morning, and he went ahead and got two loaves rising in the pans before we even got home from the church thing. He stayed up a few minutes extra to put them in the oven when it was time, because he wanted to have done it all without my help. It was wonderful bread, and each of us thought of him when we ate it today...what a guy.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Valentine's Adventures

This may be a rush job, as I've already used up all my available writing time today on personal projects, but I wanted to give a quick rundown of possibly the most over-the-top Valentine's Day my husband has yet put on (which is saying something).

He spent all sorts of evenings and weekends on errands and holed up in the basement before the holiday itself, and then the day of he took the whole day off work to arrange a complete Secret Agent/Spy Mission for me.  He made a thematic playlist to start the day off.  He brought me flowers with a secret note lodged inside, leading to a Walkman hidden in a vent with a cool tape-recorded message as to when I would be "extracted" since I had been a sleeper agent and our network was compromised.  Then at the appointed time, he actually handcuffed me (plastic dollar-store, of course) face-down on the driveway and put a bag over my head to drive me to our lunch reservation.  Let me just say: you totally get car-sick inside those bags, and that's if you're not even scared for your actual safety.  Then he gave me the most amazing vintage photos with a guy circled in each one and fed me the "backstory" for the fictional villain I would be trying to keep ahead of, sent me off for a few hours by myself until I should check a "secure terminal" for some kind of message.  If any of you read our family blog, that's the explanation behind the recent enigmatic post...

So, then I had to proceed to that place and retrieve a dead drop, which was almost out of my reach and would have landed me in a decently deep river if I stretched too far.  Inside was a sling shot and two kinds of candy to use as ammunition (and, ahem, as snack while I waited for the go-ahead) when I infiltrated the palace in Tangier, Morocco to retrieve the stolen thumb drive before the villain could get it.

The kids were guarding the house -- I mean, Moroccan palace -- heavily, having gotten home from school by this point and being in on the game with S.  But though I received some water gun spray and tripped the lasers (fishing line strung all across the stairs), I made it into the house where fancy dinner was to be served while I looked for my contact.  S. got into his old, extremely oversized tuxedo and served a beef/sweet potato stew, spicy jumbo shrimp, and a serpent cake, all on his own from our international cookbook.  Wow.  Wow.  (OK, so I helped out with the shrimp in the interest of time, but he really planned ahead and pulled off more cooking than I think I've ever seen him do at once.  And no, the serpent cake is just coiled up like a serpent, no snake meat involved.)  He had the kids in cool construction-paper fez hats (fezes?) and fake mustaches, holding up magazines in front of their faces when I came to the table, and they dropped the magazines in unison to reveal the full get-up.  Hilarious.  Oh, and another themed playlist with indigenous-type Moroccan music in the background.

Finally, the end-game took place in which there was a sudden treachery, a faked death, and an electric-shock key fob.  So much fun.!/playlist/Secret+Mission/82861596!/playlist/Secret+Location/82861139

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

2012 in Review

We’ve crossed the country every which way this year -- we went over the border to Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, and were within spitting distance of the Mexico border when we visited San Diego. 

We’ve frolicked in the waves of both the Atlantic and the Pacific.

January 1st we were in Ohio and December 31st, in California. 

We’ve hunkered down as Sandy crossed over us, and then put our shoulders to the wheel to help folks afterwards. 

We’ve seen starfish and wild ponies, we’ve hiked among tulip trees and Torrey pines. 

We haven’t had many of the more typically newsworthy milestones, but we’ve experienced plenty of new and wonderful things this year.

Some of our favorite family times this year were exploring the tide pools on the Oregon coast and eating Voodoo Doughnuts when we traveled to the Portland area for the wedding of Aunt Michelle and now-Uncle JJ.

We also loved seeing the wild horses of Assateague Island, as we took our annual summer camping trip as a family. Especially memorable was when the trio of bachelor stallions stole our tortilla chips right out of our trunk and ate them as we watched.

Our least favorite happening this year was finding out that Grandma G. would not be able to conquer her cancer. We did rejoice in being able to spend Christmas with her, though, and hope that her strong, indomitable character will help her continue with us a while longer.

Ian was ordained a deacon this year, and Lucy took the step of baptism. The growth of each of our children -- both physically and mentally -- frequently astounds us. S. and I continue to be incredibly grateful for the true joys we find in our family life, and take seriously our "sacred duty to rear [our] children in love and righteousness". After 14 years of marriage, we feel the constant strength of our love and teamwork even through the nitty-gritty of raising four children and running a household.

Like you, we are often aware of how fragile and uncertain our futures are; like you, we sorrow when tragedies and trials touch our lives. We still hope, however, that we can live as Paul taught, "in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and [being] persuaded of them, and [embracing] them".

Have a wonderful new year, and thank you for being among those we love.