Friday, July 24, 2015

The Boys Speak

Sven:  I think the pioneers went to Illinois.

Soren:  No, they went from Illinois.

Carl:  To Utah.

Soren:  And there, Abraham Lincoln said "This is the Place."

Friday, June 26, 2015

What Works for Us: CIO

My baby is pretty cheerful now that he's getting more sleep.

And he's getting more sleep now that we are lettering him cry it out.

It's awful.  But it's also much, much better.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Sven Speaks

ME:  You are such a good brother.

SVEN:  That's right.  I am Carl's brother.

ME:  And you are Leif's brother and you are Soren's brother.

SVEN:  And I am your brother.

ME:  No.  You are my son.

SVEN:  No, I'm not your son.  I am your brother.  Daddy is my brother.

ME:  No, Daddy is your daddy.

SVEN:  He's not my daddy.  I'm Sven.

ME:  Whatever.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Name and A Blessing

Dear Leif,

We almost didn't make it to your blessing day.  It was scheduled for April 12, the first Sunday we planned to spend in our new ward.  But our plane flight to Chicago was cancelled and we ended up making our big move on a train, arriving less than 24 hours before your big day.

That was enough, though.  We woke up in our own house for the first time the morning of your blessing.

The whole building had a jubilant feel to it that day.  The church members were eager to welcome our family into the ward and that spilled over into eagerness to welcome you.  So many people who loved your dad and watch him grow up are excited to have that same experience with you.  

Mother and Father Duede travelled from Michigan to be with us.  Grandma and Grandpa came from Kentucky.  Nan, Poppy, Aunt Rachel, Uncle Ash, and Maddy drove the five minutes from their homes; we live near them now!  How wonderful it was to be surrounded by family on that day and to know that we would all be closer than before--and permanently!

You wore the family's blessing gown that day, the same one your father and brothers wore on their blessing days.  You looked darling.  Then you were surrounded in a circle of Priesthood holders: your father, his father, and my father.  They held you up as blessings were pronounced on your little head.  Here are a few:

* You were named for two great men, Leif Erikson (the Viking explorer who discovered America) and King Solomon the Wise.  And you were given blessings that complement those names.  Like Leif, you were blessed to be a great explorer.  This world we live in will challenge and excite you; you were blessed to seize opportunities to further your knowledge.  

* Like Solomon, the man of peace who built God's temple, you were given the gift of discernment.  It is said that with this gift, Solomon could see the unseen: angels and demons as well as the hearts of men.  I hope that you will keep your eyes and heart open that this gift may be manifest in your life.  

* You were blessed with a strong body and mind.  What a gift that is!  Your body is the only tool your spirit has to act in this world; when it is healthy, your agency is increased.  You can do so much good with strong head and hands.  

* Your father said that you would have the ability to reason and wait for the right time to act.  

* You enjoy ready access to the gospel and vital priesthood ordinances.  Every year that passes, I come to understand more and more that great blessing and responsibility.  Having the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life is like having a lamp, a map, and a warm coat on a dark journey.  It is the greatest blessing of my life.  I know that although you have access to that blessing, you will not experience its power unless you choose it for yourself.  I hope to guide you towards it but only you can partake.  I pray that you will. 

* Once you have chosen the gospel for yourself, do not forget those who do not yet have it within their grasp.  Grow up to be a mighty missionary, my son.  Your life is a precious gift to be used up in God's service.  I know that will bring you the greatest happiness possible.  

Love, Your Mom

Easter 2015

Easter this year butt up right against our family's impending move to Freeport, Illinois.  Although it would have been fun to celebrate newness of life in our own new home, I lobbied for the move to be postponed until the week after Easter.  I wanted to have time for reflection as well as resources for celebrating.

Here are some of the things we did to mark the season:

1. On Palm Sunday, a week before Easter, the kids and I watched the Bible video on about Christ's triumphal entry.  Then we set up our Easter table and talked about our plans for the week.

2. On Monday night, we planned an Easter program that we would share with our dinner guests on the upcoming Sunday.  There would be music, stories, and scripture readings.  Carl and I spent the week practicing a solo he would sing ("It Shouldn't Be Hard").  

3. Of course, we spent a lot of time that week cleaning and packing.  During all that time, our Easter candle burnt and I kept replacing it so that the light would always shine.  I decorated the table with eggs, a stuffed lamb doll, and flowers--all above a vibrant green play silk.

4. Thursday night was our Passover dinner.  I made unleavened bread, which we ate with hummus and bitter greens.  I put the Easter candle at our table, symbolically inviting Christ to be with us as he was with his apostles that night.

5. A red candle burnt all day Good Friday.  The wax dripped down the candlestick holder and through the cracks in our makeshift Easter table, splattering my shoes underneath.  I put a small bowl with 30 real silver coins in it on the table and changed the green silk for a red place mat.

6. The day before Easter was the first half of General Conference.  My sister, her fiance, and my brothers came to help us clean our apartment.  We washed the walls while listening to the afternoon session.  The apartment was clean and full of activity but our Easter table was nearly barren.  No light shone on the end of our candlestick.

7. Easter morning, the kids woke up with excitement.  That is the feeling I have tried to cultivate about this holiday: lots of stillness and introspection followed by glorious excitement!  Our Easter candle was burning again and the table was festooned with flowers.  Our braided Easter bread was on the breakfast table, surrounded by the kids' baskets.  There was a new pair of jeans and a new collared shirt for everyone, along with the traditional chocolate bunny.  The day was also glorious, with warm inviting weather.  I love Easter morning!  

8. The conference talks on that day were inspiring.  I especially liked Elder Uchtdorf's talk on grace and Elder Holland's talk called "Where Justice, Love and Mercy Meet".  They were wonderful messages appropriate to the day.  

9.  I almost forgot the Easter egg hunt!  Between session of conference, there was a massive neighborhood hunt.  Whenever I think of the Easter egg hunt, I think of the Lord's promise "seek and ye shall find".  Because of His atonement and resurrection, Christ's love and presence are there for us to find, if we seek it.  His Spirit can infuse our lives and, if we seek Him all the days of our lives, someday we will see Him.  Hopefully, we will find that we are like Him.  I don't think that the kids get anything like that out of the Easter egg hunt but I think that someday they could.  Either way, I am glad that they associate Easter with looking for and finding wonderful little gifts.

10.  In the evening, our friends the Johnsons came to dinner.  They brought most of the food; I just made rolls and cheesy potatoes.  After our feasting, our family presented our Easter program.  I accompanied the music on my little harp since the big harps were already packed up and the piano had been given away.  There was a sweet Spirit and definite purpose in our home that night.  We shared our testimonies of the Savior and I was glad to think my children knew for certain what the holiday is about.  I feel (unrighteously) proud of how our Easter traditions work together to bring God's springtime message into the hearts of my children.  

It may have been the best Easter yet.  

A few days later, we were all packed up and on our way to a new home.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Leif's Birth

January 10, 2015 was a very long day of evenly-spaced but non-active contractions.  They began around 3 in the morning, tapered off around noon, and finally progressed to full-fledged labor in the early evening.

That's when this story really begins.

My emotional state was less than ideal for the long work ahead.  I felt frustrated and insecure.  I know that I was more than a little whiny.  But my contractions had closed in to about six minutes apart and I was ready to be comfortably ensconced in the birthing center's tub ... as well as the arms of my support team.  

I called it in and the midwives asked me to give them about an hour.  That was just enough time for one more episode of Babylon 5.  And then, with renewed optimism we made the trip with my friend, Monique, along for the ride.  

At the birthing center, I was checked out "down there" (6 cm), then checked in (at about 7:30 pm), and finally I checked out (mentally).  My mom arrived, straight from the airport and just in time to do some of her wonderful relaxation cues.  This first part of my labor was very quiet and calm, mostly due to the support of my great team.  I still felt a little confused, as my contractions were not evenly spaced and did not seem to be as effective as in previous births.  However, I relaxed in the tub and lit the candle from my blessingway, feeling the love of women both in the room and far away.  I held in my hand the ribbon Megan had made me, stroking it's textured length for focus.  

The tub got cold fast so I moved to the bed.  The anticipation in the room was palpable, magnifying my own considerable impatience.  Thankfully, our progress was visible; my torso seemed to lengthen as the baby bump inched downwards.  Everyone was watching.

While the room stayed peaceful, I began to feel very chaotic inside.  Each wave of pressure within pushed me closer and closer to an unknown breaking point.  When I began to feel frightened, I would complain quietly so that Scott could talk me through it.  He whispered reassuring words and commands to relax, which I was usually able to obey.  Whenever I relaxed, effectively surrendering to sensations, their power over me lessened as well as my discomfort.  This see-saw between fear and peace, pain and comfort continued, only growing more wild with each passing contraction.

At some point, I reached out to the midwife's apprentice, begging her to help me.  I knew that I needed something more, some direction that would hasten my baby's arrival.  She began to set up the birthing stool.  Scott and my mother helped me out of bed.  Another contraction hit while I was on my way; I leaned on Scott and whispered "I am never doing this again."

The midwife's apprentice directed me to sit on the birthing stool, warning me that the pressure was likely to be very intense for the first contraction.  She was right; I felt a powerful stretch with the next contraction and my water broke all over the floor.  But rather than being overwhelmed, I felt happy to be doing something different and excited for the finish.  I relaxed back onto Monique, who sat behind me while my husband went to the bathroom for cool towels.

I really turned inward then, shutting out the room around me.  My pain was gone and my purpose was clear.  I began to push.  I heard my mother comment on it and felt irrationally annoyed.  The people who had been my invaluable support suddenly seemed unnecessary; I was going to do this part on my own and part of me wanted privacy.  I'm glad I didn't get it, though.  Leif was rocketing into the world and the other part of me wanted his birth to be celebrated with friends and family.

 I saw him being born.  It happened so quickly you could have blinked and missed it.  Actually, Scott did miss it.  He was still in the bathroom.  One moment, I felt the amazing power of my last push, the next I felt the tiny, sticky body of my fourth-born son.  My Leif.  My little prince.

Scott rushed in.  The baby was crying.  The midwives were smiling.  My mom was marveling at little peanut-head.  Monique was, too.  

Leif latched on right away, his cries silenced by his uncomfortably powerful suck.  I shuffled back to the bed and Scott came up to sit beside me.  Monique was snapping pictures and my mom was talking to the midwives as they tidied up their equipment.  The room was bustling but there was a bubble of quiet sweetness around the nursing baby.  I thought of the Schoolhouse Rocks song: A man and a woman had a little baby. 

There were three in the family.  That wasn't actually true, what with the three other boys back at home.  But there is a special bond unique to every child with his parents.  To him, he is the one and only, the focal point of his family tree.  And so in that moment, we were a family of three: the man and the woman who came together to make this miraculous new person.  

Three.  It's a magic number.

Monday, June 15, 2015


Wow.  I have a huge backlog of posts to write.  I am planning to forgive it (as well as my chore backlog) for Midsummer this year.  Since some of these planned posts are really important to me, I am hoping to cram them in before our family's traditional camping trip.  Which is June 19th.

Here's my optimistic lineup:

Tuesday - Leif's birth story
Wednesday - 2015 Easter post
Thursday - memories from Leif's baby blessing
Friday - brief homeschool record for March - June

Yeah ... we'll see how much of that I actually get done.