Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Act Two

I don't like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I don't like any fantasy for that matter, with the exception of the X-Men, which hold a special place in my heart. I know, it's silly. Just don't come running after me with pitchforks. I promise this is going somewhere.

I have been a good wife and seen the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, one by one, in the theater. The first one was all fine and good. I got the story line, and the characters were laid out. I could follow it just fine. But after seeing the second one, I felt like I just couldn't take it. All that death and destruction, all those names and places that sound the same but must be pronounced with great earnest--blah blah MORDOR, blah blah LEGOLAS (really? Lego-lass?), HOBBITS, blah blah. Am I right? Almost three hours of darkness and fighting with no resolution, and then it just ends.

What the heck?

What I didn't know, and what I had to wait a year to find out, was that the good guys really do win. The fighting wasn't for nothing. I have really no recollection of what actually happens, but I was so very glad to find out that The Two Towers wasn't for naught. It was a necessary part of the story arc, and without it, the heroes would not be proven heroes, and the villains would not be vanquished. It was necessary, even if I didn't like it.

But what if I had walked in during the middle of The Two Towers, without having seen The Fellowship of the Ring, or even the groovy '70s animated version of The Hobbit (which my husband has memorized, by the way. He had the record.)? What if I never saw any resolution in The Return of the King? I would have felt completely gypped.

We are living our own versions of The Two Towers here on earth. We are plunked down, smack dab in the middle of an unfair story, and sometimes it doesn't make any sense at all.

Why did my friend Katie Renz have to battle with cancer for nearly a year and pass away yesterday morning, leaving a loving husband and three young sons?

Why did my husband's business partner of eight years and friend of eleven have a heart attack and die suddenly two months ago, leaving behind a beautiful wife and six kids?

Did I mention that Katie was 40 and Britt was 47?

I just don't know why.

I try my hardest not to ask why. It's a moot question.

A better question is, "What am I supposed to learn?" or even "How am I supposed to grow?", because I do know some things for sure.

Life here on earth is the second act in a three-act play. We can't remember the first act, before we came to earth, but I believe we lived with God. We are His children, and before we came here, we were spirits, anxiously waiting to come to earth to get bodies, so we could gain experience, choose for ourselves, and one day return to live with God again. I believe we agreed to a few things, even though we understood they would be difficult. We just didn't know how difficult.

Now here we are in that second act, having forgotten the first. Another kicker is that we haven't seen the third. We know that our loved ones have, who have gone before us. We may catch glimpses of the other side for ourselves or from others' experiences, but largely, we must rely on faith that everything will turn out okay.

Boy, that's hard.

My dad used to walk into the family room when we were watching TV and ask "So, did the good guys win yet?" Well, Dad, some of them have, but some of them haven't. Not yet. But I have faith that they will.

I have to have faith that they will. God is in charge of that third act. He has it all under control, whether we see it yet or not, and we are right in the very middle of our own hero quests. I have so much more in my heart that is difficult to express, but I feel it very deeply, and it brings me so much peace, even amidst the sadness.

God loves us and wants us to have joy. I know He will give us beauty for ashes and everything will work out for our good. Everything.

I hope and pray Katie's and Britt's families can find the peace they need to carry them through. My heart is still breaking for them.

I still don't like The Lord of the Rings, but I can appreciate it even more now. (Especially when someone with far too much time on their hands makes something like this. I laughed so hard, I cried.)

To help the Renz family, check things out here.

And I'll end with a great song:

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pumpkin Carving

There are several obligatory and celebratory rituals and supposedly "fun family time" jobs that I very much dislike. Making sugar cookies and egg dyeing are a couple of them. But my very most reviled holiday extravaganza has got to be pumpkin carving.

I know, I am a horrible mother.

Everything always starts out like a lovely Norman Rockwell painting--the choosing of the pumpkins, followed by a doughnut dessert. Fun. Choosing the designs for the pumpkins--also fun. This year we have Phineas, Ferb and Perry, Thomas the Tank Engine and Tinkerbell, and some silly creatures from a 14-YO's ridiculously dumb obsession, "The Regular Show". One of them looks like Swiper the Fox from Dora, which sort of makes up for it, only because it bothers the 14-YO that we say that. Score 1 for Mom and Dad.

Then the actual carving starts. It's all fine and good. We draw circles around the bottoms of the pumpkins, so they sit flat, and no one has to reach their hand into the bowels to light the candles. Most especially it is so we can do this:

We cut them off, and let the gutting begin. That lasts all of 30 seconds before someone complains about how gross it is. "Keep digging" we say. Halloween fervor quickly dissipates in the face of actual hand-to-gourd guts contact.

Then comes the design making. Once again we realize that we have failed. Not enough safety knives. The lines are far too thin. Every child under 14 (which now is 4 of them) is ridiculously incapable of making the actual cuts into the pumpkin, so responsibility falls to Mom or Dad. Yay for family fun activities!

The children disappear one by one. What's left is a grumbling set of parents cursing the paper templates, and a 14-YO who is convinced that user error has nothing to do with Swiper's eyes falling out. "Stupid template," he says.

Every. Single. Year.

BUT, I realized why we do this each and every Halloween. We get to hear conversations like the following, which actually occurred this morning in our kitchen:

4-YO: "Did you know that pumpkins are FRUIT?"

All: "Yes, we know!"

4-YO: "Because you can make pumpkin PIE, and it tastes FRUUUU-TEE."

Spicy Boy: "They are gourds." [commences singing "Follow the Drinking Gourd"]

14-YO: "Ugh. They always taught us that in elementary school."

Spicy Boy: "It's about how they went to drink alcohol."

Mom (laughing): "NO! Oh my goodness. It's about the Big Dipper, and how the runaway slaves followed it, because it points to the North Star. They wanted to go north to freedom."

Spicy Boy: "Harriet Tubman got shot."

Lava Girl (9-YO): "Wait. I thought she rode on the subway."

Subway/Underground Railroad? Potayto/Potahto.

Join us in the spring for Easter egg dyeing, when we tackle another tough subject: euthanasia. Just what is up with those kids in China, anyway?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Photo Essay: Being a Dad of a Teenage Daughter

This is what happens when the daughter gets picked up for a date.
Yes, the machete is real.

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Thursday, March 31, 2011


I've come to realize something. My son is that kid.

You know the one.

The kid who can't quite fit in. The kid who makes funny noises and faces on purpose. The kid who enjoys being annoying. The kid who takes things just a little bit too far--every time. The kid who never gets invited to birthday parties (Scratch that. He's actually going to one next week, thanks to a very kind boy with a very kind mom.). The kid who never gets picked to be on anyone's team, in anyone's group, or anyone's partner, for anything. The kid, much like Anthony H. in my 5th grade class, with whom NO ONE wanted to square dance. The kid that, 28 years later, everyone will remember not wanting to dance with. The kid who has forevermore ruined any teacher's (or classmate's) chances of naming his or her child with that same name, due to the haunting memories (sorry, Anthony--I just couldn't do it). The kid whose brain is a sieve when it comes to multiplication facts, but a steel trap when it comes to quoting stupid movies and inappropriate radio songs (Ke$ha and Kid Rock, you are not my friends). The kid who could be Joey. The kid who gets so emotional about the tiniest of things that other kids just have to stop and stare, mouths agape in wonder. The kid who doesn't realize he is being teased or dared into doing something stupid, just for the entertainment value. The kid who will always have those kinds of friends, because they can simultaneously understand one another perfectly and get on each other's nerves. The kid whose signs need to be held to try to prove I am a decent mother. The kid whose own older brother will not tolerate or defend. The kid whose lack of friends and social skills is written down in permanent text on his school record, making his mother cry yet again in another IEP meeting.


He is also the kid who brings much spice and humor to our family. The kid who is the most compassionate when someone is hurt or sad. The kid who is the most contrite and sincerely apologetic. The kid who jumped to his sister's aid in her moment of crisis. The kid who hugged an elderly stranger in an elevator, just because. The kid who, in the very middle of an emotional meltdown of epic proportions, saw tears rolling down my face and stopped to ask me what was wrong (What the? Were you not just here???). The kid who plays Pokemon with his younger brother and sister and never tires of it. The kid who has movies playing constantly in his head. The kid who can imitate anything he sees. The kid who can walk into a room and know immediately who is a good guy, and who is a bad guy. The kid who makes me grateful for mornings after emotionally stormy nights, because he is so forgiving. The kid who made me a much better mother because of the struggle. The kid who will make a great adult. The kid who I know FOR SURE was supposed to come to our family. The kid who can be so attuned to the Holy Ghost and spiritual things and places that his entire demeanor changes. The kid who reminds me that the Spirit's influence is absolutely real, and so is God. The kid who is walking evidence that God knows us personally and will help us through anything.

Yin/Yang, I guess. It's the story of his (and my) life.

Yes, he is that kid. And for better and worse, he is mine.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Some people say that children are like blank slates, ready for us parents to etch upon their lives the most important lessons.

Other people say that children are like sponges, soaking up everything around them as they learn about the world.

I say children are like Jell-O, and I'll tell you why. (Pretend you see "TM" every time you see that brand name, okay?)
Gelatin Dessert
(See, I picked green because I'm a Mormon. It's an inside joke.)

One of my children is like Jell-O that refuses come out of the mold. Her mold is safe and secure. Don't mess with her mold. She'll come out when she's good and ready, alright?

Another of my children melts into a puddle of warm Jell-O on the floor when things don't go her way. I wonder which flavor is the most dramatic...

Talking to my teenage boy is like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall. (I borrowed that one. It's so perfect, though!)

My youngest child is like the Jell-O that won't set up. Constantly moving, and I am constantly redirecting. Wait! He was just here! Where did he go?

My spicy boy is like green Jell-O with shredded carrots in it. What the heck is going on inside that one, and who decided that was a good combination???

Most of the time, getting my kids out the door on time is like pushing Jell-O up the stairs. It's just as messy and uncooperative as you are imagining.

Thankfully, I have one boy who is like Jell-O Jigglers all. the. time. Giggly and delightful, easily moldable, and doesn't mind uneven (hair)cuts. He still even lets me hold him. Everyone loves Jell-O Jigglers!

The great thing about Jell-O is that it comes in many different varieties, and they are all sweet. Give it the right conditions and the right amount of time, and every flavor tastes great. So what if sometimes it won't come out of the mold? So what if it doesn't set up? Come on. We all know Jell-O is not supposed to be a wall decoration anyway. And the green Jell-O with carrots? I know for sure my uncle likes it.* It's all good.

So are my children. Give them enough time and the right conditions, they'll turn out just fine. (Please?)

*In 2000, my grandmother passed away, and afterward there was a family meal served at the church by some ladies in her congregation. It's a very Mormon thing to do. Anyway, My uncle was in front of my brother and me in the food line and he exclaimed, "Ooh, they have green salad!" My brother looked and looked, and not a single lettuce leaf was to be found. Instead there was a very lovely, green Jell-O "salad" on display. Only in Utah, folks. Only in Utah.

One more thing...I even have a brain Jell-O mold. So, if you ever need a Halloween treat, let me know.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Help for Katie

Sometimes life seems unfair, especially when it doesn't play by our rules. But on the flip side, these unfair times can bring out the best in all of us and show us what we're really made of.

I am a stamper, as in, I make handmade cards with stamps and paper and all kinds of goodies. Surprisingly enough, there is a very tight-knit stamping community on the web, whom I have found to be incredibly generous and kind. I have seen such grace and generosity from people who live in all corners of the world, and whom I will probably never meet.

Today I'd like to direct your attention to Jak Heath's blog. She is having a digital stamp fundraiser for our friend and fellow stamper, Katie Renz, who was just recently diagnosed with stage 4 gastric cancer. She has 3 young children, and is far too young and vibrant herself to be going through such difficulties! You can read Katie's own words here. And check Jak's blog and digi stamp collection here.

We can't change the whole world all at once, but we can have tremendous influence for good in our own little corners, doing something within the realm of our own abilities, one person at a time. By small and simple things, great things come to pass.

We can all find some small way to help a friend.