Friday, February 27, 2009

The Juan and Only

I remember, after having Kelly, thinking it would be impossible to love another child the way I loved her. Many mothers have told me they feared the same thing after having one child. Between Kelly and Jon I had three miscarriages and I began to wonder if I'd ever get a chance to challenge my fear. When Jon arrived, I, of course, learned what every mother learns and that's that your heart simply grows with each child. Jon was a welcomed, cherished little guy - until about the second week. That's when that sweet baby boy morphed into something straight out of an Alien movie. He cried every day and all day. He didn't sleep through the night until he was nearly three. He didn't like me and was never content until Mark came home and held him. I wanted to punch them both. To this day I don't know how I ever survived that first year.
It was a heavy price to pay, but in the long term, it worked out. By the time he reached one year he was the sweetest, easiest baby in the world. And, in all honesty, he has remained that way throughout his 26 years. When I think of Jon, I imagine an oasis in a hot, barren desert. He has been the calm in the middle of the two female storms we call our daughters. He doesn't whine (except for Snickerdoodles). He always makes me feel good. He is NOT emotional. He does what's right - most of the time. He is like a breath of fresh air. Here are some other reasons I love my Jon.

Describing Jon isn't easy. He is, by far, the least attached of my kids, yet he is probably the most sensitive and caring. Sometimes I think he tries to hide that side so he can appear more macho. But, mammas know all!

For as long as I can remember Jon has not liked change. He use to freak out at the suggestion of getting a new bedspread or rearranging his room. That remained the case until he went on his mission. Of all the great things he took from his mission, one of the most notable was his new found sense of adventure. I think he may have learned that the world is bigger than he thought and he didn't want to chance a door closing before he walked - ran - through it. I like this about Jon. He has assured me that he probably won't stay in San Diego - a thought that would put Lindz and Kelly in an institution. He doesn't hang around the house like the girls, but he remains connected in all other ways.

Over the years I have felt sorry for Lindsay at times for being the little sister. Jon takes his role as Big Brother very seriously. Maybe too seriously. I don't think he's ever liked a guy that Lindsay has dated....well, maybe one. He isn't nice about it either. I fear Lindsay will never find someone who can pass the Big Brother test. I know it irritates Lindsay, but I can't feel too bad about it. I always thought it would be so cool to have a big protective brother. Regardless, I think Jon will always "have Lindsay's back".

I know I sound redundant, but, like the girls, everyone likes Jon. Even though he claims to be a little "antisocial", his social life doesn't support that. I received several calls while he was on his mission from people who he had worked with. They couldn't sing his praises loud enough. They genuinely loved him and he has kept in touch with many of them. Everywhere he goes, he collects friends. It seems that every weekend Jon's got big plans with his group of buddies. He has millions of them....and most of them live in Sacramento. (A family joke...).

Hardly a week goes by that someone doesn't ask me why Jon isn't married. The answer is pretty simple. He's not ready yet. One sister in our ward told me that the reason they had moved to San Diego was so their daughter could marry Jon. No kidding. A bishop once told me that he wanted his daughters to marry someone just like him. Another said he hoped his son grew up to be just like Jon. Sometimes I feel like wearing a sign that says, "YES, HE'S 26 AND WONDERFUL, AND NO HE'S NOT MARRIED" - and I might add, NOT GAY. It's a pretty hard concept for some members to wrap their brains around. I learned a long time ago that Jon does things on his own timeline. However, if you happen to know a cute, great............ Sorry, Jon.

Jon has never been afraid or embarrassed to show his love for his family. Even now he kisses me every time he walks in the door and every time he leaves. Same for the girls. He is genuinely one of the most caring, compassionate men I've ever know. He has always been respectful to me. Even during the hard teenage years, he always showed me respect. That may have been due to Mark's threats, but I don't think so. He makes me feel important and very loved.

Manipulation is his game. He thinks he's been able to guilt me into doing most anything. "Okay Jon I'll cut your waffles." "Yes, Jon, just bring your laundry over." And, as a young boy....."Yes, Jon, I'll heat up your pajamas in the dryer...". I wonder if he ever figured out that I was onto him? Yes, I did all those things, but not out of guilt, rather out of the pure joy it gave me to see him so happy. Even now he probably thinks I don't expect him to call me every Thursday so I'll take him to lunch. He's sounds so innocent when he says, "Hey, Mom, just wondering what you're doing......."

Jon makes doing the right thing seem easy. I know it isn't...and he's told me so, but he seems to be immune to the pressures that most of us feel. He has been an example to me for as long as I can remember. I could always count on him....and I rarely had to worry about him. That was such a gift as he was growing up. He has always been easy to be around and easy to love. He has truly been my oasis.

You can relax now. I only have three kids, so I'm through with the bragging thing...until I do another post on Bailey. I can't help myself.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

One of a Kind Kelly

I've often said that Lindsay was born an "old soul" and simply tolerated us "newbies". She always seemed in a hurry to grow up and was impatient with those of us who felt more inclined to get caught up in the frenzy of life. If I believed in reincarnation I would think that this is her 20th life and she came to us with a boatload of past experiences.

Kelly is her opposite. She is the ultimate "newbie". Life has been an adventure for her since the day she opened her eyes. She flew through her childhood like a Tasmanian Devil. Her body and mouth were constantly moving - ESPECIALLY her MOUTH. I gave up trying to win an argument with her when she was 4. Through it all, however, I saw glimpses of the woman she would become and I was not disappointed. Here are some of my favorite things about my Kelly.

I've never met anyone who doesn't like Kelly. I really mean that. Old people, young adults, doesn't matter. They all like her. Several years ago we went on a cruise to the Caribbean. Jon hung out with Mark. Lindsay, of course, found some guys. Mark and I hung out with our friends, Tim and Shelley. Kelly, true to form, found a 5-year-old little girl. They spent most of the cruise together. The little girl loved Kelly and so did her parents. They kept in touch for months after the cruise. This is not unusual for Kelly.

Several years ago I had a surgery which required me to stay overnight in the hospital. Kelly stayed with me, sleeping at the end of my bed, and catered to my every need. I've always told her that I will be in good hands when I'm an old fart and too decrepit to care for myself. She's the best nurse in the world and genuinely loves all the nasty stuff that goes with caring for others. I'm not the only one who has benefited from her careful administrations. When Lindsay broke both elbows it was Kelly who bathed her, bandaged her, and helped her with her hair. She even cared for Oakley when he had bladder surgery. She may have missed her true calling!

Few people know that Kelly has rather severe OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). She's had it most of her life, but not until college did it require medication. Her medication changed her. Life became much more tolerable and she was able to control many of her obsessions and impulses. When she became pregnant with Bailey she had to go completely off her meds. I'm not sure anyone who doesn't have OCD can truly appreciate how difficult this was. The effects were compounded by the fact that her hormones were going crazy and she was trying to adjust to pregnancy. Then, she had a baby who didn't sleep for 2 months, which meant, of course, that she didn't sleep either. Dave was working nights, so she was alone most of the time. Needless to say, it was a difficult time. Things got better, but never easy. As I watched her during this time I wondered if she would survive it. My admiration for her is beyond measure. I don't know that I could have done it. She finally started back on her meds a few days ago and hopefully she can regain her "old self" soon. She deserves all the peace she can find.

Kelly is my personal champion. No matter how hideous I look or how rotten I behave she always has something kind to say. This may seem like a small thing, but it has saved many days for me. I have many letters from her where she has expressed her love and appreciation. They are treasures. She loves her family with a passion that is staggering. We never have to doubt her loyalty or her love. She never misses an opportunity to support us in anyway she can. She is, in fact, the glue that holds us together.

Motherhood came as natural to Kelly as breathing. As long as I can remember she has loved children. Before she was married, she was constantly being told that she just HAD to have kids. In spite of the fact that Bailey looked like an alien when she was born, Kelly still fell instantly in love with her. She is an amazing mother. She is patient and loving and genuinely lights up when she's with Bailey. One of my greatest joys is seeing my child parent my grandchild. She does it so beautifully and with such love that it often overwhelms me.

When Kelly was in Middle School she was voted "Best Athlete" and "Best Legs". I still laugh when I think about that. I'm happy that she selected to go with "Best Athlete" (you could only be one) since it ended up paying for her college education. She does have good legs, however. From the first time Kelly picked up a softball she was a natural. She pitched her way through middle school, high school, and college. I was forced to give up my dream of having a ballerina when her first ballet teacher told us she might be happier in another activity. We didn't end up seeing Kelly on stage much, but we saw her on every softball field in Southern California and many other states. It was brutal watching her (my nerves couldn't take it) so I breathed a sigh of relief when she decided to end her playing career in her senior year at Utah State. Just in time, I might add, to start following Lindsay around softball fields! When I think of Kelly as a young girl my first vision is of her in a softball uniform, looking in the crowd to find me as she approaches her first batter. It's a very sweet memory.

Okay enough is enough. One final thought. When I had Kelly I knew she was a girl from the moment I found out I was pregnant - and I called her by name throughout the pregnancy. I never had a sister and was sure I would be blessed with daughters. I was and have loved every minute (well, most minutes) of it. Kelly has been a daughter and a friend and I am grateful for every minute of her life. She, along with Lindz and Jon, have taught me what family is all about. They are my very heart.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I Stand Corrected

As I was, once again, writing a post about Bailey, Lindsay came in and said, "You're not really writing another post about Bailey, are you!??? Do you realize you only write about her and you neglect your own kids?" Hummmm. She could be right. I MAY be a tad myopic when it comes to Bai. I can take constructive criticism, however, so I've decided that my next posts will be about my kids...and maybe even Mark. First is Lindsay Nicole. Here are just a few things I love about my Lindz.

In honor of Valentines's Day, I went all out with red placemats and heart shaped naptkin rings at dinner today. (cough, cough) I also made a pathetic heart cake, just to say I did. Lindsay, however, arrived with hand selected candies from her favorite candy shop for everyone in the family. That is Lindsay. She thinks of everyone. She even handed out Barbie Valentines to her friends at Nordstroms. And, they always know they can get a little sugar fix by visiting her candy drawer in Jewelry.

Lindsay is a gift guru. If you want a creative idea for a gift for someone, she's your girl. When you receive a gift from her you know it was selected only after careful consideration - and it will be a perfect match. Even her customers recognize this. She is honest with them, she spends time with them, and she respects them. Recently she was given a letter by a customer listing the many ways she had been helped by Lindsay and thanking her for her professionalism, expertise, and time. I've watched her carry packages out to the cars of older customers. I've seen her run from department to department putting together outfits to match a certain piece of jewelry that someone was buying. She's the top salesperson in her department and several times has had the highest sales in the entire store. Simply said, she is very good at what she does.

Lindsay is the kind of student that I wished filled my classes. I've never had a student like her. She has mastered the art of studying and can patiently spend hours preparing for a test. Her notes are so meticulous that several professors told her she should publish them. It's not especially easy for her. Her grades are a result of incredible effort. She challenges teachers and takes her learning seriously. That means she is either loved or hated in class. I learned a long time ago not to argue with her, not because I couldn't win, but because I couldn't talk louder and longer than her!

Lindsay has been beautiful her whole life. I often wonder how I ever came up with such beautiful kids. I had people offer to pay for a portfolio for her so she could get into modeling - at age 4. Modeling agencies approached her and asked her to model. Just a week ago a perfect stranger walked up to her and told her she was too beautiful to work at Nordstroms and she should be on the runway. I can't imagine having such attention, but she has handled it pretty well throughout her life. She's never been cocky or self-absorbed, and she still looks genuinely surprised when someone compliments her. I admire her for that....and I'm incredibly jealous!

When it comes to cooking, Lindsay is definitely the "go to" girl. I grew up on meat and potatoes, so I have no idea where her gourmet tastes come from. But, she can flat out cook! A couple of Christmases ago I had a dinner party for five of my friends and their husbands. Lindsay created the menu and cooked the entire meal. She even announced and described each course as she served it. The menu included bruschetta with white beans, sun dried tomatoes and basil; a vinaigrette salad with homemade croutons and dressing; phyllo wrapped asparagus; Parmesan crusted chicken; garlic mashed potatoes and creme brule for dessert. It was amazing....and to think she learned it all from the Food Network!

I could go on and on. She was a gifted athlete and still holds a record at her middle school for the 100 yard dash. She's a wonderful aunt to Bailey and a great sister to Kelly. (I'd have to check with her and Jon to see if the same holds true for them. It's a day to day thing.) She thinks nothing of handing $20 over to missionaries walking down the street or anyone else who might be in need. My adult friends love her. She likes to hang out with me and I love to hang out with her.

She has brought great joy to my life and I love her dearly. I sometimes find it hard to believe that she's related to me. However I came to have her in my life, I am grateful. She is a gift.

Note: Please forgive me if this sounds like one of those obnoxious Christmas brag letters. My philosophy is if you don't brag about your kids, who will?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Rules of Life

Last Monday I was wandering around my classroom while my students were involved in a project and came across these "Rules for Life" posted on the wall. They were credited to Bill Gates, but upon further investigation, I discovered they actually came from an educator named Charles Sykes and first appeared in his book "Dumbing Down our Kids". I guess they've been around for years, but somehow I missed them. I think they are worth repeating. I've seen far too many kids in my classes who I fear will never be prepared for the realities of life. I probably could have used these, too, as a teenager.

Rules of Life

1. Life is not fair - get used to it.

2. The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to
accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

3. You will not make $60,000 a year out of High School. You won't be a VP with
a car phone (ok, this was years ago.....) until you earn them.

4. If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

5. Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a
different word for burger flipping. They called it opportunity.

6. If you mess up, it's not your parents fault, so don't whine about your mistakes,
learn from them.

7. Before you were born your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got
that way paying your bills, cleaning your clothes, and listening to you talk
about how cool you thought you were. So, before you save the rainforest from the
parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your room.

8. Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In
some schools they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as many
times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest
resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

9. Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few
employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.

10.TV is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop
and go to jobs.

11.Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

Those of us who have worked or have jobs, know most of these to be true. I think I might have my students write an essay about about them. What do you think?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It Ain't So Bad

I turned 56 on January 24th. There....I said it. I am over half a century old. I will never be 40 or 30 or 20 or even 50 again. And you know what? I don't care. When I was
twenty, fifty seemed ancient. I imagined myself in one of those electric carts rolling through K-Mart looking for deals on denture adhesives. But,I imagined that would be okay since I'd be suffering from dementia and not fully aware of my pathetic state.

What a surprise when I hit fifty and didn't feel that different than I did at 30 or 40 - except for the creaking bones and breasts so saggy that they reside in a different area code...oh...and the extra 30 pounds. Other than that (and a few more tiny little things) being 56 ain't that bad.

It's important for you "youngins" to know this. It would be a horrible waste for you to spend even an hour worrying about what you'll be like when you're 50 or 56. Trust me, it's not as bad as you think. As a matter of fact, I kinda like it. Here are some reasons why:

1. I don't have to worry about dying before I reach 50.

2. I'm expected to do ditzy things, so most people don't say anything when I can't
remember my kids' names.

3. I finally figured out who I am.

4. I get discounts on cruises.

5. I have a grandchild, which is like having a kid without the yucky stuff.

6. My psycho kids have turned into humans. It took 56 years.

7. I CAN sleep in if I want.

8. I don't have to ask permission to do anything.

9. I don't have a curfew.

10. I don't have to prove I'm a good wife and/or mother by baking the best cake
or raising the brightest, most perfect kids.

11. I can read any time I want.

12. I get to buy a pair of shoes without feeling guilty about it.

13. I don't have to please anyone but myself.

14. I like myself much more than I did 20 years ago.

15. I get to give "sage" advice to my kids and students - and anyone else who will

16. It's better than not being 56....which is DEAD.

17. I don't have to attend Back to School Night.

18. Or make Halloween costumes

19. Or drive the car pool.

20. I'm much more comfortable with being "round". (Not a good thing, by the way.)

21. I can spend more time playing with my kids and less time taking care of them.

22. I don't have to cook as much.

23. I'm old enough to have some "experiences" under my belt, but not so old that
I can't have lots more.

24. I qualify for AARP.

25. I don't sweat the small stuff. (a valuable lesson to learn).


Monday, February 9, 2009

The Good Ole Days

Elder Holland's talk came to my mind today (the one Ashley posted) and I started thinking about the importance of looking to the future rather than the past. I had a birthday recently and that triggered some interesting memories. Even though I don't spend lots of time thinking about "what should have been", I do ocassionally dip my toe in the memory pool. So, appreciating the fact that I can't go back, here are some things that I've truly missed as I've grown older:

1. The excitement of Christmas morning as a child

2. Catching lightening bugs (fireflies) on a hot, sticky Southern night

3. My waist

4. The pure joy of nursing a sweet, new baby

5. Carefree summers where my greatest worry was making it home on time after the
street lights came on

6. The excitement of waiting for that cute boy to call and ask me out. On a date.
Remember those?

7. The smell of early mornings as I drove to Seminary

8. Long, curly hair

9. Thunder storms

10. Giving my kids baths

11. I Dream of Jeannie and Gilligan's Island

12. The group Chicago

13. Letters from friends in the mailbox. Remember those?

14. The Book Mobile

15. My Toyota Corona

16. Friday night parties with my YW/YM group

17. Brut cologne

18. Being the Tooth Fairy

19. The Salvation Army Santas on Hickory's mainstreet at Christmas time.

20. Christmas Specials - not movies.....the ones with Andy Williams and the Osmonds

21. Holding my babies in my arms for the first time

22. The smell of my Maw Maw's muffins baking in the oven

23. Fitting into size 4 clothes

24. When I could run and "not be weary"

25. My memory.

26. Valentine boxes stuffed with Valentines (especially in Miss Monroe's class)

27. My father's cooking

28. The plays the neighborhood kids would "produce" for the parents

29. Charles Chips (amazing potato chips delivered to your door!)

30. Dressing every year as a hobo for Halloween

I have an even longer list of things I DON'T miss. All in all I'd rather be the age I am than any other age. I guess that's a good thing. What do you miss?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Touched by an Angel

If we are lucky we will meet one, or maybe two, people in our lives who will impress us in such as way that we will never be the same.

I met Lenna Morgan over ten years ago when she was assigned to be my mother's visiting teacher. She was sharp, beautiful, and well into her late seventies. The moment I met her I knew I would love her because she was crazy about my dog, Oakley, and she treated my mother like her best friend. She was no ordinary visiting teacher. My mother, whose social circle was mostly limited to my family, became her "partner in crime". They went to movies, had lunch together, visited floral gardens, and generally had a great time together. We eventually came to call her our Angel.

However, it was after my mother's death that I really came to know Lenna. She was one of very few members in her family and she was married to a wonderful man, who was also a nonmember, named Glenn. Lenna and Glenn were perpetual sweethearts. After Glenn entered a care facility because of failing health, Lenna visited him every day. Lenna told great stories, after Glenn died, of "smooching" on a park bench in the garden where he lived while listening to music she had carefully selected for the event. Her heart broke after Glenn died. And, one of my most memorable temple experiences is being in attendance at her sealing to him.

Lenna loved a party and hated to be left out of any celebration. She attended every wedding, shower, baptism, or whatever and always came with gifts. She loved to go out to lunch and always had a number of people waiting in line for the privilege of taking her. Her home was beautiful and she welcomed you like a long lost friend when you visited. I actually thought I was her best friend. Then, I started hearing others say the same thing. That was her gift.

Several months after Glenn's death, she called me with amazing news. While working on her genealogy she discovered a death certificate for a baby born at the very time and place of her birth. After much research, she learned that she had been a twin and her sister had died at birth. No one in the family knew it. Lenna was an only child and said she often felt that someone was missing in her life. She announced this great news to everyone she knew. She had a sister - and someday she would meet her! This brought great joy to her life and to all those who loved her.

Several years ago Lenna was diagnosed with cancer. She underwent the treatments and before we knew it, she was back to normal. Normal for her meant a schedule that few twenty-year-olds could manage. She served EVERYBODY in the ward. She wrote to every missionary (and sent them all gifts at Christmas and birthdays). She prepared meals for anyone who needed it. She visited the sick and she participated in any service project that was physically possible for her. And during it all, she was in great pain. She suffered from arthritis and other ailments. No more than six months ago she fell in Relief Society and broke her arm. But, she never slowed down.

About six months ago she called to tell me her cancer had returned. And, in her words she said, "Pandy, when I heard the news, I felt this incredible sense of peace and an unmistakable feeling that it would be alright." She opted to receive no treatments. She died Sunday afternoon surrounded by her family at about 4:20. She finished her visiting teaching on Friday. She lived and died exactly the way she chose.

Today I had the opportunity and great privilege of being one of five women who dressed her in preparation for her cremation. Through all the sadness the thought that kept coming to me was, I am a blessed woman. On the way home I felt a small smile come to my lips as I thought of her reunion with Glenn. I would love to be at that party!

So, good-bye my dear friend. Thank you for showing me what perfection looks like. Thank you for teaching me about graciousness and gratitude. Thank you for teaching me about service and charity. And, thank you for sharing moments of your beautiful life with me and my family. I will never write another thank-you without thinking of the dozens you have sent me. I will never envision an angel without your face. I will tell Bailey about a woman I once knew who changed my life by her example.

I will tell her that I once knew an angel.

We love and miss you.