Friday, September 30, 2011

Precocious Chloe

This morning, while reading to the kids an article in the Friend magazine about Jesus's miracles, we came upon the story of Lazarus.

"The people said that Lazarus had been dead for four days," I read. 

Chloe, who up to this point had been eating her breakfast silently just then announced, "that's longer than Jesus!  He was only dead for three days!" 

That it would even occur to her to process such a comparison is amazing to me.  I had to chuckle.  I love the way her intense little mind works.
This experience reminds me of a similar conversation Chloe had with my mom back in May when we were visiting.  After whining over something trivial, my mom, in explaining that you don't always get what you want, said, "You know, most people want something they can't have!  For example, not everyone has a grandpa and grandma!"

"WHO?!!", Chloe asked, but before my mom had a chance to answer, Chloe was on it.

"I know!!  Adam and Eve!  ...  ...And their children!"

She was right!  How did she know that, and what on earth even prompted her to question "who?" in the first place?  She is so quick and sharp, yet carefully thoughtful in the process.  She questions practically everything but always has a reason for doing so.  She persists until she's satisfied.  And yet beneath this intense and sometimes overbearing exuberance lies the tender sweet spirit of an innocent child who knows with every ounce of her precious being that she is special and that she is loved and that she is beautiful in the eyes of her Heavenly Father.  These many qualities Chloe is cultivating give me great hope for her future and all the inevitable junk she's sure to face.

One last thing and I'll stop bragging. 

The kindergartners who can count to 100 were recognized at Chloe's school assembly today.  She was among the few, and has been in the "100's club" since her very first day of school!  She can actually count past 100 and has been able to for months, but today was the day she was officially recognized and awarded for it.

Doesn't she look darling in her little Cougar tee?  It's no wonder BYU beat Utah State tonight!


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy Anniversary, kids!

Forty-five years ago on this day something pretty special happened.  My parents, then twenty-two and twenty-three, who were madly in love - and I mean madly in love - who had waited four long years, and who were more than ready to begin their lives together were, at last, married.

I had the privilege of seeing these two lovebirds this week when they came for their annual Fall visit.  As I was driving them to the airport Tuesday night, I asked them each to tell me what they valued most about their forty-five years of marriage.

said the best thing was 
"having learned the truth of the last line from the song, "Nature Boy" which is:

The greatest thing
You'll ever learn
Is just to love
And be loved
In return.

"In order to understand the truth of that line you do have 'to love and be loved in return' - and I do think that's the greatest thing."

MOM said this:

"Though I have always cherished my time with Dad, I find that increasing more and more. We always loved being together, and since much of our courtship was spent apart, the "At Last" (pertaining to the song) for us applies not only to our having found each other, but also to finally being married, so we could be together all the time - "At Last." When we married and I followed him to California I didn't know a soul there except a few of his friends I'd met only briefly. But it didn't matter. All that mattered was that he was there. As the years go by, more and more I realize the value in just being with him. Though I enjoy the company of others and consider myself a social person, when I am away from him for any length of time I miss him, and I still cry when I leave him at the airport. We sit for hours after breakfast talking about many things, either the business at hand or reminiscing about old times. We talk as we take our walks, or sometimes don't talk, just walk hand-in-hand (and it's amazing how many people have commented on our holding hands as we walk). And he still makes me laugh - out loud - all the time. Being together is so comfortable, so right. And as time goes on, that only increases, getting better with each passing year."

The love these two share is a fierce, unbreakable kind of love.  The foundation they've built throughout their journey together is immovable and they continue to strengthen it each day through simple acts of kindness, affection and laughter.  The longer I'm alive and married the more I see just how much my parents' value of marriage has rubbed off on me.  In a world where it's taken less and less seriously, I am grateful for this confidence and level of sacredness they have instilled in me.  And there's no doubt in my mind that Neil and I will someday celebrate forty-five years too.

When I think about my parents I feel peace and comfort in my heart.  They love each other so deeply, know each other so well, and take care of each other with such tenderness.  Just as any parent finds joy in seeing his/her children happy, I find joy in seeing my parents happy.  I sleep better at night knowing they are taken care of.

Over the years my parents have talked about some of the things that initially attracted them to each other.  My dad has mentioned several times my mom's skinny ankles and her playful, vivacious spirit.  He's also mentioned more than once the lasting effect she had on him the night they met on her front porch when he and their mutual friend, Lynn Hemingway dropped in to say hello.  In a recent description he wrote about the movie, Legally Blonde for their annual Halliday Film Festival which they host each summer, he said this:

"You've gotta love Reese Witherspoon in this unlikely tale of blonde determination - and intelligence! - sticking it to academic snobbery and snooty elitism.  It may surprise you, but Witherspoon in this film reminds me of Jill back in her twenties.  Yup, the fun-loving confidence, the indomitable perseverance, the charming quick-wittedness, the life-loving exuberance, and the total absence of vindictiveness, even when maliciously wronged - the Jill I fell in love with over four decades ago."

My mom has talked endlessly about how handsome my dad was.  She told me that the first time her youngest sister, Valeri, who was nine at the time, met him, she raced into the kitchen announcing that Dick Van Dyke was standing in their living room!  My dad made her and everyone laugh, and that was a quality she'd always wanted and continues to appreciate and cherish to this day. 

A variation of courtship photos ranging from 1962-1966.
With my grandparents, all of whom have passed away except Grandma Martha (second from the left), who will celebrate her 95th birthday this December.  Love these people so much.  Can't say it enough.
Shortly after they were married.  Can you tell they're happy?

I love this one.  Not sure what year it was taken but my guess is late 60s or early 70s.

You've still got it, guys!  Even after forty-five years, you've still got it!
And just look what you have to show for it!

{Mother's Day 2011 - Salt Lake City, UT}
We love you and hope today is perfect!
Happy Anniversary!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Taking a break

I have so many things on my mind and in my heart that I want to write about.  Oh, time.  Why do you keep slipping away from me?  I have 3 photography sessions I'm trying to finish and then I'm taking a break from business.  I'm feeling burnt out and ready to focus on some things that have been gathering dust in my personal life.  There are many advantages to running a business and I count myself fortunate for the opportunities and experiences I've had.  But lately the stress and workload has overpowered the joy and satisfaction, so I'm putting things on hold for a little while. 

Here's something to tide you over while I finish what I started. 
Nothin' like emptying your bladder into the warm sands of Lake Powell while enjoying a lollipop!
And here are some upcoming posts you can look forward to:
  • Labor Day weekend festivities (balloon fest, rafting, & ward temple day)
  • Chloe's first ballet lesson
  • September birthdays
  • September anniversaries
  • The many ways Ryan entertains himself while Chloe's at school
  • Lake Powell
  • My parents' visit
  • The Primary program
  • Ripon observations (in celebration of our one-year mark in CA)

And that just covers September.  Stay tuned... I'll be back soon!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Remembering 9/11

I don't remember many details of September 11, 2001, but I do remember where I was, what I was doing and how I felt when I heard the news.  It was less than a month after I'd turned 20; less than three weeks after I'd moved out of the house in which I'd lived my entire life (in Vacaville, CA) and into a new house with my brother in Orem, UT; less than five months before I met Neil; and less than a year before I married him.  I was driving down State Street in Orem, heading home after dropping my friend off at work.  It was roughly 7:30am when I heard an announcement on the radio that an airplane had crashed into the Pentagon, and that only moments prior, two other airplanes had hit the twin towers in New York City.  Many emotions hit me in that instant, the greatest being that of confusion.  Was this some kind of joke?  After all, such topics as airplanes crashing into historical landmarks weren't the norm for weekday FM morning radio.

Upon arriving home, I rushed into the house and flipped on the TV.  Instantly I saw the smoking twin towers.  No matter what channel, they were there with the bold red words below, "Breaking News."  I don't think my eyes left the screen for at least two hours. It was terrifying and unbelievable.  I wondered what senseless human being could be capable of such a deliberate act of hatred and terror.

That is honestly the extent of my memory from that day.  I don't remember talking to anyone or even seeing anyone after that point.  I think part of the reason the events are a blur is telling of just how surreal it was.  Even now, the little I do remember feels more like a bad dream than a memory.  I think as the years have passed and I've grown to have a greater and more mature understanding of and appreciation for our country and the many sacrifices made that day and since then on our behalf, I've become much more affected by and sympathetic to the occurrences of that day.  This year in particular, as we've approached the 10-year anniversary, I've found myself overcome with tender emotion, especially when reading newspaper articles and other stories honoring the victims and their families.  It has been inspiring hearing about who these people were, how they fought to the very end, and how their loved ones have learned to cope with their lasting grief.  I can only imagine what they still feel, even now.

I think too about how eye opening this catastrophe was to the American people and how it affected ALL of us.  So often we look at celebrities and assume their problems couldn't possibly compare to ours when in reality we know that isn't so.  September 11th was just as horrifying for them as it was for us.  But despite the nightmare, I think the experience presented a strong bond of unity to our nation.  We were all in it together, celebrity, politician, athlete, millionaire or not, and we were reminded that no one is free from heartache or loss.

Of the many moving images captured this day, this, in my mind, stands above all others.
Courtesy of Franklin Thomas (read the story behind the photo HERE).
In the words of President Thomas S. Monson:

"If there is a spiritual lesson to be learned from our experience of that fateful day, it may be that we owe to God the same faithfulness that He gives to us. We should strive for steadiness, and for a commitment to God that does not ebb and flow with the years or the crises of our lives. It should not require tragedy for us to remember Him, and we should not be compelled to humility before giving Him our faith and trust. We too should be with Him in every season."

(from the Washington Post's series "On Faith", featuring President Monson's column entitled, "9/11 Destruction Allowed Us To Spiritually Rebuild" published September 8, 2011).

How true it is that we must have faith.  We will never be free of adversities, disappointments or heartaches during our time on earth.  Never, ever.  But we can take comfort and find hope in knowing our Heavenly Father has a plan.  We can have faith that He truly is in charge and knows what He's doing and that everything happens for a specific reason.  And whether it be in the bright and happy season of summer or the dark and bitter season of winter, we can and should always keep Him close.

I can't say enough how grateful I am for the brave and committed heroes of September 11th or how proud I am to be an American. It truly is such a privilege and blessing.

God bless America.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Birthday wishes for Wendy and Emma

Today is my best friend's birthday. Wendy and I go so far back that I honestly don't remember life without her. Our moms are sisters, and we might as well be too. We know each other inside and out, and have always, always been close. I love, respect and admire Wendy more than she even knows, and though I only get to see her once or twice a year, I think of her often.

And then there's Emma.  Strong, sweet, perfect Emma, for whom Wendy (and Brandon and Chase) waited for a very long time. Emma celebrated her 1st birthday on Wednesday, the 31st.  In the short time she's been on this earth she's endured more than many endure in an entire lifetime, and in doing so, she's touched countless lives, including my own.  She is an angel and a blessing to her family and those with whom she comes in contact.

I love you BOTH and hope you've had wonderful, wonderful days!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Front page

I knew I'd left something out of the last post.  The afternoon of Chloe's first day of school I got a text from my friend Karin asking if I'd seen the Ripon Record (our local newspaper), which comes out every Wednesday.  I had not, but was so grateful Karin went to the trouble to ask because she then informed me that Chloe was on the front page!  What!?  And on her first day of kindergarten of all days?  Turns out, on August 2nd, when we decided at the last minute to go to Ripon's National Night Out at the local community center, there was a photographer for the Ripon Record wandering around with his camera.  It was a great community event and among many of Ripon's representitives, the Fire Department was there in their uniforms showing off their largest truck with all its bells and whistles.  When we took the kids over to see it and one of the fire fighters offered to let them sit in the front seat, Chloe practically jumped into his arms.  Pictured below is that same fire fighter helping her out of the truck a few minutes later.  The photographer asked for her name but didn't make any indication as to whether or not the picture would be published anywhere.

How cool is that!?  I was so excited, and still can't believe the timing of it all.  Thanks, Karin, for letting me know about our little newspaper star!

Oh, the places she'll go...

As I've mentioned a handful of times now, Chloe's first day of kindergarten was August 10th.  It was a bittersweet day (more sweet than bitter), but I kept it together pretty well all things considered.  I was kind of a mess the night before just trying to get everything ready and best prepare myself for the following morning's events.  After tossing and turning in bed for several minutes, I finally got up and had a good, long needed cry.  It felt great, honestly, and as I sat and cried some more, I reminisced about my baby girl and about how quickly the last five and a half years had passed by.  Then I put my thoughts on paper and wrote Chloe a letter.  I am so glad I did that.  The words came flowing probably due to the overabundance of emotions filling my heart.  The tears and the letter did the trick because when I was finished I crashed.  Next thing I knew it was morning.  As I lay in bed starring up at the ceiling, I said to myself, "I will remember this day for the rest of my life." 

Neil had to work in Sacramento early that morning so he missed out on all the first day of school festivities, which was a serious bummer.  Chloe and Ryan were still sleeping when he had to take off, so he stopped in Chloe's room to give her a kiss and wish her well before slipping out.  I managed to get Chloe's lunch made and packed between the time Neil left and Chloe came downstairs. 

{I found this cute printable here, and just couldn't resist.  Even though Chloe's still learning to read and wasn't likely to get it, I knew she'd still be excited to find a little treat in her lunch.}

When Chloe came downstairs she was already dressed and wearing one of the biggest grins I've ever seen.  Clearly she was excited and ready for this day she'd been anticipating for months and months.  She was absolutely darling to watch.  The first thing she said to me was, "Daddy kinda woke me up when he came and kissed me."  Then, over the course of the next half hour she said about six different times, "I can't believe it's my first day of school!"

Here's a little video clip I took before we headed out.


And here are the pictures.  Yes, the many, many pictures. As usual, I went overboard.

The (bent) sign should read "Ms. Huff", not "Miss Huff".  Oops.  Look at how cute my babies are!

I love their expressions, especially Ryan's.  I don't think he really had a clue what was going on.

Arriving to school, just about to walk into the classroom!  Chloe was so excited to see a star on the door with her name on it!  Pictured to the right is Chloe with her new friend, Kaya.

Ms. Huff took a picture of each child sitting in this chair before class started, so it was only logical that I take a picture of her sitting in the chair too (because I hadn't already taken about a hundred pictures).  To the right, Chloe sits quietly at her place at the table, ready to go!

By this point I think Chloe had had about enough with the camera.  I couldn't blame her, but I also couldn't help myself.  So I kept clicking away. 

Here Chloe stands in line just after the bell has rung.  That's Ms. Huff on the right, greeting every child individually before heading into the classroom.  She does that every single morning.  Isn't that neat?

And one last shot of my Chloebug standing in line.  It was around this time that she said to me, "K, Mom.  It's time for you to go now." 

I watched as Chloe followed her classmates into Room 1.  Then I watched the door shut behind them.
Then I stood there for a few seconds longer and just stared at the classroom.  I'm not sure if I was waiting for something else to happen or what, but it was in that moment that I realized I wasn't dreaming, that I was really living Chloe's first day of kindergarten, and that, so far, I'd survived it.

To celebrate my survival (HA!), Ryan and I stopped at the donut shop here in Ripon.  It was pretty cool hanging out with my little man, and it made me excited for all the future mornings we'd be spending together, just the two of us.

Ryan didn't seem initially affected by Chloe's absence, but once we got home he started asking, "Where's Chloe?"  Neither one of us seemed to know what to do with ourselves.  It was bizarre to say the least.  Luckily 1:50 arrived quickly and it was time to go pick her up.

Though I didn't get much information out of her, Chloe had a great first day and seemed really happy.  Upon arriving home, she had a little snack while I interviewed her.  She seemed to really enjoy answering the questions, and even suggested that in addition to the many favorites I'd listed, that I include her favorite shape.  And so I did!

It was a memorable day for sure, and I am already looking back on it with tenderness.  Now that we're three weeks in I can honestly say I'm seeing big changes in Chloe.  She is growing up more and more every day and I am just beyond proud.  This will probably sound terrible but this whole transition has worked wonders for our relationship.  Being away from her for six hours every day has given me the opportunity to miss her.  My patience level has increased tremendously as well, and I have felt many tender mercies.  It's just been a great thing all around.

I also just adore Chloe's teacher.  With all the recent budget cuts, classes have increased in size by an average of 50%.  Chloe's class contains 28 students and Ms. Huff doesn't even have an aide!  It's terrible.  I feel for her but have been so impressed with how she's managed to stay on top of things.  She is loving and affectionate but firm too - just the combination these little munchkins need.  I can't wait to help out in the classroom and suspect I'll have many opportunities!

One last thing I wanted to share are these pictures I dug up the other night.  Just thought it was appropriate given this special milestone.  Weren't we cute little kindergartners?

Happy Kindergarten, darling Chloe! We can hardly wait to see all the things you do and all the places you go!  We love you!

An extraordinary moment on an ordinary day

You may recall this post wherein I shared this quote by Hilary Weeks: "Extraordinary moments can happen in the middle of ordinary days."  This morning I had one of those moments. 

It all started as Chloe and I were heading out the door.  Suddenly, she gasped, froze in her tracks, put her hand over her mouth and pointed to the window.

"Look, Mom!  Look!  LOOK!!!" 

"Cool!  It's a hot air balloon!"

"Can I go outside and see it?  Please, Mommy!  Pleaaaaase!"

"No, Chloe, we need to go!  But you'll be able to see it while we're driving, probably even better than if you stood outside!"

"Okay!" she said, dashing to the car in record-breaking time.

Upon leaving our cul-de-sac, Chloe instantly spotted the balloon, which was now straight ahead of us, and proceeded to follow its location all the while jumping around in her seat, shrilling with joy and clapping her hands.  About a mile into the drive, Chloe discovered two more balloons, over which she became equally ecstatic.  Never have I seen a child show the level of exuberance, wonder and awe over a man-made device that Chloe demonstrated this morning.  She was practically in tears.  When we made our final turn onto Murphy Road towards the school, we noticed that the most colorful balloon of the bunch was now within a few hundred feet of us and very low to the ground.  Chloe's school is surrounded by orchards so you can imagine the glorious sight of this vibrant and gigantic balloon aircraft practically skimming the tops of these luscious trees right next to us.  It was incredible.  When we got to school and I pointed out the balloon one last time, which we could barely see now from the playground, I kissed Chloe goodbye and watched her skip away.

It was pretty awesome being in the right place at the right time.  It was even more awesome witnessing Chloe's reaction to it.  Such a simple thing it was, but such astounding joy it brought her, and, as a result, me.   

I think I just might like hot air balloons more today than I did yesterday.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Kindergarten Orientation

Kindergarten Orientation took place August 8th, two days before Chloe's first day of school.  It was a nice opportunity for us to meet her teacher, Ms. Huff, see her classroom, and explore the school grounds with Chloe before the big first day.  It was a surreal experience, I'll admit, but helped the reality of what was happening sink in with greater ease.  And yes, of course I took pictures!

Chloe following the Cougar paws to the cafeteria.

Getting familiar with the playground.

School cafeteria.  Cutest little Cougar I ever did see.  And how ironic - blue and white?!  Neil was pleased.

Sitting at her spot, oh so ready to learn!

Enjoying some ice cream to finish things off.

First day of school photos coming VERY soon!