A Simply Marvelous Life

caroline-harpWhile going through old class notes for my current paper, I found this story I wrote last spring. I remember how it made the student that presented after me cry. I felt so bad as she approached the podium upset. She explained that my story was especially tender to her because her dad had passed away recently. How was I to know that within months I’d be in the same “dad gone” boat?

I remember telling my dad of our plan to take a gift to the orphan boys and how he loved it. He wholeheartedly sanctioned it to my kids and he shared an inspiring story of his own. He cried. What a tender memory. He believed in the art of compassion. He lived the art. How grateful I am for him and his  example. He inherently knew that the true joy of life was within our relationships with others.

I am grateful to have come across this story today. I’ve been in a school slump, not feeling up to the writing task. Today’s discovery reminded me of the importance of storytelling. Even if I am not the most eloquent storyteller.

A Simply Marvelous Life

“Those poor, poor boys,” Mother said loud enough for the room to hear as she read the newspaper. I asked her, “What boys?” She explained. Twenty years before she used to work with this guy. They were nothing more than acquaintances. “But still, it’s just so tragic.” He was dead now among the remains of his personal jet. It crashed on take-off in Colorado. The crash also killed his wife, and two of his five children.

Mother seemed obsessed over the three children left. It was hard to understand how complete strangers to her sabotaged her heart for months. She talked about them to everyone. Her friends. Her kids. Sometimes she would even talk to random strangers about how grateful she was to be alive. “Shopping with a toddler is hard, but it makes it easier when I think about how blessed I am to be alive.” When the family knelt in the family room every night, mother would sometimes pray out loud for the family. “Bless those boys.”  When I complained about chores or homework or getting my phone taken away, she would remind me to be grateful. “You have both your parents, and all of your siblings. Remember, life is marvelous.” When Christmas neared mother told us that in the quiet of one morning she heard a voice in her mind. It was a woman begging, “They must have a gift from us under the tree.” Asking our forgiveness mother said she hoped we’d understand her stealing from us. She had withdrawn from her Christmas account, upsetting her carefully budgeted plan, to buy something for the orphans. She apologized and explained that we might have a little less this year. “But, I just feel it my duty to provide a gift for them from their dead mother. I can hear her voice as clear as day. I can’t ignore it.”

As Father drove us to the next town over, Mother watched her five elves stretch and giggle among the large sack of gifts in the back. The wrapped gifts would be left anonymously. “Because that is the best kind of giving,” mother said. The boys’ names, the ones their mother gave them, were monogrammed on their blankets. A note was included reminding them of their mother’s love, all the way from heaven. “She had found a way to hug them, through the mind of a stranger.”

Mother had done some serious sleuthing to get the names and address of the boys, but could hardly believe her eyes as they pulled up. When they verified the house number to the information on the paper in mother’s hand, everyone voiced their utter shock. A chorus of “no way” echoed the yelps of surprise as the vehicle reached the top of the mountain. The boys lived in a literal mansion. Mother laughed. “What in the world?” We all told her we should take the gifts back home, but she directed her elves to drop the gifts on the doorstep. “Be quiet. Don’t let anyone see you. Hurry up before someone calls the police.” As we sprinted our way back to the modest minivan that cowered under the massive gate, my little sister spared a glance for a golden harp glowing through the windowed fortress. We jumped in. The tires peeled. My baby sister described the harp’s shine to her amused mother. How badly Caroline wanted a harp. She had even written to Santa for one. She didn’t know what I knew.  Santa had already bought her a harpsichord. It was the last Christmas purchase she had made right after the wrapping for the boys’ blankets.

We never knew it, but in those first few moments driving home, mother deeply questioned the meaning of helping where help didn’t seem to be needed. Those boys had more than she or hers ever would. The answer came quick, at the traffic light on the way home. Flashing behind her eyes, red and green, it spelled one word. C-o-m-p-a-s-s-i-o-n. Mother turned to dad and said, “I guess tonight we got to help meet an emotional need, not a physical one.”  Yes, compassion knows no class structure. Or biases. Only pure love. And that night both mothers had managed, from separate realms, to teach their children the true meaning of Christmas.

The next day mother listened as her baby girl, surrounded by her parents and four siblings, transformed our family’s condo into a two-bedroom castle with music from her harpsichord. As Mother closed her eyes to enjoy the marvelous moment, a familiar angel voice spoke to her mind one last time, “It sounds just like my harp.”



He Gets Us Money

I was at Caroline’s school the other day and noticed this hanging outside  her classroom. If you can’t read it from the  photo it says,

My hero is my dad because he gets us money.


I couldn’t help but notice the resemblance between the hubster and Wreck-It-Ralph in the picture. He’ll be so flattered. (Another embarrasing sidenote is that  when I read this, I automatically inserted new lyrics into the Golddigger song. Sing along:  “He gets us money, when we’re in need.”

It was a fun mom moment. It’s not every day you get to see inside of your six-year-old’s head. I should have taken more  time to  see what the rest of the class wrote. I’m not sure if they all have an understanding of the neecessity of their dad’s paycheck quite like Caroline.

I’ve been chuckling in my head for days over this art. I am grateful that across the hall was another art project that read

I am thankful for my family. I am thankful for my home. I am thankful for Jesus.


It looks like we’ve gotten past just plain old materialism. Phew.

So, with all of this circling around in my mind, our family had tithing settlement last week. I just had to come and write about what has happened since.

[ Read more here. Essentially, every member of our family pays ten percent of our income to our church. At the end of every year, we have an opportunity to go in and talk with the Bishop about what we’ve paid and tell him we’ve given a full tithe as well as get our tax statements.]

Most of the time paying tithing is easy. It’s just the first check we write every payday. Other times (like Christmas around the corner for five kids) it’s a little bit harder. But, we always do it. My entire married life (18 years and counting) we’ve given back to God 10% of what He has given us.  We have repeatedly tested His promise in Malachi 3:10 . He never fails us.

Now, we haven’t been given a mansion. In fact, we probably have a lot less than a lot of our fellow American tithe-payers, but we have been blessed over and over again. Since paying tithing last week we have gotten an unexpected rebate check in the mail, my mom and dad sent us some money, and today I got a one-time exception 40% discount at  Target for Christmas stuff I bought four days ago that happened to be on sale today only. Abigail got a job. My kitchen mixer keeps working despite its weird noises. A lady from church gave our girls some clothes. An old friend of mine brought us some clothes for Max. Another generous friend insisted on paying for my breakfast yesterday and when we ran to Costco for a few things before I dropped her off, she also insisted on paying half of my Costco bill.  A lost phone has been found TWICE.

Tithing isn’t just for material blessings, it’s for blessings of faith. Every time something has come down the pipe, I can’t help but exclaim, “Yes, God, I know you are there. You are always watching over us.”

I’ve heard a lot of crap from non-believing friends about tithing and the financial status of my church. People have told me how bad it is that my church spends so much on temples. (What do they think a house dedicated to God should look like?) I think temples are worth every penny. Look at this one just finished in Tijuana, Mexico. Tell me if you can find anything else as lovely in all of Tijuana. Temples bring heaven to earth.


Other people have asked me if  my money couldn’t be used for better purposes? Again, I wonder. What is better than this?

Whenever I hear of suffering around the world. Anywhere. I know that my tithing will be utilized to alleviate it. Hurricane Andrew. Hurricane Katrina. Check and Check. Hurricane Sandy. Check. Chronic Homelessness. Check. Tsunami in Japan. Check.  Devestation on the Polynesian islands. Check. Phillipines typhoon. Check. Clean water and immunization worldwide. Check. The Ebola outbreak. Check. I could go on and on and on. Here is a great read.

I’m  not sharing this to brag. I also didn’t use any of my church’s newsroom links, but cited a variety of news sources above. I just want to show what tithing is capable of doing. It’s a trillion times more efficient than government because God directs its utilization.

It’s funny. I always dreamed of joining the Peace Corps. I never got to, but my money has been sent to the far corners of the earth. And I usually don’t take time to even think about it. I just consistenly give my 10% and every day my mite blesses people around the world in real need.

Anyhow, like my six-year-old, my hero is my dad. My heavenly one. He gets us money. Then we try to give Him some back, but He takes it and gives it back to us and a million other  people in need.  The system is flawless. Also like my Caroline, I’m so thankful for my family, my home, and my Jesus. I’d give everything I own for any one of them, but Jesus says my 10 percent is plenty. And I believe it is.



caroline, blog

Forever – is composed of Nows – (690)


Forever  is composed of Nows
‘Tis not a different time
Except for Infiniteness
And Latitude of Home
From this experienced Here
Remove the Dates to These
Let Months dissolve in further Months
And Years exhale in Years
Without Debate
or Pause
Or Celebrated Days
No different Our Years would be
From Anno Dominies

Today’s message came from here.

Just the way you are, you matter to him.


Here is some great spiritual enlightenment for your day.

The older I get the more I appreciate my kids’ imaginations.

A while back while I ran in to pay for gas after my card didn’t work at the pump, Bella captured Caroline lip-syncing. It’s so cute how Caroline always keeps up with her older sisters on pop culture. Days later as I came across this surprise video on my phone it brought tears to my eyes, partially because the words to the song were so fitting and partially because of the tenderness of one sister being able to see the value in the moment of her little sister just being little and care-free. Watching in after the fact was super overwhelming to this emotional proud mom. I also got a little chuckle about the fact that my kids can’t just sit in their seat-belts for 30 seconds unsupervised but always have to misbehave and jump around in the car.

As a busy mother of 5, I really love the one-on-one time I get with Caroline right after kindergarten gets out at noon. While Max naps, she tells me all about her day. Yesterday in P.E. they got to play with a parachute. She thought that was totally awesome and I smiled thinking back to a time when I was young and innocent and experienced the large parachute at school for the first time. I thought it was awesome too.

A few weeks back, while talking to Caroline about everything and nothing at all, she declared:

“Mom, when I grow up, I am going to create a green planet with rings around it.”

I immediately got out the watercolors and had her paint me a prototype.

I hope she will get the privilege of making her own planets someday, (which is totally possible according to Mormon doctrine) but for now I am so glad that her whole big universe with infinite imagination can fit on my fridge. What a beautiful beautiful privilege it is to be a mom.

[Oh, and on a cool sidenote: I love it when science catches up with God’s truths about the galaxy. I believe God definitely has his children helping him out with planet creations. I know if it’s up to me someday I am totally putting Caroline in charge of all the green planets.]


After post; check this out;
We Lived with God:

This scientist says my thoughts way better than me.

Little by little

Caroline was drinking from a straw very slowly right before family prayer tonight. I asked her what she had in her cup. She replied, “Daddy’s lemon water.”

“Daddy’s lemon water?!” I questioned. My hubby, LG, keeps his own quart-sized bottle of water in the fridge. Sometimes it is fully infused with a LOT of lemon juice. He loves his lemon juice. I was surprised she would taste it twice much less be drinking it from a glass.

I was amused by her answer. And enlightened:

“I take it a little by little.”

While we prayed, I realized that if I were to follow the example of my five-year-old and take things little by little, it would work some real magic in my life. I tend to be the kind of person who just downs the whole can of prune juice while plugging by nose. (Pregnancy constipation is the worst!) Is there anything in this world that tastes worse than prune juice…well, besides LG’s lemon juice with a little bit of water?

Not only do I avoid BIG things because they are overwhelming….like that book I really want to write….but I also give up way too soon on people and circumstances because I can’t seem to make myself want to drink anymore. Often I just need to take a step back and breathe. I need to take it all in with little sips, especially when it comes to things I dislike and/or situations that are overwhelming.

“Little by Little,” it’s my new mantra.

One way I plan to work really hard at incorporating this new attitude is with my kids. I don’t totally understand why I get so worked up over their accomplishments or lack thereof but I do. It’s something I’ve been discussing with the therapist a lot. I have been driving a wedge between Abigail and I over the pressure I am dishing out in her direction. I push. It’s not right. I’ve been in a real tizzy because next week is her high-school soccer try-outs. She’s been injured a lot over the summer and hasn’t been able to condition like she needed to in order to be completely prepared. We’ve also never been able to afford to put her in the fancy club soccer teams and I feel really bad about that. The therapist talked me off the ledge explaining that I don’t need to worry about it. One, it’s out of my control whether or not I could afford fancy soccer teams. Two, it’s also out of my control what will happen with Abigail and soccer. It’s Abigail’s thing. Not mine. I can’t save her from the experiences that will teach her the most valuable life lessons. She needs to make mistakes so she can learn.

I was still wrestling with it though. Haven’t I dedicated to soccer as much as she has for the past 10 years?

So, last Sunday I had this epiphany while sitting at church. My niece was speaking before heading out on her mission to South America. During church, where she and another young man who is going to Detroit were addressing the congregation, I felt a message penetrate my heart. It came straight from God.

“Alice, who cares if Abigail plays soccer ever again? Who cares where she goes to college? Who cares how well she does on her report card? I don’t. You shouldn’t. You will do well to learn from the example of these two kids. The ONLY thing that matters is that you point your daughter to me. I will help her figure it all out. I will help her every step of the way. Stop carrying the burdens of the whole world. That’s my job. Just point her to me. While we are at it….you can rely on me too. I will help you. One step at a time. Just trust me. Stop worrying about everything. I’ve got this. The ending is beyond your wildest imagination.”

The message was kind of like God saying……baby steps, Alice. Little by little. And so I sip. One drop of lemon juice at a time.



People used to tell me to enjoy her curls.
And I did. I enjoyed them all of the time.
I enjoyed them most when she was just out of the bath.
We’d brush her hair and watch each one mold right back in place.
They would always  bounce behind her as if trying to keep up with her one speed: tornado.
Mostly they were unruly.
I would sometimes catch myself wondering if I should do a better job of taming them.
It was lucky that she was so cute she could get away with a white girl’s fro.
However, I didn’t believe that they would ever go anywhere.
They would say, “When you cut her baby hair, she will probably lose her curls.”
No way was she going to lose them.
They were who she was….they were part of her.
Well, they were right.
At four years old, she doesn’t have a single curl left on her head.
IMG_3565 IMG_4585
I’m so glad I enjoyed them while they lasted.
And I was not totally wrong.
They will always be a part of her.
No matter how long she lives.
My little Goldilocks.
2012-05-04 15.16.21
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Happy Frozen kind of Friday

Happy Friday y’all.

It is the weirdest thing looking back at old photos.
Especially as a mother who is not just intimate with the toddler face
but also the current one that is so very different and bigger and older.
I find my heart traveling back to meet my baby girl where she was
and then I have to pull it back to the present.

The present consists of oatmeal {still her favorite} for breakfast
along with Frozen video after video.
This is her current favorite.

She just finished her breathing treatments for
her poor asthmatic induced cough that never seems to cease.

Then we are off to her favorite place. PRE-SCHOOL.
{It happens to be one of my favorite places too.}
Instead of getting my physical workout during pre-school today
I am looking forward to an emotional session of marriage counseling.

Then I am taking the kids out to lunch.
I totally bribed them NOT to do the science fair.
Sometimes, I am an unconventional underachieving cool mom like that.
Maybe I will look up a science project I can do at McDonald’s.
{I think we should buy an extra hamburger and let it sit out awhile.


Then I will be babysitting and helping my hubby pack for a “frozen” scout camp this weekend.
It’s too bad he doesn’t have a pet reindeer to keep him warm.

Scribbleville by Peter Holwitz

After reading the book Scribbleville with Caroline I knew it was one that we needed to review. It is a beautiful story that eloquently teaches children not to be afraid of people who are different.

This would be the ideal read for a children’s lesson on:

  • scribbletolerance
  • kindness
  • the acceptance of others
  • being oneself
  • opposites (scribbles vs. straight)
  • families
  • friends
  • children’s influence (the hero is a child)
  • the parts of a good story
  • character development
  • art theory (turning scribbles into pictures)

Homemade Paint from Stuff in My Pantry

So this pin from pinterest piqued my interest.
(Say that 5 times fast.)

I love it when I find something great for the kids to do for super cheap.
This homemade paint is awesome.
Ten thumbs up.


Caroline and I enjoyed this activity yesterday
and when we got the paints out again first thing this morning
they seemed to be storing just fine.

If anything they are even better today.
The salt has completely dissolved making the texture more smooth
and allowing the colors to combine better.
Caroline was quick to observe that yesterday’s grey is today’s purple.

I do believe I will never be purchasing paint at the store again.

I Feel Like I’m Rich

This morning after getting Caroline dressed for preschool, like usual, I looked her over and told her how cute she looked. She is cute every day, even when I don’t brush her hair. (Yeah, I admit that there are days I don’t brush her hair – I usually at least just pull it back in a ponytail. Judge only after you have four children.)

Today Caroline was feeling really special as yesterday we got her haircut at the local hair-school for $3.50 and we bought her a new shirt from the Walmart clearance rack for $4. Also, the other day LG had insisted that I buy her a new pair of tennis shoes that were easier for her to put on and take off. We’ve been making do with a pair from the thrift store that weren’t working so well. After brushing her shorter hair and putting it in a headband and sporting her new digs when I told her she looked cute she really believed it. She looked at me with wide eyes and a huge smile and said, “Mom, I feel like I am rich or something.”

Her declaration took me by surprise. We are obviously emphasizing our financial status a little too much around here. I chuckled and thought to myself, “Um yeah kid, you are soooo rich. We spent a whole whopping $17.50 on you all year.” I then thought how much happier I would be if shopping from the clearance rack at Walmart would make me feel as rich as it did for Caroline.


Then as I posed her for a picture the real lesson came in the form of a still small voice. “You are rich Alice. You are so very rich.” Like always the voice was right. Look at this beautiful girl. She’s all mine. She makes me the richest woman in the world.

As I looked around our small apartment at our comfortable couches, artwork on the walls, books on the shelves, and felt the warmth of my very humble American home I felt ashamed for my worldliness. Compared to most of the world, we are rich. We are very rich. We are rich in worldly terms and too often I am too prideful to see it. If worldly stuff mattered I should be grateful for so much abundance, but truly this little girl is way more of a reason for my heart to be full of thanksgiving because she is one of my few eternal treasures that I will be grateful for beyond the confines of this earth.