Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Moments (Wordless Wednesday)

Just before heading out to our traditional Christmas Eve meal at the Chinese Restaurant (yep; we're missing a couple kids here, but we let them come with us anyway)

Acting out the nativity

Santa brought scooters for Allison and Sarah

with our adopted grandma across the street

Santa brought Harmony a doll stroller and she found the perfect doll to go in it.

I did a bit of sewing this year and made five of the kids personalized superhero capes.

My mom also did some sewing and all the girls got these adorable aprons.
Watch out, small animals!

Merry Christmas! (I think this is the only photo of Christmas I'm actually in)

Not pictured: One of my favorite new items from Christmas was a 400-disk DVD player. Since we don't have television except for videos, we've collected a lot of them over the years and they are constantly getting fingerprints or scratches on them. They also take up a lot of space and the kids make a mess with them and sometimes break them. We were able to put all of our kid shows into our player and put the cases away in storage, freeing up a huge amount of space in our entertainment wall for games and puzzles. A few hours with the machine hooked up to the internet and almost all of the DVDs were cataloged. Now, we can search for a movie with a quick scroll through the names and cover photos and play it with a simple click. No more kid scratches.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas! (wordless Wednesday)

I hope you're having a wonderful time enjoying this season. We're almost finished wrapping up the gifts today (doesn't help to wrap early when you have little ones who shake, poke, and pry). We're enjoying our 25 days of Christmas stories every night, and I'm enjoying having all eight home. We got dumped on with about a foot of snow, so the kids have plenty to entertain them.

And Sarah modeled a few photos outside for me yesterday -- isn't she adorable?

I think this is my favorite shot of her all year:

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Power of Forgiveness (Favorites Friday)

If you have an hour free (maybe while cleaning your house?), this interview is amazing to listen to. It's with Gary Ceran, who lost two children and his wife to a drunk driver on Christmas Eve in 2006. The amazing part? He immediately reached out and forgave the man who caused the crash, showed up at the sentencing to plead for leniency, and visited him in prison.

In the interview, Gary discusses the parts of his life that led up to that night, the difficulty he'd had previously in dealing with the grief of losing five of his nine children previous to the accident (twins to premature birth then three children to brain tumors), and his faith in God. He discusses very poignantly his feelings about death.

After the accident, Gary had just two children left in his family.

If you want to hear something to change your life and your heart, this is it.

Click here for the interview with Gary Ceran.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More cute little girls

I've been challenging myself to master my camera better. I usually use Av mode for my portraits, but I've switched to full manual and I'm liking the results.

This is one of my new favorites of Katie, fingers in the mouth and all.
I like this one too, but I think the black background might be a tad too harsh.

I didn't nail the focus like I wanted in this next one, but I love the composition and the story it tells.
Harmony can barely sit still for a picture, but I love this laid-back one.

I like the sweetness of this one.
But the expression on this one is more her personality.
And finally, one of Eliza with the beautiful snow as a backdrop.

Remember the 80s? (Wordless Wednesday)

So do I. What a lovely time it was, too. My daughters brought it all back for me this morning as we prepared them for "decades day" at school. I tell you, though, they don't make hairspray like they used to.

Meanwhile, my awesome boys sported looks from the grand 50s.

And my oldest daughter? She got to dress in best dress because her class is going to the Nutcracker today. I think she was secretly glad to miss out on the "big hair" craze. She was a willing participant on crazy hair day yesterday, so maybe not.

Joey and Michael were not as pleased with their hair, but they pulled it off anyway.

My talents with a brush, comb and clippies are highly in demand.

Not long after these pictures were taken, Sarah adjusted her headbands to push back and cover her bangs. She told me that night that "ALL. DAY. LONG." people were calling her Allison. She got a kick out of that.

Thursday, December 09, 2010


I don't play the piano well. I wish I did, and if I had practiced more, like my mother suggested, I probably would. But I enjoyed too many other things as a child and I didn't give enough time to it.

But you know what? I play well enough to give service with my meager talents. When I took early-morning Seminary as a ninth-grader, I was the only one who played in the class. One of the few hymns I could play with both hands was "Choose the Right," so we sung that. A lot. When one of the boys started complaining about how often we were singing that, I got over my self-consciousness about not playing with both hands and we branched out into a lot more hymns that I could play with just the top-hand.

The next year (or maybe the next semester, I don't remember which), I was in a class with only one other person who could play the piano, and her skill level was only slightly higher than mine. So Rebecca Swenson and I both sat at the piano. I'd play the top hand, she the bottom, and together we played a larger variety of hymns for the class to sing along to.

Since then, my talents at the piano have improved, but not enough for me to feel like a real piano player. When I was first married, I was asked to play the piano for Relief Society Homemaking nights, and I was intimidated at first, thinking I could only play a handful of hymns. But I went home and went through every song in the hymnbook. It turned out, I could play fifty of the hymns well and I made another list of fifty more I could play with some practice and effort. Then I gave the list of what I could play to the song leader, and we went from there.

A wonderful piano player told me once that she gets so nervous every time she plays. I thought that was interesting, because I never get nervous playing the piano anymore. I figure that if the group is desperate enough to ask me to play, then most likely, no one else plays better than I would -- and if they did, they're welcome to it! -- and my playing will have to do.

No, I'm not a highly trained and skilled musician. But my meager talents, such as they are, are enough to offer service in the absence of someone better trained and more qualified. And I think they are acceptable.

Last night, I was disturbed after reading a condescending blog post, one in which the author, a highly trained musician, was critical of a church organist's wrong notes.

Frankly, it made me angry that she would use her education and training as a mountain from which to look down on others. It reminded me of a time in the Book of Mormon where the people began to turn against God. It says, "And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning; yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches. Some were lifted up in pride, and others were exceedingly humble." (3 Nephi 6:12-13)

Pride is a an interesting sin. As President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, "At its core, pride is a sin of comparison, for though it usually begins with “Look how wonderful I am and what great things I have done,” it always seems to end with “Therefore, I am better than you.”

If God has given you talents and opportunities greater than the people around you, then good for you. What a blessing in your life to be able to offer those gifts to the world! But don't look down on someone with less opportunity or less talent.

My mother grew up on a dairy farm in Idaho. Her parents saw to it that she had lessons on the organ at the local Church building and she learned enough to play the hymns well (much better than I did). She never got the chance and probably doesn't have the talent for Julliard, but you know what? She filled our home with music and I never noticed any wrong notes. She also provided many a congregation with organ accompaniment because there were so few in our congregations trained in that instrument. She was self-conscious about playing because she knew she wasn't the best, but she was willing to do it anyway.

As a new photographer, I find great joy in taking pictures. I love taking in the world around me through my camera. Photography is an art of interpretation. I take a scene and choose to frame it according to my skill and then adjust my camera's settings to capture it just the way I want it (where should my focus point be? How much of the background should I blur? Do I want to show motion or have it stopped?)

Sometimes the work feels highly creative. Often I enjoy it.

But here's the real truth about photography. It's just a cheap imitation of the real thing.

Because whether it's a landscape,

or a portrait
I didn't create any of the things I take pictures of.

Oh yes, I like to think I had a huge part in the creation of those eight children who make up the bulk of my photography, but really, when it comes down to it, that "huge part" pales in comparison to the part God played in their creation, in my creation, and in the creation of the world.

Instead of looking down on those whose efforts aren't up to our standards, I think we should recognize that to God, we're all amateurs. Even the most beautiful music offered by the most talented person is just a child's offering compared to the majesty and works of God.

We are His children, and creation is part of our divine heritage, but all of the materials are given to us from Him. We also owe much to the people who came before us. My husband makes beautiful things out of wood. But God made the wood, other hands invented and refined the woodworking tools, and my husband was introduced to his craft by several talented teachers. So who should get the credit for my husband's creations?

Pride would have us forget all that went into the development of our talents. If I've gained any photography skills (and I hope I have, though I still have much to learn), it's because of many, many people I'll never know, meet, or credit. Many people developed the tools I use for my craft -- cameras, lenses, computers, software, and more. I've studied dozens of books written by people I don't know who were trained by still more people and still more books. I've also studied the work of other talented photographers. If I ever become a great photographer, it's only a small part "me" and a large part "others."

We are all here on earth to learn, grow, and improve. Yes, some of our efforts are awkward. We hit wrong notes. We stumble. We make mistakes. Yet, I like to think of our loving Heavenly Father accepting our offerings with patience, love, and joy.

I like to think of it as I do the creations my children make for me. Last month, I celebrated my 33rd birthday. All over the house, I found post-it notes like these:

My six-year-old used her talents with a pen to create homemade cards for her mother. She left them on the stairs, on the walls, on my computer, in the kitchen. A writer, with his skill with words, might cringe at the misspellings. An artist might scoff at the lack of color, the roughness of the drawings.

But a mother? I felt nothing but joy and affection. Sarah's sweet offering was given in love.

And that is what's important.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Amazing Baby! (Wordless Wednesday)

Watch out, world, Katie's pulling to a stand!

I love her grin!

She turned seven months old the day after these pictures were taken. Most of my babies have been early movers and late talkers, and Katie's definitely fitting right in with Harmony and the rest.

Oh the memories!

Allison and Sarah


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

A hundred days hath May and December . . .

Or at least they SHOULD have that many days if they're going to be as full as this! December and May are the craziest months in a large family -- or maybe in any family?

In the next 25 days, we have two work parties, a ward Christmas party, a Relief Society Christmas activity, a violin concert, a dance recital, a school Christmas party, my mother's group discussion and field trip, Scouts and Activity Day girls, Visiting Teaching appointments (on Thursday -- I'm making my visits early this month!), orthodontist and doctor's visits, plus the extra things my family wants to do: go to the Farley Family Christmas play, see the new Carl Bloch exhibit at BYU, watch the Provo downtown Living Nativity presentation, take three more kids out individually to shop for their secret buddies, and bring gifts to our neighbors and friends.

Oh, and my husband wants to make a trip with some of the kids down to visit his sister in Southern Arizona before she and her family leave for Germany (her husband is in the service).

I'm content, though, because most of our shopping is done, our Christmas cards are ordered (though I don't know if I'll send any this year if it gets too hectic), our Christmas decorations are out, and our 25 days of Christmas devotionals begin this evening.

Sound exciting? It should be! Hang on, December, as we cram 100 days' worth of activities in your 31 days.

Is your December as crazy as mine? What do you do to manage your holiday to-dos and events?

Four & Two (Wordless Wednesday)

One of the great privileges of being a mother is watching your children form close relationships. Eliza and Harmony are 4 and 2 now, just 21 months apart, and will be just a year apart in school. With the twins gone to school all day for first grade, they've discovered each other.

It makes me so happy when my children are kind to one another, and it gives me a glimpse of what our Father in Heaven must feel when His children are kind.


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