Sunday, July 17, 2011

I'm So Alone! *Wrist to Forehead*

Thank goodness Mike is not working out of town any more because I am going on the third week without the older kids here. With me, the twins, and the dog home all day long they get stir crazy. They like having more people here to play with and break up the monotony.

The dog really misses her kids. Did I say how we got a puppy a few months ago? The babies named her Tinkerbell because Mike said they got to name her and that was the last movie they had watched. She is a really great dog. She is fully housebroken and a little bit kennel trained. I have not read anything about dog training and I am the only one here to consistently do anything with the dog. So I am proud of myself--especially since I never wanted one more thing to do. And yet I did it and she is great--except for the stinking chewing thing. She's half lab. Did I expect any less? The other half is Australian Shepherd. She is so stinking needy. She has to be close to me, and if I am not petting her or resting my foot on her she barks at me or goes off and chews something. I wish I did not love living things.

The reason I am focusing on this is because she is barking at me right now. Since I saw Marissa's dog say "I love you" I have been barking that at her and she is learning it.

My point here was that is is really nice that the kids time with their dad coincided Mike getting full time (non-contract) employment and coming back to the Dallas office so he can be here in the evenings. Because otherwise the babies and I would be driving each other batty--we are still on the edge of that. It is just lonely without a house full of crazy.

We got a babysitter on Friday so we could watch Harry Potter (Deathly Hallows Pt II for posterity). A couple of weeks ago we got the 15 disc blue ray release of the super extended version of Lord of the Rings. Each of the three movies takes two discs just to watch the movie. Then there are three more bonus feature discs for each one. We have not even touched those yet. It took us most of the week to get through just the movies.

That's all I've got for now. It's something, anyway.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Granny Leavitt (Dora Darthella Downs)

Granny Leavitt died today. We got the warning that she was deteriorating quickly two days ago. Tragically, I was thinking last week that it had been a while since we had heard anything from Grandma and that I should get everybody to call her. I did not. So, as always, the greatest lesson in death is to use the moments we have for the things that matter most.

When I was 6, my Grandma Lay died, my Great Grandpa Downs died, and my cat Boregard died. Before I had the capacity to grieve I was taught that there was no reason to. I would be able to see them all again in heaven, and they were happier now than they had been. The sad part was how much we would miss them. I have no specific memory of my great grandfather so I do not know how often I saw him, but I saw my Grandma Lay once a year when we visited her and one or two times when she came to visit us. They often came on Halloween (Nevada Day parade) or Christmas. So, though I would miss those events, they were not a part of my daily life so there was not that much to miss. Since then I have viewed death in terms of the loss associated with missing someone. I have never felt much loss because no one who has been a daily part of my life has died. Sharon Palmer and Charlotte Soukoup are the closest people to me that I have lost, but by the time they passed, I had not seen them for a long time so there was no future to miss.

This is the distinction. As a child--and up until now I have seen the grief or the sadness of it as a lost future. But I now see that the real tragedy is in all the moments I could have better spent with them. All the opportunities to show my love and appreciation that I excused. All the relationship that was never built. The part of me I lost by not sharing it with those I love. So I am left with the memories I did build and the love I did share, made all the more precious by their rarity.

So here is what I remember of my grandmother. More than anything, I remember Hannah, Wyoming where the seven of us Lay children stayed for six weeks. I turned 12 that summer. I helped grandma make Tang for Grandpa and helped her pack his lunches for the night shift with Carbon County Coal Company. Many of our dinners included home-frozen corn from plastic bags that I heated in the microwave. She found clothes for Devanie and the twins at a garage sale. Many nights I would stay up late with her and watch (I'm pretty sure it was) Johnny Carson while Grandpa was at work. My mom was mad that she had let me do that because I had dark circles under my eyes when she picked us up.

I was the first granddaughter, after Grandma had had my mom and then her six boys she anxious for a darling little girl and I finally came. I held a special place in her heart. But I did not understand her love and concern for me when I overheard her telling my mom how she needed to teach me to control myself. As an insecure newly teen it was a devastating disillusion to find that I was not adored by my dear grandmother from every angle. I allowed that to create a rift in our relationship. Even years later when I had the opportunity to heal the rift, I concealed the pain and kept it for my own.

When Grandpa died Grandma Leavitt carried herself with strength and dignity through the funeral flurry. That night when everyone had gone to their rooms and the lights were out we finally heard her pain. Her voice sounded like my mother's. I ran out to comfort her, but when I saw that my mom was already there to comfort her own mother, I let them be. I have heard that same sob choked out of my own throat. The same voice of the generations that has graced our chapels with beloved hymns has cried to God in our secret places and our darkest moments.

Grandma had lost the precious love of her life. She had little desire to live without him. Still, strength and dignity won. She found and acted upon her own personal purpose as she chose to serve the mission they had planned on serving together--even before the General Authorities so actively promoted senior missions. She forged herself into another binding link in generations of faithful women of God.

Because of the limited amount of time I spent with her, the thing I know best about her is the absolutely incredible woman she produced in my mother, Randa. I do not mean to minimize Darthella's sons. They are men of strength and distinction who bring honor to the name of their parents. But it is the daily observation of my own mother that teaches me who her mother was, and who I can become.

Despite the love I missed from Grandma Leavitt of my own neglect, and despite the loss of future opportunities for her and I to strengthen each other, I know that death is the reminder of the value of life. By the time I leave this life, will I have lived as faithfully and loved as fully as time and the very best that is in me has allowed? There is time to be better. I am needed. And I need my family to know that I need them today and into eternity. My heart would be so empty without them and without knowing that they are forever mine.

I am so very happy for Grandma to be reunited with her precious Jack. The joy they share as he acknowledges his pride in her for enduring without him. The sweet fulfillment of knowing there is nothing more for either of them to endure--except to see their children endure. But in their love and anxiety for us they now work again, side by side. How blessed we are. And how great is their joy.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Identical but Distinct

My babies are three and a half. I miss the days of infancy, but I adore the little people they are becoming. While their personalities are not "totally different" each is a very distinct person.

Amelia gets a little more excited about the rock songs that come on the radio--she gets more excited about recognizing a song period. But when I look in the rear-view mirror, it is precious to see them turn to each other and smile in recognition of a song and then start feeding each others excitement about it.

Anastasia is a storyteller. She has a fantastic memory. She will talk to people for--as long as they will listen--and tell them about characters from a movie she recently watched--and she has an exceptional grasp of character motivation and the meaning of actions. She will tell memories of time she spent with her cousins or anything you want to know about her dog, brothers, sisters, how she dunked her head under water when she went swimming last summer, about her best friends (who are actually Claire's best friends) and she will even make stuff up about them.

She talks so much because she is a super attentive listener. Words and sounds are her world. She will name things according to the sound they make. Sunday shoes have harder soles and make more noise. The rest of us have learned to call that sound clicking or clunking. She calls her Sunday shoes her kirk shoes. I can't think of any other sound words she has made up, but she regularly does that if she has not learned the right word for what she is trying to describe.

Amelia loves movement. While it has taken a long time to get Anastasia to stop freaking out on the swings, Amelia has loved it and always wants to go higher. She loves to do puzzles and is good at seeing the little picture parts in the pieces to know where they go. She has also decided lately that she does not want to wear dresses all the time like Anastasia does. I think Amelia is a little more averse to change. We put the castle bed up a couple of months ago and she says she wants to unscrew it and have her little bed back.

So, I can't help but wonder how those differences come about. One hypothesis I have is that in the womb, Anastasia was smashed against my pelvis and had limited movement, where Amelia hogged up the space and kicked all the time. With more limited movement, but more access to sound (her head being closest to the surface) Anastasia became auditory while Amelia became more kinetic.

I also wonder if the primary distinguishing trait of identical twins is that the younger ones have a more rounded face. I adore them. They have been absolute pills lately because I have not taken daily focused time to be with them. I say that because it is my opinion that behavior problems are parental attentiveness problems. That is not about guilt and blame. That is about the power of a few minutes of focused love and attention, followed by independent play. We can do so much more if we do the right things.

Friday, May 06, 2011


I knew I had not blogged in a while, but I just realized it has been three full months. Mike is still working out of town and coming home on the weekends. He should be done with it by the end of June.

I wen to Utah in March the twins and I visited Devanie during spring break. I took our new puppy, Tinkerbell. She was very good through the very long ride. She also had a lot of fun with Devanie's little puppy, Jazzy.

The main reason I went was to get the prototype for my toy invention built by the folks at Tanglewood Design. They also made the castle bed that I just installed for the babies. I picked up some of those pieces and had the ones that did not fit in the van shipped to me. About a month later I had everything painted and set up.

The name of the toy is the SkemboX. It is the non-digital toy with as many apps as a smart phone. Of course, me and my development team are still working on the apps, but the existing hardware (really, screws, bolts, MDF, etc.) offers a lot of options to begin with. It is a 2ft. by 4 ft. box with different cutouts on every side to spark a child's imagination. It can even be used as a desk or bookshelf.

I have some business details to take care of before the major launch, but it should be coming soon. I will be sending an email to all of my friends for them to opt in to the Skembox list so I can keep people up to date on product information and give them ideas for using it and playtime ideas that don't even require owning the SkemboX.

Apart from that, I am getting really close to finishing up my bachelors degree. I only have five more classes to take. I really hate my school, but it is too late to leave. I do not think it is the school specifically, but the online atmosphere. It is convenient, but I would really like more human interaction--especially for the price I am paying. But I am going to leave that there. I need to do another assignment before the babies wake up.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Top Secret

My life is very full right now and I am very excited, but if I tell you anything more, I would have to kill you.

I can only talk about the sad things. For the past month, and probably for at least the coming month, Mike has been working out in East Texas during the week and coming home only on the weekends. This week because of bad weather, he was not even able to come home on Friday night. The week before that he only stayed Friday night and had to leave Saturday afternoon because he had deadlines on Monday that meant millions of dollars for the company. My time with him has been very limited.

The upside is that we have been going out on actual dates on the weekends and we enjoy each others company more. I also have more time during the week to work on the other stuff I am not currently talking about.

I absolutely adore my baby girls. I am having so much fun and taking so much time to play and learn with them and read to them. It makes it really easy when Anastasia says things like "You are the best mom in the whole world." I was taking dinner out of the oven tonight and she gasped like she had never seen me before and said "You're so pretty. That's why you need a prince." I said, "That's why I have Daddy." We have successfully played Candy Land a couple of times, but it does not work if anyone else is with me and the babies. They do not have the attention span to sit through anybody else's turn besides mine and sisters.

I have a rough draft for a research paper that is due tomorrow that I have not started, but I have a hard time caring because it doesn't matter what I write, the teachers say "nice job" and give me full credit. Getting mediocre feedback inspires me to be a mediocre student. Why excel when there is no reward for it? I only say that because of the massive amounts of mental energy that I put into my assignments. It is not an effective use of my time--except that I am using every paper I write as something that ties all of the knowledge of my other classes together to eventually become a book.

I am super sleepy. Good night.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Ask a Busy Person

Sometimes I get focused on a specific goal, and I think to myself that I need to do only that; not be so distracted by different things. The trouble with that is that I get bored too quickly and never achieve that goal. I am feeling especially productive right now because I have, like, five major goals I am working on and developing right now, so when I get bored with one, I move on to the next, and before long, I come back to the other because I am excited about it again. If I only have one focused goal, I end up playing games and Facebooking, or something like that. I got over it sometime in November when I chanced to open Phillipians 4:13 and read all of the verses surrounding the oft quoted "I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me" and I profoundly sensed the truth of it--that I needed to stop limiting myself and just go all out. If I do everything with faith and gratitude, knowing it is what I am supposed to do, nothing can stop me.

I did not set any New Year's resolutions. It just so happened that I got all psyched up about a couple of ideas in my head at the end of December. I don't know if anyone is even reading blogs anymore, but I am reluctant to write any details about my projects, not just because you really do have to be careful about your ideas, but because the more I tell people about stuff, the closer I am to quitting the goal. I like to sneak up on people and make it a surprise. "Wow," they say, "I had no idea she could even do that."

On the other hand, I really need people to come on board with me. I am thinking in gigantic terms and I cannot do these things myself. I need people who can get past their little hangups about how busy they are. I need people who have a sense of purpose about making changes in their own lives so they can change others' lives. Everything I am doing takes nothing away from my children. In fact, they were the motivation for my taking action. We are coming closer together because of it.

See, to me, it is not enough just to teach your children not to get into trouble, or how to keep their room clean. If you do not have a purpose of your own that reaches outside of your isolated circle of children and spouse, you have contributed nothing to the world at large. If you teach your children that keeping the house clean and raising babies is the ONLY thing you need to do, by your example as a mother, you are teaching them how NOT to be involved in their communities and make a difference in the world--and they will follow your example.

My husband thinks that by saying this that I am saying motherhood is not enough, or that I am minimizing the role like a feminazi would. All I am saying is: saying motherhood is ALL that matters is a contracted world view, if your definition of motherhood is limited to intellectual--or even spiritual teaching, as well as domestic instruction. You must teach them BY EXAMPLE how to apply spiritual and intellectual truth in the larger world. If you do not expand your own circle of influence beyond the home, you will not be able to multiply your circle of influence by having children who expand their influence. Not many people do that. That is what makes those who try so extraordinary.

Who will raise tomorrows leaders and difference-makers? Who will show them how to make a difference today? Who will join me?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Goose is Getting Fat

Christmas is coming
The goose is getting fat
Please put a penny in the old man's hat.
If you haven't got a penny,
a hey-penny will do
If you havent' got a hay-penny
God bless you!

And now for something completely different.
My husband just told me he wants to have a whole month where we try Spam recipes. I suggested that we do that the month leading up to Thanksgiving, so that the kids would really have something to be thankful for by the time the turkey came around.

I started a physiological psychology class next week (biology of the nervous system). That has been fun so far. I love hard sciences (as opposed to social sciences). However, I never see myself working in a biological field. That is saying something, because every class I take I want to change my major, and spend the class figuring out ways to use the knowledge I am acquiring in a professional setting. The biological knowledge will be useful in many other fields, but I have never been interested in medicine (nutrition, maybe). The best part of the class is that it is full of psych majors and we all like digging into the brain and playing with the mind.

I am happy it is Christmastime.