Chapter one: The Boy Who Lived…

In the late 90’s, I was nearing the end of my secondary education.  I had precisely 3 interests: Boys, dance, and a social life…with boys.  Reading was definitely not on my to-do list.  So it wasn’t even on my radar that suddenly every person of every age in every country became enamored with a book called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

I don’t recall even being aware that this was a book until 2001 during my first year of college.  This was the year that this first book in the series became a movie.  A good [21 year old] friend of mine, Traci, was obsessed with this series.  We were in the dance company together, and at the end of the year we had an assignment called musical mapping.  The assignment required us to choose a song, “map” the dynamics of the song out using the medium of our choosing (pipe cleaner, macaroni noodles, string, etc…you know, college student stuff), and choreograph a dance to go along with our 3-dimensional music map.  We then presented the entire project to our class.  Traci chose the Harry Potter movie’s theme song, which at the time was unrecognizable.  She incorporated a magic wand into her choreography with which she led us through her map.  If that wasn’t enough to get me to read this book, I don’t know what is.

Over the years I received a lot of criticism for having never read this series.  About 7 years ago, I rode along with Aaron when he went to dig a grave (yes, this actually happened).  I had some time to kill while I sat in the car, and the Sorcerer’s Stone happened to be sitting on the bench seat next to me.  Aaron really loved the series and has read/listened to each book at least twice.  I picked it up, thrilled that I was finally about to jump on the HP band wagon.  I got to about the part where (spoiler alert, if you haven’t read it) Harry makes the glass disappear at the zoo and releases the snake.  That was where the wagon stopped for me.

Since that time I’ve been the epitome of a crazed YA fantasy fiction fan over all the big-time supernatural, dystopian, sci-fi, love-triangle type books and their movie adaptations (you should see my “I’d rather be in Forks” t-shirt).  All except Harry Potter.

Last fall, Jade started kindergarten.  I’ve been reading to Jade almost every night since she could sit up on her own, so it didn’t come as a surprise to me that she picked up the ability to read very quickly.  In October at her last birthday, she was given her first set of chapter books about fairies.  We devoured them and went back for more when the school book fair came along.  Suddenly books didn’t need pictures to be interesting.  This was my cue.

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“Jade how about we read Harry Potter together?  I’ve never read it before.”  I fully expected her answer to be, “You haven’t read Harry Potter???  Even I’ve read Harry Potter mom!”  But instead she answered yes, and our journey began.

Last night, we finished the first book.  I almost cried!  Literally.  And for more reasons than one.  I just finished a very long book with my first child and she sat still and listened and comprehended just about every word!  But I was also sad to close the book after that last page.  What incredible writing, and what a fun story!  We do own all 8 movies, but to be honest I don’t think I’ve sat through most of them and the ones I did I either fell asleep or didn’t have a clue what was happening.

But the best part about the whole thing is that I’m experiencing these books for the first time with my daughter.  How many parents of my generation get to say that?  I kept thinking what if I’d given in and read the series a long time ago?  I get to do this 6 more times!

Do you have any movies or books you wish you could experience again for the first time?  And its sad because you never will be able to!  You’ll keep re-watching Titanic hoping it will be as good as that first time, but it never will be.  Okay maybe that’s just me.

Chamber of Secrets here we come!

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Don’t be caught with an empty vessel

In this season of my life, there is very little that is more satisfying than a stocked fridge or pantry.  It gives me a sense of control.  A sense of accomplishment.  It means I’m prepared for the potential disasters that may lie ahead.  It is the picture of time well spent.  A bright future.  I went shopping today.  It is going to be a good day.

IMG_1014Don’t judge the contents of the picture.  Sometimes, when you go shopping with a 1 year old, two 3 year olds, and a 6 year old, its about quantity…not quality.  Today I’ve got quantity.  And like I said, today is a good day.

Some days are not so.  The harder days look something like this:

I wake up (much too early) to the smell of pancakes cooking on the griddle, the sound of chairs screeching along the wood floor as the kids pull them out.  Pancakes are Aaron’s favorite breakfast, so they are our kids’ favorite too.  To them, pancakes are worth getting out of bed at 6 for. I drag my zombie-self out of bed and enter the fog that is my family in the morning.  I don’t feel like pancakes on most days.  I think to myself a green smoothie sounds like a good pick-me-up and I open the fridge to search for ingredients.

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Okay, well I guess oatmeal will do.  I’ll have a bowl of oatmeal.

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I sigh, and reheat the single pancake that is left on the plate.  As I wait for the toaster to ding, the kids have finished their breakfast and are asking for juice.

“We don’t have any juice kids, sorry,” I slur my words together.

“But mom, pleeeease!  I want some juice!”

I repeat that we don’t have any, “Would you like some water?”  Of course not.  Water?  Puh-leeeze.  The thought occurs to me that we should probably go to the store today, but a vision flashes through my my mind:

Everyone dressed, shoes on, in the car (“I have to go potty!”), back in the house (“Mom, I don’t want to stay in the car by myself!”), back in the car, to the store, find the ONLY cart that will fit my whole family + groceries (“Mom, I want to ride in the car part!”), fill the cart with three times as much as was on my list and none of it is healthy (“I have to go potty again!”), get to check out (“Don’t let them take our food!”), “Do you need some help out miss…?”, “No thanks, I got this”, out to the car, load up one kid, two, three (“Get back in your seats boys!”), four, return cart, get in the car…

…breathe…

“Mom, it’s hot in here!!!”  I think we can last a couple more days without food…I fill their sippy-cups with water.

I realize the toaster was done a while ago, and retrieve the pancake.  Upon seeing the last, lone pancake, the kids descend on me like sharks.  I cut it into quarters and tell them to go back to the table.

A few hours and many frantic petitions for snacks later, I submit to their pleas and load everyone up in the car.  It goes just as my vision foretold, with one exception.  The car-cart is not available.  Which means I can fit Lochlan in the front seat and the twins in the basket.  Jade will walk along side.  There is no room for anything else.  We decide to go to the deli for chicken fingers and potato wedges.

Later that evening, Aaron comes home.  “What did you have in mind for dinner tonight?”  He asks.  I look again in the pantry.  Maybe it will look different this time.

“How about pancakes?”  Pancakes sound pretty good right about now.

There is much more in a days work than this, but somehow I really do feel like with a kitchen full of food I can take on anything.  You never know what new kid-cravings (or aversions) the day will bring, and to be prepared is everything.  Having peanut butter on hand on an I-hate-ham-sandwiches kind of day could be the difference between tears and laughter — mine and the children’s.

At times like this, I think a lot of the parable of the 10 virgins.  If you know this story, you know that the 10 women who have been chosen to light the way for the bridegroom to enter his wedding celebration all start out with oil in their lamps.  However, half of them have the good sense to bring along extra oil in case they have to wait longer than expected.  The others run out of oil, their lights go out, and in the chaos of trying to find more oil they miss the celebration.

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I think of this story almost every time we’re running low on food or any time I face a challenge that could have been avoided if I’d anticipated the possibilities.  This was a lesson I remember my dad teaching me in middle school.  Anticipate the possibilities.  It may be a lesson I need to learn many times.   It would be wise to learn this lesson sooner rather than later.

I read a quote recently.  “Sometimes we grow complacent, thinking we have enough to get by…Being wise means being prepared for the unexpected with an extra measure of faith, testimony, and Spirit in our lives.”  -Anonymous

The 10 wise virgins didn’t just attend the wedding ceremony with a lamp. These women also carried with them a vessel for the purpose of storing backup oil. I imagine that the foolish or unprepared women could have thought it’s inconvenient to carry something extra with me, or possibly my vessel doesn’t go with my outfit.  Either way they thought it was excessive to pack along something that couldn’t possibly be necessary or it just didn’t cross their minds in the first place.

Most of the time preparation is inconvenient or undesirable for one reason or another — Taking all of my children to the grocery store is anything but desirable — but the effort is worth the peace that comes with being ready when the unexpected occurs.  It is never foolish to be too prepared.

May Milestones Continued

Kindergarten Graduation

Of all the weeks to be sick.  Jade has a little bit of a cold as you may be able to see in these pictures.  But that didn’t stop her.

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Student of the Month

Jade’s teacher says she has worked really hard this year on being a good friend to others and that she has progressed a lot since the beginning of the year.  I’m so proud of my little almost-first-grader!

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Many May Milestones

This month has been one for the record books!  At least in our family.  Each one of my kids has accomplished some major feats and I could not be more proud!  And also sort of terrified and nostalgic and overwhelmed.

Jade

I do not know where this kid came from!  She is something else.  This year she has participated in more activities than I have in my entire life.  Since she is the only one of my children old enough to really get involved in activities, I decided to just let her experience anything and everything.  So at one point this winter she was a gymnast, a ballerina, an ice skater, a basketball player, and an actress all at the same time.  And she loved every minute of it!

Her first year as an elementary school student culminated in many very exciting events, starting with field day.

For her school field day, each class competed on its own in 6 different events.  Three events gave the kids the possibility of placing in the top three and earning a ribbon.  Jade was awarded 1st place in all three events (the 50 yd dash, the softball throw, and long jump)!!!  Go here to watch her in action.IMG_1082

Next came her gymnastics show and ballet recital on back-to-back days.  This session she was moved up a level in gymnastics and is the youngest in her class.  She’s also the youngest in her ballet class.IMG_1134

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And last, but certainly not least, she lost her two front teeth!  It was quite a battle.  She was hanging on but the teeth wanted out and they finally won.

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Oh, and one more thing: Next week Jade will be honored by her class and her teacher at the last Student of the Month assembly of the year 🙂 Shhh…It’s still a secret, so don’t tell her!

Lochlan

I wish I had video to prove it, but Lochlan’s vocabulary has exploded this month!  He really only says a handful of words that I can understand (mom, daddy, cracker, more, and ball) but he spouts off sentences like he owns the conversation.  He knows exactly what he’s saying and he gets frustrated, I think, that I don’t get it.  Also, his hair is getting sort of crazy.  Maybe a real haircut will be another big milestone.

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Now onto the really, really big stuff…

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POTTY TRAINING.

There’s not a word that describes what has been happening in my brain since the big “P” day.  And I do mean day literally.  I foolishly attempted to use Teri Crain’s Potty Train in Just One Day method.  For someone who thrives off of being in control, this is a vulnerability like I’ve never felt before.  Potty training twin boys!

“The day” actually went surprisingly well.  As you can see, I was prepared.  And I was determined.  I had a small window of opportunity to make this happen while Jade was at school and Lochlan was at Grandma’s.

IMG_1030Our *Potty Party* started, of course, with gifts.  And what better gift to give a child than a Disney stuffed animal wearing a diaper.

The goal, of course, is to have the child tell their new doll that its time to get rid of the baby diapers and to teach them how to use the potty.  Both Goofy and Donald successfully mastered their first attempt (using a medicine syringe filled with water) and were rewarded by big boy undies!  Calder and Everest were so proud that they helped their new friends choose a reward sticker and put on their new underwear to watch a movie. IMG_1035

Now it was time for the twins to try!  This is what the next 9 hours looked like…

IMG_1034Only sometimes the sippy cups were filled with chocolate milk, juice, or pop…

And sometimes they switched potty chairs.

What a day!  After a few hours Everest was our first success story.  By the end of the day they each had half their chart filled up, and by day 3 (yeah yeah, I know it was only supposed to take 24 hours) they’d filled them completely.

IMG_1036I can’t say that my twins are “Potty trained” per se — What does it even mean when someone says “It worked for my kid!” ? — We’ve been at it for a week now and, while they haven’t put a diaper on since, I’m pretty sure pullups accomplish the same goal.  They know I’m not going to risk it and since we try not to sit at home on the potty watching TV every day they have spent most of their days/nights in these cop-out undies.

The good news is May has also been a month of many baths.

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Don’t be a Mixed-up Mom

The other night our family traveled a short ways to my sister-in-law’s house to help her with some yard work in preparation for gardening season.  Well, I had very little help to offer but I enjoyed getting some footage of my kids playing in the dirt.  As I watched my sis-in-law using the giant, heavy tiller, I turned to her daughters and said, “I hope you realize how special your mother is.  I would never be able to do that!” The next morning I was reflecting on the image of Heather in the garden and I said to Aaron, “You know, my talents have given me some pretty fun experiences, but I wish I had talents that were actually useful to other people.”  He, of course, disputed the idea that my talents weren’t useful (bless his heart), but I was still skeptical.  How could dancing or singing benefit my family in any way?

Later that day I found an opportunity to watch Dancing With the Stars while I folded laundry (I’m good at folding laundry!).  As I watched this dance segment I was so happy and I couldn’t keep from smiling but wanting to cry at the same time.  I watched it again and had the same reaction.  It didn’t forever change my life in a huge way, but it was a moment in a generally boring and monotonous mom-day that made my heart jump a little.  Okay, a lot.

Side note:  I’ve really been loving this show lately.  I think one of the biggest reasons is Candace Cameron Bure (DJ of Full House fame).  Her optimism and commitment to her faith and religion in the middle of raising a family and being in the public eye is inspirational.  Despite growing up as a “child star” she has still managed to stay true to who she is and people are actually rooting for her.  She is the perfect example of being in the world but not of it.  She has used her talents to inspire and make people want to be better.  Her children are in the audience cheering her on every week and one week showed her daughter telling her mother how cool it was to watch her mom out there feeling so empowered.

Remember in March I said I’d attended a inspirational conference for women?  Well at this conference one of the musical groups shared some thoughts about the talents they each wished they had.  One wished she was a better cook so she could make wonderful treats for her kids’ friends when they came over.  Another wished she was more organized so she could actually find clothes in her kids’ closets.  The last wished she knew how to garden so her family could be more self-sufficient.  They each admitted that these were not talents they had acquired.  Yet here they were, inspiring and uplifting people in a way that most mothers could never do.  One of them (ironically named Whitney) said, “God made YOU the mother of your children because he wants you to do ‘you things’ with them.”

I remember my mom getting out her old performance scrapbooks to share from her Broadway days and, on a good day, I would mmm-hmm and wow until she put them away.  Now I think my mom is one of the most talented and incredible women on earth who had one of the most rare opportunities any mother could ever have.  God made her specially for me.  She is my inspiration.  She understands the struggle it has been for me to stop dancing because she has BEEN THERE.  No one else understands that.

-1That’s her with President Reagan, by the way.

I’m still not entirely convinced that my kids are going to be inspired by the fact that I know how to dance or sing.  At least not yet — Recently I turned on an old performance video of mine for educational purposes and Calder threw a hysterical tantrum as he tried to climb up on the TV and turn it off — but maybe one day.

Sometimes I wish I had the talent of sewing, always I wish I had the talent of patience (it is a talent, and if you have it you are lucky), in the winter I wish I had the talent of skiing.  Almost always I wish I had every talent.  I’d be such a better mom if I had ALL the talents.

If you need to be reminded that this is not true, read The Mixed-up Chameleon by Eric Carle.  You can always develop new talents, but you don’t need all the talents to be useful to people.  Only the ones that make you, you.

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My valiant, pungent raindeer king

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One night many years ago, my sister and I were sitting in the basement of the home she was currently living in.  We were watching In Her Shoes, which was less than memorable because I couldn’t tell you today what it was about.  But the company was wonderful.

At about 10 o’clock my cell phone rang.  It was my college dance professor, Wendy Bone.  “Hey, Whitney, sorry to call so late.  I’m in sort of a desperate situation,” she said, “I had an emergency appointment come up tomorrow right in the middle of my classes and I was wondering if you could sub for me.”

This was BIG news!  Wendy never asked for my help!  Keep your composure Whitney, be cool, “Of course, what do you need me to do?”

“Could you come meet me at the school?  I know its late, but it would be much easier to go over the lesson plan with you in person and I won’t have time tomorrow.”  I didn’t need to think about it.  I apologized to my sister and hopped in the car.

When I arrived at the dance department building, I tried to recall if she had given me a meeting place.  I was pretty sure she had said to meet her on the stage, which was strange because her classes were in the studio.  But you don’t argue with Wendy.  I went to the stage door.

Darkness.

So I went to the studio.  Empty.  In fact, the whole building seemed to be empty.  I was sure she had said the stage, so I went back.  This time I saw a faint light coming from right in the middle of the stage.  As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I saw him.

Aaron McKee was standing center stage.

My mind couldn’t make sense of this situation, but the unfamiliarity of it made my heart pound as I walked towards him.  As I got closer I realized that there was music playing:  Goldberg Variations, a classical piano piece Aaron had told me he really loved.

He held my hands, and my entire future flashed before me as I looked into his eyes.  While I can’t remember the exact words that he said, I remember the feeling as he asked the most important question I’ll ever hear.  And my answer was yes.  It may have taken me a few days to realize fully that I had been lied to by Wendy, and that I didn’t ever finish that movie with my sister.

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Four short months seemed to drag on forever, and on May 6, 2006, eight years ago today, we were married in the Bountiful, Utah temple and sealed to each other for this life and for all eternity.

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I love this man.  He has shown me kindness, patience, and Christlike service and selflessness every day of the last 8 years.  He makes me laugh.  He’s brave when I am definitely not.  He allows me to be myself.  He has given me 4 beautiful children.  I am so proud of the man he is and is becoming (hopefully I have a little something to do with that).  I look forward to his future head of thick gray hair!

Happy anniversary Aaron!

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Drive-through candy stores

As my boys and I were driving home from dropping Jade off at school, Calder says, “A candy store!  Look mom, its the sucker store!”  I looked to see where he was pointing.  It didn’t take me long to realize he thought the bank was the sucker store.

“Oh.  No, Calder, that’s the bank.  It’s where we keep our money.”

“Bunny?!”  He exclaimed.

“Noooo.  No.  Money.  Like dollar bills.  Do you know what a dollar bill is?”

“Buildings?!”  Everest chimed in (“bill is” to “buildings” — sort of a stretch, I know).  “I looove buildings!  I wish I had a…I wish I was…a…I wish I had a construction hat!”  Calder nodded and giggled in agreement and they spent the rest of the drive home singing songs about building things.

I can’t stop laughing as I share this.  Of course he thought the place where we drive up to a window, stop and wait, and are given a sucker, was the “sucker store”.  Recently we went through a drive-through pharmacy and the kids chorused, “Suckers!”  Apparently drive-through=sucker.

Being the overanalyzer that I am, when I got home I started thinking about how this early childhood development theory, sometimes called schema, applies to life as an adult.  Don’t we all organize and interpret information into a conception based on our reality?  And isn’t it really difficult, and sometimes frustrating, when people have beliefs or fears that we can’t comprehend?

Calder also has a lot of fears (the dark, monsters, ghosts…digital clocks…the usual).  We’re really careful to sensor the things that he takes in from the media but you just never know how things are being processed.  And explaining to Calder that the clock isn’t scary when his hysterical “the car is counting down!  It’s gonna explode!” clearly says otherwise, doesn’t cut it.  Since digital clocks are everywhere, sometimes this can be infuriating.

But all I can do for him is assure him that things are going to be okay and be patient while he figures things out for himself.  Sometimes we have to tape a piece of paper over the clock numbers which isn’t so hard.  And sometimes, at the bank, they’ll give us an extra sucker just for me.