Friday, March 28, 2014

I Love You, My Child

Lately I have been thinking a lot about life - the ups and downs, the joys and sadness, the triumphs and failures.  Life is full of twists and turns.  Some we anticipate, others we don't.  Some we welcome with open arms, some we fight against.  The last few months here have seemed to be filled with sadness for those around me.  Stresses have been high, rough patches have had to be walked through, loved ones have been lost tragically.  This week, alone, two young lives have ended suddenly.  I knew both of them. 

My thoughts go to the families left behind.  As a mother, I can not imagine the pain of losing a child.  I think it would be almost too much to handle.  When Zeke was younger I would have nightmares on a regular basis.  In these nightmares something horrible would happen and I would not be able to help Zeke.  One time he was drowning and I could not get to him.  The nightmares were so real.  In them I would be fighting and doing everything I could to save him but in the end I would not be able to.  I would wake up crying and shaking.  It was horrible!  I had enough of them that I began to be worried that I may in fact lose my little Zeke.  I can't even describe the emotions that I felt and these were just from dreams! I prayed often about it.  I didn't really know what to pray about, but I prayed and told Heavenly Father about my nightmares and the fears that came to me from them.  One morning after having endured one of those nightmares and still being quite unnerved from it, these words came to my heart so I wrote them down:

My precious child so sweet and fair, I gave to you my heart.
But life has take a different road and now we are apart.
What I would give to hold you once more and whisper in your ear,
"I love you, my child.  Don't ever forget that I will always be here."
The pain is overwhelming, unimaginable to most - but there is one -
One who has been through this loss before with His Only Begotten Son.
Our Father in Heaven gave us His Son - a gift given out of pure love.
He suffered, He bled, He died for us, then returned to Heaven above.
He holds me close through all my trials and whispers in my ear,
"I love you, my child.  Don't ever forget that I will always be here."
Through this great gift of Father and Son, I can mend my broken heart.
Though separated now, nothing on earth can keep us apart.
So wait for me, my precious child, help me on my way.
I know I'll be with you again and in my arms you'll stay.
Then I will hold you close once more and whisper in your ear,
"I love you, my child. Don't ever forget that I will always be here."
It has been several years since I had one of these dreams and I can talk about them now without so much emotion tied to them.  I can not pretend to know what it really feels like to lose a child and I hope it is something that I don't ever have to understand.  I do know, however, that these family ties that we have here on this earth do not end in death.  I know that does not take away the pain that we feel when we lose a loved one, but it is a blessing to know that this separation is only temporary.  Those that we have lost in this life are still with us.  They are watching for us, cheering us on and waiting for us to come home.  We will, one day, be able to hold them again.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dan Lennon Track Meet

Yesterday Maddi went to her first track meet of her junior high career.  It was in Vermillion at the Dome (thank goodness it was inside because it was cold outside!).  There were over 50 teams there from 3 different states.  It was kind of crazy! Kids and uniforms everywhere!  Maddi's first race was the 1600m run.  There were 64 girls that ran that race!  Her next race was the 800m run.  There were three heats and her heat had over 20 girls in it.  Again, crazy!  Her last race was the 4x4oom relay.  It was fun to watch her and her teammates run.  She took first in her 1600m heat and 3rd in her 800m heat.  I have no idea where she finished overall.  There were some big teams there with some really fast girls!  Here are a few pictures from the day:

Waiting for the 1600m with some teammates

First lap done and way out in front!

Still holding on to first place

Start of the 800m


Waiting for the 4x400m relay to start

Taking off after the hand off

It was so fun to get to go.  I love track!  It brings back so many memories - friends, sunshine, sweat, bagels, spoonfuls of honey, and that runners high!  I look forward to the rest of this season and may more seasons to come!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Personal Progress

In our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the girls ages 12- 18 have a theme that they repeat together every Sunday.  It goes:

We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. We will “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places”  as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are:
Faith • Divine Nature • Individual Worth • Knowledge • Choice and Accountability • Good Works • Integrity • and Virtue
 We believe as we come to accept and act upon these values, we will be prepared to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.

Along with this theme they have a program that they go through called Personal Progress.  In this they have certain projects for each value that they complete.  It includes things like reading scriptures on the value topic, applying gospel principals into their lives, sharing their testimony with others, writing their experiences in their journals, serving others, etc.  When it is complete they get a medallion as a symbol of all they have learned and accomplished. 

Maddi and Makenna are both working on theirs. I did mine when I was their age and still have my medallion.  Now I get to do it again.  As a mother to young women, I am encouraged to do the personal progress program with them.  So I have started along with them.

The value I am working on now is faith.  I have read scriptures about faith.  I have tried, while taking the sacrament each week, to focus on the Savior and the promises I have made to Him to follow Him and be obedient.  I have tried to read my scriptures daily and pray daily so I can have that strength throughout my days.  One of the projects that I could choose from was to write a poem or a song or do an art piece depicting my faith.  I like to write so I chose to do a poem.  Here is what I wrote:

Kneeling down on bended knee
Hands clasped in desperation
Heartfelt pleadings sent above
Stillness calming the inner soul
Quiet whisperings amidst loud opinions
Silent strength under a heavy load
Pressing on against the mainstream
A step towards an unseen road
A leap off the tallest mountain
A turn off the path well trod
A hand outstretched in the darkness
Clinging tightly to faith and hope
A sense of peace hushing the confusion
Light is coming from the distance
Answers now becoming clear
God is there just as He promised
Trust in Him has proven true

This depicts my experiences with faith.  So often, when I have a choice to make or a mountain to climb, it starts out on my knees with pleading to my Heavenly Father.  He sends peace and calmness as I take the first steps into the darkness hoping that He will be there as promised. It takes faith to take that first step, especially when those around me seem to be going the other way.  But as I walk down that sometimes lonely path, the light begins to come, my sight is increased and I can see that He is there leading the way.  My faith grows stronger and I feel His love even more.

I am very grateful for the chance I have to do this again with my daughters.  It is good for me to sit down and study these things and be reminded of who I am and what I have the potential to become. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Zeke the Zebra

Lately Zeke has been struggling with being himself.  I see him come home and he acts like the other boys in his class.  One day he was stuttering because a boy at school stutters a little.  One day he was using a phrase that one of the boys in his class uses all the time.  It seems like he is constantly coming home with something that is not him!  He has a lot of boys in his class and some of them have very strong personalities!  Sometimes it is hard to find your place and know that it is okay to just be you.  We have had several talks with him, expressing our love for HIM and telling him how much we missed him when he was trying to be some one else.  We told him all the things about him that we loved and that we hope he will be able to find himself again. 

His word he picked out for this year is truth.  We talked about how that word can also me being true to yourself - finding out who you are, being who you want to be and doing what you want to do because it is what YOU like, not some one else.  Zeke is a very smart boy and has a very deep understanding of things like this.  After our talks he would go back to being Zeke but then after a few days he would find another person to try out for a while.

Now, I know this may not seem like a big deal, after all, kids are always copying each other. but for some reason it bothered me.  I wanted him to be comfortable being him.  I wanted him to know he was perfect just the way he was.  I wanted him to know that he didn't have to become some one else to be accepted.  I struggled with how to help him see this.

Then, the other day I was at Hallmark (yes, this will be a Hallmark moment) and I saw this stuffed Zebra.  It had a book attached to it called "Just Be You!"  Under the title it says, "Your heart beats true when you're busy being you." 

Zeke loves zebras and this little book was about him!  It tells about a little Zebra who only had black and white stripes. Everyone around him had black and white stripes too but they also had one stripe that was a different color and some were even different patterns like zigzag or swirly instead of just straight.  He didn't know why he didn't have one but he knew he really wanted one.  He decided that he would start acting like everyone else so he could get a stripe like theirs.  He tried being all sorts of people but the stripe never came.  His dad noticed something was wrong so Zebra told him that he wanted a stripe just like his.  His dad said that he didn't want a stripe like his, he wanted one of his own.  One that was magnificent and bright and bold just like Zebra was!  His dad told him that the only way he could get one like that was to be himself.  Zebra realized that he loved being himself and had a lot more fun when he was himself.  In fact he got so busy being him that he forgot about his stripe.  Then one day he passed by the mirror and saw that he had a bright red stripe!  It was bright and bold and magnificent just like him!

I got the book.  Yesterday was a snow day so I sat Zeke down and gave him the zebra while I read him the story.  Then we talked about what it meant. I showed him the pictures and asked if Zebra looked happy when he was trying to be everyone else.  He didn't.  I asked him how he looked when he was being himself.  He was happy.  He was magnificent.  He was bright.  He was bold.  I told him that he was the Zebra.  He was smart and funny and nice and helpful.  He was bright, bold and magnificent too.  I told him that whenever he thinks he needs to be some one else to remember Zeke the Zebra and be himself!
He carried that zebra around all day yesterday.  When Michael got home he told him about the zebra and why he had a red stripe around his belly and what it meant.  I don't know if it will really help him or not.  I hope it does.  I hope he learns that he is the best he can be.  That he was made a certain way with certain abilities and talents and that he is best when he is himself!  I hope all of my kids learn that.  I hope someday I will learn that :)  It makes life so much better when we can just be ourselves!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Treasure Hunt

For years now we have done a treasure hunt on St. Patrick's Day.  I started it when the kids were little - probably when Maddi was in kindergarten.  We had never done anything before except wear green but for some reason that year they were really excited about it and seemed to think that something really cool happened on that day.  So, I decided I might should do a little something so they were not disappointed.  We started the treasure hunt.  Not just any hunt though.  First the kids have to go outside and call the leprechauns (they thought this was really fun when they were little.  Now not so much but they did it!)  Then they have to go hide somewhere inside the house (all together) where there are not any windows to see outside.  While they are hiding the leprechauns come and leave hidden treasures in the yard (if there is not snow) and the house.  Then there are clues for the kids to follow and find the treasures.  Sometimes they have each had to find their own bag of treasures.  Sometimes they all have to work together and find all the colors of the rainbows.  Sometimes there is just one big treasure at the end of all the clues. 

Last night they had to follow the rainbow to find the pot of gold.  Olivia read first clue and off they ran to find a red treasure.
Then they went on down through the colors of the rainbow.  Each one reading a clue.

Once they found all the clues and had them lined up on the table in order they had to go back and hide and the leprechauns brought their pot of gold to put at the end of the rainbow.
 It's silly, yes and the kids are older so they don't believe in leprechauns like they used to, but they still look forward to it every year.  I love these little traditions.  Memories are made doing the little things in life.

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Big Day in My Heart

Today is a big day in my heart.  Today I celebrate my sister Katie's birthday.  I have blogged about her before.  She passed away when she was two.  I never had the opportunity to meet her in this life but I know I knew her.  She has always been a very important person in my life.  I remember when I was younger, I had a picture of her on my wall.  She was beautiful.  I remember sitting and staring at her picture, wishing she were there.  I remember when I was mad at my older brothers for being mean I would go into my room and look at her picture and talk to her.  I would tell her how I wish she were there to be my friend and stick up for me when my brothers were mean.  She just always seemed close and it just seemed like a natural thing to do.  I would talk to her and I always felt like she was there listening.  She would be 44 today.  I look forward to the day when I do get to meet her again. 
Isn't she beautiful?

Today is also the day that my grandpa passed away, the one I blogged about a few weeks ago.  I didn't get to go to his funeral and I didn't get to see him before he passed away.  I do have many fond memories of him though.
This is the last picture I have of Grandpa.  We went down to Nashville for a family reunion.  He died the next year.  I am thankful I was able to be there for the reunion and that my kids were all able to meet him and spend time with him.
I can't help but think he and Katie are together watching down on us.  I am so thankful that families can be together forever.  I am so thankful for the knowledge that this life does not end the relationships that we have and cherish, that what we build here continues into eternity.  I am thankful for a little girl who came to this earth for a short time and left such an impact on so many.  I am thankful for a grandpa that loved me.  Happy Birthday Katie!  I love you Grandpa!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sing, Sing, Sing

Over the last month or so, I have had the opportunity to go to four different concerts that Maddi and Makenna have been involved in.  The first one was an all state elementary honors choir that Makenna tried out for and made.  There were over 700 students that tried out for it and only 170 made it.  She was the only one from Deubrook to make it this year.  It was a big honor for her and she was very excited when she made it!  It was done in Brookings at the college.  They did an amazing job and it was so fun to go and watch!  Here are a few pictures from that day:
 Waiting for it to start
 The whole group
Singing and dancing :)
The second opportunity was another honors choir.  This time it was a regional one done in Beresford, SD.  It was grades 4-6.  Makenna made it into this one as well along with some of her other schoolmates.  It was another wonderful concert!
 Waiting for it to start
 The whole group
 Second one in on the top :)
She also got a speaking part for one of the songs.
The third event was Pop, Popcorn and Jazz night at the school.  The Jr. High girls chorus got to join the high school girls chorus and sing a song.  It was a fun night.  We got to listen to the chorus and the band while we ate popcorn and drank pop!  It was a fun night.  Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me so I got zero pictures of it.  Next year...
The fourth event was Festival of Young Voices.  Maddi was able to go with some of the kids in her JH chorus.  It was also done at the college in Brookings.  They too gave a wonderful performance.  It amazes me with all of these choirs that they are able to pull such an amazing concert off after only being together for one day!  There were almost 200 kids that sang at the Festival of Young Voices from about 12 schools from the area.  Here are a few pictures from that:
 Waiting for it to start
 The whole group
 The girls sang Shenandoah by themselves.
Listening to the director talk.
It has been fun getting to watch the girls and their schoolmates perform.  They have all done an excellent job.  I am thankful for the opportunities they have had to participate in these things and many others.  They have been involved in so much since we have been at Deubrook.  The younger kids get to work on the school newspaper at the elementary school - Makenna even gets to be one of the editors :)  She is also on the student council for the second year.  Maddi is in FCA and is involved in sports.  She is also on the set crew for the high school play.  They have won awards and excelled in areas that sometimes surprise me!  Their teachers and administrators encourage and support the kids on all levels.  They come to their sporting events to cheer them on (even on the weekends).  They attend their concert.  My children have even come home with notes from their teachers telling them they are proud of them and their accomplishments.  They are getting opportunities that they would not have had elsewhere and I am very grateful for that.  Our next big production will be the spring concerts!  I have had a sneak preview of some of it and it will be another fun event!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Fly Eagle, Fly

The other day I was subbing in 3rd grade.  After lunch that day we were reading an African folk tale called "Fly Eagle, Fly."  It was about a man who found a baby eagle that had been blown from its nest during a storm.  He took the baby eagle home and raised it with his chickens.  As a result the eagle grew up thinking it was a chicken.  One day one of his friends came over and saw the eagle.  He said that the eagle belonged in the sky not on the ground.  The man informed his friend that he was a chicken not an eagle.  The friend did not believe him and made several attempts to help the eagle fly like it was supposed to.  However, each time, the eagle would just flutter back down and start pecking with the chickens.  The friend then came early one morning to the man's house and told him to grab the eagle and follow him.  The friend carried the eagle back to where the man had originally found the it up in the mountains.  There, on the edge of the cliff, they waited for the sun to come up.  As the sun began to rise over the mountains, the friend held the eagle up as he had before and told the eagle to fly.  The eagle spread it's wings and as the warm sun hit him and the wind came up under his wings, the eagle floated off up into the sky never to return to the ground again. 

After we read the story we talked about the lesson that could be learned from it.  Some of the kids mentioned that if you are treated a certain way then that is how you become.  Others mentioned that if you believe something you should keep trying.  I decided to add to their answers. 

Earlier in the day, there had been some squabbles going on.  Some kids were being left out, some were not being very nice, etc.  There had been a lot of tattling and hurt feelings on all sides.  So, I told them about one of my brothers, who growing up had not been the nicest person in the world to me (he has since apologized and all is well between us).  Every day he would call me ugly and dumb along with other things.  I told the kids that this is what I heard every day.  Then I asked them what they thought I believed after a few years of hearing this.  One little girl raised her hand and said, "That you were dumb and ugly."  I told her she was absolutely right!  I did believe those things!  I explained to them that if we hear negative things about ourselves all the time we start to believe those things.  I told them if we hear positive things about ourselves every day then we believe the positive things.  I pointed out that how we treat each other can have a big impact on how we feel about ourselves so we need to be really careful how we treat each other and we need to make sure that we treat each other with kindness.  Some of them really got it.  However, there was one hand in the back that went up.  I called on him and he asked, "Did he say you were fat too?"

Ouch!  Some were shocked that he said that.  I did my best to ignore it.  I told him no (even though he had called me fat) and we moved on.  It stung though, I must admit.  I am very aware of my weight and my lack of thinness right now.  Children can be brutally honest sometimes and this was one of those times.  Last fall I wrote a post called, "It didn't work for her."  Same class, different kid, same sting.

I came home that day a little sad.  There are times when I wish so much that people could see beyond the outside of me, of others, and see who we really are!  I am not my weight!  I know I have posted about this before but I feel so strongly about it.  I think part of it is because I have three daughters and three sons that are going to grow up and also face this, whether it is weight or brand of clothes or type of car or athletic ability or what ever.  It comes in so many forms.

I am a mother of six beautiful, healthy children.  My body carried those babies, protected them and gave birth to them.  In between child five and six, I had a miscarriage.  For some reason, my body was not able to carry that child.  My heart hurt for quite a while after that but it healed along with my body.  My body was able to care for all my babies day after day and night after night.  My body was able to hold them when they needed held, to carry them when they were too tired to carry themselves, to rock them to sleep and comfort them when they were sick or frightened or hurt.  My body is able to run and play with my children, to go on bike rides and walks and picnics in the park.  My body is strong.  I have packed up boxes, loaded up trucks and moved across country with this body.  I have run 5ks and 10ks with this body. I have cheered my kids on from the sidelines and helped coach them with this body.  I have run along beside them when they are tired and ready to give up.  I have climbed mountains with this body and rolled down hills in the summer grass.  I have walked the streets of Ireland with this body, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ to all who would listen.  This body, that others call fat, has done more than most people will ever know.  It has stood strong when faced with challenges.  It has slumped and shaken during times of sadness and despair.  It has endured through challenge after challenge.  It has scars that tell stories about where it has been and what it has done. 

We are all different.  We come in all shapes and sizes.  We all have different abilities and interests.  We are all unique individuals with so much to share and contribute to the world.  However, when we are taught to be chickens instead of eagles, we can not do what we were meant to do.  It took me years to realize I was not dumb and ugly.  I went for years too scared to speak up and share my thoughts and ideas and myself with those around me.  I was too afraid because I knew I was dumb and ugly.  It affected me in so many ways.  There are still days I struggle with it.  Even after I have learned to fly like the eagle, there are still days I look down at the chickens and second guess myself.  It is hard sometimes to not revert back to that.  A question as simple as, "Did he say you were fat too?" can knock me out of the sky if I am not careful.  But, just as the eagle in the story, I have been able to look to the Son to find out who I really am.

Through His warmth and light I have been able to spread my wings and fly.  Yes, there are days I falter, but I know I can always turn to Him and find strength.  I know that His Spirit can always lift we and allow me to soar. 

My hope is that I can teach my children to fly like the eagle.  That they will have the knowledge they need of who they are, so that when some one does question their ability to fly, they will be able to just soar higher and overcome it.  I hope I can surround them with enough love and confidence that they will never look down at the chicken and second guess themselves, that the words people use to hurt each other - like dumb and ugly and fat - won't break them and cause them to fall.  I hope that as they look to the Son, that His rays will warm them and His Spirit will lift them up and help them fly high above the hurt that can come through judging and name calling.

Once again, I am so grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Simple life lessons learned in the third grade classroom.  Simple reminders that I am not alone and that He is aware of me.  Fly Eagle, Fly.