Tuesday, December 30, 2008


I have so so SO much running through my mind right now, I don't know where to start. My grandma died on the 18th, just three days after 58 years of marriage to my grandpa. I am happy that she will feel no more pain; I am resting in the knowledge that she is at peace. I'm grieving, but gently. I'm sad and I miss her, but I have faith and hope that I will see her again. The thing that is hardest for me is thinking of her children and her husband--my grandpa, my aunts and my uncle, my mother--who are left to mourn. Of course I mourn, but I know that my mother's mourning, and the mourning of grandma's other children and husband, is so deep.

I'm still trying to process all that happened last week. Amongst any sadness, there was peace, and there were little reunions happening throughout. (Just the way my grandma would like it, I think. All of us together for Christmas!) I have been thoroughly and tenderly blessed to have seen all my sisters and my brother--my brother I saw four and a half years ago! While in the midst of something that can seem insurmountable, I have been lifted up and nurtured. Phill demonstrated throughout the last week how selfless he is, how protective and how helpful he is. I am blazingly proud to call him my husband. (Seven years yesterday!)

I am grateful, so grateful, to have felt personally the love of a Savior who sees fit to meet my needs through those around me. To Phill, I don't know how to thank you enough for the man you are. To Cara and Jenn, who sent me a sweet and hilarious video to make me laugh away the heaviness. To you blogging friends of mine who frequently email or comment to give support or encouragement, I hope you know how much that means to me. To my neighbors and dear friends Sarah and Merilee, you are angels in human disguise. To my sweet sisters, my tender & wise parents, my gentle cheerful brother--I am honored to be yours. My heart is full to overflowing.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

True Colors

Once in a blue moon, I get in a Martha Stewart mood. This usually means that I A) do something involving lots of attention to detail -OR- B) make something pretty, but ultimately useless. Today I made this really yummy Pumpkin Spice Bread, and then was in the mood to do a little bit of cleaning. That rarely happens--that is, it rarely happens that I'm cleaning and wanting to clean at the same time. :) Usually I'm grumbling the whole time and cursing my mess-making & procrastinating tendencies. Today, though, for some reason, I decided to tackle the grout in between our floor tiles. The grout has been dark and dirty since we moved in, and since I have not paid any special attention to it other than the (very) occasional mopping, it was begging for a good thorough cleaning. I heard from Awesome Sarah that baking soda would work, but then I also heard (on HGTV, Phill's most hated of channels....) that baking soda mixed with hydrogen peroxide was good, too. So this morning, In an effort to justify my procrastinating my workout, I tackled the floor with a toothbrush and my peroxide-soda mixture. (See how that works? I tell myself it's okay if I don't work out today because oh-look-how-clean-the-house-is....after three months of regular working out--that's right, I did it!--I'm having to muster lots of motivation.) The results were too great to pass up for a Before & After picture. And besides, I love a good Before & After picture.
Oh hi, Grout! At last your true colors are discovered..... After my puny only-doing-this-because-I-should workout, and after taking Reed to school, the Martha Stewart craze returned and I decided to make peppermint bark (this may be the fifth time I've done it this month) to bring to Reed's class, to whom I read Polar Express today. And I actually took pictures this time! And I'm posting the recipe! Aren't you just fall-off-your-chair excited? Heh.
Peppermint Bark
(Rae's way.....of sorts)

I searched online for a recipe, then just used what I found to do my own thing. As is often the case. There could be a better way to do this, a yummier way, an easier way, a prettier way--but ANYWAY, this is my way. :) This makes two to three batches--as in two or three cookie sheets full.

~Melt a block of chocolate-flavored almond bark*. (I don't know how much one block weighs--two pounds?) It works to microwave or to melt it in a double-boiler. I just nuke it.

~While the chocolate melts, crush three candy canes to powder, or to chunk-size of your preference.

~Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper or wax paper.

~Once the chocolate is melted, pour it onto the covered cookie sheet, spreading the chocolate to the size of the sheet. Sprinkle the top with crushed candy canes. Set in fridge, freezer, or outside to harden. (Outside is fastest.) Once it's hardened, just break it into nice big 3-inch triangles.

*I've tried this same method/recipe with one layer dark and one layer milk, one layer milk and one layer white, one layer milk with vanilla drizzles, one layer dark one layer milk and vanilla swirls, and as of today, a vanilla layer with the crushed peppermint and mini chocolate chips. I can't name a favorite. It's all good. One layer, two layers, dark-milk-white-vanilla--it's all good. Just play around. (I did dark with Hershey's special dark chocolate, milk with the almond bark, vanilla with vanilla-flavored almond bark, and white chocolate with white chocolate chips.)

And lastly. Owing to the fact that my grandmother took a dramatic turn for the worse, my mom and youngest sister arrived from Japan on American soil last Friday. All of us thinking a good-bye to my grandma was imminent or about to be missed, Phill practically sent me to Provo (by myself) to be with everyone. I went expecting to give support and comfort, expecting it to be a somewhat somber reunion of sorts, and mostly unsure of what I would find when I got there. But from a deep coma, my grandmother awoke, ensuring us a few more days of loving words and reverent remembering. As I write, she is still alive. She said things to me that fed my soul, said things that answered prayers only the Lord has heard. Being with my mother, sister, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousin was balm to my soul. I went to Provo expecting to give, and received more than I can begin to tally.

That isn't all. On my way home Monday, I found myself in swirling, blinding snow the last hour of the trip. The moment I hit that wall of white, I began to shake from head to toe, and started to pray.
I'm not at all confident when driving in the snow, and frequently ascend to a barely-managed hysteria when it even begins to snow as I'm on the road. This wasn't the worst I've ever been in, but it was awful.

Well, I wasn't left to assume the difficult last hour and thirty minutes by myself. I was absolutely not alone. I felt very tangibly protected. And a very heavy vehicle in front of me--what were you, Nevada license-plate number 35035T? A tow truck? A plow?--just happened to be going the perfect speed for me to follow, as if it were my guide. Well, it was, really. I could see where patches of ice were, because he went before me, sliding only a little here and there, which acted as a warning to me when I needed to be especially mindful of the ice. He carved out a path for me to follow. His lights were my reference point, the sentinel for my tear-filled eyes. Later on, a semi ambled along behind me, providing yet another way for me to measure the distance and eye the road, making me feel less lost in all the white.
I'm certain that the truck in front of me realized that he was helping me, and I'm so grateful that he didn't mind. As I took my exit, trembling with relief, I saw him change lanes as if to say goodbye, my job is done.

There are so many more things I could say, more miraculous blessings I could write about--but so many of them are too sacred and too dear to me to write here. And somehow when I try to put words to it, to tell Phill or Abby, the words pale in comparison to the actual happenings.

I happened upon this scripture yesterday, and it made me laugh out loud because it is so appropriate to how I'm feeling as of late, and it is the appropriate ending to this post:

Alma 26:16
Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever. Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Picture of a picture-taker's family: Attempt I

It is infinitely harder (for me, at least) to take good family pictures of my own family than it is to take good family pictures of someone else. (Did you get all that?)

First, I make the huge mistake of building this perfect, beautiful image in my mind, prompting me to exhibit incredible crankiness as I dress the kids before we go--already buckling under the pressure I've put on myself.

Second, I almost never choose the right outfit for myself. Sure, my children might look darling, Phill might look dashing as ever, but me? I forget all the things I like about great photography, and I wear something that almost inevitably reads horribly on camera. And third.....

....third. Once everyone else is positioned and ready, and my finger has irrevocably hit the shutter button--it happens:
I do something weird. Or dumb. Or awkward. Like.....oh, draping my arm over Phill's front, making it look as though my limb is as big as my head. Or smiling so hard that my cheeks look like they're full of a squirrel's winter supply. Or completely block out another person's head with my needs-to-be-thinned Hermione-big hair. OR jumping into the weirdest spot as if I have no time before the picture is taken, then freeze, not knowing how to change my position, even when I have a leisurely ten seconds still left. It's quite frustrating.

I don't know why I forget that it sometimes (often, Rae, OFTEN) takes more than one attempt when we're doing our pictures ourselves. I like taking them myself, because I love doing photography, and because when they turn out well, I'm very proud of my work....(go ahead and say it, I'm proud)....but then I give myself the burden of trying to be not only a good photographer, but also a good subject. And unfortunately, the good subject part eludes me until somewhere around Attempt III, and sometimes the good photographer part just doesn't kick in. Add to that difficulty my desire for family portraits that are colorful, demonstrative of our personalities, and maybe even a little imaginative, and that's one big job.

I'm posting this here so that I can look back and remember, when I'm annoyed, yet again, that I'm attempting to do something that may take some time.

Do all good things take time?!

It ought to comfort you to see just how normal we really are, should you subscribe to delusions that we are pristine and perpetually positive. (I don't intend to paint that false picture.) Savvy demolished the bow I had in her hair. DEMOLISHED it. I mean--took off the metal barrette part, pulled apart the ribbon--DEMOLISHED to the point that it wasn't wearable. (Take that, Mom! I'll show you to girly me up!)

When I did manage to do something halfway normal, I blocked out Reed's head a little or had to pretend it wasn't hard to keep squirming Savanna in my arms. :) Would you like to see some of our hilarious results of today? Actually, the ones of the kids were pretty cute, if I do say so.
(And I do.) Used some of Pioneer Woman's *FREE* actions, which are WONDERFUL! Enjoy the blooper reel, first off.

Ah, well. I can't look at those smiles and feel that I didn't get something good out of our first attempt tonight.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Temporary Rest

This last week was, hmmm, let me think......:

One long hyperventilating stretch of Busy.

I do make an effort to choose not to be stressed. But there are times that I just seem to drown in the ocean of Things to Be Done!

Monday was big. We had returned from our Thanksgiving trip to SLC the day before, so it seemed that our suitcases were exploded everywhere. Unfortunately they still are. A week later. We made a trip to Cedar, during which I wanted to visit Lara and Mandy and Kathy and Kim and about five other people. But I had to stick with the necessaries. Which meant: Going to pick up headbands and hats (Crafty Moms plug HERE) from Terre! Going to the eye doctor to pick up a sample pair of the right prescription. (I have been wearing the wrong prescription for a few months....I made my last sample ones stretch for several months after my last appointment a year ago. Shameful. Absolutely shameful. I cried when I put on the RIGHT samples. It's insane how different everything looks when you can really SEE!) Going to see my friend who had some herbal remedies tucked away for me as payment for several past photo sessions. (This was most definitely fun.) Eating dinner at Pastry Pub!! Oh, how I devoured that salad and sandwich....Then we went to the storage unit to pick up Christmas decorations, during which I clutched my Josh Groban Christmas CD to my chest and ran jittery from the spiderwebs I could feel in the darkness of that cement room. (ew) So we ended up spending four hours total in the car. Needless to say.....well, needless to say! You can imagine the scene in our car!

Tuesday was great--I had a photo shoot! (Will post soon) It was a gorgeous location and one gorgeous family--complete with many extended. :) I came home and (true to my word to Phill) stayed away from the computer right at first. But by about 7:00, I couldn't resist. I became a blissful zombie, editing away into the night, happy with glazed eyes, talking to myself the whole time.

Wednesday was spent very much on the phone, making phone calls necessary to my part in helping organize our ward's Christmas party. LISTEN UP: If you have ever had a part in planning your ward's Christmas party, MY HAT'S OFF TO YOU!!!! Time-consuming and energy-sapping. And it seems to take a village. Then I also had to make phone calls and had a meeting to plan our Family Readiness Group's Family Day (which happened today).

Friday was the ward Christmas party. I didn't really eat. I was too busy. I took pictures of the kids with Santa (coming soon, like everything else that is crowded on my front-burner right now), and made sure the music people were there and making music. :) Exhausting. But fun! And exhausting. (phew)

Saturday night, went with other FRG leader to shop for Family Day. Up 'til 1 making peppermint bark, which recipe--if you can even call it that--will be posted....you guessed it! Soon! I was only up 'til 1 because I was making enough peppermint bark--5 pieces chocolate and 5 pieces white choc./vanilla EACH--for 32 families. 14 batches. Hooray!

Which brings me to....today. I would much rather not have had Family Day today. Because this is Church Day for me. However--it was today. And my other FRG lady had to leave ten minutes after it started. So I was the lone sailor, trading the kids off between Phill and I, making sure everything was set up/organized/clean/put away/everything-everything-everything.....my feet ache.

But guess what? This week is done. This hairy gnarly week is DONE. And now I can focus on my next to-do's, which are quite fun: Sending off packages, posting pictures of yummy recipes and darling kids, another photo shoot, taking and sending OUR family pictures, Christmas shopping, and holiday hoopla. I'm happy to buckle down and relax.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

How to Put Up a Christmas Tree: An Informal Tutorial

First: Note to the right of this post that I have snuck in the name of the winner of my giveaway!

Assemble small, pretend, rather sad-at-first Christmas tree from box.

Open weird-smelling Christmas bin and retrieve long-lost ornaments, lights, and various other Christmas incidentals.

String lights onto tree while fending off baby hands and trying to keep poor Charlie-Brown-ish tree from falling off little end table. (And listen to six-year-old boy sing along--loudly--to Josh Groban's Christmas CD.)

Lift ornaments gingerly from Christmas tin and place in eager death-grip hands of babies.

Top tree with weird little snowman, since an angel is not currently in supply.

Notice that sad (but now somehow sweet) little tree is leaning ever so slightly. Envision the joy of Savanna as she pulls it swiftly off little end table.

Reinforce with string and hook to keep anchored to the wall, and pray for the best.

Turn off lights and gaze.
"Mom, when you do your eyes like this, they look like fireworks....."

And don't forget the lone lingering soul at the dinner table, the one who contemplates her food long after it's gone, finding bits of it on her sweater, her chair, and in her teeny-tiny now-fuzzy braids; safely enthroned in her booster seat while we enjoy the Christmas tree lights.

All done!