Saturday, April 19, 2014


Happy Easter week!

Easter is coming at us full force and I’m trying to slow things down, get us all centered on what really means the most to us.   Thankfully I have been asked to speak in church on Sunday so I’ve been forced (in the best way) to sit and ponder more than I normally do.  There is so much to take in when thinking of Christ, his life, death and resurrection.  Stealing some minutes of peace here and there in this busy family feels fantastic, but also kind of like I’m trying to get a drink from a fire hydrant.  There’s just so much to absorb.  Jesus is so great.  His atonement so grand.

I think this video that my church put out pretty much sums up all that I want to say. 

Because of him, everything. 

Because of Him everything ugly and hard and wrong in life can be made right.  His life, his miracles, his teachings, his suffering, his death and his resurrection gives meaning to all ALL that we encounter.  Not only does He make up for our mistakes, but He makes up for weaknesses, or inadequacies.  He can heal our pain.  He can make everything right.  Through him we can be enlivened.  Through HIs light everything is illuminated. In His light we can comprehend all things. 

Like Isaiah says, Jesus gives us beauty for ashes.  The oil of joy for mourning.  Through him all that is burnt and ugly and confusing and wrong about our lives can be made clear and beautiful.  He doesn’t take away the opposition but something about His light transforms it.  Trials and sorrow, pain and weakness become tools with which we are made whole.  

This week as I’ve been pondering His great sacrifice I’ve been trying to figure out how it all works.  I feel like from an early age I could understand simple analogies explaining how Christ’s death paid the price for my sins.  How he makes up the difference, how his redeeming love reconciles me, a sinner, to an almighty and perfect God. And this is astounding to me.  But making up for my sins and shortcomings is only a part of the atonement.  I believe that Christ’s atonement also can take away suffering that isn’t a consequence of my sins.  I believe that somehow he can give my life meaning with which I can use that which might otherwise make me weak and knock me down to make me stronger, to give me experience, to propel me forward.  And this week I’ve been trying to figure out where the clean analogy is here.  How does Christ’s suffering and death magically make all of those ugly things in life meaningful, progressive, important, propelling?   How does His sacrifice work in my life to make me whole, to give me light, to make my weaknesses into strengths?  I’ve decided that a huge chunk of this can’t be comprehended with my mortal mind, but I have arrived at a few new ways of looking at things.

1. Christ’s sacrifice for me encircles my life in His love.  Because of His supreme sacrifice on our behalf he has a kind of love for us that is unique and unsurpassed.  The kind of love bestowed by his sacrifice gives us strength, it changes us.   And when we are changed we can see the world anew.  The power of His sacrificial love gives us strength to bear up our burdens and when we bear up our burdens we become stronger and we can step above them to see the bigger picture.  And when we see that big picture we can attach meaning to our suffering and pain.  Meaning transforms pain from something that crushes us into something that strengthens us. 

2.  In the garden of Gethsemane Christ felt every pain and agony I ever have or will feel.  This enables Him to have perfect empathy for me.  Empathy is a powerful healer.  I’ve seen it at work in my life.  And I’ve watched as empathy changes my kids.  I’m always trying to correct them when they’re wrong, trying to help them see a better way, trying to get rid of their hurt and sadness.  Sometimes that approach works, but  mostly it doesn’t.  But when I empathize with them?  That’s when they are healed.  If i tell them I know how they feel, mourn with them and help them identify their feelings from a place of compassion and understanding then they are imbued with power to move forward, to get past the pain, to put themselves in a better place.  Empathy heals us.  And because of Jesus' perfect empathy he can perfectly heal us from all the effects of opposition in this life. 

3.  Christ is the light of the world.  Christ came to earth and lived a perfect life, filled with goodness and perfection and peace and incredible love.  He spent his entire life healing and blessing and teaching and praying and sacrificing.  And then He willingly gave His life.  He went as a lamb to the slaughter, willingly, peacefully.  Surely He could have called down angels form heaven to save him from the grief and pain he was called to suffer.  Surely He could have passed up the bitter cup.  But it is impossible to imagine the Christ I know doing that.  There is too much goodness in Him.  He lived a perfect life.  And then he surrendered his perfect life.  For us. 

I believe that something in that act, and in his willingness from the foundation of the world to drink that bitter cup, filled Him with light.  A kind of light that radiates from him throughout all the earth, through all the universe, permeating all the dark corners, illuminating everything.  The light radiating from this supreme sacrifice shoots through all of our lives.   All children of God are born with His light.  And in his light all can be comprehended.  This is what allows us to see the good in the bad, the meaning in the mundane and confusing, the joy in the suffering.  It is through this light, made bright and possible through Christ’s sacrifice, that all that is wrong is made right.  It is through His light that our burdens become light. 

So what do I hope to do with this new (or maybe just remembered) truth about Christ’s atonement and how it works?   That’s what I’ve been asking myself over the past few weeks.  Christ's atonement bathed the universe in light and love and healing empathy.  These elements of Him are all around us, available for us to drink in and use.   It is there like a radio broadcast, available to all, we just have to tune in.  How do I tune in?   How do I, on a daily basis feel buoyed up by his empathy, plugged into the powerful current of his love, bask in his enlivening and clarifying light? 

I’m sure there are lots of ways to plug into the power of Christ's atonement daily.  I hope to make figuring this out a life long pursuit, but I’m going to start by just making it more of a consistent habit to ask to be plugged in.  I’ve gotten pretty good at asking God to forgive me of my sins.  When there’s something big and glaringly askew I have felt the cleansing power of the Atonement when I pray for forgiveness and take the sacrament to renew my covenants.  And His redeeming love is glorious.   But I’m  trying to ask for fixing as much as forgiveness.  I’m telling God my troubles and asking Him to fix things and trusting that He will.  My prayers are turning to: I’ve done my best, please make it whole.  I’m at a loss, I don’t understand, give me light, help me to see.  I’ve messed up over and over again, please make things right, I’m giving this to you.  This needs to be healed and it’s beyond me.  Please heal it.  

I’m also realizing how when I’m present enough to consecrate my puny little sacrifices to God I feel tapped into Christ’s atonement.   If I go about my daily work as a mother slamming things into place and ordering people around with a heavy resentful little rock in my heart I don’t feel enlivened by Christ.  But if I steal a moment here or there, in prayer or with the scriptures or in meditation to become mindful, to step back and see the big picture I can see how my sacrifices are a small similitude of what Christ sacrificed for me.  How my love can empower my children just as His love strengthens me.   How mortality, all of it, gives me experience and makes me more like my savior, more able to succor others.  And when I can be present enough to see this, darkness and resentment melt away with the brightness of His light that floods in.

Staying close to God by loving Him and keeping His commandments and honoring the covenants we’ve made with Him also yokes us with Christ.  Plugs us into his Atoning power.  I believe that if we give our lives up to Him He will make so much more out of them than we can.  He will make us bright as he fills us with His love.  We will not just bathe in His light that is in and through everything, but we will take on His light.   We will be light.

Christ is real.  He lives.  He came to earth to show us how to live, to teach us about who God really is and how He loves, to die for us and then break the bands of death through resurrection.    His sacrifice for mankind enables His light to fill the earth, making all things meaningful.  Making up for all of the consequences of the fall:  reversing spiritual and physical death and giving meaning and beauty to all opposition. 


(for some fantastic talks on Christ’s atonement click here, and here and here)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Turning three – or not – mid-toddler crisis.

peter growing up - 3-22

Despite the fact that Peter turned three mid march, he INSISTS that he is still two.  He’s going through a mid toddler years crisis or something.  Of course the big kids find this endearing and ask him all the time how old he is and contradict him saying he’s still two, which of course makes him mad.  It’s a funny little family dynamic that I’m not sure when or how we’ll get out of. 

At first I thought his confusion was due to the fact that we celebrated his birthday early because Jeff and I were going to be lounging in the sun on the other side of the world on his actual day (more about that later),  When we left he told us that he wasn’t going to be three until we got back.  I think he was waiting for something magical to happen when we got back and when it didn’t he decided three wasn’t real and he’d just stay two forever.  I’m also pretty sure he things that being three means that he’ll be as big as his dad.  And he knows he’s not ready for that kind of coolness yet.  Real little mid-toddler crisis. 

Anyway, regardless of anything Peter says, he did turn three.  And we partied.

I love how much these big kids love our baby.  And I hate it that he’s not really a baby anymore. 

peter growing up 3   IMG_9604Sweet Hazel made this car cake for him.  She has become our expert cake maker.   He was pretty pleased with it.  And I was pretty pleased that I didn’t have to try to pretend that I’m good at making cute cakes.   IMG_9598peter growing up - 3-19I love this photo (below).  I know those faces in the back are pretty dark, but those expressions perfectly capture all the interest and love and support peter gets from those big kids behind him.   peter growing up - 3-20 peter growing up - 3-21Here are some of the millions of little things we’re all loving about Peter right now:  

  • this kid is happy.  He’s enthusiastically happy, almost giddy about everything he does.  And if he’s not happy about it, you can easily come up with a way to convince him that he is.  And he buys it.  I know, from experience, that that doesn't last.  So I'm eating it up.
  •   Peter is tender hearted and he wants to do what is right.  All it takes is a little look of sincere disapproval of something he has done to make him immediately penitent.  He hangs his head in shame and tears up, waiting for one of us to swoop him up and tell him it’s ok, that we love him and know he didn’t try to do anything wrong.  He really doesn’t have a malicious bone in his body.  He wants to make us all happy.  (this is him hanging his head in shame….I’m not sure what he was feeling shameful about….but I had to snap that shot).peter growing up - 3-5
  • He’s incredibly daring and tough and coordinated.  My heart nearly leaps out of my chest watching him pull stunts on his balance bike or scooter in the back yard.   He thinks he is Charlie’s age….and is nearly at Charlie's capabilities with some things.  
  • He gives us all big hugs.  Very affectionate.  And every time I lay him down in his crib and tell him I love him he says, “I love you too, mom.”  I just love the “mom” on the end of that. 
  • He’ll always pose for a picture.peter growing up - 3
  • He does a mean dance to Michael Jacksons "Starting Something” song.  He’s moved on from wanting to wear gloves while dancing to wanting to wear a sweat band.  It’s pretty sweet. peter growing up - 3-9
  • He loves his siblings, adores them.  And his love is powerful, I watch it give the big kids confidence and security. 
  • He’s got the greatest physique.  I love that big belly and those spindly legs.  And those golden curls, and those puppy eyes, and that shining skin.  peter growing up - 3-14    
  • He’s like a little package of energy, a fireball, an energizer bunny.  He hops around with a spring in his step, raising his eyebrows in delight, telling people, “Oh, that’ll be COOL!”       peter growing up - 3-13    I believe he has a strong sense of who he is, and a budding little testimony of God and the power of love and goodness.  He goes around singing, “when your heart is filled with love, others will love you.”  He kind of lives this mantra.  He’s just full of goodness and love, spilling it out, soaking it up. 

peter growing up - 3-23

We are all happy you’re ours Peter.  Three’s going to be a good year, embrace it!

Monday, April 07, 2014

Peter growing up.

 peter growing up - 3-2

Time is whizzing by, and as it does, I’m finding it hard to carve out time to capture it here.  Bother.  I’m going to get better, I really am.  For family history sake.  And for my own sanity and happiness.

Because look what happens in three years:  this tiny little thing…..IMG_9669grows….IMG_5673 into this charmer …….IMG_5678and then to this little cutie….IMG_1940and then this little undie wearing toddler……IMG_2925and then into this big 3 year old kid of mine!  peter growing up - 3-3 This life is whizzing by, in a blur.  Of course I have a gazillion pictures (mostly dumb iphone ones) but I want them all collected into a place where I can pour some of myself into them.  Where I can remember stuff that a jumble of pictures on my hard drive wont recall.   So here we go blogging again….I hope. peter growing up - 3-6 Because I don’t want to let any of the beauty of our every day slip away into all the commotion of it.  So, in an attempt to grasp more of it, I write.  In an attempt to be more deliberate I write.  Writing helps me hold on, see clearly, step away, think, see the beauty of the load.     peter growing up - 3-8 I’ve been searching for beauty in my dreary Boston march world   (picture lots of vinyl siding, chain link fences and black crusted up snow banks).  And I’ve been finding it in two main places.  The sky.  And, in all the in-between every day stuff of children growing up and me and Jeff building a family.  It’s beauty that my iphone can’t capture.  It’s fleeting unless I sit in the moment and grasp it, plant it in my heart and somehow writing about it helps it grow roots, take hold. 

So we’re just going to see how this evolves.  It might not always hang together just right, and it might not come out always as intended (I intended this post to be more about Peter and less about me).  

So the one about peter will just come next (because I have a lot to say about Peter and the kids are going to walk in the door any moment and if I don’t click publish it just isn’t going to happen.)

Here we go.  Wish me luck.  I’m excited. 

peter growing up - 3

Friday, January 17, 2014

our Christmas season

The Christmas season seems to always whiz past me in a blur, and the further away we get from December, the blurrier the season feels.  I consciously didn’t get out my camera as much as I usually do this year, in my attempt to just be in the present.  But things fade so quickly for me if I don’t have a picture.  So, before it’s gone forever, here are some of the highlights for December.  IMG_9943The season started off with our 4th Annual Children for Children concert.  This is a tradition my parents started when I was little.  They invited the neighborhood children to participate in a “benefit” concert, asking the audience (parents and friends) to donate to a cause in the world that aims to help children.  It’s become a holiday tradition for us now and is such a great way to start off the season.  Every year I think we get better and better at this.  This year was my favorite yet, which is funny because it wasn’t polished or perfect by any stretch of the imagination.  What made it so great is that the kids really took the reins this year.  We met together with the Krucks and the kids planned it out, divvied up responsibilities (the biggest ones going to the oldest and more capable Kruckenkids) and for the most part carried them through, pulling off a really pretty good event.  Of course, there were some gaps, some things that got forgotten, lots of kind of not so slick stuff, but they pulled it off with parents only playing supporting roles.  It was what I think that event should be.  The kids researched different charities to vote on and chose Camfed (a charity that helps fund education for girls in Africa).  They came up with the program, made invitations, invited the guests, emceed the event, Johanna came up with an awesome power point to educate everyone on the needs that Camfed addresses,  Ezra solicited donations over and over during the concert to try to reach the goal they had set.  It was awesome.  I think my favorite part was when all the kids got up at the end and sang carols  (pictured above) and when the planning committee counted up the money after everyone left.  They were wildly excited to have raised so much money for a cause they had grown to feel strongly about.  IMG_9950-1IMG_0262 Here’s the letter the kids got back from Camfed after they sent in the donations.  IMG_0263 IMG_0029Hazel sings with the Boston Children’s Chorus.  She started this year and has fallen in love.  I knew that she loved it, I knew that it was good for her soul to have this thing that was all hers.  But I didn’t realize how good it was for her until we attended their big holiday concert.  I wish I had time to post the video.  This girl is in heaven singing with a big choir.  Her face was so expressive and happy and full of life.  I watched the whole thing teary eyed, so grateful to have found something that would really make her soul sing.  This is just what Hazel needs right now.  Being 9 is hard and I’m so happy she has this bright happy light in her world.   IMG_0044 I couldn’t resist buying her some flowers for her first big performance.  They were pricy since I didn’t have time to get them until we were in the posh end of Boston, and I hesitated, but as soon as she saw them she beamed.  She thanked me about one hundred times for making her first concert feel so special.  It feels nice to get something right with her every once in a while.  Isn’t it so hard to tell what little things will make a difference?  photo (6) We took the big kids to the Candlelight Carols at Trinity church.  This is the 4th year we’ve attended together and I think it is my very favorite part of the season.  It is filled with all the Christmas magic you could imagine.  A stunningly beautiful cathedral in all it’s New England charm.  Incredible music.  Candle light.  Booming congregational carols accompanied by that huge heart shaking organ.  I think my favorite part is singing “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” there.  It’s one of my favorite Christmas carols and it was written by Phillip Brooks who was the pastor at Trinity Church in the 1800s.  I love watching Hazel and Charlie get older and more able to really appreciate the beauty of this experience.  Hazel sang her heart out during the carols and watched and listened with greater intensity than ever this year.  IMG_0046 We had lots of fires in the fire place this year.  I tried my darndest to wait until I could steal a quiet moment by the fire to open Christmas cards (one of my favorite holiday activities) but that darn Hazel beat me to it almost every day.  It’s strange having kids grow up.  IMG_0047One of my favorite parts of the season is doing our little scriptural advent calendar each night before bed.  We read a few scriptures that help us focus on Jesus and sing a Christmas carol and have a family prayer.  These little devotionals were not all calm, peaceful and bright, but we’re finally to the family stage where we can do these things and have it be mostly positive and memorable.  Of course nearly every night it unraveled to wrestling silliness (pictured above).  And somehow this year I was able to see the beauty, even through all the silliness.  My goal to see our life as if I was looking through the window, in at the cozy scene, really worked.    IMG_0073 I was inspired by my friend Catherine (read her blog here, you will not be sorry) to let the kids sleep by the Christmas tree one night.  Hazel made up each little bed, we read the first chapter of Little Women (such a great Christmas read aloud) and (finally after a lot of coaxing and me sitting and reading by the light of the tree to keep them quiet) they drifted of to their sugarplum dream world.  I think everyone was a little more tired than usual the next day, but there’s just something wildly christmassy and magical about sleeping all night bathed in the soft glow of Christmas lights.  IMG_7885-2 We saw Santa at the ward Christmas party……IMG_7897-2And again at Emmeline’s preschool Christmas pageant.  IMG_8178-2I was surprised that none of my kids had the slightest hesitation about going to sit on his knee.  Peter diligently told each Santa that he hoped for a Football for Christmas.  They’re growing up.  Only a few more years left of this kind of Christmas magic.  (more on that later…).  IMG_8189-2  IMG_7955-2I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been to the Rockland Montessori Christmas Pageant.  It is quite a production.  Lots of proud parents, lots of happy kids.  Though this even is not my favorite (so much stimulation!) I love that school more than I can say.   It is such a warm and happy place for all of my kids.  The staff there really truly love the children.  And the children can feel it.  And boy, when all that love is thrown around it makes it a really nice place to be.   Each of my kids have attended the Rockland for at least a year and I think it has made a big imprint on their little souls, filled them with love and confidence in them selves and their little curious minds.  IMG_8010-2   IMG_8228-2 Hazel and Charlie got dropped off after their half day (pajama day) so that they could see their old teachers.  They were especially thrilled to see Mrs. Simopolous.  We feel so lucky that they got to be her students, but she sort of spoiled them and now no teacher can compare.   IMG_8215-2   IMG_8236-2 I think this might be the only picture I got of all the kids together during the Christmas season.  Silly darlings.  IMG_8239-2 On the 23rd we had the Kruckenbergs and Edwards over for our traditional Nazareth Super.  I think I explained this back here.  I wish I’d have gotten up to take a picture of us all sitting on the floor in our Jesus time clothing, but after making all that pita bread and moving all the furniture to make room for our feast on the living room floor I was too tired to get up and get my camera.   I love this night (not sure Jeff loves it as much).  It’s crazy, and never nearly as somber and spiritual as I hope it to be, but it helps us all pause and think about what might have really been going on in the minds of the Christmas story characters.  This year before eating we all sang Oh Come Oh Come Emanuel.  The spirit was thick and I know all the kids felt it.  And then the soft, quiet spirit left with Peter (dressed as John the Baptist) letting out a long toot.  We joked about how hard that diet of locust and wild honey can be on the digestive system.  And then the a new lively and happy spirit filled the room as we tried our darndest to help the kids imagine really what it might have been like for Mary and Joseph and the people who were waiting for their Messiah.    After eating and going round the table so that each “guest” can introduce him/herself things quickly unravel so we send the kids off to play, replace some of the furniture and sit and talk as adults, delving deeper into what the Christmas story really means.  I always feel immersed in it by the end of the night.  IMG_8243-2

We’ve also made it a tradition to gather round the piano and sing carols.  The kids LOVE this part.   As they sang their hearts out I thought about what this scene might look like from the outside.  I couldn’t help but open the window while we sang Joy to the World.  The kids were singing as if they were trying to declare real joy to really the whole world and I wanted the neighbors to hear.  I even had to run outside into the cold to snap a picture so that I could really see and know what this warm scene looked like from outside.   IMG_8244-2It was as beautiful as I imagined.  The soft glow of the tree, friends singing their hearts together, praises rising up through an open window out into the winter night. 

I love the Christmas season. 

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Getting ready for Christmas

IMG_9922Christmas 2013 was really pretty magical.  I have to write about it before all the little details slip from our family memory forever.  There were lots of crazy stress filled moments, but I felt like this Christmas, more than ever, was filled with moments where I could step back and see the beauty behind it all, the love that propelled us all forward.

The season was short this year.  And I think that pretty much stressed me out for the first little bit.  Until I let go of a lot of the things we normally do.  I gave up a lot of stuff this year.  Realized that some things just weren’t worth doing.  We didn’t ever get candles in the windows and the furthest we got to putting lights around the door like we usually do was to get out the extension cord, it stayed in a basket by the door all season.  Our Christmas tree wasn’t perfect, I let the kids pick it (the first one they saw) and light it (lots of big holes) and place the ornaments.  And it was my favorite one yet, in all of it’s glorious kid imperfection.  It felt good to let go.  Looking back, I wish I’d let go of more because there were certainly moments where I held on tight.  IMG_9910 I love this Christmas tree farm that we’ve been going to for years.  Somehow we have almost always lucked out with a not too freezing day.  Usually I agonize over trying to find the perfect tree.  The weekend before going up I got an email in my inbox from myself (did you know you can do that?) that i had scheduled last November to be sent.  It reminded me to let the kids pick the tree, to not worry.  To step back and enjoy.  That’s exactly what I did.  It was so freeing!  Lots of you might have no way to relate to this, maybe you’ve never cared about your tree, it is pretty pathetic, but something about the way we went about picking one growing up kind of stamped this huge totally stupid importance on finding the perfect tree.  We have that Eyre gene that makes us want the biggest and the best and the most perfect, all for the best bargain.  Jeff has been trying to stamp that out of me for years (except for when it benefits him :)).  Well, it was gone on that bright November day.  And that felt good.   IMG_9912    IMG_9932 IMG_9934 We were meant to be in nature.  That’s what we were made for.  I wish I could live at this Christmas tree farm.  Beauty as far as the eye can see.  IMG_9937 IMG_9942

IMG_0014 IMG_9959I love that beginning part of Christmas.  It’s crazy and messy and a lot of work to get all the decorations dusted off and out of their boxes.  But, oh, the smell of pine in your house from the new tree.  The freshness of all the Christmas music, the hot cocoa, all the excitement and crazy work of it all.  Getting out all those storage boxes is like opening presents.  The kids are delighted by all the treasures in there.    IMG_9955 For some reason they are always especially excited about unpacking their nutcrackers.  They played with these things for a whole day, inventing all kinds of games involving them, drawing their portraits, dancing to the nutcracker music.  IMG_9957IMG_9976I love how everything, all toys and stories and projects start to revolve around Christmas themes.  I love seeing kids internalize things by incorporating them into their play.    IMG_0018We chopped down a little baby tree for our neighbor Joyce.  Because I was feeling so overwhelmed by all there was to do to get the season up and running I sent the kids down to Joyce's on their own to set it up with her.  They were DELIGHTED by this responsibility.  This chance to serve, this little adventure.  They were gone about an hour and came home skipping with glee.  They had got it up (a little crooked) and lighted and decorated all by themselves.  IMG_9965I just had to include this picture of our chalk board^^.  For some reason my kids can not leave this chalk board alone.  No matter what I write on it they find a way to change it around to something silly.  I got maybe a bit too mad about this one.    IMG_9989 Grandma and Grandpa Shumway sent us an awesome vintage train to go round the base of our tree.  This adorned our tree before any lights or ornaments.  All of the kids spent hours running that thing, laying on their bellies and watching it go round and round in magical Christmas wonder.  I loved this new addition to Christmas.  IMG_0014

There’s lots more to document.  Lots of magical stuff that I hope to find the time to write about over the next few days.  It’s slapping, Christmas is slipping away, and maybe being such a delinquent blogger will help me make it linger a little longer!


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