Take a Hike

The other day I saw a lonely bus ticket sitting on Gavin’s desk. The way it was just sitting there all alone, not attached to any other tickets, made me think he accidently left it. I decided not to text Gavin at school. Phones are illegal and punishable by death I think. I didn’t think it was worth the risk. If he forgot his bus ticket he forgot it. It would be a good learning opportunity.

But I was impatient. I texted him before I left the little kids school. When he replied Parker played the middle man for me. He said something eloquent like “Ok, Parker” which really confused my oldest child who didn’t know it wasn’t me sending the texts. The next text was very simple. “I’m Gavin.” It made me laugh even though I couldn’t tell if his feelings were hurt or if he thought I was a complete imbecile or what.

So Parker had to explain that he was using my phone. He was kind as you would expect any 9 year old power hungry little brother to be with his mother’s cell phone. “Parker wrote this!!!!! devil emoticon” Such a charming child. Unfortunately for Parker, Gavin dropped it. He didn’t even come in the door yelling. Parker was so disappointed.

I tell this story for many reasons. One, it’s funny. Two, Parker likes to “help” me with texts while I’m driving. Velma won’t read my texts anymore. She won’t even recognize that my mom is trying to call me or that Gavin is letting me know he’s on the bus or anything. I got a new phone when Gavin got his phone and Velma is still on strike with the Blue-tooth feature that my phone says is connected. It’s not.

Parker’s unmistakable signature is the red devil emoticon. If you ever get a text from my number and it contains a red devil emoticon, rest assured Parker sent the text and is off in a corner giggling about it. The final reason I tell the story is because Gavin wrote the following story. His writing style is different from mine but just in case you didn’t get it, I thought I would let you know, Gavin wrote it.

Today was the day that we would hike all the way up Mt. Tam., and then decided it was a good idea to come back down again. We call it Mt. Tam., because the original name was too long and hard to remember. My parents woke me up really early and told me to put on my clothes. I put both of the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in my backpack. Then I went into my father’s car. We went to that bagel place, and got one of those breakfast sandwiches. We drove to the church, and then when everybody was there I got into the car of my scout leader. When we got to the campgrounds we began putting one foot before the other. We continued this process for about 3.2 miles. When we finally got to the top, we were a little hungry, so we stopped for lunch. There were some great views.

There were some great views  Tam2

Tam3 Tam4

After lunch, we began to hike downhill. There were tons of rocks. They sort of made a stairway down. Then we had down a steep trail, and it had a lot of gravel. I managed to go down the trail without tripping. It wasn’t steep the whole way down. The trails that bikers used to go downhill. There was one kid who brought his whole family. He brought his dad, mom, and even his little brother. I was impressed to see that the child who is probably younger than Gwen make it through the hike. The mom liked to take pictures of us. Her camera died near the end of trail, but she took last picture with her phone. At the end the hike I had just finished all my water and had to walk another mile to get to the bathroom. We didn’t have any difficulties during the hike. My feet felt a little sore, but it was nice day and really enjoyed hanging out with my friends.

Day Off

It’s been a long week of serving others. It’s like I’m growing and becoming a less selfish person. It has also been exhausting. Growing pains are real!

Last night I was trashed. Gwen was in the tub and I could hardly keep my eyes open. She got out and was keeping me company on the bed while I snoozed through Friends episodes on Netflix. I was grateful she was there. You know, in case I slipped into another dimension instead of just another state of consciousness. I was so tired.

All the Diet Coke I had been swigging all week was starting to have an adverse affect on me. In fact, I had a large 20 oz. bottle and kept looking at the clock. If I was still sipping caffeinated Diet Coke at 7:30 pm would I be up all night? When toothpicks couldn’t prop my eyes open I stopped worrying. I just needed to stay awake long enough to pick up the boys from the church at 8:30. They were running the scoreboard while their dad was refereeing basketball for the night.

I wanted to cry the whole way to the church I was so tired. All I wanted was just to climb into bed and sleep until the end of the world. By 9:00 I got my wish. The kids were all snug in their beds and I zonked out in mine.

A full night’s sleep didn’t help me feel rested though. I could barely force myself to get out of bed and do what needed to be done to send kids to school. Having Heath work from home for the third day in a row certainly didn’t help. It felt like a Saturday so why did I have to get up? He said he felt tired too.

We both decided to go for a walk to kick start our engines. He walked to the lunch date he had with his friends. I ate a very lonely lunch by myself. How depressing. Then I went for a walk around the park. We both got back and were proud of ourselves for our efforts. Then I fell asleep in a chair. Later Heath finished his work for the day and wanted to fall asleep in a chair, on the bed, standing up, whatever. But the kids were home by then so we went to dinner instead. After all, we hadn’t boiled eggs for our cobb salads tonight. That would require getting up! Salads tomorrow I guess.

Doing so much for others is a big job. I have done quite a bit this week. Heath told me I deserved a day off. Maybe I took his advice too literally. I am trashed. Some Piquant Storyteller’s Day Off! I spent the day sleeping. I would worry there’s something wrong with me but Heath is so tired too. I think there’s something in the air. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

I Wasn’t Thinking Say What



Me: What did they say about family history at Scouts?
Parker: We told stories.
Me: Oh, what story did you tell?
Parker: I didn’t say anything because I didn’t have a story.
Me: What! I gave you one on the way there!
Parker: I didn’t think you were serious. I just thought you were saying that.
Me: What!
Family laughter
Parker: I wasn’t thinking about it. I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking about you then. I’ll say it next time! At least now we don’t have to type it!

Parker: At lunch today I saw all the tables out. I thought that was weird but I just realized that it was for the Science Fair.
Family laughter
Parker: What? I wasn’t thinking about it! I was thinking about lunch! Humans can only think about one thing at a time! I was thinking about lunch!

I’m so glad I could tell Parker a family story only to have him think I was just talking to fill the silence. I’m also really glad I spent half the day gluing his Science Fair poster only to have him

A: not remember I was even working my butt off for him while he was at school and
B: not remember that the stupid posters were due after school today!


science-experiment-013I think the real question is how much hot sauce can one kid eat before they fry their brain?

My Three Things


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I heard on the radio recently that the key to happiness is to name at least three things each night that went well that day. Kind of a count your many blessings mentality. It’s a great idea and I’ve had it in the back of my mind ever since I heard it.

It’s been a crazy busy weekend and an even crazier Monday. There have been many moments that make me think of Lenka’s song The Show. I want my money back! And it’s hard to just enjoy the show. If I had a quarter for every time I’ve thought, “I didn’t sign on for this!” I would be rich.

Count your many blessings.

Deep cleansing breath. Here are my three things.

1. Edward. I love that boy. Last week I went to the library and checked out five books on his reading level. Well, the shark book was not on his reading level. It was the treat book. I love that he says that too. “That’s the treat book! I can read it at the end.”

Today we played a Dr. Seuss reading game. Edward was the first to try it out. He gets to teach the class how to play tomorrow. We played twice and he won both times. Fair and square. It’s always a boost to a child’s self-esteem when an adult loses a game. I’m glad I didn’t have to let him win but good heavens! How didn’t I win? Like ever?

After the game he read a couple more pages of a book. There’s no story to the book. They show rhyming words on the left page and put them in sentence on the right. We talk about the rules like vowel consonant e making the vowel say it’s name, etc. It’s a challenging book for him. Hard enough to make him try without quitting. Then we looked at the shark book. I have learned a lot about sharks!

I get to read to Gwen’s class on Wednesday for Dr. Seuss Week. I’m so excited. It will be a lot of fun.

2. I ordered the scripture reading rewards. I really wanted to find some plastic feet charms for the kids to earn. Parker’s 4th grade class earns the feet for running. I just liked the idea of the kids earning something collectible. The feet go perfectly with the feet on our bulletin board in Primary. The kids wrote ways they can follow Jesus on the feet. It all ties in so nicely. Anyway, one of the Presidency members found the exact feet I wanted online. That put me in the best mood until the next shoe dropped. So on to number three! Must remain positive!

3. Parker’s science fair project is due tomorrow. So many words! It was nice talking to Gwen’s teacher today about the mandatory science fair projects. She has a 4th grader too. And she agreed with me that who gives a flying fig if their science grade is affected, it’s a little annoying to be forced to participate! But Parker really wanted to. He found a great idea and the only thing in his way was his lazy parents.

Given our crazy weekend we never did have time to work on the science fair poster. At least we had completed the experiments. But we never took pictures. So Parker had fun recreating some of the fun he had with the experiments. I love the pictures. They are my number three happy moment of the day.


He was testing to see which item relieved the burn the best. He would eat a teaspoon full of pureed jalapeño hot sauce and try different remedies.


Milk was his favorite remedy.


This is just a silly picture. I love this kid. He always makes me laugh.

But now I better help him finish putting his poster together seeing as how it’s due tomorrow and all.

Say What


It has been a long weekend already. One day off from school and I’m exhausted. How about something funny?

Gavin: When I was in third grade I had to digest those owl pellets.
Snickers from Heath and Me.
Gavin: Every time I say that Mom and Dad stop eating. I guess it’s gross.
Heath: You mean dissect, not digest. It would be gross if you had to digest owl pellets.

Me: Did you bring your cell phone?
Gavin: No.
Heath: How will you text your girlfriends?
Gavin: Which one?
We can’t tell if he was serious or just really quick on his feet.

The kids are hilarious. I wish I remembered all the funny things they say. If I think of more I will add to this post.

Birthday Week Continues



The gifts keep coming! What a great time to be alive!

On Monday Gwen received a card and some cash from Great Grandma Holmes. She also received a package from Aunt Chris. It was a big stack of paper perfect for scrapbooking. Paper is as important as breathing is to this girl, so you can imagine how delighted she was to get more paper! Aunt Chris also sent me some fancy scissors to scrapbook with. Gwen and I had to make a scrapbook page together.

Yesterday a card from my mom came in the mail for Gwen with more cash inside! Gwen almost doesn’t know what to do with herself! I asked her what she wanted to spend her birthday money on. She said she wants a doctor kit. I think that is a great idea.

Birthday Dresses and Other Gifts



We Skyped with Grandma and Grandpa on Saturday so they could see Gwen open her present.


It’s an adorable pink dress with a matching doll dress. Gwen was happy to try it on. Then she was upset that we wouldn’t let her use it as a school dress. She’s funny because she loves anything pink and girly. She has been complaining that she doesn’t have enough dresses for church. It’s true. She had a lot but then she grew out of a bunch all at the same time. She has a lot of skirts but she doesn’t like wearing them to church. I think she thinks they are for school and play only.

I love that Gwen gets a birthday dress every year. I was really looking forward to this year in particular because of the dress drought in Gwen’s closet. We also planned on buying her a dress so she could have some choices.

She needed new shoes too. Actually all the kids need new shoes. Gavin has a hiking activity coming up and we decided it would be best for him to have some real shoes to wear for the hike. Parker just showed me the holes inside his shoes. I hope Payless is having a sale because my kids go through shoes so fast.

Gwen picked out some cute silver sandals. They have a bit of a heel which made her feel so grown up. She kept saying she felt tall because she’s 7 now! Yesterday she was dressed and ready for church. Shoes were on her feet and everything. I don’t remember how I figured this out but her shoes didn’t match. One was a size 4 and the other was a size 3. Not this again! The rain boot debacle at Target made sense. The boots were just sitting on a shelf. There was no box. They were never attached to each other. I was the idiot for buying them without checking.

But what happened with the sandals? There was a box. The box said size 3. The shoe she tried on said size 3. Both shoes had paper wadded up in the toe and some cardboard origami attached to the back strap. There was a right and a left shoe. How did no one notice the major size discrepancy? They came from JC Penney! It’s not like we bought the cheap stuff Target sells. We went to a legitimate store with a shoe department and everything. I was baffled.

We did let her wear the shoes to church. What else were we supposed to do? I took the shoes back to JC Penney today. The lady walked me to the shoe department so the shoe people could help me. No one was there though. I found a box that said size 3 and we both double checked that both shoes also said size 3. She took me back to her counter to do the exchange. We double checked the shoes again to make sure I was getting what I needed. She was very nice and I thanked her for her help. Gwen is thrilled to have the same silver sandals she picked out. I was afraid we might not get so lucky.


Gwen’s dresses are so cute. She loves posing for pictures, can you tell? The dress we bought is fun because the black and white pattern matched the wrapping paper Grandma’s dress was wrapped in. Grandma also made a petticoat. Fancy!

Parker wanted to know what we were getting for Gwen at the mall. Especially since we said there was a surprise for everyone. He started getting a little crazy trying to figure it out. He kept saying he could keep the secret. We kept saying we knew he could not. It was a lot of fun withholding that information!

I thought we would do our secret plans last. Heath wisely chose to do it first. We walked past Build a Bear on our way to the food court. The kids pointed it out and Parker asked if we were going there. All we said was that we couldn’t tell. So he was left to freak out in his mind. Was it the Lego store or Build a Bear? He had no way of knowing.

We walked past Build a Bear after lunch. I think someone asked again if we were going in there. Heath took two more steps past the store. Then he spun around and dove into the store saying “Yes we are!” The kids were ecstatic. I was just as surprised as they were only because I thought we were saving that activity for last. I realize the brilliance of Heath’s plan. He figured the boys would be a lot easier to deal with looking for dresses if they had a cool friend in a box.

I was afraid Gwen might choose a My Little Pony. I don’t understand why that toy from the 80’s has been resurrected into a cult following. Gwen is obsessed with the show. The show makes me question my will to live. Luckily Gwen chose a white teddy bear instead.

She said she liked it because it looked like Elsa from Frozen. That’s another iconic obsession I don’t understand. Wasn’t Elsa the dark, messed up sister with the crazy ice powers? I get that she was the older sister and that she had the beautiful long blonde braid. I get that little girls like powers. Give them a wand and tell them it has magical powers and they will play for hours. But why does Ana get the shaft?

She was the sister that never gave up. She was the brave one. She was the one willing to move heaven and earth to find her angry sister. Ana was the one who broke the ice spell. Elsa was the one that was loved unconditionally by Ana despite being a royal pain in the butt, setting off an eternal winter of a temper tantrum. So tell me, why do all the girls worship Elsa? If you ask me Ana is the real hero of the story.


At any rate Gwen chose the Elsa bear. It really is an Elsa bear. On one foot it says Frozen and on the other foot it says Elsa. She has large, blue cat eyes and her fur is white with glittery sparkles in it. I have a hard time remembering her name is Elsa because Gwen’s first Build a Bear friend was a pink cat she named Sparkly.

Gavin chose a camouflage bear he named Junior. I think he enjoyed the experience more than he let show. He’s at that awkward in between stage. He’s still a kid but “he’s almost a man” according to Gwen. I thought it was interesting that he told the stuffing girl he was 12. Without even blinking. He won’t be 12 for another five months! I only get five months a year where they are all two years apart. Only five months to say my kids are 7, 9, and 11 years old. He can’t wait to grow up so he tells strangers he’s 12. Crazy kid. He had fun building another bear. He was disappointed we wouldn’t buy him a motorcycle for it but he got over that fast.


Parker almost couldn’t contain himself he was so excited to be at Build a Bear again! He chose a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle but put it back when he realized that was the character he already has as a stuffed toy. He grabbed a different turtle which I thought had ugly coloring compared to the other turtles. Parker put it back when he saw Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon. He named it Bob.

The black dragon is really cool. I like it a lot. Parker loves it. Parker loves all stuffed toys. And blankets. And Lego mini figures. And anything that is warm and snuggly or is a toy that he can give a personality to. He’s our only kid who really loves toys. That’s kind of why we have been cutting back on toys as gifts lately. The kids don’t spend a lot of time playing with them. They have so many too.

Gwen was a little spoiled at Build a Bear since it was her birthday. We let her get a sound. If you press Elsa’s paw she sings Let it Go. The stuffing girl talked us into getting a scent. I think that was a waste of money because I can’t really smell anything when I sniff her tummy. We also let Gwen pick an outfit. She chose the Elsa dress and clear slippers that remind me of Cinderella’s glass slippers. Gwen loves that they are high heels. So chic.

We saved the other gifts we got for Gwen until Sunday. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I was so exhausted after our big day of celebrations that by Saturday night I couldn’t care less about wrapping gifts. Heath was bummed we forgot to bake the cake. We had to relax first. I could get away with not wrapping presents but that cake wasn’t going to bake itself. So we stayed up really late baking cake.

On Sunday morning I asked Gwen if she wanted me to wrap her presents and let the boys color the butcher paper. We don’t have any wrapping paper and this is how I’ve been wrapping gifts for birthday parties. Or I gave her the choice of me just handing her the gifts unwrapped. She went for that idea. I told her we had to wait for Dad to come home from his meetings first.

That was the best part. I had Pandora playing my Mormon Tabernacle Choir station. There is a lot of church music but sometimes a piano only piece will come through. Cristofori’s Dream by David Lanz came on. The kids know that is my favorite piano piece ever. Parker came running up to let me know my favorite song was on. He was so sweet to tell me and I knew I needed a minute to clear my mind anyway. So I ran downstairs to sit in a chair with my eyes closed to just enjoy the music.

Parker kept shushing his brother and sister because he knows that is my drop everything and be still song. He even ran outside to shush Heath when we heard him pull into the garage. There were only a few seconds left of the song but Parker didn’t want anything spoiling my moment.

The song ended and Gwen got really excited. Daddy was finally home so that meant I needed to give her the unwrapped presents! I kept the jewelry hanger in the JoAnn’s bag. I put the alarm clock under my shirt. Everyone loved that. She pulled the jewelry hanger out of the bag and squealed. I’m not sure she even knew what it was at first. She was less enthused when we told her. Still excited but not as thrilled. She wondered if it would replace her jewelry box. We thought it would be a great place to hang her necklaces. The floor isn’t the best storage place for necklaces.

We birthed my alarm clock baby and her face completely fell. With tears in her eyes she said she thought it would be a doctor kit. Heath was surprised since the doctor kit request was new to him. For about a week or so she has been hoping for a doctor kit like what Doc McStuffins has. Then she will list all of Doc’s toys hoping to get those too. I was never going to get a doctor kit. She doesn’t need any more toys and I didn’t think this was a real want. More like a wish she had every time she watched the show. So I never told Heath.

The alarm clock was something she has been begging for since the Backpack Fairy didn’t give her one. We finally found a simple alarm clock that plays CD’s. Gwen’s stereo is great but it won’t play homemade CD’s which causes a lot of heartache at night. We thought the alarm clock would be a slam dunk. I felt terrible that she was so upset.

It has been growing on her. She loves seeing what time it is. She read to Elsa this afternoon in her bedroom so she would know if she read a full 20 minutes or not. She was concerned that it didn’t wake her up this morning. Sundays are busy days. We only had time to get the clock in her room with the correct time before bed. I did think it was cute that Gwen was concerned that it didn’t wake her up at 7:00. It was 6:58 when she said that.

Gwen still has birthday cards and other gifts to look forward to in the mail. Aunt Chris is even sending her some scrapbooking things. I love that Gwen had a Sunday birthday because it meant that her birthday was celebrated for much longer than just one day. We celebrate the whole month of July for the boys. Gwen enjoyed a similar treatment this year with her birthday. I can’t believe she is 7 years old!

Birthday Food


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I had to get a picture of the menu board because of a new family joke. We were brainstorming meals for the week and somebody (I think it was Parker) pointed out that the meals matched the initials of the week. Sunday – stuffed chicken, Monday – mmm hot dogs, Tuesday – tortellini, Wednesday – Wendy’s. Thursday didn’t quite match. Friday did but not the way I wrote it on the board.

Heath: Faco Friday!
Me: Careful!
Later in the week Gwen mentioned Faco Friday.
Parker: Did you just say a bad word?

I love Faco Friday. I think we may have a lot of tacos on Fridays now because of that great name. Just be careful when you say it.

We normally do soup on Wednesdays because Gavin has Scouts and it’s the fastest and easiest meal to get Heath and Gavin out the door on time. But this time his regular Scout meetings were postponed to have a Court of Honor instead. Wendy’s is just up the street from where the Court of Honor would be held. Yeah, we could have had soup. But why have soup at home when you can scarf Wendy’s down in less than ten minutes?

We did make it to the Court of Honor on time. Yay us! I kind of wish we left right after Gavin was recognized because it got real boring real fast. One of the leaders was being recognized for earning his wood badge. Does that sound right? Anyway they spent more time recognizing one leader than they spent on 40 Scouts achievements. I am not kidding.

I already think the symbolism of Scouts is completely made up folklore that I just don’t get. I am convinced of it after that woman droned on forever. And the song and dance! First he’s this animal, then he’s that animal. What other woodland creature or zoo animal can we throw in next? It was tedious to say the least. I will say I prefer a Court of Honor to the absolute chaos that a Pack Meeting is. I still wished I refilled my Diet Coke from Wendy’s. 

Our birthday traditions include letting the birthday person pick their favorite restaurant for dinner. Gwen picked her new favorite restaurant Lazy Dog. She was so excited to order a build your own pizza. She couldn’t wait to see what dessert they would bring out when they sang to her. It was going to be the best experience ever!

She ordered the pizza and kept eating the cheese before the waitress came for the built pizza. When her pizza came out all cooked to perfection, minus quite a lot of cheese, Gwen had one bite. She enjoyed a few fries before declaring she was full. French fries and pizza! That’s the first problem!


Actually, there were a couple problems on Saturday. They weren’t really problems. We just had way too much food. Heath took the kids with him to the doughnut shop for breakfast. Gwen chose a heart doughnut bigger than her head. The kids love doughnuts for breakfast!

We left for the mall to do some more birthday shopping. We left about the time we needed to eat lunch in order to get to dinner early enough to beat the crowds. So we ate at the mall. Heath and Gavin ordered Panda Express while I took the other two to McDonald’s. We all ate together in Panda Express’s dining room. We tried to have a light lunch but I think it was too much food for an early dinner.

Gavin wanted to order ribs for dinner. Heath told him to branch out and try something else on the menu. So he chose a steak. We both said over our dead bodies could he order a $26 steak dinner. We figured out he was feeling very carnivorous and really wanted a lot of meat. Heath suggested the pot roast. Gavin really liked it. The best part was he finished and said he was full! Finally we filled up our teenager in training! Parker ate all his build your own pizza and the watermelon chunk as big as his head. Gwen’s pizza is still sitting in the fridge.

The first waitress went on her 30 minute break soon after getting our drinks. You know, after we told her it was Gwen’s birthday. There was no song. There was no dessert. I was pretty disappointed myself. Not that anyone needed dessert. It was just the principle of the thing. I thought it was kind of lame that Gwen was ignored. The girl is 7 years old for crying out loud! All she wanted was for someone to make a big deal out of her birthday. The first waitress did act all excited and wished Gwen a happy birthday. Not really the same though.

Gwen really wanted a cake. She was very specific. She wanted strawberry so it would be a pink cake with pink frosting. She also wanted only one candle. Maybe just a number 7, she suggested. We bought a number 7 candle because I forgot to check the cupboard to see if we already had one. When we got home I saw that we had a number 7 candle still in the original packaging. *sigh*


I have permission to share these pictures. Heath was upset with his decorating skills. He kept saying the cake looked like Gwen signed her own name when she was in kindergarten! I think it looks great. The side swoopy things wouldn’t cooperate though.

Gwen was also allowed to choose a Sunday meal. She wanted croissant sandwiches. I love those! I think she picked croissants because the name is French and Gwen is obsessed with anything fancy and French.

The kids kept begging to eat cake. After dinner we sang to Gwen and she blew out the candle. Heath held her hair for her. It was in a ponytail but he held it because she was concerned. I had told her that my hair burned on my 7th birthday. I leaned over to blow out the candles and a piece of my hair got in the way of the candles. I had to get my hair cut. It wasn’t a big deal but Gwen was horrified when I told her! It was a relief to Gwen that she managed to blow out her candle without catching her hair on fire. I don’t know what she wished for but I hope it comes true for her.

Instead of Unique of the Week luncheons, Gwen’s teacher does birthday lunches. They are typically held the last Monday of each month and all the kids with a birthday that month are invited. Parents are invited too but I didn’t go. If I wasn’t tutoring today I may have considered it. It would have been a lot of back and forth to the school and I had a bunch of errands to run today. So I’m a terrible mother but Gwen had fun anyway.

I made sure to buy her a Lunchable since she loves them so much. I was going to send her to school with a sacrificed Diet Coke for Mrs. M. But we had a better idea last night. Gwen’s Primary teachers buy a small Bundt cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes for each of their Primary students to celebrate birthdays. It’s a big Primary class too! I’m very impressed. They are still newlyweds and don’t have any of their own children yet.

Gwen came home with her own Bundt cake. We thought it would be perfect for Gwen to share her cake with Edward and their teacher. Gwen and Edward were the only February birthdays. She was very excited to share. I was afraid she would be upset. But she admitted herself she had sugar overload after her piece of homemade cake. All the kids complained the frosting was too sweet and that their stomachs hurt! I thought the cake was good. It murdered my blood sugar but it was still good.

note1Lunch was eventful today and not because of the cake. Gwen lost a tooth. She will definitely have to get braces. The new tooth has already started to come in behind the tooth Gwen refused to pull out. For weeks we have tried to convince that girl to pull it out. It finally fell out at lunch today. And then she swallowed it.

Gwen was very upset and was about to cry. Mrs. M. did some quick thinking. She made a big deal out of how exciting it was that Gwen lost her tooth. Then she wrote a note for the Tooth Fairy so the Tooth Fairy will believe what happened.

A choice in meals for days, cakes coming out the wazoo, money from the Tooth Fairy! Can you believe Gwen also made off like a bandit with birthday gifts too?

The Things My Hands Can Do


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Seven years ago I was nervous about having my third and final baby. This weekend I was nervous because I was asked to speak in church on that baby’s birthday. 

Normally I love speaking in church or teaching lessons. This time I was nervous because it was so personal. It’s one thing to type something really personal and have Heath announce he hit the publish button. I don’t know who reads things besides family. Not knowing makes it much easier to not care what anyone thinks. Be personal and post away. It’s those personal posts that tend to get the most traction. So in the end I guess it all works out.

But this time I wasn’t posting anything online. I was reading it all in front of a chapel full of people. Some of them know my story, or at least parts of it. Most did not. That’s scary! I was brave. I did it. The response was very positive.

Here it is. And yes, the beginning did come from a blog post I wrote a couple years ago. Actually, this post has been the conscious beginning of a lot of wonderful things. The post was inspired by a talk given by President Thomas S. Monson in his book titled Pathways to Perfection. He wrote about hands and I loved it so I wrote about hands. The post wrote itself and I watched myself type the paragraph about my Grandma Clarke. That was when I decided I was ready to do temple work for my family. It was slow going since I had nothing. I couldn’t even remember enough names to get started. The rest of the story is more or less in my talk.

Of the whole human body, hands are the most interesting feature. Hands are capable of so much. Think of the service and the love hands are responsible for. The hard work and tender caresses. Healing and nourishment.

Hands have always held a certain fascination for me. As a result, people’s hands have been burned into my memory. It’s comforting to recall the details of many of those hands that have blessed my life.

Gnarled and twisted, my grandmother’s hands remind me of paws. With the limitation of painful arthritis, those hands have blessed so many lives. Her hands are quick to comfort the sick and the weary. I will never forget the image of my grandma sitting in a dirty gutter wearing her Sunday best, talking and comforting a man who had bounced into the gutter after being struck by a car. She was probably carefully stroking his hair as she spoke calmly to him.

Her knobby hands held the steering wheel at a perfect ten and two as she drove my sister and me to and from school the year our parents divorced. That car driven by her capable hands was the means of so much service in the church.

Some of my earliest memories of my grandma’s hands include her passion for handiwork. Seldom is she found sitting without a bag of yarn by her side, her hands deftly clicking knitting needles or guiding a crochet hook through an intricate dance to reveal a beautiful afghan. She made a gorgeous white afghan for my oldest when he was born. It has been used for every baby blessing of my children. She has made blankets for each of my other children as well. My heart swells to think her love made such a wonderful gift for her great grandchildren.

And her baking … oh my grandma is famous for her baking! She wasn’t the best cook but her baking rivaled all. I think neighbors prayed for illness in the hopes that she might bake them a loaf of bread! Her German bread was my favorite, although the name of it escapes me now.

My grandfather’s hands were a weathered leathery brown. They were large but never clumsy. He has delighted many a child with his elegant make believe sewing. I can still imagine him carefully threading an imaginary needle with his fingers flexed in a proper tea party way.

His hands have taught countless men and women to drive large semi-trucks. When I first bought my car he would take me out driving every day. We would drive a big circle up Parley’s Canyon, around Heber City, through Provo Canyon, and up 1-15 back home. I remember his gentle hands softly taking my left hand off the wheel while he instructed me to loosely rest my elbow on the arm rest. He also told me to relax my right hand and slide it down the wheel a little. Such a subtle lesson on how not to drive so tensely but it has made a lasting impression.

His capable hands have been placed on the heads of many a faithful person in the act of precious priesthood blessings, including countless patriarchal blessings. His hands have performed many acts of service like shoveling walks, home improvement, and auto mechanics, just to name a few. His hands have safely held onto many a novice water skier, and wildly gestured to punctuate great stories and jokes.

I remember a picture of my grandpa holding a tiny infant in his arms. His huge hands were wrapped awkwardly around the tiny sleeping body. His sturdy arms were an envelope of safety while a goofy smile couldn’t help but spread across his face. I have never felt comfortable holding an infant. I love recalling how happy and secure he appeared in the task.

My Grandma Clarke was missing a thumb on one hand. The result of a heroic act of love as one of her sons tried to take his life with a gun. He was missing his arm but his life was spared due to her determined love.

A large crescent shaped scar on my husband’s finger reminds me of his commitment to his family. He cut his finger while making dinner. He was out of work and I was the only one insured at the time. Chances are I wouldn’t have been able to talk him into getting stitches even if it was feasible. His hands toil tirelessly for those he loves, with no thought of himself.

One day as I was cutting my second son’s fingernails I realized his hands looked familiar. He has his daddy’s hands. Short, stubby fingers full of love. The other two have my hands with long, graceful fingers. Not my hands as much as my mother’s hands.

When I was a child I was fascinated with my mom’s hands. They truly are elegant and beautiful. Long, slender fingers capable of the most intricate of crafts as well as the roughest home improvement or gardening projects. My mom’s hands do it all.

Her hands taught my brother and me to play the piano. Our stubborn minds refused to learn much beyond the basics! I love watching her hands perform a ballet across the piano keyboard while the most soothing sounds fill the house.

My mom’s hands are now wrapped in thinner skin exposing more veins and bones hidden in younger hands. They may be a lot more chapped from her years of nursing service, but they are still the most beautiful sight to me – her hands. Her hands that have always been at the end of every hug, at the heart of every meal, and the pride of all her creations.

I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt.
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No no I will praise and adore at the mercy seat
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.
(I Stand All Amazed Hymn #193)

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf told a story about the bombing of a city in World War II. A large statue of Jesus Christ was severely damaged. When the townspeople found the statue among the rubble, they mourned because it had been a beloved symbol of their faith and of God’s presence in their lives.

Experts were able to repair most of the statue, but its hands had been damaged so severely that they could not be restored. Some suggested that they hire a sculptor to make new hands, but others wanted to leave it as it was—a permanent reminder of the tragedy of war. Ultimately, the statue remained without hands. However, the people of the city added on the base of the statue a sign with the words: “You are my hands.” (You Are My Hands Dieter F. Uchtdorf April 2010 General Conference)

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are instruments in His hands. He relies on us to do the work He would do if He were here. Our hands are paramount in this task. Imagine what your hands can do for your ancestors as well as your descendants. Through family history, our hands are capable of binding hearts together for eternity.

Our hands are an integral part of the service we can provide our ancestors in the temple. I know that Heavenly Father loves all His children. Which is why He has provided a way for everyone to learn of the gospel and have the opportunity to choose whether or not to accept it. Even for those who have passed from this life without those opportunities. It is up to us to do this work for them.

In Obadiah 1:21 we read, And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.

The Prophet Joseph Smith gave clarity to this scripture when he said, “But how are they to become saviors on Mount Zion? By building their temples … and going forth and receiving all the ordinances … in behalf of their progenitors who are dead … and herein is the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers.”

Several years ago Elder Howard W. Hunter said: “Does it seem reasonable that persons who have lived upon the earth and died without the opportunity of baptism should be deprived throughout eternity? Is there anything unreasonable about the living performing the baptisms for the dead? Perhaps the greatest example of vicarious work for the dead is the Master himself. He gave his life as a vicarious atonement, that all who die shall live again and have life everlasting. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. In a similar way we can perform ordinances for those who did not have the opportunity to do them in lifetime.”

Elder Hunter added: “Not only may baptisms be performed for the dead, but endowments; also sealings, by which wives become eternal companions to husbands and their children sealed to them as a family. The sealing of family units can be continued until the family of God is made perfect. This is the great work of the dispensation of the fulness of times. … The uniting and redemption of the family of God was the divine plan before the foundations of the earth were laid.”

What a beautiful thought. I will be honest. The spirit of Elijah has only recently touched my heart. Genealogy may as well have been a four letter word when I was a kid. I heard that word and immediately fell asleep snoring.

Although when I think back on my life experiences I realize the spirit of Elijah has slowly penetrated my soul. My favorite Primary song was always Families Can Be Together Forever. My favorite family activities were listening to family stories. I mentioned earlier that my grandpa was a storyteller. My dad was also a great storyteller. My mom is a closet writer. I don’t think she realizes her talent for writing. Maybe my passion for storytelling is genetic. I love writing. And I hoard stories.

Most of you know I am an avid blogger. Come on, I couldn’t give a talk without mentioning my blog! I started out as a scrapbooker, which I still enjoy, but I found blogging to be a much faster way for me to record stories. Typing is very cathartic for me too. Heath likes to tease me because I have a tendency to rub the letters off the keyboard from my excessive typing. My blog posts are my way of recording family history for future generations. Preserving my family’s everyday life has become my obsession since getting married.

Recently Heath and I have videotaped our grandparents in order to capture their stories. Just a few months after we filmed my grandparents, my grandpa was called home from this life. The footage was already very special to us. It became that much more important. Heath worked hard to edit and produce as many of the stories as he could into a DVD for my family as a Christmas gift that year.

We decided to do the same thing for Heath’s family. They were so excited to participate. My mother in law is the only member of the church in her family. Her siblings all belong to different faiths. They don’t always agree and family discussions can get heated. No one was sure what to expect but they were all so anxious to participate.

It was the most incredible experience. We were impressed that we got over an hour of footage of my grandparents. Heath’s family talked for at least four hours. They would have talked all night if we let them. Two wives planned to meet at the cabana where we were filming and then go shopping together. They stayed for a minute to watch and got sucked in. They sat and watched the entire time. An ex-wife even showed up and found herself unable to leave. She was crying and said, “Is this what it’s like in families without divorce?” It was a bonding experience for that family that no one could have anticipated.

I have had my own family miracle recently. My childhood was not ideal. I have had a complicated relationship with my dad and his family. My parents divorced over 20 years ago when my mom had had enough of the abuse and she found the courage to leave. Not too many years after that my dad mutually parted ways with his children. He stopped reaching out to us and we didn’t feel a need to reach out to him. He suffered a heart attack in June that took his life. It has been the hardest experience I have ever had to go through.

The amazing thing was the Lord may have taken my dad home but he put the family back together. I really believe that He looked at this broken, shattered, and stubborn family and knew if He didn’t intervene we would never come back together. Over the years I have wanted to learn my Clarke family history. I thought that if I could learn their stories maybe I could appreciate why they made the choices they did. Maybe I would feel a connection to them. After all, they were my family. I am who I am because I am a Clarke and a Swain and married into the Westover family. Families aren’t perfect but they are very important. Even with my strained relationship with my Clarke roots, I have always understood that family is important.

After my dad passed I was terrified to see my aunts and uncles. There was no telling how they might react to my siblings and me after all these years of estrangement. All my aunts and uncles were so welcoming. It sounds weird to say it was like going home because I did go home. I don’t know how to describe the immediate love we all felt for one another. It was a beautiful experience. I looked into my uncle’s eyes and saw my dad. Those eyes were so apologetic and it was as if my dad also accepted my forgiveness.

At the graveside service my aunt Cathy had a large white binder. She tried to give it to my sister in law. She said it was Clarke family history and since my brother was the oldest his family should have the binder. Deanna told her no. “Give it to Tristan,” she said. “She’s the one that wants that!” Cathy said she hoped I wasn’t disappointed since all the temple work had already been done. Deanna said it didn’t matter. She knew I wanted it anyway.

It’s a three inch binder completely full of pedigree charts, family trees, photographs, and family stories. I wish there were more stories with more detail because I hoard stories and I just want more. What I have is precious to me. I have to read between the lines a little but I am starting to understand my family a little more.

I finally have everything I needed when I first decided I was ready to do temple work for my family. Even though I can’t do the temple work I can still put the names into my fan chart. For years my fan was completely lopsided. My dad’s name wasn’t even connected to me until he passed away! Which is strange since my parents are still sealed together.

There was an article in this month’s Ensign about finding cousins. I look forward to searching out if any other family members need ordinance work done for them. I am so grateful to my distant cousin, a grandson of my great grandparents, for using his hands to put the Clarke family history together. He wrote that he did it so the newer members of the ever growing family would be able to love and appreciate their roots, even if it was only through the pages in that history. My Grandpa Clarke was number 14 of 14 children. The history begins with my great grandparents and follows each child in order with all their descendants. I have a wealth of information about my family. All because of the hands that compiled the information into one place.

Hands are truly amazing instruments. They provide service, they preserve family history, they search out ancestors and bless the lives of descendants yet to come. Elder Bednar talks about the youth’s hands. “It is no coincidence that FamilySearch and other tools have come forth at a time when young people are so familiar with a wide range of information and communication technologies. Your fingers have been trained to text and tweet to accelerate and advance the work of the Lord—not just to communicate quickly with your friends. The skills and aptitude evident among many young people today are a preparation to contribute to the work of salvation.”

In Moses chapter 1 verses 37 and 39 we read And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying: The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine.
For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

He relies on us to be His hands. I testify that the gospel is true. Jesus Christ is our Savior. His infinite atonement provides the means for family relationships to perpetuate beyond the grave. The plan of salvation is truly a plan of happiness. Our hands are the means for sacred ordinances, not only for ourselves but for those who have passed on from this life without the opportunity to participate in these saving ordinances. It is my hope and prayer that we use our hands to become saviors on Mount Zion.

Good enough won’t make the time go any faster


It’s hard being 6. It’s hard waiting for birthdays. Countdown paper chains barely take the edge off of waiting. Knowing that most of the birthday celebration will happen a day early only makes things that much more exciting. Tomorrow cannot come soon enough!

Gwen’s room barely passes as clean. The closet is stuffed full. Don’t open the doors or you may be buried alive. I read Junie B. Jones books to keep her moving. It didn’t really help today. She is too excited.

The latest book was about monsters under the bed. At one point Gwen lifted her blankets to check under her bed. Only there are no monsters under her bed. Not because monsters don’t exist but because even if they did, there is no room for a monster under her bed. She dropped the blanket back in place, satisfied with my logic.

If you ignore the paper scraps scattered on the floor you can see floor. That’s how low my standards have sunk. At one point she picked her way through the landmine of toys to tidy up the explosion otherwise known as her bookshelf. I told her not to worry about the bookshelf. I just wanted the room clean. Clean meaning I just wanted to see the floor. Minus the paper scraps the floor is visible. Seven years ago I went through surgery to get this kid out of me and all I want in return is to sort of see floor.

It’s hard raising myself and even harder to wait for birthdays. Seven colorful years of Miss Gwen. Man I love that little booger!


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