Visiting with my grandparents

My grandparents have been gone for a long time.  My last grandmother died before Amelia was born.  My other three grandparents died several years before I married.  So, it was with joy that I spent time with them this past week.  Three of my four grandparents wrote letters to me that I found amongst long-saved and forgotten school papers.  I was surprised at the tender feelings they brought.  I was only blessed to know one of my four grandparents well.  Two lived in Canada–I saw each of them (they were divorced) just a few times and years apart.  The other, whom I have no letters from, was felled by Alzheimer’s.

I am so blessed to have these letters and so thankful for them.  I suspect I benefited from my birth-order with all three letter-writing grandparents.  I was my Canadian grandparents’ first grandchild and my Orem grandma’s first granddaughter.  There are many rewards to being a younger child, but I’m guessing that the strength of relationship with grandparents probably isn’t one of them.

I had just one letter from my Canadian grandfather.  It was sent from La Paz, Bolivia, where he had traveled for business.  It didn’t say anything important, but it reminded me that he had known me and cared about me, and thought about me once when he was far from home.  In the same box where I found his letters, I also found the three trinkets I have that connect him to me: a little coin purse made from Kangaroo fur (!) and imported/purchased (?) from Australia, a little coin purse that looks Bolivian-ish, and a dried-up seahorse.  I remember the day he gave me the seahorse.  I had been pouting because we were visiting him in Canada and my family and I were going to go on some outing; he didn’t intend to accompany us, and I wasn’t to be allowed to stay with him.  Pouting is perhaps not the appropriate word; I was genuinely sad.  I believed that his intention to stay home showed that he did not care about his American grandchildren. It is hard to remember, but I believe that after witnessing my emotion he ended up coming with us on the outing, and giving me the seahorse as a token of affection.  I love that seahorse.


I also had letters from my Canadian grandmother.  She wrote them very early, when I was less than a year old.  She hadn’t met me, but spoke of her excitement over my photographs.  She told me about how her own mother had just been told that her cancer was terminal and of her wish that I could meet her before she passed on (I don’t think I did).  I was amazed at how her letters radiated love for a little person that she had never seen or spoken to.  Perhaps I just read this into it because I wanted it to be there, but I was amazed at her ability to direct her thoughts and attention to me.  These letters didn’t feel like they were aimed at my mother, filtered through the cute gimmick of being sent to her baby daughter, they felt like they were actually written to me.  At one point she mentioned her hope that my mother would save and share them with me when I was older.  It’s been almost forty years, but I did read them, and I’m so thankful she took the time to write.

Most of the grandparent letters, notes and cards were from my Orem grandma.  She lived the latest into my life and was a natural-born encourager.  I found several notes of celebration over spelling-bees and other childhood accomplishments, but even more words of praise and encouragement.  In the same box as the notes, I found a little white box that had nothing in it.  A Christmas label was taped to the top.  It was addressed to me in her trademark red ballpoint-inked cursive with love from her.  I’ve apparently saved that empty box for two or three decades, but once again I found that I couldn’t bear to throw it out.  After all, the box was not actually empty, but full: it seemed to overflow with her love and caring for me.  I am lucky because I have plenty of memories of my Orem grandma outside her notes and cards.   The notes are cards are neat though because they exactly reflect the woman I remember.

I am greatly blessed to have had grandparents who loved me and who told me so.  I am so thankful that they wrote me letters.  It reminds me of the importance of giving lasting physical reminders to my children–letters, trinkets, whatever–but something that they can keep–so that they can always remember how much I love them.  I want to remind my children’s grandparents the same thing.  It is hard to say which letter or tiny  trinket might turn up in a child’s box of forgotten treasures 30 years from now, but don’t you hope one of yours does?

My son is a reader–Thank you Warriors!

Yesterday after Duncan got home from school he was quiet for a long, long time. Long periods of quiet from Duncan are unusual and also disturbing (messy and involved craft projects are a possible cause). I went looking and quickly found him. This is what I saw:


He didn’t move or change expression at all when I photographed him. He was engrossed. Until yesterday, he has been reading mainly Seuss and beginning reader type stuff (and we considered that highly exciting) so this was a stunning development. He read to himself for at least 90 minutes until he had finished the book. May I say I am thankful? I am SO thankful! It has been a long road to reading for this boy. He is only 7, but we are a reading-centric household and although he has loved to be read to since he was tiny, until this year his progress towards reading to himself seemed plodding. Judging from his handwriting, I think the letters may be backwards in his mind–many of them certainly are on his papers!

His school teacher has worked wonders this year. Thank you Melinda!

A lot of credit must also go to the Warriors Series by Erin Hunter. We have spent countless hours reading the Warriors books to him. The one he is reading in the picture is #4. We were halfway through reading it aloud to him before a) our need to work on the tax return and b) his need to know what happened next, coincided to produce the above result. Warriors is about four clans of warrior cats who live in the forest and interact amidst clan warfare, villainy, and environmental disaster. When my mother-in-law gave Amelia the first book in the series many years ago, I was deeply skeptical. It didn’t look good; it didn’t sound good. It sat on the shelf in our house for a long time. But readers always run out of material, so we eventually had to give it a try. I love these books as much as Amelia and Duncan–we all love them. (Though as Pdad says, by book #4, the series becomes predictable). Highly recommended!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Halloween

Halloween treat: Lizard FabricsIt’s that time of year when expectations (the children’s) are high and I have to keep reminding myself: I don’t sew.  Then I gravely, carefully, explain to my babies that alas, I don’t sew, and that this has important (and likely negative) implications for their costumes.  Still, fanciful notions of many-headed hydras dance in their heads.  For some reason, these sweet babies believe that if you can imagine it, you can build it.  At one point, Duncan (age 6) was going to be a bat and due to my lack of catching the vision, he was going to make the costume all by himself.  All he wanted from me was some scissors, some fabric, and a grant of complete autonomy.  

That crisis averted, I now find that Amelia is in her last year of trick or treating and hoping for a costume whose awesomeness is equal to the weighty importance of that graduation.  Even holiday scrooge Moms (that would be me) can get sucked in by things like this.  I won’t list here the various holiday things I don’t do and how my children pine for them (or miss out on them with no idea of what they’re missing, as the case may be), but trust me, costumes are the Achilles’ heel of my cold Scrooge heart.  At breakfast the other day I found myself listing the various things Amelia has been for Halloween over the years: a clown, a raccoon, a flower garden, an elephant, Cinderella, a voting booth, a cave girl, Alice in Wonderland, and now ???  They are all sweet memories–possibly with the exception of the storebought Cinderella dress.  That wasn’t special.  [This is, of course, not a judgment on the Cinderella dress you bought for your daughter--just as you don't judge me for my lack of wreaths, Santas and Easter Bunnies, right?  We all need to find special traditions for our own families but we don't all need to find the same traditions special].  

I love looking at the pictures of our past Halloweens and reflecting on why we settled on the costumes we did and how we pulled them off.  I even enjoy some knowledge gained from experience.  Namely: 1. Costumes that feature sweats (e.g., flower garden or elephant) are warm and comfy.  2. Costumes built around boxes (e.g., voting booth) are uncomfortable and difficult to trick or treat in.  Now that it is past, I consider the travail that brought each costume forth fondly.  That is why I embrace the costume challenge despite my lack of skill.  Experience suggests it might all work out in the end anyway, and if prior results are a predictor of future returns, it might even be a lot of fun. 

So: it is beginning to look a lot like Halloween at my house.  The madly optimistic purchasing of supplies is almost at an end (surely Stitch Witchery will compensate for my lack of skills, and if I buy three different types of glues one of them will surely successfully bond styrofoam cones to fabric–right?) [ Lis saves money making homemade costumes. I spend it.]  The anxious, yet thrilling!, spray painting, cutting, gluing, and assembly is just beginning.  Don’t worry.  If our ambitions fail, I have an awesome spider costume back-up plan.  A request: if you happen to see Amelia this week, could you spare a few words in praise of spiders?

Halloween sewing cheats

Little Purple Pansies


Pansies: plant now!  According to the Temple Square Gardening book, October Conference is the perfect time to plant pansies.  They don’t mind the cold and snow.  Despite their name, pansies are tough. By the time spring comes around their winter root growth makes for great flowering–so much better than if you’d waited for spring to plant.  I tried it two years ago and couldn’t believe how huge and wonderful my pansies were as a result.   Sadly, last year I didn’t get organized in time.  This summer I found myself raving to my mother about how great my winter-grown pansies had been, and suddenly I realized: why don’t I plan when I will buy them and when I will plant them now?  Surprisingly, that worked!  Our pansies went in, per plan, last week.   I’ll be putting pansy planting on my calendar from now on!

P.S.  What do you call a husband whose wife buys $40+ of pansies and (because she is suddenly ill) then plants them all by himself?  Saint Pdad.  Thanks sweetheart!

P.P.S.  I always plant purple pansies.  Purple flowers are my passion (judging from the yard at least) but I think it may also have to do with early indoctrination from the primary song:

Little purple pansies touched with yellow gold/growing in one corner of the garden old/We are very tiny but must try, try, try/Just one spot to gladden, you and I

Stained glass at the library

Yesterday we went to the library to see a movie for Family Home Evening.  Unfortunately, like me, Duncan is easily frightened.  _Ponyo_ frightened him to pieces, so the two of us soon found ourselves in the children’s books.  I had never been there at sunset before.  It was amazing. I wish I had a better ability to capture what I saw.

Disneyland’s great, but there’s no place like home

Springtime in Disneyland

Pretty! But there’s no place like home. (I’m pretending I didn’t see that [final? fingers crossed] display of snow and cold).

We have popcorn popping on the apricot tree:

Popcorn popping on the apricot tree

Popcorn popping on the apricot tree

and daffodils and hyacinths:

Daffodills and Hyacinths

Could someone tell me why I didn’t plant more bulbs? I need better follow-through. I keep buying bulbs and then not planting them! That’s an expensive mistake and a sad one, when I see these and think there could have been more . . .