Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ruby

In a ballroom in the Little America hotel, a woman laughed and shouted, "Hey there, sister!  Hey, girl!"  I turned in my seat--away from the round luncheon table and my alfredo linguini--to see where the jubilant laughter was coming from.  My eyes met two women in a familial-like embrace; talking and grinning while enjoying their affectionate reunion.  I couldn't stop staring at one woman in particular---her dark hair twisted into a thick bun at the back of her head, the scarf traversing her forehead just above her eyebrows, the twinkle in her coal-black eyes--she was enchanting.  Her smile lit up her face like a fourth-of-July sparkler against a night sky.  She was magnetic. 

I knew I HAD to meet her. 

The next night, at the American Mothers' national convention, I found myself in the same beautifully decorated ballroom.  My friend, Chantel, and I were preparing to leave after a fun-filled day of empowering workshops, good food, and keynote speakers.  As Chantel and I walked through one of the many ballroom doorways, I saw her...


I timidly approached her and introduced myself.  "I'm happy to meet you," she said to me, sincerely, "but you should know I don't shake hands.  I give hugs and kisses...if that's alright with you."

"Absolutely!," I exclaimed.  I laughed while she gave me a grandmotherly squeeze and planted a kiss on my cheek.  She whispered in my ear, "May the Lord bless you and keep you."  I knew I was in the presence of a special woman.


Her name is Ruby, and she's from Nebraska.  In 1991, she was nominated for AMI's "Mother of the Year" in her state and won.  The next year, she won the recognition of "National Mother of the Year."  (An incredible honor that celebrates a mother's efforts in the raising of her family, as well as the service she gives in her community.)

Ruby, like most mothers, was eager to talk about her children.  She showed me a couple of pictures of her two, handsome sons.  Both are smart and successful and have had prestigious military careers.  One is currently teaching in a professorship at a university in Michigan.

Then she told me about her "other sons"...the two hundred and twenty boys she has fostered over the years.  She has provided a safe haven for delinquent and neglected boys (mostly adolescents) who would have otherwise "fallen through the cracks in the system," or ended up on the streets.  She saved many from lives of substance abuse.  She saved many from suicide, loneliness, and despair.  She saved many young boys from habitual crime and disorderliness. 

She loved all of them.


The world is a better place because Ruby is a part of it; the calling of motherhood is more noble because Ruby embraces it.  What an example she has set for a "new generation" of mothers.  In Christ-like emulation, she has openly and uninhibitedly loved those who are difficult to love.  The outcasts.  The down-trodden.  The lost.  The rejected.  The unlovable.  She took them in and exposed them to the sacredness and security of "home," and taught them about "belief in self" by example.  She ultimately showed them that there are better and brighter paths to choose on life's journey; instilling the beliefs that they don't have to settle, they can rise above the ashes, it's their choice.
 
Ruby is inspiring.  She is the embodiment of a beautiful truth, that reminds us of the power of a woman's influence:  A good mom can teach her son to be a good man.



Sunday, June 26, 2011

Guest Post: Sponge Who? Square What?

Read a blog.  Wear a fancy hat.  Have a "Sunny" Sunday!


Dear Nickelodeon Animation People,

I would love to have been a fly on the wall in THAT brain-storming session.  My guess is it went something like this:

Head Animator (hiccuping after a few too many):  I've got it!  It could be a sponge, um, yeah, that's it, a yellow sponge guy.
Second-in-command animator (drowsy from too much allergy medication...yawn):  Yeah, that might work, he'll need a best friend, should we just do the star fish thing so it doesn't get too weird?
Head Animator:  We're really cooking now (rubbing his hands together), and speaking of cooking, I just had the biggest idea since sliced bread, FRY COOK.  He could be a fry cook for a cranky, greedy crab that runs a fast food joint the FDA wouldn't endorse if it were the last culinary establishment on earth...brilliant!!

Right, so you get the idea.  My guess is, it went on like this for sometime with people who were not in their right mind throwing out ideas that were instantly ratified leaving us, the viewers, too stunned to even vocalize the questions bubbling (excuse the pun...but not really) up inside us.  Questions like:

1.) Why a pineapple?  Why not an eggplant (pause here for everyone to appreciate my brilliant reference and tie back to Aleisha's introduction post about me...snort)?
2.) How does a sponge named Bob cook fries at the bottom of the sea???  Hmm, I mean that defies every law of physics I ever slept through in high school.
3.) A squirrel?  One of his friends is a squirrel...you don't think that's crossing a line somehow?  A SQUIRREL?
4.) Why on earth would you go with briefs instead of boxers?  Boxers are already square, doesn't that make more sense?  This is madness!!

I digress.  Originally, I drafted this letter in a vain attempt to suggest you re-think your programming.  As a mother, I really couldn't find any redeeming qualities in your blue-eyed-phylum Porifera.  Then one day I was watching an episode (hey, I'm a Mom, sometimes I zone out and this just happened to be on), where something catastrophic happened to poor Bob resulting in his being a melted puddled of goo on the ocean floor with two round eyes peering up at his peers.  In the blink of an eye, he shook it off, bounced back (into his square shaped self) and tackled the trouble.  As pathetic as this is going to sound, I realized that there have been plenty of times I, myself, have felt like a shape-less mass of goo; worn out, beat down, and um, um...less than attractive.  In these moments, as much as it pains me to say it, I guess I can take a lesson from old Bob.  That lesson being to say to myself, "Get with the program, you're a Mommy, time to pull yourself together and make some lunch."  Sigh.

So, while I'm not asking you to pull the cartoon completely, maybe you could just limit it to one episode a day?

Now, "Who wants to lick my cheeks?"
-SpongeBob SquarePants

Sincerely,
Sunshine
(Cartoon connoisseur, common sense advocate, and exhausted Mommy)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dissolve Soap Scum On Contact


I'm not going to lie.

I had a crappy Monday.  (What is it with Mondays, hmm?  Why are they so frequently "blech"?)

The crappiness of my Monday involved:

     *Exhaustion, due to stinkin' allergies.
     *Headache, due to stinkin' allergies.
     *Adult acne.  (Why is this an issue?  Why, at 31?  Why?  Why, why, why, why, WHY, WHY??!!!!)
     *Washing, folding, and putting away 800 loads of laundry.  (I really do not enjoy doing the laundry.  I have spent a substantial amount of time pondering why this is so.  The conclusion I have come to is this:  It's the folding.  I hate it.  More specifically, I hate folding the socks.  Yesterday, I sat on my bed in the middle of an all-out sock fiasco, and I wanted to scream.  I have to keep track of socks labeled, "24 months," and socks labeled, "5T."  I have to keep track of socks that have a black stripe on the toe and socks that have a gray patch on the heel.  Ankle socks!  Athletic socks!  Crew socks!  AND THEY'RE ALL WHITE!  AAHH!!!)
     *Vacuuming the stairs...and almost falling down them in the process.
     *Scraping and picking and wiping sticky, mushed-up granola bar out of my kitchen tile's grout.  (I thought Cam had been eating a granola bar.  In actuality, he had chucked granola bar bits all over my kitchen floor.  I pulled him out of his high chair and went to retrieve my broom from the closet.  In the thirty seconds it took me to do that, Cam had stomped and jumped all over those bits like a crazy baby.  He may have been laughing, manically...)
     *Deep cleaning my master bathroom, to include scrubbing and scrubbing the soap scum/nasty filth/slime/mold/gunk out of my shower.  (It was a really dirty job and somebody had to do it.  That "somebody" is me.  Blech!  Thank heavens for the almighty Tilex!  It "dissolves soap scum on contact!") 

I hate to admit this, but in the midst of my Monday madness, I neglected Ms. Lilly.  I did not put together puzzles with her.  I did not help her look for her tiny, plastic princess dolls.  I was ornery.  I was easily annoyed.  I lost my patience with her, more than once.  At the day's end, I felt lousy--despite a sparkling shower--because I knew I hadn't been a very good mom.

As I was putting Lilly to bed, she asked me if I would snuggle with her for a minute.  I happily obliged and collapsed on her bed, utterly exhausted.  We were lying on our sides, facing each other.  Her small, skinny arm was draped across my neck, and my arm was around her waist.  She put her dainty little face right on top of my nose.  I could faintly feel her warm breath on my cheek.  The following conversation transpired: 

Ms. Lilly:  Dad is my parent because he's my dad.  And you are my mom, so you are my parent too.
Mama Leisha, yawning and smelling like bleach:  That's right, Lil.
Ms. Lilly:  So that means you guys are my parents.
Mama Leisha:  Yes, indeed.
Ms. Lilly, happily:  You are the best parents ever!
Mama Leisha, SHOCKED and completely "losing it":  Oh, Lil!  Such a sweet thing to say!  I'm going to tell you a little secret, though...we have NO idea what we're doing.  We've never been parents before.  Sometimes we mess up.  I mess up.  I make mistakes.  I really try to be a good parent to you.  Every day, I try.  I'm so sorry I wasn't a very good parent to you today.  I love you, and tomorrow will be better.
Miss Lilly, sweetly, and like a wise old sage:  Mom, it is ooh-kay.  You already are the best parent.  You don't need to worry.  You are doing a great job, and I think you are a great mom.

Wow!  Can you believe that?  I thought about our "pillow talk" all night, and this is what I realized today:  I had been so caught up in a crappy Monday and in making my bathroom sparkle, I forgot to see the "sparkle" all around me.  And you know what?  She's four, she's forgiving, and she thinks I'm doing a great job.

It's easy to feel like a lousy mom sometimes.  It's natural.  Common.  Understandable.  Being a mom is a tough gig!  But remember (and most especially when you are feeling lousy), to your little ones you are everything


That's waaaay better than Tilex.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to my rad dad...who's still so hip I can't even handle it!  And check out this picture, courtesy of my Auntie Cindy:


What a hoot!  I can't decide if I hear banjos playing when I look at this "old school" picture, or Lynyrd Skynyrd's, "Free Bird."  (Or "Goin' Courtin'," from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers!!)  It's a great photo.  And you know what?  My dad is a great dad!  I have learned a lot from him over the years, and fully respect his goodness, his selflessness, and his fun-loving, kind-hearted nature.

A Little Ol' List of Things I Have Learned From My Daddy-O 

1.) When "Friend Bear" from the Care Bears is accidentally dropped into the swift-moving irrigation ditch, a good daddy will show his love for his little girl by sprinting after it and retrieving it.

2.) "Pink" Floyd is an English rock band known for their psychedelic rock music...NOT a Barbie doll, despite such a pretty first name.

3.) Dads can be best friends who take you to get your ears pierced and buy you cheddar popcorn at the mall.

4.) "Daddy Daughter Dates" are a really big deal when you are five or twenty-five.

5.) Dads have magic fingers that are able to pull a loose tooth so swiftly and so efficiently that NO pain is inflicted on the terrified seven-year-old!

6.) Orange sticks are a yummy treat...but can also serve as a peace offering.

7.) Play NICE with your siblings or you'll end up weeding the garden!


8.) Boys who drive fast, claim to be musicians, and have their tongues pierced are usually TROUBLE.  Good girls should steer clear of bad boys, or be grounded for life.

9.) When you run out of gas while driving home from a party, and become stranded along the roadside late at night, a good dad will come to your rescue with a gas can.  (A good dad will always come to your rescue.)

10.) Mustaches CAN be handsome.

11.) A father's blessing will calm your heart, heal your ailments, or give you the courage to face another school year.

12.) The power of the priesthood is real and magnificent.

13.) Love notes, hidden in scriptures, can prove to be an answer to prayers.

14.) Check the oil in your car often.  Change it regularly.  Otherwise, your car will explode.

15.) Good dads will forgive you when your car explodes.

16.) Trust in the Lord.  Pray often.  Heavenly Father hears you.  He will help you.

17.) "Family prayer" time is a code name for "Roughhouse-With-Brothers" time.

18.) Many lovely emotions can be felt in a dad's embrace--warmth, peace, security, acceptance, love.


19.) A good man will honor his wife, protect his children, and share his "Aggie Dogs" at USU football games.

20.) Something extraordinary happens when a grown woman hugs and kisses her beloved dad.  Her little girl self, tucked away deep down inside, resurfaces.  She reminds the woman of all the "My Little Ponies" her dad brought her upon returning from out-of-town business trips.  The little girl reminds the woman of the hours spent at the kitchen table working on math problems and biology assignments; of quality time spent together, lessons learned, and conversations shared.  

It doesn't matter how old you are, when you hug and kiss your dad, you feel like his cherished little girl.  Trials abate.  The world ceases to be scary.  All that matters is that he rescued your Care Bear.

And you love him more for that.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Summer Love!

"If a June night could talk, it would probably boast it invented romance."
--Bern Williams

I love summer!   It sends my heart soaring with nostalgia as it reminds me of past adventures with my McMan.   We first met while working the same summer job...THIRTEEN years ago!   Eventually, we went our separate ways (for four years) and lost track of each other, only to be reunited one summer by a mutual acquaintance.   We hung out as pals (*insert heavy-hearted sigh*) and enjoyed various summertime activities and get-togethers--baseball games, BBQs, and late night movies--with a great group of our friends.   We had a lot of fun that summer.

As pals.

We were still spending time with each other the next summer, but in very different ways.   (Stop reading, Dad.)   James would drive his old, white, Chevy Blazer to the base of the mountain behind his parents' home.   He'd drive until the smooth, paved road turned to gravel, and until the gravel came to a complete dead end.   He'd turn the Blazer around so we were facing the valley below us.   It was usually nighttime.   (Ah, summer nights in Cache Valley are heaven sent!)   From our high vantage point, we could see all the stoplights in the distance--tiny and bright, like a strand of Christmas tree lights--and we'd watch them change from green to yellow to red.   James and I would listen to Coldplay's "Parachutes" album and smooch like fools in that Blazer on the mountain.   We made-out a lot that summer.   We said, "I love you," that summer.   We got scared of what the Future held for us--like an ominous stranger standing before us, waiting to reveal what his cupped hands kept hidden.   We grew in faith that summer.   We got engaged that summer.   We prayed a lot.

And finally, we were married that wonderful, wonderful summer.   Eight summers ago.

Summer is for lovers.








Summer is for me and James.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Something New

It's fun to try new things.

Like the time I went rappelling.  It was most terrifying, and I knew my rope would break and send my little body hurtling toward the rocks below.  My heart was thumping, thumping, thumping in my chest as I took my first step off the jagged cliff.  Guess what?  The rope didn't break and the descent was exhilarating.

A new thing proved to be a good thing.


Or, there was the time I tried eggplant.  I was traveling throughout China with a stellar group of adventurers.  While staying in the southern part of China, in Yangshuo--a breathtakingly lush and majestically beautiful city of jutted mountains and fertile rice fields--a woman offered to cook us a meal and serve it to us in her home for a small fee.  Truthfully, I'm not sure how she prepared the eggplant or what she served with it.  I could not give a name to most of the items I ate while visiting that mythical country, but I do know the eggplant--served over rice in small, porcelain bowls--was incredible.

A new thing proved to be a good thing.

I have the opportunity to try a new thing on this blog.  A couple of times a month, on Sunday, I will be posting the work of a guest blogger.  Remember my beloved Sunshine?


I invited her to post on my blog in a series I'm going to call, "Have a Sunny Sunday."  (I'm getting giddy with excitement for this "new thing," even as I type this!)  The inspiration for the idea came as I was rereading a countless number of emails Mama Sun has sent me over the years.  THEY ARE HILARIOUS.  I believe Sunshine's posts will be insightful, meaningful, witty, and fun.  I sincerely hope they make your day!

Here's a "taste" of what you are in for...and it's even better than eggplant.

Have a Sunny Sunday!

*Email message from March 19, 2010*

I thought this would be good for a giggle, this is an email I sent to the Pier 49 Pizza company, I think it's a true testament as to how I really just don't take things too seriously (well, okay, at least things like this):

Dear Pizza People,


I don't know if whoever is reading this knows what the term "blow out" means in reference to a 19-month-old babies' diaper.  But, that is what I was dealing with this evening while dining in your restaurant.  You can only imagine my puzzlement upon entering the ladies' room and discovering that there was no where to change my daughter's diaper.  "Hmmm, this is a pizza restaurant, most of the tables would indicate 'family' dining...strange."  So, I now take my baby, sporting a diaper that would make a grown man cry it's so disgusting, out to my mini-van (I know the stereotype in all of this is ridiculous, I think so too) and try to salvage what is left of my patience and self-respect while wrestling her squirming little self into a clean diaper in a spring snow storm.  All the while, my husband is inside chasing my 4-year-old and my other 19-month-old (yes, they're twins... no, it's not as fun as it sounds) all over the now crowded restaurant.  So, please, on behalf of myself and the other patrons that politely "tolerated" our presence this evening... have a changing station installed in the bathroom!


P.S. You're probably going to want to consider having more than 2 high-chairs on hand as we maxed you out on that one too.

Thank you for your consideration,
Sunshine

(Patron, pizza fan, and exhausted Mommy)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cereal Box, or Best Morning Ever

When you were a kid, did you read the cereal box during breakfast?

For me, that was the best part of my morning meal--plopping down at the kitchen table with a big bowl of cereal in my hands and the bright-colored box in front of my face.  I loved reading about the exotic animals Toucan Sam met on his trip to the rain forest (to recover his missing Froot Loops), or helping Lucky the Leprechaun find his way through the shamrock maze printed on the box.  What fun!  A bowl of crunchy, sugary, marshmellow-y goodness was always a great way to start the day...adding fun facts, games, and cartoon characters to the box the cereal came in was just a bonus.  (And DO NOT even get me started on the awesome prizes hidden in cereal boxes in the 1980's!  None of this "redeem-five-proofs-of-purchase-for-a-yo-yo-AFTER-mailing-in-the-proofs-of-purchase-WITH-a-$5.99-shipping-and handling-fee" mumbo jumbo.  No way!  We got Yoda pencil toppers and squirt guns in our Frosted Flakes.  It was rad.)

The other day I was sitting at the kitchen table, having breakfast with my kids.  Sure enough, I found myself reading the back of the box of Apple Jacks.  (Gosh, those are good!  Cam likes to eat them too...when he's not launching them at me or trying to stick them in his ears.)  I discovered something so delightful to my heart, so wonderfully hilarious, that I HAD to share.

I looked at my cereal box:


I looked at my Cam Man:


I looked at my cereal box again.  I looked at Cam again.  Cereal box.  Cam.  Cereal box.  Cam.  Then I laughed out loud--a blaring, honking, uninhibited belly laugh that frightened Lilly and made my sides ache.

MATER!!  Oh my goodness, I have a Mater!  CAM IS MATER!  Isn't that funny?!! 

I laughed and laughed.  I kissed that sweet boy right on the lips and gave him more Apple Jacks.  He just grinned at me with those "Mater teeth."  Best.  Morning.  Ever.

You know, I don't need a prize in my box of Apple Jacks.  Those tasty apple and cinnamon Os are enough for me.  Besides, I already have the best, best, best prize in the whole entire world...


The little man who likes to throw cereal in my hair!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Lost

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!  And four "little monkeys" sitting on a...dinosaur?  That appears to be sinking...in cement?


Or, in other words, a trip to the zoo!  And speaking of the "monkeys" and their recess atop T-Rex...aren't they adorable?  My kiddos and my niece and nephew ceased running around trees and screaming at zoo patrons long enough for a photo op.  Check out Ms. Brynlee B, the Blond Bombshell.  A doll, right?

We lost her at the zoo.

(No, I mean it.  We really lost her.)

The zoo was packed with a "capital p" on Saturday--people and wagons and coolers and strollers EVERYWHERE.  It was the first warm, sunny, "It-Really-Looks-Like-Summer-Is-Coming" kind of day that most Utahans had seen in a while.  When the sun shows it's bright, lemon drop-like face, what happens?  Families go to the zoo.

After a picnic, a carousel ride, and a few chuckles at the baby elephant and the lazy tigers lounging in the shade, we knew it was time to head home.  Somewhere between the primate house and the restrooms, we lost Ms. B.  To say it was terrifying might be an understatement.

We immediately split up, scouring the zoo grounds in search of her.  (Kudos to my brother for remaining calm and to my gorgeous sis-in-law for being brave enough to go into the men's restrooms and shout, "Brynlee!  Brynlee!"  When a child is lost, a good mom searches everywhere...even places with urinals.)

I'm not sure how long Brynlee was MIA at the zoo.  15 minutes?  Perhaps 20?  It felt like forever.  Time stood as still as a tree on a stagnant, windless day.

Eventually, my niece was found by the giraffe enclosure.  She had been found--frightened, alone, and upset--by a nice security guard.  Blessedly, the scary ordeal had a happy ending.  I watched as Brynlee embraced her relieved and thankful parents.  As my brother's big, strong arms encircled her, I saw a calmness overcome her demeanor.  I saw peace in her sweet face.

Later, Tyler, James, Danelle (Ty's lady love), and I were talking about all that had transpired.  I turned to James and said, "What if that had been Lilly?  I would have been a mess.  Maybe we need to talk to Lilly about what to do if she gets lost.  What should we tell her to do?"

After a number of ideas were given--from "start screaming as loud as you can," to "don't move and stay right where you are," Danelle said something so simple, yet so "tug-at-your-heart" profound:

"Tell her, 'You can say a prayer.'" 

Life is like a busy zoo, isn't it?  Hectic.  Chaotic.  Overwhelming.  Crowded.  Exhausting.  Stressful.  It is easy to get lost in our responsibilities and obligations, becoming less focused on "the bigger picture."  It is easy to get lost in trials and adversities, forgetting to have eternal perspective.  It is easy to get lost in misguided priorities and in selfishness, in life's sorrows and disappointments, and sadly, in faithlessness.  It is easy to get lost in the world. 

Like Brynlee finding her way into her daddy's secure arms, we can find our divine Father in prayer.  What a joyous blessing that is!
   
 Life is like a zoo, and sometimes we get lost.
We can say a prayer.
We will find our way to peace again.