Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Birthday Girl




My firstborn has reached her final year of teenhood! (*sigh*) Yesterday, October 27, was her 19th birthday. Where do the years go?
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To celebrate, we had our traditional Mexican dinner at El Rancho, where the staff sang to her, took her picture in a sombrero, and gave her a free dish of deep-fried ice cream. Then at home we enjoyed chocolate cake and mint-n-chip ice cream.




Sarah is very into the Twilight book series, and I planned to buy a Twilight poster of Edward and Bella as her gift, but they're all sold out. Eventually she'll get her poster, but for now she chose a DVD, The Game Plan. We'll continue her birthday "celebration" next week by going to see High School Musical 3 at the theater, another of her passions.
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In honor of Sarah's birthday, I thought I'd reminisce a little about her first year of life. She helped me choose some of our favorite old pictures for this blog.
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These pictures were taken on Christmas morning when Sarah was not quite yet 2 months old.
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Sarah Jane was born October 27, 1989 in Mesa, AZ. She was delivered 3 weeks early because her mom had a premonition that something was wrong, and thankfully Dr. Mechelke paid attention to my funny feelings.



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While labor was induced, Sarah's heartrate plummeted and suddenly we were prepping for an emergency c-section (the first of 3 for me). Sarah was born with a temperature of 104.2 and doctors scrambled to figure out why. She had a spinal tap at less than one hour old. It turned out she had E. coli in her blood--they never discovered why--and they weren't sure she'd survive the first night. Maybe it was the morphine they injected into my epidural, but I felt comforted that she would make it. However, she would have been stillborn if we had waited even one day more.


Sarah spent her first 7 days in the hospital with a tiny I.V. of antibiotics in her little foot. She wasn't allowed to eat for 3 days and I couldn't hold her or take her out of the nursery for 4 days, which happened to fall on Halloween!
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I spent 6 days in the hospital myself because my c-section scar got infected. I didn't mind since I didn't want to go home without my baby girl. We lived in a 1-bedroom apartment across the street from Mesa General Hospital, so at least I wasn't too far away when I had to go home one day before Sarah.
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The photo above was taken on May 10, 1990, when Sarah was 6 months old. She was there for my graduation from ASU! The one at right was taken about 2 weeks later.
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To me, finally becoming a mother at the age of 35 was magical, better than Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny put together! That feeling has never gone away. My children make every hardship worthwhile, and it all started with my sweet Sarah.



Everything was so much more fun, the world was so much brighter with Sarah around. This picture was taken the day we left Mesa and moved into our new apartment here in the White Mountains. It was July 29 and Sarah was 9 months old.


This is Halloween 1990. Sarah had turned 1 year old just 4 days earlier. It was exactly one year from the day I was first allowed to hold my new daughter, when we knew she really was going to be all right.
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The picture below is one of my favorites, taken Thanksgiving Day, November 22. My parents had moved to Murray, Utah, and we drove up to spend the holiday with them.
While there, Sarah (almost 13 months old) took her first steps, walking to her Grandpa Butler (my dad), whom she hadn't seen for almost 6 months.
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It was also her last time to see her Great Grandma Haley (my mom's mother), who was 84 years old at the time. Grandma returned to live in California for a few years before passing away. We never saw her again in this life. I'm so grateful that families are forever!
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I loved the sweet moment the two of them shared while waiting for the feast to begin.
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Happy Birthday to my Angel Sarah!
I'm so glad you chose to be a part of my life!
Love, Mom

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Critter Jitters

I must share the tale of the guard-skunk who stood duty at our gate Thursday night.
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Sarah returned from a college class at 8pm and walked to our gate, never expecting her way to be blocked by Pepe LePew. She quickly backpedaled when she nearly walked into him. All she saw was skunk-butt and tail! He gave her a look and raised his tail as she scrambled to get out of the way.
She waited till he wandered away and then hurried in the gate.
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Half an hour later Jacob returned from Mutual. Luckily he saw the skunk, who was back at the gate, before getting out of his Young Men leader's car. They beeped the horn, making the skunk jump nervously, until the little guy finally hid in the culvert under the driveway. Thank goodness the honking didn't make him unload his scent glands on our house! (Unfortunately, it wouldn't be the first time...or second...or third...)
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The picture above is from the Internet, not my camera--I'm not that crazy! Sarah says this is pretty much how the tail looked, bushy and rising upward.
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Much as I love our country life, there can be a few drawbacks!
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Our raccoon friends continue to visit us (and our cats' food) regularly. One night last month, Diego caught the raccoon family unawares. The parents got away, but 3 babies escaped into the porch rafters, where they got stuck. Sarah and I watched them try to figure out how to get down for the longest time, while the parents were in a nearby tree scolding them. We finally gave up and went to bed, and they were gone the next morning.

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I tried to film the baby raccoons' efforts without much success. They were right under the porch light, but my digital camera didn't capture the light too well. I've found that these dark clips show up okay on a nice flatscreen monitor (like the one I have at school) but not so much on the plain old monitors (like the one I have here at home). Anyway, if the clip shows up on your monitor, I hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fall Fun

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Awhile back I did a blog about our pets and mentioned our demented dog's propensity for playing with rocks. Diego can entertain himself forever with a large stone. Perhaps he was dropped on his head as a puppy, I don't know. Anyway, here is video of Diego a week ago having fun with a rock. The boys you'll glimpse are Dylan and his friend Eric.

During Fall Break (a 4-day weekend) Jacob, Dylan, and a friend, Bryce, spent most of one day raking pine needles. Diego tried to help fill garbage bags--at least, he thought he was helping!
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They had piles and piles of needles all over the yard and filled dozens of bags, still waiting to be hauled away. The sad news for my boys is that the deciduous trees' leaves (we have several large oaks on our property) are turning color and will soon fall, meaning another full day of raking!
The weather that weekend was "brisk." When I realized it was 58 degrees in the house I finally had to turn the heater on for the first time (but only up to 64 degrees). It has warmed up again for the past week, but there's definitely an autumn chill in the air.
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I love the crisp air of fall. After 10 years in Mesa (Phoenix area, 1980 to 1990) where the 2 seasons are "freakin' hot" and "volcanic," I really enjoy chilly mornings and cool evenings. It's lovely to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate or hot cider with cinnamon sticks, and then snuggle down under the comforter in a warm bed this time of year. The smell of woodsmoke lingers in the air as our neighbors stoke up wood stoves and fireplaces to heat their homes.

Here you see the piles of pine needle-filled bags stacked in front of our fence. And that's only half of them! You can also see the trees towering over our house. It's what I love most about our property.
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When I was a kid growing up in California, we went camping a lot: Yosemite, Shasta Lake, Bass Lake, Camp Chiwanakee where Uncle Ernie (my dad's older brother) served as Scoutmaster of Fresno County. I loved the mountains, the pines, and the clean air. I always had a secret wish to someday live in a mountain home surrounded by tall pines and blue lakes.
I figured I'd always be a city girl, so I never really expected that dream to come true. I'm still amazed to find myself really living here. My morning drive to work is surrounded by green mountain vistas, and a short walk from our house brings us to a pond filled with bluegills, crawdads, mallards, and geese. With all the bounty of nature, I don't even miss the sidewalks, street lamps, malls, or multiplex theaters!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Little Drummer Boy

Dylan has worked hard to earn enough money to indulge his new passion. He bought a pair of drumsticks last month. Then he dragged me to Majestic Music this Saturday so he could buy the music book and CDs for drums. Next he'll purchase a drum pad to practice on, which should save wear and tear on my furniture and walls!
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This is Dylan at the music store, where they let him try out a drum set. He was in heaven!
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At school today his band teacher, Mr. Day, allowed him to practice on drums. Dylan was so thrilled. Sadly, I'm afraid his flute days are numbered. He plays so well and I love to hear the flute. The drums, not so much . . .
When I spoke to Mr. Day recently, he told me Dylan has a lot of natural musical ability and is progressing "head and shoulders above" the rest of the class. Dylan is anxious to learn ALL the instruments and even mentioned he might like to become a music teacher.
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He did well on violin last year but decided he was more interested in band instruments. He even coaxed Grandma Kathy to get out her old clarinet a few weeks ago!
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Jacob played violin for 3 years and then switched to guitar for a couple of years before he decided his favorite instrument was his iPod! We all had a good laugh when he tried the drums! The two boys above with my boys are Ben and Willy, sons of my friend Tawny, who teaches culinary arts at Show Low High. They spent the day with us while she attended a workshop.
Saturday was also the last day of soccer season--hooray! I love to watch my kids involved in good things like their sports and clubs and scouts and church, but I have to admit I enjoy the extra "me" time when a sports season comes to an end.
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We won this game 4-1. It's been a good season. Dylan's team, White Chaos, only suffered 2 losses and 2 tie games. Most of all, he had a great time and developed his skills while making or strengthening friendships.
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I also have to say how ecstatic I am that our blog family is growing! Recently 2 of my nephews and their wives--Jeremy and Cami and Justin and Alisha--started their own sites. I'm so excited to start following their blogs! (And tons of pictures, please; those babies grow up so fast!)
Now we just have to get my little sis Karla and my sister-in-law Tamera on board! And my nieces Genevieve and Elyssa and their hubbies Scott and Ross. And maybe even Grandpa and Kathy, what a great place to show off the grandkids and photos from your travels! (Hint! Hint!)
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Much love to everyone!

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Week that Was

Two weeks ago we headed into the craziness of Homecoming Week at our high school. Since it left me with no time or energy for blogging, I'm playing catch-up now!
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The best part of the week was starting off with a visit from my Uncle Neil and Aunt Susan, who now live in Utah. Although we keep in touch by email, I hadn't seen them since my mom's funeral 6 years ago, so it was fantastic to have them here!
My dad and Uncle Neil have been best buddies as far back as I can remember. Neil is married to my dad's sister Bonnie, who passed away in 1976. (Dad has 8 older sisters and 2 older brothers--the baby of 11!).
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Neil and Bonnie had 6 children. Here they are with 5 of them on Christmas Day 1968. (Their son Wayne had passed away in his youth.)
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From age 5 to 17 I grew up in Fresno, California, where Neil and Bonnie's family also lived. (Many aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends still live in the Fresno area.)

Neil and my dad were always together in those days, usually fixing up a car or working on home maintenance projects. They still get together whenever they can.
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After Bonnie's death, Neil married Susan and adopted her son from her first marriage. They went on to have 2 more children of their own.
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That's my step-mom Kathy and my dad Myron with Neil and Susan at right.
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I always think of Neil as "the funny uncle." As a child, to me he was just another one of those big people who told us kids what to do. That is, until one day when I sneezed at a family gathering. We kids were playing at one end of the room while the adults chatted clear over at the other end. When I sneezed, Uncle Neil shouted, "Eewww!" and started shaking my imaginary spit off his hand as if my sneeze had sprayed him across the distance. It cracked me up! I've appreciated his sense of humor ever since. It was so fun to see him and Susan again!
The following week was Homecoming week, with activities, assemblies, and dress-up days. At left are Jacob and Dylan, ready for "electric shock day" (this year's theme had something to do with electricity). They definitely looked like they stuck a fork in a light socket!
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Can you guess which band instrument Dylan has recently taken an interest in? He's studying flute, but he also saved up to buy these drumsticks. No flat surface in our home is safe!
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I'll add a picture below of Jacob taken this week with his new haircut. I think the 'do at left helped convince him it was time to mow the long locks!
As a teacher, Homecoming week can be a challenge, but this one went pretty smoothly. It was also my week to do lunch duty in senior commons, which was certainly interesting, but I survived unscathed!
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Friday night was the big homecoming football game against Show Low High School. My nephew Marcus (Jeff and Dana's son) is on the Show Low football team, so I was sort of rooting for both teams--but we won 49-0.
Saturday night was the homecoming dance, followed by a lock-in sponsored by SADD Club (used to be Students Against Drunk Driving, now Students Against Destructive Decisions). Jacob is the president of SADD, so he's been busy for 2 months planning this event. (In this photo the kids are waiting for a band to warm up; Jacob is in the red shirt on the right.)
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It turned out well, with more than 100 students attending from 11pm to 7am. We have about 900 students at our high school. I was there from 10:30 until almost 4am as a chaperone. It's my 3rd lock-in, and I keep promising myself that each one will be the last! But what can you do when your son is in charge?
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The lock-in included $400 worth of food--with a barbecue at midnight and pancake breakfast at 6am--as well as rooms set up with several big screen TVs for watching movies and playing video games. The goal is to keep the kids inside having fun all night, instead of out partying and driving under the influence.
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There were 5 bands, too, but at the risk of sounding like my parents in the 1960's: they all sounded alike to me! It was that "screamo" music that the "emo" kids love, and half the lock-in attendees are usually the emo students. (For those unfamiliar with this demographic, these teens are similar in appearance to the "goth" kids, generally dressing in black with skin-tight pants and black eye makeup, nail polish, and hair--sweet kids, but definitely with their own look and culture!)
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With this 20-second video I tried to capture a quick sense of the music and the kids. It's hard to see, with the low lights and smoke machine and strobe lights. In the flashes of light, though, you might just spy the emo kids "head banging" with the music. Watch the screen just right of center. I find it fascinating to watch, like tribal dancing!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

White Mountain Weather

The leaves on our oaks haven't really turned yet, but the weather has definitely taken on a fall chill these past 2 weeks. One of the many things I love about our mountain home is having 4 distinct seasons. I love each one, and then I find I start itching for the next season just about the time it is due!
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I thought I'd try attaching my first video clip, taken on my digital camera when I woke up this morning to more of the pouring rains and high winds (60 mph) that howled around the house all through the night and all through this morning. We'll see if the clip works. If it doesn't, no great loss--unless you just really love to watch wind and rain! I do love the sound of the windchimes in the background, though. Beautiful, random music to my ears . . .

The yellow straw all over our yard is actually fallen pine needles, dropping as the temperature drops. I've warned my kids to plan on being busy with raking on Monday or Tuesday. If the temp keeps falling and the moisture stays around, we could see the first snow soon. Monsoon season ended a month ago, so this much rain is unusual this time of year.

The rain was flowing sideways right into the rabbit hutch, so Sarah dragged the old cages out of the shed and put our bunnies--Cocoa, Likki, and Rosebud--on the porch, out of the elements.
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Diego, our dog, kept checking on the bunnies. His herding instinct kicks in sometimes and he just wants to mother all of our pets!
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The cats, Gandalf and Gimli, stayed warm and dry in the house all morning, sleeping the storm away. What a tough life!
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For those of you who are watching Callie's progress, Dana has posted more happy news and sweet pictures on her blog, AND she is promising a video, when she figures out how to attach it. I think I got mine to work, so I hope she can, too. I can't wait to see it! Check out her blog by clicking on the Jeff & Dana link at left!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Joy in the Journey

I love General Conference. This is the time when, twice a year, the priesthood and auxiliary leaders of Christ's church touch our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit. I never fail to be uplifted.
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Our prophet, Thomas S. Monson, concluded the Sunday morning session by speaking about change. He stressed that time never stands still, and in this mortal life "opportunities come, then they're gone. Rather than dwelling on the past, we should make the most of today, of the here and now."
"Find joy in the journey, now," he admonished.
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President Monson pointed out that we sometimes plan for an "elusive, nonexistent future" and forget to live today. He asked, "Will we choose to focus on what is missing from our lives, or be grateful for the abundance that's present?" We need to recognize "what is important and what is not," which "goes hand-in-hand with gratitude for our blessings." He reminded us that most of the important things in life involve the people around us: our family, our friends, and the many others who influence our lives for good.
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I admit that when the responsibities of my life overwhelm me, I often play the little mindgame of "It will be easier when..." or "I'll have time (or sleep or energy or money) when..."
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Then I stop and look at my 3 wonderful children and wonder why I'm wishing my life away. As President Monson said, too soon they will grow up and move on. Every moment with them is precious to me. I don't look forward to an empty nest.
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I hope I'm preparing my children to be independent, productive adults who love the Lord. I do look forward to missions, temple marriages, careers, new homes, and especially grandchildren!
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But then comes an evening when all three are away at various activities and I have the house to myself. At first I revel in the peaceful quiet and the rooms that stay clean for more than 5 minutes. I pick up a book or a long-neglected project. Then I begin to notice how I can hear my own footsteps and how every room is empty except the one in which I stand. I remember how hollow a clean house feels without a family around to make the messes.
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I remember to find joy in the journey!
The previous Sunday, a young couple spoke in church of miracles and the Lord's tender mercies. It occurred to me that the gift of family is one of the greatest mercies of all. Miracles often happen through the powerful love of family and friends.
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It's no coincidence that little Callie chose to stay in this mortal sphere while cradled in her mother's lap, waiting for an ambulance as her mother prayed over her in faith.

I love these pictures. The tenderness and concern in the faces of Callie's family mirror the love in their hearts.

Above is Dana, full of hope, with her miracle baby on Sept. 21. At right is Ashley (age 23), the oldest of Callie's seven older sisters, holding her youngest sibling on Sept. 20. Below, Jeff and Dana's firstborn, Justin (age 24) enjoys a moment with his sister on Sept. 23.

What amazing joy we have found in the remarkable journey of our Callie Jayne. She is more than a miracle; she is a pure expression of love, the love of our Heavenly Father for us and the love He inspires in us through family and friends as we pass through life's challenges. As difficult as our trials may be, they are a gift, a tender mercy, designed to refine our souls and bring us back to Heavenly Father's presence. I am grateful for all the blessings sent by a loving Father.