Saturday, September 24, 2016

Sunday Dinners

May 2016
By far, my hardest goodbye was to this sweet lady right here. We came to Utah often enough as kids, but with 35 cousins running around I honestly didn't spend a whole lot of time just with Grandma. I did inherit her "early to rise" gene though, so when she and I were the only ones awake every morning at 6 am I would sit on her lap and she'd read me Bernstein Bears books. Then I'd help her make a breakfast spread that Cracker Barrel would covet of as the scent of bacon and waffles slowly drew everyone to the kitchen. When I moved there for college, I loved having the safety net of my grandparents close by, I thought she would fill in for my mom when I needed it. I remember the first time I thought my world was ending, and I drove to Grandma and Grandpa's house with tears streaming down my face. I walked in and told her all about the problem and she just patted me on the shoulder and told me I'd be just fine. Ha! Emotional or sentimental are basically her antonyms, but she is the most generous and giving human on the planet. When people use the phrase "give you the shirt off their back," I always think they must have coined it after her. She's never actually offered me her own shirt but she literally offered me the sheets off her bed one time which is pretty dang close. Sunday dinners with them were a sanctuary for me. Grandma's table puts Mary Poppins purse to shame, expanding to include every single one of all of our roommates without any prior notice. You could always count on mashed potatoes, grape juice, and some gospel advice from Grandpa. I never thought to take pictures there because it was such a beautiful and expected routine. She kept "yearbooks" though for decades so I stole a few for this post. The cast of characters around the table drastically changed over nine years, from old boyfriends, to roommates, cousins, spouses, younger siblings, and my own children as they all came along. One of the sweetest blessings of my life was buying a house less than a mile from my grandparents. Once I had kids, I would take them over to pick raspberries or apples, swing on the swing set, play in the tree house, or nap in cribs while Grandma and I worked on a sewing project. I can't even count the times I wished somehow that I could reach through the wrinkles of time and raise my babies alongside her. She was truly my best friend, she is eighty years old but she just gets it. One of my favorite things about Grandma is that she doesn't ever give advice, even if you beg for it. You have to spend enough time with her to hear the stories and riddles in the way she speaks if you really want to know what she would do. One Sunday dinner I was helping her grate cheese in the kitchen and I didn't reach my hand inside the cheese grater when I was done to clear it out. She looked at it and then at me and said, "You know, a woman can throw more money out the back door with a teaspoon than a man can bring in the front door with a wheelbarrow." I will never ever forget to clean out the cheese grater again! I ache to be back there on Sundays, I could write hours of anecdotes about the things she's taught me but I would rather just buy a plane ticket to be there tomorrow.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

It's gonna be purple!

Every time we mentioned Cosette's birthday to her in the last few weeks, she just kept telling me in her tiny voice brimming with excitement, "It's gonna be purple!" Girlfriend loves the color purple. When she's standing on her stool helping me make dinner every night, she'll raw eat onions off the cutting board just because they are purple. We were pretty excited to celebrate our little charmer.  I brought home a dozen balloons, hung streamers from every corner, and wrapped the gigantic pile of gifts her grandparents sent in pure purple paper. When she woke up the next morning and saw the living room in all it's violet glory, she gasped, "It's a birfday!" Nailed it. The other required ingredient to make all her 2 year old dreams come true was sprinkles so we got to work ASAP on those pancakes.

Cosette has Evan wrapped tight around her finger. We got the kids a swing set for their birthdays this year and he was adamant that it be finished on the morning of her birthday, which was tough since it didn't arrive until the afternoon before. He was out in our backyard with a head lamp and a drill pseudo-swearing under his breath until 1 am. I'm sure our new neighbors were thrilled but by golly he finished it shortly after pancakes and the kids spent the entire day on it.

It was a very sweet and simple day. Family breakfast, opening gifts, hours outside on the swing set, then playing with all her new princess toys with the Disney music playing in the background. She crashed hard at naptime and woke up to a Mac n Cheese dinner and chocolate cupcakes with purple frosting... and of course more sprinkles. She made us sing "You've had a birthday, shout hooray!" at least six times and asked for "More fire" over and over and over. We had a church opening social that night so clearly she figured the party was for her and she got to draw with chalk and play with hula-hoops... but she did keep asking me where all the purple went. We finished off the night watching her birthday video and reading this year's birthday book- two of our favorite traditions.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Road to Indiana

So here we are, in the home of the Hoosiers. Our new neighborhood is neatly tucked in between a couple cornfields, and the giant sky puts on a sunset show every night that might as well be fireworks. There are crosses on every corner and the people next door as well as the salesperson you just met are all praying for you and praising Jesus. There's tornadoes, humidity, and oh so many bugs, but then some of those bugs are fireflies. The Midwest is not a place I ever imagined we'd be, why would I? But in the occasional quiet lulls, I am washed over with a sense of peace. After so many months of unrest, it is the sweetest relief to know, this is our place. This is the place God intended us to be.

Getting turned down from the PhD program at BYU in March was, in a word, devastating. And not because it was our alma mater, no, not because we had put an offer on a dream home down the street from my sister in law so our kids could go to school together, no, not because Evan could've kept working with his spectacular faculty and our dear friends, no, not even because we had been assured by professors within the program that we were a shoe-in. I mean, none of those things softened the blow to be sure but that wasn't the heart of the matter. The thing about it was that we had been terribly prayerful and purposeful on the decision of whether or not to pursue a PhD to begin with, and then very specifically where to pursue it. And the answer had been overwhelmingly clear. Having acted in faith on the answer we had received but then somehow watching that future evaporate with a single email sent us in to a tailspin. How had the answer been so obvious? Had we somehow both misinterpreted it? Maybe we didn't understand God at all? Maybe we didn't even know how to pray? How many other choices had we made, under the impression we were responding to heavenly guidance, when in fact we were completely confused? Decision making, even for the simplest tasks like planning a meal, became a painful reminder of our inability to choose the correct direction to go. I'm being dramatic...but only because it felt dramatic. And I knew, even in that moment that other people were dealing with much bigger, much harder problems, but this mystery of a dead end answer put me in a crisis of faith that left me spiritually gasping for air.

Fast forward two months to May. We flew out to West Lafayette for Evan's masters graduation and out of nowhere, stepping on to the campus of Purdue University strangely felt like entering the eye of our storm. The chaos of confusion still swirled around us but right there in the center, we caught a glimpse of a clearer view. At the graduation reception, Evan's professors encouraged him to apply to their PhD program and he regretfully informed them that in his line of work there was no possibility of transferring, and we simply couldn't leave his job, not with a wife and two children to support... could we? Sitting in the terminal the next day preparing to board the plane back to Salt Lake City, we drafted an email. Admission deadlines had long passed, funds had all been distributed, out of state tuition would be crushing, but what could a Hail Mary hurt?

We went to the temple the week we got home, that same temple we'd gotten our answers in before, and again our answer to a new question was crystal clear. We didn't tell anyone what we were doing, because of what had happened with BYU we just couldn't bear it if we'd misunderstood God again somehow. But we acted in faith and applied. Slowly and all at once, things fell into place. Despite a late application, they wanted Evan in their program immediately, they found a scholarship for him and a job as a teaching and research assistant that would allow us a living stipend. We put our house up on the market, it sold, we bought a house in Indiana over Facetime, we sent our notice to Seminaries and Institutes, and we packed up everything we own, and drove through millions of acres of farm land to grow our crops right here with them.

Elder Holland's video so perfectly teaches the lesson we lived. How grateful we are that God sent us down our "wrong road" so we could take this crazy leap with complete confidence. As far as we're concerned, West Lafayette Indiana may as well be paradise, cicadas and all.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

California Camping

Today my littles insisted on wearing their matching California shirts again, never one without the other. And then this afternoon, Cosette checked out a book at the library entitled "Do Princesses make Happy Campers?" and so I had to pull out my camera and double check- were the Redwoods really the best week of their lives or was that just a dream? The wilder-world and I had a breakthrough this year. She commanded my children to sleep through the night and they silently obliged. In sleeping bags, in a tent, one next to the other clinging to their magical glow sticks and dreaming until the delightful hour of 8 am which has never happened before, nor since. She swept off the stiff fog that almost invariably hides the coast we come to see, and every day really boasted her beauty. I love the visual story telling that ended up locked in my lens. I left that place with a bucket list dream to purchase a pop-up camper and pledge my allegiance to the primitive life. You know... for long weekends and such.

 One year olds playing catch- the struggle has never been so real.

 "This guy's with me and he's nuts!" -Winston

 Cosette's fan club