Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Grand Adventure

I read this article this week.
It's about a family that I think I'd really like.  Go ahead, check out the link.  
That lady looks just like somebody I'd love to be friends with.
It's a homeschooling family with 9 children (several adopted from China).  They are traveling the country in an RV for a year with the goal of having a grand adventure and squeezing the most out of every drop of time they have together before their oldest leaves home.  They have some sort of mult-million dollar business and work from home, so money isn't really an object.  She said lots of people said this was their dream, so they said, "Why not?  Let's do it!"  Good for them.  

My first thought was YES!  I'd love to do that!  I'd love to escape the ho-hum life of commitments and obligations and places to be.  I love my big family and my oldest will be leaving soon.  We love to spend time together and I love the idea of hardly any material possessions to worry about and care for.  There are so many parts of the country-- the world-- I wish we could go explore with our kids.  I want them to know what's out there-- that the world is bigger and different than our cozy corner of Utah.  Sign me up for that kind of family road trip!

But then I thought some more.  

I don't disapprove of this family's choice to pick up and leave it all behind for a year, but I thought about why it's not really what I want to do.  
I'd like to make the case for staying put and sticking it out.  Make a case for the "ho-hum" life of consistently showing up and following through with our goals and commitments in our realm.

1.  The Miracle of Showing Up
I am a fervent believer that opportunities and accomplishments come by regular, consistent hard work.  Scratch that.  They come by regular, consistent work.  It isn't usually that hard of work.  As my sister-in-law described it-- "The Miracle of Showing Up".  You just keep at it.  Day in, day out.  Go to the class, do the practicing.  You are shaped and you become what you want to be.  This is true for sports, music, academics, cooking, blogging, the gospel.  You name it.  Just consistently keep at it and miraculously you can become things and do things you once could not do.

If you take off big chunks of time to adventure, it's harder to consistently work at the goals you have.  For our family, (and I understand other families have different goals), but for our family, our kids are expected to regularly practice at their chosen activities.  The deal is, if we pay for you, you practice it.  Bethany with her violin, Elinor with piano, Faith with gymnastics, Cannon with dance.  For our family, a year's interruption to lessons and classes would be problematic in their progression and development.

2.  We Have an Obligation to Those Around Us
When we were baptized members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints we covenanted with our Heavenly Father to keep his commandments and serve him.  We believe that means, in part, serving our fellow men.  For Abe and I, that means accepting callings in our local congregation and actively looking for ways to help those around us.  Take a meal in, help move furniture, visit the sick and afflicted, mourn with those that mourn, comfort those that stand in need of comfort.  Our girls help tend neighborhood children.  I run a book club for neighborhood kids.  Clark helps out with youth service projects to do yard work for those in need.  I have the Cub scouts meet in my home each week.  Clark coaches a youth robotics team.  Abe drives a van load of kids to a choir rehearsal each Monday afternoon.  I lead the children singing at church.  Abe mentors young men at church.  Clark, Bethany, and Elinor lead their youth group classes.

All this service is a blessing to our family because we love those we serve.  We have deep, meaningful relationships with our neighbors and ward members.  We are a part of a village that is invested in us and our children.  Hopefully we bless them as they bless us.  If we take off in an RV for a year, we miss opportunities to deepen the ties through service that bind us to those around us.

Family relationships are TOPS.  They are eternal and everlasting, but the friendships forged through service are beautiful and fulfilling as well.  I love my family very much, but I believe that good, strong, sacrificing friendships serve to strengthen rather that detract from family bonds.

3.  Traditions and Roots
Game nights, carving pumpkins, piano recitals, putting up Christmas lights, Gardner Village, Bacon Wednesday, Temple Square, leprechaun hunts, pizza before trick or treats, town parade, visiting graves on Memorial Day,  New Years Eve party, raking leaf houses in the front yard, teen Halloween parties.  Just a few of the family traditions we look forward to each year.  We have roots here.  There is comfort in knowing what to expect as the year moves along.  Fun activities that can be counted on to be bright spots in the daily grind of life.

4.  Sometimes Life is a Grind.  Endure It
Yep, sometimes life is B-O-R-I-N-G.  Even in the most exciting and fun families, life is a grind sometimes.  A lot of times.  
You go to work, or you work from home.  You study, you do chores, you change diapers, you sweep the floor, you drive the carpool, you wait up for teenagers, you scrub the toilet, you make dinner, you get after kids to do the dishes.  
Remember this great quote?
 Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. Most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old time rail journey–delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride. 

I want my children to have memories of beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed-- happy wonderful times that they can look back on and cherish for the rest of their lives.  And I also want them to be ready for the mundane parts.  I want them to have experienced family commitments and be prepared to stick it out when the going gets tough.  When they feel stretched thin as adults and the weight of family responsibilities press upon them, I want them to have a memory of parents who stuck it out day in and day out and tried unfailingly to provide a safe, stable environment.  I want them to feel comforted by memories and examples of service and friendships, of hard work and showing up everyday.  We won't be escaping in an RV for a year and for good or bad, we'll have to see the world through books.  Our grand adventure will, for the most part, be taking place in our own backyard and our own neighborhood.  
And while I'm sure we will miss opportunities that this good family in the article will have, (I'd still like to be her friend), I don't think it's the way for our family to get the most out of our time together.   Rather than fantasizing about dropping it all and taking off across the country, I think our family will be most benefited by hunkering down and showing up.

Thank you (I sound like one of my teenagers giving a speech)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Walk in October

Last night our youth did a talent show for for their weeknight activity.  Families were invited to watch and all the talents were delightful.  I got quite a kick out of this moment when the Bishop and his wife started the cell phone flash lights while Clark and Bethany played "Bohemian Rhapsody". 
Shout out to my helpful Elinor standing up in the back with baby Greta.
Elinor and her duet partner Corrine played a lovely duet together that they'll be judged on at an upcoming Concerto and Duet Festival.

Our three youth also decided to perform the Cannon Family favorite car ride song-- "The Rice Krispie" song.
Allow me to share a struggle I've been having lately.  For several years I've walked several mornings a week with my good friend, Michelle.  She had a recent health scare-- and although it looks like she'll be fine, she's been out of walking commission for the last few weeks.  I am missing her terribly-- for lots of reasons.  One of which being, without a firm commitment to meet at a certain time in the morning, I cannot drag my lazy self out of bed before about 8:30.
Yes, yes, I know I am a nursing mom of a young baby, but seriously, I need exercise.  
My reasons for needing to exercise are not just to try to shrink this voluptuous figure, although that clearly should be a motivating factor. 
They are not even mostly for physical health, although that's an added benefit. 
DUDE!  It is for mental health reasons that I must move this body.  It's for clarity of mind.  It's for calm and patience.  It's so that I like my life.  When I walk alone I "pray walk".  That is just what it sounds like-- I pray while I walk.  It's an extremely effective way for me to communicate with my Heavenly Father.  I even close my eyes-- not for extended amounts of time, but you get the idea.  When I am in my house, there is no closet door thick enough to give me the same solitude and ability to focus as pray walking.  Pray driving can be good too, but you must not close your eyes while pray driving.  And it's not as effective as pray walking, as it lacks the deep breathing and fresh air.

I don't even have to do very much exercise.  Just a good brisk morning walk for 30 minutes will do the trick.  After a couple of weeks of meaning to get out in the morning, yesterday I had a plan.  I would put on my exercise clothes after my shower (it was just going to be a walk in cool weather, so sweat wouldn't be an issue).  I vowed I would not allow myself to put on my regular clothes until I had taken my neighborhood walkabout. 
FAIL.  I'm not one to wear my workout clothes to church functions, so I broke down and got dressed for the talent show.  No walk.

This morning, I finally did it.  I packed up the who kit and kaboodle-- Greta, Peter, coats, hats, gloves, blankets, double stroller.  The preparation alone was exhausting, but I DID IT!  And it was marvelous.  And I breathed deeply.  And I prayed blessings for the ones I love.  And I asked for guidance to be a better wife and mother.  And I expressed gratitude for a beautiful October world.  And I'm a whole lot happier with life today. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Piano

Sunday evening Abe, Bethany, Elinor, Greta, and I attended a piano concert in the beautiful penthouse apartment of our dear friend Andrea.  It overlooks Temple Square and is exquisite.   Occasionally she hosts a concert in her home-- last month it was a harpist graduating from BYU in harp performance that just took your breath away it was so good. 
 This past Sunday evening was Josh Wright.  What kind of piano teacher am I that I'd never heard of him?
You must simply go check him out at

Andrea owns a very fine instrument.  It's a baby grand-- the kind I can only dream about owning someday.  But seriously, where would I even put it? 
 I digress.
She owns a beautiful instrument that is well-crafted, well-tuned and deserving to be well-played. 

I, too, own a piano.  It's nothing too fancy, but it's a good brand, holds it's tune and is played A LOT!  Between my own children practicing and daily piano lessons I teach, it does not want for attention.

There are thousands and thousands, probably many millions of pianos in the world.  Some are impressively shiny and sparkling new.   Others are many, many decades, if not centuries old, possessing the charm of generations of love and attention. 

Josh Wright began lessons when he was five years old.  Can you even imagine the hours he has put in?  Did he ever argue with his mom about practicing?  Maybe.  Probably.  He has dedicated his whole life to mastering this art.  I can only imagine what other activities he sacrificed to attain such a level of seeming perfection.  He was unbelievable!
Frankly, I did not even know a piano could do what he did to it!  I was practically in a trance listening to him perform.
I suppose I haven't been to many piano concerts beyond my own children's and student's piano recitals, where there are moments of relative accomplishment and brilliance, but nothing even near to what Josh Wright did.

This got me thinking.  All modern day acoustic pianos are constructed basically the same way.  They have the same number of keys, strings, little hammers, usually three foot pedals.  Josh Wright could sit down to just about any functional piano and make it do what he made Andrea's piano do.  

Assume for a moment that Andrea's piano had a mind and could think.  Sunday night it had to be thinking, "HOLY SMOKES!  I had no idea I had that in me.  I didn't know I could be so spectacular!  Is that what I'm meant to be doing?  Here I've been content with a few scales and Christmas carols now and then!  I am a concert piano!  I am invaluable!  Did you just hear that?"

If Josh played my piano at my house, my piano might think, "I thought I had it good with all those kids playing me for hours and hours every day.  THIS!  This is what I'm actually designed to do?  I am meant for greatness!  That felt great!  I did not know that was possible."

Each of us is like a piano.  Some are new, some are old.  Some are more in tune than others.  But we're all constructed pretty much the same way.  Some of us look so beautiful and are accustomed to regular praise for our appearance.  Some constantly work hard to try to sound really good. We think our hard work will be enough to reach our full potential.   Others are content to coast along without too much effort.  We all get used to what we can do and think that that must be what we were designed to do.   
The great piano maker knows each of our worth.  He knows what he designed us to be able to do.  What we think is our very best is nowhere near what he knows it can be.  In our current earthly surroundings, we might occasionally catch glimpses of who and what we really are.  But I suggest that at this time, my piano is content with novice piano students banging away for hours a day, and Andrea's gorgeous baby grand is content to stunningly overlook the Downtown area.   Both pianos are almost clueless about what they are actually designed to be and do.  Our great "Piano Maker" can and will show us what we actually are.  Beautiful instruments, capable of sounds almost unimaginable to our current, simple minds.   Left to our own devices, we can sound pretty good.  We can draw a bit of applause from the world now and then.  But that is nothing compared to the brilliance that we are actually meant for.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

October and Gardner Village

Kid's Book Club this month discussed The Witch of Blackbird Pond.  It is seriously one of my absolute favorite read-alouds with my kiddos.  Sometimes in our homeschool we get so busy making sure everyone is getting their school work done, that our family read aloud time gets short changed.  One great thing about doing the book club is we always make sure to read at least one good book together each month.  The kids are reading stuff on their own, but read aloud together is my top favorite thing about homeschooling.  Next month is The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  The kids are already begging for more (which is my goal!)
We do have a little discussion each time.  It's nothing too deep, but I like to hear what they thought about the book and why they did or didn't like the story and characters.
I know I shouldn't take pictures during church, but I wanted to document this tradition of Abe drawing pictures with whichever squirrely two year-old we have at the time.  For now, it's Peter.
Faith had her final cross country meet this past Saturday.  She loved the whole season-- she just loves to move her body in general.  I hope she'll do cross country again next fall, but for now, I am beyond thrilled that cross country and soccer (for George) are done.  During the whole summer and the first half of fall, Abe has been working farmer's markets on Tuesday and Thursday evenings-- in addition to Friday nights and most Saturday evenings.  They are also done now, so I'm feeling a great relief to have him around a little more often.
Abe is good for me.
A little sneak preview of what's coming for the Fox family for Halloween.  Bethany is our make-up artist, but we've promised not to tell anyone yet.
Okay, you've dragged it out of me... we're going to be foxes!
It seemed the natural choice.
And we could buy costumes in bulk!
My sweet Faith with her most wonderful best friend Emma.  This was Emma's last week in Primary as she is moving on to Young Womens.   I know Faith will miss her terribly, but at least they'll still be together a lot with book club and the robotics team.
Peter enjoying his favorite meal as of late-- grapes and peanut butter.  Frankly, that's as well-balanced a meal as anyone in this house is enjoying these days.
Yesterday was a bad, bad, bad homeschool day.
There was anger.
There were tears.
There were threats.
There was despair.
Thanks to Abe, The Tradition Czar, we packed up the traumatized family and headed to Gardner Village for our annual witch hunt.  After my earlier outbursts, I felt remarkably calm and I quite enjoyed myself.  I especially enjoyed getting this little sweetie bundled up in her sweater ensemble.
My spider phobia seems to be increasing, so I'm proud of myself for sitting this close to an obviously fake, oversized spider.  Yet it was disturbing, nonetheless.
If you've followed my blog over the years, you may recognize Clark's girlfriend.  We try to find her and give them a moment each year.
I'm thinking Cannon may try to make a move on her while Clark is gone on his mission.
We met up with Barbara, Allison, and Caroline there to get a flash drive with our latest family pictures on it.  New pictures coming soon!
We stopped for ice cream on the way home and Clark and I shared our traditional pumpkin pie shake from Arctic Circle.  I think we've done this every year since he was about 12.
.....thing I will miss when he's gone.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Joy of Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Greta is almost 3 months old and beginning to settle into a little more of a schedule.  A little.
I'm not very good at getting a baby onto a schedule-- you'd think I'd have learned to do that by now.
This isn't the most exciting thing that happened to me this week, but it was the most pleasant.
Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  And I mean A LOT of them.  I made three batches this week-- the first was a double batch.  The second was a triple batch.  And I kid you not, yesterday I made a quadruple batch.
We shared a little (and I do mean a little).  But mostly we consumed them all.  It was self-medication.  We've had a run of bad news lately from people we love and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies brought a few moments relief.  And there is vegetable in them.  Still, this pattern cannot continue.
I loathe spiders.  LOATHE.
But even I must admit these ping-pong ball spiders Bethany and Faith made are pretty cute.  However, I still feel uncomfortable when I see them around the house.
Little Greta all bundled up and read for our morning walk on Saturday.
I loved this image of Faith reading her morning paper and drinking her hot chocolate.
I hope that all of my children are happily married someday.  But I do live in fear of something.
I fear that my future sons- and daughter-in-laws will be upset with me for not having done a better job of teaching my children to keep their rooms tidy (or whatever else I'm failing at).
Exhibit A:  Faith's bed
She calls this horrific pile of clothing on her bed "The Pile of Peace".
I think the name come from keeping the peace by throwing all her clothing on her bed, rather than the floor of her and Bethany's shared room.  This keeps he peace with Bethany.
I'm apologizing in advance to my children's future spouses.  I do try, but maybe not hard enough.
For someone with as many eating and food issues at Peter has, he was quite the fan of the these super spicy tortilla chips and salsa.  Go figure.
Here is Peter with he favorite person in the world-- Meghan-- his speech therapist.  She comes to our house a couple times a month and Peter anxiously awaits her arrival by running to the window to look for her.
George loves to climb trees.  He loves to ride his bike.  He loves to play soccer.  He loves to move his body.
 The boys came with me to cheer Faith on at her cross country meet last week.  Clark has a pretty busy schedule, so I really appreciated him coming with me and helping with the little kids.  Plus, he doesn't have that much time left at home, so I enjoyed the time with him.
I love how little kids eat apples.  It's the same idea with corn on the cob.

It's been a rough month with bad news about loved ones-- more on that on another post.  I had a hard time regulating my emotions this past week (hence the pumpkin chocolate chip cookies).  Life has so many wonderful good part.  And then there are the downright awful parts-- I guess it's that "opposition in all things" thing.  Even so, my heart feels heavy.

In really good news, Bethany worked her little tail off early in the morning and late at night and did very well in her seating auditions for her orchestra.  She got 11th chair out of 19 violins.  She was thrilled and we were so happy to see all her hard work pay off for her.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Welcome October

Doesn't that look like fun? 
This was taken this evening at a family dinner with a couple of my siblings and my parents.  We spent the weekend being richly fed with General Conference.  Is there anything more glorious than Conference weekend in October?  I think not.
You know what wasn't much fun?  A basement flood the morning after we arrived home.  Our neighbor's secondary water control valve thing-a-ma-jig got messed up and flowed freely to fill our basement window wells and spill in through Clark's basement window. 
Honestly, it was a pain, but no real harm done.  Frankly, we don't own much (if anything) of value downstairs.  We dried things out with a couple of fans and the neighbors arranged to shampoo our rugs and carpet remnants. 
And in good news... it did force Clark to clean out his room.  I'd been after him for a while to do that, albeit unsuccessfuly.  If it takes a flood, then I'll take it!
Elinor, Cannon, and Faith were super helpers in bailing out the window wells.  So much for getting back into school our first day back.  Oh well, life happens.
Friday evening we went to a mission reunion for Abe's England, London mission.  His mission president and his wife-- President and Sister Steele are such kind, loving people.  As Clark approaches mission age, I am praying he will have a mission president whom he loves and respects as much as Abe does the Steeles.
Even I, who wasn't in the mission and didn't even serve a mission, was moved to tears by their loving words.
Our FIRST Lego League team was back at it this week and our mentors took a wack at the team building activity.
My chuckle moment of the week is when I came home from running and errand and George came out to ask me if his face looked like this dinosaur... because the kids said it did.  
Homeschool bullying.
For Young Women's this week Bethany's class had a chalk fight.   I LOATHE chalk dust, so I don't know that I can think of a more disturbing way to spend an evening.  Well, I probably could think of something worse, but chalk dust all over my body makes me cringe with disgust.
  Oh, the HORROR!
Greta is a good break from school work and Elinor is wonderful helper with Greta.
Faith had her first of three cross country meets this past Thursday.  Without boring you with the details, she caught a ride with neighbors to get their in time.  I thought I could make it in time for her race, but I didn't.  
Sadly, I drove 40 minutes in traffic to arrive just after she finished.  At least she knows we tried.  And we tried really hard.
Fortunately, the Johansens were there cheering her one.  Kara, whom Faith adores is one of the coaches.  Faith has really enjoyed it thus far.  I'll have to plan things better next time so I can see her race.

Spokane Family Time

Why not start out with a picture of Greta?  She's awesome.
This is not a current drawing-- rather it was found in a box we were recently going through.  This drawing was done by Abe during a Sacrament meeting when I was pregnant with Peter-- so probably early 2014.   For years Abe has drawn family pictures during church when little kids get squirmy.  I wish I'd kept them all.  He always draws our little angel Tessa.  Family is where it's at!
And speaking of family, this amazing picture was taken on the grounds of the Spokane Temple immediately following the luncheon that followed the funeral.  I love it and can hardly believe we get to associate with these beautiful people forever.
Later that same evening, we went with a few of Abe's siblings to the exact spot on the golf course where his dad passed away.  I found this to be extremely comforting and sweet and peaceful.  It was beautiful and it made me happy to know he was doing something he enjoyed so much when he quickly passed away.
These teenage beauties love to be together.
The final gathering was a siblings and spouses night out to dinner.  Mostly the siblings just told great stories all evening about their dad.  Somewhat irreverent, but very entertaining.
Our kids had such fun with cousins and Jesse and Amy are too kind as hosts.  We are a big family and I know it's not easy to host for several days.  I'm sure their house felt very spacious and quiet after we left.
Here are a few more shots of family at the viewing.  Remind me to talk to my children about a viewing not being the time for funny pictures.  From left to right we have Cannon, John, Samuel, William, James, and Calvin.
Katie, Emmalyn, Priscilla, and McKenna.
Annie, Abby, Elinor, and Gentri
After church on Sunday, but before the viewing we had a family lunch at a local park.
Uncle William and Aunt Marilyn are on Abe's mom's side, but they came up from Vernal for the funeral.  They are wonderful and Uncle William was quite a natural "Grandpa" for Greta.
Roughly 8 years ago there were 8 Fox grand babies born in about 13 months.  This past weekend we recreated this fantastic picture. 
 All those cute babies growing up fast!  Hopefully, we moms aren't too much worse for the wear!
The siblings with their beloved mom. The weekend was sad and happy at the same time.  It was very emotionally draining and yet satisfying.  We came home exhausted, but ready to try harder and live better.  It is surreal that he is no longer living here on earth, but we still feel him close.