You need heaven's help

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Morning Session of the October 1993 Conference.
President Hinckley gave a talk in this Conference that was quite a powerful call to action for parents. He tells this story, which I remember well:
Not long after we were married, we built our first home. We had very little money. I did much of the work myself. It would be called “sweat equity” today. The landscaping was entirely my responsibility. The first of many trees that I planted was a thornless honey locust. Envisioning the day when its filtered shade would assist in cooling the house in the summertime, I put it in a place at the corner where the wind from the canyon to the east blew the hardest. I dug a hole, put in the bare root, put soil around it, poured on water, and largely forgot it. It was only a wisp of a tree, perhaps three-quarters of an inch in diameter. It was so supple that I could bend it with ease in any direction. I paid little attention to it as the years passed.

Then one winter day, when the tree was barren of leaves, I chanced to look out the window at it. I noticed that it was leaning to the west, misshapen and out of balance. I could scarcely believe it. I went out and braced myself against it as if to push it upright. But the trunk was now nearly a foot in diameter. My strength was as nothing against it. I took from my toolshed a block and tackle. Attaching one end to the tree and another to a well-set post, I pulled the rope. The pulleys moved a little, and the trunk of the tree trembled slightly. But that was all. It seemed to say, “You can’t straighten me. It’s too late. I’ve grown this way because of your neglect, and I will not bend.”…

When it was first planted, a piece of string would have held it in place against the forces of the wind. I could have and should have supplied that string with ever so little effort. But I did not, and it bent to the forces that came against it.

I have seen a similar thing, many times, in children whose lives I have observed. The parents who brought them into the world seem almost to have abdicated their responsibility. The results have been tragic. A few simple anchors would have given them the strength to withstand the forces that have shaped their lives. Now it appears it is too late.
I've always kind of hated this story, honestly, because it seems so sad, and even as I acknowledge that it must hold true for some parents and children, I'm not sure when it would EVER be helpful to me to think, "I didn't do enough when my children were young, and now it's too late." And I've read other quotes that imply that "too late" only applies when a parent STOPS TRYING to love and reach out to a child. So I don't think President Hinckley meant that anyone should give up and think "too late now!" about influencing their children. But this story certainly does make you feel the weight of teaching children while they're young!

Then, I especially liked this part of his talk:
[Bringing up your children in light and truth] may not be easy. It may be fraught with disappointment and challenge. It will require courage and patience. I remind you of the faith and determination of the thirteen-year-old girl who, holding a paintbrush in her teeth, created the painting I showed you earlier. Love can make the difference—love generously given in childhood and reaching through the awkward years of youth. It will do what money lavished on children will never do.

—And patience, with a bridling of the tongue and self-mastery over anger. The writer of Proverbs declared, “A soft answer turneth away wrath”.

—And encouragement that is quick to compliment and slow to criticize.

These, with prayers, will accomplish wonders. You cannot expect to do it alone. You need heaven’s help in rearing heaven’s child—your child, who is also the child of his or her Heavenly Father.

I've been reminded of this—the fact that my children are not only "mine," but Heavenly Father's—a few times in priesthood blessings, and it always comforts me, since it seems clear that He can pretty easily make up for all the things I lack. And it drives home the point that all that stuff in the story about the tree—how doing small things early on is better than drastic intervention later—is not actually to be done on our own, but with God's help. That definitely makes it all seem more possible!

Because they were humble, they were magnified

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Priesthood Session of the October 1993 Conference.

I liked this from President Faust:
There is a certain arrogance in thinking that any of us may be more spiritually intelligent, more learned, or more righteous than the Councils called to preside over us. Those Councils are more in tune with the Lord than any individual persons they preside over, and the individual members of the Councils are generally guided by those Councils. In this church, where we have lay leadership, it is inevitable that some will be placed in authority over us who have a different background from our own. This does not mean that those with other honorable vocational or professional qualifications are any less entitled to the spirit of their office than any other. Some of the great bishops of my lifetime included a brickmason, a grocer, a farmer, a dairyman, and one who ran an ice cream business. What any may have lacked in formal education was insignificant. They were humble men, and because they were humble, they were taught and magnified by the Holy Spirit. Without exception, they were greatly strengthened as they learned to labor diligently to fulfill their callings, and to minister to the Saints they were called to preside over. So it is with all of the callings in the Church. 
I just keep thinking about all the humble men and women in the ward I grew up in—people who would always tell me what a great talk I gave, praise my attempts at insightful comments, admire my piano playing or my music leading. As a young woman, I suppose I kind of took all of that as only what I deserved (ha!), but now I'm astonished at it! These were men and women who were amazing in their fields—professors, musicians, writers, thinkers—and who had so much more experience that I did in life and in the church. I've been to enough of their funerals, now, that I begin to realize what kind of people they were, in both worldly and spiritual accomplishments. But in that ward, they all just acted as fellow-servants of God, gracious even to awkward teenagers who didn't know anything! It makes me wonder if I have been half as kind, as an adult, to the youth around me! I want to be.

I also love seeing the way that church councils, working together, can accomplish such great things through the Spirit—and the way that individuals in their separate callings are upheld by the Spirit as well. It's comforting to think that no matter where the Lord asks us to serve (and I'm thinking particularly of motherhood, my most challenging assignment of all) he will also strengthen us and make us equal to the task.

That sacred place only a few have the courage to enter

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Afternoon Session of the October 1993 Conference.

When I read this quote by Alexander Solzhenitsyn several years ago it struck me with such force that I've been thinking about it ever since:
If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing
good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
I thought about it again when I read Elder Busche's relentlessly bracing—overwhelming, you might say—attack on self-deception. I feel like you don't run into this type of…brutally forthright treatment very often. But for me, it's very effective. And Elder Busche is right; I have found my prayers are much more meaningful when I'm willing to face Heavenly Father with this kind of honesty:
The issue is truth, my dear brothers and sisters, and the only way to find truth is through uncompromising self-education toward self-honesty to see the original “real me,” the child of God, in its innocence and potential in contrast to the influence from the other part of me, “the flesh,” with its selfish desires and foolishness.…With this enlightened understanding of the deadly battlefront inside of us, we are painfully aware that we can only ask for and receive the help of the Lord, as the God of truth, under the condition of complete and relentless self-honesty.

This war is a war that has to be fought by all of Heavenly Father’s children, whether they know about it or not. But without a keen knowledge of the plan of salvation, and without the influence of the divine Light of Christ to bring us awareness, this war is being fought subconsciously, and therefore its battlefronts are not even known to us, and we have no chance to win.
Elder Busche continues:
Enlightened by the Spirit of truth, we will then be able to pray for the increased ability to endure truth and not to be made angry by it. In the depth of such a prayer, we may finally be led to that lonesome place where we suddenly see ourselves naked in all soberness. Gone are all the little lies of self-defense. We see ourselves in our vanities and false hopes for carnal security. We are shocked to see our many deficiencies, our lack of gratitude for the smallest things. We are now at that sacred place that seemingly only a few have courage to enter, because this is that horrible place of unquenchable pain in fire and burning. This is that place where true repentance is born. This is that place where the conversion and the rebirth of the soul are happening. This is the place where the prophets were before they were called to serve. This is the place where converts find themselves before they can have the desire to be baptized for the remission of their sins. This is the place where sanctifications and re-dedications and renewal of covenants are happening. This is the place where suddenly the atonement of Christ is understood and embraced. This is the place where suddenly, when commitments have solemnly been established, the soul begins to “sing the song of redeeming love” and indestructible faith in Christ is born. This is the place where we suddenly see the heavens open as we feel the full impact of the love of our Heavenly Father, which fills us with indescribable joy. 
I just find that so fascinating—the turn from "unquenchable pain" to "indescribable joy." I have often noticed it in Alma's account of his angelic visitation, the "exquisite" pain and joy he contrasts with each other, but I hadn't made the connection to my own experiences in "pouring out my soul" to Heavenly Father. I can see it now, though! I often think about how substantial it feels when I feel God's approval and love. It goes down into my soul like few other things do, and I think it's because I know Heavenly Father knows ALL of me, the good and the bad. When I receive praise or compliments from others, it's nice, but there's always the lurking knowledge "ah, but that person doesn't REALLY know me, not ALL the things about me." But Heavenly Father does, so when he gives me a "well done" I really hold onto it. I think that's part of the "indescribable joy" of seeking truth about myself from Him.

The other part, of course, is knowing that Jesus Christ "doesn't recoil from the scabs of the sheep;" that He wants us to face our flaws but not be incapacitated by them, because we know HE has paid the price to take them from us. That knowledge, too, brings "indescribable joy."

I suppose that quote at the top has stuck with me because I feel its truth so clearly. I know I can ONLY overcome that feeling Solzhenitsyn talks about, that reluctance to "destroy a piece of my own heart," through trusting the Savior. I have to trust that Jesus Christ will recompense everything I lose in His service, and fill me with something even better to replace the parts of "myself" that have to be removed if I want to become like Him. Like Elder Busche says, it takes a lot of courage to enter that place of self-scrutiny (and of course, you have to enter it repeatedly as you continue to grow!). But it is worth it.

I too say "Trust Jesus"

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Morning Session of the October 1993 Conference.
I said a few weeks ago that I'd been thinking about trust in the Lord, and there are some good thoughts on that from Elder Holland's talk in the October 1993 Conference. This is back from when he was a Seventy (even though I feel like he has always been an apostle)!:

He gets going in inimitable Holland style:
The first and great commandment on earth is for us to love God with all our heart, might, mind, and strength because surely the first and great promise in heaven is that he will always love us that way.
And then I loved this:
So much of what so many think about God (if they think about him at all) must make him weep. In fact, we know it makes him weep. … The Father of us all, is divinely anxious to bless us this very moment. Mercy is his mission, and love is his only labor. John Donne said once: “We ask our daily bread, and God never says, ‘You should have come yesterday.’ … [No, he says,] ‘Today if you will hear [my] voice, today I will hear yours.’ … If thou hast been benighted till now, wintered and frozen, clouded and eclipsed, damp and benumbed, smothered and stupefied till now, God yet comes to thee, not as in the dawning of the day, … but as the sun at [full] noon, to banish all shadows”.…

In a world of some discouragement, sorrow, and overmuch sin, in times when fear and despair seem to prevail, when humanity is feverish with no worldly physicians in sight, I too say, “Trust Jesus.” Let him still the tempest and ride upon the storm. Believe that he can lift mankind from its bed of affliction, in time and in eternity.

Longest Day, and other days

The days have gotten so long! (And are now getting shorter…but let's not think about that.) There's often a hint of daylight in the East at the end of my morning run, and when I get up (again) to take Seb and Ky to cross-country, the sun is up!
We made homemade pizza and root beer on the Longest Day of the Year this year, and sent the little kids outside to eat while the older boys and Sam and I ate inside in (relative) peace and quiet.
I say relative peace and quiet because of this silly guy. It's quite scary when he just picks up a whole piece of pizza and chomps into it.
Our neighbors, bless them, are cleaning out their garage (thus the foosball table they gave us in the last post) and gave our kids a bunch of hula hoops. I have never SEEN such fun with hula hoops! Some of the other neighbors came over and they were all playing with the hula hoops together—rolling them down the hill, having contests, making trains. It was pretty cute.
We hated to put a stop to the hula-hooping, but Daisy and Junie came in on their own and insisted that we keep our tradition of going to the hammock park until it got dark. So off we went with our hammocks.
Gussie quite liked it.
Malachi forbade me from taking any pictures of him in "undignified" positions.
9:21 p.m.
9:35 p.m.
And just about the verrrrry last of the light…9:42 p.m.
Back home in the dark! And bedtime for kids who are, somehow, never as sleepy as they ought to be.
That was our Longest Day party, but there have been other days. Days where Gus won't go anywhere without his "Caw"…
Days with hats and one big glove (and don't miss the scrunchie up by his sleeve)…
Snuggling and work days…
Days where someone tries to make himself into a robot…
And a big brother takes pity on him and makes him into a BETTER robot…
Days of wearing headbands and…chest bands?…
Days of sitting on the porch and yelling "BYE!" at everyone who drives past…
Days of people climbing who shouldn't really be climbing…
Days of tiny, tiny, tiny people running around in circles on top of hills…
And days of eerily-lit sunsets. Lots of good days!

Abe's (and my) trip to Philadelphia

A few years ago my mom decided to take her grandkids on a trip after their senior years of high school. So far there have always been two in the same grade, which makes it fun for cousins to go together. This year, even though Abe has been at BYU all year, it was technically his senior year and his cousin Katy's too. Abe wanted to go to Alaska or Hawaii, but COVID restrictions made both of those impractical, so Katy chose Philadelphia. And Kenneth (my brother) and I got to go along too!

I've never been to Philadelphia, but we had been studying the American Revolution for homeschool this year, so it was fun to see a lot of the sites we'd learned about. (Too bad Abe wasn't studying them with us this time. But we did have a Revolutionary War Unit several years ago, and he hopefully remembered SOME of it!)

I was worried that it was going to be too hot and humid in Philadelphia, and it WAS hot for a couple of the days, but it was mostly pretty bearable. We had some clouds and sprinkling rain off and on, which helped a lot. And Abe and Katy were great travelers—easygoing and uncomplaining. We had a lot of fun being together.

Here are some of the things Abe and I liked best from the trip:
This was a cool room in the Constitution Center—it had life-sized statues of all the signers of the Constitution, standing in a hall the same size as the room they signed it in. The sculptors had done a ton of research to get heights, body shapes, facial features, and even clothing as accurate as possible for each man. It was pretty cool to walk around and see them all standing around like real people. Out of the corner of your eye, you could almost mistake them for real people!
We liked walking around Independence Hall and thinking about how we were walking where all the Founding Fathers walked! Abe and I didn't get to go inside (we left a day earlier than the others) but Kenneth and my mom and Katy said it was great. (Of course, Kenneth also said they ate a fine meal of Roast Rabbit there, so I don't know how much we should trust him…)

We did get to go into Congress Hall, next door, where the Bill of Rights was drafted and George Washington was sworn in for his second term. That was great too.
We went to the Philadelphia Temple grounds and walked around. It is cool to see the temple right in the middle of the city like that, and feel so peaceful within that little space. We learned that the huge apartment building behind the temple (that tall thin tan-colored one in this picture) was built by the Church too, to help revitalize the downtown area when they built the temple.
My cousin had told my mom that, oddly, a Macy's department store in Philadelphia was home to the largest pipe organ in the world. Of all things. So we made a stop to see it, and it was so cool! It is called the Wanamaker Organ (after the guy that had it built there, I guess). They've been restoring it and they have concerts every day…just right amidst the shopping and everything.
We walked upstairs to see the console, which is pretty amazing in itself. Six manuals! Even more than the Conference Center organ, which has five. And sooooo many stops. While we were looking at it we were so lucky to encounter one of the guys who is restoring the organ, and he seemed happy to talk about it to us. He let us come up and look closer at the console, and he even played a few things for us and showed us the range of instruments it can play. He said it is not built for a huge sound, like an organ in a cathedral might be, but more for variety. There are a TON of different sounds this organ can produce, including bells and chimes along with all the flute and woodwind and string stops.

Then, after he showed us some of the organ sounds, he took us back actually into the pipes of the organ itself and showed us how the restoration is proceeding, and how they are converting pneumatic action to digital, etc. It was amazing!! I have been back behind the pipes of the Conference Center organ and it was one of my favorite things ever, so I was super happy to get to see this one too! We felt really lucky that we happened along right at the right time and ran into the right person!
We came back another day to hear one of the organ recitals, and that was also cool, but nothing could beat getting right up close to this beautiful instrument.

On the Sunday we drove out to Valley Forge, maybe 40 minutes away from Philadelphia. All the insides of the buildings were still closed for the pandemic, but we walked around the outsides and looked at the log cabin replicas, etc. Most of the stuff there does not date back to the Revolutionary Era (they have planted it and cultivated it more like a park than a preservation site, to "evoke an emotional response," as the signs said) but some of the old stone buildings are original, like the one in this pictures—General Washington's headquarters at Valley Forge. That was cool to see.
It is a lovely, peaceful place.
I loved this covered bridge.
And Kenneth made a rock skip nine times in this river.

Armed with righteousness, we can do so many things

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Afternoon Session of the April 1993 Conference.
For the sake of variety, I keep trying NOT to choose Elder Maxwell's talks to write about. There are often other good talks too! But…there's just something about the things Elder Maxwell chooses to talk about. They always seem so fresh and relevant! I can't not choose them. So, here are some great quotes from "Behold, the Enemy is Combined."
Granted, occasionally a few defectors or dissidents may try to vex us as they hyperventilate over their particular concerns, but it is the engulfing effects of that deteriorating world on Church members which is the “clear and present danger.” “Evils and designs” really do operate through “conspiring [individuals] in the last days.” The Lord has even announced, “Behold, the enemy is combined.”…
Scary! But it feels true. I've been thinking so much about the alienation and despair of these times we live in. I was reading a comment thread (I know, it was a mistake) where people were discussing their loved ones who had fallen away from religion or the church, and reaffirming the reasons why it was better to choose NOT to leave their faith. Then someone else chimed in saying how hypocritical it was to discuss a loved one's "invalid" reasons for leaving instead of just loving that person and trying to understand. I guess I see that perspective, but for me it's so disturbing and sad when those I love can't seem to SEE and FEEL the joy I see and feel in the gospel. I can't help going over it in my head: what went wrong? How can I avoid it? How can I help my children avoid it? How can I help EVERYONE I love avoid it? To me, Elder Maxwell's quote perfectly encapsulates all that is left when faith (and even "faith community") is abandoned: 
What of neighboring? Long ago, Tocqueville anticipated how individualism, unenriched by family and community, could produce the “lonely crowd,” saying:

“Thus not only does democracy make every man forget his ancestors, but it hides his descendants and separates his contemporaries from him; it throws him back forever upon himself alone and threatens in the end to confine him entirely within the solitude of his own heart.”
I just want so much more for myself and those I love. I want us to be joined forever! And one with the Savior! Elder Maxwell goes on to say:
Even with its flaws, the family is basic, and since no other institution can compensate fully for failure in the family, why then, instead of enhancing the family, the desperate search for substitutes? Why not require family impact studies before proceeding with this program or that remedy, since of all environmental concerns the family should be first? Hundreds of governmental departments and programs protect various interests, but which one protects the family?
Then he gives some comfort (or at least a plan of action!):
Only reform and self-restraint, institutional and individual, can finally rescue society! Only a sufficient number of sin-resistant souls can change the marketplace. As Church members, we should be part of that sin-resistant counterculture. Instead, too many members are sliding down the slope, though perhaps at a slower pace.

In a “wheat and tares” world, how unusually blessed faithful members are to have the precious and constant gift of the Holy Ghost with reminders of what is right and of the covenants we have made. “For behold, … the Holy Ghost … will show unto you all things what ye should do.” Whatever the decibels of decadence, these need not overwhelm the still, small voice! Some of the best sermons we will ever hear will be thus prompted from the pulpit of memory—to an audience of one!
It's encouraging to remember that we do have the Holy Ghost on our side when we seek Him. I can certainly do more to become a "sin-resistant soul" myself, no matter what others choose! And I like  these other things Elder Maxwell says we can do to combat the enemy too: 
With the enemy combined, it is so vital to keep “in the right way.” Orthodoxy in thought and behavior brings safety and felicity as the storms come, including “every wind of doctrine.” Happily, amid such winds the Holy Ghost not only helps us to recognize plain truth but also plain nonsense!

Orthodoxy ensures balance between the gospel’s powerful and correct principles. In the body of gospel doctrine, not only are justice and mercy “fitly joined together [for] effectual working,” but so is everything else! But the gospel’s principles do require synchronization. When pulled apart from each other or isolated, men’s interpretations and implementations of these doctrines may be wild.…

Even during these difficult times, members “armed with righteousness” can do so many things. We can have love at home, even though the love of many waxes cold in the world. We can have inner peace even though peace has been taken from the earth.

Yes, “the enemy is combined,” but when we are combined with the Lord’s “chariots of fire,” then “they that be with us are more than they that be with them”!

Various items

Beautiful May! It's one of my favorite months. It was quite hot and dry as Memorial Day approached, but Sam and I still saw irises by the lake on one of our bike rides. I should say, our only bike ride, since it had been months since we'd been out, and I was so sore the next day that I felt no urgency to go again anytime soon. Sebastian rides miles every day! Often fifteen or twenty miles without even thinking about it. I don't know how he does it! Although, it IS nice how much ground you can cover so quickly on a bike.

Now. Let us peruse the pictures I've taken lately and see if there is anything of interest.
ITEM 1: I found this note in Teddy's pants pocket when I did the laundry a few weeks ago. The great thing is, I think it was a note he wrote to himself—to remind himself "not to plaie with Ziggy today at all becues he was not plaeing the memre gam with me." But then also, quite magnanimously, allowing that he would play with Ziggy again "tommoro." And it makes sense really, to a write a note about it—because otherwise one does tend to forget to hold a grudge as long as one wishes to, and often one ends up accidentally playing with little brothers even when they don't deserve it!
It does eventually all blow over, at any rate, because practically every Sunday morning these two brothers come running in to my room as soon as they're dressed in their Sunday clothes, saying "Take a picture of how handsome we are!" I am glad to oblige.
ITEM 2: There was a total lunar eclipse in May. (This blurry picture is all I've got, sorry. You can kind of see that the moon has a bite out of it? At least you can see it doesn't look full.) It was early in the morning, and I got up to watch some of it before getting anyone else up. The little kids all wanted to be awakened, and even a couple of the big boys grudgingly said, "Okay, fine, wake me up right at totality." But just as things were getting really good—and I'd gotten up a few of the little kids—the moon moved into a bank of clouds, and sadly, it never emerged! For awhile we thought it might…the clouds seemed wispy enough at first…but then they thickened and by the time they dispersed, the moon had disappeared behind the mountains and the sun was coming up. Sad. Luckily, there will be another eclipse next year!
We did get to see the beginnings of a pretty sunrise, though!
ITEM 3: We got Sam a firepit for Father's Day, but we gave it to him early because we…couldn't help ourselves. So we got to roast some Memorial Day hot dogs and marshmallows in the backyard!
Here, Malachi is pleased with his perfectly-roasted marshmallow. It's a good one…perhaps even up to my own standards. Not of roasting, of course—as you know I never roast my own marshmallows—but of eating. Had he offered this one to me, I would have eaten it. Instead, he greedily ate it himself! Hmmph.
I must say, it was nice to have a high chair to put Gus in, so he wasn't constantly wandering around grabbing at people with his marshmallow-y hands. And we could pop him right into the bathtub after he ate. You can't do THAT when having a campfire up in the canyon!
He was slightly perturbed by the stickiness. Not perturbed enough to stop eating it, of course.
People made up all sorts of weird games of basketball while they waited for the fire to die down.
And Ziggy made…whatever this is, a podium perhaps? And gave a loud singing/yelling sort of concert, complete with cymbal-bashing. So…an excellent evening, all in all.
ITEM 4: Another night. Another outdoor meal. This time a picnic at Cove Pond. Since there's only one picture, this probably oughtn't to have been its own item (I was just teaching Malachi how when you're doing an outline you never write an "A" heading without a "B" to follow) but it's too late to change it now!
ITEM 5: The sunsets have been spectacular lately. I only wish these stormy clouds would turn into the rain we so much need, but at least they are pretty!
ITEM 6: Gus and Sebastian snuggling. I don't know who adores who more. Babies do bring out the hidden goodness in teenagers, it seems! 
Oh, and bunnies do too, I guess.
Seb even lets Gus play his drums! Actually Seb's quite good about his drums with everyone. He is giving the two older girls drum lessons…he gives them rhythm exercises, and writes down assignments for them in a little notebook, and makes sure they always wear earplugs. It's so nice and they LOVE it.

ITEM 7: The girls had a summer ballet performance, and of course the costumes were their favorite part. It wasn't a ballet with a story this time…or not much of one. But they danced to some great music like "Appalachian Spring" and their costumes seemed vaguely…shepherdess-like? Or rustic young maidens of some sort? Milkmaids? Nymphs? Anyway, they were all darling.
Ooh! What lovely spiral buns these ballerinas have…if I do say so myself. Do you know how long it takes to do buns in the hair of three little girls with long thick hair? Well…I don't, because I always underestimate it and we end up having to rush frantically out the door…but I can say it's quite awhile. 
I love to watch them dancing!
ITEM 8: Our neighbor gave us a foosball table that he wanted to clear out of his garage, and it has been SO FUN. There have been many, many tournaments, and all the children are getting so good at it that they can easily beat me (not hard) and Sam (harder). Is it good to be good at foosball? Like, is it one of those skills that will come in handy some day, or is it something you ought to be ashamed of because it shows how much time you devoted to something so trivial? Ha ha. Just a little joke. I do love hearing people laughing and groaning and yelping with glee downstairs as they play with each other.
While I was watching the foosball tournament, I noticed Gus playing so sweetly by himself. I don't get to just sit and watch him very often, and I was surprised at all the things he was doing. Like getting the baby doll in and out of the high chair, and kissing her on the head.
And setting himself a little meal of toast…and then eating it!
ITEM 9: Ziggy's latest hats. This flowerpot was an interesting choice. He wore it to our ward potluck in the park and got many admiring comments.
This fish hat is his latest favorite. He wears it to bed, of course. Sometimes he's fine with taking it off and other times it upsets him greatly. Once I had to take it off for some reason or another (a bath, maybe?) and he started SOBBING and yelling, "I'm bad without my hat! I'm bad without my hat!" ??!? Poor little man. Who knows what is going on inside that head of his. 
ITEM 10: Daisy was trying to draw herself and getting frustrated with how hard it was, so Sam showed her the method where you draw a grid on top of a photograph and then just copy each square of the grid one by one onto your drawing paper. It's amazing how much it helps!
ITEM 11: We went to Sebastian's last band concert of the year and it was SO GOOD. It had a movie theme and the conductor wore a different hat (or sometimes whole costume) for each piece. Ziggy was ENTHRALLED. There was a even a dinosaur that appeared on stage for one of the songs, and danced!! 
And of course, running wildly around in the high school commons while waiting for Seb to emerge after the concert is always quite thrilling.

ITEM 12: Which should have been way back with Item 5, now that I think of it. But this was another sunset…even more spectacular because it kept changing and getting even prettier. First we were all outside admiring it, and then we had to send the little boys to bed, but the rest of us couldn't bear to stay inside—the light was too beautiful!
Sam and our nice neighbor were out working on our shared fence…trying to improve the drainage or something. It was very companionable and heartwarming to watch them out there helping each other with wheelbarrows and borrowing each other's tools. It was just what you LIKE to see two neighbor men doing.
Gradually I became aware of an apparition at the little boy's bedroom window.
Two apparitions. You can't really blame them. To go to bed while it's still light…and everyone is having fun without you outside…it is quite a cross to bear. Not to mention the fact that Ziggy and Teddy ADORE Tyson (the aforementioned neighbor). He (Tyson) calls Ziggy "Lord Zig" which delights everyone, but especially Lord Zig himself.
It was a beautiful, beautiful evening! And I think the boys even fell asleep. Three hours later.

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