Thursday, March 2, 2017

Dr Seuss's and Someone Else's Birthday!

Today is another special day for special people. Dr. Seuss being one. Dave being another!

 Happy Birthday, Dave!

 

I have now celebrated...7 of your birthdays. The first one, back when we were young and rested, was an awkward affair - that stage before you're "official" and "have money" haha! I was falling for you hard but you hadn't asked me to be your girlfriend and so after much deliberation, I got you a store-bought over-sized cupcake and a...Spider Man cup? I'm not sure what that was about - did we watch Spider Man together, or something? All I remember is that it took me a long time to select that cup. And then that night you asked me to be your girlfriend, and we had our first kiss! I'm so glad we're "official" now. I can be as swoony as I want and no one can call me an idiot! So:


I love you so much! There is nothing worthy I can think of that you don't deserve and I am excited to help you build your dreams over a lifetime, as you have helped me build mine! You make the world a shinier, more hopeful place, and we are all so very lucky to have you. Thank you, you tall, dark ginger, and handsome man you. So glad you're mine.


Well, this birthday I'll be working - we'll make it up this weekend- but at least your birthday present will be better than that first one! And you can kiss me any time you want ;)  (I can say with 99% certainty that you haven't seen "Sweet Home Alabama," but that last phrase was from the movie. It applies.)

I look forward to a balcony serenade very soon.

xoxo
Yours.



Thursday, February 23, 2017

Lots of love on Mom and Dad's Birthday

Something cool about my parents: they share a birthday. February 23rd is a holiday in our family. On this day, 64 years ago, my Dad came earth-side. Exactly one year later, Mom followed suit. As I spoke with Dad on the phone earlier today, there are things that are difficult to put into words, but I'm sure we were both thinking about the many birthday's he and Mom have shared, and missing her on this one. In my mind, the two celebrations are one and the same - today will always be "Mom and Dad's Birthday." We probably celebrate birthdays in Heaven... fun fact, but I always think of July 4th as "the day I left to serve a mission." And in the sense that our mortal lives are a mission, but longer and more dramatically capped, by birth and death instead of a plane ride, I draw parallels between the mission and mortal life. I mean, my time in England as "Sis. McClure" was kind of a different world - there was this separation from my family, there was this focused purpose, direction, goals...in a way it's a microcosm for mortal life. So I like to think.
Anyway. I think of Mom celebrating the day she arrived on earth to begin her mortal mission. Now, will she celebrate her homecoming day? I have no idea. I don't know the exact day I returned home from the mission. Sometime in February. Why do I not know that?? Was it because I was returning to the known, versus embarking into the unknown? Musing aside, I know Mom missed her parents terribly and reuniting with them was a great moment for her.
Back to birthdays: I wonder what kind of party Mom had to celebrate this day. A quilting party? :) Was there violin playing? Was there watermelon? Mom has always loved watermelon, even when she was little. In fact, Grandma used to buy extra in the summer just to ball it and freeze it to have when her birthday came in February. They didn't have year-around everything produce like we do nowadays. I heard that story for the first time last summer, when we were making her watermelon smoothies a lot because they helped her cough, and I thought that was such a tender, telling detail that story was. Isn't a mother's love an amazing thing??
Let's give Grandpa credit too, for being a great Dad! Another story I heard  last summer: Grandma had a difficult recovery after she had Mom, so her mother came to help out. But Grandpa insisted that he be the one to change the diapers, give the baths, and be the baby's main caretaker. That was not a thing men insisted on in those days, but he certainly did. Our Grandpa was a sweet, good man. I miss him.

Dad was his mother's first child, as Mom was the first in her family, and the apple of his mother's eye. We had a long discussion once about the trouble he got into when he was a kid. We had to ask, because we got to comparing notes and none of us could recall any bad stories about Dad as a kid. The picture Grandma paints of Dad is pretty much perfect. He is pretty much perfect now, so it's easy for us to believe he was an angel child. BUT.  He did punch his sister in the stomach one time. It went something like: he was wearing something of hers and wouldn't give it back so she went and put on something of his and therefore he punched her in the stomach. Let the record show: the man is flawed. :)
 I'm sorry I don't have any pictures of you in diapers to post, Dad. I thought about sticking one up of Danny and passing it off as you though. Thought about it. I'll just use a couple of my favorites.



We love and wish you both a happy birthday! I didn't get it together to do our annual birthday music video this year, sorry! I know you will miss all that musical talent and what not! But Joe and Riley are sending you a very special bit of stamped and colored artwork (your guess is good as mine... Maybe Mickey Mouse? We have Mickey stamps, so that's probably what they were talking about).  Be so excited! ;)

Love,
Heidi

Monday, February 13, 2017

Valentines Day 2017

I've always loved Valentine's Day. Regardless of my relationship status. Mom always made it special. Every year we "helped" her decorate heart-shaped shortbread cookies, a recipe that Aunt Lesa made for her and Dad when they were first married, and became a cherished Valentine tradition in our family. We also usually got the little Russel Stover chocolate boxes. And when we turned into angsty teenagers entered in the rat race of "Who can get someone to send them flowers at school," (which, by the way: why the heck was that even allowed?? I'm sure central office found it as annoying as the rest of us.) I always thought it was kind of dumb, but just in case I cared, Mom sent me flowers at school. "From the person who loves you the most," Mrs. Profit, the secretary, told me. "Mommy!" I said, and we laughed. Mrs. Profit was cool. Mom was cool. Part of me thought, "Oh, that's cheesy." But...I am writing about it 15 years later, give or take. It left a glow on my heart.

And every year since I left home I've received lovely, "cheesy" Valentines Day packages from Mom in the mail. Candy, hearts, books or movies. Who doesn't love packages of...love?? This year, Dad took up the torch and sent us a Valentines package for Mom to be proud of. The kids got their own boxes of chocolate. Even Henry :) Stuffed animals, cards, stickers - it was such a joyful package! And of course the package is only part of the magic - I was so touched by Dad's thoughtfulness. I know he is missing his sweetheart beyond words, but somehow he still thinks of others. Tomorrow will be our first Valentines Day without her. Typing that kind of hurts. It also happens to be the six-month anniversary of the day she died. Typing that really hurts. I wish I could be with Dad tomorrow. Mom and Dad are hopeless romantics and, kind, hard-working, friendly people that they are, they are the stars of a truly epic romance. I can think of no love story with more devotion and loyalty than what they had for each other.

It is very humbling to be the child of my parents.

I really didn't mean for this post to go this way but I'm going to go ahead and share one more thing that's kind of wonderful/awful; an excerpt of a book called "Sunset", written by S. Michael Wilcox after the death of his wife:
"There is healing in the flow and ripple of words. Both grief and love must be expressed somehow, someway - grief that it may lessen or at least become endurable, and love because to speak it, to share it, to open the heart, intensifies it and increases it, lets it grow out in the open air and lights. Unexpressed love dies, suffocating in the confining, restricted space of the self. One thing I believe above all else: Laurie's early death has taught me a great deal about loving and being loved. All of love's expressions - affection and romance, the spiritual and the physical, the emotional and the familial, its quiet acceptance and its passionate yearning for otherness, learning and sharing, forgiving and sacrificing, woman and wife, intimate lover and devoted friend, the the needed and searched for help - meet for all dimensions of a joined life. Did she realize how much she took with her in her passing? Do I yet realize it? Do we feel how much life was filled until the emptiness left teaches us its volume? Yet the loving remains and grows and is itself a kind of filling. Death breaks the heart, but in living, most of the deepest sorrow seeps out through the cracks until love can seal them and replenish the hollowed-out spaces. But the heart remains touch-tender-and oh, the little things the magnet of our longing is drawn toward.
"Someone asked me, "What do you miss the most?
"Holding hands while walking; feeling her fingers on my arm; her insistence that I always stand one step down to compensate for our difference in height; calling her 'little one'; her voice singing Mary's Lullaby; sensing her smile on my face when I'm not looking; seeing love in her eyes," I answered, and then turned away as a hundred other tiny "everythings" flooded back."
 If I could I'd just type out the whole book. I am so grateful that the author felt driven to share his experience and insights. We don't talk about death much in our culture, but when it visits our loved one, well it helps to relate to others who have been down the same path. And all of us sooner or later will be on that path.

Happy Valentines Day, right?

I will always love Valentines Day. I love celebrating the love between souls, romantic and otherwise. Love is the warmth in the cold, the light in the dark, the answer to your your most important questions! "Love lifts us up where we belong! All you need is love!" (Moulin Rouge. Thank you Ewan McGregor)

So. I made the shortbread cookies with my little ones tonight! They are divine. You should make them.

Shortbread Cookies:

3/4 cup softened butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups flour

Cream butter and sugar together, work in flour, press it together in a roll-able ball (if its too crumbly add a little more butter - I think I added 2 Tbs tonight to our dough). Roll out 1/3-1/2 inch thick, cut out hearts, place on cookie sheet 1/4-1/2 inch apart (they barely rise at all) and bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes or till they are slightly golden on bottom. Immediately remove from pan and glaze! (powdered sugar, milk, pink food coloring). If you like sprinkles, hit em with sprinkles immediately after glazed as they dry fast.


 The Munions like sprinkles. I had to rein em in to keep a few smooth-topped. You know, for contrast sake.

 I'm so grateful for the little people in my life. I love you so much, I totally get why Mom went to the lengths she did every Valentines Day for us - she wanted us to know how we were cherished and how important our happiness was. Well, I feel the same. Riley, Joe, Henry - you are treasured. And Dave - looking at you now - you are adored. I'm so glad I found you, you bring so much to the table, meaning and joy to life. Dad, you have always been and will always be a safe place, reassurance in the storms and such an example of hope and courage and work. I think I'm going to have to start a family email chain to tell the rest of you'uns how I feel - grateful for all these siblings, and extended family and others, it's just a bit much for a blog. But I hope you feel loved today and every day.

I love you.

Happy Valentines Day!
“And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” 1 John 4:16

Monday, January 23, 2017

Virginia, Numero Dos: Hiking the Cascade



Now that we live in MN, we make it a point to order unseasonably warm weather when we visit VA ;). So we were able to go for a hike a couple days after Christmas to the Cascades, located in the Jefferson National Forest in Giles. Even this time of year, the moss, laurels, and ferns make a bold stand, providing enough green that you don't feel like it's winter yet after all.

Photo creds to Dave and Dad and myself. It was a very pretty trail.













So you can see the sun was setting as we approached the falls. I'm so proud of our little hikers - they are enthusiastic and energetic. Of course, after the 2 (3? No I think it was 2. Felt like 3 though.) mile hike up, they were getting a little tired and trying to hurry back in the waning light was...a tad difficult. We sang a lot of peppy Christmas songs to up the pace. And the Noble Duke of York. We actually made really good time and got back to the trail head about 6:30 - well after dark, but in one piece (no bear attacks!).

Tim had dinner waiting for us at Lora's house, which was so warm and inviting. They really blessed our lives that night. Haha it might sound a little...overstated. But add up the relief at getting everyone home safely, having worked up a healthy appetite, and getting out of the cold, dark December night...well, it made for an especially pleasant dinner with the family. How I miss those informal gatherings with family! I am so, so, so glad we got to do that.



Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Virginia Christmas

The journey:

We left about 8 pm Wednesday night and drove through the night (and by we I mean Dave). The kids did great. Note to self: next over-night road trip, make some kind of stretchy, padded forehead cradles to attach to car seat. Their floppy little heads and occasional moans in their sleep made me sad. But they woke up perky the next morning, so I guess they were alright.
Anyway, we stopped only for gas and baby feeding. Pop Tarts for breakfast (much rejoicing) and we met Dad for lunch in Bluefield, VA, about 1:30 on Friday. We looked haggard I'm sure ,and Riley's hair was rat's nest from car-seat friction, but it was  a joyful reunion, nonetheless.

When we got home we showered and then celebrated Ander's birthday! Party! Party all weekend! Romp and Roll! Caroling at the nursing home! Cousins arrive and the house is filled with joyful children at play and Star War's noises!
Birthday cake (Artfully decorated by Riley and Joe, made my Tim)
Snowball fight. The kiddies are on the run!

Cheese-steaks at Sals (And a tired Ms. Ari cradles Lora's hand to the side of her face, because Lora is her comfort object and it was the cutest)

Christmas Violin recital at Heritage Halls (many thanks to Ander for making one of Mom's Christmas traditions happen.) I don't have pictures of the violinist :( but took a few on a rounds after. The nursing home residents are always enthusiastic about welcoming the little ones and laughing at their antics, lending ear to their tales. Joe was using his exceptionally long Santa hat to stow peppermints in he collected from Santa and his admirers. He was brazenly "passing the hat" till a stern rebuff from me, but his hand kept slipping up to shove more in there.I acted like I didn't notice.
Christmas Eve we welcomed Grandma and Aunt Mel, and Danny and Jenni's family.  Riley campaigned, and won, an early bedtime for the first time in her life. She really wanted to give Santa ample time. Surprisingly, I was the first one awake Christmas morning. So I crept downstairs and started breakfast: cinnamon rolls and baked Olaf (hash with eggs cracked on top). The kids rose around 7, 7:30 and were thrilled to open their stockings and Santa gifts.

Then we tore them all away from their presents and headed to church.  We sang carols and heard beautiful testimonies about Christ and I couldn't hold back the tears as I thought about how much we all missed Mom this year, and tried to focus my thoughts on our Savior and the message of comfort and eternal love that he brought. Dad shared a poem she loved: "Touch of the Master's Hand" - one that appealed to two major loves in Mom's life: violin and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It isn't Christmas-specific, but the message that we are all of infinite worth, and saved by our Savior, Jesus Christ, is poignant, and very Christmas-appropriate. Basically, even though our hearts are still broken, we have hope because of Christ. The world could be so much darker. Grief is awful, but I have to say I have felt the warm light of Christ even in this very difficult past year and I am truly grateful for that.

Well, and when you have such vibrant, energetic distractions as we have (those kids and cousins) you can't help but cheer up a little. They say and do such funny things, and are awash in innocence and excitement - Christmas! They left Santa a funny little note and all the best cookies. They asked if we were decorating sugar cookies till the only option was to do it already. And the joyful chaos that ensued when they were unwrapping Christmas gifts took me every bit back to my own childhood and the magic I felt on Christmas. 
Reading Luke 2


The combined efforts of many took a stab at what Mom used to orchestrate for our huge crowd every year, and we turned out a wonderful Christmas dinner. Grandma and Mel did the turkey, ham, and pies, the rest of us did sides, and we ate by candlelight. A silver lining: I feel like a treasure time with loved ones more now than ever. It is an honor to have so much love in your life, that makes partings so very painful. Not everyone could be there, but we held each other close in our hearts, and exchanged phone calls with those we could. Some of us went to the cemetery to feel close to Mom and reflect on Christmases past and be there for each other.

We got through. I am grateful for this more somber but maybe more meaningful Christmas this year. The traditions that were "nice" before now serve as connections and reminders.

*One more note: We participated in the Light the World initiative, and participated in various advent activities. There was one day that was "honor your mother" and I tried to do activities and make choices the way I thought Mom would, and it was such a reminder to me of what an exceptional being is Mom! I practiced viola (I don't have a violin, but viola works) and I quilted, made a nice meal for my family and served our neighbor. I talked to family on the phone and tried to listen with an empathetic ear. It was exhausting ;)  Basically, it was an exercise in living a full life. I'm so grateful.

And that, my friends was Christmas.

*although Part 2, maybe 3, of our Virginia visit pending*