Monday, June 27, 2011

blatantly bragging blog post

Last week I giggled in a tent at girls camp, Hans and Xander created havoc at scout camp and Erik flew off to Texas on a business trip. All of which left Stefan at home in charge of Gabriel and Mary.

Arriving home on Saturday, I left the tents and dutch ovens and sleeping bags in the driveway while I sat on the couch as listened to their week’s adventures. Mary perched on Stefan’s lap while I asked her about her days with Stefan.

“We played ring around the rosie a hundred times a day!” she boasted, “But (wrinkling her little nose) he did make me practice and do chores and math worksheets. And on Friday we went on a picnic!”

“A picnic?” I was impressed.

“Yes, to Sugarhouse Park. With Sarah! And he made sandwiches and we fed ducks and walked by the river.”

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And I can’t decide which makes me more proud: the picnic in the park or Stefan’s newly arrived ACT score. Thirty-six. 36. A perfect score. His first time taking the test. The score of less than one tenth of one percent of all test takers. Only one student in Utah scored 36 on his first attempt in 2010.

Yep, I’m busting a few buttons.

p.s. And if you think I'm proud, watch out for Ben. He'll be spreading the word to the entire Italian mission.

p.p.s. Stefan would like you to know that he opened the cereal box from the bottom this morning-- so he’s not really all that.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fathers and Daughters

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I opened my paper yesterday to find this lovely photo at the top of Mormontimes (a weekly section of the Deseret News) and the teaser headline FATHERS PROTECT THEIR DAUGHTERS AND GIVE THEM UNCONDITIONAL LOVE pg C9. And there, a lovely article (with photos!) spread across two pages.

It's been a long time since I've submitted a newspaper feature, in fact last piece I wrote for DesNews was published the day before my mother's death. The idea for this article came to me as a spiritual nudge a few weeks ago and I was surprised when the editor accepted my proposal.

I had no trouble finding three sets of exceptional fathers and daughters to interview-- all three live within a paper airplane flight from my home. In truth, I can walk up and down my street or simply look at my four surrounding neighbors and my incredible husband to find outstanding examples of fatherhood. But the families I chose had unique stories I wanted to share: Libbie VanLeeuwen as the much younger baby girl in a family of boys, Rich Allen as the father of six daughters (I've informed my boys that someone has to marry an Allen girl. With the similar ages and interests I'm sure it will work out for at least one pairing-- is that too much to ask?) and Dean Menlove as the father of seven grown children.

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Libbie & Craig-- I didn't photoshop those eyes one bit; they are simply amazing.

Speaking with these fathers and daughters and witnessing the love that flowed between them was incredibly healing for me. Interestingly, the first concept each father spoke of was his desire to protect his daughters.

Because of my place in life, the most profound conversation in this project was with Dean Menlove and his daughter Margee. Even as he introduced his daughter he teared up with pride, "Isn't she beautiful? Isn't she wonderful?" And Margee found time in a busy day to talk to me because:

"I'll take any opportunity to talk about my dad."

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My first question: "How do you parent your adult daughters differently than your sons?"

Leaning forward, Dean spoke with great emotion, “My girls have tender hearts and feel things deeply. Their emotions are much more intense than my boys, and it’s my responsibility to care for my daughters and protect them from harm.”

“If anything, I need my father more as an adult than I did as a little girl or teenager,” Margee added, “There were teachers and leaders and coaches cheering me on back then, but now I rely on my dad for encouragement and unconditional love. I can show up to a family dinner 20 minutes late, unshowered and feeling impatient with my four rowdy kids. My dad will greet me with joy, telling me how beautiful I am, that he loves my chocolate brown eyes, that I must be getting younger rather than older. Dad always compliments my mothering; he thinks everything I do is fantastic, even if it isn’t.

“I have a wonderful, loving husband,” Connolly continued, “but I still need my dad. Even when I was a little girl, he could look at my face, know what I was feeling and ease my heart with kind words.”

How I wish I'd caught them on video! They spoke so clearly, so beautifully; every interaction infused with respect and kindness.

And I know this is the way it was meant to be, this is the divine pattern for fatherhood.

As we continued to talk, they became so excited about showing me the playhouse Dean built for his daughters that they insisted I come out and see it the next day.

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Isn't it incredible? I think I took over three hundred photos of all the beautiful details. Don't get me wrong, you don't have to build a playhouse like this to be a good father/grandfather. But it is pretty cool.

Father's Day can be difficult. Society doesn't place the same expectations on fathers as they do on mothers and sadly, fathers are much more likely to be absent, apathetic or even abusive. But I believe we must keep speaking and writing about the ideal. I intend to raise five excellent loving fathers. For further inspiration, I recommend A Father's Blessing from my friend Catherine and Dads and their Daughters from my friend Tracy. Neither are Father's Day posts-- they simply relate the way their father helped them at a time they needed it the most.

Dean's wife Colleen teased me, "Good luck finding any copies of the newspaper; I think Dean cleared out every store within five miles." And then she became emotional, "You've given us something to be joyous about during a very difficult time." I responded that they had done the same and more for me.

I've been having a hard time; this week was one of the most difficult of my life. I've been aching, praying to feel the presence of God, to know Him, to feel His love for me. And now I understand the prompting to write this piece-- God was telling me, "Look at these men, look at their nature, their love, the way they love their children. They are a reflection of Me; this is the love I have for you."

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Here's the link:

FATHERS PROVIDE DAUGHTERS WITH UNCONDITIONAL LOVE
by Michelle Lehnardt
FOR THE DESERET NEWS


(honestly, it's a little stiff; I think I'm much more comfortable writing in first person these days)

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Monday, June 13, 2011

a walk around the block

Every day, and usually twice a day, Mary nestles her babies into the stroller, tucks her hair into a ponytail and announces, "I'm taking my babies for a walk."

Neither seeking nor accepting company, she ventures out alone and arrives home ten minutes later joyful and proud. And what better place to stretch her boundaries than under the safe, watchful eyes of all our sweet neighbors?

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She didn't want me to follow her; but on a perfect June evening, how could I resist?

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Skipping up the hill,

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(she knows she's cute)

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past the Bills and the Storheims, almost to the Herrschers and the Jarvis'-- all people who adore my little girl and wish the best for her

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sometimes she's silly and lets the carriage roll ahead

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but mostly, she's a perfect little mommy

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freckles and all.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

capstone

To me, there is no sweeter temple ordinance than the sealing of children to parents.

Kneeling at an altar, husband and wife clasp hands and the child's small hand is placed upon theirs. The words are short-- forty seconds worth-- but profound, as the temple sealer speaks of blessings, and privileges and protection...

Afterward, the family stands, gazing into the mirrors on opposite sides of the room. Their reflection refracts into multiples stretching infinitely in both directions.

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I can imagine nothing more comforting for adoptive parents and children-- always, forever.

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Darling Olivia's hand-smocked dress was crafted by her talented Nana, embellished with heirloom lace, gold thread and tiny, delicate beads.

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It is, of course, extremely unusual to adopt a six-month-old baby with their two-week old sibling present. The entire temple was buzzing with oohs, aahs and whispered congratulations.

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This is joy.

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Monday, June 6, 2011

first day

“Xander’s singing woke me up this morning,” Mary informed me, “and I knew I didn’t have to go to school because it was his summer voice, his ‘I’m the happiest kid in the world voice.’”

“I’m not kidding!” she insisted when I smiled, “his voice sounded like shave ice and night games and Lake Powell.”

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I love summer. I love my household bustling with children and activity. No other season makes me feel so fully immersed in the cliches of motherhood-- nagging over chores, packing my bag with snacks and sunscreen for a hike, arranging swim lessons, jumping on the trampoline in the evening light. But it is also a season that frightens me. With my children’s constantly evolving stages and abilities, each summer is different from the last. I can’t really know what our days will bring.

The great evil triarch of summer is messes, meanness and moods. Cleanliness basics such as, ‘if you eat a granola bar throw the wrapper in the garbage not on the floor,’ have yet to be mastered by my household. And there are still children that count teasing as entertainment. Teaching my little people to be kind is my primary objective each day and it can be exhausting.

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So, here is our plan for this summer: each child needs to practice his/her instrument, do a few chores and finish a math worksheet before playing for the day (Stefan is exempt from worksheets since I don’t know any post-calculus math. His job is to keep Gabriel on task). And then, the day is free for friends, hiking, swimming, etc. By unanimous consent, we canceled our Netflix membership-- which was basically our only form of TV. It sounds a bit idealistic, I know. But our summer is short and fragmented with scout camps, Youth Conference and hopefully a week in both Lake Powell and San Diego.

By August, Mary hopes to hike Mt. Timpanogos (um, yes, fourteen miles round trip) and we plan to ready her little legs by traversing every trail in our local canyon. My middle boys are ambitious about visiting historical sites all around the valley. We are at such a different stage than all those summers I changed diapers at the edge of the swimming pool and sought out benches at the zoo to discreetly nurse a newborn. And though I will always and forever beg Erik for another baby (at least until I have grandchildren), I must admit that it’s lovely to lounge by the pool, tip-tapping away on my laptop while the kids splash and play.

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I know all too well how quickly children grow up and move away-- I’ll enjoy mine this summer.


I didn't tell them to go out there-- this is just the sort of thing they do all the time.

Friday, June 3, 2011

enamored by

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sweet Marguerite.

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this amazing magazine. Are you familiar with it? No ads, nothing commercial, just soft focus photos and short stories celebrating the prosaic moments in family life. I love it. I adore it. I want to rename my blog "Seeing the Everyday."

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Can you read it? The green is especially hard to see: LIFE'S MOST ESSENTIAL POSSIBILITIES ARE REALIZED AT HOME

It's exactly the sort of magazine I want on my kitchen counter-- beautiful ideas for my children to ponder while eating Cheerios.

And they want you to write for them! seeingtheeveryday.com Go write a story so I can enjoy it, please.

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my lush, voluptuous garden flourishing from the rain. My peonies have hundred of buds; the roses, thousands. I can scarcely wait for the blooms.

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Girl's World-- oh my, if there is a little girl anywhere in your life, you need this gorgeous book: it's tied with a ribbon, it's filled with color drenched photos, the patterns are included in a sweet printed pocket. I'm no expert seamstress and everything seems within my capabilities. When I will find the time to craft the Mary dress, the pillow, the headbands, I can't imagine. But I've collected a nice little stack of fabric and I'm dreaming of pretties.

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Honestly, truly, it would be worth visiting Europe just for Magnum bars. And now they are in my grocery store. Yes, I need to run eight miles just to justify one delectable treat, but it's completely worth it.

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darling Gabe up to his knees in the seventh Harry Potter. His brothers challenged him to read all seven books before the final movie comes out in July. Yep, he's going to make it.

Ah, it's June, there's so much to love.

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Congratulations Isabella & Patrick!-- June 2, 2011