Tonight when we came back from the hot tub, the snow was sparkling.

I had forgotten how it does that.

Like the world is made out of glitter.

Speaking of sparkling, Savannah got a video camera for Christmas and has been delightedly documenting our every move.  Here is her first video. 

And just for the record, it snowed all day again today.  Two feet of fresh glitter.

Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold

The boys are on the floor playing legos.

Olivia has her earbuds in, celebrating her Christmas with Taylor Swift and the boys from One Direction.

Savannah is making electronic cupcakes and David is programming his new running heart rate monitor.

We are snug and happy in the lap of a huge mountain.

A mountain we were nearly lost on forever just yesterday.

We took the kids skiing and after getting everyone's ski boots and skis on (surely the hardest part) we were making remarkably good progress.  The girls were independently skiing and taking the lifts by themselves.  Caleb was competent, if timid, and Ethan was wildly careening and crashing, but happiest when tearing as fast as he could down the icy slopes.

It was snowing lightly all morning, but after lunch, conditions deteriorated quickly.  The flakes got bigger and faster and the wind started blowing.  I could no longer see the girls skiing down the mountain from the lift.  We decided to head for home.

We were on an unfamiliar mountain, but eventually figured out there were two ways home:  the gondola or the "short cut."  The gondola was a gentle enclosed ride to the bottom.  But since the short cut involved skiing to the bottom, and the kids were doing so well, and we had already paid the lift fees, we decided to get our money's worth and ski down.  How hard could it be?  We'd just follow the green trails all the way to the bottom. 

Trouble was, pretty soon we were lost.  There was so much snow and wind we couldn't read the trail signs or the map and even the green trails became treacherous with all that new powder.

There was crying.  (The kids.)

There was screaming.  (Me.)

There was gnashing of teeth.  (David.)

There was fervent prayer from all of us: Get us off this mountain.  

At one point Savannah lost control and ended up in a huge snow drift with so much powder that she lost one ski and both poles.  Only her head was sticking out.  I laughed so hard I couldn't breathe while she screamed.  She saw me laughing and started laughing herself, until she had to dig four feet down to find her ski.  We never did find one of her poles.

Olivia went somersaulting down a particularly steep section of mountain (who knows where we were at that point--green or blue or black diamond, all we could see was white) and lost both skis and had to try putting them back on in the powder at a 65 degree angle.

The ski patrol came by several times to ask us if we needed help, but apparently they only send rescue snowmobiles to help the bleeding and broken and since we were only desperate and in over our heads we were on our own.

Unfortunately, when you are in this situation, on a foreign mountain, in blizzard-like conditions, with four panicked and inexperienced skiers with you, there is only one way home:


A long way down.

At the lowest point (emotionally but not vertically) we were huddled together on the mountain. I was sitting in the snow.  Too tired from digging for skis, and trying to get them back on the kids' feet, and pulling kids out of snow drifts, and dumping out boots and gloves, and trying to bully children down the mountain, to stand any longer.

The youngest two were crying.

Caleb was trying to put a positive spin on things, "Well, we'll never forget this Christmas Eve."

The ski patrol came by one last time. "Are you in trouble?"

David just stared at him.  Because, um, yes. 

Olivia asked, "How much farther to the bottom?"

"Only a mile or two.  You're almost there."

Olivia started weeping.

David gave everyone a pep talk.  There were protests.  I put things more starkly.  "Unless you want to die on this mountain, there is only one way off it.  Get up and put your skis on.  Now!"   I could be a motivational speaker. 

Needless to say, eventually we found the bottom.

All of us in one piece, er...six pieces.

We only lost one ski pole and believe that to be a supreme triumph, considering.

Funny enough, the kids were so delighted to be down that they are only looking back on the whole thing with fond reminiscing, as if fear of imminent death and blinding snow with all that screaming and crying only added to the fun.  By dinner, everything was hilarious. 

Merry Christmas, from us, alive and well, far over the misty mountains cold.

Later That Same Year...


So, how did the election turn out?

Seriously, though.  How does two months go by and I not even notice?  I am too busy by half.  Wait.  That doesn't even make sense.


Just be happy that you don't have to look at Mr. Romney anymore.

It occurred to me last night as I was drifting off that I had just sent out my Christmas cards with my blog address at the bottom and that our friends all over the world were possibly going to click on to see more of my cleverness only to find the election was still going on.

Sort of like salt in the wound.

So I thought I'd better post.

Olivia and Ethan are on their way home.  I just heard the garage door.  It's a half day and our holiday is about to officially commence.  Caleb and Savannah of course go to real school and won't be home until after three and then party will really get going.  I can hardly believe we made it throught the semester.  The blessing of this tender mercy has been on the minds and lips of every prayer in our house the last few days.  We made it.  Thank you.

Now we have big plans for late nights and later mornings, puzzles and games, and kissing in the middle of the day.

Nothing could be better.

Merry Christmas.

Bombs Bursting into Tears

Turns out, the children may know the way to the park, but the way home is a little more sketchy.

Savannah got lost on her way home. She got hot and mad and made a stormy, dramatic exit.

And then got lost.

Which took the wind out of her sails.

I felt for her. Because I love a good dramatic exit myself, and it is shame to have it spoiled. All by yourself.

David found her tear-soaked face just one tree-lined street over.

She sobbed into my neck, and dang if it didn't feel delicious.

(And really, if you're going to be lost, this lovely little town of sugar maples and lawn ornaments is the place to do it. All's well that ends well.)

Speaking of spectacular endings, we went to a patriotic concert in the park before the firework show at Chippewassee Park. (I am so not making that up.) Could there be a more classically Midwestern thing to do? At the end of the concert they played all the songs of the armed forces, Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, and Air Force. And as they did, in turn, little old men with their white hair and hunched backs rose out of their plastic and nylon lawn chairs to stand while we clapped.

And dang if I didn't start crying myself.

I wanted to clap all night, roar really, my thanks, my deep gratitude. I wanted to kiss each and every one of them.

And then we sang America the Beautiful, and I could only choke out the prayer at the end.

God has shed his grace on all of us.

The Fourth Day of July

At my house,

on the fourth day of July,

we will light the barbecue and the sparklers and the roman candles.

At my house,

on the fourth day of July,

we will swim and sun and read and nap.

At my house,

on the fourth day of July,

we will eat ribs and corn and homemade apple pie.

At my house,

on the fourth day of July,

we will remember and pray and give thanks to our God.

At my house,

on the fourth day of July,

we will climb in bed full of sunshine and ice cream and when we close our eyes we will still see exploding red and white stars behind our eyelids.

And at my house,

(because we are still hurting and smarting and aching from all the upheaval, I'll be honest)

on the fourth day of July,

we will remember that 1776 was among the darkest years of American history,

that good things come even in the darkest of times,

and above all,

that miracles happen.

Happy Independence Day.

Ahem. A Note and a Letter

the new Jackson County temple, in an early 2011 gloaming 

So I'm sitting here eating my three-minute-egg, that techinically went closer to four minutes this morning.


But that was because I got distracted reading all your kind comments from yesterday (or the day before...I've lost track now) and it made me a little wistful (gosh I love that word) and the tiniest bit weepy from all the good wishes.

But I also realized I owe you a note of explanation.

David did get a job offer in Missouri (or Misery as Olivia has renamed it).  This was a "get the wife's approval" trip to see the town, look at the schools and the neighborhoods, wander around and see if I could picture us in the library or on the baseball diamond or sitting on a blanket next to the river.  And also, to hopefully get some answers from heaven.  Nothing has been finalized.  We haven't accepted or turned down.  We are thinking and praying and vexing and venting and making "decision matrixes."  (I am so not kidding on that last one.  Heaven help us.)

So.  Mostly I've been wishing that I was either Brigham or Julie Brilliant Beck.  I could use a vision about "the right place" or the enviable skill-set of being able to receive revelation.

But yesterday on our way out of town, David and I stopped at the Liberty Jail.  There is maybe no place in the world better to go when you think you've got it hard.  It puts everything in perspective pretty quickly.  Talk about trodding gladly into the night.  We sat in the semi-darkness listening to the accounts of the saints leaving their prophet in the worst of conditions while they trekked through the dead of winter with their little children, and wept.  For their faith.  For their sacrifice.  For their example.

And now for the letter.  (Those of you who already received our Christmas letter this year can stop right here and go do your grocery shopping.  Could you do mine too while you're at it?  Shopping (of any kind) is always my Waterloo.)  For those of you who are not on my mailing list, I am posting this Christmas letter here for you and also (mostly) for my record.  I know it's late.  I know we are past tidings of great joy and on to resolutions and new beginnings, but I'm posting it anyway.  The picture I am posting with it did not go out on our Christmas card, but it is a picture from a story I tell in the letter.  And I'm including it, again, for the record. 

Dear Loved Ones,

Sometimes on date night, David and I wander through the bookstore.  (There is no better date, by the way.)  I start stacking books into my arms and breathing heavily, from all the lust and the effort, while David works his way over to the section where they keep the maps, and the travel guides, and the books with pictures of the hundred places you must visit in your lifetime.  I find him later with his best friends by his side--Frommer, Fodor, and Rand McNally.  By then we’re both aroused.

Over the years, David and his travel guides have led us around the entire continent.  This summer we made our way to Banff, and Michigan, and Florida, and California, and back again.  David had spent months planning and reading and mapping and dreaming.  He knew where to eat, where to sleep, where to lie all day and watch the sun turn our children into golden-brown donuts sprinkled with white-sugar sand. 

Then in September, David’s position at the hospital was eliminated.  We found ourselves in an unknown land without travel guides or map.  Where is Frommer when you need him?  When David walked in the door, his face white and grief-stricken, I knew what had happened.  There we were, without a light, without a map, without a sure destination.

We told the children the next day.  They all wept at seeing David’s broken heart.  In the weeks and months that followed they have cried for themselves as well.  For the first month or so, we sat around the dinner table and after we had supped, we would talk and cry, and eventually most of the kids would end up in my lap, sobbing their sorrows into my neck while the food dried on the plates.  Because in their heart of hearts, they knew what this meant…a journey into the unknown.

For years, they have climbed into the backseat of the car, trusting that David knows the way, trusting that he will get them where they need to be.  As for me, I sit in the seat next to David and watch his handsome face as we pass the high deserts, the low mellow plains, the lush green farms and wide barns along the way.  No need to watch the road.  David is doing that.  I sleep, I read, I talk, and he drives.  He knows the way.  In all the years of our roadtripping, I only remember once when he made a wrong turn.

We made him an office at home.  He started interviewing.  Now I pack his bags and he boards airplanes and together we pray.  For light.  For maps.  For a way in the darkness.

A couple of weeks ago Caleb needed a specific little snail for his science project, a snail that is found in the Colorado River somewhere south of the dam.  To ensure that collecting conditions were just right, we had to travel in the dark of night, a nine-hour roundtrip. Early one morning, while David packed the lunches and consulted on the morning hairdo’s and made sure Olivia didn’t wear too much eye shadow to school, Caleb and I left Flagstaff and headed out into the dark desert.  We didn’t know exactly where to look, we didn’t know what we’d find when we got there, and we didn’t know how we would manage to collect the snails if we found them.  As I drove along the dark highway, I prayed.  Help us.  Help us.  Help us find the way.  It felt impossible.  But, in the early morning light, we waded into the cold Colorado, the water swirling around our knees, and turned over rocks to find exactly what we needed.  As I stood in that river with my son, holding the heavy, wet stones in my hand, watching the sun rise over the vermillion cliffs and light Caleb’s head like a halo, I remembered Joshua’s stones:

That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?

Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.

And I started to cry.  Because He knows the way.  He has led us before.  He leads us now.  He will lead us always.  He knows how to pass over deep water.  His hand is better than a known way.  How many times have we been in the darkness, without a light, without a map, lost and admittedly afraid?  And he has brought us through every time.  He is the Repairer of the Breach.

There are days when the way forward seems impassable, as impassable as the Jordan River and the Red Sea and the whole Pacific Ocean.  There are days when the wilderness seems broader and wilder than ever before, when the darkness never looked so dark.  But even now, especially now, we recognize His tender mercies.  We are witnesses of His love.  He always makes a way for us cross on dry ground.  Whether we need snails or a job or redemption—from small to staggering, He provides every good gift. 

As I watch David stand on the bank of this new Jordan, the rest of us trustingly and expectantly looking up at him, I am reminded that at the time of Christ’s birth, probably nothing went according to Joseph’s plan.  From the miraculous conception, to the difficult journey, to the filthy stable, to the flight into Egypt, the ragged, dog-eared Fodor’s in his bag would have been useless.  And yet, God provided.  He knew more.  He had prepared a way.  The perfect way.  It is the same for us.  And when our children ask their fathers, What meaneth these stones?, we will tell them of the path he made just for us.  This season and always, we rejoice with the angels and cry out with the stones, that He is, indeed, “the King that cometh in the name of the Lord,” and the God of Israel and the whole earth.  He is our Rock, our Foundation, our Stone of Help.  Here we raise our Ebenezer, here by His great help we’ve come. 

With Love and Faith,

David, April, Caleb, Olivia, Savannah and Ethan

Merry Christmas, Emporium!

It's a couple of days after Christmas, approaching eleven o'clock at night, and my kids are in the other room "Just Dance"-ing with no sign of stopping any time soon.

I am sitting in bed eating swedish fish and begging David to come join me.  We've had full day of games and food and family with more on tap for tomorrow.

Yesterday we finished one of the puzzles and played three rounds of our new game.

We have plans to find snow later in the week.  Which will certainly require a road trip of some length.

I wish it was Christmas vacation forever.

There is no where to go except to get fresh supplies.  I sent David out today...we needed more olives and sour cream for our nearly constant buffet service.  (That was a close one.) 

This afternoon I received cards from seven more of you.  My kitchen walls are covered with your smiling, holiday wishes.  I wish I could leave them up forever.  They are quite possibly my favorite part of the entire celebration. 

My other favorite parts:

Eggnog in the refrigerator.  Sole property of David.  None of the rest of us will touch the stuff.

Soda in the outside refrigerator.  Only time of the year it is ever in our house.  It's a party, people.

A sink full of my serving platters.  Most of the year they sit in the top cupboard behind the benadryl and itch cream and ibuprofen.  This week they are the star of the show.

The hymns.  And the movies.  I wait all year for both of them.

Spontaneous sleepovers in the living room.  The kids blow up the camping mattress and whisper and read and gaze at the Christmas tree lights until their eyelids call it quits.

A gameboard open and active nearly every hour of the day on my round kitchen table.  Exactly why we bought it round, by the way.

Late at night in bed with David.  In the middle of hibernation, when the house is quiet, every dream we've ever had seems possible, and reality seems very, very far away. 

It truly is a wonderful life. 

Stress Makes Me Cheeky


Just like that, it's the beginning of December.

Seems like I just published this photo, and here we are again. 

For the record (because you know I like keeping score, especially if I am winning) I got my tree up early this year.  A first for me.

Because this weekend we are hosting the entire neighborhood for Christmas dinner, a hayride, and a holiday concert.

Ha!  Pork tenderloin for four hundred.  Good thing I'm amazing.

My mom called me yesterday and said, "What can I do to help?"  And I thought, "Oh, I guess I'm supposed to get out of the fetal position and do something."

Be brave, I tell myself.

Did I tell you the whole event is outside?  Which is probably the reason for our current "cold snap."  We even had to light our first fire of the season on Monday night.  And we didn't have to turn on the air conditioner to do it!  Plus right now I am wearing socks.  See?  Cold.

My Christmas cards arrived late yesterday afternoon.  (David and I had a debate about what picture to use this year.  I won.  Which is a shame.  I told him I wanted one where we didn't look "perfect," one that "reflected our real life."  He said, "But it looks like we just rolled out of bed."  "Exactly," I said.  At which point he gave up.  Which, again, is a real shame.  I think it's pretty clear that this whole thing is his fault.)  Plus I'm seriously considering not writing a letter this year.  David says our friends would protest.  I'm thinking they would be relieved.  What can I say that I have not already said a thousand times?  Entropy.  The fall.  You can fill in the rest.  But then all there will be to do when people open the card is to stare at our very real picture and wonder how bad things really are over here. 

The best part of my week was singing "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" with my lovelies, all of us around the piano on Monday night.    

And, yes, I am at least as tired as I look.

Happy Glorious 4th

I don't know about you, but I am having a glorious summer.

The summer to end all summers.

I've been quiet about it, only because I've been lapping it up, stuffing my face with it, rolling around in it, sucking the marrow out of it.  Which leaves very little time for writing about it.  Really good revelling can be a full time job.

Can you believe the photo I got last night?

I've been bragging about it ever since I took it.  I especially like the light of the fireworks shining through Ethan's ears and off Savannah's hair. 

Glorious.  There is no other word for it.

From the Other End of Yesterday

Did you see the sunset last night?

Made the whole day worth it.

(I took a blurry picture of it for you.  Your welcome.)

By the other end of yesterday things had gotten better. 

The Amazon had been downgraded to a small overgrown garden, Savannah survived her first orthodontic visit, I vacuumed through the house and registered for a writing class at our local community college, and (joy of joys) everyone returned home.

After family home evening and kisses and tucks and warnings and finally threatenings, it was just David and me on the couch.  He was half-watching the Fiesta Bowl and half-cheering for both teams and half-telling me about his day.  I was half-listening and half-reading my book.  We kissed and put the day to bed.

And as I drifted off, a small begrudging thought from CIM acknowledged how good normal life can be.

And so now it is almost too late for this:  one last look back at the holiday.  Even worse, I'm sure it will only seem mawkishly indulgent to all of you who didn't actually live it with us.  Oh well.  You can just close your eyes and listen to Adele sing.  Even with your eyes closed it could be the best five minutes of your entire day.  That girl has brilliant vocal chords.

You will have to imagine the hours we spent around the table playing games, as somehow I forgot to film that part and also the hours David and I spent shopping together as we are not famous enough yet to have a documentary film crew follow us around.  (Maybe next year.  I have a good feeling about 2010.)  Those were a couple of my favorite parts. 

And now, our holiday set to Adele's live recording of Make You Feel My Love.  It was just about as magical as it looks.