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Archive for the ‘family history’ Category

When my son was baptised in Sweden, the chapel was full of friends.

So if you’re Mormon and have ever surfed on the net, you’ve no doubt come across Mormon sites with lively discussions about Mormonism and lots of whining about Mormon culture. Usually those discussions annoy me because of lot of the complaining is petty and mean-spirited.

Sure, the LDS church isn’t perfect (that 3-hour meeting block on Sunday is killing me), but when I think where I would be without the church, I shudder.

I believe in the doctrines of the LDS faith with my whole heart. But this isn’t the post where I discuss that. I want to talk about community and belonging.

We moved to Sweden 9 years ago. We were poor students with two small children. My husband had been a missionary there, but I was a bit lost. I couldn’t speak more than three words of Swedish. My travels were limited to the Intermountain West and one jaunt to Cancun, Mexico. But I have an adventurous mindset and was prepared to jump in with enthusiasm.

When we arrived in Sweden we were greeted by people from our ward. Groceries filled our refrigerator and the offers to help were geniune and frequent. In time, our lovely Swedish friends-fellow ward members-became like family. Leaving Sweden 5 1/2 years later was like leaving my own family. I still feel intense homesickness even though we’ve lived in the U.S. for 3 1/2 years.

We experienced a similar outpouring of friendship when we lived in Israel for a short time. We made friends and enjoyed outings together. The kindness of the branch members in Tel Aviv eased the foreigness of Israel. It took the sting of isolation away and allowed us to truly enjoy our stay.

I’ve since learned that my experience was unique. Ex-pat women talk of loneliness and isolation, especially if they can’t find a community where they are accepted and welcomed. I had my community from the beginning.

Moving to New York felt like moving to another country. But once again, the unfailing generosity and kindness of ward members made us feel welcome and part of a community. Leaving our friends, even for a short period, is going to be hard.

But I have the promise of new friendships and the community of new ward members to look forward to. Already I’ve been contacted by members in Saudi Arabia, offering advice and extending friendship. There are a number of things I wonder and worry about moving to Saudi Arabia, but making friends is not even on the list.

Say what you like about the LDS church, but the community that can be found within the church is wonderful. It has made the difference for us in our moves and travels.

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So about a month ago, we bought an elliptical trainer. My husband has been fabulously diligent, exercising 4-5 times a week. I’ve managed about 3 times a week. Usually, I try and exercise after I’ve dropped my daughter off preschool and then put my toddler down for his nap.

There was no time for exercising in the morning today. After the kids got home from school, I made sure everyone was settled, changed into my workout clothes and went to exercise. I filled my water bottle, turned on the music (The Corrs–so happy and peppy even when they are singing mournful songs), and started the 20 minute workout. 19:39 (the minutes count down from 20) J the toddler wanders in and begs for water. I hop off, fill a cup of water and hand it to him. I start my routine again. 18:40 J the toddler pushes his stool to the counter and finds the can of tomato paste I forgot to throw away. Then he digs his little hand into the paste, smears it all over, and tastes it. I jump off, clean his hands, throw away the paste. Get back on again. 17:22 J the toddler pushes his stool to the cd player and turns off my music. I get off the trainer and move the cd player up high and fold the stool away. By this time, I plead with my older children to watch their brother so I can finish my workout in peace. But to no avail. After multiple interruptions, I give up, get a glass of milk and eat 3 oreo cookies. They made me feel better, but not healthier.

Oh well, guess there is always tomorrow. . .

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Yesterday, my beautiful younger sister gave birth to a baby boy. Her second boy in fact–almost a carbon copy of the first.  Her family will no longer be the 3t’s, but the 3t’s and a D. I can’t help but smile as I think of the transition she will make from mother of one, to mother of two. I don’t know what role her new little guy will have in her family, but it is bound to be a special one.

Almost ten years ago, my second son was born. And our family of three became four. My second son was a placid, peaceful fat baby. He had startling blue eyes and hair so blond that you couldn’t see it. We never knew, in those quiet days of the babymoon,  that lurking behind those placid, blue eyes was a spitfire just waiting to get out. He was biding his time for the day of inevitable mobility. When he began walking and talking, I knew that our days of peace were over. He has such a strong character and wasn’t willing to play second fiddle to his brother. And he still isn’t, 10 years later. Over the years we’ve dealt with tantrums, fits, and a lot of passionate arguing. But through it all, he has a happiness bubble that carries him. One minute he’ll be so mad that he is steaming and in the next he’ll be laughing with glee over something funny he saw.

It’s tough to be the second child. You are always struggling against inadvertent comparisons, getting attention, and carving out an individual identity. In all that struggle I see in my son, I also see a tremendous amount of strength, willpower, passion, character and more. Someday he will grow up and move away and all that he has gained through his years of struggle will carry him forward. I really look forward to watching it unfold.

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Mom’s Day Off

This is a story of a Mom who had a day off.

She wondered, as she walked out the door, keys in hand, if she should feel guilty for leaving two sick children along with three healthy ones in the capable hands of their daddy. Remembering the times when 3 of her children suffered through chicken pox and she tended them alone, while her husband was away, the guilt disappeared. She might have even started singing a bit as she got into the car and drove away.

The bookstore was her first indulgent stop. She browsed leisurely through the bargain section. Almost bought those three movie/book selections–but stopped herself when she remembered that she owned two of the movies, all three books and could get the third movie on netflix whenever she desired. It was almost luxurious to walk slowly down the aisles of new books, flip through magazines, and enjoy the sweet seduction of the written word. Children ran around, parents shouted, chased and picked up books and she smiled benevolently. They were not her children, her problem or her stress. She was not the mother.

At the dress shop, she gingerly touched beautiful dresses, enjoying the lovely feel of soft fabric on her skin. Choosing four dresses she went to the dressing room she tried them all on, enjoying the time to play in front of the mirror without an irritable audience of two grumpy children.

In the craft store, she stopped to look at paper patterns, browsed scrapping tools, and combed the clearance section. No little hands grabbed for $1 items. It was quiet, almost an oasis.

During lunch, she didn’t feel frustrated as she stood in the long line. There were no hungry children hanging on her legs about to hit meltdown. She only had to feed herself, which she did, at a slow pace, reading her magazine and enjoying the flavors of her excellent sandwich. When she stood in line, waiting for the bathroom, there was no frantic child beside her, trying to hold it. It was just herself and she could wait.

Trying on beautiful and extremely impractical shoes at Kohls was a guilty pleasure. She chose the highest, strappiest heels she could just to see them on her small, slender feet. She had a grand time imagining the perfect dresses to match the shoes.

Then her feet started to hurt and she felt tired, so home she went. Where she was met by five children and a husband. She made dinner, tucked babies into bed, and then relaxed. It was a good day.

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Our family has a favorite scripture from the Book of Mormon. It is the very first scripture that each of my children have memorized because it is so short and easy. “Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). We’ve recited this scripture as a family hundreds of times over the past few years. But only recently have I begun to really ponder this scripture and its meaning in my own life.

At the end of 2010, I began to take stock of my life. 2008 and 2009 were years of  change and stress. We moved back to the U.S., the children changed schools, we had landlord troubles,we moved to a different house,  I had some serious health issues and we had a baby. Looking back on those two years, I realize I was just getting by, taking each day as it came. 2010 was a year of recuperation. Simply living with my family, enjoying my new baby and feeling blessed summed up my year. As I approached this year, I realized that I wanted to live this year deliberately, with purpose and focus. I wanted to build up my personal spiritual reserves, strengthen my foundation, build up walls of defense and generally do all I could to be able to weather future storms with dignity, peace, strength and above all, happiness.

You see, I believe that even in the midst of our most desperate trials we can experience happiness. I’ve experienced it. In December I suffered a miscarriage. I was surprised at feeling grief and happiness almost simultaneously. Please don’t mistake me, I wasn’t happy about my miscarriage. Far from it, my soul ached and still aches for the loss of that baby. But my heart was lifted with profound moments of happiness and contentment as my husband and children encircled me with love and compassion. I had lost, but I wasn’t lost.

This year is my year of working to build up my reserves so that when I face loss, storms and troubles, I will be deeply grounded and strong. As I contemplated this project, vague and unfocused, I came across a book, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I immediately put the book on hold and, as soon as I received it, devoured it. Gretchen Rubin spent a year pursuing the idea and goal of happiness. She didn’t like the idea of going away on some exotic adventure to find happiness or herself. She wanted to understand and find happiness within herself, her family, her career and her life. I was inspired by her book. Using some of her ideas, my own project began to take shape.

Gretchen Rubin made monthly goals based around some idea or facet of happiness. They were concrete, measurable goals. She evaluated herself daily. She didn’t abandon January’s goals in February, but added to her goals–basically making habits out of her goals and then maintaining them. This was a revolutionary idea for me. Rather than tackling happiness in one big, giant way, I am working on it, bit by bit. I look at areas in my life, improving things, fine-tuning habits and developing new ones. I also liked the idea of accountability and daily checking of goals.

At the moment, this blog has become my travelogue of my pursuit of happiness. I may not be visiting foreign countries and experiencing new cultures. But I am exploring new territories of my personality and character. I realize that all this self-introspection isn’t terribly exciting, but it is important–at least for me. I hope you can bear with me on this journey.

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As a kid and then teenager, I filled journals with my thoughts and experiences. Writing was theraputic and meaningful to me. Then I went to BYU. There was a contingent of scrapbookers in one of my wards. And immediately my streak of perversity struck. How were scrapbooks better than my journals, filled with my words and a few photos?

Then I got married and a year and half later found myself expecting my first baby. Suddenly, the camera I never used became important. And my journals–occasionally written in. Life was so busy for me. So when my first son was born, I began to scrapbook, somewhat haphazardly. I enjoyed the process of finding pretty paper, writing and adding my bad photos.

Then we moved to Sweden. And suddenly, I felt very pressed to scrapbook. I wanted to document every single detail about our experiences. I snapped photos at the supermarket, took pictures of the bus we rode and our bikes, snapped endless pictures of Lund with all its amazing and varied architecture. My children were little and I knew that memories are fleeting. So I wanted to create a body of memories that my family could refer to and trigger their own memories.

And so I began to scrapbook in earnest. Somehow in the process of documenting those details I began to process and assign meaning to  our experiences. When I felt discouraged about parenting or frustrated with my kids, I could turn to cute pictures of them and feel better about what I was doing. When I felt the wanderlust bug bite me, I could turn to pictures about our adventures and relive those experiences.

When we moved to New York and embarked on a quieter phase of our lives, I found the process of creating rejuvenating and uplifting. I could create something that would be finished and never undone.

And finally, I scrapbook so that the pictures I take don’t become meaningless piles for my kids to wade through. My mother has boxes of photos. Sometimes we can place the photos and other times we can’t. It makes me sad that those photos aren’t arranged and organized. I met my great-aunt this summer and spent a day with her going through her scrapbooks and family heritage photos. She had given her photos context and meaning with her words. She had included bits from her mother’s notebooks and recipes written in her mother’s own hand. It was a veritable treasure trove for me. As she shared her stories and experiences I felt linked to my great-grandparents and past in a tangible and powerful way.

 My great-aunt told me that her parents had stacks of photos that they loved going through and looking at. Sadly, they hadn’t written dates or names on the back. After their deaths, there were some people and places in photos that couldn’t be identified by any living descendent of my great-grandparents. I don’t want to do that to my children or grandchildren. I want them to feel connected to our family history and heritage.

And so I scrapbook. When my daughter asks me to tell her a story about when she was little, we pull out the 2006 scrapbook and I show her pictures of her birth and the many pictures of her, looking like a tiny porcelain doll dressed in pink. When we start wonder when an event happened, we pull out the scrapbooks and find details that we had forgotten.

I may never be a famous scrapbook designer. My pages will never be published in a national scrapbook magazine. But my family loves and treasures the scrapbooks I’ve made. I’ve given my experiences and life meaning and context in books that will last a lifetime.

I realize that not everyone has the same drive I have to scrapbook. But if you take pictures, please at least put names and dates on the backs of the photos or tag them digitally, so that your families will have context and meaning when they inherit boxes of photos or disks.

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At last NYC and I are finally coming to terms. I’m becoming more adventurous and the city feels less forboding to me. I never venture to the city unless I feel properly attired and have a plan. Someday I’ll be more spontaneous, but for now, we are slowly creating a peacable relationship. I suppose it wouldn’t be like this if I dove headlong and had a whirlwind tourist adventure for a couple of days. Then I wouldn’t have time to feel intimidated. But I keep having time to reflect after my short trips. But it is getting better.

So, if anyone knows me well, they would know that I’m kind of an Egypt fanatic. Well, Egypt’s past fascinates me. The present Egypt depresses me a great deal. I’ve always been fascinated with King Tut and the miraculous discovery of his tomb by Howard Carter. Though, who isn’t fascinated by that story and the treasures of the tomb?

So when I heard that a special exhibit about King Tut was coming to the Discovery Times Square Building, I had to get tickets. My husband convinced me to get a babysitter for the two youngest, which was the most brilliant idea EVER.

As usual, I prepped my kids with documentaries, books, and discussions. I devoured a few interesting books along with articles on the subject in preparation for our big trip.

It was an unusual experience taking just the three older boys to the city. They were totally silent in the back of the car as they read books and listened to the radio. Driving through the city was a breeze without cries and complaints coming from the rear quarter of the car. We found our parking garage and the exhibit easily and prepared for an interesting afternoon.

(As I’ve learned, it totally pays to do your homework and buy tickets online. I bought prepaid parking, which was a good deal and saved us time trying to find a place to park. And we avoided all sorts of lines and waiting. And our tickets were discounted. SCORE!)

We had some time to kill before our visit to the exhibit. The kids saw a Toys R Us store and asked if we could go in. We said sure, expecting that it would be a run of the mill toy store. But I’ve started to learn that when something is in NYC, it will not be ordinary. Toys R Us in Times Square has 3 levels, a full-sized ferris wheel, a candy shop, ice cream shop, and all kinds of toy displays. Not to mention all the Black Friday shoppers. It was rather crazy, but since the boys were so good, we wandered around a bit. It was fun.

We didn’t stay long since we wanted to get some money and something to eat. We found an ATM, got some pizza, and then went to the exhibit.

The King Tut exhibit displayed 130 funerary items. All the items were connected in some way to either relatives of King Tut or from King Tut himself. I liked the way the exhibit was arranged and appreciated the way the exhibit tried to put King Tut in context with his ancestors and with the people of Egypt.

After walking through the exhibit, I have such a greater understanding of how extraordinary the Egyptian empire was. Pictures do not do the items justice. You can’t appreciate how delicate and exquisite the craftsmanship was for so many of the items. The jewelry that King Tut was adorned with was gorgeous. The boxes, chairs, alabaster vases, cosmetic tools were lovely and beautifully crafted.

One cannot look at the multitude of hieroglyphs decorating a coffin without beginning to appreciate the complexity of their written language. Nor can one dismiss the Egyptian culture are simple or barbaric. The complex religious structures and complicated death rituals suggest a highly advanced civilization. It was simply fascinating.

As we moved around, the boys and I chatted about the objects and their signficance. There were several instances where other parents stopped to listen to our discussions and tell their kids to listen as well. We even had people ask us questions. I guess we looked like we understood what we were seeing. At point, a man stopped us and asked us about Shabti. My oldest son, who is 11, rattled off a very accurate statement about the purpose of Shabti. Shabti were tiny statues placed in the tomb with the King. The Shabti were to serve as servants to the King, doing all the work he required.

My oldest son recently read The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan. The Red Pyramid is the first in Riordan’s new series about Egyptian mythology. As always, he is very accurate in his information, but weaves it so well into the narrative of the story, the kids don’t even realize they are learning. I realized this when we were looking at some prominent hieroglyphs and my son said, “That’s an Ankh sign. It means life.” He then pointed out other signs and explained their meanings. And he was totally right! Thanks Rick!

My boys liked the chariot and the mummy replica. The most interesting items in the collection to me were the coffinette that held the mummified organ of the king, the tiny coffin of one of the infants found in the tomb, and the chariot. After death, the king’s organs were removed. Then the heart, liver, lungs and intestines were mummified and placed in individual conffinettes with the King’s image. The coffinettes were then placed in a small square shrine. Two tiny mummified infants were buried in the tomb with King Tut. It is believed that they were his daughters, both born stillborn. Looking at the tiny coffin made the King feel more real and personal to me. He was a real person and faced real tragedy in his young life. And finally, the chariot was huge and more intimidating than I had ever imagined. There were four complete chariots found within the tomb. Recent evidence found from CT scans of the king’s mummified body suggest that he suffered a very serious injury to his leg which became infected and he died from the infection. It is possible that he fell from his chariot while out in the desert on a ride and seriously injured his leg.

As I’ve done more research on King Tut, I’ve gained a lot of respect for Dr. Hawass, the head Egyptologist for the Cairo Museum. He has initiated some very advanced research about King Tut. Because of Dr. Hawass, scientists have conducted extensive DNA testing of King Tut and his relatives. This DNA evidence has helped us better understand the family relationships of the pharoah. Dr. Hawass also conducted CT scans in a revolutionary technique to get a better understanding of King Tut’s cause of death. He is an excellent writer and has published extensively. For the layman, his articles for the National Geographic have been riveting.  A recent documentary showed the CT scan of King Tut from start to finish, detailing all the challenges and extraordinary findings.

Okay, I think I have put all the masses to sleep. I’m such a nerd, but I love this stuff!

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