Monday, August 31, 2009

Phoning Home

"Do you think the reference to my woo-hoo was a little over the top the other day?" I couldn't help but notice that one of my friendly readers dropped me like a hot potato the same day I referenced my...well, you know what. Coincidence? Probably not is my guess. I don't want to notice those things. I really don't. Because then I get a little weird. A bit obsessed perhaps. I start thinking in big swirls and loops, and my head gets dizzy.

"What?!" my mother responded laughingly.

Maybe I should have said hello first. "The other day in a blog post I mentioned my woo-hoo? Do you think that was inappropriate in the context?"

More laughter. "I didn't even think about it."

Phwew. Good. In my world there are only four opinions about me that matter. God's. Mine. My parents'. And now that I'm married--Mr. Wicke's. That last one is a little tricky, though, because we are very different creatures.

I had first asked Mr. Wicke his opinion. "Well, I wouldn't have done it." But that's the problem. Of course he wouldn't have. He's a solid 7 kind of guy, whereas I live my life in a random patterns of 5's and 10's. He's even keel, and I'm the slight ripples Heaven sent to liven up his trip a little.

"'re saying you think I was wrong?"

"No. I'm just saying that it's not something I would have done."

"What. You think I told people something they didn't already know? Like they thought the baby slipped out of my belly button or something?"

He smiled, "You're so funny."

"So, is there some judgement there?"


"Oh, I think there is."

"No, there isn't."

"You are no help at all! I'm going to ask my mother."

My mother is my moral thermometer in a lot of ways: A 77 year old woman who can not bear the words fart or butt (so sorry, Mom) and taught me everything I know about being decent has a lot of moral pull in my book. "You can't worry," she continued, "about what anyone else thinks. People who do that never write anything, or never write anything good."

And that's what I'm really trying to do. I want to write like no one is reading. Which is when I started thinking, what I am I writing this blog for anyway? If I really want to write like no one is reading, why not do it in a journal? What the heck is my purpose here? This isn't some exercise in narcissism every day, is it? Or IS it? Ugh. I'd hate to think that...Big swirls and loops in my brain. BIG. I'm still dizzy days later.

And then she said, and I love her for it, "Besides," you're really only writing for me, anyway." She doesn't have a problem with my occasional colorful descriptions. Instead, I make her laugh. And she, in turn, calms my dizzy brain. Maybe someday we'll be even, but I doubt it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Picking Sides

The minute the kids walk in the door from school, it's my job to do backpack check. While they raid the pantry, I thumb through notices, notes, old assignments and homework packets. I find out a lot about my kids during backpack check. Like Griffin's tendency toward getting yellow cards for talking, or not lining up after recess, or not standing by his desk as he has been told. Of course I always find out that these things "are not his fault," and that it doesn't really matter because every day, when he goes back, "it's always back to green." See? I told you backpack check was enlightening.

The other day I read through one of Logan's old assignments which asked her to answer the question, "What is your favorite thing about home?" to which she answered, "My parents are always on my side." This statement, for better or worse, gave me pause; it struck me as a sort of double edged sword.

She is right. Ultimately I am always on her side. I will always love her, I will always root for her success, and I will always do what is best for her. But does that mean always choosing her side? Because that can morph into a dangerous area. An area where a parent can not see her child's weaknesses. An area where her child's misbehaviour is someone else's fault, and therefore, somehow, excusable. We've all seen those parents who, in an attempt to protect their child, attack anybody else--friends, other parents, and teachers to name a few.

What I've come up with after some thought, is that always choosing her side is not really being on her side at all. If I am so caught up in her immediate happiness, I can not clearly see the end of the road I am hoping for her. What is best for her sometimes is dealing with consequences; it is sometimes dealing with pain; and it is sometimes dealing with unfairness.

Being on her side means I help her navigate those tricky waters; it does not mean I protect her from them. To do so would mean hindering her growth and development of character. And when I try to picture the end of the road I am hoping for her, that is all that matters. I need to be very clear on that because it's going to be a long trip. Until we get there, I am totally and completely on her side and by her side, right there, until the end.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thoughts on Worship: Gathering Together Oft'

I know one thing for sure: I need to develop a personal relationship with my Savior, Jesus Christ. This requires effort on my part. Personal effort. Moments of quiet meditation. Personal revelation. Covenants kept. I know that. Can't I do that alone?Yes, in part. But I also need others, and they need me. As I've considered the importance of gathering, I have discovered three important elements of group worship.

The first is that of covenants, or two-way promises between me and the Lord. I need baptism. I need His sacrament. Both as an outward promise of my devotion and as a vehicle for repentance and obtaining His forgiveness. These I can not do alone because they require the authority given to man by God. Even Christ sought out John the Baptist because of his authority to baptise in the name of the Father. I think anyone who is a member of a religion believes that his/her religion is a vehicle of God's authority.

The second purpose of gathering together is just as clear. Man has a very short memory. Gathering together often is a way of recharging our spiritual batteries, so to speak. We are reminded of a higher purpose. Many times we get so consumed by the "have-to's" of life that we forget what is really important, and so a wise God commands us to put aside the "have-to's" for one day, to gather and focus on the welfare of our souls, the only have-to that is not temporary.

The third component of gathering together that I have been thinking on is a bit more subtle but no less important. If we take upon ourselves the name of Christ, are to follow His example, and truly become Christlike, how is that done? Can I do that singularly? No. It requires that I bump into people, because in that jostling I gain the opportunity to forgive and to be forgiven; to take upon myself another's burdens and have my own be shared; to receive mercy and to be merciful. One of my favorite gospel teachers was an LDS Apostle named Neil A. Maxwell. He said it like this,
"...the Church is 'for the perfecting of the saints' (Eph. 4:12); it is not a well-provisioned rest home for the already perfected. the kingdom we are each other’s clinical material; the Lord allows us to practice on each other, even in our imperfections. And each of us knows what it is like to be worked on by a 'student' rather than a senior surgeon. Each of us, however unintentionally, has also inflicted some pain."
God in his infinite wisdom gave us first our family and then, secondly, the family of believers with whom we are commanded to gather. By doing so, he ensured that we would have plenty of practice in developing charity--the pure love of Christ. On our best days we may inspire someone. On our worst, we are lifted up by someone else.

I have been lucky in my life to be surrounded by believers--both of my particular faith and of others. I have been inspired, lifted, and forgiven. I have witnessed living testaments of charity, and I have been changed. I am grateful to gather in His name.

(For the rest of Elder Neil A. Maxwell's talk go here. )

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thoughts on Worship

Over the last month or so, I have been considering the hows and whys of worship. My thoughts are vast and varied, so in an attempt to clarify them, I thought I would pose some questions and discuss them here. If interested, feel free to post your own thoughts. No right or wrong answers here.

The history of the Christian faith clearly exhorts the believers to gather together for worship.

Acts 20
7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.
8 And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.

Nehemiah 9
1 Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them.
2 And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers.
3 And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the LORD their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the LORD their God.

Psalms 26
12 My foot standeth in an even place: in the congregations will I bless the LORD.

Acts 4
31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

Acts 11
26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

Hebrews 10
24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together...

The God I know is not frivolous in the commands He gives. Moreover, I believe His purpose in any commandment is to bless us. Considering that, what is the importance of gathering together? Can one worship effectively alone? How does gathering prove a blessing to the members?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Master Wicke Gets a Haircut

I wasn't the only one around here that got an important haircut last month. So did Master Wicke. His very first one.

Here he is before: (Notice the long comb over strands)

And here he is during:

Something's telling me he didn't like it much.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Old Friends, Insecurities, and Waaay too Much Information

Can you imagine anything worse than seeing your old high school boyfriend four months after giving birth? Yes. How about when he just married a woman 10 years your junior? I mean, when she talks about crow's feet, she is actually referring to the anatomy of the bird whereas I am discussing a relatively new feature of my face.

But, as it turned out, she and I do have one thing in common. We both did something really physical in the last year. They ran a triathlon together, and I pushed something the size of a watermelon out of my woohoo. Of course her physical activity probably left her with a six pack and mine left me with a stomach pooch that in all likelihood I will never get rid of, but...whatever.

It isn't at all that I wanted to work any subtle charms on the old him; it's just that I don't want to be thought of as a dodged bullet. No woman, at least one that's honest, wants to be seen with a sense of relief, as in, "Wow! Glad I didn't get stuck with that one."

And these are the thoughts that I was dealing with as we all stood together visiting in my home town: me, Mr. Wicke, our children, said high school boyfriend, his wife, his brother, his brother's wife, their get the idea. As happy as I always am to see them, it is a group that is bound to bring up some insecurities, which I was doing my best to put behind me when Logan stood in front of me, poked me in the belly, and said, very loudly, "Your tummy's squishy."

Awkward pause inserted here.

Clearly it was up to me to break the silence. "Isn't she cute?" I laughed. And to her, "That's because there was a baby in there four months ago. Now go play."

Ahh, children. Why is it that they choose to be honest at the most inconvenient times? As the conversation continued, I considered this as well as the cost of renewing my gym membership, but then two things occurred to me: 1) I really hate the gym, and 2) the money might be better invested in a muzzle.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Blessed Women

We women get used to doing things with one arm and our brain divided in pieces. It's just the way things are. I have yet to see a man conduct a meeting with a baby on his hip or teach a lesson while bouncing a squalling newborn or feed a baby while trying to give important feedback, but every mom knows how many of our important jobs are done this way: noise in one ear, peanut butter smeared somewhere on our clothes, monitoring homework while finalizing preparations for a presentation. This is not a complaint. It is simply a statement of fact: One armed and a divided brain. That's our reality more often than not.

I have an amazingly supportive husband, but I think the other men might look at him sideways if he brought the little ones to a meeting. However, in my service as a leader in our church's women's group, our meetings are always punctuated with crying babies, toddler messes, and various interruptions; to tell the truth, I am amazed at how much we women can accomplish amidst these circumstances. Gratefully, God gave us the blessed ability to multi-task. He knew we'd need it.

He also knew we would need each other. These blessed, good women who offer without hesitation to watch my baby when I need to visit someone in the hospital. Who quietly pick up my fussy child to soothe him when I am teaching. Who notice I haven't yet eaten and say, "I'm already done. Let me take him for you." Oh, how I need these blessed, good women who link arms with mine, and in our turn sometimes pull, and sometimes are pulled, who sometimes push and sometimes are pushed. Arm and arm, hand over hand, together, we will make it up this hill.

Oh, blessed women. My friends. The village that will help me raise these children. My brain may divided, but it is you who put my soul back together when it is in pieces. How I need you.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Moment by Moment

The other day, while I was thoroughly enjoying another monthly massage (I'd so rather pay a membership fee to Massage Envy than the gym!) my mind began to wander. Like when I'm driving and suddenly I find myself five miles down the road and don't remember getting there? Like that. But I hate when that happens during a massage. I want to relish every blessed minute of soothing muscle relief, and that requires that I be totally present. "In the moment" my college acting coach called it. That ability to live in the present, to be completely focused on what is happening right now, is a quality that makes a great actor, but I have also learned that it also makes a great mother, a great friend, a great daughter, a great sister, and a great spouse as well. I know this. I just wish I were better at it.

It is impossible to be in the moment for every moment of my life, but it is what I strive for. Sadly, more often than not, I find it just out of reach behind the to-do lists of my life. My undisciplined mind runs forward to all the things I need to do, making it difficult to relish the present. Being in the moment is just as impossible when I am months and years away, drifting backward in time, wistfully remembering all the things I've done or, worse yet, all the things I missed doing. Regret has the ability to poison even the best moments.

When I find myself outside of the present, I give myself a little shake and try to remember how to get back there. I try to listen. I'm so easily distracted. My favorite people in the world make me feel like I'm the only person in the room; they listen that well. I know that if I'm really focused on not only what the other person is saying, but also on what they are feeling, most of the work is already done.

So what if no one is saying anything at all? Then I focus on the senses. What is it that I'm experiencing? Hearing? Smelling? Feeling? Seeing? On really great occasions, I try to take a mental picture.

Sometimes that requires that I ignore the moment stealers--or all the stuff that tries to take me someplace else. Like this afternoon. I love rocking my baby to sleep. It is a sweet moment of grace in an otherwise mundane day. Today I ignored the unmade bed and the pile of laundry waiting to be put away. Instead I forced myself to look past it to the window where outside the sun was illuminating the tree top against the light blue sky. I felt the weight of the baby's head on my arm, his hand holding tightly to my shirt front. I smelled him, that heady scent of baby lotion and newborn skin. I watched his lips pucker around his pacifier and his eyes flutter closed, his eyelashes thick and dark. Ignoring the ringing phone downstairs, I listened instead to the whirring of the overhead fan and the otherwise quiet of the house, briefly silent for a few minutes more until the bus arrived bringing the kiddos home from school.

How many moments of grace like these do I overlook because the essence of me is elsewhere, wishing, regretting, planning, or worrying? Admittedly, there are things to plan for, to-do lists to cross off, and I'm not against sentiment, but I pose the question: Is it possible to live life without really experiencing it? I think so. What a shame it would be to miss so much of this one ride on the merry-go-round. Life is made up of precious moments. I intend to live in them.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Things to Entertain You

I have a house full of guests today, so I am busy playing with them, but if you want to see one of the most creative practical jokes I have ever seen, go here.

And if you want my husband's perspective on my teary reaction to my kids' first day of school, you can read it here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I Found my Heart at UW

Mr. Wicke and I met at the University of Wyoming LDS Institute, which is remarkable in that it sets us apart from all of the other couples at church who customarily met at BYU, which was the tradition in our California ward, or, here in Arizona, who knew each other since attending high school at Westwood or Mesa High. But it's also remarkable since he had no business being there.

Why would a Mormon boy from northern California ever consider attending the University of Wyoming? My mother takes the credit saying that she "prayed him there," and as I have become a firm believer in mothers being given an extra ear in Heaven, I don't dismiss it. But I also don't disregard Brother Lawton who once attended UW himself and who at church one Sunday suggested to my Mr. Wicke that he look into it. Ultimately, however, Mr. Wicke insists he gets the credit because it was, after all, he who turned down the full-tuition scholarship from BYU to come and find me--oh, that and to get an education, I suppose.

Whatever the reason, I'm glad he was there that night. Glad because I get to spend forever with him, but also because it just goes to show that two Mormon kids, whose life ambition doesn't include attending BYU can still stay active in our church, find each other, marry in the temple, and have a really good life. All of that AND because I really love the University of Wyoming.

Oh, I know. They're a rowdy bunch. Just ask anyone from BYU who comes over for a football game. But they are also down to earth, solidly good people. Some of the best friendships of my life were developed there--people I still maintain deep connections with.

My college experience was made the day I auditioned for and got into a musical theater troupe called Centennial Singers. I knew it would be a great performing opportunity, but I had no idea what profound joy these people would bring to me. I found a new family there.

Some of them got together over the weekend, and while my heart wanted to be with them, my body needed to be here with my kids preparing them for the new school year. I dream that Heaven will be a place where such choices don't have to be made; I dream that it will be a place where I can be with everyone I love all at the same time. Until then, and until I can see them in person again, I want my UW soul mates to know that big pieces of my heart walk with you every day. You have changed me for better for good.

Mr. Wicke and I send our love.

Post Edit: If you want to see these people in action and read exactly what I feel in my heart about these fantastic friends, go here. Jen says it perfectly.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


There are a lot of things this recession has taught us. Like the people we love are more important than any thing we have or want; we can get by on less, even if we don't like it; and I can pretty much do the things I need all by myself, or with the help of a really great friend.

You saw the recent haircut. My friend did that. No, she doesn't do hair for a living. In fact, she's never been formally trained. She just practiced on her husband, then her kids, then me. The best things about the "Salon de la Shy" is that 1) it is free, and 2) she takes appointments at 10:00 at night. And I probably should add that many times she has had to fix a haircut that I had done professionally. (Argh.) Yes, having a talented friend in a recession is really handy.

And since I'm an even-steven kind of gal, I helped her matte and frame her son's baseball pictures. That matte cutter we invested in years ago has already paid for itself, thank you very much.

Deep down I believe that we are all capable of learning what we need to know. For example, I'm not above haranguing my poor brother-in-law into helping me highlight my hair old school. He spent at least a good hour pulling my hair through a cap (far more fool proof than foiling. Hey, I'm desperate, not stupid!) You may be wondering how that worked out for me? Well, it's the hair I'm walking around with right now, and I bet no one is the least until now anyway.

The fact is, I guess I really don't need someone to help me clean my house, although it would be nice. And I don't need my acrylic nails, although I have had a number of hangnails since removing them; and I don't need someone to give me a pedicure, although I sure miss those foot massages. I don't need a lot of things. And what I need I can figure out a way to do cheaper.

Like last night. My friend (the haircutter) was determined to get a family photo done. Neither of us has had a professional shoot any pictures in about 5 years, but neither of us felt inclined to cough up the money necessary to do it. With her pushing and prodding, we took matters into our own hands:

Not bad for an evening in the local park, eh?

On the other hand, there are some things we have determined that we can not do for ourselves. Priority number one? Pest control. Especially after having one of these in Griffin's pull up a couple of nights ago:

Gratefully, he saw it before he put it on. Yikes! The pest control guy got a call this week. Peace of mind is worth every penny, and some things need to be left in the hands of professionals, after all.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a pedicure to do.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Misty Me

I got misty-eyed tonight. It's true. Even though over the last two days it has become abundantly clear that we could all use a little time away from each other, and even though our poor attitudes have inspired in my heart of hearts a countdown until school starts--despite all of this--I got misty-eyed tonight.

Tomorrow school begins, and tonight we packed the backpacks and laid out the first day school outfits, complete with their carefully selected new shoes. When all the business was done, Mr. Wicke gave Logan and Griffin father's blessings, asking our good Father to watch out for our little ones, to protect them, inspire them, and to bless them with goodness. And although I had a new little baby squawking in my arms, protesting his oncoming sleepiness, I suddenly couldn't believe my other baby boy was already following his sister's footsteps and leaving my little nest.

After his blessing ended, I called Griffin over, and with the beginning of tears in my eyes I said, "What am I going to do without you all day?" I hadn't expected to feel this sadness, having gone through this with Logan already, but there it was. That feeling of wanting to hang on just a little bit more; that feeling of already missing what I probably hadn't fully appreciated regardless of my best efforts. That stuff gets me misty, what can I say?

Griff put his arms around my neck, and I buried my face in his, swallowing hard at that lump in my throat. He held me longer than I expected, and when he finally let go, I noticed him wiping his own eyes as he quickly turned away.

Boy, can he get to me. I'm going to miss that little man.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Some things I learned on vacation:

3040 miles is a long drive with two kids and a baby.

Traveling with Mr. Wicke is much better than traveling alone.

Our kids--while normal in all kid ways--are actually very nice. I really like them.

It is not wise to leave the longest driving day (11 hours) for the last day of a two week vacation.

Griffin will always spill his red Hi C in the back seat.

Logan will always leave one of her beloved treasures at every stop.

Our hotel in Hurricane, UT deserves a gold star for finding and mailing back her "hank" (blankie.)

The driver's seat is the best seat in the van. No one asks you to change the movie, get the snacks, clean their spills, or shush the baby while you are there.

A new book of house plans can keep me entertained for hours.

There is never enough time to see all the family and friends we want.

Cousins are automatic playmates and best friends.

God blessed us with a world of natural wonders; it's an amazing playground.

Family vacations are worth every penny.

In an ideal world, the parents could plan a parent vacation to recover from the family vacation.

Alas, ours is not an ideal world. School starts Monday. I'll take a nap then.