Sunday, September 10, 2017

JT's biggest fan

Superstar and John-Thomas sleep in a bunk bed, with 3 year old JT on the bottom. When he figured out how to climb, we took away the ladder to make sure he couldn't climb into his brother's bed. Superstar had to climb up using the headboards. Last month John-Thomas figured out how to climb up his brother's bunk bed without the ladder. To prevent him from falling and hurting himself badly when he came back down, we finally installed Superstar's ladder.

The immediate reaction, naturally enough, was to encourage JT to climb into his brother's bed ALL the TIME. Then one morning he turned on the fan, climbed into his brother's bed, and started jumping up and down excitedly. That's when disaster struck.
"I'm wearing my pajamas
and I look like a pirate!"

Over tonight's hashbrown dinner, I ask him to retell the experience: "Superstar was sleeping. I was climbing on Superstar's bunkbed - not on this night. And I turn on the fan. And I got whacked in the head and I didn't get breaked in the potatoes." On saying this, he resumes smashing his hashbrowns into bits.

He got hit just above his left eye. JUST above. I carried him to our bathroom to wash out the blood, give him a priesthood blessing, and try to calm him. Once we got him some Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, he was feeling a lot better.

We went to three different doctors that morning before we found someone who could see him, and she declared that he happily didn't need stitches. He has been recovering happily since then, much more wary about climbing into his brother's bed.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Reception: Ari and Paula




Here are some pictures from Ari and Paula's wedding reception. I enjoyed being MC, which consisted of telling people the line forms to the right, dinner rolls are on the left, and when it was time for our expert dancers to get their groove on.


Religious reading recommendations

So out of all those books (see last post), I must have some opinions, right? Matter of fact, I do.

CS Lewis' George MacDonald was glorious. It's one of the very few books I have ever managed to read slowly because I was constantly setting it down to ponder more deeply on a new insight. I need to read this again and again. In the introduction, Lewis writes "From his own father, he said, he first learned that Fatherhood must be at the core of the universe. He was thus prepared in an unusual way to teach that religion in which the relation of Father and Son is of all relations the most central." In that regard MacDonald said:
God does not ... make us always feel right, desire good, love purity, aspire after Him and His Will. ... The truth is this: He wants to make us in His own image, choosing the good, refusing the evil. How should He effect this if He were always moving us from within, as He does at divine intervals, toward the beauty of holiness? ... For God made our individuality as well as, and a greater marvel than, our dependence ... [so] that freedom should bind us divinely dearer to Himself, with a new and inscrutable marvel of love; for ... the freer the man, the stronger the bond that binds him to Him who made his freedom.
 Also: "A man is in bondage to whatever he cannot part with that is less than himself" and "He who seeks the Father more than anything He can give, is likely to have what he asks, for he is not likely to ask amiss."

The King Dethroned: summer reading contest 2017

To encourage me and my brother to read, my parents established a summer reading contest. We got a small prize for every thousand pages we read and a big prize if we read more pages than anyone else.

I won every year.

One summer I made it through 15,000+ pages by spending most every summer morning lounging in my bed with a Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, or Ravenloft book in my hands.

But my former glory and prowess isn't really what we're here to talk about. I only need to mention it in order to showcase and highlight the glory of the rising sun: Superstar. Last summer he pulled ahead of me, but he stopped reading partway through the summer and I overtook him. By the time he realized it, I was far ahead and he had trouble catching up.

This summer he took a rapid lead, pushing ahead to double my page number. I thought I might be unseated, but kept plugging along at a steady, rapid pace. Eventually he paused and I struck by finishing off several longer books I had been working on for a while. I pulled ahead. This time I made sure to yell loudly and point it out to him early on. He rekindled his reading streak and struggled to catch up. Neck and neck we raced to the finish, sprinting through our books for all we were worth. I reorganized all our books so it would be easier for him to identify books in his age range. Superstar discovered Harry Potter and devoured the first four books. In the very last week of the contest, as we both crossed the 9000 page line, he pulled ahead.

When the dust settled the last night before school, Superstar was ahead of me by exactly 50 pages. Superstar is the new Reading King! The king is dead. LONG LIVE THE KING!

For his little prizes, he got some more books to read and for his grand prize, he chose the audiobook of Harry Potter IV to read him to sleep each night.

List of books we read:

Monday, September 4, 2017

Temples dot the Wasatch front


While driving up and down Utah and Nevada, we decided to try to show the kids as many temples as we could. It got them thinking about the temple and temple work a lot more, so they asked a lot of great questions about what happens there and why Mommy and Daddy love the temple so much.

Living just three blocks from a temple helped - the first temple each day came rather quickly. JT would call out "'Roni! Mroni!" when he saw the angel Moroni on them.

This summer was a time of dedicated temple service for us. LDS temple are there to unite families across multiple generations. We do vicarious ordinance work for them so they can have the same blessings of the gospel that we do. (more here).

A couple years ago Joy got really interested in doing some family history and she found and prepared the names of something like 60 family members for us to do temple work for. I admit the reason she did only 60 is because I asked her to stop at 50, knowing that at our usual pace of each of us doing one person each month, that was all we could manage in two years. We kept at it.

Then last year I got more interested in family history also. Playing around with both my history and Joy's, I prepared enough names to take us up to about 100 waiting on us. Oopsies.

As we counseled together about how we were going to get this done, we decided to do everything we could to more than double our temple work.

Joy: I had told Derrill, no, we didn't have the time. Then a week or so later I was feeling like I needed extra help from Heavenly Father. The answer I got was that I should go to the temple every other week. Then when I talked to you about it I remembered your insistence on doing more work for the dead, so yours was more altruistic *lol*

Over the summer, at least one of us was in the temple every week. In Brigham that meant a leisurely morning stroll for each of us to the temple three blocks away. In Stephenville that means a full day trip. We regularly sent one of us up to Dallas (2 hours away with traffic) first thing in the morning and they stayed there until the evening. It's been a wonderful, fulfilling, peaceful time.

The only "problem" is that despite taking care of more than 30 people's ordinance work, we still have 100+ people to do because I keep stumbling across more relatives who need work. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

The importance of one inspired word: residual

In 2002 I was graduating from BYU. It was a great day and for the most part a very happy one. There was only one thing troubling me, a task I had not been able to accomplish. I had worked on it and done my dead-level best to fulfill it, but had not been able to. I worried about it (just a little) that day. Had I done right? Had I really done everything I could? Had I missed something important?

Our graduation speaker was Pres. Henry B. Eyring, an apostle of Jesus Christ. Most of his speech was about the school motto: Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve. He emphasized the second part, going forth to serve. It was a nice little graduation speech.

Then in the middle-end of his speech, he used a word that was very significant to me: residual. He told us to do the best we can, and leave the residual in God's hands. In econometrics - the statistics that economists use, and a class I had not only taken but TAd 3 times - the residual is an error term tacked onto the end of an equation for all the things we don't know and can't control.

I suddenly felt the beginnings of understanding a very important principle. Yes, we cannot know all that God has planned or control others' choices. We can only control what we can control. But we can trust God for all that we cannot control, that the end will bring us out alright, that even the greatest trials of our life can be for our experience and benefit. Trust Him for the rest.

That one word and that phrase stuck with me for the last 15 years. How important and what a relief it was to feel that I had done all I could and it was okay to leave the residual in God's hands! I went away comforted and at peace.

I was thinking of that experience again last week for some reason and looked up Pres. Eyring's speech. It turns out he only used the word residual once - enough for me to latch onto it - and otherwise used the term "residue." Maybe my hearing wasn't 20/20 even then and I heard residual because I'd spent so much time thinking about it. Here is what he said after quoting D&C 103:35-40:
Your key and mine to rising to our potential as servants is to know our Master, to do for Him what we can, and be content to leave the residue in His hands. Let me give you an example that will face you in the days ahead. You will be torn between the demands to put bread on the table and a roof over your head, to take care of a family need, to respond to the cries of the widows or the orphans around you, and at the same time to meet the requirements of the calling you have accepted in the Church. When that happens, you will be sorely tempted to murmur, perhaps even to complain. 
But remember that you serve a Master who loves you, who knows you, and who is all-powerful. He has created not demands for your service but opportunities for your growth. You can pray to Him with confidence and ask, “What would you have me do next?” If you listen humbly and with faith, you will feel an answer. And you will, if you are wise and good, set about to do that which your Master has commanded. And you will leave the residue in His hands. As His servant I promise you that you will find that some of those residual tasks you left will be done when you return to them. Others will have been prepared for you. And you will be the stronger for the task you already tackled. 
Then, when you pray again, an answer will come again. And you will move on to the next task, at peace and not complaining. Sometimes you may not feel an answer to your prayer because your Master may not care which task you start next. But He will care that you asked. And whatever you choose to do next, you will know that the residue is in His hands.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Like father, like son - how to get to sleep

Superstar used to be the World's Greatest Sleeper. We could take baby-Superstar anywhere and he'd fall asleep in his carrier most happily. Didn't crimp our lifestyle at all! Those days are long gone, though, as Superstar has been having some trouble sleeping.

One thing I remember most vividly from my boyhood days was the level of stress and distress I gave my parents by not going to sleep when they put me to bed. I came out just about every night most of the time, often multiple times. Now I understand the stress I gave Pop and Grandma anyway.

I don't recall being particularly scared of anything - more bored and unable to get to sleep. The thing that most helped was when we got me a cassette player and bunch of tapes (here's a link for the google challenged or nostalgic) of people reading stories. If the tape finished before I fell asleep, I'd just turn it over and listen to some more. My brother also got some stories that added to our listening options. Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories and Kim, Winnie the Pooh, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, bunch of Native American legends along the same lines as the Just So Stories, bunch of others. Kim might have been my favorite snoozer - don't think I ever stayed awake long enough to finish it.

Image result for frog headband headphones
Not Superstar
So we thought we'd try that solution out for Superstar too. We got him a CD player and a fun headband with headphones and sent him off to Fablehaven his way to bed. On Sundays he listens to James Earl Jones read the New Testament.

In the two weeks since, we've only seen him come out of bed ONCE!

But there's also been one other discovery. Ages and ages ago, little Derrill LOVED being read to. I'd beg my parents to read to me constantly, the same books over and over again. So they recorded themselves reading my favorite stories and got all our living relatives to do a story as well. Those were easily the tapes I listened to the most. I transferred them to CD some time ago and wondered if Superstar might enjoy those stories too.

On a car ride last week to and from our dear friends, we listened to Pop and Grandma reading stories to little Derrill, who laughed and helped read sometimes and interacted. It was SO charming and heartwarming for all of us. Superstar did indeed ask for one of those CDs right away and listened to it several nights in a row. Sadly the aunts and uncles CD didn't work as well (which I mention in case my parents have a cleaner copy than I did and want to try preserving it again), but the Pop and Grandma CDs sound great even 35 years later.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Wedding #2 - Salt Lake City

We got tucked into our home-tel none too soon before we drove back south to Salt Lake City for cousin Ari's sealing. Ari is the eldest son of Joy's cousin-sister Laurel (who we call Lala) and Rich. We stayed with them back when we first got married. Back then, I befriended the 10-yr old Ari by playing Star Wars Battlefield with such ineptness that I won the Traitor award for killing more of my own squad than the enemy. Ari is an amazingly talented young man who dances better than I even dreamed of doing. He recently returned from a mission to South Korea, whereupon he swiftly and successfully wooed Paula.


We arrived early so we could take the kids on a tour of Temple Square. At the visitor's center we listened to the Christus statue presentation and watched a movie about family, listened to someone practice on the Mormon Tabernacle Organ*, and ate lunch under the Seagull monument. There was apparently a massive car crash on the 15 coming north to SLC, so the rest of the family was delayed and I waited in the children's playroom at the temple for a while before someone came to relieve me and the ceremony was set to begin.

Meeting family we haven't seen in ages is great. Reuniting with family we haven't seen in ages at the temple of God is even better.** The sealing ceremony was beautiful. I hope Ari and Paula wrote down some notes of what the sealer told them before they were married for time and eternity. That was the first thing Joy and I did after our sealing: stand in the hallway scribbling everything we could remember on the envelope that our wedding certificate came in. I told Joy we'd have to dig around in our journals when we got home to find those notes again.

While waiting for the bride and groom to change and come out to meet the rest of the wedding party for pictures, we got some pictures of the kids playing on the steps of the Salt Lake Temple. We got to join some of the family pics, but the kids eventually got antsy enough I took them off for a bit more Temple Square touring.


We visited this statue of Hyrum Smith, the Three Witnesses, John the Baptist restoring the Aaronic Priesthood to Joseph Smith, and these gorgeous pink flowers. We also learned a little about how they built the Salt Lake temple and saw the model of its construction before we were all in desperate need of a long sit down and to refresh our blood sugar levels before driving down to Orem for the reception. (see next post)
.

* - I got to play that organ back in 1997 as part of a class I took at BYU on organ registration (that means picking the right sounds for the organ to make to get a particular feel).
** -  The only downside is that the temple workers had to make a very soft announcement over a microphone every so often to remind us in the waiting area to keep it to a whisper to preserve reverence - an announcement she had to make so often I jokingly expected her to mention not to leave bags unattended and to report any suspicious behavior to TSA. Way to be reverent, Derrill!

Memorial Day in Lehi

Before we got to our home-tel, though, we stayed a couple days (May 28-30) with Joy's cousin-brother* Mike and their family in Lehi, UT, just north of Provo/Orem. (Incidentally, that's also our 12th wedding anniversary. I love you, Joy!) After lunch with my uncle Sherm's family, we drove the 4ish hours across the Utah desert through unfamiliar territory until suddenly we hit the I-15 and we were HOME. I may have never claimed Utah as my home - I've only been a wayfaring visitor despite 4 years at BYU - but it sure feels good to be back!

Mike and Genevieve threw a Memorial Day BBQ and we got to spend some good quality time with a lot of that branch of the family right off the bat.

But first, a trip to Smith's Monday morning. You'd think the kids had never seen a grocery store before, they were so excited! Then again, maybe I'm the odd one for not being excited because I think Joy was also rather happy about it. Among our culinary highlights of the trip was Grandma Sycamore's bread; SO much better than Large Mrs. Baird's in Texas.**

I tried to help the kids understand Joy's complex family tree so they could figure out how they were related to all these nice people they hadn't seen in 3-15 years. Half-siblings and extended cousin-brothers just don't fit the usual diagrams! Superstar eventually got it down well enough to try to draw the genealogy lines during sacrament meeting one Sunday.

Our home-tel in Brigham City (*****)

We had a wonderful experience with our Airbnb, a place called The Temple View Inn. I called it our home-tel (home-hotel). The family is moving out of the place and using it as an airbnb for some extra income, so we had this four bedroom home to ourselves. The Airbnb website doesn't so the place justice:

For the kids, the highlight was this narrow attic playroom. (Superstar says, no, his highlight was the Wii. "I had no idea they would have a Wii.") Okay, but the kids spent many hours in the playroom and it was the first thing they mentioned when we talked to other people about our home-tel. Lots of toys of many kinds, a TV/VCR with a stack of Disney movies, and most importantly a keyboard. The kids are begging us to get a keyboard. Why, when you don't play the piano we have? or the toy piano we already have?


Princess slept in the coastal-Africa room while the boys took the Cars room. We were upstairs with two rooms to choose from: one decorated like Nauvoo with a 50lb sunstone doorstop, a carved hope chest, pictures and busts of Joseph and Emma, a crocheted-lace Nauvoo temple, and LDS church history books; the other in white and blue with wedding pictures. We could see the Brigham City temple from the Nauvoo room. We made Nauvoo our main bedroom and used the blue room for naps.