Sunday, December 18, 2011

New Piano

I have wanted a piano since John and I bought our first house in 2001. To me, a house doesn't really feel like a home without that tangible representation of music, something the whole family can share and enjoy. For a while we had an old player piano that I got for free from a church. It was an enormous upright with a solid metal frame, the player had been removed so it sounded kind of hollow and the stain had cracked and was peeling off in spots. It was a monstrosity that consumed our entire living room. At John's insistence we got rid of it before we moved to our current home. My sister-in-law gave me an older digital keyboard to use in place of it until we could find another real piano. Then last year Samuel started piano lessons and my desire for a piano became an actual family need. John and I put a lot of thought and research into our piano shopping. It took a year but finally, last month, on Black Friday - the day of wonderful sales, we bought a piano... The wrong piano. We were debating between two pianos, an upper tier Yamaha upright with a Queen Anne cabinet and a mahogany Essex upright. Essex is a newer brand, 10-15 yrs old, designed by Steinway and Sons. John and I both really liked the Essex piano but it was quite a bit more money and I could not justify the extra expense so we decided on the Yamaha. It was a nice, sturdy piano and would fit well in our home and be great for the kids to learn on. But as we drove away from the store instead of experiencing the expected elation, I felt sick. John and I talked it over and when he realized that I made the decision on what was more practical, not what I loved, he insisted we go back and get the Essex upright. I called my mom and sisters for some impartial-ish advice on the subject and they all agreed with John. So the next day, John and I took the kids with us to go and purchase our new Essex. Samuel even brought along his music books to test it out. He was almost as excited as me. The piano salesman had the good grace not to laugh out loud at my indecision. Last week, on Thursday, the piano arrived and we have not stopped playing it since. Samuel even pulled out his beginning piano books and started teaching James the basics! And every time I walk past the piano I grin and giggle a little because it makes me all sorts of goofy happy. We have a piano! Picture coming soon!

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Our church does Handel's Messiah as a sing along every year.  The last two years I was in charge of coordinating the rehearsals, decorations, food, choir and orchestra and everything else in between.  This year it was someone else's job. (Hooray!)  And although I had every intention of participating in the choir just for the fun of it, I never really made it to the rehearsals.  Last week I was talking to my friend, Liz, who is running the show this year and she asked me to come and bolster the alto section.  So with one rehearsal under my belt, instead of the usual six, I jumped up there and sang tonight.  I have had a cold for three weeks and left my husband home with three somewhat grumpy kids. 
As I was driving to the church I kept thinking, "I SO don't want to do this.  Maybe I should just turn around and go home."  But I didn't.  I arrived at church, warmed up with the choir, said a prayer that I wouldn't mess everyone up too much and sang. 
The soloists did a wonderful job and the orchestra, despite a few gaffes, had some really talented players and a great sound.  Partway through I found myself thinking, "Hey, this isn't so bad, maybe it is a good thing I came."  And then it happened.  Somewhere in the middle of the last song, The Hallelujah Chorus, it hit me- that feeling that makes the whole thing worthwhile.  This is Christmas.   This music, the feeling that threatens to rise up and choke me with tears- this is the reason that we sing this music. 
Liz gave us a little pep talk before we started and what she said is the perfect description for how I felt in the middle of that chorus.  She said, "When I think about the birth of our Savior and about the choirs of angels proclaiming His birth, this is the music I hear."  Exactly.  Or, really, Hallelujah!

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Yes, I am still alive.  The summer is over, we are home from our various vacations- TBB (to be blogged)- and the big kids are back in school.  I have just been struggling to figure out this new version of our usual routine and have not yet found the way to keep everything in balance.  For example:  I somehow managed to lock my keys and  my two year old in my van last week.  Luckily it was a cool day, only lightly drizzling and I was about five minutes from John's office.  Needless to say, I am not quite ready to blog just yet.  HOWEVER, our family room (my summer project (are you catching the theme here?)) is now patched, primed and ready to be painted.  Once I get that massive project done I will use some of my precious free time (aka painting time, aka Matthew's naptime) to write some genius blog posts... or at least some entertaining ones... or, well, some.  Hope all else is well in the blogosphere!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Finally!  After years of anticipation we officially broke ground for the Philadelphia Temple on Saturday.  Elder Henry B Eyring from the first presidency of the church presided over the event.  President Jay E Jensen, presidency of the 70, was there too.  Also in attendance the mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, and several other city officials and dignitaries as well as managers of surrounding properties.  It was quite the event! 
A few hundred people gathered at 17th and Vine, an old parking lot that had been set up with a stage and rows of chairs.  In front of the stage was a small carpeted area with two racks of shovels and in front of that was a narrow strip of dirt where the concrete had been removed and a small pile of dirt left in it's place.  The groundbreaking was invitation only but was broadcast to all of the chapels in the area. 

Here's the rundown of the program.  I hope I get it all straight.  I was so excited and jittery (and freezing) that I might not have it all right.
Opening song:  "High on the Mountaintop"
Vai Sikahema, a counselor in the Cherry Hill, NJ stake presidency, spoke about his first journey to the temple with his parents and siblings when he was 5.  It took three days to get to the New Zealand Temple and they traveled by boat, bus and plane.  It was a touching account as was his testimony of the impact the temple has been on his life, the lives of his siblings and of their children. 
Elder Smith spoke next about important dates in Philadelphia (and PA in general) history and in Mormon history and events that combined the two.
Elder Walker (executive director of the temple department) spoke about the steps taken to secure the building site of the temple and of the cooperation and help from the mayor and other city officials.  He also told us that Elder Eyring is from Princeton, NJ and how he had grown up loving the Philadelphia area.
The choir sang "How Firm a Foundation"
President Jay E Jensen spoke about the merchant who found the most beautiful pearl and wanted to display it so others could see.  He commissioned a man to build a beautiful wooden box for it.  But when his friends saw it they complimented the box more than the pearl.  Pres. Jensen said that the temple is like the box.  It will be beautiful and it is right to admire it.  However, what is inside the temple is infinitely more valuable.
Finally Elder Eyring gave a few remarks (I'll see if I can figure out how to put my recording of it on blogger) and then dedicated the ground for the building of the temple in a special prayer.  When he finished the sun came out from behind a cloud and shone right down on the parking lot that was now something infinitely more special.
The choir closed with: "I Know that my Redeemer Lived"
I know our church music is not the most exciting- especially to those who are used to gospel music.  But our music carries the spirit and it was interesting to see how the spirit reached those in the audience who are not members of the church.  For example, Mayor Nutter looked bored at the beginning of the song but was completely engaged by the end.  Behold the power of music.  =)
After the closing prayer, Elder Eyring, Pres Jensen and Elder Smith picked up a few of the golden (I know, silly) shovels and officially turned over the dirt, breaking ground symbolically. for the new temple.  Then they invited the mayor and other city officials and neighboring property managers to come up and grab a shovel and turn over some dirt.  Next they invited the six stake presidents from the new temple district to take a turn.  Once that happened they opened the invitation to all in attendance to take turns breaking ground for our new temple.  It was exciting and exhilarating and so, so, so wonderful!  I felt lucky to be there (singing in the choir) but it would have been even better if John could have been there too along with all of our friends who have worked and prayed daily to make this a possibility.
But look at a few friends who did make it:

Doesn't the temple look beautiful?

For more information you can go to

Fond Farewell

There once was a bookstore called Border's
Which was Heaven on Earth to book horders.
Sad to say they went bankrupt one day.
Amazon now receives all our orders.

Goodbye Border's!  We will miss you!!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 Remembered

Where were you on 9/11?  How many times have you been asked this question?  I was on my way to class at Temple University.  As I got off the subway I saw people gathered around food trucks with TVs showing pictures of the Pentagon burning.  The volume was turned down and I didn't stop to ask so I had no idea that there was anything going on other than an accident in DC.  When I arrived at class everyone was chatty and the professor had a hard time getting our attention.  When we finally quieted down, he told those of us who didn't know about what had happened in New York and then excused us to go home and be with friends and family.  This class had over 100 people in it and I didn't know very many of them.  But one girl started crying and someone said she was from NYC. 
I began my subway ride home a little nervously.  If they had attacked New York and DC, was Philadelphia next?  We are right in the middle of the other two.  When I was just about to get off the train my cell phone rang.  It was my sister, Keri, calling to make sure that we were OK and that we knew what was going on.  I got home in time to hug my husband extra tight before he had to go to work and in time to watch the first tower fall.  Instead of a day of classes, I sat glued to the news watching the images over and over and over again.
I didn't lose anyone on that day but I have been deeply affected by it nonetheless.  I think we all have.  I remember in college I did a report on JFK's assassination.  I had to interview two people who had been alive at that time and ask how it had affected them.  I didn't get why it was such a big deal.  I thought the conspiracy aspect was far more interesting and relevant than how people felt.  What I didn't understand at that time was how completely a single, shared, tragic experience like the Kennedy Assassination or 9/11 can impact all of us.  In many ways we now measure our lives by pre 9/11 and post 9/11.  Our national imaginary bubble of protection is gone.  My personal imaginary bubble of safety and security went with it.   But I love how the country, and the world, drew together in support of each other.  I just wish it would have lasted longer than it did.  I wish that brotherly love and support wasn't just something we dusted off for one day each September. 
My heart goes out to the families and friends who are still mourning the loss of a loved one on that tragic day.  I am eternally grateful for the first responders who sacrificed themselves willingly to save others so they could return to their families and have a second chance to really live.  And I am grateful every day for the soldiers across the world who watch over us and fight daily to protect us from the recurrence of such an indescribably horrible event.
Our church put out this very moving account of a 9/11 survivor and how it inspired him to really look at what was important in his life.  I suggest you take the time to watch it.
Some great literature I have read that covers 9/11:

A fictional story about a boy who lost his Father on 9/11.

From the Story Corps project.  It is transcriptions from all sorts of people and includes a story from a survivor and a story of someone who lost his fiancee that day. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Terrible Twos?

So a few weeks ago my baby turned two.  The last few months leading up to his birthday I was afraid that Matthew was going to be one of those toddlers who coined the phrase "terrible twos" but since his actual b-day he has mellowed quite a bit- or else we have been too busy for him to pitch fits.  I'm not sure which.
Matthew at two is quite the charmer.  He still has that killer smile and belly laugh and is just so stinking cute if I do say so myself.  He talks non stop and is actually understandable much of the time.  (Although I did leave a translation guide for the babysitter when I left the kids for a couple of days to go to Utah.)  He acts like he is two going on eight.  He thinks he can do anything and everything his biggest brother, Samuel, does.  He has oficially hit tht Thomas the Train stage and is obsessed with his engines and tracks and plays with them all time.  He also still loves all things Mickey Mouse.  My parents sent him a couple of Mickey books for his birthday and now he makes me read one of them to him 10-15 times a day and he sleeps with it for naptime and bedtime.  However, that means he will pleasantly go to sleep without screaming so I am all over that!
For his birthday this year we had a Mickey Mouse party, of course, with family and close friends.  I even attempted a Mickey cake which turned out pretty darn well.  (I am a little cocky this post!)

As for two year old pictures, I usually go to Target because they do a decent job and don't cost an arm and a leg.  Unfortunately, since the last time we went, they started charging a $9.99 sitting fee per person.  Forget that!  I took my awesome camera (a Christmas gift from my amazing husband) and decided to take his two year old pictures myself.  What do you think?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Eight is Great

Last month Samuel turned eight. He has been looking forward to this birthday since January and not just for the party and the presents. Eight years old is a big deal! In our church eight is the age of accountability when we believe a child is old enough to decide if he wants to be baptized and officially become a member of our church. After baptism they are then confirmed a member of the church and receive the Holy Ghost to be a constant companion and advisor. Samuel is a sweet, sweet boy. He has the biggest heart I know and just wants to love everyone around him. He has a wide-eyed innocence and imagination that has somehow, miraculously survived two years of grade school. (Longer than I expected!) He is very smart and loves to play and learn and do all those things that boys do at that age. He has a huge spirit and more faith than I ever had when I was a kid. He was SO excited to get baptized! He has been anxiously awaiting his turn since his cousin, Nathan, was baptized last February. We have talked about the baptism non stop since then. Unfortunately, we had to make him wait a couple of weeks after his birthday to get baptized so that we could give family members a chance to finish school and get to Philly. But it was totally worth it! We had a great time and Samuel felt loved with so much of his family around him.
Some things about about Sam at age 8: He loves to read ( especially the Magic Tree House books- which are too easy but he loves the stories). He loves to play with Legos and would do that to the exclusion of all else if I would let him. He loves playing kickball and dodge ball. He can ride his bicycle without training wheels but it makes him a little nervous. He LOVES the water- ocean or swimming pool, it makes no difference to him. He loves the Narnia movies, Star Wars anything and Harry Potter 1-3 (he is still too young for the rest). He loves the fads: bey blades and silly bands and webkinz. He still wants to be a zebra doctor when he grows up. He is really excited to be a cub scout and enjoys passing off the various tasks in his manual. He is a great big brother who maybe teases a little too much but clearly loves his brothers more than anything. His best friend is still Keith- has been since Kindergarten and he is still friends with as many girls as boys and sees nothing wrong with that. As far as he is concerned, there is no such thing as cooties.

I love my Sam and his big heart!

Here are some of my favorite (recent) pics of Samuel:

The boys in their suits.

Our new cub scout

Red, white and blue- Happy 4th!

Can't you just see Sam as a zoologist?

The day he learned to ride minus the extra wheels.

Baptism Day!

All ready!

Singing with cousins?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Myrtle Beach

We took our annual family trip (AKA John's medical conference- you can ask him all about that aspect in person) to Myrtle Beach in the middle of June.  We did the math and realized that it was our sixth year and we have no desire at all to find someplace new.  It is the perfect vacation for young kids.  Although I have to say we did miss our partners in crime, Gavin and Jamie and the girls, Aunt B, Laura and kids and the Andrus family representative, who couldn't make it this year.  Instead, Tip brought a couple of friends, one of whom was the self-proclaimed Exercise Nazi, Pat.  She even got Jacko out exercising which is something of a miracle!
While in MB we rediscovered that Matthew has a disconcerting character trait.  He is a wanderer.  This is totally new to us because Sam and James always stuck right next to us in public.  They did not like crowds or strangers or being separated from us even a little bit.  Matthew has no such qualms.  Case and point:  The first evening we were in MB, we got back from the beach and got the boys bathed and dressed and set them in front of the TV so John and I could get ready for dinner.  We had two bathrooms so John and I each hopped in a shower.  When John finished he noticed that the front door to our condo was wide open.  He heard screaming and looked out.  There was a woman standing in the parking lot holding Matthew who was screaming his head off.  Our little guy had figured out how to open the door, climbed down the long flight of wooden steps, and wandered into the parking lot.  This lady saw him and had just picked him up, wondering what to do with him when John got to the door.  John yelled down, "I think that is mine.  I would come down and get him but I am in a towel."  The lady was nice enough to bring Matthew up to John and we learned our first lesson- blockade the door to avoid unwanted exiting-  there wasn't a deadbolt.  A couple days later Matthew pulled his disappearing trick again, this time in an amusement park with hundreds of people around.  John found him about 100 feet away from us just happily bobbing along. 
Luckily we all made it home safe and sound and had a good time in the process.  Here are some pics to prove it!

Matthew "helping" stuff his bear at the kids' activity tent.

S & J at their favorite place- the water park.

Riding the train with my boys at Family Kingdom.

Matthew tolerated the water slides- and maybe even liked them a little.

Taking a nap in Nonno's arms

Dinner at the Home Plate pizza buffet.

Issac, our favorite busboy, remembered us and signed some balloons for the boys.

Matthew wasn't too sure about Issac.

I have wanted to take family pictures on the beach since our first visit to MB.  This year I finally got around to it.

But it was really windy.

And the boys were being goofy.

There we go!

They clean up well!
I tried to add a couple more pictures- including the traditional pic of James sleeping through dinner- but my computer is malfunctioning at the moment- or maybe it is just blogger.  Will try later.