Where Can I Turn for Peace?

Another Green World

Back in November, I received a last-minute invitation from my neighbor to go to the Mormon Women Project "Salon", a conference for women. I needed to go to Salt Lake anyway, so it worked out perfectly. I quickly made arrangements for my kids, drove with my friend to Salt Lake, stopped to run my errand at the Apple Store, and then we went to the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Because I hadn't planned on attending, I walked into the meeting without knowing anything about who the speakers were or what topics they would be covering.

The keynote speaker was an 87-year-old woman who slowly made her way up to the podium with her walker. If anything, she was slightly underdressed, and the delivery of her address was noticeably erratic.
She started off by saying that she was supposed to talk about choices but had decided to talk about limitations, and then she was off on Hillary Clinton, Condeleezza Rice, Olene Walker, and women of influence. Although the speaker's physical abilities might have been on the decline, she was exuberant and witty. We heard stories about what a bad singer she was, assignments from a writing class she teaches, and about playing tennis with her brother. My attention was waning, not because she wasn't enjoyable, but because I could not figure out where she was going with her ramblings.

Then she began relating a long story about the oldest of her five daughters, who suffered from severe mental disorders and was later diagnosed as anorexic, bulimic and bipolar. But it was the early 1970s and information about (and treatment for) these diseases was not readily available. Her daughter had gone off to college in California, and they spoke with her over the telephone every Sunday. After receiving some letters from her, they became a little alarmed. And then one day they received a call from their daughter's friend, saying that the daughter was very sick and they needed to get there immediately.

The speaker, Emma Lou Thayne, decided to go to California by herself. The daughter was clearly overcome with some severe problems, and a visit with a psychiatrist landed her in the hospital. Emma Lou pled with him to let her take her daughter home. A medication was administered and she had thirty minutes to get her daughter on the plane. Chaos (and some miracles) ensued, and they boarded the flight and were able to fly home to Utah.

But the struggles were far from over. Her daughter's behavior was bizarre and dangerous and she was admitted to a psychiatric ward. Doctors didn't know what to do, and Emma Lou wondered how her daughter would ever live a normal life.

In the middle of this bleak trial, Emma Lou was serving on the Young Women's General Board, and she was asked to write a song for an upcoming conference. She sat down at her desk and easily wrote these words:

Where can I turn for peace?
Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,
I draw myself apart,
Searching my soul?

Where, when my aching grows,
Where, when I languish,
Where in my need to know, where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand?
He, only One.

He answers privately,
Reaches my reaching
In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend.
Gentle the peace he finds for my beseeching.
Constant he is and kind,
Love without end.

My jaw just about dropped. This peculiar lady standing in front of me was the author of the hymn that had spoken to my soul and become so special to me. (If this isn't one of your favorite hymns, read through the words again. And then memorize the song so you can have the words with you when you need them.)

Music was added, the song was sung at the Young Womens conference, and later added to the LDS Hymnbook. At that point in the MWP conference, Ariel Bybee, a retired Metropolitan Opera singer, sang those beautiful words that have repeatedly come to my rescue and healed my pain.

Emma Lou Thayne pulled her message together and talked about making decisions. She counseled that we should stay in touch two ways: vertically with the Divine and horizontally with the human. And if we can stay right in the middle, we will be happy.

I was still a bit shocked by how that whole talk had turned out when Emma Lou Thayne came up to me as she was walking down from the podium. "In my next life, I want to be tall just like you. Are you a singer too?" How disappointing that I'm not. But I did thank her for writing one of my very favorite hymns and sharing that story with us.

Sometimes, when I am singing hymns at church, I find myself wondering what it was that prompted them to be written. What trials and challenges were the authors facing? (Sometimes I can't really focus on the words to the hymns at church because my kids are being so loud.) Sometimes I wish I were a good singer so I could walk around my house singing songs out loud instead of just in my head. And sometimes people invite us to things at the last minute and we are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.


Passport Photo Fail

I tried to take our own passport photos today. But when they are printed out as 2 x 2s, their faces measure 1/4 of an inch too large.

We'll try again tomorrow.

And tomorrow, we'll skip the green Kool-Aid for lunch.


It turns out that going skiing is a little like having a baby

About five years ago, Steve declared that we were going to be a skiing family. It was a surprising announcement because Steve hadn't ever been much of a skier. I snowboarded a bit during my early college years, but I hadn't been on skis since I was twelve. (And the whole reason I switched from skis to a snowboard was because I wasn't a good skier.) But we live in Ogden and have world-class skiing right in our backyard, so Steve decided that we were going to be a skiing family.

I put off joining him and the kids for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I do not like being cold. Steve repeatedly assured me that once I had good gear, I would not be cold. A few years ago, Derrick worked at Snowbasin and had access to free guest passes, but I used the excuse that I didn't have snow pants or a good jacket. . . and there was also that problem that Adam was always sick. The next year I complained that it was too expensive. . . which is completely true, especially when you need snow pants and a ski jacket. Last year was supposed to be my year to finally go skiing, but I was out of commission.

I got snow pants and a good ski jacket and Monday was supposed to be my debut. But we ran into babysitter issues, Adam came down with a bad cough, and I wasn't feeling very well.

The stars finally aligned, and on Friday, I went skiing for Rachel's birthday.

Thursday night, I had some emotions that were strangely similar to the feelings I had exactly nine years earlier. . . the night before Rachel was born. We had spent most of January 2003 (and December 2002 . . . I was an impatient pregnant lady) waiting for our baby to come. But that night, I knew it was time. We had been to dinner with the whole Ballard Family in North Ogden. On the drive home to Logan, Steve asked me if I wanted to go to find a trampoline or some swings, but I told him we didn't need to. She was coming.

I was nervous and excited and had a hard time going to sleep. I knew it was going to be hard, I knew that it was going to be painful, and I knew there was no turning back. (Huge understatement. . . I was completely unprepared for Rachel's delivery.)

Fast forward back to Thursday night. . . I was actually a little embarrassed at myself for being so nervous about going skiing. But I knew it was going to be hard, I knew it was going to be painful. . . and once I borrowed skis from my friend, there was no turning back. What if fell getting off the lift? What if I couldn't keep up with my kids? What if I spent the day being miserably cold? And what if I never wanted to go back and crushed Steve's dream of being a skiing family?

But I didn't fall, I'm still much better than my kids, and I wasn't even cold. And skiing is a whole lot easier now than it was when I was twelve. (Hurray for awesome improvements in ski equipment.) I had fun with my kids. . . lots of fun. . . and I can't wait to go again.

(It should be noted that not only did Lucy fall getting off the lift once, she also fell off the lift. It was right close to the bottom and she didn't get hurt. Lucy is really good at falling off of things. . . bar stools, horses, the dock at Jenny Lake. . . but it actually looked more like Steve pushed her off.)

After that, we figured she was safer riding up by herself:

Rachel is a pretty good little skier:

And Lucy is still a bit wild:

Derrick brought Kaleigh up and joined us for lunch:

Kaleigh couldn't get enough of the snow. And I couldn't get her to stop eating it:

Steve kept seeing people he knew and they kept asking him if those were all his girls. (P.S. We'd claim Gracie any day.)

And back to my comparison of going skiing and having a baby. . . I came home tired and exhausted and didn't really want to get up out of bed the next morning. My body was so sore and it still hurts to walk down the stairs. But, just like having a baby, it was completely worth it.

I haven't been feeling old enough to have a nine-year old:

But then I saw the crows' feet around my eyes in this picture and it looks like I am aging faster than I thought:

What a fun birthday memory.


Thank goodness for health insurance

2011 Ballard Family Health Insurance Claims
Steve: 9
Emily: 45
Derrick: 4
Rachel: 10
Lucy: 4
Adam: 24
Total: 96

Sometimes I complain about the $1100 per month we pay in health insurance. But this really puts things into perspective for me.

I have these childhood memories of my mother spending hours and hours on the phone trying to sort out medical claims with insurance companies. We have health insurance from SelectHealth, and I haven't had one problem with them.

I'm actually a huge fan of SelectHealth. Not only have they provided our family with excellent medical and dental coverage, they have also really impressed me with their community involvement. Last year, SelectHealth donated $2500 to the Oasis Community Garden as part of their Select 25 awards program. That money went a long way in helping us at the garden, and it was pretty amazing to go to the awards luncheon in Salt Lake and learn about all of the other incredible groups they generously contributed toward. SelectHealth also sponsors lots of great activities like The Classic Race and Salt Lake's New Year Celebration: EVE. (And they even hooked me up with free entries to both. Can you say that about your health insurance company?)

I just found these fun pictures online when I searched for that link to The Classic.

Good times.

If SelectHealth is your health insurance provider, you should get online and register for My Health. You can access medical records, (including labs, imaging, pathology, and procedures) insurance claims, and more. It pulled up Steve's labs from clear back in 1999. Which is awesome.

P.S. It is ironic that Derrick is the healthiest member of our family (his four claims were for three dermatology appointments and a visit with the dentist). A few years back when we were applying for private insurance, he was the one who was rejected and deemed uninsurable, but they (BlueCross BlueShield, I think?) were perfectly willing to cover me. Bad pick.


Adam's New Hat

Has everyone been to Little Cherry Blossoms on 25th Street? It's one of my very favorite businesses in Ogden.

It's the first place I go to buy hair bows for my girls, ties for Adam, and cute shoes for Kaleigh. It's the first place I go for a baby gift and the first place I go when Adam needs a potty break. (Not really, but that's probably what Carey thinks. Adam really likes her bathroom.) It used to be the first place I'd go after meeting with Derrick's lawyer. (His office is right across the street.) I just love visiting with Carey.

Carey writes a great blog too. (It covers all sorts of things. . . how to make felt rosettes headbands, a recipe for the perfect pie crust, how to force bulbs to grow in the winter . . . way more than just about kids' clothes.) Last month, she hosted a giveaway and I won a free boy hat of my choice.

Little Cherry Blossoms has these knit military hats for little boys that are absolutely adorable. You can see a brown one if you scroll down and look at the pictures she has posted with her giveaway. I figured that I'd be able to find some pictures of Adam wearing one, since we have purchased a few, but the problem is that Adam loses them. Apparently quicker than I can take a picture. I just love these hats, so when I won the giveaway, I knew exactly what I was going to pick.

I made the mistake of taking Adam with me, so my prize ended up being a free boy hat of Adam's choice. Little Cherry Blossoms is filled to the brim with darling kids clothes and accessories, including a bunch of charming hats for little boys. But as soon as Adam set his eyes on this beauty, there was no talking him out of it.

He put it on and wore it for two days straight. That means he wore it to preschool. And to bed.

And yes, he left the foil sticker on it. Derrick was so proud.

With my luck, this will turn out to be the hat that he never loses.


A Very Belated And Very Long Christmas Post

I thought I had everything about Christmas all planned out . . . . but I didn't plan on Kaleigh locking the keys in the car on Christmas Eve (day).

Steve told me I really shouldn't post pictures every time we run out of gas and lock our keys in our car because then everyone can see that our life is a wreck. But rest assured, I don't post pictures every time we run out of gas and lock our keys in our car, so you'll never know how much of a wreck our life really is.

After trying to break into the car himself, Steve finally gave in and called the locksmith.

Even though Steve was the one outside vacuuming the car and Steve was the one watching Kaleigh, I was the one blamed for the key getting locked inside. It was my fault that we were locked out of our car because I have been trained by my father to have multiple spare keys. (I had only been driving what. . . three years before I met Steve, so I don't know why he thought he was exempt from the last eleven years of "training".)

Dad, please direct all future discussions about spare keys to Steve, so we can share the responsibility.

We went and ran all of our last-minute errands together with the kids. While we were at the mall, we took the kids to see Santa. Kaleigh slid right out of the stroller, cut ahead of everyone in line, and ran straight for Santa's lap. She was so delighted with herself that nobody did anything to stop her. (I was stuck back in line with the stroller and couldn't get to her anyway.) She told Santa she wanted a treat for Christmas. And it turns out he had one to give her. The rest of the kids waited patiently for their turn and asked Santa for a surprise (Rachel), something purple (Lucy), and a dog (Adam).

We went home, had a quick dinner, and let the kids open their presents from me (pajamas) and their presents from Steve (their favorite box of cereal).

The kids were bathed and ready for bed earlier than ever. We read a few Christmas books together and then Adam (who was most excited about everything) eagerly went to his room and fell sleep without any complaint.

Steve took the girls and went a little deeper into the Christmas story with the help of these new Bible videos that show the Life of Christ. (They are even more interactive on the iPad.) And then I started wrapping.

Steve made some preparations with this "half of a cow" that was on our counter. Rachel was not impressed.

Derrick came home from work and went to go to sleep and found his big Christmas present: a new mattress. He was so happy that he came right up and hugged me and Steve. (That doesn't happen all that often.)

We were all finished and ready for bed in record time (before 1:00 am).

I let the kids decorate the tree and I didn't move one ornament. That's why, if you look closely, you can see some interesting "ornaments", like a rubber shark halfway up the tree on the left.

Christmas morning was LOUD. (It didn't help that I woke up with a sinus cold.)

The kids broke through the streamers that were set up to keep them from sneaking into see their loot before everyone got up. Lucy said it felt a little bit like a spook alley so next year I will get red and green.

Derrick's present for Lucy was perfect- too bad they weren't from Santa.

Steve received a special pair of shoes from Rachel. He put them right on and wore them all day long. If you are lucky, you might get to see them in person someday.

Two things I wish I would have taken pictures of: all of the different outfits Kaleigh wore on Christmas Day and all of the food that Derrick consumed. For breakfast, he ate most of his box of Corn Pops in a big mixing bowl.

The big hit of the morning was the iPad. (I think Kaleigh is on her fourth outfit of the day in this picture.)

Everyone took their turn with it. . . I didn't get a chance to play with the iPad for a week.

All of the kids were being entertained by their electronics and everything quieted down. (Quiet enough for me to take a nap on the couch.) When I woke up, Kaleigh was still watching her birthday video. Over and over and over again.

I took five of these videos and I should edit them into one, but I don't want to take the time right now, so I here are my favorites.

We all wore adhesive mustaches to Steve's parents' house. On the way there, Lucy just about died laughing.

Aunt Kay came and brought big candy canes for all of the kids. And then she pulled a little surprise out of her bag. It's a shame I didn't get my camera out fast enough to get a video of the first song because it was the best.

After lunch and presents, we were back to our house to get ready for the big dinner.

Derrick told us he couldn't believe how many presents he had received for Christmas and reminded us how spoiled we are here in America.

These pictures really don't do it justice, but Steve cooked the most amazing prime rib I've ever had. He also whipped up roasted potatoes, asparagus, candied yams, and mashed potatoes. It was impressive. Especially when he washed all of the dishes. He is pretty amazing.

After Derrick ate dinner (his fourth huge meal of the day) it finally caught up to him. He went downstairs and tried to sleep off his stomachache while we opened presents upstairs.

And that was our Christmas.

P.S. The Christmas tree is down!