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Thursday, September 29, 2011


Burning glances,
Turning heads....
Stop and stare 
At the sea of faces 
Around you.

Seething shadows,
breathing lies...
You can fool
Any friend
Whoever knew you!
(lyrics from Phantom of the Opera)

We all wear masks. Masks of Perfection.

The mask of a perfectly clean house- the kind that always look ready for a magazine photo-shoot. It makes me wonder how people actually live there.

The mask of a perfect body. Isn't it such an elusive concept? No one's body is always perfect- there's always hidden problems or stretch marks, or at least stray pimples that have the audacity to announce themselves on your face right before date night.

What about social masks? Don't we want to impress everyone we interact with? Sometimes it's like a contest: who is the wittiest of all? Who is the prettiest of all? Who is the most fashionable? Who is the smartest? Who is the richest?

I see everyone around me dancing in a never-ending mental masquerade. 

I'm tired of these games. It's all so superficial.  We can try our very hardest, and it's never good enough. It's never PERFECT. If we all know perfection is always elusive, why do we even try to pretend we have it?

I"ve been doing a lot of serious introspection this week. I try really hard to be 'real' and non-pretentious. I usually don't care what people think of me. Even so, I've noticed my own mask. 

What mask do I wear? I wear a mask over my post-partum depression. I try to always hide my inner struggle with a mask of colorful clothing (seriously, how can anyone be depressed while wearing bright yellow?) and smiles. When I'm REALLY depressed (on the verge of tears) I sing to hide it. Oh sure, friends ask me often how I'm doing emotionally. I don't actually lie, but I change the subject quickly to something else. A more comfortable subject. I don't tell them my daily battles with myself. 

I have prayed and searched the scriptures for comfort each day the past 3 months. It's impossible to wear a mask or hide our true selves from Heavenly Father. He knows all our secret struggles, even before we decide to tell Him about it.

I have spent so many nights on my knees, weeping to the Lord and confiding all my inadequacies and weaknesses. It's interesting how He teaches me in these conversations. He has reminded me of the scripture: "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me". He also has reminded me (again) that through Christ, I can always have deep joy and inner peace.  

Something else amazing happened. God has lovingly (and powerfully) reminded me that true perfection is NOT an illusion.

Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, I literally can be perfect. He has given me immeasurable peace by teaching me that after I do my best,  He will make up the difference. 

The most important thing is this: Perfection through Christ is never a mask.  

It is our true selves, with nothing left to hide. It is joyous. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Nathan and Matthew prepare to fire their rocket

Nathan invented a rocket-launcher with the boys. They made it out of PVC pipe and valves from a tire store. He constructed card stock rockets for each child. They each decorated their rockets, then launched them into the sky over our pasture. It was immensely fun, so Nathan made more rockets for the friends who came over to play for a game night.

The men had such fun launching the rockets. Everyone would count down and yell, "Blast off!" The boys loved racing into the pasture to see who was first to retrieve each rocket as it landed. The rockets sometimes went so high we couldn't see them against the bright sky.

I love good clean fun like this! I'm so thankful for a husband who enjoys playing with our children. They absolutely adore him!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Just Another Manic Monday

Let's begin at midnight this morning, since that's when I crawled into bed-

12:00am- Diego's cries stop and he finally falls asleep after literally hours of rocking, singing, and massage. He's allergic to cow's milk and evidently I unknowingly consumed dairy products at the church potluck earlier. Poor baby!
1:00am- My dear sweetheart arrives home from a 5-day business trip- YAY! I've missed him so much! I sleepily welcome him home.
1:30am- Diego wakes for a meal.
1:35am- Diego's diaper leaks on a colossal scale. Now I'm in a puddle.
1:36am- A quick diaper change occurs and we're both back in bed.
1:45 am- My sweetheart's snores are getting louder and louder....I can't sleep. I try to jostle him awake; no good. I contemplate sleeping on the couch.
2:30 am- Somewhere around this time I welcome uncounsciousness- finally!
3:06 am- The chickens start squawking frantically. Drat. Something is trying to eat them. They aren't safely sleeping in their coop because they insisted on roosting on the chicken coop roof out of my reach earlier in the evening.
3: 07am- Bella comes to my room, whining to be let out so she can chase the chicken predator. I drag myself out of bed,  turn on the outdoor flood lights and we go outside together.
3:08 am- Bella chases a black shape through the dark pasture. I am satisfied that the creature is gone, so I catch the wandering chickens (all sixteen of them...yeah, that was fun) and lock them safely away for the night. The roosters think it's morning and begin crowing at me. Have you ever had a rooster crow right in your face inside an echoing metal chicken coop? That sure erased any lingering webs of sleepiness in my groggy mind.
3:10am- The chickens are safely secured, but Bella won't come back. I call louder and louder. 
3:10 and 30 seconds am- I sweep my flashlight beam across the pasture, looking for her. Her eyes glow in the night, giving me quite a fright. Now I'm too scared to stay outside with the dark emptiness looming around me.
3:11am- I call for Bella from the safety of my back door. No answer. Drat.
3:15 am- After several minutes of calling, I venture back outside to find her. She's trapped the animal in a tree and won't leave it.
3:17am- I manage to drag her back inside the house, turn off lights and fall into bed.
3:30am- Diego wakes for more food. Drat.
3:40am- I fall asleep- thank goodness!
4:00am- Evidently I didn't find all the wandering chickens- they start squawking again. A couple of hens can't get into the locked coop and join the rest of the flock. They are frantically pacing in front of the coop door and calling the flock on the top of their lungs. Sigh.
4:05am- I venture outside with the flashlight to let in the chickens. The predator gives me the scare of my life before running off to his tree again. Bella is now growling and chasing him.
4:07am- It's not worth the battle to drag Bella out of the pasture again. I leave her outside to protect the chickens (and wishfully I hope she'll catch and kill that darn predator- whatever it is). I return to bed.
4:15am- Bella is barking nonstop, trying to get the animal out of the tree. It's so LOUD. She's getting more frantic-sounding. Blast. I can't leave her barking all night, keeping the neighbors awake.
4:17am- I convince Bella to come inside, I lock up the house, then run to bed eagerly.
4:25am- Diego is cranky and fussing. Maybe he's uncomfortable? I soothe him back to sleep.
4:30am- I finally fall asleep...hopefully it will last longer this time.
5:00am- My alarm sounds off. Groan. I refuse to budge. Who cares if the kids are late for school today? Not me.
6:30am- Diego wakes me with cries of hunger. He is fed. I resign myself to my fate of fatigue. I rouse the family and we get ready for the day. Amazingly, the boys were not late for school.

Welcome to another beautiful day! As I drove into town, I admired the sunrise peeking through the trees. I said a silent prayer thanking the Lord for blessing me with another day to live. Isn't it wonderful just to be alive?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Random Thoughts

Daniel has found another treasure to add to his Nature Collection: snakeskins. He's so pleased, it might as well be pirate gold. His bookshelf is full of treasures: polished rocks, rabbit fur, pretty feathers, and antlers.

Our cat Saffron is such an avid hunter we have to lock him out of our rooms at night if we hope to get any sleep. If he's in our room, he sits at the foot of the bed, watching and waiting for one of us to inadvertantly twitch in our sleep. As soon as that happens, he's all claws and teeth, killing his prey. It's pretty funny. He tries to eat anything that moves.

We decorated for Halloween early. It's Nathan's favorite holiday. We choose to decorate only with 'harvest' themed ghosts, skeletons, witches, etc. We have cheerful pumpkins, scarecrows, and leafy garlands draped on the mantles and hutches. It's delightful.

We rode bikes yesterday on our long driveway so Matthew could practice riding without training wheels. It was beautiful. The sun was setting, crickets were singing, and bats hovered above us. There wasn't any sound of traffic or any sign of people. It was so peaceful.

Matthew has a very strong spirit. He fell over and over again, but promptly tried again each time. He laughed exultantly any time he traveled more than 10 feet without falling. He really conquers challenges well when he puts his mind to it. Nathan and I were both impressed with his determination.

That evening Matthew made my bed and left a handmade thank-you note on my pillow. It said, "Thank you for helping me ride my bike. I love you."

What's in a name?

Matthew and Daniel with Gwendolyn
Our little patch of country needs a name. I can't decide on only one name, and I can't imagine having 10 different names for our little farm-to-be.

I can't decide if I should go with a cheerful name evoking images of happy children playing with baby animals or if I should lean towards more humor. (What? Humor in a name? Our chicken coop is called "The Chick Inn")

Here are my favorite names:

Royal Oaks (the children's current favorite since it plays on the KINGsley name)
Bit of Heaven Homestead
Sunnyside Cottage
Bella Vie Farm
Heart's Desire 
Belly Acres
Pitter Patter Plot
Serendipity Acres
Justamere Farm
Busy Solitude Farm (from a quote by Voltaire:"The happiest of all lives is a busy solitude")
Kingsley Croft ('croft' is a Scottish/Irish word meaning a 5-10 acre farm)

See what I mean? They are all so cute/funny/meaningful. Blast. How can I ever pick?

I'm tempted to make a dozen signs to post on our driveway gate, they can all have a different name. I suppose that would look too messy/ugly.

This is where I need your help. I want to know which is your favorite.

Home school in the kitchen

We decided to cook together a few times each week as a way of combining math lessons and homemaking skills. Sarah really loves to cook, so we practice her multiplication skills by having her triple every recipe.

Today she made several chicken pot pies: one for dinner tonight, and two for the freezer for later. There were two pie crusts left over, so she proposed we make pumpkin pies.

Pumpkin pies don't freeze well, so we kept one pie for our family and she walked the other pie over to our neighbors.

She was pleased that she could share the fruit of her labors. I  was pleased that we finally caught her interest with math.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wayside Treasures

We live near the edge of a huge wildlife refuge. I really mean huge. Nathan had taken Matthew and Daniel for a hike there when we first moved in. It was time for a family hike with all of us.

I was so impressed with our children. They enthusiastically agreed when Nathan proposed a five-mile hike. To be honest, I was not excited about such a long hike in the intense summer heat.  I tried unsuccessfully to convince them down a shorter trail. I could just imagine them getting tired half-way through the hike and complaining the rest of the way back to the parking lot. Boy was I in for a surprise.

They did a great job and didn't complain at all. I was amazed that Daniel would have so much endurance for such a small body.

We hiked up and down several hills. On the grassy hill tops the wind was so powerful it almost blew us off our feet.  It was strange to jump across the stepping-stones where the rivers have dried up. We passed a waterfall site....I've never seen a dried-up waterfall before. It felt surreal.

We hiked through a valley literally covered with fossilized shellfish. The ground was littered with them. It was so fun to find the prettiest fossils. It was so hard to leave them behind.

The children were such a great example to me of cheerfully enjoying God's beautiful creations. They were ecstatic to discover teeny snail shells along the path. They stopped and admired shells for several minutes, exclaiming in joy over each new shell.

It brought back my own childhood memories. There was a time for me when little shells were my greatest treasures. I was so thankful that my children helped me rediscover the magic under my feet.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Toasty Texas

This year is the worst year in recorded United States history for wild fires. Texas has had fires raging for over 250 consecutive days and over 1400 homes have been destroyed.

Smoke fills the air around our home often. I watch fire trucks rush past our house and I feel nervous. The horizon shows a wall of smoke, but I can't gauge how far away the source is. We know several families from our congregation who have lost their homes to these wild fires. These fires have spread faster than 20 miles per hour, so evacuations are very hasty. Most people have been allowed less than 5 minutes warning to leave their homes as the fire line approaches.

I'm so thankful to have our 72-hour kits already assembled and waiting. Sarah and I have moved the kits near our front door, so we can be more efficient with our evacuation time. I figured there's be some time lost in trying to catch the cat and dog.

I've been thinking about some things in the wake of this local tragedy. It reinforces to me that 'stuff' is just 'stuff'. Yes, it would be sad to lose our possessions, but it would be a worse tragedy to lose our family pictures and the associated memories that go along with them. Thankfully Nathan backed up all our pictures (ten years of marriage= thousands of pictures) on DVDs so I could put them in our emergency kits.

I've also had this scripture running through my mind: If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.

Whatever happens to our home, will happen. I can't control the weather or where the next fire will strike.  I can only control my action. In the midst of this area's worry and danger, I still feel peace. I've done what I can to prepare and protect my family.

 If it is the Lord's will, He will help us escape harm. If not, then we have a trial ahead, which still has its blessings. It would help us grow spiritually in ways that wouldn't have happened otherwise. So you see, either outcome brings something positive.

Quilting Bee

Some friends from our congregation lost their home in the wildfires plagueing our area. The house burnt to the ground. The family had no insurance and lost everything. They were out of town when it happened.

In the course of one week, our congregation collected all the necessities for starting a new life in a new home. We filled a couple of storage units with furniture, clothing, bedding, kitchen supplies, etc. Sarah and I were also able to participate in a quilting bee where 4 new quilts were made for the children. I loved watching her learn to tie quilts alongside older women in our ward. What a priceless way to learn new skills.

Our friends returned to town to find a home in ashes. They also found hundreds of friends rallying around them in loving support, providing everything they need to start over.

Isn't it amazing what the true love of Christ will accomplish?  This is the way Heavenly Father would have us show our love for Him: serving His children.

Night Games

Matthew learns how to use a power drill

One of my favorite memories from my childhood is when the neighborhood children would gather to play night games on our quiet dead-end street. It was so exhilarating to dash through dark yards trying to catch shadows of friends. Did you ever do that? I fondly remember playing Kick the Can, No Bears are Out Tonight, and Freeze Tag.

I wished my children could play games like this and experience the fun that I recall.

This week I had an epiphany. We CAN play night games here!

Our yard is large enough to accomodate these games, and we have 10 children living next door to join in our games.

I've been teaching a new game to the group of eager students each evening. Now our friends beg their parents each day to let them come over to play at our house.

We have had SO MUCH FUN together!  I've found a great book full of group game ideas. Now our kids are eager each day to discover what new activity we'll learn.

I'm so giddy.

The boys enjoy Popsicle while chickens watch with envy

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Happy Thoughts

My heart sighs in contentment when I glance out my kitchen window and see my children swaying back and forth on the tire swing. For a long time I've had a deep-felt desire to raise my children under the branches of old trees. I'm so happy here.

The window above my bed is located less than 2 feet from the towering trunk of an ancient elm tree. The leaves dance in the wind and make the dappled sunlight on my pillow bid a cheerful 'good morning'. I love looking out my window!

Daniel sets off exploring our property for 'nature treasures' each day. Earlier this month he caught a walking stick bug. He brought it home for a pet and named it "Chopstick".

I feel so fulfilled when I watch my children set off into the pasture on grand adventures together. They astound me sometimes. They prefer walking in their bare feet, even though the ground is covered with various brambles, insects, and sharp sticks. The soles of their feet are often black as evidence of their travels. The skin on their feet is getting thicker, like leather. It's so strange to watch Sarah walk in the pasture in her swaying white skirts, with her bare feet black from the dirt and a content smile on her face.

Our yard is huge, so there's finally enough room to play Badminton, frisbee, or Bocce. We LOVE having enough space to kick balls and play fetch with our dog. (Our last house had a teeny-tiny back yard, and we couldn't even kick a ball in our yard.)

Sarah was delighted to find another horse shoe hiding in the barn. She has four in her collection now, and she's convinced that she's the luckiest person in the county.

Nathan and the boys will often work on projects together. They worked as a team to put up our tire swing and start a tree house. I feel so happy when I watch our boys learn how to use power tools with their Dad.

I LOVE hearing our roosters crow each day! It makes me feel so nostalgic. Our roosters are hilarious. They are often doing silly things worthy of a comedy show. They make me laugh almost every day. Their names are Mr. Doodle and Pavarotti. I love how their feathers shimmer in the sunlight.

I feel so safe on this property. In our old house, I couldn't let the children play in the front yard alone. It's a totally different world here. Our children can run all over our four acres without me worrying about kidnappers. Our property is completely fenced with a gate across the driveway. I love it!

The gated driveway is SO handy. I don't have to ever answer my door to find salespeople. Our city house was bombarded by multiple sales pitches every day. Seriously.  I hate hurting people's feelings, so it was always so hard for me to tell them to go away. It's so peaceful here.

Last week I noticed an endangered species of bird taking a drink from our pond. We have been keeping our kiddie-pool stocked with water for the wildlife. Every day it's visited by squirrels, various birds (even hummingbirds), wild cats, and deer. I love being surrounded by God's creatures.

I feel a deep contentment here that is hard to describe. Our whole family is so happy here. I'm SO thankful that I can raise my children in the country!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Peace isn't an illusion

I spent a lot of time the past two months looking for peace. I learned some things. First of all, I learned what peace ISN'T.

Peace is not a spotlessly clean house.

Peace is not a quiet house.

Peace is not a perfectly toned body.

Peace is not cute clothes to fit my post-pregnancy body.

Peace is not reading alone for a couple hours.

Peace is not creating art.

Peace is not a perfect relationship with my kind husband.

I found myself chasing illusions, trying to find my inner peace whilst I struggled with depression that I couldn't control. I had thought that if I could control my environment, then perhaps I would feel peace. Hence the obsession with a spotless house, a quiet house, my own appearance, and activities to fill my time productively with projects.

I realized that I couldn't find true peace on my own. I turned to the Lord in prayer and He gently reminded me of things I had forgotten. 

True peace comes from our Savior, Jesus Christ. That's the secret. It really has nothing to do with my environment. I think Corrie Ten Boom explains this concept so well in her book "The Hiding Place". In the middle of a Nazi concentration camp, her sister was still able to feel immense peace because of her testimony of Jesus Christ.

Our Savior lives, and we can be MADE PERFECT through His Atonement. Isn't that AMAZING?! Little me, the one who always feels inadequate, can be perfect through Christ. 

This is reason enough to sing in joy every day. This brings immense peace. Nothing else really matters.