Tag Archives: Family

Walking to Church in Oxford

For four Sundays we have walked the 2.5 miles to church. At first we walked through the center of Oxford, but recently we found a less busy route. Let me take you with us.

First we walk through the streets of Jericho where we live, past the ales and fine food.IMG_6363

We cross a bridge and walk alongside the canal. (Oxford is called Oxford because it was a place where they would cross oxen through the Thames River. Swineford is another city where they would cross the pigs. I’m glad I live in Oxford.)

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We cross another bridge and walk under the train tracks. Often there is a train rumbling above us. IMG_6373Then over a rainbow bridge.IMG_6379

We keep following the canal. IMG_6381

We will soon cross that bridge up ahead and get onto Botley Road.IMG_6384Crossing Botley Road.IMG_6385Usually this road is very busy with traffic, but on Sunday mornings it isn’t so bad.IMG_6387.JPGAnother bridge.IMG_6388Another row of houses.IMG_6390

We pass by a loch where they raise and lower the water level to let boats from one canal onto another.IMG_6392.JPGYet another bridge.IMG_6393Then through a small grove and a meadow. Danny also uses this route to ride his bike to school. Danny’s school is just after this meadow. IMG_6397Another row of houses.IMG_6398

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When we pass the duck pond . . . we are almost there . . . IMG_6405But first we have to pass a steaming, inviting swimming pool. Come on, Danny!IMG_6406 And sometimes we see old men sailing little boats on the Thames.IMG_6408

Then down the straight and narrow path . . .IMG_6409And we reach our destination. We take off our walking shoes and put on our church shoes. Then after church we do it all again! IMG_6410

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Our First Week in Oxford

When you only have a little bit of time and you have to decide whether you are going to write a blog post or write to your mother, always write to your mother.
But I will let you eavesdrop.
Hi Mom–
Please excuse the spelling and grammar of my letter. I wanted to send you some photos of our trip so far and tell you what we’ve been up do but I don’t have much time (Scott is down stairs streaming Indiana Jones with the kids). But now that we’ve been here for almost a week I wanted to write and let you know we are alive and things are going better than I expected.
We have a great house. It is super old (200 years?) but sturdy. The stairs slant and the floorboards have cracks and creak REALLY LOUDLY (good thing, too, because there is no lock on the master bedroom door). I also think a ghost lives in my closet because no matter how often I close the door it opens when I am not looking . . . but it is perfect for us because there are enough dents in the floors and walls that the ones we add will not be so noticeable. It is furnished, so we have everything we need, pots and pans and spoons and a washer-dryer contraption that I’m not sure I understand yet. We have enough beds for everyone, and most of the rooms are light and airy. I love the skylights! The rooms that are in the basement are not light and airy but at least they are cozy. There is a big sticker down stairs that says “IF YOU SMELL GAS CALL THIS NUMBER.”
That sticker keeps me up at night.
We live in a great part of the city–everything is walkable–the post office, the health center, all of the grocery stores, lots of restaurants, it is wonderful! Scott and I had a very romantic date at a nearby pub that claimed they made “proper hamburgers” which were absolutely delicious. I think we have walked about 15 miles this week. I am glad because this means I can eat more proper hamburgers.
. . . and Cadbury chocolate. YUM!
Church is a little out there–2.5 miles–but we did it anyway. I’m not sure that is sustainable, though. We might have to figure out another way to get to church. Or go to another church . . .the Scientology church is much closer. And the Quakers.
But going to church really was wonderful. I told the kids before church how you always told me that every time you go to church in a different country you feel like you are coming home. It felt like that here, too, only this church has an ELEVATOR. Danny was excited about that. Too excited.
It is so funny how small the world is. I met someone at church whom I knew in the BYU married ward when I was RS pres. That was a great surprise!
I am trying and praying really hard for the kids to get in school. Sophie and Syrena will be fine if they don’t get into school because they can do BYU Independent Study. But I MUST GET DANNY IN SCHOOL. Not for my sake, but for his. He needs a break from his nagging mom. But I am not trying to be naggy…I am only trying to save his life. (That is the only stressful thing about walking everywhere, is that 7 year old boys think they can walk across streets and not look both ways and that cars will just magically halt. Kind of the same way Dad thought, only Danny doesn’t old up his hand and grin at people. PLEEEEZZZ pray for Danny EVERY NIGHT.)
It has been so fun to have Scott around. Usually he is at work or doing church stuff, but he has been with us 24/7 and we’ve done so much–punting on the river, walking around parks and ran a community scavenger hunt (“orienteering course”) and it has been so great to have him around. He really is an amazing man. He is positive and optimistic no matter what. I know that this trip has gone so smoothly because of him. That will end tomorrow, though, when he goes to Oxford to work and I am on my own.
*trying to hold in the sobs*
I wish I could write more, but I have to get my home schooling stuff organized just in case I have to teach my kids. I can’t remember how to do fractions. Or division. Or spelling.
Did I mention you need to pray for Danny?
Love,
Chelsea
PS Mom, every time I see lace in the windows I remember how much you loved that. I wish you were here. It would be fun to go on a walk with you. Adelaide street is where we live. The street sign is much prettier than our front door. 🙂
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The Year We Changed Our Lives

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After months of deliberating, strategizing, decision-making and then fine-tuning those decisions, Scott and I are finally on the brink of a dream we’ve wanted to achieve for many years: we are taking our family to England.

We gave away our cat, loaned out our dog, put our house in beautiful North Carolina on the market and just finished driving across the country. All of our things are going into storage, and now the only obstacle between us and the biggest adventure my family has ever had is 8 days.

Scott will be working at Oxford for only a semester, so we will be back to the States in December, but it will be enough time for us to have a wide range of experiences in the United Kingdom and surrounding areas that we would not have if we were simply tourists. To make things even more interesting, we won’t have a car and we will be living in the middle of a city.

If you are wondering how we are feeling about all of this, imagine you are about to jump off of a bridge, step into the gladiator’s ring, or are standing on a street in Pamplona, Spain just before the bulls are released and you will have a good idea.

Wish us luck. Updates to follow.

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Book of the Month: Charles and Emma, The Darwins’ Leap of Faith

darwins

Recently I found this gem in my library. It is a YA biography about Charles Darwin and the relationship he had with his wife Emma. Theirs was a marriage perfectly matched in every way but one: Emma believed firmly in God and Charles believed in science. Yet together they had ten kids and they were completely devoted, even through illnesses, deaths of children, and Charles’ growing ambivalence toward religion. Despite their theological differences, his wife read and edited every one of his papers, and never stopped gently trying to persuade him that some truths were found through “feeling, not reasoning.” By using many quotes from letters, diaries, and from Darwin’s own papers (which he let his kids draw pictures on the backs of), the author portrays Charles Darwin as a devoted family man who preferred to be with his Emma above all others. Although I felt the author was a little presumptive at times, and I have no idea why it is categorized as a YA, it was a fascinating read for me and gives the reader a human side of Charles Darwin beyond the image of the walking fish that gobbles the Christian symbol on cars. Most of all, I was very moved by the depth of appreciation and respect Charles and Emma had for each other. Truly they showed that two people who don’t share profound beliefs can still share a profound love. A great read.

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When a 12-Year-Old is in Charge of a House Full of Dying People

I heard the rumors.

Something was going around at school. Also at church. They said it attacks like lightning and leaves you feeling like a grenade just went off inside your body. The only merciful part of the ordeal is that it only lasts for 24 hours.

Perhaps my home will be spared, I thought.

But then, last Wednesday, just after lunchtime, the school called.

It is never a good sign when the school calls. And somehow I knew before I answered what it would be.

It was one of my daughters. And she had it. (She will hereafter be known as THE FIRST, since she was the beginning.)

I went to the school and picked her up, spoke comforting words, and brought her home.

Later I waited for the bus to come, bringing home my younger kids. I waited and waited. Strange, I thought. This bus is never late. All of the sudden I had that terrible premonition again: the bus is late because of my child.

Sure enough, when the bus finally arrived and my younger two children got out, one of them shouted up the driveway, pointing to her brother, “Mom! Guess who just threw up on the bus!” (She will hereafter be known as THE TATTLER and he will be known as GUESS WHO.)

But I didn’t have time to answer her because just then, THE FIRST threw up again. She had almost made it to the toilet. Almost.

THE TATTLER and GUESS WHO walked into the house, and GUESS WHO told me, “Mom I’m not sick. I just don’t feel well.” After which he went to my bedroom and threw up on my gliding rocker.

I put GUESS WHO in the shower for safe keeping while I attended to the messes. Meanwhile THE FIRST was now curled up in a ball on the couch, while THE TATTLER  told me in detail about what happened on the bus. “We had to climb over the seats to get off!” But in less than an hour the dreaded plague hit her, too.  At least she made it to the toilet.

Now even I was starting to feel woozy. Would I be next? But I couldn’t get sick–I had a critical rehearsal that night in preparation for a huge multi-denominational concert and I was the director. My choir was not yet ready, and there would be hundreds of people in attendance. I couldn’t back out and no one could take my place. But how could I go when my children were unraveling before my eyes? My only comfort and hope was that soon THE SPOUSE would be home and he would be able to help me fight this battle.

In between washing and sterilizing and more vomiting (from all three) I went outside to get some fresh air and lo and behold THE SPOUSE rolled up in his truck! Salvation! He got out, his shoulders slumped, his feet dragging, his face as gray as a sidewalk. “I don’t feel well . . . ” he said.

So now there were four. If they were not vomiting they were writhing in pain or moaning into their pillows. At one point there was a line for the toilet.

Yet there was still one more child left to arrive home. When she walked through the door she gazed in astonishment at her deteriorating family.

“What’s up with everyone, mom? They all look sick.” (We shall call this child THE LUCKY, for the Black Angel of Gastrointestinal Rage had saw fit to pass her by.)

I could only give her a look of desperation and go back to my work of caring for the sufferers.

For the next two hours the battle raged. The horror! The horror!

Finally the time came for me to leave for my rehearsal. I knew I needed Extra Help to get through this rehearsal, least I be victim #5. When I finally found a room where there wasn’t someone laying on a bed groaning I hit my knees and asked God to preserve me for the next two hours so I could direct this choir. After that He could do whatever He wanted with me. Just please help me make it through this rehearsal. I got up feeling a little better.

Now there was just one more thing to do.

I located THE LUCKY who was trying to escape the horrors of reality via a computer and headphones. I took her headphones out of her ears. I grasped her by the shoulders and looked into her eyes and I said:

“I am leaving. You are the only one in this house who can help people. You need to take care of everyone. If someone throws up while I am gone, you have to be the one the help them. I am counting on you.”

She looked afraid.

And I left.

I conducted the rehearsal without an incident, though it went longer than I anticipated. Afterwards I thought I better go to the store and get Gatorade to help replenish dehydrated bodies. When I got back it was very late. As I turned off the car I sighed. I would have a lot to do when I walked in that door. I had left the house in shambles. I hadn’t fixed dinner (what was the point?) and I knew that dishes and cups and crumbs littered the counters. I knew I would have to start the laundry, especially if there had been more accidents while I was gone. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. Miles before I sleep, miles before I sleep.

The house was dark and—mercifully—quiet. I walked into the kitchen and received the shock of my life: The counters were clean. The table was clean. The dishwasher had been emptied. The kitchen was spotless. Not only that, there was this on the counter:

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It was hot chocolate–still warm–covered in marshmallows. The living room had also been tidied and put in order. Had THE SPOUSE done all of this, even in the throws of his tribulations? Since my last memory of him was staring at the ceiling moaning, “Death come quickly,” that seemed unlikely. Did he somehow rally the other suffering souls into making an effort to clean the house?

I crept into the bedroom where THE SPOUSE was resting uneasily on the bed.

“Thank you for cleaning the house,” I said.

“The house is clean?” he croaked.

“Yes. It wasn’t you?”

“No. But I know THE LUCKY was doing something in the kitchen for a long time. And when GUESS WHO threw up in his bed THE LUCKY took his sheets down stairs and put them in the washer and started it.”

Really?

As I lay down to sleep that night I couldn’t help reflecting how often we underestimate the potential of others. Especially those who are young. I have asked, begged and pleaded with children many times to clean this and clean that, watch out for your siblings and take care of each other, and there are times I feel like I am shouting into the wind. “Mother deafness” I think they call it.

But when a person, even a child, knows that they are depended on, that they are counted on, that all hope is riding on their shoulders, they find an inner motivation . . . not from obligation or force or even a sense of duty. But a motivation of pure love. That is when someone goes from being THE LUCKY to becoming THE HERO.

Thank you, Sophie.

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The Godsend: The Gift of a Second Marriage

Mom and Terry on horses

Photo by Bill VandeMerwe

Today, eight years ago, my mother eloped. Goodness knows she would have never let me do such a thing.

My five siblings, their spouses, and her 24 grandchildren were not invited to the wedding. Neither were any of the groom’s seven children, their spouses or his grandchildren. It was just the two of them, in the temple, married for time.

The two had been introduced to each other by a family member. Their first date had a stunning backdrop:  a huge reservoir in Wyoming, surrounded by rugged, snow-capped mountains. He was there on his boat, and she was to meet him at the dock at a predesignated time.  From the lake, he could see my mother’s little red car drive across the dam. He gunned the engines towards the dock and trolled up to the platform just as she walked up.

From where she was standing she could see that he was tall, robust, and handsome.

“You must be Terry,” she said.

“You must be Patsy,” he said.

“Are you a good guy?” she said.

“Depends on who is keeping score,” he said. He helped her into the boat and off they went.

My mother had been a widow for four years.  She moved to a new home in town, she dated, and she even served a mission to South Africa. And although she filled up her time with worthwhile things and was surrounded by good people who loved her, including forests of relatives, that didn’t take a way the fact that she went home to an empty house every evening, slept in a bed by herself, and woke up staring at an empty pillow. She had no one to make plans with, no one to share meals with and no one with whom she could anticipate the future. Sundays were the hardest. For my mother, this was like never waking from a bad dream.

Being single is hard at any age. And being an older single person comes with its own unique challenges. By that time people have lived pretty full lives. They’ve collected a lot of memories, children, and survived a variety challenges. It is different than two young 20-year-olds falling in love and building a life together. When you are older, lives have already been built. Change is not just hard, it is titanic. It is hard to find someone with whom you can relate and who will be willing to merge your lives together.

So when Terry came along, he road into my mother’s life like Zorro, saving the day. He owned horses (a passion of my mother’s), he was a crack-shot with a gun (I know some of you out there might not find this attractive, but we westerners do) and he could fix anything. My mother and Terry found they had much in common. They both had seven children. They both had the same beliefs. They both liked popcorn.

They were married by fall.

Surely it took adjustments for them as they settled into being married to a new person. I know it did. And their most stressful adjustment was probably us adjusting to them.  When a new person comes into a very old family, the transition can be tricky, and it goes much further than do we call him by his name or do we call him “Dad.” There is an unspoken resistance by the adult children that is painful and takes work to subdue.

Am I being disloyal to my father if I accept this new man in his place? Will Mom love him more than she loved Dad? Can we still tell stories about my dad?  Or do we have to stop talking when Terry enters the room? All we have left of my dad are the memories. If we can’t speak of him, and sing his songs, will my dad be forgotten? Oh the pain!

In an ironic twist, Terry’s name rhymes with Jerry, the name of my father. And to twist it even further, my dad was also good with horses, a gun and could fix anything.  My children would always see this newcomer as their grandfather. Who is this man to come in and take the place of my father? Not only that, but to elope with my mom like they were a couple of rebellious teenagers!

But I will admit the truth, that after observing the loneliness of my mother, and despite my fears, which I knew were 95% selfish, I was happy to welcome Terry into the family. But Terry still had to show us what he was made of. There were a lot of eyes watching him.

Was he a good guy?

My mother loves perfume. My father’s favorite scent on her was Beautiful, and my mom wore it all the time, even after my dad passed away. Terry, however, is allergic to Beautiful, and most of my mother’s other perfumes. But knowing that this was something important to her, he went to the fragrance counter at the department story and wheezed and choked through a half dozen bottles of perfume until he found one that didn’t make his eyes water. This he bought for her, and this is what she wears.

On Memorial Day he and my mother went to visit cemeteries. First they went to the cemetery where his wife is buried. Then they went to the cemetery over the mountain, where my father is buried. My father’s headstone was covered with dead grass. Terry got down on one knee and cleaned it off.  He noticed that the headstone had started to sink and was crooked, so later he brought a crowbar and pried it up, shook in some fill, giving it an new foundation. What kind of man does these things? A darn good one.

From the very beginning Terry made it clear that he was not a replacement. He was a bonus. And that is what we call him: Bonus Dad.

Ultimately, if an adult child wants peace and tranquility and if they desire to continue to have a relationship with their parent, they must humbly admit defeat: My dad is not coming back, my mom is alone, and God has sent us this gift. If our hearts only had room enough for a certain amount of people that would be a very sad thing. Fortunately, hearts can stretch. Infinitely.

Just before she met Terry, when my mother came home from her mission from South Africa, she sat on my couch and told me she felt as if she were at “rock bottom.” That is a scary thing  for a child, even an adult child, to hear from their parent. But since she married Terry I have watched her become a phoenix. They have served two missions together, built a house together, they ride horses, they go out on four wheelers, they eat popcorn for dinner . . . sometimes just popcorn. They are more like teenagers than teenagers. He is my mother’s elixir of life, she is his foxy lady. You can live a long time with that combination.

Terry and I have a joke. He always tells me “I love you” and I say “Thanks.”  I cannot return the sentiment. I just cannot. The words do not come out of my mouth.  I know I do love him (did you hear that, Terry?), but I can’t say it. And I won’t for a long time. I need to keep him waiting. Because the longer he has to wait for my “I love you” the longer he will have to stick around. And I want him to stick around as long as he possibly can.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Terry. I am happy for you, and I am proud of you.

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The Holiday No One Knows About

Today is Grandparents Day. Betcha didn’t know that. It is not a day people normally pull out the streamers for, but I think my kids have some pretty fantastic grandparents. Let me show you my brag book.

DSC02159This is Doug. He knows how to have fun. He owns four wheelers, go-carts, ping-pong tables and makes ice-skating rinks in the winter.

 

IMG_5269Here are Patsy and Valerie: leaders, mothers, missionaries, and birthday rememberers. They know just what to say at any given moment and can make any home smell delicious in under 30 minutes.  They make mothering seem simple. And they tell you so, too.

 

IMG_5038This is Terry, our honorary grandfather, keeper of horses,  healer of broken hearts, and family godsend. Tough and tender-hearted and generous to no end.

 

SONY DSCThis is Jerry, fireworks salesman, world traveller, problem solver and celebrated slayer of nightmares.  He has shared a pillow with my daughter for years, even though they have never met.

 

Our kids have always lived over a thousand miles away from their grandparents, but that hasn’t stopped them from creating great relationships together. No one can leave an imprint on a child’s mind the way a grandparent can.  We are grateful for ours.

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