By Kimberli Pelo Robison On a hot summer night in July, my sisters and I escaped the stuffy house to sleep on the deck where the canyon breezes could flow over us. A little after 4:00 in the morning I felt my mother shaking me. Even though I was barely awake, I climbed out of my sleeping bag and sleepily stumbled down the stairs to the basement. There we stretched out in front of the television.
What would compel us to drag ourselves from peaceful slumber? It could only the most magical and exciting event that had ever happened in our world, a royal wedding.
We were soon wide-awake watching the spectacle. The Princess Diana was so beautiful. How I wished I could be one of the flower girls with a dress so much like the princess’s. It was all like a fairy tale, from the horse-drawn carriage to the kiss and wave from the palace balcony.
It was on that balcony that I saw for the first time the prince’s grandmother, the Queen Mother. I only noticed her in her pastel dress and hat as part of the backdrop for Charles and Diana. She was always there in the background with the royal family, and it wasn’t until after her death that I learned the important role she played in her country when once upon a time she had stepped from the background into the spotlight.
In 1936, Elizabeth Bowles-Lyons, then the Duchess of York, stepped from her quiet life into the role of queen as her husband Prince Albert ascended to the throne when his older brother Edward abdicated. It was during the ensuing years when Britain faced the threat of German invasion that Queen Elizabeth endeared herself to her people and earned a most unusual title from her enemy.
During the war she refused to be intimidated by the Nazis, and while other European kings and queens fled their homelands she declared, “I shall not go down like the others.” Her radio messages brought hope to many living under Nazi occupation and at home she took action in whatever way she could. When London was bombed she and the King refused to leave, and then went daily to bombsites to comfort and strengthen their people.
Because of the hope and optimism that she inspired in the people of Britain and the world Hitler called her the most dangerous woman in Europe. She wasn’t dangerous because she had a brilliant military mind or a weapon of mass destruction. She was dangerous to Hitler because she recognized evil for what it was — a plot to destroy her kingdom and enslave her people.
I've thought often about this woman who took her place and made a difference at a critical time in the history of this world. I believe that the time we live in and the battles we face daily in defense of our home and families are no less critical than the ones Queen Elizabeth faced. I have wondered if like her we could be considered dangerous women.
Do we recognize evil for what it is, a plot to destroy our homes and enslave our families? Does the work we do put us in active opposition to that plot? But then could the work we do so routinely in our homes actually be dangerous to the enemy? How could wiping noses and tears, patching knees and playing games, rocking and reading make a difference?
As I walked away from the September 2002 General Relief Society Conference, I wondered how many times I would need to be told that the little things I am doing are the most important things before I really believed it. At that meeting Sister Parkin, the General Relief Society President, reminded us, "When it comes to families, we cannot afford indifference and distraction. Childhood is a vanishing wonder ... Sisters, the Lord needs women who will teach children to work and learn and serve and believe. Whether they are our own or another's, we must stand up and state, "Here am I; send me to watch over your little ones, to put them first, to guide and protect them from evil, to love them" (Ensign, November 2002, 105).
Do we really need reminding that mothering is so vital and so dangerous to Satan's plot? I think we do. Somehow with the fast-paced, instant gratification mode of our lives we too often forget that the slow, steady work of mothering is the greatest work we could do. Perhaps it is the extraordinary ordinariness of the work that leads us to believe that anyone could do it as well.
It's no wonder we struggle to find significance in these tasks when we have learned so perfectly that what has value and is rewarded is what gets done and a mother's work is never done. You see receiving rewards for work is how the world is run. At school it is the finished work that gets the praise, the star, the ‘A.’ No one pats you on the back for the process; it is the product that gets the smiley face.
Jobs for hire have the same kind of system. You don't get stars and grades, but if nothing else you get a paycheck. You can hold in your hand the product of your work. Your work is worth something. For twenty-seven years I lived this system of working, producing and receiving rewards. Then I became a mother.
A little bundle of warmth and love entered my life and took it over completely. I happily entered this job of mothering; it was exactly what I had always wanted. I had hoped and prayed for the day I could stay home and raise a houseful of little children. What I didn't realize was that old ways would be so hard to replace.
It was hard for me to give up producing and receiving tangible rewards, for works in progress and rewards of the heart. Motherhood is full of rewards; they are simply not the kind I was accustomed to. My children's laughter, their smiles and sweet voices, the family sitting around the table for dinner, a sleeping babe in my arms at the end of the day, these are rewards that are held in the heart, not in the hand.
There are still times I panic and feel certain that I need to be producing something, having something to show for my work. I start setting goals and rampaging through the lives of my family trying to accomplish things. My children, my constant barometers, quickly show me that they will have none of it and call me back to enjoying the process with them.
It is loving the process of life that takes some relearning. Children instinctively understand that process is more important than product. The stacking of blocks is more important than the tower. The smooshing and squooshing of finger paint on paper is more important than the painting. The singing is more important than the song.
Still, I struggle with this concept all the time. I wish I knew that I was doing exactly the right things for my children. Yet, that is not the nature of the job. It is a work of patience and faith not only with our children, but with ourselves as well.
Nature has something to teach us about this patience with the process. Anyone who has been to Arches National Monument can't help but be awestruck by the beauty of the place. It is a wonder how the wind and water have carved and molded their way through the soft sandstone, creating amazing arches and canyons. These were not produced in a moment, by a mighty blast of wind or one torrential rainstorm. It was day by day, year by year, a drop here and a breeze there. The wind and the rain may have only taken a few grains of sand from the stone, but little by little their work was accomplished. Now generations of people can look with wonder upon their work
I like to think that I am like the wind and the rain upon the soft souls of my children. My work is done day by day, year by year, a touch here, and a gentle word there. I may not see the effects of my work for years to come, and yet my heart whispers that I am doing something of great importance.
Not only does my heart whisper this truth to me, but also the scriptures reaffirm that belief. I love the scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 64:33 that states, "Be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great." Believe me, I get weary often and wonder if I am doing anything great. But I take the Lord at his word that out of small things, like my little ones, will precede something great.
Something President Henry B. Eyring said also gives me hope. “I never see a mother juggling three little children who are crying while she is smiling, as she shepherds them gently, without seeing in my mind's eye her day of honor in the presence of the only Judge whose praise will finally matter" (Ensign, October 2002, 19).
So perhaps the work I do in my home really is the most dangerous to the enemy of our souls. For I, a mother in a remote corner of this world, do a work of true significance. I nurse a baby, play in the sun with my children, read them stories, hold them, hug them, sing lullabies, teach and train them.
Like the work of nature, my work may also seem insignificant. However, I am not working to produce something for today. My work is to build something that will last beyond time. I touch the soul of a child and that will make all the difference in the world.
Though my work is never done, the results of my work never end either. They extend through time and eternity for generations to come. And when the day comes that I meet the Judge whose praise I most treasure I hope he will say, "You were a most dangerous woman in my cause."
(This article is originally from Meridian Magazine. It was emailed to me quite awhile ago, and has been sitting in my inbox because I don't want to lose it. I do, however, want to clean out my inbox. Where better to store this for safe-keeping than my blog?)
Learning to swallow pills can be tough for kids. My visitting teaching companion is a nurse at the Children's Hospital and she told me it is easiest to learn with mini/baker's M&M's and milk. The candy helps overcome the mental obstacle and the milk carries it down the throat more easily than water.
We first borrowed Where the Red Fern Grows after I finished reading it aloud to Carmen and Chloe. Then sometime after that one of the kids asked me about what would you do if you were both blind and deaf which made me think of Helen Keller. When I went to look for books about her at the library I found another Disney Educational Productions DVD:
A remake of The Miracle Worker. Incidentally, the script for the play of the same title is available at the public library and would be a wonderful school production. I might have to ask the drama teacher what she thinks when Carmen is in Jr. High.
After we watched The Miracle Worker I just started searching for anything in the Disney Educational Series. Most of what I found were of greatest appeal to Carmen. She's very interested in the stories of WWII. I think the whole concentration camp thing is deeply puzzling to her, but she finds inspiration in stories of heroism during that troubling time.
We enjoyed this portrayal of Anne Frank,
And we also enjoyed a new story, Miracle at Midnight, about Danish citizens who saved thousands of their Jewish community members from the Nazis by helping them escape to Sweden, which remained unoccupied during the war.
Carmen doesn't do riding lessons any more, but she still loves horses. (Not that you have to love horses to love this movie.) Justin Morgan had a Horse is the story of the man who risked money and personal reputation to establish the first American breed of horses.
Just this week we watched The Loretta Claiborne Story about a Special Olympian and the family and friends who supported her and the blessing the Special Olympics were in her life.
(And Hooray! I just got a call from the library that another title I've placed on hold is ready for pick-up.)
I know this idea originated somewhere with Chloe, but I'm super happy about it because I would like to encourage better journalling in the kids. Anyhow, what Carmen and Chloe have been doing this summer is taking more pictures, printing them on Saturdays, and then putting them in books with written descriptions on Sundays. (Jaclyn and Steven are doing more traditional journals. Sometimes.)
A few little examples of pictures in their summer scrapbooks:
The endless quest for more treats than mom is willing to make.
A trip to the pet store. Somehow I thought this was a safe thing to do when we already have a pet. Wrong again.
Typical silliness with matching hair and splitting/sharing socks and shoes.
As I said, on our Whistler trip the boys went biking and the girls went shopping. I actually wanted to do the Monkey-do obstacle course in the tree tops, but I was out-voted 3:1. Which I understand - I do a lot more shopping than they do (in fact I had done quite a bit of shopping the week before), and often it feels like work to me, but shopping is something my girls rarely do so it is a holiday novelty thing for them.
Even in stores that didn't carry Chloe's size she always managed to find a hat or sunglasses to consider.
Carmen tried a few things on but what she really wanted was the 2010 Winter Olympics mascot stuffies. Chloe also chose toys and between Carmen's stuffies and Chloe's bow and arrows (with suction tips that stuck to the interior of the car windows nicely, thank-you) it was a fun drive home. (How often is the drive home from a holiday any fun at all?)
We girls swam both before and after we shopped.
Whereas the boys only swam after the rain shut down the chair lifts up the mountain.
We did a quick trip into Vancouver and went to the aquarium there. I have to say I like the Newport Aquarium in Oregon a little better, but I did love this exhibit. They had maps for each of the tanks in this section of the aquarium showing which inlet along the coast of British Columbia was represented there. It was fascinating that though geographically close, each inlet has such a unique population and ecosystem.
And what's a holiday without food? The eating was spectacular. We went for sushi, naturally. Ken gets the shakes if he goes too long without it. The bakery in the village made amazing crepes. I wish I would have photographed my frittata with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and feta that I had for breakfast at La Bocca. I'm sure I enjoyed it as much as Ken's Pacific Eggs Benedict (smoked salmon instead of back-bacon). Jaclyn ordered a 'hot' Caesar Salad, which would be easy to duplicate with hot bacon slices, freshly sauteed homemade croutons, and a grilled lemon on the side. Pretty much we dropped $130 at almost every meal. Good thing it was only a 4 day holiday, and that 4th day was fast food all the way home so more like $40/meal.
My favourite dinner was a pasta dish at La Bocca, which reminded me of this recipe I used to make from "In the Kitchen With Rosie" (Oprah's former personal chef). I'm happy to remember an old favourite:
Penne with Chicken and Sun-dried Tomatoes (slightly adapted from the original)
1/4 c sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 c boiling water
6 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/4 c white grape juice
1 T Italian seasoning
3 T chopped shallot
1 1/4 cups chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup fresh peas or frozen peas, thawed
8 ounces dried penne
1 T butter
5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 T flour
12 ounces evaporated skim milk
1/8 t ground nutmeg
1/8 t crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 c chopped fresh basil
5 medium black olives, thinly sliced
fresh parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Put the sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl, add the boiling water, and set the bowl aside for the tomatoes to reconstitute.
Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil while proceeding with the recipe.
Combine the chicken and grape juice in a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle the Italian seasoning on top. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the meat is no longer pink and the juices run clear. Remove and shred the chicken, reserving the cooking juices.
Drain the sun-dried tomatoes and slice them thinly.
Saute the shallots, mushrooms in olive oil. Add the reserved cooking juices from the chicken as well as the peas and sliced sun-dried tomatoes. Simmer until the liquid has been absorbed and the vegetables are wilted. Remove the pan from the heat and cover it to keep the vegetables warm.
Add the penne to the water in the large pot, which by now should be at full boil. Cook 8 to 12 minutes.
While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Melt butter in small, heavy saucepan. Toss in the garlic and flour, then whisk in the evaporated milk. Add the nutmeg and red pepper flakes. Whisking continually simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the basil.
Drain the cooked pasta and transfer to a serving bowl. Add the chicken, vegetables, and sauce. Toss and garnish with sliced olives and fresh parmesan cheese.
Steven had his birthday on Monday. He spent the day golfing with his dad and Uncle Craig, came home, had steak for dinner, and didn't get his presents until after football practise. He got a NY Jets jersey, a new set of scriptures for starting seminary this year, some loan forgiveness from Ken and I, and two coupon books from Chloe: one for slurpees and another of services he can collect from her like making his bed and putting away his laundry.
On a side note, can you see the mosquito bites on his arm? The football field is near a little grove of trees which must be home base for all the mosquitos in Calgary. Steven has something like 160 mosquito bites right now, most of them on this arms. I know the picture doesn't do it justice, but in real life it looks like some kind of disease. It's puzzling because we hardly have any mosquitos in our neighbourhood.
Chloe and Carmen have been doing a day camp at a historic village here in Calgary all week. Last week they were beside themselves in anticipation. They planned their authentic pioneer lunches (basically I baked all week, but I drew the line at washing their costumes by hand). We went to Value Village to find just the right black leather shoes and baskets for their lunches. We found pocket watches for 25 cents each, which we strung onto chains for necklaces. We practised french braids all summer waiting for this week.
I wouldn't have thought it possible, but somehow the camp itself has been even better than we could have hoped! The girls have been living somewhere in between Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie. They've learned how to be an old-fashioned telephone operator and listen in on conversations, they've collected eggs, they've baked a cake in a working 1905 kitchen at the ranch house, they've made prairie diamond rings (nails turned by the black smith). They've had fun spinning buttons on a string, and going to school in a one room school house. They participated in planning important social work like closing down the snooker lounge and having a church bake sale to raise money for poor Farmer Brown . . . and somuchmore.
Ken remarked to me that Heritage Park has got this one figured out because the presence of the day-campers in the park really adds to the charm of the place, and it's true. When all the adults who work at the park are dressed in period-appropriate clothing it's to be expected, but when on top of that there are children in the park doing chores and school and games for the public to see, well that's just darling. We paid to send our kids, meanwhile it improves the authenticity of the park. Possibly Carmen and Chloe have been the most enthusiastic campers ever. The line between reality and make-believe for them often seems blurred to me. Add some costumes - and fantasy becomes reality. Our girls adopted British accents and have been pretending to be recent emigrants to Canada, which has been reflected even in their food: I baked english scones with currants for their lunch today. They probably deserve to go to back to the Time Travellers Camp again, but on scholarship next time.