07 December 2014

Merry Christmas 2014

Dear Friends and Family,

We hope that 2014 (pronounced twenty-fourteen) was as good to you as it was to us. This year, Alex's attempts at Christmas lights resulted in a masterfully crafted cartographic masterpiece. . . made with masterfulness. Visitors who come to enjoy the amazing light displays next door and down the street from our house have been very grateful for the solitary lighted arrow that we provided to help guide them westward and keep them on the road.

This year, Jenny had an entire human being pass through her digestive system. . . well. . . next to it, anyway. Jenny's garden produced a very large pumpkin weighing more than all of our kids, and only took a few months to do it. The garden had no epidural, no pitocin, no whining, no midnight snacks, no strange cravings, no swearing at its husband, no labor. Nothing! Plus, it was almost free. Take an example from that garden, ladies! Jenny also completed a drawing class at the University, and finished eight quilts! Eight! Take that Pinterest! Jenny For The WIN! Jenny also was forced out of her usual gig writing the Christmas letter. Hopefully, that's apparent at this point.

Alex discovered a secret love for Chinese trampoline fighting, and has joined an underground circuit that flourishes in the seedy underbelly of Toquerville. You should SEE the costumes! On a side note, his injuries require major donations from everyone he loves via kickstarter. We are not making this up. (Jenny's note: Alex is completely making this up.) Think Lucha Libre with less gravity, less fabric, and more MSG. Alex continues to teach Photography at DSU during the day, which means that somewhere out there, there could be young people with bits of his philosophy attached. Yeesh. Alex is building another R2-D2, because STAR WARS, and he finally got his shop organized over spring break. . . which took three solid days.

Grace is still learning Spanish. Also, she decorated her own room, which greatly complicated our ability to comply with local zoning laws, and required several conditional use permits before it was legal to enter without proper safety gear. Grace has an odd obsession with Jean Claude Van Damme, which makes us wonder what exactly the school is showing for those perfect reader movie nights.

Henry also began learning Spanish this year, and he found pokemon', digimon', and reggae mon! We discovered that all of our children somehow voted in Chicago in 2012, and Henry was apparently elected to some smallish post in Thailand.

Scott hasn't had a date since he was two, so he's been pining away a little for the ladies, but luckily has set his sights on stealing Jenny away from Alex. He's so much happier when he has a goal. Sometimes, we wake up to find him just standing on Daddy's side of the bed, staring, and muttering to himself. So cute.

“Little” Kaleb (I use the quotes, because he is not, in fact, little) was born on Star Wars day at 9 lbs 10 oz, but hasn't shown much ambition since. He's attempted to ingest bits of the Christmas tree but he can't be bothered to get off his rear end and work for what he wants yet. He never talks to the other kids, just sucks on their faces when they pass within his little orbit. He'll sometimes make rude noises and then just smile. We'll start working on social skills soon.

We hope the coming year brings as much joy as any year may in which a Star Wars film is released.
Love to you all, from the Chamberlains

PS Jenny promises to write or edit more heavy handedly next year. 

29 November 2014


 We live next to several very amazing Christmas Light Enthusiasts, and that might be putting it mildly. The photo above does not remotely convey the magic of the season that lies next door and down the street from us. These lights are truly something that must be experienced and appreciated first-hand.

Last year, even into mid January my children asked if we could drive down the street every time we came home. So we, in our gratitude, decided that our lights should support giving credit where credit is due:

We might put some more up later, as the joyous spirit continues to trickle in our direction from the epicenter of awesomeness down the street.

09 November 2014

Baby Blues: An Annoyingly Misleading Term

I still feel sad multiple times every day for my friend who lost her beautiful baby daughter. I know she thought it would be old news for many after a few weeks, and maybe that is true. But it is not old news to me. Every time I drive past her house, and often when I just look at my little ones, I try to imagine the heaviness of her grief. I am sure I fail, because I think that kind of grief can only be understood by experience.

One of the things on my mind is isolation. I always feel very isolated for the first six months to a year of a baby's life. It's funny, because some might wonder how a woman with four children and a loving and attentive husband could ever feel isolated at all. People use the term "Baby Blues," which I find annoying, because it makes it sound cute, and less serious and painful than it actually is.

I have a few thoughts, after my extensive analysis. I host a book group and attend my local quilt guild, which activities help me feel connected to a community twice a month. I have an assignment at church, which can keep me connected to my faith community. I can call, text, or email my family and friends to stay connected to them. I have lunch and a scheduled play date with friends every week, and sometimes have other play dates as well.

But when I have a baby, while doing all of those things, there is often a large part of my brain that is not connected to anything except The Baby. He is underneath all of my thoughts, often fussing in the background, ready to interrupt anything I do at a moments notice. I love him, and I want him, and I enjoy him as much as possible.

I feel the blues around me, waiting to settle in. I wave them away with my quilting, my play dates, my exercise, my books. Sometimes I fail, and I feel alone. I feel disconnected from everyone: from Alex, from the kids, from my friends, and even from myself. In the past I have been addicted to blogging. Now, I check Facebook too many times in the hopes that someone has something to say to entertain me or help me connect with humanity in a meaningful way. 

Recently I talked to a good therapist, and she immediately put her finger on my problem. Through our session, we talked about so many things, and I felt 100 times better when I was done. I think the biggest realization I had was that I can change my modes of operation to improve my situation. I am the captain of my own fate. I am the master of my own destiny. And if I am tired of feeling isolated, I need to reach out. I have been doing so, and it is already helping so much that I even feel like blogging again. 

I guess this post is a way for me to make it public. I am working at stopping being such a lazy extrovert. Let's play.

30 October 2014

Conversation with my Daughter

Me: putting on my full blown Sunday makeup and styling my hair.

Daughter: "Mom, why don't you wear makeup every day?"

I finish the sentence in my own head, "Because wow, you look so much better today."

Out loud: "Because I think I am beautiful whether I wear makeup or not. I like myself just the way I am."

Daughter: "Oh."

Me: "That is why I don't think you need to wear makeup until you are older. I think you are beautiful just the way you are."

Daughter: "Oh."

Please dear daughter, like yourself just the way you are. You are magnificent.

13 October 2014


Recently I wrote a note to Mother Nature on Facebook, reminding her that it is October. I thought she must have forgotten. Thankfully, today did not break the 80s in temperature, and I am very relieved about that.

I have not forgotten my dear little blog. I have just had a lot on my mind. Thankfully, I watched this TED Talk the other morning, and that helped me feel that any stress I am under will not, in fact, kill me, but my body's response to it will help me cope. Hooray.

I am growing a rather large pumpkin, and hoping in future years to grow a legitimately large one. It sounds, from friends who know, like to be a real Big Deal pumpkin it has to weigh over 100 lbs, and I have not weighed mine, but I don't think it does. I will post a picture of it after I have picked it, and it is on the porch with children next to it, to show scale.

 This is my other little pumpkin. Please don't tell him I cross dressed him to advertise his aunty's awesome knitting pattern. He is cute regardless of how he dresses. I could eat him up.

And these are my two oldest pumpkins on the first day of 1st and 3rd grades. Yes, I let them dress themselves, and yes, the girl is better at it. I could use lessons from her.

Now, if you can all pray that our primary program this weekend goes off without a hitch, I will be most obliged.

04 August 2014

About that Mom who "forgot" her baby

First of all, I am putting "forgot" in quotation marks, because this was not a case of "forgetting." This was not a case of thinking, "Oh, I will leave my baby in the hot car for a few minutes and come back and she will be fine." This was a case of evolutionary, your own brain tricks you into thinking the baby is safe in the crib sleeping like she always is when x, y, and z happened first, with disastrous results.

I found out about this tragedy on Friday, and I did not believe it. I did not believe it for several reasons.

1. I know this woman very well. I grew up in the same neighborhood, play with the same friends, and attend the same gym as her. I know that she has occasionally quit going to the gym regularly because she was uncomfortable with the childcare situation. I know that she chose a job she could work at home in order to have opportunities to provide her own personal care for her children. I know that she does not bring her older children to the park on days when she knows friends will be there unless her husband is home to listen for the baby, because she does not like to interrupt her child's sleep. This is the kind of mother to whom this has happened.

2. After reading extensively about how this has happened, I realized that I did not believe it because I did not want to believe it. My brain, and by my brain I mean all of our civilized brains, are hardwired to make meaning and sense out of the world. And this doesn't make sense. We all know what happens to babies in hot cars. We don't want to believe it could happen to us, and so we must vilify the person it happens to in order to make ourselves feel better. But I know this woman. I could not vilify her, because I know her. She is an unusually good parent. I have seen articles going around about how to not forget your child in the car, and I didn't read them because I thought "Who forgets their child in the car?"

Now that I have read these articles, which you should stop and read right now,

Huffington Post
The Washington Post

about how and to whom it happens, I am struggling not only with grief for my friend, but with terror that it will happen to me. Because if it could happen to her, it could happen to anyone. It could happen to my husband. It could happen to a grandparent who was babysitting my child. It could happen to you. And if you still don't believe that after reading those articles, it's because you don't want to believe, and you (and your child) are in danger. 

A few years ago, my sister was in a terrible accident which left her unable to use her left hand for a long time. Many people prayed for her. Many people offered to help. But there were a select few individuals, who, rather than offer help, actually thought of something on their own and had the courage to make it happen.

One of those people was this woman. She contacted all of my sister's friends, asked them to write loving messages on hearts. She brought the hearts over to my sister's house, and taped them all over the wall. So when my sister, who was wondering if she would ever be able to easily chop vegetables, dress herself, or braid the hair of her first baby girl (who had been born in the middle of the whole ordeal)--when my sister got up every morning, she had a visual reminder of all of the people who loved her. I heard my sister say many, many times what a difference that made.

And now, this kind and tender-hearted woman has suffered an unimaginable loss, which will stay with her for the rest of her life in a way that is worse than every parent's worst nightmare, including mine. So to any internet trolls who have the indecency to say one bad word about her: Shut up. You don't know.

25 July 2014

Happy Pioneer Day

 We celebrated Pioneer day yesterday. I ran home to nurse him, and missed the entire parade, which is a sad consequence of living in a small town. Then we all headed down to the town breakfast and musical program, which was very high quality. Alex sang his infamous version of Follow the Prophet to conclude the program. As you can see above, Kaleb had a grand time at the festivities.
 Grace is with her excellent primary teacher. I only got a photo of the boys eating breakfast, and it was not super exciting, so they are sadly left out of this post.
 And the real reason for this post is here: I have to brag because I am having the best personal tomato year of my life.
Are these tomatoes beautiful, or what? I love the varied colors. I think the yellow/orange ones aren't quite as flavorful as some of the red varieties, but I have to do some more taste testing to confirm that. It is certainly the case with the ample cherry vs. yellow pear tomatoes I have been eating and giving away in abundance.

I have adopted the role of local Zucchini Fairy as a form of therapy for some stresses I am facing right now. So far this summer my family has had all the zukes we want, and on top of that I have given away well over 20 of the little buggers. My grandfather, who taught food science and nutrition on a college level for many years, passed away this spring. I decided that he is watching over my garden, blessing me with this amazing and abundant harvest while I am busy with the baby. Thanks, Grandpa! This photo is of him and my grandma at their 50th wedding anniversary party. I think they are very cute, and now we are praying for Grandma, too. She has recently had to have some very heavy duty things done at the hospital, and her grief is also weighing on her.

In other news, my dear Alex seems to have become a rather decent photographer, whose work is worth looking at if you have not already seen it on the Face Space. You may view some of his work at 500px, HERE.

He also won a place in Really Right Stuff's 2013 Fire contest last year, which you can see HERE.

Well, that is probably enough horn-tooting for this evening. I wouldn't want my genetically big head to get any bigger.