Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Showering with a Spackle Bucket

What an unusual time we live in!   As evidence, yesterday I showered with a spackle bucket.

 Since our family eats a lot of rice, I picked up a 50 pound bag while at the Asian Market, thinking it would store well.  I wanted to move it into a 5 gallon pail, just like the ones you usually find in huge stacks at Home Depot for $5 a piece.  Well, given our recent world circumstances, there's been a huge run on buckets.  I guess everyone else wants to store things too.  Home Depot wasn't selling them within a 100 mile radius, and I was too cheap to pay $25 for one online. 

Fortunately, we had a large spackle bucket that was nearly empty.  Jason scraped out the excess and got most of the spackle out with a garden hose.  It was then up to me to finish the job.  Rather than scrub it outside in the chilly spring weather, I decided to finish cleaning it out while taking a nice hot shower.  Weird?  Definitely.  But what can I say?  These are highly unusual times.

So what's the strangest thing you've done during this time of social distancing, quarantine, and isolation?

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Most Extraordinary

You'd think that with school cancelled and essentially every other thing off our family schedule, I'd have lots more time for blogging.  Perhaps I do.  However, I've felt completely disoriented--at a total loss for things to say.  I occasionally find myself blankly wandering, not quite sure what to do with myself with our usual routines disrupted.  

I'm sure I'm not alone to feel like this is hard--really hard.  My love and concern goes out to those suffering from the virus and to all the brave nurses, doctors, scientists, and first responders on the front lines.  We are praying for you and doing our best to do our part to keep this world safe.

On a far more selfish level, it's hard to have my life turned completely upside down.   While I'm not really an extrovert (I prefer small groups to large crowds), I am positively not a homebody.  I love to get out--to the library, to the park, to the museum, to the zoo, to the cafe.  Feeling stuck inside is not doing good things to my psyche.  And while I positively adore my children, I love it even more when we have space to get away from each other occasionally.  I'm sure they would agree.  They are already tired of their Mom periodically turning into Crankenstein.

Every time I think it can't change anymore, a new development upheaves what structure is left.  (Case in point: all IB exams worldwide were cancelled this afternoon.)  I guess that's what makes Wednesday's earthquake in Salt Lake City so ironic.  Just as we felt the world was being yanked from under our feet, it literally began to sway and shake.  The 5.7 quake fortunately left our Avenues home intact, although there was more substantial damage downtown and at the airport.  The Angel Moroni atop the Salt Lake City temple even lost his trumpet.  At first I thought it was fake news, but after driving by, I can verify that the trumpet is indeed missing.

The earthquake came around 7:10 am as Jason and I were getting ready to drive up to Idaho for his grandfather's funeral.  We heard this deep rumbling and felt the whole house sway and shift beneath us from our second story room.  Jason shouted "Earthquake!" and bolted for the door with Annika (who was already I awake).  My first instinct was to gather the other kids.  I worried most about Eli in his bunkbed upstairs.  Brooklyn and Talia felt the quake a bit less from the basement.  Apparently they each thought the other sister was shaking the bed.

I was holding it together with the whole COVID-19 thing pretty well until the earthquake hit.  For some reason, this quake just made me realize how vulnerable we really are.  No matter how much toilet paper we may have (and no, I did not participate in the toilet paper panic), we have very little control over the circumstances around us.  We can, however, control the choices we make as we respond.  I'm committed to be better prepared, as well as more resilient with my attitude.  Without a doubt, the best example we can follow is that of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who partook of the bitter cup without becoming bitter.

And so, today I will count my blessings as we gather together for church as a family (albeit quite late, aka standard Wheeler time.)  Last week was a beautifully tender experience as our kids shared talks and scriptures, with Jason blessing and passing the sacrament.  

As a way to remember that special moment, here are Brooklyn's remarks from last Sunday.  Thank you Brooklyn, thank you Talia, thank you Eli, thank you Annika, and most of all, thank you Jason for filling our home with love and being patient with me during these most extraordinary circumstances.
Thomas S. Monson once said “May our families and homes be filled with love: love of each other, love of the gospel, love of our fellowman, and love of our Savior. As a result, heaven will be a little closer here on earth”.
Margaret Thatcher, prime minister of England, explained that “The family is the building block of society. It is a nursery, a school, a hospital, a leisure center, a place of refuge and a place of rest. It encompasses the whole of the society. It fashions our beliefs; it is the preparation for the rest of our life”.
Our home is probably the most important place in our lives right now. It’s a place of peace that we can go to for comfort. However, it can only stay this way when we show love to each other. There’s a cross stitch at Nomi Ann and Papa K’s house that says, “A house is made of brick and stone, a home is made of love alone”.
A lot of the time it feels like our home is constantly under attack. Between school, our busy schedules, homework, and trying to keep the house in a somewhat organized state, it seems like we never have a chance to step back and just have peace.
A sister from Canada shared this story at a stake conference, ““I love a winter storm. … When the wind starts to blow and the snow begins to fall, a feeling of excitement starts to build. … When I can’t see the trees at the neighbor’s farmyard, … I phone my husband! … He then picks up the children who are at school. … It is hard to describe the feelings I experience as our family is gathered home, and the storm rages outside. … And I love it! Everyone is safe; we are together. We have lots of food and water. The longer it lasts, the better. … We are shut off from the world. … We bask in the warmth of our home and in the warmth of our love. My heart is full, and I am at peace. Sometimes, I wish I could just stay like that forever, with my family gathered around me, protected, shut off from the evil influences of the world. But alas, the storm blows itself out eventually, we dig ourselves out, and off we go to face the world again.”
Right now, we are in our own special situation. We are so lucky that we can have our own storm for a whole two weeks, without the raging snow! But, this storm will start to feel really long if we don’t show love. In the song “Love at Home”, it says “Time doth softly, sweetly glide when there’s love at home”. If we show love and compassion to each other, we will be able to have soo much fun and really enjoy each other’s company. However, if we get caught up in small arguments, or don’t demonstrate care in every aspect of life, we will start dreading the days that we would normally celebrate. In this time of freedom, we can enjoy life’s simple pleasures, like good music, great company, delicious food, and fun entertainment. Loving each other will be crucial to actually finding fun in this. 
John 2:10 says, “He that loveth his brother abideth in the light and there is none occasion of stumbling in him” Eli, change that brother to sister. Anyway, if we have love, we will grow as a family. In Thomas S. Monson’s talk, “Hallmarks of a Happy Home”, he explains that we will find joy as a family if we establish, “A pattern of prayer, A library of learning, A legacy of love, and a treasury of testimony”. 
How can we improve upon these aspects of our daily lives. Well, we should pray often. Morning and evening, individually and as a family. We can have a library of learning in our home if we read and keep up with our homework. A legacy of love we can demonstrate every minute of the day. If we are diligent, we can add to our treasury of testimony too. John 4:20 says, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” 
We need to love our siblings and our parents. Ephesians 4:32 reads, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ amen.

Friday, March 13, 2020


How quickly things change!  In the past 24 hours, I've received messages about all of the following:

LDS Church meetings suspended worldwide
Expanding Your Horizons STEM day at SLCC--cancelled
Wasatch Family Art Night--cancelled
Emerson Parent Teacher conferences--cancelled
Cello recital--cancelled
California choir trip--cancelled
A'Capella concerts--cancelled
Barber of Seville Opera night--cancelled
Classes at the U of U--cancelled
Schools in Seattle area--closed until April 24th
Omaha Public Schools--closed for a week
NCAA tournaments--cancelled
College World Series--cancelled
Ultimate Frisbee games--cancelled
Salt Lake County Library--closed
Avenues baseball--postponed until the end of March
Spirit Bowl--cancelled
After school activities--cancelled
Girl Scouts-large gatherings cancelled
Cello lessons--changed to Skype

Needless to say, we are reeling.  It feels like our entire world has been turned upside down in an instant.  Our ridiculously overscheduled calendar is suddenly empty.  Salt Lake City Schools are currently open, but it feels like a matter of time before they close as well.

It's hard to see our children confused, disappointed, and frightened.  Brooklyn is naturally bummed about missing her choir trip to Disneyland.  Eli is distressed about the College World Series with his grandpa.  While it hasn't been cancelled yet, I suspect Annika's Ninja Warrior class will be put on hold.  She will doubtless be heartbroken.

As a response to all the chaos, Jason and I slipped away to go night skiing for a couple hours this evening.  It's peaceful up the mountain with the cold, fresh air in your face.

While riding the chair lift, we got a phone call from Grandma Susie.  Great-Grandpa Hansen passed away this evening. Due to the final stages of dementia, he started sleeping more and more until he stopped waking to eat or drink.  After five days without fluids, his body shut down.

How quickly things change.  Many of these changes are hard.  After 94 years of meaningful living, I feel deep in my heart that for Grandpa Hansen, the transition to the other side was a joyful one.  Even so, he is missed here.

We love your grandpa.  Praying for peace of mind and health of body for all in this world we share.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Stop the Panic?

Okay, an explanation: I wrote and posted the following about six hours ago.  I then proceeded to take the post down because in those six hours, Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz Center) tested positive for Covid-19 and the NBA suspended games for the rest of the season.  With the Jazz arena neighboring West High where Brooklyn, Talia and I spend our days, this virus suddenly feels close to home.  General Conference has been closed to the public, our stake conference is cancelled, and the University of Utah is supposed to make an announcement tomorrow morning about whether it will switch to all online classes.  Whatever is happening, it feels big.


So yeah.  Coronavirus.  COVID-19.  It's all anyone is talking about these days.  In many ways, I feel conflicted about it.  Are we blowing things out of proportion?  I mean, at its root, we're really just talking about the flu.  I don't mean to sound callous, but people get the flu.  Vulnerable populations suffer, but we don't flip out.  A cursory internet search just told me that on average, somewhere between 290,000 and 650,000 people die from the flu globally each year.  To date, coronavirus has killed 4200 worldwide. 

On the other hand, the World Health Organization just declared a worldwide pandemic.  Apparently the last time that happened was in 2009 with H1N1.  I remember H1N1 being a big deal since Eli had just been born and I was extra cautious as a new mother.  However, I don't recall the same sense of pandemonium.  

COVID-19 does concern me.  I worry about the global economic implications.  I worry about fear-mongering.  To date, there are only two identified cases of Coronavirus in Utah, yet the state has declared a state of emergency.  Even if the illness hasn't arrived yet, the threat of school closures and quarantine affects our lives.  Conferences and other large gatherings are being cancelled.  There's a run on toilet paper, and you can forget about buying hand sanitizer.  I worry about people from hotspots being treated as pariahs.  Annika and I happened to visit Seattle right as everything started unfolding there.  It was unnerving coming home and having people give us the side-eye and step away when they found out where we'd been.

I recognize that coronavirus is novel and serious.  We certainly ought to follow CDC guidelines and be vigilant about hand-washing and social distancing.  Our family is prepared for a couple of weeks of self-quarantine if necessary.  But for Pete's sake--let's all calm down and stop the panic.

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Enjoying Edgewood

Aw shucks.  Guess I haven't been doing so well on the blog updates every couple of days.  Bet no one saw that coming.

Plenty to catch up on!  After all,  couple weeks ago we had a lovely visit from our cousin Alesia combined with a trip to Southern Utah.  Instead, let me tell you what I'm up to at the moment.  On Thursday morning, Annika and I hopped an airplane to Seattle to see the Wilhoits.  Annika brought her dog Casey and invited at least a dozen people to pet her.  (The stuffed animal, that is.)

Luckily for us, the flight was not full and Casey got her own seat.

The mountain views flying out of Salt Lake and into Seattle were gorgeous.  It's so much fun flying with a little one who appreciates the miracle of air travel.

Since our cousins Anders and Eila were still in school when we arrived, Annika and I headed to Alki beach to explore.

The perfect way to spend a morning with my nature girl, topped off by clam chowder for lunch.  Yum.

Back in Edgewood, we were thrilled to see Anders and Eila.  (Aunt Callie, Uncle Adam, and Zoe too, of course.)

Silly Anders!

The next day Eila played hooky from school so that we could explore Northwest Trek Wildlife Park.  So fun!

The tram was particularly exciting.

We saw moose, elk, mountain goats, bison, nanny goats, deer, trumpeter swans, and more.

Afterward, we went to say hello to the wolves.

It was funny to see the girls step back as this wolf stepped closer.  Some healthy preservation instincts.

Their very favorite animal experience: the playful river otters.

All in all, a great way to spent the afternoon...

...with a smashed penny to remember it by.

And now, may I indulge in a note to the ones I left behind.  Eli, Talia, Brooklyn, and Jason--we miss you!  While we are certainly having a wonderful experience, it would be even lovelier with you.  We hope you are having a delightful time enjoying the warm weather in Salt Lake.  Between frisbee, drones, Settlers, and movies, it's probably a party with Mom out of town.  Just know that I love you and can't wait to see you soon.  

Saturday, February 08, 2020

Snow on Snow on Snow (Plus Big News)

Lately, our Salt Lake home (affectionately dubbed the North Pole) reminds me of the carol In the Bleak Midwinter.  "Snow had fallen, snow on snow on snow."

We have had so much snow!

It's gradually concealing the evidence of our (non-alcoholic) bubbly

Best part of all?  A rare snow day.  We didn't get out of pajamas for the entire day, except for when we tossed on snow pants over the top to shovel or play.  It was fantastic.

On a warmer note, this also happened in our family.  I'll let the pictures reveal the secret.

In case you can't read the caption, it says, "Back to Lyon, France--September 15-30, 2020.

We are so very excited.  In one sense, our decision to purchase tickets to Europe was extremely impulsive.  Some amazing fares became available, and we had to act quickly.  In another sense, this trip has been a very long time in coming.  Our year in France is such an integral part of our collective family history; we talk about it all the time. 
Talia and Brooklyn in 2009

It's been more than a decade!  We are long overdue in sharing this with all our children.  With Annika being seven, this seems the perfect time.  They are all old enough to remember (and hopefully appreciate) the experience.  While I feel a bit irresponsible pulling them out of school for so long, we will manage.  Truthfully, I feel like our family really needs this time together.  Before we know it, they will be grown.

Best part of all: we will likely take a road trip to see our favorite Lithuanians, the Vedeckis family. There are so many amazing places and countries to see along the way!  Let us know if you have any recommendations.  :)

Sunday, February 02, 2020

She's Better Than You, Babe. Or is it Gorgeous.

Yesterday most of our family headed up to Brighton for a beautiful day of skiing.  We missed Brooklyn, but she was busy competing in Science Olympiad.

There may not have been fresh powder, but the snow was still good, and I loved the sunshine and warmth.

Eli and Talia, waiting at the lift for the rest of our group.  These two love to ski fast!

As for Annika, she adores skiing through the trees, and is pretty darn good at it too.  As she was nimbly navigating down a steep slope, I was a bit hesitant following after her.  A man called out, "She's better than you, babe!  That girl has no fear."

I'm not quite sure how I feel about being called Babe, but found it amusing nonetheless

Jason similarly had a recent catcall experience.  As he was biking to his studio class (he teaches adjunct in the spring), a homelesss woman called out, "Biking sure is doing amazing things to your body.  You're gorgeous!"

Agreed.  Now to all women in the world, hands off my man.  ;)