Monday, February 16, 2015

RAINBOWS


On the southeast side of my house there's a large arched window. When the morning sun shines through it, it adds a colorful splash of rainbows to the walls of my curved stairway and the second floor landing. Those rainbows have proved to be a source of delight for my grandchildren. When Alena was two she pretended to gobble up my rainbows, then laughed and laughed, considering it some kind of joke on Grandma.  Today Jen turns four, but over the past two years, she has invented all kind of games with the rainbows.  Her current one is stepping between them and the sunbeams so that they disappear, then suddenly stepping aside so that they appear again.  She's even discovered that if she places her hand over one, the rainbow appears on her little hand. Some of the grandchildren have asked dozens of questions in an effort to understand the hows and whys of the rainbows' appearance. I've overheard the older ones explaining to the younger ones the properties of light that create the phenomena, and one wanted to "borrow" a piece of glass so he could replicate the rainbow and one who stubbornly insisted it must have rained during the night because rainbows are a signal the rain has ended. 

Christmas was only a few weeks ago and now in February, I have three grandchildren with birthdays, so I've spent quite a bit of time of late in toy stores or toy departments of both the brick and mortar variety and online. I've noticed toys are extremely expensive, the majority are centered on a specific movie or television program leaving little room for imagination, many are ugly or grotesque, and a good share of them are flimsy junk. I've also noticed my grandchildren have so many toys, there isn't much left for me to pick for gifts for them. 

Like most people my age, I'm aware our grandchildren live and play in a world far different from the one we grew up in. I grew up with seven siblings.  All eight of us kept our toys in one cardboard box. I dreamed of owning an electric train, but Santa always brought me a doll and a new dress.  But horses, dogs, baby chicks, kittens in the barn, and lambs or calves to be fed with a bottle filled our days. Yet, I too, stopped to stare in wonder at rainbows, those beautiful arches that span the sky following a rainstorm or that dance across the waters of an icy trout stream. They even glimmer on the surface of an oil slick or soap bubble or splash across a sun-drenched wall or floor.  I'm aware a tacky multi-colored flag is sometimes referred to as a rainbow flag and a troop of wandering freeloaders who pollute our forests has claimed the rainbow as their symbol; I'm not referring to that kind of man-made rainbow.  I marvel at the sudden burst of beauty found in real, honest-to-goodness rainbows.  Those are the rainbows that engender wonder, awe, and imagination. It isn't expensive toys, organized games and classes, day care, or structured agendas, but rainbows that invite children to dream, to learn, and to create.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Love Note

My blogs may be few and far between for awhile.  I'm trying to finish the book I'm working on and I've been asked to write a novella to be included in a compilation of three novellas.  My work in progress is a murder mystery.  I'm half way through the rewrite and hope to have it ready to send to beta readers in a week or so. The novella is supposed to be a romance and will be something new for me since I've never tackled a novella before. I haven't come up with a theme or subject yet.  Any suggestions?

In the meantime, here's this morning's Meridian column and a wish for a happy Valentine's Day to all my readers:

With Valentine’s Day this week it’s time to take a look at a few romantic stories. Love in LDS romances isn’t all hearts and flowers; it has more to do with commitment, respect, loyalty, sacrifice, and eternal values. Many Romances written by LDS authors are ridiculed because of their squeaky clean language and lack of sexual themes. In a world where erotica masquerades as love, pornography replaces respect, crudeness is substituted for tenderness, and commitment is scorned, many readers welcome the beauty of real love stories, stories that express the tender feelings of those who care enough for each other to share eternity, build a family together, and link their fate through whatever may befall one or both.
Romance is an element of almost all fiction. Even Western writer Louis L’Amour once said every book needs to have a woman. Some books such as Romantic Suspense put the emphasis on the suspense, but the romance is a strong secondary theme. The same is true of other sub or combined genres. With members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ emphasis on eternal marriage and forever families, it is only logical that many LDS writers turn to the emotions and circumstances that draw a man and a woman together to form this essential unit. Today’s reviews highlight several pioneer era novels written by LDS authors covering, different locations, and different circumstances leading to two people discovering the depth of their feelings for each other. They aren’t strictly Romances, but they are love stories.
Pioneering didn’t end with arrival in the Salt Lake Valley. Many of those who reached Zion went on to face danger and trials as they were called to establish other communities throughout the West. More and more these pioneer stories are taking their place alongside the wagon trains and handcart marches of the first ten pioneer settlement years in the historical lore of the Saints. Only_the_BraveIn the style of The Work and the Glory series, Gerald Lund continues the saga of the San Juan pioneers he portrayed in The Undaunted, the story of the brave people who became known for their descent through the “hole in the rock.” Instead of continuing with the lives of the characters he created for that book, he moves the story four years ahead and to different families of characters. The major character becomes sixteen-year-old Mitch Westland and covers the next four years as he becomes a man facing Indians, outlaws, extreme weather, challenges to his faith, an unpredictable river, a lot of hard work, and falling in love.
Those first pioneers in the Southeastern corner of Utah in what is now referred to as “The Four Corners Region” were given three charges. They were to be buffers between the white settlers and the Native Americans, Shock Absorbers, softening the blows for those who were to come, and Lightning Rods, drawing the fires of heaven down upon themselves so the flames wouldn’t consume others. These charges and the turbulent changes and policies taking place in the 1880s both in the United States and in Utah made strong people stronger both physically and spiritually, turning boys like Mitch into unshakable men, and women like young Edna Zimmer into towers of strength.
Lund is as much historian as novelist. As in his earlier much loved series, each chapter ends with a section of footnotes detailing the sources used and the historical details of the real incidents he borrowed for his characters. He plans for this series to continue and merge with another new series called Fire and Steel. A long time educator, the former member of the Quorum of the Seventy (2002-2008) has devoted much of his life to studying the history and doctrine of the Church.
Betrayed_COVER
It’s 1851 in Niagara Falls, New York, when Julia Barrett receives a letter from her fiancé, Adam Wolcott telling her that after being away for two years he is coming home. In spite of her older sister Margaret’s words of caution reminding her he didn’t write to her during most of that time, she is anxious to see him and make plans for their wedding. While waiting for Adam at the designated meeting place, she meets Tom Harrison, a magician who is also a friend of her brother, James, who went west with the Mormon pioneers. When Tom arrives at her family’s farm later that evening, it is to inform them of James’s tragic death.
The Barrett family’s life is turned upside down as they mourn James’s death. Their plans to go west to join others of their faith in the Salt Lake Valley are delayed by Julia’s determination to stay behind to marry Adam, the sudden arrival of a black man they must hide and send on to the next stop on the underground railroad, and the murder of a neighboring family by a notorious crime family. A seven-year-old child is the one unaccounted for member of the dead family and a massive hunt begins for her. Almost everyone is either searching for the black man or the missing child. Tom becomes involved when he volunteers to scatter bits of the black man’s shirt away from the Barrett house to throw the dogs off his trail. While on this errand he encounters an old Indian man carrying the missing child. The old man warns Tom the child is in danger and begs him to take her to the Barrett family to keep her safe from the people who murdered her family as they will stop at nothing to remove the only witness.
Julia is aware Adam is keeping secrets from her, but worries more about the secrets she is keeping from him. She wants to tell him about being part of the underground railroad and about the missing child, but her family make her promise not to tell him. She feels a strong connection to Tom, but blames him for her brother’s death because he didn’t follow a prompting that could have saved James’s life.
Julia grapples with her testimony, with her desire to believe all is the way she wants it to be, with premonitions, her love for a child who needs her, her desire to please others, and her ambivalent feelings for two men for whom she has strong feelings. She is a well-developed character with whom the reader can identify. Adam, too, is a character with whom the reader can identify, one who is liked for the good in him and mourned for his weaknesses. Tom’s past is only hinted at, but his strengths are demonstrated in his actions. Minor characters are individuals who add depth to the novel.
Several interesting dilemmas are introduced in addition to that of which man she should marry. How can a person tell the difference between a spiritual prompting and a desire? Is it better to obey the law or to protect a runaway black man from a vicious slave catcher? And there are others concerning race, loyalty, and promises.
Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen grew up in Idaho. She is married and the mother of three children. This is her third published novel.
51T2UJmPeuL__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_
For many Pioneers conversion, sacrifice, and the journey to Zion began on another continent and those pioneers’ trials began long before they reached America’s shore. Along with the challenges of being pioneers, there was the problem of learning a new language and adjusting to a new culture. Life continued on with its usual challenges, including falling in love. Tina Peterson Scott recounts the journey of a seventeen-year-old girl, Catherine Erichsen, who leaves Denmark with the 1863 migration of Danish converts aboard the John J. Boyd in her riveting novel, Farewell My Denmark.
Catherine doesn’t expect to leave Denmark with her parents and younger sisters. She is in love and plans to marry and stay behind to care for an ailing aunt. When her engagement is broken just before the family plans to leave, she opts to leave too, but is devastated to learn her sister and closest friend in the world refuses to go. The sister is determined to stay with the elderly ill aunt and is confident the man who has been courting her will propose, giving her an added reason to stay behind. The journey to Copenhagen where they will board the ship is difficult and Catherine is uncertain she can go through with leaving her country or her sister. She prays another opportunity to marry will come her way.
Aboard the ship she draws the attention of three men, all with admirable qualities, though one is nearly as old as her father and a widower. The other two are brothers closer to her age. Lars is tall, blonde, outgoing, and everything she has always dreamed her future husband should be. Josef is quieter, has red hair, and has captivating green eyes.
It isn’t long before it becomes obvious there is a thief aboard the ship. Valuable jewelry and family heirlooms disappear. Catherine sees and hears enough to become suspicious of two crew members. Foolishly she attempts to search their quarters and is caught, but not before learning enough to place both her safety and that of her two youngest sisters in serious jeopardy.
This well-researched novel is a mixture of the recounting of an important historical event, a serious examination of both faith and prayer, and the natural longing of a young woman for someone to love and to be loved in return. The characters are believable with great family interaction. The author, a native of Arizona, is a direct descendant of Danish immigrants and her deep love for Scandinavia shines through in her portrayal of the land and the people.
* * *
ONLY THE BRAVE by Gerald N. Lund, published by Deseret Book, 272 pages, hard cover $21.99, Also available on CD and for e-readers.
BETRAYED by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen, published by Covenant Communications, 291 pages, soft cover $16.99. Also available on CD and for e-readers. 
FAREWELL MY DENMARK by Tina Peterson Scott, published by Foutz Fables and More, 285 pages, soft cover $13.23, e-reader $2.99.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

WIN A BOOK

I didn't write a blog this morning, but I'm inviting readers to read my column on Meridian. I tried something new, using four new novels I particularly enjoyed reading, to stress the importance of creating characters with the faults and foibles that make characters feel like real people. In each of the four books I reviewed, the flawed main character goes through a growth process, making him or her a better, stronger person. I would love having you add comments on this topic.  So here's the deal:  Everyone who comments by midnight Feb. 1, 2015, on the V-formation blog, on Notes from Jennie, on my Meridian column, or on Facebook will get their name in a drawing for my copy of one of these four books: Deadly Secrets by Frank Richardson, Wedding Cake by Josi Killpack, Lady Emma's Campaign by Jennifer Moore, or Danger Ahead by Betsy Brannon Green.



 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My Perspective


After six years as a newspaper editor I have a strong commitment to freedom of the press.  Still recent events have me thinking not only about the journalism instruction I received that became a part of me and the values important to me, but of some of the cliché sayings my parents used to teach me on how to make right choices.  Many of those old clichés have direct bearing on some of today's problems.

First off I'm as horrified as anyone by the needless massacre of the "Charlie" publication staff in Paris.  Murder is pretty hard to justify.  Still deliberately antagonizing fanatics as that staff did with their caricatures of Mohammad reminds me of a saying of my parents:  "Just because you can, doesn't make it right." Add to that "If you stick your head in a bee's nest, you'll get stung" and "If you tease the cat, you'll get scratched."
 
Along with a firm commitment to freedom of speech, I also believe in respecting other's religious views. Almost everyone knows the Muslim world opposes drawings, photos, or any kind of artistic depiction of their prophet. To draw caricatures of him is to insult and offend those of his faith.  Isn't this a lot like "poking a sleeping dog?" Or as my dad would say, "Be careful poking sticks at someone else's sacred cows." 

I don't like it when someone ridicules my religious beliefs and in a world where there's great emphasis on tolerance and acceptance of differences, I often find those yelling the loudest are the biggest bigots and show the greatest intolerance. I'll stand up for my beliefs and allow you the same privilege, but I don't condone either of us restricting or insulting the other for our beliefs. Freedom of speech doesn't mean it's all right to yell "fire" in a crowded building.  Neither does it mean you can trample on the religious beliefs of others or toss aside good sense.  In my view the magazine staff was wrong to publish a caricature they knew was offensive to adherents of Islam and to continue to "throw gasoline on the flames," by continuing to do so, but just as"two wrongs don't make a right" there is nothing right about the response of radical Islamists to this offense.  I suspect most Muslims are like me, the offensive drawings would cause personal hurt, maybe even anger, but they wouldn't make it worse by perpetrating a greater wrong. They would simply walk away and pity the offender for his ignorance. 

There are times journalists must publish something hurtful in their pursuit of truth and justice.  In this case poking fun of a religious leader served no purpose other than to insult.  The Islamic fanatics who murdered those who offended them accomplished nothing other than to enrich "Charlie's" coffers by creating a greater demand for the publication and costing further lives.  My mother would say "Some people don't have the good sense God gave a goose."

Thursday, January 15, 2015

NEW YEAR, NEW SIZE

I suspect the most common wish for most people as a new year rolls around is to lose weight. Losing weight generally means having better health, more energy, looking more attractive, and it gives our self esteem a positive boost. With each new year people vow to attend a gym regularly, take up an active sport, and eat less.  These fine resolutions seldom survive through the end of January.

 A year ago I lost 54 pounds. I don't recommend losing weight the way I did however.  Along with losing pounds I lost my pancreas and gall bladder and became a severe diabetic. A serious illness is not the best way to lose weight. Now it's a matter of working to continue to have new years to worry about.  For all of you, who like me, are striving to lose weight or keep from gaining weight, here are a few suggestions.

Start when you first wake up in the morning.  Sit on the edge of your bed and swing your feet out straight, then down, and up again for twenty swings. (Easy huh?)

Plan ten to twenty minutes of vigorous exercise each day at a set time like right after you crawl out of the bathroom first thing after getting out of bed. (How's that for a convoluted sentence?)This can be riding a stationary bike, walking up and down stairs, riding a bike, running, gardening, shoveling snow, etc.

Walk more, take the stairs instead of the elevator, tackle a major house cleaning project each day such as vacuuming, washing windows, or shopping (online doesn't count). Those people, like writers, who spend long hours sitting at the computer should plan on getting out of the chair and walking around the house or yard at least five minutes every hour.

Play something that involves movement such as taking the kids sledding, tramping around the zoo, play some sport, swim. Find an activity you enjoy and your chances of keeping it up improve.

Include two kinds of activities in your lifestyle.  Remember exercises that involve repetitive use of the long muscles of arms or legs strengthen the cardio vascular system while weight lifting exercise tightens and builds muscles.  (Working out with those small weights two or three times a week miraculously reduces belly fat.)

The one exercise we need to do less of is the one that bends the elbow of the arm attached to our forks.  Seriously people, chips, soda, processed foods, and second helpings have to go. As a diabetic I have to count every carb that goes into my mouth.  Reading labels and avoiding or reducing the carbs (found in starchy and sweet foods) is not easy, but it can be done.  An occasional treat is okay as long as occasional means once a week or once a month, NOT once a day.

Joining a gym or a weight reduction club or group is helpful for many people, but too expensive for others.  They're worth the price for those with a serious weight problem, but not absolutely necessary for the rest of us. Some people do better and stick to their plan better if boosted by a group, but for those with strong self-motivation or limited time you can lose that weight or keep off weight you've worked to lose by small changes in your lifestyle and a determined mind set.

It's easy to put off keeping those pounds in check until a better time.  Unfortunately I learned the hard way there isn't a better time.  It has to be now.  Besides I gave away my fat clothes and have had a difficult time finding a new wardrobe.  I don't want to go through buying new fat clothes.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

TOP TEN (Plus a few)


Each year there is a flood of top ten lists published; top ten movies, books, news events, etc. Once more I'm joining in the game, listing my favorite novels of 2014.  The only problem is I can't narrow my list down to ten so I'll call it My Top Baker's Dozen.  I can't place them in numerical order either so just consider them all number one.
 
*Keepers of the Sword by Guy Morgan Galli

*Danger Ahead by Betsy Brannon Green

*We Three Kings by John Pontius

*Drone Games by Joel Narlock












*Drop Zone by Traci Hunter Abramson

* Falling by Clair M. Poulson












*Ring Around the Rosie by Julie Coulter Bellon

*The Quantum Breach by Tanner Zane



*Run for Your Life by Jean Holbrook Mathews 

 
*The Insider by Sian Ann Bessey
 
 
*Deadly Alliance by A.L. Sowards

*Lady Emma's Campaign by Jennifer Moore

*Wedding Cake by Josi Kilpack

 








I read many other enjoyable books as well.  This has been a great year for LDS themed adult novels.  There are a few Young Adult novels I hope to read eventually and one Middle Grade novel, Rebel Princess, by my daughter Janice Sperry I enjoyed.  Unfortunately there are still about a dozen adult LDS novels in my "to read" stack I haven't gotten to yet and some of them may turn out to be favorites too.  I've reviewed all of my top novels listed above on Meridian though some of the reviews aren't out yet, but will be posted soon. If you would like to read any of the reviews go here.

 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

MY CHRISTMAS CARD TO YOU




 
 
Part of my childhood was spent in a small mountain valley where on Sundays, special occasions, and Christmas, church bells rang out the glad news. Locked in my memories of Christmas mornings  is one when the valley was covered with a thick layer of snow.  The air was sharp with cold, and frost had turned the trees to fantasy sculptures. As I stood outside before entering the barn, I heard the bells.  The sound carried from down in the valley creating one of those perfect moments of beauty that became a piece of what Christmas means to me. 

Over the years my parents, my siblings, my husband and children, friends, teachers, co-workers, neighbors, ward or branch members, those who read my books, and even those I only know from mutual interest internet groups have woven their way into my Christmas feelings and memories. I've given and I've received.  The secret Santas, the homemade gifts, the shopping binges, the parties, concerts, and school plays have taught me the joy of giving and gracious receiving. 

A great musician learned by chance that I'm tone deaf and made it his mission to teach me to hear. Among the pieces he painstakingly helped me to differentiate the sounds from noise to music were the old Christmas carols.  Years later, working in the Oquirrh Mountain Temple, the organist on the shift where I serve discovered that I can hear the melody of songs played on the chime setting of the temple organ. Since then she always adds the chimes anytime she plays the organ when I am present.  Thus music has become a deeply appreciated part of Christmas for me. 

When family or friends gather, food becomes one of those social mediums that brings us together. At no time is this more true than at Christmas.  Most of us have a favorite food we associate with Christmas.  My older brothers gave my sisters and me a box of cherry chocolates for Christmas each year when we were little.  Without cherry chocolates would it still be Christmas?  I grew up with a goose, not turkey or ham for Christmas dinner. Mama's carrot pudding, oranges, and raisin filled cookies all mean Christmas to me.  

There are those who remind us Christ wasn't really born on December twenty-fifth. Others are adamant that the gift giving and parties distract from the true meaning of Christmas. Some make a big deal over wishing someone Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.  Perhaps I'm wrong, but I don't think it matters what day we celebrate as Christ's birthday; the important point is to recognize that He came and the manner of greeting matters far less than the sincere heartfelt desire to wish another a message of caring.  Giving gifts, providing comfort, warmth, and good meals for the homeless and poor, the gathering of families in love for one another are the very things He taught us. It's good to have a time to pause and reflect on our beliefs, acknowledge those who have helped us in life, join together in families and friendship, give the best gifts we can, and spread good will throughout the world.  As for me, I choose to also make Christmas a time to worship and a time to ask God's blessings on all those who have touched my life for good. It's a time to remember Jesus is the greatest gift to mankind.   

Christmas is a time to wish all of you a blessed Christmas. May this season bring you warmth, joy, peace, and the best of memories.

 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

THE BUSY SIDE OF THE SEASON


There are days I feel like I might meet myself going out the door as I come in.  The past couple of weeks have been like that. With four major surgeries in a little over a year and learning to deal with diabetes, there are a lot of things that didn't get done during the past two years, so I decided to tackle some major house cleaning before Thanksgiving, get my Christmas shopping done, and finish the novel I'm writing.  Then there was a Relief Society lesson to teach, a book signing, books to read for the Meridian column I write, Christmas decorating, Thanksgiving, etc., etc. 

The housecleaning exhausted me and had a bad habit of dropping my blood sugar count. I managed to get some major projects done, however not all I'd hoped to do.  Anyway by Thanksgiving the house looked pretty good. All of our children and their families were here for dinner that day.  The food was good, but just being together was even better. We had three tables and twenty-six people!  That's a lot of people in one house, but well worth it to have the people who top my list of things I'm grateful for all together. 

I did something this year I've never done before.  I managed to stay within my budget for Christmas. Shopping for twelve adults, five teenagers, five elementary age boys, two preschool girls, a husband, and a few assorted friends and neighbors takes some strategic planning and lots of lists.  There have been some great sales and when going to the stores became too exhausting, I resorted to a little online shopping. 

We were almost through decorating for Christmas except for the tree when our three-year-old granddaughter came for a quick visit before pre-school. She approved it all, especially the music boxes and the M&M Christmas tree jars.  She even had to try the Nutcracker soap dispenser in the bathroom. When it was time to leave for school, she wanted to be sure it would all still be there when she comes again. 

 

The cat who visits us every day isn't so sure he approves of our Christmas tree. It's kind of scary and too close to the back door where he likes to mooch a snack. Actually we put up two trees this year, a pre-lit artificial tree and a cute little real tree.  The pre-lit tree takes center stage in the living room and the little tree is in a big flower pot on the front porch.
 
 
Sadly I didn't get much writing done, but I'll try to do better in the next few weeks, right after one granddaughter's choir concert, another one's dance recital, a school program, the ward party, wrapping a gazillion gifts, preparing another Relief Society lesson, celebrating our wedding anniversary, and reading a few books.  (Be sure to read my Christmas Books column on Meridian Thursday, Dec. 4)

 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

DOUBLE BOOK SIGNING


I'm doing a little blatant advertising.  You don't even have to get up early, though it will be the day after Thanksgiving.  My daughter, Lezlie Anderson, and I will be signing our Christmas books at Seagull Book ( 1720 S. Redwood Road) this Friday, November 28 from ten to noon. This is a fun store and a great place to Christmas shop or just look at books and eat chocolate. Please come or as Lezlie says, "we'll feel like dorks."  By the way, I didn't write Christmas Treasures by myself; there are stories included by eleven other well-known writers.
 

 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

NOT SO TERRIBLE TWOS

As life becomes a little overwhelming with wars, rumors of war, disasters, diseases, and all manner of ills, I find myself thankful for two-and three-year-olds and other assorted toddlers.  Perhaps that's part of the purpose for small children.  They provide a different perspective on life.  They teach us faith--and they make us laugh. 

A few weeks ago my small granddaughter informed the clerk at Harmon's grocery store that "You need to clean your store."  Taken aback the clerk asked if she'd found something dirty. Little Jen pointed to the array of Halloween spider webs overhead.  "'piders!  Get a broom." 

 

Attending a baptismal service for one of my grandchildren, the then two-year-old impressed me with his generosity when he passed out candy-like fruit chews to every child around us until I realized he was only giving away the blue ones which he adamantly disliked. 

As foster parents we once were blessed with a half-starved two-year-old who had never had solid food.  Slowly we added fruits, vegetables, and cereals to his diet.  He stood by anxiously waiting every time I baked cookies. He became an enthusiastic fan of cookies warm from the oven. Then came a day when my husband and I sat in church with him between us waiting for the sacrament prayer to begin.  All was quiet, then the other ward that shared our building rang a bell to signal their class time was ending.  Andy jumped to his feet shouting, "Cookie done, Mommy!" 

When it came time for our first grandson to get a haircut, I somehow got elected to do the honors. Chris wiggled and ducked, turned his head, and refused to sit still.  Finally I handed him a cookie, hoping it would distract him long enough to get the job done.  He sat still for about a minute and I cut quickly, letting his hair drop wherever. He then solemnly handed back the cookie, telling me, "Don't like fuzzy cookie." The cookie was covered with fine, blonde hair. 

Nate was quiet and behaved beautifully in church or while shopping, then suddenly he would announce "Done," then he would squirm, run off, yell, and be unmanageable.  This is the same child who "worked" instead of "played." 

A friend's three-year-old grandson is in love with cleaning.  He loves to Swiffer and demands that she shop at Walmart because he likes the way the cleaning products aisle smells. I wonder if this obsession will last through his teenage years. 

Jen does her best to teach me lessons in logic and fairness. If I give her a treat, she holds up her other hand and lets me know she has two hands so she needs two treats.  Once she was with me when I received a call from another grandchild's school telling me he was ill and needed to be picked up.  Naturally Jen went with me to get him, but once he was safely strapped in the backseat beside her, she insisted I should go get the other boys (five boy cousins nearly the same age). She's sure that the boys are a group package and should all come to my house if one does. 

A long time ago, when I was a small child, I found a small pine tree of only five or six inches tall, that had been uprooted.  I took it home and an elderly neighbor invited me to plant it in his yard.  He dug the hole, then let me do the rest.  Through the years I've often thought of him and the things he told me that day about planting trees and raising children.  He said trees and babies represent faith.  Those who don't believe tomorrow will come or that babies will grow into fine adults lack faith. I'm convinced he was right.  Planting trees and appreciating the wonder of toddlers is what keeps us believing a better tomorrow is possible and that both the trees and the babies, grown tall, will help it happen.