Sunday, February 21, 2010

Some Things That Make Us Smile

This past week we have seen and felt the blessings from the many prayers offered on our behalf. Although some things take longer to heal, we have been truly blessed by the love of so many. I just wanted to share a few of the things that have made us smile this past week. As you can guess much of it involves little miss MaryKate.

We have discovered that MaryKate loves to read. She just can't wait to peruse the pages of her favorite magazine, as you will see in the following video. She seems to especially enjoy cooking magazines. (She must get it from me)

We also did a little photo shoot of MaryKate in her leg warmers. How can you not love seeing her cute little thighs and her dancing clothes. On Friday at her 4 month check up, she weighed 16 lbs and was 26 1/2 inches long, putting her in the 97% for height and 90% for weight. She is growing before our eyes everyday! She truly is a blessing in our lives. She helps us remember that there is a plan for all of us and it's real.

Lastly, I am adding a music video that we did on the 5th of February. We got together with some friends for a triple date and we had a music video competition, this is our creation. If you don't know our history, we made a music video on our first date and have made a few on some of our trips. Maybe I will post them later on. If anything, I hope it makes you smile.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Light I See

James and I drove home from John's funeral Monday night. As we were half way between Page and Kanab, we looked up into the sky and saw the moon directly in front of us shaped like the picture above (a thin waxing crescent). It made both James and I smile. I looked at James and asked why he was smiling and he said, "It looks like the moon is smiling down at us." Then he asked me why I was smiling. I told him that the moon looked like a representation of how I am feeling. The moon is as dark as it could almost possibly get, but there still seemed to shine a sliver of light that gives hope and reminds those who look, that the Sun has not abandoned us. Even though we can't see or feel all of it's light, we can be positive that it is still there, shining it's light onto the moon and reassuring us that eventually more light will come. I told James it reminded me of a quote that I heard and love by Joseph B. Wirthlin. This is the quote.

“I think of how dark that Friday was when Christ was lifted up on the cross. On that terrible Friday the earth shook and grew dark. Frightful storms lashed at the earth… On that Friday the Savior of mankind was humiliated and bruised, abused and reviled. It was a Friday filled with devastating, consuming sorrow that gnawed at the souls of those who loved and honored the Son of God. I think that of all the days since the beginning of this world’s history, that Friday was the darkest. But the doom of that day did not endure. The despair did not linger because on Sunday, the resurrected Lord burst the bonds of death. He ascended from the grave and appeared gloriously triumphant as the Savior of all mankind…Each of us will have our own Fridays—those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays. But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death—Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come. No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come."

-Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Sunday Will Come,” Ensign, Nov 2006, 28–30

Even during this difficult, dark time in my life, I still see light all around me. I see it in MaryKate's eyes everyday. I feel it throughout the day as James continually serves and comforts me. I see it in the kind friends, soldiers, neighbors, and family that came to John's funeral and not only offered hugs and prayers, but even opened their homes to us and invited us to stay while visiting from out of town. The Verizon store employee and the Southwest employee who helped my sister get a flight both shared with us a portion of their kindness and light. Yesterday at the daycare I work at, I challenged the little children to catch at least 3 bubbles in their hands. The proud look on each child's face as they presented me with 3 bubbles in their hands filled my heart with light for at least that brief moment. Even the beautiful mountains north of our apt and gorgeous warm sky in Phoenix shed their portion of light and beauty. I still cry everyday, often in the morning... but mostly at random times throughout the day. I cry not because I think that I'll never see John again, but because I miss and I grieve. But I am so thankful for all the kindness and light that I have received.

Here is our little ray of light. Isn't she so fun?!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Remembering John

August 25, 1978 to February 9, 2010

What do you do when you find out that your brother is dead? How do you get rid of the sadness, the anger, and the guilt? How do you cope knowing his endless laughter is silenced on this earth and that his smiles and hugs will brighten no more days? I'm not sure... I saved every message he left on my phone while he was in Iraq, but when John returned at New Years, safe on American soil, I erased every last one. All I want is to hear his voice and for him to hold me and tell me it will be ok, but because I can't, I am going to share what I remember and love about him... and maybe that will help. So read on if you wish... it may be long and it may be more for me than anyone else. If you knew him and loved him like I do, we can remember together.

1. Walking me to Leslie Brown's house My mom was out running errands for longer than expected and I had been invited to Leslie's. But as a 3rd or 4th grader it seemed way too far to walk and I wasn't allowed to cross Greenway Rd. I was so sad, so John volunteered to carry me. He took me on piggy back all the way there, which is amazing because I was nearly his same size, but he wouldn't give up or put me down. That is the essence of John, always carrying others burdens no matter how much they weighed.
2. High school together John, Becky, & I drove to high school together when John was a senior and I, a lowly freshman. He never teased me or treated me like one though. He was in charge of driving. I can clearly picture us in his huge ugly boat of a car with no working windshield wipers, it's pouring outside and John has his head out of the window driving down busy streets trying to get us there on time. One day in high school the white kids decided to have a riot and beat up all the Mexican kids at school. John was in the heart of the battle, not fighting but saving Mexicans, one by one. He fought like a lion pulling kids to safety, trying to save as many as he could. I was so proud of him that day. I was also proud of him when somehow he managed to get on the intercom and ask Kristi Kay to Prom or homecoming with the whole school listening... I thought, "That's MY Brother!"
3. The Rollerskating Accident John was amazing on roller skates from a very young age, but I was not. I was such a scaredy-cat compared to him. I took 2 baseball bats from the closet and used them as poles to stabilize and ensure I didn't fall down on the roller skates. There I was skating around the culdesac like a dork with my bats, as John flew past me on his skates. We were standing in front of the Booses' house when I stuck my bat out to catch myself, just as John passed by, launching him into a huge cactus prickly pear bush. My mom had to pull all the big barbs out one by one... but he never got mad at me or blamed it on me.
4. $5 for the 7/11 John went on his mission to Sydney, Australia. While he was gone, he sent me a stack of envelopes of letters to distribute to all the people he had ever wronged or hurt. Each letter included an apology note I assume. I passed them out to the few people, but when I got a note that said 7/11, I was stumped. In the envelope there was a 5 dollar bill and a note apologizing for stealing a candy bar when he was young. I brought it to our 7/11 and the cashier looked at me and asked if I was serious. I said yes and he said he couldn't take it because his till would be off. I said "Take it then. Consider it a tip from my brother John."
5. Bake-sale flop I was twelve and I made cookies for our Girls Camp fundraiser in front of Wal-Mart. I prided myself on baking great cookies for John and all his friends, but on this day I'm not sure what went wrong. All I know is they weren't edible, let alone marketable. I was crying in the kitchen and John came in. He suggested we buy some or make some new ones and he would take me late to the sale. I'm not sure which we did, but all I remember is I sold a lot of cookies.
6. Dancing John was a great dancer. We all had so much fun at Saturday night dances... he probably more than me because not only did he dance, he kissed too! He was never too busy to dance with me if I wanted. I wasn't so great, but with him leading he could make me look and feel great.
7. Hip in the Wall John loved to wrestle. One day John was wrestling in the hall with one of his friends when his hip/bum went through the wall, creating a huge hole. I was shocked and told him mom was going to be so mad. John ran and grabbed his big senior picture and hung it on the wall right over the whole. My mom came home and asked why he moved his senior picture to the hallway at waist level. John said he felt neglected with it being in his room, and felt this was a more public place to showcase it. When my mom eventually insisted on raising it higher, she laughed at his creativity in covering up his mistake.
8. Borrowing his clothes I remember in junior high when no fear shirts and flannels were cool I would always borrow Johns clothes... not just shirts but jeans too. Embarrassingly we were the exact same size. He never got mad or complained, but I finally stopped when Chance Mikos called me "Little John". Oh, well... at least he was always well dressed and good looking, not such a slap in the face other than the fact that I am a girl.
9. Sand Sculptures on the Beach John was very creative and wouldn't just do the regular old sand castle. When John makes something, it is going to be awesome! On vacations he made the most amazing dolphins and turtles out of sand. He'd spend hours on them, long after the rest of us had given up, he was still working hard. I was always jealous of how good they were.
10. Threatening Boys John has threatened boys in my behalf for over a decade. When we both were attending BYU he nearly beat up a boy that would come by all the time and look in the girls windows in our complex. Lets just say the boy never dared peep in windows again. When James asked to marry me he talked to John and John threatened to kill him over 10 times if he ever hurt me. Sometimes he was a little over the top, but he truly protected his sisters!
11. White Soccer Shorts at Swim Lessons We all took swim lessons together... unfortunately I stayed in the beginners kick board class for years while my older siblings became advanced and eventually on swim team. One day John came directly from his soccer practice to swim lesson without his suit but figured he could wear his soccer shorts. He quickly learned that short little white soccer shorts become completely see through when wet. We laughed about that for ages.
12. Helping me with Student Teaching John and Kristi were living in Provo going to school while I was finishing student teaching. I had a huge lesson on fashion through the decades and John helped me for hours... till late into the night finding pictures and printing overheads. He was willing to help me no matter what time of day or night it was.
13. "Brothers Don't Shake Hands, Brothers Hug" I had a little crush on a boy named Toby when I was a sophomore in college. We had hung out and maybe gone on a date, but we were mostly just friends. I invited him to go to general conference with me because my family had tickets. John and Phillip and my parents met us on temple square. I prayed John would play it cool and not embarrass me somehow. As Toby and I walked up to get our tickets, John raced over picked Toby off the ground in a huge hug, and yelled, "Brothers don't shake hands, brothers hug." Then Phillip and John linked arms around his shoulders and started to do the can can.
14. Christmas When we were little, John would try to stay awake and catch Santa year after year. One year the tree toppled on top of him and cut him up with glass... when he was older he worked in Alaska and at Wilson's leather, so he had more money than any of us and would buy the best gifts for all of us, not just the name he drew. My favorite gift he gave me was a framed picture of me, my mom, my Grandma Larson, and my Grandma Carlson all in a row all at the same age in the pictures. It was beautiful and so well cropped and photo-shopped.
15. Shaving John's head John experienced a few wild years finding who he was and who he wanted to hang out with. During this time, He grew a tall, bleach-blond Mohawk. Every morning before school his freshman year, he asked me to shave the back of his head with a razor. So I did. My mom said he could. "It's just hair and he'll grow out of it" and he did...
16. Jumping the Tennis Net... Almost One day my dad got a phone call from John. He needed us to come pick him up and take him to the hospital. Like I said before, he was so talented on rollerblades (at The Wedge he could jump tables and trash cans) But at Charles Wilcox house he had tried to jump their tennis net. I remember sitting next to him in one of my dads company trucks looking at the huge opening in his chin gushing with blood as he said, "I almost cleared it... I was so close. I just hesitated!" John never feared pain or accidents... he thrived on the adrenaline of it all.
17. "Kathy... I want to tell you something" As we grew older, Becky, John and I all had different rooms. When it was late and I was in bed almost asleep, I would hear John or Becky or both yell down the hall, "Kathy! I have a secret for you!" or "Kathy! Guess what?" I'd get out of bed, run down the hall, and ask what they wanted to tell me. The secret was always, "Can you turn on my fan, get me a glass of water, and turn off my light." They both tricked me almost every night... John always told me I was too gullible. He was right.
18. The Greatest Advice One day after professional development meetings I called John to ask him what he thought we, as teachers could do to help students like John succeed. John was brilliant, but a terrible student in high school. Teachers always asked if I was a Larson like my oldest siblings or a Larson like John. Ouch! What jerks! He always told me he was trying to do me a favor and make teachers expect less of me so I wouldn't have to be so perfect all the time. Ha! John dropped out of high school the month before graduation and got his GED. He hated a lot about public education. When I asked him this question, he thought for a second and said, "You've got to believe they are great and help them to see that. They will become what you believe they are. Don't call on kids that aren't paying attention and ask what you just said. I hated that. It didn't make me want to listen. It made me embarrassed and angry. You should build them up, not push them down. Most importantly you have to give them hope. If they are failing and there is no way left to pass or succeed then of course they'll give up. Just help them have hope." I wish I could have been there to build John up... to hug him and let him know that there was hope.

What I love about my brother, John:
He was one of the kindest people I have ever met. He was funny and silly... We would laugh for hours when we would get together. He and I love sharing stories, one upping each other. I could never stay mad at him for long because he would tickle me or make a silly face or dance or stand on his head or pick my nose... gross I know! He was my protector, my adviser, and my friend. I loved his willingness to serve others and to finish a project 110%. I love how hard he worked. I love how humble he was... never claiming to be perfect but he often claiming to be right. I love how he went out of his way to make people feel important and loved. He learned broken Arabic and would go to the streets speaking to them in their language. The adults would chat with him and the children would swarm around him in mobs. His warm smile could crumble walls of any cultures or races. He was impulsive, creative, daring, and brave. I know that I will see John again and when I do I hope we can pick up from where we left off and tell more stories and laugh some more. I love you John! I miss you!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Happy Late Groundhog Day !

James & Ryan threw their 4th Annual Groundhog day party yesterday. It was the 3rd that I've personally attended. They crack me up... Who honestly celebrates Groundhogs Day?! The tradition, as I understand it to be, is that they have a big BBQ on Feb. 2nd and wear swim trunks or shorts and flip-flops outside in the snow. The hope is that maybe the spring will come a little sooner if they give it a little encouragement, regardless if the Groundhog sees his shadow or not. (which by the way he did see it...which should mean a longer scientifically driven!) This year I surprised James by making him this Groundhog cake for his party while he was at school. Pretty funny, eh! I walked around the grocery store looking for anything that looked like a ground hog & the apple fritter cried out to me! So now you know, if you are in need of a groundhog cake next year, I can help you out. :) It only cost 4 bucks to make! I hope your Groundhog Day was all that you dreamed and more! Be sure to come by next year if you're in the area...we'd love to celebrate with you.