Friday, July 30, 2010

Their First Trio 7.16.10

My friend Kathryn has a wonderful piano studio. Each summer she does a music camp for her students, and this year she decided to do a collaborative piano camp and she happened to link up with our violin teacher, Kathy. Each of Kathy's students were matched to one of Kathryn's students. They rehearsed together twice, then played a recital on Friday evening. Kathryn also asked if Josh and Sophie would like to do a piano trio with one of her students. My answer? Of course YES.

I've been trying to write a trio for Kate and these two, but haven't pulled myself together to do it yet, so this was a great starting point. They struggled through their first rehearsal at home (rehearsing can be tricky for any musicians. There is a lot of pent-up emotion that gets spewed out when someone tells you you're counting wrong) but by their first rehearsal with the pianist, they were ready.

I've been trying to figure out how to post a video of their performance, but I haven't managed it yet. So I'm going to just say how wonderful it is to watch the two of them play together, and it's especially wonderful to see Ben start to walk THROUGH the performance and Kate try to stop him while the videocamera shakes because I'm trying to motion Kate to take Ben OUT of the house before he ruins the whole concert.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Three years ago, David was out of town on tour in Southern Utah. The kids were in bed and I was relaxing when I heard siren after siren after siren rushing past my house. A little while later, David called. He sounded so relieved after he heard my voice. I asked what was up, and he asked if I'd been watching the news. He had, and the newscaster announced a family had been hit by a drunk driver in our neighborhood and he wanted to make sure it wasn't us.

It wasn't us. But it was my friends' bishop's family, my childrens' schoolmates. And the loss of Michelle, pregnant with their fifth baby, sixth grade Ben and fourth grade Anna broke our collective hearts instantly.

My heart has been touched again and again by Chris Williams' willingness and ability to forgive the teenager who made such a terrible, terrible choice with such lasting consequences.

(Double click on the clip: My columns are too small to be able to show the whole screen. Sorry!)

Christ's Atonement is real. The gift He gives us of forgiveness and redemption can provide all of us with healing, with peace, and with knowledge.

We will all find that life's journey is so often treacherous, uphill, exhausting, painful. Since our loss in June, I have come to see how much company there is for me on this journey of grief. I'm beginning to understand that sometimes we are acquainted with grief so we can lift others along their own path. It's not a trip we willingly take, but once we've started down the path, we sometimes find that there is a strange loveliness about it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Glasses 7.15.10

Kate's getting glasses. She's very excited. And very cute.

Bubbles 7.14.10

Survival 7.11.10

Since Brent's death, some days are okay.

Some days are pretty terrible.

On those pretty terrible days, the piano provides some solace, as long as I get myself to the keyboard.

Just in case you were wondering, the okay days are finally outnumbering the terrible days. That is good news. And for the days that are still pretty rotten, at least there's the piano.

Brianna's Shower 7.10.10

My sweet niece, Brianna, is getting married. Not only is she my niece, but she's also one of my favorite former piano students, so we have had a really special relationship. She just finished a degree in Music Therapy and is marrying a sweet boy named Joe, and I'm just thrilled for her.

I'm not the only one who loves Brianna:

Two Front Teeth 7.9.10

I kept putting off taking pictures of Kate's missing front teeth until the new ones were already coming in. She's growing up more every week. Seriously cute, isn't she?

Night in the Neighborhood 7.8.10

Museum Trip and Potty Training 7.7.10

Josh and Sophie took a summer sculpture class. Josh could earn a merit badge for it if he also attended an art museum, so Katy and I took the kids to free day at the UMFA after a picnic in the park.

I love these kids:

Also, huge news. We began potty training. Ben? Totally ready. We gave him part of his leftover chocolate Easter bunny every time he used the potty. He thought that was great, because since when has Ben not gone crazy for chocolate?

When the bunny was gone, so was Ben's desire to be a big boy. No more potty training. He demanded a diaper. Seriously. He's still in diapers three weeks later. I guess I need another few chocolate bunnies. Anyone got any stale Easter candy they'd like to donate to the cause?

And the Desk is Still Clean 7.6.10

Proof. Isn't it amazing?

Kid Date and Model Kate 7.5.10

Kate has been begging David to take her on a bike ride for a kid date. Finally, her wish was granted. She has had many happy hours in this trailer, but I'm not sure how long she's going to fit.

Also, Sophie and her friends talked Kate into modeling for them for hours on Sunday and again on Monday. A slideshow of the modeling pictures would provide much entertainment, but I'll just give you this one:

July 4th. I mean 4th. 7.4.10

On the REAL fourth of July, we had a party for some of David's coworkers, many of whom are new to the state and probably a little confused by our Saturday/Sunday holiday mixup. We barbecued, watched neighbors light off fireworks, enjoyed the gorgeous sunset, and played some games.

Our visitors couldn't understand why so many kids were running in and out of our house until 11:30. We tried to explain the open door policy of our summer nights, but they still seemed blown away. I guess it IS a little unusual, but a little wonderful, too. It's the kind of old-fashioned freedom I always hoped my kids could experience, and was worried we were losing when we left our last house.

July 4th. I mean 3rd. 7.3.10

In Utah, non-religious holidays that happen to fall on a Sunday are celebrated on the day before, so we partied all day Saturday in the old neighborhood. Kids' parade, lunch at the Loosle's, then a barbecue at John & Katy's while Dave worked at Deer Valley...just like old times. Except this year we had to drive. Bummer.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Missing Mrs. Gibson

When I was a five year old with red ponytails, I took the first of many treks up the hill to Cal State Long Beach. I was excited to take my very first piano lesson with Leaine Gibson. Lessons were very exciting. Not only did I get to walk past rehearsal rooms filled with music-making, I got to play in a room with music staff chalkboards. And of course, there was the piano. I don't remember not playing the piano, and I can't remember how I felt about the first time I played. I just know that I quickly learned to love the piano and to love Mrs. Gibson.

I loved lessons at CSULB and I loved lessons at her house in Long Beach. I loved her vast collections of miniatures and books. I loved her cats. I loved talking to her about everything and anything going on in my life. I loved thinking I convinced her that I'd worked really hard on a piece I was sightreading until she said, "That was nice sightreading. How would that have sounded if you'd practiced it?" I didn't love that if I forgot my music (on purpose) she'd have a copy so I'd have to play anyway. I loved our recitals. I loved the receptions in her backyard after our recitals. And I loved knowing that she cared about me even more than she cared about my playing.

She had her quirks. One October day when I was in high school, I drove to Fullerton College to meet her for a lesson. We met in the parking lot and because it was close to Halloween, she handed me a feathered mask. She put on her own, and we walked to the music building wearing our masks. My 17 year old self was mortified. College boys might see me. But she wasn't about to let me get away with holding it. I was going to wear the darned thing.

She influenced my political choices. She influenced my reading. She influenced my love of specific composers. (I didn't, however, remain in love with miniatures. Or cats.)

Even after I graduated from high school, I would take lessons from her during the summer. Even after I married David, I would take lessons from her when we'd visit. And even after Josh was born, she helped fulfill one of my life-long dreams when she recommended me to be soloist for a concert with the Fullerton Symphony Orchestra.

I honestly don't know who I'd be without my years and years of time with this dear woman.

A few days before Brent died, a friend of hers called to let me know that Leaine had had a stroke and was on hospice care. She had moved to Washington to be with her daughter, so I knew that saying goodbye wasn't an option. I was devastated and so regretful. Our letters had never stopped going back and forth, but their frequency had lessened over the years. The idea that she wouldn't be available to me as a mentor or friend hadn't really crossed my mind. I just assumed she'd be there, always ready to send me a piece she'd fallen in love with, some quotes about music or animals, or a picture of Katherine Hepburn (she always said I looked like her.)

And then, while still in California after the funeral, I got the news that Mrs. Gibson had died one week after Brent, and that her memorial service would be held on July 24, back in California at the church where I had won my first competition, the church where I had listened to her play so many recitals. I was so sad not to be able to be there.

And then her family asked me to play. And I couldn't not be there. So tomorrow I fly to California to remember Mrs. Gibson, to play her one last piece. I am honored to be included.

I will play her some Mompou. We both loved Mompou. She liked to try to trick me with composers and introduce me to new ones whenever possible. One visit, she asked me to guess the composer as she played a piece. I think she was both disappointed AND thrilled when I knew it was Mompou.

These last few weeks have been full of heartache and love and gratitude. Loss seems to be around every corner. But I am so very very grateful for the time I've had with these dear ones I've lost.

Leaine's friend Pat read me this Edna St. Vincent Millay poem over the phone as we talked about how much we miss Leaine. I'm afraid that I wept and wept as she read, and that even now, writing it out, I wept again. I guess I've learned (and it is a much harder lesson than any of my piano lessons ever were. Even the ones I didn't practice for.) that although the reality of eternal life and eventual reunion is deep in my heart, the initial stages of grief for me block out that reality for a time. For now, I feel mostly the loss. The hope for our eventual reunion is there, but it is muted. I believe that with time, this will be reversed, but for now, I'm accepting the daily grief and waiting for the relief.

I am not resigned to the loss of my dear Mrs. Gibson, or my dear Brent. But I am grateful for the beauty of the hours I spent loving them. I am grateful for how my life was gently shaped because of knowing them.

Dirge without Music

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,--but the best is lost.
The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love, --
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the blossoms in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave,
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Feeling All Civic 7.2.10

One of Josh's exciting adventures this summer has been attending Merit Badge Camps! I know! That sounds like so much fun , doesn't it?

For his Citizenship in the Nation badge, we all went to the Utah State Capitol.

I thought it was very interesting.

The big kids? Kind of did.

Ben? Not so much. He ended up in a time out in the stroller after freaking out in the Senate Chamber and trying to escape into an off-limits area.

Then he figured out how to undo the stroller seatbelt.


But I decided that although I sometimes say I hate politics, I really don't. I actually like being forced to question my assumptions, and being forced to wade through so much dissention to come up with what I think is the best answer (of possibly two bad answers) and choose a side. And hooray for democracy, right?

OK, but sometimes I still hate politics. Because there IS a lot of dissention. And I'm all about the love.

And also? The renovation of the Capitol? Way good use of my tax dollars. Gorgeous. And the restoration of the artwork? Incredible. I love these WPA murals everywhere I see them. (Plug in for good use of government funding in times of economic distress...Way to fund the arts, Pres. Roosevelt!)

Sorry. Did my political stripes show? I'll tuck them back in.

On Friendship and Crockpots 7.1.10

Have I mentioned my friends?

I have?

That they're amazing? And kind? And thoughtful?

Oh, I have?

Well, here's more evidence. My friends Cindy and Sally and Stephanie came to visit with a frozen lasagna, strawberries, bread and chocolate cake. And bagels. And a gorgeous plant. And a card. And they stayed to let all the girls play. And they let me talk.

Plus, they got me out of doing more weeding, so that was good.

And remember how I broke my crockpot? Well, I finally replaced it. I tried to find one at a garage sale, but alas. No luck. I ended up having to rely on Costco to save my summer dinner schedule. So here is the old and the new. Can you believe I've been married long enough to have a crockpot that looks as ancient as this one?

You can?


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Good Parenting Part Three 6.30.10

So You Think You Can Dance. Enough said.

Good Parenting Part Two 6.29.10

Good Parenting Part One 6.28.10

Did I mention I've been letting the kids stay up too late?

Weeding 6.26.10

Weeding. Seriously. It's driving us crazy. Not just a little crazy. We're going insane crazy. I'm not sure I can live in a house with this much weeding. The morning glory made David so nuts that he decided to dig out a couple of the beds to get down to the root systems. This worked. For a week. Then it was morning glory city all over again.

Anyone have any morning glory advice?

Things to Come 6.25.10

KATE'S eyes have been getting worse. She finally tried Sophie's glasses to see if they helped. Yup. Guess we'll have two girls with glasses soon.

Night Games 6.24.10

We may be overdoing it a bit on the night games. Lots and lots and lots of LATE nights do not always happy children make.

But I've felt like letting them make memories and live life as fully as possible. So even though they may not be getting enough sleep, they've had some really good times.

Cake 6.23.10

I was glad I had decided to continue eating sugar this week when my friend Bridget (our sweet piano teacher) gave us this cake after the girls' lesson. I've been doing pretty well holding in my emotions. Well, to be honest, I do pretty well until someone does something thoughtful for us. Somehow, the tenderness of people's actions taps right into the tear switch for me.

Also, the cake was delicious.

Cookies 6.22.10

I feel better when I'm not eating sugar. I don't do well at eating sugar in moderation, so it's easier for me to cut it all out than to try to eat just one cookie.

But there are some times that you just need a cookie. Or four. Or six.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Home Again 6.21.10

My sweet kids and our sweet neighbor kids

Home was not an easy place to be. I think each one of us faced this return to normal life with a little anxiety. Monday ended up being hard on each of us.

Once again, though, peoples' care helped us through a difficult time:

Our friend Connie had taken Tally for us for the time we were away. I picked her up on Monday and couldn't believe the difference in Old Dog. Connie had given her vitamins and eye drops and long daily walks. Total Dog Spa Treatment. Tally has missed her.

I received cards in the mail, many even from high school friends I've reconnected with in the last year. I've so enjoyed renewing these friendships, and here they were, supporting me as if we never stopped being friends.

And one of my newest friends, Emily, came over and helped me clean. We had left for California in such a rush that the house was pretty trashed, and I was pretty overwhelmed. She let me talk and talk and talk and talk. Both the cleaning and the talking were much needed gifts.

Later, Kurt and Ashleigh came by to pick up their car. David and Kurt spent even more time on the car, and Ashleigh and I decided that we'd wait one more week to take sugar back OUT of our diets and made cookies.

Monday was bad, it's true, but we got through it. And the next few days improved little by little.

Driving Home 6.20.10

More of Sophie's travel photography.

And this represents how I felt most of the drive home: a little out of focus, a little jagged. The drive TO California was miraculously free of stress. The drive home? Not so much. But we made it, just a little worse for wear.

Visiting 6.19.10

Saturday was a quiet day. The kids spent a lot of time in the pool and I spent a lot of time visiting. Nana Beth and Aunt Jan came to visit (with the most amazing strawberries I think I've ever eaten). As the day wore on and the natives grew restless, Nana Beth thought a walk in the Lakebed (the acres and acres of trails at the end of my parents' street: once a lakebed, now a kids' paradise) might be just the thing to soothe them.

It didn't really soothe them. They were all grumpy. Or mostly, anyway. I got a little frustrated with them, and my sweet Nana just gently reassured me, "They're so good. You have such nice children."

I mostly believed her. They really are nice children mostly. And they really managed to hold in their bad behavior on this trip. Mostly.

I also got to visit with my cousin Peggy and playing with her cute Jenna-Kate. They flew out later than the rest of the extended family, which gave us some much-needed catch-up time. Peggy and I were best cousins as we grew up. I love all of my amazing cousins, but Peggy was the one I wrote a 21-page letter to when I was in 7th grade, mostly about boys, and maybe mostly about some boy named Jeff in my home ec class, if I remember right. (I sincerely hope she has since burned it.) (Chris, aren't you glad YOU didn't get a 21-page letter from me about Jeff in home ec when we were in 7th grade?)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Just After 6.18.10

With so many out of town family members, and so many kids forced to be on their best behavior for so long, there was only one option for after the funeral:

A pool party.

As strange as it seems, it was oddly healing to watch this extended family I love so much enjoy themselves, to build relationships, to laugh.

To live.

And just to prepare's not a Youngberg party if it doesn't end in crazy laughter.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Brent Youngberg's Funeral 6.18.10

How do I even begin to talk about the funeral?

I have to start by talking about those who gave of their time and resources so freely. The printers (who did an incredible job on the tri-fold programs) donated the programs because they think so highly of my parents. My brother Chad's friend did the design work. The Relief Society spent hours preparing the lunch and making the space beautiful for our family, along with providing a nursery for the littlest cousins during the funeral. And each of us spent time helping to make the funeral a way to remember Brent and his life along with a way to mourn and give peace to his family and friends.

And the result was a small space in time to focus solely on our love for our brother, our son, our uncle, cousin, grandson, friend and to celebrate his life, to remember his individuality, and to grieve for his loss.

It was not easy to say goodbye to him.

It was not easy to see him in the casket. After all, he is my little brother. He is special. I loved playing with him when he was little. I loved watching him play basketball. I loved hearing about his opinions. I loved watching him smile.

He shouldn't be gone.

While we got ready for the funeral, we found all of the mementos of his life. Chad cleaned out his apartment and brought home the odds and ends in a box. There were pictures our children had drawn for him. There were photographs of him with friends and family, and again, especially with our children. The love he had for them was so evident.

We also read his childhood journal and laughed and laughed and laughed. He was so smart and so funny and sometimes even a little full of himself (like when he talked about how he couldn't stand his school teacher because she kept going on about how smart and brilliant he was.)

So to help us, we surrounded him with all of this memorabilia, to remember how he shone, how he lit up our lives and the world around him.

And after we gathered around him and tried to acclimate to the fact that while his body was there with us, our Brent was not, we began to be surrounded by love.

Our extended family and friends streamed through the viewing room. I was overwhelmed by the show of support and love. My friends came for me (and I love you for it) and for my family. Family drove hours and hours and hours to be there. Brent's friend Matt's parents changed vacation plans and flew in to be there.

We were able to meet some of Brent's coworkers and friends, who had already begun to share their memories of Brent on the comments on my blog and on Facebook.

When the viewing had ended, we said our family goodbye to Brent and had our family prayer. And then Kurt closed the casket.

The pallbearers (the brothers, brothers-in-law and Josh) guided the casket so carefully, so gently into the chapel for the funeral and we walked behind on what felt like a long, long walk.

And the funeral began.

It was a beautiful funeral. The program went according to the program above. The cousins sounded darling, even with Josh's just-changed voice. Kurt's talk was sweet. He shared the poem on the back of the program, written by his friend Barrett, he talked about Brent's life, and about memories of our brother and his love for nature, along with passages from the Tao. The Flower Duet from Lakme was incredible. So so beautiful. Eric's talk, about the importance of family to Brent, was profound and funny. I played Brahms. My dad talked about the LDS view on the Plan of Happiness, and also shared some memories of Brent, and the funeral ended with the congregation singing "For the Beauty of the Earth."

And then it was over. We spent a while being embraced by those who came to support us. I saw friends I hadn't seen in years. My heart was overflowing.

After a beautiful lunch, and more visiting with wonderful people, along with memories of Brent from his best friend Brett and our cousins Devin and Robbie, we headed up to Palos Verdes to the cemetery.

I don't really have much I want to say about the cemetery, but here is a story to let you know how it felt.

After the dedication of the grave, we walked over to visit the graves of my grandpa, my great-grandma, and my great-grandpa. (It's somehow comforting to think of Brent near them.) At one point, someone said, "Let's take a picture of all the siblings." And all I could think was, "No. No. We're not all here. We'll never all be here again."

And then I got in the line, smiled my bravest smile, and missed Brent.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Most of our mornings began around 6:00 when the littlest kids woke up. This was way way WAY too early. WAY too early.

Thursday was the roughest day of the week for me. I started to get sick to my stomach (whether a bug or just stress and grief, I'm not sure) and that didn't let up until after the funeral on Friday.

The day was spent finishing up preparations for the funeral: pictures, slide show, program details, memorabilia. And it was exhausting. And emotional.

Not a good day. Really. Not.

Dad gave some of the boys haircuts. Ben did not behave well.

And again, we were blown away by people's generosity. One woman (who had herself lost two children 6 weeks apart) made this bouquet of handkerchiefs. My mom ironed them all and gave one to each of us for the funeral.

Not a good day. Did I mention that?


Like I said, I knew we'd be bringing chaos with us from Utah. With 10 bodies 13 and under, there is noise and confusion. Everyone stood it for a little while, and then it got to be too much for some of us to take. Unfortunately, I couldn't run away from the chaos, as so much of it belonged to me. Luckily, other people could and did.

I've mentioned the overflowing of love from those around my parents. Two dear friends offered the use of their beach houses, and those without four children decided to take advantage of the relative peace and quiet. We did invade for Bri's birthday celebration on Wednesday evening, and the children were very happy to be on the beach.

Will here is still recovering from one of the nastiest sunburns I've seen in years, courtesy of 5 and 1/2 hours in the pool on Monday. He walked hunched over for three or four days. We all felt so bad, especially when we realized that all children's pain relievers were pulled off the shelves for a recall.