Treasured Christmas Gifts From My Family

Early in our marriage my husband and I decided not to make lavish gift giving the focus of our holiday celebrations. The greatest gifts we could share as a family would be our presence with each other. Nothing can take the place of a loving family who enjoys just being together. Some of my favorite holiday moments include:

• Watching April and Dallan lovingly dress Caleb for his part as the angel in the family nativity play on Christmas Eve.
• Listening to my children and grandchildren sing Christmas songs around the piano.
• Attending my daughter Ashley’s first baby shower.
• Speaking in church on Christmas day about the gifts and tender mercies of the Savior.
Spending a week with Aubrey, Kyle and Rylan who live so far away.
• Attending my granddaughter Isabella’s adoption hearing.
• Listening to Alisa’s first orchestra concert as she played the cello.
• Going to the University Mall to hear John’s choir sing the Halleluiah Chorus.
• Receiving family history stories, pictures and books from my son Jordan.
• Walking through the woods in knee deep snow that sparkled like diamonds with my daughter Arianne.
• Watching BYU make a come-back victory at their bowl game while yelling and eating pizza at Jacob’s house.
• Watching my husband talk about his youth and LDS mission to his children and grandchildren during his day-after-Christmas Samoan Party. . . and watching Arianne and Jared prepare special Samoan food just for their Dad.
• Watching Ashley and Hyrum play the part of Mary and Joseph as they too are about to be embark on their journey together as parents.
• Playing the violin in a Dickens’s Christmas Carol Concert.
• Sleigh riding with children and grandchildren up at the cabin.
• Tearfully hugging Amy, Aden and Tessa goodbye before they had to leave for Oregon.
• Listening to my son Joseph express his love and gratitude for his father while eating our Christmas Eve dinner together.
• Watching 3-year-old Emma bravely finish the dance while the other little dancing girls ran off stage to their parents.
• Listening to John play “The River Flows Through You” with only the Christmas tree lights to illuminate the living room just before retiring for the night.
• Presenting our heart-felt personal gifts to the Christ child as a single candle flickered in the dark room.

The greatest gifts in life can't be seen or touched but only felt with the heart. May you feel the love of God in your life as you contemplate the gift of his Son and our Savior. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you my friends.


I Love Note To A Treasured New Friend I've Never Met

Writing a blog has been such a pleasure for me. Catching my fleeting thoughts into words and images then having someone far away read those words and see those images and respond has truly touched my soul. Personal blog comments from readers like you have become a magical connection for me and a wonderful way to find new soul mates. Even though we may not have ever met, I feel as though we have become good friends. I don't think I can adequately thank all of you who have left comments here. I read each one and so often they feel like tender mercies from heaven.  I can't thank all of you personally but I want to try by saying thank you to one.
Dear Shirley,
Your insightful, positive and loving comments on my blog have been such a gentle kindness to me. Though I have never met you, I love you. I feel your goodness. I look forward to checking my E-mail to see if there is a note from you. Your words always make my day. Thank you for taking the time to be such an important part of my life, for being my friend and for letting me know you. Knowing you has meant more to me than you will ever know. I hope I meet you some day. Yet even if I never see you physically, I see you spiritually. What a gift it is for me to call you my friend.

This is Shirley's last blog comment on a post about my son Joseph's recent adoption. Can you see why I love her so. . .

My new friend Shirley
"Your post made me cry, Janene. What a beautiful post, and what a wonderful Christmas present for everyone. There was a special on TV last night about foster children who were adopted. It was entitled "Home for the Holidays". It was about children who were adopted by their foster parents, single & married, and how well the children have flourished in their new family. This is so awe-inspiring, and I wish you all a very Blessed Christmas season. And to think that Isabella's Dad's name is Joseph!! Sending lots of love to your family."

Merry Christmas Shirley. Thank you for being you. You are such a gift to me.


Isabella is adopted today!

Isabella and the judge enjoying a moment together just after the adoption became official.
The judge gave Isabella an adoption bear so she could remember this day with joy.
Joseph and Martha with their two beautiful children Isabella and Bradley standing next to the judge.
Joseph and Martha's beautiful family with their grandparents.
All the loving family, friends and legal folks who attended the adoption hearing.
I've had the blessing of being present when several of my grandchildren were born. There is nothing quite as awe inspiring as adding the newest member of the family into our midst.

Today I am so grateful that I was able to be present when the newest member of our family joined us.

Isabella Baadsgaard was officially adopted by my son Joseph and his wife Martha this morning.

Isabella also has an older brother Bradley who was adopted into our family previously. I cannot express in words how much I love these precious children.

There is no greater gift than a new child to love.

May I express my gratitude and deepest respect for all those who are willing to take in foster children and give them a safe home, where they are given what every child deserves. . . to be wanted and loved.  May I also express my gratitude to social workers, lawyers and judges who put the safety and welfare of our children as their top priority. 

My favorite moment during the proceedings today was when the judge asked my son if he had bonded with Isabella. As the judge was asking the question, my sweet little granddaughter quietly stood and wrapped her arms around her new father with such unbridled affection and joy.
"Oh, yes," my son answered. "She is my princess."

Welcome Isabella. We all love you so much. We are so happy that you are in our family now and forever.


Happy Birthday Mitchell

  Mitchell the Super Hero
                                                                          Granny B

Happy Birthday Mitchell. 
Your Grandma Baadsgaard loves you so very much.
Here's a special story I wrote just for you.

When Mitchell woke up one morning his pajamas seemed a little snug. His wrists were sneaking out the arm holes and he could see his ankles peeking out of the bottom of his pants.

“Mitchell, did you grow two inches last night while you were sleeping?” his mother asked while he was slurping his breakfast cereal.

“I don’t know,” Mitchell answered. “My pajamas do feel tight.”

Then Mitchell's brother Mathew walked into the kitchen rubbing his eyes. After he looked at Mitchell his eyes popped wide open.

“Mitchell, when did you get those things?” Mathew asked pointing to Mitchell’s chest and arms.

“What things?” Mitchell answered.

“Bulging muscles,” Mathew said. “You’ve never had those before.

Just then Mitchell's other brother Josh walked into the kitchen yawning. Then he picked up a glass of milk and took a gulp. After he took one look at his five-year-old brother he choked on the milk and sprayed it all over himself.

“When did that happen?” Josh yelled. “My little brother Mitchell is a super-hero!”

Mitchell looked down at his chest and saw ripples of muscles. He stretched out his arms and saw bulging triceps and biceps. He flexed a few times and raised one eyebrow.

“Hey, this is terrific! You guys better watch out,” Mitchell said glaring at his brothers. “No more picked on little brother for this muscle man.”

“Give me your piece of toast,” Mitchell demanded turning to his brother Mathew. “Now!”

Mathew took one look at Mitchell’s bulging muscles and quickly obeyed.

“Give me your rock collection,” Mitchell demanded turning to his brother Josh.

Josh took one look at Mitchell’s triceps and biceps and quickly obeyed.

Wow, Mitchell thought to himself. This superhero stuff if great. I can have whatever I want right when I want it. I have those pesky brothers of mine just where I want them.

Then Mitchell got another idea.

“Mom,” Mitchell declared. “I’m not going to brush my teeth, make my bed or clean up my room anymore.”

“Then you’re not a super hero,” his mother answered. “Super heroes help people. You’re just a bully because you have big muscles now.”

Shucks, Mitchell thought. Why does Mom always have to ruin everything? Maybe she will be afraid of me if I growl.

“GRRRRR!” Mitchell growled baring his ferocious teeth at his mother.

“Josh and Matty, you need to practice your piano before you leave for school,” his mother answered, completely ignoring him.

After his older brothers left for school, Mitchell followed his mother around the house barking out orders. It didn’t work. His mother did the dishes, vacuumed the rug, showered and got dressed. Next she walked into his older brother Caleb’s room and gave him a sponge bath, hooked up his feeding tube and adjusted his ventilator.

Then Mitchell heard the doorbell ring. It was the neighbor lady and she was crying. Mitchell’s mother invited the lady inside and gave her a chocolate chip cookie. Then they sat down together on the couch and talked for a long time.

Mitchell ran through the room several times trying to get the neighbor’s attention. Once he leaped from the couch onto the floor. That didn’t work. The lady kept crying. Then he flexed his muscles. That didn’t work either. Then Mitchell watched his mother put her arms around the neighbor lady and hug her. Pretty soon the neighbor lady stopped crying and smiled.

“Thank you,” the neighbor said as she opened the door to leave. “You always know just what to say to make me feel better. You are my hero.”

Hey, Mitchell thought. I’m the super hero around here.

Then Mitchell watched his mother start cooking in the kitchen.

“It’s not time for lunch yet,” Mitchell said. “Why are you cooking?’

Mr. Williams is going in for surgery today,” she answered. “I thought I’d bring over some supper. Mrs. Williams won’t feel like cooking when she gets home from the hospital tonight.”

Mitchell walked down the hall toward his bedroom to play with his stuffed animals. He peeked in his brother’s Caleb room. He looked lonely. Mitchell got his favorite stuffed snake then crawled up into his brother’s bed. He put the snake next to Caleb’s cheek then put his arm around him and gave him a great big hug.

“I love you Caleb,” Mitchell said. “I’ll always protect you from the bad guys ‘cause I’m a superhero now.”

After Caleb went to sleep, Mitchell got Josh’s rock collection and put it back in his room. Then he picked out two of his favorite plastic super hero guys and put one on each of his brother’s beds. Next he walked into the kitchen and looked at his mother.

“Can I help you cook dinner for the sick guy?” Mitchell asked.

“Yes,” his mother answered.

Mitchell smiled.

“Mitchell to the rescue!” he yelled as he leaped onto the kitchen stool flexing his triceps and biceps in a single bound.


DOWN HOME with Granny B

Growing Older 

Growing older has been a delightful surprise for me. The way I feel is different than what I thought I'd feel. I pretty much just feel grateful . . . grateful that I'm alive. . . grateful for everything. 

I thought I'd feel old inside when I was old outside. I don't. I feel softer. The experiences I've gone through have made me less quick to judge, less ambitious for material possessions and less inclined to hurry. I've learned to love others for who they are -  not who I want them to be. I've learned the only real wealth is a loving family. And I've learned to listen more carefully to the wisdom of others.

*All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without the benefit of experience (Henry Miller)

*Only the loving find love. And they never have to seek for it. (D. H. Lawrence)

*If nothing ever changed there'd be no butterflies. (Unknown)


A Poem For The Middle Child

Happy Birthday Mathew
I hope you know how much your Grandma Baadsgaard loves you.  Here is a poem I wrote just for you.
I'm a middle child too.

Mathew in the Middle
Granny B

I don’t like it in the middle
Said Mathew to his Mother
Being the ho-hum middle child
Is really such a bother

I’m not the oldest or the youngest
Just someplace in between
Nobody ever notices me
I feel like I’m never seen

His mother sighed and rolled her eyes
For she was an oldest child
“From where I sit,” she said with a smile
You have the best place by a mile

You don’t have to do everything first
Your parents have learned a thing or two
No one calls you the baby
I can’t see why you’re so blue.”

I don’t like it in the middle
Said Mathew to his father
Being the ho-hum middle child
Is really such a bother

“I know how you feel,” said Mathew’s father
I’m brother number two
That’s why I gave you my name
So my number two wouldn’t be blue.”

Then Mathew thought of his middle name
It was just the same as his father
I guess number two is not so bad
And really not a bother.

Then Mathew’s mother gave him a great big hug
And soon so did his Dad
Mathew was the meat in the family sandwich hug
And it really wasn’t so bad.


We are valuable and we are loved because of who we are not what we do.

I've noticed that when we are meeting someone for the first time we often ask, "What do you do?"  It is a common question for most of us are curious about other's occupations.

I've also observed that as my children were growing up many people asked them, "What do you want to do when you grow up?" referring to what career they will choose.  Prestige and the ability to earn money are often the result of what we choose to do.

So we grow into adults who focus almost entirely on what we do to feel good about ourselves.  If we don't do enough during the day, we feel lazy. If we don't choose the right career or if we do something wrong, we fill our hearts with regret or guilt. More and more we learn to focus the camera lens of our lives on what we do.

The other day I was speaking with someone about my grandson Caleb. When people find out Caleb was born without a brain they often stand in stunned silence. Then they always ask, "What can he do?"

I know the question is innocent and I am not offended but I can't help thinking that they are missing the point. Caleb might not have a brain but he has a heart and soul. If I go through the usual list of important achievements in life, Caleb may not fit the bill. But I always long to explain that it is not what Caleb can do that defines him.

And sometimes the person I'm talking to persists with detailed questions like . . .
"Can he see?"
"Can he move?"
"Can he hear?"
"Can he speak?"
"Can he eat?"
"Can he breathe?"
"Can he think?" 

And though the questions are innocent they often leave this impression . . .
"Well if he can't he do anything, I feel so sorry for him and for you. If he can't do anything - what purpose can his life possibly have?"

Because our family has been blessed to have Caleb in our lives we have learned that what makes someone valuable is not what they do but who they are.  Though Caleb's body makes is almost impossible for him to do much of anything in a physical sense, his presence is enough for us. His divine and noble spirit is alive and well inside a body with severe physical limitations yet enhanced spiritual abilities. Caleb speaks without language getting in the way. He loves without the inherit limitations of physical affection. His soul shines with a light only seen through the eyes of love.

So the next time you see someone like my grandson Caleb do not ask their family members what they can do.  Do not feel sorry for them. Instead say, "Tell me about your child."

And the next time you are thinking dark thoughts about self or others because of something you or they did of failed to do . . . stop. 

Then, pray.

Allow yourself to feel the love of God for you and every person who has walked this earth. You are not valuable to God or those around you because of what you do or don't do.  You are valuable because you are you.

Your existence - your presence - is enough.

And perhaps when you talk to the youth you might ask, "Who do you want to be when you grow up?"  For it is our inner qualities, the qualities Caleb already possesses, like compassion, patience, gentleness, meekness, and love that are the true measures of a meaningful life.



The Boy Who Was Born Without A Brain

My daughter April snuggling with Caleb

In my family we have a secret code to communicate our love for each other when we are out in public. We wink. When one of us is about to perform or speak, we look for a family member’s face in the crowd. Then we wink at each other. Closing one eye and winking is our secret code for saying, “I love you. You can do it. You’re wonderful.”

Almost seven years ago, my grandson Caleb was born into our family. He must have known before birth that he would never be able to speak to us because he was born with one eyelid permanently closed. So, he is always “winking” at us, always communicating, “I love you. You can do it. You’re wonderful.”

Mitchell and Caleb
Caleb has one eye lid permanently closed because he is missing one of his eyes . . . and he is also missing his brain. All the doctors said he would die soon after birth. They were wrong. He is a medical miracle. The doctors say he can’t see, hear, speak, think or move. Those who know and love Caleb understand he has his own unique way of experiencing the world and communicating his love to those around him.

After Caleb was born the hospice people told us to buy a burial plot and continually warned us of his imminent death. We soon learned you can not live well in a state of fear and sadness. We decided we could spend Caleb’s entire life anxious and scared he might die at any moment, or we could celebrate each day we were blessed to have him with us. In the beginning, my daughter April celebrated Caleb’s birthday every week instead of every year with balloons and cupcakes because we simply did not know how long we would have him with us. We stopped the cupcakes after we gained ten pounds, but the celebrating goes on.

We all prayed for a miracle when we first learned about Caleb’s condition. We got one. Caleb’s birth, life and mission have had a deep and lasting impact on our lives. His spirit, eternal identity and most of all the loving, individual relationship he has with each of us is truly a miracle. Because of Caleb we know that each of us has a divine purpose and that the physical body is a sacred gift we should never take for granted. We better understand the worth of a soul and the resiliency of the human spirit.

Caleb’s older brother Matthew said, “Grandma. The doctors said Caleb was going to die, but he didn’t. That’s the first miracle I ever saw!”

The winking family: Mitchell, Josh, Caleb, Dallan, April and Mathew
Caleb’s younger brother Mitchell holds hands with his brother while they ride together in the stroller. Sometimes the only intervention that can get Caleb’s heart rate up is when his older brothers Josh and Matty crawl in his crib, hug him and sing, “I am a Child of God.” Caleb is my hero and though he has never been able to utter a single word - he has taught everyone who knows and loves him – all the secrets of a rich and meaningful life.


More Pictures From Samoa

My daughter Arianne and her family recently returned from Samoa and brought along these beautiful pictures I'd like to share with you.


Happy Birthday Sophia

Sophia Spends a Day on the Ceiling


Grandma Baadsgaard

“Sometimes it is very hard having three brothers,” Sophia said as she stood next to her mother cooking a pot of soup on the stove.

“I know,” her mother said. “I grew up with brothers too.”

“They always break my toys and they won’t be careful with my dolls. Sometimes I wish I could live on the ceiling so they can’t reach me.”

“Be careful what you wish for,” her mother answered.

Suddenly Sophia’s three brothers ran into the room, knocked her over and stepped on her favorite doll.

“See what I mean,” Sophia said rolling her eyes.

Sophia walked into her bedroom and slammed the door. Then she put her doll into a backpack, strapped it on her shoulders and tried to find a way to get on the ceiling. First she grabbed the bar in her closet and started walking up the wall until she flipped over. Suddenly everything went black.

When Sophia woke up she was stuck on the ceiling living her life upside down. She saw her three brothers below her trying to jump up and touch her. But she was safe at last.

“No more broken toys and squished dolls,” Sophia said. “This is wonderful.”

First she walked over to the upside down light fixture, sat down and decided to have a tea party with her doll without any rude interruptions.

“Sophie, Sophie,” come back down. “We miss you,” her brothers yelled from below.

Sophia pretended she could not hear them. She was having a delightful time with her doll and not one single brother knocked her over. When she got bored, Sophia took a nap next to her doll by flipping over the curtains at the window for her blankets.

“It looks like you’re having a nice time up there,” her mother said when her brothers pulled her into the room.”

“Tell her she has to come down and play with us,” Sammy said. “It not fun without Sophie.”

“Sophia will come down when she is ready to come down,” her mother answered.

When her father came home from work, he walked into Sophia’s bedroom, scratched his head and said. “How are you doing that?” he said. “You can’t live forever upside down.”

“Actually,” Sophia answered. “From where I sit, you are the one who is upside down. I’m right side up on the ceiling.”

“Oh,” her father said. “I never thought of it that way.”

When it starting getting dark, Sophia pulled the curtain back over herself and went to sleep. When she woke up, her mother was staring at her and she was back in her old bed.

“Oh, I’m so glad you are alright,” her mother said. “You had me scared when you fell on her head in your closet.”

“Have I been living upside down?” Sophia asked.

“You might put it that way,” her mother answered. “You guys can come in now.”

Suddenly Sophia was covered and smothered with brothers, lots and lots of brothers hugging and kissing her.

“We’re so glad you are alright,” her brother Sammy said. “We were worried about you. We love you Sophie.”

“I guess brothers aren’t so bad after all,” Sophia answered.


Happy Birthday Bradley!

                    Bradley Joel has a heart of gold
                    And the brightest smile in town
                     He gives the biggest, tightest hugs
                     His energy never winds down

He likes to run and jump and play
And read a lot of books
He does back flips and cartwheels too
And helps his mother cook

When he comes to Grandma’s house
He never passes me by
He smiles and says, “I love you.”
That always makes me sigh.

Bradley Joel is a wonderful boy
He has a place in my heart
No matter how big or tall he grows
I hope we’re never far apart

For Bradley Joel is my special grandson
Sent to me from above
We will always be together now
For we’re sealed together in love.


New Horizon's Orchestra Concert On Thursday

I play the violin in an orchestra that is giving a free concert this Thursday night (November 10th) at 7:00.  The concert will be held at Maple Mountain Stake Center across the street from the new Maple Mountain High School in Spanish Fork, Utah.  That bit of information may not seem particularly interesting unless you know the rest of the story . . .

When I was a girl I told my mother I wanted to learn to play the violin.  She told me that playing the violin was only for rich children.  I believed her and sang in the choir instead.  Several years ago I learned about a unique orchestra in Utah County.  This orchestra welcomes beginners.  In fact you must be over forty years old to join.  Everyone with a few hours a week to spare is invited to be part of a unique and life changing experience.  You are asked to bring your own instrument, music stand and several music books that we play from  So I'm learning how to play the violin even though I well over fifty.

Andrew Dabczynski, from the BYU School of Music, is our director along with several graduate assistants.  Undergraduate students enrolled in music education at BYU come to our rehearsals and practice leading us as part of their music education program.  So basically we are all students helping students who are helped by students.

Do we sound like the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra? No.  But that doesn't matter. We have so much fun learning together.  I never get through a rehearsal without laughing or having tears come to my eyes.  Making music is such an incredible joy. 

Playing in the orchestra has also sparked an interest in my children who are still living at home.  My son John has learned to play the bass and now my daughter Alisa is learning to play the cello at their local schools.  I guess they think, if Mom can do it, I can do it. 

If you've ever wanted to play in an orchestra come Thursday night and check us out.  I'd love to tell you how to join.  I'm so happy that I didn't let this experience pass me by.  We're never too old or too dumb to try something new.  Being a beginner at my age is the best fun I've had in years.   


Halloween Faces

My daughter April with her super hero boys.
My granddaugter Tessa  . . . "I don't want to be a lady bug!"

Here's a big thank you to all you mothers and fathers who worked so hard to make Halloween fun for your children and my children.




Catch the Beauty While You Can

Recently I was at our cabin watching the gold leaves circling around and around and down through the crisp Fall air to the ground.  I soaked in the gleaming moment like the last warm rays of sunlight before nightfall.  I wanted to take a photograph . . . capturing the essence of time as one season in nature and myself - flowed silently into the next. 

When we came back the next day, all the leaves had fallen creating a soft wet carpet on the ground.  The time for savoring was gone.  It happened so quickly . . . before I was ready to let go. 

So do our lives pass before us.  We move so quickly from one season to the next  . . . before we catch our breath, we must move on. 



Exploring Out-Of-The-Way Places in Utah

We explored some out of the way places in Utah this weekend . . . Paul Bunyan's Woodpile and the Tintic Mining District around Eureka.  These are great places for hiking, four-wheeling, rock hunting and lots of family fun.  No crowds, no noise, just the sound of the wind and the crackle of fall leaves under your feet.


What Brings Me Joy

Whenever I walk into a room where my granddaughter Emma is playing, her eyes light up, she runs toward me and gives me the biggest hug.  Then she takes my hand and brings me into her world.  Sometimes she teaches me how to bump down the stairs on my backside and sometimes she shows me her newest toy.  She lovingly gives me the masterpieces she has created in crayon but she gives me much more.  It is those eyes . . .  the eyes that light up when I enter the room.  There is no love as pure as a child's love.  Thank you Emma.  You give your Granny B so much joy. 


Trying to Balance Too Much?

Does it feel like you're trying to balance too much?

Balancing the complexities of life is impossible but that doesn't keep us from trying to do too much.  We think we should be able to do everything and carry a heavy load. 
One day at the point of exhaustion, we take a deep breath, stop and feel.  What am I doing to myself? 
 How can I simplify my life? 
*Take a few things off your plate. 
*Do less with more love. 
*Let everything go that does not bring you peace and joy. 
We don't have to do anything.  We choose to do what we do.  So let's choose wisely.