Monday, January 8, 2018

Some Hope . . . About Hope

Experiences of recent years – and the associated questions and fears – have given me the opportunity to learn a great deal about hope. It’s a funny, contradictory thing to find oneself wishing certain hard things had never occurred while simultaneously abhorring the very thought of going back to what one was before – to the version of oneself that, while perhaps more blithe and carefree, had not yet obtained the deeper assurances and insights afforded by those difficulties. “. . . whereas I was blind, now I see.”  I wonder now at how I existed without the conviction and light that, having been woken by some greater light, has begun to stretch out from my spirit and weave itself through the frail mortal parts of my soul – shoring them up and allowing them to stand more solidly.

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I don’t mean to suggest that my understanding is any great or extraordinary thing. I mean, in many ways it is of course. To me and for me it is. Still, I recognize – even more now -- that I know comparatively little. Having removed the blindfold (that I hadn’t known I was wearing) has shown me not only . . . well . . . the beautiful landscape it has shown me, but it’s also made me aware that surely there are deeper insights beyond that hill, greater certainties through that forest, and more perfect comprehension across that ocean.

What I do know is that our Savior sees every trial ahead of us – and that He has already prepared a way through them; and that even things where loved ones make poor choices or people harm us, He will somehow turn for our best. I’ve learned further that we don’t have to fear those trials because, even in the midst of them, He is always there to help us through and to lighten seemingly impossible burdens. We may have moments of despair or of feeling forsaken, but hope and peace always come back if we reach for them.

So, that is the nutshell version of what I have come to know. And I do trust Him completely. I believe His promises are sure and that He means it – because He knows – when he tells us (over and over and over) to fear none of the things that come upon us. I believe He has the power to eventually turn them all for our good. And that nothing is exempt.

But I’ve been pondering on a further aspect of this of late because, while I believe all of those good things about Him, I often find myself still cradling fear . . . because I doubt me. I doubt my abilities to hear the promptings of The Spirit and follow his guidance to get through my trials properly – to help loved ones involved, do my part, and accomplish what I need to on my end to claim His promises of peace and joy. Certainly there is no doubt that I am imperfect. Undoubtedly I do fail to hear and act often. But I have been feeling that, perhaps, those feelings are not correct. That they are deceptions of Satan and simply another form of not truly trusting Christ (disguised as lack of trust in self).

I’m not excusing myself. I’m certainly not suggesting we can lazily do nothing on our part. I’m speaking to those of us who desire nothing more than to work hard and follow His light, His will, and His guidance – and who try to do it – but fall short or get discouraged or tired and don’t always try hard enough.

Although my own perpetual self-criticisms make it difficult to convince myself, I keep having this growing thought that He does not want me holding to this excuse to still feel fear so often. Rather He wants me to remember that His power and ability to push me to the humility I might need to get down certain paths, or to work through me despite my weaknesses . . . is infinite – it isn’t dependent only on how perfectly I do every single thing He tells me to do (though that certainly makes it easier and lets me grow and accomplish more faster). But He knows I’ll mess up some. His ability to turn everything for my good is more dependent, I am beginning to suspect, on my desires and willingness and simply on my true reliance on Him. He always always honors our trust in Him. I know that. I’ve learned it so many times. But trust doesn’t mean trusting that He is all powerful . . . but we are too weak to be guided and benefit from His power. It means trusting that his tremendous power is more than enough to compensate for our weaknesses in responding and acting. It’s trusting that He can direct circumstances to help us to the correct realizations, choices, and paths when we are stubborn or blind and need to be humbled to get there. It’s being sure that His promises to us – the peace he’s whispered to our hearts – He can and will accomplish through us – mortal, weak us.

Trusting that although He is amazing, His promises and the hope he holds out to us might fail because we are weak on our end isn’t truly trusting at all. Of course we are weak on our end. That was one of the premises of coming here – we would be weak. We wouldn’t respond always perfectly. None of us would have chosen this plan if the hope Christ offered only applied to those who would come here and be perfect at all times. True trust is letting Him bring us all hope even knowing we are weak; even when our problems seem too hard and too complex to ever be resolved or figured out.

I once had an experience where I knew hard things were ahead . . . and that the difficulty would last indefinitely; and I could not see how I would possibly be able to manage years of steps and decisions to lead to a solution. It was so overwhelming it threatened to suffocate me. After lots of praying and pondering, I felt a certainty come over me that while I couldn’t possibly see how to get from here to there, the Lord could. He could clearly see every single step, and every helpful involvement from outside of myself, and every necessary experience. I am realizing now that all those steps He could see took into account the backward steps and side steps and paused steps where I would surely be weak or make mistakes.

I felt that theme emerge for me as I listened to our church’s General Conference last October.

In talking about the Savior Elder Vincent Haleck said, "In spite of our weaknesses and failings, and because of them, He continues to offer His hands, which were pierced for our sakes. He will lift us up if we are willing . . . and allow Him to fill our ‘want’.”

President Uchtdorf said, “Often, when we look at ourselves, we see only our limitations and deficiencies. We might think we have to be ‘more’ of something for God to use us. . . . Blessings will come not so much because of your abilities but because of your choices. And the God of the Universe will work within and through you, magnifying your humble efforts for His purposes.”

He also talked about some of the early saints such as Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and Thomas B. Marsh and the significant contributions they made to the Restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ. He said, “. . . they were not perfect, but how encouraging it is to know that God was able to use them anyway. . . . How encouraging it is to know, though we are imperfect, if our hearts are turned to God, He will be generous and kind and use us for His purposes.”

I have felt since continually reminded (because I forget . . . constantly and revert back to my old way of fearful thinking) to rely on His grace in wading through the complicated struggles ahead of me and to simply trust Him; and not with conditional trust based on how perfect I am, but with complete trust that He not only can, but WILL guide me through -- despite my weaknesses. As Elder Holland said, “Our only hope for true perfection is in receiving it as a gift from heaven – we can’t ‘earn’ it. Thus the grace of Christ offers us not only salvation from sorrow and sin and death but also from our own persistent self-criticism.”

Again, I don’t in any way mean to suggest an idle “all is well in zion” mentality. Between my desires and my anxieties I don’t think I could adopt that attitude. But I do feel that I need to let His promises to make all things work for our good and his repeated admonitions to “fear not” fill me with a more perfect hope – despite my imperfect efforts.

D&C 100:12
Therefore, continue your journey and let your hearts rejoice; for behold and lo, I am with you even unto the end.

D&C 78:18
. . . be of good cheer, for I will lead you along . . .

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Thursday, January 4, 2018

And, of course, there was Christmas . . .

I don’t really recall having seven kids. Or eight kids. There were six. And I was pretty on top of things. And then . . . there were nine. And if some hollow existed in that transition that might have allowed for adjusting or for shifting and carving out new spaces to fit in the things I’d kept up on with the addition of each kid up until six . . . well . . . I leapt over it too quickly to notice or take advantage.

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Partly I joke of course. And partly I exaggerate. I often feel pleased and grateful and proud with how smoothly things run around here. And I recognize how blessed I am to be able to “run and not be weary” – to be able to work hard and see what tasks need done. I manage a lot quite well. But I am someone who, particularly since introducing children into my life, thrives on order and simplicity and organization. Those things give me satisfaction and such a sense of calm and relief. My mind and soul feel more orderly when things are in their place and nothing simply has to wait (potentially for years). The fact that I can’t have order and cleanliness in the degree I long for at the moment very often bears down on me and sets me to crying. I keep trying to learn or see because I feel like the Lord is teaching me something here – that I am not simply failing (as I often feel) rather, somehow, it is actually good for my growth and development to experience this and to not be able to set life as tidily around me as I long to. (When I get most agitated I feel Him comfort me with thoughts of “Do what you can and leave the rest to Me.” and oddly it does comfort me – which makes me chuckle a little as I don’t think He plans to come clean out my garage, organize my kitchen cupboards, or talk my kids into getting rid of the 8 billion stuffed animals they cling to.)

But, the point of all of that was actually to say: despite the imperfect order I am currently able to bring to my life and home, and the stress it causes me, . . . could I ever, in all of eternity wish for anything more or anything better than my kitchen, as it often is, and as it was on Christmas Eve?

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There is happiness. And maybe that’s part of what I’m to learn through this – to see past life’s imperfections and uncontrolled (that I should very much like to control) to the significant and important and good and happy and beautiful. To see the things that cause me anxiety not as a failing, but as a sacrifice . . . for something immeasurably better.

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Anyway, more of Christmas. My big family party/talent show/etc. was on the 23rd this year. I love this blurry little angel Mette picture my sister caught:

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And a few more. It’s difficult to get my camera out at big family gatherings as I am forever losing children if I don’t keep tabs on them.

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Christmas morning itself only came about through our usual haphazard buying and ordering, hiding in the closet, pulling out, sorting into piles for various children (inevitably with some piles too big and some too small), more last minute shopping, and then wrapping at night or shooing kids out of my room and wrapping in the day (and this year – hiding presents in cereal boxes, etc. and having my girls help wrap without knowing what they were wrapping or who it was for). But I’ve done this enough years now that I’ve begun to relax a little – realizing that it always works out, that my methods are fine being different from others, and that . . . no matter how unsure I am about it all coming together . . . Christmas morning always turns out pure excitement and magic.

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Anders has been pleading for one of these “shark sleeping bags” for a year or two now.

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The only unwrapped things were this little doll house and this blue horse/hoppity hop. It was cute because, without even knowing who each item was intended for, the little girls each ran – squealing excitedly – to the gift meant for them.

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Poor Hans. We had to pull a highchair over to trap him in during the morning festivities. There were just too many toys he could break, parts he could lose in the growing piles wrapping paper, and stocking treats he could toss into his mouth – foil wrappers and all – to choke on. Next year will be more fun dearest Hansie-boy.

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I still like for Abe to get something to “play” with – near-man though he is. So while he mostly got things like stuff for “tubeless tires” for his bike, he also got a fun sphero r2d2. (He also got the Superfight card game – which gave us some good laughing arguments over the break. There are several ways to play it, but the general idea involves getting to choose a characters as well as various superpowers from among the cards you draw – then getting to choose one of your cards to give to someone else [some of which are delightfully unhelpful] and then putting up an argument as to why you could beat the dealer – who then picks a winner, etc.)

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And Daisy was very happy with her ukulele. She’s never played anything with strings, but is figuring it out quickly and because one really doesn’t play a ukulele and not sing, it was very happy to hear her singing and strumming all Christmas break long.

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Also, there has quite honestly never ever been a more fitting gift for anyone than this gift that I found for our Goldie. Even in the middle of July she is shivering and wrapping herself in blankets and begging us to turn the AC off.

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And then we did something utterly ridiculous and completely preposterous. We had the kids open one final present (the big one leaning – unlabeled – on the wall nearest the tree) to discover a kneeboard. And with a lot of, “A kneeboard? What would we use a kneeboard for? Why would we . . . ?” we sent them to the driveway where the answer was waiting.

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It will add such fun to our summer time Bear Lake beach excursions! I must admit, somewhat surprisingly to my own self, that I love wave runners. I don’t know why. I don’t love sitting on a boat much. But I love controlling something small over the water myself and taking my kids out for turns, and letting the older ones take each other for turns. I think we will get a lot of happy memories out of it.

Anyway. Merry Christmas 2017!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

New Year’s Misadventures

Amidst all the birthdaying and anniversary . . . ing was the great New Year’s Eve Calamity of 2017/2018. (I debated here. Calamity? Misadventure? Catastrophe? Disaster? All of those things). On the night between my birthday and our anniversary Penny and Goldie fell ill. (Penny wasn’t finished with it all until she’d thrown up ten times over several hours.) But, we were planning on leaving for Bear Lake on our anniversary, so I encouragingly told myself that it was nothing contagious – they’d most-likely gotten food poisoning from the Chinese food we’d had on my birthday. After all, we hadn’t been anywhere since Christmas. How could we have contracted some illness? No. No. We couldn’t have.

My theory checked out all right until Mette threw up several times DURING the car ride to our cabin. (Which thing no one should ever have to endure – particularly after the last baby wipe has been used up.) Still . . . it’s a curvy canyon and she has been prone to car-sickness before. Surely that was an unhappy fluke and we would have no further troubles.

So we hopefully watched movies and ate treats and Mike and the oldest four even went skiing (our refusal to acknowledge anything worse seeming sufficient to keep anything worse at bay). Until New Year’s Eve – when one after another my family was felled. We gave up on games, or fun, or any type of New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day celebration as first Anders, then Abe, and then Jesse, and then Daisy were hit. As we climbed from bed and cleaned up messes and soothed . . . over and over and over again, Mike and I kept anxiously asking one another how we felt. At some point Mike told me he didn’t think he was going to make it. And he didn’t.

Goodness it was quite the affair! Last night we watched part of a documentary on the 1918 flu pandemic. It was unthinkably awful. How our country survived it along with WWI is beyond my comprehension. But having undergone our own mini-pandemic, I was ultra sensitive to the realities of what some families underwent. Why, if that had been us this weekend, we would have come out of it with only myself, Hans and Summer remaining of our family of 11! It filled me with equal parts terror and gratitude.

But, there were happy things from the cabin as well. Playing Pictionary, me not getting sick, Mike reading to the kids, the skiing, Abe meeting up with friends from the ward who were also up skiing another night, the girls tending while Mike took me to eat for our anniversary at one of the three or four restaurants that were open in Garden City on the holiday weekend, and Mette, upon hearing Summer ask for a Tootsie Roll, insisting, “I want a Tootsie . . . and to roll it!” (She has also been known in the past to ask for: Nes. . . . Quick!)

So we will not proclaim the advent of 2018 a total failure. . . . Though certainly a partial one. Smile

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Birthdays and Anniversaries

Three days after Christmas I turned 41. Which is a strange thing when one considers that my oldest siblings – the ones who were going on missions and getting married when I was just learning to walk – are all 40 themselves. At least that’s what I’ve been going along thinking. But now that I’ve come both to and past that age, I can’t seem to get the math of them all still being 40 worked out satisfactorily in my mind.

41 years is rather something though, isn’t it. I feel a relief-like sense of accomplishment when I think of all those years traversed. 41 of them! At the same time . . . looking back at those years, the early ones seem such a lifetime ago that it frightens me a little to think . . . if I can explain this properly . . . that I still very well might need to traverse at least that span of years again . . . and that now might seem a lifetime ago by the time I have! When I think of that, I feel I haven’t accomplished so very much at all. In fact I feel . . . rather tired. (Though I suppose the thought of potentially doubling my current amount of wisdom and light is an encouraging one.) (Incidentally, sometimes, in places like grocery store parking lots or doctor’s office waiting rooms, I find myself looking at various random strangers and thinking of how they all started out as brand new newborns – and how, likely, someone loved and adored them, and saw the enormity of their potential, and hoped it all for them. I don’t know why I think it. But I occasionally do and can never get over the . . . wonder or strangeness or something of us all having started that way and all having come such a distance from it.)

In any case, the 41st birthday was pleasant. Mike had to work until quite late – which was sad only because I like his company so much and also because he is very good at being extra attentive on days like birthdays and Mother’s Days – not letting me lift a finger, taking care of every child’s needs, etc. And I missed that. But he did all he could from afar – ordering us Chinese food for dinner; and instructing Abe to pick up various of my favorite snacks and treats from the store – which would appear, mysteriously, following a door-knock every few hours. (Though I’m only assuming that was how they came of course. We’ve been jokingly postulating other theories about who might have been responsible.) And the kids were all wondrous sports about cleaning and ungrumblingly doing anything I asked. In fact, without even being asked Goldie organized the pantry (wisely taking all the crowded cans of food we rarely ever use [beets, kidney beans, etc.] downstairs and bringing all the cans of food I am always sending them to fetch [pork-n-beans, tomato sauce, pumpkin, etc.] upstairs). And Abe, of his own accord, took our couch cushions off and vacuumed up an alarming display of crumbs (particularly alarming since, in theory, the kids don’t eat on those couches).

Anyway, one can’t complain with a day like that.

The day after my birthday was our 18 year anniversary. I sometimes try to recall why on earth those dates are one after the other. Surely they might just as well have been planned a few weeks apart? I think it was something like . . . we were getting married between semester breaks of school; I didn’t want to do it before Christmas because it felt too rushed to get last things planned and ready immediately following finals week, and then I didn’t want to share my after-Christmas birthday with another celebration (heaven forbid), but we still needed a few days to enjoy being married before immediately leaping back into school and work so we couldn’t push it too far past my birthday. I guess the 29th just best fit the bill. Incidentally, we were on our honeymoon as the calendar flipped from 1999 to 2000. We noticed nothing bizarre where we were so we even called home to see if any of the y2k panic had been justified (and we were surprisingly a smidgen disappointed to hear that nothing at all went haywire).

We have found marriage to be a rather enjoyable venture he and I.

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When Mike and I started dating, our dad’s were tremendous fans of the idea of us marrying, and, later, after we did in fact marry, they often liked to congratulate each other on whatever hand they had in our coming together. (I’m not sure exactly what the details of that involvement were – beyond agreeing wholeheartedly, when they bumped into each other on Weber State’s campus [where they were both professors] or among their shared group of friends that we would make an ideal match. [Well, that’s not wholly true. Mike’s dad did read him the Lochinvar poem. And he did tell him all was fair in love and war. And perhaps we wouldn’t be here at all without those bits of prodding.] But they do love to congratulate each other [and themselves] enough that at times I think Mike and I are the happy product of an arranged marriage.) In any case, occasionally I get the feeling that God isn’t so very different in feeling from our own fathers when he looks at Mike and me. I think He is quite pleased with himself in arranging this union.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Post Started Dec. 14th . . . (An Attempt at Catching Up)

Every day from Dec. 1st up until the night before Christmas, the kids open a little box with a Christmas-themed activity inside. Because life is busy – particularly at this time of year – most days the little paper pulled out of its box says something very simple (“watch Charlie’s Brown’s Christmas”, “Check your stocking for a treat”, “Read a Christmas book”, “Eat Ho-ho . . . hos”). Sometimes the paper says something slightly bigger or more exciting (“Go choose a Christmas tree”, “Go ice-skating”). And sometimes it says something . . . that we just pretend is related to the holiday. Today’s paper read, “Go see the most Christmassy movie of all: Star Wars”.

Which is why I am sitting here at the computer at 8:35 pm in a completely quiet house (eating, for reasons I don’t fully understand, a small quiche that I found in the freezer section at Smiths and had to bake for 24 minutes at 400).

After sending off Mike and the older five, I took the younger ones to get a compensatory treat, let them watch Frosty the Snowman, and had them all in bed by 8:00. For years my parenting included a quiet house by 8:00, but as our kids have stretched into their mid to late teens, that has no longer been practical. (9:00 pm is a miracle). And somehow having older ones up later tends to mean little ones continue drifting about the house later as well. So this still little moment to write happenings of late feels rather indulgent.

We didn’t get our first real snowfall until several days into December. (And haven’t had another proper one since.) But, as usual, it felt like magic. I don’t love just . . . being cold or old frozen snow, but an actual snowfall is one of the loveliest things. And I don’t know why exactly, but it seems to make the kids all breathless and giddy with wonder and excitement. Everyone starts pulling everyone from bed and pushing them to look out the windows, babies are held up to peer out at the white world, and the kids who don’t have to head off sorrowfully to school insist on putting on snow clothes before even changing out of pajamas or eating breakfast. Hats and gloves and coats and boots are dug through and scattered everywhere. (And it simply must be stoically borne.) They want to come back in within five minutes of course. And suddenly wet boots and gloves and hats are strewn about amidst the unused, dry ones. And then they want back out again ten minutes later. . . . And right back in again. But “first snowfall” should be a holiday. One of my girls (Goldie? Penny?) said that the first snowfall is one of their favorite days of the year.

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As I mentioned, we haven’t had any more snow since, but this past Tuesday morning the entire world was frozen, washed-out white with thick fog, and completely frosted. Some of it was likely due to the poor air quality we are currently experiencing, but it was lovely all the same. Between the fog and the frost covered . . . everything, the overall scene looked a bit colorless: muted – like living in a world of near black and white, but mystical and magical and beautiful.

It wasn’t until I returned from running some errands (and walked past the Dr. Suess tree and laurel bush that encroach upon our front porch) that I noticed the distinct spiked detail of the frost. Hoar frost and pogonip were the terms I heard bandied about. And it was one of those moments when I was hit with deep wonder over nature knowing how – with such seemingly small effort -- to be so miraculous and . . . full of design. It’s there constantly of course, but I often fail to notice it in its less-rare manifestations.

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In other seasonal news: it was our year for a tall tree. Mike insists we get a live tree . . . wait, we always get a live tree, but I guess I mean . . . Mike insists we get a live-er tree every other year (one with roots still intact and ready to be planted). Because those are incredibly heavy to be carting in and out of our house and off to our cabin where we eventually plant them, the live-er tree years mean . . . a very small tree. The kids make the best of it and cover every inch of those little things in decorations, but when we get our less live tree (cut down) the following year, it always seems extra magnificent – particularly since we compensate so well by getting as tall of a tree as we can find. (This year we kept seeing pretty big trees and Mike kept saying, “Taller! It needs to be taller!”) Getting lights on those trees is not the most fun, but I love love their pine scent and grandeur. I love the always-cold night of driving two vehicles to pick out our tree (because we need the truck to bring it home but we can’t all fit in the truck) , and I love how much it reminds me of my own childhood Christmases picking out the tallest tree in the lot. My mom claims that they got to know her so well that when we’d pull up to the tree lot they’d recognize her at once and, leading her to the tallest tree say, “We have your tree right back here! We’ve been saving it for you!” When, eventually, we all left home, and my mom found a lovely fake tree, I felt a little sad imagining someone at the lot holding “just the tree” for us . . . and us never coming to get it. Dear tree. (I feel almost as sad for all the trees I see standing in the tree lots on December 23rd and 24th – knowing they likely won’t find a home for Christmas. Sniffle.)

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And of course Jesse and Abe both had their birthdays within the last week. It was a rather wild Saturday. Jesse turned 9, Daisy and Penny had their piano recital, and Abe had his second dance of high school. (The Winter Ball? The Winter Dance?) Because it was girls’ choice (and thus not Abe and his friends needing to arrange and plan things), I didn’t think I’d be taking pictures again, but one of the girls in Abe’s dance group is also in the Young Womens’ organization that I currently serve in at church, and she asked if I’d take them. While I generally avoid formal photo taking at all costs, I have actually enjoyed being able to interact with Abe’s friends from school. More and more I agree with my mom that teenagers are rather fun people. And I am sure I’d never have gotten to know such a big number of the kids Abe associates with without having taken pictures at his last two dances. And . . . also . . . how often do you have an excuse to spend a good chunk of time around your kids while they are on a date! Haha.

(Mike has been teasing Abe a bit about the swapping around of dates that occurs with his group of friends. If you look at the group pictures from his two dances there are a lot of familiar faces . . . just paired differently :). [Of course Abe has countered with, “Well . . . I seem to recall hearing of someone who married someone that his friend had taken out . . .” To which Mike can really only respond, “touche”.])

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In any case, back to Saturday, along with everything else, we still needed a few things for Jesse, as well as a cake made, etc. But Daisy nicely made a grand “Gameboy” cake, and luckily Jesse wanted McDonald’s hamburgers for dinner, so, amidst the busyness of the day, we even managed a visit to Santa’s reindeer (which usually show up in the park across the street from us about this time).

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And Abe turned 17 the same morning that the frost I spoke about earlier came. I suppose 16 should have seemed more strange to me – after all, that is when he could officially drive himself places and officially go on dates, but it’s funny how certain numbers just sound more surprising to me than others. 17 just sounds . . . I don’t know . . . not truly old I suppose, but it’s an age and number that caught me off guard. I feel much more surprised to find myself the parent of a 17 year old than I was to be the parent of a 16 year old. (I always find myself trying out the feel of these numbers/ages to see which things seem the oddest to me. Particularly with Summer, Hans and Mette. I will think often to myself things like, “Someday I will have a 17, an 18 and a 19 year old!” and then I will wonder if that sounds as wild to me as, “Someday I will have a 13, a 14 and a 15 year old” or “Someday I will have a 19, a 20 and a 21 year old.”) Anyway, enough with ages. Here is Abe on his birthday – admiring his exciting (?), new graphing calculator.

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Three-year-old Summer can’t stop wrapping things. Between all the birthdays this month and the readying for Christmas, it is present season after all, and if I’ve gotten a bit snippy over all my Christmas wrapping getting torn and used up, she’s only — after a few protesting moments of moaning and crying — moved on to sheets of copy paper and blue painter’s tape. She snips and smooshes and folds the best she can — adding tape here and there for good measure — and then goes about gifting people her toys . . . or gifting them other people’s toys (she gave Abe Penny’s set of Schleich lions the other day). And every now and then I find miniature and carefully bundled gifts of . . . just paper and tape set under the tree.

She and Mette seem a little unclear on just what this Christmas business means. We keep talking about it: “Oh no, that’s for Christmas.”, “On Christmas your stocking will be filled with treats!” Etc. And we keep doing Christmassy things — decorating, sticking surprise boxes from Amazon in our bedroom closet, watching Christmas classics, etc. They keep asking if it’s Christmas now in a “Is what we are doing now Christmas? Is this Christmas?” sort of way. And they seem excited for whatever it currently is or might yet be, but I don’t think they quite comprehend the culminating glory of Christmas morning that is ahead for them. Which makes the prospect of it very exciting for me.

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Hans. How might I properly express my feelings for him? I’ve always loved him of course. You know how it is with your very own, helpless, fully dependent little creations. But lately he is just becoming more and more dear to me. That’s the best word to describe it. He is impossibly dear to me. Having come, as he did, not only to a home already teaming with children’s needs, but to a home already teaming with baby and toddler needs, he has spent much of his life being carted about as we’ve continued with the demands of life that existed here before he did. As he’s continued to grow, he has just quietly and unobtrusively moved his way in -- making allowance for all of us to exist just as we’ve needed. He goes softly about — learning and exploring — and generally demanding startlingly little from anyone. He seems content to make whatever he might of his existence — without insisting anyone be inconvenienced to do it for him. Dear, sweet soul. My feelings for him are just somehow very unfettered by any earthly heaviness. They are just tender and pure. My dear dear boy. So so dear to me.

Photo Dec 01, 5 15 32 AMPhoto Dec 01, 5 45 31 AMPhoto Dec 15, 7 43 49 AMPhoto Dec 15, 7 44 00 AM

And to end this update? A final picture. Anders.

Photo Dec 01, 1 11 50 PM

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