Friday, August 2, 2019

Letters to Abe

I had envisioned my letters to Abe being the perfect way to also keep my blog updated on family happenings around here. (Kind of like the "journal letters" my dad used to write to our family.) And while it is true that I am spending most of my writing moments these days in writing to Abe, and while it is also true that I keep him updated on practically everything around here, . . . a lot of my letter space is taken up simply commenting on things he has said or mentioning this or that person we bumped into that asked about him.

In any case, not all of it would make clear sense here so how much I use my letters as a blog/journal update will likely morph. It may become just bits and pieces, it may be that I'll just start adding them here without concern for the details making sense, or it may be I will find that this isn't really a place for me to keep them at all.

But, for now, a few small snippets taken from various letters that give a small glimpse into . . . what? I don't know . . . his being gone around our house maybe.

Excerpts from letters to Abe:

I’ve heard some moms say they were so sad once their son was gone that they couldn’t even go in their room. But I just open the door and stand there looking in at your room for a minute about every time I pass it (usually after coming out from putting Hansie to bed in his room). I’m not sure what I’m looking for. Or even what I’m thinking. Nothing exactly I suppose. I just stand there and look. Noticing your posters and how clean you left it and just feeling kind of strange.

But speaking of your room. Everyone has been protective of your space. I asked dad if we should get rid of that chair in there and he seemed to think I’d lost my mind. Haha. Also, we plan on setting up Starling’s crib in there until you get back, so I suggested we box up your big shelf stuff and put her crib against that wall. Daisy was aghast and said we should just put Starling’s crib in the middle of your room and leave everything as it is. I think we’ve determined we will just shut your closet doors and put her crib against your closet.

Anyway, it’s interesting to me to think of the contrast in our letters right now. Your job being to fill us in on all the the new and wild and unknown. And my job to update you on all the small and ordinary and familiar. (Although I suppose there’s always the chance that something big or new will happen around here. I guess we will see what two years brings. Hopefully no new broken femurs.) But! I like keeping you updated and a part of all of regular life around here. It makes me feel like I’m keeping you connected to us no matter how far away or how different life might get for you.

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We haven’t set Starling’s crib up next to your closet yet, but I set her little bed thing on top of your bed to give her a nap yesterday. It was the first time I’d put her in your room, so as I slowly cracked the door open when I went to check on her later, I suddenly slipped back in time and, for a second, I truly half expected you to leap up out of bed in a blurry, panicked confusion of, “What? Who? I’m up! I’m up! I’m ready!” just like you used to every time I opened that door when you were asleep — no matter how unalarmingly I tried to wake you.

That's often what it's like missing you here though. We miss you in very big ways of course -- feeling a hole in our family, praying and worrying if you are happy and well, etc. But we most often miss you in a million small and unexpected ways -- like when someone opens the front door and for a minute our brains forget you're gone and we think it's you, or like the other night when dad suggested watching Paul Blart: Mall Cop (hahaha) and none of us displayed proper interest and he was sure you would have been on board, or when Anders pulled some of those Jimmy Dean sausage biscuit things out of the freezer yesterday and then grumbled, "Oh great. Who will show me how to make these now?" (And also, if we’re honest, pretty much every time we are trying to lift things or load things. Dad had to make Daisy come with him to get a bunch of dirt for that hole where the basketball standard was. And he had to have Penny help him hang the kayaks in the garage after the priest’s river activity last week. I’m sure it’s building character in all of them. But heaven knows how we’ll manage to get ready for the camping trip dad has planned for August without you here :).)

ANYWAY, all that “missing you” business might give you some slight idea of how anxiously we wait for Saturday's letters and pictures (and a thousand thousand bravos to you for passing your camera off and getting yourself in pics with the people and things you are around like I wanted you to). We were pretty relieved and happy after your first letter . . . that lasted for a day or two . . . and then we began to feel slightly uncomfortable again, and then, by Thursday we were counting down the hours 'til Saturday when we would hear something from you again!

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So the other day, when we'd all made birthday signs for Summer, Daisy was complaining that she didn't have kind of a go-to style for drawing people. And then we said something like, "Yah. Like Abe's stick people. I hope he doesn't lose his marvelous stick-people drawing skills on his mission. We are going to have to tell him to keep those up." And then, lo and behold, your stick people are featured in an email a few days later! I hope they will continue to occasionally show up in emails through out your mission. :)

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This morning before dad left for work, one of the kids said the morning prayer. They prayed for you. But afterwards dad was telling us how he seemed to vaguely remember that when he was little if they forgot to pray for a sibling on a mission then grandma Harris made them re do the prayer. Haha. Maybe we will start that too. But for now you don’t have to worry about that happening! You are on our minds always. I read a scripture today from Mormon to his son Moroni that pretty much summed things up for our thoughts and prayers for you.

Moroni 8:3 I am mindful of you always in my prayers, continually praying unto God the Father in the name of his Holy Child, Jesus, that he, through his infinite goodness and grace, will keep you through the endurance of faith on his name to the end.

I know God hears my prayers for you.

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I was writing in that little five-year journal I have on Saturday and noticed that on that same day, a year ago, you were just returning from King’s Peak. It’s interesting having that journal because every evening when I write in it, I can see exactly what was going on on the same day a year ago or two years ago. It seems extra . . . I don’t know the word exactly . . . but the entries with you in them just jump out at me a lot more because it’s so strange to think that two years ago just last week, you were picking up your new bike rack and, on your own for the first time, driving you and Noah up over the pass for practice. Or that it was almost exactly a year ago that you played pickle ball in the blazing afternoon heat with friends and later went to watch some Jimmer Fridette basketball game at one of their houses. And all that time we hadn’t the slightest clue that you would be in the MTC — preparing to go to El Salvador — on that very day in another two years or another year. I imagine it will get even more strange for me as school starts and I read through things over this coming year — things like you going to dances or being at a track meet etc. and to think what a crazy difference a year can make! And it will be just as fascinating NEXT year — when you are an old pro at mission life — to read about dropping you off at the MTC, etc. It’s always so crazy to me that God sees what’s in store for us, but we just have to watch it unfold never knowing how many big things might come into our life in just one year’s time.

Anyway, moving on. Summer and Mette had the tape measure out last night. They kept pulling it out as far as they could and pointing it upwards in an effort to guess how tall you’d be when you get home. If their predictions are correct, it looks like you’ll grow about two feet on your mission.

I’m in your room a lot these days — putting Starling to bed, etc. I always really like being in there. I was looking around at it the other morning as I got her out of her crib — just noticing all your posters, etc. and thinking how peaceful it feels in your room. I was thinking it was because it is so CLEAN now (what with you having boxed so much up and cleaned your dressers, etc.) but then I realized it was more than that. There’s just a good feeling in that room. It’s as if all your years of reading scriptures out loud over the phone with grandpa in there and studying them on your own and praying have somehow allowed just a goodness and light to soak into the walls themselves. 

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Before Abe Left -- Misc.

We had a month and a half between Abe's graduation and his mission departure, so not everything going on this summer was BIG or a LAST. Abe was gone two of those summer weeks (a senior trip to Moab and a stake mission training camp) and the older girls were gone for another week (camp); and true there probably wasn't actually a day when Abe was home that didn't have some mission-readying thing going on (typhoid shots, background checks, apostilles, shopping, filling out a huge family history packet, boxing up and organizing his room, going to the temple, etc.). But! Abe still worked now and then at Farr's through the end of June, and he still went for a few bike rides, and had nerf-gun battles with Jesse, and played basketball with friends. And the rest of us still did very ordinary summer-time things like we would have done regardless of anyone coming or going in our family. 

Here is a very small sampling of those ordinary things (meaning -- the ordinary things that I actually happened to take pictures of):

Daisy lounging. Kids scattered about:

A Sunday evening walk:

Reading books. (Hans looks just like someone undercover pretending to read a newspaper . . . they always get it upside down.)

Trying to give Starling a new perspective by sitting her up in the Bumbo (she mostly flumps to the side and doesn't love it):

Sisters holding sister:

Boys coloring:

Jesse looking for robot parts in our garage: 

Me with 10th child. She is not a newborn at all anymore is she. She didn't even give me three months! (But! She smiles and rolls over and tries to hold toys and even laughs. And somehow each of those rather ordinary things, when it is her doing them? Well, they seem almost as miraculous as having a newborn baby at all.)
The End.

Before Abe Left -- Blessing Day

The Sunday before Abe left was Starling's blessing day. It's the loveliest thing ever -- Mike presenting one of our tiny babies to the Lord in a circle of prayer -- pronouncing the name that we have chosen for her mortal sojourn and extending blessings for her life. Starling's grandpa Alma was also there in the circle. And her own oldest brother was able to stand in the circle as well. That was a cool thing for me -- watching my oldest help in blessing my youngest. It bound her arrival in our family and his upcoming departure in a beautiful -- if not slightly painful -- way for me. 

My mom with her 10th child . . . and her 10th child's 10th child!
 Starling with all three of her living grandparents.

That same Sunday we prepared our last big Sunday dinner with Abe still here. We had our staples -- potatoes and gravy, rolls, and Jell-O; but we also added corn-on-the-cob and instead of a roast, Mike grilled steaks. Sunday dinners are already one of the times during the week when I most feel Abe's absence.

Also. A week or two later we had Mike's parents over for dinner. Mike's mom had me put Starling back in the blessing dress (quite a few of her grandkids have worn it -- including three of my girls) to try and get a good shot with the dress fully spread out. 

That sounds simple enough. And I even assumed, after snapping a few pictures, that we must have gotten a good one. But . . . it turns out we failed. Haha. Dear Starling could not be stopped from grabbing handfuls of dress and pulling it every which way and gathering lace-filled fists to her mouth. Mike would try to hold her hands while Gayle straightened the dress then they'd quickly move and I'd snap a picture before they'd have to come right back in and try again. And, in the end, I realized I still didn't have the "dress fully splayed out" picture. I guess that's what you get by blessing your baby closer to four months than one!
 (I made this little headband back when Daisy was blessed . . . before I gave up on all things crafty. We couldn't keep it on her head during her actual blessing day. But at least we got it on her for these pictures. Even if she wouldn't leave her dress well enough alone.)
Dear sweet angel girl. How I love my Starling Eliza (and how I adore the name that felt it simply must be hers.)

Friday, July 26, 2019

Before Abe Left -- Cat

I realize there is no reason ALL of these posts need to be titled "before Abe left" -- particularly the ones that don't have much to do with Abe exactly. But . . . I already wrote posts about Abe being gone. And will continue to. So this little slew of posts here in the middle I wanted attached in my mind with the time frame of summer when we were all still here together. 

So. 

Cat.

Mike arrived at our Bear Lake cabin late on the night of Goldie's birthday (quite a few hours after the rest of us). He brought Goldie's presents along with him. (Though Daisy had already given her her gift -- additional playing cards for the Marrying Mr. Darcy game that they love [the "Emma" extension pack -- so the likes of Frank Churchill, Mr. Knightly and Harriet can now be part of the game]. A good call on Daisy's part as that gave Goldie something fun to do with her sisters while waiting for her late-night presents to arrive.)

Anyway, after being pushed somewhat hurriedly through a few gifts like a hammock chair, a locket, and some giant pretzels from Penny (perfect for dipping in caramel and chocolate), Mike directed her towards the cabin door -- explaining that her final present was just on the doorstep. 


And, when she opened the door, lo-and-behold there was Cat. A tiny little six-week-old boy kitten. The fun of giving him to her -- "Yes he's really yours. Yes of course you can get him out of his carrier and hold him." Well, it was pretty great.


We spent most of the rest of the night giving her name suggestions. And she spent most the rest of the trip narrowing it down and refusing to tell us once and for all what to call him. She eventually settled on Shasta (though it irks her that everyone says, "oh! like the soda!" instead of, "oh! like the boy in the Narnia book!"); but the naming took so long that, even still, he is called simply "Cat" as often as "Shasta" (even by Goldie).


He was incredibly mild at first. And every morning someone new had a tale to tell of how Cat had found his way to them and proclaimed them his favorite. He'd snuggled all morning next to sleeping Daisy, he'd curled himself up on Abe's stomach as Abe read his scriptures -- and then stayed there (with Abe unwilling to disturb him) until Abe had finally been forced to roll over so he could get some sleep, etc. 

 (I wonder who is winning at Boggle?)
 (Watching Summer draw.)

Since then however, he has become a complete Attack Cat. (In fact Goldie has already identified nine of his maneuvers: The Pounce, Hunchback, Sneak Attack, Room Rush, Jaws of Death, Scratching Post, Flying Ninja, Ankle Ambush, and Advance on the Innocent.) He is forever on the prowl, waiting to pounce, leaping onto feet and wrapping himself around ankles or hands with a fair amount of biting and clawing. I've seen him multiple times rear up like a horse and even fly through the air with paws splayed wide in his leaping attack. 

Mike, who has already informed Abe that he will likely have to be prepared to fight to Cat the minute he comes back in the door in two years time in order to establish himself, swears he was the calmest kitten in the litter; which leads me to wonder if the owners of the other kittens are living in abject terror. 

But. Shrug. He is pretty cute. And most of the kids (saving Hansie -- who yells for us to put Shasta outside every time he sees him) seem to tolerate having their limbs nearly eaten off quite well. They even seem to like the little fella. Goldie seems to think his behavior is altogether delightful. She is forever laughing and shaking her head, "Oh Cat. Cat's the best!" as she comes to one of our rescues. So, I suppose he will stay.

Still, he IS spending a fair amount of time outside! 

Before Abe Left -- Bear Lake

We spent a good portion of Abe's last week with us up at Bear Lake. We'd gone for a quick trip in June but wanted one last really good stay up there as a whole family before Abe left. Due to Girls' Camp, Abe's senior trip, a stake mission training camp that Abe was helping run, things Mike couldn't miss with work, and . . . building new decks, . . . that week right before his departure (which happened to be over Goldie's birthday and the 4th of July) was the only one that worked. 

We left on Tuesday afternoon (Goldie's birthday). Mike couldn't come 'til later, and I was worried her birthday would be nothing but packing, driving, and unpacking. But, we got there before too late in the day and sent Abe down to get us food from LaBeau's for a birthday picnic on the deck. It was relaxing and happy.


Then we went to the marina to feed the fish. 


That night Mike arrived with Goldie's gifts. But we will save that for a post of its own. For now -- some more of Bear Lake:

We spent a few days at the beach. 

We also drove to a kids' rodeo on the 4th. (It was insanely crowded initially, but a windy rainstorm got rid of most of the spectators [and sent me to the car with Starling for a while]. After that there were so few people there that several of our kids participated in the pig chase, goat chase and chicken chase! [Though none of them caught said animals]. Sadly the rain also meant that I kept my camera in its case in the car.) 

We came home late Friday night. (Cleaning and packing up the cabin on the same day as going to the beach and having sand and wet towels and everything else to take care of is usually something I avoid, but we wanted to make the most of our time there while still getting Abe back with a weekend and a few days to get last things done.)

(Hans's lower lip is stuck out like in the above photo . . . a good portion of every day. So many things don't go his way. . . . Dear boy.)
(That last photo is fun and a little sad. Abe created these massive, impressive Lego robots with moving parts and shooting weapons and little Lego men in cock-pits controlling them, etc. all out of his own head over many trips up to Bear Lake. They were so great that we couldn't bring ourselves to ever destroy them, but Jesse in particular was always sad that so many of our good Lego pieces were now rendered useless as they were wrapped up in Abe's robot masterpieces. Abe told Jesse he could take them apart once he left for his mission. So . . . here they are . . . breathing their last breaths.)

The End.
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