Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Brownies, tiddly-poms, and maybe a bit too much soul revealing.

Mike has been gone the last two nights. Things are always a little crazy with evenings and dinner and bedtimes and no second adult on hand. There is the nudging and sometimes forcing for homework to be done (Daisy had an entire book report on bottlenose dolphins to not only finish, but begin) and instruments to be practiced. There is the gathering everyone for dinner and insisting certain pickier eaters actually eat dinner.  There is dinner clean up, keeping Anders happy, pajamas, dirty clothes gathered and thrown in a hamper, teeth brushing, diaper changing, Family Home Evening, Jesse’s asthma treatment, Anders nursed, prayers, tucking in, occasional threats, re-tucking in, etc.

But somehow, these past two nights, it didn’t feel as crazy as it looks in that above paragraph. Moments of it likely did (moments that are forgotten now that it is 10:00 at night and the house is quiet but for the sound of water swishing around in the dishwasher), and I don’t want to sound annoyingly content or deliver the message that kids and life are all a piece of cake for me. They aren’t. But some moments are, and some days do end feeling complete and successful and good, and I feel very grateful and lucky to have had two such days despite having been on my own.

My sister-in-law Marnie has mentioned before how much she likes the original A. A. Milne Pooh Bear books. I hadn’t read them, but Goldie got one from her school teacher for Christmas, and last night we read the first chapter -- in which Pooh makes up a humming sort of a song about how much it is snowing. Between each line of the song, Pooh sticks a “tiddly-pom” because, as he explains to Piglet, it makes the tune sound more “hummy”. It was all quite cleverly written and even Abe (who had considered the book a bit beneath him originally) was laughing loudly during parts. The rest of the evening, and much of this morning, the kids kept tiddly pomming and laughing their little heads off about it.

Then, tonight, after bribing them all to clean up the living room and read books to Jesse while we nebulized the little fella, Abe helped corral them all to the kitchen counter where they ate brownies with milk. I watched them from the couch, where I sat feeding Anders. Five little blonde heads reaching for spoons, asking for more milk to be poured, looking down at the floor to see where a brownie crumb had landed, chatting about this and that. And I wished I could have taken a picture and caught all those little brownie-eating blondies over there.

I have to admit, I have felt, at times, that my lot is a little hard just now, what with six kids and all (though I don’t know you can call something a “lot in life” when you have chosen it rather than it having chosen you), but it is true that I have occasionally felt a bit envious of friends and family who have fewer kids or are simply done having kids and are enjoying more freedom and  less of the chaos of small children. But tonight, truly, I felt nothing of the sort. I felt so completely content and sure of my own situation. That feeling has been creeping on me slowly lately as I’ve prayed and struggled to decide what things I want for my family, but these past two days especially I have felt such an acceptance and happiness with the things I have chosen – specifically, I felt so incredibly happy to have a big family, so in love with having an entire house full, and, even, a surprising willingness to have more should it seem right in the future. I have felt the comparisons I have made with others and the things they can do more easily or seem to enjoy more fully, seem to slide slowly off of me of late – as if they can’t hold sway in my brain any longer and so, are slinking grumpily off to sulk resignedly at having failed in their trouble making. I can’t explain it. Maybe it is just that good calm feeling that my life is mine and not meant to be the same as anyone elses: that it is completely fine for some things to be harder and some joys to be different. It is a good way to feel – a way that feels, I don’t know, like The Spirit touching my mind, like my Heavenly Father, who knows me and what I set out to gain down here better than I currently remember, letting me see things how He does. It feels void of  judgment or envy. It feels like, well, like I said, like my plan and the plan for my family is something distinctly for us and that that is perfectly fine. It will have its share of discomfort and trade-offs, but it will also truly have its very own unique joys – joys that are tailor made for me and Mike and will influence our eternity; and it is accompanied by a happy knowledge that my friends, my family, those I associate with and love also have their own different plans and lives and troubles and joys, and that it is 100% fine and even worth celebrating that they will be different from my own.

I can’t explain this clearly. I am sure I am doing it wrong and maybe not conveying what I mean, and maybe it is too personal to put here anyway. But, I love when I have struggled to feel and see something correctly and finally feel my mind being enlightened by the Spirit, and I love how easy it is to recognize because, inevitably, it combines hope and happiness and acceptance of both myself and others, and it feels something like charity and like I am loved and, even, like I want to love others better and cheer for their own triumphs and moments of happiness, and be excited for the different stories both they and I will end up getting to live.

Anyway, saying goodnight on this post is long overdue. I will tell you what though, it  is possible that I have never yet felt this grateful for this family of mine, and, I have this very strong, good and even kind of anxiously-excited feeling that the gratefulness and joy I feel about having them (and so many of them), is still a tiny miniscule portion of what it will yet be. That it has a good deal to do with life before I came here and even more to do with good things ahead for us – here in this life, and after, I think, as well. Maybe even more after than I realize.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Survival of the Fittest

There will be one and only one bowl of cereal (scant and missing milk). Only those quickest at grabbing, pushing aside, chewing and swallowing will thrive. Ready. Set. Go. Eat your cereal. Good luck.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Maybe you should just . . . drop it (from a high place and onto a hard surface).


The other day I heard Jesse give one of his loud, drawn-out, and frustrated “UUUUGGHHH”s. Then he sighed, “Abe, do you know what ‘ugh’ means?”

Abe: “What does it mean, bud?”

“It means something’s broken.”

I was afraid it meant that.

See. It’s like I said. His intentions aren’t bad. He doesn’t want to break things . . . necessarily. It frustrates him nearly as much as it frustrates me (well, no, it frustrates me much more). It is just that, in his zeal to discover – things often end up . . . broken. Perhaps this is best illustrated by the rather telling suggestion he made to me yesterday (as I attempted to take the removable base off of a toy car for him):

Jesse watched me eagerly as I struggled to get it apart. Finally he said, “Why’s it not coming off!?” Then the anxiousness to see how exactly it all looked taken apart became too much and he suggested, “Mom? Do you think maybe you need to . . .” Here he paused, as if unsure whether or not to share his unconventional methods of solving such problems with me. Then he continued, “Do you think maybe you should . . . drop it?”

No. I did not think we should “drop it” nor did I think we should throw it, hurl it, bang it against a hard surface or hit it with another hard object. Somehow I need to impress upon his mind appropriate verses inappropriate means to an end. Somehow. Or, you know, if even I could make the ends not seem so absolutely necessary.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

My Whole World

This morning I was just finishing the last curl on the last girl’s hair to be ready for church, when that girl suddenly became very pale. Her eyebrows pulled together and the corners of her mouth turned down. She clutched her stomach and said, “Mom, my stomach hurts. Can I go to the bathroom?” When the color drains from their faces like that, it seems to me to be a sure sign that trouble is on its way with my kids, so I released the curling iron and freed the poor girl – who went straightaway to throwing up.

With that done, I helped her switch back out of her dress and back into her pajamas. I sent Goldie to make a little bed on the couch for her sister, changed myself out of my own church clothes, and with a “Aren’t you lucky that your hair gets to be so cute while you’re sick!” settled my girl down to a sick day.IMG_1645_edited-1

She doesn’t look very sick, does she? Nevertheless, she and I are home (along with sleeping Anders); and Mike (who had been busily shoveling our snowed in driveway with Abe until about ten minutes before church) has headed off to church with the other four kids.

After they had been “good-byed” and sent off, I went to my room to make the bed before seeing what I could do for Daisy. I paused as I saw Goldie, in her white faux fur coat rushing past my window along the still icy and snow encrusted sidewalk. Next came Mike. Abe was walking just to the left and slightly behind him, hair wet from having just rushed to the bathroom to tame it for church. Penny with her cowgirl boots, braids, and leg-warmers was held in his left arm. And Jesse shuffled little sliding but quick steps along his right side – holding tightly to Mike’s hand so as not to slip.

At first I smiled at the cuteness of them all, trying to walk safely to church on such a white and icy cold morning. Then, suddenly, I was crying. I don’t know exactly why. Was it because they were so darling? Was it because I am so lucky to have them? Was it something symbolic I saw in how Mike was holding kids and holding hands and keeping everyone safe? Was it simply because a dad with his kids is a very happy thing to see? Or because that tiny group out there in the snow, all done up for church, is my world? I don’t know. It was just one of those unexpected and photographic mind moments that will stay with me. One of those moments when, of a sudden, the tremendousness, the hugeness of what I have shivered over my whole body and mind at once: that man and those kids out there, my other two snuggled up in here.

Somehow that moment just locked itself in my mind along with a few other similar moments that I have a perfect image of involving these people that are so very small in the whole big world, but are, literally, my whole world.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Little of Penny and a Little of Jesse


What if we just went about our daily business wearing things like slightly small princess outfits if it struck our fancy? Another princess dress as well as two different ballerina outfits have all spent a little time being worn by Penny today. I like it. I wish I did that. Mike would come in and there I’d be, washing dishes in my Cinderella dress. Later, he’d walk past and I’d be busily changing a diaper in my pink ballerina tu-tu. Life would be pretty good.

The only way it could be any better would be if, instead of washing dishes and changing diapers in those outfits, I was drawing pictures. Pictures like this:


I do think Penny is the grandest little four year old artist to have ever existed. I mean scissors? Turkeys? Hot-Air balloons? And I love her attention to feet and shoes while arms don’t interest her in the slightest and are just tossed on, in after-thought fashion, as blobs.

Speaking of drawing: that is one of those activities that make you feel like a good mom if your child is participating, possibly even excelling in them. Happily reading little picture books, excitedly allowing you to quiz them on alphabet letters, etc. When your child is doing those things you sort of tend to feel like, “I am doing A-OK at this mom business”.

But I have been realizing lately that, perhaps, I have been a bit close minded in my ideas of what a child should want to do and what a child should enjoy and be good at to make ME feel like a good mom.

Jesse, that wild boy of mine, views the world and approaches it altogether differently than I ever have and a fair amount differently than any of his siblings. He is a bright boy. In fact, he actually knew all his alphabet letters and sounds much earlier than his siblings, but truly he has zero interest in little rewarding mother moments like “school time”. He’d rather gauge his eye out than have me play games with him trying to get him to learn something on paper. Coloring is an utter waste of time, and, when he’s forced to do it in primary, he, to the dismay of his teachers, simply tosses his pictures in the garbage on his way out of class. I sometimes try to trick him into doing something on paper just because, at some point, the kid will need to learn to write and coloring seems the usual precursor. Reading books is something mostly only to be tolerated when the time must somehow be passed while he gets his nightly asthma meds nebulized into his little self. It has been tricky because, as I said, having my kids do those things makes me feel good about myself.

But what about his interests? What about the things he is actually incredibly good at? They tend to be harder to appreciate simply because they often end up with something lying broken on the floor. It’s tricky to think, “Man, I am a great mom for letting my kid break that blender.” But there is, truly, something to be said for his breaking of things. He has no ill intent. Often, when he has just broken something, he will pause, study my face for a minute and ask, “Mom, are you sad?” When I reply that yes, I am indeed sad because he just broke something he says, “Come here mom and I’ll give you a kiss.” And with that he goes back to his broken item with a “there, we are square again” attitude. And, in fact, there is nothing that brings him more joy than “fixing” something. It may well be that, years from now, I’ll be bragging about my son who, while his father was out of town, fixed our fridge that went out all on his own.

The other day he opened the washing machine and said, in frustration, as it churned the clothes in water, “Mom, what makes it stop? And why does the water go out?” And I thought to myself, “Those questions are exactly what this boy of mine is all about." – He is all about figuring out every single thing in this world; how it works, why it works, how to take it apart or put it back together. Toys don’t interest him ever for long because they don’t hold the fascination that the real working things of our every day life hold. Of course things like the back of my blow dryer must be taken off. There is something in there that seems to make the whole thing blow hot air out, and how else will he discover what it is? The other day Mike handed him one of his drill batteries and told him it needed charging. “Watch,” Mike said to me, “He’ll have this figured out in about one second.” And sure enough, a moment later he had studied and twisted and turned the awkward shaped battery until it was hooked fast in the charger.

Recently I came upon this scene:

I’d left that screw driver over by the back door leading into the garage (intending to take it out to Mike’s tool box). Jesse must have found it there, studied it for a moment, thought about my bedroom door and some small matching part that could have some connection with this tool, and off he went. Sure enough, a few moments later one screw was out and he was busily working on the next one:

See. It’s easy to look at that and think, “Oh crud. My son just unscrewed the door latch off the jamb”. But I am trying harder to think, “Holy smokes! What a cool kid! How many three year olds would find a screw driver and, with no direction, figure that out?” I am realizing that he truly does have some pretty awesome little abilities and that I might learn a lot by seeing the world more often through his curious little eyes. If, on the side, I can trick him into enjoying drawing the occasional picture, great, if not, well, I have a feeing he is developing plenty of other talents as he takes my house apart piece by piece around me!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

An Interview!

Given by myself, to myself! Some people think that’s sad. . . . Others think it’s AWESOME!

Question numero UNO: Do you ever look at a picture and think “This seems like a different time; or, like, maybe a fairytale?”

Answer: Yes, sometimes I do. Like these ones of Goldie that I took just before the sun was totally gone on Sunday (and just before the two of us headed off to her “It’s Great to be Eight” fireside).

Those two kind of made me feel like I was minding my own business, taking a boring old picture of a few trees by a shed when, suddenly, a ghost appeared in the shots! A darling little girl ghost. Of course, my mind might have been set on that path by the fact that the first shot I took I accidentally blurred ridiculously, so Goldie really did look like a ghostly apparition.

And then there were these. Surely it is some sort of Goldie Locks/Snow White moment we have just chanced upon!

Of course, that means those old apples would have to be . . . POISONOUS, naturally.
IMG_1287_edited-1(Oh come on, enough with the trendiness of leaving a little color in an otherwise black-and-white picture! I know. I know. I can’t help it sometimes. Trying trendiness. Especially when poisonous apples are involved. Especially then.)

Question numero DOS: Do you have any Valentine’s decorations?

Answer: Yes. Yes we do. We have exactly . . . one. This here wreathe.

Don’t let yourself believe though that I didn’t take full photographic advantage of getting that one small wreathe on our door!
Again, Nancy? With the color thing?

Yes. I know. Sorry. I don’t have a whole lot of tricks in my, rather lacking, editing bag. But here. Here we went a little craaazy with the one Valentine decoration and bright afternoon light.

Question numero TRES: So, sure, we see plenty of those daughters of yours in photos (though we understand Daisy mostly refused to put down her book to help hang the Valentine wreathe), and more than a fair amount of that baby son of yours (who, let’s face it, has no say in the matter), but don’t you have two other sons?

Answer: Yes. It’s true. But the middle son. The one we’ll just call Jesse (you know, because that’s his name), well, he won’t even consider ever pausing or looking at the camera or . . . any type of movement that doesn’t end up in the pictures I take of him mostly only showing the top of his head.

Or, if you are super SUPER lucky, a small glimpse of part of the side of his face, or a distorted view of him in a giant ornament (like Mike caught here).

But we can easily make up in words what we lack in photos when it comes to this kid. For example, it has come to his recent attention that we don’t call each other stupid. Nay, not only do we not call each other stupid, but we never SAY stupid at all – under any circumstances.

If someone had asked me, prior to this point, if I heard the word “stupid” often in my day to day life, I would have said no. However, I would have been mistaken. Apparently “stupid” is being said left and right. LEFT AND RIGHT! (I know because Jesse is given cause to condemn its use daily.)

In fact, recently, it was heard from the pulpit at church. TWICE. (If you can imagine.) The first time, when the speaker mentioned a “stupid” thing he’d done as a kid, Jesse perked right up. “We don’t say stupid!” he said, rather loudly, “We never NEVER say stupid!”

Luckily only a few of those nearest by heard his outburst of righteous fury. He was slightly less contained, however, upon the speaker using the word again at a later point. “UUUGGHHHH!” He practically yelled, “We don’t say stupid AGAIN!”

I can’t be certain whether the speaker heard or not, but I will say that he definitely did not say “stupid” again.

I can only wish Jesse felt as strongly about other things that we don’t do. For example, it would be music to my ears to hear him insisting that we “don’t take vacuums apart piece by piece”.

Question numero QUATRO: Alright. That explains why we don’t see as many pictures of him, but what about your treasured oldest son?

Answer: Hmm. Well. Yes, him. He is treasured, I assure you, and it only bothers Mike and I a little bit that at 11 he is besting us both in the smarts department. Well, perhaps it bothers Mike more than me. I only grumbled a little when Abe and I played a brain teaser game that would show bubbles with numbers in them for a second before the bubbles would go blank and you’d have to recall the numbers well enough to click on them in ascending order, and Abe beat me each and every time. But when he beat Mike at Chess the other night, Mike said that he was banning Abe from Chess for a year while he (Mike) went to Chess school.

But, on to pictures. Sure I might catch him doing his thing – like crashing on his sled the other morning.

But if I actually request his presence in a picture, it goes something like this:
”Mommm, I just don’t really get what you are asking me to do.”

“Mom, please can I just be done now.”

“Fine. Is this what you want?”

Me: “Well, no. Not exactly. Nice try. Go on then. Go back to clicking on bubbles in ascending order.”

Question numero SINCO: Have you ever particularly liked a sign?

Answer: Funny you should ask. Yes, I like stop signs. I kind of want to be a stop sign.

I didn’t realize this until I was looking at those bubble blowing pictures of my kids the other day and noticed that I especially liked the photos that inadvertently ended up with a stop sign in the background. But, to be honest, interviewer, that was a weird question to have asked.

Question numero SEIS: Well, wait a minute here. Do you or do you not like interviewing yourself?

Answer: Yes. Actually, I do. I take it back about that being a weird question. Well done, interviewer.

The end.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Part of Me


I recently read a blog post that said something like: having a baby is like meeting a part of yourself you didn’t know existed. I liked that. Look at this little soul!

For years upon years I lived, quite happily, not knowing about this part of me.

And now that he is here? It all seems so obvious. Clearly I wasn’t complete with out him! How did I go about existing when, if he left now, I would continue life with a giant canon-ball size hole through my body, heart and soul?IMG_1368_edited-1IMG_1396_edited-2

Who knows, but I can’t imagine a life without early mornings of unwrapping his swaddled blanket to free his chubby, soft and rather white legs; or without seeing Ander’s face go from curious concentration to a huge smile that affects his arms and legs when Mike talks to him; or without being able to study his tiny fingers. No no. It simply couldn’t be borne.

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