Sunday, July 22, 2012

Boy + Monkey

Dear Sock Monkey,

We know it has been a tough few years for you.

When you came to stay with us some two and a half years ago (when your owner was just a wee lad not yet walking), you still had all of your red mouth. You still had two little black yarn dots for a nose. You had no permanent brown stains on your head and face. Your back hadn’t split open and been roughly stitched together again multiple times. You hadn’t suffered the indignity of being spilled on, thrown-up on, or dropped in the mud. You hadn’t yet had to spend countless hours swirling around in a washing machine. And . . . you still had fluff in your neck.

When we realized what was happening, we tried to ease the attentions placed upon you. Your owner’s grandma found two other sock monkeys to bear some of the burden. Unfortunately it was soon discovered that while these additions were welcome to tag along with you now and then, they would never be allowed to spell you off completely.

By the time it occurred to us to try and find another sock monkey that looked just like you – one with which you could alternate – well, there was no longer any sock monkey in the world that looked or felt at all “just like you”.

Like I said, I know it has been rough on you. Who knew being loved so well could be so . . . draining? You have been loved well though, and isn’t that every stuffed animal’s dream? So, I plead with you, Sock Monkey: hold out as long as you can. Jesse is far too young to be faced with the reality of a world where sock monkeys don’t last  forever.

Friday, July 20, 2012

I would be hard pressed

To come up with something cuter than this nine month old.

And here is something pretty awesome about him: he oft times looks a wee bit sinister when he smiles.

“Look at me I’m sweet and innocent”:

“Bwahahaha . . . I am NOT sweet and innocent. I am an evil villain and you fell for it!”:

“No. No. Just sweet and innocent. Don’t blame me for anything.”:

It makes me think of Jack Jack from The Incredibles.

But, look at these pictures of Penny showing him flash cards the other day. Clearly only sweetness and goodness here.
Of course, even the sweetest kid can have too much of a good thing when it comes to flash cards.

Monday, July 9, 2012

24 Hours for Bear Lake


That’s all the time we had to spare this weekend, but we went all the same.

And few people will ever know what it is getting six very burn prone children sunblock protected enough to spend a day out in the high-altitude Bear Lake sun. My goodness.

But, eating Ohs cereal on the deck in the early morning with sleep-haired blondies – looking at the lake and throwing the occasional cereal off of the deck in hopes of getting to see a ground squirrel is maybe worth the seeming several hours of sunblock application.

And thank goodness for sunblock is all I should be saying anyway. What did folks like us do on a day-at-the-lake outing before its invention? I guess just burn. Or wear lots of clothes.

I love Bear Lake so much. That sounds silly maybe. But, I actually do . . . love Bear Lake. IMG_6003_edited-1

The water is record breakingly high this year – meaning little beach to go around. And while we were there I kept thinking, “Is Bear Lake actually that great? There are probably a million vacationy spots that are better, aren’t there? Would there really be any reason to love it so much if I didn’t just . . . already love it so much?”

But it was no use asking myself those questions. I am completely unable to look at it from an unbiased perspective. One may as well ask if Christmas songs are actually very good. Who knows? Maybe they aren’t, but they are Christmas songs. One could never see clearly if they were intrinsically great or not – we are all too emotionally attached to them.

I guess it is some sort of a little testament to the power of association. It is hard to judge anything clearly when it is associated with memories or feelings. I can’t eat Campbell’s vegetable soup because I once had it when I was horrendously sick and ever after link it to illness. And I can’t not love Bear Lake because it is so tied to summer and my grandma’s long silky night gowns and the smell of her lotion; my mom reading us stories on the small orange fold out couch in our beach front trailer; Ovaltine with evaporated milk added in for every breakfast, and cream peas and potatoes for at least one dinner. It is too tied to pudding in brown bowls and drinking from tan plastic cups with white lines and white handles; the sound of the back trailer step squeaking as my dad stepped outside in the early morning to exercise or swim or type at his typewriter; it is connected forever to one blue dock that eventually was surrounded by no water as the lake went through a spell of low years, and millions of collected miniscule seashells; making whistles out of snake grass and playing Barbies on large wave-breaking rocks. It is tied to a yellow square tub of water that we had to wash our sandy feet in before heading in the trailer, a clothes horse we set out wet things on in the sun to dry, some old blue ziffy boards stored under the trailer along with the larger “Captain Sea Scope”, and some faded orange life jackets kept in the cupboards inside. Bear Lake somehow still always means looking for sail boats with old binoculars and hearing the jingle of the cow/dinner bell that hung on the trailer wall when you slammed the door tightly; going to The General Store with my dad for ice-cream, and walking up Hodges road to feed horses and toss sticks off one side of a bridge – then run to the other side to see them come through.  It is tied to two faded and sturdy outdoor blankets that were often dragged to the shade of some trees for a late afternoon rest, and the morning sound of crows, and yes, even many miserable sun burns.

No. I really can’t see Bear Lake from an outsider’s perspective at all. I only know that it is clear and blue and conveniently shallow for yards and yards (which means less fear of little ones crawling in over their head), and that driving past my grandma’s old spot – oddly bare with out her trailer there, makes me feel an uncomfortable knot inside over things that are good and right and happy with life having become only memory. Good memory. But past. The kind of past that you want to be able to go back and live just a few days in again. And I think I have some strange belief that my kids’ lives will only be whole and right if, by some happy chance, I am able to create similar memories surrounding this lake for them.

Only . . . maybe with fewer other beach goers next time.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

I love you but I don’t love you!


Poor Jesse just said the cutest and saddest little thing. I understood very easily exactly what he was expressing with his strangely ambivalent little outburst.

He’d gotten out of bed several times tonight – and been warned repeatedly that it could not continue.

When I came in again to find him not only out of bed, but at Anders crib laughing and giggling with his previously-sleeping baby brother, I was quite upset and spoke, perhaps, a bit too sternly as I reproved him.

It must have been all too much – the knowledge of his guilt, the need to let me know we were still pals, the feeling that I was being far too harsh – because he burst out sobbing and exclaimed, “Mom! I love you. But Mom! I DON’T love you!” Then he sobbed some more.

I’m sure it did nothing to help me in training him to stay in bed, but I couldn’t help but pause to comfort, kiss, and hug the sobbing little wrong doer after that.

Insignificant Tidbits of a Significant Day

This morning’s waking was not a speedy one. It was a holiday – the 4th of July – which meant Mike was still sleeping next to me, and despite my occasional half wakings as it grew lighter to thoughts such as, “I should go for a run before it’s too late,” and “If I don’t go right now, there won’t be time,” then, “It’s too late for a run, but I ought to shower so I can get the kids ready in time for the parade,” and, “In a few more minutes I will for sure get up” – despite those thoughts, I didn’t wake up until a text from Mike’s aunt Leisa asking about the start of the parade finally fully woke me.

Before too much longer the morning was in full swing. I was calling to kids to get dressed and to come and get their hair done. Mike was getting out bikes for he and the older four to ride up to the parade. Anders was drinking his bottle and occasionally crawling to Mike or myself to be held. Kids were finding shoes and socks. Sunblock was being packed. The stroller was being loaded into the truck bed. And then we were out the door: Abe and Daisy ahead of us – riding to Grandma and Grandpa’s where other cousin parade goers would be gathering. Mike pulling Penny. Goldie pedaling along beside him, and me driving off to find parking as close as I could with Jesse and Anders.

The parade was the usual fun local parade. There had been rumors that candy throwing was out this year, and Mike’s aunt even brought small packages of Goldfish and Cookies to offset this travesty. The kids hadn’t given up hope though and were rewarded for their faithful plastic bag bringing by candy being thrown their way after all. There was the fun of visiting with family, and bumping into old friends and neighbors along with the inevitable awkward moments of struggling in conversations with people you know from somewhere that you just can’t place. 

After the parade Mike took the older four to the park where there were booths selling overpriced trinkets along with free miniature carnival type games. The plan was to have hamburgers and hot-dogs at his parents’ house shortly after, but first, I headed to our house.

Back at home I put the two smallest boys for naps and looked speculatively at the computer. The house was absolutely quiet (something it hadn’t been since late May when school was still in session and the little ones all napping), and it seemed nothing would be more enjoyable than sitting in the stillness and typing for a moment.

But, the house was in quite a state. The state a house gets in only when there is bustling and rushing to get an entire family of eight out of the door by a certain time – dressed and presentable. The state it gets in only when normal methods of “clean things up as you go” simply aren’t possible.

There was cereal scattered across the kitchen floor. It occurred to me that in the rush of morning I hadn’t actually made sure anyone got breakfast. The cereal covered floor happily suggested that at least some few children had eaten. I nodded my inward approval. Then wondered vaguely at what point “some” kids having eaten, bathed, or brushed their hair had become an acceptable standard.

The remains of Goldie’s birthday accounted for a fair amount of of the clutter. Balloons lay lazily about nearly every floor surface. Somehow each balloon had been specifically claimed and marked with a Sharpy by one child or another and I innately understood that popping them now was simply too soon for their individual owners to handle, so I shuffled them all into a somewhat contained corner between two couches – setting the ones that kept drifting back out more pointedly or closer to a wall. The “summer cabin” ginger bread houses that had become ruins of their initial glorious selves I placed in the window ledge above the kitchen sink: knowing there would need to be a few more days of small hands prying off tootsie rolls and gumdrops before they could be fully retired to the garbage can. There were the new toys as well. They hadn’t yet made themselves completely at home; hadn’t yet found their own resting spots out of the spot light. Some still sat – display like near the fireplace, a few had migrated to the out-of-Anders’-reach counter near the telephone. Still others had made it up the stairs nearly to the girls’ bedroom only to fall short of a final resting spot.

Mike had been putting a bike together the night before and the handlebarless bike, along with the box it came in, the removed cardboard and plastic, various reflectors and other small parts lay strewn here and there across the living room.

There was the large pile of laundry that had made it to but not through the laundry room door, the puzzle and game  of Perfection Jesse had been playing with on the kitchen table, the present bags and wrapping paper that had been left on the basement stairs (in hopes of being returned into the Tupperware they came from). The game of Candyland that had also been set on those stairs had, through carelessness, been knocked down --spilling small gingerbread looking men and brightly colored cards in its wake.

I looked at the mess, thought about the calm of writing at the computer, then compromised.

The main floor I tidied – cereal was swept up, games were put back in broken boxes and carried downstairs along with wrapping paper and gift bags. Counters were cleared and bike parts all shoved into the box they came from. One load of laundry went into the machine while the rest was simply kicked further in past the threshold of the laundry room.

But, the dishes only went into the sink – where they would have to keep, unwashed, for the moment. The upstairs landing – which is meant to serve as a tidy little computer area, but has slowly become the overflow area for all things waiting to go in (folded laundry, stuffed animals left downstairs), or having made their way out of (Barbies that needed more space to play, toys that haven’t anywhere specific to go) the children’s bedrooms – would have to remain in a state of mild chaos.

Soon I found myself sitting and thinking of what I wanted to record and then simply recording what I have been – the completely insignificant bits and pieces of one small summer holiday.

I didn’t get far. The time tidying up had driven too far into nap time, and, it seemed I’d just begun when I could hear Anders making various experimental babbling sounds in his crib and my post had to be set aside to possibly finish up later.

I’d hoped, for a moment, that I would have found something to say about this holiday that was more than sunblock and parades, fireworks and hamburgers. Abe had asked me, last Sunday, why we were singing The Star Spangled Banner in church. I didn’t have a very satisfactory answer. It just seemed that of course we’d sing songs of America and freedom in church. Of course the two were somehow connected, but I expressed my thoughts falteringly.

As I typed, my mind went back to a time several years ago when my family was all gathered for a reunion of sorts near my sister’s small town Idaho home. My dad had asked my oldest brother Mark, a Colonel in the Air Force, to share a few thoughts about freedom and this country of ours. I don’t recall what he said. I only remember that it tugged on some previously unacknowledged part of my soul and pried open areas that had been snuggly sleeping in lack of gratitude or awareness. As I thought of the feelings I got from that speech, I quickly paused my own recordings of parade candy and house messes to email him – asking if he’d recorded any of what he’d said that day. He hadn’t, but tried to call me to see if discussing it might spring out some of the same patriotism I was looking for. I missed the call and returned it only to have him gone.

Now it is night. Three kids have gone to bed and three others are waiting for enough darkness to fall for us to go out and light off the one rather sadly sized pack of fireworks we purchased – mostly to appease Daisy’s repeated pleadings. I haven’t recorded anything very patriotic, but perhaps there is something yet to come, something more to feel and appreciate as I head out to watch my oldest kids giggling over the magic of colorful bursts of fire. We shall see.

And off I go. Goodnight to all of you, and happy 4th of July!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

I Have No Excuse for a Post

Only, there is Anders . . .

And I can’t help but think, all of the time, thoughts along the lines of, “What if I didn’t have him?? What if I had decided on no number six?” Then I have to calm my panic as he squirms in my arms and twists his little body in an attempt to roll to freedom and escape my hugs, and remember, “I don’t have to worry about the ‘what if’. I did have little number six. He IS here.” Then I sigh relief and look up to utter a little prayer of thanks. I think about him all of the time, and, even when he is off sleeping in his bed, I just smile thinking of how cute he is as I tell Mike how much I like our little baby and ask if he recognizes how darling he is. It is kind of miraculous watching his personality unfold and develop, and I can’t wait to know who the five and ten and sixteen and twenty-six year old Anders will be.

Also, there is Jesse. That boy. He is just . . . I don’t even know how to explain it . . . he is just so much the little person he is. There are just so many things that are absolutely . . . Jesse, and no one else. My dad just shakes his head and laughs when we come over as he watches Jesse and tells me that truly he has never met a child with more curiosity (and with grandchildren and great grandchildren numbering in the 60s or 70s, he has seen quite a few).

I often wonder where his intense desire to understand how all things work will lead him. Certainly it has lead him into plenty of mischief, but I am anxious to see what talents and specific pursuits it carries him into as he gets older. One thing I know for certain . . . he is already very impatient to “grow taller” so he can take over Abe’s new job of lawn mowing!

I love his hair in these pictures. He did just wake up from a nap, but, in truth, he very well can be found on any given day with his hair looking like this – nap or no. Something about summer has made me feel like there is never any rush to have anyone change out of pajamas or get their hair done. There is so much of it going on every single morning of the school year that perhaps I have gone into complete quit mode with the onset of summer. Sundays we still manage to look presentable though. Mostly.

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