Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Late and Quiet Night

It is late here. Well. 9:00 pm. Not late.

But winter still sends its early darkness. And kids who have spent most of the week staying up far beyond reasonable school-night bedtime hours have, with the help of some energy zapping night-time snow play (and accompanying tears over snowball-hit faces), gone to bed. Every last one of them. Six little people – aged 12 to one – snuggled into five little beds and one little crib . . . in two little rooms (we really need to finish our basement).

And the house? The house  is so quiet. A good quiet. A satisfying and peaceful quiet, but a quietness that, itself – filled with sleepers as it is, seems to insist that the hour is late.

Mike isn’t yet home, and the last sound I heard (besides the hum of the refrigerator and the heat blowing up through the vents) was a quiet little clip-clipping coming from our bathroom where Goldie had gone, in hushed and quick little steps after tiptoeing out of bed and whispering from the silence that she needed to trim her nails before she could ever be expected to sleep properly.

I wanted to go take pictures of them all – the consummate angels into which sleep always transforms them --  but my camera’s limited ISO capabilities, combined with my desire to keep all who were sleeping, well, asleep, meant that I could only fight my auto focus into capturing one or two of the one wee five-year-old who sleeps closest to the closet light. (The closet light that is left on every night as the girls read themselves to sleep; the closet light that I must remember to turn off every-night after they’ve read themselves out).

Occasionally the thought of life’s delicateness pierces into my mind like a well-shot arrow. My heart begins to twist itself round and round too tightly, and I wonder how it is that fates allow anyone to live a life full through – from birth to old age.

Is that ridiculous? And by ridiculous I mean . . . paranoid and crazy? Or does everyone sometimes wonder at the absurdness of our physiology -- the seeming impossibility of a heart that simply keeps beating over and over and over; of lungs that keep filling with air again and again.

Does everyone stop and wonder about the livability of a life minus one of their most loved ones?

Yes. That might be sounding a bit irrational (if not downright lunatic). But perhaps it is human nature for most of us to occasionally contemplate the frailty of this living business: to look at the news and note the young and strong that have gone unexpectedly and  in an instant; to contemplate the possibility of such a tragedy in our own lives; to snuggle in close to our sleeping husbands and quietly and fiercely pray that we never have to go without those steady and constant, deep and reassuring breathes of sleep next to us; or to pull a resistant and busy child in close where we can smell baby lotion, or sun and dirt and play; and feel the soft hair on their round little heads against our cheek.

I know it is not really fate. I believe luck has little to do with the plan each of us are living here on this earth.

Still, tonight, as the older five played a snowy outdoor game of night-time hide-and-seek, and I swept the floor and cleaned up dinner; and Anders, bless his absolutely perfect tiny self, climbed on tables where chairs hadn’t been properly pushed in to prevent him, and carried over books that demanded pauses from cleaning; I couldn’t help but think of the complete helplessness and loss of control I would feel were he to leave me early – were I not able to force him back and demand that I get to keep seeing each stage of life as he grew.

Being robbed of all the what-might-have-beens seemed terrible enough, but it occurred to me that, just as awful, would be the fact that imperfect memory would steal from me much of what was.

After a few minutes of acknowledging my fears, and politely not mentioning that they had no business being here, I, as one must if they expect to live life with any real joy, ushered them back out through the front door (which I proceeded to shut tightly though probably not lock securely) and turned my attention back to Anders.

I handed him the cup he was pointing at (filled with a half inch of water to lessen spill mess), and tried to memorize the way he demanded “mee-ook” (go ahead, say it out loud quickly and with no pause and you’ll guess what he’s after – though any drink will actually do). I tried to freeze a mind shot of the way he patted his ample tummy as he thought of where he might want to wander next. I knelt with him in the kitchen and read the Elmo book that he held up to me (for the 3rd time in so many minutes) and reminded myself that, beyond what peace might come from God, the only solace I might find in such a loss would be knowing there was no lack of living, giving, and appreciating while I could.
IMG_3492_edited-1IMG_3508_edited-1(End note: On more than one occasion, this boy has been so in love with and excited by his absolutely spectacular self in the mirror, that he has run smack into it.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Cup in the Heater Vent

Yesterday Anders dropped a cup down the heater vent under our sink. (Yes, the same heater vent that once claimed a whole potato). I tried my best to reach the cup but couldn’t (though I did retrieve two other toys that I hadn’t known were down there).

Penny and Jesse then made it their mission to rescue the cup.

They seemed certain that it would show up in one of the other vents in the house. When none of the other vents magically produced the cup, they turned to how-to books. The book they referred to was titled The Creature From My Closet, but, judging from the confidence with which Penny read it to Jesse, it was full of tips on retrieving objects from vents.

I listened as she read to him about locating and opening certain vents. Then I listened as she read to him about pushing a secret button under the couch to open a secret passageway to the vent. When Jesse got stumped by the absence of any clear secret button, they returned to the book for more tips, and I headed to my room to put a basket full of laundry away.

Several minutes later Jesse came to my room to report on their final fail-proof plan – a plan which involved dumping gallons of water down the vent under the sink to push the cup up through another vent.

Oh goodness. Thank the very heavens above that they told me this plan before executing it!

I talked them into waiting for Abe, who would be home from school at any moment, and who was known to have rescued vent-lost items for us before. Luckily Abe was able to use his magic rubber arm trick to somehow get the cup (though the potato’s whereabouts will forever remain unknown) and we were able to avoid the clever water plan.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Present

The other day Goldie moped up to me and said, “Mom, can you think of anything I can do?” Then she paused, considered me with one eyebrow raised and a bit of skepticism, and quickly added, “Besides clean up.”

“You could peel some potatoes for dinner,” I suggested.

“Mommm,” she moaned – shoulders falling forward -- “that’s basically the same thing.”

And she slumped off again (even from her toddler days she has been excellent at the despairing slump-walk), but, after a day full of broken bowls, clogged toilets, and kids needing dropped off and picked up from many places; “clean up” or “peel potatoes” was about all my brain could muster.

Lately it certainly has  felt that there is much to be done and much left undone each day: to-do lists that aren’t getting checked off, cupboards that aren’t getting cleaned out, outgrown clothes that aren’t getting boxed up, papers that aren’t getting filed, and windows that can only dream of getting cleaned.

Every once in awhile I will catch myself longingly thinking thoughts along the lines of: “Someday we will have an empty house – all our kids will be grown and I will be able to organize toys and clothes and get rid of excess and clutter and clean things like they should be cleaned.”

Could there be any line of thinking that would be any less “living in the moment”?

No. Probably not. But, here is the thing about me (maybe about all of us): my thoughts often occur simultaneously and in complete contradiction to one another. 

Yesterday Anders woke from his Sunday afternoon nap looking like this:

I followed him around, trying to capture the perfect little creature, so that I would never forget – would never forget that sleepy head of hair; would never forget what luck and goodness and beauty my life had in it. Because it seemed to me that many good things might happen to a person in their life, but none better than having a boy like this wake up with hair like that.

I recognize, obviously, that longing for a day when I can clean with out distraction is longing for a rather sad and ridiculous future, and, I know well enough that there is no telling what future circumstances might be (and whether those circumstances will ever include “time to get everything done”). I do hope to have a happy future. I hope that each new stage will have it’s own joys and that, while I might feel a bit sentimental and watery-eyed as I think of things that are past (such as little nap-headed boys all grown up), I will not pine in misery for stages gone by. I hope to be enjoying and accomplishing and living.

I imagine I won’t do it perfectly. I imagine that I will occasionally wish for the past despite a happy present just as now I occasionally wait for tomorrow all the while living and truly loving this absolutely lucky and amazing present.

But I will keep practicing the art of being fully present now. It might be a bit easier if dishes and laundry washed themselves and if wonderful adventures in the snow didn’t mean finding where in the house to drape or dry out endless piles of coats and hats and snow pants and boots after.

Still, maybe all of that serves some small purpose. Maybe I wouldn’t quite realize the moments of satisfaction – Daisy braiding my hair while I read The Hobbit out loud, Penny singing a clever little made-up song to herself as she plays in the next room, Abe making hot-cocoa for Jesse – if there weren’t the occasional (or, in the case of mess, nearly constant) opposites.IMG_3285_edited-1IMG_3370_edited-1IMG_3373_edited-1IMG_3408_edited-1

Life is pretty lovely, isn’t it. All of what I am living? Unimaginably good. . . . Even with its spilled game pieces, dried toothpaste in the bathroom sink, and kitchen drawers that will explode should one more piece of children’s artwork be added to them!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Jesse – Asleep


I know. I know. I blogged pictures of Jesse sleeping just the other day.

It’s just . . . today, as he sat at the counter “fixing” some stuff, he very calmly said this to me:

“Mom. I told you to get me those screwdrivers. Either get me them, or I scream as loud as I can. You choose.”

Well. It was a clear choice. I got the screwdrivers.
(pig does still bounce after this surgery . . . but he appears to have lost his giggling music)

Can you blame me for enjoying the little lad’s sleeping moments?

In his defense, I should say that, of all my children, he is possibly the very most willing to alter his ways. Very often he will slump his shoulders – after a reprimand for some behavior -- and forlornly say, “OK, Mom. But it makes me sad.” He will then go about giving the newly recommended behavior (such as “not threatening to scream at your mother when you want something”) his best shot.

And today, when attempting to tell me I was being grumpy (for not giving him something or other), he angrily told me I was being “scrumptious”. I’ll take scrumptious.

Here he is – as the coolest kid in church – with the cowboy shirt his grandpa gave him and the cowboy bolo tie his great aunt Sarah gave him. He has turned into a saint at church rather suddenly. He sits there. Quiet as can be. Looking for all the world like he has lost the very will to live. But reverent. It is because, he tells me, he is now four. I suppose, like Paul speaking to the Corinthians, Jesse is saying, “. . . when I became a man, I put away childish things”. Dear boy.

I must run now. Someone is asking me to explain how exactly magnets stick to metal, and, also, just what exactly “scrumptious” means.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Questions and Answers

The other day Jesse went up to the girls’ room, unplugged their little lamp, and then, with the help of a stepping-stool retrieved from the bathroom, took it down from their tall dresser and brought it into my room where he plugged it in, examined the lit bulb through the hole in the top of the shade, then set it next to where I was lying and said, “Mom, how do you cook food with a light bulb?”
(one of my favorite pictures of Jesse – taken a few months ago)

It took me a minute to figure what he was asking. Then I remembered Jesse watching me closely a few days ago as I changed the bulb in the girls’ Easy Bake Oven.

“Well,” I replied, “When you turn light bulbs on they don’t just get bright. They also get really hot. So in the girls’ oven when the little pan moves over the light bulb, all that heat cooks the food.”

“Oh.” He nodded as he experimentally touched the metal ring holding the shade onto the lamp.

“Don’t touch it,” I reminded him, “It gets hot. You could really burn yourself.”

“Yah,” he agreed. “This part’s already hot! But, if you turn it off and wait a long (he paused to look at me – knowing I would expect caution) long long time, then it’s not hot anymore and you can touch it!” He turned the lamp off and began his wait.

Questions about objects and how every single one of them in this universe work are not the only type of questions Jesse has. Oh no. He wants to understand all sorts of things that most of us simply take for granted.

Lately there has been a whole lot of, “Mom? What is behind the walls? What is under the tile? What is under the carpet?” But also, many matters of the mind and heart.

“Mom what does stumble mean?”

“It means kind of like trip – or almost fall.”

“Then why does that guy in that song say, ‘stumble on things I don’t know’?” (Mumford and Son’s “Awake My Soul”)


“Mom, why do you always kiss everybody?”

“Because I love you guys.”

“What? Why do you always kiss us?”

“Because you guys are my kids and I love you so much.”

“Oh. (Pause). Thanks for sayin’ that, Mom.”

“You’re welcome.”

“I love you so much.”

“Thanks Jesse.”


Me – glancing in the rearview mirror as I drive with Jesse and Anders the other day: “I sure love you boys.”

Jesse: “Why, Mom?”


“Yah. Why do you love me, Mom?”

“Why do you think I love you?”

“Ummm . . .” he thinks for a minute but comes up with nothing.

“Do you think I love you because you are my very own little boy who I always love no matter what?”

He raises his eyebrows and considers then smiles wide and nods.

Sometimes all of this questioning and wondering and figuring wears me out. But I am not the only one who gets worn out by this busy life of exploring and discovering.

Still, he occasionally pauses and takes time to just be a newly-turned-four little boy; to simply notice or state with out solving.

As we headed out into another freezing morning of taking the kids to school this week he sighed and said, “Mom, I like to play in the snow, but sometimes I get tired. And it just keeps staying and staying.”

And, after Anders drooled a bit on his toy car the other day: “MOM! Anders slobbered on this!! I’m not ginna call him . . . I’m not ginna call him Anders! (In complete anger) I’m ginna call him Slobbery Boy!”

Bless his little 4-year-old heart. He’s got a lot of living ahead of and in him. I like so much that this little soul full of such strong and clear passion and drive is mine -- that he isn’t just existing elsewhere where I don’t get to know and love and be amazed and exhausted by such intense curiosity and purpose.

Wanting to Push the Pause and Play Button All at Once

You are probably too old for me to be giving you bottles.

And for weeks I have put off letting you have your first haircut. The one you rather desperately need.

It’s not that I mind you getting older.

In fact, I rather like it. I like being surprised several times a day by new perfect little words coming out of your perfect little mouth. I like seeing you interact more and more with your siblings. I like watching you decide what to do with your time – “Self, let’s go upstairs and throw all the Little People through the railings again.” “Self, let’s go point at the cup on the counter and cry ‘milk’ as best as we can.” “Self, let’s go sneak that red toy car from Jesse again – even though we know he’ll come yelling for it the minute he notices like he did the other 14 times we snuck it from him today.” “Self, let’s head up to our room and pull blanky out from the between the slats in our crib.”

It’s just while you grow older and learn and change, I want to keep this you as well.

I still want to hear the exact drawn out way you plead, “show” – your little lips staying pursed in the “oh” for some time -- when you want to watch your Baby Einstein animals. I still want to see you struggle and kick and yell and hydroplane on your tummy as you try to climb onto our coffee table all by your self and then your triumphant smile as you stand and carefully say (as you’ve heard your siblings say when they are doing something special), “watch”. I want to hear your small voice whisper reverent gibberish in a tone of awe whenever you see something that strikes you as absolutely wonderful and special – even if it is just a light fixture.

I just want little perfect packages of you at every stage all lined up neatly in a row for me. The new stages still coming, and the now ones never ever leaving.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


I suppose there is little that might peg you as eye-rollingly boring like talking about the weather might.

And yet, much like The Merchant of Venice’s “truth”: the weather will out.

Around here it has been the type of “too cold” that not only dries and cracks our skin and has us warming the car up for a good ten minutes before getting in it each morning, but the kind of cold that stops snow from packing!

And that is typically the way we know the weather has gotten a bit beyond itself in its coldness -- when you couldn’t pack a snowball to save your life. Not without Rumplestilskin and his straw-to-gold weaving and fluffy-ice-snow packing magical ways. Or, at the very least, with out dumping a cup of water on it first.

Cold cold frozen snow.


Still, there were two times when I really couldn’t complain because . . . everything turned to . . . well . . . magic, I guess.

Perhaps you more northerly folks already know about this light-frozen-snow magic trick?

I was driving home from the kids’ school the first time it happened. The sun was shining (in a way that it can only do on the most clear and frigid of days), and there was a very whispery little breeze that was sending these unpacked, separate little snowy flakes gently all about . . . and they were GLITTERING. Each and every one of them. It was all rather beautifully ethereal.

I told Mike about it (which might have lost me another point in the “fascinating conversationalist” category) but I had to tell someone how otherworldly it all seemed! And, if he didn’t understand then, he got to understand soon enough because it happened again a few days later.

We were up at our little cabin – just lazily waking, wearing slippers, and eating Cap’n Crunch -- when we pulled open some of our east facing blinds and were met with billions of tiny diamonds bouncing about in the air.

It was as if the tiny little flakes – all cold and frozen as they were, and unable to stick to any neighboring flakes – somehow became lighter than air itself and simply began floating about – all sparkles and shimmers, glimmers and winks -- in the early morning sunshine.

The kids oohed and ahhed and rushed from window to window to see if the magic still worked.

It did.

There. Was that so bad? I will try not to mention weather again ‘til at least spring. Though I might only try . . . a little tiny bit.

But, since we are still in this weather post. How ‘bout this?!

Perhaps it has nothing to do with weather. (Though I must say, it seems those birds might have considered hopping on the migration bandwagon several months ago -- before the weather became so . . . fowl. Hahhahohoho. I couldn’t resist). But it was another bit of looking-out-the-window excitement for the kids (which might be the only type of excitement they will be getting for awhile if these temperatures hold). It was equal parts terrifying and fascinating. And the picture doesn’t even do it justice. There were SWARMS of them EVERYWHERE. Cars were inching along, kids were opening windows to take pictures . . . (alright, just my kids. . . . Still . . .).

And last of all. AGAIN, speaking about weather. There is this:

I tricked. Nothing to do with the weather.

Good night!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Go Ahead. Knock Yourself Out.

Sometimes life seems to be full of can’ts. You can’t take that vacation just now, you can’t afford that purchase, you can’t accomplish that task with your available time, or run that race with your current injuries.

But then, every now and again, it simply hands you a fistful of cans!

Like . . . yes. Yes you can get those new light bulbs out and climb up on the table and unscrew the burnt out ones and screw in the new ones.IMG_2981_edited-1

Or, yes. Yes you can unscrew that toy and take the entire thing apart to try and figure out why it is not working properly.
And those are very happy times. Times when you can say things like, “My brain sure knows how to fix stuff. Mom, I was never fixing stuff, and then, . . . I started to fix stuff!” Times when you can revel in all the go-ahead-and-knock-yourself-outs that life has to offer.


One early morning, years ago (and a few weeks into our first experience as homeowners), I pulled open the long white drapes covering our Spanish-style front windows and was met with a strange sight: a small black goat tethered with a short, frayed rope to our mailbox.

It might have been an omen – something like the black cat crossing your path or the owl flying over your house the wrong direction at just the wrong time. And it had to be a federal offense. (Surely our esteemed US Postal Service wouldn’t put up with goats attaching themselves to the sacred receptacles of our precious post.) But beyond that? I was at a loss.

So, I called Mike – absolutely certain he would know what this was all about.

After all, he was the one who made the offer on this small piece of county land we now called home. And, having grown up visiting his grandparents’ farm and having once rather seriously considered life as a sheepherder, wasn’t he educated in the ways of the country?

Surely he would know exactly why and how a goat came to be tied to our mailbox. Perhaps goats and and mailboxes were run-of-the-mill – something to be expected -- when living the country life (even if you were only a narrow strip of “country” surrounded mostly by suburbs).

But Mike did not know.

He merely acted (as any country dweller worth his salt would do when confronted with such a situation). How it got there was irrelevant (perhaps it was a gift from the gods). What to do now – now that the goat had landed in our arms (or close enough) -- was what mattered.

Of course, when I say “he acted”, what I mean is, “he instructed me to act”. He was at work and could only serve as a voice of instruction and encouragement at the precise moment when goat needed confronting.

The only reasonable thing to do, apparently, was to untie the goat --  keeping a firm hold on the rope and a stubborn resolve to continue dragging and pulling despite the goat’s bleating and determined resistance – and stick him safely in the fenced portion of our yard.

We would put up a FOUND sign later, certainly (though Mike was shocked at my naivety when I suggested a description for the sign. We would not be giving too many details -- color and size and the like -- as that would surely bring throngs of the unscrupulous who would be willing to lie and deceive – sacrificing any integrity -- all  for a chance at a free goat).

In the meantime, toddler Abe fed the goat various leaves and twigs from about the yard and named him Honky.

And when, within a day, a call did come (with a matching description) from a young family around the corner whose goat had chewed through the rope that held him staked in their yard, I was surprised (having been a bit skeptical about the hoards of goat seekers, and a bit too certain that sensible folk would only be thrilled to wake and find their goat missing), but Mike and Abe were only disappointed.

And it was not much longer at all before I found myself the proud (or perhaps “reluctant” would fit better) owner of two pygmy goats – cleverly named Brownie and Whitey (and if you use your powers of reasoning and intellect, you might be able to deduce their colors)

Mike and I recently celebrated our 13 year anniversary. (I know this seems quite a leap from Honky the goat, but it’s all tied together in my mind.)

13 years seems an incredibly long time to have passed since wearing that gorgeous white dress and securing myself forever to Mike, and, simultaneously, a ridiculously short amount of time to have experienced so much: to have lived in five homes, and three month-long temporary abodes; to have grown from two to eight; to have finished degrees and worked various jobs; to have known stress and worry and loss, and joy and peace and gain; and to have developed so many memories – so many shared stories – chasing horses trotting down busy roads, vans stuck in deep snow, delayed flights keeping us apart, bunnies hopping around outside hotel windows, Christmas trees purchased at the last minute, holes dug and fences put up, broken water pipes and surprise gifts from strangers; ER visits; tears (from a child) over the sell of an old couch. And, of course, goats tied to mailboxes.

It all makes me rather nervous and extremely excited to contemplate what stories there will be to tell in 13 more years of life together -- what things we will learn and overcome, what people we will meet, and what moments, yet to have happened, we will look back on and laugh about. Daisy, of course, would be hoping that one of those stories includes a bunny tied to our mailbox (and with no owner to claim it), but I suppose we can’t know yet. We can simply dig in – take the bull by the horns (or goat by the chewed through rope as the case may be) -- and go about living!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...