Monday, April 28, 2014

Endings and Beginnings

In less than a month, my kids will be done with this year of school. This morning Abe figured how many more days of waking up early were ahead. Daisy announced that, after today, there would only be three more Mondays left. And, already, notes are coming home regarding end-of-year performances, field-trips, and events -- the 4th grade Mountain Man Rendezvous, the 6th grade dance, 1st grade’s “Spring Fling”, the spring choir concert (all steeped in more than their fair share of excitement -- wrapped up in association with “the start of summer break” as they are).

With the school year’s end, we will morph into our summer routine and way of life; one that is very different from the scheduled and dependable layout of our school days. It’s a good different, a different I look forward to; but, as I contemplated it today, I realized that this will be the last month ever of this particular life – the one I am living right now. The one where I spend my days predominantly with these two little boys:

The one where I drag them both from bed – sleepy eyed and bare-footed – wrap them in their “blankies” and carry them to the van where half the neighborhood is waiting to be driven to school. The one where we come home and climb up to the counter for cereal or toaster-waffles while I review colors and letters, counting and writing for the few minutes that I have them still. The one where Jesse sneaks down to the kids’ sack-lunch supplies in the basement to choose a little snack for him and a little snack for Anders to have while they watch their morning Handy Manny or Jake and the Never Land Pirates. The one where they are two little brothers together following each other around, getting into toys, fighting for spots in the grocery cart, and sticking together at the Lego table in the gym’s nursery. The one where Anders takes his afternoon nap and Jesse shows me his various creations or begs to get strange items from the garage while I clean-up, catch up on emails, or even (as is the case at this moment) blog.

When summer break comes to an end, Jesse will head off to school. We will have a new baby (less than a month old). She and Anders and I will create new routines and systems. Life will be a different kind of happy and good.

I recognize that that’s what life does. It constantly morphs and changes and keeps you on your toes. It constantly gives you new rhythms to adjust to and new views to enjoy. It constantly hands you new challenges and new adventures. It constantly redefines your “normal”.

Already, in my relatively short life, a thousand stages have come and gone. Of course, simultaneously, a thousand new ones have started. A crazy river – hardly showing you one bank before it rushes on to the next.

I don’t intend to overly dwell on this month being an ending. I see all the exciting beginnings that come tied with it. But . . . I do wish my boys could remember this. I want them to remember being two little brothers alone in their days together. Just like I remember three little people home creating adventures together all day – with school still a far-off unknown. Just like I remember picking our lone “oldest” up from Kindergarten and going through his backpack and hearing about his day while his little sisters played in the kitchen. Just like I remember homeschooling two elementary kids while entertaining two toddlers and nursing a newborn. Just like I remember . . . so many other things; I want them to remember this.

So . . . I do the only thing I can to help make life’s constant motion stay somewhat permanent. I keep photographing it. I keep writing it. I keep trying to live it. I keep trying to remember all I can for them. . . . And all I can for me.

Also . . . a little conversation from this morning (followed by a few random cell shots from the past few weeks):

Me: Anders? What’s in your mouth?
Anders: Just a dog food.
Me: No, buddy. Don’t eat dog food, dog food is yucky.
Jesse (interrupting): Anders! Never tell mom you’re eating dog food. (Pause.) Also . . . never eat it.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cousin to Certitude

Often, when our family is gathered close – everyone piled in the living room watching a show, reading books, etc. – Jesse comments contentedly, “I really like our family being all together”.

Regularly  he mentions how happy he is that I didn’t make various bad choices that might have precluded me from being his mother.

“I’m glad you didn’t drink a lot of beer and alcohol and stuff so you couldn’t be my mom,” he’ll tell me as he’s eating his lunch.

“I’m glad you didn’t do bad things so you wouldn’t get to have me,” he’ll comment as I’m buckling him in his car seat.

He says these things offhandedly, and they often make me chuckle (as he details the ways I might have gone astray), but, sometimes, they strike a chord – causing me to catch and pause. Occasionally they feel . . . like his spirit remembering something that his mind has temporarily forgotten. Namely: that we’ve already endured a spell of separation; that poor life choices on my part might have altered things – might have lost me the privilege of raising him. Worries he may have actually already felt. Peace and relief in having things as he’d hoped.

The veil – that “border between mortality and eternity” (as Neal A. Maxwell calls it) does a pretty darn good job of covering our memories and shrouding us in forgetfulness. And, of course, that’s absolutely necessary. Without the veil  we could never truly learn to walk by faith; we could never experience the full power of our agency.

Still, I often feel my spirit aching and longing to remember – I feel it reaching out, grasping ahold of the things that feel the most familiar. At times, I think it almost does remember; that it recognizes truths when it hears them, that it recalls who I am now and then, that it tells my heart and mind things that, for no earthly reason, they should be able to know.

These close brushes with the veil inevitably seem to produce feelings of peace and certainty. In fact,  Neal Maxwell commented that the “inner serenity” that comes from those brushes is “cousin to certitude”.

I love that. “Cousin to certitude”. More and more of late, I’ve felt that. I’ve felt things that started as a small spark in my soul, grow and expand until . . . if they are not certainty itself, they are certainly its cousin.

Five years ago -- shortly after giving birth to my fifth child (and, while I was out for a run) --  I began to offer a prayer regarding my little family – what size it should be, how many more children I should have. That question has never been simple for me. It has never just been a question thrown into a void. Always, it has been a question with a real individual tied to the end of it. Still, friends and family were wrapping up their little families and, I wondered. . . .

But, before the question got far, and, at an exact spot about a half mile from here that I remember well, I felt an obvious, “You already know you can’t be done yet. You still have your little Summer out there.” Summer had been a name I’d considered briefly as we welcomed our other girls, but it wasn’t until that moment that I felt quite clearly that she already existed, that our “Summer” was yet to come. Only, it didn’t feel like new knowledge. It felt like . . . “Oh yah. Silly me. Why would I have even wondered if I was done.”

I didn’t feel strongly that she would be our next (and she wasn’t), and not necessarily that she would be our last, just a little . . . reminder . . . a little flicker of something not yet done, of hopes and promises not yet fulfilled.

I’ve had various other experiences (before and since) – both in regards to her and my other children that have reminded me of that Neal A. Maxwell quote I’ve shared before, “Whereas the bird is at home in the air, we are clearly not at home in time – because we belong to eternity!” – Experiences that have made me more certain that, while our mortal minds may have forgotten things, our spirits maybe never fully have; that ties and connections and feelings are too eternally a part of their makeup to be forgotten.

More and more I feel an anxiousness – almost like those last few minutes at the airport – waiting for one of my siblings returning from a mission – for Summer to be here. More and more I feel an awareness of . . . my separation from her: a desire for that separation to end. It’s as if knowledge of her coming has created a small hole that memories – no, not memories, but feelings, keep slipping through. I seem to recognizes that we’ve been apart. I have an abnormal amount of anxiety about this reunion being cut short. Almost as if, now that we are finally being reunited, I simply can’t bear another separation – such as the temporary one associated with death – for a long long time.

When I called my sister Shannon to tell her the news about Summer, the first thing I said when she answered was, “Guess who’s coming!” The feelings that I had were: excitement, yes. Anticipation, yes. But, mostly, an overwhelming relief. That word is the best I can use to describe how I’ve continued to feel. Relief that I have somehow – stumbling along, seeing things through a shroud – managed to make it to this point; that I have somehow managed to reconnect myself with the people I had to part from when I came here. And, through the sealing power available in the temple, that I’ve been able to make our connection one that is more secure, certain, and eternal than it ever was before.

I don’t know how it all works. I absolutely believe that we fully own our agency here. And, if so; if we have choice and make decisions, and follow our own paths – and others are free to as well, then painting life as some series of fated events bringing everyone and everything together in some predestined fashion is utterly false

But I also believe that coming to this earth was the bravest, hardest, scariest and most faith-filled thing we ever chose to do. And, I believe that our Heavenly Father who loves us perfectly, would certainly do everything in his power to help us carve paths that would lead us to the things we most hoped for – the things we most wanted. And what things could have been higher on that list than being bound here to those we loved and cared for the most already?

There is a quote from Thoreau that I love. What he calls “Nature”, I would argue is the Light of Christ, and, further, the whispering guidance of the Holy Ghost, but our ideas mesh. He says, “I believe there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we yield to . . . will direct us aright. It is not indifferent to us which way we walk. There is a right way. . . .

Often we don’t take that right way. Often, I’m sure, we choose wrong paths and have to wind our way back around through twists and turns and obstacles to right ones. We grasp onto the atonement and secure ourselves to its power as we try again and again. We may lose some opportunities along the way, but, I am certain a loving Father constantly provides us with new and, wherever possible, equally wonderful ones.

I still don’t understand things perfectly, but, until I do, I am going to keep noting the (as Maxwell says) “poignant and frequent reminders of the veil” that add to my sense of being “close but still outside”.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ask Questions and You Might Get Answers . . .

“Mom,” Jesse asks, “Do fish go poops?”

“Yes,” I reply. “They do.”

“Whaaat?” (Incredulity) “How?”

I reach into the corners of my mind – grasping for some small bit of knowledge that might provide the answer he is after -- but the whole of my fish-bodily-functions experience is limited to cleaning the fish bowl of the one or two short-lived goldfish I had as a kid.

Still. I do my best to give a coherent answer.

When I finish, rather than express appreciation for my efforts, he groans, clutches his stomach, and moans, “Ooooh. You shouldn’t have told me that! Now I’m going to have terrible nightmares.”

I shall try to preface future explanations of that nature with a “There are some questions better left unasked, Jesse”.

But I know him. He won’t settle for that. He’ll keep asking -- dooming himself to the nightmares that accompany too much knowing!


It’s early morning. Kids are rushing about, brushing hair, gathering back-packs and trying to get breakfast in their little bellies. I turn from the toaster in time to notice Penny, who is seated at the counter, hair disheveled and school clothes not yet on, lift her cup and plant a big kiss on its side.

“Penny? Did you just kiss your drink of water?” I ask – amused.

“Yes,” she admits. “I also kissed my bagel earlier because it was so good. (Pause.) I was hoping you wouldn’t notice.”


Also, I’ve answered a lot of questions about planets lately. I’ve stumbled my way through multiple explanations as to why the planets don’t simply come crashing into the sun, how they stay going around the sun, what might happen if they DID crash into the sun, and why we would or wouldn’t want them to crash into the sun. But, so help me if I get asked one more time, “But why do we NEED the planets?” I might bang my head into a wall – repeatedly – and start sobbing.

It’s really hard to answer. Give it a shot. I keep trying to explain things about how we probably don’t actually need them – or at least I don’t think we do – would their absence somehow throw our own rotation or pleasant/life-sustaining distance from the sun off? I don’t know, but I’ve tried to tell him how it’s not that we need them, but that they are caught in the suns gravitational pull – strong enough to keep them circling around, but no no, don’t worry, not strong enough to pull them in to “sun crashing” situations. I must not be answering satisfactorily though because . . . every few days I get a new: “But, wait? Mom? Why do we need the planets?”

He doesn’t even understand the concepts needed to explain any of this (nor do I to be honest). It’s utterly exhausting. And kind of awesome. I love that he is my son.


Monday, April 7, 2014

The Thing About Typically Doing Nothing is . . .

Almost anything becomes an incredible adventure!

In fact, I don’t even know why we bothered to go to “Baby Animal Days”. As you can see from Penny’s face in the picture below, the shuttle bus from the parking lot over to the Heritage Farm was . . . well . . . clearly MAGICAL. We could have just ridden the shuttle bus and filled our adventure quota for the month. Maybe the whole year!

Baby Animal Days

My mom’s emailed comment to me after my last post about having “nothing” planned for our spring break summed up well how I often feel:

“The great thing about Nothing days is that they are so full of magical potential.

Even the best appointments tie us back to earth and hedge us with time limits. Somehow Free Agency is best appreciated  in NOTHING days!”

Yes. They can be . . . strictly nothing. Or, of a sudden, they can become something.

“Magical potential”.

On Thursday (in the late morning) Mike called from work to say he was taking the rest of the day off so we could take the kids to a fun local(ish) event: Baby Animal Days.

The weather was a little chilly and it was rather crowded, but the kids were mostly good sports. And, the times that were less “sporting”? When sifting back through our little trove of family memories, those parts always seem to burn off like the haze of early mornings on a warm day.

The crowds died down enough at the end that Penny got to ride the ponies a second time, lucky girl. Goldie might have joined her, but she took advantage of the pony-riding delay in our departure to dash off and see the piglets one last time.

Before driving the 45 minutes back home, we went to scope out a local river where Mike will be taking the scouts canoeing later this month. On our way there, we drove past some land Mike’s parents own but don’t actually live on (“Grandpa’s Farm”). Weren’t we surprised to find that “Grandpa” was there! (Perhaps doing something or other with the bee hives?)

Naturally we stopped to chat, throw a few stones in the canal . . . and have at least one child fall up to their knees in canal water and sludge.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...