Friday, December 30, 2016

Finishing Up December in a Whirlwind

We simply can’t leave December well enough alone around here. Why, just two weeks ago, I was still busily shopping for Christmas presents. Mike and I were still uncertain which children had enough gifts or even what exactly we’d managed to pile in shopping bags and Amazon boxes all over the floor of our walk-in closet. But somehow we pulled it all off. Again. By midnight Christmas Eve the living room was glowing with wrapped and labelled presents and, by 7:00 the following morning, Christmas lights were on in an otherwise still dark house, Christmas music was playing, and eight kids were happily eating stocking treats and exclaiming their thanks and excitement over their overly generous piles of gifts.


Pulling all of that together at the tail-end of a month full of events and activities, birthdays and parties might have been seen as a perfect climax – one that should have been followed by putting our feet up and refusing to budge for a solid week or two. But . . . no. We’d finally finished our basement – well, mostly. Shower curtains and bathroom mirrors still need hung, and paint cans and tools still need to be cleared out; but, never mind that, we immediately began moving and arranging every single child in our house into new sleeping quarters – taking down and putting up beds and cribs, changing dressers, unearthing piles of toys and clothes from closets and cupboards in rooms where too many kids had kept too many things for too long. It wasn’t a simple or clean (or grump-free) process! And, mixed with it all, we had new Christmas toys and gifts, and the house all cluttered with December’s decorating . . . which is why, while we were in the midst of transferring clothes from this dresser to that, and sorting things to get rid of, it struck me as a perfectly reasonable time to start taking down all our Christmas decorations (to pile on the table and then fit into storage boxes). Mike surprised me with new couches for Christmas, so we also hauled those in and unwrapped them from their giant boxes (which of course had to become forts for the kids), our old couch was squashed in the entryway while we waited for a family member who wanted it to come pick it up, the loveseat was moved to our room while we rearranged further. Mike had to work all week. Yet somehow, miraculously, some semblance of order seems to have landed here now, and, with the tornado-like whirlwind it all came out of, I’m mystified as to how it possibly happened. (Particularly since we also managed to fit in an especially happy birthday for me and a slightly-too-busy 17th wedding anniversary.)

Photo Dec 16, 10 16 40 AMPhoto Dec 20, 2 04 14 AMPhoto Dec 23, 1 00 37 PMPhoto Dec 24, 6 54 27 AMPhoto Dec 24, 7 08 24 AMPhoto Dec 25, 3 59 02 AMPhoto Dec 25, 5 01 46 AMPhoto Dec 30, 8 57 42 PM

Anyway, now we can finally do something nice and relaxing to help life take on a predictable, calm pace again. Like . . . have a new baby. (!!!) (In truth, for being slightly against this whole business of forcing room changes all mixed in with Christmas, I am hugely relieved to have gotten the bulk of it done before having a newborn in the mix. [A two-year-old and a one-year–old in the mix was already . . . rather enough.])

Taken Care Of

It was a fall Sunday during our engagement. Mike and I had ridden with my parents down to the old Ogden tabernacle to attend stake conference and were just returning. The weather – gray and cold and drizzly – made our winter wedding seem closer than ever. As we walked up the driveway, just ahead of my parents, Mike took off his suit jacket and put it around my shoulders. It was a small thing. We were only steps from the house. Later however my dad told me that watching the gesture had made him feel very emotional. “That is just the very thing I have done for you before,” he explained. “And watching Mike put that jacket over your shoulders felt symbolic to me – like passing off some mantle of authority.” It had been his duty as a father to care for me – to protect and keep me safe, and suddenly he realized he was passing that responsibility to another. There was no one, he told me, that he trusted more to take over that role for me.


I’d been married for a number of years – in fact, I had quiet a few of my own children now under my belt – when I was over visiting my parents one day. My dad told me about a dream he’d had just the night before. I was small in his dream. Just a child again. We were at church and I was up on the stand ready to give a little speaking part in the program. As I got closer to the podium however, I became terribly afraid. My dad caught my eyes in his dream. He locked his gaze with mine and nodded -- whispering encouragingly, “You can do it! You can do it!”, but little me started to cry. My dad immediately rushed to my side, knelt next to me and whispered the little speech into my ear. It was so real, he told me, that when he woke, he actually got choked up and teary missing that tiny little girl and missing taking care of her.


Just this summer, during one of my final visits with my dad, when his mind was fading in and out of this world, I walked into his hospital room, kissed his bald head, and sat next to him on his bed holding his hand. He smiled, but then seemed to become slightly confused and agitated. “Where’s Mike?” he asked me.

“He’s just at home,” I assured him. “He’s taking care of the kids so I can be here with you.”

He nodded, but then, still anxious, added, “Will he be here? To take care of you?”

I hadn’t been sure up to that point if he knew he was dying. I wasn’t even sure if I knew he was dying, but I knew it then, and I knew that part of him knew it as well; and that one of the last things he wanted to be sure of was that his tenth child would be taken care of – that she would be in good hands. For him, knowing I would be OK was equivalent to knowing I had Mike – the same man he’d turned over the duty of putting a jacket ‘round my shoulders to all those years ago.

Photo Dec 29, 10 47 24 AM

Friday, December 16, 2016


I seem to recall watching some little news segment on occasion where the news of the world is summed up in 60 seconds of quick headline announcing. Whenever I see it, parts of me want to hold out a hand here and there to shout, “Wait! Hold up! What’s the full story on that? Slow down!” But another part of me enjoys the speedy rundown of so much information. Perhaps I should try something similar here?

Thanksgiving we made our own meal. Mette finally learned to walk. Summer began climbing repeatedly out of her crib. Mike and the older three are off at a late night showing of Star Wars as I type. I discovered Jesse and Anders sleeping in a makeshift tent after I put them to bed tonight. We are down to less than a month ‘til this baby is due. My back is constantly pinched. Abe turned 16. Jesse turned eight. Someone in the family seems to have some pressing obligation every single night this month. Our basement is almost truly finished. Nearly 24 hours of rain has gotten rid of all our snow.


Hm. Well, it was fairly efficient, but I must admit it felt a bit empty. There is maybe an interesting element of intrigue involved with the questions that linger after such quick statements. But it pained me not to tell the rest. Details are my favorite. I wanted to tell about how poorly our pie crusts turned out (and how terrible and rubbery my banana cream filling was) but how much I loved all the simple Thanksgiving traditions with just Mike and my kids. I wanted to tell how Mette never looked back on crawling once walking became an option – even though it’s meant going markedly slower, and how, a week or two in, she still waddles slightly penguin like with her arms held up and out in squares for balance, and how her favorite thing used to be crawling around the house with shoes on her hands but now, when she puts them on her hands, she just looks slightly lost and sadly disillusioned as shoed hands don’t carry the same appeal for her up in the air as they did thumping along the tile. I wanted to tell how the tent I found the little boys in was made by hanging a blanket down from Jesse’s top bunk to form a cozy enclosure over Anders lower bunk and how startled I was to find them actually sleeping rather than fighting or giggling. I wanted to tell about the wildness of December birthdays for someone who never has even Christmas gifts purchased ahead of time, and about the exhaustion of not being able to put Summer in her crib and know she’ll stay there, and about not being able to fit in even a small portion of the Christmas traditions I have wanted to due to how many other things have come up for everyone this month, and about my feelings of both excitement and stress as I consider all the moving kids to new rooms and shuffling other kids about in the older rooms (and the chaos and mess that will surely be a part of it) landing most-likely right about the same time as this baby boy of ours arrives. 

And I guess . . . I did just tell those things. Was that cheating? Well, never mind. Here are a few other “details”:

Always always this blanket is snuggled directly under Anders’ nose.


And, before the rains, we really did get a lot of snow.

Photo Nov 28, 8 40 20 AMPhoto Nov 30, 1 52 42 AM

And it seems everyone has had a choir concert or a recital (or both) this month. Here Daisy and Penny are just before their piano one.

Photo Dec 03, 8 50 31 AM

And, since our anniversary lands at the end of December, I often reminisce during this month on the excitement of that December just prior to our marriage. We were attending universities 90 minutes away from one another, trying to find our first apartment, studying for finals, sneaking off on the long drive to see each other when we should have been studying for finals, gathering addresses and sending out wedding invitations, and holding still for wedding dress fittings (my mom sewed my wedding dress – it was amazing – I actually had someone ask me if it was a Vera Wang). This photo wasn’t the one in our invitation, but it’s always hung on our fridge. It makes me happy every time I look at it. When I posted this picture on Instagram I speculated that maybe we were laughing so hard because someone had just said, “17 years from now you’ll be about to have your ninth child!”

Photo Dec 05, 1 11 17 PM

All right, well, for details being my “favorite” and all, I’ve managed to detail myself out. Here are a few last detail-less photos and then off to bed with all of you. Or, at least, off to bed with me. (Except probably I’ll stay up and read and wait to hear the verdict on Star Wars from Mike and the kids.)

IMG_3056_edited-1IMG_3178_edited-1IMG_3191_edited-1Photo Dec 02, 1 43 58 AMPhoto Dec 03, 2 06 20 AMPhoto Dec 07, 2 37 02 AMPhoto Dec 07, 7 30 33 PMPhoto Dec 09, 6 01 43 PMPhoto Dec 14, 5 37 54 AMPhoto Nov 27, 2 37 35 PMPhoto Nov 25, 8 58 37 AMPhoto Dec 06, 8 50 41 PM

OK, one last little detail: that last black and white picture? The one of Summer? It looks exactly like little me. I texted it to my sisters and my younger sister actually thought I’d sent an old photo of me that I’d come across.

All right. Really. The end.

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