Late at Night, Mid-Hibernation

Wondering where I've been?


And for the record, I am so good at it.

Today I played Super Mario Brothers with Caleb and Ethan for about six hours.  My thumbs are sore, but I'm improving.  Well, no pain, no gain.  We've made it to secret Level 9...not so secret any more.

We broke for a late lunch and then David and I sorted out the final Christmas spending for a bit.  Which was eye-opening.  (I told him I prefer ignorance.)  We always stay right on budget until about the 22nd and then it's just a free-for-all.  Oh well.

An important part of any hibernation is sleep, so then I went back to bed for a long winter's nap.  I was still in my pajamas so it was easy to do.

I woke up in time for a shower before I made dinner (you have to keep up your strength for hibernation)and we played games for a couple hours before we went to a late movie.  For a really good hibernation I recommend only going out at night...makes you forget that there is anything at all "important" to do and like the whole world is abed for two straight weeks.

And now we are back in bed.  David is asking me if I'm going to post my Christmas letter.  I told him I thought it was too late now.  He disagreed and kissed me into publishing it...much more effective than talking me into it.  I can't resist.  My apologies to those of you who've already read it.

There will be more hibernating tomorrow as well, though David may have to go out for milk and bread and salsa.

But I will be staying in.

The world can wait.


And now, our Christmas letter...  

Dear Loved Ones,

David wants you to know that the picture on the front of this card was taken on one of the greatest days of our whole year on a lovely strip of beach on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.  Knowing his penchant for details, I am sure he would also want you to know that this particular spot of paradise, where we discovered the Pacific Ocean and the magic of wet suits, is near a little surfing town called Tofino.  And if he had his way there might be a map insert as well. 

As for me, I only want to point out that since this picture was taken, Caleb has grown taller than me.

It has been a year of changes.  They have been at once subtle and life-altering.  On a Monday morning this August, the children woke up early.  They dressed in their new clothes, and tied closed-toed shoes onto their feet even though it would be nearly 110 degrees that day.  We gathered in a circle for prayer and scriptures just like every day, and then unlike any other day ever before, they all kissed me, and they all left for school.  Every one of them.   The shock of that moment left me stunned and sore for months. 

One Sunday evening this fall I sat with Olivia on the loveseat in our bedroom.  I told her about the miracle of life.  As I carefully explained about her own body and how it was already prepared to create life and love, I thought about how she had just gotten here herself.  I thought about how she was just placed in my arms and here I was telling her how her own babies would someday make their way into hers.  I was overwhelmed by the staggering brevity of my time with her.  When I finished she was crying.  Overwhelmed, she said, that she would have to grow up whether she wanted to or not.  I thought, “Think how I feel.”

This year Caleb turned twelve.  I can see the hair on his arms.  When he sits on the couch in his pajamas I don’t recognize his feet.  In October David took him to his first Priesthood session of General Conference in Salt Lake City.  On the way home, they had a long heart-to-heart talk about growing up. David looked over to see him crying.  Makes you wonder if we’re leaving out the good parts, doesn’t it?  When David asked if he was okay, Caleb replied that he liked things just as they are.  Well.  Think how I feel.

I am dizzy with the turning of the earth.  Some days it feels like I’ve got my head out a car window, and my eyes are burning and streaming as my life flashes by.  It is so brief, I would protest if I could catch my breath.  In two weeks, three of my children will be wearing braces, the first tiny little railroad tracks that lead out of my home and into homes of their own.  Ethan and I now wear the smallest shoes in the house, and even he is walking around in pants that are two inches too short.  I have to put my foot down somewhere, see?  

This year I noticed something as I reread Luke’s story of the Savior’s birth.  In the very same chapter of that story, just twenty verses later, Luke tells about a time when Mary and Joseph couldn’t find their son.  He had stayed at the temple to teach and they were frantic and sick with worry, “sorrowing” as Mary says, for three days before they found him.  Jesus was astonished at their worry.  Because didn’t they know he wasn’t really theirs?

I know it too.  Inside.  I really do.  I know my children came for a bigger purpose than to entertain me around the dinner table, that they have their own measure of creation to fulfill.  But somehow in the feeding and clothing and tutoring and kissing better, the lines have blurred a bit.  They feel like mine.  It’s easy to forget they aren’t.  And I wonder if that wasn’t how Mary felt as well.  Born to her, but born for all of us.  From the very beginning she had angels and prophets telling her, reminding her, that he wasn’t really hers. 

For unto Us a son is born, unto Us a son is given.

After this year, it tears my heartstrings to think of it.  Because I know it wasn’t given easily.  One morning as I sobbed my sorrows out on my knees I felt a voice from heaven gently say:  Yes, I know.  Think how I feel.

For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son.

This year David and I learned just a little bit more about the cost of that gift and the depth of that love.  That before the Cross and the Garden, he was a baby gazing up from her breast, a round-cheeked toddler who gave open-mouthed kisses, a boy all arms and elbows and unruly cowlicks telling jokes at the dinner table.  His parents, both heavenly and earthly, watched his legs lengthen, his shoulders broaden, the moment of sacrifice surely coming.  All the while knowing he wasn’t really theirs.  In the tiniest way we know that grief.  This Christmas season and always we worship the boy who was born King and God and Sacrifice.  And the Father who loved us enough to let Him be just that for each of us.  We worship the Lord of all creation.  Because of Him, our own sweet creations, these four madly growing children, will be ours forever.  Oh how we love Him.

With love and joy and growing pains,

David, April, Caleb, Olivia, Savannah and Ethan 


This morning at breakfast Ethan told me, "Technically, there are seven more days until Christmas."

Well, technically I'm running out of days.

Yesterday morning David asked me how the Christmas cards were coming.

I made a sound like a trapped animal.  (At that point there was technically still a swear word right in the middle of them...)

I asked him how the service project was coming.

He changed the subject.  (At this point he still hadn't technically come up with an idea yet...)

But in much better news, technically today was the last day of school for the year.  Our holiday has technically and officially begun.  (And not a moment too soon.)  Let the wild rumpus start.

(Video courtesy of my clever brother and his gorgeous wife, who are technically so on the ball that they not only have time to complete their own Christmas lists, but to make charming holiday movies of other people's children.)

Five Posts in One

I've done all my recent writing in my head.  Which is fun for me, and not as much fun for you.  Anyway, the posts are starting to stack up.  In their entireties they were both clever and profound (you would have liked them), but for the sake of time and in consideration of all the people around here clamoring for clean underwear (the nerve!), you are getting the Reader's Digest version.  (Did I ever tell you the story of how I was actually published in the Reader's Digest and lied about my name?  True story.)

And so, Post One:

On Thursday night I took the girls to see Little House on the Prairie, The Musical at Gammage.  It was just marvelous, and it is quite possible that I cried through half of it.  At one point Olivia looked at me with tears in her own eyes and nodded compassionately.

I sat there in the auditorium with my own Mary and Laura and thought about love and sisters and sacrifice and hard work and faith and building a life for your family and long winters and what we would do to keep warm if we lived in the Dakota territory before insulation and central heating and indoor plumbing.  I thought about what it means to live in a happy family and over and over again I told myself, "This is now, this is now," just like Laura did in Little House in the Big Woods.

When it was all over we went to the talk-back where Olivia raised her hand and asked the cast if they had all read the books, and then with my girls clutching their own treasured books we waited outside the stage door for autographs.  

And on the way home, over the Christmas music, I could hear the girls talking about their favorite parts, and how it is so sad to read such good books when you are young because you might never find as good books the rest of your life.  I smiled at that and secretly agreed.  And as I drove home through the dark streets and listened to their voices in the back seat and heard Savannah ask Olivia why she was crying at that one part, I was grateful that they each have a sister.  And that in the long, cold winters of their lives, they will always have each other.


Post Two:

 The makings of 23 centerpieces.

If you've been reading this blog for a bit, it becomes fairly obvious, fairly quickly, that I married better than I deserve.

What can I say?  It is an indisputable fact that I have excellent taste in men.

This week offered more evidence of this. 

David and I were supposed to put on the ward Christmas party on Saturday night.  Food and seating and entertainment and Christmas cheer for two hundred.  Saturday was also the day of a one-day quilt retreat with my family in Park City, Utah, about 700 miles from here.  I hemmed and hawed about going.  I tried to change the date of the ward party.  I decided not to go to the quilt retreat.  Then I hemmed and hawed some more.  Finally David said, "Let's just buy you a ticket.  I can feed two hundred people by myself."  Unbelievably I said, "Okay."

And that it just what he did.  The party was a roaring success.  Last night in bed he told me in complete honesty that he thinks it was the best ward Christmas party he's ever been to.

I am not a bit surprised.

After all, I have excellent taste in men. 


Post Three:

We finally had a cold snap.

Cold enough to wear beanies and knit gloves with our jackets in the mornings.

Did you know it only takes about one day for children to lose one or both of their gloves?

Lucky for us, the cold snaps around here only last about two weeks.  I don't know how all you real-winter folks do it.  My entire month's budget would be spent on gloves.  30 days, 4 pairs of gloves per adds up.

The other day I was at Target for a completely different reason and saw that they had their gloves on sale, 2 pairs for $1.50 in all kinds of cute colors.  I thought, "Sold."  I bought everyone two pairs of gloves.  This morning the girls were both down to one pair and Ethan couldn't find any.  He finally ended up wearing mine.  I suspect I will never see them again.  Oh well.  It will likely be summer weather again by the end of the week.


Post Four:

Remember that post about wanting to be snowed in somewhere?

On Sunday morning after a delightful quilt retreat, we were in Park City preparing to leave.  The man who plows the driveways in the neighborhood came by and laughed at us and told us we weren't going anywhere.  It had snowed 25 inches in less than 12 hours.

We went back inside and considered staying another day and I called David and told him I thought we might be snowed in and he said the roads looked fine from here.  If we could just get down off the mountain he thought the highway would be passable.  It was, but just barely.

As we were white-knuckle crawling our way down the mountain I thought about how when my romantic notions actually come to pass in real life, they are not nearly as romantic as I thought they would be.

My readers in Wisconsin and Michigan and Massachusetts have my apologies.


Post Five:

My Christmas cards are still sitting neatly in their boxes. 

I have threatened several times that they are going to end up in the recycling bin. 

David just nods.

He's been through this before.

And now every time someone else's Christmas card arrives in the mail, a little trickle of ice-cold panic sluices through me.

But still they sit.

I am waiting for inspiration. 

I am waiting for Christmas spirit.

I am waiting to figure out just what it is I learned this year.

The writer in me is still sorting.  Sorting the lessons from the regrets, the gold from the sand, the moving from the mundane.  There is something there, the water just hasn't cleared enough for me to see it yet.

I hope it clears by Christmas.  If not, I have given myself permission to fill the recycling bin.

And David will just nod.  (See Post Two.  I told you.)

This Morning


This morning

I am thankful to be reunited with my kitchenaid

(gorgeous isn't she?)

together we made two pumpkin pies that are cooling on the counter

two deep-dish and stacked-high apple pies that are dripping all over my oven

(let them drip, the juicy darlings...

I'll take care of it on National Clean Out Your Oven Day)

and one chicken pot pie that just went in, because I said as long as we're making pie,

let's make one we can eat today

and she agreed

(brilliant isn't she?)

the new Christmas CD is playing in the stereo,

my house smells like I am a genius with cloves and cinnamon,

(let's face it, I am)

and in a few minutes I will drive to the school where my nine-year-old will put on a play about the First Thanksgiving and I will be filled with wonder at their courage (the pilgrims') and her beauty (my daughter's).

And a few hours after that,

after I have folded wontons and wrapped smokies and dipped pretzels

my darlings will burst through the doors, the anticipation coming off them in waves,

and then David will arrive home and we'll do a little passionate necking right in the middle of the kitchen,

in the middle of all those smells and cooling pies and fruit of our loins,

and I will be thankful, thankful, thankful.

Conversations and Visions From My Bed

I was going to do a quick, effervescent post about my Thanksgiving preparations.  About the 12 cups of shortening chilling in the refrigerator waiting to become pie...(lots of pie, apparently.)  About the scrubbing and the shopping and the aprons I washed and pressed this morning for the occasion, the occasion of one the greatest weeks of the year for domestic goddesses everywhere.  There would have been mention of National Clean Out Your Fridge Day last Thursday and how I didn't clean out mine and how I regretted it yesterday and how it is a terrible thing to live with regret.  And how today I wore my Superman shirt under my apron so the kitchen would know who's boss.

And you would have enjoyed it.

But I have something else entirely coming out.  Don't worry.  You'll probably enjoy it, too.

The talk in our bed lately has been about the coming holidays.  As we're drifting off and slowly waking there is talk about lights and gifts and cards and decorating and budgets.  Last night I was listing the flaws in the current version of the Christmas CD we are giving to our friends and neighbors, the songs that have to go and the songs that just have to be on it regardless of what anyone thinks of us afterwards.  (The integrity of our holiday music mix must be preserved afterall.  We have a reputation to uphold.)  And this morning as I awoke, I told David that I received an email that our Christmas cards had shipped and he said, "Well you know what that means..." and then said the rest of it with his eyebrows, which was all about how I need to get writing and how he was nervous about this but was doing his best to keep it to himself and wasn't I proud of his effort. 

And lately I have been sighing inwardly that this is how it will be (waking and sleeping) for the next thirty days or so, despite my deep need for it to be different this year. 

Every year I think, "Next year will be different."  And every year it isn't.

So far this year has been no exception.  I started having actual nightmares about Christmas Eve in early October.  I have earnestly tried to "do less" and "simplify," thinking that will make it different, but honestly it doesn't fundamentally change the way we prepare and celebrate the holidays.  It just makes me anxious that "less" won't be "enough."  I have also tried to "do it early" but somehow this only seems to prolong the process.  There needs to be a change at the heart of it all.    

Early Monday morning I dreamed that David and I were at a beach house.  He was smiling at me under the sheets, and the sunlight was streaming through the windows setting the white sheets ablaze in light.  His skin was glowing like resurrection morning.  His eyes were pure love beaming up at me.

I woke up breathless, blinded by light and beauty and a feeling of overwhelming contentedness.

This morning under the covers I thought about that dream again.  I thought about how there has to be a better way.  A way full of light and love and contentedness.  I thought about how afterall that was the whole point of the birth we are so madly celebrating.  I thought about how tired I am already and how many lists I've made already and how I want to give up already.  I thought about those blazing sheets and resurrection morning and the love of my life.  And I thought about how to create a space big enough for that, for each one of my darlings.  Big enough that they can each be overwhelmed by love.

When I told David about the dream I said, "That's what I want for Christmas."

He asked, "A beach house?"


Confused, "No?"

"I want that feeling.  All that light and joy and love spilling out of our eyes and our fingertips and our windows and our doors."

He nodded, relieved, I think, that I did not want a beach house.  But I was less relieved.  Because I am good at fighting.  I am good at anxiety.  I am good at grudges and blowing things out of proportion.  (Boy, am I.)  I am good at stress and short answers and rushing through my days for the sake of a list.  I am good at missing the good stuff.

I want light and love and resurrection morning.  I want it all month long. 

Is this too much to ask?  Perhaps.  Especially given my considerable talent for the opposite.  But I'm asking anyway.  I can see why all that white, delicious fruit was so appealing to Lehi.  I am after a basketful of it myself.  I want light and love and resurrection morning dripping from my chin.

Let's eat.

Easter Weekend, Perspectives from Two Photogs


I checked my camera this morning for something to write about.

It was full of pictures I didn't take.

This is one of them.

Apparently David had the presence of mind to capture a few pictures of the kids in their Easter finery, while I was making lemon pie and telling the asparagus how nice it was to see him on my table again. 

Early this morning our house alarm went off, when Ethan went outside to dump the sand out of his shoes.  It was a rude and brutal awakening.  (Ya, that's right.  My kids were up before me.  Add it to my list of shortcomings...which is ironically, not short.)  I sat there stunned and confused, wondering where the weekend went.

Here are a few of the highlights.

Stood in line at the courthouse for the third time to apply for Olivia's passport.  She was beginning to think they would never let her out of the country. 

Returned our overdue library books.  I like to think of myself as a philanthropic donor with all my library fines.

Went to Costco for ham and free samples of key lime cheesecake.  Which we didn't buy, but are still dreaming about.

Colored eggs and fingertips.

Had a Saturday Easter egg hunt that dissolved into a water fight and ended with my nude children skinny dipping in my parent's pool.  (Much to my mother's chagrin.)  Never mind that the water temp was a frigid 56 degrees.

Made two lemon pies and three pitchers of fresh lemonade from lemons off my neighbor's tree.

Helped host a ward pancake breakfast and Easter-egg hunt in the rain.

And mopped up afterwards.

Spent three hours at the mall trying to find new dresses for the girls. 

Only found one, and sent David out for the other one.

He was, of course, victorious.

Let my pride get in the way of being really happy or sincerely grateful about it though.  (Who, me?)

Ate a brunch of fruit and BLT's on a blanket on the lawn.  The sunshine was glorious.

Went to church and worshipped and prayed.

And wished that every Sunday could be just like this one.

Hosted Easter dinner on my fine china and ate every last spear of asparagus. 

Finished with pie and the Amazing Race.

Washed and dried my china by hand.  Almost as delicious as the pie.

Kissed my husband goodnight.

And just like that, we are back to Monday.

Which makes me feel like swearing or crying, but instead I proudly present my photo of the weekend:  Savannah and her Mona Lisa smile.

Me as Daredevil

Today I cleaned my tub,

and erased every last bit of evidence of this:

(After David took this picture on Saturday night he dared me to post it on my blog. 

I raised my eyebrows to say "Are you sure you want to make that dare?" 

But he just smiled and said, "I double dare you." 

I reminded him that we go to church with people who read my blog and this particular moment was clearly more hedonist than god-fearing. 

He just shrugged and doubled the dare again. 

I'm not sure what I get for completing the dare, but I'm sure it's going to be good.)

I sent Olivia into my bathroom on Sunday morning for the curling iron, forgetting the aftermath.  She came out with her hands on her hips and asked, dismayed, "What went on in there last night?"

I played dumb. 

She narrowed her eyes accusingly, "I saw Martinelli's and chocolate-covered strawberries." 

"Um...," I said, wondering how much to share.

And then, just before I said too much, she huffed, "I know you ate them without us."

Guilty as charged. 

Acquiring Canadian Life Skills

We head for home tomorrow.

We pack the snow-covered car today.  I will need to find my gloves.

And the camera, and the doll clothes, and the cell phone charger.  Our lives are spread all over the house.

But first,

a nod to my Canadian friends.

We have spent the last few days playing games (dozens of them), going to movies, eating and laughing with friends and family, reacquainting ourselves with winter sports and ice scrapers, and ringing in the new year.

In addition to this, we have acquired a few Canadian life skills:

travelling by automobile in freezing temperatures,

eating indoors with mittens on,

ice skating with grace and aplomb (or something close to it),

and sledding down ice sheets.

Too many pictures to post properly.

My father-in-law gave me a new video editing program for Christmas.  I am an amateur...can't even figure out how to "fade to black" yet, but here's my first go:  four minutes of the family learning one of our favorite "Canadian life skills."  They were red-cheeked and grinning from start to finish.  Our niece, Rachel, joined us on our adventure.  She was equally red-cheeked and grinning.

(Ethan says we are dancers.)

Oh, and happy new year.

My darlings and I celebrated.

It was a lovely beginning.