Evening Grace

somewhere in the middle of yesterday

At the end of yesterday, at the very end, after I had fed, and read, and testified, and prayed, and coaxed, and washed, and combed, and consoled, and sandwiched, and packed, and taught, and coached, and hurried, and kissed, and reminded, and wiped, and bused, and fieldtripped, and Costcoed, and Targeted, and unloaded, and restocked, and put away, and perspired, and tracked down, and dropped off, and encouraged, and picked up, and tutored, and picked up again, and talked, and listened, and bolstered, and picked up again, and nurtured, and cajoled, and cooked, and fed, and curriculum-nighted, and helped, and edited, and re-edited, and kissed, and prayed, and kissed, and goodnighted, at the very end of all that...Olivia showed up in my dark sewing room and asked me if I had any "cardboard" so she could make a pyramid for her game project that was due tomorrow.

I didn't handle it well.  I was all out of nurture.  And it was only by the grace of God that she made it out of the room alive.  Well, that, and David showed up just in time.

Yesterday was so exhausting--mentally, physically, emotionally--that by the end I could only make animal noises.

David said, "Do you want to talk about it?"

I said yes and did my best.  I started with, "I am a wonder!" at the top of my lungs, but then the rest of it dissolved into gibberish followed by primal hoots and grunts and whoops and deep bellows of frustration.  I finished by saying, "Ay, carumba!"

At which we both dissolved into laughter.

He rubbed my back for a while, and it is not too much to say that it was the best twenty minutes of the whole day.

Have you heard?  Even if you are a wonder, it is still the hardest job in the whole world.  I mean, I was playing a gold medal game yesterday.  You should have seen it:  mothering and homemaking and serving and giving and blessing and nurturing and all with patience and compassion and perseverance and inspiration all day long, but then I lost it in the final minutes of competition.

Ay, carumba.

You can’t possibly do this alone, but you have help. The Master of Heaven and Earth is there to bless you—Yours is the work of salvation, and therefore you will be magnified, compensated, made more than you are and better than you have ever been as you try to make honest effort, however feeble you may sometimes feel that to be.

Remember, remember all the days of your motherhood: “Ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.

-Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Morning Glory

My gaggle just walked out the door after the usual rounds and rounds of "I-love-you's" and "Have-a-good-day's." 

This is how it goes every morning.  They kiss me and then say their litany at least three times each.  It sounds highly orchestrated...two have-a-good-days and then an unexpected pop of I-love-you, and then they turn it around and everyone does a different part.  Maybe this time: I-love-you, have-a-good-day, I-love-you, I-love-you.  It goes like that until I hear the front door close.

From the window I can hear Olivia asking Ethan if he remembered his lunch and Savannah saying "tikki-tikki- ta- taaa" as she practices her piano rhythms out loud for the neighborhood.

Olivia has a test today on integers.  She was in our bed late last night trying to nail it down.   After she left us to ourselves, David and I just looked at each other. 

"She is good at so many things," I said. 

(Just this morning I looked over at her as we read Alma 41 and I was a little bit jealous.  She has the heart everyone should covet.  Her resurrection is going to be spectacular...she will get mercy for mercy, she will get love for love.  No question.) 

And David said, "Yes, but one of those is not math."

"No," I said and grinned. 

Is it wrong that I find this complete lack of math skill and even basic logic delightfully endearing?

The note on her lunch sack today (my version of have-a-good-day-I-love-you) included a picture of her brilliantly solving the most complex of integer equations:  -5-(-7)=2.  Her little stick figure was beaming.  I hope her after-school-self will be as well. 

Yesterday morning as I drove Caleb to the bus I turned on sports radio.  The Boise State game was played on Monday night and it is one of my secret delights to listen to men after they're all hopped up on wins and last minute touchdowns.  I have no idea what they're saying (what is "special teams," what is "an offensive line"), but they sound like boys.  I love listening to people that can't help themselves.

They were talking about the highs and the lows of the weekend.  The panel was listing all sports highs and lows until the last guy said, "The high...my son went off to school.  It was time.  He needed to go.  I dropped him off at college this weekend.  The low...when we said goodbye he gave me knucks.  No hug."

One of the other guys said, "Yeah, that's not going to haunt you."

And everyone laughed and the conversation dissolved into the chances of Michigan's quarterback winning the Heisman.  I sucked in my breath and looked at my son's size 9 shoes.

Caleb's bus arrived.

He kissed me.  He told me I-love-you and have-a-good-day a couple of times.  He shut the door and walked towards the bus.  He turned around twice on his way there to wave at me.  And then he gave one more wave from the bus door. 

Just in case.

Adrift in September

Well, unbelievably we have made it to the first weekend in September.

And it just happens to be a minor holiday weekend.  Thank heavens.  It also happens that it's going to be 112 degrees farenheit for most of it.  Thank hell, I suppose.

I wrote a post on Monday that I ended up removing just because it never really said what I needed it to...if you thought that was bad, here is some more evidence that I am indeed floundering:

 1.  Today I took Ethan to the pediatrician.  (He was suffering from sick-of-school, disguised as a sore throat.)  Ethan's pediatrician used to be my pediatrician and so he always asks about me (how are you?  how are you really?  have you seen the doctor recently?  they have new medicine for that now, etc).

This morning he asked, "How are you?"

"Good."

He tried again.  "How are you?"

I sighed.  "Tired."

He looked over at Ethan.  "Isn't he supposed to be in school?  Aren't they all in school now?"

"Yes."

"Then why are you so tired?  What do you have to do all day?"

That seems to be the million dollar question, doesn't it?

2.  The other day I was shuttling kids around town in my car when I overheard a conversation between Savannah and her friend.  (Technically we were in David's car, but we've traded cars--as you'll see--until the weather cools down.)

Savannah's friend asked why we were driving a different car.

Savannah said, "Our other car gets too hot so my mom and dad traded."

"But doesn't your dad get hot when he drives it?"

"Yeah, but he's nice."

 

The worst part:  it's totally true.

3.  On the first day of September I worked on my budget.  I thought I had pretty much let it lapse all through the summer and wanted to get back on track.  I turned to a new sheet and starting filling in the boxes for the month and then turned back to find out what the ending balance on the last sheet was. 

It said "DECEMBER 2009"

Well.  No wonder.   

4.  This morning I tried to have a serious discussion with David about my floundering, to get to the bottom of it as it were. 

I said, "I'm struggling.  I know you don't want to hear that, but I'm struggling."

"With what?"

I paused, trying to put it succinctly.

He interrupted, "With how awesome you are?"

"Yes,"  I said, irritated, "with how awesome I am.  It is such a struggle to be this awesome."

But he just sucked on my neck and laughed.

A Post With Too Many Asides

first-day-of-school, goodbye kiss

This morning I was encouraging the girls to move faster ("It's 7:27 and I still haven't heard any practicing," "Olivia, if I see you in just your bra one more time..." "Girls, do you know what time it is?"),  when I noticed Savannah's to-do list, hanging on her bulletin board.

It read:

spelling test

P.E. (tena shoes)

water bottel

[an aside: it's clear that those last two things do not bode well for the first thing] 

perseverance

[another aside: is it weird that she can spell "perseverance" but not "bottle"?]

Sigh. 

Last night as I was pulling the Wimmer Truc out from under my broiler and slicing it into sandwiches for dinner, I suddenly started crying.  I was suddenly so tired I couldn't do anything else but cry.  In the minute between the broiler and the table, I hit the wall.

This is officially our thirteenth day back at school.  Not that I'm counting.  And while I am trying my very best (our family theme this year: Be Your Best) to be happy and "enjoy the journey" and all that, I have to admit that I'm already wiped out.  I told David, who looked around the room utterly baffled (his mind whirring to figure out what tragedy happened between the oven and the table), "I've gone as far as I can go."

The trouble is, thirteen days is not very far.

Especially in comparison to the hundred and sixty-seven or so days still to go.

It's not just me either.  Savannah herself has cried her way out the door the last two mornings.  Which is, I imagine, why "perseverance" made it onto her list. 

Which almost makes me feel more sorry for her than I am for myself.  Almost.

[a final aside:  is this the BEST whining you've ever heard?  I thought so.  Be your best...at everything.]

Last night in bed, I asked David, "Do you think I'm going to make it?" 

"Sure."  A smile.

"Are you aware of everything I'm up against?"

Another smile.  He assured me that I have made him fully aware.

"Okay," I sighed, and he gave me a hug.

Perhaps that might have been a better tactic than the "change-your-attitude" speech I gave Savannah this morning.

Rats.

Oh, summer, how I miss you.  It was so much easier to be my best at the beach.

You know?

The Oyster Bed, For Now

It is an oyster, with small shells clinging to its humped back.  Sprawling and uneven, it has the irregularity of something growing.  It looks rather like the house of a big family, pushing out one addition after another to hold its teeming life...It amuses me because it seems so much like my life at the moment, like most women's lives in the middle years of marriage.  It is untidy, spread out in all directions, heavily encrusted with accumulations and...firmly embedded on its rock.

It is a physical battle first of all, for a home, for children, for a place in their particular society.  In the midst of such a life there is not much time to sit facing one another over a breakfast table.

--Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea, pg. 74-75

I have been preparing for today for two weeks.  Nesting, I suppose.  I've been dreaming about it for even longer.  The children are coming home.  There will be time, once again, for staring at each other over the breakfast table.

Oh, joyful day.

During all my preparations, the cleaning and organizing and sewing and refinishing, my mind has been thinking.  Mostly about Lindbergh's oyster bed, the sprawling, heavily encrusted, humped-back oyster shell I live in, and the year I have just survived clinging to my rock.

I thought about it when I cleaned out the drawers and make a stack of all the children's clothes that no longer fit.

I thought about it when I filed the drawings my children had made before they could make letters.

I thought about it when we sorted through the toys they had outgrown and no longer use.

I thought about it when I sanded the finish off the chairs of our first real dining set that we bought before Savannah was born.

I thought about it when I took the teddy bears off the boys' shelves to make room for the certificates and plaques and baseball trophies.

And I thought about it when I folded up the winter quilts and put out fresh summer pillows on the couch.

The world has gone around its axis one more time.  

And I am feeling dizzy. 

Grateful, but also reeling, I watched my children walk out the door this morning and I'll admit I was a little melancholy.  Too much pondering, perhaps.  I told David that I needed to talk, but he had to go--to provide, to secure our place on the rock.

My children are coming home today.  They are coming home for the summer.  And they will come home for a few more summers after this one, maybe a dozen, if I'm lucky.  But I can see that one day they won't, that my summers staring at them across the breakfast table are limited and precious.  This year amid the spelling tests and math facts and tricky letter "e," I taught my oldest daughter how to shave her armpits and my nearly teenage son learned how to talk to girls.

I can feel the earth turning under my feet.

Three days ago I went to the bookstore and spent all of my birthday gift cards and some of my grocery money on books for my children's summer reading.  It was a sizable stack and when I got to the counter the woman said, "Wow.  Are you a teacher?"

I said, "No, I am a mother."

She looked up at me, surprised.

"I am a mother."

And I said it all the way to the car.  I am a mother.  I am a mother.  I am a mother.  And my time has come. 

I'm in the oyster bed, for now.  Lovely, crazy, wild, busy, teeming, untidy, exhausting, perfect oyster bed.  And we have made it, again, to summer, when the sprawling, spreading life stops for a few glorious months and it's just us.  Just us--across the breakfast table, across the game board, across the country.  With all the time in the world.

At least, that is what I am telling myself this morning.

Henry James Was Right

Because some of you asked about it...here's where we are:

I could not be more delighted.

The very best time of year is just days away. 

Last night we got a headstart.  I took the kids swimming and then they read books while I made a simple dinner.  It was nearly eight when we sat down to eat.  I was so happy standing there in my kitchen looking at my wet-haired, rosy children. 

I am very good at summertime mothering.

Even my children can tell.  Last night Savannah must have kissed me ten times before she went to bed.  She couldn't help herself.  I think I have been away far too long.

"Summer afternoon, summer afternoon...the two most beautiful words in the English language." 

--Henry James 

What Meaneth These Stones?

"Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For the Lord your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over:  That the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord that it is mighty."

Read More

For Love

By now, you've probably made it to the fifth stage of grief...and accepted the idea that there might never be another post on this blog again.

It has been a long couple of months. 

I have been so far underwater that I had to give a few things up.  Among these were blogging, homemaking, and being happy.  Do you know how much time and energy these things take?  For a few days I even gave up breathing and thinking and being likable.  All of them much too difficult given the pressure I have been under.

[Olivia gave me a card for my birthday a few weeks ago.  In an attempt to be encouraging, it said, "April Showers Bring May Flowers" and she had made little pop-ups.  My pop-up had my face in a thunder cloud complete with rain and lightning and all my children were little pop-up flowers.  She gave me an admonishing hug to go with it.  There have been days when I nearly die of shame seeing it.]

Anyway, the sun is finally coming out.  Thank heavens for that.

I talked to Barb on the phone on Sunday night.

She mentioned how I was clear down on her blog roll just above the private bloggers.  I sighed and changed the subject.  Because, as some of you know, I have a serious crush on Barb and it nearly killed me to know I had disappointed her.  (Gosh, I hope that was disappointment in her voice and not relief.)  The next day I nearly wrote a post because, like I said, this is a serious crush.  But even love could not overcome my debilitating list of obligations and a few more days passed.

Last night I went to the ballpark where two of my children were playing simultaneous games on different fields.  It was exactly like my current life, moving from field to field, catching glimpses of my children's lives as I try to be in three places as once.  And let me tell you, I'm not as good at that as you might think.

But eventually, Ethan's game ended and I sat on the bench with the rest of my family watching the end of Olivia's game.  Near the end of the game, David left to get Chinese food and Caleb nonchalantly got up from the bench and walked over to the fence.  There was a girl a few feet away talking to her friend, and now and then he would glance over at her and then turn and intently watch the game.

I was stunned.

This is one of those moments, I told myself.  A moment where all the moments after this one will be different.

He edged a bit closer but the game was nearly over, and I could see both his hesitation and his bravery in the hands he had shoved in his pockets.

And then, there was a serendipitous fly ball.  Everyone yelled, "Heads up!"  The ball landed behind them and it was enough for Caleb to catch her eye and start a conversation.

Last night in bed, David plied me for more details, "What did he say?"

"I don't know."

"What did they talk about?"

"I don't know."

He was frustrated by my lack of eavesdropping skills.

I told him, "Don't you see?  It's not what he said to her.  It's the thought of going to talk to her at all.  Can't you see what's happening?  He's leaving.  He's going to find a wife and build a house and a life and a covenant with her."  I tried to explain it--this quiet, roaring moment, this thing that had happened, that looked small but was actually as big as eternity, this leaving our bench to go to talk to a girl, even though he was unsure and nervous.

I was awed to find that this did not make me sad.  Not one little bit.  I felt happy and proud and amazed and reverent.  I felt like telling heaven to look, to look down and see the miracles in my life, to see the wonder of its creation.  I felt like I had swallowed the whole depth and breadth of eternity between the pitching counts of one batter at a little league softball game.  I felt like Rebekah

David had gone with Caleb that very afternoon to his sixth-grade maturation program at school and so he could only say, "I know." 

And then he kissed me.

And now, because you've been so good and patient, a small, subtle picture story about the beginning of the end.  I am only glad I was there to witness it myself.

 

The Post Script to Two Weeks of Insanity

I know I am prone to exaggeration. 

I know I am prone to melodrama.

(I keep telling David that it adds to my charm.)

But it is not too much to say that I have been drowning.  To busy trying to stay afloat to even write a distressed SOS.  The waters are just now finally starting to recede, leaving me exhausted and mildewed.

It all started when I thought it was a good idea to take a class on writing and force a few deadlines on myself.

Which would have been fine, if it weren't that I forgot that the last time I took a class I did not have four children and two church callings and one large, full-time job feeding, clothing, and cleaning a family. 

Which still might have been fine, if I hadn't forgotten that I also do volunteer work on a committee to raise funds for cancer services and our big event is just a couple of months away, and my sister and I also spend much of our free time travelling and teaching a class on body image.

Which still had a microscopic chance of being fine, it I hadn't also said "yes" to various other people and commitments, which didn't seem hard at the time they asked, but impossible by the time it was time to deliver.

And so it has not been so fine.

(At one point amid the hosting of a dinner/dance for a hundred people to celebrate the latest minor-holiday and helping Caleb sift through 80 pictures of growing petri dishes for his science project and trying to finish my round robin late again, I told David that I was having fantasies about getting cancer so that the only thing on my to-do list was "go to chemo."  He made me take that back.)

Yesterday my family ate cereal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and I took a two-hour nap in the afternoon. 

I had gone as far as I could go.

This morning Caleb asked in a hopeless voice if we were having cereal again for breakfast. 

I said yes. 

And then I turned to David and whispered that I am failing.  He just smiled at me and nodded.  He loves me anyway, I suppose.

Now for a story.  About the best part of the last two weeks.

A couple of weeks ago I had to turn in a manuscript, either a short story or a chapter, for my writing class to review.  We workshop the piece, which means you make a copy for everyone in the class and they go home and read it over the weekend and make all kinds of marks and suggestions and comments on it and then on the following Tuesday we talk about the piece.

After I turned it in, David said that if I could let eighteen strangers read it, I could surely let him.

So I did.

When he got done with it he only made one comment.  And it was, apparently, not the right one.

David took me to In and Out where I cried into my milkshake and asked him hundred times what I was thinking and what I was doing with my life and what was I going to do now and what was the worst part, the writing or the story or both. 

Because, let's be honest, if there's one thing I really excel at, it is self-doubt.

(I keep telling David that it adds to my charm.)

When my blood sugar and my emotions were more stable he drove me home.

By Tuesday morning I had given up the dream.  Determined to be content reading and enjoying the writing of other people, to drop the class and get back to my laundry.  I decided to let it die or kill it off myself, and then I considered the funeral arrangements.  (Adele would sing, I would say a few words, the kids could do a reading of Steinbeck or Tolstoy to put everything in perspective and remind us that we weren't losing much, bagpipes at the end, etc.)

But my professor resurrected it with three little words and one punctuation choice written at the bottom of my manuscript:  "April, absolutely brilliant!"

Note the exclamation point.  You can bet I did. 

I could not be unhappy the entire day.

When David got home from work I still had the smile on my face.  We did a little celebratory dance in the kitchen.  And David told me how frustrating it is to be my husband but smiled at me the whole time he was saying it and I did nothing but grin back at him. 

Because of course I know that.  I live with me too. 

Why I Keep British Columbia in a Jar

There are weeks where I side with Adam.

There are weeks full of briers and noxious weeds, where I spend the entire week wistfully looking over the fence at Eden and questioning Eve's judgement.

(What was she thinking?)

Two days ago David came home from work and when we hugged he quietly whispered into my neck, "When is it going to be a good day?"

It has been a long and trying week, full of to-do lists and have-to-go-tos.  A week full of the usual stresses decorated with serious complications.  A week of verbs, as I call it, with very few happy adjectives to smooth out the rough spots.

This morning as I was running out the door to drive Caleb's bacteria route (like a paper route with less pay and more risk), David met me in the hall. 

"I miss you."

"I miss you too."

"Let's go away."

"No.  Let's run away."

"Mom, we need to go."

"Don't worry.  It's the weekend."

"I'm leaving town this weekend."

"Oh.  I forgot."

"Mom!"

"Tonight, then.  I'll see you tonight."

"Tonight."

A quick peck.

It has been five days of quick pecks.  Our lips jabbing at each other as we go in and out of the doors, a little violence in lieu of affection.

Today I almost made a paper chain to count down the days until summer.  (Can we make it that far?)

But I have a sore throat and a headache and I haven't been kissed properly in over a week, and the thought of all that cutting and pasting nearly did me in.  I'm in no condition to count that high. 

I think I will make summer come to me instead.

Tonight we will eat grilled chicken sandwiches and pasta salad and wear sunscreen and swimsuits under our clothes.  We will stay up late and not look at the calendar once and not set the alarm for tomorrow and pretend

pretend

pretend

that we have nothing to do but be together

that we have no where to go but the beach

that our only concern is the sand transfer from the wet suits to the hot tub

that pecking is for birds and beginning typing students and has nothing to do with kissing

that summer lasts forever

and 

that Adam could talk Eve into anything.