True Blue Through and Through

Well, we lost.

We cheered. We rose and shouted. We wore black to match the boys' jerseys.

But we lost anyway.

The truth is though, it didn't really matter to any of us except Ethan and David.

Mostly we were just thrilled to be in that beautiful stadium in the mountains, surrounded by crisp air and fond memories. There is no place I'd rather spend a Saturday afternoon in October.

The fall weather was perfect. Just cold enough to pink our cheeks and warrant sweatshirts and lap quilts, though it must be noted that many of the Utahns around us were in short sleeves. We, however, wore our gloves and regretted not bringing a beanie for Ethan's ears.

The Cougars scored three touchdowns and a field goal and we went hoarse yelling our praise.

My favorite parts: 60,000 heads bowed in prayer at the start of the game, hearing my children lustily sing the BYU fight song, looking at David's handsome profile framed by the mountains, and the cheering--the roars and groans--that echo off the ancient Rockies. Those giant hills are on our side.

After the game we went bowling, browsed through Blickenstaffs, and ate dinner around a round table with flavored lemonades, where Ethan and David commiserated over a few freak plays in the fourth quarter that turned the game in the Beavers' favor.

Savannah asked why they call it "homecoming." Someday she will understand. For me, it truly is coming home. Back to the beginning. Back to the start. These mountains are the cradle of my adult life, and will always be home.

Rude Awakening

Well, we're seven days in (who's counting? Me! Me! Me!) and it's been a rough go.

Check that clock. Brutal. Especially after two and half months (who's counting? Me! Me! Me!) of eleven o'clock bedtimes and sleeping til eight. We are certainly paying the price of our hedonistic lifestyle. You can keep you're "I-told-you-so's" to yourself.

But it's not only early morning seminary cleaning our clocks (pun totally intended), it's the loss of freedom altogether that hurts the worst. Our afternoon movie marathons have been replaced by a strict routine of homework and practicing and getting dinner on the table on time so that we can have prayers and scriptures on time so that the kids can get to bed on time so that we can wake up on time and do the whole thing over again, on time. I am at the mercy of a cruel, coldhearted tyrant...the blasted clock. And in case I wasn't clear, he has no mercy.

David is fairing no better. The most stressful week of his year happened to fall on this same exact week. There are no coincidences. Our whole boat is drowning. And it's shark week.

As for me, I vascillate between giving myself encouraging pep talks and giving in to my sorrowful, angry, pity-party. This morning I was on the treadmill at the gym, when the Killers single, "Boots", shuffled its way into my headphones. (You should know this is a Christmas single.) I nearly started sobbing right there amid all those motivated, masochistic people at the tender thought of our Christmas holiday so many months away. I have no shame.

Because as I count it, my losses are great. Summer is gone and only the heat has remained. My lovelies are gone, leaving only my brain and the Kardashians to keep me company. Poor company indeed.

I hate to even mention the few perks of this new situation, given the glorious rant I've been having. But, grudgingly, there are a few:

1. The Fashion. There is no end to the entertainment daily dressing provides, particularly if Olivia lives at your house. She's only been in school three days and we've already seen woollen berets, slouchy cowboy boots, and what she calls the "must-have-jacket." Regardless of the weather. Regardless of the heat. Regardless of the real reason I send her out the door each day. Plus, as a bonus, each morning there is an indepth discussion about what hairdo goes with whatever she's wearing. Straighten, curl, wear it up, wear it down? Today it was a side-pony because she admitted she was wearing something "a bit more casual."

2. The Gossip. There is no better place to be than around my dinner table at the end of the school day. There will be stories. There will be intrigue. There will be romance. (Oh, yes, most certainly.) There will be tears. (Oh, the sorrows a new school schedule with the wrong lunch hour can cause.) There will be laughter. (Who knew junior high could be so funny?) Forget about the Olympics. The greatest human drama out there unfolds at my little round table every night. I should sell tickets.

3. The Car Ride Home. The car door shuts and the words can't come out fast enough. Did you know this, Mom? Did you know this? And all the way home, my car fills up with chemistry labs and latin conjugations and discussions about Homer and his Odyssey and Mozart and his gift and Columbus and his new continent; everything they learned that day about annotating and multiplying and oxidizing and mapping and classifying and analyzing. It's more than a little thrilling to be an eye-witness to all that wonder. One day after school I had to take Savannah to the ENT. The waiting room was full of senior citizens filling out their paperwork. Savannah was telling me about her day, going a million words a minute--loud and in careful detail--and still talking when they called us back twenty minutes later. Every one in the room was smiling at me. She had entertained the whole place. And they all just grinned as we walked past. Because that was delightful, their eyes said. Because these are good years even if they are busy, their eyes said. Because you are so lucky, their eyes also said.

4. The Prayers. Desperation breeds fervency. I am nothing but humbled and amazed by the things that come out of my childrens' mouths as they send their petitions heavenward. I was nearly undone by the one this morning as Caleb bowed his head over his breakfast. I would get up early just for the prayers.

5. The Weekend. Yesterday I told my mom that the days go so fast (never enough time) and the weeks are so long (will Friday every come?). I've never been so appreciative of the hours between Friday night and Monday morning. For a little calm, a little quiet, a little slow. On Saturday morning we will go out for our annual back-to-school brunch, were we will celebrate the highs and lows. I have mine ready. My low: This is only the beginning. My high: It is Saturday morning and we have nowhere else to be.


Last night I didn't want to go to bed.  It was the last day of summer and I hated to see it go.

So I had a fight with David.  To stall, see?

I was actually mad at the universe, but David was closer, so I worked out a way to blame it all on him.  Which sounds hard, but I made it look easy.

I set the alarm before bed, but I didn't need it.  I woke early and lay there listening to my quiet house, reveling in the thought of my children softly snoring and breathing in the last deep breaths of summer air.  I lay there keeping watch as the last precious grains of sand in our summer hourglass ran out.

All night long, my heart and mind knew morning was coming, ticking off the hours one heartbeat at a time, as the inexorable rotation of the earth brought me around to face the sun and the calendar again.  I feel like my very life is as round as that orbit.  Circling around and around, from school to summer and back again.

And here I am again.

My brother asked me this morning if I cried.

No, I did not.  Because this morning as I said my prayers, the word "inexorable" came to mind. Vocabulary as revelation...what could be better?  No amount of crying or pleading can change my fate.  Put a smile on.  And so I prayed for strength instead, and then went to make blueberry pancakes.

And then this.

When I dropped the kids off at school, at the beginning of already another school year, all the teachers were standing outside wearing shirts that said:

Let's eat, Grandma!
Let's eat Grandma!

And when they turned around, the back of their shirts said:

Punctuation saves lives.

Hilarious.  I laughed out loud and then grinned all the way home.  Which assuaged my loss some and made me remember how much I loved going to school myself.  Which in turn reminded me to be happy.  For them.  For the stories they will bring home to my dinner table.  For all that they are learning and storing away in their brilliant little minds.  Put a smile on.  And it is not to much to say that it felt like heaven had arranged the whole thing just for me.  Vocabulary and punctuation as answer to prayer.  Perfect. 

And now I feel so good there is even a chance that David may get a kiss and a hug after work rather than the dirty look I had saved up for him.

Which would be a tender mercy indeed.

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 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.

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] 


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


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 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.


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

You know?

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. 


David met me for lunch after class yesterday and took my "first day of school" picture.

Just before dark last night Savannah and I went to the store to buy a chicken for dinner.

Our world was uncharacteristically wet and dripping and Savannah said that it looked like London with all the car and street lights reflected in the puddles.

About six o'clock I put that chicken in a pie and put it in the oven, and my own Elizabeth Bennett walked in the door after a long stroll in the rain, her hem six inches deep in mud, her cheeks flushed, and her face alight.

I cleaned up the dinner prep and laid down for a minute as the pie baked, and thought about my day.

It was the first day of school for me in a very long time.

I sat in a small, undecorated classroom, with seventeen other students.  The boy on my left had a mouth so full of retainers he could hardly talk.  When he tried to he gently sprayed our table with spit which, rather than disgusting me, charmed me completely and made me want to bring him some of the pie I had just made in case he was living on ramen and popcorn.  The boy on my right had both ears so full of piercings he could hardly hear.  I wondered if he took them out every night and if his head felt ten pounds lighter when he did, and if he lined them all up on the dresser for the next day's battle, or if he wore his armor to bed.

There was a girl in the front row of the class who raised her hand high when the professor asked who in the room was writing a novel.  A few others raised their hands half-way, like they were ashamed to admit it.  I kept my hand down but it kind of jumped a bit in my lap like it had been startled, but I tamped it down tight and held onto my pride and my fear at the same time.

The professor explained that our class will be a workshop class and that means I will not only read the work of the boy in retainers next to me, but I will tell him what I think of it.  And he will do the same for me.  I hope he thinks my writing is as charming as I think his spit is.

So last night with dinner in the oven, my husband on his way, half of my children nursing colds and the other half nursing healthy love affairs with rarely-seen rain, I lay on my bed and thought about the other people in my class:  the boy in the tweed jacket who thinks he can smell academic snobbery even when it isn't there; the girl with wheat colored hair who went up afterwards and asked quietly, with her eyes on the floor what a workshop is; and the rail-thin girl who sat behind me and took notes fast and furiously while the professor read fiction to us.  Everyone around her kept glancing over at her nervously wondering if they should be taking notes too. 

And how in not too many weeks, all of these people will see me naked.

And how while I love being naked as much as the next person, (okay maybe more than the next person), I'm not sure I can strip to my heart and soul in front of these eighteen people.

It is not Creative Writing 170.

It is Exhibitionism 101.

And then I could only think that it is a very good thing I look so great naked.