A Ton of Bricks

(First a word to Claude:  This post contains secret birthday stuff, so you'll have to hide it from Mom 'til Wednesday.)

My gorgeous mother-in-law's birthday is on Wednesday, and so I had all the kids write her a birthday wish this morning before they left for school.

(Let's just ignore the fact that I'm late, late, late in getting this done and am going to have to overnight these little birthday wishes, plus the girls are still wanting to make a "doll fashion spread" and send it along with their cards.  I'm not sure what that entails, but they were busy with the camera and accessories all yesterday afternoon.  I know, for instance, that there's a page about "What to wear when you have nothing to wear" that involves a shower cap and some terry cloth.)

But I digress.

So I gathered all the cards up and we hurried our way through pancakes and hair do's and sorting the Monday laundry and finding the scarves (!!) (It's supposed to be 80-something today...scarf weather for sure.  Heaven help us.) and shuttling them off to their bus stops with kisses and well wishes.

And then I sneaked a peek at their birthday wishes.  I couldn't help it.

There were lots of "so, so, so muches" from the girls and a delicious picture from Ethan involving a birthday hat.

And from Caleb there was this:

"The thing that I like about you so much is your laughter.  We could use some in the house right now.  We're all worried about school..."

And that hit me like a ton of bricks.  Which feels a lot like heartache by the way.

Oh my boy.

Sometimes I just forget about childhood.  

And so I've changed my plans for the week.  This week I have only one thing to do.  Laugh.  A lot. 

And make sure my kids do their fair share of it as well.

I guess we could use some in the house right now.

Word of the Week: Doughtily

doughtily  /adv./  courageously and resolutely; steadfastly.  valiantly.  bravely and heroically.  stoutheartedly.  boldly.  intrepidly.  pluckily.

doughtily  /adv./  1.  This week's word almost seems unlikely to live up to its definition.  You don't expect a word with the beginnings of "doubt" to end up brave and bold and valiant.  Against the odds, as it were.  Perhaps this is why I like it.  The dark horse of courageous and plucky adverbs.  I spent too much of the week crying (clearly), but I am doughtily persevering and mothering and wife-ing all in the ugly face of the fallen world and the dangers it holds for me and the ones I love.

doughtily  /adv./  2.  I have been touched and sobered this week by the story of Nie Nie and her Mr. Nielson and all those who are doughtily rushing to their aid.  Though I do not know them personally, I have spent most of my mornings this week sobbing in the shower for the way their lives have been so changed, and praying doughtily for their care.  I have observed and admired their family doughtily doing whatever needs doing, and watched the blogging world doughtily rallying to do what they can (each in their own way) to raise funds for this family.  And because of their tender story, I've also vowed (again and once-and-for-all) to love the life I've been given, hold my darlings tighter and my grudges less, and to find joy in the simple yet extraordinary miracle of everyday life.

doughtily  /adv./  3.  We doughtily made our way through the third week of school this week, especially courageous since the adrenalin of the new school year has worn off and the exhaustion of routine and scheduling has finally caught up with me.  I went to curriculum night for the youngest three on two different nights, and took home armfuls of rules and calendars and unit plans and report card templates and expectations, and the stomach ache I haven't felt since May returned with a vengeance.  When Ethan's preschool teacher told us that she was going to divide the kids into two reading groups according to the level they were at, I thought I'd had quite enough and seriously considered pulling him out in defense of his childhood.

doughtily  /adv./  4.  I met my very good friend, Merri, for breakfast at the Farmhouse on Wednesday morning and enjoyed one of the best hours of my week over an omelet and orange juice.  We doughtily made a secret pact that has already blessed my life (though I haven't kept it perfectly, I'll admit that straight out)...and we have plans to meet for breakfast in a month to make another one.  We tried to take a self-portrait afterwards (to mark the occasion) but there was no memory card in my camera, which is too bad since we both looked darling.

doughtily  /adv./  5.  I told David that if I was going to continue to doughtily mother our gorgeous children through this school year, I was going to need more alone time with him.  This keeps me going better than anything else.  So we met for lunch on Friday which was delightful (even though most of the conversation was political) and then we went out on a real live date on Saturday night...a stop by the Mac counter and then to a movie.  David said the movie (a foreign film, French with English subtitles) had too much nudity, violence and swearing for me to be able to recommend it to anyone, but I did really love it.  So don't go see it, even though it was quite fabulous.

Summer Conga Line

Okay, this is just for me. 

So that when they're fifteen and want nothing to do with their brothers and sisters or singing and dancing in public, I can remember when they did.

I love summer.  And childhood.

Heaven, Hell, and the Wilderness

Dear David,

I tried to find a card.  Impossible.

By the time I think of it, the card isles are jammed.  You have to stand on tiptoes and read over the shoulders of complete strangers who are willing to throw an elbow to get what they want.  And for what?  Some insipid sentiments written by somebody who doesn't know what we've been through together, who doesn't know the whole story, who can only guess at how we really feel. 

Do you remember Valentine's Day 2000?  I know you do, if only because I rehearse it every Valentine's Day.  But, I find that I have to talk about it, because it is the evidence of my love, my insides outside.

It was a Monday.  You had left me the night before at my parents' house to head back to San Diego for work.  I was sick.  So past sick.  It felt like if I didn't hold tight to life I might just float away.  I was pregnant with Savannah and my body was not happy about it.  I had been prescribed a new medicine and didn't find out until evening that I was allergic to it.  I could not control my jaw or my tongue.  They called it a distonic reaction.  The top half of my face wanted to face the opposite way of the bottom half of my face.  I could not control my own muscles.  My mom desperately drove me around town trying to get me some help.  Everywhere we went people just stared.  We even ended up at an herbalist, and if you know my mom you know how desperate she must have been by then.  Unfortunately, this only made me throw up black and green.

When it started to get hard to breathe she took me to the emergency room.  When my brother arrived to give me a blessing he said, shocked, "What's wrong with her?"  And the nurse quietly asked, "Is she usually normal?" (Clearly not.)  Eventually they got me the Benedryl I needed and I gratefully went back to just throwing everything up.

And this was only one day in our story.  One day of the many difficult ones.  One day of the many joyous ones.  Can you see how much I love you?  I hope you know it has all been for you.  For us. 

When we got married, I had high hopes for a perfect life.  "Welcome to heaven," and all that.  But as you know, it has mostly been a difficult stint in the wilderness, and even at times, brief moments in hell.  I didn't know.  I didn't know all that we were saying "yes" to.  I am so glad it is your hand I am holding in this lone and dreary world.  I would have quit just outside of Eden if you weren't there loving me despite, encouraging me even though, cherishing me inspite of, staying regardless of, and fiercely loyal anyway.

I love you.  In heaven, in hell, and especially in the wilderness.

Love, Ap

Is This Thing On?

I was reminded last night of that old song Mr. Rogers used to sing, "There Are Many Ways to Say I Love You."  Most of the time I don't think my family has any idea what I'm trying to say, but for the record, what I'm trying to say is "I love you.  Desperately.  Truly.  As deep as I go."

Yesterday was Super Tuesday.  I even heard some commentators refer to it as "Super Duper Tuesday" which made me giggle.  This was a big deal for David.  So here is the baking way to say "I love you.  Madly."

IMG_0701.jpg IMG_0702.jpg 

I hope he heard me.  (Especially since the Grand Old Party certainly didn't.)

And here is the great literaturing way to say "I love you.  Wildly."


Olivia is deep in the Little House series.  She recently mentioned with a sigh, "I wish my name was Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Isn't that such a great name?  It's soooo romantic.  Laura. Ingalls. Wilder.  Ohhh."  Anyway, she had finished the Big Woods book and needed Little House on the Prairie, but the school library only had By the Shores of Silver Lake.  Being in love and undeterred, she started reading it anyway, not caring that it was out-of-order.  Then she said, "Who's Grace?"  Well, this will never do.  I didn't want her to miss the whole experience.  On Monday after I dropped her at ballet, I ran to a used bookstore and found a copy of the book she needed.  I left it on her bed.  She was almost delirious with delight.  I received a rib-cracking hug and an "Oh, Mom.  I love you."

I love you too.  Did you hear that?

Odds and Ends


Odds are that this political contest will be completely decided before I even get a chance to vote in the primaries.  I think it's odd that I can be so discouraged about the political process (and outcome) 9 months out from the election.  I love living in a democracy, but it's hard to love it this week...when it seems like most of the decision is made before I even get to raise my own little voice.


I think it's odd how much time I spend thinking about SPT each week.  (I saw one of Lelly's old SPT's where she challenged everyone to come up with their own words for the SPT acronym...mine would have to be "She Ponders Tediously.")  This week was no different.  I finally concluded that I had already wasted more than my 25th hour deciding what to SPT about and that I would actually have extra time in my day if I wasn't blogging at all.  This was a horrible thought and so I gave it up altogether this week.  Sorry Lelly.  It is odd that I make things harder than they need to be, but that seems to be my signature move.  Just ask my husband.

Today I reluctantly went and registered my baby up for "early learners" (a program our school district has for kids with Sept-Dec birthdays).  And it seems just that...EARLY.  Early to register, early to have him leaving my house, early to have the house to myself for a few hours every day.  He cried the whole way there.  It was not until I told him he would be able to wear a backpack that he consented to get out of the car.   I honestly wouldn't send him at all except that I think of all my kids, he is the least prepared for kindergarten and the most attached to home.  Later, when we were running errands, he quietly asked, "Who's going to stay with you?"  It took me a minute to figure out that he was referring to when he went to school.  Odd that I would go misty over that thought.


Odd that instead of fighting bacteria I am currently encouraging the growth of several bacterial colonies, all in the name of science.  Caleb has started his science fair project in earnest and we are feeding and incubating all kinds of disgusting life forms.  The other day Caleb asked me if he should not wash his hands at all throughout the day in order to get a better sample.  I thought it was very odd that I hesitated before answering.  But then I remembered Marie Curie.  There is only so much I think my 4th grader should risk for science. 


And Ends:

I can hardly believe that it's almost the end of January, and I've made very little (okay, zero) progress on my ambition to do a bit of writing this year.  This makes me think it is very likely that this year will end much the way the last one did, with regret.  The real trouble is that my work as a wife and mother, not to mention my church responsibilities, are never at an end and so...the real problem is that firefighting is not really conducive to writing.  

On Monday night we closed our Family Home Evening by singing "We Thank Thee, O God, For a Prophet."  It was hard to sing past the lump in my throat.  My heart was just thumping away feeling the testimony of those words, revelling in my darlings singing their little hearts out, and knowing that President Hinckley had left us.  The end of an era, as it were, and it was quite a reverent, thick moment in our house.

Logging Lots of Miles But Making No Progress

Today was just gorgeous here.  I watched the national news and they talked all about the absolute freezing temperatures across the country.  Just brutal.  But it was beautiful and sunny here in our world.

David took half the day off and we went on a 16-mile bike ride over into another city suburb, and spent a couple of hours at a park.  It was heaven.  My kids pedalled their little legs off and my tailbone is still sore, but we were all proud of our long ride.

But now I'm back in the bowels of hell and trying hard to remember to embrace the entropy because the panic is starting to rise inside me.

My laundry has not been started and my washing machine isn't working, (of course!) my house is filthy, and I have New Beginnings on Wednesday night.  It's hard to know where to start...can I ignore it all until Thursday morning?  I'm going to need some dark glasses and some air freshener.

While we were out at the park David reminded me that he proposed on Martin Luther King Day, 13 years ago...(He was very against proposing on a major holiday so, in an effort to nudge him along, Kelly and Amy made him a list of all the minor holidays from the end of December until the end of March.  He chose this one over Groundhog Day and the U.K. Banking Holiday.  I still have their note.)   I congratulated him on the anniversary of the day he made the best decision of his life.


We hiked up to Delicate Arch (our place) and David proposed under it...it looked remarkably like this picture with snow on the mountains behind it... 

Life has not turned out the way I thought it would.  I don't even have the ring he gave me that day any more.  (It was stolen when our house was broken into a couple of years ago.)  But given the choice, I would say "yes" again, a thousand times over.  (I'm not sure he would ask again, even on a minor holiday, but nevertheless...)  We've logged a lot of miles together since that day, and sometimes I'm not sure we are really making any progress, but there is no one I'd rather be riding with. 

I Am Anna Arkadeyevna

I finished Anna Karenina last night.  *Deep breath.*  And I was astounded by many things.  (You can check recommended reading for my full review.)  But the one which has me quite disconcerted is this:  I am Anna Arkadeyevna. 

Yes, really.

Our similarities are so striking, it's a little scary.  What do we know about Anna?

  • She is unbelievably gorgeous.
  • Men fall in love with her after one meeting.

Check.  check.

  • She lives in Russia.
  • She committed adultery and feels absolutely no remorse.

Okay, maybe we're not exactly alike.  (Thank heavens.)

But here's the rub...her CIM and my CIM have the exact same script!  I kept thinking, "She's crazy.  She's crazy.  She's just got to stop thinking!"  As I was telling David all about her and how she ends up in the way she does, he was grinning from ear to ear.  Because he knows as well as I do, that I'm as crazy as she is.

"She did not want strife, she blamed him for wanting to quarrel, but unconsciously put herself into an attitude of antagonism."

"She was glad of this appeal for tenderness.  But some strange force of evil would not let her give herself up to her feelings, as though the rules of warfare would not permit her to surrender."

"For an instant she had a clear vision of what she was doing, and was horrified at how she had fallen away from her resolution.  But even though she knew it was her own ruin, she could not restrain herself, could not keep herself from proving to him that he was wrong, could not give way to him."

"She felt like a fight."  (This line alone!)

"And remembering all the cruel words he had said, Anna supplied, too, the words he had unmistakably wished to say and could have said to her, and she grew more and more exasperated....All the most cruel words that a brutal man could say, he said to her in her imagination, and she could not forgive him for them, as though he had actually said them."  (Ha!  Seriously, how did Tolstoy know?)

Some of you, those who don't know me well, are by now shocked and horrified.  Those of you that know me well are simply nodding your heads, empathetically wondering how David has managed to hold me together all these years.  Occasionally I read a book that changes my behavior.  Angle of Repose was like that for me.  I hope Anna Karenina will be the same way.  That I will remember Anna when my resolution to embrace wavers.   Stop thinking, be quiet, and embrace. 

Word of the Week: Charily

charily  /adv./  gingerly,  carefully.  warily.  guardedly.  cautiously.  also sparingly or frugally.   

charily  /adv./  1.  Olivia charily faced her first detention this week with fear and trepidation.  Upon arriving home she reported that she was the only one (of three) that showed up for the detention.  The other parents called and "threatened the teacher" (her words, not mine)  and got their children excused.   She was a bit disgruntled that her parents had not come to her aid, but I charily explained why I thought it was important she take responsibility for her actions...and she reported that she felt good about this too.  All's well that end's well.  And there was no poisoning or hitting, always a plus.

charily  /adv./  2.  I began reading Anna Karenina after Christmas vacation.  I admit I started the book charily, a bit daunted by its size and my recollection of the complexity of War and Peace, in combination with my limited reading schedule.  But I find myself absolutely hooked, and quite unable to concentrate on my "to do lists."  Last night I even dreamt about Kitty and Levin.  My guarded admiration has turned into a full-blown crush.   


 I am most stunned by Tolstoy's remarkable insights into life, that apply to me as easily here in the 21st century as they did to the people who first read his book.  I offer this pearl as evidence:  "...the children themselves were even now repaying her in small joys for her sufferings.  Those joys were so small that they passed unnoticed, like gold in sand, and at bad moments she could see nothing but the pain, nothing but sand;  but there were good moments too when she saw nothing but joy, nothing but gold."   (page 245 in my translation)

charily  /adv./  3.  We had a surprise visit from an old friend and her children this week.  I met Alexis at a back-to-school picnic/social when we were first starting grad school in Minnesota, over a decade ago.  It was one of those moments where the kinship was immediate...both of us far away from home, charily starting "real life," trying to support our brand-new husbands through their master's programs.  We haven't seen eachother since Olivia was a baby, but it felt like no time had passed at all.  All of our kids made fast friends, had an impromptu sleepover, and wept at goodbye.


This is a very old photo...she has five kids now, but it's one which I still have up in my house because I love it so much.  Our husbands look remarkably alike...their professors used to get them mixed up all the time.

charily  /adv./  4.   I chose "embrace" for my word of the year.  And the universe laughed.  This has been a most difficult week for "embracing" and today I was reminded of the scripture that says "there is a time to refrain from embracing," which only increased my discomfort with my word.   Already knee-deep in guilt and regret and "buts," I have decided to stop charily analyzing every situation where I might "get hurt" and try an "embrace experiment."  Do you remember that Seinfield episode where George decides to do the opposite of his natural instinct?  This is my idea with the embrace experiment.  I will give it one week.  I figure I have nothing to lose...just one week.  I will do the opposite of what my natural instinct is...stop running, stop fighting, stop protecting myself...(is it sad that these reactions are my natural instincts?) and try to completely embrace the people around me, no matter what.  I will do the opposite.  Turn the cheek.  Expose my neck.  Unwrap my heart.  Lay it bare.  Be vulnerable.  Without charily questioning the risks...just embrace, and see what happens. 

Maybe I will find that there is no poisoning or hitting as well.

SPT: New You Resolution

This new year has already had me up against the wall.

Already behind, already running.  No time for thinking or reflecting or even (it feels like) breathing.

The new year and all the new beginnings it brings feels like a pressure situation to me.  I have flaws.  Many.  Even the title of my blog speaks of my regrets.  So I need to get this right.

If I could change one thing about myself it would be my "resistance."  Resistance to the hearts and stories of those most precious to me, resistance to being vulnerable, resistance to asking for help, resistance to early mornings, resistance to forgiveness, resistance to joy even, resistance to being enough.

Over a year ago, I was shopping and saw this picture.  I stopped and stared at it.  For a long time.  It made me weep.  It was the way I wanted to live my whole life.  Completely and wholeheartedly.  Without reservation or resistance.


So my word is Embrace.  Instead of fighting so hard against absolutely everything in my life, I'm going to embrace it.

I will embrace entropy

so that I can

embrace my children more


embrace the joy of their growing and the moments I get with them

I will embrace my husband more completely

and wholeheartedly, and hold less back from him

I will embrace what scares me most

and at least try to write

I will embrace my life exactly as it is

with all its imperfections and heartaches

and embrace the truth that

my Heavenly Father only gives good gifts.


This will be hard for me.  Embrace.  To be honest I already feel the resistance rising inside me.  But the alternative is only regret.  And I am finally so deeply, profoundly tired of putting up this ridiculous resistance.

The only hope, or else despair,

Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre--...

We only live, only suspire

Consumed by either fire or fire.

--T.S. Elliot, Four Quartets