December Seventh and Ninth

First, the seventh: 

Ethan awoke on Monday morning in tears.  I had let him sleep in and so he had to eat breakfast alone.  Lonely pancakes would make anyone cry.  But this was only the beginning.  He cried about getting his shirt over his head.  He cried about not being able to get his feet in his shoes.  He cried about his itchy socks.  He cried because his thumb was sore and how was he going to write and paste with a sore thumb.  Through his sobs he told me there is lots of pasting in kindergarten. 

I suggested he stay home to let his thumb rest.

I called the school and told them he was sick.

Sick of school.  Sick of the pressures of pasting and cutting.  Sick of the stress of counting and reading and the letter G.  Damn letter G.  Graceful and gregarious, yes, but also grim and grueling, to say nothing of grinding.

The other kids were just as sick, but their thumbs were not as sore as Ethan's and so I made them dress for school.  I gathered them in a circle for prayer and gave a bolstering pep talk where I said things like, "it's just ten more days" and "we can do anything for ten days" and "come on, you'll feel better once you're out the door."

But I knew exactly how they felt.  By that night I told David that I would not be able to go on without some serious incentive.  Which always involves some serious necking.

He listened to me cry about my inadequacies and the unrelenting grip of entropy (both of which would make anyone cry) and my ever-growing list and my broken kitchen faucet and my itchy socks and my sore thumb.  He tried a bolstering talk but I wasn't buying it.  I interrupted him and asked if we could just skip to the kissing. 

And while he was kissing me I listened to the pouring rain outside and wished for a snow day.  Wished I lived in Wisconsin or Michigan or Massachusetts and we were bracing for a big winter storm.  Wished to be socked in, snowed in, with no school and no work and no lists, just a fire and grilled cheese sandwiches and board games all day long.  Just ten more days I told myself.  You can do anything for ten more days. 

And it was enough light and love and resurrection morning to get me through another day.

And now to the ninth:

Today is my mom's birthday.  Even heaven remembered and sent a glorious sunrise.  When I saw it I immediately recognized it as a birthday banner.  And I could see my grandmother's hand in it.  She still has impeccable taste.

We celebrated early this year, as all my brothers and sisters were in town for the Thanksgiving holiday.  We had a surprise party at a restaurant that is really a cooking school and we all cooked dinner together and I learned the proper way to cut up an onion. 

I am posting these pictures as a birthday banner of my own to the woman who taught me everything except how to cut up an onion.   Love you, Mom.




[Editor's note:  We missed Emily and Anthony who had to go back north for finals and reading week.  And my camera lens jammed before I got a proper picture of Lisa or Christian or David (I think the back of your heads are lovely by the way) and before I got to take a picture of the end results.  They were delicious.  After dessert I declared I had never eaten a better cookie and we had a thorough "discussion" about the merits of the chocolate chip cookie versus the mexican wedding cookie, which until that evening I was completely unaware had any merits at all.

Whatever.  I'm still thinking about that little bite of powdered sugar heaven.]   

Instead of That

Rather than bore you with the details of me coming face to face with the realities of The Fall 

of how I spent part of my afternoon yesterday visiting a dear friend just diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer and part of my evening hugging a friend who had just lost her husband

of how afterwards I sent David to pick up Chinese (comfort food) and how in the middle of dinner I could no longer keep putting sweet and sour pork in my mouth

of how then I broke down and sobbed a bit

of how Savannah put down her fork and rubbed my back

of how the children were gentle with me the rest of the night, patting me lightly on the shoulder whenever we met in the hall

and, of how this morning after everyone was off I got back in bed and had another good crying jag,

rather than all that, I am sending in a substitute.

If this were a normal week, I would tell you how I finished my center medallion for this year's round robin project.  And how I was only 26 days late finishing it, but who's counting.

I would tell you how I had a long overdue conversation (the truth is I've been avoiding it) with Berni about our summer vacation to British Columbia and how perfect the beach was and how we ate hotdogs over beach campfires and rode our bikes in search of sand dollars.  I'd ask her how she thought kid's quilt retreat went and if she had any plans for the fall.  And then I'd carefully broach the tender subject of her recent separation from O'Dell and see if she was any closer to forgiving me.

And I'd tell you about round robin itself and how it's just about the most exciting thing in the world to get a quilt in the mail, that's made with bits of fabric from your aunts and cousins and sister-in-law and how I'm lucky enough to know these women and have their art in my home.

And I'm sure I'd point out how I went way out of my color comfort zone and picked the exact same colors for my quilt this year as I have for the last four years.  I'm wild like that.

And knowing me, I'm sure I'd note how I didn't lose a single point on my Corn and Beans blocks and how I really am a wonder and a domestic goddess and more amazing than even you had imagined. 

And how I wish that this was, in fact, a normal week.  And how a week ago, none of my friends' lives had changed.  And how when The Fall seems too hard to endure, a little creation, a little order out of chaos, a little rebellion against entropy, is just the thing to make you feel a little better.

Epiphanies You May or May Not Want to Read

[The other day my sister told me, more or less, that my blog was just the same thing over and over again.  This post is about entropy and the return to school and my long-standing insecurities, all of which I have written about "ad nauseum," apparently.  So if you have something better to do than revisiting these themes yet again, go do them.  Otherwise, don't say I didn't warn you.]

This morning we went for a swim.  Trying to beat the sun to the pool.

On the way, the conversation turned to entropy.  And then to the fall and the resurrection.  And then, naturally, to the after-life, and the kids surmised about houses and babies in heaven.  I had to steer us back.

"We're not talking about the next life.  We're talking about this life.  And in this life there is the law of entropy."

The kids all groaned.

Because they know what's coming next.  A conversation that will turn into a day of fishing stuff out from under the beds.  And that's just for starters.

But after the swim, I was in the shower asking David to admit that living with me is hard, and that in addition to my many character faults, entropy currently has the upper hand in our house.

He refused.  (He's good like that.)

And then he said, "I don't care what you do.  I just want you to be happy."

I started to get emotional, but stopped myself just in time.  "But if I'm happy, what will that say about me?"

He looked at me.  Clearly mystified.

But in my head it goes something like this:  I live in a fallen world (remember all those briars and noxious weeds?), which requires toil and sweat and, yes, most of the time, tears.  And if you're doing it right, it means you're right down in the weeds mucking out your salvation.  And the harder you work and the more it hurts, the better the salvation.  Or, something like that.  Or maybe it's the harder you work and the more it hurts, the better the person you are.  (It's twisted either way.)

And for me, all of that gets mixed in with the return to school, which for the first time, this year will include all of my children leaving for the entire school day.  And not only do I feel that loss very keenly, I also feel like I will no longer be earning my keep.  (To say nothing of my salvation.)

I tried again, "The summer is one thing.  I can enjoy it because I'm with my children.  And the enjoyment of it is part of my nurturing of them.  Part of the job, see?  But if I enjoy my regular life, it means I'm not working hard enough, I'm not giving enough back, just taking up space."

And then he just sighed.  And kissed me.  Because he was long overdue at work and my issues are too big to resolve during his shave.  And like he said, he only wants me to be happy.

Why is that so hard?  Because what will it say about me?  That I'm more hedonist than pioneer?  That I'm more selfish than sacrificing?  That I'm more spoiled than deserving?  That I am more prodigal than saint?

That is, in fact, the case.

And maybe that's it.  That I'm bothered that this truth is finally about to be revealed to the world.  That it was only a show after all, and now I am about to be exposed.  I made it look hard in order to be worthy, carrying the burdens on my back as proof of my value.  I made my life seem like a sacrifice so that I would be worth the sacrifice.  Of feeding and clothing me. 

And, especially, of saving me.

And there it was.  The stumbling block to my happiness.  It was me all along.  My fight against entropy.  My fight to build the facade.  My fight to be enough.

I will never be worthy of the beauty and magic in my life.  Of love, of salvation, of redemption.  Of any of it.

But it is there anyway.

And I'm out of fight.  I only want happy now.

And maybe if I'm not brave enough to choose happy, at least now maybe I am tired enough not to choose fight.  And then maybe I will get happy by default. 

And I'm not picky. 

I'll take it any way I can get it.

Death and Breath and Dehydration

David and I cried ourselves to sleep on Sunday night.

And not for the usual reasons.  (You're asking yourself, are there usual reasons?  Oh, if you only knew.)

Actually, the last few days there's been quite a bit of crying ourselves to sleep all the way around.

I had a really good jag before bed on Sunday night and David even joined me for the end of it.  My eyes were half-swollen shut all Monday morning.

Then late last night after David had already started snoring and I was finally putting the last of my thoughts to bed and starting to drift, Ethan showed up sobbing at the foot of our bed.

Tonight it was the girls.  Long, solemn tracks of tears dripping down their necks and pooling in the hollow of their collarbones.

I tucked Savannah in and let her cry.  Olivia just wanted to sit by me for a while. 

Maybe it's too much sun.  Too much happiness.  And the universe is demanding a little sorrow in return.  Balancing our emotional scales.

The truth is I like the right kind of crying almost as much as I like laughing.  Cathartic and cleansing.  David gave consolation a try tonight, "It's alright.  Don't be sad."  But not me.  I sort of believe in crying.  Let it out, I say.  Howl, even, I say.   And then I join in for good measure.  So they'll know I'm serious about what I believe in. 

Nothing is seriously wrong, of course.  Sunday's tears were over a rough Sunday school lesson and an even rougher personal review of it in my head.  And our oldest boy had his first priesthood interview and we sobbed a bit remembering when he used to crawl around our bed in his white onesie and bare legs.  Ethan's was over a bad dream which he couldn't remember later.  And tonight over pasta e fagioli, I shared the news that our beloved grandmother is on her way back to heaven.  We all dripped salty tears into our soup and mopped it up with crusty bread. 

All things worth crying over, I say.  (But I may not be the one to ask.  Heaven knows, I've cried over less.)

I keep thinking about breathing.  The in and out.  The one breath between this life and the next.  The one breath between giving birth and sending them off.  The one breath between kindergarten and college.  The one breath between madly feeding six ravenous mouths and quietly warming up dinner for one.  The one breath between tending their sick beds and them tending mine.  The one breath between now and then. 

And I want to hold my breath.

Tonight after dinner was over and David and I were staring at each other over the dishes, he told me about his day.  One of his colleagues had teasingly accused him of being a romantic. 

She said,  "Now I heard that you believe that you're married not only for this life, but for ever.  And I told my husband, 'This life is enough!'"

They laughed together at that.

And David and I laughed at it again over our dishes.  Because, really, some days it is.

But tonight when I got in bed, and remembered the one breath between this life and the next, and heard David breathing deeply beside me, I was grateful.  So grateful that I have more than this "one breath" with the ones I love.  Because I cannot hold my breath.  I've tried.  But I keep breathing in and out.  My husband keeps breathing in and out.  My children keep breathing in and out.

And that seems like as good a thing as any to cry about.

But not for long.  Because, as brief as this life is, it is only the beginning. 

And that makes me smile.  In spite of myself.

Entropy, Repentance and Me

Last night David and I stayed up late watching a movie and Jimmy Kimmel's monologue.  (Quit halfway through because it was a rerun.)

And then David put the clean sheets on our bed as I walked through the house cleaning up the bits and pieces of our evening and putting another couple of pieces in the puzzle we are working on.

As I passed the laundry room I sighed. 

Last week my washing machine died.  And could not be resurrected. 

The repairman said to go shopping.  I did so grudgingly.  Partly because my budget doesn't have room for a new washer and dryer and partly because I found out that in an effort to make washing machines more energy efficient, the government instituted new standards (none of which included anything about making clothes cleaner which seems like a gaping hole in standard-making if you ask me [which nobody did by the way]) which only resulted in making the machines more expensive and less effective. 

(Whew.  That might have been a run-on sentence just now.  Too bad.  I've done enough repenting already today.)

Now don't get me wrong.

I like the earth. 

But why are saving the earth and having clean clothes mutually exclusive?

And (dang it) the machines I can afford don't match my laundry room like my old one used to and they also stick out way past my countertop and since my laundry room is really just a hallway anyway, it is really bothersome to have them sitting out so far. 

The guy who came to install them could tell I wasn't happy.

He said, "I can tell you're thinking something.  Do you have any questions?"

"Only the unanswerable kind."

"Try me."

Bless him.  I smiled.  "What do you know about entropy?"

He cocked his head.

I continued.  "I mean I just want to be able to wash my clothes, you know?  And in the meantime entropy is slowly destroying my washing machine bit by bit with every load, and at the same time the government thinks they know better than me and they are secretly conspiring to make me buy a machine that is more expensive and less effective than my current machine, which was slowly falling apart by the way.  And both of these things were happening simultaneously, until we reached this moment, when I have to buy a new machine that requires special laundry detergent and it takes twice as long to wash and doesn't match and costs a lot of money that I had planned on spending at the beach this summer." 

He looked a little nervous at that point, and in his defense, I may or may not have gotten a little teary by the end of it as well. 

Clearly at a loss he asked, "How many kids do you have?"

I told him, belligerently.

"Yeah.  That's a lot of laundry."

Starting to feel a little soothed, and slightly chagrined, I whined quietly, "And they stick out."

He could tell he was starting to make some headway and perked up.  "I think this is a great room.  Yeah, they're a little bigger, but there is still plenty of room to walk and you have a great little laundry room here."

"Okay."  I felt a little better.

But by the time David left for work I was fired up again.

He asked for clarification.  "So are you mad at me?"

"No, I'm just mad."

I gave him the same rant I gave the delivery guy.

A little too buoyantly, he said, "Yeah, but they're more energy efficient."

Which was clearly the wrong thing to say.  (Let's be clear.  There wasn't a right thing to say at this point.  Just walk away, darling.  Which is what he did.)

By the time he came home from work, I had repented.  I had remembered the millions of women washing their laundry in a dirty river, or over a washboard, or with nothing to wash at all.  And I got a little humble. 

And as the day wore on and I folded load after load, I got a little more.

And I remembered that I am not entitled to life without entropy.  I live in a fallen world.  And I could save myself (and my husband, yes please) all kinds of grief by simply accepting this one principle of the plan. 

I spend entirely too much energy fighting the fall.  And I do mean fighting.  Not to mention the exertion of repentance afterwards.

Perhaps I should start implementing my own energy efficiency standards.

Don't worry.  I can already hear RIM and CIM.  It'll never make it out of committee.

Get Your Violins Out, This is Going to Be Good

Last night as we gathered in a circle for prayer, the fussing started.

And the fussing quickly turned into weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth as everyone expressed their own personal concerns about the end of spring break and the start of another school week.

I was determined to stay positive.

"It's only nine more weeks!  We're almost there!"  I said with forced cheerfulness.

They weren't buying it.

"It'll be here before you know it,"  I said less confidently, and shooed them to bed.

And then did a bit of weeping and wailing of my own.

Yesterday in Relief Society we were talking about hope.  The teacher asked if we could think of a time in our lives when we felt great despair and an absence of hope.  I'm embarrassed to say that the first thing that came to mind was our imminent return to school and the thought of my upcoming week.  The calendar days filled to almost blackout with "to-go-to's."

There was a bit of crying this morning too.  (It wasn't me.  Hide your shock.)  But we are more or less off and trudging.  The dishwasher is humming and the kids have climbed on the bus.  Even if it was done with a a few heavy sighs.  (Okay, that might have been me.)

The one bright spot of hope for me this morning was the sand all over the floor of my laundry room.  Lovely surprise.  I was filled by the thought of more sandy days ahead.  Just nine weeks away.  I have no intention of sweeping it up.  How about that?  Entropy finally comes through for me.

The Problem with Sexual Reproduction

Our orange trees are having a veritable orgy right now.

And it's a mess.

These blossoms, the leftover advertisements for bees all over the city (the little tramps), are falling everywhere.  I told Caleb after school he needs to shovel the walks. 

Not to mention the overpowering fragrance they give off night and day, shamelessly bragging about how they're getting some and you're not.

David thinks this post is inappropriate.

I told him it was just biology and reminded him about the parts of a flower, which he vaguely remembered from 9th grade biology.  I laughed my head off when he called the "stamens" the "staminas."  (Hysterical.)  He said, "I think you're trying to be funny but I don't get it."

I said, "Isn't it enough just to know I'm hilarious?"

He said no.

It is very difficult to be a biologist with a quick wit.  No one gets the jokes.

(And p.s. David would like me to point out that I am getting some.  And it is good.  How's that for inappropriate?)

Crimes During Glitter Season

On Tuesday afternoon, I was out in the backyard helping Savannah put glitter all over this

(it's a Valentine's box)

when two uniformed policemen walked through my back gate.

Which was shocking.  And slightly alarming.  (If I'd had my wits about me I would have taken a picture.)

They said my alarm had gone off about ten minutes earlier when I was out buying glitter.  They walked through the house with me and checked all the windows, and we found one in the front room slightly ajar.


So then the question became: Did someone try to actually open that window or did it just fall open on its own because it's old and needs to be replaced and entropy is the real owner of this house.  David pointed out that it was probably the latter because to actually get to the window someone would have to walk through our overgrown, weed-ridden front "flower" bed (which looks suspiciously like a jungle by the way), and, in his opinion, that seemed like "a lot of effort."  (His lungs are still recovering and so everything seems like a lot of effort.)

I had no idea that our neglected yard and thriving weeds were part of David's master security plan.