The View From Space

Last weekend when we went camping, when David and I were the only ones awake in the tent and the night was filled with soft snuffles and deep breathing and a whole lot of quiet, I tried to say how I was feeling.

It was nearly impossible.  (Bear with me.)

I tried.  And said sentences about just how much space was really up there, how up here on this high mountain, spinning around an axis, you could almost catch the breeze of the universe as it spun past.  It was like sticking your head out a car window, but with stars and milky ways and supernovas streaming past.  All that was above us was the deepness and vastness of space!  I felt so exposed and vulnerable. 

And yet at the very same time, I could hear my children breathing beside me, dreaming birthday dreams, melted smores smeared on their cheeks and cool mountain air on their eyelids.  I felt charmed and blessed, I felt endowed with the greatest gifts that vast universe had to offer.  I felt completely known and seen and watched by heaven, like maybe this night with my little family was just what heaven had in mind when they did all the work to create this mountain.  

It was a jumble.  It was a feeling...of being both big and small at once.  I could picture myself from space, our very blessed tent just a tiny dot on a globe turning its way from dark to light, slowly, slowly.  I waved.

David uh-huhhed beside me and put his face in my neck, his way of saying he had no idea what I meant, but he likes my company anyway.

I felt like I was on the very precipice and in the hand of heaven at the very same moment.  I lay there in the dark, feeling the slow rotation of the earth underneath me, unaware of the changes that were just a few rotations away.

Last Saturday, Olivia didn't wear make-up.  This Saturday she wore both mascara and lip gloss and the tiniest bit of light blue eyeshadow.

Last Saturday, Olivia had the hairy, happy legs of a child.  This Saturday she had the smooth, freshly shaved legs of a young woman.

Last weekend, Olivia had never been to a young women's meeting at church.  This weekend, her first beehive activity made it onto her "list of highs" around the dinner table.

Last Friday, David was late getting back from work and so we got a late start and set up our tent in semi-darkness.  This Friday, David and I went to a movie in the middle of day because he had no where else to be.

Last Friday night, we packed the car with the campstove and sleeping bags, and spent the night howling around a campfire.  This Friday night, we cleaned out David's office and loaded the car with ten years of memories and work accumulation, and spent the night sobbing into our Oregano's meatballs and making lists of states we'd always dreamed of living in.  (It was some consolation.) 

Last week, David and I had separate work spaces.  This week, we are sharing.

Last week, David had a job.  This week, he doesn't.

I have had the same feelings that I had that night in the tent.  So acutely aware of the vastness of space...aware of the gaping maw, the loss of the ground under my feet.  And an even deeper awareness of the gracious hand of heaven that is watching over us and providing a new way in the darkness.

One of my very favorite scriptures is in the book of Luke:

If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? 

Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give good gifts, through the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

I have said that to myself a hundred times since last weekend.  Our Father in Heaven does not give evil gifts.  I am a witness to the absolute goodness of his gifts. 


The Stories My Camera Could Tell

We bayed at the full moon, the full moon almost as full as our hearts.

We ate birthday smores.

We waded upriver and tried to float back down.

We played football and chess and Bohnanza in the woods.

We sat around the campfire and told our favorite stories about Ethan.  Mine was about the time the principal called because he had beaten up a third grader. 

Just for the record, it was a glorious weekend in the wilderness. 

Who needs Eden? 

Seven Already

Last night I had Ethan on my lap fresh from his bath.  He smelled delicious.  Soap and skin and childhood.

While he was sitting there, I told him that he almost didn't make it to earth and Savannah said, "Really?  Or are you just making that up?"

Apparently Savannah thinks much of my reality is fiction.  (She may be right.)

I said, "Really,"  and inhaled his damp hair again.

This morning when David kissed me, it was longer than usual, with some slow tenderness thrown in for good measure.  He was remembering.  How close he came to losing me.  How close he came to losing Ethan.  How lucky we are.  How everyday is a miracle.  Oh yeah.

A couple of nights ago, Ethan fell asleep while we were reading.  David carried him to bed and Ethan's legs looked as long as tree limbs sticking out from David's arms.  When did that happen?  His body used to curl.  Now it is straight.  Straight up.  Straight out.  All the time, his bones are going and going, his muscles and cells and brains and skin, all going and going.

Won't you stay? Please?

David put him to bed, and while the earth spun around its axis he grew a little more.

Tonight we will build a huge bonfire and dance around it like banshees and tell the moon how happy we are that this boy was born to us.  And he will crawl in his sleeping bag and look at the stars until he falls asleep and then he will grow all night long.

Among his birthday gifts this year were two chapter books, a chess set, and a large map of the world.

After he left for school I looked at that pile and winced.  Sometimes you can barely get your heart and mind around this thing called motherhood.  I am betrayed by myself at every turn.  I bought those gifts.  As good as packed his bags and stamped his passport, said, "Go!  Go!  Look!  Explore!  Learn!  The whole wide world is yours!"

What I want to do is lock the doors and lose the keys and deny the visa and ground the flights.

Or at the very least, tuck a note in his socks that says, "Go, then.  But please don't go far."


Happy birthday, little ninja. 

I've Seen Him in His Birthday Suit

I have celebrated sixteen birthdays of this man's life.

The first one, I was one of twenty girls at the table watching him blow out birthday candles on his fried ice cream.  Even then, I was grateful he had been born, if only because it made me so happy just to look at him.

By the year after that, I was the only one sitting next to him and his birthday cake.  German chocolate, made from scratch, by me.  Pictured above.  Have you ever seen a man so happy to be sitting next to me?  Let's be honest, those other girls didn't stand a chance.

Tonight will be the sixteenth time I have watched him make a wish and blow out the candles.

And I am still and always unspeakably grateful that he was born.  Every good thing in my life has proceeded from that moment.  It was, apparently, a very good day for me.  And I am serious about celebrating it.

Happy birthday, love.

Oh, and welcome (as Caleb says) to your golden years.

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.]   

An Overdue Ode to Olivia, at Eleven

Nearly a week ago we celebrated Olivia's birth with shrimp linguine and lemon cake.  We toasted her eleven years and remembered the early days of her arrival on earth. 

I think she was my hardest baby and toddler (there were days I hardly thought we'd make it to her third birthday), and yet she became my easiest child to raise.  Full of compromise and empathy and peacemaking, she gives easily, repents easily, and mothers everything she can get her hands on.

She started out demanding and turned out soothing.

(Which gives me hope for myself.  Perhaps it is not too late.)

She once told me that she felt different than everyone else in our family.  I told her it was only because she was better than every one of the rest of us.

She has the kindest heart of any one I know.  A few weeks ago we were at the table eating Sunday dinner and discussing what we had learned in church that day.  Olivia told us that her class had learned about Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail, about the conditions of the jail, and the prophet's prayers to heaven for help.  She then said incredulously, "And do you know what Heavenly Father said?"  And then, not waiting for an answer and tearing up, "He told Joseph Smith that these things were for his good."  Then she was quiet, and softly said, "I think that was a terrible answer."  She couldn't help herself.  She cannot stand to see suffering and, while we explained and she understood that there were things the prophet had to pass through, she was heartbroken that heaven's help could not be immediately forthcoming. 

That's my girl.

I count it as nothing but privilege to be the mother of such a girl.


Olivia and her friends dressed as lovely ladies from Milan, New York and Chicago, respectively. 

Naturally, their dolls were invited as well...


Now We Are Six

I made breakfast sausage this morning.  At the request of the birthday boy.

He has the menu planned out for the entire day.  For dinner he wants spaghetti and mashed potatoes. 

(As you wish.)

This morning as he played his new harmonica, I asked him if he could remember the day he was born.

"Yes, the girls carried me around everywhere and dressed me up like a girl."  (He is still affronted about this treatment.)

"Yes they did, but not on the day you were born.  On the day you were born you were all mine.  Do you remember what happened?  It was a Wednesday morning."

I waited while he finished a few bars of his next harmonica solo.

"Yep.  And then all the water came out."

"So I called to Dad and he got the other kids up fast because you were coming in a hurry."

Then we had a brief discussion about exactly where babies come out.  And since he was six I explained.  He said his friend had it all wrong, and then played a few more harmonica measures, this time "Happy Birthday."

I finished the story with the usual quaver in my voice as I told him about his dark eyes looking up at me and he gave a big finish on the harmonica at just the right moment, because he knows the story by heart.  And then he chattered all the way to find his backpack and out the door, about dinosaur cakes and parties and the presents dressed and waiting for our celebration tonight.

I watched him run to catch up with the girls.

A few years ago David and I went to talk to my doctor about having another baby.  He was quiet for a while and then confided that he hadn't been able to sleep after Ethan was born.  He said that in his thirty years of practicing medicine he had never gotten that close to disaster and still had a good outcome.  That it was a very close call.  For both of us.  He said it still scared him when he thought of it.

Someday I will tell Ethan the rest of the story.  How heaven's hand was in his life from the beginning.  How the day and hour of his birth were known and watched by heaven, because if everything hadn't been just right, it all would have gone terribly wrong.  How there is no such thing as a coincidence.  How there are no "little" moments.

But today, I only tell myself.  Over and over again.

And this morning, as I watched this fourth and final miracle run down the street, I thanked heaven again for the life of this extraordinary boy.  Especially today, now we are six.

"But now I am Six, I'm as clever as clever,

So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever."