Not Many Stranger Things Have Happened

Don't you wish I had something to say? Something funny? Something clever? Dare you hope, something worth reading?

Ya, me too.

I've figured out that Monday night is the perfect time to write, while I wait for my kids to finish practicing Mozart's 40th Symphony with their orchestra. I have a couple of hours to kill, with no one to interrupt or nagging laundry to protest.


Trouble is, my inspiration has not coincided with my calendar.

Pity, that.

What's left is a recitation of our strange-but-true weekend. (Sure to be less than brilliant. If you give up here, I'm not going to say you made the wrong decision.)

I had a mild-to-moderate breakdown on Thursday night. (David would definitely characterize it as more moderate, bordering on complete lunacy, but he's not telling this story.) Anyway, by the time Friday morning was upon us, I think he had given up all hope of a decent weekend.

(This is not the strange part.)

After I dropped the kids off to make their way through the final day of the quarter, I went to the gym. (Again, contrary to popular opinion, this is also not the strange part.) But instead of the treadmill or the Zumba class, I went to yoga, to try and get my brain or my hormones or my chakras in line. While I was in downward dog, I realized I needed my toes painted. (Look how focused I am in yoga! I am so good at so many things!) So, uncharacteristically, I went to get a pedicure. The girl at the salon said "Do you want a manicure too?"


"Are you sure?"


And while she was doing my manicure and we were sitting face-to-face, she said, "Do you want your eyebrows waxed?" I think if anyone asks you that question, it's just like if someone asks you if you want a mint. They're trying to tell you something. And yes, you want one.

So what else could I say? "Yes."

And while she was waxing my eyebrows, she said, "Do you want me to do your lip too."

You got it.

It was a strange morning.

But I did feel better.

Strangely so. Even David noticed the change and found something a little odd when he kissed me at the end of the day. "What happened?" he asked.

On Saturday between sessions of General Conference we ran to Old Navy to get fleece coats for our weekend in Utah. While we were there I tried on (gasp!) and bought (shock and awe!) a pair of skinny jeans. I know, downright eerie. Who knows what possessed me, as normally I don't like my clothes to actually touch me. But there you go.  It's fair to say that by the end of the weekend, I was practically unrecognizable.

And then, perhaps strangest of all, on Saturday night, after priesthood session, all the other kids were at friends' houses, so Caleb and David and I went for sushi. And over chef special rolls and wonton soup we talked about the new missionary age announced that morning. And what it would mean to us.

My sister Rachel had texted me that morning: How does it feel to have just lost a year?

Strange, indeed.

(And yes, to answer your question, that is an enormous amount of sushi for three people.  We strangely, notoriously, invariably overorder.  Saturday night was no exception.)

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.

Something Like Romance

Are you tired of stories about interviews and plane flights and having faith?  Sigh.  Me too.  Believe me, it is even more tiresome to be living them.  (This morning David said, "How do you feel about Waco, Texas?"  Um, yeah, not exactly top on my list.)  This morning then, how about a story of romance?  Don't worry.  There is little or no necking involved.

On Saturday night, Caleb went to Teen Elect.  He dressed in his new suit and his dad's hand-me-down tie, put gel in his hair and let me comb the back down.  I could smell cologne and toothpaste.

Teen Elect is where you learn about manners and dancing and how to make conversation with someone of the opposite sex.  Olivia has been looking forward to it for two years now.

When I dropped Caleb off, he said, "Aren't you going to come in with me?"  I wasn't.  But I parked and led him inside.  He got his nametag, he found out where to go, he gave me a side-shuffling hug, and disappeared into the unknown.

I picked him up three hours later.

"Did you have fun?  How was it?"

"It was interesting."

"How was the dance?"


"How were the classes?"

"Interesting.  Kind of boring."

"What did they talk about?"

"Wearing deodorant and always having a mint."

"Did you have fun?"

"I'm not sure.  It was interesting.  And awkward.  Very awkward."

Olivia and Savannah were waiting on the couch for us when we got home.  Waiting with bated breath.  They have been waiting for weeks, truth be told.  They were ready for a story of romance, a story of love and lust, of fancy ballrooms and meaningful looks.

"Soooooo, how was it?" 


"Tell us everything!  Did you dance?" 

"Of course.  They made us."

"Who did you dance with?"

"Lots of people.  We had to."

"Were the girls cute?"

"I don't know."

"What were they wearing?" 

"I don't know."

"What color were their eyes?"

"Oh, come on, Olivia."

And then Olivia sighed hugely, "Oh, it sounds sooo romantic."

I looked at her.  Romantic?  The way Caleb tells it, it was just this side of painful.

And then she said, "I can't wait for teen elect.  My favorite part is the hip part."

I asked, "What's the hip part?"

"You know, the part when the boy puts his hand on your hip." 

Heaven help us.

The next day we pried a few more details from him.  I asked him if he talked to the girls while he was dancing.

"Of course," he said. "They taught us that."

"What did you talk about?"

"I asked them their favorite color."

"O...kay.  Anything else?"

"One girl asked me what school I go to and I said 'Stapley'."

"But you don't go to Stapley."

"I know, but it seemed easier.  But then she said, 'I go to Stapley.  Why haven't I ever seen you?' and I was like 'Umm, yeah, I lied about that.'"

Olivia gasped, "And then did she slap you?  Oh that sounds soooo romantic."

Brace Yourself

David told me to be sure to take "before" and "after" shots.

As you wish.


And after:

I'm still reeling.

(Which tends to make me melodramatic.)

David and I stared at each other over dinner, half-bemused at our children trying to navigate new ways for food to move around their mouths and half-confounded that so much life has apparently come and gone. 

Across the table David asked me quietly, "When did we get so old?"

I looked at him, at the gray hair at his temples, at the creases across his brow, at this man who was just barely one when I became his wife, and the years we've shared together stretched between us.  A brief moment and an eternity at once.  I just shook my head.

Today I went to the temple.  I needed back-up.  Reinforcement and buttressing.  And a reminder about the promises of forever.  When time feels scarce, views of eternity are required.  While I was there being tended to by a lovely white-haired angel who told me several times how beautiful I am, she asked me if I was a member of a student ward.  She could hardly imagine the truth.

And neither can I.

"I was yesterday," I wanted to say, "Today I am taking three of my four children to the orthodontist.  I can't even think about tomorrow."  Time is a bully.

So I find myself staring at my children.  I am at a loss to do much else, the gorgeous creatures.

And brace myself to be undone by beauty, by brevity, by becoming.

I've shared Mr. Hershon's poem before, and now after, I will share it again.  It is only getting truer.


Sentimental Moment or Why Did the Baguette Cross the Road?

by Robert Hershon

Don't fill up on bread
I say absent-mindedly
The servings here are huge

My son, whose hair may be
receding a bit, says
Did you really just
say that to me?

What he doesn't know
is that when we're walking
together, when we get
to the curb
I sometimes start to reach
for his hand

Reading Lines

Dinner last night ended with a musical number.  (Dinner and show, I call it.)  Olivia treated us to a performance of Nat King Cole's "Orange Colored Sky", complete with matching dance steps and hand motions.

After that there were plenty of "Flash! Bam! Alakazam!'s" coming from the girls' room at regular intervals.

Ethan, who was nursing a brand-new cold, asked me to make them be quiet when I came to tuck him in, and wipe his nose, and turn on the humidifier.

By now the musical number had become a duet and so this took some doing.  Olivia said, "'Alakazam' is not a phrase I usually use, but I think I'm going to make it a big part of my vocabulary now.  It says things in a way no other word can."

I can hear it now.  "...and then after lunch, Alakazam!, we had a spelling test."

She can pull it off, too.

[Speaking of vocabulary, I know I owe you a few sentences on "truckle", but that will have to wait submissively for tomorrow.]

But after the song-and-dance and the duet and things had quieted down to just humming, David and I deconstructed the day.

It had been a trying one, and so it took a while to untangle it all.

I kept saying things like, "Start at the beginning" and "I don't understand.  Just start at the beginning and tell me everything."

But his analysis and emotions were all mixed in with the events of the day and so it took some time for things to shake out.

After a couple of hours, I made a comment and David said, "Haven't you been listening to anything I've been saying?"

Which is usually my line.

I smiled, in spite of myself.

So then I said, "I just want you to be happy.  What is it that you want?"

Which is always his line.

And suddenly things cleared enough for me to see and I thought, "Alakazam!"

We have traded lines and crises.  He said all my lines from the last three weeks and I said all of his. 

This is the Sadie Hawkins of married life.  We have matching self-doubts.

Don't we look cute together?

A Random Post That Might be Entertaining

(Well, that may be going too far.  I suppose I can only promise that it will be random.)

When I woke up on Wednesday morning this week, I was sure it was Saturday.

The weekend has felt a long time in coming.

Last night as we were doing up the dishes, I confessed to David that it had been a lonely, unproductive day.  (My deep clean is over and I am wondering what to do next.)

And this morning Ethan told me, with tears, that he didn't know that "all-day school" was going to be so long.

We're still adjusting, I guess.  I remember when Savannah started the first grade it took two months until she could come home from school and not dissolve into tears before dinner.  The Halloween decorations were already up.  I would like to promise that this will be my last post on our adjustment, but Halloween is still a ways away.

In other news, I have become enamored with a new word and ended my "Word of the Week" hiatus.  (I know.  You're welcome.)  Thanks mostly to Ms. Estes book, next week will feature a post about the wonder of "stolid" and maybe even the adverb form of "stolidly" if I can muster the emotional fortitude to be "unemotional and impassive" myself.  Let's be honest, this seems very unlikely, but David thinks this may help with the aforementioned "adjustment" we are going through.

I have become less enamored with our telephone.  With no one here but me to answer it, it seems to ring constantly.  And for someone like me, who absolutely hates talking on the telephone, this is growing wearisome.  I have even considered turning off all the ringers for one or two (or six) hours so that I don't have to listen to it ring.  But I always worry that it's the school calling.  And someone forgot their lunch or their viola or just threw up on the way to library. 

My mom used to have a code ring.  If it was my dad calling he would call, let it ring two times, and hang up.  Then he'd call back and she'd pick up.  I am wondering if this can be instituted at the school without raising too many eyebrows. 

I know what you're thinking, "Caller I.D., April.  It is 2009 after all."  But I still have to listen to it ring, and then get up and check the caller I.D. and good heavens, I need to conserve my energy for later in the day.  I am beginning to see why Mr. Alexander Graham Bell never had one in his house.

By the by, David sees my abhorrence of the phone as a deeply disturbing character flaw that he has had the good grace to overlook all these years.  Give that man a medal.

And lastly, there were some very sweet comments posted on the post-before-last, as well as a couple of gracious emails, about the fact that I turned off my comments on the last post about the Great Divorce.  I thought it was dauntingly courageous of me to do the post at all, and I did not think I had any courage left over to read all your kind thoughts of confidence and well wishes.  Turns out I heard them all anyway.  I have enough imagination for that at least.    

Well, I am off.   This weekend we will remember and celebrate the arrival of Savannah on earth.  Last night over chicken tacos we talked about a Saturday dinner party with a completely french menu, a three-layer chocolate cake, and decorations that include poodles and clay models of the Eiffel Tower.  Ooo la la. 

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.

Ginger, Cardamom, and a Miracle

My house smelled like graduate school last night.

Ginger and cumin.  Cardamom and garlic and coriander.  They used to seep through the walls of married student housing.  We were the only white couple in the building sitting down to spaghetti or stroganoff or chicken noodle soup.

When I was pregnant with Caleb, I couldn't keep anything down.  I worked next to a grad student from China who brought me ginger to calm my stomach.  When she handed it to me, I took one smell and promptly vomited.  She patted my back and shook her head.  She didn't have any other suggestions.  It was the year of the ox after all, and my "morning sickness" was strong, steady and stubborn. 

We gave up on cream of wheat and plain rice and toast without butter, and ate with our fingers last night.  Dipping our naan into the chicken tikka masala and licking our fingers when it was gone.  (If I had known my former neighbors were eating this good, I would have found more excuses to visit around dinner time.)

Between the licking and the smacking, the conversation went like this:

David always starts.  (I'm too busy getting my blood sugar up to a reasonable level. I'm quite near desperate by the time we pray.)

"So how was everyone's day?"

Mouths full, everyone grunts.

Then Ethan pipes up, "Mom almost burned down the house."

David looks at me.  I look at my plate and work purposefully on my blood sugar.

And Olivia adds, "Yeah, but Heavenly Father saved us."

David looks questioningly at all of us and swallows his food. Just as he is about to ask for the whole story, Savannah gives it in a nutshell.

"We had to take dinner to the missionaries, but first mom had to take me to Kenzi's house and so we were in a big hurry because the missionaries have to eat at five o'clock and that's it, so Mom forgot to turn off the oven,"

Caleb interrupts, "Stove."

Savannah shoots him a look.



"It was the stove.  Not the oven."

Olivia finally prompts, "Anyway..."

"Okay, mom forgot to turn off the stove (another meaningful look at Caleb) and there was a hotpad on it and when we came home a while later..."

Olivia interrupts, "It was like an hour."

Caleb corrects, "It was longer than that."  He is dismayed at my carelessness.

"Anyway, when we got home the hotpad was all black and burned but the house was not!"

And then Ethan says solemnly, "And so we said a prayer."

David is all amazement by now and his hands have stopped moving to his mouth.

Olivia adds sagely, "We all knelt down and said a prayer.  Right then.  It's important to say thank you when Heavenly Father saves your house."

By this time my eyes are welling over and I'm still staring at my plate.  Eventually I look up at David and say equally apologetically and wonderingly,

"At the very least the house should have been full of smoke." 

But it wasn't.  It was full of ginger and cinnamon and cardamom, and the most fragrant basmati rice you've ever smelled.  I can spot a miracle a mile away.  (I was trained in my youth.)

The only other time I almost burned something down was during graduate school, when I came really close to burning down our church building.  I was making dinner for a crowd and got distracted socializing.  (Who, me?)  The missionaries showed up just in time for dinner and just in time to tell me the kitchen was full of smoke.

I have been saved twice now, by feeding the missionaries.  I am inclined to think that's more than luck.