Wednesday, October 30, 2013


So my grandma died. I was thinking of a way I could say that politely, but I've said passed away so many times in the past few days and it has sort of started to sound strange to my ears. Then again so does died.  At any rate she's gone and in a show of solidarity our dishwasher decided to pass away the very next morning.

Then yesterday I took Lee to his 15 month well child check (at 19 months, oops) and the doctor heard a murmur in his heart.  At first I wasn't concerned because Greg has an innocent murmur and I figured we've already gone through this before. It didn't sound quite right to be an innocent murmur though so he referred us to a pediatric cardiologist.  Lee and I went to that appointment this morning. The cardiologist listened and listened and listened to his heart from every angle on the body then said it didn't sound like a classic innocent murmur and I have to take him in for an echocardiogram. We are having that done this afternoon.  It is terrifying when an expert at children's hearts says that your son's heart doesn't sound right.

Right now I am in a fog of chaos. My house looks as if some giant hand came and flipped it upside down then let the papers and clothing and shoes and books fall like a snow globe wherever they wanted to and then let the dog roll around in it.  Right now that's ok with me because it looks like how the inside of my head feels. Despite that feeling I keep being amazed at how things keep turning out. So in order to document the tender mercies I seem to be receiving I thought that is what I will share today.

First, when Charlotte's friend came over this morning they decided to have a before school dance party in our front room. The music they chose is the new CD Charlotte got for being the friend at bring a friend to Awanas (sp?) night. They were rockin' out to the lyrics of don't worry about anything just pray about everything. Not our usual fare for a Wednesday morning, but it really touched me. I am so grateful to know that my daughter has good friends. Friends who think its good and fun to be good.

Also and in no particular order I was very grateful for the doctors we have worked with the past two days. Lee's family doctor is also a member of our church and the father of one of Greg's buddies. He is a wonderful and caring man and I am grateful for him. The cardiologist this morning is clearly used to working with kids. When he got in the room the first thing he did was make a toy for Lee out of a tongue depressor and a paper cup. He seems very kind and caring. I'm so grateful to know that if he does have a problem we are in the best place to deal with it.

I have been blow away by the support of the people who are surrounding me right now. I am going to be able to attend my grandma's funeral simply because I have friends willing to watch my children at odd and inconvenient times. They are so willing to help. As I was trying to get the schedule all put together it felt as though things just fell right in to place. I know I am inconveniencing people, but they all seemed so happy to help. I sort of feel their love surrounding me right now.

Also, my husband. He normally isn't around to be able to help. Not only does he miraculously not have to work all weekend long, but he has an unheard of Saturday afternoon off and uncluttered. Also, there is just something so great about having someone you can totally lose it with who will hold you as you cry. Who will then hold you some more when you are done and then after that will prop you back up and point you in the direction you need to go. His confidence in me inspires me to be more confident in myself. I feel we are almost invincible together.

Life is hard, but there is help surrounding me and I am grateful for all of it.

***update*** lee's tests came back normal. He has an innocent murmur. When the doctor told me that I was so relieved and then so exhausted. Crazy how much stress takes out of me.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

14 Days

My grandma is dying.  The doctors have said about 14 days, which means to me that she's almost out the door.  Here's the thing though.  I'm not sure how I feel about it.  Or even how I'm "supposed" to feel about her death.

My grandma is an amazing woman and has been planning on her own death for quite some time now.  Not in a suicidal way though. It almost seemed very matter of fact. I think she's been telling my husband and I that she's going to be "dead in a year" since Dan met her nine years ago.  She has survived two husbands and a daughter passing away before her.  Her own father died when she was quite young and her mother died when I was in middle or high school.  I remember my great grandma's funeral because it was the first one I had ever been to.  My grandma has always seemed anxious to go be with all of her loved ones.

The kink in her plan was that she was physically robust.  She went out to get her hair and nails done.  She drove a sports car.  She dug up her lawn to replace her own sprinklers. She was so lonely, but she still had so much life to live. She also had great joy in her loved ones here.  A story that will live in the memory of all of us is the time that she started a water fight in her back yard with my little Charlotte that dragged everyone in.  Water was everywhere and grandma was the one who started it. She liked to laugh.

I remember a series of one day excursions during my last year at college in Utah I spent with just her.  My memories of my grandma are usually filled to the brim with all sorts of family around.  We never lived in the same state so holidays were our chance to see her.  Our chance and everyone else in the family's too.  We are a loud and mostly crazy bunch of people so this one season of quiet sticks out in my mind.  Grandma and I spent that time talking.  Or rather she spent the time talking and I spent it listening and asking questions and being amazed that I was 20 and had no idea who my grandma was.  I learned about my grandma during those days-I discovered who she was beyond mom and grandma. I listened to stories about her childhood and how she met my grandpa, that I never knew. After a while she dug out this metal bread box that was dented and inside was a treasure trove of photos.  When I saw it I felt like she had shown me our family jewels. She showed me the photos and told me story after story about them.  Then we drove around the city and she showed me the physical places where the stories had happened.  The place she grew up, the place she got in a car accident.  It all looked different, even unrecognizable at that point, but it was there. I never knew any of it before.  I wonder where that bread box of photos is now? That's the family treasure I'd love to have.  Though of course I have no claim on any of it.

It isn't in her house anymore.  I know that, because she isn't there either.  She sold her house or gave it to one of her, oh what's the word for it, step grandsons? Anyway the house, the cozy, strange little house with an entire wall of mirrors isn't hers anymore.  She lives in an assisted living facility and all of her things were either sold or put into storage.

She has dementia. It seems strange to be able to use a single word to sum up the loss of who she is and what she remembers. Dementia.  Its like the lost box of photos from her house matches the lost bunch of memories in her head. She also isn't physically robust either. Hospice has been called for her. She forgets to eat. She's in pain and she doesn't get out of bed.  When she does get out of bed she falls.  At least she hasn't broken a hip.  Dan has told me enough about people with broken hips for me to know that if she did it would kill her in the most horribly painful way.

So I think maybe I should be glad for her. This is what she has been promising us is going to happen for so long.  She wants it and her body seems to finally be ready to give it to her.  So maybe glad?  But also very, very sad. In a way I realized last Christmas when I saw her that I had already lost her.  She recognized me maybe, but not Dan and certainly not my kids. It seems so strange to have had so much time to mentally prepare for this coming and to still, still not be ready for it. But I'm not.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Story Dan Didn't Think Needed to be Told to His Parents

Dan calls his parents once a week.  Every Sunday night he calls them to check in.  He is truly faithful about this.  He usually remembers after we are both in bed.  Then he has to get up to find my phone, which is who knows where. He wont use his if he can avoid it so he has to search for mine. Too bad for him that I never know where it is right then. It is Sunday after all.  Entire life schedules change on Sunday.  Plus also I always put my phone on silent at church and then mostly forget to turn it back on again.  So that's why nobody can get a hold of me on Sunday afternoons.  But anyway, we are already tucked beneath the sheets and he turns to me and asks where my phone is.  I tell him to check the van.  Mostly I think that its funny to make him go out there, but probably that's where I left it after driving home from church.  After he finds my phone I listen to a one sided conversation, which I'm not allowed to interject in.  After that Dan gives me the rundown on family news.

This happens once a week.  Every week.

Sometimes Dan doesn't tell the same stories I would tell about our week.  For example he didn't tell his parents about what happened at church yesterday. We were listening to talks and Lee was being crazy because he had gotten up late and had little breakfast.  I figured not a big deal, I would just pack something for him to eat in the foyer.  I forgot.  He was crazy.  Screaming to go to the foyer then crying for Daddy back in the chapel.  I had brought him back in to the chapel the third time.  As he sat on the floor I noticed a small yellow leaf on the ground.  It is the compound type of leaf that grow in tiny rows that we have on the trees in our church parking lot.  They have already turned a lovely eye catching yellow. In an attempt to keep him quiet and still for the talk on reverence in our worship I put the small leaf on his nose.  He was enthralled that it just sat there and so did he.  For quite some time.  But then it fell as leaves are wont to do.  He quickly picked it up to put it back in place, but missed.  He shoved the thing right up his nose.  Further than even his fingers could reach. So Dan had to leave church and take him home to extract the leaf.  After church every time someone looked at him he would shove his little finger up there to tell us about his exciting adventure. I'm still not convinced he got it out since Dan says he never actually saw the leaf.  It was small, but not small enough to miss. My thought on this is that at least it is a leaf and not an eraser or something that could stay there for decades.  A leaf might somehow get goopy and slip out later.

The End.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

On being a Red Head

Being a red head was a defining characteristic for me for as long as I can remember.  I came into the world with a bright orange head and I've been getting complements and comments on it ever since.  I remember looking at those hospital photos of me where they are printed photo booth style.  You know four tiny prints vertical in a line and my head is covered with orange fuzz.  It has made me stand out in a crowd for the good and bad.  It has always felt like my personality is interlaced with my hair color.  Red, fierce, blazing, tempered.  But also awkward, speckled, and sometimes goofy.
Growing up I always, always got, "Red hair!  Where did you get that red hair?" Sometimes it was "that beautiful red hair" but always the question on where it came from.  Like somehow as a small child I was supposed to be able to explain to adults the facts of hereditary traits.  There is no good answer for a six year old to give to an adult asking this question. Sometimes we adults ask stupid questions.

I hope my sister doesn't mind me posting this photo of her.
I just thought it showed her pretty red hair off well.
Now I'm always, always asked, "You have children? No redheads then?" As if I keep my red headed child at home.  This is also a statement that irks me.  I don't want my children always hearing this same phrase as if they aren't perfect exactly the way they are. As if golden blonde/brown isn't absolutely how they, my children, should look.  As if I'm somehow holding out hope that I will be blessed with that one special child that one red head.  As if all my children aren't special to me.

And while we're on the topic of things that are mildly annoying, though really mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things, I also don't like the sentiment, "You have such a beautiful red color." And some people go so far as to include, "Some of the red hair colors, like that bright orange color, aren't as attractive." Hidden (and not so hidden) in this complicated compliment, is the implication that the bright orange/red hair color is definitely not desirable.  It's only when red hair turns to a darker brown tint that it is becoming.  Frustrating for a few reasons: 1)I was born orange/red and had orange/red as a small one and 2) if a person is talking to a redhead, chances are that redhead knows and is probably related to another red head, who just might have orange/red hair.  So now the person has said something unkind about someone I know and probably love.

Hmm, this post was a little hijacked by rants.  I started out with an entirely different idea in mind, but I like this so I'm keeping it.

First Grade Problems

First grade is hard on a mother.  At least it has been a rocky sort of roller coaster ride I was completely unprepared for.  Charlotte is doing great and I'm pretty sure she loves it.  She is being challenged academically at school and loves it.  School is a strong suit for her so even though there is work to do it doesn't feel overwhelming.

What feels overwhelming are the tiny social lessons she is learning as a first grade girl. They are not earth shattering and they are things that everyone needs to learn growing up, but man oh man does it make my momma heart ache to see her go through them. The problem is really that she's still my little girl, but neither she nor anyone else sees it this way. So when these things come up I feel blindsided and unsure how to handle them. To what extent do I even do anything at all?

I love her. I love her teacher. I love her friends. First grade is just a challenge.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Skills for boys

I haven't posted much because of life with a toddler. I trust you know what I mean. I don't want to complain because he is an amazing toddler, but these days seem to be requiring more patience from me than I know how to give.  Mostly my plan is to be home with him awake as little as possible. Is that a good parenting strategy? I have no idea.

One challenge is that Greg is to the age where he is delightful to be around if you can pay attention to him.  And by delightful I mean he's funny and informed and says great stuff and can concentrate on projects and talks to you about things that are on topic. If you can't pay attention to him he notices and it hurts him very much.  You can tell when he feels he's being ignored by his subtle tactic of running straight for you and not stopping. I feel like having boys is teaching me about playing sports.  I remember in middle school I was being taught about cutting someone off in basketball.  I was horrible at it and what's more I didn't get it.  Now that I have to try to keep Lee away from all sorts of inappropriate things using just my body at times I've gotten quite good at cutting him off at the pass.

In fact just last Sunday during Stake Conference, which I went to, but find a special sort of torture for the parents of the young. I spent five minutes blocking Lee from escape with nothing but one foot.  He kept climbing over it,  but by the time he stood up my foot was right in front of him again. See blocking.

Also I am good at dodging.  When Greg's kamikaze run starts across the room I have found I'm pretty good at waiting until just the right moment to side step.  Then you put one hand out and direct him to the ground. This is quite effective and sounds a lot like what my daddy probably taught his young football players.  I would know if I had ever paid attention, but I was always too busy with just about anything else. It still shocks me that my sister and I spent so much time in our childhood around football and I did not glean much from it.

Ooh, now I'm on a roll with this theme.  You know what else I've become good at. Diapering a toddler that doesn't want it.  They are squirmy and strong and they kick.  I feel like I'm wrestling a pig. Surely my skills in this arena could translate to some sport, but again I am showing my lack of knowledge because I have no idea what sport that would be.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

A post about chores

Yesterday I spent the day starting the switch over from summer to winter. I put this off because it mostly involves a lot of climbing the ladder to our attic.  The ladder is too short. So once you get the box up there you have to do a gymnastic move to hoist yourself in every single time.  Plus also going into the attic is dangerous when there isn't another adult around.

That reminds me of the time I had to go into the attic recently.  Lee was playing in the garage with a big bag of flashlights so I figured I had a few seconds and if I made it quick I'd be ok.  I was up there I swear for thirty seconds and when I turned to go down Lee had climbed to the top of the ladder and was stuck.  I mean the very top too. I was stuck in the attic because the top of the ladder is the landing spot for the gymnastics you have to do to get down from the attic.  I was up there thinking when Lee started to try to get himself down from the ladder. Terrifying.  Scary enough that I had the motivation to lower myself with the strength of my arms inch by inch around Lee and get my footing without knocking him. Then I carried him down myself.  That child is part monkey.

So despite my monkey boy I figured it was time to start. Plus also Greg was cold and wanted a coat. I started by picking up all the garbage in the back yard.  While I was at it I scooped dog poop up from the back yard. The kids were starting to step in it so I figured there was too much out there.  Hoo boy was that a big task. After that it was time to start shuttling old clothing around. Charlotte and Greg had clothing go into the attic in several different bins and all the outside winter clothing came down was sorted and some went back up. Turns out his coat from last winter is too small, but Sam's club had some on sale later.

It feels so good to do that sort of job for me.  I love to put things in their places.  Probably that's why I don't mind folding and putting laundry away.  It is a special perk though when I do a job like this that is going to stay done.  I'm not going to turn around tomorrow to find out that someone has gotten into the attic and messed with everything. Nobody has that sort of commitment. Or upper body strength.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013


My son Greg has a personality all his own.  Here are a few things he's said that I thought were funny.

 "It's cold enough to freeze an egg out here!" (Only in Minnesota.)

Me:Greg, tell me a story.
Greg: But Mom, I already told you the only story that I know! (Because we are all only given one story to tell in life.)

"Let's play monsters and zompies." (The monsters are always the good guys and zompies are awful.)

Charlotte has a much coveted library card. The rule is you have to be able to write your own name. Greg figured that out last week.  Guess who is the new proud owner of his very own library card?

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

We all have them

Last week was a complete failure.  Complete and total and horrible.  It seemed that everywhere I looked I found something I was lacking.  Somewhere that I had done wrong.  Places where my best just wasn't good enough. It was my best and it really just didn't cut it.

I'd like to think that we all have those days, weeks, months.  That I'm not alone in the failure. Where we wonder what went wrong.  Where even if we could figure that out we probably wouldn't be able to change the outcome.

By the end of the week all I wanted was to just sit and be still and stop worrying.  So that's what I did. I spent some time after the kids went to bed just sitting and not thinking.

I don't know if it solved any problems.  Actually it probably solved none and now my house is even more of a mess and I didn't practice for rehearsal and I have nothing planned for playgroup and what delicious dinner am I making for my kids to refuse to eat tomorrow.  I still have specific things I'm worried about with each of my kids. Things that I can't change because it is their choice.  Why does that choosing have to start so very young? 

At any rate in that moment of nothing I gave myself the freedom to stop worrying.  All those things were still there after my time of quiet, but oh the quiet.  The ability to just sit and be. I am not able to do that very often.  And by able I mean that not worrying isn't a natural part of me.  Worrying comes even when I try to stop it.  But for that moment I didn't worry.  And I loved it. 

It reminded me of a poem I found I my mom's papers once. It is a common poem and most people know it, but if not, here it is:

Desiderata by Max Ehrmann
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.
Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.