Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Live On, Dear Star Catcher

I like to sit sideways here on this stuffed suede chair, under the lamp in the corner of the living room. I sit like this so my slippered feet can be close to the fireplace. The sun is getting heavier in the sky. The frosty clouds hang low, and my plan is to not move from this spot for a while.

I've got the computer propped in my lap as I type, and I realize I won't be able to sit this way next month. My middle is growing. A baby boy is kicking around in there, probably hopped up on the macadamia nut turtle chocolate thing I ate. A baby. A boy baby. We're having a healthy baby boy.

Over the past 3 months Sally has prayed for blessings on the baby, "that she will be a good girl." She has leaned in close to me with a loud voice, calling the baby Star Catcher, and singing, "STAR CATCHER? CAN YOU HEAR ME? IT'S ME, SALLY. YOU CAN SHARE MY HIGH CHAIR..."

When the ultrasound doctor moved the transducer probe over me and smiled, saying she saw "three little legs," I smiled, too. Then I thought of my Sally. How would she take this? She talks about her sister Lucy every day. She feels that loss, though she wasn't here for it. She asks to send photos from my phone to Lucy in heaven. She sets up a picnic on her blanket and brings Lucy's picture along. She wants her older sister. She wanted a baby sister.

Since this baby is a brother, he cannot be named Star Catcher--such a girl name (which has been successfully transferred to the pink pony Sal got for Christmas). Instead Sally suggests Vegetable or Clifford or Pop-pop. She's taken the boy-news well, even offering to let him share her room and her crib. We shall see if those offers still stand come May. The boys want to name him Bob.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

I Want to be More Like Her

This week I was making garlic chicken enchiladas and green rice for dinner. I put on an oven mitt to fetch a pan from the oven and noticed a smear of red sauce got on the thumb. The red sauce blended with the oil spot already on the mitt, with the drops of pink Something, and with the mark of brown from when I used cocoa powder instead of flour to help a birthday bundt cake not stick to the pan. There are other food stains on the fabric, too. And the thing is, it was my mom's oven mitt. And there in my hot kitchen this week I realized I'm not sure what all on there was from me, and which all was from her. Something about this made me smile.

Monday, September 7, 2015

On the First Day of Labor Day...

Here is a list for you of the things this Labor Day weekend brought to me:

-The Wizard of Oz.

-An hour drive north toward sugar-sweet corn on the cob, red popcorn kernels by the pound, spaghetti squash, softball-sized peaches, mini potatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, tomatillos, and pumpkins, oh my.

-Sally watching Curious George, cuddling her pumpkin we bought at the market, sans pants.

-Homemade ice cream.

-Elliot having a loose tooth fall out while he slept. He couldn't find it in the morning.

-Swiss Days mayhem, topped with a caramel apple.

-The heater on in the morning, air conditioner in the afternoon.

-Laughing with Louis as we bent his fingers as far back as they can go. That kid is the bendiest.

-Last place at Parcheesi.

-Spotting trees on the mountainside looking like sunflowers up there, their leaves letting go of green.

Friday, September 4, 2015

I Made a Mistake

It was a fine morning, breezy, some clouds, some sun. We were at the park. I was pushing her and her baby doll in the swing, answering every request for "Higher!" and "All the way up!" She giggled. She didn't seem to notice the hair flowing in front of her face every time the swing came back. Swinging is her.

Then it felt like a scene. It felt like I was watching from somewhere in the back row. And amid the scene's perfection, I felt the familiar sinking. Grief spilled in, as it does, and then I couldn't feel.

No, I told it. No. Don't take this moment from me. Stop giving me pain when there's joy. I'm tired.

I swallowed. I swallowed again. I forced the grief down somewhere, and blinked salt back from my eyes. "How's Baby?" I asked her. "How are you? Do you want to do something else yet?"

"Not yet, no thanks," she said back, watching the two boys who were brothers who were dropping their cars down the slide. They reminded me of my own boys, back when we lived at the house with a park right next to our back yard. I wanted my small boys. I wanted the older sister pushing her little sister in a swing. Impossible things.

I looked up at clouds through my sunglasses. I wanted to go home. Instead, we went for a walk around the playground, I made small talk with a grandmother, then we walked to the library. I ignored all the hard things in my head and checked out picture books and chapter books. I helped her with the coloring game on the computer. "I want pink next. Then brown, for the alien picture," she said.

It was all just fine. It was all fine until she got stubborn and wanted to eat lunch right there in the cafe. It was fine until she fretted and argued when I said we'd eat at home. She pulled away from me and fell down as we crossed the parking lot to go to the car. She kicked and she screamed as I held our borrowed books and pulled on her hand. I had to hold her down hard to get the carseat buckle on. We were a spectacle.

And all that pushed-down grief became anger. Once again I was viewing some play of myself from the back row. I yelled back at her, a 3-year-old. It was a quick, loud drive home. I wanted all people and things to get out of my way. We got home. I put her in her bed, shut the door, and stewed while she screamed.

I hated grief, I hated myself, and I hated that I just yelled at my little girl.

Later, much later, I kneeled in my plaid pajamas and prayed for forgiveness. I said that grief is hard for me. I prayed for understanding.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Confessions of a 3-year-old

"It's too loud," she said.

So, I raced against the sun and mowed the lawn while she stayed inside. It feels like a long time when mowing the front yard, even though it takes about 10 minutes. When I finished I hurried back around to the back door and peeked my head in to check on her. Her feet were up on the flower pillow, and her head leaned onto the cushion. She had various animals and Lego pieces positioned around. She turned and looked at me square in the eyes. She had chocolate on her mouth.

"How's it going in here, sis?" I asked.

"I was just eating the cookies."

Friday, August 28, 2015

In Charge

My feet are cold so I'm sitting here under the covers. The boys are off to school, and the girl is not awake yet, so I can do whatever I want. And right now whatever I want is to sit here in quiet, except for the clock ticking, and the dogs breathing, and the neighbor driving to work. It's a busy day coming, so I'm glad for this snap of peace. I don't like being busy, but it seems unavoidable. I didn't really know what I signed up for those times I pushed out those babies. Homework, piano practice, childhood anxiety, tennis lessons, self-esteem struggles, food issues, social skills, birthday parties, forming, accommodating, and executing other people's schedules, energy, energy, energy.

But joy, too. Joy at the oddest times.

Someone is calling for her dad, as always, so I'd better fall out of bed for the second time this morning and be The Mom. She's wearing her pale blue pajamas with birds, my favorite. She smells so good in the morning.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Dear Sarah

I've been looking through old photos tonight because I sat down at the desk to print a family picture for the now-second-grader to take to school tomorrow. Forty-five minutes later I had not printed a picture. Instead I smiled, laughed, cried even. It had been a while since I'd cried.

These are the things I wanted to tell myself (SCREAM to myself) two, three, four years ago:

-You look great. Stop thinking you don't.

-Your house looks great. Stop thinking it doesn't.

-You built yourselves a little life down there in Arizona. Even though you feel alone there, your family is adorable and getting stronger. Don't disregard that growth.

-Your mom is going to die soon. Call her. Call her every damn day.

-You are a fun mom.

-You will be happy.

-You should get your hair done more often.

-Good job telling Sam to grow a beard.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Love-y Dove-y Letter

Dear Boy,

Ten years ago we took that picture of me holding you and you had on that white knit hat, and your squared boy-fingers were wrapped around my ring finger. You had thick, dark hair, which never thinned.

You weren't breathing well when you were born, so nurses hurried you out the door for some clearing of the lungs. Take him, take him, I said. I wasn't about to complain over not being able to hold you those first few minutes. Get him breathing, get him crying, get him pink. I had you, this healthy boy, because I had let go of your not-healthy sister one year before. All those normal things they do when babies come out were welcome. You want to wipe him clean, suction him out, weigh him, measure him? Yes, please. Do it all. He's alive, he's healthy, and he's mine.

I held you.

I felt like a mom again.

Thank you for giving me that gift. Thank you for being the one to bring me out of some grief and self-pity. Over these years you've taught me patience (still working on that one--sorry), endurance, deeeeeeep love, the good kind of pride, worry (a new kind from what I'd felt before), and how to play chess (more than once).

 Thank you for bringing me back to life, my boy. Happy birthday! Oh how I love you. I'm glad I caught you smiling on camera today.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

August Seven

It's a new year around these parts. It's a new year because it is the anniversary of when Sam and I became real-life, go-through-awful-things grownups. Our Lucy baby died in my arms eleven years ago. The axis of my life changed that day, and every August seventh since then I'm not sure what to do.

Through the years we've done lots, and we've done not much to commemorate. We've gotten together with family and friends. We've released balloons into the blue. We've written notes to her, looked at pictures, told her story. One year we didn't say a word about it until after the day had passed. The years we were in Arizona were hard because of the whole being-hundreds-of-miles-away problem. I love to be at her spot in the cemetery, listening to the magpies and watching our other kids play.

But this year we ran away. We will ride roller coasters and boat rides and some bumper cars. I will push my bare feet into sand. I'll watch waves as they reach and crash, reach and crash. I'll make a sand ladybug because I'm good at ladybugs, and I will wish with everything that she could just be here. I'll wish she could've been in the car with us while Sally gave her stuffed bear a squeaky voice. I'll wish she could jump with the boys from bed to bed every time we come back to the hotel room. I'll wish I could catch her eye and quietly laugh about Sam and his nerdy ways.

But my wishes won't come true, so I'll go back to having the hope which drives me forward into each new year. I will hold her again.

I'll bring you a bucket of sunflowers when we get home, my girl.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Making Out with Sam

I feel good about that title.

At sixth grade graduation I was given the: "A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place" award from my teacher Lynn Hooper, who sounded like a mouse when she sneezed. It impressed me that my teacher could see in me what I hadn't recognized. I like things neat and put away.

But you know, a decade later I became a mom. Another decade has brought Legos, piles of mail, dust, dishes, dirty clothes, Legos, crumbs, two dogs, and Legos. And (a true surprise!) I don't even mind that things can't be all tidy and whatnot most days. But lately I've been bothered by the boxes of random, well, crap that have accumulated over our moves: apartment-apartment-house-house-house. Too much. So I'm going through them. Paper by paper, old cell phone by old cell phone, college binder by college binder.

The other day I was finding places for things and cleaning the bedroom at the same time. I found film from Sam's photography class, negatives of me playing basketball in shiny shorts. I looked through yearbooks and saw what Sam and I wrote each other. I compared what we said when we were together vs. when we were not (ouch). I found notes on lined paper we had written and folded all creative-like ("To open, pull here."). I found a paper box he folded for me, with a teeny tiny note, with these words in red pen:

How was 3rd and 4th? English was or is cool right now because the freshmen take those tests during class and we (sophs) get free time! The only stupid class I'll have today is math. I love being in a good mood! Do you like relish?? -Sam

Pure joy.

I dusted the desk. I picked up bottles of perfume and cologne from a brass tray so I could dust underneath and around. I opened his classic, almost vintage at this point, bottle of Polo Sport. I breathed in. I was taken back to the front seat of his tan Geo Prism. I was taken back to hugging him on the porch. I was taken back to the first time we made out. I opened the bottle of perfume he brought back for me from Europe. I felt sixteen.

I fell in love with High School Sam while in high school, and I fell in love with High School Sam while cleaning there in our bedroom, with items from our life together scattered all over. I fell (again) for the man he has become, for the father he is, for my best friend. Plus he loves me even though I don't squeeze the toothpaste from the end of the tube. And he's still really good at kissing.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


I've been reading, not writing, lately. I've been summer-lazy, like I want to live off of Pace's popsicles and icy lemonade, and sit in this stuffed chair with my feet on the ottoman and read read read. To Kill a Mockingbird is happening right now. I want it fresh in my mind for when I start Go Set a Watchman. Calpurnia just called Scout, Jem, and Dill in for their summertime ritual of midmorning lemonade. I want to do this. Am I too late? Is this summer too far gone already to start something new? I'm afraid I'll blink and it will be Halloween. We must make the lemonade!

Thursday, July 16, 2015


The wood has a darker stain than when I was younger, so the worn corners are not as noticeable. Maybe visitors, people who don't have history with us, wouldn't even notice them. But I look at those nicked corners of the coffee table every time I walk into the blue and white house. Sometimes I move my fingers along its sides and remember.

The solid maple table was bought by my parents out of an underground war bunker, two street levels beneath a storefront in Frankfurt, Germany. I picture their eyes running along the patterns in the wood on top. I imagine them pulling in and out the small drawer, examining the thick, squared legs. They paid two hundred marks for it. It was 1973.

My dad, being a United States Army man, had been stationed in Germany several years before I was born. The upper management of our family had a life there. Two brothers were born there. I wish we had more photos.

The table was about four feet high, used for conferences or in a lab. My parents had length taken off the legs so it could be used in front of their couch to hold books, cups, and newspapers. In Germany, then back here across the ocean, their six, seven, eight, nine, ten children found about eighty-seven more uses for the sturdy, now-coffee, table. It was a stool. It was a fort. It was a skating rink. It was a dance floor. It was the center of our world.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Two Finches

The two yellowy finches were there, right outside our big window. They grasped onto the tiptop of a flowering mint branch and pecked in and out of the blossoms. They were deliberate in their pecking. They were happy, so I was happy. I was carried away in this magic when from downstairs a certain little girl started screaming, "I HATE YOU!" And also, "STUPID!" And then her brother came up, telling me all the wrong things she had done in the last 2 minutes. I glanced at my finches, willed them to stay a few, and went downstairs to rescue the brothers from their little sister. I came back upstairs and the birds were gone. I went back to making dinner.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Now Hiring for Bodyguard Position, Compensation Will Be Given in the Form of Red Vines

My life was threatened yesterday by a eight-going-on-nine-year-old girl who has a crush on my son.

"You and I are the only ones who know. If you tell ANYONE...!"

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Because the world is too big, life is too heavy, and my kids keep talking freely about dying and how and heaven, I sat and pet the dog. I cleaned the bathrooms. I postponed the outing to the planetarium. I listened to sprinklers spraying and breathed deeply. I gave myself permission to feel.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Being Protective, Letting Go

I remember when Elliot was small and I would have lunch once a week with my sisters and my mom (Why didn't I revere those days as golden?). I was probably hovering, fussing, helicoptering over that little boy all over the place. I remember my mom smirking at me and saying, "You should have another baby."

My reaction was to try to be offended. I didn't, still don't, like being given unsolicited advice. I grew up with two parents and a truckload of siblings and they often told me what I should or should not be doing. It was not easy. But I knew that day at lunch she was being subtle, letting me know I needed to relax, and that another baby would force me to do that.

The thing is, when you have a baby, and that baby is your first baby, and then that baby dies, you learn how much of life is out of your control. You, if you're me, become a freak for control. I had sat powerless for so many hours, holding my baby girl's hand while she endured pain because I couldn't do anything else for her. I could not stop any of it. It was awful. Controlling every possible circumstance after that was a way of showing the universe that Ha! You didn't get the best of me this time.

So I had taken this big leap already in having another baby. The baby was Elliot, he was here, he was healthy. I was terrified of that being taken away. I was terrified of him being hurt, or sad, or whatever. And I knew my mom was right. I needed, I wanted to have another baby.

Fast forward to last week, a conversation about protective parenting and how there's too much. I feel for children who get no free time because they are rushed to too many practices and lessons. I feel for kids who don't get to think for themselves, whose parents are one step behind every stride they try to make. I want my kids to feel confident, to be brave, to make their own sandwiches, beds, and decisions. I want them all to ride down hills on their bikes, jump freely into water and swim, and walk to a friend's house or home from school.

Of course, to gain confidence they will get hurt. A lot of somethings will happen. I will hold their hands, feel their hurt, and be powerless to take it away. But they will be better for it, and so will I.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Where Are They Now?

Today I'm thinking of people who became dear friends during our Lucy's little-big life at Primary Children's Hospital eleven years ago. I wonder about them now. I wonder if they still work there, if they're still changing lives, like they did mine. I wonder if they remember her, and us, if they know they made imprints on me. This is one reason I really should probably go get on that Facebook.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I Found Happiness

It was in my living room! It was under the fort we made out of blankets. It was right there with two little kids, still wearing pajamas in the middle of the day, holding mini flashlights and telling spooky stories about old houses with spiders, snakes, creepers, and a puppy named Frederick.

Monday, June 22, 2015

SO Much Has Happened Since I Wrote Last Time

A year was added to my age. I'll give you a hint--I used to be 33...

I got my first rejection letter for a personal essay! Go, me!

I spent the rest of the birthday doing things I like, like yard work, going out to lunch, shopping, and throwing rocks into the water up the canyon. We made s'mores and ate cupcakes with friends. Sam made a candle out of a stick. We came home, washed the campfire and creek water off of children, and Sara came and picked me up in her Dad's car and we drove around looking for some place to go. Just like the olden times! We ended up getting a drink at 7-Eleven and driving back to my house and talking for hours. Just like olden times again! I still remember meeting her in 7th grade and thinking This girl is funny.

Then Sam left me for 2 days to be a grown up in charge of teenagers. I like seeing him do stuff like that. I am the mother, so I did things like take the kids to the park. I pushed the girl in a swing for an hour. We watched Frozen in the daytime while the boys played Minecraft. I began to clean/organize the shed. I killed spiders. I ate cereal and watched stupid shows after the kids were in bed. I avoided folding any laundry.

Sam returned, we grabbed a bucket of chicken, and met some of my family at The Park with the Fat Seagulls for Father's Day Eve. Seagulls like grapes, and grape tomatoes. They do not like carrots. There was bubble-blowing, frisbie-throwing, European Freeze Tag, and general summertime merriment.

We had some of Sam's family for dinner Sunday. They brought glass bottled root beer, ice cream, and creamy potato salad. I tried a new recipe for peach cobbler. Sam grilled broccoli in balsamic vinegar, and a bunch of chicken. There were inappropriate jokes, of course. There was laughing, of course.

There. We are now caught up and I feel good about this.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

I'm Taken Back to Childhood

...when I smell:

A Bag of Marshmallows
W-D 40
Homegrown Grapes
Homegrown Tomatoes
Cut Grass

We used to play "Run From the Cars." We wore blankets as capes, and ran up the block to the STOP sign and waited. As soon as a car came we dashed toward our front yard, barefooted and sweaty. If we could get behind our car parked on our curb before the other car passed, then we were safe. If we didn't make it behind our car, we collapsed onto the grass and covered ourselves with the blankets as the car drove by.

If I close my eyes now, I am back, safe, under my flannel blanket. My breaths are heavy and hot. I smell dew, dirt, grass. I examine the grass stain on my knee. Nothing major. I lift the corner of the blanket and peek to see if the car is gone. Phew. I stand, brush off my knee and hurry back up to the corner.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Thirteen Years of Wedded Matrimonial Bliss

Today, but in the year 2002, we posed for pictures on a wrought iron bench under a tree with pear-shaped leaves. My hand rested on his leg. I had white and green flowers in my lap. There was a shiny ring on my finger, and a darker, beveled ring was on his. He wore the glasses in the family back then. We had fresh faces.

Later that evening, we danced in the back yard of our red-bricked chapel. He had removed the jacket to his tuxedo, and I had removed my shoes. The raw silk of my dress, sewn by my mom, swayed and swished as we moved together. The guests wrapped ribbons around us as we danced, then they pulled us and the ribbons apart, and hoisted us up above the crowd and cheered.

I wish I could relive the day. Or at least I wish I could whisper to myself that we were in for some serious struggle. But we'd be ok.

We are happy.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Last Week I Found Out We Had a Poisonous Plant Growing in Our Garden

Like, if a child were to eat just a few of the berries it produces, they could die.

So, that was fun.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Over the Weekend

We were visited by Bob and Priscilla. (Ducks.) We fed them wheat bread, they quacked thank-yous. It started raining, and we watched them move over to Kent's yard under the matronly oak tree. They napped. When the sun was out again, they waddled to the puddles in our gutter, where they drank and drank. Then Bob pooped. Priscilla decided to rest again, this time in the road. I waved them along to other grass, under a tall pine. They quacked some more. Last we saw, they were headed down the street toward whoknowswhere, side by side.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Apples and Falling from Trees

The other day the boys and I were talking about wrapping up the school year, and all the fun things happening. Elliot was talking about Field Day and how Mrs. J. challenged kids to tether ball. She beat them all (this is reason number 87 million why I love her). He thought for a second and said, "I wish I could see Mrs. J.'s house." I asked him why. He shrugged. "I'm just curious."

Huh. Sounds like something I would say.

Louis has adjusted to summer vacation by sleeping in well past 9:00 each morning since school got out. I'd be doing the same if Sally wasn't across the hall calling, "Moooooooooooom? Daaaaaaaad? I'm awake now!" at 7:04. Sleeping in is a delight.

Meanwhile, this morning, that little girl is wearing a blankey-cape, ate yogurt with blueberries for breakfast, and falls down when she twirls. She has my hair, she is naughty, and says that painting makes her happy.

When these small people formed inside me, and then came out, and then started doing things, I learned about the joy that comes from seeing myself in them.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Now Accepting Early Birthday Gifts

It's my birthday month now. Yay, June! I am one year older (and much wiser, too, for sure). I do like my birthdays, but they are different now that my mom is gone. I find myself just wanting her voice saying, "Happy birthday, dear."

Other impossible-for-now-at-least items on my wish list include:
-A trip to Italy
-More days and nights in Hallstatt, Austria
-Perfectly-behaved children (preferably in public)
-To hold Lucy (a dream would be acceptable)
-A stack of books, with nowhere I have to be, and nothing I have to do
-Hours of uninterrupted work in the garden
-A day at the spa
-Lunch with all of my sisters
-To be anxiety-free
-Many, many new pairs of sandals
-A time machine
-A bagel sandwich and Diet Dr. Pepper from Hot Bagels & Deli

Monday, June 1, 2015

Like an Ice Cube in Arizona

Hey everyone, guess what? I am just going to have a complete meltdown every Sunday afternoon! That's been the pattern these last few weeks! It has been so much fun for me and everyone who lives here!

Maybe I'm pulled too tight, stretched too thin, tangled too much. There are only four more alarm-setting, rushing-to-make-lunches, and brushing-teeth-at-the-last-second-before-hurrying-out-the-door days. Maybe having the kids out of school will help. Maybe it will make it worse. We shall find out very soon.

Wishing you all good mental health, and remember to have your pets spayed or neutered.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Lazy Morning in the Girl's Bedroom

She has two clips in her hair, one polka dot, one rainbow stripes. She chews watermelon gum while she colors a letter S -- "all the way up, all the way up." (Whatever that means.) Her pajama pants are baggy on her backside. Her toenails are gold sparkles.

Last night she suckered Oldest Brother into reading three extra stories (long ones) to her. She made sure he covered her with a pink-flowered blanket before he could say goodnight.

Olive the dog waits for the heater vent to deliver her happiness. She rests her chin on her paws, staying clear of the little human and unpredictable play.

I'm hungover from a week full of school programs, a busy, busy husband, and generalized, unmedicated anxiety. My feet rest on the ottoman, my hair is in a ponytail, and I'm wishing for life to slow down for a while.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

I Wear Lots of Pretty Hats

Last night I pulled Elliot's sheet and bedspread up and over him, lifted them high up like a parachute, and let them float back on top of him.

"How did you get so good at that?" he asked.

"So good at what?"

"So good at... making beds..." He trailed and snickered because, yes, silly.

"I guess I've made a lot of beds, Buddy. Lots of bed-making practice made me who I am today."

Louis chimed from his bed across the room. "It's her talent. I can think of two talents Mom has: making beds and cleaning. Do you have any other talents, Mom?"


"Hmmm, maybe." I had been stretched all evening. Toys everywhere, laundry, tantrums, dishes, tossed stuffed animals, dinner dumped across the floor, crying, whining, Sam not home, and blah, blah, blah. The little sister is three, you know. I was feeling talented at yelling.

Elliot added, "I know another one. She is talented at being the best mom."

Score one for Mister. "Ah, thanks, Buddy."

Louis spoke again, "And she's an artist! You're a really good artist, Mom."

Add a point for the peanut.

I said goodnight, made myself some toast and poured some Perrier and lemon over ice.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Today I teach art to those first graders over there for the last time. We will be drawing hot air balloons using oil pastel, and doing a wash of blue watercolor over the page. I have to prep it all, but first do a sample to make sure what I am picturing in my head will even work. Please, please let it work. 

I also have to make posters and cupcakes for another kid-filled activity tonight.

These boys keep moving up, up through the grades. I am their coach, their home base, and their referee. They have brains in their heads, and feet in their shoes. I can't always say the same about myself, but I am happy.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

It felt good to drive to the cemetery, geraniums and gardening tools in the back. We visit the older part of the cemetery a lot, so when we pulled through the wrought iron entrance, it was obvious it's Memorial Day weekend. Cars were driving down the one-way-up. Cars were parked where they shouldn't be parked. People were wandering, reading names on stones, gathering in groups. Potted chrysanthemums speckled the scenery. Yellow, pink, deep red.

I love the place even more on Memorial Day. There is something to the exodus from daily life. There is something to placing flowers. There is something to remembering.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Taken From My Journal

(Back when I used upper case R's in my handwriting all the time. I was oh, so young.)

1 August 2005 -- Monday afternoon

Almost one year. One year of thinking about my Lucy everyday. One year of missing her. A year of grief. A year of growing up and empathy. A whole year of my arms wishing and wanting to wrap themselves around her again. 

I feel sad--mixed with anticipation, fear, and impatience for this boy to be born. I close my eyes and imagine the two siblings, wherever they are, laughing and playing. He'll forget her, I'm afraid. I hope I can help him know her. The first anniversary of her passing away will be an emotional contrast to his birth. What a pair of kids.

I worry for this boy who was born twelve days after I wrote this. He's had a rough time the last few weeks, so I've had a rough time. I want my mom's wisdom and wit to pull me through. I want him to have an older sister around.

I want, I want, I want. I wish, I wish, I wish.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Things My Kids Don't Know About Me

--I stay up late at night watching shows and eating cereal. I love the BBC.

--Sometimes I say swear words.

--As a girl not much older than they are, I was obsessed with UFO and alien stories. I loved sitting between my mom and dad on their bed and watching Unsolved Mysteries.

--I love chips. Nacho cheese, sour cream & onion, cheddar & sour cream.

--I was scared of roller coasters. But then I wasn't. Then I was.

--I sneak spoonfuls of cookie dough.

--I am lazy.

--I don't care whether or not they make their beds in the morning.

--The hours between 4 pm and 6 pm are pretty much the worst.

--When I was little I used to bite into bars of soap--not because I liked the taste, but because I liked the texture.

--I'm tired. (Well, they probably know this one.)

--I freak out when they're sick.

--My brain shuts down at the sight of Lego instructions.

--I believe in the Magic 8 Ball, too. All signs point to yes.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Gardening

I was out there for an hour. I dug at grass growing in naughty places. I unearthed worms, and spied a fat ladybug. I tried to remember the name of that plant with short leaves and stems and the purple firework flower. I saw the same one at Red Butte Garden last week, read the label even, but I didn't write it down and too many busy days have passed since then.

I broke back the lavender, which I don't like to do because that plant should grow wherever it darn well pleases. After living in Arizona, I learned what a luxury it is to walk right out into my yard, rub those spines, breathe in, and have the clouds in my head clear for a minute.

Everywhere birds were calling songs that I don't know. Hummingbirds propelled over and around. Then thunder started folding in, so it was time to clean up. I thanked God for the lovely chore.

Monday, May 18, 2015

It Happened

This morning my son asked me this question while reading Harry Potter:

"Mom, what's a VCR again? I can't remember."

And just like that, I was old.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Heaven Help Us All

The girl is screeching upstairs because she waaaaaants her biiiiiiiinky.

This week's 87th load of laundry is making its way through the rounds.

I have been worried over the anxiety and lack of self-esteem of one boy.

I have been rescued by the other boy's enthusiasm, love, and ability to fill in gaps.

Tomorrow a dozen first graders are coming over for a mad scientist party.

I'd like to sit here in the basement for a few days, finish Half Broke Horses, and polish off a couple personal essays for submission.

When we were newly married we lived near a family with 3 young kids. The dad was deployed, and I was talking with the mom once. I asked her what she did during the day. I had a genuine curiosity about what filled up her days. She looked at me with a worn smile and told me about their routine. My young, barely-married, college-going, clean-freak self couldn't imagine having a life revolving around the little lives of children.

I'm sorry to that mom. I don't know if she was offended by my question, but I'm sorry anyway.

I get it now, I say with a worn smile.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


From Frog and Toad: Alone

"This morning when I woke up I felt good because the sun was shining. I felt good because I was a frog. And I felt good because I have you for a friend. I wanted to be alone. I wanted to think about how fine everything is."

I walked my boys to school this morning, one of whom turns 7 years old today. We walked through our magical neighborhood where we spot bunnies, tarantulas, deer, and squirrels; our magical neighborhood where walking to school really is uphill, both ways. I didn't have Sally in the stroller. This meant I could walk home back up the mountain without heaving up my innards. Instead, I noticed sun reaching over the peak. I noticed birds, who'd been awake for hours already, perched on branches and rooftops. I smelled dew and pine. I touched a stem of lavender.

Happy birthday, my son. My life would be much dimmer if you weren't in it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

It's Official

I was holding Elliot, who was not one yet, as I stood there in the doorway of the hall and the family room. My mom sat on the red-covered love seat holding a crossword puzzle clipped to her notebook. I bounced the baby on my hip.

"Well, I have an official diagnosis," she said. Her voice was even. She looked over at me.

"Oh, you do? That's good!" I thought this would be welcome news. She'd had months of symptoms with worries and question marks. A diagnosis would give choices, treatment, peace. A diagnosis would mean she would be fine. Silly, stupid me.

Her eyes were tired. "I have this auto-immune disease that sort of goes after every system in the body. It's different for everyone who has it. It explains a lot of what's been going on with me, but also brings up more questions." She paused. "It doesn't have a cure, dear. It's terminal."

Monday, May 11, 2015

Partially Accurate Mother's Day

"My mom is 34 years old. My mom's favorite food to eat is oatmel. Mom's favorite movie is Cluch Powers. My mom's favorite thing to do is art. My mom always says 'I love you.' My mom weighs 916 pounds. I wish my mom would never die. What my mom loves the most about me is I do what she says. I love my mom because she makes food for me."

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

On Tuesdays

Sometimes the power goes out and you get creative with breakfast so you don't have to open the fridge. Then you take your boys to school. Then you come home and your girl becomes a tornado because she can't have milk and because there are no shows or candy bars in the morning. Then she has a little potty accident, so you plunk her in the bath for a while. This gives you peace. The power stays off, so you clean toilets. You convince the small person in the tub that she wants to get dressed. She wants to go do work outside because it is so fun to dig! And poke box elder bugs!

You head outside, mow the mountain, trim some bushes, and pull out weeds. She falls down, you hold her. She runs up the driveway trying to make it in to the bathroom, but she misses. She leaves a warm puddle on the welcome mat. Bath #2, abbreviated version. You clean up the piles of plants, come inside and test the light switch. Still no power. You daydream about having an earthquake, "the big one," and your household is not set up for survival without power. You wonder about generators, solar power, and astronaut food. You should really have more canned food stored downstairs. You should buy more water bottles at Costco next time, instead of dark chocolates.

You are hungry. You load up the girl, her baby doll in her baby doll stroller with her baby doll bottle, and drive to get lunch. You sit in the car to eat so your phone can charge, and because your hair is matted to your head. You wish you ordered fries.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Memory Lane

The other night I was tired down to the bones, and headed to the basement. I grabbed the flannel plaid blanket (the one good Valentine's present I've given Sam in lo these many years). I turned on the TV and turned off my brain.

So, it's been a while since we joined the Netflix. I do love Netflix, very much. I love it for all the reasons that other people love it: binge-watching on my schedule, pausing, fast-forwarding, no commercials. I love repeating an episode if I fell asleep the last time. I love finding a new show based on what I have watched before. And so forth.

But the other night I turned on the actual television. Yeah, like the dinosaur kind of TV where you skip through channels, watching 5 minutes of one show, and 7 minutes of the next. I endured commercials and weather updates, commercials and news teasers. Finally I landed on a rerun of Friends. I settled deeper into the couch and watched Ross and Rachel. It felt almost like I was at home, my parent's home, before everything changed. Before I grew up, before my mom died and almost all familiarity went away. I was watching TV they way it was watched for decades, the way I grew up watching. It felt good. Then I fell asleep.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Six-Word Memoirs Change Sarah's Life

Sarah's born--ruins Stake Lagoon Day.

Youngest of ten wants younger sibling.

Sarah goes through prank call phase.

Riding bike without holding on: joy.

Dr. Pepper; Butterfinger ice cream bars.

Junior High is awful, just awful.

Friends force Sarah to call Sam.

They go to Junior Prom together.

Friends, dating, not friends, friends, married.

Lucy is born; rocks our world.

We speak at baby Lucy's funeral.

Sarah realizes writing is sweet therapy.

Elliot, Louis, then Sally, all healthy.

Busy, busy, busy, busy, busy, busy.

Dark chocolate pomegranates dictate Sarah's afternoons.