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.