Natalie is six weeks old today. A few nicknames have been sticking….Nattie, Nattles, and…. Nad. Nad is perhaps my least favorite…but Grace coined it and the siblings seem to like it. I guess I hope that somehow it becomes erased from their memory before it’s too permanent. A few pictures of the sweet little cherub.
Just had to put up these two cute pictures I took early this morning. Caroline donned her hand-me-down boots from Grace (hand-me-downs are just as precious as brand-new to CJ) and a huge stick. She jumped and twirled all over the yard right after breakfast for a solid hour, shouting, “I’M SUPER GIRL!”
Last week was my birthday. It was such a nice day. A nice day for me is one where I don’t have to run errands and the children are getting along. I got both of those things! I can’t believe I’m 35. I feel like I’m eternally about 24 or 25, in my heart.
Perry made me a really great dinner—Chile Verde made with Anaheim chiles. It was really amazing. It took two hours to prepare, but it was so worth it to eat a later dinner.
Grace gave me a number of her most treasured possessions–large plastic rings (they fit my fingers!) and spinning tops and Kerr jar lids and some sparkly pencils, among other things. My heart sunk a little when I opened the box because I know how much she loves these things–Grace often gives away her best stuff and then regrets it later. I told myself that if she came to me wanting it back, it would be all hers! So far she just smiles each day when she sees me with one of the rings on.
We also had Grace lose a tooth on Friday. Well, it didn’t actually just come out on its own. I pulled it out 6 minutes before heading out the door for school. She had Jonny Appleseed day at school and knew she was going to be eating all sorts of apples, and it was so loose that she was worried she wouldn’t really be able to participate. So we started yanking and it took way longer than we thought. I had to nurse Natalie at one point so I held onto baby with one arm and pulled with the other hand….and not surprisingly, it didn’t work.
We moved to the bathroom with just minutes to spare and I honestly used all my strength to pull straight down but it wasn’t coming out. So I had to resort to the twist method…very painful, I know, but after several twists from side to side, I yanked again and after a few hard tugs, out it came. Grace was so sweet…tears would come to her eyes and she would look down and put her hand to her face and say very quietly, “I’m sorry I’m crying, Mom, but it just is hurting a lot.”
We had lemon meringue and apple pies for dessert. They lasted until yesterday! It was honestly one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had. I felt so loved.
I have something from Kathy Eyring (Henry’s wife) that I have been thinking a lot about for a long time. It’s from a talk she gave a long time ago at a Relief Society program. She opened her talk with the following:
Several months ago, I had just finished reading King Benjamin’s great address to his people in the book of Mosiah. He had spoken so eloquently of service, and I was so enthused that I wanted to do some great service for the Savior to show my gratitude to Him. I can’t remember what the specific service was, but as I recall, several of my ideas were in the different categories of the Pursuit of Excellence program. I prayed with sincerity that I might be inspired to know what I should do. I was awaiting an inspired answer.
I had been praying for several minutes when, as clear as clear, came the answer. It was not just what I had expected, but it was an unmistakable feeling:
“There are dishes in the sink to be done. You have children who will be home for lunch. Give them love as well as lunch. You have the missionary in the field. He could use a letter of encouragement, as could your husband when he comes home this evening.”
And there was my answer. Not exactly as I had intended it, nevertheless clear. Without that answer, I might have set a wonderfully altruistic goal, thinking I was doing what the Savior would have me do only to find my life further complicated by goals and obligations which I felt frustrated trying to meet. That does not mean that I will never perform that great service which I had in mind. I may when circumstances are different, but not now.
I really appreciate this perspective, because it has been my experience when I ask God, almost daily, “How do you want me to spend my time today?” that I almost always receive this type of answer. There haven’t been very many times when I’ve signed up for funeral meals or things—I’ve done my best to serve the women I visit teach and others in my neighborhood that I have gotten to know–but by and large I have felt compelled to serve my family and their many needs. It’s not so much that I feel I need to close other open doors, but just that this door of giving my all as a mother and as a spouse is the most inviting for me. I have felt a strong desire to focus on the most simplest doctrines and observances of the gospel.
One more picture of Natalie, who is five weeks old now!
In my dreams, I have unlimited patience. I’m the mom that has 10 kids from the neighborhood over to play at one time, feeding all of them homemade cakes and pies and smiling with my apron on, laughing and giggling with all of them, completely oblivious to kids tracking in dirt, wiping snot on the furniture, or running through the house screaming at the top of their lungs. My own kids and everybody else’s kids absolutely love me—I’m compassionate and nurturing and any day of the week I’d pick entertaining children to curling up with a book and a whole bunch of Oreos.
I guess my reality isn’t the complete opposite—I probably have average patience (I hope) and I definitely don’t cause anyone to run home crying after a playdate—-but I’d really like to be different than I am. I don’t always feel inherently nurturing, my first response to a mess taking an hour to clean up is not to get the camera and join in the fun… These probably aren’t terrible things… but because I’d like to be different, I often disappoint myself.
I’d like to be more relaxed and joyous than I have been, and I think it’s reachable. More willing to let the kids be kids and really enjoy it and not just manage it. So yesterday, I tried to get there. I think I thought that one really big thing could land me in the Julie Andrews singing and dancing mode—so I made it really big—but it didn’t go exactly as I thought.
When Perry was at the BYU game I started to get dinner ready. Grilled cheese with bacon and apples…one of our new favorite weekend dinners. I was pretty excited about it, because we all know that bacon makes anything so much better. Natalie was asleep so I had my hands available. The other kids had been bored, and asked to play with the hose. Boom. Here was my chance. I said Yes. I thought, Okay, they are going to get really wet and even dirty…but that is okay! I pictured myself as a grandmother listening to my adult children share about what a great mom I was, always letting them explore and play. Yes, I thought. A plus.
Nathaniel had been helping me in the kitchen, but decided to go out and play in the rose garden instead of joining in the water fun. One less child wet, I’ll take it.
But in the next 20 minutes, the children took the hose activity to an entirely new level. It started with a tiny little mud hole, then their little minds took hold and went whole hog. Mud pies, mud slinging, mud bathing. They smeared the mud all up and down their legs and arms, cheeks, foreheads, absolutely giddy. I went outside to check things out, and I think one of my heart valves began to collapse a tiny bit. I swallowed and tried to smile but I think it was probably more like a huge frown. I thought, Okay…what now? End it? I really felt like I didn’t have any ideas but to yell at them. I’m not good at this sort of thing—at all. I stood there for a few seconds, trying to figure out if I should reign things in, or if I should get offended and feel like they had taken advantage of my generosity and start dishing out consequences to the older two girls who know me like the back of their hand and knew for certain this was NOT okay with me. I wasn’t quite sure what to do.
First I walked inside and got my camera, trying to be positive. Just hurry and take a few pictures and then you can get that A+ and later you’ll feel really happy and be glad you did, I told myself. So I hurried and took some pictures, and then remembered the grilled cheese….cooking on the stove. I figured I had a few minutes to spare, so then I put the camera down and grabbed the hose. Everybody line up, I said. Time to get hosed down.
I began hosing everyone down as quickly as I could, and then sent people one by one to the backyard to strip down. Everything was going just fine and I was starting to feel like a total success but then Caroline started crying and pee began coming down her pants. I told her to just let it all come out—so she did, totally bawling. I comforted her and told her it was okay, hugging her little wet muddy body. She went into meltdown mode, screaming at 300 decibels that it was my fault she was peeing her pants because of the cold water hosedown. Thankfully, this didn’t really get to me. But the extra time I spent helping her cost me dinner.
Perry pulls in right at that minute and gets out of the car. I say, Can you check the sandwiches; I think they’re going to burn. He runs inside and sure enough, they were blackened to a full char. I followed him inside, took a look at the sandwiches, and suddenly wanted to break something. All I saw was red.
The mud mess would have been so worth it if I had the yummy dinner coming to me. I am a huge foodie…I love food, I want it to taste good–really good—and I look forward to anytime I get to eat anything. I honestly enjoy eating as an experience in and of itself, not just as a means to survive or socialize with others. So this was kind of the last straw—I no longer had anything good to eat for supper. I know—not a huge deal for many people, but I really, really love my food.
And on top of that…I had the sinking realization flow through me that I was the same old person I feel like I’ve always been. That my plan hadn’t worked, that maybe I can’t really change. And so I grabbed my purse and just wanted to leave, before I went crazy and hurt someone’s feelings or flung the sandwiches through the window. I walked to the garage door with my purse in hand and apron still on, and then my over analytical brain whispered that I couldn’t just walk out during a tense situation. 4 muddy, half naked, one-covered-in-pee, children outside waiting for help, a burned dinner, and a very sunburned husband who still probably didn’t know entirely what the heck was going on.
So I just leaned my head against the door and tried to keep from crying. I went back to the kitchen, set the purse down, and began tearing off the burned sides of the sandwiches while Perry got more bread and started cutting more cheese. We started filling up the tub and bathing kids one by one. Natalie stayed asleep during the entire thing. Shae came up the stairs, buck naked, from the shower, watery-muddy-footprints on the kitchen floor, wailing about how the shower head wasn’t working. I actually did start laughing at that point—she looked so funny there to me, in an actually endearing way, that I couldn’t help it. Sadly though, while I thought some laughter might cut some of the tension—she ended up offended and sad and running back down the stairs….she thought I was making fun of her. I raced down afterward to save face for myself and the situation and to explain my motive. She was fine then. Their mother laughing at times like this is still pretty unusual—precisely the thing I am trying so hard to change.
We sat down to eat later, to cold grilled cheese sandwiches. And we ate them. And I survived eating a cold sandwich. I wasn’t sure how to evaluate what had happened, particularly my own performance, and I’m still not quite certain even today. I’m guessing that just like so many situations in my life, the best thing to do is not try and nail down a moving target but to just keep going. I thought I was dipping my toe in the waters of the “practice loosening up” pool….but I ended up getting thrown in. Maybe I’ll be better prepared next time because of it.
When I see these pictures today, I do crack a smile. I wince when I think of the chaos, but I can see the funniness of it all. Someday, hopefully soon, I hope I can look back and see how I was gradually able to change and not wince at all from a memory like this one.
I’ve been thinking about making the blog private again. Please send me an e-mail or post a comment letting me know if you want to be on the list of allowed users. I’ll need your wordpress username. I’ll allow a week or two for people to get back to me before making the change.
Natalie and I had almost 24 hours alone this weekend. Yesterday around 4 pm Perry took the older four kids camping up Big Cottonwood Canyon, along with two of his siblings and families. They got home around 12:30 pm today. The house was so quiet I almost didn’t know what to do. That feeling lasted about five minutes, and then I decided that today could well be the annual laundry folding day. So I folded clean laundry for what seemed like hours, and they still weren’t home. I cleaned and swept and read a book, and fed Natalie over and over again. I gave her a nice quiet bath. Then I started making dinner, early, just when I heard the garage door open.
Everyone piled in covered with dirt and handing me mountain flowers, and they scattered all over the house yelling, crying, begging for food, and life suddenly seemed familiar again.
Natalie is three weeks old today. She wasn’t quite back to her birth weight at her two-week checkup a week ago, but I”m hoping she’s gained more this week. Although, I have no scale and she won’t be seeing the ped again until her six week appt. I hope she’s doing okay. Feeding is still not super smooth, but she’s better than she was during her first week.
Here are some recent pictures.
Caroline had her first day of preschool yesterday. She barely stood still for me to take one single picture outside, and almost went nuts when I asked her to smile for just one quick picture inside sitting at the table with the other children.
CJ is my first child to attend a “real” preschool, so it feels like a big deal to me. With her older sisters, I did a sort of cooperative preschool, with two-three other children, rotating between homes. But this year, with all the many changes in our family, and with Grace no longer around for the entire school day, I felt really strongly that she could use more than a co-op. As hard as I’ve tried to deny it, I’ve observed that birth order does have an influence on a child’s lived experience within the family. There is truth behind the whole middle child concept—As much as I’ve tried to compensate for CJ’s position on the totem pole, I can’t take her out of the family and somehow remove the effects two older sisters have on her, and a younger brother and younger sister. Everyone is so close in age that it can be incredibly challenging to prioritize whose needs are actually the most pressing at any given point in time. And so it is, that we have CJ in preschool two afternoons a week.
She came home absolutely beaming. She taped her calendar up on the wall and read through her alphabet sheet perhaps two dozen times. She reminded me about wearing blue next week and about bringing an apple on September 8. She was so cute!
We love her bubbly personality and vivaciousness. I hope she has a great time this year.