Saturday, May 30, 2015

Daisies

I've been taking these daisy pictures since even before our Daisy was born. But I have to admit, I like them even more with her in them. And I still think Daisy is one of the best names ever. Who could dislike a bright, cheerful, friendly little Daisy? (Or a sweet, strong, vibrant little Juniper, for that matter?) 

We were so happy to find the daisies out when we went on a walk Sunday, so of course we stopped and played—you might even say frolicked—in them. The only difficult part was stopping the girls from picking bouquets to take home. I sympathize. I was a mad flower-picker myself, when I was young. I remember getting in lots of trouble for climbing over the back fence and picking a bunch of flowers from my neighbor's yard. And then selling them. To her. (I think that last part surely must have been my friend Erin's idea, though!) :)
Spontaneous Sound of Music pose
Hey, how did a Marigold get in here?
A little Junie.
Frolicking!
I love my little flower girls!

Sunday Walk and Clouds

I've loved all this rain we've been getting. I feel like we live in Portland or Seattle, and everything is so green! I like it when we have morning sun and then an afternoon or evening storm that blows in with its huge, majestic clouds. I love the downpours and the thunder and lightning, too. But those clouds! They are so beautiful. These are the type of skies we usually have in August, so it seems especially nice to have them again earlier in the year, with the whole summer still ahead.
Ominous! 
Anyway, we had a break in the rain, so some of us went on a walk Sunday, including my little twins here. If I don't buy them matching clothes, they usually contrive to match somehow anyway (using makeshift outfits from other peoples' closets). Cuties. Here they are before setting off.
Ladybugs on our tree
Pillbugs!
More pretty clouds
See those green hills? What is this, Switzerland?
Japanese iris
These are coots, I think. They had babies. Here, you can look at them more closely:
Cute! Cute coots.
So green! Such a pretty sky! I love this Spring.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

This is the air which connects us

And so this is the inheritance;
this is the air which connects us
with dead men and the dawning
of new beings not yet come to light. 
—Pablo Neruda, from "The Word"
Pablo Neruda was talking about words and language when he said this, but it keeps coming to my mind as a description of family connection. I don't know exactly why or how we are connected. I don't know if we "chose each other" before this life, and I know there's not much Latter-day Saint doctrine about how and when our family relationships were decided.
But I can see, now as a parent more clearly than I ever did as a child myself, that there is something connecting my children, some force that draws them near each other and runs between them at various points. It's been there from the moment Abe met his little brother Sebastian, but I've seen its color even brighter every time we've had another baby, like a thread wrapped around and around itself until the filaments make an entire cloud. Oh, it could be broken apart, I'm sure, but how else to explain the dawning fascination and delight that the older siblings feel as the younger ones learn new things, or say something cute, or ask trustingly to hold the older ones' hands? They belong to each other, and they can feel it—that connection, whatever it is. I suppose "the air which connects us" is a good enough description, implying as it does something invisible, delicate, but vital.
It's one of my great astonishments, these developing independent relationships between my kids. I don't know why it's such a surprise to me, but somehow in all the years of thinking and wondering about how they would respond to me, and how I should interact with them, I hadn't given as much thought to what they would be to each other. And yet I'm starting to see how they might even affect each other more than Sam and I affect them!
And it's so tangible, this connection! Maybe if I didn't have so many children among whom to observe it, I might have missed it, but seeing the threads of similarity weaving in and out and between all of them, it's unmistakeable. I don't know exactly what causes it, but it's not just proximity- or profit-driven. It's almost like in a maypole dance (have you ever done one of those? We performed one at my sixth-grade dance program, so I've probably practiced it 100 times) when you have all those different colors of ribbons going over and under each other and pulling out in different directions, but when you're done they're all braided together around the central point, making a pattern that's hard to categorize but is clearly not random. Our kids are like Sam and me in some ways, but they're also like each other in ways that bypass Sam and me altogether, and they connect not just with the siblings close to them in age, but with all of each other in different aspects and permutations, weaving these patterns that both amaze and baffle me at the same time.
I wonder, too, how I would see the same back-and-forth ties emerging if I could go back into the generations of our families, or forward into my children's children. I'm pretty sure that the same thing that draws the older kids to the babies, to "the dawning/ of new beings not yet come to light," will pull us to the "dead men," our ancestors, if we let it. I guess we could call it "the Spirit of Elijah," but that doesn't really tell us what it IS—just that Elijah had it too. 
And so I love this quote by Elder Neal A. Maxwell: 
"I am so grateful…for a part of mortality that we sometimes overlook: the intertwinings of our lives. I acknowledge the Lord’s hand in these intersections…One of the reasons we love each other in the kingdom is that our friendships are not friendships of initiation at all but are, instead, friendships of resumption! It should not surprise us, brothers and sisters, that Heavenly Father brings about these intersectings and intertwinings of our lives. You and I may call these intersectings “coincidence.” This word is understandable for mortals to use, but coincidence is not an appropriate word to describe the workings of an omniscient God. He does not do things by “coincidence” but instead by “divine design.”
I guess, based on that, I don't think it's too "Saturday's Warrior"-ish to believe that there is something eternal about the way we fit together in these earthly families of ours, whether it's from our own choices or just because we're given what Heavenly Father knows will be good for us.

And whatever their source, it's such a delight to me to watch these "intertwinings," as Elder Maxwell called them, wrapping the kids together, in and out and around. Oh, they fight, of course. They hurt each others' feelings and vow to "never, ever let you play in my bed again" (this is a common threat, for some reason), but far more often, they have these moments of pure and luminous connection, so strong and so pervasive that I might almost feel irrelevant—except that I'm simply proud of myself for, I don't know, assembling such a group! It's like when I introduce two people I know, who don't know each other, and they hit it off. It makes me so happy. (Maybe my true calling is as a matchmaker?) Take Daisy and Junie, for example. There are so many funny little secrets they have with each other; things I wouldn't even know about except for the little glimpses I happen to run up against. Like when I said something about octopus and Daisy and Junie looked at each other and repeated "OCK-to-pus!" in unison and then burst out laughing. Or when I hear them chanting over and over in their room at night, "What-a-good-salad! What-a-good-salad!" Or when we went to a wedding shower with rubber duckies decorating the tables, and I got distracted for a time, and when I re-focused my attention, they had about 50 duckies arranged in a circle and they were singing, in perfect unison, some song I'd never heard before with words like "Here I go, into the drain! Here I go, into the rain! Come with a duck to the par-ty!"
And looking back, I can remember moments of connection like that, with my brothers. Small at the time, but important enough to stay in my memory, as clear as if they happened yesterday. Like once when my brother Philip and I were up late doing homework in the living room. He said something and it got us both laughing. Everyone else was asleep. We were smothering ourselves with pillows, trying to be quiet, but my fits of laughter were the kind that keep coming back. Every time I tried to get back to work I'd be overtaken with another convulsion of giggles, which would trigger Philip again. It went on so long that I started to feel genuinely hysterical, and Philip got control of himself and sat me down on the couch and said, "Maybe it's your blood sugar" (which set me off again), and went out to the dark kitchen and got me some orange juice, and then sat next to me and insisted I drink every drop. It seemed to me like the most caring, solicitous moment. I remember thinking, "This is what I want. Someday I will marry someone who will take care of me in just this way."
Or when Karl bought us tickets to the Tom Stoppard play "Arcadia" at the U of U (we shared a love for "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead"), and we made pizza and then brought it with us in the car while we drove up to Salt Lake, windows down, eating it and burning our mouths and listening to Rush on the radio and talking about my just-begun high school experiences. It seemed so exotic and grown-up to be going just with Karl, without my parents, and I distinctly remember having the thought as we got onto the freeway, "I wish this night could last forever."
Or when my brother Kenneth took me with him to the track while he practiced running hurdles, and he let me move the hurdles for him, and introduced me to all his friends. I ran beside him on the grass as long as I could, and then I lay on the high jump mat looking up at the clouds and feeling the warmth of the mat come right up through my back and into my chest. 
My friend Nancy (who is also the one who found that Maxwell quote for me; thank you Nancy!) wrote a post about little things becoming big things, and it made me think of just how—well, almost arbitrary these memories seem. Why did these little moments stick with me when so many others have faded? It makes me so curious about what moments with each other my children will be remembering when they are grown-up, looking back on it all. Will it be their weird little names for each different kind of streetlamp in the city (elbow lights, pointy-pointy-pointy lights, HEY lights), or the way they told each other silly stories about some character called Person-Fun (??!), or the weeks of being each others' "Night-servant" and "Morning-servant"—or some game I haven't even heard of but all of them know about?

I know I can't control how they see each other; which slights push them apart or which little kindnesses bring them close again. And I know they will have other people beyond their siblings to "intertwine" with in their lives—hopefully lots of them! But I think there is such hope in that gentle, constant tugging of connection; those fragile breaths of air that, shared, make them—make all of us—want to keep belonging to each other, day after day after day. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Random Thoughts

I have a strange, but vivid, memory, of being about seven years old and hearing my friend Kirsten casually refer to one of their cars as "The Acura." I was SO vastly impressed by the professional, knowledgeable air it gave her (we usually just referred to our cars as "the van" and "the bug"; nothing so technical as their manufacturers' names!). I realized that the glamour of it all has lingered so that I still reflexively look at Acuras (I've never owned one) as kind of an impressive car. I'll read the make name on the back of one driving by and think, "ooh! Acura."

I heard a good music story the other day. In musical tradition, for some reason, the usual order for listing the people in a piano trio is pianist-violinist-cellist. The story I heard was about the famous violinist, Jascha Heifetz, who was playing in a trio with Artur Rubenstein and Gregor Piatigorsky. Heifetz complained that his name came second, not first. Rubinstein said, “Look, Jascha, that’s the way it is. If God were the violinist, the trio would be known as ‘Rubinstein-God-Piatigorsky.’”

Listening to Styx the other day with my kids, I was overcome by the memory of a counselor in our student ward's bishopric lip-synching to "Mr. Roboto." Maybe it's gotten better in my memory over the years, but wow. That was a Dance to Remember.

A few recommendations: I recently read these books by Meredith Willson, the man who wrote "The Music Man." They are hilarious and sweetly old-fashioned, in a self-aware sort of way, and full of funny stories. Even if you don't know all the people he's talking about (there's a lot of name-dropping, but it's all before my time, so I haven't heard of most of them) you'll just laugh at how he describes things. And I always have loved "The Music Man."

We've also been using this translation of the bible as we read the New Testament, and it's great. I lost my fear of other translations when Wilford Griggs, my favorite religion teacher, recommended we read from several besides the King James Version. Of course I love the poetic voice and the rhetorical weight of the KJV, but it's easy for me to get lost in the very familiarity of it all. And Paul, especially, can be so hard to follow—I can never figure out the antecedents of his pronouns, and half the time his sentences seem to have morphed onto new subjects halfway through. But I love Paul, so I want to understand! This translation is excellent. We'll often read through a chapter back-to-back with the KJV, and it's amazing how much clarity the NTME provides.

And this article is good support, for any of my fellow free-range-kids advocates out there.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Stretching

It's always so satisfying to reflect on those things that used to feel so stressful, but now are no big deal. It makes me feel like I've made progress, and gives me hope that someday I'll also move past those things that are worrying me now! So for Mothers Day, here is a list of things I love about this current stage of being a mother:
  • Babies that snort
  • Exchanging glances with an older child about something funny a younger child is doing
  • Planning things I know (not just hope) the kids will like
  • Laughing at things just because my kids think they're funny
  • Kids making jokes that are actually funny
  • Older kids taking care of of younger kids, and doing a good job of it
  • Younger kids gazing adoringly up at bigger kids
  • Having zero anxiety about what/how much the children are eating
  • Knowing that all the stages pass 
  • Less embarrassment when someone misbehaves in public 
  • Holding hands, large and small
  • Homemade presents made in secret
  • Two-way gospel discussions
  • Overhearing late-night giggles coming from both the boys' bedroom and the girls' bedroom
  • Children that come to be snuggled after a nightmare
  • Private jokes between kids that leave me baffled
  • Expecting competence and getting it
  • Kids who can fix things as well as break them 
  • Kids reading to me
  • Baby-soothing expertise
  • Breast-feeding expertise
  • Being able to predict what will come next
  • The occasional total surprise about what comes next
  • 2-year-old chatter
  • Making people warm
  • Singing to and rocking a sick child in a dark house
  • Cooking dinner together
  • Hearing about when other people like my children
  • Knowing Heavenly Father entrusted the care of these amazing people to ME for awhile

Making a home for all the ones I love best, with their help, is the best work in the world. As Samuel Johnson said, "To be happy at home is the end of all human endeavor," and I'm so grateful to be pursuing that end! 

(Last year's thoughts on Mother's Day—here)