Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Monday, April 28, 2014

Fly Chasing

It's 4:30 on the dot. The it's-dark-outside, I've-gotta-get-up-in-three-hours side of 4:30. 

Mostly, my world has spun back into place from it's topsy turvey space-wobble of last year that left me slightly off center. Okay, slightly more off center.  Arms again cradle, milk flows, and I have refined my wickedly-cocked eyebrow to the extent that even the boldest of three year olds dare not sass. I work the long hours of my former glory, juggling loads of wash and scurried outings with the precision of a knife thrower. I have even managed to eek out some poetry and painting along the way. The rhythm of my days has pretty much fallen back into sync, and sinks, and the occasional toilet. 

But it is nights like tonight that reach into my chest like a callous hand into a birdcage, grabbing hold of my heart to rattle it. Nights when everyone else lay sleeping and I keep vigil, checking my leg every hour or so to see if the tingling and twinges, the chills from hip to toe, and the flushes of cold and heat have gone from phantom feelings to something else. Something to be seen. Red skin, purple patches, swelling maybe. Proof. 

They don't come too often, these nights. But tonight one came and has stayed.  And so Sleep picks up her pillow and blankie and shuffles out the door to somewhere where her sweet release will be more appreciated. I lay in the dark, the whispered breaths of baby and the grizzly snores of her papa like two clocks ticking in separate time.  I chase at the thoughts that come like flies, successfully shoo-ing most away. But some land. The ones of fluoroscopic images of nothing, because where no blood flows, no images appear; just veins, like branching trees abruptly pruned halfway to the sky. And other flies, more pesky even, memories of hours spent gasping for air that never gave relief. Flies that take the forms of funeral plans and orphans with my children's faces. 

I talk myself down off of a thousand ledges. I pray. I reach for love and peace and memories yet to be made. 

A bit ago even dozed off... for twenty minutes. A nightmare that I can't  remember called me back to my solemn watch.  

Guy surfaced from his log-sawing a moment ago and asked why I was up. "I'm a little freaked out. My leg..."

"Get an ultrasound," he most practically suggested before returning to his lumberjack sleep. 

I will, in the morning, which will be here soon.  Though not soon enough, what with all the flies. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

So Long, Old Man

Good Ol' Toby left us this week.  He was 15 years old, almost to the day.  We have had him since he was eight.  He was a very sweet fella, loving to be near anyone who would let him, with some pretty intense quirks that resulted from abuse early in his life.  He was afraid of feet and sticks, as one might expect.  We never could explain his fear of balloons.  That was just Toby.

The list of things that Toby has eaten in his life includes socks, tomatoes off the vine (the stinker), and anything plastic - especially legos.  Oh, and perler beads... lots and lots of perler beads.  He was a good rat dog, and took out his fair share of squirrels, too.  The hamster and the chicken he caught were both lucky to have survived.  What a funny dog.

He once downed a pound of fudge.  They say chocolate can kill a dog, but not this guy.  He also survived a pretty bad stroke.  But the most amazing thing was how long he hung on in his last few days.  He seemed at deaths door, but never went through.  We finally decided to help him go, and while I don't want to ever have to go through that again, the folks at the vet clinic honestly made it as gentle and kind a process as one could hope for given what it was that we were actually doing.

It has been quiet around here.  No nails on the floor.  No cold nose on my leg.  Every time I go out to the playroom I am surprised not to see him there.  We will miss him.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Special Day

Even though it was Saturday, I set my alarm so as to get up early.  I woke Tessa and reminded her that we were going on a special outing.  We pulled on our sweaters and I drove us a couple of miles to the greenbelt near the American River.  We walked along a little footpath and into the woods, just Tessa and I.

We found a little clearing inside a grove of trees and knelt down on the cool earth.  In the almost-quiet, a chorus of birds welcomed the morning.  It was the perfect accompaniment for what would be a lovely day.

I took Tessa to the woods because this was her baptism day.  In our faith, baptism is an ordinance that is considered a stepping stone in life.  When a child reaches the age of eight, and are able to more fully understand that their actions and decisions have consequences, baptism is a first step in a lifelong journey of service to others and dedication to Jesus Christ.  

I will admit, eight is young.  It is a tender age to make such an important decision, but as I have with each of my kids when they have reached this age, I wanted to make sure Tessa understood what today would mean in her life.  I wanted her to know that this was her choice, and not just something we do "just because" she reached some magical age.  I want her to look back at her life and know that she is the captain of her own ship, young though she may be.  Some might say that she still didn't really have a choice, as most children would do anything to please parents or other respected adults in their lives.  Well, I can't answer to that, but I do know that children, even very young ones, can be trusted with important choices, and should be taught how to listen to their inner voice.

So, wanting to give her an opportunity to test her sapling faith, I took her to the only place I know where there is peace and quiet.  We sat and read in the bible in James 1:5, that explains how if we ever lack wisdom, the answer is merely a prayer away.  That if we will ask with faith, God will answer our prayers.  We talked about the choice to get baptized, and what that would mean in her life, then I invited her to find a quiet little spot to go and have her own prayer.  She walked a little ways off, and knelt down.  I glanced for just a moment so that I could always have the picture in my mind of her in the dappled morning light, kneeling among the trees to pray.

When she was done, she came over to me and we chatted.  I asked her how she felt about being baptized, and she said a simple and cheery, "Good!".  It might seem as though I were almost trying to talk her out of it, but I wanted only to be sure she truly felt the desire in her heart to take this step.  Would I have cancelled the service if she had said she wasn't ready?  You bet I would.  Ask any of my older kids, mama don't mess around with important choices.  To my way of thinking, you value and protect most those things you hold most sacred, those things you feel strongly about.  If the kid isn't ready, those things should not happen.

She said she was ready.  We visited a while longer and then slowly left our little Sacred Grove.


A few weeks ago Tessa had an interview with our bishop in preparation for this day, which I was blessed to be a part of.  I sat across the room from her as she swung her feet several inches above the ground from her perch on the blue seat cushion.  She was at ease with our new bishop, and answered his questions cheerfully.  She understood that her baptism is a promise to keep her heart in tune with her Creator, to seek a life of service to those in need, and to stand as a witness of God wherever she may go.  Her answers were simple, not rote, and she surprised me at her understanding of principles like faith and forgiveness.  There is a very wise old spirit packed into that little body.

I am grateful for the opportunity I have been given to shepherd this powerful little being. 

Ah, the white dress.  Not part of the service in any way, but it just so happens that Ellie had a white dress when it was her special day, so Tessa wanted to be like sis (love her little turned in feet).

Daddy and Tessa
For the actual baptism white is worn as a symbol of purity.  
Guy was bummed that the Elvis suit, as he called it, was the only adult clothing in his size.

Photos are not taken of the actual baptism as we consider it to be a sacred ordinance. 
 It was sweet, though.

After she was dried and changed, Tessa sat as her father placed his hands on her head to impart the gift of the Holy Spirit.  She is encouraged to always seek guidance in her life through this gift, and to rely on the comfort and peace it brings.

We were so happy that dear friends could surround us on Tessa's special day.  
We missed our family who were not able to join us. 

Can't believe she's eight.
(oh, wait... seeing all that white hair, yes, yes I can believe it)

Our first family portrait in, um, one, two... six years!  
What can I say?  I have been a little busy.

Shadow Dancing

Sweet angel girl.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


My Tessa-loo has been
on the planet for eight years.

I have had eight years to get ready for this, but it still sneaked up on me.  She has been growing so fast, changing so much.  She has been taking her smart-allec-mobile out for many test drives of late.  It is a familiar phase; we went through this with her sis, and they boys have had their own versions as well.  But even with all the stretching limbs and changing vocal pitch, I still wasn't ready for this whole
growing up thing.

I mean, where does she get off?  Honestly.  The nerve.

I was thinking back to her baby days, how I was so surprised on the day she was born to see that she was a little girl.  To her birth and her nursling days (okay, years.  So sue me), and how much she adored to snuggle with me.  She was a serious baby, with an intense gaze and little humor.  She was always a head turner, but didn't ever want the attention she unintentionally attracted.  She still is pretty serious, as her tummy troubles would attest, but she has developed a fun little sense of humor.  She is creative and bright, and so, so dramatic.  She loves music and dancing.  She is sweet to The Littles, and can be very helpful to me.  

We are blessed to have her in our family.
Happy Birthday, Tessa.

(Photo of the birthday girl by the amazing Annmarie Hall)


I had help with the "surprise cake" Tessa asked for.  It was a surprise in more ways than one.  I did have a first.  It was to be a green cake with a cute white picket fence around the outside.  On top was to be a little sculpted brown horse with a white patch on his face, and sweet flowers at his feet.  

As the day wore on, my plan dissolved.  Time was fleeting, and as Jonah-boy was trashing rooms, baby was crying and phones and doorbells were ringing.  Well, doorbells weren't, because ours has been broken for years, but you get the idea.  The cute little horsey I sculpted kind of was a flop (It's not important why, but I blame the fondant.  If I could've used clay I would have rocked that colt).  As usual, nothing was going according to my plan.

But Tessa didn't know what my idea had been.  She had no preconceived cake notions because she had handed over the pastry-plotting to me.  She just trusted me.  Trusted that I was going to make her an "awesome surprise cake".  By the end of the afternoon I found myself out of energy and ideas.  What if I just covered the cake with polka-dots?  No, the voice in my head said, you have to do something that is special to Tessa.

Jonah kept pestering me to help, and I finally gave in.  What harm could it do?  We rolled and cut and moistened fondant, and eventually, we had a cake.  Not the cake that had been in my head.  Not the cake with a picket fence.  
But a cake.  A nice cake that she loved.  

It has taken me years to be okay with switching gears; with giving up on an idea or a plan that isn't working because I've become attached to the fantasy, even if reality is telling a different story.  It's getting easier and easier to stop and take inventory, and see that sometimes the best idea isn't the "vision", but the one that you can realistically make happen.

(with polka-dots.  Just a few)

The last surprise was thanks to an inordinate amount of food coloring.  I promise the purple was not muddy-grey in real life, and I swear I don't do this kind of thing on a regular basis.  I make my kids eat broccoli and fruit and drink tons of water.  But once in a while, we eat rainbows.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Boy Who Could Fly

What do five frogs and my son Adam have in common?

More than sixteen feet, that's what. 

17 feet and 5 inches to be precise. 

Wow. That's all there is to say. Just wow. 

Thoughts from the side lines: Part II

This week my usual exercise routine was interrupted by an unscheduled sick baby who was stuck in overtime. On Tuesday, my lack of sleep caused me to succumb to the temptation to stay the heck in bed until... well, never you mind that. That's between me and my Egyptian cotton sheets. 

Aaaaaaanyway, that afternoon my accountability partner for my latest attempt at losing weight, Danielle,  offered to come by after work to exercise with me. Of course, being that I like food more than pretty much anything that's not related to me, I need the extra calories I earn with my workout.  I agreed.  

I have never worked out with this friend before, and I don't know why exactly, but having her newness there compelled me to step it up a notch or five (because plank jacks aren't hard enough, I had to be all Rocky-Shwarzenegger about the whole thing). 

Three days later I am STILL feeling it. 

In Adam's race today he was pitted against his friend from church. They took off like mad hornets from the start, but Adam's friend pulled ahead after a bit. Adam fought to retake the lead but missed by a few yards. I noticed that after the race, both boys were totally fried. There is something a little magical in good-natured rivalry that compels us to push ourselves a little harder. Maybe it's just that by surrounding ourselves with good people we can't help but want to see the view from up where they are. And maybe we see them as mutually fragile and fallible beings, and become inspired as we see them make themselves into persons to be admired. Maybe we just don't want to be left behind. 

I am really starting to see how important it can be to have another someone there to push you along. Thanks to those who push me to become a better version of myself. Laine 2.0.