Wednesday, November 21, 2018

He had one job

Andrew was given the job of burning a CD of the funeral service so we can mail it to his sister Sarah. The only problem is that CDs are so antiquated that none of our computers have CD drives (let alone burners). He had to check out an external CD drive from the library on campus in order to burn one.

He also had to buy a disc (for a dollar—the guy working the counter was super intrigued; "You really want to buy a CD? No one ever buys these!") even though I knew his mom had several stacks of blank CDs in her office closet (and told him this). He felt sheepish enough about that when we were going through her office supplies deciding what we might actually use and found about six spindles of CDs, but then...

We were upstairs finishing up a few things before bed when he thought to pull out the CD he had burned on campus so that he could label it and give it to his dad. So he pulled out a permanent marker, uncapped it, and opened up the CD case to reveal...


The case was empty.

And then he felt really sheepish.

The disc of Karen's funeral is inside an external drive sitting in the HBLL somewhere.

I suppose he can go check to see if his disc was found (and/or returned), but he'll probably end up having to go through the entire process again (less buying a CD because we have loads of those).

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Alexander's standing!

Last night Alexander was playing around during scriptures and he used a little drum of his to balance on and then got really brave and stood up, picking the drum up at the same time. He stood for a minute while we all stared at him, amazed, and then he lost his balance and pitched forward. His face went from proud to panicked as he realized his hands were both full of drum, leaving him nothing to catch himself with. He careened over the drum and landed flat on his face and started sobbing. He was so upset that he didn't even try to pick himself up; he just waited for me to peel him off the floor.

So I was impressed when he started playing around in the same way today, my brave little boy! (The doctor said that it seemed to him that Alexander's unwillingness to stand or walk was more of a "confidence issue" than anything because he has strong legs and good balance he just...won' Until today!)

I think we taught him that standing up is the coolest trick in the book. Doesn't he look awfully proud of himself for having (kinda, sorta) figured it out?

I love how he can't quite do it on his own and keeps falling over instead.

We're happy to see this progress, though! It's about time he stood on his own.

He's only 13 months and 1 week old!

Monday, November 19, 2018

The day the music died

The day Grandma died, we didn't send the kids to school. Emily and Grandpa went to the mortuary early so they could call the prison and have the mortuary confirm that Karen had in fact died, a rather grisly chore. The rest of us got up and sat around before trying to get working on our ever growing list of things to do. It was difficult because we didn't really know what to do. 

Grandpa says he just plugs into every resource he can (and typically people try to make death as easy on the living as possible). Turns out death certificates take a while to get and you can't do much without one so we put the to-do list aside and headed to Cowboy Donuts. Grandpa declared the day akin to Christmas morning and nothing was off limits. 

So some of us traipsed off to the doughnut shop wearing rainbow jammies, a rainbow sweater, a crown, and Sunday shoes. And that was fine. Because nobody can tell you how to dress on Christmas.

"No pictures, please."

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Trees and trains

Last year we stopped by to visit Grandpa Frank on Boxing Day (that's the day after Christmas for anyone not in the know) and he showed the kids his Christmas train, which was the only Christmas decoration he had up. He loves that thing. He let the kids press the buttons on it to make Santa say, "Ho! Ho! Ho!" or "All aboard!" and things like that.

It was fun, but his voice got a faraway quality as he told us about his Christmas traditions since Grandma Sharon passed away. Christmas was always her thing, you see. She put up the tree, she put out the garland, she dug out the recordings of Christmas music.

So I came home and I wrote this poem (of sorts):

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Karen's Memorial Service

We're still at the point where every day seems like a milestone of sorts. Today's milestone was, of course, Karen's memorial service, which was a difficult but beautiful day.

Katharine read the life sketch that Reid wrote, which prompted both tears and laughter from those in attendance, and then Rachel got up to read a poem that Sarah wrote. It was really quite a lovely poem and I wished a thousand wishes that Sarah could have expressed those tender feelings to her mother while she was still alive, not so much for Karen's sake but for Sarah's sake.

That's not to say that Karen would not have benefitted from hearing those words while she was alive because I think she would have. But she still got to hear those words.

Rather, I wish for Sarah that she could have approached her mother with the same tone that she did in her poem while her mother was still alive because I think it's a lot harder for those in our earthly sphere to wait than it is for those on the other side. And I think Sarah needs to know that her mom loved her so much it hurt. It will take awhile before Sarah can hear those words (but perhaps she will learn to feel them).

Somehow it will all work out.

Speaking of Sarah, we recorded the service for her. The prison wouldn't let her video-call into the service, nor would they allow us to send in a taped service, but they did say we could send her an audio recording, so that's what we did.

Andrew and Emily played a beautiful duet on the piano and cello (respectively) of Karen's favourite hymn: I Stand All Amazed.

We had three musical numbers and it was quite comical because everyone remembered that Karen's favourite hymn was I Stand All Amazed, so Emily brought down the sheet music for Andrew to learn when she came down last week. Reid and Karen's BYU ward put together a choir and announced that they had selected a piece—I Stand All Amazed. And then Miriam wanted to play and organ piece since Grandma has consistently been ward organist for about 45 years and had been helping Miriam with her organ studies. Miriam chose...I Stand All Amazed.

We joked about having it be the opening and closing song, too, and making an announcement about everyone opening up to hymn number 193 and then just leaving their books open because it was the only song we'd be singing.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Funeral Eve

One week.

We've somehow managed to stumble through one week.

This evening we had dinner at Aunt Linda's house with so many aunts and uncles and cousins we haven't seen in years. It was good to get to visit with them again.

We left the children at home with a slew of babysitters (Naanii, Aunt Josie, my mom's coworker and friend, Janet, and a trio of eleven-year-olds (Rachel and two friends); my dad was there for a while as well), and it was a good thing we did because they ended up babysitting ten of the Heiss cousins (our five plus Emily's four and Jacob's one (though I suppose since Rachel was one of the babysitters she wasn't really being babysat)).

It was nice, but weird, to not have to worry about feeding any little people. Apparently we need to get out more.

My sister Kelli supplied pizza for those who stayed at home, which was so sweet of her.

Tomorrow will be Karen's memorial service, which she was adamant would be a celebration of her life, not a sad affair at all. So we'll do our best to celebrate even though we are sad. I mean, of course we were all so happy to have had her in our lives. But this sadness is heavy. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Fall Arts Festival

Life right now is rather painfully marked by before and after. It hasn't quite been a week.

We went through the leftovers in the fridge—was this meal from before or after she died? 

The shower door was scheduled to be installed today—by her, before she died.

I recently found a random handout from when Grandma and Grandpa were substitutes for Benjamin's primary class just a few weeks ago. Somehow it's strange to me that his paper (listing one of his talents as "I draw pictures for Grandma!") is still kicking around the house but Grandma is not.

Rachel wrote and submitted a story to the school's art festival before Grandma died as well.

My girls have been enjoying WWII era historical fiction and for Miriam's birthday Grandma gave her a whole stack of books that Rachel had helped her pick out, including several about WWII. Grandma, who was always a little bit about the pomp and circumstance—the presentation—handed them to Miriam, unwrapped

Perhaps that should have been a clue of how horribly she was feeling. Not wrapping presents, I mean.

I keep looking back for clues, for something—anything—that we could have picked up on or done differently. I should probably stop, but it's where my mind keeps drifting so it must be part of the grieving process.

Anyway, Rachel submitted this story to the school's art festival (before Grandma died) and on Tuesday (after Grandma died), we went to the award evening at the school where we found Rachel had been awarded first place in the literature category for grades five and six.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Grandma's Eulogy by Miriam

Miriam wrote this on Friday morning last week. She's a sweetheart.


Thank you for coming to this mortal life.  We all love you!!

Grandma’s eulogy

Some things that grandma did for me is love me so, so, so, so, so, so, so, much. I love her and will miss her very much. I cannot wait to see her soon! I know that I will be able to see her after this death & life. I love her so much and will miss her so much.

One reason why I love grandma is that she is very kind to herself and others. She loves almost everyone she meets. She loves all of her grandchildren very much. One thing I remember that was kind is when she took us to Las Vegas and we went to lots of places like the M&M Factory, Hoover Dam, The Strip, and the Coca Cola Factory.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Footie pyjamas, with the feet cut off...

I took a nap today. I went down when I finally got Alexander down (he skipped his morning nap so it wasn't until the late afternoon) and planned to wake up around the time the kids should get home. By the time I rolled out of bed, Miriam was home, snuggled with Zoë on the couch, watching a show.

"Where are Benjamin and Rachel?" I asked.

"I dunno," she said. "I came home right away because it's an organ day and I have stuff to do."

"You're just sitting on the couch watching TV..." I pointed out.

"Yeah, but..." she started.

I waited around for a few minutes to see if Rachel and Benjamin would show up. They didn't.

"But really," I said. "Where are they? Like, they should definitely be home by now."

I pride myself on being a bit of a renegade in this generation of helicopter parenting, choosing to embrace a more free-range style of parenting, but I'm also feeling a little paranoid recently and I wanted to know where my kids were.

I checked my phone and there was a missed call from the school (but no voicemail (children: leave a message)).

"Oh, no!" I recalled. "Rachel said she was going to go to a friend's house to finish a project after school. Why didn't you wait for Benjamin? We talked about this at FHE last night when we went over the calendar!"

"I didn't remember!" Miriam objected. "It's not my fault!"

"No, no. It's not your fault. I just wish you would have remembered. I wish I would have thought to check my phone sooner. I wish a lot of things!"

I called the school back but Benjamin wasn't there.

"Maybe he's trying out for the school play," the secretary suggested.

"He's in grade one," I said (the play is only open to grades five and six).

"Oh, then he's not trying out for the school play," the secretary said, now sounding as worried about this situation as I did. "He's just a little guy. Okay. I can do a school-wide page for him."

With my burrito

Author's note: I started this post before everything with Karen happened. We had been planning on joining her on a humanitarian trip to Mexico, which was just another reason to learn Latin American Christmas music. We aren't going to Mexico anymore, but when I was humming Los peces en el río, Karen said she recognized the song from something. I told her it was a Spanish Christmas song and she insisted it was from a movie or something but later decided it was from an old Christmas record of hers. It was a little early for Christmas music but she didn't mind that I couldn't get it out of my head and she laughed and laughed when I told her about mi burrito sabanero.

Now that Ruth's in the family (my brother David's new wife) we've felt a little more motivation to learn Spanish (she's from Argentina) so as I've been putting together Christmas music for our little ukulele group I've found myself focusing on music from Latin America. I could probably just ask Ruth what songs she sang at Christmastime as a child, but I've actually been having a lot of fun finding songs on my own.

Los peces en el río, for example, seemed like a rather odd song to me at first. It's a great song for learning the verb "to drink" because the chorus goes, "pero mira como beben los peces en el rio, pero mira como beben por ver a Dios nacido. Beben y beben y vuelven a beber! Los peces en el rio por ver a Dios nacer."

I was like, "Why fish?"

But they're just watching the Virgin Mary go about her work, tending to her sweet baby, from the river. They keep coming back to watch because they just love watching her and that baby, which is a rather sweet sentiment.

Also, the song has her washing diapers and I love that!

I had never thought about Mary washing diapers before but I'm sure she spent plenty of time doing menial tasks like that. Life can't be awash with halos all the time.

The song is sacred, but also fun.

I've also been learning Mi burrito sabanero, another fun song (that makes rather repetitive use of the verb "to go," so it's another great song for hammering in those conjugations).

When I was first reading over the lyrics, however, I stupidly* wondered, "Why a burrito?"

But then I realized that the better question was, "Why not a burrito?"

I mean, we sing about chestnuts roasting on an open fire, figgy pudding, and wassail. Who am I to draw the line at burritos? Burritos are yummy and they are a traditional Christmas food in Andrew's family, anyway.** Maybe a sabanero is a special Christmassy burrito sauce that evoked all sorts of warm childhood memories for people...

And then I read the English translation: the song is about a little donkey!


Now, I knew that burrito meant 'little donkey,' but the picture that pops into my mind when you say the word burrito is not a little donkey. When you say burrito, all I see is a snuggly-wrapped bean-filled tortilla of joy.

But a donkey makes sense. I mean, if you're going to Bethlehem you'd probably want to take a donkey rather than a burrito, right? But, honestly—why not take both? Is it even up for debate? Do we really even need a taco about this?

* This is a post about Christmas music so I thought throwing in a Christmas word would be appropriate.

** Karen's family grew up having burritos (fried burritos) for Christmas and she continued the tradition with her family and we have tried to continue it with ours. Andrew told me that his grandparents often called them "burros" rather than "burritos," so I said, "Why? Couldn't they find any small tortillas?" I think I'm so funny.